Rafael Musa’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
HELLSCAPE! What a perfect 1-Across after two 100-degree days in Chicago. (And humid, too!) The weather returns to sensibility on Friday.
Fave clue: 16a. [Like something wicked and dark?], UNLIT. As in a candle, with a wick, dark because there’s no flame.
Fave fill: ILHAN OMAR, MIAMI-DADE, the odious “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” (I repudiate the supposed necessity of pain for progress), PORTA-POTTIES (great clue, [Heads outside?], not that I’ve ever called a loo “the head”), SLEEP DEBT (I see from my Fitbit that I haven’t managed 7 hours of sleep for a full two weeks), PANGRAM, PAD THAI, OWN IT, OPEN MIC.
Had no idea: 18a. [Most common last name in Brazil], SILVA. Largely guessed it off the A and President Lula da Silva.
Four stars from me.
Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
The revealer is ironically in the center of this 16×15 grid.
- 40aR [Situation that occurs under extreme conditions, and a description of the answer to each starred clue] EDGE CASE. Each of the perimeter entries can precede the word ‘case’ in a phrase.
- 1a. [*Pipe alternative] CIGAR.
- 6a. [*”You Were Meant for Me” singer] JEWEL.
- 11a. [*Minor mistake] SLIP.
- 14d. [*Call] PHONE.
- 38d. [*Germ of an idea] SEED.
- 60d. [Charcuterie fare] MEAT.
- 70a. [*Least satisfactory] WORST.
- 69a. [*Tumbler] GLASS.
- 68a. [*Challenge] TEST.
- 50d. [[*Server’s spot?] COURT. The only one of these with a playful, question-marked clue.
- 28d. [*Sub supplier] DELI.
Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “Pop-Up Books”—Jim’s review
Theme: Book titles are found in the circled squares spanning two main entries with one letter “popped up” into the row above (hence the title). That’s assuming you have circles in your grid, otherwise you have to go by the parenthetical hints in each clue.
- 20a [Go into free fall (Note this answer’s last 4 letters + 1 letter above the block to the right + …)] and 22a Affectedly polite [(… this answer’s first 4 letters)]. SKYDIVE + R + GENTEEL. Divergent.
- 33a [Held a grudge (Last 3 letters + 1 above the block + …)] and 38a [Bedding or towels (… first 4)]. STAYED MAD + E + LINEN. Madeline.
- 44a [Interior design (Last 3 letters + 1 above the block + …)] and 46a [Bookkeeping entries (… first 4)]. DECOR + A + LINE ITEMS. Coraline.
- 58a. [Don quickly (Last 3 letters + 1 above the block + …)] and 62a [Built (… first 2. Bonus: Note what the letters above the blocks spell!)]. THROW ON + D + ERECTED. Wonder.
Ugh. I can’t imagine trying to solve this puzzle while having to rely on those clues. Even having the circles in my grid, I tried to avoid looking at the clues; they’re just so ungainly. Usually, these types of clues are awkward at best; this one borders on painful. Note to constructors: If your puzzle requires circles, seriously consider other venues until such time that Universal can implement circles in all their outlets.
Okay. Awkward clues aside, I wouldn’t have recognized all these circled entries as book titles, namely the first one. I have seen Wonder on bookshelves with its memorable cover. Coraline I know, being a Neil Gaiman fan, but it was also adapted into a well-received animated film. Similarly, Madeline is well-known for its TV series. So theme-wise, it would have been more effective if each title was known first and foremost for being a book. It’s also curious that these are all YA or kid lit titles, which I don’t see a reason for, other than the fact that pop-up books are generally aimed at children.
Of course, having the bonus answer of READ (spelled out by the “popped-up” letters) puts a big constraint on the theme, so there probably aren’t that many titles that are going to work here.
Top fill: CORNELL, RED WINE. Most challenging fill: REIKI [Japanese energy healing].
Clue of note: 5d. [Where to watch “Svengoolie” in 2023]. ME TV. I don’t recognize the show title, but the host does look familiar. Wikipedia says the show ran in the Chicago area starting in 1970 and only recently went national on ME TV.
Ignoring the laborious theme clues, I like the puzzle fine, but I would have liked it better if the titles were more diverse and instantly recognizable as book titles. 3.5 stars.
Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Bang-Up Locations”—Darby’s recap
Theme: Each themer is a Down answer in which the uppermost word starts with BANG, and they each refer to a location.
- 4d [Southeast Asian capital that’s home to Wat Pho] BANGKOK THAILAND
- 8d [Country that celebrates Pohela Boishakh] BANGLADESH
- 10d [Third most populous city in the Pine Tree State] BANGOR MAINE
This was a cute theme, and while I wasn’t able to immediately fill in any of the cities right off the bat, the theme itself was really helpful in getting BANGKOK and BANGOR. From there, I knew the larger units (MAINE and THAILAND) just from having heard the cities before. The L of 23a [Count up] TALLY and the S of 42a [Donna Summer genre] DISCO were also very useful for filling in BANGLADESH.
The rest of the fill in this puzzle was really fun too. I laughed out loud at 17a [“Give me one more chance!”] I CAN CHANGE, and I thought 3d [Salary increase based on good job performance] MERIT RAISE, 59a [Like sapphic poetry] HOMOEROTIC, and 65 [Way to get money for household items] ESTATE SALE were all really fun and interesting. Plus, the dual 25a & 27a [Fantasy meanie] ORC and TROLL was cute and fun. The puzzle continued its spookiness with GHOST (even though it was clued in the more colloquial 50d [Abruptly stop texting back]).
Alex Eaton-Salners’ New Yorker crossword—Matt G’s recap
Themers have languages hidden in them, and the quasi-title/tagline the New Yorker provides us invites us to “hold your tongue.” Fun.
- 17a [Argue over trivial distinctions] SPLIT HAIRS
- 23a [Period of rapid corporate consolidation] MERGER MANIA
- 40a [It includes events like quadruple sculls and coxless pair] OLYMPIC ROWING
- 52a [Color-changing compound in some chemistry experiements] PH INDICATOR
- 62a [M.L.B. team that plays at American Family Field] THE BREWERS
Fun set. I don’t really recognize MERGER MANIA, but I’m likely just not steeped enough in corporate … stuff. (The next time I enter LBO into a grid without a cross or two might be the first.) I also have mostly tuned out of baseball, and didn’t realize that THE BREWERS‘ stadium has changed names from Miller Park. I see that was three years ago. If you ask me, insurance companies have enough stadiums already, and a team like THE BREWERS in Wisconsin should have a beer company for their largest corporate sponsorship. It’s only right. I don’t even like Miller-Coors.
Anyway, a pleasant solve. I liked HORNETS NEST in the upper corner and not as much a fan of the ALITO / ALGER / HSN area on the opposite side. In general a smooth grid drawing from many knowledge bases tuned easy, as we expect on Fridays, with a few highlights: MAHALO, HATHA, HANA, WARIO, as well as STIEG Larsson, who passed before he could finish the full scope of the “Dragon Tattoo” series. The Muppet Movie, Anita Baker, a nice clue in [Brooding sort?] for HEN.
A refreshing start to the weekend. Cheers.
My favorite a cappella group in college had an excellent rendition of “Sweet Love.” The opening chords take me right back to lecture halls repurposed as concert venues.