David Rubin & Lee Demertzis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This puzzle made me think it was Friday night rather than Thursday. Tougher than expected for you, too, or just me?
Interesting grid, with six 15s spanning the width. I like them all, too. LOWERCASE LETTER at the front of eBay (and occupying the last half as well, so weird clue). SENATORIAL SEATS is kinda boring. ALASKAN KING CRAB is a wild creature, and SNAKE IN THE GRASS could also be one but here it’s a [Backstabber]. The Magic 8 Ball response “SIGNS POINT TO YES” delights me, and then I’m hearing a stadium vendor walking the stands at Wrigley Field offering “ICE COLD BEER HERE,” except I think they just shout “CO BEER!”
Other crisp fill that caught my eye: Pablo ESCOBAR, KARENS (no offense to the lovely humans who happen to be named Karen!), GO BIG. Less keen on a biblicalese RESTETH, perhaps overly slangy “HELLS NO,” dry ODEA, clunky AT A DESK (not really idiomatic English).
Two more things:
- 30a. [Some basketball venues … or players], CENTERS. For example, Chicago’s United Center is home to the Bulls and the Blackhawks.
- 3d. [Something that people like to see break], DAWN. In theory, yes. In reality? I’m never awake and I’d rather just have my eyes closed when day breaks.
3.9 stars from me.
Stella Zawistowski’s Inkubator crossword, “Into The Groove”—Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Phrases where the first word is an adjective and the second word is a Madonna song, clued as a “remix” of the song in question.
- 17a [Partial remix of a Madonna hit?] – HALF FROZEN
- 23a [Sapphic remix of a Madonna hit?] – LESBIAN EROTICA
- 48a [Graeco-Roman remix of a Madonna hit?] – CLASSICAL MUSIC
- 54a [Goth remix of a Madonna hit?] – DARK SECRET
So, I think of myself as a Madonna fan… But I have never heard of any of the songs mentioned in the puzzles. The internet tells me that they were all top ten hits, though, so I’ll chalk that up to me being behind the times. That meant that I basically solved this puzzle as “What adjective fits the clue? And then what phrase starts with that word?” The word “remix” made me think “anagram”, so I was very surprised that the theme didn’t have anything to do with them. As for the answers themselves, they’re all solid (well, except for HALF-FROZEN, which is the least both literally and metaphorically). LESBIAN EROTICA is probably the standout.
Fave fill: I like the pairing of SCI FI and MAI TAI, with ABACI and SO AM I for good measure.
Fave clues: [Make a big production of?] – STAGE, [“Are you there God? __ Me, Margaret”] – ITS
Write-overs: “Prada” instead of GUCCI, crossing “Pro” instead of NUN for [what a novice may become]
New to Me: That Edmonton has a football squad named the ELKS
Zachary David Levy’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 53aR [“Without a doubt,” and a hint to 20-, 31-, and 41-Across] NO BUTS ABOUT IT. I’d kind of understood the theme from the first of these, and was thinking it would be about NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS—which would have been out of order, though. By the time I got to the second theme entry, I saw the consistency and knew that it couldn’t be BUTTS OUT because that’s spelled with a double-T.
- 20a. [Result of an overzealous stylist?] FLYING TRESSES (flying buttresses).
- 31a. [Result of a “Moonstruck” actress converting to Judaism?] KOSHER CHER (kosher butcher).
- 41a. [Indulge in many, many naps?] SNOOZE TONS (snooze buttons). As I always say, the first nap of the day is the most important nap of the day.
- 5d [Street racer] DRAG CAR.
- 7d [ __ nous] ENTRE, 8d [Basic French verb] ÊTRE.
- 21d [Air Force 1s, e.g.] NIKES. I was thinking about presidential airplanes, but of course I now see that that would have been written as Air Force One, rather than using the numeral. The shoes are not familiar to me.
- 27d [Humid phenomena] MISTS. 63a [Like the lawn at dawn] DEWY.
- 41d [Stitched together] SUTURED, 43a [Cut] TIE, 44a [Sever] CUT.
- 47d [“__-daisy!”] OOPSY. Needed to wait for crossings to see which spelling we’d get.
- 1a [Alluring] SEXY. 5a [One rocking a pocket protector] DWEEB. Sexy dweeb!
- 36a [A whole lot (of)] GOBS. Proximate to that SNOOZE TONS themer.
- 56a [“… or not”] WELP. For a hot second I thought this might be GULP.
Craig Stowe’s Universal crossword, “Pardon My French”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words are also words in French (with completely different meanings). Solvers are meant to interpret the first words as being French while the second words stay in English (hence the “Franglais” in the clues).
- 3d. [Cat cafe, in Franglais?] CHAT ROOM.
- 11d. [Teaspoon, in Franglais?] THE SCOOP.
- 42a. [Mother tongue, in Franglais?] MERE WORDS.
- 47a. [Handshake, in Franglais?] MAIN SQUEEZE.
Note that the theme answers were chosen such that the clues could also be familiar phrases. This tightens the theme quite a bit by eliminating so many possible theme entries. Take for example, the phrase “Main Street.” If you were to interpret that as “‘hand’ street,” how could you possibly clue that without being too off-the-wall. Conversely, “hand squeeze” is perfectly clued as [Handshake]. I really like that one, even though I had no idea that “main” is “hand” in French.
And that brings me to my only nit with the puzzle. I knew “mere” and “the” were “mother” and “tea” respectively, but I didn’t know the others. So while I’m impressed with the theme answers and their clues, students of the French language probably enjoyed this more than I did.
One other thing: The theme answers have lengths of 8, 8, 9, and 11 letters. With the theme as tight as it is, there probably weren’t that many alternative theme answers to use here. But how to make a grid with that unlikely set when traditional rotational symmetry won’t work? The answer: Left-right symmetry with the even-numbered entries placed vertically. A clever solution, and it works. The grid sort of resembles a bell or an old rotary phone, but I still found the solve smooth enough (despite my linguistic challenges).
On to the fill. Gotta love the words SOJOURN and DEVOTEE, both of which happen to be from the French, coincidentally. Also good: SIZES UP.
Clues of note:
- 5a. [Drink served with a thick straw]. SHAKE. Hmm. The drink is thick, but is the straw actually thicker than usual or just wider?
- I like the symmetrical pairing of [Is down with] and [Came down with] for HAS and GOT in the top corners.
Impressive theme set, though it required a little more knowledge of French than I expect the average person has. 3.75 stars.
Emily Carroll’s USA Today crossword, “Hits Different”—Darby’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer begins with an anagram of HITS.
- 19a [“Star Wars” antagonists titled “Darth”] SITH LORDS
- 39a [1984 mockumentary about a fictional heavy metal band] THIS IS SPINAL TAP
- 61a [“Subway Art” singer] TISH HYMAN
I now have “Hits Different” by Taylor Swift stuck in my head, which I’m not mad about. Anagram themes are always fun, and this had such a nice variety of themers. As a huge Star Wars nerd, SITH LORDS were easy to plop in, while it took me a bit longer for the spanner THIS IS SPINAL TAP and TISH HYMAN. However, they were really easy to catch on the crosses.
I appreciated the flow through the center of this grid, with 5d [Catches by surprise] STARTLES, 21d [Instruction before blowing out a birthday candle] MAKE A WISH, and 42d [“According to legend…”] IT IS SAID being some of my favourites. The NE and SW corners felt a wee bit pinched, but the fill in each of them (and around them) was very clean. I also thought that 24d [Word before “store” or “booth”] CORNER and 69a [Pumpkin bit that might be baked] SEED were cute.
Emily Carroll’s New Yorker crossword—Matt G’s recap
I have to be quick today.
Revealer is middle-grid: [Parameters for a construction project … or, read another way, what the last words of 17-, 23-, 49-, and 54-Across might be used for?] BUILDING SPECS
Playing on SPECS as either “specifics” in a project, or as slang for eyewear, our themers:
- 17a [Places of worship for many Tibetans] BUDDHIST TEMPLES
- 23a [Features of some margaritas] SALTED RIMS
- 49a [Camera attachments with variable focal lengths] ZOOM LENSES
- 54a [Structure that provides a direct pedestrian route between Chinatown and downtown Brooklyn] MANHATTAN BRIDGE
With TEMPLES, RIMS, LENSES, and BRIDGE being components of a pair of glasses. I was unfamiliar with this term TEMPLE, but it’s real! I have called those elements “arms” or “wings” without ever really knowing there was a word for them.
I found this puzzle quite quick, and the theme entries clued particularly gently. I’ve been seeing this usage of ANOINT [Designate, as one’s successor] at 47d more often in grids lately. It doesn’t strike me as wrong but certainly less common, no?
Oh hey, a double day for Emily, with this and the USA. Neat.