Courtney Essary Messenbaugh’s Inkubator crossword, “Oh na-na, what’s my name?”—Jenni’s write-up
A hearty Fiend welcome to Courtney! This is her world debut and I look forward to more. There’s a lot of theme material and the fill is smooth. Bonus for me: this puzzle features one of my daughter’s favorite performers.
The theme answers seem sort of random.
- 1a [*Too much of it makes Jack a dull boy] is WORK.
- 22a [*Gems stolen in “Ocean’s 8”] are DIAMONDS.
- 33a [*Request from a child who wants a better view] is LIFT ME UP.
- 56a [*Something to do before the curtain closes] is TAKE A BOW.
- 67a [*Useful item for when it 13-Across] is UMBRELLA.
- 77a [*Command to Fido] is STAY.
The revealer is in the center: 45a [Businesswoman and artist with the songs that answer this puzzle’s starred clues] is RIHANNA. We have other theme entries as well. 55d [___ Ball (45-Across’s “Ocean’s 8” character) is NINE. 79a [Pulitzer-winning album that features 45-Across on “LOYALTY”] is DAMN (she is featured and Kendrick Lamar is the primary artist). 66d [____ Beauty (cosmetics brand created by 45-Across] is FENTY. I had to look up the Kendrick Lamar info. FENTY was a gimme because of the aforementioned daughter.
The grid is larger than usual to accommodate all the theme entries and I am totally OK with that.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer. I also did not know that RIHANNA appeared in “Ocean’s 8” or that the D&D ELF is know for gracefulness and longevity.
Zhouqin Burnikel & Tom Pepper’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
Oh, hey! It’s the Minnesota dynamic duo, Zhouqin and Tom. Boswords Fall Themeless League competitors kicked off the tournament (it’s not too late to sign up!) with a tough Pepper themeless (which took me twice as long as the Friday puzzle did … though Erik Agard solved the Boswords puzzle in just over a fourth of my time), and in the constructor interview, his penchant for collaborations was discussed. (He’s never not had fun co-constructing.)
Fave fill: Writer ELIE Mystal (here’s a piece he wrote for The Nation about the Montgomery Riverwalk incident this summer–he’s an ELIE worth knowing), BUNGEE JUMP, SMOG ALERTS (so grateful that the Canadian wildfire smoke didn’t endlessly wreck our air quality), EL NORTE, “GET LOST,” GUINEA PIGS, PRIVATE EYE (good clue: [Spade, for one]), FRONT ROW SEAT, and SOUR GRAPES.
Three more things:
- I like the two-fer of [“Beat it!”] for GET LOST and [Beat it!] for an EGG.
- Never heard of a DEMO LESSON, 11d. [Part of a teacher’s job interview], but it’s workable with some crossings.
- 12d. [They might drive you to a flight], FEARS. As in the fight-or-flight response to a fearful trigger. Classic “Seinfeld” line that’s irrelevant here: “I’m not drivin’ him to the airport!”
Four stars from me.
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 64aR [Measure of grossness avoided in the answers to the starred clues?] ICK FACTOR. That trigram is dropped from the original phrases.
- 17a. [*Litter collection vehicles?] PUP TRUCKS (pickup trucks).
- 24a. [*Malcolm’s status at the end of “Macbeth”?] ALIVE AND KING (alive and kicking). Nice, definitely my favorite of these.
- 38a. [*”Arf” or “meow”?] PET LINE (picket line).
- 52a. [*Source of friction when a messy person lives with a neatnik?] STY SITUATION (sticky situation).
With PUP and PET and STY it could seem like an animal-based theme, but that’s just a distraction.
- 1d [ __Mundial de Fútbol] COPA. 5a [Tarot suit] CUPS.
- 11d [Post production?] RAISIN BRAN, made by the Post cereal company.
- 22d [Like some ancient Peruvian pottery] INCAN. 29d [Like all ancient Peruvian pottery] MADE BY HAND. I wonder which clue came first.
- 47d [Native New Yorkers] SENECAS. Of the Haudenosaunee, they lived farthest west.
- 55d [Dried Mexican chile] ANCHO. Specifically, it’s the dried poblano pepper.
- 60d [Fall fast asleep, with “out”] ZONK. Such a fun word.
65d [Hawaii’s Mauna __ ] KEA. 31a [Actor Reeves] KEANU. Though both names are Hawai’ian in origin, they do not seem to be related. Brief internet sleuthing suggests that Maunakea translates to ‘white mountain’ (although there is reference to a legendary figure named Wākea or just Kea. On the other hand, Keanu apparently means ‘cool breeze’.
- 58a [Regret not wearing a coat, say] FREEZE. Well that sounds extreme. I guess the ‘say’ in the clue indicates hyperbole. That’s a different function than it typically has in crosswords.
Parker Higgins’s Universal crossword, “Game Faces”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are two-word animals whose first words are also face cards. The two-part revealer is WILD / CARD (69a, [With 59-Down, unpredictable factor … and a hint to the starred clues’ answers
- 3d. [*Long-eared hare] JACKRABBIT.
- 7d. [*Striped semiaquatic reptile] QUEEN SNAKE.
- 11d. [*Bird known for its long, sharp bill] KINGFISHER.
Nice. Serendipity at work here with all three animals the same length. I’ve heard of a king snake, but not a QUEEN SNAKE. That’s not saying much, though.
The grid may be a little light on theme material, but it was still a fun solve. I especially like how the “cards” are in order. And that’s a pretty unique way to present the revealer, but one can even argue it’s somewhat thematic in an all-bets-are-off kinda way.
I enjoyed the grid design as well with those long vertical stacks, all filled quite nicely. I especially liked “I’M NOT READY,” AERIALISTS, and JETSETS. Plus, the crossing of “GOT A SEC?” and KA-POW!
Clues of note:
- 24a. [Person in car lots?]. ARLO. There he is –> “cAR LOts”
- 63a. [Org. behind the game Lobster Liberation]. PETA. It’s a Frogger-type game which you can play here. Oddly, your lobster will undoubtedly need the services of the paramedics more often than you’d expect, given who created the game.
Rafael Musa & Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today crossword, “Omg”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer includes OMG split between two wors.
- 18a [Lose power and prestige] FALL FROM GRACE
- 34a [Annual prize for gay male poetry] THOM GUNN AWARD
- 51a [Savory veggie-based sauce] MUSHROOM GRAVY
I really loved this grid as a whole. It had so much fresh fill and some really excellent clues. The theme here was really simple but cute. There was also such a nice variety in this set of three 13s. MUSHROOM GRAVY was my favourite, but I also love that it highlights a queer poetry award.
I’ve been clocking well under three and a half minutes lately with USA Today puzzles, and this one is no different. However, I think that there were plenty of things I didn’t know, like the THOM GUNN AWARD or 16a [“This Arab is Queer’ author Eltahawy] MONA. Yet, the crosses were really fair and made for a great experience. I’ll be delighted to dive into This Arab is Queer when I get a chance.
This grid is symmetric, which is impressive with three longer themers. Plus, the corners are really open, and you can flow nicely between them.The four 9s feel like bonus content. 2d [Jiggly, boozy party treat] JELLO SHOT and 33d [Person buying kitty litter and laser pointers] CAT PARENT were especially fun.
Some others Friday faves:
- 6d [Board game whose dice tower is a bird feeder] – I’d be remiss to not mention the appearance of WINGSPAN because I’m obsessed with it. In fact, Stonemaier Games just released a fan art pack of bird cards, which is really cool.
- 20d [“Jeopardy!” champion Schneider] – This puzzle highlights so many amazing women, from AMY Schneider to the fictional SUPERHEROes in 9d [Batwoman or Black Widow] to MONA Eltahawy.
- 54a [“Choose a side” candy bar] – I enjoyed this as a fun clue for TWIX; it’s just such a hilarious campaign.
Overall, this was a really wonderful puzzle!