Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword, “Tones of Voice” — Nate’s write-up
– 24A: CHANCE [One of three spaces on a Monopoly board]
– 25A: GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY [Special moment exemplified by 24-Across]
(CHANCE is an OPPORTUNITY with a gold N)
– 34A: AVIATION [The Wright stuff?]
– 36A: RED EYE FLIGHT [Air travel option exemplified by 34-Across]
(AVIATION is FLIGHT with a red I)
– 56A: BLEND [This and that]
– 58A: BROWNIE MIX [Baking aisle purchase exemplified by 56-Across]
(a BLEND is a MIX with a brown E)
– 68A: VESSELS [Containers]
– 72A: GRAVY BOATS [Thanksgiving table sights exemplified by 68-Across]
(VESSELS are BOATS with a gray V)
– 88A: PLEDGE [Sister-to-be, say]
– 91A: PINKY PROMISE [Agreement exemplified by 88-Across]
(PLEDGE is a PROMISE with a pink E)
– 98A: COLORFUL CHARACTER [Interesting person … or what’s included phonetically, five times in this puzzle]
Wow – what a neat idea! In each pair of themers, the longer entry (like PINKY PROMISE) is reimagined phonetically (pink E promise), and then a synonym with a letter that color (PLEDGE) is also included just beforehand in the grid. What a mind bender of a construction process to get this all to fit so smoothly! From Sid’s constructor notes at Wordplay, it seems that RED EYE FLIGHT was the genesis of this idea, but I’d love to know if there were other examples that ended up on the cutting room floor. So fun!
– As expected with Sid’s grids, this was a smooth solve for me. The only place I got stuck was in the top middle – CAEN / ALTO / CORP / WET RAG / OH GOD YES just wouldn’t fall for me until the end. LAG / LOGY was also a tough crossing for me.
– What a cool bit of trivia about VERMONT / Montpelier at 22A!
– I didn’t love that the clue for ARABIA overlooked a vibrant collection of cultures and history … for oil. I did, on the other hand, love the clue of [iPhone charger?] for APPLE PAY.
– I loved the meta moment of this grid looking, perhaps, like the start of a HOLI festival, with the colorful squares standing in for the “multihued poweders.” How gorgeous would a HOLI-themed grid look?
That’s all for now. What did you think of the puzzle? Let us know in the comments section – and have a great weekend! (And keep your eyes peeled for Tuesday’s NYT byline …) : D
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “In Retrospect” — Matt’s write-up
This oversized (21×25) grid accommodates ten pairs of themers. The second entry in each pair is clued with the phrase “Looking back…”, signifying that the entry is a mirror image of the first half of the pair. As you can imagine, the clues are a bit wacky, to make it work:
- 23a & 24a: RUFFLE / ELF FUR
- 26a & 28a: EDIT WAR / RAW TIDE
- 45a & 47a: FLATBED / DEBT ALF
- 56a & 57a: LAGGARD / DRAG GAL
- 73a & 75a: EVEN FLOW / WOLF NEVE
- 84a & 89a: CASH CROP / PORCH SAC
- 106a & 108a: TRACTOR / ROT CARD
- 120a & 122a: IM ALIVE / EVIL AMI
- 133a & 137a: ONE O CAT / TACO ENO
- 143a & 145a: NORRIS / SIR RON
Circles in the grid ensure that we don’t miss the last layer of the theme: the first (and last) letter of each pair spells out REFLECTION, from top to bottom.
Fans of Evan’s Captain Obvious series will enjoy this puzzle, I think. The cluing necessary to get us to ELF FUR, PORCH SAC, and TACO ENO, for example, dives right into that sense of humor. A solver who might be less of a fan can end-around the particularly offbeat clues once they recognize the theme and complete the more straightforward first halves. I particularly appreciate the decision to go extra-tall to make REFLECTION fit. A little more payoff from a somewhat straightforward theme. I did find the fill a bit heavier on names than usual. Not sure if that means “actually heavy” or simply “heavier with names I don’t know as readily.”
- 53a [CD or LP, e.g.] BIGRAM. This caught me – much like a deft surface reading of a clue for ANAGRAM
- 116a [“Our Flag Means Death” activity] PIRACY. I would have bought that “Our Flag Means Death” was a line from a historic letter or speech from the Age of Pirates, but turns out it’s the name of a current television series. I could do to widen my cultural net.
- 130a [Wedged strip] SHIM. Here’s a word I haven’t seen in a while. I also haven’t had need to use one in a while – most of my table and chair legs have adjustable feet.
- 4d [Having better defense?] SAFER. I was somewhat thrown off by the ? indicator here, which had me looking for something more twisty. I imagine the thought was that the straightforward reading suggested a sports angle, while the intended reading is that someone with better defenses, at their home or fort or what have you, is SAFER.
- 21d [Mrs., in Móstoles] SRA. Móstoles is new to me – a suburb (? does Europe have suburbs?) of Madrid.
- 37d [Ballpark promo in which fans get clubs] BAT DAY. I suppose baseball bats are indeed “clubs,” though I don’t think of them that way, unless a crossword needs to clue “bats”
Dylan Schiff’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Thanks for Nothing!”—Jim’s review
We have two-part theme entries today. The entries with the starred clues are synonyms of the revealer phrase: IT’S ON THE HOUSE (124a, [“Your money is no good here” … and a literal description of each answer to the starred clues]). Immediately below these entries are phrases that contain a word that can also mean “house.”
- 23a. [Place for pegging] CRIBBAGE BOARD underneath NO CHARGE. Did a double-take with that clue. This is a family venue, isn’t it?
- 46a. [Lively bashes] SHINDIGS underneath FREE.
- 59a. [Property co-owner] JOINT TENANT underneath GRATIS.
- 89a. [Brillo product] ABRASIVE PAD underneath PRO BONO.
- 102a. [Loverboy] CASANOVA underneath COMPED.
Solid theme. I can’t say I got a lot of excitement out of it, but it does the job.
Having stacked theme entries forces a lot of constraints on the construction, but given that, the fill is quite nice. I especially like that SW corner with MECCA, CROATIANS, SAMSONITE, and SPANGLE crossing the themers. I’m giving IN THE GATE the side-eye, but other goodies include GASTRITIS, BEST DRAMA, WRINKLES, MAC USER, “NOT THAT!,” REST EASY, FIEFDOM, MEAT PIES, and RENEGADE. I didn’t know the Springsteen song ONE STEP UP by its title, but it definitely got some airplay.
Not sure I’ll ever be okay with OKED meaning “okayed.”
Clues of note:
- 30a. [Curry on the court]. SETH. Aw, come on now. Just when I felt confident that I knew Steph Curry, along comes his younger brother.
- 131a. [Its days are numbered]. CALENDAR. Good clue there.
- 62d. [Risk concern?] TERRITORY. From the board game.
Solid theme. Good fill. 3.75 stars.
Matthew Stock’s USA crossword, “Get’cha Head in the Game!”—Darby’s review
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: HEAD is tucked into each theme answer between two wods.
- 17a [TV show featuring Morticia and Wednesday] THE ADDAMS FAMILY
- 36a [Music artist with the 2018 EP “Seen It All”] SHEA DIAMOND
- 60a [“How great is that guy of yours?] IS HE A DOLL OR WHAT?
We continue the High School Musical Madness in USA Today with “Get’cha Head in the Game.” The first appeared on September 3rd and the second on September 17th. I loved that this had two grid-spanning themers with the ADDAMS FAMILY and IS HE A DOLL OR WHAT? With six words in the latter of those, I initially had a tough time figuring it out at first, and likewise was unfamiliar with SHEA DIAMOND. The crosses in the center were especially fair, and though I struggled for some reason to figure out 30d [Garb you don’t want to be seen in] CAMO, I was ableto use APED, MINI, YOGA, WHEE, EAST, and OUST to really help with it. I similarly struggled in the lower half of the puzzle with 48d [To boot] AT THAT and 45d [Celebrity chef Hall] CARLA, though I think that the crosses themselves were fair to help me figure out IS HE A DOLL OR WHAT.
I loved how the upper two corners allowed for stacking 7s and the lower two for stacking 6s. I thought that 3d [Direct paths] BEELINES, 13d [“Are you really sure that’s a rule?”] SAYS WHO, and 1d [Powerful, wealthy people] FAT CATS were especially good. I also thought that 43d [“Goodness gracious!”] MY OH MY was very cute.
A few other faves
- 36a [Music artist with the 2018 EP “Seen It All”] – Two of SHEA DIAMOND’s songs appeared on soundtrack for the queer rom-com Happiest Season in 2020.
- 44a [“What’s up, ___?” (Bugs Bunny’s catchphrase)] – I appreciate the continuing salience of Bugs Bunny’s “What’s up, DOC?” catchphrase, even as Looney Tunes seem to appear less and less.
- 66a [“I’ll keep you___ (“Details to come”)] – As always, I love the cluing of things colloquially, and so “I’ll keep you POSTED” was solid.