Robert Ryan’s New York Times crossword, “You’re Onto Something” — Nate’s write-up
– 23A: DOESN’T GIVE A FIGURE [Acts coy in salary negotiations?]
– 36A: WASHINGTON POSTURE [Public stance of a member of Congress?]
– 49A: PASTURE CARING [Shepherd’s job, essentially?]
– 63A: ALLURE TOO WELL [Turn more heads than intended?]
– 74A: NO MEAN FEATURE [Newspaper write-up that’s light on criticism?]
– 92A: ADVENTURE CALENDAR [Bungee jumping on Tuesday, skydiving on Wednesday, etc.?]
– 107A: ENDURE ON A HIGH NOTE [Show off one’s vocal range and stamina?]
DEAR ME. I’ll kindly say that this puzzle wasn’t for me. Is it possible that this puzzle was meant to run more than a decade ago and they lost it until now? I’m struggling to find anything modern about it, aside from WII U and the ELSA, OLGA, ORA, and RAE clues. Since the women could have been clued through older references or two-word partials, I genuinely can’t be confident that this puzzle was made at any time after 2012 or so (the date of the WII U release). Even the UGGS and ALI clues are 20+ year-old references.
The theme itself also feels a bit OF AN ERA that isn’t today and not nearly as tight as I would expect, because (a) while some of the base phrases maintained the pronunciation of URE-d word, others didn’t (post –> posture, particularly), and (b) URE was not consistently added to the first or last word of each theme entry.
That said! According to xwordinfo.com, this constructor has only had three puzzles in the NYT to date – all have been Sunday puzzles and his debut was only in March of this year(!). So maybe instead of a dated puzzle, it’s a newer constructor who’s still building the skill of writing super clean grids with modern entries? I think I want to believe in that and look forward to his potential.
Even still, the puzzle also felt sloggier to solve than we’re used to with recent Sunday NYT puzzles. The proper noun / abbreviation-heavy top-left corner was an indication of how this puzzle was going to go, with so many proper nouns, abbreviations, and bits of crosswordese. Even in just the middle section of the puzzle, we have TEL, INRE, ERAT, CRUS, ETAL, AGER, ADDR, ONEG for crosswordese aone. SBA LOANS / S CLASS also felt like a particularly brutal “guess a letter” crossing if you didn’t know either entry itself.
My joy from this puzzle came from the ARNOLD [___ Lobel, author of the “Frog and Toad” series”] clue. I love those stories and had one of them read at my wedding.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t enjoy this puzzle more, but I hope that some of you out there did. At the very least, I hope you have a great weekend!
LA Times crossword “Finish Lines” by Brian Callahan — Jack’s write-up
Theme: theme entries contain five copies of the letter R. The revealer is 122A. [Fins, or when parsed differently, a feature of the answers to the starred clues] = FIVERS. Fivers and fins are both slang for five dollar bills. Fivers reparsed spells “five Rs”.
27A. [Coral Sea structure] = GREAT BARRIER REEF
46A. [Place to chill on the train?] = REFRIGERATOR CAR
65A. [Long-running comic strip about the Patterson family] = FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
85A. [Naval vessel known as a “flattop”] = AIRCRAFT CARRIER
107A. [Dog breed that weighs no more than seven pounds] = YORKSHIRE TERRIER
14D. [Cause of some memory problems] = READ WRITE ERROR
47D. [Need for a comprehensive background check?] = REARVIEW MIRROR
Halfway through solving, I paused to try to guess the theme. The themers didn’t seem as out of the ordinary (punny, letters added, outlandish features) as you often encounter on a Sunday, which made me extra suspicious. It took a couple of minutes to notice that all of the starred entries I’d uncovered thus far had five Rs in them and even then I couldn’t anticipate the revealer despite it sitting right in my lap.
The themers are all pretty well known although I’m not sure I’d actually heard the term REFRIGERATOR CAR before. Quite inferrable though.
I was impressed with the long bonus entries in this puzzle. Often Sunday-sized themes constrain the grid, but despite having seven hefty theme entries, Brian worked in NOT A TOY, HOTEL SAFE, GAY ANTHEM, DOOR MAT, NERF WARS, AWAY TEAMS, TOO LATE, SCREW TOPS, SEA MIST, INDIE POP, LIMO RIDES, LEAP YEARS. That’s an unusually high volume of good stuff.
A lot of entertaining clues elevated my solve as well. I particularly liked 2D. [Lifted ones spirits?] = EXORCISED. Clever!
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “A Small Announcement” — Matt’s write-up
Fans of Evan’s puzzles and regular Crossword Fiend readers will know that Evan and his wife Vicki have been expecting their first child. The Birnholzes welcomed Elliot James Birnholz to the world this past week, and today’s puzzle is both thematically appropriate and carries this note:
This puzzle is a bit smaller than normal, but it has some big news. Next week’s crossword will be my last puzzle of the year. The puzzles from Nov. 5 through Dec. 31 will be written by special guest constructors. Today’s crossword explains why.
Our theme features rebus entries where either “BOY” or “GIRL” would satisfy the clue:
- 8a [Retriever in foul territory] BALL ___ // 12d [Sitcom with the characters Cory and Topanga] ___ MEETS WORLD
- 20a [Archetypal neighbor in romantic stories] ___ NEXT DOOR // 20d [Time to grow up] ___HOOD
- 36a [DC Comics protagonist] SUPER___ // 37d [Some significant others] ___friends
- 50a [Enthusiastic devotee] FAN___ // 53a [Group whose members earn badges] ___ SCOUT TROOP
- 40d [Parent’s phrase of encouragement to their young child] THATS MY ___ // 81a [Alex or Morgan, e.g.] ___S NAME
- 97a [Child represented in six squares in this puzzle (in either of two different ways] LITTLE KID
In the print version, the center square is clued [“It’s a ___!” (either one of two celebratory birth announcements shared by new parents)]. A number of other entries are clued to “baby” and “child” angles, and ELLIOT, the guest of honor, makes an appearance at 13d.
A well-done, accessible rebus that strikes me simultaneously as one with lots of potential theme fodder and impressive in its smoothness. I unfortunately don’t have the time to dig into non-theme notes this weekend, so I’ll close with a hearty congrats to Vicki and Evan!
Universal: “Themeless Sunday 56” by Taylor Johnson and Rafael Musa, norah’s review, 3:05
- ⭐DEMISEXUAL 16A [Needing an emotional bond for physical attraction] 👋
- YOURENOTSERIOUS 6D [“Really, though?”] Banger colloquial 15s are my jam.
- NAMES 28A [Tom and Jerry?]
- KOALA 29A [Marsupial whose male has a scent gland on its chest]
- FLEXES 40D [Boasts, colloquially]
- ITPRO 45D [Person who might give you a crash course?]
Heyyy another PR at 3:05! Hoping to bust three minutes soon. :)
This grid isn’t “ODDLY” satisfying, it’s expectedly satisfying by Universal themeless mainstay Rafa, INCAHOOTS today with Taylor.
Goodness, CREAMSODA and REMOULADE and CINNABONS oh my.
You should know: “The Age of Pleasure” by Janelle Monae
Thanks Rafa, Taylor, and the Universal team!
Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Headline Performers”—Jim’s review
Theme answers are made-up phrases comprised of famous singers’ surnames strung together to form a coherent newspaper headline. Clues are rough synonyms of the phrases with the singers’ first names in parentheses.
- 23a. [BESTSELLING MEMOIR ROILED BY CONTROVERSY! (Patti, Tina, Jordin, Roberta)] PAGE-TURNER SPARKS FLACK. This one is fine, but I felt it was the weakest of the lot.
- 33a. [PRIZE FLOWER SUCCUMBS TO HEAT! (Donna, Doris, Bill, Axl)] SUMMER DAY WITHERS ROSE. Now we’re talking. Fun entry.
- 54a. [VIRAL RUMOR PLUMMETS IPHONE SALES! (Keith, John, Bruno, Fiona)] URBAN LEGEND MARS APPLE. Ha! Good one.
- 74a. [TEEN CRAFTS BREAD MASTERPIECE! (Neil, Anita, Harry, Meat)] YOUNG BAKER STYLES LOAF. Hmm. Not sure about the accuracy of separating Meat from Loaf. Incidentally, his real name was Michael Lee Aday.
- 88a. [WINGED PIRATE PILFERS SALVATION ARMY BUCKET! (Sheryl, Stevie, Billie, Johnny)] CROW NICKS HOLIDAY CASH. Outstanding entry. Very natural-feeling. My favorite of the group.
- 108a. [GALLOPING GALAHAD GORES GRAIL! (Taylor, Gladys, Britney, Billy)] SWIFT KNIGHT SPEARS IDOL. Feels odd to call a grail an “idol.” I’d think you’d call it a “relic” first.
Despite my nits, I enjoyed this theme immensely. I looked forward to each one and piecing it together via the names (which I mostly knew, thankfully). This type of theme can get a little too wacky, but here are constructors did a good job of making the phrases feel natural. And I definitely made audible chuckling noises more than once during the solve. A win in my book!
Not so much long fill today since the six long theme answers steal the show. But BLUE DEVIL, EASY MARKS, and FAKE TAN are fun entries.
Clues of note:
- 13a. [“I’m just a soul ___ intentions are good”]. WHOSE. I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to the Latin/flamenco version of this song by Santa Esmeralda and which was featured in Kill Bill. (The uncut version is 10.5 mins. long, so just click play and go about your blog-reading business.)
- 85a. [TV spot for good]. PSA. Usually I don’t complain too loudly about clue/entry dupes, but the entry right before this clue is ION TV.
- 37d. [Rapper’s line?]. “IT’S ME.” Mario?
Fun puzzle. 4.25 stars.