Alina Abidi’s New York Times crossword, “Fabric-ations” — Nate’s write-up
– 23A GINGERBREAD [Holiday building material (GABARDINE)
– 25A BINGE READ [Stay up all night finishing a book, maybe (GABARDINE)
– 38A SENATE SEAT [Washington post (SATEEN)]
– 40A ASSENT [Thumbs-up (SATEEN)]
– 79A OPENER [Precursor to the main act (NEOPRENE)]
– 81A ERROR-PRONE [Liable to make mistakes (NEOPRENE)]
– 101A ARMS REACH [Grabbing distance (CASHMERE)]
– 103A CREAM CHEESE [Philadelphia specialty (CASHMERE)]
– 61A CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH [Having similar qualities … or what four pairs of answers in this puzzle are?]
In this puzzle, each pair of theme answers is spelled (cut) from only the letters of the parenthetical fabric (cloth). The revealer is cute and I really like the idea, but each fabric not being a strict letter bank (only one of each letter) for the longer phrases took away from the theme for me just a bit. Also, a few of the themers were so short that I wish the puzzle weren’t constrained to each pair of themers being in the same row so that we could get longer, more surprising entries spelled with the limited letter sets. That said, this was a relatively smooth solve that felt fun and engaging, so I can’t complain too much.
In contrast to this week’s Sunday puzzle, this puzzle felt modern and current. Even how entries like BABES, BOT, ATE, BATS, WAS, EDIBLE, and ANTIHERO were clued made the puzzle feel of this moment, which I very much appreciated. I also really enjoyed seeing entries like BOPIT, JDATE, TPAIN, LUMPIA, and more. I can’t wait to see the next puzzle from this constructor!
What did you think of the puzzle? Any tricky bits? Let us know in the comments section below – and have a great weekend. If you’re headed out for Halloween, be safe!
Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Ghostwriters”
This week’s WaPo crossword is a rerun from 2018 – find Jim Q’s original review here. Next weekend’s puzzle, as well as the remainder of the year, will be new puzzles from guest constructors.
Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Traffic Jam”—Jim’s review
Vehicles are added to familiar phrases creating crossword wackiness.
- 22a. [Experts discussing “Madame Bovary”?] FLAUBERT PANEL. Flat panel. Hmm. An Uber isn’t a vehicle like the others.
- 27a. [Spreadsheet virtuoso?] EXCEL SAVANT. Excels at. Meh. The base phrase is less than interesting.
- 34a. [Desperate pirate fight?] BRIGAND STAND. Bandstand.
- 69a. [Backup device for formal occasions?] SECOND BUSTIER. Second tier.
- 102a. [Secret ring of ballot casters?] ELECTOR CABAL. Electoral. This one is all too real, unfortunately.
- 108a. [Info about payments to the ex?] ALIMONY NEWS. “Any news?”
- 119a. [Soother for crustacean-based stomachaches?] LOBSTER BICARB. Lobster bib.
Not bad. I picked some nits above, but it’s not a bad theme. I would’ve liked an additional layer to the theme, like a revealer or some sort of wordplay providing a basis for the theme in addition to the title.
Highlights in the fill: IT’S A BIRD, UPSET ALERT, CAT CONDO, BETA TEST, EYEBALL, BABY GAP, “SURE CAN!,” SARDINIA, EXUBERANT. I don’t think I’m familiar with the Louis XV phrase, “APRÈS MOI, la déluge.” Read its meaning here.
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Vile Nile snake]. ASP. “Vile?” Why so judgmental? It’s just trying to live its best life.
- 25a. [___ Pitcher (Revolutionary War nickname)]. MOLLY. New to me. Apparently this was the nickname for any woman who fought in the war.
- 65d. [Middle name for “The King”]. ARON. Apparently this spelling and “Aaron” are both acceptable when referring to Elvis’s middle name.
- 84d. [“Born Free” feline]. ELSA. Ah, it’s the pre-Frozen clue for this name.
Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.
Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Bop to the Top” — Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: BOP appears in each of the themers, moving closer to the top of the puzzle.
- 24a [2021 sci-fi series based on an anime space Western] COWBOY BEBOP
- 26a [Oversized writing utensil] JUMBO PENCIL
- 20a [Employment opportunities] JOB OPENINGS
- 10a [“Toy Story” character with pet sheep] BO PEEP
I love this theme. I love that it has four theme answers, and it’s really nifty how BOP continues to ascend as you move from left to right through the puzzle. They were also all really familiar themers. I didn’t realize at first that BO PEEP was a themer; I just thought it was a cute answer. When I hit COWBOY BEBOP, I realized what was going on. JUMBO PENCIL was also very cool and fresh, conjuring a specific image of the writing utensil.
I thought there was some great fill in this puzzle. There were many Js, which can be difficult to work with, but that didn’t stop JANE DOE and JABS, in addition to the two themers beginning with J. It’s no surprise that this is an asymmetric grid, as it would be difficult to do symmetry with four themers and have BOP move as it does up through the answers. It worked out well, making the NW corner particularly open with CORE VALUE and STAR ANISE. Likewise, IS IT REAL in the SE and even PRIVATE in the SW are open as a result of the asymmetry.
Some other favourites:
- 17a [How some crosswords are solved] – I solved this one on the app, but some folks are brave enough to do puzzles IN PEN. Love this meta reference to puzzling.
- 38a [Soft pat on a pet’s nose] – BOOP is such a cute word, and it seems to me to match with the general vibe of BO PEEP too.
- 50a [“You are on ___ land”] – I thought that this was a great clue for NATIVE.
Overall, this was a great entry in our High School Musical saga! Bop bop bop!