Thanks for your patience Thursday while our webhosting service had a power outage, folks. I Didn’t Do It.™—Amy
Priyanka Sethy’s Inkubator crossword, “It’s Extremely Popular in Some Circles”—Jenni’s write-up
The title pretty much says it all. Each theme answer has circles at the start and end that spell out a word.
- 16a [English title for Valeria Luiselli’s novel “Los ingravidos”] is FACES IN THE CROWD. FAD.
- 27a [Bat mitzvahs and quinceaneras, e.g.] are RITES OF PASSAGE. Raise a Jewish kid in a majority Latinx city and she will start attending b’nai mitzvot in sixth grade and go right on through the quinceaneras to the Sweet Sixteen parties. RAGE
- 47a [Adventure novel whose male protagonist was played by Shirley Mason in a 1920 film adaptation] is TREASURE ISLAND. TREND.
- 62a [“Because He Liked to Look At It,” for one] is VAGINA MONOLOGUE. VOGUE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the info in 16a and 62a was all new to me.
Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Whaddaya know? Robyn’s up to her usual shenanigans. Filling the grid with sparkly longer answers, with nary a single roll-your-own BS word. SHAKERS are actual things, whereas a nonsense word like swellers would be lousy fill. Robyn’s got all this smooth surrounding fill cushioning all the flashy bits, and I like it.
Fave fill: TITLE ROLES, CAVE ART, ORIGIN STORIES (I need to make one up for myself), “KEEP THE CHANGE,” SPOKE UP (lotta that these days), “I LUCKED OUT,” SWEETIE, SHORT SHORTS, “DON’T TEMPT ME” (crossing a TORTE, no less), and ON A MISSION.
A few clues:
- 14a. [Show that featured the first lesbian kiss on prime-time TV (1991)], L.A. LAW. Let me fire up my 1990s Wayback Machine and try to recall who was involved. I think it was Amanda Donohoe and … ugh, I have no idea. Wikipedia to the rescue; it was Michele Greene and it was merely a ratings grab. We’ve come a long way since 1991.
- 34a. [Producers of green eggs (but not ham)], EMUS. Love this clue!
- 33d. [Pool maker], TIDE. Interesting clue angle, referencing tide pools that gather such cool sea creatures.
4.25 stars from me.
Olivia Mitra Framke & Sally Hoelscher’s USA Today crossword, “Back Pockets”—Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The second word of each theme answer (the “backs”) can follow POCKET.
- 19a [Adjustments that might affect work hours] SCHEDULE CHANGE / POCKET CHANGE
- 34a [Observe fellow passengers while watching for a flight, say] PEOPLE WATCH / POCKET WATCH
- 54a [Activist involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests] WATER PROTECTOR / POCKET PROTECTOR
This was a cute theme! The three themers were each very fun, and I think it was a nice mix of recognizable and educational (if, like me, WATER PROTECTOR was new). Plus, who doesn’t love to PEOPLE WATCH? WATER PROTECTOR was the only one for which I needed crosses; the others fell into place pretty easily. The themers are EACH different lengths, so it’s no surprise that this an asymmetric grid. I think that this worked well in that each corner is pretty open and connected with the rest of the grid, with the tightest spaces being with the two rows of four threes (MED–AS I–SPA–ORS and NAH–TOM–DOH–TEE).
I really liked the Star Wars reference in 29a [Darth Vader’s answer to who killed Anakin Skywalker] I DID from Kenobi. 5d [“Only Murders in the Building” star Gomez] SELENA was also fun to see. Other faves included 2d [Word before “Flakes” or “trips] FROSTED, 8d [Garbanzo bean] CHICKPEA, and 37d [Beverage Judy the elf makes in “The Santa Clause”] HOT COCOA.
Josh M. Kaufmann’s Universal crossword, “Would They?”—Jim’s review
Theme answers come in pairs—an Across and a Down answer which cross at some point. The Across entry is clued as a homphonic phrase relating to a famous person and the corresponding Down answer.
- 5a. [Most comedians named Jimmy didn’t 5-Down, but …] CARDED. Carr did. With 5d CHECK ID. Do most Americans know Brit Jimmy Carr? You mention a “comedian named Jimmy” and you have a bevy of Americans who fit that bill.
- 33a. [Most politicians named Al wouldn’t partake in 23-Down, but …] GOURMET. Gore may. With 23d FORMAL DINING.
- 40a. [Most late-night hosts named Bill wouldn’t consume 4-Down, but…] MARMITE. Maher might. With 4d YEAST EXTRACT.
- 66a. [Most actresses named Kathryn don’t drive 43-Down, but …] HONDAS. Hahn does. With 43d ACCORDS. I recognize the actress from WandaVision, but I didn’t know her name. At my age, I’m more familiar with Goldie Hawn than Kathryn Hahn.
Whew. This was confusing at first, with the cross-referencing and the entries not really matching the clues. And that first entry is a tough one to start with; since you’re already bound to be confused by the theme to begin with, if you don’t know who Jimmy Carr is, you might be turned off altogether.
Thankfully for me, I’ve at least heard of the guy, so at some point I just had to shut down my brain and “hear” the correct answers. Then things proceeded more swiftly after that. I’m sure this puzzle wasn’t for everyone, but once I got over the hump, I enjoyed the solve.
All the cross-referenced theme answers take up most of the grid real estate, but there are some nice 7s: FEDORAS, MITZVAH, and TRACTOR. DECODER would’ve been more fun clued with respect to a DECODER ring, but maybe I’m dating myself with that notion. I think I’ve seen FIOS [Verizon offering] in real life, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable fill. WFH (work from home) appeared once in a Jonesin’ puzzle in 2020, so this might be its non-indie puzzle debut.
Clues of note:
- 54d. [Actress Espinosa]. EDEN. New cluing angle alert. She’s best known for her role in Wicked on Broadway.
- 17a. [“Big Mouth” girl voiced by Nick Kroll]. LOLA. I’m always happy to show off voice acting talent. In addition to being the show’s creator, Nick Kroll does a number of voices for it. Here he is demonstrating his range for Jimmy Fallon.
Nice puzzle once you suss it out. 3.5 stars.
Zachary David Levy’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I had a wrong letter and couldn’t find it. Turns out it was part of the revealer (which I’d never heard of) crossing an initialism that simply brainfarted on.
- 61aR [Added panache, as was done three times in this puzzle?] ZHUZHED IT UP. A /zh/ sound has been suffixed to the first words of a few two-word phrases. Spelling is modified as necessary.
- 17a. [Farmer’s tan?] BEIGE OF PIGS (Bay of Pigs).
- 30a. [Battle hymn?] SIEGE SHANTY (sea shanty). I’m more likely to pronounce siege with a soft-G sound.
- 49a. [Don rose-colored glasses?] ROUGE THE DAY (rue the day).
Between not knowing the revealing phrase and pronunciation of one of the three theme answers, this was not a home run for me. Also, it’s weird that two of the three zh-words are colors.
- 25d [Common name of Taxus baccata] YEW. Per Wikipedia: “Taxus is the Latin word for this tree and its wood that is used to make javelins. The Latin word is probably borrowed, via Greek τόξον tóxon, from taxša, the Scythian word used for ‘yew’ and ‘bow’ (cognate of Persian تخش Taxš meaning bow) because the Scythians use its wood to make their bows.” I’m not sure, but this seems unrelated to the Latin word taxus meaning badger, which I am also speculating derives from something other than a Greek cognate.
- 46d [Like many state mottoes] IN LATIN.
- 62d [Initials in the news] UPI, not API—don’t know quite what I was thinking.
- 29a [Org. with complex schedules] IRS. Our tax system is so byzantine as a means to create loopholes for the wealthy.
- 60a [JFK-to-Tokyo carrier] ANA, All Nippon Airways.
- 69a [Make a fast stop?] EAT. 26d [Green grp.] PGA.
- 71a”Woman With a Parasol” painter Claude] MONET. One of my favorites from an artist I’m not particularly enamored of. He painted more than one version of it.