All the hoopy froods are solving the puzzle here, then reading the review below. Don’t panic!
This week we were gifted with a difficult (for me, at least) 70-word themeless chock-full of good long entries. It took me several minutes to get anywhere in the puzzle, probably because I immediately filled in TATA for 1a [“Toodles”] instead of G’BYE. I filled in bits and pieces until I made a little headway in the SW corner, where AXE led me to see MANGIA (thanks, four years of Italian in high school!). The clue for EHS made me realize my mistake in the NW, and then longer entries such as BOO BERRY began to fall. After what seemed like an hour, the grid was complete, but no pointy puzzler friend appeared to announce my victory. Turns out while GAWK is a completely valid answer for [Stare a little too long], there is no one named WAK who performed “My Way.” Fetty WAP, on the other hand, has a single by that name that debuted at number 98 in the Billboard Hot 100 in July 2015, and GAWP fits equally well. I’ll be honest — my first thought was Sinatra when I read [“My Way” singer], but luckily that’s not how Erik rolls.
For the medium to longer entries, I loved the entire left side of the grid. YOU’VE BEEN SERVED connecting GO TO TOWN and BOO BERRY to MANGIA and EXPAND. All gettable entries not often seen. The right border was more difficult. Didn’t know AGRICOLA or Ansel ELGORT (Fun Fact: Ansel Elgort also does DJ work under the name Ansolo – I love me some Star Wars puns). C NATURAL might have taken me less time, but it was clued as the amazing simplistic [Do], so I kept racking my brain for verbs and nouns and not notes. LANSING MICHIGAN was gettable, but as someone pointed out on Erik’s blog, Michigan State University is located in East Lansing. The longest acrosses split me. I liked the play on “locker” for WRESTLING RING, but the ring itself isn’t a room, so [Locker room?] doesn’t make complete sense. Also, RING is duplicated in the clue for ORBIT, [Ring around a planet]. On the other hand, I loved NO SMOKING SIGN, cleverly clued as [Cig-nulling device?]. Finally, EAST ANGLIA came to me quickly because it’s where Thomas Dolby grew up and now keeps his wind- and solar-powered lifeboat recording studio, The Nutmeg of Consolation, where he created his most recent album, “A Map of the Floating City.” (Yes, you read that entire sentence right.)
The shorter fill was pretty solid. Erik’s grids are fresh without resorting to brospeak or poop and sex jokes, so I was surprised to see ANAL in the SE corner. Not sure if cluing it as an abbreviation helps that much [Complex math class: Abbr.] but I think it is better. The most major issue I had with this puzzle was the use of MESNE [Like a landlord who has a landlord, in legalspeak]. I thought I had never seen it before, but apparently its last use in the NYT crossword was August 2014. It’s only been seen eight times in the past 20 years, though. By itself it means “intermediate.” In Erik’s clue, it refers to “mense lords” who have tenants but also have lords over them. I know that my not having heard of something doesn’t mean it’s not common knowledge, but I don’t think this falls under that umbrella. It looks like someone looked at ESNE, thought it wasn’t bad enough crosswordese, then decided to stick an M in front. At least the crossings were easy. But I still stared at it, thought, “Noooo, that can’t be right…” and looked again at the crossings, “Really? Reeeally? I guess so.” It’s just bad.
Time for a palate cleanser of wonderful clues! Some are mentioned above. There’s also:
- [Bit part?] for ANKLE (as my own ankle-biter naps nearby)
- [Things found on bridges of spies?] for BINOCULARS (timely given the recent film Bridge of Spies)
- [Flowering, poetically (or the basketball-playing dog owned by J. Framm, in film)] for ABUD / A. BUD (although Air Bud is old enough to vote and buy cigarettes now)
- [Pre-launch codes?] for BETAS
- My favorite: [Nick barker] for REN.
Here’s some Fetty to play me out. Until next time!