FRIDAY PUZZLE — It’s not that this puzzle has a lot of culinary references, it’s more that it’s one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” grids that spin off in dizzying different directions. It’s the right day for that, and Sam Trabucco is definitely one of those constructors who is deft at plucking words out of the zeitgeist and codifying them here for us.
Aside from the cluing, I think the design here helped heighten the challenge; solving any of the four midlength stacks didn’t help me much with the other three. I worked both bottom corners completely before I had made much of a dent in the northern hemisphere.
The dead center of this puzzle was a treat, not a trick: Mr. Trabucco meant that AIR KISS for all of us, I like to think, not just Ike. And, although we did encounter our usual allotment of arcane Friday entries, some very natural long fill like SURE BETS, DO YOU HEAR ME and NOT A CHANCE helped keep me puttering along, for the most part.
21A: “Total” here isn’t calories, it’s CEREAL. No artificial colors in this one, at least, but plenty of sugar.
28A: I did get a little indigestion from the gamy stuff. We’ve seen the “Wii” game system plenty of times, and once I saw those double “i”s I assumed we were looking at “Wii Mates*” here, little buddies you carry around like a Game Boy or whatever. Actually, there are such things as WIIMOTES, a portmanteau, because apparently you use remote controls when you play Wii. There are also, apparently, Wii nunchuks. Wiichuks?
*Yes — I should have known REOS at 22D, but I was completely thrown off by “buses.”
Right under this entry, at 31A, I was also a bit stymied by SIMS. At least Mr. Trabucco clusters it all together on the plate, so I can reluctantly eat it last.
40A: Even I, N.C.A.A. hoops ignoramus, know that the women’s basketball team at UCONN is good. Maybe the best?
57A: Sure, why not cross IKE with IKE? After just lamenting the glossy piles of tantalizing merch that surround me every December, whose existence makes it “impossible to clean this house” according to my helpmeet, I had to go to its website to confirm that there is still an IKEA CATALOG. They’ve been skipping me for some reason. Reader, I signed up.
2D: “Lap” here isn’t what you lose when you stand, it’s what you complete when you run around to where you started, often in an OVAL.
12D: Appropriately running down the game corner, another franchise that catches me flat-footed is the “Transformers” series of toys, movies and so forth. The antagonists’ name makes good sense though, DECEPTICON.
13D: I just wanted to mention that REGALEMENT is making a return to the puzzle after 50 years. ’Tis the season, right?
26D: I very clearly remember my first exposure to the EBOLA SCARE, way back in 1992, when Richard Preston wrote about it for The New Yorker. It was a terrifying article that I remembered vividly when we had that real epidemic a few years ago; still, I assumed that this clue referred to a computer illness, not a real “Viral fear,” when I read it.
MUNCHIES over GYM DAY might be the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever put into a crossword.
AIR KISS to my fellow “Orange Is the New Black” fans who appreciate seeing UZO ADUBA today. And to everyone else: Wake up, SHEEPLE!
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What did you think?