SATURDAY PUZZLE — This grid is a neat accomplishment. It’s Evan Kalish’s first Saturday puzzle, and he has now hit for the cycle as a constructor of at least one daily puzzle for all seven days of the week, plus a variety puzzle (a vowel-less crossword, if you’re interested in trng smthng nw).
This grid gives the solver a good mental workout. I especially like the smattering of x’s and k’s in quirky words throughout, the excellent trivia and the several debuts and rarities.
This grid has a lot of trivia that will please the generalist, I hope — THE SCREAM in the “Home Alone” movie poster, the TRIX RABBIT and its “floppy ears,” Hannah Gadsby’s NETFLIX SPECIAL. I found some of the smallest entries in this puzzle to be headscratchers. “Port letters” made me think of shipping cargo, not data via a USB port; for “Taken charge,” I wrote “led,” rather than FEE; “Lagunitas” is a brand new to me and to the crossword that makes IPA beer.
24A “Toddy cats” aren’t actually cats. They’re CIVETS, close relatives of the mongoose — although they do appreciate an occasional tipple of “toddy,” or fermented palm wine. They also famously contribute to a refined and expensive cup of coffee.
31A. This “Early 21st-century crisis” is a debut with inauspicious timing; let’s hope the appearance of the GREAT RECESSION in this puzzle isn’t an omen.
57A. The “Prix de Lausanne” is a competition for young dancers that occurs annually in Switzerland and serves as a showcase for many a buoyant BALLERINA.
63A. This “Campus with a landmark statue of Will Rogers on his horse Soapsuds” is not the actor’s alma mater; a friend donated the statue to TEXAS TECH in 1950, after Rogers’s death, because a nearly 10-foot-tall steed-and-cowboy sculpture suited the West Texas tradition.
6D The clue “Image problem?” is kind of meta, kind of not. It refers to a crossword puzzle fixture, the REBUS, which can be strictly wordplay or can incorporate illustrations (to baffling effect).
33D. “Some pieces in a bucket” solves to THIGHS, which I found bizarre until I made the mental leap to “buckets” of fried chicken parts. I’m sure a lot of people knew this off the bat, but the chicken bucket’s ubiquity dates back to Colonel Sanders’s marketing acumen in the 1950s, and it’s a global icon at this point. However, my urban childhood was missing this particular joint.
If I recall correctly, I saw a tweet by Jason Alexander saying he feels dumb when it comes to weekend crosswords, so I figured I would put his (14-letter) name in a themeless puzzle. Yada yada yada, many iterations later and NETFLIX SPECIAL ends up in the JASON ALEXANDER spot!