Ned White’s New York Times crossword
Hey, I liked this puzzle. Sometimes I start a crossword with some expectations of what it’ll be like based on the byline—and sometimes I have no idea what to expect. Have I done a Ned White puzzle before? I’m not sure. So I let this one unspool on its own terms, and it won me over. It leans towards the harder end of the Saturday spectrum, if you ask me…though I did make a couple missteps that may have drawn things out unnecessarily.
Highlights, gnarly clues, etc.:
- 9A. ASPIC is a nonfungal [Edible mold], as it’s molded in a Jell-o mold. The next clue, 14A, could well make you think the edible mold was something like POTATO ROT, or [Plant disease similar to blackleg]. It’s sort of a Klahny mislead, the 9A clue.
- 17A, 51A. Songs and albums: ARETHA NOW is the [1968 soul album with the hit “Think”], while I’M REAL is the [#1 hit from the album “J.Lo”]. Never heard of either one, but on the plus side, neither one is stale fill.
- 20A. Sometimes when I’m working on a crossword, I talk to it. I say, “NO, NO, NO!” [“That’s completely wrong!”] or obscure or utterly inelegant. This doesn’t happen much while doing the NYT crossword, mind you.
- 22A. -OMA is a [Medical suffix] denoting tumors and other growths. Am I the only one who refers to unfortunate, highly visible chin pimples as “chinomas”?
- 23A. MET UP is au courant as verb phrases with prepositions go. This answer isn’t iffy like some such phrases that make me go NO NO NO. There are flash-mob meet-ups and blogger meet-ups and all sorts of people who MET UP or [Got together]. Part of the overall smoothness to this grid.
- 28A. SUL is [South of Brazil?], I presume because SUL is the Brazilian/Portuguese word for “south.” Can’t say I recognize it, though. Needed the crossings here.
- 32A. A cattle [Driver’s problem] is a STAMPEDE. I figured this would be golf-related rather than automotive, but both were wrong.
- 36A. [A bowl of cherries, in Chelsea] is BEER AND SKITTLES. Cockney rhyming slang is in Chelsea, then?
- 39A. HIS OR HER is indeed a [Gender-neutral phrase]. “His or hers” would be a hair better, but this is fine.
- 60A, 61A. [A caddy may hold it]—aha! Here’s the golf clue! No, wait. HYSON is a kind of tea. But for [A caddie may hold it], a golf SCORECARD is indeed the answer.
- 62A. A sop for the poetically minded: [Sonnet feature] is END RHYME. (See also 35A: AABBA, the [Limerick scheme].)
- 7D. Smooth clue for “…OR NOT”: [Speculation follower]. Vague, yet specific.
- 8D. Whazzuh? [1919 novel set in Paris and Tahiti, with “The”] is MOON AND SIXPENCE? Is this about beer and Skittles?
- 13D. Whoa. [Carolina natives] clues CATAWBAS. There’s a Catawba River in the Carolinas, and Catawba grapes, and catalpa trees, all named after the Catawba tribe, also known as the Iswa, Issa, or Esaw.
- 15D. [What an angry employee might give a boss] is TWO WEEKS’ notice. Some folks just say, “I gave my two weeks” and omit the “notice” part.
- 24D. [Company man’s grp.?] is the US ARMY.
- 32D. SEED MONEY is an [Entrepreneur’s request].
- 33D. Awww… [They may fall when you’re down] clues TEARDROPS. (Not PANTS.)
- 34D. Full-name answers are always appreciated. ED HARRIS was [Jackson Pollock’s player in “Pollock”]. It’s a movie about the fish, of course.
- 36D. Nobody ever thinks BRACKISH sounds like what it is: [Neither freshwater nor marine], slightly salty, like the water in an estuary where fresh river water is mixed with sea water. BRACKISH sounds like it should mean “coated with pond scum, stagnant, kinda smelly.”
- 41A. White goes a long way for a TOM clue: [Kenyan leader Mboya whom Obama called his “godfather”].
- 44D. [Biblioteca Ambrosiana locale] is MILAN. I have no explanation for why I had MY LAP here. HYSON and hyssop blended into HYSOP, and the Y…you got me. There’s My Lai, but MY LAP?
- 57D. We go French for FER, [Élément #26]. Element 26 is iron, which is FER in French. Better than “fer and agin,” no?
I know those dance competition shows are all the rage these days (I don’t watch ’em), but that doesn’t mean we need two different “steps” with shared etymology in the puzzle. PASO DOBLE (“double step” in Spanish) is a [Dance based on bullfight music]. Then there’s PAS DE [___ bourrée (ballet move)] (“bourrée step” in French).
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Payday”—Janie’s review
Explaining company policy in the commercial he shot for AFLAC (Jan also gave us this link ten days ago in connection with another of Randy’s CS puzzles), Yogi Berra famously said, “And they give you cash back, which is just as good as money.” Well, today, Randy goes one better. Not only do we get cash back (which is just as good as you-know-what), he also gives us some change in the deal. Howzabout that? And just look at the three terrific phrases that deliver the goods. There’s:
- 17A. “MONEY FOR NOTHING” [1985 Dire Straits hit]. “I want my MTV.” And how.
- 38A. CHANGE FOR GOOD [UNICEF program]. Wow. Money for something. This is a partnership program between UNICEF and many major airlines. Have coins left over from your foreign travels? Participating airlines will collect ’em and donate the money to UNICEF. Nice. And
- 61A. CASH FOR CLUNKERS [2009 federal rebate program]. Oh, boy, what a great phrase to see in a puzzle. “Payday” indeed!
That Dire Straits tune is but one of many musical references in today’s puzzle. In fact, Randy’s got a veritable music mini-theme goin’ on here with JONAS [___ Brothers (pop group)], STAN [Jazz saxophonist Getz], the STONES [“Beggars Banquet” band, briefly], ALPERT [Herb with the Tijuana Brass] (and the “A” of A&M Records), LEO [Guitarist Kotke], ONO [“Double Fantasy” singer] and JAY-Z (a/k/a Shawn Carter) [Hip-hop artist married to Beyoncé]. Let me also include PHAT [Terrific, in slang] since it’s not only the way some music is described but because it gets a good bit of use in hip-hop culture. Oh–and TEMPO [Metronome measure].
And that doesn’t include 56A. [“Carmen” and “Norma”] which clues OPERAS, or [Tune from 56-Across], ARIA. I withheld the former because Randy also cleverly uses [Carmen and Norma, e.g.] to clue WOMEN, and this clue, in turn, is a cool complement to [Georgia or Chad]–which clues neither actress nor singer MITCHELL, but NATION. Sneaky. Smart.
HYPNOSIS [Trance state resembling sleep] and STILETTO [Small dagger] make for fine fill, as does the slangy GO DOWN for [Lose] and “I GOT IT!” for [Cry from the outfield]. I like [“Who goes there?” shouter] as the clue for SENTRY, [Bootlicker] for YES MAN, and love the [Labor class?]/LA MAZE combo, but question whether [Dracula’s target] is really the best clue for THROAT. I always thought of him as a NECK-man and I don’t think of neck as synonymous with throat. The neck houses the throat, but that doesn’t make ’em the same.
I also learned that while INERT is often used to describe a gas [Like xenon]–and also NEON [Gas on the Vegas strip]–they’re actually noble gases. But with their long history of being clued both ways, I suppose we really do get into a gray area here.
Now I know I’m repeating myself, but really, do check out Yogi’s AFLAC commercial. It’s only 29 seconds long, but what can I say? Droll. Very droll.
Frederick Healy’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Excerpts from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post:
This one may be a notch or two harder than the typical Saturday LAT—which means several notches easier than the usual Friday NYT. Notes on the fill:
- 1A: [Nut] (WHACK JOB). Hey! Who are you calling a whack job? This is how you kick off a puzzle, folks—with a knockout answer at 1-Across.
- 15A: [Dolts] (AIRHEADS). Hey! Who are you calling airheads? Mom! This puzzle is calling us names.
- 19A: [Texas-Louisiana border river] (SABINE). Whoa. This…is not common fill. The 4-letter rivers, sure. But not so much the 6-letter ones. I think I’ve seen this one maybe once in a puzzle. Not a very familiar river, is it? This could also have been clued in relation to the ancient Oscan-speaking people of the central Apennines in Italy. Which clue is easier for you? I call it a tie.
- 25A: [1951 Emmy winner Imogene] (COCA). She did a show with Sid Caesar. This might also have been clued as the coca leaf. Which has more of an L.A. vibe: Imogene Coca or the extract of the coca leaf?
- 27A: [Title burglar played by Bruce Willis in a 1991 film] (HUDSON HAWK). Uh, 1991 called. It wants its outdated pop-culture reference back. I never saw the movie, but I read the clue to my husband just now and he got it immediately. “You know that?” I exclaimed. “Doesn’t everyone?” he replied.
- 35A: [1992 Grammy winner for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance] (K.D. LANG). She has got some pipes, I tell you. Have a listen here.
- Ancient crosswordese with a long but maybe not so distinguished pedigree! 38A: [Old shipping allowance] (TRET) and 7D: [Concubine’s room] (ODA).
- 42A: [Stock mover] (CATTLE PROD). Ow! I was nervous that the Zap with a beam below this was going to be TASE, but it was merely LASE. Might’ve been good to clue 42A another way, as STOCKERS is in the grid.
- 46A: [Crab’s sensor] (PALP). I just like that word, PALP.
- 57A: [Loll] (SPRAWL). And I like these words too.
- 59A: [Mr. Right] (THE ONE). Terrific answer—”the one” is solidly in the vernacular as a two-word entity.
- 4D: [Former “SNL” regular Farley] (CHRIS). If you were a Chris Farley fan like I was, I recommend the book The Chris Farley Show, sort of an oral history and remembrance of him by those who loved him. Sad story. Apparently he was also incredibly sweet and generous in his private life.
- 36D: [Model of excellence] (NONESUCH). Is that what that word means? I gotta start working that one into my conversation. “That Tyler Hinman is a nonesuch when it comes to solving crosswords.”
Barry Silk’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”
(PDF solution here.)
Barry’s one of my favorite Stumper makers. He likes the Scrabbliness, he does, so we have QUANTUM PHYSICS ([They may be over your head]—no, wait, that’s the clue for ELS; the 19A clue is [Energy field]) and a ZESTY ([With relish]) DUSTJACKET ([Spine protection] for a book; I got mucked up by reading that as “spine projection” and waiting for the crossings to lead the way).
The special character coding is messed up for 39A. The clue reads [Norvè?ge” neighbor], but the question mark needs to go. La Norvège is French for Norway, whose neighbor is Sweden, or la Suède. That is a long way to go for a SUEDE clue. Leather SUEDE is named after “gloves of Sweden.” (Lemme put a diacritic-free [Norvege neighbor] here for Googlers.)
- 8D. [Finland’s “Maamme”] clues ANTHEM. With the TH in place, I guessed MOTHER. (The clue doubled the quotation marks, so the Norwegian question mark isn’t the only weird character problem today.)
- 12D. BRUCE LEE is [One of Time’s 20th-century “greatest heroes & icons”].
- 5D. The NCAA basketball tournament’s ELITE EIGHT are [Quarterfinalists, in headlines]. Kickass crossword entry.
- 34A. Amos Alonzo STAGG is our [Centenarian football coach]. How awesome would it be if there were a football team called the Centenarians? They’d never get any new draft picks or rookies.
- 47A. RAJ is a [Word from the Sanskrit for “king”].
- 54A. [Moppet merchant offering] is ADE, as in lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand.
- 60A. [Congolese giraffids] would also be a good name for a football team. They’re OKAPIS.
- 53D. Alain DELON was a [2008 Cesar Awards presenter]. Those are the French analog to the Oscars.
- 38D. [Line in a script] means a teeny line known as a SERIF, not a line of dialog.
- 9D. [Delays one’s retirement?] to bed clues STAYS UP. (See also 57D: EMER., short for emeritus, clued as [Ret. with honors]. I go to sleep with honors every night.)
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s cryptic WSJ puzzle, “Relocation”
If you’re new to cryptic crosswords, check out the authors’ guide to solving.
This puppy is much like the Atlantic Monthly puzzles Cox and Rathvon (a.k.a. “Hex”) made for many years. I’m still savoring their recent book, The Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords, and with the addition of one new one a month at the Wall Street Journal, I can stretch the book out even longer.Yay!
I confess that I checked 2D in the dictionary, suspecting the answer was RIGADOON but not being sure that was a word. It’s a Provençal dance. The clue is [Costume party scheduled around a dance], so that’s what…costume = RIG + party = DO + scheduled = ON, all “around” A? I had a rough time putting that together. I also used Google to see what the “destroyed PINE TREE” anagram in 18D was. I had *E*E*TIE. Nereptie? No, the PERENTIE is an Australian monitor lizard.
I managed to figure out everything else on my own. The “Relocation” theme/gimmick centers on Moving Day, and the gimmick’s key is the unclued U-HAUL truck at 22A. The answers that are one letter too long or too short for their spaces have to haul a U in or out of themselves. No enumerations of answers’ letter counts are given, so the solver has extra work to do to figure out which answers go in the grid as is and which need U-HAULing first. The U-HAULed answers are as follows (apologies to cryptic nuts for not following your terminology too closely):
- 1A. [Traces wayward boxes] is CRATES. Definition is “boxes”; answer is a “wayward” anagram of TRACES. Add a U: CURATES.
- 14A. [Full meal scattered around piano] is AMPLE. Def. is “full”; letters in MEAL are “scattered” around P (mus. abbrev. for “piano”). Add a U: AMPULE.
- 21A. [Arrogant fuddy-duddy mostly eating a bagel] is PROUD. PRUD is PRUDE “mostly” (curtailing its last letter) and it’s “eating” a bagel-shaped O. Def. is “arrogant.” Delete a U: PROD.
- 23A. [Spread news of monster to anyone listening] is BRUIT. Monster = brute, which sounds like BRUIT, which means “spread a rumor/news widely.” Delete a U: BRIT. (This clue took me a long time to understand. Actually, so did 21A.)
- 24A. [A wine choice emerged] is AROSE. Def. is “emerged”; A + ROSÉ wine. Add a U: AROUSE.
- 32A. [Truly regret going the wrong way in foreign capital] is EUROS. Truly = SO, regret = RUE. Wrong way means backwards. Def. is “foreign capital” as in currency, not a city. Delete a U: EROS.
- 33A. [Rat following mouse’s lead is lost] is MISSING. Mouse’s lead letter = M + IS + the verb “rat (out)” = SING. Def. is “lost.” Add a U: MISUSING.
- 1D. [Boarding vessel, run and get mum] is CLAM UP. Vessel = CUP + run = LAM (“boarding” CUP by going inside it). Def. is “get mum.” Delete a U: CLAMP.
- 3D. [Writer of poems to the French retreat] is AUDEN. The surface sense of the clue feels a little off to me. “Poems to the French retreat”? “To the” in French = AU + retreat = DEN. Def. is “writer of poems.” Delete a U: ADEN, the place name.
- 8D. [New Guinea place name turning up in page one article] is PAPUA. Def. is “New Guinea place name.” PU is “turning UP” inside…um…PA = “page” + “one article” = A? Not sure about that one. Delete a U: PAPA.
- 9D. [Adding a condiment, left can in sink] is SALTING. Def. is “adding a condiment.” “Left” = L + “can” = TIN inside “sink” = SAG. Add a U: SALUTING.
- 16D. [Pair of Floridians traveling south and sticking for the season?] is FLU SHOT. FL = pair of letters in “Floridians” + anag. of “south” = USHOT. Def. is “sticking for the season?” Add a U (tempting to try to delete the U that’s in there, isn’t it?): FLUSH OUT.
- 20D. [Debut of trattoria after sub shops get out of the market] is DELIST. Def. is “get out of the market,” as in the stock market. “Debut of trattoria” = T (the first letter of that word) + sub shops = DELIS. Add a U: DUELIST.
- 21D. [Hype about parody news source] is PAPER. Add a U: PAUPER. I don’t know how you get PAPER. Def. is “news source.” Aha! There it is. Hype = P.R. “about” or around the verb APE = “parody.”
- 27D. [Doohickey toted by wedding ushers] is DINGUS. Def. is “doohickey.” WedDING UShers contains DINGUS. Delete a U: DINGS.
- 29D. [Be responsible for California function] is CAUSE. Def. is “be responsible for.” California = CA + function = USE. Delete a U: CASE.
Did you realize how many words could be made by adding or deleting a U from another common word (or phrase)? A masterful concoction from Hex, as usual. Making the puzzle more difficult was the inclusion of PERENTIE, RIGADOON, and POMMELED where “pummeled” is much more common. Also upping the ante: All of those added U’s do not cross other entries, so it’s up to the solver to figure out the trick and identify the U words.
The main thing that sets these puzzles apart from standard cryptic crosswords (particularly those that appear every couple months in the NYT as the second Sunday puzzle, or the standard cryptics in the Games/World of Puzzles magazines) is the limited use of easier anagrams and hidden answers (e.g. DINGUS in 27D). The only straight-up anagram clues are 1A, 13A (ALGEBRA anag. of lab gear), 35A (STREETS anag. of testers), and 18D. 6A OPPOSE combines an anagram of “poops” + E, and 30A PERIOD combines an anagram of “ripe” + OD. The NYT second Sunday cryptics feel more arid to me because they rely much more on these sorts of clues—the ones you can eyeball and see an answer word jumping out at you. Cryptics in the Atlantic/WSJ style (also made by Patrick Berry for Games/World of Puzzles) limit those easy points of entry, so the puzzles take me several times longer than any NYT cryptic. I love the challenge.
Congratulations are in order! Congratulations to Emily and Henry for landing a new monthly cryptics gig after the Atlantic got too cheap to continue them. Congratulations to Mike Shenk for making the Wall Street Journal into a serious puzzlers’ destination. And congratulations to all cryptic fans, who will get a brand-new Hex cryptic for free each month (plus two Berry variety grids and a Shenk acrostic).