Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword
I’m not wild about the fill overall. I like a number of the long answers, yes, but then there are crosswordese people (Perle MESTA, [Socialite who inspired "Call Me Madam"]) and things (an ARETE, or [Alpine feature]) and foreign animals (OCA is a [Goose, in Spain or Italy]), odd-jobbers (PRESSER and MASHER), and the just-plain-”only on Saturday” fill like 1D and 2D. [Career diplomat Philip]‘s last name is HABIB? Hey, a friend’s husband is named Habib. But I don’t know Philip. The [Mild-flavored seaweed in Japanese cuisine] is apparently ARAME, but I’ve never heard of it. LDR as an abbreviation for “leader” is…eh. It’s beside the killing suffix CIDE, or [Killer ending?]. I feel a little ripped off when a question-marked clue leads to a lame piece of fill like a suffix.
- 35D, 29D. [Observance made official by President Wilson in 1914] is MOTHER’S DAY, and it crosses FATHERS…but not fathers of children. [Confession receivers] are priests.
- 41A. ["The lady in red" betrayed him] tells a tale, doesn’t it? This is the clue for DILLINGER, and maybe I would’ve known this one if only I’d seen last year’s movie, Public Enemies, which was filmed in my area.
- 4D. STEM THE TIDE is a rock-solid crossword-worthy phrase. Means to [Slow an increase].
- 5D. HELP WANTED is a [Heading for classified information?]. Classified ads, not top-secret classified information.
- 22D. Ah, the CORNER STORE! It’s a [Place to get milk]. I love a good corner store. (Corner location optional.)
Favorite clue: [Magic tricks?] for BASKETS scored by the Orlando Magic.
19D. [A dead one looks like something else] is a bizarre clue for RINGER. “Dead ringer” is one thing, but does it tie directly to the word “ringer”?
35D. MENE is the [Mysterious word repeated in Daniel 5:25]. Judging from the clues listed in the Cruciverb database, this is the Biblical graffiti on a wall in Daniel—which explains why I think of walls when I see the word MENE. Oddly enough, the word’s last appearance in the Cruciverb database was another Healy NYT, from 2008.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A League of Their Own”—Janie’s review
There’s an awful lot to like in this puzzle even if it has an easily discernible theme. The last word of each of the four theme phrases can precede the word “league”–giving us four new phrases. I’m a bit disappointed that three of the four are sports-related (I think I’d've preferred that all four be alike or all four be different…), but the base phrases are so lively, I gotta cut Randy some slack. See for yourself. There’s:
- 17A. [Irritating vine] POISON IVY → Ivy League. A member of that would be an ELI or [Yale student]. Re: the theme phrase, remember? “Leaves of three, let them be.” It’s still true…
- 28A. [Character linked to the phrase "the sky is falling"] CHICKEN LITTLE → Little League. In case anyone was wondering Chicken Little is also known as Chicken Licken…
- 48A. [1980 John Lennon/Yoko Ono album] DOUBLE FANTASY → Fantasy League. If I’ve got it right, fantasy leagues are kind of like teams made up of statistical all-stars–for just about any sport. That includes Ultimate Frisbee, btw, where there are rules of etiquette even for hecklers. You’ll also find a SCOTUS Fantasy League–and yes, that’s the Supreme Court of the United States.
- 65A. [Marching band leader] DRUM MAJOR → Major League. Now “major league” sports are legion, and the first one that pops into mind is baseball, with its [Cooperstown destination], the HALL OF FAME. And sure, there’s major league soccer and major league lacrosse, too. But did you know there’s also Major League Dreidel??? As you enter the “Spinagogue,” remember their motto: “No gelt, no glory”… And this is why I love the internet!
Lots more in the way of good clues and fill to mention today. For starters, the thermodynamic trio of [Do a slow burn]/STEW, [Geyser emission]/STEAM and [In waiting]/ON ICE. And the transit-related trio: [R.R. depot]/STA., [End of the line]/LAST STOP and (in a more rudimentary mode) [Alaskan malamute's burden]/SLED. I’m also quite fond of the scrabbly trio that begins at 54A and then spans the row with JEFE/[Head Honcho in Hidalgo], ZOOM/[Camcorder feature] and AMAZE/[Blow away].
And just because they’re so good in the grid, let me not omit FOULED UP/[Botched], the pungent WASABI [Sushi side], the contemporary PAY PAL [eBay purchase option], and the very colorful FROOT LOOPS [Cereal pitched by Toucan Sam]. (Or should that be “Ootfray Oopslay”?…)
Finally, a mention for POET, clued today in conjunction with the little rhyme ["I'm a ___ and don't know it!"]. The next line will now be provided:
“But my feet show it—they’re long fellows”……
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
(Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)
No, 29A: ["Sands of Iwo Jima" director Allan] DWAN is not all that famous. If you did not know this name, you aren’t alone.
- 8A: [Milky Way cousin] (MARS BAR). Our Milky Way bar is called a Mars bar in other countries, and what used to be our Mars bar became the Snickers Almond. One of my most favoritest candy bars!
- 36A: [Phase in which the moon's right half is mostly visible in the Northern Hemisphere] (WAXING GIBBOUS). This is by far the grooviest of all moon-related terms.
- 38A: ["Franny and Zooey" author] (SALINGER). Oh, how timely, as J.D. Salinger just passed away.
- 47A: [Genre of the 1963 hit "Wipe Out"] (SURF). The Surfaris! See a recent (!) performance here.
- 8D: [Luxury car with a trident emblem] (MASERATI). Anyone in my generation thinks of Joe Walsh when they hear the word “Maserati” because of this song.
- 12D: [Leader played by Rod Steiger in the 1981 Libyan film "Lion of the Desert"] (BENITO MUSSOLINI). Wow, who knew there could be an ’80s movie clue for BENITO MUSSOLINI?
- 37D: [2008 Steve Carell film based on a '60s sitcom] (GET SMART). My kid enjoyed the movie.
Newsday “Saturday Stumper” by “Anna Stiga,” aka Stanley Newman
(PDF solution here.)
Favorite answers and clues:
- 1A. Whoa, WWII VET is a cool entry to drop in at 1-Across, isn’t it? The clue, [JFK or Nixon], was pretty broad, and working the crossings yielded some implausible-looking letter sequences here.
- 29A. P’S AND Q’S are one’s [Behavior].
- 33A. DO-SI-DOS are [Parts of some reels]—square dancing reels, that is. Ah, how unfondly I remember ninth-grade gym class’s square dancing unit.
- 39A. SPLOTCH is an ugly word but I like it. Just one lonely vowel in this [Painting mishap].
- 48A. “YEAH, YOU” can be a [Defiant retort].
- 61A. To GO SOUTH is to [Take a turn for the worse]. This happens to many retired snowbirds.
- 7D. Hah! [Recalls of September '09] continue to be in the news. Poor TOYOTAS.
- 21A. [Outlaw], the verb, means BAN.
- 40D. [She founded her own company circa 1905] refers to dancer Anna PAVLOVA.
- 43D. Book trivia about a crosswordese actress—[Her first book was about Pola Negri] clues AYN RAND.
- 64D. [It resembles an "n"] clues…not the mu (µ) or nu (ν) but the vowel ETA (η), which looks like a capital H in its uppercase form. Haven’t seen the “n” clue before, but the “H” clue has been popular.
- 8A. [Apprehensions] are UPTAKES, as in “understandings,” not “criminal arrests” or “fears.”
- 65A. An EVEN BET is a [Not-unlikely happening]. It’s equally not-likely, isn’t it?
- 3D. [Stamps' destinations] are not envelopes but the INKPADS you press a rubber stamp into.
- 8D. To UNDERDO is to [Fall short with]. “Underdone” is a common word, but not that present-tense UNDERDO.
- 11D. [Triangulum neighbor] clues ARIES. I assume it’s a constellation? Yes, it is. You’ll never guess how many stars are in it and what shape they form.
- 39D. [Played it straight] clues STOOGED, as in being the “straight man” or stooge in a comedy routine. Never knew this was a verb.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday puzzle, “Rows Garden”
Puzzle fans who don’t get Games or World of Puzzles have missed out on years of Patrick Berry’s Rows Garden puzzles, which intermesh long Across answers (the rows) with a “garden” of 38 blooms, 6-letter answers that run clockwise or counterclockwise in hexagons. These puzzles aren’t easy, given that there is no identified starting point for each hexagon, they’re not numbered, and the only help you get is that they’re split into three groups by color. And furthermore, all but the top and bottom rows contain two answers, but you’re on your own for figuring out where they’re split.
When Berry’s Puzzle Masterpieces book came out, he created a new constituency of Rows Gardens fans. I hope they’ve all discovered that the WSJ is now providing a home for one or two Berry variety puzzles a month.
I like these puzzles because they offer a meaty challenge (taking me several times longer to piece together than a Saturday NYT), they’re always, always smoothly clued and filled (Berry is a fricking genius, y’all), and the fill in the rows is heavy on long stuff. Of the 22 Across answers, 18 are 8 to 15 letters long (the others are 6 and 7 letters long.) No 3s! No 4s! No 5s! What a treat.
And the clues—the Rows clues tend to be pretty wordy, so there’s room for trivia, factoids, and clear descriptions, but no dirty tricks. It’s hard enough assembling the pieces when you can figure out the answers, so there’s no need to jack up the difficulty with misleading clues or those Stumper-style oblique one-word clues. The clues aren’t all obvious by any stretch of the imagination, though. [Slender-bodied carnivore] just wasn’t telling me anything until I pieced together the WEASEL from the ends of SACAJAWEA and GREEN GABLES.
If this is your first experience with a Rows Garden, what did you think of it?