Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword
The coolest part of this puzzle is that the triple-stacked 15s in the middle intersect six 11s and two 9s, rather than being isolated in a sea of 3- to 5-letter answers. Let’s roll through the puzzle now, shall we?
- 1A. A generic BMXER is a [Debut Olympian of 2008], as a BMX bike event was added to the Summer Games.
- 16A. Crossword regulars ORO and PLATA join forces as ORO Y PLATA, the [Treasure State's motto, aptly]. (That’s Montana.)
- 21A. [What wavy lines often represent] in cartoons are ODORS.
- 29A. [Shaker's cry] clues a shivering c-c-c-cold “BRR!”
- 35A. [Alcohol, it's said] is a SOCIAL LUBRICANT. Great answer.
- 38A. Is TRUE-LIFE ROMANCE totally “in the language”? It sounds a hair off to me. Clued with [Hepburn and Tracy shared one].
- 39A. ENGLISH LAVENDER is an [Aromatic plant native to the Pyrenees], which doesn’t at all explain why “English” is in the name. I do love me some lavender, though I invariably try to spell it like “calendar” with an -ar.
- 41A. Latin crosswordese ESSE (“to be”) is clue [Ab __ (absent: Lat.)]. I leaned on the crossings here.
- 50A. If a question-marked clue begins with “Refrain from,” it’s a singing refrain and not the verb “refrain from.” [Refrain from singing when you're happy?] clues TRA LA.
- 58A. [Ulexite is rich in it] clues BORON. Thank you, crossings!
- 61A. The GENDER GAP in collegiate sports is the [Title IX concern].
- 62A. NEWTS are [Ones with bewitching eyes?] in that the witches in Macbeth used eye of newt in their potion.
- 2D. Wasn’t MILLE BORNES just in the Fireball puzzle? It’s a [Game with hazards, safeties, and remedies].
- 3D. Random trivia! XAVIER CUGAT is the [Entertainer who was the first man to be married at Caesar's Palace]. Did he marry Charo there?
- 5D. [Make seedier?] tries to be clever and make RESOW more palatable.
- 6D. To [Make chicken] is to intimidate or COW someone.
- 7D. I never counted! An OREO [has 12 flowers on each side].
- 9D. [One way to break ties] is BY LOT. Can’t say that phrase looks familiar.
- 11D. Crosswordese! ALBS are [Garments covered by amices]. If this was a gimme for you, you have clearly done a lot of crosswords in your time.
- 12D. More trivia! LAO is a [Language with no spaces between words]. I did not know that.
- 20D. Never heard of NELLIS, the [Air Force base near Las Vegas].
- 26D. Is STAND IN A ROW truly grid-worthy? The clue is [Line up].
- 35D. [Salsa ingredients?] are STEPS. Another semi-recent puzzle made me think of the condiment rather than the dance, but now I have learned.
- 36D. [Vulcans, e.g.] are an ALIEN RACE. Cool answer.
- 51A. The ACTA, or proceedings, are detailed in the meeting minutes. [They're found within minutes] is not an easy way to clue that word.
I see some crazy solving times for this puzzle. If Tyler and Byron knocked you for a loop, what were the toughest spots?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Eye Contact”—Janie’s review
A great end to a great week of CS puzzles. Imoo. The “eye contact” Randy speaks of refers to the letter “I” and the way it appears at the end of the first word of the theme fill and makes (grid-)contact with the “I” at the beginning of the second one. The result is that all of the theme fill looks pretty cool in there with those double “I”s. Even better, the theme fill is a rich anthropological/geo-political mix, an exotic and trans-global olio of people and places and sects, and is made up of:
- 17A. ZUNI INDIAN [New Mexico native].
- 10D. FIJI ISLANDS [South Pacific republic].
- 24D. MUMBAI INDIA [Largest city in the world]. You might see a RANI [Hindu princess] there…
- 55A. SUNNI ISLAM [Middle Eastern denomination].
In addition to this spicy “burgoo” (see the 3/10/10 CS), we get some fine non-theme fill and a slew of terrific (unexpected, fresh) clue/fill combos. “EXCUSE ME” is another polite way of saying ["I beg your pardon"] (“Excu-u-u-use me!” would be Steve Martin’s sarcastic way of saying the same thing). SINISTER is clued as [Like Snidely Whiplash]. Happily, his threats never came to fruition. Thank you, Dudley Do-Right! FINANCES [Money matters] aptly shares its final “S” with WAGES [Earnings]. There’s also WATER SKI [Get a tow, on the lake]; and that beautiful AIR KISS, with its superb clue [Something thrown on the red carpet]. Get the picture? Muah!
Now let’s look at some of the outstanding clues:
- [General acknowledgment?] SALUTE. I.e., a salute to a military General…
- [White lightning containers] JARS. White lightning is one of many colorful names for moonshine. Happy Sally, ruckus juice–check out the other great names on this list.
- [Movie companion] DINNER. Hah! Not ESCORT. Good one.
- [Done for] SUNK.
- [Sticky wicket] FIX.
- [Type of rock] is not IGNEOUS but ACID. Music trumps geology here.
- [Submarine base?] DELI.
- [Blizzard blanket] SNOW. ICES is also in the grid, but it’s been clued non-meteorologically as [Nails]–which is a pretty tricky clue in itself.
Sure didn’t need to see either EDENS or AREA yet again this week, but I did love seeing both JADA and JADES. The former is [Actress Pinkett-Smith]; the latter is not a plural noun, thank-you-very-much, but a verb today [Wears down]. Finally, huzzah for the theatrical cross in the SE of STAGE [Thespian's spot] and Othello antagonist IAGO [Rival of Cassio]. Now that guy was sinister-incarnate!
Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I like it when people’s full names are included in the grid. Today, we have two people whose first names show up a lot because they have only three letters, two of them vowels. IRA GLASS and YMA SUMAC, today is your day to shine! I’m especially psyched about YMA SUMAC because she is way overdue for Crosswordese 101 attention.
Before I move on to my other favorite answers, let me call your attention to a couple pairs of answers that bump up against the duplication rule, with related French and English words. 10A: [Orly sight] clues AVION, the French word for “airplane.” Airplanes fly, and words like avion and aviation are derived from the Latin word for bird, avis. That word is half of RARA AVIS (36D: [One in a million]), which is Latin for “rare bird.” Too close for comfort, or a lovely pairing? You decide. Even more closely related are the French IDÉE (7D: [__ fixe]) and the second half of “NEAT IDEA!” (14D: ["Very clever!"]).
- 1A: ["Scram!"] (“TAKE A HIKE!”). I gotta start saying that more often.
- 17A: [It often requires a bedroom set] (LOVE SCENE). True enough.
- ELOI’s clue has a little extra oomph today: 27A: [Group that "had decayed to a mere beautiful futility": Wells].
- 59A: [Team with a flaming ball in its logo] (MIAMI HEAT). Lively entry, that.
- 1D: [Know-it-all's taunt] (“TOLD YA”). I gotta start saying that more often, too.
- Potty humor! 13D: [Rustic place to go?] (OUTHOUSE).
- 35D: [Contest that's usually over in less than 20 seconds] (DRAG RACE). Cool answer.
- 56D: [Broccoli __] (RABE). I do not like anything in the broccoli category. This is a leafy green veggie with broccoli-like buds and bitter-flavored greens, the dictionary tells me. Bleh. It’s also spelled broccoli raab and rapini, the latter word being a recent killer in a tough Fireball crossword. If you wish the Saturday L.A. Times puzzle were twice as hard, you should definitely subscribe to Fireball Crosswords. $10, cheap!
Less savory stuff:
I dunno. There’s kind of a lot of not-so-hot fill today, isn’t there? A Roman numeral (DCL), a direction (SSE), fill-in-the-blanks (PAO, DRU), ESSES, European geography (AAR, EDAM, ALSACE) and languages (ETE, GATO), RIAS, a weirdly clued plural abbreviation (SCIS, [Some H.S. courses]), a plural first name (GINAS), ANTRUM/[Anatomical cavity]…
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “What Goes Around”
Great puzzle, as expected, with an inventive theme to be teased out and only one obscure word (7D). I made it through the puzzle in one sitting, so it might be a little easier than Hex’s Atlantic crosswords were. (Some of their best Atlantic cryptics are collected in one of my favorite puzzle books of 2009.)
The central square contains not 1 letter, but 4: the planet MARS, as part of MALLOMARS and MARSUPIAL. The two 6-letter rings of shaded squares spell out two moons that orbit Mars, PHOBOS and DEIMOS.
The answers, by clue type:
- 2A: RETINA (tin ear); 6A: RINGER (erring); 13A: SHOULDER (old usher); 16A: SIMEON (omen is); 18A: MERIDIAN (airmen I’d); 8D: REBOOT (to bore); 10D: MARSUPIAL (puma’s lair); 12D: ALIGNED (leading); 15D: SECLUDE (clues Ed); 16D: SAVIOR (Avis, or); 18D: CENSOR (crones)
- 3D: TEE (almost “teen”)
- 5A: S(N)EER; 11A: MALL(OMAR)S; 19A: FAC(E)TS; 1D: RAND(IE)R (R AND R containing I.E.); 4D: CARE(E)RS; 7D: S(O)LANDER (here’s what a solander is); 11D: RE(N)AL; 14D: DEF(A)T; 19D: CRI(M)ES
- 1A: restoRED HOTel; 7A: mODESt (Mussorgsky’s first name is Modest); 14A: vampiRE BAts
- 3A: TIER (rank/someone making a knot)
- 4A: REDO (notes RE + DO); 8A: SEARCH (SEals + ARCH/roguish); RICE (R = red + ICE = the rocks); 10A: Hilaire BELLOC (Alexander Graham BELL + CO reversed); 12A: ASUNDER (AS + UNDER); 17A: DIGEST (DIG = like + EST = established); 20A: TEA LEAVES (TEAL + EAVES); 1D: RANDIER (R AND R); 5D: DIESELS (DIES = stops + ELS = elevated trains); 6D: BOTHER (B = crumb’s back + OTHER; “harry” means to bother); 9D: DIATRIBE (AID reversed + Indian TRIBE); 13D: GROSS (G = good + Betsy ROSS); 17D: HONEST (HONE = to perfect + ST.)
- 15A: TIDE (sounds like “tied”); 2D: METE (sounds like “meet”)
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Highlights in the fill:
- 15A. The ALL-STAR GAME is a [Sports-season highlight].
- 34A. HARD C is the [Leader of Cambodia].
- 60A. [Rodomontade] means BRAGGADOCIO.
- 12D. “I CAN’T WAIT!” is clued as an [Impatient plaint].
- 31D. The BOMB SQUAD is a [Disposal unit?] of sorts.
Other answers, clues, and things that bugged me:
- 1A. PIPE CLEANER is clued as a [Craft-store purchase]. Is it possible to buy a single pipe cleaner?
- 12A. ICU is clued not as an intensive care unit but as [Slangy letters of identification], “I C U” sounding like “I see you.” Where the heck did that come from?
- 18A. Is ARD a true suffix with a unit of meaning? It’s clued as [Dull finish], as in “dullard.”
- 19A. AGT. is short for “agent.” I have no idea what that has to do with [Case officer's charge: Abbr.].
- 36A. ["Happy Days" diner] clues AL’S. Someone was saying recently that when Arnold (Pat Morita) left the show, Al Molinari’s character Al took over management of Arnold’s—and that it was still called Arnold’s and not AL’S. Can any TV savants confirm or deny?
- 38A. [At this "situation"] clues ICI. What, putting “situation” in quotes can signal that it’s a foreign (French) word, and therefore you know the answer will be French? And we all know that “situation” in French has to do with location, such as here (ICI)? I call a foul.
- 1D. [Pleasure seeker] clues PAGAN. That’s not the usual meaning of PAGAN that people think of.
- 2D. “I’LL GO” is clued as [Volunteer's phrase]. Meh.
- 5D, 35D. CTS., short for “cents,” is clued as [Price pts.]. CENTI- is the prefix that’s a [Grade preceder] in “centigrade.” Cents and centi- have the same root.
- 13D. You and your friends’ brains’ [Control centers] are CEREBELLA.
- 25D. [Island off Devon] is LUNDY. How else you gonna clue that?
- 43D. As an [Editor], if I came across the word ALTERER in a manuscript, I would change it.
- 63D. OCC. is short for “occasionally,” or [Not often: Abbr.]. Not such a common abbreviation.
This is perhaps my least favorite Barry Silk puzzle. The fill had more clunkers in it (despite a word count of 72) and the clues didn’t do much for me, either. I will look forward to your next puzzle, Barry, to fade the memory of this one.