Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
- 18a. [Most likely] clues IN ALL PROBABILITY. Solid.
- 47a. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS is a great answer. ["Dracula" and "Frankenstein" producer] is a non-obvious clue.
- 2d. [Opposing team's turndown] clues PENALTY DECLINED. Football, yes? I’m having trouble with the substitutability rule. It feels more like noun+verb than just a noun, but the clue is all noun.
- 3d. PLANT IN ONE’S MIND is floundering a bit without a direct object. Plant a seed of doubt, plant a seed of an idea—you’ve got to plant something, no? [Suggest subliminally, perhaps] is the clue.
- 13d. The SWIMSUIT EDITION is a [Revealing issue] of Sports Illustrated magazine.
- 14d. EAT ONE’S HEART OUT is the second 15 in this puzzle with the ONE’S formation. A colloquial “eat your heart out” is zippier. The clue is the ambiguous [Pine].
- Besides the two ONE’S included in the 15s, two answers include I (partial IT I, AS I SAID) and two have OUT (SELLS OUT, EKING OUT).
- 17a. HOLY WAR demonstrates the violent slant of [Faith-based initiative?].
- 22a. Knowing your International Olympic Committee country codes doesn’t help you here, as the IOC uses MAR for Morocco rather than MOR. (There’s dictionary support for Mor., mind you.) [It's south of Sp.].
- Three partials: 25a: AS NO, 26a: IT I, 31d: ALL OR. Bleh.
- 27a. Oh! Weird plural first name ERNIES has a clue that made it a gimme for me: [Keebler's head elf and others]. I sure didn’t know this at pub trivia a couple years ago, which seared it into my memory.
- 33a. Needed every letter from the crossings for this one, as ALIOTH has only the faintest familiarity for me. This [Big Dipper star] is markedly less household-namey than erstwhile California politician Joseph Alioto, who’s one letter off from ALIOTH.
- 35a. This is my favorite clue: [Sowing pioneer] made me think of inventors of agricultural machinery, but it’s just good ol’ Johnny APPLESEED, who sowed apple seeds. Is the story still promulgated that he wore a metal pot on his head?
- 38a. Yet another Grand Slam tennis tournament (Wimbledon) is in motion, and still ACERS fails to enter the general tennis lexicon. [Court whizzes] is the clue.
- 40a, 41a. Double “Who??” action here. [Peace Nobelist Kim ___ Jung] has a DAE in his name, just like Lost hottie Daniel Dae Kim, and [Italian novelist Morante] is another ELSA. I always think of the word “novelist” when I see the word “Nobelist” (the B and V are keyboard neighbors), so I like the juxtaposition of these clues. Both names, mind you, were 100% crossings for me.
- 42a. [Bellyacher] clues MOANER, a roll-your-own word if I ever saw one. Or maybe it isn’t—I Googled the word and what do you know? It’s a song title and a Vagina Monologues piece.
- 45a. Another plural first name: NEALES are [Tennis's Fraser and others]. Do you know any other guys named Neale?
- 5d. Cute way to signal the Spanish word for “island”: ISLA is [Gran Bretaña, e.g.]. Never saw “Great Britain” rendered in Spanish before.
- 6d. Blurgh. NOP, three consecutive letters in the alphabet, are clued as [Start of the second half?]. Don’t get cute with letter run clues, people. Question-marked clues demand a solid payoff.
- 11d. Complete mystery for me here: [Participants in the annual Safety Dance] are ELIS, or Yale students. I hope this is an age-old tradition dating back to the early ’80s involving Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” Who doesn’t love medieval village videos with alphabetic dance moves?
- 12d. “Mississippi” has four I’s and four S’s, but [One of four in Mississippi: Abbr.] clues SYL., short for “syllable.” Boo on the abbreviation, yay for the could-go-several-ways clue.
- 15d. Can DRY ROTS be a plural? How many DRY ROTS can you have at one time? Clue is [Some building weakeners]. Could also be [Some crossword weakeners]. (Oh, snap!)
- 19d. Another great clue—[They were black and yellow in old medicine] clues BILES. Gross answer, but I like a good evocation of the humors.
- 25d. A third plural first name: ARLOS are [Jimmy Johnson title comics character and others], from “Arlo and Janis.” Clue feels awkwardly worded to me.
- 28d. I also loved this clue: ["Help!" and such] are CRIES, but the quotation marks had me singing the Beatles song.
- 30d. With the probably-don’t-know-her ELSA crossing ASTRA, maybe the [Senate stars?] clue should have been eased up. Roman senate, astra is Latin for “stars.” Did the Roman senate ever discuss the stars?
- 35d. Remember that year at the ACPT when Trip Payne unwound a tough answer in the finals and exclaimed, “Oh, dear God!”? I channeled Trip when the crossings spelled out ALALA for the [Brown-tinged Hawaiian crow]. Joe Krozel: Why, pray tell, did you have ALALA in your word list? This is no ANOA, sir.
- 42d. Does MERLS count as crosswordese? This word for [Blackbirds] isn’t, I don’t think, broadly familiar. With the three plural first names here, there was no way it could be [Crossword constructor Reagle and others].
- 45d. NEUE, German for “new,” fills in the blank in [___ Zurcher Zeitung (leading Swiss daily)]. Zürcher is the adjective form of the city Zürich.
- 48d. We may have another abbreviation here, but at least it’s not the dreaded spelling variant. No, it’s just VAR., a [Dictionary abbr.].
For a 68-word grid, that feels like a lot of compromises. I guess it should feel like a 66-worder, given the extra column in the grid—but still, there are a lot of answers ending with S (including the plural names and a couple plural abbreviations. If it’s not in the 64-and-under class, I expect to see smoother fill.
Will Nediger’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Will Nediger, like Matt Jones, seems partial to unusual themeless grids that don’t look like everyone else’s. In this one, the fill runs a maze shaped like a backwards S, giving us five areas of white space with long (7 to 15 letters) answers.
There’s one answer that was utterly unfamiliar to me: 12d: MAESTOSO, or [Stately and dignified, in music]. You can read a bit about it here.
- 1a. Full-name JAMES MASON, [He played Brutus in "Julius Caesar" (1953)], you know. (I didn’t.)
- 14a. I got FATA MORGANA for [Complex mirage] with just the last few letters. Skimming the Wikipedia article, it becomes apparent that I don’t know any of this information, so I’m not sure how I got the answer.
- 17a. To BET is to [Enter the pool]. You didn’t fall for DIP, did you?
- 21a. LAC is French for “lake,” so [Ski nautique site] is the LAC where you water-ski.
- 30a. [House or lodge] can be a verb like STOW.
- 33a. MARRIED TO THE MOB, the [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer film], is a cute movie.
- 48a. RED SOX, good entry. The [Team that's played in the same home park since 1912]. The Cubs have only been playing in Wrigley Field since 1916, several years after their last World Series championship.
- 52a. I like OVERANALYZE, or [Figure to a fault]. What is a crossword blog but a place to overanalyze things?
- 3d. [King's downfall, maybe] kept me guessing. It’s a MATE in chess. Not Stephen King, Billie Jean King, the King of Pop, or the King himself, Elvis Presley.
- 13d. If it is ON THE WEB, it is [Generally Googleable]. Now, that clue would have been un-Googleable before bloggers started putting crossword answers on the web, right?
- 32d. If you get your [Walking papers], you get THE AX.
- 35d. I was thinking Roman mythology for [Cupid, for one], but Cupid is also one of Santa’s REINDEER.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Flying Colors”—Janie’s review
- 17A. DETROIT RED WINGS [11-time Stanley Cup champions]. This makes them third in the NHL, behind the Montreal Canadiens (23) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (13). Will come back to the team name and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later.
- 26A. LITTLE WHITE LIES [Relatively harmless fibs]. Will come back to this fill and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later. (For the color in question, run the cursor over the “blank” space.)
- 49A. GREAT BLUE HERONS [Large wading birds common to the Americas]. Will come back to the team name and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later. In the meantime, know that a typical habitat
for these beauties includes a [Marsh area] BOG.
- 63A. STARS AND STRIPES [Old Glory features]. Ohhhh. Now I get it. Because of the red wings and blue herons I’d thought all three of the first theme entries would somehow be bird-related—actual “flying colors.” So I didn’t initially see how those white lies fit the pattern. But there I was, looking for the wrong pattern… Now that that’s been straightened out, here’s a link to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever“—with piccolo animation yet!
By way of a mini-theme, Bruce does something very charming with “hellos” and ‘goodbyes.” We get: AVES [Roman welcomes], ADIEU [French farewell] and then VAYA [con Dios (Spanish farewell)]. He then continues the Spanish connection by offering a sip of ANÍS [Cordial in Spain] to [Pedro's aunt] TIA, and reminds us that the [Squiggly mark in "señor"] is a TILDE.
Among the other strong fill offerings today: “ACT NOW!” [Infomercial directive], PARIAHS [Shunned people], CREVICE [Narrow rock opening] and (with its near-graphic/kinetic clue, my fave) ATINGLE [Fluttery, as skin when massaged].
Loved the clues [They're often broken by drivers] for TEES and [Tut's cousins] for TSKS because both of them made me look at the familiar fill in a fresh way. And I also appreciated [Like Tim or Alice] for TINY—because it’s not often that Albee’s Tiny Alice get crossword recognition. Ditto ["The Divided Self" author R.D.] LAING. Read the book in a college psych class and became a fast-follower of Laing’s writings. Don’t know how his thinking holds up today, but his unorthodox views of the personality and “madness” made a big impression on me back then.
Let’s greet the holiday instead with some Jimmy Cagney (as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy) performing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Corny. But for so many reasons, altogether appropriate. Enjoy!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, the variety cryptic “Keyholes”
I was working on this puzzle last night and put in a crazy answer that worked with two of its three crossings, without regard for the word length mismatch (and clue mismatch) that resulted. I was too sleepy to untangle the bottom right corner so I went to bed and it all made so much more sense this morning! I appreciate the variety cryptic for being one of the few kinds of crosswords that can defeat me in a single sitting but yield to repeated attacks. (Yes, I know plenty of people experience that with regular crosswords. So sue me.) British newspaper cryptics also refuse to fall in a single sitting most of the time. (Yes, I know plenty of English solvers complete those in 10 minutes flat. Please sue them.)
So, anyway…I think Hex’s WSJ cryptics remain easier than their Atlantic puzzles were. Do you agree? Last year’s book collection, Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords, was a delicious smorgasbord of knotty puzzles, a great many of which I had to come back to a few times to finish.
As for today’s puzzle, the Fourth of July theme of “Keyholes” is that there is a hole (skipped square) in each column of the grid. One of the crossing words pretends the hole doesn’t exist, while the other one becomes a new word when you add the right letter to the hole you’ve circled. Read from left to right, the hole letters spell out FRANCIS SCOTT Key’s given names. He is, of course, the composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
- 1a. graPE-STOmping. Hole in square 2 filled by R for PRESTO.
- 6a. CAD + ET. Hole in square 2 goes with 7d.
- 11a. cOPs + RAH
- 12a. LATROBE (anag. of Alberto)
- 13a. SEAT + RIP (sea trip)
- 14a. ARGOn. Hole in square 5 filled by T for ARGOT.
- 15a. NO(V)ELS
- 17a. AL(O)E. Hole in square 4 filled by N for ALONE.
- 18a. DE + CAYS. Hole in square 1 goes with 5d.
- 20a. PARSE (anag. of pears). Hole in square 1 goes with 20d.
- 22a. TAPER (double def.). Hole in square 1 goes with 22d.
- 25a. R(OMANI)A
- 28a. A + SHE. Hole in square 2 goes with 16d.
- 30a. LIABLE (anag. of I label)
- 31a. GOON (using letters of GO ON). Hole in square 3 goes with 19d.
- 32a. FAILURE (anag. of air-fuel)
- 33a. IN + DIES. Hole in square 5 filled by C for INDICES.
- 34a. STAT (double def.). Hole in square 3 filled by O for STOAT.
- 35a. DE(AD)ER (“number” = more numb)
- 36a. H + EARS. Hole in square 5 filled by T for HEARTS.
- 1d. POSTAL (anag. of to Alps)
- 2d. P(ELLE)T. Hole in square 1 goes with 1a.
- 3d. ERA + TO
- 4d. THROES (homophone of “throws”)
- 5d. O + LIVER. Hole in square 5 filled by I for Laurence OLIVIER.
- 7d. TALE (homophone of “tail”). Hole in square 1 filled by S for STALE.
- 8d. DO + GEARS
- 9d. E + BONY. This one was among the tougher clues for me. Maybe I was just tired?
- 10d. TENSE (double def.). Hole in square 3 goes with 14a.
- 15d. NEPAL (anag. of plane).
- 16d. SCAR (small-m “mark”) + E (last ltr. of “McGwire”). Hole in square 5 filed with C for SCARCE.
- 19d. LAMB+ D.A. Hole in square 5 filled with A for LAMBADA.
- 20d. WA. + BASH. Hole in square 1 goes with 20a.
- 21d. A + RA + HAS backwards = SAHARA. Hole in square 7 goes with 36a.
- 22d. RIG + ID. Hole in square 1 filled by F for FRIGID.
- 23d. VAL(IS)E
- 24d. BE(R)ETS
- 26d. OZ + ONE
- 27d. NINE on a baseball team back in lENINgrad. Hole in square 4 goes with 33a.
- 29d. S + OUR. Hole in square 4 goes with 34a. Here’s how tired I was last night: I had the S and U from crossings and filled in…SQUAD. That mucked up finding the holes in 34a and 21d, and don’t get me started on the problems of putting that D into HEAR(T)S. Plus! The 29d clue clearly enumerates a count of 4. SQUAD is a 5-letter word.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)
Hard puzzle, but not necessarily a fun challenge. Clues that led me nowhere:
- 20a. [Ottoman conquest of 1458] is ATHENS. My education on the Ottoman Empire is, regrettably, quite shallow.
- 38a. [Odin's wife in 2011's "Thor"] is, apparently, RENE RUSSO. I call B.S. on this clue. I read every issue of Entertainment Weekly. I read the bits about movie deals, the upcoming season of films, and fervently anticipated tentpole pictures. I’ve heard nothing about this movie. Anyone else up on this particular bit of Pop Culture From the Future? (Plus, Russo has a boy’s name. Four-letter René is a man’s name, dammit, and the men of America named René do not appreciate a famous actress confusing people about their name.)
- 40a. [Murphy, per O'Toole] clues OPTIMIST. I have no idea what this is about.
- 47a. No idea how [Cheaters] and SPECS are equivalent. Checking the dictionary…okay, “cheaters” is an informal word for glasses or sunglasses. Neither my husband nor I have ever encountered this usage. You?
- 51a. With a few crossings it wasn’t so hard to figure out RATTAN, but [Marimba-mallet material] is not what I think of when I think about rattan.
- 53a. NASSAU is a [City on New Providence]. Is this the Northeast U.S. or the Bahamas? New Providence is, it seems, the most populous island in the Bahamas.
- 61a. [Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence," e.g.] is a SEXTET.
- 4d. TERESA is a [Name meaning "late summer"]. I tell you, most of the Newsday meaning-of-a-name clues irk me, and I was one of those kids who bought baby name books because I liked studying the meaning of names.
- 7d. I guessed SOV without much trouble, but I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m familiar with this shortening of a [Brit's gold coin], the sovereign. Not a sought-after bit of fill, that.
- 13d. [What botanists call "Ambrosia"] are RAGWEEDS. Hay fever sufferers beg to differ.
- 29d. [HHH successor as VP] is Spiro Agnew, who, I just learned from a Crossword Fiend forum poster, anagrams to “grow a penis.” If you ever forget if it’s Spiro, Spero, or Spyro, this anagram will help you out. As someone who was a small child when Agnew was VP, though, I don’t have his middle initial solidly in my memory banks. Spiro T. Agnew, so seldom referred to by his initials, S.T.A. STA., so easy to clue as an abbreviation for “station.” I figured the middle initial couldn’t be T because if it were, we would get a station clue for the answer. Usually this approach works—”This is so obscure, it’s got to be something that can’t be clued any other way.” That trick let me down this time. Usually it’s a good bet.
Other things I wanted to mention:
- 27a. ANIME as a [Video-store category]? Hello, 1999. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been to a video store in years. Netflix, on-demand, pay-per-view, and cable have led to the demise of probably thousands of video stores.
- 48a. [Hall of Famer] clues ENSHRINEE. What a terrible word. I Googled it and it appears in news articles, among other webpages.
- 60a. Ah, ASE, the [Ibsen character] known more to long-time crossworders than to literature majors. Spoiler alert! “Åse’s Death” is in Grieg’s musical version of Peer Gynt. I only this minute learned that Åse is a woman, Peer Gynt’s mother. I was storing Åse and Arn, Prince Valiant’s son, in the “3-letter crosswordese males” part of my brain, and now have to relocate Åse to the UTA zone.
- 11d. Lou FERRIGNO is a [10-time "Muscle & Fitness" cover subject]. He used to be quite famous. I’ll always have a fondness for him as a deaf guy who overcame the odds to be a champion bodybuilder and a TV actor despite his hearing loss.
- 26d. [Works with a certain stick] clues GLUES, as in “works with a glue stick.” Jon Stewart famously claimed in Wordplay to do the NYT crossword in glue stick.
- 33d. The HESPERUS is a [Ship in a Longfellow poem]. “The Wreck of the Hesperus” and the Strait of Bosporus dwell together in my head.
- 36d. ART SONGS are [Salon offerings]. Is this going on currently, that art songs are being presented in salons? I’m pretty sure Salon.com has no art songs, and that hair salons also fail at providing art songs.
- 42d. [Spousal ___] clues IRA, as in “individual retirement account.” I didn’t know “spousal IRA” was a thing.
A note about the daily Newsday crosswords:
- I haven’t been doing the Monday through Saturday Newsday puzzles for a year or so. But regular readers here keep reporting woeful clueing errors in the daily Newsday crossword. Most recently it was an apparent late clue change that got plunked into the wrong spot, so the clue and answer didn’t match up at all. Newsday people! What is going on over there? The puzzles used to be flawless. Crossword solvers are so meticulous and smart, you can’t expect they won’t pounce on each and every error.