Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
While I work on writing the post, here’s the answer grid for this 64-worder. For me, it was the hardest NYT puzzle in a couple years. It was almost like finding a Newsday “Saturday Stumper” in the spot normally reserved for my favorite NYT puzzle of the week. Weird.
Okay, we’re back. I did not like this puzzle. There are a couple really cool entries, but they’re offset by too many tortured entries. My favorite entries are the FAKE TAN at 20a ([You might have one after spraying yourself]) and 33d: INFRA DIG, meaning “beneath dignity” or [Beneath one's self-respect]. If this term is new to you (I’ve seen it but didn’t know what it meant), read up on it here and see Eleanor Roosevelt’s usage of it.
The answers that didn’t sit well with me were legion, and some of ‘em were killers to figure out:
- 17a. YET TO SEE is clued with [Not taken in], as in a movie that is not taken in by you is one you have YET TO SEE. Isn’t this just three words that you might find in that sequence in a sentence?
- 18a. TAPE TO, or [Stick on, in a way]. Awkward.
- 27a. [MR. ___ (old mystery game)] clues REE. Seen this before, but forgot it. Super-common letters, but REE is not an asset to a puzzle’s gestalt.
- 53a. GET A LINE, or [Learn about, with "on"], feels like an 8-letter partial to me.
- 1d. Who says SAYS MORE? The clue is [Continues], and I incomprehensibly had SAYS WHEN for the longest time because I had WHINER instead of MOANER for [Kvetch].
- 3d. UNTRACED is clued as [Not followed].
Okay, maybe five entries isn’t quite “legion,” but if you can’t make a 64-worder without such fill, I beg you, add some black squares and shoot for smoother fill.
Here’s a rundown of some more clues:
- 9a. Sally [Field's pair] are the OSCARS she has won.
- 15a. ANN ARBOR, Michigan, is the [Site of a college stadium that seats over 100,000].
- 22a. [It's above 90] refers to an A AVERAGE.
- 23a. [Share letters?] is one of those question-marked letdowns. The answer is OTC, as in over-the-counter stocks. That’s the payoff? Pfft.
- 24a. [Big hand] is a great clue for OVATION. You were thinking of poker hands, weren’t you?
- 33a. For [Pugilists' org.], I wanted the WBA or something else starting with World. It’s the IBF, International Boxing Federation. I hate boxing.
- 38a. [Spots before one's eyes?] are the ADS you see. Eh.
- 50a. A AVERAGE probably made you think of letter grades for [Inability to get A's or B's?]. I also pondered blood types. The answer is TIN EAR. Hey! I don’t get those A’s or B’s at all.
- 52a. For [Aspirin and such], I plugged in NSAIDS but the answer is more chemistry-oriented. I had no idea aspirin and friends were ESTERS. Don’t really know what esters are.
- 54a. O, good gravy! [Element of radon or xenon] is not about chemistry. It’s the SHORT O sound in those elements’ names.
- 2d. I was so stuck on this for so long, with the three crossing 3s at the bottom not helping out at all. [Rating numbers] are the scale of ONE TO TEN. Clue would’ve been a lot easier with the word “scale” in it.
- 6d. [London weekly, with "The"], 8 letters? Oh, that’s a cinch! It’s the GUARDIAN. Except it’s actually the OBSERVER. I prefer the Guardian.
- 14d, 38d. I like the gemstone pair in opposite corners. [Precious ones, possibly] are STONES and AGATES are [Balls with bands]. (Mighty tough clue, that latter one.) Lake Superior agates aren’t necessarily round, but they look cool, don’t they?
- 31d. [Badminton dinks] are NET SHOTS. Are you up on your badminton terminology? I studied badminton in college but needed lots of crossings here. Okay, I didn’t actually study it, but I did take it for a P.E. credit.
- 39d. [Peace-loving] clues DOVISH. Not the much more crossword-friendly IRENIC.
- 41d. I was stumped by [His last film was "The Harder They Fall," 1956]. I had the reggae song “The Harder They Come” interposing itself in my head. Eventually I remembered a 6-letter BO**** name: BOGART.
- 49d. [Second person in Genesis] is THEE. Dang it, I had THOU for the longest time! Got the trick, missed the right answer.
- 51d. Yay! Local color! WGN is a [Chicago cable station]. Well, it’s just a local channel here, but the rest of you get it as a cable station.
Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 16a. [Crash] clues ZONK OUT. I almost went with CONK OUT, but ZONK is more fun.
- 33a. Who doesn’t love BALLOON ANIMALS? I mean, aside from people with latex allergies. They are [Twisted party decorations] and so are those twisted strands of crepe paper.
- 53a. [Not finished yet] clues STILL AT IT. That one applies most strongly to the NYT puzzle.
- 59a. MIMIEUX is fun to spell and fun to say. Yvette M. is ["The Time Machine" actress (1960)].
- 61a. PTOLEMY, the [Influential second-century astronomer], also has a name that’s fun. Gotta love a MIMIEUX/PTOLEMY stack.
- 3d. I like the surprise factor of TAROT CARDS being the answer to [Justice and Temperance, e.g.].
- 12d. [Seemingly forever] clues EONS. That’s not the only short answer with a clue I liked—
- 13d. [Like some awakenings] means RUDE.
- 30d. CACCIATORE means [Prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs]. “Yvette Mimieux and Ptolemy cooked chicken Cacciatore.” Now spell that three times fast.
- 45d. [Negro Leagues legend Buck] O’NEIL is great. When I saw his many commentaries in Ken Burns’ baseball documentary, I voted him into my Honorary Grandpa Hall of Fame.
- 27d. [Source of some sundae toppings] clues an ALMOND TREE. And here I thought the source was the bag that the slivered almonds came in.
- 19a. [Certain Sopwith Scout] is a TWO-SEATER airplane.
- 30a. [Eliot's Old Deuteronomy, e.g.] is a fictional CAT.
- 38a. Lee IACOCCA is your ["If you can find a better car, buy it" speaker]. He pairs nicely with COCOA, an [After-school request] at 25a. “Yvette Mimieux and Ptolemy cooked chicken Cacciatore, but Lee Iacocca had cocoa.”
- 39a. [Purported source of Revere's historic signal] is the OLD NORTH CHURCH I could swear I’ve never heard of. It had a name? Who knew?
- 42a. Hello, 4-letter river of Europe! The NEVA is a [Gulf of Finland feeder]. Who knew?
- 10d. [Shakespeare title name] is ANDRONICUS. I got this with just the A in place. I can’t think of any other people with A names in Shakespeare titles.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “War Front”—Janie’s review
“War, huh, good God, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” So the Edwin Starr lyric (1970) goes. And I mostly have to agree. The exception is the way the word lends itself to today’s theme, where the first word of each of the four theme phrases can follow it, whence the title… (Despite the song’s serious subject matter, it is by no means a DIRGE [Somber song]—but this particular video is also very graphic, as it is made up of footage from the late ’60s and early ’70s—so, fair warning…) The non-violent theme fill that Gail artfully co-opts for this before-and-after puzzle is made up of:
- 20A. (War) ROOM FOR DOUBT [Airtight case's lack]. The 1993 movie The War Room is a modern classic on the making of a presidential campaign. Bill Clinton’s to be exact.
- 30A. (War) CHEST MUSCLE [Pectoral]. I suppose one could develop a mighty set of pecs by lifting a heavy war chest…
- 41A. (War) CRY ME A RIVER [Julie London's sultry song in "The Girl Can't Help It"]. Here’s Ms. London, and here (at the end of this very short clip) is Lucy Lawless with the Xena war cry. “Cry Me a River,” btw, was #9 among the TOP TUNES [Hit parade lineup] of 1955. No mere DITTY [Simple song] that.
- 51A. (War) HERO SANDWICH [Sub]. Any of these would probably delight a war hero, more than one of whom, I imagine, joined the military by means of ROTC, a [University recruiting org.].
The only part of the puzzle that gave me trouble was the cross of MSRP [Car sticker abbr.] and CUPS [Coffeehouse containers]. Why? Well, first of all, I’d entered MUGS for the latter. Cups conjures up a tearoom for me. Then, even when MSRP emerged, I had no idea what it stood for… That’d be “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.” Now that I’ve heard of, but darned if the abbreviation registered. Ah, well. This is why “the crosses” (and checking them…) become so important in the solving game. And while this blog is not really a [Publication offering predictions], you can still add that to your own TIP SHEET.
Joon Pahk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
What crazy world is this, where an 8:48 Stumper is the intermediate-difficulty themeless of the day?
Good puzzle, with plenty of lively entries. Let’s take a walk through the clue list and see what we’ve got:
- 1a. ["Case closed"] clues “THAT’S THAT.” That’s a good 1-Across.
- 16a. [First African-American major-league coach] is Buck O’NEIL. Hello! Today is Buck O’NEIL Crossword Day.
- 17a. Not crazy about “I’M IN FOR IT” as [Words anticipating comeuppance]. I feel like “you’re in for it” and “he’s really in for it now” are more in-the-language than the first-person usage.
- 24a. ["No problema!"] has a casual Spanish vibe like DE NADA.
- 26a. CYR is clued as [Saint-___ (French military academy)]. Uh, does anybody know this? Usually CYR is clued by way of Lily St. Cyr. Not a desirable entry.
- 27a. ["The Man Who Knew Too Little" director] is Jon AMIEL. I have seen none of his movies despite his entire movie-directing career taking place in my adult years. I’ve heard of most of his movies—just didn’t want to see any of them.
- 31a. Today’s Least Familiar Answer: [Artilleryman, informally] is a REDLEG. Redleg has other meanings too.
- 38a. ["Let's blow this joint!"] clues “CHEESE IT!” Fifteen years ago, I had a Mac version of Yahtzee that had a “Cheese it, the cops!” function to hide the game when your boss walked into your office.
- 51a. LA BREA is also an [Avenue west of Grauman's Chinese].
- 60a. To [Essay] something is to UNDERTAKE it.
- 65a. [Won a tennis match, perhaps] clues HELD SERVE. A friend of mine saw Andy Roddick and Venus Williams play at Wimbledon recently.
- 1d. I don’t know why a [747 alternative] is TRISTAR. Googling…it’s the Lockheed L1011, which I’ve heard of but not with the Tristar name.
- 2d. I slowed myself down big time by having YES OR NO instead of HIM OR ME for [Request to one who's torn].
- 4d. [Word after big or top] is TEN. I had that early on but took it out when nothing else was working, but it was YES OR NO that was the problem.
- 6d. [Subject of interest] clues T-BOND. Meh.
- 9d. [Bird or beast] clues TETRAPOD. Did you know wings count in the -pod count?
- 12d. A LEXICON is a [Set of words]. Cool word.
- 30d. ["Wheels when you want them" company] is ZIPCAR.
- 32d. GRETA Garbo played [Anna in "Anna Karenina" and "Anna Christie"].
- 34d. [Diner offering] is VEAL? Gross. I think of food like patty melts, grilled cheese sandwiches, BLTs, burgers and fries, a meatloaf special, and cherry pie when I think of diners.
- 36d. To AIRBRUSH is to [Alter, in a way]. Great entry, apt clue.
- 44d. Trivia! Vladimir NABOKOV is an [Author who was also an entomologist].
- 45d. [Two-way, as a sprinkler] clues SIAMESE, a very non-plumbing-sounding word.
- 48d. SEIDEL is a [Large beer mug] I know about thanks to crosswords.
- 61d. TRE, or three, is an [Italian cardinal] number.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Labyrinth”
I love the variety puzzles that Patrick Berry makes (for the WSJ, for Games and World of Puzzles, and in the hardcover Puzzle Masterpieces), and I love the ones Henry Hook made for Terribly Twisted Crosswords. Very few puzzlemakers hit Patrick and Henry’s level of quality when it comes to variety grids. I see other people’s offerings in the Games publications, online, and in the NYT. Usually there are a couple entries that detract from the overall experience, a couple compromises I don’t like.
Mike Shenk generally achieves the same high quality in his puzzles, though, which is one reason Brendan Quigley refers to him as one of the “Crossword Jesuses.” (Patrick Berry and Frank Longo are the other two main Jesi.) This puzzle bears that out: No answers clanged and no clues clunked. Some of the entries are quite lively, too—you’ve got your CRANK LETTERS, a CON GAME, an expert’s TRAINED EYE, B STUDENTS, a CHANGE PURSE, and OBLIVION. It would be a lot easier to fill a Labyrinth grid with boring words like REENTERED and DISINTER, but where’s the fun in that? In non-Jesuses, non-Hook variety puzzles, obscurities and boring words invariably seem to crop up, so the puzzles just aren’t as interesting.
(Note: I haven’t done Brendan’s NYT “Marching Bands” puzzle yet, so I can’t say whether he reaches the Berry/Shenk/Hook bar in my mind.)
I got mired in the upper right corner for too long by having AMEND instead of ALTER for 3b: [Revise]. That mucked up the emergence of the LEGAL TEAM. Probably cost me a good minute or two, so a sizeable chunk of my total solving time. Overall, though, certainly not as tough as a Berry “Rows Garden,” not as easy as one of those “Snake Charmer” grids.
My answer grid:
CRETECONGAME SALTSTIMELAG INKEDINALTER OMARSMANATEE ECHELONUSING ZENITHPANDAS ADONISDRAPED OBLIVIONAIDE TURNERBARNEY ACCESSLETSBE STAGNATESTUD SPEECHCESARE CASPERARUBAN INRUINSTRYST