In this 62-worder, there are some non-low-word-count-ish cool things and some “ehhh, no” things. I like the flow from section to section, with the four stacked pairs of 15s intersecting in every corner and keeping things connected. Here are the entries and clues I was fond of:
- 15a. CULTURE VULTURES are [Some literati]. Sparkly, colloquial phrase.
- 23a. Casey KASEM is/was a [Big name in Top 40 countdowns]. “Keep reaching for the stars…”
- 27a. The clue wasn’t helpful to me, but I like to see the L.A. TIMES. It’s the [Longtime "Column One" printer, briefly].
- 29a. For [Proverbial certainty], there are two good 5-letter answers: DEATH and TAXES.
- 44a. I’m lukewarm on the definite article, but THE ROSETTA STONE is an [Aid in understanding some old pictures].
- 48a. I love and loathe STOSSEL. Don’t care for the man, but am always entertained because of his cheesiest TV line. [Former "20/20" co-anchor John] STOSSEL once did an “exposé” on prison weight rooms. He fretted that the convicts who worked out were “bigger…and scarier.” (My husband and I can always make each other laugh by quoting this.) Plus, his mustache is ridiculous. And then he moved over to Fox News, didn’t he?
- 2d. A SURROGATE MOTHER is [One making a special delivery?]. And that special delivery is a huge gift to the parents.
- 23d. I should hate this partial, but c’mon, it’s ’80s Michael Jackson! ["But the ___ not my son" ("Billie Jean" lyric)] is completed by KID IS. You can hear the bass line and see the lighted dance floor in the video, can’t you?
- 31d. Sure, it’s obscure pop culture, but it’s my obscure pop culture. TABITHA was that ["Bewitched" spinoff] starring what’s-her-name in the ’80s as an all-grown-up Tabitha, junior witch. Wikipedia to the rescue! Lisa Hartman, and actually it was the late ’70s, the Love Boat era.
Compromises I don’t much care for:
- 8a. Gah, a variant spelling? Bleah. The verb [Throttle: Var.] clues GAROTTE, a variant of garrote.
- 18a. Unfamiliar clue for crossword regular URAL: [The Sakmara feeds it]. No, you’re not expected to be familiar with the Sakmara.
- 31a. Don’t think I’ve ever seen this one before. [Bit of biblical "writing on the wall"] is TEKEL. Wikipedia tells me that Tekel is a Turkish tobacco company. This article explains the MENE, MENE, TEKEL, etc. business.
- 39a. I used to live next door to a woman named LALLY. Know nothing about this [___ column (concrete-filled cylinder)]. I can’t help thinking that Newsweek‘s Lally Weymouth is 80 times more familiar to people than the Lally column.
- 41a. No. Really? “IT’S A LULU“? Who says that? Not I. ['This one's incredible!"] Yes, it’s beyond belief.
- 46a. “Hearsay testimony” feels far more “in the language” to me than HEARSAY EVIDENCE, a [Court no-no].
- 3d. Eh, how do I feel about “PLEASE TAKE A SEAT“? Is this [Host's invitation] fresh or hackneyed?
- 5d. [Bulg. relative] clues RUS. Is this about the Bulgarian and Russian languages? Meh. Though crossworder Jeffrey Schwartz has had numerous entertaining updates from his Bulgarian vacation recently, the RUS. connection has been lacking.
- 11d. [Shown up at a restaurant?] clues OUTEATEN. Ehh.
- We’ve got two arbitrary number+words phrases. First, there’s 13d: TEN-YEAR SENTENCE = [It's better than life]. Well, that depends on your perspective. If it’s your loved one who was victimized, you’re probably pissed off about the miscarriage of justice represented by a 10-year sentence. The other number phrase is 34d: ONE REEL, or [Length of some shorts]. Ehh.
- 14d. No, ESTAMPA is not one of the Spanish words non-Spanish-speakers are likely to know. [Imprint: Sp.] hints at the cognate, stamp, but not overtly.
- 32d. I like WALLEYE, but I’ve never seen [Pikeperch]. The northern pike, sure.
Joon Pahk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 1a. [Ripped muscles?] are SIX-PACK ABS. Not to be confused with the tearing asunder of the biceps in a male gymnast doing the Iron Cross, which, ow.
- 16a. [Flying start?] is a great clue for the prefix AERO-. Makes the entry worthwhile. I’m not sure where the line is between “cute clue that makes you feel ripped off when you get the junky answer” and “clever clue that rescues a not-terrific answer by virtue of its cleverness,” but this answer is on the good side of that line.
- 35a. Tough linguistics clue for SEMITIC: [Language subfamily that includes Maltese]. I’m reading a New Yorker article about edible songbird poaching in Cyprus, Malta, and Italy right now, but didn’t know that Maltese was a Semitic language.
- 39a. LIKE MAD is a cool answer, and [Feverishly] is its clue.
- 40a. You don’t see a lot of crossword answers with a TCHD in the middle. A WATCHDOG is a [Defense against intruders].
- 60a. Whatever you do, don’t stick your fingers in a pay phone’s coin return slot! There may be contaminated needles in there! No, not really. URBAN MYTHS are [Contemporary folklore].
- 63a. [Draws] are STALEMATES and no, this word has nothing to do with the seven-year itch.
- 3d. XANADU is a [City visited by Marco Polo]. You’re hearing the dulcet tones of Olvia Newton-John now, aren’t you?
- 12d. ”GET A ROOM!” ["Not in public, you two!"] I love this answer. I don’t say this to anyone in earnest if they can hear me, but sure, I say it to groping strangers out of earshot.
- 32d. [Gogo's pal, in "Waiting for Godot"] is DIDI. One name is short for Estragon; the other, for Vladimir. “Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.” Spoiler alert: That bastard Godot never shows.
- 35d. A [Bittersweet farewell] is a SWAN SONG.
There were some other things that were not quite as cool, but that might be giving some people fits:
- Namely, the crossing between 56a and 56d. This was my most reluctant square. 56a: MEDINA is a [City SSW of Cleveland], not just a Saudi Arabia holy city, but I’ve never heard of the Ohio town. The M crosses MUSH, or [Cloying sentimentality]; I also considered GUSH.
- 43a. [Angelo's instrument] is an ARPA, which is Italian for “harp.” Angelo is Italian for “angel.”
- 37d. I’ve heard of the mountain range called the Poconos, but this [Resort town W. of the Delaware Water Gap] called MT. POCONO? Never heard of it. Nor have I heard of this Delaware Water Gap. If you dig geology, check out the Wikipedia article about this gap.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Country Club”—Janie’s review
Oh, literal me… I see the word “country” in the title, paired with the word “club” and I assume the theme fill will have the names of countries in it (and think it’s a cute title). But no. Instead, each of the four theme phrases starts with a nationality, all examples of the “-ish” variety (as opposed to the “-ese” or “-ian” sort, say). No countries at all, but citizenry? Yes. And yes, I have another quibble to raise, but if you solved this one, I bet you know what it’ll be. Looking at the theme fill:
- 20A. ["Macbeth," with "The"] SCOTTISH PLAY. I thought this would be KING OF SCOTLAND, but among other things, it’s one letter too long… Theater lore says that if you’re performing in it, this is the way to refer to this play about the man who would be king. Here’s a little backgrounder on the (colorful) superstition.
- 33A. [Beverage with whiskey and whipped cream] IRISH COFFEE. Oh, really—doesn’t that sound good?! Make mine with decaf, please…
- 39A. [Muppet whose short-lived cereal was called Cröonchy Stars] SWEDISH CHEF. Here’s a link to some of the ads, and here’s the chef preparing chocolate moose [sic].
- 53A. [Archipelago of western Europe] BRITISH ISLES. I know the British Isles are not the same as the British Islands, but I still wish the fill had gone farther afield and sounded less “country”-like. British lions? British Crown?
So the members of the “country club” are Scottish and Irish—and since Scotland and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom—that makes them all British in fact. Except for those who happen to be Swedish… No matter how ya slice it, this one really doesn’t fit in. Sure it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy, but I think this is a theme idea that needs some refining and a goal of better consistency.
Where the puzzle does deliver consistently, however, is in the non-theme fill, which has many first-rate entries going for it. Conscientious members of the FIFTH COLUMN [Subversive group of traitors], are certain to ENCRYPT [Make secret in a way] any message they may be sending lest their mission GO SOUTH [Turn bad slangily] (which has no connection to that [Southern honorific]/BR’ER combo…). These examples alone are worth the price of admission and definitely hit a HOME RUN for this solver.
I also liked seeing OKTOBERFEST [Annual event held in Munich], a veritable ORGY [Rowdy shindig] of food and beer. Seems the SUGARLOAF [Conical sweetener of old] is also something that can still be found without too much difficulty in Germany. If you want to sweeten your CHAI [Spiced beverage] with one, however, you may need a pair of sugar nips (special iron sugar-cutters).
Greek mythology gets a shout-out today by way of [Poseidon's domain] for SEA, [Mars, to the Greeks] for ARES and [...Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, with "the"] for FATES. These are the gals who tend to the thread of life—the spinner, the measurer, the cutter. Seems your FORTUNE is in their hands (though maybe not that [Business magazine since 1930]).
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
One thing I like about this puzzle is that there are three answers starting with RE but all three are solid words in their own right and not uninspired RE+verb concoctions. 18a: REALTOR is [One with lots to list]. 3d: REVISIT is [Consider anew], and we don’t “visit the issue” nearly as often as we “revisit the issue.” 12d: RETOOLS is [Modernizes, perhaps], and outside of the manufacturing world we speak more of retooling things than tooling them in the first place.
- 26d. a POP QUIZ is a [Student's dread].
- 15a. [Pizzeria purchase] is OREGANO—what the pizzeria buys, not what you buy at the pizzeria.
- 20a. [Wellington, circa 1782] was an ETONIAN. I guessed this off the -IAN ending, as it’s the sort of connection often made in crosswords. Notable Englishman = likely Eton graduate.
- 33a. [Very hungry] clues SHARP-SET. Dictionary tags the word as “dated.”
- 35a. [Plutarch called her "a lover of wisdom"] clues ISIS. My first guess, off the -IS ending, was ERIS, goddess of discord.
- 46a. [Nevsky Cathedral locale] is YALTA? I’m not up on my cathedrals of the Crimea.
- 50a. EMUS are [30-miles-per-hour runners].
- 57a. Did you know this? TNT is a [Chemical first used as a dye]. Perhaps they had trouble with the dye vats blowing up.
- 60a. Usually I’m irked by the “meaning of a first name” clues, but I happened to know that MELISSA is a [Name that means "honeybee"] so I was okay with this one.
- 2d. CREMONA is a [City on the Po]. Sounds too much like Cremora, doesn’t it?
- 6d. [Government redesign of 2010] clues the $100 bill, or C-NOTE.
- 8d. Cool answer. MARIACHI is a [Musician on the move].
- 13d. P.J. O’ROURKE is an ["Atlantic Monthly" correspondent].
- 21d. [Sports semifinal] clues NLCS, or baseball’s National League Championship Series. Rough to cross this with FCC with a tough clue (29a: [Licensing org.]).
- 36d. [Pilgrim's destination] clues ST. PETER’S.
- 38d. [Holes in your shoe] are the EYELETS your shoelaces pass through.
- 45d. I don’t like this answer at all. [Washington, e.g.] is a U.S. STATE, but how often do people within the U.S. refer to a state as a “U.S. state”?