Natan Last’s New York Times crossword
I am so very sleepy right now, so let me run through a top 10 list:
- 5a. FLAVOR FLAV! The [Founding member of Public Enemy known for wearing large clocks around his neck] has become a regular citizen of reality TV land.
- 16a. This is Stephen Colbert, right? I AM AMERICA is clued [2007 satirical best seller subtitled “And So Can You!”]. Yep, lotsa pop culture in Natan’s puzzle.
- 38a. From Moby-Dick, we get PELEG, [Literary captain who says “It’s better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one].
- [One may cause your dinner to be spoiled] clues a LATE LUNCH.
- 61a. [Wet bar, maybe] is a great clue for SOAP.
- 3d. [What some plays are shown in] is SLOW MOTION. This is about instant replays in sports, not plays you see at the theater.
- 5d. [Alternative to a shake] of hands is a FIST BUMP, a.k.a. dap.
- 29d. MRS. PEACOCK is a [Board game grande dame], in Clue.
- 30d. If she PUTTS, she [Attempts to sink] a golf ball.
- 58d. [Nelson’s catchphrase on “The Simpsons”] is a mocking “HA HA!”
There’s a tie for least savory answer:
- 31d. [Lady Liberty garb] clues STOLA. I had STOLE and wondered about it, and eventually realized the E had to be an A for ST. TERESA, your [“Relaciones Espirituales” writer]. Wikipedia explains that the STOLA is the Roman woman’s counterpart to the manly toga.
- 6d. LAP DANCES are clued as [Bachelor party entertainment]. The OMELET and FRITTATA pass the breakfast test just fine but regrettably, 6d fails it.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Brando”—Janie’s review
Yesterday, you may recall, the CS puzzle was titled “Brand X”; today it’s “Brand O”—er—make that “Brando.” As in Marlon. I don’t know that it pays to figger out “Why Brando?” or “Why now?” (He was born on 4/3/24 and died 7/1/04, so there’s no particular milestone I’m aware of…) The literally and figuratively larger-than-life actor was celebrated for his appearances on both stage and screen. Patrick’s puzzle gives direct shout-outs (shouts-out?) to four of Brando’s films—including the great, the near-great, the “Really?” and the “Omg-how-did-that-happen?” examples. I leave it to you to ascribe any ratings…
- 17A. & 58A. […1996 Brando film, with “the”] ISLAND OF / DR. MOREAU. The beauty of these entries is construction-related. The former sits over (the latter under) more theme fill, with a 5-square overlap. Good goin’!
- 20A. [1955 Brando film] GUYS AND DOLLS. Must’ve seen this six or seven times as a kid. Couldn’t sit through it as an adult… The stage play and score are heaven. See the show!!!
- 38A. [1954 Brando film] ON THE WATERFRONT. As the man who took home the Oscar that year for “Best Actor in a Leading Role,” Brando was more than a “contender.”
- 51A. [1953 Brando film] JULIUS CAESAR. He was Mark Antony. We lent him our ears.
Three bonus entries round things out: first ACT [Play a role], which is something Brando did many, many times; then HARRISON [Ford who returned to Indiana three times], as the portrayer of Indiana Jones (and cabinet maker to Francis Ford Coppola…), who appeared with Brando in Apocalypse Now; and finally (thank-you-very-much because this film remains a fave), there’s [“]ALL [my sons” (line from “The Godfather”)]. Of course All My Sons is also a play by Arthur Miller, but I do like the way Patrick’s used the phrase to build on the Brando tribute. (You can find the quote in context here. Use the “Find” function under “Edit” to get right to it.)
Speaking of Ford (Harrison and Godfather director Francis ___ Coppola), we also get the [Former Ford minivan], AEROSTAR. (Groan…)
So much else in this puzzle that I enjoyed. Like:
- the side-by-side “I’M OKAY” and “ NO-NO-NO,” [Words of reassurance] and [Words of refusal].
- the crossing of EVE and EDEN ([She raised Cain] and [Original home of 40-Down]). ADAM, who shared that original home and did some Cain-raising himself, is in the puzzle as well, but today he’s clued as [Sandler of “Big Daddy”].
- the little language lesson by way of AMO [Common Latin verb] (meaning “to love”) and its root appearance in ENAMOR [Bewitch].
- the [Lean] and [Mean] cluing (yielding the more benign MEAGER and DENOTE).
- the statistical [Figures in tables] and [Midway fig.] for DATA and ETA (Midway being Chicago’s “other” airport…).
And yes, there were several things that JARRED the solve some and made me go “hmmmm.” Such as the single [Smacker] for CLAM. Don’t we usually use this slang in the plural? Or the SODDY/[Like freshly laid lawn] combo. That usage sounds forced/dated to my ear. Ditto the concept of ORAL being clued as [Like slander], which (when not written) I think of as “verbal.” Or [Pause button, perh.] to clue ESC. Maybe I’m simply not remembering seeing the word “perhaps” abbreviated, but somehow it stood out today…. But in light of the great grid (I failed to mention triple 6-columns E and W, and the triple 6-stacks NE and SW) and all the other strengths of this puzzle, this one has far more to recommend it than not, which is a definite ASSET [Plus]!
Robert Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Wolfe’s SHTICK is to anchor a themeless grid with several long colloquial phrases, the sorts of things people say in conversation. I like today’s first two better than the third; 52a: “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” has an awkward clue, [“And afterward?”]. I HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE (17a. [“Beats me”])and “ON SECOND THOUGHT…” (36a. [Reservation opening]) are great, though.
Elsewhere, there are 67 other answers and clues. Here are some:
- 9a. [Bantam] means small, and so does PETITE, but there is some gendering to these words and they don’t quite match up. Call a bantamweight male boxer “petite” and you might get punched.
- 15a. KATARINA is/was the [Consort of Gustav I]. Figure skater Katarina Witt is far more familiar to Americans.
- 39a. A pole [Vaulter’s target] is the CROSSBAR.
- 50a. [Big fan] clues FIEND, as in Diary of a Crossword Fiend. “Diary of a Big Crossword Fan” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
- 56a. [Explosive solvent, as it was formerly called] clues TOLUOL. I’m guessing this has to do with trinitrotoluene, or TNT. Or maybe it’s a chemical cousin.
- 57a. Great clue for BACTERIA: [Some tiny rods and spheres].
- 59a. Nautical terminology, meh. A STAYSAIL is a [Versatile auxiliary wind-catcher].
- 4d. [“Star Trek” character __ Chekov] is named PAVEL? Why isn’t that ringing a bell?
- 6d. A less noxious pig [Pen emission] is an OINK.
- 9d. [Fake it] clues PUT ON A SHOW. Speaking of putting on a show, have you seen the viral wedding video that begins with bride Vanessa’s father taking the microphone? It’s adorable.
- 22d. [“The Spirit” comics writer Will] EISNER is making inroads in crosswords as ex-Disney honcho Michael Eisner fades in relevance. Though there were recent rumors that Michael E. was going to take the top job at the Chicago Tribune.
- 23d. This is my favorite entry today: A GOOD CRY is an [Emotionally therapeutic episode].
- 25d. TO SMOOTH-TALK someone is to [Convince using flattery].
- 28d. [Swing time?] is the BIG BAND ERA.
- 49d. [Small tool case] for sewing is an ETUI. I just learned from the dictionary that the word tweezers is a long form of the old word tweeze, meaning “case of surgical instruments,” which was a shortening of etweese, plural of etui. Whoa! Did you know this? My mind is blown.
- 51d. [Tambo Colorado builder] is an unfamiliar clue for INCA. Tambo Colorado is an ancient adobe complex on Peru’s coast.
- 55d. [Chess champion who succeeded Botvinnik] is TAL. I don’t know how notable Tal is in chess circles. Does he get an unfair share of crossword attention just because his name is 3 letters long?
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Brad built his puzzle around three long phrases that contain a Q:
- 20a. A figure skating [Rink coup] is a QUADRUPLE JUMP. Don’t try this on the hockey rink. Somebody will get hurt.
- 34a. Emily [Post code] is PROPER ETIQUETTE. “Post codes” are postal codes in non-U.S., non–ZIP code countries.
- 52a. CREDIT SQUEEZE is an [Inflation-curbing measure].
Names I did or did not know:
- 5a. [Big name in warehouses] is SAM’S, as in Sam’s Club warehouse stores. Knew it.
- 17a. [Pixar protagonist] is the young fish NEMO. Knew it.
- 63a. [Big name in TV talk] is TYRA Banks. Knew it.
- 1d. [Shakespearean apparition] is BANQUO‘s ghost. Knew it, thanks to another crossword reminding me the other day.
- 3d. [Baroque composer Albinoni] is named TOMASO. Didn’t know it.
- 10d. [Marvin’s Motown singing partner] is TAMMI Terrell. Knew it.
- 25d. [Costumer for the 1925 version of “Ben-Hur”] is ERTE. Know the name; sure didn’t know it was the answer to this clue.
- 38d. [Friend of Ishmael] is Moby-Dick‘s QUEEQUEG. Knew it and love the name, though it kinda sounds like a goofy George Lucas Star Wars name.
- 54d. [Nun in an Eastwood film] is SARA. Didn’t know it.
A few other clues:
- 23a. [Gangster-film ultimatum ender] is CAPISCE. “Understand?”
- 27a. [Suspension of sensibility] is a STUPOR.
- 30a. [It may come with a collar] is a rip-off. You try to be tricky and the payoff is a boring OAR? Boo!
- 50a. An EARWIG is not only a [Strawberry-patch bane] but a bane whenever one reveals itself to me.
- 55a. Is this [Common French fare] really that common? FOIE DE VEAU is calf’s liver. Moo?
- 57a. [“O Du, ___ holder Abendstern” (Wagner aria)] is missing its MEIN. “Oh you, my strong evening star”?
- 59a. [River that Sherlock Holmes fell into] is Switzerland’s AARE. What was Holmes doing over there?
- 61a. [Cook carrots, perhaps] clues CANDY. Candied yams feel more commonplace than candied carrots, though I am firmly in favor of broader candying.
- 24d. CANT is [Secret lingo]. You tried CODE first too, didn’t you?
- 28d. [Cult following] is a too-clever clue for the suffix -URE. I don’t think junky little bits of fill are worthy of misleading clues.
- 33d. [“The sun has left the __”: Scott] clues LEA.
- 45d. [“Arabian Nights” official] is a VIZIER. Cool word.
- 46d. [Paper presented at a conference] or passed around the table at a staff meeting is an AGENDA.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Crowd Control”
“Out of many, one.” That’s the English translation of the U.S. motto, “e pluribus unum.” Out of the many (well, three) letters crowded into each multi-letter box, we extract one in order to form a more perfect union with the two letters left behind. The remaining letter duos are MA, NY, DE, CT, NC, SC, NH, VA, NJ, RI, MD, and PA—the current postal abbreviations for the states that were the original 13 colonies. The deleted letters drop down to spell out E PLURIBUS UNUM. How elegant is that? So very!
Now, this grid is filled with more short answers than most Berry variety puzzles, so the fill isn’t quite as wow-inducing as his usual stuff. But it’s harder to make all those three-letter chunks cross (and contain very specific letters) without using the shorter words, so there you have it.
My answer grid:
ADAGE ROTC SPAM MO[DEL]ED O[BSC]URE [RIN]GO BEER[GAR]DEN EATEN LORE RENE [VAS]TEST EXE[CUT]IVES SUDSY DECADES [UNH]EROIC INON METAL TUNA ETUDE PETAL TA[MPA] BOP PR[INC]ES RESIN A[NYP]LACE RADIATE SEE SING CO[NJU]GAL [EMA]NATES TERRELL NAPE SEED BER[MUD]A