Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
This one’s a 64-worder with attractively daunting corners of white space. Don’t let a grid psych you out, though—only the clues and any unfamiliar answers should be daunting. That being said, 1a is a rather daunting entry into the puzzle. [Masonry that requires little mortar] is ASHLAR—a word I believe I have encountered in another themeless or two, but that is not exactly part of my working vocabulary. Big square-cut stones used as a facing outside of brick or stone walls? All righty, I’ll take the dictionary’s word for it.
Not my favorite crop from the Berry bush. Who calls [Tough questions] TESTERS? Not I. Aside from 45a, none of the individual entries captivated me. The fill is smooth, sure, but not particularly thrilling.*
What I liked best:
- 7d. A ["Duck" call"] warning you “Duck! Incoming!” is “WATCH OUT!”
- 15d. THE ONE is [Mr. or Mrs. Right]. I’d rather that “Mrs.” were “Ms.”—you might not be married to THE ONE, and even if you are married to her, she may not go by “Mrs.” Oh! Wait. This clue is allowing for Mrs. Right to be someone else’s legally wedded wife, and she’s THE ONE true love for the third leg of the love triangle. Gotcha, Gray Lady.
- 16d. Sad that ADRIENNE [___ Shelly, writer/director/co-star of "Waitress," 2007] is not here to see her name in the NYT crossword. She was murdered at age 40 before her movie made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival.
- 17a. Great clue for TALONS: [They might grab something to eat].
- 19a. Whoa. I LIKE IT LIKE THAT was just a theme answer in Thursday’s L.A. Times puzzle, and here’s it’s very specifically the [1965 top 10 hit for the Dave Clark Five]. Not a song I know.
- 26a. RUGER is a [Maker of rifles and revolvers]. Ah, the things I learned in girlhood.
- 31a. A HARP is an [Instrument capable of glissandi]. My cousin Heather bought herself a harp recently. Even when a kid sits down to strum it, the music still sounds pretty. The bassoon probably can’t boast the same.
- 39a. Didn’t even see this clue while solving, but I like it. SEVEN is a [Common number of spots on a ladybug].
- 45a. “Cucamonga sits in the old gum tree, eating all the gumdrops he can see…” Hmm? What’s that? Oh, sorry. RANCHO CUCAMONGA is a [California city with a statue of Jack Benny]. I couldn’t tell you if he mentioned it in his comedy routines or was from there or what.
- 1d. “Attica! Attica! Attica!” Perhaps better known as the prison with a violent 1971 uprising, it’s also the name of an [Ancient land on the Aegean].
- 2d. Donna SHALALA, hire a publicist. You’ve lost out to [1974 top 10 Al Green hit subtitled "Make Me Happy"]. Probably a three-word “Sha La La,” eh?
- 33d. EURASIA is clued [The majority of people live here].
Less familiar stuff:
- 47d. MOON is clued as a verb, [Sentimentalize]. Say what?
- 11d. [Alternatives to furnaces] are HEAT PUMPS. Dictionary definition mentions the refrigerator, which is not used as a furnace.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Weirdly, this puzzle felt like a Newsday “Saturday Stumper” to me. The fill has the same general air of dryness, and the clues had a touch of a Newsday vibe to them, too. Not quite as challenging as the typical Stumper, but tougher than most Saturday L.A. Times puzzles.
Top 3 (would’ve been top 10, but I ran low on cool entries and clues I wanted to spotlight):
- 17a. [Imagination] is your MIND’S EYE.
- 37a. WILT CHAMBERLAIN was a [Four-time NBA MVP].
- 12d. [Where to get a muffuletta sandwich] is NEW ORLEANS.
- 48d. [Texas city named for a president] is TYLER. Another Texas Tyler is Ty Treadway, erstwhile host of the game show Merv Griffin’s Crosswords.
Ten tougher bits:
- 9a. A PLINTH is a [Support base] with an architectural column, a statue, or an urn resting on it.
- 40a. [White, in Waikiki] is the Hawaiian word KEA. Mauna Kea means “white mountain,” and this peak was was named for its wintertime snow cap.
- 43a. [Old pol. units] is an odd-looking clue for SSRS. Given that “pol” is used as slangy shorthand for “politician,” it’s weird to see it as an abbreviation for “political.”
- 63a. [Derisive] clues SNEERY, which I don’t believe I’ve ever used as an adjective.
- 1d. Forrest GUMP is a [Winston Groom hero]. Quick! Name anything else Winston Groom wrote.
- 8d. [Residential street warning] clues SPEED BUMPS AHEAD. A Google image search shows plenty of signs with that wording, but I think Chicago tends to go with the singular SPEED BUMP AHEAD or a switch to HUMP(S) from BUMP(S). My block has four speed humps, and my husband and I used to make juvenile japes about alley signs that read simply SPEED HUMP. Is that a command?
- 21d. To [Pass on a ketch], passing another boat whilst on your own ketch, you SAIL BY the other boat.
- 27d. A SOLAR FLARE is a [Phenomenon that emits X-rays]. Take a picture; it’ll last longer.
- 28d. [Work with a shuttle] clues TAT. Tatting is using a small shuttle to tie thread and thereby create lace.
- 32d. SANYO is the [Maker of eneloop rechargeable batteries], which I’ve never heard of.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Palindromic Openings”—Janie’s review
I love puzzles with wordplay in ‘em and today’s is a prime example of what I mean. While the title tips us off to the palindromes incorporated in the theme phrases, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate in describing the gimmick. It is succinct, however, and I take that as a plus. Each of the theme phrases is made up of two alliterative words. It’s the first letter of the the second word that allows the first word (now minus its first letter) to become a palindrome. I’m not sure there’s an uncomplicated way to express this. Let’s just look at the peppy theme fill and appreciate the palindromes comin’ and goin’:
- 17A. BOO-BOO BEAR [Yogi's cavemate]. See? It’s not that the name Boo-boo is a palindrome in and of itself, it’s that the “B” of bear contributes to the name’s ability to be reversed. “Hey, Boo-boo!”
- 23A. DRESSER DRAWER [Sock storage spot]. Good one—and the most consonant heavy of the group (which ups the ante some).
- 47A. POTATO PANCAKE [Kartoffelpuffer or latke]. What a great clue/fill combo. “Latke” I knew, but “kartoffelpuffer”?! Worth the price of admission! If you care to whip some up, maybe try this recipe. And here’s a latke recipe. The same, only different… Prepare either one and it’ll be head ‘n’ shoulders above the pancakes produced by EGGO, also a [Frozen waffle brand].
- 57A. BANANA BOAT [Vessel in a Harry Belafonte song]. “Come Mister Tally-man, tally de bananas…”
I enjoyed a lot of the non-theme fill today as well. Standouts would have to include:
- BROADBAND [Kind of network].
- CUBISTS [Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso]. Aesthetically speaking, how very far away they are from the OSMONDS [Donny and Marie]. Had the former been around for the latter, I somehow can’t imagine Georges or Pablo saying, “Hmm. I’d like to paint today. Lemme put on ‘I’m Leaving It (All) Up to You’ for some real inspiration,”
- ON ONE’S OWN [Self-reliant]. With the electronic tethering that exists today, I wonder if it’s taking kids longer to become self-reliant—an underrated quality these days I fear.
- PEEPHOLE [Security device]. Or a sneaky way of observing someone without his/her knowledge. Oh, never mind… like the device on my front door…
- ADDING UP [Putting two and two together?] and EQUAL [Have the value of].
- SCANTY [Minimal].
- GOULASH [Hungarian stew]; and IMAGERY [Set of mental pictures].
Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
How great are these three answers?
- 33a. QUIXOTE is a [Subject for Picasso and Strauss].
- 11d. H.G. WELLS is your ["Atomic bomb" coiner]. I don’t think I knew that.
- 46a. The S.S. MINNOW from Gilligan’s Island is a [Memorable '60s shipwreck]. The Edmund Fitzgerald went down in 1975.
The swaths of white space in the first and last corners look good, too, and are mostly filled smoothly.
Overall, I wasn’t wild about the fill. Let’s run through more of the puzzle:
- Two ONE’S answers share the grid today. 17a: [Not play around, perhaps] clues ACTS ONE’S AGE, while 27d: [Directly] is TO ONE’S FACE].
- 22a. [They're attached to quads] clues PATELLAE, or kneecaps attached to the quadriceps muscles. The “quads” bit falsely hints that the answer may be shortened in some way.
- 24a. I can’t imagine YOLKED ever being used as an adjective meaning [Like eggs]. Double-yolked, sure. What the hell else can be yolked like eggs are??
- 26a. [Company ldr.] clues CPT. Is that a military 3-letter abbreviation of captain?
- 37a. [On the road] clues AUTOING. No, really. Auto as a verb. Sure, the two dictionaries I consulted don’t have that, and it’s not slang I’ve ever heard, but presumably searching more dictionaries will turn something up. Oh, here it is, in an online dictionary of unknown provenance with lots and lots of ads. “Man, the CPT is so YOLKED because we went AUTOING without permission!”
- 39a. [Fishy opening] clues the long prefix PISCI-, as in piscivore, one who eats fish. Not desirable fill.
- 55a. [Flat-pack design pioneer] is IKEA.
- 58a. [Physical part] means part of a physical examination, or a STRESS TEST. Two concerns here: First off, STRESS TEST is way too easy to slot at the bottom of the grid, and it shows up there way too often. Second, has anyone else ever gotten a STRESS TEST as part of a physical? My understanding is that your doctor may refer you elsewhere to get one, but what doctors have the testing facility in the office and include the test in a physical? What, are we all being seen by NASA doctors?
- 3d. [GPS reading] clues ALTITUDE. Does my car’s GPS tell me altitude? I don’t think it does. Illinois has no mountains for me to climb.
- 7d. MUSTACHIOS are [Certain facial features]. My trainer at the gym is considering being Wilford Brimley for Halloween, with a “die-beetus” t-shirt. Freddie Mercury was also in the running, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s slated to play him in a movie so that would look derivative as a Halloween costume.
- 13d. [Run over] clues REVIEW. “Let’s run over the plan one last time.” “Oh, man, my bike got reviewed by a truck.”
- 22d. The PIKA is a [Chinchilla-like animal]. Cute! Look how adorable when it’s carrying a bouquet in its mouth.
- 31d. [Pound, for short] clues STG, abbreviating sterling. “Pardon me, are you CPT STG? Come with me, ma’am.”
- 34d. [Nelson's singing partner] is JEANETTE. Nelson Eddy, Jeanette what’s-her-name, MacDonald. Singing partners. Who isn’t on a first-name basis with them? Her movies ranged from 1929 to 1949 and she died before I was born. Who doesn’t love pop culture aimed at the 70+ age group?
- 38d. [Pirates' quest] is the PENNANT, in baseball.
- 39d. [Stigma bearer] isn’t Hester Prynne, it’s a PISTIL in a flower.
- 45d. [Prey of 4 Down], a lioness, are KUDUS, African antelopes.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Outsiders” (variety cryptic)
A solid, albeit easyish, Hex cryptic. Fifteen minutes? Oh, how I would love a Hex cryptic that took two or three times that long, or that I had to put down for a while and come back to with a fresh perspective. It was a sad day when I finished Emily and Henry’s book, Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords, which was chock full of beefy challenges. It’s all relative, of course. This puzzle took me almost three times as long as the Saturday NYT and almost twice as long as a typical Sunday-sized puzzle. I daresay speed solvers have a special fondness for the types of puzzles that can’t be digested as quickly as the standard newspaper crosswords.
The six letters jutting out of the grid on each side spell out four places you encounter if you head north, east, south, and west of the U.S.: Canada, Europe (though most of Europe is actually at Canada’s latitude, not the U.S.’s, and Africa could have appeared in these squares too), Mexico, and Russia (which is right over there by Alaska, y’know).
No particularly surprising or ingenious or difficult clues to single out this month.
Enjoy this autumnal Saturday!