Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
This unusual grid features impressive quadruple-stacked 15-letter answers at the top and bottom, with eight rows of shorter answers in between. That’s right—a 15×16 grid, not the usual 15×15. Back in February, Kevin Der made a 15×15 with quad stacks, so I say Krozel’s tie in the record books appears with an asterisk. (He had another puzzle this year that headed for a record but broke the symmetry rule to do it. Mr. Krozel! Don’t be the Mark McGwire of crosswords! Give us asterisk-free records.)
This 65-worder contains, sadly, some unfortunate fill. Yes, we expect to see compromises in the service of a record pursuit, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a fun solve. Here are the entries that made me go all frowny while working the puzzle:
- Too many “ONE’S” phrases at 1a, 18a, 59a! CLEARED ONE’S NAME is the smoothest. CROSSED ONE’S PATH is OK. And RESTS ON ONE’S OARS is one of those phrases I’ve encountered only in crosswords.
- Four charmless partials—35a: IT OR, 12d: NO TO, 14d: ME OR, and 24d: LET NOT. I’m OK with [Coq ___] AU VIN.
- Awkward abbrevtns: 50d: CLAR., short for clarinet, is a [Woodwind instr.]. And 38d: VICE PRES. is clued as [Firm cheese, for short?].
- Hang on a minute here. Obscure willows in crosswords are to be OSIER! What’s this ITEA [Willow variety] doing in my puzzle?
The better stuff:
- 16a. HOSTILE TAKEOVER is great. [Merger alternative] works.
- 27a. Crossword gods help me, but I liked this crazy, nonintuitively spelled 8-letter river! The DNIESTER (not to be confused with the Dnieper) is a [Ukraine/Moldova border river]. Don’t worry, Four-Letter European River fans: there’s still room for the ELBE today.
- 37a. PARK AVENUE is great. Didn’t know it’s [Where Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are headquartered].
- 45a. Yes, it’s a junky 3-letter abbreviation, but I appreciate being rewarded for reading ingredient labels. BHA is a [Food preservative, briefly]. I’ve never seen it spelled out before looking it up just now: butylated hydroxyanisole. Yum.
- 49a. The sparkliest entry in the grid is OCTOBER SURPRISE, a [Bombshell revealed shortly before Election Day] in the U.S.
- 57a. I play favorites, too. PLAYED FAVORITES is the second-best entry in the puzzle.
And where would we be without some tough stuff? We wouldn’t be looking at a Saturday NYT puzzle, I can tell you that.
- 7d. I have not heard of these DEONS, [Actor Richmond and singer Jackson]. Have you?
- 9d. I remember Raisa Gorbachev, but am much less familiar with the name of NAINA, [Mrs. Boris Yeltsin].
- 30d. I only took one year of French. I don’t remember seeing the word soyons. ETRE is clued with [Soyons is a form of it].
- 31d. RAKE is a [Symbol of St. Barnabas, whose saint day comes at hay harvesting time]. I’m not up on my harvest-related saint days, to tell you the truth. I’ve never told anyone that before. What a weight off my shoulders.
- 43d. PHÈDRE is the French spelling of Phaedra, and a [1677 Racine tragedy].
- 48d. [10 million rupees] = one CRORE.
- 52d. [Olive kin] without a question mark is tricky. It’s the fictional OYLS, Popeye’s in-laws.
- 53d. SATO is the [Japanese Peace Nobelist of 1974]. I know this from crosswords, having been 8 in 1974.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I like that northwest corner and I like the two 15-letter pop-culture answers, and overall the fill is pretty smooth. It’s that 3-letter abbreviation at 57d—[USN rank], or CWO—that sticks in my craw. (What? Ask any of the BIRDERS at 1a, [Avid ones keep Life Lists]. They’ll tell you all about my craw.)
Walk with me:
- 17a. [Take a plane?] clues SKYJACK. Not a lot of words out there with two Ks and a J.
- 20a. [Roger who coached eight NHL teams] is NEILSON. Huh. Couldn’t keep a job, I guess.
- 27a. [It lost to "Moon River" for a Best Song Oscar] clues TOWN WITHOUT PITY. I am more familiar with Television Without Pity.
- 36a. [Come to a head] clues BOIL UP. I might like BOIL OVER better, but this is all right.
- 42a. [1964 Record of the Year Grammy winner, with "The"] is GIRL FROM IPANEMA. How do you pronounce that, anyway?
- 49a. Etymology! [French lover?] clues AMATEUR.
- 60a. The ESSENES are the ancient [Sect linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls]. Good ol’ crosswordese sect of yore.
- 1d. ["Bullitt" co-star] clues BISSET. Jacqueline, I presume. Can’t remember who played Bullitt.
- 3d. This is awesome, and timely. [Pluralis majestatis] is Latin for the ROYAL “WE.” Did you read Ben Zimmer’s “On Language” column about that subject?
- 4d. Right on the heels of ROYAL WE, you could be forgiven for thinking [Court physician?] was about a royal court rather than DR. J‘s basketball court.
- 24d. [Colonial mound] clues ANTHILL. Not the 13 Colonies associated with King George back in the day.
- 36d. BITTERS is a [Pink Gin ingredient]. I don’t think I’ve ever had a drink with bitters in it. Is it…bitter? Don’t think I’d care for that.
- 37d. ORACLES are [Sources of ambiguous answers]. The oracles didn’t have kids, did they? Kids keep hammering away at you for a straight answer. Kinda annoying.
- 38d. [Some Iberian inns] are POSADAS. When I was a kid, we used to go several towns over to a deserted intersection where there was that rarity, a Mexican restaurant. La Posada was our first exposure to the joy that is chips and salsa…though I can’t swear that there was any salsa. Definitely salty tortilla chips, back in the pre-Tostitos era. Yum!
- 42d. [Magazine whose debut issue featured a cover photo of Cindy Crawford dressed as Washington] was GEORGE, founded by JFK Jr. It was a cool magazine in its heyday. Now we have political blogs and cable news.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hats What I’m Talkin’ About!”—Janie’s review
Picking up from where we left off yesterday, once again we have a “like-type” theme—this time, one in which the second word of all three theme phrases is an article of clothing worn on the head. “Hats” what Randy’s talkin’ about! We get a beret, a derby and a sombrero. I don’t understand why, though (within the context of the theme phrases), only one of the three (beret) refers literally to a hat. Where consistency in the theme is concerned, shouldn’t this be an all-or-nuthin’ proposition? Oh, well. The theme phrases are tops (so to speak…) so, looking on the bright side we get:
- 20A. RASPBERRY BERET [1985 hit by Prince]. Soooo not in my wheelhouse, but here’s a link to the song for them as wants to tune in. Kind of a “bubble gum” sound. Who knew?!
- 41A. DEMOLITION DERBY [Contest with t-bones]. And not a steak eating contest… When one car in a demolition derby t-bones another, it broadsides it. That’s gotta happen a lot, no? One car ya don’t wanna see t-boned outside of a demolition derby is a MASERATI [Gran Turismo maker]…
- 56A. GOLDEN SOMBRERO [Four strikeouts by a batter in a single game]. Oh, the humiliation! Seems this “honor” takes its name from hockey’s “hat trick.” That’s a feat to be proud of (scoring three goals, say). But “four” is bigger than “three,” so the thinking behind the naming of this ignoble occurrence was that the hat should be be a really big one. Hence the sombrero. Seems that there’s a platinum and a titanium as well, for five and six strikeout performances. Folks who subscribe to Peter Gordon’s Fireball puzzles met up with this sparkling (if not previously familiar) fill just a few weeks ago. With a phrase like this, what’re the odds?
Other bright spots in the puzzle come to us by way of the symmetrically placed (and not unrelated) “LET’S DO IT!” and “I THEE WED.” Ditto MR. BIG and ["Burnt Weeny Sandwich" composer Frank] ZAPPA, who was recently remembered in Baltimore (where he was born) with a bust in his honor. While a NEAR MISS [...might elicit "close but no cigar"], here it scores perfectly.
There’s a bit of a global geography feel to many of the clue/fill pairs, to wit:
- [Like the Cranberries]/IRISH
- [Celtic language]/ERSE
- [Soviet gymnast Korbut]/OLGA
- [Arabian and Caspian]/SEAS
- [Home of the Himalayas]/ASIA (where you might find yourself ATOP [On the summit of] some of the world’s highest peaks)
- [Algerian port]/ORAN
- [Old Italian money]/LIRE
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
This one’s easier than most Stumpers of late. I like the solid chunkiness of the grid, with each corner crossing four answers of 6 to 8 letters with three others of comparable length.
- 16a. Hotel [Checkout time, at times] is ELEVEN A.M.
- 62a. [Available, temporarily] clues IN SEASON. Aww, I miss the fruits and veggies that were in season in the summer.
- 66a. LET SLIDE is a great idiomatic answer, clued as [Pardon].
- 1d. I read my share of Kurt Vonnegut in junior high and high school. ICE-NINE is a [High-melting-point substance in a Vonnegut novel].
- 6d. TAWDRY is a cool word, clued here as [Cheap].
- 8d. I like CLAPTRAP for the same reasons as TAWDRY. [Bunk] is one of many colloquial synonyms.
- 42d. BARISTA is the [Italian word for "mixologist"].
- 44d. KLEENEX is a [Genericized paper trademark].
- 53d. A SPRITZ of something is a [Little squirt]. Good mislead in the clue; “little squirt” also means “little kid.”
- 15a. CANADA is the [Country with the most lakes]. My first guess was RUSSIA.
- 29a. ERTE was a [Nonagenarian artist]. He died at age 97 back in 1990 and apparently was still working late in life. Who knew?
- 30a. ETATS is clued ["__ de service" (service record: Fr.)]. I’d be surprised if more than 1% of solvers know this, as opposed to knowing that ETATS is a French word and piecing it together with the crossings.
- 49a. Who ever uses OPAL as a color name?? [Off-white hue] is the clue.
- 33d. [100 pounds of nails] is a KEG. I tell you, I know more about obscure units of measure from crosswords than from the rest of life.
- 39d. [Like a Populist, quite possibly] clues PRO-LABOR. Today’s small-p populists don’t tend to be friends of organized labor.
- 46d. AKIHITO is Japan’s [Reigning "Imperial Majesty"].
- 65d. [Fourth person pointed to, perhaps] is MOE, in “Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.”