Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword
Yep, sure enough—this puzzle strikes me as being of Friday difficulty, and Friday’s felt like Saturday. So much for getting a wickedly hard puzzle today. Or is it? There are certainly clues that don’t readily announce their answers and at least one answer that doesn’t readily announce its spelling. That latter one? 12d: AL ZARQAWI, [Subject of the 2008 book "How to Break a Terrorist"].
My favorite clues and answers:
- 1a. [Couples' activity once considered scandalous] is, much to my surprise, WALTZING.
- 17a. Nutty answer: “NO, NO, NO, NO.” ["You're doing it all wrong!"] (Would prefer not to have NONE crossing the NOs and NOT.)
- 18a. I forgot I learned this word from a previous NYT crossword. The [Green goof] on the golf course is a FOOZLE. How many of you who recognized this word know it only from that other FOOZLE puzzle?
- 23a. SHATNERESQUE is a new word for me, but with just the initial S and the clue, I filled it in. [Like overdramatic spoken-word versions of pop songs]? Yep. Here’s his “Rocket Man.”
- 32a. [They're plopped down] could mean only REARS.
- 43a. TONYA HARDING! She’s the skating [Athlete stripped of a 1994 national title]. Your first thought was steroids and track and field, wasn’t it, and not knee-capping?
- 51a. Shakespeare, THE BARD.
- 60a. I don’t really know why WOODSHED is a [Place of discreet punishment]. Aww, I would’ve loved a fill-in-the-blank quote from Cold Comfort Farm: ["I saw something nasty in the ___."]
- 22d. Wait, are the Scottish people absolutely bonkers? Why is a UNICORN [Part of Scotland's coat of arms]?
- 48d. Did the rest of you devour the “history of the alphabet” bits in the dictionary when you were kids? Can you picture the pictogram of the ox’s head that shaped the letter A? ALEPH is the [Letter resembling an ox's head]. See for yourself. (And no, I don’t think I remember any of the letters past A!)
What’s this lemon ANGEL PIE? Is it just that I don’t much care for lemon desserts, or is this a fairly obscure pie as pies go?
I presume that this 68-worder is a pangram, given the Scrabbly letters, but don’t wish to check for all 26 letters.
The northwest and southeast corners are mostly cut off from the rest of the grid. Did you have trouble getting in and out of those sections? I had enough shorter gimmes in there to get a good toehold.
My husband was doing another crossword recently and ranted when he had to fill in SOYA. Here, we’ve got the SOYA BEAN as a [Lecithin source]. Do any of you call it a “soya bean,” or are we all in “soybean” territory? I think the “soya” version is generally British, though we see it clued without reference to region in our crosswords.
Bob Peoples’ Los Angeles Times crossword
- 11d. [Hardly a Michelin three-star eatery] clues a GREASY SPOON.
- 23d. To [Catnap] is to CATCH A FEW Z’S.
Aren’t those great? Tons o’ colloquial flavor. OLD-WHAT’S-HIS-NAME (60a. [Reference to a long-forgotten acquaintance]) is good too. The overall vibe is casual and light, not much arcane stuff, not many people’s names to know.
And now, a clue roundup:
- 8a. Some [Small hounds] are BEAGLES.
- 15a. [Question at a wine tasting] clues “HOW IS IT?” I’m not sure how I’d clue this, but I’m not fond of this clue.
- 17a. ["You've made your point!"] gives us a five-word answer, “OK, I GET IT ALREADY.”
- 34a. [One who draws exceptionally well?] is a MEGASTAR. Drawing audiences, not pictures.
- 50a. SANTÉ is [Health, in Le Havre]. À votre santé!
- 3d. [Swing both ways] clues SWITCH-HIT, which has both baseball and sexual connotations.
- 7d. ST. IVES is a [Destination in a poetic riddle], the “As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives” riddle.
- 49d. INDIA is the [Birthplace of Merle Oberon]. Okay, this one’s pretty arcane unless you’re a fan of 1930s and ’40s movies. (Here’s where John Farmer expresses dismay at my lack of familiarity with the oeuvre of Merle Oberon.)
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Out with the Old”—Janie’s review
And we close out the week with yet another substitution-themed puzzle. This time, though, it’s a full-word-for-full-word gimmick whose title suggests something we say at New Year’s—and also the merchant in Aladdin’s bazaar who was swapping out “new lamps for old.” Five familiar phrases with the adjective “old” as a descriptor in them are re-conceived with the word “new”—leading to some amusing results (and note that the first two and last two are stacked in the grid—with a 7-letter overlap):
- 17A. [Where Enya might live?] NEW AGE HOME. Oh, this is a goodie—because new age is a well-worn phrase in itself by now and resonates humorously with the base phrase “old age home.”
- 20A. [What a plagiarist might write with someone else's original idea?] SAME NEW STORY. Shades of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger…
- 36A. [Cable channel for parents with recently born sons?] NEW BOY NETWORK. Funny concept. I know this is a parent-centric “network,” but I have trouble not imagining a nursery filled with a group of diaper-clad, cigar-chompin’ baby boys. Gotta start ‘em young!
- 56A. [Brides' recounting of their honeymoons?] NEW WIVES’ TALES. Same group may have embarked on said honeymoons with more than their share of “old wives’ tales,” too…
- 62A. [Salutation to a first-time father?] “DEAR NEW DAD.” If he’s the father of a son, perhaps it’s to tell him about the New Boy Network…
Of the remaining fill, we get two wonderful nines: TASTE BUDS [They know the difference between sweet and sour] and whether or not the IRISH STEW [Hearty pub meal] has been seasoned properly (or the OLLA [Podrida] for that matter).
No eights or sevens today but a lotto fine sixes and another grid that offers triple 6-columns—this time in the SW and NE. Among my picks: TEA SET and the image-making [Afternoon trayful], N.Y. METS ["Miracle" W.S. winners of 1969] (yes, they’re my “home team” here—even after what they did to my Birds in ’69…), the alliterative SOIRÉE and SWAYED, BONGOS clued as [What Beatniks might beat] (daddy-o…), and “I SEE IT!” [Response to "Look!"].
There are also several clue/fill combos that helped keep things lively and the brain workin’. And they’d be:
- [Countenance, colloquially]/PUSS. (As in humorist S.J. Perelman’s own Vinegar Puss.)
- [Pointless weapon]/ÉPÉE. Though it does sound like the épée can inflict a good bit of pain anyway, capable of producing [Stinging remarks?] or “OW!”S.
- [Hula hoop?]/LEI.
- [Come into one's own]/BLOOM. A lovely, poetic pairing.
- [Certain briefs, briefly]/BVDS.
- And the anatomically correct [Hand holder?] for ARM.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
All right, I declare this one the week’s toughest crossword, but it’s all fair. Eventually I unraveled all my wrong turns and pieced it all together. It would’ve gone a lot more quickly for me if I’d recognized ["The Fame Monster" performer] as LADY GAGA or if I’d remembered the existence of UNCLE FESTER and not just the other [Addams character]s, such as Wednesday, Cousin Itt, Pugsley, Morticia, and Gomez (none of whom has an 11-letter name).
This grid is laid out differently from the LAT puzzle, but once again, two of my favorite entries are the 11-letter Downs in the exact same places. Besides Uncle F., there’s a GLAZED DONUT ([Treat from a box], but only if you order a dozen or so). Man, I wish I had one now. My husband just came back from Dunkin Donuts and I have my usual order, the chocolate-frosted cake donut.
Let’s look at what we’ve got here today. The overarching vibe is “short, vague clues that hinge on a less common meaning”—in other words, standard Stumper fare. Only without, I am glad to see, the pop culture trivia that’s unknown to most of those under the age of 70.
- 1a. [Big touchdown maker] was a gimme for me this time: JUMBO JET.
- 16a. If you just [Wink at] someone’s transgression, you pretty much IGNORE it.
- 34a. CARE BEARS are [Toys with belly badges]. Care Bears aren’t of my generation or my kid’s generation, and I’d appreciate it if constructors would quit making me think about them.
- 36a. Male HARES are [Some bucks].
- 38a. Religious [Service providers] are REVERENDS, sometimes. See that Stumper trademark? “Service provider” usually means something different, but the clue has no question mark to cue solvers to think outside the box here.
- 41a. DAEDALUS was the [Labyrinth creator]? A bit of Greek mythology I had forgotten.
- 44a. [Pants attachment, perhaps] clues KEYRING. This is primarily a guy thing.
- 58a. I outwitted myself here. I thought, “Oh! It must be seed beds or flower beds, not furniture.” But [Facility with many beds] is a SLEEP LAB full of actual beds. D’oh!
- 6d. [Anglicized form of Hieronymus] is JEROME. I knew this one. *patting self on back, feeling entitled to donut*
- 8d. Why are [Equal amts.] TSPS., or teaspoons? Because the artificial sweetener, capital-E Equal, can be dosed by the teaspoon.
- 12d. [It's named for the Sun King] means LOUISIANA, named after Louis XIV. I always forget that “the Sun King” isn’t an ancient Egyptian.
- 29d. DRAG is a [Concept in fluid dynamics]. Physics!
- 34d. [11th-century Danish king] CANUTE (var. Knut, Cnut) was the Danish king of England, Denmark, and Norway.
- 44d. [Canadian jazz artist] Diana KRALL has a famous musician husband, Elvis Costello.
- 45d. [Words before a showdown] is talking about poker games, not a duel at high noon: “I CALL.“
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Seasonal Song” variety cryptic
Okay, I’ve figured out the song title in the shaded squares (“BYE BYE BIRDIE”) and I’ve figured out the gimmick (excise a bird from each of the 12 song-affected entries), but I’m at a loss for 17-Across. No, wait, I see that INTO A RENTAL has 11 letters, and if it’s “moving,” it’s being anagrammed. Aha! ALTERNATION, drop the TERN. It’s so easy now, but earlier this morning when I did the rest of the puzzle, it just wasn’t coming together.
The other bird answers are:
- 14a. ANOTher onE
- 19a. BowlEGGED
- 23a. HAMMErheaDS
- 27a. POPINjay. This is the one that revealed the theme to me fairly early on.
- 32a. DISrobinG
- 2d. RegretTABLE
- 4d. CARRIEd oveR
- 6d. Uh-oh. Hang on. I didn’t figure this one out, either. [Trying to rival English mug, taking Latin], 3-letter bird coming out of a 9, leaving L_TING in the grid. Help!
- 7d. CONTravenED. This was a tough one.
- 18d. DErailMENTS
- 29a. BALloonIST
The weirdest word in the puzzle is 11a: ETNEAN. Really? An adjectival form of Mt. Etna? That’s a new one on me.
I think this cryptic was harder than the other WSJ cryptics by Hex, but then again, I was on the couch with my kid while he did his “current events” homework (did you hear about the water they found on the moon?), so I wasn’t completely focused on the puzzle. Probably would have been less than 28 minutes to almost-finish if I hadn’t been multitasking.