Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword
All righty, this puzzle made me grouse in a few places. First off, I never heard ’em called CLAP PUSH-UPS before. I can’t think of a more descriptive term than that, but the phrase just plain sounds like it came out of nowhere to me. (Not a fan of the clap push-up or the one-arm push-up, truth be told.) And then a COSMO is quite clearly a pink drink, so why is the clue [Red cocktail, for short]? I dunno, I just associate them with the color pink, but I guess they’re sort of red. Then there’s the EYE WINK. What other body part might be winked that you have to clarify “No, an eye wink”? (Don’t answer that.) Not to mention the WIRE SPOKE [Kind of wheel] with some less-than-ironclad crossings. And YARDED, meaning [Penned in].
On the plus side, I liked these parts:
- 59a. SOCK MONKEYS! Got these [Kitschy stuffed toys] off the M.
- 23d. BARHOP is clued as [Engage in a bachelor party activity]. [Engage in a bachelorette party activity] would work too.
- 36a, 33d. SNOOKER is a [British form of 33-Down], which is POOL. I like this intersecting cross-referenced pair.
- 48d. BOGEY is always welcome in my crossword. You’ve got the lousy golf score, Humphrey Bogart, the bogey man, and an unidentified aircraft that’s a [Menace in the air, maybe]. Would you believe I learned that last definition from the kids’ movie, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius?
Less fond of crosswordese STERE, the WAH/ITO/RES stack (crossing the WIRE SPOKE), the I’m-not-Stonehenge STONE CIRCLE, comparative PALTRIEST, musical instrument verb LUTED, and plural King HARALDS plus LINDAS for good measure.
Team Fiend member Jeffrey is bloggin’ all over the place—at Ryan and Brian’s blog Friday, he asked how many bad entries it takes to ruin a puzzle. I wouldn’t say that the stuff I didn’t care for ruined this puzzle for me, but it also kept me from feeling much affection. And I do like to feel affectionate towards my Saturday puzzles. You know what I mean?
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Horseshoes”
The challenge here is less in piecing together the word pairs and more in figuring out where to put the letters in the rings. Once you have a few adjacent word rings, though, you can pencil in the two letters that the neighboring rings share. And once you have a few neighbors’ letter pairs in there, all the pieces begin to settle into place.
Every clue leads to a 6-letter answer, so the juicy long answers that populate Berry’s “Rows Garden” puzzles are nowhere to be found. And though I didn’t time myself, I suspect the puzzle is a good bit easier than a “Rows Garden.” Aww, I always hope for a gnarly challenge from the WSJ Saturday Puzzle.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Vary Interesting”—Janie’s review
Read that title as an imperative and you’re on the fast track to solving this twisty anagram puzzle. Randy’s taken the 11-letter word “interesting” and varied its sequence of letters to come up with some very interesting turns of phrase. To wit:
- 17A. “I GET INTERNS” [Statement of understanding by a hospital administrator?].
- 28A. ENTIRE STING [Complete undercover operation?].
- 47A. STEERING NIT [Complaint from a backseat driver?]
- 63A. TIGER IN NETS [Bengal cat captured with rope snares?]
Seems to me that the success of this kind of theme stands or falls not only on the anagrams, but on the clues—and how well they set up the phrase that will follow. So here’s a tip o’ the proverbial hat to Randy. Seems to me the clue/fill pairs are perfectly matched. The clues set up an expectation that the fill meets or surpasses. Here I’m thinking especially of the strong visual of that tiger in nets or the humor in the idea of a steering nit.
Other lively fill comes to us by way of DAREDEVIL, clued today as [Blind Marvel Comics superhero] (he’s new to me…) and (also new to me…) [Cincinnati wide receiver Chad] OCHOCINCO. Or, as he spells it out, Ocho Cinco. Born Chad Johnson, he took the name that represents the numbers on his Bengals jersey. Let’s hope this is a permanent relationship.
Can’t say why exactly, but the appearance of both [To] A TEE [(perfectly)] and TEE-HEE makes me [Giggle]. Ditto the word NOOGIE [Knuckle rub], which I forever associate with Lisa Loopner and Todd DiLaMuca. Put up with the 30-second commercial and then enjoy “Nerd Prom” (complete with Mrs. Loopner and Mr. DiLaMuca).
A [Tornado alert] (SIRENS) [Gives a “heads up” to] (WARNS) folks in the storm’s path to get [Protected from the elements] (go INSIDE). One can only hope that a [Distress signal] S.O.S. will bring help in a timely way.
Two fave clue/fill combos today. First is the colloquial/folksy [Preach] for the colloquial/folksy REV (which makes that clue a noun and not a verb). The second is [Persian word for “country”] and STAN. Why? Because it reminded me of that fabulous Maira Kalman/Rick Meyerowitz cover for the 12/10/01 cover of The New Yorker. That’s one pretty witty graphic!
Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Two guys who specialize in themelesses (at least one of whom likes to make ’em wicked) team up to make a crossword and what do you get? A puzzle that’s harder than the usual L.A. Times Saturday crossword, that’s what.
You know I glanced at the clue for 1-Across and departed for greener pastures in other parts of the grid. [Single-season RBI record-holder since 1930] and the answer is HACK WILSON? When it comes to Wilsons whose first names are verbs, my preferred one is Flip Wilson. Don’t know anything about Hack.
But at least I could put together plausible sequences of letters and have them make sense together in 1a. Not so for 25a: [Esmeralda’s goat in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”]. DJALI?? Golly. Really? I’ve never encountered the name before, so it was work-the-crossings and cross-your-fingers time.
The best bits:
- 60a. [Knocking ’em dead] looks like it wants an -ING word, but no: IN RARE FORM. Love that phrase.
- 12d. BEA ARTHUR was the [First actress to play Yente in Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof”]? I had no idea.
- 13d. I really expected [Wheels in a cave] to be some sort of cheese. Will definitely be serving BATMOBILE on crackers at my next party.
- 30d. [Years in which Picasso’s art took a somber turn] is the BLUE PERIOD. My family and I loved the Picasso exhibition at the Met this summer. Cubism is great for kids.
- 33d. [Upstart] clues ARRIVISTE. Is it wrong to use the word to describe ACPT competitors who started attending the ACPT after me and also solve puzzles faster than I do? (I’m looking at you, Anne Erdmann, Howard Barkin, and Dan Feyer.)
- 64a. [About 5.88 trillion mi.] is a light year, or LTYR. Ugly abbreviation, no?
- 3d. [“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” e.g.] is a CAROL. Hey, that doesn’t sound very Christmassy.
- 4d. [Metric meas.] clues KGS, but in scientific circles you don’t use an “s” to pluralize a unit of measure’s abbreviation. 123 lb, 4 in., 5.6 kg, 7 mL, 8 mi., 9 cm. If you’re asking “How many kilograms?” you spell out the word. Do not like KGS.
- 5d. The WITCH ELM is a [Shade tree native to the British Isles]. Never heard of it.
- DUTCH ELM (which I do know) for 5d.
- EL PASO instead of LAREDO for 7d.
- NAVE instead of APSE at 11d.
- PRUDE for PRISS at 24d.
- BAD DATES for BAR SCENE at 40d.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Grudging respect for this puzzle—I had eminently plausible answers in so many places that turned out to be wrong, but I eventually teased out the right answers and never found anything to be unfair. That’s the kind of hard puzzle I like: no loathsome little entries, no arcane trivia, no unfairly misleading clues—just lots of fair misleads. The fill is reasonably lively, too.
Walk with me through the clues:
- 8a. JIM BEAM is a [Big name in spirits]. Kept thinking it would be a last name, like Seagram’s.
- 16a. [“Bacchus and __” (Titian painting)] needs ARIADNE. Didn’t remember any Bacchus/Ariadne pairing, but pieced it together from crossings.
- 22a. [Singer at McCartney’s Gershwin Prize concert] clues RAE, which I’m guessing is Britain’s Corinne Bailey Rae. First guess was ONO!
- 24a. [Internet portal] clues MSN. I started with ISP crossing IRINA instead of MSN crossing MASHA.
- 25a. [Surname that means “eagle”] is ADLER. Matt Gaffney would be disappointed in my for forgetting my German here.
- 28a. [“Babette’s Feast” name] is ISAK Dinesen. She wrote the story. Were you trying to dredge up a Swedish character’s name like I was?
- 39a. [New Amsterdam, today] is LOWER MANHATTAN. Wanted NEW YORK CITY but it was too short, plus it duplicates the “New.”
- 45a. [__ America (cable channel)] is unfair to Chicagoans! We just have regular WGN, not WGN America. I had BBC America here.
- 49a. [WWII rent-regulating agcy.] is OPA. Worst entry in the grid. Is there anyone who doesn’t think of the Greek word of cheer “Opa!” when they see OPA in the grid? I don’t think I’ve ever seen OPA clued that way. The Greek produce guy at my grocery store shouts “Opa!” when a coworker drops something. Cracks me up.
- 53a. [Staff opening] clues TENOR CLEF. With only the first letter blank, I contemplated a Señor Clef theme.
- 56a. “GOTTA GO!” Them’s [Splitting words] when you gotta split.
- 1d. So SAMARA is a [City on the Volga]? Say what? It’s in Russia, apparently. I know samara better as the maple tree helicopeter seed.
- 3d. I was surprised when the answer to [“The Day of the Locust” setting] turned out to be TINSELTOWN. I was thinking rural states with crops vulnerable to locusts, and with the *OW* at the end, I wondered if it was in IOWA.
- 5d. [Jack Benny’s ’47 summer replacement]? Okay, that’s sort of arcane trivia, but Jack PAAR is a familiar old-time TV name.
- 8d. For [Goes on and on], I wanted YAKS or GABS instead of JAWS, and that sure wasn’t helping me find JIM BEAM.
- 10d. [They provide limited coverage] is about MINISKIRTS, not warranties or insurance policies or roofs.
- 11d. [Stick in a pit] is the conductor’s BATON in the orchestra pit. Hope you didn’t think of a KEBAB/KABOB in a BBQ pit.
- 14d. I wanted a band’s SETS for [Gig segments], but it turned out to be MEGS, as in megabytes and gigabytes.
- 26d. [Source of the word “galore”] is ERSE. When it comes to 4-letter languages, you’re thinking ERSE or URDU.
- 27d. [Like the orbit of Halley’s Comet] clues RETROGRADE. Not ELLIPTICAL. Boy, I sure hope you didn’t fill in ELLIPTICAL because that would probably end up adding a lot to your solving time.
- 30d. [It may sport an umbrella] clues a PINA COLADA. Cocktail umbrellas provide even less coverage than MINISKIRTS.
- 31d. [Figure often depicted holding keys] is SAINT PETER, and he was an APOSTLE.
- 34d. [Benny Goodman trumpeter]? Okay, so here’s another of those trademark “Newsday trivia clues for the Golden Agers.” If you’re under age 70, did you know this was ELMAN? I used all the crossings myself.
- 35d. TEAK wood is a [Warp-resistant material].
- 40d. [Online quote source] is about stock quotes—NYSE—not Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations quotes.
- 45d. WATER is a [Triatomic molecule]. Two hydrogen atoms, one oxygen.
- 47d. [Head of state?] is the prefix INTER, as in “interstate trucking.”
- 48d. Daniel BOONE was James Fenimore [Cooper’s inspiration for Natty Bumppo]. Did not know that.
- 50d. In the military, SGTS. are [Co. leaders]. I started with MGMT. and then MGRS. D’oh! That plus ELLIPTICAL really mired me in this corner.
- 57d. Also mucking up that corner, I had TNT for [Stuff in sticks] instead of GUM.