Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
This is my favorite DiPietro crossword in a good while. It’s got 18 long answers (9 to 11 letters), many of them flat-out wonderful. Sure, there are a few junkyish short entries along the way, but they’re more than offset by all the good stuff. It’s been a terrific week in New York Times crosswords, hasn’t it?
- 5a. THE RASCALS, a [Group whose 1968 album "Time Peace" was #1]. Gotta love a random pun in a clue. The Rascals are the band who did “Good Lovin’.” I remain to this day a sucker for all the before-my-time songs from The Big Chill.
- 16a. I like the past tense HAD A SHOT AT. Numerous crosswords have included HAS A SHOT (AT), but this is the first HAD. Feels a hair more “in the language” to me with HAD.
- 18a. IRAN CONTRA saved me from [Forever ___] YOUNG and revealed the U.S.P.S. forever STAMP. That, of course, is a stamp that’ll always be valid for first-class mail, even when the prevailing postage rate is jacked up a couple pennies. Did I ever tell you I met a guy in college who had gone down to Nicaragua to fight with the Sandinistas? I met him over borscht.
- 20a. We’re still sweatin’ to the oldies here—[Pharaoh's head?] is SAM THE SHAM.
- 58a. Chicago trivia that stumped me! NATHAN HALE is the [Hero whose statue appears in front of Chicago's Tribune Tower]. Where? Really? Showed this picture to my husband and kid—kid recognizes it instantly; husband and I swear we’ve never noticed it.
- 60a. I need to hone my GLASSY-EYED stare.
- 1d. Full name! ALAN ARKIN is clued with an autobiography title that doesn’t ring a bell. He was great in The In-Laws. “Serpentine! Serpentine!”
- 3d. Gotta love [Give the business]. It clues LET HAVE IT. Example: “I’m going to give my kids the business when I retire.” “I’m going to let them have it.”
- 5d. “THIS IS NUTS!“
- 8d. New vocabulary! Never knew the word [Objurgation], which means RANT. Latin root jurgium means “strife.” To objurgate someone is to lambaste them.
- 25d. Excellent clue for a teeny and ordinary word, END: [Share of responsibility], as in “You fill the grid on your end and I’ll write the clues on my end.”
- Geography/geology trivia: the IONIAN SEA is a [Highly seismic area off the Greek coast]. I don’t think of Europe/the Mediterranean and earthquakes too much.
- 34d. [Graffiti, e.g.] is STREET ART unless it’s on your wall, in which case it’s vandalism. I’m thinking gangs’ tagging of their TURF ([Gang land]) doesn’t count as STREET ART.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, the variety cryptic “Conversions”
This is a really neat twist—the “conversions” in the grid involve crossing answers (with clues not keyed to locations in the grid) that mash multiple letters into the shaded square. The Across and Down answers that intersect don’t share that mashup of letters, though—each has its own batch of letters, and when you put the two batches together you get a (mostly) pre-euro European currency. So the title plays on “currency conversions.” Here’s how the conversions fit together, from top to bottom, left to right:
- (n) ImaGES goes down and (e) TUrkISH runs across. The ma and rk make a Deutsche MARK.
- (f) ANguilLAN meets (m) CALderA: Dutch GUILDER.
- (c) TYpesET across meets (g) CHEetaHS down. Spanish PESETA.
- (p) CRescENT across, (l) BOudoIR down. Portuguese ESCUDO.
- (a) ROAd racES across, (i) IShmaEL down. Greek DRACHMA.
- (d) REfraCT down, (j) NUancED across. French FRANC.
- (b) OCUliST down, (h) TraUMA across. Italian LIRA.
- (k) DESpoT down, (o) CORundUM across. British POUND—which hasn’t been replaced by the euro. Edited to add: Peter Gordon wrote to mention the Irish pound, jettisoned for the euro.
No particularly tricky clues this time. I wonder what would happen if Hex eased back into the difficulty level of their erstwhile Atlantic Monthly puzzles. Would the Wall Street Journal get too many complaints, or would there merely be more gnashing of teeth and cranking of brain gears? I’d love to have one that took me two or three times as long to finish.
Barry “C. as in Crossword” Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We’re back to the prevailing difficulty level, i.e., not too tough at all. You can take some of the answer words and string them together in a story. HAPPINESS is seeing MAX PLANCK facing MERYL STREEP across a BACKGAMMON BOARD—or in ICE HOCKEY. (Smart money’s on Streep—the best Planck could do is the SILVER MEDAL.)
Or: “PROBLEM? I DON’T CARE.”
All righty, you want to see some clues from this 72-worder?
- 1a. HAPPINESS is ["Finding a pencil," to Broadway's Charlie Brown]. Handy for doing crosswords or stabbing Lucy in the hand the next time she yoinks the football away.
- 15a. [Like climbing the walls?] clues IDIOMATIC. My kid’s teacher assigned a great bit of homework: make a costume that represents an idiom and wear it to school on Tuesday. My son had a (tortilla) chip on his shoulder. His buddy Jordan had a fake jeans pocket with flames drawn around a hole—his money’s always burning a hole in his pocket. Imagine figuring out 30 different idioms on the kids—alas, I don’t have pictures so I can’t make a quiz out of it.
- 17a. A REPROBATE is a [Scoundrel]. The word’s related to reproof/reprove.
- 31a. Never heard of these mountains, but GREECE is the [Pindus Mountains site].
- 33a. The term [Koala bear, e.g.] is a MISNOMER because the koala is no bear.
- 39a. [Playing surface with 24 points] is a SMALL BED OF NAILS. No, wait, it’s a BACKGAMMON BOARD.
- 42a. “Mark my words. YOU’LL SEE. I told you this is a bad idea.” Those are [Warning words].
- 54a. [Carrier units, briefly] are ACS. Carrier is a brand of air conditioner.
- 60a. I figured the answer would be a mineral like MANGANESE or something, but [Peru was its leading exporter in 2009] is talking about ASPARAGUS. Here, you can have mine.
- 2d. [Predecessor of Ginger] Rogers is ADELE Astaire, Fred Astaire’s previous dance partner. She’s his big sister.
- 12d. [HUD corp. since 1968] is GINNIE MAE. It’s Fannie Mae who has the chocolate mortgages.
- 14d. [Number of hydrogen atoms in butane] is TEN. Didn’t even see this clue while solving, which is just as well. Everything after the word “number” in that clue is unhelpful to me.
- 33d. [Quantum theory pioneer] MAX PLANCK sure has a lot of consonants in his name.
- 34d. [Early rules for it were developed at McGill University in the 1870s] clues ICE HOCKEY. McGill’s in Canada, and CURLING didn’t fit so I went with hockey.
- 35d. [Island near Eigg] is the Scottish isle of SKYE. No, I’d never heard of Eigg either. Only 12 square miles, and yet it has been inhabited since Bronze Age times and had a monastery 1,400 years ago.
- 40d. [Phil, say] means a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, for short: an NLER, or National Leaguer. Mind you, nobody actually calls ‘em “NLers.”
- 49d. [Piaggio transportation line] is VESPA. Piaggio is the manufacturer of Vespa scooters. No, I never heard of Piaggio either.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Rat Pack”—Janie’s review
Ooh—it’s been a while since I’ve blogged a Klahn creation and, for so many reasons, I can simply state it was worth the wait. In solving this one, though, I was reminded once again why I don’t feel the necessity of sharing my times. Yikes. (On the NYT scale) this was a Thursday-like experience (that was very much on the cusp of Friday). How did it go for you?
Bob’s “Rat Pack” has zero to do with ’60s-era entertainers and everything to do with four evocative three-word phrases whose initial letters are “R” then “A” then “T.” This-a-way:
- 17A. RACE AGAINST TIME [Dash with a deadline]. What I determined not to make this puzzle for me.
- 26A. “RIGHT AFTER THIS” [Commercial segue]. As in, “We’ll return to our program right after this.”
- 45A. ROUGH AND TUMBLE [Bare-knuckle, as politics]. What a great phrase. The colorful term has been around since the late 18th century—when lots of nation-building was going on here and in Europe, making it very much a rough and tumble time when you think of it.
- 59A. RUN A TEMPERATURE [Top 100, in a way]. And what a great clue. “Top” is a verb here, not an adjective…
This is one of those Klahn puzzles in which the clues sparkle as much as or even more than the fill. They provide the glue that gives the non-thematic fill its cohesion. They’re teeming with alliteratives, repeat-word sequentials and some are just plain tricky—so lemme touch on highlights in all categories. And if I’ve overlooked your faves, by all means, speak up!
- [Feathered fish-eater] for OSPREY, and [Once-worshiped white wader] for IBIS.
- [Batter or butter] for RAM, followed by [Beanery brews] for JAVAS and [Broad st.] for BLVD.
- [Saturn satellite] for TITAN.
- [Bygone bipedal beast, briefly] for T-REX.
- [He heard a Who] for HORTON.
- [Beach ball balancer] for SEAL.
- Even though they’re separated by one clue, I’m gonna give a pass to [Inspiration for "You've Got Mail"] and ["You've Got Mail" director Ephron] for AOL and NORA.
- [Diamond base] and [Caviar base] for BAG and ROE.
- [The Snake snakes through it], ["Black Snake ___" (2006 Samuel L. Jackson film)] and [Where the snake lost its legs] for IDAHO, MOAN and EDEN.
- [Saturn satellite] (again…) and [Saturn bar] for TITAN and AXLE.
- [Like "American Beauty"] and ["___ is both the taking and giving of beauty" (Ansel Adams)] for RATED “R” and ART.
- [Foaming at the mouth] and [Mouth off] for IRATE and SASS.
- [Beach ball balancer] (again…) and [Kind of beach] for SEAL and NUDE; then [Kind of beach] (again…) and [Kind of code] for NUDE and AREA.
Just plain tricky:
- [Chisel] for BILK. Chisel is a verb here and not a noun.
- [It's a fair cry] for “SOOEY!” That is, it’s a cry heard at a place like a county fair.
- [Brief sentiment] for I LUV U. Cute!
And did anyone else have trouble parsing [Locks that are often picked?] for AFRO? I get the joke, but get hung up on what feels like the lack of agreement between the plural “locks” and the singular Afro. Ah, well. Pretty small potatoes in a puzzle with so many pleasures!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
So, Tyler Hinman and I were knocked out by the difficulty of last week’s Stumper, which may be the hardest of the year to date. I don’t know how Tyler will do on this one, but it took me 2 1/2 minutes longer than last week’s killer. (!!) It wasn’t as entertaining as last week’s but it sure was tough.
One misstep that took a while to unravel was having T-BOND instead of T-BILL, which put “SNAP together” in place of “insert into SLOT b.” The desert southwest of the grid remained desolate for far too long.
Marching through the clues:
- 1a. [Grinding aids] in your mouth are MOLARS.
- 7a. [Anthem of the European Union] is ODE TO JOY. Seen that trivia before, but needed a few letters in place to remind me.
- 17a. An INVASIVE SPECIES is a [Threat to the ecosystem]. Among the easier clues in this puzzle.
- 20a. [Premium recipients] clues HMOS.
- 22a. [Film holders] are DVDS with movies on ‘em, not film CANS.
- 24a. [It has a long neck and two bridges] clues SITAR. My first answer in the grid—and I’m pretty certain I know that only from crosswords.
- 30a. [Vertex of the Summer Triangle] isn’t about three vacation destinations. DENEB is a star in the sky.
- 33a. [Where Hughes' "Spruce Goose" can be seen] is in OREGON.
- 37a. I didn’t know the PETUNIA was a [Nightshade cousin]. I did know that tomatoes were in the nightshade family.
- 43a. [Small cube] is EIGHT, which is 23.
- 45a. A CORONA is an [Eclipse effect]. Tasty with a squeeze of lime.
- 55a. [Nice, for one] is a PORT city in France.
- 62a. [It keeps a server busy] isn’t about restaurant waiters. It’s about machines managing INTERNET TRAFFIC.
- 66a. [The antithesis of easy] clues COERCIVE. Put that down as about #50 on the list of “words that are antonyms of easy.”
- 68a. [Chapter One preceder] is the ENDPAPER in a book. I call foul on this because there are a title page, copyright page, and sometimes a foreword or acknowledgments page before Chapter 1. Anyone else think this was about bankruptcy proceedings?
- 2d. [Badger, as a rule] is an OMNIVORE.
- 3d. [Act I closer for 13 Down], OTELLO (13d: [Premiere of 1887]), is a LOVE DUET. I was expecting the name of an aria. Brad Wilber, he likes opera.
- 4d. Three letters, a constellation? Almost always you will want to fill in ARA, the Altar It’s [One of Ptolemy's original constellations], apparently.
- 18d. [Render useless] clues VOID. Temporarily had DO IN when I was working off the *OI*.
- 23d. A SEGUE is a spoken [Address part, perhaps].
- 31d. You don’t see BESOT too much in its plain form; besotted rules. Clued with [Bowl over, in a way].
- 36d. [Race place] is a drag STRIP. EPSOM wasn’t going to work with any crossing.
- 40d. My favorite answer in this puzzle is FOB OFF ON, clue as [Stick with]. As in “Why don’t you fob that off on him?/Why don’t you stick him with that onerous task?”
- 44d. [Web phenomenon] is TWITTER. The TBOND/TBILL mistake destroyed me here, as I racked my brain looking for a TWO**** phenomenon from the Internet or spider webs.
- 46d. Holy cats, really?? PUMICE is [Stuff in pencil erasers]? I never knew. Tried RUBBER (the U was right), tried ART GUM, pondered GUM*** (and wanted the G for GEM, which turned out to be PIP).
- 47d. [Cereal prize, often] is an IRON-ON? Like hell it is. I bet I spend a lot more time in the cereal aisle than Brad or editor Stan Newman. On the rare occasion that a cereal box actually contains a prize (instead of an offer to send in parts of numerous boxes to get some junk in the mail), it is invariably made of plastic. I bet there hasn’t been an iron-on cereal premium in a good 20 years or more.
- 57d. [Northeast athlete] is a maddeningly vague term for a University of Maryland Terrapin, or TERP. Plus, Maryland is a Mid-Atlantic state and is often grouped with the South. Yes, Maryland is in the northeastern quadrant of the map, but it’s more than a hair misleading to ignore the traditional regional labels.
- 60d. [First movie critic to win a National Book Award] is Pauline KAEL. I am forever indebted to Dean Olsher for calling me “the Pauline Kael of crosswords” in his book, From Square One.
- 63d. What a weird clue. [Air feature, at times] is the NIP in the air come November.
Did you struggle with the desert southwest too, or was your Waterloo elsewhere? Or did you have no Waterloo and you’re wondering why I thought this puzzle was so challenging?