Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Oof! Killer of a puzzle, no? When the answer parked in the middle of the grid is something wildly unfamiliar, there may be grumbles of “How are we supposed to know that?” Well, that’s the Saturday puzzle for you. This is the day for learning oddball things you may or may not ever have need to know again. 32a: WUPATKI! Really. An [Arizona national monument with Pueblo ruins]. I looked that up in the Cruciverb.com database: “Sorry, no results for wupatki.”
The other fill with a fresh feeling consists of words you actually know. To wit: 18a: “LIKE I CARE” is 100% casual, colloquial English, and hardly anybody will have trouble spelling the words, but you’ve got to dig inside your head (and, of course, work the crossings) to extract LIKE I CARE for [“Whatever”].
The other highlights are mixed in with lesser-known little bits and tougher-than-steel clues to slow you down. I like:
- 15a. E-COMMERCE
- 22a. Weird AZALEA clue: [Plant toxic to sheep and goats].
- 24a. [“Frost at Midnight” poet], Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE. Needed the crossings here.
- 47a. [Grilling demand] is about interrogation, not cookouts. “ADMIT IT!“
- 53a. PLUS SIZES are [No wear for waifs].
- 2d. I know the Manhattan ESPN ZONE closed down, but I think the [Sports-themed restaurant chain] is still out there drawing the tourist crowd somewhere.
- 3d. To SQUEAL ON is to [Rat out].
- 23d, 37d. I didn’t have the [Memorable J.F.K. arrival] when I figured out that [Like a 23-Down] was BRITISH. I wanted it to be a British Airways Concorde but it turned out to be a BEATLE. Boo on the singular—didn’t the Beatles arrive together?
The gnarly bits vexed me:
- 21a. [Nuprin alternative] was surely looking for MOTRIN, right? Why else use a weird, brought-back-from-the-dead-by-CVS brand of ibuprofen in the clue? Answer is ANACIN, a brand of aspirin. (People, I hope you’re buying the generic store-brand ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. No need to pay more for the brand!)
- 28a. ENOS [Cabell who was the 1978 N.L. at-bats leader] is exactly the sort of sports clue I hate. He’s not famous. He just had, what, one good stat one season? Pfft.
- 5d. [Passer and blocker’s teammate] clues SETTER. What sport is this, volleyball? I don’t know. Would’ve been cute to have it clued as [Crossword constructor, at Cambridge].
- 6d. I had no idea what [Santos rookie of 1956] meant. The answer is PELE, the Brazilian soccer legend. So…Santos is whatever team he started on? Ten years before I was born? Decades before many Americans started paying any attention to soccer? Is Santos still a big team now? I’ve heard of some of the European clubs, but know none of the South American teams. Pfft. I quizzed my husband and he guessed PELE.
- 7d. [Eating stuff] is ACID, which eats away metal and whatnot. All the eating/food stuff confused me tonight. 8d: [Food is often tossed in it], WOK, and 36d: [Eater seater, sometimes], HOSTESS? Ai-yai-yai. MAITRE’D shares the middle T with HOSTESS, you know.
- 16d. [Bit of bunny slope gear] clues MINISKI. What, because the bunny slope is for children? I resent that. I washed out on the bunny slope as an adult and was not able to progress. Maybe I should have tried the miniski instead?
- 42d. [Countdown term], “T MINUS,” as in “T minus 5 minutes.” Hmm, I don’t think I like T MINUS by itself as an entry.
It amuses me no end that with just the first L in place, [Port on the Panay Gulf] was a gimme: ILOILO, in the Philippines. According to Cruciverb, it hasn’t been clued with the word “Panay” in there since 1998, and I guess I recognized Panay as the name of an island in the Philippines.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword
All righty, I liked this puzzle. Didn’t quite love it, but I definitely liked it. Smooth fill with a number of bright spots, and right at the standard Saturday LAT level of difficulty. There were a few “Huh?” clues, but the crossings fed me those answers so I don’t think there’s anything unfair in the puzzle.
- 16a. Great answer! A HOLY TERROR can be a [Nanny’s challenge]. Probably a bigger challenge for the kid’s parents.
- 1d. In golf, a [Mulligan, e.g.] is a DO-OVER. Who doesn’t believe in second chances?
- 13d. The HABANERA is a [Sultry Cuban dance]. Who doesn’t like a little sultriness in the corner of a crossword?
- 36a. A CHIMERA is an [Imaginary monster], an animal or person with two people’s genes, and the name of the women’s self-defense group that taught my YWCA youth group back in the day.
- 38a. I don’t think I really care for GUAVA as a fruit (have I ever tried it? Hmm, I don’t think so) but there’s something so pleasing about it as a word.
- I wonder why only certain body parts show up in “My ___!” exclamations. MY FOOT is here, clued with a skeptical [“Oh, ri-i-i-i-ght!”], but the eye and ass can substitute for the foot. The ear and the hand, not so much.
- 55a. Who doesn’t love the mystery of a FOG MACHINE? If there’s one thing Will Shortz should incorporate into the ACPT, it’s a [Dramatic atmosphere source] like a fog machine. C’mon, when the three A-division finalists emerge onto the stage before their whiteboards? A fog machine would be awesome! Also some flashing lights and a sports-arena announcer. “And no-o-o-ow, your ama-a-a-a-azing A finalists!”
- 58a. TOTEM POLES usually show up in crosswords without the second word, so it’s nice to have the full term. The clue, [Some tree sculptures], had me thinking of topiary.
- 1a. [Its leaves are used as a heart stimulant] clues DIGITALIS, a.k.a. foxglove.
- 20a. [Lemming predator] clues the seabird called a SKUA, which is the plural seabird AUKS spelled backwards. I would’ve thought the skua just chased after fish.
- 23a. Sure didn’t know that [The Lean One, in “Peer Gynt”] meant SATAN. Thank you, crossings! You bailed me out.
- 35d. [English Channel resort] clues RAMSGATE. I have never vacationed there. How about you? Do you go there often? It sounds…quiet.
- 41d. [“The Merry Widow” hero] is DANILO. You know who likes opera a lot more than I? Brad Wilber, that’s who. Pretty sure he didn’t need to Google to come up with a DANILO clue.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cold Fronts”—Janie’s review
This puzzle employs a familiar gimmick to great effect. As the title suggests, each of the theme phrases contains a word (the first, today) that can precede the word “cold”—whence “cold fronts.” Highly appropriate for this time o’ the year, no? The theme set is very strong throughout and leads us to two familiar verb phrases and two adjective phrases. The remainder of the puzzle ain’t too shabby neither.
- 20A. [Assemble quickly] KNOCK TOGETHER → knock cold.
- 34A. [Find out?] CATCH NAPPING → catch cold. Catch napping and its clue are perhaps better understood when there’s an object in the middle…
- 43A. [Dapper?] STONE-SKIPPER → stone cold. Cagey. “Dapper” here is not an adjective but a noun (albeit one you’re not likely to find as such in the dictionary—wherefore the “?”) based on the meaning of the word dap, for someone who’s skipping stones.
- 57A. [Lamentable result] BITTER HARVEST → bitter cold. On the idea of harvest, Bob also gives us REAP [Ingather]. Then, he literally underscores the idea of these last two theme entries by placing ICE UP [Get a slick winter coat] right below. Because the clue references ice as ice this fill does not belong to the theme set. But it does work in the sense that ice up → ice cold… That’d be bonus fill in my book.
Love the NW and SE corners with their triple 6-columns and fine fill, such as TICKLE [Get to giggle] (again, read the clue/fill with an object after the words tickle and “get”), “I’M ON IT!” [“Get cracking!” response], DIESEL [Engine eponym] (didn’t know that…), and CATSUP [What you might put on the dog]. Great clue that last one. Draws on the slang phrase “to put on the dog“—to put on a display of wealth.
The longer entries GO PUBLIC [Issue shares, initially] (which looks to making its CS and major puzzle debuts) and HAM RADIO [Hobby with vanity call signs] are both good. And there’s some nice stuff goin’ on in the shorter fill as well. [Two threes, for one] is PAIR. We also get a pair that speaks to size with IMAX [Format for tall tales?] and EPIC [Bigger than big]. Then, at the shared “M,” there’s the cross of CHAMP [Big winner] and CHUMP clued not as [Big loser] but as [Sap or sucker]. That vintage of slang is also seen in the [Palookas]/APES combo.
It’s a Klahn, so the requisite rhymed, alliterative, punny, twisty (see the non-sartorial [Get a slick winter coat] above…) and shared-word-sequential clues abound. All make me HAPPY [Pleased as punch]. Speak up to register your faves.
Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Fairly tough puzzle, but not out of the realm of the Stumper ordinary.
Most challenging clues:
- 10a. [Battle of the Bulge city in Belgium] = NAMUR. Never heard of it.
- 15a. [What some tests monitor] = HEART RATE. I don’t know that I would call anything that monitors heart rate a medical “test.”
- 20a. [John equivalent] is the Irish name SEAN. I had EVAN at first, which is Welsh John.
- 24a. One specific sort of [Manner of speaking] is a TWANG.
- 26a. OVO is a English prefix as well as [Product from Portuguese poultry], or “egg” in Portuguese.
- 40a. Whoa. KALENDS is a [Roman month starter]. I see the connection to “calendar,” but have never seen this K word.
- 56a. [Selenologist's sighting] is a RILLE, or fissure on the moon’s surface. Selene was the goddess of the moon, and selenology is the study of the moon.
- 3d. Didn’t know this: EASEL is a [Word from the Latin for "donkey"]. Looks closely related to the German Esel.
- 6d. ["Iliad" messenger] is IRIS. Maybe mine will be dilated for my eye exam today.
- 11d. [California Perfume Company, today] is AVON. Trivia!
- 33d. COLT of gun fame is your [Inventor from Hartford].
- 40d. A KEYRING is a ["Double loop" device]. Makes sense.
- 45d. [Like the novel "Gadsby"] is E-LESS. I call it a novl.
- 54d. ANYA is clued as [Audrey Hepburn, in "Roman Holiday"].
- 58d. [One of two UN charter members] clues SSR. What, two of the USSR’s many SSRs were able to join the UN despite not being sovereign countries?
I love the word SCINTILLA. I like the timely MISGOVERN, with Tunisian protestors giving a misgoverning dictator the boot. CASH CARDS seems a little retro to me; I’ve been calling ‘em ATM cards for over a decade (and are AOLERS still “many a surfer”?).