Vic Fleming’s New York Times crossword
Yup, yup, Will Shortz swapped Friday and Saturday again. Vic Fleming’s puzzle was like a standard Friday puzzle, while yesterday’s Pete Mitchell felt decidedly Saturdayish. This is, however, the toughest of the eight Vic puzzles I’ve seen this week. (The other seven were a proofreading gig.)
The northwest and southeast corners of this puzzle are largely cut off from the solver’s flow throughout the grid. If you get into a bind in either of these corners, there’s no way out except to keep working back and forth between the Acrosses and Downs until they yield to your will. I had to work more in the lower right, but it still ended up feeling like a Friday puzzle.
- 10a. IMACS! How do I love mine? Let me count the ways. Giant, glorious screen. Fast processor. Seamless transition from old machine to new, with every file and application copied over while I slept one night.
- 15a. Wall Street answer: AT THE BELL is [When trading ceases] at the NYSE each weekday afternoon. Last June, my husband was there to ring the opening bell. I saw him on CNBC and everything.
- 20a. [Blast source] clues HORN. Oh, man. When my kid practices his trombone? It’s a blast, all right.
- 25a, 43d. The [storied Bronx station house] is FORT APACHE, of Fort Apache, The Bronx fame. Now, the Apaches were not native to the Northeast, so where did the station house’s name come from?
- 33a. Haven’t seen WOMAN OF THE WORLD much ([She's no naif]).
- 39a. AHORA is Spanish for “now,” or [What's now in Mexico?]. I can’t help thinking of this word when Hermione does her “Alohomora” spell.
- 50a. A fraidy-cat [Chicken's lack] is a SPINE of fortitude. Actual chickens are, in fact, verterbrates.
- 52a. [13 religious heads] are the passel of LEOS who were pope.
- 53a. Say what? Gothenburg, or Göteborg, is in Sweden. [Gothenburg's river] is the PLATTE. The Platte is in Nebraska. Apparently a teeny town (population 3,619) exists called Gothenburg, Nebraska. This is the sort of clue that makes people grumble that crossword puzzles are unfair. It’s not entertaining to be tricked with a piece of utter obscurity. (No offense to the fine people of Gothenburg.)
- 1d. [Advance man?] is a MASHER who puts the moves on his romantic targets. I mostly think of a MASHER as that kitchen utensil that allows me to turn mundane spuds into creamy goodness. (Butter, milk, either sour cream or cream cheese, maybe some rosemary or other seasonings, some pepper, a dash of sea salt.)
- 6d. New vocab: [Is refluent] means EBBS.
- 8d. I’LL HAVE THE USUAL. At IHOP, that’s a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and scrambled eggs with cheddar.
- 9d. ALTON is [Glenn Miller's real first name]. Clue for younger generations: [Brown, in cooking].
- 33d. Love the word WATERLOO, meaning one’s [Undoing].
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Aw, too bad for Barry that I don’t love YPSILANTI by itself so much, not since Mike Nothnagel used it in his backwards-SPY puzzle. I still like it, but now I expect YPSILANTI to bring additional entertainment value, and that’s not its job in a themeless puzzle.
Fairly easy, as themelesses go—I feel like 4:04 is a notch or two faster than my typical Saturday LAT time. There’s some juicy stuff here, but it felt drowned out to a degree by the flatter fill:
- 1a. [Vacation destination] clues RESORT AREA, which is about the dullest descriptor you can get for a fun place.
- 15a. [Like some avian plumage] clues IRIDESCENT, which is a pretty word for a pretty effect.
- 33a. [Challengers] aren’t RIVALS, they’re DARERS. It’s not a word I’ve ever used but wordnik.com attests to several usages. Still, meh.
- 34a. [Three-time Grammy Award winner for comedy] CHRIS ROCK makes for a great entry. Did you see that movie, Grownups, in which he and former SNL-mates David Spade, Adam Sandler, and Rob Schneider were all lifelong buddies? The movie was really quite bad but my kid was entertained by it. C’mon Chris Rock, do something good. We know you don’t need to do lousy movies for the money.
- 57a. [Holly portrayer] had me thinking Holly Golightly and Audrey Hepburn instead of Buddy Holly and Gary BUSEY. I love being led astray by clues!
- 12d. [It helps maintain posture] clues the boring MUSCLE TONE. Listen, at the ACPT, don’t ask to feel my biceps. I won’t flex for you.
- 25d. [Like some 24-Down], which are BARS, is the clue for SMOKY. I love antismoking regulations so much. Florida was jarring because people can still smoke in bars there, whereas in Chicago, you don’t leave the bar smelling like an ashtray unless you go outside to smoke.
- 28d. [Point maker] clues a tool known as the SCRATCH AWL. How is this different from a plain ol’ awl? I have no idea.
- 30d. I like the word PRIMORDIAL just as much as IRIDESCENT. It’s clued as [Existing at the beginning]. We would also have accepted [Like some ooze].
- 45d. Provided you’re not talking about farmland, [Uncultivated] means LOWBROW. Do lousy crosswords count as lowbrow, or are crosswords by definition more highbrow?
- 47d. [Roughly 35-cubic-foot measures] clues STERES, the unit of measure known to scarcely anyone who does not do crosswords.
- 51d. The [Silvery food fish] called SMELT is found in Lake Michigan. I have yet to see a clue like ["Whoever ___ it dealt it"] for SMELT.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “First Things First”
Gotta love a puzzle that leads up to a hidden message, like the Cox & Rathvon variety cryptics so often do. Other types of crosswords don’t usually have extra messages that can help you piece together the fill—Eric Berlin’s “Going Too Far” puzzles that run occasionally in the NYT do, and so does this Berry creation.
I have never seen this particular puzzle variety before. Each 12-square diagonal contains two entries, with the First words’ first letters all being different (and provided in the grid) and the Last words’ last letters spelling out the secret message: They are TYING UP A FEW LOOSE ENDS. Isn’t that lovely and apt?
Among the more interesting answer words are JOUNCE ([Move like a car on a bumpy road]), Croatian capital ZAGREB, PYGMIES ([Diminutive race in the Iliad]), a baseball RAINOUT, MAYA LIN‘s full name, and START-UP ([Fledgling business]).
Favorite clue: [King who stepped down in 2010] refers to the abdication of CNN’s LARRY King.
I didn’t time my progress through the puzzle, but it definitely felt easier/faster than a “Rows Garden” puzzle.
The puzzle grid could have been tilted 45° so that the answers ran Across and Down instead of diagonally. I suspect Berry chose this orientation so that the final message would read from top to bottom, a hair clearer than if it ran down and then backward from right to left.
Cool puzzle format. Props to PB, too, for including words that start with J, Q, U, V, W, X, and Z —if you had to include 20 of 26 letters, it would surely be easier to piece together a puzzle with absentees E, F, H, K, N, and Y.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I don’t usually do hard crosswords at 11:45 at night, so it may well be that this puzzle is nowhere near twice as tough as Vic and Barry’s puzzles. Maybe my brain was just winding down. Then again, it could also be that Brad amped up the level of Stumperiness of the clues this week.
Highlights, grumbles, tough spots, etc.:
- 1a. [Diner supply] clues TOMATOES. Eh.
- 15a. [Hugger-muggering] is synonymous with scheming and INTRIGUE. It’s always interesting to see the clue choice when the answer fits more than one part of speech. Here, it’s clued as a noun but the clue looks quite verby.
- 16a, 24d. [Some candy additives] are ESTERS, and the [Scent of some 16 Across] is PEAR. Does anyone aside from chemists like the chemistry answers?
- 17a. [Pictures, collectively] are all of MOVIEDOM. That word is the Spanish city of Oviedo bracketed by M’s.
- 18a. Another part-of-speech flip. I wanted [Tips] to be UPENDS, but it’s APEXES, the noun.
- 22a. [Chateaubriand novella] is not one of the top 10 most frequent RENE clues, is it?
- 25a. [Blue" group] is the NYPD, as in NYPD Blue.
- 29a. MR. MOTO is one of those character names I know only from crosswords, so this clue—["Saturday Evening Post" debut of 1935]—didn’t help me much.
- 31a. Don’t much care for this clue: [Stretching?] as in doing a stretch of time IN JAIL?
- 44a. When he SCORES something, is he using a sharp tool, or does [Makes claw marks in] make more sense? Scoring connotes straighter lines than would generally be made with claws, no?
- 51a. I am not up on the ["Orfeo ed Euridice" role] category, but the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a love story, I think, so AMOR makes a little sense, except that it seems like more of a common noun than a proper noun.
- 53a. GYRE means to whirl or gyrate, but it’s also a ["Jabberwocky" verb]: ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
- 60a. [Chicago suburb] would have worked better for me here than [Sacramento suburb]. The CA ROSEMONT has more people, but the IL Rosemont boasts a convention center, the Allstate Arena, a slew of O’Hare hotels, and numerous corporate headquarters. Hmph!
- 63a. My favorite clue in this puzzle is [Where F is the highest on the scale], for a GAS GAUGE.
- 65a. Apparently EPISTLES are [Very formal writing].
- 1d. The TIMES SIGN is a [Mark in math].
- 3d. Uh, no. Not so much. I just checked the TV listings for MTV. Saturday and Sunday are packed with non-music shows. You have to get into the wee hours on weekdays in order to find music videos. Nowhere in this description does it specify whether there’s any sort of MTV VEEJAY hosting the music video shows. So I say “boo” to the clue, [Modern record player]. Modern record player in the ’80s, sure. (As an ’80s teen, I do like hearing Martha Quinn, one of the original MTV VJs, on the Sirius XM ’80s channel.)
- 7d. [Dr. Foote the podiatrist, e.g.] clues EUONYM, meaning “good + name.” Tell me Claude Organ isn’t the absolute best name for a surgeon you’ve ever seen. (See also: 44a clue.)
- 11d. [Jelly at a wedding] is the STERNO keeping buffet chafing dishes warm.
- 14d. Usually ESSEX is clued as the county in England. The Newsday crossword is the #1 place to find clues like [Errol Flynn role of '39].
- 26d. Brad goes across the Atlantic to find a clue for ITHACA, which is also in New York. It’s an [Ionian Sea island].
- 28d. Hey! I knew this one. One of precious few gimmes I found in this puzzle. TISSOT is a [Sister brand of Swatch]. Remember those awesome Tissot rock watches in the ’80s?
- 30d. OTIS elevators, the [#1 transportation company in worldwide daily patrons]. Ever wonder how many non-crossworders have any idea Otis is an elevator brand?
- 34d. A BEQ-type answer, in the Stumper?? Good heavens! [Taking the last beer, for one] is a PARTY FOUL.
- 38d. [Staples of Israeli cuisine] clues PITAS. Where else are you going to put your falafel patties?
- 43d. DEMERGE is a word? [Break up, as a business] is the clue. I wonder if Brad considered DETERGE and -ATOR instead.
- 45d. I love “ME TIME.”
- 46d. I’ve never in my life said “NO SOAP!” to convey ["Forget it!"]. How about you?
- 52d. ROSSI is a [Surname that means "red"]. Yeah? Then why does Carlo Rossi sell jug wine in the Chablis, Chardonnay, and Rhine varieties?
- 56d. A photo [Studio cache, briefly], is NEGS, or negatives.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Epiphany Moment”—Janie’s review
I sure do like finishing out the week on a high note, and this is just the puzzle to make it happen. It was a very swift, very smooth solve—though until I went back to look at the title, the charming theme virtually passed me by. But then? As is revealed at 63-Down, “AHA!” [Cry of discovery...]. There are three of ‘em, in fact, sweetly embedded in Martin’s excellent theme phrases. And here’s how they appear:
- 20A. TWO AND A HALF MEN [CBS sitcom since 2003]. Tabloid-fodder-provider Charlie Sheen (probably the actual if not chronological “half” man…) has done one great job at keepin’ this one on the air! (“Sorry, Charlie”…)
- 40A. AT THE DROP OF A HAT [On short notice]. Now that’s fill of the finest degree. Here’s a little backgrounder on the origins of the phrase.
- 56A. MAUNA KEA, HAWAII [Location of world's largest astronomical observatory]. Wow. I had no idea. It’s part of the University of Hawaii—their Institute for Astronomy. Looks astonishing!
I found the clue/fill combos of [It makes lemons tart]/CITRIC ACID, and ["American Idol," e.g.]/TALENT SHOW to be to the point and aptly descriptive pairs. I also like the way yesterday’s food/cooking-fill carries over today by way of OVEN [Hot spot], EDAM [Dutch export], OMELET [IHOP entrée] and its final crossing: STU [Good name for a cook?]. Now if only AROMA had been clued more specifically as a cooking [Fragrance].
ÉLAN and OOMPH add their own [Spark] and [Get-up-and-go]. Much the same could probably be said for RAVI [Sitarist Shankar] and [Actress Sophia] LOREN. He’s from India. She’s from ITALY.