Bob Peoples’ New York Times crossword
Between the cough and the headache, I am in no mood to be charitable. I really didn’t care for this puzzle. It’s a 70-worder, so there should be leeway to avoid the worst sort of compromises, but I fear there were some of those. Tough puzzle, too—not many killer times on the applet at of 10:25 Eastern, but that’s because there are so few finishers (8!).
I will be charitable enough to post my answers before I do the full write-up, just in case somebody is ready to throw in the towel and just doesn’t want to spend any more time on this puzzle.
OK, grid posted. Back to the review.
I liked these things:
- 17a. EAR CANDY. Not wild about the clue, [Light pop], which made me hanker for a Diet Coke and it’s too close to bedtime for caffeine.
- 32a. MR. MISTER! “Take … these broken wings … And learn to fly again, learn to live so free …” Ah, yes. Horrible EAR CANDY. I was just thinking of that song this week when there was a Sporcle quiz about one-hit wonders. (Mr. Mister must have had a second hit, however implausible that may seem.)
- 55a. MRS. MALAPROP, delightful answer. Totally didn’t see a malapropism in the clue, ["She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" speaker]. Alligator?
- 60a. OLD FLAME is nice.
- 1d. I HEAR YA, yup.
- 3d. CAR KEYS, great entry.
All manner of stuff made me cranky, though:
- 1a. IT COUPLE—this isn’t ringing a bell. Do people refer to Brangelina as an “it couple”?
- 18a. UNTAPE?
- 20a. FALSE RETURN is feeling like one of those adjective+noun things to me, not a lexical chunk unto itself. Tax accountants will surely tell me I am off base here.
- 28a. Don’t play that “same clue, two answers” game when the two answers are so disappointing. [Italian possessive adjective] SUA, I’ve never, ever seen. 33d: MIA, fine, that’s gettable. But SUA? Ick.
- 29a. We know Gregor Samsa. He has a sister? Named GRETE? The only Grete I know is marathoner Grete Waitz.
- 42a. WWII vehicles are blah fill unless you’re a fan of WWII military history or are a WWII veteran. AMTRAC really wishes it could be AMTRAK.
- 47a. RENOS, short for “renovations”? Never saw that one in my life.
- 52a. [Avifauna] wants to be BIRDS, but it goes even further down the scientific rabbit hole, to ORNIS.
- 65a. I have never had an optician say TRY THESE. At Lenscrafters, the opticians are in the back room, working on lenses. The customer service folks up front may suggest different frames for you, though. Also? “TRY THESE” doesn’t feel like a crossword answer.
- 13d. [Certain red ore] sounds funny with that “certain” in there. Are you thinking iron ores? Wrong! Try copper, in CUPRITE. Apparently it’s red.
- 43d. [Melodic bit], TRA—tell me, singers, do you sing “TRA” or “tra-la-la” when you’re rehearsing or warming up your voice or singing actual lyrics, or is this an artifact of crosswords? I seriously want to know. If you do, then I won’t grumble at the TRAs so much.
- 56d. [Chrysler Building architect William Van __] ALEN, perhaps better known among crossworders than architecture buffs? I never run into his name outside of crosswords. Is there an architect in the house? Do you learn this guy’s name?
R.M. (Bob) Peoples’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Okay! We’re going with the same approach here as for the NYT. Another 70-worder, another batch of compromises I didn’t care for. At least this one wasn’t as challenging as the NYT—though it’s a good 40% tougher than the typical Saturday LAT puzzle.
First up, what I liked:
- 15a. ["Great job!"] YOU DID IT! Somehow I associate this exclamation with potty-training.
- 58a. An ATTACK AD is [Part of a smear campaign]. Rahm Emanuel didn’t have to run attack ads in his mayoral run. He had boatloads of campaign money and a commanding lead in the opinion polls. It was his race to lose—or win.
- 61a. I think I like FROM HELL, or [Worst of the worst]. Can it stand alone, or does it lose its oomph without a noun before it?
- 62a. [Some smart phones], like mine, are DROIDS. More modern clue than a robot/Artoo Detoo clue.
- 63a. CANOODLE‘s a funny word. [Spoon] can mean “make out.”
- 42d. [Eccentric], ODDBALL, weirdo.
And now, the bits that evoked the frowny face:
- 17a. [Some mousses] ≠ HAIR GELS. Gels are clearish gels. Mousses are opaque foams. Never the twain shall meet.
- 20a. ["__-Jin": Clavell novel] clues GAI. Would be modestly better away from a hyphen, as in [Moo goo __ pan].
- 4d. [E. Berlin's land] was the GDR, or German Democratic Republic (the erstwhile East Germany). Pretty sure the oppressive Communists were winking when they put the word “Democratic” in the middle there.
- 5d. [1997 Emmy winner for TV's "Rebecca"] is RIGG. Diana Rigg? What the &#@* is “Rebecca”? Every year when I watch the Emmys, I fast-forward through the made-for-TV/cable movie parts.
- 9d. [Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth] are LAKE POETS. I majored in English. I have never seen this term.
- 13d. IN A STEW is in both Peoples puzzles today! And yet I have never once laid claim to being “in a stew.”
- 21d. Tough fill. [Milano cathedral] clues DUOMO. What in English is called the Milan Cathedral is the Duomo de Milano in Italian. Not one of those Italian words most Americans know.
- 25d. [Choice words] = “THAT ONE“? Eh.
- 32d, 34d. Two plurals I don’t like. [Revealing numbers] clues CALLER IDS, and neither the clue nor the pluralization of the answer works for me. And [Edamame beans] aren’t SOYS, they’re soybeans.
- 36d, 38d. The DOERS and the ASSURER are keeping busy with their tacked-on -ER endings. I might expect such fill in a 64-worder, but not a 70.
- 49d. [Shaped like a megaphone] clues CONICAL. No, wait, too long. Must be CONIC. Nooo…it’s CONED. Believe it or not, this is in the dictionary, meaning “conical” as well as “having pine cones.” Who knew? The only thing I want CONED is ice cream.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Here’s Your Chance”—Janie’s review
We close the CS week with a pithy, pragmatic quote. It’s been divided up into three segments of theme fill; and there’s a fourth theme entry that names the speaker. The roll-up-your-sleeves-there’s-no-time-for-whinin’ message is:
- 17A. PROBLEMS ARE
- 28A. OPPORTUNITIES
- 48A. IN WORK CLOTHES.
- 64A. HENRY KAISER
Who? The can-do ship-builder and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Think Kaiser Shipyard, Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel, Kaiser Motors, Kaiser Permanente. Same guy. He never published a MEMOIR [Written recollection], but he certainly doesn’t sound like a man who would have advocated spending too much time in a RECLINER [La-Z-Boy product]. I suspect he’d have considered anyone who did a (metaphorical) DEAD DUCK [Goner]. An upstanding (perhaps PIOUS [Very devout]) man like that exudes moral certitude. You wouldn’t even think about stealing his HUBCAPS [Kin of wheel covers] because dollars to donuts you’d be in for a good DECKING [Knocking out].
Other fill in this grid that comes together nicely includes: the domestic LOAD [Laundry basketful] and RINSE [Part of a wash cycle]; the thermodynamic ON LOW [Simmering, perhaps] and the bumped-up-a-notch-or-three RED HOT [Sizzling]; and the rite-related WED [Get hooked] and not-quite-rite-related YOKED [Hitched in the field].
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Doug’s made my favorite themeless of the day. Highlights! There are many:
- 1a, 15a. ["You snooze, you lose"] is a great clue; though “IT’S TOO LATE” is less zippy. Better are those [Words to a waverer], “NOW OR NEVER.”
- 17a. Why go to Minnesota for your TWIN CITIES when you can visit Hungary? [Budapest, formerly] was the two towns Buda and Pest.
- 25a. CUTESY is a great word. [Too coy] works as its clue. Did the clue make you expect an -EST ending?
- 45a. A MAZE is indeed a [Pac-Man feature]. Fun clue.
- 58a. Not crazy about the -ER ending instead of an -ING, but YO-YO DIETER is still solid—[One whose losses are temporary].
- 5d. For [Conductor's station], I was absolutely thinking about trains and not the ORCHESTRA PIT.
- 9d. Wicked clue. [Souvenir with four holes] is a TEE as in t-shirt. Two arm holes, a neck hole, and that big opening in the bottom = four “holes.”
- 22d. ISAAC MIZRAHI is ["The Fashion Show" host]. Somehow I always thought he changed the name from “Izrahim,” but apparently that’s not the case. (He comes from Egyptian Jewish roots.) Not to be confused with his fellow designer Arnold Scaasi, whose original name was Arnold Isaacs.
- 27d. Another full name—TINA TURNER.
- 31a. [Out of true] clues ATILT. This isn’t one of the fun A-words like akimbo, amok, askance, and awry.
- 3d. [Farr costar] is Loretta SWIT. Raise your hand if you went with ALDA first.
- 10d. [Creator of Jeeter and Ellie May] is ERSKINE. That’s Erskine Caldwell, in his novel Tobacco Road. Just skimmed a plot summary. In this book, a 39-year-old woman plans to marry a 16-year-old boy. And there’s a man named Lov whose wife is his friend’s 12-year-old daughter (she runs away—good for her). There’s also talk of rat-eaten faces. Good lord! This is not a book I’ll be adding to my reading list any time soon.
- 26d. [Jack-of-all-trades] clues UTILITY MAN. In what arena is “utility man” used?
- 32dd. The GREGG shorthand system is the [System wherein "Gentlemen" looks like a "U"]. My mom would’ve gotten that in a trice. She used to write her Christmas shopping lists in shorthand so my sister and I couldn’t decipher them. It’s funny that the very next Down clue is [One of the Allman Brothers]. Well, GREGG is already in the grid so this one’s gotta be DUANE!
- 44d. [Craps-table cover] is BAIZE, the same green felt you see on pool tables.
- 54d. LAE is Amelia [Earhart's last known landing spot]. One of those things I know only from crosswords, and from only two prior puzzles at that. It is now the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Picture This” variety cryptic
Did this one late last night and didn’t see all the thematic material in the grid until now. The vertical answers are Ups, not Downs, because a STRATOVOLCANO forms by pushing upward. Mount RAINIER is a stratovolcano. I don’t know that the bars you draw in to separate answers and mark their beginnings and ends make any sort of scientifically accurate picture.
- 34a. TOP
- 32a. SCALE
- 31a. ANTICLINE
- 21a. Is ENLIGHTENMENT thematic? Are you climbing Mt. Rainier to achieve enlightenment?
- 4a. CRESTED…is that a mountaineering or geology word?
- 9d. CRAG
- 3-Up. [Cleopatra's love: male or the opposite?] combines ANTONY + M to make an ANTONYM.
Clue I didn’t understand without checking a dictionary:
- 29-Up. [Use your finger to hit Alexander's father in the ear] clues FILLIP, which sounds like (“in the ear”) Philip. Apparently there’s an archaic meaning of FILLIP that relates to fingers: “a movement made by bending the last joint of a finger against the thumb and suddenly releasing it; a flick of the finger.” I hope I’m not alone in never having heard the flick meaning of FILLIP.