Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
Crikey, I am crazy-tired. Finished the puzzle fine—felt easier than yesterday’s NYT, in fact—but crashed immediately thereafter. Too sleepy for complete sentences.
Terrific fill, tons o’ bright spots, massive Scrabbly action. Favorite bits:
- Scrabbly FAX PAPER, IDEE FIXE, VEXES (crossing ADIEUX, making its second appearance this week), KABUKI, QUEEN MAB, one-vowel/-seven-consonants SCHMALTZ, BACKHOE, HENRY IV, QUETZAL, BYE WEEK
- Old-school HOG-TIE and POMADE together
- CH- comestibles crossing in the top corner: CHEVRE and CHIANTI
- Chatty “oh, I’VE EATEN“
- Snappy PIRANHA
- 32a. [Film villain who sings "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!"] clues HAL, the 2001 computer. Creepy!
- 64a. ALOE VERA = [So-called "wand of heaven"]. I think that’s new to me.
- 67a. To run naked or STREAK is to [Barely risk being arrested].
- 40d. [Time unit] is an ARTICLE in Time magazine.
This 72-worder is packed with juicy fill and has a fairly small number of 3-letter answers (eight). No crappy fill. Two thumbs up.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gallery Display”—Janie’s review
We close out the CS week with an embedded word gimmick. The title gives us a good hint as to what that word is, but in case there was any doubt in your mind, there’s a reveal at 58-Down, where the clue [Exhibit found in this puzzle's four longest answers]—and the 3-letter limit—confirms that it’s ART. I love a good gallery or museum visit and love that the treasure buried in the theme fill today is art. With one exception, though, I’m not so wild for the theme set itself, which is a tad on the dry side. Please don’t assume I’m simply JADED [Bored by it all]. I know what a challenge it is to come up with four phrases that work, and wish to take nothing away from the constructor. And am happier still that instead of RETICULAR TISSUE or AKBAR TANJUNG, we got the so-much-nicer-by-comparison:
- 20A. CLEAR THINKING [Not mentally confused]. (See? Isn’t that better?]
- 31A. SMEAR TACTIC [Political ploy]. The best of the bunch, for my money.
- 42A. GRAMMAR TEST [Language exam].
- 55A. CELLULAR TOWER [Elevated communication structure]. I wouldn’t go touchin’ any wires around one, lest you get a JOLT [Shock].
Gail makes great use of the long “down” opportunities her grid provides. Standouts would have to include EMOTICONS [Cyberspace symbols], SET A TRAP [Arranged an ambush], RIO GRANDE (somewhat redundantly) clued as [Texas border river] and “IT’S SO YOU!” with its calling-all-tweens, pitch-perfect clue ["What an awesome outfit!"].
There’s a sweet olfactory tie-in between SCENTS [Potpourri offerings] and LILAC [Flowering shrub]; and a lovely euphonious one amongst ATONAL [Lacking a musical key], LODES [Mineral deposits], OWENS [Country singer Buck], SLOES [Plumlike fruits], ALOES [Ointment ingredients] and ALOHA [Polynesian greeting].
And if you’ve never read her, I do commend WILLA [Author Cather] to your attention. Not just the novels either. Have a go at some of her short stories. One modern woman, that Willa, even if she was born nearly 140 years ago.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This is Julian’s Week of Triumph, with an amazing Fireball crossword followed mere days later by a zingy LA Times themeless. Today’s cluing seemed easier than usual for a Saturday LAT, but I can forgive the puzzle for not putting up much of a fight because it gave us these entries:
- 1a. [Its first mascot was a toque-wearer named Speedee] refers to MCDONALD’S. The Speedee trivia is something I learned from crosswords.
- 15a. OBAMACARE is the [2010 health statute, informally]. The term’s mostly used disparagingly by the law’s opponents.
- 20a. [Groupings affected by natural selection] are GENE POOLS. Not sure I’ve ever seen this term in a crossword before.
- 36a. [Roll with the punches] clues TAKE IT AS IT COMES. Fresh, in the language, five words long.
- 56a. [Potter's concern] is not clay or kiln temperature, it’s Harry Potter’s archnemesis VOLDEMORT. Do yourself a favor and watch the Harry Potter Puppet Pals “Mysterious Ticking Noise” video. You’ll never be afraid of Voldemort again.
- 12d. [Fight fiercely] clues GO TO THE MAT. Fresh language, plus it wedges four words into a single entry.
- 27d. The ATKINS DIET? [It was blamed for reduced pasta sales in 2003]. I needed crossings to point the way. Was thinking of a food poisoning scare or some such culprit.
Among my favorite clues were these:
- 43d. [Wrap artist?] is Santa’s ELF, wrapping Christmas presents. Parents! Tell your kids that Santa is going green and not wrapping any presents. Will save you lots of time and hassle.
- 29a. [Werewolves do it] clues MORPH.
- 45a. [Beer named for a river] is AMSTEL. Are you like me, folks? Would you be favorably disposed towards a beer labeled EBRO, YSER, or NEVA?
- 10a. [Father in the comic strip "Bringing Up Father"] is named JIGGS. Don’t know this comic strip; never heard the character name.
Not wild about fill like SERI, LITA, ANIL, and LAHR—if you do too, too many crosswords, these pose no challenge and bring no joy. I am waiting for ANIL Dash to be deemed familiar enough for his first name not to be an obscure crossword answer. Or word maven ANU Garg—if you’ve ever used the Internet Anagram Server tool, you know Anu’s work.
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Beautiful puzzle, the epitome of a Stumper—tough puzzle with smooth fill, the toughness coming from the clues rather than the vocabulary found in the grid. Here’s what’s in it:
- 8a. Boris KARLOFF, a Vincent [Price contemporary].
- 16a. [Spam source] is an E-MAILER. Not just Hormel.
- 17a. Old Hollywood trivia: THE ROBE was the [First CinemaScope film].
- 25a. [Fly or drive]? Each is a VERB.
- 39a. Who knew PINE-SOL has been a [Clorox brand since 1990]?
- 43a. [Fingerprints, often] are SMUDGES. Take a look at your monitor. See?
- 48a. Love the word TRAIPSE. Clue is [Be a rover].
- 53a. We all know the YMCA, but how many of us know it was a [USO cofounder]?
- 56a. [At the peak] clues UP TOP. Hey, wait a minute…there are three UPs in this puzzle. POP-UP AD ([Surfing annoyance]) crosses this one, and then there’s TIME’S UP (testing [Monitor's announcement]).
- 61a. [Patched] looks like a past-tense verb, but it’s an adjective here meaning PIEBALD. A piebald horse has patches of two colors in its coat.
- 2d. [Letter recipient] is an ATHLETE who wins a letter to put on his or her coat.
- 8d. Who knew the KESTREL, a falcon, was a [Lizard hunter]?
- 9d. Ah! [Blasting aid?] without a question mark would be TNT, but with the question mark, it’s an AMP that blasts music at a concert.
- 12d. OLD NEWS is a [Currency lacker]. It’s no longer current.
- 13d. I like this name clue. FELICIA is a [Name that means "happy"]. This one’s better than some of those other “meaning of a first name” clues because there are familiar cognates: felicity, felicitations.
- 24d. [Prairie pest] isn’t a GOPHER, it’s a LOCUST.
- 26d. [Sub groups] that substitute for the starters on a sports team are the B-TEAMS.
- 30d. Data [Storage devices] can be collectively referred to as MEMORY.
- 41d. [Reserve for the future] sounds like a verb, but it’s a noun: NEST EGG. Good one.
- 42d.[Longitude symbols, in cartography] are LAMBDAS. Had no idea. Greek letters are fairly common as scientific symbols, though.
- 55d. [Limited quantity] is a PIECE. Huh. I wanted PINCH.
- 64d. Didn’t know [Wet concrete, to builders] was MUD, but it seemed instantly correct. Yay!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, cryptic crossword “Word Square”
Oof! Nine minutes to wrangle the first 40 clues for the outer grid, and then 11 minutes more for the final four clues for the word square in the middle. The 40 outer clues were surprisingly easy. But those other four—oof. They fought me, and their surface senses were generally less entertaining than the outer clues’ surfaces.
- a. [Inside drew gold brick] yields IN + GOT, or INGOT.
- b. [Love horn sounds] has two definitions of TOOTS: the “love, honeybuns, toots” terms of endearments and the sounds made by a horn.
- c. [Circle French gold particle] yields OR (French “gold”) + BIT, or ORBIT.
- d. [Iota inside horn set off owner] clues RHINO. Iota = I, and “HORN set off” scrambles to RHNO. Put the I inside and you get RHINO. But how is a RHINO an “owner”? It’s the owner of a horn, but I’m not used to seeing a definition word hinge on reuse of another word in the clue.
I took a few wrong turns in assembling the word square when I had only ORBIT and RHINO. Eventually I hit on the right layout, and that coaxed me towards getting INGOT and TOOTS. The fifth word in the square is BINGO, which may be what you said to yourself when you finally figured out the puzzle’s final answer.
ORBIT RHINO BINGO INGOT TOOTS