Scott Atkinson’s New York Times crossword
I am ridiculously sleepy so this’ll be a much shorter post than usual.
Interesting grid pattern. Overall sense of the puzzle, maybe 3.9 stars.
Clues and answers:
- 1a. Had AIR AMERICA first (wrong year) and frowned that 1-Across was outdated. Oh! BBC AMERICA? Much better.
- 18a. LEVI Leipheimer, my first answer in the grid. Thanks to my cycling-fan husband.
- 17a. NO MAN’S LAND, excellent entry.
- 26a. EDNA BEST? Blah. At first thought it was ED Somebody.
- 40a. TENG? [Singer/songwriter Vienna __] TENG? Never heard of her but she sounds interesting.
- 65a. [Really lousy idea] is a NONSTARTER. Fresh, current.
- 67a. Antiquated “GREAT SCOTT!” amuses me.
- 11d. I didn’t know WOLF BLITZER was born in Germany. I guess the name should’ve been a clue, huh?
- 14d. Who is this Madame Defarge and why is her KNITTING sinister?
- 23d. “Here’s to you, MRS. ROBINSON.” Nice! The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel.
- 48d. MOJITO is a [Highball with white rum] and muddled mint. Have you ever heard someone pronounce it “MOJE-ee-TOE” instead of “mo-HEE-toe”? I have.
- 53d. STANE [__ Street (road from London Bridge to Chichester]) screams “obscure” but its crossings are all good.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “PC World”—Sam Donaldson’s review
I know all the cool kids are Macs, but I’m a PC. I work in a building named after the father of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and so my work computer is and always will be a PC. I live in an area littered (some might say infested) with Microsofties. In some ways, I suppose, I have no choice. But I’m happy to be a PC. My computers don’t break down very often, and when they do it’s almost always because it’s my fault. Anyway, when I saw this puzzle’s title, I thought for just a moment that I might finally have an edge on the cool kids. Turns out it has nothing to do with computers. PB2 goes all PC on us with a crossword featuring six two-word expressions with the initials “PC:”
I’m partial to crosswords with theme answers in the Down positions too. Add in the intersecting theme entries smack dab in the grid’s center and what would otherwise be a rather ho-hum theme with some okay-but-not-great theme entries gets snazzed up a little.
In fact, the surrounding fill has much more sparkle than the theme entries themselves. We’ve got SEA COWS (or [Manatees]), TYLENOL PM (the [Johnson & Johnson product]), THE NRA (yes, pannonica, a certain definite article seems to be cropping up a lot lately), and I SAY SO. To get that juiciness you have to tolerate uber-awkward abbreviations like INT, CTNS and even TNPK intersecting RPTS (double-ugh), but other abbreviations like RCA, PTA, STP, and CDS don’t hurt the ears so much.
At first I was distressed with SOPOR, the [State of deep sleep] (which I always thought was North Dakota), atop KNOWER, the [One who’s certain]. Either by itself is suboptimal, I think, but both together like that just looked too weird. Yet when I tried to reconstruct that section of the grid just now, I couldn’t do any better. My attempt appears to the left. (In making my version, I assumed SEA COWS, POWER COUPLE, RCA and ERROR were, together with the black squares, nonnegotiable.) AVOWER isn’t any better than KNOWER, but I kind of like the three Vs. On the other hand, Blindauer’s version gives you SKYPE, the [Video chat company], and that entry’s easily three times better than anything in my version. So I’m thinking Blindauer’s version is the best one can do in that section. Does anyone care to offer another reconstruction of that section?
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Lots of good stuff in today’s puzzle, which hit the usual Saturday LAT difficulty level. There was just one answer that made me frown (8d: RECUE, [Give another memory jog to]) and one that made me wonder if I haven’t been paying attention to the internet (30d: ZWINKY, [Customizable online avatar]). The Wikipedia article on Zwinky suggests that these avatars are marketed to children and via Myspace, and that using them means installing a toolbar in your browser that has been associated with malware and spyware. Great! I’ll pass.
Top 10 answers:
- 1a. [Site of many a wet bar] is a BACHELOR PAD. Sometimes this may mean that the bachelor’s parents have an old wet bar in the basement where he lives.
- 29a. [There are 300 feet between them] is a sports trivia clue for football END ZONES. 100 yards = 300 feet.
- 33a. A [Novelist, e.g.] is a WORDSMITH.
- 38a. Cool etymology I did not know: TORTILLA is [Spanish for "little cake"]. Torta = cake, cognate of torte.
- 42a. [Cockapoo pop, perhaps] is a cocker SPANIEL. Do yourself a favor: Say “cockapoo pop” aloud three times. Isn’t that awesome?
- 54a. [Washington attraction] is the NATIONAL ZOO, which will be open for business Monday (but wouldn’t have without last night’s final-hour budget deal).
- 57a. EAST LANSING, Michigan, is the [Home of Spartan Stadium], where Michigan State plays.
- 1d. [It's under Wayne Manor] clues the BATCAVE. Easy but fun.
- 13d. [Chalk feature?] is the SILENT L you don’t pronounce.
- 23d. James MONROE was the [Last president to wear a powdered wig]. In public, anyway. Who’s to say Eisenhower didn’t enjoy a good powdered wig at home?
Props to Barry and editor Rich Norris for the nuanced accuracy of the 35a: ESKIMO clue, [Nunavut native, formerly]. Up in Canada and its territories, the word Inuit is now used for the people and their language. (Inuit is the plural of inuk, meaning “person.”) My dictionary’s usage note says that in Alaska, native people mostly don’t speak Inuit/Inuktitut, they speak the related language Inupiaq or the Siberian language Yupiq; thus, the term Eskimo encompasses the various language groups in Alaska. But if you use the word Eskimo in Canada, you’ll look like a boor. I’m thinking Alaska clues are the way to go.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Very good puzzle today, 4 to 4½ stars. What’s in the grid? This:
- 9a. BURQAS are [Arab garments]. Though the word is Arabic, more broadly, burqas are Muslim women’s garments that may be seen outside the Arab world. Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan aren’t Arab.
- 15a. HANG FIRE is clued as [Delay]. “Delay or be delayed in taking action or progressing” is the dictionary definition.
- 16a. I like the archaic AVAUNT, meaning ["Get thee hence!"] or “scram!” Dictionary example: “Avaunt, you worm-faced fellows of the night!”
- 23a. [They block the passing of many bills] clues T-MEN, a word meaning “agents of the U.S. Treasury.” They keep people from passing counterfeit bills (bills = paper money).
- 25a. ["Compas" point] is ESTE, or “east” in Spanish. Compás is Spanish for “compass,” I presume.
- 33a. FLO is clued as [Streaming, in product names]. As in Flomax, a prescription drug used men with enlarged prostates whose pee flow is impeded. Speaking of pee, have you seen the music video for the Kelly Family’s hot song, “Ain’t Gonna Pee-Pee My Bed Tonight”? It’s a keeper! I fear it’s not quite catchy enough to dislodge “Friday” from your head, though.
- 46a. [Strains to hear on the phone?] is a noun phrase, not a verb phrase—the musical strains of MUZAK when you’re on hold are what’s meant here.
- 49a. Crosswordese place name alert! New clue for the Aleutian island ATTU: [Snowy battleground of 1943].
- 56a. Tricky! If you’re lying [Back-up] and face down, you’re SUPINE.
- 60a. Herb ALPERT, [Anthem performer at Super Bowl XXII]? Really? I wouldn’t have guessed he was ever big enough to perform at the Super Bowl.
- 61a. ATALANTA was the [Only female Argonaut, per some sources].
- 1d. I needed tons of crossings to figure out that ["Wings" star's nickname] was THE IT GIRL. Brad’s original clue was [Bow handle, once], as Clara Bow was the It Girl. Aww, that’s a great clue. More fun than the “oh, look, 1927 movie trivia” approach.
- 2d. HAND MODEL, great entry! Evokes the Seinfeld storyline in which George Costanza was a prima donna hand model. [Ad-closeup specialist] was a fairly mystifying clue, though.
- 5d. An AFRO is a [Style you should pick] with aN AFRO pick.
- 28d. Alex TREBEK is the [National Geographic Bee host]. I was thinking the host would be a hotel, university, or organization.
- 33d. A FREE AGENT is a [Would-be signer] of a contract, as in sports.
- 34d. Are you old enough to remember LAWN DARTS, aka Jarts? They’ve been [Banned game equipment] since 1988 owing to tragic incidents in which the pointy metal parts landed in people instead of the lawn.
- 44d. [Ivy Noodle customers] are YALIES. Never heard of Ivy Noodle, but crossword references to the Ivy League generally mean YALIE(S) or ELI(S).
- 46d. I didn’t know Sardinia has MESAS ([Sardinian scenery]). This doesn’t mention the island’s mesas, but it does mention the presence of crosswordese RIAS.
- 47d. The UVULA! [Literally, "little grape"] is its etymology.
- 53d. [B, as in Beersheba] is the Hebrew letter BETH.
- 54d. [Jo on "CSI: NY"] is played by SELA Ward. Really? I didn’t know and needed all the crossings. Apparently she joined the cast in the current season. I only knew that Melina Kanakaredes (whose name alternates vowels and consonants so nicely) and Gary Sinise were the stars.