Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Huh, only a 5-second differential between the (easy) Friday NYT and the (should be a lot tougher) Saturday NYT. Apparently I can tune right into Tim Croce’s wavelength, because nothing really put up a fight.
Highlights in this 72-worder:
- 1a. JIM FIXX, Mr. Super Scrabbly Runner himself. When 1a is a gimme and it includes such unusual letters, it gives you a big leg up in tackling its crossings.
- 27a. DR. SCHOLL’S insoles are a [Sole supporter?]. Me, I wear Powerstep insoles.
- 35a. STRAP-ON is clued as [Like scuba tanks, typically], but it made me laugh. If you don’t already know the lewd definition, you might want to spare yourself the Googling.
- 38a. TRAMMEL, or [Restrain], is a cool word. Usually seen in the “untrammeled” setting.
- 39a. QUIVER, more Scrabbly business.
- 52a. Hey, you, shake that [Big money maker]. And by “big money maker,” I mean, of course, the U.S. MINT.
- 64a. The rock band [Kiss, e.g.] is a QUARTET. Great clue.
- 11d. I always like a nice ENCOMIUM, too.
- 25d. I still think of them as the L.A. RAMS even though [They moved to St. Louis in '95]. Hey, if they were an L.A. team when I was a kid, that’s what they should be forevermore.
- 45d. “DANG IT!” I have taught my son to say this.
- 51d. Cute clue: [Gives a heady response?] nods at NODS.
58d is factually incorrect. UFO is clued as [Sky light?], but I recently learnt on Oprah from Shirley MacLaine that UFOs look like clouds—clouds…that move. So next time you’re looking up at the sky and you see a cloud that’s moving, know what you’re really looking at, people.
There’s a military/nuclear quasi-theme lurking in this grid. ARMS DEAL, ICBM, IRAQ, TEST BAN, H-BOMB…help! I’m getting freaked out here! Fetch me my PILL.
And look! A fresh EERO! [Olympic gold-medal pentathlete Lehtonen] is named EERO. No, wait. He’s not fresh. He competed in the 1920s. I was hoping he was a current track-and-field hotshot.
One quibble with 8a: [Most convenient section of a parking garage, usually] clues LEVEL A. I live in a big city and I’ve parked in a lot of parking garages, and I’ve yet to find one that labels the levels with letters. The levels are always numbers (with optional colors, songs, sports, car parts, etc.) while the individual aisles on each level get letters.
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Not quite as much sparkle as today’s NYT, but still lots of good stuff:
- 1a. Why is there no NOBEL PRIZE in crosswords? Or at the very least, a Pulitzer in crossword criticism?
- 15a. Hmm, political judgment in this one: [Subversive] clues UNAMERICAN.
- 17a. The DIGITAL AGE. It’s called that because you use your digits to type or text on various keyboards.
- 50a. BUSH RAT! Is that political judgment? No, just a [Small Australian omnivore].
- 66a. The [Apple that's Minnesota's state fruit] is the IMAC. No, wait. It’s the HONEYCRISP. *crunch*
- 2d, 3d. This two-part [deli order] threatened to be something-ON-RYE, since we see the fill-in-the-blank ON RYE in so many puzzles. But no! It’s an ONION / BAGEL. It’s especially nice for a two-part answer to have its components be adjacent. Much prettier than having, say, “3-Down + 43-Across.”
- 8d. What a terrific answer: “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.” ["It seems unreal to me!"]
- 10d. Fresh clue concept: ENERGY is [What some bars supply].
- 34d. EDINBURGH is the Scottish [City nicknamed "Auld Reekie"], which is Scots slang for “Old Smelly.” Wait, hang on a sec…Googling…it means “Old Smoky.” Does this have anything to do with a meatball, all covered in cheese, lost when somebody sneezed?
- 48d. THE WHO, one of Mr. Fiend’s favorite bands.
A note inspired by 4d: EMIRATE ([Qatar, for example])—Earlier this week, I read a news article about Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures in which bin Laden and another man were referred to as amirs. We see EMIR as the much more common spelling in crosswords and AMIR comes off looking like a variant spelling not much better than EMEER/AMEER. And yet here is amir in the wild.
In this puzzle’s debit column, we have a couple partials (IS I, RE MI), a couple ugly abbrevs (ENGR, DBL), some crosswordese (DAHS are [Morse morsels], SEI is a [Grooved whale], and BEYS are [Ottoman governors]), and a bunch of people and places, many of whom appear in a lot of crosswords—EN LAI, TOD, NIN, AMIN, LANA, URAL, IOS, IONA, and ERIE. (FLUTIE, FRED, ELMER, awkward plural initials A.J.’S, and GATES are not overused.)
Three and a half stars, plus a high-five for I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “N-T Headed” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Well, I survived the speeches and there were at least two people awake. Now it’s off to Atlanta for a fun weekend before heading home on Sunday. The weekend gets off to a great start with this cleverly-titled puzzle. It’s a vowel progression theme, but the ante is kicked up a notch by having the vowels placed between an N and a T at the start of each entry. Thus, each theme entry is headed with “N-T” (the dash represents the inserted vowel):
- 17-Across: NATURAL GAS has a terrific clue, [It's at home in the range]. Anyone else read “on the range” instead of “in the range?”
- 32-Across: An [Infernal place] is a NETHER REGION. Wonderful theme entry.
- 41-Across: To [Find a few faults] is to NITPICK. Crossword bloggers are famous for this, as are commenters on crossword blogs. But we do it out of love.
- 51-Across: The [Professional witness] is a NOTARY PUBLIC. I used to be a notary, and let me tell you, that’s where the money is.
- 64-Across: The [Pecan penetrator] is a NUTCRACKER. It’s also part of the name of a famous ballet and an unflattering nickname.
Vowel progression themes can’t be the easiest to construct, as the order of the theme entries is not subject to manipulation. Sure, this one takes advantage of common letters like N and T (inserting five Js or five Xs would make construction exponentially more difficult), but the result is still very smooth. The fill is highlighted by MY EYE, clued ["Baloney!"], but WELL, I NEVER and AT ALL TIMES are also lovely.
If one is supposed to learn something new every day, I’m all set for the weekend. Here’s three things I learned from this puzzle:
- Stephen King wrote a nonfiction book about the influence of horror fiction in pop culture called DANSE Macabre. There should be another book about the decline of western civilization due to silly pop culture phenomena called Danse Macarena.
- EVERT is not just the surname of a legendary tennis player. It’s also a verb meaning to [Turn inside out].
- I quickly figured out that the FDA was the [Org. that banned candy-flavored cigarettes], but I didn’t realized they were in fact banned. I thought one could still buy candy cigarettes. I can buy a toy gun but not a box of candy cigarettes? Consistency is not our forte. (Amy says: This is fruit-flavored smokes designed to make smoking more appealing to 12-year-olds. Menthol cigarettes may be on the chopping block soon, too.)
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Kinda like the LA Times puzzle today—lots of nice stuff but nothing overly zippy. SMOKE-FILLED ROOM‘s impact was blunted by having appeared in another recent puzzle; you never want to be the second in a week to use a memorable answer, do you?
Highlights in this 70-worder:
- 1a. Not sure if we’re still having COLA WARS [stoked by some Super Bowl ads]. But I will tell you this: it was jarring to order a Diet Coke at a restaurant on Tuesday and find out with my first sip that it was Diet Pepsi.
- 16a. MISTLETOE gets a really unexpected clue: [Spotted-owl nesting site]. I wouldn’t have thought that mistletoe was a sturdy enough plant to support an owl nest.
- 19a. KEEPS MUM is clued [Spills nothing]. Happy Mother’s Day!
- 30a. ICE SCULPTURES are a decorative [Display for liner diners] on a cruise. You know what would be really cheesy? Cheese sculptures.
- 45a. Am hankering for a HEATH BAR right about now. [Hershey acquisition of 1996]? How about Reynaldo acquisition of 2011?
- 50a. A LOANER CAR is a [Dealership courtesy]. Finishing with your car when they said they’d be done would be another courtesy, wouldn’t it?
- 5d. [Site for drawing] had me thinking of sketch pads rather than a WELL to be tapped. Good misdirect.
At L.A. Crossword Confidential, PuzzleGirl commented on a clue for URAL I hadn’t even noticed, [The Sakmara flows into it]. Brad also pulls out a new clue approach for URALS: [Platinum-yielding region].