Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword
I struggled on both the NYT and LAT crosswords tonight. Both tougher than usual, or just an instance of Crossword Mind Failure? The trouble zones in Mike’s puzzle stretched from the lower left corner diagonally upwards. It all came together eventually, but not without extracting a pound of flesh along the way.
Highlights in this 70-worder:
- 15a. “WE’RE LIVE ” is often coupled with “at the scene” in my least favorite TV news segments. Nobody cares if you are “live at the scene” today when nothing of note has taken place there since yesterday. Can’t you just deliver your report in the studio?
- 19a. Who likes doing GRUNT WORK? Sometimes it’s exactly what you need.
- 36a. A [Finish line?] you deliver at the finish of a game might me “GOOD GAME.” Hard clue. And with that 26d crossing! Good gravy. [Pull from the ground, quickly] is not a verb phrase at all—it’s ONE G, as in one unit of the earth’s gravitational pull. And sheesh! With that clue for 29a, [Ghastly], a lesser-known synonym for WAN? It’s a miracle I made it out of the grid alive.
- 45a. “WHAT GIVES, Mike Nothnagel?” Indeed.
- 49a. FIRE EXIT has a kinda hard clue: [Way out of a dangerous situation].
- 50a. When I had the first letter in the excellent TIP JAR, I was terrified that [Where singles congregate in a bar?] was going to be THONGS.
- 3d. Punctuation trivia! DR PEPPER [lost its period in the 1950s]. That, of course, is when the good doctor reached menopause.
- 29d. WOOZY? Yes, that’s how I felt midway through this crossword.
- 32d, 33d. BASENJIS and AMY ADAMS are great answers, aren’t they?
- 41a: SYL. is the only abbreviation in this puzzle, isn’t it? And there are zero partials. The difference between a puzzle devoid of such things and a puzzle that’s liberally besmirched with them is huge.
31d: [Womanizers] clues GOATS. Dang. I had GOAT for 46d: [Milk source] first (turned out to be TEAT).
Things I didn’t care for: WIRERS, AVIAS, FLITE, mystery TSE…that’s about it.
Vic Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Yep, there’s an asterisk by my solving time because I had GOOD MATCH for 35d: [Matrimonial prize] instead of GOOD CATCH, and having that M made 48a: [Video end?] impossible. CAM, sure, if you have the C in place. But MAM MEM MIM MOM MUM? Not so much. It sure didn’t help that I wasn’t confident about the second letter in 44d: [Third-generation Japanese-American], SANSEI. It’s been a while since an LA Times crossword kicked me around like this.
- 1a. TARA REID is kinda played out, sure, but I appreciate a full-name answer and pop culture I know, ["American Pie" actress].
- 17a. NICETIES is such a nice word for [Subtle differences]. Now, I might’ve gone with NINETIES crossing REND to ditch that REC’D abbrev.
- 19a. [Was left out, facetiously] clues DIDN’T GET THE MEMO. Love it!
- 50a. [Man, to Aristotle] is a POLITICAL ANIMAL.
- 62a. [Diamond gem] is a cute clue for a baseball NO-HITTER.
- 6d. [Hard to figure out] clues ENIGMATIC. Who doesn’t like an enigma?
- 40d. Dang it, this clue totally drew me into its trap. [Pablo Casals, e.g.]? Oh, easy: he’s a CELLIST. And where’s he from? Oh, he’s a CATALAN.
The good stuff’s offset by the more blah things. We’re supposed to know 39a: ESTER-C, [Non-acidic vitamin brand]? CIO, ALII, REC’D, ICEE, A TIE, ESSO, SANSEI, AIRE, and LT-YR felt over-abundant while I was solving.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Value Judgment” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme consists of four two-word entries ending with a word synonymous (or at least somewhat synonymous) with “value:”
- 20-Across: The [Submarine sinker] is a DEPTH CHARGE. Value and charge may not be perfectly synonymous (to my ear, “charge” refers to a selling price, while “value” may be ascribed to an asset that is not for sale by its owner), but they’re close enough that I suspect most saw the theme from this point.
- 61-Across: The [Manufacturer of preschool products] is FISHER PRICE. Here too, I’m not sure that everything of value has a price. But I love the entry because I had more than my share of Fisher Price toys. My favorites were the one-room schoolhouse and the village (the latter is pictured below).
- 11-Down: The [Number often taken by a nurse?] is the PULSE RATE. Wait, isn’t it usually referred to simply as the “pulse?”
- 35-Down: The [Long-running soap-opera-style comic strip] is MARY WORTH. It probably takes less time to read an entire Mary Worth strip than to count the hyphens in this clue. Of all the value-related words in the theme entries, this is the one that comes closest to how I usually define “value.” Something of value is something that has worth.
Overall, too many of the theme entries don’t really mesh with how I think of “value.” I tend to think of these words as relating more to “cost.” I wonder if there’s a better title out there that uses “cost.” “Final Cost?”
Also, it would have been better had the clues for the theme entries put up some fight. A craftier clue for DEPTH CHARGE, for example, could have been [Fee paid by a scuba diver?], and FISHER PRICE could have been clued as [Angler's license fee?]. Here, though, we’re treated to straight dictionary definitions, the cumulative effect of which is lackluster.
The theme entries use a total of 40 squares, which is on the low side. As a general rule, grids with lower theme density should have more sprakly fill, as there are fewer constraints with which to work. While this grid may have little in the way of sparkle, it’s quite smooth, with just one abbreviation (EST, the [Repairman's initial fig.]), one partial (“Do it, OR I will”), and only one entry that struck me as awkward (RE-HIT). There are some nice entries here too, like BAD RAP, the [Crummy verdict, slangily], SAYS NO, ONE FOOT, and ORDER NOW (["Call right away!"]).
Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Today’s mystery word:
- 51d. MILCH = [Of dairy cows]. Milch is German for “milk,” but I never knew that it was an English adjective pertaining to dairy cows. You know why? Because I’ve never been a dairy farmer.
And three “nobody uses that” words:
- 41a. A [Bison, at times] is a SNORTER.
- 14d. [Figure skaters, at times] are GYRATORS. Good gravy, that’s worse than SNORTER!
- 46d. [To flip over] again is to RETOSS. Can you use that in a sentence without sounding like an idiot?
- The two 10×3 stacks are nice, though their 3-letter crossings verge on abominable. BIODEGRADE = [Break down], nice. ROLLED OVER a C.D., [Renewed, in a way]. “ADIOS, AMIGO!” = ["See ya!"]. NAILED DOWN = [Settled], once and for all. The ERECTOR SET contains [Beams, nuts, bolts, motors, etc.]. And HASH HOUSES = [Diners]. Good stuff. But those crossings,* oy!
- 2d. Etymology I didn’t know: IODINE is a [Word from the Greek for "purple"].
- 33d. Full name of ANNE MEARA, whose last name has been crossword gold for decades thanks to its 60% vowel content. She’s the [1993 Tony nominee for "Anna Christie"]. Just saw her son Ben Stiller playing a most unlikable character in Greenberg.
- 42d. [Sciences] can be called OLOGIES. The hilarious part is that astrology and parapsychology are both -ologies as well.
*Those crossings, oy! Show these clues and answers to a crossword neophyte and you might get slapped.
- 4d. [PO cul de sac] is the DLO, or the post office’s dead letter office. Cul de sac has figurative use as a route leading nowhere.
- 5d. [Some MIT grads] are EES, or electrical engineers.
- 10d. ERO ["__ e Leandro" (Handel cantata)] gives an Italian (I think) spelling of Hero and Leander.
- 59d. NEH., short for Nehemiah, is an [OT book].
- 60d. DOO isn’t just doo-doo, it’s also part of doo-wop and thus a [Scat-singing syllable]. Gotta love the scat/doo combo!
- 61d. Joanne DRU, Montgomery [Clift's love in "Red River"].
Five clues I found tough:
- 19a. [Multiple of XIII], 3 letters? Gotta be LII, right? No? Okay, then LXV, obviously. No, wrong again. Turned out to be CIV, and I never learned the times tables up to the 13s. A [Western __] clue would be too easy for a Stumper.
- 22a. [Penn's "Giant Brain"] is the pioneering computer ENIAC. That was at Penn?
- 23d. [Some police investigations] clues ARSONS. Uh, aren’t those arson investigations, and not simply arsons? ARSONS are the subject of the investigations, no?
- 35d. [Numbers specialist] clues SONGSTER.
- 56d. ["Murder, She Wrote" doc] is SETH. TV trivia from outside my demographic there.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Line of Battle”
Brilliant concept and execution, five stars.
Look how the TWO AIRLINE PASSENGERS are battling over that ARMREST, with the battle line nudging left and right. Interesting idea for a puzzle, with an innate visual aspect, creatively realized by Patrick Berry.
I turned to the dictionary for [Golden calf's erector] AARON and to confirm that “bonanza” came from SPANISH, but managed to avoid Googling or looking up anything else.
Easier than most of Berry’s Rows Garden puzzles, no?