Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword
So, Stella Daily Zawistowski and Howard Barkin continue their streak (two days straight!) of finishing the NYT themelesses shockingly far ahead of me. I’d fear a total loss of mojo, but some other excellent solvers have struggled with this weekend’s offerings too. (Thank you, zachugly and Arnold Reich, for demonstrating that I am not alone!)
A small factor is that my cursor has taken to moving through the applet much more slowly than usual. I recently updated Safari and Java, I think. Anyone else finding a vexing lag in the “Play Against the Clock” applet?
The main problem is that I just couldn’t figure out what the clues wanted me to do. The only answer I flat out didn’t know is 55a: TINO, [French singer/actor Rossi]. And 45d: [Maugham's prostitute] SADIE—at least SADIE is a more familiar name. The rest of the answers? They all made perfect sense eventually, but it took some time.
- KARAOKE BAR, ADAM AND EVE, “NOSIREE, BOB,” XHOSA, EASY RIDER, LOAN SHARK, ARTOO DETOO, “I IMAGINE SO,” XEROXED, RAREBIT, “TRUST ME,” ARACHNE, and “OK, SHOOT.” That there is some lively fill, I say.
- 15a. Nice clue for crosswordese EWER: [One with a neck, mouth and lip, but no eyes]. You saw right through that trick, right?
- 28a. A river [Bank security system] is a LEVEE.
- 33a. [It may be spinning] clues the WASH, the laundry in the washing machine. 45a: SOAP is an [Addition to the 33-Across].
- 38a. Do you know your Portuguese, or can you fake it? [One with uma aureola], or a halo, is a SAO, or saint. São, actually.
Four stars. I could do without SNEE, EWER, TINO, EDE, and OSO, but I appreciated the challenge.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hold On!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Stop the presses! Ashwood-Smith gives us three expressions clued as ["Hold on!"]. Hang in there while we go through each of them in turn:
- 17-Across: JUST A MOMENT! My first answer was JUST A SECOND, and then I had JUST A MINUTE for a while. Eventually I got to the correct answer.
- 36-Across: ONE SECOND PLEASE! ONE MOMENT PLEASE feels more familiar to me, but this seems fine.
- 60-Across: BE RIGHT BACK! I had a harder time with this one, as BERIG- just looked like it had to be wrong.
Yesterday’s post talked about how having just three theme entries and 43 theme squares opens the grid up for juicy fill. Today’s puzzle has three theme entries over only 37 squares, so there was even more room for razzle-dazzle. For the most part, this grid meets those expectations.
The triple-stacked 8-letter Down entries in the southwest and northeast are great (I especially liked NOT A CLUE, EGO TRIPS, and DIET SODA, clued as a [Drink for losers?]). Each of the northwest and southeast corners features five 6-letter entries (highlighted by ST. JUDE and QUAKED) that give those corners a wide open feel. Then, in the middle of the grid, a theme entry is surrounded by HEAD SAIL and LENA OLIN, with ON AND ON and ZIPLOC intersecting them. All of this is really quite special.
But it comes with a price. No one likes EELER, and I suspect few admire NEU, DER, ECU, ICI, STA, or EHS. But these ugly shorter entries facilitate the nice, wide open corners. In my view, they’re worth it.
I thought I knew my game shows, but DR. IQ, the [Early TV quiz show], was new to me. Wikipedia says that the show popularized the catch phrase, “I have a lady in the balcony, Doctor.” Not exactly catchy by today’s standards, but it must have worked at the time. On the bright side, I had no problem at all with Pia ZADORA, but I think one must be “of a certain age” to know this, and the fact she crosses two other people (Frankie VALLI and SID Vicious) and a brand name (the aforementioned ZIPLOC) may have made this even trickier.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Nice puzzle with standard Saturday LA Times difficulty and a lattice of 15-letter entries bracing the grid:
- 20a. [Line before "Et tu, Brute?"] is not one I know (I haven’t read Julius Caesar): “SPEAKS, HANDS, FOR ME.” Casca says it, then lets his fingers do the walking—by which I mean, he stabs Caesar, and then his unindicted co-conspirators and Brutus follow suit.
- 54a. An AMBULANCE CHASER is an [Ethical concern for a bar association].
- 3d. A THREE-DOLLAR BILL is a [Symbol of phoniness]. The $4 bill is even faker.
- 11d. In Michigan, the HENRY FORD MUSEUM is a [Dearborn attraction]. Not sure how I got this with so few letters in place.
Random notes on clues and answers:
- 1a. The SCTV show was a John [Candy vehicle].
- 9a. A brand of [Gone crackers?] are the erstwhile HI-HOS. They were like Ritz crackers. Odd wording in the clue, intended to make you think of “gone mad.”
- 24a. [Self-titled 1988 R&B album] clues LA TOYA.
- 26a. [Skyscraper feature] clues LEDGE. I don’t think Gareth had Chicago’s Willis/Sears Tower in mind, with its protruding glass-box ledges on the 103rd floor.
- 35a. LON CHANEY, JR., is the [Celebrity mentioned in Warren Zevon's 1978 hit "Werewolves of London"]. Terrific song, that.
- 40a. [Valley in the first book of Samuel] is ELAH. A few years ago, there was a Tommy Lee Jones movie called In the Valley of Elah that made this biblical place name somewhat less obscure.
- 8d. [Winner of a 2008 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture"] is…BOB DYLAN? Who knew? I never have been at all into Bob Dylan’s music.
- 21d. [Box for a cold] is KLEENEX. Kleenex is what I write on my grocery list when I need more Puffs.
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” — pannonica’s review
Stanley Newman’s pseudonymous “Stan Again” persona gave me a right thumping with this week’s Stumper. As is often the way with a difficult but fair puzzle, it required a protracted, sustained effort to polish it off. I liken it to a siege or chiseling away at a marble statue (marmoreal day?).
The solving route took me from the center to the SW, then the NE, over to the NW, and finally the SE. In each section, one answer allowed me to fissure the slab and proceed.
After appropriately laying in MAIDEN VOYAGE [First time out] with hardly any crossings, it was seeing that [Yukon Quest and Le Grande Odyssée] are not sled dog names (don’t ask) but SLED DOG RACES (nothing as easy as Iditarod in Stumperville) that furthered my journey.
The paired clues (65a & 10d) for the five-letter homelands of the 8th and 7th UN heads gave me some grief until I had some crossings. Ban-Ki Moon: Korea, Koffi Annan: Kenya(?), Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Egypt. It was all so dizzying until I saw the previously-missed [Origami subjects] clue to get CRANES at 53a which soon showed me where [South] KOREA belonged. SW down!
In the NE it was finally remembering that HANOI lies along the Red River that inspired me to see Annan’s GHANA and tidy up that section. The northwest was eventually resolved through sheer doggedness. The southeast, however, was another story.
I was unfortunate enough to fill in the three most misleading crossings possible for 61a [Onetime Universal Studios owner]: P_A_O__” How could this not be Paramount? That turned out to be a real FOOZLE (13d [Blunder], and a new word for me) and it was only after much exasperation and reluctance that I abandoned it and plied my muddling way through the rest of the area and eventually came up with PANASONIC. Sheez.
CAP Quotient™ was very low, the fill was interesting and, yes, sparkly. Stacked nines of OSTEOPATH, NEWS MEDIA, CLOSE CALL and STATE LINE, PANASONIC, FRONT SEAT; stacked eights of ON COURSE, SELF-RULE, TWO-TIMER and VASELINE, EGOMANIA, REDIRECT were stellar, not to mention lovely entries like APPOMATTOX and GRUFF.
Only two minor complaints. First, the puzzle sections felt a little too isolated, making it hard to make inroads when encountering an impasse within their borders. Second, while I expect the clues to be tricky and somewhat oblique, some felt off the mark:
- 54a. I think of POLAR as a modifier of [Opposite], rather than a synonym, but M-W gives as its fourth sense of polar (adj) “diametrically opposite.”
- 56a. [Jersey's edge] for STATE LINE was irksome because it’s too much of a misdirectional stretch (i.e., the seam of a jersey shirt) to simply drop the “New” and thus reference the island in the English Channel.
- 58d. The partial ["Is that __?"] for A NO seemed too open-ended. It could easily—and possibly better—have been “all” and possibly “art” (although it would have been a more apt pronoun for the latter).
These are, as I said, minor quibbles and are even demonstrably unwarranted complaints, but they’re mine, dammit. Also, I don’t understand 63-Across [Caddy's accommodation] for FRONT SEAT. If “caddy” is a golf assistant or a desk accessory, I’m lost. If it’s a Cadillac automobile, I’m displeased.
A challenging puzzle and a satisfying solve.