Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
Nobody wants to have to follow Patrick Berry’s act, do they? His Friday NYT was smooth as glass, while the Saturday puzzle has a handful of entries that make the Scowl-o-Meter go “whoop! whoop! whoop!” Let’s just deal with them up front and then put them aside:
- 22a. TEN A [__ penny (very common, in British lingo)]. It’s a partial and it’s not even American English? Ouch.
- 23a. ["White Writing" painter Mark] TOBEY is not a name I knew. Actor Tobey Maguire is far more famous. So I Googled Mark Tobey. Isn’t this “biography” timeline great? Fashion designer in 1909 Chicago. Converts to Baha’i and meets Marcel Duchamp in 1918. Travels all over the world and studies interesting things. Not bad for a boy from 19th-century Wisconsin. (This is one of those answers I decry as obscure while solving but come to appreciate during post-solve Googling.)
- 40a. [Tangier location: Abbr.] is MOR., short for Morocco. Fill like MOR is, well, les.
- 50a. N. CAR. as an abbreviation for North Carolina. The AP abbreviation and the old postal abbreviation are both N.C. Where do you see N. CAR.? Pretty much only in crosswords.
- 56a. [Small, simple flute] clues TONETTE, which looks like a portmanteau condensation of Toni Collette’s name, or what each of Tony Orlando’s backing singers should have been called rather than half a Dawn. Have you seen TONETTE before?
- 59a. I don’t think “HERE NOW” can really stand on its own.
Favorite clues and answers:
- 1a. TWITTER‘s clue had me thinking of church services.
- 15a. Don’t be frightened—the [Hair-raising stuff?] is only ROGAINE.
- 17a, 53a. Mini-theme! YOU’RE A BETTER MAN / THAN I AM, GUNGA DIN. Perfectly splits into two 15s. Nice find, Gary.
- 27a. The conventional [Unit of fun?] is, of course, the TON. When you leave the United States, you have to take your fun in metric tons.
- 46a. Gotta love an album title like ETTA ["__ Is Betta Than Evvah!" (1976 album)].
Word I had to look up to understand: At 26d, [Wings, e.g.] clues LAMES. Apparently one of the meanings of the verb wing is to shoot a bird in the wing so it lives but can’t fly, ergo making it lame. More common is the use of wing to mean “wound superficially,” as in when you’re merely grazed by a bullet.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal “Rows Garden” variety puzzle
Doug Peterson and Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Easier than usual for the Saturday LAT crossword. Hey! I thought we’d moved to having them at Friday NYT+ level. What’s this one doing at CrosSynergy “Sunday (un)Challenge” level? It’s those 15s, isn’t it? No, wait, that’s not what made it feel easy for me—I used lots of crossings to piece together all five of the 15s. And they are as follows:
- 34a. [Copyright, e.g.] = INTANGIBLE ASSET.
- 38a. ["Right on!"] = NOW YOU’RE TALKING! I was briefly waylaid by thoughts of “now you’re cooking with gas.”
- 39a. [It can help you carry a tune] = TRANSISTOR RADIO. Can you still buy one of these? You can! I had no idea. My first transistor radio was a harvest gold beauty.
- 5d. [Song sung by Pinocchio] = I’VE GOT NO STRINGS.
- 10d. [Lab synthesis substance] = CHEMICAL REAGENT.
Of those, only 38a called out to me.
- 1a. You gotta appreciate a good start to the puzzle, and GAG GIFT is fresh and laden with three of the same letter. Got it right away from the clue, [Chia Pet, perhaps].
- 8a. “BACK OFF, man!”
- 42a. [Will's "Glee" adversary] is SUE, the cheerleading coach played by Jane Lynch. I’ve never watched Glee but I’m a Sue/Jane Lynch fan all the same.
- 53d. [Netherworld flower] tricked me. I was pondering what sort of flowers bloomed in Hades in Greek mythology, but of course the clue wants a thing that flows in the netherworld, the river STYX.
Among the toughest clues for me was 58d: [Retail store opening?]. Turns out it’s the fragment WAL, as in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. For several years, the stores have been branded as Walmart, one word. So the clue feels a smidgen out of date.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Elemental, My Dear Watson” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Levin substitutes what I will call the “chemical names” for the more familiar names of elements found at the starts of four common expressions, then clues the results from a chemist’s perspective.
- 17-Across: The [Chemist's military miniature?] is not a “tin soldier” but a STANNOUS SOLDIER. That’s because “stannous” is a chemical name for “tin.”
- 25-Across: Some despots would rule with an “iron fist,” but a [Chemist's symbol of brutish authority?] would be a FERROUS FIST.
- 45-Across: The [Chemist's venomous snake?] is the CUPROUSHEAD and not the “copperhead.”
- 57-Across: The [Chemist's Olympics champions?] are not “gold medalists” but AUROUS MEDALISTS. For the longest time, I had AIROUS MEDALISTS (with an I instead of the first U) because I guessed RITA as the answer to [___ Lee (actress and former game show co-host)] was not RITA, as I guessed, but RUTA. Ruta Lee was the co-host of “High Rollers” with Alex Trebek. (At least that’s what the internet tells me.) I remember “High Rollers,” but not Ms. Lee.
Normally I dig puzzles built around the elements, but this one left me cold. Stannous and ferrous came to me from the deep, dark recesses of my ever-shrinking mind, but cuprous as the name for copper and aurous as the name for gold were new to me (though now I see why copper’s symbol on the periodic table is Cu and gold’s is Au). I like learning this new information and making the new connection, but for whatever reason this was a bear to solve.
The longer fill was nice (especially EUPHEMISMS, TACITURN, SLUMPS, POOL CUE and AFLUTTER), but much of the short fill was just not very good, and it really impacted the puzzle’s quality. Here’s a partial list of some of the more awkward entries: BARI, ENC, ALK, ALLE, URB, DYS, SAE, RLS, SNEE, LSTS, and, for me at least, the aforementioned RUTA. Sure, any one of these in isolation might be fine, and two or three of them together might also be tolerable if they facilitate great words or wide-open spaces. But a 74-entry grid with four theme entries doesn’t need eleven of them.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as “less rough” Lester Ruff)
Fairly Scrabbly middle-difficulty themeless today. Answers with rare letters include:
- 15a. OXIDIZE = [Rust]
- 17a. GO VIRAL = [Succeed big, these days]
- 34a. NETIZENS = [Online gamers, e.g.]
- 52a. JOCULAR = ["Hooked on Classics" label]
- 65a. TRAPEZE = [Aerial apparatus]. Don’t miss this summer’s (6/23-7/23) performances of the Aerial Dance Chicago troupe. We go every year.
- 2d. AXOLOTL = [South-of-the-border salamander]
- 6d. OZAWA = [Longest-serving Boston Symphony director]. One of two O*A*A names in the puzzle (the other is Grammy winner OBAMA).
Not a ton of fun to be found in this puzzle, if you ask me. Despite the “Les Ruff” attempt at easing up on the clues, there were still some tough nuts in here:
- 30a. ERICA = [Name that means "ever powerful"]
- 38a. NERO = [Last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty]. You know what? With letters like that, NERO is a good bet whenever you need a 4-letter Roman ruler. There are others, but he shows up the most.
- 43a. TONSIL = [Something spoken of at oral exams]. Not the sort of oral exams doctoral candidates go through, but medical exams.
- 51a.EMT = [Short-notice transporter]. Well, flagging down a cab in the city is quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
- 4d. EDIT = [Perfect grafs]. Perfect is a verb here, and graf is editor-speak for “paragraph.”
- 8d. CHRETIEN = [He made his last Supreme Court appointment in 2003]. Canadian prime minister.
- 12d. MIRACLE = [Biblical word first seen in Exodus 7]
- 26d. PAIR OAR = [Racing shell for two]. You are excused if you have never, ever encountered this term.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, “Rows Garden”
Good one. First pass through the Rows clues yielded little, but filling in LENDING LIBRARY broke it open and many of the Blooms clues were straightforward.
Lots of names! MARISA TOMEI, MERYL STREEP, ALAN ALDA, and RAFAEL NADAL sprawled all over this puzzle. Other fun fill: “WHAT’S OPERA, DOC?,” LITTLE WOMEN, SMART MONEY, TRASH-TALKS, MISGIVINGS, ARTICHOKE, ODALISQUE, TOMFOOL, TIN LIZZIES, and FOSTER’S LAGER.
Toughest spot: Where aqua fortis’s chemical name meets the author of Game of Thrones. Have paid no mind to Game of Thrones (other than hearing that the HBO version is full of nekkid sex action) and didn’t know the author was MARTIN, but NITRIC ACID/MARTIN looked like the most plausible option and was proved correct when I later looked up aqua fortis in the dictionary.
Five stars, as is so often the case for a Berry “R.G.” puzzle.