Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword
So, even though I spent a good 30 to 60 seconds playing the alphabet game to fill my last square, I still finished this puzzle a smidgen faster than the Friday puzzle? It’s pretty smooth, alright, and it’s got the sort of grid design I like best—stacks of long answers in every corner. Joon has two quad stacks and two triple stacks of 10-letter answers, and they include a number of fresh delights. SKIP A GRADE, SPEED DEMON, ROAD TO RUIN, BRIDEZILLA, SPRAY-ON TAN (though spray tan feels slightly more “in the language” to me), TIPPECANOE, and SMARTPHONE all rock. RITE OF / PASSAGE is broken into two chunks. BOZO and RUMPLY are cute, too.
My final square was the second T in 60-Across. I was thinking ["Snow-Bound" setting] wanted a place rather than a season such as WINTERTIDE. Is “Snow-Bound” intended to be this long John Greenleaf Whittier poem? I didn’t know what sort of [Group of pages] 53-Down wanted and thought only of paper pages and congressional pages rather than a web SITE with web pages.
- 48a. Never saw Hoosiers or cared a whit about Indiana high school basketball, so Norman DALE was unknown to me. Nice to skip the Dales Evans and Carnegie, though.
- 2d. [Chip, as flint, in Britain] = KNAP. When a clue needs two separate explanatory clauses…oy.
- 40d. [Issuing forth] clues EMANANT. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that form of “emanate” before.
I like the fresh clue for EELS and OGLE, respectively: [Creatures with electrocytes] and [Give the twice-over?]. Then there’s NAN, clued as a [Sop for aloo palak]—a clue that would have utterly baffled me 30 years ago, before I’d ever encountered Indian food. And the [Largely green kingdom] had me thinking geography rather than biology—it’s PLANTS, as opposed to the animal kingdom.
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
This 70-word crossword turned out to be tougher than the Saturday NYT, if you ask me and pannonica. Was that the case for you, too? I like that the puzzle showed some teeth instead of just rolling over and asking us to scratch its belly. Man, I hope the newspapers that run the LA Times crossword haven’t started getting cranky letters from people who expect their Friday and Saturday puzzles to be markedly easier than they have been in recent weeks.
We’ve got a few highlights to report:
- 5a. A NUMBERS GUY is a [Bean counter]. Great phrase. Do you consider it gender-neutral?
- 17a. Santana’s BLACK MAGIC WOMAN, the [Top 10 single on the 1970 album "Abraxas"], makes for a great crossword answer.
- 29a. If you bought tickets for the CHEAP SEATS, I don’t know how to break it to you, but probably [They're not near the action].
- 36a. [Six-pack alternative?] to rock-hard abs is a BEER GUT. And here I was thinking ABS on the previous clue, [Some six-pack contents], but that one turned out to be ALE, a leading cause of BEER GUT.
- 52a. [Pot user] might have you thinking of sluggish stoners rather than a hard-working CHEF. Although I hear chefs and kitchen staff do tend to run a risk of drug addiction.
- 34d. I picked the wrong (and more obvious) [Diving milieu], the SEA. Alas, there is also such a thing as SKY diving. Totally mucked up that section for me, as I couldn’t make sense of WOE as an answer for [It's best if it's well-seasoned]. That clue refers to the high chef’s WOK.
Crosswordese sightings in the wild:
- 19a. [Old-style street show] clues RAREE. What the heck is a “street show,” anyway? I’ve seen the term in clues for RAREE for decades but have never picked up any real context.
- 18d. KEYE [__ Luke of Charlie Chan films] is one of three blah answers that get Charlie Chan clues in crosswords. The others are Warner OLAND and “AH, SO.”
- 45d. [Hops driers] clues OASTS. One of my Twitter followers is a beer writer, and she notes that she has seen the word OAST only in crosswords, never in discussions of the preparation of beer ingredients. Wikipedia tells me “Hops are today dried industrially and the many oast houses on farms have now been converted into dwellings.”
Five clues I want to mention:
- 41a. [Picker-upper's concern: Abbr.] isn’t about Bounty paper towels, pick-me-ups, or tidying up. ETA, or estimated time of arrival, is something you need to know if you’re picking someone up at the airport.
- 49a. GLEEM! The badly spelled ['70s toothpaste with "green sparkles"]! We were a Gleem family for a while but eventually returned to Crest.
- 53a. HINDI is the [Language that gives us "shampoo"]. Who doesn’t like etymology clues?
- 2d. SOLAR HALO is the [Phenomenon caused by ice crystals between the Earth and sun]. This answer comes right after the UMBRA that is a [Sunspot center]. Were you afraid the whole puzzle was going to be sun science?
- 31d. [Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron, to Ovid] are the AGES OF MAN. Now, that Bronze Age isn’t the one after the Stone Age. Ovid’s definitions are here.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Monkey Business” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This may be my favorite puzzle since I started blogging the daily CrosSynergy on April 1, which is saying something since there have been a lot of good puzzles. This one had a fun theme, some terrific fill, and an entertaining way of handling crosswordese.
Let’s start with the theme. 64-Across is TOMFOOLERY, clued as [Horseplay (and a hint to 17-, 32-, and 48-Across)]. That’s because Hartman finds six famous Toms and makes three wacky phrases by pairing their surnames:
- 17-Across: An [Excursion financed with a bad check?] would be a KITE CRUISE. Tom Kite is a legendary professional golfer. I’m not sure who this “Tom Cruise” fella is, but Wikipedia says he’s an actor and noted Oprah guest.
- 32-Across: The [Trivial slowdown?] is a PETTY DELAY, made from rocker Tom Petty and politician Tom DeLay.
- 48-Across: Like me, you were probably wondering [What a short-tempered umpire might have?] Well, it could well be a SWIFT THUMB, mixing up Tom Swift and circus legend Tom Thumb (he said confusingly).
I figured out 17-Across before getting to the TOMFOOLERY revealer at the bottom, and KITE CRUISE made the theme obvious. The “Arbitrary compounds” gimmick is difficult to pull off well. The theme entries need to ring a familiar tone (you can imagine someone referring to an ump having a “swift thumb”), should be entertaining, and should be “gettable.” This puzzle executes the concept very well.
But wait, there’s more! There’s some great, fresh fill here. I especially liked WIN UGLY ([Be victorious, in an unglamorous fashion]) and its symmetrical opposite, the [On-line ticket service] STUB HUB. The two long Downs, DOUG FLUTIE and I’VE BEEN HAD, aren’t new, but they still sparkle. The grid sports only four three-letter words, and the central theme entries are spaced far enough apart to allow for a fairly open center section. The 6-7-6 arrangement of Downs in the center is an elegant touch.
Two of the corners contain some unsightly fill, but darned if it isn’t presented in an offbeat and entertaining way. How do you make uninteresting crosswordese more entertaining, you ask? Why, you intersect them. In the northeeast, ATTU intersects with its kissing cousin, ET TU, and down in the southeast, the ARAL Sea and the URAL River intersect. That’s four entries that normally go unwelcome, but this unique and playful arrangement actually made them fun.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Whoa. Nothing too arcane, nothing unfair—but also hardly anything that was a gimme. There were a few gimmes, sure, but those answers turned out to be wrong so I had to give them back. So many tough clues today, with so many ways to misread them and fill in the wrong answer. Let’s take a walk through the puzzle, shall we?
Brad created an outdoor events category:
- 7a. [Outdoor charity event] is a FUN RUN.
- 39d. The PGA TOUR is the [Organizer of many nonprofit events], presumably amateur golf tournaments.
- 40d. [Party planner's setback] is a RAIN-OUT.
Key misleading clues:
- 13a. [Where people face charges] from bulls is the CORRIDA, not courtroom.
- 27a. [Fluffs] can mean errors or MISCUES as well as cottony lint.
- 56a. [Hot] has many meanings, including the competition-oriented ON A ROLL.
- 58a/7d. [Film star's trailers] doesn’t just mean movie previews and it doesn’t mean the RV they change clothes in on set. It’s the star’s RETINUE. You could also put FAN CLUB here, except that one is clued as [Devoted followers].
- 59a. [Detaches, in a way] seems more like UNSNAPS than UNGLUES. I call a foul on this one. Something can come unglued, but you can’t “unglue” it.
- 61a. [Signals for a lane change?] sounds like it’s driving-related except for that question mark. I think RESETS means “presses the ‘reset’ button at the bowling alley” in this instance.
- 6d. [Intent] is a noun, sure, but it’s also an adjective meaning EARNEST.
- 11d. [Piece of silver] connotes a coin or metal nugget to me, but it’s tableware: a UTENSIL.
- 20d. [A B] clues BACH, one of the three B’s together with Beethoven and Britney.
- 32d. I don’t even understand this one at all. [Hit hard, as a baseball] clues TAG? Is this about batting or about a baseman tagging a runner?
- 41d. [Diamond wearer's option] is ARGYLES, as in the sock pattern. I don’t like this plural at all.
- 42d. I thought maybe [Places high] meant “high places” like AERIES or CRESTS, but no. MEDALS, as in places first, second, or third at the Olympics.
In the “less familiar words” category, we have these:
- 1d. MOONISH, [Fickle]. Not sure I’ve seen this before.
- 23d. PIFFLES, [Talks nonsense]. I have never seen this as a verb or with an S on the end.
- 28d. SAPOR, [Tastiness]. I think sapid is more commonly seen than sapor, but even that is familiar to only a small percentage of people. I learned SAPOR from crosswords, naturally.
The two 14-letter answers are terrific:
- 30a. THE FIFTH BEATLE is a [Rock nickname with numerous claimants]. I like to bestow that title on Mick Jagger.
- 35a. You know all those “preferred card,” “savings cards,” and bookstore chain membership cards? Each is part of a LOYALTY PROGRAM, a [Consumer-marketing device] aimed at getting you to do your shopping at a particular store.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “A Long and Winding Road”
I’ve done crosswords with “winding road” grids before, but with standard clues rather than cryptic. A nice meaty challenge today, no?
The circled letters (plus the uppermost R in the third column, which I neglected to circle) spell out A CROOKED MILE, the distance covered by Hex’s path through the grid.
No particular “wow” or “ugh” clues this time—all reasonable cryptic clues, no obscure answers. Did it seem like there were more sound-alike clues than usual?