Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Another one of those weekends when the Saturday puzzle seems easier than the Friday. Now, I need to get through this blog post before I am TOO TIRED TO THINK, which is the status that usually kicks in after 10 p.m. (I don’t know that I could have started this blog venture if I lived in the Eastern time zone.)
- Living LIKE A KING beneath a STARRY SKY—wait, the sky is under the king here. “GET A ROOM!” is awesome, as is “GOD, NO!” (The crossword is in a mood tonight, isn’t it?) JOAN BAEZ and ACRONYMS are good too.
Didn’t know 48d: [Godzilla creator Tomoyuki __] TANAKA. Would have gotten it quicker if clued as [Obscure regional band Hip __].
Favorite clue: 21a: [New Mexican] for NIÑO, a baby boy in Mexico.
A few small dupes: COMES ONTO is in the grid, while ANNOUNCE is clued with [Come out with]. You know the stereotype about men never asking for directions? I’M A MAN and I’M LOST. The IN and TO and IT in INTO IT reappear in IN MONO, COMES ONTO and LISTEN TO and ROAD TO RIO, and AT IT AGAIN. Wait, is this a hidden puzzle? What do I win?
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
There are so many pairs in this puzzle.
- Rock groups: The BYRDS, a [Group whose name contains a deliberate misspelling inspired]—I did not know that but am pleased to learn it—and the DOOBIE [__ Brothers, who sang "Black Water"]. You can put DOOBIE in my crossword any time.
- Full names of men I’ve never heard of: LEN BARRY is the [Singer with the 1965 hit "1-2-3"] (here’s the video) and ROD TAYLOR is the guy who [came out of retirement to play Winston Churchill in "Inglorious Basterds"].
- German words: [It's longer than a Kurzgeschichte (short story)] clues NOVELLE, which is German for either “novel” or “novella”—Wikipedia tells me it’s “novella,” with Roman meaning “novel.” And back in the pre-Euro day, we had the D-MARK, or Deutsche Mark, which was worth [100 pfennigs, briefly].
- Characters whose names I learned from crosswords: LITTLE EVA is [Augustine St. Clare's daughter, in an 1852 novel], Uncle Tom’s Cabin. ["Swan Lake" princess] clues ODETTE.
- [Tot's tea party guest]s: DOLL and TEDDY bear.
My favorite clues are 11d: [Blue blood vessels?] for YACHTS and 37d: [They may be counted] for SHEEP.
Possibly because RECT. is nearby in the grid, I keep thinking of laboratory samples for the PIANO STOOL. My husband suggests testing of toadstool samples.
There wasn’t much in this 70-word puzzle that enchanted me. Lots of abbreviations—AVG, LBS, YMHA, CEOS, SML, D-MARK, RECT, STA, AMER—diluted the solid stuff. 2.9 stars.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Lawyered Up” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy Saturday the 13th, everyone–hope it’s your lucky day! Today’s puzzle is an interesting example of the “add-a-letter” gimmick in that we add four letters (specifically, the sequence A-T-T-Y) to common expressions to get wacky new ones. Since ATTY is a common abbreviation for “attorney,” the four theme entries have been “lawyered up,” so to speak:
- 17-Across: The [Competitors on "The Biggest Loser"?] might be referred to derogatorily as the FATTY TROOP, a play on F Troop, the short-lived sitcom from the late 1960s. I wonder how many would have predicted that The Biggest Loser would have a longer run on prime time network TV than F Troop?
- 30-Across: A [Wretched evaluation?] would be a RATTY RATING, from the “R rating” assigned to movies with numerous and/or tawdry “adult situations,” often the best kind of situations in which to be.
- 48-Across: The [College for crackpots?] is BATTY SCHOOL, from the too-hip-to-use-complete-words term for “business school,” “B School.” The B School at my campus is across the street from the L School and next to the P lot where my car sits.
66-Across: The [Youngster with an attitude?] is a CATTY MINOR, from the musical scale “C minor.” Here’s a popular song in C minor. It’s performed by Adele, an artist I happened to catch in concert last night. The lady’s got pipes.
The long Downs in the northeast were hard for me to crack, largely because I tried EMAG as the answer to [On-line journal] instead of the correct answer, BLOG. (Yes, I feel particularly embarrassed by this one.) And with EZ- in place, EZRA seemed like the best guess for [Former Israeli president Weizman]. Nope, it’s EZER. Those gaffes gave me ERIDR- as the start to [Engagement party?] and MATEA- as the start to [Those accustomed to getting up at the crack of noon]. Even without any clue as to the correct answers at this point, I knew I was reading good clues. Boy did that turn out to be correct—the BRIDE TO BE was the engagement party and LATE RISERS are those waking at noon. Two terrific clues for two great entries and yet I feel disappointment because of my own ineptitude. Alas.
The opposite pairing of TWITTERATI, the [Tweet elite], and LETTERMAN, the ["Small Town News" presenter], is likewise superb, as are the clues for both. My guesses as to the two hardest entries for newer solvers would be ERTE, clued here as the [Artist born Romain de Tirtoff], and KLIEG, the [Movie light] (the “carbon arc lamp that emits an intense light used in producing films”—thank you dictionary—that is also named for its inventor). Matt Gaffney Crossword Contest solvers likely had no problem with [Bench equipment?] as the clue for MITTS, but others might appreciate some explanation: catchers mitts were used by Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
My ability to tease out the answers based on intentionally obfuscatory Stumper clues is spotty this morning. Either that, or this puzzle is a good bit harder than most recent Stumpers (and harder than months’ worth of NYT themelesses). How did it treat you?
Answers it took the most time to get:
- 59a. SEA ROBIN is a [Bouillabaisse fish]. You don’t say. Does it produce light blue roe? Don’t think I’ve heard of this fish.
- 2d. [It requires a digital display] clues FOOT RUB. Au contraire. You can keep your socks on and not display your digits/toes.
- 41a. TUBTHUMP means to [Advocate vigorously]. Great word.
- 46a. SNOOD is clued as a [Show dog's ear covering]. Really? Whatever.
- 48a. [Grey work] clues OATER because Zane Grey wrote Westerns. But aren’t oaters just movie and TV Westerns, not books?
- 6d. [Heavens] are EDENS? In the plural? How many of these are there? Chicagoans all know the Edens as a stretch of I-94.
- 26d. Easy with the KE in place, but without that help? I didn’t know KEBAB meant [Literally, "roast meat"].
- 36d. I don’t get the context here. How is REHAB a [Cure for obsolescence, perhaps]? What is being rehabbed to be rescued from being obsolete? Maybe a piece of antique furniture?
- 41d. Viewed “process of elimination” as winnowing down possibilities, so [Process-of-elimination scenario] didn’t take me to TOURNEY too swiftly. Tough clue.
- 44d. [Cork-puller descriptor] clues PRONGED. Had FLANGED first. You know what? PRONGED is a weird-looking word if you keep gazing at it.
Highlights: Where LL COOL J meets the LBJ RANCH. (Did you notice that LBJ RANCH has a 7-to-1 consonant-to-vowel ratio?) The aforementioned TUBTHUMP. Lovely pairings of SAPIENT/EMBRACE and UTOPIAN/MELANGE.
The fill in this 72-worder is super-smooth (zero partial entries, few abbreviations, not many 3-letter answers), but the trademark Stumper clues have a raspier feel to them. Which is not to say they’re bad clues—just that they’re a distinct divergence from the Shortz style of clues, and you may feel a tad flayed alive after wrestling with them. Four stars.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Cryptic Golf”
I really liked this marriage of the cryptic crossword and the Games magazine “Helter Skelter” crossword format, in which a string of words travels throughout the grid left, right, up, down, and any which way diagonally. The chaining of the answer words means that figuring out one word tells you the last letter of the one before it and the first letter of the one that follows. As with many Hex cryptics, at first it seemed nearly impenetrable and then it opened up steadily.
The only blight on the puzzle was that the very first answer word is one I’ve never seen before, TITLING. As the gerund form of title, it’s familiar, but as a bird? Not so much. Also, many of the Hex cryptics have an endgame that ties everything together, such as a hidden thematic message. I don’t think this puzzle has one (I could be mistaken), which made completing it a hair anticlimactic. I know, I know—filling in the last square should be enough.
In related cryptic news, if you haven’t been subscribing to The Nation (a mere $18 a year for online-only), you’re missing a fun standard cryptic every week or two. In the most recent one (August 29/September 5 issue), my two favorite clues are [Mutant battles L.A. in The Gastropod Killer (5,4)] and [Tennis champ has zero (love) at first (5)]. I think these Joshua Kosman/Henri Picciotto cryptics are harder than the Hex ones that run periodically as the New York Times’ second Sunday puzzle. A few weeks ago, Joshua and Henri had an “Arab Spring”-themed cryptic, wherein the clues contained the names of every single country in the Arab League. They promise that more themed cryptics are ahead.