David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
Ah, yes. A DQ Saturday puzzle is just what we needed. Sure, 72 words is the maximum for an NYT themeless puzzle. Doesn’t make the puzzle inferior to one with a lower word count, not when DQ’s fill is so brazen. XWord Info conveniently highlights the new-to-the-NYT-crossword entries in red:
- The internet brings us two of the fresh answers. 1a: PAGE RANK and 26d: ZYNGA (which makes the addictive games I shun on Facebook, the games a slew of people spend actual money on).
- Surprised to see that RED STATE hasn’t been used; I suspect it’s been in other crossword venues. The clue—[Right part of a map]—totally tricked me into thinking of the east. Actually, that’s a lie. It made me think of the west, since I have this weird right-left dyslexia.
- Besides ZYNGA, we get more trade names with JUMBOTRON and the AMEX CARD. The SOY LATTE is generic but gets a brand-name clue.
- GOD’S ARMY is vivid, as is BOOB JOB.
- DAVY JONES‘ locker, LATE NITE, ENTERS IN (blah), and “JUST GO” are a bit less zippy.
- 39d. [Where some write checks] is the TO-DO LIST with check marks. I bought myself a lovely, made-in-Italy tooled leather to-do list notebook in Toronto, with the orange Bloom cover. I am no more productive but now it’s a delight to add something to my to-do list. Boy, I could’ve spent all day in that Essence du Papier shop.
- 18a. SKORTS are [Portmanteau wear], a blend between shorts and skirts.
4.5 stars. Keep the crazy puzzles comin’, David! They’re always smart and entertaining, peppered with your trademark surprise entries.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
You have to feel a little sorry for any themeless that follows a Quarfoot. I did Barry Silk’s puzzle a half hour after the DQ, and it’s good, yes, but this 70-worder is a leetle bit lower on the Spangly New Answers Quotient. These were my favorite parts:
- 19a. GALOSHES you wear on a rainy day are [Solutions for unfair situations?].
- 1d. [Shows nerve] clues HAS GUTS. Gotta have guts, right?
- 5d. I do not wish to eat a KOSHER PICKLE but am happy to see that [Carnegie Deli offering] in a crossword where I don’t have to smell it.
- 20d. I’m no real hockey fan, but EMPTY-NET GOAL seems like the sort of thing I might have a shot at making. If the goalie’s in the way, forget it. I’m sunk. ([Hockey game clincher]? If you say so.)
- 35d. [Wedding arranger?] is a nice clue for FLORIST.
I did find myself with one wrong square when I finished filling the grid. Apparently MGT. is just as legit as mgmt. as an abbreviation for “management,” but I had gone with MGS. Yes, I recognize that SELL and [Give away] aren’t quite the same business model, but MGT just wasn’t coming to me so TELL wasn’t, either. The disgruntled solver in me thinks that MGS (those adorable little old British convertibles) and SELL would have made for a better pairing than MGT/TELL, but those of you who got MGT without any trouble may disagree.
Crikey, I’m getting sleepy now. So I’ll lop this off here and award 3.5 stars.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Front Money” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy October, one and all! Halloween month gets off to a spooky start with a Bob Klahn byline on today’s puzzle. Truth be told, most of the puzzle wasn’t so scary. It’s just that I spent the last three minutes of my solving time grappling with the mid-section, and the little “Congratulations!” box kept dodging me.
The simple theme helped me navigate through large swaths of the puzzle fairly smoothly. The three theme entries are all three-word expression where the first word is a synonym for cash:
- 20-Across: BREAD AND BUTTER is [Pertaining to basic needs], or the thing that’s one’s basic source of income. As in “teaching is my bread and butter.”
- 35-Across: The [Babyland General Hospital "delivery"] is a CABBAGE PATCH KID, one of the big toy fads that pre-dates Tickle Me Elmo but post-dates the pet rock and the invisible dog. Can’t say I ever heard of Babyland General Hospital, but Wikipedia says that “Xavier Roberts converted an old clinic into a facility from which to sell his dolls, originally called ‘Little People.’ The facility is presented as a birthing, nursery, and adoption center for premium Cabbage Patch Kids. Although the fad surrounding the dolls has largely died down, Babyland General is still heavily trafficked by diehard fans and curiosity seekers.” So there you go.
- 54-Across: One who [Refuses to follow management's rules] is said to be one who BUCKS THE SYSTEM. Reminds me of the old joke of the guy who explained his unwillingness to donate to charity thus: “I don’t give a buck.”
As usual, there are plenty of entries and clues that merit comment. I had forgotten that AUDREY II was the ["Little Shop of Horrors" man-eater] plant. All I could think of was “Feed me, Seymour!” But I didn’t forget WINE-DARK, clued as [Like Homer's deep-red Aegean]—because it was completely new to me. I’m also unfamiliar with SOCK IN, clued here as to [Ground because of fog, e.g.].
As mentioned, the midsection was my Waterloo. TAMARI, the [Rich, naturally fermented soy sauce], was a mystery, and I HIT A SNAG, so to speak, with the [Punjabi pastry], SAMOSA. I should try it some time; any pastry that starts with SAM can’t be that bad. In tussling with these two entries, it didn’t help that I kept resisting NEPAL as the [Mountainous monarchy]. It occurred to me that NEPAL could be the answer, but I read the clue as wanting a royal name, like TUDOR. And I’m not exactly proficient with high-altitude monarchs. Oh, and because I had FLAMED as the answer to [Burned brightly] instead of BLAZED, you can guess how long it took to find ZETA as the [Bit of a snore in Greece?] (as in one of the many zees in “zzzzz”).
As usual, though, I blame me and not the puzzle for my ignorance and errors. I love the related clues for 9- and 10-Down. 9-Down’s clue is [Pole position?] and 10-Down’s clue is [Post position?] (the answers are NORTH and EDITOR, respectively). And [Caan job], an allusion to actor James Caan, is a great clue for ROLE at 1-Across. But my favorite clue was [Dreaded chapter] for ELEVEN, as in filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (nom de grid, Anna Stiga)
Usually a themeless that maxes out at 7-letter answers leaves me cold but there are some zippy entries in this one. To wit, PLOP ART. Say what? As I often do when I encounter an entirely unfamiliar term in a crossword, I Googled this after finishing the puzzle. Here is PLOP ART in the wild, in an NYT article about Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” (aka “the Bean”) in Chicago and the Jeff Koons “Puppy.” Wikipedia defines PLOP ART as a type of large-scale public sculpture: “The term connotes that the work is unattractive or inappropriate to its surroundings – that is, it has been thoughtlessly ‘plopped’ where it lies.” Now, the Bean is not plopped. It is meticulously sited to offer reflections of the Michigan Avenue skyline and the sky above. (I was terrified that the term referred to giant fake turds.)
- 17a. SILLY ME, ["I should've known better]. Muy bien!
- 41a. The PIT BOSS is a casino [Dealer's superior].
- 62a. RUN LAPS is utterly in the language. Good thing we don’t have to say [Go around in ovals].
- 64a. Love some good T-STORMS ([Weather-map notation]).
- 2d. Did you know that ERITREA, that [Land on the Red Sea] beside Ethiopia, boasts a ridiculously muggy average dew point? True story. If you think it’s humid with a dew point in the 70s, imagine what 84 feels like. Do you think the Eritrean families at my kid’s school enjoy Midwestern summers that never quite reach Red Sea levels?
- 7d. SEE ‘N SAY!
- 25d. The Spanish MUY BIEN is clued as [Colombian compliment].
I’d review more of the puzzle, but it’s time to head out to m. henry for a delectable breakfast.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”
Oof! This one was tough. The top of the puzzle worked out okay for me, but the bottom, oh, seven rows put up a fight. Eventually I turned to Google for a leg up—I can’t say I’ve heard of FERNANDO REY of French Connection, and it really doesn’t help that GENE HACKMAN also has 11 letters. (Hackman’s the only name I could think of that’s connected to the movie.) Didn’t remember that it was THAYER who wrote the “Casey at the Bat” poem. And even though I perused the dog breeds article in the World Book encyclopedia as a kid, I couldn’t have told you that WELSH TERRIER was a thing. I also never heard of the NIXON DOCTRINE, but at least the 1969 in the clue pointed me towards it.
The CAESAR SALAD clue was a gimme because I just learned that trivia in the Orijinz word origins game.
Favorite clue: [Full of spirits?] for POSSESSED.
Favorite entries: GIVE ME FIVE (though that sounds a tad formal, when “gimme five” works fine), HARD SCIENCE, STOPS SHORT, LESS IS MORE, and “THERE YOU ARE.”
Eventually (with the aid of Google), this grid was finished. But oof! I’m going to call FERNANDO REY a blight on the grid. Usually, Patrick Berry doesn’t resort to unfamiliar names to fill a Rows Garden puzzle. Others may grouse about the old comic-strip character SKEEZIX (but I knew that one).