David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
You want to know a secret? I like DQ’s crosswords better than the other DQ, Dairy Queen. There. I said it. Soft-serve ice cream can bite me.
That said, there are some junky little words in this DQ puzzle—OME ALER SNEE ALEROS all bundled together, for example—that excise a little bit of the joy of solving a funky-fresh Quarfoot. The good stuff includes the following:
- 15a. CACAO TREE, because chocolate is a good thing.
- 17a. EMANUEL AX was born in the Soviet Union? Didn’t know that. Doesn’t look like a Russian name to me, but it’s an awesome name. Like the NYT constructor a couple days ago, Rolf Hamburger. Any last name that doubles as a noun is good, no?
- 20a. In junior high, I had a TROLL collection. True story.
- 50a. “Pore JUD Is Daid” gives me the giggles. Keep me away from Pore Jud’s funeral.
- 63a. Couple of my cousins went to UC-Irvine. The ANTEATERS? That’s a ridiculous team name. Gotta love ridiculous team names. Does anything beat the Banana Slugs?
- 65a. “Shall I make you another themeless puzzle, Amy?” asks DQ. “YES, PLEASE,” I reply.
- 9d. SEX LIVES don’t get much play in crosswords. Isn’t that a shame?
- 12d/13d. Where did I read about the U.S.S. COLE bombing? In the N.Y. TIMES, of course.
- 41d. SNO-CONE! Hello, summertime treat. It’s nice to see you in one piece, instead of SNO [__-cone] style.
- 44d. I love PINCERS. I wish all humans had them.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This backwards-S grid has just 64 words, vs. 70 words in the NYT puzzle above. Perhaps to alleviate solver frustration from the grid layout—you pretty much have three discrete puzzles, two arcs surrounding a middle, with not a lot of flow from zone to zone—the clues seemed on the easy side. Now, five years ago, I would have been at a complete loss at 12a: [Counterproductive “Get Smart” apparatus], but now I do know about the CONE OF SILENCE and it broke open the entire top section for me. (Wish that crosswordese OASTS hadn’t been clued with a related word, as [Conical brewing equipment].)
Favorite long answers:
- 14a. Well, I’d like the [Poster-mounting aid] better if it were DOUBLE-STICK TAPE instead of DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE. How many of you call it “double-stick”?
- 45a. [2006 Cate Blanchett film] clues NOTES ON A SCANDAL, in which Judi Dench goes lesbian-stalkerish manipulator on Cate.
- 50a. [Classic 1913 novel called “the tragedy of thousands of young men in England” by its author], D.H. Lawrence, is SONS AND LOVERS. I can’t remember if that’s the Lawrence book I’ve read—it was back in college and I think I lacked the maturity to really grapple with Lawrence then.
- 51a. [1983 best-seller with a misspelled title word] is a great clue and it took me a lot of crossings to get PET SEMATARY (by Stephen King).
- 20d. [Where many homesteaders headed] is OUT WEST.
Mildly perplexing clues:
- 1a. [Auctions] are PUBLIC SALES. “Public sale”—is that an actual thing?
- 39a. [Fivers] clues ABES, both referring to $5 bills. Who calls ‘em “Abes”?
- 44a. [French enforcement unit] is SURETE. We don’t use the equivalent “surety” much in English, do we?
- 4d. [’50s Dodger pitcher Billy] LOES? Nope, never heard of him. Not even a Hall of Famer, so I believe I should not be expected to know the name.
- 13d. EPACTS are [Solar year/lunar year differentials], and this is a word I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for crosswords.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “There’s Someone After Me!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Yesterday we battled motion sickness. Today it’s paranoia, as the first word in each of the four theme entries is a synonym for “tail,” as in what someone who’s spying on you does. Check it out:
- 17-Across: To [Train for a fight] is to SHADOW BOX. Spies on probation sit in the shadow box.
- 28-Across: TRACK LIGHTING is an [Illumination option]. Come to think of it, the lighting at most racetracks is awfully nice.
- 48-Across: Your hot tennis instructor probably doesn’t tell you to work on your [Forehand finish]. Instead, he or she tells you to work on your FOLLOW-THROUGH. And don’t even get your instructor started on your tennis technique.
- 65-Across: A TRAIL BIKE is an [Off-road vehicle]. In my case, it’s usually an on-the-ground vehicle.
There’s a neat noir feel throughout the puzzle, with a FEDORA and a GARMENT BAG for travel and RATSO RIZZO sitting ON ICE ready to help. Darkness lurks in every corner! I didn’t know ANZIO, the [WWII battleground of 1944], so I don’t know whether the “of 1944″ part really helps. My other big unknown was KEANU (Reeves, I’m assuming) as the [Klaatu portrayer in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”]. I thought this was a reference to the original and not the remake (neither of which I have seen). But it seems to me that Mr. Reeves is a fine casting choice if you need someone to give the appearance of standing still.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as Anna Stiga)
All right, I like this one. I like these Scrabbly collisions:
- 15a, 2d. AQUIVER, or [Shaking], meets AQUAVIT, or [Spirits of Scandinavia]. Spirits means liquor here, not ghosts. (Whereas down at 55a, a BANSHEE is a [Spirit of folklore].)
- 62a, 64a, 55d. What’s the [Rumor], the BUZZ? That somebody’s got nose hair and its tickling him, so he needs some TWEEZES for SNEEZES. Sneezes are [Photic reflexes for some], in that walking into bright sunlight makes some people sneeze. When Sneezy tweezes, he [Roots up] the problem.
I like the wordplay-style mini-theme. 1a: BACK OFF is the [Antonym of “insist”]. And a jai alai court, or FRONTON, is a [Sports facility, “pseudo-antonym” of 1 Across] if you split it into two words. Never thought of that combo before.
Best wrong turn: For 38a, [Possible cause of brain freeze], I had ****REAM and filled in DAYDREAM. Whoops, it’s ICE CREAM. Physical freeze, not mental.
Honorable mentions in the favorite clue department: 24d: [Something kept on a leash to prevent loss] is a LENS CAP. And [Cricket class] is just INSECTS, not sports.
The trivia and etymology categories get their due:
- 8a. BOUDOIR is [Literally, “sulking place”]. I did not know that! Sort of wanted it to be MOPERIE. “I’m not coming out of my moperie today. Leave me be.”
- 51a. Samuel PEPYS is our famous [Great Fire of London chronicler].
- 63a. [Somerset Maugham Award winner of ’64] is John LECARRE.
- 7d. [Sauteuse, for instance] is a FRYPAN. The “sauté” connection looks obvious, but I’ve never seen sauteuse.
- 39d. COWTOWN is [Nickname for Calgary].
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Stuck Up”
Solved this one Saturday afternoon with my new lamp beside my new(ish) couch. It went much better than Hex’s last cryptic from four weeks ago, “Eights.” Crikey! I never did finish that one. The clues I hadn’t figured out—there was no way to know if those answers would be normal words or words like the ones I pieced together but had never seen before—ENTRESOL, SWANSKIN, the forms COLOCATE and ABIDANCE and TRUSTORS, the spelling MALEMUTE, and I forget what else. I wasn’t even grumbling about ENIWETOK and AMU DARYA. It’s hard to enjoy a puzzle when you stare at the answers and ask the universe, “That’s a word? Really?” And I know a lot of words! I do. Honest. There were smart people who took a week or two to muscle through this puzzle instead of an hour or less. Ouch.
This week’s variety cryptic was so much more tractable. Why, it had only words I’ve heard of! (I will grant you that I learned STRETTO from crosswords.) The theme is explained, sort of, by the unclued central answer COUNTING SHEEP, which is what you might be doing if you have insomnia and are “stuck up” past your bedtime. There are 10 other theme answers that happen to contain the letter strings EWE, RAM, or LAMB, and those chunks are replaced by the words for ONE through TEN when the answers are entered into the grid. So the wine LAMBRUSCO is TENRUSCO, CREWEL is CREIGHTL, and KRAMER is KSIXER. It’s cute that MIDDLEWEIGHTS becomes MIDDLONEIGHTS, which looks like it’d be pronounced “middle o’ nights,” which is when you might be counting sheep.