Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Barry Silk’s got both the Saturday NYT and the LAT crosswords. The NYT is rather challenging, while the LAT is more like a breezy Friday NYT. The NYT is a 70-worder, the LAT 72. Despite my love of knotty crossword challenges, I actually preferred the LAT this time. The fill was more fun.
The NYT slaughtered me in the northeast, which was largely empty when the rest was done and stayed empty. 14d was particularly noxious: [Some ermines] wanted to be STOATS, or maybe (if you ignore the actual identity of various mammals) SABLES. They sure didn’t want to be dead, but there you have it: STOLES. I took a stab at AQABA for the Jordanian place name, though [King Hussein Airport locale] and the Gulf of Aqaba weren’t meshing in my head. That whole corner, eh. It wasn’t so fun.
Neither was 1a. LUMP, [Concern for a dermatologist]? No. If you have a LUMP, it is more than skin-deep and you need another kind of doctor altogether. Take your BUMP or SPOT to a derm, sure, but not a LUMP. Now, clue it as a mashed potato inclusion or a British glob of sugar, and at least you won’t alienate the medically savvy solver. Hmph.
Didn’t know SAND BARREL was a term—56a: [Many a crash cushion at a construction zone]. Aren’t more of those things filled with water these days?
28d: [Passing comment at a poker table] clues I CHECK. What is that? A comment made in passing, or “I’m going to pass, therefore I’m saying ‘I check’”? I’ve never heard that. Not fond of pokerese in my crosswords.
Now, I do like the POPSICLE and HASH BROWNS and BIKE PATH. But overall, eh. Little bits like [P.R., e.g.] for ISL. (Puerto Rico being an island) just didn’t enchant me, and the big stuff wasn’t as zippy at it was in the LAT puzzle. The edge goes to the West Coast this time.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Now, see? This one’s got those long 10-letter answers piled up in every corner, and there are some juicy ones. Right off the bat, Barry hits us with CAP’N CRUNCH—the [Mascot whose first and middle names are Horatio Magellan]. Way more fun than the NYT’s 1-Across. My other favorite big guns:
- 15a. ARE YOU SURE? ["No kidding?"].
- 34a. [They shine in theaters] is a cute clue for EXIT SIGNS.
- 44a. [Baylor University hoopsters] are the LADY BEARS.
- 12d. SIR GALAHAD was a [Round Table member]. Oh, you should have seen the way he exchanged bons mots with Dorothy Parker!
- 28d. DEL SHANNON, full name. He’s your ["Runaway" singer, 1961]. You know what? I’m pretty sure my knowledge of this song and its singer derives from crosswords.
- 30d. [National Cherry Blossom Festival focal point]…hmm, is this the U.S. or Japan? It’s the D.C. area’s TIDAL BASIN.
The clues were much easier here than in the NYT puzzle, which meant that I breezed past the ugly little bits (NCAR, EREI, PATA) without really noticing them.
Did you notice the two musical improv references? 21d: SCAT is an [Improvisational style] in vocal jazz, whereas 26a: TOCCATA is apparently an [Improvisatory composition]. I tend to get the latter mixed up with veal piccata. Anyone else?
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Truisms” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Go figure. After guessing Randolph Ross as the constructor for most of the crosswords in my recent “Name That Theme and Constructor” game, the first puzzle made appearing the day after the game is by Randolph Ross.
And it’s a good one, too. Today’s crossword honors the mondegreen, an error of the ear. All of the theme entries are truisms that have been “misheard” for a funny effect:
- 20-Across: The “big bang theory” becomes the BIG BANK THEORY, clued as a [Truism about large financial institutions?].
- 33-Across: GRISHAM’S LAW is a [Truism about a popular author of legal thrillers?]. I took a guess that there was something called “Gresham’s Law” and went ahead and filled in the two missing letters I needed to finish it. Wikipedia says Gresham’s Law “is an economic principle that states: When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.” So if you’re wondering where all the silver coins went after we started minting them on the cheap, now you know.
- 40-Across: A [Truism about a heavy heartbeat?] would be a RULE OF THUMP instead of the more commonly known “rule of thumb.”
- 49-Across: The [Truism about how gyro sandwiches are made?] is the PITA PRINCIPLE, a twist on the “Peter Principle,” an axiom that, as Wikipedia confirms, “states that ‘in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,’ meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position in which they cannot work competently.” It explains why I stink in my current job.
I thought this was a neat idea for a puzzle, and the theme was well-executed. I liked SPYGLASS, HOME ROW, and RAN AWAY among the long Downs, and other good entries included GO NOW, LIT UP, TOP-RATED, and ACROSTIC. I had to guess on the crossing of [Remove by cutting] and [Ready for an upset], but I got lucky with ABLATE and BROMO.
Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” by “Lars G. Doubleday” (Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson)
Oof! This one was even tougher than the NYT. I managed to plow through the right half first, except for one square in the bottom, and the left half proved a bit more resistant to poking.
Why is 54d: [Son of Marge and Homer] MATT rather than BART? I do not know. But the 54a: [One not to be trusted] insisted on being MOLE, and the 60a: [Poaching setting] is an OMELET PAN. (Are omelets technically poached, or are people making poached eggs in omelet pans?)
Let’s take a tour through the gnarliest places:
- 33a. NAVARRE, a region of Spain, is [Where Pamplona is capital].
- 38a. [Origin of many drafts] of beer is a TAPROOM, which is a word I encounter mainly in crosswords. How about you?
- 41a. Not sure why TRIBUNE is [Upholder of rights]. Ah, the dictionary explains. In ancient Rome, the plebeians chose a tribune whose job was to protect their interests.
- 48a. Wait, what? CNN is clued as [Broadcast debut of June 1980], but it’s on cable, not broadcast TV. CNN does make broadcasts, though.
- 52a. [Rime ___ (poetic use of homophones)] clues RICHE. New to me.
- 57a. [Site from Heinz Field] is a COAL BARGE on the river passing the stadium in Pittsburgh, I think.
- 1d. Not sure that GOT WET really passes muster as a crossword entry. It’s clued with [Lost at logrolling], the literal standing on a log in water and running to make it roll rather than political favor-swapping.
- 7d. GLAD-EYE?? For [Ogle]? New to me.
- 9d. [Garland's sister in "Summer Stock"] clues DEHAVEN. Gloria DeHaven, not familiar to me.
- 14d. [Growth-factor source] clues PLATELET. As a medical editor, I know all sorts of abbreviations for growth factors, but didn’t realize the platelets were the source.
- 26d. [Pat Nixon, originally] was a NEVADAN. Who knew? (Who cared?)
- 39d. Medical [Residents, e.g.], as in “people who have finished their internships but haven’t yet entered fellowships,” clues MEDICOS. Who calls them “medicos,” though?
- 40d. Ha! [Ray heating stoves] is TV chef RACHAEL Ray.
- 43d. [Olympian portrayed by Lancaster] is Jim THORPE. I wasn’t sure if we were looking for a Greek god here.
My favorite parts of this puzzle were the DUBIOUS HONOR of the Razzie award across from LIZA MINNELLI the non-dubious [Oscar/Emmy/Tony winner]. A HARDBACK book is clued as a [Jacket wearer]; cute. [Milieu for expert driving] is a good clue for the PGA TOUR. We get an etymology lesson for 44d: VULGAR, [Word from the Latin from "public"]. “ATTAGIRL!” and CONFRERE, TAKE A BATH and ST. THOMAS—also nice.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Anagrammania”
A worthy challenge for a Saturday morning. Half the answers need to be anagrammed before getting entered into the grid, while the other half have an anagrammed word in their clues.
Anyone else notice that 15d: SHERPA had other anagram possibilities besides SERAPH? Both of the words in 20a, PHRASE SHAPER, would also work.
The last things I figured out were 5d and 32a. I figured 5d was TREACLE long before I made sense out of the clue. [Choose Egyptian sun god for a tragic figure] gets you ELECT + RA, or Electra, which anagrams into TREACLE. I tried the anagram server but it doesn’t output proper nouns, so it was useless here. For 32a, stick = CANE, made from CAN (“may”) and E (“get” in the middle); it anagrams to ACNE.
Question about 29d. [Some shenanigans turned silly] clues INANE, which is anagrammed into ANNIE for the grid. But I already had SINATRA at 21d (anagram of ARTISAN), and the instructions said the anagrammed entries include one proper name. Um, I count two. What am I doing wrong?
Pre-anagramming answers for the normally written clues:
- 1a. SCARLET / 11a. RELIANT / 14a. MASTERING / 26a. DESPAIR / 30a. BARGAINED / 32a. CANE / 3d. MARRIED / 4d. PARENTS / 5d. ELECTRA / 6d. TASTED / 7d. ASCENT / 15d. SHERPA / 16d. DOSAGE / 20d. DOPIEST / 21d. ARTISAN / 22d. RALEIGH / 23d. IN PLACE / 24d. FOWLER / 29d. INANE
Anagrammed words from the clues with normally written answers:
- 6a. gulps/plugs / 10a. PSAT/past / 12a. rinse/siren / 13a. Craig/cigar / 17a. act/cat / 18a. piers/spire / 28a. sages/sage / 31a. raiments/minarets / 33a. Sierra/raiser / 34a. trestle/letters. 35a. care/race / 36a. team/meat / 1d. carves/craves / 2d. Manila/animal / 8d. loin/lion / 9d. mares/smear / 19d. desirer/Dreiser / 25d. Brian/brain / 27d. Ernst/stern
4.5 stars. How did this one treat you?