Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Two consecutive Saturday NYTs by the same constructor is a little weird to see, right? I really did not find the wavelength in this puzzle. All sorts of things just looking foreign to me. Like 23d, [1982 Donald Fagen hit subtitled "What a Beautiful World"]. I.G.Y.?? What the…? I was a big consumer of pop and rock in 1982 and this thing, I’ve never heard of it. Ever. Just sort of an alienating experience. We’ve been talking a lot the last few days here about (pop) culture and individual wheelhouses, and this puzzle mostly eluded me.
Mind you, there was a gimme that let me break into the grid. That was 16a: [Title bandit in a Verdi work], ERNANI. And I know this exclusively from crosswords, so it’s less fun to fill it in.
Before I go all ranty, let me outline what I liked just fine:
- 1a. [If ya get what I mean...], WINK, WINK, nudge, nudge. Didn’t quite read the clue and had trouble finding the answer, but when the crossings put it together for me, I liked seeing it.
- 27a. AS GOOD AS GOLD, but not as good as platinum.
- 42a. [1980s gangster sobriquet], THE TEFLON DON. Not, as it appears in the grid, The Tef London. Love the word “sobriquet.” As in “Kingsford is a charcoal sobriquet.”
- 56a. OLD NORSE! I’m fond of English words with Old Norse roots. Here’s a list of them. The sleuth went berserk and ransacked his client’s house. Awkward!
- 61a. Cute clue. [Complement from the chef?] is a SIDE DISH. Whereas a compliment from the chef is “Hey, baby, you’re looking fi-i-ine tonight.”
- 30d. WUSHU! [Chinese martial arts, collectively] is what that means. Good, because I’ve been wondering every time I drive past that Chicago Wushu joint. See? Crosswords really are educational.
- 57d. DUD is [One not going out with a bang?], as in a firecracker that refuses to blow up. Really, isn’t that a gift? Those yahoos in San Diego who ruined the fireworks show this week by igniting three barges’ worth of pyrotechnics in a matter of seconds could have used a few DUDs to interrupt their big “oops.”
There were, alas, more entries in the debit column. I’ve never said “IT’S A NO-GO” (17a). STERE (41a) and TESLAS (43d) deliver one more Unit I’ve Never Used in Real Life than I like to see in a single puzzle (or maybe two). ISTLE (2d: [Agave fiber]) is hardcore crosswordese. Burn that stuff in your ingle, yo. ISTLE makes APSES (49d) look fresh as a daisy. KNOWS ONE’S ONIONS (8d) is one of those phrases I’ve never heard anyone say and never read in a book. ENA (13a: [Disney doe]), meh. I wish S.DAK. (26d) would go away; we all just use “S.D.” or “SD,” let’s be real. This LENS HOOD (37d: [Preventer of photographic glare])? Never heard of this thing and I can’t say it sounds particularly exciting.
I’ll be adapting this post for the Rex Parker Is On Vacation So I Do the NY Times Crossword Puzzle blog. I’ll have to embed at least one music video but you know what? It won’t be the Fagen song about the International Geophysical Year. I was listening to it while writing this post but it did nothing for me except irk me while it was playing.
Three stars. I was looking for more fun out of my Saturday puzzle than this one delivered to me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bummer!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The first word in each of the four longest Across entries can follow “bum” to form a common two-word expression:
- 17-Across: An [Informal discussion] is a RAP SESSION. To get a bum rap is to receive unfair punishment. “Rap” is one shorthand term for “punishment.” Those who dislike rap music might therefore feel it is properly named.
- 29-Across: The [Game show hosted by Howie Mandel] is DEAL OR NO DEAL. To get a bum deal is to be on the poor end of a negotiation.
- 49-Across: To [Avoid] is to STEER CLEAR OF. To give someone the bum steer is to supply that person with inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise misleading information.
- 64-Across: The [Accessories for a ballerina] are LEG WARMERS. One with a limp might be said to have a bum leg.
One might say a theme based on “bum” is scraping the bottom. But only an ass would be so dismissive. Sure, the “words that can follow a common word” gimmick may be behind the times, but this one was well done. I like that the “bum” pairings come at the front of each theme entry instead of the rear end. The fill was likewise cheeky, with GET REAL, MOXIE, and the comic [Top-grossing film of 1990], HOME ALONE. One might think it would be bad to have two towns from the same state in one grid (LAREDO and WACO, TEXAS), but this puzzle shows it can be done well through clever clues (the former is clued as the [1960s TV western]). I struggled with CHILI’S as the [Restaurant chain that offers a Big Mouth Burger]. Have you seen the buns on that thing?
(I wanted to work one more synonym for “bum” in that last paragraph, but the grid beat me to it: the [Stock exchange membership] is a SEAT.)
I like that the grid had six-letter entries along the top and bottom rows. That required having three-letter entries in the corners, and when I construct a crossword I sometimes feel like it’s poor form to have a three-letter entry at 1-Across. More often I chicken out and go for a four-, five-, or six-letter entry at 1-Across. I’m glad Randy stuck with his design here because the sixes were a nice touch. (Note, though, that the three-letter entry at 1-Across, G.O.P., is snazzily dressed with the great clue, [Org. whose members like to see red?]. If you’re gonna place a three-letter entry at 1-Across, a good clue really helps.)
Favorite entry = S.O.S PAD, the [Kitchen sink scrubber]. Ever notice that the brand name uses only two periods and not three? I wonder if it’s a plural. Maybe it stands for “Significant Others Pad.” Okay, clearly I need to get out more.
Vic Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Ambitious corners here, with the 8s stacked four deep and connecting to the 15-letter 8-Down, which I liked but feel is missing a word at the end, possibly an anagram of the last word in I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS ([Frustrated cry from an experienced pro]). I like SEMPER FI at the top of the northwest stack feeding directly into 9a: OH BABY, ['90s-'00s Lifetime sitcom in which viewers chose the name of the title character]. Not that this TV show means anything to me (and the clue stretches the meaning of “-’00s” as the show stopped airing on Lifetime about two months into the decade), but “Semper fi, oh, baby!” works so implausibly, I like it.
Two of the names in the grid are not your usual suspects in Crosswordland:
- 4d. [In-your-face '50s-'60s talk show host Joe] PYNE.
- 7d. [Hall of Fame Chargers quarterback Dan] FOUTS.
I do think, however, that I know both of these names primarily from crosswords.
- 23a. [Adjective often used with skepticism], LIKELY. Went with “Oh, REALLY?” first, then considered “SURELY you’re not serious?” “A LIKELY story” wins.
- 33a. [Its production ended in 2004 with a Final 500 Edition], ALERO. Aww. I was hoping this was a game and not an Oldsmobile.
- 41a. [Mum], MATER. The British seem to like this Latinism. Surely Daniel Myers will have a comment on this (if he does the LAT puzzles).
- 43a. [Pi opening?], OCTO. As in “octopi,” which plenty of people will tell you is not a valid plural of octopus, but I think it has snuck into some dictionaries anyway.
- 12d. [Meditation goal], ALPHA STATE. Needed a good number of crossings to get this.
- 23d. LADY’S [__ man]. Looks wrong to me but the dictionary’s got it as a variant of “ladies’ man.”
- 34d. T-shirt, polo shirt, leggings, sweatpants, sweater, [Golf shirt, e.g.], KNIT. As opposed to clothes made from woven fabric (jeans, chinos, Oxford shirts, blouses, etc.).
- 44d. [Rabbit ears sporter, once], TEEVEE. If you’re going to spell it out rather than using “TV,” you are required to use a definite article. As in “What’s on the teevee tonight?”
- 52d. ["Just a coupla __"] SECS. Clue and entry feel a bit sketchy to me. Do you use the shorthand for “second” in the plural?
- 56d. [R. Schumann wrote four], SYMS. Symphonies. The Syms chain of cut-price clothing stores went out of business, and there are actually two semi-famous people named Sylvia SYMS (American jazz singer, British actress). [Singer Sylvia or actress Sylvia] would be a bizarre clue. Now, [Singer Sylvia and actress Sylvia] would get you SYMSES. All this is a roundabout way of saying SYMS isn’t a terrific entry and furthermore, I’m not a fan of plural abbrevs.
Peter Wentz’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Good Stumper experience for me: Skimmed the Across clues and got nothing before 22a ([Cube root of "ventisette"], TRE, or 27 and 3). Scrolled through more Across clues and finally hit on 45a: X-MAN ([Any of 40+ comics mutants]) and 49a: SHIN ([Guarded area in soccer]). Those three answers were enough to start working crossings and making headway through three quarters of the grid. And then … I skidded to a halt in the southwest corner. Basically had a blank 3×4 patch occupying squares 36, 37, and 38 plus the three rows below those squares:
- 36a. [Nimble], ***LIKE. ELFLIKE? No… Left the first three blank for an eon.
- 44a. [#4 name in Senate seniority], ***IN. Could be a first or last name. Who the heck is in the Senate? Was thinking “seniority” meant “power” rather than “length of tenure,” which held me back.
- 48a. ["Showtime!"], ***N. Put I’M ON in and took it out before finally getting it back in there.
- 51a. [Saul Bellow taught there], ***. Eventually put a U in the last square.
- 36d. [Washer attachment, at times], ****BOX. Wha…? Unclear whether this is the little piece of hardware or the big laundry appliance.
- 37d. [Long-legged predator], ****ANT. FIRE ANT looks bad with 36a.
- 38d. [Make an extra effort], ****BLE. Wha…? With the U in place, I wanted REDOUBLE but that’s one letter too long.
Eventually I gambled on CATLIKE for 36a, which gave me an A for ARMY ANT at 37d. That confirmed I’M ON and finally let me see TROUBLE for 38d (as in “don’t trouble yourself on my account, I’m low-maintenance”). With the bug’s Y, I guessed NYU for Bellow, and a laundromat’s COIN BOX on the washing machine emerged and then ORRIN Hatch crawled out of the washer. Whew!
NYT crossword Keeper of a Zillion Stats Jim Horne noted yesterday that Peter’s NYT puzzles are markedly more Scrabbly than anyone else’s. You see that uncommon-letter proclivity here, with a Q, a J, seven K’s, and three X’s.
- 1a. [Decorum], P’S AND Q’S.
- 32a. [Bit], SMIDGEN. I always like the word SMIDGEN.
- 57a. [Piece of bread], SILENT A.
- 62a. [The ultimate pan], NO STARS. This puzzle will get more than that.
- 12d. [It may involve
striking out], EDITING.
- 13d. [Result of cabin fever?], AIR RAGE. Cabin in an airplane, not in the woods.
- 26d. [Miss Universe 2004 judge], BO DEREK. Who knew? Nice to see a semi-contemporary clue for her. I bet a ton of under-35 folks assume BO DEREK is a man when they encounter the name.
- 28d. [Certain kit, after aging], MINK. Kit as in young fox or young mink, apparently.
- 31d. [Dieter's denial], NEIN, and 53d. [Dieter's alternative], LIPO. The first one is a German fellow named Dieter (pronounced “dee-ter”) and the second is a person who diets.
- 43d. [Bars with fingers] is a vague clue, no? Iron bars, taverns, bars of music? Nope, candy bars: KIT-KATS. One of my favorites.
- 50d. [Winner of eight Grand Slam titles as a teen], SELES. Isn’t that impressive? The Wimbledon women’s final is maybe on rain delay right now; I haven’t checked back yet.
I also like STRIDEX, FAJITAS, and KREMLIN. (Has anyone ever strung those particular words together before?)
4.5 stars in recognition of the Scrabbliness and the tough (but fair) challenge. And usually I’m not a fan of the puzzles that are packed with 7s—turns out I like them better when there are lots of juicy 7s in the mix.