Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword
For me, this one played more like a Friday puzzle than a Saturday because I am pretty good at making sense out of Byron’s clues. (Bob Klahn clues, too.) Even though this 68-worder has a handful of blah short answers (hello again, OMOO and OLEO), the crisp cluing makes the whole thing go down like a spicy butter.
First up, my favorite fill and favorite clues:
- 16a. KEPT A DIARY is on the cusp between “totally in the language” and “isn’t this just verb + object?” but I like it.
- 17a. [Take one's lumps?] clues TONG. I figured this was about lumps of sugar rather than the idiomatic “lumps” you gotta take, but needed the T, N, and G to get the answer.
- 18a. [Black piecrust component] made me think of black pasta colored with squid ink. Thankfully, it’s OREO COOKIE. I hold that Oreos are a very dark brown rather than black, however. (Also? Ketchup and tomatoes are more red-orange than red in my mind.)
- 24a. [President who won 97.6% of the vote in 2007], Syria’s ASSAD. What a creep.
- 25a. Nice trivia for Don PARDO: [Cameo voicer on Weird Al Yankovic's "I Lost on Jeopardy"]. Bonus for geeky game show involvement.
- 32a. MAD, [George III descriptor]. Ever since seeing The Madness of King George, my husband and I have said, “What-what?”
- 38a. The MIL is a unit of wire thickness, yes? Also short for “million,” and hence a unit of [Measure of thanks?]. Great clue.
- 39a. VICE COPS, [People who need to find a john?]. Fresh fill, lively clue.
- 55a. THE ORIOLES works for me as well as THE CUBS would. Only we’ve gone musical instead of sporting, with a [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doo-wop group from Baltimore] whom I’ve never heard of. Clue is made easier by the Baltimore/oriole pairing.
- 58a. Tennessee is the [Volunteer] state, hence TENNESSEAN is our answer. The University of Tennessee athletes are the Vols. See also: University of Delaware BLUE HENS, erstwhile Cincinnati REDLEGs.
- 60a. [Obama and Clinton, for example] are EX-SENATORS. Barack and Hillary, not Michelle or Bill.
- 1d. GOTCHA journalism, less fun than gonzo journalism.
- 4d. YOGA MAT, feels fresh. Anyone have an alternate use for an unused yoga mat?
- 12d. FAKE NAME, [It may be assumed]. More fun to assume an alias than to assume a debt or the position.
- 13d. ORIENTAL Avenue in Monopoly is the light-blue [Partner of Connecticut and Vermont]. Did the clue make you think of same-sex marriage?
- 20d. [Labor group] usually means a trade union, but here it’s MIDWIVES attending the birthing process.
- 34d. RICE CHEX! I should buy a box for some variation from Rice Krispies.
- 46d. [Stable assets] isn’t a financial reference here. It’s STEEDS in a horse stable.
- 56d. REN has been a blah little answer for a long time. It’s usually Stimpy’s cartoon partner and occasionally the Kill Bill character O-Ren or the Footloose lead character. [__ Faire (re-enactors' event, informally] is a new clue for the NYT, though Tyler Hinman had a REN Faire clue in one of his 2011 CrosSynergy puzzles.
What else? … Hey, who put DACE in the puzzle again? [Relative of a carp], meh. 1a: GABY is the character Eva Longoria played; Longoria spoke at the DNC last night but I have no idea what she said. Oftentimes the verb-with-preposition crossword entries feel like lazy ways to make a corner work, but STOOD IN FOR and SPLIT UP are solid, dictionary-grade phrases.
4.5 stars. I much enjoyed the solve.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s crossword appears to have four theme entries, all two-word terms with the initials G.I. (I say “appears,” remember, because this month I am solving the CS puzzle without looking at the puzzle’s title.) Here are the theme entries, as I see them:
- 17-Across: The [Castaway home of Lovey and Thurston Howell, III] is GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, a staple from my youth. Thanks to this show, I still think it’s possible to recharge a radio battery using coconuts.
- 25-Across: GARY, INDIANA is the [Midwestern city that's the title of a song in "The Music Man"]. Alas, I’m familiar only with the title of this musical, so I needed a few crossings to get this one.
- 43-Across: On the other hand, I’m very familiar with GROSS INCOME, the [1040 figure before adjustments]. Federal income tax references are always welcome in my crosswords.
- 55-Across: [Torquemada, infamously], was the GRAND INQUISITOR. Thank goodness I didn’t have to figure out the name (or spelling) of Torquemada.
The puzzle itself offered little resistance. Some of the entries were well within my wheelhouse, like Richard DAWSON, Lyndon BAINES Johnson, James ARNESS, and Finding NEMO. I especially liked how LAGOON crossed GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.
Name That Puzzle month now requires that I try to guess the puzzle’s title. I’m assuming it has to contain “G.I.” G.I. Bill comes to mind first, but since I don’t see how the “bill” would fit here I’m tossing it aside. G.I. Joe has the same flaw–no “Joes” in the theme entries.
How about Upper G.I., as in the first (or “upper”) letters being G and I? As 46-Across says, MEH. But I’m at a loss for anything else, so I’ll hesitantly go with this.
Hmm, the title is “GI Series.” That means nothing to me, but my dictionary says it means “diagnostic tests of the alimentary canal; usually involves inserting a contrast medium (such as barium sulfate) and taking an X-ray.” You don’t often see medical procedures referred to in crosswords–I suppose it’s an attempt not to sicken those prone to queasiness at all things medical. Does this puzzle finally give me the green light to finish that Utah-based puzzle I call UT Infection?
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I solved this puzzle last night but was too tired to blog it. And now? Wide awake and trying to remember how I felt about this puzzle. 1-Across definitely slowed me down because it’s a term that doesn’t ring a bell at all—[Basketball center, at times] is a PIVOT MAN? Okay, then. I’ll take your word for it. I am fond of food served 15a: OVER RICE (have I told you how awesome rice cookers are?), but [How beef tips may be served] was foreign to me. (My husband thought these were both pretty obvious, mind you.)
I liked the three I proper nouns: Chicago’s late [Journalist Kupcinet] was named IRV; IRVINE, Calif., is a [Santa Ana neighbor] and home to the UC branch my cousins attended; and IVAN PAVLOV, [Physiologist who won a 1904 Nobel Prize].
- 18a. Thomas [More work], UTOPIA. Who doesn’t enjoy a camouflaged proper noun at the beginning of a clue?
- 35a. [Model first appearing in 1954], PLAYBOY PLAYMATE. Crossword debut! There are zero hits for this term in the Cruciverb database. How many of you assumed the clue was looking for an automobile model?
- 55a. [Border guard?], COLLIE. Border collie is a dog breed.
- 59a. [Some English students] tricked me. I thought it meant “some students learning the English language” and completed *T**IANS as ITALIANS. Utterly nonspecific and totally wrong. It’s ETONIANS at school in England.
- 6d. [It involves the study of cleavage], MINERALOGY. No relation to 35a.
- 13d. RAISINETS, a [Movie snack]. I prefer Sno-Caps or peanut M&Ms. I wanted to share with you the old “Goobers, Raisinets, chocolate-covered treats” jingle but instead found this Goobers ad showcasing 1986′s least attractive fashions.
- 46d. [Thai appetizer], SATAY. Also spelled saté, but I think that’s more allied with Indonesian cuisine. If you like peanut butter, you’ll love satay with Thai peanut sauce.
- 57d. SIE ["__ liebt dich": German version of a Beatles hit]. “She Loves You,” ja, ja, ja.
Mystery title: 61a. [1967 Nancy Sinatra hit], “LOVE EYES.” I only know “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” Didn’t listen to much pop music during my infancy.
In the “blah” list, we have RIT., EENS, ORT, ABIE, ELKE, ILENE, and plural ROYS.
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
It’s Doubleday Day, which means you get double billing in the byline. “Lars G. Doubleday” is an anagram nom de plume for “Douglas” Peterson and “Bradley” Wilber. This duo generally brings us tons of sparkling fill. Today’s top six entries are:
- 1a. [Rhyming tequila brand], CABO WABO. Nice echo of 1d: CABOT (who was a [Vespucci contemporary], and by the way, did you know that [Vespucci landfall of 1499] was in ARUBA?). My last margarita had Patrón tequila, despite the special promotion for Cabo Wabo. I can’t in good conscience drink anything with such a silly name. (I also don’t drink Yoo-hoo.)
- 34a. [Wait], COOL ONE’S HEELS. I’m going to start telling people to warm their heels when I want them to hurry.
- 37a. [Lab fixture], PERIODIC TABLE. I thought it would be chemistry equipment rather than a poster on the wall. Woe to anyone who had the TABLE part in place when they reached this clue, because how would you not want it to be furniture?
- 5d. [Audible mask], WHITE NOISE.
- 13d. [Take it easy], BE GENTLE.
- 32d. [Cry over spilt milk?], WHAT A WASTE. Especially when it was the last bit of milk in the house and you’ve just poured a bowl of dry cereal.
Although this puzzle felt harder than the NYT and LAT, it didn’t feel as markedly Stumperrific as usual. The clues felt more like NYT clues than trademark oblique, short Stumper clues. To wit:
- 52a. [Only Indonesian-speaking President], OBAMA. Puzzler/linguist/lexicographer Ben Zimmer has blogged about President Obama’s Indonesian language skills. Fascinating info.
- 63a. [Salt flats, formerly], LAKE BEDS. You like to learn geology, right?
- 14d. [Group paid to strike?], EDITORS. Good clue, but it makes me nervous because the Chicago Teachers Union may be on strike Monday.
Six did-not-knows, all names:
- 8d. [Joe DiMaggio mentor], O’DOUL. Lefty O’Doul? Is that a name?
- 9d. [Aaron Spelling alma mater], SMU. Thought USC at first but the U was at the other end.
- 41a. [''Time'' called her the ''soul of romantic comedy''], Meg RYAN in her heyday. We watched Billy on the Street last night (the same episode that featured this Rachel Dratch clip) and he gave a dollar to anyone on the street who could correctly answer the question, “In the future, we will feel bad about the way we treated Meg Ryan, yes or no?” The correct answer is yes.
- 29d. [Quixote's real first name], ALONSO. Must’ve known that back when I read Don Quixote in high school but treated the clue as “male Spanish name.”
- 30d. [''La Boheme'' hero], RODOLFO. With the RO in place, why did I want this to be ROGELIO?
- 54d. ‘['Crocodile'' Dundee's other nickname], MICK. I was thinking of Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin here. Never did see the Crocodile Dundee movies.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Shakedown”
Truly an elegant twist in this variety cryptic. There are 10 unclued entries that form a “shakedown” in which you drop a letter from a word and anagram it to get a new word (lather, rinse, repeat eight more times). Those words are as follows:
How apt is that? The longest word is REDUCTIONISM, and you keep reducing down to a minimal ONE. (Technically, the game could continue with NO and O, but these puzzles don’t generally have 1- or 2-letter entries.) The list’s elegance is further strengthened by having no related words in it and by making all the anagram steps more complex than “remove one letter and get a new word.” It would be disappointing to go from CRONIES to CRONES and not scramble the letters.
I didn’t understand how 5-Down derived from its clue until just now. [Fork top: it turned neatly] gives you the forked-road letter Y, a top that’s a LID, and the word IT, and the threesome are “turned” upside down to give you a synonym for “neatly.”
Weak link in the puzzle: 31-Across’s answer is TENTER, clued as [Time log in camper]. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard a camper referred to as a TENTER.
The rest of the cryptic was standard Hex fare, meaning a bunch of answers that aren’t obscure with clues that work but aren’t too easy. 4.5 stars.