Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s NYT — Matt’s review
Matt here, filling in for temporarily internetless Amy. Today’s NYT freestyle is by Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber and I found it to be quite enjoyable. Started off about 80% sure that the grid-spanning [Not nervous at all] was COOL AS A CUCUMBER, but mentally checking it against the downs made me less sure. Got crossers TON which was well-clued as [Exaggerated workload] and NEIN [Foreign refusal] which soon led me to the correct AS LOOSE AS A GOOSE.
NW fell soon after, though I wasn’t 100% sure about the MLS entry [Sports org with the Colorado Rapids] since its first and last letters ended the mystery answers SACHEM and GLAMIS, clued as [Algonquian chief] and [One of Macbeth's thanedoms].
Blazed through the NE and SW like a hummingbird on Red Bull, taking time to enjoy the many clever misdirects: [Oil deposit problem] for ACNE, [Fit for the road] for HONDA (that’s the car model the Honda Fit), [Promising location] for ALTAR and [In the wrong business?] for NOSY.
The [Vintage jaguar] clue for XKE gave me two Scrabbly letters of the long southern acrosses, which didn’t take long to reveal themselves as WAITING TO EXHALE and IT TAKES ALL KINDS. Had TELEVISE instead of TELECAST as the last across for while, but corrected fast enough to finish in under 10 minutes.
So a smooth, north-to-south solve unencumbered by any lousy fill. Can someone explain the clue [Green jam ingredient?] for ECO-CAR to me in comments, though? Jam meaning what here?
Combine this with Ian Livengood’s freestyle from yesterday and you’ve got quite a nice crossword twosome. 4.30 stars and a high-five to constructors Peterson and Wilber.
Barry C. Silk’s LAT – Andys review
Another ROBUST contribution from Barry C. Silk, though not as zippy as I’m used to from him. And, especially in light of Ian Livengood’s fresh-to-death NYT yesterday, this themeless felt decidedly unsexy.
Not too much time today for reviewing, so let’s get right to it. First, my weekly “What’s That?” corner:
- 15a, HUSHABYE [1959 Mystics song title word repeated before "Oh my darlin' don't you cry"]. Saw “Oh my darlin’” and thought “Clementine.” Apparently “Hushabye” was The Mystics’ consolation prize when “A Teenager in Love” went to Dion and the Belmonts.
- 1d, SHEP [Old-time bandleader Fields]. Entirely too many entries in this one that began with “defunct,” old-time,” or a year before 1975. FWIW Shep Fields was a big deal in the Big Band Era, but for my money the only Shep worth remembering is George of the Jungle’s elephant companion.
- 53d, USIA [Former VOA overseer]. Oh yeah, and “former.” VOA’s the Voice of America. The USIA was the United States Information Agency. Now the VOA is overseen by the BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors).
Quite a few fun clues:
- 19a, PSALMS [Job follow-up?]. Long “o”.
- 29a, NUMISMATICS [Study of change?]. Saw right through this one, but fun clue nonetheless.
- 40a, APRIL FOOLS [Some annual victims]. Put a question mark at the end of this one, and you’re struggling to come up with a 10-letter word for ones who die because of flowers.
- 64a, SEE STARS [Rock from a sock]. The rhyme felt a bit forced to me: “reel” seems more appropriate here than “rock.”
- 11d, MOUSE TAIL [Souvenir for the farmer's wife?]. I liked having to puzzle this one out a bit. The Three Blind Mice, as you may recall, ran after the farmer’s wife, who subsequently cut off their tails with a carving knife (and, as Barry Silk chillingly suggests, kept them as a trophy of her serial animal cruelty).
- 12d, FLEA CIRCUS [Show with jumping]. Came pretty easily off the CUS ending.
- 28d, REAR WINDOW [1954 film based on the story "It Had to Be Murder]. Pure trivia, and now we know.
A fair bit of ugliness in this one: SYSTS, the partial A WAC (as in “Never Wave at ___”), the aforementioned USIA, NCR, IRES, SEATO (an entry I actually like, but falls into the historical acronyms no-no pile), just to name a few. I’m going to give this puzzle a flat 3 stars.
Until next week!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Elvis Has Left the Building”- Sam Donaldson’s review
73(!)-Across says that KING is both a [Nickname for Elvis, with "The" (and what has been dropped from 17-, 30-, 48-, and 66-Across)]. That is, familiar terms ending with -KING have staged a coup and thrown out the -KING. Despite the presence of LET IT BLEED, the [Rolling Stones album that features "You Can't Always Get What You Want"], these are four civilized revolts:
- 17-Across: “Average-looking,” the polite term for “heinously ugly,” is curtailed to AVERAGE LOO, a [Garden-variety john?].
- 30-Across: “Off-shore banking,” one of my favorite avocations, is slimmed down to OFF-SHORE BAN, a [Prohibition of Gulf of Mexico drilling?].
- 48-Across: The [Wistful remembrance by a contestant on "The Biggest Loser"] is I’VE BEEN THIN, a play on “I’ve been thinking.” I had the hardest time with this one (see the paragraph below), but I loved the result.
- 66-Across: Anytime you can shorten “mountain hiking,” you’re doing well in my book. So I liked MOUNTAIN HI, the [Yodeled greeting?].
So I had all but the left-center of the puzzle completed at around the six-minute mark–not great, but an “average-looking” time for me on one of Randy’s puzzles. (For some reason his puzzles seem to be harder than everyone else’s save for Bob Klahn. Is that true for anyone else?) But that left-center section just wouldn’t fall for me. It didn’t help that HODAD is familiar to me as a funny word and not as a [Surfer wannabe]. And it didn’t help that the [Russian ballet company], KIROV, was, to me, completely foreign (pause for laughter). Nor did it help that [Something that might be sitting on the dock of the bay] could refer to most any noun. For some unknown reason, I really wanted that answer to be some kind of bird. TERNE, EGRET, hell, even a ROBIN all nested there for a while as I tried to figure out just what was sitting on this particular bay. Only after FINALLY figuring out MACH I as the [Speed of sound] did CRATE come to mind.
I think what really got me was wanting the wistful remembrance from the former contestant on “The Biggest Loser” to be only two words instead of three. If you think of “off-shore” as a single word (I do, as it’s not wearing a ring and seems to be hanging out in bars most every night), then all of the other theme entries are two words long. So I was thinking this last one had to have only two words too. But no, nothing would fit. My refusing to accept an inconsistency, I think, actually kept me from seeing this one sooner. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.
Favorite entry = BROWBEATS, a great word for [Bullies]. Favorite clue = [Soft rock?] for LAVA. This is the third time we’ve seen LAVA in the CS puzzle this week, but I’m not going to erupt into a tirade about it.
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” — pannonica’s review
Brad and Douglas do their duo thing and team up again for the Newsday Stumper edition.
It’s a dense themeless, with lots of chewy fill matched with oblique and elliptical cluing. In other words, precisely what’s expected of this particular venue on this particular day of the week.
I worked through this one at a leisurely pace, found myself at a standstill more than once, and was waylaid by many of the intentional traps. It took effort to wrestle this one into submission.
My biggest—only, really—gripe is that the northeast and southwest sections are a bit too isolated, the latter being the very last section of the grid for me to enter and, eventually, crack.
Some highlights from this jewel-encrusted offering:
- 41a [Professional readers] PSYCHICS was my first big breakthrough, granting toeholds in three sections of the puzzle.
- 58a [They're often served up with twists] ENDINGS. Persisted in being fooled by this one the longest. Knew from a crossing or two that it wasn’t MARTINIS, but was doggedly casting about for another cocktail. The subtle inclusion of “up” in the clue is what made it so devious.
- Another that put me slightly off-scent for more time than I care to admit is 1-across [One way to use a 34 Down]. 34-down is [It's often cutting], which sounds like a misdirection for something like REMARK, but it was a double fake-out for KNIFE EDGE. Back to 1-across; with the CGI of TRON being the 1982 influence on “Toy Story” (nothing to do with the story, you see) and relatively confident drop-in of LEI [String of shells] for the usually floral LEI, I was understandably convinced that it had to end in an adverbial -LY. Nope, it was WHITTLE, which aptly describes how I eventually completed this puzzle. The E-not-Y dropped the scales from my eyes so I could see that the [Fishing gear] in question were EELPOTS. Whew!
- 37a [Helen Hunt Jackson novel] RAMONA. Unfamiliar to me. Only knew the 1910 DW Griffith/Mary Pickford film (though it appears the novel has been adapted for film three more times).
- Cluecho: 2d [John Williams film score of '90] HOME ALONE, 43a [John Williams film score of '91] JFK. Nice touch, a gentle baste to pull the puzzle together a little. Interesting how their locations are proximate to the explicit cross-reference mentioned above.
- Extremely low CAP Quotient™. Undoubtedly it took a lot of diligence and sweat to make a puzzle this tough and interesting without relying on those crutches. Admittedly there is some recondite fill (most notably the foreign RISHI, TORRE, AVEO), but hardly the amount of awkward stuff that frequently populates ambitious crosswords.
Solid stacking in many places, clever and/or informative cluing throughout. Both are too numerous to mention any specifically. Truly a rewarding workout.