Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s got some zippy long answers but it’s also got some bleh shorter fill (I’m looking at you, RIATAS, ESTER, URI, and APERY) that you have to take like medicine. The spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down is sweet, though. I really like nine of the longer entries: THIS IS TRUE, RACONTEURS, RIP VAN WINKLE (not to be confused with Rob Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, who will be sampling the Amish lifestyle on an upcoming reality show), NURSE RATCHED, ANNE BRONTE, interesting DEAD LETTER ([Law still in effect but no longer enforced]), HOWDY DOODY (I’m just old enough to have learned about the [Show with a peanut gallery] from my mom), old-school SKATE KEYS, and a BASSINET [Where a new delivery may be placed?].
Assorted clues of note:
- 16a. [What severe cuts may result in, briefly], TKOS. Technical knockouts in boxing. I’ve never really understood what a TKO was, and this clue is informative.
- 23a. [Resident of Angola, Brazil or Lebanon], HOOSIER. All are Indiana towns as well as countries, not that I know them as Indiana burgs.
- 32a. [Mulberry cousin], MAUVE. In terms of purple colors, not botanically speaking.
- 33a. [It's marked way down], STEAL. It’s a steal!
- 13d. [Green light?], SOLAR LAMP. As in ecologically sound/green.
- 53d. ["Tennessee Waltz" lyricist ___ Stewart], REDD. Who knew there was an alternative Redd other than Foxx?
Frederick J. Healy’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Oof. Or should I say AAUGH. This puzzle roughed me up. Even in my struggle I recognize that there was lots of good stuff, but this one was a killer.
I did well with the NE and the SW. Everyone’s favorite entry ALOP made an appearance. Highlights in those corners included ELEAZER [Biblical priest whose name means "God has helped"], MONTEGO, GEEZER, ROAD RAGE, IS THAT SO?, and YIELD TO.
I got into trouble in the NW, starting at 1a, [No ordinary joe?], which I assumed had to end in COFFEE. I confirmed that by dropping fANfARe off of the second F in COFFEE at 8d, [Horn blast]. Confirmed fANfARe with a couple crossings, and it was off to the races until… AeUGH? Nope, it’s the equally ugly AAUGH [Hardly a Brown cheer?]. Took me a while to figure out which Brown was being referenced (Charlie).
It wasn’t until I got to 55a, APART ["Things fall __; the centre cannot hold: 20-across] that I started to work my way back into the NW with 20a, YEATS [Poet whose muse was Maud Gonne] (which I guess had just not occurred to me because I was so sure of the F in fANfARE). Then I had twoTOED instead of ONETOED [Like some salamanders or sloths] for a while, and trIM for SKIM [Take from the top]. Eventually, I got enough of the down entries to pull IN LA-LA LAND [Without a firm grip on reality] and REALLY INTO [Mad about]. Virtually the last entry to fall in the NW was MOCHA LATTE (a term I resist as a former barista — it’s confusing! Just say “mocha!”). And then it turned out that fANfARe was TANTARA, which I guess I should have seen coming.
And finally, the SE. I just made a mess of it. The only easy fill for me was GIL [Jazz pianist Evans]. Ended up putting stEAmLINER instead of OCEAN LINER, thought that the adjectival 64a had to end in LeSS (nope, it was WORLD-CLASS), had sIt for 57a [Squat], then I thought I was so clever for figuring out that it was nIl (wrong again: it was ZIP), and to cap it all off, I threw down SOuS for SOPS [Conciliatory offers]. All those errors made the rest of the SE corner far more challenging than it needed to be. I liked TARZANA once I figured it out, but I wasn’t a huge fan of LEAPERS.
Put another notch in the plus column for 21d, RED HOTS [Tongue-tingling candies]; put one in the minus column for 18a, MENE ["Handwriting on the wall" word]. Again, a puzzle with nothing too offensive. 3.4 stars from me. Until next week!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Taking on a Rocky Peak” – Dave Sullivan’s review
One of the long-cherished members of the Crosswordese Pantheon, TOR, generally clued as [Rocky peak], is “taken on” by three (somewhat) common phrases:
- WEST COAST RAPTOR – Read all about the distinction between the coasts here
- LIBERAL MEDIATOR – MSNBC used to be the home of the liberal media, but now that Keith Olberman’s no longer there, is it still?
- GRUMPY OLD MENTOR – The 1993 Lemmon/Matthau slowmance
Nice that all entries extend to a grid-spanning fifteen letters, but I feel I’ve been shorted a fourth entry. I have two FAVES today, the first based on the clever clue [They often make their calls from home] which was UMPS, and runner-up was [Bartender's question] WHAT’LL IT BE, especially as it practically abuts a typical reply: BEERS. My UNFAVE has to be [Pickleball barriers] or NETS. What the heck is pickleball and I’m not sure I want to know what the nets capture…
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)
Super smooth and, if you ask me, quite a bit easier than the usual Stumper. I don’t think Stan intended that, as he uses his Lester Ruff pseudonym for his easier themelesses. There were plenty of tough clues, but I generally found the crossings easy enough to point me in the right direction for things I didn’t know.
Among my favorite clues and answers were these ones:
- 5a. [Onetime Peggy Fleming employer], ICE CAPADES. Only now is it dawning on me that this is a play on “escapades” because, of course, “Capades” aren’t really a thing.
- 16a. [Builder of America's first copper mill], PAUL REVERE. Metalsmithing trivia.
- 21a. [Brass band, e.g.], RING. If you’re wearing a ring that’s made out of brass. Does anyone do that? Or is this a more generic brass ring that takes the general form of a circular band?
- 42a. [Pulitzer play for 1938], OUR TOWN. Never have seen that play but I might’ve read it once.
- 61a. [Engineer's workplace], LOCOMOTIVE. Not the MIT sort of engineer. One of my online friends has a husband whose job is actually locomotive engineer in the Duluth area.
- 64a. [Helps out at the orchard], POLLINATES. Rather newsy, given the EPA’s release this week of a report on bees and the causes of colony collapse. Funny that they’re blaming a mite for some of it—a mite that I’ve never seen mentioned in any articles I’ve read about dying bees.
- 1d. [''Politics is the art of the possible'' source], BISMARCK. Quote trivia. I usually don’t know the answers to Stumper trivia clues, but they’re generally neat to learn.
- 4d. [It sounds the same as Morse's VTB], SOS. Morse code trivia! I did not know this.
- 28d. [Term coined by Ericsson in '97], SMARTPHONE. More trivia.
- 40d. [''Fatti per volare alto'' sloganeer], ALITALIA. With a couple crossings in place, I thought of an Italian company with 8 letters. “Alto” means high, right? I don’t know Italian but I’m guessing this slogan is something along the lines of “we make you go higher.”
- 41d. [Panasonic product], PLASMA TV. Nice entry.
- 46d. [Freshen up your plants], RETOOL. Factory plants, not garden plants.
- 59d. [Bitter ender], NESS. Not “bitter-ender,” meaning one who holds out till the bitter end, but an ending for the word “bitter.”
4.33 stars. Clean and pretty much flawless, but not particularly exciting or memorable.
Patrick Blindauer’s May website puzzle — Matt’s review
A smart visual theme from Patrick this month: the four letters ME/SA, split like so, form the familiar topographical feature they spell. The theme entries were:
24-a [Tiny tee szs. / [24-Across, at first: Consciousness rousers (8,4)] = SMELLING SALTS. Noticed only right now that that enumeration should be (8,5).
65-a [[One way to get the word out (4,7)]] = TEXT MESSAGE. Unless I’m missing something, which wouldn’t be the first time on a Blindauer, this entry is a pretty big blot on a very nice crossword. The other four MESAs hide among their two rows without disturbing the surrounding words, which are all clued normally. But in this case 65-a just becomes the non-word TEXT M.
This is a glaring inconsistency, and it may sound harsh but I’m going to ding the puzzle .5 for it. This isn’t just, for example, a minor difference in the way one theme entry in a pun theme plays out, but a structural inconsistency that really shouldn’t happen.
The three possibilities I’m considering (since I can’t find the author online at the moment to ask and I’m already late with this review) are 1) I’m missing something important, in which case I’ll restore this puzzle’s .5 right away; 2) Patrick missed something important, like maybe the answer he intended was just MESSAGE instead of TEXT MESSAGE? Seems unlikely; or 3) which is what I suspect happened, where Patrick couldn’t quite make the final entry in this intricate theme work out like the others, so he just said to himself (as I have myself in similar situations) “Well, this is the only way to make it work, so let’s just go with it and take the ding.” In which case we stay with the .5 ding. Not the end of the world, of course, and when you have such a nice idea it’s tempting to chuck the rules of consistency for a moment.
23-d [People got "Punk'd" on it / [23-Across: Land formation which occurs 5 times in this puzzle's answer (4)] = MTV. The circled letters here spell MESA, letting you know what you’re looking for four other places in the grid. I like Patrick’s method here of revealing the idea: you have that nice little MESA in the circles, and then you go on a little gridhunt for the other four.
46-d [Junio or Julio, e.g. / [46-Across: Group whose name means "stupid" in Spanish (5)]] = MENSA. I did not know that. I believe it means “table” in Latin as well.
The fill has more high points than you’d expect with such restraints, like HELP ME, BIKE PATH, EYE DOCTORS, QUICK SETS, GHANA and PLEASE DO. The clues are above-average funny, like [Gaddafi had 112 of them, according to ABC News] for SPELLINGS and [Waste watchers] for EPA.
Overall assessment: I like the MESA visual a lot and the gimmick reveal was well-handled (also liked how the mesas weren’t always symmetrical, which made it visually more Arizona-landscape-like). Liked the fill and clues. Without 65-across I’d say 4.75 stars, but with it I have to say 4.25 (and again, point out in comments what I’ve missed and we’ll restore this up to 4.75).