Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Hey, look at that. A quad-stack (15×16) puzzle with a bunch of lively fill and no short fill that angers the Scowl-o-Meter. The highlights:
- 20a. [Sharks' place], SAN JOSE. The hockey team.
- 38a. [1978 punk classic], I WANNA BE SEDATED.
- 39a. [Transcript, e.g.], PERMANENT RECORD. Puts me in mind of the Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off.”
- 57a. [Acid Queen player in "Tommy"], TINA TURNER. One of three full names in the grid.
- 60a. ["Two Tickets to Paradise" singer], EDDIE MONEY. Full name #2.
- 43a/5d. JOLT COLA.
- 7d. [Dog star], BENJI. Was mentioned in There’s Something About Mary, which I watched this morning. I prefer BENJI to ASTRO.
- 20d. [Parting word], SAYONARA.
- 29d. [1970s], ME DECADE.
- 35d. ["Chloe" director, 2009], ATOM EGOYAN. Full name #3.
- 48d. [Fixin' to], GONNA. I like that GONNA and WANNA are both in the puzzle. Still waiting for FINNA to make an appearance.
- 52d. [What a yo-yo lacks], SENSE. Yo-yo, a foolish person, not yo-yo, the spinning toy.
The one entry I absolutely did not know: 25d. [Dressage half-turn], CARACOLE. You know who knows this word? I bet Ann Romney does. I am even less up on my dressage terminology than my nautical terminology (the MAINMAST is the [Mizzen neighbor], of course; your BO’S'NS who are [Rigging pros] would know that).
I’d also never heard of 8d. [Composer Arensky], ANTON, but ANTON is a familiar enough first name.
Not sure if IN AN ASYLUM (27d. [Put away, maybe]) feels natural or contrived. Voters, what say you? I’m leaning towards liking it.
There are touches of sort-of-crosswordese material—plural ETES, AIT, the EXE River, OBE, LENE, ASTI—but none of these should be unknown to seasoned Saturday solvers.
Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
SCHLOCKUMENTARY is new to me, but it’s a very nice 15-letter entry to build a grid around. This is Bill Thompson’s first published crossword of 2013 (or, at least, if there’s another one we haven’t blogged it here at Fiend), but lest we forget, he was nominated for an Orca last year for Best Easy Crossword.
This one put up more of a fight, but not too much more of one. What ate up most of my time was that I really wanted 5d, [Support] to be BEAm, not BEAR. That led me to plunk down maDDOGS for 20a, REDDOGS [Blitzes, in old football lingo]. Once I noticed OMNaS lurking in the NW, I fixed the mistake, but if you’re not a big football fan, Latin/Shakespeare buff, or crosswordese expert, that could have been a tricky spot for you.
I love when the constructor provides the trivia tidbits for you!
- 15a, O SOLE MIO [Song played at the 1920 Olympics when music for the Italian national anthem could not be found]. To be honest, if in 2014 they started playing “Party in the U.S.A.” instead of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” I probably wouldn’t mind. There was a lot of Olympic pride in this puzzle: see also 2d, USA! USA! [1992 Dream Team chant] and 22a, ZIM [RSA neighbor, in the Olympics].
- 49a, TUTUS [Skirts that come in bell and pancake styles]. It’s nice when something’s named intuitively for a change.
- 3d, LON NOL [Cambodian leader ousted by the Khmer Rouge]. Nice to see his full name in the grid. Or, at least, as nice as it can ever be to see LON NOL.
There was plenty of good stuff in this grid:
- 8d, LOADED QUESTIONS [Biased interview features]. I thought they were questions with cheese, sour cream, bacon and chives.
- 63a, SPOILERS [Premature plot giveaways, e.g.]. I’m not sure the “e.g.” is necessary here. Agree/disagree?
- 1a, HULA BOWL [Onetime college All-Star football game]. In 2004, one Wes Welker was named co-MVP of the Hula Bowl. Subsequently, he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, and he wasn’t drafted. Now that he’s a five-time Pro Bowler, those appear to have been mistakes.
Other things that made me smile: HUSH UP, SETI, QUEASIER, GELATO, BANDANNA, HOBNOB, MAN UP, the cluing of ARTISTS as [Pros].
Things that made me frown: I’m torn about 58, OH YES I DO! ["Absolutely!"]. I do love an 8-letter entry with four words in it. But with the “oh” in front, (a) it echoes O SOLE MIO, and (b) it doesn’t quite feel in the language to me. I’m willing to be persuaded either way. And for all the play it gets in crosswords, I’ve never heard someone say AMAZONIA–just “the Amazon rainforest”–though I have seen it in print. “Amazonia” sounds like it could be a cheap knockoff of the Rainforest Cafe, or a Rainforest Cafe-themed adult establishment. KRAUT tries its best not to be offensive, clued as [Brat topper]. ECU is never my favorite entry, but I think it might not be my least favorite entry, thanks to SUL, TID, and STYRO.
But overall, this one was a PLEASURE to solve! 3.8 stars from me. Until next week!
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “May the Force Be with You” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Smooth grid from veteran constructor Lynn Lempel that takes a classic line from the Star Wars series featuring four theme phrases that end with a word that can precede “force”:
- The clue [Undecided] gives us UP IN THE AIR – “Air Force”
- Very timely entry given the renewed popularity of George Orwell‘s 1984 after the Snowden leaks, [Orwellian pursuers of dissident types] or THOUGHT POLICE – “police force”
- [Charges from an auto shop] clues PARTS AND LABOR – “labor force”
- To [Reprimand] is to TAKE TO TASK – “task force”
Nice mix of base phrases, all feeling very contemporary. Last time I reviewed one of this constructor’s puzzles, I missed the fact that the middle entry was also part of the theme, so let me take another look….checking….[Title herb of a Simon & Garfunkel album] wasn’t parsley, sage or rosemary, but THYME. I’ve never heard of a “thyme force,” so I think I’m good, but certainly let me know if I missed it again.
My FAVE entries were the pairing of [Caiman's kin] for GATOR crossing [Salmon's cousin] for TROUT at the common R. I think humorist David Sedaris would enjoy thinking about these animals’ extended families. A “caiman,” by the way, is an “alligatorid crocodylian,” coming to us from the Carib language and has lent its name to the Caribbean island chain. I also enjoyed the five-letter phrases of TRY ON, SAY SO and TIE UP that march their way across the center of the grid. My sole UNFAVE was NARCO for [Drug buster], since I think “narc” is the more common term for these officers.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (by S.N.)
Dang! I wasn’t expecting two killer Stumpers in a row. Last week’s puzzle was a bitterly fought battle and so was this one. The northwest corner was the hardest to penetrate. The southwest sure as heck wasn’t easy, but it was the first section I was able to fill in. Then came the northeast, then the southeast. Oof! Made it through with no Googles, although I did check a thesaurus for “hate” (2d. [Opposite of ''love''], ABOMINATE) when I had only the N and E in place.
The clues that stumped me the most were these:
- 1a. [Literally, ''covering''], CANAPE. Oh! The word must be related to “canopy.” The canapé dictionary entry does indeed reference canopy; the canopy etymology derives from the Greek for a couch with mosquito curtains.
- 22a. [Radiator parts], FINS. I don’t know if this refers to steam heat or car radiators.
- 29a. [He merged with Pepsi in '65], LAY. Here’s your corporate history. The clue is misleading in that H.W. Lay’s company had already merged to become Frito-Lay a few years before the Pepsi merger. *grumble*
- 35a. [__ Aquariids (annual meteor shower)], ETA.
- 37a. [Collision by-product], BAM. Since when is a sound considered a “by-product”? *grumble*
- 55a, 57a. [Second-shot option] clues both a golf NINE-IRON and a photography RETAKE.
- 60a. [Blue in the face?], SLOE-EYED. Dictionary says “having attractive dark, typpically almond-shaped eyes]. How in the hell does that translate to “blue in the face?”? I could see SAD-EYED working here, but the fruit called sloe being blue-black doesn’t mean SLOE-EYED is the same as blue-eyed. Dark eyes are generally in the brown color family, not blue. *grumble*
- 3d. ["Throwing Heat" autobiographer], NOLAN RYAN. Knew it would be a baseball pitcher, but had only the R and final N for a long time, and figured it might follow the same sort of letter pattern as DON MARTIN. Nope.
- 23d. [Goodyear Blimp promotional products], ERASERS. How on earth would I know this? Who exactly is getting these erasers?
- 28d. [Brown-coat owner], CAMEL. I think of the color “camel” as being a golden tan and “brown” as being a good bit darker.
- 32d. [Predictive quantity, in statistics], COVARIATE. Never took stats.
- 40d. [Luger, for example], ATHLETE. This one confounded me; I wanted HANDGUN but the crossings weren’t there. I just checked Wikipedia to see who this famous jock named Luger was. Ha! “A participant in the sport of luge.” Tricky.
So many really difficult clues! And yet it all fits together and the fill is all reasonable. No bogus abbreviations or obscure names—Stan indeed has ferociously high standards for fill.
Favorite clue: 8d. [Slotted for payment], COIN-OP.
Most intriguing clue: 27d. [Its ''final test'' is ridicule, per Mencken], TRUTH.
Most whimsical answer: 43a. [Dubious creature of rhyme], THREE-L LLLAMA. From the Ogden Nash poem, “The Llama.”
Four mentally exhausted stars.