Psst: Contest puzzle! Andy Kravis has published his first meta contest crossword at Cruciverbalist at Law. Check it out. I’d say the difficulty level is a MGWCC Week 1 or 2.
John Lieb and David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
This must be an easy puzzle because I solved it fast for a Saturday puzzle despite feeling off kilter. It helps to know David Quarfoot’s proclivity for zippy, slangy fill (not sure if this is also a Lieb hallmark).
Highlights include MATT DAMON, SPEED DATE, SEXTED, ‘NUFF SAID, HUG IT OUT (my favorite entry!), MALE NURSE (I know a guy who just dropped out of a nursing program, further entrenching this “medical minority’s” minoritiness), Oliver Twist’s “PLEASE, SIR, I want some more,” SKIP CLASS with a Ferris Bueller clue, ROCK THE VOTE, TED TALK, and a real PIECE OF WORK. And just when I thought the puzzle was rocking a “gay gym rat” vibe (HE-MEN SEXTED and maybe SHAGged after going on a SPEED DATE, had a misunderstanding and had to HUG IT OUT), they dropped a G-SPOT on us.
Never excited to encounter fill like ENIAC, EERS, ADENO-, CENTI-, ALOES, SERE, and APER, but overall the puzzle was lots of fun.
24d: ["Mystic Pizza" actress Annabeth] GISH is in something new! I saw her photo in Entertainment Weekly in the article about The Bridge, the hot new FX show starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir that’s adapted from one of those hot Danish TV series. (Really. The cool people in England are all watching Danish shows. As is Stephen King.)
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
A very nice 68-worder from Brad Wilber this week. Not as flashy or Scrabbly as Tom Heilman’s puzzle from last week, but it’s as solid and smooth as you could want from a 68-worder.
My only rough patch in solving this puzzle was at the very beginning, when I wanted 1a, [Many a knockout punch], to be HAYMAKER. But I was sure enough about PELE, possibly the world’s most famous four-letter [Mononymous kicker], PTAS, UPDIKE, and TESSERA to replace HAYMAKER with UPPERCUT.
My two favorite entries in this one are the symmetrical long down answers:
- 12d, I AM AMERICA [Stephen Colbert bestseller subtitled "(And So Can You!)"]. I remember I Am America showing up in a Natan Last puzzle at some point (XWordInfo confirms it was during NYT’s Brown University Constructor Week in 2010)
- 25d, LOVE STINKS [Pessimistic J. Geils Band hit with the line "It's gonna make you cry"]. I can’t hear this song without thinking of The Wedding Singer.
My other favorite entries:
- 32a, CEVICHE [Citrus-marinated South American fish dish]. Watching all that Top Chef finally pays off. Ceviche is TREF, right?
- 23d, MEL C [Sporty Spice familiarly]. Your mileage may have varied here. If you didn’t remember that the Spice Girls had a Mel B and a Mel C (or which was which), and if you haven’t been watching lots of CSI or Hell’s Kitchen, then the crossings for WHORL and CEVICHE might have been some educated guesswork.
I was a big fan of the ALI MACGRAW / TIN FOIL HAT / SWING STATE stack. It felt livelier than the symmetrical HISTORIANS / SMOKE ALARM / SLEEPER SET stack, but nothing to complain about in either stack. I liked UPPERCUT and NETSCAPE in the NW, but the SE was a bit of a SLEEPER SET of entries (ba dum chhhh).
Least favorite entries: RESNAP, CES, PUCES, UMS, SHERM (before my time, but figure-outable, and probably a very enjoyable entry for M*A*S*H fans. I’m guessing the Venn diagram of people who liked MEL C and people who liked SHERM has very little overlap).
3.6 stars from me. Until next week!
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Slanted View” – Dave Sullivan’s review
No, today’s CrosSynergy doesn’t have to be solved in italics; instead, it features four phrases that end with a synonym of “slanted”:
- [Recitation to a department store Santa] clues CHRISTMAS LIST – most list-taking Santas I’ve seen these days are in mall atria instead of individual department stores, more traffic that way. I think of boats listing, do other things?
- A [Reward good restaurant service] is LEAVE A TIP – are you one of the 47% who leave less than 20%? We’re traditionally big tippers, and I know our blog hostess is one as well. (A big tip is on my Christmas list, btw.)
- [Director of "A Passage to India" and "Doctor Zhivago"] clues DAVID LEAN – heard of the movies, but not the director.
- [Moving with maximum speed] clues GOING FULL TILT – excellent entry to close out the set.
Smooth theme and puzzle, this one went by very quickly without hardly a YAWN. My FAVE clue was [Bat poop] for GUANO, since the adolescent (and Christmas list-maker) in me likes seeing words like “poop” in my crossword clues. Contemporary entry of SIRI as [iPhone assistant] was a close runner-up. Not so excited about the partials A DAMN and A TIE, but they really didn’t detract from a pretty perfectly pitched weekday offering.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I did this puzzle Friday afternoon (I upload the Newsday puzzles into the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial Facebook app so I have the files in advance, and no, I can’t share them with you). I don’t know why I did the puzzle on Friday. I was totally off kilter. I nearly fell asleep while solving. So I have no idea if it’s actually a fiendishly difficult Stumper, or if I was an impaired solver. You make the call: Was this a standard Stumper challenge, on the easy side, or incredibly hard?
I left GRAVY BOAR in the grid for far too long (had BLARING, saw that it needed to be BLATANT, I think I ended up with BLARANT for a while). That’s horribly wrong, but wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a GRAVY BOAR?
Top six clues:
- 1a. [''The Right Stuff'' role or star], SHEPARD. Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, actor Sam Shepard. Great trivia that totally escaped me.
- 19a. [Mothers who hum to their newborns], LLAMAS. I was reading about that just recently.
- 28a. [Iceberg destination], BLT. Iceberg lettuce, that is.
- 36a. [What the French call ''saucière''], GRAVY BOAT. My impaired brain could only think of sauté pans and sauce pans.
- 12d. [Devils' playground?], ICE RINK. The New Jersey Devils, hockey team.
- 23d. [School where streptomycin was developed], RUTGERS. Joisey medical trivia I did not know.
Best fill: KIR ROYAL, GRAVY BOAT in the center of the table, TIGHTWAD, SMACK OF, ALLEY CATS (had no idea there was a noted [Yale male glee club]), RED MEAT (and so close to COW RITE! I mean, CO-WRITE).
Least familiar bits:
- 15a. [Armada's shuttle craft], PINNACE.
- 16a. [California city on Route 66], ARCADIA.
- 40a. [Archery wrist guard], BRACER.
- 58d. [Compound in CRT glass], SRO. Single-room occupancy hotel, standing room only, and … silica something? No, strontium oxide, SrO.
Four stars, I think.