Dana Motley’s New York Times crossword
Oof, this is a Saturday puzzle a day early. I went out for a festive birthday dinner so it feels like a Friday night/Saturday puzzle—but I was forewarned about the puzzle’s difficulty. Another solver said the last 10 squares in the southwest zone took her perhaps as long as the rest of the puzzle, while I found that all zones were quite resistant to solving. Had a hard time getting into the solving groove. Particular trouble spots follow:
- 35a. [Line of rulers], DYNASTS. Singular “line,” plural answer? We all wanted DYNASTY, didn’t we?
- 40a. [Short distance], STEP. I had the P, but wanted A HOP or a SKIP. (Didn’t try JUMP, though.)
- 43a. [Hot-and-cold menu item], PIE A LA MODE.
- 45a. [Mathematician Cantor who founded set theory], GEORG. Last name is rather less Germanic than I would expect with that first name.
- 61a. [Contents of some ledges], ORES. I don’t know what sort of ledges these are.
- 2d. [Fixes flats?], TUNES. As in piano tuning.
- 7d. [Pathfinder?], LANTERN. Walking home from dinner tonight, there was a guy in front of us reading a book while hoofing it. In my area, you don’t need a lantern to see your path. The streetlights are bright enough to read by.
- 9d. [Word after who, what or where, but rarely when], ELSE. When else are you gonna see that?
- 24d. [Summer symbol?], PLUS SIGN. For one doing sums.
- 27d. [One of the Eastern elite], AGA. Middle Eastern/South Asian, vs. the West. No East Coast reference here. Did you want IVY?
- 32d. [Broken into on TV?], PREEMPTED. Good answer, good clue. I just had trouble summoning up the word, even with most of the crossings in place.
- 36d. [Fellow chairperson?], SEATMATE. With that second Y in DYNASTY, I considered YOKEMATE here. What?
- 41d. [Like pigtails], PLAITED. I got this okay, and the dictionary backs up the pigtail/braid equivalence, but I think of pigtails as unbraided ponytails moved to both sides.
- 43d. [Talks tediously], PROSES. SINGLE TRICKIEST ANSWER. This verb sense of the word is right there in the dictionary, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before. I wanted DRONES, which was making the blue IRIS into IRIN and confusing me.
- 47d. [Diagonal rib of a vault], OGIVE. Nothing pairs better with an unfamiliar usage (43d) than a bit of architectural crosswordese immediately beside it.
Highlights included ONION RINGS, ON THE LEVEL, BALLERINAS, ERGONOMICS, BATES MOTEL (which is a current TV series), WRISTBAND, EIGHTIES, LEADFOOT, and NEAR MISS. My favorite clues were:
- 19a. [Unisex name meaning "born again"], RENÉ.
- 29a. [The City of a Hundred Spires], PRAGUE. Been there, did not count the spires.
- 62a. ["___ Wedding" ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show" episode)], TED’S. Could’ve been clued as a plural first name (feh) or as a crosswordese verb having to do with spreading hay out to dry. This is more fun.
- 8d. [Reagan was seen a lot in them], EIGHTIES. B MOVIES wouldn’t fit.
- 44d. [Hacker's achievement], ACCESS.
Jean O’Connor’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
There have been a spate of definition puzzles in the LA Times recently. Ms. O’Connor’s puzzle is built around the answer [Buzz]. The definition answers are snappier than usual – all two words and only one spanning answer. The full theme answer list is:
- 17a, BEEHIVEHUM
- 24a, LATESTRUMOR
- 33a, ASTRONAUTALDRIN
- 46a, ARMYHAIRCUT
- 54a, COFFEERUSH
Of the four long downs, I liked the answer TURKEYTROT! ONECARAT sounds as arbitrary as any ONE-x answer. REDSAUCE was an answer that I saw early but resisted filling in, as I wasn’t sure it was a “thing”. Apparently it is… Pink sauce I know, but not red!
Another answer that gave me trouble was CAESARS clued as [___ Palace]. Had the C off SCUTS (old-timey crossword answer, good to file it away!) and immediately filled in CRYSTAL. So obviously right, only wrong! I’ll bet I’m not going to be the only one!
Not a lot more I’d like to say. Some interesting answers, a few winces (who loves to see NLER?). 2.75 Stars. I’ll leave you with LUAU! Caveat: this song is more peculiar than in any sense of the word good.
George Barany and David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Definitely Defined” — pannonica’s write-up
Good morning. “We’re gonna be here the entire morning with no maple syrup and no– no toothpicks, I’m definitely, definitely not gonna have my pancakes with …”
Puzzle’s got a definite vibe to it, because a definite article is a major player here. As 121-across has it, [What Thoreau and Eisenhower have in common, or this puzzle's theme, literally] THE SAME MIDDLE NAME. Not quite sure why Henry and Dwight were chosen here, as DAVID gets no play in-puzzle, except as co-constructor Steinberg’s given name. As for theme application: literally a middle name, or part of a titular epithet, which happens to be between two other words?
- 22a. [Cimmerian warrior of pulp series and film] CONAN (THE) BARBARIAN.
- 29a. [Warring king who reportedly died from a nosebleed] ATTILA (THE) HUN. Must’ve been a heckuva nosebleed.
- 33a. [Scorer of 100 points in a single 1962 game] WILT (THE) STILT. Family legend has it that Chamberlain was holding court at a back table in an uptown “soul food” restaurant when my parents were out for dinner. In some sort of strange rite, infant me was brought forward to him, and he cradled me in just one massive hand.
- 49a. [Cardinal legend] STAN (THE) MAN. Musial.
- 52a. ["Isn't it funny how a bear likes honey?" speaker] WINNIE (THE) POOH.
- 71a. [Monarch who defeated Saladin] RICHARD (THE) LIONHEARTED.
- 87a. [Terrorizer of Whitechapel] JACK (THE) RIPPER.
- 92a. [Greenland explorer] ERIC (THE) RED.
- 108a. [Subject of a Weill/Brecht ballad] MACK (THE) KNIFE. First one I eventually broke through with, after having struggled through variations, including MACKIE MESSER.
- 112a. [Sluggish sci-fi gangster] JABBA (THE) HUTT.
Not exactly an earth-shattering theme, and perhaps done before in a similar—or different—way. Perhaps in a daily without a rebus element? Neveraless, well executed. What truly shines, however, are at crossings, where said trigrams are rendered not as isolated definite articles, but are parts of words or phrases.
- 5d [Bat-making tool] LA(THE).
- 28d [Clear sky] E(THE)R, not AIR.
- 32d ["Rumor has it…"] (THE)Y SAY, not I HEAR.
- 30d [Dislike and then some] LOA(THE).
- 55d[West End venue] (THE)ATRE. London reference insinuates British spelling.
- 58d [Country music?] AN(THE)M.
- 63d [Cover, in a way] SHEA(THE).
- 74d [Grow choppers] TEE(THE).
- 102d [Mount that erupted in 1980] S(T HE)LENS.
- 104d [Meat, to vegans] ANA(THE)MA.
Spiffy, no? Only three rely on verbs ending thus. Good placement variation, and even though it’s arguably a partial, 102-down is excellent, more so because it’s complemented by 88d [Mount that erupted in 1883] KRAKATOA (a gimme for me), which runs right alongside. Theme is strongly elevated this way.
- APOLLOS is an awkward way to open up at 1-across, but cluing it via butterflies is a good solution for framing it.
- In two complementary aspects reminiscent of KRAKATOA / ST HELENS are: (1) double-duty clue for 62a REST and 71d RELAX [Take it easy]; (2) 85d [Sign of summer] LEO alongside 86d [Do some sums] ADD.
- Cluing is very strong throughout, but here are some highlights:
- Misdirections: 48d [Starbuck's orderer] AHAB (note apostrophe), 24a [Hold stuff] CARGO, 8d [China setting] CABINET, 77a [Harmless rattler] MARACA (beg to differ: quite painful when thrown at you).
- Good clues for ick-fill: 42a [It. borders it] AUS (playful doubling of “it,” which also signals an abbrev.; 95a [One who can can] AXER (doubling again).
- 50d [Minute fraction: Abbr.] NSEC. Not entirely original, but nifty how it’s a non-misdirection. Either homonym would work; in fact, it could have been [Minute minute fraction: Abbr.], or perhaps that abbrev. indication could be scrapped if “minute” number one could fulfill such a role?
- Also down southwest, 108d [Barishnikov nickname] MISHA was another gimme. No wonder that’s where my inroads took hold!
- Not happy with:
- 15d [Has a gentle rise] SLANTS UP. Compare SLOPES UP.
- Crossing that, disguised partial LIE UNDER [Break, as a courtroom oath]. (27d)
- Scowl-inducing proper nouns, including: RIDI, IONE, ENGEL, EULA, (variation) ENESCO, ERLE, SELA, IPSA, ADAIR, UDALL, DRU, MUFASA (I haven’t seen Lion King, sue me; but at least I know that Jeremy IRONS voiced SCAR).
- Speaking of EULA, wonder if avoiding a Faulkner reference and invoking End-User License Agreements would be more in tune with a Wall Street Journal demographic? On that matter, of possible interest is this little program, which is basically a fancy word-finder, but convenient.
- Is it just me, or is [Charter] an odd clue for LET? Certainly not incorrect, just odd.
A very fine crossword puzzle.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Awards Season” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I wonder if yesterday’s constructor Tony Orbach could’ve featured in one of today’s three theme entries which are a type of cycle through the three of the four major American performance awards:
- ["Variety" headline about jazz pianist Peterson's acclaimed TV performance] is OSCAR TAKES EMMY – Watch virtuoso Oscar Peterson in action!
- ["Variety" headline about actress Rossum's hit Broadway role?] clues EMMY PICKS UP TONY – I think actress Emmy Rossum is best known for her performance in the 2004 movie version of Phantom.
- ["Variety" headline about actor Randall's successful screen debut?] is TONY EARNS OSCAR – Funny how actor Tony Randall’s onscreen roommate in The Odd Couple was named Oscar as well. It all comes around people!
I wonder why GRAMMY wasn’t included; too bad Irene Ryan’s character on The Beverly Hillbillies was called “Granny” instead. Sorry for the short write-up, I’ll be back on track tomorrow morning.
Mel Rosen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Major League” — pannonica’s write-up (29 August)
Tardy posting (26 August, as best I can tell) of the crossword begets a minimal write-up, as I doubt there’s much appetite for readers to see it so late in the game. Also, I think I might not be grasping the theme fully.
The three longest answers begin with the name of an Ivy League school.
- 22a. [Venomous pest] BROWN RECLUSE, which is a spider.
- 36a. [Label once owned by a TV network] COLUMBIA RECORDS, which was owned by CBS—Columbia Broadcasting System—from 1938 to 1988, which was actually started as a subsidiary of Columbia Records back in 1927. And it was a radio broadcaster at that time.
- 44a. [Co-author of "Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends"] PENN JILLETTE. The other is Teller. Yes, I own a copy, why do you ask? Want to flip through it?
That’s apparently it. The inclusion of three institutions of higher education. The long downs, while very nice, have no perceptible connection: CLAMBER UP, HOOVER DAM.
- First row letters, alphabetized: A, A, A, B, B, C, C, C, D, K, S, S.
- EDNA Buchanan to ERMA Bombeck to DAVE Brubeck. GOAL! (16a, 33d, 58a, 13a) OLÉ! (51a)
- Favorite clue: 48d [Not fast] LOOSE. Never hit me that the phrased pair (“fast and loose”) can be seen as opposites.
Unchallenging, possibly gossamer-themed puzzle.