Remember: Saturday’s the last day to get in on the Lollapuzzoola At-Home solving division. Ten bucks, cheap! That gets you five tournament puzzles (by Zoe Wheeler/Aimee Lucido, Kevin Der, Patrick Blindauer/Tony Orbach, Mike Nothnagel, and Doug Peterson) and the finals themeless (by Joon Pahk). Even if you don’t want to compete, if you love challenging puzzles with really cool themes, you want these crosswords. Details here: bemoresmarter.com).
Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
I really like parts of this puzzle, feel assertively “meh” about other parts, and am neutral on the rest. Isn’t that usually the case?
- 23a. [Engagement rings?], ARENAS. Where you engage in battle.
- 31a. [Young turkey], POULT. Because who doesn’t know the word for a young turkey, am I right?
- 32a. [Strong order?], MAKE MINE A DOUBLE. Kinda wanted IT instead of MINE, but no matter.
- 36a. [Drawers hitting the pavement?], SIDEWALK ARTISTS. The ones who make images that appear three-dimensional from the right spot blow my mind. A Google image search for sidewalk artist yields amazing pictures.
- 54a. [Remark after holding someone up], SORRY FOR THE WAIT. Totally colloquial.
- 3d. [Clipboard's relative], LAP DESK. Who doesn’t love a lap desk?
- 12d. [Tony with an Emmy], RANDALL. Reminiscent of Friday’s CrosSynergy theme.
- 18d. [Mad person's question], “WHAT, ME WORRY?” The Mad person is Alfred E. Neuman.
- 19d. [Leave to scrap, maybe], STEP OUTSIDE. As in “You want to take this outside, buddy?”
- 47d. [Bill with barbs], MAHER. I was thinking of a bird’s bill. D’oh!
And now, the grumbly bits:
- 24d. [Indigent individuals], NEEDERS. Very roll-your-ownish.
- 37d. [Agenda opener], ITEM ONE. I would call that “the first item.”
- 34d. [Bras ___ Lake (Canadian inland sea)], D’OR. Wha…? Never heard of it. Canadian puzzlers, is this a major geographical feature you learn about in school?
- 48a. [13th Spanish letter], EME. Great. So we can expect all the Spanish, French, and German names of letters to be fair game in crosswords now? I would love to see ESZETT and IXE, just to watch people’s heads explode.
Nice matrix of interlocking long fill, no? I’m feeling a bit lukewarm about the rest of the puzzle, though. Perhaps I’m just tired. 3.5 stars.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
1a, COXCOMB [Pretentious fop] is a word I learned from Shakespeare and haven’t seen since, but it sure looks good in a grid! Make it a point to call someone a COXCOMB today.
Let’s go through the rest of… Brad Wilber’s Vocab Quiz!
- 25d, ABECEDARIAN [Beginner]. Like someone learning their ABCs.
- 41d, ENDEMIC [Peculiar to a locale]. As opposed to epidemic or pandemic.
- 33d, IDÉE FIXE [Obsession with an accent]. I think of it as akin to monomania (another good vocab word). I first learned this phrase in a class on 19th-century symphonies: there’s a recurring melody in Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique that’s meant to represent an idée fixe (his beloved). In that sense of the phrase, idée fixe means something more like leitmotif.
And while we’re on music:
- 15a, BOLERO [Slow-tempo Spanish dance]. You’ve probably heard Ravel’s Boléro before. If you’ve seen 10, you’ve heard Bo Derek’s opinion of it.
- 24a, JAZZ WALTZ [Coltrane's rendition of "My Favorite Things," e.g.]. One of my favorite jazz pieces of all time.
- 46a, DION ["___: The Wanderer Talks Truth": singer's memoir]. He’s The Wanderer.
And that’s not even all the great stuff in this grid!
- 4d, CATCH PHRASE [Familiar slogan]. Hard to look at this entry and not think of the party game.
- 8d, JOKE WALL [Regular "Laugh-In" feature]. Is there even another way to clue this?
- 7d, BELL JAR [Lab vessel connected to a vacuum pump]. I got confused and scared when Sylvia Plath wasn’t in the clue anywhere.
Also in the plus column: AL CAPP, COAL MINE, THREEFOLD, DORRIT (your mileage may vary), I’M NEXT. The hardest part of the grid for me was the NE: 17a, EKLAND [Britt of "The Wicker Man] was the last thing to fall for me, especially with the ambiguous clue for 9d, ALL [Up, in scores]. [Journalist Peter] is the wrong ARNETT for me, and it took me a while to come up with PEARLE as a [LensCrafters rival] (I tend to think of it as Pearle Vision rather than just Pearle. Daniel Pearle might have been a good clue here.) I’m grasping at straws though. FRIARIES and CHANTER struck me as odd while I was solving, but in hindsight I like them both (and I especially like them when considered together).
Side note: did anyone else dislike the clue for 22d, HO HO [Seasonal chuckle], especially when the snack cake is so readily available for our cluing pleasure? Santa stopping at “ho ho –” feels like Bart Simpson stopping at “eat my –”.
Everything I want from a Saturday puzzle. 4.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Putting On Some Weight” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I’m thinking this puzzle would best run the day after Thanksgiving, but here we are in mid-August a few months ahead of schedule. The letters TON are added to the first word of four two-word phrases, changing that word to a famous person’s last name and reclued accordingly:
- [Reverend Al's wardrobe consultant?] clues SHARPTON DRESSER – I like the base phrase “sharp dresser.”
- We go back quite a ways to [Nurse Clara's act of kindness, as described by an Israeli] is a BARTON MITZVAH – I know that the “mitzvah” in “bar mitzvah” refers to a law or commandment, but I think on its own it can be considered a blessing or kindness. Any Hebrew speakers out there who can help me out?
- [Brewer Thomas's cups and saucers?] is LIPTON SERVICE – “Lip service” is the base phrase. Who knew that Lipton tea was named after a brewer named Thomas? That’s what puzzles are for, people!
- [Sir Isaac's will?] is NEWTON TESTAMENT – Is it heretical to change the “New Testament?”
Tight theme, but the phrases are a bit awkward without the possessive involved (e.g., “Newton’s Testament” or “Lipton’s Service”). I liked the 7-on-7 action in the four corners, crossed by 7′s down the middle. Of these, my FAVE was the clue for BURSARS, which was [They're paid to go to college]. Less happy about [La lead-in], which wasn’t Shangri-, but the melodic TRA.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I liked everything in this puzzle except for one answer that may be stretching it a bit. (That would be UNISIZE, [Stretchy, quite possibly]. “One size fits all,” yes; “one size,” okay; have never, ever encountered UNISIZE.)
- 23a. [Reunion souvenir], GROUP PHOTO.
- 36a. [''Juvenile pariah'' of fiction], HUCKLEBERRY FINN.
- 47a. [''Idol'' guest vocal coach in 2006], ROD STEWART.
- 59a. [Out, as some batters], ON THE DL. In other circles, “on the DL” means “on the down low” and refers to men who live straight lives but have secret gay liaisons. Subject of an NYT Magazine feature a decade ago.
- 5d. [''Inception'' or ''The Pink Panther''], CAPER FILM.
- 8a. [Purpose of many drives], STORAGE. Flash drives, hard drives, etc.
- 20a. [Bill Ford's first cousin], EDSEL. Who is Bill Ford? Who knows? Who cares? He’s giving us a fresh way to get to crossword stalwart EDSEL.
- 33a. [End notes], CODA.
- 40a. ["Grey-eyed'' thing in ''Romeo and Juliet''], MORN.
- 3d. [Suit presser?], BEAU. I knew it wasn’t going to be an IRON thanks to the question mark, and then the U came from YOU: The Owner’s Manual and I filled in ACLU, patting myself on the back. Whoops. Courting, not arguing in court.
- 8d. [Frequent filer], SCULPTOR. Did you think it said “flier” or did you know it was “filer” and think about income tax returns?
- 29d. [Red giant], LENIN. I had the L and filled in L-STAR.
- 34d. [''Santa Maria!''], AY CARAMBA.
- 49d. [Ban forerunner], ANNAN. Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General.
- 54d. [Subject of the online compendium Brickipedia], LEGO.