Good luck to everyone competing at the Crosswords LA tournament on Saturday! Thanks to Marbles: The Brain Store, the principal sponsor, the top prize is ACPT registration and plane tickets to get there. Clearly the coolest prize a charitable fund-raiser crossword tournament has ever offered, no?
On Sunday morning, around 8:45 Eastern (not sure how airtimes vary in other time zones), Weekend Edition will supposedly air a story about crosswords and the younger generation. The story got bumped from last week’s show by Snowden news. Don’t get up early on account of the show—it will be available online later.
Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
See? I thought yesterday’s puzzle felt like a Saturday and then this puzzle seemed easier to me. Flip-flop? Knowing Barrys’ propensity for Scrabbly fill, it was easier for me to guess that 1a. [Domino's bottom?] was PIZZA CRUST. And when 1-Across is 10 easy letters, boom, you are off to the races.
Fave fill: HOCKEY MOM, KNACK, MAN CAVE, HOT POTATO, BROOD MARES, NAMES NAMES, PHONE BOOTH (these still exist), “LOOK AT THAT!,” and ARRIVE LATE, fashionably.
And what’s more:
- 15a. [Olympic Tower financier], ARI ONASSIS. Whoa, even with a lot of letters in place and the entire row above it filled in, this name was slow to emerge. If Jackie Kennedy hadn’t married him, I guarantee you this man would never appear in American crosswords.
- 38a. ["The Tourist" novelist Steinhauer], OLEN. Who?? A writer I’ve never heard of, with an unusual first name. Weird first name is probably better fill than a weird middle name, though Robert OLEN Butler has won a Pulitzer.
- 52a. [Minable material], DATA. Ah! Not literal dig-a-hole mining.
- 57a. [Record held for decades?], OLDIE. The clue halfway tricked me.
- 61a. [Swimmer featured in the 2013 film "Blackfish"], ORCA. Have not seen it, but a condensed version was airing on CNN Friday night. Might be accessible via your cable’s on-demand service; not sure. I hear you’ll need Kleenex and you’ll never go to SeaWorld again.
- 1d. [Spotted South American mammal], PACA. A rodent. Also called the spotted cavy.
- 3d. [99+ things in Alaska?], ZIPS. ZIP codes.
- 4d. [2008 title role for Adam Sandler], ZOHAN. I needed the Z and H to dredge the name up. Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Apparently as fine as the standard Sandler comedy.
- 14d. [Its contents provide juice], BATTERY BOX. Don’t know what that is.
- 27d. [Sports stud], CLEAT. Not that kind of stud.
- 28d. [DC transformation location], PHONE BOOTH. Superman’s from DC Comics. Brilliant clue!
- 45d. [Raiser of dogs?], OTTOMAN. Dogs = slang for feet; you put your feet up on an ottoman.
- 51d. [Trattoria dessert], TORTA. This is also the word for a type of Mexican sandwich.
- 53d. ["32 Flavors" singer Davis, 1998], ALANA. Who?? Never heard of her. Alana Stewart was married to Rod Stewart; she’s my go-to ALANA.
- 56d. ["Barney Miller" Emmy winner Pitlik], NOAM. Who?? I even watched that show. Googling … cripes, he won an Emmy for directing in 1979. The number of TV directors who are household names is quite small. I’ll bet most people can’t name five—and Noam Pitlik won’t be among their five. (Hello, Professor Elkies! You are more famous to me than Pitlik, though Chomsky has you both beat.)
- 58d. [Armenia's basic monetary unit], DRAM. Well! That seems like a jerk move (see also: cluing names like NIELS and NOAM with wildly unfamiliar people), to clue a familiar English word as a foreign currency unlikely to be familiar to even the most educated American solvers.
Four stars. Solid offering with rather smooth fill.
Updated on Saturday:
Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
As soon as I saw the grid, I knew I was going to be in trouble. Three triple stacks with very little transition area between them. If you get stuck in any section of the grid, you could be there for a while.
The middle fell very quickly for me. 37a, EPISCOPAL PRIEST [Anglican leader] and 38a, PASTORALE SONATA [Beethoven work completed the same year as the "Moonlight"] were right in my wheelhouse, and 32a, DOMESTIC PARTNER [Certain cohabitant] fell not long after.
The down entries really saved me in the bottom third of the grid, which I think might be the hardest portion but which took me less time than the top third. LPGA great BETH Daniel, Nabokov novel PNIN, and the notably crossword friendly Twilight character ESME: these are a few of my favorite things. ILER / ITER are some of my least favorite crossword things, but it’s nice to get four free letters whenever you see [Robert of "The Sopranos"] or [Anatomical passage], respectively. The bottom contained my favorite 15-letter entry, 53, MILITATE AGAINST [Have a considerably negative effect on], which isn’t flashy but is a fun phrase nonetheless. PREPARATION TIME and STRENGTH TRAINER are both solid 15s as well.
In the top, I had VALE for 14d, ECCE [Old Roman cry], which made 17a, GREAT GRANDNIECE [Fourth generation relative] hard to see. But once I figured out that fourth generation is pretty much guaranteed to be GREAT GRAND-something, the digital eraser came out. HORS D’OEUVRES I liked; HOT HORS D’OEUVRES seems ever so slightly forced. AMMUNITION POUCH is fine, but doesn’t particularly tickle my fancy.
All in all, this is a fine puzzle. It has the same problems that all triple-triple stack puzzles have — namely, an abundance of weird short fill — but all the crosswordese in this one is at least familiar crosswordese, and there’s not as much of it as there could be. My personal distaste for these kinds of grids militates against a high star rating, so I’ll go with a flat 3 stars. Until next week!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Soft and Hard” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I often like to guess what a puzzle’s theme will be from the title, but I don’t think I would’ve ever come up with this particular interpretation of “Soft and Hard,” i.e., 4 two-word phrases where the first word starts with a “soft G” and the second with a “hard G”:
- [What charities hope for] was GENEROUS GIVING – before I figured out the theme, I had DONORS for GIVING. Frankly, I like my phrase better.
- [MetLife Stadium events] clued GIANT GAMES – are these what yetis play as well?
- [Title role for Lynn Redgrave] was GEORGY GIRL – wasn’t sure how “Georgy” was spelled, anyone else recall The Seekers’ Hey there…? Man, that one brings me back.
- [Differences between age groups] was GENERATION GAPS.
Interesting theme, hard to come up with any others off the top of my head. The “hard G” versions of G words are much more prevalent. Not a big fan of the ROWA, clued as [Great seats for a concert]. When we were in London recently (where PENCE are used), we went to see the show Once in the West End and were in the front row, which was ROW AA. I guess I would’ve gone for the partial with that one, or better yet, gotten rid of it if possible. The other indefinite articled entry, A RIOT, for [Hilarious] also bugs me, since it seems a slippery slope to allow entries like that. On the other side of the fence, I enjoyed RUG DEALER and the clue for TIPS, which was [Rewards for waiting]. Different type of waiting, there.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Yeah, this puzzle has a few “eh” bits like RESOAK, HES, AGAR, SLOE, and ESSO, but overall I enjoyed the hell out of it. Plenty of terrific stuff to offset the little bits of blah, though. Am on the way out the door right now, so I’ll just assign 4.25 stars and be back later to chat about the clues and answers that grabbed me.
Okay, I’m back.
Things I really liked:
- 1a. [Short catchphrase since 1940], “WHAT’S UP, DOC?” In animated Bugs Bunny shorts.
- 19a, 51a. [Composition of some sprays], GLADS and AZALEAS. Floral “sprays” in both instances, not the expected “oh, it will mean something entirely different the second time.”
- 49a. [Czarist leader], SILENT C. No question mark! Luckily, I had the C in place first so I didn’t try some Russian name.
- 53a. [__ Brum (car accessory)], SNO. Goofy but guessable.
- 59a. [Before the topic changes], “ON THAT NOTE….” Great entry.
- 64a. [Proprietor of Speedpass.ca], ESSO. Hey! Fresh ESSO clue. I had a brain fart and was thinking that .ca belonged to California rather than Canada.
- 65a. [Mice avoid them, KEYSTROKES. Computer mouse.
- 8d. [''That's right!''], “[DING!]“ “Tell her what she’s won, Bob!”
- 10d. [His birthday is a California state holiday], CESAR CHAVEZ. Did not know that. Great name to put in a crossword.
- 35d. [Since], “SEEING AS….” “What with…,” “On account of….”
- 38d. [Prop preceder], MALA. Malapropisms entertain me, and I know a lovely woman named Mala (perhaps you’ve met her at the ACPT or Lollapuzzoola).
I tried EGGS for the pudding ingredient at 57a instead of AGAR, which means I erased the LOANS part of 36d. [Help for starting up], SBA LOANS (Small Business Administration loans) and was perplexed for a bit. It was guessing at SNO that pushed me through that corner. I would argue that an ARMS SALE is not an 34d. [Item from the Pentagon] in that it’s not a tangible item, but the dictionary reminds me that “item” also means “entry in an account” and ARMS SALE could definitely fit the clue in that sense.
Challenging puzzle for me, but not a killer. How’d it treat you?