Tom Heilman’s New York Times crossword
Eh. I didn’t have fun with this crossword. It wasn’t on my wavelength, nor was it in my wheelhouse. Which is not to say it was unremittingly unpleasant. I liked these things okay:
- 1a. [Insignificant row], SQUABBLE crossing 2d. [Carp], QUIBBLE.
- 15a. [Big rush, maybe], EUPHORIA. A happy word.
- 29a. [Super German?], WUNDERBAR. Wonderful!
- 1d. [Determine the value of freedom?], SET BAIL. Fresh entry.
- 28d. [Result of knuckling down?], NOOGIE. Ha!
I would like 9a. [Traffic reporter’s aid], JAM-CAM, if I had ever seen the term before. Might it be a regionalism?
Same with 18a. [Grown-up who’s not quite grown up], KIDULT. Who’s using this word? In what fashion?
35a. [Antithesis of 32-Down] and 32d. [Antithesis of 35-Across] clue SOUP and NUTS. I know the phrase “from soup to nuts” but was not aware these were being presented as opposites in contrast.
59a. [Troubling post-engagement status, briefly], MIA, is a bummer. The clue has you thinking of wedding engagements but delivers you to soldiers missing in action. Mias Farrow, Wasikowska, and Hamm share my disappointment.
65a. [Real rubbish], UTTER ROT? I went with TOMMYROT first, because that’s an actual word. It Googles up okay but is perhaps a mite British-inflected. But then, so is “rubbish.”
5d. [Austrian conductor Karl], BOHM. Who? That should actually be Boehm, as it’s Böhm and not Bohm.
11d. [Like some cartilage piercings], MID-EAR? Awkward, possibly. I’d ask a piercer but the one I know, his daughter no longer goes to my son’s school. It’s always good to know a seasoned piercer, though. You got any questions about genital piercings, Hank’s your guy.
49d. [What a bunch of footballers might do], UNPILE. Wait? We’re using “footballers” to mean “people who play American football”? Because I believe the word is far more commonly applied to soccer players, who don’t spend a lot of time extricating themselves from tackle heaps.
Three stars. There’s not bad fill, but I just was not digging the cluing vibe here.
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
FIVE EASY PIECES might be an apt alternate title for this puzzle (NW, NE, SE, SW, and center). If this isn’t my fastest time on a Saturday puzzle, it sure is close to it.
I started in the NE, where 9a, IQ TEST [Its results commonly fall between 70 and 130] was a gimme. 10d, QUEEN OF MEAN [Nickname of Leona Helmsley] came quickly off the Q, and then it was off to the races. I second-guessed myself briefly on 46a, NEWEL [Staircase support], but other than that the right half of the puzzle was a cake walk.
The left half put up a little more of a fight for me, only because there were some weird crossings. MFG/WEIR/GRE isn’t the prettiest cluster, but worse yet (in my opinion) was THOLE [Oarlock pin] / DEMOB [Discharged British soldier]. And AS MAD doesn’t help things any in the NW. Other entries that weren’t my favorites: REHABS plural, EGADS crossing SCAD (in my mind, the “S” goes on “SCADS” and “EGAD” stands alone), ALER, DESALT (it’s “desalinate” in my lexicon), and WHITE DWARF STAR (just “white dwarf” suffices, no?). VAINER‘s not my favorite, but I think that’s my own idiosyncrasy.
The bright spots: the aformentioned QUEEN OF MEAN symmetrical to The Divine Miss M, BETTE MIDLER; FIVE EASY PIECES and MEAT THERMOMETER; the clue for SECRETARY [Cabinet part]; the clue for NUANCE [Shade]; and the clue for SHOPLIFT [Take inventory]?
Amy mentioned the other day that “Metz” in a clue is meant to trick cluers into thinking German instead of French, and that “Cologne” is meant to do the reverse. Yesterday’s NYT had a “Metz” mention, and today’s LAT has “Cologne” at 27a, DER [Cologne article]. When is this entry going to be clued in its most famous usage, as [Crossword maven Kevin]?Solid puzzle, but not to the level I’ve come to expect from Barry Silk. I’ll go with 3.25 stars. Until next week!
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Four-Page Puzzle” – Dave Sullivan’s review
As the title implies, we have four grid-spanning theme entries which can all be defined as “page”:
- [Page 1] was SONGSTRESS PATTI – here’s the song I believe Patti Page was most famous for. This was 1950, folks!
- [Page 2] clued ONE SHEET OF PAPER – perhaps as boring as theme entries can be. *Le sigh*
- [Page 3] was a SENATE ASSISTANT – perhaps a bit higher on the interest scale, but not a lot, particularly with all those word-ending letters.
- Finally, [Page 4] was SUMMON VIA BEEPER – this whole “summon via” thing feels awkward, “by” would be more commonly used, but then it wouldn’t be 15-letters long, would it?
Ah, the gods of crossword construction can sometimes be so cruel, when one is trying to find 15-letter phrases. My vote is to dump that idea and give solvers more lively phrases that are of varying length. But that’s just one man’s opinion, so take that with a grain of salt I suppose. I did learn that there is a RODIN Museum in Paris, although I had heard of the one in Philly. FAT LIP, PFENNIG, DONE DEAL (I had DONE DEED at first), helped to enliven the overall experience.
Patrick Blindauer’s November website puzzle, “Network Focus Groups”—Matt’s review
Normally I put a “2” next to “blog Blindauer” on my daily work sheets, meaning I anticipate needing two hours to solve and review. Thankfully (for my schedule, if not my brain) this month’s Blindauer is not insanely complex as are many of his patrickblindauer.com crosswords, so I’m getting away with just an hour of solve + blog time.
Which doesn’t mean the puzzle isn’t clever and interesting, because it is. Patrick takes six TV networks and “networks” them with two other three-letter initialisms, creating extremely focused new organizations that overlap, a la MSNBC:
21-a [Major network focused on a former U.S. President’s love of a secret recipe?] = JFKFCBS, or JFK KFC CBS. JFK was a real connoisseur, but KFC is the champagne of fast food, so this one is more plausible than it looks.
22-a [Premium cable and satellite network focused on the tween reaction to Monsanto?] = HBOMGMO, or HBO OMG! GMO.
38-a [Major network focused on the liquids concealed within your salty sandwich?] = BLTSABC, or BLT TSA ABC.
40-a [Cable, satellite, and broadcast network focused on a secretive government cash source?] = QVCIATM, or QVC CIA ATM.
56-a [Basic cable and satellite network focused on the death of the plastic pipe industry?] = RIPVCNN, or RIP PVC CNN.
57-a [Major network focused on a vital baseball stat?] = NBCPRBI, or NBC CPR RBI.
So that’s a slightly above-average theme. Not a home run, keeping with the baseball theme (even though Patrick’s St. Louis Cards didn’t manage to knock off the Red Sox), but a double into the right field corner. Some of them don’t make too much sense even as a stretch (BLT TSA ABC and NBC CPR RBI, notably) but it’s a novel idea to my knowledge and was fun to solve.
The grid and especially the clues are above-average as well: BEEP BEEP!, HAJJ, EVERYBODY, TEE-HEE, VOCAB and UV RAY are standouts, and there’s enough to sustain a Top 5 clue list: [Police man?] for STING, [Spot to stop] for INN, [Knock ’em dead] for SLAY, [Go to knight school?] for TILT and [Wellington “Well!”] for I SAY. And did you have ELENA for [Third female Justice on the Supreme Court, after Sandra and Ruth] like I did? Well, it was SONIA.
Liked it, 4.05 stars.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as “Anna Stiga”)
This is the first week in a while that I didn’t have access to an offline solving option for the Stumper, and had to use the Java applet at Stan’s site. The puzzle felt fiendishly hard, the different way the cursor moves around added to my solving time, and I didn’t realize the timer hadn’t started automatically. So I don’t know how long I toiled on this challenge, but I would guesstimate it at definitely in the range of “killer Stumper” 10+ minutes. Did it vex you mightily as well, or did you grasp where Stan was coming from in the clues?
The northwest quadrant was particularly difficult to penetrate, I found. It all seems perfectly fair and reasonable (but challenging) now that it’s all done, but it killed me while I was solving the puzzle.
Fave fill includes “THAT’S ALL,” “YOU’LL SEE,” WETSUIT, MGM GRAND, PUB GAMES, SPY STORY, UNDELETE, ETHELRED the Unready, SCRIMPS, GUMBY, and WOODSY the Owl.
Clues of note:
- 17a. [Tough categories in 20 Questions], CONCEPTS. The plural “categories” feels a tad iffy here. All I could think of, though, was animal, mineral, and vegetable.
- 19a. [Word from the French for “choose”], OPT. The French opter; who knew?
- 29a. [Like diamonds], RED. Think playing cards.
- 43a. [Needing seasoning], GREEN. As in an unseasoned beginner.
- 44a. [Dieter’s complaint], ACH. That’s the German name Dieter (pronounced “DEE-ter”), not a person engaged in weight loss. Terrific clue! Put it on the list of nominees for clue of the year.
- 64a. [Ring things]—well, the RED diamonds took me away from thinking about jewels, so I tried ATOLLS here but it turned out to be gem STONES.
- 4d. [Network founded by HEW and NASA], TLC. Originally The Learning Channel, full of educational programming. Now home to Say Yes to the Dress and Extreme Couponing. Learn how to embody ridiculous standards for wedding attire or become an obsessive shopper?
- 7d. [Opposite of “spirit”], LETTER. As in upholding the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. Tough one!
- 35d. [Prehistoric inventions, as found in caves], PIGMENTS. Interesting clue. Did you see the recent news that three fourths of the handprints in cave art are likely to have belonged to women? Perhaps most cave artists were female.
- 47d. [Only one-word anagram of a day of the week], DYNAMO. Fascinating (to me) word trivia.
Smooth fill plus fiendish clues = trademark “Saturday Stumper.” 4.25 head-banging stars.