Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle (A) felt like a Friday to me, (B) reminded me of early, super-Scrabbly Barry Silk puzzles, and (C) pleased me more than most puzzles heavy on 7s in all the corners. Here are the Scrabbly bits that livened up the grid for me:
- JUJITSU crossing lively JETS FAN and JAKARTA with a trivia clue, 3d. [Home of Southeast Asia's largest mosque].
- JAZZ AGE crossing ZOOM and unfortunately-not-legit-for-Scrabble ZOT.
- ZANZIBAR! The islands off the coast that are part of Tanzania. The clue, 33d. [Its main island is Unguja], meant nothing to me, but it sounds plausibly African, those Z’s gave a helping hand, and I knew that Tanzania was a portmanteau name combining mainland Tanganyika with island Zanzibar (in 1964). “Zanzibar” is also a not-so-famous Billy Joel song from the 52nd Street album.
- Reindeer BLITZEN meets Paul CEZANNE, as the lord intended.
Other juicy fill includes HANG TIME (37a. [Slam dunk stat]), SHOOT UP (without an injection drug use reference), FAST CAR (which seems a mite arbitrary but could also have been clued as the Tracy Chapman song), the word RANKLES (which I need to use more often), the defiant “I CAN TOO,” “GUESS SO,” and Juan EPSTEIN, the Puerto Rican Jew who was a [Sitcom pal of Barbarino and Horshack] on Welcome Back, Kotter, which I was a regular viewer of in my tweenish years. And BELCH! I like that word.
Bits that rankled: crosswordese ANIL, variant TABUS. PIAS, UTE, and TIAS aren’t great, but they didn’t rankle. I know PASEOS (42d. [Leisurely strolls]) from trips to San Antonio’s Riverwalk, also known as Paseo del Rio. Less so from the erstwhile Toyota Paseo; why would you name a car “the stroll or walk”? It sounds slow.
4.25 stars from me.
John Lieb and David Quarfoot’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
One of my slowest Saturday puzzles in recent memory. There’s nothing particular about this puzzle that would suggest such a relatively high solving time. Maybe the cluing was sneaky-hard? Maybe wanting CURSE AT to be CAR SEAT, or not believing that a verb could end in the letter C only to be disproved by LIP SYNC, didn’t help? Did anyone else have this experience?
That said, even though this puzzle wasn’t on my wavelength, it’s still a thing of beauty.
- 1a, TURDUCKEN [Holiday portmanteau]. Really wanted this one to be “Chrismukkah.”
- 17a, BOX TURTLE [Tennessee's state reptile]. Not sure if I’m supposed to know that offhand, but I don’t. Had a real problem getting this one to fall — I had ENgoRGE forENLARGE and just couldn’t see “turtle” for the life of me.
- 35d, BABY GATE [Minor obstacle?]. Is it just me, or does “Babygate” sound like a political scandal?
- 36d, OSCAR NOD [Academy affirmation]. The Academy loves affirming Meryl Streep.
- 37d, OH SHEILA [1985 #1 hit for Ready for the World]. Watch this immediately.
- 63a, HOLE CARDS [Stud revelations]. Wanted this one to be WASHBOARD ABS.
- 65a, SHARK WEEK [Summer TV offering with a "Jaws of Steel Collection" DVD]. Wanted this one to be MAN VS FOOD. (Just kidding. But also I’d probably watch a DVD collection of Man vs. Food.)
- 21d, PARTAY [Bash, affectedly].
That’s a lot of good stuff (add PLAY-DOH, TSK TSK, RAIN GOD, and EEYORE to my list). On the other hand, there were a few spots that made me cringe: INO‘s not the easiest entry, and it’s near IN E to boot; ANILE(?); DAW; NANS [Some flatbreads]; and worst of all in my opinion, the crossing of Yaphet KOTTO and Manny MOTA. That’s Natick country, my friends.
Overall, 3.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Unusual Measures” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four entries where the final word is a unit of measurement:
- ["American History X" costar] clued EDWARD FURLONG – the only Edward I could remember in this was Edward Norton. A furlong is an eighth of a mile (220 yards).
- [Start of a famous adage] was SPARE THE ROD – …spoil the child. A rod is 5-1/2 yards, or 1/40th of a furlong.
- [Second rate] clued MINOR LEAGUE – a league is roughly how far a person can walk in an hour, which has been settled to be around 3 miles, but your mileage may vary.
- [Was unable to grasp] clued COULDN’T FATHOM – fathoms are 6 feet and generally used to measure the depth of a body of water.
I guess I would’ve preferred these in ascending order of length, or fathom, rod, furlong and finally league, but that’s just the Felix Unger in me who likes things neat and tidy. PINOCCHIO and COUGH DROP were nice complements to the fill; initially I was surprised the former had 2 C’s in the middle, but it looks better now that I see it written out that way. The rest of the fill felt pretty standard and appropriate for beginning solvers.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Have I mentioned how lovely it is to have Frank Longo added to the Stumper rotation? He uses his fill database to load his grids, but his fill database is jam-packed with phrases and words that don’t pop up in your standard auto-filled grids. Look at the flawless, smooth stacked 11s: RECOVER FROM, ONE MORE TIME, JAPANESE TEA, ABRACADABRA, PRINT DIALOG box, and HAS NO EXCUSE. All entirely ordinary, familiar things, but we usually just see stuff like RECOVER, ANEW, PEKOE or ASSAM, fragment ABRA-, and DIALOG rather than these longer, fresher things.
Most challenging parts for me:
- 48d. [Looped upholstery fabric], FRISE. I only know the curlicue salad green, frisée. Least familiar word in the grid.
- 5d. [Far from wet], SERE. In my crosswordese category—but the typical Stumper solver has known this word for years.
- 2d. [Chamber groups], SENATES. Tried SEPTETS/SEXTETS (though aren’t chamber music ensembles more often quartets?) and it took a while to unravel that.
- 11a. [Give a resounding knock], PAN. As in “give a critical review to,” not RAP on a door.
- 28a. [It'll get you blue in the head], TY-D-BOL. Head = toilet. Don’t put your head in the bowl when it’s blue, m’kay?
- 30a. [Literally, "one who laces snowshoes"], ESKIMO. Huh. I had known the previous supposed etymology, linked to eaters of raw meat; it’s not known whether the Montagnais ayaskimew snowshoe-lacer or the Abnaki askimo raw-meat-eater etymology is on target. Good etymology info to be familiar with. Note that the Canadians consider “Eskimo” offensive but that the term is still used for the relevant Alaskans.
- 36a. [Heavy metal music producer], TUBA. Not ACDC or LITA Ford.
- 51a. [Tell tale territory], URI. The Swiss canton where William Tell tales take place.
- 3d. [Wrench application], ICE PACK. For a wrenched knee, for example.
- 8d. [Work on a mystery, say], WRITE. Writing a mystery novel, say, not solving a mystery.
- 32d. [Megagram], METRIC TON. Mega = 1,000,000. 1 million grams = 1,000 kilograms = 1 metric ton, roughly 2,200 lb. Never seen “megagram” before today but pleased to learn it.
- 38d. [They're made in the world's largest building], BOEINGS. Trivia!
- 46d. [Real last name of designer Arnold Scaasi], ISAACS. Backwards! He designed for Nancy Reagan, didn’t he?
4.5 stars. FRISE had unambiguous crossings, the rest of the fill is smooth, the clues were interesting, and there were no aggressively hostile corners.