Thoughtful quote from Professor Rayfield Waller’s blog, on criticism: “A critic levels analytic disapproval in the hopes of pointing the way to a better conception by pointing out the ways in which a thing, a place, a time, a milieux, or a dispensation has failed to reach its own potential. A critic, in short, is a bearer of hope; of negative capability, and of knowledge through negation, and therefore of value, standards, ethics, taste, judgment.”
James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword
The Friday NYT felt like a themeless Tuesday to me, so it makes sense that the Saturday would feel like an easy Friday puzzle. Welcome to Unchallenging Weekend! (It ends when the Newsday “Saturday Stumper” comes out.)
I loved the fill in this puzzle, particularly these bits:
- 1a. [Big name in 25-Across treatment], PROACTIV. 25a is ACNE. If you’ve turned the TV on in the last 20 years, you’ve probably seen a long commercial for Proactiv.
- 17a. ["The Help" co-star, 2011], EMMA STONE.
- 20a. [Coot], OLD GEEZER. Not to be confused with OGEES or “oh, geez.”
- 37a. [She's no puritan], JEZEBEL. Would have much preferred to see this clued by way of the phenomenally popular feminist blog, Jezebel.com. (It gets 13 million unique readers a month.)
- 52a. [Like eggheads], BOOK-SMART.
- 61a. [Evidence of having worn thongs], SANDAL TAN. I didn’t know this term existed, but I do get a sandal tan in the summer.
- 63a. [Player of many a tough guy], STALLONE.
- 10d. [Fryer seen at a cookout?], BUG ZAPPER.
- 32d. [Like a type B], EASYGOING.
- 35d. [Wimp's lack], BACKBONE.
Needed plenty of crossings for 2d. [Bach contemporary], RAMEAU, and for 45a. [Sportscaster Nahan with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame], STU. And SKEG (48a. [Keel extension]) was a tad mysterious as well.
4.25 stars. Mr. Mulhern, you should keep making themelesses. And don’t feel compelled to strive for a low word count—this 72-worder was fun.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Bust a Gut” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Though I’ve heard today’s title phrase, I’m not exactly sure what it means. I think it has to do with something that is really funny and you laugh so hard your risk doing some damage to your internal organs. Anyway, the meaning isn’t germane to solving the puzzle, where we have three theme phrases that begin with GU and end with T:
- We start pretty upscale with [French author of the naturalistic school], who was GUY DE MAUPASSANT – actually, it’s Henri-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant, but he was known by all down at the Moulin Rouge as a regular Guy.
- History buffs may also be familiar with the [Failed English conspiracy of 1605] which was the GUNPOWDER PLOT – while recently in Scotland, I actually learned quite a bit about this assassination attempt on the first monarch to rule both England and Scotland, King James I/VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots.
- We get a bit lower-brow with [Midway game] or GUESS YOUR WEIGHT – is “midway” just a general term for an amusement park or fair? I think this term has to do with them being sited in that middle area of a racetrack sometimes. It definitely doesn’t refer to the Chicago airport, although ticket agents sometimes do ask your weight when flying smaller airplanes to distribute the weight evenly.
Rather tepid on this theme and examples, and felt the fill was pretty average given the lesser constraints of just three theme entries. I enjoyed the clue [Celerity] for HASTE as it brought me back to my Latin classes in high school. Google thinks the term is archaic, but I think it’s a great word to use in everyday parlance. DRY LAW for [Beer bust bane] (I bet Bob Klahn came up with that clue) was a bit unusual, but since I think most laws are dry, it came to mind pretty quickly. With the E of SEAMY in place for [Squalid], I popped in FETID, thinking myself quite smart. Oh well, I guess I was due a comeuppance!
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Pretty grid. Left-right and top-bottom symmetry. Six 15-letter answers span the grid, with two double-stacks, and a pair of 11-letter vertical entries that cross all six spanners. That’s a difficult construction, made possible by an abundance of black squares and 3-5 letter entries.
It’s no wonder that none of the long entries is particularly flashy, given the constraints of the grid. But it’s impressive that none of them is a clunker, either. EVACUATION PLANS and LAME DUCK SESSION are nice, and I like the clue for LOCAL ANESTHESIA [Number?]. All cut from the same cloth are MADE A DIFFERENCE, CHANGES ONE’S TUNE, and RAISES THE STAKES. The 11-letter entries are nothing special — ADJUDICATES and NECESSITIES — but again, they each had to cross six spanners. I liked LIGERS and CONDI Rice.
LINC and NENE weren’t my favorite entries, and I suspect the majority of solvers will quail at CENTAVO (though the crossings are quite fair). Maybe ADANO/ENID will give some solvers pause.
Good, solid puzzle, but because there were so many short entries, it didn’t put up much of a fight for me. I’m gonna give this one 3.75 stars. Until next week!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Oof! Really tough cluing this week, I thought. I had ERNE at 3d for [Eagle cousin] instead of KITE, which did me no favors in a mostly empty upper left section. I ended up Googling for 5d [Quinque + 1]; that’s Latin for 5, and 6 is SEX. I also drew a blank on 15a: [2013 Literature Nobelist] and Googled to get ALICE MUNRO. The long 17a, [Head shots], turned out to be BOTOX INJECTIONS (I have witnessed someone getting 30 Botox injections in the head, for migraine prevention; it ain’t pretty). Most of the crossings in that section were clued in entirely non-obvious ways, too. 4d: [UN organ], ECOSOC? What the…? Never seen that one before. 2d [Witch-hazel enhancer], ALOE? Not in my bathroom; my witch-hazel is partnered with tea tree oil. 8d [Puree used for a Jelly Belly flavor], ANJOU? Well! Isn’t that fancy. The delicious pear jelly beans are made with Anjou puree. 9d [One leaving] is a TREE sprouting leaves. 10d [Deceive] clues the archaic/British word HOCUS.
This might be the toughest themeless I’ve done all year.
- 57a. [One may be removed many times], DISTANT RELATIVE. E.g., baby Prince George, to me. Something like my 10th cousin 10 times removed.
- 65a. [Allowing no bullets to get through?], SWEAT-PROOF.
- 11d. [Some music-box activity], TWIRLING. How much did I love the twirling dancer inside my music box when I was a kid? So much.
- 12d. [Mule carriers], SHOE STORES.
- 24d. [Kitchen burner], ONION. Put PILOT in and took it out at least twice. Onions burn your eyes.
Bits I questioned:
- 46a. [Advocacy group], COUNSEL. I think this is a collective noun referring to a group of lawyers one has retained as legal counsel. Yes? No?
- 63a. [Convenience on the way out], DOOR OPENER. I have no idea what this refers to. Oh! Now I get it. On your way out the door, an automatic door opener (or a person opening the door?) is a convenience. I was reading it as “on the way to obsolescence.”
If I’d remembered that Alice Munro just won that Nobel this fall, my experience with this puzzle would have been much different. Instead of being so blank-minded in that section, I would have had key letters nudging me towards the correct answers. So maybe this puzzle wasn’t quite as fiendishly hard as it felt to me. Did it take you a good two to three times longer than most Stumpers, or was it more in line with typical Stumper expectations?