Todd Gross and David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
Happy cruciverbersary! The crossword turns 100 years old on Saturday, so this puzzle includes a shaded diamond area in the middle that corresponds to Arthur Wynne’s original Word-Cross puzzle. Although it’s only got Wynne’s FUN in 16-Across; I’m almost positive the Wynne puzzle did not have AMIDALA. And the shaded zone doesn’t constitute a stand-alone puzzle, unless UMEN, ANDD, OWNE, NPRO, and ITWA are valid fill. So I’m not quite sure the rationale for including the shaded area is entirely solid. Todd and David included some more theme answers:
- 6a, 20a. [With 20-Across, where the first-ever crossword puzzle appeared], NEW YORK / SUNDAY WORLD. Never heard it called anything but New York World in the various articles I’ve read.
- 45a. [Creator of the first crossword], ARTHUR WYNNE.
- 59a. [Year in which the first crossword appeared, on December 21], MCMXIII. Did the New York World give the date in Roman numerals or something?
- 53a. 1989 Peace Nobelist], DALAI LAMA.
- 3d. Noted geographical misnomer], GREENLAND. Rather icy and white, actually.
- 37d. Rock singer?], LORELEI. Singing by the rocks in the Rhine.
The highlights were perhaps outweighed by the lows here. SOLEMNER? Apparently Emily Dickinson used the word but most people would go with “more solemn.” Wrapping your FUN in FUNGICIDE (16a. [Jojoba oil is a natural one]) feels a little gross (not Gross). OLES, ELOI, ELAM, EWELL, APSES, ORO, BEDIM, EST, ESE, TYES, stilted “IT WAS I,” WEI? That is a lot of vocabulary that doesn’t enhance my Saturday NYT solving experience.
Three stars from me.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter serves up a themed themeless puzzle in honor of the 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle. To an extent, I saw this one coming. Knowing December 21st was going to be a Saturday, it seemed as though editors would have to make a choice between running the tribute puzzle on a weekday beforehand or on the actual day, when a themeless would normally run (or I guess not running a tribute puzzle). Luckily, Rich Norris didn’t have to choose.
The theme answers are two 15s that intersect in the middle of the grid: at 39a, the expected CROSSWORD PUZZLE [The first one appeared on this date in 1913]; at 7d, the cross-referenced BE LETTER PERFECT [Finish a 39-Across without a single mistake, e.g.]. I liked the wordplay. If I’m nitpicking, I’m not a huge fan of phrases that start with a form of “to be” (e.g., WAS MAD, IS ON TOP OF IT) unless they can be clued as complete commands (e.g., BE PREPARED, BE A DEAR) or questions (WAS I TOO HARSH?, ARE YOU MY MOMMY?). I usually ask myself whether the entry would be better or worse without the “to be” verb. Here, LETTER PERFECT is more “in the language” than BE LETTER PERFECT, though I understand that the constraints of the grid made “BE” necessary.
- 1d, TIKI TORCH [Backyard party decoration].
- 2d, ONE-LINERS, clued as [Routine fare?].
- 16a, EGG ROLLS, clued surprisingly as [Easter activities].
- 36d, OZONE HOLE [Montreal Protocol concern].
- 37d, SLUGFESTS [(Baseball) Games with many runs]
- 54a, OBEAH [West Indian sorcery]. Not voodoo, not santeria.
- 27d, VESPA ["Roman Holiday" vehicle].
Average time for me today. Had a bit of trouble migrating into the NW at the LITE/TES crossing (I kept wanting [Loser's word] to be LOSE. Oops.). Had WAIT A SEC for 64a, JUST A SEC ["Hold your horses!"].
Thankfully I knew Gay TALESE ["A Writer's Life" author]; that crossing with MEL Tillis could be a tough crossing.
Only memorably icky entries were TRAD. and the partial OR TO ["For here __ go?"]. Not too shabby. Does anyone use/say NET TV?
A fine tribute to the word cross. 3.33 stars. Until next week!
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Background Singers’ Phrasebook” – Dave Sullivan’s review
So the “oohs” and “ahhs” of background singers are used as (close enough) homophones in three theme phrases:
- [Seminal parts for a barbershop quartet?] was PRIMORDIAL OOHS. “Ooze” and “oohs.”
- [Street corner group's question about what part to sing?] clued DOO BE OR NOT DOO BE. “To” and “doo” aren’t as close as “ooze” and “oohs,” at least with our local New England accent. Are “street corner groups” known for doo-wap?
- [Foremost choral arranger's nickname?] was THE WIZARD OF AHS. Back in familiar territory here, “Oz” becomes the very close “ahs.”
Points for an unusual theme, though I suppose the “ah,” “ooh,” and “doo” could really be sung by any type of group with background singers, so I’m not sure I follow the particular choices above. Lots of Scrabbly action in this one, I count three Z’s and a J in the fill. I first questioned JONAH as a book of the Bible (I thought the story of Jonah and the Whale was just one part of another prophet’s book), but it is indeed it’s own book, nudged between Obadiah and Micah. IN THE SHOP ([Being worked on]) next to the now-famous BOSON ([Higgs particle], we were in his home town of Edinburgh when it was announced that Professor Higgs had won the Nobel prize in Physics for this discovery) was a highlight of the puzzle. When I finished, I didn’t get Mr. Happy Pencil, and noticed I had spelled broccoli RABE as RABI instead, and didn’t notice the crossing [Galoots] were APES instead of APIS, which I believe is the bee family.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Tough puzzle, with vague clues abounding.
- 14d. [Beef sources], WHINERS. Nice mislead, what with the crossing at 16a: [Source of lean meat], OSTRICH, drawing the mind towards meats.
- 8d. [Villain in the animated film "Rio"], COCKATOO. Had assumed this was looking for a character’s name, not a type of bird—but Rio is about birds from South America so it makes some sense. But I needed to work the crossings to figure this one out.
- 49a. [Port-of-Spain resident, for short], TRINI. I went to college with a guy from Trinidad, but I never heard “Trini” as a word for someone from there.
- 1d. [Accumulates rapidly], ROLLS IN. As in “rolling in the dough”? Not sure how often the ROLLS IN form is used, though. It sounds a tad off to me.
- 3d. [They're pulled out of beds], VEGGIES. Took me forever to get the middle consonants. It didn’t help that I had 2d: ENOUNCE spelled as ENUONCE, which then crossed CUTS OFF instead of LOGS OFF.
- 38d. [Stain], DISHONOR. Change two letters and you get the also-apt DISCOLOR.
- 55a. [Shade for much Hello Kitty merchandise], HOT PINK. Fun clue.
- 33a. [Cryptozoologists' mecca], LOCH NESS. I had the Yeti on my mind, not Nessie.
- 64a. [Rubber steaks, e.g.], DOG TOYS. Fresh fill. (See also: beef and lean meat clues.)
- 39d. [Allegory whose author is its protagonist], INFERNO. Dante.
The puzzle felt a little too challenging to be truly fun, or maybe I’m just distracted this morning. (Am waiting for someone to call about a possible live TV interview. Eek!) Four stars, as the fill is smooth (and fill quality is paramount in a themeless, of course) and there’s nothing unfair in the cluing, just difficult.