Patrick Blindauer’s bringing forth a new puzzlefest—a suite of interconnected crosswords that lead to one grand “meta” answer after you’ve solved them all. Go here to learn more about “College Puzzlefest” and enroll in Xword U.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Twin quad-stacks of 15s at the top and bottom, plenty of unexciting short fill crossing the stacks? The short fill is pretty much what I expect quad stacks to have.
- 17a: NAVAL ENGAGEMENT crossing 3d: NAVEL RINGS.
- 25a. [One may remove grease with elbow grease], SOS PAD.
- 43a. [Dead player?], POSSUM.
- 51a. [They're usually pixelated on TV], OBSCENE GESTURES.
- 10d. [They have bills and appear on bills], EAGLES.
- 23d. [Many a dama: Abbr.] cluing SRA not far from ADAMA, 4d. [Native of Caprica on "Battlestar Galactica"]. A little double-Adama Easter egg for BSG fans.
- 36d. [Wisconsin county or its seat], WAUKESHA. My husband grew up in Waukesha County! Intensely Republican area with electoral irregularities. But! Woeful crossing at the K: 47a. [Larry of the original "West Side Story"], KERT? Not remotely a familiar name for me, and if you have no personal connection with the area, there’s no reason to know WAUKESHA. Sure, it shares the “wauke” bit with Milwaukee, but Wisconsin is lousy with other Wau- towns that don’t take a K in that spot: Wausau, Wauwatosa, Waupaca, Waupun, Wautoma, Wauzeka, Waumandee, and more. County/town crossing not-so-famous last name = what they call a Natick crossing, no?
- 50d. [Book review?], AUDIT. Nice clue.
Scowled at: Somewhat unnatural IT’S A LOT; KERT; plural abbrev CTNS; unfamiliar phrase [Poor as ___ (destitute)] A RAT; partial A TEE; SSTS; plural name DOMS; crosswordese STOAS, BOLE, STEN, SERT (and you can argue that SERT is an important name in art, but I pretty much only see the name in crosswords).
Did not know: 22d. [Freshwater aquarium favorite], DANIO; 11d. [Renowned boxing gym in Brooklyn], GLEASON’S. Also had no idea that LOG SHIP, 8d. [Sawmill supplier], was a thing. Apparently it’s also the name of a tool that Lewis and Clark used in assessing river speeds. And I’d never heard of CANADA BLUEGRASS, but our constructor is Canadian so maybe it’s more familiar to him? Google tells me it grows in 49 states and most of Canada, so it isn’t specifically Canadian. If you’re looking for bluegrass pickers in Canada rather than a meadowgrass, here you go.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy /Washington Post crossword, “Opposites Attract” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases which consist of two “words” (or portions of words) and their opposites:
- [Omitted cry of approval?] was LEFT OFF RIGHT ON – Wax On, Wax Off, anyone?.
- [Challenge Adrian Peterson to gain more yards?] clued CONFRONT PRO BACK – though the phrase seems an outlier (CONFRONT is one word, not two), how can you not like a reference to the “Purple Jesus” of the Minnesota Vikings?
- [Surrender two points in wrestling?] was GIVE UP TAKE DOWN – sounds like something from the old Charlie Chan movies: “Wrestler give up take down so not suspect.”
Ambitious theme that I think was a bit too ambitious to pull of with some consistency and phrases that make a lot of sense. But, and this is a big but, having both PERFECTO and EL CHEAPO running just a few squares away from each other make up for any of the puzzle’s other failings. 1-Across’s [A lot of bull?] for HERD was also a fun way to kick things off. So I guess I’m of two minds on this one, which is pretty appropriate given the title, eh?
Timothy L. Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Hi! Gareth here subbing for Andy who isn’t available.
Today’s puzzle by Timothy L. Meaker is remarkably black. It’s a 37/72 with six helper squares, which means a much easier time construction-wise than a typical themeless. No biggie, provided Mr. Meaker maximises on the easier grid and we get fun answers, which is, ultimately, what we’re here for, right?
I found the grid generally to have a lot of good answers without any big standouts. There were also a few wrong notes – ATAN and MNO especially. Not enough to normally irk me, but with this grid maybe they stung a bit more.
Other bits and pieces:
- DEARHEART/DENMOTHER/STAYPUT was the best stacklet.
- [All thumbs], UNADEPT. Is this used?
- [...Cyndi Lauper hit], SHE/BOP. You don’t often see masturbation references in newspaper crosswords!
- [Get real], FACEFACTS is a lively idiomatic answer.
- [Portable storage container], TOTEBOX. Never heard of that, but it checks out OK. I’d probably call such a thing a box.
- [Actress Ryan], IRENE. I don’t think I know this particular Irene and I don’t remember seeing her in an IRENE clue, though I’m sure she’s had a turn. Anyway, apparently she played Granny Clampett on Beverly Hillbillies before I was born and before my country had TV. That isn’t the puzzle’s fault.
- ["All greased up and ready to sing" '70s-'80s TV hosts], SHANANA. My parents are inexplicably fond of them. They are also known for their contributions to the soundtrack of the film version of Grease and more peculiarly for playing Woodstock.
- [Ben & Jerry's, e.g.], TRADENAME. You went for bRAndNAME first too, didn’t you?
- [Focus of a 1990 psychology best-seller], INNERCHILD. All I gleaned from that clue was “psychology term”. Google suggests the book is Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by one John Bradshaw.
- [Reach extenders], STEPSTOOLS. Are these different to step ladders?
- [Start of an early Grafton title], BIS. Unnecessarily awkward partial clue when there’s a perfectly serviceable French word to reference.
- [Over there], YONDER. Yonder is fun to say; it needs to come back into the everyday vocabulary!
- [Fermat's forte], MATH. Short for mathematic.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Another Toughy McTougherson “Stumper” this week. I did Google one thing: 59a [DHL's headquarters] in BONN, Germany. Did I know that DHL was based in Germany? Not so sure I did. That whole quadrant was difficult for me. The main problem was that I had DARK for 27a [Syrup specification], thinking of real maple syrup when the clue is about the DOSE of cough syrup. DARK seemed so right (along with SPUR ON, APACE, and NIM) that I was mired in impossibilities for 28d through 30d.
Hardest clues, best answers, and other outliers:
- 16a. THE NATURAL, [ESPN's #6 all-time sports film]. BRIAN’S SONG was made for TV but might be on that list, and it’s also got 10 letters.
- 18a. BOWDLERIZE, [Cut, in a way]. Cut out the salacious words. Love the word BOWDLERIZE!
- 21a. UV INDEX, [Measure of burning potential]. With *V*N in place, I contemplated OVEN-something.
- 25a. [Tool in a vegan kitchen], STONER?? To remove pits from cherries and whatnot? I would think non-vegan kitchens are no less likely to have STONERs, which, of course, are people who smoke pot.
- 49a. [Elmer holds one in "What's Opera, Doc?"], SPEAR. Cute cartoon trivia clue.
- 61a. [He wears a yellow coat and pants], ODIE. The dog in “Garfield” comics wears clothes?? I checked the Garfield wiki and the light dawned. Odie “wears a yellow coat” in that his coat of fur is yellowish, and “he pants” in that his tongue’s often hanging out. Super tricky clue!
- 62a. BEACH PARTY movie genre, great fill.
- 1d. CROSSED OFF, [Like many to-do list items]. What an optimistic clue.
- 7d. [Geithner successor], LEW. Jack Lew, the current Secretary of the Treasury. He had to change his signature from stretched-out-phone-cord to slightly-recognizable-letters because the random loops would look goofy on all our paper money. (If you’ve got LEW in your puzzle, better to clue it as a name with current import rather than some largely outdated pop culture figure.)
- 26d. [Maturation formation], OVA. Man, I had to work the crossings hard for this little word.
- 28d. With an A in the first square, it took me a long time to see that [Crush with ice, say] meant ORANGE SODA. Hidden capital C at the beginning of the clue, always wily.
- 52d. [Not to mention], TABOO. “Not to be mentioned” would have made this a lot easier.
I paused at entering ALOHA STATE for 57a since “state” is repeated in [Interstate H-1's place].
Four stars. Not a particularly fun solve for me, but a knotty challenge. The Stumper keeps our skills in interpreting the trickiest clues from atrophying; we used to have a few killer Saturday NYTs every year but it seems like they all toe the line these days.