Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (joint pen name, Lars G. Doubleday)
I made it through most of this puzzle in a standard Stumper amount of time, but was so stumped in the southwest quadrant that I finally gave up and Googled 44d. [Two of the 12 moonwalkers] to find the ALANS. I had GENIES and DDT in place, and with ALANS I gained enough of a foothold to finish the corner. What stumped me:
- 26d. [Essentially none], THIMBLEFUL. Started with THE MINIMUM.
- 27d. [Reinforcements], RELIEF ARMY. I don’t recognize the term.
- 41a. [City northeast of Milan], BERGAMO. I know of bergamot but didn’t know it was named after a place called Bergamo.
- 44a. [First TV series in Dolby Surround sound (1986)], ALF. What a waste of technology! I guessed SNL.
- 47a. [Master], LEARN. Could be a noun as well as a verb.
- 54a. [Frozen, maybe], AFRAID. Tried STOLID, FRIGID, TURGID.
- 58a. [Highly unlikely to flinch], NUMBED. Was thinking of synonyms for “courageous.”
- 60a. [Least square], SLYEST. I have never encountered sly and square as antonyms.
- 48d. [Vietnam War trilogy playwright], RABE. I had no idea.
Highlights that did not stump me included PIXY STIX, IRON MIKE, an OPEN SHOP without unionization, CALYPSO, WILLAMETTE RIVER, NO LONGER, EXPLICIT CONTENT (though I had no idea that was a [Record label since the ’90s]), and TELENOVELA. Lots of zippy fill today.
31a. [Fox’s onetime ”Survivor” competitor] clues THE O.C., which is a show that aired on Thursday nights opposite CBS’s Survivor rather than a rival reality competition show. Tricky clue!
Four stars from me.
David Steinberg’s NYT freestyle — Matt’s review
At 72 words (max for a freestyle) and considering its conservative black square placement, this grid is about as not-wide-open as a themeless can get. So it’s got to have serious pep.
There’s definitely some pep. With its J, X and Z the Northwest can be called Scrabbly. JAILBREAK and CANDY SHOP are nice, but APOLLO XII is a random space mission (no Tom Hanks movie about it). LLDS, plural AIOLIS and KIP clued as the currency of Laos (was I really supposed to know that?) are suboptimal, so let’s move on to the rest of the grid since the jury’s still out.
NE corner: nice weird-letter-combination sequences with MS-DOS, COKE ZERO, AOLERS and DAKAR. Strong corner, pendulum swinging in a positive direction.
SE corner: SEXY SADIE is excellent, ARAGONESE is serviceable, GOOGLEBOT is unfamiliar to me but sounds like a thing. Is BIG HOAX a thing? Not sold on it. Googles unconvincingly, so we’ll ding it as roll-your-own. GOING BY is a nice phrase, though. So-so corner. Moving on to the last section…
The SW: JUST DO IT, MONARCHY, MOJITO, OPULENT all strong. Didn’t know that CONDOR was a [Hole in one on a par 5] but considering birdie, eagle and albatross it makes sense. Considering how rare the albatross is, has a condor ever even happened? I doubt it! But Wikipedia says yes: “A condor has been recorded only four times, only once on a straight drive (a record 517 yards or 473 metres) rather than cutting a dogleg, and never during a professional tournament.” I’d like to see some videotape of a condor. Doesn’t appear to exist. But interesting clue.
So overall: pretty good fill, not as Walden/Quarfoot/Knapp mind-blowing as you want it to be for such a conservative themeless grid, but solid and a fun solve.
***I plunked VODKA in for [Spirit of St. Petersburg?] at 16-A, but it was STOLI(chnaya). That works, too.
***Good fill: high-end vocab BILIOUS, Dickens nom de plume BOZ, Judd APATOW, JACOBS, SEA BED.
***Top three clues: [Beech house?] for NEST, [Cooler idea?] for JAILBREAK, and [Popular line of footwear?] for JUST DO IT. Mystery clue: [One stocking bars] for CANDY SHOP. Candy shop isn’t a person so the “one” sounds odd.
3.85 stars. Some good ZIP (25-A) in there.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Hurrah, it’s ACPT Day! Hopefully, I’m seeing many of you in Brooklyn right now! And this is a very nice ACPT warmup puzzle, indeed (at least, for those solving on the big board — the only themeless puzzle will probably be Puzzle 8).
Brad Wilber has given us four triple-stacks pinwheeled around the grid. We normally see TARPAULIN and ONE OLD CAT in their shortened forms, and it was interesting to see them as 9-letter entries. TAKE LEAVE is a funny phrase, as “take” is the opposite of “leave,” yet TAKE LEAVE (of) doesn’t mean anything like “take it or leave it.” I was confused by the description of OMELET PAN as a [Breakfast buffet utensil]. But that usage of “utensil” isn’t wrong — it’s just not common. ANIMAL HOUSE, FRESH FACE, and Teddy “TRUST BUSTER” Roosevelt were all fun entries. WINTER HARDY was new to me, as was BOXELDER BUG (though I’ve definitely seen the latter before, so Google Images tells me).
Bullet points for the rest of the grid:
- BUY AND HOLD is fresh fill to me, and I liked BRUSCHETTA (mostly because it came to me so quickly, and is a nice counterpoint to TOMATO PUREE).
- I’m just now noticing this is a pangram, thanks to fill like QUELL/QUEEG, JESU/JUTTED, REMIX/BOXELDER BUG, and ZINC/ZEN. Good stuff.
- I’m a bit torn about CIA SPY. It looks ugly in the grid, but it’s hard to dispute that a “CIA spy” is a real thing. Net positive for me.
- SPECIE is one of those old-timey words I love seeing.
- ALS is usually an entry I do not like, but I dug the clue [___’s Toy Barn: “Toy Story 2” setting]. In the opposite vein, I usually don’t mind SHES when clued as a partial (e.g., [“___’s a Lady”]), but I was not a fan of the clue [Women]. Do people say SHES to mean “women”?
- Sir TERENCE Rattigan is probably unknown to most American solvers. He wrote the play(s) that this movie was based on.
I’ll give this one 3.75 stars. Good luck to everyone at ACPT! To everyone else, until next week!
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “… What Am I?” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Riddles are the order of the day:
- [“I’m light as a feather, but nobody can hold me for very long …”] clued ONE’S BREATH – there was a 60 Minutes bit about a diver who can hold his breath for 4-5 minutes as I recall. Yikes!
- [“My tines be long. My tines be short. My tines end ere my first report …”] was LIGHTNING – I’m not familiar with the term “tines” as associated with lightning; I only know them as the ends of forks, but it makes sense that they would be used as the sharp points of other phenomena as well.
- [“I go on four legs in the morning, on two legs in the afternoon, and on three legs in the evening …”] clued MAN – “morning” is when you are a baby, “afternoon” an adult and “evening” is old age, when you need a cane.
- [“I jump when I walk and sit when I stand …”] clued A KANGAROO – why the indefinite article here and not with “a man”? Inquiring minds want to know …
- [“I’m the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space, the beginning of the end, and the end of every place …”] was THE LETTER E – here we have a definite article.
I enjoyed the riddles, nice change of pace from the more standard crossword thematic fare. The opera I PAGLIACCI definitely upped the difficulty factor in this one, as well as its neighbor TOTO IV (were there a I, II and III that preceded it?). Much easier was the lower left quadrant with some (very) old friends, ATRA, ASTA and ALDA in a U-shape. Timely clue for The HURT LOCKER, [Movie with the first female winner of the Oscar for Best Director], as today is International Women’s Day. Good luck to all in Brooklyn today–I’ll be rooting for you from the on-lines!