Kurt Mueller’s New York Times crossword
Wait, what? A Saturday puzzle that’s easier than Friday’s? ‘Tis the magic of the 15s. You get some of those long answers filled in and the whole puzzle tumbles like your boobs after you take off your bra. (That line is courtesy of Deb Amlen. She traded it to me in exchange for the “house of cards” line I gave her for her Wordplay post. She said I had to give her credit. She probably didn’t think I’d actually use her line, but she writes all that juicy material, like her proverbial testicle jokes, that she can’t sneak past her minders at the Times, so I’m here to help out. Least I can do, right?)
Alrighty, so, this puzzle has pairs of 15s across the top and bottom bracketed together by single 15s running down. I like that BALTIMORE ORIOLE (but now it has to avoid themeless puzzles lest it take on SCARLET TANAGERS reuse status) roosting at the top ON FAMILIAR TERMS with the grid. I wanted 55a to be something-ONE FINE MESS but it turned out to be ANOTHER FINE MESS, and it occurs to me now that “that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into” is roughly what Laurel’s line is, not any “one fine mess” bit. (These days, Another Fine Mess would be the sequel to A Fine Mess, no? Followed by part 3, Another Even Finer Mess With a Vengeance.) ALFRED HITCHCOCK adds more retro film flair.
Didn’t know 36d, the Haitian P.M. named LATORTUE. Did know the crosswordese at 46d, the [Glassware ovens] called LEHRS. Good thing, too, as I was feeling pretty sketchy about my knowledge of the Massachusetts town in 45a and needed that L. The LEHRS/ATHOL combo made the Scowl-o-Meter emit beeps and red lights, as did the EENSIE spelling. And SLA, which is on my “verba non grata” list. (It’s an actual list.) And LECT., abbreviating “lecture.” Not loving much outside of the long answers today.
Favorite clue: The simple [Man’s name that spells another man’s name backward] hint for ARI. I wonder how many people tried BOB here.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Toto Too!” — Sam Donaldson’s review
The last time I blogged a Bob Klahn puzzle, I toyed with the idea of posting a partially completed grid to show my progress at the 10-minute mark, my self-imposed time goal for Klahn crosswords. When I saw the byline in today’s crossword, I paused to set a countdown clock that would chime at exactly 10 minutes. I hoped that maybe I could finish the puzzle before the chime sounded, but ’twas not to be this time. Fortunately for what’s left of my dignity, I made some good progress. My 10-minute grid appears beneath the complete solution, so you can see for yourself.
Though I was disappointed not to complete the solve within 10 minutes, I was pleased that I hadn’t made a single error at that point. It is not uncommon for me to erase (or re-type) at least a half dozen or so squares while solving a themed puzzle. For the trickier freestyle offerings in the LAT and NYT, it’s usually a good 10–5 squares at least. That’s why I paper-solve in pencil—I tend to throw down whatever works at first blush and go from there. I think pen-solvers like to reaffirm their hunches by checking one, two, or three crossings before returning to fill in the original entry. Theirs is a more methodical approach. Are you a plunker or a plotter?
- 17-Across: A [Strip with Humpty Dumpty, e.g.?] is a EGG CARTOON (playing on an egg carton). If you don’t get the punchline, the yolk’s on you.
- 39-Across: STOOP RIGHT THERE would be a [Spanker’s directive]. It plays on “stop right there.” Took a while for this one to come to me, for the G–TT sequence in the partially-completed grid had me thinking that GETTING was somehow part of the answer.
- 59-Across: [Spud-eating jags?] are TATER TOOTS, a play on “tater tots” (only the second best potato side dish ever, just behind steak fries). The clue was of no help to me, because my vocabulary never before connected “toots” and “jags” (both referring to alcohol consumption, at least I think). Left to my own devices, I would have used [Escaping gas from spuds?] as the clue. Klahn’s is much better (and much less gross).
Speaking of alcohol, check out all the drinks in the northern hemisphere. ALE, NOG, and BEER, all hanging from the top row. There’s even some REEFER in the east (though in fairness it’s clued as the [Pea jacket cousin]). We have a pair of oafs, with a SCHMO in the north and a JACKASS in the south. I like the stack of JET SKI, EROTIC, and MELODY in the west, and all the crossings are super-clean. With only 35 squares devoted to theme, there would be no excuse for a strained grid; fortunately, this one looks effortless and smooth.
So here’s my slate of the best clues from the puzzle (in no special order): (1) [Zoo keeper] for CAGE; (2) [Quite a hunk] for SLAB; (3) [Is constructive?] for ERECTS; and (4) [The first ones were introduced in 1950 by physicians in the New York City area] for PAGERS (can’t tell you how many times I wanted that answer to be PAP SMEARS). Is your favorite missing from the list?
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This grid looks like a bastardized Clue game board with five rooms, so let’s take it room by room.
In the Computer Room, we’ve got a 1a: WI-FI FINDER ([Useful app for a smartphone]) and an 16a: ENDLESS LOOP ([Programmer’s bane]). When the resident programmer was a 14d: TEEN ([High school subject?]), she was a science hotshot so 18a: ENOL ([Organic chemistry topic]) and 6d: –ICS ([Suffix for sciences]) didn’t faze her.
In the Fitness Center, we have hockey’s 19a: SABRES ([New York team]), the sailing aficionado’s 26a: YACHT ([Marina Del Rey sight]), a Muhammad 17a: ALI poster ([1996 Olympic torch lighter]), and workout machines to help build up the 32a: TRAPEZIUS MUSCLEs ([Scapula mover]).
In the Home Theater, we watch movies and old TV shows. 51a: NEVE ([Actress Campbell]), 53a: BARBARA EDEN ([“Jeannie Out of the Bottle” memoirist]), James Bond flicks with an 60a: EJECTOR SEAT ([Bond’s Aston Martin had one]), Seabiscuit (62a: RACE HORSES, [Black Gold and Northern Dancer, e.g.]), and James 41d: ARNESS ([“Gunsmoke” actor]). When little kids are present, there’s Winnie the Pooh’s friend 57d: ROO ([Hundred Acre Wood denizen]) to enjoy. Plus we watch all the new shows we 54d: RECord with TiVo ([TiVo button]).
The Tool Shed is where we store our 34d: AX HANDLE. (Momentary grumble digression: [Fellers grasp it] wants to be clever, but why do all the people felling trees have to share a single ax handle?) When we 33d: RESEEDED the lawn ([Tended some bald patches]), we used that doodad that we store here.
In the Crazy Room in the middle, we visit our crazy-long prefix, 23d: ORNITHO ([Bird: Prefix]). I did a Cruciverb search for 7-letter words with “prefix” in the clue and found single uses of ORNITHO, ARGENTI, and SCOLECO. The lesson we take from this is that if you have to have a crazy-long prefix, maybe ORNITHO is the one to go with.
Not wild about a lot of the short fill today. IME, FAS, ICS, DIO, AMT, ENOL (not so proud member of my Scowl-o-Meter word list), ARR, BCE, REC, ATH, ODER, ENOS? A little of these would go a long way. I do like the MOLE HILL ([Sign of a lawn infestation]), TWIST TIE ([Drawstring alternative]), and TIME MACHINE ([Telephone booth, for Bill and Ted]). Overall feeling…hmm, let’s call it 3.4 stars.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Ah, yes. Here it is, a puzzle worthy of Saturday. I had to work for everything except 33d: [Trump’s Palm Beach home], MAR-A-LAGO. One gimme, and only one. Well, 39a: [Mary Poppins pal] BERT, I got that one easily too. Nearly every other answer involved criss-crossing the grid, piecing together some hopeful guesses. But it all came together in the end, with no insoluble square to make me call the puzzle unfair.
- 15a. Erno RUBIK of puzzle cube fame is the [Honorary head of the Hungarian Engineering Academy]. Of course, you’re not supposed to know that. You’re just supposed to think, “Who’s Hungarian and would be liked by engineers?” Hopefully, that will lead you towards our pal Erno.
- 19a. I always hate “AH ME” when it’s clued as a nonspecific plaint because who says that? Nobody says that. It’s rescued by a literary trivia clue, [“Song of Hiawatha” lament]. The lament first shows up in part XII of the epic poem and it becomes a bit of a refrain there.
- 26a. Etymology trivia. SENSEIS means [Literally, “masters”].
- 27a. Spanish-language trivia. [What Mexicans call “raspado”] is a SNO-CONE. Good to know! In the summer, my son and I like to get snowcones from the Mexican cart vendors, but never knew the word raspado. There’s also the elote man, selling corn with Parkay, cheese, and cayenne pepper. And the frozen paleta fruit pops, but our paleta vendors all sell American ice cream bars and Bomb Pops too.
- 44a. [’70s Davis Cup team captain] is TRABERT. Tony, right?
- 52a. SAM the Eagle! I get him mixed up with the Muppet Show character. [Eagle mascot of the 1984 L.A. Olympics].
- 53a. [City in the Capistrano School District]? What a “meh” clue. It’s Nixon’s SAN CLEMENTE.
- 59a. SALADA TEA is a [Product first sold in lead foil]. Mmm, lead.
- 62a. “I GET IDEAS” is a [Tango tune heard in “The Full Monty”]. That “Do you believe in miracles? Sexy thing” song is the only one I remember.
- 63a. Random New York state geo trivia: UTICA is a [City southeast of Rome]. Meh.
- 65a. I was worried that [Archie Comics regular] was going to be some obscure character, but no. It’s BETTY.
- 38d. [“For the Future of Israel” author] is PERES. Shimon, I presume.
- 45d. RAMADA hotels is a [Brand introduced on Route 66 in 1954].
I feel as if that’s a lot of trivia for one puzzle. The LA Times puzzle has plenty of trivia too, but it’s generally clued in more accessible ways to get you to fill in more familiar names. This one required a good bit more wrestling. It’s also got a fun “OH, PLEASE” but otherwise not a ton of zippy fill. I have no idea why 46d: T-NOTES are [Points of some yield curves], but the other stuff all made sense to me. None of the answers were scowlogenic, and the puzzle provided a meaty challenge. A solid four stars.
P.S. Stan tells me he has a new byline pseudonym coming up. I couldn’t figure out an anagram for it, so be on the lookout for that and see if you can figure it out first.