Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword
Great-looking grid with those four corners filled with stacked 9-letter answers. Can this really be a 62-worder? I suppose that explains the inclusion of some oddball fill.
- 15a. PIXIE DUST!
- 38a. “¡NO MAS!” is clued as [Spanish uncle?], as in the Spanish equivalent of shouting “Uncle!” to give up.
- 40a. Anne Bronte’s AGNES GREY—I was blanking on the first name and had no idea what it was until I finally filled in CIGAR ASH and instantly remembered that AGNES was the A name I needed.
- 51a. If you didn’t get enough literary oomph from 40a, here’s Hemingway’s IN OUR TIME. (Only it’s clued generically as [These days].)
- 9d. STOSSEL is always good for a laugh. Sure, now his name is a [Fox Business Network show] but back in the day? My husband and I have mocked John Stossel ever since he tried to be inflammatory on 20/20. He did a story on prison inmates doing weight training at the prison gym and looked as alarmed as Dramatic Chipmunk when he warned that these guys were going to be “bigger—and scarier” when released from jail.
- 35d. If this clue were [From Lands’ End, e.g.], you could answer it with MAIL-ORDER. But the apostrophe is in the natural place, [From Land’s End, e.g.], so we’re looking for CORNISH. That Land’s End is the extreme southwestern toe of Cornwall.
- 44d. [Trinity member], 5 letters with an H—you totally went with GHOST too, didn’t you? It’s SHIVA. Different trinity.
- 49d. [“Best friend” from Germany?] is HUND because that’s German for dog, a.k.a. “man’s best friend.”
- 19a. [A.B.A. team that signed Moses Malone out of high school] is the UTAH STARS. Never heard of the team.
- 32a. It’s sort of inferrable, but I didn’t know CONOID was a word. Cone-shaped, or [Dunce-cap-shaped].
- 8d. ESTRAY is a word? Huh. [Animal that has escaped from its owner]. Is this an old word or a portmanteau?
- 47a. A RASTA is a [Grounation Day celebrant]. It’s on April 21, that Rastafarian holy day.
- 52a. [Waterfall or rapid] is the old French word SAULT that Americans know primarily from its use in such place names as Sault Ste. Marie. Who knew? Not I. (Pronounced “soo,” if you didn’t know.)
In the category of Fill Amy Was Not So Pleased With, we have three crusty bits of crosswordese (RIATA, AEDES, and ADIT), which is not too bad considering the low word count. There’s also a smattering of phrases that don’t feel so aggressively crossword-worthy to me—CIGAR ASH, one NACHO CHIP, a SPY STORY that wanted to be a spy novel, LOOSE TILE.
That D CUP at 10a had me thinking of bras when I filled in WAY COOL at 36d, ([Aces, nowadays]). Anyone else think of Wacoal brand bras here? No?
3.75 stars. Tough puzzle!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Owl in the Family” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle is a veritable hoos-hoo for crossword solvers. The four theme entries end with words that can precede “owl:”
- 17-Across: The [Secretary of State under President Bush] was CONDOLEEZZA RICE. The Rice Owls are the Conference USA powerhouse from Rice University in Houston.
- 25-Across: POTTERY BARN is a [Home furnishing chain]. The barn owl is the most common variety of owl. One website states that it is rare for an adult barn owl to live more than three or four years. Being smart apparently takes its toll.
- 43-Across: One [Popular Christmas carol] is SILENT NIGHT. We have many night owls that hang around the university, especially come time for final exams.
- 55-Across: One who [Is completely apathetic] just DOESN’T GIVE A HOOT. A hoot owl is another name for the “barred owl,” another common variety of the species. Wikipedia says “It goes by many other names, including Eight Hooter, Rain Owl, Wood Owl, and Striped Owl.” I’m partial to “eight hooter.” I like the image of an eight hooter with a six-shooter.
There weren’t many patches that had my head spinning. <crickets chirping>. Head spinning? Owls? Nothing? Really? Okay, let’s just move on.
I like the confluence of Zs around CONDOLEEZZA and PIZZERIA, the [Restaurant with a lot of dough?]. There are a couple more Zs stuffed into the south, which is a cool touch. The Kool-Aid Guy makes an appearance in the southwest with OH YEAH. Other highlights include TV SET, IN A DAZE, and B AND B.
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (really by Stan Newman)
This one’s a little harder than I was expecting from the “less rough” byline, but yes, easier than most Stumpers.
- CH- food crossing, CHEERIO (clued as a [British toast] of the spoken variety) meets CHEETOS, a [Cornmeal product]. The same zone has TIRAMISU, a [Spumoni alternative]. Can’t remember the last time I saw spumoni on a dessert menu, but tiramisu is popular at all the Italian eateries.
- 65a. SAY UNCLE. See also 38-Across in the NYT puzzle today.
- 8d. Classic Stumper clue here. [Drawn] could be the past participle of “draw,” for something like SKETCHED (on paper) or PULLED (as drapes) or TAPPED (as a draught of beer). But no, it’s also an adjective meaning HAGGARD.
- 38d. [Result of soft-palate vibration] is a SNORE. Snzzzzxx.
- 51d. THREE is a magic number, and also the answer to an anatomy quiz: [Semicircular canal count per ear]. Listen, people: Take good care of your ears. Don’t blast your iPod into your ear buds, lest you kill off the hair cells in your inner ear. And be sure to exercise your semicircular canals regularly, spinning around until you get so dizzy you fall down. (Nice to see a fresh clue for a simple word like THREE.)
Alan Olschwang’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We see composer Erik SATIE in crosswords fairly often, but if you check the Cruciverb.com database, you’ll see that before today, [“Vexations” composer] was used only twice in 93 SATIE appearances. And here is “Vexations,” in both the LAT and NYT puzzle! I approve. “Vexations” is a great word. Have you got any vexations today? I have at least one.
Alan combines a triple-stacked set of 15s in the middle with a couple more single 15s, and every one of ’em is good:
- 17a. AT THE DROP OF A HAT is that rarity, a six-word phrase that fits into a 15-square crossword space.
- 32a. ULTERIOR MOTIVES? [They’re hidden in negotiations]. Hidden by that FILTHY (22a) RAT (19a), no doubt.
- 37a. We’ve seen REAL ESTATE AGENT in crosswords before, but it still shines because it’s so readily familiar to any solver. (Reminder: When you’re using the trade name “Realtor,” it’s pronounced “reel-tər,” not “ree-luh-dər.”)
- 38a. BELL-BOTTOM PANTS are largely a blast from the past. These [Cousins of flares] tried to make a concerted comeback but they really still look like refugees from the 1970s.
- 52a. Old-timey answer here, as hardly anybody puts on a WHISTLE-STOP TOUR ([Rail campaign, traditionally]) anymore.
- Triple-stacks tend to have ugly little crossings, but the worst instances here are Mount HOREB (maybe this should have been clued as [Biblical peak] rather than [Biblical mount], as MT. ST. Helens is at 50d) and a plural abbreviation (31d: ESTS, short for estimates). More of the ugly bits are found outside the stack—AER, SSE, OVI-, RMS, DEP., ESO, RSTU…
6a: BID PRICES—those are actual things? It’s not just “bids”? 15a: CLACK—that’s really a [Collision sound]? A collision between two small, light things, sure.
Seven more clues:
- 26a. [“The Prague Cemetery” author] clues Umberto ECO. Pannonica tells me this is Eco’s new book. Hey! I have been to two Prague cemeteries. This worldwide best-seller appears to allude to Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery. It’s a must-see site if you visit Prague.
- 3d. [Revealing] clues TATTLETALE, which I usually see as a noun.
- 4d. [Hessian pronoun] means German pronoun, and ICH means “I.” At 55d, TOI is a [French pronoun]. I wonder why it’s not, say, [Burgundian pronoun].
- 9d. [Many a Rilke work] is a PROSE POEM. You know what Rilke called himself. “Ich.”
- 25d. [Oater omen] clues TOM-TOM drum. What, cowboys versus bad-guys Indians? There are certainly more neutral ways to clue this word.
- 29d. EVENING OFF is an unusual entry. Would you prefer NIGHT OFF for [Barkeep’s respite]?