Greg Johnson’s New York Times crossword
Hoo-boy, am I sleepy. All that will keep me awake long enough to blog is the basketbally shouting from my family. (March Madness junkies, check out the sports blog of the newest member of Team Fiend, Adesina Koiki. He totally called it for Mercer having the goods to beat Duke, and he called it last week.) So. The puzzle. It’s pretty good, innit?
- 44a. [Concord concoction], GRAPE JELLY. Started with GRAPE JUICE.
- 49a. [She had a single-season stint on “The View”], Rosie O’DONNELL. She was controversial, but I don’t think she’s the show’s most controversial host.
- 55a. [One of Leakey’s “Trimates”], Dian FOSSEY. Anyone have BONOBO first, and then MONKEY? I never knew that Louis Leakey sent the three primatologists out to study chimps (Jane Goodall), gorillas (Fossey), and orangutans (Birutė Galdikas). Trivia! The sort of trivia I think we can all agree it is good to learn, rather than the sort of name-based trivia that some solvers complain bitterly about.
- 2d. [“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination” speaker], John LENNON. Did not know the quote.
- 3d. [He directed Bela Lugosi in “Bride of the Monster”], ED WOOD. If you’ve never seen the Johnny Depp movie Ed Wood, treat yourself.
- 4d. [High rollers, in casino lingo], WHALES. Did we all know this one before it showed up in this crossword?
- I have a box of BORAX for laundry purposes; it’s good stuff. Was absolutely thrown for a loop by the clue, 5d. [Cheap, shoddy merchandise].
- 9d. [Green party V.I.P.?], ST. PAT. Ah, the “green party” that is St. Patrick’s Day. I relished the recounting of all the Wrigleyville arrests and ambulance calls relating to the wearing o’ the green last weekend. That blog post may be hilarious even if you don’t know the neighborhood.
- 41d. [Dirty rat], SLEAZE.
- Lots of Scrabbliness without a lot of compromise in the fill. Three Z’s, three X’s, a Q, and a J? Looks like a Barry Silk puzzle but isn’t one.
Worst bits: ALTERANT (16a. [Change-making]) isn’t a common word. 18a. ZIP DRIVE is indeed an [Obsolescent storage device], and at some point we should be permitted to completely forget about dead technologies. 28a. [Near: Fr.], PRES? This isn’t such a common French word for non-Francophones. I took a year of French and I still needed all the crossings; usually this would be an abbreviation for “president.” Plural names are rarely good fill; at least I knew 10d. TEDS, [Three Stooges creator Healy and others], from past puzzle work.
Four stars from me. No scowling during the solve.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Pitching Changes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Pretty appropriate title with the Dodgers and D-Backs playing as I write this in the opening game of the MLB season in Sydney, Australia. The “pitching” going on here, though, has nothing to do with baseball, but with accidentals:
- [Annie Oakley, for one] clued ♯SHOOTER – ♯ = SHARP
- [Oil or timber] was ♮ RESOURCE – ♮ = NATURAL
- [2006 Cate Blanchette film, and hint to this puzzle’s theme] was NOTES ON A SCANDAL – not sure what “scandal” is going on here; I think I’d prefer the revealer ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (albeit a 17-letter entry!) instead.
- [Plasma product, often] clued ♭ SCREEN TV – ♭ = FLAT.
Hats off to MAS for stacking the long theme entries in the way he did, that’s some fancy constructin’ going on there! I wonder if another take on this would be to actually “change” the pitch (as the title implies), by (wackily) cluing entries such as FLAT SHOOTER or NATURAL SCREEN TV. Funny to find crooner Frank SINATRA two days in a row; yesterday we learned his middle name was ALBERT. I enjoyed SET SAIL, MOSSAD, SO NICE, MINOANS and ENCRUSTED in this one. Does SCRAGS, or [Necks, slangily], refer to the napes of animals? Not sure I’ve heard that reference before–perhaps Gareth can help with that one.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Change the long 14s into 13s in a grid like this (72 words, 34 blocks) and you’ve got a Wednesday grid. So I want a grid like this to be impeccably filled, with some sparkling/visually interesting words.
The answers that seem like the seed entries are the two long 14s, GET A LOAD OF THAT! [Whistle-accompanying words] and THE BIG LEBOWSKI [1998 Coen brothers comedy]. I love both of these entries. Crossing those are two more fresh entries, WHAT NERVE! [“Of all the gall!”] and TALK IT OUT [Chat to settle a spat]. I wonder if the rhyming symmetrical clues were intentional, though I’d eat my hat if I ever heard someone say “Of all the gall!” in normal conversation.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this grid: THE FUZZ, EAST WING, LA TOSCA, LATIFAH, NOTA BENE, …AND OTHERS. BLANK SLATES is pretty good, and STANDARDIZE is fine. SLAB-TOP is new; I like the Keats reference for AGNES [“The Eve of St. ___”]. Never heard of a foon, but it abides by the same naming principles as the SPORK. A SET TASK seems like a thing, though I can’t recall ever saying or hearing it as a noun phrase. If you’ve never listened to LALO‘s Symphonie espagnole, do yourself a favor and go do so now.
I’m willing to overlook the two less-good rows: AGITA ERLE TSAR and EEN ADZE LEM (they’re not OOXTEPLERNON, at least). They may all be common in crosswords, but I don’t mind any of them particularly. OONA, ADANO, SHEB, and LINO are hanging out in the grid not helping matters much — especially since LINO is only there to facilitate the X in FLIX/SEXES, and could be done away with easily.
3.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Man, I hate Java. Gotta use Java 7 to avoid security vulnerabilities, but Java 7 is incompatible with Chrome. Couldn’t get the puzzle to run in Safari, either. Finally got it to work in Firefox, but by the time I had the puzzle, I forgot to click the dang “start” button on the timer (so used to .puz files opening with the timer running). So it felt like a tough puzzle, long solve, but I can’t guesstimate the time other than 10 minutes ± 3 minutes.
I didn’t find the puzzle particularly fun, but then I was cranky when I started so Doug had his work cut out for him. So many tough clues distracted me from the fun of the juicy fill! I liked 1a: STARBURST candy, [Product first sold as Opal Fruits]. And colloquial UNLOADS ON. The -im plural, CHERUBIM. “COME HERE.” ALONE TIME! DEMI LOVATO, full name with alternating vowels and consonants, handy for crosswords. “YOU’RE NO GOOD,” you’re no good, you’re no good, baby, you’re no good. PERSNICKETY, a great word, clued as [Antonym for “unconcerned”]. And the fictional LIGHT SABER clued as [Weapon first used in 1977].
Did not know:
- 57a. [Where Carver taught before Tuskegee], AMES.
- 25a. [Plastic flute], TONETTE. Blech.
Fresh/unfamiliar clue for LON: 42d. [Suffix for some synthetics]. Not Lon Chaney, not Lon Nol. Or- and … what other synthetic fibers have -lon names??
Four stars, I guess. Not much technically wrong with the puzzle. I don’t care for RELET but that’s about the only grumble I had, aside from struggling to solve the damn puzzle.