John Lieb’s New York Times crossword
I like the trio of 7s that open this puzzle: SPAMBOT, MANCAVE, and IRAQ WAR. So much depends upon / the 1-Across fill / stacked with good entries / beside the white chickens.
Other things I liked:
- 8a/26d: WALKOFF / HOMER, which I only learned about this year.
- 20a. [Donkey : mule :: ___ : huarizo], LLAMA. Hybrid beasties—the papa donkey who makes eyes at a lady horse sires a mule, and a papa llama and female alpaca produce a huarizo, which is a creature I’d never heard of.
- 25a. [Sweet Jazz sound?], the SWISH of the basketball through the Utah Jazz’s hoop.
- 14d. [Decayed], FESTERED. Call me rotten, but I have always been fond of the word fester.
- 37d. [Recreation hall staple], FOOSBALL.
- 49d. [Moral duty?], SIN TAX. Duty = tax, too.
44a. [Construction material for several theme parks], LEGOS? *gasp!* My Uncle Andy would be horrified at this entry. He’s one of those diehard Lego buffs who hews to “the plural is Lego” stance. Uncle Andy has an entire room full of Legos.
Time to close up shop here—four stars, over and out.
Steven Riley and Charlie and Lauren Pollak’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Triple the constructors, triple the 15s!
The first thing I noticed about this grid is how few black squares there are. On top of the two triple-stacks, there are two wide-open corners, plus two diagonal runs of 5-letter entries. Grids like this tend to FLOW nicely, so well done.
I wasn’t crazy about any of the 15s, but neither was I disappointed with any of them. TARZAN OF THE APES is pretty nice, and WEB-FOOTED GECKOS has some crunchy letters in it. Also, definitely look up some pictures of web-footed geckos. You won’t be disappointed. Certainly someone will gripe about the “one’s” in TRIED ONE’S BEST AT, but it won’t be me. Maybe the “at” at the end feels a bit forced, but it didn’t strike me as odd until I read it five or six times, like so many phrases do when you read them that many times.
And some of the ballast fill is actually quite nice, considering the constraints in a 66-word grid like this. The frisbee golf term TEE PAD is new to me, but I like it, and it’s very inferable. HALF-STEP, ONE L LAMA, and OK CORRAL all in the same stack is superb, as are the trio of BE COOL, ALL OF ME (clued excellently as the very current John Legend song, rather than the Lily Tomlin/Steve Martin comedy of 30 years ago), and GREEN TAX. I found something refreshing about KITELIKE — it looks good in the grid, and to me at least, the -like suffix doesn’t feel forced here. It also feels sort of groundbreaking to see HOOTERS clued as the restaurant!
I do have to ding the puzzle a bit for fill issues. And normally I’m happy to just note that there were a few necessary compromises and move on, but this one had unnecessary compromises. In particular, I’m looking at the two clunker entries SIREE and AHEMS (a weird partial and a forced plural). In a 66-worder, sure, fine. But not when there’s better fill available:
SAGER isn’t dazzling fill, but if the adjectival form strikes you as off, it can be clued as noted sideline reporter and colorful suit-wearer Craig. And either way, in my book it’s better than AHEMS or SIREE, much less both. (I look forward to your impassioned defenses of AHEMS and SIREE/vilifications of SAGER.) At least we have the lesser of two evils in EDEL over EDER at 11-Down.
OK, I’ve said my piece. 4-star puzzle, dinged 0.5 stars for careless fill. Until next week!
Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as Lars G. Doubleday)
Oof! I looked up three things in the skinny northwest corner because all I could get was ANDY. I checked an Oxford dictionary for “quartz” and you know what? It said it came from the German Quarz, from Polish dialect kwardy, meaning “hard.” So I don’t see how [Language that gave us “quartz”] is OLD SAXON. Merriam-Webster lists German. Webster’s New World lists German. Wiktionary gives even more detail, still without OLD SAXON. And the Wikipedia page indexing English words derived from Old Saxon has no quartz. Brad and Doug and Stan, where the heck did this clue come from? Perhaps a retraction is indicated. Googling quartz old saxon seems to bring up things like eBay listings and blogs devoted to crystals. Dudes. Is this your source?
So that look-up was useless to me, but I also Googled 1d: [AFI’s #7 all-time romantic comedy] to get ADAM’S RIB and 27a: [Best Actor Oscar winner after Sidney] for REX Harrison. Those gave me the footholds I needed to piece together the rest of the section … and I still wasn’t pleased with a couple things there. 4d: [Stress], KEY ON? What, as in “I want to key on this”? This isn’t at all familiar to me. And 32a: [One way to concur] for I DO? No. To NOD is one way to concur. I DO is not a way. Saying I DO is a way to concur.
I also fell for the misdirect at 37d: [Boxer, for short]. I knew it meant Barbara Boxer, yes, but I filled in SEN rather than DEM, which made it very hard to figure out 36a: [Egg or honey, often] as a BINDER; also, had no idea honey was used as a binder. As for 46a: [“The Octopus” of the Southern Hemisphere], SEN gave me LINA rather than LIMA and I figured it was a constellation (although that would be Southern Sky rather than Hemisphere, I suppose). Never heard of Lima, Peru being “The Octopus.”
Favorite fill: BRANGELINA, Louise ERDRICH, PACHINKO, EDNA FERBER, PHILISTINE, MANI-PEDI (fiendish clue: [Showcase for digital artistry]), and ADAM’S RIB.
Perhaps this puzzle was created as a rebuke to those solvers who tell Brad that they can never finish his puzzles unless he makes them with that friendly constructor, Doug, who makes such fun and solvable puzzles. “You think Doug makes things easier? We’ll show you!”
3.5 stars. It would have been 4 but I’m docking it .5 for that OLD SAXON thing.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ready For Takeoff”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and a Happy Saturday to you!
My weekend hasn’t taken off just yet, but at the very least, I can set the wheels in motion to change that with this puzzle, authored by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. The four theme answers end with words that are also types of planes. The reveal, PLANE, is in the middle of the grid (39A: [Runway model? (and a hint to the ends of 17-, 27-, 48-, and 64-Across)]).
- SUPER TANKER: (17A: [Large crude carrier])
- CROSS TRAINER: (27A: [Exercise machine]) – This term now is almost exclusively used to describe shoes.
- CRIME FIGHTER: (48A: [Batman, notably])
- BRONX BOMBER: (64A: [Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio]) – Also acceptable: MARILYN’S GUY…well, once.
For once, the Mountain Time Zone gets some love in a grid with MST (5D: [Laramie hrs.]). Unless I haven’t done that many crosswords, almost all the answers relating to time zones usually concern all of the other continental American time zones. Are there any crossword lovers in Denver or Boise? Would love to hear from you! Two days ago, we had CREEPO, and today, it’s just CREEP (52A: [Dirty rotten scoundrel]). Just a few days ago, I wondered if I ever would fit in either a GO-KART (8D: [Amusement park racer]) or in a demolition derby car at an amusement park. Afraid the answer is probably a no!
SLOOPY is a great-looking, great-sounding clue (15A: [“Hang on ______” (1965 chart-topper by The McCoys)]). Right now, I just went to YouTube to listen to the song as I type this review! You don’t believe me?
Haaaaaaaang on Sloopy!!!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DEER (12D: [Lots of bucks?])– Although this person did not have the most accomplished Major League Baseball career, former Milwaukee Brewer and Detroit Tiger Rob DEER is sort of a cult hero to baseball fans, especially those who collected baseball cards in the 1980s and always had at least 10 Rob Deer baseball cards, some you would turn into paper airplanes. The cult hero status is due to the fact that he was the ultimate all-or-nothing hitter: he would either hit a home run or strike out, it seemed. Deer hit 25 or more home runs six times in his career, which spanned from 1984-1993, as well as a 25-game stint with the San Diego Padres in 1996, but he also led the majors in strikeouts four times, including a career-high 186 whiffs in 1987.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!