Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword—Jim Q’s write-up
Wowza. This was tough for me. Even though some of the longer answers came quite easily (SPILL BLOOD, SPEAKEASY, AMERICANA, MONSTER, SAY PLEASE and SOMBREROS), I never felt like I had a solid foothold in any particular section. That is, except for the tiny SW corner (Thanks, LIVIA!). There was just a lot that I… didn’t know. Throw in some awfully tricky cluing, foreign language answers, and my own misguided instincts, and I had myself deep in a hot mess of a grid. It’s not that I didn’t like it. On the contrary. I enjoy learning new things and I like a puzzle to be a tad too hard. It just took me a while. Some breaks were involved.
48-Across. [Entertainers for whom lines quickly form] SLAM POETS. I really wanted IMPROV COMICS. But no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t fit.
45-Down. [Cry in a dogfight] I’M HIT. I had the I’M part… but wasn’t thinking of a war arena. Was thinking of actual dogs fighting… and I couldn’t help but think I’M SAD.
54-Across. [End up leaving] STET. I enjoyed that clue.
15-Down. [Cocktails with Kahlua and cream] SOMBREROS. Got this with no crosses. I made two of them tonight whilst tending bar.
40-Down. [Opportunity for people to act badly?] B MOVIE. Indeed. Are we due for another Sharknado soon? Or has that movie series jumped the shark? Hahahaha! Ha! heh….. ugh.
1-Across. [Places for drivers to get around]. Plunked in GOLF CARTS (kinda makes sense?). Then eventually (and confidently) changed it to FAST LANES. Since the T worked, that made it that much harder to change to the correct LEFT LANES.
24-Down. [Oatmeal, e.g.] HOT CEREAL. Had ??? CEREAL, and yet still couldn’t see it.
38-Across. [Consumers want to get their hands on it] TABLET PC. I read this as TABLE ???. I can’t be the only one. TABLE TOP? Sounds good, I guess.
18-Across. [Trophy named for the NHL’s first president] CALDER CUP. Not STANLY CUP. I knew my spelling was off on STANLY, but stuck by it.
27-Down. [Striped or spotted animal named for its habitat] PAMPAS CAT. Say what? Oh, look at that! It’s adorable!!! I bet it could put a few more claw marks on you than appear on the MONSTER can though… so I’ll forego cuddle time with it should the opportunity ever arise.
BAAL, SACRA, ANSE, ALFIO, PEALE, COMME, OCCAM, SOCKO (who says that?), EL MARIACHI, TREN, TEA TASTER (is that a job? I want it!), LALO, HASTA, PACA, ROTI.
There’s more, but I’ll leave it there. Usually the shorter answers are the part of Saturday puzzles that help me figure out the fun, longer answers. Today was the opposite. I had to slog through the short stuff after getting longer entries.
I definitely was not on my “A” game, but enjoyed solving this as I served up drinks to my bar crowd. And they enjoyed chiming in as well. A difficult crossword at a bar is a great icebreaker by the way. Everybody was working at this thing.
So thanks, Kevin!
Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I count only 64 words in this one! An extremely wide open grid with less than 30 black squares as well (I count 27). Without the 12 cheaters, this would be SUPER wide-open, but in usual LAT fashion the fill is very good. Only one vaguely unfamiliar term to me, which I will list below. Also, in usual LAT fashion, this one was a pleasure to solve. It may not seem that it was given a solving time of under 5, but it was! 4.4 stars for this one.
A few notes:
- 15A [“To the end of the block! C’mon!] RACE ME! – I think this both my favorite clue AND entry! This evokes memories of playing outside when I was a kid!
- 31A [Recycling center debris] GLASS SHARDS – My first thought was some sort of BOTTLES, but that didn’t fit. I would have clued this as [Evidence of a break in, perhaps] or something along those lines. Still solvable, though.
- 52A [Cheese from the Italian for “sheep”] PECORINO – This is that word I am not familiar with. Never was a big cheese eater, unless it was on a burger or with macaroni!
- 12D [Dallas plaza in 1963 headlines] DEALEY – I don’t think I knew this was spelled this way. This is of course the site of JFK’s assassination.
- 21D [Calls it a night] GOES TO SLEEP – This is one of many longer entries in the puzzle that don’t seem forced at all. A smoothly constructed grid, especially with the low word count.
- 24D [Do some window maintenance] REGLAZE – I think a window is the only thing you could glaze again; would you glaze donuts again??
- 26D [Evidence-gathering device] WIRETAP – I am waiting for the Trump wiretaps to start … !
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Brad Wilber and Matthew Sewell have cooked up a doozy. Matthew’s solo puzzles, in my opinion, are getting slowly tougher, while Brad’s are right up there with Frank Longo’s as the toughest available in this series. Together, I think Brad’s tough style is rubbing of on Matt! This one started out quite tough, but once I got a decent start, it wasn’t too bad. I finished in the middle section somewhere; the top and bottom areas seemed to fill first. Not too much wonky in here, but there are a few vocabulary stretchers in here. Those will definitely be in the list! A solid 4.5 stars for a true test of knowledge.
- 16A [Salsa verde ingredient] TOMATILLO – This IS a green tomato, so it makes sense that “green salsa” would have green tomatoes!
- 26A [Hail in Oz] G’DAY – Is there an Oz in Australia? Is this a nickname for Down Under? Google says it is, and I don’t think I knew that!
- 38A [Special-event compositions] OCCASIONAL POEMS – A great 15-letter entry, even if it also is a rare term for me to use.
- 59A [Monsoon region designator] AFRO-ASIAN – I assume this is east of Africa and west of India in the Indian Ocean. Another new term for me!
- 65A [Sesame, on Southern menus] BENNE SEED – Something else I have never heard of!
- 9D [Designer in the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame] WANG – A nice factoid. I wonder which skaters she has designed for?
- 23D [Mitigating] ALLEVIATIVE – ALLEVIATING is more often used as an adjective here in Northern Indiana.
- 36D [900+-station network] NPR – That’s a lot of stations. That’s about 40 per state!
- 54D [Whom Cleopatra identified with] ISIS – So she identified herself as a deity? A lot of ancient rulers seemed to do this. This seems to make racism seem not as bad, since they both have to do with a person or group feeling superior to another. What better way than to request worship from the perceived lesser ones? Just a thought!
Go Blue! The Game is today at noon!
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What Have You” — pannonica’s write-up
Simple insertion of a U.
- 23a. [“No, I’m not leaving a tip!”] CHEAP SHOUT.
- 25a. [Save the Mosquitoes, perhaps?] WORST CAUSE.
- 35a. [Brownish-gray color of whisky?] SCOTCH TAUPE.
- 48a. [First appearance on a countrywide broadcast?] NATIONAL DÉBUT.
- 56a. [Lewd moos and the like?] CATTLE RAUNCH.
- 68a. [Filipino panhandler?] MANILA PAUPER.
- 76a. [Vicar’s assistant who’s armed?] PACKING CURATE. 78a [Vicar’s place in the church] CHANCEL, 16d [Area beyond the 78-Across] APSE. Much vicarage, wow.
- 89a. [Online site for Nascar fans?] RACING FORUM.
- 101a. [Just-filled flour packages?] MILL POUNDS.
- 103a. [Marker in the Midas Strait?] GOLDEN BUOY.
I trust the originals are straightforward enough to infer. There aren’t any shifting of spaces or recalibrations involved. Further in the low-key approach, there are plenty of appearances of the letter U in the non-theme parts of the grid.
Nifty how 7d [Kenyan insurgents of the 1960s] MAU MAU crosses the inserted letters of two themers (23& 35a).
- 19d [Does some genetic tinkering] SPLICES. Has CRISPR made it into crosswords yet? Incidentally, U-insertion is an aspect of RNA editing (uridine).
- 20a [Audrey’s “Robin and Marian” co-star] SEAN. “Elegiac” is the operative word when I think of this film.
- 55a [Hose attachment] tried MISTER before GARTER.
- 72a [Handful for a motorist on foot] GAS CAN. This clue addled me sooo much.
- 75a [Split apart] RIVE. More often seen in the adjective form riven.
- 85a [“Uh-huh!”] YEP, 107d [“Owner of a Lonely Heart” band] YES. Nuh-uh, nope.
- 1d [Tampa Bay tackle, for short] BUC. Was thinking it was a particular player’s nickname, but turns out the ‘tackle’ specification is there to indicate which sport is being referenced. Strange.
- 13d [“Scram!”] GET OUT. Also, um, a quite popular 2017 film.
- 32d [Spiced drinks made with curdled milk] POSSETS. Whoa.
- 39d [Relentlessly gloomy] DOUR. Any consensus on pronunciation? See yesterday’s CHE write-up. Also, 114a [Reminds a few too many times] NAGS.
- 58d [Zeena Frome’s husband] ETHAN. ZEENA, ETHAN, FROME—all prime crossword names. Even author EDITH Wharton.
(Selected this particular track because whoever uploaded it mistakenly inserted a U in the title.)
- 69d [Sport shoe for hoopsters, e.g.] ANAGRAM. Ooh, that’s a really good one! I often get a bit grumbly and cheated about deceptive clues like this for ANAGRAM(S) but this one is just so excellent.
- 88d [Prepare to play after a break] RETUNE. Also a very good clue. Nothing to do with sports.
- 11d [Torch] BURN DOWN.