Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword
This is one of those puzzles that offers strikingly few toeholds, what with all those oily clues making our toes slip as we try to climb the sheer rock wall that is this puzzle. But hey! I beat it. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Thank you, [All-Star Cubs catcher Geovany] SOTO, for being one of a very small number of gimmes. (FER [“___ sher!”]
- 1D. [Standard buckets] are LAY-UPS, in basketball.
- 31A. [McCarthy cohort] is ventriloquist puppet Mortimer SNERD, not a Red Scare figure.
- 39A. [Pleasant enough] clues with weird word NICEISH.
- 55A. [What flibbertigibbets make] is NO SENSE.
- 50D. An electric FUSE is a [Current governor].
- 11D. [Managed banks?] clues AVIATED, as in banking when turning a plane.
- 10D. [Thread used in briefs] is a LINE OF REASONING. Legal briefs, not Fruit of the Looms.
- 26D. [Melliferous, perhaps] is APIAN. I started with SWEET, knowing there was a honey tie-in.
- 22D. TRIM DIE is a [Casting device]. Snore.
- 18D, 4D. [“Roger & Me” subject] is URBAN / DECAY. I was trying to think of the name of the auto executive Michael Moore was going to see…forgetting that it was Roger somebody and that ROGER would not be the answer because it duplicates the clue word.
- 3D. DOUBLE OCCUPANCY is a [Split between roommates].
Things that aren’t tricky, but that I just didn’t know:
- 33A. The CRIMSON TIDE are the [Tigers’ rival in the Southeastern Conference].
- 34D. [Roger who coached eight different NHL teams] is NEILSON. Never heard of him.
- 17D. [“The Call” autobiographer] is ORAL ROBERTS and not, as I first suspected, a famous sports referee.
- 5D. EBAN is the [Host of PBS’s “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews”].
- 19A. HRE, or Holy Roman Empire, is clued with [Its leader’s flag featured a black eagle: Abbr.].
- 47A. ERATO is the [Figure in Greek myth whose name means “desired”]. One dictionary tells me it comes from the Greek for “lovely.”
A few “is it this or that?” choices had to be made:
- 13A. AMOEBAS are [Pseudopod formers]. Not AMOEBAE today.
- 9D. [Swears] clues AVOWS, not AVERS.
- 15D. [Chili con ___ (Tex-Mex dish)] clues QUESO. Not CARNE.
- 21A. [Cal ___] POLY, not TECH.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Following Baseball”—Janie’s review
For those who are living for the first day of Spring Training, Sarah offers some previews of coming attractions as the second word of each of today’s theme phrase can also follow the word baseball. Easy. We know this gimmick. The good news is that three of the four theme phrases are real beauties. See if you don’t agree, as:
- 17A. [Dynamite detonator] BLASTING CAP → baseball cap. This is the only phrase that’s comparatively, uh, dusty… (And while AMMO is [Shot for short], “dynamite” certainly counts as ammo, no? I don’t think you’d get an argument from Wile E. Coyote anyway.)
- 30A. [Large carnivorous nocturnal mammal] BIG-EARED BAT → baseball bat. Not sure whether this creature makes me go “awww” or “ewww.” Among other bits of tid I learned about these moth-eaters is that “solitary bats sometimes hang by only one foot.” I’m trying to understand the message there. Is it “I’m available” or “Keep yer distance”?
- 48A. [Gentle manner intended to deceive] VELVET GLOVE → baseball glove.“The iron fist/hand in the velvet glove”—what a great phrase to capitalize on. This site has a wonderful glossary of phrases and their etymology. On the subject of the velvet glove it says: “The iron hand as a symbol of control is found from the ealy 1700s (the iron fist appears in 1740), but Thomas Carlyle attributes the coining of the expression ‘the iron hand in a velvet glove,’ to mean autocratic rule beneath a soft exterior, to Napoleon, although it has also been attributed to other, earlier rulers. The expression is highly variable, iron fist being as common as iron hand and other variants including steel fist, mailed fist, and silk glove.” Where the metallurgic metaphor is concerned, I like that the puzzle also includes IRON-CLAD referring today not to stove-top cooking vessels but (metaphorically) to mean [Airtight, as an alibi].
- 65A. [Large gem in the Smithsonian Institution] HOPE DIAMOND → baseball diamond. Fill doesn’t get much more sparkly, now does it? What a sweet bauble it is, too… If diamonds are not your gem of choice, of course, there’s always the more, well, sober (also shiny, dramatic, sleek) ONYX [Cameo stone]. Lotta nice Art Deco onyx jewelry out there. Here’s a little onyx and diamond trifle we all seem to have missed out on…
If baseball isn’t your thing, it looks like there may be a culinary mini-theme here with PASTA [Trattoria staple], KETCHUP [Dip for fries], HALAL [Islamic equivalent of kosher], TYSON [Chicken purveyor], SAGE [Stuffing ingredient], CASABA [Honeydew kin], BEATER [Kitchen gadget] and EATING IN [Dining at home]. You be the judge. Maybe enjoy a glass of GRAPPA [Italian brandy] as you decide.
My fave word today? ARCANA, clued as [Secrets]. The clue feels a tad generic, as I tend to think of the word in connection with “esoterica”–really deeply held secrets about mysterious and/or obscure matters–but I don’t make that a crime. It’s still a great word.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
(Full write-up of this puzzle at L.A. Crossword Confidential.)
Music! 1D: [Soul immortal] JAMES BROWN and 50A: the [Singer with four recent best-selling albums of pop standards], ROD STEWART, can be heard ON THE RADIO. Maybe Rod’s standards won’t be on the same station as J.B.’s classics, but his ’70s hits could be.
- 5A: [Southwestern site of gypsum dunes] is the national park called WHITE SANDS). Pretty! I’ve never really been in the Southwest much. Just on an Amtrak crossing through on the way to California when I was a kid.
- 16A: [Accountant’s concern] is an AUDIT TRAIL. You know you wanted PAPER TRAIL. I know I did.
- 18A: [Polite invite] clues “PLEASE STAY.” That’s what I say to my dog. Don’t want to come off too bossy. (That’s a lie: I have no dog, love being bossy.)
- 37A: [User-edited online compendium of notable snippets] is WIKIQUOTE. It’s the Wikipedia version of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.
- 44A: [It heats up your food immediately] clues TABASCO sauce. My favorite clue in this puzzle. I was thinking of microwaves and fire.
- 2D: [It may be twisted apart] clues an OREO COOKIE. Wait, nobody calls it that. They’re just Oreos.
- 3D: [Source of tears, slangily] is your WATERWORKS. This is my favorite answer after JAMES BROWN. “Turn on the waterworks!”
- 5D: The [Original “People’s Court” judge] was WAPNER. Judge Wapner! So many imitators came after him, but none have had his avuncular charm.
- 28D: One [Race infraction] is the FALSE START. That’s when a runner takes off before the starting pistol is fired. We’ve seen [False start?] as a clue for the prefix PSEUDO-.
- 29D: [Unauthorized explorer of city tunnels and sewers] is an URBAN CAVER. Ooh, what? People do that? Read all about it at Wikipedia.
Merle Baker’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”
(PDF solution here.)
Easier than most Stumpers, but tougher than the L.A. Times Saturday puzzle.
I have a decided preference for long fill that falls into certain categories: (1) Fresh and lively terms that can stand alone; (2) names of places and people; and (3) spoken English. The long answers that don’t thrill me are the drawn-outphrases, especially those that include ONE’S as part of them. Poking around the Cruciverb database, I find the examples A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE and CRAMPS ONE’S STYLE. Long entries like those suck the oxygen out of the room.
The 15s here are ONE’S-free, but they’re long verb phrases without much zing:
- 17A. [Is in a commanding position] clues HOLDS ALL THE ACES.
- 39A. To [Top] someone is to DO ONE BETTER THAN. Ouch. “I’LL DO YOU ONE BETTER” would be zippy, but the dangling THAN, while dictionary-ready, lacks punch.
- 62A. If you [Don’t miss] something, you GET ALONG WITHOUT it. Two prepositions?
3D: NO LOVE LOST, or [Antipathy], is much better. 11D: DRAWS LOTS is clued as [Chooses at random], and with the S on the end, I’m sure a lot of solvers were looking for a one-word verb.
There are a few related answers/clues peppering the grid. 19A: [Rooting section] is the SNOUT a pig uses to root in the dirt, and not a cheering section. 1D: [Encouraging words] are RAHS, and this is not a word that looks good in the plural. 37D: [Encouraging word] clues ATTA, as in “Attaboy!” I imagine there must be some dictionary support for this entry, but the two dictionaries I consulted list only attaboy.
- 22A. [African outback] is VELD. Also spelled VELDT.
- 36A. [“Major” beast] is URSA. Ursa Major is the “Great Bear” constellation.
- 44A. [Deflation sound] clues SISS. I wanted HISS or SSSS.
- 52A. [First “Great” pope] was LEO I, Leo the Great.
- 57A. RANT is clued as [Extravagant utterance].
- 66A. [Obtain genetically] clues INHERIT.
- 8D. FATSO is a [Ghostly uncle of Casper].
- 9D. [Wherein Hoffman sings “That’s Amore”] is legendary film flop ISHTAR. I wish Philip Seymour Hoffman had a different last name because we don’t need two Hoffmans on the list of past Oscar winners. (The ISHTAR Hoffman is Dustin.)
- 18D. [Something hot] is LATEST THING. Feels naked without the definite article THE in front.
- 25D. DERR is a [Name on the cover of “The Chinese Parrot”]. That’s a Charlie Chan mystery written by Earl DERR Biggers. Who doesn’t love author middle names as crossword fill? (Raising hand.) EARL is clued as a 41D: [Count’s equivalent].
- 29D. [Cinnamon, for one] is a TREE. Ground cinnamon is ground up from the rolled-up bark.
- 40D. Totally blanked on [“Reader, I married him” speaker] Jane EYRE and needed three crossings!
- 46D. SCROLL is an [Item on the Great Seal].
- 51D. TANEY was the [Chief Justice before Chase].
- Crosswordese geography trifecta! 54-55-56D are EGER, the [Wine city of Hungary]; RENO, [City near Squaw Valley]; and ATTU, [Westernmost of the Near Islands] of Alaska.
- 64D. [It’s like “like”] clues INE. Don’t get cute with clues for blah prefixes. The payoff is lacking.