Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
- Ridiculously low word count (56). Lots of Es and Ss and other common letters to facilitate that, but also some lively answers, like SQUASHES (7d: [Ends abruptly], the transitive form of SQUASHES), NINJAS (1D: [Stealthy fighters]), and…LAXATIVE (28D: [Feen-a-mint was one]).
- Puzzle’s essentially split into four separate mini-puzzles. I moved through them counterclockwise from the northwest, and…I think the fourth quadrant took more time than the other ones to make any headway into. Eventually it tumbled, but it put up a fight.
- Most flagrant violation of the breakfast test for sensitive solvers: The juxtaposition of LAXATIVE and CREMATES (27D: [Burns up]). Honorable mention: ANILINES, which I thought were just dyes, gets a stinky clue, 10D: [Compounds that smell of rotting fish].
- Toughest clue, in my book: 26D: [Glorified gatekeeper, in Goias] for SAO PEDRO, St. Peter in Portuguese.
- Goriest: 22A: The SHRIKE is a [Harsh-sounding bird that immobilizes its prey by impalement]. Maybe it impales the smelly rotting fish so you don’t have to eat it and get sick and need that LAXATIVE?
Back later Friday evening:
Joon notes in a comment that two other answers fit into the “unpleasant to contemplate over breakfast” category:
- 36D: PELOPS. [He was served to the Olympians as food]. This is a mythological character I’ve never heard of. Wikipedia tells me that Tantalus, his dad, chopped him up into stew as an offering to the Olympians, who only ate his shoulder. What luck! The dismembered pieces could be reassembled into Pelops again, with a piece of ivory replacing his shoulder. Was this the first recorded joint replacement surgery?
- 16A: NEUTERED is clued as [Made unbearable?]. Only females can bear children (leaving aside seahorses or whatnot), and neutering is usually thought of as male sterilization but the word encompasses female sterilization as well.
Other tough clues/answers:
- 13A. I wanted IN A SNIT, and then I wanted IN A STEW (like PELOPS!), but it turned out to be IN A STIR.
- 18A. UNCIAL is a [Writing style of old Latin manuscripts]. I forgot this word, but knew it when I dug calligraphy during my adolescence.
- 42A. Is REMAST a word? It wants to continue on and be REMASTER. [Outfit for a new voyage, say] by replacing the mast on your ship?
- 41D. [It’s S. of the Vale of Tempe] is the Greek MT. OSSA. Not Tempe, Arizona.
Will Nediger’s Los Angeles Times crossword
(Adapted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)
Oh, man, this one was even easier than last Saturday’s puzzle. 3:14 for me lands at an easy Wednesday NYT level. The fill was cool, but the clues didn’t make me work for them. I mean, if you were a fan of The West Wing, bam! 1-Across filled itself in and gave you a head start on the first 11 Down answers. Even though I kinda quit watching the show by the final two seasons, AARON SORKIN was a total gimme. His earlier show, Sports Night, was one of those under-watched but smart and engaging series.
- 12A: [1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song] (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH). Great answer! I had most of the letters from the Downs before I even looked at the clue.
- 14A: [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy] (MARRIED TO THE MOB). Also starring Matthew Modine as the FBI agent and…who played the mobster guy? Anyone remember?
- 16A: [Record holder?] (EX-CON). Love this clue!
- 29A: [For whom the bell tolls] (THEE). As in “Ask not for…”
- 42A: [Silly rabbit’s desire, in ads] (TRIX).
- 46A: [Without anything on] (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD). I got this one off the K. Wish the clue had been more elusive so I’d have to work more to have this colorful answer emerge in a grid. One question: When you are naked, are you wearing nothing but blue feathers? No? I didn’t think so.
- 50A: [’80s NBC medical drama] (ST. ELSEWHERE). Never watched this show, though it should’ve been right up my alley.
- 9D: [Cleopatra’s eyeliner] (KOHL). No relation to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The black eyeliner powder takes its name from an Arabic word.
- 12D: [Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982] (ZAXXON). I sure didn’t know this one, but having a Z and two Xs worked into the grid pleases me.
- 24D: [Play badly?] (CHEAT). What’s your household policy on cheating at board games? I grew up in a no-cheating household but my husband’s family was fine with cheating. Yes, we have a mixed marriage.
- 32D: [Loser to Bush in 1988] (DUKAKIS). As a college student in Minnesota in ’88, I went to the Democratic caucus. The Dukakis crowd thought they had a catchy slogan: “We’re gonna caucus for Dukakis!” I no longer remember which candidate’s corner I ended up in. It might’ve been Jesse Jackson, since I attended one of his rallies…on a Minnesota farm. Not many, I daresay, have heard Jesse Jackson leading a crowd in this chant: “Save the farm! The family farm!”
- 41D: [Picayune] (SMALL). I love the word picayune and wish I lived in New Orleans just so I could read the Times-Picayune every day.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Do’s and Don’ts”—Janie’s review
Another week of terrific CS puzzles comes to a close. We’ve always been able to count on well-made puzzles from the team, but it seems to me there’s also been a consistently higher level of ARTISTRY [Creative talent] of late and I don’t want it to go unmentioned. More, please!! ;-)
By example, just look at Randy’s puzzle. There are eight–count ’em, eight–theme phrases. They account for 82 squares of theme-fill. That’s a lot, folks (a typical 15×15 has upwards of 36; a 21×21 puzzle has around 100…); and while there’re a lotta threes among the non-theme fill (and a lotta abbreviations…), there’s also a lot of fill of the seven- and eight-letter variety as well. Decidedly lively stuff, too.
First the theme fill. Okay–and another observation about the construction. Not only do the eight theme phrases appear paired in stacks or columns (!!), each is an “admonition” with each part of the pair beginning either with the word “do” or the word “don’t.” Each phrase is also very much in the language, but each has been clued with a change of context or nuance, forcing you to re-think what you’ve always assumed the phrase to mean. Check ’em out:
- 13A. “DO A GOOD TURN” [Admonition from a drivers ed. instructor?]. And not from your parents or the clergy reminding you to look out for others, see?
- 17A. “DON’T BET ON IT” [Admonition from Gamblers Anonymous?].
- 10D. “DO THE TRICK!” [Admonition to a magician?].
- 11D. “DON’T ERASE!” [Admonition to a hit man?].
- 30D. “DO WONDERS!” [Admonition to a miracle worker?].
- 25D. “DON’T BOTHER!” [Admonition to a pest?].
- 54A. “DON’T BE CRUEL” [Admonition to a sadist?].
- 57A. “DO A NUMBER ON” [Admonition to a bookie?]. (I’m not entirely sure how to make sense of this one without dropping the preposition, but I’ve gotta let it slide. The strength of the theme wins out.)
Not too shabby, eh? And then look at some of the non-theme entries. Like ENTRÉE [Main dish], which has complements not only in BREASTS (clued as [Chicken orders]) and SLICES [Pizza orders], but also in MENU [Course catalogue?] (think about it…); or TOE LOOP [Move for Sarah Hughes] (here she is executing triple toe loops…); PERSONAS [Roles]; RUNNER UP [Pacer that places] (those’re horse-racing terms; the horse is the “pacer” and he “places” if he comes in second–as in “win-place-show”); ORIENTS [Points in the right direction]; “SPARE ME,” clued by way of the understated [“TMI”] (too much information…); and the fabulous SOB STORY [Tale of woe].
Who or what, I wonder was Randy’s MUSE [Source of inspiration] today? However it came about, thank you also for the double entendre [Light gas] for NEON; and [Corner piece] for ROOK (where I initially eschewed the chess board for NOOK, not having read the clue carefully…).
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
(PDF solution here.)
The final square for me was where 42A: [Kin of “molto,” in music] and 35D: [“Loot” playwright]. TANTO for the music term is not looking remotely familiar to me, but Beth ORTON sounded plausible for the playwright. Except that it’s Joe ORTON. Before I settled on the T, I had an S there because SANTO/ORSON looked pretty plausible too.
- The intersecting middle 15s are UNSOLVED MYSTERY (8D: [Fodder for speculators], but not financial speculators) and SWORD-AND-SORCERY (37A: [Fantasy genre]). Both are terrific entries.
- 1A. TIMBUKTU is fun to say, isn’t it? It’s a [Far-off place].
- 47A. BLACKSTONE is clued as a [Big name in law and legerdemain]. The magicians are Harry Blackstone Sr. and Jr. The famous judge is Sir William Blackstone.
- 56A. [Mustache variety] is the clue for WALRUS. Ha!
- 4D. [It improves flight safety] clues a BANISTER on a flight of stairs.
- 24D, Random older-people trivia usually is irksome, but here, the answer makes sense. [Howdy Doody’s sister] is the almost-rhyming HEIDI Doody.
- 34D. Lewis Carroll’s SNARKS are [Fanciful literary creatures].
- 38D. AC/DC is an electricity term but also the rock [Band with a lightning bolt in its logo]. Good clue.
- 12D. This is kind of a weird one: HALF-DOZENS are [Some bagel orders].
- 18A. [Surname meaning “priest”] clues KAPLAN. Had to work a lot of crossings for this one.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Marching Bands”
I always like the Marching Bands puzzles in Games/World of Puzzles. Every square is checked by another answer, but instead of going across and down, the answers go across and in rings. You end up getting chunks of other answers rather than just a single crossing square at a time. For example, the first answer in the E band is EVITA PERON, [Famed first ladu of Argentina (2 wds.)]. The VITA part feeds into the second answer in row 5, VITAMIN B, or [Nutritional “complex” (2. wds.)].
Since you don’t know where every answer’s going to go, you get the added help of tags for multi-word answers.
This format, like many of the variety grids, lends itself to having mostly longer answers. I counted one 3, seven 4s, nine 5s, 12 6s, eight 7s, seven 8s, two 9s, three 10s, one 11, and one 17. In other words, most of the fill has at least 6 letters. And the fill is familiar, nothing obscure. Compare today’s NYT, which also has mostly answers of 6+ letters. With the across/down interlock of a standard crossword, you end up with more prefixes/suffixes (e.g., RESEEDED, REMAST), chemicals that are not household names (AMATOL, ANILINES), etc. The Marching Bands puzzle gives us lively answers like ED NORTON, EARTH IN THE BALANCE, WEAR THIN, FLY SOLO, TENDERLOIN, BUDDIED UP, and HARPER LEE.
Here’s my answer grid:
B U R R O W E A R T H I N F L Y S O L O P A L E S T E N T E N D R E B E L C H L I P S H A R P E R L E E C O U P E V I T A M I N B O L D I E S T A P I O C A T R E N D S • F E N N E L L E I S U R E F R E S C A A D D I N E D N O R T O N E N D I V E G E N E R I C R E U B E N I N S T O N E A T T R A C T F O L D E D F I X A T E S I N A T R A