WSJ Saturday Puzzle—a Hex cryptic! (PDF here) 22 minutes ’til I got too sleepy to unravel the last corner, 3 more minutes Saturday a.m.
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
This grid is a skosh wider than normal, accommodating two 16-letter entries crossed by bundled pairs of 15s:
- 18a. [Most likely] clues IN ALL PROBABILITY. Solid.
- 47a. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS is a great answer. [“Dracula” and “Frankenstein” producer] is a non-obvious clue.
- 2d. [Opposing team’s turndown] clues PENALTY DECLINED. Football, yes? I’m having trouble with the substitutability rule. It feels more like noun+verb than just a noun, but the clue is all noun.
- 3d. PLANT IN ONE’S MIND is floundering a bit without a direct object. Plant a seed of doubt, plant a seed of an idea—you’ve got to plant something, no? [Suggest subliminally, perhaps] is the clue.
- 13d. The SWIMSUIT EDITION is a [Revealing issue] of Sports Illustrated magazine.
- 14d. EAT ONE’S HEART OUT is the second 15 in this puzzle with the ONE’S formation. A colloquial “eat your heart out” is zippier. The clue is the ambiguous [Pine].
- Besides the two ONE’S included in the 15s, two answers include I (partial IT I, AS I SAID) and two have OUT (SELLS OUT, EKING OUT).
- 17a. HOLY WAR demonstrates the violent slant of [Faith-based initiative?].
- 22a. Knowing your International Olympic Committee country codes doesn’t help you here, as the IOC uses MAR for Morocco rather than MOR. (There’s dictionary support for Mor., mind you.) [It’s south of Sp.].
- Three partials: 25a: AS NO, 26a: IT I, 31d: ALL OR. Bleh.
- 27a. Oh! Weird plural first name ERNIES has a clue that made it a gimme for me: [Keebler’s head elf and others]. I sure didn’t know this at pub trivia a couple years ago, which seared it into my memory.
- 33a. Needed every letter from the crossings for this one, as ALIOTH has only the faintest familiarity for me. This [Big Dipper star] is markedly less household-namey than erstwhile California politician Joseph Alioto, who’s one letter off from ALIOTH.
- 35a. This is my favorite clue: [Sowing pioneer] made me think of inventors of agricultural machinery, but it’s just good ol’ Johnny APPLESEED, who sowed apple seeds. Is the story still promulgated that he wore a metal pot on his head?
- 38a. Yet another Grand Slam tennis tournament (Wimbledon) is in motion, and still ACERS fails to enter the general tennis lexicon. [Court whizzes] is the clue.
- 40a, 41a. Double “Who??” action here. [Peace Nobelist Kim ___ Jung] has a DAE in his name, just like Lost hottie Daniel Dae Kim, and [Italian novelist Morante] is another ELSA. I always think of the word “novelist” when I see the word “Nobelist” (the B and V are keyboard neighbors), so I like the juxtaposition of these clues. Both names, mind you, were 100% crossings for me.
- 42a. [Bellyacher] clues MOANER, a roll-your-own word if I ever saw one. Or maybe it isn’t—I Googled the word and what do you know? It’s a song title and a Vagina Monologues piece.
- 45a. Another plural first name: NEALES are [Tennis’s Fraser and others]. Do you know any other guys named Neale?
- 5d. Cute way to signal the Spanish word for “island”: ISLA is [Gran Bretaña, e.g.]. Never saw “Great Britain” rendered in Spanish before.
- 6d. Blurgh. NOP, three consecutive letters in the alphabet, are clued as [Start of the second half?]. Don’t get cute with letter run clues, people. Question-marked clues demand a solid payoff.
- 11d. Complete mystery for me here: [Participants in the annual Safety Dance] are ELIS, or Yale students. I hope this is an age-old tradition dating back to the early ’80s involving Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” Who doesn’t love medieval village videos with alphabetic dance moves?
- 12d. “Mississippi” has four I’s and four S’s, but [One of four in Mississippi: Abbr.] clues SYL., short for “syllable.” Boo on the abbreviation, yay for the could-go-several-ways clue.
- 15d. Can DRY ROTS be a plural? How many DRY ROTS can you have at one time? Clue is [Some building weakeners]. Could also be [Some crossword weakeners]. (Oh, snap!)
- 19d. Another great clue—[They were black and yellow in old medicine] clues BILES. Gross answer, but I like a good evocation of the humors.
- 25d. A third plural first name: ARLOS are [Jimmy Johnson title comics character and others], from “Arlo and Janis.” Clue feels awkwardly worded to me.
- 28d. I also loved this clue: [“Help!” and such] are CRIES, but the quotation marks had me singing the Beatles song.
- 30d. With the probably-don’t-know-her ELSA crossing ASTRA, maybe the [Senate stars?] clue should have been eased up. Roman senate, astra is Latin for “stars.” Did the Roman senate ever discuss the stars?
- 35d. Remember that year at the ACPT when Trip Payne unwound a tough answer in the finals and exclaimed, “Oh, dear God!”? I channeled Trip when the crossings spelled out ALALA for the [Brown-tinged Hawaiian crow]. Joe Krozel: Why, pray tell, did you have ALALA in your word list? This is no ANOA, sir.
- 42d. Does MERLS count as crosswordese? This word for [Blackbirds] isn’t, I don’t think, broadly familiar. With the three plural first names here, there was no way it could be [Crossword constructor Reagle and others].
- 45d. NEUE, German for “new,” fills in the blank in [___ Zurcher Zeitung (leading Swiss daily)]. Zürcher is the adjective form of the city Zürich.
- 48d. We may have another abbreviation here, but at least it’s not the dreaded spelling variant. No, it’s just VAR., a [Dictionary abbr.].
For a 68-word grid, that feels like a lot of compromises. I guess it should feel like a 66-worder, given the extra column in the grid—but still, there are a lot of answers ending with S (including the plural names and a couple plural abbreviations. If it’s not in the 64-and-under class, I expect to see smoother fill.
Will Nediger’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Will Nediger, like Matt Jones, seems partial to unusual themeless grids that don’t look like everyone else’s. In this one, the fill runs a maze shaped like a backwards S, giving us five areas of white space with long (7 to 15 letters) answers.
There’s one answer that was utterly unfamiliar to me: 12d: MAESTOSO, or [Stately and dignified, in music]. You can read a bit about it here.
- 1a. Full-name JAMES MASON, [He played Brutus in “Julius Caesar” (1953)], you know. (I didn’t.)
- 14a. I got FATA MORGANA for [Complex mirage] with just the last few letters. Skimming the Wikipedia article, it becomes apparent that I don’t know any of this information, so I’m not sure how I got the answer.
- 17a. To BET is to [Enter the pool]. You didn’t fall for DIP, did you?
- 21a. LAC is French for “lake,” so [Ski nautique site] is the LAC where you water-ski.
- 30a. [House or lodge] can be a verb like STOW.
- 33a. MARRIED TO THE MOB, the [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer film], is a cute movie.
- 48a. RED SOX, good entry. The [Team that’s played in the same home park since 1912]. The Cubs have only been playing in Wrigley Field since 1916, several years after their last World Series championship.
- 52a. I like OVERANALYZE, or [Figure to a fault]. What is a crossword blog but a place to overanalyze things?
- 3d. [King’s downfall, maybe] kept me guessing. It’s a MATE in chess. Not Stephen King, Billie Jean King, the King of Pop, or the King himself, Elvis Presley.
- 13d. If it is ON THE WEB, it is [Generally Googleable]. Now, that clue would have been un-Googleable before bloggers started putting crossword answers on the web, right?
- 32d. If you get your [Walking papers], you get THE AX.
- 35d. I was thinking Roman mythology for [Cupid, for one], but Cupid is also one of Santa’s REINDEER.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Flying Colors”—Janie’s review
On this day before the country’s birthday Bruce graces us with a timely (and terrific) tribute to Old Glory. Let me run the theme fill up the proverbial flag pole here:
- 17A. DETROIT RED WINGS [11-time Stanley Cup champions]. This makes them third in the NHL, behind the Montreal Canadiens (23) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (13). Will come back to the team name and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later.
- 26A. LITTLE WHITE LIES [Relatively harmless fibs]. Will come back to this fill and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later. (For the color in question, run the cursor over the “blank” space.)
- 49A. GREAT BLUE HERONS [Large wading birds common to the Americas]. Will come back to the team name and its relationship to the puzzle’s title a little later. In the meantime, know that a typical habitat
for these beauties includes a [Marsh area] BOG.
- 63A. STARS AND STRIPES [Old Glory features]. Ohhhh. Now I get it. Because of the red wings and blue herons I’d thought all three of the first theme entries would somehow be bird-related—actual “flying colors.” So I didn’t initially see how those white lies fit the pattern. But there I was, looking for the wrong pattern… Now that that’s been straightened out, here’s a link to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever“—with piccolo animation yet!
By way of a mini-theme, Bruce does something very charming with “hellos” and ‘goodbyes.” We get: AVES [Roman welcomes], ADIEU [French farewell] and then VAYA [con Dios (Spanish farewell)]. He then continues the Spanish connection by offering a sip of ANÍS [Cordial in Spain] to [Pedro’s aunt] TIA, and reminds us that the [Squiggly mark in “señor”] is a TILDE.
Among the other strong fill offerings today: “ACT NOW!” [Infomercial directive], PARIAHS [Shunned people], CREVICE [Narrow rock opening] and (with its near-graphic/kinetic clue, my fave) ATINGLE [Fluttery, as skin when massaged].
Loved the clues [They’re often broken by drivers] for TEES and [Tut’s cousins] for TSKS because both of them made me look at the familiar fill in a fresh way. And I also appreciated [Like Tim or Alice] for TINY—because it’s not often that Albee’s Tiny Alice get crossword recognition. Ditto [“The Divided Self” author R.D.] LAING. Read the book in a college psych class and became a fast-follower of Laing’s writings. Don’t know how his thinking holds up today, but his unorthodox views of the personality and “madness” made a big impression on me back then.
Let’s greet the holiday instead with some Jimmy Cagney (as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy) performing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Corny. But for so many reasons, altogether appropriate. Enjoy!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, the variety cryptic “Keyholes”
I was working on this puzzle last night and put in a crazy answer that worked with two of its three crossings, without regard for the word length mismatch (and clue mismatch) that resulted. I was too sleepy to untangle the bottom right corner so I went to bed and it all made so much more sense this morning! I appreciate the variety cryptic for being one of the few kinds of crosswords that can defeat me in a single sitting but yield to repeated attacks. (Yes, I know plenty of people experience that with regular crosswords. So sue me.) British newspaper cryptics also refuse to fall in a single sitting most of the time. (Yes, I know plenty of English solvers complete those in 10 minutes flat. Please sue them.)
So, anyway…I think Hex’s WSJ cryptics remain easier than their Atlantic puzzles were. Do you agree? Last year’s book collection, Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords, was a delicious smorgasbord of knotty puzzles, a great many of which I had to come back to a few times to finish.
As for today’s puzzle, the Fourth of July theme of “Keyholes” is that there is a hole (skipped square) in each column of the grid. One of the crossing words pretends the hole doesn’t exist, while the other one becomes a new word when you add the right letter to the hole you’ve circled. Read from left to right, the hole letters spell out FRANCIS SCOTT Key’s given names. He is, of course, the composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
- 1a. graPE-STOmping. Hole in square 2 filled by R for PRESTO.
- 6a. CAD + ET. Hole in square 2 goes with 7d.
- 11a. cOPs + RAH
- 12a. LATROBE (anag. of Alberto)
- 13a. SEAT + RIP (sea trip)
- 14a. ARGOn. Hole in square 5 filled by T for ARGOT.
- 15a. NO(V)ELS
- 17a. AL(O)E. Hole in square 4 filled by N for ALONE.
- 18a. DE + CAYS. Hole in square 1 goes with 5d.
- 20a. PARSE (anag. of pears). Hole in square 1 goes with 20d.
- 22a. TAPER (double def.). Hole in square 1 goes with 22d.
- 25a. R(OMANI)A
- 28a. A + SHE. Hole in square 2 goes with 16d.
- 30a. LIABLE (anag. of I label)
- 31a. GOON (using letters of GO ON). Hole in square 3 goes with 19d.
- 32a. FAILURE (anag. of air-fuel)
- 33a. IN + DIES. Hole in square 5 filled by C for INDICES.
- 34a. STAT (double def.). Hole in square 3 filled by O for STOAT.
- 35a. DE(AD)ER (“number” = more numb)
- 36a. H + EARS. Hole in square 5 filled by T for HEARTS.
- 1d. POSTAL (anag. of to Alps)
- 2d. P(ELLE)T. Hole in square 1 goes with 1a.
- 3d. ERA + TO
- 4d. THROES (homophone of “throws”)
- 5d. O + LIVER. Hole in square 5 filled by I for Laurence OLIVIER.
- 7d. TALE (homophone of “tail”). Hole in square 1 filled by S for STALE.
- 8d. DO + GEARS
- 9d. E + BONY. This one was among the tougher clues for me. Maybe I was just tired?
- 10d. TENSE (double def.). Hole in square 3 goes with 14a.
- 15d. NEPAL (anag. of plane).
- 16d. SCAR (small-m “mark”) + E (last ltr. of “McGwire”). Hole in square 5 filed with C for SCARCE.
- 19d. LAMB+ D.A. Hole in square 5 filled with A for LAMBADA.
- 20d. WA. + BASH. Hole in square 1 goes with 20a.
- 21d. A + RA + HAS backwards = SAHARA. Hole in square 7 goes with 36a.
- 22d. RIG + ID. Hole in square 1 filled by F for FRIGID.
- 23d. VAL(IS)E
- 24d. BE(R)ETS
- 26d. OZ + ONE
- 27d. NINE on a baseball team back in lENINgrad. Hole in square 4 goes with 33a.
- 29d. S + OUR. Hole in square 4 goes with 34a. Here’s how tired I was last night: I had the S and U from crossings and filled in…SQUAD. That mucked up finding the holes in 34a and 21d, and don’t get me started on the problems of putting that D into HEAR(T)S. Plus! The 29d clue clearly enumerates a count of 4. SQUAD is a 5-letter word.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)
Hard puzzle, but not necessarily a fun challenge. Clues that led me nowhere:
- 20a. [Ottoman conquest of 1458] is ATHENS. My education on the Ottoman Empire is, regrettably, quite shallow.
- 38a. [Odin’s wife in 2011’s “Thor”] is, apparently, RENE RUSSO. I call B.S. on this clue. I read every issue of Entertainment Weekly. I read the bits about movie deals, the upcoming season of films, and fervently anticipated tentpole pictures. I’ve heard nothing about this movie. Anyone else up on this particular bit of Pop Culture From the Future? (Plus, Russo has a boy’s name. Four-letter René is a man’s name, dammit, and the men of America named René do not appreciate a famous actress confusing people about their name.)
- 40a. [Murphy, per O’Toole] clues OPTIMIST. I have no idea what this is about.
- 47a. No idea how [Cheaters] and SPECS are equivalent. Checking the dictionary…okay, “cheaters” is an informal word for glasses or sunglasses. Neither my husband nor I have ever encountered this usage. You?
- 51a. With a few crossings it wasn’t so hard to figure out RATTAN, but [Marimba-mallet material] is not what I think of when I think about rattan.
- 53a. NASSAU is a [City on New Providence]. Is this the Northeast U.S. or the Bahamas? New Providence is, it seems, the most populous island in the Bahamas.
- 61a. [Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” e.g.] is a SEXTET.
- 4d. TERESA is a [Name meaning “late summer”]. I tell you, most of the Newsday meaning-of-a-name clues irk me, and I was one of those kids who bought baby name books because I liked studying the meaning of names.
- 7d. I guessed SOV without much trouble, but I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m familiar with this shortening of a [Brit’s gold coin], the sovereign. Not a sought-after bit of fill, that.
- 13d. [What botanists call “Ambrosia”] are RAGWEEDS. Hay fever sufferers beg to differ.
- 29d. [HHH successor as VP] is Spiro Agnew, who, I just learned from a Crossword Fiend forum poster, anagrams to “grow a penis.” If you ever forget if it’s Spiro, Spero, or Spyro, this anagram will help you out. As someone who was a small child when Agnew was VP, though, I don’t have his middle initial solidly in my memory banks. Spiro T. Agnew, so seldom referred to by his initials, S.T.A. STA., so easy to clue as an abbreviation for “station.” I figured the middle initial couldn’t be T because if it were, we would get a station clue for the answer. Usually this approach works—”This is so obscure, it’s got to be something that can’t be clued any other way.” That trick let me down this time. Usually it’s a good bet.
Other things I wanted to mention:
- 27a. ANIME as a [Video-store category]? Hello, 1999. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been to a video store in years. Netflix, on-demand, pay-per-view, and cable have led to the demise of probably thousands of video stores.
- 48a. [Hall of Famer] clues ENSHRINEE. What a terrible word. I Googled it and it appears in news articles, among other webpages.
- 60a. Ah, ASE, the [Ibsen character] known more to long-time crossworders than to literature majors. Spoiler alert! “Åse’s Death” is in Grieg’s musical version of Peer Gynt. I only this minute learned that Åse is a woman, Peer Gynt’s mother. I was storing Åse and Arn, Prince Valiant’s son, in the “3-letter crosswordese males” part of my brain, and now have to relocate Åse to the UTA zone.
- 11d. Lou FERRIGNO is a [10-time “Muscle & Fitness” cover subject]. He used to be quite famous. I’ll always have a fondness for him as a deaf guy who overcame the odds to be a champion bodybuilder and a TV actor despite his hearing loss.
- 26d. [Works with a certain stick] clues GLUES, as in “works with a glue stick.” Jon Stewart famously claimed in Wordplay to do the NYT crossword in glue stick.
- 33d. The HESPERUS is a [Ship in a Longfellow poem]. “The Wreck of the Hesperus” and the Strait of Bosporus dwell together in my head.
- 36d. ART SONGS are [Salon offerings]. Is this going on currently, that art songs are being presented in salons? I’m pretty sure Salon.com has no art songs, and that hair salons also fail at providing art songs.
- 42d. [Spousal ___] clues IRA, as in “individual retirement account.” I didn’t know “spousal IRA” was a thing.
A note about the daily Newsday crosswords:
- I haven’t been doing the Monday through Saturday Newsday puzzles for a year or so. But regular readers here keep reporting woeful clueing errors in the daily Newsday crossword. Most recently it was an apparent late clue change that got plunked into the wrong spot, so the clue and answer didn’t match up at all. Newsday people! What is going on over there? The puzzles used to be flawless. Crossword solvers are so meticulous and smart, you can’t expect they won’t pounce on each and every error.
I loved the NOP clue. Made my day.
i must’ve winced half a dozen times while solving this one. it’s cool to be different and all, and i bet this is a record low block count for a 16×15, but if the price is all these incredibly awkward plurals (names ERNIES, NEALES, ARLOS, CLAROS and ELIS; generally singular ideas DRY ROTS, BILES; crosswordese EMIRS, MERLS, OLLAS, ACERS; abbreviations ALTS, DIRS), then i think it’s not worth it. ALALA and ALIOTH, too. ick. on the other hand, kim DAE-jung was a gimme. he’s a former south korean president.
tired now, but looking forward to will nediger’s puzzle in the morning. and hex cryptic! yay!
ALALA/CLAROS/NEALES was the last set of crossings I got. Incredibly obscure! The only glimmer of hope I had was that I had only a few consonants to guess through in Hawaiian, and I think I tried L third after K and N.
Hated, hated hated the NYT. Felt like I was doing a Newsday. Very little that I actually liked once i puzzled it out – UNIVERSALSTUDIOS and INALLPROBABILITY somewhat and APPLESEED and maybe BILES like Amy mentioned. The nuts and bolts seemed full of DRYROTS… Like Joon I was doing an awful lot of wincing.
In fact if wasn’t in applet wouldn’t have finished. C?AROS crossing A?ALA meant nothing to me. Ditto A??OS crossing ALI?TH and AR?ISS. I don’t see how these are exactly fair (and in all cases certainly ugly), but maybe I’m all on my own here. Managed to infer NEALES.
Felt like Paula Gamache’s similar grid had far less compromise for far, far more sizzle.
LAT: FATAMORGANA!!! Cool answer. In other news 1D went OCELOT/MARGAY/JAGUAR – my mind does strange things?!?
Two birds and a newspaper I’ve never heard of crossed by a tennis player I’ve never heard of. Gimme a break.
I did like the NOP; only laugh of the puzzle.
I can’t say that I hated the puzzle but I feel like I should have been payed to complete it.
Crap, Stumper not yet blogged. Never mind.
I have no doubt that the current Cox & Rathvon WSJ puzzles are easier than the old ones… It’s too bad, although I have considerable sympathy for the view that the tough ones only appeal to the fanatical few.
The problem is that the number of constructors who make an American ‘variety’ cryptic puzzle that is tough, doable, and worth doing was already in the low single digits, and the loss of C&R from that group puts the number into the even lower single digits. Oh, well.
Woo hoo! I’m not one of the smart people and can’t finish a NYT Saturday in any amount of time, so today’s -3, sad to say, is a big deal.
All the plurals probably helped; almost a third of the entries. APPLESEED was the first entry of decent length to fall, and I chipped away from there. The incorrect PUT IN ONES HEAD was hard to give up. Had to throw a few darts on letters that I simply didn’t know. Unusually, I scored some unlikely hits.
ILSA for ELSA, and ZAALES for NEALES = -3
I was hoping for alliteration on the Swiss daily and that MARLS has a meaning other than sediment; you know, clay is usually kinda dark, blackbirds are dark, right? Oh – well. ::) Better this way – I’d have been upset if ILSA left me at -1
MERL Crossword constructor Reagle?
Re the Sat stumped…I have heard the glasses for reading and seeing up close called cheaters, and I woefully own two pairs myself. I’ve heard of the Thor movie as far as discussions of the costuming, but nothing about the cast (and now I’m seeing discussions about Wonder Woman’s new costume in the comics too.
Thanks for explaining the NOP clue, which went over my head.
PENALTY DECLINED is substitutable when considered as a quote. “There was pass interference on the cornerback even though the pass was completed for a touchdown anyway. Do you still want to accept it?” “No – Penalty declined.”
Amy – Listen to the song JEEPERS CREEPERS (preferably by F. Sinatra, although you tube has a version by Paul Whiteman orch), which contains the line: “got to put my cheaters on” (presumably sunglasses, since the line rhymes with “when you turn those heaters on”).
Hard one for me, with my last trouble spots being roughly due north (ELIS, BILES, and where I at first had TURN INTO, thinking of “make like” in the sense of “act as”) and south-center, between APRES SKI, NEALES, ALALA, CLARO, ALIOTH, ARLISS, ARLO, and the sense of “magazine” as not the inside of a gun but vice versa. Not a fave, but eventually it did fall.
Must admit I needed you to explain NOP. I was trying to wonder why “second half” has no P.
Newsday, 40-Across, ‘splained:
O’Toole’s Law is a “corollary” to Murphy’s Law.
Of course, Murphy’s Law is “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” (or words to that effect, there are multiple versions).
O’Toole’s Law? “Murphy was an optimist”.
The editor decides how difficult puzzles are to be, and there is no doubt a decision has been made that the WSJ cryptic is to be as easy as a variety cryptic can be made. If the same concept were rendered as a Puzzler, enumerations would have been withheld and I suspect there would have been more ambiguity in how the empty squares were to be filled. With enumerations given, most of the empty squares could be deduced from the enumerations alone (and a friend of mine deduced the “Key” figure from the instructions and the fact that it’s the weekend of the 4th). My feeling is that it might have made sense to just give away the empty squares by shading them — it wouldn’t have mattered to skilled solvers, and it might have made the puzzle look friendlier to novices. Bob Stigger
re Newday. Can anyone explain the clue “Havana? No” to me, please. I get that a stogie is a cigar and the Cuba connection, but what exactly is the meaning of this clue?
A stogie is a not so great cigar while a Havana is presumably a better one; and if you google Rene Russo Thor you get a lot of hits for her role as Frigga.