Robert Wolfe’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s built around a grab bag of 15-letter answers:
- 17a. “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE.” [“No way!”]
- 34a. “ARE YOU LISTENING?” I say that often, but never in a microphone/[“Is this thing on?”] setting. The clue feels off target here.
- 53a. Terrific answer, “WHAT’S THE VERDICT?” [“Guilty or not?”]
- 3d. AS A MATTER OF FACT is a great 5-word phrase. [Actually] gets at it pretty well.
- 7d. Wait, wait, wait. What? PEPPERMINT CREAM?? I have never encountered a [Zingy cupcake filling] of peppermint cream. Had some great cupcakes last weekend with marshmallow cream and strawberry puree fillings, though.
- 11d. MOBILE LIBRARIES offer [Novel ideas for rural areas?] somehow. Not sure the double meanings of “novel” quite work here.
Lots of unthrilling fill here, ranging from the obscure (ARMETS, ACTA in a Latin phrase) to the overused/crosswordese (LAHR, ASTA, ESSENE, ESTEE, HOER), from clunky abbreviations (DAU, VSO, STDS, SRS, BMI not clued as body mass index—and why is it always, always clued as an ASCAP rival, [Performing rights org.], or other music-related org.? Who knows that?? Who doesn’t know BMI = body mass index at this point?) to names (CELIA, TEX, JAIME, OTTO, AVILA).
- 12d and 25d make a nice pair, the WOLVERINES vs. a PORKPIE HAT.
- 29d. [He married He] is a tough clue for MAO. I like it!
- 47d. [“The Red Skelton Show” regular]? Really? It was mainly a 1950s-’60s show, and its Wikipedia page mentions no FARR. I’m guessing Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H. Okay, I’m gonna label this a lousy clue. IMDb says Jamie Farr appeared on “5 episodes, 1956-1960.” Five episodes in 20 years does not a “regular” make! Ah, here’s the problem. The Wikipedia article on Farr says “Farr began to carve out his niche in television when, in the late 1950s, he became a regular on The Red Skelton Show before becoming a second banana with Harvey Korman on The Danny Kaye Show.” Is this where the clue came from?
- 44d. [“Torchwood” was spun off from it] clues DR. WHO. Pardon me, but the show is called Doctor Who (an anagram of Torchwood). In general, we abbreviate “doctor” as “Dr.” only when it precedes the doctor’s name, and this show’s character is “The Doctor.” There is no one named “Dr. Who” so I don’t think it’s legitimate crossword fill (despite its prior appearances in NYT, LAT, and CrosSynergy puzzles).
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”
This is perhaps my least favorite of Berry’s Rows Gardens, just because so very many of the Rows clues were miles away from my wheelhouse. Sports, the Bible, early ’60s music, and Rodgers and Hammerstein accounted for seven of the answers, and then there’s PARADE REST, which I assumed was a marching band term but is actually from the military. (Sigh.) Most of the Blooms weren’t so hard, but I had no idea where to put them when I started out with one solitary Rows answer in the grid. Eventually it all came together, but not before I Googlized my husband. I asked him if he knew what sport played a World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he was astonished that I had no idea the answer was LITTLE LEAGUERS. I was thinking it might be some sort of…bowling. Had no idea, honestly.
Toughest Blooms clue: [Makeshift percussion instruments] for SPOONS.
Eventually everything came together, though, and none of the fill is obscure or pained. So it’s standard Berry, just hitting too many subjects I don’t know. Gah! Four stars. I can’t go to five stars when I didn’t enjoy the puzzle anywhere near as much as most Berry Rows Gardens.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I liked this puzzle a lot, an enthusiastic 4 stars’ worth. There’s no shortage of cool words, several of which happen to feature the letter O prominently:
- 8a. OSMOSE, [Become absorbed]. I became absorbed in doing this puzzle, but there was no osmosis.
- 14a. Ha! The CAPITAL O is a [Eugene O’Neill character?]. The question mark sort of gives it away, doesn’t it?
- 2d. OPPUGN, [Call into question]. On Facebook the other day, Paula Gamache noted that this anagrams to pop gun. (Not to mention GOP pun.)
- 8d. OSLO, [City with the newspaper Aftenposten].
- 11d. ORDINARY, [Prosaic].
- 24d. ORIGINS, [Sources].
- 36d. OBSIDIAN, [Volcanic glass].
There’s also an O’ER, but no OLEO, OREO, or OHO.
- 30d. KAFKAESQUE, [Menacingly complex, as a bureaucracy]. That word is hard to type. Are there any other words that contain the FKAE string of letters?
- 5d. BABY-PROOFS, [Puts up gates, say]. Don’t think I’ve seen this one in a crossword before.
- 16a. The ALPHABET is clued as an [Order in a preschool classroom].
- 20a. I only recently learned that a BORGIA became pope—[Surname of 15th/16th-century Pope Alexander VI]. He was the father, out of wedlock, of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Lovely family.
- 35a. [Summertime response to a wave?], meaning a heat wave, is “HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?” Fabulous crossword answer!
- 61a. PAUL KLEE, [“Viaducts Break Ranks” painter].
- 20d. BRACH’S is a [Big name in candy corn] and jelly beans. Would you believe my local Walgreens store had eight varieties of jelly beans, several of them from Brach’s, and none were the standard Brach’s jelly bird eggs I want to put in an Easter basket?
- 6d, 63a. Nobody’s excited to see ALERO in the grid, but since the car is no longer made, it gets called into action for a cross-reference clue for USED CAR.
- 33d. I’m fond of the -id words, like TURBID, meaning [Murky]. Sadly, there is no noun form spelled turbor, just turbidity and turbidness. “Mind your own turbidness!”
Updated Saturday morning:
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Seed Pearl”—Sam Donaldson’s review
I think my favorite part of this great puzzle is the wonderful misdirection in the title (and in the theme clues, all written as “Seed Pearl, part __”). The unabridged title would probably be “Seed Pearl of Wisdom,” as the puzzle’s them is a little pearl of wisdom about a certain seeded fruit: KNOWLEDGE IS / KNOWING A TOMATO / IS A FRUIT. / WISDOM IS / NOT PUTTING IT IN / A FRUIT SALAD. Solving the puzzle from top to bottom, it even took a while to figure out this was a quote theme. When I uncovered that the first two parts started with “KNOW-,” I thought that would be the case for all the theme entries. It wasn’t until I had most of KNOWING A TOMATO that I realized I was working with a quote theme. After that, the theme entries fell into place rather quickly. The rest of the puzzle still took a while to fall (after all, it’s a Klahn), but it was an enjoyable ride. I’m normally not one for quote themes, but this one worked for me.
We have come to expect outstanding clues in a Klahn puzzle, and today’s offering has several. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The [Winner at Caesar’s Palace] is VII. (Seven at the craps table is a winner, on the first roll at least.) What a great way to clue a Roman numeral! It sure beats [With MM, year in the reign of Benedict XVI].
- [“Let us bray” beginning] is a fun clue for HEE (as in “Hee Haw,” I believe).
- You want alliteration in your clues? How about [Pizarro’s palindromic pelf] for ORO (gold)? Or [Polished pinky part] for NAIL and [Tickled texter’s titter] for LOL? Nice combinations, all of them.
- A [Smack in the face?] is a KISS. One could fairly complain that a kiss is a smack on the face and not in the face, but I still had a tiny (and enjoyable) “aha moment” when I figured it out.
There’s also some terrific fill like HOLY WAR, LOST OUT, HOW SO, and DRIES UP. But I can’t pretend this grid is flawless. SHHHH, clued [“Stop talking!”] is rather awkward, especially at 1-Across. And 1-Down, STK, the [NASDAQ buy] is not any prettier. I realize sometimes there’s no choice (I’ve used STK myself in a published puzzle), but having them as the first Across and Down entries attracts too much attention.
Some of the fill is just downright hard (meaning there was a lot I just didn’t know), and it was ICI ET LA ([Here and there, to Pierre]) throughout the grid. Take for example [Eau de] VIE, another name for brandy (such a fine girl). And there’s the punny clue [Place to gambol], which I think I would like a lot more if I knew what gamboling is, much less that it takes place at a LEA. MAGOG as the [Armageddon nation] means nothing to me, but that’s not the puzzle’s fault. I know I’ve seen ODETTE, the [“Swan Lake” swan], at least a few times before in crosswords, but for some reason I always try ODETTA first. Finally, LIMN, to [Paint with words], just looks all kinds of wrong to me. But again, that’s my own shortcoming. Overall, I found this one challenging but ultimately fair and enjoyable. And you?
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (under pen name Lester Ruff)
Nothing out of the ordinary here—nothing clunky, it’s quite smooth, but nothing to write home about either.
Favorite clues and answers:
- 34a. [French bread] may be a BAGUETTE.
- 64a. ECUADOR is the [Land named for an imaginary line], the equator.
- 7d. [General Shrapnel or Burnside] clues EPONYM. Shrapnel takes its name from Britain’s Henry Shrapnel, who invented the shell, and sideburns are named after Gen. Burnside, who sported cheek hair.
- 40d. [Ipanema native] means “native of Rio de Janeiro,” which is a CARIOCA. This demonym derives from the Tupi word kari’oka, meaning “house of the white man.”
- 44d. [It may be gone for] is my favorite clue. Go for broke? Go for a smoke? Go for carry-out? No, go for the JUGULAR.
Ten more clues:
- 1a. If you [Pin in a ring], as in pinning your opponent in the ring, you may WRESTLE.
- 18a. RACHAEL Ray is the [Name on the cover of “30 Minute Meals”].
- 23a. A FIN is a [Torpedo stabilizer].
- 32a. [15 Across inhabitant] clues NESTER, 15a being HENCOOP, or [Fowl territory]. One of my Facebook friends keeps chickens in her back yard. I have yet to see her refer to any of her hens as a “nester.”
- 43a. SHOJIS are a [Japanese home’s partitions].
- 52a. [Knight at the opera] clues TRISTAN.
- 11d. I have no idea where NEHI is still sold, but it’s a [Snapple sister brand].
- 13d. Mount EVEREST was a [Place in the news, June 1953]. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit on May 29, but word didn’t get out until June 2, just in time for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
- 31d. [Quark + antiquark] = MESON.
- 42d. [Chip shape] clues DISK. Is this about round Tostitos? Some disk-shaped computer chip? I have no idea.
A lukewarm 4 stars. Nothing wrong with the puzzle, but nothing terribly new either.