Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Huh, only a 5-second differential between the (easy) Friday NYT and the (should be a lot tougher) Saturday NYT. Apparently I can tune right into Tim Croce’s wavelength, because nothing really put up a fight.
Highlights in this 72-worder:
- 1a. JIM FIXX, Mr. Super Scrabbly Runner himself. When 1a is a gimme and it includes such unusual letters, it gives you a big leg up in tackling its crossings.
- 27a. DR. SCHOLL’S insoles are a [Sole supporter?]. Me, I wear Powerstep insoles.
- 35a. STRAP-ON is clued as [Like scuba tanks, typically], but it made me laugh. If you don’t already know the lewd definition, you might want to spare yourself the Googling.
- 38a. TRAMMEL, or [Restrain], is a cool word. Usually seen in the “untrammeled” setting.
- 39a. QUIVER, more Scrabbly business.
- 52a. Hey, you, shake that [Big money maker]. And by “big money maker,” I mean, of course, the U.S. MINT.
- 64a. The rock band [Kiss, e.g.] is a QUARTET. Great clue.
- 11d. I always like a nice ENCOMIUM, too.
- 25d. I still think of them as the L.A. RAMS even though [They moved to St. Louis in ’95]. Hey, if they were an L.A. team when I was a kid, that’s what they should be forevermore.
- 45d. “DANG IT!” I have taught my son to say this.
- 51d. Cute clue: [Gives a heady response?] nods at NODS.
58d is factually incorrect. UFO is clued as [Sky light?], but I recently learnt on Oprah from Shirley MacLaine that UFOs look like clouds—clouds…that move. So next time you’re looking up at the sky and you see a cloud that’s moving, know what you’re really looking at, people.
There’s a military/nuclear quasi-theme lurking in this grid. ARMS DEAL, ICBM, IRAQ, TEST BAN, H-BOMB…help! I’m getting freaked out here! Fetch me my PILL.
And look! A fresh EERO! [Olympic gold-medal pentathlete Lehtonen] is named EERO. No, wait. He’s not fresh. He competed in the 1920s. I was hoping he was a current track-and-field hotshot.
One quibble with 8a: [Most convenient section of a parking garage, usually] clues LEVEL A. I live in a big city and I’ve parked in a lot of parking garages, and I’ve yet to find one that labels the levels with letters. The levels are always numbers (with optional colors, songs, sports, car parts, etc.) while the individual aisles on each level get letters.
Four stars. Some of the short stuff is, as it so often is, blah. But I enjoyed many of the long answers, so four it is.
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Not quite as much sparkle as today’s NYT, but still lots of good stuff:
- 1a. Why is there no NOBEL PRIZE in crosswords? Or at the very least, a Pulitzer in crossword criticism?
- 15a. Hmm, political judgment in this one: [Subversive] clues UNAMERICAN.
- 17a. The DIGITAL AGE. It’s called that because you use your digits to type or text on various keyboards.
- 50a. BUSH RAT! Is that political judgment? No, just a [Small Australian omnivore].
- 66a. The [Apple that’s Minnesota’s state fruit] is the IMAC. No, wait. It’s the HONEYCRISP. *crunch*
- 2d, 3d. This two-part [deli order] threatened to be something-ON-RYE, since we see the fill-in-the-blank ON RYE in so many puzzles. But no! It’s an ONION / BAGEL. It’s especially nice for a two-part answer to have its components be adjacent. Much prettier than having, say, “3-Down + 43-Across.”
- 8d. What a terrific answer: “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.” [“It seems unreal to me!”]
- 10d. Fresh clue concept: ENERGY is [What some bars supply].
- 34d. EDINBURGH is the Scottish [City nicknamed “Auld Reekie”], which is Scots slang for “Old Smelly.” Wait, hang on a sec…Googling…it means “Old Smoky.” Does this have anything to do with a meatball, all covered in cheese, lost when somebody sneezed?
- 48d. THE WHO, one of Mr. Fiend’s favorite bands.
A note inspired by 4d: EMIRATE ([Qatar, for example])—Earlier this week, I read a news article about Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures in which bin Laden and another man were referred to as amirs. We see EMIR as the much more common spelling in crosswords and AMIR comes off looking like a variant spelling not much better than EMEER/AMEER. And yet here is amir in the wild.
In this puzzle’s debit column, we have a couple partials (IS I, RE MI), a couple ugly abbrevs (ENGR, DBL), some crosswordese (DAHS are [Morse morsels], SEI is a [Grooved whale], and BEYS are [Ottoman governors]), and a bunch of people and places, many of whom appear in a lot of crosswords—EN LAI, TOD, NIN, AMIN, LANA, URAL, IOS, IONA, and ERIE. (FLUTIE, FRED, ELMER, awkward plural initials A.J.’S, and GATES are not overused.)
Three and a half stars, plus a high-five for I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “N-T Headed” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Well, I survived the speeches and there were at least two people awake. Now it’s off to Atlanta for a fun weekend before heading home on Sunday. The weekend gets off to a great start with this cleverly-titled puzzle. It’s a vowel progression theme, but the ante is kicked up a notch by having the vowels placed between an N and a T at the start of each entry. Thus, each theme entry is headed with “N-T” (the dash represents the inserted vowel):
- 17-Across: NATURAL GAS has a terrific clue, [It’s at home in the range]. Anyone else read “on the range” instead of “in the range?”
- 32-Across: An [Infernal place] is a NETHER REGION. Wonderful theme entry.
- 41-Across: To [Find a few faults] is to NITPICK. Crossword bloggers are famous for this, as are commenters on crossword blogs. But we do it out of love.
- 51-Across: The [Professional witness] is a NOTARY PUBLIC. I used to be a notary, and let me tell you, that’s where the money is.
- 64-Across: The [Pecan penetrator] is a NUTCRACKER. It’s also part of the name of a famous ballet and an unflattering nickname.
Vowel progression themes can’t be the easiest to construct, as the order of the theme entries is not subject to manipulation. Sure, this one takes advantage of common letters like N and T (inserting five Js or five Xs would make construction exponentially more difficult), but the result is still very smooth. The fill is highlighted by MY EYE, clued [“Baloney!”], but WELL, I NEVER and AT ALL TIMES are also lovely.
If one is supposed to learn something new every day, I’m all set for the weekend. Here’s three things I learned from this puzzle:
- Stephen King wrote a nonfiction book about the influence of horror fiction in pop culture called DANSE Macabre. There should be another book about the decline of western civilization due to silly pop culture phenomena called Danse Macarena.
- EVERT is not just the surname of a legendary tennis player. It’s also a verb meaning to [Turn inside out].
- I quickly figured out that the FDA was the [Org. that banned candy-flavored cigarettes], but I didn’t realized they were in fact banned. I thought one could still buy candy cigarettes. I can buy a toy gun but not a box of candy cigarettes? Consistency is not our forte. (Amy says: This is fruit-flavored smokes designed to make smoking more appealing to 12-year-olds. Menthol cigarettes may be on the chopping block soon, too.)
Off to Atlanta! Enjoy the weekend!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Kinda like the LA Times puzzle today—lots of nice stuff but nothing overly zippy. SMOKE-FILLED ROOM‘s impact was blunted by having appeared in another recent puzzle; you never want to be the second in a week to use a memorable answer, do you?
Highlights in this 70-worder:
- 1a. Not sure if we’re still having COLA WARS [stoked by some Super Bowl ads]. But I will tell you this: it was jarring to order a Diet Coke at a restaurant on Tuesday and find out with my first sip that it was Diet Pepsi.
- 16a. MISTLETOE gets a really unexpected clue: [Spotted-owl nesting site]. I wouldn’t have thought that mistletoe was a sturdy enough plant to support an owl nest.
- 19a. KEEPS MUM is clued [Spills nothing]. Happy Mother’s Day!
- 30a. ICE SCULPTURES are a decorative [Display for liner diners] on a cruise. You know what would be really cheesy? Cheese sculptures.
- 45a. Am hankering for a HEATH BAR right about now. [Hershey acquisition of 1996]? How about Reynaldo acquisition of 2011?
- 50a. A LOANER CAR is a [Dealership courtesy]. Finishing with your car when they said they’d be done would be another courtesy, wouldn’t it?
- 5d. [Site for drawing] had me thinking of sketch pads rather than a WELL to be tapped. Good misdirect.
At L.A. Crossword Confidential, PuzzleGirl commented on a clue for URAL I hadn’t even noticed, [The Sakmara flows into it]. Brad also pulls out a new clue approach for URALS: [Platinum-yielding region].
What about the people who remember the LA RAMS when they played in Cleveland (1937-1945)? That franchise has been all over the map…
Entered then removed JIM FIXX because I thought there was no way two adjoining down entries could start in X. Alas…but if one was confident in that answer then that whole corner would fall very quickly.
NYT 42a … bean … salad? What is that?
With barbecue, I’ve had potato salad, macaroni salad, green salad even cole slaw could be called slaw salad or cabbage salad; I’ve had baked beans, smoked beans or barbecue beans (Slow smoked, see note), even marinated black beans but never *never* “bean salad”.
(side note: slow smoked meat is “barbecue”, the act of slow smoking that meat is “barbecuing” and throwing meat on a grill is “grilling” and the result is, well, grilled meat. Just to clarify.)
If it’s not clear from the previous statement I worked at a very small barbecue smoker company as ad/design/copy editor. I also enjoyed quite a lot the fruits of the labour, as well as being a super nerdy foodie. Living in the SF bay area now, I’ve had many varieties and ethnicities of bean salads, none of which ever accompanied anything remotely resembling “barbecue”.
This one threw me more than any of the other normally crosswordese clues that I’ve not been playing long enough to accumulate. Is this a New York “thing”? I’m familiar with most varieties of smoked foods and barbecue cuisine, but New England can do some weird things to southern food. :)
Not knowing Mr Fixx made that corner fairly difficult (especially with a non-architectural EERO lurking there), but I agree that overall it seemed an easy puzzle. Subgirl, I think BEAN SALAD is a southern thing. With pork bbq, not beef.
Not so the LAT. The fifth column alone stuck me with incorrect OUT and SUNY. And now I know that there is no bush cat or bush bat in Australia (or google.)
@subgirl, I suspect “barbecue” is being used to mean “cookout.” One definition of “barbecue” is “a meal or gathering at which food is cooked outdoors on a rack over an open fire or on a grill.” In fact, the New Oxford American Dictionary says nothing of smoking meat in its definitions (at least in the Mac widget version of the book), which is most curious.
Amy, the Museum of Science and Industry parking lot is coded by letters and colors. However Level A is not the most convenient. The museum entrances are at Level B or C as I recall. Bob —
Always does me in too, I’m confident of some fill but it doesn’t cross well so stuck I remain. Note to self, go with what you are confident with and make it work.
subgirl- For your next backyard bbq, here are 302 recipes for bean salad.
My nit of the day is in the LAT. The tuba is a member of the brass, not the winds. In orchestra parlance a “heavy wind” would be a contrabassoon.
Never heard of Three Bean Salad? I’ve seen it in bottles on supermarket shelves.
@Meem, I wondered about that. My husband, an erstwhile trombonist, said “wind instrument” means anything you play by blowing, not just woodwinds. (There’s dictionary support for this.) So “wind instrument” includes both the brass and woodwind families.
In pit orchestra parlance, a flute is one of the “reeds.” It can also be an “axe,” so don’t try to make sense of any of it.
I’m surprised foodie people didn’t quibble over BASTE for Wallop in the NYT when the original word was lambaste (so it goes with slang)! Favorite answers were TRAMMEL, LIESL, LUTIST and the Arabian’s STUD FEE, plus MAMBAS dangling from trees… Three-BEAN SALAD didn’t faze me, though I’ve never heard it called plain BEAN SALAD!
The LAT took a bit longer, with unknowns crossing at FLUTIE and FRED, and muskRAT before BUSH RAT, gust before TUBA, but it wasn’t too rough. EDINBURGH came easily, as I’d just been reading about Scotland and the mysteriously named Black Isle, which is a peninsula north of Inverness (on Loch Ness) and not an island at all.
I was thrown off in the Newsday by the single word cut being both a clue and an answer.
People (with the exception of Amy*), please read closely. subgirl wrote “…I’ve had many varieties and ethnicities of bean salads, none of which ever accompanied anything remotely resembling ‘barbecue.'”
*I’m not brown-nosing, just nitpicking.
(Note to self: try not to use formations of “nose” and “picking” in proximity to each other.)
The FIXX part was a gimme couldn’t remember his first name initially… Both LAT and NYT were quite easy, but had some great answers!
Personally I think you all should just embrace the term “braai” instead of BBQ/cookout. And bean salads are found at braais in these parts, though the more specific 3 bean salad Matt mentioned seems to show up more frequently… Recently had a salad at a braai that was just grated carrot soaked in orange and pineapple juice: much more yummy than any bean salad!
Amy: I follow your reference and understood the attempted misdirect to gale. But I still don’t much like it as a clue for tuba.
BTW: Happy Mother’s Day!
BEAN SALAD threw me, too. I assumed it was a regionalism, or perhaps suburban, not the kind of thing I’d have seen from the Texas or North Carolina style of BBQ. JIM FIXX was definitely not a gimme for me, although I recognized it with enough crossings, which is fortunate, since the clever clue for TVS took me a while. So indeed did most of the right side, especially the SE, what with TRAMMEL, SUVA, ANNA SUI, the Kiss clue, and NONU. That sense of “service” giving IRAQ was clever but also made the corner harder, and the crossing A got me first to “access” for way in rather than AVENUE. Fair enough, though.
To me, Peter Collins’s LAT Saturday puzzle goes too far with DEPOT as the entry for “Place for boarders.” Looking at the entire list of possible meanings of Depot, it’s far too long a stretch. And he had so many better choices.