Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Am tired. I blame the margaritas. Let’s get on with the show.
- Five super-lively answers: GOD’S GIFT TO WOMEN, STICK IT TO THE MAN, eHARMONY, “GET A ROOM!” and THE ONION.
- The one-two punch of pop-culture stage name clues for SINBAD ([Stage name of entertainer David Adkins]) and M.C. HAMMER ([Stage name of entertainer Stanley Burrell]). I knew the second one but never knew Sinbad’s real name.
Insane Crossings Corner: Down in the southeast, where 55a: BEREA with an unfamiliar clue crosses a few other answers with tough clues. I know of Kentucky’s Berea College, where students get super-cheap tuition but have to work in exchange for it, but had no idea BEREA was biblical ([Where Paul and Silas were sent, in Acts]). 51d: FEMME has a clue that came out of left field. [Bonne __ (cooked simply)]? What does that even mean? Why would “good woman” mean “cooked simply”? 46d: [Runs a bill through] refers to when a bird PREENS its feathers. And 45d: [Young follower] masks the required capital Y by putting Young at the beginning of the clue. Brigham Young’s follower is a MORMON.
Debits: I could do without O’WAR, SOLI, ANI, IN E, RILL, EDA, and ENROL.
Overall rating: 4.25 stars.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Skate is Enough” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme comes courtesy of 58-Across: the [Sport on wheels that’s hinted at by the starts of] the other theme entries is ROLLER DERBY. The other theme entries refer to three basic positions in roller derby.
It might help to start with this description from Wikipedia: “The two teams each send five players onto the track — one jammer (scorer) and four blockers (defense), one of which counts as a pivot (a blocker who may become the jammer later in that jam). Helmet covers are used to display the players’ positions–a cover with two stars is used for jammers, a striped cover is used for pivots and no cover is used for blockers.”
The other theme entries, then, start with BLOCK, PIVOT, and JAM:
- 20-Across: The [Serif-free character] is a BLOCK LETTER.
- 11-Down: The [Hoopsters’ one-handed maneuvers] are PIVOT SHOTS. There’s a good tip in this video about shooting pivot shots–keep your arms up after the shot in case you miss, as you’ll have a much better chance at snagging on offensive rebound.
- 29-Down: The [Impromptu jazz performance] is a JAM SESSION.
I wonder how many avid roller derby fans are crossword solvers and vice versa. The roller derby positions were new to me, but I enjoyed the short tutorial. The grid is pretty smooth, highlighted by BULLPENS, the baseball [Closers’ corrals], and LEEWAY, the [Room to maneuver]. Had I paid more attention to the number in the clue to 25-Across, [Member of a 538-person college], I think I would have tumbled to ELECTOR (as in the Electoral College) sooner. Instead, I was trying to think of small schools starting with EL-. Yet again, attention to detail would have paid dividends.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoa, the Friday LATs have gotten so much tougher, but the Saturday puzzle is cutting everyone a break. Super-quick solve for me.
The stacked 10s are pretty good today:
- 1a. [Extraterrestrial factor in creating much of Earth’s carbon-14] is COSMIC RAYS. Who knew?
- 15a. I like how F. LEE BAILEY looks like “flee Bailey” in the grid. He’s clued as [“The Defense Never Rests” co-author].
- 17a. A CEILING FAN is a [Circulation aid].
- 56a. A ZOMBIE BANK is an [Insolvent bailout beneficiary]. Is this term still current? This answer includes one of the six (!) Z’s in the grid.
- 62a. [Man in the street] clues AVERAGE JOE. How many phrases can you think of that are synonymous? John Q. Public, Joe Six-Pack, the common man…. Okay, now how many familiar phrases meaning “the average woman” can you think of?
- 64a. [Coconut-flavored cocktail] is the PIÑA COLADA.
Other good fill:
- 24a. BRER RABBIT is a Joel Chandler [Harris trickster].
- 32a. YOWZAH! That’s a [Cry of delight].
- 48a. MONTE CARLO figures into the plot of a new teen movie starring Disney Channel star Selena Gomez (who is dating Justin Bieber), according to the review I read. The critic thought it odd that the teen characters would agree to leave Paris for Monte Carlo, which is, of course, best known as the place [Where Massenet’s “Don Quichotte” premiered] and people gamble.
- 55a. [Desert antelope] is the ORYX. Remember the Oryx crossword awards Rex Parker and I gave out? Man, is that a lot of work!
It may well be that [__-ovo-vegetarian] is the best way to clue 31a: LACTO, but mildly unfortunate that the egg word form is also in the grid at 57d: OVI, [Duct opening?]. And then it’s a little tricky that you want an OVUM to be the [Fallopian tube traveler] at 14d, but the 6-letter answer is ZYGOTE, a fertilized egg.
So many of the words we know strictly from crosswords are on the shorter side, all those 4-letter words that pepper puzzle grids. This puzzle includes a 9 that I learned from crosswords: 4d: [Black garnets] are MELANITES.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I was expecting this puzzle to be a good bit harder given the “S.N.” byline, but it proved to be eminently tractable. It helped that I watch 30 Rock, so I got 23d/1a ELAINE STRITCH right off the bat.
- 8a. The words [Now and then] are both ADVERBS. This type of clue is dastardly.
- 16a. Interesting DRACULA clue, [Character in 200+ films since 1900].
- 21a. “THERE, THERE.” It’s okay if you didn’t get this [Calming comment].
- 26a. MINI COOPERS is a great answer. Not sure why they’re VW [Beetles’ British cousins]. Both are twee little cars, but I think of automotive “cousins” as cars from the same company and Mini’s owner is BMW, a VW rival.
- 33a. Another interesting cinema clue, for FATE: [It’s “written in the face,” per Fellini].
- 44a. HERE TO STAY is another good-looking entry. [Permanent] works.
- 41d. AMY RYAN, full name. She’s the [“Gone Baby Gone” Oscar nominee] and has also been on The Office.
- 27d. This feels slightly off-base. Yes, [Have aspirations] could mean “aspirate,” which can mean INHALE. But while inspiration is the act of breathing in, aspiration is generally the inhalation of something other than air, such as water or food.
- 56a. Which decade is this clue from? Because I’m pretty sure HYGIENE was no longer a [High-school class] by the ’80s. They may still wrap those “wash your hair and wear deodorant and brush your teeth, dammit” exhortations into sex education.