Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword
Super-quick NYT write-up, as I roused myself from snoozeland on the couch to do the puzzle and snoozeland beckons fetchingly.
This 70-worder has nine 15s in triple stacks intersected by one vertical 15. The 15s were mostly good stuff—I liked CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, EAT ONE’S HEART OUT, MAKE A MENTAL NOTE, TAKE-NO-PRISONERS, and RAISES THE STAKES—but what’s holding them together includes some dross. Or, if not dross, a fairly high concentration of answers that don’t add to the fun.
1d: CENTO, [Poem comprised of quotations], is probably solidly literary though CENTO doesn’t ring a bell. However! Let’s look at the clue. I think “comprised of” is defensible but why not “consisting of”? And then there’s the partial A POET, playing with the same word root as “poem.” (Speaking of partials, there’s also SO A.)
IMMIE and ANENT land in my crosswordese category. APEAK, nautical-speak. SAREE, the weird spelling, Less familiar names, KAI and SANDE. Abbreviations, at least five of ’em. Plural first name, SARAS. Foreign, Spanish OTROS and ESOS and French PEU (at least they’re familiar to regular solvers).
I like a Saturday that expects me to know scholarly things from a broad range of areas, but puzzles packed with 3-, 4-, and 5-letter fill (60 such words here) tend not to indulge that as much as puzzles with chunks of 7- to 11-letter entries, it seems to me.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This 70-worder has a lot to like (if not quite love–none of those “whoa!” never-before-seen entries), and is a little rough around the edges.
In the Liking It zone:
- 1a. ARMS DEAL, [One may be cut before a fight]. Tricky clue.
- 17a. LADY LUCK, [Woman on your side, ideally].
- 37a. “SOUP’S ON!”, [“Chow time!”]. Bonus point for the one-letter difference from soupçon. I love that word.
- 55a. “I DOUBT IT,” [“Not likely”]. Another spoken phrase. See also NO PROB.
- 11d. Does anyone still talk about the KILLER APP? I feel like the near-ubiquity of smartphones and iPads and their app stores has knocked the desktop/laptop-linked phrase out of the air.
- 33d. LORGNETTE, [Opera glasses on a handle]. I find something about that word so appealing.
Favorite wrong impulse: Before reading the clue for 35a, I had OLEOPR* filled in. I thought of OLEO PRO before the clue delivered me to OLE OPRY. (Feels very much like a partial without the “Grand” part, alas. [Grand venue] doesn’t make up for that.)
New clue for ALLIE: 1d: [“The Notebook” heroine]. Duly noted.
Rough patches: The twice-inflected STARRIER, partials IN B and A HAT, the double-scoop of old Mideast titles (PASHA and AGHA), ROKS. And 26a feels off to me–we have no-name products and name-brand products and generic products, but NO NAME BRAND doesn’t sound familiar to me.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Come Around!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
And so begins a happy weekend! Whenever I can solve a Bob Klahn puzzle in less than ten minutes, I consider it a victory. Today’s puzzle felt much easier than the standard Klahn offering. Either he’s taking it easy on us or I’m starting to get into the groove of parsing his clues. My money’s on the former.
The puzzle has a split-word theme, as the four theme entries all begin with COM- and end with -E:
- 17-Across: The [Modern multiple-language discipline] is COMPUTER SCIENCE.
- 33-Across: COMMON SENSE is the [Paine pamphlet of 1776]. I always liked how all of Common Sense can fit in a pamphlet.
- 42-Across: [You can step out of yours] is the fun clue for the great entry, COMFORT ZONE.
- 61-Across: One with an [Ability to outperform] has a COMPETITIVE EDGE.
The two long Downs, ANCHORAGE and IT’S A STEAL, pass through three theme entries apiece. While each of the corners is nice and open, I’m drawn to some of the lively shorter entries squeezed in the middle: SAY AH, TO US, THE A’S, I AM, and XTC are all terrific short items that work especially well as glue here.
The midsection also had my favorite clue, [Room for improvement?] for GYM. Other clues of note: [Jokers and jokesters] for CARDS, [Potential peacock] for EGG, [Thing to do at home] for BAT (home plate, that is), and [Barrels and organ-pipes in the desert] for CACTI.
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Remember Brendan Quigley’s last “Themeless Monday,” with the corners of intersecting 4×7 chunks? The Stumpers use grids like this a lot more often, with intersecting 3×7 stacks.
- 16a. SNO-CONE, [Syrupy concoction]. Nice to see the whole word, not just a stranded SNO in the grid.
- 28a. BUZZ OFF! [“Scram!”]
- 41a. BIG DEAL, [Something impressive, or not at all impressive]. It’s all in the intonation. Plus, you can insert the F-word between the two words and use it positively, like Joe Biden did when the health care bill was signed, or with disdain (and the negative sense even gets an abbreviation we never see in crosswords, BFD.)
- 2d. ONE CENT, [Words over a 2012 Union Shield]. You know those ugly new pennies with that big shield instead of the Lincoln Memorial? Bleh. Don’t like them. Tried looking up Union Shield in Wikipedia and got the 2011 version: joint Russian/Belarussian military exercises. Red cent?
- 25a. Comcast XFINITY, [Time Warner Cable competitor].
- 41d. BIRD-DOG, [Follow carefully].
- The MEGATON/TNT combo.
By far the single worst answer in this puzzle is 14d: REERECT. [Set up differently] doesn’t quite connect to the answer for me. I don’t know what is being reerected. Erector Set pieces?
The other clue that bugged me was 21d: [Home deconstruction tool], for ADZ. I went with AXE first, because we all know what axes are. You DIY home renovation folks, tell me: Do you use adzes to take out a wall or something? I have not noticed any adzes on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when the crew demolishes a house.
3.75 stars. Would have been a solid 4 without that REERECT blot.
Lynn Lempel’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”
Lynn turns to classic English lit for today’s theme:
- 18a. CHARLES, [With 41-Across, British novelist whose 200th birthday was celebrated on February 7, 2012]
- 29a. TINY TIM, [Young 18-/41-Across character in “A Christmas Carol”: 2 wds.]
- 31a. PIP, [Young 18-/41-Across hero of “Great Expectations”]
- 33a. SCROOGE, [Miser created by 18-/41-Across in “A Christmas Carol”]
- 41a. DICKENS, [See 18-Across]
- 4d. DORRIT, [“Little ___” (18-/41-Across novel set in a debtors’ prison)]
- 8d. LONDON, [Home of 18-/41-Across and the setting for much of his writing]
- 35d. OLIVER, [1968 musical based on an 18-/41-Across novel, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture]
- 45d. BOZ, [Pen name used by 18-/41-Across]
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Seven Sages”
Once again, we get a Berry marvel in which 36 7-letter words interlock in clockwise and counterclockwise rings and most of the words also mesh with the quote running around the outer ring. And only one of the words was unfamiliar to me, but I could fill it in because its letters were checked by its three neighbors and the quote. It makes my brain hurt thinking about the work that goes into making one of these puzzles.
That unfamiliar word is #6, PILLION, a [Passenger seat on a motorbike]. The Wikipedia article explains it all. Chiefly British term. Are any of you bikers? Do you use this term?
Favorite clue: #16, [“A form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”: Oscar Wilde]. FASHION!
I think the puzzle took me maybe 12 to 15 minutes. So not a head-scratching, gotta-come-back-to-it-later killer, but a good challenge that takes me about twice as long as a themeless Saturday puzzle.
Oh! The Dali quote around the perimeter is “Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing.” There’s something to that. Artists typically build on all that has come before them and work within certain parameters. You can’t fully reinvent the novel or sculpture or crosswords, because no matter how far afield you go, you’ve still got the basic structure in there. Yes? No?