Natan Last’s New York Times crossword
I did the puzzle, got distracted, and have grown too tired to blog sensibly. Shall I blog insensibly, then? Why, sure.
More demure sorts may blanch at SUCKS being clued without reference to straws or vacuums. [Is god-awful] speaks to the “stinks” meaning of SUCKS, and scarcely anyone under the age of 50 thinks this sort of SUCKS takes a direct object. It has become an informal word, not a vulgar one. I promise.
- “LET ME THINK…” and Moe’s “WHY, I OUGHTA…”
- ELENA KAGAN, full name, so crossword-friendly with its alternating consonants and vowels. (She is joined in the “full names of legal eagles” category with fictional PERRY MASON.)
- TIE FIGHTER! Would have had no idea about this if my son wasn’t a Star Wars nerd like his older cousin was.
- SNOW ANGELS! UNCLE REMUS!
Clues I like:
- [Dastard] for FIEND. Not the same sort of FIEND as in Diary of a Crossword Fiend. A Crossword Dastard would not be an aficionado but rather a maker of horrible crosswords.
- BANGS, as in a fringe of hair over the forehead = [They might be cut at a salon]. Not so obvious to those who don’t have bangs, perhaps.
- Two short “meh” answers are redeemed by interesting clues. ERSE = [Language from which “hubbub” comes], and ISRael = [It has more museums per capita than any other country: Abbr.].
Put out by:
- RECORD DEAL and AUDI DEALER not only give us two forms of the same word, they give us the arbitrary “[insert auto make] DEALER” entry. RECORD DEAL is quite nice, but I hit it after I’d hit the DEALER already.
- SECO, APER, ERSE, NEUT, ISR, outdated JEANE Dixon and Will GEER.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “New York Stories” — pannonica’s review
Stories, as in storeys, as in levels of buildings, as in officially recognized landmarks, on the island of Manhattan, in the city of New York. All seven are famous and significant, historically and architecturally, although not everyone—especially those not from or of the City—will be familiar with all of them. And hardly anyone will know them from the architects, who are specified in the clues, more as a matter of convenience and consistency than anything else. As far as I can tell.
- 18a. [ __ Building (N.Y.C. landmark designed by Cass Gilbert)] WOOLWORTH. 1913, neo-gothic, art deco. Once the tallest building in the world. The ornate lobby contains, among much else, gargoyles caricaturing individuals involved in the genesis of the building, including FW Woolworth himself, paying for the construction in nickels and dimes.
- 19a. [ __ Building (N.Y.C. landmark designed by Emery Roth and Sons)] MET LIFE. 1963, brutalist. Not to be confused with the Metropolitan Life Building, which borders Madison Square. This one looms over Grand Central Station and most New Yorkers think of it as the Pan Am building, much as I imagine Chicagoans feel about the Sears-cum-Willis Tower. Why we should yearn nostalgic for corporate branding, I can’t say, but we do.
- 36a. [… (designed by Daniel H. Burnham] FLATIRON. 1902, Chicago school. An immediately distinctive edifice, a favorite of photographers, and just a meager 22 storeys tall.
- 38a. [… designed by William F. Lamb)] EMPIRE STATE. 1931, art deco. Built in less than 15 months. The needle was envisaged as a mooring spot for airships.
- 40a. [… designed by William Van Alen] CHRYSLER. 1930, art deco. The apotheosis of art deco architecture, smaller and more elegant than its big brother, the Empire State. Sort of like the Scottish deerhound vis-à-vis the Irish wolfhound.
- 57a. [… designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)] SEAGRAM. 1958, international style ii. Along with the Lever House Building, one of the most important early glass-and-steel skyscrapers. Due in part to zoning requirements, it’s set back from the bounding streets, making room for plazas and pools, ameliorating its imposing aspect and conferring a further measure of elegance.
- 59a. [… designed by Raymond Hood] DAILY NEWS. 1930, art deco. Less easily appreciated than the other buildings listed, but still iconic, not least to fans of Superman, as it’s the model for the Daily Planet building, in both comic books and film (at least the first two “modern” ones).
As I insinuated earlier, I don’t know how much the theme will appeal to most solvers, as it’s a bit esoteric. However, one must admire the execution. Look at that triplet in the middle: three consecutive themers, and they all overlap at Column Eight! And look at those stacked nines, half themer and half regular fill: OSTEOPATH/WOOLWORTH and DAILY NEWS/UNNATURAL. Wow, doesn’t get much better than that. There’s a tangential tie-in with 38d [Building] ERECTING; the other long vertical is 11d [Dyed-in-the-wool] HARDCORE, which I mistakenly first filled in as HARD CASE.
Higher Education Vibe™:
- 1a [First Council of Nicaea formulation] CREED. No lowbrow mention of that execrable band.
- 51a [“Breathless” director] GODARD.
- 68a [Seven __ (Thales of Miletus’s group)] SAGES.
- 20d [Remainder] is a slippery clue for FOSSIL. At least it was for me. 49d [Derelict] is a bit tricky for REMISS. I liked both.
- 47d I don’t entirely buy [One usually behind the wheel] for AIRBAG. The pronoun “one” makes it too forced.
- 46a SAAR is a [Coal-rich region of Germany]. Oh very crosswordese. Also, the first row has these four meh-ish downs: USO, GTO, OTT, HHH (Hubert Horatio Humphrey); some compromises for the lovely nine-stack.
- Not sure I will ever accept S’MORE in the singular.
Enjoyed what was OFFERED (24d) here, and feel it struck a good balance of theme density and sturdy ballast fill. Cantilevered, perhaps.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Stock Options” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Five entries (or six, if you count the split theme entry as two) all have [Stock] as the clue:
- 1-Across / 73-Across: SOUP / BASE. Like chicken stock or beef stock or vegetable stock.
- 17-Across: FUND SHARES. Mmm, okay. The idea here, I think, is that mutual fund shares would be considered stock. Mutual funds own stocks, to be sure, but I’m not sure how many refer to their mutual fund shares as “stock.”
- 30-Across: FARM ANIMALS, like cattle.
- 48-Across: MERCHANDISE, like a shopkeeper’s “stock in trade.”
- 65-Across: FAMILY LINE, as in “she comes from good stock.”
It’s a cute play on “stock options,” but that’s about it. I don’t find any of the theme answers entertaining in its own right, and it’s not like the realization that “hey, the word ‘stock’ means a lot of different things” is an especially satisfying payoff. So the theme feels a bit tepid to me.
Alas, I have more concerns about the fill. Look at the Crosswordese on parade: OOLA, ESSIE, ATTU, IRMA, EMO, NEET, ETS, CLIO and CLEO, ELENA, EIEIO, -ULA, NORD, ELIS, EMIR, OCHS, and -INI (that’s two suffixes, for those counting at home). I did like COUNT ME IN, and the other long Down, LUNCH ROOM, was kinda cool even though the clue, [Where students meet to eat] had me convinced the answer had to be CAFETERIA. But otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much pizzazz.
I didn’t know that the [Sporty Ford, to aficionados] was called a STANG–looks like a bizarre portmanteau of STAG TANG, the breakfast drink of unattached male astronauts.
[Karmann ___] is one of those clues that makes me laugh. Since I have no idea whatsover as to what this clue is referring to, it might as well read [Mxyztplk ___]. When I then see that the answer to the fill-in is the equally mysterious (to me) GHIA, all I can do is shake my head. Hold on, I guess I have to figure out what the heck this means. … Oh good grief, it’s a Volkswagen model made from 1955 to 1974. I realize there are many things I don’t know (just read these posts for a few days and you’ll believe me), but I can’t believe more than a very small segment of solvers will know this.
Man, it sure looks like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and OD’ed on some cranky pills, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the big solar flares. I don’t want to come across all curmedgeonly–there are other venues for that. But I have to be honest that this puzzle didn’t do much for me this time. I’m sure the next one will be better.
To end on a happier note, I’m off to cloudy Southern California for this year’s Crosswords L.A. Tournament. I test-solved the puzzles for this event, so I can assure you the event will feature some really great puzzles. One of them is especially delightful–it’s one of my favorites of the year so far. In any case, I hope to see some of you there!
Thomas Takaro’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Make a FIST. Maybe don’t clue it as a [Punching tool … or, read differently, a hint to 20-, 28-, 48- and 56-Across], though. “Tool”? An awl is a punching tool. Hands are not tools. Anyway, “F is T” is your theme descriptor for four fake phrases in which double-T is changed to double-F. So technically, that’s FFISTT, isn’t it?
- 20a. PEANUT BUFFER, [Legume polisher?]. Not peanuf buffer. That unchanged T bugs me, especially since the F IS T thing says nothing about “only for doubled letters.”
- 28a. PUFFING GREEN, [Singer Al after a jog?].
- 48a. RAFFLE SNAKES, [Reptiles won at fundraisers?].
- 56a. SPACE SHUFFLE, [Cubicle reorganization?]. I like this one best.
Seven more comments:
- I like THE EDGE, WHARF RAT, and ZULU.
- I like 61a: UNZIP being clued as [Expand, as a compressed file].
- I’m not wild about UP UP crossing SET UP, though I like SET UP being clued as [Play matchmaker for] rather than, say, [Arrange].
- What about this 39d: LEFT SIDE, [Sailor’s port]? The entry looks peculiar in the grid. The lack of previous LEFT SIDEs and presence of only one RIGHT SIDE in the Cruciverb database makes me question whether it’s a solid answer or merely an adjective + noun phrase that doesn’t quite reach crossword-worthiness. What say you?
- 1a. [Losing casino roll] = CRAP! I didn’t know craps had a singular CRAP to it, but it’s gutsy to open at 1-Across with a word like CRAP.
- 22d is that British [Smoke, slangily], FAG, which is ugly to see in the grid. Given the blahness of the upper right sections (IOS ERS HHOUR EASES EARLE EERIE EELED SNERD EDD), I wonder how hard it would have been to get a different fill there. You could go FOG crossing OATERS with ACREAGE and BEARTRAP at 9d-10d…but that EERIE zone is hard to fill. There are other words that would fit with those themers in place, but I haven’t the time to try them out. OAFISH could maybe also help out.
- 50d. [Alarmed to the max] = SAFEST as in “protected by the highest grade of alarm system,” not “most frightened.”
Todd Gross & Mangesh Ghogre’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Financial Plumbing” — pannonica’s review
Apologies for the delay in posting this write-up, unforeseen circumstances. I found this puzzle quite difficult, due both to the theme—financial terms involving… let’s call it fluid dynamics—and some cruel crossings (to which Martin has already alluded in the comments).
- 1a. [With 124-Across, they can fetch a quick buck] LIQUID | ASSETS. Cute how 6d, running from the end of LIQUID, echoes the clue [They may go for a few bucks] DOES.
- 24a. [Normal range of a security’s price] TRADING CHANNEL.
- 40a. [Unloading of shares followed by a quick repurchase] WASH SALE.
- 43a. [Term for the Fed cranking up the economy too quickly] FOOL IN THE SHOWER. Bonus nearby homophonic content: 49a SUER.
- 60a. [Shares owned by ordinary stockholders] PUBLIC FLOAT. Bonus nearby content: 63a DRAIN [Take the color out of]
- 74a. [Scheme to inflate a stock’s price, then sell] PUMP AND DUMP.
- 91a. [Process for making ill-gotten gains look legitimate] MONEY LAUNDERING. Uhm, see nearby 91a SOAP?
- 94a. [Movement of funds into and out of a business] CASH FLOW.
- 114a. [Fund manager’s kitty for buying stock] INVESTMENT POOL.
I’m certainly not thrilled with the theme, but then again I’m not a regular Wall Street Journal reader. As it is, I managed to finish it with a minimum of endgame fiddling, until being rewarded with a success message. On to the dubious crossings!
By far the two snarliest sections are the symmetrical regions, upper center left, and lower center right. I’ll call them LENARD and EVIGAN. Each is anchored by a less-than-universally-known actor’s surname. LENARD is [Mark who played Spock’s father], while EVIGAN is the [Greg of “My Two Dads”]. In the LENARD area is OECUS [Roman banquet room] and [When Ovid wrote “Ars Amatoria”] ONE BC, which could very plausibly have been ONE AD. In the mix are a tough clue for FLAP [One may be on the wing] and the first parts of theme answers: FOOL… and PUBLIC… Yes, they’re relatively guessable but far from gimmes (for the average non-WSJ reader, I repeat). In fact, I had GOBLIN FLOATS for a little while.
Over in EVIGAN-land there’s [“Let’s Get Away From it All” lyricist Tom] ADAIR; the Is cross. Oh, and AIEA is a [Town in Honolulu County].
Some other questionable crossings include: INDIC/IOS [Punjabi or Bengali, e.g.]/[One of the Cyclades]; and MOTHMAN/ASHLEE [Creature reportedly seen in West Virginia in the 1960s] (I had MOLEMAN)/[Jessica Simpson’s little sister] (took some time for the coin to drop for me).
Question: 67d [St. Peter’s topper] CUPOLA. Some misdirection, as it’s the structure and not the personage. I don’t have a style guide handy and tangentially wonder if would have been acceptable to write St. Peter’s’ or even St. Peter’s’s.
Least favorite fill: 108d [Where Congress meets] IN DC; I don’t care for answers that include superfluous prepositional appendages. 111a [“Behind the Music” network] VH-ONE; titles that include numbers usually written as numerals but that are spelled out are typically reviled in crosswordville.
Let’s end on a positive note. Four favorite clues:
- 29a [Playing around?] ON TOUR.
- 89d [Chicken tenders] VETS.
- 77a [Dirt source] TABLOID.
- 9d [Food crop?] CRAW.
Less than stellar puzzle, but some real cluing highlights.
addendum: Need to point out 4d & 11d: UNITE and UNION.