Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Lots of fun stuff in this puzzle, with some standard Saturdayish fare mixed in along with a soupçon of awkwardness.
First up, the fun: Scrabbly SMOOTH JAZZ, better as crossword fill perhaps than as a genre. The conversational 1-2-3 of “HERE‘S TO YOU,” “PEACE OUT,” and “LATER, MAN.” The colloquial ALL OVER CREATION. The word TORPOR—those -or/-id words rock. (Stupor, rigor, horror, turgor—and yet vigid and terrid are not words.) I like ACCESS CODE‘s clue, [What you may have to enter to enter]. [Air-breathing swimmer] as a clue for CETACEAN—somehow I was envisioning a human with some special air-breathing apparatus. [Certain pancake makeup] makes you think of the cosmetic called pancake makeup, and then batter, and then, finally, POTATO. (With sour cream and applesauce, please.) EUPHORIA is always welcome, and I have been to a couple [Midwestern twin city] candidates, including Minneapolis/St. Paul and Champaign/URBANA. PDA gets a cute two-way clue, [What a hand-held – or hand-holding – may be, briefly]; the smartphone type of PDA meets slangy public display of affection.
Answers that feel more at home in a Saturday puzzle than in the other days’ puzzles include TESSA, [“The Gondoliers” girl]; TANA, [Lake from which the Blue Nile begins]; AYR, [Robert Burns’s birth county]; AB INITIO, [From the start]; and ALBEDO, [Reflectivity measure]. Mostly, I felt this played rather like a Friday puzzle.
The awkwardness comes from the two-parters. I know the received wisdom is that a grievous partial is greatly improved by putting its missing part elsewhere in the grid, but does anyone like things like ONE-O, [With 62-Down, old ball game], partnered with 62d: CAT? Or a dangling ON THE cross-referenced to ROAD? Could also do without the following: literary monogram RLS; SAE clued as a self-addressed envelope or as the mysterious [Motor oil letters] (Wikipedia explains that the Society of Automotive Engineers grades motor oils based on their viscosity. To measure kinematic viscosity, they see how long it takes a set amount of oil to pass through a “standard orifice.” Insert your own joke here. Not in the orifice, silly. That’s for the engineers.) Clunky-sounding NOT DO is rather ugly. (What next? NOT READ, NOT SIP, NOT FINISH?) Crosswordese commune, ENNA. Suffix –ZOA.
On balance … 3.5 stars.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
With a new month comes a new gimmick for the CS reviews. This time, we’ll play Name That Puzzle. You’ll notice that the heading for this review omits the puzzle’s title. That’s because all this month I’ll be solving the crosswords without looking at the titles. First I’ll see if I can get the theme without the title (that won’t always be easy, I assure you). Then I’ll see if I can guess the puzzle’s title. I’m sure my titles will stink in comparison, but it will be fun to compare them over the next 30 days. So let’s get started!
68-Across makes guessing the theme all too easy. It tells us ADAM is the [Exile of note (in 17-, 27-, 46-, and 61-Across)]. Sure enough, you’ll see ADAM buried in all four of these entries:
- 17-Across: NOSTRADAMUS is the [Much-read prophet].
- 27-Across: A MACADAMIA NUT is a [Crunchy Hawaiian treat]. One containing more than a de minimis amount of fat, it should be noted.
- 46-Across: One thing you can say about the DADA MOVEMENT is that [Arp was part of it]. Actually, thanks to my ignorance when it comes to art history, that’s all I can say about it.
- 61-Across: I’m guessing the correct spacing for the [Baroque stringed instrument] is VIOLA D’AMORE. How lovely.
Adam really hasn’t been “exiled” from these answers, has he? That makes me think the “exile” part of the clue really doesn’t tie to the puzzle’s title (so something like The Exile of Man is no good). Still, that doesn’t exactly lead me to any obvious choices for the puzzle’s title. Hmm, how about Buried Men? That’s a morbid title for a crossword intended to be an entertaining diversion. I’ll go with Man in Hiding. It’s boring, but it does the trick.
Oops, the title’s In Exile. I get it now: being “in exile” is the same as being “in hiding.” My mistake was thinking he had to be exiled from some place instead of being in exile at some place. I like the given title much better than mine. I’ll probably say that a lot this month.
Regarding the rest of the puzzle, I loved the triple 9s flanking both sides of the grid. For some reason, the grouping of TRADE NAME, AU NATUREL, and the TEAMSTERS seems especially amusing. I’m less of a fan of the words running along the equator. ORANG, CTN, and TAMER don’t exactly inspire confidence. But ORANG and TAMER do some heavy lifting in making the triple stacks work, so they should get a pass. CTN, though, is ugly. On a scale of one to SER, it’s at least an 8.5.
Today’s learned lesson: TRESTLE isn’t the only [Railroad bridge] out there. We’ll also accept VIADUCT as a correct response.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
What’s this? A Stumper that’s only as hard as a Friday NYT? You don’t expect that. This 70-word grid has an interesting layout, but it’s one that incorporates lots of 3- and 4-letter words. Perhaps enough of those shorties were clued easily enough to make the longer (7+ letters) more gettable?
- 16a. [Shakespeare’s ”primrose path” speaker], OPHELIA. Pretty clue.
- 17a. [Can’t leave well enough alone], TINKERS. Good clue.
- 26a. [“Birthplace of Democracy”], ATHENS, GREECE. I feel like we see a lot more ENID OK and ERIE PA than, say ROME ITALY, KYOTO JAPAN, or HAVANA CUBA. Add those city/country combos to your word lists, constructors!
- 35a. [Expression of outrage against the powerful], J’ACCUSE. My husband and I use this expression together with a dramatic finger-pointing. There is no better way to blame someone for something than to dramatically inveigh, “J’accuse!”
- 60a. [Indirect], OBLIQUE. See also: like many Stumper clues.
- The bottom row puts TENDERS next to SOFTIES, which makes the former sound tender indeed.
- 20d. [“If you done it, it __ bragging”: Whitman], AIN’T. See also: Dan Feyer’s records of solving times. He and David Plotkin did the 21×21 Wall Street Journal puzzle in 3:29 and 4:24, respectively. They done it. It ain’t bragging, it’s just facts.
- 49d. [Where planes meet], EDGES. Geometry, not aviation.
I did not know 44d: [Wonder Woman’s beau], TREVOR. Did he make it onto the ’70s TV show?
Quibble: 41a: [Is acting boss], HOLDS THE FORT? No. You gotta hold the fort down. The dictionary disagrees with me and my family on this. My husband suggests that it’s akin to holding the castle, and that the “down” is unnecessary. Then why do I usually hear this phrase with a “down”?
Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Some of the short fill is blah (I’m looking at you, OSTE, PERS, and OLEN. And you too, WANER and RESH. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you, OLA and PAH. Or you, IST.) but there are a bunch of colorful longer answers and some excellent clues:
- 1a. [Eugene O’Neill character?], APOSTROPHE. My favorite clue in this puzzle.
- 27a. [“M*A*S*H” dramatic device], GALLOWS HUMOR. I’m a fan of gallows humor myself. If I didn’t have that…
- 42a. [Left nothing in the tank], WENT WHOLE HOG. Apparently the phrase began as “go the whole hog” when America exported it to Britain, and then America promptly jettisoned the definite article.
- 56a. [Not blown up], ACTUAL SIZE. Slightly tricky clue.
- 61a. [Cleese role in “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”], GRIM REAPER. Could’ve been depressing, but who can be sad when thinking about John Cleese?
- 5d. [Air Canada Centre team, informally], THE LEAFS. Short for the Maple Leafs. No idea why they’re not the Maple Leaves.
- 12d. [Curse repellers], TALISMANS. That’s a neat word. I need a talisman. What should I use?
- 14d. [Where gravel may represent water], ZEN GARDEN. Peaceful.
- 30d. [Balcony alternative], BAY WINDOW. Whoa! The bay window made it into the grid! More often, it’s been used to clue the hoary crosswordese word, ORIEL.
- 31d. [Like playing tennis with the net down, to Robert Frost], FREE VERSE. Interesting clue.
- 59d. [One stationed at a base], UMP. Good use of baseball in a crossword—the sort of clue where zero knowledge of arcane baseball trivia is required. In contrast, there’s 47a: [Paul or Lloyd of Cooperstown], WANER. I know Cooperstown means the Baseball Hall of Fame, but have never heard of either of the Waner brothers. Wikipedia tells me they were inducted into the HOF in 1952 and 1967. Before my time.
Let’s see: 11 likes x .5 = 5.5. From that, subtract 8 dislikes x .3, or 2.4. You get 3.1 stars. Does that sound about right?
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Section Eight”
The solution image should pop up right -side-up and bigger if you click on it.
This one felt a little easier than the usual Section Eight puzzle from Berry. It helped that there were W answers in each ring—if you have one of those answers, it helps you figure out where the W answer goes in an adjacent ring. I got the two-W SWORD SWALLOWER early on ([Performer prone to sore throats?]), which eventually helped me suss out WHERE’S WALDO in Ring 1. That had a great clue, by the way: [Book series whose author can really draw a crowd?]. K is also a relatively uncommon letter, so the ROCK STAR/TRACK/BLACK SEA/PAT-A-CAKE/THE RAT PACK/WATER PARK sequence also helped me piece things together. Work your way into the center and eventually you find a WILD CARD.
Plenty of interesting fill here, and it’s nice to find question-marked clues in a variety puzzle. The third tricky clue is [Fighting with nearly everyone?], for WORLD WAR.