Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword
Your mileage may vary, but I finished this puzzle in a Fridayish amount of time so it feels to me like Will Shortz swapped the Friday and Saturday puzzles. Although in general, a themeless crossword with Joon’s name in the byline screams “you’d better know a lot of stuff because this is Joon #&$%ing Pahk here, and this ain’t no walk in the park.”
- Great 1-Across, FRENEMIES. [Allies who are also rivals]. Now, in the crossword arena, there are allies who are also rivals (e.g., Joon and Tyler and Anne and Dan and the other ACPT phenoms) but do not fit the “frenemies” category. You know why? Too nice.
- 20a. LANCE BASS, erstwhile ‘N Sync member who came out of the closet. [“Out of Sync” autobiographer, 2007]—I wonder if he came up with the title himself.
- 35a. DJ BOOTH—you ever see that in a crossword before?
- 58a. I think the clue is punctuated wrong (I’d have it as “Excuse me!”), but I love “DO YOU MIND?”
- 1d. Those [Four-cornered chips], rectangular FRITOS, don’t get much crossword love in their proper plural. I have an unopened bag of Fritos and now I want to eat some, but who wants Fritos breath at bedtime?
- 12d. I’m in the “CILANTRO is dreadful—it tastes like soap” camp, but I don’t mind it in my crossword.
- 14d. “LET’S ROCK” is as fresh and lively as 1a, 35a, and 58a.
- 23d. It takes a little CHUTZPAH to drop this word into the middle of one’s grid.
- 35d. Joon’s a sports fiend and I believe he’s a big Novak DJOKOVIC fan.
- 37d. BATTENED is timely, with Hurricane Sandy threatening to merge with a storm from the west to form a stormapalooza situation. If you’re along the Atlantic coast, please be sure to batten down ALL THE THINGS!
This puzzle’s also loaded with fine clues. Among my favorites:
- 50a. [Show some major respect?], SALUTE.
- 56a. [Something seen after hours?] and before minutes, the COLON in 10:00.
- 4d. [Gets to first base], NECKS. Not baseball.
- 32d. [Plot devices?] to break up the soil in a plot of land, HOES.
- 34d. [Make the highlights?], DYE. That reminds me—I’m overdue for a touch-up.
- 38d/40d. [Refusal of Paris], France, is NON. The [Family of Paris] the celebutante are the HILTONS.
- 43d. [One bringing a speaker onstage, maybe] is a ROADIE. Stereo speaker, not orator.
On the down side, we have six abbreviations (INTL, STD, RAM, INTR, SYST, ONT), but on the plus side, no partials.
4.5 stars from me. Fun puzzle with plenty of treasures in the fill.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Seven Sages”
One part crossword puzzle, one part jigsaw puzzle—figure out which spaces the letters go in based on what shared letters two neighboring answers contain. Not too difficult.
None of the 7-letter answers struck me as particularly juicy, and of course (this being a Berry creation) nothing was clunky, either.
Trickiest clue: 22. [Flat thing that smells (2 wds.)] for PUG NOSE.
Cute endgame, with the quote reading around the outside assisting the solver with the exterior word rings. The quote, from I-don’t-know-who-that-is Kin Hubbard, reads “A good listener is usually thinking about something else.” Hah! It takes special talent to appear to be a good listener rather than someone who’s just not paying attention.
John Farmer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
For me, this puzzle was like eating a Snickers for breakfast — weirdly satisfying. There’s a mélange of: sparkling fill with kooky letter combinations (VWTHING, RSVPED, VACUUMED, PROLIX), old-timey stand-by filler (SEPTA, ORONO, ERMA, ARIANE, OSTE, ADOANNIE), and cross references both intentional (CARL/REINER) and unintentional (LETO/LITA, EUREKA/VACUUMED).
Also, this was a very educational puzzle for me. I had no idea that SPALDEEN is a [Stickball ball, familiarly], that Audrey Hepburn plays the French cellist ARIANE Chavasse in “Love in the Afternoon,” and that some people say WRONGONE instead of [“Guess again”]. I’ve never used the word PELF [Crooked gains] before, though I’ve seen it in puzzledom; never heard of Sony co-founder AKIO Morita, but the Internet suggests I should have (now he’s the second-most famous Morita I know of!).
Loved the inclusion of TIMALLEN, but I thought [Voice of Buzz Lightyear] was a little easy for Saturday. Same issue with TINFOILHAT and [Wearing one can block a mind reader, some believe]. One of the many bright sides of taking a class on the Art of the Symphony in undergrad is that EROICA was a gimme for me from the date. One of my favorite moments in classical music is about 8:30 into the 1st movement of Beethoven’s Third (and the two or so minutes leading up to the dissonant chord).
In hindsight, the cluing was, for the most part, fairly straightforward. My time suggests a more challenging puzzle, but my prediction is that this was probably on the easier side for those readers who’ve been getting regular amounts of sleep. Confirm/deny?
So as to avoid PROLIXity: this was a fun puzzle that drew from a bunch of different eras. 3.5 stars from me. Now to go put some EMINEM in the TAPEDECK of my VWTHING. See you next week!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Top-Siders”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The five theme entries are each two words long, and if you were so inclined you could pair the word TOP with the first word to make at least a relatively common expression. I guess that’s what makes these answers “top-siders:”
- 17-Across: A BANANA PEEL (“top banana”) is a [Fruit discard]. Talk about an entry that cries out for something more playful than a drab dictionary-like clue!
- 40-Across: The [Portal for a poodle] is a DOG DOOR (“top dog”).
- 64-Across: A [Defendant who’s unlikely to be bonded out] is a FLIGHT RISK (“top flight”).
- 11-Down: The [Length of time a product remains salable] is its SHELF LIFE (“top shelf”).
- 34-Down The [Parade group] is a BRASS BAND (“top brass”).
Those are five terrific theme entries, though I’m still feeling meh about the theme itself. It just doesn’t feel especially tight, and I never felt the “aha” when I figured out what was happening. I got more amusement from one of my mistakes while solving the puzzle: I read the clue for DRAFTY, [Improperly insulated, perhaps], as [Improperly insinuated, perhaps], leaving me in an utter fog as to why an insulting inference would be called “drafty.” Alas, my inattentive eye provides as much trouble as it does entertainment.
There’s not much to say about the fill and the clues. Nothing really stands out as especially interesting or especially ugly. Serviceable fill that doesn’t detract from the theme is always appreciated, but this might have been the kind of theme that needed some pizzazz in the fill to take it over the top.
Favorite entry = PALE RED, a term used to describe pop singer [Pink]. Favorite clue = [Do a full-body scan?] for OGLE.
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Another fine puzzle from the duo of Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson. I’m short on time this morning, so let’s get right down to business.
Tougher than the NYT today. 3.75 stars.
- 1a. [”Hah!”], “I DOUBT IT!”
- 9a. [Where travelers may get their shots], BAR CAR. Drinking on a train, not being vaccinated in a travel clinic. Also not a basketball reference.
- 36a. [Inspiration for Infiniti’s logo], MT. FUJI. Didn’t know this trivia.
- 62a. [Have joint tenancy], DO TIME. As in “residing in the joint,” not having the “joint tenants in common” legal setup.
- 37d. [Point-and-click device], TV REMOTE. Why did I need so many crossings to figure this out?
I call foul on 2d, though. The Spanglishy “no problemo” exists, and the Spanish “no es problema” and “no hay problema” exist. I don’t think that [“No problema”] exists, thought. (The answer is DE NADA, “it’s nothing.”) ¿Si? ¿No?