Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword
This smooth themeless wins its hand of blackjack with that ACE IN THE HOLE and JACK IN THE BOX. Isn’t that DASHING?
Lots to like in this grid. I’m partial to the AFGHAN/MALAWI/BRAZEN stack, SKI JUMP, DAWN OF THE DEAD, POISONED popes in a clue, MYANMAR (doesn’t [Home of Mandalay] sound like it should be a casino town?), DARKROOM clued obliquely as [Developing area], NO GIFTS, full-name MAUNA LOA. I’m lukewarm on PURE GOLD: is it pure gold or merely gold-plated? My least favorite items in the puzzle are “I’M CALM,” which seems a bit of a stretch as an entry, and KENO, that [Vegas game] I never hear about anywhere but crosswords. If you play keno, please tell me so I quit thinking crosswordese-ill of it.
The puzzle fell a little faster than I expect a Saturday NYT to go. Did it seem a little closer to the Friday end of the the spectrum to you? I will grant you that the NYT’s themeless spectrum is a pretty tight one. I think of my usual Friday range as 4:00 to 5:30; Saturday, 5:30 to 7:00; killer Saturday, considerably beyond. Then you have the CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge,” with sub-FriNYT times, and the LA Times Saturday puzzle clocking in at the lower end of FriNYT times. Not to mention the Newsday “Saturday Stumper,” which can bounce around between FriNYT and super-killer-Saturday level. Oh! And BEQ’s weekly “Themeless Monday” usually takes me somewhere in the SatNYT range.
Four stars from me.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hand Gestures”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The three theme answers begin with ROCK, PAPER, and SCISSORS, respectively:
- 20-Across: ROCK CLIMBING is an [Extreme sport] alright. With my acrophobia and lack of coordination, it’s safe to say it won’t be on my bucket list anytime soon.
- 38-Across: The [Folded flier] is a PAPER AIRPLANE. Here‘s a site with some helpful lessons for making your own.
- 56-Across: The [Propelling motion in the pool] is the SCISSORS KICK. “Scissors” is a great word in part because it’s the same in the singular and plural forms. You know, like glasses, fish, pants, and offspring. Okay, I don’t get out much.
Where are the theme entries starting with LIZARD and SPOCK? Despite their absence, I enjoyed this puzzle’s smoothness. Here are some random thoughts that came to me while solving: (1) we don’t often get 10-letter Across answers that are unrelated to the theme, but here we got both INORDINATE and HIGH-OCTANE. Was I the only one who wondered whether they had something to do with the theme at first? (2) There was a lot of lawyerly fill here, what with PLEA, CASE, and CLERKS. That they appeared consecutively in the grid probably exacerbated the mini-theme. (3) [It has a wet floor] is a fun clue for OCEAN. (4) DID LAPS felt kind of arbitrary to me, but by the same token I have to admit that it fell with only the DI- in place. So maybe it wasn’t nearly as arbitrary as I thought.
Favorite entry = V-SIGN, the [Churchill gesture]. Favorite clue = [Jolly Green Giant saying] for HO HO HO. Why give all the attention to Santa Claus when he’ll get enough coverage over the next 31 days?
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Happy belated Thanksgiving, solvers! Did you EAT enough on Thursday? If not, heat up some leftovers while we review this delicious puzzle.
Speaking of leftovers, nothing recycled about this puzzle. Tons of fresh fill. Also, you know what I give thanks for? Pangrams that don’t feel forced. I plowed through this puzzle like it was a plate of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Okay, I’m done stuffing Thanksgiving references into this review.
Highlights, of which there are many:
- 23a, XYZ AFFAIR [1790s diplomatic powder keg]. X, Y, and Z were French diplomats (or, rather, their aliases) who sought bribes from American ambassadors in exchange for détente. The Americans, offended, refused to negotiated further, aggravating the already-strained relations between France and the newly independent America and spurring the onset of the nearly-as-Scrabbly Quasi-War.
- 35a, CANTERBURY BELLS [Garden blooms named for medieval music makers]. Never heard of ’em (the flowers or the bells). Now I know (and knowing is half the battle!). Was this the seed entry, do you think? Was it originally supposed to be CANTERBURY taLeS? Was it intended as glue to hold some of the pretty 9s together? Other theories?
- 38a, ARGO [Ship with a prophetic prow]. The prow was carved by Athena, no less! N.B. When do we get the film clues for this entry?
- 44a, JUDGE JUDY [Highly rated court figure]. An extremely well-regarded New York family court prosecutor and judge before her 17 seasons (so far) of fame. Now she makes $123,000 a day and $45,000,000 a year.
- 49a, ADOBE [Clay + straw + water + sunshine]. Great cluing. Resisting the urge to go consumerist and reference the brand name pays off.
- 8d, PLUS FOURS [Golfer’s knickers]. So-named because they extend four inches below the knee. I always wanted a pair of plus fours, mostly because of the late great Payne Stewart.
- 21d, OFT-QUOTED [Like an old saw]. I saw right through this trap. Haha, get it? Saw? Sigh.
- 23d, XACTO [Maker of the Vortex electric pencil sharpener]. They’re more than just knives, you know.
- 37d, BAEDEKER [Tourist guidebook publisher]. Namesake of the far-more-interesting Baedeker Blitz, a series of retaliatory raids by the Luftwaffe on British cities. The cities targeted were chosen because they all had been awarded three stars for historical significance by the German Baedeker Guide to Britain, or so the story goes.
- 42d, RUMPUS [Clamor]. Did anyone else have RUckUS first? I had a bunch of gibberish in the SW corner for a hot second because of it.
- 44d, JUNTA [Coup group]. As with “Sean Bean,” my brain was convinced these two words had to rhyme. What’s a coo groo?, I wondered aloud to no one in particular.
And still we’ve only scraped the surfaces of the 7×3 corners, which were all solid. Loved 3d, MYOB, and its clue, [Initial warning to an intruder?]. (This stands for “Mind your own business,” BTW.) SNOW could have been a PROSAIC entry without the clue-that-references-the-eleventh-definition-in-the-dictionary, [Bamboozle]. Bamboozle indeed, Brad Wilber.
In the negatives column… what’s even in the negatives column? CANTERBURY BELLS was new but by no means bad. TREADON [Walk all over] didn’t quite feel like a lexical unit to me, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because of “Don’t Tread On Me.” If your puzzle’s worst two entries are APACE and OTO, then you’re doing something really, really right.
4.75 stars from me. Until next week!
Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Let’s take it listwise:
- 1a. [Something tamed with acid], HOT SALSA. Huh?
- 19a. [What a purse might do], SNAP OPEN. I think it snaps shut and unsnaps open.
- 31a. [Sport with horses], GYMNASTICS. Great clue.
- 41a. [”. . . cover the multitude of sins” source], I PETER. A.k.a. “First Peter,” “1 Peter.”
- 46a. [Products of wood carbonization], TARS. Can also come from coal.
- 50a. [Ne’er-do-well], BAD APPLE. One ne’er-do-well spoils the bunch.
- 55a. [Bounty hunter’s accessory], AIR TASER. Have never seen this term before.
- 56a. [Recent arrival], ROOKIE. I tried NEW KID and NEWBIE and both wanted to work out, they did.
- 58a. [”Hi-lo” signals], SIRENS. Never thought of them that way.
- 1d. [Parts of roofs], HIPS. I had no idea.
- 3d. [Two-note announcement], TA-DA. Sirens, those are often two-note announcements.
- 5d. [Author taught by Thoreau], Louisa May Alcott.
- 6d. Art director’s tool], LOUPE. I think of art directors as the people who work on the overall set design for a movie more than people peering at fine detail with a loupe.
- 7d. “SURE, WHY NOT?” is a great answer.
- 9d. [How some small cars are bought], KITS. Ick, no. “How” ≠ a plural noun. AS KITS, IN KITS, maybe.
- 24d. [Series with a ”Secrets of the Sun” episode], NOVA. I tried LOST first. What?
- 27d. [”Some Enchanted Evening” singer], EMILE. South Pacific role, yes?
- 32d. Transistor descendant], IPOD. “Transistor” being shorthand for “transistor radio.”
- 36d. [Goodyear partner, 1922-40], ZEPPELIN. Goodyear blimp!
- 42d. [Astronomical term coined by Galileo], CRATER. From the Greek for “mixing bowl.”
Overall, 3.75 stars.