Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
By the bullets:
- 15×16 puzzle with no grid symmetry at all, with a quintuple stack of 15s near the midsection. Doesn’t quite count breaking the record and building the first quint-stack when the rules of size and symmetry are dispensed with, does it?
- Three roll-your-own words: REPULSER, plural SECRECIES, plural people SELF-PITIERS. The root words are fine, but when you add the -ER, the -S, the -ERS, things go haywire on the language front. There’s definite haywiriness.
- Two lovely 15s: PTOLEMAIC SYSTEM and VANESSA WILLIAMS. One overused 15: A TEENAGER IN LOVE. About five years ago, Byron Walden made fun of that entry as one that appears in too many triple stacks. When word slipped out ahead of time that today’s puzzle was a quint-stack, another friend actually predicted that ATEENAGERINLOVE would make the cut. I cackled when I reached [1959 doo-wop classic] and knew it was here. (It’s a fine answer, just one that, like Joe’s past SCARLET TANAGERS and A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE, one is fine with never seeing again in another themeless.)
- Answers I needed every crossing for: Just one, 36d: ADIGE. [Verona’s river] doesn’t get a lot of crossword play.
- Answers most redolent of HORSE MANURE: ONE REED and plural Carol LEIFERS. Honorable mention: Italian partial A DIO.
- Trickiest clue: 1a: [Urban contemporary]. Man, I thought the answer was gonna be BLACK and that it referred to radio formats. The answer, TRITT, befuddled me until I figured out that Travis TRITT is a Keith Urban contemporary. Love it!
- Arcane term: 19d: SERVICE LIST, [Ones to whom an organization’s messages are sent]. Does anyone recognize this term?
- Quaintest answer: 32d: ‘S MARVELOUS.
- Star rating: Four stars for the good stuff, 1.75 stars for the woeful stuff. A 3.2-star rating comes out in the wash. The pursuit of constructorial “records” is not of much interest to me, and while I’m okay with asymmetrical puzzles (like half the puzzles in Frank Longo’s second book of cranium crushers), the arena of first/best/lowest/most achievements is one in which the rules ought to be followed.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
This puzzle played somewhere between easy and peasy. Highlights include one 15:
- 38a, CLENCH ONE’S FISTS [Display anger]. Boring entry, boring clue. Probably wasn’t the seed entry.
- 19a, SAY SOMETHING! [“Don’t just sit there!”]. What a versatile phrase: it goes with sadness, anger, worry — the whole gamut of emotions, really.
- 58a, BATMAN BEGINS [2005 Christopher Nolan action film ].Spoiler alert: Bruce Wayne is Batman.
And a few 9s:
- 9d, BRAINWASH [Leave without reason?]. It took me forever to suss this one out. It’s not someone leaving somewhere without [a] reason; rather, it’s someone leaving someone else without [the capacity to] reason. Nice clue.
- 20d, TARANTULA [Hairy crawler]. Can’t think of another hairy crawler, other than perhaps a particularly hirsute baby.
- 34d, CHOPSTICK [You can’t eat with one]. Speak for yourself, Ed Sessa/Rich Norris! As the clue implies, we rarely see this entry in the singular. Try playing “Chopsticks” with only one finger, eh?
A few other entries that tickled my fancy:
- 7d, TYPE AB [Rare medical classifcation]. While I know this is referring to blood type, I’d like to think it refers to a passive-aggressive personality type.
- 40d, ‘ENRY [Elision from Eliza]. In ‘artford, ‘ereford, and ‘ampshire, ‘urricanes ‘ardly hever ‘appen.
- 35a, ADAM WEST [’60s Bruce Wayne portrayer]. Completes the Batman mini-theme. Adam West has had a resurgence as the mayor of Quahog on Family Guy.
- 68a, GET LOST [Words before a disappearing act?].The only thing that disappears when someone says that to me is my patience.
Most of the puzzle was pretty straightforward: the clues had a fairly singular correspondence to their fill. There were lots of unremarkable entries, and I didn’t love the partial ABABA, Peter MAAS, the semi-lexical ON EMPTY, UNTAME, and ABR. 2.75 stars from me.
Until next week!
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “At the Apple Store”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Not my fastest solve ever (that was 3:34, set on October 25 of this year–but who’s counting?), and not even my fastest on a Doug Peterson puzzle (okay, I’m double-dipping here: that one with the 3:34 solving time was a puzzle by Doug). But still, this one fell mighty quickly. The theme was apparent from the title and the first theme entry–we’re dealing with terms ending with a type of apple:
- 17-Across: The [Celebration that typically features a countdown] is a NEW YEAR’S EVE GALA. I’m a fan of the Gala apple–it’s nice and crisp, with not too much sweetness–so once this one fell I knew what to look for in the other long Across entries.
- 26-Across: I knew that ALEC BALDWIN is a [Two-time Emmy winner for “30 Rock”] (one of the most over-rated shows in recent television history, by the way), but I didn’t know there is a Baldwin apple. Wikipedia says it’s “a bright red winter apple, very good in quality, and easily shipped. It was for many years the most popular apple in New England, New York, and for export from America.” That’s what I get for growing up on the west coast, I guess.
- 46-Across: ANCIENT ROME was [Where Vulgar Latin was spoken]. You can probably still hear some Vulgar Latin in Rome (though it might be the Rome in Georgia, and it might be Pig Latin). Onay offenshay.
- 58-Across: BOARDWALK EMPIRE is the [HBO series set in Prohibition era Atlantic City]. I haven’t seen it yet, but now that I’ve caught up on Breaking Bad, I have to decide whether to start watching Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones. Any recommendations? Oh, I was also unfamiliar with the Empire apple. Here’s some intel from Wikipedia: “Empire apples are red, juicy, firm, crunchy and sweet. They ripen during September and October, and will keep until January. The original seed was a cross between the varieties McIntosh and Red Delicious. Empire apples are excellent for eating and salads, and good for sauce, baking, pies and freezing. It is an ideal lunch-box apple, not least because it does not bruise easily.” Unlike the feelings of the one carrying the lunch box.
As is always true with Doug’s crosswords, there are some fun gems in the fill. ADMIT IT is a great central Down that connects the two 11-letter theme entries. Note that because of the placement of these theme entries, Doug either had to find a five-letter answer fitting D???I, put one or three black squares in the middle, or go with a seven- or nine-letter Down entry. He chose well. Lively fill should always drive decisions like this.
Other fun entries include EVEN SO, FLAWED, CHERUB, TWELVE, NITWIT, and DWARF. I had TROMPS instead of TRAMPS for [Walks with heavy steps], and TRIES instead of TURNS for [Chances to play], but otherwise the solve was nice and smooth. A nice way to end the week!
Favorite entry = either SQUAB, the [Dark meat delicacy], or [“American Beauty” actress Mena] SUVARI (the former because of the rare letters, the latter because of the minor crush I once had on her). Favorite clue = [Quite weighty] for OBESE.
Mel Rosen’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
The northwest corner of this 72-word puzzle is way too butch. MAN CAVE is a great 1-Across but it crosses NICE MEN, which fails on two counts. First off, MAN/MEN is a duplicated word, which we might forgive if the answers were at least further apart in the grid, and if MEN weren’t also crossed by the clue [“All men __ boys”: Updike]. Second, “nice guys” is in the language as a discrete concept. NICE MEN is just adjective + noun, like GREEN CURTAINS or ANGRY TEACHER.
The last square I fixed was the middle of 56-Across. [Census Bureau category], GEN*ERS? I went with GENDERS, even though the singular would work better as a category name. Didn’t know how 51d: [Strain] worked for TAD, though. Figured out I needed GEN XERS (which is indeed a group the Census Bureau has written about) and the verb TAX.
Fifteen more clues:
- 17a. [Phonetician’s diacritics], MACRONS. My eye keeps reading that as “Phoenicians.”
- 19a. [__-Illinois Inc.], OWENS. Apparently the company goes by O-I now and makes half of the world’s glass containers.
- 31a. [Has an itch], COVETS. Are these really parallel? Do you just go around coveting in general, or do you covet a particular thing? Because “has an itch” can’t take another direct object, and “covets” can.
- 37a. [Ample, as amounts], HANDSOME. “As amounts” is a weird phrase.
- 46a. [Record-breaking 30th tropical storm of 2005], ZETA. So 26 names for A through Z, then alpha, beta, gamma, delta… I don’t think ZETA should have come up so soon in the order.
- 48a. [Barrels and beehives], CACTI. I bet there are UPDOS that look a lot like barrels, though.
- 52a. [Vault expert], GYMNAST. With the right springboard, a gymnast can leap right over a bank vault.
- 55a. [”You got a better idea?”], “HOW ELSE?” This doesn’t really feel like a question people ask.
- 4d. [Hamburguesa, por ejemplo], CARNE. Meat, in Spanish.
- 8d. [British Film Institute’s ”greatest film director”], Orson WELLES. Yes, but did he make even a single R-rated comedy?
- 28d. [Olay alternative], POND’S. Have never, ever purchased a Pond’s product, but I commend Rosen and/or Newsday for using Olay instead of the outmoded “Oil of Olay.”
- 33d. [Took no action], SAT TIGHT. Good entry. Would have liked to see more fresh long answers in a 72-worder.
- 34d. [Partygoer’s bring-along], GIFT BAG. Good entry. At kid parties, the guests go home with goodie bags too.
- 40d. [Passed or played], ENACTED. Having trouble thinking of an enact = play usage. Help me out here.
- 49d. [Daytona winners in ’76 and ’11], BMWS. I thought 4 letters seemed rather short for a plural name like UNSERS.
Markedly less of a stumper than most Stumpers. On a day when the Saturday NYT plays like a Friday puzzle, we turn to the Stumper for our weekly RDA (yes, I know the “D” in RDA means “daily”) of challenging crossword solving. Aw, I didn’t hit a single expanse I had trouble making headway in. It hardly felt like a Stumper at all! (Still tougher than this weekend’s other themelesses to date. Perhaps tomorrow’s Post Puzzler will be gnarlier.) 3.33 stars.