LAT 5:47 (Andy)
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
About 90% of this puzzle is “Wow! Great stuff!” and then there’s that 10% that evokes “Wha…?” or “Oof!” or *yawn*. First up, the best of the best:
- 1a. [Best-selling Apple app], GARAGE BAND. For making music. Also a generic term, of course.
- 16a. [Currency whose name can become its country’s name by changing its last letter to an N and scrambling], RIAL. Iran! Nifty puzzle within a clue.
- 19a. [Like some pliers], NEEDLENOSE. My favorite tool as a kid. Why? Because of the name, certainly.
- 24a. [Some Southerners], CAJUNS. A little Scrabbly, a little spicy and blackened.
- 28a. [Supporter to keep a watchful eye on], FRENEMY. Love that portmanteau word.
- 37a. [Point of writing], NIB. As in the point of a fountain pen. In my adolescence, I went through a calligraphy nerd phase and retain a fondness for the word NIB. Plus, Cherry Nibs. And also, a clue that tries to misdirect us a bit.
- 40a. [Naturalist who coined the term “invertebrate”], LAMARCK. And after whom someone coined “Lamarckism,” the idea that acquired traits can be passed down to one’s offspring.
- 43a. [Music style of La Mafia], TEJANO. A little Scrabbly, and more often seen in the clues for SELENA than in the grid.
- 46a. [Children’s book ending], Z AS IN ZEBRA. I dispute that ABC books say “as in” rather than “is for”—but I did have to spell out my maiden name (which is also a relative’s last name) this week no fewer than five times, always with “Z as in zebra,” whereas now I can say “Reynaldo, R-E-Y,” and never have to play the “as in” game. People think I’m making things up when I say that’s part of why I changed my name when I got married, but it really is annoying. People still mishear the letter I’m saying even with “Z as in zebra.” What, you think I said “V as in veebra,” people? Pfft.
- 56a. [Its highest rank is Wonsu], KOREAN ARMY. I just like this clue/answer combo.
- 58a. [Like Barack Obama’s early schoolmates], INDONESIAN. I wanted some sort of Hawaiian. He was in Indonesian schools from ages 6 to 10, so Hawaiian also works factually.
- 2d. [Rice on shelves], ANNE. Bookshelves, not grocery store shelves.
- 3d. [Bundle of nerves], RETE. Sort of a crosswordese/technical answer, but the clue smacks of idiom.
- 10d. [Uncheck, say], DESELECT. Unchecking a checked box on a computer screen, say.
- 12d. [Singer with the platinum album “Pink Friday”], NICKI MINAJ. The album came out last April, so we know this puzzle is no more than a year old.
- 13d. [Five-time Emmy-winning role], BARNEY FIFE. Barney Fife and Nicki Minaj, together for eternity thanks to David Steinberg.
- 25d. [Not recently], A WHILE BACK.
- 26d. [California-based smoothie chain], JAMBA JUICE.
- 35d. [Small meat-stuffed pastries], PIROZHKI. Russian? Yes. The Polish cousin is pierogi.
- 39d. [Trattoria selection], CALZONE.
And what didn’t I like? Mainly that spin-the-vowels crossing, 42d: [Banging noise], RANTAN meets 44a: [___-de-Marne (department near Paris)], VAL. I rarely know those French department name fragments, and RANTAN isn’t ringing a bell or banging on the door. 52d: [Kirk ___, first actor to play Superman on the big screen], ALYN? I have probably seen this guy in crosswords before, because there aren’t many famous ALYNs to choose from. AH ME is a perennial unfavorite, and SARD (48d. [Reddish-brown quartz]) and BARI (50d. [Adriatic seaport]) are things I know only from crosswords (except for my unfamous friend Bari).
But in general, David did a lovely job wrangling quad-stacked 10s combined with super-lively pairs of 10s. Aside from the VAL/RANTAN crossing, nothing really gave me pause—I didn’t need to know ALYN because I filled it in via the 10s, for example. So 4.25 stars—4.5 for the good stuff, a demerit for the short and uglies.
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Anybody else plunk down IAN FLEMING at 15a? Turns out [“My Word Is My Bond” autobiographer] is ROGER MOORE. That was a pretty easy fix once I realized 2d had to be TONI [Singer Basil with the #1 hit “Mickey”].Still, that kind of confusion was typical of my solving experience — and I loved the puzzle in spite of it (because of it?).
- 1a, ETON COLLAR [Place for an old school tie?]. Eton was founded in 1440, thus making it an old school. The Eton collar style dates back to when collars were detachable.
- 8d, LOOM [Device with a warp beam and heddles]. Sounds like something out of Star Trek, no? There are many different kinds of looms.
- 13d, NOME, ALASKA [Iditarod terminus]. Any die-hard Balto fan will know why Nome is the terminus of the Iditarod: In the winter of 1925, there was a severe diphtheria epidemic in the Nome area. Heavy blizzards prevented airplanes from Anchorage from flying into Nome to deliver a life-saving antitoxin, and so a relay of dog sled teams was organized to deliver the serum. Another factoid: Balto is the reason that Phil Collins’s Bacon number is 1.
- 37a, NICAD [Li-ion cousin]. Li-ion is short for “lithium-ion,” a kind of battery, as is the nickel-cadmium (“NiCad”) battery. Unfortunately, ti-iger was too many letters.
- 33a, YODELS [Tyrolean songs]. Tyrol is a state in Western Austria, in the heart of the Alps. Don’t remember if I’ve ever heard “yodel” used as a noun, but I suppose it makes sense as “a song that is yodelled.”
- 38a, KLUM [Model Heidi who appeared on “Ugly Betty”]. I watched the first two or three seasons of this show, and I couldn’t remember ever seeing Heidi Klum (her name was mentioned more than once, as the show is set at a fashion magazine). I spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out which episode she was on — her appearance isn’t on IMDB. The only source I could find for this assertion is Wikipedia, which makes me question its veracity. Anyone remember Heidi appearing on Ugly Betty?
- 50a, BATSUIT [Garment looked after by Alfred]. What is the Batsuit made of? Seems like a dry-clean only kind of thing.
- 57a, MARLA [Maples of ’90s tabloid news]. Probably best known for her marriage to Donald Trump, though she appeared briefly on Broadway as Ziegfeld’s Favorite inThe Will Rogers Follies.
- 5d, CREAKED [Complained underfoot?]. Guess I never really thought of floors as being able to complain, but I’m open-minded.
- 12d, SOLO RECORD [Breakaway hit?]. This clue felt weird to me. “Breakaway hit” without the question mark doesn’t seem to clearly clue anything else. But it made me think of Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, so it couldn’t have been all bad.
- 14d, SPORTS DESK [Bureau where stats abound]. I had a very satisfying “aha moment” with this one.
- 28d, JFK LIBRARY [Boston attraction with a permanent Space Race exhibit]. I’ve been there, and it’s awesome. Fresh, scrabbly entry with a nice clue.
I loved the entire SW corner: JFK LIBRARY, ALLOSAURUS, and YOU GOT TO ME make a very nice stack, all crossed by FLOOD ZONE and BATSUIT. The only weak part of this puzzle was the center stack connecting the NW to the SE: ETTE, ENNIS, EINES, and ETRE aren’t the best fill on Earth, but they’re certainly not the worst either. I’m going with 3.8 stars on this one. Until next week!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Lester Ruff)
Hmm, tougher for me than the usual puzzle by “Less Rough.” For you, too, or am I off-kilter this morning?
Among the more challenging clues were these ones:
- 17a. [A waste of time], OF NO USE. Clue is a noun, but both clue and answer are interchangeable in the sentence “It’s ___.”
- 18a. [Musical pause], FERMATA. Anyone read the Nicholson Baker novel, The Fermata?
- 19a. [Org. with a She Serves outreach program], VFW.
- 33a. [Andrew Jackson opponent in the Creek War], RED EAGLE. Not a familiar name to me.
- 42a. [Entry on a media Power Grid], TV HOST. What is a “media Power Grid”?
- 62a. [It puts the ”high” in highway], AIR LANE. Rather a virtual “highway,” no?
- 65a. [Casting director’s employer], FOUNDRY. Casting molten metal into a mold, not casting actors.
- 5d. [Needing lowering], SMUG.
- 9d. [Rice is often found there], THE U.N. Susan Rice. Second puzzle today with a hidden capital-R Rice clue.
- 11d. [Banyan cousin], ELM. Huh? Apparently both trees are in the order of flowering plants, Rosales. By this logic, roses, hops, cannabis, and strawberry plants are also banyan cousins. That’s a mighty big family (nontaxonomically defined).
- 14d. [Why some risks are taken], ON A DARE. “Because I was dared” feels more like a “why” than ON A DARE does.
- 28d. [Word before clerk or company], STOCK. No idea what “stock company” means.
- 38d. [It’s handled in the kitchen], STEWPAN. I checked two dictionaries. One has stewpot but not stewpan, and the other has stewpan but not stewpot. I’m in the pot camp today.
- 59d. [It’s about as old as the club], BLT. I kinda had BAT there for a bit. No, baseball is not as old as clubs made from tree branches. Deli sandwiches are less old than rudimentary bludgeons.
See? A little Ruffer than the typical Lester Ruff-bylined puzzle. Smooth fill, nothing too exciting (as is so common for a 7-dense Stumper). 3.9 stars.
Superman (and Lois Lane) turned 75 on Thursday so Kirk ALYN is a welcome sight. On the other hand, this must be the first time NIB makes a crossword best of the best list.
Argh! I don’t believe that I fell for the old “Rice” trick at 2-Down!
Top-half: easy. Bottom-right: quite difficult. Bottom-left: really difficult, even with LAMARCK as a gimme (well, off the CK I had…) I couldn’t get a toe-hold! PIROZHKI needed every cross, and although I spotted KOREANARMY early, I refused to commit to it as it seemed rather arbitrary. I agree with Amy’s first line, although we may quibble on the details…
Bottom-right : too much. PIROZHKI, VAL, RANTAN, ALYN, RIMA, BARI, SARD, wonsu….. Reminded me of some the pre-Shortz puzzles I’ve tried.
NYT: This puzzle disabused me from the idea that LAMARCK was spelled LAMARque… I was so sure, I even wondered if it was a French vs. English thing. But it’s LAMARCK even in a French Encyclopedia. I was plain wrong, and for so long…
I confidently entered GooglEmAps (my favorite app) in 1A. But that was easily fixed. Much of the rest was lovely and flowed easily. The SE on the other hand… I echo RK: too much.
And RETE hits a bundle of nerves in me. I know the word exists, but I’m a neuroscientist and I learned it from crosswords. It’s a very old term, never used in modern neurobiology, so it’s quintessential crosswordese. It also has a network/algorithm meaning but that is hardly a bundle of nerves. What does exist is is the beautiful Rete Mirabele http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rete_mirabile, and there could be so many more creative and accurate ways to clue that…
Rant over…Thank you. I needed that… And sorry David, I know you inherited this. You do great stuff. But could you please cringe the next time you use that definition?
Hmm… In my two years of anatomy dissections we had to memorise a number of rete (in the bundle of blood vessels sense) [though If you asked me to name any now…] Perhaps obsolete in neurobiology but not veterinary anatomy? The number of iters I encountered was 0, however, so I had to learn that one from crosswords.
Yes, totally fine for blood vessels. It’s a plexus and could theoretically apply to both. But the nerve part is obsolete. Some neural network folks grabbed it thereby keeping it alive for crosswords…I think a vascular clue would be more appropriate.
Jackie Wilson said it was Reet Petite…
Uniformly excellent, enjoyable puzzles today. ‘Wonsu’ was definitely over the edge, but the val, rima, bari and sard gimmes were just enough to piece out the SE. I know the Iditarod – Nome story well, but haven’t the foggiest idea who or what “balto” or “Phil Collins’ Bacon” are. (I guess I’ve heard of Phil Collins.)
I agree with everyone that the top was far easier than the bottom. My greatest difficulty was in the center: Lamarck and points just northeast of it.
I thought “wonsu” was a great clue. I saw that it must be KOREAN something and had no idea that it was ARMY. I thought that it was some kind of martial art. I guess my point is that I learned a word, which I find much more enjoyable in general than learning a name.
Friday’s was pretty tough for me as well.
BARI, SARD and RETE are about as crosswordese-y as you can get– if anyone had asked me where BARI was I’d have guessed Sicily (and, I discover, I don’t know how to spell S-i-c-i-l-y). But ZASINZEBRA is great, and as noted there’s a lot of Scrabbly goodness. A good one.
Bari is a fascinating city on the Aegean in SE Italy — a hodgepodge of the old and the new, the beautiful and not so beautiful, as befits an old, but rebuilt port city. You get the ferry to Greece there, for a nice, very popular overnight cruise.
Just a whimsical note on Z AS IN ZEBRA: It works well in both Brit and American English.
American English, with the long “E”s:
ZEE as in Zebra
British (South African, Gareth?) with the short “E”s:
ZED as in Zebra
BALTO is the one famous dog from the original diphtheria serum run, who got himself a beautiful statue in NYC’s Central Park that children enjoy climbing. There is a lengthy but fascinating-to- me piece in this week’s New Yorker about the modern Iditarod in which everyone involved claims it has nothing to do with that original trek.
Whoops, posted before I got down to yours!
Thanks for the writeup, Amy–I’m glad you liked the quad-stacked 10s! And thanks, everyone, for the comments!
I almost finished it but got stuck near the end. I need to keep on practicing!