Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Wow! I … have not found a puzzle this unpleasant to work through in at least a year. Martin, you’re a nice guy, but this puzzle kept hitting me over the head with a hammer. Crosswordese! Awkward fill! Frightfully obscure cluing approaches! At 8 minutes and change, I had the top quad stack filled in but hardly anything else. Eventually I caved in and started Googling. Plus, a friend who didn’t know I wasn’t done yet accidentally revealed one of the bottom 15s. Despite four Google look-ups and a give-away 15, it still took me 13 1/2 unpleasant minutes. Here are the four things I Googled:
- 37a. [Title gambler in a 1943 Cary Grant film], MR. LUCKY. Doesn’t ring a bell. Hey! My mom was born that year, so it’s a little before her time too.
- 42a. [Eagles tight end Igwenagu], EMIL. Never heard of him. And you?
- 27d. [Org. that publishes Advocacy Update], AMA. You know what a Google search will tell you? That lots of groups publish an Advocacy Update! This clue was standing in the way rather than serving as an aid to the solver.
- 25d. [“The Inspector General” star, 1949], KAYE. Would it have killed you, Shortz, to include the name Danny? My husband has seen this; I never have.
And my friend revealed this one:
- 54a. [Tone poem that calls for four taxi horns, with “An”], AMERICAN IN PARIS. May I just say that 15s that are “with ‘The'” or “with ‘An'” feel like kind of a cheat for the constructor?
In the category of Other Things Amy Sure as Hell Didn’t Get Right Off the Bat, we have these:
- 16a. [Indicator of how accurate a numerical guess is], PERCENTAGE ERROR. Is this a standard statistical term? It doesn’t feel familiar.
- 17a. [Bringer of peace], ENTENTE CORDIALE. Faintly familiar. Appeared in a 2010 Krozel puzzle. Has also appeared in NYT puzzles in 1997 (that one coauthored by … Martin Ashwood-Smith!), 2005, and 2006. I’m OK with never seeing it again, since I don’t ever see it outside of crosswords.
- 24a. [“The Chronicles of Clovis” author], SAKI. Got it from the crossings.
- 45a. [Much commercial production], SPOT TV. This is a thing?
- 52a. [Post-W.W. II fed. agcy.], AEC. Tell me it’s the NRC’s predecessor and I’ll nail it. Vague “fed. agcy. from 70 years ago” clue? Not a chance.
- 64a. [Packing it in], FEEDING ONE’S FACE. Stuffing your face is way more familiar, no? This is one of two onesies; 18a is STARS IN ONE’S EYES, and I really do not care for two ONE’S phrases in a single puzzle. Does anyone?
- 7d. [1930s bomber], B-TEN. Which, of course, was always called the B-10 and not spelled out, no? Not a favorite fill category. (See also: 47a. ONE-D.)
- 29d. [“Revolver” Grammy winner Voormann], KLAUS. Who?? So he won a Grammy for designing the cover of a Beatles album? They gave Grammys for that??
- 31d. [“Deirdre” playwright], YEATS. Whoa. I checked Cruciverb. The 38 clues for 60 appearances of YEATS have never mentioned that play. The play lacks its own Wikipedia article and isn’t mentioned in Yeats’ Wikipedia write-up. Raise your hand if you’ve read it.
- 43d. [Chandra, in Hindu belief], MOON GOD. Any relation to Chandra Levy?
- 53d. [___-foot jelly], CALF’S. I started with NEAT’S. Neat’s-foot oil is made by boiling cattle feet. So baby cattle feet get you calf’s-foot jelly? Wikipedia redirects to the edible aspic, whereas the neat’s-foot oil is used in leather processing. Are you as grossed out as I am?
- 56d. [Hohenberg’s river], EGER. Clue it as a Hungarian city or a river that feeds the Elbe, and I might have gotten this. Never heard of Hohenberg. Oh! Here’s why: Hohenberg an der Eger has a population of 1,464. Really, Martin and Will? Really?
- 61d. [Thomas H. ___, the Father of the Western], INCE. He was last in a John Farmer puzzle in 2009. A Monday puzzle! Betcha a dollar I blogged that this is not Monday fill. Yep: “This one’s tough.”
Things I liked: The 1a it’s-not-AMERICANEXPRESS trap; the NSA clue [Intel processor?]; [Northern game preceder] as a clue for O CANADA (I was pondering ALASKAN and thinking of game animals), [Information information] as the clue for the ridiculously un-Scrabbly STREET ADDRESSES; [Not just another face in the crowd?] cluing WALDO (which is the name I almost shouted out the car window yesterday when passing a man wearing a shirt with red and white stripes); the [Quarter of …] foreign-language number clues.
Bearing in mind the various unpleasantnesses, though, not to mention that plural EGONS, two stars. I hope you had a better time with it than I did.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Family Ties” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A family reunion is depicted in today’s CrosSynergy puzzle:
- Your eccentric Uncle Leroy who wears those loud Hawaiian print shirts lurks amid GUN CLEANING. Though the clue tries to be cute ([Activity that may put you over a barrel]), the less I see anything about guns in my puzzle, the better.
- Typically, Mom is the one holding the THERMOMETER.
- Your “intrepid” Aunt Mabel can be found eating potato salad and within UNDAUNTED.
- Dad’s ready to bolt, anxious to watch pro football in the solitude of his basement man cave and SKEDADDLE.
- Oh, and there’s your brother, wearing that sweater Aunt Mabel knit him (the only time of the year he wears it): EMBROIDERED.
- Finally, it’s your sister, recently emigrated from your native Herzegovina, just back from ELLIS ISLAND.
This is the rare puzzle in which I think there is too much theme material–the 6 long entries made for a very choppy solve, with a bunch of short entries and compromises in the fill. I did have a FAVE entry, though, and that was being reminded of my fondness for Armistead MAUPIN‘s Tales of the City, which ran in daily installments in the San Francisco Chronicle. My UNFAVE was EAD, clued as [The same, on prescriptions]. It comes from the Latin eādem, and should’ve stayed there.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Looking back at this one, there are a lot of really fresh long entries. Phrases that feel very “in the language.” And I think that, solving this one most other Saturdays, I would really have relished this solve. But while I was solving this one, I kept thinking about yesterday’s truly excellent NYT puzzle by Josh Knapp. Maybe it’s an unfair comparison to make, but looking at the two side-by-side really brings out how much short fill this one needs to make the long fill happen. This one’s practically bereft of medium length fill (four 6s, two 7s, no 8s).
Let’s run down the highlights (of which there were many), and throw some factoids in there:
- 2d, LOCAL COLOR [Regional asset]. Can you think of a longer phrase using only the letters A, C, L, O, and R? CORAL, COLLAR, CORRAL, ROCOCO, COROLLA, and COCA-COLA all spring to mind. And no, LA LA LA LA LA LA LA doesn’t count.
- 3d, EXURBANITE [One with a long commute, probably]. I think Will Nediger and I used almost exactly the same clue for the entry EARLY RISER, so my brain tried to pull some tomfoolery on me here. Fortunately, I was pretty sure about XOXO by the time I got to this one.
- 15a, CASHES IN ON [Exploits]. The verb, not the noun.
- 18a, ETHNIC JOKE [It’s more acceptable when it’s self-mocking]. B.J. Sokol has some interesting things to say about this self-mocking ethnic jokes in Shakespeare.
- 26a, I CAN HARDLY WAIT! [Impatient cry]. My mom once told my brother’s English teacher she “couldn’t wait” to chaperone a field trip. The English teacher’s response? “Well, you’ll have to. It’s not until next week.”
- 30d, TRICKED OUT [Covered in bling, say].It’s a phrase I’ve most commonly heard applied to cars, but I guess other things could be “tricked out” as well.
- 42a, REACH FOR THE SKY! [Order in an oater]. Cutely phrased clue. Makes me think of Woody from Toy Story.
- 58a, BUSY SIGNAL [Conversation barrier]. Who knew the busy tones in North America and the UK were different? In North America, the busy signal consists two tones of 480 and 620 Hz, with equal 0.5-second on/off periods. In the United Kingdom, the busy signal consists of a single 400 Hz tone with equal 0.375-sec. on/off periods.
- 7d, I SHUDDER TO THINK [Words of dread]. I shudder to think how difficult this puzzle might have been without all the gettable crossings.
- 34d, EASY AS PIE! [“No sweat!”]. What this puzzle was, thanks to all the gettable crossings.
As you can see, the long fill offered one hit after another. The only long entry I actively didn’t like was IN HOSPITAL [Recuperating at the Royal London]. But certainly not inexcusable by any means. And EXCLAIMED [Hollered] was a nice long entry as well. Most of the short fill wasn’t bad, though there were a lot of abbrevs. (ELEC, ENER, THU, ELIM, IN RE), acronyms (OSHA, BHT, ADHD, FGS), and foreign stuff (DEI, DIA, ALTE, ALLO [clued as a prefix, but still]). Wasn’t too keen on AHN, HAP, ALB, or SEEDAGE either.
Ultimately, I think the good outweighs the bad on this one — 4 stars from me. Until next week!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” credited to “Lester Ruff”
With a maximum word length of 7 letters, this puzzle lacks the shiny, long fill of today’s LA Times (and I do appreciate lively long answers). But on the plus side, all the short fill that grated on me in the NYT and Andy in the LAT is absent here. The worst it gets is IAN clued as a suffix and the plural abbreviation TDS, which is mighty familiar to anyone who pays attention to American football. Every entry in this puzzle is likely to be familiar to most solvers. Well, okay, NECTARY (40d. [Pollinator’s destination]) is weird, not nearly as familiar as nectar, but inferrable.
Top 10 clues making easy(ish) words trickier to see:
- 17a. [Toasted], DRANK TO. I read the clue word as an adjective and as the browned-bread verb first.
- 20a. [”The First Tip-Off” subject], NBA. The term tip-off is used in a number of ways, and the little “aha, basketball!” light went off when I completed the [Dragonfly prey] BEE (same clue doubles for ANT).
- 24a. [Mongoose cousin], HYENA. You don’t say. Is this taxonomically true, pannonica?
- 33a. [Small French town with 200+ hotels], LOURDES. Nifty trivia.
- 45a. [Japanese word for ”round”], YEN. Did not know that.
- 5d. [Contents of some reservoirs], INKS. Could only think of water reservoirs.
- 7d. [Seattle and Vancouver], EPONYMS. Seattle was the leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, and George Vancouver was an English navigator in the late 1700s who mapped out much of the West Coast from Alaska down to California.
- 12d. [Polo player’s wear], KNEEPAD. I confess I have never paid much attention to what polo players wear while playing.
- 44d. [Straight nature], HONESTY.
- 50d. , TEN A.M.
I liked 42d. [What some spoons are made for], ICED TEA. When I made the switch from first-thing-in-the-morning Diet Coke to iced tea, I found myself in need of some long-handled iced tea spoons, which were part of the set of stainless flatware my parents had when I was a kid. Do you know how hard it is to find iced tea spoons in stores these days?? Target had none, some websites had none, and the saleswoman at Macy’s went into the back storeroom to dig up a couple long-unsold spoons for me. If you want iced tea spoons, try Amazon.
There were a couple traps to fall into in this puzzle. 8d: [Hand sanitizer ingredient], ETHANOL, shares the last two letters with alcohOL. And 62a: [Doctor’s order], LAB TEST, ends with three letters of bed rEST.
Could have done without related words BYPASS and PAST in the same grid, much less crossing each other.
Four stars overall for this smooth themeless.