John Farmer’s New York Times crossword
Anyone else find that this puzzle landed squarely in the Friday difficulty zone? I was expecting more challenge.
My favorite fill and clues:
- 1a. [Angry missive], NASTYGRAM. Singing nastygrams are the best.
- 16a. [Hatch in the upper house], ORRIN. The Senate, not a small door somewhere.
- 34a. [Not likely to be a “cheese” lover?], CAMERA-SHY.
- 61a. [Sites for shark sightings], POOL HALLS.
- 65a. [Disney Hall architect], GEHRY. A little surprised we don’t see him in more crosswords.
- 66a. [Sci-fi battle site], DEATH STAR. Thought the clue was looking for something more generic, like a planet, but no. Star Wars.
- 10d. [Vacancy clause?], NOBODY’S HOME.
- 32d. [John Paul’s successor], ELENA. Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Elena Kagan.
- 40d. [Musical with a cow that’s catapulted over a castle], SPAMALOT.
A few more things:
- 63a. [Gut trouble], ULCER? Medically, I don’t like this, as the stomach where the typical ULCER is found is at the opposite end of the digestive tract from what I would call the gut. I will grant you that people use “gut” to refer to the entire abdominal innards zone, but people are also wrong sometimes.
- 2d. [Like a control freak], ANAL / 15a. [Trailing], IN THE REAR. I believe this is an unintentional crossing, but what could be 49d: APTER?
- 23d. [Glenda Jackson/Ben Kingsley film scripted by Harold Pinter], TURTLE DIARY. I don’t know this one. John Farmer has seen approximately every movie ever made, so I’ll bet he’s seen it.
- 13d. [One in a Kindergarten?], that’s easy, anyone who’s taken German I knows that. Even people who haven’t taken German know “eins, zwei, drei.” The answer is EINS, right? … What? It’s not? It’s EINE? That is only faintly defensible, and there is no earthly reason to go for a cutesy clue for a foreign word, especially when a lot of people will feel that your answer for that clue is wrong. Plus! There is a huge problem here. Lots of solvers will confidently fill in EINS. That would affect one square of the not-entirely-obvious-to-all 21a. [Part of Duchamp’s parody of the “Mona Lisa”], GOATEE. Change that first E to an S, let a curious solver Google the resulting word, and you are in a heap of trouble. (Whatever you do, do not Google that if you don’t know what it is already. It is unseeable once seen. Do not see it. It is … disturbingly anatomical.) This, my friends, is why a boring clue like [“___ Kleine Nachtmusik”] is safer than stretching the meanings of German words.
- 54a. [Tribe whose sun symbol is on the New Mexico flag], ZIA. This Zia is less familiar to me than the erstwhile Pakistani leader.
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Whenever I see SMAZE, I can’t help but think of “smize,” which is the Tyra Banks-coined portmanteau meaning “smile with your eyes.”
Another gem of a Barry Silk puzzle — four Zs, two Qs, a J, a K, and and a smattering of Vs. And none of it feels forced to me.
How about that NW corner? TAJ MAHAL next to AQUAFINA next to BUM STEER? TABRIZ on top of AQUINO and JUMBLE? Six beautiful entries, all crammed into one corner. I love it.
Other good stuff:
- 34a, QUETZAL [Guatemalan currency, or the colorful bird it’s named for]. Mythology buffs might recognize the quetzal as half of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, which means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl.
- 39d, ZEPHYRS [Gentle breezes]. Mythology buffs were probably again delighted to recognize that Zephyr is the Greek god of the west wind.
- 35d, ZIMBABWE [Hwange National Park setting] / 38a, ZEE [Capital of 35-Down].
- 8d, KEVLAR [Defensive fiber]. I got tripped up by this one; I was thinking in terms of “There’s not a defensive fiber in my body,” as opposed to a literal fiber.
I also really enjoyed the references to Marvelous Marvin HAGLER and HERBIE Hancock. There’s just a handful of non-perfect fill in my book (your mileage may vary on stuff I love like STOA, MASSE, and ERTE): LVI, AVEC, SSE. I wasn’t a big fan of POT ALE [Distillery waste] either, but it seems legit. The big problem in the grid was the echo of BUM STEER and STEERS, even though they’re clued differently. All in all, 4.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Here’s Johnny” – Gareth’s review
A well-worn theme here with four answers beginning with the surname of a famous Johnny. It’s worth bearing in mind that CrosSynergy is aimed more at the casual solver and a well-trodden theme, ably-executed is more than fine. Today’s theme set are ROTTENAPPLE, BENCHPRESS, CARSONCITY and CASHADVANCE. Of those, BENCHPRESS was my favourite; I was less wild about CARSONCITY as the Carson is a surname, the same as in Johnny Carson.
The rest of the puzzle was typically clean and conservative. I was pleased on a personal level to see some biological jargon in LIPID crop up. Most of the answers are words and not names or phrases, but there is some colourful vocabulary to be found.
3.25 Stars. Gareth
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Oof. This one was really difficult, particularly the lower half of it. And it wasn’t a pleasant solve for me, either. The asterisk in my solving time is because I Googled 1973 addition to American League and discovered 31a: [AL arrivals of 1973] was DHS; I had assumed it would be a city/team abbreviation like DET. That one answer helped me make my way through the rest of the puzzle—isn’t it wild how sometimes Googling just one answer will break the mental dam? (Note: I do not routinely Google tough clues. The few times a year that I do, I always disclose it in my review.)
I’m short on time, so I’ll blog quickly.
Likes: BASSET HOUND, WITHIN EARSHOT, DIGS ONE’S HEELS IN, TEST OF CHARACTER. I haven’t seen the 30d. [Ingrid Bergman Oscar film] GASLIGHT, but I learned of the concept of “gaslighting” someone from All My Children. I love that term.
Did not know:
- 25a. [LBJ son-in-law], NUGENT. I want this to be Ted. Will not check to find out for sure.
- 28a. [Deity invoked in ”The Magic Flute”], OSIRIS. Gettable with a few letters in place.
- 33a. [Helsinki’s __ Observatory], URSA. Fresh URSA clue.
- 36a. [Like some experimental biofuels], ALGAL. Had no idea.
- 46a. ‘[‘Grand Canyon Suite” portrayal], MULE. No idea.
- 50a. [Fashion ushered out by flappers], HIGH BUTTON SHOES. Didn’t know those were a thing.
- 55a. [Acrobat’s apparatus], TEETER BOARD. Didn’t know the term. Two long answers in the stack that were unfamiliar = deadly.
- 35d. [30-footer], LAG PUTT. Never, ever heard this golf term.
- 40d. [Drove, quaintly], AUTOED. That was a verb??
- 51d. [Squeaky sound], HEE. That’s squeaky?
Tough clues, most of which I admired:
- 40a. [Highlighting choice], ASH. Ash blonde highlights.
- 49a. [Shooting star setting], OATER. Hollywood stars shooting fake guns in westerns.
- 24d. [Many an admiral], LIFER. Career officer.
- 29d. [Place for a cache of nuts], TOOLKIT. Not a squirrel’s acorns but hardware.
- 32d. [One drawn to hilltops], SLED. Pull it up, ride it down.
- 52d. [Bay in May 2013 headlines], ORB. A bay horse, in the Kentucky Derby, named Orb. Not a body of water.
Underwhelming fill: ENE, URSA, GEE clued as the letter G.
3.5 stars from me.