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Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword
This is the sort of themeless puzzle I enjoy—lots of zippy long fill (enhanced with Scrabbly letters that don’t necessitate woeful compromises in the fill) and nothing that made me roll my eyes at its terribleness. First up, the goodies in this 72-worder:
- 1a. [Tangy fruit pastry filling], APRICOT JAM.
- 15a. [There might be one after a bridge], GUITAR SOLO.
- 17a. [Georgia neighbor], AZERBAIJAN.
- 20a. [City whose name is pronounced like the natives’ word for “Where is …?”], NOME. Heh.
- 21a. [Something an aichmophobe fears, briefly], HYPO. Never, ever seen “aichmophobe” before. Fear of needles is common enough, though.
- 27a. [2003 Billy Bob Thornton crime film], BAD SANTA.
- 32a. [Language of Middle-earth], ELVISH. Cate Blanchett speaks a little Elvish, no? As did Elvish Preshley.
- 67a. [Advice of caution to a beginner], “START SMALL.”
- 69a. [Bizarre and alienating], KAFKAESQUE.
- 7d. [Beer named for a port on the Yellow Sea], TSINGTAO.
- 12d. [Superpower], X-RAY VISION.
- 28d. [“Really?”], “ARE YOU SURE?”
- 31d. [Part of the Disney family, so to speak], ABC TV. Good clue.
- 40d. [Company asset], TEAMWORK. I love teamwork.
I don’t know about this OYS clue, though. 24a. [Grandmotherly plaints]? I say “oy” and I’m not a grandmother, and neither my son’s grandmas nor mine have been known to say “oy.”
Hey, look! An “OLAF clue” that doesn’t mention Norway or kings and yet provides facts that are of little help to many solvers. 57d. [Dedicatee of a famous Tallinn church], in Estonia, which is next to Finland, which abuts Norway to its north. Apparently the church was named after King/St. Olaf back in the 1100s. Frankly, that was before my time.
4.25 stars from me.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
I’m baaaaack! Thanks to OLD PROS Gareth and joon for reviewing the last two Saturday LATs. They have both truly earned the title of MR. COOL in my EPISTOLARY NOVEL.
This Brad Wilber definitely has some visual APPEAL. I love that MENORAH and TEL AVIV are symmetrically placed in the grid! The top triple stack is just great: SWIVEL CHAIR, SPANISH HARLEM (clued as the song rather than the NYC neighborhood), and EPISTOLARY NOVEL. I also like most of the bottom stack too: VOTIVE CANDLES and ROSE KENNEDY are excellent, and the jury’s still out on LIVE VICARIOUSLY. It feels like an unfinished phrase to me, but I think I like it.
Holding down the center is the Scrabbly JUMANJI. I wanted BRUNO Mars instead of [20th-century maestro ___ Walter], but what’re you gonna do. I’m looking for weak spots and having trouble finding any. Makes sense: a 70-worder with 40 blocks, plus it’s Brad “I’m Really Good at Making Crossword Puzzles” Wilber. Maybe some jargony stuff, like SPRIT, ARUM, and VIOL? RAJAH feels like a variant, but I’m not sure if that’s true.
Not a huge fan of the BAAS clued as [“The Whiffenpoof Song” repetitions], but I guess Brad was never one to follow the flock. I also wanted ERASURE to be the band (one of whose songs notably scores this addictive game), but the clue [Striking action?] was great.
4.25-star difficulty dive, executed to perfection. Until next week!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
What a killer crossword—at 8+ minutes into the venture, I had the southeast corner mostly filled in and very few answers in the rest of the puzzle. Oof!
Here are some clues I found particularly challenging:
- 6d. [Loop around an 18 Across], INHAUL. I knew it was likely to be a nautical term, and given that something like 98% of Americans don’t sail, I call foul. I don’t sail and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this term before. There are difficult scientific terms in plenty of crosswords, but you know what? People study science in school. They don’t generally take sailing classes in the course of their education.
- 22a. [Letters seen in a little window under glass], THU. That U, shared by INHAUL, was my last letter to fill in (and my third guess for that letter). With THU accepted as the correct answer, I saw that 22a’s clue referred to a little window on a watch face that displays the day of the week, but “little window under glass” doesn’t really scream “wristwatch” to me.
- 31a. [Costume designer for “2001”], AMIES. Hardy Amies, Google tells me. This is the clue I Googled. Never heard of Mr. Amies.
- 32a. [Many a bunch of berries], QUART. I tried QUARK; wasn’t thinking of fruit gathered into quart containers and figured “bunch of berries” was some oddball scientific term.
- 41a. [Recounting of Exodus 7-12], PLAGUES. I was reading the clue as asking “What literary or film work recounts Exodus 7-12?” rather than “What things are recounted in Exodus 7-12?”
- 47a. [More-or-less], ODD. As in “thirty-odd people.” Not sure that there is direct substitution for the two terms.
- 49a. [Rapping penguin of “Happy Feet”], RAUL. Figured it had to be PAUL, RAUL, or SAUL but had no idea which.
- 60a. [Bureaucratic manual makeup, for short], STDS. Standards, not sexually transmitted diseases.
- 4d. [Word from Old French for “servant”], MINSTREL. An etymology clue that doesn’t hint at what the word actually means? That’s hardly fun.
- 10d. [Place for program instructions], ROM. Is this the old “read-only memory”? Haven’t heard that one bandied about since the ’90s.
- 21d. [Feel the heat], PANT. Sure, if you’re a dog.
- 27d. [Result of some Web subscriptions], EMAIL ALERT. Dull.
- 29d. [One wanting no bucks], EQUESTRIAN. When I had no crossing letters filled in, I considered LESBIAN DOE.
- 40d. [Mean-reverting deviation, in economics], FAD. It’s not in the dictionary I checked, and a bit of Googling reveals nothing helpful on this. What the hell sort of clue is this?? It’s technical and not at all fun/clever, when there are so many ways it could be made fun and interesting. This one was more unpleasant than INHAUL, which at least makes sense when you look it up in the dictionary.
There were some lovely bits along with the teeth-gnashers. I liked the SEAM RIPPER that […helps you let things out] to alter clothes. Sylvester Stallone alluded to in [Sly persona], ACTION HERO. Interesting and fresh ELBA clue, [Home of Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano]. OVAL clued as [Part of the Toyota logo]. [Where a server might live] for a DATA CENTER. The terrific FACE-PLANTS, or [Falls that knock noses]. The literary BIRNAM WOOD, [“Macbeth” prophecy subject]. POLLEN clued as [Organic relic in archaeological analysis]. PARDON ME, AIRPLANE II, and MALTED MILK.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Those were the Jays”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone! Hope the beginning to your weekend has gotten off to a flying start!
Today’s puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, deals with a certain letter of the alphabet that’s really possessive! Each of the four theme answers are two word answers, in which the first word is a possessive noun, each starting with the letter J.
- JOHN’S ISLAND: (17A: [South Carolina destination]) – The last South Carolina destination that I made it to: Greenville, back in August 2007. Surprisingly enough, outside of being in Texas during the summer, the hottest weather I’ve ever been in was that time in South Carolina!
- JOSEPH’S DREAM: (30A: [The sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to him in this])
- JACOB’S LADDER: (45A: [1990 Tim Robbins film])
- JESSIE’S GIRL: (62A: [1981 chart-topper by Rick Springfield]) – Where can I find a woman like that?
Like the concept of the idea, and all I really did was go down and fill in all the Js and kind of guess where the S would be at in the entry once I caught on to what was up (though Jacob’s Ladder and Jessie’s Girl were givens, and filled those two themes first). If you’re a believer in the effects of climate change/global warming, make sure not to say your thoughts to Pat SAJAK, at least a few months ago, or he might have called you an unpatriotic racist knowingly misleading for your own ends (1A: [White companion]). Now someone please tell me that V-J DAY is the celebration of the original MTV VJs in the 1980s (33D: [August 15, 1945]). Ok, it’s not, but this is still my opportunity to give them a shout out. Wasn’t the biggest question people had to answer back then was would you rather have Nina (Blackwood) or Martha (Quinn)? Maybe just guys were asking that question. A little bit of a nit to pick with both ELL (7D: [Right angle]) and ELS (43A: [Golfer nicknamed “The Big Easy”]) in the grid.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TOM CRUISE (34D: [Ron Kovic portrayer in “Born on the Fourth of July])– For those that never watched him play Maverick (Top Gun) or Lieutenant Kaffee (A Few Good Men), Tom Cruise’s most memorable role might be when he played a prominent sports agent in Jerry Maguire. The movie is actually believed to be loosely based on the life of super sports agent of the day Leigh Steinberg, who actually worked with the creators of the film.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!