Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword
Man, this one played more like a Newsday “Saturday Stumper” than a Saturday NYT. I think it was mainly because the grid was chopped into five distinct sections fairly cut off from one another. (Stumpers are usually hard because of the cluing alone.) There were also some oblique, nonspecific clues in those blocked-off quadrants, and I had a tough time making headway in the Pacific NW and the desert SW.
To wit, in the NW:
- 1a. [Pro], ADEPT. Could be MAVEN.
- 17a. [When bars close in Boston], TWO AM. Could be AT TWO, or if you don’t know the time, AT ONE, ONE AM, or THREE.
- 19a. [Subject of a standing order?], ANTHEM. Is that “please rise for the national anthem” technically an “order”?
- 27a. [Font menu choice], KERN. What? No. Kerning, yes. Kern, not so much. Should be clued as a verb to sync up with common usage.
- 5d. [Breaks], TAMES. Could be RESTS, BUSTS, KICKS (a habit), and so on.
- 28a. [It’s between -1 and +1], SINE. Not ZERO. I had a Z because I often see 20d. [Agave product], MESCAL spelled MEZCAL.
- 40d. [Spark], INCITE. Those single-word clues with multiple meanings, man …
- 29a. [Bag], SNARE. Or PURSE, POUCH, or SHOOT.
Top fill: LETTERBOX (… is that still a thing? Are there still TVs that lack wide-screen dimensions?), CHEESEBALL, LEMONGRASS.
- 44a. [Something that’s fallen off a shelf?], BERG. Ice shelf, that is.
- 59a. [One advised to take two tablets], MOSES. And call me in the morning.
- 24d. [Anemone, to name one], ANAGRAM. Not “to name one” meaning “for example,” but “anemone” anagrams to “name one.”
- 29d. [Chase scene producer, for short], SNL. Chevy Chase, in the first few seasons. I wanted HBO, home of David Chase’s show, The Sopranos.
- 32d. [Classic storyteller who wrote under the pseudonym Knickerbocker], IRVING. I recall a “Knickerbocker Tales” associated with Washington Irving, but didn’t know the whole story. Irving made up a Dutch historian hoax figure and published a book under that name. We wouldn’t have a New York Knicks team if not for Irving’s faux Dietrich Knickerbocker. Who knew? Not I.
- 25d. [“Just relax, will you?!”], “LET IT GO.” We all breathe a sigh of relief at this clue.
Didn’t care for the grid design, first and foremost, and am never excited by I’M HIP. Overall, though, this is five solid little themeless puzzles. 3.75 stars from me.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday Saturday Stumper — Matt’s review
Can’t recall the last time I was unable to finish an entire section of a crossword, but such was the case with Brad Wilber’s extremely difficult Newsday freestyle today.
I had to scrap and battle for every letter in this, all the way through. After 1:34 I had exactly one letter, the S that ends 5-Down. Finally broke through in the SE corner (!) where [”Gotcha”] had to be I SEE and then the EXAMINE / TAXI crossing [Check] and [Setting for a 2005-12 game show] enabled me to get the whole corner.
The NE was the next area to fall, though it took a long time. Finally guessed LASS for 12-D [Title character in many Burns poems] and that the Dickinson quote at 13-D had to be ??TO, which turned out to be right, and led to IMPASTO for [Van Gogh’s technique in ”The Starry Night”] and ETON for [‘‘Chariots of Fire” filming location].
Never heard of the SUZUKI METHOD, which I’m sure is on me because music theory isn’t my long suit. Bottom left was hellish since I had the incorrect AGEE for a long time instead of the correct INGE for [Writer with a Pulitzer and an Oscar]. I still don’t get I CHING for [Traditional coin-toss reference] and GIN LANE [Hogarth print depicting the evils of spirits] I had to piece together as well (spirits = alcohol there).
The upper-left never fell for me, but right after I clicked “Reveal All” I regretted it since I should’ve gotten 1-A. It was clued [Reduce to second-best] and the answer was ECLIPSE; I had ?????SE there and that would’ve blown the corner open for me since ????N clued as [Photometry measure] would’ve fallen as L???N (it was LUMEN). Actually maybe not, since I GO POGO [Comic strip’s Eisenhower-parody slogan] would’ve remained a mystery. But I was so beaten down by that point that I just hit reveal.
I should add, through the haze of defeat, that GLANCING BLOW, LUMP IN WITH, BY AND BY and OLD BLUE are excellent multiword answers.
Merl Reagle’s puzzle books bear the slogan “Twisted, but fair.” I’ll label this puzzle as “Insanely difficult, but fair.” Next time, Wilber. 4.20 stars.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Speak, Boy!”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! I hope you all will have a very good weekend.
I definitely had a rough go of it with today’s puzzle, brought to us today by Mr. Patrick Jordan. It’s a very good theme, in which the four theme answers, two across and two down, contain words which are also sounds attributed to dogs. The across theme answers have the dog-related sound at the beginning and the down themes have those words at the end. It’s a different approach to those words, which usually just stand alone in a grid instead of being part of a longer entry. It just didn’t help me that two of the theme answers I had absolutely never heard before.
- BARK BEETLE: (17A: [Orchard pest])
- YIP HARBURG: (57A: [“Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” lyricist]) – First theme answer that I hadn’t heard of before, even though I absolutely heard of the song (and heard the song) before.
- WARP AND WOOF: (10D: [Basic structure]) – Second theme that I hadn’t heard of.
- SHUT YOUR YAP: (25D: [“Clam up!”])
Again, it was just tough for me to get going, and some of the answers I thought I would have real trouble with were far from that, at least compared to the themes. For some reason, I knew IDA (23D: [First lady McKinley]), DOVER (35D: [State capital founded by William Penn]) and CAT’S EYES almost right off the bat, and those helped me get some traction in the grid (38D: [Some marble bag items]). Loved seeing WEE HOURS, as almost every day is spent doing all sorts of things until the wee hours before finally going to bed (9D: [Periods just past midnight]). But of all those things I do until very late at night, I never come away BESOTTED, as I’m either working long hours on my other job/web site or taking in sporting events or concerts until late at night/early in the morning (43A: [Like Andy Capp after a pub crawl]). Very interesting to see LESS TAR in the grid (24A: [Selling point on some cigarette packages]), especially since the clue to BREA also has the word “tar” in it (45D: [La ____ Tar Pits]). I know certain people would not take to that too well, but I’m not as much of a pedant when it comes to those cases. That’s probably because, most times, I wouldn’t notice that occurred until after completing the puzzle anyway.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LOTT (7D: [Dole’s successor as Senate majority leader]) – Retired professional football player Ronnie Lott was a four-time Super Bowl Champion as a member of the San Francisco in the 1980s and early 1990s and is considered one of the best defensive backs in the history of the game. Lott was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
It’s pretty daring to put QUIZMASTER on the BOTTOM LINE of a triple stack, knowing you’ve got to end an eight-letter entry with a Q. The U, I, and Z also aren’t particularly friendly ending letters. But sure enough, Barry makes it work, working in some good old TEXAS BBQ [Some slow-cooked cuisine, for short] and SPYDOM [World of bugs and plants?] too. That stack isn’t without its iffy fill, though, and they’re in that tricky UIZ section: TITI in particular seems like monkey business. It also took some real memory mining to come up with Walter LANTZ [Woody Woodpecker’s creator], and the crossing with SATAY might have been tricky for someone who spends less time eating Thai food and watching cartoons than I do. OYER and ALOU come up often enough, though they’re fairly particularized knowledge.
In the NW, I’d bet that the thematic stacking of PONTIAC GTO and SPEED DEMON was intentional. That’s fun, but it results in PSIS, SSTS, and TETS all in one 4×4 section. I also really like IT’S TOO LATE in that section as well, but I’d have liked a Carole King clue better than [Words of resignation].
Elsewhere, on the plus side you’ve got STAN LAUREL [1961 recipient of an Honorary Award Oscar], VALLEY GIRL [’80s West Coast stereotype], THIS WAY [“Follow me”], and the Scrabbly XEROXES [Reproduces, in a way]. Straw poll: How many of you still say “xeroxes” as a synonym for “photocopies”? In my experience, this is a brand association that hasn’t stood the test of time as well as, say, Kleenex or Jell-O.
New to me were RAIN GAUGE [Weather station instrument], TELEMETER [Range-finding apparatus], and BLIND ALLEY [Impasse]. Is a telemeter the same thing as a rangefinder? Is a rain gauge the same thing as a pluviometer?
I’m not a fan of the phrase IN LA (though if you’re going to have it anywhere, the LA Times is probably the best choice), the partial abbreviation SOST [___ ped.: piano music instruction], or the suffix -ENCE. In the SW, DODOS instead of DOWEL would have solved the -ENCE issue.
A fine puzzle. 3.33 stars from me. Until next week!