Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword
That sly dog! A 70-word puzzle with lots of zippy fill, and it turns out to have a theme. 56d. [Abbr. found at the 56-Down of this puzzle’s four longest answers] clues CTR, and the CTR is at the ctr. of each of these answers:
- 20a. [16:9, say], ASPECT RATIO.
- 33a. [Fashion series since 2004], PROJECT RUNWAY.
- 49a. [Legerdemain], MAGIC TRICKS.
- 15d. [“Life’s Good” sloganeer], LG ELECTRONICS.
Elegant, and a little bit meta with that 56d clue referencing 56d. I like that CTR crosses CTR in the puzzle’s center. All four theme answers work as crisp themeless anchors, too.
Other things I liked:
- 14a. [Professor who tries to kill Harry Potter], QUIRRELL. He was the weasely one who wore a head wrap to hide his evil and bossy rear face.
- 17a. [One not favored], UNDERDOG. Also a cartoon canine superhero from my youth.
- 30a. [Some nerve!], OPTIC. Yes, the optic nerve is just some nerve, all right.
- The COCA-COLA/DIET SODA two-fer.
- 58a. [Fall guy?], STUNT MAN. The Fall Guy was the name of an ’80s show about a stunt man, so not that much of a stretch here.
- 3d. [Judges 14:14 has the only one in the Bible], RIDDLE. Trivia!
- 5d. [Hamlet takes a stab at it], ARRAS. I like the clue.
- 12d and 13d together please me. “An UNWIELDY PANOPLY of words.”
- 37d. [Red juice hybrid], CLAMATO! I can’t imagine what compelled the first person to drink clam juice. I don’t even know how it’s made. Do you squeeze the clams? And if you like tomato juice, what possesses you to say, “Hey, this would taste even better with some clam.”
- 52d. [Single-serving coffee holder], K CUP. Rather wasteful technology, no? But certainly convenient. And great fill, 85 times better than K-CAR.
Not as fond of these:
- 23d. [Situation that makes a double play impossible], TWO OUT. “Two outs” or “two men out” sound better to me. I don’t watch much baseball, so don’t blame me if TWO OUT is actually super-common.
- 59a. [Galley slaves, e.g.], OARERS. OARERS is a fairly terrible word. When you Google it, this little piece of writing is the first hit. “What would you do if you were alone? What if you were the only one of your race left? Ronastaverie, or Ronnie for short, is an Oarer. What’s an Oarer? It’s a culture. It’s a civilization. It’s a language. It’s Magic. And she’s the only piece of it left.”
- 32a. [Nobelist Frederick ___, pioneer in radiochemistry], SODDY. It’s odd that he won the Nobel and yet his name is wildly unfamiliar to me.
- In opposite corners, we have LEAD UP and TEAR UP. One UP too far.
4.25 stars from me.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Yep, another Saturday and another Stumper that takes me more than twice as long as the NYT puzzle. Fairly typical experience.
One thing that slowed me down is 3d. [“Beauty and the Beast” Golden Globe winner]. Yes, ALAN MENKEN won a GG for the movie’s score, and also for the song. But in 1989, RON PERLMAN won a single GG for his TV performance. Forgot there was a TV show because I never watched it. Only the final N works for both names.
- [Words of coolness] pulls double duty, cluing both 15a: I DON’T CARE and 57a: BELOW ZERO.
- 50a. [It’s unlikely to make a chicken move], I DARE YOU. I hate dares. They’re manipulative.
- 22a. [Gettysburg address ender], EDU. Hey! Excellent trick. There’s a Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
- 35a. [Small shake of a sort], NOD. Head shake. I went with TIC first.
- 40a. [Butterfly attractors] aren’t AROMAS or ATTARS, they’re ASTERS, the puzzle tells us. I didn’t know asters were butterfly host plants.
- 2d. [Whom Gandalf was modeled on], ODIN. I did not know that.
- 12d. [Alpine Skiing World Cup sponsor], AUDI. I had the DI in place … and tried ALDI first. Aldi was founded by Germans, and Audi is also German, so hey, I wasn’t so far off.
- Ach du lieber, I have forgotten what doch means! At least I remembered that nicht = not, so 13a. [“Nicht doch!”] worked well enough for NEIN.
- 25d. [It was worn by Hillary on Everest], ROLEX. Raise your hand if you went with ICE AX first.
- 41d. CHEEZ-IT! I don’t much care for Cheez-Its but it’s a great answer to uncover in a crossword.
- 58d. [First name of the only person in the Inventors and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame], LES. Les Paul, electric guitars. Here’s a Sporcle trivia quiz you might like: Pick the right Hall of Fame when given two of its inductees.
My least favorite bits were NO BET and ASK TO, but the rest of the fill is solid and not overused, and the clues didn’t strike me as unfair, just tough. Four stars from me.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
A bit block-heavy for a Saturday, but there some nice seed entries. My favorites were RUTH BUZZI [Performer in every episode of “Laugh-In”], STEADY JOB [Loan applicant’s asset], C’EST LA VIE [Words of resignation], BUCKET LIST [One might include “Go skydiving], and LIFEBUOY [Longtime Ivory rival]. It’s also nice to have the full DIES IRAE [Requiem Mass segment] in the puzzle rather than just the latter half.
Even the shorter fill was flavorful in places — quite literally, in fact. There’s WASABI, T-BONE, and YUZU. I know there have been gripes about MR. ED appearing in puzzles when the show’s title was stylized as “Mister Ed,” but the clue [1960s role for Bamboo Harvester] was interesting and fresh (to me, at least).
I had such a hard time breaking into the NE, which, along with the fact that I was under the misimpression that Willie spelled his last name STARJELL, not STARGELL, led to a relatively slow solve for me. Part of the problem was that for RUMPLE [Make wrinkly], I initially entered RAISIN (whether it can be a verb, like PRUNE, is probably questionable), which I confirmed with SNAPS instead of TEARS [Drops during lows]. Which is to say, there was some tricky/vague cluing in this one. I figured it out when DAR was the only thing I could think of for [Org. with an online Patriot Index], and then everything else fell into place.
There were a few necessary abbrevs. to make the puzzle stick together, but nothing egregious. 3.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Martin Ashwood Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Where’s My Seat?”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone!
Have to make this a very quick review, as I’m covering and writing a report on location at a college sporting event. But I have my seat here in the press box, and today’s puzzle, written by Martin Ashwood-Smith, asks, in a way, where the seat is in each of the four theme answers. The word” seat” is hidden in each of the four 15-letter theme answers.
- DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (17A: [Court figure])
- GIANT SEA TURTLES: (24A: 2,000-pound swimmers])
- TENSE ATMOSPHERE: (47A: [It may precede a fight])
- ALL COWS EAT GRASS: (56A: [Bass clef mnemonic])
One quick observation: EPERGNES was rough on me (4D: [Ornate centerpieces]) and SPANG made me have a “huh?” moment (41D: [Smack dab]). URBAN AREA was fun to see (50A: [Inner city, say]) and GAMUT was a close second in my favorite entries of the say (24D: [Entire spectrum]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REDS (51D: [Cherry and ruby]) – For as storied and successful a franchise the Cincinnati Reds have been, they haven’t won a postseason series since 1995, the second-longest drought in the National League. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates (1979) and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise (never) own longer droughts in the Senior Circuit.
See you for the Sunday Challenge!