Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany’s New York Times crossword
It’s a 15×16 grid, to accommodate the central quad stack of 15s. Quad stacks polarize the solvers: Some say “Whoa” and “Yay,” while others say “Why?” and “Gah.” This one feels perhaps less polarizing than a number of its predecessors in quadville. I CALL ‘EM AS I SEE ‘EM is crisp and lively, NATIONAL AVERAGE is completely fine. BREAKER ONE NINER, I don’t know where the final R came from; since when is CB lingo filled with the “niner”? And IN ONE’S SPARE TIME is a solid phrase, but it’s fiendishly difficult to find a quad stack with four good phrases that all omit the word ONE’S.
- 19a. [Smoke without fire?], E-CIGARETTE. “Vaping” is growing in popularity and while the jury’s still out on its safety, delivering nicotine in vapor without the toxins of nicotine and tar seems like a big plus to me. Having recently lost a friend’s mom to a terrible COPD death and knowing someone else with lung cancer, I am fervently anti-smoking. If you smoke, will you pretty please do your best to get off the tobacco? I have less objection to nicotine. /soapbox
- 49a. [High ranking?], TOP TEN LIST. I like to use numerals for 10+, but TEN is such a short word I can’t hold fast to that policy for it.
- 15d. [Who said “I have a wonderful psychiatrist that I see maybe once a year, because I don’t need it. It all comes out onstage”], JOAN RIVERS. Hey! Was this puzzle made a while back? It’s not quite a Joan Rivers tribute puzzle (we had one of those in Daily Celebrity Crossword, of course, by Adam Cohen, one of DCC’s resident “grid reapers”) but it’s nice to see her here.
Clues of note:
- 18a. [Mideast pops?], ABBA. In contemporary Hebrew, ABBA means “daddy.” Not, apparently, in ancient Aramaic.
- 37a. [Country standard], NATIONAL AVERAGE. Clue suggests we’re looking for a song title.
- 46a. [One telling you where to get off, for short?], GPS. Don’t like the use of “one” in this clue, as a GPS device isn’t a “one.” But a GPS may well tell you what exit to take.
Names I didn’t know:
- 2d. [Deep-sea explorer William], BEEBE.
- 7d. [Shortstop Aybar who was a 2011 Gold Glove winner], ERICK.
- 50d. [Israeli conductor Daniel], OREN.
Crosswordese and other blah stuff: YEO, IN BIG, ELIAN, T-BAR, ALOP, ERI TU, BEGEM, A MERE. I’ve seen Tuesday puzzles with a larger amount of such stuff, so …
3.66 stars for this 69-worder. Quad stacks aren’t my favorite type of themeless, but certainly I’ve seen others I’ve been less fond of. This one gets at most a semi-gah.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Go for the Gold!”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, weekend!
The last weekend in September is upon, marking another time in which we can stop and marvel at how fast time is flying yet again! Conversely, I did not fly through today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, though I had much easier time of it once I finally got one of the theme answers. In the four theme entries, common phrases are altered – using puns as the clues – by tacking on the letters “Au,” which also happens to be the periodic table abbreviation for the element gold.
- CROWD THE PLATEAU: (17A: [Overpopulate part of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico?]) – From “crowd the plate.” Not sure if everyone knows, but crowding the plate, at least to me, is a baseball-related term that’s used when a batter in the batter’s box stands very close to home plate in his set-up, hence “crowding the plate.” Soon-to-be-retired Derek Jeter is a batter who crowds the plate.
- AUDIE LAUGHING: (28A: [Mirthful Mr. Murphy?]) – From “die laughing.”
- HEAVEN’S GATEAU: (46A: [Angel food cake?]) – From “Heaven’s Gate.”
- AUTRY TO REMEMBER: (63A: [Crooning cowboy we should never forget?]) – From “try to remember.”
Really liked the theme, though I had some real trouble breaking through with any of the theme answers for a few minutes, even though I had knocked out a good portion of the northwest. The breakthrough came when I placed in only one letter of an entry, the “U” in CHEWS UP (7D: [Turns to pulp, perhaps]). Knew that answer had to be “(plural verb) up,” and once I put in the “up” part, it left 28A looking like “—IELAU—–.” Knew that laughing would be the second word, so thought about famous Murphys. Eddie was first, and it fit, but didn’t make too much sense. Audie was next, and once I put it in, and took a look at the grid’s title, the “aha” moment came! Immediately after filling that in, then “crowd the plateau” was the next answer to fall, since I already had “crowd” in place. The clues were tough, as per usual with Klahn’s puzzles, but was on a better wavelength with this grid and its clues than other Klahn offerings. Despite that, TYPING still was lost on me for a good while until I thought about it a second time (8D: [Depressing letters?]). Still needed the crossings to get that one. So wanted “tennis” instead of EGG TOSS (38A: [Game with many breaks]). To be honest, I’m so clumsy in the kitchen that I don’t need to toss eggs to break them…and I don’t mean breaking them on purpose in preparing them to cook. Though a short entry, really liked the clue/answer for HAUNT, especially since I’ve used that word a good number of times to describe some of my usual stomping grounds (52D: [Regular place]). Ok, time to go grocery shopping, and to do so, I’m not going in an ESCORT, but I do own a Ford nonetheless (48D: [Phased-out Ford]). I drive a Taurus, a once-phased out model that’s now back and running, I believe.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BAMA (14A: [“The Tide”]) – “Roll Tide, Roll!” Since the inception of the Associated Press poll in 1936, no Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) school has won more national championships in college football than the University of Alabama, colloquially known as ‘Bama. Alabama has won 10 national championships in that span, with the last coming after the 2012 college football season, when they defeated Notre Dame – the school that ranks immediately behind Alabama with eight national championships since 1936 – in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami.
Take care, everyone, and see you for the Sunday Challenge!!
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
I kept looking for a mini-theme between the two 15-letter answers, BELLBOTTOM PANTS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, but none was to be had. Like most of Mark’s puzzles, this one is heavy on the Scrabbly letters: ALL THAT JAZZ/OZONE/AZTEC, YANGTZE/IDEALIZE, PIZZA HUT/ZOOMS IN/TRAILBLAZES, and ZIP CODES/GIZA make for 6 Zs, and then you have the X in UNIX/AXE, the Q in BBQ/QUILT, and the J in ALL THAT JAZZ/JAM, not to mention a smattering of Ks and Vs. Looking at the Scrabble averages for weekend (Friday and Saturday) puzzles over at XWord Info, this would be among the top 10 had it appeared in the NYT.
The fill by and large doesn’t suffer from the Scrabbliness, either. AMATO at 1-Across is a bit unfortunate, but other than that, there’s just the MISC. Roman numeral CLI, and the partial OOMPA. Other highlights include I’LL LIVE, the full ALOE VERA, I MEAN IT, BAT CAVE [Part of Wayne’s world], and PACK RAT. All in all, a very impressive puzzle that was fun to solve. 4.25 stars from me. Until next week!
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Hey, hey! Easier than the NYT for a change.
- 17a. [Bent out of shape], NOT A HAPPY CAMPER.
- 50a. [Team-building activity], FANTASY BASEBALL. I’ve met the guy who invented Rotisserie Baseball (Dan Okrent), but I don’t think I know anyone with a fantasy baseball team. Lots more fantasy football teams in my circles.
- And … that’s about it. The short and mid-range fill is all fairly ordinary stuff. Nothing too obscure, nothing too fancy.
Five more clues:
- 20a. [Literally, “great prince”], TYCOON. Etymology! Prince also gets play at 12d, POP MUSIC.
- 30a. [Queue component], TRESS. That’s the archaic “braid” definition of queue. You may be excused for not knowing that one.
- 35a. [They’re made to be checked], PLAIDS.
- 43a/44a. [Barley product], MALT and SCONE. Scone? Really? Scones apparently can be made with wheat, oats, or barley. Had no idea.
- 5d. [Reminder of an old flame], ASH. Ah, yes. The ashes of love.
Not much else to call out here, as there were no big “help, I don’t get it” sections and little in the “wow, whoa” category. Four solid stars.