James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword
Lots of fresh stuff in this puzzle:
- 17a. [Become ripped], LIQUOR UP, aptly crossing TEQUILA, 3d. [1958 #1 hit whose only lyric is its title word].
- 9d. [Celery topped with peanut butter and raisins], ANTS ON A LOG. Gross.
- 14d. [What keeps order at a concert?], SET LIST. Can you guess the musical artist given a copy of their SET LIST? I got 22 of 25 on this Sporcle quiz.
- 28d. [Kebabs sold curbside, say], STREET MEAT. I have never, ever heard this term, but it’s colorful. Chicago has too many ridiculous laws against sidewalk vendors. We lack the readily available street meat NYC has.
- 38d. [Comics boy with the given name Scooner], SWEE’PEA. “Scooner”? I had no idea.
- 39d. [Modern request for contact], “HIT ME UP.”
And who could overlook those BUTTOCKS, the 1a. [Cheeky couple?] mooning us right from the start.
Less savory are the plural STUS, plural abbrev ALTS, no-longer-relevant LONI Anderson, and the very weird WIFE clue, 45a. [Bachelor’s least favorite radio station?].
Four more things:
- Unexpected clues for ONO and IDA: 5d. [Mackerel variety on Hawaiian menus] and 31a. [Ballerina Rubinstein who commissioned Ravel’s “Boléro”], respectively.
- 11d. [Mass-over-volume symbol] is RHO, which I certainly did not recall from physics class. And then 59d. [11-Down’s shape] clues PEE, as rho looks like P. It doesn’t look anything like urine, though. Urine has no shape; it takes the shape of whatever is holding it. (BUTTOCKS and PEE in the same newspaper puzzle?)
- Odd to have two two-part answers connected via cross-references. There’s BAD / EMS (my favorite crosswordese spa town of 1980s puzzles) and MORE / OR LESS.
Four stars from me.
Pawel Fludzinski and Michael S. Maurer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Much of this puzzle felt very Maleska-era NYT. I think the only feature of this puzzle that placed it post-1994 was a clue featuring Samantha Bond as MONEYPENNY. Often, proper nouns or current slang serve to bring the puzzle into the present, but there’s very little of either in the puzzle (which I suspect, dear readers, elated a not insignificant subset of you). There were certainly opportunities to put in fresh clues (see, e.g., AVATAR, SATIRICAL [The Onion, at least], OSAGE [August: Osage County having recently adapted into a film], even the most recent actress to play MONEYPENNY, Naomie Harris — etc. etc.), but I didn’t see any attempt to do so.
That said, there’s much to like about this puzzle. First of all, the construction: 64 words with dense white blocks in each corner intersecting other impressive stacks. A few standout entries in each of those corners, I think: LYONNAISE and EMANUEL AX are gorgeous 9s, though quite challenging if you’ve never heard of them. WORK TABLE feels lexical though I haven’t seen it many places, and stacking it on EUPHEMISM is nice. ATOMIC AGE is a lively phrase, as is MONEYPENNY. Much of the rest of the fill held my interest as well: entries like TEAM SPORTS, CRIME STORY, FIELD TEST, POSTMASTER, SO THERE, and TRADE ON held the grid together nicely.
A couple more entries I liked, but that I suspect others did not: DOS-A-DOS [Back-to-back, in Bordeaux] has occasional applications in English, and is the origin of the square dancing term “do-si-do.” This clue makes it seem like the phrase was chosen at random from a French-to-English dictionary. I also liked seeing NEISSE (the good old [German/Polish border river]), even though it and its counterpart the ODER are crosswordese chestnuts and even though its significance is largely limited to the study of World War II.
Then there was some fill that I did not enjoy. E.g., D’ARC clued as [Bois ___] rather than [Jeanne ___], ELOI, NCOS, OLEIC, ROTA, AS FIT, MDV, AT ‘EM, VAN (fine, but clued Maleska-esque-ly as [Matinee idol Johnson]), DRI, A NAP, EENY, and TASS. None of these individually is awful, but they added up noticeably. To be fair, it’s difficult to completely avoid dregs when you’re working with such a dense grid, and frankly I thought the good fill far outweighed the bad in this 64-worder. Mostly I just wish the clues had been more interesting; if so, this could have been a great puzzle.
4.25 stars for the construction and highlights, 2.5 for the cluing and lowlights, which averages to roughly 3.4 stars. Until next week!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
So many nifty clues in this puzzle, and nothing that made me gnash my teeth—so it was an enjoyable solve. Random notes on things I was fond of or have something to say about follow:
- 11a. [Maldives is its smallest country], ASIA. Island(s) nation. Smallest in area (less than half the size of Singapore or Bahrain), smallest in population (smaller than Brunei and Bhutan). As sea levels rise, the Maldives’ land area will shrink. It’s an existential crisis, climate change.
- 15a. [Bingbot, for one], WEBCRAWLER. “Bingbot” is new to me.
- 16a. [Series in the DVD Martinis and Medicine Collection], M*A*S*H. Love the clue.
- 18a. [Tenoroon relative], OBOE. Let me guess: it’s tenor crossed with bassoon, and not a relative of octoroon?
- 20a. [British coronation anointment vessel], AMPULLA. I’m more familiar with the tinier ampule.
- 40a. [Salsa ingredients?], MAMBOS. Without the question mark, MANGOS would work.
- 53a. [Subject of the 2010 documentary ”Between the Folds”], ORIGAMI. Don’t know the doc but the title suggests the subject well.
- 6d. [They’ve been banned from the US since ’62], HAVANAS. Cuban cigars.
- 7d. [Mars brand], TWIX. Delicious! Skip the little Santa Claus-shaped Twixes, though. The chocolate shell is overly dominant and the proportions are all off. Not enough cookie/caramel forward notes. Specialty sizes of Kit-Kats are similarly disappointing.
- 10d. [Literally, ”citadel”], KREMLIN. Foreign etymology, nice.
- 30d. [Film-inspired eatery chain, familiarly], BUBBA GUMP. Wonder if this has been in a cryptic crossword with a clue generating BUB, BAG, and UMP.
- 43d. [Cash in a jukebox], ROSANNE. “Quarters! Too long. Johnny! Too short.”
- 49d. [Exhibited exhilaration], LIT UP. Nicer phrase than the answer I originally had here, LEAPT.
Suffix –FUL is the first thing in the worst thing in the grid, and it has very little company. I would have made that YUL Brynner crossing DIY, personally.
4.25 stars for this 70-worder. This SMOOTH TALKer is smooth.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Do You See What I See?”—Ade’s write-up
It all started with 01.02.03, and it ends today on 12.13.14 (unless there’s a thirteenth month that I don’t know about). I hope you’re all doing well, and also hope you enjoyed today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke. In the puzzle, each of the four theme answers all start with words that also have to deal with sight and vision.
- WATCH CHAIN: (17A: [It keeps the time from getting away])
- LOOK MAGAZINE: (27A: [Picture-heavy publication, 1937-1971]) – If I go back to my old apartment and search my father’s old room, I’m sure there’s a Look Magazine laying around somewhere.
- WITNESS STAND: (48A: [Spot for testifying])
- PEER REVIEW: (63A: [Process of evaluation by colleagues]) – Here’s hoping my peer review at the end of the year among my fellow Fiends and Fiend bloggers goes OK for me.
Of all the earworms caused by doing crossword puzzles on here, I thought “Super Freak” from last Sunday’s Challenge wouldn’t be topped, but seeing AGENT today has caused me to rethink that, as I love the song referenced in its clue (14A: [“Secret _____ Man” (Johnny Rivers hit)]). Also love seeing BRONX ZOO, and I’m sure Scrabble lovers would have drooled over the X and Z right next to each other (10D: [6,000-animal New York City attraction]). And as a New York City guy, seeing Bronx Zoo cross TIN PAN was just amazing, and would lead me to believe the constructor either a) is from New York City, or b) is fond of popular Big Apple spots in general (22A: [______ Alley (New York music scene name of yore)]). Or it could just be total coincidence, of course. I’m pretty much a straight crossword guy and never have gotten into SUDOKU, though it’s not because I don’t like it (56A: [Number puzzle]). Maybe one day I’ll buy a Sudoku book and give it a whirl. Speaking of giving something a whirl, that’s exactly what I’m doing for the “sports…smarter” moment coming up in…3…2…1…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CANI (34D: [“What more ____ say?”]) – Is there another way to clue this partial? Well, let sports give it a try. Ruben Garcia Calamache, known simply as CANI, is a Spanish professional soccer player who currently plays for Villarreal in La Liga, the highest level of professional soccer in Spain. As a member of Real Zaragoza in 2004, Cani won the Copa del Rey, the cup competition amongst Spanish football teams, as they beat international power Real Madrid 3-2 in extra time. Unfortunately, Cani was sent off in the game, as he picked up two yellow cards in a two-minute span in the second half.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!