Newsday 6:53 (Amy)
NYT 6:10 (Amy)
LAT 4:29 (Andy)
CS 11:16 (Ade)
Kevin Der and Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
Nifty grid here—each corner of this 66-worder has a big chunk of white space, and yet there’s still ample flow between sections. That makes for a smoother solving experience than when the grid’s got areas that are nearly chopped off.
Lots of colorful fill, too—there’s that POT FARMS parked right at 1-Across (the highest part of the grid, aptly) to get things off to a rousing start. WAMPUM and AFROBEAT are the next two Acrosses. A Star Trek STARBASE, a slangy “REAL GOOD,” HATE MAIL, an IPAD MINI, PLAYMATES, a COUP D’ETAT, WICCA, and the PALEO DIET round out my top 10(ish) list.
- 19a. [Place for a sucker], TENTACLE. I thought of the gullible sucker and lollipops first.
- 53a. [Before making one’s debut?], PRENATAL. Not on the stage. The stage of life.
- 56a. [Cross words?], HATE MAIL. I never get any hate mail.
- 5d. [Ones repeating “I do” in 1976?], ABBA. Is the song title 15 letters? Is it five sets of “I do” in a row? It is. Not that I recall ever hearing the song.
- 9d. [Practice with the Book of Shadows], WICCA. The clue makes sense but sure didn’t take me to the answer, as I’ve not heard of the Book of Shadows.
- 14d. [Murderer], MANSLAYER. Huh. We all know manslaughter, but I certainly haven’t seen this MANSLAYER. It’s one of those newfangled coinages (dates to the 14th century).
- 29d. [Ones with recess appointments?], PLAYMATES. Playing outside at recess. What a great clue! Glad they didn’t go the naked-model route.
- 46d. [Garden ___], CRESS. An herb that is not the same thing as watercress, apparently.
- 54d. [“___ Declassified” (old Nickelodeon show)], NED’S. You may think this to be a terrible answer and a woeful clue, but I watched plenty of that show with my son and I like it.
The worst fill in the puzzle is probably –ETTE, but it’s just boring, not unacceptable, and it’s not accompanied by a parade of horribles. There aren’t a plethora of names in the grid, which helps keep the puzzle accessible to a broader range of solvers. 4.33 stars from me.
John Lieb’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
I really liked this puzzle — it put up a challenge, and there were a lot of nice entries. Lovers of sports and games will appreciate this one. To wit:
- 16a, OLIVA [Carew’s Twins roommate]. That would be eight-time All-Star Tony Oliva, who played his entire career with the Minnesota Twins.
- 17a, UTILITIES [Monopoly duo]. Water Works / Electric Company.
- 18a, POKER [Inspiration for some Yahtzee categories]. Three-of-a-kind (3 matching dice), four-of-a-kind (4 matching dice), small straight (4 dice in a row, e.g., 1/2/3/4), large straight (5 dice in a row, e.g., 2/3/4/5/6), and full house (three-of-a-kind and a pair, e.g., 6/6/6/4/4).
- 38a, MR. IRRELEVANT [Nickname for the NFL draft’s last pick]. One of the more notable “Mr. Irrelevants” is kicker Ryan Succop, who had a very successful rookie campaign in 2009 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
- 49a, UNO [Its Batman version contains a Joker]. I wonder if the Reverse card is a Batarang.
- 54a, BE THE BALL [Zen-like “Caddyshack” mantra]. Not strictly sports-related, but close enough.
- 58a, ONE-ON-ONES [Hoops matchups].
- 5d, ELIS [2013 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey champs]. The Bulldogs might just as well have been called the Underdogs in 2013, barely even qualifying for the 16-team NCAA tournament.
- 6d, MAT [Place to wrestle].
- 8d, TEE TIME [Driver’s appointment?].
- 12d, LIKE MIKE [2002 Lil’ Bow Wow film]. For those not in the know, Like Mike is about an orphan (Lil’ Bow Wow) who buys thrift shop shoes that used to belong to Michael Jordan. A bully throws the shoes onto a power line, and while Lil’ Bow Wow is trying to get the shoes down, he gets struck by lightning, thereby acquiring NBA-superstar-level basketball talent. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens next (Does Lil’ Bow Wow get signed to an NBA contract? Does his team make the playoffs? Was it really the shoes, or did he have the talent inside of him all along?). As with so many child rappers of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Lil’ Bow Wow is now regular Bow Wow.
- 24d, BOB LEMON [Hall of Fame pitcher who managed the Yankees to a 1978 title]. The clue says it all. Notably, he had notched a World Series title 30 years earlier as a player with the Indians.
- 48d, TEBOW [First sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy]. Two other sophomores won the Heisman in the following two years: Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram. Unlike Bradford and Ingram, Tebow was unable to parlay his collegiate success into an NFL career. Since Tebow, two freshmen–Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston–have won the Heisman.
That’s roughly a fifth of the puzzle right there. There were some other entries I liked, though as always your mileage may vary: I loved the MME. CURIE/ARSONIST/NITROGEN stack (thought the Mme. abbreviation is a matter of convenience, I didn’t mind it), and I thought the LIKE MIKE/AVE MARIA/CAROUSED stack was nice as well. RUBBER DUCKIE reminds me of my childhood. Obscurities were RARE in this one: MAU is challenging but not outside the realm of cross-worthiness. ORA clued as [Mouths, anatomically] was probably my least favorite entry, with OLINS plural a close second and maybe BENE- worth mentioning (though I’d have been fine with it if the clue had been something like [Nota ___]).
I’d be very pleased to solve this caliber of puzzle every Saturday. 4.1 stars. Until next week!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Well! This was rather easy for a Saturday Stumper. Meaning it was harder than the NYT, but more forgiving than usual. There were still things I didn’t know:
- 1a. [Where the new ”Cosmos” was filmed], SANTA FE. I confess I have not yet watched any of the new Cosmos with NDT.
- 16a. [Junk-drawer contents], RUMMAGE. I know the verb rummage, and I know of rummage sales (same as garage/yard/tag sales). Not every dictionary mentions this noun usage, but AH does.
- 18a. [Kremlin Colonel cousin], STINGER. I’m guessing the Kremlin Colonel is a cocktail with brandy in it, or perhaps a small missile. Googling … It is a vodka cocktail, with lime juice, simple syrup, and a mint garnish. Wait. A Stinger is brandy with creme de menthe. I don’t see how a limey drink with a mint leaf is at all a “cousin” to a creme de menthe drink. It’s just as much a cousin to a margarita (tequila and lime juice).
- 22a. [”Bring life to the table” brand], ONEIDA. That seems like a weird ad slogan for flatware.
- 42a. [T-Mobile’s headquarters], BONN. Didn’t know/remember that T-Mobile was German.
- 55a. [Compound in lip gloss], ACETAL. Mmm, lip-smacking good with that acetal.
- 65a. [What ”E” can stand for], EVEN PAR. Not up on my golf scorecards.
- 10d. [Key of much of Verdi’s ”Requiem”], G MINOR. Filled in *M**OR and waited for the crossings.
- 47a. [It’s hanging over Charlie Brown], SPEECH BUBBLE. SWORD OF DAMOCLES was too long.
- 50a. [Writer whose last name is spelled from a seven-letter span of the alphabet], PROUST. Once you get one letter, you can start guessing the rest.
- The Spielberg three-pack of an actor he directed (Laura DERN), a TV show (COLUMBO), and a movie (AMISTAD), in three successive clues.
- 31d. [Blast alternative], RATS. As in “Blast! I almost had this one” and “Rats! I lost again.”
- 57d. [Any of 14 ltrs. from B to Y], ELEM. B, C, F, H, I, K, N, O, P, S, U, V, W, and Y. Can anyone explain why the other letters that begin one or more elements’ names are not used as single-letter chemical symbols? Why is there no A, no D, no E?
- 59d. [Colossus, Cyclops, et al.], X-MEN. Nice mislead with the ancient Greek and Roman words.
ALIT, -OLA, ALOP, ISO-, TERA-, YRS, and RETIP aren’t exciting fill, but overall the puzzle’s contents are pretty smooth. Four stars from me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Finally…I See”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there everyone, and a happy Saturday to you. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, takes common terms and adds to it by placing “IC” to the end of the entries, creating puns.
- TANK TOPIC: (17A: [Clean water, in an aquarium?) – From “tank top.”
- LINCOLN LOGIC: (28A: [Premise behind the Gettysburg Address?]) – From “Lincoln Log.”
- SOLDIER ANTIC: (49A: [Base prank?]) – From “soldier ant.” Totally was thinking baseball on this one to start. Oops.
- CLUB MEDIC: (66A: [Team doctor?]) – From “Club Med.”
All I thought about when coming across WHO’S – other than the somewhat questionable fill – is Pedro Martinez, the former Red Sox pitcher who said that the New York Yankees owned him in a way that a father would be in control of his son, and the Yankees fans kept serenading him with the chant, “(33D: [“_____ your daddy?”])” afterwards when he appeared at Yankee Stadium. Was wanting to put in NEGATORY a couple of times without the crosses, but wasn’t too sure and just played it safe and waited until doing the crosses to confirm my suspicion (10D: [CBer’s denial]). There was a lot to like with the long fill, especially with HIT IT BIG (42D: [Win the lottery]) and SMELL A RAT (35D: [Suspect foul play]). Also, this grid made me hungry: CHEESE (24A: [Mac and ______]), SOUP (36A: [Borscht, for one]), MEAT (58A: [Tyrannosaur’s diet]) and TACO all make an appearance (34D: [Crunchy munchie]). Alright, it’s time to eat then! But first…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ERIK (7D: [Miami Heat coach Spoelstra]) – In April of 2008, former assistant coach ERIK Spoelstra became the head coach of the Miami Heat after club president and Hall-of-Fame head coach Pat Riley stood down from his coaching duties. With that, Spoelstra became the first Asian American (mother is Filipino) to coach in the NBA and also became the first Asian American to be a head coach in the four major American sports. Spoelstra became a two-time NBA champion coach when the Heat won the NBA title in 2012 and 2013.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!!
Nice contrast between NYT and LAT today. Both have interesting longer entries with clever clues and little dull fill. The difference is LAT was very easy for me. Too easy. I filled in the sports/games list Andy pointed out as quickly as I could read them. Left little to do but work my way to military hitch to finish IOLANI. NYT was engaging and prompted many pleasant, varied responses from me.
The rugby clue is very poor. Rugby = rugby union, where a try is five points. Rugby League is four points, but just about no-one anywhere calls rugby league rugby.
Other than that a solid, easy themeless with creative seeds. I finished it in less than half of yesterday’s time.
I played rugby when I was in law school. It was a club sport and we played nearby colleges and several teams with the common rugby club nickname “Old Boys” Our A team had mostly graduate students and even assistant professors from European countries, while the B, C, and D teams had graduate and undergraduate students.
Anyway, a try was definitely 4 points.
Are you referring to European leagues or is your comment more universal?
I don’t see how a limey drink with a mint leaf is at all a “cousin” to a creme de menthe drink. It’s just as much a cousin to a margarita (tequila and lime juice).
You do know that menthe is French for mint, right? I hope you don’t make your margaritas with mint instead of a good orange liqueur. Cointreau is best.
I hate mint, so anything with crème de menthe or a mint leaf is in the family of Drinks Martin Won’t Drink.
“Drinks Martin Won’t Drink” isn’t a suitable categorization for a crossword clue, though. Perhaps the clue was drawn from this Wikipedia article, which doesn’t provide a reference for the claim that the Kremlin Colonel is a variation on the Stinger. I simply can’t see how a vodka/lime/mint drink is a variation on even the Vodka Stinger, which is vodka and creme de menthe with nary a hint of lime juice. Now, I could buy the Kremlin Colonel as a cousin of the mojito, with vodka subbing for rum but the lime and mint leaves being the same.
The clue is “cousin,” not “variation on.” Maybe my distaste for mint makes it more natural to consider all drinks flavored with the stuff cousins. In any case, two mint-flavored drinks strike me as more similar than either and a margarita. But I get that you see them differently.
Newsday – filled steadily after a longer than usual struggle to get some early words in (was stuck on JETER for the MLB retiree for a while). For me, the (hen’s)BANE/-OLA cross was the only final sticking point. Also thought NET for “totally conclusive” was somewhat arbitrary. A stumper with no impossible corners feels like getting away with something.
General comment – thanks immensely to Amy for this blog. And to the rest of the contributors as well, you are all pros with incredible word knowledge. The write-ups are always entertaining and informative. It’s hard to get closure on a tough puzzle without hearing of others’ struggles and comments. This blog provides all that for me, and I’m grateful for it. Best wishes for the New Year!