David Phillips’ New York Times crossword
Feels to me like the Friday and Saturday puzzles got swapped—this one, despite a wildly unfamiliar word, took me a decidedly Fridayish amount of time. I’m guessing that 41d. ATARAXY, [Serene calmness], is a major contributor to Will’s choosing to run this on a Saturday. (I also didn’t know 7d. [Supermodel Karlie] KLOSS and it’s not a common surname.) (And I only faintly knew 56d. [Alaskan island or its principal town], ADAK. Crosswordese a notch below ATTU and ATKA—population is 326, so don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t know it.)
- 1a. [Clichéd sequel catchphrase], “HE’S BACK.” I’m torn. This might be a terrible entry, or it might be an awesome one. If it’s terrible, it’s still kinda fun.
- 32a. [Event with the categories Best Kiss and Best Fight], MTV MOVIE AWARDS. I know what you’re asking yourself—”I wonder how many of those Meryl Streep has won.” The answer is zero. She has one nomination, for Best Villain in The Devil Wears Prada.
- 39a. [With 42-Across, 2001 video game set in Liberty City], GRAND THEFT AUTO. Great entry but I wish the franchise didn’t exist. Interesting grid layout, with these 14s divided by the center row.
- 63a. [Big name in air circulation?], SKYMALL. You know who doesn’t leaf through the Skymall catalog for amusement? People on private jets.
- 4d. [Place for a Neapolitan pizza], BRICK OVEN. Gotta be wood-fired or else it’s not Vera Pizza Napoletana.
- 25d. [Bud], KIDDO. My favorite grandpa called us “kiddo.”
- 35d. [Sister of Cartoon Network], ADULT SWIM.
Heavy Italiano vibe in the puzzle—the pizza’s BRICK OVEN, ITALIAN dressing, AMOROSO, the name MARIANO (also Spanish), nearby MALTA. Okay, maybe more a Romance language vibe, if you add in AMIE and PINATAS.
Three more things:
- 34d. [Fire], VEHEMENCY. Hmm, many dictionaries include only vehemence, no Y version.
- 44a. [Ascension Isl. setting], ATL. This seems cruel, to go so obscure with the ATL clue and count on people to either know ATARAXY or where Ascension Island is. (It’s about midway between Brazil and Angola. Population 880—nearly three times more crowded than Adak, Alaska! And still only about 1.5% of the population of my city neighborhood.
- 1d. [Some rope sources], HEMPS. You can pluralize that?
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I’ll sit down to do a crossword or two, and my brain just shuts down. All the clues look like they’re in a different language, all my guesses are wrong, typos flow freely. Today was one of those days, and it’s not because this puzzle was any harder than normal.
This is a pretty solid Barry Silk offering — a few highlights and a few lowlights. Notable entries:
- 1a, IPHONE [2014 high-tech release using the slogan “Bigger than bigger”]. This clue makes it sound like the very first iPhone was released in 2014, rather than the “bigger” iPhone 6.
- 7a, ROBOCOP [1987 sci-fi film]. This is the kind of vague and challenging clue you’d be more likely to find in a Saturday Stumper. Normally, in a Saturday LAT, you’d see something like [1987 film about a member of the Detroit City Police Department] or [Crime-fighting cyborg of cinema]. Do you prefer more challenging clues like this one, readers?
- 22a, MOONDOG [DJ Alan Freed’s nickname]. I’m actually not sure about putting this one in the plus column. I like having MOONDOG in the grid, but after reading up on it, I don’t like the clue. Here’s why: From what I can tell, Alan Freed stole the name “Moondog” from the New York street musician and composer of that name, and Freed was forced to discontinue all use of the name after the original Moondog sued him. Saying that MOONDOG was Alan Freed’s nickname, though that may have been true for a time, feels dishonest. According to the Cruciverb database, MOONDOG has only appeared twice in puzzles before, both times clued as the lunar phenomenon. I don’t feel well-equipped to judge how well-known any Moondog or moon dog is, but I feel justified in saying that this is a tough entry no matter how you clue it. So, if we’re going to see non-lunar clues for this in the future, I’d love to see a hat-tip to the original Moondog.
- 27a, WE GOT LOVE [1959 Bobby Rydell hit]. Speaking of pre-1960 radio, here comes “We Got Love.” I’d never heard, or heard of, the song, but I’m not holding that against Bobby Rydell. It was a #6 hit in 1959, which means that my knowledge of current #7 hit “Love Me Harder” by Ariana Grande & The Weeknd should be rewarded by a crossword puzzle in 2069. I can hardly wait!
- 31a, OWN UP TO [Concede]. At first, I was sure this clue didn’t pass the substitution test. But I think it’s a closer call than I originally thought. The phrase “own up to” is almost always followed by something like “mistakes,” “wrongdoings,” “faux pas,” etc. I don’t think one “concedes” one’s mistakes; rather, I think one concedes the fact that one has made mistakes. In the converse, I don’t think one “owns up to” the fact that one has made mistakes; rather, I think one “owns up to” the mistakes themselves. But I’d be willing to accept that I’m wrong on the usage (I’m sure the phrase “owns up to the fact that” is in common parlance whether it’s prescriptively right or not), and I’d also be willing to accept that it’s not the end of the world even if the two don’t precisely substitute for each other.
- 38a, TABARDS [Knight wear]. Not a word I have a lot of occasions to use, but a fun entry.
- 41a, FLARE STAR [Body exhibiting sudden increases in brightness]. A challenging astronomy clue. I suspect this is partly why MOONDOG didn’t get an astronomical clue also.
- 11d, CAN TOO [Playground retort]. Oh, [Playground retort], you most recurring of clues. I had ARETOO, then IAMTOO, then ARETOO again, then IAMTOO again, before stumbling onto CANTOO. I also had TAD at 21a [Little shaver] for a long time. Those of you who stuck around for Sunday at ACPT 2014 will understand why that’s funny.
- 13d, PESTLE [Grinder]. Even after confidently plunking down OTTO IV, this proved to be a surprisingly difficult entry.
- 15d, MTV GENERATION [Group label further popularized by a 1991 self-named documentary]. This is one of those nice entries that my brain just didn’t want to think about properly The “Generation” part of this one fell pretty easily, but after staring at __V GENERATION for a while, I could only come up with HIV GENERATION. Despite knowing that was wrong, I left it in the grid for a while, which slowed me down. It also didn’t help me in that section of the grid that [“Lady Jane Grey” dramatist] Nicholas ROWE didn’t exactly spring to mind.
- 20d, NOW WHAT? [Exasperated words]. This is a really nice entry. Having __WW___ doesn’t inspire confidence; having __WWT__ really doesn’t inspire confidence (and rightly so, since my answer to 33a, [Meeting focus] of ITEMS was wrong. I’m still not sure I like THEME better).
Okay, I’m cutting the rest of this review short. OLESTRA, GUMDROP, LOSE-LOSE are all nice as well. I really liked the F-SHARP/LOUVER/ANGELO stack. The “?” on the clue [Prison buddy?] for PENPAL seemed unnecessary to me. GOOD ONES is a really weird thing to put in a puzzle, I think; it just doesn’t feel lexical, and the clue of [Joker’s array] didn’t help. BLAMER is one of the often-decried class that we’ll call Not-often-used Verb+ers. That entry made me a glowerer. [Hunny lover] is a cute clue for POOH.
I dunno. I’ll give this one π stars. Until next week!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Do You Get It?”
Amy here filling in for Ade, who is busy doing some sports reporting in the California sun. (Sun! With warmth! Jealous.)
The title is “Do You Get It”? and the answer is “No, unless the theme is just ‘phrases that start with *ET words.'” BET is parked in the weird NO BET (I don’t hang out at casinos), there’s no “JET AIRLINER,” no PET SEMATARY, no completeness I can see in the theme set. There seems to be nothing unifying the themers aside from the *ET starting words. What am I missing here?
- 17a. [Percentage of sales dollars earned (after expenses)], NET PROFIT MARGIN. Dry.
- 26a. [Last line of the first verse of “America”], LET FREEDOM RING.
- 47a. [Have a cocktail, perhaps], WET ONE’S WHISTLE. Fairly lively for a onesie phrase.
- 61a. [Rules and requirements list], SET OF CONDITIONS. Snoozy, and it doesn’t sound like any sort of familiar, in-the-language concept. SET OF DISHES is a thing. WEATHER CONDITIONS, a thing. SET OF CONDITIONS feels like a nothing phrase to me.
I am generally pretty good at figuring out puzzle themes, so if this one’s got something elegant lurking within, it is far too subtle.
The 1-Across corner let me down early. NEBR atop ALAI, crossing ELEC? You’ve lost me and it’s an uphill climb to regain my attention. Constructors, please keep your northwest corners welcoming and interesting!
Five more things:
- 10a. [Al Capp’s hyena], LENA. From the comic strip Li’l Abner, which ended its run 37 years ago. Lena Horne remains a music legend, Lena Dunham is active in TV/film/books today, and Lena Olin had a supporting role in 2008 Oscar bait The Reader. I’d prefer any of them to a comic-of-yore clue.
- 34a. [Old MacDonald’s last letters?], EIO. Ugh. EIEIO is okay but any portion thereof is, let’s be honest, desperation fill. Scoreboard abbreviation ORL is ugly, but with ORO replacing EIO, we’d also upgrade DELES to DOLES.
- 64a. [Notes between sol and do], LA TI. Nope. I don’t want to see any note combo other than do re mi.
- 43d. [Caribbean vacation destination], ST. CROIX. I honeymooned there in the early ’90s and the island still bore many scars from 1989’s Hurricane Hugo.
- I like WINDEX, RED WINE, RIP-OFFS, and T.S. ELIOT. As fill, that is. I only like two of these for themselves. Guess which two I cannot abide?
2.9 stars from me, unless it turns out that the theme is something really clever that I missed.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Drat, I could’ve sworn I clicked the “start” button for the timer, but no. This puzzle was three fourths standard themeless, one fourth dastardly Stumper. It was the northeast corner that put me through my paces. Here’s where I struggled:
- 16a. [First tropical storm after the name list is used up], ALPHA. First Greek letter makes sense, but this is weather trivia I hadn’t known. Making a note of it!
- 25a. [Sherwin-Williams green pain color], KOI POND. Gross! Someone should clean up the algae if the pond is aggressively green, no?
- 10d. [Gives up], BAGS IT. I had LETS GO, which hid the rest of the corner from me. It made my [Game with racks] MOOSE … and then SORRY, even though Sorry doesn’t have racks. (STAGS.)
- 12d. [Began damage control, perhaps], APOLOGIZED. Answer didn’t occur to me, but this is an excellent clue/answer combo.
- 14d. [Had trouble standing], HATED. Weird clue. If I hate it, I’m not “having trouble” standing it, I’m just choosing not to stand it.
- 26d. [Brand that promotes its RESIDON’T], PAM. Doesn’t leave sticky residue? Well, alright then. News to me.
- 1a. [Automotive introduction of 1968], HOT WHEELS. Although technically, these toy cars are not automotive in that they have no engines (the -motive part).
- 38a. [Hillary campaign focus], EVEREST. Edmund Hillary.
- 28d. ESPADRILLE, [Flip-flop alternative]. Although both shoes are silly in the singular.
The rest of the puzzle is pretty smooth, with a smattering of trivia clues (PRIMATE, ARAB, VOLTA, WEST EGG) to study up on. Four stars from me.