Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword
Man, the northwest corner of this grid refused to let me finish it for the longest time. I had WRATH instead of BLUSH for [Red state?], and the H worked but nothing else did. That 17a. [Hungarian liqueur sold in green bottles], UNICUM? Are you kidding me? I’d be surprised if even 1% of solvers knew that one. (I’d never heard of it but with a name like that, it has to be … something I don’t ever want to drink.) The BY GOSH clue was mighty nonspecific ([“I swear …”]), I didn’t know GAIUS was the [Given name of Augustus and Caligula], [Slanted coverage?] is a sort of weird clue for LEAN-TO, and [Like much music of the ’90s] looked like it wanted a genre and not a phrase like ON CD. Sigh.
Favorite entry: “KIDS THESE DAYS…” Runners-up: LET’S DO IT, DETECTIVE WORK, PINE-SOL.
Did not know:
- 51a. [Cushiony fabric], VELURE. Dictionary tells me that is not a crazy spelling of velour but an archaic name for velvet. Meh.
- 5d. [Sitcom stage, e.g.], STUDIO SET. Not remotely a familiar phrase for me. Google seems to be hinting that news programs use studio sets, but I’m not seeing a strong vein of “that’s where sitcoms are taped.”
- 6d. [What you can never win going away], HOME MATCH. Feel like the clue needed a hint of the British vibe. We play home games in this country, dammit!
- 11d. [Popular Christmas trees], NOBLE FIRS. I pride myself on knowing a lot of trees, but I’ve never heard of this. Apparently it grows in the Pacific Northwest, and I don’t know that it’s ever trucked to my part of the country. See?
- 31d. [Graceful architectural curve], SWAN’S NECK. See LEDA just across the way at 29d?
Crosswordese category: UTA, ENOLA, TORII. Boy, two of those cross—know your [German-born photographer Barth] and/or know your [Traditional Japantown feature], or you’re in trouble.
3.66 stars from me. Give me a 72-worder any Saturday, and I’ll generally be happier than I am with a 64-word puzzle.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Classic Clashes”—Ade’s write-up
The weekend is here! And so is…snow. And there’s a lot of it here in the New York City area. So before I go out and make a few snow angels, definitely want to talk about today’s crossword grid, brought to us today by Mr. Bruce Venzke. The theme is pretty straightforward, as famous adversaries – real, fictional, religious – are mentioned in an “X and Y” pattern. Couldn’t we throw a little sports in there as well? Here’s a 15-letter sports classic clash of note: CHRIS AND MARTINA (Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova).
- DAVID AND GOLIATH (17A: [Classic Biblical clash participants]) – Get your slingshots out, everyone!
- AHAB AND MOBY DICK (27A: [Classic literary clash participants])
- KENNEDY AND NIXON (49A: [Classic debate clash participants])
- HAMILTON AND BURR (65A: [Classic political clash participants]) – Anyone else thought of the classic “got milk?” commercial when putting in this answer?…
If I don’t get AYLA down before too long, I’ll never get it down, as I’ve seen that clue a good number of times before and end up still blanking (1A: [“The Clan of the Cave Bear” heroine]). We get to see “tin ear” a lot as an entry in crosswords, but pretty sure this is the first time I’ve come across NO EAR (42A: [Musical inadequacy]). Never heard of that term, but once I had the “no” in place, figured the last three letters pretty much filled itself, at least when reading the clue. I always am either excited or bummed when I see the huge “Believe” sign lit up on the side of the MACY’S in Midtown, as that’s the telltale sign that winter is arriving in New York (71A: [“Miracle on 34th Street” store]). So I just listened to the Johnny Cash version of the song referenced with the clue to SHEP, and that turned into listening to another song Cash sung about a canine…Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog (40D: [“Old ____”(country music classic since 1935)]). At least I think it’s about a dog, and not about a womanizer. My mind just skips all over the place, and I just can’t help it sometimes!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MALTA (31D: [Island near Sicily]) – Here’s a doozy of a “sports…smarter” moment. Going into the final round of qualifying for the 1984 European (soccer) Championships, Spain went up against MALTA, with the Spaniards having to win the game by at least 11 goals to qualify for the Euros at the expense of the group leader at the time, the Netherlands. At halftime, Spain led by only a 3-1 margin, but, somehow, the Spanish scored NINE second-half goals without conceding and defeated the Maltese 12-1. The result tied Spain with the Netherlands at the top of the qualifying group standings, but because Spain had scored more goals in group play (24 to Holland’s 22), the Spanish qualified for the 1984 Euros. That Dec. 1983 game is seen as the one that first laid the foundation for what future Spanish national soccer teams would accomplish. Spain would make the final of the 1984 Euros, losing to host France. More recently, Spain won both the 2008 and 2012 Euros, as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And we call can thank Malta for being so sieve-like as a soccer-playing country for starting it all!
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Another 64-worder today, another toughie. I struggled in the northeast section of this one. Tough clues + an entirely unfamiliar mythological name = barely escaped alive. 18a. [Daughter of Oceanus], TELESTO? Not ringing a bell! Even when I had the first 5 letters, I still had no idea how it would end—YS, IA, CA? 11d. [More than not sure about] is confusing as well—if you are more than not something, are you super-duper-not or super-duper-yes? ONTO just seems weird—if I am onto you and your sneaky ways, I’d never say I was more than not sure about you. 14a. [“Frère Jacques,” e.g.], CANON? The musical/song sense of CANON is the least familiar of the word’s definitions to me, and I figured I needed some sort of 5-letter French equivalent of chanson. 16a. [Dismiss, in a way] for WAVE AT? By far the most common sort of waving at is the greeting, and waving off feels like the more common wording for the dismissive wave. Oof! That corner was not fun and I was actually surprised when the app took my solution as correct.
Dupes: 17a. [Adopted] clues RAN WITH (as in “they adopted that policy, they ran with it”) and “run” appears below in the HYDROELECTRIC clue, 22a. [Run using water, as a plant]. Also, I READ YOU and NICE TO MEET YOU are both good entries, but one YOU is enough for me.
Favorite entry: 6d. [One of an elite eatery trio], MICHELIN STAR. Terrific. TICKLE ME ELMO is fun too, but dated.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Meg, to Jo], SIB. Mislead right off the bat—they’re both female so I bet most of us went with SIS before SIB.
- 44a. [Fruit sometimes fried], PLANTAIN. This banana cousin tastes more vegetably when underripe and fried (as attested to by the plantain chips in my kitchen). When ripe and sweet, though, it practically turns into a fried dessert. I love Cuban restaurants for offering maduros as vegetable sides and letting me have something so sweet on the meal plate. Num, num, num.
- 32d. [Like expressions?], SIMILES. As in “crazy like a fox,” not as in mathematical terminology.
- 34d. [Rabbit predators], STOATS. A classic crosswordese-type mammal.
- 29d. [Aquatic plant that reduces erosion], BAY GRASS. New to me. Google suggests that the term is mainly used in relation to plants that grow in Chesapeake Bay.
STN, SRS, PXS, A FIT, and NABE are about the worst the grid has to offer, which is pretty decent for a low-word-count puzzle. Let’s give this one the same rating at the NYT, 3.66 stars. Neither one was particularly fun for me.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
What an unusual batch of Saturday themelesses—all of comparable difficulty, rather than the typical easy LAT/medium NYT/tough Newsday. This one, though, is a standard 70-worder, so there’s room for more zippiness—MS PAC-MAN, a CREDENZA, the THEME FROM “SWAT,” “WHO’S ON FIRST,” an AMEX CARD, MCCAFE, HOME BREW, and some SEAHORSE EUPHORIA. I was most happy to see that [Chart-topping instrumental of ’76], THEME FROM “SWAT.” When I was a kid, I think we had the 45 and I definitely wrote lyrics to the song … lyrics about swatting flies.
Woefully unfamiliar abbreviation: 34d. [Trade grp. with an airport-screening webinar], ASTA. American Society of Travel Agents, apparently. And no, there’s no reason at all that you should ever have heard of that.
Clues I liked:
- 9a. [Gardeners may work on them], KNEES. Not PLOTS or ACRES or WEEDS or SOILS whatnot.
- 32a. [Headed for a stall, quite possibly], OVERHEATING. It’s about car engines but I thought of bathroom stalls first.
- 62a. [They’re sometimes called ”sallies”], NEWTS. Short for salamanders, I presume. Unknown to me, but cutesy.
- 10d. [Tennis-ball feature], NAP. I like this one because I know Brad is a huge tennis aficionado. He’s provided his tennis prognostications over at Adesina Koiki’s sports site, in fact.
- 19d. [Fish with a prehensile tail], SEAHORSE. Did you also spend some time trying to picture all sorts of fish tails doing the prehensile thing?
- 36d. [What you might do for your own sake], HOME-BREW. That’s the two-syllable sake, the Japanese booze.
Fill I wasn’t excited about: AT PAR (and the golf clue, 41a. [E, as in some 37 Down telecasts], is that wrong? Does “at” precede “par” in golf talk?), ADZ, NEA, ADE, ASTA, and LEMS ([Grumman craft with no seats]??).
3.9 stars from me.