Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Is it the intersection of clues, or is it the headache? I got stuck in the northeast corner with a whole bunch of blanks and saw no way out save Googling. 12d. [His servant is Kurwenal, in opera]?? Never seen that name in my life, so I Googled Kurwenal and that gave me TRISTAN and Isolde, and that TRIST— was all the boost I needed to piece the rest of the corner together.
- 33a. [Part of a goth dude’s look], GUYLINER. That’s eyeliner on a man.
- 8d. [“I’d like some of that, bro”], “HOOK ME UP.”
- 20a. [“I can go for this!”], “ME LIKEY!” One could do without intersecting ME phrases, mind you.
- 38a. [“Puh-leeze, save the tears”], “OH, BOO-HOO.”
Things that made me grumbly (and I’m not saying they’re bad, just that they made me grumbly):
- 1a. [Thickburger seller], CARL’S JR. It’s a regional chain, not national, so how the hell would I know this? I went to the restaurant’s store locator and plugged in a Chicago ZIP. My closest stores are Carl’s Jr. in Ontario and Carl’s Jr. Green Burrito in Oklahoma. The closest one is 479 miles from me, according to Google Maps, but I can get a flight to Toronto for $561. And while the NYT puzzle sometimes includes things that are known among New Yorkers, the store locator gave me Ontario and Oklahoma for an NYC search too. Heard of the chain, no idea what its menu items are called.
- 8a. [Some gathering spots], HEARTHS. No fireplaces in my home. How many can gather at one hearth?
- 16a. [Officially request], ORDER UP. The clue doesn’t correspond to the answer in my book.
- 17a. [Alternative to a babka], NUT CAKE. Couldn’t find an actual dictionary via onelook.com that lists NUTCAKE or NUTCAKE. Is that actually a thing?
- 52a. Something developed casually?], FOTO. Bleh. Without a comma before it, “casually” becomes an adverb modifying “developed.”
- 9d. [Cousins of harriers], ERNES. What’s more fun than crosswordese rendered difficult with an unfamiliar clue?
- 14d. [Person breaking his word?], SPELLER. Meaning “person breaking a word into its component letters”? Meh.
- 38d. [80 chains or 8,000 links], ONE MILE. This is a pop quiz on obscure units of measure. A link is 7.92 inches, apparently, or 100th of a chain, which is 66 feet. I was not fazed by the GILL rebus the other week but I’ve never seen these units.
3.9 stars from me. If you dig Croce’s style, check out his puzzle site. A new themeless each Tuesday, a variety puzzle or themeless on Fridays.
Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It’s a pretty grid design, swirling and on the curvy side for a square crossword.
My favorite answers were the one-two punch of DEMAGOGUE and POPULIST—how many politicians have fit both categories?
Plenty of unusual fill, words and phrases we don’t see in too many puzzles. I didn’t love all of them.
- 1a. [Plant reproductive structure], SPORE SAC. Not sure if all plants have that. Is there a botanist in the house?
- 14a. [Lindbergh nickname], LONE EAGLE. Haven’t heard that one much.
- 20a. [Trig function], ARCSEC. With two C’s, probably the least common trigonometric function in crosswords.
- 36a. [School hallway warning], USE INDOOR VOICES. I was thinking “use your indoor voices” was way more common, but I asked my teenager and he’s heard both.
- 44a. [One Direction singer Zayn __], MALIK. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of myself for getting that one. Niall Horan, Liam something, Harry Styles (ironically, I dislike his hairstyle), Zayn Malik, and the fifth guy I always forget.
- 56a. [A carve turn may be taught in one], SKI LESSON. Solid.
- 62a. [Things to obey, like 36-Across and 8-Down], THE RULES. “I don’t make the rules, I just follow ’em” is a great thing to say when you do, in fact, make the rules there.
- 4d. [R&B artist Des’__], REE. Oof. The fill-in-the-blank with no space separating it is never a good thing.
- 8d. [Highway warning], CLICK IT OR TICKET. Use your seatbelt.
- 12d. [Four-stranded DNA structure], TETRAPLEX. Don’t think I’ve ever encountered the word before.
- 49d. [Novelist Hammond __], INNES. He’s the TETRAPLEX of authors, in that I don’t know his name at all.
In the Blah Zone, we have suffixes –ISH and –ERN; abbrevs MTA, USO, VSO, JAN, and plural ASSNS; and crosswordese IN D, ANAS, neighboring reversals REE/E’ER, and plural AGARS.
3.4 stars from me.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (Anna Stiga byline)
I’m feeling like a whiz because not only did I find this puzzle markedly easier than the NYT, but just after I finished it I saw joecab’s description of it as “the toughest Saturday Stumper in recent memory.” *buffs nails* *brushes dirt off shoulder*
I will grouse at 18a. [Enclave or Encore], SPORT UTE, because I don’t know anyone outside of crossword constructors who ever call SUVs “utes.” Strikes me as possibly a woefully dated term. Yes?
- 1d. [Panini need], CIABATTA. Great entry.
- 17a. [Most frequently used Atlantic storm name since 1959], ARLENE. Does this suggest that the Atlantic storms from the beginning of the season, when the A names are used, tend to be milder than the ones that come later? ARLENE would be retired if it were ever a really damaging hurricane.
- 7a. [Specialty of Beverly Hills’ Sprinkles shop], CUPCAKES. Didn’t know it had a Beverly Hills origin. Went to the Sprinkles in Chicago this fall and found the cupcakes disappointing, as so many cupcakes are. Not a fully national chain at this point—while Stan bars regional brands from the easy puzzles, I think they’re fair game in Stumpers.
- 27a. [Historical period], TIMES. Don’t like this clue/answer match-up.
- 40a. [Iconic Kraft Foods mascot], MR. PEANUT. Great entry, but I didn’t know Mr. Peanut nuts were under Kraft now. Apparently Planters became part of Kraft in 2000.
- 50a. [Calabria, vis-à-vis Italy], TOE. What a great Stumper clue. Tough geo-trivia.
- 2d. [Getting a check from the government, perhaps], ON RELIEF. Does anyone in the U.S. use that terminology? Wherever they use this, perhaps the clue could have cited the place.
- 36d. [Literally, ”by signaling”], INNUENDO. Just hint at it without saying it outright.
- 37d. [Ralph Ellison alma mater], TUSKEGEE. I’m reading Invisible Man with a book group this winter.
- 9d. [Low class], PEONS. Not loving this clue/answer combo. Standard oblique Stumper cluing that messes with the usual ways of interpreting words. Peons are a low class in whatever societies have peons, but the singular “class” and the “is it an adjective?” issue both obscure the answer.
4.2 stars from me.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hey buddy, in here…”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everybody…and goodbye to January! Hope all is well, and my apologies for being MIA yesterday in the midst of a busy sports reporting day. But I definitely don’t want to let my buddies and pals down here on Fiend, and today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, is all about having friends in the middle of things. Each of the four theme answers have the letters MAC in the middle of the entry (71A: [Buddy – and a word that appears in 17-, 28-, 48-, and 62-Across]).
- DRAMA CRITIC (17A: [Brooks Atkinson or Walter Kerr])
- RANDOM ACCESS (28A: [Descriptive of some computer memory) – Good ol’ RAM.
- OKLAHOMA CITY (48A: [Home of the NBA’s Thunder]) – Here’s hoping there aren’t any Seattle natives/basketball fans reading this.
- PANAMA CANAL (62A: [Atlantic-Pacific conduit])
There was something very appealing about the seven-letter entries in the top middle and bottom middle of the grid, and I had no idea the term “word salad(s)” existed until seeing NO SENSE (70A: [What makers of word salads make]). There was also the group of two-word, six-letter entries that stood out, with ROCK ON (5D: [“Play that thing, dude!”]), HARP ON (49D: [Talk about endlessly]) and CRAM IN (50D: [Stuff tightly]). There was enough sports in the grid to make solvers feel either comfortable or uneasy. STRIKE ONE was pretty good fill (11D: [Umpire’s call]). CAV, short for (Cleveland) Cavalier, also makes an appearance, as I’m trying to think of another way to clue CAV outside of bringing up the basketball team (61A: [Cleveland cager, briefly]). Do people call Cavalier King Charles spaniels “cavs” for short?? Oh, and how can I forget the most relevant sports clue of the day: NYE (42A: [“Science Guy” Bill]). What?!? Yes, Bill Nye weighed in on the whole “DeflateGate” flap, and made a video in which, in his estimation and experimentation, he thinks the more than just science had to be the reason the footballs during the AFC Championship Game were under-inflated. Well, since I mentioned a video, I have to let you see it, right?!?!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NFC (1A: [Cowboys’ gp.]) – Our Super Bowl-themed “sports…smarter” notes continues. Between the 1984 and 1996 seasons, a member of the NFC (National Football Conference) won the Super Bowl over the AFC representative at the end of each of those seasons, marking the longest stretch of dominance of one conference over the other in the Super Bowl era. The Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX, during that stretch.
See you all on Super Bowl Sunday, and for the Sunday Challenge!