Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword
Yep, just like Tuesday and Thursday’s puzzles felt switched, the Friday puzzle was way tougher than the Saturday puzzle. (Your mileage may vary. Byron, like Brad Wilber and Bob Klahn, is known for writing clues that vex many solvers.)
There are a few answers with somewhat unexpected “hey, those two letters are their own word” bits:
- 19a. [Red cabbage juice, in chemistry class], PH INDICATOR. I don’t recall cabbage juice being involved, so for the longest time I thought this was a chemical name starting with PHIN—.
- 22a. [Where “Desperately Seeking Susan” appears in the film of that name], PERSONAL AD. A gimme.
- 25a. [Moniker after a lifestyle change], NEW ME. Before getting the crossing, I pondered whether this was NEW MR or NEW MS.
- 44a. [Ball boy?], DESI ARNAZ, JR. Perfect little tricky clue. Nice hookup with the crossing double-Z’s.
- 49a. [Part of a suspended sentence?], EM DASH. Terrific clue—the sort I like to see.
- 50a. [Banquet offering], TV DINNER. Anyone still buying those?
- 30d. [The planet in the sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet”], ALTAIR IV. Needed all the crossings.
- 34d. [Avery product for note-takers], HI-LITER. Didn’t know that was a brand name, despite my fondness for office supplies.
Also did not know:
- 7a. [Hit radio comedy about a bridge-playing couple], EASY ACES. Wish that “ace” didn’t also appear in the clue for ELEVEN, [Ace high?].
- 26a. [Cavaradossi’s lover], TOSCA. Guessed TOSCA because the clue name (which I’d never seen, to my recollection) looked operatic.
- 27d. [___ Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers], LEVI’S. For real?
- 1a. [Ameche’s “Moon Over Miami” co-star, 1941], GRABLE. Easy enough to piece together the old-time name with some letters in place, but had no idea without some crossings.
Liked the TRIBAL NAME clued by way of Madiba/Mandela getting twice as many squares as BOTHA.
Holy cats, this is a 64-worder? There’s a Roman numeral (CLI, [First noncanonical psalm in the Bible]), abbrevs ATH and EDT, and … that’s about it for blah fill. VERY MILD is a bit blah, too. It bears noting that Byron is one of those constructors who fills his grids based on what’s in his head more than what’s in his word list, so this isn’t smooth because he’s a power user of Compiler and word lists, it’s smooth because he honed the fill till he had it just so.
- BROUHAHA, PRICE CUT, WEAK SPOT, SEA GLASS, LONDON AREA, PIZZAS/RAZZES, BOB KERREY.
- 23a. [Lee label, for short], GEN’L. Robert E. Lee, not Lee jeans.
- 37d. [Holders of pieces of eight?], PIZZAS. I prefer pizza cut into squares.
4.5 stars from me. Byron! Please return to your themeless-making frequency of yore.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Okay, I don’t get it. This is a 72-worder so it should be possible to wrangle some juicy fill, and instead it’s rather dry and has a surprisingly large number of crosswordese-type entries.
Here are the things I did like:
- 1a. [Three-volume biography of Winston Churchill], THE LAST LION. Didn’t know it at all, glad to learn it.
- 35a. [Lucrative venture], GOLD MINE. Literally and figuratively.
- 41a. [Bolivian president Evo], MORALES.With a 3-letter, mostly-vowels first name, I was surprised to get his last name instead.
- 38d. [“For certain”], OF COURSE. Sure.
- 13d. [Organ with scales], PINE CONE. Almost put in NOSE CONE when I had the last 5 letters. Was not considering plant organs, just scaled fish and musical instruments.
- 22d. [Would-be designer, perhaps], ART MAJOR.
- 34d. [Alphabetical orders?], BLTS. Cute clue.
- 49d. [Shilling spender], SOMALI. Did not know this currency trivia.
- 50d. [2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor recipient], TOMLIN. Lily Tomlin is awesome. She’s in an indie movie that was at Sundance last month, and she and Jane Fonda are starring in a Netflix series that sounds like a hoot.
In the opening corner, two of the 11s are anchored by dry words that are overused in crosswords—ION and EDSEL. And the crossings, oy. TIE TAC, ENSEAT, IN G, and OGEE, with a neighboring TAE/Thomas Alva Edison and C-STAR? The rest of the puzzle was going to need to sparkle to win me back after that corner. N.CAR. and TER (as I’ve said before, I’ve yet to find anyone who writes prescriptions who has ever jotted “ter” on a prescription pad) lost me in the southwest, ENTR in the southeast, RUER in the middle.
3.25 stars from me. Wanted less OGEE et al, more good stuff.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Oof! This one was tough. It leaves me unbowed but bloody. After 10 minutes, I had the whole left side filled in, and the right side was refusing to yield. I took a short break, came back and filled in the upper right section in under 2 minutes. The southeast quadrant took almost 5 minutes to wrestle with, on top of the previous time spent reading clues and coming up blank. Turned out I hadn’t read the 52d clue, [“Crisantemo o camelia”], chrysanthemum or camellia in Spanish, and getting FLOR was what helped me finally crack that corner. Here were the wicked parts:
- 36d. [Annual cutting consideration], VASE LIFE. Annual = flower of an annual plant. I have not once in my life seen the phrase VASE LIFE, so having VAS in place was not remotely helpful.
- 45a. [Cell user], BEE. Honeycomb cells.
- 55a. [Ones with Pinterest strategies], ETAILERS. I pay no mind to Pinterest.
- 59a. [Regards with revulsion], SNEERS AT. That overstates things. Contempt or disdain is a milder thing than outright revulsion.
- 57a. [Passing remark], NOT FOR ME. Contrived phrase? “None for me” is far, far more familiar.
- 51d. [__ doubles], MEN’S. Considered BODY, got nowhere with that.
Elsewhere, these slowed me down:
- 18a. [Site of Schindler’s factory], CRACOW. Surprised to see a non-KRAKOW spelling.
- 9d. [Part of a simple expression], ABC. What, as in “easy as ABC”? Clue seems a bit of a stretch.
- 1a. [Mob film written by Oliver Stone], SCARFACE. Didn’t know/recall that he’d written that before becoming a noted director.
- 17a. [Some street scenes], URBAN ART. Not a familiar phrase.
- 27a. [Most-watched scripted US series since 2010], NCIS. Without the crossings, despite my working in the field of pop culture crosswords, I was drawing a blank.
- 41a. [What the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in], JARS. Had CAVE.
- 53a. [Alta California land grant], RANCHO.
- 56a. [Didn’t root quietly, maybe], OINKED. Pigs rooting in the ground. Nice clue!
- 44d. [They’re lifted before breaks], RACKS. On a pool table.
- 3d. [Emperor name in many Indian restaurants], AKBAR. Say what? Chicago has over 200 Indian restaurants and not a one has “Akbar” in the name.
- 32d. [Some emoticons], SMIRKS. I wasn’t aware that there was a typed rendition of a smirk. Apparently :-, counts as a smirk. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that one used.
- 27d. [Numbers written on an important delivery?], NOELS. Christmas songs written about Christ’s birth. Tricky/playful clue.
Favorite fill in this tough 70-worder: BLUE LAW, TV ANTENNA, MIA FARROW, ANGEL HAIR. Also liked the FEN clue, 40a. [Rushes home]—it didn’t trick me because the NYT puzzle had a similar use of “rushes. Overall rating, let’s see … the fill is pretty solid, no junk in there; the clues were mostly fair but so tough. Let’s go with 4.2 stars.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “First Shift”—Ade’s write-up
It’s the weekend, everyone! How’s everybody doing? Well, we have a very interesting concept and theme for today’s crossword, offered up to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In it, three common 15-letter phrases are altered by one letter, the first letter, and are rearranged (shifted downward) in each of the three answers, creating some intentional malapropism madness. Or something like that.
- DENTAL AGREEMENT (17A: [Head nod, because one’s mouth is open?]) – From “rental agreement.”
- RENTAL BREAKDOWN (39A: [Job for a Hertz mechanic?]) – From “mental breakdown.”
- MENTAL HYGIENIST (61A: [Person who helps you clean up your fantasies?]) – From “dental hygienist.”
Before anything else, one of the entries today, BLOG, reminds me of how awesome it is to get to write a review of the CS/WaPo puzzles on a daily basis, and can’t thank you enough for reading my take on them here on this amazing blog (55A: [Modern diary, of a sort]). OK, enough with the emotions and the Kleenex…back to crosswords! Had to do a double take before convincing myself that SULFA was correct (5D: [Antibacterial drug]). That definitely was not down my alley, though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of it and didn’t lock it into memory at some point. OLD YELLER is definitely down my alley, though born many years after its original release, and it was pretty solid fill in today’s grid (34D: [Classic boy-and-dog Disney film of 1957]). I’ve been living in NYC all my life, and with all of the delicacies that I’ve consumed, I’m not proud to say that I’ve never had a GYRO in my life (57D: [Greek fast food]). That has to change soon, now doesn’t it?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DREAM TEAM (9D: [Superstar Olympic hoopsters, with “the”]) – Can you name the 12 players on the 1992 United States men’s basketball Olympic team, the first Olympics to feature players who were also playing in the NBA at the time? Here goes: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and…Christian Laettner. Or, in short, 11 current Hall of Fame basketball players and Christian Laettner.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!