David C. Duncan Dekker’s New York Times crossword
This 72-worder is a pangram, as highlighted in the mini-theme:
- 1a. [Completely], FROM A TO Z.
- 61a. [They use every letter 1-Across], PANGRAMS.
Now, I like Scrabbly letters in a puzzle, but not if they force compromises in the fill. I like smooth fill, and because this puzzle’s making a point of using each letter in the alphabet at least once, there are some suboptimal answer words. To wit:
- 9a. [Southern river to Winyah Bay], PEEDEE. Would be modestly better with a South Carolina clue, something we’ve seen before. The “Winyah Bay” reference just estranges the PEEDEE, for which my only fondness derives from my friend P.D. using “peedee” as his online moniker.
- 58a. [Breezed through something], ACED IT. The IT portion feels weird here.
- 60a. [Place less value on], DERATE. Not a word I’ve ever used. Not sure I’ve seen it used by others, either.
- 43d. [Cup-shaped forest fungus], PEZIZA? Are you kidding me? If even 1 in 100 of the erudite Crossword Fiend readers recognized this word, I’ll eat my hat. (Disclosure: I’m not wearing a hat.) I don’t know the MILK CAP mushroom either, but lots of mushroom names include “cap” and the clue (39d. [Toadstool that exudes latex when cut]) hints at the MILK part. Wikipedia tells me that the PEZIZA sometimes grows on dung.
Granted, while the PEZIZA felt showily out of place, the bulk of the fill is solid. The best stuff includes the FROM A TO Z/LEMONADE/ICEBOXES stack with smooth crossings all the way (ODE TO JOY! FLIMSY!), HIT SQUAD, DYSLEXIA, JO’S BOYS, and RUTABAGA. CALAMINE lotion, Boston’s BACK BAY, also nice. LOM and ODA are blah little bits, but the other 3s are solid.
- 15a. [Something you might make a stand for], LEMONADE. Do you know the lemonade power handshake? If you’re not part of the lemonade solution, you’re part of the problem.
- 53a. [Execute a motion on the fly?], ZIP. Zipping the pants fly.
- 2d. [It might tell you to chill], RECIPE. Great clue!
- 41d. [Sister of Pizza Hut], KFC. Only because now I’m hearing in my head “Peziza Hut.”
3.75 stars from me.
Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (Lars G. Doubleday byline)
This puzzle was a knotty beast that made me work for everything, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Juicy fill and so many tricky/twisty clues that I could not for the life of me understand correctly until the crossings pointed me towards the answer and I back-solved the clue. Nothing patently unfair, just devious.
Top fill includes FRAGILE EGOS, the IMPRECATION/SIERRA LEONE/TOASTMASTER stack with smooth crossings, retro-flashback MYSTERY DATE, SHARAPOVA, FRONT PAGE, OSCAR HOST, and SASQUATCH.
Not so sure about UPSET VICTIM as a solid phrase, but the sports-oriented clue [Fallen seed, often] makes me think that maybe this is something tennis buff Brad hears in tennis commentary. Doesn’t ring a bell for me, and boy, is that clue dastardly, making you picture leafy debris on the ground.
Clues I appreciated:
- 17a. [Certain massage recipients], FRAGILE EGOS. I started with BREAD DOUGHS.
- 47a. [Half a pair for pairs], SKATE. Pairs figure skating.
- 49a. [Source of rolls], DRUM SET. Since I had BREAD DOUGHS before, drums weren’t my first thought.
- 67a. [Function runner], TOASTMASTER. I was thinking of mathematical or computational functions, not social ones.
- 3d. [Flat from overuse], STALE. Like a cliché, not a tire.
- 8d. [Double in baccarat], CEES. I thought I’d need a gambling term and not a pair of C’s.
- 13d. [Jobs in a digital workplace?], PEDICURES. Dang! Tricky clue.
- 14d. [It has the lead], FRONT PAGE. Lead story, not pencil lead, lead role, or anything else.
- 29d. [They covered ”Atlantis”], TILES. The space shuttle. Were you trying to think of a song called “Atlantis” with a well-known cover version?
- 32d. [Crystal, nine times], OSCAR HOST. Billy Crystal, not mineralogy.
- 33d. [”__ Stole My Lunch Money!” (2011 Weekly World News headline)], SASQUATCH. Perfect. No trickery, just funny.
4.25 stars from me.
Daniel Nierenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Quick and easy compared to today’s other two themelesses.
- 17a. [Reminder, often], POST-IT NOTE. I had MENTAL NOTE first.
- 28a. [Attire for filmdom’s The Mask], ZOOT SUIT. The Jim Carrey character, ’90s movie.
- 21d. [Like shortbread], BUTTERY. Mmm, butter …
- 2d. [Start work], CLOCK IN.
- 61a. [Surrounded], UNDER SIEGE. Also the title of a Steven Seagal flick, I think.
Clues that taught me something:
- 18a. [Largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago], ELBA. There’s a Tuscan Archipelago? Probably this has been in ELBA clues before but I don’t recall knowing it.
- 25a. [Carbon compound found in crude oil], BUTENE. Meh.
- 51d. [__ Sound, part of the Salish Sea], PUGET. I know Salish is an important word in the Pacific Northwest but not that there is a Salish Sea. It’s inland!
- 37d. [Diamond buyer’s choice], ROSE CUT. Apparently mostly seen in antiques, and not used much at all in new diamonds. Pretty, though.
Fill that was less pleasing: uncommon abbrev RCT, plural BELAS, UNI-, BUTENE, NSEC (particularly when the verb SECONDS is also in the grid), ATRA, RETS, ERSE, and NAHA.
3.3 stars from me.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Top Tens”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Again, March Madness related activities have me limited in talking about the puzzle for today – though, if judging by yesterday’s write-up when I was occupied, it might look like a normal-length grid. Anyways, here goes. Well, unless I’m not noticing anything, the grid just had Xs…a lot of Xs. Twelve to be exact (at least if my eyes didn’t deceive me). And the grid, with the prevalence of Xs, needed a whole lot of entries involving cars to make this work! Let’s count the ways: XKE (28A: [Certain Jaguar]), MAXIMA (54A: [Camry competitor]), XTERRA (43D: [Nissan SUV]). There’s no X in MIATAS, but that’s another car that’s present (5D: [Sporty Mazdas]). Other vehicles in the grid include ANIT-TANK (18A: [Designed for use against an armored combat vehicle]) and AIR TAXIS (57A: [Carriers that fly on demand]). Oh, and then there’s DENT, something you definitely don’t want on your car (22A: [Job for a body shop]). Decent little sub theme with all the vehicles. As I typed the last sentence, the next to last person in the media room just left, and one of the staff workers asked if he was done. That’s definitely my cue to get out of here, but not before I briefly talk about…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: X-GAMES (47D: Annual competition that includes skateboarding]) – The X-GAMES include many other events, and there’s also a summer and winter version of the Olympics of alternative/extreme sports. An ESPN baby, it was created by the network in 1995, which seemed to be the time that there was a skateboarding boom…or at least the time when many teenagers and young adults took to the streets with both their skateboards and cameras to film their exploits in parks.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!