Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword
Some solvers turn to a puzzle like this and squeal with excitement because of those broad swaths of white space, three triple-stacks of 15-letter entries. Well, squealers, enjoy this one because it’s probably the last one you’ll see in the NYT, says Will Shortz. (He doesn’t say whether this applies to quad-stacks or puzzles with just two triple-stacks. Me, I hope the answer is “yes, they’re all out.”) The 15s are good, yes, but the trade-off is all those 3- to 5-letter Downs that tend to trigger the Scowl-o-Meter.
My favorites among the 15s: “JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH,” ORANGE POPSICLES (yes, flavor/color + item = fairly arbitrary phrase, but I grew up mostly preferring orange Popsicles over all others, and I’m just glad this wasn’t the grievous BANANA POPSICLES), “ATTENTION, PLEASE,” and “IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?”
Funniest answer, for me: 4d. [Bluegrass genus], POA. This one stumped me in a 1973 puzzle my mom recently sent me (unthemed 21×21 with no interesting long fill, no multi-word answers, no wit, just UNREMITTING DULLNESS). In that puzzle, I hit the skids with [Blue grass], *OA crossing [Arrowroot], *IA. (Other crossings that stopped me cold: [Doilies], **DIES crossing [Culet], FACE* and [Trumpeter swan], AGAM*; [Egyptian dry measure], AR*EB crossing [Girl’s nickname], E*IE; [Muttonfish], S*M* crossing [Tapir], ANT* and [Weather satellite], ESS*; and [Armadillo], PELUD* crossing [Explosive], T*NITE.)
On the plus side, today’s puzzle doesn’t have AGAMI, ARDEB, and PELUDO. On the down side, it does have EAR TO, -ENES, MOCS, SETT, POA, NISAN, OTTOS, EFS, ARFS, SO HOT (not remotely saved by the clue, 27d. [wolf whistle]), -IAL, ADAS, SHAK, LESE, ESSES, OREN, ITEA, and USM.
Five more things:
- So, USM isn’t clued wrongly as an abbreviation for the U.S. Marine Corps this time. Instead, it’s clued as 26a [Sch. near Gulfport], University of Southern Mississippi. I dunno—does 70 miles and two counties away count as “near”?
- The Hebrew month NISAN is right next to ISUZU, which makes it look like a misspelling of Nissan.
- 9d. [Actor John of “American Pie” films], CHO. I wonder why the word the isn’t included there. Actor John of the “American Pie” films flows better, no?
- 53d. [Start of treason?], LESE. No, no. Don’t use a question-marked clue to make me think the answer is going to be a treat when it’s just stale old LESE, first part of lèse-majesté.
- 28d. [Ally in a partnership], MCBEAL. The fictional law partnership on the 1997-2002 TV show that I never did watch.
2.75 stars from me. I shan’t miss the triple-triples.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Weighing In”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re having a good start to the weekend. Here in Jacksonville, Florida and finally able to come up for air to blog a little about today’s grid, which was brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith. In it, three words that happen to be different weight units are located in the middle of the entries, though each of them are contained in one word, as opposed to spanning two words.
- ANNOUNCE ONESELF (17A: [Say “Hi!”]) – And an emphatic “hi” at that, with an exclamation point
- COMPOUND NUMBERS (41A: [They have two or more different units])
- EDMONTON, ALBERTA (66A: [Oilers’ home]) – For those who are hockey fans, remember when the Edmonton Oilers were good? Man, that seems like eons ago, and I’m not even talking about the Gretzky-Messier days. Even the Doug Weight-CuJo (Curtis Joseph) days seem just as long ago.
There were a good number of first names in the grid, including OMAR (42A: [“House” actor Epps]), ROSIE (11D: [Actress O’Donnell]) and ERIK, but not Eric (45A: [“____ the Viking” (Tim Robbins movie)]). Because of my particular food tastes, I’ve only had tomato and chicken noodle soups in my life, but, one of these days, I’ll try MINESTRONE, as I’ve always heard good things about it (30D: [Trattoria soup]). Liked seeing the seven-letter chunks on the corners of the grid, with BODEGAS reminding me now of how I tried to spot out bodega cats in corner stores while walking with a friend who was from out of town (72A: [Barrio businesses]). He was fascinated when we actually located a couple on our stroll around the city. As we speak, I’m trying to look as PHOTOGENIC as possible as I’m laying out my suit that I’m wearing for today to cover the NCAA Tournament basketball games here in Jacksonville (8D: [Like most fashion models]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CATO (46D: [Roman statesman and censor]) – Free to talk about him since the entry isn’t “kato,’ former professional basketball player Kelvin CATO played 10 years in the NBA, mostly for the Houston Rockets in the early part of this century. Cato, who attended Iowa State after transferring from South Alabama, had his best season in the pros in 2000, where he averaged 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first season as a Rocket. Before that year, he signed a six-year, $42 million contract, but, after his career year, never put up the same on-court production.
I’ll try my very best to see you all for the Sunday Challenge tomorrow!
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What a hateful puzzle! Not only is there a dreaded POLAR VORTEX in the grid, but also Shakespeare’s WINTER’S TALE. The polar vortex, scathing exposed skin like STEEL WOOL. The cold PIERCES you to the bone, leaving you NUMB. GASP! I OBJECT! The people in MEDICINE HAT are unconcerned with my suffering, as they are accustomed to the polar weather—the problem arises when Pacific warmth pushes up across Alaska and to the polar regions, displacing the polar weather to points south. Did I mention that Chicago should get some snow on Monday? Not as much as the East Coasters just got, but still. Bleh and brr.
Seven more things:
- 33a. [Diamond shape], PEAR. As in a pear-shaped diamond, not a diamond-shaped pear.
- 39a. [Take time to answer], SLEEP ON. Feels a tad incomplete without the “it” at the end.
- 49a. [Hail Mary], LONG BOMB. Football-speak. I tried LONGSHOT first.
- 2d. [“Waterworld” orphan girl], ENOLA. Meh, no matter the clue. Also in the “meh” category is fill like ZEES, ST. LO, SDI, DELES, and TANIA (which goes well with the also-dated SLA).
- 1d. [Blues], MOPES. Dictionary labels this use of MOPES, “low spirits, depression,” as dated. First I’ve seen it.
- 8d. [Ancient Italian region], ETRURIA. Why are they the Etruscans and not Etrurians? Why are Tuscans not from Turia?
- 12d. [Like churches, as a rule], TAX-EXEMPT. I was just reading about an upcoming HBO documentary called Going Clear. It challenges the tax-exempt status the Church of Scientology has, among other scientological things the filmmaker takes issue with.
3.9 cold stars from me for this 72-worder.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (Lester Ruff byline)
What? Is it just me, or was this one that’s supposed to be by Stan’s “less rough” incarnation a little tougher than the NYT? I expect to finish a Les Ruff in between 4:30 and 6:00, markedly easier than the typical Stumper.
Not much exciting, colorful fill here aside from AL JAZEERA news and the soothing ZEN GARDENS.
- 19d. [Coach’s post-game discussion], ERRORS. No, the discussion topic is errors. The discussion itself is not errors.
- 58a. [Port authority], WINE STORE. Is the store itself an authority, or is it the staff who work there?
- 48a. [Subject of the bio ”Guerrilla Prince”], CASTRO. Nice trivia clue, kept me guessing about who this could refer to.
- 64a. [Trio for S], DOTS. I’d think a less rough clue would allude to Morse code.
- 9d. [Essence of a Caesarean quote], YOU TOO. “Et tu?” I could only think of his coming, seeing, and conquering.
- 10d. [Name from the Hebrew for ”adversary”], SATAN. With some crossings, I was ready to guess SARAH. Hah!
- 13d. [Foolishness], APERY. Really not a common word.
- 30d. [Grams of tea in a typical tea bag], TWO. Who knew? Super-fresh TWO clue.
- 47d. [For-sale item fixed by the manufacturer], REPACK. Didn’t know that was a noun.
3.8 stars from me. Less zip than I hope for in a themeless, especially a 72-worder, though the fill is quite smooth.