Ned White’s New York Times crossword
Not at all in a blogging mood—it’s more of an “enjoy margaritas and TV prank shows” kind of evening. So we’ll continue with sentence fragments.
Fave fill: BACK SLAPS and CHEST BUMP, almost a mini-theme. OVERDID IT (though KNEW could have been clued without the “it” close above in thegrid). PING-PONG and a DEEP FUNK. Sleeping IN THE NUDE. PLAY FOOTSIE, and “KISS MY GRITS!” from Flo from Alice. Also like a little restaurantish GARNI.
Didn’t care for: I CAME, plural/foreign/abbrev SRAS, plural PSIS, plural crosswordese OLIOS, A-ONE without a numeral, partial A VIEW, crosswordese ALOP, unfamiliar KO PUNCH (I don’t care for boxing and haven’t heard this phrase), Latin crosswordese IDEM, crosswordese GEST and NEAP.
Did not know:
- 37a. [2003 top 5 hit for Fabolous], “INTO YOU.”
- 5d. [’60s strikers], SDS. … Wait, Students for a Democratic Society? They went on strike? I think my dad was a member at some point but “strikers” isn’t resonating.
- 46d. [Ibsen play parodying an opera], NORMA. Ibsen wrote an opera parody?
51d. [Remains on a mantel, maybe], ASHES. I just read a terrific essay by a Chicago writer and blogger named Samantha Irby. She’s on a road trip now to find a place down south to spread her dad’s ashes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll swear along with Sam. Dammit, I like her writing so much, I’m actually using complete sentences by now.
John Lieb’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I tell you, my fingers were not cooperating with the keyboard this morning. I typed that A in PAST TENSE—but the first two times it appeared as a neighboring letter. Unsurprising that I had TERRW/PAST TWNSE till the end.
- STAR TREK and CSI franchises clued as such.
- 15a. [White Sox nickname, with “the”], PALE HOSE. Needed a lot of crossings! Not the commonest nickname to this Chicagoan! But then, I live in Cubs territory. The Wrigley Field construction has been obstructing neighborhood traffic since October and they’re still nowhere near done with the renovations, despite the opener being tomorrow. Tsk.
- 54a. [“Been there, done that”], “NOT MY FIRST RODEO.” Love this!
- 27d. [1927 Buster Keaton film], THE GENERAL. See? I don’t hate all old pop culture references. The canonical stuff is fine.
Never heard of: 28d. [Wet blanket, in modern lingo], FUN SPONGE.
Seven more things:
- Do ANIMAL SIDEKICKS and ANIMATORS feel like they’re duplicating a word root to you?
- 34a. [Sam Samudio’s spoken opening in “Wooly Bully”], “UNO, DOS.” No idea.
- 57a. [“Brighton Rock” author], GREENE. Graham, I presume? Yes. Needed all the crossings, as I did to piece together UNO DOS.
- Crossing baseball’s MIKE TROUT and football’s Ronnie LOTT at a T: Fair game or a little tough for non-sports fans to nail down?
- 18d. [His epitaph includes “knight” and “man of letters”], DOYLE. All crossings here. The first Doyle I thought of was the fictional Popeye Doyle. It’s Arthur Conan Doyle. Tough clue for a familiar writer.
- 38d. [“Same here”], AS AM I. This is like those “playground retort” clues, so nonspecific that you need lots of crossings to put the words together. Could be DITTO or ME TOO (if only!), but usually it’s some iteration of AS AM I, AS DO I, SO AM I, or SO DO I. (I DO TOO is the commonest 6-letter variant.) I had the first A so I filled in AS**I and waited for the crossings on the rest.
- 10d. [Tip in Vegas], TOKE. I checked two dictionaries and both had only the “puff of a marijuana cigarette” definition. (I filled in TOUT first.) I get that the LA Times may prefer to avoid illegal (in many but not all states!) drug references, but it’s a bit of a curveball to go this “tip in Vegas” route. As pot becomes legal in more jurisdictions, perhaps the crossword standards and practices folks will loosen their strictures?
Unfresh fill: EYERS, plural HEYS, AA CELL (maybe you guys refer to batteries that way, but I never really hear people use the “cell” part), FAC, GTE, plural foreign NEINS, suffix -OTA, DELE, MEA, ESS, plural abbrev LTRS.
3.33 stars from me.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I’ve known Brad Wilber for several years and we’re Facebook friends so we see what sort of things capture our respective fancies. You’d think that this would give me an edge in solving his puzzles, but I still didn’t catch on where he had opera and tennis references! 5d. [Mag with an annual ”Diva Issue”] is OPERA NEWS and not about pop divas, and yet I needed so many crossings. For 29d. [They eschew the net], I assumed the answer was some sort of fishing terminology instead of tennis BASELINERS. Dang it! Duped.
This puzzle’s got little surprises in clue/answer combos, with less common uses of words hinted at in the clues. PISTOLS are [Energetic types], for example, not handguns. Standard Stumper tactic.
- The anchoring 13s, PATERFAMILIAS and FLOAT ONE’S BOAT, are terrific.
- 31a. [Certain Alaskan letter carrier], SEAPLANE. I started with SLED ****. D’oh!
- 38a. [Maculate], STAINED. The opposites are immaculate and unstained.
- 45a. [Initial name on the cover of ”A Life of Flight”], NEIL. Nah, this is bogus. The title is Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight. You don’t refer to a book by just its subtitle. The title is Neil Armstrong and A Life of Flight is secondary.
- 51a. [__ d’Italia (prestigious bike race)], GIRO / 42d. [Admonitory computer acronym], GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t know the acronym or your cycling events, you’re SOL here.
- 61a. [”Turn left at Greenland” is how Ringo ”found” it], AMERICA. Ha!
- 63a. [Pro at home in the Golden Triangle], STEELER. My first thought after working the crossings (wanted IRA instead of AMT, alternative minimum tax and not “amount,” for 59d. [The IRS releases its exemption levels annually] and that T was my final letter in the grid) was that this referred to the steel industry in Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle of opium production. Have never, ever heard of Pittsburgh’s downtown called the Golden Triangle; neither has my sports-fan husband.
- 3d. [Engineer born in 2222], SCOTTY, from Star Trek. I was pondering the Jewish calendar, a possible ancient Egyptian calendar, and any famous engineers of the Old Testament or ancient Egypt. D’oh!
- 50d. [Added restriction on some vegan recipes], NO OIL. I have no idea why “vegan” is in this clue. You can certainly make non-vegan food without oil. Here are some oil-free cookies made with non-vegan eggs.
- A bit more crosswordese-leaning fill than we usually see in Stumpers—ELBE, ASTI, ADEN, TSAR, letter ENS, INRI.
Mostly, this puzzle floated my boat. Four stars despite the clunkier stuff I just listed.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Connecting Rods”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody! Welcome to the weekend, and hope you’re having a good start to it so far. Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, whom I had the privilege of meeting at the ACPT this past weekend – even if it was for a few seconds while he was handing a puzzle to me. In today’s grid, each of the four theme answers (two across, two down) are multiple-word entries in which the word “rod’ spans the two words.
- GIRO D’ITALIA (20A: [European Grand Tours cycling event]) – A pretty tough clue that was a cinch for me.
- ZERO DEFECTS (60A: [Error-free performance goal])
- POKER ODDS (11D: [Chances of success at Texas Hold ‘Em]) – Haven’t played Hold ‘Em in a long while. Maybe because I don’t like losing money.
- LAMAR ODOM (34D: [Former Laker who married Khloé Kardashian])
You can make an argument that three of the four theme entries are sports related, if you consider poker a sport. (Even if you don’t consider it a sport, you see it a lot of ESPN and other sports channels.) This was a fairly challenging puzzle, with a lot of names at the Northeast that could trip people up, including MUFASA (9D: [Simba’s father in “The Lion King”]) and SERT (13D: [Spanish muralist José María]). Making things possibly tougher up there was that both of those entries intersected FAKIR, which, if not familiar with the world, will leave you just guessing at letters to fill in to make it right (19A: [Muslim mystic]). About 10-15 years ago, there was a football player in the NFL named Fakhir Brown (not spelled the same as the mystic), but remember my father talking to me about his first name. Good thing I didn’t forget that. Love the misled to the clue for BADGE with the reference to the sergeant on Dragnet (1D: [Friday’s credential]). Got CADIZ pretty easily because the soccer team in the area once played in the top division in Spain, La Liga (62A: [Andalusian port]). Easily could have made that the “sports…smarter” clue, but passed on that and went with…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NOKIA (52D: [Telecommunications giant]) – Between 1996 and 2006, NOKIA was the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl, a college football bowl game that takes place in early January at the end of each college football season. Currently, the game is sponsored by Allstate Insurance.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!