You know the Funny or Die website cofounded by Will Ferrell? There is a new comedy video there called “Will Shortz Wants to Get In Your Shorts.” The actor playing Will nailed the mustache.
Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I think the last time I did a themeless by Evan was when competing in the Indie 500 finals on May 30, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading clues and filling in nothing other than the occasional terminal S. A Saturday NYT is not meant to stymie solvers as much as a tournament finals puzzle, so this one fell much faster. (P.S. Evan regularly publishes themelesses at his Devil Cross site. Check it out if you haven’t.)
Let’s take it straight to our bulleted list of ten things:
- 20a. [Much-debated grammar subject]. OXFORD COMMA. Just read something, I forget where, that argued you follow your employer’s policy on serial comma or not, if you work for an entity with a style preference; and if you don’t, you just use it or not, whichever you prefer, and there is no right or wrong. (Anyone else count the letters in SINGULAR “THEY” to see if it would fit here?)
- 2d. [Microsoft release of 2013], XBOX ONE. This is that rare crossword answer: a phrase that contains ONE as a number but is not using the word in lieu of a numeral. The product’s name is Xbox One, not Xbox 1. Yay!
- 12d. [High class?], ECONOMY. Lowest class of airline seating, but up high in the sky. Great clue.
- 31a. [Forced out at home?], DEPORTED. Well, that’s grim. Maybe when a word pertains to families being split up, we go with a straightforward definitional clue rather than cutesy-poo?
- 38a. [Where a bowler might go on a date]. HAT CHECK. I don’t know how many people are wearing bowlers these days, nor how many places still offer a hat check stand, but the clue’s good.
- Stacked rock stars: WEIRD AL and AXL ROSE, together again. Nice! One does parody and the other only parodies himself.
- Other juicy fill: SEX APPEAL, SCARE QUOTES (example: “That’s a real nice ‘crossword puzzle’ you’ve made, Evan”; scare quotes connote dismissive scorn), WALLENDA, BRUCE LEE, “LAY IT ON ME, OK CORRAL, TV SPECIAL.
- 24a. [One getting a beating in the kitchen?], YOLK. This puzzle needs a trigger warning for survivors of domestic violence. “One” typically means “person” rather than “inanimate object,” so it’s jarring and unpleasant. Can we please never have ha-ha violence jokes in the clues?
- 41d. [Mideast diet], KNESSET. I had hummus, falafel, and halal meats on the mind rather than the legislative type of “diet.” D’oh!
- 28d. [Lady love?], TRAMP. Cartoon dogs from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. There’s also a winking “ha ha, the lady is a tramp and she’s totally a loose woman” vibe here that I don’t like.
I-BAR, unfamiliar COE, and semi-arbitrary RED DOT (I’ll bet Evan tried to get REDDIT to work here) were lowlights in my book.
3.8 stars from me.
Don Gagliardo’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Time a little slow this week; my excuse? I had a tooth pulled on Friday, so I am a little loopy from painkillers. This Saturday morning has been a lot more pleasant, so I should be OK from here on out. Another fine LAT Saturday puzzle this week, and once again, the upper left corner is the last for me to fall! Lots to comment on:
- 16A [With 12-Down, 1995 Hugo Award winner for Best Related Work] I, ASIMOV: A MEMOIR – I have mentioned before I don’t like clues related to other clues, just because you have to hunt all over the grid sometimes. Or you need to use a clue you don’t have filled in. These cross each other, and this particular set seems clever and well done to me.
- 19A [“The Road to Wealth” author] ORMAN – I will blame this one on the painkillers for stumping me. I had O???? and still took a while to some up with Suze Orman. And I used to watch her show all the time!
- 26A [Zippo] NOT ONE – When going back through this puzzle, I saw NO TONE. Is that culpable? [House phone problem], perhaps?
- 33A [Score update phrase] AT THE HALF – With the immense popularity of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, usually referred to as March Madness, their halftime show, literally called At The Half, could be referenced possibly.
- 52A [Heroine in Auel’s “Earth’s Children” books] AYLA – These are some THICK books. She has written 6 in this series, with 31 years between the first and the most recent. She is now nearly 80 years old, according to her Wikipedia site. Maybe I’ll read them since there won’t be any more!
- 60A [Discoverer of Jupiter’s four largest moons] GALILEO – Figured this had to be him; seems like too long ago to be him!
- 4D [Tailless rabbit relative] PIKA – If you say so. This is a new one on me, but it apparently IS a real animal. Chalk it up to something new to learn. At least for me!
- 5D [Sparkly Skechers style for girls] TWINKLE TOES – I will let PIKA slide, especially when you can include great answers like this!
- 13D [Hockey Hall of Fame city] TORONTO – I’ve seen the outside of this place. Should have gone in. Next time I’m in Toronto, it’s going to happen!
- 21D [“The Dragons of Eden” Pulitzer winner] CARL SAGAN – This is a tough but good way to clue this guy. Nice.
- 39D [Excuse for lateness] I FORGOT – Or excuse your kids use a lot!
- 41D [Popular hanging-basket flower] LOBELIA – Another new one on me. I don’t buy flower baskets that often. Or ever, for that matter. Here’s a pic!
Nice puzzle. 3.9 stars. A little more challenging than normal. Or again, it’s my painkiller haze!
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, the time listed above is correct. Well over 30 minutes. This one kicked me hard. Extremely difficult. Stared at a nearly blank puzzle for a good minute or two; first answer filled in was 29D [Frowned-on pot additions] IOUS. Don’t know why I got that so quickly, but started there, got most of that side and the middle, then ground to a halt. I sound like a broken record, but the last to fall for me, once again, was the upper left corner! 17A was a KILLER clue. And 1A also stumped me, although I was on the right track! Here are my observations:
- 1A [Dodger’s former home] FLATBUSH – This was just plain mean. Did you fill in BROOKLYN immediately? I started to, but no crossings worked. Especially at 4D, which you know has to be TIO or TIA. Slapped my head when I finally figured out 2D [It’s often wrapped around a horn] LASSO! Then slapped my head again when I got FLATBUSH. Might come quicker to a native New Yorker!
- 17A [Man’s man] ISLANDER – This was even meaner. Even after the answer was filled in, I was like, “What the…OOOHHHH!” Man as in Isle of Man! Tricky!!
- 28A [Prominent feature of the Batmobile] TAIL FINS – I’m going to nitpick this clue. The Batmobile from the 60s TV show certainly had tail fins:
But the version from recent times most certainly does not:
This would also be the one in the wildly popular new Batman video game, Arkham Knight.
- 32A [Model getting a 2001 facelift] MIATA – Ah, one of the most popular crossword car models. According to Wikipedia, this car did indeed get a facelift in 2001, but this clue still seems way to vague.
- 43A [___ lane] HOV – There isn’t an HOV lane within 75 miles of where I live. I never think of this right away!
- 57A [Overture that ends quickly] ROBO CALL – I haven’t heard this term before either. It refers to the computer that cold calls you? Evidently it ends early when you hang up!
- 7D [Title starter of Pacino’s Oscar film] SCENT – As in Scent of a Woman. This one took me too long. Clue syntax seemed to stump me a bit. Well done.
- 11D [Underhanded throw] PICK-OFF MOVE – I am going to nitpick this one a bit, too. If the cluer means underhanded as in “sly,” then maybe it works, but pick-offs in baseball usually happen when the baserunner is caught leaning a bit and the throw is on the money. They certainly aren’t literally thrown “underhanded!”
- 24D [One of two in Mötley Crüe] METAL UMLAUT – What is this? Ah, Google teaches us! Umlauts used in heavy metal bands names are called this! I am learning a lot this weekend!
- 32D [Heinz 57] MUTT – Clever. This one also took a while. I filled this in very near the end of the solving ordeal!
- 41D [Sony production] POP SONG – This one also seems way to vague. True, but still seems a tad too hard.
Having said all that, great puzzle! I WANT to be stumped on Saturdays, and this one certainly fit the bill! 4.1 stars.