Do you enjoy themeless crosswords by the younger generation of constructors? Kameron Austin Collins is launching a biweekly subscription deal for themelesses (low-word-count ones). For free! Receive his puzzles via email on the 1st and 15th of the month, beginning next week. Click here to sign up. I’m really looking forward to these puzzles!
Roland Huget’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Now, yesterday’s NYT puzzle taught us that this venue is cool with objectification, so I’m surprised to see that 28a WEENIES isn’t clued anatomically. [Twerps]? Aw, come on.
Top fill includes DINGBAT, MAH-JONGG, OKEY-DOKEY (whew! this puzzle has sort of a 1950s vibe, no?), RING-DINGS, and NEW WAVE. I sure liked ’80s New Wave music. Still do, in fact. I like the PALOMAR Observatory, too.
36d: OPINIONS, in the plural, reminds me of that Dirty Harry quote.
1d: HERE I AM puts me in mind of Germany’s biggest-in-America metal band, the Scorpions, and “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Top 40 hit!
Least liked fill: SAW TO IT, maybe; END IN; ARA, clued unfamiliarly as 20a. [Eliot’s “___ Vos Prec”]; Mount ASO; Latin SED; abbrev PKWY; plural PHEWS; boring-as-all-get-out ALIENEE; awkward NOT LIVE; EEE; ILA; NT. WT. (once again, I say: Find me a product label that uses this abbreviation rather than “net wt.”); JO’S; and TER (57d. [One more than bis, in prescriptions] that may be from another century, because doctors and pharmacists sure as hell aren’t using TER anymore, and I don’t know why, why, why this answer keeps appearing in crosswords—kill it dead now). If I list over a dozen entries I didn’t care for, it’s a safe bet that I didn’t enjoy the crossword. You can get away with maybe four such answers, at most, and not get a largely negative review from me.
Four more things:
- 56a. [Retro hairstyles], MULLETS. The mullet has sort of come back into style, and The Times Is On It.
- 46d. [Russell of comedy], NIPSEY. I liked him when I was a kid.
- 39d. [“Twilight” vampire ___ Hale], ROSALIE. I haven’t seen more than 5 minutes of the movie series and I’ve read none of the books, so drew a blank here. Does Pete ROSE’s presence in the puzzle constitute an unwanted dupe?
- 23a. [___ Takahata, Oscar-nominated director of 2013’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”], ISAO. Have not heard of him, but am OK with learning about him.
2.8 stars from me. The juicy stuff was outnumbered by the “please, no” stuff.
Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This one seemed tougher than the usual LAT Saturday offering. Is it just me? Was I tired? At any rate, this is a nice puzzle. Not as familiar with Bruce Venzke’s constructions, but this if fairly nice. I will nitpick a couple of entries, but all-in-all it fits the LAT mold of a nice challenger with good fill, but not to agonizing!
- 6A [Lasting consideration] SHELF LIFE – I thought this was excellent.
- 19A [Key ingredient in a Bloody Caesar] CLAMATO – This word is also in the Stumper! As I said in that writeup, this does not sound appetizing, but maybe I will try some!
- 25A [Do a farm vet’s job] DEHORN – OK, first nitpick. I’m thinking nobody says this, but then again, I don’t work on a farm! Anybody work on a cattle ranch out there??
- 33A [Discontinues] SURCEASES – Time to learn a new word. It is actually in the dictionary; I looked!
- 38A [House adjustment] REAPPORTIONMENT – As in House of Reps! Nice!
- 44A [Rapper ___ Moe Dee] KOOL – My 80s glut of video watching paid off quickly here!
- 53A [Native whose land has an Atlantic and Caribbean coastline] HAITIAN – Nice clue. Makes you think…
- 55A [Nebraska tribe] WINNEBAGO – I mainly know this name from the RV company, and notably because it is one of the few that aren’t made in Northern Indiana!
- 6D [Edward Jones Dome athlete] ST LOUIS RAM – This answer may not be accurate for long; they are one of the teams threatening to move to Los Angeles! Somebody is moving there for sure, and soon, between the Rams, Raiders and Chargers.
- 36D [Pleasant] ENJOYABLE – I don’t know why I am highlighting this clue/entry, other than it is a “pleasant” word and made me smile!
As mentioned, Not too familiar with this guys puzzles, but I like what I see. 3.9 stars today.
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Couldn’t sleep! I was solving this puzzle around 2 this morning, so maybe that explains my slow time. Or maybe it’s just because Frank had a toughie this Saturday. Or maybe it’s because my Newsday solving app, Crosswords (on my iPad), got a wonky update and the solving grid is now really small! Whatever the reason, I got it done, but it was brutal. The app is so bad I actually went to the App Store to see if there was an update, and the complaints were so numerous I know I wasn’t alone. They also stated that there is an update in the works to fix the issue.
As for the puzzle, it was actually very good. Some of my favorites:
- 19A [Its launch success rate is about 40%] KICKSTARTER – I had no idea what this was referring to until quite late. Always the upper left corner that is last!
- 23A [Escalade cousin] GMC YUKON – I actually filled this in early with no crossings. I see a lot of cars in my line of work!
- 29A [Coming off the market] SAYING “I DO” – I had SAYING??? for the longest. Great clue.
- 35A [Ingredient in some beer cocktails] CLAMATO – I actually just saw that they sell a Bud Light in this flavor. Does not sound appealing!
- 53A [Block party?] TAX PREPARER – Best clue in the puzzle. Block as in H & R Block!
- 62A [Toy with a 2,000-year history] PEKE – Yes, I had KITE in there! Ouch. Another great clue.
- 1D [Home of Universal Studios Japan] OSAKA – I wrote this in immediately. Then prayed it was right…
- 4D [Like workarounds] HACKY – I tried HASTY and HANDY before I figured out the correct version of HA??Y
- 8D [Calcium nucleus] SOFT C – Also in the running for the best clue in this puzzle. Had me fooled until the bitter end!
- 12D [Unwelcome knocker] CAR ENGINE – Yes, I had a mental picture of a vacuum salesman…
- 33D [Closed-circuit sports setting] OVAL TRACK – This is the only one that seemed a reach. It’s accurate, but is this what a race track is ever called? Still solvable, though, so it’s only a minor nitpick with me.
- 50D [Crayola’s sunglow and laser lemon] NEONS – I though TINTS might be the answer here at first. Another great clue.
So since I sound like a broken record saying “great clue,” I rate this puzzle 4.5 stars. Another magnificent themeless by Longo. Anxiously awaiting his next Stumper!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Air Play”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning everyone! This is the first day in a long while in which I’ve had some time to really talk about a crossword puzzle the way I want to on here, and my deepest apologies that I’ve been MIA for the longest time. OK, enough mea culpas. Time to talk crosswords!
Today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, incorporates puns and homophones, as each of the four theme answers start with words that are homophones of each other. Also, each of the entries are also altered in the fact that the word “air” usually becomes before the second word, but the pun-like questions for clues changes all of that.
- HAIR SUPPLY (17A: [Wig shop inventory?]) – From “Air Supply.” “I’m all out of hair…I’m so lost without you…”
- HARE MATTRESS (27A: [What Bugs sleeps on?]) – From “air mattress.”
- HEIR PRESSURE (46A: [Lobbying to be included in the will?]) – “From “air pressure.”
- HERR JORDAN (60A: [Germany’s greatest basketball player?]) – From “Air Jordan.”
Just wasn’t feeling REWARM, though that may be because I was thinking something along the lines of a weapon instead of food (31A: [Nuke, maybe]). That, and I’m sure I have never used the word “rewarm” before and always have said “reheat.” I’m pretty sure I was about five years old when the DATSUN name was replaced by Nissan in the 1980s, and one of my father’s friends drove a Datsun every time he visited our place (44A: [Nissan, once]). Man, the flashbacks to elementary school math class just flooded into my head when seeing ISOSCELES (10D: [Triangle type]). Honestly, I haven’t seen/heard the word “isosceles” in about two decades. Surprisingly enough, I’ve only had CALAMARI a couple of times in my life, and, when it’s served while I’m having dinner with friends, I just make sure to let all my friends eat it up (7D: [Trattoria seafood]). So if you like calamari and have dinner with me, help yourself to all the calamari you want.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HEEP (59A: [Dickens’s Uriah?]) – Former Major League Baseball outfielder Danny Heep played for five teams during his 13-year career, including on the New York Mets’ 1986 championship team. Mostly a fourth outfielder, Heep only played in over 100 games twice in his career. In 1986, Heep hit five home runs with 33 RBI. Keep now is the head coach of the University of the Incarnate Word college baseball team in San Antonio.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!
Natalia Shore’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “B & B’s” — pannonica’s write-up
Briskly, then. Two-word phrases that have the letter B prefixed to each element to create wackified versions.
- 23a. [City divisions inhabited by tusked animals?] BOAR BLOCKS (oar locks).
- 25a. [Medical support for a wide neck?] BROAD BRACE (road race).
- 35a. [National boundary guarded by cyborg technology?] BIONIC BORDER (ionic order, as in classical architectural columns).
- 50a. [Boxing match in which one is hit hard on the noggin?] BRAINED BOUT (rained out).
- 70a. [Sand in one’s bathing suit?] BEACH BOTHER (each other).
- 87a. [Glittery piece of jewelry?] BRIGHT BANGLE (right angle).
- 98a. [Electronic sound from a hand dryer?] BLOWER BLIP (lower lip).
- 100a. [Result of dropping a dog toy?] BONE BOUNCE (one ounce).
- 16d. [Whale that could use some seasoning?] BLAND BLUBBER (land lubber). Maintains the maritime vibe.
- 57d. [Item for a fullback who thinks he’s playing Quidditch?] BLOCKER BROOM (locker room). Sustains the sports vibe. Also essentially repeats LOCK/BLOCK from 23-across.
Can’t say these thrilled me much. And some of the original phrases are rather insubstantial, bordering on arbitrary or at least incomplete.
As the keen observer will notice, my grid shows one error. I had the thing complete, but wasn’t in the mood to hunt for inaccuracies. RAVER for 109a [Wild party] had seemed good at the time, and the crossing NAV (102d) didn’t brashly advertise being incorrect. Ah, but had I double-checked, I might have noticed that it doesn’t jibe with the slightly-tricky equine clue [Old chestnut?]. RAGER and NAG were in order.
- 42a [Electrify] ROUSE. Today is Thelonious Monk’s birthday, and Charlie ROUSE was a key component of one of his longtime working bands. Some words:
And from the aptly titled 1963 album Criss Cross:
(Incidentally, there’s a pretty good bonus track on the CD reissue of that one.)
- Spiffy fullname longdowns: 14d [1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee] ROD STEWART, 64d [His native name was Tashunka Witko] CRAZY HORSE.
- Ovinity: 18d [Bellwether’s belle] EWE, 39a [Bellwether sound] BAA.
- Cleverish clues: 83a [Yo-Yo strings] CELLO, 61d [Walks on water?] PIERS, 78d [Fawning type] DOE, 60a [American worker] PILOT, 86a [Playoff passes] BYES, 58a [Credit lines?] ROLES. Also liked the rhyming of 61a [Hector’s brother] PARIS followed by 62a [Sectors] AREAS.
- 94a [“Where no wood there is, there the fire ___ out”: Proverbs] GOETH. Genius! Those ancient guys, hard to get one past them.
- 85a [ __ sportif (shooting sports in France] TIR. yeesh
- What the heck, here’s some more tangential Monk:
87a BRIGHT BANGLE