Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oh, man! This puzzle was vexing me. Five and a half minutes in, I had maybe 25 letters filled in, including *TILES for 1d. [Valuable things to have in Scrabble]. Nothing was fitting with those crossings, though. Eventually I took a break and Googled the Kármán line, which I did not know—25a. [With 39-Across, region beyond the Kármán line … or a literal hint to what this puzzle has]. Turns out that’s the name for the imaginary line separating our earthy zone from OUTER / SPACE. Between that and thinking 36a. [Singer with the 1986 #1 hit “Rock Me Amadeus”] had to be the 5-letter FALCO, the penny dropped—blank SPACEs around the OUTER perimeter of the grid. Things agreed to be filled in much more readily after that. And really, if you delete the clues for the eight perimeter answers, what you have here is a themed 13×13 crossword. (No refunds.)
Your theme answers, aside from the eight things that could all be answered with BLANKS in a conventional crossword, are things that are related to OUTER SPACE more than to BLANKS:
- 19a. [Sun blocks?], LUNAR ECLIPSES. Plural only to make it fit the grid.
- 49a. [Recurrent “Twilight Zone” plot device], ALIEN INVASION.
- 4d. [Hercules or Perseus], CONSTELLATION.
- 11d. [Setting for many sci-fi stories], U.S.S. ENTERPRISE.
Top fill: DOO-WOP, AFC EAST (wanted SOUTH when I thought this was an 8-letter answer). Aside from the four 13s and the two 5s that are thematic, there’s not much attention given to making the fill lively. Nobody’s going to work up much excitement over words like ASSIZES and MONAD.
Four more things:
- 50d. [Bread in some ethnic cuisine], NAN. That term, “ethnic cuisine,” is loaded. Here’s an article that takes on the topic. Why don’t we call Italian and French cooking “ethnic food”? Because the people cooking it are less likely to be brown. I’d prefer a clue like [Bread served with channa masala (or some other Indian food)] or [Paratha alternative]. You shouldn’t know NAN or NAAN only because it has crossword-friendly letters—it’s tasty! And so is paratha.
- 38a. [’60s org.], CSA. Um, does this refer to the 1860s and the Confederacy? Also, how many of you know CSA as an abbreviation for community-supported agriculture?
- 9d. [Man’s name that’s another man’s name in reverse], ARI. When I thought this was a 4-letter answer, I pondered Kram, Trab, and the like.
- 42d. [Greeting that means “love” or “peace”], ALOHA. Say what? It’s a greeting and a farewell, I know. It took clicking on five dictionaries at onelook.com to find one that mentioned the Hawaiian etymology of “love.” I checked a few more, still no sign of “peace” anywhere. Curious to know where the clue came from, other than an attempt to use “peace” to trick solvers into writing SHALOM or SALAAM.
I’ll give the “blanks” trick 4 stars, the aha moment 5 stars, and the overall fill and solving experience 3.25 stars.
David Steinberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is the first ambitious stack of 15s I have encountered in the LAT. Oh, wait: these are stacked 16s! The 16-letter entries are all totally legit:
- 1A [Really frighten] SCARE THE PANTS OFF
- 17A [2010 Eminem/Rihanna #1 hit with the lyric “Just gonna stand there and hear me cry”] LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE
- 18A [“Despicable Me 2” company] UNIVERSAL STUDIOS – I will admit – I was thinking of an actual company IN the movie. Oops!
- 61A [Elgar work with an as yet unsolved musical theme] ENIGMA VARIATIONS – I did not know this. I will have to find this on Spotify!
- 65A [Threat in Season 3 of “24”] BIOLOGICAL WEAPON – I have seen this season. It’s not bad. I think these area all available on Netflix now.
- 66A [Ways to get high] EXTENSION LADDERS – Nicely done! (Doesn’t this merit a question mark?)
But the real barometer of the quality of ambitious stacks is the crossing fill. As is usually the case, the LAT fill is pretty good. The long crossers AVID READER and FROZEN ROPE are both really good. HEST, AYS, TARAWA and ABACO are all a little off the beaten path, but not so much that it is unsolvable. The puzzle was a little more challenging than other Saturday entries in the LAT, but that’s ok: I think most solvers welcome the challenge on the weekend. Overall, a great puzzle by David. 4.4 stars! A few mentions:
- 30A [Pickup spots?] SCRUFFS – As in a mother dog/cat carrying her young. Great clue.
- 44A [Fortune’s 2012 Businessperson of the Year] BEZOS – As in Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. Yes, I am an Amazon disciple…
- 2D [Like certain parlor containers] CONIC – I don’t get this clue at all. Someone please explain1
- 11D [News initials since 1851] NYT – Is is that old??
- 13D [Typically 81-digit diversion] SUDOKU – Nicely clued. Made me think for a minute!
- 41D [Prolonged lament] JEREMIAD – I liked this as well. A unique word not often seen.
- 53D [Actress Neuwirth] BEBE – Haven’t seen her name in a puzzle in a while!
Again, kudos to David for another stellar puzzle. His never seem to disappoint. He’s so young, it’s almost a crime he’s so talented at his age!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This was not a stumper; it was a thumper! This one beat me up pretty good. This week’s excuse? I didn’t sleep well! As the saying goes, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
I am really anxious to have a chat with Brad Wilber at the next crossword tournament I attend. His stumper puzzles are becoming some of my favorites. They are clean, the clues are very tricky, and I am in joyful agony every Saturday morning! There is virtually no entry in this puzzle that you wouldn’t have run across at some point in your schooling, even including UR-HAMLET and OGLALA! This is a good case of having to do some mental gymnastics to complete the puzzle, and I fell like I have had a mental workout this morning!
Some puzzle highlights:
- 37A [Be conspicuous] TURN HEADS – This one stumped me for a long time. Kept thinking it was STAND OUT, but of course that didn’t fit. Got some coffee to help deal with this clue!
- 54A [Destiny shapers, to some] YIN AND YANG – This odd letter pattern added to the difficulty. This made for a nice “a-ha!” moment when it is finally figured out.
- 2D [It bought CrashPadder in 2012] AIRBNB – This is solvable with some more of those mental gymnastics. My brain is sore…
- 9D [What about 23% of the world believes in] ISLAM – I would have thought this was higher!
- 37D [“Eugene Onegin” soprano] TATYANA – If you know this is an opera by the Russian Pushkin, then you know you are looking for a Russian name. See how those mental gymnastics work?
- 38D [Still out] UNRISEN – This didn’t make sense to me until after the puzzle was completely solved. I didn’t understand the way “out” was used until the very end. Nicely clued.
- 45D [Town around 60 miles from Bordeaux] COGNAC – I had some cognac once; slept VERY well….
- 49D [“Nome de sei papi”] PAOLO – I believe this Italian translates to “Name of six popes.” Evidently there were six Pope Pauls!
- 50D [Fortune’s “Most Innovative Company,” 1995-2000] ENRON – Innovative as in finding new and innovative ways to cheat!
- 52D [Its clock has read 10:30 since 2013] C-NOTE – Another great clue. Who knew they changed the time of the clock in the Independence Hall engraving when they updated the bills? Awesome!
- 56D [Its 1994 round covered intellectual property for the first time] GATT – General Agreement of Terms and Tariffs, if you didn’t know. And I didn’t!
Jeff Chen & Seth Geltman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Off the Cutting Edge” — pannonica’s write-up
Being a minor compendium of products and technologies that have flopped, been superseded, or otherwise failed. No wordplay—though some are predictably ironic in retrospect—and clued using what I assume to be their slogans.
- 22a. [“[It’s] here today. [It’ll] be everywhere tomorrow”] APPLE NEWTON.
- 24a. [“The biggest innovation in television since television”] LASERDISC.
- 41a. [“A more important advance than stereo was over mono”] QUADRAPHONIC SOUND.
- 65a. [“Will continue to set phenomenal sales gains”] EIGHT-TRACK TAPES. That one looks more like industry touting rather than an advertising slogan.
- 88a. [“Users have spoken regarding their favorite browser, and we’ve won the war”] NETSCAPE NAVIGATOR.
- 110a. [“Styled to last”] FORD EDSEL.
- 112a. [“Destined to be a superstar in your home entertainment scene”] SONY BETAMAX.
Nice batch, solid theme.
Many tasty long downs, though there’s a distinctly belligerent vibe to some: PLATE ARMOR, BROAD AXES, MATCH LOCK [Musket device], I SMELL A RAT, ALPHA MALES, CONTAINED, ANT COLONY, DAILY GRIND, BASS DRUM, OPALESCE, SYNAPTIC, STAGE SET [It’s struck at the end of a run]. Not sure how the clue for PLATE ARMOR works: [Case for going to war?]. Oh wait, considering body armor to be a ‘human case’? Nope, not feeling it.
- 10a [Manassas victors] REBS. Called the Battle of Bull Run by the Union.
- 121a [“A View From the Bridge” protagonist] EDDIE. Centenary of Arthur Miller this year. Acclaimed London revival coming soon to Broadway. If that’s your bag.
- 13d [NYC-to-St. Croix heading] SSE. What’s the story behind that clue, those termini? Or is it just a familiar route for a vacationing Wall Street Journal reader?
- 48a [Cybersquatter’s collection] URLS. Not so much; this clues DOMAINS.
- Language lessons of the day: 54d [Gato, Katze, chat and cat, e.g.] COGNATES, 43d [Spartan serf] HELOT, 89d [Literally, “little z,” in old Spanish] CEDILLA.
- Most marginal fill: 92d GOT A TAN, 4d FEEL FOR, and sure, the frequently seen partial A NO.
- Favorite clues: [Adjective before Jon or Wayne] LIL, 10d [Experiences all over] RELIVES, 59d [Events that take seconds] DUELS (for which my SYNAPTIC wires crossed, leading me to fill in DUALS).
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “End in a Tie”—Ade’s write-up
Good day once again, crossword lovers! I hope you’re doing well, and enjoying your weekend so far. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, has a clever theme, in which each of the four theme answers end with a group of letters that, when standing alone, happen to make up a type of string. Those letters/words are actually are just a part of another word in the entry.
- GOLD RECORD (17A: [Singer’s dream for a new release]) – Why aim for just a gold record? Go platinum!
- MARK MCGWIRE (30A: [Slugger with the most rookie-season home runs, 49, in 1987]) – McGwire is the current hitting coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which means he, along with the rest of the Dodgers, are on vacation at the moment after their Game 5 loss in the NLDS to the New York Mets earlier this week.
- MISANTHROPE (46A: [A party animal he’s not])
- DESPICABLE (62A: [Wretched])
How come I could not come up with TOFU immediately after having the TO– in place (1A: [Soy milk product]? Something told me that it was going to be plural, specifically, something that would end in an “S.” But, alas, no, “toes” nor “tots” (as in tater tots) are made from soy milk. No, no..wait…I actually had TE– initially, before I had TO–, because I thought ENO instead of ONO was one of its crossings (2D: [Artist who once held Bed-Ins]). This was the first time I’ve been tripped up with the “popular-in-crossword” musicians (Brian Eno & Yoko Ono). Do you spell SOFTIE as it is in this grid, or as “softy” (48D: [Sentimental type])? I’m pretty sure I would go with the latter, though I can’t tell you the last time, outside of doing a crossword, that I’ve typed or written that word. It’s baseball playoff time, and we have a cluster of answers in the Northeast that pertain to baseball. One, for sure, is ON BASE, and that also happens to intersect with the former Oakland A’s bash brother, Mark McGwire (13D: [Safe after a blooper]). There’s another in that area that pertains to baseball, but not in the way that you would think…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SALAMI (11D: [Sausage variety]) – This reminds me of the great home run call from the late, great Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, who coined this famous line anytime a Mariner player would hit a grand slam home run: “Get out the rye bread and mustard, grandma…it is grand SALAMI time!” Want to hear it?
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!