David J. Kahn’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s write-up
Matt here, filling in for Amy. A pleasure to see David J. Kahn’s byline on today’s puzzle, a longtime favorite of mine whose Manhattan apartment I once attended a crossword party at. He has a full-sized quilt of one of his NYT puzzles, hand-made by a fan, hanging on his dining room wall! Amazing. And we once co-authored a book together. Or two books, come to think of it.
Anyway, on to the puzzle. Took me over a minute to get my first correct answer, which was 53-D TUMS clued as [Over-the-counter antacid], which I knew had to be right because 56-A [Funny feeling] had to be UNEASE. After that I quickly polished off the circumscribed SE corner, with the best clue being [Casual invention] for FIB and the the second best being [___ shot] for JELLO. Even with [Field near the Anacostia River] I still managed to need a bunch of letters to get RFK STADIUM even though I saw my first concert there (The Who, July 1989).
What was up with the mysterious central minitheme? 33-A was [His first major screen appearance was in 1940] and 13-D was [Partner of 33-Across]. I was thinking humans but no, it was the untrustworthy PINOCCHIO and JIMINY CRICKET. I know the name but really couldn’t have told you who Jiminy Cricket was, but if he hangs out with Pinocchio he must be a chump.
A couple of nice full-name humans with UMA THURMAN [“Be Cool” co-star, 2005] and JOE TORRE [Co-author of “The Yankee Years“].
Mystery clues: [Warning in a school zone] for SLO? Is that a thing? Because when it comes to the safety of our nation’s children, let’s by all means save on a W’s worth of paint on a sign. [Fox neighbor] for OTO? The tribe looks like they spell it unambiguously with an E so better stick with the ear prefix here.
Other nice fill: IN NO TIME, SHOT PAR, ARMENIA, LANCELOT and DISHY. Overall the cultural references skew a little towards BOOMERS, with MOREY Amsterdam, Crosby/Bergman (Bing Crosby and…Ingrid Bergman I guess?) and Alben Barkley getting shout-outs. But hey, if you punk kids don’t like it then there’s always the BuzzFeed crossword.
Fun stuff, 4.10 stars.
Barry C. Silk’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another fine Barry C. Silk construction this Saturday. A little challenging, at least by my standards, and I only say that due to the 12+ minute time for me. Tons of good fill, and nothing drecky. Okay, maybe VAPORY seems a little, I don’t know, rarely used in conversation, but it was still solvable! I think, even though this one was tough, I am getting on Barry’s wavelength a bit. Time will tell…
A few notes:
- 15A [Prior name of Burkina Faso] UPPER VOLTA – This took forever to come to me. Old age is getting to me…
- 22A [Key with one flat: Abbr.] D MIN – As in D minor. I put in F MAJ. Each key signature, if memory serves me right, has a major or minor key.
- 32A [Grandpa Munster portrayer] AL LEWIS – This one ALSO took forever to pull out of the little grey cells! Haven’t seen this show since I was younger when it was on in syndication. I’ll have to see if it’s on TVLand!
- 49A [1994 Polka Music Hall of Fame inductee] WELK – As in Lawrence Welk, whom I also used to watch a lot in syndication when I was younger! Nowadays when I hear the word polka, I think of Weird Al! How long until HE is in the Polka Music Hall of Fame?!
- 54A [Landlocked Asian country] NEPAL – Great clue, since this is usually LAOS!’
- 57A [Pine Tree State college town] ORONO, MAINE – After my recent trip to Oregon, I though it might be the Pine Tree State, since it literally smelled like Pine Sol everywhere! Orono is the home of the University of Maine. I think they’re usually good in hockey!
- 65A [A.1., for one] STEAK SAUCE – Yes, I thought, “this cannot simply be STEAK SAUCE!”
- 13D [Assistance trio?] ESSES – This one seemed actually too obvious!
- 31D [Oregon Treaty president] JAMES K. POLK – Is he ever listed as simply James Polk? Jimmy Polk? Jimbo Polk??
- 36D [Diving ducks] SMEWS – OK, I forgot about this one. I rarely see this either.
- 55D [Skunk River city] AMES – A nice alternate clue that doesn’t reference Iowa State University!
How about a robust 4.2 stars for a nice challenger with a seamlessly filled grid!
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Late posting today; had to attend a funeral in Chicago. My aunt’s mother-in-law; I hope I live to be 96! I did get a chance to solve the puzzle before we left. Although my time said 27+ minutes, in my defense, I DID set my iPad down once or twice to tend to some matters! But that doesn’t mean this puzzle was easy; it just means that I didn’t have the peace and quiet I crave to solve this. And I didn’t sleep well….
But enough excuses! Doug made a fine puzzle, which I will rate at 4.5 stars. I did have the satisfying feeling of having a barely filled in grid, and then slowly chipping away at it with several “a-ha” moments along the way! I liked the three-way tie-in of 6D MSG with 30A SALT and 21D ADDITIVE. Here are some more of my favorites:
- 18A [Target area] AISLE – As in Target the big box store! This one fooled me good.
- 31A [Temple authority] DEAN – As in Temple University! Fooled again!
- 41A [What Nick Charles recommended one “shake to waltz time”] DRY MARTINI – I’ve been watching James Bond movies on Hulu, so I’ve seen a few dry martinis in the recent weeks. Great clue. Wonder which movie this is from?
- 48A [Frequent cable news show guests] SPINMEISTERS – I don’t watch much political TV, so this is not a familiar term to me.
- 24D [Symbols of British Conservatives] OAK TREES – If you say so!
- 36D [Captain who claimed Antarctica] NEMO – Is this fictional??
- 51D [Common Sikh surname] SINGH – It was either this or Patel!
Nicely done, Doug! Can’t wait for your next one!
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Life of A’s” — pannonica’s write-up
The original phrase here is ‘life of ease’, and the theme entries reflect that: long-e sounds are converted to long-a ones—spelling changes sometimes occur—for wackifying ends. This vowel shift is broadly similar to an aspect of a stereotypical Irish accent. See also, 75a [Leisurely] EASY and 17d [Pathology study] DISEASE.
- 23a. [Hell’s throne room?] SATAN HALL (Seton Hall).
- 25a. [Pursuit of an office fastener?] STAPLE CHASE (steeplechase).
- 28a. [Vatican van company?] PAPAL MOVER (people mover).
- 47a. [Thinking like Aesop?] FABLE-MINDED (feeble-minded).
- 60a. [Chess club headquarters?] MATING HOUSE (meeting house). The G-rated clue, obviously. Also, I went with PLACE at first.
- 70a. [Comic fellow with an unpleasantly harsh voice?] GRATING CARD (greeting card). Extra-good because the sense of CARD is changed from the original. Gilbert Gottfried (see also the crossing 70d [Subject of Hamburg hymns] GOTT) is a real-life example.
- 76a. [Oscar Wilde and Ben Franklin, to writers of quote books?] SAYING STARS (seeing stars).
- 100a. [Schooner enthusiast?] SAILING FAN (ceiling fan). Another noun-sense change.
- 105a. [Part of a setting for George’s kooky wife?] GRACIE’S SPOON (greasy spoon). George Burns, Gracie Allen. See also, 42a [1977 comedy film whose sequel appended “Book II” to the title] OH GOD.
- 107a. [Heaping mound of breakfast meat?] BACON HILL (Beacon Hill). Not to be confused with Pork Chop Hill.
- 3d. [Under a falling anvil, e.g.?] FATAL POSITION (fetal [fœtal] position).
- 57d. [Purpose behind a choice of wording?] PHRASING POINT (freezing point).
Quite a lot of theme content. And check out the three-way overlapping of the answers in rows Three and Four, Eighteen and Nineteen. My two favorites, easily, are 70-across and 100-across, precisely because of the additional wordplay already pointed out.
- Loved how symmetrical pair 4d and 104d are cross-referenced counterparts: THIS and THAT.
- 32a/34a [Home style] CAPE COD, COLONIAL. 35d/71d [Techie type] NERD, GEEK.
- 38a. [Number of V’s in this puzzle’s answer] THREE. That’s the entire solved grid. Still, a strange clue choice.
- Bizarre mental lapse: 63a [“Walk On By” lyricist David] … my process: “That’s Burt Bacharach’s collaborator [innominately thinking of Hal David], but wait, his name wasn’t David. Hum.” It was only upon returning to that section with a letter in place did I adapt my thinking to include the notion that ‘David’ was the guy’s surname. HAL.
- 9d [Head of a country in civil war] ASSAD. Oh, not a generic answer. Took a bit.
- 66a. [“Don’t watch television tonight, play it!” advertiser] ATARI. That seems like a relatively archaic tagline, probably from the late ’70s or early ’80s.
- People I didn’t know: 51d [Dean of “Under the Dome”] NORRIS, 58d [Emmy winner Mannheim] CAMRYN, 61d [Outfielder Sizemore] GRADY.
- DO IT, AS IF, AT IT, IN ME, plus FED IN, DIG IN, IN A LINE. (56a, 64a, 111a, 112a, 78a, 52d, 16d)
- 74a. [Screen printing problems] MOIRÉS. Printing isn’t the word I would choose here. Display[ing] is a better choice, I feel. The phrasing in the clue references something much less accessible to people nowadays, referring to a phenomenon in printing production. Or maybe I’m just looking at this wrong.
Solid, enjoyable crossword.