Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Not sure if I have blogged too many puzzles by Julian Lim, but I enjoy his puzzles. This one was fun. There seems to be a focus on these LAT puzzles on limiting crosswordese; I will have to ask Rich Norris about that the next time I see him! I mean, yes, there is the entry AMAH, there is a REATA, and the word VERSO appears, but these to me are not annoying. To solve crosswords, you DO have to learn some actual vocabulary words! Now when we see plant genuses, obscure Latin medical/anatomical terms, towns with less than 500 people, and rare Swahili verbs, then there is an issue. But there is nothing wrong with learning new words, and of course, as a crossword solver, one DOES have to learn the “crosswordese” words. But I think the goal is to limit such dreck, thereby making puzzles more appealing and accessible!
This puzzle is a good example, as I mentioned earlier, of good smooth fill. Nothing too difficult, and a nice, fairly wide-open grid. Unless my eyes are fooling me, there are no three-letter words! That will garner a 4.5 star rating from me!
A few notes:
- 1A [High-end beer-serving eatery] GASTROPUB – Can you say heaven?
- 15A [Drink with Campari and sweet vermouth] AMERICANO – I wonder why the constructor didn’t go with AMERICANA and BASS instead.
- 19A [Like some plugs] SHAMELESS – Could’ve mentioned the Showtime series. Is that a “shameless” plug? ;-)
- 43A [“Awesome, bro!”] ROCK ON! – I say this all the time. OK, not really…
- 49A [ooVoo alternative] iCHAT – Does this still exist? I am on my Mac now, and I cannot find it. For that matter, does ooVoo still exist??
- 56A [Childhood friend of Paul Cézanne] EMILE ZOLA – Brings back ZOLAESQUE memories!
- 3D [Ward of “Gone Girl”] SELA – Forgot she was in this movie. I highly recommend the book. Way better than the movie, and the movie is good!
- 7D [It’s hard to put down] PAGE TURNER – Nice clue!
- 31D [Goodyear variety] TIRE SIZES – This seems like the clue should be pluralized.
- 43D [Torn asunder] RIVEN – Another obscure clue? The Myst sequel!
- 52D [Lombardi city] LODI – OK, maybe this is a bit obscure. Population over 40,000 according to Wikipedia!
Another great themeless on Saturday. Cannot wait until next Saturday, which is the middle of a three-day weekend!
David Steinberg’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Well, the holiday rush for me is almost over, so spending a nice relaxing Saturday morning solving puzzles after leisurely sleeping in a bit. And a nice surprise with a Stumper by David Steinberg! I absolutely love solving his puzzles, and I am never short of amazed when I remember how young he is! I think when it is all said and done, he will be viewed 30 years from now with the same reverence that we viewed Merl Reagle and Henry Hook. The talent is just too obvious.
Having said all of that, an ambitious grid greets the Stumper solver today! Only 34 black squares and large seas of open spaces! I got most of the upper left side area fairly quickly, then slowed down quite a bit. Once a toehold was found in the lower right, then the puzzle fell fairly quickly, finishing smack dab in the middle. 25A [Hat tricks of titles] THREE-PEATS is my favorite clue of the puzzle, and I don’t know why it stumped me for as long as it did! Worded slightly weirdly, maybe? The puzzles ambitious grid does however have seemingly effortless fill, with hardly any objectionable wording. A tour de force! A solid 4.9 star rating for me; one of the best themeless puzzles I have ever seen!
A few notes:
- 1A [Ethnic triangular treats] HAMANTASCHEN – There are not a lot of Jewish people here in Indiana, so I have NEVER heard of these! Now you understand why I didn’t start filling the grid at the top…
- 14A [Large purple fruits] KALAMATA OLIVES – Never heard of these either! Sounds like a great ingredient for cousin Ted to use on Chopped!
- 24A [Overseer of the purchase of Lucasfilm] IGER – Disney exec, of course. They now own, I believe, everything. Marvel, my beloved Muppets, Star Wars, ABC, ESPN, the earth…
- 29A [Only palindromic top-40 song title froma palindromic-name group] SOS – Thought of palindromic-name groups, and came up with ABBA, and thought this might work. First clue filled in!
- 43A [Surroundings of some small sandwiches] GRAHAM CRACKERS – I thought this might mean some appetizer tray garnish at first. We are talking about smores here!
- 1D [Heat-storing device] HOLSTER – Great clue. I had TOASTER in there at first. That works, right??
- 6D [Org. instrumental in preserving Sagamore Hill] TRA – I filled this in last. This stands for the Teddy Roosevelt Association, which made perfect sense afterwards when I looked up what the heck it stood for!
- 15D [Offering on Ikea.com’s Living Room page] CHAISE – I was nervous this was going to be one of their funky Swedish product line names!
- 25D [Dissertation subject] THEMA – Only wonky entry; easily gettable with the A crossing HAS A BALL. I can live with this.
- 26D [Cheerleader portrayer in the “Starsky & Hutch” film] AMY SMART – Once I figured out who this was, a large chunk of the puzzle became clearer. Very obscure, yet actually kind of fair, clue!
- 39D [Four-wheel conveyance] SKATE – Also a great clue. Easy when you think outside the box!
Wonderful puzzle, and an absolute joy to solve!
Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
(Hey, Damon, your byline lost its usual middle initial here.)
Lots of fun fill and pop-culture stuff. My favorite answers are BELLY LAUGH, “YOU GO, GIRL!,” MOPTOPS, ARENA ROCK, WIFFLEBALL, Dan AYKROYD (the “old” in [“Brother” player of old TV and film], referring to the Blues Brothers from SNL and a movie, makes me feel rather less young, dammit), CHOPS UP (entirely non-stilted verb phrase), GAY ICON, OZZFEST, DONE DEAL, TELL-ALL, EX-WIFE, COLUMBO, PC WORLD, and SKYWAYS.
One unexpected bit from contemporary pop culture is Nick KROLL (he plays an awful lot of characters on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, and he’s in a relationship with Amy Poehler). Then there’s mystifying older pop culture—16a. [1969 Alan Arkin comedy/drama], POPI?? Used the crossings to get that one.
Fill I’m not keen on: ARBORED, which many dictionaries don’t mention. O-REN, which has convenient letters. Stale TSO’S. Awkward EVILER (we say “more evil”) and NABBERS (contrived, “roll-your-own” word, with the pluralization making it worse).
Six more things:
- 18a. [___ 18 (title setting of a 1961 novel)], MILA. We haven’t seen that author, Leon URIS, in crosswords for a while, have we? I’ll bet a dollar that the constructor’s original clue was for actress Kunis, but perhaps she was clued too recently in another NYT puzzle.
- 24a. [Etiologist’s study], DISEASE. Specifically, etiology relates to the causes of disease. I can’t say I ever heard, in all my years of medical editing, of “an etiologist.” I dislike the clue. Doctors, what say you?
- 34a. [Foreign pronoun that sounds like a fish], ILS. French for “they,” right?
- 55a. [Conductor Lukas], FOSS. I have never heard of him. Is he good with a baton?
- 21d. [It’s about six feet long on the Statue of Liberty], BIG TOE. This … is awesome.
- 22d. [It contains rules for writing], LEGAL PAD. Nice clue!
Overall vibe, 3.8 stars. I enjoyed the fun stuff enough to offset the awkward bits.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Noel” — pannonica’s write-up
For this iteration of the venerable ‘Noel’ pun, phrases whose last word ends in -EL drop that bigram, for wackified results.
- 23a. [The groom?[ WEDDING CHAP (… chapel).
- 25a. [Give a scathing review to Roseanne’s stand-up act?} TRASH BARR (… barrel).
- 37a. [“Here’s to my new Kate Spade” honoree?] TOASTED BAG (… bagel).
- 55a. [Scathing review of an orchestra performance?] INSTRUMENT PAN (… panel). Another scathing review!
- 77a. [Separator in a Derby winner’s time?] KENTUCKY COLON (… colonel).
- 91a. [Shaving mishap for Pinocchio?] WOODEN NICK (… nickel).
- 108a. [Slumber party VIP?] YOUTH HOST (… hostel).
- 110a. [Rabbi presiding over a king’s investiture?] CROWNING JEW (… jewel).
- 39d. [Retriever trained as a watchdog?] WARNING LAB (… label). Crossed by 73a [Sound from a shepherd] GRR.
- 44d. [Brand name for a light-based hair-cutting tool?] LASER SCALP (scalpel).
I believe only HOST and SCALP share etymologies with their uncurtailed correlates.
To enhance the Christmas connection, plenty of clues throughout the puzzle are canted that way:
- 29a. [“I’ll Be __ for Christmas”] HOME, 30d [“The hopes and fears of all the years are __ in thee tonight”] MET.
- 48a [Canvas for Jack Frost] PANE.
- 49a [Prepare the Christmas turkey] ROAST, 65d [The Cratchits’ Christmas dinner] GOOSE, 96a. [Cranberry concoction] SAUCE, 97a. [Rich sponge cake] BABA.
- 58a [Santa’s portrayer in 2003’s “Elf”] ED ASNER,
- 86a [Decorate, as the Christmas tree] TRIM.
- 2d [Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Christmas Eve,” for one] OPERA.
- 41d [Comet and Cupid, e.g.] DEER.
- 88d [“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” genre] SCI-FI. Notoriously ATROCIOUS (76d), that one.
- 98d [Donald Duck’s lack] PANTS.
- 101d [Like some holiday letters] NEWSY.
- 104d [Coal in one’s stocking, say] LUMP.
- 106d [One of seven gifts “a-swimming”] SWAN.
Also, it’s easy to read 6d [Incite] EGG ON as egg nog if you skip from the middle to the end and read back up.
- 27a/60a [Historic time] ERA, AGE. 20a/74a [Cheese shop choice] GOUDA, RICOTTA.
- 40a [Payment before a deal is made] ANTE, 63a [Foe’s stand] ANTI. 35a [Pulls down] EARNS, 69d [Sea eagles] ERNES.
- 111a [Singer of the 2015 #1 hit “Cheerleader”] OMI. Stage name, stylized in all caps, of Omar Pasley. Completely unfamiliar to me.
- 89a [Fivers, in slang] ABES, 118a [Grandson of Abraham] ESAU. >frown<
- Favorite clues: 91d [It’s sometimes on the line] WASH. The literal 64a [Someone who might really be into you?] SURGEON.
- Least favorite fill: 103d [NFL shutout, on the scoreboard] OOOO.
- 24d [Some are proper] NOUNS, 43d [Sound from flutes and tubas] LONG U.
Solid, timely crossword.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ideal Breaker”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Saturday everybody! Just a quick post of the grid today, which was created by Mr. Patrick Jordan. In the grid is a quip for a theme that I’m always not a fan of; this utterance, one that we can all definitely relate to.
- HAVE NO FEAR OF PERFECTION, YOU’LL NEVER REACH IT (20A, 39A & 58A: [Part one of a quip by Salvador Dali, Part two of the quip, part three of the quip])
Some of the fill gave me the blahs, including BLAHS (1D: [World-weariness, with the]) and APISH, which, although I figured out logically, I have never heard used or seen written before (33D: [Given to imitation]). Maybe it was just finishing the grid and the blog in a hurry is why I’m not feeling today, though I loved the fill – and the clue – to SUZETTE (46A: [Word in some French dessert cookbooks]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EXPO (9D: [Former Canadian major leaguer]) – Who is the greatest EXPO to ever wear the red, white and blue in Montréal? Gary Carter? Andre Dawson? Tim Raines? Larry Walker? I’d probably lean towards Carter or Raines, the latter being one who should definitely be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Thoughts on the greatest Expo of all time?
See you all for the Sunday Challenge! And it’s a Brad Wilber Sunday Challenge, which means it will definitely be a challenge!