Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I wasn’t expecting to see a double quad-stack puzzle that didn’t carry the Martin Ashwood-Smith byline. Then again, I also wasn’t expecting to see SPANISH OMELETTE crossing the cognate ESPANOL, or THESIS STATEMENT crossing cognate ETATISM, with STATE ASSISTANCE at the bottom. That’s a ridiculous amount of duplication! Surprised the grid was accepted with all that. And this STATE ASSISTANCE—the sort of lifeless S-heavy 15 that works well at the bottom of the grid but lends no juice.
I do like ROSIE THE RIVETER, INTIMATE APPAREL, LAID IT ON THE LINE, and HOPPING as an adjective. That’s about it for fill that pleased me, though. In addition to the duplications, we’ve got the unsavoriness of too many Romance-language answers (Spanish ESPANOL and ANO, Italian IERI and CHE, Latin GRATIA, French A TOI).
(IERI is really ugly fill. Some friends have suggested alternative clues, all of which made me laugh: [Start of a hesitant statement about oneself], [Headless Guy?], and [That is to say, Rhode Island: Abbr.].)
Other fill that left me cold includes E.A. POE and SORB crossing ENSILES, awkward brand name plural STPS, and the underfamiliar MENES, TREE TAG, and SELENIC (the latter three I suppose are fair game for a Saturday puzzle, along with TELOS and ETATISM, but I think solvers would cry foul any other day of the week). And I don’t like NO MSG any better today than I did yesterday.
I like row 6 and am planning a resort vacation to the shores of the Snochessa Sea.
2.4 stars from me.
Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
OK, it has been a tough week. My brain is fried. And after Friday’s NYT took me nearly twenty minutes, I was wondering if I needed a vacation! But a decent time for this Saturday challenge of just under 9 minutes makes me feel a little better. Although if this mental fog persists, who knows how well (or how poorly!) this weekend’s NYT and Newsday Stumper puzzles will go! And yes, I do need a vacation…
Having said all that, this was a fun puzzle by Mary Lou and Jeff. With the two-person byline, I am again left wondering who did what! Well, for whoever gets credit, my favorite part of this puzzle is the four long intersecting answers. I will list them all in the comments, but along with the long answers, there are some wide-open corners with great fill words. I won’t be able to list everything I liked about this puzzle, because there is so much to like! 4.5 stars from me.
Here are some notes:
- 15A [Apple bug?] WORM HOLE – I think this is referring to a software issue. I am not that computer savvy!
- 16A [Strength in numbers?] PREDICTIVE POWER – This clue doesn’t seem to fit that smoothly, but I think I get what is being said. Not my favorite.
- 26A [Birch of Indiana] BAYH – I live in Indiana! Got this immediately. Birch Bayh was a longtime senator here.
- 32A [Salisbury smooch] SNOG – One of the few snarky entries in this puzzle. Not familiar to me at all.
- 34A [Beats the rap] GETS OFF SCOT FREE – Nice!
- 58A [Best Actress the year before Kate Winslet] MARION COTILLARD – This couldn’t be too many people, as it doesn’t seem as if too many Oscar nominees have 15-letter names!
- 6d [___ lane] HOV – They don’t have those around here, so this answer always takes me a minute to figure out!
- 15D [Really enlightened] WISE AS SOLOMON – Well done, as this entry intersects the three 15s.
- 36D [From 2009 through Sep. 2015, it paid $143 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury] FNMA – This is the Federal National Mortgage Association, and I think it is more familiar as Fannie Mae. Yes, I had to look it up!
- 60D [Pull-up beneficiary, briefly] LAT – No reference to the newspaper abbreviation??
Hope this puzzle was as much fun for you as it was for me. Until next Saturday!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
My strategy is paying off: Start the puzzle, get stuck, go for a nice long run, resume the puzzle, and the answers seem to fall into place! Maybe at Stamford I should hit the treadmill for 30 minutes on Saturday morning!
All the excitement is warranted, as this Stumper is a Longo challenger. Extremely difficult clues in this one, although for the most part there is not a single obscure entry in the entire grid! A marvelous feat of construction by one of the masters of this craft. 4.8 stars from me this week.
- 16A [Virus carrier, often] EXECUTABLE – As in an .exe file. Don’t click on those email attachments from people you don’t know!
- 22A [Deep blue] LAPIS – I am weak in rare colors. This one stumped me good, even after I had ?API? in the grid.
- 34A [Cream, e.g.] DESSERT WINE – This is the only thing that seems obscure to me. Is this a brand name?
- 63A & 64A [Outmoded audiophile adjective] SOLID STATE & HIFI – Nicely done!
- 65A [Like some cookie cutters] STAR-SHAPED – I had TREE-SHAPED in there at first. Still traumatized by the holidays!
- 3D [Something reviewed at totalbeauty.com] LIP PLUMPER – My only error in the puzzle was the third P in this entry, as you can see in the image above. Suffice it to say I have never used a “lip plumper,” if that is even a thing, which I suppose it is, since it is in this puzzle!
- 11D [Faculty wear at commencements] TAMS – I had to look this up afterward. I don’t think I have ever seen an example of this in person.
- 23D [14-year-old covered by “Elle”] SASHA – This is referring to the one of Barack Obama’s daughters, I assume…
- 29D [Subject of a “You Just Blew $10,000” billboard] DWI – I had DUI in there, I believe as my first word solved, which hurt my understanding of DESSERT WINE for a while!
- 42D [Fearful of a fall] BEARISH – I think this is my favorite clue of the bunch. Great misdirection!
- 48D [What Adam and Eve never did, per Twain] TEETHE – Great clue! This might be my 1-A favorite.
- 50D [Saws] DICTA – Probably the most obscure entry in the grid.
- 54D [Waves on some beaches, in part] HULA – Also a great clue!
What else can be said? There are many more examples I could have cited. A tour de force by one the the grandmasters of crossword construction! Until next Saturday!
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I Spy”—Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone, and I hope you’re having a good start to your Saturday. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, is a real eye catcher, especially for those who love their old suspense television shows. Each of the three theme entries are common phrases, with the first word also happening to be the name of a spy agency from a television sitcom from back in the day – or, with the third entry, a movie franchise from not-so-far back. In the clues, the main protagonist of the show and/or movie is mentioned.
- UNCLE TOM’S CABIN (20A: [Ilya Kuryakin’s favorite abolitionist novel?]) -U.N.C.L.E. from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- CONTROL YOURSELF (38A: [Maxwell Smart’s favorite admonition to a tantrum thrower?]) – CONTROL, who matched wits with KAOS in Get Smart.
- IMF MEMBER STATE (53A: [Ethan Hunt’s favorite participant in an effort to maintain global financial stability?]) – Impossible Missions Force (IMF) from Mission: Impossible.
All of the television shows referenced, I believe, have been remade as movies on the big screen, so there’s a good chance that a younger person who did this puzzle wouldn’t get lost as to what was happening here. Hold on: I think Get Smart was remade, in the mid 90s, as a TV show on Fox. Didn’t it have Andy Dick as Maxwell Smart’s nephew or something? Whatever it was, it was pretty bad! I stuck with Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and In Living Color for my Fox entertainment then. There might actually be a chance that I’ll be in one of those BERTHS on a railway car sometime soon, actually (49A: [Pullman features]). Have always wanted to try the sleeper car on an Amtrak, and I have a couple of long trips coming up in the next month, including another venture to Charlotte. If I’m going to travel for a half a day, might as well do it in comfort, right? Well, it better be comfortable, right? Never watched an episode of Nash Bridges, but I now know that he was part of the SFPD (10A: [Law enforcement gp. with which Dirty Harry and Nash Bridges are affiliated]). So Don Johnson fictionally fought crime in both Miami and San Francisco, huh? Not bad! Again, a great grid with fun fill, and a theme that was so clever that I talked about that more than anything else today.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DINO (42A: [The Rat Pack’s Martin, to his buddies]) – Could go a couple of ways here. DINO Babers was just named the new head football coach at Syracuse University last month after a successful stint at Bowling Green State University. There’s also the late WWF/WWE wrestler DINO Bravo, billed as “Canada’s Strongest Man.” Bravo (real name Adolfo Bresciano) reportedly had ties to the mafia and an illegal cigarette smuggling ring, and that apparently played a huge part in his murder in 1993. My apologies for the downer at the very end of this blog.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for the Sunday Challenge!
Melina Merchant’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mind Your P’s and Clues” — pannonica’s write-up
I can get behind a P theme. Here, a syllable with that sound has been inserted into a bunch of preëxisting phrases to WACKY (88d) results. Spelling is malleable.
- 5a. [Ranch animal with an uneven hide?] BUMPY STEER (bum steer).
- 25a. [Serving that doesn’t even moisten your cornflakes?] SKIMPY MILK (skim milk).
- 45a. [Dotty dimwits?] DOPEY NUTS (doughnuts). Not “d’oh peanuts”.
- 47a. [Precinct boss with a hoarse cough?] CROUPY CHIEF (crew chief).
- 64a. [Dog that smells like cheap wine?] GRAPY HOUND (greyhound). Not quite a boozehound.
- 68a. [Cascade composed of chowder?] SOUPY FALLS (Sioux Falls).
- 87a. [Server who’s short and stout?] DUMPY WAITER (dumbwaiter).
- 90a. [Treats at Pueblo parties?] HOPI CAKES (hoecakes).
- 110a. [Brittle shale, say?] CRISPY ROCK (Chris Rock).
- 112a. [Time spent watching tearjerkers?] WEEPY HOURS (wee hours).
Good assortment of phrases—proper nouns, single (compound) words, two words) and the transformed versions are more entertaining than not.
- 93a/97a [For every] PER, A POP. 119a [Humiliate] ABASE, 67d [Utterly humiliate, in slang] OWN.
- 62d [Trees that produce a light honey] TUPELOS. Shared this elsewhere recently:
- 10d [Elivs’s daughter] LISA MARIE, which happens to have the same letter count as PRISCILLA.
- 5d [Quality of a good subject] LOYALY; 26d [Devotion] PIETY.
- 115a [1936 Bing Crosby song] SO DO I. In Vietnamese, SỐ ĐỐI … means ‘number of/for’.
- Unknown to me: 73d [Philanthropist Charles for whom a Northwestern library is named] DEERING. I’ve never deered before.
- Vocabulary! 103d [Opera commissioned by a khedive] AIDA. Definition of khedive: a ruler of Egypt from 1867 to 1914 governing as a viceroy of the sultan of Turkey (origin: French khédive, from Turkish hidiv).
- Favorite clues: 53a [One might get thrown from a horse] LASSO (see also 84a [Hangman’s loop] NOOSE),