If you’ve been skipping the new Washington Post Sunday puzzles by Evan Birnholz because you prefer to solve in .puz format, you are in luck! Evan’s first eight puzzles are available (For a limited time only! Act now!) via this link. That’s a .zip you can unzip to get the eight puzzle files. And also, the Crossword Fiend “Today’s Puzzles” download page will henceforth be including an Across Lite link for each new Sunday Birnholz puzzle.
Sam Donaldson and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Long day, short write-up.
Puzzle was zooming along, feeling markedly easier than most Saturday NYTs, till I tried to wrangle the northeast section. DAWN RAID? An ETHAN I don’t know? There’s such a thing as an AUKLET? Oof. It worked out in the long run, but not so breezy.
Favorite fill: MAMA BEAR, SPEED DATING, VISIGOTHS, SATIRIZES, SPIEGEL (aw, I liked their catalog back in the day), CREPEY, SIPPY CUP, WIDE-EYED, VIZSLA.
- 29a. [Things bench players need?], PIANOS. Fake-out sports clue, but hey, I saw right through it.
- 10d. [Shorts popular in the 1920s and ’30s], OUR GANG. Short films. Not short pants! Dammit, I fell for a “shorts” clue again.
- This pair: 47d. [Parenthetical figure, often], LOSS and 49d. [Parenthetical figures?], ARCS.
Worst fill: ALOP. You can try to make it adorable with a clue such as 2d. [Like some rabbit ears], but no. No, no, no. A lop-eared rabbit is one thing, but ALOP is woeful crosswordese. A great many dictionaries don’t include that word at all. Blech.
3.9 stars from me.
Doug Peterson & Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another smooth themeless from the LAT team today. About 8 minutes for me. We have a lot of collaboration puzzles this Saturday, with either Doug Peterson or Brad Wilber involved or both of them! Looks like a 72-worder, but with that the fill is flawless. There were a few rough spots for me as I was solving, but nothing a slight pause and a thought wouldn’t cure. I finished right around where the highlighted word in the grid is. Not too familiar with 12D. Have I mentioned how uncultured I am? A solid 4.5 stars for this one.
A few notes:
- 17A [Wet blanket] BUZZKILL – Always good to include a few Zs. Great clue.
- 20A [Robert Southey, notably] LAKE POET – This is where I was stumped. I had LAKE GOER in at first. I’ll have to Google this guy.
- 37A [Mating situation] CHESS TOURNAMENT – I had CHESS at the beginning, so despite the good clue, I wasn’t that stumped.
- 43A [Forward, in Firenze] AVANTI – They used to make Avanti cars in South Bend, IN. I remember touring the factory there years ago on a field trip. They also used to make Studebakers in South Bend.
- 53A [Starbucks order] SOY LATTE – Been enjoying a few vegetarian meals this week. Haven’t tried one of these drinks yet. Maybe soon, though. Still trying to lose 20 pounds!
- 8D [Acted insubordinately] TALKED OUT OF TURN – Nicely done. Good 15-letter entries in this grid!
- 12D [Berlioz opera based on the “Aeneid”] LES TROYENS – The aforementioned opera that is buried in my gray matter somewhere deep.
- 23D [“Good ___”: Alton Brown show] EATS – My wife’s favorite Food Network show. He actually can be quite entertaining!
- 45D [“Tao Te Ching” sage] LAO-TSE – Got stuck here too. I had LAO-TZU. I think they are the same person, just different ways to spell those Chinese characters!
- 56D [Miracle Mets star] AGEE – This would still be hard if his first name, which I believe was Tommie, was in the clue.
Great puzzle. Until Tuesday with my next LAT review.
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
A toughie by the combo of Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson this Saturday, but this one did not give me too many fits! I immediately wrote in VIA for 4D, which I soon found out was wrong! 15A and 17A were quick gets (LIFE HACK and ALFRESCO), making 4D not VIA, but PER. I found it notable that there was a PHEASANT and a PLEASANT both in the grid, and fairly close to each other! I have learned over the past several months that I should trust my initial instincts, and if it’s wrong then that will become evident soon enough, but if it’s right the puzzle will fall quicker, and that was the case with this one. Under 20 minutes is rare for me, and under 17 is even rarer. I think my fastest time period is about 15 or 16 minutes, so this one was pretty quick for me. And no real problems today; you may notice in the grid there are no little gray boxes in the corners, which indicate a check for which letters are correct! Usually there is a pregnant pause for me while solving, staring at a half filled grid with bewilderment, but those moments didn’t last long today.
What changed this Saturday? I don’t know. The run is not until later. Maybe it was waking up at 3:30 with insomnia and getting to enjoy the Aussie Open final, in which Serena Williams lost in a thrilling three set match. Yes, I am a huge tennis fan! Why can’t there be tennis every Saturday morning at 4:00 am? Maybe I will turn on the Tennis Channel while solving!
Lots of great stuff in this puzzle:
- 16A [Top name on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Singers list] ARETHA – No doubt referring to the inimitable Aretha Franklin. I remember her stepping in for Pavarotti one year at the Grammys and performing Nessun Dorma flawlessly. It will give you goose bumps.
- 37A [Majestic work with a five-theme finale] JUPITER SYMPHONY – I figured out quickly it was JUPITER something, since 32D was DJED. I am not familiar with this particular symphony, but I am severely uncultured. I will find it on Spotify later!
- 46A [“Project Runway” rarity] MEN’S WEAR – If ever! I have seen this show several times, and I don’t believe I have EVER seen them make a mens outfit! OK, maybe once…
- 57A [Done with a commute] AT HOME – It was either this or AT WORK!
- 62A [Quest for a recreational navigator] GEOCACHE – I have never done this. Seems like it would be fun!
- 64A [Like “Rebecca” narrator] NAMELESS – Isn’t there a word missing in this clue? Like “the”?
- 24D [Astronaut capability since 1991] E-MAIL – Nice bit of trivia. Just finished watching The Martian yesterday!
- 34D [Goal for some pilots] SPACE SHOT – This was tough. I thought it might be SPACE SHIP or SPACE WALK.
- 35D [“Raiders of the Lost Ark” menace] ASP – This helped fix the incorrect POI at 35A!
- 36D [“Merry” waste of time] CHASE – My son’s name! He is definitely not a waste of time!
- 52D [Presley ex] CAGE – Makes sense now. I put LISA in at first, but we are dealing with last names here!
- 58D [It comes after 49] ERS – Great clue! You may see this logo once or twice next week during the Super Bowl, unless they cover it up. Super Bowl 50 takes place in the 49ers stadium, which is ironically nowhere near San Francisco!
Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, ” RisK Assessment” — pannonica’s write-up
In which the letter K is substituted for an R, to wacky effect. Typographically—especially since crosswords are properly filled with capital letters—this procedure can be crudely thought of as removing the top arc of the R’s bowl.
- 22a. [Popular treat at Simba’s Soda Shop?] LION’S SHAKE (… share). See also 1d [Ale ingredient] MALT.
- 24a. [Understudy in “The Taming of the Shrew”?] SECOND KATE (…-rate).
- 42a. [Sneakers worn by Bengals fans?] CINCINNATI KEDS (… Reds). Football becomes baseball. See also, 25d [Converse’s parent company] NIKE.
- 59a. [Just what the doctor ordered for dessert?] MEDICAL CAKE (… care). Nifty how the clue brackets ‘just dessert’ to subliminal effect.
- 67a. [Henry VIII, six times?] WEDDING KING (… ring).
- 87a. [Paper toys used as travel tickets?] KITES OF PASSAGE (rites …). Not many paper kites these days, except for traditional/decorative ones—but the clue is effective.
- 108a. [Meat substitute offered at a sandwich chain?] SUBWAY FAKE (… fare). Not all non-flesh proteins are masquerading as meat. I guess it depends on one’s contextual interpretation of ‘substitute’ here?
- 111a. [Bird bills covered with sticky goo?] GUMMY BEAKS (… bears).
Two notes on consistency: (1) Each theme answer has only one R, which becomes its single K – good. (2) The grid possesses a single non-theme K (square numbered 98) – disappointing.
- 71d [Sinker’s signal] SOS. Had BOB first, but that turned out to be the answer for 112d [Move up and down].
- Interesting non-cross-reference: 13d [Noted wabbit hunter] FUDD, 94a [Programming problems] BUGS. Is it the first-name/last-name mismatch? Seems that could have been tweaked easily enough.
- 72a [Being, to Brutus] ESSE, 104a [Gore’s time in the Senate?] IDES. 15d [Done in] SLAIN.
- Most meta clue: 118a [Lowly laborer in the crossword business] ESNE.
- 12d [Broccoli unit] FLORET, 73d [Asparagus unit] SPEAR.
- 79d [Deflation indicator] SSSS. Bleh. At least it wasn’t in the bottom row, or the right edge. There is, however SSTS in yon bottom right.
- 99d [Mom’s granddaughter] NIECE. Does the clue need a ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’?
- 84d [Canteen’s cousin] WINESKIN. I like the implied cousin/kin wordplay here.
Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Shady Business”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well as you enjoy the last couple of days of January! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, is very eco-friendly, as each of the theme entries are multiple-word answers in which the last word in each is also an essential element to most plants.
- NISSAN LEAF (18A: [Chevrolet Volt rival])
- WATCH STEM (23A: [Watch setter])
- EXECUTIVE BRANCH (40A: [All the president’s men and women])
- ARMY TRUNK (51A: [Footlocker])
- FAMILY TREE (60A: [Genealogical record])
I know I had either seen A PRIORI in a grid before or I had seen it somewhere and wondered if it had been used in a crossword before (31D: [Existing independent of experience]). Either way, seeing that was great and was part of the fun fill in the grid today, with most of the lively entries coming in the themes. I knew IONA is a college in New Rochelle, NY, but totally had forgotten about the isle – at least until today (15A: [Scottish isle where Macbeth is buried]). That, and the music-themed entries intersect in the grid, with REDUB (35A: [Tweak, as a soundtrack]) and SIDE B (43A: [Hit back?]). Oh, and there’s more music in the grid with TERRI, for those with a proclivity for country (44A: [Gibbs of country music]). Though I usually don’t try to break the bank on hotels on my travels (since I have to foot the bill because I’m working for myself), my time at the RITZY Aloft Hotel when I was in Charlotte last month was definitely something special (52D: [Like a five-star hotel]). So I’m debating whether to go the five-star route again when I travel for March Madness and the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, the first and second round games are taking place in eight different cities: Brooklyn, Providence, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Spokane, Raleigh and Des Moines. Since I’m leaning towards not covering the games in my home town (Brooklyn), which city should I travel to and take in what the city has to offer for a couple of days – as well as the games, of course? Any thoughts?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BRIT (42D: [Chelsea chap]) –It was – and still is – a very good thing to be a BRIT at the Australian Open, as the top male and female tennis player from the country both made the semifinals of the first Grand Slam of the year. Andy Murray will play in tonight’s men’s final against Novak Djokovic while Johanna Konta, who defeated Venus Williams in the first round, made it all the way to the semifinals before being eliminated by the eventual women’s champion, Angelique Kerber.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!