Hey! It’s not just Oscar weekend, it’s also Orcas weekend! Stay tuned for the inimitable Sam Donaldson’s series of posts on 2015’s coolest puzzles.
And check out Crossword Fiend’s collection of the year’s best puzzles, as chosen by you, the readers who rated them. Half of the honorees have links so you can solve the puzzle if you missed it the first time around—thanks to subscription-only venues AV Club, MGWCC, and Crossword Nation for including some of their treats for free.
Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Alrighty, who’s responsible for scheduling this Friday puzzle on Saturday, and yesterday’s tougher Gamache as a Friday? Because this fell too swiftly to be a Saturday puzzle for me.
The first answer I filled in was the dreaded OLEO, but things looked up from there. Lots of good fill: “THIS JUST IN …,” HAVE IT MADE, AT ALL TIMES, DREAM UP, PARISIENNE (though that’s a needlessly gendered term, and I’m glad the English language doesn’t assign a gender to every single noun), Samuel Pepys’s “AND SO TO BED,” AL PACINO, LEASH LAW, FOR KEEPS, and POWHATAN. Now, there are some little words that are repeated (three INs, two TOs, two ITs, two ATs), but I didn’t notice them while solving. I think I notice such things more when the overall fill is subpar and the whole puzzle is annoying me.
Is ROCK IDOL truly in the language? Sounds unfamiliar to me.
Five more things:
- 42d. [One spotted in tall grass], LEOPARD. Not necessarily seen/spotted, but definitely marked with spots.
- 37d. [Language in which “hello” is “buna ziua”], ROMANIAN. Did not know that, but the “buna” smacked of Romance languages.
- 57a. [It “hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,” per Shakespeare], APRIL. Shame this puzzle isn’t running in April.
- 8d. [Florida community with a portmanteau name], TAMIAMI. Not sure I really knew there was a town. I do know there’s a highway called the Tamiami Trail that runs from Tampa to Miami.
- 35d. [A host], SLEWS. *looking skeptical* Plural SLEWS? Yes, people use it, but “slews of” gets barely a twentieth of the Google hits “slew of” has. The singular clue isn’t helping me like this any better.
Four stars from me.
Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I found this one slightly more difficult than usual LAT Saturday offerings. I have been knocking these out in the 7-8 minute range for a while now; this one was just over 10 minutes. I was totally fooled by a couple of entries that I will mention below. The key to this one was figuring out the long entries, and then piecing everything else together. This is a stellar 66-worder with great fill. 4.6 stars for this one.
I will make sure I mention the ones that tripped me up! Here are some of my favorites:
- 1A [Spot for a ride?] CAR AD – I filled this in nearly last! Took me a while to figure out it was two words, and what kind of “spot” was being referred to!
- 20A [Masters home] AUGUSTA NATIONAL – I tried AUGUSTA, GEORGIA first, so I figured out easily which “Masters” we are talking about. (The golf major is what we are talking about!) And I was still fooled!
- 24A [Shimmering South American denizens] NEON TETRAS – I had TETRAS in there pretty early, but somehow blanked on what kind of tetra would “shimmer.” We will call it a “brain cramp.”
- 48A [Not as much] TO A LESSER EXTENT – Fooled again! I had TO A LESSER DEGREE at first. Great entry.
- 51A [Pad ___] THAI – I LOVE Thai food. Getting hungry again…
- 3D [When Star Wars began] REAGAN ERA – This one fooled me the worst! Now that I look at it, if we were talking the movie, Star Wars would have been in quotes! Favorite clue of the puzzle!
- 11D [2007 #1 hit for Alicia Keys] NO ONE – One of my favorite artists. Can’t believe it’s been 9 years since this came out!
- 22D [“Dandy for your teeth” toothpaste] IPANA – I am old. I actually remember using this as a kid. In writing for an earlier post , I found that this is no longer available in the U.S., but is still distributed in other countries.
- 33D [Sentence opener in many teens’ stories] I WAS LIKE – This is my favorite entry! You hear this ALL the time!
- 45D [1953 A.L. MVP] ROSEN – I am usually good with these sports clues, but I am not too familiar with this guy. He played for the Cleveland Indians for ten seasons, and interestingly, according to Wikipedia, became a stockbroker when he left baseball and had that career for 22 years!
Great puzzle by Julian. Until Tuesday’s LAT!
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
So I’m sailing towards what I think is a great Stumper time. Most of the puzzle is done in just about 12-13 minutes! Then I get to the lower right corner … and things grind to a halt. I had INSTAGRAM instead of INSTALLER at 53A; I had SCORE PADS correctly entered at 58A, but changed it to SCORE MATS because nothing was fitting; I tried ALERT instead of AMEND at 47D; you get the idea. The a-ha moment was with NICE GOING at 56A. And the toughest clue of the puzzle? 48D [They may come off the shelf] BERGS. That one got my brain tied up in knots! Great puzzle, Doug! A challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable stumper that was a great brain workout on a quiet Saturday morning! 4.7 stars today! Maybe a little easier than normal, or maybe I just had a good day with most of the puzzle. It’s hard to tell.
Some great parts of the puzzle:
- 17A [Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium locale] OHIO STATE – Got this from recent trailer for the movie Race. And I am Michigan fan …
- 23A [Attendee at the Medicare signing ceremony] BESS TRUMAN – With enough letters, this made the most sense. Great clue.
- 34A [Preceder of an annual All-Star Game] SLAM DUNK CONTEST – I though HOME RUN CONTEST, but not enough letters. And this was just a few days ago! At 35D, I had RIMS instead of NIPS, which was another great clue, so that slowed down getting this answer for a bit.
- 42A [Character on many ’70s lunch boxes] FONZ – I probably had one of these!
- 6D [Legume-shaped treat] NUTTER BUTTER – These are one of my favorite cookies ever. I smiled here …!
- 13D [Feature ascribed to George Washington] ROMAN NOSE – I have never heard of this term, but evidently it means a high-bridged nose. Gettable with the crossings.
- 36D [Number sung four times in a carol] NINE – Had to think about this, but this is referring to the Twelve Days of Christmas! Great clue again!
Awesome job! It should be a great weekend!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Pun Intended” — pannonica’s write-up
A collection of expressions beginning with No … reinterpreted to surprising and hopefully comedic effect.
- 23a. [Critique of a bad malt shop?] NO GREAT SHAKES.
- 38a. [Complaint about a boring celebrity roast?] NO KIDDING.
- 51a. [Description of a Motown show without Stevie?] NO WONDER.
- 68a. [What Jeb Bush would have liked in the 2016 presidential race?] NO TRUMP. The original sense relates to … a card game? I’m disinclined to suffer the unwanted peripheral results of a web search that isn’t narrow enough. Also, I can’t tell if the clue is timely enough to reflect that Bush dropped out; the conditional can be parsed in more than one manner.
- 87a. [Definition of a vacuum?] NO MATTER.
- 99a. [Reason a team might have lost the Super Bowl?] NO OFFENSE. Requires a change in pronunciation, but works visually.
- 121a. [Criticism of an incomplete commerce treaty?] NO TRADE CLAUSE.
- 7d. [Example of ingratitude?] NO THANK YOU.
- 16d. [Feature of a totally inept “Jeopardy!” game?] NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Ouch, burn!
- 37d. [Bad thing to have near San Andreas?] NO-FAULT INSURANCE.
- 77d. [Complaint from a news fan at a newsstand?] NO TIME LEFT.
Those two very long down entries explain why the four middle across themers are short and restricted to the interior – just imagine the difficulty in having so many theme answer crossings! Their shorter siblings plug the gap, somewhat.
The astute solver will recognize that the puzzle’s title is autological. That is, it’s a member of the set it describes, inandofitself. The ‘no’ puns are quite intentional. And perhaps by ‘astute solver’ I only seek to flatter myself.
The rest of the puzzle contains the usual mix of ups-and-downs, clue-wise. The mst skeletal of observations:
- 50a [Home for a hog] STY, 3d [Hazzard County boss] HOGG.
- 94d [One with stamina] ENDURER. Crossing the slightly more tolerable ETCHERS (123a).
- 85a [Much of eastern Eur., once] SSRS. Including the tricksy 108a [Georgia neighbor] ARMENIA (not ALABAMA).
- 128a [Store with a giraffe mascot] TOYS R US. Was just discussing the scientific binomial with Gareth. It’s Giraffa camelopardalis. The genus is a rather direct rendering of the Arabic word zirāfa, and the species is a Latinate combination of camel + leopard (probably referencing the coat pattern). Apparently the Afrikaans common name, kameelperd, transmutes the leopard-association to horse-association, confusing the issue in a new way. Perd is ‘horse’; I’m familiar with the German cognate, Pferd. The derivation here is also Latin.