Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This showy little grid’s got top and bottom pairs of 15s, along with a stair-stepped stack of five 12- or 13-letter answers in the middle and another 15 running down the middle through them all.
Highlights include HEAVY CASUALTIES, TAKE FOR A FOOL, BARITONE SAXES, MOUNTAIN BIKER, THREE STOOGES (!), MADE CONCESSIONS, PAUL KLEE, and the Down answer LOSS OF INNOCENCE. I also like that 1-Across RASHAD is clued as TV and (Tony-winning) stage actress Phylicia rather than her sportscaster ex Ahmad. (Good gravy! Wikipedia just revealed that her previous ex was the founder of the Village People. Apparently a straight man with a knack for writing and singing disco hits. Who knew?)
Never heard of 16d. [Grammy-nominated blues guitarist in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame], TAB BENOIT. Here’s a video of him playing and singing.
Were there heavy casualties in this grid? Do you think Martin made concessions in the fill to accommodate the long stacks? I might group CTN, AZERA, MAA, TERNE (this [Alloy of tin and lead] rarely appears in crosswords despite its friendly letters; might it be deemed obscure?), OREL, DSC, A LUI, ONE BOTTLE, plural abbrev SCIS, and POLER in my “prefer not to see” category.
KLEE is clued by way of his Fish Magic painting. Let’s close things out here with the gorgeous purples of his Mountain Landscape.
3.75 stars from me.
Jeffrey Harris’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Language Barriers” — pannonica’s write-up
Took a while to realize what the theme was after completing the grid. Nothing about those three long acrosses jumped out. Then, working from the ‘barriers’ of the title, examining the interfacial sections yielded nothing coherent. Finally, I looked at the ends—the outsides—of each, and there it was. Kind of like 15a [Falafel wrapper] PITA?
- 16a. [Record-breaking sequoia named after a Civil War figure] GENERAL SHERMAN. It isn’t the tallest, nor the widest, nor the oldest, but it is the most massive living tree. Wikipedia has the details. And, encasing the vascular cambium of ENERALSH like so much bark, is GERMAN. (Alternatively, it could be NERALSHE.
- 38a. [Baseball Hall of Famer with an eponymous street adjoining Minnesota’s Mall of America] HARMON KILLEBREW (Hebrew).
- 59a. [Tom Cruise film set in 19th-century Japan] THE LAST SAMURAI (Thai).
Then I noticed that the two next-longest across answers were also theme entries:
- 22a. [Simoleon] GREENBACK (Greek).
- 48a. [Economic impossibility, per an old saw] FREE LUNCH (French).
I prefer the ones that are split more evenly, but they’re all good.
Those 6-square L brackets in the northeast and southwest corners are distracting, but 14-letter entries’ll do that to a grid.
- 39d [Rocky Mountain grazer] MULE DEER. That’s Odocoileus hemionus, which shares its specific epithet with Equus hemionus, the crossword-friendly ONAGER (notorious to perform an internet search for, depending on how one goes about it). I like to think of O. hemionus as a half-assed deer.
- 22d [Lizard with adhesive toe pads] GECKO. Exploiting Van der Waals forces.
- Potential misfills: 4a [Wash out] FA––, FADE. 65a [It may be kinky] –––M, PERM.
- Favorite clues: 17d [Tighten, possibly] EDIT, 24d [People person] CELEB, 27d [Gp. that performs in theaters?] USO.
- 42a [Second woman to receive the Mark Twain Prize] TOMLIN. She was preceded by Whoopi Goldberg two years earlier. Tricky to render that information without one redundancy or another, or radical EDITing. And I’m not doing that.
Fairly clean fill, but the central block feels a bit tenuous, connecting to other parts of the grid mostly via single squares. Good theme, fine crossword.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
At it’s heart this puzzle is just a “___ TABLE” theme. It is rendered visually with each answer appearing as a table shape: BACCARAT, DRESSING, PARLOR, DINNER, DRAFTING and BILLIARD.
Interesting theme, but clearly too dense and placing too much strain on the surrounding answers. Less theme answers would have made for a markedly better puzzle. HESAMAN is an album track on a double platinum album; it is nowhere near crossworthy. OLDGAGS is completely contrived and not crossworthy. PCCARDS are an obsolescent and never very common computer accessory, and barely crossworthy. DETRE is a terrible partial. There are not that many weak answers, but those that are are egregiously so.
- [Employ with a skimmer], POOLBOY. I thought of credit card fraud. Is skimmer American English for a pool net? It doesn’t help that FRAUD is directly below.
- [Fixed expense], PERDIEM. Good end-of-the-week vocabulary!
- [Wide swimmer], MANTA. A surprisingly opaque clue at first.
- [Tylenol 3 component], CODEINE. Surprisingly, CODEINE is OTC here.
2 Stars. Should have been redesigned, I’d say…
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Take a Detour”—Ade’s write-up
Good evening, everybody! Happy Friday! Just posting the puzzle today, as my responsibilities with my other job have eaten me alive right now. In today’s grid, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, each of the theme entries are different takes on phrases, as the letters “DE” are added to them by virtue of the clues, creating the puns.
- TRASH BIDEN (18A: [Write an op-ed critical of Obama’s second-in-command?]) – Trash bin.
- STRAY CADETS (26A: [Students who’ve wandered away from West Point?]) – Stray cats.
- PRICE WADERS (48A: [Research the cost of fishing boots?]) – Price wars.
- MAIDEN LINE (60A: [“I was a damsel in distress until you rescued me,” e.g.?]) – Main Line.
Favorite non-themed entry of the day? The full name of MORT SAHL, and the trivia true accompanying it/him (55A: [Comedian appearing on the cover of Time of August 15, 1960]). Oh, and here’s that cover. Thank you, Time…and the Internet. (Again, have to cut the blog short, and my apologies to you.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SUNS (13D: [Phoenix cagers]) –Know that the Phoenix SUNS were, at one point, one of the best teams in the NBA, especially when they had great point guards like Kevin Johnson (now the mayor of Sacramento) and Steve Nash. Now, they’re 17-48 in the 2015-16 season. How sad.
Thank you for your time, patience and understanding. See you (I think) tomorrow!
NYT: This was a fun solve! There were a couple,of intersections between short letters that lost me for a while. But I love how the long answers unfolded and opened up entire territories!
And a lot of it spoke to me. My husband and I were just in Napa, and drove down to SF a couple of times… Crossing the Bay Bridge was murder and we were envious of people in the EZ PASS TOLL LANES….
I liked the juxtaposition of FEMININE WILES and TAKE FOR A FOOL… Loved the clue for LACERATE. And music, music everywhere..
This may be my favorite MAS. Puzzle… Very beautiful and yet conquerable.
Thanks for the review Amy. If you want to solve an earlier (and completely different) MAS crossword with a similar open-middle, go here:
I really enjoyed this one. It was tougher for me than usual but in a good way. I’m curious as to how TAB BENOIT made the grid. He was the first name that came to mind when I read the clue but I didn’t think he’d be in a NYT puzzle. Then I saw BSIDES and ABO and dropped him in.
I have seen Tab Benoit in concert several times. Great Show! Saw him play a bar in North Carolina with less than 250 people. Just a really good time. Never expected to see him in the NYT. Had ABO and took a flyer on Tab.
Overall a great puzzle. For Friday, fell very smoothly for me and yet had the right amount of interesting and new answers.
Stunning NYT — What took me longest was a HAVE as opposed to a “have-not”!
My last word was ARE in the SW corner. Top was easy, bottom was moderate, and middle was very tough for me. Only gripe for me was ONE BOTTLE.
Superb construction and puzzle.
Would someone mind explaining the CHE theme to me?
Different languages can be formed from the beginning and end of the themers.
Jeff’s LAT was excellent. A marvelously inventive theme really set the TABLE for this one. The only thing I didn’t like was Billiard Table rather than Billiards Table. Maybe it’s regional, but the latter sounds much more like a phrase to me. Maybe we should TABLE the motion (which in Britain, means to call the question, rather than to postpone it, as it does in the U.S.)
BILLIARD PARLOR was in the Monday BEQ and I questioned (silently) whether it should have that S. The Mac’s built-in dictionary (from the New Oxford American Dictionary folks) presented the singular noun “billiards” but just “billiard” when used as a modifier: “a billiard ball,” “billiard room.” Me, I call it a pool table.
It’s interesting about those words that take a plural in one place and a singular elsewhere. Offhand, I can think of a few besides billiard/billiards:
Would anyone like to expand the list?
But a billiards table is different from a pool table. Billiards is played on a table with no pockets, whereas pool (or pocket billiards) is played on a table with 6 pockets.
Paul, during my undergraduate years in the music conservatory, I was a regular NYC poolroom denizen. What sounds right to me is that you shoot billiards in a billiard room. But I agree that one would say “billiards table,” to distinguish it from a pool table. I played pool several times with the father of a famous man right here in our midst. That man is Tony Orbach, and I shot with his father Jerry.
Another vote for billiards in the billiard hall, on a billiard table.
It sure would help if Gareth wasn’t always “tk” and today posted the wrong grid.
What a terrible LAT! As a constructor who gets a lot of rejections and/or requests for fix-ups based on some fill choice(s) or not-in-the-language phrases (a la ODD GAGS), seeing a published xword like this really ticks me off! Thanks, Gareth, for your insight.