Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t think I knew that ZELDA FITZGERALD was also a novelist, but she makes a terrific marquee answer in a crossword. She’s joined in Byron’s grid by writer JEAN AUEL, golfer MICHELLE WIE, and a less specific JANIE and TAMARA to bring the puzzle’s Woman Count to 5. The Man Count here is 4, and the NUDISTS are unisex.
Speaking of sex, what’s up with HARDEN/ ENGIRT/ WIENIE corner? We see what you did there.
Clues of note:
- 15a. [Couples’ soft spot?], LOVESEAT. This has nothing to do with golfer Fred Couples.
- 10d. [Christmas or Easter, for example], ISLAND. You’re on your own for St. Patrick’s Day Island.
- 12d. [Good name for a girl who procrastinates?], TAMARA. Sounds like “tomorrah.” The girl next door when I was a kid, I think, put the stress on the first syllable, so this answer tried to elude me.
- 13d. [Like heists and operas], STAGED.
- 38d. [Fans of pharaohs?], FRONDS. The leaves for natural fans. Cursory Googling suggests that the ancient Egyptian fan-bearers may have used feather fans more than palm fronds. Not my area of expertise.
Smooth fill for a 62-worder. DIETH is on the blah side, but offset by the three full names mentioned in the first paragraph along with your ONE-L LAMA, ST. JUDE, SCALAWAG, TREE-HUGGING, SCHMALTZ, and the colloquial LOSING THE PLOT (probably my favorite entry here).
It’s good that there are two long answers giving the solver access to each quadrant of the grid, lest it feel like four distinct puzzles cut off from one another. 4.5 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I am a little slow this week. I have not seen many puzzles from Gail Grabowski recently, so maybe that is why. It has also been a long week. That’s my story, I am sticking to it!
I count 72 words, so a decent word count that allows for great fill by a good constructor, and that is what we have here. Only OMOO, OAS, and maybe EMI are the most obscure, and these all are, or should be, familiar to most solvers. And PETR Korda might be an obscure tennis player, but I am a tennis fan and I know him well. He did win a Grand Slam, but it was nearly 20 years ago. I give this puzzle a solid 4.2 stars. I liked the slightly stiffer challenge.
- 15A [Meteorological record] ALL-TIME LOW – I thought this was talking about the actual logs or something of that nature. Great entry, probably my favorite of the grid.
- 25A [Chicago mayor after Richard] RAHM – I was thinking this was some time ago; Chicago had two Richard Daleys serve as mayor, a father and son. This is referring to current mayor Rahm Emanuel.
- 28A [Minnesota’s St. ___ College] OLAF – No Disney reference!! Yay!!
- 31A [“The Munsters” actress Yvonne] DECARLO – I knew this, but my time was partly slowed by this area, and how this name wouldn’t come to the surface quickly enough!
- 63A [City on the Wabash] TERRE HAUTE – Although I live in Indiana, I have never been here!
- 1D [Saharan region] SAHEL – OK, I forgot about this one. This is tough, but a solver should know/learn this.
- 3D [Newsworthy inductee of March 24, 1958] ELVIS – This is talking about his induction into the Army! (Before my time!!)
- 12D [Joan Rivers’ asset] RAPIER WIT – I was thinking razor wit, or something similar. I enjoyed her humor; she will be missed.
- 13D [It’s beside the point] ONES PLACE – This is my favorite clue of the puzzle. Great job.
- 32D [Capital east of Khartoum] ASMARA – The capital of Eritrea should be known. A little tough, but this is supposed to be a tough puzzle!
- 35D [Church music source] ORGAN LOFT – In referencing the area, and not the instrument, this got harder. Also nicely done.
- 57D [“The Giver” author Lowry] LOIS – I don’t know this writer, but I am uncultured. I will look this book up on Amazon.
- 59D [Subject of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish”] ORCA – I HAVE seen this documentary! It is on Netflix!
Another great LAT puzzle. Until Tuesday!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I should have known by the easy puzzle that appeared last week. This week’s was a killer. Almost literally. Found it nearly impossible to get a foothold in this puzzle. The accompanying image shows the plethora of errors I had in this puzzle. Once a foothold WAS attained, after nearly 30 minutes, then several areas fell comparably quickly. Upper left and lower right were the last to go. As is usually the case with Frank Longo Stumpers, there is almost nothing in this puzzle, and other than an entry here or there, I would describe most of them as rather common. But the clues! Some of them almost seem to border on relevance, but they are all quite good and extremely challenging. This is almost in the TOO hard category, but I know there are a lot of you out there that love to agonize over puzzles of this level of difficulty. It certainly does something to flex your brain muscles, that is for sure! I will rate this Stumper a solid 4.5 stars. But it was a tad TOO hard, in my opinion.
Or maybe I should have gone for a run first?!
Some high points (although I cannot list them all, since there were many):
- 1A [Head to Starbucks] CREMA – This was literally the last entry I filled in. You can see in the image the cursor is still there! A diabolical clue!
- 14A [Line for a would-be passenger] HOP IN – I like this one too. I thought it was talking about an actual line, like waiting to get on a bus or something.
- 30A [Its meetings might include wine tastings] FRENCH CLUB – This is a stretch, especially if your French Club is in high school!
- 34A [Be in a 30 Across] ETRE – As in the verb “be!” Also diabolical!
- 48A [Fresh formats] RECASTS – Also filled in near the end. Don’t usually think of this word in this sense.
- 52A [Word from the Latin for “come toward”] AVENUE – A great clue with a great piece of trivia.
- 57A [One of Japan’s Natural Monuments] AKITA – Is the dog a monument?
- 6D [Soup chef’s herb-bundle holder] CHEESECLOTH – I asked my wife for help on this one! I knew this, but that lack of a run this morning was stunting my brain power!
- 9D [Suffix meaning “in soon”] ELECT – As in “President-elect Trump!”
- 11D [Diamond bullet] FAST PITCH – Once several letters were in, this made perfect sense!
- 13D [Pertaining to ports] WINY – Is this a real word? I have never described anything as WINY or WINEY. But then again, I am uncultured.
- 28D [“Libre,” across the Rhine] FREI – So we are looking for a German equivalent to “free.” Too bad the Freys in Game of Thrones don’t spell their name like this, or there would be another great clue for this word!
- 32D [Its worldwide annual sales first topped $1 trillion in 2012] E-COMMERCE – I won’t lie: I thought this was MCDONALDS! Even they aren’t that rich, are they??
- 33D [How the Almighty reaches Bruce in “Bruce Almighty”] BEEPER – This movie is a little older; perhaps he would instant message him if it was made today!
- 40D [Super memorizers] SPONGES – I tried SAVANTS unsuccessfully.
- 47D [Its logo includes Red Ruff and Blue Mews] PETCO – I have delivered to a Petco, so even though I have no pets, I get this clue.
- 50D [Check for services, maybe] TITHE – Another great clue. This was why the lower corner took so long!
Another great puzzle from Frank. When I see his byline again, I am going for a run immediately!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Capital Punishment”—Amy’s write-up
Confession: I didn’t solve the puzzle, just had the software auto-fill the solution so I could post the grid. The theme involves “punishing” world capitals by anagramming them and including those anagrams in made-up phrases that include a word you might see in a cryptic crossword’s clue to suggest that anagramming is required.
- 23a. [Caused a merlot spill in New Delhi?], HELD WINE CLUMSILY. In a cryptic, “held wine clumsily” would be part of a clue that also hinted at India’s capital, and NEWDELHI would be the answer.
- 34a. [Reason for a furrier’s sale in Minsk?], DAMAGED MINKS. Poor minks. Minsk, Belarus.
- 57a. [Malfunctioning Nassau gym facilities?], BROKEN SAUNAS. Nassau, Bahamas.
- 83a. [Stranger in Rome?], MORE PECULIAR. Italy, of course.
- 101a. [Making a Lima catalog purchase?], MAIL ORDERING. Peru.
- 119a. [Commotion in a La Paz square?], PLAZA DISTURBANCE. Bolivia.
- 16d. [Gives a gentler massage to, in Brussels?], RUBS LESS ROUGHLY. Belgium.
- 43d. [Musical adaptation for an Oslo diva?], SOLO ARRANGEMENT. Norway.
The theme answers are a weird bunch, no? The surface sense is mostly off-kilter (HELD WINE CLUMSILY, BROKEN SAUNAS?), not then MAIL ORDERING and SOLO ARRANGEMENT sound plausible.
Oddball farm compound words: 20d. [Wee she on a lea], EWELAMB (is there a RAMLAM too?), and 124a. [Frame on a farm wagon], HAYRIG. Or maybe these are 2-word phrases. Never seen either one before.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Tops”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, crossword fans! A little late to the party, but today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, have theme entries which are compound words, with each of the words being able to also come before the word “top.”
- BOTTLE DROP (17A: [Redemption center?])
- DESK PILLOW (31A: [Alternate function for a cushy computer keyboard?])
- CONVERTIBLE TANK(36A: [Breezy battle station?])
- CHIMNEY TIP (44A: [Bit of maintenance advice from a sweep?])
- CARROT CROP (61A: [Commodity of interest to Bugs Bunny?]) – Keeping Carrot Top relevant?! I salute you, Tony!
Boy, this took me much, MUCH longer to really get my first foothold in the grid than I probably should. Was definitely distracted by being around 10,000 screaming fans, but still no excuse. Wasn’t thinking of an actual publication to boot when seeing the clue to ELLE (1A: [Beauty advice source]). Oh, also put in “donna” instead of FACIE, and leaving that error there for a while didn’t do me favors also (42A: [Prima _____]). Other than that, no real hangups once I started getting a move on. Speaking of getting a move on, I have to leave the building now that the games are over. By the way, here was my view of the game…and the vantage point I had when solving the puzzle.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KENT (25D: [“Disgusting!”]) –There are many who think that former Major League second baseman Jeff KENT should be in the Hall of Fame, especially since he holds the record for most home runs by a second baseman (377 career dingers). Along with being a below-average defender, Kent’s candidacy is hurt by the fact that he put up his numbers in the Steroid Era, as well as him being so frosty with the media. I would be too if I played off a hand injury suffered while crashing a motorcycle, when forbidden to ride a motorcycle by his contract, by saying he hurt it washing his truck. True story.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!