Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I liked this puzzle. Felt like another Friday puzzle to me, though. I like to have to fight a little with a Saturday puzzle.
Highlights: RAGE-QUIT, GYM RAT, TUMBLR, STARGAZE, ROLEXES, EYE LEVEL, SMERSH, MARS BARS (luckily clued as [Chocolaty treats introduced in 1932] rather than as if these were still candy bars sold in the U.S.), BROMANCE, TAX EVASION (timely clue: [Panama Papers revelation]), LA BAMBA, “YOU HEARD ME,” and RAN RAMPANT. This 72-worder makes room for a Q, two Z’s, and an X without having woeful fill. I do generally like a good 72-worder better than a low-word-count puzzle.
- 9d. [Astronomers’ std.], GST. Anyone else try GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, instead of Greenwich Sidereal Time? That gave me MORELY instead of SORELY for 16a. [Very much] for a while. Derp.
- 47a. [Intl. org. that was the first to land a probe on a comet (2014)], ESA. That’s the European Space Agency, which most Americans don’t hear too much about. ESA was seen surprisingly often in the old Tribune Media Services crossword, though!
- 5d. [Learning center], QUAD. U of I has a big one.
- 65a. [Sitcom character whose dancing is described as “a full-body dry heave”], ELAINE. That’s the Seinfeld scene that introduced “Sweet fancy Moses” into the lexicon.
- 8d. [Highlanders, e.g.], TOYOTAS. An SUV model. You were thinking of Scottish people, too, weren’t you?
The short fill tends to be a bit blah, but when the puzzle’s easier than usual, you spend less time eyeballing those crossings. 4 stars from me.
Doug Peterson & Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Yes, that time says just over SIX minutes! Not too shabby, if I may say so myself! A great challenger puzzle nonetheless, even with a quick time. Lots of twists in the clues that stumped me pretty good, but not for long! Second puzzle by this pair in the last few Saturdays; I believe they had the Saturday LAT during the ACPT just a few weeks ago. Whatever this pair is doing, they can continue doing it, because they are producing stellar crosswords! 4.4 stars from me this week!
Some of my favorites (and not so favorites!):
- 1A [Loves to solve, say?] ANAGRAM – These clues always trip me up, and putting it at 1A is just mean! LOVES is an anagram of SOLVE, in case you don’t get the pun!
- 18A [2015 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee] O’MEARA – Mark O’Meara is a former Masters champ, but that was way back in 1998, his best year of his career. Is he another crossword famous individual?
- 20A [1954 film based on the short story “It Had to Be Murder”] REAR WINDOW – Great piece of trivia. I haven’t seen this movie in years. It looks like the Christopher Reeve version is on Netflix!
- 35A [Side with waves] CRINKLE-CUT FRIES – Great long entry. And it’s making me want some fries…
- 38A [Rapper Nate] DOGG – No relation to Snoop Dogg! Most familiar, at least to me, from this song by Warren G:
- 55A [They often drive people home] RBI MEN – Best clue in the puzzle! Not a commonly used phrase, but still a great misdirection.
- 11D [Statement before taxes are dealt with?] READ MY LIPS – Referring of course to the famous line by Bush Sr, who then promptly introduced new taxes!
- 15D [Bug on the road] CLASSIC BEETLE – As in a VW Beetle. Again, I was totally fooled until I had several crossing letters!
- 26D [Appliance brand owned by Electrolux] FRIGIDAIRE – I believe my late grandmother used to actually call her refrigerator a “Frigidaire,” but she also used to call it an “icebox!”
- 34D [Like jousters] ARMOR-CLAD – Or [Like Game of Thrones characters]! New season starts tomorrow!
- 43D [“You’re lying’!”] AIN’T SO – Bad grammar, guys! ;-)
This was a fun puzzle! See you for Tuesday’s LAT!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I hate it when I’m right!
I figured this week’s Stumper would be a doozy, and I was totally correct. Tough to get a toehold in this one, and the upper right corner was the toughest nut to crack. And after it was all filled in, I still had a few errors, which you can see in the image of the grid. I count 70 words, a lively fill, and lots of great clues. How about 4.5 stars today. Let’s put it this way: I had to look a couple of words up afterwards in the dictionary! I’ll mention those below:
- 17A [Emancipation Proclamation catalyst] ANTIETAM – Ah, the decisive battle. I had CIVIL WAR in here at first; NCIS at 4D seemed to come quickly, and even though it proved correct, it didn’t seem to help much!
- 57A [Halves] MOIETIES – This is one of the dictionary words! It does indeed mean “halves,” but it’s not a word I am familiar with. Crosswords are educational!
- 62A [Not so easy] STRONGER – This one seems iffy to me. Again, going to the dictionary, one def of STRONG is “extreme” or even “firm,” Nothing really that would denote “harder,” which is the opposite of easy. I suppose it works, but it seems flimsy to me.
- 7D [Descent of about 5% of Americans] ITALIAN – That’s all? Only 5%? That seems low, but after a little Wikipedia research, that is correct. German, Black, Irish, English, American and Mexican are all larger ethnic groups in the US.
- 8D [Pizza-box symbol] DOMINO – A great clue, although not my favorite. This is a little difficult in my case because there are no Domino’s in my town! We have to drive 30 minutes or so to get their pizza!
- 12D [DVD bonus feature, perhaps] ALTERNATE ENDING – This one also came quickly. DELETED SCENES isn’t long enough!
- 34D [Main part of a tree] BOLE – Another dictionary search required for this one. It is indeed another word for trunk!
- 36D [Brief enumeration] LISTICLE – This is my favorite entry. This word is fairly new coinage because it is NOT in the dictionary, but lots of Facebook clickbait and BuzzFeed articles are this type. Very well done!
- 39D [Jump-on-tail skateboarding trick] POGO – I don’t skateboard, so I didn’t know this. It crossed 48A [Rough stuff] which I had as CRASS instead of GRASS.
- 40D [Old Navy favorite, fittingly] PEACOAT – Best clue of the puzzle! Yes, you were thinking of the clothing store, weren’t you? ;-)
Another awesome puzzle, Brad! Everybody have a great weekend!
Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turning States Evidence” — Jim’s review
We get a super-sized serving of anagrams today aimed straight at our funny bones. Certain words in each phrase have been altered in wacky fashion. Do they hit the mark?
- 17a [Headline about a musician volunteering at a magic show?] TRUMPETER SAWN. Trumpeter swan. Meh.
- 31a [Trainer’s order to a dog who wasn’t intimidating enough?] GO BACK AND FROTH. Go back and forth. Hmm. “FROTH” is not a dog’s command that I know.
- 47a [Slogan for some flashers at Mardi Gras?] RAISE THE BRA. Raise the bar. Hmm. So many options for anagrams and we have to go here?
- 69a [86-pounder who’s been eighty-sixed?] FIRED SHRIMP. Fried shrimp. Really? Calling people SHRIMPs? We can do better.
- 84a [Demand from one being abducted?] DROP ME A LIEN. Drop me a line. I still don’t get this one. What does being abducted have to do with a lien?
- 99a [With an Alaskan accent?] IN PALIN ENGLISH. In plain English. Clue should somehow also mention folksy gibberish. I would’ve rather the clue had gone for a Michael PALIN / cockney falsetto slant.
- 113a [Like a saint in a sprint?] RUNNING SACRED. Running scared. This one kinda works.
- 16d [Cause of the buzz surrounding northern Illinois?] THE ROCKFORD FLIES. The Rockford Files. This one did get a chuckle from me, but really? The Rockford Files? From how many years ago? I remember my parents watching this when I was a kid, but I doubt anyone below 40 will know it.
- 38d [Young milquetoast’s cream and butter?] DAIRY OF A WIMPY KID. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That’s a bit better (i.e. more current), but it just didn’t strike me as all that funny.
Okay. So what’s really going on here? Why these anagrams in just this way?
I hit upon TRUMPETER SAWN first and saw the change-up, but I couldn’t make it jibe with the puzzle’s title. I think I may have gotten GO BACK AND FROTH next and RAISE THE BRA. I still didn’t see it, I thought.
Then it hit me. All the changes are state abbreviations that have been “turned”. In the first example, WA (Washington) became AW. Then OR (Oregon) become RO, and AR (Arkansas) became RA.
This is a clever idea and makes perfect sense with the title. This is a great argument for puzzles having titles. The right title gives you just the right nudge to help you see the theme.
But while I love the idea, the execution in this puzzle is lackluster. The themers just aren’t all that funny, and worse, two are potentially offensive.
The first problem with the theme is that it’s so wide open. There is a near-endless supply of phrases one can make doing this. I did a quick search on ART which can humorously become RAT. I got RAT FILM, RAT HOUSE, RAT LOVER, RAT MUSEUM, RAT SHOW, RAT STUDIO, STATE OF THE RAT, etc., etc. BAR got even more results: CASH BRA, GAY BRA, KITKAT BRA, MARS BRA, OPEN BRA, OXYGEN BRA, PASS THE BRA, POWER BRA, SNACK BRA, BRA ROOM BRAWL. Also, BRAN DANCE and BRAT SIMPSON.
(My favorite was BELLY UP TO THE BRA [Condition of having put one’s undergarments on incorrectly?].)
So unless I’m missing something in the theme (which wouldn’t be the first time), it’s much too loose.
Secondly, and related to the first, not all states are turned in each phrase. FRIED SHRIMP has Rhode Island in there twice, yet only the first one is turned. Why? Dunno. DROP ME A LINE has Maine, Alabama, Indiana, and Nebraska, yet only Nebraska gets the treatment. For completeness, here are the original phrases and all the states I found inside them. The bold ones are the ones “turned” in the puzzle.
- TRUMPETER SWAN. Washington.
- GO BACK AND FORTH. North Dakota, Oregon.
- RAISE THE BAR. Arkansas.
- FRIED SHRIMP. Rhode Island, twice.
- DROP ME A LINE. Maine, Alabama, Indiana, Nebraska.
- IN PLAIN ENGLISH. Indiana, Louisiana, Indiana again, Nebraska. Also, it’s problematic that Louisiana turns into Alabama.
- RUNNING SCARED. Indiana, South Carolina, California, Arkansas.
- THE ROCKFORD FILES. Oregon, Illinois.
- DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. Iowa, Wisconsin, Idaho.
One way to tighten up the theme would be to limit it to phrases that contain only one state. TRUMPETER SAWN and RAISE THE BRA meet that test, but not the others. (BELLY UP TO THE BRA also passes the test and it’s much funnier to me.)
Or better yet, challenge yourself to find phrases with more than one state that are all turnable. My quick search focusing on Arkansas (my wife’s home state, by the way) came up with these examples: EAR TO EAR > ERA TO ERA, CLAM BAR > CALM BRA, and BARNSTORM > BRAN STROM [Nickname for Sen. Thurmond on a high-fiber diet?]. I’m sure there are much better choices, but this shows it’s possible.
One more note about the theme entries. I’m impressed that there are nine of them, and that the two vertical ones cross two other themers. But like I said, with a seemingly-endless supply of theme entries, finding the right ones to cross is just a matter of persistence and finesse.
How about the rest of the grid? Despite all the theme material, we still get a healthy amount of long non-theme stuff, including the vowel-laden but nice AEGEAN SEA, PROM DATES (my daughter’s prom is tonight!), IN A GROOVE, DEEP HOLE, and TAKES ACID. Also, TWENTIETH, CHESS SETS, and KATE SPADE (a name I didn’t know clued as [She’s big in bags]). I also like I GATHER, HASHTAG, PICK ‘EM, and fully-named KIKI DEE.
RASH ACT at 1a doesn’t seem like an in-the-language phrase. Likewise, AUTO SHOP below it. I’ve heard of REPAIR SHOP, and on military bases we have AUTO HOBBY SHOPS, but not AUTO SHOP. Or is AUTO SHOP referring to a high school class perhaps?
Didn’t know the phrase PAT HAND (or had forgotten it more likely) (85d, [Situation that doesn’t call for drawing]) and was pleasantly surprised to see LMAO (74d [“U so funny”]).
On the whole, a solidly-filled puzzle, though the extreme NW doesn’t quite work for me. And while I really like the theme idea, it needed to be tightened up a whole lot more. And with all the theme entry possibilities at hand, funnier / less offensive ones should have been chosen.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Come In!” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Hope you all are going to enjoy your last full weekend of April! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is a very welcoming puzzle indeed, as each of the three long theme entries are multiple-word answers in which the ENTER appears in the middle, spanning the two words (29D: [Come in, and a hint to what 17-, 39-, and 62-Across have in common]).
- ABERDEEN TERRIER (17A: [Scottie, of a sort])
- CHICKEN TERIYAKI (39A: [Japanese dish in a savory sauce])
- INSTRUMENT ERROR (62A: [It can make a speedometer inaccurate])
For a second, I though the placement of each “ENTER” was aligned perfectly with the other two, which would definitely have been an engineering feat. Not quite, but close. Probably shouldn’t say this, but, though an invitation, I was able to sneak in to one of those airport LOUNGES for the first class/airline member passengers (53A: [Airport VIP sections]). I’m not too comfortable living in the lap of luxury – or close to it – and would much rather prefer the hustle and bustle of the terminal and squeezing a seat amidst a crowded gate. I’ll be leaving for Canada later today to cover a game tomorrow (Toronto Blue Jays), so it was fitting that I did a puzzle created by a Canadian. Even better, the game I’ll be covering is in a domed stadium, so there will be no chance for a RAIN DELAY (11D: [Ball game interruption]). Wouldn’t it be a shame to travel 11 hours up north and then have that happen?! Alright, time to pack. But before leaving…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DVORAK (18D: [“New World Symphony” composer]) – The 10th overall pick of the 1995 National Hockey League Draft by the Florida Panthers, right winger Radek DVORAK had a memorable first season in the NHL, as he played 77 regular-season games and 16 more postseason games as the Panthers made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Final. His best season in the NHL came as a member of the New York Rangers in the 2000-01 season, when he scored a career-high 31 goals for the Blueshirts.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!