Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I’m almost surprised this isn’t a Friday puzzle, because while there’s some tougher vocab in the grid, my solving time was pretty quick considering how many letters I typed in the wrong order. Not my favorite Berry puzzle, though. Definitely some lovely fill in the mix, but offset by perhaps a little more than his usual amount of dull bits (your HIE and ESTER, for example, and a general sense of underwhelm).
- 5a. [Plant used in tanneries], SUMAC. Ick, tanneries? I mean, it’s also a plant with edible berries; dried, the berries are used in cooking (I bet Huda’s got some yummy recipes).
- 23a. [Cough drop brand], LUDEN’S. Wild cherry, yum! Earlier this year, I found a local place (Merz Apothecary) that carries the chewy Pine Brothers throat drops I loved as a kid even more than Luden’s and Smith Bros. drops.
- 28a. [Sixth graders, typically], TWEENAGERS. I don’t know anyone who uses this word. “Tweens,” sure.
- 40a. [1979 film that ends with Peter Sellers walking on water], BEING THERE. I like to watch—but have never seen the movie. Love the entry.
- 46a. [Address loudly and at length], YAP AT. No. No, no, no. It’s not a good verb/preposition phrase at all, and it has “at” in the clue! Who’s responsible for this?
- 53a. [Actress sister of Francis Ford Coppola], TALIA SHIRE. She’s also the aunt of director Sofia Coppola and the mom of actor Jason Schwartzman, to skew more current. (FFC hasn’t done much of note in film in the past 20 years. I know he has awards, blah blah, blah, but…)
- 4d. [With 41-Down, women’s fashion brand], EILEEN / FISHER. Accidentally filled in FISHER at 40d. There was a good New Yorker profile of Fisher a few years ago that’s worth a read.
- 33d. [Hillary’s mate], NORGAY. Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, mountaineering mates.
- 29d. [Casting lady], WITCH. As in casting spells. “Lady,” hah. I really wanted the answer to be something like ANGLER.
- 11d. [Horror film remake released on 6/6/06], THE OMEN. Clearly they aimed at that release date from the start. Most movies don’t come out on a Tuesday in June.
3.6 stars from me. NAIL SALONS, EVEN STEVEN, CECILIA, and some other fill pleased me, but overall the puzzle was less engaging than most of Patrick’s creations.
Gareth Bain & Brad Wilber’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
One of our bloggers, Gareth Bain, has a half-byline credit in today’s LAT stumper! And Brad, a prolific Newsday Stumper constructor, has lent his talents as well to this 70-worder. Lots of great puns in this one. Not too difficult; I was mostly done with the puzzle in about 5-6 minutes, but I had FURTHER instead of FARTHER at 45D. If you look closely at the grid image, you can see my one error square! A couple of entries I was a tad unfamiliar with, but all were still easily inferable. A solid themeless construction – 4.3 stars from me.
Some of the better clues/entries (in my opinion!):
- 1A [Parents concerned with play dates?] STAGE MOMS – At 1-Across, probably the best clue of the bunch!
- 31A [Temp in many pictures] MALL SANTA – Also a good clue. This one was very tricky, even after having several crossing letters.
- 37A [Defender of Thermopylae] SPARTAN – Made famous by the movie 300 recently. I remember this from middle school! Speaking of Spartans, college football is almost back, including another fine team from the Michigan State Spartans squad! (No, I am not a fan of MSU. Just referring to the Spartan mascot. Go Blue!!)
- 46A [Pigs and cows, e.g.] UNGULATES – This word means having hooves. Yes, I had to look it up to remember!
- 61A [Way to get to Bora Bora] AIR TAHITI – This is one of the new ones on me. never heard of this airline, but I also have never been any closer than Hawaii. And that was almost 25 years ago!
- 12D [Political nickname] GOVERNATOR – Haven’t heard this Arnold moniker in a while!
- 13D [Sleepy backseat query] ARE WE THERE? – Usually this is “Are we there yet?” Perhaps the clue could have been [” ___ yet?”].
- 24D [Häagen-Dazs ingredient?] UMLAUT – Another great clue. Yes, I was rifling through actual ice cream ingredients in my head for a sec. And then I got in the mood for some ice cream!
- 39D [Young camper’s proof of ownership] NAME TAPE – Is this two words? I assume so. Surprisingly, I have never heard this term before. I suppose it refers to any piece of tape on something, like a duffel bag, that has a name written on it.
I could go on, but I will stop here. Enjoy your weekend!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Frank is back with a toughie. Got it done in just under 20 minutes, but that may be due to computer solving instead of on my iPad. Got the lower right done fairly quickly, which always gets me overconfident, and then frustrated when other sections don’t fall as fast! Lots of Zs and Xs, which make for lively entries, and you can tell that Frank spent a lot of time digging up great trivia and formulating clever clues. Yes, I made a couple of errors, as you can see in the screenshot of the grid. One was inexcusable, and the other one doesn’t make sense to me. Will explain below! Another solid puzzle from Frank. 4.4 stars today.
Some of my favorites:
- 1A [Inappropriate place to sleep] ON THE JOB – A nice pairing with 64-Across!
- 15A [Lightening-fast option] PEROXIDE – A great clue. And I misread this as “lightning-fast,” thereby adding to the confusion! Turned into a massive “a-ha!” moment!
- 17A [Singer of the TV theme lyric “I get allergic smelling hay”] EVA GABOR – I thought this might be from Green Acres; a Google search confirms my suspicion!
- 22A [What a rocker might sit atop] CHARTS – Yes, I thought of the rocking chair type of rocker! One of the better clues in the puzzle!
- 35A [Airline bought by TWA in 1986] OZARK – I believe you! News to me!
- 61A [Right-hand man?] DEXTER – I don’t understand this clue.
- 64A [Any of 4,500+ places to buy peanuts, with “The”] UPS STORE – Where no one had better be sleeping “ON THE JOB!” This obviously is my favorite clue!
- 11D [Like a kiss] BITE-SIZED – Figuring out this entry unlocked most of the upper right, and thence the rest of the puzzle. I actually thought he might have been referring to a Hershey’s Kiss!
- 12D [Flying dragon’s habitat] ASIA – Someone will have to explain this one as well to me!
- 27D [Head banger’s item] NAIL – With two crossers, I still couldn’t figure out what this was until I figured out the “head banger” was a hammer!
- 33D [It might be cooked up for a turnover] ZONE BLITZ – Also in the running for the best clue! Me, the football fan, actually didn’t get this until I was almost done with the puzzle! Groans were made … !
Again, another solid Stumper from Frank! Enjoy your weekend!
Jason Mueller’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Water Music” — pannonica’s write-up
Theme is … musicky things whose starting words are also names of rivers. The clues parenthetically indicate the locations of said rivers.
- 22a. [1970 hit for Mountain (United States)] MISSISSIPPI QUEEN.
- 34a. [Grammy-winning artist and civil right activist (Russia] LENA HORNE.
- 40a. [Enya hit subtitled “Sail Away” (Venezuela and Colombia] ORINOCO FLOW.
- 56a. [2003 Brooks and Dunn album (China and Vietnam] RED DIRT ROAD.
- 62a. [Album featuring “All You Need Is Love” (China)] YELLOW SUBMARINE.
- 74a. [“Love Rollercoaster” band (United States)] OHIO PLAYERS.
- 85a. [Guitarist/producer who co-wrote “Le Freak” (Africa)] NILE RODGERS.
- 92a. [“American Pie” singer (Russia)] DON MCLEAN.
- 108aR [First Top 40 hit for Talking Heads, and a hint to the starts of the theme answers] TAKE ME TO THE RIVER.
Not thrilled how sometimes there’s a close connection between river name and theme answer, while other times it’s less direct or merely coincidental. Leaves a silty taste in my mouth.
Actually had real trouble completing the grid. Specifically, the WSW block. A lot of proper nouns were intersecting here, and I didn’t know most of them. 67d [Footballer Michael featured in “The Blind Side”] OHER, 79a [Ashton Kucher’s “That ’70s Show” role] KELSO (and how was I to know whether 54d [Sleazeball] was CREEPY or CREEPO/CREEP-O?! KELSY? And even whether 66d [McDonald’s quaff] was COKE or COLA? Was only reasonably sure that 83a [Schubert’s “The __-King”], with ––L, was ERL (I blame the heat). Further, 88a [David who directed four of the Harry Potter films] YATES, 90d [The Horned Frogs’ sch.] TCU, and 89d [Henry Fielding title heroine] AMELIA all the way down to 116a [Sansa’s sister on “Game of Thrones”] ARYA (ARYN? AMELIN? EMELIN?
That’s the section that proved difficult for me, but throughout the grid there were similar areas differing only in that I happened to be familiar with the names (or foreign vocabulary, as it were), while recognizing that many other solvers might not. Talking about film director Roger VADIM sharing space with Japanese NISEI and TORII (43d, 35d 60a). Or how about 6a [Gertz of “The Lost Boys”] JAMI crossing the in-my-opinion-poorly-clued 6d [Witty remark] JEST?
Just a few other things (did I mention it’s hot?):
- The longish stuff. EXPIRATION, WILLY-NILLY, LIVE IT UP, IMPOSTOR, STACCATO, OVERSHOE.
- 19a [Class challenge] EXAM, 119a [Class challenges] TESTS. 16d [He went into orbit in 1962] GLENN, 84d [It went into orbit in 1962] TELSTAR.
- 20d [EPA pollution-level measure] Epic fake-out! Not PPM, but AQI! Hoo-boy, ah haha ha… >gasp<
- 30d [Insightful utterance] AHA, 106a [Copying] À LA, 109d [Alias indicator] AKA.
- 96a [Its 1989 edition weighed about 138 lbs.] OED. Fortunately it wasn’t a single volume. Oh, I slay me.
- Favorite clue: 111d [Rocks in slings] ICE. Typically “Singaporean”. Fun fact: The Singapore River is in Singapore!
OK I’m done.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Womb Service” —Ade’s write-up
Hello once again! Here in the Upper East Side after another amazing Lollapuzzoola! Before talking (briefly) about the grid, I want to thank Elaine Renner, one of the fastest crossword solvers out there, in helping out with solving the puzzle with me while sitting here at Starbucks. We have an interesting quote from Nora Ehron broken up into five different entries, with the grid constructed by Mr. Bruce Venzke. For those who have gone through childbirth, would you agree with this?
- IF PREGNANCY WERE A BOOK THEY WOULD CUT OUT THE LAST TWO CHAPTERS (17A, 26A, 42A and 56A: [Start of a Nora Ephron quote…Quote, Part 2….Quote, part 3…Qoute, part 4…End of the quote])
Pretty tough intersection of not-so-well-known celebrities in the Southeast, with both ERBE (61A: [Kathryn of HBO’s “Oz”]) and TERI in the grid (52D: [Felicity’s costar]). It actually took me about five minutes after putting in those entries that Felicity referred to Felicity Huffman and the show being referenced was Desperate Housewives. Probably favorite fill for me was PA SYSTEM, which I wasn’t seeing when I filled in the first four letters and saw PASY—- (38D: [Speakers’ speakers, for short]). Elaine saw that immediately, which helped the process of solving this much faster than I would have without her by my side. Maybe I should always have an über elite crossword solver sitting next to me every time I do a grid. Sure wouldn’t hurt, right?!?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TENUTA (6D: [Accordion-playing comic Judy]) – One-time college football coach Jon TENUTA was, most recently, the defensive coordinator at the University of Virginia. In 2008 and 2009, Tenuta was the associate head coach at the University of Notre Dame, and also was once the interim head coach at Georgia Tech, back in 2007.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!