Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I don’t know about you, but “WHOA, WHOA” feels abbreviated to me. The three-step “whoa, whoa, whoa” should be the bare minimum. But I suppose we must at least be grateful to be spared any woah spelling.
LISTS! 45d. [They may have bullets], indeed. Here goes:
- 1a. [Like the national currency known as the tala], SAMOAN. We would also have accepted [Like The Rock’s maternal ancestors].
- Favorite fill: HARD SELL, LASER BEAM, LIFE HACK, LORD VOLDEMORT, VERBOTEN, Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Gale SAYERS, OF COURSE, seasonal ALL HALLOWS’ EVE, PIANO BAR, and IDIOLECT.
- 33a. [Fictional character whose name is French for “flight of death”], LORD VOLDEMORT. Rowling is so much more skilled at character naming than George Lucas.
- 12d. [The first one was delivered in 1984], TED TALK. No kidding? Didn’t know TED Talks dated back that far.
- 30a. [1983 double-platinum album by Duran Duran], RIO. Oh! Among my three favorite albums in high school. I am certain that some of you will click this YouTube link to listen to the entire album, and you will relive that experience of awaiting the first notes of the next song as soon as one song ends.
- 31a. [Everyday productivity enhancer, in modern lingo], LIFE HACK. I have a flu-shot life hack, of sorts, to share with you. Let your arm hang limply at your side when you get the shot, and you’ll have markedly less post-injection discomfort. Maybe that’s more of a pro tip than a life hack. I learned it from a pharmacist who was administering my flu shot.
- Unfavorite fill: HISS AT (we have too many verb-AT entries in crosswords), WHO’LL, plural OWS (that’s … not really a thing), and FENN (she’s really not famous anymore but hey! turns out Suzi Quatro is her aunt!).
Four stars from me.
Darin McDaniel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I feel like I’ve seen variations of this theme more than a few times. Nevertheless, this is solidly executed. There is an additional tightness here with vocational clues used, with only a little force used to get everything to work. Entertainment stars with surnames beginning with have that ‘s’ transfer to their first name as a possessive. Four musicians and two TV stars (one of which was unknown to me) are featured. Outside of Ms. Spears, I feel like each of the people here’s fame could be largely generational. I knew 5 of 6, but I can see how many will only know 3 or 4 and that may impact on some solvers’ enjoyment.
- [“What’s My Line?” comedian’s craft brewery?], SOUPY(S)ALES
- [Pop diva’s fruit stand?], BRITNEY(S)PEARS
- [American Idol winner’s amusement chain?], JORDIN(S)PARKS
- [Rapper’s shopping center properties?], BIGGIE(S)MALLS
- [Guitarist’s cash register company?], STEPHEN(S)TILLS
- [“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” comedian’s flooring store?], RYAN(S)TILES
This is a lot of theme (70 squares!), even for a veteran constructor, and 13s always pose design challenge. The grid wobbles in a lot of places. I can’t help feeling dropping the theme to just 4 or 5 entries would have made an overall better puzzle.
Crosses I anticipate people having problems with: FERRER (didn’t know Jose, do know current tennis star David though – he’s probably one major away from being crossworthy though…) / DIEZ (DIAZ? DIAS?) / BAPTIZE; BRAUN/AUER (AWER?)
Words you probably haven’t seen in a crossword lately… SERE and ISTLE!
3 Stars. Interesting theme, but could have been better with a more balanced grid.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Capturing St. Louis” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning from somewhere in Appalachia. Currently on an Amtrak that’s making its way through the heart of the Keystone State. I guess we’re just past Altoona since we just made our way past the Horseshoe Curve, and that was such a fun sight to see. (Wait, is that why the minor league baseball team the Altoona Curve is named as such?! Probably so! Don’t know why I didn’t make that link earlier.)
Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, and, because of it, I guess we have to meet him at the fair afterward. In it, each of the five theme entries is a multiple-word answer in which the letters “STL” span two words in the grid.
- FIRST LADY (17A: [Barbara Bush or Laura Bush])
- LOST LUGGAGE (23A: [Air travel nuisance]) – A passenger hogging the armrest when he/she shouldn’t be is a nuisance. Losing luggage is definitely more than just a nuisance. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened with any flight I’ve ever taken. With this said, watch it happen the next time I fly.
- COMMUNIST LEADER (37A: [Mao Tse-tung, notably])
- EAST LANSING (45A: [Where to find Michigan State University])
- LAST LAUGH (58A: [Satisfaction, so to speak])
There was another area of the grid that gave me an earworm outside of “Meet Me in St. Louis,”, and that was when I filled in KANSAS and momentarily had “Carry on Wayward Son” in my mind (44A: [Dorothy Gale’s home]). There are definitely worse songs to have stuck in your head. Only place I got slowed down while solving was near the Northwest, where I put in “pie pan” for PIE TIN (25A: [Cobbler container]). The next two movies I watch might also be inspired by this grid, with SIRS (3D: [Sean Connery and Roger Moore]) reminding me that I haven’t watched a James Bond movie in a long while and ALIEN reminding me that I absolutely loved each movie of that trilogy (14A: [1979 movie that took place aboard the spacecraft Nostromo]). It’s not a trilogy anymore, right? There was that Alien: Resurrection movie that came out around the time I was in high school. Never saw that one, which I guess is the reason why I viewed it in my mind as a trilogy. Time to enjoy more of the scenery on this train ride. But not before…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SEALS (49D: [Elite Navy commandos]) – Many sports fans are aware of the Original Six National Hockey League teams (Red Wings, Blackhawks, Rangers, Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs), as well as the 1967 expansion that grew the league to 12 teams. Of those group of 12 teams, only one of them no longer exists: the California/Oakland SEALS, who were added to the NHL as part of the league’s expansion in 1967. The team, founded in 1961, joined the NHL from the Western Hockey League but never had any real success on the ice and at the gate. The team moved to Cleveland in 1976 and became the Cleveland Barons, but the franchise ceased operations just two years later.
Have a great rest of your Friday everybody and have a good weekend!
Lee Taylor’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Frightful Personalities” — pannonica’s write-up
Famous people’s names are run through the Pun-o-matic 8000™ for Halloween. In this case, the dial was set to
- 20a. [Scary photographer for many Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair covers?] ANNIE LEIBOOVITZ.
- 50a. [Scary star of “The African Queen”?] HUMPHREY BOOGART.
- 5d. [Scary mother in a royal birth of September 7, 1533?] ANNE BOOLEYN.
- 31d. [Scary music icon who (fittingly) released the album “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”? DAVID BOOWIE.
In each instance a BO bigram is extended to a BOO trigram. And speaking of extensions, the grid is 15×16, just like the unhinged—or detached—mandible of a creepy, creepy Halloween monster. Or a snake or some fish, et cetera, et cetera; it isn’t so uncommon in nature. Is the theme so good as to merit significant deviation from cruciverbal convention? I don’t think so. Especially not with esoteric fill (even for the CHE) such as the variant spellings 17a [ __ of vantage (favorable position)] COIGN (cf. QUOIN) and 33a PILAU, (cf. PILAF).
Further, there are a couple of stray BOOs among the nontheme material: 2d [Windfall] BOON, 28d [Milieu for many drills] BOOT CAMP. Not disqualifiers per se but inelegances fer shur.
- 29a [Like an ineffectual Tupperware container] LIDLESS. Or like the eyes of some animals (and creepy monsters!) who possess, to some people, a disconcerting stare.
- 53a [Prefix with criticism] ECO-. Interesting choice of root word in the clue.
- 60a [Classic board game akin to pachisi] WAHOO. Unfamiliar to me. And the branded version of the former is the one I grew up with: Parcheesi.
- 64a [Memphis-to-Nashville dir.] ENE. Nothing special, but the ENE is aptly reminiscent of the interior of Tennessee. ESE would be similar, I guess.
- 3d [Key with no sharps or flats: Abbr.] A MIN. Is this markedly better than that Ugandan dictator’s surname?
- 12d [Causes to beam] ELATES, 15a [Entertain] AMUSE.
- 25d [Make a sound like a deflating balloon] SISS. Arbitrary.
- Favorite clue: 35a [Race space] LANE.
- 47a [Exam within an exam] SUBTEST. I’m guessing this was originally intended to be SUBTEXT, but proved too difficult to coördinate with other fill. Incidentally, PILAU is one letter off from the island nation of PALAU. Hmm.
Just wasn’t feeling it for this one. While it didn’t play like an outright trick, neither did it thrill me like a treat might.