Steve Overton’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What do you know? The Saturday puzzle was easier for me than the Friday. For you, too?
I’m coming down with a cold, so I’ll be brief.
Favorite fill: “LET US PRAY,” G.I. JANE, “NO CAN DO,” DERRING-DO (though that repeats the DO in 40a), BILLOW (just a lovely word, though inferior to willow), TV GUIDE, and EAR-TO-EAR grin.
Never heard of 36d. [Cold wine-and-nutmeg drink], SANGAREE. The word derives from sangria, but with the replacement of fruit with inferior spice flavors.
9d. [Aid for an ed.], SASE. Is that still a thing? Does Will Shortz request that constructors include a SASE if they want their rejected puzzles back? Most editors are receiving electronic manuscripts by now.
3d. [Like “Last Tango in Paris,” initially], RATED X. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Repulsive, because director Bertolucci and actor Brando conspired to get an “authentic” reaction from the actress by essentially having Brando sexually assault her on film. Gross. Criminal. Immoral.
3.5 stars from me.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Gearing up for the ACPT, which is only a few short weeks away! Great time on this one, even though I am pretty sure I have never solved a Craig Stowe puzzle before. (I wonder if it’s a pseudonym??) There are a couple of obscure references in this puzzle, but they don’t seem to distract from the solving experience at all. There is plenty of snappy clueing and vibrant vocabulary to offset a couple of groaners. A solid 4 stars today, and here’s hoping they’re about this hard at Stamford!
A few notes:
- 16A [“St Matthew and the Angel” painter Guido] RENI – One of those obscure references! Is this Reni Guido or Guido Reni? I have no clue! (I looked it up: first name Guido!)
- 29A [Eastern servants] AMAHS – Aren’t there also ADAHS? Or was she a Biblical character? I get them confused.
- 33A [Its Gold Medal features a profile of Franklin] PULITZER PRIZE – Very nice bit of trivia in the clue. And the Franklin is Ben Franklin!
- 42A & 48A [ __- Neisse Line, western border of 42-Across] ODER, POLAND – Nice tie-in here, and they are stacked entries in the puzzle. Very clever!
- 56A [Digital emergency signal] NINE ONE ONE – True, but don’t other countries have a different number? I feel that could have been specified, perhaps even for the few Europeanss who solve this!
- 1D [Songwriters’ org.] ASCAP – Usually you will see this on sheet music. Were they mentioned during this past week’s Grammy telecast?
- 10D [Rectangular Manhattan attraction] CENTRAL PARK – I have driven through it a couple of times, but never been to the zoo!
- 27D [Toledo native] OHIOAN – No, SPANIARD doesn’t fit!
- 36D [Product originally called Croup and Pneumonia Salve] VAPORUB – Definitely a good name change!
- 54D [“L’Âge __”: Buñuel-Dali surrealist film] D’OR – Wow! Cannes gives out the Palm D’Or at it’s film festival; that would have been hard enough!
A fun puzzle! And a warm February weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, Lester Ruff’s puzzles are usually “less rough,” as Stan’s pseudonym suggests. Still a challenge, make no mistake, but solvable nonetheless. I did try that quiet place this week, and that seemed to help. All this means is that we are in for a killer next week! Yikes! 4 stars even.
- 16A [Sidekick on ABC’s first hit show] TONTO – From The Lone Ranger, of course. Great clue. I thought ROBIN at first!
- 27A [Scotch and soda] FLUIDS – I was fooled. I had MIXERS in there first!
- 32A [Air, since 2008] MACBOOK – The MacBook Air has been out nearly ten years?? I use a MacBook myself, but not the Air version. And, no, I don’t have the new one with the Touch Bar!
- 38A [Pay-for-play service] ITUNES – Apple getting a lot of pub in this puzzle!
- 48A [Wizard role turned down by Connery] GANDALF – I did not know that! Never seen the Lord of the Rings movies!
- 56A [“What’s Opera, Doc?” singer] ELMER – I had BLANC in there for Mel Blanc, since he’s doing the real singing! What a voice talent! You know you want to watch this cartoon! Isn’t the internet great?
- 1D [Kate Mulgrew’s Netflix series role] INMATE – I was trying to come up with a character name! For the record, in Orange is the New Black, she plays Red!
- 9D [’70s series that became a ’99 film] THE MOD SQUAD – Never saw the series OR the movie!
- 23D [Where Ouagadougou is capital] BURKINA FASO – This should be automatic. I need to brush up on my world capitals! Sporcle here I come!
- 28D [He has an early cameo in “Ben-Hur”] LEO – I assume this is talking about Leo the MGM lion?
- 34D [Secret Service bestowal] CODE NAME – Trump is Mogul, Pence is Hoosier!
- 43D [Horseshoe handlers] PLIERS – Supposedly now they have plastic horseshoes that are easier on horse’s hooves? I’ll have to ask someone that has horses!
Have a great weekend! It is supposed to be in the upper 60s here!
Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heading South” — pannonica’s write-up
The specifics of this one’s theme eluded me for most of the solve, but when it was all done I could really appreciate what an accomplishment it is.
It developed that the long vertical entries each ended in BIRD, but the upper sections weren’t making much sense—and some tough crossings in those areas kept them inscrutable. There was also another vertical BIRD, a revealer of sorts, in the bottom center: 109d [Leader of seven animals migrating south in V formation].
Do you see it? Perhaps the circles I’ve added clarify.
Here’s what’s going on: the original theme phrases contain the letters B-I-R-D in sequence, but not consecutively. They’ve been “migrated” to the bottoms of each vertical entry, leaving the rest of the phrases in disarray.
Further, these entries are arranged, as advertised, in a V formation with the revealer BIRD at the vanguard. Oh, did I mention that the grid eschews standard 180º rotational symmetry for a more appropriate left-right symmetry? And you know what else? Opposite the “south” revealer, precisely where it should be, across in the top center, is 7a [Needle point] NORTH. Spiffy!
- 3d. [Loafing] UMMNGAOUNBIRD (bumming around).
- 5d. [Attraction displaying diverse flora] OTANCALGAENBIRD (botanical garden).
- 22d. [Accomplishing an NFL bettor’s goal] EATNGTHESPEABIRD (beating the spread).
- 23d. [“Queen” megahit] OHEMANAPSOYBIRD (Bohemian Rhapsody).
- 13d. [Showing a profit when others are losing money, say] UCKNGTHETENBIRD (bucking the trend).
- 15d. [Sales rep’s handouts] USNESSCASBIRD (business cards).
Note also that as a slight aid each themer begins with the letter B, and that the each of the letters B-I-R-D appears only once per entry.
On the other hand, I believe it’s coincidental that the starts of a couple of these answers as rendered suggest types of birds 3d UMMNG = hummingbird, 13d UCK = duck.
This is very impressive constructing.
- 44a [Palette contents] OILS, 108a [Did a little of this, a little of that] DABBLED. 90a [It often follows “Goodnight Moon”] BEDDY-BYE, 85d [Outfit you’re not likely to wear out] PJS. 112d [Butter unit] PAT followed by 114d [Butter?] RAM.
- 104a [French pop] PÈRE, 41a [May honorees] MOMS, 26a [Grams] NANA. Note how the last clue doesn’t even give the superficial appearance to the nearby 46a [Nature Valley offering] GRANOLA. It also crosses 6d [Grammy’s 2002 Best New Artist Jones] NORAH. But! right after that? 7d [Photographer Goldin] NAN.
- Considering everything that’s going on, not much dross in the grid. Here are my least favorite entries, and really they aren’t that bad at all: 61a [Priest’s robe] ALB, 16d [Literary reflection, from the French for “thought”] PENSÉE, 30d [History book nos.] YRS, 45d [Mission founder Junipero] SERRA. I suppose some solvers not from the Northeast might give 60d [Verizon forerunner] NYNEX a scowl.
- 21d [Submission move in mixed martial arts] ARM BAR. No idea how this works in the ring (cage?). Don’t even know if it’s one word or two.
- 47d [“Jazz Profiles” station] NPR, which is technically a network.
- Most surprising entry: 76d [Armored beast of old] ANKYLOSAUR.
- 111a [One of the three small ear bones] STIRRUP, aka the stapes.
- 116a [Woman with trouble opening up?] PANDORA—a bit tortured, no? Some more clevericious-type clues: 114a [It might facilitate personal growth] ROGAINE, 42a [Gave a real shock?] TASED, 84a [Container made of two-by-twos?] ARK, 2d [Full of holes] POROUS, 53d [Gets bent?] WARPS, 98d Exclamation from a real ass] HEE-HAW.
- Aside from PANDORA, some other named gals populating the grid: 95a [Pinkett Smith of TV’s “Gotham”] JADA, 96a [Track star Devers] GAIL, 1d [Black Widow portrayer, in tabloids] SCARJO (Scarlett Johansson), 6d NORAH Jones, 7d NAN Goldin, 34d [Ramirez of “Grey’s Anatomy”] SARA, 64d [Ali with a perfect record in the ring] LAILA, 84d [Computing pioneer Lovelace] ADA, 87d [“Sweet __” (barbershop quartet standard)] ADELINE, 88d [Shakespearean fairy quee] MAB, 93d [Civil rights activist King[ YOLANDA.
- Random clue of the week: 52d [Room in Clue with a secret passage to the Conservatory] LOUNGE.
- 92d [“The king of knots”] BOWLINE. Pronounced \ˈbō-lən, -līn\
Really impressed by this crossword. It’s one time “going south” doesn’t have a negative connotation. Even if it looks like a cartoon dog.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Finding Your H.S. Math Class” —Ade’s write-up
Hey there, people! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, might invoke bad memories of being lost while in a tough math class in high school or college. Each of the four theme entries features, in the middle of it, a sequence of letters that also is an abbreviation of a math subject.
- NATIONAL GALLERY (17A: [Art museum at Trafalgar Square, London])
- DODGE OMNI (31A: [Subcompact car formerly produced by Chrysler])
- JUST RIGHT (49A: [Flawlessly])
- TROPICAL COUNTRY (64A: [Colombia, for example])
I’m not usually a fan of having a CANAPÉ when at a catered party that has them, as I just usually go for the cheese or just stick with wine only (21A: [Cocktail party serving]). Of all of the pasta that I consume (and it’s a lot) baked ZITI is definitely my favorite (38D: [Pasta often baked]). Loved a lot of the long, non-themed fill, with KEEPS SCORE being the highlight of it (30D: [Records the numerical outcome, as in gin rummy or baseball]). Apologies to you all that I have to cut this section of the blog right here, as I have to run to catch a train out of Long Island. Oh, and for those who might think that I’m actually doing the “sports…smarter” section after this, know that I’ve already typed it up! Therefore, I should be saying goodbye to end this graph. But I’m not. I’m weird.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOSS (10A: [Cushiony forest growth]) – Former National Football League wide receiver Randy MOSS took the football world by storm as a rookie in 1998, setting the rookie record for most receiving touchdowns with 17 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Moss finished his career only trailing Jerry Rice for the most touchdown receptions in a career (156).
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!