Natan Last’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Wait. A Wednesday-difficulty themeless on Friday, followed by a Friday-level themeless on Saturday? Bring me the hard puzzles! (Cue the Newsday Saturday Stumper to plunge into the breach.) (Updated to add: The Stumper only took me 6:10, despite the Longo byline promising me 12+ minutes of frustration.)
Fave fill: GLORIA STEINEM, WHITE PRIVILEGE, WOOKIEES (complete with George Lucas’s dumb IEE spelling—what was he thinking?), HOT TAKE, OLD FLAME, VIRTUAL REALITY, ADVENTURE TIME (never watched it, as I probably am too old), “THE NERVE!”, “I’M SORRY,” and the basically pointless KEGSTAND.
- 1a. [Genre akin to indie rock], ALT-POP. Huh? Tell me some bands in the alt-pop category so I have a clue what the music is.
- 22a. [Little wriggler], EFT. Meh. Hardly anyone encounters the EFT outside of crosswords (or when they do, it’s short for electronic funds transfer). Raise your hand if you filled in EEL first.
- 32a. [Theatrical hybrid], DRAMEDY. I really only know the term from descriptions of TV shows. It’s used in theater circles as well?
- 54a. [Repeated lyric in the Who’s “Tommy”], SEE ME. Best of all crossword clues for SEE ME. I really wanted FEEL ME to fit here, though.
- 13d. [Soap box?], TV SET. Given how uncommon “box” TVs are now (vs. flat panels), the clue feels stodgy.
- 48d. [Look the wrong way?], LEER. Clue is on target. Leering is improper.
Fair amount of blah short fill in here, but largely offset by all the goodies. Four stars from me.
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Noh Problem” — pannonica’s write-up
“No H”. Aitches dropped.
- 23a. [Charging up a Tesla?] TANKLESS TASK (thankless …).
- 34a. [Wild excitemet over a clairvoyant?] SEER MADNESS (sheer …).
- 40a. [Lumberjacks enjoying the Jacuzzi?] TREE MEN IN A TUB (Three …). 26d [Babe’s master] BUNYAN.
- 63a. [“Oh, my aching back!” and others?] SORE LINES (shorelines).
- 70a. [Passbook, deposit slips, etc?] SAVING KIT (shaving …). 9d [It might generate some interest] LOAN.
- 94a. [Boxers who can endue punches?] SOCK ABSORBERS (shock …).
- 101a. [Section of a bowling alley designated for drinkers?] SIPPING LANE (shipping …).
- 117a. [Birdwatchers with microphones, maybe?] TRILL SEEKERS. Time again to plug the excellent Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!
For each theme answer the dropped H is part of an initial digraph, so it’s consistently the second letter of each (original phrase) entry. For some reason, they only involve T and S. That is, TH- and SH-. Why no CH- or PH-? (Or to be even more expansive, combinations whose pronunciations aren’t affected, such as BH-, DH-, GH-, KH-, RH-, WH-?)
The title also nods to crossword staple crossword NOH, a highly stylized traditional theater form of Japan, characterized by masks and, frequently, supernatural elements.
- Some fine cluing: 27a [Aid for making a bust] CHISEL, 30a [Heated for a few seconds] NUKED, 1d [Work at home] CATCH, 57d [Have a inclination] SLOPE, 90d [Bats] IS UP, 105d [Banking expert?] PILOT.
- 92a [Jam for Sacher torte] APRICOT. I think that should be written either Sachertorte or Sacher Torte. Related: Music’s Moetley __] CRÜE (the pdf—and presumably the printed version—is fine, with an umlauted O).
- Your chunk of crosswordese: 77d [Woody trunk] BOLE / 78d [Bodily passage] ITER / 79d [Nautical ropes] TYES. Eased by the crossing 76a [Juicy item in a gossip column] TIDBIT, 83a [Like may a movie maitre d’] SNOOTY, 91a [1997 title character played by Peter Fonda] ULEE, and the themer 94a.
- 32a [Applejack source] CIDER, not LAIRD.
- 81a [River to Lyon] SAÔNE. I continue to wait in vain for SAOLA—any of the common names for Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, really—to appear in a crossword.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I think I took a leisurely approach to this one. But there were a couple of tough areas that really gave me fits, so maybe it was a tad tougher than normal. I do know Bruce Haight’s style a little bit, so I cannot even blame it on unfamiliarity with the constructor! I would still be happy with a twelve minute solving time on Puzzle 8 with the A clues at the ACPT! I usually cannot FINISH without peeking at the B clues! Can you tell I am in the mood to head to Stamford? Two more weeks! 4.3 stars for this gem of a puzzle.
- 1A [Participated in a movie gunfight, say] SHOT BLANKS – Great 1-Across entry! And only untrue in some movie plots!
- 20A [Getaway car driver] WHEELMAN – I like the Geico commercial where the “wheelman” calls an Uber!
- 26A [“Buddenbrooks” author] MANN – Thomas Mann is the author referred to here. I don’t think I have ever read anything he has written. Going to the Kindle Store soon!
- 48A [Cuts to a roving reporter] GOES LIVE – This has no prior NYT occurrences, according to xwordinfo.com. Awesome entry, and a fairly common way phrase related to newscasts.
- 3D [Interval for Rossini] OTTAVA – How is your Italian? This is Italian for “octave.” I will travel to Italy someday and eat everything in sight!
- 8D [“Forget it!”] NO I WON’T! – I tried NO SWEAT at first, which may help to explain the slightly longer time!
- 9D [German coffeecake] KUCHEN – I just learned this word. On my trip to Italy, I will take a train to Germany and try some!
- 12D [Ancient Syrian] ARAMAEAN – This one is tough one. I am familiar with the Aramaic language, and this is a related term. It just has a weird appearing spelling to us English-speaking folks!
- 39D [William of “24”] DEVANE – He was in that?
- 47D [’70s-’80s Egyptian president] SADAT – I am old enough that I remember him vividly. Man, I am old!!
We will stop there. Spring will be here in a week!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle is difficult. Definitely can be described as no joke. I say this in a tongue-in-cheek fashion because there isn’t even one pun clue! Unless my eyes deceive me, no clues end in a question mark, and without any quantitative analysis, I don’t remember a difficult puzzle like this not having at least ONE groan-worthy pun. For reference, there are at least three in today’s LAT challenger puzzle. But Frank is never here to play; he is here to test your mettle with super-hard clues. And this one fits the bill. Many fairly common words (SINE, TITHE, for example) are clued in an extremely difficult manner (see below). Having said that, there is mostly no crosswordese in here, and the fairness of the answers does help. I have been trying this approach in Learned League: I try not to overthink things, and that has helped a lot. Same with tough puzzles: trust your gut! 4.4 stars.
Some notes (notice how virtually everything here is familiar):
- 1A [Home for a quark] MESON – I can never remember the names of subatomic particles!
- 20A [One to beware, per a gag sign] ATTACK CAT – One of the best entries, and surprise! No NYT occurences ever!
- 37A [Energy producer, in electrical devices] ACTIVE COMPONENT – You don’t normally think of this phrase in relation to electronics. I more think of an active component in some sort of medicine or vitamin supplement. Maybe that is “active ingredient.”
- 39A [Bandwagon jumper’s comment] WHEN IN ROME – Best entry, in my opinion, slightly ahead of ATTACK CAT! And a great clue to boot.
- 55A [Tornado lassoer of legend] PECOS BILL – I remember him from a previous puzzle! Still not that familiar with him!
- 58A [2000 ESPY Female of the Decade honoree] GRAF – Steffi Graf is considered one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. She won the calendar Grand Slam in 1988, I believe, and I am sure it is killing Serena Williams that she hasn’t duplicated this feat yet. But she can do it this year; Serena won the Aussie Open in January.
- 21D [Longtime Mideastern head of state] KHAMENEI – This is the premier of Iran. I should have known this!
- 30D [ __ anno (date unknown, in bibliographies)] SINE – I told you it was hard!
- 31D [Uno de los puntos cardinales] ESTE – “One of the cardinal points” in Spanish. Wow!
- 33D [“Otto”: Venice :: __ : Valencia] OCHO – You do know your numbers from one to ten in several languages, don’t you? If so, you recognize the Italian and Spanish versions of “eight.”
- 47D [Focus of State of the Plate research] TITHE – This is tough too. Check out their website!
- 49D [Sanctioner of annual Rolex Rankings] LPGA – What else could it be that was four -letters? That was my reasoning, anyway!
Turn your clocks forward tonight!