Howard Barkin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s April Fools’ Day on Saturday, so instead of a themeless, we get a rebus puzzle. Here, four 4-letter answers are clued in a way that presents a familiar 4-letter entry as an option—but none of them work with the crossings, not in the slightest. Now, I’m not going to fill in a 1-Across in a Saturday puzzle if it doesn’t work with any of the crossings, so I knew something was up. It turned out to be signaled by the revealer, TWO-BY-FOURS, 55a. [Construction staples … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Those 4-letter answers are 8-letter answers squeezed in to rebus squares, two-by-four:
- 1a. [One of the Great Lakes], MI/CH/IG/AN. Not ERIE, because there’s no [Vase style] that will fit EN*. (I knew 14a was NOLA, New Orleans, LA.)
- 29a. [Popular cookie], TH/IN/MI/NT. Not OREO. Singular Thin Mint seems weird because a unit of Thin Mints is, like, a whole sleeve of cookies. Everyone knows this.
- 45a. [In opposition], CO/NT/RA/RY. Not ANTI.
- 64a. [Scandinavian capital], HE/LS/IN/KI. Not OSLO.
- 55a’s partner in the grid is also thematic, I suppose: 17a. [“Don’t give up”], GUESS AGAIN.
It’s cute to mess with solvers’ knee-jerk reflexes. “Four-letter cookie? Gotta be OREO. The only four-letter Great Lake is ERIE, piece of cake.” Those reflexes will sometimes entrap you, particularly during tournament solving situations when you need to keep your guard up against trickery. (Note: That did not happen to me. My downfall at the ACPT was that one square where two plurals met, and I really thought I was writing an S but sure enough, the scan clearly shows an E. I blame Mitch McConnell.)
This is really a Thursday puzzle, but when April Fools’ Day lands on a Saturday, I guess you’re gonna get a hard puzzle with a Thursday-type theme. Definitely took me a Saturdayish amount of time. The word count is 80, which is above the usual limit of 78 for a themed puzzle (as well as exceeding the standard Saturday themeless cap of 72 words).
Five more things:
- 50a. [Hockey team, e.g.], HEXAD. Oh, sure, people describe teams of six like that all the time. But you can’t use the word six for the HEXAD clue when 19a. [Rather powerful engine], V-SIX, is also in the puzzle. (Boo on the spelled-out number!)
- 51a. [Words on a jacket], BLURB. As in a book jacket. Hey! There’s a book of essays coming out May 30 called We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby. She’s hilarious and candid and crude (not for the faint of heart—I am not faint of heart, so I cannot wait for the book). Anyway, Lindy West, whose 2016 memoir Shrill was terrific, wrote an Irby blurb (can you say that three times fast?) for this book: “Samantha Irby is my favorite living writer. Actually, I’ll throw in the dead ones too. Screw you, Herman Melville.” Bold blurbing.
- 54d. [Author who wrote “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity”], POE. What a great quote!
- 21a. [Some plants], MOLES. As in spies, not ferns or trees or roses.
- 35a. [Huuuuuuuuge], GINORMOUS. I do like the word GINORMOUS, but the clue is … triggering.
4.25 stars from me. Watch out for pranks on Saturday!
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up.
We have a slight April Fool-ish gimmick in this puzzle. The entry at 57A hints at what is going on. The clue is [Like an escalator, and, aptly, like the six-letter word that begins where 40-Across ends]. The answer is AT A SLANT, and the six letters starting with the S in SNAGS and going toward the upper right spell STAIRS! Very clever, and it was nice hunting around in the grid at the end to see what was going on with that clue. Lower half definitely harder than the upper half. Entries like EMU CHICK, I BEFORE E, and ARUBAN are definitely not phrases we say or hear that often, whereas most of the entries in the top half seem more familiar.
This one was also a tad tougher than normal, but, if you read my post on the Newsday Stumper, you know I had a craft beer or two before solving, so that plays a part! Tyler Hinman is still a better drunk solver than I am! Other than the few answers mentioned above, this is still a puzzle filled with lively entries, and tricky clues. Even strictly sober, this puzzle plays a bit on the harder side, but still an enjoyable solving experience. 4.2 stars.
As mentioned in my Newsday post as well, I am starting to move today, so not much time to blog! And I am still a bit exhausted from last weekend. Happy to say that I was one of the solvers that finished clean, which is the first time that has happened in, I believe, my 7th overall trip to the ACPT. It also never happened when I solved at home! I was hoping for a top 50 finish, but I came in 52nd (not counting that crazy solving program!). I was totally locked up on Puzzle 5, and if I had figured out what was going on before 20 minutes had passed, I would have attained my goal. Note to self: get a Starbucks next year for after lunch!
Have a great weekend everybody! See you for next Tuesday’s LAT write-up!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Sorry for the late post; I’ve been moving! I probably should have written some of this up last night, but I was two beers in, so it wasn’t happening!
This one started out a little tough, but once a secure toehold was achieved, it didn’t seem to thorny. Jewish references always stump me, so MANISCHEWITZ may be a gimme for some of you, but I am only vaguely familiar with their wine. There is not a huge Jewish presence here in north central Indiana, so these cultural references do not come up in idle conversation.
The lower left/middle seemed to fall the easiest (other than the above mentioned entry!), but I circled back to finish in that lower right corner where the cursor is in the image. My favorite clue is easily 53D [Pole-vault thing] ZLOTY. Totally fooled! A ZLOTY is a Polish unit of currency, hence the vault reference. Very well done! FOUCAULT, whom I only know from “Foucault Pendulum,” evidently has his name on the Eiffel Tower! And who knew Thomas ALVA Edison had a Grammy!
There is a lot more good I could discuss, but I am strapped for time today. But kudos to Stan for a fine puzzle this weekend, and mercifully a tad easier after the ACPT fried our brains last weekend! 4.3 stars. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Two of Us” — pannusica’s write-us
Phrases featuring double instances of the bigram US.
- 23a. [Trickery] HOCUS POCUS. See also 76d [Revealing vry] PRESTO.
- 31a. [Normal conduct in spite of disruptions] BUSINESS AS USUAL. 89d [Gaping opening] MAW.
- 61a. [Site of chariot races] CIRCUS MAXIMUS.
- 83a. [World’s biggest beer producer] ANHEUSER-BUSCH.
- 106a. [Founding twins of ancient history] ROMULUS AND REMUS.
- 125a. [Black & Decker minivac] DUSTBUSTER.
- 37d. [Unsatisfying reply to “Why?”] JUST BECAUSE.
- 41d. [Within, as a margin of error] PLUS OR MINUS. 115d [Ki of 41-Down] OR SO. Grr, mixing.
This could have easily been a Latin-fest, so good job limiting it to about 3½ theme entries. Looks as if the title couldn’t be “Just the Two of Us” because that would duplicate 37-down.
But here’s some Latin anyway (avoiding derivatives with alteration): 22a [Mind unaffected by experiences] TABULA RASA, 30a [Horace’s “__ Poetica”] ARS, 90a [Latin I configuration] AMO, 131a [Our home, in sci-fi] TERRA, 50d [Latin king] REX, 108d [In __ (prenatal)] UTERO.
Just the ones of usses: 70a [Home to early newsgroups] USENET, 88a Big birds] EMUS, 33d [Yank’s land, briefly] US OF A.
- 72a/95d [They may be broken] HEARTS, PROMISES.
- Least favorite fill: 29a [Summertime weather meas.] THI (Temperature-Humidity Index), 8d [Get the class back together] REUNE.
- 130a [Climatologist’s concerns] OZONE HOLES. Weird plural (even though the concept of a single, big polar ‘hole’ is inaccurate).
- Considering 56d [Like] AS THOUGH, I think it would’ve been better to clue 28d [Simile center] AS A one of the many other ways available.
- Some favorites: 26a [Web site, often] ATTIC, 100a [React to a hammered thumb] SWEAR, 127a [Aristophanes comedy] LYSISTRATA, 104d [Thick juice] NECTAR crossing 128a [“… and a partridge in ___ tree”] A PEAR, 7d [Sentence finisher] EX-CON.
Apologies for the 35-A clue. It was written well before… current events.
Matt Gaffney sure has a knack for scooping themes!
A few weeks after Howard won the ACPT last year I had a theme-gathering chip implanted at the base of his neck. When this one appeared in the HB2001 datastream a couple of months back I swiped it posthaste, then rushed it into print.
Exactly as I suspected! ;)
Stumper – A great clue for ZLOTY, but the dash should have been left out, both for the intended reading, and for the misdirection (a few dictionaries do show this variation, but it’s far more common without.) I also loved this year’s edition of the Cuckoo Crossword. Trip included some wonderful clueing, too.
Where is Trip’s Cuckoo Crossword found?
It’s the April Fool’s Day extra emailed last night from the Fireball.
Derek, I was able to download and print it just by googling Fireball crossword, plus today’s date.
Thanks everybody; it was sitting in my email! I am busy moving today, so I hadn’t had a chance to check. I will solve this one later today!
How was 1-A allowed to run so soon after Matt Gaffney did the same thing?
This was accepted months ago, then reserved for this date. Unfortunately (for this puzzle), coincidences happen. This was one of those times :(
“Allowed to run”?? There is no real reason for a puzzle venue to avoid an overlap with a puzzle from another venue, as the number of solvers who are tackling both the Friday WSJ contest crossword and the Saturday NYT puzzle has got to be a small fraction of the whole. (There are so few clever, twisty crossword angles that Matt hasn’t already thought of or won’t think of in the future!)
Absolutely diabolical (but wonderful) NYT. Loved that the four two-by-four answers were pushing one toward easy midweek answers. Yes, I was suspicious, but it took me a while to catch on. I’m not usually a fan of rebus puzzles on Saturday, but this is the exception. Five stars from me.
Totally fell into the trap. I am so happy to get 1a in a Saturday (plus I am from Western New York) that it did not dawn on me for quite a while that I was duped. I was also not on the right wavelength for the clues for SWARM, DISSENT and a few others.
Excellent puzzle, which I completed as I watched the greatest upset in sports history since the Miracle on Ice.
I was going to lodge a complaint about comparing something, anything, to the Miracle on Ice but now that Russia is our BFF I guess it’s not that big a deal anymore.
Agree with you (& everyone else) on the puzzle. The best Saturday I can recall (even though it was a struggle).
Jimmy Chitwood agrees with me.
Great puzzle. Congrats to Howard. (excuse me — former ACPT champ Howard :-)) So you can be sure that anything he constructs he could have solved.
Loved the NYT – fell into the trap at 1A and then had to switch from pen on paper to the computer once I realized I was off-base.
Then I tried to make the Stumper much harder than it was (it was actually one of the easiest Stumpers I’ve ever done). 60d is [”Some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head” singer] and it’s three letters, so I figured it was a rebus for Johnny CASH. Nope. Turns it out it’s a somewhat misleading (or at least ambiguous) clue for SUE. I spent quite a while rebus-hunting before I figured out there wasn’t one.
Really enjoyed the WSJ – a nice quantity and variety of themers – BUSINESSASUSUAL being my favorite. The triple stack in the SW corner is very nice as well. Middle was the last to fall – not knowing Lea SALONGA (or Yves MONTAND), along with INCITERS and ASTHOUGH not coming to me made it a nice challenge Thanks Randolph!
Oh man, [… Birchard, ____, Alan, …] is some hardcore trivia. I guess this is a thing all the smart people know?
That’s what crossings are for! I still don’t know what the reference is.
Presidential middle names:
Rutherford Birchard Hayes, James Abram Garfield, Chester Alan Arthur…..
Really hard NYT for me, but I liked it a lot. I saw right off that MING and THONG didn’t fit and wondered where to put the extra letters. (I much prefer themed puzzles like this.) But then I was put off the scent by its being possible to solve the SW without that. I figured my first instinct had been wrong and tried to work things the normal way.
It didn’t help that I didn’t know MARA or, in the NW, two of four (singer and New Mexican). Also didn’t help that I guessed “reel in” rather than “rein in” and “brls” rather than BBLS for barrels, which kept me from getting the key theme entry until the very, very end.
Oh, forgot: I also didn’t know the FX series, so that was another spot where I couldn’t get at least two of four needed theme fills.