Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lotsa good stuff here: RITZ BITS, NOOB (which you can spell n00b with zeroes, too), OPIUM DENS, CINDERELLA TEAMS, SLOW START, ZZ TOP (a friend just won tickets to see ZZ Top by answering a Facts of Life trivia question from ex-veejay Martha Quinn, and that is the most peak ’80s parenthetical I’ve ever written), BOOBOISIE, EATS RIGHT, and CANDY CANE (you ever see the movie Joy Ride? “Candy Cane …”).
I’m never keen on seeing POI or TARO in a grid, but when you include both and cross-reference them, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work nicely. (Your mileage may vary.)
- 39a. [Grammy-winning R. Kelly hit of 1996], I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. Oh, have you read his inspiring life story of sexually assaulting teenage girls? Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis has the stomach-churning details. R. Kelly is right up there with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.
- 63a. [Bat around], BANDY. Despite my love for this answer word, I was still hazy on how the word comes together. Nearly wanted BANTY (which is different, but also delightful).
- 11d. [Quinceañera, for 15-year-old girls], RITE. I like that the clue doesn’t specify any particular 15-year-old girls here. Last year, my son was a chambelan in his friend’s quince, and my husband and I were invited. We didn’t dare dance because our feet have no experience moving that fast, but the homemade food was muy delicioso.
- 21d. [They’re old and tired], USED CARS. The TRICK/KNEES might also have worked here.
- 31d. [Tree-tapping spigot], SPILE. I bet my cousin Kip knows that word since he taps maples here in Chicago and makes his own syrup.
- 35d. [Meeting on the DL], TRYST. Uh, no. When you have the very culturally specific meaning of “on the down-low” referring to purportedly straight men who hook up with other men, TRYST isn’t quite apt. If this TRYST is just some random twosome, not fitting that other definition, then you’d do well to keep “on the DL” out of the clue.
- 48d. [Cut of meat], SLAB. Is this a term of art used by butchers? Can you go to a meat market and request a “slab of beef”?
- 52d. [Baroque artist Guido], RENI. Crosswordese name! My favorite RENI is Seinfeld actor Reni Santoni, who played the minor character Poppie.
4.2 stars from me.
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Sailed through the puzzle quickly this week. Not that it wasn’t difficult, but with the typical smooth LAT fill, this one didn’t have too many roadblocks, other than the impressive stack of 15s in the middle, crossed impressively by another 15 at 7D! The 15s are PEDAL TO THE METAL, PAID A STEEP PRICE, and TROUBLESHOOTERS for the acrosses, while ABSOLUTE SILENCE is the one at 7D. Nice work in a 68-word grid. I don’t remember too many difficulties with Roland’s puzzles in the past; we may be on the same wavelength. (I don’t think this is a pseudonym!) A solid 4.5 stars today.
Just a few notables:
- 17A [Relaxed to the max] MELLOWEST – Ran 9 miles this morning. I am feeling EXTREMELY mellow!
- 19A [Like Orson, on a ’70s-’80s sitcom] ORKAN – I am old enough to remember Mork and Mindy with Robin Williams. I’ll bet a lot of you youngsters only know this from YouTube!
- 23A [Queen of Thorns portrayer on TV] RIGG – Game of Thrones is back this summer!
- 3D [Broadcast genre] TALK RADIO – I remember when I first found sports talk radio. I listened to a lot less music from that point on!
- 15D [Grab, as at a smorgasbord] TONG – I am OK as long as I avoid buffets. I did not follow my own advice this past Tuesday …
- 45D [“Really?”] YOU DO? – Great phrase entry. Only 7 NYT entries. Favorite clue? [“That Thing __!” (Tom Hanks film)]!
It is supposed to be a nice weekend! See you on Tuesday.
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Back to a normal week after last weekend’s half marathon. No races planned until the end of the month, but I am doing a one month running streak for May. I have run at least one mile every day so far! I am either going to feel really great or really tired in 2-3 more weeks!
Today’s puzzle is by Matthew Sewell. I usually don’t have as bad a time with his, and my time of around 16 minutes is about right. Challenging, but you can get a toehold a little easier in his. It seems as if I stare at a Longo or Wilbur Stumper for 10 minutes and it is still empty! The most striking part of this puzzle to me is the fill: there doesn’t seem to be one bad entry in it! Some interesting ones, for sure, but nothing I wasn’t totally familiar with. Some of the clues seemed a little obscure, but they all made sense, and that made for an enjoyable Stumper solve. 4.7 for this one.
- 10A [Rubber implements] RASPS – As in “rubbing” against something to smooth it out! Nicely done.
- 19A [Cinematographer’s aid] LOUPE – OK, maybe this was not as familiar as I thought. This is a small magnifying glass you have seen directors and such use. A good word to learn!
- 23A [Fair or fairly] PRETTY – Best clue!
- 37A [Certain cyclist] SPEED COP – Can a cop on a bike catch a speeder? Or am I missing something?
- 43A [Sponsor of “Spamalot”] HORMEL – Hilarious!
- 4D [MD squad] TERPS – As in the Maryland Terrapins, not a group of doctors! Also a very good clue.
- 10D [NFL nickname derived from FDR] ROSEY – As in Rosey Grier, I assume. I would love to know the story behind this clue.
- 30D [Where Fitzgerald and Hendrix got their start] THE APOLLO – This theater is still in use. The crowds there are merciless if you’re not any good!
- 35D [Dairy Queen beverage] MOOLATTE – This sounds really delicious right now…
- 38D [Detectives, in headlines] PROBERS – Yes, I had an errant letter here. The “banks” referred to at 51A are blood banks, and that made this solvable once I figured that out. Not that familiar with the word “probers” in a headline.
I will stop there. There were lots more I could have spoken about! Enjoy your weekend, everyone!
Charles M Deber’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Et Al.” — pannonica’s write-up
Don’t know why, but my brain is strangely befogged this morning. Took an extraordinarily long time to solve the NYT and the Newsday Stumper. Less so for this one, but still.
Hence a short just-the-facts write-up; perhaps I’ll return later in the day to flesh it out.
Theme: extant phrases altered by the insertion of the bigram AL. Seven acrosses, two downs. Two themer intersections.
- 23a. [Hair-raising tale by D.H. Lawrence?] SALONS AND LOVERS (Sons …).
- 33a. [Baseball team with nerves of steel?] NEW YORK METALS (… Mets).
- 49a. [Appease with a bit of seafood?] THROW ABALONE TO (… a bone …).
- 65a. [Spots for mammoth weddings?] ALTAR PITS (tar …).
- 85a. [Steinbeck novel about nasty fellows?] OF MALICE AND MEN (… MIce …).
- 97a. [Cover version of a Tennessee Ernie Ford hit by the Eagles?] SIXTEEN TALONS (… Tons),
- 110a. [Where a tour would take all day?] AT A SNAIL’S PALACE (… pace …).
- 32d. [End-of-term ordeals for a school of fish?] SHARK FINALS (… fins).
- 46d. [Shaq’s appeal for a breather?] O’NEAL MOMENT (one …).
Can’t opine effectively or fairly. Hoping the fuddlement lifts.
Nice work Jeff!
NYT NW had a lot of “stuff”.
DNF for me. Maybe I’m just especially dense today. Don’t even understand Amy’s objection to TRYST (mine was more about DL meaning “disabled list”). Not sure why you’d clue ZZTOP LP’s without referencing Eliminator & Afterburner. Pretty over casually cluing a journalist from a century ago. And that’s just the NW. Agree that there were some good bits but not worth the effort.
I’m guessing the ZZTOP clue was meant to trick solvers into pondering what 5-letter Latino artists would fit.
The Times Magazine had a 2003 article that introduced me to the sexual “on the DL”: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/03/magazine/double-lives-on-the-down-low.html
Fair enough, although I’d argue things were different in 2003, when gay couples had no legal rights at all. A TRYSTing gay male is more likely cheating on a male partner (A LA a straight relationship) now. And I get (& initially fell for) the ZZ TOP misdirection, but, I mean, Eliminator sold 10 million copies. Just seems like obtuse cluing.
This essay suggests that being on the DL is still alive and well: http://affinitymagazine.us/2016/09/06/black-down-low-men-why-so-many-of-them-are-in-the-closet/
FWIW, I know ZZ Top’s hit singles, but “Eliminator” doesn’t ring any kind of bell for me. And would you believe “Tres Hombres” charted higher than “Eliminator”? True story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZZ_Top_discography#Albums
OK number 8 vs number 9. And I’ve now officially thought more about ZZ Top’s discography than in my entire life. Does that mean this puzzle wasn’t so bad? Or much, much worse?
Having never heard the terms cinderella team, noob, stile, or booboise – NYT was a pain in the neck and not all that satisfying. Also not clear on why “try” is “essay. And spy doesn’t have to be nonnative.
I agree with your taking exception to “essay” being clued as “try.” Though both “assay” and “essay” may be used as verbs meaning “to try or to attempt,” the former seems more commonly used (and less ambiguous) in that context than the latter. To force “essay” into that spot to get the abbreviation for “record” (“rec”) irked me, and as a rule I am not a nitpicking crossword curmudgeon.
Disagree. To ASSAY is to test; to ESSAY is to attempt. I thought that was very clean.
Really enjoyed NYT and WSJ. Tough, but eventually doable, which is what I like. I almost had a triple (quadruple?) Natick in the WSJ at 20 and 28 across and 9 and 10 down before I saw 28a and the rest fell.
If you saw and enjoyed Caddyshack, you will never forget Cinderella story.
While the term Cinderella team (or more aptly the reference to the team’s accomplishment as a
Cinderella story) usually includes many upsets along the way, it is the story itself that makes it a Cinderella story. The 1969 Mets won the World Series after being so terrible when the franchise started, but it would be hard to call most of their wins upsets. On the other hand, the Miracle on Ice U.S. hockey team included in its gold medal run the greatest upset in the history of sports. The high school team in Hoosiers is for me the epitome of a Cinderella story–but we always focus on the accomplishment of a team or individual coming up from nowhere to be champion rather than the upsets along the way. Giant killer is a term used to refer to a specific upset.
Did anyone put SCRAPBOOOK DEALER instead of RARESTAMP DEALER? That held me up for a while.
I thought it was a great puzzle.
My first entry for 36a was VINYL ENTHUSIAST. It didn’t stick around very long once I saw 35d.
DNF for me. Too much stuff I didn’t know — ZZTOP albums, a Simpsons character, something from Harry Potter, an ANT I’ve never heard of…
I had the bottom third and the NE finished but nothing much else, and ended up googling for 39A. And I had the DEALER part of 36A but was fixated on vinyl albums. Got there eventually but this was the hardest Saturday for me in a long time.
A couple of clues had the meaning stretched to the point of incorrectitude, IMO. “Smelt” basically means melt, but with particular reference to obtaining metals from ores. Extracting impurities is a very indirect meaning at best. And INTERACT meaning “work together”? Like when the Jets and the Sharks interacted in West Side Story?
I’m trying to understand why two closeted men can’t arrange a tryst.
They can, but so can lots of other people, and “on the DL” isn’t synonymous with “in the closet.” As I understand it, the specific meaning is that men “on the DL” are deceiving their female partners – pretending to be straight and maintaining het sexual relationships while having sex with men in secret. They generally don’t identify as gay, so they’re not closeted in the same way.
The deception is part of the definition of “on the DL.” I think that was Amy’s point.
I’m glad I don’t have to learn the ins and outs of homosexuality. It’s too much of a hassle. Trying to get it right in a predominantly hetero world is challenge enough for me.
“On the down low” has always meant to me secretly, hush hush. Like Martin, I don’t understand the conversation about tryst. Isn’t it a meeting between any genders of lovers, arranged secretly, or “on the down low”? Why am I expected to know this gay argot, if, indeed, that’s what Amy is saying the clue calls for? I don’t see any pointer in the clue that suggests that it is “the very culturally specific meaning of ‘on the down-low’”.
I find it surprising that gays and lesbians, comprising less than 2% of the population, garner such broad public attention. [2013 NHIS data]
Along those lines, here’s an interesting tidbit: the French government does not recognize minorities in its population. French citizens are all French – period.
i’m sorry you feel hassled by the gay argot, john
“Tryst” seems a bit quaint today; most would probably be called hook-ups. But if we overlook that, it seems that all down-low meetings between “straight” men (whether or not they have partners) would qualify as trysts. All trysts would not be meetings on the DL, but that doesn’t matter for the clue. In other words, I’m quite aware of what DL signifies but don’t see how it means there’s a problem with the clue.
The clue is needlessly overspecific. When it mostly refers to black men and the puzzle’s editors and creator are not black men, why is “on the DL” being dropped in here? They lack standing (unless they’re just ignorant of the TRYST-related specific meaning of “on the DL,” in which case more research was needed before the clue was used).
Did not finish, cross at BOOboisie and NOOb.
At least I should have known NOOB.
Liked the NYT a lot and didn’t find it particularly challenging. Was stuck on the Stumper for a loooong time, in part because of ROARER at 26A, which is roll-your-own. I’m sure it’s technically correct but no one would use it. I had BARKER and HAWKER and finally left it blank and filled it in from crossings, and I don’t like it at all. It’s otherwise a really good puzzle, but since ROARER was the last answer I filled in, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
WSJ was a bit tough and some crosswordese entries were awful. NOT the way to attract new-comers to the world of cruciverbism.(oops-I belie myself!) Reminded me of NYT pre-shortz puzzles.
I enjoyed the WaPo. It is credited to one of my favorite constructors, Dr. Charles Deber, not Matt Sewell as the review states.
Editor didn’t want to work. Anyway, wsj, not wapo.
Fixed. Thank you. See? More evidence of my state of mind.