Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, see? The Friday hit me like a Saturday and now the Saturday feels like an easy Friday puzzle.
Things I didn’t know (but they didn’t slow me down): SEMIBREVE, LIDA ROSE. Also didn’t know the fencing term QUINTE, [Fifth of eight parrying positions in fencing], but the fifth/quint overlap made it gettable.
Names I liked seeing: ANTOINE/Fats, AVEENO (good lotion for sensitive skin!), the QUAKERS, the SCHUYLER SISTERS of Hamilton, Gertrude EDERLE, RAGNAROK ([Day of doom, in Scandinavian mythology]? So that’s what that means!), “WE MADE IT,” ELLIE KEMPER, a DEERSTALKER hat, Sara TEASDALE, mathy TETRAHEDRA, and Ta-Nehisi COATES.
Interesting that of all the names in the puzzle, I think only two (Yogi BERRA, ELON Musk) belong to a white man. Lots of women, a couple African-American men—not the usual preponderance we see in so many crosswords (and history books, and the literary canon, and …). I like it. Representation matters, in bylines as well as in crossword content.
Clue it took me till just now to understand: 24a. [Practice composition?: Abbr.] for DRS. As in what a medical practice is composed of.
Most hardcore crosswordese: 28a. [Port on Ishikari Bay], OTARU.
Most repellent answer: 1d. [French anise-flavored liqueur], PASTIS. I do not like anything with an anise, licorice, or fennel flavor.
Arcane vocab word I learned: 23a. [Ones putting down quadrels], TILERS. A quadrel is a square stone or tile, and it’s fairly obscure. The only Wikipedia article by that name is about a 1991 video game.
52d. [They’re high at M.I.T. and Stanford], IQS. I just read about drugs at MIT today, in the context of the university dismantling a dorm that’s been home to many low-income or LGBT students. It’s too bad.
4.25 stars from me.
Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I have the pleasure of blogging another Erik Agard masterpiece this Saturday! This guy is really good, and if I haven’t already, I will give a shout out to his website and his book that I recently bought! A good themeless, but not too tough. But what lively entries! Do I need to remind you how young this dude is?? 4.6 stars for this 70-worder!
Just a smattering of some of the fun:
- 1A [Where regular payments are made] GAS PUMPS – Right off the bat, we have what may be the best clue in the puzzle!
- 17A [Soybean product also called yuba] TOFU SKIN – I am not a vegetarian, so I am not that familiar with this. I should probably go vegan, though, since I still have 25-30 lbs to shed …
- 35A [Modern pizza option] GLUTEN-FREE CRUST – Another food option for the diet conscious!
- 45A [Debate-ending procedure] CLOTURE – A fairly rare word, unless you have taken a debate class in school.
- 60A [Mongo Santamaria jazz standard whose title is rhymed with “cocoa hue” in Oscar Brown Jr.’s lyrics] AFRO BLUE – Wow. I am not familiar with this particular song, but I know Oscar Brown Jr. extremely well. My grandmother had a version of this album. Here is “Afro Blue” for you, but I also recommend “Dat Dere” if you have children!
- 12D [First director to win back-to-back Oscars since Mankiewicz] IÑÁRRITU – I spelled it right!! Iñárritu won for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Revenant in recent years, while Mankiewicz won for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve in 1949 and 1950.
- 14D [One screening fliers] TSA AGENT – The bane of air passengers in this country!
- 31D [“That wasn’t exactly honorable of me, was it”] “I FEEL DIRTY” – The best entry in the puzzle!
- 36D [Drink from a stand] LEMONADE – I guessed this right off the bat, and I was right! Still a clever clue!
I could go on, but you get the point. I literally think I will get out his book tonight!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Matthew Sewell for a Stumper usually means a teeny bit easier puzzle. I had the first three-quarters of this solved in about 10 minutes, but the lower SE corner (with all the correction marks!) took the rest of my time. This puzzle has 72 words, which also leads slightly better fill than anything less, and this fits that bill as well. I am becoming a big fan of this guy’s puzzles of late. Keep ’em coming! 4.5 stars this week.
A few notables:
- 17A [Some yoga poses] HEADSTANDS – No thank you!
- 21A [Be boring, perhaps] TUNNEL – I have seen this clue before, but our company does underground “boring,” so I was ready!
- 33A [Nation of 150-plus million] BANGLADESH – I am running into this fun fact a lot recently: this country has more people than Russia! And most speak Punjabi, making it one of the most spoken languages on earth.
- 46A [Abrupt ender of a probe] M.Y.O.B. – I thought I had an error! Until I figured out this was the acronym for Mind Your Own Business (or Beeswax!).
- 34D [Favoring management] ANTI-LABOR – I had ANTI-UNION!
- 35D [Shade of orange] NECTARINE – I had TANGERINE!
- 41D [Winter squash used in quesadillas] CALABEZA – A new word! I don’t believe I have ever heard of this variety. My son’s quesadillas are usually just cheese!
On to schoolwork this weekend!! Have a great one!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dialogues” — pannonica’s wrote-up
Once again, preoccupations prevent me from being expansive.
We have common collocations of encounter that have been punnily—often literally—reconceived.
- 21a. [Dialogue between mountain climbers?] SUMMIT CONFERENCE.
- 34a. [Dialogue between cows?] STOCK EXCHANGE.
- 55a. [ … between arson investigators?] FIRESIDE CHAT.
- 67a. [ … between heterosexuals?] STRAIGHT TALK. Not a fan of nominalizing adjectives about people.
- 90a. [ … scaredy-cats?] QUAKER MEETING.
- 107a. [ … scuba divers?] DEEP CONVERSATION.
- 15d. [ … hot dog vendors?] FRANK DISCUSSION.
- 40d. [ … diner waitresses?] COUNTER ARGUMENT.
I thought these were rather clever and well done. The ballast fill and cluing are also high quality, in the main. Some notable exceptions include 97a [Police officer, at times] CITER, 60a [Judges and juries] TRIERS, and 15d [Propagation by sowing] SEEDAGE. The best stuff includes clever clues for short entries such as 89a [Ticker tape, for short] ECG and 68d [Firm finish] INC. Longer answers are LAUGHS LAST, SAINTS DAY, stacked ON ONE’S TOES / ESSAY TESTS and PARCEL POST / OREO COOKIE.
It’s been fun talking at you all, but I’ve got to go.
Besides ANTOINE, AVEENO, STRUDELS. LIDAROSE, IRAN, SEMIBREVE, OTARU, QUAKERS, ELON, SCHUYLERSISTERS, EDERLE, TILERS (quadrels), RAGNAROK, HOMO, BERRA, IONIAN, QUINTE, PASTIS, ELLIEKEMPER, DEERSTALKER, SILVERARROW, BABAR, AERO, TEASDALE, TETRAHEDRA, COATES, BATE, DANES, HISPANIA, SITZ the NYT was a superb puzzle, very enjoyable, especially the center. Extra points for no spelling mistakes.
“He hates everything”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLQ0LZSnJFE
I don’t think Mikey would like this puzzle, though I wouldn’t so cruel as to have him try it. :)
Hell hath no fury like a solver, stumped.
Even if that were the case, you seem to have missed the basis of my criticism. Since it’s literally in black and white I’m not sure how you achieved that feat.
Then what is your beef? How on earth do you object to straight-up things like the QUAKERS, IRAN, Tesla/Space-X founder ELON Musk, classic kid-lit BABAR, Sara TEASDALE, geometry TETRAHEDRA, National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi COATES, the DANES, Yogi BERRA, Sherlock Holmes’ trademark DEERSTALKER cap? They’re not contemporary pop culture. They’re not crosswordese. They’re not obscure or arcane. You’re opposed to having geography and literature in a Saturday Times puzzle??
Also, many of the things you singled out as the not-superb parts are, in fact, in the center of the puzzle, which you found enjoyable. You may think that your message is crystal clear, but it really isn’t. You didn’t explain your objection to that laundry list of entries.
My criticism, which I think is clear, is that the puzzle is trivia heavy, especially in the midsection, and that many of those entries are obscure enough to be problematic. Now, we can argue what a NYT solver should be expected to know, but even if that were to be decided in your favor the puzzle remains a trivia quiz largely.
The Stumper was a walk in the park today btw. Must’ve been the lack of trivia :)
Then how on earth do you admire the center of the puzzle, when it’s filled with the “trivia” you disdain?
And how on earth are the QUAKERS and TETRAHEDRA “trivia”? Your argument’s not holding water.
I was being sarcastic about the puzzle’s middle, just as I was about enjoying it.
Quakers are also known as Friends so that’s trivia and tetrahedra is not only a bit obscure but was asked in relation to world pyramids, if memory serves, so that’s a kind of trivia as well.
NYT took me about average time for a Saturday… but, I had to look up ELLIEKEMPER. A good, puzzling puzzle.
On the other hand, I think I (finally) got the current Fireball meta.
Something tells me she’ll be one of those “celebrities” who’s far better known among crossword solvers than anyone else outside her family & devoted coterie of fans.
Really? Because she’s the star of a popular, buzzy, critics darling of a show, was previously on “The Office,” and is young enough to have other juicy roles later in her career? Sitcom stars are household names in a way that silent film stars haven’t been in 90 years, or the less-known composers, or writers of little note. I suspect Kemper will remain more broadly known than YMA Sumac for years to come.
And there are other ELLIEs who may slip into crossword immortality, such as pop singer Ellie Goulding. ELLIE is no UMA or THEDA.
I’ll give you Yma Sumac but if you want to punish poor Theda Bara because all her movies were lost in a fire, that’s between you & your conscience, Amy.
Funny response by C. Smith! I find Theda Bara, Yma Sumac and Uma Thurman to be much more famous names than ELLIE KEMPER, but I haven’t watched that many sitcoms. I liked Amy’s defense of the puzzle, partly because I liked it too, but there were a lot of hard bits and names. However, I like it when I can complete a puzzle without looking anything up, and I did it, though it took two days. ELLIE KEMPER’s name came to me very slowly. I might only know it from crosswords.
NYT was meh but enjoyed learning of the SEMIBREVE, an affectation which my high school friend who’s been teaching music in the U.K. for years was careful not to describe as “eccentric.”
There’s an online dictionary that defines ‘semibreve’ as
‘a musical note with a time value equal to two minims or four crotchets’
which, I think, qualifies as eccentric.
(Regarding the game ‘Pick-Up Song’ from BBC Radio 4’s self-proclaimed ‘antidote to panel shows’, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue)
It gets better with crotchet, which apparently is an eighth note in French (because of the little “hook” that comes off it) but a quarter note in British English. No idea.
Odd how sometimes an answer will surprise you by bubbling up from deep in your long-term memory. But other times, you will mentally kick yourself because you know the answer, but the instant you see the clue, you inexplicably forget it. (This phenomenon also occurs in conversation, when someone asks you the name of so-and-so.)
This mental lapse hit me with Ellie Kemper, but, thankfully, the lightbulb lit up with sufficient crosses.
Enjoyable, tough puzzle. A fine debut.
LAT: Really enjoyed E Agard’s crossword – just the right amount of chewiness for a medium Saturday. Favorite clues: 6d [Break bread?] MAKE CHANGE and the fake-out of 38d [Like a fox] FURRY. (Least favorite entry: 43a AM TUNER.)
A lot of names in the NYT but fair crosses, so I can’t complain. Played hard for me, since COATES and ELLIE KEMPER were complete strangers to me, but a very satisfying solve.
NYT was incredibly good; it had me at 33a crossing 14d, and continued to be ultra-smooth everywhere else. One of my faves this year
Wow. What a great surprise to see Oscar Brown Jr. in this blog today! I LOVE that album. My father used to play it often. Every song is so good. I just listened to it this week. Thanks, Erik and Derek.
Now, I’ll have to go do the LAT puzzle.
I found this to be one of the hardest puzzles of the year. I did not know ELLIE KEMPER, SILVER ARROW, AVEENO, PASTIS, RAGNAROK, SEMIBREVE, and LIDAROSE, the most I can ever recall. The puzzle was fair in that there were no crossings that I could not figure out, but I had do sense that any of the above unknowns (except possibly RAGNAROK) were fun to learn. A total grind for me.
I agree, it was my experience as well. While I did know PASTIS courtesy of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, I have never came across the term QUINTE once, even though I am a former UCLA varsity fencer .
Amy, you and I are on opposite trajectories. I found yesterday’s fairly straightforward and this one nearly broke me. I don’t know ELLIE KEMPER (well, I do now) and I misspelled EDERLE (don’t ask) so it was entirely my fault – but yow. It’s a good puzzle, just took me forever.
I don’t understand the objection to “triers” in the WSJ. Judges and juries are routinely and almost always (when lumped together) called “triers of fact” by lawyers. That’s because there are no factual determinations except those made by judges and juries. Except those stipulated by the parties, or given judicial notice.
That seems like egregious legalese to me. Honestly, I would have preferred a trainwreck clue like [Filmmaker Lars and family: the von __ ].
(Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme.)
Erik’s themeless was perfect for getting through a long graduation ceremony. I worked east to west, got stuck in the middle, then powered through the west. SE with IFEELDIRTY, AFROBLUE, HITAWALL, and STYLISTS was my favorite spot.
Regarding the Newsday puzzle write-up, I was wondering where the facts about Bangladesh came from? It seemed odd that there would be so many Punjabi speakers living Bangladesh.
I would have thought that the main language was Bengali? The web sites I’ve checked seem to back this up, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Bangladesh and https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/bg.html
The state of Punjab was split during partition between India and Pakistan. So I’m pretty sure that area would be where most Punjabi speakers live (other than the diaspora population in the UK, Canada, USA, etc.).
I hope this is not too picky!
Back to the puzzle, I thought it was ImMA instead of IRMA. (DAmN vs DARN) Oops! :-)
There seems to be some confusion with Pakistan. It too has a greater population than Russia and Punjabi is the native language of more Pakistanis than any other language.
I found the NYT too trivia heavy myself. (Didn’t help that I had Pernod for PASTIS, new to me, and so wondered what to do with IRAN.) In the end, the crossings of DANES with EDERLE and QUINTE defeated me. (I did know COATES, having read that book and given it to my step-father last year as a present.)