Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle played like a Friday to me, which makes some sense because the Friday puzzle played like a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Fave fill: “HOPE TO GOD” (which is a complete and idiomatic phrase as is), LAS VEGAS, BELOW ZERO (People! The summer solstice has passed and the days are growing shorter. Winter is coming), ON THE MAP, the dreadful childhood game of KEEP-AWAY (the short kids never get the damn ball!), MALIA OBAMA, DEMOLITION DERBY, and the throwback NOXZEMA/NEET combo.
Stalest answers: I-BAR, ALAR, SETTEES, DIADEMS, suffix –STER, BOLES, ODILE ([Von Rothbart’s daughter, in ballet]? If you say so).
Oddest overlap: The Teletubbies character LAA-LAA (the yellow one) and the random singing of “LA LA.” If you haven’t ever seen Teletubbies, you are in luck! There’s a whole YouTube channel devoted to it. Here’s a 2017 episode that hews to the exact same formula from 15 years ago, when I watched some with my then-toddler. The highlight is the video segment about 4 minutes in, with some British toddlers enjoying the heck out of honking horns. And then the video ends, the Tubbies say “Again! Again!”—and the video plays again. It’s trippy.
- 15a. [Audible sign of age], CREAK. Is this about floorboards or knees? Asking for a friend.
- 19a. [Bean in a pod?], ALAN. Great clue. Alan Bean was an astronaut. The pod in question might be an Apollo 12 command module or something along those lines.
- 22a. [New Age retreat in Big Sur], ESALEN. Would you believe it still exists? It’s been closed since February but they claim they’re reopening this summer.
- 31d. [Combination undergarment], CORSELET. A combination of a corset and … what? Actually, it’s a girdle/bra combo, aka merry widow. Dated—Nordstrom, which sells a lot of lingerie, doesn’t seem to offer any of these contraptions.
3.75 stars from me for this 66-worder.
Mark Diehl’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
One of the themeless greats has this Saturday’s LAT challenger puzzle. I found it quite a bit tougher than normal ones, and my time shows that. I had one error after it was all filled in, and I will blame it one some fatigue I am experiencing this week. I need to plan that vacation!
A solid 4.8 stars for this one. 66 words, only 26 black squares, and tremendously wide open with virtually no dreck at all. I am blown away by some of the constructions that Mark is able to produce. A total joy to solve!
A few notes:
- 17A [Fed with a wand] TSA AGENT – Right off the bat, I thought this was the best clue in the entire puzzle! Clever and diabolical all at once!
- 27A [Poor working conditions] SWEATBOXES – I had SWEATSHOPS in here at first. I think a SWEAT BOX as more of a torture device, so maybe that’s why I was a tad off.
- 30A [One with all the answers?] ALEX TREBEK – I saw ALEX…, and I immediately started thinking of the Amazon voice gizmo! Man, the world has changed; these voice machines can answer most any question, although my phone won’t let me send a text to my son, even though his number is in my contacts!!
- 37A [Certain racing vehicle] BURLAP SACK – Another awesome clue! I haven’t participated in a sack race since the early ’80s!
- 41A [Eighth of 24] THETA – Rule of thumb: usually when crosswords mention 24 of something, it’s the Greek alphabet. At least it seems that way to me!
- 8D [Like a trenta at Starbucks] EXTRA-EXTRA LARGE – Just right for the typical American appetite!
- 9D [The Beatles’ “Help!” is one] TITLE TRACK – I had MOVIE ALBUM in here, which caused LOTS of issues in that corner!
- 11D [“What __ bid for …”] AM I – I don’t know this phrase. At all. Someone please explain the reference.
- 38D [Jack in a box lunch] CHEESE – Clever! Yes, I just read it as Jack in the Box lunch, and we don’t even have those restaurants near my house!
Running a 5k this morning! Hopefully it doesn’t rain!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I think I am getting better! Brad’s are usually pretty tough, but I got this one down in only 15 minutes! Maybe after a couple of years of solving his puzzles regularly I am figuring out how his brain works! Lots of tough stuff in this one, and some great clues. 72 words in this one, and I cannot find one entry that is bad. Some a tad obscure (PIT SAW, SYLPH, GYRE), but depending on one’s experiences they may be quite familiar. All seemed to be gettable, especially with the crossings that made perfect sense. Brad is a master! 4.4 stars for this one.
Just a few notes:
- 16A [“No prob”] I’M OKAY! – I had I’M ON IT instead, which caused some issues. Finished the upper right corner last!
- 36A [Offering from Google or Microsoft] WEB BROWSER – Nice misdirection, at least for me. I was thinking cell phones since I spoke to someone recently who said they had a Google Pixel phone.
- 42A [Elementary sextet] NOBLE GASES – Oh, THAT elementary! Best clue in the puzzle.
- 63A [Electronically ready] HOOKED UP – Better than some other less tasteful clues for this phrase!
- 1D [Sweet Easter serving] BABKA – I don’t think I have ever had this cake. There are no Jewish restaurants near me unless I venture to Chicago. Road trip?
- 11D [Warrior daughter of Zeus] WONDER WOMAN – I don’t recall this detail from the comics! And I still need to see this movie!
- 21D [Tone characteristics] TIMBRES – As in music tones, not colors. I was fooled again!
- 31D [Sarong’s lack] SEAM – I tried SASH. This also caused issues …
- 44D [Worth getting an autograph from] SOMEONE – Another great clue. My mind went to “noted” or “notable” or some synonym like that. Makes sense after you solve it!
Off to my niece’s graduation party this weekend! Everybody have a great weekend!
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Added Fees” — pannonica’s write-up
Syllable \ˈfē\ inserted for punniness. Spelling varies. (79d [Won, for one: Abbr.] HOMophone.)
- 23a. [Dietary supplements that taste like steak?] BEEFY VITAMINS (B vitamins). 52a [Full of substance] MEATY.
- 28a. [Friends included in a phone pic?] SELFIE MATES (cellmates).
- 33a. [Domestic servant at Eddie’s Hollywood estate?] MURPHY MAID (mermaid). Would ‘worker’ be better than ‘servant’?
- 61a. [Chef who’s expert at preparing duck in its own fat?] CONFIT ARTIST (con artist).
- 72a. [Exercise employing sneakers with cushioned insoles?] COMFY RUNNING (come running).
- 97a. [For a thick-coated dog, it’s like seven human ones?] NEWFIE YEAR (new year). That’s Newfoundland.
- 107a. [Botany, agriculture and forestry?] LEAFY MAJORS (Lee Majors).
- 115a. [Headline announcing “Red Hot Mama” Tucker’s commencement address?] SOPHIE TO SPEAK (so to speak).
- 42a [Buyer be where?] STORE. That’s … hypergroanworthy. But hey maybe another iteration will make it better? 112d [Buyer be where?] MALL. Answer: no. You need at least six repetitions before an awful pun begins to have INANE (74d) and ironic humor.
- Something satisfying about seeing NEMESIS and LEGUMES next to each other (47a, 50a). Purely visually, I mean—nothing to do with their meanings. Something about those interior Ms. Also: nothing to do with the repeated ME, ME. You know, this explanation isn’t going well.
- 56a. [Chantelle product] BRA. Rather high end. But I can vouch for their quality,
- 102a [Mom’s pop] GRAMPA, 109a [Mom’s mom] GRAN. 29d [Gallic girls] FILLES, 45d [Gallic pal] AMI.
- 118a. [1992 animated musical film by Bill Plympton] THE TUNE.
- 13d [B&B in Brighton Beach?] CAPITALS. Clever clue. My favorite of the crossword.
- Considering that it follows 69d [Mammoth trapper] TAR, 70d [Paleozoic, e.g.] might have been more appropriately replaced with [Cenozoic, e.g.] as a cue for ERA.
- 83d [Deep discounts] CUT RATES. Usually see this in adjective form, no?
Pleasant Saturday morning distraction. Loosened me up for the ol’ Newsday Stumper.