Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of social media action in this grid, and the constructor’s not a teenager. Zhouqin’s puzzle is centered on that Facebook FRIEND REQUEST and those TWITTER ALERTS, and there are also Snapchat clues for BITMOJIS and the ghost LOGO.
What else is in here? LATTE ART is wonderful. EPIC WINS are good to achieve. LOOSE TEA is good, if you’re into that sort of thing. TSA AGENT, “SIGN HERE,” a cheesy FOAM HAND, ROSEANNE (tune in this winter for a reboot of the show, with the original cast, now 20 years older!), VLASIC pickles (never heard of competitor Mt. Olive—Wikipedia tells me “Mt. Olive is the largest independent pickle company in the United States and top-selling pickle brand in the Southeastern United States, where its market share approaches 70 percent”—seems an odd choice for an Northeast crossword by a Midwestern constructor), Keurig K-CUPS (you may deplore them), and the timely “I QUIT” (oh, Spicey, we hardly knew ye).
Four more things:
- 8a. [Being tried], AT BAR. I don’t ever encounter this term in, say, news stories about trials.
- 16a. [Sweepstakes exhortation], “ENTER NOW.” Really? This answer feels a bit contrived to me.
- 23a. [Wearer of an “H”-inscribed hat], ASTRO. When I filled this answer in through crossings, I wondered why the Jetsons’ dog Astro wore a hat with an H on it. D’oh! Houston Astros, H for Houston.
- 5d. [Rockefeller Center muralist], SERT. Been seeing this clue/answer combo for eons, never looked up the mural itself. It’s bonkers! Walls, ceiling, the works.
- 54a. [Heavens], EDENS. The Edens Expressway is what we call a particular stretch of I-94 in Chicagoland. I just now learned who it was named for: “William G. Edens, a banker and early advocate for paved roads. He was a sponsor of Illinois’ first highway bond issue in 1918.” Other interstates around town include the Stevenson (named for Adlai E. II), the Dan Ryan, the Eisenhower (or Ike), the Bishop Ford, and of course the Kennedy.
Four stars from me.
Sarah Kampman and Brad Wilber’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Placing Want Ads” — pannonica’s write-up
This one could also be titled “Parsing Want Ads” but since geography is intrinsic to the wordplay the double-entendre of place (verb, noun) makes better sense.
We have mashups. Cities followed by their two-letter state abbrev., which in turn comprises the beginning of another word, as additionally described in the clue. And the clues are framed as classified advertisements.
- 23a. [Pelican State seeks hired thug for shallow body of water] BATON ROUGE LAGOON (Louisiana/GOON, lagoon).
- 51a. [Palmetto State seeks dumpster-diving vigilante] COLUMBIA SCAVENGER (South Carolina/AVENGER, scavenger).
- 71a. [Heart of Dixie seeks vinyl-loving hobo] MOBILE ALBUM (Alabama/BUM, album). Standard hobo/bum non-equivalency complaint.
- 89a. [Land of Opportunity seeks newly relocated merchant to increase competition] LITTLE ROCK ARRIVAL (Arkansas/RIVAL, arrival).
- 121a. [Show Me State seeks feline computer expert] KANSAS CITY MOUSER (Missouri/USER, mouser). Orthography: Show-Me State should be hyphenated. Speaking of which, considering ‘dumpster-diving’ and ‘vinyl-loving’, surprised ‘newly relocated’ wasn’t also hyphenated.
- 17d. [Sunshine State seeks restroom attendant] MIAMI FLUSHER (Florida/USHER, flusher).
- 63d. [Bay State seeks costumed cheerleader in a kilt] QUINCY MASCOT (Massachusetts/SCOT, mascot).
Three of these seven are State Capitals. Quincy is by far the smallest, with a population of less than 100,000. Oh! Columbia is smaller than I thought, but still significantly larger than Quincy.
Note also the consistency of the cluing: each is presented as the state—via its official nickname—as an entity actively placing an ad. Interesting and well done theme, fun puzzle overall.
- 1a [Salt facility] SEA LEGS. That was a tricksy start to the crossword! Another: 40a [Remote location] SOFA.
- 20a [So far] UP TO NOW. There are number of locales in the US called UPTON, but OW isn’t a state abbrev. and there’s no tail to make another word. p.s. There’s no town called RANGE in Washington State.
- 22a [Skimpy skirt] MINI, 116d [Not-so-skimpy skirt] MAXI.
47a [Girder type] I-BAR, 46d [See 47-Across] I-BEAM.
75a [Derriere] REAR atop 80a [Derby derriere] ARSE.
3d [ABA member] ATT, 61a [ABA members] ESQS.
- 29a [Bit of cocoa] NIB. Yum, very useful. I would’ve gone with cacao, but this is also acceptable.
- 84a [Malek of “Mr. Robot”] RAMI. Personally, would have preferred the plural of RAMUS here.
- 101a [“The Nazarene” writer Sholem] ASCH. Personally, would have preferred to see folklorist and recordist Moses here.
- 2d [WaterSense program overseer, for short] EPA. For now. Be aware! Be vigilant!
- 9d [Jargon ending] -ESE. Status update: I still am amused by thinking of “jargonese”.
- 10d [Chopin composition] VALSE. But I prefer Granados’.
- 65d [Stand-in schedule letters] TBS. Not TBA(nnounced) or TBD(etermined). I guess this is S(pecified)?
I’ll just leave this here. 131a [Marked for inclusion] STETTED.
Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
If Erik is already this good at crossword constructing in his early 20s, what in the world are his puzzles going to be like when he is, say, 40?? He may well be headed into that rare air of constructors (Reagle, Berry, Cox & Rathvon, Quigley, and others) if he isn’t already. I know I did not have this good of a grasp on the language at that age. His puzzles are simply a pleasure to solve! 4.6 stars for this one. Not too difficult, but tons of fun!
Some examples (and other observations):
- 9A [Actress Thompson of “Creed”] TESSA – Another movie I have yet to see, and it was on Netflix I think a while back.
- 31A [False pretenses] MOUNTEBANKERY – A new word to me! Or at least one I haven’t heard in many years. Awesome.
- 37A [Denzel Washington’s directorial debut] ANTWONE FISHER – Another movie I haven’t seen! Surprise, surprise …
- 60A [Iraq war concerns, for short] WMD’S – Why does this seem soooo long ago?
- 3D [Nonprofit that won a 2007 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy] REACH OUT AND READ – I don’t know anything I just typed. Where do they find this stuff??
- 7D [Where I-15 and I-80 meet] UTAH – I knew this because in my plans to go to the NPL Con last year, I noticed that I-80, which runs within 2-3 miles of my house, goes straight to Salt Lake City!
- 25D [__-nez glasses] PINCE – Yes, you see an error in the grid here. I spelled it wrong!
- 28D [Vishy __, World Chess Champion before Carlsen] ANAND -His full first name is Viswanathan, which is how I am used to seeing his name. I do follow chess a tad, and I don’t remember seeing this nickname.
- 50D [Belch in “Twelfth Night”] TOBY – I thought this was an actor I didn’t know! I need to brush on the old Bard if I ever get on Jeopardy!
Erik, make another one of these Saturday LAT challengers!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I hope you folks appreciate my honesty when I share the grid image with tons of mistakes in it! I do consider myself a fairly good solver, but at the same time these Stumpers at times are REALLY HARD! Stan’s pseudonym “Lester Ruff” actually means “less rough” if I remember correctly, but this one I found rather thorny. But after solving, a cursory check of the puzzle overall reveals that in the end all of the clues are fair, and the fill is, as usual with Stan, extremely good. My timer kept running through my answer checks, head scratches, and frustrated cries of exasperation, but I enjoyed every minute! The oxymoronic phrase here might be “agonizing pleasure!” 4.5 stars for this sadistic joy!
A few notes:
- 15A [Unglamorous preparations] SPADEWORK – I have never heard this term, but it is in the dictionary. Isn’t the English language grand?!
- 18A [Vamoose] LAM IT – Not my favorite entry, but still solvable. But with the V and X in that region, I would rather have that with one slightly crosswordese-y entry than any alternative with more boring letters. And all the crossers are fair.
- 26A [Visionary in vain] QUIXOTIC – This one stumped me, but after you get it then it makes perfect sense! Nice alliteration here, and probably one of the better clues in the puzzle.
- 50A [NOW cause] EQUAL PAY – I had ABORTION at first (oops!), then I had EQUALITY, which is actually only off by two letter! Kudos for using the same clue at 19A for ERA.
- 7D [Front-burnered] TO-DO – This one I am not familiar with at all. The clue seem’s like an adjective, and I know of course about a “to-do list,” but you wouldn’t refer to a “front-burnered” list. The clue seems like it refers to something that may be prioritized on that very “to-do list.”
- 13D [Place that might be wrongly entered as ATLANTA] TBILISI – Both are capitals of a Georgia! Nice.
- 22D [Not much of a sport] PIKER – This also seems like a reach, according to the dictionary definition. And why does this word seem derogatory or even vulgar?
- 29D [Weekly pub regular, perhaps] TRIVIA BUFF – Believe it or not, we don’t have that many bars here that do trivia, other than the NTN Buzztime at like Buffalo Wild Wings, so this one played tough for me.
- 38D [National park including Mount Whitney] SEQUOIA – This is on my bucket list of places to see!
- 39D [Frequent droppers] KLUTZES – I actually thought this was one of the better clues! Just vague enough to make it difficult.
- 60D [Purveyor of the Lily’s Blackboard blog] NEA – I had to look this up afterward, and the website is here. I suppose from use of the term “blackboard” this is gettable, but a lot of schools use whiteboards now, don’t they?
That is all for today. Enjoy your weekend!