Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Oh, hey! It’s another themeless from the talented Erik Agard. Highlights follow, in no particular order. QUEEN SUGAR! It’s on the OWN channel, and the second half of season 2 starts in early October (by which time Erik’s Crosswords With Friends puzzle about the show will have run). THE STONES! Utterly in-the-language. CRICKET … but clued as an adjective, and the Oxford American dictionary folks seem to suggest that only the negative not cricket is a thing. (As an insect or sport, or the magazine I so loved as a kid, it’s a great answer.) I love SCIROCCO as a wind name more than as a VW model (particularly since the Scirocco car hasn’t been sold in North America since the 1980s). PAT BENATAR, GREENHOUSE GASES, SAN ANTONIO, SITH LORD, GODDESS, SPORK, SOTU (State of the Union)—all good.
In the debit column, we have CTR, OLEO, and the woeful RESAT. Is LOGE SEAT a legit thing?
Eight more things:
- 29d. [32 men are found in it], CHESS SET. This doesn’t feel like an Erik clue. Why are the queens on the chessboard “men”? I call shenanigans. (Spare me any claims that “men” for game tokens is somehow gender-neutral.)
- 20a. [Room with a Vue, perhaps], GARAGE. Sure, there are still Saturn Vues on the road, but I’m not keen on basing your wordplay on a discontinued car model. They stopped making the Vue in 2009.
- 31a. [Neighbor of an Ethiopian], SOUTH SUDANESE. A few months ago in D.C., I had an Ethiopian cab driver. He’s still mad about the powers that be giving away all of Ethiopia’s coast when Eritrea negotiated its independence. He said Ethiopia’s shipping is all done via tiny Djibouti, which they have to pay for access to the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden. 100 million people in a landlocked country? Pfft.
- 36a. [Their heads and feet are usually the same distance from the ground], BEDS. Dang. This clue befuddled me completely.
- 53a. [Creek language], SEMINOLE. Nice to see SEMINOLE clued this way, and not via an appropriative college sports team name.
- 6d. [Eat with no enthusiasm], PECK AT. I had PICK AT for the longest time, which really obscured RICE BEER here.
- 8d. [Home to shooting Stars], SAN ANTONIO. As in the WNBA team the Stars, since basketball players shoot the ball.
- 12d. [Prepares to weed, perhaps], KNEELS. Great switch-up from the usual proposing-marriage or getting-dubbed-as-a-knight clues.
4.2 stars from me.
David C. Duncan Dekker’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Breezed through this one. Perhaps a little easier due to the holiday weekend? Perhaps a quicker time because I know I don’t have to work Monday? At any rate, a fun puzzle from David today. I count 72 words, and this type of grid design in a themeless is usually a little easier to finish since there are no words longer than 8 letters. Hope you’re all enjoying a nice, relaxing Labor Day weekend, which is incomplete unless you tackle Mark Halpin’s Labor Day puzzles! A solid 4.1 stars for this one.
Just a few notes:
- 1A [Most massive of all known elementary particles] TOP QUARK– I believe you! I am not a nuclear physicist, but this is still a great 1-Across entry.
- 17A [Aptly names heavy-footed bird] MEGAPODE – It’s a big chicken. Another great entry!
- 33A [2000s “SNL” alum] SAMBERG – I warily recommend this site, which features some funny SNL skits from these dudes. Language isn’t always the best, so beware!
- 54A [California city mentioned after Kingman in the song “Route 66”] BARSTOW – Kingman is in Arizona. I have always wanted to drive this old highway. Perhaps when I retire!
- 61A [Cactus spine source] AREOLE – A rather botanical way to clue this word. I like it!
- 13D [Home Run Derby competitor] ALL-STAR – Do you have to be IN the All Star Game to enter the Home Run Derby? I suppose so. It has almost become more fun to watch than the game itself!
- 38D [“That comes as no surprise”] I’M AWARE – See 43D
- 39D [Fidget __] SPINNER – Ah, my son’s favorite! I will show him this, even though he will have no idea what I’m talking about!
- 43D [“Nice try!”] NOT EVEN! – This and 38D are great examples of casual phrases, which I love to see in puzzles. They seem much more lively than dictionary fodder, and usually bring a smile to the solver!
We will stop there. Enjoy the long weekend!
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Boom! Nailed this one in only 8:35! Stanley Newman’s (Anna Stiga is “Stan again”) are usually a tad easier, but this one seemed right on my wavelength. Maybe I have been getting plenty of sleep! (Been hitting the sack early this week!) This is a solid 68-word effort, as Stan’s always are. I found the bottom right the easiest, and finished up in the bottom left corner. It fell once I figured out EMU OIL, which I actually have used before! It just looks weird mashed together into one word. Nice wide open spaces, and if you cannot get the long down entries, you may never get into the corner areas! 4.4 stars this Saturday.
- 17A [Pint-sized pianist of the papers] SCHROEDER – Nice alliteration! I thought this was what the answer was early on, but I hesitated. Go with your gut!
- 19A [Percussion partner of Prince] SHEILA E. – She is almost 60 years old! Here’s a vid to take you back to the heyday of MTV!
- 22A [Surname meaning “doorkeeper”] PORTER – Makes sense. I don’t know why it seemed difficult at first. Maybe I skimmed past it on the first go through!
- 31A [Longfellow alma mater] BOWDOIN – I wonder if Stan intentionally crossed this with BOUDOIR at 23D? Similarly spelled words! If so, a nice touch
- 44A [Bread spread since 1965] NUTELLA – Another favorite of my son Chase. One of the few foods he eats that isn’t chicken nuggets, a hot dog, or bacon!
- 48A [Gift shop near Universal’s Simpsons Ride] KWIK-E-MART – Nice clue! I think this is where Apu (Abu?) works.
- 10D [Dove descriptor] ANTI-WAR – Oh, THAT dove! I thought this may be a word denoting purity, like the soap, but that is Ivory Soap, not Dove!
- 26D [“Worcestershire” or “onomatopoeia”] JAW BREAKERS – I don’t know this word in this type of usage; these words are just hard to spell!
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Audio Details” — pannonica’s write-up
Title is to be parsed as phonetic ‘D’-tails. A /d/ sound is suffixed to the originals and spelling is adjusted as necessary.
- 23a. [Muenster monger’s business?] CHEESE TRADE (… tray).
- 25a. [Result of an offshore oil leak?] BLACK TIDE (… tie). Well, that’s kind of a thing.
- 46a. [Snowboarding bro?] MOUNTAIN DUDE (… dew, or Dew if you prefer).
- 67a. [Attack by space invaders?] COSMIC RAID (… ray).
- 69a. [Retirement watch, perhaps?[ CAREER GOLD (… goal).
- 86a. [Wearing an ultra-sheer outfit?] AS GOOD AS NUDE (… new).
- 110a. [Mustang and Taurus?] TWO BY FORD (… four).
- 112a. [Something that won’t sprout if it’s planted?] THE DEAD SEED (… Sea). Reminds me of this passage by Arika Okrent in her introduction to In the Land of Invented Languages:
At the very end of this lush orchid garden of languages there was one more section, where linguists generally don’t care to visit—a few lonely shelves of faded plastic flowers, the artificial languages. The Klingon Dictionary was here, among other books on languages I had never heard of: Babm, aUI, Nal Bino, Leno Gi-Nasu, Tutonish, Ehmay Ghee Chah. These were not lighthearted language games, like Pig Latin, or the spontaneous results of in-group communication, like Cockney rhyming slang or surfer jargon. They were invented on purpose, cut from whole cloth, set down on paper, start to finish, by one person. They had chapters and chapters of grammar and extensive dictionaries. They were testaments not to the wonder of nature but to the human impulse to master nature. They were deliberate, painstakingly crafted attempts to tame language by making it more orderly, more rational, less burdened with inconsistencies and irregularities. There were hundreds of them. And they were all failures, dead in the water, spoken by no one.
Well, of course they were. If you plant a plastic flower, will it grow?
So that’s pretty good. And the title is deceptively good.
- 19a [Goya, e.g.] ETCHER. As equally accomplished as a painter, for which I’d venture he’s more generally known these days.
- 35a [Smelly] RANK. As in, “the ranking member of Congress”. But seriously, I am contractually obligated to acknowledge the neutral, non-disparaging clue [Smell] for the related 15a ODOR, as I’ve spent some time railing against such insinuatingly judgmental clues.
- 83a [Rascal Flatts, for one] TRIO. Oh I thought it was a person. 114d [Florida Georgia line, for one] DUO. Oh I’d never heard of that band. STOP IT, COUNTRY MUSIC NAMING PEOPLE. 18d [Some country dancers] REELERS. Yes, I’m reeling,
- 104a [Knight’s title in “Game of Thrones”] SER. That’s good to know. I hope to forget it soon.
- 7d [Unpleasantly bitter] ACRID, followed by 8d [Beyond bitter] IRATE, garnished with 9d [Lemon] DUD.
- 12d [Feature of “guilt” but not “gilt”] SILENT U. Usually such clues aren’t so obviously explicit.
- 60d [Factual in every detail] ALL TRUE. But then 83d [Scammer’s words] TRUST ME.
- 77d [Hikes] BOOSTS, not HOISTS.
- 70d/73d [Fancy affair] GALA, BIG DO. 1a [Task that can’t be ignored] MUST DO. Wait, are we back to the olfactory stuff again?