Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Good puzzle, but too easy for a Saturday. It played like a Friday to me.
My list of highlights starts, aptly, with HIGH SCORES. We’ve also got such niceties as “ARE YOU DONE?”, DEEP FREEZE, “YIPPEE,” GET BUSY, B-MOVIE, ACROBATICS, RON WEASLEY, “IT FIGURES,” CORNER LOT, PAW PRINTS, and SWEET SPOT.
The clunkiest little bits in this 70-worder are ALEE and SEE IF, so overall it’s really quite smooth. The duplicative NOT ONCE and PART ONE niggle a little.
Five more things:
- 51a. [A mister may sit next to one], HOUSEPLANT. Nice clue! Mister as in “little spray bottle that will mist your plant with water droplets,” not as in husband.
- 16a. [Boring things in shops], AWLS. I was going to make a joke about AWLS being the dullest thing sold in some particular store so I did a Google shopping search for “awl” to see who sells awls. Guess what I learned? These are sewing tools. (So many options at Joann Fabrics!) They’re not just doodads for poking holes in leather. Wouldn’t it be something if the AWL clues referenced sewing and quilting and tailoring instead of the more duderiffic leather-hole-punching application?
54a. [It’s 29% cream], OREO. This is flat-out wrong. There is no cream in Oreos. There is no milk in Oreos. They may be cross-contaminated with milk proteins, but they are not made with dairy ingredients. They’re 29% creme.
- 2d. [___ Neuwirth (designer jewelry brand)], IRENE. Never heard of this (I’m not big on jewelry), but I like the Neuwirth two-fer with BEBE across the grid. Irene Neuwirth’s stuff is pretty high-end … and I sure do like gazing upon colored gemstones. Even learned a new one! Sunstone is a plagioclase feldspar.
- 46d. [Old ___, pet name of Davy Crockett’s rifle], BETSY. Not sure why I knew this. From crosswords, probably.
4.2 stars from me.
Mark Diehl’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another LAT challenger by the master, Mark Diehl. This one took me a tad longer than usual Saturday offerings in the LAT, but still not as thorny as, for example, today’s Newsday Stumper. A brilliant 68 word grid is in play, and with only a few wonky entries. I enjoyed this one; the Stumper is another story! 4.7 stars for this one.
A few observations:
- 1A [The punch in Planter’s Punch] ETHANOL – OK, I would say more of this would be just ALCOHOL. We have an ethanol plant near here, and it is used more for a fuel. It’s all the same, I guess!
- 14A [Disk problem] SCIATICA – I am grateful I have never experienced this. Go to a chiropractor!
- 15A [Curly-haired “Peanuts” character] FRIEDA – Not one of the more well known characters. Here is a pic to refresh your memory. You’re welcome.
- 26A [Wedding announcements] BANNS – A new word to me. Seems like an old English word?
- 30A [Informal passing remark?] ‘SCUSE ME! – Great!
- 49A [Company whose name appears in an odometer in its logo] CARFAX – I was thinking Ookla at first, the internet speed website. But that is more of a speedometer!
- 50A [Commonly seen brown vehicle] UPS VAN – It’s called a “package car!”
- 9D [Line 32 items on 1040 forms] IRAS – I should know this, but I haven’t done too many taxes yet in my accounting career. Coming soon!
- 22D [Fin] FIVE-SPOT – Also excellent, although this one didn’t fool me to much!
- 37D [Subway alternative] QUIZNO’S – I LOVE Quizno’s, but all of them around here failed. They need to come back!
- 40D [Rockers Mott the __] HOOPLE – I remember seeing this band name somewhere, and thinking “Who??” They are from the 70s, which doesn’t help. Here is a sample!
Enjoy the rest of your Saturday, and I will see you on Tuesday!
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I almost forgot that Andrew Bell Lewis is a pseudonym! Brad Wilber and Matthew Sewell have cooked up a doozy this week. This one was HARD. I will say my usual mantra when I have difficulty with a Stumper: it’s been a rough week! Although, amidst the chaos, I have enjoyed watching The Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns. I got invested in it before I realized it was TEN episodes long! But it is fascinating; check it out.
Enough about me. This puzzle drove me nuts. Nice and hard, and almost impossible to get a toehold in. Took me forever to finish, and I felt exhausted. But we like hard puzzles, right? ;-) 4.6 stars today for a fiendish 70-worder.
Just a few comments:
- 15A [Chicago suburb] WAUKEGAN – I am from this area, and this still took a bit. But there are a million towns that are considered suburbs of Chi-town, so I guess it’s OK!
- 18A [Bottom-feeders, in zoology] EPIFAUNA – This is tough. Not an everyday word at all!
- 35A [Exclamation of anticipation] THIS SHOULD BE FUN! – A stellar 15-letter entry. I had OULD in the middle when I got it.
- 40A [East African grazers] ORYXES – When I had ???XES, I put in IBEXES. Oops!
- 51A [“Oh, to be brave!” speaker (1939)] LAHR – This is a great, although difficult, clue. The 1939 I am sure is there to point you in the direction of The Wizard of Oz, but I was totally fooled for a while.
- 1D [Much-visited tourist attraction] HIGH SPOT – This works, I suppose, but seems a bit vague. Is it just me?
- 2D [Delight beyond description] ENRAVISH – I have never used this word in a sentence. Until now: “I was not enravished by this entry!”
- 3D [Small figures favored by Donatello] AMORETTI – I had to look this up. I am not very cultured. These first three down entries made for a hellish NW corner!
- 37D [Chickpea alternative for falafel] FAVA BEAN – I have a lot of chickpeas recently, but not fava. I am off to the store!
Go relax if you solved this one and felt beat up! Have a nice weekend!
Alex Bajcz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Unnewsworthy” — pannonica’s write-up
77a [Hardly engaging] HO-HUM. Not an observation about the crossword but a literal reflection of the theme.
Each of those clues begins the same way but is applied to a different subject.
- 24a. [Self-evident headline…about a cat burglar?] CRIMINAL CASES.
So what we have here is something that’s ostensibly an adjective–plural noun phrase that is parsed headlinese-style (dropping definite and indefinite articles) as a noun–present tense verb phrase. The adjectives get nouned and the nouns are verbed!
- 29a. […about a dominatrix?] MASTER CONTROLS.
- 42a. […about a woodworker?] ARTISAN CRAFTS.
- 66a. […about a barfly?] ALCOHOLIC DRINKS.
- 90a. […about a Don Juan?] ROMANTIC DATES.
- 102a. […about a teacher?] ACADEMIC GRADES.
- 110a. […about a military officer?] GENERAL ORDERS.
As the subjects are described as engaging in activity that’s absolutely typical of their profession its obviously ‘unnewsworthy’.
- 1a [Villainous laughs] HEH HEHS. Tough way to start the grid, as it could be so many things, especially onomatopoeics with variable spellings.
- 28a [Discordant, archaically] ABSONANT. I’ll say.
- 59a [Syst. in which the dyne is the standard unit of force] CGS. That’s centimeter–gram–second.
- 69d [You can’t do it with one hand] CLAP. Beg to differ. Can be done, albeit poorly. Koans notwithstanding.
- Appreciated the imagistic clues such as: 51a [Surrounded by baying hounds, perhaps] TREED, 73a [Open like a kid on Christmas morning] TEAR INTO, 42d [Words to begin an impromptu race] AND GO, as in: and… GO! Maybe even 82a [“But the night is still young!”] SO SOON?
- 11d/32d [Pro __ ] TEM, RATA.
- Tricksy! 15d [Season opener] SOLSTICE, 79a [They take things into account] ATMS.
- 25d [Flight specialists?] COWARDS, 74d [Chicken’s lack] CONFIDENCE.
- 30d [Enjoying a massage, maybe] AAHING. Expected this to be something like AT A SPA.
- 66d [TV toon with an 18-letter surname] APU. That’s NAHASAPEEMAPETILON. According to the Simpsons wikia it’s a “spoonerism of the name Pahasanee Mapetilon, combining the first and last names of a schoolmate of Simpsons writer Jeff Martin.”
- 101d [92 and 53 for U and I] AT NOS. You know, I just learned something new about Nicholson Baker’s 1991 U and I: a true story and feel compelled to read it, even though I don’t care much for Updike. On the list it goes.
- 121a [Like some glassware] STEMLESS. Did RIEDEL (hey, that’s super crossword-friendly) invent this for traditionally stemmed glassware? They certainly popularized it and now there are tons on the market from many companies.
My stomach was making ABSONANT protestations not long ago, but it’s now sated by a delicious hash I made.
Agreed that this played like a Friday. Yesterday’s played like a Saturday for me, so for my money you could have swapped the two and then everything would have seemed perfectly normal.
I’ve been doing Saturday puzzles from the 90s and, by and large, they’re much more difficult than any I can recall in say the last decade. Some have been so tough that I’ve failed to complete them. I even came a across a few 90s Thursdays that were as hard or harder than any Saturdays I can remember. The heavier use of uncommon vocabulary, esoterica, lack of gimmes and tougher Stumper-like cluing is the basis of the difficulty and I’m wondering why Mr. Shortz changed the nature of the NYT puzzles. I suppose it’s to gain a larger audience but I’d like hear Amy and others weigh in. Thanks
[Potential perch] for ROE was truly inspired.
Had a hard time parsing B-MOVIE and was very surprised when Mr. Pencil greeted me.
that [Cheesy fare] B-MOVIE combo was my fave!
*loved* the puzz, but am in the camp of those who felt it should have swapped lineup positions w/ david’s offering yesterday.
That’s interesting, Dana. I think old puzzles keep getting harder, too, as they become further and further removed from their cultural milieu.
I agree with that to some extent but I think some would say the Times used to be geared more to those of high culture.
I’m with steveo—those ’90s puzzles are annoying to solve.
I wonder if the Times has data on the number of solvers over time. I suspect that the number of solvers is larger today than it was 20 years ago, and that the de-Maleskafication of fill and clues is a big part of that.
De-Maleskafication? Any idea why Shortz went in a different direction?
This was well covered decades ago. The “new wave” (embraced by Stan Newman, Will Shortz, Mike Shenk, Merl Reagle, and others) began around 1980, and people moved away from the unfun obscurities that populate crossword dictionaries (e.g., SIKA, ANOA, AIS) and towards livelier language. No longer were brand names verboten, for example.
Will has long espoused the idea that anything covered by the New York Times is fair game. The arts critics cover TV, popular movies, current pop music, etc., so there’s no reason to bar that from the crossword. If you fill your puzzle with obscure words that people rarely encounter outside of crossword puzzles, you’re going to alienate an awful lot of potential solvers. Many of us who love crosswords want as many people as possible to join us, and to keep the art of crossword puzzles thriving into the future. UNAU doesn’t invite those people to jump in the pool.
I for one would quickly abandon crosswords if they went back to being a game of “how many ridiculously obscure words do you know?”
I went to the same high school as Maleska. Let’s say the obsession with showing off how much you know is not unfamiliar to me.
So Maleska was the former editor.
Thanks for the replies, Amy. I’d like to see more humor in puzzles even if that means creating words here and there.
Amy, why’d you exclusively call out animals? Deer, cattle, two sloths.
I’ll just overlook the inherent sexism of a man needing to be a husband to be a mister.
One quibble with the puzzle: although I got PITY, I’d argue the “Opposite of Schadenfreude” is envy, i.e., deriving misery from someone else’s joy. Perhaps PITY is an opposite reaction but that’s not how it was clued.
I’ll overlook the sexism of “mister” applying to both single and married men, whereas women get pigeonholed. I honestly forgot that “Mr.” wasn’t strictly a counterpart to “Mrs.”! When spelled out as “the mister,” it is generally used in relation to a woman. Just a single guy is rarely “the mister.”
I filled in ENVY first, too.
Glad you understood how deeply my tongue was bored into my cheek there. I’ve actually never heard of “the mister” but presumably it’s a turnabout of “the missus” which is parlance from an earlier era.
I swear I did that LA Times puzzle recently in the NY Post. Is that possible?
NYT- I don’t get GEESE for “Short” I looked it up in dictionaries. I hope someone is still reading this Saturday blog and will enlighten me. Thanks.
Nevermind. I was looking at the wrong clue. I’ve been sick – head cold. I can’t explain my geese-like question otherwise. May be going senile.
Stumper’s NW very brutal. Half-dozen things I’d never have gotten – ENRAVISH, AMORETTI, LAVIN, SVEN, HARI, OSTIA. Only entries I had for sure were ETE, DELANO, GROVEL, and THISSHOULDBEFUN. Hazarded a guess with INMATE, giving me ?IG????T for [Much-visited tourist attraction] so I filled in TIGER PIT. I think that’s a better answer than HIGHSPOT any day.
Apologies for the 1 rating of the NYT. I liked the puzzle. A purely mechanical error.