Attention, Californians! And/or people who are always up for a trip to Los Angeles! The Crosswords LA tournament returns this month, on Saturday the 21st at USC. Here’s the registration page. $50 for advance (by 10/15) registration for one, $75 for a doubles team. Five great competition puzzles, constructed by C.C. Burnikel, Susan Gelfand, Lynn Lempel, Aimee Lucido, Andrea Carla Michaels, Erin Rhode, and Patti Varol. Also? There will be pencils.
Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Well! You drop a HELLSCAPE into 1-Across and not only is it a gimme for me (the word delights), but it makes a promise the rest of the puzzle has to back up. (This is the converse of a puzzle with a crappy 1-Across, where the rest of the puzzle struggles to overcome that initial promise of disappointment.) The top and bottom stacks, with trios of 9s plus singleton 11s, are happy to cash that check. AXIOMATIC, talented IDA LUPINO, familiar GARAGE SALES, interesting PSYCHODRAMA, cinematic BEE SEASON, and REPORTAGE are cool, and elsewhere I like LONG-WINDED.
I don’t know the 1989 Queen song I WANT IT ALL (video here). My go-to for the I WANT IT ALL song category is this one from the k.d. lang album, All You Can Eat—but if you didn’t buy the album, you won’t know this sultry song. If you like a torch song vibe, you could do worse than to pick up All You Can Eat.
Lots of keen clues here. Eight things, listed in clue order:
- 39a. [Basic Italian bistro], OSTERIA. It’s an Italian word meaning “inn, hotel.” Bring your suitcase to dinner! “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was an osteria? It says so right on your sign.”
- 3d. [Fabulous speaker?], LIAR. As in one who’s a fabulist, telling lies.
- 8d. [Candy ass?], PINATA. Good one! Your piñata may take the form of a donkey, and it’s probably filled with candy.
- 11d. [Org. concerned with 9-Down], EPA—9d being ECOLOGY. Is it really, still? Every EPA clue these days elevates an eyebrow and evokes dismay.
- 27d. [Mounted], AHORSE. This is my pick for worst (antiquated, rarely used) entry. Impressively, the Down answers that cross the NW and SE stacks are decent.
- 39d. [Improving, in Britspeak], ON THE UP. Gettable, but not a phrase I’ve ever heard before.
- 40d. [Item in a health class demonstration], CONDOM. Indeed.
- 49d. [Heavy-metal band with the hit albums “Out of the Cellar” and “Infestation”], RATT. There aren’t a lot of metal bands with 4-letter names to choose from, but I love that their album titles are so … rodential. (Their other album titles are less apt.)
4.25 stars from me.
Alex Bajcz’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This constructor is a new one on me. I may have solved something by this person before, but I cannot remember. He (she?) may be a regular LAT contributor, but I don’t always solve every LAT puzzle other than the ones I blog. The main ones I concentrate on other than Tuesday and Saturday are Friday and Sunday. Having said all of that, this puzzle took a tad longer than usual, and I have found that a new constructor byline usually means a slightly longer time, with unfamiliarity with style and factors like that. It is hard to imagine the time when there were NO bylines at all in crosswords, except for a few in Dell puzzle magazines (I’m thinking of the Expert puzzles!) and other venues. Maybe at this point it is a subconscious thing with me, but I think it is a real phenomenon. For Friday’s NYT, Patrick Berry had it, and I have solved so many of his themeless that it did seem “easy” even though it took me nearly 10 minutes.
In conclusion, Alex Bajcz can make many more of these themeless challengers. Other than a wonky spot or two, this is a well-made puzzle. I am looking forward to seeing more from him (her?). 4.4 stars.
- 22A [Classic] QUINTESSENTIAL – I had *SSENTIAL and thought this might be two words before I thought of using a Q!
- 29A [Prima __] FACIE – Did you try DONNA in here too?
- 34A [Included in the game] DEALT TO – As in a card game. This also took a few minutes to think of a game other than a team sport. Basketball and football are on my mind these days!
- 48A [Script used by ancient Minoans] LINEAR A – I usually see Linear B, so I guessed this answer having the final A in place early.
- 60A [Tin ear, to a pathologist] ASONIA – The main wonky entry in the puzzle, made slightly more challenging stacked next to ETTORE at 57A. The crossers are slightly more merciful, so in the end it is gettable. But this is a tough word, in my opinion.
- 9D [Spanish autonomous community or its capital] VALENCIA – Catalonia is also autonomous, and almost voted to become a country in the past few days. I will admit ignorance in how autonomous communities in Spain work!
- 30D [Comedian __ the Entertainer] CEDRIC – This guy is funny. Don’t see him in as much these days, but maybe I am looking in the wrong place!
- 42D [’50s-’60s country singer McDonald] SKEETS – Not quite as familiar with this fella!
Enjoy your Saturday!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Frank got me again! I am not ashamed to show my feeble attempt at solving this puzzle I have displayed. Notice all of the failed answer squares! Did you folks find this one extremely difficult? This one was almost TOO hard. I’ll go back to my stock excuse: I need more sleep! But after a good nights sleep Friday night, I still found this one a struggle. As you can see, I finished in the NE corner with all of the errors!! It always seems easier when it’s filled in! 4.6 stars for another Longo masterpiece, albeit a toughie!
- 6A [Head into humor] TOP BANANA – I didn’t care for this clue. I get it; a “leader” that has a sense of “humor” might refer to himself in this way, but any leader may be referred to in this manner without a sense of humor. Isn’t this just slang? Am I reading this wrong?
- 41A [Land with resolution] END UP – If I had figured out this was two words earlier, this wouldn’t have been as difficult!
- 62A [Cornflower cousin] AZURE – Yes, I thought about what flower this could be. Nicely done!
- 7D [One with silver-plated keys] OBOE – This is a classic example of a really hard clue that seems stupidly easy once it is solved. Again, I tip my Michigan cap!
- 11D [Nonspeaking governess of Brit lit] NANA – This is a Peter Pan reference, according to my wife! I don’t remember this, but I haven’t seen this movie in 40 years!
- 31D [Krispy Kreme contraption] ICER – I thought this might be some fancy word for their oven. In our local Krispy Kreme, you can watch donuts being made in a fancy circular oven system.
- 38D [__ Radio (former XM partner)] AOL – I have XM radio in my car, but this might be before my time.
- 42D [Engine-warming circuit] PACE LAP – My breakthrough into the puzzle. I figured this had to end in LAP, and whether it was PACE or TEST was the only decision.
- 52D [It might say “The Grillmaster”] APRON – Another breakthrough area. I have a similar t-shirt that says “King of the Grill” even though I rarely barbecue!
- 57D [Bowstring source] HEMP – I’ve been eating hemp hearts recently. They are supposedly a great protein source. Didn’t know you could make bowstrings with hemp as well. But really, you can make just about ANYTHING out of hemp, correct?!
That’s all for today. Time to find a Tylenol!
Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Jounral crossword, “Birds of a Feather” — pannonica’s write-up
Flocking together, as they are wont to do, depending on the species. In cruciverbal terms, that means that there are triple-stacks of crosswordy frequent fliers. As a further refinement and constraint, each group is clued the same way.
- 6a/18a/23a. [Long-legged wading bird] IBIS, HERON, EGRET.
- 21a/25a/30a. [Small songbird] TIT, LARK, WREN.
- 63a/69a/73a. [Bird of prey] HAWK, OWL, KITE.
- 66a/70a/75a. [Gamebird] GROUSE, PARTRIDGE, TURKEY.
- 68a/72a/78a. [Seabird] TERN, AUK, GULL.
- 113a/117a/122a. [Ratite bird] RHEA, KIWI, EMU. Clue is redundant, as all ratites are by definition birds. But it’s understandable, both for clarity and to explicitly be of a piece with the other theme clues.
- 110a/124a/128a. [Water bird] GOOSE, GREBE, SWAN.
49a [TV role for Cleese] FAWLTY.
nb: For further but still minimal discussion, see Comments below.
I was led to believe (DA, I’m looking at you) that this was going to be a titanic struggle, but it turned out to be probably my fastest Byron solve ever. Maybe it’s a wavelength thing; it fell like a Friday. Great puzzle, but I’m feeling a little deflated, frankly.
Just the opposite for me. Extremely hard from start to finish. I just looked back at the completed grid and realized that there were only a couple of entries I did not know (with hindsight): RATT and OSTERIA, but it seemed at the time i solved it that there were dozens.
Excellent in any event.
Well, any cockiness I may have had after acing the Byron was beaten out of me by Frank Longo’s Stumper…
yeah, Stumper was tough for me too
Fun puzzle, and fun review, Amy. That Queen video is unlistenable (IMO) but the styling is pretty amazing.
NYT: I WANT IT ALL was Queen’s last hit. Most of us at the time didn’t know how ill Freddie Mercury was. Seems poignant in retrospect.
DNF for me. Most of it fell easily but I died in the NE. Should have gotten DEFRAY. Not familiar with BOLA or BANFF or GELID. Nice to learn a new word though.
GELID is closely related to the Italian word in that La Bohème aria, “Che gelida manina,” in which the tenor remarks on Mimi’s frozen little hands.
Also gelato and the Spanish helado.
NYT: The top was very tractable, the bottom put up a struggle and I had to cheat with ALOHAOE (never heard of it) to get traction. Two vowel trios is a good trick… AOE and IOA (in CLIOAWARD).
I think the original meaning of OSTERIA was Inn but it seems to have evolved towards bistro… It makes me want to go to Italy.
My understanding is that in many places eateries evolved from inns, where guests were served food. Basically the inn without the lodging.
clue for 2D could also be clue for 3D
what ever happened to “sex-ed”? PCness. health class sounds like it is about vitamins
Had to take a semester of health in high school not too long ago (Okay, like a decade ago). It encompassed much more than sex-ed, including nutrition, exercise, and I’m sure other topics, so the name “health” seems fitting.
The sex-ed was laughable though, it was freaking abstinence-only, we didn’t even get the condom-on-a-banana demonstration. It was so ineffective that a good friend of mine, who recently moved to France with her boyfriend, had to be told by him that birth control pills had to be taken at the same time every day – she had no idea and was taking them whenever she felt!
Sex ed varies by state, with far too many states offering only abstinence “education” (which leads to more teen pregnancies).
Luckily, teens and young adults today can turn to Scarleteen for far more comprehensive information on sex and sexuality, contraception, and relationships than the typical high school offers.
Agreed, and those states are often the ones with the least accessible healthcare for both the mother and child :/
Was this the first appearance of CONDOM in the NYT?
NYT: Bad clue for 2D… Giuliani and Christie are former US Attorneys (for the Southern District of NY and the District of NJ respectively) — they were never District Attorneys. A clue with actual ex-DAs might have featured Kamala Harris and Arlen Specter (or Ed Rendell, or Jeanine Pirro…).
WSJ: Build a theme on what is usually some of the least-favorite fill? No, thanks. And in a 21X21 grid, there’s nothing longer than a 9 (and only one of those).
Soo, I don’t have to write about it?
Pannonica, I’ll write about it. Though perhaps I shouldn’t since I decided not to bother finishing it. Why? Because I dislike puzzles where the “theme” is the same clue (or minor variant) repeated ad nauseum, and one just has to randomly guess at which of the many 4 or 5 – letter bird names goes into that particular spot, because the crossing clues are no help to me.
I don’t know the “Pitcher Hideo,” “Fashion Monogram” could be pretty much any 3-letter combination, I don’t know who Midge Ure is (much less her/his first band.)
I’m sure many enjoyed this puzzle – I wasn’t one of them and there’s no point working it if I have to look up the answer to many of the Down clues because I get no help at all from the theme clues.
I’m one of those that actually enjoyed the puzzle since as a birder I know all the ENTRIES well. It became a matter of filling them in with only a letter or two or in the case of TIT, none. As a constructor I admire the work it must of taken to find those happy stacks. It certainly was a unique idea and a nice addition to yet another way of creating a crossword.
All that said, points off for the theme-barren NW and SE corners.
I didn’t enjoy it either. It came down to a ton of more or less unclued fill, which means unusually heavy reliance on crossings, which means that every bit of culture trivia (like, yes, the baseball pitcher) hurt more even than usual. A true slog. In the end, it wasn’t even a themed clue that defeated me. I got through almost all of it without help, but SLIK crossing SILAGES finally did me in.
NYT – I don’t understand 14D. Hope someone will explain. Thanks.
From my dictionary:
bear: to sustain the burden of; take on; take care of [to bear the cost]
defray: to pay or furnish the money for (the cost or expenses)
I thought it was a stretch. It was my last corner to fill and I’m glad to see I got the corner right.
Weird I’d never heard of the word Osteria before Saturday’s puzzle and I just encountered it in a book I’m reading called “Use of Force” by Brad Thor referencing Osteria Ballaro a restaurant in Palermo.
A hard puzzle for me but interesting in a good Saturday way.
Frequency illusion aka Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.
Elegant, tough puzzle, as one would expect from Mr. Walden. I’m a bit surprised no one mentioned the dual use of “bar” in “sway bar” and “Bar set.”
Seeing the clue at 2D (Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie, for short”) , I immediately thought of an unflattering noun that would accurately characterize them both, but it proved to be too long for the four-letter answer.
I managed to finish the Stumper but it was a long and difficult struggle. I had HAIRDO at 8D for a long time, until I guessed TACT and OBOE and remembered ABOUTABOY.
The error I’m most proud of was my answer for “Land with resolution.” With the E tentatively in place, I put in EDWIN. As in Edwin Land, the Polaroid guy. Films, resolution, get it? It slowly became clear that it must be wrong but I gave it up with great reluctance.
Stumper: I did eventually finish, but I can’t make any sense of “head into humor” for TOP BANANA even after reading Derek’s explanation. Can anyone clarify?
I think “top banana” may have originated as a term for the more prominent half of a comedy duo. Checking … I almost had that. Merriam-Webster includes the original sense of “the leading comedian in a burlesque show” along with the more familiar “head honcho” sense.
I see. Thanks for checking. So, he’s (or she’s, I guess, but maybe not usually in a burlesque show) the “head” because he’s the leading performer, and he’s “into humor” because he’s a comedian. Still doesn’t feel like great cluing…
As often, what’s a gimme for Amy is cruel for me, in this case HELLSCAPE (not quite my last to fall, but close). I had a fast start in the bottom with such things as ANNE and MS-DOS, but then got nowhere amid things like that and so many musical clues I didn’t know. I also never dreamed that Ida Lupino was also a director. In the end, it helped that ALOHA-OE had been in another recent puzzle. Without that, I might still be struggling.