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.