George Barany & Michael Shteyman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Way too easy for a Saturday puzzle. And the second week in a row with a sort of a theme in the Saturday puzzle, grr. Here there’s 60a. ELEVEN, [How many letters are in the longest answers in this puzzle – or how many of these answers there are]. I mean, you could just have a grid with a bunch of 11s and call it a day, skip the ELEVEN in the last Across spot.
Remember my write-up of yesterday’s Berry puzzle? Where I remarked that there were no abbreviations in Patrick’s 66-worder? This 70-worder has QBS URI RMN LTD SSR IMHO IPS UFO DPI SRA as abbrevs, plural FAS and AWS, and unfamiliar foreign AMICO (omitting mention of the two Latin terms here, which feel more fair). Probably without the dishonest-baker’s dozen of 11s, we’d have fewer compromises in the shorter distances.
- Filled in the more natural HORROR MOVIE before HORROR FLICK. Know of balancing the tires but not of checking the TIRE BALANCE. Nice to see VETERANS DAY on Veterans Day. Forgot ROBERT STACK‘s name, as his show was largely before my time, and called him ROBERT STAMP first (influenced by Terence Stamp).
- Just because Ian Fleming was gross and juvenile doesn’t mean dudes need to keep being titillated by the character name PUSSY GALORE. I, for one, would be glad if male constructors would never put that P word into their grids. Trump really robbed that word of any neutrality and added the flavor of assault to it.
- So much war, with ancient SPEARS, ARES and bloodlust, obliterate/ERASE, the punched eyes that get STEAKS put on them, UZI, IKE as a WWII hero, and the grievously deadly GUADALCANAL battle site. Even the cute CLAP clue, 7d. [Go hand to hand?], evokes violence here.
- 34d. [Relief for xerosis], VASELINE. This must be Dr. Shteyman’s clue, with the clinical term for dry skin. I’m an Aveeno aficionado myself.
- 31d. [Chicago’s ___ Center], AON. Also known as the Standard Oil Building. And then the Amoco Building. Hey, it’s only been the Aon Center since 1999. (See also: Sears Tower, Willis Tower since 2009 unless you are a true Chicagoan, in which case you disavow the name change.) The hilarious part of the Amoco/Aon tower’s story is that the original marble cladding started to warp and loosen, and the giant 82-story building’s marble façade had to be stripped off and replaced with granite. (This cost about $80 million.) If you stacked all those granite slabs together, would they pretty much fill a quarry?
- 11d. [Pop icon, to members of her “hive”], QUEEN BEY. Yes! Beyoncé.
- 41d. [Polymathic Isaac], ASIMOV. Do you admire him? He was apparently a gross groper.
3.4 stars from me.
Kristian House’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I still get a little geeked out that I know a lot of these constructors personally. I believe I had the pleasure of playing a trivia game or two with Kristian at last year’s ACPT. I have done a few of his puzzles over the years, and this one is quite impressive. I plowed through it pretty quickly, but my house was, for a rare moment, quiet! I could actually concentrate! This is a 68-worder, and although there is a little bit of crosswordy fill (see TOILE and YSER), they are more of the you-should-know-this-stuff-anyway variety. Totally enjoyable, and yes, I did notice the interlinked 15-letter entries! A solid 4.6 stars today. Hoping to see Kristian again this coming March!
A few things:
- 1A [It sold its mobile phone business to Microsoft in 2014] NOKIA – I think I had heard this. Do they even still have Windows phones? It’s a shame they didn’t work, since most of my stuff at work could benefit from a Windows environment.
- 17A [Serf of Sparta] HELOT – Another slightly tough one, but for a Saturday challenge this is fine.
- 24A [Home to the National Gandhi Museum] NEW DELHI – Only slightly tougher until you figure out it’s a two word answer. CALCUTTA didn’t work!
- 43A [John Williams quintet] OSCARS – Surprising. I would have thought this composer had many more.
- 6D [Cared] GAVE A HOOT – Arguably the best in the grid, but I like conversational phrases. Also, if you had GAVE A ????, there is a little excitement that it could be a swear word! ;-)
- 26D [Geppetto, for one] WOOD CARVER – I had WOOD CUTTER in here. Still nice, despite the Disney reference!
- 46D [Italian “Eat!”] MANGIA! – Another obscure foreign term. At least to me. I see only one NYT occurrence, and that was earlier this year!
Enjoy your Saturday!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not quite as torturous as some of Frank’s other Saturday Stumpers, but I found this one still difficult. Worked this one from the bottom up: I had the whole lower section done, and finished right around where the cursor is. Hard to find a toehold in this one, but that is the joy of these super hard puzzles. You stare at an empty grid, and you slowly build on your progress. Truly a metaphor for problem solving, and I would bet that any seasoned solver would usually stay calm in crisis! You could also say it was a crisis that this took me nearly 30 minutes!! 4.7 for this 70-word toughie.
A few notes:
- 5A [Get down with gusto] QUAFF – Rarely used as a verb, at least in my opinion, but accurate nonetheless.
- 14A [Golden Age star mentioned in Madonna’s “Vogue”] LANA TURNER – Let’s go back a few years, shall we? 27 to be exact!
- 30A [LeBron James hometown] AKRON, OHIO – First entry filled in, but this is almost local news here in the midwest.
- 36A [Microsoft ad line] “I’M A PC!” – I know you don’t have 40 minutes, but this was just too good to not post!
- 60A [What a fencer goes for] TARGET AREA – I didn’t know this exact term, but I think it’s the midsection. I tried to put TOUCHE AREA in there, thinking it might be some French term!
- 1D [A’s are part of it] MLB – Had this in, deleted it, and then remembered you have to go with your gut sometimes. This is referring, of course, to the Oakland A’s of Major League Baseball
- 12D [Devoid of diversity] ONE NOTE – I like this a lot. Usually this phrase, at least to me, would describe how something tastes, but this is a hard puzzle!
- 27D [MSG network regulars] KNICKS – Possibly slightly easier for people in NYC, but it does make sense that the New York Knickerbockers would be on the Madison Square Garden network!
- 41D [Dark cloud] ILL OMEN – I had BAD OMEN, which caused quite a few problems.
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Consider the Alternative” — pannonica’s write-up
Theme feels both fresh and clever. Unlike my assessment here, it hinges on either/or choices.
Each theme answer is based on two familiar phrases: one that’s visible and another that lurks in the shadows but informs it. These éminence grise phrases share an “x or y” structure. The twist for the theme is that the other word in those phrases replaces the one that should be part of the in-grid phrase.
- 22a. [Alternatively, causes a flood] GIVES ’EM HIGH WATER. The original phrase is gives ’em hell and the tacit phrase is come hell or high water.
- 30a. [Alternatively, a challenge to go streaking?] NAKED DARE (naked truth; truth or dare).
- 45a. [Alternatively, plane travel that includes a meal?] FOOD FLIGHT (food fight; fight or flight).
- 67a. [Alternatively, a thief of campaign souvenirs?] BUTTON CROOK (button hook; by hook or by crook).
- 84a. [Alternatively, an inexpensive goody?] CHEAP TREAT (cheap trick; trick or treat).
- 102a. [Alternatively, afflictions of folks who do lots of horseback riding?] SORE TAILS (sore heads; heads or tails).
- 114a. [Alternatively, rebate for a garbage hauler at the end of the second quarter?] JUNE CARTER CREDIT (June Carter Cash; cash or credit). Elaborate setup needed for that one.
- 14d. [Alternatively, has some cosmetic surgery?] LOWERS THE BUST (lowers the boom; boom or bust).
- 53d. [Alternatively, a beauty pageant winner?] NUMBER ONE MISS (number one hit; hit or miss).
See? Isn’t that nifty? Further consistency is that the new phrases always replace the x (first) alternative with the y (second) one. Ya, those phrases don’t follow the commutative property—they don’t sound right in a different order.
- 17a [Bahrain bigwigs] AMIRS. Versus the more crossword-typical EMIRS. But! It paves the way for me to share a funky track. One step removed, à la the theme. Well, sort of. I first encountered this on the compilation album curated by Kon & Amir called Kings of Diggin’.
nb: UNIÃO is Portuguese for ‘unity’. Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to use that in crosswords? (And yes, it’s spelled incorrectly at Discogs. I should probably edit that page.)
- 26a [Important time on Veteran’s Day] ELEVEN AM. Timely. See also the theme in the usually-themeless-NYT-Saturday crossword.
- 37a [Gershwin song “__ Doing All Right”] I WAS. Reminds me of a line from a John Hiatt song: “When you were out of luck, well luck was doin’ all right”. Oh, and that one starts off with the couplet “I was gonna get up off that bar stool / Just as soon as I could figure it out”. Uh-huh.
- 48a [Intentionally ambiguous] DELPHIC. So named for the Oracle at Delphi in Greek mythology. Hmm, PYTHIA is probably also a potentially useful crossword word.
- 73a [Dog topping] KRAUT. More allusiveness. [Hot] dog, [sauer]kraut.
- 119a [Peter of Herman’s Hermits] NOONE. I have a personal obligation to always highlight instances of no-one/no one when clued in this alternative way. Thus.
- Back-to-back Sondheimiana: 123a [Sondheim’s barber] Sweeney TODD, 124a [Sondheim’s milieu] STAGE.
- 8d [Request of Pat Sajak] AN I, 36d [Like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony] IN F. Both of these lay fallow for the third letter until crossings provided. Would have appreciated having at least one of these clued differently, even as an abbrev.
- 10d [Terse review] HATED IT. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
- 32d [ ___ back (rises up)] RARES. Felt the need to give this the Ngram treatment. Something about wondering how necessary the collocation is.
- 40d [Bucket letters] KFC. So would their menu be at least in part a bucket list? Oh, see also the francophone 1a [Monaco menu] CARTE.
So what say you all? Yea or nay? (Incidentally, it grates when I see people write yay [sic] or nay. A lot.)