Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle tried to win me over with 1d ERIC IDLE, but it lost me with 1a ESAS (who doesn’t love a nonspecifically clued [Spanish pronoun]?) and 14a RONA Barrett clued ([Longtime first name in gossip]) as if she’s so famous she needs no last name in the clue. (She retired 26 years ago and ended her last regular TV gig 36 years ago.) Feh.
This is a 66-worder and it’s not by Berry, so you’d expect the grid to have some junk in it. I’m not keen on ASFIT, ONAPLATE, ARMAS, MEESE, INALIE, SONE, TEHEE (ugh), SEENAS or PAYEXTRA.
There’s a general vibe of fustiness, aside from the central Down, FREAKING AWESOME. Of all the ways to clue the aspirin bran ANACIN, we get [Product with the old catchphrase “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”]?? When you’re middle-aged and a crossword clue makes you feel decades too young, you know the clue skews old.
I do like CORNBREAD a lot, and learned last month that in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, cornbread is a much more frequent Thanksgiving side than it is elsewhere in the country. (And folks in the Northeast have squash, while Westerners have their Thanksgiving salad.) I reckon I could do Oklahoma Thanksgiving.
- Did you think 41a. [Waters in Washington] should be PUGET or POTOMAC? It’s Congresswoman MAXINE Waters, whom I adore. “I’m reclaiming my time.”
- 43a. [Passing concern], ESTATE TAX. Nah, this is a bullshit clue. The estate tax is only a concern for the wealthiest 0.2% of people. When the other 98.2% of people die, there’s no damn estate tax. It’s propaganda, pure and simple, that’s convinced millions of people that it’s an unfair “death tax” that they should fight against. But they would never have to encounter it anyway! Sigh.
- 47a. [Gladly, old-style], LIEF. This is one of those archaic words I’m quite fond of. Let’s bring it back, people. Somebody demonstrate how we might use it in a modern sentence, please.
- 2d. [Baby shower], SONOGRAM. Technically, it’s showing a fetus or an embryo.
- 34a. [Doctor of 1960s TV], KILDARE. Sure, by all means, drop a reference to a TV show that ended 51 years ago into the clue instead of the Irish county. I feel like County Kildare is one of the handful of Irish county names that Americans might actually recognize. (Cork, yes. Westmeath, no.)
The Scowl-o-Meter was pinging off and on throughout my solve. 3.2 stars from me.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Well under five minutes! Yes, I jammed through this one, but that is also a compliment to the constructor. To make a 66-word themeless puzzle with virtually no unfamiliar terms is a feat. It does help that this grid pattern has no words longer than 9-letters, but still: this puzzle seemed extremely EASY. But also enjoyable! Since it is hard to make a themeless puzzle that is this easy, I will award a solid 4.7 for this one. Well done! I don’t know too much of Craig Stowe’s previous work, and I don’t think this is a pseudonym, so this person has to make more puzzles!
Just a couple of things:
- 31A [Apparent] OSTENSIVE – This may be the hardest vocab word in the puzzle. And it’s not that hard, which is my point from earlier!
- 1D [Quake] SEISM – This one is probably my least favorite, as it feels to me like a crossword only word. Or maybe poetry. But it is fair, so I will let it slide!
- 41D [“Did Hamlet so __ with his envy …”: Shakespeare] ENVENOM – Yes, this is barely a word, but appearing in Shakespeare legitimizes a lot of entries!
- 45D [Alternative nickname to Mattie, perhaps] TILDA – Would a reference to Tilda Swinton be too easy here?
Have a great weekend! It is snowing here!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one was going great until I got to the SE corner! I was feeling quite full of myself until then; I had most of this puzzle done in about 10-12 minutes! But although most of the entries down there are clued fairly in hindsight, I had all kinds of issues figuring that corner out. But another solid 72-word themeless by Frank, and you can add it to his list of gems. Nothing too objectionable as long as you have a pretty decent vocabulary, as most of the solvers of this type of puzzle are likely to have. 4.4 stars today.
Lots to mention:
- 23A [German mathematician who inspired Einstein] REIMANN – Have you proved his hypothesis yet? You could win $1,000,000!
- 42A [It can illuminate the senses] USAGE NOTE – At first I didn’t get this clue, but now I think it may be the best in the puzzle. A usage note appears in the dictionary to enhance the “sense” of a word’s meaning. Very nice!
- 48A [Word from Old English for “lightly boiled”] RARE – I tried RABE here, like broccoli rabe, which is totally wrong!
- 63A [Eleventh hour] LAST-DITCH – I suppose this works. The sense seems slightly off, in a noun-adjective sort of way.
- 2D [Suspension in a kitchen] AIOLI – Another candidate for best clue. A lot of people hang pots and pans from the ceiling, and that was my mental picture on reading this clue!
- 9D [D.A. portrayer in “Crash”] FRASER – I had the longest mental blank trying to remember George of the Jungle’s real name!
- 11D [Opposite of “lean”] ADIPOSE – This word describes body fat. Not commonly used, but a good clue nonetheless.
- 27D [Make sweet-smelling, in a way] CENSE – As in incense? Not my favorite, but I did find it at least gettable.
- 43D [Teacher’s activity] ERASING – A tad vague, but it still applies, even though it’s mostly whiteboards now. In my day, there was usually a student or two tasked with erasing the blackboard (not to mention washing them every so often!). Whiteboards also eliminate that annoying fingernail scratching sound that some people love to annoy me with!
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Predisposition” — pannonica’s write-up
Words/phrases receive a DIS– prefix for wacky results. Sooo, pre – dis – position = DIS pre – position.
- 23a. [Vandalize the faces on statues?] DISFIGURE HEADS (figureheads).
- 27a. [Merinos that have been marked down?] DISCOUNT SHEEP (count sheep).
- 44a. [Something many tween boys do?] DISCOVER GIRLS (cover girls).
- 54a. [Job in a cab company’s office?] DISPATCH WORK (patchwork).
- 72a. [Public speaker?] DISCOURSE PRO (course pro). Golf.
- 77a. [Model of Pogo that’s not for sale?] DISPLAY POSSUM (play possum).
- 99a. [Bring shame upon a “Live!” co-host?] DISGRACE KELLY (Grace Kelly). Ms RIPA.
- 105a. [Choose not to take the country seriously?] DISMISS AMERICA (Miss America).
Couple of the themers rejigger the word spacing, as you can see. No spelling changes (e.g., ‘DISSUADE GLOVES’). And a good job keeping the theme from being relentlessly negative, which is a real liability. Rough! So no, I won’t be throwing a temper tantrum.
- 11d [High Sierra runners] IMACS, 39d [Freeze fixer] TECH, 75d [Place to sip and surf] CYBER CAFÉ.
- 9d [“Honey in the Horn” musician] AL HIRT, but of course I only filled in A––––RT, waiting to see if would be Herb ALPERT.
- 21a [One might stay in a lot] LEMON. Cute. Its misdirection, however, is undermined by the following clue, whose misdirection works in a complementary way: 22a [Vans liner] INSOLE. First one is actually about automobiles, second one is actually not about automobiles.
- 78d [Bird and King] LARRYS, 94d [Kakapo or cockatoo] PARROT.
- 98a [Big blows] GALES, 110a [Reacted to a big blow] REELED.
- 87a [Valuable deposit] ORE, 115a [Rock sample] DEMO TAPE. Wondering if that obsolescent term is still used; I suspect it may be.
Gotta run, busy day.