Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Who better to include Leon CZOLGOSZ‘s ([McKinley’s assassin]) Polish(-American) name in a puzzle than Mr. Gulczynski? CZ power! And it crosses ZLOTYS for extra Pole power. (Some of my ancestors have a TRZ pile-up in the middle of a surname, but I don’t think we have any CZ power.)
This 70-word puppy played like a Friday puzzle for me. Lots of lively fill, starting with the 15s, “CAN I GET A WITNESS?” and SOCIAL DARWINISM. Plenty of decent stacks mostly solid fill—nothing tripped the Scowl-o-Meter.
Favorite entries include RUN-DMC, JDATE, “I WOULDN’T,” ZYDECO, M.C. ESCHER, ALTAR BOY, KING JAMES (clued via LeBron James), and BAD APPLE.
- 15a. [“The Merchant of Venice” film star, 2004], AL PACINO. I’ve recently seen Shylock referred to as the play’s “villain” twice, and that bugs me.
- 45a. [Composition of some beds], LAVA. Lava beds are a good bit firmer than waterbeds, but they’re terrible in the summertime.
- 57a. [“You are quite right”], “SO IT IS.” I wonder if Damon originally clued this via Tilda Swinton’s character in Snowpiercer. She said “So it is” a lot. (If you haven’t seen the movie, you ought to!)
- 3d. [Ran harder], SPED / 39a. [Played again], RERAN. Would’ve been so easy to clue SPED without “ran.”
- 9d. [Troubling prognosis], WORSE. What? How is “worse” a prognosis? This feels incomplete.
- 35d. [Does this church position ring a bell?], ALTAR BOY. According to at least one member of Team Fiend who went to Catholic school, the answer is no, altar boys do not ring bells.
- 36d. [Like division by zero], NOT VALID. Least favorite entry in this puzzle. (That’s right, I prefer INI Kamoze over this.) Feels like a random NOT + adjective, not rising to the level of a lexical chunk. Perhaps you mathy types will disagree, perhaps you will agree.
Let’s call this one four stars.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Nice! Another cool puzzle by C.C. this Saturday. I was able to jam through this one fairly quickly, but nothing in this puzzle is longer than 9-letters, so that helps. But there is also nothing unfamiliar in this puzzle, for the most part, and there are a few informal phrases that don’t necessarily test your knowledge as they do your grasp of language and slang. I think that is why I appreciate those types of entries. 4.6 stars for this 70-worder.
- 1A [On-the-go frozen breakfast] EGGO BITES – I don’t think I have ever had these, but I have had my fair share of Eggo Waffles
- 23A [2001 bankruptcy headliner] ENRON – I learned a lot about Enron from my accounting classes. Their woes, along with a few other corrupt companies, directly led to legislations designed to try and prevent this from happening in the future.
- 39A [Homemade crystal products] AM RADIOS – A great entry, but does anyone listen to AM radio anymore? Perhaps your favorite station is now on XM!
- 57A [Decluttering maven Kondo] MARIE – This is the one entry I was going to say I was unfamiliar with, but I own her book!!
- 64A [“My bad”] OOPS, SORRY – I said there were casual phrases in this puzzle. This is one of the best ones!
- 5D [Completely uncovered] BARENAKED – We could always use a reference to the Barenaked Ladies, a popular band from Canada!
- 13D [Cookie in Snak Saks] MINI OREOS – A fresh use of a well-used crossword term. And delicious, too!
- 37D [Olds luxury car] TORONADO – We literally owned one of these when I was younger! It looked sort of like this:
- 39D [Peter Parker’s adoptive mother] AUNT MAY – Now played by Marisa Tomei in the newest movie installment. It will be interesting to see how this latest iteration of the web-slinger goes, since they hinted at the fact that Aunt May knows Peter is Spider-Man!
See you next year!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Another toughie this week. But a brilliant puzzle nonetheless. Brad has made a 66-worder that is similar to the easy grid formations I have mentioned before (ones with very few long entries), but this one has staggered 11-letter entries right in the middle. I didn’t have to much difficulty with them, but the seemingly easier corner areas gave me all kinds of fits. I may or may not have learned a new word in the process! A solid 4.5 today for this one.
A few favorites:
- 15A [Former big name of an online “Post”] ARIANNA – Singer Ariana Grande is arguably more famous, but only one N!
- 16A [Explorer who founded New Orleans] LE MOYNE – I did not know this. I guessed La Salle. You knew it was a French name. And my family is originally from this area!
- 35A [Salad Bowl Strike leader (1970)] CESAR CHAVEZ – Is the year meant to be a clue? I’m not sure it helped. My bigger issue: did his name end in S or Z?
- 43A [Ariel’s sea rescuee] ERIC – Still haven’t seen this movie. I had to ask my wife what this answer was!
- 52A [Capital with a Karen Blixen Museum] NAIROBI – This sounds like a Scandinavian name, and I was right. She is originally Danish, but this is the author of Out of Africa, hence the museum in Kenya.
- 54A [Curved like a bow] ARCUATE – Did I mention learning new words?
- 10D [Large multiple of XXIX] MMCM – I hate these Roman numeral clues, but I made this one harder than it should have been! (29 x 100 = 2900!)
- 12D [Ceremonial attention-getter] OYEZ OYEZ – This page explains this. I don’t think I knew this either!
- 49D [__ stick] POGO – I literally haven’t seen one of these in decades. I will now have to go to Toys R Us and see if they have one!
See everyone next year!
Julian Thorne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Finally!” — pannonica’s write-up
Appending the adverbial -ly to phrases. Way out.
- 22a. [Choose an academic focus, in a nonspecific way?] MAJOR GENERALLY.
- 38a. [Feed the flowers, in a primary way?] WATER MAINLY.
- 40a. [Quickly stoop down, in a heedless way?] DUCK BLINDLY.
- 64a. [Bound, in an annual way?] LEAP YEARLY.
- 68a. [make a reservation, in an evenhanded way?] BOOK FAIRLY.
- 92a. [Get on the train, in a plucky way?] BOARD GAMELY.
- 95a. [Do some downsizing, in a principal way?] FIRE CHIEFLY.
- 114a. [Deal in illegal goods, in a moderate way?] TRAFFIC LIGHTLY.
Nice puzzle, can’t say more about it today. Oh, besides tough crossing at 1-across and 2-down, that needs mentioning.