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.
Struggled a tad in the SW for obvious reasons, liked the two long crosses.
“If you haven’t seen the movie, you ought to!” Yep, Snowpiercer is a fun watch.
Good Stumper as usual, but is “Twelve books, maybe” not a ridiculous clue?
I thought this was a specific reference to something at first! It does seem random, but once I had the answer it make perfect sense.
The number 12 has religious and other significance so it’s an attempt at misdirection I gather but I still find it silly for the entry.
Altar boys do, in fact, ring bells at Mass in many parishes.
Indeed they do, in both Catholic and Episcopal churches, as in these pictures of Sanctus bells
And acolytes do as well — in churches that permit girls to serve.
Now I have Z-envy. Only one Z in *my* last name, and it’s buffered by vowels, so not anywhere near as interesting. Great puZZle. Really got my money’s worth.
Also liked seeing new (to me) clues for EMU and OTT.
Loved the clue for OTT. I didn’t know that’s who Durocher was referring to.
I found the OTT clue refreshing as well, though it’s an obscure reference
Thought I’d add, after looking it up, that Durocher made the remark while Ott was managing the Giants, not playing for them.
Spoke too soon. The remark was made in 1946 when Ott was player-manager for the Giants, though he only appeared in 31 games.
Where is the WSJ write-up?
NYT: I was thinking “troubling prognosis” would be WORSt— as I fear the worst. The current clue makes not sense to me.
On the other hand, I think of NOT VALID as a real concept in Math and Logic, so I was not as troubled by it as Amy seemed to be.
“Worse” is a prognosis, and I can make it work:
How’s it looking?
but I agree with Amy that it’s incomplete.
Division by zero is UNDEFINED.
Yes, but also an INVALID operation. Since there were one too many squares for that answer, NOT VALID is fine.
I can’t make those two jumps.
In old math, division by zero was simply IMPOSSIBLE, but that would not fit either. NOT VALID did not really bother me.
Excellent LAT! But… no baseball clues? Did I miss one?
C.C.’s LA Times puzzle is witty, lively, accessible and rewarding. A joy to solve!
Great Xmas present from one of my children: Ben Tausig’s book “The Curious History of the Crossword”…
this was the best themeless day of 2017, nyt/lat/stumper all gems
This altar boy rang the bells quite a lot, in the ’50s.
As a 50’s altar boy, I had two major challenges: the first was lighting the altar candles without creating a bonfire (the candle lighter was six or eight feet long with a wick extending from the end–you had to hold it at an angle or else the entire wick would catch fire) and the second was to bring the bells from the side of the altar to where you were kneeling without ringing any bells.
The bells were rung in anticipation of the consecration.
Isn’t division by zero infinite?
In calculus, take a fraction where the numerator is a constant. Then if the denominator goes to zero in the “limit” the quotient goes to infinity. But since infinity is a concept and not a number then one may also say the limit diverges or it is undefined.
Coulda said it about the Cubs when he took over there….
Stumper hung me up, as I refused to seriously consider 3d OIL RIG after 17a PALM OIL.
Suspect a post-fill tweak . . . (?)
NYT: Since I got CZOLGOSZ and didn’t know the name of the assassin before, according to me it’s a fine puzzle. Was stumped by the NE, but I was satisfied with how far I got and how interesting the puzzle was. Thanks, Damon/Joe!