Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This grid’s really pretty, but I can’t say I actually had fun solving it. Some of the long answers are cool—I like Blondie BOOPADOOP, BIG-TICKET ITEM, MAJORITY RULES, and PANNED OUT, but wasn’t too keen on the rest. Fill like ODIST, plural YOS, V SHAPES, and EST’D are blah. I didn’t know the names ANSELMO and AMATO.
- 10d. [Hip-hop icon born Lisa Williamson], SISTER SOULJAH. She was in Public Enemy and released just one solo album, not particularly successful. But check this out: She’s had more success as a writer, writing best-selling novels. Here’s a 1999 New Yorker piece she penned about Mary J. Blige (who has a shot at an Oscar nom for best supporting actress, in Mudbound).
- 21a. [Pomeriggio follower], SERA. I had to Google that clue word after I finished the puzzle. It’s Italian for afternoon, and SERA means evening. That seems beyond the pale for foreign vocab in a clue, as the word doesn’t quite scream “post-meridian” if you don’t know Italian.
- 28a. [“Because I said so” is not one], REASON. If you’re a parent, though, it is. And “Because reasons” also works.
- 26a. [Nocturnal predators of fiction], MORLOCKS. I know the Morlocks mainly from their appearances in crosswordese ELOI clues. The Eloi get eaten by the Morlocks in Wells’s The Time Machine, right?
- 4d. [Its player may have a yen for gambling], PACHINKO. Japanese pinball machine. Not sure how familiar this word is to most Americans, though—I know it because when I was a kid, the couple across the street had some pachinko machines in their basement, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pachinko machine in person since then.
- 11d. [Paper signed before filming begins], RELEASE WAIVER. No, I don’t care for this answer. It’s a release form or it’s a waiver, but RELEASE WAIVER is redundant. (Also, the releases people sign for TV shows like Impractical Jokers are typically signed after the filming’s already taken place.)
Three stars from me.
Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Long Movies” — Laura’s write-up
No, not “Long Movies” because the constructor’s name is Long (which it actually isn’t because “Alice Long” is another one of editor Mike Shenk’s pseudonyms), but because short a sounds in the names of movies have been transformed into long a sounds, with the result that hilarity ensues, like so:
- [22a: “Here’s what you need to patch up that backbone”: THIS IS SPINAL TAPE (This Is Spinal Tap)
- [39a: Glider, compared to stealth bomber?]: A SIMPLE PLANE (A Simple Plan)
- [43a: Lovely quality of “Tyger Tyger burning bright”?]: BLAKE BEAUTY (Black Beauty)
- [59a: Family member was in need of a massage?]: SISTER ACHED (Sister Act)
- [64a: Proud label on a new deck?]: STAINED BY ME (Stand By Me)
- [87a: Aristocratic New England women?]: DAME YANKEES (Damn Yankees)
- [89a: Funeral home?]: HOUSE OF WAKES (House of Wax)
- [106a: Big water conduit made of glass?]: THE INVISIBLE MAIN (The Invisible Man)
You guys, SPINAL TAPE really is a thing. It is patterned in the manner of vertebrae. I got some as a present once! I’ve hardly used it, because let’s face it, what packages are worthy of SPINAL TAPE? If you also enjoy whimsical nerdy gag gifts, note that SPINAL TAPE is available from the usual retail behemoth and that it goes to eleven … feet.
These were all funny; it would’ve been supercool if all of the short a sounds could’ve been made long by just adding a silent e, as with the first two themers, but we can’t have everything.
Fill it up with:
- [10d: Artsy- ___]: CRAFTSY is not what I usually expect to complete that phrase.
- [16d: American Theatre Wing co-founder Perry]: ANTOINETTE. Not the Antoinette I’m looking for, but okay.
- [51a: Small songbirds]: TITS and [62a: Silly sort]: ASS. Orchestra and balcony.
- [95d: Lazy lass?]: SUSAN. As in the turntable-like shelf accessory that helps you reach your herbs and seasoning packets and whatnot. My friend (named Susan) calls it an “Efficient Susan.”
- [36a: “Master of None” star Aziz]: ANSARI. He’s been in the news lately.
Andy Kravis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Fellow blogger Andy Kravis has this week’s Saturday Stumper, and I will tell you: I was truly stumped! I am sure you can see several error marks in the image to the right, especially in the lower left corner, where I had all types of fits. I will discuss a few of the thornier clues I had problems with in the comments below, but all-in-all this is actually quite a good puzzle. I know part of the problem is I don’t solve enough of his puzzles; maybe I should visit his blog more often! The other part is he is a genius in this field, and I don’t think I can hang with what his brain is coming up with! A solid 4.7 stars this morning.
Those comments I talked about:
- 32A [Inconspicuous, in ads] WHISPER QUIET – Perhaps used to describe a vacuum cleaner? Struggled here until I had the “Q”.
- 41A [Competitor of Chipotle] MOE’S – We went to eat at the local Moe’s Southwest Grill here a few months ago, and it closed down!
- 53A [They now sport “We the People”] TENS – As in ten-dollar bills, which I never see anymore since who carries cash??
- 56A [Made like a ram] BAAED – Since this said “ram” and not “sheep,” I had head-butting on the brain!
- 60A [Typical carry-on] ONE-SUITER – I am a big fan of not checking bags now. Those carousels are painfully slow. Also, less to worry about!
- 7D [Ribbon-like copper support] RESTRIP – If you say so! This stuff actually does exist, although I have never heard of it!
- 9D [Rather good] B PLUS – Tons of consonants in here. I knew 9A had to be BERRA or BENCH, but the B???? had me totally lost for awhile!
- 34D [Physicist’s ultrahigh-temperature state] QUARK SOUP – I told you he was smarter than I am! This page explains it.
- 37D [Peanut-butter holder, perhaps] RYE TOAST – I rarely eat rye bread, unless I am having a Reuben sandwich, which is going to be a rarity anymore. Maybe I will try it with peanut butter!
It is trying to warm up here! But there is still snow here. This map proves it!
Alex Bajcz’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
In today’s Stumper review, I mention my unfamiliarity with Andy Kravis’s puzzles. I can say the same for Alex Bajcz’s puzzles as well, although I’ll bet every crossword constructor around wouldn’t mind if he gained Kardashian-type mega-stardom with that consonant laden last name! A fun 70-worder here with four interlocking 14-letter entries. Well done! 4.5 stars for this one.
A few notes:
- 18A [Company that pioneered metal drivers in golf] TAYLOR MADE – I think I actually knew this; I haven’t played golf in a while though. I now live within walking distance of one, so maybe …
- 23A [Thing to get one’s claws into] SCRATCHING POST – We still do not have our cat yet. Soon though!
- 40A [Gordon Shumway’s title alias, in a sitcom] ALF – I never watched Alf much when it was on. I am pretty sure it is still available either in syndication or streaming. But I didn’t know he had this name!
- 59A [Pac-12 student] OREGON DUCK – Mascots like this are rarely seen in singular form. I loved the Oregon area when we were out there a couple of years ago.
- 5D [Tries to pick up] PUTS THE MOVES ON – This along with …
- 33D [Flirts with] COMES ONTO – … are both moves one should be wary of in today’s climate. Who else will have a complaint lodged against them that costs them their career?
- 12D [“A __ Fury”: “Star Wars” DVD segment] JEDI’S – If you say so. Is this some sort of featurette??
- 16D [They may involve cheap shots] ROUND OF DRINKS – Another one of the 14-letter entries. With that length, I am sure this has never appeared in the NYT before. (I checked; I was right!)
- 48D [“Did I do that?” TV nerd] URKEL – His name has come up a few times recently in puzzles. I haven’t seen Family Matters in years!
Have a great weekend!