Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I checked crossword Twitter for the early reactions to Kevin’s puzzle, and I’m seeing nothing. Which might mean that everyone else is busy for Passover or Good Friday or clubbing or the the movies. Or that they are still tearing their hair out at this unremittingly bonkers puzzle that is a March 31 puzzle and not an April 1 puzzle, and yet it will mess with you hard.
So I kept filling in an answer and then seeing that it did not work with the crossings. “Myrmica is ants, rubra means red, how on earth is RED ANTS not working here?!” I am pleased with myself for only taking 2-3 minutes longer than my usual Saturday NYT time to finish this puzzle, so apparently I began trying out some backwards stuff after not too long. 12d. [Small coffee cups] actually helped me out, because that answer really can only be DEMITASSES, but it works with crossings only upside down/backwards. Still trying to figure out the rule for which answers are entered backwards in the grid … okay, it’s one of those boustrophedonic puzzles, where the letters plow back and forth from left to right like oxen, only on steroids because the Down answers go up and down, alternating rows, also. (Meaning the answers in the top row are entered from right to left, the second row the standard left to right, then traveling back from right to left in the third row, and so on.) This is the nuttiest crossword I’ve seen in quite a while and I kinda love it. You’ve got some quasi-explanatory theme answers:
- 19a. [Most crosstown thoroughfares in Manhattan … with a hint to this puzzle’s theme], ONE-WAY STREETS.
- 35a. [With 41-Across, proceeding willy-nilly], GOING IN ALL spelled backwards, LLANIGNIOG / 41a. [See 35-Across], SNOITCERID or DIRECTIONS.
- 52a. [Nightmarish Manhattan traffic situation … or a possible title for this puzzle], TOTAL GRIDLOCK. Suuuper-cool repurposing of a traffic term for a crossword grid.
This gnarly beast is a 72-worder, so it looks like a regular themeless puzzle. It’s got a Thursday-style twist, only way harder, so you really couldn’t run this any day other than Saturday without drawing fire. And even on the toughest day, I’m sure many are crying foul. This one’s for the solvers who have been missing extra-challenging puzzles.
SMOORE TATS! SDAPSOS! IN A SAD! ROTSA! And look at LIEV, but it’s backwards [Bridal wear] rather than actor Schreiber.
The clues are mostly pretty straightforward and the non-theme fill is just solid (but not too exciting) themeless fodder. There are a few question-marked clues in the mix, just to mess with us more thoroughly:
- 43a. [Back on the job?], TEBA, or ABET. As in a bank job/heist.
- 37d. [Turkey club?], NATO. The country of Turkey is in NATO, no sandwich here.
- 32d. [The “I” of Constantine I?], OGE, or EGO. Not the Roman numeral, but the first-person pronoun in Constantine I’s language, Latin.
- 33a. [Short while?], THO. Many of us in the crossword profession connect that “though” shortening to “tho” with Will Shortz, who uses it in correspondence. It has a quaint vibe.
I predict a lot of disgruntled, infuriated 1-star ratings for Kevin’s TOTAL GRIDLOCK. Me, I’m giving it 5 stars.
Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t see Neville last weekend! Perhaps I will bump into him at one of the other events this year. This former Fiend blogger has a site that like many other indie sites has not been updated in a while. Which is too bad, because his puzzles are a lot of fun. Perhaps because of familiarity with his puzzle, or perhaps because of still being in tournament mode, I whipped this puzzle in under 5 min. Perhaps I should actually PRACTICE for the ACPT! Neville, get that site updated with some new stuff! 4.4 stars for this one.
- 5A [Space Invaders genre] SHOOT ‘EM UP – This is not a SHOOT ‘EM UP game to me; Doom to me was the original kill-everything-you-see game. Space Invaders seems extremely tame by today’s standards.
- 15A [Quintet that won a Grammy for their a cappella version of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”] PENTATONIX – This group is my middle son’s favorite. They are pretty good. Have a listen:
- 18A [1996 McDonald’s offering] ARCH DELUXE – I remember this vividly. It was over 20 years ago. I am getting old …
- 26A [Anthony of “black-ish”] ANDERSON – I have never seen this show. School has made life that busy. I hear it is hilarious. I don’t watch Empire either. Haven’t seen Black Lightning. What does this say about me??
- 60A [Really easy to use] IDIOT PROOF – I need everything I use to be this way!
- 7D [Rarely] ONCE IN A BLUE MOON – I had LIFETIME in at first, and still got done quickly!
- 27D [State bordering Arizona and New Mexico] SONORA – I see what you did there!!
- 45D [Last word of two James Bond film titles] KILL – A View to a Kill and Licence to Kill, I believe.
- 47D [Twisted Sister frontman Dee] SNIDER – This is also a slightly dated reference, which I also knew immediately.
- 50D [Billy Joel hit with the line “I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home] MY LIFE – Also dated! Isn’t this the name of the Billy Joel musical as well? Oh wait, that’s Movin’ Out!
Have a wonderful weekend, and when is spring going to start … ?
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Usually Brad and Matt’s co-creations give me massive fits. This puzzle was no different. I had to pause it and come back, but once I did, I rolled through the rest. There is a feeling, the “zone” perhaps, that you get into when solving these hard puzzles. I wasn’t in it for the first half; heck, I wasn’t in it last Saturday either! But I felt if for the latter half of my solving time for this one. I have said many times my favorite part of solving: it means I have had ten minutes of quiet! Being able to block out all of the noise and focus on something is a skill, and I am not so sure it doesn’t release endorphins or something. There is some sort of pleasure derived from that, don’t you agree? Once I felt that feeling, the puzzle toppled. So the key is, how do you get there? Plenty of sleep? Caffeine? Exercise? Positive thinking? Meditation? Massage therapy? Chiropractor? If I only knew. I strive to do everything I just mentioned!
I ramble. This was a hard but fun one. And I learned a new word (see below). 4.6 stars.
Some high points:
- 18A [Source of ancient spun fibers] HEMP – Or modern spun fibers …
- 47A [Offer long, flower descriptions] WAX POETIC – I actually got this quickly, but nothing was working and I though something was wrong.
- 61A [Designer with feathers] PLUMASSIER – This is that new word! ‘One that deals with ornamental plumes or feathers’ according to MW. Not my designers. Perhaps Rupaul’s!
- 67A [Ersatz poster adhesive] TOOTH PASTE – What is this saying??
- 1D [Seat whose sitters sit back-to-back] DOS-Á-DOS – Like this chair, perhaps?
- 8D [“Food, __” (agribusiness documentary)] INC. – This is on Netflix, and has played a role in my striving to attain to vegan/vegetarian eating. I recommend.
- 33D [Tennis center?] SWEET SPOT – Tennis racquet center!
- 54D [Old recorder of beastly behavior] AESOP – Awesome! Best clue in the puzzle
See you in April!
Julian Thorne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Way to Go!” — Jim’s re-cap
Theme: Phrases where the last word can be a vehicle have been re-purposed.
- 22a [Harley for the honcho?] BUSINESS CYCLE. Seems reasonable.
- 33a [Helicopter made of hickory?] WOOD CHOPPER. Sounds like it would be pretty heavy.
- 45a [Sailing ship offering discounts on fares?] COUPON CLIPPER. I bet this would get a lot of business with the retiree crowd. (Is that ageist?)
- 60a [Cruise ship during spring break? ] PARTY LINER. Hmm. I’ve heard of someone who “toes the party line,” but I’ve never heard that person called a PARTY LINER.
- 63a [Subway equipped with bathrooms?] POTTY TRAIN. My favorite entry, though the vehicle in this set that I would want to ride the least. Just having bathrooms on your train shouldn’t earn you the moniker “POTTY TRAIN.” If it does, I think you have an odor and/or plumbing problem.
- 77a [Horse-drawn carriage oscillating in motion?] PITCHING COACH. This also sounds like an un-fun ride.
- 89a [Patrol boat towed by a thick rope?] CABLE CUTTER. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? How can you patrol if you need another boat to tow you?
- 100a [Jet while it’s banking?] INCLINED PLANE. Meh. A little too matter-of-fact.
So that’s one motorcycle, one helicopter, one train, one carriage, one plane, and three ships. Most of these were fun enough that I enjoyed the theme.
The long fill was sparse but nice: RISING SUN, EYE COLOR, PART-TIME, and VACCINATE. There’s also plenty of nice mid-length fill: GIMLET, PISCES, I’M OKAY, TARHEEL, TROIKA, etc. In short, the fill is really quite solid.
I didn’t know MR NOON [Unfinished novel by D.H. Lawrence]. Nor had I ever heard the term WAITRON [Server, gender-neutrally], but I love it. Works for both human and non-human servers. Can this be used in other occupations? Stewardron? Actron?
Toughest crossing was OZICK [Author Cynthia] and INSULA [Small interior lobe of the cerebral cortex]. That felt a bit unfair.
But all in all, a good Saturday outing. I suspect people might find it a bit of a letdown after today’s NYT by Kevin Der which was brilliant. That’s not a fair way to compare puzzles, but I suppose that’s the way it goes.