John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Well, this write-up may be a bit scattered, because I’m half-watching Ozark and half trying to find the rest of the Spelling Bee words (the new NYT online puzzle), which, if you do the math, doesn’t leave a whole lot of focus for the blog.
Unfamiliar things: AIR BAZOOKA; 18a. [E. S. ___, game company that produced Yahtzee and Bingo], LOWE; RED WORM; ORES clued as [Contents of some dollies], a use of “dollies” that’s new to me, and the dictionary doesn’t help much, unless the sort of wheeled dolly a heavy camera rolls on is also used in mines; CAMBERS, only faintly familiar as [Slight upward curves, as in roads or beams]; and OKE as old slang for “okay.” Yesterday’s 64-worder had fewer oddball entries than this 70-worder.
Things I liked: SLOT CANYON, FLEA MARKET, WATER POLO, DOUBLE-TEAM, IF YOU SAY SO, CALABASHES, CALLED IT, PHOTO BOOTH, SPERM DONOR.
On the crosswordese end of the spectrum: BRAE, ROES, EDER.
25a. [Ham go-with?], CAMERA. Better than Swiss cheese, if you ask me. My favorite part of Swiss cheese is the holes.
3.6 stars from me.
Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The xwordinfo.com guru and my buddy Jeff has today’s LAT puzzle. If I remember correctly, he has young ones in his house, so I am impressed that he is able to continue to concentrate on the puzzle craft! I know when I first had kids, my constructing days were put on hold! And yes, I noticed the NINE Js in this puzzle! I was wondering if this was maybe going to be an initial thing, but there is only one C! A solid 4.6 stars today!
A few highlights:
- 21A [NBA great __ Olajuwon] HAKEEM – He has been sighted at Rockets games recently, and I assume he still features prominently in their community. The Rockets have a chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995. (And they wouldn’t have won those two in ’94 and ’95 if Michael Jordan wasn’t fooling around playing baseball!)
- 25A [Insert into an email, as a video] EMBED – I do a fair amount of EMBEDding into this blog. I don’t know what I am doing half the time!
- 37A [Source of trial figures] JURY LIST – I had JURY POOL. Close!
- 53A [Dessert analog to turducken] PIECAKEN – I gotta try one of these! Here is an “embedded” image!
- 11D [Eponymous explorer of Australia] TASMAN – Abel Tasman is the namesake behind Tasmania, which we all know only because of watching the Tasmanian devil in Bugs Bunny cartoons! (Or is that just me?) Here is his Wikipedia page: learn something.
- 13D [Make one’s eyes pop out] STUPEFY – These Saturday crosswords often STUPEFY me.
- 22D [Ringgit spenders] MALAYS – Worth about $0.25 in USD. Never heard of it.
- 34D [Part of it was a 2106 campaign issue] U.S. BORDER – It still is.
- 39D [Scores, with “a”] PASSEL – I still am not sure why that “a” is there, but I guess you never do say this word without it!
- 47D [“Mayor” author] KOCH – Makes sense, as he is likely one of the most famous mayors ever!
I could go on and on, but a new P and A Mag comes out today! (And it is also Jennifer’s and my anniversary coming up!) Have a good weekend!
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not bad. My time I mean! I consider it a triumph if I finish in under 20 minutes these days, and if I ever break 10 minutes I may cry. I am still not tracking my times like I would like to, but I think my record on these Stumpers is around 12 1/2 minutes. Perhaps I will try to break 12 by the end of this year!
Brad Wilber and Matthew Sewell are behind the Andrew Bell Lewis pseudonym, and they usually, when constructing solo, cause me many fits. This one wasn’t horrible once I got a toehold. If you follow these Stumper write-ups that I do, you may recall that there are usually a sea of error marks in my grid images, but today there are only 4! This is a really fine puzzle with effortless entries in the long stacks, and I didn’t feel like chucking my laptop across the room! 4.7 stars for this one.
- 1A [Chipotle’s category] FAST CASUAL – Great 1-Across entry. I don’t care how much salmonella they infect people with: I LOVE their food!
- 28A [Florida Thoroughbred center] OCALA – Don’t ask me how I know this. I don’t get horse racing at all, but I am sure I may be near a TV when the Preakness Stakes is being run today.
- 33A [Coping saw?] I GET BY – Great clue, and, as always, I love the use of casual phrases.
- 38A [Potter’s employer in “… Cursed Child”] MINISTRY OF MAGIC – I may have mentioned this before, but I have neither read one of these books nor seen one single movie. This particular title is evidently a play based on the same characters. This was purely a guess for me.
- 65A [Tiny fuel pump display, say] IDIOT LIGHT – Yes, that little light that tells you that you have no gas, even though you already know you don’t!
- 67A [Half a Wimbledon match-up] TENNIS SHOE – Best clue in the puzzle! (And not just because I am a big tennis fan!)
- 5D [Pipe up with a claim] CALL DIBS – As is a “claim” for riding shotgun!
- 12D [Surfer’s friendly gesture] SHAKA SIGN – Also known as “hang loose,” and I have now learned a new name for this sign!
- 26D [What Tibetans call “man bear”] THE YETI – Do we need the THE here?
- 51D [Common Arabian utterance] NEIGH – 2nd best clue in the puzzle!
I could go on, but I will stop there. School work to do! Have a great weekend!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sun Spots” — Jim’s review
I had a heckuva time trying to figure out this theme. Each answer is clued [Spot #X] where X = a specific single digit (in order, going down the grid). So the clues were no help in grokking the theme. And in general, I dislike themes that have clue-like entries as themers. One of the great pleasures of crosswords is getting a few crossings of an answer, recognizing the letter pattern as a word or phrase that you know, and then satisfyingly plopping it in. That doesn’t happen in a theme like this where you have an entry like NEW JERSEY CITY.
I had filled in about 95% of the grid still with no idea of the theme (I figured the Sun had to do with it, based on the title, but this wasn’t helping). The only themer I had left was TE___SACEWILLIAMS, which sure looked like it wanted to be TENNESSEE WILLIAMS. Finally the penny dropped and I filled in TENNIS ACE WILLIAMS. That moment was about 25% relief at getting the answer but 75% groan at the awkward phrasing.
Still, that cracked the theme open for me. After wondering at first if it referred to Serena or Venus (Serena obviously has had the more successful career), I put it together with the title and realized what was going on. Venus was in [Spot #2], i.e. the second position. So we’re talking planets here. A-ha!
- 23a [Spot #1] LIQUID ELEMENT. Mercury.
- 40a [Spot #2] TENNIS ACE WILLIAMS. Venus.
- 49a [Spot #3] SOLID GROUND. Earth. This entry and the first one were among the first I uncovered leading me to think, erroneously, that the theme involved states of matter.
- 63a [Spot #4] CANDY BAR MAKERS. Mars. Plural?! I realize we often pluralize a company when saying, for example, “The makers of Snickers.” But we wouldn’t pluralize it in this case. It should be CANDY BAR MAKER.
- 73a [Spot #5] MOZART SYMPHONY. Jupiter. I will admit I didn’t know this. Is there a particular movement of this symphony that is most recognizable?
- 86a [Spot #6] AUTO COMPANY. Saturn.
- 95a [Spot #7] FATHER OF THE TITANS. Uranus. Identifying this one with respect to the gods feels like a bit of a cheat since all the planets (except Earth) were named in such a way. I would have rather seen this one as, say, oh I don’t know, THE BUTT OF A JOKE (don’t @ me).
- 119a [Spot #8] NEW JERSEY CITY. Neptune. I’ll take your word for it. Never heard of it. The wiki tells me there’s a Neptune Township and a Neptune City, neither of which seem crossword-worthy.
I gotta admit, once I had that final, frustrating a-ha moment, I liked this theme idea, especially the play on words where “Spot” more closely equates to “position.”
But the execution is what got me. I will grudgingly accept clues as theme answers if that’s the way it’s gotta be, but the fill was loaded with obscure names and words and the stalest of crosswordese.
I don’t mind things like SABRA (1a, [Native Israeli]) or ANDANTE (25a, [Medium tempo]). I can learn from those. The things that get to me are obscure trivia and crosswordese like MIES (30a, [Architecture’s ___ van der Rohe]), ILENE (33a, [“The L Word” co-creator Chaiken]), SERIA (69a, [Opera ___]), OSTIA (94a, [Ancient port of Rome]) crossing ANIL (83d, [Indigo-yielding shrub]), ANNEALS (14d, [Tempers, as metal]), ERSE (111d, [Gaelic language]), and JRR (121d, [“The Hobbit” cover initials]), despite my Tolkien-fanboyism.
Other things that irked:
- TRURO (104a, [Cape Cod town]). I had CRURO at first (seemed legit to me) because 99d [National Do Not Call Registry org.] seemed like it ought to be the FCC. (It’s not; it’s the FTC.)
- SOCKO (53a, [Super, in show biz lingo]). Is it really? In this century?
- POPDUO (58a, [Pet Shop Boys, e.g.]). Like the theme entries, this feels like a clue that wormed its way into the grid.
There are some things I liked like CHECKMATE and THRACE and SHUT-EYE, but that’s about all that really stood out to me.
So while I liked the concept of the theme, the fill really sapped its strength and there weren’t enough shiny bits to redeem it.
Finally, I liked learning that ULTIMA meant the [Last syllable, in linguistics]. But of course, the entry made me think nostalgically of the old series of computer games by Lord British. Oh wow! Apparently Ultima Online is still around and you can play for free! See you later!