Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of groovy stuff in this puzzle: ENDGAME, CROWD-PLEASER, PLAY THE PONIES (though it’s way less playful for the horses themselves), THE LEGO MOVIE, typing HOME ROW (old school!), WHATSAPP (the only person I know who uses it is South African, and my kid tells me that Mexicans in the US use the app to chat with folks in Mexico), Orwellian EASTASIA, SNAPCHAT, THE CURE (video below!), PHONE SEX (is that still a thing? talking on the phone, ugh), and BEDTIMES. Oh, and “I VOTED“! Timely, right on the heels of Friday’s Ireland referendum.
First up, this is bull: 1a. [Easy way to ease pain], POP A PILL. Apparently nobody involved in signing off on this clue knows anyone with chronic pain, because NO.
Five more things:
- Not wild about “IT’S ODD,” lukewarm on “WHO WON?”
- 41a. [Heat], ESTRUS. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
- 58d. [Some shelter volunteers, briefly], RNS. I don’t get this. What sort of shelter is this that’s staffed by volunteer nurses? Animal shelter? Homeless shelter? Shelter for domestic violence survivors?
- 21d. [War-torn Mideast city], ALEPPO. Deeply tragic.
- 23a. [Bottom of the sea?], KEEL. I was thinking of the actual ocean bottom, but the answer’s the bottom of a ship or boat.
One of THE CURE’s bigger hits is “Friday I’m IN LOVE” (26d. [Smitten]). Dig it.
4.25 stars from me. How’d you like the puzzle?
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A River Runs Through It” — Jim’s review
If you’re like me, upon seeing the title of this puzzle, you thought you’d see river names crossing through our main theme answers. Well, you were half right. The river names are there, but they are contained inside each themer. So maybe through is not the best preposition, maybe it’s more like within.
Further, each river is listed separately as its own entry with the clue [River that runs through XX-Across]. I found this to be curious, because there’s not really a need for it. If you were to use circles or shading to highlight each river in the theme answers, you would eliminate the need for these eight extra theme answers and allow more breathing room in the grid. But now that I think on it, I can’t recall ever seeing circles or shading in a WSJ puzzle. Maybe the Journal lacks the technical capability to add circles (seems unlikely), or maybe editor Mike Shenk just doesn’t like using them.
Regardless, our theme entries and rivers are as follows:
- 23a [Wearer of a zigzag shirt] CHARLIE BROWN / 115a EBRO (Spain). Hand up if you ever owned a CHARLIE BROWN shirt. ✋🏽
- 35a [Luxury auto introduced in 1985] ACURA LEGEND / 80d URAL (Kazakhstan, Russia).
- 42a [Bean for Kobe Bryant, e.g.] MIDDLE NAME / 121a LENA (Russia). The clue gives us our interesting factoid of the day.
- 67a [Intertidal source of shellfish] MUSSEL BEDS / 10a ELBE (Czech Republic, Germany).
- 69a [Benefit from] FIND USEFUL / 52a INDUS (China, India, Pakistan).
- 86a [Beam in a vacuum tube] CATHODE RAY / 58a ODER (Poland, Czech Republic, Germany).
- 94a [Natural sweetener] CLOVER HONEY / 93a RHONE (Switzerland, France). I like this one. In this case, the river name actually helped me suss out the themer.
- 111a [Rejected walking, perhaps] CALLED AN UBER / 55a DANUBE. (Germany, Austria, et al.). And the best for last. The six-letter river spans all three words, and it’s a valid modern-day phrase. Very nice. But do you really “call” an Uber? I’ve never done it, but I assume it’s totally app-based with no actual “calling” involved. Jerry Seinfeld does a funny bit about prepositions and transportation; you get on a train, but you get in a cab. What you do with Uber? You just take it. (I know, not a preposition.)
Despite every crosswordese river known to puzzledom being in this grid (plus a few extra but minus the Ouse), the last two entries won me over. Plus, you know, CHARLIE BROWN. You can’t not like CHARLIE BROWN.
Still, all the themers and the rivers constrained the fill so that we end up with things like EPS (clued as an abbreviation for “episode”), KERT, ARB, RIS, ANU, ENOLS and partials AN ERA, A RIB, A DENT, A SHIP, and IN A RUG.
But I liked TENACIOUS, PIRATE, BAD GUYS, DYNAMO, HODAD, TURTLES, RIP TORN, GOING MAD, and OENOLOGY. RIGORIST [Strict follower] doesn’t sound like a word you’d ever see in the wild, but I assume it’s legit.
A few other things:
- 66d [Oblique]. SLANTY. I’ve only ever heard this word used in combination with certain facial features and in a derogatory way. I wonder if that section could have been reworked to replace it with PLENTY. And I wonder if the crossing entry (77a SMILIN, clued as [1919 hit song “___ Through”) was given a clue that purposefully avoided the word “eyes,” because, really, who’s up on their WWI-era pop songs?
- 17a [Crashing]. ASLEEP. I think if you’re ASLEEP you’ve already crashed.
- 98a [Skate park address]. DUDE. Or maybe more like DUUUUDE.
- 103a [Meghan’s aunt-in-law]. ANNE. As of last Saturday.
The puzzle has plenty of good points, but solvers may be turned off by the many crosswordese river names and the higher-than-usual unpleasant fill.
Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I think this is the first puzzle by Kyle that I have blogged. I had a chance to spend some time with him in 2017 on the way back from the ACPT since we flew on the same flight! He is in the Chicago area, and I usually fly out of Chi-town since it is half the price of flying out of South Bend. Extremely sharp fellow is my lasting impression, and congrats are in order as he is recently engaged! I don’t remember seeing his byline too often, but xwordinfo.com says he has had 6 in the NYT, and he says this is his 11th total published puzzle. This one played a LOT harder than normal LAT Saturday puzzles, at least to me. I still wouldn’t say overall there is a lot of difficulty in here, but what IS hard is VERY hard. I will try to highlight at least a couple of my head-scratchers in the comments below. Overall, though, a fun challenge. 4.5 stars today.
Some of those head-scratchers:
- 17A [Smoking choices] CLAY PIPES – I had some water pipes coming from one of our old houses years ago that were literally “clay pipes.” I think of that more than a smoking device. But again, I don’t smoke.
- 34A [“Broad City” co-star] ILANA GLAZER – Easily the toughest of the tough for me. Never heard of her. I have not seen this TV show either. Did I mention I have been working on a Masters degree for the past two years and I don’t watch much of anything? After hunting her down in imdb.com, I may now watch Rough Night. Once my classes are done!
- 42A [2013 Spike Jonze film] HER – This movie is already 5 years old??
- 48A [Kaitlyn’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” role] DEE – This show is really funny. It used to be on Netflix, but not now. Kaitlyn Olson is also funny in The Mick.
- 8D [“A Clockwork Orange” antihero] ALEX – I believe you. This is a classic I have never seen.
- 31D [First name of two U.S. presidents] ANDREW – Only two? Just Jackson and Johnson? I suppose so!
- 34D [Part of a golfer’s skill set] IRON PLAY – I had IRON GAME in here at first. Both are shaky in my case!
- 36D [Low points] MINIMA – I had NADIRS in at first. Are you understanding now why this took me over 11 minutes now?
- 42D [2003-’04 OutKast chart-topper] HEY YA! – This is 15 years old??
I could go on, but it’s a holiday weekend! Have a great long weekend!
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not too bad for a Stumper. I think Stan does lighten up a bit on holiday weekends! I spoke last week about hopefully breaking 10 minutes on one of these Stumpers, and I have no idea how that is going to happen. Maybe I will buy those noise-canceling headphones I keep speaking about! In the recent Real Sports clip about the crosswords, Will speaks about the focus needed to solve. There is a high level of such focus to solve one of these, and that is where the headphones come in: you gain another level of quiet. Or I could just go to the library!
Only minor errors in the grid today, and they are lazy errors. Still impressed with Stan’s (“Anna’s”) ability to make grids this good with seeming ease. 4.4 stars.
- 1A [Studio with the all-time highest average global gross] PIXAR – This site maintains an up-to-date list of top grossing movies. Check out the list of top G movies and you will find lots of BV, meaning Buena Vista for either Pixar or Disney movies. I rant on Disney all the time, but they are business savvy: they own Pixar, Marvel, and even my beloved Muppets and ESPN!
- 16A [Alaskan city with a Santa Claus Lane] NORTH POLE – It’s near Fairbanks!
- 17A [Eminem’s Missouri birthplace, familiarly] ST. JOE – I don’t know how I messed this up. I had ST LOO in at first. I couldn’t remember where he was originally from; obviously I am familiar with his Detroit roots. Ironically, I LIVE in St. Joseph (St. Joe) County Indiana!
- 42A [Nobody’s fool] SAGACIOUS – This seems like a casual definition, but it is quite accurate.
- 47A [A real hoot] TERRIF – I haven’t heard this slangy word in years!
- 68A [Marathoner’s munch] ENERGY BAR – I’m slowly getting back in the running groove. Hope to run a few 5k races starting this summer.
- 3D [Incumbent successor of Mao] XI JINPING – Timely, since he factors in the news these days in connection with North Korea drama. You may have even seen him:
- 6D [African lions, vis-à-vis Californians] ANAGRAM – An anagram clue got me again!
- 14D [Fritz’s running mate in ’84] GERRY – “Fritz” is Walter Mondale, “Gerry” is Geraldine Ferraro. Perhaps the country wasn’t prepared for a female VP 30+ years ago; Reagan won with 525/538 electoral votes!
- 38D [Beneficiaries of many 1 across releases] TOY STORES – I would add Happy Meals!
- 50D [It’s slashed for everyone] HE/SHE – This fooled me as well, but I think it is actually one of the best if not the best clue in the puzzle.
Enjoy your holiday, everyone!