Saturday, May 26, 2018

LAT 11:10 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:55 (Derek) 


NYT 5:54 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 26 18, no 0526

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:

WSJ – Sat, 5.26.18 – “A River Runs Through It” by Gabriel Stone (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Wearer of a zigzag shirtCHARLIE BROWN / 115a EBRO (Spain). Hand up if you ever owned a CHARLIE BROWN shirt. ✋?
  • 35a [Luxury auto introduced in 1985ACURA 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 shellfishMUSSEL BEDS / 10a ELBE (Czech Republic, Germany).
  • 69a [Benefit fromFIND USEFUL / 52a INDUS (China, India, Pakistan).
  • 86a [Beam in a vacuum tubeCATHODE RAY / 58a ODER (Poland, Czech Republic, Germany).
  • 94a [Natural sweetenerCLOVER 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, perhapsCALLED 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.)

Good grief! This terrible CHARLIE BROWN sweater is only $995.

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 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, 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!

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34 Responses to Saturday, May 26, 2018

  1. Stan Newman says:

    WHAT’S APP is a very, very big thing. Bought out by Facebook a few years ago for 11 figures, over a billion users worldwide now. Wikipedia gives much detail.

    P.S. You know me, and I use it.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I just never hear of anyone I know, other than you and my South African friend, who use it, and my teenager doesn’t use it. Certainly I know about the app!

    • Christopher Smith says:

      A friend of mine lives in Wales & we use it all the time. It enables you to text without incurring international fees from your service provider.

      Think the POP A PILL clue may have worked better with a “, say” at the end. There was a casualness about it that seemed to hint at the answer but didn’t really work.

    • Loren Smith says:

      I use it all the time with my family ‘cause it just works better with our WiFi on our farm.

    • Dan says:

      When you leave What’s App do you GO QUIETLY?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I have 40-something first cousins, mostly on Guam, but also spread out stateside. A certain percentage of us use WHATS APP as a group to keep up with each other.

  2. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT. One of those puzzle that feels like it’s going very slowly but actually takes about average time.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    WSJ; Loved the theme! Years ago, while in Russia, I took a cruise up the river LENA to the Petrodvorets, Peter’s Winter Palace. It was stunning! And after a few years I was able to get our Russian host family out — they are now Americans, with forty or more relatives having been able to follow them! It was complicated, but very rewarding…

  4. David L says:

    Mostly easy but it took me a while to suss out the NW corner. OMELET station isn’t a phrase that comes easily to mind (to my mind, anyway), I didn’t get the meaning of ALT immediately, and I was trying to think of some brand of pill at 1A (and I agree with you, Amy, that POPAPILL is no guarantee of pain relief for many people).

    DEM puzzled me for a moment, as I live in a state with no required party affiliation.

  5. Tim in NYC says:

    An OB/GYN friend retired and was complaining about being bored. So I asked her if she’d considered volunteering at a shelter for domestic violence survivors, given her expertise. She said maybe but she couldn’t function as a doctor. Being a doctor, she said, depended entirely on your having malpractice insurance. The second you stop paying for malpractice insurance, you cease to be a doctor.

    • Jenni says:

      Yup. I have been talking with the local PP about volunteering as a staff educator and, if I do, we will have to be VERY clear that I’m not practicing medicine. For primary care docs like me, limited malpractice insurance (covering 10 hours/week) is not very expensive, but for OB/Gyn, it would be prohibitive. In PA you can’t have an active license without malpractice insurance, and you can’t practice without a license, even as a volunteer.

      My grandfather graduated medical school in 1927 and retired to Florida in 1980. FL, at that time, had a program through which retired docs could volunteer at a free clinic with a limited license under supervision. I always felt very, very sorry for the poor doc who was just out of training and doing her public health service when she got stuck “supervising” my grandfather.

  6. Penguins says:

    “This one played a LOT harder than normal LAT Saturday puzzles, at least to me. ”

    For me as well

  7. AV says:

    Loved the NYT but spent some time at the THELEGO/THECURE intersection … wondering if that would pass muster.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I can’t get too worked up about a boring little article, personally. The crossing’s a bit inelegant, but THE sort of fades into the rest of its phrase.

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    I was really annoyed at the “easy” quip in 1a. Not only is it inaccurate, but it perpetuates the stereotype about pain relief being the “easy way out.” I’ve spent a lot of time working with people who are hesitant to take effective medication for the pain of terminal cancer because they think it’s the “easy way.”

  9. Jane Lewis says:

    There can also be temporary shelters – perhaps after a hurricane or tornado – and why wouldn’t there be RN’s vounteering?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ah, yes. Disaster areas do have lots of people in shelters who require some health care.

  10. nytsolver says:

    No real comments about “estrus”??! Gettin’ tired of all the female-related words xers like to pick up. How about some male-related… or, ideally none at all.

    • john farmer says:

      For what it’s worth, PRIAPIC is “not a word” according to Spelling Bee today.

      Peter Wentz makes good puzzles.

      • GLR says:

        Spelling Bee turned down a perfectly respectable ENEMA a couple of days ago, but today, it took CRAP. Seems a bit arbitrary.

        • janie says:

          yep. sometimes it sure feels like a CRAP shoot… nevertheless, “my name is janie and i’m a spelling bee addict”…


          p.s. also rejected “tantric,” which is sometimes, but *not always*, capitalized. fwiw.

  11. Norm says:

    Thought the WSJ was excellent, and the fact that the rivers were running IN the entries rather than ACROSS them seemed a legitimate interpretation of (twist on?) THROUGH. I’m biased, I suppose, because the title was delightful. It is a wonderful novella (long short story? what’s the difference?) by Norman Maclean that I’ve read many times. His masterpiece IMHO is still the non-fiction Young Men and Fire (and the failure to learn from that lesson cropped up again a couple of years ago in … Utah?), but both are wonderful reads. Highly recommend them. Wish he’d written more than he did.

  12. Richard says:

    Ilana Glazer is so great and funny and I hope that she stays in crosswords for many decades after her relevant career, like a modern day Uta Hagen.

  13. pannonica says:

    Stumper: “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.”

    Non-binary people might have something to say about that. Incidentally, I recently learned that ENBY is an expanded phonetic version of the initialism.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yes, that jumped out at me, too. Our nonbinary friends aren’t covered by HE or by SHE, so “everyone” isn’t accurate.

  14. Burak says:

    Peter Wentz is one of my favorite constructors, and my expectations for his puzzles are so damn high now I felt like I was let down a little bit. The NW quadrant in general, the triple THEs, DENIS/ESTRUS and LARGO/SOLI were not as smooth as I would have liked, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very solid puzzle. Fun clues, a very impressive and fresh stack in the middle, a mini-theme-ish SE corner were all great. But, a bit too much glue by Wentz standards.

    All that being said, solid 4 stars.

  15. Ellen Nichols says:

    I was tickled by the cluster of ELL’s in the central south of the LAT. They are even in the shape of an ell, if you box in or shade all 4 of them. Normally, I do not like dupes in close proximity, but this took it to another level.

    Respect and enjoy the weekend, folks.

  16. JohnH says:

    Feelings about the WSJ puzzle may in part turn on how much one associates Maleska’s era with tedious geography, and there’s some other lousy fill as well (3-letter answers like ANU, obscure, and ORE, not; Konan’s middle name of all things; the, agreed, not idiomatic “called an Uber”). But I bet there’s also got to be a big divide according to one’s feelings about internal cross-referencing.

    While, yes, there’s no need at all to have separate entries for the rivers on top of the theme fill, some will probably admire this, since it’s an added constraint on the setter (despite that’s leading to some bad fill). Others will see in this sheer bookkeeping for the solver. (Oh, where is that cross-reference anyway?) I’m in the latter category, so it was a slog. It might have helped if the puzzle omitted the two unrelated pairs of cross-references. From the ratings, looks like “pretty bad” won out.

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