Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Nate’s write-up
Nate here, stepping in to cover the Saturday New York Times puzzle while much of Team Fiend luckily finds themselves at the Indie 500 crossword tournament this weekend. Jealous! But also rooting so hard for everyone. We can’t wait to hear all about it!
Umm, did I luck out getting to cover a great puzzle or what? Such a smooth and lovely grid. I was able to finish it about nine minutes faster than my Saturday average, which I’ll certainly take. Was there much of any crosswordese in there at all? So much gorgeous, fresh fill and so little crud. #constructorgoals Certainly a lovely way to spend twelve minutes on a Friday evening.
- There is so much fantastic fill packed cleanly into this puzzle – how do I even pick my favorites? GODZILLA, CUTEX, QUEEQUEG, UNSUNG HERO, TRAVEL SIZE, MOHAVE, TIME SLOT, TZATZIKI (I’m not religious, but I certainly prayed on how to spell that as I entered it in!), YES AND NO, GQ TYPE, SPAMALOT, DAIKON, XENON GAS, and so many more certainly earn shout outs. Who is this constructor? :: looks up more Trenton Charlson puzzles ::
- This might be controversial, but I actually really liked the OUI OUI / EIEIO crossing.
- What didn’t I enjoy? LULUS (never heard of it!) and CAPITAL B (cute, I guess?). I also had to run the alphabet at the UNGIRD / GIN crossing to get that G.
- I’ll admit that I got a bit stuck when I filled in both NINA and EL NIÑO on my first pass through and was like…that can’t be right. It felt like enough of a dupe that I took out NINA for a while and had CHECKS (cage checks) in place of TRANKS (ammo) for [Zookeepers’ rounds] for quite a while. That central section was the last to fall for me and cost me a few minutes. Even still, I don’t mind at all given how much fun the rest of this puzzle was to fill in.
- I didn’t know CUTEX, but that is absolutely OK by me. So much fill is male-centric and I am here for including more fill that women and folks of other genders
would more easily access than men might. Here. For. It.
Ok, that’s all for now. Have a great weekend and a wonderful start to LGBTQ+ Pride Month!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Identity Theft” — Jim’s review
The theme is completely telegraphed by the title, but for the most part, the theme entries work nicely. ID is removed from common phrases.
- 23a [Dashes to open the only Christmas gift?] RUNS FOR PRESENT. …President. One wonders if this tactic might distract Resident Chump in 2020.
- 36a [Sun, water and good soil?] FLORA KEYS. Florida… Sounds like a woman’s name, but I guess it’s meant to be read as “the keys to successful flora.”
- 51a [What a seamstress might do after perfectly cutting a dozen patterns?] FRAY THE THIRTEENTH. Friday… Yes, normally this would be written with digits, but it’s so bonkers (to borrow a word from Amy) that I like it.
- 71a [Wi-Fi icon?] INTERNET SERVICE PROVER. …Provider. “Proof” would make more sense.
- 86a [Reassurance from a voice acting coach?] ACCENTS WILL HAPPEN. Accidents… My favorite entry. At first I thought the coach was chiding the actor for using an accent, but maybe said coach is encouraging the actor to keep trying to get the accent right. I took a voice acting class once and would love to pursue it, as I would consider it a dream job.
- 105a [Fine freestyles?] GRAND RAPS. …Rapids. I struggled with this one because I had ___RAPS and assumed the missing ID belonged in the first word.
- 120a [Submarine crew’s mantra?] DIVE AND CONQUER. Divide… Nice one.
Fill-wise, it’s kind of a hot mess. I really like a lot of the long fill, and those NW and SE corners are really nice. But there’s some really iffy stuff in here.
First, the good. AIRLIFTS, CRUISERS, and “DON’T WAIT” start us off in the NW. In the SE we have DROPOUTS, DONE DEAL, and ENSNARLS. Pretty good. BANCROFT, DURIANS, SWOOPED UP, OVERHAND, IPANEMA, AUTHORED, FEAST DAY, LIAISONS, UPPITY, SELFIE, and TWERKERS. All good.
But things like LITHEST, RIFER, SST, ADC, AARE, ODA, and plurals HOARS and DSLS took away from the fun. Rougher still were the very uncommon proper names: HONUS, NGAIO, stacked FREHLEY and REYNARD, and YOST, although we’ve seen the latter a number of times in different grids.
- 32a [“This ___!” (fighting words)]. IS WAR. I thought it was usually “This means war!”
- 98a [Mil. assistant]. ADC. I have no idea what this is. This corner was tough for me because of the proper names and ambiguous cluing. I eventually settled on ADJ for this answer thinking it was short for “adjutant” defined as “an administrative assistant to a senior officer.” ADC does stand for Area Defense Council (military public defender), but I don’t see how that’s an “assistant.”
- 117a [Concubine’s chamber]. ODA. I think I prefer the clues that refer to Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost. No, actually I would prefer it if this entry was retired.
- 11d [Curtailed oath]. SON OF. I laughed at this one. But now that I think on it, the answer really should be SON OF A.
- 18d [Fiona, e.g.] OGRESS and 69a [2016 Republican candidate Carly] FIORINA. Are we to read something into this?
- 25d [Arm’s-length product?]. SELFIE. Good clue. I was thinking sleeves.
- 61d [Gene’s “Haunted Honeymoon” co-star]. GILDA. Like!
- 63d [Story that’s often scary]. ATTIC. Good misdirection on this one, especially following the GILDA entry.
- 119d [Turkey tender]. VET. In a corner of ambiguous clues, this was the ambiguousest. I was sure this was about money for a long time.
Overall, I enjoyed this solve, but it would have been so much nicer without some of that clunky stuff. 3.4 stars. Have a good weekend everyone, and good luck to all tournament solvers.
Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
erik again! (Lowercase on purpose; read his blog!) Wishing I was at the Indie 500, but I have put off a lot of extra-curricular activities until I finished my Masters in Accounting, which I did complete just this past Thursday! Now I can get caught up on several things I was behind on, as well as planning excursions. I went to the Indie a couple of years ago, and I am seriously missing the pie!! Next year for sure!
Seeing Erik’s byline is always a treat. His brain just works differently than the rest of us, and with him being so young, he could easily end up as one of the best constructors we have ever seen. (If he isn’t already!) He is already cemented a name as THE best solver, and unless something drastic happens he could have a streak of wins at the ACPT for a while! This puzzle is again full of typical Erik fill; lots of interesting stuff, and at least to me he makes fill seem easy. 4.4 stars today.
Just a few mentionables:
- 14A [Slightly more than a one-man show] TWO-HANDER – A better clue: [Description of Serena’s backhand] That makes more sense to me.
- 17A [Bee’s home] SACRAMENTO – Oh, THAT bee!
- 32A [Rhetorical question to one who’s too good to be true] HOW ARE YOU REAL? – I wonder is this is a movie quote somewhere? Different enough phrase to make it harder to solve.
- 56A [Powerful slitherer] PINE SNAKE – I believe you. Never heard of this snake.
- 5D [1950 Pulitzer winner for the poetry collection] GWENDOLYN BROOKS – I don’t know poetry well, but I have heard of this work. It certainly took me a minute to finally get it, but this is a Saturday puzzle, right?
I could go on, but I just bought the at-home Indie 500 puzzles, so I will be anxiously watching my email today! Have a great weekend everyone!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not horrible! I thought of my ten minute goal while solving this, but it was too late, since I was solving on my iPad this morning and it is typically a tad slower. This one went fairly smoothly, and you can see there are no error marks this time! There is something about solving these Stumpers on a quiet Saturday morning while laying in the bed; it is similar to the quiet of the extreme late night for solving. I am sure I am not the only one who appreciates these peaceful, calming conditions in this hectic life. A solid 4.5 stars for Matthew’s puzzle today.
Just a few highlights, including the 15s:
- 14A [Nashville HOF creator] CMA – I thought this might be a person’s initials!
- 32A [Words from the staggered] OH, WHAT A SURPRISE! – Pretty good clue here. “Staggered” to me means drunk, not startled, so consider me fooled!
- 37A [What macOS is based on] UNIX – First answer filled in. I don’t know how I knew this, but I did.
- 39A [Go with your gut] DON’T OVERTHINK IT – Not only a great 15-letter entry, but great solving advice!
- 46A [The Greeks believed its offerings’ smoke formed the Milky Way] ARA – I believe this is a constellation known only to crossword solvers and serious astronomers, and it is waaaay harder than referencing ND football coach Parseghian, also only known to crossworders and anyone who lives within 100 miles of my house. (Which is 10 minutes from the Notre Dame campus!)
- 11D [Customizable message-face app] BITMOJI – I knew this, but I couldn’t recall it quickly enough. Perhaps because I haven’t used it in a year or two!
- 33D [“It’s __ from me” (“Idol” rejection)] A NO – I can hear Randy Jackson saying this! Clever clue, and also better than the Spanish alternative, especially since 13D references the word “year” in French!
- 41D [“Canvas” for digital art] NAIL TIP – Oh, THAT “digit!”
- 53D [Generations chronicled in the two “Roots” miniseries] SEVEN – This seemed easy, especially since I had the starting “S”, and what other number would it even be? EIGHT I suppose? Certainly not THREE!
Hope everyone is having fun at the Indie 500! I will be buying the at-home version if I haven’t already!
Not sure what male-centric fill you’re referring to, Nate. I just went through the past week of puzzles and found nothing male-centric. I’m unclear on what you’re seeing that women are unable to figure out because of their sex
I’m guessing that the reference was to fill in general, not to this particular puzzle.
Overall, there is a certain bent to the generic fill in the NYT. Actually, oftentimes it’s in the cluing. It’s not what I’m able or unable to figure out, but what I’m interested in. There is a lot I’m interested in (from science to design) that does not show up in puzzles or that is clued in some alternative way. An example is NAS- It’s great to have it clued sometimes as a hip hop artist- it made me look him up the first time I ran across it. But why not clue it once in a while as the abbreviation for the National Academy of Sciences. Is that too obscure? I feel it shouldn’t be to the solvers of the NYT, especially at a time when science is under attack.
I know I wandered off the original point. But I wanted to say that I appreciate the reminders by Team Fiend to include different classes of fill, or to clue in new ways, jut to increase range and resonate with more interests.
The idea isn’t that women can’t figure them out because of their sex, but crosswords for many years would include many clues and fill from male dominated fields like professional sports and the military, but very few from female dominated fields like cosmetics and daytime TV.
I’m put off by sports fill myself (as a man), but my remedy definitely would not be cosmetics.
Very nice puzzle. Fairly easy for a Saturday, the only real stumper for me was tzatziki which I’d never heard of but sounds good. Liked the Moby Dick reference, still one of my favorite books.
Here in the US we probably know it best as the white sauce on a gyro
WSJ: 98A – ADC, Take a look at aide-de-camp in Wikipedia:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aide-de-camp. I believe this is what’s meant. I associate the term with the 19th century and earlier but it’s apparently still in use including in the the U. S. military.
Thank you. That makes sense. I’ve heard it more in movies and on tv more than in my time in and around the military.
Agree 100%, what a fantastic NYT puzzle!
Easily one of the best, most enjoyable NYT puzzles I can remember with all those clever clues. (Which I mistakenly rated a 4.5 instead of a 5.)
E.A.’s LAT was very good and enjoyable as well.
Now it’s time to get stomped on by the Stumper.
I’m also sorry I gave the NYT puzzle 4.5 instead of 5, because of a stupider mistake than carelessness. I didn’t understand 39a SHAKES ON, which a commenter on Wordplay explained. Very smooth, sparkly and witty puzzle.
Do the French actually say “Oui, oui”? It goes against my stereotype of them being averse to shows of enthusiasm. I imagine a French person saying “mais, oui” with a dismissive shrug, meaning, of course, you dummy, what did you think I meant?
Very nice puzzle, The clue for TRAVELSIZE was clever — I had _IZE and was trying to think of a word like ‘authorize.’
I had SUM before IAM and GIST before PITH, but smooth sailing otherwise.
“Do the French actually say “Oui, oui”?”
They do, maybe not necessarily as a show of enthusiasm, but mostly for emphasis– maybe even with some impatience. e.g. “oui, oui c’est ça”– yeah, yeah, that’s it.
Or “oui, oui, ça va”, yeah, yeah, I’m fine.
Thanks, Huda. You are bolstering my stereotype of the French!
Saturday Stumper is a great puzzle with so many good clues. Didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, a decent amount of entries but it was all gettable. Really enjoyed this one.
Thanks to all Saturday constructors for such good puzzles.
I agree with the excellent new Penguins avatar that today’s puzzles were good and I was saying so, in this very spot, when I somehow closed the browser and the comment vanished.
I haven’t done the Stumper yet but am encouraged by your comment, Penguins. Perhaps I can beat my two-day record ;)
Well, I really liked the S̶t̶o̶m̶p̶e̶r̶ Stumper.
As for records, all I can tell you is penguins aren’t known for their speed.
Either my new owl avatar helped me, or the puzzle was firmly in my wheelhouse, but I finished it on the same day I started it. A new record!
I liked it too. The long acrosses were fun and fresh. I had GUITAR HERO before GUITAR SOLO, though. Oh, and I see I have a mistake (I solve on paper), with the wrong part of speech for 44D. TR’s constituency was not the NES, apparently.
TR would’ve liked “Duck Hunt” on the NES
Wonderful puzzle. I enjoyed learning TZATZIKI.
The sling clue reminded me of a drink order I had about 50 years ago at an officer’s club at the Niagara Falls airbase. Because my father was a POW in WWII, he was retired as a career army officer giving him and his family PX and BX privileges. The drinking age was 18. My sister and I and our dates ordered mixed drinks. My sister ordered a Singapore Sling. The total bill for the four drinks was $1.10 because the Singapore Sling cost $.35.
Oh, yeah — twenty-five cent Manhattans! Those were the days. When I was stationed in Hawaii, the Acey-Duecy Club would occasionally clear out their bar stock with beer at a nickel a bottle. It was easier to be a cheap drunk in those days.
Hi Jim. Great write up. BTW I am a voice acting coach and I’d be happy to talk to you about how to get you ready to jump back into the game. Thanks!
What?! Wow! Feel free to contact me at peredox (at) gmail (dot) com.
Congratulations Derek on finishing your degree!
This is the first time I did clean solves of Saturday NYT and LAT (29:41 and 23:27). Loved both puzzles and not just because of my personal milestone. :) Beautiful, brutal, brain-hurting puzzles. Thanks to the constructors.
I’ve been doing the Sunday “Spelling Bee,” as usual. (I don’t see the weekday ones, which is maybe a good thing given the puzzle load out there.) Can’t help noticing that they used to top off regularly at a score in the low 20s. (They have ratings like “excellent” and “genius” that I just ignore as not plausible. I make my goal to come up with a number of short words to match the “genius” score using 1-point words alone and then add in any of the 3-point words for using all the letters.)
More recently, though, they have often run either rather lower or higher. Maybe Frank Longo has just found it harder to come up with letter banks to get to his target. Today the goal is 34, which I think is the highest so far. I tend to go at a steady pace, so the high numbers take longer, and I’m not likely to get to this one. I do feel bad, though, if I miss more than a couple from their list.
What a beautiful NYT. That should be an award candidate …
Once again, we have Pres. Trump living rent-free in the heads of liberals. Everything is now about him.