Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I’m filling in for Amy while she’s away. I usually do the Saturday puzzle in the paper on Saturday morning while drinking a cup of coffee and I don’t usually time myself. Under seven minutes feels fast to me, and this puzzle felt a bit easier than the average Saturday.
It also played more like an indie puzzle than an NYT. I daresay, even without consulting a database, that there are two entries in here that have not previously graced the puzzle pages of the Gray Lady. I trust you all will correct me if I’m wrong. I’m thinking of NETFLIX ORIGINAL and EXCUSE YOU, both excellent additions. I suspect the fifteen-letter central feature was the seed entry for the puzzle.
Other things I enjoyed:
- 2d [Path of an overnight star] is ZERO TO HERO, which may also be a new one for the NYT. I don’t know if this originated with Disney’s Hercules, but that’s where I know it from.
- 6a [Villain’s part, often] is BASS. Why is this? The same reason that ingenues are sopranos and funny sidekicks are altos.
- 10a [Letters before Q] are LGBT. If you haven’t yet gotten your edition of Queer Qrosswords, it’s not too late. Make a donation to an LGBTQ+ charity and get a pack of very fine crosswords by LGBTQ constructors. I’ve done them and they are EXCELLENT.
- 31a [Doctors’ orders?] are AHS. I’m embarrassed to admit this was the last entry I filled in. Duh. 18a [Antibiotic ointment], on the other hand, was a gimme – it’s NEOSPORIN (a highly allergenic and not particularly useful substance).
- 36d [The King, late in his career] was, indeed, FAT ELVIS.
- More contemporary lingo shows up in the cluing for 44a [Embiggen] (for ENLARGE) and the answer to 48a [Flawlessly styled, in modern slang]: ON FLEEK.
It’s a very Scrabbly puzzle. In addition to the aforementioned EXCUSE YOU, ZERO TO HERO and NETFLIX ORIGINAL, we have AZERA, BENTO BOX and I OBJECT. I didn’t see a Q, so I don’t think it’s a pangram.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Anderson Cooper hosted THE MOLE and that “Jay LENO’S Garage” won an Emmy.
Harold Jones’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Forefathers” — Jim’s review
About a month ago in these pages, I asked, “Does this mean we will be seeing a PA-inserted theme next month?” And here we are.
- 23a [Chief of the kitchen police?] PARING MASTER. Ring Master.
- 28a [Template for making prison release decisions?] PAROLE MODEL. Role model.
- 47a [Line at a stop sign?] PAUSED CARS. Used cars.
- 60a [“Would you consider giving me liberty instead of death?”?] PATRICK QUESTION. Trick question.
- 81a [“Chopped” or “Top Chef”?] PALATE SHOW. Late Show.
- 96a [Uproars over infringing inventors’ rights?] PATENT FLAPS. Tent flaps. Unlike the others, the second word here has a complete change in meaning. While that makes it a stronger entry, it’s not consistent.
- 104a [Walkout in response to unruly kids?] PARENT STRIKE. Rent strike.
An okay theme, but after you get the pattern the first time, the rest is pretty straight-forward.
Further, there are unthematic PAs in the grid, including PAS at 94d [Dance step]. Also, PANT LEG, OPAL, SPATS, “I PASS,” SPATE, PAIL, and PARIS. I’m of two minds on this. As a constructor, I would try to avoid that bigram except in the theme answers, but as a solver, I can’t say that it was distracting.
On the plus side, the fill is much better than the MA-themed grid from last month. That one had a plethora of iffy fill and tough proper names. This one not so much. LAVALAVA (25a, [Samoan’s skirt]) is pretty unusual, but I think I recall seeing it in the WSJ before. What’s more, there’s “NO CAN DO,” JELLIES, GO ALL IN, ICY STARE, FLIPPERS, “LOVE ME DO,” SIDE TRIP, TUDOR STYLE (67d, [It incorporates decorative half-timbering]), and the nifty trio of HAUNTED, TELL-TALE, and PULSATE (though no POE or HEART).
As a matter of fact, I can’t really find anything in the fill that gives me pause. There’s the partial A MILE, but that’s it. Amazingly clean for a 21x grid!
Cluing is mostly straight-forward, but a few clever ones here and there kept it fresh. But since it’s almost time for me to get ready for my son’s high school graduation, I’m going to cut this short. Summing up, the theme is serviceable, but the cleanliness of the grid and fun fill make this one a winner. 3.7 stars from me.
Happy Father’s Day to those who celebrate!
Neville Fogarty & Andy Kravis’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I don’t remember exactly when I solved this puzzle, but it was a relaxing time evidently, because I jammed through this one. 72 words in this one, and normally a word count in a themeless higher than 70 means the fill is better, and that seems to be the case here. When you get down to 70, 68, or even less entries, you’re forced into longer entries and maybe not always the best choices. This one seems nice and lively, but with the duo named in the byline I am not surprised! 4.6 stars this morning from me.
- 15A [Traditional November race] TURKEY TROT – Gotta do a workout before all of that food, right?
- 22A [Needle holder] TONEARM – I think this is one word! I have a pair of audiophile headphones coming later this summer, and I also have a rudimentary amp. The amp DOES make a difference in listening, and we will see if the headphones are worth it. I say all this because true audiophiles use vinyl on a record player, and that is the type of “needle” referred to in this clue.
- 30A [Laker teammate of Magic] KAREEM – There is a lot of debate on who is the GOAT in the NBA between Jordan and LeBron, but Kareem’s résumé holds up to both of them. LeBron is still going, so when it is all said and done he likely may match up better to Kareem than Jordan did. MJ would have quite a story if it wasn’t for the baseball experiment!
- 60A [Booted, in old football] DROP-KICKED – Watching football as I write this! World Cup fútbol, that is!
- 68A [1999 Pacino/Crowe film about a whistleblower] THE INSIDER – I’ve never seen it. Imagine that!
- 11D [Subtitle of #48 in AFI’s “100 Years…100 Songs”] QUE SERA, SERA – From The Man Who Knew Too Much, a Hitchcock classic. It won an Oscar!
- 12D [Cosmopolitan essential] TRIPLE SEC – I like this drink! I am not a heavy drinker, but I am a fan of fruity tastes, and triple sec is basically an orange liqueur.
- 26D [Law recipient] MOSES – A tie-in with 50D [Jewish authority] TORAH seems like a natural here. I am kinda surprised they didn’t do that.
- 53D [Quaint contraction] ‘TWERE – I don’t know if I have the apostrophe in the right spot, but this is the only tough entry that I found obscure.
- 56D [Grammy winner India.__ ] ARIE – I am sure I have mentioned her before as being crossword famous!
Enjoy the soccer! Have a great weekend!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I awoke this morning, checked my Facebook, and saw a post by Erik Agard mentioning “a gorgeous stumper.” I couldn’t agree more. There isn’t an entry longer than 9 letters in the grid, so that usually makes these themeless puzzles a little easier. Usually. I got through about half of the puzzle in about 5-6 minutes, and I was excited to finally get close to my ten minute goal. Then it turned into a classic Wilber and I ground to a halt. Lower left was the easiest, but you can plainly see my error marks all over the right side of the grid. There are a few toughies in the grid, but it is a Stumper, after all! A solid 4.7 stars for this one.
Lots to discuss:
- 17A [Guy discomfitted by progressive attitudes] BROFLAKE – Very nice. New term to me, but I get what it means.
- 22A [Nautically agile] YARE – I don’t own a boat, and this is also a new term to me. But the dictionary says it’s good! No indication in the def that it is strictly a nautical term, but I will go along!
- 58A [Tanini-based confection] HALVA – I have had tahini paste recently, but I have not had this. I will have to investigate this!
- 67A [Setting for many mass movements] MINOR KEY – This was the head-slapping entry of the grid for me. Arguably my favorite clue in the puzzle.
- 3D [German Dada artist] GROSZ – In my liberal arts studies, I learned about the Dada movement, and I vaguely remember this painter. Here is an example of his work:
- 11D [Apt name for a pet Mexican lizard] IGGY – As in short for iguana? Sure!
- 21D [Slot-machine bonus] FREE SPIN – We have a new casino right here in South Bend, but I am not a gambler. I hear they have good food, though!
- 53D [“Make getting together effortless” site] E-VITE – I got an “evite” earlier this year! Which means I’ve been getting spam from them as well. Still don’t know this slogan
I could go on, but the World Cup is on! I’ll leave you with this: