Saturday, July 28, 2018

LAT 8:20 (Derek) 


Newsday 12:35 (Derek) 


NYT 3:38 (joon—paper) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Natan Last, Andy Kravis, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword—joon’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 28 18, no 0728

hello, fiend readers! joon here filling in for amy, who’s road-tripping this weekend. i was very pleased to see the constructors of today’s puzzle—they had a themed puzzle published in the NYT a few months ago, and most recently i saw the class live in action at the stamford marriott during the ACPT. i wonder if they were constructing this very grid?

it’s a lively one, too, built on three 13s running across the center in a stair-step pattern: FASHION POLICE, JUICE CLEANSES, and GENDER STUDIES are all super-fresh, contemporary phrases, so it’s a great building block for a grid. two of the long answers intersecting it were WWII EPICS and NEURO LABS, both of which are teetering on the edge of roll-your-ownism, but they’re both at least specific and evocative.

let’s run through some other noteworthy clues and answers:

  • {Astaire with steps} is fred’s sister ADELE. she used to be much more popular in crosswords, before the one-named singer started to monopolize clues for this very grid-friendly name.
  • {French parish priests} CURÉS. seems like a very strange decision to clue this as a french word, both because it ignores the accent (fill me in has had some interesting discussions on this subject) and, more importantly, because why would you clue a french word when CURES is a perfectly good english word?
  • {Piece of merchandise} WARE is the rare entry that’s more awkward in the singular than the plural. {Some of life’s twists and turns} IRONIES has the more common opposite problem, although the clue does a very nice job of making it sound pretty natural as a plural. {Kvass grains} RYES, less so.
  • {Autumn spice} MACE. okay, help me out here. what’s autumnal about it?
  • {“Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and ___” (2003 book)} EMO. whoa, never saw this clue while solving. i can empathize, though, with how tough it’s getting to be to give this little word a fresh clue.
  • {What you might charge for a ride} TESLA. just about the only thing in this entire puzzle that slowed me down. even when i had TE_L_ i couldn’t get it.
  • {Largest section of the dictionary} ESS. see, now this is an interesting fact i didn’t know. i still don’t love these spelled-out letters as grid entries, but the clue made me happy to have learned something.
  • {Distributor of Penguin classics?} DC COMICS. cute.
  • {One who sucks the joy out of the room} FUN SPONGE. not familiar with this phrase, but the clue is quite clear about what it means.
  • {Panang curry alternative} PAD THAI. yes, please.
  • {Show that once had an April Fools’ Day episode hosted by Pat Sajak} JEOPARDY! i’ve heard of that.
  • {“Gimme a break!”} YEESH. now this is good stuff. i just noticed i didn’t have it in my word list, but that’s about to change. great letters (especially for the bottom row or rightmost column) and it’s a fun, colloquial word that’s well-attested even in stodgy dictionaries.

all in all, on the easier side for a saturday, but lots of fresh, fun stuff, and very little in the way of demerits. i enjoyed solving it quite a lot! 4.5 stars.

Charlie Oldham’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Add-Ons” — Jim’s review

The theme is…well, you already figured it out.

WSJ – Sat, 7.28.18 – “Add-Ons” by Charlie Oldham (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Invador of Britain with a highish voice?] TENOR SAXON. Pretty good. I like the idea of a vicious invader singing as he pillages.
  • 25a [Fat chicken who’s a fathead?] DUNCE CAPON
  • 35a [Starbucks’s Howard Schultz?] COFFEE BARON. I believe he announced his retirement recently. Yes, that’s right. And as politically vocal as he’s been, expect to hear more from him.
  • 49a [Principle like “Always put recyclables in the blue bin”?] TRASH CANON
  • 56a [Discount for a Versailles tour?] PALACE COUPON. Another good one. Hey, you spent a lot on that trip to France, no one would begrudge you trying to save a few Euros.
  • 63a [Influential member of the hospital staff?] POWER SURGEON
  • 73a [Climber’s spike in a pinkish-yellow hue?] PEACH PITON
  • 82a [Fabric for astronauts’ outfits?] COSMIC RAYON
  • 98a [Part of a soccer robot’s controller?] KICK BUTTON. My favorite entry. I like the idea of a team of remote controlled robots playing the beautiful game.
  • 100a [Leader of the Anti-Knight Guild?] MAIN DRAGON

Not groundbreaking to be sure, but solid enough fare. What I gather from the message we received last week from the WSJ crew is that if we’re seeing puzzles by editor Mike Shenk, that means they are low on acceptable submissions for that day of the week. This translates to an opportunity for constructors to get their work noticed.

Highlights in the fill: SKATEBOARD, EYETOOTH, author Ring LARDNER, DOG LICENSE (with the clever clue [Lab requirement]), SENATORS, “COVER ME,” EL GRECO, and FLAT RATE. I’m not sure about PLAYSUIT; it appears to be a thing, but that’s not a phrase I’ve ever heard used.

I didn’t know LACUNA as the answer to [Unfilled space] nor PAEAN as the answer to [Song of praise] (I wanted PSALM at first). The former crosses [3M sponge brand] OCELO and the latter crosses obscure [1976 George Harrison songDEAR ONE, so those might have caused some trouble. STOCKMEN [Cattle farmers] is another new one to me. I can’t imagine that this is in widespread use.

And that’s about all I’ve got. The theme works fine and it’s got some humor.  I’ll put this around 3.5 stars.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Today’s Saturday LAT challenge has only 66 entries, and although it took me a little longer than it normally does, this has virtually nothing objectionable in the grid. Yes, a few clues are tricky, and I can also wimp out a bit and say that I haven’t felt the greatest this week, and thus my brain wasn’t working properly! (Some may say my brain has NEVER worked properly!) I found this a fun solve, and I still am not that familiar with Craig Stowe, but he can construct as many as he wants! 4.5 stars today.

Some notes:

  • 16A [Parents often limit it] SCREEN TIME – I think sometimes I should limit MY screen time; I will probably be blind as a bat in 20 years!
  • 35A [“My mistake”] “I STAND CORRECTED” – If you know me, you know I like conversational phrases. All the more so as the lone 15-letter entry in the grid.
  • 41A [Comedic honker] HARPO – I haven’t seen anything by this Marx brother since I was in grade school!
  • 57A [Unlikely to inherit the crown soon] LAST IN LINE – I think I like this as one of the best clues in the puzzle. A fresh way to clue this concept!
  • 59A [1860s-’70s Black Hawk War combatants] UTES – I don’t think I am familiar with this war, but what other tribe could it have been?
  • 3D [Ohio university] AKRON – Go Zips!
  • 10D [Amazon assistant] ALEXA – I still have no desire to have one of these devices in my home, spy concerns notwithstanding. I have PEOPLE to talk to!
  • 12D [Rockefeller Center holiday visitor] ICE SKATER – Yes, I know this from years of watching the Today show in the mornings!
  • 30D [Ancient Semitic language speaker] ISRAELITE – Why is a modern person from Israel an Israeli?

It should be a great weekend! Everyony

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Ah, somewhat of a respite today with a puzzle by “Anna” (Stan). As usual, I would portray this one as easier than some other stumpers, and that is a good thing! I had some quiet time to solve this one, and yes, I had a few errors in there, this wasn’t too bad. The upper sections gave me fits, but overall this one was fairly straightforward, and I learned a fact or two! 4.3 stars today.


  • 20A [Intended for instruction] DIDACTIC – Definitely not an everyday word, and dare I say even less so in the Midwest! But yes, it is an actual word.
  • 22A [Instructional file] README – Yes, they still have these. I have even been known to read these every so often!
  • 31A [Paid] PONIED UP – One of my favorite entries in the grid. I got bold and put REMITTED in with no crosser help, causing obvious problems!
  • 41A [Wind-formed topography] SAND DUNE – I am sure all of us enjoy photos like these:
  • 44A [Lefties can’t play it] POLO – Really??
  • 56A [Water south of Myanmar] ANDAMAN SEA – This is hard. At least for me. I had to verify its existence!
  • 11D [Mediterranean course] LENTIL SOUP – As I strive to eat less meat, I find I actually LOVE Mediterranean cuisine, including this type of soup. Now I am hungry.
  • 15D [Mayo is held here] EIRE – Best clue in the puzzle! I was totally fooled!
  • 27D [What’s seen beside some red arrows] YOU ARE HERE – I thought this was clever, too. Or maybe I am a little proud that I got it easily!

Have a great weekend!

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14 Responses to Saturday, July 28, 2018

  1. Michael Tong says:

    I associate mace/nutmeg with autumnal drinks / desserts, so I think that’s what the clue is trying to get at

  2. Lise says:

    Another penguin classic:

    Loved the NYT and the review

  3. David L says:

    Nice enough crossword but Monday/Tuesday easy. It’s always disappointing not to get a real challenge on Saturday. FUNSPONGE was the only thing that slowed me a little — well, that and good old DOOR DIE.

  4. Penguins says:

    Superb Stumper!!

    NYT was colorful and fun. Congrats to Natan, Andy and the J.A.S.A.

  5. kristin g says:

    Does anyone know why constructors frequently use pseudonyms (like with today’s Stumper)? I’m sure there is a good reason, and I’ve always wondered what it is. Thank you!

    • Gene says:

      Stan Newman likes anagrams, ANNA STIGA is STAN AGAIN.

    • Richard says:

      I always assumed that people do it to avoid an overly repetitive byline and make it look like a lot of people are contributing puzzles.

  6. julie says:

    Can someone explain “Reversi” as Othello’s other name in Newsday?

    • Steve Manion says:

      Othello is the commercial name of the board game originally named Reversi. As far as I know, the game has not changed substantially since its invention. The game is played on an 8×8 board and there are 64 disks. Each disk is white on one side and black on the other. The game is played by placing a disk on the board that traps all the intermediate disks between the placed disk and another disk of the same color as the placed one. The trapped disks are flipped. Controlling the corners is key because the disks in the corners can’t be flipped. The game starts with four disks in the center, two white and two black diagonally placed. It is an excellent strategy game.


  7. JohnH says:

    I found the NYT by far the worst of both worlds. On the one hand way too easy for the most part for Saturday, on the other hand chick full of proper names I had to get from crossings. Ugh.

    I didn’t actually finish, as the paper fell out of back copy unnoticed as I walked to the gym. But still.

  8. Noz says:

    WSJ. I am so very tired of themes where 2 letters (infrequently 1 or 3) are added into a phrase to change its meaning, particularly where, most of the time, it is exactly the same set of letters so you have an idea what the answer will look like. I can only afford to do puzzles that are available one way or another for free (no NYT for me), and it seems like in the last couple months there have been only a few of my usual 4 weekly puzzles that did not conform to this theme.

    The WSJ was especially bad this week. I read the title, without reading a single clue plugged “ON” into the last 2 boxes of every long answer in the grid, *then* solved, and sure enough I wasn’t wrong on any of them.

    Where is the fun in that?

    Sorry, Mike Shenk, but when I heard there would be puzzles by other authors in the next weeks I was so excited. The possibility of a change of theme!! Oh, boy! Instead the first Saturday puzzle with a new author was even more predictable than ever.

    Just… color me sad. I used to really enjoy doing the Saturday WSJ puzzle, that’s why I saved it until last of all (after the Sunday puzzles). I’m looking back at some 2017 puzzles. OK, so there was a bit too much of this pattern then (add “MA”, add “LY”), but it was at least interspersed sometimes.

    Of the ones I’ve looked at so far, I especially like “Bakery Fakery” (11/18), where theme clues containing the names of types of cakes requiring yeast are written upwards (reverse order) even though the main clue itself is not a baked good. Yeast rising! Now that took some figuring out and it was fun and ultimately rewarding to get there! If only.

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