Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, this puzzle messed. me. up. I’d fill in some answers, and then I’d hit something with a cross-reference in the clue, and change the x-reffed answer to what made sense with that other clue, which means I’d have to delete a crossing I’d already filled in. Well! The gimmick (on a Saturday!!) finally clicked when I had most of 56a. [With 1-Down, literally, downright dastardly] filled in and knew it had to be BAD TO THE BONE but there were only 10 squares. Aha! The “literally” in these x-ref clues modifies that apparent clue number rather than the phrase that follows. “1-Down, literally” is the number/word ONE, going Down in the grid. So BAD TO THE BO turns downward to complete the ONE and give you BAD TO THE BONE.
The other themers are:
- 18a. [With 10-Down, literally, now and then], EVERY SO OFT with TEN going down, EVERY SO OFTEN.
- 23a. [With 7-Down, literally, neither wins nor loses], BREAKS EVEN with the SEVEN down. I had ROXANE at 15a, and tried to make 7d into EVEN, but OXES was working with the crossings and the 7d clue didn’t at all fit for EVEN. Lo, I was confuzzled.
- 50a. [With 8-Down, literally, one just taking up space], DEADWEIGHT with the EIGHT down.
I don’t generally like a stealthy theme stuffed into a Saturday puzzle, but a brain-twisting gimmick is always welcome. (YMMV.)
Four more things:
- 1d. [Makeshift technique for female modesty], HAND BRA. I have never once heard this term.
- 26a. [Some spicy brews], RYE BEERS. No idea what these are, or what sort of spices. Scandinavian spices?
- 29d. [Unwanted state for a would-be lover], FRIEND ZONE. Can we not? Can we not legitimize this misogynist/incel framing? (Comments complaining about this note, demanding explanation, rebutting, or purporting to explain why “friend zone” is defensible may well be trashed. You know who you are.)
- 43d. [It’s performed on hands and knees in yoga], COW POSE. I don’t do yoga and did not know this was a thing. I assume the yoga practitioners low gently when they assume the position?
Best fill: THE ARTIST, GENE POOL, CLIF BAR, POD RACE (maybe a bit dated, though), VERMEER, HEAD HOME, and MODEL U.N.
Worst fill: TRA AARE EES AMCS. I’m glad, though, that BELA wasn’t clued via the odious Karolyi—I’m still mad at him for lying about Kerri STRUG‘s vaulting on an injured ankle. He claimed afterwards that he’d told her it was totally her call, when actually we all saw him exhorting her, “You can do it!” so that she did a second vault and injured herself worse.
4.5 stars for the gimmick, but the inclusion of FRIEND ZONE with that clue knocks the puzzle down to 3.9 stars.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
It has been a minute since I have seen a C.C. puzzle! She has cranked out a lot of easier Tuesday puzzles that I have solved, but here we have another one of her themeless productions. We have a fairly wide-open 70-worder this week for the LAT Saturday challenge, and it seemed just a tad tougher than normal. I feel like I keep saying that! I still gotta go buy those noise-cancelling headphones for solving …
Lots of lively stuff in this one, and yes, I did make an error or two. Perhaps I am relaxing a bit since it isn’t ACPT time. I would love to be able to attend some of these other tournaments, but for us folks in the Midwest, it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps when I retire! A solid 4.5 stars from me.
Some notes on the puzzle:
- 16A [Walks caused by walks, perhaps?] TRIPS TO THE MOUND – Best clue in the puzzle! Baseball season is still droning on, and it is hard to keep interest every day for 6 solid months. Perhaps someday they will shorten the too-long season.
- 22A [“Battle of the Sexes” co-star] EMMA STONE – The event this movie is based on was just a little before my time; I had just turned 4 in September of 1973. I just saw this movie a week or so ago, and Emma Stone is really good in it.
- 34A [11th-century navigator] ERICSON – I feel like there are eight different ways to spell this name! Shouldn’t there be 2 Cs? Or a K somewhere??
- 52A [Oct. 2017 Dodgers-Cubs matchup] NLCS – Baseball again! Perhaps a preview of a series this fall? Go Cubbies!!!
- 61A [“Hamilton” Tony winner Leslie __ Jr.] ODOM – Famous now for his Nationwide commercials! One of these days I will go see this play!
- 3D [‘That was a fact!”] “I DIDN’T LIE!” – Another natural phrase in a C.C. puzzle, and these are some of my faves.
- 7D [Sch. in the 2008 film “21”] M.I.T. – I believe you! While I have seen Battle of the Sexes as mentioned above, I have not seen this movie. Time to scour Netflix …
- 10D [Mars in music] BRUNO – I like his music; he is one of the few artists I will actually spend money on. I sometimes but hi-def versions of some music. Just got a fancy pair of high-end headphones, and it does make a difference!
- 31D [Holdings for many seniors] AARP CARDS – I have one!! (Try not to laugh at my feeble attempt at redaction! And no, I am not 50 yet!!)
- 32D [Aid in changing a light bulb] STEP STOOL – Or possibly [Holding by many a senior]!
- 45D [“Being and Nothingness” author] SARTRE – Sounds deep!
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This was one of the hardest Stumpers I have seen in a while. I have also been watching the uber-talented solvers try to solve these Stumpers using only the down clues, and when I saw this puzzle, I was immediately hoping that someone was going to tackle this puzzle this week. It looks like, at the time of this writing, Andy Kravis is going to take the plunge. I almost feel sorry for him! At the same time, I am extremely curious to see how well he does. If you haven’t seen any of these videos, firstly, block out half of a day! Erik Agard solves the 7/21/18 Stumper with downs-only, and the vid is FIVE HOURS. On 7/28/18, Joon Pahk takes a stab. His video is only THREE AND A HALF HOURS, and he doesn’t finish!! I am trying to see if I can get the twitch feed to play on my living room TV while I do something else as Andy is in his agony!
About the puzzle now: as stated, it is a doozy. My timer said 28+ minutes, and it wasn’t on the entire time! If you like the agony that the Stumper provides, this is the week you’re in hog heaven. Matthew Sewell’s Stumpers seem to be getting tougher as he makes more of them. I may have to start watching out for his byline just like I watch out for Longo and Wilber! 4.6 stars for a puzzle I think I will be seeing a lot more of this weekend!
A few more things:
- 1A Mini-mouthful in Mallorca TAPA – There is a restaurant around my house that has a tapa style brunch buffet on the weekends. I am getting hungry.
- 18A “Cold shoulder” dress invented (1992) KARAN – Never heard of the term. A pic perhaps?
- 20A [“Mamma Mia!” or “Escape to Margaritaville”] JUKEBOX MUSICAL – Wow. This is tough. This is one of the key entries I am waiting to see when it is solved.
- 40A [Her first husband (1956-1962) was a Japanese composer] ONO – I made this harder than it is. It totally makes sense! As a matter of fact, who ELSE would it be at three letters?
- 1D [Where singles gather in bars] TIP JAR – This will be a key answer to get. That J makes it hard, but I got this one rather quickly, so perhaps this solve may not be as bad as I fear it may be!
- 22D [Co. that knows your address] ISP– I thought it might be IRS!!
- 35D [Very comfortable] IN CLOVER– Who says this anymore??
- 36D [Typical farmers’ market patron] LOCAVORE– I was thinking something along the lines of a vegan or vegetarian, or maybe a naturalist. This is my favorite entry of the puzzle.
- 44D [Tennis pro Andy Murray, since 2017] SIR– I don’t think I remember seeing this! I know he got married, so my guess here was DAD! I think he has had a child recently.
- 55D [Clothier Bean’s first name] LEON– Admit it: you didn’t know what EITHER L stood for!!
I could go on; there’s a lot of great stuff in here. Again, keep your eyes peeled on crossword Twitter for news of a live downs-only solve. And I think there may be many more coming.
Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Universal Pre-K” — Jim’s review
I wasn’t aware of the title’s meaning so I had to look it up. It’s a movement to make preschool education available to all children in the same way Kindergarten is.
That aside, it serves as our hint to the theme. I guess it can be interpreted to mean, “Everything before the K,” which is not a bad basis for a theme. Today we have phrases whose final word normally ends in K, but said K has been removed changing the meanings of the phrases. Clues have been altered wacky-style.
- 23a [Head D.C. lobbyist?] LEADER OF THE PAC. I sussed out the theme right off the bat, and that made getting the rest of them a lot easier.
- 30a [Disney dwarf on a raft?] FLOATING DOC. This one was pretty obvious once you know the theme, even with no crosses.
- 48a [Fender photo?] GUITAR PIC. Good misdirection in the clue.
- 61a [Fashionable leather jackets and studded bracelets?] BIKER CHIC. I like this one despite, or maybe due to, the pronunciation change.
- 77a [Mythical fledgling?] LITTLE ROC
- 88a [Lobby in a meat market?] BUTCHER BLOC. I’ve always heard it as “butcher’s block.”
- 102a [Play caller’s pouch?] QUARTERBACK SAC. We won’t elaborate.
- 37d [Dodge a Tampa Bay tackler?] PASS THE BUC. Another good one.
- 42d [Response to misidentifying an alligator?] THAT’S A CROC. Hrm, I think I normally hear “What a crock.”
I wasn’t too enthused about the theme at the start, but it grew on me, so I give it the thumbs up.
And there’s some good fill and a few sterling clues here, but there are a couple of difficult crossings as well.
First the good: AD NAUSEAM, (I had AD NAUSEUM at first), OUTBURST, SMACKER, and UPPER CUTS. HEPATITIS is not a nice thing, but I don’t mind it as an entry. Also good, “TRY THESE,” WINE BAR, and somewhat timely PODESTA [Hacking victim of the 2016 campaign].
I wasn’t too keen on the VIOLETTA [“La Traviata” courtesan] / ATACAMA [Chilean desert crossing]. The T made sense, but not knowing for sure, other letters might have worked as well.
Similarly, the RESTCURE / DOTTIE / CHA combo in the NW befuddled me. None of the clues made any sense to me: [Old treatment for a nervous disorder] / [West of Nashville] (I figured this was after a person’s name, but I didn’t know who) / [Oolong, in Brit slang]. I’m still perplexed that RESTCURE is an actual term, and I’ve never heard the slang CHA despite living in England for seven years.
Also, the abbreviation for quarter (QTR) at 102d crossing QUARTERBACKSAC. What’s up with that? Oh, and HUAC [Gp. that investigated the Hollywood 10]? Which crosses SUNG [Performed at the Met]? Don’t tell me you didn’t put SANG in there at first and finished the grid with the erroneous HAAC. Because that’s what I did. (HUAC stands for House Un-American Activities Committee, which I suppose is something I should know, but still. Icky fill.)
There were numerous other trivia-based clues that got to me. However, there were a couple diamonds in the rough, as it were:
- 13a [Man in a monkey suit]. SCOPES. Brilliant! But this really ought to have a ?, in my opinion.
- 4d [Alarm setting]. BEDSIDE. Sneaky!
- 74a [Where you might discover a great white]. WINE BAR. Very nice!
Overall, I enjoyed the theme, some of the long fill and a few of the clever clues, but there were other really befuddling moments in the solve that killed the buzz. 3.2 stars.