Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ahhh, yes. I will pretty much always like an Andrew Ries themeless, as he’s keen on running a staggered stack of long entries through the middle and using lively fill throughout. 70-worders (or 72s) aren’t supposed to be as difficult to construct as lower-word-count themelesses, but it’s hard to maximize the zippiness with a tougher grid.
Long day and I’m tired, so let’s go listy:
- 18a. [Practice roster for an N.F.L. team], TAXI SQUAD. Didn’t really know the term. Was reading about Sweet Charity for work the other day and learned the old term, “taxi dancer.” Are there other taxi people besides taxi drivers and passengers?
- 20a. [Half of a 1980s sitcom duo], KATE. Weird clue given how largely forgotten the show is and how many other ways there are to clue KATE. At least when ALLIE is the entry, the options are limited.
- 32a. [Only facility in the world to have hosted the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four], GEORGIA DOME. Narrowed it down to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City (which lacks an NFL team) … and Atlanta. Boom.
- 47a. [Kind of pressure], SINUS. Sending light and love to our migraineurs who are affected by changes in barometric pressure. The SINUS pressure is only a fraction of the problem.
- 62a. [Excalibur’s place], VEGAS. And we had the casino ARIA the other day. I’ve got bad news for those of you who disapprove: There are Vegas casino names for most letters of the alphabet.
- 7d. [Ones sharing some shots], SNAPCHAT FRIENDS. My kid started college with a ready-made group of friends from a Snapchat group that had been chatting throughout the summer. This term is legit!
- 19d. [Celine Dion, by birth], QUEBECER. Also Quebecker or Québécois/Québécoise.
- 30d. [Deeply felt], SOULFUL. I like this.
- 38d. [Member of the Hoboken Four], SINATRA. Have never seen the term “Hoboken Four” before.
4.25 stars from me. An enjoyable solve from start to finish.
Kyle Dolan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Alphabet Soup” — Jim’s review
This was fun! Kyle Dolan returns with a beautiful grid filled with lots of tasty goodness.
The revealer at 132a is clued [Alphabet providing the “ingredients” of this puzzle’s soup]. I admit that that answer eluded me for almost the entire solve. Despite knowing the NATO alphabet, I didn’t recognize them in the theme answers. I think I was distracted by all the other good fill in the grid. Anyway, each theme answer starts with a letter from the NATO alphabet.
- 23a [*Hapless kite flyer and football kicker] CHARLIE BROWN
- 36a [*Las Vegas Strip business] HOTEL CASINO
- 55a [*Big event for cinephiles] OSCAR PARTY
- 69a [*A Ward 8 is a variant of it] WHISKEY SOUR
- 89a [*Musical specialty of Skip James and Robert Johnson] DELTA BLUES
- 103a [*Situation promoting confirmation bias] ECHO CHAMBER
- 121a [*2000 Jet Li film loosely based on Shakespeare] ROMEO MUST DIE
Those are brilliant choices for theme answers. Each one is clean, solid, and incontestable. Kudos to Kyle for finding lively choices that fit symmetrically.
But I will admit that when I finally uncovered the revealer, I felt a little let down. Each answer had a word that was also a NATO alphabet letter. So what?
And then the light bulb came on. What if these aren’t just random choices? What if they spell something? Let’s check:
CHARLIE = C
HOTEL = H
OSCAR = O
WHISKEY = W
DELTA = D
ECHO = E
CHOWDER! A perfectly soupy conclusion to tie everything together. Fabulous!
And that was on top of all the fun words and phrases Kyle managed to cram into the fill: LITERATI, AMEN AMEN, RATTLES ON, JOHN WOO, PLOWSHARE, CARE BEAR, HONEYDEW, ROCOCO, JAMAICA, HOOK NOSE, “SEARCH ME,” PROP JETS (though I wanted PROP JOBS), PLAY GAMES, TOOK A TURN, OVERTIME, and “SIR, NO SIR!” That’s really good stuff.
I will admit (for the third time) that I got stuck in the middle. 27d [They offer deals on paper] looked like PRINTERS and right next door at 54d [Aquiline feature] was saying “HAWK NOSE” to me. And next door to that 65d [Political leader?] wanted NEO in my brain. That gave me MEA for 59a [Andy Warhol portrait subject] and RWNE for [Venetian magistrate]. I quickly corrected to HOOK NOSE, but that left me with MEO and RONE. Those didn’t seem right, but at least they were pronounceable. I should have known DOGE, so that’s all completely on me.
A few other outlier entries raised my eyebrows. For example, MELTON [Sid of “Green Acres”]. That’s a deep cut. Once you get past Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor and Arnold the pig, I’m lost. Other entries that gave me pause: OREST [Baritone role in “Elektra”], LATEEN [Sail shaped like a right triangle], and BEYS [Ottoman governors].
But those sticking points barely registered because I was enjoying the good fill and the fresh cluing. Cases in point:
- 47a [River that ends at Cairo]. That feels like a new way to clue OHIO.
- 49a [Slip of the pen?]. ESCAPE. I didn’t get this until just now. “Pen” as in “penitentiary.” Nice.
- 60a [Second in a noble line?]. NEON.
- 83a [Flattop’s antithesis]. AFRO.
- 128a [Private denial]. “SIR, NO SIR!”
- 7d [2008 compilation album that included “Acid Queen” and “Proud Mary”]. TINA. Misdirection here if you know the songs “Acid Queen” from The Who and “Proud Mary” from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both songs were covered by TINA Turner.
- 123d [Driving stick?]. TEE. More good misdirection.
- 74d [Threads for when you’re hanging out in your crib?]. ONESIE. Ha!
Overall, a lovely, fun, fresh-feeling puzzle with an a-ha-moment-delivering theme. 4.25 stars.
Here’s TINA Turner absolutely owning “Proud Mary” in 1982. Let’s see John Fogerty do some of this!
Ryan McCarty’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Have I solved a Ryan McCarty Saturday LAT before? I think so. Perhaps I should keep some sort of database, but that requires too much work. Maybe someone already has one? Anyway, I am sorry that the constructors name isn’t readily familiar to me, but it does ring a bell. That doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a great 66-word puzzle that I really enjoyed. The stacks crossing in the middle are quite impressive. 4.8 stars from me for this awesome grid!
Some high points:
- 1A [Way to get up in Gotham] BAT ROPE – You knew it was BAT something!
- 20A [Activewear shoe brand] AVIA – OK: do they still sell these?? I NEVER see them anywhere!
- 30A [2014 title role for Mia Wasikowska] MADAME BOVARY – This would have been hard enough if the clue referenced her starring role in 2010s Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp! I didn’t see either movie, and I don’t know who this is. Perhaps it is just me!
- 34A [Where some get sloshed at sea?] BOOZE CRUISES – Best entry in the puzzle! I am going on a cruise in February, but I will definitely NOT be sloshed!
- 43A [Minolta Maxxum, e.g.] SLR – I still am going to buy one of these someday!
- 12D [League’s best] ALL-STARS – Strangely, in the NFL they are called Pro Bowlers. They are almost never referred to as “all-stars.” Still a fair clue.
- 15D [Tomorrowland attraction] SPACE MOUNTAIN – I have been here, but it was 30 years ago. I only know of the George Clooney movie! (Which I DID see, BTW!)
- 26D [Smiley formerly of PBS] TAVIS – He was on BET years ago, too, I believe. I think he got caught up in the MeToo movement, probably justifiably, and may find it hard to recover.
See everybody on Tuesday!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Perhaps watching OTHER people solve, like in the case of watching the geniuses solve these with downs only, is helping my solving! This one didn’t seem too horrible, although it is a Longo and is, in fact, truly a Stumper. But then, I think I have been slowly improving on Frank’s Stumpers for a while now. Perhaps after 3-4 years of blogging these I have finally figured out how he thinks! A solid 4.4 stars for another Longo gem, and I am curious to see how the Twitch solvers handle this one!
- 18A [Vanilla-flavored sweet stuff] CREAM SODAS – I don’t drink pop hardly at all these days, but a good cream soda is still delicious. A&W makes a good one, and there are some good off brands that are great as well. RED cream soda? A big no from me.
- 34A What shades might be considered for] LIGHTING FIXTURE – Great clue. Totally fooled me. This might actually be my favorite of the puzzle.
- 60A [1990s Page One novelty] COLOR PHOTO – Is “Page One” a British tabloid thing? I would think newspapers here had color front pages before this decade, but I could be wrong.
- 63A [Atlanta suburb] ALPHARETTA – The company I work for has a job near here. Perhaps I will get to go visit soon!
- 2D [Newborn evaluation test creator] APGAR – I thought for years this was an acronym!
- 5D [Anti-caking garlic powder additive] RICE – Who knew?
- 10D [Heavy wind] BASS SAX – I had ALTO SAX in here, but that isn’t really heavy, is it?
- 26D [Row in a St. Patrick’s Day parade] PIPERS – I will take your word for it. I don’t think they have parades in northern Indiana for St. Patty’s day; they just serve green beer all over the place
- 34D [Home of the Mekong’s “4,000 Islands”] LAOS – I am going to reference Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War documentary again, as there were several references to escape routes through Laos. Parts of the Ho Chi Minh trail went this way. I feel like I don’t know hardly anything about this part of the world.
- 58D [It means “billionth of a billionth”] ATTO – This seems crossword friendly; I am surprised I don’t see it more often!
Enjoy your weekend!