David Liben-Nowell’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What what? A Saturday puzzle that plays like an easy-to-midlevel Friday puzzle? Ripoff! I wanted 20% more challenge, minimum.
Let’s see what we’ve got here. Entries I like: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, PIPSQUEAK, SELF-DRIVING CARS (yeesh), an old-school/obsolete MIMEOGRAPH (never used one, but I have run off copies on a Ditto machine—could’ve done without the connected TAE, Thomas ALVA Edison, though), and CLEAN SLATE.
HIREES is one of those entries I never care for. Who uses this word?? You call those people “new hires” or maybe just “hires.” “I’M A FOOL” has a contrived feeling to it.
Seven more things:
- 18d. [Fricassee relative], RAGOUT. I don’t think I’ve ever had a ragout. Can you make it without red meat?
34a. [Destination of Muhammad in his Night Journey], JERUSALEM. Interesting clue angle.
- 59a. [“M” or “Z”], MOVIE. I feel like I’ve probably seen the clue before (yep, [“M,” “W.” or “Z”], 2010 Ian Livengood NYT) but it’s still good.
- 4d. [“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” pilot], POE Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac.
- 10d. [Lepers], PARIAHS. Can we stop using “lepers”? Especially in a pejorative sense?
- 40d. [Scanned smartphone graphics], QR CODES. I have finally seen a use of QR codes being embraced—you can generate a QR code in Pokémon Go, and another player can scan it with their phone to send you a friend request. These things have existed for years and I never saw a point.
- 55d. [Cousins of garters], ASPS. As in garter snakes. Insofar as you can consider any two disparate snakes to be “cousins,” I guess it works … but I’m not keen on the approach.
Four stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Past Imperfect” — Jim’s review
Our theme today pairs certain nouns with the past tense version of their homophones.
- 22a [Sunburned prophet?] SEARED SEER
- 24a [Shorebird who’s become a spy for the other side?] TURNED TERN
- 34a [Hydroelectric project from hell?] DAMNED DAM
- 56a [Besmirched chicken?] FOULED FOWL
- 59a [Annoyed French person?] GALLED GAUL
- 72a [Knight in shining armor?] MAILED MALE
- 81a [Success for a podiatrist?] HEALED HEEL
- 96a [Stark-naked stock dumper?] BARED BEAR
- 114a [Fruit served with the right wine?] PAIRED PEAR
- 116a [Result of a naval battle?] SEIZED SEAS
This worked well enough, but I didn’t find anything particularly engaging here. I suppose if you’re someone trying to break into the larger-sized weekend puzzles, this would be a good place to start. The theme is easy to grab on to, allowing you to fill in multiple theme answers with nary a crossing. But if you’re a long-time solver, you’ve seen this type of thing many a time before.
There isn’t much sparkle in the fill either. COMANCHES (39d, [Chief Buffalo Hump’s people]), for sure, is the star here. Its counterpart QUEASIEST (49d, [Greenest around the gills]) isn’t quite as fun in the superlative, but I still like it. Other nice things: MINARET, KARATE, AMOEBA, EOCENE, GOETHE, and ZEPHYR.
I was less excited to see EFT, SDS, partial S IS (due to the fact that the clue [Sisterly] is nearby), ASLOPE, SUER, and ATUL [Surgeon/author Gawande].
Another one that slowed me down was 50a VALSES [Some Ravel works]. This one’s new to me. Is there a subject matter expert out there willing to shed some light on this?
Clues of note:
- 71a [Where the lava-lava is worn]. SAMOA. This is at least the third time a WSJ clue has referred to the lava-lava (a skirt-like article of clothing) when cluing SAMOA. I’m sure the island nation has many other interesting features.
- 93d [Personally leaves with]. HANDS TO. I am at a loss to explain this one. Anyone?
- 105a [Melatonin producer]. PINEAL. I had thought this was only an adjective of the word “gland,” but I guess it’s a noun as well.
- 91a [Do school work]. TEACH. Good clue. I needed four of the crossings for the light bulb to come on, and then it made perfect sense. I love when that happens.
- 21d [Arms in slings?]. STONES. Another good one. Think David and Goliath.
- 73d [Divisive creature]. AMOEBA. Yet another good one. But somehow I got this immediately.
A right-over-the-plate puzzle. 3.3 stars.
Michael Ashley’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Is this the same Michael Ashley that has made “Double Cross,” or acrostic puzzle, in Games Magazine for years? I think I vaguely remember solving a puzzle or two of his in the NYT (xwordinfo.com says he has had 11!), so this must be the same person. I don’t believe I have ever met him, but he has provided me literally dozens of hours of solving fun, including this puzzle! A nice 72-worder with plenty of fun entries, including three interlocking 15s, which I will be sure to mention. Very well done. After I write this, I will print his acrostic from the 2018 Games World of Puzzles. (I print from the zinio.com website, where I subscribe to Games now! Just a tip …) A solid 4.5 stars from me today.
- 17A [Pop music feature] TOP TEN LIST – Also, these days, a clickbait website feature.
- 38A [Second film with Craig as James Bond] QUANTUM OF SOLACE – This was actually quite easy, if you are a James Bond fan, and who isn’t?
- 45A [“Avatar” actress Saldana] ZOE – I think it was a LearnedLeague question that explained how she has been in 2 of the top 4 grossing movies EVER (Avatar and Avengers:Infinity War).
- 65A [Film with cues] THE HUSTLER – EVERY movie has cues … oh wait, THOSE cues!
- 3D [Hot] IN POPULAR DEMAND – Extremely vague clue. Excellent.
- 5D [Midge __, co-organizer of the Live Aid benefit concert] URE – I remember these, but I only remember Bob Geldof. She could, and perhaps should, be crossword famous with a name like this!
- 8D [“__ Comin'”: Laura Nyro song] ELI’S – I don’t have any idea of who this is or what this song is about. You tell me:
- 12D [Brass] UNMITIGATED GALL – Fabulous! Do you get images in your head of people that irk you after solving this entry?
- 45D [1997 Grammy Lifetime Achievement awardee] ZAPPA – Frank Zappa died before this award was bestowed, and his music was slightly before my time. I am more familiar with his kids with the eclectic names Dweezil and Moon Unit.
I have a 5k to run this morning! My first 5k in quite a while; so my time will likely be horrific. Have a great weekend!
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Matthew Sewell and Brad Wilber, the two behind this pseudonym, have cooked up a doozy of a Stumper for this weekend. I think I have caught most of the Twitch solving streams, an I believe there is another one on deck for this weekend, perhaps on Sunday night. Watch your Twitter feed, if you have one and follow the correct people! I found this one extremely difficult to obtain a toehold in, but once you get a little progress, it wasn’t terribly awful. I would classify this one as hard, but not frustrating. This is one of those Stumpers that when they DO solve with Downs Only, they will probably still finish faster than I did with all of the clues! 4.4 stars today.
- 8A [Where St. Paul wrote an Epistle] GALATIA – I think it would be more correct to say that “to whom” Paul wrote. Unless he wrote another book of the Bible in Galatia.
- 19A [Master of the familiar] CAPTAIN OBVIOUS – Great entry! This character from the hotels.com commercials is really funny. We used to call my oldest son MOTO, which stands for Master Of The Obvious. There are stories!
- 32A [Shelter posting] BUS ROUTE – Have I mentioned that I don’t ride buses? Like ever?
- 37A [Book with reminiscences of Heinlein and Clarke] I, ASIMOV – I see what he did there! This is Isaac Asimov’s autobiography, and a play on words of likely his most famous work, I, Robot. Very clever, albeit slightly obscure. Unless you’re a sci-fi nut!
- 63A [Bobolink cousins] ORIOLES – When I see a clue like this, you know it’s going to be a common bird type. I am learning!
- 1D [The March equinox occurs in it] PISCES – I figured, when beginning the puzzle, that is was a zodiac sign, but which one? GEMINI? CANCER? I don’t know these well enough to know which one is when. I know a few, but not many. I don’t read horoscopes.
- 12D [Keats’ “cyder-press” ode] TO AUTUMN – The full poem is here. I am not a poetry maven, so this was hard. It does mention a “cyder-press,” though.
- 28D [ __ axel (figure skating coup)] QUAD – I don’t know how these skaters do this.
- 44D [Evert employer since 2011] ESPN – She is on there all the time, although they talk too much on ESPN sometimes instead of showing actual tennis.
- 58D [The answer is blowin’ in the wind] VANE – Dylan! This might be the best clue in the puzzle!
There is a new Panda Magazine issue coming out today, so there goes MY weekend. Enjoy yours as well!