Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We’re heading into a Team Fiend Saturday! Derek and family are coming to the Windy City and we’re meeting up for dinner at Nando’s Peri-Peri. That Nando’s location is close to Anderson Pens (it’s in the Palmer House hotel), which is basically a toy store for people who like nice pens and pencils. It’s where I got a hefty mechanical pencil with a sturdy lead and a crossword design (pictured at left), and where my husband picked up a fine-point fountain pen for drawing. I know Derek will find lots of cool things!
Moving on to the crossword—wow! It evokes or references two different big creeps who wrecked a lot of women’s careers. There’s CHARLIE ROSE, 34a. [Talk show host named in the #MeToo movement]. Hey. He wasn’t “named in the #MeToo movement.” He behaved in inappropriately sexual ways with far too many of the women who worked for him, and he was the top dog so what the hell were they supposed to do besides put up with the abuse or quit, impeding their TV/journalism careers? (See also: Harvey Weinstein.) And then there’s 49d. [Julie ___, host of TV’s “Big Brother”], CHEN. She made a point of signing off on TV just recently as “Julie Chen Moonves,” expressing her solidarity with her creepazoid husband Les, who sandbagged Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s career at CBS, greenlit a crap-ton of male-centric shows while nixing most shows with female leads, and did gross sexual harassment as well.
Anyway, on the editorial front, I’m trying to avoid lending grid respectability to such creeps. LES Misérables, yes. LES Moonves, nope. Imagine having been victimized by one of these dudes and then seeing his name in your escapist crossword.
On the plus side, we’ve got an APPETIZER, HERCULEAN EFFORT, CEDAR RAPIDS (Iowa) with a neat bit of trivia (32a. [Childhood home of Grant Wood and Elijah Wood]—I don’t know if they’re related), THE TIME WARP, a PRESS PASS (yay, journalism!), THE TWILIGHT ZONE, AA MEETINGS, and FOOD PORN.
Four more things:
- 27d. [Hearty entree], MEAT STEW. That … sounds off. Meat stew? “What’s in it?” “Meat.”
- 26a. [Shot contents], SERUM. Public service announcement: ’Tis the season to get your flu shots! The more vulnerable among us rely on herd immunity to keep us safer from influenza and its complications. I’m waiting till my cough is gone to get my flu shot, but my family members got theirs this week.
- 2d. [River from the Appalachians], PEEDEE. Well! If it isn’t my buddy P.D.’s favorite river of crosswords.
- 11d. [What laying a king on its side in chess means], “I CONCEDE.” Is this a contrived entry or is it a legit chess phrase? Matt Gaffney will know.
4.2 stars for most of the puzzle, and –2 stars for CHARLIE ROSE. (I suspect the constructor may have written the puzzle before we found out what Rose’s colleagues already knew about him.)
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Drawn With Ease” — Jim’s review
Cruciverbalist Gary Larson may not be cartoonist Gary Larson, but his puzzle today is one that cartoonist Gary Larson would probably like. I sure do.
At heart, it’s an add-a-long-E-sound theme, but it’s tighter in that the newly-created words are all cartoon characters.
- 23a [Scared the daylights out of a wacky cartoon bird?] PETRIFIED WOODY. Petrified wood. I saw that they recently made a 3D Woody Woodpecker movie. It, of course, looks awful.
- 35a [Soul-kiss Nemo’s fishy friend?] FRENCH DORY. French door. Ha! But that is not an image I need in my head.
- 54a [Bathe Popeye’s adopted infant?] CLEAN SWEE’PEA. Clean sweep. Why not clue this with respect to Olive Oyl. We all know who her kid is.
- 81a [Put off making more shows with Scooby’s canine nephew?] TABLE SCRAPPY. Table scrap. Usually that term is pluralized, but I don’t mind. I for one was glad when they left Scrappy-Doo behind.
- 92a [Hold a comedic tribute honoring a stuttering swine?] ROAST PORKY. Roast pork.
- 112a [Used a successful line on a Mexican mouse?] PICKED UP SPEEDY. Picked up speed. Ha! In case you were wondering, he had a girlfriend. Her name was Rosita.
- 17d [Pull a prank on Bullwinkle’s pal?] PUNK ROCKY. Punk rock. Ha! I was not expecting that more modern use of the word “punk.”
- 79d [Outdo Barney Rubble’s brunette bride?] BEST BETTY. Best bet. Odd clue. Why does it need the word “brunette”? Possible alternative clue: [Winner of a Rubble vs Boop contest?].
As someone who never wanted to grow up (I remember one time as a kid when someone asked me if I could pick an age to be for the rest of my life, and where other kids would all pick some grown-up age, I picked four), this puzzle was right up my alley. There’s a lot of fun in this theme and it’s nicely tight and consistent. Bravo!
After solving this puzzle I immediately got in the car for a 5-hour road trip. While driving, I was thinking of other possible theme answers that might fit. Can you come up with some? Here’s what I got:
- TWEETY STORM [Fury produced by an angry bird?]
- HIGH HOLY DAISY [Donald Duck’s girlfriend smoking pot in church?]
- ROPE A DOPEY [Tie up a dwarf?]
If the theme didn’t float your boat, there’s great fill here, too. I like STARGAZE, ALTER EGO, ROADSTER, TIDE OVER, LA BOHEME, “I TOLD YOU,” SCIMITAR, ATTA GIRL, LAND GRAB, ASTAIRE & ROGERS, OLD PRO, BISCAY, “GO ON IN,” LAW FIRM, TRIESTE, and OCEANUS. Oh yeah, and there’s STONER, BEDPAN, CT SCANS, and FLORETS. Wow. Quite a lot of good stuff in there.
I did not know TREADLES [Features of some sewing machines], despite my using a sewing machine once a year to hem up my daughter’s school uniform pants. What’s a treadle?
I recall the cluing felt fresh and fun, too. I’d point some out, but it’s late on Friday and I’m tired after the drive. How about if you let us know which ones stuck out to you?
Fun and fresh puzzle. Four stars from me.
Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A nice, smooth 72-word grid from Brian E. Paquin is our LAT challenger puzzle this Saturday. I may have mentioned it before, but I don’t believe I know Brian, and I don’t think it’s a pseudonym for anyone. Not too difficult, but lots of interesting stuff in here. At least I didn’t find it hard; that sometimes is a subjective opinion! A solid 4.4 stars for a stellar puzzle.
Some of that interesting stuff:
- 1A [Pickup artist?] NEAT FREAK – I hate it when, right after you put something down, like a dirty dish in a sink, someone comes right behind you to pick it up. There is a story here. That’s all I am saying!
- 27A [Motor-assisted two-wheelers] E-BIKES – These would be great for a commute, if I didn’t have the feeling I would get killed here where we live. I need to just ride my regular bike to work and get in shape!
- 35A [Like a home-cooked meal] MADE FROM SCRATCH – There are quite a few Amish restaurants within an hour of my house. Some are quite large, and their meals are usually synonymous with “made-from-scratch” cooking. Getting hungry again …
- 44A [Checked at the airport] WANDED – I wish that was all they did!
- 9D [Country singer Pickler] KELLIE – I remember her from American Idol back when I used to watch it. Many moons ago! I don’t listen to country music that often, but she is arguably one of the ten most famous contestants from Idol, isn’t she?
- 11D [Stringless strings?] AIR GUITAR – Best clue in the puzzle! And not in small part due to the mental images it evokes!
- 29D [Segway PT inventor Dean] KAMEN – This guy SHOULD be crossword famous, but a lot of grids may have put PRADO in at 33A and then you would be clueing breast cancer activist Susan G. KOMEN.
- 33D [Artist’s drawing choice] PEN AND INK – I am still slowly sliding down the rabbit hole of fountain pens, so this entry is hitting home! I still don’t see how anyone can spend $1,000 on a pen!
- 60D [Longtime coke product] TAB – My mom used to drink this stuff. Do they still sell it? I don’t drink much soda at all, so I don’t know what is in the pop grocery aisle!
Have a great weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This week’s Stumper didn’t give me any fits at all. It was TRULY “Less Rough!” I normally would be quite proud, but this only means when they try to solve this with downs-only on Twitch in the next week or two, they will be done in 3 minutes! My time was under 7 minutes, which I am sure is a record for me. Anything under 10 minutes on a Stumper is rare for me, so this was quite a nice surprise! The caveat is, as always, look out next week! 4.3 stars for a wide open 70-worder from Stan with virtually ALL easy answers. Great!
- 15A [Place for a camera, often] EYE LEVEL – I had the EYE part, but it took me a minute to figure out the rest. This is a classic example of the answer being super simple once you know it!
- 18A [Track + slots] RACINO – This is a new term for me. Pretty sure there are no “racinos” within several miles of me. There are just now regular casinos in this area.
- 37A [18+ points, to librarians] LARGE PRINT – Laura, is this true? Do librarians pay this much attention to font sizes? I am kind of serious, here, since I am rapidly heading towards the “hand-me-the-large-print-clues” at the ACPT!
- 45A [18-time NBA All-Star] BRYANT – And recent Oscar winner!
- 3D [Calvin Coolidge, by birth] VERMONTER – Is that what they call folks from Vermont? Growing up in Michigan, I learned of Michiganders (also Yoopers, if from the Upper Peninsula!). I am from Illinois originally, so Illinoisian? People from Indiana are uniquely Hoosiers!
- 25D [Southwestern souvenir] KACHINA – I remember making a papier mâché Kachina mask in the second grade! I think my mom might still have it. Ick!
- 31D [Subject of a 2012 Supreme Court decision] OBAMACARE – One day they will figure this out.
- 42D [“About-face!” source] SARGE – I was never in the Armed Forces, but I can hear a sergeant yelling this!
- 43D [About-face] U-TURN – I see what you did here! Clever!
I could go on and on, but I am off to Chicago today to see some sights and meet up with Amy Reynaldo! It should be a great day!