Ben Gross & James Somers’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This themeless from a duo making their constructing debut is anchored by NETFLIX AND CHILL, 7d. [Modern invitation to hook up]. I know what you’re thinking: Gosh, that just sounds like what you’d suggest for some low-key hanging out on the sofa. But no. It’s euphemistic.
- 15a. [Spinning], AREEL. Not a word that gets used much. See also: BESOT, Latin ILLE, partial ARE I, plural PSIS, meh.
- 35a. [Something that’s “free” (although that’s debatable)], WILL. Discuss amongst yourselves.
- 40a. [Head case, so to speak], NEUROTIC. Sigh. Rude clue. You could clue it neutrally as an adjective instead of going with a rather insulting slang noun.
46a. [Dead ringers?], FLIP PHONES / 26d. [Ended a phone call?], BUTT-DIALED. It would not have been at all difficult to avoid repeating PHONE in the clue for 26d.
- 4d. [Astronomer with a geocentric model of the universe], PTOLEMY. This is my all-time favorite astronomer name. Shame it hasn’t caught on as a baby name of late.
- 9d. [A bitter pull to swallow?], ALE. While an India pale ale tends to be bitter and hoppy, there are ales that aren’t bitter. Consider Spotted Cow cream ale, from the New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin. It’s got a definite sweetness to it. (You’ll have to go to Wisconsin to buy it.)
- 35d. [“Eight Elvises” and “Sixteen Jackies”], WARHOLS. I didn’t know those artwork titles but I like ’em.
Elsewhere in the fill, I like STILL LIFE‘s run of Ls, SHIRAZ wine, TUXEDOS, INTIFADA, “LISTEN UP,” and BITE-SIZED.
3.75 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Little Monsters” — Jim’s review
If the WSJ’s online puzzle app could do rebus squares, you’d find little ORCs hiding in our main theme answers today. Since it doesn’t, my accompanying picture just has Os in those positions, so I highlighted them in red to make them stand out. Of course, ORCs come to us by way of J.R.R. Tolkien’s REVERED fantasy books.
- 23a [Reason to decline an invitation] PRIOR COMMITMENT crossing 4d [Char] SCORCH. I figured the theme out almost immediately with this entry. The only question was whether they would all be ORCs or if other monsters would be involved.
- 45a [Mortarboard wearers] SENIOR CLASS crossing 40d [Like Babe] PORCINE. Okay, they’re all ORCs. I like the clue and entry for 40d.
- 49a [Unties the knot] DIVORCES crossing 16d [Where an appeal may be heard] SUPERIOR COURT. I like the clue for DIVORCES even though the actual word makes me sad.
- 71a [Welcoming national park spot] VISITOR CENTER crossing 55d [Like some battleships] ARMOR CLAD. Nice touch having an ORC at dead center.
- 93a [Somebody who’ll free others of their possessions] EXORCIST crossing 69d [House of spirits?] LIQUOR CABINET. That’s using the word “house” loosely.
- 96a [Position for Anderson Cooper] ANCHOR CHAIR crossing 79d [Rafael Nadal’s home] MAJORCA. I wasn’t sure about ANCHOR CHAIR at first, but I think it’s grown on me. Also, I’m more accustomed to the “Mallorca” spelling.
- 119a [Spark plug wires connect to them] DISTRIBUTOR CAPS crossing 116d [Battle groups] FORCES. I solved the down entry as FOES without realizing it was thematic.
A fine theme with plenty of fun and interesting entries. Cluing is top notch as well. The only nit I’ll pick is that ORCs aren’t ever depicted as little — from the old Ralph Bakshi or Rankin and Bass animations in the 70s/80s to the more recent films. But then I guess it’s the word ORC that’s little, not the orcs themselves.
With all that theme material, there’s not much room for sparkly fill. But for the most part, Zhouqin keeps the grid moving along with lively shorter entries: PETER PAN, FANFARE, HOTBEDS, ANDORRA, MENSCH, “I’M REAL,” PAQUIN, ARAMIS, etc. etc. etc.
I also like the inclusion of ASLAN [Narnian guardian] at 130a, because Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were buddies at Oxford.
Clues of note:
- 68a [What RNs dispense]. TLC. I’m going to go ahead and guess that nurses, including those of the male persuasion, probably think that this description is reductionist and unfair. Nurses are hard-working, trained professionals who have to deal with a myriad of issues, situations, and patients, and must be much more than “mother figures.”
- 112a [Hook undoer]. Nothing to do with bras here. It’s PETER PAN we’re after.
- 7d [Down sides?]. EAT. Probably not a new clue, but still clever.
- 70d [Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage, e.g.]. COUSINS. Did not know this.
- 83d [Rick Perry’s dept.]. ENER. I don’t think I’ve heard a single news story about Rick Perry since the 2016 election. What’s he been up to? Didn’t he want to do away with that department as part of his infamous “oops” moment.
Solid Saturday grid. 3.8 stars.
I leave you with those orcs from the 1980 animated Return of the King. I won’t ever forget this song that I first saw as an impressionable kid; it helped cement Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings as my favorite author and books. Did you know orcs had such excellent singing voices?
Lewis Rothlein’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Lewis Rothlein is a new name to me. Normally when the name is new to me, the time goes up. I got a quick toehold in this one, and it fell rather quickly in just about 6 minutes for me. I count 70 words, and in typical LAT fashion, as least from my perspective, there is nothing too difficult or obscure in here. A solid 4.3 stars from me today.
- 25A [“The Night They Invented Champagne” musical] GIGI – I don’t know this song. This was a movie, too, right? Isn’t this the work that has “Thank Heaven for Little Girls?” (It is!)
- 27A [Curved sword, to Brits] SABRE – Also a Buffalo hockey player!
- 50A [Experimental vehicle] SELF-DRIVING CARS – I just don’t think this will catch on in my lifetime. I could be horribly wrong.
- 57A [“Nurse Jackie” Emmy winner] EDIE FALCO – This actress is certainly crossword famous, but it is rare that you see her first AND last name as an entry!
- 3D [“__ plaisir!”] AVEC – I believe this means “With pleasure!” in French.
- 11D [Legal barrier] POLICE TAPE – I think this is the best clue in the puzzle. Great misdirection at the very least!
- 12D [How some survivalists live] OFF THE GRID – I wish I could ……
- 25D [Sees through] GETS WISE TO – Another great 10-letter entry!
- 26D [“Here’s my advice …”] “IF I WERE YOU …” – If you know me, you know I enjoy casual phrases! Yes, I highlighted all of the 10-letter entries. They were all great!
- 31D [Word from the Greek for “three-footed”] TRIPOD – This sounds like it would be hard, but I found it to be a gimme.
- 41D [Roger Goodell’s gp.] THE NFL – This phrase is heard quite a lot, but still seems just a shade weird as an entry. Totally gettable, though.
Have a great weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I must have made some progress in my solving skills, because now a 17 minute time on a Lester Ruff puzzle, which I would have been ecstatic with a couple of years ago, now leaves me slightly disappointed! I do get the puzzles early, so I have some leeway on solving times, and I still find that the quiet early mornings are the best: I am not so tired, my mind is a little sharper, and it is not as distracting as other parts of the day. I made a few errors in this one, and I found the upper right corner especially tough. Again, I am not ashamed to use the check answers button in Across Lite when I am stuck! A couple of those answers are a little off of what I am used to, but it’s all good. I will discuss my challenges in the list below. Suffice it to say that Stan can still make great puzzles. A solid 4.5 stars for a 72-word challenger.
That promised list:
- 17A [Has leases no longer] GOES CO-OP – This is definitely a New York thing that I don’t understand. Is this like ownership of an apartment? We only have the option of buying a house or a condominium in northern Indiana.
- 34A [Sandal securer] THONG – I had STRAP. This is not what I think of when I hear the word THONG!
- 36A [Ponce de León quest, perhaps?] SECOND CHILDHOOD – Great clue and entry!
- 63A [Second-largest city in the Americas] LIMA, PERU – Not sure what is meant by the Americas, but I assume it is both continents. According to Wikipedia (!), Sao Paulo is the largest, followed by Mexico City, and then Lima. Two things: 1) is it second largest in area? and 2) I didn’t know Lima was that big!!
- 1D [Bad-weather wear] OVERSHOE – I put RAIN GEAR in here immediately upon starting, which caused obvious problems!
- 2D [“Most prolific” Hollywood actor, per IMDb] MEL BLANC – This makes sense, once you give it some thought. Most actors, even busy ones, have 100-150 acting credits on that site. Mel has 1,164!
- 6D [Reference standby since 1852] ROGET’S THESAURUS – I thought that is what this answer had to be, but I didn’t think it had enough letters!
- 12D [Drove] TOOLED – I guess I have said that I was “tooling around town” before. Wow. This was hard.
- 20D [ABC series since the ’70s] GMA – Is this really a series??
- 23D [“Thick & Fluffy” breakfast fare] EGGOS – This is making me hungry!
- 30D [Texas Rangers were his early client] COLT – I tried BUSH and CRUZ in here! Wrong Texas Rangers!!
- 39D [“Mona Lisa,” essentially] OIL PAINT – This is tricky, but only correct technically. I had OIL PRINT in here, thus the error mark above!
It’s getting chillier outside! Garth Brooks has a major concert at Notre Dame this Saturday evening, and it will be 40 degrees with a chance of rain for those die-hard fans!