Saturday, October 20, 2018

LAT 6:05 (Derek) 


Newsday 17:50 (Derek) 


NYT 5:15 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Ben Gross & James Somers’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution. 10 20 18, no 1020

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.

Seven things:

  • 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.
  • ILLE

    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.

WSJ – Sat, 10.20.18 – “Little Monsters” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 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.

Some highlights:

  • 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!

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17 Responses to Saturday, October 20, 2018

  1. Cliff Robinson says:

    A lot of fun and interesting fill, I thought, but also seemed quite easy and played very fast for me – maybe a record for a Saturday

  2. Sam says:

    Wow, the NYT fought me every inch of the way. Key mistake was somehow recalling”semaphore” as in the flags used in ship-to-ship communication, which matches many of the crosses for 43A, particularly if you put in HOTH as Hoph. Finished but barely.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    Especially liked how NYT had NETFLIX AND CHILL abutting TETE A TETES, which was a euphemism for the same thing in more (or less, hard to say) innocent times.

    • Steve Manion says:

      I asked my 16-year-old daughter if she knew what NETFLIX AND CHILL means. She said “Yes, everyone does.” She added, “It’s a millennial thing.” So glad to know that. At least she had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her if she had ever been to the submarine races.
      Are there other memes I should be aware of?

      Top was easy for me, bottom was tough.


  4. Huda says:

    NYT: the top fell in a (sleepy) blink last night. Bottom took longer this morning.
    I had NETFLIX and couldn’t conjure up the rest. I have now looked it up– It has a Wiki page, for the old people most likely. So much I’m missing in this world…
    And how do you turn down that invite? No chilling for me?
    Wound up finishing with an error: HATH and TARTES. My fault, since this is the French spelling of tarte…
    Overall a very cool puzzle. I always love it when I learn something new- not something I should have known but something that’s fun to know.

  5. dls says:

    Seems like there’s a mistake at 24A in the Stumper, which clues ENT far far more accurately than EMT.

  6. Rob says:

    Why is the “F” in Flipphone circled?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was flagging the FBI entry as a reminder to myself to check that “spy” clue’s aptness, and forgot to uncircle the letter when it checked out okay.

  7. Doug says:

    WSJ: A cute, fun puzzle from Ms. Burnikel, cleverly clued as usual, although not quite up to appropriate Saturday difficulty level IMO. The inability to keep visual track of the ORCs in the online puzzle app was an irritation that detracted from the enjoyment of this puzzle. It baffles me that while WSJ often publishes really excellent puzzles from top-notch constructors, they diminish the product by presenting it online in the most primitive app in the business. I hope that will change.

  8. Norm says:

    WSJ: There are many better ways that 16D could have been clued IMO, since SUPERIOR COURT is understood as a reference to a trial court, but it is true that an appeal is heard in [a] superior court, so I’ll let it slide [although then the “may” seems wrong — and do not try to go all appellate division of the superior court on me, because then there should have been a reference to misdemeanors or small claims court or whatever]. That aside [and I’m really not complaining, because that was where I caught the theme], this was a very smooth and very entertaining puzzle.

  9. sandi rhodes says:

    stumper: “just” things should be DESSERTS not DESERTS, right? I couldn’t find a reference where ‘desert’ was a synonym for afters, sweets, or desserts.

    • Penguins says:

      Deserts here is the plural of desert, meaning “that which one deserves”. “Desert” is now archaic and rarely used outside this phrase. The spelling just desserts is non-standard. It is sometimes used as a pun in, for example, restaurant names. – wiktionary

    • GLR says:

      DESERTS is correct – I think there was some discussion about this at The Fiend a while back.

      From American Heritage dictionary:

      de·sert 2
      1. often deserts Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered.

  10. Burak says:

    One of my fastest Saturdays ever. It was a really smooth solving experience for me and I had a ton of fun. Very solid debut.

  11. JohnH says:

    NYT started so easily for me, with the NW done as fast as I could write, and then all of sudden hard as can be. long central down answer — and also for some time had DIAL PHONE for dated tech rather than FLIP PHONE. (Oops.) But enjoyed it.

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