Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Weird-looking 62-word grid, with just the three squares in the middle row connecting the two halves. The fill is better than I’d expect for that word count—NONHERO, the contrived IN A TRAP and “AMUSE ME” (not sure if CAR PAINT is contrived or good), uncommon UNIPED, and the who-uses-this-form-of-the-word SERENER are the lowlights, but the rest of the fill ranges from solid to sparkling.
Highlights: Nobel Peace Prize winner MALALA Yousafzai, VICODIN, DORA THE EXPLORER, SAINT PETERSBURG, Megan RAPINOE, mythically evocative STYGIAN, tennis’s MARTINA (Navratilova and Hingis), and ANTI-VAXXERS as an entry.
Comments on seven things:
- 10d. [When to start on a course], TEE TIME. If you’re like me, you were thinking along the lines of “as soon as that course is served—we’re hungry!” rather than golf.
- 12a. [1998 Paul Simon/Derek Walcott musical, with “The”], CAPEMAN. I would have guessed it had to do with Cape Town, given Paul Simon’s African-inspired music from the ’80s, but no, it’s about Puerto Rico.
- 4d. [Le Pen pal?], AMI. Gross. If you are a pal of Marine Le Pen, the BIGOTED French politician, I don’t want to know you.
- 12d. [Singer in Jewish services], CANTOR. It’s upsetting that in the days following the dreadful anti-Semitic massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, even New York City has seen an uptick in anti-Jewish hate crimes. A Jewish friend of mine who’s a lifelong Brooklynite is no longer feeling like Jews are safe there.
- 6d. [Ones not calling the shots?], ANTI-VAXXERS. Another dismaying entity. People who refuse to immunize their children or themselves are posing a very real risk to those of us who are immunosuppressed or otherwise medically vulnerable. If you’ve gotten a flu shot this fall, you have my personal thanks!
- 21d. [Press secretary who inspired C. J. Cregg of “The West Wing”], DEE DEE MYERS. How long until a fictional character is based on Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
- 43a. [Sporty Pontiac of old], TRANS AM. Ah, yes. The Firebird Trans Am, tied for coolness with the Camaro in the ’80s. Not sure I’ve ever been in either one! Corvettes, of course, were even cooler, and I’m certain I’ve never sat in one of those.
I worked through all the names in the puzzle with no trouble, but I’m good with names. Those of you who shrink from proper nouns (“trivia”) may have foundered a bit.
3.9 stars from me.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bipartisanship” — Jim’s review
I eventually finished this grid with no clue as to the theme. It wasn’t until after I went for a drive to pick up my daughter from school that it came to me.
The revealer, CROSS THE AISLE, is appropriately going straight down the middle of the grid. It’s clued as [Eschew partisanship, as illustrated eight times in this puzzle]. This seemed to indicate to me that things were moving left to right or right to left, but I couldn’t seem to make that happen with the entries. I kept looking for REP or DEM or even IND, but those aren’t to be found. What I eventually realized was that Rs became Ds and Ds became Rs. I’m not sure that this is really indicative of bipartisanship or “crossing the aisle” — after all, being able to work together to come up with a compromise doesn’t mean you’re switching teams for good — but I guess it makes an interesting basis for a puzzle.
For whatever reason, there are two instances of change going on in each answer.
- 26a [Heel’s come-on?] ROTTER LINE. Dotted line.
- 28a [“I Love Lucy” star, when broadcast in Japan?] DUBBED BALL. Rubber ball. There’s nothing Japanese about the answer, but I guess some foreign country had to be used.
- 50a [Jabbed a Mordor mountain?] POKED DOOM. Poker room. There’s zero surface sense here. Why on earth wouldn’t you clue this with respect to Marvel villain Dr. Doom?
- 60a [Cocktail lounge furnished with caned chairs?] WICKER BAR. Wicked bad. Is “wicked bad” that in-the-language? I didn’t think so.
- 75a [Lowlife who advises against flossing?] DENTAL CAD. Rental car.
- 85a [Derrière assessor?] BACK RATER. Back-dated. Does anyone refer to their derrière as their “back”? I didn’t think so. Plus, the clue feels pretty skeevy, anyway.
- 110a [Just between kings?] SIRE TO SIRE. Side to side.
- 112a [Hood penalized with a pay cut?] PUNK DOCKED. Punk rocker.
Obviously, the theme gave me fits while solving because I never figured it out. And once I did, the a-ha moment wasn’t that momentous. Another reason I’m only feeling so-so about the theme is that nothing here tickled my funny bone.
There are, however, some really bright spots in the grid. I’m looking at G’DAY MATE, BEE STINGS, SPEED DEMON, BLACK RAIN, DISCO ERA, SEAFARER, AIRHORN, and ATE DIRT. Very nice!
There were also some eyebrow-raisers. WATERBOARD does not evoke a pleasant image. I didn’t know ONE HEART (neither the Bridge bid nor the song). A hotel door has a PEEPHOLE, not an EYE HOLE, in my book. And NAVAHOES looks plain weird without the J and with an ES. If it were up to me, I’d spell it Navajos. But I guess it could go either way.
And that brings us to the “No” column, in which we find BE HAD [Fall victim to a con]. I’m sorry, but just “No” to that. And then there was the whole IONESCO/ BEGUINE/AUREOLES/SYOSSET/OLEN pile-up. Feel free to throw in crosswordese ETUI in there as well. That took some doing to unravel. Way, way, way too many proper names and obscurities crossing there. And that clue for BEGUINE (which I didn’t know, btw)? [Fox trot relative]? Why is there a space between fox and trot. Google it. You’ll be hard pressed to find the dance ever written that way. Oh, and one more tough crossing: MCTEER [“Albert Nobbs” Oscar nominee Janet] and EMAC [Apple aimed at the school market]. How many people finished with an I instead of an E there? Count me as one. (And NESBIT crossing both CARILLO and TAL is yet another potential pitfall.)
Clues of note:
- I enjoyed the ZEES/ZEDS/ZETAS combo with their nap time angles ([What an American napper catches], etc.).
- [Summer time?] is a great clue for DISCO ERA.
- Likewise, [Story that often goes unfinished] for ATTIC.
But despite a few good clues and some lovely fill, there were a lot of negatives here that stole the show. Unfortunately for me, the theme wasn’t able to rise above it all. 2.9 stars.
Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Fast time this week! Amazingly, as the Stumper killed me (see below), this one fell easily. Sometimes you are in the zone, sometimes not! I have seen enough of Brian Paquin’s puzzles to recognize the byline, but a great puzzle nonetheless. I truly had fun solving this one! A solid 4.2 stars this week.
- 1A [“No problem”] “I CAN DO THAT” – Great casual phrase at 1-Across. Not too difficult, but elicits a grin. Maybe that is why this was a fun solve!
- 31A [Bat coating] PINE TAR – This came after I had a few letters. I still remember George Brett going into a tirade over this!
- 36D [Like Dorothy’s slippers] RUBY RED – I think this is exactly how they are described in the movie. Something in my memory tells me they were a different color in the actual book, but I could be mistaken.
- 38A [Oprah, at times] ACTRESS – I have not seen a single movie she was ever in. Not that I don’t want to; I just haven’t. (Wait a minute: I did see Lee Daniels’ The Butler!)
- 41A [Largest USA steel producer] NUCOR – I didn’t know this, but the crossings helped. If they are so big, why doesn’t Trump buy from them? (I couldn’t resist!)
- 47A [Foxglove] DIGITALIS – I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorite entries in the puzzle!
- 59A [Friend of Wyatt] BAT – A great way to clue this!
- 8D [Attention-getting marker] HI-LITER – In my fountain pen craziness, there is also a similar YouTube obsession with a good highlighter. Also, kudos for the brand name spelling! (At least I think that is what this is!)
- 9D [“Supernatural” co-star Jensen __ ] ACKLES – I don’t know this actor, but the blanks here make this a little too easy?
- 15D [Depart, in totspeak] GO BYE BYE – Best entry hands down!
- 33D [They’re constantly picking up] NEATNIKS – I liked this clue a lot. Probably the best one in the puzzle.
- 42D [One eying a basket] CAGER – As in slang for a basketball player. This one also was an extremely good clue.
I will stop here. Have a great day, everyone!
Erik Agard’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Nice! Our recent favorite Jeopardy! contestant has this week’s Stumper, and this one certainly stumped me. I haven’t been feeling the best, but for some reason I just couldn’t get some of these answers this week, some of which I have never heard of. Some of them I certainly knew, but came after waaay too long of a time. Did I mention I am on cold medicine? 4.6 stars for a truly “stumping” Stumper, in my opinion!
Lots of highlights:
- 1A [Engineer a tank] LOSE – One of many contenders for best clue. A hot topic in this country, where mediocrity is rewarded with high draft picks, not relegation to a lesser league.
- 5A [Minister with a “Malcolm X” cameo] AL SHARPTON – I can see this scene vividly in my mind, since it is one of the most memorable in the movie. Then why couldn’t I remember this dude’s name??
- 23A [Norse Armageddon] RAGNAROK – I just saw this movie in the Thor series a few weeks ago!! And I STILL couldn’t come up with this until a forehead-slapping 15-20 minutes into this puzzle!
- 36A [“Post-graffit” street painter] GUERRILLA ARTIST – This is certainly one of the most unique 15-letter entries I have seen recently, probably because it is a new term to me!
- 47A [Ink-shooting Nintendo game] SPLATOON – My son knew this; I did not.
- 1D [Blood-chilling locales] LAB FRIDGES – It is still a bit “Hallowe’en-y” out here, so this clue invokes some horror-movie grisly scene. Wow, what a pivot! Again, arguably the best clue in the puzzle.
- 3D [The westernmost Old World mainlanders] SENEGALESE – Wow. Totally fooled. I wrote PORTUGUESE in here immediately, which caused tons of issues.
- 28D [Line between pants] “AM I TOO LATE?” – Wow, another best clue nominee. I think I may like this one the best! The mental picture this evokes is excellent!
- 30D [Apt catwalk support] KITTEN HEEL – I sound like a broken record, but ANOTHER awesome clue. This is what that is:
- 27D [Literally, “Let it be done”] FIAT – I had AMEN in at first, then FINI. Yes, there are several error marks in this section of the grid!
- 50D [Edible pentagonal piece] OKRA – With OKLAHOMANS correctly guessed at 54A, I tried SKOR here. Is that even pentagonal? Is okra, now that I think of it?? Great misdirection, even if unintended!
I could go on, but I have a busy weekend! Go Blue!