Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Long day, am disinclined to be a sentient being. So, in brief:
Fave fill includes YOGA PANTS, HOT DATE, FLU VIRUS, MAGNETO, NEWS CREW because it looks like NEW SCREW in the grid, fresh COSPLAY, the eponym pair ZAPATISTA and TURNERESQUE, ALT-WEEKLY, GYOZA/SUSHI (I had Japanese for dinner tonight, but not those items), SCOTTIE, ROMAN EMPIRE, WWE RAW, and the ever-charming WATTLE.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Pole stars?], STRIPPERS. Eww. I guess paint strippers would be hard to clue in an interesting or fair way, but there’s gotta be a better approach than this clue.
- 28a. [Creature that can walk on lava], NENE. Walk on lava! I did not know that. Hotfooted goose.
- 29a. [Shoots], FIRES. Ugh, heartbreaking to see this usage so soon after the second big gun massacre in two weeks. Campfires, anyone?
- 52a. [Romeos], WOOERS. I’ve never used the word “wooer” in conversation. Has anyone?
- 7d. [Woman’s name meaning “pleasure”], EDNA. Did not know that! And I read baby name books for fun when I was a kid. Also did not know EDNA was from Hebrew.
Four stars from me for this 70-worder.
John-Clark Levin & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Opposites Attract” — Jim P’s review
DOING BACKFLIPS is our revealer at 119a, clued [Performing gymnastic feats, and a hint to seven words “attracted” to their opposites in this puzzle].
Clever, clever theme here which incorporates two-word phrases where the first word is the opposite of the second word spelled backward. And yet, the backward-spelled word (itself another word) makes a recognizable made-up phrase when paired with the first word. Got all that? It’s easier to see in action.
- 22a [Bum wrap from a neighbor?] BORROWED DIAPER. Great clue! The “backflip” of DIAPER is REPAID, and REPAID is kinda the opposite of BORROWED. I mean, it kinda is, right? I’m not so sure on this one, but the idea of a BORROWED DIAPER is funny enough to make me not care. Just make sure the diaper wasn’t used beforehand, and for goodness sake, either re-pay the kindness in cash or with a fresh, unused diaper.
- 30a [Poet who curses up a blue streak?] COLORFUL BARD. COLORFUL is the opposite of DRAB, thou spleeny sheep-biting puttock!
- 37a [Princess Leia hairstyle worn to greet guests?] WELCOME BUNS. WELCOME vs SNUB. I like the geeky angle to the clue, but I still think I would have gone with the bread approach, as in [Oven-fresh rolls for your guests?], maybe. More surface sense. Maybe.
- 56a [Puddings that are chilling out?] CAREFREE DESSERTS. CAREFREE vs STRESSED. (This is the entry where the theme clicked for me.) Oh, I loved it when my mom made pudding in a pot and then placed the individual bowls in the oven to cool. They’d get that lovely layer of pudding skin. Mmm. Pudding skin.
- 81a [Where naughty silverware takes timeouts?] PUNISHMENT DRAWER. PUNISHMENT vs REWARD. I think “naughty silverware” is beyond my limit for believability, but hmm, what else do you keep in drawers?
- 95a [Streetcars with no onboard artificial intelligence?] STUPID TRAMS. STUPID vs SMART. Perfect clue. In this age of “smart this” and “smart that,” there still exists a lot of stupidity in the world.
- 102a [Beer that came from humble beginnings?] LOW-BORN LAGER. LOW-BORN vs REGAL. Another one that’s “just right.” We’ve all seen beer commercials touting their authenticity.
I really enjoyed this theme. Even after grokking it, it still kept my interest up throughout the rest of the grid. I didn’t need the revealer, but it definitely added a nice touch.
This puzzle is brought to you by Jeff Chen and debuting constructor John-Clark Levin. (Hey, J.C., J-C, you’re all right by me!) Congrats on the debut!
The fill is top notch, as you would expect in a Jeff Chen joint. I’m liking MARGARITA, LIKE AS NOT, QUETZAL, DULCIMER, SPOONED (now I see the need for the PUNISHMENT DRAWER!), NONAGON, HAGGLES, OCELOTS, SEESAWS, GO GREEN, BEET RED, and MCENROE.
There was a smattering of challenging fill, like ALDO [Upscale shoe brand], COR [Horace’s heart], and new-to-me ANSEL [“Baby Driver” star Elgort] crossing two foreign-language words SERA [Evening in Roma] and LES [Arles article]. WOW ‘EM [“Break a leg out there!”] feels a little manufactured as well, and BURQA crossing QUETZAL at the Q may also have been a challenge for some, but I loved it.
A couple more things:
- More geekery in [Name bestowed by Darth Sidious] for VADER, [Foot soldier of Sauron] for ORC, and [Hacking output] for COUGHS.
- I liked learning that [Creatures vermicelli is named for] is WORMS, and that [Guatemala’s currency, named for a bird revered by the Mayans] is QUETZAL. Thankfully, I remembered the name Quetzalcoatl, though I couldn’t remember the context. (It means “feathered serpent” and refers to the Mesoamerican god of wind and wisdom.)
Very nice Saturday puzzle with nifty wordplay, fun fill, and fresh clues. 4.25 stars from me.
Oh, before I forget…STEP OFF!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I just like the feel of a C.C. Burnikel puzzle. There is a certain “cleanness” to it that I find reminiscent of Payne or Berry. Not sure why, but it is something more than just the absence of obscurity. There is a definite “feel” to these puzzles I find enjoyable. Yes, I finished this one in under 5 minutes, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. There are a few toughies in here, but the crossings on those seemed fair, and there is no dreck in here whatsoever. Even if the overall difficulty level is a tad too easy, still a fun C.C. puzzle. 4.4 stars.
Some high points:
- 18A [Annual awards for which many adolescents vote] TEEN CHOICE – This is too easy a clue. I haven’t been an adolescent for decades, so I have never voted for these. Even for the LAT, this clue should have been a tad tougher.
- 22A [Underground rodent] SEWER RAT – Mental images are often evoked from crossword entries. This is not a pretty one!
- 48A [Small two-seater] SMART CAR – I think this is just the brand name, not a style of car.
- 56A [Rash-causing shrubs] POISON OAKS – This is a shrub?
- 58A [Quite some time] AGES – I had a note to highlight this entry, but I have no idea why! ;-)
- 2D [Shrewd bargain] HORSE TRADE – I don’t know this term. Perhaps this is more common in Texas?
- 4D [“We should!”] “YES, LETS!” – Great casual phrase. Which I love, if you hadn’t noticed from reading any of my comments previously!
- 5D [“Tough decision!”] “I’M TORN!” – See last comment.
- 23D [Some online banners] TEXT ADS – But they usually have graphics, right?
- 40D [Waterloo] NEMESIS – I always thought this clue was synonymous with an un-stellar ending. Unless I am missing something, this seems off if not outright incorrect. Somebody correct me.
Have a great weekend!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one got me good. Again. If there is a downs only stream again this week, I will pay keen attention, since they usually plow through puzzles that I struggle mightily with. I found this one quite hard, but it has been a mentally tough week after a long weekend 7 days ago, and I found it tough to get into that “zone” needed to concentrate and finish a puzzle. Or maybe I am just getting old! A solid 4.6 stars today for another Longo gem.
High points from me:
- 1A [Tiny piece of graphite] CARBON ATOM – The entry at 1-Across got the biggest wry grin from me. I thought it started with a B (see 1D below), so my thoughts took me towards BIT OF ?????, but this is actually a terrific clue and entry. The best of the bunch might be right here at the get-go.
- 45A [It may involve blindfolding drinkers] COLA WAR – Why did I think “alcohol” when I saw the term “drinkers?”
- 57A [21st century gaming accessory] LASER MOUSE – My thoughts were also in the wrong direction here, but that is likely by design! This certainly evokes some sort of VR headset or equipment, or so I thought!
- 62A [Vacationers try to escape them] HIDDEN FEES – Another great clue. Tough to solve, but makes perfect sense once you get it.
- 1D [Doggie treat ingredient] CAROB – CAROB?? How is this not BACON?? I don’t own a dog, but what dog treat has carob in it??
- 11D [Christian creed city] NICAEA – I had this in at first, but was totally unsure of the spelling. Turns out I DID have it correct!
- 31D [Ump of ref] OFFICIATE – A whole section of the grid opened up when I realized these were verbs!
- 41D [Star of the “Transformers” films] LABEOUF – Another tough spelling. He isn’t in all of them, is he?
- 46D [Laura Bush, née __ ] WELCH – I did not know her maiden name. I am sure I have heard it in passing, but it didn’t even sound familiar once I figured it out.
- 49D [Functional] OF USE – I got cute and had UTILE in here. Whoops!
There is snow here today. Yay.