Saturday, November 24, 2018

LAT 6:16 (Derek) 


Newsday 24:30 (Derek) 


NYT 4:26 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 24 18, no 1124

This Saturday puzzle played like a Friday for me, despite a handful of entries that weren’t coming to mind without crossings. Seemed a bit smoother than I expect from most grids with triple-stacked 15s.

Likes: “SWIPER, NO SWIPING,” HIGH MAINTENANCE, IDLE SPECULATION, the Japanese SHOJI/TATAMI combo, “THE CLAWS COME OUT,” YERTLE THE TURTLE, RED BULL, RAP SHEET, NAE-NAE, NIETZSCHE, WELCH’S jam and COROT. No, wait, I did a Google image search for Corot’s “Ville-d’Avray” and it’s a bunch of blurry-looking paintings. Pass.

Noisy puzzle, with PHEW, PISH, BAM, and MEOW.


Four more things:

  • 19a. [Mephitis], STENCH. The striped skunk’s species name is Mephitis mephitis.
  • 53a. [Ancestor of a cell], BEEPER. A.k.a. a pager. I interpreted the clue as referring to prison cells or biological cells rather than cell phones. It’s wild that a number of health-care professionals still carry pagers. You can buy yourself one at Amazon—I like the 1-star review for that model. “What is this witchcraftery: I bought this and not only can I not get to the App Store. I can’t find a way to call or answer the calles that come up. I mean I see the number and how do I answer it. Also were are the apps. This is stressing my out.” :-D
  • 22d. [Actor who said “It takes a smart guy to play dumb”], MR. T. Good quote.
  • 29d. [___ big], YEA. The “yay big” spelling is also accepted outside of this grid.

Four stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Comparatively Speaking” — Jim P’s review

ZB brings us this fun Saturday-sized romp. She cleverly takes two-word phrases in which the first word ends in -ER and converts that word to a comparative by adding a strategically-placed letter I.

WSJ – Sat, 11.14.18 – “Comparatively Speaking” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 22a [Pay TV that always airs tense news, vis-à-vis one that airs cartoons?] JUMPIER CABLE. Jumper… This one is the most questionable of the lot, so it made for a rough start. I had trouble equating “tense news” with jumpiness.
  • 26a [Elaborate Broadway stage decor, vis-à-vis summer camp theater stage design?DRESSIER SET. Dresser… This is more straightforward.
  • 61a [Shop owned by a has-been comic, vis-à-vis a trendy shop by a hot newcomer comedian?CORNIER STORE. Corner
  • 75a [SpongeBob’s pants, vis-à-vis Mickey Mouse’s?BOXIER SHORTS. Boxer… Ha! Cute.
  • 108a [Farmer’s ginger, vis-à-vis eggplant farm yields?] BUMPIER CROP. Bumper… I like this one, too, though I thought at first that “ginger” was referring to hair color.
  • 116a [Pitch from a scenery chewer, vis-à-vis one from an Oscar winner?] HAMMIER THROW. Hammer
  • 30d [Golfer who takes lots of practice swings, vis-à-vis a quick golfer?] POKIER PLAYER. Poker… Nice.
  • 39d [Extremely low sticker figure for a Chanel bag, vis-à-vis the figure at the Chanel boutique?] FISHIER PRICE. Fisher… My favorite one. Good for a chuckle.

If I have one nit with the theme, it’s that the clues felt verbose. The SpongeBob one is short and sweet, but the others felt needlessly drawn out. Maybe it’s just me. But once I knew what was going on, I basically just scanned each clue to get the gist of it and went from there.

Likes: OXICLEAN, REAR ENDS, ORATORIO, CANISTER, RATE HIKE, POLEAXE, ERUDITE, CLINCHER, SEASONAL, T.S. ELIOT. There are loads of 6s and 7s in the grid, and all of them are solid if not good.

There’s very little to complain about, as usual with Zhouqin. Some might have trouble with OMA [Granny, in Munich] crossing both SEDONA [Resort known for its red rocks] and SCRAT [Saber-toothed squirrel in “Ice Age”]. I’m not seeing any other obvious trouble spots.

A few more things:

  • I’m pretty sure our constructor used RATE HIKE as the basis for a theme a few weeks ago. I wonder which puzzle came first.
  • I did not know the T. S. ELIOT play “Murder in the Cathedral.” Apparently, it depicts the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, and was commissioned by the Bishop of Chichester for the Canterbury Festival in 1935. It was also televised in 1936 in the early months of the BBC.
  • Best clues: [Hot rod?] for SPIT, [Bold alternative] for ITALIC, and [Ball company] for ESCORT. It took a few seconds after filling that last one in to realize that “company” did not mean a business, but “accompaniment” instead.

Good puzzle all around. 3.8 stars. And now for the Trim Jeans Theatre (Monty Python) production of “Murder in the Cathedral.”

Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 11/24/18

My friend Kyle has been cranking out some puzzles lately, and today’s LAT Saturday is another stellar production. Yes, there are error marks in the grid, and yes, I did learn a new word and maybe a new factoid or two. Some of these entries literally made me smile broadly, and that is part of the joy of crosswording! A robust 4.7 stars from me for this gem.

Some of those happy-inducing moments:

  • 1A [Fitness trend that involves kids?] GOAT YOGA – This is the main entry that made me smile! I guess this falls under the don’t-knock-it-until-you-try-it category, but how is yoga with a goat … better?
  • 14A [Arcade bonus] EXTRA BALL – Clever! I had EXTRA LIFE instead, which understandably caused minor issues during solving.
  • 45A [“__ & Him”: Zooey Deschanel duo] SHE – I know her from The New Girl, but evidently she is a singer; this is a real music group with real records and some decent sounding music. Who knew?
  • 62A [Italian bread often served at Christmastime] PANETTONE – This is that new word I learned. Next trip to Whole Foods will be consumed with finding a loaf of this to try.
  • 63A [Particulars, informally] DEETS – The young kids say this today!
  • 6D [Public humiliation] OBLOQUY – This might as well be a new word to me, because I barely know it. Tough, but I welcome slightly tougher in the LAT Saturday puzzle.
  • 11D [Ball field marker] FOUL POLE – It is a “marker” alright! This clue is slightly vague, which aids in the slightly tougher difficulty level. Nice.
  • 15D [’70s-’80s Rabbit competitor] LE CAR – I figured this was cluing a car, but only got this from crossings. This was quite a, shall we say, unique looking car!
  • 24D [One may be foiled by a captcha] SPAM BOT – I hate checking these things, but they evidently help. Don’t they?
  • 35D [Two-time Republican presidential candidate] HUCKABEE – One of the many candidates with much less personality than Trump, which is why they couldn’t hang.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 11/24/18

I recently saw the movie Puzzle starring Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. As a puzzler, the trailer grabbed me because it made a great definition of why puzzles are fun for me. The entire movie made two related points:

  1. The movie (and the trailer) spoke of how life is messy, but when you complete a puzzle, you know you’ve made all the right choices. The character even says “What else in life can give you that kind of perfection?” Crosswords!! Any puzzle has a correct solution.
  2. Also, there was mention of Macdonald’s character having a mind that is constantly going, and focusing on a puzzle quiets the noise. This his home for me, too, as sometimes I feel like I have too many interests, but I always come back to puzzles.

The movie is about much more than this, so feel free to watch it if you like. I would describe it more as Macdonald’s character on a journey to find out who she really is.

Anyway, I thought about that movie after solving this puzzle. This one I found HARD, but I also didn’t have a suitable quiet environment to solve in. Also, my mind gets agitated when I don’t have it solved in time to comfortably do the writeup. Most puzzles can be completed in a very short span of time, but not some of these tougher Stumpers. Yes, you can see a plethora of error marks in this grid. Between a word or two that I just didn’t know to a couple of dastardly clues, I was wallowing for a while. I am actually surprised I finished in less than 30 minutes; it wasn’t looking good for a long time! Another example of joyful agony of solving produced by Brad, and yes, I winced a little when I saw his byline! 4.6 stars today.

Puzzle highlights for me:

  • 17A [Antonym of “tidied”] MUSSED UP – Really? Did anyone else put MESSED UP in here at first?
  • 18A [Fuel source for 7-Eleven] SUNOCO – Around here they have Mobil fuel. Perhaps it is different on the east coast.
  • 36A [Where trunks may await their owner] CABANAS – One of three candidates for best clue in the puzzle. Two others later in the list.
  • 54A [Infernal] HADEAN – What is this word?? I guess it means “of Hades,” but it did not come to me quickly at all. Extremely tough.
  • 58A [Magic manual, in role-playing games] GRIMOIRE – Another word that is new to me. I am not a Harry Potter fan, and I am sure this word has come up in those movies/books.
  • 61A [Mickey, in “Rocky”] GYM OWNER – Of course! This was definitely a forehead-slapper when I figured it out!
  • 63A [Produced by cloning, as bananas] SEEDLESS – Tough as well. Bananas don’t have seeds??
  • 2D [Splendor] OPULENCY – Yes, I had OPULENCE in here. Admit it: you did too!
  • 3D [Boxing venue] UPS STORE – Ouch. I should have gotten this one quicker. Second nominee for best clue.
  • 10D [Heavy duty] ONUS – The third and final nominee for best clue. I think 3D is the winner!
  • 27D [Yukon city where Jack London lived] DAWSON – I believe you.
  • 41D [Crumbs] BAD EGGS – This seems like a stretch to me; but it is definition 2. in the dictionary. I learned something new! They don’t say this in Indiana!
  • 47D [Cry for attention] HEAR YE! – I had HERE YE in here. Oops!

Whew! Time for a nap!

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24 Responses to Saturday, November 24, 2018

  1. Penguins says:

    “Seemed a bit smoother than I expect from most grids with triple-stacked 15s.”

    DS can be Berry smooth

  2. placematfan says:

    C.C.’s theme is adorable.

  3. David L says:

    DNF because of the SHOJI/JESSIE cross — could be any number of letters there. And SWIPERNOSWIPING took all the crosses. I have no idea what it means — it makes no sense at all to me and is impossible to guess if you don’t know it. For a long time I thought the last word must be STOPPING.

    Maybe it’s sour grapes on my part but I think those were two real flaws with this puzzle.

    • Norm says:

      I can sympathize, since performers’ names can be so random, but N and T looked like the only plausible alternatives to J and JESSIE was alliterative, so … seemed fair for a Saturday. [Although I have to admit that I’ve read Shogun too many times not to have SHOJI somewhere in my memory bank]. Had to use all the crosses to get SWIPER NO SWIPING myself, but I don’t see that as a flaw as long as the crosses are fair.

    • Gene says:

      The down clue says “________ J”, so, to me, SHOJI was clear. And, having watched Dora a lot with my twin granddaughters, 1A was the first answer I filled in. Don’t think I’ve ever filled in a 15 letter answer first, before. ?

    • Huda says:

      Swiper is a thieving Fox:
      “In Dora the Explorer, Swiper often tries to swipe an object that Dora and Boots need to reach their destination. If they confront him and say “Swiper, no swiping!” three times before he reaches it, he’ll say “Oh, man!” and leave.”

      • David L says:

        So it doesn’t have anything to do with swiping right or left, as in various dating apps? Disappointing…

    • JohnH says:

      I’d the same issues as David L. I’d entered AIDEN, not really knowing, but I guess the need for identical syllables in NAENAE (which I don’t recognize in the least) took care of that. (I also think of WHEW as exhaustion and PHEW as more like “that’s disgusting,” but it didn’t bother me.)

  4. Lise says:

    Loved the pager review you quoted, Amy! Also, I was enchanted with the puzzle. Got 1A (from my bookselling days, a gimme) and 60A right away, and the rest of the puzzle was smooth sailing. A superlatively cromulent puzzle.

  5. David says:

    Yay big is legitimized ignorance, which is well-attested all around the world and its wide web.

    Yea big is correct.

  6. cc says:

    As a parent of two young children who couldn’t avoid exposure to Dora the Explorer, SWIPERNOSWIPING had me laughing out loud.

  7. Penguins says:

    “This one I found HARD”

    Me too, and excellent as usual. Too bad you felt pressed, Derek. I’m very slow but enjoy the challenge.

  8. e.a. says:

    a lot going on in the usa today puzzle

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Is anyone at all amused or impressed by the 50d. [__ names] clue for NAMES in the Newsday Stumper? Because I was not. It’s a pointless violation of the “don’t use the answer word in the clue” rule, and all it does is make solvers (a) hesitate to enter the correct answer, regardless of what the crossings say, and (b) wonder if it was a straight-up sloppy error and the clue was supposed to be something like [Trade ___].

    • David L says:

      I thought the clue was meant to be eccentrically off-putting, in a Stumperesque way. I hesitated, of course, but it soon became clear that was the required answer.

    • jj says:

      The only puzzle that has caused the urge to punch my clipboard while solving it was the Newsday Stumper. I finally had to give it up for good about six months ago for my own peace of mind. No hard feelings, it just isn’t the puzzle for me.

      Thanks for letting me know I made a good decision, because I’m not sure my clipboard would have survived *that* struggle! ;)

    • My arc on that clue, as described here: Hated it, then loved it, much like my reaction to Gritty.

    • Penguins says:

      ” It’s a pointless violation of the “don’t use the answer word in the clue” rule…”

      Wasn’t aware of that rule and didn’t feel anything was off. Actually liked its novelty.

      • Penguins says:

        Realize I am aware of the rule but think in some cases it needn’t apply. Then again, I find Stumper unique so I suppose I receive it differently from other puzzles.

  10. Elise says:

    COROT. “…a bunch of blurry-looking paintings. Pass.”
    Corot is one of the inspirations of Impressionist painters. He’s considered important. I like it when there is an occasional clue about an artist.

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