David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
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.
Bleh: TSE SRO MHZ ATPAR KAN NETWT and INITIATOR.
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.
- 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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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!