Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I was trying out a new pair of “workspace” glasses (top half for arms-length screen, bottom half for closer reading), so I turned off the puzzle timer. (Verdict: These glasses are not ready for prime time when it comes to my iMac screen. Or my eyes aren’t.) With my old glasses in place, the solve went much better! Crosswords are easier when you can see the clues. And the grid. Gotta see that, too.
This 68-worder is smooth and it’s zippy. Top fill: CHUPACABRA, TRADE TALKS, SIT ‘N SPIN, GARLICKY, HOTEL BAR, “I’LL BE THERE,” BEER COOLER, “MUST BE NICE …”, EL GRECO, CHUTZPAH, and PIED PIPER (just a few more months till the next season of Silicon Valley, I hope!). We’ve got the Scrabbly ZAMBEZI River, and a Scrabbly corner that includes a Q and and X without any junk fill.
Four more things:
- 16a. [What might precede a parachute jump], HESITATION. Mmm, yes.
- 37a. [Cardinal point?], CLAW. As in a pointy little body part on a redbird.
- 10d. [Assigning stars to?], CASTING. As in casting actors in roles. Nice clue!
- 54d. [Ward with many awards], SELA. How are we defining “many”? She has two Emmys, which is fairly impressive, and one Golden Globe, but not a lot else of note. At least she lost the Razzie!
Overall, a fun puzzle filled with lots of goodies. 4.25 stars from me.
Frank Virzi & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crew Cuts” — Jim P’s review
The revealer is at 114a [Reduce a staff, and make seven squares in this puzzle smaller, in a way]: DOWNSIZE. Theme answers have certain letters changed — either Ls become Ms (Large to Medium), or Ms become Ss (Medium to Small).
- 23a [Pursuit of a patsy?] SAP QUEST. MapQuest. Huh! That’s still a thing.
- 34a [Supper bud?] MATE FOR DINNER. Late…
- 41a [Lounges for lampooners?] MOCKER ROOMS. Locker…
- 61a [Malady that might afflict a melancholy mooer?] SAD COW DISEASE. Mad…
- 67a [Circus horn honkers atop choppers?] SEALS ON WHEELS. Meals…
- 89a [Use of Bullwinkle’s understudy?] MOOSE CHANGE. Loose…
- 96a [Go for the gold at the beach?] MINE IN THE SAND. Line…
This feels too wide open. I’m not detecting any pattern to the letter changes other than the size aspect and the fact that the letters are the first of each theme answer. There are so many possibilities for theme answers: LOVE > MOVE, MIX > SIX, LUST > MUST, LITIGATION > MITIGATION, MONOGRAM > SONOGRAM, MALINGER > SALINGER, and on and on. Another constraint should be added to tighten it up.
For a bit I thought there was an animal aspect to this, what with the moose, cow, and seals. Really, given the corporate nature of the revealer, the ideal set would be major American corporation names that have been altered, but I’m doubtful that it’s really possible. A quick look turned up HOSE DEPOT, but not much else.
It’s also slightly inelegant to have other size letters that don’t change within an answer. See SEALS ON WHEELS where the Ls don’t change. I realize the revealer indicates only seven squares are changed in the whole grid, but this feels a little bit like a cheat. At least having all the entries start with the changed letter is consistent.
Overall though, this was a speedy solve, and I felt like I was on the go constantly without getting stuck for too long in any one place. I loooove CRAB NEBULA as fill. “I’M SO SURE,” “LET’S EAT,” KEN DOLLS and ICE PACKS are fun, and MIASMAS is just a cool word. ALEXANDRIA is great as well, but why not clue it with respect to politician Ocasio-Cortez for some ultra-timeliness? A missed opportunity.
The only spot that really slowed me down in the grid was the section surrounding [“Meet the Parents” co-star] TERI POLO and [Hindu god of thunder and lightning] INDRA. (PLANE clued as [Shaving tool] added to the trickiness, since it looked a lot like BLADE for a while.) I don’t recall that actress’s name, but once I worked out everything else, I made the educated guess to go with the I and got it right. Another name I didn’t know, comedian TOTIE Fields, had fairer crossings.
Clues of note:
- 29a [Mount Kilimanjaro?] CLIMB. Nice clue.
- 93a [Gregarious group?] AEIOU. Tricksy. Did you know there’s a group on Facebook that hunts for phrases that contain exactly one of each of the vowels? Recent finds include “washing up sponge” and “gun-shaped pillow.” The group is called Supervocalics if you want to search for it.
- 118a [Seeker of an honest man] DIOGENES. Uncultured me, the only DIOGENES I know is from the Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. DIOGENES is Aloycious Pendergast’s villainous brother. The real DIOGENES was an ancient Greek philosopher. No doubt someone reading this can enlighten us further.
A solidly-made fast-solving puzzle with strong fill throughout. However, I feel the theme needed some tightening up. 3.4 stars.
Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I think I am getting better at Greg Johnson puzzles. This one fell quickly in under 6 minutes, despite the stacked 15s at the top and bottom. I found this fun and not too hard, despite struggling with some of Greg’s Saturday LAT offerings in the past. Bring on another one; I think I am learning your style, Greg! A solid 4.3 stars today.
- 17A [One always looking up] ETERNAL OPTIMIST – I try to be one of these, but I may be more negative than I perceive that I am.
- 33A [Private dining area]MESS TENT – One of the nominees for best clue in the puzzle. I got this quickly because I had the last part already when I encountered the clue, but without any crossings this requires some lateral thinking.
- 39A [A, often] FRONT ROW – Like Bob Uecker! I had a ticket once for the old Yankee Stadium that was in Section 105, row G. I thought, “Wow! Great seats!” It turned out that Section 105 was behind Section 5, the rows were labeled A, AA, B, BB, C, CC, etc. These companies are sneaky!!
- 62A [Shower components] METEORS – Another great clue.
- 4D [Conduct may have it on either end] WORD ACCENT – So you would say conDUCT as a verb and CONduct as a noun. Very nice.
- 10D [Breakfast food mentioned in court in “My Cousin Vinny”] GRITS – This movie is nearly 30 years old, and I don’t think I have ever seen it. Perhaps I will search for it later, since I only know it as Marisa Tomei’s Oscar winning role.
- 28D [Bae of boo, to former generations] STEADY DATE – Yes, language has changed since the 50s!
- 32D [Prosciutto di __ ] PARMA – Ham from this town in Italy, I presume? I am not that familiar with this term.
- 40D [“Amazing Grace” figure] WRETCH – Admit it: you sang a bar or two of this in your head!
Next LAT puzzle blog for me comes on Tuesday.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I started smoothly, ran in to a bit of a wall, but overall I am happy with a sub-15 minute solve time on a Brad Wilber Stumper. There is lots of good in this 72-worder, which is no surprise in a Wilber puzzle. Yes, I have a few error boxes in the grid image; I think I was just tired at that point! All is fair in here, and I found this a fun solve. That means, as I seem to say a lot, that next week should be brutal. 4.4 stars today.
- 1A [Streisand’s “Funny Girl” husband] OMAR SHARIF – This man is solely responsible for my interest in bridge play! Finally a gimme at 1-Across in a Stumper!
- 11A & 58A [Hangouts with multiple TVs] OTBS & GYMS – Excellent use of a repeated clue. Sometimes clues/entries evoke vivid imagery, and this is definitely the case here, although I have never been to an OTB!
- 28A [Brad’s Drink (1893), today] PEPSI – I had an error at 11D at first, so this didn’t come quickly, although this fun fact seems familiar to me. I am sure I read this some where years ago.
- 33A [“Nancy Loves __” (book collection of comics)] SLUGGO – I remember reading this comic all the time when I was younger, when comics were only available in the newspaper and there was no internet. Ah, how times have changed …
- 43A [Stays home] CORSET – Best clue in the puzzle. I was totally duped.
- 59A [“Fiddler on the Roof” performance] HORA – This musical, whether you are Jewish or not, still has great music that stands the test of time. I will play this soundtrack every once in a while, even though I haven’t seen the movie in 20 years.
- 60A [Subject of the 2007 bio “The Animated Man”] WALT DISNEY – I have not seen this, but if you know me you know I am not a Disney fan. There is something wrong with the idea that you HAVE to have these movies for your child.
- 12D [They get Emmys every year] TELEPLAYS – This is the second time in two weeks I have seen this word. I think I mentioned last week that screenplay is much more common. At least to me.
- 31D [Foodservice giant in the Fortune 500] SYSCO – I have worked in restaurants before, and it is surprising how much stuff comes from companies like this, which offer the convenience of delivering the supplies needed.
- 34D [They may carry bubble gum] LOLLIPOPS – Is this just Tootsie Pops, or are there others?
- 40D [Honeysuckle found in forests] WOODBINE – Also [Actor Bokeem], the actor with that raspy voice. I know him better than this tree or whatever this is.
- 48D [Confer] GRANT – This also fooled me, even though it is totally fair.
Enjoy your weekend!
NYT: As a Manchester United fan I’m here for 26d.
Note to Amy: Sadly the exploits of PIED PIPER won’t be back on our TV’s until 2020.
Re the Stumper: That CORSET clue totally got me too. I am contemplating whether the clue needed an apostrophe to be fair.
Is the prohibition of using fill in the clues only a NYT thing? URBAN and ANY appear in both in this puzzle. Since 35D was involved in 2 of these duplications, I suspected a meta for a bit.
Otherwise, I enjoyed this one! But doing these puzzles every week has taken the edge away and now I am jonesing for an even tougher solve. Any recommendations?
Hi Michael in Chelsea – for a tough solve, you could try the Fireball (oof). I haven’t done any of them, but I’ve read the reviews and visited the site. Wow. When I get better at the Stumper, I may move on up to the Fireball myself.
Here’s an unsolicited pitch for Fireball. Only started subscribing last year, but I’m hooked. Excellent, creative, challenging puzzles week in and week out.
Tim Croce’s xwords – Tuesday and Fridays are often on par or harder than Saturday Stumper
I’ll have to try his puzzles again. Did a few some years ago and, if memory serves, found them dry and difficult due to trivia.
I am apparently in a distinct minority as I found Friday’s tough and Saturday’s easy.
It took me a long time to figure out how ATTA was a congratulatory start. I assume it is the beginning to ATTABOY or ATTAGIRL (one word or two?), but I am not entirely sure.
Stumper’s “The Animated Man” is a bio BOOK of WALT DISNEY. If it had been a film, “bio” in the clue would’ve been “biopic.”
Stumper – “43A [Stays home] CORSET – Best clue in the puzzle. I was totally duped.” Amen to that. I had no idea what CORSE_ could be until I filled in the T from SENTIMENT. Great clue, once I got it. Overall, this went on the easy side for Stumpers, but that little area with LEM/MARE near CORSET chewed up half my time.
Very nice puzzle by E.A. though on the easy side for me. LAT was enjoyable as well.
Wasn’t floored by the CORSET clue as others were and found the UINTA/ING cross problematic but a good Stumper as usual.
Referring to a piece of clothing as a “home” of anything is shaky at best, ridiculous at worst. At least throw a question mark at the end – the Stumper is frustratingly inconsistent when it comes to which clues get a question mark and which don’t.
That’s how the Stumper rolls which is fine with me. Just wasn’t thrown by the clue as I had SENTIMENT filled in.
The LAT was by far the easiest of Saturday’s puzzles, and was mostly smooth and fun. But ACETONES was just plain ugly.