Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We always like it when one of Team Fiend’s lovely people has a crossword we’re blogging. Did you know that Joon also offers two puzzle subscription services? It’s true! Outside the Box Puzzles has a weekly Rows Garden puzzle, $20 a year, and the puzzles frequently have a couple topical long answers. There’s also the Variety puzzle line-up, 25 puzzles a year, authored by Joon and a talented roster of contributors. (There is even a puzzle type called Touchwords invented by contributing constructor Grant Fikes that is kinda cool, and that I’ve never seen elsewhere.)
Now I’ve used up half my blogging time not even talking about the Saturday puzzle. Highlights! We got ’em: MARTINI, ADULTING, BEER GOGGLES, ZOROASTRIAN, YOSEMITE, ZOOTOPIA, Pee-Wee Herman IN CHARACTER, GOING STEADY (though it’s a quaint term not in much use these days … and come to think of it, it may have been dated 30+ years ago, too), and SPLASHY.
Did not know: 54a. [Pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders ___], PEIRCE. There’s a Peirce K-8 school near me, but it’s not named after Chuck. (Tough crossings, with unusual INCEPT intersecting both oddly spelled PEIRCE and uncommon ESPIAL.)
- 22a. [Baby food], PAP. Still waiting for newspaper puzzles to stop being afraid to clue PAP via a routine medical test that about half of solvers will probably undergo dozens of times in their life.
- 21d. [Talks about one’s job, perhaps], NEGOTIATION. Young people! Women! Shy people! Always ask if there’s room to go up on what they pay you. (This means both when you’re planning to accept a job and when you’d like a raise for your good work.) The answer may be no, but you also might find yourself making more money. You don’t want brash people to make more than you for the same work just because they asked for it and you didn’t right? /advice
- 24d. [Induces to commit a crime], SUBORNS. Can you suborn anything other than perjury? What are my options here?
4.2 stars from me for this 68-worder.
Dan Fisher’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Refrain From Singing” — Jim P’s review
DECK THE HALLS is the song of the day. If you haven’t already heard it enough by now over the airwaves, consider yourself earwormed — Christmas-style. (The revealer clue at 117a is [Song whose refrain has been prefixed to nine answers in this puzzle.]) In other words, one FA and multiple LAs are prepended to common phrases.
- 23a [Mediocre sheets?] FAIRISH LINEN. I’m not familiar with the term “Irish Linen.”
- 25a [Unit of a VI-pack?] LATIN CAN. Tin can.
- 42a [Take care of dirty shawls and scarves?] LAUNDER WRAPS. Under wraps.
- 54a [Trial episode just received by a TV exec?] LATEST PILOT. Test pilot. This one works quite well.
- 66a [Lech Walesa, before he became active?] LATENT POLE. Tent pole.
- 71a [Beam of light that never dims?] LASTING RAY. Stingray.
- 84a [One carrying twin daughters?] LADEN MOTHER. Den Mother.
- 91a [Unconvincing-sounding cadaver?] LABORED STIFF. Bored stiff. I like this one as well.
- 115a [Turning tool’s tailstock?] LATHE END. The End. An appropriate finisher.
It’s pretty impressive to get nine theme answers plus the revealer to all work so well together. And everything is solid enough, though nothing was downright funny. My favorite part was realizing the play on words in the title where “Refrain” is meant to be synonymous with “chorus” and not “abstain.” (Plus, I can’t help but be reminded of my own musical Batman puzzle from a couple years ago.)
A few bits of really uncommon fill gummed up the works:
- LORGNETTE [Specs with a handle]. New to me.
- PENSE [“Honi soit qui mal y ___“]. The clue helped not a bit (for me anyway); I needed every crossing.
- PETREL [Far-ranging seabird]. Don’t think I know this one; is it related to a kestrel?
- OREADS [Nymphs of the mountains] aren’t that uncommon in crosswords (but they should be), and I can never remember the spelling.
- Other ucky stuff includes ENTO, ERSE, IRT, SSR, SSS, SSTS.
There are goodies of course: SHIRELLES, SPIRITUAL, MELTDOWNS, IN ANY CASE, EXIT RAMP, NAIL HEAD, TOLERANCE.
That’s all from me. A solid Saturday to end the week. 3.5 stars. See you on Monday.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is another stellar C.C. Burnikel construction. Although there is not an entry longer than 11 letters, all six of them are intertwined in the middle of the grid. I will of course highlight a few of these phrases below, but this puzzle makes it look like it was easy. Some phrases are a little less than common, but all are easily solvable regardless. I have raced through some LAT Saturday puzzles in less than 6 minutes before, but this is still a quick time for me. It was also fun. A solid 4.5 stars today.
Those promised high points:
- 14A [Taiwanese drink originally made with milk and tapioca pearls] BOBA TEA – I have had this once or twice. It is different, that’s for sure, than what I grew up having. I haven’t seen this in a while, and I don’t even know where to get one. Perhaps an Asian restaurant?
- 16A [Series of celebratory visits] PUB CRAWL – I have never done this. And have no plans to.
- 34A [Response to a welcome return] WE MISSED YOU – Another great casual phrase.
- 39A [Avril follower] MAI – “MAI tai” is also a foreign term. How much French is reasonable to know? I took it in school, so any French is usually a gimme for me. Others may disagree.
- 50A [Factor in exit velocity, in baseball] BAT SPEED – It’s all in the wrist! Seriously, even the great Hank Aaron, especially when young, wasn’t all that big or bulky, but he had humongous forearms that generated tremendous bat speed.
- 3D [Checkout choice] PAPER BAG – Usually it is just “paper or plastic” that is asked; the bag part is understood. Still legit. I think more of [What a fan of a bad team has on his head]!
- 5D [ __ Fire: 230,000-acre Northern California conflagration of 2018] CARR – This was all over the news, but this is thousands of miles from me, and for perhaps that reason I couldn’t remember the name of it.
- 14D [Informal discussion] BULL SESSION – I usually hear another word in between these two!
- 16D [Side with a dog] POTATO SALAD – This, I suppose, is correct to some, but I have a gripe here. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a hot dog and had potato salad with it. Is it just me? I see no correlation, other than both are traditional “picnic” or “barbecue” foods. Am I being to picky??
- 24D [“Sweet Home Alabama” band, familiarly] SKYNYRD – Name another song they sing. Yeah, I can’t either! But to annoy you and get this song in your head:
- 26D [Four-time Australian Open champ] SELES – The Aussie Open is arguably the lesser of the four majors in tennis, but it seems to appear more often than the others in crosswords. She won the French and U.S. Opens as well.
- 33D [Hazardous area for a bicyclist passing a parked car] DOOR ZONE – This seems contrived, but those bike paths slide right by car doors. Please be safe!
Very nice! Enjoy your weekend, everyone!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one started off rough for me, then it seemed to fall easily. It turned into a true “Lester Ruff” puzzle: slightly easier than a normal Stumper, but still a tough puzzle. I finished where the cursor is in the image. Upon reflection, nothing in that area is really tough, other than 7D which I didn’t know immediately. 72 words in this one, which usually means a themeless with great fill, and this puzzle is no exception. A nice breather before what will surely be a killer Stumper next week. 4.4 stars.
- 20A [One extremely well-fixed] GAZILLIONAIRE – This is actually in the dictionary, believe it or not. Bruno Mars helped out on a song called “Billionaire,” but it is all amounts of money I will never have!
- 51A [Interrogative endorsement] WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? – Awesome entry. And an apt description of this puzzle!
- 57A [Canada’s Freshmart chain] GROCERY STORES – This is tough. Unless you live in Canada!
- 64A [Under canvas] TENTED – I put TARPED in here at first. This caused some minor problems!
- 4D [Shaw’s “Will ye-oo py me f’them?” speaker] ELIZA – I don’t know what she is trying to say here, but the answer makes sense! Her English was really bad. (This is a reference to Eliza Doolittle, a character from My Fair Lady, based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion.)
- 30D [Luther Burbank’s California home] SANTA ROSA – Why don’t I know who this is? Evidently Burbank, CA, is named for him, as well as many other things, according to his Wikipedia page.
- 42D [With 65 Across, Xbox part] DISC TRAY – I don’t have a gaming system, as I am terrible at them, but I might purchase one. Maybe I should just practice!
- 52D [NBC show in its 67th year] TODAY – If I watch any of these morning shows, it is this one. Not sure why. I’d rather watch Sportscenter over any of them!
- 56D [The E in the NYSE’s EL] ESTEE – This must be the stock symbol for Estee Lauder cosmetics. Pretty sneaky clue, Stan!