Saturday, December 29, 2018

LAT 8:43 (Derek) 


Newsday untimed (Derek) 


NYT 4:55 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 29 19, no 1229

If you’ve been solving obsessively for some time, you’ve likely reacted to puzzles based on the byline alone—some names evoke a groan of disappointment, while others make you perk up with anticipation. Robyn Weintraub’s themelesses are puzzles I’m glad to see. Another constructor who’d enjoyed this puzzle posted his praise to Robyn’s Facebook page before I’d done the puzzle, and I commented that my eyes lit up when I saw her byline. Imagine my surprise to find LIT UP in this grid!

I liked the puzzle didn’t love it. My standards for Robyn’s work have shot up, so I wonder if this puzzle was actually one of her earlier themeless submissions. There are so many nice longer entries, but I found myself deducting points for AMAIN ELIA ALEE SRO ABIE—in a Saturday puzzle with a dozen zippy longer answers. Those bits aren’t great, but they’re all legit, so …

Faves: GARBAGE BAG, “IT’S A LIVING,” PLUMMET, POPPYCOCK, academic TRIMESTER (Carleton College has trimesters and its own system of credits, leaving me unable to comprehend every other college’s scheme of credit hours and semesters), DOUBLE-WIDE trailers, JUNIOR PROM, “GIVE ME A HAND,” PETERS OUT, RUBY SLIPPERS, and TIME MACHINE.

Four more things:

  • 10a. [4.93 milliliters: Abbr.], TSP. Not your usual cluing angle for a teaspoon measure.
  • 22a. [Rejection of a monotheist], GODS. Also the rejection of an atheist.
  • 28a. [African tree with hanging fruit], BAOBAB. Have loved that word since I was a kid.
  • 43a. [Ranch alternative], CAPE. I don’t get this. Is it about house styles, with CAPE somehow being shorthand for a Cape Cod house?

Four stars from me. Good night!

Harold Jones’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Later!” — Jim P’s review

Theme: R’s in particular phrases are moved to a later point in their words.

WSJ – Sat, 12.29.18 – “Later!” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Cookie cooks?DISC BAKERS. Disc brakes. +3
  • 25a [Bits of hay and straw?BARN FLAKES. Bran flakes. +1
  • 40a [Downright daft digit?LUNATIC FINGER. Lunatic fringe. +4
  • 61a [Bleu blazes?CHEESE FIRES. Cheese fries. +1
  • 72a [Art class subject likely to fall off the platform?UNWARY MODEL. Runway model. +4
  • 90a [Cardiff crab’s grabber?PINCER OF WALES. Prince of Wales. +4
  • 105a [Weighing device in a brewery?LAGER SCALE. Large-scale. +2
  • 111a [Group checking prerelease scuba equipment for problems?TEST DIVERS. Test drives. +3

Not bad wordplay. There’s no consistency in how far the R’s are moved, but I didn’t find that to be a problem. I like LUNATIC FINGER even though the clue doesn’t make much sense. Reminds me of alien hand syndrome. My son doesn’t have that disorder, but when he was little and he would get excited (usually playing a video game), his hands would seem to shake of their own will and his arms would go up in the air. It got to a point that he didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nice long fill in FAR FAR AWAY, ECCENTRICS, SODA CAN, TOP GEAR, COW BELLS, SUN DECK, UP ANCHOR, DEAD SET, SIDE BET, INNARDS, NOGGIN, and IGUANA. I’m less excited about weird plurals REALS [Numbers with no imaginary part] and CUBAS [Two of the Gooding family] and partial HAD A [Merle Haggard’s “I ___ Beautiful Time”].  But that’s about all that I scowled at.

Clues of note:

  • 57d [Talks nonsense] JIVES. This feels culturally insensitive, or at least embarrassingly dated.
  • 77d [Migraine sensations] AURAE and 100d [Prospect] VISTA are both beyond my ken. Anyone?
  • 6a [C.S. Lewis’s Mr. Tumnus, e.g.]. FAUN. Mr. Tumnus was the first creature Lucy met when she stepped through the wardrobe.
  • 43a [“Hell is other people” writer]. SARTRE. It’s possible to find this quote on a TEE, if you’re so inclined, which I sometimes am.
  • Animals don’t make out too well in this grid: [Lobster pick target] clues CLAW, [Some unlucky bears] clues RUGS, [Fixes] clues NEUTERS, and [Prepare for the fair] clues FATTEN.

Solid Saturday outing with decent wordplay and fill. 3.5 stars.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/29/2018

A bit tough? Am I tired and sleepy? I don’t want to seem overly confident, but after solving these Saturday LAT puzzles for several years now, and puzzles in general for 40+ years, I know when it takes longer than normal. That number varies for everyone, but for me, nearly 9 minutes on one of these is on the longer side. So either it was tougher or I was sleepy. This puzzle has four 15-letter entries crossed by two 11s, so in addition to probably being on the tougher side, it is quite a feat of construction. It is also suggestive as to what makes bad fill, and in a tougher puzzle the bar is a little different, but on either count I found virtually nothing icky. This was a fun puzzle! 4.6 stars.

Some highlights:

    • 16A [Jennifer of “Pride and Prejudice” (1995)] EHLE – I don’t recall this actress, mainly because I have not seen the movie cited. According to imdb, she was in Zero Dark Thirty, as well as the Fifty Shades movies. Again, none of which I have seen. She is almost exactly as old as I am!
    • 17A [LIne erasers?] PLASTIC SURGEONS – Most of the 15s will likely get mentioned in this list, but this one is the one that garnered the best “a-ha!” moment. Arguably the best clue in the puzzle.
    • 44A [Actress Aimée] ANOUK  – I always forget that Anouk is her first name! She is also still alive in her mid 80s.
    • 56A [Echoic phrase from a WWI marching song] SMILE SMILE SMILE – “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag” is the song referenced here. Yeah, I had to look it up. A little before my time!

  • 13D [Autos advertised on “You Bet Your Life”] DE SOTOS – Also before my time!
  • 18D [It’s a dirty look] THE STINK EYE – I think this is the best entry in the grid by far. I don’t think I am alone in saying I have been given this look many times!
  • 28D [Site of an 11-down yogurt plant, the world’s largest] IDAHO – 11D is CHOBANI, and evidently they make this in the northwest of this country! Who knew?
  • 36D [Hybrid jumping sport with a landing target] PARASKI – Nope. Not interested in doing this!
  • 42D [Sang for an audience of one, sometimes] CAROLED – This seems like a waste of good singing! Slightly beaten out by singing in the shower or your car!
  • 43D [Gridiron numbers] ELEVENS – For as much football as I watch, how did this confuse me? “There are no “11”s on the field … oh wait!”

That is all! There is football on today!

Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/29/2018

Not bad. No accurate time since this one was stopped and started several times. I just now got reacquainted with Xword for solving as an alternative to Across Lite. I flopped back and forth between computers on this one, and my timers were all over the place. The total time was in the 12-13 minute range, which is a phenomenal Stumper time for me, especially if my guess is correct! This is Brad Wilber and Matthew Sewell’s pseudonym, so this time on a puzzle by these two makes me feel even better. I could be rounding into ACPT form! Booking for that will start soon for me! A solid 4.5 stars this week.

A few high points for me:

  • 1A [Felonious pier group] WHARF RATS – This clue uses a homophone to confuse you. Great 1-Across entry, too.
  • 15A [Lecture circuit income] HONORARIA – One of the best ways to make a living, in my opinion. No one wants to hear what I have to say, so I must continue to work!
  • 18A [They have fire-resistant spiny leaves] ALOES – This plural isn’t normally seen, which may be why I put CACTI in here at first! Aloe vera helps with burns, so that should have given me a clue.
  • 43A [1980s auto from Serbia] YUGO – My brother actually had one of these! It was an AWFUL car! It took all afternoon to find reverse gear! (It was a manual shift!)
  • 45A [Wine-cooler category] ALCOPOP – I don’t know this word. But I drink this stuff all the time! Think Smirnoff Ice or something similar.
  • 61A [“I can relate”] “BEEN THERE” – Who hasn’t said this! Great entry. Alternate clue: [“__ , done that!”]
  • 4D [Certain sweet-talkers] ROMEOS – This one fooled me, even after I had everything but the R!
  • 5D [Timberlake wore them as a teen] FROSTED TIPS – Wow. This was tough, but it does evoke a mental image. Like this one:
  • 13D [Start of many a mechanical invention] ERECTOR SET – Maybe I should go buy one like I had when I was a kid and invent something!
  • 21D [Record company VIP] ARRANGER – Some arrangers are so kid they can make marginal talent sound good!
  • 28D [Something Darwin studied in South America] LOCAL FLORA – I recently learned that Darwin ate a lot of the animals he studied. Including a puma! Wow.
  • 46D [City not far from Pikes Peak] PUEBLO – Nice! This city is famous for some company, but I don’t remember which one.
  • 60D [“Last Week Tonight” airer] HBO – If you have never seen this show, find it on YouTube. He is hilarious and has won multiple Emmys for his work. Extremely creative and yet highly informative show.

Enjoy your weekend!

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25 Responses to Saturday, December 29, 2018

  1. Dook says:

    I liked the NYT. Felt more like a Friday though. A “cape” is a fine alternative to a ranch. I still don’t quite get MOM.

    • Matthew G. says:

      CAPE was the entry I paused on the longest. I eventually concluded you could shorten “Cape Cod” to just “Cape,” but I’ve never heard anyone do that. Of course, I’ve never been to Cape Cod, either.

      Loved the puzzle. Five stars.

      • Ch says:

        As a longtime CT resident, I can assure everyone that at least in the NE or in real estate circles, a Cape Cod house is usually shortened to just cape, and is a fine alternative to a ranch.

    • Evad says:

      We were just watching Million Dollar Listing in LA the other night and someone had built a new CAPE among Spanish style homes–it wouldn’t sell since it was so out of place there. The house was referred to as a cape in the show.

      I was thinking of a toddler yelling “MOM” if he/she spilt some milk, being upset.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Hey, Dook: You realize that “A ‘cape’ is a fine alternative to a ranch” is one of those vocabulary quiz answers that the teacher’s not going to give credit for.

      • Deborah Gershen says:

        Sorry, Amy, but if you go to school on Long Island in New York the teacher would likely give you credit for cape. Just checked the home section in Friday’s Newsday and sure enough I found a picture of a house for sale and the style listed was Cape. I don’t think anyone here ever calls these homes Cape Cods.

        • Phil Wilcox says:

          Totally agree Deborah. No one on Long Island refers to this type of house (and we have quite a few of them) as a “Cape Cod.”

  2. Lise says:

    I thought the LAT was tougher than usual. I should probably have used a pencil, rather than green ink. For PLANTERS, I first had PLUMBERS, followed by PLUNGERS; there’s a lot of ink in that area now. :)

    I am with Derek on the subject of PARASKIing (“Nope. Not interested in doing this!”). This morning, my running buddy and I were trying to come up with a humorous term for the opposite of a bucket list. Any ideas?

    One thing that neither of us wants to do, for example, is drink a shot of liquor in which a scorpion is lurking in the bottom of the glass. Seriously, that’s a thing.

    Anyway. I’m enjoying today’s puzzles. I am currently awash in puzzles – a happy thing.

  3. Twangster says:

    Really thought “Record company VIP” was going to be AANDRMAN.

  4. Gale Davis says:

    WSJ – Aurae is plural of Aura. If you’ve ever experienced a Migraine, you would know that a side effect of the pain is a weird “wavy aura” that usually appears off to one side. Vista has me confused as well. Anyone?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t know about the wavy aura, but I’ve had the scintillating scotoma a couple times. A broken ring of sparkling, jagged rainbow colors.

      • PJ Ward says:

        I get wavy aura, light sensitivity, and occasionally, “electric” floaters (which may be a type of scintillating, I don’t know). I also get aphasia. That gets frustrating when I have to teach through a headache.
        I have had migraines all my life. My mother would recall me crying for no apparent reason as a baby. I know regard on as an entity and will speak to it when I feel one coming on or when I awaken during the night.

    • WhiskyBill says:

      A “prospect” is a scenic vista. I think “Prospect Point” is a reasonably generic thing to be found in a number of locales in the US?

      That’s all I got!

  5. Gale Davis says:

    IMHO, Jives is culturally rich.

  6. ranman says:

    Guessing prospect as a noun “good prospects for the future” and maybe vista also looking forward. Felt a bit awkward but at least in the vicinity IMO….

    • Alan Wachtel says:

      Prospect: “6. a view, especially of scenery; scene”; “7. outlook or view over a region or in a particular direction” (

      “Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile” (often quoted as “where”) is the best-known line from the 1819 hymn “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” by Reginald Heber, referring to the island now known as Sri Lanka.

      On an unrelated personal note, my grandmother’s second cousin was married to WSJ 79A Violinist Mischa ELMAN. That’s always a gimme for me.

  7. Burak says:

    In retrospect, there are some unpleasant words in the NYT, yes. But the cluing and their position makes all the difference.

    I’m yet to solve a Weintraub themeless that I won’t go gaga over. They are always fun, and they are living proof that you can write funny and smart clues without being a pompous prick.

  8. JohnH says:

    In the NYT, I didn’t understand CAPE either. But all told did seem easy for a Saturday.

  9. Ed says:

    For me Friday was very tough, Saturday relatively easy. I think they should have been switched.

Comments are closed.