Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This 62-word pinwheel somehow found wiggle room for lots of lively fill. We’ve got the conversational “DROP DEAD!”, “I DECLARE!”, “IT’S A LIE!”, and “ALRIGHTY, THEN!“, plus the much lesser entry “AH, I SEE.” Oh, and the little “GOSH!” This is a particularly exclamatory puzzle.
Top fill in the non-conversational vein: pretty GLISSANDO, THE CONGA (wonder why THE CONGO/OH I SEE wasn’t chosen here), INBOX ZERO (why bother?), an old-school MG MIDGET (my uncle drove a green one in the mid-’70s), LOWBALLS, SPRITZED (slowed myself waaay down in the middle by trying ATOMIZED when the Z was in place), MCING, and GELCAPS.
Did not know these three things: 18d. [Drink with espresso and whipped cream], VIENNA COFFEE. Not a coffee person. Just give me the whipped cream and back away. 45a. [Some workers who stretch plastic materials], DRAWMEN. Ugh, unless you’re using a penis to stretch the plastic, there’s no reason to have MEN in the job name. A better choice: Exploring the Instagram hashtag #drawmen. 46a. [Freeze that extends out from a coastline], FAST ICE. Meaning it holds fast to the shoreline. And yes, apparently it’s a lake thing, too. This February 1 article from Duluth tells you the ramifications of more fast ice.
Five more things:
- 25a. [Major exporter of artichokes and gold], PERU. This golden artichoke is probably made in China, not Peru.
- 51a. [When to wear a cocktail dress, traditionally], AFTER SIX. There is even a brand of cocktail dresses called After Six! So if you were thinking AFTER SIX was a flimsy excuse for a crossword entry, sit down. It’s solid.
- 35d. [John who wrote the 1959 best seller “A Separate Peace”], KNOWLES. I’m assuming high school kids aren’t all still reading this for class. For solvers under age 50, Beyoncé Knowles and her sister Solange are likely more familiar than John.
- 32d. [Take the palm], WIN. This … is not a phrase I have ever seen before. Might be a British thing?
- 37d. [Vanity case?], EGO TRIP. Nice clue!
4.2 stars from me.
Joanne Sullivan and Erik Agard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On the Line” — Jim P’s review
Like Thursday’s “The Birds and the Bees,” this one is similarly unusual and clever.
I caught on pretty early when I spotted SHAD in SHADOWED and TUNA in FORTUNATE. Obviously the entries had fish in them. But that’s only half the story. I couldn’t find any fish in some of the entries no matter how hard I looked.
All gets revealed at 68a [Line to the indecisive, and what you’ll need to add in order to complete some lines in this puzzle] FISH OR CUT BAIT. First off, I love this fun phrase as a revealer. The theme entries either have an “uncut” fish or else an item that might be used as bait, except that it’s been sliced up within the entry? Got that? Check it out.
- 22a [Begins] STAR CHARTS which consists of STARTS (to answer the clue) and CHAR the fish. I think this was an unfortunate one to lead with because I don’t know that the CHAR is very well known. Also, with the duplicated AR in the entry, it meant the solver has to decide if the remaining letters were CHAR or ARCH which both happen to be words (or RCHA I suppose). Not a great beginning, but they get better.
- 24a [NBC journalist Natalie] MORAL CODES. MORALES + COD.
- 31a [Prolonged reprimand] FEARFULLY. I didn’t sort this one out until well after the solve, but we’re meant to find EARFUL + F/LY.
- 33a [Pod contents] PLEASURE. PEAS + L/URE.
- 49a [Strong suit] FORTUNATE. FORTE + TUNA.
- 52a [Swindles] CONSOLES. CONS + SOLE. This is another one with a duplication that allows for an ambiguity (i.e. OLES). Just a small inelegance, but it’s noticeable.
- 82a [Was in debt] SHADOWED. SHAD + OWED.
- 85a [Police chap, or police trap] COHOSTING. COHO + STING. Love the clue! (The first “Police” refers to the band fronted by STING.)
- 101a [“The Reader” Oscar winner Winslet] WORKMATE. WOR/M + KATE.
- 103a [Put ___ to (end)] GASTROPUB. G/R/UB + A STOP. Yes, the partial is inelegant, but I love the entry itself and the whole convoluted mess is just bonkers enough to elicit my admiration. What a crazy find!
- 113a [Appears onstage] CARPENTERS. CARP + ENTERS.
- 116a [“Fargo” Oscar winner McDormand] FREELANCES. FRANCES + EEL.
I found this theme challenging (trying to make sense of some of those baits was a good wordplay workout), but inventive and a whole lot of fun. Sometimes one wonders if we’ve seen all the themes that there are to see since so many puzzles are just variations on a…well…on a theme. But then you find grids like this one and Thursday’s and you see that creative people seem to be able to make a pleasurable coherent theme out of almost anything. What a treat for us as solvers!
Fill-wise, I’m loving “HERE, KITTY” with the clever clue [Stray line?]. Reminds me of my 1-year-old daughter trying to feed a rock to cat.
We found a kitty while taking a walk in the neighborhood.
Posted by Jim Peredo on Monday, January 25, 2010
I’m also liking the British CHIP SHOP, ecstatic “PRAISE GOD!”, frustrated “TYPICAL!”, and bored “AMUSE ME.” A lot of emotion in this grid!
Clues of note:
- 47a [Never Again movement opponent]. NRA. Yup, the Never Again movement wants to put an end to school shootings. And the NRA is opposed to that movement. I like that the puzzle reminds us of this fact.
- 54a [Home of the NCAA’s Banana Slugs]. UCSC. University of California at Santa Cruz. They go their own way in Santa Cruz.
- 110 [Engineer concerned with dilithium crystals]. SCOTTY. Ah canna dew it, keptan. Ah doon’t have the power!
- Did you notice the pairing of 22d SAFES [Fixtures behind paintings] with 23d HAUL [Burglar’s take]? Cute.
- 25d [Stranger things?]. CURIOS. More geekiness! Love it!
And that’s all for today. A clever and impressive theme, solid construction, and lots of fun fill. 4.25 stars from me.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This one played tough for me. I must still be in my post-vacation funk! With my new accounting career, I am not used to coming back to work and seeing what has piled up while you are gone; at UPS, someone does all of your work while you are gone! This 72-word grid allows for great fill in a themeless, but the prolific C.C. always has fun grids to fill in, so this is not a surprise. A solid 4.5 stars today.
A few highlights:
- 16A [Cruise woe] NAUSEA – Not an issue for me, although I did see several motion patches behind people’s ears on the cruise.
- 23A [What unGlue helps parents and kids manage] SCREEN TIME – This is also tracked on an iPhone app, which actually shows some scary numbers for me at times!
- 60A [Home of Tumnus, in fiction] NARNIA – I don’t think I have ever read these books.
- 62A [Angry overstatement, usually] I HATE YOU! – C.C. is great with casual phrases …
- 7D [Found inner strength] DUG DEEP – … like this one. There are debates on what phrases are used a lot in sports, and this is definitely one of them.
- 9D [The Wildcats of the America East Conf.] UNH – Isn’t it Southern NH that has the online college ads that I keep seeing?
- 10D [Physics Nobelist Wolfgang __] PAULI – A welcome alternative to the beer reference!
- 12D [“Not now”] ASK ME LATER – Wasn’t I just mentioning casual phrases!
- 28D [Spar] TRADE BARBS – I feel like I am repeating myself!
- 61D [Icel. surrounder] ATL – The Atlanta Hawks have a uniform variation at times that actually have these letters on their jersey across the front.
Enjoy your weekend!
Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
A sub-15 minute time on a Longo Stumper! I’ll take that any day!! I don’t track these things that closely, but usually a Longo bylines means a Longo-ish time of well over twenty minutes. Somehow I found the LAT puzzle a lot harder than normal this week, while this one didn’t seem too thorny. I wonder how I can duplicate what must have been ideal solving conditions? Especially in two weeks for the ACPT! Hope to see you all there. 4.4 stars for this week’s Stumper.
A few high points, including the three 15s in the middle:
- 1A [Short-notice helipad user] MEDEVAC – I had no idea how to spell this correctly.
- 16A [”Where pines and maples grow” tune] O CANADA – Is this from verse 2?
- 32A [Professorial privilege] ACADEMIC FREEDOM – Not a common phrase, but gettable.
- 38A [Seat of a sort] POLITICAL OFFICE – Very nicely done.
- 39A [Subject of revolutionary theory] PLANETARY MOTION – Even nicer. Three great phrases in the middle. Frank is still a pro.
- 50A [Lanyard attachment, often] ID BADGE – They encouraged lanyard use on the cruise, but I didn’t get suckered into spending $7 on one. Maybe next cruise!
- 62A [Like open scissors] X-SHAPED – There was a great quote I heard a bit ago from the book The Empire and the Five Kings: American’s Abdication and the Fate of the World that said that “Trump and Zuckerberg … are the two blades of a pair of scissors that is cutting the fabric of truth to ribbons.”
- 8D [2012 distinction for the European Union] NOBEL – The UK leaves the European Union soon. Chaos soon to follow!
- 23D [Precollege alma mater of Mark Zuckerberg] EXETER – Speaking of Zuckerberg …
- 34D [300 __ Plaza, 78205 (famed fortress’ address)] ALAMO – I actually wrote APPLE in here at first!
- 36D [Big bat] FLYING FOX – This mental image is horrifying!
That is all for today!
Jim Holland’s Universal Crossword, “Vegas Construction”–Judge Vic’s write-up
What Jim Holland is up to here is creating the area for which Las Vegas is known. One letter at a time, as editorially explained in lieu of using circles or shaded blocks:
- 17a [*No.16 in a Grafton series (note the progression at the starred answers’ starts!)] P IS FOR PERIL–Got it? You have here, at the front of the entry, a free-standing P. Now, let’s build on it. Or from it.
- 24a [*Web locations] IP ADDRESSES–See what’s happening?
- 39a [*Wasted] RIP-ROARING DRUNK–Oh, my! It’s growing larger! Is that neon I see?!
- 48a [*Hotel review site] TRIP ADVISOR–Rip-roaring out of control, I’d say!
- 61a [*Coal extraction technique] STRIP MINING–OK, it’s done.
Was it worth the gamble? (Groan!) Pretty clever, I’d say. Not overly complicated.
Not much else to write home about, but that’s to be expected with an 11-11-15-11-11 theme that’s all horizontal. Nothing longer than seven letters outside the theme and only two of those.
AS FAR AS (23d) is a clunky ILSA, as is EARLAPS (29d), which I never hear or read other than in crosswords. The latter being a literally-self-explanatory synonym of earflaps, I’ve often wondered if earlaps might not have started as a typo of earflaps. It also occurs to me that earflaps must have gotten its start in the language as two words that just got pressed into service together to describe something that a seamster or seamstress came up with to, uh, keep one’s ears warm, or not, wearer’s option, don’t you think?
No real junky stuff elsewhere, though, so let’s celebrate that with a solid 3.5 stars.
P.S.–If I could type worth a flip, I’d have broken six minutes on this one. I’m blaming cold fingers.