Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Terminus”—Jenni’s review
This is a fun theme! The title can be parsed as “ter minus” and indeed each theme answer is minus a “ter” at the end.
- 22a [Hard-to-describe suffering?] is ABSTRACT PAIN (painter).
- 24a [Elite parachutist?] is JUMP STAR (starter).
- 37a [Jeers for Houston hoopsters?] are ROCKET BOOS (booster).
- 45a [Area man?] is a LOCAL CHAP (chapter).
- 68a [“No gifts, please,” e.g.?] is a FRIENDLY BAN (banter).
- 90a [Transport for Denver footballers?] is a BRONCO BUS (buster). This may be my favorite.
- 97a [Revealing skirts for Amazon shoppers?] are PRIME MINIS (ministers). This one is pretty funny, too.
- 115a [Welcome site at a law firm?] is a LEGAL MAT (matter).
- 118a [Vehicle that can withstand any tropical storm?] is a HURRICANE CAR (carter). Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a boxer who was convicted of murder and spent almost 20 years in prison. His conviction was overturned twice.
I like this theme. It was fun to solve, though not difficult, and all the base phrases are solidly in the language. This is no surprise; I’m a big fan of Zhouqin’s work.
A few other things:
- 5d [They may be hard to get off your chest] are TATTOOS.
- 34d [Numbers on Black Friday] have nothing to do with sales, except that they’re played in the stores. It’s NOELS. As far as I’m concerned, Christmas music should only be played between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’d be willing to stretch it to New Year’s, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
- 51d [Stout’s stout sleuth] is Nero WOLFE. I read all the Nero Wolfe mysteries when I was a kid and loved them. I tried to go back to them a few years ago and could not deal with the misogyny. See also: John D McDonald’s Travis McGee books and most of Kurt Vonnegut, both of which were teenage favorites of mine.
- 62d [Yuval Noah Harari bestseller subtitled “A Brief History of Humankind”] is SAPIENS. I am currently listening to the audiobook and I highly recommend it, whether you read it or listen to it. It’s well-written, engaging, and incredibly informative.
- 110a [1970 hit for the Kinks] is LOLA. I’ve been catching up on Fosse/Verdon while I’m laid up, so it’s not the Kinks song that’s in my head but the number from “Damn Yankees.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sophia LOREN won an Oscar for “Two Women.” And now “Cabaret” is in my head….
Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I confess I didn’t really enjoy this crossword. I always hope to relish the Saturday puzzle, but sometimes it doesn’t pan out. I struggled to fill in the southwest quadrant, but there were things that bugged me throughout the grid. Long entries I wasn’t wild about include SOMETIMES Y, HAS A BALL (that present tense feels weird), “I SAY NO” (feels a bit contrived), STATS GEEK (is that a thing?), lifeless POLO MALLET, and dated EMERIL LIVE (the show ended in 2010, who cares about it now?). Shorter fill that irked: tiresome ADMEN, STET, ALFA, HIRES clued as HI-RES (Where are my Google Ngram experts? I’d love to see the numbers for hi-res vs high-res), AGENAS (!), and “I DIG” (which nobody says).
In the plus column, we have PET NAMES (though I’m not wild about the clue, [Handles with care?]), TIP O’NEILL, “OVER AND OUT” (which was just in Stella Zawistowski’s Inkubator themeless a day ago), WHILES AWAY, PRILOSEC, and the delightful MAMA BEARS.
Did not know: 37d. [Sci-fi author Simmons with the 1989 Hugo-winning novel “Hyperion”], DAN. Also didn’t know 24d. [Operatic song-speech], RECITATIVE.
Five more things:
- 10a. [Prime spot for a tat], PEC. That … doesn’t seem true. I put in ARM first. If you do a Google image search for chest tattoo, there are some on a single pec, but it’s really not any kind of “oh, yeah, everyone gets a pec tattoo” thing.
- 32a. [What 100-proof alcohol has], KICK. There are beers that are 5% alcohol by volume and they also have a kick. Wine, 12%, also a kick. This clue is weird. 80-proof tequila that’s 40% alcohol, also kick.
- 36a. [Paris is found in it], ILIAD. Paris the dude, not the city. Tricky clue.
- 1d. [Stack at a music store], CDS. This clue is for middle-aged solvers who have had the experience of flipping through CDs at Best Buy or a record store. Best Buy stopped selling CDs in stores a year ago, and I bet bricks-and-mortar music stores focus more on vinyl than CDs these days.
- 12d. [Practices cleromancy], CASTS LOTS. One of those rare things where filling in the answer from the crossings doesn’t tell you what the clue means. What is cleromancy? What is casting lots? I knew neither of these things before tonight, and I still don’t know them.
2.9 stars from me.
Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t even try the Downs Only on this week’s LAT Saturday; perhaps I should have, since I flew through this one! I found this one a lot of fun, but I think that is usually the case with a Julian Lim puzzle. I have seen his byline quite a few times, and his puzzles always seem to be interesting. A few of these entries made me smile or even chuckle out loud for a moment, so that feeling is always nice. A solid 4.6 stars from me.
Some of those funny spots, and other things:
- 15A [Afford a view of] OPEN OUT TO – This is an odd partial, but it is a phrase that is used, especially in describing real estate features. Needless to say this has never appeared in a NYT puzzle.
- 29A [LeRoy Foster, for one] MURALIST – I believe you.
- 31A [Robin’s rhyming call?] HOLY GUACAMOLE! – Yes, this brought back memories of the campy TV show from the’ 60s that I used to watch all the time!
- 36A [China quality] FINENESS – Yes, THAT China. Great misdirection. And no one says “fineness” in Indiana, but it is an actual word!
- 45A [Radcliffe grads] ALUMNAE – At the school I went to until 8th grade, they still have an Alumni Day, which is also a plural of alumnus, but not quite as fancy, I suppose.
- 4D [Upshot] END RESULT – This seems off; the “end result” of something is not necessarily positive, as this clue suggests.
- 5D [Seasoning for lamb] ROSEMARY – This clue is making me hungry …
- 13D [What “never runs smooth,” in a 1963 Gene Pitney hit] TRUE LOVE – I don’t know this song, but this phrase makes me think of The Princess Bride movie and the marriage scene!
- 31D [Hair-of-the-dog target] HANGOVER – The host on ESPN Radio this morning was talking about his hangover after celebrating with the Vanderbilt baseball team late in Omaha at the College World Series. They play the Wolverines in the Championship series starting Monday night. Which is probably why they could party on Friday night!
- 33D [Filo pastry dessert] BAKLAVA – This is also making me hungry …
I’ll be back for another LAT puzzle on Tuesday.
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Consider me truly Stumped on this one. I found this quite difficult. A lot of solving these difficult puzzles, at least for me, is getting into a quiet zone where I can actually think, and that wasn’t really the case here, but I don’t think it would have mattered for this one. Here is hoping next week is a LOT easier! But Matthew, whom I would LOVE to meet, makes great puzzles, and this one is no exception. Lots of toughies in this one, but if you’re a Stumper solver, then you anxiously await the agony this one will provide. You can see all of the error marks in my screenshot. Ouch. 4.5 stars, though!
- 26A [Romcom first encounter] MEET-CUTE – I thought for sure this ended in -DATE, but I have seen this word before. I am not a big romcom fan, although I have certainly seen enough of them.
- 39A [Crayfish and prawns] DECAPODS – Totally new word to me. Had to look up what it meant!
- 44A [Uncoordinated treatment] PAWING – This is vague, but I suppose it works. Maybe a tad too vague?
- 57A & 30D [Confederate] MELD & BAND – I don’t think I knew this word meant EITHER of these meanings!
- 3D [”Jeopardy!” champ, perforce] INFOMANIAC – I tried to get a phrase starting with TRIVIA, like TRIVIA BUFF, but obviously that didn’t work at all.
- 6D [One may use it with reservations] YELP – Best clue in the bunch. I still cannot believe how apps have changed our society. Yelp reviews can make or break a restaurant these days, much more than Zagat ratings ever seemed to. Or is it just me?
- 9D [Columnist’s constraint] NUM LOCK – Someone please explain this clue to me. How does this computer key “restrain” a column??
- 28D [Encouragement for a homer hitter] TOUCH ‘EM ALL – Great entry here. A common home run call in baseball, although I haven’t watched an entire baseball game yet this year.
- 37D [They’re often examined on ”Antiques Roadshow”] PATINAS – I am still looking for something expensive lurking in my attic. It hasn’t happened yet.
- 46D [Drag through the mud, maybe] WADE – I also barely get this one. “Drag” as in “walk slowly” through some mud? If you’re wading, it may or may not be muddy beneath you, hence the “maybe” in the clue, I guess. This one made no sense to me.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Crossword, “Unforeseen Challenges”—Jim Q’s write-up
The competitive side of you might like this one today.
THEME: Common phrases reimagined as if they’re competitions
- 17A [Competition between defensive backs?] SAFETY MATCH.
- 30A [Competition between earthlings?] HUMAN RACE.
- 49A [Competition between naysayers?] NO CONTEST.
- 65A [Competition between servers?] WAITING GAME.
Four solid entries in a tight theme. Can’t ask for more than that! Except, of course, you can… by asking for fun fill. Zhouqin’s grid succeeds big time there too (did you expect anything less?).
RATS NEST, DANA CARVEY (nice throw-backy entry without feeling dated), BAHAMA MAMA, NITWIT, ESCARGOT. Not much SHIITE in this grid at all.
Enjoy your Saturday- speaking of competitions, I have to drive my nephew to his all-star little league baseball game.