John Lampkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Best Teacher”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Phrases generally equated with a newbie are associated with a specific career field based on the redefinition of a keyword.
- 17a [Inexperienced auctioneer?] NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
- 39a [Inexperienced genealogist?] YOUNG BLOOD
- 48a [Inexperienced emoticon designer?] FRESH FACE
- 66a [Inexperienced deodorant developer?] RANK AMATEUR
- 83a [Inexperienced trumpet player?] GREEN HORN
- 91a [Inexperienced oyster bar shucker?] RAW RECRUIT
- 20d [Inexperienced placekicker?] TENDER FOOT
- 65a [Inexperienced gunsmith?] BABE IN ARMS
- And a revealerish 114a [Experienced spice purveyors? And, with experience, what the inexperienced can become] SEASONED VETERANS
Most of these worked well enough for me, but some felt a little off. For example, “face” defining an “emoticon designer” and “blood” defining a “genealogist” seem a little loose.
More than the theme, I think I enjoyed the fill like GENESIS, NO CIGAR, SEESAWS, “SO IT IS“, HOTTIE, PINKISH, “HOP TO IT“, WATERLOO, GREMLIN, and WATCHDOG.
I particularly enjoyed the cluing today, especially these clues OF NOTE:
- 1a [Clapton finished his Live Aid set with it]. LAYLA. Good bit of trivia there.
- 6a [Nontoxic insecticide?]. SWAT.
- 18a [Appropriate game?]. POACH.
- 42a [Reward for being close?]. NO CIGAR. Sure, it feels like a partial, but I found this humorous.
- 52a [They have their ups and downs]. SEESAWS.
- 62a [Letters to an opinionated neighbor]. MYOB.
- 69a [Insurance for an outdoor wedding]. TENT. I recently attended an outdoor wedding on Guam. It didn’t rain, but it had to have been at least 95 degrees and humid as all get out. How the wedding party didn’t wilt during the 1.5 hour service is beyond me.
- 123a [Looks for bunnies?] DUSTS.
- 67d [Key that does nothing alone]. ALT.
- 100d [Super dupers?]. LIARS. Took me a long time to suss this one out.
Strong theme and stronger fill and cluing. 3.8 stars.
Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Yay, Erik! Look at that gorgeous staggered stack of five 11s in the middle, with 1000% solid crossings, plus assorted juicy fill scattered throughout the rest of the grid. NARCOLEPTIC with a factual, non-judgy clue. Catalan legend PABLO CASALS. Well, DECLARATORY isn’t too fun. But singer DARLENE LOVE, featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, and “DONE AND DONE,” I love. Also nifty: DIDJA, WOOKIEE (I’m never quite positive that it’s IEE rather than IIE), POOP EMOJI, “I’M DOWN,” “AND HOW!”, TIMBERLANDS, PLATONIC, LATINX (I’ll bet you didn’t know that Filipinx is now a word, too—and if you don’t know LATINX, it’s a gender-neutral replacement for Latino/Latina/Latin@, pronounced “la-teen-ex”) and poet Anne SEXTON.
Seven more things:
- 10a. [Activity that might elicit stares, for short], PDA. Public display of affection. No making out in the public way, please. But do go ahead and hold hands with your sweetie, no matter the genders involved.
- 21a. [Construction piece that describes what happens when you compliment me?], I-BEAM. This is an adorable clue. (Looking a tad askance at this clue alongside I’M DOWN, I PASS, and I’M ON. Also, when will Illinois’s I-Pass make it into a crossword? It’s compatible with the E-ZPass.)
- 35a. [“___ Mañanitas” (traditional Mexican birthday song)], LAS. Well! I did not know that—despite my favorite place for margaritas being called Las Mañanitas.
- 45a. [Pixy ___], STIX. What a terrible excuse for candy, and yet I loved it as a kid and was happy to get a Pixy Stix at the Pride Parade last Sunday. (I gave it to my kid and his gf.)
- 8d. [With 4-Down, someone who might repossess your car when you go bankrupt?], PAT / SAJAK. Ha! Great mislead in the clue.
- 20d. [English breakfast, for example], TEA BLEND. Feels like an unfamiliar phrase/crossword entry, and yet it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
- 23d. [“Ninotchka” actress, 1939], INA CLAIRE. We had actress-of-yore EVA Le Gallienne the other day, and over the years we’ve seen crosswordese INA with her last name tucked in the clue. I was so glad to have looked up Le Gallienne, so let’s see what I can learn about Claire now … eh, a less dramatic life than Le Gallienne, but still a bit interesting.
4.5 stars from me. Good night, folks!
Jeff Eddings’s Universal Crossword, “In Suspense”—Judge Vic’s write-up
THEME: The word ROPE spans three known phrases and is featured in a reveal:
- 17a [Golf tournament for the 50+] SENIOR OPEN
- 26a [Extremely spicy chilis] HABANERO PEPPERS
- 46a [Source of a puddle jumper’s thrust] TURBO-PROP ENGINE
- 62a [Certain cavern crosser, or what crosses a word break in 17-, 26- or 46-Across] ROPE BRIDGE
The puzzle also features:
- 20a [Levy system] TAX PLAN
- 21a [IRA, perhaps] NEST EGG
- 36a [Got muddy] DIRTIED
- 40a [Topped with a scoop] A LA MODE
- 53a [Pressurized spray type] AEROSOL
- 57a [Kauai cocktails] MAI TAIS
- 4d [Go unnoticed] SLIP PAST–a first-time crossword entry, per Ginsberg; kudos!
- 9d [Signed agreement] DONE DEAL
- 10d [“You’re making me blush!”] OH STOP
- 38d [On cloud nine] EUPHORIC
- 47d [Campy fare] B MOVIE
Nice going! 4 stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Fun! Not a chance of trying Downs Only on this one, and I am glad I didn’t. This one took me over 7 minutes, which I think for me means it is a tad on the tough side for a Saturday LAT challenge puzzle. I like Jeffrey’s puzzles a lot, and this one is right up with there with the best of his themeless editions that I have seen. 4.6 stars for a smooth 70-worder.
- 25A [2002 Soderbergh film based on a 1961 sci-fi novel] SOLARIS – Never saw it. Perhaps I will rent it!
- 27A [“Stone walls do not a prison make” poet] LOVELACE – This would be Richard Lovelace, not Ada Lovelace!
- 46A [Like pens designed for detailed work] FINE NIB – I prefer medium nibs on my fountain pens, but I do own a couple of fine nibs. The wider ones are usually smoother.
- 57A [Dismissed lightly] POOH-POOHED – This is the best entry in the grid. I have no idea if this is hyphenated or not!
- 2D [“Just tell me already!”] “OK,I GIVE UP!” – As always, I love casual phrases, and this is a great example of one.
- 10D [Niels Bohr, to Victor Borge] COMPATRIOT – I think both of these people are Danish.
- 13D [Prominent Lincoln Memorial features] STEPS – Wasn’t there something that happened on the Lincoln Memorial on the 4th … ?
- 26D [“And another thing, buddy … “] “LOOK, YOU …” – ANOTHER great casual phrase, albeit a partial one.
- 28D [Typical Bond foe] EVIL GENIUS – When you hear this phrase, is the first thing you see Dr. Evil too? I know I am not alone!
- 44D [Repetitive British farewell] PIP PIP – Hooray!
The next LAT puzzle I review is on Tuesday. Until then!
Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Always a joy to see Erik’s byline, as you know you are in for a fun puzzle. I have also seen Wyna’s byline a few times, and this looks like a collaboration that will produce great puzzles! I have worked with Erik personally, and he is wise beyond his years. This gem of a puzzle is only 66 words, and has virtually nothing difficult, except for the two squares that I messed up, which you can see in the image where the cursor is! I will discuss those trouble entries below, but all-in-all I found this to be tremendous. You two can make all the Stumpers! 4.7 stars from me.
Some high points:
- 7A [Where to pick up rolls] SUSHI BAR – Best clue in the puzzle. And there are a lot of good clues here.
- 23A [Calls for relief?] TELETHON – Ah, I remember watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon every Labor Day weekend when I was younger. I haven’t seen to many telethons since, other than the public television fundraiser every now and then. I suppose I will see more when Netflix has a telethon!
- 50A [Small plug-in adapters] DONGLES – I have a Macbook with more ports than the newer ones, so I am not in dongle confusion like some are, but I have my fair share of peripherals anyway!
- 53A [Adds competitions, as for product promotion] GAMIFIES – Is this a word??
- 3D [Shout after a too-bookish discourse] NERD ALERT! – I say this all the time during the Jeopardy! interview portion, but it is said with love since I also am a huge nerd!
- 7D [Common tourist-trap purchases] SOUVENIR GLASSES – I pictured sunglasses when I first solved this, but this is actually referring to something like the shot glasses you can buy literally everywhere when on vacation.
- 11D [Response to inapt advice] “I’M NOT YOU” – I thought this was a great entry, both in originality and as a casual phrase, which I love to see.
- 30D [Match box of pro sports] STEEL CAGE – This could have been clued with a negative connotation, especially with what is going on in the news recently. Gladly, it just references a violent sport. (Maybe not so “gladly?”)
- 47D [Ingredients in a winter salad] POMES – This is a type of fruit, right? What is a winter salad??
- 53D [Cohort, for short] GEN – I don’t think I understand this one. Help!
I could literally go on and on. I only scratched the surface of this puzzle! Have a great weekend!