Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I got under 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, so … let me phone it in tonight, and just remark on some stuff in the puzzle:
- 15a. [Classic TV character whose name is Spanish for “fool”], TONTO. Supposedly the character’s name derives from some nonspecific Native American word, but I’m a tad skeptical of that.
- 34a. [Give a little bit], BUDGE AN INCH. I believe “give an inch” is markedly more common.
- 29a. [1980s feminist coinage regarding nuclear proliferation], MISSILE ENVY. No recollection of this!
- 20a. [Impression that’s only skin-deep?], BITE MARK. I don’t understand. Is this about violent bites, or biting into an apple? Because neither circumstance is “only skin-deep” by definition.
- 25a. [French author Georges], PEREC. This is the dude who wrote novels that use only the vowel E, or with every letter except E, and he embraced puns. What I’m saying is, he’s one of us.
- 46a. [Winning an Oscar, Emmy and Tony, for an actor], TRIFECTA. The term I was looking for here was Triple Crown of Acting.
- Did not know: 38d. [___ Ray, co-host of TV’s “Extra”], TANIKA. Mental note stored.
- 4d. [Putting duct tape on a wart, e.g.], HOME REMEDY. What home remedy do you swear by?
30 of the 66 entries are either 3 or 4 letters long, so if the grid felt a little bit “meh” to you, that could be why.
3.6 stars from me. Good night!
Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Transitive Verbs”—Jim P’s review
Wyna Liu makes her WSJ debut with this puzzle. Congrats!
She and Crossword Fiend’s Erik Agard are serving up a tricky one here. This one took some thinking, and I definitely needed the revealer to make sense of what was going on.
119a is TENSE EXCHANGE which is normally a phrase used to describe heated words between parties. But here it’s clued [Back-and-forth involving seven pairs of words in this puzzle’s starred answers]. Each starred answer is a two-word phrase that, at first glance, feels somewhat familiar but somewhat off. But with the help of the revealer, we realize each word in each theme answer was a verb that had its tense changed.
To understand better what’s going on, let’s look at one example: DRILLED BITE. The base phrase is clearly “drill bit,” but how do we get to DRILLED BITE? In the original phrase, “drill” is an adjective and “bit” is a noun. But both “drill” and “bit” are also verbs, one in the present tense and one in the past tense. Our constructors exchanged the tenses of these two words and then put them back together to create something new. Each phrase is like this with one past and one present tense verb.
- 23a [*Lamp covered in lipstick stains?] FRENCHED LIGHT. French Lit.
- 36a [*Vacation that’s just for show?] STAGED LEAVE. Stage left.
- 71a [*Hors d’oeuvre that’s been carefully instructed?] DRILLED BITE. Drill bit.
- 107a [*Budding houseplant?] POTTED SHOOT. Pot shot.
- 32d [*Convert from a drone to a piloted craft?] MAKE MANNED. Made man.
- 45d [*Diocese where the clergy get drunk?] BUZZED SEE. Buzzsaw.
- 53d [*Get the sensation of being given 20 percent?] FEEL TIPPED. Felt-tip.
I’m super impressed with this theme which seems both simple and complicated simultaneously. Mostly what wows me is that our constructors realized these phrases existed that have two words that could also be verbs, that one is present tense and one is past tense, that the tenses can be switched, and that they can still make a believable phrase in the end. Those are quite a few hoops to have to jump through, and yet, they did it and it all works. Wow!
And the fill is nice and shiny, too. Some of the long entries are easy to confuse for theme entries, but they’re so good it’s hard to resent them. I’m looking at DRAGON ROLL, FAT CONTENT, OPEN LETTER, and GREASE FIRE. Plus AMPERES, MOROCCO, ICE TRAY, ART SALE, CAL-TECH, HUSH UP, and on and on. And opening up the grid with PHABLET at 1a is just plain fun.
To be sure, there are some gluey bits, especially the crossings of ARNO/AMIR and ETRE/SETHE but they’re all manageable.
It’s been a long day, so I’m not going to go into the cluing, but overall it felt lively and fresh.
Overall, a densely-packed grid that makes you earn your well-deserved reward. 4.5 stars from me.
Neville Fogarty & Paolo Pasco’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
What a byline! Two puzzle stalwarts teaming up for a fun Saturday LAT challenger! Not too awfully hard (it’s no Stumper!), but still lots of cool entries. As always in a collab, especially in a themeless, I wonder who did what? This one took me just over 5 minutes, but I have had plenty of sleep recently! 4.4 stars.
- 9A [Mideast presidential name since 1971] ASSAD – Very neutral clue here; that name may evoke opinions in some. I have no issues with stuff like that: one a basic level, words are words and names are names.
- 14A [Dutch treat?] APPLE PIE – There is a Blueberry Festival near my home this weekend, so I may find some blueberry pie! Close enough!!
- 19A [Word preceding an opinion] CENTS – As in putting in your “two cents,” no doubt.
- 39A [Consort of Shiva] KALI – There was a gaming service called this about 25 years ago. I barely remember what it did. Anybody else remember this web service?
- 54A [Philosophical principle that rules out unlikely explanations] RAZOR – Like “Occam’s Razor,” which I recall but don’t know exactly what it is.
- 64A [Vacanza a dicembre] NATALE – I thought this was Spanish, but this is Christmas in Italian. Vacanza means holiday.
- 4D [1971 title detective] KLUTE – I thought for sure this was Kojak! Maybe 1971 is a little early for his show!
- 31D [Its flag has two green stars] SYRIA – Surprised a little this isn’t tied into 9A, but that might not be as politically neutral. Safely done.
- 39D [Hangul alphabet user] KOREAN – Do you know Korean has no spelling bees? Their alphabet makes sense and almost everything is spelled like it sounds. Unlike crazy English!
- 45D [“Woe Is I” author Patricia] O’CONNER – I’ll bet there aren’t many that spell this surname ER instead of OR!
My next LAT blog entry is Tuesday. See you then!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one was a little more “Ruff” than a normal Les Ruff puzzle, but still managed to solve in under 15 minutes, which is a win for me. This grid has 72 words, which would be on the upper end for a themeless, so you would expect not too much crossword-y dreck, and there doesn’t seem to be any here. Although in a Stumper, you would expect some. It’s supposed to be hard! I got the SE area first, at least most of it, circled around, and I believe my last entry was 44D. There is an error mark in the grid image, if you look closely! Still a nice puzzle, Stan! 4.3 stars today.
- 14A [Work with a troubadour hero] IL TROVATORE – Wonderful! I was totally Stumped here for a bit, since I am uncultured and don’t know opera. (This is an opera, right?)
- 17A [Vegan 40 Across] RATATOUILLE – 40A is STEW, but I wouldn’t call this a stew. Depends on how you make it, I guess. Now I want to watch the movie!
- 41A [”Chicago” guy from Chicago] FOSSE – Clever little clue here. I have never seen this movie or play or anything else!
- 43A [Piercing-sounding poet] NOYES – I read this as No-Yes!
- 61A [Start of many a satiric verse] ROSES ARE RED – One of the best entries, along with 14A. Definitely elicited a grin from me!
- 1D [’60s sci-fi intro speaker] KIRK – Nice tie-in here with 15D, which is VOYAGES and references that word used in the Star Trek intro!
- 3D [Man’s first name?] OTTO – This is a bad pun!
- 9D [Streep author role (2002)] ORLEAN – I had to look this up. This was from the movie Adaptation. with Nicolas Cage. Never saw it.
- 11D [Commercial artist, often] VOICE ACTOR – Many famous actors become this in commercials, including very famous voices like James Earl Jones, etc.
- 27D [”Distinctive sound” musical instruments] IDIOPHONES – So, … I learned a new word here!
- 29D [”Help power the real you” brand] NO-DOZ – I have never taken this stuff. I live on coffee!
- 44D [Got] SECURED – I had an R in the first part here, since I didn’t know 43A. Again, since I am uncultured, I don’t know poetry!
Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “Hidden Bookcase”—Jim Q’s review
Sure to please the bibliophiles!
THEME: Book titles that start common phrases
- 20A [Good grasps of business? (John Grisham)] FIRM HANDSHAKES.
- 25A [Anonymous love letter senders (Rhonda Byrne)] SECRET ADMIRERS.
- 42A [Flashes of glory (Stephen King)] SHINING MOMENTS.
- 48A [Netflix horror show (Albert Camus)] STRANGER THINGS.
- 63A [Article that can be added to 20-, 25-, 42- and 48-Across’ starts to form book titles] THE.
Quite possibly the most bizarre revealer I’ve ever seen… THE. Strangely, however, it’s necessary. I figured out the theme early and was wondering why the clues never mentioned that “The” was missing from the titles. And it was a laugh out loud chuckle filling it in as my last entry. So, weird- but sure!
All well known novels. All well known phrases. All plural. Very consistent and very much in my wheelhouse. A “right over the plate” puzzle.
A bummer that SNEE had to make an appearance in order to get THE in just the right spot. NOCK was another entry that feels dated. But at least the clue for 9-Down is still accurate as of today!
3 stars from me.