Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
First up, my favorite clue: 28a LOVER’S LANE, misleadingly pitched as a [Sex drive?]. A lane is a drive, all right.
This 64-worder contains more 7-, 9-, and 10-letter entries than 3s and 4s. The quad-stacked 10s intersect quad-stacked 7s, not an easy grid to fill.
Among my favorite entries here, we have a tasty TACO TRUCK at 1a, ZAGAT/XANAX Scrabbly zone, an ART DEGREE, an AISLE SEAT (clued [C, as in coach?], though on the smaller planes I’ve flown to and from Rochester, Minnesota, seat A is an aisle seat—and a window seat at the same time), short-lived MR. T CEREAL, ORANGEADE (mainly because Canada Dry now sells “ginger ale and orangeade” and “ginger ale and lemonade,” and I was excited about the ADE and ALE clue possibilities this opens up), AT A DEAD END, the NEMEAN LION, EARWORM, and THE LEFT. I assume there have been cryptic clues that work the earworm/earthworm overlap, yes?
Less keen on the flatness of ONE-D (nobody spells that number out, come on), EOE, -ORAMA, and AGAR.
Five more things:
- Did not know: 39d. [Sword-bearing shoulder belt], BALDRIC. An old term you’re not going to encounter outside of … historical fiction? Museums? Auction houses? I’m more familiar with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research and motivates people to shave their heads bald on St. Patrick’s Day. (Also didn’t know 7d. [Darkest moon of Uranus, whose name is related to the Latin for “shadow”], UMBRIEL, but the “shadow” hint gave me the UMBR portion.)
- 1d. [Language whose alphabet went from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic], TATAR. If only I had read this clue before seeing someone with the last name Tatar today!
- 41a. [Royal flush in draw poker, say], PAT HAND. I had to look this up after the fact. A pat hand is a good hand in poker or blackjack that you stand pat on, meaning you don’t opt to draw one or two more cards because you can’t improve on what you’ve got.
- 15a. [Port city built on a crater of an ancient volcano], ADEN, YEMEN. You never know—this trivia might show up in a trivia quiz sometime. I didn’t know that there were any volcanoes in the Middle East, but there are! Not necessarily still active, but they’re there.
- 24a. [Very far from], NONE TOO. I’m none too sure that NONE TOO passes muster as a crossword entry. What say you?
4.5 stars from me.
Caitlin Reid’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Date Night”—Jim P’s review
This was fun from start to finish with a theme that delivered over and over again, interesting fill, and fresh cluing. I believe this is Caitlin Reid’s WSJ debut though she’s been busy getting published in plenty of other venues.
The premise is simple: DINNER AND A MOVIE (115a, [Common pairing for an evening out, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). Each theme answer is indeed a pairing of a meal and a film, before-and-after style.
- 23a [“You feel like Creole fare with some Patricia Arquette?”] “SHRIMP PO’BOYHOOD?”. This one was the last for me to get because I wasn’t too familiar with the film. But I do remember the poster image (see below).
- 36a [“Well, then maybe a frank with Al Pacino?”] “HOT DOG DAY AFTERNOON?” Hot dogs for dinner? Well, if you must.
- 54a [“Or seafood with some Daniel Craig?”] “CLAMS CASINO ROYALE?” This was the first one I revealed but it didn’t quite give me the theme since I’d never heard of clams casino which appears to have originated in New England.
- 81a [“Some runny yolks with a side of Peter Fonda then?”] “EGGS OVER EASY RIDER?” Eggs aren’t a common dinner dish in this country, but some cuisines feature eggs at any time of day (Korean comes to mind). If you want an excuse to eat eggs for dinner, here are 30 Delicious Ways.
- 96a [“All right, how about poultry with a huge hairy ape?”] “CHICKEN ALA KING KONG?” This one is definitely the best entry because it still makes grammatical sense. Though I imagine King Kong prefers to eat chicken raw and unplucked.
Let me also mention that I love how the clues are written conversationally, thereby making the answers the elements of said conversation, as if they were options listed by some foodie/film buff. And I can equally imagine the date either eating up these options or maybe more probably rolling their eyes at the sheer nerdiness of the exercise. But I, as a fan of words, food, and movies, found this to be fun and imaginative.
And the fun extends to the fill with TOE LOOP, TED TALK, ARTISAN, NEUTRON, BAY LEAF, HERMITS, SCOTTIE, KAISER, SKEWERS, FOREARM, PELICAN, GALORE, SNIVEL, GO BIG, NO HELP. You know, there’s nothing so sparkly there, but almost all the mid-length fill is solid-to-good stuff. The one thing I didn’t know was DHAKA [Capital of Bangladesh], but I’m happy to learn it.
And the cluing felt right on target to me. Some of it was crunchy in a good way, making me think about it, then giving me the satisfying a-ha. Take for example [Flies, e.g.]. Seems like it’s going to be BUGS, right? Nope. It’s BAIT. Nice. MODE for [Fashion] is similarly tricksy but good. And on and on.
Fave clue has gotta be [Perch parts] which, for the life of me, I thought was referring to birds’ resting places. Nope. The answer is FINS. Love it! [Get into the pool] for WAGER is another goodie. Ooh, and I just grokked [It’s sought by a collector]. I thought it was going to be some variation of the word “set”. Nope, it’s DEBT. Very good.
Making a 21x is tough. Making a fun and smooth 21x is tougher still. This one ticks all the boxes for me, making it my favorite 21x in quite a while. 4.5 stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I always enjoy Jeffrey Wechsler’s puzzles, and this one is no exception. Nothing too difficult in this themeless at all, which is more of a compliment to Jeffrey’s constructing skills as much as anything else! This one didn’t take long at all for me. I am using Black Ink on my Mac to solve now, and I am getting used to it. The best part: it doesn’t show all my error marks! 4.5 stars for this week’s LAT.
- 17A [Ones concerned with public images?] TV STATIONS – Early on in the puzzle, this might be one of the best clues.
- 20A [Many Egon Schiele works] EROTIC ART – No idea who this is, but that might be a GOOD thing in this case!
- 32A [Gradual process of concern to periodontists] BONE LOSS – This seems like something more than dentists would be concerned with. I still have most of my teeth!
- 49A [Cetera of Chicago] PETER – This is referencing the group Chicago, and Peter Cetera was one of their lead singers. I can still hear a lot of their songs in my head. Fun fact: he is 75 years old now!
- 62A [Coleridge work] RIME – I have never read this poem. This is an old English spelling of “rhyme,”, right>
- 7D [Romeo’s last words] “I DIE.” – It has been years, but I HAVE read Romeo and Juliet more than once. I don’t remember the exact line of dialogue here, but this was guessable if you think about it.
- 11D [Eatery “just a half a mile from the railroad track”] ALICE’S – I think this a snippet of lyrics from “Alice’s Restaurant.” (I just Googled it, and I was right!)
- 12D [Conspiracy theory origin, perhaps] PARANOIA – Yes, I know a few tin-hat wearers. Some wariness is probably good, but not EVERYTHING is against you. Sometimes in those cases, the problem isn’t everybody else …
- 29D [Last Olds model] ALERO – This garbage car is going to continue to be crossword famous!
- 36D [Imbibe minimally] HAVE A NIP – I thought this might be HAVE A SIP. This seems more British!
Puzzle Boat 6 comes out today, so there goes the next three months of my life!!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I cannot use Across Lite on my Mac anymore since I upgraded to MacOS Catalina, so I have been using Black Ink. Yes, I paid the full $20 or so several months ago for it. It has some things I like, such as you can tab past filled entries in a similar manner to the NYT app, but when you close and reopen a puzzle the timer automatically resets. To make a long story short, I don’t remember what my time was on this puzzle, but it was fully in the 20 minute range. Some parts of this I found extremely difficult, but we got through it! I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Greg Johnson’s puzzles are quite enjoyable. 4.6 stars for this masterpiece!
Some stuff I found interesting:
- 1A [First ”virtual tour” venue (1994)] MUSEUM – This seems pretty vague, doesn’t it?
- 16A [One related to others] ANECDOTE – This might be the best clue in the puzzle. Very clever!
- 28A [Stop holding, in Hampstead] LEAVE GO – This was where I ended the puzzle, as you can see in the screenshot. LEAVE TO? LEAVE BE? LEAVE SO? My Britishisms need work!
- 35A [Capsule qualifier] TIME RELEASE – Simple, yet still challenging.
- 46A [Nutter Butter rival] E. L. FUDGE – Do they still sell these?? Because they sound good right about now!
- 58A [Western ”Public Ivy”] UC IRVINE – This school is the Anteaters!
- 3D [Assembly manual phrase] SEE ILLUSTRATION – Like when assembling IKEA furniture!
- 7D [Livestock resting area] LAIRAGE – Come on, man! This is not a word!
- 12D [They’re at Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bars] ROBOT BARTENDERS – This sounds like a great justification to go on a $5,000.00 cruise; just to see the robot behind the bar!
- 33D [What ”Where did the computer go?” introduced] IMAC – It’s still a computer. And I don’t remember this Apple slogan. Was it in an ad or a keynote from years ago?
- 54D [”Why Should __ Over You” (Sinatra tune)] I CRY – I thought this might be I GET. Ol’ Blue Eyes is WAAAAY before my time!
- 55D [Targeted marbles] MIBS – Come on, man! This isn’t a word either!
Have a great weekend everyone!