If you’re here on a Saturday, you probably like more challenging crosswords, and that category includes metas. Season 9(!) of Pete Muller’s brainchild, Muller Monthly Music Meta, launches on Tuesday at the Washington Post. Give it a look!
Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Look at that gaping chasm in the middle of the grid! Six 9s or 10s stagger-stepped through the diagram, with crossings ranging from 5 to 13 letters. That’s fancy constructin’ there. Note that the grid’s got an extra row to accommodate the pair of central 10s.
Did this play more like a Friday puzzle for you? It did for me. I plunged right into the midsection, guessed GUARD DOGS might work for [Dobermans and mastiffs, traditionally] and confirmed the first letter via attention-GETTER, and I was off to the races. Didn’t hit any trouble spots, so it felt Fridayish to me.
Fave fill: BEAR CLAW pastry ([Finger food at a pastry shop?]), IN-APP PURCHASE, SECRET RECIPES, GUARD DOGS, and the new-to-me BEER LEAGUE ([Recreational sports association for adults]). Plural AGARS is extra meh.
Eight more things:
- 23a. [Number six in a group of five], ESP. As in the sixth sense, not included among the five senses.
- 5a. [Food drive donation], TIN. If you refer to cans of food as tins, I can’t help thinking you’re over the age of 60. See also: tin foil when the stuff’s been made from rolled aluminum for a solid century now.
- 17a. [End of a plug, often], AD SLOGAN. This entry looks so weird in the grid. My brain insists on splitting the words ADS/LOGAN. Maybe Huda can explain why that happens.
- 33a. [Place for a bead], PORE. A bead of sweat, that is.
- 49a. [“This tastes delicious!,” maybe], FIB. Such snark!
- 55a. [Treat commonly eaten with a wooden utensil], GELATO. Huh. The American gelato places I’ve been to offer plastic spoons, I believe.
- 5d. [The emperor’s old clothes?], TOGAS. Cute clue.
- 52a. [Nominee for the first two Nobel Prizes in Literature (1901-02), but never won], EMILE ZOLA. This clue is awkward. The grammar only works if it’s [He was nominated for …, but never won] or [Nominee for …, but never a winner], or perhaps [Nominee for … who never won].
Four stars from me.
Kritstian House’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mixed-Up Job Listings”—Jim P’s review
Two-word job descriptions are formed by taking the job title (second word) and anagramming it to form the first word.
- 24a [Applicant must be able to paint the area between Alaska and Russia] STRAIT ARTIST. I guess I can see that.
- 37a [Applicant must be able to explain finance using symbols like ;-)] EMOTICONS ECONOMIST. Oooh. Nice find.
- 53a [Applicant must be able to transport tight undergarments across town] CORSET ESCORT. Pushing the boundaries, but I’m still good with it.
- 67a [Applicant must be odoriferous and skilled at data entry] REEKY KEYER. Uh, no. Reeky? Keyer? There is no job title of keyer. Hard pass on this one.
- 70a [Applicant must make cookies and pies while others are having a smoke] BREAK BAKER. Ok, sure. Why not? It’s better than the last one.
- 85a [Applicant must be more vulgar than our other metalworkers] LEWDER WELDER. Yeesh. The entry works, but it doesn’t sound like a fun place to work.
- 97a [Applicant must help a group of pentagram worshipers] SATANISTS ASSISTANT. I like this one.
- 114a [Applicant must be foul while calling fouls] IMPURE UMPIRE. That’s pretty good, too.
So…mostly good, but one that does not work at all. I mean at all. All the other job titles are absolutely valid; I’m even okay with a plain “assistant.” But “keyer” just does not work and should have been nixed, IMO.
In other news, I love the symmetrical pairing of KICK BUTT and FREAK OUT. How fun! RAT FINKS, PIANO BAR, “NOT A CLUE,” “OH SURE,” SKIP BAIL, SENATOR, MASTIFFS, SHINTO, HARD HIT, and COLD SORE are other highlights.
On the other hand, “IS IT A GO?” [“Are we all set?”] feels made-up. Other eyebrow-raisers include MASER [Atomic clock part] which apparently stands for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, WAR DOG [The 102nd Infantry’s Sergeant Stubby, e.g.], SYNGE [“The Playboy of the Western World” dramatist], and PBA [Cop-supporting org.]. Regarding this last one, initial googling leads to the Professional Bowlers Association and the Philippine Basketball Association, and then PseudoBulbar Affect which is “a condition that causes uncontrollable crying and/or laughing that happens suddenly and frequently.” I had to google “PBA” and “cops” to learn it’s the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Hardly common knowledge.
As for WAR DOG, I’m inclined to be more lenient toward it since I just finished playing the wonderful award-winning video game Valiant Hearts: The Great War which was not only fun, but filled with emotion and plenty of factual information about WWI. One aspect of it was that it highlighted the work done by dogs in the war as helpers for soldiers and medics. I highly recommend the game.
Clues of note:
- 122a [Prominent smilodon feature]. FANG. I had no idea that a smilodon is a saber-toothed cat. I think I prefer that name, though. It makes it sound happy.
- 65d [Run after release]. SKIP BAIL. Tricky, especially since I started this entry with SKI___. I really thought this was going to be skiing related.
- 77d [King of Maine, e.g.]. SENATOR. Super tricky, since STEPHEN fits right in there and Angus King is much less well known than his senior counterpart Susan Collins. But I love the misdirection here. Well done!
A lot of good stuff here but some really detracting questionable stuff as well. 3.3 stars.
Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I believe I have seen this byline once or twice before. Erik and Wyna, how many times HAVE I seen this byline? I solved this puzzle in Across Lite instead of Black Ink, which shows my stupid mistakes I made in the NE corner of this grid. Still finished in around 6 minutes, so it wasn’t too hard. Maybe I rushed too much. Still a fun puzzle. I am getting waaaay behind on my USA Today puzzle solving now. I didn’t do them for so long, but now I HAVE to! 4.5 stars for this fine themeless collaboration.
Lot’s to talk about:
- 1A [Drill bit?] MARCH – This is the title of a graphic novel by John Lewis that I just now heard about. I might go buy it TODAY.
- 10A [’60s civil rights gp. inspired by student sit-ins] SNCC – I heard about this graphic novel in LearnedLeague, as there was an entire One Day quiz devoted to it. This group was referenced in a question as to what the N stood for, which is non-violence. Again, why didn’t I know about this book??
- 19A & 59A [Micro amount] ATOM & IOTA – Nice clue duplicate.
- 20A [Irritable sort, in slang] CRANKY PANTS –
- 45A [Only article in a U.S. state capital name] DES – As in Des Moines, IA. I thought LAS Vegas, but Vegas isn’t a capital, and it appears in another clue. (See 64A)
- 47A [Looked bad?] & 61A [Look bad?] LEERED & OGLE – More clue similarity here. This does something while you’re solving; I might describe it as adding cohesiveness to the puzzle, maybe? I am wording that poorly, so hopefully you understand what I am describing.
- 64A [Las Vegas Aces’ org.] WNBA – I’ll bet Erik clued this one.
- 67A [Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde” got 179 on hers, briefly] LSAT – I think this is a good score for this test. I think.
- 11D [Just okay] NOT TOO BAD – This corner was actually a little bad for me!
- 12D [Classic hole-in-one site] CLOWN NOSE – Just as classic as the windmill!
- 50D [Animated Tootsie Pop eater in ads] MR. OWL – Ah, yes, that old commercial talking about how many licks to get to the center. “The world may never know!”
That is all! Back on Tuesday with another LAT puzzle write-up.
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one played like a true Stumper. Well over 20 minutes for me, and there may or may not have been some Googling involved! I did re-download Across Lite to see if it works, and it does seem to work with macOS Catalina now. I like Black Ink better for solving, but Across Lite makes a better web image. Whatever they did, they fixed the timer issue! It now stops when you’re finished!! Now if only you could change fonts like on the Windows version …
Anyway, I digress. This puzzle was flat-out hard. Several obscure terms, at least to me. All of you people that love uber-hard puzzles, you should be ecstatic over this one. 4.6 stars.
Some high points:
- 1A [Western ethics attributed to Autry] COWBOY CODE –
- 17A [Kiwanians’ colleagues] ODDFELLOWS – These are both old organizations that I know literally nothing about.
- 29A [”Sacred” symbol of Israel’s special forces] IBIS – I believe you.
- 42A [Boss’ autobiography] BORN TO RUN – We are talking Bruce Springsteen here. On a side note, I finally starting reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall about the Mexican endurance running tribe. So far it is pretty good.
- 5D [Supporting Actress Oscar role in the disaster flick ”In Old Chicago”] O’LEARY – The disaster being the Chicago Fire of 1871.
- 9D [Less street-smart] DEWIER – This is a word??
- 13D [”A Charlie Brown Christmas” instrumental] O TANNENBAUM – I made this harder than it was. It seems like this melody is playing near the end? Also, most Charlie Brown music is instrumental!
- 23D [Nonpecuniary pleasurable pursuit] LABOR OF LOVE – Nonpecuniary means you don’t get paid!
- 31D [Rice paddy sight] OXEN – This evokes a nice word picture. I can see the tiers in my mind, but once I got this it was a rather nice “a-ha!” moment.
- 42D [City that sounds like sausage] BANGOR – Bangers and mash is an Irish dish of sausage and mashed potatoes
Have a fantastic weekend!