Stella Zawistowski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Stella’s back in the pages of the New York Times with her first puzzle in a decade. Welcome back, Stella! For your next Saturday puzzle, though, let’s get some tougher clues. This one played like an easyish Saturday (but supra-Friday level).
The hardest thing in the puzzle was the rather archaic term DURANCE VILE (55a. [Fancy term for a long prison sentence]). I definitely hesitated at that first letter, with the 55d. [Nebraska senator Fischer] crossing. I wasn’t sure if it was DEB or JEB, and if DURANCEVILE or JURANCEVILE was more plausible. It’s DEB (a GOP senator).
Fave fill: “DON’T JUDGE ME,” FIGURE EIGHT, ILL-TIMED, PALAVER, EMILY BRONTE, BEALE STREET, SPORTS BRA, AIR BALL, and MIMOSA.
From Stella’s notes at Wordplay: “Over the last couple of years I began to pay attention to gender and racial/ethnic underrepresentation in the crossworld. I started to feel like I should construct again to put another woman’s voice out there.” Since then, she’s had puzzles at Inkubator and her own site, Tough as Nails. I just did Themeless 2 at Tough as Nails and … it was harder for me than all but a handful of Saturday NYTs all year.
Eight more things:
- 41a. [Sign of spring], ROBIN. Yes, I filled in ARIES first. I don’t think I’ve seen any robins wintering over in Chicago this season yet, but I did see some the last two winters. Often, but not always, a harbinger of spring.
- 54a. [And … that’s a wrap!], BOA. Cute clue.
- 59a. [One-third of a literary trio], EMILY BRONTE. I wonder how many people tried to get some sort of MUSKETEER answer to fit here.
- 60a. [Fathead], ASS. There are better ways to clue this that (a) don’t imply that fatness of the head is a bad thing, and (b) don’t repeat part of 1d DEFAT.
- 3d. [Actress Ruth of “Loving”], NEGGA. Loving is still on my to-watch list.
- 27d. [“What happens when language fails,” per Margaret Atwood], WAR. Wow.
- 31d. [Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington, for two], ALABAMANS. What a lovely clue!
- 48d. [Something worn with flare?], ALINE. That’s a dress or skirt style with a flared bottom.
Four stars from me.
Evan Kalish’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Still haven’t done a LAT Saturday in under 6 minutes in quite a while. That sound like a haughty statement, but this was not uncommon for my solving time. Maybe they took my advice and made these just a smidge harder, or maybe I am rounding OUT of form just ahead of the ACPT! I better print out a stack of these things or grab a book and get in paper solving mode quickly! Evan has a nice puzzle here, though, that is not too thorny and still a lot of fun. 4.4 stars.
Some parts I liked:
- 25A [“Femina Cup” (1910s contest) competitor] AVIATRIX – Great clue, and I believe I learned something new here!
- 29A [Informal “Right?”] “AIN’T IT TRUE?” – This was a little hard since, as I think about it, I don’t think I hear this word as much as I used to.
- 37A [Makes even more gross?] GETS A RAISE – As in more gross pay. Nice clue!
- 40A [Leo is one] FIRE SIGN – I was born in August, so this is me. I don’t pay attention to horoscopes, so I have no idea what this even means!
- 55A [Gerald Ford and Glenn Ford, e.g.] FREEMASONS – The jaded cynic in me says these secret societies rule the world and make all the important decisions. I am getting old and crabby.
- 6D [“Dang!”] “BLAST IT!” – This sounds very British!
- 7D [Part of the Enterprise’s power source] ANTIMATTER – This is still sci-fi tech at this point. Whoever figures this out will surely win a Nobel Prize.
- 12D [Early code name?] HAMMURABI – That’s pretty early! According to his Wikipedia page, this is nearly 4,000 years old.
- 13D [Alphabetically second on a list of U.S. state capitals] ANNAPOLIS – That would make Albany first?
- 40D [“30 Rock” creator] FEY – I think she is really funny. I know I am not alone.
- 45D [Sherlock’s foe Adler] IRENE – Started reading a novel about Sherlock Holmes’ daughter. Not sure who her mom is, but I have an idea …
I’ll stop there! Off to see the Harlem Globetrotters this afternoon!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This one was a toughie! The solve was extremely slow, and I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this one. Across Lite grid image shows my mistakes. There aren’t as many as I thought there were, but there are a few. I will have to compile some sort of ranking of Stumper constructors: Sewell might be near the top! 4.5 stars for this beast.
A few highlights:
- 1A [ESPN choice event of June 2019] NBA DRAFT – Any clue that has ESPN in it should be a gimme for me. This clue was worded oddly, and ESPN doesn’t always carry this, so combined that made this tougher than it should have been.
- 28A [Keeled over, to Barbra] PLOTZED – Is this Yiddish? I assume this is referring to Streisand, but I don’t quite understand what this is talking about. A Yentl reference perhaps?
- 40A [Experiential] A POSTERIORI – This was tough. Latin!
- 55A [Anagram of ”percussion”] SUPERSONIC – Nice find.
- 59A [Restraining order] “NO YOU DON’T!” – This might be the best clue/entry pair in the puzzle. Liked this one a lot.
- 1D [Gatsby or Dorian Gray] NARCISSIST – Amazingly, I haven’t read either of these books. I do know a narcissist or two, and, without getting too political, some believe this may explain some of the president’s behavior. I’ll leave it at that. Google it if you want more info!
- 2D [Cuisinart product] BREADMAKER – I wanted this to be COFFEE MAKER, since this is the brand I own!
- 17D [Superspeedway city] TALLADEGA – This was a gimme. Used to watch NASCAR quite a bit. There are only two of these: this one and Daytona, which is coming up in about a month and is the best nap of the year!
- 50D [Food pyramid part] FATS – The jaded cynic in me says that the government’s food pyramid is driven by meat and dairy lobbyists. I am getting old and crabby.
- 53D [Incumbent successor of Nehru] MODI – This is the current Indian president, so this is certainly a successor. Like 80 years later! I know this from watching Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act, which, for obvious reasons, covers Indian topics quite a lot!
Everyone have a wonderful weekend!
Alex Eaton-Salners’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cutting Both Ways” — pannonica’s write-up
- 116aR [Jockey’s tool, or a description of what’s been done to the starred answers] RIDING CROP. That is, the letters R-I-D-I-N-G have been excised from the ends of the theme entries, alternating left and right sides much as would a jockey goading his mount.
- 23a. [*“We’re with you!”?] (R)ALLYING CRY.
- 34a. [*“The Beverly Hillbillies” reunion show?] RETURN OF THE JED(I).
- 49a. [*Persian trafficker’s crime?] (D)RUG SMUGGLING.
- 66a. [*Present Time?] THE GIFT OF THE MAG(I). Note capitalized Time.
- 88a. [*England’s outcome at the Battle of Agincourt?] (N)ARROW VICTORY.
- 100a. [*Colorado cousins?] THE MOUNTAIN KIN(G).
Fair enough theme. The mechanics are good, but it seems kind of arbitrary.
- Theme-adjacent: 89d [Tack part] REIN.
- Favorite clues: 32a [Some have pet names] ID TAGS, 13d [Lift operator?] THIEF, the oh-so sarcastic (more so than 113a I BET) 59d [“Stop your sniveling!”] OH BOO-HOO, 87d [Fix the footnotes, e.g.] RENUMBER. 97d [Duke’s transport?] A TRAIN.
There we go!
- 10d/65a [Enjoy a run] JOG, SKI.
- 16d [Court figure] LINE JUDGE; 58a [Court figure, briefly] STENOG.
- Speaking of which, “I’ll take Atypical Endings for $500”: GENII, ULNAE, SOYA. (25a, 17d, 85a)
- 75a [Has noodles noisily] SLURPS.
- Alla vongole? Pshaw. How about ALLA TINGLE? [Covered in goose bumps] (3d)
- Toughest spot for me was the finish. Had begun to doubt my response of GEMINI for 51d [They’re delivered in spring] because I forgot the meaning of MOIL (61a [Drudgery] and had trouble parsing 81a [Stand-up stock] BITS.
- 121a [You might get called on it] PHONE. Quaint!
That’s all I’ve got. Good puzzle but still questionmarky for me.
Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “Bash Open”—Jim Q’s review
Let’s get this party started!
THEME: Phrases where the opening letters feature a synonym for “party”
- ‘17A [Some are stuffed a few weeks before Thanksgiving] BALLOT BOXES.
- 28A [1999 space spoof] GALAXY QUEST. Yes, I really wanted SPACE BALLS here.
- 47A [DNA shape] DOUBLE HELIX.
- 63A [Political bigwig, and a hint to the first few letters of 17-, 28- or 47-Across] PARTY LEADER.
The fill and the cluing outshone the theme here. Really liked I TOLD YA, the great clue for TEXT [Helpful or distracting thing when studying], SET UP SHOP, and SAY PLEASE. Tripped a bit when I entered ACUITY instead of ACUMEN for [Keen insight] (does ACUITY work with that clue? Asking for a friend…)
The theme was… okay… but I have a problem with DOUBLE HELIX hiding “DO” as a synonym for “party.” I mean, c’mon. I googled the definition of DO, and as a noun, its second definition is British slang for a party. And no… no one says that. Ever. In addition, the revealer asks the solver to look at the first few letters. How many is a few? A few is never less than three in my opinion (even though the official definition is “more than one,” we all know it never means two).
So DO is A) Not a valid synonym for party, at least in America and B) Is not what a rational human being would consider a “few” letters long.
I’m wondering how that passed muster.
Good grid, but when 1/3 of your theme answers don’t fit the bill…