Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Showy 68-word grid with those quad-stacked 9s, eh? My fave fill here includes DESPACITO (though I hadn’t heard the song till today … the video below has 6.7 billion-with-a-B views). ACCOLADES that accrue to Wyna and Erik, ORGEAT just because, TIGER BALM, ATE DINNER and PASSED OUT with a full stomach, emerging IN ONE PIECE, DARN TOOTIN’, and BAIL BOND (35d. [Possible instance of predatory lending]).
Eight more things:
- 56a. [“High Life” director Claire], DENIS. With some crossings in place, I hazarded a DANES guess, but Claire Denis is a Frenchwoman who grew up in West Africa. Her name’s new to me.
- 20a. [Where things are likely to get heated], OVENS. Indeed, that’s where my best arguments happen. Big Hansel and Gretel energy here.
- 28a. [React to a stubbed toe], HOP. SWEAR A BLUE STREAK wouldn’t fit.
- 37a. [Ice cream topper], BERRY. Just one? I’d like an assortment of raspberries and strawberries, please. Blackberries acceptable, hold the blueberries.
- 3d. [Watt, e.g.], SCOT. Steam engine inventor James Watt, Scottish. This was my first answer in the grid.
- 5d. [Fish in the herring family], ALEWIFE. Every so many years, there’s a mass die-off of alewives in Lake Michigan. Last time I recall this happening in Chicago, it was a steamy summer week in the ’90s and CTA buses weren’t yet air-conditioned. The stink was phenomenal, the commute terrible. Worse than BAD EGGS.
- 27d. [Mono no ___, Japanese term for a gentle sadness at life’s impermanence], AWARE. Only on Saturday will they throw us a Japanese clue for an entry like AWARE that’s also an English word. And dang! Are we not all feeling mono no aware of late?
- 38d. [Classic candy with a biconcave shape], SMARTIE. I love American Smarties! Definitely the best biconcave food out there. (Let us not speak of Canadian Smarties, which pretend to be M&M’s.)
4.25 stars from me.
Don Gagliardo’s Universal crossword — “Take a New Form” — Jim Q’s write-up
I found this one to be much tougher than the typical Universal! But an interesting solve for sure. There’s quite a bit going on.
THEME: Shape shifting in more than one sense: Theme answers are anagrams of shapes, and the black groupings of squares morph on a diagonal.
- 15A [*Root for papa? (decahedron)] CHEER ON DAD.
- 18A [*Slow pitch’s trajectory? (rectangle)] GENTLE ARC.
- 28A [*Mucky digs? (pyramid)] MIRY PAD.
- 40A [*”Start playing your role already!”? (octagon)] “GO ON, ACT!”
- 52A [*Amphibian that jumps the highest, e.g.? (trapezoid)] PRIZE TOAD.
- 56A [Transform like a werewolf, or a hint to the starred answers and the grid art along the upper left-to-lower right diagonal] SHAPE SHIFT.
That’s quite the feat to squeeze all that and with attention paid to the black groupings in a 15x. It took me a while to see what was going on, and the revealer certainly helped.
We’re in themeless word count territory with this one (72), and the grid feels strained at times. Coupled with the bizarreness of the theme entries, this might have some scratching their heads. As to that bizarreness, I actually prefer theme answers of this type to be more over-the-top in their wackiness (ala WaPo). CHEER ON DAD and “GO ON, ACT!” are my two favorites.
I can’t say I fully understand the reference to the shifting of the black squares. Was that serendipitous? Or intentional? I suppose it doesn’t hurt! Still, the second half of the revealer clue was a little mystifying for me.
I like the boldness of the puzzle!
3.2 stars from me.
David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rearrangement” — pannonica’s write-up
Starightforwrad theme today. Original pharses with the bigram AR become wackified when those two letters rae tarnsposed.
- 22a. [Quality control job at Chantelle?] BRA EXAMINATION (bar examination). Upscale!
- 33d. [Shellfish with hidden depths?] COMPLEX CRAB (complex carb). Appreciated the double-entendre of ‘depths’ here.
- 40a. [Extremely rough roughage?] POTTERY BRAN (Pottery Barn).
- 56a. [Revisionist historian’s pastime?] ERA SPLITTING (ear-splitting). Cute.
- 64a. [Chivalrous prep cook’s nickname?] KNIGHT OF THE GRATER (Knight of the Garter). Was not previously aware of the Order of the Garter.
- 77a. [Unscrupulous landlord?] TENANT FRAMER (tenant farmer).
- 91a. [Creepy urban phenomenon?] RAT MOVEMENT (art movement).
- 98a. [Participant in an ovine rodeo?] RAM WRESTLER. (arm wrestler). See also 18a [Instruments of bovine bondage] LARIATS.
- 114a. [Desire at a Thanksgiving feast?] PUMPKIN CRAVING (pumpkin carving).
Fine if modest theme. I’m satisfied with it. Note that there are plenty of ARs and RAs throughout the grid—eliminating them would have been an incredible tall order.
- 27a [Prepare to drop, perhaps] DRAG. Took me a few moments to grasp that this was computer related. I’m mouse-averse, but only in this technological context.
- 37a [Some of its cricket matches are held on Agar’s Plough] ETON. What else could it be? A gimme despite not having ever encountered that location’s name before.
- 82a [Key preposition] O’ER. That’s Francis Scott Key.
- 108a [“…__ penny, hot cross buns”] TWO A.
- Favorite clues: 122a [Total makeup] FLAKES; the cereal. 13d [Many a biographer, eventually] INDEXER.
- 6d [Bed board] SLAT. So very popular in crosswords. Aren’t there enough other kinds of slats?
- 14d [Pioneering comedian] Ernie KOVACS. A personal hero of mine.
- 49d [Being, in Bordeaux or Burgundy] ETRE, followed by 50d [Bordeaux ou Bourgogne] VIN ROUGE.
- 87d [Unpopular figures in criminal circles] STOOLIES. Had SNITCHES first.
- 93d [Computer shortcuts] MACROS. Is it just me or are these becoming obscolescent?
Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Smooth sailing for this Saturday’s LAT challenger themeless. Still hoping to meet Debbie soon! Lots of great answers in this one, so we will just get to a discussion! 4.6 stars today for a great puzzle!
- 1A [It’s happening now] APRIL – Timely!
- 14A [Brain center associated with speech] BROCA’S AREA – I had a few wrong letters that stalled solving this, but a great entry.
- 26A [Magic competition?] NBA GAME – Ah, the good old days … the playoffs would have been starting in a few days!
- 33A [Judge in stripes] ZEBRA – Again, the good old days. I would even take bad referees at this point!
- 54A [Co-star of Ethan in “Gattaca”] UMA – I think they got married after being in this movie.
- 56A [Mexican fare] ENCHILADAS – I had this for dinner on Friday!
- 61A [Latin American fare] TELENOVELA – 56A had me thinking about food, not Univision or Telemundo!
- 6D [“The Python Years” diarist] PALIN – Haven’t read it. This is Michael Palin, not Sarah Palin!
- 10D [Crony of Captain Bildad, in “Moby-Dick”] PELEG – I HAVE read this, but it was like 40 years ago, so this took a second.
- 12D [Quick getaway for newlyweds] MINI-MOON – Not familiar with this term, but it still seems like an excellent entry!
- 13D [Hipster’s “Later”] “PEACE OUT” – Doesn’t everybody say this now?
- 31D [Quartz watch innovator] SEIKO – Why do I associate this name with cheap watches and not cutting-edge innovation?
- 46D [Liszt’s “Paganini __”] ETUDES – Maybe some music to listen to during the isolation!
I will stop here, but I could go on. I have jigsaw puzzles to do!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
The last Greg Johnson Stumper didn’t give me too many fits. I cannot say the same for this one. My excuse? It has actually been a rough few days at work! I was getting used to sitting around in self-isolation, but I am now on a semi-regular work schedule. That is lame, but that is my story and I am sticking to it. The progress here was steady, just really slow. First toehold was in the SW corner, and I finished somewhere in the middle of the grid. 38A is really vague, but I distinctly remember smiling and wincing once I got that one. (See below!) Great puzzle all-around, though, but it seems as if I cannot do these unless I have absolute and total concentration. I put my headphones on halfway through and that helped! 4.5 stars for another stellar puzzle by Greg.
A few comments:
- 14A [One of 13 in an Ultimate Dunking Set] OREO COOKIE – This is evidently a thing …
- 19A [’40s actress in the Inventors Hall of Fame] LAMARR – I tried HEDREN in here at first. I knew it was someone famous from back then!
- 27A [Accounts receivable, e.g.] LIQUID ASSETS – My accounting degree helped with this. A little.
- 32A [Kitchen remodeling tool] TILE CUTTER – This clue screams TILE, then it is just figuring out what tool you would use.
- 38A [Two-vowel connectors] BCD – As in the connectors in the alphabet from “A” to “E”. Nice!
- 60A [What a thrift store CD player might say] NOT FOR SALE – The CD player has to play the Muzak!
- 3D [Where an historic 54-mile journey began (1965)] SELMA – How did I not know this march was this long? I need to rent this movie …
- 7D [”__ and McCarthy” (2017 revelatory book)] IKE – Never heard of it, but it makes sense. I am not going to read this.
- 12D [Freight hauler of old] CONESTOGA – I had ????STAGE in here, but I think this is a particular type of stage. Tough!
- 33D [Successful seer’s smug statement] “I CALLED IT!” – Or just a smug know-it-all!
- 34D [Vehicle visiting sawmills] LOG LOADER – You see a lot of these in the UP of Michigan, where they still have tons of trees!
- 51D [First with a video game Easter egg (1980)] ATARI – Who else would it be??
Have a safe and happy weekend!
Re: Universal crossword
Anagrams have no place in a crossword, especially as a theme. Period. Skip this one.
I gave the Universal (thus far) it’s highest rating. I thought the anagrams pretty funny and was impressed by the morphing of the black squares. Not to everyone’s taste, obviously.
its NOT it’s
The NYT was tough for me but, in the end, doable. A lot of not-obvious entries and a few unknowns, but all (apparently) with enough crossings to get it. A good puzzle.
nyt: tough!! but way good ‘n’ crunchy and omg, solved it. so no complaints there. but (among other answers…) i’d never heard of SMARTIES, and its clue [Classic candy with a biconcave shape] had me scratchin’ my head. given that (similar to m&ms) these are small, squooshed, spherical confections — w/ outward curving sides — shouldn’t they have been described as having a “biconvex shape”?
inquiring minds want to know —
SMARTIES was new to me. Turns out, I’ve eaten them, but never knew what they were called. The ones I’m familiar with, that Amy refers to as “American Smarties,” are, in fact, concave on each side.
oho! the ones that come in a roll. now i better understand the point amy was making in her post!
I’ll be glad when my local candy store returns and I can get Smarties.
Thought the NYT was tough, but fair. I finished with an error – I had no idea on the Chamillionaire song, and went with gET rather than NET for “Realize” at 39-A.
I thought the Japanese clue for AWARE was unnecessary.
I know what a service ace is, but does anyone use the term ACING when talking about tennis? An exam, yes – but tennis?
hah. and here, i was definitely in the land of overthink… yes, filled in ACING, but again, the clue threw me some. i quickly got the “ace” as the “point of no return” in [Hitting a point of no return?] but didn’t understand how “hitting” it (or “returning” it — as i [mis-]interpreted it…) could continue to qualify it as an “ace.”
to your point about ACING in tennis, this (fwiw) from the free dictionary:
6. (in tennis, badminton, handball, etc.) to win a point against (one’s opponent) by an ace.
ah, those stretchy saturday cluing and cluing/fill combos!
Stumper: Why is “Well bottom, when headed down” TODO? Is this some kind of cryptic clue that I don’t get?
Have the same question!
Maybe, when the phrase ‘well to do’ is entered vertically, ‘to do’ is at the bottom.
That must be it.
Wow. That’s crazy, even for a Stumper.
BCD and its clue not a winner either
That is a thoughtful explanation but I’m not convinced it’s right. It seems to work with the “on the bottom part”, but not so well with the “when headed down” part. But I can’t think of anything better.
The original words were DELATE/LCD but for editing reasons it needed to be changed. If you have to look up DELATE, then there you go.
Had to look up DELATE, but with a reasonable clue for LCD that may’ve been better.
Enjoy your puzzles.
While you’re here, can you explain the TODO clue?
if that helps. I submitted a different clue so that’s probably it.
Thanks for the explanation … that makes sense. I wasn’t thinking in terms of the actual grid.
The video for DESPACITO was on your blog within the past few weeks. I had never seen it and commented that it had almost 7 billion hits. I think that Zuleyka Rivera, 2006 Miss Universe (Puerto Rico) , on my very short list of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, makes the video unforgettable.
I sailed through the puzzle today after taking forever yesterday.
I gave this a five star for mono no aware … I stopped solving and started googling …
.. then came back 30 minutes later and finished the puzzle. Such a wonderful diversion …
Thanks Erik and Wyna.
Ok, I want to know: Who came up with the clue? (Have I mentioned that I loved it?)
Found the NYT dry and quizzy. When you clue AWARE with Japanese you have a problem imo.
In the Stumper, why is 48A (name that sounds “mos’ reasonable”) a clue for Lois? I’m guessing that it has to do with the elision of the “t” and that the word “sounds” means that we should think of a homophone, which would mean that “Lois” becomes “lowest”. I still don’t see how this is an answer for “most reasonable”. Any ideas?
I’m guessing “reasonable” = “low” as in a price?? Horrid clue. Not as horrid as the aforementioned TODO clue, but it’s a contender, that’s for sure.
Thanks–yeah, I think that’s probably right.
NYT: I was a big fan of the AWARE clue, not because I knew it (I didn’t) but because hey. I studied Japanese in high school and college, like the majority (not an exaggeration) of students at my American high school in a United States capital city. For all the French and Spanish I have to figure out through crossings alone in countless crosswords, this seems more than fair, especially on Saturday. Thanks Erik and Wyna. A tough solve but I did it in 30:39. Yikes.
Stumper: Can anyone explain 48A (Name that sounds “mos’ reasonable” = LOIS) or 56D (Well bottom, when headed down” = TODO)?
4D (Water fitness class = POTABLE) is clue of the year territory!
Stumper: I was stumped by LOIS and TODO too, and unimpressed by the explanations here.
But on the other hand, 4D (Water fitness class = POTABLE) is clue of the year territory!
LA Times: NE corner Naticked me out. Struggled through Peleg and Lena but came adrift on Estes and Tanehisi – Tanehiri and Erred seemed reasonable
For the record, it’s Ta Nehisi.