Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This pinwheel grid’s got 66 words and a bonkers diamond of words in the center. It looks cool and must’ve taken both brute force and finesse to pull off. It was also easier than I was expecting, more of a Friday-grade difficulty.
Favorite fill: sports LOTTERY PICK, a WINTER SCENE like Friday’s in the Midwest, Hostess SNOBALLS, WYCLIFFE just because it’s a cool-looking name, THE FORCE, and the highly coveted IN STOCK (we are all beset by out-of-stock notifications on the grocery items we were hoping for).
Women in the puzzle: Coco CHANEL, biblical DELILAH, cartoon DAPHNE, DARA, TEAM USA referencing the USWNT (who are generally called the USWNT rather than TEAM USA, no?), generic COOL MOM. RAE usually is clued via a woman, but novelist Chang-RAE Lee is a good change-up. Boxed-up men: Monet, fictional DOC and ROLF, Nero, generic NEIL, and John WYCLIFFE. DRAPER is clued as a regular noun rather than the TV character on that show I never had any interest in watching.
Three more things:
- 7a. [Little pointer], PRO TIP. You were envisioning a puppy or a laser pointer rather than a “helpful tip” sort of pointer, weren’t you? I was.
- 7d. [Certain hand-held … or hand-holding], PDA. Public display of affection or a personal digital assistant, the latter initialism being one that doesn’t really get much use these days.
- 36a. [Isotopes of element #88], RADIUMS. Is that kosher, pluralizing an element?
Overall, I liked the puzzle, didn’t love it. 3.75 stars from me.
Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword — “Day Care Center”
If you’re a kid at heart, this puzzle’s for you.
THEME: Synonyms for “child” are hidden within common phrases/names
- 17A [*African American activist who wrote “Are Prisons Obsolete?”] ANGELA DAVIS.
- 26A [*”Eat local” movement] FARM TO TABLE.
- 47A [*Sarcastic question for Captain Obvious] GEE, YOU THINK?
- 49A [*Japanese drama form] KABUKI DANCE.
- 57A [Stereotypical family peacekeeper, and a literal feature of the starred answers] MIDDLE CHILD.
As long as you were solving in Across Lite and not IN PENCIL, there was little not to like about this puzzle. If you were solving IN PENCIL, it’s likely the puzzle was asking you to count letters and circle the squares yourself, which is fine for veteran solvers, but is asking too much of a new puzzler. Someday, Universal is going to figure out how to circle its squares when the theme calls for it. Just not today.
Fun mistake for me was trying to enter PIANO BROKERS in for PAWN BROKERS [They may give you C-notes for instruments]. I mean… sure! Yes PIANO is too many letters, but somehow I didn’t notice that and really fudged the spelling of PIANO and ended up with IED, which looked just fine instead of WMD. Doh! Laughable moment when Mr. Happy Pencil didn’t appear and I had to go clean that mess up.
Solid phrases throughout in the theme. Great title. Great revealer. And as long as you turn a blind eye to the APERCU/RAPIONE crossing, great fill!
4 Stars with circles.
2.5 Stars without circles.
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Yes, I was Stumped this week! I found this one quite tough. Also, my job is part of the “essential” jobs, even though it is office related, and I have been working weird hours, so I am exhausted. I know this sounds like a lame excuse for a bad solve, but that’s because it is! I am slowly learning that unless it says “Lester Ruff”, Stan is going to have a beast of a puzzle. 4.2 stars this morning.
Here is a quick rundown (see the last part of this post to see why!):
- 17A [Another of your facets] ALTER EGO – Like a superhero?
- 24A [”Ich gehe,” in Aachen] I GO – My German is horrible. I had no idea what this was, but it was either this or I AM.
- 38A [Moneymaking picture takers] RED-LIGHT CAMERAS – They don’t do this in Indiana, but I’ll bet it is a problem in the big city.
- 67A [Young Adult novel pioneer] S. E. HINTON – Once you figure out this isn’t one word, it becomes easy. I don’t think I have read anything by her, so maybe during quarantine time I might!
- 1D [The ”Star Wars” cantina?] SPACE BAR – Best clue!
- 5D [More than nifty] TERRIF – We don’t say this in Indiana.
- 6D [Boy, in Brooklynese] UTE – I’m picturing someone with a thick Brooklyn accent saying this. It sorta works!
- 11D [Squash, for short] ZUKE – It took me forever to figure out this is referring to “zucchini!” We don’t say this in Indiana either.
- 21D [Five-sided cardboard box] SLIPCASE – Another great clue. I did mistakenly write in PENTA??? at first, which was obviously wrong.
- 25D [SWAT team equipment] GAS GRENADES – As in a tear gas grenade, I assume. I don’t think I have heard it called this without the word “tear” included. Also don’t deal with this in Indiana!
- 40D [Con’s game in ”The Sting”] ROULETTE – Another movie to watch!
- 49D [Name from the Greek for ”wisdom”] SOPHIA – No doubt related to the word “sophist.” Nice clue!
I could go on, because there are a ton of great clues here. There is an online NPL convention today, which is nice since the real one may be up in the air for July. Maybe I will see some of you readers later today online there!
Mary Lou Guizzo’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Facebook friend Mary Lou Guizzo has this week’s Saturday LAT challenge puzzle. Took my slightly longer than it normally does, so I will call it a true challenge! By clever clueing, you almost could tie 23A and 46A together to make a very loosely themed puzzle (I am sure LUPITA NYONGO has been in several PHOTO SPREADS over the past few years!)
- 15A [Foam footwear] CROC – These are plastic, aren’t they??
- 17A [Metropolis nickname] MAN OF STEEL – This clue had me thinking that 30A in the Stumper was referring to Superman; it was talking about Batman!
- 29A [John Wayne film set in Tanganyika] HATARI – I think this is one of the movies that Henry Mancini did the score/theme for. Another movie to watch!
- 35A [She plays Watson on “Elementary”] LIU – This is a great show that I don’t have time to watch!
- 40A [Watts on the keys] ANDRE – No idea who this is.
- 46A [Nakia portrayer in “Black Panther”] LUPITA NYONGO – I DO know who this is! This is a movie I have actually seen! More than once!
- 59A [Nevada city straddling the Humboldt River] ELKO – Know your crosswordese!
- 11D [Pre-revolution French royal residence site] VERSAILLES – I still want to visit Paris one of these days, but it will be a while at this point! For several reasons!
- 42D [How a blown-open door may have been closed] LOOSELY – Quite a word picture here. Or maybe I am just tired!
- 48D [“Ender’s Game” author __ Scott Card] ORSON – My son has this book. He said it was phenomenal, and this was made into a movie as well. Another movie to watch!
Have a great weekend! And stay healthy!
Seth Geltman & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Start” — pannonica’s write-up
Solid, straightforward theme: take an in-the-language phrase and literally interpret it typographically. Clue in an appropriately abbreviated fashion, which itself is should be an unrelated word.
- 22a. [Char?] REDUCED CHARGES.
- 28a. [Bus?] UNFINISHED BUSINESS.
- 45a. [Fun?] INSUFFICIENT FUNDS.
- 63a. [Quest?] OPEN-ENDED QUESTION. Quest shares a direct etymology with question.
- 79a. [Sent?] SUSPENDED SENTENCE.
- 96. [Prom?] UNFULFILLED PROMISE.
- 108a. [Pa?] INCOMPLETE PASS.
Good set of hefty themers. Too bad one of them—the central entry, no less—gets a minor ding. Say. will I end the write-up with Liszt’s Symph? Read on (or skip ahead) to find out!
- 2d [Polygon figure] AREA, crossed by 25a [“De l’Esprit Géométrique” writer] PASCAL.
- 5a [Small bribe] SOP. For some this is also Standard Operating Procedure, alas.
- 20d [People from a nation neighboring 37-Across] THAIS, 37a [See 20-Down] LAOS. The former could instead have been cross-referenced (or, more precisely, repeated the clue for) 35d [Massenet opera] MANON to yield THAÏS, but perhaps two second-tier (?) operas is too much for a single, non-CHE, crossword.
- 53a [Hasbro game that comes with 4 heads and 24 legs] COOTIE. I’d never heard of this and several weeks ago it stumped me on a Learned League question. Worse yet, I’d forgotten about it by the time this rolled along, so … uh, yeah.
- 54a [KJ who plays Archie on “Riverdale”] APA. Ooh, can hardly wait until KJAPA starts appearing in crosswords. </sarc>
- 57a [“Skeletons Fighting for the Body of a Hanged Man” painter] is James ENSOR. I’d venture this doesn’t pass the so-called ‘breakfast test’, for those who subscribe to such things.
- 74a [1978 cult film inspired by “Jaws”] PIRANHA, which helped launch the career of the great John Sayles.
- 107a [Nose, slangily] HOOTER. Really?
- 23d [Keister] CAN.
- 8d [Graceful gliders] SWANS. This must be referring to their aquatic motions.
- Speaking of which, the logo for the new-to-me 14a [Airline based in Bogotá] AVIANCA features a rather gracefully articulated gliding bird which looks to be an eagle, though historically the company’s branding featured a male Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).
- These two clues don’t seem quite right: 104d [Friend of Sydney] MATE, 109d [Bolt partner] NUT. I’d prescribe a question mark for each.
- Favorite clues: 5d [Lasting value?] SHELF LIFE, 43d [No longer in the minority] ADULT, 56d [Everything begins with it] SHORT E.
List ends here.
I’m getting increasingly frustrated with themeless grid layouts that are inherently segmented like this. Each of the four corners here only have three letters of connectivity to the center of the puzzle, which results in a solving experience where you’re solving five separate mini-puzzles rather than one complete puzzle. Those corners (“pockets” might be a better descriptor for these segmented corners) aren’t that difficult to fill with that little feeding into it, especially with today’s average word list. Cool center section, but I wish there was more of a cohesive feeling to the puzzle, as there was in Friday’s themeless.
I agree with this completely. I really dislike feeling like I’m doing 4 or 5 isolated puzzles, rather than one big one.
It felt like five separate puzzles to me, too, and I usually hate that, but here I was fine with it. I can’t explain why. I didn’t find it all easy for a Saturday, no doubt partly on account of the needed restarts. Center fill was the most ingenious.
I’ve never seen or heard the usage RADIUMS, and I’m a physicist. ‘Isotopes of radium’ is a common usage and suggests that the word ‘radium’ refers to any isotope. Otherwise, an easier than normal Saturday.
One context where I can imagine pluralizing an element name is if you are describing a crystal structure: eight oxygens sit at the corners of the unit cell, for example. But that wouldn’t refer to isotopes, and I don’t know how you would clue it.
I liked this puzzle pretty much except for RADIUMS.
I hesitated at that clue’s fill, too.
RADIUMS is kinda ugly, but went in easylike. I needed a little help in two of the five NYT puzzles (I prefer cohesion as well) today, but I’m no where near as experienced as some on here. Decent puzzle, I really had to peck away at it a letter or three at a time, although CONCERTINAS and the SE puzzle got me a good start. SE was a lot easier for me than the other corner puzzles. Two years ago I’d have made two passes through the puzzle and stopped.
Funny how knowing vowel-laden CW faves will lead you astray, I had EERIE for ALIEN for while as I had no idea about ROLF.
I very proudly managed to solve the Stumper without cheating for the first time in several weeks. The only clue I don’t get is “It sounds like an inspiration” = ere. Are we breathing with our ears now?
The poet’s word for before, ere, sounds like air, which is what you inspire.
ETA – Oops, didn’t see David L’s comment below.
I found the Stumper mostly fairly straightforward, but I had trouble in the SE. I had SALINGER for my YA book author, because he wrote about young adults and that seemed like a Stumpery kind of clue, and that fit nicely with SETTLERS instead of STETSONS. But I was able to unravel it after a while.
“It sounds like an inspiration” — ERE sounds like AIR, which is what you breathe in, but I wouldn’t refer to ‘air’ as ‘an inspiration.’ That’s the best I could come up with, though.
AIR is unquestionably an inspiration. Check your dictionary.
I checked my dictionary (MW11). It doesn’t agree with you. The closest equivalence is that ‘inspiration’ can mean ‘the drawing of air into the lungs.’
There is an elementary and secondary program in Arizona called Basis which is heavily if not exclusively oriented toward scoring well on standardized tests and AP Exams as well as general academic excellence.
I have tutored many students from this program and if nothing else, I can say categorically that even ninth graders who participate in this program write at a college level. I am on the whole somewhat negative toward the curriculum that the students ENDURE because the homework that is piled on the students is way over the top and there are few extracurricular activities. The students are fun to be around because they laugh together as an outlet for their daily ordeal.
I am sure that there are many people on this site who excelled in high school and had plenty of time for everything else because if you have a high SAT mind and a good memory, high school is very easy. If you are aspiring to go to the best schools and do not have a naturally gifted mind, it can be extremely stressful.
I mention this because there was a student from BASIS who had 19 fives on AP TESTS and one four and who did not get into Harvard. I doubt that anyone has ever done that well on AP Tests. Sadly, his extraordinary accomplishment was at the expense of everything else in his life.
Sir, this is an Arby’s.
I figured something was up with today’s NYT when I solved it by only adding fill that connected with previous fill.
Having “movie set” for 1D on the Stumper held up the NW as did “hem” at 50A. I was wondering if Domino’s sold 5-sided pizzas (21D), ack! But no cheats today, yay.
Favorite fill in today’s Stumper: FANGIRL, the dreaded RED LIGHT CAMERAS, the great S.E. HINTON, R. CRUMB, TALL TALE (took me back to grade school and Pecos Bill), ON THE MAP, and USDA ORGANIC. Felt like a livelier grid than most Stumpers offer.
Dude blindness, explain?
Stumper – Sorry for chiming in late on the Stumper, but I have been stuck in the NE corner ever since I wrote down OREGON for “Territory initially including Idaho.” From what I recall from history, the Dakota Territory never included any part of Idaho. Am I missing some wordplay here?