Hello, hello! June 13 is important to me for two reasons. First, it’s my sister’s birthday. Second, June 13, 2005 was the day I launched Diary of a Crossword Fiend. Happy 15th birthday, dear blog! Crossword Fiend helped me switch gears from freelance medical editing to full-time crossword editing, so that’s cool. And it’s allowed me to help shape our corner of the Internet, along with the dedicated Team Fiend crew of smart, funny crossword lovers. Webmaster Dave Sullivan keeps things operating smoothly, and used to blog the daily CrosSynergy puzzles. The current crew of writers includes Adesina Koiki, Andy Kravis, Ben Smith, Derek Allen, Gareth Bain, Jenni Levy, Jim Peredo, Jim Quinlan, Joon Pahk, Laura Braunstein, Matt Gaffney, Nate Cardin, pannonica, Rachel Fabi, Rebecca Falcon, and Sam Donaldson. I’m grateful to every one of them for generously contributing their time and energies to Fiend, and I also want to thank the writers emeriti who’ve blogged here in the past. Thanks, too, to all of you who read what we have to say about the crosswords that engage our minds, and who join the conversation in the comments lounge. Here’s to another 15 years!—Amy
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I typically don’t love themelesses that lean heavily on corners of intersecting 7s. Some of the 7s are good, but they’re mostly going to be less colorful than what you see in stacks of 9- to 11-letter entries. And some of the 7s pall, like ROADEOS, LEFT ARM, and ONE ACRE. Shorter bits holding it all together, your AGUE and APTS and GTO and ACT I, don’t add much.
It does look like the constructor sought out Scrabbly fill—we see ZILLION and X FACTOR crossing ZOOM OUT and XEROPHYTE, KRAKENS, and XIANGQI (!) crossing EX-FBI (blurgh) and AQUATIC.
Three more things:
- 6d. [Sch. yearbook section], ORGS. As clued, this feels like an ugly plural abbreviation. But when I’m writing about various groups, such as the places I’ve donated in recent weeks, I sure do call them “orgs.”
- 39d. [So-called “Chinese chess”], XIANGQI. I needed every crossing here. I’m not up on my chess-like games, apparently. If this word’s new to you, you can learn a bit about it here. Have any of you played xiangqi?
- 60d. [Annual e-sports competition since 1996], EVO. Wow, wow, wow. I have not heard of this, ever. Apparently it’s a tournament for playing fighting video games. *eyeroll* I mean, if that’s your thing, you like to do pretend ass-kickings, have at it. Not for me. There’s also Evo Morales, who until recently was the president of Bolivia. Curious to know if the gaming competition or world leader is more broadly familiar among NYT solvers.
3.5 stars from me.
Michael Wiesenberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
It has been a while since I have seen a puzzle from Michael. This one was fun, and also is a great grid construction with a few longer answers all crossing in the middle. I did have a brain cramp near the end of this puzzle, hence the error marks near the bottom of the grid. I’ll explain my stupidity below! 4.4 stars for this one.
Those promised notes:
- 13A [Pokémon species with lightning bolt-shaped tails] PIKACHU – This is a species?? I thought this was a character name? I don’t know Pokémon AT ALL.
- 16A [Like many store-bought juices] FROM CONCENTRATE – You have to get the ones with no pulp! At least the orange juice, which are the main ones you see made this way.
- 30A [Filmmaker’s __ light] KLIEG – This is named after somebody, right?
- 35A [Placement question] “WHERE DOES THIS GO?” – I picture someone helping someone else move!
- 40A [Yellowish color] OCHRE – I never know whether this is ER or RE. Does anybody, really?
- 58A [Bundt, e.g.] CAKE TIN – I had CAKE PAN in here, and was wondering what I had wrong. I didn’t check the downs!
- 61A [Legendary Manhattan eatery] SARDIS – Perhaps slightly tough for the LA crowd?
- 14D [Restocking criterion] UNITS SOLD – The accountant in me got this quickly!
- 29D [App tester’s concern] EASE OF USE – I think this is where Zoom excelled and Skype fell flat on its face!
- 44D [__ de rire: burst of laughter] ÉCLAT – I know this word; not this phrase. I must get better at French. I better go to Paris for some “research!”
- 51D [“__ you think it was?”] WHO’D – I had to think for a minute to figure out if I say this or not; and I’m not entirely sure that I know!
I will stop here. On to more puzzles today!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I will call this one middle-of-the-road. I stopped and started this a few times, and one of those times I forgot to pause the timer, so I have no idea what my actual time is. I am guessing around 20 minutes. But note the grid image: no error marks! I tried to just power through this one, and as usual, upon reflection of the finished grid, everything seems easy now! I am still hoping to meet Matthew Sewell one of these days, but until this pandemic has passed, that may not be any time soon. But kudos to him for another great Stumper to amuse us, if not slightly torture us, for a few moments once again! 4.6 stars for this gem.
- 19A [Sierra Club starter] ECO – This has you thinking you need a name here. Clever!
- 21A [”The Right Stuff” actor or role] GLENN – John Glenn was the astronaut, and I believe Scott Glenn was the actor, but he portrayed Alan Shepard in this film. Ed Harris was Glenn the astronaut.
- 27A [Warrior’s cast iron] THROWING STARS – I thought this was one of the best clues in the puzzle!
- 39A [Half of New Delhi] ELHI – This has a British cryptic feel to it. I’m not sure I like it in an American standard crossword. It did make me grin just a bit, so we’ll take it!
- 52A [Post-win ritual] LAP – As in a track meet! Remember those? Or an auto race! Which now have no fans present! And NASCAR now has no Confederate flags
- 13D [”Outrageous!”] “THE NERVE!” – Great casual phrase! I may have said this just in the last day or so …
- 24D [John the Baptist opponent] PHARISEE – Tough if you don’t know your Bible; slightly tricky even if you do!
- 41D [Three-line poems] TERCETS – I don’t think this is a real word.
- 50D [Brit’s public outdoor pool] LIDO – So THAT is where they get the deck name on those cruise ships!
- 51D [Any Wagnerian masterwork] OPER – Is this German for opera? Let’s go with that assumption!
Congratulations to Amy on 15 years of this blog! Everyone stay safe and healthy this weekend!
John Guzzetta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “We Came, We Saw …” — pannonica’s write-up
… what does one often do before conquering? Divide! And that’s what we have here. Really impressed with this theme and execution. “Only” 4 theme parts, but that’s because of its complexity and exquisiteness.
The circled squares contain the names of types of saws. These saws ‘cut through’ crossing vertical entries, but only divide them at one spot. Why? Because those constitute items that can be cut by a saw. Further, each item that’s ‘cut’ is matched to a type of saw appropriate for that use!
- 23a. [Long walk after a stressful day at work, say] COPING MECHANISM.
3d. [Policy setters] BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
– The COPING saw is applied to a BOARD.
- 47a. [Putting Velcro tabs on remotes to keep track of them, e.g.] LIFE HACK.
35d. [Fanciful hopes] PIPE DREAMS.
– HACKsaw on a PIPE.
- 94a. [Marching season prep] BAND CAMP.
46d. [It might include glucose and cholesterol tests] BLOOD PANEL.
– BANDsaw, PANEL.
- 120a. [Subway, e.g.] RESTAURANT CHAIN.
41d. [The Cabinet is part of it] EXECUTIVE BRANCH.
– CHAINsaw, BRANCH.
And it’s all symmetrical. Superb, just superb.
- 34a [October birthstones] OPALS. Just tried Opal® apples for the first time. They have a strong hint of pear in them.
- 38a/113d [Analgesic target] PAIN / ACHE.
- 40a [Chaotic] IN A MESS, which brings some order to the in-grid seeming chaos of INAMESS, which looks like an addled NEMESIS or something.
- 53a [Hogwarts professor Remus, who’s a werewolf] LUPIN. Did not know this (of course) but it was easy to guess because JK Rowling’s latinate naming of things is always so obvious and heavy-handed. Plumbomanus! or something. Also, she’s an unreconstructed bigot. Feeling more vindicated than ever in never reading the books or watching the movies.
- 75a [Third-northernmost national capitol] – Haven’t seen that clue before for the ever-popular OSLO.
- 112a [Raptor that can fly 240 miles per hour while diving] FALCON. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the peregrine FALCON who’s capable of the feat.
(45a [It crosses the Hudson R. at Ft. Lee] GWB)
- There’s some weaker short fill (SAAR, TSO, SRS, et al) but it’s compensated by good stuff such as OLD SOUL, ANGKOR WAT, non-partial PALO ALTO and BON JOVI, and more. (72a, 44a, 60d; 32a, 5d, 57d, 107a)
- 91d [NATO member] USA. For the time being, yes. Among the many horrors being perpetrated by the wholly destructive— hey, what was that about a chainsaw?
- 95d [Of the elbow] CUBITAL. There’s a word you don’t see every day. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the elbow analogue to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist.
- Is it coincidence or intentional that nearly the last entry (120d [Tear]) is RIP? Hmm.
David Poole’s Universal crossword — “Name’s Sake”
THEME: Celebrities whose last name ends with S is moved to the first name and turned into a possessive to create a wacky phrase.
- 17A [Mortgage provider for Mr. Cub?] ERNIE’S BANK. Instead of ERNIE BANKS.
- 24A [Shaving mishap for a Fleetwood Mac singer?] STEVIE’S NICK. This is where I saw the theme.
- 34A [Picnic locale for a bus boycott icon?] ROSA’S PARK.
- 50A [Sunbathing woe for an “Oh, God!” star?] GEORGE’S BURN.
- 58A [Means of entry for the “Fallin'” singer?] ALICIA’S KEYS.
I liked this idea quite a bit! It seems simple, but trying to explain it is actually quite a challenge. It is consistent throughout and each name was iconic. A joy to uncover the themers for me.
Nothing to splashy in the fill, but not much to grimace at either.
4 stars from me.