Stella Zawistowski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Wait, who scheduled this Friday puzzle for a Saturday? I swear to you that Stella’s Tough as Nails themelesses are harder than this one. I was hoping for a RuPaul’s Drag Race allusion in the puzzle (I’m a recent convert, Stella’s been a fan for much longer), but no, the direct reference is that I got to the puzzle late because I was watching Drag Race. Although! In tonight’s show, there was a Golden Girls angle, and 1a MIAMI is clued [Setting for “The Golden Girls”]. Did anyone else hazard a guess with LANAI?
Favorite entries: HAPPY PLACE, ALL-NIGHTER, cell-phone DEAD SPOT, a Toledo MUD HEN, and Wanda SYKES. If you are OK with explicit language and aren’t squeamish, enjoy Sykes’s stand-up bit about Brazilian waxing. It’s possible I laughed so hard I hurt my head muscles.
Five Nine more things:
- 20a. [They have an “itis” named after them], SENIORS. Stella’s been a medical writer, so I wasn’t quite expecting a nonmedical -itis here. Senioritis is the condition in which students in their final year of high school take to slacking off.
- 31a. [Alternative to “stand”], HIT ME. Blackjack! We are overdue for family blackjack night. Is the hit me/stand dichotomy also a thing in poker? And/or other card games?
- 33a. [1960 Miles Davis album inspired in part by flamenco music], SKETCHES OF SPAIN. Entirely unknown to me. If you’d like a listen but don’t have access to the recording, you can partake of the whole album on YouTube.
- 39a. [“American Pie” actor Eddie ___ Thomas], KAYE / 34d. [Danity ___, girl group with a self-titled 2006 #1 album], KANE. I knew both of these, but if you knew neither of them, don’t fuss. Ask yourself if KEYE/KENE, KIYE/KINE, KOYE/KONE, or KUYE/KUNE look remotely plausible and move on.
- 55a. [“Lean and hungry type,” in a Hall & Oates hit], MANEATER. Stella and I share a love of ’80s pop. You’re forgiven if you tried to squeeze YOND CASSIUS into those eight squares.
- 6d. [Word after speed or drunk], DIAL. We would also have accepted “butt” in this clue.
- 14d. [Met villains, often], BASSI. We would also have accepted DATED.
- 38d. [Bland, in a way], SALT-FREE. Hey! You can get flavor without salt. Is a cayenne pepper bland without salt?
- 45d. [Acronymic weapons], TASERS. Ugh. Tasers have been abused quite a bit in recent weeks. Here’s a Reuters article on that. Someone recently opined that constructors should avoid the word TASE(R) in their grids and I just might agree.
Four stars from me.
Sid Sivakumar’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I love Sid’s puzzles! I also loved his recent interview on the Fill Me In podcast, which is my favorite podcast of all time! The discussion there was extremely insightful on the process of construction, certain entries that should and shouldn’t be used, and so forth. To go along with what Sid stated in that episode, there is nothing wrong with crosswords TEACHING you something. If I don’t know a certain term, that shouldn’t necessarily mean that it shouldn’t be in the puzzle. But I will surely know it the next time it is encountered! I was especially intrigued by the use of Indian terms, or lack thereof, in crosswords. There are not many Indian restaurants in my area, and for years I was just not really interested, but I have learned to really enjoy it now, and as soon as this pandemic is over that is one of the first places I am going!
I am rambling, but let’s just say that I don’t believe I have ever blogged a Sid Sivakumar puzzle, and his are quite enjoyable. His blog is here, so go check out some of his independent work. 4.6 stars for a stellar puzzle.
- 16A [Make an impression (on)] IMPINGE – This word appears in the latest Cracking the Cryptic YouTube video, where Simon solves a puzzle from the Independent created by a comedian “across the pond.” You can still watch it; this fun fact in no way spoils the puzzle! Check it out here.
- 19A [“Mind your own business”] “DON’T JUDGE” – Great entry. And timely!
- 56A [Sun-on-skin concern] AGE SPOT – I am not getting these yet, but I feel it’s only a matter of time at this point …..
- 4D [It’s taken on the way out] EXIT POLL – These are usually how they are able to “call” elections on the news. There are sometimes discrepancies in the exit poll and the actual results, and a large discrepancy may indicate voter fraud.
- 8D [Repeated phrase in the coda of James Taylor’s “Shower the People”] MAKE IT RAIN – This could have gone south quite easily … nice safe clue here!
- 20D [Eco-friendly housetop] GREEN ROOF – I need a new roof, and we are considering a metal roof, which may technically be a GREEN ROOF! It won’t be the color green, though!
- 28D [Contests with four legs] RELAY RACES – Great clue. Although your non-standard egg-drop relay from third grade may have any number!
- 29D [What a chiromancer does] READS PALMS – You don’t see the word “chiromancer” every day!
- 31D [Single-serve coffee container] K-CUP POD – This is phenomenal. Likely this is a debut entry; certainly no NYT hits. Very nicely done!
- 32D [Singles network logo with a partly outlined Star of David] JDATE – I have said it before, and I will say it again: anything Jewish is quite foreign to me, including the existence of this site! There are not many Jewish communities in northern Indiana/southwest Michigan. Amish, yes.
Also, if you haven’t already, subscribe to Matt Gritzmacher’s email service where he lists all of the puzzles that come out daily, including Sid’s! His website is found here. Have a safe and healthy weekend!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I am getting better! I will take this time in a heartbeat! As you can see from the grid image, I had a slight issue with the SE corner; see below for some commentary on a few of those entries. But for the most part, I flew through a lot of this puzzle. I am not keen on attending the ACPT, but I am looking forward to the online Boswords tournament, which is coming up in late July. That should be a lot of fun, just like the online tournament back in April that was a blast!
Anyway, doing tough crosswords is good training for tournaments, and the Stumper is, as always, a great barometer for your solving skills. So my theme today is one of positivity, since this IS still a difficult puzzle. And yes, in a tournament situation, those errors would kill me! Thanks for another great puzzle, Brad! 4.6 stars.
That promised commentary:
- 14A [Precursor of leaving home] BALL THREE – I actually thought of BALL FOUR being the answer, but it didn’t fit! This is DEFINITELY a “precursor” of a walk!
- 22A [Fund-raisers spoiled by showers] TEN K’S – This is rarely spelled out, so it looks weird. They are just now starting to do races again here, but there aren’t many of them.
- 27A [Stomachs] ABIDES – “The Dude abides” is a famous line (was this an “exit line??” See 35D!) from The Big Lebowski, and every time I see this word this is what comes to mind!
- 29A [He’s not without egotism] OTIS – We have a cryptic style clue here, as OTIS is hidden in the word “egotism”. Not too hard, but still getting used to seeing cryptic clues in a standard puzzle.
- 56A [Fake cannon named for pacifists] QUAKER GUN – I have no idea what this even is, to that is my lame excuse for why I got it wrong!
- 14D [Name derived from a western French region] BRETT – As you can see from the grid image, I highlighted this entry on purpose: my middle son’s name is Brett! I think I knew this history of the name, but still nice to see: his name is not at all common in puzzle. My other sons, Drew and Chase, appear all the time! Also, see 44D …
- 28D [Element with a unique last letter] BISMUTH – I think this is referring to the fact that this is the only element that ends in H. Great find!
- 35D [Movie zinger, often] EXIT LINE – Like Rhett Butler’s last line in Gone With the Wind, which is now under intense scrutiny due to the massive sea change of opinion after the Floyd murder? Yes, that was an EXIT LINE!
- 44D [Contests] ARGUES – My wife’s maiden name is Argue. It is Irish, so it is similar to Sprague or Bogue, but they pronounce it like you are fighting someone. I guess if you pronounced it differently, it would sound like a pirate screaming!
- 57D [Reader’s resource] ESP – I have no idea why this one stumped me! Perhaps because it is a really clever clue!
Again, have a wonderful weekend!
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Little Bit Country” — pannonica’s write-up
Firstly, don’t expect Donny and Marie, ok?
Theme is names of nations straddling multi-word phrases. Circled squares highlight.
- 22a. [A warranty may be void if you deviate from it] PROPER USE (Peru).
- 24a. [Circus worker, perhaps] ANIMAL TAMER (Malta). Many circuses have eliminated animal acts because of their inherent cruelty.
- 35a. [Stop dithering] REACH A DECISION (Chad).
- 50a. [Unit honoring a Swedish astronomer] DEGREE CELSIUS (Greece).
- 66a. [Official language of China] MANDARIN DIALECT (India).
- 85a. [Liberal arts school of southern California] POMONA COLLEGE (Monaco).
- 97a. [Church control of a sort] PAPAL AUTHORITY (Palau).
- 117a. [“Common Sense” writer] THOMAS PAINE (Spain).
- 119a. [Queue up] FORM A LINE (Mali). Without spaces, also happens to be a British variant spelling of formalin.
Not earth-shattering, but well done nonetheless.
- 80a [Remdesivir producer] GILEAD. The drug’s efficacy against COVID-19 is still being evaluated.
- 9d [Toasted sandwich] PANINI. More of a grilled thing, and PANINO is the (proper) singular form. But ok.
- 11d [Uncle of note] SAM. Can’t tell if the ‘note’ part is supposed to be punny. The character isn’t on currency and has no strong relation to music, so I’m guessing not.
- 35d [Copy for paste-up] REPRO. How retro.
- 38d [Let go] CEDE, 56a [Distribute] METE. CEDE & METE, together they’re nigh unstoppable!
- 99d [Hurt] PAINED. Intersecting with themer THOMAS PAINE, really?
- 127a [Site of a fictional prison] ZENDA, crossed by 112d [“The Marvelous Land __” (1904 sequel] OF OZ. OZ is also the titular nickname of the Oswald State Correctional Facility in the HBO show. Anyway, here’s some rather insipid music from The Prisoner of ZENDA, typical of Hollywood’s 86d [Yesteryear] OLD TIMES:
p.s. I had no idea there have been so many adaptations and productions of the story.
Did you think I was going to have Donny and Marie anyway? Nope nope nope. 107d [Slangy denials] NOPES.
Cheryl Phair’s Universal crossword — “Pump Up the Volume” — (Jim Q)
This post is only big enough to hold my two cents :)
THEME: Increasingly large containers.
- 10A [0.05-gallon item, perhaps] TEA CUP.
- 12A [0.25-gallon item, perhaps] MASON JAR.
- 22A [1-gallon item, perhaps] MILK JUG.
- 25A [4-gallon item, perhaps] SOUP POT.
- 46A [12-gallon item, perhaps] GAS TANK.
- 50A [15.5-gallon item, perhaps] BEER KEG.
- 62A [39-gallon item, perhaps] TRASH BAG.
- 63A [300-gallon item, perhaps] HOT TUB.
When I hit the 4 gallon soup pot less than halfway through the puzzle, I thought Oh boy… we’re in for some big containers ahead! I actually thought this was novel and fun, trying to figure out what was coming next. There was a bizarre element of suspense.
I did find the preciseness of the measurements juxtaposed with the word “perhaps” in each of the themers somewhat odd. I only like to see a “perhaps” in a clue once or twice per puzzle, so seeing it on repeat was a tad obnoxious for me. The only other nit I have is that TRASH BAG doesn’t feel like it belongs since the others are hard containers that typically hold liquids.
Just fine in the fill. Got a chuckle out of KRIS Kross. I remember the brief fad of wearing clothes backwards. It lasted a week and my seventh grade classmates looked like idiots. I did not partake in that one.
Great title! Also a bit of a throwback as it’s the title of one of my favorite 90’s movies starring Christian Slater that no one ever seems to remember when I bring it up in convo.