Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What the heck? We’ve got ourselves another Friday-difficulty puzzle but for Saturday. I wanted more of a challenge!
When I read the 1a clue, [Rim coating, at times], I figured this might be secretly referring to the rims of car wheels, but no, it’s SALT on a margarita glass. The wheels came into play a moment later with 4d. [Baldness is the result of losing them], TREADS, referring not to hairless heads but to tires.
I appreciated 9d. [Like the era that began in the early 1600s], JACOBEAN, because I just voted for the Best Wrong Answer to a Learned League question asking What term, rather than “Jamesian”, is used for English literature coinciding with the reign of James I, beginning in 1603? Some wag answered, Big Jimmy Style, which is perfect.
Fave fill: HATEWATCH (which I don’t do—life’s too short and there are too many shows on my TBW list), JASON MRAZ, GAVE A DAMN (wear your face mask to protect other people, please!), HONOR CODE, COAST TO COAST (my guy and I were just laughing about Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” whose lyrics include the magical phrase, “coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago.” What the what??), “YEAH, I CAN DO THAT,” and SWEET AND SOUR. Proper plural brand name ONESIES is good, too.
Less keen on NO CAMERAS, DOURER, LITHELY, AAA CELL, YER, ELS.
Did not know: 41a. [Betty who sang “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)”], EVERETT. 1964 American Bandstand performance in the video below. Enjoy!
Five more things:
- 32d. [Italian playwright who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature], DARIO FO. I haven’t read anything by him, but feel like I should get half credit for having read Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler.
- 28a. [Factor in the price of paper towels], PLY. I am not a fan of one-ply paper towels, I tell you. I am not a fan of un-subdivided paper towels, either. The “select-a-size” where you can just take half a square? Awesome. Soon as this single-ply Trader Joe’s runs out, we’ll open up a Brawny roll that adds another level of perforations, so you can take A QUARTER SQUARE AT A TIME. *faints*
- 44a. [Something you wouldn’t use your hands to touch], PEDAL. I had a huge list of possible answers here. I excel at navigating buildings without touching anything with my bare hands. (Shopping is nigh impossible, but doors and elevators are no match for my wiles.)
- 51a. [Russian lead-in to -evich or -evna], TSAR. These words were new to me. A tsarevich is a czar’s eldest son, and a tsarevna is the czar’s daughter or the wife of a tsarevich. Let’s flip it and say that a tsarevich can also be married to the daughter, such that Jared Kushner is a tsarevich in his in-laws’ family.
- 15d. [Baker’s Joy alternative], PAM. Pam is a cooking spray, and Baker’s Joy is a similar product used to spray baking pans to keep your cake from sticking. B’s J adds flour to the oil concoction in Pam, apparently, so if you ever feel the need to spray something with flour and oil, you’re all set.
3.6 stars from me.
Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My friend Kyle is serving up another fine themeless puzzle this weekend! There is a great entry at 48A (see below) that doesn’t conjure up too horrible an image in the middle of June and July! I didn’t find this too difficult, and the error marks you see in the SE corner were due to a typo. (That’s my story, and I am sticking to it!) I really enjoy Kyle’s puzzles; perhaps because we are from the same area of the country? It seems like the vast majority of constructors are from the NE section of the country and not the Midwest. I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as well. 4.4 stars.
Those promised comments:
- 5A [Affectionate-poke-on-the-nose word] BOOP – Tell me you haven’t said this to a baby!
- 23A [Two-step tutorials, say] DANCE LESSONS – Good clue here. Perhaps one of the best ones in this puzzle.
- 26A [Take a bad turn] GO SOUTH – Can it be said that this country’s handling of COVID-19 has “gone south?”
- 40A [Cleaner brand with a macron on its first vowel] DRANO – I don’t think I knew it was called a macron! It is definitely there, though!
- 48A [Blizzard portmanteau] SNOWMAGEDDON – Easily the best entry in the grid! If you don’t live in an area where blizzards happen, you may not know this word. Kyle and I do live in such an area!
- 12D [2019 Best Supporting Actress winner for “If Beale Street Could Talk”] REGINA KING – I haven’t seen this, but I did see the Watchmen series on HBO, which has been in the news due to it’s having the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 as a key plot point. She was excellent in that as well. I now have another movie to watch!
- 28D [Start of typical “Star Trek” navigation orders] SET A COURSE – I haven’t seen this show in years, and this was still a gimme!
- 38D [Turns idly, as a pencil] TWIDDLES – I thought you twiddled your thumbs only?
- 43D [Pesto ingredient] PINE NUT – I didn’t know what pesto was until I worked at an Italian restaurant when I was about 19 or 20. No one made this in my house growing up!
- 55D [Goranson of “The Conners”] LECY – Who is this?? I don’t think I know this actress at all.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here! Thanks for reading!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
This was a weird Stumper for me. the NE and SW corners fell rather quickly, while the other two corners took FOREVER. I have two error marks in the grid, which I will surely discuss below, but suffice to say there were a couple of unfamiliar terms in this one. I think some people still feel intimidated by not “knowing” everything in a puzzle, but the more puzzles I do, the more I realize how little I actually know. I am constantly learning new things, and I hope that doesn’t stop any time soon! This is a Les Ruff puzzle, so it isn’t super thorny, but it is still a toughie. How did you do? 4.3 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 15A [Toll road alternative] SHUNPIKE – This is actually in the dictionary! How do I not know this word? Probably because I TAKE the toll road!
- 24A [__ Things Considered (bird blog)] OWL – Never heard of this, but it was either this or AUK. OWL works better as a pun!
- 28A [Pop __] TARTS – These are terrible for you, but I still have these every so often. I have no will power!
- 36A [Sound advice from a decorator] ACOUSTICAL TILE – I had some wrong letters, so I thought the answer here was ACOUSTIC PLANTS!
- 45A [Former IndyCar apparel provider] IZOD – This is too vague. How would you know this??
- 53A [’80s mile-run record holder] COE – This is becoming a dated reference. I only know it because I am practically a senior citizen. Is he still relevant?
- 4D [People, so to speak] UNS – This is also too vague. As in “young uns?” Is that what is meant here?
- 7D [In order] OKAY – Going along with the theme, this is also very vague. I would think if something was “in order” that it would be better than just “OKAY.”
- 11D [Game Goldfinger cheats at] CANASTA – The opening scene in this movie is where you see this game being played. If you have Amazon Prime, I am fairly sure you can watch this for free. Another movie to watch!
- 29D [Economic incentive for innovation] XPRIZE – Another new one on me. Do I need to read more??
- 42D [Universal Studios D’oh-nuts seller] LARD LAD – There must be a replica of this Simpsons mascot down there. I have mentioned before I am not a big Simpsons watcher, but I have heard of this name.
Please have a safe and healthy weekend!
Robert Wemischner’s Universal crossword — “Different Tastes”
A very tasteful offering today.
THEME: “Tastes” are jumbled in common phrases.
- 18A [Hopelessly out of style (unscramble each set of circled letters!)] SO LAST YEAR. SALTY.
- 20A [Classic film set at a saloon, perhaps] OLD WESTERN. SWEET.
- 39A [App options that often have extra features] PREMIUM ACCOUNTS. UMAMI.
- 61A [Daytona International Speedway, e.g.] RACECOURSE. SOUR.
- 63A [Ticket platform] EVENTBRITE. BITTER.
This theme type isn’t my particular taste (yuk yuk). But I’ll start off with things I do like: EVENTBRITE and SO LAST YEAR have a nice current ring to them! EVENTBRITE is probably new to a lot of solvers, but since I’ve purchased tickets from them a handful of times, I didn’t get hung up. I also liked IT’S SO YOU! in the fill. And stacking themers without causing too much yuck in the fill was nicely done as well.
The biggest thing I do not like about this puzzle has nothing to do with the construction. It has everything to do with Universal’s refusal to circle letters in its grids (unless you download it from this site, which a new solver is unlikely to do). In my opinion, it’s too much to ask of a new solver… “Count and mentally circle your own letters… then unscramble!” I’ve seen many a new solver try to interpret Universal’s instructions when it comes to “workarounds” to circling letters, and just give up. I am completely befuddled as to why every other major publication is able to employ circles in grids, but Universal (who, per its website, “…sets the standard for all daily crosswords”) does not.
Anyway, back to the puzzle.
For me, I don’t much like enjoying a theme after I’m done solving, and in this type of puzzle that’s usually what happens (especially when interpreting the theme is dependent on the title). So there really is no AHA moment during the solve. It’s mostly a themeless. Some of the themers feel forced too- like OLD WESTERN. I just known them as WESTERNS (also SWEET doesn’t bridge the word OLD so OLD is entirely superfluous).
Does anyone else say UP TOP! in place of “High five!” I think we used to say that. Perhaps it’s regional. It’s not clued that way, but I think it could be!
2.5 Stars for me with circles. 1 star without.
David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “T Intersections” — pannonica’s write-up
Final word of theme answers gets a letter T affixed to the beginning, for twacky results. These Ts occur at the crossings of two themers and I’ve here circled them for convenience.
- 24a. [Poorly designed apps?] USER TERRORS (errors).
5d. [Conveniences for the very upset?] BIG TISSUES (issues). Do they still make “man-size” tissues for man-size cries? Aha, I see they were recently rebranded after 62 years, for being perceived as sexist.
- 31a. [Hired dog sleds?] POLAR TAXIS (axis).
11d. [Stage direction in a Beckett play?] EXIT TRAMPS (ramps). Presumably Vladimir and Estragon.
- 66a. [Where the slop is poured?] IN THE TROUGH (rough).
36d. [Serious snarl-up?] ACUTE TANGLE (angle).
- 100a. [Impressive jerk?] GOOD TWITCH (witch).
71a. [Overcooked fruit pastries?] BLACK TARTS (arts).
- 109a. [Nuisance du site web?] FRENCH TROLL (roll).
74d. [Sax sound from the unhep] SQUARE TONE (one). Won’t lie, when I saw the SQ- I thought it was going to be SQUONK something. But then I realized that (1) that would probably be over-hip, and (2) it’s unlikely to appear in the WSJ anyway.
The original phrases are kind of 71a [Lackluster] BLAH, and the new ones aren’t spectacular, but the clues do a very good job elevating everything as much as possible.
- Let’s start with the pannonica bait. Obviously I have to point highlight the triplet of 81d [Small chamber group] TRIO spanning from 60a [Large chamber group] OCTET to 79a [Even larger chamber group] NONET.
- There’s also the much looser group of 43a [Huascarán is its highest peak] PERU near 52d [Eerie landscape features] MISTS (reminding me of the famous Peruvian volcano Misti, plus 69a [Andean stimulant] COCA.
- 83a [Letter-shaped seal] O-RING. Not to be confused with the ringed seal, Pusa hispida.
- 4d [Org. for soldiers with day jobs] USAR] United States Army Reserve.
- 113a [Fact facer] REALIST. 14d [In current circumstances] AS IT IS. Good non-duplication.
“REALISM, n. The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.” (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary)
- 44d [Fill with hate] ENVENOM. There’s a word you don’t see every day. I kind of like it.
- 63d [Golden ratio symbol] PHI. Somewhere in one of my many boxes I have a book called The Power of Limits. The author, György Doczi, is a golden ratio fanatic. I’m also keen on obtaining—or at least reading—Giulio Tononi’s Phi.
- 97a [Rose family shrubs] SPIREAS. Wikipedia informs me that the genus Filipendula is no longer included in the family, but I can’t resist mentioning it because ‘filipendulous’ is such a great word, meaning “suspended by or strung upon a thread”.
- 47a [Annulled] UNDID.
p.s. Apologies for the possible illegibility of the solution grid. I installed a new version of the solving app (Xword) and can’t seem to dictate the output quite as well as I used to. Am working on it.