Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Well, I flew right through this like it was a Friday puzzle on the easier end of the spectrum. I bet a big part of that is that I have good recall for names and pop culture. If you don’t, well, you might have felt beaten down by the gauntlet of proper names: SHAMU KEEBLERELF RIPA PRYOR MAUS SIAM BARNEYSTINSON JAGS LAURA ERIK HENRI HEYYA MEARA UNIONJACK GARIBALDI BASSALE GRETA, that’s 17. You have my permission to grouse about that—I like names in a crossword because they make it easy for me, but I’m not going to expect everyone to know the How I Met Your Mother character name BARNEY STINSON. (I saw part of one episode one time.)
On the plus side, the propers bring us four notable women, legendary Black comedian Richard PRYOR, and hip-hop dup OutKast’s “HEY YA,” outnumbering the white male contingent here.
Fill I liked: KEEBLER ELF, GOES ON A BENDER, BOOMTOWNS, OPIUM DEN, UNION JACK.
Just three more things, because it’s late:
- 18a. [Pole position?], AXIS. I think this is getting at the North Pole and the South Pole being on the same axis of Earth.
- 37a. [Herb of the parsley family], ANISE. How can it be related to parsley, when parsley is fine but anise is the Antichrist?
- 59a. [Doesn’t take any cards, say], STAYS. My first thoughts were credit cards and greeting cards, but the clue’s about playing cards in, say, blackjack.
3.75 stars from me. Good night!
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Beautiful puzzle today! Look at all of those 10-letter entries! There are EIGHTEEN of them! Very nicely done, with very little obscure info. Not too difficult to fill, but still quite a fun solve. Is there only 30 black squares? This is quite a feat of construction. Kudos to Joe, whose puzzles I am really starting to enjoy. 4.6 stars for this one!
- 1A [NASCAR stat] MPH – NASCAR is still going through this pandemic; the Indy 500 is this Sunday. That will be weird with no fans in the stands!
- 14A [Asia’s __-Kum Desert] KARA – This is most of Turkmenistan. I had to look that up!
- 31A [Starbucks selection] CAFFE MOCHA – My favorite drink there! Add some raspberry syrup for even more fun!
- 35A [Where the action in Chicago’s County General Hospital took place] ON E.R. – Haven’t seen this entry in forever. Perhaps because the show hasn’t been on in years! Is it even in syndication or on Netflix somewhere? Maybe it is on the new Peacock service! I will check that out this weekend …
- 44A [“The Red House Mystery” author] MILNE – I think this is not his most famous work!
- 47A & 48A [“Truly!”] HONEST & “I CANNOT LIE!” – Well done!
- 1D [Rhyming cocktail] MANGO TANGO – MAI TAI didn’t fit. Both sound good right about now!
- 7D [H.S. instructors who show you the ropes?] P.E .TEACHERS – It isn’t PET EACHERS?! Seriously, this is a great clue!
- 10D [Muppet who refers to himself in the third person] ELMO – I never did like that Elmo, and he is NOT on the new Muppets Now show on Disney Plus. That is a good thing!
- 48D [Olympic swimmers Crocker and Thorpe] IANS – Who knew there were so many good Olympian swimmers named Ian!
That is all!
Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturn-day Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
We have a them for this week’s Stumpers! Note the clever title! Stan warned me this one was a bit different, and he wasn’t wrong. Note the thematic entries:
- 17A [Two of Saturn’s ”solar system” kids] PLUTO AND JUPITER
- 28A [Saturn’s growing concern] AGRICULTURE
- 43A [Saturn’s decaying concern] DISSOLUTION
- 55A [Two of Saturn’s ”solar system” kids] CERES AND NEPTUNE
I believe this has to do with the god Saturn and not the planet, even though “solar system” appears in a couple of clues. In this Wikipedia article, Saturn is described as the god of agriculture and dissolution, and lists all 6 of his children, including the four mentioned in the grid. Clever! Hard in some areas, but the theme gets you extra toeholds in a puzzle that you might not normally have. My time was just over 14 minutes, and that is solving on an iPad this week due to a slightly different schedule! Only a couple of minor errors, which you can see in the grid image if you look really closely! 4.5 stars for this one.
A few more things:
- 5A [Pointy poker] AWL – This one is for you, Amy!
- 19A [Be an agent for] SPEED – I am not sure how this works …
- 41A [Inapt outdoor sculptures] PLOP ART – I had POOP ART in here at first! I am so immature!
- 49A & 54A [Many a Hubble sighting] NEBULA & COMET – Nicely done!
- 2D [Portrait canvas of a sort] OILPAPER – I assume this is one word. Never heard of this term.
- 5D [”The Chairside Instructor” publisher] ADA – Great clue! Nice “a-ha!” moment.
- 11D [”The Mikado” setting] TITIPU – I had to look this up later to confirm. I am so uncultured it isn’t even funny anymore!
- 25D [Apply thickly] SLAB ON – SLAP ON sounds better!
- 36D [Toughed (out)] BRAZENED – I have not used this word (brazen) as a verb; I usually see it as an adjective. I thought I had spelled something wrong!
- 57D [Heady real estate investment] ALE – I don’t get this at all. Somebody explain!
- 58D [Contributor to some yogurts] EWE – For the milk, I suppose. Not quite as committed as a pig is in making bacon!
Have a safe and healthy weekend!
Jacki Evans and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword — “Colorado Couples” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Looks like a debut from Jacki Evans! Excellent!
THEME: The letters CO- appear twice in common phrases
- 17A [*Popular soda] COCA COLA.
- 21A [*Widely used educational standards] COMMON CORE.
- 39A [*”SportsCenter” specialty] COLOR COMMENTARY.
- 61A [*Chicago’s region] COOK COUNTY.
- 66A [Fans of a certain redheaded host, or a hint to the starred entries] TEAM COCO.
Excellent set of theme answers! I especially enjoyed the grid-spanning COLOR COMMENTARY, but they were all fun to figure out, especially after I grokked the theme at COMMON CORE (with the help of the title) and had that edge for the rest of the puzzle.
I thought it odd that there were, in a sense, two unrelated revealers: the title, and 66A. I thought the title was pretty darn good as a revealer, especially since it both follows the same CO- pattern and uses the abbreviation for Colorado twice. I was very surprised then to uncover TEAM COCO as another revealer, but it works just as well and it’s a great entry.
Lots of new stuff for me, including (of course) KOTO (you know it’s likely to be a new entry for a lot of people when it gives you an anagram hint in the clue). PCP (as clued), EVA Green, MALAWI was on tip of tongue but never quite surfaced, “Silento” in the clue for 8D, HMU (which I’m assuming means “Hit Me Up”), and YASS. Seems like quite a bit of funky stuff for the Universal, and I think it may induce some side-eye from regular solvers, but I liked it in general.
Enjoy the weekend! Great work, Jacki!
Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Coaching Advice From Captain Obvious” — pannonica’s write-up
Enlighten me, someone – is the Captain Obvious genre public domain in crosswordom? I know E Birnholz over at the Washington Post has been issuing them on a relatively frequent basis of late. Who originated the trope in this context?
Regardless, this time the good Captain proffers trademark literalisms for the realm of sports:
- 23a. [Wry words of wisdom … from a hurdles coach] GO ABOVE AND BEYOND.
- 32a. [ … from a crew coach] DON’T ROCK THE BOAT. Ancillary content at 54a [Crew needs] OARS. I prefer a crossword to not have loose edges like that.
- 42a. [ … from a sport climbing coach] HANG IN THERE.
- 66a/71a [ … from a soccer coach] VISUALIZE | YOUR GOALS.
- 95a. [ … from a pole vault coach] RAISE THE BAR.
- 105a. [ … from a hammer throw coach] YOU GOTTA LET IT GO.
- 116a. [ … from a water polo coach] HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH.
Par for the course, really. If you caught yourself muttering “well, duh” at least once, then this theme has served its purpose.
Let’s move on to the clumping section of the write-up.
- 61a [It became a state in 1890] IDAHO, 110a [It became a state in 1864] NEVADA, 127a [It became a state in 1845] TEXAS.
- 10a/109a [Flight segment] STAIR, LEG.
- 26a [Beehive State tribe] UTES, 125a [Platte river people] OTOE.
- 28a [Org. for seniors] AARP, 41a [Or. for retirees] SSA.
- 73a [Muscat native] OMANI, 60d [Riyadh resident] SAUDI.
- 1a [Bird sacred to Thoth] IBIS. If you had the head of an ibis, I’m sure you’d consider them sacred too.
- 11d [Scotland’s longest river] TAY. So do you all know of “The Tay Bridge Disaster“, by William McGonagall? He’s considered by many to be the worst poet in history, and it is his masterpiece. Go ahead, read it. I dare you. Or you can hear it read.
- 100d [Mena of “American Beauty”] SUVARI. 101a [At some point in the future] ONE DAY I will learn the difference between her and Mira Sorvino. I have a similar but less acute problem with 64a John SECADA and Peter Cetera.
- 114d [James of the “Divergent” films] THEO. Theo James? James Theo? >flips coin< Theo James! >looks it up< …YEsssssss! More specifically, Theodore Peter James Kinnaird Taptiklis.
- 19a [Girl’s name meaning “ninth”] NONA. Only NONAs I know are Hendryx and Gaye.
- 39a [Happy housemate] DOC. Seven dwarves in the house.
- 104a [“Spirited Away” genre] ANIME, 34d [Comic-Con dress-up] COSPLAY.
And that’ll do it. These Captain Obvious puzzles are never superlative one way or the other.