John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I showed up two hours late to the puzzle since I wanted to finish writing 10 postcards to voters for Sister District whilst watching some RuPaul’s Drag Race. Democracy and drag are great appetizers for intellectual pursuits like wrangling a crossword.
Well, this is the second NYT in a row that didn’t really grab me. I was not expecting that. Entries like A TAD, prefix ERGO-, suffix –ULA, ASP, INTS, unfortunate Paula DEEN, MORON, ILES, GO AS (duplicating I CAN’T GO ON, which is also crossing I’M AN), and END ON just left me cold. And why cheapen a basic word like LET with a clue ([Word that’s also a diminutive suffix]) that evokes suffix action when the grid’s got a couple affixes already? Two was already too many! Among the longer fill, TAKE A JOKE feels weird without a negation, doesn’t it? And TEASER TRAILER feels redundant; it’s just a trailer to me.
I do like BEDSIDE MANNER, MARIE CURIE, OPEN LETTER, MOUNTAIN BIKER, the fresh MEDAL HUNT, PIRATE KING, and BUGATTI.
Three more things:
- 2d. [Something you shouldn’t do in an art museum], TOUCH. One appreciates a gimme in the opening corner of a Saturday NYT puzzle.
- 35a. [Plates], TAGS. As in car license plates. I never call them TAGS. Might be a regional thing?
- 12d. [Message that basically tells you to get a life?], GAME OVER. In a video game. If someone tells you “game over” in real life, they’d better not add “get a life”!
3.25 stars from me. On with the long weekend!
Chase Dittrich’s Universal crossword — “Chief Justice” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Tribute puzzle to the one and only…
THEME: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
THEME ANSWERS: I feel like it makes sense to start with the revealer first.
- 61A [Renowned, or a word associated with the starting sounds of 17-, 28- and 47-Across] NOTORIOUS
- 17A [Question before an argument, perhaps] ARE YOU MAD?
- 28A [Not whine after losing, say] BE A GOOD SPORT.
- 47A [“Egad!”] GEE WILLIKERS!
I think any puzzle honoring RBG is gonna get a pass from me. I definitely enjoyed uncovering the revealer, since I had absolutely no clue what was tying the theme answers together. It was a nice surprise.
Felt like a lot of short fill in this one. Probably not much more than usual, but that’s what it felt like during my solve. BAO was new for me, though now that I watched a trailer of the Academy Award winning short film, it looks wonderful and it’s going high on my watch list. I probably could’ve watched it in the same time that I took to watch the trailer. Also, I thought any song that started with the word YAKETY ended in YAK. Who knew? YAKETY SAX is definitely a fitting name of that wacky little tune, however.
Liked: MR. TOAD, POT FARMS, YAKETY SAX, AMY ADAMS, EGG TOSS, MOVED OVER, and MOSH PIT, though I found it odd to clue that last one as a “location.”
Stuff that I didn’t enjoy as much included KAA, AOK, BOA/BAO, GMA, EPS, IWO, APA, ETD, EAU, OTT, AURAE, AGOG, AS DO I, and YERBA. Felt to me like there was quite a bit of crossword glue holding this one together. Also not sure how I feel about 64D [Important resource for a crossword constructor?] ORE. On the one hand, I love it. On the other, it feels like it’s navel gazing.
Overall, fun great theme that was choppy to get through.
Mark Danna and Peter Gordon’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Daffy Derby” — pannonica’s write-up
So this is a bunch of puns couched as a horse race call. It follows a chronological sequence.
- 23a. [“The horses are at the gate…and they’re off! Pushy Linejumper quickly ___…”] CUTS IN FRONT
- 29a. [“Gearshift is in second, with Tailgater ___…”] RIGHT BEHIND
- 36a. [“Tidal Wave suddenly ___…”] SURGES FORWARD
- 51a. [“But now Mudslinger is ___…”] LOSING GROUND
- 68a. [“At the halfway point, Adam’s Apple and Bottle Throat are ___…”] NECK AND NECK.
- 84a. [“Marquee Actor stumbles badly, and now Understudy ___…”] TAKES THE LEAD
- 98a. [“Heading from home, I’ve Been Transferred is ___…”] MAKING HIS MOVE
- 107a. [“And now Window of Opportunity is ___…”] CLOSING FAST.
- 117a. [“But at the wire, Pinocchio ___…”] WINS BY A NOSE.
Not going to lie, this theme did practically nothing for me. A pun’s effectiveness comes from the constraints on the form; there needs to be an extra level of cleverness to tie things together. Since thoroughbred monikers can be just about anything, there’s no challenge—not bite—to whatever wit is being employed. I mean, “Bottle Throat”?!? Come on. “I’ve Been Transferred”? “Pushy Linejumper”? These things are too easily sculpted. Conversely, the staid names such as “Gearshift”, “Mudslinger”, and “Understudy” just float along, making little impact. The whole affair feels like a washout.
Theme-adjacent: 61d [Riding a racehorse, e.g.] SKILL, 126a [Mounts, as a horse] GETS ON, 26d [React like a spooked horse] REAR, 79d [Filly, e.g.] SHE.
Not theme adjacent (switcheroo!): 84d [Toy for one who loves being at the track?] TRAIN SET.
- Despite my dislike of the theme, there were some stellar—or at least genuinely clever—clues among the ballast fill. Some examples: 44a [Abbr. in a return address?] IRS, 80a [Missing people?] LONESOME, 113a [Speed reader?] RADAR, 8d [Running mates?] ELOPERS, 34d [Rotten to the Corps? AWOL
- In the ‘trying too hard’ category I place 74d [A masseur might be a wizard of these] AHS, and 12d [Warm welcome?] ALOHA.
- 6d [Pound sounds] ARFS, 42d [Used swine language] OINKED, 90a [Farm bleater] EWE.
66d [Country whose 500-kwacha note features a water faucet] MALAWI. Wow, that’s a deep cut. This is a new-ish design, introduced in 2012.
- 35a [Sand dollar cousin] SEA STAR. Always impressed how elastic the idea of taxonomic ‘cousins’ are the farther (25a [Ford slogan introduced in 2012] GO FURTHER (86d [Dismayed cry] ACK) one gets from vertebrates, more specifically mammals, and more specifically still—humans. Yes, I am once again decrying the (15d) ANTHROpocentricity of things.) While they are in the same phylum (Echinodermata), they are in different classes (Echinoidea and Asterooidea, respectively), and in fact different subphyla!
- 24d [Without foundation] IDLE. As in ‘idle speculation’ or ‘idle chatter’.
- 69d [Crazy Horse, e.g.] CHIEF. The immense memorial sculpture has been under construction for many, many years and is still far from complete. The horse has barely been sketched out.
- 80d [Puts in the running for a prize] LONG LISTS. For some reason I automatically think of the Booker Prize. Maybe they have good advertising. Anyway, its LONGLIST candidates are announced in midsummer. This year’s.
- 19a [Surroundings of la Città del Vaticano] ROMA, 95a [Portugal’s capital, to the locals] LISBOA.
- 48a [Start of three John Wayne titles] RIO. Come on, you know you want to know. I looked ’em up to save you the trouble: Rio Grande(1950), Rio Bravo (1959), and Rio Lobo (1970).
Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Greg has done quite a few Stumper puzzles, and I enjoy his puzzles a lot. Maybe that is why I was able to jam through this one. Certainly not Stumper tough by clues or fill, so a perfect fit for an LAT Saturday puzzle. I should show this puzzle to my wife and see if she enjoys it! That is my takeaway: this is a harder puzzle that people might find accessible if they want to tackle something a little meatier. 4.5 stars from me.
A few high points:
- 1A [Have plenty of force] PACK A PUNCH – I don’t do this much anymore!
- 15A [Common Creamsicle float ingredient] ORANGE SODA – This is making me hungry …
- 16A [Bausch + Lomb brand] RENU – We have this for our contact lenses, which I am not wearing much anymore. I think I will go to Oakley prescription frames for sports moving forward. This getting old stinks!
- 30A [“I’ve got you”] “HOLD ON TO ME” – Great casual phrase, which I love!
- 52A [Casual question after “We took pictures”] “WANNA SEE?” – Even the clue says casual this time! Awesome!
- 7D [Pac-12 member] USC – This school is quiet sports-wise this fall. There was supposed to be a USC-Alabama game today! What a shame …
- 8D [Words indicating lack of offense] “NO APOLOGY NEEDED” – Another terrific casual phrase!
- 12D [Chef Boyardee product] BEEFARONI – Thought about buying some of this for pandemic emergency canned food! It would taste like steak and lobster if you were really hungry!
- 13D [Waterslide aid] INNER TUBE – I think of this word in terms of a bicycle, but many of those are tubeless anymore.
- 32D [Flameless light source] LED CANDLE – This would be great, but not so much if the power went out! I’ll bet they don’t come scented, either!
That is all! I have an idea for Labor Day Weekend: Do more puzzles!
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Toughie. I had some timer issues, so I think my time is actually a bit longer than the 15 minutes or so that I listed. Look at all those errors! I am finding that the brain cells don’t seem to be firing as quickly as they used to. I hope that doesn’t mean early signs of something serious, but I will continue to do puzzles until I literally cannot read anymore!
In summary, this was a little tough for a Stan puzzle, but it is still a Stumper! 4.3 stars.
Some of those clues that stumped me:
- 18A [Charlemagne-era servant] VASSAL – I knew this, but somehow couldn’t think of it. This is what I am referring to above. It feels like I should know this easily! Maybe I am just being overconfident, but it doesn’t feel that way.
- 28A [Burden for Black Beauty] HANSOM – I tried to shove SADDLE in here, which makes way more sense since I don’t think I saw this movie or read the book!
- 31A [Interrogative ”Lets”] “WHY DON’T WE!” – Wonderful casual phrase!
- 52A [Article on the Supreme Court] III – Technically this is true … not sure if I like this clue or not.
- 57A [”No kidding?”] “IS THAT SO?” – Another wonderful casual phrase!
- 61A [”Glad to”] “NOT AT ALL” – See above!
- 43D [Mock query of concern] “DO I CARE?” – See above again!
- 2D [Creator of a Swedish hacker heroine] LARSSON – This is referring to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I believe. Something else to watch!
- 6D [Started following, as a program] GOT WITH – I need to get with an exercise program …
- 12D [Oscar winner portraying Romeo] PALTROW – I saw most of this movie years ago; I don’t remember her character named this. Again: something else to watch, or, in this case, re-watch!
- 15D & 48D [Focus of much oil production] SESAME & VALDEZ – Nicely done! Two TOTALLY different oils!
- 38D [Orajel alternative] ANBESOL – This is another one that didn’t come to the little gray cells nearly fast enough. It was on the tip of my tongue for far too long!
Have a safe and healthy long weekend!