Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s a lousy evening with the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, isn’t it? May she rest in power and peace.
I do always like a puzzle by Robyn. Highlights here: SEA MONSTER, “NEVER FEAR,” “DON’T BE SO HASTY,” PASSPORT PHOTO, WOEBEGONE, HALF ASLEEP (I can relate), PARE DOWN, TEN-FOOT POLE, DROP THE BALL, and GOOD TASTE. Fave clue: 17d. [Three-star picture?], ORION’S BELT.
Five more things:
- 20d. [Historic sites in Hot Springs, Ark.], BATHHOUSES. You don’t say. There are three sorts of bathhouses I know about: the Korean ones, the Russian ones, and—closer to home—the gay ones. Arkansas hot springs? Sure thing. I’ve only been to one hot spring place, in Colorado—neat to be swimming around amid clouds of steam in cold winter, but man oh man! I could do without the sulfurous stink.
- 5a. [Freshen, as a drink], TOP UP. I used to drive a 2000 VW Passat whose dashboard hadn’t been Americanized—when I was low on windshield wiper fluid, I was alerted to “top up wash fluid.” ’Twas charming.
- 21a. [Russian letter in the spelling of “tsar”], TSE. Oh! That’s not a TSE clue I recall seeing before. I’m not great with the Cyrillic alphabet, but I still enjoy Sporcle quizzes like this, where you have to match a US state to the Russian version of its name.
- 35a. [Symbols of hope during the American and French Revolutions], ELMS. You don’t say. Neat thing to learn.
- 43a. [Blockhead], DOLT. I’m not really a fan of the DO** synonyms. You always need the crossings to know if you want DOLT, DOPE, or DODO.
Not so keen on A OR B and ESTS, but aside from that, the fill was smooth and chock full of sparkle. 4.25 stars from me.
P.S. Check your smoke detector—a FB friend’s house burned down yesterday, and they got out safely thanks to a working smoke detector.
Stella Zawistowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This is the hardest LAT Saturday puzzle I have done in months. But coming from Stella, the undisputed queen of super-tough puzzles, this does not surprise me. I am not trying to be pretentious or anything, so apologies if that is how this comes across, but I can usually solve a Saturday LAT in 5-7 minutes routinely. For one to take nearly 10 minutes means I was struggling. I did have the grid filled entirely only to waste a half minute or so trying to find the typo I had, but even though a challenge, what a fun puzzle! If you haven’t sampled Stella’s website, please check it out, but be warned: her puzzles are HARD. A solid 4.7 stars for a gem of a puzzle.
- 6A [At least four yrs. old, for cognac] VSOP – Is that what this means? I don’t drink cognac, so I was flying blind here!
- 14A [Like much of the first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata] PIANISSIMO – Great clue.
- 30A [Rain gear preservers] BOOT TREES – I have had shoe trees, but never a boot tree. Are they different?
- 38A [French darling] CHERI – A welcome alternative to the SNL alum!
- 44A [Cantina breakfast component] HUEVO – This is egg in Spanish. And now I am hungry …
- 50A [Hot flower] MOLTEN LAVA – A little pun action here, which Stella is getting better at due to her cryptic clues that she presents on Twitter. Follow her to keep up!
- 11D [Sheltered from the outside world] CLOISTERED – This is a long word that sounds like it should be shorter. Which causes challenges in a crossword!
- 22D [Male opera character played by a female performer] TROUSER ROLE – I don’t know this term at all. I thought I made a mistake! TROUPER ROLE looks just as good to me.
- 26D [Mill input] LOGS – It isn’t grain!
- 42D [January’s “Mad Men” character] BETTY – A great show that I never finished watching all the way through.
- 50D [When Michelangelo began “David”] MDI – I hate Roman numeral answers. This one is at least interesting!
That is all! It was 35 degrees this morning in northern Indiana. Winter is coming!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Once again, I have been thoroughly Stumped. Look at all of those error marks! There were tons of answers in here that, upon first, second, or even third looks, I had no idea what the answer was. There are a couple of entries that I STILL don’t understand after the grid is entirely filled in! I will discuss a few of those in the comments below, but suffice it to say this was more than I can handle. I am going to take a nap at some point today. 4.7 stars for a stellar Stumper challenge.
Those promised notes:
- 13A [Underwater defense] OCTOPUS INK – I got this from the final K, which was one of the first crossing letters I got!
- 16A [Inspiration appreciation] “WHAT AN IDEA!” – Great casual phrase!
- 21A [Sci-fi staple] ALIEN RACES – This seems a bit contrived, but it does work.
- 24A [Prevent from crashing] ASK IN – So is this describing a scenario where someone appears at the door uninvited but gets invited in, and thus is NOT crashing anymore? Wow. This made no sense to me at the time. I think I get it now. I think.
- 30A [Whom Ebert called ”that twinkly professional Irishman”] O’SHEA – Full disclosure: I had to look this up. Who would know this????
- 47A [Top Grammy-winning female artist (27, 1991-2012)] KRAUSS – This, on the other hand, is a bit of trivia that I DID know. For some reason she has a boatload of Grammys.
- 54A [Angry Birds and Bonsai Barber, categorically] INDIE GAMES – I had the GAMES part; blanked on the INDIE part. Haven’t played Bonsai Barber, but Angry Birds is quite well known.
- 8D [Kingston trios, often] SKA BANDS – Great clue! Reference to the capital of Jamaica.
- 14D [They take the edge off] PALLIATIONS – Learning a new word here. Because I have never heard this before.
- 25D [Medieval military governments] SHOGUNATES – When I see the word “medieval”, I always think of Europe and not Asia. That is the key to solving this clue.
- 35D [Two shovels for ”work available,” for example] HOBO SIGN – I don’t know this reference either. Where is this from?
- 40D [Where a bundle is won in ”Rain Man”] CAESAR’S – VEGAS didn’t fit. The constructor is being a bit more specific here. I don’t remember the exact casino. It has been 30 years since I have seen this movie!!
Ouch! Off to get ready for that nap. Have a safe and healthy weekend!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Down in Front!” — pannonica’s write-up
A not-uncommon sort of theme—alteration of the initial letter—but still done well. In this iteration, the letter is changed to its immediate alphabetical predecessor. Moving down (e.g., from ninth to eighth), as it were.
- 23a. [Unloads a “handyman special” home?] SELLS IT LIKE IT IS (tells it …). T → S
- 39a. [Major acquisition for a 1960s Clapton fan?] CREAM TICKET (dream …). D → C
- 43a. [Joystick?] FUN CONTROL (gun …). Kind of a weird hybrid clue, straddling more than one meaning. G → F
- 67a. [Frat party competition?] KEG PULL (leg pull). L → K
- 69a. [Carpenter?] VISE GUY (wise guy). W → V
- 96a. [Bar tab?] ROUND CHECK (sound …). S → R
- 99a. [Bread made with covered spreads?] BOOKIE DOUGH (cookie …). Another hybrid-ish clue. C → B
- 116a. [Good slogan for a lamp store?] LIGHT MAKES RIGHT (might …). M → L
The affected letters don’t spell anything. Easy to tell right away, as there is nary a vowel among the 16. I appreciated the succinctness of the cluing.
- Couple of the clues had references unfamiliar to me, but were still gettable. 69d [Gimme cap feature] VISOR. 121a [Low card in Sheepshead] SEVEN.
- Normally I wouldn’t point out a dupe of helper words, but when they noticeably intersect, I tend to: 4d [Get chummy (with)] PAL UP (pal up to?) and 31a [Heads to the plate] IS UP.
- 16d [Cat spotted at night] LEO. That’d be the constellation.
- 17d [How some late afternoon ballgames end] IN DARKNESS. I first had the perhaps-more-poetic IN TWILIGHT.
- 32d [Surf features] SPUMES. Sea foam, essentially. Wow do I sometimes miss—with a real pang—living at the beach.
- 40d [East Coast hwy.] RTE I. We don’t take kindly to that sort of thing ’round here at Fiendco.
- 79d [Terrier-Pomeranian hybrid] PORKIE. I had not heard of this, and wish I hadn’t. Apparently a portmateau (as these hybrids so often are) of POmeranian and yORKIE.
- 90d [Pogo stick pair] FOOTPADS. Had -PEGS first.
- 97d [Inuit transport] UMIAK. These are distinguished from kayaks by being larger, open-topped, and propelled by single-bladed paddles.
- 111d [From Nonthaburi] THAI. Mildly refreshingly different clue for this common crossword word.
- 21a [Grace Kelly, but not by birth] MONACAN. An alternative demonym is the more exotic Monégasque.
- 34a [Intuitive ability to detect dishonesty, slangily] BS METER. Great entry!
- 61a [1⁄60,000 min.] MSEC. I feel like we see NSEC (nanosecond) a whole lot more often in grids than MSEC (millisecond).
- Herewith a sampling of misdirection clues: 37d [Junk in the ocean] BOAT. 112d [Athlete’s shower?] ESPN. 25a [Deposits in some banks] LODES. 57a [You may shake on it] SEISM. 71a [All alternative] PUREX. 86a [Garnet or ruby] RED (not gEm).
OK gotta go!
Annemarie Brethaur’s Universal crossword — “Let Things Go” – Jim Q’s Write-up
No joke, I was just teaching my puppy the command “Drop It” right before I started solving this puzzle. He’s almost got it down.
THEME: IT is dropped from common phrases to create wacky ones
- 17A [Plan to get a former partner back?] EX STRATEGY. Exit Strategy.
- 25A [Department focused on indie rep?] CRED BUREAU. Credit Bureau.
- 36A [College’s cost-saving strategy?] PROF SHARING. Profit Sharing.
- 49A [Charge for a dog that steals food?] PET LARCENY. Petit Larceny.
- 59A [“Stop bringing that up!” … or a hint to 17-, 25-, 36- and 49-Across] JUST DROP IT!
I hopped around this puzzle, and actually uncovered the revealer first before any of the other themers. I’m glad I did, because it made the solve quite enjoyable as I don’t think I would’ve figured out the theme without that. I like all of the resulting phrases. I have a minor gripe with the clue for PROF SHARING since it doesn’t really indicate the shortening of PROFESSOR. And I think I know PETIT LARCENY as PETTY LARCENY, though now that I think about it, the former feels familiar.
Some other things:
- BEAR UP is new for me [Stay strong]. Is that regional?
- WEDS had the kinda-sorta feeling of a dupe with “wedding” being in the clue for 1A.
- Speaking of the clue for 1A, I totally botched it and had EVELT instead of EVENT, totally confident in my answer for 4D [Badminton court sights]– I had LETS instead of the correct NETS. Doh!
I wish the fill were a tad livelier, but overallI liked this one.