Victor Barocas & Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Today I learned that I didn’t actually have any idea what QUINCUNX meant. I might have thought it was a classical Roman official. There it is at 1-Across: [Pattern of five shapes arranged like this puzzle’s central black squares]. Basically the pattern of the 5 side on a die, four corners and the middle—or the “distanced” floor markings in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital elevator. The chunks of black squares in this puzzle are PLUS SIGNs, which is 1-Across’s symmetrical entry. So a fill-and-grid-art mini-theme is what we have here.
Fave fill: The vocabulary-expanding QUINCUNX, CLEMSON / TIGERS, “I DON’T LIKE TO BRAG …,” XANADU, NAHUATL, RETURN OF THE JEDI, and SPIT TAKE.
Nine more things to chew on, starting with three 3-letter words starting with A”
- 32d. [Bronze: Lat.], AES. An entirely unfamiliar Latin word for me and, I’ll wager, most other solvers. Better or worse than cluing this entry as Adlai E. Stevenson’s initials? (I’m partial to Stevenson because of the Chicagoland expressway, I-55, that’s named after him. You know that most of the interstates that pass through Chicago carry names of people, yes? We mostly call the roads “the [last name].”)
- Did not know: 24a. [___ Yonath, 2009 Chemistry co-Nobelist], ADA. Not an ADA I knew of, but Nobelists are fair game.
- 10d. [Political commentator Navarro], ANA. CNN is still billing her as Ana Navarro, I think, but she goes by Ana Navarro-Cárdenas now. At any rate, this should probably have been clued not as a person’s name, since the overlap with 30d ANNA is so strong.
- 44a. [God with a chariot pulled by goats], THOR. I don’t know much Norse mythology, and I definitely didn’t know this. Are the chariot goats part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
- 49a. [Ending with xylyl], -ENE. Yuck.
- 2d. [Needing to be tucked in, say?], UNMADE. Like bedsheets or blankets, I guess?
- 36d. [French dessert of fruit encased in sweet batter], CLAFOUTI. Ah! Back around 25 years ago, there was a Serbian (I think) bakery/café called Café Milan in the neighborhood, with a focus on French rather than Serb recipes. That nectarine clafouti was delicious, and you might precede that with a croque madame. If my friend Susan’s reading this, she might remember the place.
- 40d. [Language from which “peyote” comes], NAHUATL. Here are some other crucial words English borrowed from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. When’s the last time you went a month without eating anything with chocolate, tomato, or chilis?
- 53d. [“Really? Is *nobody* on my side now?”], ET TU? The most whimsical clue I’ve ever seen for a Latin/Shakespearean phrase.
There was a good bit of fill I wasn’t loving in this puzzle, and I probably would have enjoyed the puzzle more if it were a straight-up themeless with QUINCUNX clued in some flatly dsecriptive way, but I do appreciate the visual presentation of “hey, that there is a quincunx, and now you know.” 3.8 stars from me.
Sheryl Bartol’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Another new byline; at least to me! Great puzzle, even though I don’t know the constructor. Not too difficult, and in true LAT fashion I don’t see anything overly difficult or obscure. I found this fun to do. And that is the point, right? I will keep this short since I am still neck-deep in Puzzle Boat 7 and a ton of cryptic crosswords. 4.6 stars from me.
A few neat things:
- 14A [Park, for one] OPEN AREA – A good place to meet someone you haven’t seen since March, perhaps!
- 16A [Sign in many restaurant windows] UBER EATS – We have these services here in the South Bend area, surprisingly, but this isn’t one of the better ones. Grubhub and Doordash are better. Postmates is terrible here.
- 26A [Like “Home Alone”] RATED PG – Answer could have been ON TV ALL THE TIME
- 33A [Queen dowager of Jordan] NOOR – This is slightly obscure, especially since it seems a little dated. She is nearly 70 years old. I think I made this same observation the last time I saw this entry!
- 51A [“What can I help you with?” speaker] SIRI – I don’t use these talking assistants at all. Perhaps if I lived alone, but I don’t want something listening all the time. Apple just unveiled new home speakers for a low price, which means they will sell a ton of them, but not to me.
- 56A [Amtrak speedsters] ACELAS – Does this still exist? We don’t see these in Indiana. I think it is purely an east coast thing, yes?
- 59A [Clomps (through), as a puddle] SPLOSHES – Is this really a word? It looks like it should be SLOSHES or SPLASHES!
- 12D [Baseball or soccer] TEAM SPORT – Nice clue, since these two sports have virtually nothing in common!
- 31D [Charley, in Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”] POODLE – I don’t think I knew this … !
- 44D [Online show offering Hollywood info] E-NEWS – Does anyone actually watch this?
That is all for now! Off to do more puzzles!
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Not too bad this week. Well under 15 minutes, so that is OK by me. A very wide-open grid this week, and with tough crossings on the shorter answers that makes for quite a difficult puzzle. But while this wasn’t frustratingly hard, it did fight back for at least the first part of the solve. I have I believe 4 error marks in the grid; the answer at 50-Across (see below) really stumped me, likely due to it’s not being seen in print often and slightly weird spelling (at least to me!). Fun puzzle, and more good practice for the Monday night Boswords puzzles! 4.5 stars this week.
Those promised comments:
- 1A [Spa service] SWEDISH MASSAGE – I got the MASSAGE part rather quickly, but the SWEDISH part took a bit. Maybe because I haven’t seen a masseuse since … at least March?!
- 15A [Payment for back bacon] CANADIAN DOLLARS – Is “back bacon” a Canadian term? Evidently so, or this clue wouldn’t make much sense!
- 37A [Onetime title for DDE] CIC – He was a lot of things; this is not one that sprang to mind first.
- 38A [Misleading] SPECIOUS – I like this word
- 51A [Asia’s highest major city] LHASA – It’s not LA PAZ??
- 53A [Symbol of Big Apple baseball] MR. MET – I think this was one of the first few entries I filled in. Another common crossword entry, and what else would this be that is only five letters?
- 61A [Secret thing since the ’50s] ROLL-ON DEODORANT – Best clue in the puzzle!
- 10D [”Listen here, kid . . .”] SONNY – A little demeaning, perhaps, but people still say this!
- 30D [Daniel Day-Lewis’ Poet Laureate pop] CECIL – I don’t get this reference. Is his father actually a poet??
- 36D [Low-tech security device] GUARD DOG – Super low-tech, but effective if you have the right dog!
- 54D [Late spring/early summer tag phrase] “TO DAD” – A reference to Father’s Day, but it took me a sec to figure it out!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Allison Uttaro’s Universal crossword — “Regal Puns” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Disney princesses’ names are reimagined as homophones in a common phrase
- 17A [Warrior toon’s red cosmetic?] MULAN ROUGE.
- 29A [Mermaid toon’s picture?] ARIEL PHOTO.
- 47A [Book-loving toon’s tall building?] BELLE TOWER.
- 63A [Disney “royalty,” and a theme hint] PRINCESSES.
This is a nice find! I can’t imagine there’s that many more names in the Disney princess canon with which this will work. I mean, there’s JASMINE (JASMINE RICE) but the spelling doesn’t change, so that wouldn’t work.
Nice little bonus answer with MOANA.
The only thing I found strange was the “revealer.” It’s almost like it was just trying to fill a theme spot- it felt totally unnecessary to me (and oddly clued), but no harm done!
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Second Place” — pannonica’s write-up
Famous “sidekicks” that also happen to be parts of phrases or compound words are described in the latter context.
- 21a. [Lilo sidekick at an anger management class?] CROSS-STITCH.
- 23a. [Gomez Addams sidekick at the theater?] PLAYTHING.
- 41a. [Crusoe sidekick at an informal get-together?] CASUAL FRIDAY.
- 64a. [Inspector Gadget sidekick at the beauty salon?] PRETTY PENNY.
- 87a. [Fry sidekick at a tailgate party?] FENDER BENDER. 107d [Job for a body shop] DENT.
- 110a. [Raggedy Ann sidekick at the hardware store?] HANDY ANDY.
- 112a. [Aladdin sidekick in the nursery?] DIAPER GENIE. I don’t even want to know.
- 34d. [Wilma Flintstone sidekick at a tanning salon?] BROWN BETTY.
- 44d. [Batman sidekick at a Weight Watchers meeting?] ROUND ROBIN.
Honestly, I didn’t care for this theme much. Oftentimes the recast meaning wasn’t far divorced from the original, and it all seemed rather stiff. This was one of those solves where the 21×21 grid felt at least as big as it is, which is to say, a slog.
That draggy sense was abetted by a few forced constructions/uncommon words infiltrating the place: check out, for example, 59d [Hoist] UPREAR and 104a [It has a flawless shell] GRADE A EGG to see what I’m talking about.
- Final—and toughest—crossing for me: 50a [Apollo astronaut Stuart] ROOSA, and 45a [Was hurt. say] ISN’T OK. The latter is a good entry, but the tense of the clue made it especially tricky.
- 11d/12d [Rend] SPLIT, TEAR. 64d/65d [Grass] POT, REEFER. 70d/74d [Terminate] CAN, END. 88d/113d [Sushi selection] ROE, EEL. They’re getting farther apart! 90a/105d [Wrath] IRE, RAGE.
- 52a [Rainy] WET, 86a [Not rainy] DRY.
- 89d [Lass who collects lumber] BAT GIRL. (1) Overly misdirecting clue, (2) seems dupey with themer 44-down.
- 95d [Secure online connection protocol letters] SSH, which stands for secure shell.
- 111d [Razor-billed bird] AUK. cf ANI, of which there are smooth-billed and groove-billed species.
- 11a [Marathoner’s need] STAMINA. From Latin stamen, ‘warp’ – the Thread of Life spun by the Fates.
- 18a [Frasier’s brother] NILES. Hey, he’s kind of like a sidekick, right?
- Favorite clue, by a mile: 20a [Start tracking shots, say] OPEN A TAB. Nothing to do with cinematography!
- Duly noted non-pejorative cluing: 68a [Whiff] ODOR.