Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Quick write-up because my internet is spotty tonight.
The hallmark of a Byron themeless is great clues. Among my faves:
- 6a. [Jacket material], COVER ART. The illustration on a book jacket, and solvers’ inclination to think about fabrics that clothes are made from.
- 18a. [Function with no limits?], ORGY. Sounds like math, especially if you know the constructor’s a math professor. But no!
- 2d. [Intellectual property?], IVORY TOWER. Nice one!
- 3d. [Digital access points], FINGERTIPS. Not sure about the “access” angle here, but appreciate the “digital” mislead. In the same vein, there’s 43d. [Charging implement], LANCE. For a knight charging in a joust, not plugging in his phone.
- 11d. [“This is prophetic” in “Nixon in China,” e.g.], ARIA. An angle I’ve not seen before.
- 49d. [Pileup after digging a hole], DEBT. I went with DIRT first. You too?
Irksome: 19d. [First name of Israel’s first female prime minister], GOLDA. Sure, the echo of “first” gives the clue a nice rhythm, but Meir was the first and only woman to run Israel. Trivia question for you: How many countries have been led by two or more different women?
New to me: OBAMACRAT. Who uses that? Also not sure I’ve seen AUTO DRIVE before. [Car feature with hands-free steering]? Is that for parking, or …?
Fill I liked: NEAT TRICK, CO-TEACH, A WING AND A PRAYER (TV theme song below!), PR STUNT, BAD BOUNCE, RAZOR-SHARP, “say it loud and SAY IT PROUD,” and STREET FAIR.
4.25 stars from me.
Gary Larson’s Universal crossword — “Musical Rearrangement” – Jim Q’s Write-up
THEME: Common two-word phrases where the name of a band is second are flipped so that the name of the band is first. Wackiness ensues.
- 17A [Hiatus for the “Baby, I’m-a Want You” band?] BREAD BREAK. Not BREAK BREAD.
- 30A [Roadie for the “Sunshine of Your Love” band?] CREAM HAND. HAND CREAM.
- 45A [Recording session unit for the “Crazy on You” band?] HEART TAKE. TAKE HEART.
- 61A [Serious movie about the “Bohemian Rhapsody” band?] QUEEN DRAMA. DRAMA QUEEN.
For some reason, the theme took me a while to see, even after completion of the puzzle. I wanted to anagram the second word based on the title, so I go stuck there. Me: Let’s see… BREAD BREAK… is the base phrase…. BREAD BAKER? Maybe…
I finally got up to make a cup of coffee and DRAMA QUEEN came to me. Duh. So obvious in retrospect.
Fun to solve all around. HAS A CHAT, GLAD TO, IN REHAB (gently clued), GET A TIP– nice to uncover. LANG and FATAH were both new to me.
Nice clue for EMIL [Name that’s a green fruit backward]. And my DANE was trying to curl up on my lap when I filled in 59D [Great ___ (big dog)]. Now I feel compelled to include his puppy pic (he’s still a pup, but oh how he has grown since then…)
3.9 Stars! Enjoy the day!
Madeline Kaplan & Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle was so much fun I didn’t notice Erik’s byline at the beginning! I am not as familiar with Madeline as a constructor, but she is in the database already so this must not be a debut puzzle. But I am game from more like this one! This has so many good entries in it that I could almost list every single clue and expound on it. Very smooth, and the slightly obscure entries are INTERESTING. I feel smarter after solving this one! A solid 4.7 stars from me!
A few of those “interesting” entries:
- 15A [To a ridiculous extent] AD ABSURDUM – Terrific. And timely! I won’t comment further!
- 17A [Emmy nominee who plays Van on “Atlanta”] ZAZIE BEETZ – I haven’t seen Atlanta, but she was in Deadpool 2, which may be more popular??
- 20A [Apple co-founder’s nickname] WOZ – Slightly dated, but still relevant today since Apple is now a behemoth of a company.
- 38A [One concerned with appearances] IMAGE CONSULTANT – Wonderfully done!
- 41A [Organic food label term] NON-GMO – This comes up a lot in the news; not so much in puzzles.
- 64A [Adichie novel that won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award] AMERICANAH – This is also fabulous. This is the entry that my ignorant self didn’t know, and now I want to go read it. Phenomenal.
- 7D [Caught up with, sizewise] GREW INTO – My son is growing like a weed during this lockdown; I think he has grown 3-4 inches just since March.
- 11D [Garbage disposal goal] ZERO WASTE – This is the goal of some people as a lifestyle choice. Easier said than done!
- 12D [Compound] EXACERBATE – Also a great clue.
- 21D [Big name in romance fiction] STEEL – I can never spell Danielle Steel’s name properly. I keep forgetting it doesn’t have an E on the end!
- 47D [Country with a 26-year Grace period?] MONACO – Another great clue. A reference to Princess Grace, of course!
I DEFINITELY could go on today, but I will stop there. Michigan FINALLY plays football today!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Just when you think you are getting skilled at these themeless puzzles, these Stumpers certainly humble you. Make no mistake: I love the feeling of looking at a wide-open empty grid, and then slowly figuring out the squares almost one by one until the puzzle is complete. Only a few minor errors in the bottom right corner of this one; I think I could have figured it out if I wouldn’t be so impatient. This puzzle, like today’s LAT, has a TON of great entries in it. Difficult, but a fun solve. If you’re solving the Boswords Monday night league, you might agree that those puzzles are darn near Stumper hard. At least to me. Maybe I shouldn’t solve them after 9 in the bed! But this was a true Stumper challenge today. 4.5 stars.
A few comments:
- 1A [Low-altitude airborne pollutant] PASSIVE SMOKE – Clever clue. I haven’t been around a cigarette smoker in so long I couldn’t immediately think of this.
- 15A [Oxymoronic appliance] HOT WATER HEATER – I suppose it is a little redundant!
- 32A [”Enough of that!”] “HEY, WATCH IT!” – Great casual phrase!
- 37A [Sports score symbolized by a vowel] EVEN PAR – This took WAY too long for me to get. I watch golf fairly often, and that E on the leaderboard means exactly this.
- 38A [Propeller in the water] LEG KICK – I kept trying to shoehorn OAR in here. GREAT clue.
- 59A [Transatlantic crossing completed in 1956] TELEPHONE CABLE – This also was a little tricky. It seems like it should have been before this! I think we take our globally connected world for granted, sometimes.
- 11D [#21 of AFI’s male Screen Legends] KEATON – I had HESTON here. He isn’t even on the list!
- 12D [Met Museum’s gift shop’s __ Collection] ERTE – This was hard. I thought this might be ARTE for a while. I am not an art lover.
- 29D [Bryce Canyon local] UTAHAN – I misread this clue at first, otherwise it would have been a gimme.
- 32D [Capital due north of Bryce Canyon] HELENA – Nice tie-in to 29D. I had REGINA in here at first, thinking they were being tricky. I think it is too far east, though.
- 34D [Time’s role in the book business] YELLOWER – Best clue in the puzzle! VERY well done.
- 44D [”World’s __ Comics” (where Luthor and the Joker teamed up)] FINEST – I got this one quickly since I used to be a DC Comics superfan when I was younger. This phrase, I believe, appeared in the corner of ALL DC comics for a while. Correct me if I am wrong.
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “United Nations” — pannonica’s write-up
This is one of those intricate themes that’s more impressive for the accomplishment of construction than for the enjoyment of the solve. Once it’s over, to sit back and look at it is to marvel.
The names of countries—entries throughout the grid—are combined and anagrammed to generate recognizable phrases. The countries, not surprisingly, are all United Nations members and are clued with their date of entry into the organization.
- 22a. [Neologist’s activity (66-Across + 3-Down] COINING A PHRASE (SINGAPORE + CHINA, 1966 & 1945).
- 38a. [Current holder of the title Duke of Normandy (20-Down + 54-Down)] ELIZABETH II (BELIZE + HAITI, 1981 & 1945).
- 50a. [Profit (68-Across + 77-Down)] MATERIAL GAIN (MALTA + NIGERIA, 1964 & 1960).
- 71a. [Going on and on (41-Across + 112-Across] BENDING AN EAR (GRENADA + BENIN, 1974 & 1960).
- 83a. [1963 Billy Wilder movie (81-Across + 37-Down)] IRMA LA DOUCE (ECUADOR + MALI, 1945 & 1960).
- 103a. [Region with many plants (17-Down + 78-Down)] INDUSTRIAL AREA (AUSTRIA + IRELAND, 1955 & 1955).
Some bonus material, also: 12a [United Nations member since 1964 (but not part of this puzzle’s theme)] ZAMBIA, 113a [Big name in United Nations history] U THANT.
This thing was exhausting, did I mention? Of course, today is United Nations Day.
- 12d [Croatian capital] ZAGREB. Croatia, UN member since 1992.
- 39d [Singer Redbone] LEON. I was not surprised to find that he recorded a version of “Sitting On Top of the World”—an apt song for this theme—but I didn’t care for it, so I’ll use the famous version by the Mississippi Sheiks.
- 42d [Piney wine] RETSINA—the similarity to resin is probably not accidental, 61a [Golden ratio symbol] PHI, 77a [Lost play by Aeschylus] NIOBE. Greece, UN member since 1945.
- 49d [Piedmont province] ASTI, 76a [Florentine friends] AMICI. Italy, UN member since 1955.
- 50d [Guidebook features] MAPS.
- 68d [Spoke Siamese?] MEOWED. Thailand, UN member since 1946.
- 72d [Aquitania’s region] GAUL, 59a [Tough prisons] BASTILLES. France, UN member since 1945.
- 82d [Ancient belts] CESTI. Ouch, that’s rather obscure.
- 90d [First-generation Japanese-American] ISSEI. Japan, UN member since 1956. Minor duplication of 53d [Hereditary unit] GENE.
- 99d [Star of 1942’s “Jungle Book”] SABU Dastagir. India, UN member since 1945.
- 27a [Chip maker’s supply] LARD. What kind of chip? Potato/vegetable chip, I guess?
- 34a [Once around at Churchill Downs] MILE, 69d [“Idylls of the King” lady] ENID. England, UN member since 1945.
- 69a [“Das Rheingold” goddess] ERDA. Germany, UN member since 1973 (as West Germany and East Germany).
- 74a [Hieroglyphic creatures] ASPS. Egypt, UN member since 1945.
- 110a [Globe setting] BOSTON. United States, UN member since 1945.
- 113a [Big Name in United Nations history] U THANT. Burma (or Myanmar if you must) UN member since 1948.
NYT: I thought the Tesla clue was sort of a backhanded hint to AUTO DRIVE, since that’s a feature I associate with the Tesla cars.
The southwest corner gave me troubles– I only vaguely heard of BREECHING (but good to be reminded of that meaning), didn’t know AGE TO AGE, and still can’t tell if BAD BOUNCE is a formal description of an event or a green paint sort of entry?
While DNA TYPING is an expression sometimes used in forensics, I’m used to either “DNA Testing” or Genotyping, both of which are in much more common usage.
My favorite entry, by far, was “A WING AND A PRAYER”… I’ve always thought it was a very evocative expression and it’s great to see it take central stage.
Never heard “bad bounce”, only “bad hop”.
The Tesla feature is known as AUTOPILOT, not AUTODRIVE. I tried AUTOIPLOT in the grid at first but had to take it out after the crosses didn’t work.
How many countries have been led by two or more different women?
Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister. What a thumping win she had last weekend! No coalition required for the first time since NZ changed the rules in the 1990s.
BAD BOUNCE is a thing in Australian Rules football. Obscure in the rest of the world I suppose. But it’s nothing to do with the infield since there isn’t one.
Margaret Thatcher and Teresa May in the UK.
BAD HOP is the choice for an infield grounder, but I would use BAD BOUNCE for an outfield hit, particularly one that caroms off the wall in an odd way, and I have frequently heard BAD BOUNCE used in tennis and golf. Idiomatic term for me.
Hard puzzle today.
Oof, the NYT was grueling today. Agree with you on BAD HOP.
Very hard puzzle, NYT, but par for the constructor.
Stumper – Even after I had celery in the grid, and it looked like it was going to be preceded by steamed, I couldn’t bring myself to put it in for a while. Does anyone actually eat steamed celery?
Seems like a surefire way to make celery even less appealing.
The peanut butter keeps sliding off
Could someone please explain 45 across in the Stumper (without giving it away?) I got it right but I have no clue what it means. Thanks!!
It’s a cryptic-style clue. The answer is a word hidden in the given phrase.
Can someone explain 62 down in the Stumper? I guess you put the answer between the words to make it a simile, but it’s such an uncommon one that I’ve never heard it.
I think you got it but might not realize so. “A lion is to a zebra as a cat is to a mouse” is a line about the parallels among felids.
Stumper: Seems like “hot water heater” is redundant but not oxymoronic?
It’s oxymoronic if you think of heating hot water.
But an oxymoron is a seeming contradiction. You can heat hot water, but it’s redundant, not contradictory (although it could make the water hotter).
I agree that HOT WATER HEATER is pleonastic rather than oxymoronic.
NYT: Impressed myself by realizing I still knew every word to the first stanza and chorus of the TV theme song. (Yes, I’m easily impressed.) Thanks for sharing that, Amy!
After I started playing the song last night, I turned around and saw that Rene was also singing along.
And then there’s “Believe it or not, George isn’t home” from Seinfeld.
I found NYT unusually difficult — Byron Walden’s cluing almost gives me trouble. Is SAYITPROUD a familiar phrase? Not to me. I can only think of the James Brown lyric, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.
The NW corner of the Stumper defeated me. I had somethingSMOKE, somethingCELERY and somethingHEATER. TRIMMEDCELERY? BONFIRESMOKE? SETON for instigate and WENT for died don’t seem quite right to me.
I agree with Twangster above — I don’t see how HOTWATERHEATER is oxymoronic. You can heat hot water to make it hotter. If you have a system with a tank, that’s what it does, in fact. When the temperature of the stored water falls below some set value, the heater heats it up some more.
stumper stumped me this time, badly
NW was just wrong
NYT was a good one
the boswords are killing me, and i get most of the stumpers and all of the NYT saturdays
not good under pressure
I’m used to seeing a few oddball clues in a Saturday Stumper, but today’s offering was just a festival of awful ones:
– 21A WENT (Stopped working)
– 43A ELL (Only one?)
– 45A SAL (Guy making author’s alterations)
– 3D SET ON (Instigate)
– 4D SAW (Gathered intelligence, in a way)
– 10D OLE (Quaint, quaintly)
– 48D TENET (Professional position)
– 62D ASA (Parallel line part)
It’s not that most of them were terribly difficult to figure out, since the answers are 3-5 letters, but I can’t imagine what the constructor or editor was thinking by finding them acceptable. By now, I expect clues like 43A and 45A in a Stumper (though they seem like awkward attempts to find novel clues for common short entries, as with 4D and 10D as well), but I just had to wonder if anyone bothered to consult a dictionary before accepting 21A, 3D, and 48D.
Figured it out from the crosses, thankfully, but I’m stumped by SAL for “Guy making author’s alterations” — help??
cryptic clue… SAL is contained in the clue (author’S ALterations.)
Oh lordy…. Thanks! Definitely didn’t have my cryptic brain on, especially since “making” doesn’t really suggest that you’re looking for something contained within something else……*shrug*
not the best cryptic I’ve seen, but there it is.
Having never heard of SKALD, that one killed me. I had SAn and SKAnD, thinking maybe Stan’s initials were S.A.N. (and he’s making alternations to Greg’s puzzle). Tortured, I know…but maybe no more tortured than the cryptic clue. And SKAnD is close enough to “Scand.” to make it seem plausible for something Viking-Aged. Ah well. Now I know SKALD.
I’m pretty new to the Stumper but I’m learning that if a clue/answer doesn’t make sense at all, look for a cryptic. Sometimes that works. Next step… come here crying LOL!
Agreed. Thank you Amy for creating this site!
Jim Q – the photo of Ellis pulled at my heart. I had 3 Danes in my early life & just like Derek’s son they grow inches every day. Enjoy your pup…soon it will be a gangly teenager & then a stately adult. I went with a smaller dog in my later life but found Corgis aren’t exactly small. Their egos are bigger than Danes meaning they think they’re the boss of everything. Danes know they’re boss but don’t have to prove it. Can’t wait to see a photo of Ellis in 3 yrs.
WSJ: “34a [Once around at Churchill Downs] MILE, 69d [“Idylls of the King” lady] ENID. England, UN member since 1945.” Huh?! Churchill Downs is in the USA, not in England. Also, England is not a UN member, but the United Kingdom is. (It is a founding member.)
It would be cruel to say that I was testing to see if anyone waded through the minutia of the write-up, so I’ll tell the truth, which is that I got carried away and was on autopilot. Which clearly steered me wrong.
Can I still ask for help with RECS in the NYT? I know it’s late. What’s it mean (something to do with graduate school)? Thanks.
When will crossword constructors learn that it is “Utahn,” NOT “Utahan?” Using Utahan is a dead giveaway that you’re NOT from Utah!