Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Trenton unleashed the uncommon Scrabbly letters and used 11 from the Z/Q/J family. The fill is far more solid than I’d expect, so I’m grateful he didn’t JAM an X in there just for the sake of chasing a cheap pangram.
(Note: Nine days into the 2021, two NYT puzzles by women, that’s 22%.)
I remain brain-sore from four days of watching more CNN than I have in years, so: moving on from paragraphs to the listy-list:
- 1a. [Coltrane’s rendition of “My Favorite Things,” for one], JAZZ WALTZ. I don’t know that term at all.
- 17a. [Marked by stately beauty], JUNOESQUE. Really not a remotely common word, that.
- 51a. [Biblical character who lived to be 912 years old], SETH. Purportedly. It’s not humanly possible.
- 64a. [How Prince Harry met Meghan Markle], BLIND DATE. Fun trivia!
- 66a. [Zip], JACK SQUAT. Zip as in zippo, nothing, nada. If you don’t personally use “jack squat” that way, perhaps you never saw Chris Farley’s inspired SNL performance (below).
- 13d. [Sarcastic response to backpedaling], “NICE SAVE.” Not sure I really encounter this in a sarcastic manner. What say you?
- 43d. [Master of meditation], ZEN MONK. “Buddhist monk” feels more familiar to me. Have you seen ZEN MONK much?
- 54d. [Does some shop class work], SANDS. I would also have accepted SAWS RIGHT THROUGH THE EDGE OF YOUR THUMBNAIL, but maybe that’s just me. (Hey, you can’t even tell anymore. It was healed by the end of junior high.)
Four stars from me.
Wayne Bergman & Gary Otting’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
These are two names I don’t know, but they produced a fine puzzle. I have mentioned before that I don’t always have time to do every puzzle, so perhaps this duo has popped up somewhere else previously. At any rate, this was a fantastic puzzle. I found it a little tough to crack into especially in the NW corner where we normally begin; I think my first entries were in the right central area, then I slowly looped around to finish up where you’re supposed to start! I had a lot of fun with this one, and that is the whole point, is it not? 4.7 stars from me.
Some interesting tidbits:
- 1A [“Friends” catchphrase] “HOW YOU DOIN’?”– I think Joey said this. I was not a huge Friends fan. I think it’s on Peacock if you’re interested!
- 17A [Newspaper audience] READERSHIP – The READERSHIP of newspapers is still steadily declining, but I get the paper still each day. It’s mainly just good for obituaries, I think. Puzzles that originally appeared in newpapers (crosswords!) have migrated online, and there is almost no need to get a paper anymore if that’s what you want it for.
- 57A [One may be part of a fresh start] CLEAN SLATE – I liked this one. I had SLATE and was trying other words in there, but I remember a nice “a-ha!” moment once I figured this one out.
- 62A [Relative of a fidget spinner] STRESS BALL – Crosswords are my “stress ball” AND “fidget spinner!”
- 2D [Only unanimous Cy Young Award winner between Dwight and Randy] OREL – Timely, since I think he played for Tommy Lasorda, who just passed away on Friday at age 93.
- 4D [“Always in motion is the future” and others] YODAISMS – Wonderful. I wonder if Grogu will speak in this fractured-backwards English if he ever has any dialogue!
- 11D [Some moonshine] ROTGUT – I think this is what it literally DOES to one’s gut!
- 27D [“I’m curious about everything–even things that don’t interest me” speaker] ALEX TREBEK – VERY timely! Just watched his last episode on Friday night. I nearly cried! What a loss for us puzzle fans!
- 30D [__ Island] RHODE – This is simple once you get it; but I was stumped for some reason. I must be tired …
- 45D [“Jurassic Park” dinosaurs, e.g.] CLONES – Another movie to watch again! Or, maybe not … it isn’t that good!
That is all! There is a new Panda Magazine out today, so I will be busy!
Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
Well, today is the start of a new era with the Saturday Newsday puzzle: it is supposed to be easier! It is now called the Themeless Saturday puzzle. I, for one, enjoyed the old difficulty level. Perhaps some did not. In the end, if this change brings more solvers to the fold, then it is a great decision. But for those of us that like our themeless puzzles to have a lot of teeth in them, which may even lead to gnashing of our own teeth, this is a bittersweet day.
Make no mistake: this puzzle still isn’t easy. But I got it done in about 8 1/2 minutes, which would have been a major triumph under the previous difficulty level. I noticed Stan posted on Facebook an announcement concerning this change, and the initial comments echoed what I mention above: people still want the harder puzzle. I am anxious to hear what you think! I will be watching these comments today much more closely today to see how people feel. Please share your thoughts! In the meantime, still 4.5 stars for a great puzzle by Brad Wilbur and Matthew Sewell.
Some actual puzzle thoughts:
- 1A [Devices with virtual keys] SMART LOCKS – I want one of these for my house. An old electrician buddy told me that might make is easier for someone to break in, but I don’t care! It will be easier for me to get in! (Also, it would be a fun toy!)
- 15A [Musical instrument that can emulate whale calls] WATER PHONE – I believe you. I will have to Google this!
- 20A [Hoop group] NBA TEAMS – This is technically correct, but it still seems as if the clue should end in an S. Tricky!
- 29A [Best imaginable results] OPTIMA – This is not a word one uses often. It is the correct plural of OPTIMUM, so we are good. Maybe this puzzle IS still tough!
- 30A [One in a Rubik’s race] SPEED CUBER – This is referring to Rubik’s Cube solving. The world record is like 3 seconds or something ridiculous. There is a documentary or two floating out there that explore this world.
- 61A [Mandate for maturity] “ACT YOUR AGE!” – I can picture someone yelling this, so I put it in quotes!
- 12D [Analytics expert] DATA MINER – One of these days I am gonna learn Python and use it to do this. This has applications for an accountant.
- 14D [Starts slinging mud] GETS NASTY – Great entry. I have to make sure this is in my wordlist!
- 38D [Heyday for voice actors] RADIO ERA – Ah, if people that hadn’t seen the TV era could see the idiocy we have now …
- 40D [Certain supplemental coverage] MEDI-GAP – Wonderful entry! Also a reality for me in 10-15 years! I will also make sure this is in my word list.
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “No Vowel Play” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Words/phrases that don’t mean “bl?nder” where the ? represents a vowel.
- 18A [Flatter, but not blander] SWEET TALK.
- 23A [Mixer, but not blender] TONIC WATER.
- 36A [Obstructor of views, but not blinder] THOUGHT POLICE.
- 51A [Lighter-headed, but not blonder] UNSTEADIER.
- 57A [Slip, but not blunder] PETTICOAT.
This is a very funky, clever, and quirky idea. It’s not often that the theme answers don’t really have anything to do with the theme (in a sense, that is). I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a theme with this type of approach. And I never would’ve considered BL?NDER with a vowel progression to seed the idea.
Love that the first word(s) of the clues are all synonyms for the BL?NDER, yet have a completely different meaning in relationship to the entry that goes in the grid.
I doubted myself at BCE/CONKS as I supposed it may be BBE/BONKS. I think I’ve seen BCE before, but it’s not crosswordese that I keep handy. I guessed correctly though :)
A fun, cerebral type puzzle today.
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Prep for Work” — pannonica’s write-up
Occupational puns employing prepositional phrases.
- 22a. [Songwriters earn a living ___ ] BY THE NUMBERS.
- 28a. [Hit men earn a living ____ ] IN THE OFFING.
- 61a. [Lawyers … ] ON A TRIAL BASIS.
- 100a. [Sharpshooters … ] OVER A BARREL.
- 107a. [Wheat farmers … ] WITH THE GRAIN.
- 3d. [Efficiency experts … ] OUT OF ORDER.
- 15d. [Mixologists … ] BEHIND BARS.
- 66d. [Haute couture designers … ] FROM THE HIP.
- 72d. [Fashion models … ] UNDER WRAPS.
No duplications among the prepositions. Five acrosses, four downs, and a nicely integrated grid. That’s all I can muster today, as I’m dealing with some pain issues and having trouble concentrating.