Yacob Yonas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A surprisingly smooth and quick(ish) solve considering that I’d never heard 1-Across before and didn’t get the two answers below it without some helpful crossings. I love the nine-square diagonal through the middle of the grid.
Fave fill: MOONBEAM, DATA-MINE, tasty MILANOS, FACEPALM, MET GALA, ASCII ART, and MEET-CUTE.
In the “did not know” department:
- 1a. [Hoopster’s mantra], BALL IS LIFE.
- 2d. [Renato’s wife in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera”], AMELIA. / 5d. [Woman’s name that’s also a plural suffix], INES / 8d. [George Sand title heroine], ISIDORA. It’s a shame to have three women’s first names in a row that aren’t clued with reference to real people. My favorite ISIDORA is my crossword-loving mother-in-law.
Seven more things:
- Daily twofer: 27d. [Home for a drone], AIRBASE / 50d. [Like some drones], APIAN. I’ll bet some folks felt great about filling in BEEHIVE at 27d without any crossings in place.
- 41a. [Wiz Khalifa’s “We ___ Boyz”], DEM. Also didn’t know this, but it’s inferrable linguistically even if you don’t know the song. “Th” stopping, that’s what makes “them” into “dem.” I just learned that term from the video posted below.
- 45a. [Some didy changers], DADAS. Perpetual NYT Spelling Bee annoyance, that MAMA is accepted but DADA isn’t. Yes, we know there’s an uppercase Dada in art, but this is not that.
- 1d. [“Buzz off!”], BITE ME. Some call it a vulgar expression, some don’t.
- 4d. [“___ Mañanitas” (Mexican birthday song)], LAS. I … did not know this was a song title. It’s also the name of a Chicago restaurant that makes the best margaritas, and maaaaybe this summer I will actually get to have a meal and a marg in their sidewalk section.
- 12d. [What this is an example of: \_(^.^)_/], ASCII ART. This clue is adorable!
- 36d. [Schroeder plays one, in the comics], TOY PIANO. Wait. What?? It’s a toy? Nobody tell Schroeder, he’d be heartbroken.
Could do without Ron ELY, but that’s my biggest GRIPE here aside from the incorporeal AMELIA/INES/ISIDORA.
4.2 stars from me.
Brad Wiegmann’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Curses!” — pannonica’s write-up
First, I’d like to thank the constructor and editor for using the same sequence of symbols in the clues of this grawlix-laden crossword; makes my typing here a bit easier.
- 23a. [“@#$%! Annie Oakley just had a a baby!”] SON OF A GUN.
- 28a. [“@#$%! My bow splintered again!”] FIDDLESTICKS.
- 38a. [“@#$%! That black hole is sucking them in!”] OH MY STARS.
- 48a. [“@#$%! Close those pearly gates!”] FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE.
- 64a. [“@#$%! These veggies are inedible!”] SUFFERIN’ SUCCOTASH.
- 86a. [“@#$%! Not another Brit Lit class!”] WHAT THE DICKENS.
- 93a. [“@#$%! This wake is getting totally out of hand!”] GOOD GRIEF.
- 105a. [“@#$%! Look at what the rabbi just landed!”] HOLY MACKEREL.
- 115a. [“@#$%! My steak’s too rare, Pop!”] DAD BURN IT.
Yes, so this is fine. Especially if you’re a fan of profanity.
- 2d [Word in a Yale fight song] BOOLA. I’m vaguely recalling a Russell Baker piece about the founding fathers, and something about some of them singing “Boola! Boola!” under their breath in frustration or to taunt some of the others. I was too young at the time to understand the significance of this, but it still struck me as funny.
- 5d [Not much] A DAB, 40d [Heaps] A LOT. 28d [Obsession] FETISH, 66d [Passing passions] FADS. 39d [Plot devices?] HOES, 98d [Sowing machine] SEEDER.
- 6d [Ranch strays] DOGIES.
- 47d [Like cobras] HOODED. Not all snakes called cobras have hoods, but I believe all true cobras possess at least minimal hoods. The nominate species is naja, which would be incredibly useful for crossword constructors.
- 81d [Close behind] AT HEEL. Does this have the same meaning as to heel? Regardless, I did an Ngram of the two:
But it may be that to heel appears more frequently because it also appears as part of a larger prepositional phrase? If so, I can’t think of one.
- 83d [Body image, of a sort] SCAN, 45a [Hosp. test] MRI. In the news today.
- 96d [Vaccine component] RNA. A relatively novel component, but we’re hearing about it a lot because of the new COVID-19 vaccines.
- 14a [Put-your-cards-in-order game] RACK-O. Never heard of it, but of course that’s on me.
- 25a [Lab reward] TREAT. As in Labrador retriever, but I’m sort of thinking of Young Frankenstein at the moment.
- 37a [Bear Dance participant] UTE. Sure, why not share a third video? The others were quite short anyway.
- Least favorite clue/answer: 61a [@@@] ATS. First, on principle. Second, because it kind of overlaps the themers.
- 99a [Incoherent articulation] RANT. Disagree, but I won’t go on about it.
- 120a [Zero, for one] PLANE. At first I thought this was something mathematical, but then I recalled that some Japanese fighter planes were called ‘Zeros’ by the Allies.
- 116a [“Glengarry Glen Ross” playwright] MAMET, known for his profanity-laden style.
- 118a [Pentathlete’s needs] ÉPÉES. Curses! Not foiled again!
Matthew Sewell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I found this much harder than a normal LAT, but then I looked at the byline, and I am not surprised. Frequent Stumper contributor Matthew Sewell had today’s LAT challenge themeless, and let’s just say I was sufficiently challenged by this one! This almost took longer than the “Stumper” puzzle, and that rarely happens to me. But this is a terrific themeless puzzle. Not sure why exactly it was so difficult; maybe I just need a nap! 4.7 stars for a stellar toughie.
A few notes:
- 14A [Francis used a Jeep Wrangler as one in 2015] POPE-MOBILE – Sounds nice and rugged. Jeep was recently in the news for being under pressure to rename the Cherokee. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.
- 22A [Places to learn perspective] ARTSCHOOLS – A slightly tricky clue if you don’t know how this works in art and photography. My dad taught me this when I was quite young. He is a much better artist than I will ever be.
- 32A [Its co-founder said, “I do get disappointed that so many members spend so much time solving puzzles”] MENSA – Great quote! I should join Mensa, but it costs money!!
- 46A [Pick-up artists?] NEAT FREAKS – One of the best clues in the puzzle!
- 56A [One of several coming out together] LITTER MATE – Aww!
- 5D [Writer’s resource] ROGET’S – Do people still use this reference? Is it even still relevant??
- 11D [Emotional oxymoron] TEARS OF JOY – I tried to make this end in JOB, as in the Bible character. Not sure why; must have had something wrong!
- 21D [Some WWII message transmitters] CODE TALKERS – The clue doesn’t reference it, but I believe these were native Americans that did this. Here is a Wikipedia article that partly describes this.
- 27D [The Mahabharata, e.g.] INDIAN EPIC – I don’t know anything about Indian heritage. This was written in Sanskrit it is so old. I think it is over 2,000 years old. People wrote long pieces before cable TV!
- 42D [1994 sci-fi memoir] I, ASIMOV – A play on I, Robot no doubt. I think I have seen this answer before in a crossword, but I have never read it. Something else to tackle during lockdown!
That is all! Off to do more puzzles!
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
If I remember correctly, this pseudonym is the combination of Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson, and I found this the hardest of the “new Stumpers” yet. And by hard I mean just over 10 minutes hard. There is some very tricky stuff in this one. Maybe I just need a nap! I had better get my act together: the Boswords Spring themeless league starts Monday night! Great puzzle, guys! 4.5 stars from me.
Just a few observations:
- 14A [A Universal Studios city] OSAKA – I wanted this to be OCALA, but I don’t think Universal Studios is there!
- 17A [Ancient ”white,” ”venerable” city near Rome] ALBA LONGA – Never heard of it!
- 22A [She was seen in ”. . . Roger Rabbit”] BOOP – I haven’t seen this movie in ages. Something else to watch while everything is still closed!
- 30A [Duke’s fall, e.g.] SEMESTER – Possibly the best clue in the puzzle. It has an (I’m sure!) misleading vibe of describing a Shakespeare plot point or something. Very well done!
- 32A [Selfie enabler] IPAD – Nobody takes selfies with an iPad!! Or do they … ?
- 44A [Corporate CPA preparation] SEC FILING – Great entry. Weird letter sequence here, which doesn’t help us solvers at all!
- 47A [Donut frosting flavor] MAPLE – Throw some bacon on there too. MMMM! Now I am hungry …
- 50A [Throw back quickly] DO SHOTS – This took me a minute because I don’t do this. I need both of my brain cells still working!
- 10D [What makes mist moist] AN O – A slightly cryptic clue here – I like it!
- 31D [Arachnophobe of rhyme] MUFFET – This took me waaay to long to think of!
- 47D [Op-art fabric] MOIRE – I don’t think I know what this even is! We will chalk it up to learning something new!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Deeksha Gaur’s Universal crossword, “Changing the Wor(L)d” — Jim Q’s write-up
Very clever title! I though it might have something to do with an L addition to common phrases, but nope!
THEME: Countries are instead clued as words, ignoring one of the letters in the entry.
- [Rest against] LEBANON. Lean on.
- [Not a chance!] NORWAY. No way!
- [Longtime U.S. airline] PANAMA. Pan Am.
- [Misrepresent] BELIZE. Belie.
- [Jones is a common one] SURINAME. Surname.
- [Spain’s main airline] LIBERIA. Liberia.
- Revealer: NATION BUILDING.
Well this was cool. About as “Thursday-ish” as you’ll see in Universal, and a lovely, tight grid. Also, let’s make sure we appreciate the rather Birnholzian bonus. That is, the “ignored” letters spell out yet another country: BRAZIL. Evan Birnholz, who constructs the Washington Post puzzle, uses this technique nearly every time a letter in a theme answer is being added, omitted, featured, etc.
There’s a LOT going on here, so it’s equally impressive to get a relatively crud-free grid. Sure, you’re not gonna get any splashy longer answers, and it would be ideal if other places one can find on a map, like BALI and ATLANTA were not mixed in there (at first I thought the hidden word was going to spell BALI, not BRAZIL, so imagine my surprise when it turned up in the grid anyway).
Like the little twist this week! There was another Universal that had a bit of a trickiness to it that ran not too long ago. Happy that Universal is not shying away from the cut and dry grid.