Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Fairly fresh and fun themeless, though it lost some of my affection by dropping in ISHTAR GATE (53a. [Entry point in the walls of Babylon]), which I’d never heard of and would have thought was the scandal of the 1987 movie bomb. But no! Turns out it’s this gorgeous Babylonian structure with blue-glazed bricks and sculptural dragons and such. So now I love ISHTAR GATE. Much of it is now among the RELICS in a German museum.
There’s some chatty fill: “DON’T FORGET…,” “FAR FROM IT!,” and “THAT’S ON YOU.” Other longer entries I was fond of include BIG ASK, BACK FOR MORE, and THE AVENGERS.
Overall, the puzzle landed right in my “Saturday NYT that’s on the easier side, but not Friday-caliber easier” zone. Felt some annoyance at plurals like USAGES, AWS, SATS, and PICAROS (which seems to appear in the plural far more in Spanish than in English). ERAT, AN I, AGER, LCDS, SET AT—also in the “meh” category.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Singer with a supporting role in 2019’s “Hustlers”], LIZZO. I still haven’t seen this movie, so I was stumped. I knew J.Lo and Constance Wu starred in, but my memory tapered off there. Is this movie worth $14.99 on Amazon Prime?
- 25a. [Word with field or sales], EVENT. I don’t know what a field event is. As in track and field?
- 4d. [It might be right under your nose], ZIT. This is terrible! I hate it and love it at the same time.
- 27d. [It’s a fright], HAIR-RAISER. I have never once used this noun, I’m pretty sure. There really can’t be much use for it.
- 29d. [Reactions to something sweet … or something disappointing], AWS. Moving past the “plural interjections are lousy fill” judgment, I’ll just say I miss the days when people spelled it aww.
3.5 stars from me.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I don’t believe I have ever met Craig Stowe, but I have done a ton of his puzzles at this point. This is another great puzzle from him; a smooth themeless that has very few difficult terms. It wasn’t super easy, but also wasn’t Stumper tough either. The Boswords Themeless leagues have trained me well! There are still 4 more puzzles this spring, I believe. Sign up if you haven’t already! 4.6 stars today.
- 17A [Film composer Morricone] ENNIO – I started watching The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly again on Amazon Prime. Still a great movie! I need to watch A Fistful of Dollars as well; that one is not free to see!
- 37A [Five carats] GRAM – I actually remembered this!
- 57A [Fair-haired] ASH BLONDE – Is ash lighter? I know nothing about hair … for obvious reasons!
- 5D [“Seriously … “] “ALL JOKING ASIDE …” – Great casual phrase!
- 11D [She plays Sheldon’s grandma (Meemaw) on “Young Sheldon”] ANNIE POTTS – I have not seen this show or The Big Bang Theory that much, even though they are both pretty good for network TV shows. My perception is that network shows are all a notch below anything on HBO, Showtime, Hulu, Amazon or Netflix. Looks who wins Emmys now!
- 15D [The Israel Museum display] DEAD SEAS CROLLS – They just found some more in the last week or so!
- 24D [Conformist’s phrase] “WHEN IN ROME …” – I live by this. It often helps!
- 28D [Fourth-grade teacher in Springfield Elementary School] KRABAPPEL – I knew the name, but the spelling is slightly different. Yes, this is Bart Simpson’s teacher. I think.
- 33D [First name in desserts] SARA – One of my “girlfriends”, along with Little Debbie and Betty Crocker!
- 48D [TD Garden NBAer] CELT – This arena replaced the Boston Garden, and is now appropriately corporate sponsored, which I hate.
- 50D [Four-time Gold Glove winner Tony] PEÑA – This dude was my favorite catcher years ago. He would, to catch a low pitch, nearly get into the splits.
Off to do more puzzles! And perhaps ride my bike today; it should be a tad warmer!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
This one took me a tad longer than normal, which has been under 10 minutes for a while in the new Stumper style, but Brad got me this week. In my feeble defense, I am timing just to see how long it takes, not necessarily speed-solving. (Yes, that sounds lame!) But I was genuinely stuck on this one, especially in the NE corner. Still not quite as hard as before; some of the harder ones would leave be scratching my head for nearly 30 minutes. This one felt like it had teeth. 4.7 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 1A [Off-the-grid period] MEDIA FAST – We could all use one of these at times! 24-hour news cannot be good for anyone.
- 15A [Without much scrutiny] AT A GLANCE – This phrase came up at work; we have to produce a report with this name. Or so they tell me!
- 16A [Very short story] SQUIB – I didn’t know this definition of this word, which caused a lot of my issues in this NE corner. I know the sport connotation the best.
- 25A [Work with glasses] TEND BAR – Work is a verb here, which also caused NE corner issues.
- 11D [Self-possessed] EQUABLE – Also in the NE corner. This is another slightly obscure word.
- 13D [Seller of banded and boxed merchandise] CIGAR STORE – I literally thought this was CANDY STORE. You can see where MY mind is …!
- 21D [Not a repeat customer] ONE-TIMER – This is correct, but not a common use of this, at least to me. Maybe because I shop at the same stores all the time!
- 27D [Jazz Age sports car] STUTZ – These were made in Indiana! I have heard of the Stutz Bearcat. They don’t look very sporty, though, by today’s standards!
- 28D [What a daredevil might kiss when done] TERRA FIRMA – When your life is at risk, ground becomes terra firma. Or when a plane flight lands safely!
- 38D [Proof of purchase] STUB – This is of course true, but other than a ticket, does this have another use?
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Mark Diehl & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Brought Up To Speed” — pannonica’s write-up
Letters are prefixed to words in phrases, wackifying them by creating a word connoting speed.
- 23a. [Flight from a bear, for example?] NOT A HAPPY SCAMPER.
- 37a. [Wizard’s means of quick escape?] SCURRY POWDER.
- 43a. [Run with the glitterati?] GLOSSY SPRINT.
- 64a. [Jerry’s typical way to elude Tom?] RACE IN THE HOLE.
- 80a. [Scooting along in principle, but not in reality?] ABSTRACT DART.
- 87a. [Event where you really have to hotfoot it?] VOLCANIC DASH.
- 106a. [Devilish threat to exercise shunners?] MAY YOU TROT IN HELL.
Bonus content, not clued as such: 74a [Heady sensation] RUSH.
I wish I was as excited and breathless as the themers might suggest, but this was just a typical 21×21 solve for me.
- Longdowns in each quadrant: 4d [Successfully flops in basketball] DRAWS A FOUL, 15d [Copper cup cocktail] MOSCOW MULE (highly alliterative, that), 69d [Column style featuring scroll-shaped volutes] IONIC ORDER, 72d [Prosciutto, e.g.] ITALIAN HAM.
- 9d [Voices displeasure] HISSES. But of course HISSES are unvoiced. Nevertheless the clue is valid, so long as we aren’t being pedantic. And we would never do that, would we? 105a [Verbalized] SAID.
- 24d [Battery end] PLUS. So simple it was tricky.
- 46d [Salon job, for short] PEDI. Went with PERM first.
- 54d [Judgment of Paris contender] ATHENA. A favorite subject of painters, including 78d RENOIR, through time. I seem to recall one we focussed on in art history was that of Lucas Cranach the Elder.
- SPOILER 32a [Cozy retreat] NOOK. My last word in today’s Spelling Bee.
- 34a [“Wassup!”] HOLLA. How common is this variant? It’s certainly legitimate, but seems unusual to me.
- 68a [Old gold coin of France] LOUIS D’OR.
- 70a. [Red states?] SHAMES. hmm
- 97d [It might include a HI inset] US MAP; 6d [“Chrisley Knows Best” network] USA. hmm
- 103a [Foundational makeup] ATOMS. More to do with cosmology than cosmetology. My favorite clue of the puzzle.
Stella Zawistowski’s Universal crossword, “Muscle Stretches” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Muscles are found in common phrases
- EAST COAST RAPPER. Trap. I actually originally read that as EAST COAST TRAPPER and thought it an odd entry.
- BECHDEL TEST. Delt.
- PIPE CLEANTER. Pec.
- FATAL ATTRACTION. Lat.
A familiar theme type for Universal. Solid in-language phrases with well known muscles that bridge the words in the themers, so it hits all the marks. I had trouble with EAST COAST RAPPER and the D in BECHDEL TEST. Happy to see it in a puzzle, but I had completely forgotten the spelling. I also only know CLOD as a way to refer to someone of particularly poor intelligence. Didn’t realize it was also a clump of dirt, which makes sense, but I don’t know why you’d say CLOD over “clump.”
Did I mention this puzzle needs circles to be fully enjoyed? And that Universal does not offer that rather important solving tool in its regular paper and web publication? No? About a year ago I was excited to learn a fix was on the horizon. I just didn’t realize the horizon was so far away.
I found the fill and clues trickier than normal, but I enjoyed the little bite!
3.6 stars with circles.
2.6 stars without.