Leslie Rogers’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The virtual ACPT is next weekend, but the Boswords Spring Themeless League has been in full swing since the start of March. And I’m glad I’m competing in that, because gnarly themelesses that put me through my paces are what I love. Of course, I still have affection for easier freestyle puzzles like this one (which fell faster than Friday’s NYT, for me)—and this one was made a bit easier by that splashy 1-Across, FUNFETTI (clued as [Colorful Pillsbury cake with a portmanteau name]), having appeared in one of the Boswords grids! And yes, I really struggled with it the first time around.
In addition to that sparkly color at 1a, I also liked seeing FLINCHES, FOOD COMA, DEAD LAST appearing dead last in the grid, TAX BRACKETS, TOWER OF HANOI, FAM, ICE CREAM CONE (coincidentally, the subject of the jigsaw puzzle I just started this evening), and I’m-so-glad-it’s-spring FROZEN SOLID.
Seven more things:
- 34a. [Rest stop?], SABBATH. I enjoyed Zach Zimmerman’s humor piece in the New Yorker, “The Seven Days of Creation Under Capitalism.”
- 38a. [Zoom participants?], DRAG RACERS. As in cars going “zoom.” I prefer my drag race references to be RuPaul-adjacent. If you’re watching this season, are you pulling for GottMik, Symone, Rosé, or Kandy to win the crown next week?
- 10d. [Homecomings?], RUNS. A sneaky baseball clue.
- 23d. [Lead-in to “land” in a hit 2020 film], NOMAD. That’s Chloe Zhao’s movie starring Frances McDormand. Haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on my to-watch list! I literally have a spreadsheet for the movies and series I want to see, sorted by streaming provider and whether it’s just something I want to see or if it’s of interest to my family, too. Who doesn’t love a handy spreadsheet, I ask you?
- 31d. [Common additive to melted butter in Italian cuisine] SAGE. Hey! I tried a new place for takeout tonight, and had spinach/ricotta ravioli with a SAGE butter sauce. (It was really good. Munno, in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.) Would you believe I was trying to get some form of SALT into this space? Who expects their dinner to make an appearance in the puzzle that evening? I told my husband about the lapse and he said maybe I was in a food coma, so I hollered. That’s 53a. [Thanksgiving aftermath, maybe]!
- Battle of the quotations: 49d. [“The perfume of heroic deeds,” to Socrates], FAME, or 52d. [“___ has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words”: Dorothy Parker], WIT—which of these resonates more for you? The Socrates one is outmoded, as today’s Instagram influencers have attained a degree of FAME without even a whiff of “heroic deeds.”
- 55d. [Several of them are named for gods: Abbr.], MOS. Okay, months. January, Janus. March, Mars. May, Maia. June, possibly Juno but there are other theories about the name’s origin (same with April). Somehow I never learned where February derived its name. Wikipedia says, “The Roman month Februarius was named after the Latin term februum, which means “purification”, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period.” Imagine that: “It’s cold, it’s dark. Screw it, we’re not putting this on the calendar.”
Four stars from me.
Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I found this a little tougher than normal, so maybe I am tired. Or the puzzle is just harder! Or maybe I need a nap! It is a little cool here where I live, and I hope to curl up on the couch later today, but we will see if that actually happens. There is a beautiful stack in the middle of this grid that hits a lot of comfort spots for me (see below!), but this fought back just a little. I am not necessarily in race mode when I time these, which could also be the issue with the slightly slower time, but I am also not solving casually. Does that even make sense? I must be tired. Great puzzle, Joe! 4.5 stars from me.
Those promised notes:
- 1A [Technique providing percussion with a string note] SLAP BASS – Think of the Seinfeld theme music; at least that is what I think of when I see this technique written.
- 9A [Character in “The Iliad” but not “The Odyssey”?] ALPHA – Tricky!
- 19A [Ivy near an Acela stop] YALE – I believe you. Never been near Yale. And there is no Acela service here in the Midwest. There is barely Amtrak service!
- 31A [Many of today’s pro athletes] MILLENNIALS – OK maybe this is not in my comfort zone, but I have two sons that would fit this demographic!
- 34A [Total area?] CEREAL AISLE – I wonder what someone from the mid 1800’s would say if they walked down a WalMart cereal aisle today? Some of those foods are comfort foods for a lot of us; we have eaten cereal since we were kids!
- 35A [Result of an imagined draft] FANTASY TEAM – I used to play a lot of fantasy sports; I am getting old and it just isn’t the same. They take time, and I seem to have less of it these days for some reason.
- 4D [Is far from a good sport] PLAYS DIRTY – Really far, you mean! This strikes me as worse than pouting over a loss, which is what a bad sport would do at the very least. Sounds overly harsh.
- 13D [__ Jamison, one of two NBA players with 20,000+ points who’s not in the Hall of Fame] ANTAWN – I remember this UNC player from way back. He did have a long career, but not sure if he ever won a title. Perhaps he will get his due after he has passed away, which is sadly how some players get their nods.
- 38D [Submission to a radio station, briefly] DEMO CD – Is this still a thing? I picture these types of submissions being on thumb drives nowadays.
- 43D [Ice cream alternative, casually] FROYO – Now I am in the mood for one, even though it is not very warm at all!
I am off to prep for that nap!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
This is two weeks in a row that the “Stumper” had teeth! Once again the upper corners of the puzzle is where I found the most trouble. I suppose under the old “Stumper” clueing this puzzle would have taken me a full 30 minutes or so, but after solving most of the newer Stumpers in under 10 minutes, this one and the previous one have literally left me “stumped” for nearly 20 minutes. If they are in fact slightly tougher, that is fine with me! I like having a bit of a battle. I am not sure what is different with me, if anything; am I too tired? Was I too distracted? Those are also possible. As I have stated before, the quietude of solving is the allure for me. Just being able to concentrate for a few minutes is a form of therapy, and that is what I love about all puzzles, including crosswords, sudoku, even jigsaw puzzles. Brad, keep these awesome puzzles coming! 4.6 stars from me today.
A few comments:
- 1A [Etsy merchant] CRAFTER – This is easy: why didn’t I fill it in when the puzzle first started? I have no idea!
- 13A [Tubular stuffed beef servings] ROULADES – This is slightly tougher. Not even sure what it is; but it is making me hungry nonetheless!
- 16A [Oracular assertion] “IT’S A SIGN” – For some reason I was thinking of an incorrect meaning of oracular. It looks like a word that means pertaining to the eye or something. This is why I stink at puzzles!
- 21A [Upside-down rooster] BAT – Best clue I have seen in a while. I was totally fooled by this one!
- 43A [Disney gloomy gray toon] EEYORE – This took me too long to figure out. I wasn’t thinking that Pooh was Disney, but these days everything is Disney!
- 60A [Where a hull meets the sea] LOAD LINE – I have seen this line on ships, but I didn’t know the proper name. And doesn’t it change depending on the cargo weight?
- 3D [Fat-free plan] AUSTERITY BUDGET – Another wonderful clue. Nothing to do with food! (Other than the grocery budget!)
- 10D [Card game oxymoron] DOUBLE SOLITAIRE – I had the solitaire part quickly ( I started from the bottom!), but couldn’t get the first part of this until well into the puzzle. My brain doesn’t work!
- 26D [”Time” Person of the Year before Bernanke] OBAMA – There is a tie-in here with 53A:([What 26 Down got from ND] LLD) Obama has a law degree from Notre Dame?? I don’t think I have heard this before, especially since I live so close to this school. It would have been bragged about relentlessly. In summary, someone please explain this. Wikipedia says he went to Harvard Law.
- 35D [Leader for whom Tel Aviv’s Center for Peace is named] PERES – This could be any one of Israel’s leaders with a five-letter surname. But how many are there other than RABIN?
- 36D [Vehicles first built in Switzerland (1860s)] BOBSLEDS – This may explain why the US is so terrible at this sport!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hoard Times” — pannonica’s write-up
Vowel shift time. Short-a to long-o (roughly speaking).
- 23a. [Why a connoisseur might build a spacious wine cellar?] FOR THE MOST PORT (…part). If I’m not mistaken, port does not change with age once it’s bottled. Nothing to stop one from storing one’s cache in a cellar, though.
- 28a. [Food section of a mall?] SHOPPING COURT (… cart).
- 42a. [Zoo chimps who just sit there doing nothing?] MONKEY BORES (… bars).
- 63a. [Question asked during a guitar lesson?] IS THIS YOUR CHORD (…card). Think magicians for the original.
- 85a. [Component of a nonkosher wrap?] CENTRAL PORK (… pork).
- 103a. [Camera emporium?] SHOOTING STORE (… star).
- 112a. [Uncool fellow’s inoculation?] A SHOT IN THE DORK (… dark). I’m in between vaccination doses, with the second scheduled for about a week-and-a-half out now.
Not wowed by the theme, but all the answers are cogent, and the layout has what I consider to be a Shenkian trademark—significant overlap of long theme answers. In this puzzle, the first and final pairs stack for 6 letters apiece.
However, where I think this crossword shines is in the ballast fill and cluing. Pretty much throughout, I was encountering clues that brought a smile to my face.
- 42d [“Straight, No Chaser” composer] MONK. Ya, okay, let’s just get that nominal treat out of the way first.
- 8d [Piece of thigh armor] TASSE. And okay, I didn’t like this one, because it isn’t a subject familiar to me. I’d have preferred this to be about German or French drinking glasses.
- 10d [Nationals, when international] EXPOS. This is a baseball clue.
- 49d [American assignment] SEAT. Airline.
- 25a [Unpleasant reminder?] NAGGER; 77d [It might be bugging you] WIRE; 71a [Seekers of intelligence] SPIES.
- 98d [Controlling power, so to speak] REINS. Only recently have I learned that the Teamsters (86d [Teamsters transport] RIG) get their name historically as modern-day descendants of drivers of horse teams.
- 102d [Out of gear?] NAKED.
- 39a [Squared accounts, in a way] AVENGED; 45d [Settle] REPAY.
- 61d [Initiation ritual] OATH. I, uh, had BATH here for a long time.
I didn’t highlight each and every pleasing clue/answer—in fact, some of these are included for other reasons—so I just want to reiterate that it was the general vibe while solving.
Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “B-Minus” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Two word phrases where each words starts with B are suddenly B-less. And wackiness is upon us.
- 17A [School storage spot marked with a Greek H?] ETA LOCKER. Beta Blocker.
- 21A [Scottish girl who needs to see the doctor?] ILL LASS. Bill Blass.
- 26A [Feeling during a highway race?] ROAD RUSH. Broad Brush.
- 49A [Have no corn] LACK EARS. Black Bears.
- 56A [With 62-Across, “Take that horse on a long journey, handler”?] “RIDE AND / RIDE, GROOM.” Bride and Bridegroom.
A good ol’ fashioned letter removal puzzle with a dead giveaway in the title. I convinced myself that BETA LOCKER was a thing and thought, initially, that only one B was being removed (as the title sorta suggests). The next themer I uncovered was LACK EARS, so when BLACK EARS (?!?!) didn’t strike me as an in-language phrase, I figured out my misstep.
Biggest mistake for me was forgetting that ROAD RUSH was in a theme spot. I entered ROAD RAGE, which makes sense with the clue I think. So that led to a hot mess, especially with how confident I was in the answer.
- They’re making Avatar 2? I still need to see the first one!
- ARE YOU DONE? Great entry! Sounds so deliciously rude.
- I’m sure a 365 page calendar would probably have a couple extra pages. Ad pages. Title. Copyright info. Etc. Just sayin’. Hehe. Good clue though!
- ILLLASS looks so weird in a grid, though it was my favorite of the themers.
- RIDE AND RIDE, GROOM missed the mark for me. Unfortunately there’s a lot of attention on that one due to it being split into two theme spots.
3.1 stars today. Thanks, Paul!