David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
A smooth 72-worder with lots of spiffy fill, such as NBA ALL-STAR, movie quote “GREED IS GOOD,” “WAIT A MINUTE,” “NIGHTY-NIGHT,” BONHOMIE, and CHARADES.
As with the Friday NYT, there’s a sort of mini-theme here: NIGHTY-NIGHT and EIGHTY-EIGHT differ only by their initial letters. Neat! We might have expected the number to have a piano keys clue, but no, it’s scientific trivia: 14a. [Number of days it takes Mercury to orbit the sun].
Seven more things:
- 66a. [Soft, green food], MASHED PEAS. Eww. Mind you, in Britain they call ’em mushy peas, in case you wanted a less-appetizing term for this.
- 46a. [Irish name that’s a Slavic name backward], AIDAN, or Nadia backwards. Huh!
- 11d. [“How adorable!”], “AW, SO CUTE!” Not sure this one’s really suitable crossword fodder. First of all, I prefer AWW for matters of cuteness.
- 15d. [Notable examples of crossing a line, in brief], TDS. “You’ve gone too far this time, Payton!” Sports answer, clue that doesn’t sound like it’s about sports.
- 33d. [They may be used in a pinch], HERBS. Great clue.
- 35d. [Composition test], ASSAY. As in testing the chemical or mineral composition of something, not English composition (which was my first thought and why I had ESSAY first).
- 37d. [Correction for a wild pitch], AUTOTUNE. As in a pitchy singing voice. Non-sports answer, clue that sounds like it’s about sports.
4.25 stars from me. Enjoy your Saturday!
Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My friend Debbie Ellerin has this Saturday’s LAT challenge puzzle. Not too difficult, but that is a complement to the constructor, since there is almost nothing obscure in this grid. What is obscure is certainly somewhat subjective from one person to the next, but I personally found nothing that I didn’t know. Am I that cultured and well-read? Certainly not! But I am getting old, so there’s that … ! A very fun puzzle here, and I found quite a lot of joy in solving this one. Kudos to Debbie! 4.6 stars from me.
Some interesting stuff:
- 14A [Pool service?] RIDE SHARE – Best clue in the puzzle!
- 32A [Word from the German for “spirit of the age”] ZEITGEIST – I remember seeing some conspiracy theory-type videos years ago that had this title. It was an interesting rabbit hole, but that’s about it!
- 42A [Lionsgate premium cable subsidiary] STARZ – I don’t know who owns what channel anymore. I think there are only 4 or 5 major companies that own ALL the channels. Prove me wrong!
- 57A [Chaotic situation, in slang] GOAT RODEO – Someone at work the other day used the phrase “like herding cats,” and this is a similar mental picture!
- 3D [1998 hit from the Sarah McLachlan album “Surfacing”] ADIA – A crossword-famous song, one of only a handful. I will add this to today’s blog post to sear it in your brains momentarily!
- 27D [Baseball brother] ALOU – A crossword-famous family name as well! Is there another generation of this clan coming to the Majors that will make this clue more relevant again?
- 28D [Walk out] GO ON STRIKE – In going back through this puzzle, I read this as GOON STRIKE! Great entry nonetheless!
- 30D [Tallies] KEEPS SCORE – This was hard without several crossers. Simple yet devious!
- 32D [Didn’t go straight] ZIG-ZAGGED – Favorite entry in the grid! Another interesting mental image was evoked!
- 48D [Boglike] PEATY – Does anyone say this? Perhaps a gardener?? If this is the worst entry in the grid, you’re doing great!
That is all! Off to solve more puzzles!
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
The “Stumpers” are still slightly tougher recently, albeit not quite as tough as before. I am thinking this was a conscious decision, otherwise I am just having a rough month! I am getting on Matthew Sewell’s wavelength, but this still had enough vagueness in it to give me fits. It was tough to find a toehold in this one, but the puzzle was still fun. I haven’t been angry at one of these in quite a while! Keep the great puzzles coming, Matthew! 4.6 stars from me.
A few notes:
- 14A [Deep hostilities] SEA WAR – Oh, that kind of “deep!” Tricky!
- 15A [”I spy” occasion] ROAD TRIP – This was one of the first things I filled in. Great clue!
- 38A [Move like a squirrel] SKITTER – I tried SKAMPER here. I just know they move fast, while at the same time they are also delicious!
- 47A [Table material] STAT – Best/hardest clue in the puzzle. Very well done!
- 60A [Exclamation of frustration] PHOOEY – [Hong Kong __ ] would have been easier!
- 4D [It’s sticky to raise] AWKWARD QUESTION – Great 15-letter entry here. It is fun to slowly figure out these longer entries as you roll through the solve.
- 11D [Receiving-line delivery] “IT’S NICE TO SEE YOU!” – Great casual phrase!
- 45D [”Love is __ of faith”: Fromm] AN ACT – Is this a poem? Or from a book? Either way I don’t know this quote.
- 50D [”How I Met Your Mother” narrator] SAGET – I always forget who this is. This show is from quite a few years ago now, and I didn’t watch it religiously. I will conveniently forget this for the next time I see this clue!
- 52D [Beast on Beowulf’s helmet] BOAR – Who knew? I tried STAG at first. Might need to re-read this one!
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Band on the Run” — pannonica’s write-up
So this is a random kind of theme, ushered into existence purely on the basis of the title phrase, which, although not coined by Paul and Linda McCartney in the early ’70s, certainly received an uptick in notoriety around then.
For each thematic pair, the circled squares in the top row comprise a musical band’s name—as a full entry, though clued in a different context—which sits atop a word that can be followed by ‘run’ to form a familiar phrase. This second word appears hidden in a longer entry. Furthermore, the two paired circled words are of the same length. It plays out much more smoothly than this tortured explanation.
- 17a. [Sleep stage] REM.
22a. [Basis for some competition pairings] SKILL LEVEL (ski run).
- 28a. [Looking smart] CHIC.
32a. [They usually include tomato, onion, and green pepper] SPANISH OMELETS (home run).
- 37a. [Spring locale] OASIS.
41a. [Fleet fellow] SPRINTER (print run).
- 68a. [Capital founded in 1630] BOSTON.
71a. [Filmdom’s Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, et al.] UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (salmon run).
- 88a. [With 38-Down, emphatic agreement] YES (38d is SIRREE).
96a. [Forage grasses] WILD RYES (dry run).
- 99a. [Rhyme scheme used in Italian sonnets] ABBA.
108a. [Stone often found in engagement rings] DEBEERS DIAMOND (beer run).
- 117a. [Half-and-half half] CREAM.
121a. [Ministry’s music genre] INDUSTRIAL (trial run).
It’s quite a concept, and quite a feat of construction. I can certainly forgive the bit-of-a-stretch WILD RYES, but look less kindly on the editorial choices to include a cross-reference to a non-theme entry (am I the only one who has a peeve about this? on the other hand, how else to clue SIRREE without duplicating the entry YES?) and to (conspiratorially?) nod to the theme by dabbling with a band’s name in the final clue. Also not thrilled with mentioning branded diamonds, especially from such an unethical company, but what’re ya gonna do?
The grid shows a significant strain via a mini-litany of iffy entries: I’m looking at 2d REKNOT (vs retie), 7d [Colo. or Mo.] RIV, 10d [File extension of an app that kicks in after the PC’s been inactive] SCR (for screensaver), 14d [Vestments worn partially under albs] AMICES, 21d [WWII beach craft] LSTS, 27d [Growls like a dog] GNARS (but not 113d [Dog’s growl] GRR), 53d [“Isn’t there any way for me to get out of this?”] BUT MUST I, 61d [Formal permission to be away from school, in Britain] ABSIT, 63d [Stuart of Apollo 14] ROOSA, 82d [Possible answer to “Who’s picking you up from school today?”] MY DAD, 98d [Of a decree] EDICTAL, 81a [Adams, who was a 112-Across, along with Th. Jefferson and Benj. Franklin] SAML* (112a is SIGNER), 104a [ __ Pa Kettle] MA AND (plus a few more, but at this point it seems cruel to continue).
*Possibly the worst clue/answer combo I’ve seen in a respectable crossword; not only does it truck heavily in awful abbrevs. it’s a cross-reference to boot!
- 3d [Forgers, of a sort] SMITHS. The SMITHS is also the name of a well-known band.
- Longdowns: 16d [Concern for deans] STUDENT HOUSING, 50d [Central African forests, for a gorilla] NATURAL HABITAT, but I filled in NATIVE HABITATS first. (49d [Gorilla, e.g.] APE.)
- 33d [Time zone four hrs. behind 86-Across] PST; 86a [Time zone four hrs. ahead of 33d] AST. Uh, the Ts in those entries stand for time, so these are major duplications.
- 42d [19-member monetary union] EURO AREA.
- I liked the longish stacks of SCRAP METAL / PRACTICUMS and METAPHORIC / AMATEURISH. URANIUM ORE and SHARON TATE aren’t bad either. (19a, 24a, 118a, 126a, 62a, 79a)
- 74a [Minotaur’s milieu] CRETE. 11d [Weaver of myth] ARACHNE; it was she who gave Theseus the string that he used to help him navigate out of the fearsome Labyrinth. No, wait—that was Ariadne. What was I thinking?
Despite everything, this crossword still comes out a winner.
Here’s trash-rockers (not as bad as it sounds!) the New Duncan Imperials from their thematic EP “We’re in a Band” with their rendition of BOSTON’s autobiographical “Rock and Roll Band” (the record of course also features “Band on the Run“):
George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “Broken Promises” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Synonyms for “promise” are split in theme answers.
- PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE. Pledge.
- OUT OF BREATH. Oath.
- VARIETY SHOW. Vow.
- PHYSICAL CONTACT. Pact.
Solid, consistent theme, though somewhat familiar. Perfect fare for Universal, which will go out on a limb and publish some more daring themes, but will always remain accessible to all solvers. A very standard solve for me. Nothing very flashy. I do like the consistency of having just the first letter of each entry being part of the broken promise.
Filled fine, but not much room for fresh, longer entries. ENNUI right at the center of the grid had me grimace, but what else can you do there with two themers having to connect E???I ?
This is the third blog post in a row for me where Universal is better served with circled letters. Of the puzzles published this week by Universal, over 50% included circled letters when the solver downloads the puzzle from this site. Solvers who publish on paper or on the web app do not get circles. They get instructions where they have to count letters and circle them mentally. I don’t understand why Universal does this. And so frequently. It’s the only puzzle that I’m aware of that intentionally offers two different solving experiences (one available on this site, and one for the masses in print / online).
Per its website, the Universal puzzle “…sets the standard for all daily crosswords.” How come more aren’t offering two different versions of the same puzzle?
I also just found out that some publications who print the Universal in syndication omit titles and/or bylines. Can’t imagine it’s hard to include those, especially when titles (like the one here) often serve as revealers. Why is that ok?
Anyway, I think it was easy enough to see the theme in this puzzle without the circles, so it doesn’t suffer as badly as some others have.
3.1 stars with circles.