Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Yeah, okay, this one might be clued too easy. It’s got a pervasive sports vibe and I still finished it in a Fridayish time? I sure don’t know the arcade game name POP A SHOT (seen it plenty, didn’t know what it was called). ERAS is clued as the baseball stat, MATCH POINT crossing LET brings the tennis content, UPPED THE GAME presumably originated in sports, and there’s also TKO and B-TEAMS.
Fave unsports fill: GAZPACHO, BLACK SABBATH, PAGE LAYOUT, PIZZA PARTY, BIG BIRD, the double scoop of A LA MODE and SWIRL, MOTHBALLED, and Steinbeck’s THE PEARL, which I read for English class maybe around 8th or 9th grade. I remembered nothing of it and just read the plot summary at Wikipedia, and boy oh boy, is that dark.
Five more things:
- 43a. [Sta4nce, for instance], REBUS. Brilliant clue! “4 in stance” sounds like “for instance” and it’s an instance of a rebus. Part of me thought this must be the screen name of a YouTuber or Twitch streamer.
- You see 33d. [Spot on a face] and want ZIT, but no, it’s PIP, a spot on dice or maaaybe a playing card, but it wouldn’t be on a face card. And then there’s 9a. [Bad spot for a date?], PIMPLE.
- 28a. Third-tier caste member in “Brave New World”], GAMMA. Which BNW caste are you? (I think many of us are Betas who think we’re Alphas.) Why isn’t there a BuzzFeed quiz to that effect?
- 37a. [Brand of cashmere pronounced “say”], TSE. Seen the brand, didn’t know the pronunciation till just now.
- 25d. [Bar tidbit], BEERNUT. Not loving this in the singular, but if we take FRITO and CHEETO and DORITO, this comes along for the ride.
Four stars from me. On to the weekend!
Jeff Eddings’s Universal crossword, “Pride Month Themeless I” — Jim Q’s write-up
This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.
Well this was unexpected!
Lots to choose from here….
- [One may include skydiving] BUCKET LIST.
- [Position that requires a red suit] MALL SANTA.
- [Up to try something, paradoxically] DOWN FOR IT.
- [Chocolate whose shape may have been inspired by the Matterhorn] TOBLERONE.
- [Local, as food] FARM TO TABLE.
- [Gig economy transport [#UniversalXwordPride]] RIDE SHARE.
Nods to Pride Month:
- [Non-cis] TRANS.
- and [Josephine Baker performance] CABARET has a strong following in the LGBTQ+ community.
- Any others I missed?
Were it not for the NW I might’ve broken my record for a 15x. I flew threw everything but really got hung up in that whole section, spending an equal amount of time there as on the rest of the puzzle. I forgot the spelling for RAINN Wilson (crossing a cast mate, ELLIE Kempter!) Had something like UBER RIDES for 1-Across. It was ugly. Confidence in APPLE STORES (bit of an odd plural) and ESC helped unsnarl the whole mess, but it was like the highway was suddenly full of speed bumps and I was a SLOW DRIVER.
Is this Universal’s first themeless? I’m thinking it is. I mix it up with Puzzle Society crosswords, which did publish themeless puzzles if I remember correctly. Does the title suggest that perhaps we’ll see more? I hope so!
Excellent puzzle today.
Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
My buddy Jeff Chen has this week’s LAT themeless challenger, and look at that wide-open center! Very nicely done! There is an entry or two that I need to check and make sure they are in my word list! I am going to try my hand at themeless puzzles one of these days; it will take a while to make some this good. Lots of fun stuff in here, and nothing too obscure, as usual for the LAT. One of these days I will see Jeff in person again! 4.7 stars from me.
A few highlights:
- 13A [Orange-colored snack puff] CHEETO – I hate these things. Not my snack of choice!
- 17A [A baseball era was named for them, briefly] ROIDS – This one took a minute. There have been illegal drugs for the duration of baseball and all sports. I am torn on this; the home runs were fun to watch, and the players still need a fair measure of skill to hit major league pitches out of the park, but the ravages to a person’s body should make it not worthwhile at all. Sadly, that is not the case.
- 28A [Lifesavers, often] ORGAN DONORS – Oh, THOSE life savers! (I was thinking candy!)
- 35A [Card game for two, usually] WAR – I may have mentioned this before, but I need to play this with my son. We will use two decks and everything!
- 49A [Fruit brandy that translates to “water of life”] EAU DE VIE – My knowledge of French pays off again1
- 2D [“Why would you even consider that?!”] “OH GOD, NO!” – Great casual phrase!
- 14D [Protection against bleeding] MASKING TAPE – Best clue in the puzzle. Total misdirection!
- 16D [Northeast paper with 26 Pulitzers] BOSTON GLOBE – Nobody reads newspapers anymore (except me!), but there are still investigative reporters out there doing good work. But the media form is dying a slow death, sadly. The internet is NOT the same. At least to me!
- 21D [Flowers known as golden buttons] TANSIES – Is this a real word? Or am I just that ignorant?
- 22D [Shaved-ice treat] SNO-CONE – It is going to be a scorcher in many areas of the country the next few days, so maybe I will have one of these treats!
- 32D [Warning on some forwarded emails, briefly] NSFW PICS – Best entry in the grid! This is what I was talking about when I said I need to check my word list!
That’s all for now. Off to do more puzzles! And hopefully enjoy some of the warm weather!
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up
I will be honest: I LOVE Stella’s themeless puzzles! So it is always a serendipitous joy when I see her byline on a weekend puzzle! This one is no exception. Not quite as tough as the fare on her site, but still a challenge. Got this one done in less than ten minutes, but that is likely because compared to the puzzles on her site, this one is a piece of cake! Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did: 4.7 stars from me.
Some high points:
- 15A [Practice delayed infuriation] COUNT TO TEN – Good advice!
- 16A [French roast] ROTI – I thought this was Indian food??
- 29A [Pop star from Tottenham] ADELE – I’m embarrassed that I put LORDE in here at first! I think she is from New Zealand, now that I think of it; she couldn’t be FARTHER from England!
- 38A [What Pixar followed up with ”Up”] WALL-E – I JUST recently saw this movie. It’s better than I thought it would be! Should have seen it 13 years ago when it first came out!
- 56A [Recycled paper from long ago] PALIMPSEST – I don’t even know what this word really means, but I still like this word
- 11D [Marvel antagonist] ARCH-VILLAIN –
- 21D [Where the NFL’s smallest city is] WISC. – This should have been a gimme! Of COURSE I know Green Bay is the smallest NFL city; somehow I was thinking Cleveland or Cincinnati instead. Silly!!
- 26D [Person in front] LEAD SINGER – Yes, I suppose they ARE in front! Great clue!
- 37D [Tie __] TACS – [Tic __ ] would have been easier. This IS actually in the dictionary with an without a K on the end. Nice find!
- 43D [Conductors’ concerns] TEMPI – I filled this in immediately, but only because I have seen it before.
Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Aladdin” — pannonica’s write-up
Title for this one is intended to be parsed as “AL add-in”, for that bigram is introduced to phrases with the intent of causing mischief. I’ve circled the letters in the solution grid for clarity.
- 24a. [Audition for a variety show?] PITCH A TALENT (… tent).
- 48a. [Pipe dream for a would-be pub owner?] SOMEDAY SALOON (… soon).
- 87a. [Messages displayed on protestors’ placards?] IDEALS OF MARCH (Ides …). Very good, this clever interpretation of what seems like a real nonsense phrase.
- 117a. [Outfit for a narcoleptic?] COAT OF ALARMS (… arms).
- 3d. [Bag of greens?] SALAD SACK (sad …).
- 16d. [Beauty parlor on the reservation?] NATIVE SALON (… son). Suffers a bit by being located closest to SOMEDAY SALOON (or vice-versa).
- 66d. [Courtroom bailiff?] LEGAL MUSCLE (leg …).
- 83d. [Bitterness among the Bunsen burners?] LAB MALICE (… mice). Kids! don’t exact revenge in chemistry lab.
Not the most inspired theme, but it certainly gets the job done.
- 21a [Brings back] REVIVES. Ironically, Friz Freling did just that for his own gag, above, in 1957’s Show Biz Rabbit, with Daffy Duck (of course) performing the act.
- Favorite clues (there were a bunch with a similar vibe) compiled here: 23a [Deposit in a bank, perhaps] SILT, 36a [Summer music] DISCO, 107a [Way to go] DISTANCE, 93d [Morning sun spot] EAST, 104d [Coup follower] D’ETAT.
- 72a [Turophiles fancy them] CHEESES. New word to me. (Etymology is alteration of Greek tyros ‘cheese’.)
- Over in the abuse section we have 121a [Battery partner] ASSAULT and 108d [Room enough to swing __ ] A CAT. Yeesh, no thanks on either.
- 10d [Rip again} RETEAR. Uh-huh, sure.
- Kind of weird that in proximity to the theme element of TALENT, née TENT, there is also 14d [Watch] TEND and 26a [Base number] TEN.
- 68d [Steals, slangily] COPS. Etymology (m-w): “perhaps from Dutch kapen to steal, from Frisian kāpia to buy; akin to Old High German kouf trade — more at CHEAP entry 3.” So it seems nothing sinister regarding LEOs.
Okay. No David Bowie, and no Paul Simon (though I’m tempted). So I’ll honor my favorite of the theme entries with what it sort of reminded me of:
I found it easy for a Saturday (a rarity for me), but I do not like the phrase UPPED THE GAME. If you have raised the stakes, the idiomatic phrase is UPPED THE ANTE. If you are talking about an individual or team needing to play better or improve its performance, the modifier is a possessive pronoun, not THE. Devon Booker UPPED HIS GAME last night.
“Stepped up the game” would also be acceptable. I found a few modern instances of “upped the game” in popular media, but it just sounds wrong.
Agree with Steve 100%. I loathed that entire right hand section section.
One more in the ANTE set. That mideast section made me grumpy too.
Not to mention GAME in the 1A clue.
NYT, while on the easy side was quite clean, however when I had finished, the cluing of BTEAMS had not UPPEDTHEGAME for me.
You don’t switch out the entire team unless, I suppose it’s that abomination American Football, where one could “technically” fulfill the wholesale switch.
Awkward. Both. Otherwise really good pairs.
You could, and often would switch out the entire team of starters for the B-TEAM in nearly any sport other than soccer or rugby with their limited substitutions. Have you really never watched the last 10 minutes of a blowout basketball or hockey game? It’s pretty standard if the game is lost and you don’t want your stars to risk injury.
I found the NYT much harder than usual — lots of proper names that didn’t come easily. I was faster on the Newsday puzzle. Speaking of which, 48D: is a ‘kitchen unitasker’ an actual thing or some weird made-up term for this clue only? USES was inferable but the clue seems overly cute.
Universal: ‘THEIR’ clued as a pronoun preference was another nod to pride month presumably. nice themeless!
>Yeah, okay, this one might be clued too easy. [nyt]
wow. not fer me. ;-) admittedly, you’re a **much** faster/more frequent solver than i am, but for the first time in a loooong time, i needed the “overnight” approach on this one — b/c of the se segment. so enjoyed and was was so proud to have entered UPPED THE ANTE before calling it a night that i put up a real stumbling block for myself. but once i erased those last four letters, i could see MUSEUM, etc. a whole new GAME — and one i ultimately liked *a lot*!
Uni: My inner pedant compels me to point out that BICEP is not a word. The muscle is the BICEPs (that word is both the singular and the plural form) and the arm exercise is a “BICEPs curl”. One demerit to the editor.
I’ve griped about BICEP on Fiend previously. But I think it’s ok, if clued as “arm muscle, informally,” or the like. So many people say “bicep” as the singular, it’s slipped into the language.
While I’m on the Uni, congrats on a fantastic themeless. If this is the standard, I hope to see many more.
NYT: This was a easy Saturday run until the SE. UPPED THE ANTE ruined everything (especially with the E at the end fitting so well with AT EASE) . I have agree with others that UPPED THE GAME is neither a natural fit or good clueing.
LAT “Mariners heading” was a doozy to this more modern mariner – spent way too much time trying to figure it out until SSB (“south-by-east”) emerged from the haze of my 30 years at sea as someone trying to say “south-south-east” (rarely on any modern ship) when the rudder order is “steer one three zero” or “one three fiver”.
Hey Derek, thanks so much for the link to Stella’s website. Getting harder and harder to find toughies these days.