·•No WSJ today because of the holiday•·
Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword—Jim P’s review
Jim P here sitting in for Amy and ringing in the New Year with you. I hope you’re all happy, healthy, and approaching 2022 with positivity.
This felt like a suitably crunchy Saturday in that it kicked my butt for much too long until I fought back and wrangled it into submission. Just about right, I’d say.
Fave entries: I HATE IT HERE and NO MORE FOR ME which make a great duo on the left side. Also, TOUCH SENSOR, POTATO SALAD, PRIDE PARADE, MONKEY BREAD, DEATH VALLEY, SWITCHBACKS (what a beautiful central stack, eh?), DOUGHBOY, and CLEAR SKY (though we usually hear that in the plural).
New to me and throwing a monkey bread wrench into my plans to finish quickly: MAO SUIT, PEACE DOLLAR, and ZXCVBNM. I needed every crossing for that last one although all I had to do was look down at my keyboard at the bottom row. Doh! I just had to laugh. QWERTYUIOP I could’ve filled in no problem. ASDFGHJKL I might have recognized. But I’ve never seen ZXCVBNM out in the wild. You?
- 1a. [First person?]. WINNER. How many different entries are possible with that clue? I think this is the first time I’ve seen it clue WINNER, i.e. the person who comes in first.
- 7a. [Backups]. PLAN BS. Who else wants this to be PLANS B?
- 27a. [Assembly at a camporee, perhaps]. S’MORE. I went with TROOP for too long.
- 38a. [Bags one might have when tired?]. TEA. Meh. You don’t have TEA bags, you have TEA.
- 39a. [Tanks and such]. ARMOR. Hmm. Honestly, I don’t know what this is going for. Tanks are usually referred to as vehicles with ARMOR, not as ARMOR itself. Surely, this isn’t about clothing, is it? Help me out here.
- 43a. [Singing duet?]. LALA. How many of us went with GEES?
- 45a. [Coin featuring Lady Liberty and a bald eagle]. PEACE DOLLAR. The coin was minted from 1921 to 1928 and from 1934 to 1935. And then again in 2021.
- 8d. [Jordan is found on one, notably]. LOGO. I take it this is referring to Michael Jordan.
- 16d. [Where scenes on Tatooine were filmed for “Star Wars”]. DEATH VALLEY. I’m almost certain I recall seeing a documentary of them filming in North Africa (which just so happens to share the same number of letters with DEATH VALLEY). Ah yes, according to this site, most of the Tatooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia (there’s even a town called Tataouine). Only a few extra scenes were filmed in DEATH VALLEY. So boo on the clue!
- 18d. [They’re full of twists and turns]. SWITCHBACKS. This was a tough one for me to uncover because I thought it was ending in _BOOKS.
Adrian Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Hi, Stella here! I’m taking over from Derek as the Saturday LAT reviewer, which means now I get to talk about the thing I like best: hard themelesses. Not that this was one, as my sub-3-minute time will attest (and note that this grid, at 16×15, is slightly oversized and therefore would be expected to take more, not less, time than usual).
Not that I disliked this puzzle because it was easy. As much as I would like more themelesses of Saturday Stumper-level difficulty, I do recognize that some chiller puzzles might lead people who are scared of themeless to give them a try. The 16 width allows for those lesser-seen 12-letter entries to show up in stacks, and there are some fun ones in here like ORIGAMI CRANE, TOTAL ECLIPSE (turn around, bright eyes!), STORM TROOPER, and TATTOO ARTIST, that last boosted by the great clue of [Permanent marker?]. On the other hand, I wasn’t crazy about ISLAMIC STATE. It’s clued with reference to Iran — already a country that doesn’t do right by its women — but I don’t see how you can fill that entry in and not think of the even more repressive militant group.
The grid overall is very clean, with some fun mid-length entries like HOT TAKE and BIG PAPI. I wasn’t fooled at all by the clue for 48D [Madeleine or Napoleon], having eaten enough of both to know instantly that some kind of food reference (DESSERT, in this case) was being made.
Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” — pannonica’s write-up
So apparently the Stumper is now part of my Fiend beat. Hope that sits well with enough of you.
Acknowledging the new year, 1-across is [Today, for the first time] MMXXII, which confounded me for quite some time and—due to its unusual letter sequences—stymied progress among the downs in that section as well. Once I figured out the Roman numeral gambit, I was able to plop in entries that had felt too tenuous on their own accords: 2d [“__ doesn’t mean mucho”] MACHO, 3d [Films reviewed by interns] X-RAYS, 4d [Struck out] XED, 5d [Question to confirm culpability] IS IT ME?
- 18a [Woman with a unisex nickname] SAMANTHA.
- 23a [“Help wanted” announcement] SOS. Drolly Stumpery.
- 25a [Where the sun goes every summer] LEO. Was very hesitant to fill in that one before crosses.
- 27a [Look at what just happened] REPLAY. Such a perfect clue.
- 42a [Roof in your head] PALATE.
- 46a [Hurricane Hanna successor (2008)] IKE. Having IDA here—2021’s devastating storm looms large—really impeded my progress in the southwest for a time. Just below that, 51a [Hurricane classes, for short] CATS for categories; not to be confused with hurricane glasses.
- 54a [Volleyball call] I GO. Don’t believe I’ve seen this in a crossword before.
- 59a [Judge’s decision] LENIENCE. And SENTENCE here also contributed to a southwestern stall.
- 12d [Word from the Latin for “attendant”] SATELLITE.
- 16d [Herders from Siberia] SAMOYEDS. This one really fooled me; I was of course considering people, and the SAM— had my mind preoccupied with the Sámi people of Scandinavia and parts of northern Russia.
- 26d [“All the world’s his power house,” per his “Time” cover (1931)] TESLA. Thankfully there were enough solid hints in the clue to make this a rather easy get.
- 31d [Debits for department stores] BREAKAGE. Thanks to my erstwhile misfill of IDA, this became the risible BREADAGE.
- 32d [Some show stoppers] BULLETINS. Another excellent, misleading clue.
- 34d [Aptly named school that’s beaten Brown in baseball] AUBURN. Not sure I agree with the ‘aptly’ here.
- 36d [One that’s two] TOT. Damn, that was confusing.
- 37d [Beastly pronomial homonym] EWE. Damn, that torturously phrased—looks as awful as something I’d come up with.
- 47d [Kitchen covering] SAUCE. Maybe too cute and stretched?
- 52d [Cause of irritation] SNIT, not GNAT.
- 56d [Quasi-opposite of astro-] GEO-. Strangely, that was easily gettable.
A not-too tough Stumper to start the year. I’ll take that.
Stella Zawistowski’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 1″— Jim Q’s write-up
A themeless treat to start the new year!
- PLANTERS PEANUTS. Fits so nice!
- POWER LIFTER
- WORLD SERIES
- BOWTIE PASTA
That trip stack in the middle is super nice. Yields no crap at all (every puzzle is allowed one NNE or the like1). Really like HARD AGREE too, even though I’ve never heard that (I hear HARD NO or an occasional HARD YES. I like the overly formal sounding HARD AGREE!)
New for me: MINARI (I wonder what that veggie is like…), Danity KANE, Adam Rippon.
I don’t quite understand the “,maybe” part in the clue for 14A [Sister’s daughter, maybe]. Isn’t that… definitely? I think the clue may be trying to respect gender identity, but I’m not sure. Seems to me as if gender is already identified in the clue.
Looking forward to the new themeless Saturdays! Part of me does hope they get a little more bite to them difficulty-wise. At least once in a while. My solve time on this was better than my normal Universal average.
4.75 Stars from me. Thanks! And Happy New Year!
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “G2G” — Matthew’s write-up
Brooke starts the year off at USA today with a pinwheel theme arrangement. Nothing too complex, theme-wise, as each entry begins and ends with “G”
- 16a [TV journalist and O magazine editor-at-large] GAYLE KING
- 8d [“What are you waiting for?”] GET CRACKING
- 22d [Greeting that might be given groggily] GOOD MORNING
- 57a [Be really well-received] GO OVER BIG.
Nothing’s really jumping out at me for notes, so I suppose this is a quick one. Hoping you had a happy and safe New Year’s Eve, and that it continues into 2022. I for one am looking forward to more time on crosswords after I mostly had to set them aside for the last few months.