Billy Bratton’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Why, it’s Billy Bratton! I just saw him in a Zoom webinar last week—my alma mater Carleton College hosted a professsor (David Liben-Nowell), a recent grad (Sophia Maymudes), and a current student (Billy) who all construct crosswords. This is the first of his puzzles I’ve actually done—he’s had five priors blogged by others on Team Fiend. It’s an accomplished themeless, too—nothing in it screams “newbie.” And a 66-worder, too?
Solved it without the timer because I was splitting my focus with pairs figure skating. Okay, puzzle time! Here’s my favorite fill: BEAR HUG, BASSET HOUND, GENIUS LEVEL, DEGREE MILLS (diploma mill is more familiar, but if you’re talking higher education, degree makes sense), ROB BLIND.
Seven more things:
- 22a. [Balconette or racerback], BRA. I appreciate a bra clue that sounds like it was written by a woman who’s shopped for bras.
- 25a. [First national fraternity to officially welcome transgender members (2014), informally], SIG EP. Good for them! Tonight’s Drag Race: Untucked had a moving conversation about coming out as trans and beginning the process of transitioning. *grabs a hankie*
- 34a. [Group of commuters?], PAROLE BOARD. Tricky mislead, that “commuters,” though I’m not convinced that parole boards have the power to commute sentences. Isn’t that more a governor’s bailiwick?
- 54a. [Start of a snap count], “HUT, ONE.” Blech. Not keen on this entry. The household sports fan (also a Carl!) decrees that this is old-fashioned.
- 2d. [Band with the lyrics “When I was younger, I used to go and tip cows for fun, yeah / Actually, I didn’t do that ’cause I didn’t want the cow to be sad”], WEEZER. Okay, this is a very Carleton clue! Each year’s new students are told of the apocryphal pastime of cow tipping (knocking over sleeping cows in the farmland near Northfield). Never knew anyone who actually tried it.
- 35d. [Endurance test in gym], MILE RUN. It was horrid and I hated it. Meanwhile, my husband is out there running maybe 16 or 18 miles on a weekend morning (Boston Marathon training).
- 51d. [Mr. High-and-Mighty?], GOD. This clue made me laugh. “Oh, look at Mr. High-and-Mighty over here…”
Four stars from me.
Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Endpieces” — pannonica’s write-up
Upon arriving at the second theme answer I realized that all of them were going to end with an suffixed -TAIL, which hastened the already-speedy solve.
Anyway, these are like those before-and-after bits of wordplay.
- 23a. [Screwdriver in a NASA vehicle?] SHUTTLE COCKTAIL (shuttlecock–cocktail). For some reason I was reminded of a line-drawing cartoon (which I surprisingly can’t find online) of an astronaut locked out of a spaceship and trying to use a coat hanger at one of the windows.
- 41a. [Out-of-control plane maneuver?] FLYING FISHTAIL (flying fish–fishtail).
- 53a. [Hair extension that keeps popping up?] ONE-TRICK PONYTAIL (one-trick pony–ponytail).
78a. [Raccoon spotted all around town?] FAMILIAR RINGTAIL (familiar ring – ringtail). While the more familiar raccoon (Procyon lotor) does indeed have a ringed tail, the animal actually called this (also in the raccoon family) is Bassariscus astutus. This clue—successfully—has it both ways, being technically correct and also catering to the average solver.
- 95a. [Tortoises in lockstep?] TURTLE DOVETAIL (turtledove – dovetail). Does ‘lockstep’ work for dovetail?
- 112a. [Deer adorned in gems?] PEARLY WHITETAIL (pearly white – whitetail). Pearly white as an adjectival phrase is legitimate, but I daresay the collocation is more familiar as plural noun phrase—pearly whites—a metaphor for teeth. … Okay, Ngram is refuting this, but I suspect the results for ‘pearly white’ include those for ‘pearly whites’. Even so, it looks as if ‘pearly white’ are at least on a par to ‘pearly whites’.
Theme works, and is maybe too easy.
- 16d [Extremely funny] RIP-ROARIOUS. Cousin to uproarious.
- 44d [Vivid purple-red] FUCHSIA. Spelling (and pronunciation) tip: the flower that’s namesake for the color is in turn namesake of German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. Fuchs is a cognate of fox and that’s how you know it’s –uchs— and not –usch–. (People sometimes similarly transpose those letters in the dog breed dachshund–whose name describes its original purpose, that of hunting badgers (German: Dachs, from New Latin: taxus). All right, lesson over!
- 65d [You can make arrangements for them] FLOWER VASES. You sure can. As Fiendpal Martin H knows, the Japanese version of the discipline is called ikebana.
- 67d [Sporty Chevy] CAMARO. Just yesterday I looked into the origin of the name but, to spare you another etymological digression, suffice to say that it has little to do with lobsters and much to do with companionship.
- 21a [Tony-winning baritone Szot] PAULO. New to me. If he becomes more widely known I’m sure crossword constructors would love to have his surname available.
- 37a [Deep-fried meat pastry] RISSOLE, 98a [Deep-fried vegetable or meat pastry] SAMOSA.
- 61a [Giant at age 16] OTT. A new—and temporarily bewildering—clue for this familiar entry, and I learned a bit of trivia.
- 62a [Chief impact] BRUNT.
- 68a [Aziz of “Master of None”] ANSARI. He seems to have been rehabilitated in the public eye after a notable abuse scandal. Did people forgive or just forget?
- 107a [Downloaded crossword, perhaps] PDF. Nifty nod.
- 118a [Horseshoe shape] ARCH. Or, as we know from the Wednesday, hyoid.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 8″— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: None. Well, there is a little mini theme… (see first of the favorite entries)
- PRINCELY SUM / KING’S RANSOM. So good. Great way to start the puzzle and an excellent surprise ending. Especially as they’re both clued the same [Royalty payment?].
- ALMOST THERE.
- CHANTERELLE. That’s tough to spell!
- SOMEONE ELSE…
- HIS AND HIS
- OPEN BAR
I’ll just stop there… because otherwise I’m just going to end up typing every entry in the puzzle. This was fantastic all around. Is there any ugly stuff at all in this puzzle? When PSST and SIC are the ugliest entries in the whole grid, then you’re looking at a damn good grid.
Enjoyed learning ENBIES and LEONA Lewis. Though I will confess I wasn’t 100% confident in SEA, which crossed both. I mean, of course it’s a [Place for whale watching] but the clue seemed oddly specific in comparison with the vastness of the SEA (same for the US DOLLAR / [Currency in NYC] pairing). Anyway, SEA was the last thing I filled in.
5 stars for this one. Wonderful puzzle.
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
For this edition of the Stumper, I never had the typical “how am I going to break in” quandary. Was able to start filling in a few entries here and there, especially in the top half, enough to stitch together the whole section with relative ease. It helped that 16-across [Lightens] ALLEVIATES came to me with just one crossing letter. Apt too!
Had some delays encroaching into the center section, first with CHORE for 27-down [Disliked duty] GRIND, then with BARRETTES instead of AIGRETTES as [Hair ornaments for Marie Antoinette (25a).
- 4d [Water seen in “An Inconvenient Truth”] ARAL. Or not seen, as the case may be. The wording of this clue is definitely designed to be tricky.
- Similarly tricky is 49a [Sistine Chapel locale] EDEN, which is a place depicted in its frescoes, not its actual location, which could have been ROME, although it’s really in Vatican City.
- 5d [Animal non humain] BÊTE. I dislike formulations which casually and implicitly exclude humans from the rest of nature.
- 6d [Queen __ ] BEES. Off-putting, unannounced plural.
- 7d [Picking up] ANSWERING. As in a phone call.
- 11d [Texter’s “Couldn’t finish this article”] TL;DR. Also used to present a succinct summary for those who found it to be so.
- 24d [Turn, turn, turn] WHEEL. Oblique clue, but less so if we take the answer to be a verb rather than a noun.
- 30d [Pseudonym that its owner pronounced to rhyme with “choice”] SEUSS. Which is close enough to how it would be pronounced in German. Wikipedia tells me it was both his middle name and his mother’s original surname.
- 33d [Spot for a stroll] ESPLANADE. With the initial E in place I was able to get the whole word, which eased resolution of the entire lower section.
- On the other hand, having OUTLAST rather than OUTWEAR at 40d [Be more durable than] temporarily stymied progress.
- 55d [Literally, “stir-fried mixture”] PAD. As in PAD Thai or PAD see ew.
- Oh, and there are two grid-spanning entries, both of which I needed about ⅓ of the crossing letters to get, and which definitely helped progress. 18a [Cold-weather wear from the Shetlands] FAIR ISLE SWEATER–I wonder if the wear in the clue subconsciously obviated it from my thinking for 40-down? Apparel would have worked just as well! 47a [Source of the Suwannee] OKEFENOKEE SWAMP.
Evan Kalish’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Taking me close to the 4-minute mark, this puzzle was mostly a satisfying challenge, although uneven in difficulty. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I found the NW markedly easier and the SE a lot harder than the rest of the puzzle. It’s a nice-looking construction, with the eye pulled in an S shape around the grid.
Some notable entries and clues:
- 34D [Caduceus pair] is SERPENTS and I made a mental note to fact check this as soon as I saw it. I only recently learned that there’s a caduceus and a staff of Aesculapius. You might think that the caduceus is the one used in the American Medical Association’s logo (and in the Star of Life that appears on ambulances), but you would be wrong: That symbol has one SERPENT, not two, and is the staff of Aesculapius. Two serpents plus wings make it a caduceus, which is often used in signage for pharmacies. I’m pleased to see the clue got it right. (I can never remember which is which myself, so I had to look it up.)
- 15A [Ellen Morgan’s revelation in a 1997 episode of “Ellen,” e.g.] was COMING OUT. Not having watched the show, I would’ve liked to see a reference to a real person (whether Ellen or someone else) rather than the character, but it’s still a nice bit of LGBTQ+ representation, as is GAY BARS at 22A.
- 29A [Surpass by skipping] is LEAPFROG, which is just fun to say (even if only in my mind and not out loud).
- 23D [Personal management problems] is BAD HAIR DAYS, also in the “just fun” category.
- 26D [Film that ends with a King’s speech] is a lovely clue for SELMA.
I could’ve done without GMC YUKONS, which felt like a green-painty way to use a 9-letter opening (plus, having to know or figure out the make AND model, or maybe I’m just salty because I haven’t owned a car since 2003). The 1A clue [Store sign words suggesting longevity] is an obvious attempt to clue a partial phrase, OPEN SINCE, as not a partial. Did not like. Those aside, the fill overall is pretty darn good.
erik agard’s USA Today puzzle, “Adaptation”– malaika’s write-up
no write-up from me beyond noting that erik clued TEEN as [“you’re telling me a cis ___ built that chapel?” (@RileyJohnSavage tweet)]. happy saturday!