Natan Last’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What have we here? A 64-worder whose NW and SE corners are kinda cut off, and the constructor is Natan Last so it’s gonna be hard. Except … not so much? On the easier end of Saturday puzzles, I thought.
Fave fill: PARAGUAY (appreciated learning that Guaraní is one of its official languages–remember that Latin America has so many people whose first language is neither Spanish nor Portuguese), “BORN TO RUN,” FLUNKIES, Briticism PRAT, JEEPERS CREEPERS, ISAAC STERN, HANK AARON, and GOT NOWHERE.
til (or today I learned) what PARI-PASSU means! No, I didn’t study Latin. It’s [On equal footing, in Latin].
Five more things:
- 29a. [1924 tale of derring-do], BEAU GESTE. I really know this only from crossword clues for GESTE.
- 46a. [It might work on a block], DRANO. Tonight my fortune cookie offered this wisdom: “Try to live life one block at a time.” Truer words, etc. (Let’s disregard the police PATROLS on a block in the next clue.0
- 15d. [Juice boxes?], CHARGERS. Love the clue.
- 22d. [“We / Jazz ___” (line in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool”)], JUNE. Go read the poem here.
- 34d. [Mentally worn out], FRIED. That was me yesterday. Definitely better today! And ready for the weekend. Saturday morning, the city of Chicago will dye the river green. The wind chill will be below zero. It’s not at all my sort of thing, so my petty side laughs that the people who stand by the river to start their day of drunkenness will be freezing their faces off.
A solid four stars from me.
Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Raggedy Men” — pannonica’s write-up
In today’s offering there are a half dozen down entries that share the same clue– [Boor]
I’ve circled them for convenience here, but they had to be discovered during the solve. The intersecting across answers incorporate the downs and then continue where they diverged.
There’s a revealer as well: 112a [Tattered, and a hint to six answers in this puzzle] DOWN AT THE HEELS. That pulls the title into place.
- 21a. [Martian, maybe] EXTRATERRESTRIAL (rat).
- 32a. [Discussed an issue in detail] HASHED IT ALL OUT (lout).
- 4oa. [Fear byproduct] GOOSEBUMPS (bum).
- 67a. [Branch led by a Worshipful Master] MASONIC LODGE (clod). No, that doesn’t creepy or culty at all.
- 89a. [Total ditz] SPACE CADET (cad). These share an etymology. Cad is from the Scottish caddie (“one who waits around for odd jobs”), which in turn is from the French cadet. And cadet has a much longer etymology, going back to Latin.
- 98a. [“At the Moulin Rouge” artist] TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (louse).
Good stuff, with a minor misstep.
- 11d [Family name on “Bob’s Burgers”] BELCHER. 111d [Short style] BOB. Not technically a duplication, but still a bit odd feeling.
- 14d [Mild chili pepper] CASCABEL.
(track 4 (time= 15:20) is ‘Cascavel’, a cognate)
- 31d [They may use heavy fonts] BAPTISMS. This one really fooled me. I was thinking of memes and how they often use the Impact, which is a very heavy font. But no, font as in accessory for this rite.
- 42d [Studs, say] EARRINGS, 108a [Sites for studs] LOBES.
- 51d [Containing quicksilver] MERCURIC. As in MERCURIC acid. Not far off is another uncommon word: 63d [Increase a hundredfold] CENTUPLE.
- 72d [Hazard auf der Autobahn] EIS.
- 102d [Bert who hosted “Tattletales”] CONVY. There’s some crossword glue right there. Or maybe he’s more well-known nowadays than I think? Maybe he’s all over the Game Show Network in reruns or something.
- 105d [Giggle sound] HEHE. More glue. Really needed to get that revealer in there in the southeast!
- 38a [Contact, e.g.] LENS. Still not a fan of this type of clue construction.
- 60a [“The Breakfast of Champions,” e.g.] SLOGAN. Yet I still wanted LITTLE CHOCOLATE DONUTS.
- 30d [Altar answer] I DO.
- 62a [Monroe, Taylor or Hayes] ACTRESS. Not the US presidents, as we are made to think.
- 103a [Buckskins] DEER HIDES. Film recommendation (the blurbs on the poster are accurate):
- 120a [Cash on hand?] BET. A minor but great clue for a little word.
- 69a [Raccoonlike mammal] COATI. Their generic epithet would be a natural in crosswords too: NASUA. Unfortunately, they are not native to New Hampshire.
- 86a [“Throne of Glass” author Sarah J. __ ] MAAS. Completely new to me. I think the only name I know from Wikipedia’s list of people with the surname is journalist Peter Maas, who died in 2001.
On to the Stumper!
Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Once again, a puzzle that fights back. This time I started chipping away on the right flank, then moved clockwise through the bottom and fleshed out the center before straightening out the upper right. At this point I needed the northwest and just a little to finish out top-center.
Of course the actual process took much longer and was far less smooth than that description makes it seem. And when the grid was finally complete I had to methodically scan to figure out an incorrect letter, which turned out to be in 64a [In harmony] AT ONE, for which I’d entered AS ONE. The crossing entry is 46d [Shake down] EXTORT (not EXTORS, obviously).
The most notable struggle involved 26a [Purple Crayola color] JAZZBERRY JAM. First I put in BLUEBERRY JAM, which was then amended to RASPBERRY JAM, after which I tried RAZZBERRY JAM before finally getting it right.
Elsewhere I had BOFFO for SOCKO – 57a [Smashing, in show biz]. And the final lingering misfill was 6d [Baseball uniform specs] CAP SIZES, not HAT SIZES, which had prevented me from sorting out that final block including SCRAM, UPSET, ADESTE, and MATTER (5a, 18a, 8d, 9d).
- 5a [Something heard for ordering out] has nothing to do with takeout dining. SCRAM.
- 15a [Back-and-forth sesh] Q AND A. Having this correct early on turned out not to be too helpful, especially when it came to the crossing CAP vs HAT.
- 24a [Canine one letter off from a con artist] SHAR-PEI. With the I in place thanks to SIZES, I mused that the only dog breed I could think of that was the proper length and ending in I was BASENJI. What’s the con artist, then? SHARPER? Yes.
- 31a [Start of a scale model] DOE, A DEER. Great, misdirecting clue.
- 35a [The Barista Express, e.g.] ESPRESSO MACHINE. Really kind of a major duplication, as espresso is a cognate to express. At first I thought this might a coffee bar franchise, but after getting MACHINE the answer became more or less obvious.
- 41a [What football helmets have] AIRHOLES. Not EARHOLES.
- 42a [One in a grade school organization] ASSIGNED SEAT. Another great clue.
- 52a [Move like molasses] OOZE OUT. Was a bit tricky to find the preposition, maybe a little more so considering the clue for 5-across (see above)?
- 2d [Stock market purchase] BROTH. Perhaps too clever by half on this one? I had SHARE for a while.
- 4d [It’s for those who don’t give a darn] SWEAR JAR. Because those folks use stronger oaths.
- 11d [Moses scaled it after Sinai] NEBO. Have not seen this before.
- 30d [Locale in “Homer’s Odyssey” (1990)] MOES; 33d [Homer’s “Odyssey,” for instance] EPOS.
- 32d [Diagnostician’s denouement] -OSIS. That’s a very fancy way of saying it’s a medical suffix. Earlier I toyed with AS IS, IT IS, and even IS IS before understanding it.
- 39d [Scandalous sound-bite sources] HOT MIKES. One of the key entries that helped me build momentum.
- 43d [Chiller of the ’30s] ICEBOX. I guess that’s supposed to sound like a horror film or something.
- 45d [Word from the Greek for “ship”] NAUSEA. Hence also nautical and all those -naut suffixes.
- 51d [Indelicate inspiration] SNORT. Somehow I misread it as ‘aspiration’, which sidetracked me for some small time.
- 52d [Unseen trail] ODOR. Yay! Another nonpejorative clue for the word.
Debbie Ellerin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
My general wish is that this puzzle would’ve given me a lot more fight. Like, any fight. I suppose that not all themelesses need to be hard, as Universal has shown with its freestyles since the start of this year. But I’ve been solving the LAT Saturday for about 20 years now and it’s created an expectation in me that I’m going to work a little harder on the weekend, dangit!
Highlights: ALLOSAURUS, GUILT TRIPS, STAND-UP COMIC, AMANDA GORMAN (although I’d have clued her with reference to Call Us What We Carry or Change Sings for a little more difficulty and timeliness), the clever clue for LEADING MEN [Phoenix and Washington, e.g.] although I arrived at it too late in the solve to be fooled by it.
Lowlights: OBEAH, OBOE (it’s not that I don’t like the entry, it’s just that I’ve seen the Peter and the Wolf clue enough times that it stuck out to me as something that I’d like to see retired for late-week puzzles).
Anyway: It’s a nice construction that would’ve been better either in a different context (Universal, or an indie outlet where the difficulty would be indicated as 1 out of 5) or with harder clues.
I also can’t not mention the wonderful news that Patti Varol is now the editor of the LAT puzzle. I know some folks have had their differences with Rich Norris as a member of the old guard (certainly I was not pleased with his decision to have a Woody Allen tribute puzzle back in 2020); I personally, however, owe him a great deal as a constructor. Back in the early aughts, my very first published puzzle was in LAT; I don’t have the puz any more, but I know he accepted it in spite of it being far less than perfect (he told me at the time that my theme execution violated some consistency conventions, but that it was innovative enough that he was taking it anyway), and I learned so much from Rich in those early years of my constructing experience. I couldn’t possibly cancel him, either in terms of where I submit my puzzles or in my heart. I will miss working with him…and it is also amazing and awesome that one of the most qualified, if not the most qualified, women in the biz is taking the helm. I am so excited to see what Patti does next!