Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
So many 7s, 8s, and 9s in this grid! And I just now noticed that the grid uses diagonal mirror symmetry across the NW-to-SE axis, so that one corner of 5s isn’t echoed by another. When there’s no theme to piece together, it’s easy to be subsumed in solving and not see the diagram.
Fave fill: CODE RED (“You’re goddamn right I ordered the code red!”), MATH TESTS, TECH DEMO, LAVA LAKES, LOST SOUL, MUD BATH, MALAYSIA, CAT TREATS, DISC GOLF, HEAD FAKES, and an ETSY SHOP (note: Many Etsy creators are on strike for the month of April, because Etsy is yet again increasing the percentage it takes out of the artisans’ sales—an especially tough burden for sellers who are disabled, LGBQ+, and/or immunocompromised).
A-a-and my husband just got home after days away, so I’m sorry to dart off without talking about the clues that popped out at me.
Robyn Weintraub’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Who doesn’t love a Robyn themeless? As you’d expect, this one has some pretty delightful how-does-she-do-it cluing:
- 16A [Price for hand delivery?] lifts the entry ANTE beyond its usual cliche status.
- 17A [Musical arrangement?] for RECORD DEAL also gave me a chuckle.
- 22A [Mystery that may have a stirring message?] for SECRET RECIPE. Those question-mark hits just keep on coming!
- 30A [Unpredictable jerk] is a nice bit of deception for SPASM.
- 9D [Array for catching rays] for SOLAR PANELS.
- 23D [Relocation option] for CUT AND PASTE is just brilliant!
- 58D [Have a heated exchange?] for SEXT…yeah, also great.
Other entries I enjoyed: SAMPLE SALE (having recently helped my niece find her wedding gown at a sample sale, can vouch that they are great!), CROWD PLEASER, TRY TO RELAX, ANY TIME NOW. Uncharacteristically for Robyn, there are a decent number of lowlights in the fill: ATRIP, ILO, SASE, EDER, Ed MEESE, and THEA Astley, Googled with quotation marks, gets fewer than 100K Google hits. (I’d have gone with THEA Kronborg from Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark.) Annemarie ROEPER gets fewer than 10K!
So: Not perfect, but a lot to love here.
Wendy L. Brandes’ USA Today crossword, “Low Ball”—Matthew’s write-up
Theme: down-running themers end in words that describe types of balls – the titular “Low Ball”:
- 3d [Forward-thinking] AHEAD OF THE CURVE. Curve ball, as a baseball pitch.
- 26d [Drives away with a squeal] BURNS RUBBER. Rubber ball.
- 9d [Room refresher] COAT OF PAINT. Paint ball, as in a piece of ammunition.
- 11d [Kraft American singles, e.g.] PROCESSED CHEESE. Cheese ball, though I do have to admit, I’m happier when I’m not thinking about processed cheese.
Nice theme set, and I always enjoy when a theme requires running the entries down. Tough for me to gin up discussion of high-word count puzzles otherwise, so let’s go right to notes:
- 18a [Sherlock Holmes’ sleuthing teen sister] ENOLA. I’m pleased to see a sequel to the 2020 Enola Holmes film is due to come out some time this year. I haven’t read Nancy Springer’s books developing the character, but I love the portrayal by Millie Bobby Brown and the relationship with both Sherlock and Mycroft in the film.
- 36a [Lake home to Middle Bass Island] ERIE. For geography buffs, Middle Bass Island is at the western end of the lake, north of Sandusky and on the US side of the border.
- 58a [SUNY’s URL ending] EDU. SUNY being the network of public universities in New York, the largest such network in the country.
- 74a [EPA Administrator Michael] REGAN. I’m not the newsiest person, but I recognize this name from his time at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Neat to have an alternative to the Shakespeare character.
Katie Hale & Christina Iverson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Disney Movie Night” — pannonica’s write-up
Punny references to characters and events featured in Disney films.
- 22a. [Like Maurice, in “Beauty and the Beast”?] SAVED BY THE BELLE (… bell).
- 32a. [Where Alice winds up, in “Alice in Wonderland”?] THE HOLE WORLD. Not to be confused with the song “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.
- 51a. [What Arthur took after he pulled Excalibur, in “The Sword in the Stone”?] A BREATH OF FRESH HEIR (… air).
- 68a. [How Maleficent tries to get rid of Aurora, in “Sleeping Beauty”?] EVERY WITCH WAY (… which …).
- 82a. [King Triton’s seat, in “The Little Mermaid”?] THRONE IN THE DEEP END (thrown …). The “end” part seems superfluous and distracting, but it’s necessary for the pun to work.
- 102a. [Bambi’s mother, in “Bambi”?] DEER DEPARTED (dear …). The character remains nameless in the film, but old-school crossworders will know that Bambi’s aunt is named ENA, whose daughter FALINE Bambi falls in love with. In the book, Faline’s brother is named GOBO, which could be useful in grids.
- 116a. [The dwarfs, in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”?] MINER CHARACTERS (minor …).
These are fine; perhaps a rib or two was tickled. I’ve never been a big Disney fan so there wasn’t a ton of nostalgic resonance for me, but perhaps other solvers will have a different experience. And with the current political flapdoodle, who knows?
- 2d [“Don’t care!”] WHATEVS. I’ve seen this a lot, but perhaps it’s more common online?
- 8d [Part of a tuba’s sound] PAH (not OOM). 24d [Scrooge utterance] BAH.
- 12d [Olive who existed for 10 years before Popeye] OYL. Trivia I did not know.
- 11d [Walked in water] WADED.
- 34d [Bound] LOPE. You may think this is conflated with ‘leap’, but the second definitional sense at m-w is “an easy usually bounding gait capable of being sustained for a long time”.
- 65d [Pronoun for some] SHE, which is somewhat curiously crossed by 64a [Occupies, as a battle station] MANS.
- 70d [Vespidae family member] WASP. The clue could simply be [Vespid]. Question to readers: would you be nonplussed if that were the clue?
- 76d [Move in the slightest] BUDGE. My one misfill, where I tried BLINK.
- Moving on to the acrosses, the top left starts with a stacked pair of cordwainer (new term to me) clues: 1a [Cordwainer’s collection] AWLS; 18a [Cordwainer’s product] SHOE. Thus, a small lesson.
- 66a [Matador’s foe] EL TORO. I criticized this clue/entry in a comment earlier in the week, but I’ll do so again within this write-up. This should much more accurately be characterized as [Matador’s victim] for what I feel should be obvious reasons.
- 94a [Flower named for an old French word for tobacco] PETUNIA. More new trivia for me. “New Latin, from obsolete French petun tobacco, from Tupi petɨ́ma.”
- 107a [Pound division] CAGE. I get the misdirection, but the answer depresses me a tad.
Ezra Brauner’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 17″— Jim Q’s write-up
- BEER SNOBS (it’s a fine plural… they travel in packs)
- GUIDED TOURS
- PHONE TAG
- THAT’S NICE!
- CLIP ON TIE
- SLEEP MASK
- YARD SALE
- TEA LEAVES (Great clue! [Arcane reading material?])
Not the smoothest solve for me today. Disjointed and never felt like I was sailing through. Can’t put a finger on where/why exactly I stumbled. But it was often.
Least favorite stuff: IS OUT, A BIT, ALLA (I always spell Penne Ala Vodka with one L…). But that’s it. Not much to LAMENT about!
3.75 stars from me :)
Enjoy the weekend!
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one well and truly kicked my butt, the ‘Les Ruff’ appellation notwithstanding.
It was difficult at all stages, from getting toeholds, to expanding—pseudopod-like (5d [Slide show subjects] AMOEBAS)—from one section to another, to knitting together the whole, and even in completing the final section (52d [Cuts off] ENDS).
The final section for me, by the way was the top center. All during the solve I was considering IMAMS or POPES for 6a [Certain spiritual leaders], which eventually was revealed to be LAMAS. The allied entry at 18-across [Certain spiritual leader] had me at a loss in finding a five-letter answer besides RABBI, which I’d established didn’t work. Turned out to be PADRE. Other impediments: 9d [British teen into flying], which I’d pegged my hopes on being PETER PAN emerged as –––CADET, but I had no idea if those three letters would be RAF or AIR, and they were crucial to completing that problematic block. As for 10-down, [Berth place], I was long considering a nautical answer (SEA PIER?) before accruing enough letters to realize the subject was trains (SLEEPER). Just tough all over there.
Let’s look at the two grid-spanning entries, which are simpatico: 26a [What’s made for “Jeopardy!” contestants] and 42a [What’s made for “Wheel” contestants]. For both, I was able to get the first parts relatively easily, SIGNAL, then SIGNALING for the former, and USED LETTER for the latter. Let me interject that I’d already encountered 62a [Signs of satisfaction] without getting the answer (GRINS), so I was a bit leery of SIGNALING in 26-across. For that entry’s completing DEVICE, I auditioned BUZZER and perhaps something else that I can’t recall at the moment. And for 42a, I rather confidently had it as LISTS before struggling with crossings gave me BOARD.
- 41a [“Beloved” name] AIMÉE. I spent some time thinking it might be ELISE, mistakenly conflating Beethoven addressees. Also wondered if it referred to the 1987 Toni Morrison novel with that title. But it turned out that the quotes merely signaled a translation of the name’s French meaning.
- 14a [It fell from a horse long ago] ILIUM. That’s Troy. 15a [How sodium is stored by chemists] IN OIL. Just as an example, both of these clues could have been more accessible if this were truly a ‘less rough’ rendition of the Stumper.
- More salt: 22a [Salt sprinkled for safety] ICE MELT. Don’t know why, but this was very difficult for me to discern, and again hampered my entry into that final to-center section.
- 30d [Bedevil] NAG AT. Having EAT AT here stymied my progress for some time.
- Ditto 35a, where [One may do your bidding] was NOD, not BOT.
- Oh right, and another nearby misfill: 37a [Stop-work order] BELAY for BAG IT. And for a discrete time my answer for the crossing 29d [“No”] was I WON’T rather than I CAN’T. A total mess, as you can see.
- 40a [First booker of a moon flight (1964)] PAN AM. That’s ambitious and cheeky.
- 47a [What Groucho Marx called himself, re his timidity] SHYSTER. Quote is: “You bet I’m shy. I’m a shyster lawyer.” Perhaps there’s more context.
- 49a [About 75 beats per minute] ANDANTE. Wanted something ending with RATE here.
- My very first two entries: 53a [Network of intrigue] WEB and the crossing 47d [Do laps, perhaps] SWIM.
- And perhaps the most difficult entry for me, as the naming convention was outside my ken: 56a [Fourth-from-final Epistle] I JOHN. Hey, ‘fourth-from-final’ is preantepenultimate!
- 2d [Pretorian prename in the paper] ELON. Needlessly obscurant cluing in the service of alliteration.
- 4d [He said, “I am the last president of the United States] BUCHANAN. There’s got to be context there. I snatched this from Wikipedia: “A statement he is reported to have made several times to others after the secession of South Carolina, or as early as after the election of Abraham Lincoln (1860).”
- 7d [Org. publishing patient care books] ANA. Again in that horrible final section. This could have been clued referencing the contemporary actress ANA de Armas, but instead I lingered with AMA (American Medical Association) too long. This here is the American Nurses Association.
- Long down entries, in two stacks: HOME CINEMA/APPLE CORER, IONOSPHERE/GROCERY BAG.
- 37d [Travel guide eponym] BAEDEKER. It was very helpful to be able to get this one early on.
- 38d [Rachel Carson, in college] BIO MAJOR. This one, on the other hand, eluded me for so long. There was no indication that a word shortening would occur.
- 40d [Devalued, these days] PLUTOED. Is this something that people are (still) saying? I found this weird little song from 2008:
Whew, I’m tired.