Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle played like a more-difficult-than-average Saturday NYT. The 1a/1d pair stopped me cold, so I had to start elsewhere. [Certain archaeological site] seemed worded in such a way as to rule out DIG, and I couldn’t think of a D word that fit the clue [When doubled, attention-grabbing]. Eventually I came back to finish the corner from the bottom up, with a BOG and BANG-bang.
Fave fill: “NEVER FELT BETTER,” GREW DIM, SCRAWL, GAME SHOW NETWORK, OWLISH, BARBED WIRE FENCE, AMBER (far more interesting as the resin/gem than as a color—as clue here—though), “HARD PASS,” the awesome @%$&! comics term GRAWLIX, POT BROWNIE, and GOING ONCE.
Less keen on AVI-, ALERO, ERNST, OATERS, and STENO, along with verb + preposition/adverb phrases HAD UP and RUN TO.
Did not know: 13d. [Philosopher Georges], SOREL. I do know the Sorel boots brand, and bought some Sorel slippers in Minnesota. Georges here apparently was a theorist of revolutionary syndicalism, about which I know nothing at all. I’ve likely seen 25a. [31-syllable Japanese poem], TANKA, before, but needed all the crossings here.
Five more things:
- 41a. [Part of some after-work plans, in brief], IRA. I was thinking of what people do at 5 pm, but this is about saving for retirement.
- 44a. [John Steinbeck’s middle name], ERNST. This is not fun trivia, is it? It’s not as if his middle initial even shows up on his book covers. Why would anyone need to know this? Also, “name” is part of the next entry:
- 3d. [It’s first among Americans], GIVEN NAME. I recently read something outlining some different naming customs around the world, such as the Chinese placing the family name first instead of the GIVEN NAME, cultures that don’t combine a family name and a given name at all, and assorted other traditions. I wish I knew where I read it so I could share the link! At any rate; you might be interested in learning about Vietnamese naming conventions—the family name and the given name can each be a pair of names, and there’s often but not always a middle name between them. So a non-Vietnamese person can easily go astray in trying to identify the given and family names in a four-part name.
- 62a. [Claudio or Gio, father-and-son players for the U.S. men’s national soccer team], REYNA. My husband’s a soccer fan so I remembered Claudio (but forgot his last name for a good while); never heard of Gio. I’m a fan of names that start with the letters REYNA…
- 50d. [A toaster might hold one], STEIN. I tried SLICE first. Just me? This is about giving a toast while hoisting a glass of beer, not a champagne toast. (I don’t think I care that Steinbeck’s in a clue when STEIN’s in the grid.)
Lindsey Hobbs’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Uh-oh…that’s two sub-three-minute Saturdays in a row. I do hope this isn’t an indication that the Varol era means the LAT themelesses are going to get easier! A gal needs a workout sometimes. That being said, there are some nice highlights here:
- I liked the echoic feel of 27A GET A LIFE, 26A GIVE A BOOST, and 31D NEED A HAND in the same puzzle.
- I’d never heard of 51A AROMARAMA, but the clue [Smell-O-Vision rival] tells you exactly what’s going on and you learn something as a solver without having to look anything up after the fact. Nicely done.
- 2D [Gentileschi’s “Self-Portrait as a ___ Player”] was a nice way to make that old standby, the LUTE, feel interesting. I say “interesting” rather than “fresh” because although it is a fresh angle, Gentileschi was active in the 17th century and is thus more old-timey. Art nerd me was here for the lady painter reference!
- 29D I’m never going to complain about ERG being clued with reference to the rowing machine. Rowing is an aspect of CrossFit I should like better than I do: I’m reasonably tall (5’7″) and I have very strong legs, so I should be a kickass rower and I’m merely a mediocre one. Cardio can die forever as far as I’m concerned.
- 47D [Supermodel with a cosmetics line for women of color] is a cluing angle I’ve taken myself for IMAN — I appreciate highlighting her accomplishments as a businesswoman, which she’s perhaps not as well known for as for being a (fabulous!) model. (My favorite Iman moment was when the final pre-Fashion Week Project Runway season 2 challenge was to design her a dress to wear to an event, and the results were serviceable but underwhelming. To paraphrase what she said of the winning gown to the best of my memory, she said “It is a little bit boring, but I will make it not boring.” Love her!)
No slop in this grid to complain about. But I want some harder clues!
Billy Bratton’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 18″— Jim Q’s write-up
- OR ELSE WHAT?!
- INNER CHILD
- TALKED THE TALK
- ARENA ROCK
I totally forgot GALENTINE was a thing… so I got hung up there for a while. I remember hearing that term some years back, but haven’t heard it since. Is that still a thing? Regardless, I enjoyed uncovering it!
I’ve seen PWN before (often!), and understood what it meant in context, but by itself, I’m totally lost as that what it means. I’m not a gamer. Looks like it derives from “Pawn” as a verb, and you would used in the sense that you dominated someone in a game: I totally pwned you! I am aware of how out of touch I sound with that last paragraph. I’m starting to come to terms with that.
BINACA is totally new to me too! I’ve never seen it, used it, or heard of it. I have a feeling I’m alone there.
A couple longer entries didn’t excite me that much: WORLD WIDE WEB and BIDS FAREWELL are awfully old-timey as symmetrical pillars. I mean, as often as we see/use www (I would say most of us don’t even type that anymore), what it actually stands for sounds very… dated. Also GUITAR LESSONS felt a bit bland, though it’s perfectly valid and is the top layer of a solid trip stack.
Enjoyed this one :)
Have a good weekend!
Jeff Chen & Celeste Watts’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mind the Gap” — pannonica’s write-up
This is an interesting theme that even manages to make cross-references tolerable. The theme entries direct solvers to a pair of other nearby entries that themselves are separated by a single black square. Read together, those words form a new word which is accurately described by the themer.
- 22a. [1-/4-Across, literally] LAPSE OF MEMORY, where the two cited entries are [TiVo button] REC and [Completely] ALL = recall (with a gap).
- 31a. [36-/37-Across, literally] FALLING APART from SIN and KING (sinking).
- 54a. [58-/60-Across, literally] BROKEN PROMISES (PLED GES = pledges).
- 75a. [72-/73-Across, literally] SECURITY BREACH (COM FORT, comfort).
- 97a. [93-/95-Across, literally] SEPARATE WAYS (METH ODS, methods).
- 113a. [121-/122-Across, literally] SPLIT DECISION [CHO ICES, choices).
Really, that’s just fantastic as a concept and in execution. And everything’s symmetrical too.
- 1d [Pothole’s place] ROAD. That’s where they’re found, but they certainly don’t belong there.
- 9d [Bugs in a class] INSECTA. Kingdom: Animalia; phylum: Arthropoda; subphylum: Hexapoda; class: Insecta.
- 11d [Prefix from the Greek “oikos,” meaning “house”] ECO-. Helps you to think of the Earth as our house and home. We should treat it better, no?
- 28d [Shrek, for one] OGRE, which I accidentally entered as OGER. Let me tell you, I was very ready to be angry at 41a [Recipient of a costly ticket] SPEEDEE!
- 56d [Margaret known for her big-eyed portraits] KEANE. This is where I shoehorn in a musical selection. One-hit wonder (but the whole album is very worthwhile) of the 1970’s Thunderclap Newman, which featured Speedy Keen. Oh, and the producer was Pete Townshend. 59d [Peter out] DRY UP.
- 50d [Composer who won a Pulitzer for “Air Music”] Ned ROREM. 38d [“Central Park in the Dark” composer] Charles IVES.
- 75d [Film in a shower] SCUM, though I confess Psycho (1960) flitted through my mind. Was I alone?
- 77d [Suffix for a political partisan] -CRAT. This is in relation to a theory of government, not a political party.
- 98d [Center’s stat] REB. Considered football and hockey before basketball.
- 110d [Mortgage adjustment, for short] REFI. 46a [Accord that’s been taken back] REPO.
- 20a [$7.2-million purchase of 1867] ALASKA, crossed by 12d [Seal-hunting islander] ALEUT.
- 27a [Wind up on stage?] OBOE. Some homonymic misdirection.
- 80a [ __ system (car’s GPS)] NAV. 81a [Steamer that rescued the Titanic survivors] CARPATHIA. I’m tickled by the idea of thinking of GPS as a car path. 82a [Lot buy] AUTO.
- 86a [Where Springsteen was born] USA. And also of the character in that famous song.
- 91a [Color of some autumn leaves] RUST RED. Was not expecting a two-word phrase here, and it eluded me for some time.
- 103a [Skate’s sawlike front feature] TOE PICK. Up until this very moment I thought this was a bit of obscure ichthyological anatomy. Both skates and sawfish are in the class Chondrichthyes. p.s. Sawfish species are in danger of extinction from overfishing, among other factors.
- 116a [Puts on a coat] PAINTS. Yep, I have to do some of that. Have already prepped walls.
Rachel Fabi’s USA Today crossword, “Shake It!”—Matthew’s write-up
Themers begin with body parts one can “shake”
- 18a [Top banana] HEAD HONCHO. “Shak[ing] my head”
- 26a [Clothes from older siblings] HAND-ME-DOWNS. Handshake
- 43a [“Mind your own business!”] BUTT OUT OF IT. Less sure of this one – could be a phrase I don’t know. Best I can do is “Shake your booty.”
- 54a [Fad ’80s accessories worn around the shins] LEG WARMERS. “Shake a leg.”
Fun theme set. On to notes:
- 5a [Fish only caught after 6 p.m., in Stardew Valley] BREAM. I don’t know much about the video game Stardew Valley – I think it’s reminiscent of the Harvest Moon games, and maybe the more recent Animal Crossing is in a similar vein? — but I also would have no idea how to clue BREAM other than a *very* old-school [Type of fish] or some such, so nice to have a bit of flavor here.
- 37a [2021 WNBA Championship team] SKY. The Sky ran to the championship from the sixth seed in the playoffs and despite only a 16-16 record in the regular season. The Sky also feature a married couple in Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, one of a handful of married couples on the same sports team that I know about. I’m always so impressed by couples whose professional lives are intertwined – I don’t think I could do it!
- 27d [Actress Mansour] ALEXA and 31d [Actress Gurira] DANAI. Both from The Walking Dead, which feels a mild inelegance to me, who didn’t watch and couldn’t stomach the show, but I also didn’t know that til looking each entry up for the recap, so it’s not like I can complain much. And I’m also just one solver of many, at that.
S.N.’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This was another killer workout, this time (rightly) under the S.N. moniker, unlike last week’s supposedly less rough offering.
My first entry into the grid came at 11d [Mighty Dump Truck maker] crossing 19a [Sanctions]. I was able to confirm the crossing K of TONKA and OKS, but was unable to get any other answers in that area.
Next, I found a good B crossing at 38a [Are assets of] BELONG TO and 38d [West Coast state, familiarly] BAJA (after considering but taking a risk on dismissing CALI). Was helped here by 45a [Seventh century pontiff]—LEO would’ve required a three-character Roman numeral such as VII, which seemed unlikely, and the P in PIUS or the U in URBAN didn’t seem to work. I decided on JOHN IV. Looking at Wikipedia’s list, I discern that the only other six-letter name is AGATHO, so whew.
With an N and I in place, I was able to guess 31d [“The Queen of Country”] as Reba MCINTIRE. Eventually I was able to connect the northeast to the southwest and at 24-something minutes my grid looked like this:
There’s a nifty intersection in the center of MOROCCO and MO ROCCA. 21d [#1 in African tourist arrivals], 31a [“Sunday Morning correspondent].
My first idea for 37a [Hiding place for Achilles] was the famous episode among the daughters of King Lycomedes. I thought it might be HAREM, even though that isn’t a Greek word. From there I reasoned that the H for 37d [Don’t let go] was going to be either HANG ON or HOLD ON, so I put in the ON.
41a [Goes toward a gate] gave me a terminal S and I deduced that 29d [Certain carafe + cups] would be a SET of some sort. Scrapping HAREM for HORSE (as in the Trojan Horse) made SAKE SET more obvious. Obviously then 35a [Recess] was neither APSE nor REST but NOOK. Next I looked at 51a [Port named for a war god] and after abandoning Ares I though of Odin and then recalled ODENSE in Denmark. Finally I could slowly stitch together the last of the southeast zone. Turned out that 37-down was neither of my supposed possibilities: HARP ON.
That left the northwest—where I had zero intrinsic toeholds and was stymied by the lone entry point, 33a [Most of westernmost Detroit], where I had –––ICIRCLE. With time dragging on I took a flyer on SEMICIRCLE (which I still don’t understand even after having looked at some maps of the city).
And then I really had to sludge and drudge my way through that final section. There were lots of maybes and possible letters and had I been solving on paper with a pencil I’m sure there would have been plenty of erasures. 25a [Exertion] DINT.
15d [Hummers in summer] CICADAS. Ever since I first read John Banville’s description of their emanations as crepitant, that’s been my own go-to word as well.