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.
DING DING would have filled the double bill, which I had so never gave up the DIG and that’s where I died.
Exactly where I was– DIG and DING (Ding) seemed to fit the bill… But AVI eventually forced me to reconsider.
I really liked NEVER FELT BETTER. And GAME SHOW NETWORK was a gimme, both of which helped a lot.
NYT: Amy, I had “slice” at 50D and thought I was being pretty damned clever. And like you, I’d never heard Steinbeck’s middle name. Will I remember it? Probably not.
I liked the puzzle a lot, despite getting a bit bogged down in the NW, and finished it significantly faster than the average Saturday.
Nice to see veteran Joe Dipietro back in the mix. This was a harder-than-usual Saturday, but all the fill was legit and the long answers were fine.
I thought it rather easy until it wasn’t and then the final NE & some NW proved very very hard for me, and that was with knowing benzene cold
NYT: I got most of it pretty quickly but was held up for a long time in two places. The NW, where I had DIG (obvs) and DING (perfectly legit), before starting over with AVI; and the middle bit at the bottom with ACTII and REYNA. For once I agree with Mr P’s comments on those two spots. Both seemed designed purely to cause confusion, and not in a good way.
ok, i get the fact that NYT is an American crossword puzzle, but are Americans the only ones with a GIVENNAME first?? and as a Canuck here, i do resent USA being clued as “Women’s soccer powerhouse” since Canada went undefeated at the 2020 Olympics (which was really only last summer) and beat the USA in the semi-finals while on the way to gold!!
I don’t think anyone would reasonably read that clue as “It’s first among [exclusively] Americans.” If there’s anything inaccurate about it, it leaves out the many people from cultures whose given name doesn’t come first when saying their names, though American bureaucracies are generally ill-prepared for those naming conventions.
As to your national team, congrats on the gold, but don’t get too resentful until you pick up three more plus 4 World Cups.
NYT: I live in Steinbeck country, have read most of his works and I was today years old when I learned his middle name. I like Max Ernst or Ernst and Young better, for more meaningful info.
Slice… yes! Dig…yes!! I didn’t hate being fooled on both of those, that’s what makes a Saturday interesting.
Having done medical transcription in an earlier life, I enjoyed the “dictator” clue.
I completed the SW corner of the Stumper but then struggled for a long time and finally gave up. I can understand polishing TOEnails, but who polishes their TOEs? How is ‘ring with silver’ RESOUND? Why would be a post-liftoff announcement be PERIGEE (and, yes, I know what perigee is, I just can’t see why it would merit an announcement). Are pigeons really PIED (some of their coloring arises from iridescence)? Having lived through several cicada summers, humming is not remotely how I would describe their sound.
Didn’t help that I’m not familiar with GARANIMALS or MOROCCA, but my biggest complaint with the Stumper, as is often the case, is that definitions are stretched and distorted beyond reasonable limits.
Your complaints about the Stumper are exactly why I love them.
RE SEMICIRCLE, look at the D in Detroit.
LAT … I just thought I’d give others who had trouble with this puzzle someone to sympathize with [disclaimer: I’m nowhere near as good a solver as Stella is] … I agreed with Stella last week, but I couldn’t possibly have had a more opposite solving experience than she did with this grid. It was my slowest LAT Saturday solve in five months (Beth Rubin & Brad Wilber’s 12/11/2021 puzzle). I was fine with the challenge. After all, I did manage to submit a correct solution without cheating. But it was a struggle for me from start to finish.
Ugh I did not like today’s Stumper. So many things that were just impossible for me, or just annoying clues. Never heard of GAR ANIMALS, no idea why NIX is a downer of a noun etc, GOING OVER being a noun is absurd, MANACLE is not a limiter, sojourn meaning RESIDENCE makes no sense, no idea what a MADONNA is that has to do with fall, SOIGNE is a completely foreign word, never heard of APOLOGIA, RARE being the word in front of bird is the most ridiculously vague clue I’ve ever seen, DINT does not mean exertion, no idea about CAROLE or MO ROCCA, that’s not what PERIGEE means, TAXIES really doesn’t have an E, EGOT is not a noun that a person can be called, SEMICIRCLE is just cruel…I had no chance on this one.
Garanimals was a kids clothing brand they sold at Sears in the 1970s; no idea if it was at other stores or how long the brand existed. USPS often sells holiday stamps in the fall depicting a religious painting that might have the Madonna and Child iconography. Both the noun and verb TAXI can take either an S or an ES. Carole King, songwriting legend. Mo Rocca got his big break on “The Daily Show” during the Jon Stewart years.
The NIX clue didn’t make any sense to me, either.
Yeah I’ve heard of Carole and Mo, but the clues were completely meaningless to me — they might as well have been “Celebrity name”.
I hear you, man. Years ago when I was deep in my solving obsession I formulated a pithy rule of thumb of “If Stan Newman’s involved, it won’t be solved” to spare me the insanity of this kind of … “experience.” Every now and then I check in on what I’m missing, and feel validated for making the right choice. The “semicircle” clue is just a kick in the groin to the solver, a purposeful and joyful kick at that. How anyone considers this a fun or worthwhile way to spend their free time I cannot fathom.
re NIX: I think the clue is referring to the fact that “nix” can be a noun/adverb/verb/interjection, and in each case it has a negative (downer) meaning. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nix
To be fair, “rare bird” is a phrase that’s used to describe a unique person, so it’s not just some random adjective in front of a noun.
But I would have thought the “post-liftoff” announcement would have been the APOGEE of the flight, not the PERIGEE.
I did like being reminded of the concept of BACKRONYMs, and it was interesting to read about the ABORIGINEs in Roman mythology on Wikipedia.
The clue for ABORIGINE was another peeve for me. The wikipedia page seems garbled. Merriam-Webster gives an etymology in which the word refers to people who inhabited parts of Italy before the Romans. Nothing mythological or legendary about them.
“Rare bird” is just the translation of the very crosswordy Latin “rara avis.”
Adding to the Stumper complaints: McGarrett’s mom was Doris, played by Christine Lahti. If we were meant to give the portrayer, then why did the clue use the character’s name?
On the Saturday puzzle – April 30 – discussion about Grawlix but no explanation of the relationship between the clue “Bachelor” and the answer Grad. Never got the idea of why bachelor produced grad as an answer. Kim Brown
B.A. or B.S. degree, for instance.
Universal – I know I’m late, but I had to comment on Galentine’s Day. This is the first year I had ever heard of it. I had to look it up when my sister-in-law and her four daughters asked me to supper at a favorite restaurant to celebrate Galentine’s Day. I highly approve of the celebration!
Stumper – DNF. Not even close. No fun and a big waste of time.