Adam Aaronson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Good flow throughout this 70-worder, hard to get stuck in an area and not find a toehold to make progress.
Fave fill: can’t-believe-it’s-still-a-thing SPACE FORCE, TELENOVELA, ADAM DRIVER, ARAGORN, YAMMER ON, PEDANTIC, TAQUERIA, SAM SMITH (DEMI LOVATO wouldn’t fit and the year might be wrong—but another famous nonbinary singer), CARE BEARS.
- 37d. [Place where shells are put away?], TAQUERIA. First I thought of pasta, a PASTA BAR. Then got that T figured out and thought TACO BARS, but the clue’s not plural. Should not have taken such effort for me to get to a TAQUERIA!
- 46d. [Performer in both the Winter and Summer Olympics, in different sports], SKATER. As in figure skating/speed skating and summertime skateboarding.
- 10d. [Kind of loop in programming], FOR. Is it just me or is this wildly obscure for people who don’t have programming experience?
- 14d. [___ voting], EARLY. Illinois’s primary is coming up next Tuesday. As a Chicagoan, I signed up to automatically receive a mail ballot for every election. Got my ballot, made my choices, sealed the envelope, and took it to a drop box at an early-voting polling place. Easy as pie! I appreciate the convenience, especially in the midst of a pandemic (COVID is nowhere near over, of course).
- 61d. [Catchy song, in modern slang], BOP. You know what a bop does? It slaps. I’m not up on the current top 10 hits, so I checked Billboard and there’s a Lizzo song that’s hot, “About Damn Time.” It’s definitely a bop. Enjoy!
Four stars from me.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turning Heads” — pannonica’s write-up
For this outing, the theme answers have had the first two letters of their original phrases transposed.
- 22a. [Authority that’s not spelled out in the Constitution?] UNCLEAR POWER (nuclear power).
- 29a. [Easel for an engraver?] ETCH SUPPORT (tech support).
- 40a. [Good-sized real estate buy?] ACRE PACKAGE (care package).
- 42a. [Nicholas II’s genealogy?] TSAR CHART (star chart).
- 66a. [Dealer who keeps sorcerers supplied?] POTIONS TRADER (options trader).
- 89a. [Saloon frequented by Spanish sailors?] ARMADA INN (Ramada Inn).
- 92a. [Part of a robotic limb?] ULNAR MODULE (lunar module).
- 104a. [Critic of a new perfume] ODOR KNOCKER (door knocker).
- 110a. [Purpose of a famed 1961 wall?] RIVING BERLIN (Irving Berlin).
So these are rather fun and interesting. That’s a ‘yes’ on the theme.
- 19d [Identify, in a way] POINT AT, 32d [Apt to flee from] SCARED OF, 33d [Probe] DIG AT, 37d [Expedited] SPED UP, 68d [Got to work via, say] RODE ON, 84d [Make a hasty visit to, as a convenience store] DASH IN. That’s a lot prepositional phrases.
- 26d [“The Great” and “The Terrible,” e.g.] EPITHETS. Crossing that TSAR theme entry.
- 31d [Bufotoxin secreter] TOAD. aka botox. Bufo is a large genus of toads. Oh wait, I see that there’ve been taxonomic reviews which have depleted it, and there remain ‘only’ seventeen species.
- 90d [PC’s place] DESKTOP, in two ways.
- 91d [Bottle feature] NECK. The following is a guitar duet between Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley:
- 37a [Tiny trace] SCINTILLA. “Scintilla comes directly from Latin, where it carries the meaning of ‘spark’ – that is, a bright flash such as you might see from a burning ember. In English, however, our use of ‘scintilla’ is restricted to the figurative sense of ‘spark’ – a hint or trace of something that barely suggests its presence. The Latin scintilla is related to the verb ‘scintillare,’ which means ‘to sparkle’ and is responsible for our verb “scintillate” (“to sparkle or gleam,” literally or figuratively). In an odd twist, ‘scintilla’ underwent a transposition of the ‘c’ and the ‘t’ (a linguistic phenomenon known as metathesis) to create the Vulgar Latin form stincilla, which is believed to be an ancestor of our word stencil.” —m-w
Ben Zimmer’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
For me, this was firmly on the easier end of the Stumper spectrum. As is often the case, I made landfall in the ‘second’ quadrant, the upper right. (But see 2d [Legendary landfall] ARARAT.)
Knowledge of German strongly suggested that 21a [Ludwig’s love] was going to be LIEBE (fortunately, I dismissed the Beethoven misdirection); this was confirmed by 10d [It adjoins Afghanistan in Risk] URAL (the L was instrumental. Working off the B in LIEBE, 13d Groups inspired by pop-punk] was something-BAND (and I strongly suspected it would be EMO). 26a [Done like] was practically a gimme: À LA, and then 11d [Insta and its ilk] was obviously SOCIAL something (probably MEDIA)…
And before I knew it, that entire section was complete.
Moving around the rest of the grid, there were more than a few impasses, but always there were gettable entries in the vicinity, so I was able to tootle along rather steadily.
- 1a [Non-stretchy attire rarely worn on Zoom calls] HARD PANTS. I— what? I’ve never heard this term. PANTS was gettable, but I was incredulous as the crossings unveiled HARD. I trust that this is some neologism that Ben is making us aware of.
- 16a [Giving a lot] ROOMY. First instinct was SLACK.
- 28a [Gets ready to chat] GOES ONLINE. Another entry where I had to wait for crossings to get the other word, in this case the rather generic GOES.
- 31a [Flawless] A-PLUS. L’il bit tricky, this one.
- 37a [Go back on] REVERSE, 38a [Didn’t 37 Across] UPHELD. Ugh, bad timing.
- 53a [“Sincere” Hilton brand since 2016] TRU. Thankful for the additional hint in the clue.
- 55a [“That’ll never happen again”] IT’S A FLUKE.
- 58a [Brainlike AI approach] NEURAL NET. This was an important entry for my completing the southeast section rapidly. Likewise, the cross-reference of 44d MARKER and 4d DNA was instrumental in breaking open the northwest.
- 59a [Kept in a Biblical way] HADST. Clue made me a bit queasy; glad it was a false alarm.
- 8d [Mega-selling action figures of the ’90s] TURTLES, with nary a ‘familiarly’ or similar in the clue. That’s kind of classic Stumpery, but an outlier in this crossword.
- 30d [It may be evil or electric] EYE. Reflexively, I started to enter EEL but then went, whoa! ‘evil eel’?? and stayed my hand.
- 41d [Directive for a lexicographer] DEFINE. Despite knowing Zimmer’s professional area of expertise, I somehow read the clue as ‘typographer’ and thus struggled to find an answer.
- 43d [Originally, to adjust a musical instrument] ATTUNE. Very commonsensical.
- 45d [Wildflowers that may also be lavender or white] BLUETS. Clue was quite helpful in triangulating the hue. I know this word mostly from seeing it in French on blueberry packages. In fact, I’m just about to have some with my breakfast.
Solid albeit rather unformidable puzzle this week.
Nova Qi and Matthew Stock’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Oof. I was really loving this puzzle, since it was giving me a fight and had entries like SPIDER-HAM, SENIORITIS, BRIDGE POSE, I DON’T GET IT, and some great clues like [Staff addition] for LEDGER LINE (for non-musicians, here’s what they are; for fellow musicians, I bet I’m not the only one who appreciated a pun that requires a bit of musical knowledge to get).
And then I filled in 29D, [Beijing monument whose name translates to “gate of heavenly peace”], TIANANMEN.
It really spoiled the whole puzzle for me. Given recent events in Hong Kong, which reflect a not-so-recent strategy of the Chinese government to erase its actions at Tiananmen Square from the narrative, I just don’t see how you can put it in a crossword, also with a clue that doesn’t acknowledge the horror of what China did to its own citizens in 1989. Not saying I want to stumble on a clue about a government murdering protesters in a crossword puzzle — I’m saying I wish that the editors had sent this puzzle back for the SW corner to be redone, because I just don’t think there’s a way you can clue TIANANMEN that’s both appropriate for the lighthearted experience that a good solve is, and also doesn’t look like it’s glossing over TIANANMEN‘s strongest association.
My daily run is NYT, LAT, Universal & WSJ + TNY on weekdays. This was one of those rare days that none of the puzzles disappointed in any way. [Well, I did have to groan at the final WSJ themer.] Thought all four puzzles were marvelous.
Thanks for the Stumper review, pannonica! 1A is one of my favorite pandemic-era expressions (and the winner of the Most Useful category in the American Dialect Society’s 2021 Word of the Year proceedings that I oversaw).
Btw, pannonica, bleuet (French for blueberry) is used in English to refer to the cornflower (of “cornflower blue”). Bluet is unrelated, at least botanically.
Not being so knowledgeable about flora, I referred to Wikipedia, whose disambiguation page included: “Centaurea, a plant genus in the family Asteraceae” and “[s]everal plant genera in the family Rubiaceae, notably: Houstonia [and] Oldenlandiopsis or ‘creeping bluet'”
Centaurea includes cornflowers.
Also, I now see that I missed the spelling difference between bleuet and bluet.
Even this programmer hesitated on FOR loop, so yeah a toughie for sure.