Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Either I’m in Kameron’s wheelhouse or this 62(!)-word puzzle is rather easy for a Saturday NYT.
Fave fill: The METHUSELAH/DEAR OLD DAD combo, CALAMARI, HOT COMB, HYPERBOLIC, BATPHONE, NEURAL NETS, TORPOR (does anyone know why horror/torpor/stupor all have -id adjectives but terror’s adjective isn’t terrid?), DOG SLOBBER, “DREAM LOVER,” and ART FILMS.
Did not know: 44a. [Brightness or darkness, in musical terms], TONE COLOR. Pretty much everything I know about musical terminology, I learned from crosswords. Also had not seen 49a. [World Wide ___, nickname of an N.B.A. power broker], WES. Here’s his Wikipedia page.
Five more things:
- 15a. [Result of tails, perhaps], “I LOSE.” As in a somewhat familiar phrase, “heads you win, tails I lose” (or the opposite), also the title of a 1982 YA novel I read as a teenager.
- 27a. [Google search strings useful to linguists and literary historians], NGRAMS. These yield graphs that show you the usage of a term over time, often comparing more than one term. If you’ve ever thought, “I wonder when people stopped saying X and started saying Y,” an Ngram search can show you. Pannonica and some of our readers understand better than I how to use this most DEFTly.
- 5d. [Putting greens in these courses might be expected], SALADS. I had a salad for dinner tonight but I still thought of golf first.
- 27d. [Its participants are always tired], NASCAR. As in car tires, not weariness. Motor sports make me weary, though!
- 31d. [California city in the Mojave Desert], BARSTOW. Somehow I associate this place with Six Feet Under. Something to do with Lauren Ambrose’s character Claire and her boyfriend.
Four stars from me.
David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Two of Diamonds” — pannonica’s write-up
- 115aR [Stadium marathon, or what the eight answers with circles gained individually, and what they gained collectively] DOUBLEHEADER. Whew, that clue is a mouthful, but it’s actually a succinct explanation of the conceit. Each of those two-word entries has the same letter prefixed to its components —individual doubleheader—and when those paired first letters are extracted they spell out (twice) BALLGAME—collective doubleheader.
- 23a. [Flashy bracelet?] BRIGHT BANGLE (right angle).
- 27a. [Whispered comment that earns top marks at drama school?] A-PLUS ASIDE (plus side).
- 41a. [Uncouth apartment manager?] LEASING LOUT (easing out).
- 59a. [Shoestrings in a sneaker thief’s hideout?] LAIR LACES (air aces).
- 67a. [Lacquer applied to parts of bowling alleys?] GUTTER GLOSS (utter loss).
- 77a. [Mimicked the firing process?] APED AXING (Ped Xing – pedestrian crossing).
- 92a. [Member of a top-secret relocation crew] MASKED MOVER (asked over).
- 107a. [Grand home that’s up for auction online?] EBAY ESTATE (Bay State, aka Massachusetts).
Sure, those entries are rather tortured, but they’re corralled into making sense, so mission accomplished.
The overall solve was congenial, without tough or rough spots to impede progress.
- 83d [Brainstorming gem] NOVEL IDEA. I like how there’s no qualifier on the merit of such a gem. Some novel ideas are terrible, their originality notwithstanding.
- 99d [Mop brand] O-CEDAR. This might be tough for some solvers.
- 101d [Photographer Beaton] CECIL. Going no farther than a simple image search, he seems to have been a prolific celebrity photographer, primarily if not exclusively in black-and-white.
- 25a [Window in a dating app?] AGE RANGE. Cute.
- 30a [It’s players are mayors] SIM CITY. Did not know this.
- 125a [Location of the tallest peak known to man] MARS. I’m going to guess that it’s Olympus Mons. Yep. Clue could have better invoked ‘humankind’.
Malaika Handa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Some highlights from this moderately challenging themeless:
- 13A [Got credit, in a way?] is a nice clue for OPENED A TAB.
- 20A [Event that might be called “morp”] Today I learned that a GAY PROM might be a “morp.”
- 33A [Element of 1990s fashion] is HAMMER PANTS, which is quite an evocative entry for those of us of a certain age.
- 48A [Celebration where many are out on the streets?] I feel like I’ve now seen PRIDE PARADE in puzzles enough times that it’s no longer fresh (that letter pattern sure does lend itself to being a non-seed long-slot entry), but this clue is a fun way to go at it.
- The 4D/5D pairing of [Flair] and [___ flare] (for KNACK and LENS, respectively), is cute.
I will argue that although a GIN AND TONIC should be a [Simple cocktail], as clued, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered one in a NYC bar and gotten a drink with flat tonic. I now drink them only at home (or at certain tapas bars; the Spanish know how to do these right) so that I can open a tiny can with just enough tonic for one drink instead of fuming about how a bar is charging me $15 for a lousy G&T.
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
As advertised, a less rough offering. My solve was relatively smooth. Anytime I got stuck, there was always another spot where I could chip away just a bit more. So it took a number of iterations, revisiting the same clues with just a new letter or two to help things along. Precisely the way a challenging crossword is supposed to work.
- 1a [Former members of the OfficeMax family] K-MARTS. I was thinking people, not stores. Plus, it’s often tricky when there are two or more incongruous consonants together—one will have doubts. See also 49d [They’re often up against the wall] TV SETS.
- 7a [Highly attuned to others] SELFLESS. I’m not convinced about the accuracy there. The clue is reused at 41-across for EMPATH, which definitely seems right.
- 22a [Sleep-Eazy, on “The Simpsons”] MOTEL. The joke here is that it’s a sleazy establishment.
- 23a [Dated “dude”] OLD BEAN, which additionally seems like a Briticism to me. I can definitely see Alec Guinness or Noël Coward saying it.
- 26a [Western union] OAS. Nice little clue.
- 29a [“Nouveau” antonym] VIEUX. Dredging up this bit of French vocabulary certainly helped to open up more of the grid. A similar phenomenon with 52a [Frequent Poirot portrayer] USTINOV, which occupies a roughly symmetrical position.
- 37a [Sales promotion phrase] YOUR CART IS EMPTY. Clue seems off, but I’m at a loss for how to improve it. [E-tail status message]?
- 4d [Joey of fiction] ROO. Fooled me; I was anticipating maybe PAL. 30a [Young buck] FAWN.
- Least favorite clue: [Bird __ ] SONG. It’s just so open-ended and generic.
- 10d [Takes in] FLAMS. I don’t know that this is an acceptable abridgement for flimflams. At least, m-w doesn’t seem to support it.
- 32d [Mid-’60s name in the news] GEMINI. As in the Gemini space missions. Despite knowing that it dates from 1940s I was still inclined to put BIKINI.
- 38d [Sloth or skunk] OMNIVORE. It’s just the two-toed sloths, Choloepus, that are omnivorous. Three-toed sloths, Bradypus, are herbivores. There are two species in the former genus and four in the latter.
- 47d [Escarole alias] ENDIVE. I somehow did not know this.
- 53d [The origin of civilization] At only five letters long and with a seemingly controversial assertion in the clue, I should have realized it was going to be something more clinical. SOFT C. See also my observation earlier about incongruous consonants. In this case it worked to my advantage!