Oh, hey! The Saturday NYT puzzle is by John Lieb, the co-director of this Sunday’s five-hour Boswords crossword tournament. You can attend in person if Boston is doable, or compete online (like me). Here’s the registration page. I always enjoy the Boswords Twitch stream, with constructor interviews, droll videos, and a fast-moving chat thread. The puzzles, edited by Brad Wilber, are sure to be terrific.
John Lieb’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I enjoyed the puzzle but was surprised to solve it in a distinctly Fridayish amount of time. And that was despite assigning a scientific name to the UNICORN rather than recognizing that [Monodon monoceros, more familiarly] would be its water twin, the NARWHAL.
Fave fill: “AMIRITE?” (nice echo with nearby EMIRATE), which I have been known to use. Marion COTILLARD. A chef’s kiss *mwah* to CHEF’S KISS. I always like GNASHED; the gn- and kn- and pn- words are fun. Being put through the WRINGER, working at a POT FARM. DATA SCIENCE, an increasingly popular field of study. Lots of nice phrases—WIN OR LOSE, there’s NO POINT if an ALPINE SKIER ends up having to EAT DIRT. An ICE BLUE glacier is cool, too.
I have sometimes disdained crosswords whose corners are jammed with 7s, because too often those 7s turn out to be lifeless roll-your-own words or obscurities. With his stair-stepped 9s in the midsection, John manages to get six 9s and two 11s into the mix, and the 7s did not disappoint.
Didn’t really know anything about the LOGIC GATE, 37a. [Circuit building block]. The term is maybe faintly familiar.
Three more things:
- 23a. [___ es Salaam], DAR. This used to be the capital of Tanzania, but now Dodoma holds that title. Another cluing avenue would be folk singer Dar Williams, whose song “The Christians and the Pagans” was once sung to me a cappella by Team Fiend’s Jenni. (Jenni has a lovely voice! And now that I’ve listened to the Williams original, I gotta say I liked Jenni’s rendition better.)
- 21a. [Shell game?], EGG TOSS. Cute clue! Don’t crack the shell, folks. Not unless you actually want to egg the other person.
- 33a. [Part of a plan?], PHONE LINE. As in cell phone service plans. Clever.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Fun and evocative themeless today! Some highlights:
- 1A [Tools that may cause webpages to go down] is a great little deceptive clue for SCROLL BARS. I always appreciate when 1A starts with a bang.
- 27A [Second cousin?] is a very cute way to clue MOMENT.
- 65A [Like maple-glazed bacon] is SALTY-SWEET. See what I mean about this puzzle being evocative?
- 5D [Good motto to follow in a National Park] is LEAVE NO TRACE. As someone who recently took a vacation in a (Canadian) National Park, I appreciate this entry!
- 11D [Like a review that’s not very revealing?] is SPOILER-FREE. Nice modern in-the-language entry.
- 22D [Footwear with overlays] is WING-TIP SHOES. Straightforward clue, but again a nice mental image from the entry.
- 47D [“White Teeth” novelist Smith] is ZADIE. One of many on my list of “oh yeah, I need to read her when I get around to it…”
[Ersatz] as a clue for SHAM reminded me of one of my favorite bits of German trivia: The word “Muckefuck” is a slang term for ersatz coffee. You’re welcome.
Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Left-Handed”—Matthew’s write-up
Our themers all start (on the left-hand side, as that’s where things start in English text:
- 17a [One of 11 in Brandon Taylor’s book “Filthy Animals”] SHORT STORY
- 28a [Colorful swimmer] RED SNAPPER
- 45a [Ingredient in bisque and biscuits] HEAVY CREAM
- 57a [Button that frees up computer storage] EMPTY TRASH
Partway through the puzzle I thought the connecting word was simply “hand” — the only “Red Hand” I know is the Red Hand of Ulster, and I felt “Empty Hand” was even weaker. But of course, RED HANDED and EMPTY HANDED are much more familiar. It occurs to me I’ve never seen a live RED SNAPPER, but yep, upon a Google, they’re just as vibrant in the water and freshly caught as they are on a dinner plate with rice and plantains.
This was a fun grid to move around in, with more connectivity out of the corners — see those 7-letter entries in columns 4 and 12, and a more meaty middle than I feel I’m used to in higher-word count grids. TV TABLE, DAYTON (apparently the “Gem City” — sorry to my friend Sara that I didn’t know that!), ARM DAY (I don’t hear this as much as “leg day,” but presumably “not leg day” has to be something), and UPTEMPO are all highlights for me.
I often highlight entries I first learned from crosswords. Usually they’re something I learned from puzzles years ago as a teenager, entries from before my lifetime that I remember because I still rarely see them outside of puzzles. KDRAMA [49a Show such as “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, e.g.] is decidedly not that, and I only learned the term in the last year, from either a USA Today or Brooke Husic puzzle, despite having known of “K-Pop” for much longer. It’s nice to learn things.
- 1a [Fancy hairdo] COIF. Love this word.
- 9a [Phone charger letters] USB-C. Brings to mind this puzzle from Paolo Pasco, which is both brilliant and somehow over two years old. I always get a kick out of remembering a puzzle and then having no idea what year (sometimes decade) it’s from.
- 51a [Fan base that gets excited when “Dynamite” comes on the radio] BTS ARMY. I am in a sweet spot of knowing about BTS, but not really knowing any of their songs (though I have tried to commit the members’ names to memory for trivia purposes), so I spent a moment here wondering what Taio Cruz’ fanbase is called.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Last Shall Be First, the First Last” — pannonica’s write-up
Thanks to the WSJ’s poor interface, I ended up solving the crossword on paper, with the intention of transcribing (transtyping?) the solution back onto the screen version. Unfortunately, there was no way that I could discern to make the entire grid visible all at once, so you’re stuck with my sloppy hand-solve.
Needless to say, I’m a little miffed after the—okay, I’ll generously call it an ordeal.
For this theme, we have two-word phrases whose second word is four letters long, and that second word has its first and last letters transposed to wacky effect.
- 22a. [Tracking number?] PACKAGE LEAD (package deal). ‘Lead’ as in ‘clue’; it’ll help you find that package.
- 24a. [Currency used to bribe a Yemeni politician?] DIRTY RIAL (dirty liar).
- 42a. [Extra ground cover?] SPARE TARP (spare part).
- 44a. [Food plan for mouthy people?] TONGUE DIET (tongue-tied). Not fully seeing the connection between ‘mouthy people’ and ‘tongue’.
- 68a. [Decisive defeat in a university game?] COLLEGE ROUT (college tour).
- 91a. [Beverages brewed in pails?] BUCKET TEAS (bucket seat).
- 94a. [Penny-pinching puritanical person?] TIGHT PRIG (tight grip).
- 116a. [Talk big about one’s influence?] POWER BRAG (power grab).
- 118a. [Holmes and Watson, say?] MYSTERY TEAM (mystery meat).
These are …okay?
- 3d [Shell food source, in a way] TACO STAND. I wanted TACO TRUCK first.
- 7d [Underworld goddess of Norse mythology] HEL. In the Marvel comics universes, she’s HELA.
- 12d [Specialty of some counselors] GRIEF.
- 42d [BART stop] STA, but I expected SFO.
- 65d [Crude thing to drop] F-BOMB. Can’t recall seeing that in a mainstream crossword before.
- 83d [Munch under pressure] STRESS EAT.
- 93d [Squirrel, colloquially] TREE RAT. I’ve never heard that before, but I can see that it’s more than merely colloquial—it’s intended to be disparaging. Also, there are plenty of rodent species that are described as tree rats. It isn’t a formal taxonomic group and is comprised of numerous genera from various Families. Many are quite handsome and charismatic!
- 121d [Common title starter] THE. Including that of this crossword.
- 26a [Downbeat music genre] EMO. I may be one of the few who was fooled by the clue, believing it was a masked capital and a misdirection. Downbeat magazine caters to jazz aficionados.
- 36a [Skating legend Midori] ITO. 15d [Speedskating star Jackson] ERIN.
- 110d [Aboriginal people decorate its shell] EMU EGG.
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
This one was a beast. Really had to chip and chip and chip away at it. So many tentative fills and corrections, but there were enough lucky stabs to start weaving things together.
But jeez the cluing was tough! Some I couldn’t make sense of until after the answer was in and some were just cruelly oblique.
The grid features triple-stacked 10s in each corner, so that’s a lot of density composed of intimidating entries!
- 11a [Angular field] TRIG. 43a [With sharpness] ACUTELY.
- 15a [Closed-shop indicator] UNION LABEL. Of course I was thinking of those BE BACK signs with a clock face on them, or perhaps the steel roll-ups that are also obsolescent.
- 17a [Foldable food] PIZZA SLICE. I was astonished to learn that not everyone folds their regular Neapolitan-style slices.
- 21a [They’ve sold for millions at Tokyo auctions] TUNAS. Maybe billions in yen?
- 23a [Space-opera stunners] PHASERS. My very first entry fill.
- 31a [It’s in tanks a lot] CORAL. Think aquariums. But located as it is below 25a [Much-consumed juice] AC POWER (itself a tough clue), it’s easy to be thinking about automobile gas tanks.
- 32a [Depreciate] BELITTLE. Wondering if this is a typo for deprecate.
- 38a [Drying out, perhaps] IN THE SUN. My least favorite entry. So blah. Was also trying to figure REHABBING or DETOXING as an answer.
- 59a [Save a show, in the ’70s] TAPE RECORD. 36d [Redundant reckoning] SUM TOTAL.
- 3d [2014 guest on a Cher tour, singing with Cyndi] LIZA. Tried GAGA, even though the name isn’t quite IN PARALLEL (13d) with the first-name Cyndi.
- 4d [Mudlike] OOZY. Auditioned CAKY.
- 5d [Chain letters] RNA. 40a [No longer sharp] TUNED. 21d [One taking a stand] TAXI. These clues are tough. There are more, of course, but these are good exemplars.
- 6d [Region abutting Switzerland and Germany] ALSACE. I was nonplussed by the absence of France here.
- 26d [Loser of 1781] CORNWALLIS. This was at Yorktown, Virginia, and the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War.
- 50d [County with radio station KVYN] NAPA. I don’t understand the significance of the call letters. Is it supposed to be VYN ≈ VIN, or VINE? I just see KEVIN.
Did I mention the cluing was tough? Like, gratuitously so, even by Stumper standards? Anyway, it’s over now. How’d you make out?