Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This one was quicker than I expected for a Sidurday themeless. Pretty 64-word grid here.
Fave fill: PEEKABOO, HEAVE-HOS (plural maybe a tad iffy), FELL IN LOVE, ICE STORM (dodged one today, saw the movie), dieter’s CHEAT DAY.
Didn’t know: 34d. [Machine that gives paper a smooth finish], HOT PRESS. Sounds like a hairstyling term, but it’s an industrial process. Also new to me: 43d. [Bhikkhu’s teacher], LAMA. A bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk.
I kinda wanted BAKELITE for 20a. [The Father of ___, moniker for the inventor Leo Baekeland], because of the inventor’s surname. Whaddaya know? The Father of PLASTICS did indeed start with Bakelite in 1097.
Tony Caruso and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a light and easy (just on the edge of being too easy) Saturday. Some highlights and notes:
- 26A [“Guilty Crown” protagonist __ Ouma] is SHU. I was all ready to say that SHU Uemura, the Japanese beauty brand, would be a fairer clue, until I Googled both “Guilty Crown” and “Shu Uemura” to find that the former gets nearly twice as many hits as the latter. Time to learn about anime, I guess!
- 43A [Rice porridge often topped with slices of century egg] is CONGEE, and it’s almost like C.C. signing her name to the puzzle. She does love a good food reference. (See also 11D, MATCHA CAKES.)
- 59A [Turning point?] is a great clue for USE-BY DATE.
- 21D [“Below Deck” vessels] is SUPERYACHT. It seems like quite a few people I know are addicted to this show, which I will have time to try whenever the next time is that there’s not two or more seasons of Drag Race airing at the same time.
- 40D [Green field?] another nice question-mark clue, this time for BOTANY.
The stretch of 46D to 55D is five clues, four of which are people’s names. I think it would have been nice to clue NOEL as a non-proper, and perhaps also ASA (even though it would require going to a partial phrase).
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Changing Borders” — pannonica’s write-up
Simple but kind of brilliant theme here. Phrases composed of a nation and another word that differs only in the first and last letters.
- 22a. [Thanks from a Bologna-born resident of São Paolo?] BRAZIL GRAZIE.
- 28a. [Risky stratagem in Lusaka?] ZAMBIA GAMBIT.
- 34a. [Jeans material in Porto Novo?] BENIN DENIM.
- 39a. [Horned ungulate in the Shanghai Zoo?] CHINA RHINO.
- 63a/65a. [… spot for ping pong in Yaoundé?] CAMEROON | GAMEROOM.
- 88a. [Voodoo practiced in Port-au-Prince?] HAITI FAITH.
- 91a. [Sound from protesters in Accra?] GHANA CHANT.
- 97a. [Wrinkly snacks in Bandar Seri Begwan?] BRUNEI PRUNES.
- 108a. [Destructive force in Conakry?] GUINEA RUINER. This last one was the toughest, perhaps because of the unexpected short three-syllable word.
Once you cotton to the theme, there’s a guarantee of being able to fill in the repeated letters should you need them. My solving experience was rather fluid so I didn’t require such a strategy.
- 5d [Here, in Le Havre] ICI. Not theme related.
- 12d [1983 Tom Cruise movie] LOSIN’ IT. As I’ve never heard of it (or more likely don’t recall it), I’m guessing it was not favorably received.
- 15d [Basil, for one] HERB. It was this crossing that disabused me of the notion of SKI PANTS for 24a [Aspen attire] SKI PARKA.
- 21d [Some organs and motorcycles] YAMAHAS. Tuning forks, wheel forks.
- 29d [Coin featuring King Vajiralongkorn’s likeness] BAHT. No Thai city mentioned! 61d [Coin featuring a springbok] RAND. Also no city mentioned. And now that I’m looking more closely there are a bunch of geographical clues that could—but don’t—mention cities, à la the themers. 5-down excepted.
- 54d [Precursor of an alien occupation?] WORK VISA. I glimpsed M Grumpy’s comment decrying the clue prior to my solve (but didn’t read through to the specific complaint), so I was somewhat prepared for this. I agree that it’s poor framing.
- 55d [Spiny flora] ALOES. Was so confident that it was CACTI. Humph.
- 70d [Small finch of Africa and Europe] SERIN. Bit tough, but the crossings were fair. Ditto 92d [Bauhaus artist Josef] ALBERS.
- 7a [Preservation Hall Jazz Band leader Ben] JAFFE. I guess Mad cartoonist Al could use some company. Oh wait, that’s JAFFEE. Is there a writer named Rona JAFFE? I think so.
- 18a [Cheap cotton fabric] CALICO. From Calicut, India, which was for a while known as Calcutta. Madras is another material named for a place in India, although it’s now called Chennai, which is unrelated to chenille (its etymology is the French word for caterpillar).
- 30a [Tucson and Santa Fe] AUTOS. Cities mentioned. Okay, I think I’m losing it. Let’s hasten and finish up.
- 68a [Hot dogs topped with chili, onions and mustard] CONEYS. Pretty sure this is a non-NYC name.
- 107a [Buffalo border] LAKE ERIE. 20a [Neighbor of Minn. and N.Y.] ONT.
- 116a [Like diamonds] RED. Playing cards.
- 118a [It serves a sentence] PHRASE. Elegant clue to close out on.
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 50” by Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel — norah’s write-up
- SNAILSPACE 1A [Rush hour speed]
- UNSCRAMBLE 37A [Solve, as the clue “ABCELMNRSU”] ⭐
At 4:58, a smidge tougher than normal for me. I got a little hung up by putting in bAyarea, not knowing whether mAliA or sAshA is older, typing in SLyER, aHRIGHT, and STACey, being utterly confused that *anything* at Disneyland would be free, and a few other reasonable small errors that needed correcting. All in all, a good solve. I prefer the difficulty in a puzzle to come from clever ? clues rather than the either/or sorts of entries listed above but this is a fine puzzle, well constructed and not too much -ese.
- AFRO (43D [Billy Preston hairstyle]). Billy Preston was an American keyboardist and singer who played with Sam Cooke, Little Richard and many others.
Thank you Tom and Zhouqin!
Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “STOP/GO”—Matthew’s recap
Dual theme sets! We’ve got both STOP and GO in our puzzle, though you need to re-parse STOP as “S to P” for the acrosses:
15a [Occasion for a permission slip] SCHOOL FIELD TRIP
27a [The Stylistics, for example] SOUL GROUP
41a [Place that sells rolling papers] SMOKE SHOP
52a [It turns out I actually can’t make it] SOMETHING CAME UP
The downs are two-word phrases starting with G and O:
3d [Nauseate] GROSS OUT
7d [There’s a 15-foot-tall sculpture of one in Corning, California, skewered by a giant toothpick] GREEN OLIVE
28d [Hangout involving putting] GOLF OUTING
36d [Promising Sign] GOOD OMEN
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
I think this has been the toughest Stumper yet since I started writing them up here at FiendCo. Frankly, I’m amazed (and relieved) that I managed to complete it at all.
Got the first breakthrough in the upper right, where the straight-shooting 13d [First pronoun in the Gettysburg Address] OUR helped out. Then I was able to speculate that 5d [On target] might be APT and that 14d [Eliot collection at UT Austin] could be (though it felt very iffy) MSS.
At this point I took a real leap for 5a [Provided bonus footage] ADDED A ROOM. May have been subliminally helped but rationally hindered by the duplication of 16a [Roomy party rental] PRIVATE BUS.
Dumb mistakes I made that postponed progress and completion: 28d [Indie pubs] ALT-WEEKLIES, for which I had ART WEEKLIES; 48d [Possible premed precursor] AP BIO, where I blithely filled in the nonsensical AP SCI. And more literally, for a long time I had DUMB for 1-across [Not bright at all] DRAB. I don’t consider that a dumb mistake but it was, y’know, a ‘dumb’ mistake.
Clues I still don’t understand, or—if I do—consider them to be extreme stretches: 23a [Never got] HASN’T, 38a [For you and me] HUMAN, 44a [Do the math] CIPHER (I have now learned the intransitive verb sense of the word), 24d [Curves for convenience] ARCHES, 56d [Silence, perhaps] OIL (okay, I finally see this one—a verb—but it was the last entry I filled in and skeptically so).
And then there were many clues that were just very, very tough/obscure. Won’t list them here, but I’m sure other solvers’ lists would match up pretty well with mine.
Favorite clue: 63a [Old-timey exhibitions with carousels] SLIDE SHOWS. For a long while I was convinced it had to be STATE FAIRS (this is the origin of my AP SCI blunder).
Glad it’s over!