Kevin Christian’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
(Been a few weeks since we had a themeless NYT by a woman. Hope another comes along soon!)
Lots of terrific fill here: JUNETEENTH, NPR’s ARI SHAPIRO (I recently learned that he has a face for … TV, not radio), your REAL NAME, newish WAYMO (the self-driving car thing, ugh), the EVIL DEAD franchise (“This is my boomstick”), MOE’S TAVERN, ON THE FENCE, DESERT ROSE, MOOCHED OFF, my essential SLEEPING IN, DEETS (short for details; a friend of mine has used the word for years), POST MALONE (a singer and rapper with a profusion of face tattoos and hits in the pop, rap, and adult contemporary arenas), SETS EYES ON, PORE OVER.
Wildly fresh OBOE clue: [Cousin of the Spanish chirimía or Italian piffero]. Who knew??
27d. [“Forever Young” band, 1984], ALPHAVILLE. Huh?? I was a teenager in 1984 and this rings no bells whatsoever. (Have seen the band name in passing, don’t know the song.) Turns out that this German’s band’s “Forever Young” peaked at #93 in the US, so nowhere near top 40 radio. I do remember Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” from 1988. Anyone get stuck with any of the crossings here?
Felt a tad easy for a Saturday (I used up a half minute looking for a typo). 4.25 stars from me.
Jamey Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I don’t have a lot of time to recap this one so I’ll say it was serviceable but lacked that elusive “sparkle” for me. My favorite mid-length entry was CHELSEA BUN, because I watch a lot of Bake-Off, but MAGNIFICENT MILE feels not so evocative unless you’re a Chicagophile, and RAGTAG ARMY, OCEANARIUM, BLANKING ON are all fine but not super exciting. YMMV of course!
There’s a little bit of a trap at the 1A/1D crossing that would have snared me had this been a tournament solve. A four-letter entry with the clue [Loads] usually leads to A TON or A LOT; once I got some crossings I put in MOBS, and later wondered, “What’s a MAMMA ray?” Not a thing, obviously. But when you’re not checking crossings carefully, you leave a mistake in your grid. Oops!
Alexander Liebeskind’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Altering Course” — pannonica’s write-up
Anagrams in the theme:
- 114aR [Switch topics, and a hint to solving this puzzle’s theme answers] CHANGE THE SUBJECT. The first part of the educational offerings’ names have been rearranged to—wait for it—wacky effect.
- 23a. [Class on texts about the nativity scene?] MANGER LITERATURE (German Literature).
- 37a. [Class on developing products that are deliberately ambiguous?] UNCLEAR ENGINEERING (Nuclear Engineering).
- 48a. [Class on designing stands for hallways?] HAT TREE ARTS (Theater (or Theatre) Arts). This was the most difficult one for me to solve.
- 65a. [Class on crafting stories about volatile compounds?] REACTIVE WRITING (Creative Writing).
- 85a. [Class on perfectly performing magic tricks?] TA-DA SCIENCE (Data Science).
- 94a. [Class on logging on to iCloud accounts?] APPLE ID MATHEMATICS (Applied Mathematics).
Uneven in my opinion, but overall good. B-plus?
- 3d [Carnival craft] LINER. 42d [Clipper or cutter] SHIP. 29a [Irish seaport] SLIGO.
- 14d [Due follower] is not COURSE, of course, but TRE. 35d [Parisian pair] DEUX.
- 16d [Most reliable] DEFINITIVE. So glad this didn’t turn out to be DEFINITEST, as I began to fear.
- 18d [Like robusta coffee] STRONG. Is this a style of preparation, or a coffee made with the inferior (to Arabica) robusta beans?
- 50d [Admit mistakes] EAT CROW crossing 73a [“Ominous bird of yore” of verse] RAVEN.
- And speaking of yore … 60d [Many years ago] LONG SINCE, 76d [Many years ago] ONCE.
- 51d [Ballet conclusion?] SILENT T. Tough little number, right in the center.
- 71d [Often punny high school invitations] PROMPOSALS. New-to-me portmanteau.
- 72d [Market phenomenon of the 1630s Dutch Republic] TULIP MANIA. Nice entry.
- 94d [Good luck with that!] AMULET. I’m still not used to this style of clue in a standard crossword.
- 111d [Field laborers] REFS. Tricky formulation, but it is proximate to 115d [NFL scores] TDS.
- 11a [Transportation between storeys] LIFT. Note the British spelling.
- 19a [Bagel-topping cheese] ASIAGO. Have not tried this.
- 42a [Spill the tea, maybe] SCALD. Not idiomatic.
- 113a [Designer Helmut] LANG atop 118a [Peace Prize winner Wiesel] ELIE is quite the pairing. 66d [It has two wheels and four pedals] TANDEM.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Jarring Ends”—Matthew’s recap
Themers today end in words that are also types of “jars”:
- 20a [Philanthropist who won a court case for her family’s freedom in 1856] BIDDY MASON
- 35a [Small info file created while browsing] WEB COOKIE
- 40a [Dealing with a sticky situation] IN A PICKLE
- 52a [“United Shades of America” host] W KAMAU BELL
Enrique is one of my favorite active constructors, and this is a good example of why. It’s a clean, tight theme with a fun mix of themers, and even in the generally higher-word-count USA Today, the fill feels material and not gluey. [Heelys and cronuts, e.g.] for FADS is a clue that speaks RIGHT to my experience, and I quite like OSCAR BAIT and TIE THE KNOT as long entries holding the puzzle together on the right side.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Aside from a few entries—notably 1a À LA BROCHE, 40a SALT FIRING, 64a ASYNDETON, and 27d SHILLELAGH—the difficulty of this Stumper comes almost entirely from the cluing, which as per usual cozies up to being borderline unfair. On the other hand, since the puzzle was solvable (and relatively quickly too), not so unfair.
- 1a [Skewered then served] À LA BROCHE, literally “of the spindle”. The clue omits the cooking step, but perhaps that’s unnecessary for some edibles?
- 10a [“I need speed”] ASAP. Typical of the numerous not-quite-directly-on-target clues. 38a [Set one’s sights] AIMED.
- 17a [Sizable print makers] GREAT DANES. I mean, come on. The clue is accurate, but also somehow very indirect.
- 21d [Winged mud-prober] IBIS. Again, you’re definitely going to need crossings, and this is only a four-letter entry. I won’t be listing all the quasi-dubious clues, just realize that the puzzle is chock-full of them.
- 24a [Doing what’s dignified] NOBLY. Clue seems to want just NOBLE, so even this one ends up being tricky.
- 29a [Toon bearded brawny bully] BLUTO. Almost free-associative, this clue. And most certainly alliterative.
- 31a [Capital on the Persian Gulf] DOHA, 3d [Mideast capital-in-exile[ ADEN.
- 40a [Ceramist’s glazing process] SALT FIRING. Had KILN FIRING for a time.
- 42a [“Keep Commerce Human” site] ETSY; 7d [42 Across alternatives] CRAFT FAIRS.
- 49a [Sound of the city] SIREN. Thought I was being so hip and clever with SOFT C.
- 26d [Series with a 2022 “Saving Venice” episode] NOVA. Y’know, from the flooding. And maybe the giant cruise ships as well.
- 59a [Place for pipes and pumps] BOILER ROOM. And this one was so straightforward that it was a double-fakeout. >shakes fist<
- 64a [Omission of conjunctions in prose] ASYNDETON. As commenter RCook points out, this and PARATAXIS are often interchangeable. Definitions here from m-w: ASYNDETON – omission of the conjunctions that ordinarily join coordinate words or clauses (as in “I came, I saw, I conquered”). PARATAXIS – the placing of clauses or phrases one after another without coordinating or subordinating connectives.
- 4d [High-fiber food] BEANS. 53d [What Brits call some 4-Down] SOYA. It’s so easy to overlook the critical ‘some’ qualifier in that clue. Especially when working backwards in attempt to figure out 4-down.
- 8d [Name on Perfectly Moist mixes] HINES, of Duncan Hines.
- 10d [Record replacement] AUDIO TAPE. Not quite sure what ‘replacement’ means here.
- 11d [Password, from the Bible] SHIBBOLETH, which visually pairs nicely with it’s symmetrical cohort 27d [Part of the Boston Celtics logo] SHILLELAGH (which I’ll note has the same number of letters as LEPRECHAUN (1d ARGH!)—although now that I look at it I see the figure is just an Irish caricature. Perhaps I was thinking of the Notre Dame logo?
- 25d [Middle of Martius and Maius] As I see in retrospect that these are names of Roman months, ERGO (61a) the answer is IDES.
- 45d [Toes on a cuckoo’s foot] TETRAD. Could have used a “for one”-type qualifier here.
- 57d [Prefiguring] OMEN. Noun, not verb.
NYT: I just looked up ALPHAVILLE’s name like two days ago because that song got stuck in my head and I didn’t know which band performed it. It’s on the “Napoleon Dynamite” soundtrack during the school dance scene.
Just listened to (half of) Forever Young. Meh. As one who listened to a lot of 80s music, this was typical but forgettable.
With a Saturday gimme at 1-across, it was smooth sailing!
Agree with the “meh” on Alphaville tune, which has no relation at all to Bob Dylan/Rod Stewart song (suprised there was no lawsuit between them but apparently shared royalties)
The best? The inimitable Joan Baez on the Dylan version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4UoJ47SzjA
Juneteenth was a gimme, but I struggled through NE and SW otherwise. Never heard of Post Malone nor Alphaville prior.
Agree with all above, I liked JUNETEENTH and went huh? at ALPHAVILLE. Thanks for the link to an old favorite, marciem.
Alphaville’s “Forever Young” and “Big in Japan” are canonical 1980s pop. End of discussion
Yesterday I read that the NYT get 200 submissions a week and asked here how they manage to vet them all. (Ethan’s considerate answer: 3 or 4 assistants.) Now I’m curious: do they provide feedback on rejected puzzles? That could benefit future submissions, but it would take more time.
I haven’t submitted a puzzle to the NYT in months, but the feedback I got when I did (at a time when they were already getting 200 submissions a week) was minimal, along the lines of “Solid work, but the theme didn’t grab us.”
Thanks. I guess it wouldn’t have taken much time to add that to your notification after all.
All my rejection emails came from a different assistant editor. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had a set of canned responses for rejecting puzzles.
I don’t mean to criticize the editors. I hate to imagine what it’s like to try and sort through that many submissions week after week.
They used to provide more detailed rejection letters but in the last six months or so, it’s just basically “sorry and good luck.” Which is understandable.
STUMPER: I’m annoyed that PARATAXIS and ASYNDETON have the same number of letters and both work with the clue.
I was hoping for PARATAXIS, a word I first encountered when studying modernist poetry. The only things certain in modernism are dearth and parataxis.
pannonica’s …“cluing, which as per usual cozies up to being borderline unfair” is kind in the extreme.
NYT: ALPHAVILLE is pretty specific to a small group of Gen X’ers. I happen to be in that group but it seems borderline ungettable for the average solver.
The Rod Stewart “Forever Young” was similar enough to an earlier Bob Dylan song of the same name that they agreed to share the royalties.
1984 should be pretty close to my pop music sweet spot since I turned 25 that year, but I have no memory of either the song or the band. According to Wikipedia, the song peaked at 93 on the US charts and then 65 when it was re-released four years later. The band only charted with one other single in the US (“Big In Japan” isn’t familiar to me either) and that one peaked at 66. This probably helps to explain my ignorance.
I’m the same age as you and the ALPHAVILLE song is not at all familiar.
Caitlin Lovinger wrote in Wordplay that the song was in heavy rotation on MTV. I watched too much MTV back then, but still have no memory of the song.
To me “Forever Young” is a Dylan song and “Alphaville” a Godard movie, so I needed lots of crossings in the NYT SW, where I didn’t know OLGA or EVIL DEAD either, but all workable. NE seems the hardest.
Strangely uneven NYT for me. I sped through the left hand side, despite not knowing ALPHAVILLE, although I have heard of but not seen the Jean-Luc Godard movie of the same name. Then much slower on the other side. OBIEAWARDS was cleverly clued, had me thinking of actual props. I know the name POSTMALONE but got it only after filling in most of the crosses. Same with MOESTAVERN (everything I know about the Simpsons I learned from crosswords). DESERTROSE was new to me but gettable eventually.
Ended up being an average time overall.
“Same with MOESTAVERN (everything I know about the Simpsons I learned from crosswords). ”
This sounds like a crossword theme waiting to happen. I think there is a good list of things I put the correct answer in instantly but otherwise know nothing about.
NYT: I filled in ALPHAVILLE with only two crossings, and didn’t even need those. The theme of our high school senior prom (in 1987) was “Forever Young” based solely on that song.
That and JUNETEENTH up top made the left side of the grid fall much more quickly than the right.
This Stumper was very educational for me. I was sure ASYNDETON was wrong since I had never seen it before; it was interesting to read up on it post-solve, as was SHIBBOLETH. Amazing how clever people can be in deciding who to kill.
stAt at 10A made the NE almost unsolvable; thanks, BLUTO and PEAT, which gave me AUDIO TAPES.
TCM has a Godard tribute coming up next Tuesday, but “Alphaville” among the films they’re airing.
I listened to that Alphaville song after solving this morning and it has left no impression whatsoever. I was a teen when it came out, but… nothing.