Trent Evans’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This puzzle has a lot to say, doesn’t it? “IT WASN’T ME!” “SO I GATHER…” “BIG DEAL,” it sniffs. It relents, “HOW ARE YOU?” It exhorts, “GET ’ER DONE!” Suddenly bellicose, the puzzle hollers “OH, IT’S ON!”
Other fun stuff: HIDEY-HOLE, HAND MODEL clued as [Pro with digital photography?], FRAT BOY, ROGAINE clued [Something that guarantees you’ll come out on top?] with hair growth, a DOG YEAR.
Took me a while to break into that middle stagger-stack of 9s, since I tried RAN LATE instead of RAN OVER. The grid design also adds to the challenge level, with the NW and SE chunks being rather isolated from the rest.
Four stars from me.
Lance Enfinger & Richard D. Allen’s L.A. Times crossword—Jack’s write-up
This is a pleasantly smooth themeless. It’s not trying to be flashy with stacks of Zs and Xs and Qs. Not every long slot shines (DEBACLES, LASERED, CLARETS, GRAIN-FED, and SOLID FOOD are mostly just more fill), but in return we get a squeaky clean grid and enough intrigue to uncover. These are the tradeoffs constructors face and while I also enjoy hyper-ambitious themelesses (with all of their compromises), I definitely want laidback puzzles like this one in my rotation.
My favorite entry is SO LAST YEAR. Paired with its clue [Like, crazy old], I could feel the sass from the puzzle judging my outfit. CHECKERED PAST, MORE OR LESS, and NO CONTEST also stand out. TIP JAR with its tough clue [Bill collector?] is a nice use of a 6-letter slot.
I imagine CSS [Computer language that works with HTML] will stall some solvers. My computer science background made this a gimme for me but I’m guessing it’s not universally known and it hasn’t appeared in many crosswords before. The rough breakdown for those who are curious: HTML dictates what elements appear on a web page (e.g. text, buttons, images) while CSS is used to style it (e.g. font, color, shape).
- 7D. [Place for free spirits] = OPEN BAR is a fantastic clue/entry pair.
- 27A. [Blocking stat] = SPF. Good tough clue. I assumed it had something to do with football.
- 30D. [Protected area in soccer] = SHIN. The puzzle again preying on my dearth of sports knowledge. I was sure it was “goal.” Nice misdirection.
- 31A. [Game whose name comes from the Swahili for “to build”] = JENGA. Cool fact!
- 40A. [Not as naïve] = SLIER. Is this right? I don’t think of “sly” as an antonym for “naïve”.
- 49D. [Fish, in a way] = TROLL. I had to look this up to learn that trolling is a type of fishing where you drag bait through water on a moving boat. I was very confused by this answer mid-solve.
Thanks Lance and Richard for an enjoyable diversion.
P.S. I’m new to Crossword Fiend and excited to contribute after years of enjoying the blog. Thanks Amy for graciously welcoming me to the team!
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turning Back” — pannonica’s write-up
This is a variety of theme we’ve seen before, involving reversals. In this case, there’s consistency in that all of the word reversals occur at the ends of phrases, and they’re always four letters in length.
- 22a. [Othello, up to the final scene?] LIVING MOOR (living room).
- 24a. [Logs moving down the flume] TIMBER FLOW (timber wolf).
- 34a. [Spot for a swimmer with boundless stamina?] INFINTE POOL (infinite loop). Not to be confused with an infinity pool.
- 40a. [What lemmings plunging into the see might be mistaken for?] FALLING RATS (falling star).
- 66a. [Having a really good guardian, say?] LUCK OF THE WARD (luck of the draw).
- 92a. [Teakettles?] WHISTLE POTS (whistle stops).
- 99a. [Extremely angry brushoff?] HOT CROSS SNUB (hot cross buns).
- 111a. [Some bad reviews for “Top Hat”?] GINGER PANS (ginger snap). Referring to Ginger Rogers.
- 113a. [Massive banister?] BIG FAT RAIL (big fat liar).
I appreciate how the clues are not particularly far-fetched—and many of the answers are reasonable too, on the ‘wackiness’ scale.
Another notable aspect is the pairing of theme answers (22a/24a, 111a/113a) in the same row. This configuration is not unique to Mike Shenk, but is something he does often enough for me to consider it a signature bit of crossword construction.
- 15d [Tree-lined walkway] ALLÉE. Went with ARBOR first.
- 36d [Global ring] TROPIC. This is geography. Both tropics are currently located at 23°26′10.6″ from the equator, (thanks, Wikipedia)
- 55d [Spanish river] EBRO. Key to remembering this is that it shares an etymology with IBERIA. Don’t confuse it with, say, the ARNO it Italy, which passes through Florence and Pisa.
- 72d [“The Morning of the Dragon” musical] MISS SAIGON. Still one of the most cleverly designed posters. The main graphic does triple duty: calligraphy, helicopter, and a woman’s face. Not sure how relevant ideograms are to the Viet Nam of the time, though.
- 78d [Competitions that take seconds] DUELS. Minor misdirection there.
- When I completed filling in the grid I was informed that there was at least one error. Not the sort of thing you want to hear about a big 21×21 grid. Turns out my mistake was at 52a [Confine] PEN UP, for which I had answered PEN IN, yielding 47d [Handles badly] MIFFS instead of MUFFS and 53d [Annie of “Young Sheldon”] NOTTS for POTTS. Fortunately I discovered the errors on my first checking pass.
- 74a [Target for a sweep] SOOT. Recently rewatched Spirited Away, and those susuwatari (‘SOOT sprites’) are just as 56a [Fetching] CUTE as ever—fetching both figuratively and literally!
- Oldish sports: 76a [Joe of the 1970s Oakland A’s] RUDI, 105a [1980 NFL MVP Brian] SIPE.
- 102a [Monk music] CHANTS, not BEBOP.
- 104a [End one’s obliviousness, informally] GET HIP.
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Untimed today, as I was interrupted mid-solve and neglected to pause the clock. Nevertheless, as per the ‘less rough’ byline, it was a relatively quick solve, with the exception of a couple troublesome spots.
In the top right, my woes were caused by 12d [Panda or person] ANIMAL, for which I’d entered MAMMAL. Also, 8d [Aid offer] CAN I HELP, versus I CAN HELP. I was eventually able to sort those by pinning down the acrosses. Seizing on 10d [Circus poster abbr.] BROS was instrumental here; it was a real AHA (19a Evidence of apprehension)] moment when I realized it could be—in fact was—referring to a specific circus (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey).
The lower middle and left was even more problematic. At 55a [Shell station?] I had CLAM BED, and for 51a [Misdirected paint] GLOBS not BLOBS—could not for the life of me understand how GLAZE could be a 51d [Metaphor for glory] and was chalking it up to typical stumperiness. I was more concerned about how it seemed as if 64a [Proving grounds] TEST BEDS was duplicating 55-across. After some very tough untangling I corrected 56d [Legal __ (controversial book’s prepublication step)] from the weird DEAD to the more sensible READ. From there I was able to correctly fill in 52d [What some policewomen are called] SARGE (2d [Objective arbiter?] HER HONOR) and finally get to CLAM BAR for 55-across.
- 1a [With 65 Across, the first to see his name “up in lights” (1881)] THOMAS | EDISON. Spiffy that they’re symmetrically placed. In fact, they bookend the proceedings.
- 16a [Vivien’s spouse, when she did “Streetcar”] LAURENCE. Leigh, Olivier. In real life, not the film.
- 31a [Track ref’s call] NO JUMP. I’ve never heard that, but I’m relatively unfamiliar with such matters.
- 37a [What Kareem wore on the court] PRO-KEDS. Is that something that people know? I wanted GOGGLES initially.
- 43a [Alternative to Bea] TRIXIE. If, like me, you were thinking of Beatrice rather than Beatrix, it would have been easy to think the answer was TRICIA.
- 57a [Puzzling code, perhaps] APP. Needlessly toughed-up clue. That’s the Stumper for ya.
- 1d [Wand waver] TSA AGENT. 3d [“The English Patient” author] ONDAATJE. Check out those double-As!
- 5d [What the Ponte Vespucci spans] ARNO. I just mentioned the river in the WSJ write-up. This is in Florence—Firenze.
- 30d [Cause of a rapid eye movement] STORM. Without a question mark and with that easy-to-overlook indefinite article, this is a tricky misdirect to something like SLEEP.
- 34d [Longfellow’s “child of nature”] ART. The full quote is more illustrative: “Art is the child of nature in whom we trace the features of the mother’s face.”
- 39d [23 Across-related star surname] DICAPRIO. 23-across is [Archer follower] GOAT, referring to the zodiac signs Sagittarius and Capricorn. However, during the solve I took it a further remove, thought GOAT was the now-common acronym for ‘greatest of all time’ and that the clue was overly laudatory to the actor. Of course now I see the etymological similarity.
- 42d [Glucose and fructose] ISOMERS. By omitting a qualifier such as ‘for example’, the clue obfuscates and misdirects the solver toward something along the lines of SUGARS (which obviously does not have enough letters). More Stumperization.
- 45d [Oxidize] AERATE. Wasn’t there recently a flap about this in another crossword? I can’t find it via searching.
Oh, and for 51-down it’s a BLAZE of glory.
NYT: Hardest Saturday for me in months.
I’m not sure how long it really took me, as I spent several minutes at the end trying to find a mistake: After a “Bond figures” clue (4D) that was clearly about debt instruments, I got clever with the “Bond figure” clue (34D) and put Dr. No.
Only the D survived, as dATE made perfect sense for a figure on a corporate or government bond, and for someone who has never played Texas Hold’em, dIVER CARD made as much sense as anything else that could have gone there.
I also had RAN late for a long time, which made it difficult to see the deceptively simple CAR ENGINE.
Yep, dIVER CARD here too…
Even though DATE showed up later under TRIAL DATE.
But I was surprised I got as far as finishing the rest, because it started off feeling very opaque to me. It’s a credit to the constructor that it can be solved with a little toehold here and there. I think it’s all the very familiar phrases. This puzzle is an example of how the cluing can dial the level of difficulty up or down.
And looking at it after the fact: I really like it!
Hmm. If I had realized TRIAL DATE was in there, I might’ve reconsidered 34D. Or not, since the NYT puzzle editors seem much more willing to allow duplicates in the grid than some other editors.
I know I’m being a bit of a sore loser, but that one crossing felt unfair. I wouldn’t say it killed all the joy from the puzzle, but it did leave me a little annoyed.
I also thought this was really tough. Part of the issue is that none of the answers are more than 9 letters long, so there are no grid-spanning answers that go into multiple sections that help create toeholds.
I don’t love TWITS crossing TWITTY, although I don’t think it’s fair for me to feel that way since the two answers have nothing to do with each other.
I also had DRNO at first.
NYT: good Saturday for me. NE last to fall. One mistake at GERE, had CERA, but nbd.
Regarding DOGYEAR. I always think the inverse is true. Instead of 2500 days, I think more of 52 days. If my dog lives to 12, they say it’s 84. So (365*12)/84= ~52.
So every 52 days, my dog ages one DOGYEAR. Or am I the only one who sees it that way??
It depends on who’s doing the thinking about age, you or your dog :)
The differential rate of aging is fascinating. The same with development– in lab rodents we watch them go from totally helpless newborns to pretty mature and weaned in 21 days and adults in 3 months. But then they are old by 1 year.
I’m with you, Mutman. I also argued with that one.
Really good workout in the NYT. Exemplifies ‘tough-but-fair’ and the kind of back-and-forth solving that I associate with the most satisfying crosswords.
For the puzzle as a whole, “tough-but-fair’ is accurate.
I know I’m being whiny, but the RIVER CARD/RATE crossing doesn’t strike me as fair. Clue RATE in some way that doesn’t allow dATE as a logical answer and I be fine with it.
LAT: This was most definitely a GOOD ONE, no MORE OR LESS about it! Props to constructors Lance and Richard, and editor Patti, for this ultra-polished and gratifying effort.
And a big welcome to new reviewer Jack. I look forward to more of your insights and bonhomie.
“And a big welcome to new reviewer Jack. I look forward to more of your insights and bonhomie.”
NYT: Tough for me, mainly because of so many names. And so many actors, in particular. Not my favorite puzzle.
Stumper: Easy, even by Les Ruff standards. AERATE as a synonym for oxidize came up in the NYT a while back, as I recall, and was justifiably dinged. You might aerate your lawn in the spring, or aerate a drink to turn it into soda. You are not oxidizing them.
Sometimes you aerate in order to oxidize. An example is decanting wine. One of the benefits to aerating and allowing wine to breathe is initiating the rapid oxidation of compounds, like tannins and anthocyanins, in lieu of sufficient bottle aging.
One step in purifying water is large-scale aeration, which (among other benefits) oxidizes iron and manganese compounds, which then precipitate out into the sludge for removal.
In other words, aerate is not a synonym for oxidize, but is often used TO oxidize. And on Saturday, that’s good enough for a clue I think.
Stumper was not easy for me by any stretch but I managed to solve it, with a couple of wrong letters. Really thought TACOBAR would be correct for a while.
I had TACO BAR for a long while, too, probably because that clue and answer pair were just in Friday’s NYT puzzle. (Well, maybe not the exact same clue, but close.)
Uni … whew! … This was a completely out of character Uni puzzle for this solver. Every now and then, I really stub my toe on one of their puzzles. The researcher/statistician in me refers to this as an outlier.
THIRST TRAP (I went with THIRSTy RAP) crossing SCREAMO and a title word from a nearly 50 year old book about the history of psychology? What the …?!? Ouch.
That said, I’m happy to be informed of the book. I’m pretty sure that I never heard about it in any of the dozens of psych classes I took in college and grad school in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
WSJ … It sure seems like we’ve been getting a lot of Mike Shenk’s own puzzles lately. This makes 3 of the last 4 Saturdays, 6 of the last 12 and 11 of the last 46 puzzles overall. I wonder if he’s not getting many submissions from other constructors? It almost reminds me of a few years back when we’d occasionally get an entire week of puzzles published under his various pseudonyms (mostly female, interestingly).
I know what an INFINITy POOL is. INFINITE POOL is a new one on me.
Stumper: definitely not less rough for me this week! I stared at the mostly-empty west side for a long time before I finally saw EMULATED, and somehow that opened everything up.
– Can someone explain “Puzzling code” for APP? I don’t get it.
– I love/hate how such a great clue like “Shell station?” could be SAND BAR or TACO BAR or CLAM BAR or…
– Finally a name-related-to-name clue that actually makes sense! Bea is short for Beatrice or Beatrix! And so is Trixie! Look at that, name clues don’t have to be meaningless after all.
– GOAT/ONDAATJE/NOJUMP was absolutely brutal. ONDAATJE’s clue could literally have been “Random letters”. NO JUMP is meaningless. GOAT was really hard to get, especially since at first I spelled GARMIN with an E, so DICAPRIO was hard to see.
– I love clues like “They should’ve been there” for TRUANTS. The clue seems so vague — who is they? where is there? — but the answer is spot on, and it suddenly makes the clue super specific.
– WAGE RATE seems redundant. A wage is already a rate. It would be like using the phrase “speed rate” to mean “speed.”
ONDAATJE was a gimme for me, so that made that section a whole lot easier. It led me to NOJUMP without too much trouble.
I think the idea behind APP is that it’s a piece of code that may (in some cases) power a game or puzzle of some sort.
I agree about WAGE RATE — but this is the Stumper and I’ve come to expect clues and answers that stretch the limits of meaning, logic and plausibility. (As with the clue for APP…)
My only problem with ONDAATJE was how to spell it. Both his name and WOOKIEE have extra letters. Once I had ONDAATJE correct, the new-to-me NO JUMP jumped out at me.
Wage rate is a thing. “Wage” is redundant, at least, since it can mean how much a worker is paid in toto. Wage rate is a formal specification of how the worker is paid, and how much per unit of productivity. For instance, the wage rate of a salesperson could be per dollar sold. The wage rate of a piece worker could be per finished good. Many worker are paid per hour, of course, but wage rate applies more broadly.
Stumper: I needed the P of PRO KEDS before I decided Longfellow’s “child of Nature” wasn’t an AnT after all.
And I was sure 21D was looking for an old-timey prefix for teen. TUT, aha.
When I see the word WALE, I think of corduroy, not weaves, so WhALE was another AHA.
Corduroy is woven.
Mike Shenk’s WSJ puzzle, Turning Back: I literally laughed out loud at 40 across! Very funny!
About 20 minutes for the Stumper and 11:30 for the LAT. Both nice puzzles that make up for my effective DNF on the NYT puzzle and my failure to get today’s Wordle.
Welcome, Jack Murtagh! I’ve enjoyed your puzzles in the NYT (and possibly elsewhere) and look forward to reading more of your reviews.