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.