Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This one took a seeming eternity to finish, and I’m going lay the blame for that on a nonphonetic variant spelling. 12D. [Consumer of cod, but not cow]? Well, that’s a gimme: PESCATARIAN, with a hard C. Who knew the “e” variant PESCETARIAN would appear instead? Oof! Made it hard to envision BEER BONGS at a tailgate.
Fave fill: CANDY BARS from Mars, ONE TO WATCH, PILFERS, POND SCUM, BREADBOXES, SWOLE.
- 6A. [Source of masago, in Japanese cuisine], SMELT. I didn’t know Japan had smelt. Smelt season is upon us in the Great Lakes, but smelt populations are down so those late-night fish fries on the beach are hard to come by.
- 11A. [Soft drink that originally contained the mood-stabilizing drug lithium citrate], SEVEN UP. Bring back 7Up Classic! Apparently Coke also had it once.
- 26A. [They have bags under their eyes, for short], TSA. As in luggage they’re inspecting visually, though we don’t deny that TSA agents can have all the undereye circles they want. Great clue.
- 30A. [Astronomer’s calculation], SOLAR TIME. No idea that was a thing that existed. Read up if you wish.
- 9D. [Money that goes to a casino], LOSINGS. Is that a word? Merriam-Webster says no but other dictionaries tell us it is indeed a word and it refers to gambling losses. Great opposite to winnings.
Rafael Musa & Brooke Husic’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle felt harder than my time indicates, I think mostly because it was impossible to get a foothold in the NW corner as I usually do. But working around the puzzle clockwise starting in the NE helped me pick up the lost time.
Some nice evocative entries like SAZERACS, RISOTTO, SPACE JAM, DESPACITO, EYES EMOJI, and RIDIN’, as well as natural-feeling phrases like I KNOW A PLACE and BETTER YET made the fill feel special. I also appreciated these great clues:
- 1A [Copywriter?] is a SCRIBE. I knew that something related to making copies was meant right away, but couldn’t get past the idea of trying to find a six-letter word for a Xerox machine other than the obvious (and obviously wrong) one.
- 32A [24-hour extension period?] is a LEAP YEAR.
- 38A [Easy way to get a six-pack] is a BEER RUN. LOL. True. (I have a six-pack. It’s just hiding under a blanket right now!)
- 51A [Bird in the bush] is a fresh clue for the ubiquitous EMU.
- 14D [River down under?] is the STYX, as in the river that bounds the underworld in Greek mythology.
- 49D [Member of a rap trio with Spinderella] is PEPA. Always here for a Salt-n-Pepa reference.
- 54D [Non-opposing remarks?] is OUIS. I had to look at this one a couple of times to realize that “Non” here means French “no” and not the prefix it appears to be. Very clever.
David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Two, Four, Six, Eight …”
While I appreciate the feat of the theme’s construction, as a solver my reaction is 81d “MEH“.
The gimmick, as imparted by the central revealer, is that symmetrically placed long across answers share the same letters in their even positions. Those squares are already filled in for us.
- 66aR [Comparable in skill, like each symmetrical pair of answers with circles?] EVENLY MATCHED.
- 21a. [Cut out meat] WENT VEGETARIAN.
114a. [Futuristic] NEXT-GENERATION.
- 29a. [It monitors pounds] BANK OF ENGLAND.
101a. [Tread carefully] WALK A FINE LINE.
- 40a. [Marine conservation slogan] SAVE THE WHALES.
93a. [Group of celebrities on “To Tell the Truth,” e.g.] GAME SHOW PANEL.
- 14d. [Famous first words] RISE AND SHINE.
61d. [Wait] BIDE ONE’S TIME.
Perhaps if the letters also spelled something? Or if the theme answers—the pairs at least—had something ontological in common? Don’t know. Again, it seems more like a constructor’s gambit than something to please solvers.
The good news is that the crossword is just fine as a themeless.
- 3d [National park known for its grand opening?] WIND CAVE. It’s in South Dakota.
- 13d [“Raiders of the Lost Ark” reptiles] ASPS. Very dangerous, I’m to understand.
- 19d [Giraffe feature] NECK. 83a [Giraffe feature] SPOT. The generic name Camelopardalis references the latter, pardal- being Greek for ‘spotted’.
- 50d [Power couple?] ACDC. Cute.
- Couple of notable misdirections: 59d [Boxers’ reactions to the bell?] BARKS, 12a [Where to see a crane constructing a home] MARSH.
- 57a [Good well] GUSHER. The kind of clue that one can easily trip over because it takes a moment or two to parse correctly.
- 79a [Cheapest things at the supermarket] SAMPLES. 124a [Most exciting seat at a horse race] SADDLE.
- 86a [Inflatable pool filler] HOSE. The structure itself is inflated with air, but the basin it forms is filled with water.
- 121a [Joint attack?] KNEEING. Also cute, if painful.
Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Not too tough today! It still epitomizes the tough-but-mostly-fair ethos that Stumpers aim for, but we’re definitely on the gentler sider of the spectrum today.
I certainly had some missteps, but it wasn’t much trouble to work everything out.
My first (and as it turned out, last) snag was in the top center. Had a good start by getting both 1-across and 1-down, but then things took a turn. 14-across [Storming] sure seemed like it wanted to be ON A RAMPAGE, but crossings and other proximate entries weren’t reinforcing it. 17a [Crimefighter who’s really put together] was not LEGAL EAGLE (it was LEGO BATMAN—great clue), and 4a [Workplace with an airlock] was neither CIA LAB nor DNA LAB (it was BIO LAB). I was only able to sort everything out to correct the completed grid by discerning that CABA for 4d [Rummy creation] was nonsensical—changed it to BABA and 6d [Choice word] was the more accurate OPT instead of the less apt APT.
- 15d [Offering from GM’s Cruise] ROBO TAXI. I only knew this because just yesterday I saw a link to a news story about them. 62a [Prudent antivirus setting] AUTO UPDATE.
- 12d [Origamist’s purchase] ONION SKIN. I suppose it’s useful for the more complex , multi-ply creations, but you’ve got to be extra-careful about tears (visual pun intended).
- 13d [Pilot products] PEN CASES. 28a [They may follow pilots] TV SERIES.
- 24d [Hand-raising requirement] DELTOID. I’d first tried SCAPULA without any crossings in place.
- 29d [Southern sch. with weekly parades] VMI. It’s the Virginia Military Institute, as I’ve just learned.
- 32d [Querulous quote from Christie] SACREBLEU. Probably Poirot. But now I’m finding the humor in imagining the former New Jersey governor making such an exclamation.
- 33d [They’re stuffed with sushi] CRAB ROLLS. Uh … ok?
- 37d [Lasting, in product names] STA-. Not duplicating 30d [Stationmaster’s concern] ETA.
- 38d [“The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the __”: (Gray)] LEA. Proud that I was able to guess this one correctly based only on the quote and the meter. Here’s Thomas Gray’s poem.
- 49d [It’s meant to be mixed up] TEN AM. The return of the cryptic-style clue. Here, meant is anagrammed.
- 23a [Pinot Noir partner] EDAM. I was not aware that this is some sort of standard pairing.
- 34a [What could be up your sleeve] LINT. Bit of a stretch.
- The long central entry: 36a [Study of capitalistic crises] MARXIST ANALYSIS. I watched Reds (1981) for the first time recently. Good film, but quite lengthy.
- 43a [Totes things] RAIN WEAR, not RAIN GEAR.
- 52a [Nautically named warehouse carts] U-BOATS. News to me.
- 63a [Work (out)] SUSS. 44d [Be frugal with] EKE OUT.
- 64a [Storage units] CHESTS. Minor misdirection. We’re so conditioned these days to the digital world.
NYT: “Made it hard to envision BEER BONGS at a tailgate.” I’ve never been to a tailgate, but the ones I’ve ridden past on my bike seem to involve giant TVs and barbecue grills more than BEER BONGS.
I always struggle with Sid Sivakumar’s puzzles, but this was harder than most — I felt like I was trying to solve a Saturday Stumper. I’d get one answer that would give me one or two more, and then I would get stuck again.
The NE corner in particular took forever; I kept putting EraseS for “Wipes out,” taking it out, and putting it back in. It finally dawned on me that maybe the opposite of “winnings” is LOSINGS. I don’t think I have ever heard that word before.
I had a similar experience, especially with LOSINGS.
And like Amy, I spelled PESCATARIAN with an A, which resulted in a pesky (haha) AE horizontally.
Liked ART SCENES and DON’T PUSH ME, in addition to what Amy liked. And some of the cluing was very creative.
It’s amazing to me that Lithium was in soft drinks! I wonder if it caused some issues if people drank a lot of soda. Its dosage needs to be closely monitored when prescribed, but I’m guessing the amount was small?
Wikipedia says it was the key ingredient when the drink that became 7-Up was first marketed in 1929 as a hangover remedy (which gets even funnier when you remember drinking was illegal at the time). Then lithium was removed in 1948 when FDA made it illegal.
I realize it’s a Saturday, so no one is writing “(var.)” in the clue, but I didn’t love having the much-less-common PESCETARIAN in there. The puzzle was way harder than a typical NYT Saturday already, and it made it much harder to gain a toehold into the NE for me.
Wondering what people think about cluing SPACEX as “they,” which I think goes against standard American grammar rules that a company name is singular. I’m unclear why it’s not clued as “it.”
I think this is the third time I’ve seen Camila Cabello in a crossword clue in a week.
NYT also took me an eternity. Beer bongs seem to be more apt for frat parties than tailgates, but okay. I got absolutely no traction until Canadians got me moving in the SW. Tough one!
Out of curiosity, I totaled my times for this week’s Monday through Friday NYT puzzles. All together, they took me five minutes more than the Saturday puzzle.
Just a couple of clue changes — SMELT and SENORITA — might have made this a completely different (and more enjoyable) puzzle for me. (Not that I expect any constructor to tailor a puzzle to me.)
Newsday: One Lester Ruff evidently edited this one as far as my solve went. Pretty comparable to today’s NYT (syndicated) and didn’t really feel too stumpery compared to a few of the others this week. #2 in difficulty this week but nosing out several other grids.
LAT: Similar experience to the reviewer. Probably dropped everything but the NW in about 5 minutes but had to grind on a couple of entries in that corner before I finally got there.
WSJ: Pretty pro-forma, nothing too interesting in the solve. Probably a little slow trying to figure out what is going on with the theme, but never did and finished anyway. Lower rated for me mainly because of that esoteric theme I’m still staring at to try to figure out past the circles being in the even spots (is that all that was meant by 66-A?). Probably a good indication they could have shunted this to the meta puzzle and did something there if there’s a real meaning past that.
WSJ: The same circled letters are in the same positions in the symmetrical answers, like 21A & 114A and 43A & 93A. Whoever thought that was a good idea a puzzle should maybe think again. I can appreciate the construction, but it was a boring, boring solve.
Dear Grumpy: My husband and I finished this WSJ puzzle 4/8-9/23 with no problem, as usual, but when we finished, we both wondered what the circled letters signify; after wracking my brain, I got the impression there was a certain repetition to them but, considering the weekend of this publication, I had hoped David Steinberg had left us an Easter message, like an Easter egg hunt for grown ups – something FUN, but NO! Thank you for explaining. – Grumpy Too
I thought the Stumper was going to be easier, because I filled the NW in like 30 seconds. But then I stopped dead, and really struggled with the rest. reaP before CROP slowed me way down. Two companies I’ve never heard of (Pilot and Totes) made those answers super hard to see. (Do people actually know pen and rainwear company names??) And who is Christie?
Agatha Christie. The detective Hercule Poirot used the term in her books.
Pilot gel pens are pretty ubiquitous in the States.
For PENCASES I would have loved the more arcane clue “Pelikan pouches.” Pelikan is a great name in fountain pens.
Stumper was unusually easy and NYT unusually hard.
I didn’t think twice about spelling PESCETARIAN with an E rather than an A, but the other comments here—as well as Ngrams—tell me I’m in the minority.
Just the opposite here. I honestly don’t recall ever seeing this spelling before now. If I have, I must’ve dismissed it as a typo. That made for an especially difficult crossing with BEERBONGS, which, like Bill @ 8:26, I have never associated with tailgating. A really brutal Saturday puzzle.
Same here. There are a lot of people over at Wordplay insisting that it can only be spelled with an A.
I had a different problem with PESCETARIAN: I thought the answer would be a member of some religious group that doesn’t eat beef.
WSJ: When I got to the revealer (after completing most of the top half), I had the same first thought as others have expressed: this is a constructing feat that is impressive but doesn’t look fun for the solver. But having figured out the notion, I did what I would normally never do: I filled in the circles in the symmetrical answers in the bottom half. I supposed maybe that was how DS intended the solver to do it. Anyway, I then found it pretty fun to guess those long symmetrical answers — more fun than it would have been to just arrive at them through my usual top-to-bottom solving style.
I too am trouble by the second E in PESCETARIAN. I’ve always seen/heard it with an A. I say “heard” it because when C is followed by an E, the C is usually soft, as in CEDAR or CELERY, but the word “PESCETARIAN” is pronounced with a hard C, hence PESCATARIAN.
I believe that in Italian, the C would be soft. Think of Joe Pesci, for example.
Glad I’m not in the minority about the NYT puzzle today. Definitely entered PESCATARIAN first and it took me forever to get the NE corner as others have mentioned. I didn’t click with the COAL MINER or STEEL BEAMS clues for some reason, and LOSINGS gave me pause as well. But it got completed, just with a longer solve time. I do like a challenging Saturday puzzle.
Stumper: As hard as the NYT, probably harder. After 35 minutes or so, I caved and checked a few answers and revealed a few squares. LINT is a stretch; I forgot to consider an anagram for TEN AM; ARIADNE is just a name from Greek mythology for me; I knew Totes makes umbrellas but didn’t know they made RAINWEAR (and that’s a tough clue in any case).
MAO SUIT seems much less a thing than a MAO jacket, unless there’s something special about the pants.
Stumper – 3/4ths was relatively easy but the SW from ROBOT on down was opaque to me. I couldn’t get past Miss Marple or ear buds and the clues for AÇAÍ and UBOATS made me say, “HUH?”
I’m afraid I’m going nowhere in the NYT NE after a few hours and will probably have to give up. I’m really embarrassed, but here we are.
But question in the NW. (Also a difficult corner, where I had “peeled” for ZESTED and never read “Anne of Green Gables.”) In what sense is “boots” DEPOSES?
Oh, so sorry. Deposes as in boots from office. By all means close enough even without “from office” for a crossword.