Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This is one of those puzzles where I glanced at all the clues in the northeast section and found not a single gimme. When I tried the bottom half of the grid, my 8-letter gimme turned out to be 100% wrong (36d. [Like the strongest case], that’s PROVABLE and not IRONCLAD). Oof! So a slower-than-anticipated solve.
New to me: 21a. [___ Babbitt, inventor of the circular saw], TABITHA. She was born in 1779 and had some other unrelated inventions. Neat!
Fave fill: JACKASSES, UP AND QUIT, the weird-looking JUNEAUITE, trivia/game show TOSS-UP QUESTIONS, “IS THIS IT?”, “OH, HELL NO,” JUJUBE, QUEER LIT, JINX, and CAN’T-LOSE.
In the category of “Is that a thing?”, we have WARBLOGS (which, sadly, are not blogs dedicated to warblers) and RAP AT. Wikipedia lists a bunch of early-2000s warblogs I recognize … as blogs that bloggers I read mentioned, but not as blogs that I actually read. RAP AT is one of those clunky “combine a short verb and a two-letter word and Bob’s your uncle” sort of entries that irk me.
Couple clues I liked:
- 29d. [Tends to a minor issue?], SITS. Issue = offspring. Minor = underage. Tends to minor children = babySITS.
- 34d. [It has its limits], CITY. Not misleading so much as oblique and potentially referring to lots of things.
Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
I was surprised to find that this grid has only 72 words and 34 black squares, because it sure feels like a grid for a themed puzzle with its 10s, 14s, and 15 going across the grid and a lot of 3-, 4-, and 5-letter entries (57 in total). It’s that abundance of short answers, plus the fact that the longer theme-like entries were more trivia than tricky wordplay, that turns this into a pretty easy (I would say too easy) puzzle, despite the very top left corner being harder to get a foothold in than usual.
- 30A [Michael’s “Space Jam” teammate] is BUGS. Cute! I have never seen either Space Jam, but the clue is evocative even if you haven’t seen the movie.
- 37A [“Time Quintet”] novelist is MADELEINE L’ENGLE. I suppose this might have been tricky if I had come to it with no crossings, but the rest of the puzzle is so easy that if you’re working in a clockwise fashion from the top left, you’ll have most of her name in before you even read the clue.
- 29D [Navigation aids that ring in waves] is BELL BUOYS. I never knew that’s what such things were called, so this was a welcome speed bump in a puzzle that didn’t have many.
- 34D [Former ABC series based on a telenovela] is UGLY BETTY, which was a great show.
- 38D [Rest 63-Across] is LIE ON (63A is ATOP). I don’t love difficulty achieved through cross-references, although again the crossings were easy enough that I didn’t notice this clue until after I was done solving.
Although there are some fun evocative entries, I could’ve used a lot more wordplay!
Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twist Ties” — pannonica’s write-up
For unclear reasons—there is no revealer and the title isn’t particularly illuminating—the tetragram -ties has been suffixed to familiar phrases to make ‘wacky’ ones, often changing spellings as necessary.
- 23a. [Bedbugs in the barracks?] MILITARY COOTIES (… coup).
- 39a. [Midriff-baring uniform tops?] JERSEY SHORTIES (… Shore).
- 66a. [Ready for some revelry?] UP TO PARTIES (… par).
- 91a. [Peace accords in organized crime?] FAMILY TREATIES (… tree).
- 110a. [Sheepdogs with their heads out of the passenger window?] SHOTGUN SHELTIES (… shell). ‘Sheltie’ is a hypocorism for the Shetland sheepdog breed.
- 3d. [Juggle responsibilities?] BALANCE DUTIES (… due).
- 57d. [Cavalry charges?] SADDLE SORTIES (… sores).
These are mildly amusing, but what’s the rationale that binds them? The sufiixed -ties indeed twist the meanings of the original words in the modified phrases, but this feels inadequate.
- 8d [Makeup of a puffball‘s puff] SPORES.
- 9d [Strong emotion] HATE. We see this in numerous examples, from charged politics to the mystic ways of the Force in the Star Wars franchise. And classical mythology and, well, just about everything humans do.
- 25d [Bouquets] ODORS. I make it a habit to highlight when odor is clued nonpejoratively.
- 33d [NASA landed six of them on the moon] LEMS. Was the acronym for Lunar Excursion Module a knowing nod to influential science fiction Stanislaw LEM, or is it just coincidence?
- 55d [Omission] GAP. 101a [Suspend temporarily] SUSPEND.
- 90d [Commands] BEHESTS, 117a [Carries out] OBEYS.
- 1a [Inner ear part] COB. Fooled me.
- 70a [Misrepresents] LIES ABOUT. 72a [Handles the bill] PAYS. Kind of like Elon Musk was caught doing about several dozen notable Twitter accounts vis-à-vis the new paid subscriptions.
- 99a [Leatherneck’s yell] OORAH. This is Marines lore.
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Honestly I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish this one. It was such slow going for the longest time. But somehow I managed to chip into a few areas and even when I was all but stumped a chunk would fall. And then another, and another. Before I knew it one section was completed, then another and so on, until it was just the last tendrils in the lower right.
The final breakthrough was realizing that 55a [Solitaire variety] was about gems, not cards, and I was able to fill in CUT after EMERALD. From there, ARM, ACID, and RUNG were much easier to see. But I needed all the crossings for 53d [What often comes with a new addr.] MTGE (mortgage).
Before the usual run-through, I need to highlight what I can’t see as anything other than a very wrong clue. 57a [Orca cousin] MAKO. One of these is a mammal, the largest in the dolphin family, and the other is a medium-large sized shark. They are both predators and live in the ocean, but they are far from cousins. Unless there is some other, non-faunal context that I’m unaware of, this is simply an egregious error.
- 19a [Device with a mirrored pentaprism] SLR. A gimme for me, but only marginally helpful for the overall solve.
- 28a [Refreshments that aren’t hard to enjoy] MOCKTAILS. Tried COCA-COLAS for a bit.
- 38a [“Just what I wanted,” often] LIE. Another gimme, and slightly more helpful.
- 44a [With the hour almost gone] TWO TO. RANDOM.
- 47a [What’s common to a nail and a whale] HEAD. RANDOM.
- And to round out the whale-fixated cluing: 60a [Singer/songwriter claiming a whale in his family history] MOBY—Herman Melville is an ancestor, hence his stage name.
- 2d [ __ Philharmonic (regular performer of Prokofiev)] URAL needed three crossings to be convinced that this was the correct answer.
- 12d [Challenge for a Quarter Horse] BARREL RACE.
- 14d [Battleship call] B-TEN. RANDOM.
- 16d [“The sport of circumstances,” per Byron] MEN. Um, ok?
- 24d [NFL protective contingent] DTS. Defensive tackles, protecting … the secondary? The end zone? Offensive tackles protect the quarterback, which seems more apt iin relation to the clue.
- 27d [Is out and about] SLEEPWALKS. Great clue, my favorite of the crossword.
- 30d [Where you’ll often find the Swiss] CHEESE TRAY. Almost as good a clue.
- 33d [One of the Seven Ancient Wonders, in today’s Turkey] MAUSOLEUM. The one at Halicarnassus.
- 39d [Four-atom chloride, to chemists] TET. Short for tetrachloride.
- 43d [Job for a chef] LADLER. Kind of RANDOM.
- 47d [Leg-day regimen beneficiary] HAMstring.
- 56d [Middle of the century when the Ostrogoths left Rome] DLI. Kind of RANDOM.
Universal, “Universal Freestyle 69” by Evan Kalish — norah’s write-up
DISSENTCOLLAR 36a [Notable item of neckwear worn by Ruth Bader Ginsburg]
SIGNALBOOSTED 35A [Amplified by retweeting, perhaps]
UNRETIRES 16A [Gets back into the game?]
BITROLE 20D [Part with few lines]
GAMIFIED 11D [Added competitive elements to]
Nice grid from Evan today with a fun and clean middle stairstack, and some real color in the clues: ETS 49D [The heptapods in “Arrival,” e.g.: Abbr.]; PLANETS 27D [What the Kepler space telescope was designed to discover]; AIRFILTER 10D [What gathers dust when in use?]
While ultimately I wish there was more freshness to this grid, clean is the name of the game and Evan nailed it.
Thanks Evan and the Universal team!