Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s recap
We get a puzzle with left-right symmetry for our Saturday crossword, lots of open space.
Fave fill: TAKE CENTER STAGE (this is an entry that’s supposed to be in row 8, obviously), EXPLICIT CONTENT (tricky clue: [Record label], but it’s a label stuck on a record album rather than the company putting out the records), CASE-INSENSITIVE, MILLE-feuille pastry because pastry, SCREW CAPS on wine, ALEX HALEY, OIL PASTELS (man, I loved Cray-Pas as a kid! That classic oil pastel scent and greasiness somehow felt like art. I was instantly gripped by a desire to buy a set of oil pastels tonight … until I asked myself what I would do with them and had no answer), AMERICAN LIT, DIRT ROAD, MAIN EVENT, “I BETTER GO.”
I got ARTEMISIA easily with the clue, [Plant genus named after the Greek goddess of nature], despite not knowing Artemis is the goddess of nature. Don’t know the plants at all, though. (Absinthe!) Would have preferred an art clue about painter Artemisia Gentileschi.
Wordplay-nerd clue: 36A. [Item that can be described by changing its last letter to a P], SHARD.
Four stars from me.
Alex Eaton-Salners’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Members Only” — pannonica’s write-up
Selected letters, read left to right, in certain phrases spell out something belonging to the group described. They all share the same generic clue, to wit: [The circled letters, e.g.]. This practice adds a layer of difficulty.
- 23a. SOCIAL INSECT, ANT.
- 41a. PAIN RELIEVER, ALEVE.
- 48a. [ACADEMY STUDENT, CADET.
- 64a. ODD NUMBER, ONE.
- 77a. SOUTHEAST ASIAN, THAI.
- 84a. CABLE NETWORK, BET.
- 106a. DRUG SMUGGLER, MULE.
These are pretty good finds.
- 36d [Self-assured sparkle] ÉLAN. Interesting clue choice.
- 38d [Unionizes, in a way] WEDS. 40d [Yoked pair] OXEN.
- 49d [Ribs unit] SLAB. Seems a bit … crude?
- 73d [Capital on the Akerselva River] OSLO, 86d [Capital on the Rideau River] OTTAWA, 67a [Capital on the Red River] HANOI.
- 81d [Unqualified] ABSOLUTE. Terse misdirection. Similarly: 87d [Cast] HEAVED.
- 12a [Aptly named aquatic bug] TOE-BITER, family Belostomatidae.
- 27a [Debate position] CON. 58d [Debate position] PRO.
- 30a [Retail brokers and small investors, e.g.] SELL SIDE. New term on me.
- 38a [Bookmaker?] WRITER. 33a [Prepped for print] EDITED. 42d [Book reviewer?] AUDITOR.
- 93d [Island north of Java] BORNEO. Including this only to report that I had a ridiculous mental block for this, which I should have known instantly.
- 103a [River to the Gulf of Guinea] NIGER. Surprisingly not clued with reference to Niamey, the capital city of the namesake country.
Overall I thought the crossword was solid but not too exciting. The theme to me has a sort of “look what I found” demonstrative quality.
Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Untimed because I accidentally paused the timer at some point during the solve. Suffice to say that it took a long time. I was unprepared for such a difficult workout this morning!
Very stumpery set of clues. Too many to reproduce here, so just a few notables:
- 14a [Go over well] SCOUR. Toyed with OCCUR.
- 21a [Cry for] LAMENT. Unexpectedly direct, a double-fakeout.
- 36a [Rustic jam] HOOTENANNY.
- 54a [Be stingy] SMART. That’s read with a hard-g.
- 58a [With 45 Down, hardly a personal preference] PET | PEEVE. Y’know, my time would have been marginally faster had I not persisted in misreading this as ‘personal reference’.
- 1d [Galaxy cluster] APPS. Took far too long for me to entertain the notion that this was referring to a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet.
- 6d [Wear thin] ANNOY. Especially tough clue.
- 13d [Peruvian brandy cocktail] PISCO PUNCH. Pisco sour is of course the famous national drink, but it didn’t fit. And then, even after I’d managed to get the ending PUNCH, it took me quite a while to pair it with PISCO. Story of my solve—I was my own worst enemy.
- 21d [Fennel, for instance] LEAFY GREEN. I questioned this, but defer to Wikipedia’s list of leafy greens.
- 23d [Bit of Spanish in Hemingway’s first novel] TORO. 49d [Half of several hyphenated words in Hemingway’s first novel] BULL—I gather he hyphenates bullfight in The Sun Also Rises? It’s been a very long time since I read it. 19a [Is up] RISES.
- 26d [Color similar to Flame Orange] NEON CARROT. Uh, ok? I guess this a Crayola® color?
- 28d [Support for statisticians] DATA ENTRY. Bit tricky.
- 35d [One of four anagrams for SETTERS] TESTERS. Ugh. Not my favorite genre of clue.
- 42d [Thoroughfare bordering Yale U.] ELM ST. Eef, oof.
Rachel Fabi and Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Once again we’ve got a Saturday that puts the “gentle” in “gentle challenge,” although there’s plenty of lively vocabulary to make up for the lack of difficulty:
- 1A [Poor, unfortunate souls] is WAIFS, which is not necessarily a “sparkly” word on its own, but just try to read that clue and not hear the song in your head.
- 6A [Catch a ride to the beach?] is a very clever clue for SURF. After all, they never said which direction you were catching that ride from.
- 18A [Commercial pest control?] is BODEGA CAT, and I’m delighted that this very NYC phenomenon has made it into national parlance enough to be in a mainstream puzzle.
- 23A [Nosy one] is BUTTINSKI, which is a fun word to say although I wish there’d been some kind of a variant indicator here. The more common spelling is BUTTINSKY, and having a Y after WHAT in the crossing WHAT IS HAPPENING leads one to believe the word after WHAT must be YOU. That is extra difficulty, but of the kind that feels a little unfair.
- 33A [Analog reminders] is a nice clue for POST-ITS. What did we do before we kept our entire lives on our phones? (I wrote reminders on POST-ITS, for sure, and also on the back of my left hand, a practice for which my husband used to make fun of me. But you lose bits of paper…you don’t lose your hand!)
- 39A [Mule sound] is a deceptive clue for LONG U, at least if you haven’t solved the puzzle such that you have most of the crossings by the time you get to the clue. I had them, so this was merely an “oh, cute” rather than a source of difficulty.
- 4D [Twit] is FLIBBERTIGIBBET, which is a fun word to say out loud.
Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword — Matthew’s recap
This puzzle’s longest entries are all related — food items you may find at a Jewish deli — but there’s no other wordplay. I assume that’s why it’s also labeled “Freestyle.” Two small thoughts to that. First, I quite like acknowledging that a list like this is not a “theme,” per se, but it still can be a puzzle. Second, it seems that “Freestyle” is picking up steam over “Themeless,” particularly from the Andrews McMeel Universal crowd, which will soon also have puzzles in Apple News. I know some constructors in the past have preferred “Freestyle” but I’ve never understood the strong feelings. Interested if anyone wants to weigh in.
I enjoyed this grid, especially given how constrained it is to accommodate a 13-15-13 “theme” set. Not a lot of vertical room, but IT HAS TO BE [“I’m certain that’s true”] and TEACUP PIG both add plenty of color. I am always glad to have reason to think about IN N OUT, though I know it has its detractors.
One nit, and it is certainly a nit and not a large complaint: I come across this often, but I do not buy that “searing” and “scorching” (at 1-across) are synonymous *when it comes to cooking food*. I would argue that searing aims for that delicious browning of the Maillard Reaction, while *scorched* food on a grill would be more burnt – charred, you might even say.