CS 7:30 (J—paper)
Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden's New York Times crossword
This is Tyler and Byron's first joint production, constructed after Tyler moved out to California last year. If you ask me, the puzzle's easier than most of Byron's solo Saturdays. Yes? No?
I learned from the constructors' notes at Jim Horne's Wordplay blog that they started with JAZZ HANDS at 1A, divvied up the fill, and split the clues (Acrosses, Byron; Downs, Tyler). My favorite clues and answers follow, mingled as they so often are with the more Google-prone clues:
I liked this puzzle. No deadly crossings, nothing too obscure (except SABAN, who had easy crossings), and hardly any short answers. Did you notice that? Just six 3-letter answers and a dozen 4's. This helps a puzzle avoid that not-so-fresh feeling. So Byron and Tyler, keep working together on more themelesses for us.
Updated Saturday morning:
Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "In a Nut Shell"—Janie's review
"Sometimes you feel like a nut—sometimes you don't," or so say the makers of Peter Paul Almond Joy and Mounds. Thank you, Randall Hartman, for indulging my personal preference. The three themed entries in today's puzzle come to us, as described, in a NUT shell, in which the first two letters of the theme-phrase are NU and the last is T.
A NICE tight theme with two debut entries (37A and 52A) and a CS debut for 20A.
Some of the usual suspects make an appearance: YMA, IRMA, CHE, Mao TSE-tung; but they're in the company of some very smart fill. And I do mean that in the literal sense: there's CANNY [Street-smart] and GUILE [Cunning] and ACUMEN [Sagacity].
We travel to the Middle East with MECCA [Muslim holy city], ARAB [Dubai denizen] and KABUL [Capital of Afghanistan]. And there's a nod to Middle and Western America, too, as KANSAS and UTE emerge from KABUL. (I'd forgotten just what a bargain the Louisiana Purchase was—and how much of the country's midsection it comprises. Yikes.)
Fill that fouled me up: [Fleur-de-] LYS? No, LIS. [Auction actions] BIDS? No, NODS. [Back problem] SPRAIN? No, STRAIN. I still struggle to keep straight those European rivers. I know the Rhine is German, but I never seem to remember that the RHONE isn't... And veteran character actor M. EMMET Walsh has a lengthy resume, but darned if any performance comes to mind.
Clues that made me think: [Someone in it is out of it] for COMA, and [Beginning of December?] for DEE. This kinda clue gets me almost every time. You'd think by now I'd be less easily duped, but noooooooooo! ;-)
Fave little grid bits: ICED over ACED, the cross of ICON and OCCUR.
And while I knew that GIS were [PX patrons], I'd forgotten what PX stood for. How about you?
Michael Wiesenberg's L.A. Times crossword
My longer write-up is at L.A. Crossword Confidential.
My goodness, it's been a while since I encountered a themeless puzzle that was this easy. Sure, there were a few things that weren't gimmes, but the give-and-take with the crossings made quick work of it all. My favorite fill:
Sandy Fein's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"
I'm feeling much smarter this weekend, having that fast L.A. Times time and finally getting back under the 10-minute mark for a Stumper. (Do yourself a favor and don't check Dan Feyer's times on these puzzles unless you want to feel inferior.)
(PDF solution here.)
My least favorite clue here is [One settling down] for ROOSTER. What the...? Nobody describes "one who roosts" as a "rooster." When ROOSTER is a perfectly good stand-alone word, why on earth would you want to clue it as a lousy "roll-your-own" word?This is not the first time we've seen that in the Stumper. When you already have a roll-your-own CRADLER here, why create another when you don't need to?
MAZATLAN is clued as [Literally, "place of the deer"]. Hmm, is that obscure trivia? Or is it reasonable to expect solvers to have a certain degree of fluency in the Nahuatl language? (Answers: Yes. And hell, no.) The Wikipedia article provides that etymology, but mentions deer nowhere else—so I'm guessing even people who've visited the city wouldn't think to associate it with deer. This clue is akin to the ones that hinge on the meaning of a first name. At least we're spared that sort of clue for DINAH, which instead gets a biblical clue, [Daughter of Jacob]. LOUIES isn't clued as a plural first name; rather, they're [Some officers], short for "lieutenants." The LOOIE and LOOEY spellings are the only ones listed in the Mac widget of the New Oxford American Dictionary.
[Psiloritis is its highest peak] clues CRETE. I wonder if the sun's rays atop Psiloritis are particularly good for psoriasis. Also from Europe: MINSK is the [CIS headquarters]. Speaking of the agglomeration of states that used to be Soviet republics, [Any SSR?] clues RED STATE, but that doesn't strike me as quite kosher. "Red state" doesn't mean communist state, so it's as if the clue concocts a jokey definition of a word. That would work if it were a theme entry, but it's not.
[Dairy designation] is GRADE A. We've probably all bought GRADE A eggs, but grade A milk looks to have zero relevance to the average person who's not a dairy farmer. Is the clue hinging on eggs being sold in the dairy section of some groceries? Because eggs are not dairy products.
I didn't dislike this puzzle while I was solving it, but going through it clue by clue while blogging, I found myself grumbling at several cluing choices. They mark a departure from the Stumper's previous style, and they don't hew to the other themeless styles I'm familiar with (Will Shortz, Peter Gordon, Rich Norris, the CrosSynergy team). A lot of folks are pleased to have an extra-tough puzzle to sink their teeth into on Saturdays, but I find myself wishing the Stumpers had more of a killer Klahn/Walden/Blackard NYT vibe.
May 15, 2009