CS 6:36 (J—paper)
Dave Tuller's New York Times crossword
Whoa. When I clicked "done" on the NYT applet, I had one typo and one non-typo wrong square, but managed to figure out what was needed in short order. And what was needed was the [Language spoken in Assam, India], KHASI (32A)—which I've never heard of. The K crossed [Game played with a sack called a goose], and when I had *HASO (GESTATOON: cartoon about pregnancy?), LHASO crossing LENO seemed workable. Yes, KENO is a game I know only from crosswords, and I sure don't recall seeing clues about sacks and geese before. It would have been kinder to have a stale and more gettable clue for KENO, no?
My favorite fill:
And the clues I liked best:
And the toughest stuff:
Overall impressions: KHASI is wildly unfamiliar and there's no shortage of tough clues. (It is indeed Saturday.) But so much of the longer fill sparkles—SPONGEBOB and ABE VIGODA meet BLACK BEAUTY, and the IGUANODON crosses both ANTIPASTO and AT AN IMPASSE. Dave Tuller, please get cracking on some more themelesses, will you?
Updated Saturday morning:
Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Cattle Crossings"—Janie's review
Here we have three grid-spanning phrases, the last word of which may be preceded by the the word "cattle." Two of the three yield familiar phrases; the third is an odd variation on the theme. As I read it anyway. You be the judge:
While I may have some doubts about the overall success of the theme, I sure don't for the overall success of the cluing and non-theme fill. Feeling INTL? For starters, there's a [Russian ruler...] TSAR and a [Turkish bigwig] PASHA. We also get ARAB, the Czech river ELBE, the ISLES of Skye and Man. More locally, there's the Bay AREA, and the crossing of those lovely 9s TEXARKANA and (CS debut) KALAMAZOO.
There are two kinds of containers here (which also cross): for your baseball cards, SHOEBOXES (making its first major-puzzle appearance) and for your grains (to feed those cattle—or possibly your BISON), BINS.
[King of the Empire State Building?] KONG, of course. [Thief who stole the Queen of Hearts' tarts]? KNAVE. And just look how the USPS has immortalized the good Queen. As the song says, "All ya need is love"! Enjoyed seeing TANG clued as, ahem, [Tart spiciness] and see a complement in [Add punch to, as punch] for LACE.
(More) random ramblings: It occurs to me that that MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD may be the result of too much TIVO. Let's hope it's not also due to viewing too much of the adjacent [Blue stuff] or SMUT. And we even get two (crossing) references to yesterday's puzzle: SMUSH (uh, once again clued as [Compress]) and [Tito Puente's genre] MAMBO.
Finally, one more example of the way familiar fill can be dressed up to delight. These sorta sound-alikes run next to each other in the grid: OATS and ODES—and their clues? [Feedbag fill] and [Keats feats] respectively. Nice!
Barry Silk's Los Angeles Times crossword
I did this puzzle early (full write-up at L.A. Crossword Confidential), so I had the surprising gimme in the NYT, not here. I had to work the crossings to see that [Sch. in Athens] was OHIO U., not a familiar bit of fill—and then the same answer showed up in the NYT! If only every unknown answer would be repeated in another puzzle soon after—the repetition would be an excellent learning tool.
What I liked in this puzzle were the RATSO RIZZO/NOZZLE crossing double-Z's, the mostly-'70s pop culture names that I knew, and the colloquial language—"What is this, a MASH NOTE?" "HUMOR ME, DARLIN'?" "I DOUBT IT." I'd have loved to have harder clues, sure—my ideal Saturday LAT solving time is 6:00 to 6:30, and they haven't been that hard since the Tribune dropped its own puzzle and promoted the LAT crossword in its place.
Merle Baker's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"
Unusual grid, with four 15-letter answers forming a frame of sorts—and some of those entries have the feel of a rough mini-theme. If you PUT THE SQUEEZE ON ([Press]) someone, they might GET INTO HOT WATER ([Need an out]), and what's a better out than an EJECTION CAPSULE ([Emergency device])? But really, I think a mini-theme is NOT IN THE PICTURE here ([Excluded]).
The difficulty level is commensurate with the Stumpers of 2008, not the Stumpers of early 2009, but it's still a good bit tougher than the L.A. Times puzzles have been lately. Among the more elusive clues:
May 22, 2009