Saturday, February 8, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

was a killer.

If this post were a Marianne Moore poem, that’s how it might continue from its title, if Moore were in a slangy mood and writing about crosswords. Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is exceedingly difficult. Do “Marmoset cousins” (44-A, eight letters) turn up in Moore’s poetry? Not that I can find. But that clue is, for me, a fair sample of this puzzle’s difficulty. Working at it, I felt — sigh — so “Totally alone” (44-A, eight letters), and not in the way that clue’s answer would suggest.

Not everything here is difficult. I had early help from 24-A, eight letters, “‘Fun to make’ snack brand.” And from 60-A, nine letters, “Current successor of the ’60s slogan ‘Let's Eat Out!’” Or rather, I had help from my TV-saturated life. “Let’s Eat Out!”: what a sad slogan when you think about its source.

But elsewhere, difficulty, difficulty, difficulty. 31-D, nine letters, “Not pressing.” 38-D, eight letters, “Like a chill in the air.” NODUEDATE? No. SEASONAL? Uh-uh. I ended up doing something I’ve never done before with the Saturday Stumper — checking letters in the browser, never more than one to a word, the only way I could eliminate wrong guesses. I still needed eighty-one minutes to finish the puzzle.

Clue-and-answer pairs I especially admired:

1-A, nine letters, “Occupation associated with Tennessee.” I thought whiskey. DISTILLER? No.

1-D, five letters, “Drizzle on some leaves.” Just a bit of misdirection.

13-D, nine letters, “They’re taken when leaving home.” HOUSEKEYS? No.

26-A, six letters, “Red state.” I’m back in E.M.W. Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture. Good times.

32-A, nine letters, “Write.” PUTININK? No, that’s eight. (PUTIN INK is what’s Donald Trump*’s to-do lists are written in.) The correct answer is straight from the dowdy world.

40-D, seven letters, “Novel assumption, now and then.” REALISM? No.

45-D, six letters, “Where strikes are seen.” No great cleverness is needed to see the context, but there’s still a bit of rethinking needed to get the answer.

I’d say that 1-A and 13-D tie for first in today’s Stumper. No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

comments: 1

Michael Leddy said...

TAMARINS. PEERLESS.

JIFFYPOP. IMLOVINIT.

ACRITICAL. (Really? “No rush — this proposal is acritical, Fred.”) SENSIBLE.

DRAMATIST. DRESS. BASEPATHS. CHOLER. DROPALINE. PENNAME. FRAMES.