Saturday, 1/9/10

Newsday 5:33
NYT 5:30
LAT 3:57
CS untimed
Hello! I’m feeling much better now—thanks for asking. I’m just about ready to hit the sack, though, so I’ll be brief about the NYT tonight.

Chuck Deodene’s New York Times crossword

Picture 6Lots of multi-word answers in this puppy. Yesterday’s Berry had more in the way of clues that could be interpreted in multiple incorrect ways, didn’t it? And though Deodene’s is the one running on Saturday, it was the Friday puzzle that had the dastardly “EAR vs. OAR, PIERRE DE Who?” crossing that tripped me up.

Without further ado, let’s run through a dozen or so clues and answers:

  • 1A. U.S. MARSHAL was easy thanks to the Tommy Lee Jones sequel to The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals. [Fugitive-hunting Fed]? Sure thing.
  • 20A. A [Type with finesse] is a DIPLOMAT. I halfway thought the answer would be typographical/font-related.
  • Let’s count in Italian! 26A: UNO is [Not quite none, in Naples], or one. So 25D: [26-Across and 26-Across and 26-Across] is 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, or TRE.
  • 53A. This one’s for my son—THE FORCE is clued with [It has a dark side, in sci-fi].
  • 57A. PEN IN is clued as the verb [Corral]. Boy, PONES (50D: [Dixie cakes]) looks weird. Wonder why the constructor didn’t go with POSES.
  • 8D. Who? AMADIS? [Knight of medieval literature]? Never heard of him. You can read up on Amadis de Gaula if you like. More familiar to me is the PARDONER, ["The Canterbury Tales" charlatan]. More medievalism: GRAIL is clued [Percival caught sight of it].
  • 14D. NOT TO BE is clued [Opposite of destined]. Has it ever been clued with just ["...or ___"]?
  • 39D. ARSENIC is [One of the metalloids] on the periodic table of elements. How come Metalloids isn’t the name of some cartoon robots? Speaking of cartoons, POKEMON are [Collectible card creatures]. Yes, apparently POKEMON is the plural. It is also the singular? Joe Cabrera probably knows.

See you Saturday morning, folks.


Updated Saturday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “The Big Apple”—Janie’s review

When Lynn says this is about “the big apple,” best take her at her word. She’s not talking about “the Big Apple” (or even the Macintosh logo…) rather about that fruit recommended for once-daily consumption to keep the doctor away. She’s broken it down to its five component parts each of which doubles as the first word of a well-known phrase. You may wish to have your OXO [Kitchen gadget brand] parer handy. It’ll help you get to the:

17A. SKIN DIVING [Underwater activity]. I’ve never done it. Closest I’ve come is snorkeling. Which doesn’t really come close at all, now does it?

25A. STEM CELLS [Focus of much biomedical research]. And source of many miraculous discoveries.

36A. PULP FICTION [Travolta/Thurman Best Picture nominee of 1994]. Hmmm. While the pulp is the moist, juicy part of the fruit, it also defines something soft. I’m not eager to bite into a soft apple (unless it’s been baked). Where crisp, firm apples are concerned, don’t we usually talk about its flesh? The pulp is what remains after pressing (as for juice)…

49A. SEED MONEY [Start-up funds]. Apples have five seed-bearing structures (carpels) each of which may contain one to three seeds. Really.

58A. CORE MEMORY [Outdated means of computer data storage]. Core memory (or simply core) is an early form of RAM (I didn’t know that before reading this…), which now accomplishes its job with silicon chips. And that’s about as technical as you want me to get.

Lynn has used lots of compound words/phrases and colloquial phrases that give the puzzle a lotta life. There’s TIE GAME [Baseball battle headed for extra innings, e.g.], READ LAW [Prepare to practie at the bar], GO APE [Get wildly excited], RACE CAR [Formula One vehicle], and HOT DISH [Casserole at a potluck supper, e.g.]; also “LIKE SO” ["This way"], “I DID IT!” [Shout of success], and ["Well, whaddya know!] for the oft-seen “AHA!”

Only two names appear in the puzzle, and they appear symmetrically. While one was born in 1886 and the other in 1904, audiences came to know them and love them at much the same time. The elder is AL JOLSON [Singer-actor whose story is told in a 1946 film]; the other is PETER PAN ["I won't grow up" proclaimer in a classic tale]. To judge from this Wiki bio, neither would Jolie…

And if you were paying attention earlier in the week, you saw that Patrick Jordan clued PEPYS as [Noted diarist Samuel]. Here he comes again, with the emphasis this time on [Pepys's masterpiece]. That’s right–his DIARY.

Final thought: BYTE [Unit of eight computer bits]–or, bonus for one way to dig into an apple–homophonically…

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Picture 5

The Saturday LAT seems to have settled in at a fairly consistent difficulty level, easier clues than a Friday NYT and on par with the themeless Sunday CrosSynergy puzzle. I do relish a knotty themeless, though, so I’m glad that Brendan Quigley does one a week (usually) at his blog and that Peter Gordon will be publishing his own weekly puzzle online (subscription only for Peter’s Fireball Crosswords; donations welcome at Brendan’s site for his puzzles).

As for Brad’s puzzle, lots of sparkle to it. GO ROGUE was my favorite answer. This term didn’t win any titles yesterday at the American Dialect Society meeting, where the word of the year (tweet) and the word of the decade (google) were elected. Do you think “go rogue” has potential to find broader application in the years ahead, or will it fall by the wayside as a circa-2009 Palin-related term? (The clue was 21D: [Deviate from team strategy].)

Other highlights:

  • 15A. EMILE ZOLA gained crossword immortality via the movie Wordplay when a couple blank squares in ZOLAESQUE atop Byron Walden’s finals puzzle cost Al Sanders the championship at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Plain ol’ EMILE ZOLA rides those coattails but also scores as a first-and-last-name combo. Those are always cool, particularly when crossword solvers have been plunking the person’s first or last name into the grid for years. Both EMILE and ZOLA are ≥50% vowels and have literary cred, so they’re crossword regulars. (Clue: [Writer painted by Manet].)
  • 17A. NASCAR DAD is slightly less au courant than it would’ve been a few years ago, but it’s still a bright spot in a crossword. My cab driver yesterday was wearing a Nascar cap. Can you believe it? An actual native-born American cabbie? I see one every couple years in Chicago. They’re like blue moons. (Clue: [Family racing enthusiast].)
  • 32A. GORETEX is a [Parka material]. Timely! I looked at a U.S. temperature map this morning, and only teeny slivers of the mainland were above the 40s. Have we got any readers in the North Dakota area? If so, good gravy, how can you stand the cold? Best thing that ever happened to me was getting dumped just before Valentine’s Day by a guy from the Fargo area. Glad not to have wound up moving to N.D. because Chicago’s winters are so much milder. Ahem.
  • 62A. Yeah, a SPEED TRAP is [Where you might see a cop aim a gun]. Recently learned that flashing your headlights is a way to warn folks on the other side of the highway that there’s a cop lurking with radar. “What’s that guy doing with his headlights? That’s weird.” … “Ohhhh, speed trap. Gotcha.”
  • 9D. I’ll put LAD, A DOG in here just because I’ve never seen the full title in the grid. This [Classic man's-best-friend novel] by Terhune gets the junky partial-entry treatment sometimes; e.g. “___ Dog” (Terhune book). This is better.
  • 14D. IDEE FIXE gets a tricky clue, [Something a Parisian might get stuck on?] Maybe you can explain why, once I got the FIXE part, I then filled in PRIX FIXE. Durr…
  • 34D. [Breeding center] is a STUD FARM. If you can’t get a little horse sex into the crossword on a Saturday, when can you?

Updated Saturday afternoon:

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

It’s good to see the Stumper byline expand beyond the handful of names we usually see.  My favorite entry today is the U.S.S. ARIZONA, a [Honolulu attraction]. The prize for “most out-of-step clue” goes to the clue for RNS, [White-hat wearers]. In what country (or century) do we presume the solvers of this crossword live? Hmph.

Not wild about a lot of the fill here, alas—SCRAPPER, RESAID, and EGRESSES ramp up the prefix/word endings count without lending much oomph to the proceedings.

Assorted clues:

  • ["Queen of the  Waves"] is Gertrude EDERLE, who swam the English Channel in 1926.
  • CHAMONIX is the [Site of the first Winter Olympics].
  • [Paperless documents] are E-FAXES? Meh.
  • A PIE is [Something in a shell]. I like pecan pie, but all other pies take second place to cake in my heart.
  • [Spanking follower] is NEW, as in “brand spanking new.”
  • Something that’s presented REAL-TIME is seen [As it happens].
  • Not crazy about HITS REVERSE, which feels like it’s not quite “in the language” as a unit of meaning. The clue is [Rewinds].
  • [Sole] clues ONE, which crosses INSOLE, or [It's just under a foot]. Looks like a taboo duplication, but it actually is not. The sole of a foot or shoe has been with us since Middle English and relates to a Latin word meaning “sandal, sill,” whereas the solitary/solitude sort of sole comes from the Latin for “alone.” Who knew? I never thought about it myself.
  • The RADIO ERA was [From the '30s to the '50s].
  • AMMAN, Jordan, is the [City once known as Philadelphia].
  • [Wander off course] clues both STRAGGLE and DIVAGATE. I’m fine with the latter, but aren’t stragglers on course, just lagging behind?
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17 Responses to Saturday, 1/9/10

  1. Trip says:

    Oops, sorry, screwed up on the daily standings. Please remove the one that says “downs only” if you’re able to; otherwise, just try to ignore it. :-)

  2. Jon S says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a Saturday puzzle relieve my mid-week meltdown, but there it is. HOT ROCKS brings up memories of many loud, music-filled dorm evenings. Not much studying, though.

    Some clues are just timely – only a couple of days ago did I make a trip to the rubber-band logo store, OFFICEMAX.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Agree with Jon S — today’s is lots less tricky than the two before it! Still an enjoyable and worthy workout… Loved PHONE HOME and the SWALLOW clue. PELICAN too, though it was mentally blocked for a moment with Penguin and Petrels flitting near the HELIPAD.

  4. Evad says:

    Had trouble with the Cranberries/Hindu goddess crossing. I had ONE TO My Family….here’s the video…I just remember it as the “Do…do…do” song.

  5. Gareth says:

    Halved my PB Sat time??? Huh. Was kind of surreal, that. Very pretty grid, but as Orange said not a lot of stuff to be tripped up on, and except 8D & 40D nothing else I’d never heard of, which is strange to say the least for Saturday… But not wholly dissatisfying.

    Loved the CS theme! Was pretty comprehensive hopefully will keep the doctor away…

  6. John Price says:

    I ran into trouble when I confused “Percival” with “Percival Lowell,” and spent five minutes trying to think of what planet or star I could spell with _R_IL.

  7. Zulema says:

    Pokemon is like Kimono, one, two, or three Kimono. Zoomed through the puzzle against my will, as it were.

  8. Sam Donaldson says:

    The NYT was a tad easy (no complaints here!), but I found the fill super-smooth. I agree, Amy – POSES would have been more interesting fill than PONES. After all, there are some good clues for the crossing. [It does the thinking for half the world?], e.g.

  9. SuperBowlXX says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Saturday NYT puzzle that was easier than the Wednesday that preceded it, until now. The Wednesday puzzle kicked my butt, but the puzzle today went much faster.

    I think NOTTOBE could have been clued “An option for Hamlet,” or something like that. They could have easily fit in POSES and then chickened out with a clue like “The ___ mightier…” for 57A.

  10. LARRY says:

    Re the Saturday Stumper – I’ve been eating pasta and pizza for almost my entire 77 years on earth and I’ve never heard of anyone topping a pizza with any kind of pasta, no less ZITI. What could Mr. Wechsler have been thinking of??

  11. Martin says:

    That one had me scratching my head also. I have been with parties that had a pizza as an appetizer and then followed that with baked ziti. I have to assume that was the idea of the clue, but a true Italian would shudder at that meal as well as at a ziti pizza.

  12. Dan F says:

    I’ve seen ziti as a topping in NYC pizza places.

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  14. Joe Cabrera says:

    Ayup, Zulema’s right. The singular and plural of “Pokémon” are the same. The same goes for the name of any individual Pokémon, so you’d be attacked by a swarm of Pikachu, not a swarm of Pikachus.

  15. Nina says:

    Please clue me in. Why is “sister’s study” REL? Relativity? Relationships? I just can’t get this one. Thanks.

  16. Evad says:

    Hi Nina, that would be RELIGION. (“Sister” as in a member of a religious order.)

  17. Nina says:

    Oh, duh. I thought of nuns, but I then didn’t think of religion. Thanks!

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