Saturday, 2/6/10

Newsday 6:11
NYT 5:38
LAT 4:04
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle: “Rows Garden” — about a half hour

Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 8Cool-looking grid, isn’t it? I see a bug depicted, albeit a four-legged one.

I’m not wild about the fill overall. I like a number of the long answers, yes, but then there are crosswordese people (Perle MESTA, [Socialite who inspired "Call Me Madam"]) and things (an ARETE, or [Alpine feature]) and foreign animals (OCA is a [Goose, in Spain or Italy]), odd-jobbers (PRESSER and MASHER), and the just-plain-”only on Saturday” fill like 1D and 2D. [Career diplomat Philip]‘s last name is HABIB? Hey, a friend’s husband is named Habib. But I don’t know Philip. The [Mild-flavored seaweed in Japanese cuisine] is apparently ARAME, but I’ve never heard of it. LDR as an abbreviation for “leader” is…eh. It’s beside the killing suffix CIDE, or [Killer ending?]. I feel a little ripped off when a question-marked clue leads to a lame piece of fill like a suffix.

Favorite fill:

  • 35D, 29D. [Observance made official by President Wilson in 1914] is MOTHER’S DAY, and it crosses FATHERS…but not fathers of children. [Confession receivers] are priests.
  • 41A. ["The lady in red" betrayed him] tells a tale, doesn’t it? This is the clue for DILLINGER, and maybe I would’ve known this one if only I’d seen last year’s movie, Public Enemies, which was filmed in my area.
  • 4D. STEM THE TIDE is a rock-solid crossword-worthy phrase. Means to [Slow an increase].
  • 5D. HELP WANTED is a [Heading for classified information?]. Classified ads, not top-secret classified information.
  • 22D. Ah, the CORNER STORE! It’s a [Place to get milk]. I love a good corner store. (Corner location optional.)

Favorite clue: [Magic tricks?] for BASKETS scored by the Orlando Magic.

19D. [A dead one looks like something else] is a bizarre clue for RINGER. “Dead ringer” is one thing, but does it tie directly to the word “ringer”?

35D. MENE is the [Mysterious word repeated in Daniel 5:25]. Judging from the clues listed in the Cruciverb database, this is the Biblical graffiti on a wall in Daniel—which explains why I think of walls when I see the word MENE. Oddly enough, the word’s last appearance in the Cruciverb database was another Healy NYT, from 2008.


Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A League of Their Own”—Janie’s review

There’s an awful lot to like in this puzzle even if it has an easily discernible theme. The last word of each of the four theme phrases can precede the word “league”–giving us four new phrases. I’m a bit disappointed that three of the four are sports-related (I think I’d've preferred that all four be alike or all four be different…), but the base phrases are so lively, I gotta cut Randy some slack. See for yourself. There’s:

  • 17A. [Irritating vine] POISON IVY → Ivy League. A member of that would be an ELI or [Yale student]. Re: the theme phrase, remember? “Leaves of three, let them be.” It’s still true…
  • 28A. [Character linked to the phrase "the sky is falling"] CHICKEN LITTLE → Little League. In case anyone was wondering Chicken Little is also known as Chicken Licken
  • 48A. [1980 John Lennon/Yoko Ono album] DOUBLE FANTASY → Fantasy League. If I’ve got it right, fantasy leagues are kind of like teams made up of statistical all-stars–for just about any sport. That includes Ultimate Frisbee, btw, where there are rules of etiquette even for hecklers. You’ll also find a SCOTUS Fantasy League–and yes, that’s the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • 65A. [Marching band leader] DRUM MAJOR → Major League. Now “major league” sports are legion, and the first one that pops into mind is baseball, with its [Cooperstown destination], the HALL OF FAME. And sure, there’s major league soccer and major league lacrosse, too. But did you know there’s also Major League Dreidel??? As you enter the “Spinagogue,” remember their motto: “No gelt, no glory”… And this is why I love the internet!

Lots more in the way of good clues and fill to mention today. For starters, the thermodynamic trio of [Do a slow burn]/STEW, [Geyser emission]/STEAM and [In waiting]/ON ICE. And the transit-related trio: [R.R. depot]/STA., [End of the line]/LAST STOP and (in a more rudimentary mode) [Alaskan malamute's burden]/SLED. I’m also quite fond of the scrabbly trio that begins at 54A and then spans the row with JEFE/[Head Honcho in Hidalgo], ZOOM/[Camcorder feature] and AMAZE/[Blow away].

And just because they’re so good in the grid, let me not omit FOULED UP/[Botched], the pungent WASABI [Sushi side], the contemporary PAY PAL [eBay purchase option], and the very colorful FROOT LOOPS [Cereal pitched by Toucan Sam]. (Or should that be “Ootfray Oopslay”?…)

Finally, a mention for POET, clued today in conjunction with the little rhyme ["I'm a ___ and don't know it!"]. The next line will now be provided:

“But my feet show it—they’re long fellows”……

And I am outta here.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9(Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)

No, 29A: ["Sands of Iwo Jima" director Allan] DWAN is not all that famous. If you did not know this name, you aren’t alone.

Highlights:

  • 8A: [Milky Way cousin] (MARS BAR). Our Milky Way bar is called a Mars bar in other countries, and what used to be our Mars bar became the Snickers Almond. One of my most favoritest candy bars!
  • 36A: [Phase in which the moon's right half is mostly visible in the Northern Hemisphere] (WAXING GIBBOUS). This is by far the grooviest of all moon-related terms.
  • 38A: ["Franny and Zooey" author] (SALINGER). Oh, how timely, as J.D. Salinger just passed away.
  • 47A: [Genre of the 1963 hit "Wipe Out"] (SURF). The Surfaris! See a recent (!) performance here.
  • 8D: [Luxury car with a trident emblem] (MASERATI). Anyone in my generation thinks of Joe Walsh when they hear the word “Maserati” because of this song.
  • 12D: [Leader played by Rod Steiger in the 1981 Libyan film "Lion of the Desert"] (BENITO MUSSOLINI). Wow, who knew there could be an ’80s movie clue for BENITO MUSSOLINI?
  • 37D: [2008 Steve Carell film based on a '60s sitcom] (GET SMART). My kid enjoyed the movie.

Newsday “Saturday Stumper” by “Anna Stiga,” aka Stanley Newman

(PDF solution here.)

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 1A. Whoa, WWII VET is a cool entry to drop in at 1-Across, isn’t it? The clue, [JFK or Nixon], was pretty broad, and working the crossings yielded some implausible-looking letter sequences here.
  • 29A. P’S AND Q’S are one’s [Behavior].
  • 33A. DO-SI-DOS are [Parts of some reels]—square dancing reels, that is. Ah, how unfondly I remember ninth-grade gym class’s square dancing unit.
  • 39A. SPLOTCH is an ugly word but I like it. Just one lonely vowel in this [Painting mishap].
  • 48A. “YEAH, YOU” can be a [Defiant retort].
  • 61A. To GO SOUTH is to [Take a turn for the worse]. This happens to many retired snowbirds.
  • 7D. Hah! [Recalls of September '09] continue to be in the news. Poor TOYOTAS.
  • 21A. [Outlaw], the verb, means BAN.
  • 40D. [She founded her own company circa 1905] refers to dancer Anna PAVLOVA.
  • 43D. Book trivia about a crosswordese actress—[Her first book was about Pola Negri] clues AYN RAND.
  • 64D. [It resembles an "n"] clues…not the mu (µ) or nu (ν) but the vowel ETA (η), which looks like a capital H in its uppercase form. Haven’t seen the “n” clue before, but the “H” clue has been popular.

Other clues:

  • 8A. [Apprehensions] are UPTAKES, as in “understandings,” not “criminal arrests” or “fears.”
  • 65A. An EVEN BET is a [Not-unlikely happening]. It’s equally not-likely, isn’t it?
  • 3D. [Stamps' destinations] are not envelopes but the INKPADS you press a rubber stamp into.
  • 8D. To UNDERDO is to [Fall short with]. “Underdone” is a common word, but not that present-tense UNDERDO.
  • 11D. [Triangulum neighbor] clues ARIES. I assume it’s a constellation? Yes, it is. You’ll never guess how many stars are in it and what shape they form.
  • 39D. [Played it straight] clues STOOGED, as in being the “straight man” or stooge in a comedy routine. Never knew this was a verb.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday puzzle, “Rows Garden”

Puzzle fans who don’t get Games or World of Puzzles have missed out on years of Patrick Berry’s Rows Garden puzzles, which intermesh long Across answers (the rows) with a “garden” of 38 blooms, 6-letter answers that run clockwise or counterclockwise in hexagons. These puzzles aren’t easy, given that there is no identified starting point for each hexagon, they’re not numbered, and the only help you get is that they’re split into three groups by color. And furthermore, all but the top and bottom rows contain two answers, but you’re on your own for figuring out where they’re split.

When Berry’s Puzzle Masterpieces book came out, he created a new constituency of Rows Gardens fans. I hope they’ve all discovered that the WSJ is now providing a home for one or two Berry variety puzzles a month.

I like these puzzles because they offer a meaty challenge (taking me several times longer to piece together than a Saturday NYT), they’re always, always smoothly clued and filled (Berry is a fricking genius, y’all), and the fill in the rows is heavy on long stuff. Of the 22 Across answers, 18 are 8 to 15 letters long (the others are 6 and 7 letters long.) No 3s! No 4s! No 5s! What a treat.

And the clues—the Rows clues tend to be pretty wordy, so there’s room for trivia, factoids, and clear descriptions, but no dirty tricks. It’s hard enough assembling the pieces when you can figure out the answers, so there’s no need to jack up the difficulty with misleading clues or those Stumper-style oblique one-word clues. The clues aren’t all obvious by any stretch of the imagination, though. [Slender-bodied carnivore] just wasn’t telling me anything until I pieced together the WEASEL from the ends of SACAJAWEA and GREEN GABLES.

If this is your first experience with a Rows Garden, what did you think of it?

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22 Responses to Saturday, 2/6/10

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I liked it better than Amy, except for those obnoxious abbreviations (like LDR). Half the time I can’t figure out what the abbreviations are supposed to mean.) For one thing I was evidently on the right wavelength and did it quickly. Philip Habib was–I don’t know how to put it other than–a well-known, highly influential, American diplomat. He did important work in Vietnam during the 60′s, Korea during the 70′s (I think) and Nicaragua and Central America generally during the 80′s. He was an instant gimme, and got me going.

    Bruce

  2. Evad says:

    Have heard of Mr. Habib as well, but couldn’t get the crosser between MIROS and MASHER. (I settled for L as in LASHER, being an Anne Rice fan.) I liked the long answers in this as well–I’M IMPRESSED over BEST WISHES with STEM THE TIDE and HELP WANTED as crossers is quite the feat of construction!

  3. Jeffrey says:

    I’m glad to see Philip HABIB isn’t super-famous. Should I give a TINKER’S DAM that CPA’S is crossed by NOT UP TO IT?

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Incidentally, on the Cruciverb website, Mike Shenk writes a blurb announcing that the WSJ now has a Sat. as well as a Fri. puzzle, but he doesn’t give a hint as to how to obtain it online, (or whether it may be obtained online), whether it is free, and so forth. And I can’t seem to get any direction from the WSJ site. Does anybody know about this?

    Bruce

  5. davidH says:

    “Mene Tekel Upharsim” means “Your numbers have been counted and fall short – your nation will be divided among the Medes and Persians”, and is where we get the expression “Read the writing on the wall”. Why do I know this? I don’t know.

    When I was in college in the 1970′s, we each had to share a mailbox with another student whose name was close to ours alphabetically. My box-mate was Philip Habib’s daughter.

    I couldn’t get Cleveland out of my head for “Cavaliers”.

  6. Matt says:

    WSJ puzzles are here. And free!

    And, um, I’m embarrassed to say it took me quite a while to figure out how LONGE opens easily. Maybe I’ll put a “get a clue” tattoo on my arm, or something.

  7. pfeiring says:

    Bruce – Will Johnston’s puzzle pointer page has a link to the WSJ puzzle page.

    http://www.fleetingimage.com/wij/xyzzy/nyt-links.html

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Note re: the WSJ Saturday puzzles: Click the “Download PDF version” link for the variety crosswords and cryptics, but to do the acrostic in Mike Shenk’s online applet (no tedious copying of letters), click the “Acrostic” link.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And I just added a link to the WSJ puzzle page on the my “Crossword Links” page. Thought I did that weeks ago!

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thanks Matt and Pam and Amy. I guess the problem is that I had opened the ’2010′ wsj link from the wij’s puzzle pointer page, rather than the ‘puzzle page’ link.

    Matt, if you are Matt Ginsberg, I ended up loving your recent anagram puzzle, even though I am one who sometimes bitches and moans about Thurs. puzzles. Very creative, intricate, but also most enjoyable construction. I like anagrams, and I still take pride in having stumbled upon ‘I meet salon gals’ for ‘Steel Magnolias.”

    Pam, it’s great to hear from you.

    Bruce

  11. davidH says:

    Just finished the WSJ puzzle,and it was one of the best I’ve done. I thought the theme was brilliant. Loved it.

  12. Zulema says:

    I’m afraid ENTRE AÑO has no meaning at all. The clue translates easily into “A través del año” but that didn’t fit. It’s one thing to clue an out of context GOOSE which allows an out of context OCA, but once you start stringing meaning together, things go wrong quickly. ENTRE could have easily been clued as “between” or alternately “Come in.”

  13. Martin says:

    Zulema,

    Some Spanish-English dictionaries list this meaning. The Velazquez cited here (scroll down to the second section) is an example. Is this possibly a European idiom?

  14. Zulema says:

    Martin, I see the entry you mean. That’s where I lived most recently, in Spain for five years, and it’s my native language not counting the degrees. The rest of them sound fine because there is more meaning in them, as “traer entre dientes” and such. The ENTRE AÑOS sounds totally antique, like from a 16th century play or tale. Believe me. You can say “entre año y año” but not all by itself without the comparison. But why go after rare if at all usage, when ENTRE is a common preposition and is also the imperative meaning “Come In?”

  15. Martin says:

    Zulema,

    I can’t be sure, of course, but I suspect the cluer is not a Hispanophone and relied on a dictionary like the one I cited. I point out that the clued sense is the first of many listed. It may be, as you suggest, that this dictionary lists senses like the OED does, in chronological order of appearance in the language. That was lost on me, of course, and was probably not known by the cluer either.

    I doubt that an obscure or archaic meaning was chosen on purpose. It’s more likely that the first listed meaning of the word “entre” was considered a safe bet. Such are the pitfalls of foreign words in English language puzzles. My guess is that we won’t see this clue again.

  16. Meg says:

    @Amy: A Patrick Berry Rows Garden in 1/2 an hour? My hat’s off to you. My only stumper was that Australian monitor lizard, which I think I’ve actually run across it in another puzzle.

    I went back to Patrick’s website and he’s put up a second Rows Garden. More more!

  17. arthur118 says:

    I can’t let the error in the CS puzzle go unnoticed. One down, SEPT, clued as “Patriot Day Mo.” is not correct.

    Patriot’s Day is April 19, as any self-respecting New Englander will tell you, (though they might best remember it as the date of the Boston Marathon).

    Now, if he had clued it as, say, “Grandparents’ Day Mo.” , no problem.

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Arthur, Google tells me that Patriot Day (no S) is September 11, and it’s a fairly new observance. What the Massachusettsians celebrate is Patriots’ Day.

  19. John Haber says:

    My first thought was of an esthetically appealing grid, with the symmetry of the black L’s, and then despair about starting, since I didn’t know any of the first three down clues. (I did recognize HABIB once I got it, though.) But it went faster for me than Friday’s, and I enjoyed it. I, too, was a bit put off by LDR and didn’t grasp why LONG E worked for a long time.

    If you’ve done puzzles for a while, MIRO is pretty common fill. Looking for a modern painter, I thus guessed him right away. MENE was also a gimme for me, as it’s indeed repeated before the other words once each. I’ll admit that RUST EATEN didn’t come to my ear, whereas “rusty” or “rusted” or “moth eaten” or “worm eaten” are idiomatic, but it wasn’t hard to roll with. I guessed ENTRE from French.

  20. arthur118 says:

    Amy- Thanks. A reminder that it pays to regard clues with eagle-eyed precision.

  21. Meem says:

    Today was a first-ever RowsGarden for me. Worked at it off and on all day, but solved it. Might be hooked! Most awful realization was knowing the answer to Perry Como clue immediately.

  22. joon says:

    i think this is the easiest of the ~5 rows gardens i’ve done. i didn’t time myself, but i suspect it took me 20-25 minutes. trouble spots were row G (a person i didn’t know and a song i’d never heard of) and the end of K (alabama town in the song lyric). the MUS at the start of MUSCLE SHOALS and MUSTER was my last fill. but it’s a little bit like solving an acrostic: make enough of a dent in the short clues and it’s bound to come together. i think i had over 2/3 of the blooms solved on the first pass, with only one mistake (ARCANE for SECRET).

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