Saturday, 2/27/10

Newsday 10:40
NYT 4:57
LAT 3:57
CS untimed

(Skipping WSJ Saturday Puzzle because it’s the acrostic.)

Edited to add: There’s a good interview with Brad Wilber, today’s LAT constructor, at L.A. Times Crossword Corner.

Patrick John Duggan’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1MAD PROPS to young(ish) Mr. Duggan for 1-Across! Those [Big-time kudos] are a perfect mate for 16A: [Response to a good dig], or “OH, SNAP!” It may be inappropriate for one of my age to use these expressions but I do love them so.

Other spoken-word answers:

  • 15A. [Exasperated cry]/”I’VE HAD IT!”
  • 61A. [Words at the outset]/”HERE WE GO!”
  • 10D. [Subtle warning sound]/”AHEM.”

Slangy answers/clues less current than MAD PROPS:

  • 40A. SO-AND-SO is [What's-his-face].
  • 56A. [Be cut down to size] clues EAT CROW.
  • 33D. The clue’s not about the labels on street signs. [Street name lead-in] clues A.K.A., the letters preceding one’s street name or alias.
  • 42D. A hot [Dog's coat] is KETCHUP. Uppity Chicago hot dog buffs will scorn you for using ketchup but you know what? Everyone I know in Chicago puts ketchup on hot dogs and almost never touches the classic Chicago hot dog toppings.
  • 48D. [Definitely gonna] clues SURE TO, which feels less informal than its clue.

Tricky clues:

  • 9A. [Film about the Statue of Liberty?]  is the PATINA on the copper surface.
  • 30A. [Bats are smaller than normal in it] clues T-BALL for young kids.
  • 34A. MR. PEANUT! He’s a [Mascot that's a shell of a man].
  • 41A. [Demi Moore was in it] asks not for a movie title but for the group of ’80s actors called the BRAT PACK. For the full effect, you’ve gotta watch St. Elmo’s Fire, but you’re probably not going to like it.
  • 45A. [College football coach Miles]—are we looking for a first or last name to go with Miles? LES looks like a first name.
  • 52A. Catholic Crosswordese! [It's under the Host] clues PATEN.
  • 65A. [Official's helper] clues YEOMAN. Who was the YEOMAN of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament?
  • 8D. [What sticks to your ribs?] is the adjacent breastbone, or STERNUM.
  • 21D. [Things that disappear in the shower?] are ODORS. See also 43A: ICK [___ factor].
  • 35D. [One side of Hawaii] is POI, an edible side dish.
  • 36D. [Common toy go-with] isn’t about toy dogs, and boy, did that CBA at the beginning look wrong until C BATTERY filled more of itself in.
  • 56D. Holy cow, where did I extricate this one from? EDNA, she with the graying ponytail who was beloved by, um, I think it was Laverne’s dad who ran the pizza place, was the ["Laverne & Shirley" landlady]. I believe Carmine Ragusa knew her well.

I don’t know about you, but I got through this puzzle faster than Friday’s puzzle. Did Will Shortz flip-flop the days?

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9We’re back within range of the usual Saturday L.A. Times crossword’s difficulty level—this one took me as long as a Wednesday-to-Thursday NYT puzzle. There’s some odd fill that requires reliance on the crossings (yes, even for the world’s 13th best solver of American crosswords), and there are some clues that venture far afield of mere definitions. (Such clues tend to be my favorites.)

I said hi to Brad Wilber at the ACPT and told him that although plenty of people have called him their nemesis lately, I don’t think he’s that tough. And I don’t. If you handle the other Saturday constructors, you can tackle Brad. Don’t be scared! He’s totally non-scary in person. He’s alibrarian, for Pete’s sake. You’re not going to be afraid of a librarian who’s not going to fine you for returning a book late, are you? He toasts with a salt shaker!

Brad Wilber, Bruce Venzke. (Photo by Don Christensen.)

Cool stuff:

  • 1A: [Game with a hollow ball] (TABLE TENNIS). That clue doesn’t narrow things down much, does it?
  • 15A: [Unexpected nickname of a Hughes Aircraft plane built mostly of birch] (SPRUCE GOOSE). That’s Howard Hughes. I missed the recent(ish) movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Hughes.
  • 17A: [It won't go out] (TRICK CANDLE). Infuriating when trick candles delay one’s attack on a birthday cake!
  • 21A: [Hypothetical links] (APEMEN). As in “the missing link.”
  • 24A: [Annual event won five times by Fred Couples] (SKINS GAME). This is one of those golf things I’ve heard of but don’t understand.
  • 47A: [Men's periodical, in British slang] (LAD MAG). I wasn’t sure if this was LAD MAG or LAD RAG. I think the term glad rags muddled my head.
  • 10D: [1975 Elton John chart-topper] (“ISLAND GIRL”).
  • 13D, 50D: [El Capitan's locale] (YOSEMITE) and [Natural steam source] (GEYSER). “I’ll take National Parks of the West for $1,000, Alex.”
  • 22D: [Anti-intellectual epithet] (EGGHEAD). I don’t care for anti-intellectualism.
  • 29D: [Sunkist offering] (ORANGE SODA). No! Orange likes Diet Coke.
  • 36D: [Holey vessel] (COLANDER). Love this clue!

Weird stuff:

  • 34A: [Table d'___] (HOTE). Ouch. Don’t want to find yourself with no choice but to use “table” in a clue when TABLE TENNIS makes itself quite obvious at 1A.
  • 39A: [Upset winner at the 1992 Kentucky Derby] (LILETEE). Wha…? That’s Lil E. Tee, apparently. Horse racing trivia is tied with nautical terminology for my least favorite crossword fill.
  • 8D: [Demand-based, briefly, as charter plane services] (NON-SKED). Any of you ever hear this word before? I haven’t. Between 39A and 8D…oy.
  • 53D: [Fox hunt cry] (HALLO). “Hallo”? Does this go with “tally-ho”? Onward, to the dictionary! Dictionary says HALLO is a variant of “halloo,” which is an exclamation “used to incite dogs to the chase during a hunt.” There you have it.
  • 57D: [Opp. of a petitioner, in court] (RESP.). Respondent? To me, RESP. is short for respiration or respiratory, but I don’t know that those are accepted abbreviations. Dictionary tells me resp. means respondent, respective(ly), or respelled. Respelled? That means “spell a word again or differently, esp. phonetically in order to indicate its pronunciation.” Okay, so I’m glad RESP wasn’t clued with that sense.

Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Take for a Ride”—Janie’s review

Take for a carnival ride anyway. Except for changing the ride number, Sarah clues her four theme phrases identically, and each one names a midway- or amusement park-favorite. (You may remember that in her last puzzle, Sarah used a variation of this same one-clue-fits-all technique.) Get yer tickets and use ‘em to enjoy:

  • 17A. [Ride #1] BUMPER CARS.
  • 26A. [Ride #2] TUNNEL OF LOVE. Here’s Bruce Springsteen’s take.
  • 44A. [Ride #3] MERRY-GO-ROUND.
  • 60A. [Ride #4] TILT-A-WHIRL.

As a kid, I loved Baltimore’s local amusement park, Gwynn Oak, but it was only in reading this little Wiki piece that I learned a part of its less-than-proud history of resisting integration… Still, I have fond memories of this more homespun place which is so unlike today’s massive theme/amusement parks. I’ve never been to one. Are they fun? A guilty pleasure perhaps?

What’s fun to me are the films starring Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo MARX [Surname of comedic brothers]. Especially on OFF DAYS [When things aren't going very well]. There’s also retail therapy of course, which can be enjoyed at [Large retail stores] EMPORIA. (How do small retail stores stay in business these days?! Like the local amusement park, this seems to be a dying breed.) Best to get a [Big ticket ___] ITEM when it’s part of a SALE [Shopping event, perhaps].

We get another visit to the Middle East today with BASRA [Iraqi port], RIAL [Iranian currency] and (third day running…) OMAN [Arabian Peninsula country].

I loved seeing LUSTY clued as [Powerful, as a singing voice]. This makes me think of some old-timey Broadway/Hollywood leading men (Howard Keel, John Raitt, Gordon MacRae, Richard Kiley), but I also found the word describing Wilson Pickett (“In the Midnight Hour”) who died four years ago. Here’s a picture of him with the Boss and Paul Shaffer. I think Paul can safely be described as (rarely-to-) [Never needing a haircut], or BALD…

Doug Peterson’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

PuzzleGirl’s sister met Doug Peterson at the ACPT last weekend, and she said she was no longer going to blame Doug for insoluble Stumpers and would instead blame editor Stan Newman. I dunno…this one killed me. I rarely ever pause the clock and take a break before coming back at a puzzle afresh, but the northeast corner? It killed me. Somehow that corner came together in about a minute on my return trip, but oy. I think there’s enough blame to go around for both Doug and Stan. *shakes fist*

I had pieced together 8D: [Cashew kin]/POISON IVY and figured 9D: [Common middle name] was probably ANN. I had 23A: [Rustic], the noun form, CLODHOPPER. And then…this 4×5 block of utterly empty squares. Thinking that Steve JOBS might be the 13D: [Exec who acquired Pixar] was no help, because PA***J* looked utterly wrong for 8A: [Stew ingredient]. During my solving break, I ran a few clues by my husband, who suggested PAPRIKA for the stew; eventually PARSNIP emerged. Who the hell is putting PARSNIP in their stew? Not too many people, I venture. The exec at 13D is Disney’s Robert IGER.

Other things in that corner it took me forever to suss out:

  • 16A. [Like the Magna Carta] clues ONE-PAGE. Not the best sort of answer, is it?
  • 18A. [Potential no-show] is an INVITEE. Now, I take exception to this. The dictionary definition of “no-show” describes one who is expected to attend, who has reserved a slot, who has promised to show up but does not show up. If you invite Barack Obama to your birthday party and he never RSVPs, he’s not a no-show because there’s no expectation that he’ll actually attend. The “potential” in the clue is too broad.
  • 22A. [It may take you around an island] clues U-TURN. The island in question is a little concrete island in the roadway or median, not an island landform. Having spent the morning watching CNN’s coverage of the Chile earthquake and tsunami warnings, I had Hawaiian islands on the brain. (Said TV coverage is why I’m later to the blog than I’d planned to be.)
  • 10A. [Race] can be a verb or a noun with varied meanings. The answer is REV UP. I can’t think of a sentence in which the two are interchangeable. A little help, anyone?
  • 11D. [Treated with venom] is SPITED. No snake venom involved here.
  • 12D. [Teddy Roosevelt, for one] was a NATURALIST. So help me, I tried FEDERALIST at one point, and pondered AMORALIST. (The same clue words for 38D: VEEP.)
  • 14D. [Opposing side of a strike] is a hammer’s PEEN. No organized labor strikes here. No SCAB, MGMT, or PEON, that’s for sure.

Parts of this puzzle that (a) did not kill me and (b) I liked:

  • 25A. [Pierre and Eugene] are CITIES in South Dakota and Oregon. Cute!
  • 36A. MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES is a whizbang entry. [They're often sensational], you know. She Woke Up Pregnant is my personal favorite.
  • 39A. [A major] clues PGA, which is what people call the annual PGA tournament. The major golf tournaments are called “the majors.”
  • 61A. [Jefferson's "first chapter in the book of wisdom"] is HONESTY. I don’t know the source, but that’s lovely, isn’t it?
  • 5D. To [Recite quickly] is to RATTLE OFF.
  • 7D. Tricky! [Bore], past tense of “bear,” means STOOD. I was thinking of boring a hole or a tedious bore.
  • 27D. I missed this part of D.C. during my summer vacation last year. The TIDAL BASIN is clued with [It's in West Potomac Park].
  • 33D. I know MRS. O’LEARY, sure. The clue, ["In Old Chicago" Oscar role], did absolutely nothing for me. Great entry, though.
  • 34D. SOB SISTER is a [Schmaltzy scribe] of an earlier era. You know what I filled in here, thanks to promising crossings? POP SINGER. Yeah, I know, it makes no sense at all.

59A: [Brute] seems off-kilter as a clue for CRITTER. Both are animals, but while a grizzly bear may be a brute, a ground squirrel is a CRITTER. Where’s the overlap?

Did you know THELMA was 45D: [Pat Nixon's real first name]? Or that TORO is the 51D: [Mascot of the Houston Texans]? I didn’t.

Take note: Besides ESTES Park, Colorado, and opera’s Simon ESTES, we might see more of 51A: [Newbery Medal winner Eleanor] ESTES. Let’s take a peek at Wikipedia to learn more, shall we? She won the Newbery for 1951′s Ginger Pye, but…I’ve never heard of her before. I don’t know her other books, either, so here’s hoping we don’t see her in future ESTES clues. If you weren’t a parent or child in the ’50s, you might never have heard of this author.

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19 Responses to Saturday, 2/27/10

  1. joon says:

    hmm. a fast saturday for me, but yesterday was also fast for a friday, and i finished it quite a bit faster than today. loved MAD PROPS and OH SNAP! man, that’s some good stuff. the rest of the grid was clean, but less exciting. nothing as sparkly as those two great entries up top, though BRAT PACK and MR PEANUT are nice. and the cluing seemed slightly more straightforward than a typical saturday.

    i was telling brendan yesterday that we should try to get some boston-area crossword socializing going. (can you tell i’m in ACPT withdrawal?) if i remember correctly, pat duggan is a BU undergrad. how many constructors live in or near boston? we should get a lunch group or something going.

  2. David says:

    Maybe it’s a sign of my age but OHSNAP was the last entry that fell for me. It was a lot harder than a typical Saturday for me. On the other hand I felt the LAT was a breeze. BTW I am probably one of those 60 from the ACPT who you don’t know. Love to meet you next year.

  3. Matt says:

    Fairly typical Saturday puzzle for me, maybe a teeny bit harder than usual– I think yesterday was atypical, rather than switched with today. Last box filled for me was correction SUNROOF->SUNROOM, which made that ‘subtle warning sound’ sensible.

    It’s true that Aries is the astrological sign that starts Spring… but FYI, what’s actually happening in the real-world sky is a little different. Here‘s a neat figure showing how the vernal equinox moves across the sky over the past 4000 (and future 2000) years.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Mad props? ick factor? noes? I’m not sure “robbed of” is close enough to “denied” to even be a clue. I don’t think of bats as either slinky or stealthy. They flit around, but they’re overt, not stealthy, and jerky, not slinky, which I think of as the opposite. Do you wear polo shirts on a golf course, not golf shirts? I don’t know; I don’t play golf. But I call those things in my drawer “golf shirts.” I don’t get the syntactical connection between “means of forced entry” and “rams”. Wouldn’t a means of forced entry be “ramming”? Or do you use a bunch of rams to butt the door in for you?

    Oh Snap (whatever that means.) I’ve had it with this puzzle.

    Bruce

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    OH–cat like. I guess that’s better. I forgot about C batteries. Bat – cat was one of the tricks in the famous Clinton – Bob Dole puzzle.

    Bruce

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, thanks for your response of a few days ago.

    Les Miles–football coach at (I think) LSU.

    Bruce < – - – unable to collect his thoughts coherently

  7. Martin says:

    Bruce,

    You use one (battering) ram to break down one door. It’s a means of forced entry. If you have a stock of them on hand, they are means of forced entry.

  8. Sara says:

    I thought this was just about ideal and typical Saturday difficulty. Yesterday was easyish, though.

  9. Al Sanders says:

    Funny, I found the NYT harder than most seemed to, but I thought the Stumper wasn’t that bad this week, 6:21. Go figure.

    I sure am glad the ACPT wasn’t this weekend as originally planned, given the bad weather in NYC.

    Did you see Trip’s Facebook note that there will be 30 second increment scoring next year, cool!

  10. Doug P. says:

    Sorry, PuzzleSister! I looked at the grid for this Stumper last night, and I didn’t think it would be too gnarly. Of course, I never know which clues are going to be “Newmanized.” :) Perhaps Stan has kicked it up a notch to compete with Fireball. Newman vs. Gordon in a themeless cage match, with the winner to face off against Killer Klahn! That would scare even Dan Feyer.

    Amy makes a good point on INVITEE (that was my clue), though I’m still mad about Obama missing my birthday party. I should have invited Biden instead. As for “Ginger Pye,” I used that title to clue PYE in a past Stumper, and that’s the reason I know it. A good one to keep in the way back of your mind.

  11. LARRY says:

    Anyone else spend time trying to make “MR TURTLE” work?

    Got “OH SNAP” only because I watched “My Name Is Earl”. His ex-wife used the phrase all the time, an obvious euphemism since the show was on network TV.

  12. wobbith says:

    Hey Bruce,
    I tried to conquer the Stumper, but I was DENIED a victory by the NE corner.

  13. joon says:

    doug, i think i did exactly that–kept eleanor ESTES in the back of my mind. kiddie lit is certainly not my forte, but i dredged up ESTES somehow. i’m sure it helped, but i was ultimately defeated by MRS. O’LEARY, since i had mistakes at the crossings for the M (TOILS?) and A (RYSANGE???), and i couldn’t piece it all together. kind of dumb of me, since TORO looks better than TYRO for the mascot, and i should have considered that GET wasn’t the only possibility for {Be left with}. overall, though, i enjoyed the challenge, and MADE FOR TV MOVIES and SOB SISTER were great.

  14. John Haber says:

    Must be an age thing, but this puzzle was really hard for me. Although the SW was my last to fall, I kept looking again and again at the infamous OH SNAP and MAD PROPS, trying to debut them and never finding a mistake, so I’m relieved they exist. I swear I’ve never heard either one, though. (NOES bothered me a little, too, as did the mismatch of the “gonna” informality with the answer. Must admit, too, that the thought of ketchup on a hot dog is really gross.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    I promised yesterday not to blame Doug for the Stumpers so I’ll have to quote Seinfeld: “Newman!”

  16. Martin says:

    Re your comment: “10A. [Race] can be a verb or a noun with varied meanings. The answer is REV UP. I can’t think of a sentence in which the two are interchangeable. A little help, anyone?”

    Google searches and counts:
    “raced the engine” – 133K
    “revved up the engine” – 127K
    “revved the engine” – 286K

  17. Sam Donaldson says:

    Just chiming in with some late love for: (1) the fresh fill in the NYT, and (2) ketchup on hot dogs. Like Larry, I knew “OH SNAP!” from Jaime Pressly’s character on “My Name is Earl.” It was fun to see MR. PEANUT in the grid following his unfortunate appearance in one of this year’s Oscar nominated animated shorts, “Logorama.”

    Ketchup, “My Name is Earl,” and animated shorts. And I wonder why I’m single.

  18. Ben Bass says:

    Every time I hear the name “Les Miles,” I think “No, Fewer Miles.” I do hear it occasionally because everyone else in my Monday night poker game is a sports nut, sports handicapper and/or member of the sports media, and our game has a running ESPN soundtrack in the background.

    Got EDNA off the D, and it was a good thing too as that show was in its prime when I was about 8 and I had no idea.

  19. Gus Linssen says:

    Racing an engine is revving up an engine.

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