Saturday, 3/20/10

NYT 7:23—no, make that 6:58, because my browser spun its wheels until 25 seconds had elapsed
Newsday 6:23
LAT 3:14
CS untimed (Janie)
WSJ Saturday Puzzle about 6 minutes

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1Quickly, because I’m on kid bedtime duty tonight—

  • Ridiculously low word count (56). Lots of Es and Ss and other common letters to facilitate that, but also some lively answers, like SQUASHES (7d: [Ends abruptly], the transitive form of SQUASHES), NINJAS (1D: [Stealthy fighters]), and…LAXATIVE (28D: [Feen-a-mint was one]).
  • Puzzle’s essentially split into four separate mini-puzzles. I moved through them counterclockwise from the northwest, and…I think the fourth quadrant took more time than the other ones to make any headway into. Eventually it tumbled, but it put up a fight.
  • Most flagrant violation of the breakfast test for sensitive solvers: The juxtaposition of LAXATIVE and CREMATES (27D: [Burns up]). Honorable mention: ANILINES, which I thought were just dyes, gets a stinky clue, 10D: [Compounds that smell of rotting fish].
  • Toughest clue, in my book: 26D: [Glorified gatekeeper, in Goias] for SAO PEDRO, St. Peter in Portuguese.
  • Goriest: 22A: The SHRIKE is a [Harsh-sounding bird that immobilizes its prey by impalement]. Maybe it impales the smelly rotting fish so you don’t have to eat it and get sick and need that LAXATIVE?

Back later Friday evening:

Joon notes in a comment that two other answers fit into the “unpleasant to contemplate over breakfast” category:

  • 36D: PELOPS. [He was served to the Olympians as food]. This is a mythological character I’ve never heard of. Wikipedia tells me that Tantalus, his dad, chopped him up into stew as an offering to the Olympians, who only ate his shoulder. What luck! The dismembered pieces could be reassembled into Pelops again, with a piece of ivory replacing his shoulder. Was this the first recorded joint replacement surgery?
  • 16A: NEUTERED is clued as [Made unbearable?]. Only females can bear children (leaving aside seahorses or whatnot), and neutering is usually thought of as male sterilization but the word encompasses female sterilization as well.

Other tough clues/answers:

  • 13A. I wanted IN A SNIT, and then I wanted IN A STEW (like PELOPS!), but it turned out to be IN A STIR.
  • 18A. UNCIAL is a [Writing style of old Latin manuscripts]. I forgot this word, but knew it when I dug calligraphy during my adolescence.
  • 42A. Is REMAST a word? It wants to continue on and be REMASTER. [Outfit for a new voyage, say] by replacing the mast on your ship?
  • 41D. [It's S. of the Vale of Tempe] is the Greek MT. OSSA. Not Tempe, Arizona.

Updated Saturday morning:

Will Nediger’s Los Angeles Times crossword

(Adapted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)

Region capture 12Oh, man, this one was even easier than last Saturday’s puzzle. 3:14 for me lands at an easy Wednesday NYT level. The fill was cool, but the clues didn’t make me work for them. I mean, if you were a fan of The West Wing, bam! 1-Across filled itself in and gave you a head start on the first 11 Down answers. Even though I kinda quit watching the show by the final two seasons, AARON SORKIN was a total gimme. His earlier show, Sports Night, was one of those under-watched but smart and engaging series.

Groovy bits:

  • 12A: [1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song] (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH). Great answer! I had most of the letters from the Downs before I even looked at the clue.
  • 14A: [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy] (MARRIED TO THE MOB). Also starring Matthew Modine as the FBI agent and…who played the mobster guy? Anyone remember?
  • 16A: [Record holder?] (EX-CON). Love this clue!
  • 29A: [For whom the bell tolls] (THEE). As in “Ask not for…”
  • 42A: [Silly rabbit's desire, in ads] (TRIX).
  • 46A: [Without anything on] (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD). I got this one off the K. Wish the clue had been more elusive so I’d have to work more to have this colorful answer emerge in a grid. One question: When you are naked, are you wearing nothing but blue feathers? No? I didn’t think so.
  • 50A: ['80s NBC medical drama] (ST. ELSEWHERE). Never watched this show, though it should’ve been right up my alley.
  • 9D: [Cleopatra's eyeliner] (KOHL). No relation to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The black eyeliner powder takes its name from an Arabic word.
  • 12D: [Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982] (ZAXXON). I sure didn’t know this one, but having a Z and two Xs worked into the grid pleases me.
  • 24D: [Play badly?] (CHEAT). What’s your household policy on cheating at board games? I grew up in a no-cheating household but my husband’s family was fine with cheating. Yes, we have a mixed marriage.
  • 32D: [Loser to Bush in 1988] (DUKAKIS). As a college student in Minnesota in ’88, I went to the Democratic caucus. The Dukakis crowd thought they had a catchy slogan: “We’re gonna caucus for Dukakis!” I no longer remember which candidate’s corner I ended up in. It might’ve been Jesse Jackson, since I attended one of his rallies…on a Minnesota farm. Not many, I daresay, have heard Jesse Jackson leading a crowd in this chant: “Save the farm! The family farm!”
  • 41D: [Picayune] (SMALL). I love the word picayune and wish I lived in New Orleans just so I could read the Times-Picayune every day.

The only answer I looked askance at was 34D: [Bridgestone product] (CAR TIRE). I think the word car is assumed. If it’s a tire on something other than a car, then it’s a truck tire or a bike tire.

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Do’s and Don’ts”—Janie’s review

Another week of terrific CS puzzles comes to a close. We’ve always been able to count on well-made puzzles from the team, but it seems to me there’s also been a consistently higher level of ARTISTRY [Creative talent] of late and I don’t want it to go unmentioned. More, please!! ;-)

By example, just look at Randy’s puzzle. There are eight–count ‘em, eight–theme phrases. They account for 82 squares of theme-fill. That’s a lot, folks (a typical 15×15 has upwards of 36; a 21×21 puzzle has around 100…); and while there’re a lotta threes among the non-theme fill (and a lotta abbreviations…), there’s also a lot of fill of the seven- and eight-letter variety as well. Decidedly lively stuff, too.

First the theme fill. Okay–and another observation about the construction. Not only do the eight theme phrases appear paired in stacks or columns (!!), each is an “admonition” with each part of the pair beginning either with the word “do” or the word “don’t.” Each phrase is also very much in the language, but each has been clued with a change of context or nuance, forcing you to re-think what you’ve always assumed the phrase to mean. Check ‘em out:

  • 13A. “DO A GOOD TURN” [Admonition from a drivers ed. instructor?]. And not from your parents or the clergy reminding you to look out for others, see?
  • 17A. “DON’T BET ON IT” [Admonition from Gamblers Anonymous?].
  • 10D. “DO THE TRICK!” [Admonition to a magician?].
  • 11D. “DON’T ERASE!” [Admonition to a hit man?].
  • 30D. “DO WONDERS!” [Admonition to a miracle worker?].
  • 25D. “DON’T BOTHER!” [Admonition to a pest?].
  • 54A. “DON’T BE CRUEL” [Admonition to a sadist?].
  • 57A. “DO A NUMBER ON” [Admonition to a bookie?]. (I’m not entirely sure how to make sense of this one without dropping the preposition, but I’ve gotta let it slide. The strength of the theme wins out.)

Not too shabby, eh? And then look at some of the non-theme entries. Like ENTRÉE [Main dish], which has complements not only in BREASTS (clued as [Chicken orders]) and SLICES [Pizza orders], but also in MENU [Course catalogue?] (think about it…); or TOE LOOP [Move for Sarah Hughes] (here she is executing triple toe loops…); PERSONAS [Roles]; RUNNER UP [Pacer that places] (those’re horse-racing terms; the horse is the “pacer” and he “places” if he comes in second–as in “win-place-show”); ORIENTS [Points in the right direction]; “SPARE ME,” clued by way of the understated ["TMI"] (too much information…); and the fabulous SOB STORY [Tale of woe].

Who or what, I wonder was Randy’s MUSE [Source of inspiration] today? However it came about, thank you also for the double entendre [Light gas] for NEON; and [Corner piece] for ROOK (where I initially eschewed the chess board for NOOK, not having read the clue carefully…).

Hope the rest of you enjoyed this one as much as I did!

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

The final square for me was where 42A: [Kin of "molto," in music] and 35D: ["Loot" playwright]. TANTO for the music term is not looking remotely familiar to me, but Beth ORTON sounded plausible for the playwright. Except that it’s Joe ORTON. Before I settled on the T, I had an S there because SANTO/ORSON looked pretty plausible too.

Highlights:

  • The intersecting middle 15s are UNSOLVED MYSTERY (8D: [Fodder for speculators], but not financial speculators) and SWORD-AND-SORCERY (37A: [Fantasy genre]). Both are terrific entries.
  • 1A. TIMBUKTU is fun to say, isn’t it? It’s a [Far-off place].
  • 47A. BLACKSTONE is clued as a [Big name in law and legerdemain]. The magicians are Harry Blackstone Sr. and Jr. The famous judge is Sir William Blackstone.
  • 56A. [Mustache variety] is the clue for WALRUS. Ha!
  • 4D. [It improves flight safety] clues a BANISTER on a flight of stairs.
  • 24D, Random older-people trivia usually is irksome, but here, the answer makes sense. [Howdy Doody's sister] is the almost-rhyming HEIDI Doody.
  • 34D. Lewis Carroll’s SNARKS are [Fanciful literary creatures].
  • 38D. AC/DC is an electricity term but also the rock [Band with a lightning bolt in its logo]. Good clue.

Other stuff:

  • 12D. This is kind of a weird one: HALF-DOZENS are [Some bagel orders].
  • 18A. [Surname meaning "priest"] clues KAPLAN. Had to work a lot of crossings for this one.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Marching Bands”

I always like the Marching Bands puzzles in Games/World of Puzzles. Every square is checked by another answer, but instead of going across and down, the answers go across and in rings. You end up getting chunks of other answers rather than just a single crossing square at a time. For example, the first answer in the E band is EVITA PERON, [Famed first ladu of Argentina (2 wds.)]. The VITA part feeds into the second answer in row 5, VITAMIN B, or [Nutritional "complex" (2. wds.)].

Since you don’t know where every answer’s going to go, you get the added help of tags for multi-word answers.

This format, like many of the variety grids, lends itself to having mostly longer answers. I counted one 3, seven 4s, nine 5s, 12 6s, eight 7s, seven 8s, two 9s, three 10s, one 11, and one 17. In other words, most of the fill has at least 6 letters. And the fill is familiar, nothing obscure. Compare today’s NYT, which also has mostly answers of 6+ letters. With the across/down interlock of a standard crossword, you end up with more prefixes/suffixes (e.g., RESEEDED, REMAST), chemicals that are not household names (AMATOL, ANILINES), etc. The Marching Bands puzzle gives us lively answers like ED NORTON, EARTH IN THE BALANCE, WEAR THIN, FLY SOLO, TENDERLOIN, BUDDIED UP, and HARPER LEE.

Here’s my answer grid:

B U R R O W E A R T H I N
F L Y S O L O P A L E S T
E N T E N D R E B E L C H
L I P S H A R P E R L E E 
C O U P E V I T A M I N B
O L D I E S T A P I O C A
T R E N D SF E N N E L
L E I S U R E F R E S C A
A D D I N E D N O R T O N
E N D I V E G E N E R I C
R E U B E N I N S T O N E
A T T R A C T F O L D E D
F I X A T E S I N A T R A
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15 Responses to Saturday, 3/20/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    You don’t see too many puzzles with no words under 5 letters and this is why. Just too many odd words for my liking.

  2. Jan (danjan) says:

    I didn’t think I was going to be able to fill in anything for what seemed like a long time. I finally got the SE corner going, and realized that the other three areas might as well be freestanding. I enjoyed the workout!

  3. joon says:

    hey, you left PELOPS and NEUTERED out of your breakfast test rundown! and i only know DESDE from “desde abajo te devora,” from the regrettable seventh season of buffy. (i admit that the word has no breakfast test implications on its own merits.)

    i actually thought that the number of odd words was very low for a ULWC puzzle. i didn’t love ACETONES or ANILINES in the plural (and there were just a lot of chemical compounds, what with those two and AMATOL and OPIATES), REMAST, RESEEDED, or the wildly unfamiliar UNCIAL. but everything else looks pretty clean. yeah, there’s a whole lot of E and S going on, but that’s to be expected. a Q, J, and X is more scrabbliness than usual for such a grid. overall i’d still rather see a sparkling 68 or 70, but this quite good as ULWCs go.

    ACES OVER looks in the grid like it wants to be ACE SOLVER. does anybody know one of those?

  4. ePeterso2 says:

    I got the NW first and thought it would be really cool if the E-D-E-D- pattern ended up continuing all the way around the central square … too bad it didn’t!

  5. John says:

    Where are the Friday and Saturday LAT AcrossLite puzzles? If Cruciverb isnt fixed tomorrow, Ill have to BUY a Sunday Courier Journal, which I cancelled because I couldnt read the Sunday Funnies even with a magnifing glass! Damn!

  6. Howard B says:

    Hardest Times puzzle for me that I’ve ever been able to finish. Top-right corner was nigh-impossible for me, since there was an amazing convergence of three mystery answers in UNCIAL, SHRIKE, and HEANEY, with as many Downs sprinkled with tough clues. The top-right alone took me half my time! Not to mention SAO PEDRO, PELOPS, etc.

    A great challenge, and liked the NINJA/JAPANESE cross, but I did not honestly enjoy the puzzle. Learned some interesting trivia, but too many potholes in the road to enjoy the scenery.

    Not an ace solver at all today. To strain the card metaphor, had a ten-high hand, along with a 9, 7, 3, and that pesky 2 of diamonds with a torn corner and coffee stain. :(

  7. Gareth says:

    John: If you download Alex Boisvert’s Crossword Butler you can get the files in AL even when cruciverb is down…

  8. Matt says:

    Slow going until I got to the NE quadrant, where I just came to a halt. Resisted urge to look stuff up, and finally got it, once I guessed PUNCHERS for 8D– but gosh, a tough one.

  9. sps says:

    I’m with you, Howard. I enjoy a challenging puzzle but some of these were next to impossible for me to get, esp in the NE. I knew HEANEY but not HLASEY, STALKED and PUNCHERS finally led to everything else. But apart from one or two clever clues, it was a little too much trivia for my taste.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    One letter wrong on an otherwise cool stumper, and it was indeed ORSON/SANTO.

  11. Quentinc says:

    PELOPS was my entree (breakfast test-failing pun intended) into the puzzle. That’s one of my favorite myths, and after reaching that clue I was completely in the puzzle’s thrall (not unlike Tantalus, after he got punished for that culinary joke).

    I’m not as conversant with the art of puzzle construction (or deconstruction) as most of you, but I loved the fact that there were no words under 5 letters. REMAST (huh?), UNCIAL and ANILINES were the only answers that bugged me.

    Oh yeah, and this puzzle earns 1000 bonus points for containing not a single TV or Movie clue!!!! If it had only omitted LAUPER, it would have been completely free of pop culture dreck. (Oh wait, just noticed 12D — thank goodness for the crossings as I barely noticed it.)

  12. LARRY says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time around boatyards – having owned sailboats for thirty years – and I NEVER heard the word REMAST to describe the process of replacing the mast. This answer was a real groaner for me.
    Loved the crossing of NINJAS and JAPANESE on the J.
    UNCIAL = UNFAIR.
    Thought the Enterprise clue pertained to Startrek, not WWII.
    Enough has been said about PELOPS already. UGH!
    Thought the white thing in the Matisse painting was a TABLE for too long.
    Wish I had known that Goias was in Brazil.

  13. EsmesValet says:

    “Eye muscles attach to it” fails my breakfast test, but I’m very squeamish about ocular stuff.

  14. John Haber says:

    My complaint would be partly the obscurities, but mostly the grid that comes so close to four separate puzzles. Saturdays are always hard both to begin and to move to new sections even with crossings, and starting over like this each time was maybe a bit too much.

    My last to fall was actually the NW because of the cross-reference crossing, the Spanish DES DE, the 1980s music trivia (although I do recognize her name once I have it), and the tricky UNBEARABLE. I was thinking DESEEDED, too, based on preparing some kind of food or another, rather than a golf green, so that slowed me up, too. It all works out, but I’d liked them in a different grid.

  15. Zulema says:

    DESDE is one word. Needless to add, I just finished this puzzle, so my input is on Sunday. That one was done yesterday.

    QUENTINC, Halsey was for real, History, not entertainment.

Comments are closed.