Saturday, 4/10/10

Newsday 11:04
NYT 6:43
LAT 4:00
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 16 minutes—it’s a Hex cryptic!

Kevin G. Der’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 14Well, this one’s a little tough for a Friday, but it’s way easier than yesterday’s puzzle, which played like a tough Saturday. Flip-flop!

Lots of super-Scrabbly fill (facilitated by the word count of 72), lots of names. Now, I like names in a crossword, so I enjoyed this one. Here’s the rundown of names:

  • 1A. PAT SAJAK of Wheel of Fortune is clued as [Big wheel overseer]. Usually “big wheel” in a clue refers to a boss/honcho of some sort, but here it’s an actual spinning wheel…that is big.
  • 17A. Name’s in the clue for this one: [Hieronymus Bosch, for one] was a DUTCHMAN.
  • 21A. DEL MAR is a [San Diego County beach town]. A college classmate of mine was from there, and then there’s the Taco Del Mar joint that just opened up near me.
  • 41A. A.C. DELCO is a [Big name in auto parts]. My guess is that the A. and C. don’t represent first and middle initials and that DELCO is nobody’s last name.
  • 42A. REX the T. rex dinosaur is the name of the [Reptilian toy in "Toy Story"]. So, Kevin, have you been working on Toy Story 3 at Pixar?
  • 43A. Another brand name—HI-HO crackers are the [Brand discontinued by Keebler].
  • 48A. Fictional DR. WHO is the character and the [Show featuring an alien from the planet Gallifrey]. The clue was not remotely helpful to me. Gallifrey?
  • 50A. Whoa, tough INGA: [Prince in Baum's "Rinkitink in Oz"]. Prince Inga??
  • 55A. ANG [Lee of Hollywood], solid.
  • 59A. Brand name #3 is FUJI FILM, a [Giant in photography].
  • 63A. Vittorio DE SICA was a [1957 Oscar nominee for "A Farewell to Arms"]. Not as easy as a clue that sounds more like an Italian movie. He directed The Bicycle Thief and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Farewell? Are you kidding me? The guy wins four Oscars for Best Foreign Film and he’s clued for being a lesser cast member in another movie?
  • 2D. The legendary Corazon AQUINO was [Time's 1986 Woman of the Year]. President of the Philippines.
  • 4D. The SAC tribe is here, clued as [Fox's relative]. Tough clue.
  • 6D. JAMIROQUAI is an [Acid jazz band with the 1996 hit "Virtual Insanity"]. Didn’t Karen Tracey put them in a crossword too? Maybe a Sun puzzle?
  • 7D. Place name #2 is ADANO, [Major Joppolo's town]. This is from A Bell for Adano, right?
  • 8D. The KEN doll is a [Boy toy surnamed Carson]. Brand name #4.
  • 12D. I don’t know why on earth MIYAZAKI isn’t clued with the great Japanese director of animated films, Hayao Miyazaki. [Japanese tourist city on Kyushu] is so wildly obscure to Americans.
  • 54D. Now, this name should be familiar to nearly every Saturday solver: ASTA. But [Skippy's most famous role] is a tough clue. So, the dog who played Asta was named Skippy? Okay. I thought Skippy’s most famous role was as a layer in a PB&J.

Five other answers:

  • 15A. An AQUACADE is a [Pool exhibition]. I know nothing about this. It’s old-timey! Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams!
  • 24A. ROSE is clued as a [Suitor's surprise]. Anyone watch The Bachelor? I had RING here first, and the R worked.
  • 64A. [Safari sights] are WEB PAGES if you’re using the Safari browser. I am.
  • 1D. My favorite clue was right up at the beginning: [Like some resumes] means PADDED. I would never pad my résumé. I don’t need to. (See what I did there? Example of EGOMANIA—62A: [What prolonged crowing may indicate].)
  • 34D. [Guttersnipe] is a clearly derogatory word for a street URCHIN. Aw, why so judgy, clue?

Updated Saturday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Studio Backing”—Janie’s review

Now this is a great way to close out the week. Once again, Will has built his puzzle around fractured film titles (last time it was March 12th’s “Monster Movies”). So the “studio” in the title is the movie studio; but the “backing”? Well, that doesn’t refer to any endorsement, but is instead a cryptic clue to the reversed arrangement of some of the letters in the theme fill. Look what Will does with some classic titles as:

  • The Caine Mutiny → THE ENIAC MUTINY at 20A. [Movie about a recalcitrant early computer?]. Now that’s rich.
  • The Big Sleep → THE BIG PEELS at 25A. [Movie about eating a giant orange?]. Another funny one. I suppose one would want to see this on a double bill with James and the Giant Peach
  • Animal House → LAMINA HOUSE at 44A. [Movie about a residence built of veneer?]. Hmm. This might work well in tandem with Tin Men (an uncharacteristically forgettable Barry Levinson movie about some guys in aluminum siding sales).
  • A Room with a View → A MOOR WITH A VIEW at 48A. [Movie about Othello looking out Desdemona's window?]. This is the stretchiest, least “natural” of the theme fill, but not without its charms.

Of the longer non-theme fill, I especially like “NO SUBLET” [Kind of clause in many leases]; SPEED BUMP [Traffic "calming" device], which in a weird way connects to another kind of bump, the sort associated with [Teen trouble] or ACNE; and SPARROWS, though I question the accuracy of the clue [Outdoor café scavengers]. It may be so, but the Wiki article that mentions this tendency doesn’t include a citation. Mostly, sparrows are known to be seed- and insect-eaters. Unless Will was maybe thinking of sparrow hawks, which really are scavengers.

[Piece of news] clues TIDING–which was a “piece of news” to me. Because the only context I’d had for the word was the way it’s used in “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” I’d always assumed that, in its plural form, it was another word for “greetings.” But no. Live ‘n’ learn!

I liked the evocation of Japan delivered by HAIKU [Poetic form inspired by nature] and SAKE [Fermented rice drink]. Sake, btw, is pronounced with two syllables and does not rhyme with the crossing MAKE [Fabricate].

Fave clues today also include the [Game played by dogs in kitschy paintings] because really, they’re pretty “kitschy” all right…; and [Is unable to stand], not for SITS or RECLINES, but for ABHORS. Really, though, what this clue brought to mind for me was the “Lina Lamont with the Diction Coach” moment from that movie-studio-based beauty, Singin’ in the Rain. A true classic.

Mel Rosen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Why, this puzzle was so easy, the Friday NYT crossword took me almost three times as long! While the multiplication factor is truthful, it’s just because yesterday’s NYT puzzle chewed me up and spit me out and then ate me again. This here puzzle took me a flat 4:00, so yes, Rich Norris really does calibrate these things to a consistent level nearly all the time. Mind you, before the influx of the old Tribune/TMS solvers, I think the Saturday puzzle usually took me between 5 and 7 minutes, so it’s still a good bit easier than it used to be. (Sigh.)

Nothing in this grid really grabbed me. (Wouldn’t it be awesome if PAIR OF TONGS was in there so I could say that was the only thing that grabbed me?) One of the two 15s is a fairly mundane noun—32A: [Text necessity, often] (TELEPHONE NUMBER). And the other has one of those “sheesh, not another Broadway musical” clues. I know there are millions who revere musicals, who know all the songs, who’ve seen the shows and bought the original cast albums. I am not among them. So when it came to 8D: ["The King and I" song about illicit romance] (WE KISS IN A SHADOW), I had absolutely no idea what the answer was. Wikipedia tells me “In this song, Tuptim and Lun Tha declare their love for each other, even though they fear that the King of Siam would know about it.” Say what? It’s not even a song that involves Anna and/or the King? Boo!

For years, I’ve been seeing AL HIRT’s “Java” in clues for HIRT, but I’d never heard the piece. Here is a Muppet Show bit featuring the song. 16A: [Friend of Pete Fountain] clues AL HIRT because, uh, they were friends in jazz circles?

What else?

  • 1A: [Act in the Senate] is a verb phrase clueing PASS A LAW. I do not like this answer at all. It feels like an arbitrary verb + noun combo.
  • I like the sci-fi crossing of 17A: [TV show that has spawned 11 movies] (STAR TREK) with 2D: [Features of some alien costumes] (ANTENNAE). If you like to poke fun at sci-fi movie tropes (especially of the Trek variety), you should watch Galaxy Quest some time.
  • 19A: [Mega- squared] (TERA-). Ooh, I like this approach to clueing a metric prefix. Mega- means a million and a million squared is, uh, whatever number is associated with tera-. Is it a quadrillion?
  • 20A: [Fire department practice structure] (DRILL TOWER). There’s one of these near my mom’s, but I never knew there was a name for it.
  • 39A: [Held up] (BORNE). I like a Saturday clue that can mean many different things (though not necessarily a whole puzzle filled with oblique, one- or two-word clues—that’s often the experience with the Saturday Newsday crossword). First I thought “held up” = delayed. Then I thought it referred to a robbery. The “carrying things” aspect? That was third…with the help of crossings pointing the way to the right answer.
  • 44A: [Sound from a wok] (SSS). Oh, nobody likes an answer like SSS, do they? There are a lot of Ss in this puzzle but even more Es.
  • Never heard of 52A: [Former NBA star Dave __, now mayor of Detroit] (BING), but just as glad to avoid a reference to the Microsoft search engine. Has anyone forsaken Google for Bing? Anyone?
  • Meh, I don’t like this one. 57A: [Bath unit?] clues ONE METER because Bath (with that obscured yes-it’s-a-capital-B Saturday clueing trick) is in England and they use meters instead of yards. But the ONE part is arbitrary. What’s to keep NINEFEET or EIGHTPOUNDS out of the puzzle?
  • 9D: [Joined a talk show, perhaps] (CALLED IN). I was on the radio once. WGN Radio’s late-night show had me and Tyler Hinman in the studio a couple years ago to talk about crosswords and the ACPT. It was a blast. Someone needs to put me back on the radio, dammit! I am ready for the callers and their questions!
  • 30D: [Curve enhancer] (CORSET)?? Really? I dispute this clue. I think it’s more of a “curve torturer.”
  • 31D: [Like kabobs] (CUBED). I mention this one only because there is a neighborhood restaurant in Chicago that purports to be a kabob/kebab joint but also sells the Polish dumplings known as pierogies. I suspect a marriage between a Middle Easterner and a Pole, but who the hell knows what’s going on at a kebab/pierogi restaurant? Skokie used to have a Filipino/Ukrainian restaurant called Makati Kiev. What’s the weirdest cuisine mash-up you’ve encountered in a restaurant?
  • 42D: [Big name in convertible sofas] (CASTRO). A Castro convertible…is that a brand name of sofa bed, or a generic variety? I can’t help feeling that it’s a term most familiar to those who were alive in the 1940s or 1950s. It’s not something I’ve encountered outside of crosswords.

Doug Peterson’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper” crossword

(PDF solution here.)

Okay, people, tell me: Was this puzzle as shockingly difficult as the Friday NYT? Or is it just that being peppered by questions from my kid while working on the puzzle distracted me? Here’s what I struggled with:

  • 2D. [Type of pigeon] is a POUTER, a “kind of pigeon able to inflate its crop considerably.” I call fowl because the crossing at 1A, [Twists], could plausibly  be either STRAINS or SPRAINS, no? A strain can involve twisting injury too, and who the heck knows what a POUTER is? Maybe Mike Tyson does. He likes pigeons.
  • 27A. [Ancient Greek, e.g.] clues PAGAN.
  • 28A. [Urban wheels] clues MAYORS. I really don’t care for the clues that use “wheel” to mean “a big wheel.” It has dictionary support, but I can’t say I’ve ever encountered this usage outside of tricky crossword clues.
  • 39A. [Sinclair Lewis title character] is CASS. I know Babbitt…Arrowsmith…not CASS.
  • 45A. [Guam annexer]  is President WILLIAM MCKINLEY.
  • 10D. [River to the Moray Firth] is the NESS. I know Loch Ness but not the river that shares its name.
  • 25D. [One who pulls strings] is a LACER. Is this a noun anyone uses?
  • 30D. I have long known that tars and [Gobs] are sailors or OLD SALTS, and still I wanted this to be something like OODLES OF. I know the OF would be extraneous, but…it made it 8 letters.
  • 35D. [David Bowie guitarist/collaborator] clues ALOMAR. Now, why is the answer a last name when “David Bowie” is a full name? And why go with the far less familiar Carlos ALOMAR when the baseball player exists?
  • 36D. I totally fell for Doug’s [Holiday celebrated by music fans] trick. It’s BILLIE Holiday, not a small-H holiday.
  • 38D. SYZYGY! That’s an [Eclipse cause], you know. Not a word that finds its way into many crosswords. Also the name of an erstwhile(?) Carleton College Ultimate team.
  • 41D. [Frequent MBA case-study source] clues P AND G, short for Procter & Gamble. Note the use of AND in place of an ampersand; crosswords pull that all the time.
  • 43D. [Top of the line] as an idiomatic expression means “the best.” Here it means the top of a genetic lineage, a SIRE. Though really, in horse and dog breeding worlds, the SIRE isn’t the top of the line. The SIRE had parents and grandparents too.

I was not vexed by 28D: [Peace Garden State city]. Why, your 5-letter North Dakota city starting with M has got to be MINOT! (It helps to have gone to college in neighboring Minnesota.)

I needed lots of crossings for 17A: [It was launched by "Discovery"], as I suspected it referred to a Discovery Channel TV show, Nope, it’s the HUBBLE TELESCOPE. Mind you, I was at the Kennedy Space Center eight days ago and saw the Hubble 3D IMAX movie, so you’d think this would’ve been a gimme for me, but no.
Updated again Saturday afternoon:

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, a cryptic crossword called “Circular Files”

Solid puzzle, though not especially enchanting. I had plenty of incomplete Across and Down answers when I started working on the “circular file” answers, which are pairs of Down answers that don’t start at the top. What do you know? Those crossings brought everything else around. I had to look up two things to be sure that those answers were real words. 19A: TRACERY means “a delicate branching pattern,” the “network” part of the clue, [Essay about contest network]. (That’s TRY = essay around RACE = contest.) The other “huh?” answer is 8D: PANETELLA. The spelling panatela appears to be more common, and while I knew there was a double-L variant of this skinny cigar name, I didn’t know the second A would turn into an E. It had to be an E with the clue, though: [Smoke seafood dish, keeping clear] puts NET = clear inside PAELLA = seafood dish.

I don’t quite get why the shaded letters in the middle row spell out THEIRS. Oh! Wait. That’s two words, THE IRS. Tax day is coming up in a few days. Okay, the IRS is a “collection site” in that they collect taxes.

My answers, presented without elaboration because it’s about time for the Sunday NYT crossword to come out, are as follows:

  • 1A. GARBAGE
  • 3A. TREMOR
  • 5A. ASPS
  • 6A. TRIVETS
  • 7A. HEAT RAY
  • 9A. TWENTY
  • 10A. FLORA
  • 11A. REDCAP
  • 12A. GLADDEN
  • 15A. POWERED
  • 16A. NO EXIT
  • 17A. OPERA
  • 18A. GRANGE
  • 19A. TRACERY
  • 20A. OLD BEAN
  • 21A YAWL
  • 22A. SKYING (not a verb I’ve ever used)
  • 23A. CALDERA (love a reference to Alexander Calder)
  • 1D. GASTROPOD
  • 2D. AVATAR
  • 4D. MELODY
  • 6D. TRAGEDIAN
  • 8D. PANETELLA
  • 13D. TWEEDY
  • 14D. BOREAL
  • Circular a: POLKA, SOWETO
  • Circular b: CHERUB, IBSEN
  • Circular c: CRAGGY, TYPEE
  • Circular d: RAILING, COAT
  • Circular e: DEVIL,DREARY
  • Circular f: RESIGN, WROTE
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27 Responses to Saturday, 4/10/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Another killer for me. Will I be the only one living in a parallel universe where Friday was the easiest of the last three days?

  2. Sara says:

    Nope, Jeffrey, me. too. (Which isn’t to say it was easy, just easier as well as easiest)

  3. Jan (danjan) says:

    I agree that MIYAZAKI is obscure. I’ve even been to Japan. I had FLAmER crossing MImAZAKI.

  4. ktd says:

    Very challenging, but happily I didn’t need to resort to Google at all!

  5. joon says:

    count me in the mainstream: this was solidly easier than yesterday’s, but that means it was normal for a saturday and waaaaaay harder than the jabberwocky thursday. i took a long time to get any traction on this one but once i got NOW YOU’RE TALKING off the G, it was relatively smooth… until i came to a grinding halt in the NE. i was eventually rescued by some inspired guessing, including MIYAZAKI off of ____ZAKI. overall it was very scrabbly, but there was more unpleasantly bad fill than i was expecting to see in a 72-worder. i’m willing to forgive an SSR here and an ETO there, but FLAYER, ORAMA and especially ENES had me frowning. maybe kevin is the victim of his own success here, because i have extremely high expectations when i see his byline. the last ten or so kevin der puzzles have all left my jaw on the floor.

    a farewell to arms is set almost entirely in italy. at least the book is. don’t know anything about the movie, and i have seen this actor’s name before but i was working the crossings for every letter anyway.

  6. Dan F says:

    Kevin left Pixar a while ago – he’s at a startup now. Shame that Will changed the clue for MIYAZAKI — he had to have, right? (I also went with FLAMER at first.) But ["That's more like it!"] is so perfect that I got it with just a letter or two. Clues like that remind me how good Will is at his job…

  7. John Farmer says:

    I agree on the MIYAZAKI cluing–should have been the animator, who’s not as obscure as the city but still a good, tough-enough name for a themeless. I did like the DE SICA clue though, because the twist gives a tidbit of trivia for solvers to learn: hey, the guy acted too and won an Oscar. Almost any clue as director of an Italian movie would have been very easy. De Sica actually acted in a ton of movies, mostly Italian “jobs”…but famously in the French film Madame de… when Max Ophuls created a role for him.

    Very good puzzle. Excellent Saturday workout (and easier than yesterday’s).

  8. Martin says:

    Japanese family names are invariably toponyms. If you are looking for a Japanese surname and the crossings look like a placename you recognize, or vice versa, go for it.

    My house is filled with Dr. Who crap, from the early ’60s through today. Gallifrey for me was like “Aaron Burr” for that guy in the milk commercial.

  9. LARRY says:

    According top IMDB, Vittorio De Sica was nominated (didn’t win) an Oscar for best supporting actor in “A Farewell To Arms” in 1958 (not 1957).

  10. foodie says:

    @Larry, I wonder if it’s one of those deal where the nomination happens in 1958 for a 1957 Oscar? Just guessing.

    I loved the combination of BEQUIET sitting right on top of NOWYOURETALKING, and the mini dance theme.

  11. Evad says:

    Hand up with the FLAMERs….seemed a more logical choice for a young constructor. Luckily I’m a big fan of Jamiroquai, my fav is their Space Cowboy.

  12. Howard B says:

    Ditto on the MIYAZAKI cluing. A favorite Saturday puzzle so far, really enjoyed solving this one throughout.
    @Evad: You know, I admit I still like the Virtual Insanity video, after seeing it again years later. Unusual visual effects, some quirky choreography, and the song still has a pretty good vibe to it. Still skeptical on the singer’s fuzzy hat though. Have to give their later stuff a listen.

  13. Brad Wilber says:

    Vittorio DE SICA better known as a director than in front of the camera: The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D., Indiscretion of an American Wife, and in the 1960s several pairings of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, like Marriage Italian Style and Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow–the latter won the Foreign Language Film Oscar (I think).

  14. Brad Wilber says:

    Oh, sorry, John–I see movie maven John Farmer beat me to this whole point. LOL.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    No, no, no — Did fine the last two days, but this wasn’t for me even with NOW YOU’RE TALKING and most of the bottom half. Knew DELCO but got offtrack with Orphan rather than URCHIN and never recovered, even with a few glimmers up top. Ego deflatia today.

  16. Spencer says:

    I had MASKS for MAZES and NAGASAKI for MIYAZAKI for too long. Finally had to Google the place.

  17. John Farmer says:

    Larry, you’re right. I was wrong…I misread the puzzle clue, which was right. (Some maven.)

  18. Zulema says:

    Amy,

    I agree about the CORSET clue (LAT). I of course remember the ladies who still used or had corsets and they definitely were to hold curves IN, not enhance them. Now there was something called a “corselet”, might still be, which was meant to enhance the cleavage. It tightened the waist and showcased what was above it.

  19. LARRY says:

    Foodie – IMDB consistantly lists the year of the first theatrical playing of a film as the year for which the award is given, as does the MPAA.

  20. John Haber says:

    I’ll agree with the majority on most everything. The clue for DA SICA was way hard, making its crossing with HOME EC hard for me. The puzzle overall was hard, but at least Saturday hard whereas Friday’s was off the scale. And MIYAZAKI was totally obscure to me and part of a tough quadrant. (It didn’t help that I had BLAMER going in.) The animator wouldn’t have helped me, because I don’t recognize him either.

    For me, too, the crossing of the jazz band with the auto parts name was unknown, so that one I never did get. Hey, here in the city we don’t have to know about auto parts.

  21. Pingback: New York Times Crossword – April 10, 2010

  22. ===Dan says:

    I searched the comments for this, and when I saw that Martin wrote about it, I hoped for an authoritative answer to this: Is “DRWHO” correct, given that the show seems to be known only as “Doctor Who?” (The character is referred to only as “the Doctor” in the show, but IMDB seems to label the character as “Dr. Who” for some of the actors. Did the show’s credits actually reflect that diversity?)

  23. Evad says:

    Very cute Muppet video–thanks for the memories!

  24. Martin says:

    ===Dan,

    Good point. Whilst official BBC logos have always spelt out Doctor Who [the British spellings just seems right, somehow] and, as you say, the Doctor is always referred to (and credited as) The Doctor, many BBC licensed items have used the abbreviation. Here’s an example from 1964 and another from 1972 that I snapped at random from one wall of crap. So if the Beeb doesn’t object, how could I?

  25. edith b says:

    The strangest food mash-up I encountered – and it turned out to be legitimate and I was just a young girl not understanding – was “Mongolian B-B-Q.”. I imagined Atilla and his Huns sitting around a campfire eating ribs, ala “Blazing Saddles” in a different context.

    (She said, obviously.)

  26. Stan says:

    Reading all the comments and changing my mind about this several times, I wind up agreeing with Orange about De Sica. The guy was one of the greatest film directors of the 20th Century. As an actor, not so much. One of his directorial efforts (even an obscure one) would have been a better clue.

  27. David Letterman says:

    Jamiroquai, Jabberwocky … Jabberwocky, Jamiroquai … Gibberish.

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