Announcements, Category 1: Birthdays
April 24 is the birthday of several friends of the blog who are pretty terrific people: My son Ben hits double digits, capping a decade of parenting by me and Mr. Fiend. Then there’s Dave Sullivan, whom you may know as Evad, webmaster and friend extraordinaire, hitting the big Five-O. Angela Halsted, a.k.a. PuzzleGirl, my co-blogger at L.A. Crossword Confidential and sometime-sub here, is another member of the April 24 club, as is legendary constructor Byron Walden. I am pleased to report that I am younger than all of them except my kid. Edited to add: Angela’s constructor pals Andrea Carla Michaels and Doug Peterson and her sister Elizabeth Olson White teamed up to make a b-day crossword for her, which we can all solve.
Announcements, Category 2: Links
Trivia maestro Ken Jennings reports that he’s joining crossword constructor/editor Stan Newman at the Smithsonian (details here) in three months for a 6-hour seminar on kicking butt in trivia and quiz-show pastimes. Whoo-oo, general admission is $120.
Thomas Heilman’s New York Times crossword
The NYT crossword is on a roll this weekend! I loved Brad Wilber’s Friday puzzle, and this one is only a hair lower on the Loved This Puzzle scale. Each quadrant has a cool Scrabbly answer, and some of my favorite oddball words are here too. Oh! And the clues. Lots of outstanding clues. Join me in a stroll through the grid, won’t you?
- 1A. “IT’S A SHAME” means ["Alas"]. My first thought was SAD TO SAY, but alas, that was too short. Always happy to have a zippy 1-Across getting the puzzle off to a good start.
- 15A. Oh, dear. Here’s a BIKINI WAX, clued as a [Summer salon service, for some]. If you’re curious about that process, here’s a video.
- 16A. The only ALANA I know is Rod Stewart’s ex. Also [One of Ariel's sisters in "The Little Mermaid"], which I’ve never seen. (Sorry, Joe Cabrera.)
- 18A. To COZEN is to [Swindle]. I can’t say I’ve ever used the word, but I love it anyway.
- 23A. What the…? STONEY? ["___ End" (1971 Barbra Streisand hit)]? Never heard of it.
- 26A. Word I Love #2: GALOOTS are big [Lugs].
- 29A. [One with an ear and a small mouth] is one ear too few to be MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, so it’s a JUG.
- 36A. SEABEDS are [Wet bottoms]. Eww! My son is exploring a new Wii game called Endless Ocean. He’s virtually swimming in a coral reef. (Not “eww.”)
- 39A. What [Misery] is this? Pure HELL.
- 51A. I got stuck on the second half of this [Target of some leg-pulling]. CRAB what? CRABMEAT.
- 54A. The only wildly unfamiliar word I encountered here was KIBEI. [U.S.-born Japanese educated in Japan] has a special word?
- 59A. Word I Love #3 is FLUMMOXED, or [At a loss].
- 1D. A friend of a friend has vacationed and DJed and partied in IBIZA, but I have not been there. Nor did I know it was [One of the Pine Islands]. It’s one of the Balearic Islands, sure, but Pine? News to me.
- 2D. Gotta have your harrows. TINED is [Like some harrows]. What, again, are harrows? Basically jumbo rakes dragged over a plowed field to breakup dirt clods and whatnot.
- 3D. Word I Love #4: SKALD, or [Viking poet].
- 10D. Not sure why TACKY is clued as [In poor shape]. That doesn’t feel synonymous to me.
- 12D. LAZYBONES is an excellent entry. It’s a [Person prone to proneness?]. I’m done with this crossword; now, make room on that couch.
- 13D. [Ups and downs of exercise?] doesn’t even need the question mark, I don’t think. KNEE BENDS are so much fun.
- 21D. [Wide receiver Welker] is named WES. Never heard of him. Is he famous? Famous enough for the E crossing unfamiliar STONEY? My husband knows exactly who Welker is. Patriots’ wide receiver, broke some record for…something. I don’t know anything about ELIO [Chacon of the 1962 Mets] (37D), other than that I think his 75%-vowels name has been in crosswords before.
- 23D. Love this clue—[Fat, as a chance] means SLIM.
- 29D. You know what’s really JAM-PACKED ([Very full])? A jar of strawberry preserves.
- 35D. Is there a pharmacist reading this who can attest to using TER, or [Thrice, to a pharmacist]?
- 48D. “Election”? There was an election? Pope LEO XI was a [Leader who died 27 days after his election].
- 53D. Another in the category of “Sports Clues I Sure Didn’t Know”—the USMA, or [Black Knights' home: Abbr.]. That’s West Point?
So, how’d you make out with this puzzle?
“Not That” Sam Donaldson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The other Sam Donaldson is the subject of my favorite crossword drawing by artist Emily Jo Cureton. I bought it in greeting card form, but can’t bring myself to part with it.
This puZZle is packed with the letter Z and its friends. You’ve got your QUIZZICAL and PAPARAZZI, [Übermensch philosopher] NIETZSCHE with his five-consonant pile-up, ZOOMING ZEALOTS, the papal Star Wars conclave of JEDI and JOHN PAUL I, and more. After putting in my first answer, MOLOKAI, I gambled that the [Big name in publishing] would be KNOPF (20A) owing to its oddball consonant pairs, and that pointed the way towards the overall Scrabbliness-on-speed of the crossword. Either the clues were really easy or I coasted on Sam’s wavelength, as sub-4:00 themelesses are not my norm.
Favorite bits, on top of the aforementioned words:
- If you’ve got to have crosswordese geography names URAL and ARAL, why not cross them? We’ve got 15A: [Evaporating sea] for ARAL and 7D: [Kazakhstan river] for URAL. I can’t tell you what a disappointment it was for me last November when Ural Williams didn’t show up for my high school class reunion. I knew his name was crosswordese when we were 14, but never got a chance to discuss it with him.
- Speaking of crosswordese geography, OREM gets dressed up with a fresh clue—16A: [Utah home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival]. Call me a nerd if you must, but sometimes I appreciate it when lame repeaters get new clues.
- 30A: ELIA KAZAN usually gets the crosswordese FITB treatment with just ELIA in the grid, but he gets the full name this time. Man, without “Kazan” in the clue, ["Gentlemen's Agreement" Oscar winner] was a mystery to me.
- 1D: The [Groundbreaking invention] isn’t so amazing after all. It’s a PICKAXE, which may be used to hack away at the ground.
- 4D: [Dime novels] are PULPS. Rex Parker’s non-crossword blog is Pop Sensation, where he writes about pulp fiction book covers.
- 6D, 22D. For [Star chasers], I wanted something like ASTRONOMERS to fit, but it turned out to be the double-Z PAPARAZZI. The other kind of stars figure into [Stellar]/ASTRAL.
I have no idea who 38D: [Russian supermodel Vodianova] is, but with the N in place, NATA**A was likely. Turned out to be NATALIA rather than NATASHA. According to New York magazine, she’s got three kids and is an activist on behalf of Russian orphans. Check this out: One of her kids is named Neva, after the 4-letter river crossword solvers know and love.
Updated Saturday morning:
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “All About Eve”—Janie’s review
Once again, we close the week on a high. In his own cryptic way, Randy is telling us that there is theme fill “all about” (in the sense of “around”) the name “EVE.” Perhaps we’ll see a 60th anniversary tribute puzzle to the Mankiewicz film about Hollywood backstabbers at the end of the year, but for now we can content our selves with the, uh, four faces of EVE as it appears within:
- 17A. BLUE VELVET [1963 chart-topper by Bobby Vinton]. Also the disturbing 1986 mystery-thriller film by David Lynch.
- 29A. VARICOSE VEIN [Sclerotherapy target]. Yikes. Don’t know that I ever had to see this in a puzzle… but… it does give me the opportunity to mention the health club rep I once met who extolled the virtues of the regimen there and how regular exercise was a sure-fire way to stave off very-close veins…
- 49A. JESSE VENTURA [Former governor nicknamed "The Body"]. His time in office was not Minnesota’s finest hour…
- 64A. THE VERDICT [1982 Paul Newman film]. Ah. And now I’m thinking that Randy clued “Blue Velvet” in connection with the song rather than the film because he already had The Verdict as cinematic fill.
There’s a lot of good, long non-theme fill to mention: DOC SAVAGE [Pulp hero with a fortress of solitude] (new to me, but a “fortress of solitude” is about as poetic as ya can get–and for a “pulp hero” yet!); MISDEEDS [Sins], SKIP OVER [Jump past] and INDONESIA [Java man's home] lead the way. We also get a bit more world geography by way of the eastern European pair of ROSTOV [Russian city known as the gateway to the Caucasus] and the [Moscow refusal] NYET; and also by way of EDOM [Ancient region near the Dead Sea].
I like the descriptive sports-cluing for UCLA and ARA, [Where the Wizard of Westwood coached] and [Coach Parseghian of the Fighting Irish]. And more than that, I simply liked the scrabbly feel to the fill–with SAJAK and CAJUN, KLUM and KRILL, VETOES and VENTED. Also appreciated that clue for Mr. Sajak, [Letter man of TV]. “NEAT!” ["Cool beans!"]
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, an acrostic
I won’t usually blog the acrostic, but what the hell, it won’t take long. Considerably easier than the biweekly NYT second Sunday acrostic by Cox and Rathvon, isn’t it? On my first pass through the clues, I had all but eight answers filled in. Then I went through the quote and filled in the blank letters in most of the words. Scarcely any of that “working back and forth between the clues and the quote to figure things out” required. And that’s fine! I don’t much want to spend a long time on an acrostic.
I liked the fine art theme (the quote’s about the Louvre) borne out in several of the clues. In the field of music, there’s a Huey Lewis and the News song with…a backing vocal by Joe Montana?!? How did I not know that? “HIP TO BE SQUARE” came out in ’86, which was after my early-’80s dalliance with the band. By ’86, I was too collegiate for Huey Lewis’s new work.
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Good gravy, this crossword made me feel young. I am not old enough for the following clues to have been gimmes:
- 17A. ["Star" of "Switched-On Bach"] is the MOOG SYNTHESIZER. I know the object, but “Switched-on-Bach” doesn’t mean much to me.
- 45A. ['60s "Ed Sullivan Show" regular] is Anne MEARA. Before my time. I learned her name from crosswords long before I could recognize the faces of Stiller and Meara.
- 6D. ["Mickey Mouse Club" grownup] clues ROY. Sorry, I wasn’t born yet. Is that Walt’s son Roy Disney?
- 44D. ["This Is It" co-composer] doesn’t ring a bell, but whenever I’m looking for a 4-letter composer/songwriter/singer starting with A, Paul ANKA lands the gig.
- 21A. [Analysts' org.] is the APA, which psychoanalysts may join. Doesn’t “analyst” in crossword clue usually signal an intelligence analyst of some sort?
- 23A. I got this one—Dianne WIEST is clued with [Her two Oscar roles were directed by the same person].
- 26A. ["90210" surname] is WALSH. This is the ’90s incarnation of the show, not the current one. I think. Maybe Brenda or Brandon’s kids are characters on the new 90210?
- 28A. Plural BEIGES, the blah color(s), are [Yellow Mist and Old Lace].
- 36A. [Chesapeake Bay occupation] clues EELER. On one episode of Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe helped out at a slime eel facility, swirling eels in water to unleash vast and disgusting quantities of slime that were then disposed of so the no-longer-slime-covered eels could be sold to seafood processors.
- 42A. Your BROW is an [Anatomical ridge].
- 43A. You know your Chinese history? MCM (1900) is [When the Boxers rebelled]. I’m thinking nobody in China was using Roman numerals 110 years ago.
- 44A. [True] as a verb meaning ALIGN is a sense I encounter only in crosswords.
- 1D. Eh, this plays too hard with alternate meanings. FAMISH is clued as [Make fast, maybe]. You don’t “make someone fast” by starving them. No one would word it that way.
- 11D. Did not know ALI was an ["American Gladiators" cohost]? Muhammad? Laila?
- 12D. One type of [Household coverage] is HAZARD INSURANCE. Snore.
- 14D. Had a tough time with ["Leipziger" ___ (German parliament's home)] because I went with ARAPAHOE instead of ARAPAHOS for [Onetime Cheyenne allies]. STRASSE looks much better than ETRASSE, that’s for sure.
- 24D. I asked my family, “Who is [ESPN football reporter] EISEN?” My kid said, “Hower. Eisen-hower.” My god! You’d think he was old enough for those MEARA and ROY clues. My husband says it’s Howard Eisen. Never heard of him.
- 27D. MOLAR, the adjective? Whoa. [Good for grinding]. Never seen it used in an adjectival form.
- 31D. I see the makings of a cryptic clue here. [The Pope, e.g.] is a THEOCRAT. That’s the TV series THE OC + the rodent RAT.
- 32D. Did you know TULANE is [Amy Carter's alma mater?]. I didn’t.
- 41D. Don’t know the difference between bonsai and bansai. Is there one? Who spells it with an A? [Bansai candidate] clues the ALDER tree.
It’s bothersome to see screwed-up punctuation and special characters again. Really, how hard can it be to get quotation marks in the right place? And if the accented í isn’t displaying correctly (“D?a de los Reyes”), switch it to a plain i already. Crossworders expect more attention to detail than this. I see a question mark in place of the í in the Java applet and in the PDF, and if it’s in the PDF, I know it’s not just my Mac failing to display it correctly. Wake up, Newsday proofreaders!
Full PDF solution here.