Saturday, 5/1/10

Newsday 10:13
NYT 7:24
LAT 4:06
CS 3:13
WSJ Saturday Puzzle (Mike Shenk’s “Spell Weaving”) — about 10 minutes

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 15I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle despite that adjacent-key typo lurking in my grid (WORKS FOR NE). Lots of cool fill, clever clues, and gnarly spots that made me work. Take a trip through the crossword with me:

  • 1A. EMPTY SUIT’s one of the livelier answers. He or she’s a [Good-for-nothing].
  • 15A. “GOT A MATCH?” is a [Light seeker's question]. I kinda thought the “light seeker” might be someone seeking spiritual enlightenment.
  • 22A. The [Populist power couple of the 1940s-'50s] weren’t American—they were the PERONS. I don’t usually care for plurals of proper names, but Juan and Evita are considered together often enough that this plural is fine.
  • 24A. ORFE was in that Tony Orbach puzzle with CUCHIFRITO crossing at the F. That puzzle killed me! ORFE is an [Ornamental pond fish].
  • 31A. Newark, I presume? EWR is the airport code for the [Airport alternative to JFK or LGA]. Never seen that one before, but New Yorkers surely know it.
  • 32A. I guess The Valachi Papers had to do with the Mob. OMERTA is the [Code broken by Joe Valachi].
  • 34A. DORA MAAR was [Picasso's "private muse"]. The name makes me think of The Eyes of Laura Mars because of the near-rhyme.
  • 38A. Great clue—[Adversary of Rocky] is NATASHA from Rocky and Bullwinkle, not one of Rocky Balboa’s pugilistic opponents.
  • 41A. The R was my last square. MERTON is [Wimbledon's borough], and the crossing MARE is [One that may 28-Down], or TROT. Kinda mean to put a cross-referenced clue through an unfamiliar proper name.
  • 42A. [Pou ___ (vantage point)] clues STO. Whoa. Crossings all the way here—fortunately, they’re all ordinary words. STO is also 100 in Czech.
  • 46A. We have one of those “it” clues, where “it” and the answer are interchangeable, rather than the entire clue—gotta be ready for such clues on Saturday. [Stick with it] clues a FORK.
  • 52A. EDIE is the [Beggar in Sir Walter Scott's "The Antiquary"]. Remember when Edie McClurg was the go-to EDIE in puzzles? Then she canceled an ACPT appearance and…we don’t see her so much anymore. Granted, Edie Falco’s career has been much more prominent in recent years.
  • 63A. TEENSPEAK is [What many text messages are full of]. I tried TEXTSPEAK despite “text” being in the clue.
  • 1D. [They often take a beating] refers to EGGS.
  • 4D. [Hold hands?] are the hired hands who work in the hold on a ship—TARS, or sailors.
  • 8D. ICE-COLD is the [Opposite of torrid].
  • 9D. Whoa! Really? [Its news network won a 2008 Peabody Award] clues THE ONION. Great answer, surprising clue.
  • 12D. [Unmacho features] are presented here as MAN-BREASTS. Why, New York Times! You’re so sassy today. I like the term “moobs,” personally.
  • 13D. Ick. CHIEF WAHOO is the appalling [Cleveland Indians mascot]. Lively entry, but boo to Cleveland.
  • 25D, 26D. [Response of approval] pulls double duty for “WORKS FOR ME” and “AMEN TO THAT.” I was kinda hoping the second one would be “AMEN, SISTER.”
  • 44D. [Like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva] clues TRIUNE. Various other divine  trinities also qualify.
  • 47D. ["South Park" parka wearer] is KENNY. “Omigod! They killed Kenny!”
  • 55D. [Ciliary body locale] is the UVEA. I recently met a kid with a genetic disorder that affects the cilia in the body, meaning her lungs and intestines are tetchy and her vision is deteriorating. I had never known that the eyes contained any cilia.

Robert Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 14With a 4:06 finish, we remain in the Thursday/Friday NYT difficulty zone. Nothing particularly grabbed me in this one. Nor did anything repulse me. The puzzle’s sort of just there for me. Let’s check out the content:

  • 1A: [Beachgoer's pursuit] clues a SUNBATH. Very few people say that a sunbather is taking a SUNBATH.
  • 8A: [A film may be shown in it] clues THREE-D. Yep, it looks like the mysterious THREED in the grid. ONED and TWOD confuse people even more. The World’s Best Movie Critic, Roger Ebert, has been vocal in his opposition to slapping 3-D on too many movies for inorganic reasons. I love his enthusiastic embrace of Twitter. If you’re on Twitter, you should follow @ebertchicago.
  • 25A: [Trois counterpart] is DREI. Weird to use a French word in a clue for a German one. Trois and drei both mean three.
  • 35A: [Mobile home site] isn’t a TRAILER PARK here but a TRAILER CAMP, which is a term that I don’t recognize but my kid says he knows it. I don’t know how that can be!
  • 38A: [Actress Benaderet who first voiced Granny in Tweety cartoons] is the hard way to clue BEA. The more accessible pop-culture route is Bea Arthur, and there’s also the two-word partial approach (BE A).
  • 39A: ["Count on me"] is an awkward clue for “I WON’T LET YOU DOWN,” necessitated because the word “you” can’t appear in both the clue and the answer.
  • 43A: [Sound of locks being changed?] is the SNIP of a hairdresser or barber’s scissors.
  • 47A: ["Flash of Genius" actor] is ALDA. Alan? Did anyone see this movie? I remember hearing nothing about it. Alda plays a supporting role. This, I say, is not a great way to clue ALDA. Luckily, the crossings aren’t obscure names.
  • 49A: ["I ran away from you once. I can't do it again" speaker] is ILSA Lund in Casablanca.
  • 50A: [Russian emperor after Catherine II] is PAUL I. Who?
  • 53A, 1D: [Pops] means DAD and [Pop] is SODA.
  • 23D: [Forward raises strengthen them] clues your DELTS. I don’t know what “forward raises” are. My physical trainer has spared me that.
  • 30D: [Scale notes, e.g.] are an OCTET. Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do = 8.
  • 34D: [Aster family plant] is a TANSY, rhymes with pansy.

Updated Saturday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Call It in the Air”

Region capture 1I paid no mind to the title and theme while solving and experienced the puzzle as a crisp but easy unthemed crossword. The theme is calling a coin toss, with “heads,” “tails,” or…who calls “edge”?

  • 20a. ["Wild Wild Life" band] is TALKING HEADS. They’re that rarity—a band that was biggest in the ’80s that’s not a guilty pleasure but a straight-up pleasure.
  • 37a. [Forked whip] is the CAT-O’-NINE-TAILS.
  • 53a. [The very latest, as of technology] clues BLEEDING EDGE. It’s keener than the leading edge.

Lots of highlights in this one—Tyler has a knack for lively fill and fresh clues. Like these:

  • 5a. TOGA is a [Word repeated in an "Animal House" chant]. See? Fun!
  • 41a. [What a charming personality might do] is DISARM you.
  • 44a. I like the word KIBBLE. It’s [Dog bowl filler].
  • 62a. A dose of alliteration in [Definitely not a dearth], clueing a GLUT.
  • 3d. [Unhealthy whiteness] is PALLOR. Hey, Tyler! C’mon, man, you know as well as I do that sometimes pallor accompanies good health, as in those who are naturally fishbelly-white. Other whiteness in the grid: SNOW is 66a: [Wintry white stuff] and [A small one is white] clues 43d: LIE.
  • 6d. [The end of the Greeks?] isn’t about history. It’s OMEGA, the last letter in the Greek alphabet.
  • 7d. [The Smashing Pumpkins' debut album, named for a silent film star] is GISH. I never knew the album was named after Lillian Gish.
  • 9d. HARD C gets a straightforward clue: [It sounds like a K, not an S].
  • 12d. I feared [Australian cartoon character who fears water, for short] was demanding knowledge of Australia’s animation tradition, but no—it’s TAZ, Warner Bros.’ Tasmanian Devil.
  • 27d. OWNS is gamer slang for [Completely dominates].
  • 34d. [A crisis might accompany it] clues MIDDLE AGE. Hey! I resemble that remark.
  • 39d. TAKE NOTE! ["This is important"].

Stanley Newman’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper,” written under the pen name Anna Stiga

Is it just me, or was this puzzle uncommonly tough? My main problem was the false gimme of SNL for 47a; [TV debut of '75]—the answer is really GMA, short for Good Morning America. That mucked up my puzzle’s midsection until the end.

Clues and answers, here we go:

  • 17a, 64a. [See 64 Across] clues the word WHEREIN, which is the missing word in 64a’s clue, [17 Across the maximum score is 1,575]. I don’t like this dangling adverb business. I have never scored 1,575 in YAHTZEE.
  • 19a. [British pie ingredient] is EEL. Aw, England! Knock it off! That’s gross.
  • 20a. A SCRAPE can be a [Shrill sound].
  • 28a. GRADE A is a [Dairy designation].
  • 30a. [Professional questioners] are D.A.’S.
  • 46a. [Highly regarded, so to speak] clues ACES. I like this one.
  • 49a. [NBA nickname] is for a team, not a player—a MAV is a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
  • 52a. [1000] hours is TEN A.M.
  • 54a. [Average boosters] that boost your GPA are EASY A’S.
  • 57a. Could you tell that [Betraying lack of brightness] was looking for an adverb? It’s DINGILY.
  • 62a. ANTONIN, as in Dvorak, is a [Common Czech prename].
  • 65a. This one kinda stretches the meaning of [Ruins]. If this puzzle means the ruin of you, it’s your nemesis, so [Ruins] are NEMESES. I don’t think the plurals work together here. Anyone have an equivalency sentence that works with either word?
  • 6d. [Comics homemaker] is LOIS of <em>Hi & Lois</em>.
  • 8d. Oh, hello, tasty BANANA NUT [Muffin flavor]!
  • 11d. [Locale of Office Depot's HQ] is FLA., or Florida. Are we supposed to know this??
  • 12d. I used lots of crossings to piece together LIBYANS. [They are ruled by the Leader and Guide of the Revolution], which I presume means Qaddafi.
  • 14d. [Less well-drained] clues SEEPIER. Can you use that in a sentence that isn’t gross?
  • 25d. [Latin title] is SEÑOR, a title in Latin America.
  • 33d. [Calliope relative] is MNEMOSYNE, and it took me <em>forever</em> to realize that little-M mnemosyne isn’t a synonym for little-C calliope. Nope, they’re both names of Muses, and I think the story goes that the Muses are all sisters.
  • 38d. [England's St. George's, for one] clues NAME DAY. Not sure what this all means. I know the Czechs (see 62a) and Poles celebrate name days (the day allocated to the saint one is named after) more than birthdays. The English do name days?
  • 39d. OCARINA, the little wind instrument, is clued [Literally, "little goose"], because it’s apparently shaped like a goose somehow. The instrument is also called a sweet potato, so does that mean geese and sweet potatoes are dead ringers for one another?
  • 42d. [Undesirably solid] clues CAKY, like a clod of crusted-up…something. When I had SNL instead of GMA, this looked like CL**, but CLOG and CLOT aren’t adjectives so I was thoroughly baffled (8a: [Confounds] = BAFFLES).
  • 44d. [Much of Manitoba] is PRAIRIE. One of the few answers I got without needing crossings.
  • 45d. [Mass-market big sellers] are HYMNALS. Is “mass-market” playing on Catholic Mass, or do hymnals just do big business?
  • 50d. How did I not know that Henry [Kissinger's real first name] is HEINZ?
  • 61d. [Comb manufacturer] is the BEE who makes a honeycomb, not a company that makes plastic combs.

(Full solution here.)

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Spell Weaving”

What do you know? There’s not a clunky spot in this entire puzzle, wherein a string of answers zips back and forth and weaves a tapestry of words and phrases. There are a few short answers between the many long, interesting phrases that make up a large part of the grid. The entries are all numbered at specific places in the grid, so you can see exactly where an answer goes and how long it is. (In a “Rows Garden” puzzle, on the other hand, the Rows answers are of indeterminate length and you’re on your own for figuring out where one ends and the next begins.) You can enter answers out of sequence and use the easier ones to piece together the tougher ones, thanks to the weaving aspect.

Mike Shenk is a legendary innovator of new variety grid forms and an acknowledged master in the field. This puzzle demonstrates why Brendan Emmett Quigley calls Mike one of the “crossword Jesuses.” If you see the name of Mike Shenk, Patrick Berry, or Henry Hook in the byline of a variety puzzle, you can feel confident that you won’t encounter lame fill. I’ve done variety puzzles by other people in assorted venues, and you know what? I get irked by reliance on crutches like “roll your own” words, things with clunky RE- prefixes that don’t feel natural. Somehow Mike, Patrick, and Henry are able to interlace a crazy assortment of uncompromised fill, and I don’t know how they do it so well.

Here’s my answer grid:

........NT........
.......TERS.......
......LANEPY......
.....OSMAJORS.....
....OTIAMAROCK....
...SOLOMONAYEAY...
..RSHALLWEDANCEA..
.BOATDRASTICSEERO.
PETESEEGERCHOOSESO
.MASEHTNIELTRUTSED
..GITSNITNASSIORC.
...WSAESIONMOONA..
....UMTILSGANAI...
.....SOREMUNNW....
......NODYOBY.....
.......TIRRU......
........FNI.......
.........A........
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20 Responses to Saturday, 5/1/10

  1. joecab says:

    For PTAS and TARS I had NEAS and CREW, which combined with YMA and my accidentally reading the 1 Down clue for 1 Across, gave me NANCYBOYS :(

  2. jmbrow29 says:

    Glad to see MARE and TROT in the puzzle as well as the jockey Earl SANDE as it is Derby Day! Although, it looks as if it is going to be a muddy and soggy day at the Downs.

  3. joon says:

    tough one for me. i know i’ve seen SANDE but i couldn’t dredge it out of my memory. that and having EGOS for 1d for too long (and it’s true, they often do take a beating) made GUARANTEE really tough, and trying NWR for newark (why not?) made MANBREASTS look all kinds of wrong (in the grid, i mean).

  4. Dan F says:

    When I saw the tropical fish clue, I also had flashbacks to that killer Orbach puzzle. Couldn’t remember it (or SANDE for that matter), but fortunately the crosses took care of it. What’s the Edie McClurg/ACPT story?

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Dan, she was supposed to be the awards presenter, but show biz intervened (needed to do reshoots on something?) and she had to cancel.

  6. Ben Bass says:

    To me, PG is PuzzleGirl, but Paula Gamache gets honorable mention with this typically lively puzzle. Got thru it in 14:59, which feels not bad at all in light of Orange’s 7:24.

    The grid was a 2009 travelogue for me, as I both flew into EWR a few times and went to MERTON when I was fortunate enough to attend Wimbledon. Next stop, RHINE?

    My choice of NYC airport, as for many people I suspect, is a function of where I’m staying. For the Brooklyn Marriott/ACPT, I like LGA. To crash with a friend in Jersey City or the West Village, it’s all EWR (try their NJ Transit train to Penn Station, faster and cheaper than a taxi). For the Parker Meridien, all three airports are equally meh.

  7. Evad says:

    First tried SUNDRESSES for MANBREASTS, figuring those were pretty unmacho as well. And as I emailed Amy last night, had EGOS for EGGS thinking as joon that mine had been beaten (and bruised) a lot lately!

  8. DO says:

    BEQ’s diagramless in the NYT this weekend includes both ANAL and BONER. What is this world coming to?

  9. Howard B says:

    When I cracked the top-right of the Times, I actually said something aloud to the effect of ‘Holy Shortz’ (replace the name with whatever word you like). The juxtaposition of MAN BREASTS and CHIEF WAHOO was so eye-poppingly bizarre that I would have liked this puzzle no matter what else was in there.
    Some rough names and places in there, but the long answers were unexpected and fun. Nice work, Ms. Gamache. Although that upper-right is still a bit unnerving ;).

  10. Gareth says:

    Lovely puzzle… didn’t finish.
    Actually had everything done in 9-ish minutes except for every letter top-right stack of 10-14D, except for IONIA and the wrong KOIS. 15 minutes later, apart from toying with LIMPWRISTS, nothing. Huge, gigantic collision of stuff I don’t know, but some of which I’m guessing were gimmes for most Americans, viz: AAMCO, SPAHN, ALBEN, ORFE (is vaguely familiar), EWR, DORAMAAR, the clue for NATASHA, MERTON, CHIEFWAHOO, APOLO.

    Rest of the puzzle: AMENTOTHAT and WORKSFORME both fabulous – fabulous squared that they’re arranged adjacently.

    I thought the moobs were an Islamic people…

  11. ArtLvr says:

    In the LAT, Wolfe’s Tsar PAUL I was important for our success in our own Revolution, as it turns out… When Catherine the Great died in 1796, she was succeeded by her son Paul I. Catherine never really liked Paul, and her feelings were reciprocated by her son. For us, the crucial thing he did was release her Polish prisoner Prince Thaddeus Kosciusko and give him clothes and money to get on with his freedom-fighting elsewhere. Making a beeline for America, he was welcomed by our own leaders and his engineering skills provided the successful defenses at Saratoga and West Point. Without him, the Brits would still rule here. The famous portrait of his friend Thomas Jefferson with a fur stole shows the same neck piece given to Kosciusko by Paul I and later given as a gift from Kosciusko to Jefferson. Kosciusko also left money to Jefferson to make it financially possible for his slaves to be freed — but Jefferson unfortunately let him down on that.

  12. joon says:

    i found the stumper tough but ultimately quite solvable. MNEMOSYNE wasn’t a muse; she was the mother of the nine muses (calliope included). once i got the MN start, i was able to plunk her into the grid (and finally remove SNL). i do think the HYMNALS clue was playing on “mass,” not that i really buy “mass-market” as an adjective meaning marketed for masses. and i probably should have had OCARINA earlier, considering i’ve seen that goose clue for OCA before. and yes, surprisingly, it does kind of look like both a goose and a sweet potato, though more the former than the latter, i think. but you be the judge.

    i agree with you about tyler’s puzzles. fresh fill, fresh clues. me likey. speaking of tyler, hope everybody is having fun out in LA…

  13. Martin says:

    Amy,

    You didn’t mention 48-Across in the Stumper: “Salt source” (CELERY). If this is about “celery salt” (a mixture including celery seed and salt), I don’t see how the clue works. Is it an odd “kind of” clue? Or am I missing something?

    Too many stretched clues for my taste. (Is Adeline really a “frequent barbershop subject”? Do barbershops frequently have quartets in residence these days?)

    But “salt source” is a real stumper.

  14. LARRY says:

    Had no idea Wimbledon was in the Borough of Merton.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, my mom was just saying the other day that celery tastes salty to her. I don’t eat the stuff myself but didn’t think any produce was very high in sodium. I meant to Google that this morning but forgot. One large stalk has 51 mg of Na, which doesn’t sound like a ton but it’s a lot more than apples have. I semi-randomly looked up broccoli, which is about the same as celery. Where are the shakers of broccoli salt? And the [Salt source] crossword clue for BROCCOLI?

    That said, celery salt is made from celery or lovage seeds AND salt. The salt source in celery salt is clearly salt.

  16. John Haber says:

    I had “egos” for EGGS too for a while, and that and not knowing SANDE made that a tough corner, although I eventually I got it. The confluence of a baseball mascot and a fish did defeat me, though, in a way that annoyed me. It might have helped if I’d spelled ALBEN right (I had Alban), from a distant memory of a VP I’ll look up right now. Heck, given a baseball mascot, it could have been anything outlandish.

  17. don says:

    Amy, as a Clevelander I say ich to Chief Wahoo too. I thought our mascot was a big green furry thing named Slider.

  18. LARRY says:

    Who knew HENRY KISSINGER’S birth name was HEINZ? Ms. Stiga do.

  19. Deb Amlen says:

    “BEQ’s diagramless in the NYT this weekend includes both ANAL and BONER. What is this world coming to?”

    We would like to take this opportunity to announce that the NYT puzzle has been commandeered by the Onion/A.V. Crossword gang. Apparently, all your souls are now belong to us.

  20. Martin says:

    BONER has been flying under the radar for some time.

    Some of us have been sniggering at “Making a boner may or may not be cause for slapping one’s forehead” for almost a decade. Is it a boast or merely reliving that awful recitation in front of the class?

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