Saturday, 5/8/10

NYT 9:01
Newsday 8:04
LAT untimed
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle tba (It’s Hex cryptic week!)

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5What a cool-looking grid! The most wide-open space is right in the crosshairs, with the 3/5/7/15/9/15/7/5/3 circle. This 66-worder wasn’t quite as fun to solve as to behold, but I hereby declare that everything’s fair and nothing’s trumped up.

Today’s 1-Across is [Where some diggers dig], which is not any sort of mine (my first thought) but a CLAM BED. Aw, CLAMBER would have been a better 1A (it’s a great verb, isn’t it?) but not just any letter works when it has to link up with a crossing 15.

The 15s are more workmanlike than sparkling, which is often the case with 15s:

  • 31A. Geiger [Counter measures?] are RADIATION LEVELS.
  • 35A. Actually, I do like HOLDING PATTERNS as an entry. [They keep airliners aloft].
  • 7D. I wondered where [What food courts aim to satisfy] was heading. Lowest common denominator tastes? Appetites for junk food? DIFFERING TASTES are served by having multiple food choices, but it doesn’t quite gel as an in-the-language term unto itself.
  • 8D. [Books and such] are WRITTEN MATERIAL.

Highlights:

  • 8A. [Chuck Yeager, e.g., in brief] is the three-word W.W. II ACE. WWIIACE almost looks like a Polish word to me.
  • 18A. Topical ICELAND! We just watched a show about Eyjafjallajokull this afternoon. The nation is also [Home of the Great Geysir]. We await Charlie Brown’s annual vigil watching for the Great Geysir. See also 13D: [Like a volcano] for CONICAL.
  • 26A. I don’t know why, but I love the word [Isinglass], meaning MICA.
  • 28A. I tricked myself here. [Like Miro's "The Tilled Field"] clues SURREAL, but I had Millet’s “The Gleaners” in mind and was rather surprised at what answer emerged.
  • 34A. To TRANSMUTE something is to change its nature, so [Make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, e.g.?] is a great clue.
  • 41A. Ever since I learned what ANO (no ñ) means in Spanish, I have developed a keen appreciation of the word. Imagine, if you will, that ["So is that ___?"] ANO is Spanglish.
  • 42A. [Adds to the staff] doesn’t just mean HIRES. It also means NOTATES, when you’re adding musical notes to the staff.
  • 56A. We don’t see YOUTUBE too often in the grid. It’s a [Common blog link] or, if you’re lucky, an embed.
  • 2D. When I planned my 1999 trip to Maui, I learned about LAHAINA. It’s the [Maui locale that was once the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii]. Too bad we had to cancel the trip. Some day!
  • 45D. Doesn’t this clue sound like it was written by Winnie the Pooh? PEPTO is a [Rumbly tummy soother].

Tough nuts to crack:

  • 24A. Total guess on my part, that BEETS are [Red flannel hash ingredients].
  • 30A. [Blemish] is also a verb, meaning MAR.
  • 59A. [Supply] serves as an -ly adverb form of “supple”: LITHELY.
  • 5D, 20A. [With 20-Across, natural energy source] is BODY / FAT. Your body can burn it for energy. See also:
  • 24D. [Fuel derivable from biomass] = BUTANOL. Say what? This is my pick for worst entry. Not that it’s invalid—just that it’s neither familiar nor very inferrable.
  • 29D. [Neighbors of Belarusians] are LETTS of Latvia.
  • 47D. Ngaio MARSH is a [Dame of whodunits].
  • 49D. No idea what Trenchtown refers to. [Trenchtown, for one] is a SLUM.

Tom Heilman’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6I don’t know how long I spent on this puzzle because I did it off the clock, on paper. I had a few trouble spots and hit the skids in two adjacent squares, so maybe it’s a little harder than usual. Or maybe I just wasn’t focusing. I finished in the southwest quadrant and figured 37A needed fixing. For 37D, BOUNCES worked for [Bumps along], and for 38D, I had ONSHORE for [Close to the coast]. These made 37A: [Deceptive lingo] into BOVETALK. Bove talk! Clearly wrong. (As was the suitable FAST TALK, which I started with until the crossings said no, no, no.) So I changed it to JIVE TALK with JOUNCES and INSHORE, which I swear I have never seen before.

Other potential trouble spots:

  • 1A. [Reacted with embarrassment, maybe] clues GIGGLED, but my first thought was BLUSHED, crossings be damned. Undamn the crossings and let them lead you to the right answer.
  • 8A. [Moderate pace] is JOG TROT. That’s a term? For equestrians, yes.
  • 26A. So I guess I should read Othello, huh? IAGO is clued with a line: ["So will I ... make the net / That shall enmesh them all" speaker].
  • 48A. [Court org.]…oh, you can’t fool me! I know it’s about sports and not the judicial system. WNBA? Alas, no. It’s the tennis court and USTA.
  • 51A. For [They can get high], I suspected SOTS but was pleased when the answer turned out to be SEAS.
  • 52A. [FDR home loan gp.] is NHA. Say what now? FDR-era initialisms are not my strong suit.
  • 56A. To [Make notes?] is to COMPOSE music. Good misdirection here.
  • 60A. Did you know ERITREA, Ethiopia’s neighbor, was an [Italian colony from 1890 to 1941]? Apparently I did not.
  • 61A: [Frenzied fits] clues the odd plural DELIRIA. Can I get a ruling on this? Is there ever a need to pluralize “delirium”?
  • 6D. The [Activist who said "You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea"] is Medgar EVERS. Did you recognize the quote?
  • 13D. I sure didn’t know this. ORANGEY was the [Aptly named red tabby who played Cat in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"].
  • 14D. [Police radio lingo] cues TENCODE or TEN CODE. Never heard of this term before. As in “10-4″?
  • 39D. [A, B or C, e.g.] looks like multiple choice to me, but this is the clue for VITAMIN. Good one.
  • 42D. Do you know anyone who would say “IN A STIR” for [Upset]? I’m pretty sure I don’t.
  • 50D. [Raeburn van __, cartoonist who drew "Abbie an' Slats"] clues BUREN. Martin or Abigail van ___ would be too easy, but…”Abbie an’ Slats”??

And now, some highlights:

  • 25A. [Nearly a billion people live in them] is the clue for SLUMS. I like it when a crossword educates me about the world.
  • 53A. FALL DUE means [Become payable] and it feels like completely natural language.
  • 8D. [Many ad circulars] are indeed JUNK MAIL. Fabulous fill!
  • 21D. A [Knucklehead] is a NUMBSKULL. Also a colorful entry.
  • 34D. [Sewer's target] is a RIP. Sewer = one who sews, not a municipal wastewater drainage system.
  • 36D. All right, sound the ALL CLEAR, or [Safe call].
  • 41D. THE WIRE is a great entry if clued as the TV series (…which I have never seen). Clued this way, as [Deadline, metaphorically], the phrase feels naked. It yearns desperately to be part of “down to the wire.”
  • 43D. ["A cinch"] = NO SWEAT. Yep, idiomatically on target.
  • 49D. [Public promenade] is a PASEO. Thank you, conferences set in San Antonio, for teaching me this word. S.A. has its famed Paseo del Rio alongside the concrete-edged river.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Lighten Up”—Janie’s review

Randy gives us one really strong conclusion to the CS solving week. When you want to “lighten up” your diet, you may want to cut your calorie intake. Or something else, which is suggested by 66A [Yakety-yak (and a hint to the starts of 17-, 27-, and 49-Across] CHEW THE FAT. Yep, cut out the fat in your diet and you’re bound to “lighten up.” Cut out the fat from three well-known phrases and you “beef up” the verbal fun. That’s how:

  • 17A. Fat-free recipe → [An example of Emeril's largesse?] or a FREE RECIPE.
  • 27A. Fatal Attraction → [Lust for Gore?] or AL ATTRACTION. I find this clue and fill combo both humorous and brilliant on so many levels. Made my day.
  • 49A. Father Confessor → [To whom a madam relates sin?] HER CONFESSOR. Well, really—with the possible exception of her hairdresser—to whom else would she go?!

These lively fat-free phrases are well met in the non-theme fill as well. [Prince or Bono] is a ROCK STAR. Kinda funny to imagine it, but it’s possible that one day we could see that bean pole of a Prince with an [Undesirable overhang] BEER BELLY. That’s one fine clue/fill combo, btw, as is [Java man?] for MR. COFFEE.

I don’t know about you, but I got myself into a bit of a fix in Northern California. I’d entered TAP for DAB [Light stroke], which let me confidently enter TIVO for DISH [DirecTV accessory]. Guess who neither owns a TiVo nor subscribes to DirecTV?…

If there isn’t a lot by way of mini-themes or other internal glue, there is the close-if-not-quite-a-cigar tie-in of OPERA and SOLOS. This just misses the mark because although the former is clued as ["The Marriage of Figaro," for one], the latter gets a welcome fresh take as [Pilot license exams]. And while clued once, there’s also (as I see it…) a pair of pest-control fill. The obvious one is [Mouse catchers] for OWLS, but then there’s one of the feline variety, too, that [Tailless cat], the MANX. Quite a species, the Manx, and most successful at routing rodents!

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

I came to a standstill in the bottom 60% of this puzzle thanks to a handful of plausible incorrect answers blocking the emergence of crossing fill. Here’s where everything gang agley:

  • 33d. [It's often passed down]—I had GENE instead of LORE, and had no idea what the 35a crossing, [Base of some springs], was. What kind of STEEL? Turned out to be HIGH CARBON STEEL, which fits neatly in the category Boring 15-Letter Fill.
  • 37d. [Hummus ingredient], 8 letters, gotta be CHICKPEA, right? I was 100% right and wrong at the same time. I had the wrong name for the right food. Answer’s GARBANZO.
  • 47d. [Concord] isn’t ACCORD, and I should’ve noticed the shared -CORD part that would militate against that answer. Correct answer is ASSENT. (Up above, 31d: [Concord, for one] is a CITY in Massachusetts.)
  • 55d. I was half wrong on ["Are as moonlight __ sunlight": Tennyson]. I had IS TO instead of the right UNTO.

The crossings weren’t so obvious to me that I rooted out these wrong answers right away, but I did finally straighten everything out. I don’t usually make so many wrong turns! I mean, not outside of the car. No, that’s a lie. I only make a moderate amount of wrong turns.

Here’s a selection of clues and their answers:

  • 1a. PORTABLES is a plural noun, clued as [Many modern gadgets].
  • 15a. [British East India Company governor] is ELIHU YALE. I didn’t know he held that position, but his name is so crossword-friendly (half vowels, alternating with consonants) that I filled him in based on *****YA*E.
  • 17a. ["Man of the House" autobiographer] is TIP O’NEILL. Got him off the LL at the end. The top of the grid filled itself in so quickly, I had no idea I was about to hit the skids.
  • 32a. [Common stock] is OXTAIL, as in soup stock. I’m not sure I’d call it “common,” not compared to chicken stock, beef stock, and vegetable stock.
  • 40a. ["Project Runway Canada" host] is supermodel IMAN.
  • 50a. [Gates-of-heaven opener for Apollo] is EOS, the goddess of dawn.
  • 53a. An ARABESQUE is a [Serpentine line] as well as the ballet pose.
  • 57a. John Philip SOUSA is your ["Invincible Eagle" composer].
  • 59a. [Flurries] as a transitive verb meaning UNSETTLES? No, it’s intransitive. So the pile of leaves or burst of snow UNSETTLES? I don’t like that equivalency.
  • 2d. OLIVIA is the [Piglet of kiddie lit]. Were you thinking of A.A. Milne’s Piglet or E.B. White’s Wilbur?
  • 8d. [Lois Lane's mother], this puzzle tells me, is named ELLA. I had no idea.
  • 11d. [Four-time AL Hank Aaron Award winner] clues A-ROD. Wait, only the “AL” part signals a shortened name? Hmph.
  • 12d. I nailed this one. [A source] = source of vitamin A = CAROTENE.
  • 26d. [Year in Urban II's reign] is MXC. Does anyone outside the Vatican appreciate a “year of the Pope” clue? Because I sure don’t.
  • 27d. [Z follower] in the Greek alphabet clues ETA. Except the Z follower is H. The zeta follower is eta. I don’t like this muddling of forms.
  • 35d. [Iroquois Confederacy cofounder] is HIAWATHA.
  • 44d. In Morse code, SOS is a [Nine-symbol message].
  • 51d. [Dark-meat delicacy] is SQUAB. I ordered that once, expecting something like chicken. It was offputtingly dark, and I learned that French-style restaurants and I do not mix.
  • 56d. ["Around the Horn" airer] is ESPN. Oh, yeah, I had another wrong answer here. I had CNBC and was thinking of the closing bell, which is not at all a horn like the ones that blow at the end of a basketball game. Which, my husband tells me, is not at all the point of the show’s title. “Around the horn” is a baseball term.

(Complete solution here.)

Holy cats, where did the morning go? Updated Saturday afternoon:

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s variety cryptic crossword, “What’s in the Box?”—Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle

When I was finished with the meta, I still had two blank squares that didn’t preclude me from figuring out the meta part. 20A: [Writer came up with name for some tiling (7)] ended up as PEN_O_E. Turns out it’s pretty PENROSE tiling, where “writer” = PEN and “came up” = ROSE. Not a name that came to mind for “name for some tiling,” as I know more medical terminology (Penrose drain) than mathematical.

The five shaded squares spell out BENTO, and a bento box is a Japanese lunchbox. Now, I was looking for sushi to be one of the hidden words, but the word-search items are TOFU, FRUIT, VEGGIES, GREEN TEA, and RICE BALLS. That’s what goes in a bento box? If you say so…

Across answers:

  • 2A. SA(L)TED
  • 6A. AS + SAIL (AS = middle 2 letters of “season”)
  • 11A. smALLER GENes
  • 12A. PEST + O
  • 13A. LAD + LED
  • 14A. GAITER sounds like “gator”
  • 15A. BARRED sounds like “bard”
  • 16A. GAME (double definition, willing to play + with limping legs)
  • 17A. A(DI)T
  • 18A. E + LEGIST
  • 20A. PEN + ROSE
  • 22A. AR(CAN)E
  • 25A. C.(AVER)N.
  • 28A. T + RIMMED
  • 30A. TERM + IT + E
  • 32A. RI + ME
  • 33A. C + LOG
  • 34A. QUAFFS sounds like “coifs”
  • 35A. LINGUA (anag. of “in Gaul”)
  • 36A. Hugh LAURIE sounds like “lorry”
  • 37A. ADAGE = “saw” or old saying
  • 38A. REF + RAINS
  • 39A. M(ELOD)Y
  • 40A. D(WE)EBS

Down answers:

  • 1D. FALL APART (anag. of “altar flap”)
  • 2D. SLANDERS (N.Y. Islanders)
  • 3D. tropicAL DRINk
  • 4D. TRE + AS + ON
  • 5D. D(E.G.)REE (anag. of “reed” with EG inside)
  • 6D. ANGELIC (anag. of “glance I”)
  • 7D. SPA(DE)R (DE – half of “dead”)
  • 8D. ASTAIRE sounds like “a stair”
  • 9D. ITEMS (anag. of Times)
  • 10D. L + ORE
  • 19D. T(ENDER)EST
  • 21D. GREMLINS (anag. of “men, girls”)
  • 23D. COR(ON)AL
  • 24D. ESTUARY (anag. of “true, say”)
  • 26D. AIRFARE sounds like “heir + fair”
  • 27D. PIQUED sounds like “peeked”
  • 28D. TEARED (anag. of “treed, a”)
  • 29D. MIDRIB (reversal of “bird + I’m”)
  • 31D. E+ LID + E
  • 33D. CLAM (CL = 150 in Roman numerals + A.M.)

This one’s not among my favorite Hex cryptics. The two uncrossed squares in PENROSE and a boring little ADIT, plus the mystifying assemblage of word-search answers? Eh. I like that only one of the Across answers is an anagram. I like the five “sounds like” clues. And I also like the wide assortment of charade clues. Many of the NYT second Sunday cryptics seem to rely on a lot of anagrams, which tend to be easier and, to me, less interesting.

How’d you like this week’s offering?

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17 Responses to Saturday, 5/8/10

  1. joon says:

    i agree with most of what you said. pretty grid, but the solve in general and the 15s in particular felt more workmanlike than fun. BUTANOL seemed familiar enough to me, but maybe just because i know some hydrocarbon prefixes. meth-, eth-, prop-, but-, and then it goes pent-, hex-, etc. i don’t pay that much attention to biofuel discussions, but it’s possible i heard this word on NPR sometime.

    {Supply} for LITHELY was a nasty trick. i can’t decide if i love it or hate it. i’d definitely love it more if i could remember myself ever wanting to use either of those words in adverb form.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Tough but fair. Enjoyed it immensely. Though I stared at that northwest corner for the longest time until I googled kreplach. Once I had RAVIOLI the entire corner fell in about 30 seconds.

    Trenchtown is in Kingston, Jamaica. I know it from Bob Marley’s song “No Woman No Cry”.

    “I remember when we used to sit
    in a government yard in Trenchtown”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjuP0SWqUR0&feature=related

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Very tricky in places! I started with Transmute in the center and worked out from there. For some reason I had Prison Material before Written Material, may have been thinking of ex-notables like NY Sen. Bruno now headed for the hoosegow — a tale worthy of Ngaio Marsh. Also like Holding Patterns and Differing Tastes. Wow, what an intricate work!

  4. Matt says:

    A good-and-tough one for me… I finally waved the white flag at the intersection of the old Hawaiian capital and the 20+ year old recording title, and didn’t feel too bad about it.

  5. Howard B says:

    Edit – sorry Spork, I posted about Trenchtown not realizing I was long beaten to the punch.

    Couldn’t say the same for LAHAINA, which with the crossings took me a couple minutes alone to unravel. I hang my head in shame for my difficulty with LITA. That time period should have been right in my wheelhouse. (YouTube for “Lita Kiss Me Deadly” to see her big hit – not going to link today.) She also had a hit duet with Ozzy, but I think that came a little later.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    The name of the cat in the LAT was a pain, as I remembered the rescue in the rain where Cat was called No-name… IAGO gave me ORANGEY, though it never rang any bells! Jam’s PECTIN should have been a gimme, but I tried an -ose ending first. I really loved Tom Heilman’s fill, FAERIES, BIG AS LIFE, CRINKLE, JOUNCES and ERITREA. Okay, so DELIRIA is a stretch but NO SWEAT!

  7. Martin says:

    joon,

    One vote for “Supply” as a great clue, to be loved. It got me good and elicited a “why you little” upon aha.

  8. joon says:

    i had the exact opposite experience from amy: the rest of the stumper was tough, but the NW killed me. never heard PORTABLES used as a noun, and was expecting the answer to be something more exciting/interesting, perhaps beginning with an acronym. ELIHU YALE might have come to me if i could have gotten the Y, but it was my last letter in the grid; i started with MAHARAJAH there and even though i took it out, the crossings took forever to piece together. i had HINT for AUNT at one point, too.

    this was one of the few “year of the pope” clues that was actually useful to me; urban II convened the first crusade at the council of clermont in 1095. so i suspected MXC very strongly, although i wasn’t sure he didn’t last until MCI, MCV, or MCX. (wikipedia tells me he died in MXCIX, so there you have it.)

    all the themeless puzzles today were tough, i thought, but none of them struck me as particularly fun. not sure what to make of that.

    i won’t spoil the WSJ hex cryptic, but it’s an odd bird. the whole solve is pretty much independent of the meta, which is its own separate puzzle.

  9. Billie Truitt says:

    Amy, JIVETALK and JOUNCES gave me no trouble because I remembered that LA Times crosswords (almost) always contain a J.

  10. sps says:

    Another thumbs up vote for “SUPPLY”, the last clue to fall in the NYT. Agree with what everyone said about difficulty/pleasure ratio here–it just wasn’t fun (I needed more tongue in cheek-ness and less slog). My first answer in the Stumper was OLIVIA as my niece of the same name has all the books, dolls, and Olivia-ware they’ve made. Bet she’s getting tired of it…

  11. sps says:

    Joon, thanks for pointing me to the WSJ cryptic. Good fun on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

  12. John Haber says:

    I thought SUPPLY was a really nice trick, along with that, the Presley song, the “dame,” and the sports reference to the Colts, I felt lucky to finish the SE, not that frankly I’d have blamed myself rather than the puzzle if I hadn’t.

    But while it went faster, I never did finish the NW. I didn’t feel I should have known LITA, MIATA, or LAHAINA, and E_E then had two possible answers. I also had thought of “coal bed” rather than CLAM BED. So I’ll go out on a limb and say this wasn’t a fair puzzle and that the things I didn’t know weren’t worth knowing.

  13. joon says:

    amy, i had the same thought re: sushi, but it doesn’t share any letters in common with BENTO. what i did like about the meta is that finding TOFU resolved my LAWRIE/LAURIE ambiguity, which i can never remember (and the wordplay didn’t help since it was a soundalike).

    john, hawaiian doesn’t have an S, so once you get to E_E, it’s got to be N. and MIATA is a pretty common car model (made by mazda); it’s even more common in crossword puzzles. even if you only ever do the NYT, you’ll see it at least once a year. the LITA clue was pretty unhelpful, i admit, but LITA ford is a famous rock star who’s also no stranger to the grid. of course you’re the sole judge of what you think is “worth knowing,” but if you want to solve crossword puzzles, then words and names that often show up in crossword puzzles are probably on the list.

  14. Jan says:

    Re the CS: I understand that a fat-free recipe would lighten up your weight, but how does “lighten up” relate to the other two phrases? Does a father confessor lighten up your spiritual state? Does the film Fatal Attraction lighten up your mood? Have I missed something here?

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jan, I think the only “lightening up” intended is the removal of FAT from the theme entries. HER CONFESSOR isn’t Father-specific. AL ATTRACTION has nothing to do with the movie. And a FREE RECIPE just doesn’t cost anything—there’s no indication that the recipe is “light” and coming from Emeril, it probably isn’t! (His motto is “Pork fat rules.”)

  16. Jan says:

    Ah, now I understand! Thanks very much!

Comments are closed.