Saturday, 5/15/10

Newsday 10:45
NYT 5:35
LAT 4:06
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 19:02—Berry’s “Section Eight”

Trip Payne and Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1Trip and Patrick usually work alone, and this 66-worder doesn’t seem characteristically Trip or characteristically Patrick. The grid features triple-stacked 11s bonded to a 15, giving us sprawling white spaces. The long answers are:

  • 1A. [Mimeographs, e.g.] are DUPLICATORS. I once operated the mimeo machine, back in high school. Ah, those were the days. Purple-print quizzes!
  • 15A. ONLINE MEDIA are [Paperless reading materials]. You were thinking of Kindles and iPads and whatnot, weren’t you?
  • 17A. Blast from the past. STAGFLATION was a [1970s woe]. I once owned a WIN (“whip inflation now”) button, and I can’t help wondering what the hell wearing a button was supposed to do to battle inflation. Is that what the sluggish economy needs now—a slogan and buttons?
  • 19A. One [Alliterative pro team name] is TENNESSEE TITANS. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES wouldn’t fit. Are there enough alliterative teams for a Sporcle quiz, Trip?
  • 45A. [Writer who doesn't need an agent] is an AUTHOR/PUBLISHER. Does this mean someone who is self-publishing their work?
  • 53A. “LEAVE IT TO ME.” ["You needn't worry about that"].
  • 55A. Easy enough—[Had people over] clues ENTERTAINED.
  • 57A. [Ingredients in everything bagels] include SESAME SEEDS. I’ll pass.

Delectable bits in the shorter category:

  • 16A. C’mon, who doesn’t love the Shortz-brand analogy clues? [Dentiform : tooth :: pisiform : ___] PEA. Piriform = pear.
  • 18A. PET is a [Resident ignored by census takers]. One of my friends inside the computer is working as a census enumerator. She raves about the government-issued census pencils. Will there be any coveted census pencils at the next ACPT?
  • 27A. VARLET is an awesome word. ["___ vile" (epithet for Falstaff)] is its clue.
  • 41A. “ALOUETTE” is a French [Song involving an 8-Down, in part]. 8D is TETE, [Something plucked in 41-Across]. This song is devastatingly earwormy. Don’t believe me? Have a listen.
  • 6D. [Locations for Pluto, sometimes] are CELS, as in parts of a cartoon. Pluto is Mickey Mouse’s dog.
  • 32D. POTHOLES are the [Results of road fatigue]. Boy howdy, are they ever. Chicago’s roads remain bone-tired.
  • 33D. Freshest entry in the grid: BATPHONE, an [Item in Commissioner Gordon's office]. You know, Gordon lives around the corner from me. At least, that’s where a house played the part of the Gordons’ house in Dark Knight.
  • 37D. Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous BEASTIE is the [Epithet for the mouse in "To a Mouse"], by Robert Burns. This is the poem, of course, that gave us “gang aft agley.”
  • 46D. A new RENÉ clue! [___ Fonck, top Allied fighter ace of W.W.I]. That’s who my husband was named after.
  • 49D. I love a good BERM, or [Earthen embankment]. I like the word BERM better than an actual berm.

Nice to have only eight 3s, no?

I wonder how many solvers don’t know the first letter of VARLET. Let’s hope they know that VERSO is the opposite of “recto,” the right-sided page in a book. 27A: [It's left in a book] is the clue.
Updated Saturday morning:

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

It’s the “finish” of the CS “themed” solving-week, and a nice tidy one it’s been, too. Even with the promised “muddle” of today’s puzzle. But that’s just cryptic-speak for: anagrams! I hope you’ve also enjoyed the progression this week from words that sound alike, to words that have the same meaning, to words that have the same letter set. Look what Randy does with A, E, G, L, R:

  • 17A. LIGHT LAGER [Low-calorie beer]; or, if you prefer something harder,
  • 23A. CHIVAS REGAL [Premium Scotch whiskey].
  • 38A. ROCKET’S RED GLARE [Lyric from "The Star-Spangled Banner"]. Some 30 years ago I heard a very funny critique of our national anthem, questioning not so much its singability, as the syntax and general poesy. Darned if I can find it to share with you, however…
  • 47A. EDWARD ELGAR ["Pomp and Circumstance" composer]. While “Pomp and Circumstance” is Elgar’s Op. 39, it’s made up of five different marches. Here’s No. 1, the one to which most of us probably made our way down some aisle to collect our high school and/or college diplomas.
  • 59A. EXTRA LARGE [Plus size]. And possibly the way some folks like their lager and/or Chivas.

There’s a lot to like in the non-theme fill as well. First of all there’s a near-bonus anagram. An OGRE is a [Fairy tale monster]. Ogre + S = GORES [Pierces].

Then there’s a rather extensive “lively arts” mini-theme. That [Oscar category] is for SCREENPLAY. Double Oscar-winner ELIA [Director Kazan] took home more than his share of awards and amassed a load of nominations including some for screenplay. [Cowardly Lion player] Bert LAHR did not receive an Oscar nod for that role, but did take home a 1964 Tony for his role in the musical Foxy.

If you see the letters SRO at the box office of a theatre on the Great White Way, that means it’s “Standing Room Only” and is a [Boffo B'way show sign]. When Billy Elliot opened on Broadway last season, it was SRO for months. How did many of the ensemble dancers and singers get hired? Well, a [Cattle call goal] is a ROLE. You can be sure they went, and the lucky ones got the job. Come opening night, their friends were offering good luck wishes by saying the opposite: “break a leg.” This is a wonderful gesture. [One who might "break a leg" literally] is a GOON–and this is not… (Those [Stage constructions] btw, are the SETS.)

Let me not forget the person who [Criticizes] TAKES APART all that the creators of a show (or movie, or … ) have put together. But hey—it’s all part of the process. Sometimes this same person will give credit where it’s due and save a work or performer from serious obscurity. This is a good thing!

ART of the two-dimensional and sculptural variety is what you’ll find in a [Display at the Getty]. Much of the two-dimensional sort will have been created on an EASEL, though today this word is clued with more of a business bent as [Flip chart holder]…

Last but not least, I must call out a particularly charming clue/fill pair combo: [Prepare to propose] KNEEL and [Swear words?] I DO’S. Sweet!

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 94:06 places this in the difficulty range of a Thursday NYT (or an uncommonly easy themeless Friday NYT).

The grid’s got a triple stack of 15s across the middle, crossed by a couple more 15s running down. Those anchor entries are as follows:

  • 34A: [Minor league team with a locomotive in one of its logos] are the READING PHILLIES. Barry’s a big Philadelphia Phillies fan.
  • 38A: [He played Will Scarlet in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"] clues CHRISTIAN SLATER. Never saw that movie, but he’s a cutie.
  • 39A: [New England setting] is the EASTERN TIME ZONE. I think EASTERN STANDARD was in another recent puzzle, so I tried that here. TIME ZONE makes for better fill.
  • 5D: [Someone to build a team around] is a FRANCHISE PLAYER. Sports, schmorts. I want to put together a crossword team. You really can’t go wrong with any of the first-round draft choices when it comes to crossword competitors.
  • 10D: [Runway displays] include FALL COLLECTIONS. I feel like the designers have fall and spring collections, but not summer and winter. Is this true?

Highlights, lowlights, midlights:

  • 1A: If you [Move to new places?] but don’t get very far, you SHUFFLE.
  • 18A: [Source of relief?] is the BULLPEN where they store the extra pitchers at a baseball game. Good gravy, Barry, that’s three baseball things. You couldn’t stick one of these in your NYT puzzle yesterday?
  • What an unsightly pair these are. 21A: [Look at, to Livy] clues the Latin ECCE, and 24A: [Suffix with fluor-] is -ESCE. There are some other ugly little fillers, too. Like abbreviations—SBA, CIC, OSS. Fragments—DRI, ‘ELD elided from “held,” LA-Z, AT A. So many short names!—POE, NED, TEO, ALF, LEN, APU, ALLIE, INEZ, LOREN, LEHAR, LISZT, BEENE. Not one of these lends any real sparkle to the grid. The long answers are great, and the 7s are fine. It’s the short stuff that’s bringing me down.
  • 57A: The [Mexican salamander] with frilly gills is the AXOLOTL. I’m a big fan.
  • 59A: ["New York Mining Disaster 1941" was their first U.S. hit in 1967] did not at all tell me the answer. BEE GEES! I consider their mid- to late-’70s oeuvre to contain their truest essence.

Robert Wolfe’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Let me begin with a technical gripe. Week after week, the Saturday Stumper contains errors in punctuation in the clues. Today, there are two, both with the quotation marks clinging to the following word:

  • 58a. ["Stalag 17 "Oscar winner], HOLDEN.
  • 9d. ["Son of Frankenstein "star], LUGOSI.

I brought this to the editor’s attention weeks ago, and yet the mistakes keep coming. It’s irritating. Do you really want errors to distract solvers? I would think not. Why aren’t these being caught and fixed before the puzzle goes online? Are the quotation marks at least in the right place in dead-tree newspapers?

I spent a long time on this puzzle, almost twice as long as on the NYT. Sometimes really tough puzzles are a grueling good time, and sometimes they just annoy me. I found this crossword more irritating than mentally challenging. Sour grapes, or valid complaint? We report; you decide.

  • 1a. ["Gee!"] clues “MAN ALIVE!” I think “Man alive!” connotes more a sense of “Wow!” or “Holy smokes!” while “Gee!” is a milder exclamation. DNL. (Do not like.)
  • 16a. Those [Little hangers] in the back of your mouth are UVULAE.
  • 17a. THIRD ACT, clued as [End of "Our Town"], feels rather arbitrary. SECOND ACT is in-the-language as a new career, a new lease on life. Macbeth has a FOURTH ACT and FIFTH ACT, which I would also not like to see in a crossword grid. DNL.
  • 18a. [Reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes stories] clues GASLIT. This just doesn’t fly. Can you come up with a scenario where this really makes sense? DNL.
  • 21a. I didn’t fill in [Oldest US tech university] without advice from the crossings, but I’m pretty sure Tyler Hinman and Dave Sullivan knew this was RPI right off the bat.
  • 22a. [Alexandria was famous for them] clues TOMES. Why? Because of the Library of Alexandria. This didn’t ring a bell for me. You?
  • 24a. [Swiss watch] clues a brand name, RADO. I feel the word “brand” should have been in the clue. DNL.
  • 32a. [Word from the Latin for "devour"] is OBESE. Okay, this etymology is cool. I like learning word roots.
  • 37a. [1945 Physics Nobelist] is PAULI. The crossings weren’t so iron-clad (31D makes no sense to me, 38D could be a couple things, the Greek letter could start with E or U), so I had PEELE. Wolfgang Pauli was an Austrian-born American scientist. He added the exclusion principle to quantum theory: only two electrons in an atom can occupy the same quantum level.
  • 53a. [He's been on TV over 15,000 hours] clues Regis PHILBIN. I had PHIL*** and had no idea what the answer was until it leapt out at me like an overcaffeinated TV host.
  • 59a. [Erstwhile news source] is very erstwhile indeed: the TELETYPE.
  • 63a. [Junior, often] clues ELDER SON. I don’t like this entry at all. Adjective + noun, two units of meaning sandwiched together, and not a discrete unit of meaning. DNL.
  • 7d. [Frequent stop on an Alaskan cruise] is VICTORIA, British Columbia.
  • 8d. [Outside heading] is the prefix ECT-. ECTO- would still be subpar fill, but better than ECT-. I do love it when people end a series thus: “I like word searches, mazes, sudoku, ect.” DNL.
  • 11d. [Thoughtful one] is a MUSER. Not one of the -er words people use with any regularity. DNL.
  • 13d. Did you know “naiad” could be pluralized by adding an S or ES? [Water maidens] clues NAIADES. Not sure I’ve seen that spelling before.
  • 23d. [Multiple of XXIV] is MCC. I actually did some math here. 24 x 5 = 120…oh, 1,200!
  • 26d. [It's handled for farmers] is an odd clue for a PAIL. Guess what? Pails have handles for the rest of us, too. DNL.
  • 31d. [Blackout] clues SKIT. I had to go to Random House Webster’s Unabridged to understand this. “Blackout” or “blackout skit” is a skit that ends with the lights going out. Which population of solvers knows this usage of “blackout”? DNL.
  • 35d. [Keep it under your hat], with no quotation marks representing speech, clues DON’T TELL. “Don’t tell” isn’t a discrete unit of meaning. DNL. I would have liked it a little if the clue were ["Keep it under your hat"].
  • 38d. [Helmet feature] clues AIR HOLE. I had EAR HOLE. I suspect the clue was chosen to deliberately lead people to EAR HOLE, because most AIR HOLEs are not found in helmets.
  • 39d. [20th in a series] is the Greek letter UPSILON. It’s not EPSILON. Epsilon is fifth in the Greek alphabet. What do you mean, you haven’t memorized the order of the Greek letters? Quit slacking!
  • 41d. [Saint Lucy, et al.] clues MARTYRS. That is one messed-up story.
  • 48d. Oh, dear. [Like many hit films] clues RESEEN. DNL. I bet a lot of people have admired Rodin’s The Thinker multiple times. Does that make the sculpture a RESEEN MUSER?
  • 57d. [Tass heading] clues ITAR, as in Itar-Tass. Neither of the “heading” clues is remotely entertaining or interesting, is it?
  • 59d. [His first plant was on Manhattan Isl.] abbreviates “Island” to cue Thomas A. Edison’s initials, TAE.

(PDF of full solution here.)

Did you enjoy this puzzle much more than I did?

Patrick Berry’s “Section Eight” variety puzzle in the Wall Street Journal

Ah, bliss! A variety puzzle that takes several times longer than a Saturday NYT = happy me.

Then you add to that the Berry trademark of kick-ass fill, and the happiness continues. What are there, 38 clues? And only four answers are 5 letters long. No 3s, no 4s. Regular crosswords often rely on shorter words to hold everything together, but Berry’s variety grids blow that out of the water. That’s one factor in jacking up the challenge and interest level—hardly anything in the way of clues you’ve seen a zillion times before. No [Black-and-white treat], no [Beekeeper of film], no is-it-AVER-or-AVOW-this-time.

Of course, having to figure out where all but eight of the answers go is also challenging, especially with the clockwise and counterclockwise options unspecified. Do you love the mental workout of deciphering clues and using logical deduction to put the answers where they belong? I sure do.

I got off to such a slow start on this puzzle that I feared catastrophic failure. I think I had five Ring 1 answers and one Rng 2 answer not yet placed when several minutes had elapsed. But then I saw that bobsledders clue and worked on figuring out where JAMAICANS would fit, and what J words would bracket it in the adjacent rings. Lots of working back and forth between the clue list and grid as well as between adjacent rings. Success!

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22 Responses to Saturday, 5/15/10

  1. Sara says:

    I was feeling bad for Gareth about the TENNESSE TITANS.

    If you operate the mimeograph, do you lose sensitivity to the wonderful smell? Or are you high all the time?

  2. ArtLvr says:

    The Payne/Berry combo was nearly lethal last night, yet totally fair! I firmly believed in ALOUETTE for starters, working the bottom half first, but my “Vanity” PUBLISHER was hard to give up — eventually yielding to AUTHOR when I remembered Jo’s LAURIE. Fave word down there was BLOATS, least lovely was RENE Fonck the fighter ace…

    The center fell fairly quickly with the VARLET VERSO VIEWERS, learning en route the term “grayscale” and smiling at the PET ignored by census takers. Resisted trying to find a word for “rhyme” at Clippers’ Skippers (too wary of crosswordese these days). Ha, TARS.

    Finally, with just -TANS at the end of 19A I guessed TENNESSEE TITANS, and had the last five letters for each of the top three long acrosses. Did I see DUPLICATORS even then? No, had to work out STAGFLATION and Pluto’s CELS before the LIGNITE lit up that NW corner and I could finish. Tada. The ironic thing was that I’d tried DOST early on and given it up for WILT — d’oh.

    I don’t have an OED but I’d guess it has many pages devoted to meanings of GREEN! Pfui.

  3. HH says:

    “Sports, schmorts. I want to put together a crossword team. You really can’t go wrong with any of the first-round draft choices when it comes to crossword competitors.”

    Wouldn’t they just get in each other’s way?
    OTOH, that might make it more fun for the spectators.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Sidelight on the Barry Silk LAT: “pat” was clued as {Gentle hit}. I would love to have seen it clued as:

    {It fits the same clue spelled forward or backward}. Merl?

    Bruce

  5. Martin says:

    The sloppy editing in the Newsday puzzle isn’t limited to Saturday. One weekday puzzle recently had “Shoe covering” cluing SHOE.

    And no, I don’t know why I do them.

  6. Karen says:

    I have an unused 2000 Census pencil if you want one.
    I got stuck up in the NE quadrant after breezing through the rest of the puzzle. My worst mistake was that I was sure BITUMEN was a cheap coal. Instead it’s just a constituent.

  7. Re Patrick Merrell’s wonderful WHEE WEE Thursday, I commented late in the day so not many folks saw it. I’m re-posting here because I think it’s good for a few laughs:

    I loved the creative theme, but the WEE WHEE MONSIEUR parsing problem could easily have been solved by reversing it to WHEE WEE MONSIEUR. ["Great roller coaster ride, little Frenchman!"] or [Thanks for the orgasm, Toulouse!"]

  8. joon says:

    nope, i didn’t like the newsday any more than you did, although i do know PAULI and i know the order of greek letters. somewhat, anyway. enough to know that epsilon goes where E is (fifth) and upsilon is where U is (not quite 21st, but near the back anyway). alexandria’s great library is plenty famous, but i did not know the swiss watch RADO and i really, really disliked some of the awkward word forms (LIMING, GASLIT, RESEEN, MUSER) and arbitrary two-word phrases (GET DONE, DON’T TELL, ELDER SON, THIRD ACT). and i found it pretty disappointing that a themeless would have entries like ECT, SAUR, GES, ATRI, and MCC. so yeah, one of my least favorite saturday stumpers.

  9. Martin says:

    Lee,

    We saw it. We just don’t want to abet it.

    We also laughed our asses off.

  10. Ladel says:

    Anybody think 32D should have been written with a ?

  11. Dave G. says:

    My favorite saturday Times puzzle in a long time. Only a few proper nouns, lots of long fill. Very nice. Trip and Patrick make a good combo.

  12. LARRY says:

    BLACKOUT goes back to the English music hall, and then in the U.S. to vaudeville, when skits ended with the lights going out. They tried this gimmick on early TV but it didn’t work. TV without lights is NOTHING.

  13. pannonica says:

    Larry: Ernie Kovacs’ blackout television skits (1950s) were brilliant, so to speak.

  14. Peter Gordon says:

    The print version of Newsday renders the clues you cited with italics for the movie titles. Someone is adding the quotes when preparing the AcrossLite files, and whoever is doing it isn’t being careful.

  15. ===Dan says:

    Amy, when the WIN buttons were current, one of the economics (asst) professors where I was in grad school made a poster with a set of those buttons gradually being turned upside down until NIM was said to stand for “No Immediate Miracles.”

  16. sps says:

    Another “nay vote for the Stumper here. Unbelievably arbitrary clues (THIRD ACT? gimme a break…) and poorly written clues. Yuck. I love a good hard puzzle, but not this one.

  17. hcunningham says:

    Is there a reason the answers to WSJ “Section Eight” were omitted, while answers to the other puzzles were posted?

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @hcunningham: Because it’s a hassle to scan in a hard copy. On rare occasions (see: this weekend’s Sunday NYT crossword), I have my assistant (i.e., my husband) scan in my solution.

    But if you’ve got questions about some particularly knotty clues, fire away.

  19. Jan says:

    Testing for my photo.

  20. John Haber says:

    Enjoyed the Saturday Times, with a convincing fill. I had trouble giving up “online publisher” (and AUTHOR PUBLISHER was new to me, too), which in turn made it harder for to get ONLINE MEDIA, but all entirely fair. I did start with a doubly failed “gimme”: both the wrong answer after all and my misspelling anyway, “slicket.” (I don’t do Newsday puzzles, but if it’s any comfort, Pauli was an important physicist indeed.)

Comments are closed.