Friday, 6/4/10

NYT 5:47
LAT 4:08
CHE (?) tba
CS untimed

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 9This is an unusual grid for a themeless, and an unusual approach for the master of the triple stack. Instead of triples, Martin goes with four double stacks of 15s framing the puzzle. Here are the long answers:

  • 14a. [Dangerous thing, supposedly] clues A LITTLE LEARNING. This is my favorite of the 15s.
  • 17a. [Vis-à-vis] means COMPARED AGAINST.
  • 54a. To [Take five] is to PAUSE FOR A MOMENT.
  • 58a. [Battlefield attendant] is a STRETCHER BEARER. Hmm, grim.
  • 2d. If one has [Many things to juggle], one has A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE. Not a big fan of the “one’s” phrases. A little “your” would be good.
  • 3d. [It's often pushed back before taking off] clues the TIME OF DEPARTURE. Isn’t it sad that the “often” in this clue isn’t a stretch?
  • 11d. [Spying aid] is a MINIATURE CAMERA. When in D.C., check out the International Spy Museum. Crowded and not free, but fascinating for all ages.
  • 12d. This clue rhymes with the last one. [Flying aid], if you’re a pilot rather tan a bird, is an INSTRUMENT PANEL.

Together, these eight answers occupy more than half of the puzzle’s real estate. Getting them, though, doesn’t help with that middle section.

Toughest clues:

  • 5a. [People magazine's 1991 "Sexiest Man Alive"] was Patrick SWAYZE. Most of the past honorees I could think of didn’t have 6-letter names, and boy, was I glad the answer wasn’t GIBSON.
  • 11a. Vague Italian clue: [Parmesan possessive] doesn’t tell you what person’s doing the possessing. It’s me, and MIA, as in “mamma mia,” means “my.”
  • 19a. The last 20th Century Fox movie I saw was The Simpsons Movie, last weekend. [Spoken word that's a sound trademark of 20th Century Fox] is Homer’s “D’OH!”
  • 21a. I didn’t know “moot” was also a verb. MOOTED means [Brought up for discussion].
  • 23a. Suddenly I’m in the mood for crackers. First name of Mr. [Ritz of the Ritz] hotel business is CESAR. (And yesterday, we finished up a bag of RUFFLES here. No, not [Irritates]. Ridged potato chips.)
  • 33a. [He tried to have Capone killed in 1926] clues MORAN. Bugsy? Not Erin. Definitely not Erin.
  • 34a. Didn’t know “mawashi,” either. [Mawashi wearer's activity] is SUMO. So, is that the name for the wrapped buttcrack turban?
  • 37a. Heh. OREL is the [Oblast between Kursk and Tula]. All this clue tells me is “Russian place name.” An oblast is a region or administrative district in Russia. Tula is not to be confused with Toula, Nia Vardalos’s character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. OREL, of course, is also former pitcher Hershiser. If you combine Kursk and Tula, you wind up with Shari Lewis’s Burr Tillstrom’s (thanks for the catch, Neville!) puppet, Kukla.
  • 38a. Definitely there are easier ways to clue SEPT. M.A.-S. went with French: [Third of vingt-et-un]. That’s 21 and 7.
  • 42a. [Brit's bender] is a BOOZE-UP. Not a term I’ve seen before.
  • 53a. KAMA is a [Hindu love god]. Where is GANESH? I want to see him in the puzzle some day.
  • 60a. Also never heard of the SCOTIA [___ Sea (part of the South Atlantic)]. It’s between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica, says Wikipedia.
  • 21d. [It may create a buzz in the morning] isn’t about alarm clocks or caffeine—it’s about the MIMOSA, O.J. with champagne. A bar near me also offers the “man-mosa” on weekends. Same drink, but in a manly pint glass.
  • 32d. [One may demand attention: Abbr.] is a tough clue for SGT. As in a drill sergeant, or any sergeant? “Sergeant,” by the way, is the word that killed me in a spelling bee. I won $1,000 the previous year with “mesquite,” if you can believe that.
  • 43d. [It's superior to bohea] is talking about PEKOE tea. Bohea? Dictionary tells me it’s Chinese black tea from the last crop of the season, not the good stuff.

Favorite clue: 4d: ST. PAT is a [Green party VIP?]. Cute!

I’m seeing a lot of long solving times on the applet. If this puzzle really put you through the paces, what in particular was hard? Was it all those unfamiliar words and gnarly clues?

Kelsey Blakley’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 10There are only four standard-size theme entries here, so you’d think the fill would be quite smooth. I dunno. I think the constructor was chasing lots of Scrabbly letters, with the end result being some compromises in the fill. I kept catching myself frowning while filling in the puzzle.

First up, the theme: Familiar phrases become something entirely different when you add an I to the end.

  • 17a. [College administrator's cocktail?] is a DEAN MARTINI. Given Dean Martin’s fondness for martinis, this one has extra resonance.
  • 30a. [Still in love with a legendary giant?] clues NOT OVER YETI. The theme answer is funny, but the base phrase “not over yet” feels naked without “it’s” at the beginning.
  • 47a. The PAYROLL TAXI is a [Vehicle delivering the weekly checks?].
  • 63a. Saving the best for last, we have [Equine teacher of Japan?] clueing HORSE SENSEI. I like this one a lot.

What sort of fill made me frowny? ONE-A (2d. [Most fit for drafting]) right beside ADAS (3d. [Entry-level legal jobs: Abbr.], short for assistant district attorneys). E-ZINE (32d. [Surfer's read])—I never encounter the term e-zine online, and even if you were reading an e-zine, you probably wouldn’t call yourself a surfer. Plus ERLE, ETO, ADZ, ON ME, NO PAR, EYE TO, MT. ETNA, ANSE (44a. [Addie's husband in "As I Lay Dying"]), LORAN—those don’t send me.

Bright spots:

  • 25d. TORONTO is the [Leafs' home]. Their NHL team is the Maple Leafs, not Leaves.
  • 29d. Did you know IVORY was an [Old billiard ball material]? I didn’t.
  • 40d. A SMOOTHIE is a [Blended fruit drink].

Mystery bit:

  • 66a. [Sleep, in Sussex] clues KIP. I might’ve changed TYKE to TIRE, losing the K that forces KIP.

Breakfast test!

  • MANURE (9d. [Soil enricher]) crosses AUTOPSY (21a. [Inspection requiring scales], to weigh dissected organs). Really, now!


Updated Friday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Tee-off Time”—Janie’s review

(From my vantage point, at least) Yay—this wasn’t a golf-themed puzzle! It’s the “-off” in the title that tells the tale. Each of the five theme phrases is a variation of a well-known phrase—minus the initial “T.” Whence “Tee-off.” As always, Martin’s created a smile-worthy set of theme fill for us as:

  • 17A. Tape recorder → APE RECORDER [Simian's steno?]. This one makes me laugh. Funny concept here.
  • 11D. Todd BridgesODD BRIDGES [Mismatched dental fittings?]. Ouch. That must be uncomfortable. Hadn’t thought about Mr. B. in years (and I hope it’ll be that long ’til I think of him again), but his name does lend itself well to the theme! (Do you suppose he heard this from taunters as a kid?)
  • 37A. Turnkeys → URN KEYS [Samovar openers?]. And as you see, they have ‘em.
  • 27D. Tearjerkers → EAR-JERKERS [Heavy pendants?]. While I’m not wild for the clue, I think this is my favorite “before and after” combo. I kept thinking the clue should refer to people who tug their own (or someone else’s) ear lobes and not to jewelry. Weighty earbobs will pull the lobes down, but will they do so in a “jerky” way? I have some trouble with that idea. (Not that this is an “easy” one to clue in the first place…)
  • 56A. Tissue papers → ISSUE PAPERS [Publish essays?]. Again, I’m not in synch with the clue and I think it’s because “tissue” is an adjective while issue is a verb. I think I’d've preferred something offering consistency with the established pattern, like [Birth certificates for one's children?]. But that’s what keeps things interesting.

There’s plenty of non-theme fill to keep things interesting as well. I’m talkin’ BOOB TUBES [TVs] and the medium-related CARTOONS [Saturday morning TV fare]; IDLE HANDS and UPSTAIRS. Nice, too, how the latter, clued as [Above the ground floor] has a home-architecture-design complement in [Basement's opposite] for ATTIC.

There’s some terrific “tee-on” action, too, in TURBANS and TSE-TSE, TRIPOLI and TE-HEE.

Don’t know why this one brought me up short, but it did—and I was happy for the “d’oh” moment: [Travel route with no points in between], yielding A TO B. Yep. I was definitely being too narrow/literal in my thinking about the meaning of “travel” and “travel route.” Good one. D’oh.  And a fine “second act” puzzle all around!

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21 Responses to Friday, 6/4/10

  1. Concur on the International Spy Museum as a DC tourist destination (and only three blocks from my office, so you can stop by and say hi to a fellow crossword lover, too). As for clues that tripped me up, several of the 15s had multiple possibilities and I replaced parts of those answers frequently. Besides, the right answer for [Take five] has to mention Dave Brubeck somehow… :-)

  2. Neville says:

    +1 For the Spy Museum!

    However, IIRC, Shari Lewis had nothing to do with Kukla (though Kukla is Russian for doll!)

  3. Plot says:

    My above-average time was mostly due to putting in KRAUT instead of FRANZ without any crossings. In hindsight, this was a dumb move; even if you ignore the fact that neither person was German, it’s highly doubtful that such a pejorative term would be used to describe well-respected composers. But, the middle section was giving me trouble and I was so desperate to get something down that logic went by the wayside. Of course, I convinced myself that KRAUT was correct once I filled in MORAN, PLANT, and then RANKLES instead of RUFFLES. So yeah, it took me at least five minutes to dig myself out of that hole, if not more.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT:
    Wow! 8X15′s, none of them stink, actually most are really nice entries (like the similar clues for 11 & 12D of course) and the rest of the puzzle is actually not filled with complete junk either! An amazing feat! The middle has CENTAUR and BOOZEUP which are both really cool too!

    The hardest part of the puzzle (by a long way) for me was top-left and middle-left… 2 & 3D & 15A. Never heard of MIMOSA in that context, but the tree is very familiar. Actually I think 15A was because I had EAMES instead of TAMER, in fact that was the last change I made to the puzzle. Was wondering where the heck SUFFLE had come from!!

  5. Rick says:

    The center of this one killed me. I finally came here to get the last couple of answers.

    Kukla is the Russian word for doll or small puppet, hence Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

  6. Zulema says:

    And while we are at Russian, OREL is pronounced “ORIOL” and somehow less coincidentally, it means EAGLE, a different bird. It was the center I filled in first, and that led to the right side first and then the left. NW was the toughest. Great puzzle.

  7. ken phifer says:

    Commenting on the 4 jun martin ashwood-smith puzzle in the washington post. His 5 down clue was “malaria fly”. the answer was supposed to be “tsetse” Malaria is not not transmitted by flies but by mosquitoes and the tsetse fly transmits trypanosomiasis(sleeping sickness) not malaria

    Dr, ken Phifer
    retired US Public Health Service

  8. janie says:

    “kukla” is also the greek word for “doll.” (which is about as much greek as i know…)

    this is a few days late, but really enjoyed gareth’s mention of the previously unbeknownst to me “joe soap.” that led me to some investigative googling and this link.

    enjoy!

    ;-)

  9. joon says:

    unfamiliar words and gnarly clues? sure, that’s as good an explanation as any. also, unusually for me, i was slowed down by a reluctance to pencil in my guesses for the 15s (which turned out to all be correct). but the middle was just plain hard.

  10. ktd says:

    The upper left corner of the puzzle was like quicksand. I finished it last and it probably took 15 minutes or so to fill in 20 squares up there. The 1A/1D crossing seemed really hard while I was solving–for 1A I couldn’t get IRON out of my head, with crossings of IBM, ON-TIME DEPARTURE, and NADER. Then I tried BARS which allowed A LOT ON ONES PLATE and ST PAT but I couldn’t get the others. In the end I had to complete the 15s before I could get any of the shorter answers.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Loved the puzzle.

    Kama as in Kama Sutra.

    Is “compared against” really an idiomatic phrase? I would say “with: or “to.”

    I think Orel is pronounced closer to aryel.

    I though the center was the easiest with folio, Lange & Franz as gimmes, and the nice plant – weed combo

    Bruce

  12. Gareth says:

    I was off here to grumble about the TSETSE/malaria combo, but it seems Dr Phifer beat me to it…

    Otherwise CS was a fun puzzle; enjoyed the way all 5 lost their leading consonants to become vowel-first entries. The man from BC is taking over today!

  13. Howard B says:

    Did not finish the Times today. SUMO was my break-in to the puzzle, and I don’t know why. Slightly harder than usual, and then I hit the middle section. Entered DUMPED ON, then blank, blank, blank, in that order. There is nothing else other than FRANZ that I could have solved in there with what I know, and no other way to break in. So always more stuff to learn here. Middle turns out to be a rather trivia-heavy box with the Capone, kids’ song and Oscar-winner clues in close proximity.

    Congratulations, intrepid solvers! Tomorrow’s should be interesting, if it’s tougher than this one :).

  14. Jeffrey says:

    I finished the NYT in better than average time for me. I guess it’s a good day for BC men!

  15. Evad says:

    Agree the middle was the toughest area of today’s NYT…I had FRANK before FRANZ, so missed BOOZEUP. Also had RAMA for KAMA, so couldn’t see PEKOE. Other than that, got it all, tho I find A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE to be more in-the-language for “Dangerous thing.”

  16. Cole says:

    It’s from a poem:

    A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:

    A Pope “An Essay on Criticism”

  17. Martin says:

    To Dr. Ken Phifer:

    Mea culpa on my “Malaria clue” error. Good catch, and stupid mistake on my part.

    All I can do is quote 19-Across from my NYT puzzle today, and say “D’oh!”

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  18. ktd says:

    Amy, no mention of White SOX? Shout out to the South Side!

  19. John Haber says:

    My hard spots were CBS/BRET/SCOTIA, where I guessed right thankfully, since SCOTIA looked so much like a word after Nova Scotia, and ALD_/D_H, where I didn’t. The connection of Fox to the Simpsons was lost on me, and ALD_ made me think of Alan Alda. I did see the movie but didn’t care whether I remembered the actor. Tarantino has gone into utter self-involvement anyway.

    I liked the grid a lot, as well as the curious reversal that for once it was the long clues that gave me a foothold. It was the short central sections of north, east, and south that annoyed me.

  20. Joan macon says:

    Amy, lately I don’t get a spot like this. Am I doing something wrong? I know my remarks are always late, but I love thinking I am contacting someone out there.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joan, I’ve been closing comments on posts that are more than 5 weeks old (and thus cover NYT puzzles that have appeared in syndication). Once I got to the point of having more than 200 spam comments a day to clear out of the filter, I had to start closing comments on a rolling basis. Pesky spammers!

Comments are closed.