Saturday, 6/12/10

Newsday 8:28
NYT 5:55
LAT 5:11
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 11 minutes

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 8Wow, this puzzle has got a lot of splashy fill for a 66-worder. There are a few ugly bits, but the stuff that crackles with vim and vigor more than makes up for it.

What I liked best:

  • 15a. EXXON MOBIL is a [Corporate giant based in Irving, Tex.]. Hey! Not responsible for any currently devastating oil spills. Keep up the good work, guys.
  • 17a. THE ACADEMY is a [Much-thanked group], all right. This is one of two answers containing THE. The other is THE BREWERS, the 57a: [Miller Park squad] in Milwaukee.
  • 19a. SAM MALONE, Ted Danson’s character on Cheers, is the [Sitcom character who said "Not many people know this, but I happen to be famous"].
  • 36a. ROXY MUSIC! And with no mention of Brian Eno in the clue. ["Love is the Drug" group, 1976].
  • 39a. I like [Certain match results] because it lured me into putting TIES instead of TKOS.
  • 49a. SALEM’S LOT is a [Stephen King novel].
  • 7d. TO-DO LISTS are [Things that get longer and  longer for procrastinators].
  • 13d. Pleased with myself for seeing through [Typing concern] in a trice: RH FACTOR, the positive or negative in blood types.
  • 14d. [Wood for food, maybe] is an EYE RHYME—the words wood and food look like rhymes but sure don’t sound like ‘em.
  • 29d. Nice consonant avalanche in the middle of ROCK CLIMB, or [Do some scaling] of cliffs.
  • 31d. Geo trivia! MONTREAL is the [City originally called Ville-Marie].
  • 37d. “YOU KNOW…” can mean ["The more I think about it…"].
  • 43d. Leave Wall Street to see that a GROCER is [One who's happy when his stock goes down?].

Tough stuff:

  • 1a. [Red guards?] clues BEEFEATERS. Hang on here. Beefeaters are the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London, and their coats are black. The Yeomen of the Guard, on the other hand, are not called Beefeaters and they’re the ones who wear red coats.
  • 30a. MME., short for Madame, or Mrs. in French, is [One with an M.], meaning Monsieur, or Mr. One without an M. is Mlle.
  • 33a. ART MONK is the [First NFL player to record 100 receptions in a season]. Slowed myself down here by thinking ART MOSS sounded familiar.
  • 42a. Golf [Club wielder's club: Abbr.] is the PGA.
  • 8d. [Irving Bacheller's "___ Holden"] clues EBEN.
  • 44d. [Goldilocks and others] are small ASTERS. Have a look. New to me.
  • 49d. SASH is clued [One might say "Nevada" in Las Vegas] because of the beauty pageant(s) that are held there. One might also say “Minnesota.”

Ugly bits:

  • 21a. ‘ELP is [Aid, to Eliza Doolittle]. ‘Orrid.
  • 22a. I knew SIL, short for Silvio, but if you were never a Sopranos fan, [Tony's consigliere, familiarly, on "The Sopranos"] is going to be all from the crossings.
  • 5d. ENCASH isn’t a common word, is it? The “Barclays” in [Convert at Barclays, say] suggests it’s very British.
  • 6d. [Norwegian novelist/feminist ___  Skram] has a great last name, doesn’t she? AMALIE Skram lived in the 1800s. Interesting story, but not such a famous name.
  • 20d. [Strong as ___] AN OAK? I wanted AN OX but that sure wouldn’t fit. AN OAK is an ungainly partial, worse than A MITE (33d: [Somewhat]).

I’m partial to themelesses with grids like this—an emphasis on zippy 8- to 11-letter entries. How’d you like this one?

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7My solving time may suggest that this is the toughest Saturday LAT puzzle in months, but my attention was divided while solving it—I was listening to Ryan and Brian’s crossword podcast, “Fill Me In.”

Tons of lively fill in this one, and some playful clues to boot. There’s only one answer that nudged my eyebrow upwards: the only noted LILLI is 44a: [Actress Palmer]. Who? This German actress, who died in 1986, was married to Rex Harrison in the ’40s and ’50s, and was in The Boys From Brazil. The crossings were a big help here.

Now, I’d never heard of SELENITE either. This 13d: [Crystalline gypsum variety] has such ridiculously common letters, you’d think we’d see it lurking in themelesses more often. It should be the OLEO of 8-letter words.

We have one of those -ER words seldom seen outside crosswords. An ECHOER is a 38d: [Parrot].

Coolest answers and clues:

  • 1a. [One in a coup group] vexed me. The “group” sound turned the preceding word into “coop” in my head, and I was waiting for a 7-letter word for “hen” to emerge. D’oh! A coup d’état, with a USURPER taking the reins of power.
  • 14a. The NAPOLEON COMPLEX is a [Source of overcompensating bravado] in a short man. I have seen this one in the wild. Is there a name for the corollary in a tall person slouching into herself to be less obtrusive?
  • 20a. Sure, partials are ugly. But it’s nice to take a break from [__ culpa] and clue ME A with [Van Halen's "Somebody Get __ Doctor"].
  • 21a. Lousy answer, but good clue payoff for long-time solvers: ENTR is the [Start of an intermission?], with the full term entr’acte often getting split for fill-in-the-blank clue action.
  • 32a. [One who doesn't do Windows?] is a MAC USER. Hey-o!
  • 46a. A RETRACTABLE ROOF is a [2009 addition to Wimbledon's Centre Court]. Chicago needs to get some retractable roof/dome action.
  • 12d. CLEMATIS is a [Showy arbor vine], and you can stress the first or second syllable, whichever you prefer. My grandma had vivid purple clematis growing against the back wall of the house.
  • 16d. The noun [Unknown] is an X FACTOR. You were looking for an adjective, weren’t you?
  • 29d. After CLEMATIS, I thought [Nursery supply] would be some sort of potting soil or plant, but no. Baby nursery, and DIAPERS.
  • 34d. Edna St. Vincent MILLAY was the [First woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry]. She’s in crosswords a lot more as an EDNA, isn’t she?
  • 37d. I’ve never seen the phrase GO COED in a crossword, I don’t think. The clue is [Expand the admission pool, in a way].
  • 48d. Fresh clue for LSU, Louisiana State: [Sch. with a yearbook called the Gumbo].

I prefer inches of mercury as the unit of barometric pressure—32d: [Air pressure unit]—but the MILLIBAR is a fine alternative. And now I’m thinking of Mars Bars and that Milky Way Dark candy bar I failed to buy this afternoon. Who will bring me something with nougat and caramel now? …Anyone?

Updated Saturday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Dressing with the Stars”—Janie’s review

Was that [Hoofbeat sound] going to be CLIP or CLOP? It mighta helped if I’d remembered who starred in “McMillan and Wife.” But no. It was only once I caught on to the full theme that my memory was properly jogged. All five of today’s theme answers give us rhymed fill in a “someone’s something” pattern, where the “someone” is a “star” and the “something” is an article of clothing. Thus:

  • 17A. [Apparel for a star of "McMillan and Wife"?] → ROCK’S SOCKS. Oho—Rock Hudson (so make that CLOP)! Um. Never saw the show…
  • 23A. [Apparel for a 1960s political satirist?] → MORT’S SHORTS. That’d be Mort Sahl.
  • 35A. [Apparel for a Sha Na Na bass?] → BOWZER’S TROUSERS. Ouch. Had an “S” where that “Z” lives for faaaar too long. The correct cross looks like LAZ [-Boy], but is, in fact, LA-Z [-Boy]—so LAS seemed fine at the time (don’t ask…). It’s because of the spelling difference in the rhyme-sound of the two words that this is my fave. That and the fact that this fill spans the grid. Never quite understood the appeal of Sha Na Na, but love the sound of male a capella. The video is pure kitsch, but I do go for the Nylons singing “Busy Tonight.” (The video is downright weird. Be warned.) Small in number as they are, neither group joins the ranks of CHORUSES [Musical ensembles]. But maybe at 12 men, Chanticleer would qualify.
  • 45A. [Apparel for a lead actor in "Escape from New York"?] → KURT’S SHIRTS. That’s Kurt Russel c. 1981.
  • 56A. [Apparel for a host of "The Price is Right"?] → DREW’S SHOES. I. e., Drew Carey.

Donna does such a nice job with the non-theme fill as well, and the grid is filled with “internal glue.” For starters we get a mini-theme with things-you-find-in-a-church fill. There’s APSE with its surprising aural clue [Cathedral section that sounds like iPhone programs] and its cohorts PEWS [Church seating] and ALTAR [Site for an exchange of vows].

In the art-world, (making a first-time CS appearance with both first and last names) there’s MAX ERNST [Dada pioneer] and OP-ART [Genre characterized by its illusion of movement]—both of which may be found in SOHO [Arty Manhattan neighborhood]. SoHo is an area teeming with private galleries; and the name indicates that the neighborhood is South of Houston Street. (In Manhattan, “Houston” is pronounced “house-ton”—and not like that city in Texas…)

There are references to two film production companies: [MGM founder Marcus] LOEW and MTM [Production co. responsible for "Lou Grant" and "Rhoda"].

And finally, from the land down under, there’s this pair: ‘ROOS [Aussie hoppers] and the eucalyptus-eating KOALA [Cuddly-looking Australian marsupial]. Really adorable-looking critter.

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Eh, I didn’t care for this puzzle. It was bothersome. Could be just that I was distracted and ill-tempered and interrupted, or it could be that the puzzle itself isn’t the kind I like. One of the two 15s is iffy: LEAST RESISTANCE feels woefully incomplete without a prefatory “path of,” and the [Much-trodden path] clue rings false. LEAST RESISTANCE is not the path itself, it’s what the path offers. I say “boo” to this one. But the [Tunic-wearing mascot] JOLLY GREEN GIANT is terrific. I was set up to hate the answer when I suspected the clue was for a sports or video game thing, but who doesn’t like a behemoth promoting frozen vegetables?

I also like HOT DIGGITY (["Oh, boy!"]) and YAHTZEE ([Game with aces and straights]), but not much else.

On the “dislike” list:

  • 10d, 22a. [Eastern position] and [Eastern positions] for EMIR and AGHAS? Lifeless.
  • 40a. TERI is [Jack Bauer's wife on "24"]. Really? A fictional TERI from a TV series that most Americans do not watch? Even a ratings juggernaut like American Idol doesn’t capture most eyeballs. Less than a tenth of Americans watched the Idol finale a few weeks ago. Less than 15 million people watched any given 24 finale. Go ahead and ask us to know BAUER, but TERI? I say “boo.”
  • 63a. [Evry being] clues the French word ETRE, meaning “being” or “to be.” No, you’re not expected to have heard of Évry. You’re just supposed to see the accent mark and make the connection, even though Évry doesn’t look like many other French names.
  • 3d. [Liquid at room temperature]…sounds like an adjective, but it appears to be a noun, this BROMINE. This chemical element is a dark red fuming toxic liquid with a choking, irritating smell. Now, how in the hell are you supposed to get from such a vague clue to a very specific answer? This clue has a choking, irritating smell.
  • 15d. This is not interesting trivia. That Pez gets its name from the German word for “peppermint” is mildly interesting, but [Austrian inventor of Pez candy]? HAAS? Not a household name. Tennis player Tommy Haas is surely more familiar to more solvers than the Austrian candy man.
  • 37d. Another patented vague Newsday clue: [Literary narrator] clues ISHMAEL. Now, wouldn’t it be more interesting to get something specific (but not obvious) from Moby-Dick into the clue?

Come on, Newsday people—let Doug be Doug. His NYT and LAT puzzles (as well as past Stumper) are more entertaining than this.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Hand-to-Hand Combat”

Not too tough as Berry variety puzzles go, but hey, even an easier one takes more time than the Saturday NYT. The task here is to fill in a 13×13 grid with nonstop Acrosses and Downs. The lack of black squares means there’s some work involved in figuring out where answers begin and end. Everything interlocks (and is it not insane that Berry can fill a grid this way?) except for three squares where the letters from the Across and Down answers must battle it out for supremacy.

Delightful “aha” moment when the grid’s been filled, you reread the instructions, and start looking for those word-searchy hidden words. The first one gives away the trick: where row 12 and column 2 meet, the C is the second letter in a diagonal SCISSORS and the R begins a horizontal ROCK. Rock beats scissors in rock-paper-scissors, so the R wins here.

At row 4/column 8, the I is in a backwards SCISSORS and the A is in a diagonal PAPER. Scissors cut paper, so we get an I.

At row 8/column 11, the battle involves a P in backwards PAPER and and C in upwards ROCK. Paper covers rock, so now there’s a P.

The “appropriate message to their fallen foes,” then, ‘s “R.I.P.” Cute!

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16 Responses to Saturday, 6/12/10

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    I didn’t know SIL (had SAL), so when I ended up with AMALAE, I thought, wow that looks a lot like AMALIE, but it must be how the Norwegians spell it. I never went back to that area when I couldn’t get my solution submitted. I thought the problem was in the AN OAK/POLITY/ART MONK area, which (I thought) was the tough spot for me.

  2. G says:

    Great Saturday in the Times. Wish we saw more of Joe DiPietro.

    Amy, Napoleon Complexes don’t have to apply to a short man. I know plenty of women who themselves claim to have one. Why the lack of gender neutrality?

  3. Doug says:

    Moved through pretty quick, but had to google for SamMalone and SerialMom.

    Was looking for THEBREWCREW as I’m a Wisconsite and “in the know” (refer to THE ISLES from yesterday) but of course plain BREWERS is fine with me. You can walk from Miller Brewing to Miller Park — How convenient.

    I also has ART MOSS, but 20/23D weren’t happening and it came to me.

  4. Gareth says:

    Agreed! Lots and lots of great stuff. Really one of those 4 mini puzzle puzzles… Bottom-left was very easy thanks to ROXYMUSIC. MRISCAN and YOUKNOW get smileys. Top-left: Had TODOLISTS pretty quickly, but took a while to decipher THEACADEMY and EXXONMOBIL which allowed the rest to fall… All 4 longs there are awesome! Top-right: EYERHYME was first entry of puzzle, giving FALLILL/FIRE/ASHY (cool how those last 2 are on top of each other) – lots of staring got ISITME rest fell. Only understood RH FACTOR when read your blog! Had keyboards on brain…

    Where my Saturday fell apart: bottom-right. Immediately had ANKE which got RAN…/ASK…/THE… Not sure how I didn’t think of RANINPLACE (head-slap) esp. as had tried to fit in RANONTHESPOT (yes, I know.) ASKMELATER came after a bit which gave PILATE and PGA and then I got stuck. Ironically, guessing mystery-man ART M?NK was MONK gave the O that gave ROCKCLIMBS (flashy entry!) that unravelled it all! Love the clue for GROCER even though it so got me! Oh, hand up for TIES. Goldilocks met nothing to me…

    LAT: also a great puzzle… loved NAPOLEONCOMPLEX (stylish crossing with XFACTOR!) and RETRACTABLEROOF is also a good’un. Wish it was harder though. Only part that tripped me up was bottom-right (again!) ??COE? ??HOE? and esp. ??YFL? all looked so wrong, but weren’t! A pox on ECHOER!

  5. Matt says:

    Well, I was just completely stuck in the SW– the 70′s (and 80′s) were my non-musical years, so ROXYMUSIC was a blank (although I could guess the MUSIC part). Aside from that musical gap, a fun puzzle.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    G, I’ve never heard of a Napoleon complex in a woman before. (Which is not to say it doesn’t exist.) The social price of short stature is much higher for men than women, though that seems to be changing these days. (Honey, even with the tall hair and high heels, you’re not fooling anyone.)

  7. joon says:

    yay sports! i started with THE BREWERS, got the entire SE, and then found huge gimme ART MONK. (1980′s redskins trivia? yes please.) everything else was a major struggle. like jan, i also tried SAL but AMALAE looked pretty unlikely.

  8. animalheart says:

    I also had the entire grid except for the intersection of SIL/SAL and AMALIE/AMALAE. Since I solve on paper, I had to take a leap of faith and so I went with I. Bingo. One question for those of you who solve electronically: If you are in a similar situation, and you guess A and don’t get the happy pencil (or whatever), then go back and replace the A with an I and get the happy pencil (or whatever), does that count as a successful solve? Or say you’re totally clueless about one letter in the grid, and you keep trying letter after letter until you get the right one, is that a successful solve? Just curious about acceptable practice among speed solvers.

  9. Due to wi-fi problems I was unable to submit my completed accurate entry — about 13 and a half minutes. A few things:

    Animalheart — Perhaps the best answer to your question is that, when accuracy matters most (the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), we solve on paper with no idea at the time of submission other than a gut feeling that we’ve answered correctly. On a daily basis in the NYT applet, my rule is that if I can’t solve everything without help (Googling, etc.) I won’t submit it. But playing guess-the-missing-letter game, such as SIL vs SAL, doesn’t trouble me — especially since everything else is presumably correct. Ambiguous response, I realize…

    Joon — I have always understood that American Football League statistics (1960-1969) were included in the NFL record books. So besides the space limitations that made ART MONK evident, why wasn’t the correct answer Charley Hennigan, technically speaking?

    Soccer — Wow, the Argentine maestro Lionel Messi looks fantastic this morning…

  10. sbmanion says:

    Just the opposite of Gareth. First entry was ART MONK and every quadrant was easy except the SW. I did know SIL immediately, but did not know ROXY. I had HALO instead of NANO, which didn’t help. Finally guessed MONTREAL and it started to fall.

    Steve

  11. joon says:

    brent: i’ve never heard of charlie hennigan, but i also didn’t think that AFL records prior to the merger were considered to be NFL records. also, wikipedia claims that hennigan was the 2nd AFL player to catch 100 passes (101 in 1964), after lionel taylor (100 in 1961). anyway, however you view the record books, the clue said “first NFL player” so the answer is clearly monk.

    gary, there’s no real answer to your question. i do most of my solving on paper now, but when i’m doing a puzzle online, i’m pretty unsatisfied when my “first attempt” is unsuccessful. sometimes, though, when i don’t get the happy pencil, it’s because of a typo, and i don’t mind that as much.

    and i’d just like to point out that as of this moment, south korea is leading the entire world cup. :)

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    SAL / AMALAE here, too. Took 6 minutes of triple-checking every single box before finally trying SOL…SEL…SIL.

    I don’t consider it a “successful solve” if I have to look for an error to have it accepted unless, like Joon said, it’s a typo like, say, SYRUTS / MONYREAL.

  13. Hank says:

    I used to enjoy The Saturday Stumper, but I agree with your comment a while back that it has gotten a lot harder. Getting to be too much of a struggle these days, and often the clues are misleading, as in today’s puzzle. For examle, “liquid at room temperature” really ought to be “mercury,” otherwise there are far too many standard room temp. fluids to risk a guess, plus the other stretches you mention above…

  14. John Haber says:

    Ok, as usual with schlock culture I’ll be the outlier, but I hated the puzzle. I, too, had Amelae, since it was just a name and Sal sounded more or less plausible. I had a slab of ribs, too, never heard of THE BREWERS (and still have no idea what it means but also guessed that bbq came with a slab of ribs), and thus couldn’t figure out GROCERS. I’d thought of PBA, on the grounds that cops carry clubs, and wondered what kind of animal breeders wanted stock to be reduced. I’ll call this an ok Saturday for you TV people, but count me out.

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Gee, I kinda liked the Stumper. I’m usually the ill-tempered one.

    I had sal instead of sil too, but now I’ve forgotten the clue, and I think I tossed the puzzles and now can’t retrieve them. Doesn’t really matter.

    Another problem with clues like Evry with the acute accent on the ‘e’ is that generally in French, the accents are omitted over capital letters.

    Bruce

  16. Spencer says:

    On BEEFEATERS — check the label on a bottle of Beefeater Gin. They’ve got a red-coated Yeoman of the Guard. It’s been around since the 1870s, so if, in fact, the association with red coats is in error, it’s a long-standing error.

    But… Judging from this excerpt from “The official website of the British Monarchy”, it would appear that the dress uniform of the Yeoman Warders is indeed red:

    The State dress uniforms of Yeomen Warders are almost identical to those of the Yeomen of the Guard, but the Yeomen of the Guard can be distinguished by their cross belts worn from the left shoulder.

    For everyday duties, Yeomen Warders wear a dark blue and red undress uniform.

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