Saturday, 7/24/10

NYT 9:26
Newsday 6:21
LAT 5:26
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 16:30—it’s a Patrick Berry “Rows Garden”! (PDF link)

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 9What-what? A rebus on Saturday? You have to halfway suspect some mayhem could be afoot when you see Kahn’s byline on a Saturday. He likes to sneak in some mayhem, he does. This time, it ties in perfectly with the light that dawns when you first figure out that you’re dealing with a rebus puzzle—that {AHA} MOMENT is right there in the grid, with five {AHA} squares in perfectly symmetrical locations. (Its clue is [What you may have while solving this puzzle].)I don’t take points off for rebus squares that aren’t placed symmetrically but boy, is it ever an elegant touch when they are just so.

I blew some time trying to remember how to enter multiple letters in a single square on the NYT’s applet. (Answer: Type an invisible plus sign, shift-equals, for each extra letter you’re squeezing in.) And then I had a typo (yes, I know he’s not Omar SHARIT).

The {AHA} squares are found here:

  • 13a. MINNEH{AHA} is the [Literary character whose name is said to mean "laughing water"]. I thought that was Minnehaha right off the bat, but the 7-square length threw me.
  • 6d. The S{AHA}RA Desert is indeed a [Hot spot].
  • 34a. The [Raptor 350 and others] are YAM{AHA}S. Motorcycles, I presume? The clue meant nothing to me.
  • 12d. SIR GAL{AHA}D is a [Tennyson hero].
  • 38a. MI{A HA}MM is the only theme/rebus answer in which the {AHA} is split across two words. She’s a [Founding member of the Washington Freedom]. Huh? A women’s soccer team, I presume? M**MM sure looked implausible before that {AHA} moment hit.
  • 20d. The [Seat of Leon County, Fla.] is TALL{AHA}SSEE. Never heard of the county, but cluing this as the capital of Florida would give away the game.
  • 41a. Gospel legend M{AHA}LIA is [Singer Jackson]. I wonder how many folks tried JANET and got stuck.
  • 36d. [Old royalty] in India includes maharajahs (princes) and M{AHA}RANEES (wives of princes), also spelled maharanis.
  • 58d. OM{AHA}S are [Some Siouan speakers].

Five favorites:

  • 43a. TSETSE is an [English word that comes from Tswana]. Never heard of the language, didn’t know that etymology, but like the ts- echo that provides a soupçon of help to the solver.
  • 1d. [Nice girls] means “girls from Nice, France,” so it’s FILLES. Did you fall for the it’s-just-a-capital-letter-because-it’s-at-the-beginning trick this time?
  • 42d. [Springer's org.] is the AKC, or American Kennel Club. We’re talking springer spaniels here.
  • 49d. Geography! TIRANA, Albania, is a [Capital midway between Rome and Istanbul]. Athens was my first guess. Coincidentally, my crossword friend Jeffrey Schwartz was in Albania today.
  • 50d. [Editorial feature] means the subjective SLANT that’s characteristic of editorials.

What’s in the not-my-favorite category? Well, honestly, most of the rest of this puzzle. I enjoyed the rebus and the associated challenge, but so much of the grid feels uninspired. Granted, it is difficult to find a solid list of words and phrases with AHA in them that pair up in symmetrical lengths, and there’s not much leeway in terms of substitutions for rebus answers. But it’s not so fun to contend with the likes of these:

  • Preposition phrases galore! SEE TO, SETS OUT, TOSS IN, CAME ON, SPIED ON, IN DEEP, and IN OIL would be fine if there were only two or three of them.
  • Foreign vocab! ANGE is “angel” in French, a [Figure depicted in une eglise]. In Italian, “hour” is ORA, or [Sessanta minuti] (60 minutes).
  • 17a. HAD MORE feels contrived. The clue is [Went back to the buffet, say].
  • 55a. [Hydrocarbon endings] in the plural! ENES.
  • 65a. The SEALERY is a [Place for barkers?], seals. Weird word.

Mark Diehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 10Odd grid here, with the Ls of black squares in each corner (as in John Farmer’s Friday NYT puzzle). I predict many disgruntled solvers who don’t watch Chuck and weren’t watching great movies for teens in 1980, and thus have trouble with the top and bottom rows. Now, I had no idea that 1a: ADAM BALDWIN was now a [Co-star of TV's "Chuck"], but I remember fondly 56a: MY BODYGUARD, the [1980 film debut for 1-Across]. Baldwin played the big lug who turned out to be a nice guy and served as the bodyguard for Chris Makepeace’s character, who was beset by bullies. He kept a fairly low Hollywood profile in the intervening 30 years.

I wasn’t wild about this puzzle’s overall fill. There were things to admire, to be sure:

  • 32a. [Luminescent critter] clues a summertime FIREFLY. I was trying to summon up the names of all those other weird bioluminescent critters that live in the deep or in caves.
  • 52a. I don’t know the [1983 ELO hit with the lyric "She loves that drivin' beat"], but “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IS KING” makes for a good-lookin’ entry.
  • 55a. CALICO KITTENS have spots and thus [They may be spotted at pet stores]. I want to see bioluminescent animals at the pet store.
  • 22d. PLAY-DOH is a [Toy in resealable cans]. If you don’t reseal the can, your Play-Doh turns all hard and crumbly.
  • 24d. Complete the MLK  quote: ["__ is the language of the unheard": M.L. King Jr.]. I guessed ANGER and loved the quote, but that’s not the quote. It’s A RIOT. Same general concept, though.

But other things left me grumbling. The weird-sounding BLOW COLD (36a: [Exude an air of disinterest]) lost me, and then its crossing BRISKLY, includes both “blow” and “cool” in its clue: [How a cool wind blows]. Too much cool/cold blowing going on here.

Also:

  • 3d. [Hydrocarbon suffix] clues -ANE. Wait a minute. So [Hydrocarbon ending] can be either -ANE or -ENE, depending on the crossing? That blows.
  • Abbreviation action: RDS, OSS, DMZ, MERC, WAC, TRW, EEC, SFO, E.R. DOC, and STA? Too much!
  • 2d. [Grooved, in carpentry] clues DADOED. This should be the past tense of “Da Do Ron Ron.” (Shaun Cassidy! You know you want to listen to that song.)
  • 42d. [Eightball loser, often] clues RACKER. Is that really a term in pool? Apparently it is, but it looks like one of those roll-your-own words with an awkward -ER tacked on.

Is it just me, or is the fill in both the LAT and NYT puzzles today less satisfying than usual?

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”

If you can’t get enough Patrick Berry, I encourage you to subscribe to Games magazine and Games World of Puzzles. There are plenty of puzzles I have no interest in solving, plus occasional mistakes—but the goodies are worth the price of admission. GWOP costs $21.95 for six issues a year, and the issue that arrived today includes three Berry creations: a variety cryptic, a tough “On the Right Track” puzzle, and another Rows Garden. (The same issue has several Frank Longo crossword varieties, a Harvey Estes crossword, and a Mike Nothnagel “Mixed Doubles.” Good stuff!)

Moving right along—The highlights of this weekend’s WSJ Rows Garden are colorful long answers that seldom see the light of day in standard crosswords: CHAPSTICK and Steinbeck’s TORTILLA FLAT in one row. TOGA PARTY and a BROMANCE. Colloquial NECK OF THE WOODS. Tasty CINNAMON BUNS. CLOTHES HORSE and the wacky SALAD SHOOTER. And good ol’ DAN RATHER.

Sure, some of the 6s that fill the hexagons are boring, but they’re encountered so much less often than 3s, 4s, and 5s in standard crosswords. You do a Rows Garden puzzle, and you escape AMANA OLEO ENE hell.
Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “OO7″—Janie’s review

Oh, boy, what a beautiful, groan-worthy way to close out the week. Randy has come up with one great application of one very familiar gimmick—the addition of letters to an existing base phrase or name. Today, they’re (basically) all of the letter + word variety. The added letters in question? “OO.” How many times are they added in? Seven. But if you’re looking for seven separate theme entries, you’ll be hard-pressed to find ‘em. And therein lies one of the puzzle’s sweeter treats. Let’s look at the whole set:

  • 17A. C-section + OO = COO SECTION [Where doves are located in the aviary?]. See what I mean about “groan-worthy”? But wait—it only gets better worse.
  • 11D. T-square + OO = TOO SQUARE [Not cool enough].
  • 23A. W. Virginia + OO = WOO VIRGINIA [Seek support from the Old Dominion State?]. a/k/a Mother of Presidents.
  • 35D. L-shaped + OO = LOO-SHAPED [Constructed like a British bathroom?]. Not sure that this is Randy’s strongest entry. How would one know from its appearance that any room is loo “shaped”? If it’s constructed like a loo and has a toilet, then it simply is a loo, no?
  • 52A. MTV Awards + OO = MOO TV AWARDS [Where cows are honored?]. Okay, this breaks the single-letter concept by adding the “OO” after the first letter of an initialism. But look at how effective a break it is. Not only will I not complain, but the whole concept of Moo TV is very funny, and the break in form makes for the perfect transition to the final theme entry—which, with its own set of initials, is the double-header that gives us “OO7.”
  • 62A. B.B. King + OO = BOO-BOO KING [One that made the most errors?]. “Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!” This one just makes me giddy. All is forgiven, including (apparent) orphans T-TOP [Moonroof alternative] and G-SUIT [NASA attire]. IN SHORT, putting it [Succinctly], this two-in-one provides “double the pleasure.”

There’s a lot of 6-letter fill in the grid and if it’s not as tasty as, say, the seasoned POTATO of a good knish, it’s solid with the likes of SOLIDS [Pyramids and prisms], ANOINT [Designate, as if divine], TAOIST [Follower of Lao-tsu]—someone unlikely to be pleased to have to make a [Hostile declaration] like “IT’S WAR.” Surprised to see a 6-letter [Gillette product]? I was. ATRA just wasn’t gonna work. Nupe. This time it’s the TRAC II.

Bob SAGET was the [First host of "America's Funniest Home Videos"] (which is probably the source of half of what’s on YouTube). This show (which lost me at “hello”) has been running since 1990. But if you like to JAPE or [Make sport of] your own foibles (or those of your family or neighbors), this kind of APERY [Monkeying around?] is probably for you. Me, I’m just happy with the overlapping of jape and apery in the grid.

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

I always find myself missing longer answers when I do a themeless puzzle with tons of 7s but nothing longer. This is a 72-worder so the fill has room to breathe—it’s smooth, not clunky. But I’m willing to take a couple subpar short answers if it means getting livelier long fill. Your mileage may vary.

Highlights:

  • 1d. My favorite clue here is this one: [Cover of the Bible] is a FIG LEAF. Ha!
  • 16a. The SOLOMON Sea is the [Sea abutting Guadalcanal]. You all spent your childhood scoping out the various seas between Asia and Australian, didn’t you? Didn’t you? If you did, then getting a couple crossing letters was all you needed here. (More geography: 60a: [The Tanaro River runs through it] clues ASTI; 63a: [Kwacha spender] clues ZAMBIAN; 14d: [City on Lake Victoria] clues ENTEBBE.)
  • 32a. [Basketball's "sixth man"] is the team’s #1 SUB.
  • 35a. To VAMOOSE is to [Split]. Colorful word.
  • 39a. [Intimidated] clues HANGDOG, which is a great word.
  • 46d. Gloria STEINEM is a [1993 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee].

Other remarks:

  • 20a. [Record hardware] clues a HI-FI. “Hardware” doesn’t exactly point you there directly, so it’s a standard sort of Stumper clue.
  • 37a. [1964 Cairo Summit creation] is the PLO. I didn’t know that.
  • 56a. An ALIAS is a [Kind of cover]. Speaking of spycraft, I’m planning to see Salt this afternoon.
  • 67a. [Groups for pitchers] clues TEA SETS, which aren’t usually thought of as “groups.”
  • 4d. [Howdy Doody's original name] is ELMER. Hello, Newsday trivia for the 65-and-up crowd.
  • 6d. [Its quarters have two locomotives], not Osmonds. UTAH!
  • 7d. [Emerald look-alike] clues PERIDOT. Baloney! The emerald is a deep green while the peridot is a yellow-green. Unless maybe you’re color-blind, you’d never mistake one for the other.
  • 9d. [Repeated word in a Herodotus quote] is NOR. That’s right—little-known fact, Herodotus wrote the postal motto. More or less: “Not snow, no, nor rain, nor heat, nor night keeps them from accomplishing their appointed courses with all speed.”
  • 31d. [Old flames?] are EMBERS. Cute clue.
  • 34d. [Sticker abbr.] is MPG, or miles per gallon. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city, where I do most of my driving. Gonna buy one soon.
  • 40d. ["The flower of my heart"] is sweet ADELINE of song.
  • 42d. GAUSSES are [Units of magnetic flux]. The only physics units that were coming to my mind were too short (TESLAS, FARADS).
  • 52d. The FATES are a [Mythological triad].
  • 64d. [Year Pope John XVIII's reign began] is MIV. Wait, do popes have “reigns”?
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18 Responses to Saturday, 7/24/10

  1. I knew MINNEHAHA right off the bat, having grown up in Sioux Falls (the seat of MINNEHAHA County, South Dakota). The question was: which letters comprised the rebus? I wasted much time in NW figuring it to be {AHA} when I could have gone to 20-down and a future port of call, TALLAHASSEE, where I lived for several years after grad school, to reach the {AHA} moment much sooner. So today’s puzzle served as a trip down memory lane…even the CHAMOIS used to remove the voluminous, powdery tree pollen from my car on a typical Tallahassee spring morning…

    (And yes, my NYT user name was created during my time in Leon County. I’ve kept it for simplicity’s sake.)

  2. Gareth says:

    NYT: My AHA came after +- 12 minutes… same experience at 13A – doesn’t fit so my mind must be malfunctioning – even when the crossers piled up I ignored it. Also ignored the fact that 58D ?M?? couldn’t be anything I didn’t know – all the 4 letter Indians get pretty good crossword time! Even when I tried to fit TALLAHASSEE into 20D and failed I decided it must be Talladega instead… Sigh. Facedesk. This is the second time recently Will Shortz pulled this on us… need to be more aware!! Bottom-left was tough even after rebus… SEDALIA/SHAYS, the last letter, was a guess. No comment on THEOTES though. Tried JANET in my imagination, didn’t like the fit, moved on. Please explain how I contemplated TSAMMA (type of melon) at 43A, but couldn’t think of TSETSE. I think the raptor is a quad bike (ATV)???
    Disagree about grid, for a themeless grid with rebus squares this is damn fine – NO partials, 1 weird abbr., low on repeaters, I can live with lots of 2 word phrases even if they’re prepositional!

    LAT: Top and bottom both mysteries, but easily sorted out ones! DADOED is new to me and weirdly spelled! Not sure about CALICOKITTENS, seems contrived, but I guess if you can have CALICOCAT it’s legit. BLOWCOLD on the other hand rings idiomatic in my brain. Hydrocarbon suffix: I always put in ?NE as it can be ANE (only single bonds), ENE (has a double bond), or YNE (a triple bond) Overall despite the infelicities (abbr.s) it still felt like a pleasantly flowing grid…

  3. Evad says:

    Really enjoyed the rebus action on a Saturday; my AHA moment came at the crossing of SIR GAL[AHA]D and YAM[AHA]S.

  4. Matt M. says:

    No one likes plural hydrocarbon endings, but most of the fill you mentioned didn’t really bother me and I thought this puzzle was very satisfying. It’s one of my recent favorites.

  5. Anne E says:

    Wo… “tsetse” is from Tswana??? I did not know this!! Tswana is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, and Tswana speakers are largely though not entirely found in SA, but I never saw one single tsetse fly in SA the whole time I lived there. (But I was chewed alive by them in east Africa – very nasty bite, the tsetse fly.) So, I had to go pull up distribution maps of both tsetse flies and Tswana speakers. Almost no overlap, at present, that is. Interesting, and very clever of Kahn to dig up this etymology. I won’t forget it, although I don’t ever expect to see that clue for that word again. :-)

  6. Roberta S. says:

    I’m sure the instructions you wrote out for rebuses work, but I’d still be solving if I had to do it that way. It also works if you just put in the first letter (A for AHA) or the first letter of the word of a number (T for 3)

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Roberta, I did end up using the A, but I wanted to make a pretty grid for the blog so after I finished the puzzle, I Googled how to enter multiple letters in the NYT applet. You can guess where I found the answer, right? On an older Crossword Fiend post! I had thought something showed up in the square before you entered the multiple letters, but no. So I was doing the right thing with the ++ but didn’t continue on to enter three letters. D’oh!

  8. Karen says:

    So was I the only one to have the aha moment at AHA MOMENT? I thought this was a fine Saturday…lots of blank spaces on my first pass, then gradually things falling into place.

    On the LAT, I threw down ADAM BALDWIN right quick (he was very memorable in the Firefly series) but got stuck on the bottom half.

  9. Dan F says:

    Karen, I also had my aha at AHA MOMENT. Had about half the grid filled in by that time (including MALIA crossing MARANEES) with no suspicion of a rebus, despite the Kahn byline.

    In the LAT I saw the “Chuck” clue and immediately entered ZACHARY LEVI. Liked that fill more than Amy, but… CADCAM??!?

    Thought the Rows Garden clue [Modern term for a buddy film] wasn’t very apt. I was hoping the answer would be WUNZA. “Wunza cop… wunza pawnbroker… together they…”

  10. Sara says:

    Me too for aha at AHA MOMENT.

  11. Doug P says:

    That’s Barry Silk’s Stumper, not mine. :) I had some trouble breaking into the left side of the grid because I had APR instead of MPG for “Sticker abbr.” And it took me forever to see HANGDOG. Nasty clue.

  12. Gareth says:

    @Anne: Tsetse flies were largely eradicated from South Africa by the Rinderpest outbreak at the turn of the last century, except for a small pocket that still survive in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. There are also tsetses in parts of Botswana, where they, of course, speak Tswana.

  13. joon says:

    i wonder if the LAT is actually a secret-theme themeless, because as karen points out, the central entry FIREFLY also starred our friend ADAM BALDWIN. that brings us up to three symmetrically-placed theme answers covering 29 squares. admittedly they’re not the longest answers.

  14. John Haber says:

    My aha moment was with AHA MOMENT, too! It took me a while, despite the obviousness of MINNEHAHA and MAHALIA Jackson. This was, after all, a Saturday, so not only wasn’t I expecting a rebus, but I was prepared to shrug and think that these must be something more obscure. (Oh, I thought, and how do I spell MINNEHAHA anyway?

    It didn’t help that one theme answer was a car and another a sports figure with a team I didn’t know. And I tried OTOS from word length, even if the spelling looks off, rather than OMAHAS. It was staring at OMOMENT that made everything come together. Very nice, despite the aforementioned central theme clue.

    My failure spot was in the SW, but not with SHAYS’ rebellion, which I filled right in. It was with SEALERY (huh?) and a place named S_DALIA crossing MAHARAN__S. I guessed that the word that went with maharajas was going to be maharanas. Then I just stared. Could there be some way I had an error and the place work out to Vidalia as in onions? Could “shalery” be a real word? Never did solve it.

  15. pannonica says:

    Rows Garden: Ah, but it’s CLOTHESHORSE, one word. I thought it was two, which is what prevented me from entering it right away. Double-checked and the dictionary lists it as one. Good ol’ SALAD SHOOTER and that wacky DAN RATHER.

  16. Jan says:

    In the LAT, why is a RACKER an “eightball loser”? We have a mini pool table and play almost every day, but I can’t figure this one out!

  17. Plot says:

    I don’t play much pool, but I believe that the player who shoots second is designated as the racker; they set up the balls’ triangle formation so that their opponent can break it. In professional eightball matches, the players are so skilled that they often never miss a shot, thus, the player who shoots first is significantly more likely to win.

    My error in the LAT was on the CADCAM/MY BODYGUARD crossing. I remembered having trouble parsing L.A. STORY in a recent puzzle, and, thinking I was learning from my mistake, confidently entered N.Y. BODYGUARD. With no knowledge of the engineering acronym, there was no way to dissuade myself of that error until I checked the solution.

  18. chris says:

    Same as rookery or fishery I suppose.

Comments are closed.