Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword
Hey! This puzzle’s scarcely any harder than Friday’s—provided that you can spell Slovenia’s capital, LJUBLJANA. (I memorized it with the aid of the Sporcle quiz on European capitals. I took the quiz again and missed 3 of 47: Andorra, Moldova, and Montenegro eluded me.) Anyone else try ROME, ITALY at 1-Across before LJUBLJANA worked itself out? I sure did. I relocated the Gulf of Trieste to the west side of Italy.
This puzzle didn’t feel like a Doug Peterson puzzle. That means I didn’t enjoy the fill and clues as much as I usually like Doug’s work. Do I blame the puzzle? Or do I blame my family for proceeding to talk louder and louder once I said “Puzzle time!”? Who can tell?
There definitely was stuff I liked a lot:
- 15a. AU NATUREL is always welcome…except that one would get hypothermic going outside buck nekkid in Chicago in December.
- 17a. I have no BRIMSTONE ([Fiery rhetoric]) skills. Is it necessary to be of a preacherly bent to really let the BRIMSTONE rip?
- 37a. I actually used to work with a woman who’d gone to ALMA College, the [Presbyterian-founded Michigan college]. It’s not a sparkly answer, no, but (a) it’s a change of pace from the usual ALMA clues and (b) it’s Midwestern rather than Northeastern, and we don’t see all that much Midwesterniana in the NYC cross.
- 62a. DR. ZHIVAGO is a manifestly great answer.
- 67a. YOGA CLASS is mighty fresh. You know what would kill me? That hot yoga. I don’t like to be hot.
- 6d. Early medieval JUTES! I didn’t know they were [Old Isle of Wight settlers], but I like all those old medieval groups, such as your Angles, Saxons, Visigoths, Vikings, Gauls, Celts, and whatnot.
- 8d. [New Mexican?] is a great clue for NENE. Nene is Spanish for “baby,” so a brand-new Mexican person is a NENE.
- 14d. I like “OPEN, SESAME,” but I don’t care for its clue, ["Let me in," facetiously].
- 27d. WALLA WALLA is always welcome welcome.
- 39d. I just added a USA TODAY article to the bibliography in a medical paper today. The author had cited Wikipedia (a no-no) and wouldn’t you know it? The medical literature has had less to say about “purple drank” than rappers have.
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Let us start on a positive note: BIGGER FISH TO FRY looks great in the grid, as does the JACUZZI parked near the middle and the box of GOOBERS. The grid looks cool (though the center section serves mainly to separate the halves into two distinct puzzles).
Never, ever heard of 50a: ASLEEP IN THE DEEP, an [1890s warning song for sailors].
AUBE?? That’s not one of our standard 4-letter European rivers. It’s a [Seine feeder], apparently. It’s not in the same crosswordese class as the riverss Tyne, Eder, Oder, Elbe, Arno, and Ebro.
Old-school crosswordese in attendance:
- 32a. [Protected whale] is a SEI.
- 42a. [Bit of rodeo gear] Is R*ATA. You always need the crossing to get the second letter, which gives REATA today but could easily be RIATA.
- 30d. [Andean staple] is OCA. I believe it’s a tuber.
- 48d. [Left on the boat] clues APORT.
Undesirables and the disgruntleogenic:
- Partials A BIRD and ERE I
- 27a. Why clue LYRIC as a singular noun? The [Karaoke essential] of a song’s words usually appears as “lyrics,” and LYRIC without an S is a perfectly serviceable adjective.
- Plural FAS (39a. [Scale notes], as in do re mi fa + fa) is blah.
- 13d. [Study of govt.] clues POLY SCI. Google seems to disagree with me that “poli sci” is a much more common spelling than “poly sci” (though the “poly sci” results may be muddled by the inclusion of “polymer science” in the count).
- 8d. Now, RECS is perfectly familiar to me as shorthand for “recommendations,” but here the word’s clued as a plural of the abbreviation for for vinyl records, or [LPs]. Has anyone ever called LPs “recs”? I don’t remember this from the ’70s at all.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “They Get By”—Janie’s review
“They” are three familiar two-word phrases that “get” the addition of the word “BY” at the end of the second word, and changing a noun into a proper noun in the process. For example (and believe me, I’m not saying this isn’t a tad stretchy and/or poorly conceived…), if you add BY to the base phrase watering can, and clue it [Dousing critic Vincent?], the answer would be WATERING CANBY… But lemme leave this in Randy’s more capable hands and then let’s enjoy:
- 20A. VOLCANIC ASHBY [Director Hal in an explosive mood?]. Well, the guy didn’t have the easiest childhood—but he could sure turn out a great movie: Harold and Maud, The Last Detail, Coming Home, Being There, etc. Read more about him on IMDB.
- 38A. DRILLING RIGBY [Training gymnast Cathy for the Olympics?]. Or even running lines with her as she prepares to perform on the Broadway stage. (This just in: Ms. Rigby will be touring Peter Pan in 2011-12.)
- 57A. FRENCH HORNSBY [Pianist Bruce relocated to Paris?]. For reasons I can’t fully articulate, this is my fave of the three. Maybe it’s that this one is the most visual—or that I love the sound of French horns… Regardless, before Bruce relocates to Paris on any kind of permanent basis, he’ll be spending time in his native Virginia where Norfolk’s Virginia Stage Company will be mounting the premiere of his musical SCKBSTRD [Sick Bastard] shortly after the first of the new year. Check it out.
Lots ‘n’ lots more names in the grid today, primarily (but not exclusively) from the world of entertainment. Who shows up? How about:
- the brilliantly funny Imogene COCA, Sid [Caesar's comedy partner];
- the perennially controversial IMUS [Don of talk radio];
- Frank CAPRA ["Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" director];
- RITA [Hayworth of "Gilda"];
- ELMER [Composer Bernstein];
- DAN ["The Lost Symbol" author Brown];
- CHERI [Oteri of "Saturday Night Live"];
- MIMI [Food critic Sheraton];
- ARIEL [The Little Mermaid];
- Hernando DE SOTO [Mississippi River discoverer];
- YO-YO MA [Winner of 16 Grammys]; and let’s not forget
- BO BO, that [Clown at many children's birthday parties], where one will also see many a RIBBON [Present decoration] and perhaps enjoy some dirt cake. A major [Dirt cake ingredient]? OREO…
Two other films get shout-outs: ["Norma] RAE["] and the [1995 De Niro/Pacino movie], the most inaptly named HEAT. Who’da thunk a film featuring those two could be such a snooze. As I recall, one of the reasons it failed to truly ignite was because the two rarely shared screen time. Whose bright idea was that?! Was someone at the studio paid a great deal to PLAY DUMB [Keep a secret]?
Fave clue/fill combos? [Get bread for chips?] for CASH IN (think “poker”), [Man on a mission?] for FRIAR and (saving the best for last) the wonderfully visual/colloquial pair [What a thumb on the ear and a pinkie on the lips might indicate] for “CALL ME!”
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Okay, maybe this week’s Stumper is the hardest of the year. I’m surprised Stan didn’t use the “S.N.” byline he reserves for his toughest puzzles. Was this a killer for you, too, or am I off my stride this morning?
Before getting to today’s puzzle, some history: This is the same grid Stan used for his 1986 ACPT finals puzzle (seen here). Back then, it took him a good 12 hours to fill his graph-paper grid, using a pencil, eraser, dictionary, and the Funk & Wagnalls Word Finder. This time around, Stan’s tool was Crossword Compiler and it took a half hour to fill the grid, with 22d as his seed entry. But some things never change: Writing the clues took Stan about two hours each time.
Of course, the clues he wrote for the ’86 puzzle are worlds easier than today’s Stumper clues. I don’t know if the ’86 clues are A, B, or C Division grade, or if the ACPT had three different versions of the finals puzzle back then.
And yes, the bottom of that page does say “Copyright ©1986 Playboy.”
Returning to December 2010: Whoof, this puzzle knocked me down. At about 10 minutes in, with vast swaths of snowy, vacant squares, I resorted to the “check” function to highlight my wrong squares. Y’all, I had an 13 wrong letters. Compared to my usual, uh, zero, that is quite a difference.
I can’t list the trouble spots because there were too many of them. Instead, we’ll march through the clue list and see what jumps out as worthy of note:
- 1a. [Something shady] is a SCAM. Had the M and considered a PALM tree.
- 9a. [Internet fads], such as LOLcats, writing “do not want,” viral videos, those little cartoons with the bears with stilted delivery, using the word “FAIL” in lieu of an actual critique, and indicating which of 100 novels you’ve read are called MEMES.
- 14a. [White-meat sources] are ALBACORES. Pondered OSTRICHES.
- 17a. [Small-company stocks] couldn’t be SMALL-CAPS because “small” is in the clue. Never heard of MICRO-CAPS before.
- 18a. [Anxiety treatment] turns out to be straightforward: XANAX is an anxiolytic drug.
- 19a. EPSILONS are apparently [Elasticity measures, in economics].
- 24a. [Urgent call] clues APB. Not SOS. You wanted SOS, didn’t you?
- 27a. Good mislead here. [Wind instruments] that measure wind speed, rather than producing musical tones, are ANEMOMETERS.
- 30a. [Make a mat, maybe] clues PLAIT. Had WEAVE but took it out even before using the “check” function.
- 32a. [Kiddie idol, often] is a TOON. Not a TEEN, which I tried first.
- 33a, 59a. [Lemony Snicket villain] is ESME, while [Dickens girl] is EM’LY. Didn’t know either one.
- 34a. I wanted DRIED for [Cut companion] but it turned out to be PASTE.
- 36a. SATAN, classically, is the [Embodiment of antagonism].
- 38a. I don’t think TENS is a [Counting method]. I would say that “counting by tens” is.
- 40a. [Words of approval] clues ONE MORE TIME.
- 50a. And [Words of disapproval] are PROTESTS.
- 54a. ["That's Entertainment! III" cohost] is HORNE. Lena, I presume.
- 55a. [No longer an issue] clues IRONED OUT. Solid phrase, that.
- 56a. [How change will come to Estonians] is in EUROS. Were you cursing Stan for expecting you to know the name of traditional Estonian coins?
- 57a. I think there’s a Goshen, Indiana, but the NILE DELTA is your [Land of Goshen locale]. Worked it out with the crossings.
- 4d. Now, that’s just mean. We all know the name Roger MARIS so why clue it in needlessly obscure fashion, with [Of the sea: Lat.]? I tried MARIT. first.
- 5d. [Silky envelope] isn’t all that hard a clue for COCOON and yet I didn’t get this one until I had, oh, 5 or 6 crossings.
- 6d. ORANGE TREES? [Louis XIV tended them at Versailles]. Sure. Doesn’t everyone know that? No…?
- 9d. [One of the Andrews Sisters] is MAXENE, who spells her name weird.
- 11d. WIth a few crossings in place, getting MANIFESTOS for [Formal to-do lists] was one of the easier parts of this puzzle for me. There were woefully few such parts.
- 12d. [Gillette trademark] isn’t a razor, it’s the ERASERMATE pen! I used to use those for crosswords before I fell in love with the Pentel Twist-Erase 0.9 mm mechanical pencils.
- 15d. [Print-command option] clues COLLATE. Uh, I don’t think I see that option on my Mac.
- 20d. [One-fourth of a Henry Higgins outburst] is DAMN. Had no idea. Tried RAIN. Wasn’t he always shouting “The rain in Spain”?
- 22d. [Melt-resistant snack] clues TOOTSIE ROLL. “Snack”? Hmm. By the way, Tootsie Rolls are terrible for your teeth. Too sticky. We throw ‘em out after trick-or-treating.
- 25d. The answer to [It can't rise by itself] crosses 37a: RISE. Hmm. I figured the clue was pointing to some sort of flour, but can’t say I’ve seen the term PLAIN FLOUR. This site suggests that the Brits call “plain flour” what the Americans know as “all-purpose flour.”
- 26d. [West Indies port] is a mighty vague clue. BASSETERRE is the capital of St. Kitts and Nevis, so for geography nerds it would have been much easier if clued as a [West Indies capital].
- 29d. [Marsh bird], 4 letters, is usually RAIL or SORA, but here it’s a duck, the TEAL.
- 31d. [Publishable snippet] feels like an overly specific clue for ITEM.
- 49d. [Jacob's son, in the Book of Mormon] clues ENOS. Raise your hand if you have not bothered to memorize the 4-letter names found in the Book of Mormon.
- 51d. [Not concerted] means “not jointly planned or carried out,” thus SOLO.
- 55d. [It means "like"] clues the suffix -INE, as in glassine or Alpine.
See? That’s a lot of trouble spots. Only a few of those answers did not vex me along the way.