Saturday, 4/9/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/08" plug="saturday-4911" puzz="Newsday" anchor="nd"]7:03[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/08" plug="saturday-4911" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]6:36[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/08" plug="saturday-4911" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:22[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/08" plug="saturday-4911" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]6:51 (Sam)[/time_hdr]

Scott Atkinson’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution 4/9/11 0409

I am ridiculously sleepy so this’ll be a much shorter post than usual.

Interesting grid pattern. Overall sense of the puzzle, maybe 3.9 stars.

Clues and answers:

  • 1a. Had AIR AMERICA first (wrong year) and frowned that 1-Across was outdated. Oh! BBC AMERICA? Much better.
  • 18a. LEVI Leipheimer, my first answer in the grid. Thanks to my cycling-fan husband.
  • 17a. NO MAN’S LAND, excellent entry.
  • 26a. EDNA BEST? Blah. At first thought it was ED Somebody.
  • 40a. TENG? [Singer/songwriter Vienna __] TENG? Never heard of her but she sounds interesting.
  • 65a. [Really lousy idea] is a NONSTARTER. Fresh, current.
  • 67a. Antiquated “GREAT SCOTT!” amuses me.
  • 11d. I didn’t know WOLF BLITZER was born in Germany. I guess the name should’ve been a clue, huh?
  • 14d. Who is this Madame Defarge and why is her KNITTING sinister?
  • 23d. “Here’s to you, MRS. ROBINSON.” Nice! The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel.
  • 48d. MOJITO is a [Highball with white rum] and muddled mint. Have you ever heard someone pronounce it “MOJE-ee-TOE” instead of “mo-HEE-toe”? I have.
  • 53d. STANE [__ Street (road from London Bridge to Chichester]) screams “obscure” but its crossings are all good.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “PC World”—Sam Donaldson’s review

I know all the cool kids are Macs, but I’m a PC.  I work in a building named after the father of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and so my work computer is and always will be a PC.  I live in an area littered (some might say infested) with Microsofties.  In some ways, I suppose, I have no choice.  But I’m happy to be a PC.  My computers don’t break down very often, and when they do it’s almost always because it’s my fault.  Anyway, when I saw this puzzle’s title, I thought for just a moment that I might finally have an edge on the cool kids. Turns out it has nothing to do with computers. PB2 goes all PC on us with a crossword featuring six two-word expressions with the initials “PC:”

  • 17-Across: The [Naval pathway since 1914] is the PANAMA CANAL.   Three random facts about the Panama Canal: (1) it’s 48 miles long; (2) the least expensive toll ever imposed to cross it was 36 cents (paid by a fellow who swam the canal); and (3) its name anagrams to AN ALPACA MAN.  I’m guessing most readers of this blog found the last fact most interesting.  (Note, by the way, that our streak is still alive: six consecutive CrosSynergy puzzles where 17-Across is the first theme entry.  Will it continue on Monday?  Stay tuned!)
  • 40-Across: To [Eschew credit] is to PAY CASH.  My favorite part of that whole thing is “eschew.”
  • 61-Across: Clancy [Wiggum on “The Simpsons,” e.g.] clues POLICE CHIEF.  I like this description of Chief Wiggum’s bumbling abilities from Wikipedia: “Wiggum’s incompetence is brilliantly showcased in ‘Homer’s Triple Bypass.’ In a parody of Fox’s COPS, Wiggum investigates a cattle rustler and uses a battering ram to knock down the suspect’s door, only to find he has the wrong house.  The occupant, Reverend Lovejoy, is very angry, especially since the cattle are clearly visible in the neighbor’s yard.  Snake, the suspect that Wiggum is after, is able to make a clean getaway.  Wiggum describes Snake’s vehicle as ‘a car of some sort’ and ‘heading in the direction of that place that sells chili;’ his only ‘helpful’ tip is ‘Suspect is hatless! Repeat, hatless!’”
  • 11-Down: The [Crunchy snack option] is POTATO CHIPS, though in my own pantry it’s Pop Chips™, the Sea Salt and Vinegar variety, to be more precise. Nom nom nom.
  • 25-Down: [Brangelina, for one] is a POWER COUPLE.  For those just arriving in 2011 on the nonstop flight from 2004, “Brangelina” is the celebrity name for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  That’s right, Brad left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie.  And get ready for this—between adoptions and their own procreative tendencies, they have six kids! Oh, and you should know this—Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are now happily married and have been for some time, just not to each other.
  • 27-Down: A [Ringlet] is a PIN CURL, as modeled over there to the right. Why are you looking at me like that, lady?  I’m not making fun of you—I think your hair looks great!  Okay, stop looking at me like that.  Stop it.  Seriously.  I’m three seconds away from getting a restraining order.
  • I’m partial to crosswords with theme answers in the Down positions too.  Add in the intersecting theme entries smack dab in the grid’s center and what would otherwise be a rather ho-hum theme with some okay-but-not-great theme entries gets snazzed up a little.

    In fact, the surrounding fill has much more sparkle than the theme entries themselves. We’ve got SEA COWS (or [Manatees]), TYLENOL PM (the [Johnson & Johnson product]), THE NRA (yes, pannonica, a certain definite article seems to be cropping up a lot lately), and I SAY SO. To get that juiciness you have to tolerate uber-awkward abbreviations like INT, CTNS and even TNPK intersecting RPTS (double-ugh), but other abbreviations like RCA, PTA, STP, and CDS don’t hurt the ears so much.

    At first I was distressed with SOPOR, the [State of deep sleep] (which I always thought was North Dakota), atop KNOWER, the [One who’s certain].  Either by itself is suboptimal, I think, but both together like that just looked too weird.  Yet when I tried to reconstruct that section of the grid just now, I couldn’t do any better.  My attempt appears to the left. (In making my version, I assumed SEA COWS, POWER COUPLE, RCA and ERROR were, together with the black squares, nonnegotiable.)  AVOWER isn’t any better than KNOWER, but I kind of like the three Vs.  On the other hand, Blindauer’s version gives you SKYPE, the [Video chat company], and that entry’s easily three times better than anything in my version.  So I’m thinking Blindauer’s version is the best one can do in that section. Does anyone care to offer another reconstruction of that section?

    Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

    4/9/11 LA Times crossword answers

    Lots of good stuff in today’s puzzle, which hit the usual Saturday LAT difficulty level. There was just one answer that made me frown (8d: RECUE, [Give another memory jog to]) and one that made me wonder if I haven’t been paying attention to the internet (30d: ZWINKY, [Customizable online avatar]). The Wikipedia article on Zwinky suggests that these avatars are marketed to children and via Myspace, and that using them means installing a toolbar in your browser that has been associated with malware and spyware. Great! I’ll pass.

    Top 10 answers:

    • 1a. [Site of many a wet bar] is a BACHELOR PAD. Sometimes this may mean that the bachelor’s parents have an old wet bar in the basement where he lives.
    • 29a. [There are 300 feet between them] is a sports trivia clue for football END ZONES. 100 yards = 300 feet.
    • 33a. A [Novelist, e.g.] is a WORDSMITH.
    • 38a. Cool etymology I did not know: TORTILLA is [Spanish for "little cake"]. Torta = cake, cognate of torte.
    • 42a. [Cockapoo pop, perhaps] is a cocker SPANIEL. Do yourself a favor: Say “cockapoo pop” aloud three times. Isn’t that awesome?
    • 54a. [Washington attraction] is the NATIONAL ZOO, which will be open for business Monday (but wouldn’t have without last night’s final-hour budget deal).
    • 57a. EAST LANSING, Michigan, is the [Home of Spartan Stadium], where Michigan State plays.
    • 1d. [It's under Wayne Manor] clues the BATCAVE. Easy but fun.
    • 13d. [Chalk feature?] is the SILENT L you don’t pronounce.
    • 23d. James MONROE was the [Last president to wear a powdered wig]. In public, anyway. Who’s to say Eisenhower didn’t enjoy a good powdered wig at home?

    Props to Barry and editor Rich Norris for the nuanced accuracy of the 35a: ESKIMO clue, [Nunavut native, formerly]. Up in Canada and its territories, the word Inuit is now used for the people and their language. (Inuit is the plural of inuk, meaning “person.”) My dictionary’s usage note says that in Alaska, native people mostly don’t speak Inuit/Inuktitut, they speak the related language Inupiaq or the Siberian language Yupiq; thus, the term Eskimo encompasses the various language groups in Alaska. But if you use the word Eskimo in Canada, you’ll look like a boor. I’m thinking Alaska clues are the way to go.

    Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

    4/9/11 Newsday crossword solution Brad Wilber

    Very good puzzle today, 4 to 4½ stars. What’s in the grid? This:

    • 9a. BURQAS are [Arab garments]. Though the word is Arabic, more broadly, burqas are Muslim women’s garments that may be seen outside the Arab world. Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan aren’t Arab.
    • 15a. HANG FIRE is clued as [Delay]. “Delay or be delayed in taking action or progressing” is the dictionary definition.
    • 16a. I like the archaic AVAUNT, meaning ["Get thee hence!"] or “scram!” Dictionary example: “Avaunt, you worm-faced fellows of the night!”
    • 23a. [They block the passing of many bills] clues T-MEN, a word meaning “agents of the U.S. Treasury.” They keep people from passing counterfeit bills (bills = paper money).
    • 25a. ["Compas" point] is ESTE, or “east” in Spanish. Compás is Spanish for “compass,” I presume.
    • 33a. FLO is clued as [Streaming, in product names]. As in Flomax, a prescription drug used men with enlarged prostates whose pee flow is impeded. Speaking of pee, have you seen the music video for the Kelly Family’s hot song, “Ain’t Gonna Pee-Pee My Bed Tonight”? It’s a keeper! I fear it’s not quite catchy enough to dislodge “Friday” from your head, though.
    • 46a. [Strains to hear on the phone?] is a noun phrase, not a verb phrase—the musical strains of MUZAK when you’re on hold are what’s meant here.
    • 49a. Crosswordese place name alert! New clue for the Aleutian island ATTU: [Snowy battleground of 1943].
    • 56a. Tricky! If you’re lying [Back-up] and face down, you’re SUPINE.
    • 60a. Herb ALPERT, [Anthem performer at Super Bowl XXII]? Really? I wouldn’t have guessed he was ever big enough to perform at the Super Bowl.
    • 61a. ATALANTA was the [Only female Argonaut, per some sources].
    • 1d. I needed tons of crossings to figure out that ["Wings" star's nickname] was THE IT GIRL. Brad’s original clue was [Bow handle, once], as Clara Bow was the It Girl. Aww, that’s a great clue. More fun than the “oh, look, 1927 movie trivia” approach.
    • 2d. HAND MODEL, great entry! Evokes the Seinfeld storyline in which George Costanza was a prima donna hand model. [Ad-closeup specialist] was a fairly mystifying clue, though.
    • 5d. An AFRO is a [Style you should pick] with aN AFRO pick.
    • 28d. Alex TREBEK is the [National Geographic Bee host]. I was thinking the host would be a hotel, university, or organization.
    • 33d. A FREE AGENT is a [Would-be signer] of a contract, as in sports.
    • 34d. Are you old enough to remember LAWN DARTS, aka Jarts? They’ve been [Banned game equipment] since 1988 owing to tragic incidents in which the pointy metal parts landed in people instead of the lawn.
    • 44d. [Ivy Noodle customers] are YALIES. Never heard of Ivy Noodle, but crossword references to the Ivy League generally mean YALIE(S) or ELI(S).
    • 46d. I didn’t know Sardinia has MESAS ([Sardinian scenery]). This doesn’t mention the island’s mesas, but it does mention the presence of crosswordese RIAS.
    • 47d. The UVULA! [Literally, "little grape"] is its etymology.
    • 53d. [B, as in Beersheba] is the Hebrew letter BETH.
    • 54d. [Jo on "CSI: NY"] is played by SELA Ward. Really? I didn’t know and needed all the crossings. Apparently she joined the cast in the current season. I only knew that Melina Kanakaredes (whose name alternates vowels and consonants so nicely) and Gary Sinise were the stars.
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    23 Responses to Saturday, 4/9/11

    1. So whose ORATORICAL feats of Clay (15-across) are we acknowledging…Henry’s, or Cassius’s?

    2. joon says:

      madame defarge is the sinister knitter in a tale of two cities. i actually don’t really remember anything about her other than that she knits, and that she’s sinister. (not sure how sinister the knitting itself is, though.) but i read that book in 10th grade, so it’s been a while.

      i liked NO MAN’S LAND and NONSTARTER, but a lot of the other stuff seemed like it was just kinda there. STANE and ONDO seem terribly obscure—with those letters, if those answers were at all reasonable, wouldn’t we see them all the time? i was going to say the same about vienna TENG, but then reading the wikipedia article rung a bell, and now i think i remember that one of my friends from grad school was a huge fan of hers, so maybe i should have been able to dredge up her name. got to love wikipedia, btw: ‘Teng took her stage name “Vienna” from the capital city of Austria.’ you don’t say.

    3. ArtLvr says:

      Mme Defarge, woman of the working class, sat watching nobles’ executions by guillotine during the Terror of French Revolution, stolidly knitting as heads fell. Memorable image of fanatic revenge…

      It took me quite a while to work through Scott’s puzzle, the toughest spot being in the center where unknown trilogy A_U and unfamiliar TV person _RIS Monroe had me running the alphabet to see if I could recall the novelist crossing both. Settled for Capet and Tris, so I ended up one square short of of a win. Not as clear as the crystal ball of QUARTZ, but I chuckled to see that the constructor notably ended with his own signature, GREAT SCOTT!

    4. ArtLvr says:

      p.s. re Clay — I mentioned a while ago at Rex’s that the original Cassius Clay was a noted younger kinsman of statesman Henry of Virginia, and was sent as envoy by Lincoln to Russia where he witnessed the abolition of slavery there. Already a strong abolitionist himself, he pressed Lincoln on his return to make the Proclamation sooner than Lincoln had intended. His own former slaves adopted the name Cassius Clay out of respect, but Ali (born Cassius Clay, Jr.) was too far removed to honor the family tradition.

    5. Karen says:

      Didn’t Mme Defarge’s knitting have some sort of code in it for spying, or was that another work? I imagined it as a cipher between the knits and the purls.

      Body enhancers/SHAMPOOS still doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s a hair enhancer?

    6. Karen says:

      Never mind, I just got it.

    7. Gareth says:

      Most of the puzzle for me: standard Saturday. First sticking point bottom-right: couldn’t see SHAMPOOS (brilliant clue!) or ALANALDA (how I don’t know!). Where those intersected SCAR (still don’t under this!), HALOS (doh!), OILS and ONDO was blank for a loong time.

      The second sticking point was the entire area north of …ZER (I don’t know why WOLFBLITZER wasn’t coming to my head, but there you go) and east of EDN… was blank, except for EDN… for which I had EDNORTON, because, it fit. Seen both these people in crosswords while having only a vague idea who they were. This was blank for a looong time!

      For a loooooong time the squares of STA?E, EL?A and N?C were blank. last entry into the crossword: NONSTARTER. Just couldn’t see it

      Fave clues: NOMANSLAND, SHAMPOOS, MRSROBINSON.

    8. Bruce N. Morton says:

      Mme. Defarge–one of the great characters in all English literature, and certainly one of the great “villainesses” (if I may be permitted that word), especially since she is much more complex than that. To call her villainous may be a distortion She plots revenge against Lucie and Charles for (perhaps imagined) wrongs–as I recall, the “code” to which Karen refers involves a cryptic record of the people she intends to kill. Memory fades. I can picture the great Angela Lansbury playing her, though Lansbury may be too strong and assertive a screen presence.

      Sat. was only 3 star for me. Nothing wrong with it but didn’t grab me quite as much as it did Amy. Also just did yesterday’s Joe Krozel. Haven’t read the commentary here yet, so my question will probably be answered, but what was with the weird grid? Sort of a big ‘S’? Was it supposed to have something to do visually with the content? If so it was lost on me, and I therefore found it distracting, and not all that interesting. 2 1/2 stars. (As I say, I’m probably missing something, and I’ll go to the commentary now.)

      Incidentally, if we are going to have ratings–(haven’t participated in them much, and not entirely sure what I think of the idea)–if we’re going to have them, would it be difficult to have a more finely graduated, precise, system which would at least include 1/2 stars. I liked the precision of Amy’s 3.9 stars. You know exactly where she stands on that (and other) issues. (That’s supposed to be a good-natured, affectionate joke.)

      Bruce

    9. Howard B says:

      Mostly fun puzzle – only nit was that relying on ONDO, TENG, and STANE bordered a bit too closely to obscure, almost made-up words (“Find some clue that fits the fill”) for my tastes; but since the crosses all worked out, I did enjoy solving this. Bonus for BBC AMERICA, and also LEVI for helping me to pedal my way out of a rough spot.

      Had a lousy typo in ORATORICAL/ALDENS that slowed me up(and down) for a while too, but that’s my typing skill and not the puzzle ;).

    10. Bruce N. Morton says:

      OK–read the Fri. write-up and knew there had to be something going on involving the Berlin wall. I’m not very imaginative with those sorts of visuals. I’m terrible with rebuses. When I was younger, the part of the “Concentration” game which involved remembering what was behind the squares was trivially easy for me, scarecely challenging at all. I should have been the Ken Jennings of that game, except that sometimes I couldn’t solve the rebuses even with all the squares exposed.

      Bruce

    11. HH says:

      “When I was younger, the part of the “Concentration” game which involved remembering what was behind the squares was trivially easy for me, scarcely challenging at all.”

      If only they would’ve let us play as a team.

    12. Duke says:

      Hard today, maybe i wasn’t awake enough. The Apu Trilogy are three gorgeous films by Satijiat Ray. The Man Who Knew Too Much was the filmed twice by Hitchcock. THe first included Edna Best. THe second co-starred Doris Day. Both fit in the puzzle. Very nice.

    13. Bruce N. Morton says:

      HH–Who’d of ever thunk it–the makings of a new expansion team. (Any pun refers to both of us.) :-)

      Loved your “Cusswords” puzzle. (Having said that, I hope I’m right that it was yours. I loved the puzzle anyhow, whoever made it.)

      Bruce

    14. Matt says:

      I thought this was a pretty solid Saturday puzzle, somewhat crosswordy fill, but it is a crossword puzzle, after all… In any case, generally slow going because of tough entries rather than ambiguity, with one odd exception– my initial answer for 43A (What a crystal ball gazer sees) was FUTURE, which gave me 32D (The ___ Trilogy) as APU. Eventually I realized 43A had to be QUARTZ, but APU was still good.

    15. Animalheart says:

      On the easy side of Saturday, I thought. WOLFBLITZER fell with just the telltale Z. (Personally, I think he’s a terrible journalist, though that’s neither here nor there.) I had IRIS for the TV angel until the very last minute, when CAPEK jumped out at me. Was she a Charlie’s Angel? Lots of animals: Bonito, avocet, ospreys, the canid. Warms my animalheart. Favorite fill: GREATSCOTT.

    16. Plot says:

      Great Scott! This puzzle was heavy. It’s usually not fair to judge a puzzle’s quality based on how difficult it was for me to solve, but it wasn’t the ‘fun’ kind of difficulty when I was stuck in the SW and NE corners. Despite the struggles, ONDO and STANE didn’t bother me too much, since they allowed for some good longer entries. IMO, Iron Man villain Obadiah Stane is a less-obscure alternative. The character isn’t a household name, but he was played by an Oscar-winning actor in one of the biggest movies of 2008. For an American crossword, that’s gotta be a better option than European geography.

      My dumb error was in the middle of the grid; incorrectly spelling Capek and not checking the crossing (the obviously-wrong synK). I think the glut of RUR entries in the past had made me think that the author’s name also began and ended with the same letter.

    17. Daniel Myers says:

      Just to be clear anent Madame Defarge and her sinister – and no doubt dextrous – stitchings. They did indeed encode the names of people to be decapitated. As to whether she herself was villainy personified, I suppose it rather depends upon what side one takes in the FR, though she is always depicted – to conflate literary works – as if she were one of the three weird sisters in film versions, far from the “temple-haunting martlet” in the “Scottish play.”

    18. Jan (danjan) says:

      I hadn’t heard of LEVI Leipheimer, but did just hear from someone who follows Zachary Levi on Twitter, that he tweeted a screen shot of Tyler’s CS puzzle from 3/29 that included LEVI clued relating to him. Apparently, he was thrilled!

    19. John Haber says:

      I found Saturday pretty obscure. Say, naturally I tried State Street before STANE, didn’t know the “Angel,” and just figured that the only writer’s name that fit was CAPEK but wouldn’t have heard of the book. But I do agree that you just gotta know “A Tale of Two Cities.” It’s on everybody’s reading list.

      I don’t understand AAS.

    20. Jan (danjan) says:

      AAS had to do with batteries as a source of power, I think.

    21. John Haber says:

      Ah, thanks. I see know: remote in the sense that they power a remote control.

    22. Jamie says:

      I didn’t enjoy this puzzle (the NYT). I’m not insulting the constructor or the editor, but there were just too many obscure clues. Teng, Ondo, Kris, the non-Simpsons APU, Thumps/whumps/stomps. It was an appropriate level of difficulty for Saturday, i.e., difficult, but what I found missing when I finally finished was any sense of Whee! That was difficult as all get out, but it was fun! This was not. It was a pedestrian slog.

      Go look at the comments on the two greatly entertaining puzzles on 3/31. You constructors are entertainers. Entertain us, please.

    23. Lois says:

      I loved the puzzle for incorporating some of the things I know. That’s not enough of a reason, but I guess I can offset Jamie’s reaction with my own feelings. I was just talking to my sister yesterday about Satyajit Ray (several of whose films will be in a festival starting next week in New York at Lincoln Center), and I told her to remember his name in case she needs it for a puzzle – and here is Ray’s trilogy today! The first thing I got, though, was the L. M. Alcott book. It’s what pulled me in, because I don’t like to do a Saturday puzzle unless I know at least one thing right away. That book gave me the rum drink. Like several others here, I had to read A Tale of Two Cities for school, but I also knew the movie with Ronald Colman. I didn’t write in Doris Day for The Man Who Knew Too Much because I knew there was also a lovely earlier version of the film, so I waited. Those things really helped me today, because I know less than everybody else about almost everything else.

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