Saturday, 5/14/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/13" plug="saturday-51411" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]8:23[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/13" plug="saturday-51411" puzz="Newsday" anchor="nd"]6:37[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/13" plug="saturday-51411" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]6:10*[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/13" plug="saturday-51411" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/13" plug="saturday-51411" puzz="WSJ" anchor="wj"]~15 mins[/time_hdr]

Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 5/14/11 0514

I struggled on both the NYT and LAT crosswords tonight. Both tougher than usual, or just an instance of Crossword Mind Failure? The trouble zones in Mike’s puzzle stretched from the lower left corner diagonally upwards. It all came together eventually, but not without extracting a pound of flesh along the way.

Highlights in this 70-worder:

  • 15a. “WE’RE LIVE ” is often coupled with “at the scene” in my least favorite TV news segments. Nobody cares if you are “live at the scene” today when nothing of note has taken place there since yesterday. Can’t you just deliver your report in the studio?
  • 19a. Who likes doing GRUNT WORK? Sometimes it’s exactly what you need.
  • 36a. A [Finish line?] you deliver at the finish of a game might me “GOOD GAME.” Hard clue. And with that 26d crossing! Good gravy. [Pull from the ground, quickly] is not a verb phrase at all—it’s ONE G, as in one unit of the earth’s gravitational pull. And sheesh! With that clue for 29a, [Ghastly], a lesser-known synonym for WAN? It’s a miracle I made it out of the grid alive.
  • 45a. “WHAT GIVES, Mike Nothnagel?” Indeed.
  • 49a. FIRE EXIT has a kinda hard clue: [Way out of a dangerous situation].
  • 50a. When I had the first letter in the excellent TIP JAR, I was terrified that [Where singles congregate in a bar?] was going to be THONGS.
  • 3d. Punctuation trivia! DR PEPPER [lost its period in the 1950s]. That, of course, is when the good doctor reached menopause.
  • 29d. WOOZY? Yes, that’s how I felt midway through this crossword.
  • 32d, 33d. BASENJIS and AMY ADAMS are great answers, aren’t they?
  • 41a: SYL. is the only abbreviation in this puzzle, isn’t it? And there are zero partials. The difference between a puzzle devoid of such things and a puzzle that’s liberally besmirched with them is huge.

31d: [Womanizers] clues GOATS. Dang. I had GOAT for 46d: [Milk source] first (turned out to be TEAT).

Things I didn’t care for: WIRERS, AVIAS, FLITE, mystery TSE…that’s about it.

Gotta go with 4.5 stars here, even if the puzzle made me feel dumb along the way.

Vic Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 5/14/11

Yep, there’s an asterisk by my solving time because I had GOOD MATCH for 35d: [Matrimonial prize] instead of GOOD CATCH, and having that M made 48a: [Video end?] impossible. CAM, sure, if you have the C in place. But MAM MEM MIM MOM MUM? Not so much. It sure didn’t help that I wasn’t confident about the second letter in 44d: [Third-generation Japanese-American], SANSEI. It’s been a while since an LA Times crossword kicked me around like this.

Highlights:

  • 1a. TARA REID is kinda played out, sure, but I appreciate a full-name answer and pop culture I know, ["American Pie" actress].
  • 17a. NICETIES is such a nice word for [Subtle differences]. Now, I might’ve gone with NINETIES crossing REND to ditch that REC’D abbrev.
  • 19a. [Was left out, facetiously] clues DIDN’T GET THE MEMO. Love it!
  • 50a. [Man, to Aristotle] is a POLITICAL ANIMAL.
  • 62a. [Diamond gem] is a cute clue for a baseball NO-HITTER.
  • 6d. [Hard to figure out] clues ENIGMATIC. Who doesn’t like an enigma?
  • 40d. Dang it, this clue totally drew me into its trap. [Pablo Casals, e.g.]? Oh, easy: he’s a CELLIST. And where’s he from? Oh, he’s a CATALAN.

The good stuff’s offset by the more blah things. We’re supposed to know 39a: ESTER-C, [Non-acidic vitamin brand]? CIO, ALII, REC’D, ICEE, A TIE, ESSO, SANSEI, AIRE, and LT-YR felt over-abundant while I was solving.

I’ll go with 3.6 stars here.
Updated Saturday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Value Judgment” – Sam Donaldson’s review

The theme consists of four two-word entries ending with a word synonymous (or at least somewhat synonymous) with “value:”

  • 20-Across: The [Submarine sinker] is a DEPTH CHARGE. Value and charge may not be perfectly synonymous (to my ear, “charge” refers to a selling price, while “value” may be ascribed to an asset that is not for sale by its owner), but they’re close enough that I suspect most saw the theme from this point.
  • 61-Across: The [Manufacturer of preschool products] is FISHER PRICE.  Here too, I’m not sure that everything of value has a price.  But I love the entry because I had more than my share of Fisher Price toys.  My favorites were the one-room schoolhouse and the village (the latter is pictured below).
  • 11-Down: The [Number often taken by a nurse?] is the PULSE RATE.  Wait, isn’t it usually referred to simply as the “pulse?”
  • 35-Down: The [Long-running soap-opera-style comic strip] is MARY WORTH.  It probably takes less time to read an entire Mary Worth strip than to count the hyphens in this clue.  Of all the value-related words in the theme entries, this is the one that comes closest to how I usually define “value.”  Something of value is something that has worth.

Overall, too many of the theme entries don’t really mesh with how I think of “value.”  I tend to think of these words as relating more to “cost.”  I wonder if there’s a better title out there that uses “cost.”  “Final Cost?”

Also, it would have been better had the clues for the theme entries put up some fight.  A craftier clue for DEPTH CHARGE, for example, could have been [Fee paid by a scuba diver?], and FISHER PRICE could have been clued as [Angler's license fee?].  Here, though, we’re treated to straight dictionary definitions, the cumulative effect of which is lackluster.

The theme entries use a total of 40 squares, which is on the low side.  As a general rule, grids with lower theme density should have more sprakly fill, as there are fewer constraints with which to work.  While this grid may have little in the way of sparkle, it’s quite smooth, with just one abbreviation (EST, the [Repairman's initial fig.]), one partial (“Do it, OR I will”), and only one entry that struck me as awkward (RE-HIT).  There are some nice entries here too, like BAD RAP, the [Crummy verdict, slangily], SAYS NO, ONE FOOT, and ORDER NOW (["Call right away!"]).

Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword answers 5/14/11

Today’s mystery word:

  • 51d. MILCH = [Of dairy cows]. Milch is German for “milk,” but I never knew that it was an English adjective pertaining to dairy cows. You know why? Because I’ve never been a dairy farmer.

And three “nobody uses that” words:

  • 41a. A [Bison, at times] is a SNORTER.
  • 14d. [Figure skaters, at times] are GYRATORS. Good gravy, that’s worse than SNORTER!
  • 46d. [To flip over] again is to RETOSS. Can you use that in a sentence without sounding like an idiot?

Puzzle highlights:

  • The two 10×3 stacks are nice, though their 3-letter crossings verge on abominable. BIODEGRADE = [Break down], nice. ROLLED OVER a C.D., [Renewed, in a way]. “ADIOS, AMIGO!” = ["See ya!"]. NAILED DOWN = [Settled], once and for all. The ERECTOR SET contains [Beams, nuts, bolts, motors, etc.]. And HASH HOUSES = [Diners]. Good stuff. But those crossings,* oy!
  • 2d. Etymology I didn’t know: IODINE is a [Word from the Greek for "purple"].
  • 33d. Full name of ANNE MEARA, whose last name has been crossword gold for decades thanks to its 60% vowel content. She’s the [1993 Tony nominee for "Anna Christie"]. Just saw her son Ben Stiller playing a most unlikable character in Greenberg.
  • 42d. [Sciences] can be called OLOGIES. The hilarious part is that astrology and parapsychology are both -ologies as well.

*Those crossings, oy! Show these clues and answers to a crossword neophyte and you might get slapped.

  • 4d. [PO cul de sac] is the DLO, or the post office’s dead letter office. Cul de sac has figurative use as a route leading nowhere.
  • 5d. [Some MIT grads] are EES, or electrical engineers.
  • 10d. ERO ["__ e Leandro" (Handel cantata)] gives an Italian (I think) spelling of Hero and Leander.
  • 59d. NEH., short for Nehemiah, is an [OT book].
  • 60d. DOO isn’t just doo-doo, it’s also part of doo-wop and thus a [Scat-singing syllable]. Gotta love the scat/doo combo!
  • 61d. Joanne DRU, Montgomery [Clift's love in "Red River"].

Five clues I found tough:

  • 19a. [Multiple of XIII], 3 letters? Gotta be LII, right? No? Okay, then LXV, obviously. No, wrong again. Turned out to be CIV, and I never learned the times tables up to the 13s. A [Western __] clue would be too easy for a Stumper.
  • 22a. [Penn's "Giant Brain"] is the pioneering computer ENIAC. That was at Penn?
  • 23d. [Some police investigations] clues ARSONS. Uh, aren’t those arson investigations, and not simply arsons? ARSONS are the subject of the investigations, no?
  • 35d. [Numbers specialist] clues SONGSTER.
  • 56d. ["Murder, She Wrote" doc] is SETH. TV trivia from outside my demographic there.

Three stars.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Line of Battle”

Brilliant concept and execution, five stars.

Look how the TWO AIRLINE PASSENGERS are battling over that ARMREST, with the battle line nudging left and right. Interesting idea for a puzzle, with an innate visual aspect, creatively realized by Patrick Berry.

I turned to the dictionary for [Golden calf's erector] AARON and to confirm that “bonanza” came from SPANISH, but managed to avoid Googling or looking up anything else.

Easier than most of Berry’s Rows Garden puzzles, no?

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32 Responses to Saturday, 5/14/11

  1. 8:23? Greetings from 28:02. Plenty tough, and fair.

  2. Howard B says:

    What Amy and Brent said. But that top-right was crushingly tough. I still don’t understand ICES OVER in that respect, but that was a worthy and enjoyable challenge, even when mildy cursing (Nothnagel!) during the solve. Not a fan of 1930′s musical clues ;). Apart from that little nugget of ignorance for me, great cluing though!

  3. Jan (danjan) says:

    I enjoyed the NYT, even though it was tough. I also had GOAT in for milk source, got that corner cleared up, and then was surprised to find GOATS later on. I was just thinking earlier today that it was time to hit up the TIP JARs of my usual haunts, like this one.
    I’ve also been enjoying Mike N’s Mixed Double puzzles in the current issue (July) of Games World of Puzzles (there are 4 of them, with some twists).
    I don’t know what my LAT time was; the timer malfunctioned. It seemed a bit easier than the NYT to me.

  4. Don Byas says:

    NYT
    Fantastic. Every section was solid. The NE was the last to fall. Studs TERKEL crossing WORK – nice! (His oral history, “Working” is great.) Loved the ONE G clue! Is SITS PAT similar to stands pat?

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    @ Don Byas, “Sit pat” is more at “relax” or “just wait, all in good time,” whereas to “stand pat” is to make no changes, as to bid or wager.

    @Amy, in one of the drafts of the roundabout puzzle I included “ESTERC” as an answer thinking that it was a well-known vitamin suppliment. Will Johnston had never heard of it and insisted that it was a low-light of that grid. Hmm. I hear commercials on the radio for it all the time, but I guess it’s unheard of to people who don’t listen to the radio, much like the Geico caveman is (was) unheard of to those of us who don’t watch TV.

    Northeast area was, by far, the last to fall. I got there with about 18:00 on the clock, and it wasn’t until around 45:00 (without having added a single letter with any confidence) that I finally googled for TERKEL. Then the corner fell in about two minutes. Except for my error. I had HERE LIVE crossing HIRERS and spent some time looking all over the grid. 49:51. Youch!

    I was wondering the whole time if the clue for WAN was a typo and was supposed to be [Ghostly].

    From my Webster’s Dictionary (1987):

    wan (wan) a. having a sickly hue; pale; pallid; ashy; gloomy. -ly adv. -ness n. [O.E.].

    ghastly (gast’-li) a horrible; shocking. Also adv. ghastliness n. [O.E. gaestlic, terrible].

  6. sps says:

    Well, Mike Nothnagel, you certainly pulled me back to earth after a lightning quick Friday…But I really thought this was a good and fair puzzle–a good solve!

  7. Matt says:

    Your basic tough themeless. I got a little help at the end from Mr. Pencil, leading me to fix the WIRER/WERELIVE intersection, but otherwise it was mainly slow work– filled in the NW and SE first, then the SW and NE, then finished in the little area around MANDY and WOOZY. Good puzzle for a quiet Saturday morning.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Stunning NYT, in both senses! I even had trouble spelling BASENJIS, though I knew what I wanted there. The Finish line started out as Obituary, a far cry from GOOD GAME! The BLEED might have been Creep, and PIETY was Faith early on. It took all the crosses to see ALMANACS, but I did get the whole thing worked out without help, still dazed…. Talk about GRUNT WORK, this was a long groan with a grateful grin at the end!

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    Liked the puzzle, but don’t fancy “quickly” in NYT 26D at all. I know: It’s a Saturday and there’s a question mark. Still, what is the adverb “quickly” supposed to be modifying? The acceleration due to the earth’s gravitational pull (9.8 m/s²)? But then it should be an adjective. Perhaps I’m simply missing something all too obvious here (happens all the time). Perhaps “quickly” is obliquely addressed to the solver or something of the sort. Perhaps I’m just being too niggling (happens even more often). Any help appreciated…

  10. Jeff Chen says:

    Hello from 44:47. I think I got lapped a few times. Super fun, great puzzle though!

  11. pannonica says:

    DM: In that clue “quickly” is acting as a sly abbreviation indicator. Hence the question mark. G = gravitational constant.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    Ah, that fits perfectly! I shall have to be on the lookout for abbreviations that I don’t regard as abbreviations in the future. I’ve always regarded “G” as more a symbol than an abbreviation since, well, A-level physics, I suppose. Many thanks, pannonica!

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Great puzzle, though I can’t believe people found the NE harder than the SW, where I came as close to throwing in the towel as I have for a long time. “We’re live” popped right into my head, as did “sits pat.” NE and NW were very smooth for me, but the whole bottom was a disaster. Perhaps because I live in VT, I know how hard it is to negotiate a road when it ices over, so that was also immediate. And I’m a fan of Studs Terkel, that great Chicago sage, and of Mosel (or Moselle) wines.

    I would nit 1a, though {Organ appendages} for “pedals.” I think of an appendage as something of secondary importance, tacked on, almost as an afterthought. The pedals on an organ produce tones. They are as central to the basic music making function of the organ as the keyboards. They are tones which happen to be played with the feet, and hence are called pedals. But they are hardly appendages. Bruce

  14. pannonica says:

    Bruce N. Morton:: That’s a narrow and pejorative interpretation of “appendage.” For instance, our arms and legs are limbs but can equally be called our appendages.

    1: an adjunct to something larger or more important : appurtenance
    2: a usually projecting part of an animal or plant body that is typically smaller and of less functional importance than the main part to which it is attached; especially : a limb or analogous part (as a seta)
    3 [appendant] : a dependent or subordinate person

    (m-w.com)

    For clarity, they may be referred to as major, or primary, appendages to distinguish them from other, less significant, bits. Subject to personal opinion, of course.

     
     
     
    Oh, I was talking about ears; were you thinking of something else?

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    pannonica,

    I appreciate your response, though your dictionary quotes seem to incline more in my direction than yours.

    Of course, you’re right that some bits are more significant than others, but organ pedals are not only just as significant as the finger keys, but much larger. :-)

    Bruce

  16. pannonica says:

    Bruce, I meant to indicate that the keyboard can also be thought of as an appendage, since it and the pedals are both adjunct to the “heart” of the instrument. Where such a view puts the pipes and bellows (?) I’m not sure, because I don’t know this particular anatomy too well.

    Just out of curiosity, will the thing produce sounds with (a) just the keys, (b) just the pedals?

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It’s not the size of the keyboard keys, it’s what you do with them.

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    I think of “appendage” meaning “added onto”, but in a very visual way. An arm is an appendage, but not an afterthought.

    For instance, the arm of a steamshovel is an appendage, even though the arm is the very thing the steamshovel is built to support. So I wasn’t thrown by the clue calling the organ pedals “appendages” because, in this sense, the pipes are appendages, too. Bruce, maybe you’re associating “appendix” with “appendage” and, thus, thinking of the anatomically useless human appendix? Associations can be tricky that way.

  19. pannonica says:

    (For the record, my sensibility regarding “appendage” originates from a biology background. Also, I’d have been more precise writing “body” for “heart” in my previous comment.)

  20. Martin says:

    pannonica,

    I was with you until I read your dictionary citation.
    1. smaller or less important
    2. less functional importance
    3. dependent or subordinate.

    The clue still doesn’t bother me, even though organ music with no pedals is an awful thought. I also love the pedal harpsichord, which was originally a practice instrument for baroque organists. A lot of Bach organ music is wonderful on the pedal harpsichord.

    Bach had 20 children. Apparently his organ had no stops.

  21. pannonica says:

    Ha!

    I realize that the citation seemingly undermines my argument, but I didn’t cast around for one that was a “better” fit. Besides, the second sense listed is more than adequate where I’m coming from. Think about it this way, Martin: you can get by all right (relatively speaking) without an arm or a leg, but an arm or leg without the trunk of the body—oh, and the head, can’t forget that part—wouldn’t survive long. Unless you’re in a horror film. Even those amazing sea stars need at least a little bit of the central disk to regrow from a leg.

  22. John Haber says:

    I agree it was incredibly hard. For me, the SE was harder even than the NE, where that meaning of “negotiate” or “linemen” was a killer, the musical or Chinese philosopher still doesn’t ring a bell, and I guessed “guard duty” from the G rather than GRUNT WORK. (I didn’t know “The Good War,” but TERKEL is at least a name I recognize.) The bridge from there to the SE past WAN, MOSEL, and MANDY took a long time, too, and I first guessed “dizzy” for WOOZY.

    But it was the SE that nearly defeated me. I don’t know AMY ADAMS or BASENJIS (or autos, actually) and had some wrong guesses, with TAG my only foothold for a long time. From the D in GONE BAD, I guessed “deuteron,” and place for money made me think of “till,” so I wondered if “tiller” weren’t a synonym not in my vocabulary. From “good” and “finish line,” I assumed “goodnite.” Whew!

    Actually, “flite” for FLIGHT doesn’t look familiar to me either. From the F, I guessed “top floor.” At least the L was right.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Top-Flite is a brand of gold balls, John.

  24. Martin says:

    Golf balls, too.

  25. Evad says:

    And I thought they were brass?

  26. Jamie says:

    This forum is beginning to sound like a BEQ puzzle. Amy, I think you meant brass balls, or maybe golf balls.

    Mike N: You are officially ONLY the second-best-looking constructor in the world. Take that, you jerk. You cost me an hour of my life and, possibly, a need to recolor my hair.

    My completed puzzle looks a bit more like a pizza – splattered in red where I hit the “reveal current letter”way too often. I know you purist geniuses don’t ever do that and I only do it as a last resort, but it’s quicker than googling if you’re going to cheat anyway. Plus, it only gives me one letter, not the whole shebang.

    I see there are some people who gave this a one- or two-star rating. Constructors can be envious SOBs, eh?

    This was a great crossword. I’m not saying I’d like this level of difficulty every day. I try to retain some self-esteem.

    I was doing okay until I checked Dan Feyer’s blog. 6:04!

    ETA: Martin and Evad got in before me on the balls joke.

  27. Mike Nothnagel says:

    Hey folks,

    Finally getting around to reading the blogs today…thanks for all the kind comments. :)

    @Jamie: Thanks for the compliment, and…um, you’re welcome? :)

    MN

  28. Meem says:

    Busy day with family so just catching up. Good Nothnagel workout today. Got there, but not without sweating. Mike N.: If you happen to peek back in please give me an answer to wan=ghastly. thanks. Or thanks to anyone else who can unconfuse!

  29. Martin says:

    Wan or pallid is corpse-like. Ghastly = ghostly = corpse-like-like.

  30. Daniel Myers says:

    I thought WAN was one of the easier answers today, never gave it a second glance. Interesting, the different associations people have. Here’s the OED’s third definition:

    3. Of an unhealthy, unwholesome colour; livid, leaden-hued. Applied esp. to wounds, to the human face discoloured by disease, and to corpses.

  31. joon says:

    late to the party, but:

    mike n’s NYT was pure gold. (luckily it wasn’t pure golf.) great fill, great clues. yes, it was a workout—one of the year’s tougher saturdays—but i loved it.

    i actually thought vic’s LAT was one of the easier ones. maybe i was just in a rhythm, though. it certainly helped to have CA_____ already in place when i got to the casals clue, or i surely would’ve fallen for CELLIST as well. but as it happened, i had no hangups and just tore through the grid.

    PB’s “battle lines” was clever and ultimately hilarious. a real winner.

  32. Meem says:

    Thanks, Martin. But I still wonder if this wasn’t one of those rare moments when the clue was actually ghostly and a typo made it ghastly.

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