Saturday, 5/28/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/27" plug="saturday-52811" puzz="Newsday" anchor="nd"]5:30[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/27" plug="saturday-52811" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]5:00[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/27" plug="saturday-52811" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]4:47[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/27" plug="saturday-52811" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/27" plug="saturday-52811" puzz="WSJ Saturday Puzzle" anchor="wj"]12 minutes[/time_hdr]

Three announcements:

  1. Registration is now open for Lollapuzzoola 4, now organized by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer and now held in a church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan rather than in Queens. Movin’ on up! Saturday, August 6. Be there and be really square.
  2. Do you like science fiction? Is your brain packed with all sorts of sci-fi trivia and names? Do you know someone who’d love to receive a gift of crosswords about sci-fi? Then pony up some money via T Campbell’s Kickstarter page and he’ll craft 50 crosswords with sci-fi themes. Deadline’s June 24.
  3. On May 24, Trip Payne added a new cryptic crossword to his Triple Play Puzzles site. I haven’t had a chance to peek at the puzzle yet but I did download it. Available in .puz and .pdf options.


David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 5 28 11 0528

Oh, the deliciousness that is a DQ puzzle. Those stacks of 10-letter answers intersecting with stacks of 9-letter entries include some juicy stuff, and there are some hot 7s too. My favorite parts are these:

  • 1a. ["Shhhh!" follower] is “IT’S A SECRET.” Perfect clue. Imagine how the longer “SH, IT’S A SECRET” would look in the grid.
  • 15a. The GUITAR HERO video game. It astonishes me that my household is still without Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero.
  • 17a. ON THE RADIO is OK as a phrase. It’s also got cred as the title of a Donna Summer song.
  • 38a. POP-TART!
  • 58a. Whoa, ABE LINCOLN patented a system to alter the buoyancy of steamboats? Little-known fact. Couldn’t think of any other 10-letter pols whose names ended with -OLN.
  • 61a. LASER MOUSE… *looking under mouse* Oh! Yes, that’s what I have, a fabulous wireless Logitech mouse with all sorts of buttons and a four-way scroll wheel.
  • 63a. PRESSENTER looks like “presenter” misspelled, but it’s the common computer instruction to PRESS ENTER.
  • 1d. Crosswordese partial IGOTA is expanded to the full album title, I GOT A NAME. I know this only from crosswords, mind you.
  • 8d. RED BULL! Super-fresh entry. Clued as a [Drink containing taurine]. You see where they got the name? Taurine : Taurus the bull : Red Bull.
  • 33d. PASSED OUT, [Dead to the world].

I didn’t know King KONG was called ["The Eighth Wonder of the World," informally]. That’s just one of many fresh clues for more familiar answers. See also the clues for SERBS, LICE, TISSUE, DAN, DIP (that [Chew] means a wad of chewing tobacco), TSAR, and CON. Good stuff. Made me look past things like EDE, ATRA, and SAES.

4.5 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cooling It” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Two weeks ago, the “AC” light on my car’s dashboard started blinking.  I assumed this meant the car was low on/out of freon (or whatever it is that makes the air conditioning work these days).  When we had our first warm day here in Seattle last week, I turned on the air conditioning only to find out first-hand that the indicator wasn’t lying–the vents just blew hot air, so I had to resort to the old 2/50 air conditioning system of my youth (roll down 2 windows and drive 50 miles per hour).

Today’s puzzle offers another reminder that I need to break down and get the air conditioning fixed.  Klahn cools off three 13-letter entries by adding the letters “AC,” turning them into wacky entries that span the entire 15-square width of the grid:

  • 17-Across: The [Academy for eccentrics?] is a CHARACTER SCHOOL, the result of adding “AC” to “charter school.”  We didn’t have charter schools or magnet schools where I grew up in Oregon, at least not then–we just had “schools.”  Anyway, this lead-off entry enables one to grasp the theme easily.
  • Before today, I would have just called this a "shell."

    38-Across: [The finish for Captain Nemo?] is NAUTILUS SHELLAC.  Hmm.  “Nautilus shellac” doesn’t exactly roll lightly off the tongue.  Couple that with the fact that the term “nautilus shell” and I were perfect strangers before this puzzle, and my frustration with the grid’s midsection makes sense.  I have seen nautilus shells before (there’s one to the right!)–I just didn’t know that was the precise name for them.  In any case, the clue feels too forced to me.  My guess is that Klahn wanted us to read “finish” as “the reason for Nemo’s demise” instead of the intended meaning, “a final coating.”  On an ordinary entry this misdirection would be perfectly fine (welcomed, in fact), but wacky theme entries have a certain degree of deception/complexity built in already.  To be fair, I think, this clue would probably require two question marks, one for the wackiness of the theme entry itself and a second for the wordplay going on with the clue.  “Captain Nemo’s finish?” strikes me as a better choice.

  • 57-Across: The [Devilish South Beach fashions?] clues SATANIC VERSACES, playing off the Satanic Verses.  I heretofore knew that term only from the Salman Rushdie novel; I didn’t realize there really were “Satanic Verses” in the Qur’an.

Klahn’s puzzles always have unique clues, but before we get to some of the best we should pause a moment and acknowledge the solid grid.  The triple-stacked sixes on the wings are an especially nice touch.  Okay, some of the standout clues:

  • A few references to the animal kingdom merit mention.  I liked both [Dead player?] for POSSUM and [Word from the Persian?] for MEW.  And yes, I fell for the latter trap, wondering what English term of Persian root would fit.
  • Repeating clues are not altogether unusual (heck, sometimes you’ll see the same clue ten times in one puzzle).  But when the repeating clue is used for consecutive entries, it’s a little more special.  Here we have [Chinese brew] used at 59-Down for TEA and again at 60-Down for CHI.  (I know the drink as “chai”–am I just wrong there?)  Then there’s the nearly identical [Contends of some ducts] at 15-Across (for OVA) and [Contents of some decks] at 16-Across (for CARDS).  Too bad 14-Across didn’t relate to “docs” or “docks.”
  • I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but [Head across the pond] is still a great clue for LOO.
  • [Hold out your arm] is a great clue for AIM, and [Guard's place for soccer] as a clue for SHIN is likewise terrific.

Bonnie Gentry’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 5 28 11

I slept late and have brunch plans, so it’s time for quick takes.

Favorite clues/answers:

  • 1a. HIPSTERs get made fun of a lot these days.
  • 17a. [Moving locks?] is the art of HAIR REPLACEMENT. Maybe Donald Trump just isn’t a good candidate for this surgery?
  • 36a, 38a. Super-fresh: GO VIRAL is something your video might do on YOUTUBE.
  • 58a. [Exact opposites?] would be inexact things, like BALLPARK FIGURES. Nice!
  • 61a. [Letters read with feeling?] are written in BRAILLE.

Clue most likely to be Googled:

  • 10d. [Derived from benzene] for PHENYL. Oof.

Four stars.

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution 5 28 11

Very nice puzzle. The needle on the Scowl-o-Meter didn’t budge from zero. Nothing much filled me with glee, but nothing disappointed me either, so on balance, it’s a win. Plus! There is, I think, just one solitary abbreviation in this puzzle, and it’s super-familiar (CEO). No, wait. There’s also I.R.A.’S, also familiar. It takes real dedication to keep junky little words out of a grid, but it definitely dampens the Scowl-o-Meter action. Let’s call it 4.4 stars.

Remarks:

  • 55a. [Willie Nelson cause] is…legalized POT? No, that’s 59d: [__ shot]. Tax amnesty? No, his other great cause is the fund-raising concert FARMAID.
  • 26d. [Where Daley Plaza is] is THE LOOP in Chicago. The public square and the adjoining county government/courts building are named after Richard J. Daley, Da Mare back in the day. His son, Richard M. Daley, just retired this month after serving longer (22 years) than Daley the Elder had.
  • 9a. Not sure why I entered SCARAB without hesitation for [Ancient symbol of resurrection]. Whay made the Egyptians associate beetles with resurrection?
  • 38d. Went with the wrong RULE at first. [Abridgment of parliamentary procedure] is a GAG RULE, not MOB RULE.
  • 49a. Don’t think I knew this: TORAH means [Literally, "instruction"].
  • 40d. The ZAMBONI ice-smoothing machine was a [2009 US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee]. No, wait. It’s Frank Zamboni, the machine’s inventor. Click the link to read his (short) life story.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Section Eight”

I love these “Section Eight” puzzles but they usually stymie me and take much longer than this weekend’s offering. Twelve minutes means I filled in all or almost all of the answers in each ring before moving on to the next ring. I had to back up to a previous ring for SHELTER and CELEBRATED, but the rest of the answers went in before I moved inward. That’s not at all the norm for me—usually, I’m struggling to piece everything together and it takes considerably longer. Did you have a similar experience? Have the clues been eased up quite a bit?

100% smooth fill, with tons of interesting long answers. CHEST X-RAY, BASKET CASE, SKATEBOARDER, CHAPTER AND VERSE, CHEESECAKE? Good stuff.

Five stars. I kinda missed the gnarly back-and-forth process of muscling through a tougher “Section Eight,” but the easier one today means I won’t be late for brunch.

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14 Responses to Saturday, 5/28/11

  1. Jeffrey says:

    EPCOT weekend continues, crossing ex-Disney head Michael EISNER.

    This has been a really good week for puzzles across the board.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    “On The Radio” is also a Cheap Trick song.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3tR_u0SrCs

    (A throwaway album track from 1978 perhaps, but I love everything these guys do.)

  3. D_Blackwell says:

    After considering Stan Newman’s post yesterday (as well as the other comments), I tend to agree that Newsday crosswords have less ugly entries than most other daily crosswords (with the stipulation that even Newsday is not blemish free).

    However, the Newsday crosswords are thematically less ambitious than, for example, the NYT. Different priorities. The fill is clean in Newsday, but the crosswords are a lot more fun and interesting in the NYT.

    The NYT is more likely to go a bridge too far cramming in theme, but it crushes all of the other dailies by having most of the best themed crosswords. (There are independent and weekly crosswords that are as good and better, but that’s flour from another sack.) Newsday themes are . . .meh.

    I think that the ambition of, for example, the NYT merits a lot more leeway with the fill. Newsday is not, so far as I can tell, aiming very high with its themes and should have the very best fill. That’s the focus, so it had better be good. I’m just sayin’.

    The Saturday Stumper is different (as it should be) than a NYT Saturday. The difficulty is more consistent (for me) with the Stumper. The entries, overall, are better, but the NYT is much more ambitious in the selection of wonderful long entries. The NYT is also a whole lot more likely to go a bridge too far with lots of long stacks that just don’t end up creating a good crossword.

    I suppose it comes down to a preference regarding philosophy and style.

    I think that the demand – ‘no garbage fill’ – fails to take into account other valid considerations and priorities. Clean as Newman’s puzzles may be, other crosswords are, for many, more desirable.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Much fun, since I knew Lincoln was the only President awarded a patent! Also, I think it was EISNER at the Disney helm when they backed my son-in-law’s super production of “Aida” on B’way — the Elton John-Tim Rice musical, not Verdi. Many thanks, DQ…

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    D_Blackwell, you echo my thoughts exactly. (I didn’t chime in in the last thread because I thought I’d arrived too late. But, since you’ve decided to carry it over….)

    Stan Newman edits a widely syndicated crossword and, thus, his audience is the casual solver. The undemanding (and, to us crossword addicts, uninteresting) themes give it a focus — a raison d’etre, if you will — for the casual solver, but are secondary to the puzzle’s accessibility. He wants every answer to be a word that the casual solver knows. NEAP, ALOE and OREO are fine, but ANOA, ODEA (and even ORYX!) can be puzzle killers for Stan.

    Stan fills an important niche. (His puzzles run in my local newspaper and were what got me into crosswords.) But his filling that niche is also the reason that his weekday and Sunday puzzles aren’t blogged. (And that applies to the USA Today and, previously, the TEMPO puzzle, as well.) (And it’s been the source of much grief that the LA Times took over much of TEMPO’s syndication and seems to have been “dumbed down” a bit in the last two years or so.)

    /parentheses

  6. Howard B says:

    My favorite Times themeless in a while – great stuff all around. 5 stars, and I don’t do that very often :). Guitar Hero and Pop Tarts? Sold.

  7. Gareth says:

    I broke my Saturday record by several minutes (I don’t have my times spreadsheet on me), and, in fact my Friday record too! Despite the unusually transparent clueing this was still a great puzzle: the 10/9s as you say are mostly spectacular! To continue the “On the Radio” song sidetrack, the song I thought of when entering it into the grid was Hurt’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6nk6TaL-Ds

    Thank you, Mr. Blackwell, I wanted to write pretty much what you just said, yesterday, but couldn’t have put it better. (Though I do admire the Newsday crosswords too for that cleanness of grid!)

  8. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Indeed : “Taurine is named after the Latin taurus (a cognate of the Greek ταύρος) which means bull or ox, as it was first isolated from ox bile in 1827…”

  9. Wade says:

    Ah, but dip is not chew and a dip is not a chew. Chewing tobacco, either looseleaf or twisted or in a plug, is chewed, and one helping is referred to as a “chew.” Red Man, Beech Nut, Bull of the Woods, Tinsley’s and many others are in this category.

    Snuff, on the other hand, is either in a dry powder format (old style! W.E. Garrett has one of the oldest trademarks in US History), or, more prevalently,in a moist(er) ground-up texture. Copenhagen and Skoal are the most well known brands. One helping is called a “dip.” Dip preceded by “some” or without the singular definite or indefinite noun is frowned upon by most sophisticated practitioners of the expectoratory arts. You do not chew snuff. To do so would be unpleasant and idiotic. Both chewing tobacco and snuff are included in the category of “smokeless” tobacco (which of course is smokeless only if it’s not set on fire) but are no more synonyms of each other than apple and pear are.

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    LOL – “The expectoratory arts”—-Love it, Wade! Posts like yours make this blog well worth the reading of it!

  11. pannonica says:

    Amy, without consulting any references whatsoever I’d hazard that the scarab-resurrection connection might have something to do with dung beetles. Trash to treasure?

  12. JaxInL.A. says:

    NAUTILUS SHELLAC was easy and gave me the theme, but otherwise I agree completely with Amy’s write-up on the CS puzzle. I enjoyed today’s CS the most of the three puzzles I usually do on Saturdays.

    I don’t get over here late in the week, so I really appreciate D_Blackwell’s review and expansion of the discussion on junk fill and the Newsday puzzles. I have never been able to figure out why I don’t care for Newsday puzzles as much as NYT, CS & LAT, or some of the weeklies. They always seem clean and well-done, when I get to them, but somehow they rarely give me a thrill like the others can. Now I know why. Thanks!

    And I’ll (more politely) repeat my rejoinder to Wade from over at Rex’s place: actual knowledge of a subject (including smelly habits like tobacco) sometimes dooms your ability to fill in a crossword answer. Look at all of the scientists who hate the chemical clues and answers. Good luck with the education campaign, though. Perhaps it will inform Will’s next clue.

    Happy unofficial start of summer, everyone.

  13. joon says:

    hmm, go away for a couple of days and miss all the brouhaha about clean fill. anyway, it’s been a great weekend for puzzles, even with the CHE on summer break. (*sniff*) it’s a very rare week when i can do both the friday and saturday faster than the thursday NYT and even the friday LAT! add in klahn’s puzzle today, the fireball, and the MGWCC, and the five toughest crosswords of the week have all been themed. very strange. anyway, loved DQ’s puzzle. RED BULL, POP TART and TUNA SALAD, though? doesn’t sound like a healthy meal.

    barry’s stumper is pretty much the jungian archetype of a saturday stumper—ultra-clean grid, tough clues, lots of concealed wordplay. i really enjoyed it, although every time i look at the complete grid, i think, “FAR MAID? what a strange cause.”

  14. John Haber says:

    Nice puzzle. I did scratch my head at that sense of DIP but figured it must be right. I also didn’t recognize MRE (which RHUD defines only as “master of religious education”), but it turns up fast in Wikipedia. My last to fall was the NW, because of SIT BESIDE, not in my vocabulary, but worth learning.

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