Saturday, 6/11/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/10" plug="saturday-61111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]6:38[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/10" plug="saturday-61111" puzz="Newsday" anchor="nd"]5:29[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/10" plug="saturday-61111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:40[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/10" plug="saturday-61111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/10" plug="saturday-61111" puzz="WSJ" anchor="wj"]18 minutes[/time_hdr]

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 6 11 11 0611

Nobody wants to have to follow Patrick Berry’s act, do they? His Friday NYT was smooth as glass, while the Saturday puzzle has a handful of entries that make the Scowl-o-Meter go “whoop! whoop! whoop!” Let’s just deal with them up front and then put them aside:

  • 22a. TEN A [__ penny (very common, in British lingo)]. It’s a partial and it’s not even American English? Ouch.
  • 23a. ["White Writing" painter Mark] TOBEY is not a name I knew. Actor Tobey Maguire is far more famous. So I Googled Mark Tobey. Isn’t this “biography” timeline great? Fashion designer in 1909 Chicago. Converts to Baha’i and meets Marcel Duchamp in 1918. Travels all over the world and studies interesting things. Not bad for a boy from 19th-century Wisconsin. (This is one of those answers I decry as obscure while solving but come to appreciate during post-solve Googling.)
  • 40a. [Tangier location: Abbr.] is MOR., short for Morocco. Fill like MOR is, well, les.
  • 50a. N. CAR. as an abbreviation for North Carolina. The AP abbreviation and the old postal abbreviation are both N.C. Where do you see N. CAR.? Pretty much only in crosswords.
  • 56a. [Small, simple flute] clues TONETTE, which looks like a portmanteau condensation of Toni Collette’s name, or what each of Tony Orlando’s backing singers should have been called rather than half a Dawn. Have you seen TONETTE before?
  • 59a. I don’t think “HERE NOW” can really stand on its own.

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 1a. TWITTER‘s clue had me thinking of church services.
  • 15a. Don’t be frightened—the [Hair-raising stuff?] is only ROGAINE.
  • 17a, 53a. Mini-theme! YOU’RE A BETTER MAN / THAN I AM, GUNGA DIN. Perfectly splits into two 15s. Nice find, Gary.
  • 27a. The conventional [Unit of fun?] is, of course, the TON. When you leave the United States, you have to take your fun in metric tons.
  • 46a. Gotta love an album title like ETTA ["__ Is Betta Than Evvah!" (1976 album)].

Word I had to look up to understand: At 26d, [Wings, e.g.] clues LAMES. Apparently one of the meanings of the verb wing is to shoot a bird in the wing so it lives but can’t fly, ergo making it lame. More common is the use of wing to mean “wound superficially,” as in when you’re merely grazed by a bullet.

I didn’t really have fun while doing this puzzle, and the tough bits were more from obscurity rather than lateral thinking tricks. So three stars from me.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal “Rows Garden” variety puzzle

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Doug Peterson and Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LATimes crossword answers, 6 11 11

Easier than usual for the Saturday LAT crossword. Hey! I thought we’d moved to having them at Friday NYT+ level. What’s this one doing at CrosSynergy “Sunday (un)Challenge” level? It’s those 15s, isn’t it? No, wait, that’s not what made it feel easy for me—I used lots of crossings to piece together all five of the 15s. And they are as follows:

  • 34a. [Copyright, e.g.] = INTANGIBLE ASSET.
  • 38a. ["Right on!"] = NOW YOU’RE TALKING! I was briefly waylaid by thoughts of “now you’re cooking with gas.”
  • 39a. [It can help you carry a tune] = TRANSISTOR RADIO. Can you still buy one of these? You can! I had no idea. My first transistor radio was a harvest gold beauty.
  • 5d. [Song sung by Pinocchio] = I’VE GOT NO STRINGS.
  • 10d. [Lab synthesis substance] = CHEMICAL REAGENT.

Of those, only 38a called out to me.

Highlights:

  • 1a. You gotta appreciate a good start to the puzzle, and GAG GIFT is fresh and laden with three of the same letter. Got it right away from the clue, [Chia Pet, perhaps].
  • 8a. “BACK OFF, man!”
  • 42a. [Will's "Glee" adversary] is SUE, the cheerleading coach played by Jane Lynch. I’ve never watched Glee but I’m a Sue/Jane Lynch fan all the same.
  • 53d. [Netherworld flower] tricked me. I was pondering what sort of flowers bloomed in Hades in Greek mythology, but of course the clue wants a thing that flows in the netherworld, the river STYX.

Among the toughest clues for me was 58d: [Retail store opening?]. Turns out it’s the fragment WAL, as in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. For several years, the stores have been branded as Walmart, one word. So the clue feels a smidgen out of date.

3.5 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Elemental, My Dear Watson” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Levin substitutes what I will call the “chemical names” for the more familiar names of elements found at the starts of four common expressions, then clues the results from a chemist’s perspective.

  • 17-Across: The [Chemist's military miniature?] is not a “tin soldier” but a STANNOUS SOLDIER.  That’s because “stannous” is a chemical name for “tin.”
  • 25-Across: Some despots would rule with an “iron fist,” but a [Chemist's symbol of brutish authority?] would be a FERROUS FIST.
  • 45-Across: The [Chemist's venomous snake?] is the CUPROUSHEAD and not the “copperhead.”
  • 57-Across: The [Chemist's Olympics champions?] are not “gold medalists” but AUROUS MEDALISTS.  For the longest time, I had AIROUS MEDALISTS (with an I instead of the first U) because I guessed RITA as the answer to [___ Lee (actress and former game show co-host)] was not RITA, as I guessed, but RUTA.  Ruta Lee was the co-host of “High Rollers” with Alex Trebek.  (At least that’s what the internet tells me.)  I remember “High Rollers,” but not Ms. Lee.

Normally I dig puzzles built around the elements, but this one left me cold.  Stannous and ferrous came to me from the deep, dark recesses of my ever-shrinking mind, but cuprous as the name for copper and aurous as the name for gold were new to me (though now I see why copper’s symbol on the periodic table is Cu and gold’s is Au).  I like learning this new information and making the new connection, but for whatever reason this was a bear to solve.

The longer fill was nice (especially EUPHEMISMS, TACITURN, SLUMPS, POOL CUE and AFLUTTER), but much of the short fill was just not very good, and it really impacted the puzzle’s quality.  Here’s a partial list of some of the more awkward entries: BARI, ENC, ALK, ALLE, URB, DYS, SAE, RLS, SNEE, LSTS, and, for me at least, the aforementioned RUTA.  Sure, any one of these in isolation might be fine, and two or three of them together might also be tolerable if they facilitate great words or wide-open spaces.  But a 74-entry grid  with four theme entries doesn’t need eleven of them.

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as “less rough” Lester Ruff)

Newsday crossword answers, 6 11 11 "Saturday Stumper"

Fairly Scrabbly middle-difficulty themeless today. Answers with rare letters include:

  • 15a. OXIDIZE = [Rust]
  • 17a. GO VIRAL = [Succeed big, these days]
  • 34a. NETIZENS = [Online gamers, e.g.]
  • 52a. JOCULAR = ["Hooked on Classics" label]
  • 65a. TRAPEZE = [Aerial apparatus]. Don’t miss this summer’s (6/23-7/23) performances of the Aerial Dance Chicago troupe. We go every year.
  • 2d. AXOLOTL = [South-of-the-border salamander]
  • 6d. OZAWA = [Longest-serving Boston Symphony director]. One of two O*A*A names in the puzzle (the other is Grammy winner OBAMA).

Not a ton of fun to be found in this puzzle, if you ask me. Despite the “Les Ruff” attempt at easing up on the clues, there were still some tough nuts in here:

  • 30a. ERICA = [Name that means "ever powerful"]
  • 38a. NERO = [Last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty]. You know what? With letters like that, NERO is a good bet whenever you need a 4-letter Roman ruler. There are others, but he shows up the most.
  • 43a. TONSIL = [Something spoken of at oral exams]. Not the sort of oral exams doctoral candidates go through, but medical exams.
  • 51a.EMT = [Short-notice transporter]. Well, flagging down a cab in the city is quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
  • 4d. EDIT = [Perfect grafs]. Perfect is a verb here, and graf is editor-speak for “paragraph.”
  • 8d. CHRETIEN = [He made his last Supreme Court appointment in 2003]. Canadian prime minister.
  • 12d. MIRACLE = [Biblical word first seen in Exodus 7]
  • 26d. PAIR OAR = [Racing shell for two]. You are excused if you have never, ever encountered this term.

3.5 stars.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, “Rows Garden”

Good one. First pass through the Rows clues yielded little, but filling in LENDING LIBRARY broke it open and many of the Blooms clues were straightforward.

Lots of names! MARISA TOMEI, MERYL STREEP, ALAN ALDA, and RAFAEL NADAL sprawled all over this puzzle. Other fun fill: “WHAT’S OPERA, DOC?,” LITTLE WOMEN, SMART MONEY, TRASH-TALKS, MISGIVINGS, ARTICHOKE, ODALISQUE, TOMFOOL, TIN LIZZIES, and FOSTER’S LAGER.

Toughest spot: Where aqua fortis’s chemical name meets the author of Game of Thrones. Have paid no mind to Game of Thrones (other than hearing that the HBO version is full of nekkid sex action) and didn’t know the author was MARTIN, but NITRIC ACID/MARTIN looked like the most plausible option and was proved correct when I later looked up aqua fortis in the dictionary.

Five stars, as is so often the case for a Berry “R.G.” puzzle.

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28 Responses to Saturday, 6/11/11

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    No one here had heard of tonette, including the flutist/music educator in our house. Looking it up, I see that its introduction precedes (by well over two decades) my education on the Flutophone, which other members of the Leave it to Beaver generation might also be familiar with. However, it was gettable.

  2. D_Blackwell says:

    “Where do you see N. CAR.? Pretty much only in crosswords.”

    I rate these cheat abbreviations of states about one rung above Meaningless Roman Numeral. The entries are always clued in a way that deliberately ignores they are obsolete.
    …………………………………….

    I may have had ‘played’ a Tonette in 4th grade. I remember it quite well. Most likely it was that brand. I believe that it was a one day deal. No reason to remember it __ years later. Strange the things that stick in the memory.

  3. joon says:

    on the NYT leaderboard, i did not do this puzzle last year. (autocomplete hates me.) i wish i had more to say about it, but amy pretty much said it all. the L of LAMES was my last letter, and while i didn’t have to look it up, it did make me scowl. i also disliked the clue for SINES, as “creators” really has nothing to do with anything. some curves are sines, but that’s the extent of the connection.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    I have no memory of ever seeing the GUNGA DIN quote before this puzzle. But it reappeared half hour after finishing the puzzle in an old Rocketeer comic I am reading. The lesson is clear. Read comics before solving puzzles and your solving ability will increase.

    Did I mention the Canucks won, joon?

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Sigh. If I’d remember that quote properly this would’ve been a lot faster. I wrote in GUNGADIN, but remembered it sans AM so the rest wouldn’t fit. Kept trying to put in bits in the wrong place, and only sorted it out after 14ish minutes, and then the puzzle got filled mostly in a rush. TONETTE/MAUMEE/PRATT got filled as a guess though. Very disappointed at how long it took me to see MAANDPA. MOR is also soil, but we see the abbr. mor.

    LAT: Very solid construction! Find themeless collaborations a fascinating concept: how did this work? Re WAL, they’re about to invade us, soon. Fave clue/answer: BACKOFF

  6. Anne E says:

    The L in LAMES was also my last letter, and what’s worse, I had it in there once, erased it, and had to replace it once the intended meaning of “Wings” occurred to me. Gaa!

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    I think N. Car would have been used in addressing a letter in the days before postal abbreviations and ZIP codes. Now only seen on vintage postcards, I guess.
    The river through Toledo, MAUMEE, was only easy to guess for me, since I was driving through Ohio recently and decided to go to Toledo and visit the art museum for the remaining hour that it was open that day. Wonderful experience – friendliest security personnel/docents, who made sure I saw all the best treasures in the collection.

  8. pmerrell says:

    As a NY guy, the HERE NOW phrase immediately brought to mind longtime newsman Roger Grimsby’s sign-on: “Here now, the news.” Jane Curtin borrowed it for her SNL Weekend Update reports.

    His line comes in at about the 0:18 mark here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRxMaOR3bGs (love his non-happy-news demeanor)

  9. janie says:

    learning to play the TONETTE was an option of the public elementary school music program. in baltimore anyway. in the ’50s. i remember my brother playing one and looking forward to the time i might do the same.

    loved seeing it in the puzzle today — one that engaged me from start to finish. but for the ne, one smooth solve. MAANDPA was not happ’nin’ for me either. nor was BYNEEDLE (‘steada ASNEEDED) exactly my friend…..

    ;-)

  10. sbmanion says:

    I put in GAR immediately and saw that the G fit for Gunga Din. I know the poem as I tell my son that he’s a better man than I am, Gunga Din, on the rare occasions when he does a chore.

    With that kind of start, I flew through the puzzle, but was left with two blank spaces, the much discussed L in LAMES (also put it in and took it out) and, regrettably, the M in MAUMEE/MOR. I probably did know Morocco. I was thinking North Africa, but just drew a blank. Never did grok LAMES until reading Amy’s write-up and the comments.

    Steve

  11. ArtLvr says:

    After trying Piccolo, I remembered the TONETTE too — a rudimentary black plastic tube with mouthpiece and holes, but I think the playing position was straight out from the mouth like a clarinet, not sideways like a flute? What was fascinating was bringing it home from school the first day and having my dad pick it up and tootle a tune. He then admitted to having once played an instrument besides the piano, but which one he never would tell and he kept that secret all his life! Another flashback with the Quagmire clue, watching a family member trying to act the word out in a game of Charades, literally rolling on the floor… As for Mark TOBEY, a Maguire clue would have been a total loss for me! Anyway, Mr. Cee’s was a very good Sarurday puzzle, and I enjoyed working backward from the FURLOUGH and FACETED plus GIACOMO and ESKIMO, then a Challah BRAID. Old PRATT-Whitney was a big help too. Tried Grandpa before MA AND PA, and ended in the NW after seeing IGUANA and finally grasping that the Service wanted was TWITTER — What a hoot!

  12. Papa John says:

    I am in total disagreement to Amy’s, and others, assessment of today’s NYT, beginning with the unnecessary and irrelevant comparison to yesterday’s Berry puzzle. To begin with, I don’t hold Berry in such high esteem as to use his work as a benchmark of excellence. I found both puzzles to be equally challenging and fulfilling.

    Of the five “whoops” that Amy cites from her “Scowl-o-Meter”, I think only two have merit. I’m not sure what Amy has against partials, so it’s hard for me to respond to her first nit about TEN A penny. In my case, I hadn’t even noticed it because it was filled with crossings and I never read the clue, so it didn’t slow me down.

    I would argue that Mark Tobey is to the Fine Arts as Chet Baker (from yesterday’s Berry) is to jazz, in regards to obscurity. Tobey is no more obscure than some of the second string mathematicians, musicians or physicists that are often used as fill. For me, 47 A, PAULA [Creamer who won the 2010 US Women’s Open] is much more obscure.

    “HERE, NOW” is certainly a valid phrase that can “stand on its own” and is used in exactly the same introductory way as [“Without further ado…”]. Like pmerrell, I remember Jane Curtin using it on SNL.

    As far as the use of the abbreviations, I suppose all of them are nit-able, but I didn’t feel that N. CAR or MOR were too far out of line. At least these were easily filled by the crossings.

    Why isn’t the oft-used excuse of “suitably tough for a Saturday puzzle” applied to TONETTE and LAMES?

    I enjoyed this puzzle. I thought it moved along at nice pace and had some “lively” fill.

  13. pannonica says:

    I would disagree that Chet Baker is analogous to Mark Tobey in terms of relative obscurity.

  14. Jeffrey says:

    There are only two levels of obscurity – people I’ve heard of and people I’ve never heard of. A good puzzle contains only the former.

    There. I have now summarized every comment on every crossword blog.

  15. pannonica says:

    But, Jeffrey, if that’s the case, how can it still be all about me?

    —solipsonnica

  16. john farmer says:

    Hear, hear, Papa John.

    Roger Grimsby! Indeed. Hoping your news is good news…

  17. Plot says:

    Somewhat difficult NYT for me; I wasn’t familiar with the Gunga Din poem, so I needed pretty much all the crossings. But, for once, the cross-referencing entries were a help instead of a hindrance; I was only able to break into the NW corner when I got WOOLEN off of MITTEN. Particularly liked the clue for Norma Rae; I always get tripped up over the ‘Field’ misdirection.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    LAMES also works as a noun plural which is the way I understood it until reading Amy’s write-up.

    Indeed, the first definition in the OED (for LAME) is “a thin piece of metal;”

    LOL—”solipsonnica”

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Addendum: Actually, I’m sticking with my original take on LAMES. The “e.g.” in the clue decided it for me.

    EITHER you have “to wing” is an example of a way “to lame” a four-footed-friend, or two-footed one for that matter, OR

    “Wings” are examples of “lames” or “thin pieces of metal”

    I’ll stick with my original SLAT, I mean slant on it.

  20. pannonica says:

    Regardless of constructors’ reputations—and likewise regardless of relative difficulty—I feel this Saturday NYT puzzle is, objectively and in the abstract, less polished and less satisfying than the one from Friday. So I side with Amy today. It’s still an average to above-average effort, though.

  21. Daniel Myers says:

    It just doesn’t fly as well, so to speak?

  22. pannonica says:

    “Yes,” Tomonnica agreed lamely.

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    Agreed “Tomonnica”—-But Friday’s was well-nigh the quintessental canonically smooth puzzle.

  24. Papa John says:

    When I parsed the LAMES clue/fill, I was imagining some long, tall cowboy in an old-time oater, drawling an apology to his sidekick, “Aw, shucks, I think I just winged ‘im.”

    Of course, until the release of “The Dirty Dozen”, that’s about all you saw in the old westerns movies — some black-hattie baddie getting his gun shot out of his hand or, merely, just winged. Any actual death scenes were often shot from a distance, thus sparing the audience a close up of the gory details of bullet ripping through bone and flesh.

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    But if you “just wing ‘im,” he’s hardly been lamed! Laming must be gorier, no?

  26. Papa John says:

    Gosh — “bullet ripping through bone and flesh”! Talk about a challange to the breakfast table rule..!

  27. Papa John says:

    Oh, I don’t about that, Amy.

    Remember the guy who was just shot, standing with head lowered and holding his wounded arm, while our hero admonished him for his misdeeds, before being lead away by the sheriff to a certain Western justice? If he wasn’t “lamed”, the staging sure was lame.

  28. John Haber says:

    I thought it was a really lame puzzle, despite being mostly solvable. I did know TOBEY, although it’s a field that I know well. I winced at LAMES, although it sounded plausible, but mostly the crossings of PAULA and TONETTE with MAUMEE and PRATT (why not “tonetto” and “Maumoe”?) seemed such a bad parody of Maleska. I was one letter off.

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