Saturday, 6/25/11

Newsday 8:53 
NYT 6:33 
LAT 5:08 
CS 6:02 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Two notes:

  1. Over at Wordplay, Martin Herbach gives the lowdown on how exactly you get multiple letters into a crossword square when you’re doing the puzzle via computer. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
  2. Have any of you tried out this erasable Puzzle Pen? The Frixion pen’s ink vanishes over time (which is great if you want to reuse your puzzle books, I suppose, but…) and the EraserMate leaves the side of my pinkie ink-smudged. Puzzle Pen is retractable and has refill cartridges. I’m intrigued. What do you say?

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 6 25 11 0625

I liked Milo Beckman’s sparkly Friday debut so much, an ultra-Scrabbly Silk offering almost feels like a let-down. Three Qs, two Xs, and some Ks usher in a degree of liveliness but there’s that PIELS beer sitting there taunting me, saying “You’ve never heard of this Pabst brand and yet here I sit.” Apparently it’s available only in the Northeast, while the NYT crossword is syndicated worldwide. Hmph.

Good stuff:

  • 7d, 10d. I like GAUGUIN and ANTIGUA, and I don’t think it’s just a fondness for the letters A, G, I, N, and U.
  • 27a. WIKIQUOTE is good, though of course I filled in WIKIPEDIA when I had no crossings for the last five squares.
  • 41a. I know the CHI-SQUARE statistical test from my medical editing. χ2! Never did take a stats class, so I’m fresh out of any more info on this topic.
  • 21d. I just read that Phyllis Smith, who plays Phyllis on The Office, used to dance in a BURLESQUE show in the ’70s.
  • 40d. Ha, Barry Silk puts in a SILK HAT. Frosty the Snowman wore one, didn’t he?

In the Grievous Clues category, we have 28a: [Like two Kennedy brothers] for SLAIN. That’s rather grim, no?

Have never seen the word EMBANK before, I don’t think. Embankment, sure, plenty of times. but not this [Keep from spilling over, in a way] verb. I also can’t say I’ve encountered the PEQUOT WAR before.

3.25 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Being There” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Many, many years ago, when my mother turned 60, I gave her a birthday card with the following poem:

First you crawl and then you walk.
Eventually you learn to talk.
Then one day you start to stoop.
Getting old is pigeon poop.

That pretty much says it all.  In today’s crossword, Ashwood-Smith gives us another life cycle summary, this one featuring three movies starting with a different phase of life.  Read from top to bottom, the theme entries take us from cradle to grave:

  • 17-Across: The [Bing Crosby film of 1941] is BIRTH OF THE BLUES.  I’m not especially well-versed in Bing Crosby films, so even though I had “BIRTH OF” early on, I needed a lot of crossings to have confidence in the rest of the answer.
  • 38-Across: The [Roberto Benigni film of 1997] is LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.  Never saw the film, but I remember Benigni’s reaction to winning the Best Foreign Picture Oscar for it.
  • 59-Across: The [Meryl Streep movie of 1992] is DEATH BECOMES HER. Hmm, the theme could just as easily be “films I’ve never seen, starring three actors who have never been in my kitchen.”

Three 15-letter entries makes for an average number of theme squares, but it allows for more interesting fill. Ashwood-Smith takes advantage of this freedom by giving us lots of rare letters (four Xs, four Fs, three Js ) and two great eight-letter Down entries: GOT LOOSE and, even better, I DARE SAY.  Points of interest:

  • Using ["Every ___ winner!"] as the clue for ONE A feels wrong to me, but I suspect I’m missing something.  To my ear, we need the word “is” or an “apostrophe-s” in there for it to make sense.
  • I like how the grid has both ONS and OFFS and how they share the clue, [Switch settings].
  • Today’s embarrassing confession: I spent a few seconds wondering who the “tenk” are or were.  The clue, [Certain race, informally], had me thinking of racial backgrounds.  I felt sheepish when I realized it was a TEN-K foot race.  Oops.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 6 25 11

This 70-worder is packed with chunks of 6- to 8-letter answers in the corners. There’s a 15 spanning the grid and a few long Downs bracketing the corners together. There are a few zippy answers but overall the fill felt rather plain.

First up, the best stuff:

  • 36a. I wanted ["The sea was angry that day," e.g.] to be SEINFELD QUOTE but that didn’t fit. It’s PATHETIC FALLACY, and yes, I had to look it up to know what that means. It has to do with imputing human feelings to inanimate things. I don’t have to write any term papers any more, but it’s good to learn anyway.
  • 42a. [One may be packed with Oreos, briefly] clues a PB AND J. Good to stash the Oreos in the clue instead of the grid for a change.
  • ON A ROPE ([Like some soap]) is a borderline terrible answer, but its evocation of cheesy soap on a rope elevates it. Man, I haven’t seen soap on a rope in ages.
  • 1d. ["Family First" author, familiarly] is DR. PHIL. I very nearly tried DR. RUTH but the book didn’t sound sexy enough.
  • 8d. [Walter's "I'm Not Rappaport" co-star] is OSSIE Davis. If you’ve never seen their cinematic version, you must. Matthau and Davis are excellent in it.
  • 13d. ["Not so fast!"], buddy. WAIT A SEC! This is the sophisticated older sibling to more frequent crossword answer IN A SEC.
  • 36d. [Toaster brand] made me think of kitchen appliances rather than POP-TARTS. Far less tasty than the CREPES at 46d.

On the other hand, these bits left me cold:

  • 15a. [Pigment used in some primer paints] clues RED LEAD. Does anyone other than a painter or chemist know this?
  • 25a. [Byzantine emperor known as "the Armenian"], LEO something, hmm, could be I, V, or X, gotta wait for the crossing. LEO V is not tremendously famous, is he?
  • 35a. [One putting on shows] clues AIRER. Google suggests that outside of crosswords, this word is used to refer to a frame on which you air-dry clothes, not to TV-show airers. How did this word move from clues to fill?
  • 44a, 39d. I got [Uma's role in "The Producers"] and ["The Clan of the Cave Bear" protagonist]—ULLA and AYLA—but it seems unfortunate to cross two unusual names.
  • 51a. [Hawks' contacts, perhaps] clues ARMERS, another awkward -ER word in the vein of AIRER.
  • 6d. The [Papua New Guinea port] of LAE is best known for being a place Amelia Earhart checked in at before vanishing, and for being a crossword-friendly 3 that’s generally barred from appearing in early-week easy puzzles owing to its obscurity.
  • 50d. [Fix, as brakes] clues REPAD. Not a single one of the first 20 Google hits for this word has anything to do with brakes. They’re mostly about musical instruments, with a few mentions of repadding car or motorcycle seats.
  • 61d. Why clue NAN as a [Turkic flatbread] when most of us know it as an Indian flatbread?

Three stars. I’m usually so fond of Julian’s inventive and lively puzzles, and this themeless didn’t seem up to his standards. Compare the fill to what’s in his 3/26/11 LA Times themeless. That one knocked me out!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as “Anna Stiga”)

Newsday crossword answers, 6 25 11 Saturday Stumper

There were few zippy answers in this puzzle, kinda like the the LAT crossword. Tough clues, though, for sure. The weekend’s most difficult.

First up, a big “Wait, what?” moment:

  • 59a. [River through Ottawa] clues…OTTAWA? I suspect the clue was trying to be [River through Ontario].

Highlights:

  • 42a. [Billboard's most successful female artist, 2000-2009], starting with K, had me stumped for the longest time. Beyoncé is far more first-name-famous, but KNOWLES is certainly fair play. Fresher than author John Knowles, too.
  • 60a. I do like “I DOUBT IT” but I rather doubt that it’s entirely equivalent to ["Baloney!"]. Close enough to be fair play, though.
  • 12d. OLIVE OYL doesn’t get her full name in crosswords nearly as much as OYL appears. Disclosure: I read blog comments about this entry before I saw the puzzle, so my solving time would probably have nipped over the 9-minute mark without this spoiler.
  • 25d. I love “SAY WHEN” but it’s more a stopping-related instruction than a [Stopping instruction]. “When” is the stopping instruction, no?
  • 36d. BAD SANTA, [Coen brothers film of '03].
  • 40d. I run hot and cold on Newsday’s name-etymology clues. I like this one, [Name meaning "serene"], because placid and PLACIDO are both familiar and fairly obviously related. It’s when the name lacks a cognate in the English language that the etymology clue seems unfair.
  • 43d. “WHAT IF” is a solid stand-alone phrase, not merely a [Speculation starter].

I had a conversation about puzzles with a potential client the other day. He stands firmly opposed to one-word clues. Today’s “Stumper” offers single-word clues with the following multifarious words: unitized, bread, accurate, amplitude (WEALTH?), pops, ate, over, kicker (LEG? meh), diverts, neutralize, apparel, strike, dresses, and laugher (ROUT?). My personal preference is for multi-word clues that manage to mislead rather than single-word clues that are more apt to confound. Each route offers its own solving challenges. Do any of you prefer the “correctly parse one-word” type of challenge?

I remain perplexed by HAM SALAD‘s multiple appearances in crosswords. I don’t recall ever seeing this at a family party or on a restaurant menu. This makes me wonder if ham salad has a regional bent.

Five more clues:

  • 9d. [Eric the Red's putative birth year] is CML, or 950. Tell me this: Did the medieval Norse use Roman numerals? I don’t think they did. The Wikipedia article on Roman numerals lists crossword and cryptic crossword clues among the entities that still use Roman numerals. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
  • 32a. [Exit precrusors] are BYE-BYES.
  • 34a. RIBEYE steak is [What Aussies call "Scotch fillet"].
  • 49a. George M. COHAN was an [ASCAP charter member].
  • 57a. A generic TIMORESE has been a [UN delegate since 2002]. Timor-Leste’s current UN ambassador is Sofia Mesquíta Borges, if you were wondering.

3.5 stars.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Marching Bands”

Is it Sunday night already? Whoof, the weekend has flown by!

Tougher than the typical “Marching Bands” puzzle, if you ask me. A decent workout and a puzzle variety I like, but nothing especially zingy in terms of fill or cluing this time.

Four stars.

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27 Responses to Saturday, 6/25/11

  1. Erik says:

    _IELS/_EQUOT WAR, a day after A_ACS/_INER. I think my ‘try every letter until it accepts my solution’ time is getting faster.

  2. Gareth says:

    That’s one glitzy Silk crossword! Chewed through the left half quite easily. Ditching PEDIA for QUOTE took forever (also had GAUGaIN), holding up the top-right. Bottom-right was another 5+ minutes, had TEXARcANA and had erne for TERN. Dredging up CALLOW opened things up somewhat but then had SILKtie not HAT (a rather weird clue IMO)… Still don’t understand WICCA clue! INT/TWEST was never gonna be gettable for me! PIELS/PEQUOT… was only written in on a vague memory of the latter too, though.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Two oddities in the Stumper this week, at 12-Down and 59-Across.

    Still scratching my noggin over how 12-D could happen. Unless there’s a Thimble Theater character named for a Gemini twin.

  4. HH says:

    “Still scratching my noggin over how 12-D could happen. Unless there’s a Thimble Theater character named for a Gemini twin.”

    There is — he’s Olive’s brother.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    Well slap my ass and call me Sally.

    Segar’s newspaper strips also featured a number of her relatives named after other oils, including her brother, Castor Oyl…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_Oyl

  6. Howard B says:

    Fun Times puzzle, though a little trivia-heavy for my tastes. Still enjoyable.
    QWEST/INQ was also rather evil – similar to PIELS for Westerners, I don’t think QWEST is a name in my local area (and I’m just not up on my telecoms). So Q was not exactly a first choice there.

  7. joon says:

    well, i live in the northeast, but i don’t drink beer so i was working for every cross of PIELS. fortunately, PEQUOT WAR was a gimme, although it’s rather a grim chapter in american history. and howard, QWEST has had national advertising campaigns (ride the light!) and owns the naming rights to the NFL stadium in seattle. so i don’t think it’s a regional brand. interestingly, wikipedia tells me qwest was acquired by something called “centurylink” two months ago and the stadium was renamed centurylink field this week.

    fun stuff. i’m not big on INQ as a crutch to squeeze in one more Q, but all of the others are lovely.

  8. Martin says:

    Amy,

    It says you helped edit the page on rebuses. Thanks.

    This New Media stuff is amazing. Somebody makes a comment at Wordplay about a lack of information and like two days later a formatted, professionally edited piece appears. Deb and Amy are driven! I was happy to go along for the ride.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Aw, shucks, all I did was nod in approval while reading Martin’s piece and suggest clarifying that the plus key is shift-equals. It’s Deb who’s the hotshot, and Martin for laying out the steps so clearly.

  10. Howard B says:

    Thanks Joon. I see that QWEST was simply a major blind spot for me. I can never remember those corporate field names, besides. I do wish QBERT would have fit there ;).

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Howard, that Q was one of my last squares. Time to blog the LAT and talk about the troublesome squares in that puzzle.

  12. Gareth says:

    I had a very tough time with this lat; the clues felt very newsday. Maybe i was just reeling after the nyt though.

  13. Howard B says:

    LA Times was tough, but don’t get me started on the Newsday this week – I’ll stop here before I go into puzzle rant mode :).

  14. john farmer says:

    Once upon a time, there was a guy named Bell who founded a telephone company. The company became AT&T, but was better known as the Bell System, or Ma Bell (not to be confused with “Michelle, ma belle…”). It was the biggest business in the world, a government-regulated one-stop shop and for many decades about the only game in town for anyone who wanted a phone. The government broke up the company in 1984. AT&T remained, providing long-distance service and equipment (the equipment biz later became Lucent and Avaya), and the local monopolies spun off as the seven Baby Bells.

    Two of those Baby Bells — Bell Atlantic and NYNEX — eventually merged and are now part of Verizon (which also includes what was once MCI and GTE, the biggest of the non-Bell System local telcos).

    Three of the Baby Bells — Ameritech, Pacific Telesis, and Southwestern Bell — also merged and later bought their old parent, AT&T, keeping the name. The new AT&T then bought another Baby Bell, BellSouth.

    The seventh Baby Bell was US West, which become Qwest, and just lately, CenturyLink.

    I’m sure that’s more than you wanted to know. In any case, there is much more to the story of spin-offs and mergers following the 1984 divestiture and I tried to skip the boring parts.

  15. john farmer says:

    I didn’t do the Newsday but if it clued “Bad Santa” as [Coen brothers film of '03], it’s wrong. That’s a Billy Bob Thornton movie directed by Terry Zwigoff.

  16. joon says:

    imdb credits them as executive producers. but i don’t know if that makes the clue right. i’ll defer to john on such matters.

    i also had expectations for the LAT which were largely disappointed. tough puzzle, surely, but still a handful of entries i really liked, like JEJUNE and PATHETIC FALLACY.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    You know, I was wondering about that, John. Didn’t recall it as a Coen-written and -directed movie.

  18. john farmer says:

    I’ll withdraw my comment that the clue is “wrong.” I’d still argue that it’s ridiculous way to clue a movie.

    In the movie biz an “executive producer” is not a “producer” (who actually produces). An exec producer credit is usually given to someone who has no role in the making of a film. It may be somebody who arranges financing or secures rights for a production, or just somebody who knows somebody who made a phone call to somebody to have lunch with somebody else. An exec producer might have less involvement with a film than someone who spends two hours watching it in a theater.

    I don’t know what the Coens did on “Bad Santa,” but I wouldn’t ever think to clue it as one of their films.

  19. Tuning Spork says:

    Disclosure: I read blog comments about this entry before I saw the puzzle,

    Yeah, sorry about that, Chief. I tried to be careful with my first comment, since I knew that the puzzle hadn’t been blogged yet, but then was careless with the second. (And I’d only realized it after the 30-minute window for editing had expired.) Mea culpa. :-(

    Re: the one-word clues vs. multi-word clues

    My personal preference is for multi-word clues that manage to mislead rather than single-word clues that are more apt to confound.

    They do the same thing, really. (Edit: Oh wait, no they don’t.) But top-notch multi-word misdirection is, as a solver, more fun to parse and, as a cluer, a lot harder to come up with.

    Some one-word clues are fine when they’re diluted into the mix. I just wish the Stumper weren’t teeming with so many of them. But that’s the Stumper style. Stan Newman’s kinda the Anti-Gaffney.

  20. Jan (danjan) says:

    Stumper – I was stunned by the OTTAWA clue containing the word Ottawa, but perhaps Ontario was intended. Having OLIVE OYL including both first and last names threw me a little, since the clue only had the first name Castor, but I suppose you can’t put a last name in when it’s the same. (Unless, of course, it’s in a puzzle with the Ottawa river that runs through Ottawa.)

    NYT – I had heard of PIELS beer, and the Pequots are pretty well-known in CT, and I confidently entered QWEST, since my neighbor works for them. Oh wait, she works for Quest Diagnostics, which I always think has a W in it. I fell for WIKIpedia, and was bummed that my first thoughts on the down words, FOREGONE and TOILETTE, weren’t going to work. It wouldn’t be Saturday if we didn’t have to work hard for the solution, so thanks for the workout!

  21. I’m with John on this one. I pretty much know the Coens entire filmography and their 2003 film was the forgettable “Intolerable Cruelty,” which obviously doesn’t fit. It’s a terrible clue for that entry, even if they produced it. It’s comparable to calling “The Great Gatsby” a novel by Scribner’s. As far as auteur theorists would have it, the director is the true “author” of a film, and before Sarris and Kael and others argued in the early ’60s, the screenwriter was deemed to be the author. Seems to me the clue’s biggest victim is Terry Zwigoff, the actual director of it. Especially with BAD SANTA crossing OTTAWA — ugly, ugly corner.

  22. John Haber says:

    QWEST was a blind spot for me, too, here on the east coast, and INQ was tricky although suggestive enough to do the job. I had “Wikipedia” by mistake for a while, and when that fell away I must admit that, while the war isn’t familiar, at that point the name PEQUOT vaguely was. Again out east, I did recognize PIELS but took a while to get it, not knowing it was a Pabst brand.

    Hardest for me was the NW, even with _BUNGA. It didn’t help that I’m about to Google to make sense of IROC. Still, overall this went quickly for me for a Saturday. It’s kind of nice that Barry Silk includes a SILK HAT.

  23. Deb Amlen says:

    Martin and Amy,

    Just in case we haven’t done enough logrolling, thanks again for all of your help on the rebus page.

    You guys were my eyes and brain on a day when my own brain was about to assplode from NYT training sessions, and yet we three managed to get that page written, polished and published in record time.

    Sonatinis all around!

  24. Jeffrey says:

    A few years ago at the ACPT, Stan Newman ran a trivia contest on Saturday night. He joked at one point that he was going to use “River through Ottawa” as a question with the answer “Ottawa”. So I suspect this was deliberate.

  25. Don Byas says:

    …5 days later.
    O Frabjous day! Callooh Callay!
    Finally finished the SATURDAY STUMPER. NW was Cranium-Crushing tough. Should have seen TORUS sooner.

  26. Katie says:

    Don’t “get” this one:
    Clue: Urban, for one
    Answer: Pope
    Any help would be appreciated.
    (Sat. 6/25/11 — Washington Post/Martin Ashwood-Smith/Crossynergy Syndicate, LLC

  27. pannonica says:

    (from Wikipedia)

    Pope Urban I, pope c. 222–230, a Saint
    Pope Urban II, pope 1088–1099, the Blessed Pope Urban
    Pope Urban III, pope 1185–1187
    Pope Urban IV, pope 1261–1264
    Pope Urban V, pope 1362–1370, also the Blessed Pope Urban
    Pope Urban VI, pope 1378–1389
    Pope Urban VII, pope 1590, had the shortest recognized papal reign
    Pope Urban VIII, pope 1623–1644

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