Saturday, 7/23/11

Newsday 12:49 
LAT 6:57 
NYT 5:12 
CS 5:57 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Tom Heilman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 23 11 0723

Having spent the evening solving and then editing a batch of crosswords, I can’t say I’m particularly in the mood to write about more crosswords. So let’s kick it short-form, shall we?

Love HORSE HOCKEY at 11d, the GAZPACHO and REVENGE both “best served cold,” THE WIRE (which, uh, I’ve never seen—but I recognize its hipness as crossword fill), double-Z BEDAZZLING (just be glad it’s not VAJAZZLING, am I right?), cheesy TIKI TORCH.

I would love “WHO SHOT J.R.?” if it weren’t a 31-year-old TV reference. But! Next year, cable TV will air a remake of Dallas. I think it’s a later generation of the Ewing clan, not J.R. and his kids.

Nice clues for JET STREAM and ELEPHANTS, no?

Feel as though “didn’t give any peace” is a hair more in-the-language than GAVE NO PEACE, but I have no desire to Google the two versions.

“‘Vegetables That Start and End With the Same Letter’ for $1,200, please.” What are OKRA and OCA…doing in the same crossword?

Seemingly most obscure answer: 32d: HOR, [Biblical mount where Aaron died]. I understand the impulse to clue something as a full word rather than as an abbreviation, but there must be a reason this Biblical reference accounts for precisely none of the 56 HOR clues in the Cruciverb database.

3.7 stars.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 7 23 11 Silk

Hey! This was a tough crossword, tougher than the Saturday NYT puzzle this weekend. Lots of clues kept me guessing for a while, and there were missteps and there were correct guesses wrongly erased. Finally it all came together, nothing was unfair, and I live to solve another day.

Toughest clues to decipher, for me:

  • 5a. [They're waved] clues MAGIC WANDS. Not white flags, hands, semaphore flags, none of that.
  • 21a. ["It will be fair weather: for the sky __": Matthew] IS RED. Matthew of the Bible crossed with “red sky at night, sailor’s delight”?
  • 32a. [Library supporter?] is BOOKSHELF. I sure couldn’t tell you why I wanted BOOKSTAND.
  • 35a. Ah! Fishy GILLS, [They extract oxygen from water].
  • 37a. ["Help!" predecessor] is the album BEATLES VI. Wow, didn’t know they had Roman numeral albums.
  • 44a. [Bridge units] are TETRADS. I think this means the foursomes who play bridge.
  • 49a. [Govt.'s Laboratory of Hygiene, now] is the NIH, or National Institutes of Health.
  • 13d. [Olive branch site] isn’t a TREE or its LIMB, it’s the back of a DIME.
  • 24d. Never heard of PAOLI, the [Philadelphia suburb]. That’s Barry’s turf, Philly.
  • 29d. [Got ready to trap] clues CLOSED IN ON.
  • 30d. [Occasional stinger] clues AFTERSHAVE. You know what? Women give very little thought to aftershave. How many men even use aftershave these days?
  • 32d. BISON are [Nomadic grazers], with a non-S plural that’s always lying in wait for us in a Saturday puzzle.
  • 33d. [Time to attack] clues H-HOUR. The “H” stands for “hour.” “Hour hour”? How does that make a lick of sense? And how come nobody talks about the Y-year or the M-month. Why is that?
  • 42d. [Break 90, say] clues GET HOT. Wait, what? This week, it seems like “break 90″ means when you get down to 89 and breathe a cool sigh of relief.

Smooth fill, with plenty of Saturdayish challenge in the vocabulary as well as the cluing. Four stars.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Horseshoes” variety grid

Eh, every answer has 6 letters in this puzzle and if you ask me, I’ll tell you that makes it moderately less interesting than a puzzle that includes longer entries. I did enjoy the jigsaw/pattern-matching challenge of figuring out how each pair of answers interlocked and how the different pairs hooked up.

The first step in solving is to tackle the clues for some adjacent “stakes” in the grid. For me, what cracked it open was seeing that ON or NO had to go in the intersection between stakes 1 and 2 (KIMONO/MIKADO meets LAGOON/GALLON), and seeing that KIMONO’s MO intersected with stake 7′s BOTTOM/BON MOT. Off to the races after that.

Four stars. It’s basically Another Flawless Patrick Berry Creation™, but without the extra oomph of astonishing elegance or surprise.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Three of a Kind” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword Solution, July 23, 2011

Quick, how many four-letter words can you name that rhyme with KIND?  My list is six: bind, find, hind, mind, rind, and wind.  Of those six, four of them make homonyms when a silent E is inserted between the N and the D, but I would submit that only three of them are common words (RINED, ahem, lacks ap-peal).  And those are the “three of a kind” that form our theme entries:

  • 17-Across: To be [Penalized excessively by the judge?] is to be FINED A POT OF GOLD, a play on “find a pot of gold.”
  • 34-Across: One who [Planted explosives in a shop?] can be said to have MINED THE STORE.
  • 54-Across: One who [Served sangria to the board?] has WINED UP A MEETING.

I still haven’t quite figured out whether I like the theme, but “meh” keeps coming to mind.  Homonym themes can be great fun, but in this case it’s just another add-a-letter theme.  If SINE became SIGNED, it would be more interesting (add two letters and double your fun!).  On the other hand, as explained in the first paragraph, this theme is pretty tight–it’s not like there are many candidates for theme entries.  If you had to make a puzzle with this theme, these are just about the best theme entries you can get.  But then again, Ross didn’t have to use this theme.  So I guess I’m impressed with the execution even if the underlying premise leaves me a little cold.

I like the stacking of END ZONE, EULOGIZE, and FOOT GEAR, the [Nike product], in the northeast corner (even though I kept FOOT WEAR in the grid for too long).  Some might carp that this great trio is not without sacrifice–to make it work Ross had to use two partials (“for A FEE” and “from A TO Z“) in that corner alone.  But I never mind partials; indeed, as a solver, I tend to like them, though I do think it’s easy to over-season a grid with them.  This one is strong on the seasoning (there are two other partials lurking elsewhere in this grid–and four is well beyond the maximums set by some editors for a 15×15 puzzle), but to the extent it permits the nice stacking of longer entries, I’m fine with it.

I was thrown with a seven-letter answer to [Julius Erving's team from 1973 - 1976], as I was reasonably sure it was the NETS.  Sure enough it was, just with the definite article: THE NETS is indeed seven letters.  That took me a while to uncover, and it didn’t help that it sat alongside DATIVE, the [Latin case] that meant nothing to me during the solve.  Was the clue referencing a “case” like a lawsuit or investigation?  Maybe a “case” like an attache?  I now see (thanks to the helpful contributors to Wikipedia) that “the dative case … is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in ‘John gave Mary a book.’”  I think Mary would be the dative case in that example. Wikipedia says that while the dative case is “no longer a part of modern English language,” it survives through some words like METHINKS.  Methinks I should stop now before you’re completely asleep.

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 7 23 11 Saturday Stumper

I usually don’t grouse about puzzles in which the two halves are largely separate, but this one felt…unpleasant. Is it just that it was stumping me? Or was it the inscrutableness of the top half of the puzzle, much less pliant than the bottom half? Was it the obscure KALB at 1d ([1980's "Meet the Press" moderator]) and the abbreviated SLR at 13d with no signal that the answer was abbreviated ([Device with a moving mirror and pentaprism])? I call bogus on the latter. “SLR camera” is the device; single-lens reflex is the adjective modifying the noun. Also in the top half: UNLED, NLER, and ID NO.

A baker’s dozen (unlucky 13!) of clues:

  • 11a. [Heat extractors: Abbr.] clues ACS, or air conditioners. Say what? They can help extract humidity, but I don’t know that they extract heat from anything. Adding cool air ≠ subtracting hot air.
  • 20a. BROWSER COOKIES are clued as [Surfing artifacts]. Anyone thinking of Greg Brady and the taboo tiki idol?
  • 29a. ERIE, PA is always ugly in the grid, isn’t it? [Home of Perry's "USS Niagara"].
  • 39a. [Ford's Edsel, e.g.] was a SON, Henry Ford’s son.
  • 40a. GOLAN [__ Regional Council (Israeli governing body)]? Never heard of it.
  • 50a. [First and foremost: Abbr.] clues SYNS because the words “first” and “foremost” are synonyms. Plural abbreviations make for ugly fill.
  • 4d. [Jay's cousins] are CROWS. Birds here.
  • 7d. I don’t like [Cutter's target] as a clue for PRICE. Yes, you can cut prices, but when would you ever refer to someone cutting prices as a “cutter”?
  • 24d. The late, great Gilda RADNER was a ['70s post-prime-time notable]. The SNL tag of “the Not Ready for Prime Time Players” helped here.
  • 30d. A RUG is an [Azerbaijani export]. I tried OIL and ORE first.
  • 32d. [Cleaner medium] is an AEROSOL. Dryyyy.
  • 48d. PORTED is clued as [Turned left]. Have never seen “port” used as a verb in this way. People talk about porting software to the Mac platform far, far more than they use nautical lingo. I hate nautical lingo in my crosswords.
  • 60d. I’m not up on my retro video game ghosts, apparently. The [Orange ghost in Ms. Pac-Man] is named SUE. The other three are Inky, Blinky, and Pinky. In regular Pac-Man, the orange one is Clyde, while the other three have the same names.

3.25 stars.

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19 Responses to Saturday, 7/23/11

  1. Erik says:

    Found the LAT to be about 90 seconds harder than the NYT. Weird.

  2. Gareth says:

    NYT: Anyone feel like explaining CAPO… Not having heard of HORSEHOCKEY that C was rather tentative. Lively puzzle!

  3. Matt says:

    Gareth:
    A capo is the gizmo you place over the neck of a stringed instrument to shorten the string:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capo

    NYT puzzle was nice, once I got started. But I balked at 4D (Silver ___, Md., Wash. suburb). I understand that the abbreviations in the clue signal an abbreviation in the answer, but I lived in Silver Spring for many years and never saw it written as ‘Silver Spr.’

  4. Howard B says:

    HORSE HOCKEY was in my subconcious but nowhere near something I actually knew. Made that puzzle much more challenging. Really enjoyed much of the cluing in that puzzle, was stymied by some of the more obscure stuff. Liked the unexpected speed bumps hiding in both the long and short answers though. (WHO SHOT J.R.!)

  5. Byron says:

    Results may vary indeed. I breezed through the LAT, with only GET OLD for GET HOT slowing me down. 4:14. I had much more of a workout on the NYT. Of course, I had more coffee in me for the LAT, so maybe that’s the difference.

  6. Jan (danjan) says:

    WHO SHOT JR was easy for me. I had a harder time with 10-across, as it wasn’t clued as the movie title, and I didn’t think the NYT would put OH GOD in clued otherwise, so that gave me pause, as I thought it would come across to some as an oath, and others as something they might not write.

  7. john farmer says:

    Good puzzles in the Timeses, I thought. LAT seemed more of a breeze. NYT had a tough NE for me…GRASS STAIN? Loved the “best served cold” clues.

    I think I had heard of the v-word and forgot, so I went googling. The weirdest thing about this is that it’s not The Onion:

    There is a grave and sinister new threat facing our college sons nationwide. College girls are now “vajazzling” their privates with jewels in efforts to tempt our solid, young men into fornicating with them and having babies.

    Females are distracting young men from their studies, hindering their academic progress and dreams of becoming the doctors, lawyers and corporate executives of the next generation.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John, Christwire is also a satirical site.

  9. DF says:

    NYT: can anyone explain 12D GRASS STAIN (clued as “Yard stick?”) ? I see the yard to grass connection – I don’t get stick -> stain.

  10. sbmanion says:

    I thought it was weird, but interpreted it simply as the grass sticks to your clothes. Not sure if that is right, but can’t think of anything better.

    Steve

  11. Harry says:

    FYI – The quote about revenge, “a dish best served cold,” is a quote from Star Trek lll, “The wrath of Khan.”

  12. Matt says:

    @Harry

    … and lots of other places…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge#Proverbially

  13. Gareth says:

    Thank you, Matt

  14. ===Dan says:

    Of course, the earliest Klingon sources wouldn’t be listed in Wikipedia, would they?

  15. Jenni says:

    I know HOR is obscure, but OSSET? That was the last one to fall for me and I’ve never seen it before. I did at least recognize HOR once I had it in.

  16. Zulema says:

    I have never seen Osset anywhere but Ossetia is an autonomous region (republic?) in Russia. One of my grandnieces visited there as an exchange student before the region became involved in turmoil and wars with its neighbors, one of whom is Georgia.

  17. Jenni says:

    Thanks, Zulema. I’ve never heard of Ossetia, either – I am a geographical ignoramus – but at least now I have some idea what it is!

  18. John Haber says:

    Like Gareth, I’ve never hard of HORSE HOCKEY (or, like Zulema, OSSET — and, like JohnF, couldn’t really make sense of GRASS STAIN, which you don’t get much anyhow as an adult in the city), so that corner was really rough going.

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