Friday, 8/19/11

NYT 4:01 
LAT 3:53 
CS 13:23 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:55 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 8 19 11 0819

Did you notice that this website was down for a bit tonight? Yeah, me too. We’re back up now and I no longer remember the puzzle so clearly and I’m getting sleepy.

Would’ve nipped just under the 4-minute mark if I hadn’t moved that Diet Coke can off my desk after I clicked “play.” Easier than I was expecting the puzzle to be. The low word count of 64 makes for lots of S’s, but Berry being Berry, the fill’s pretty ssmooth anyway.

Didn’t know DOSS meant [Sleep, in British slang]. See, now, I would’ve clued that as [My sister-in-law's friend, the physical therapist in Vail]. Would’ve been a gimme, am I right? I feel like a South African blogger friend uses it to mean something like  ”idiotic”—is that an Afrikaans word, Gareth?

Highlights: MRS. SMITH with her 7-to-1 consonant/vowel ratio. Those 8×5 stacks—the only crossing that’s at all marginal is REMET but the rest of those stacks’ crossers are rock-solid. Answers like UNREELS and LOADER and GLOSSIES look a little like roll-your-own words but they’re actually solid too. LAP DOG, CAPRICORN, Maurice SENDAK, ADAM WEST, DUNCAN yo-yos…good stuff.

BEARDLESS, that seems like a terrible roll-your-own word, but it gets a leg up with the clue, [Like Lincoln before his presidency]. UNBEARDED, CLEAN-SHAVEN, these seem more natural to me than BEARDLESS.

Now, the Tom Selleck movie LASSITER (!) and WRIST could easily have been Pixar’s John LASSETER crossing WREST. Which do you prefer? I do like the WRIST clue, [You might keep a watch on it].

One of the answers here is FIVE-STAR. My puzzle rating? Let’s go with 4.5 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Open Fire!” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, August 19

I didn’t catch the theme until after I finished the puzzle (which happened loooong after I started). The grid has four two-word expressions that either: (1) start with FI- and end with -RE; or (2) start with FIR- and end with -E. In both cases, “FIRE” is “opened” to insert other letters:

  • 17-Across: [Ill-gotten gains] are FILTHY LUCRE. As it’s used today, isn’t lucre always dirty?  You never see it as “spotless lucre” or “clean lucre” or “well-earned lucre.”
  • 29-Across: The [Pair of ballpark figures] is the FINAL SCORE. Since I hadn’t noticed the theme, I was tempted to plunk an S down at the end, but of course ETE is [When Paris sizzles], and not many STEs would have that effect.
  • 43-Across: FIRST PLACE is [Where we always find leaders]. I fell for the subtle misdirect in this clue, thinking of political leaders instead of those who are ahead in a competition. My confusion was short-lived, however, as there didn’t seem to be many viable answers if the clue was talking about politicos. IN OFFICE, maybe, but what else?
  • 57-Across: [Determination] is FIRM RESOLVE. I’m surprised I got this one fairly quickly, as I’m far more accustomed to weak resolve, especially as it relates to the consumption of snacks at or near bedtime.

Note that the first two theme entries split FIRE in half and the last two theme entries split between the R and the E. Any arrangement of those four would have been fine, of course—the key is that there is balance as opposed to three of one and one of the other. I admire the quad-stacked 6s in the northwest and southeast corners (my goodness they’re smooth!), as well as the stacked 8-letter Downs in the northeast and southwest.

For the most part this was a tortoise-like solve for me–slow and steady. Not many hiccups, but not a lot of confidence in some of my original guesses either. The only real hang-up was the extreme northwest corner, namely the letter to put in the box with the “1″ in it.  [Lots of sailors?] was of no help to me in figuring out the first letter of GOBS, as I never knew that GOB is a term for a sailor. And while I should have been able to figure out the first word of GAFFED, clued as [Landed with a barbed spear], I just didn’t for the longest time. What can I say?—I goofed on GAFFED.

The Creel Deal

Whaddya say we close with some random observations? (If you say “no,” then just skip to the next post.)

  • CREEL is a [Bass basket]. That’s a creel over there to the right.
  • The nominees for Most Outstanding Clue are: (1) [Breathtaking beast?] for a BOA constrictor; (2) [Apt anagram for "the eyes"] for THEY SEE (already a winner in Best Use of a Clue to Mask a Forced or Seven-Letter-Partial Entry category, an award given at last night’s banquet honoring technical achievements); (3) [Current or former court org.] for the ABA (the current one is the American Bar Association and the former one is the American Basketball Association); (4) [Dis-cover?] for PEEL (as in “uncover”); and (5) [Child on his pest behavior] for BRAT. And the winner is … [Breathtaking beast?] for BOA. This is [Breathtaking beast?]‘s first nomination and first win. It appears to be too choked up to make an acceptance speech.
  • The entry EAT ME always appeals to my inner 10-year-old, not because of the Alice in Wonderland reference but because it reminds me of “Bite me!,” the imperative of choice a few decades back. EAT ME was the sign on the cake that made Alice grow. Cake has that effect.
  • The [Highest Cub Scout rank] is WEBELOS, from “we’ll be loyal scouts.” Webelos wobble, but they don’t fall down.
  • I like the imagery evoked by the paired long Downs. Up top you have VENOMOUS SAUTERNE, surely a poor choice for dinner, and down below you find out that ERIC BANA BURROWED. His objective remains a mystery.

Jeff Louie’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 19 11

Five two-word edibles that begin with GR- get a recipe adaptation in which they instead begin with CR-, and the new phrases are clued accordingly. Why the change? Near as I can tell, the theme’s rationale is “just because.”

  • 16a. [Dairy food for a haunted house?] = CREAK YOGURT. (Greek yogurt, now overrunning the dairy aisle.)
  • 23a. [Boxed Brie?] = CRATED CHEESE. (Grated cheese.) I’m seeing a hint of “Boxers or briefs?” in the clue.
  • 38a, 41a. [With 41-Across, pancake-flavored drink?] = CREPE JUICE. (Grape juice.) That doesn’t even make any sense.
  • 50a. [Snacks for an all-nighter?] = CRAM CRACKERS. (Graham crackers.)
  • 62a. [Dinner dish decorated for a king?] = CROWNED BEEF. (Ground beef.)

The theme didn’t do much for me and the fill was rather ordinary, but I liked the overall cluing vibe today:

  • 14a. [Surprisingly, the Rays don't play there] clues TAMPA. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do have a stadium in Tampa, but the Rays play in St. Petersburg. There’s no city called Tampa Bay.
  • 26a. A METEOR could be viewed as a [Shower head, maybe].
  • 46a. [Literary __] LION eschews the feline family altogether.
  • 6d. [With "The," city with a lake called the Hofvijver at its center] points to The HAGUE. A Dutchy-looking lake and a “The __” name? What else could it be? (Mind you, I’ve never heard of Hofvijver before.)
  • 35d. ["Correct answer" sound] clues DING. How come we never see DING clued as a small dent on a car?
  • 52d. [One of Nixon's vices?] clues V.P. Spiro AGNEW. CUSSING wouldn’t fit, while WRATH, SPITE, and ANGER didn’t work with the crossings.

Three stars.

Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double or Nothing”

WSJ crossword answers, 8 19 11 "Double or Nothing"

The 10 theme answers pair a word with a set of double letters with a word that has the same letters save for a jettisoning of the doubles:

  • 23a. [Customers lured into J. Crew stores?] = PREPPY PREY.
  • 25a. [Sword unearthed by a paleontologist?] = FOSSIL FOIL. Bonus: sort of sounds like “fossil fuel.”
  • 34a. ["No double-dipping" and the like?] = RUFFLES RULES. Potato chip action. Now I’m in the mood for chips and dip.
  • 42a. [Phonograph part in the iTunes era?] = NEEDLESS NEEDLE. Minus two points for the double E that doesn’t get touched.
  • 65a. ["Can you spare a buck for some honey?" asker?] = BEGGAR BEAR. Wouldn’t the bear be better off just asking for the honey?
  • 67a. [Neatest way to fill a gas can?] = FUNNEL FUEL. The only verb phrase. The rest of the theme’s nouns.
  • 82a. ["Use Gallup!" placard?] = POLLSTER POSTER. POLLUTER POUTER fits the same pattern.
  • 94a. [Light footwear for nonwizards?] MUGGLES’ MULES.
  • 106a. [Polecat paws?] = FERRET FEET.
  • 109a. [Sound from a laid-back longhair?] = MELLOW MEOW. Nice!

Square 57 stymied me for a while. I wasn’t expecting a 6-letter partial at 57d, so I was wondering what comedian had a last name of Given that 57a is clued as a not-so-familiar author, it would have helped to change [Comedy's ___ Ray] to [Comedy duo __ Ray]. 57a is BRETON, the ["Nadja" novelist]. That’s André Breton, the French surrealist.

A few highlights:

  • 80d. [Big name in little suits] is SPEEDO. These are not three-piece suits, nor are there lapels.
  • 55d. [Opposite of stiff] clues OVERTIP.
  • 19a. [Company whose name means "three oceans"] is SANYO. Interesting Japanese etymology/corporate trivia combo.
  • BAR NONE, PAPRIKA, PIT BULL, and SNOWFALL are lovely.

Worst word: E-WALLET?!? 83d: [Online spender's convenience]?? That’s a new one on me.

Three stars.

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9 Responses to Friday, 8/19/11

  1. sbmanion says:

    Brilliant puzzle. Started with ADAM WEST and RIO and drew a blank for quite a while after that. Finally got on track and despite my first entry, the NE was the last to fall: NW,SW, SE, NE. I am getting more and more senile these days: SENDAK, DOOLITTLE, MRS. SMITH and
    LASSITER all should have been gimmes, but in each case, I had to wait for several crossings.

    Steve

  2. Sam Donaldson says:

    Another gorgeous grid from Patrick Berry! The low word count facilitated a quick solve, as did having a Family Guy character right up top. Just a beautiful construction!

  3. Matt says:

    Excellent puzzle. I got stuck here and there in the upper half (Piña Colada song? Seriously?) but it all worked out eventually in an entertaining way.

  4. John Haber says:

    I almost feared I wouldn’t get a foothold, and it definitely wasn’t going to come in the top with its proper names (especially Al Yankovic crossing “Family Guy” and Tom Selleck). But it went, and I really enjoyed the challenge. I kept thinking once a got them that some things (e.g., ANGELINE, WRIST) should have been obvious, always a compliment to the puzzle. To answer my own immediate question, RHUD and MW11 inform me that the origins of DOSS are obscure or unknown. So it goes.

  5. Gareth says:

    I use DOSS to mean sleep. The word you’re thinking of is “doos” and a direct translation would be “c$nt”, but I wouldn’t use it. Found this puzzle mostly Saturday hard except for the NE, not one foot wrong – but this is PB(have no idea which number is which)! Word that I feel dumbest for struggling with for so long is STETSONS, my mind went TENGALLONHAT, HEADDRESS, and then stopped! MOONBASE’s clue is brilliant, and once decoded helped decode the equally mystifying, at first “One born on Christmas day”.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    The OED has the origins of doss “probably” stretching back, so to speak, to Latin “dorsum”.

  7. Erik says:

    I’ve never seen OUTA with one T before.

  8. Sam Donaldson says:

    Erik, I thought the same thing, but when I consulted the Cruciverb database I saw that it has been used that way in many prior crosswords. So I didn’t say anything about it in the write-up. I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone, though.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    One of the puzzles had an AAA for which I didn’t understand the clue — it didn’t seem to relate to the Automobile Association of America… Could anyone elucidate? I must note that having recently been a victim of van vandalization in London, Ontario, I was most grateful to find out that my AAA membership covered the Canadian AA aid as well!

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