Saturday, 11/12/11

Newsday 10:45 
NYT 4:51 
LAT 4:15 
CS 6:03 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) ~30 minutes 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 11 12 11

For a while there, I forgot about Barry Silk’s fondness for all things Philadelphia, and I was stumped by 36a: [Cheese __]. Even when I had the STE**  in place, I pondered cheese STEEL and a cheese STEIN. D’oh! The Philly cheese STEAK.

Highlights:

  • 16a. [One whose crush was caped] is LOIS LANE. One of my favorite bits of The Incredibles was when superhero costume designer Edna Mode refused to include a cape and played footage of the many superheroes who met their demise thanks to cape mishaps.
  • 18a. Max VON SYDOW played the evil Blofeld in Never Say Never Again? I had no idea. But VON SYDOW looks neat in the grid.
  • 29a. The [Inner city, e.g.] is a CONCRETE JUNGLE.
  • 52a. LIP-READERS are [People who see what you're saying?]. You know how they see, right? With their 38d: EYE, or 27a: OJO en Español.
  • 6d. This one fooled me. [Lead-in to some  royal names], starts with HERMA-? All I could think of was the Hermanator. HER MAJESTY, the REINA (47d: [Palacio resident]), the CREATOR (5d: [Tyra Banks, vis-a-vis "America's Next Top Model"]) to the rescue!
  • 11d. I like that there’s a [Boxing class] for fellas who weigh 108-112 lbs. FLYWEIGHT!
  • 28d. Didn’t recognize the lyric, but who doesn’t like the Duke, Duke, DUKE OF EARL?
  • 30d. Nice clue. [Place for some car fluid] is the CUPHOLDER, not the transmission. No knowledge of engine innards required.

Dislikes: Turkish place ADANA; lesser-known California wine locale LODI; ANODE clued as [Part of an ignitron], whatever that might be; ANTA; ENGR; [Record producer Talmy], SHEL Talmy, whom I’ve never heard of and yet he came from Chicago and produced the Kinks and the Who; and the mysterious ALVIN (7d: [All-Star Dark of the 1950s Giants]). That last clue, all I see is giant dark stars and capital letters that make me think it’s fantasy fiction rather than baseball.

Overall assessment of this surprisingly-easy-for-a-Saturday puzzle, 3 ⅔ stars.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Double or Nothing”

WSJ Saturday Puzzle: 11 12 11 "Double or Nothing"

I mentioned another “Double or Nothing” puzzle three months ago, one posted at Patrick’s A-Frame Games website but co-constructed with Eric Berlin. This one is a solo venture and a smart challenge. Every answer has an even number of letters, but you’re not told how many boxes it will fill. Some boxes are empty while the others contain two letters. (No single letters. Crosswords with single-letter squares are for pikers.) It’s similar to Frank Longo’s “One, Two, Three” puzzles in Games World of Puzzles and Trip Payne’s “Squeezeboxes” (“variety grid puzzles” #18 and #19 here), but with the nutty twist of leaving some boxes blank. That makes it harder to criss-cross the answers you’re thinking of—so the solving approach is to find a couple intersecting answers you’re sure of and figure out if they share two letters in the right spot or if that crossing will be left empty.

There’s even a theme: The middle entry and two others that are symmetrically paired spell out an 11-word axiom about gambling. I ended up working the puzzle from the bottom up to the top, so I had the quippy ending but had to piece together the rest of it. “The best throw of the dice is to throw them away.” But how will we play Yahtzee, then?

4.75 stars. I love a variety grid that takes time to muscle my way through (like Patrick’s “Rows Garden” puzzles and his “Some Assembly Required” creations in GWOP—there’s one waiting for me in the January issue right now!). The easier ones always disappoint me a little bit, as they’re only somewhat harder than standard crosswords rather than a whole heckuva lot more challenging.

Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 12 11

I think this is Steve’s first published themeless, isn’t it? Here’s my list of the five best parts of this puzzle:

  • 1a. FATS DOMINO is the [R&B singer whose given name is Antoine]. Antoine Domino, Jr.! Who knew his last name wasn’t a stage name?
  • 25a. [Hurt amount?] clues WORLD. Now, any time I say “You’re gonna be in a world of hurt,” I use an idiotic-guy voice. My husband can confirm this.
  • 35a. [Strategy-change declaration] clues the menacing “NO MORE MR. NICE GUY.”
  • 32d. NOSE RINGS can be [Unsubtle jewelry], yes, but a teeny jeweled stud can be surprisingly subtle. It’s the lip piercings that tend to be more uniformly unsubtle.
  • 51d. [Head of a bar?] is FOAM. I think this clue works on two levels. The head on a beer is FOAM. And the suds on a bar of soap could also be considered a “head” of FOAM, no?

I’m also fond of the ["No clue"] clue for 8d: “IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME.” Have you seen a puzzle printout before the clues have been written? It’s a page of “No Clue” clues. Kinda wanted the answer to be IT’S A MYSTERY TO ME, but the crossings weren’t working there.

I don’t know about you, but I have no recollection of 15a: ICE PIRATES, the [1984 Robert Urich sci-fi comedy, with "The"]. It’s certainly a lively answer, but it’s hissing “obscure” at me.

Among the uglier bits in the puzzle are the DONEE (39a. [Charity, e.g.]) and the DOTER (23d. [Indulgent sort]). L. RON, LEAS, CCL, SONO-…meh.

Five clues I found tough:

  • 23a. [St. with an arc-shaped northern border] is DEL., or Delaware. I can’t even picture that. But now that DEL is in the grid, I keep thinking of Del tha Funkee Homosapien.
  • 30a. [Belgian leadership group, to some residents] is a SENAT. Some Belgians—the Walloons—speak French and would use that word. Others—the Flemish—speak Dutch. Perhaps Mac can tell us what the Flemish word for “senate” is. (The puzzle tells us that a [Dutch burg] is a STAD.)
  • 41d. [Celebratory] clues FESTAL, which is a word I have never had occasion to use and have rarely even read.
  • 50a. [Small red crawlers] suggested red ANTS to me, but the answer is young newts, or EFTS. Crosswordese! The ants miss another shout-out, with CARPENTER clued as [One working on a board] rather than [__ ant].
  • 49d. [Pitcher's success], SA*E. What do you pick for the third letter? I thought baseball and SAVE, but it’s the SALE made as a result of a sales pitch.

3.25 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Welcome Aboard” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 12

63-Across invites us to JOIN THE CLUB, which happens to be [...a hint to both words in 17-, 28-, and 49-Across]. That’s because the word “club” can follow each of the words in those three theme entries:

  • 17-Across: Take some Canadian Club whiskey, add an idol’s fan club, then subtract both clubs. That gives you CANADIAN FAN, clued as a [Blue Jay strikeout?].
  • 28-Across: Start with an Indian club (something we have previously discussed) and toss in a comedy club on the other side. Divide both sides by “club” and you’re left with INDIAN COMEDY, a [Bollywood romp?].
  • 49-Across: Go work out at your local athletic club and then head to the stadium to watch your favorite ball club in action.  Then think about what they had in common.  No, not physical exertion and sweat, but and ATHLETIC BALL, a [Dance for Olympians?].

The double-stuff’d “words that can precede a common word” gimmick works better when the paired words form either a real term (like CHRISTMAS NIGHT) or something so wacky as to be entertaining on its own (like maybe STRIP TENNIS, the game where one shouts “Long!” in reference to both a shot and a player). The theme entries here certainly aren’t real terms (that’s really tough to pull off, especially with this particular “club” concept) but I wouldn’t exactly call them “wacky” either. They’re more like “things are kinda real, but the terminology is forced.” So I finished wanting something a little more.

I certainly couldn’t ask for more when it came to the fill.  I loved the paired long Downs in both corners, with SOME NERVE! and SPEED DIAL up top and MUST-SEE TV and IN THE MOOD down below. MUST-SEE TV gets the clue [Reality shows, to many]. My reality TV diet has become much leaner of late. I still TiVo “Survivor” and “Top Chef” but that’s about it. (I confess to watching “Jersey Shore” too, but that’s hardly reality TV.) Am I missing anything good?

New to me is SITZ, which is not a nickname for The Situation (he’s a “Jersey Shore” character) but instead a [Therapeutic type of bath]. I prefer bubble baths myself.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 12 11 "Saturday Stumper"

Well, it’s stumpy all right. I was stumped all over this puzzle. I can’t say I enjoyed it, though. Too many things I’ve just never heard of. To wit:

  • 17a. LOOPERS, [Sewing-machine mechanisms]. What?
  • 22a. ITT, [Major Defense Dept. contractor]. No idea what ITT stands for.
  • 27a. ENDCUT, [Particular parquet piece]. I am not up on my parquet-tile manufacture terminology.
  • 58a. WHIFFED, [Inhaled or exhaled]. Breathing in through the nose, sure. But exhaling? Haven’t seen whiff used that way before.
  • 60a. IMPEARL, [Decorate daintily]. That’s a word? Never encountered it before.
  • 63a. SPENDER is a [Brit who was a US poet laureate]. Hey, big Spender!
  • 8d. ROD TAYLOR, [Churchill portrayer in a 2009 film]. Don’t know him. Tarantino loves him and cast him in Inglourious Basterds.
  • 9d. ELOISE, [Nancy Drew's aunt].
  • 33d. AIRE, [Occupational suffix]. I am drawing a blank on what occupations take this suffix.
  • 36d. HEDGEHOP, [Fly at low altitude]. Don’t think I’ve seen this word before.
  • 41d. ENID, Oklahoma is your ["Queen Wheat City"]. Is there such a thing as “queen wheat” or is the town just boasting of being the queen of all wheat cities?
  • 57d. TED, [FDR opponent in '44]. This is bogus, using initials for Thomas Dewey. We call him “Dewey” for short, not T.E.D. Nobody likes initials in crosswords, least of all when they’re not even preexisting crosswordese (see: GBS, TSE, TAE, RLS, AES, DDE).

Okay, so now I know who Rod Taylor is (ever so faintly) and hedgehop is a cool word, but the rest of these? Didn’t entertain or enlighten me in the slightest.

Seven more clues to discuss:

  • 12d. [Hollyhock hue] clues APRICOT. Entirely arbitrary. Hollyhocks come in all sorts of other colors.
  • 13d. PIE TINS are clued as [Ersatz paint holders]. Wait, so you mean they don’t really hold paint? They’re fake? No, you mean makeshift, not ersatz. I see the definition for ersatz is “made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else.” I can’t help thinking other solvers will have the same reaction I did and won’t bother looking in the dictionary to see that it works. If that were the only thing that had bugged me about this puzzle…
  • 2d. TOOTING is a [Typical "Auld Lang Syne" accompaniment]? Except that nobody talks about tooting in the new year. You may blow horns.
  • 6d. Interesting trivia clue: Agatha CHRISTIE was a [Novelist influenced by an early pharmacy job]. Poison!
  • 20a. [Checkout-mag cover teaser] clues DIET TIP. Not sure why “mag” is shortened when the answer isn’t.
  • 40a. No, there are no quotation marks around that first word. [Bonanza greeting] is “WE’RE RICH!” Not sure how exactly that’s construed as a “greeting.”
  • 38d. [Talent that's in creasing] is ORIGAMI. Fun clue.

Three stars.

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26 Responses to Saturday, 11/12/11

  1. 18A started life as BOBBY DEE (who?) and I was hung up on a 5 letter given name and a 3 letter surname. I fixed it, but then I was wondering who VONSY DOW was…..

  2. john farmer says:

    The ascending order of my solve times the past four days: Friday, Saturday, Thursday, Wednesday. Rather unusual curve this week. Or maybe I’m just getting better at themelesses.

    One of your dislikes was one my likes. ALVIN Dark is not so mysterious to baseball fans and in fact was a pretty big name in his time. I remember him as a manager, but in his playing days he was involved in a very strange incident involving Stan Musial. You can read about it at his Wikipedia page (do a find on weirdest plays).

    I also liked your likes. Lotta good stuff, especially those longer entries.

    If you’re going to start using fractional star ratings, I’m going to need glasses.

    Got to see the latest Joon!-on-Jeopardy! tonight. No spoilers for now, but a few observations: (a) the Tournament of Champions games are like Saturday fare compared to the everyday Wednesday-level shows: very tough! (b) the level of competition is incredible, and (c) a lot depends on those Daily Doubles, doesn’t it?

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Indeed, John. Finding those Daily Doubles is often pivotal, and you can see the players (esp. Joon and Roger) actively looking for them.

    Joon on Jeopardy!:

    Part 1

    Part 2

  4. Dook says:

    I see a mistake in the NYT puzzle. The direction from Gramercy Park to Central Park is NNW not NNE.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    Dook,

    I’ll bet you drachmas to doughnuts that Will Shortz is counting on solvers to picture Manhattan the way most people (and street maps) do… with the island in a north-south orientation.

    But, as I presume you know, the bulk of Manhattan’s length is northeasterly. So the direction from Gramercy Park to Central Park is actually NNE, as illustrated with this map:

    Gramercy-to-Central

    In other words: You fell for it! :-D

  6. animalheart says:

    I fell for the Gramercy-to-Central trick, too! Reminds me of the time I fell for the Reno-to-L.A. trick. Even so, I thought this was a pretty quick solve for a Saturday. And Amy, if even I knew ALVIN Dark, it is by definition not an obscure sports reference…

  7. HH says:

    “In other words: You fell for it! :-D”

    Solvers claiming accurate clues are wrong — the only joy I get in this business.

  8. Gareth says:

    Really liked this one. Lots of nice answers, not just every long answer, but also the mediums too! Biggest and sweetest “Aha!” was clicking on DUKEOFEARL. Also thought the clue for CUPHOLDER (and the answer itself) was really neat. BIAFRA made me think of Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”. Last letter was IRA/ANTA. A guess, but a right one, based on VNTA being unlikely, though not impossible…

    I seem to have flown through it relatively a lot quicker than other people, despite being under the influence of a codeine/caffeine/paracetamol based headache pill/sedative. Strange, maybe I should try this more often!

    @John Farmer: My times from fastest to slowest: Wed, Sat, Fri, Thu. So yeah, weird difficulty curve this week for sure!

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Gareth, those headache pills are great! I don’t know why they’re sold over-the-counter in the UK and Canada and not even in prescription form in the US.

  10. Masked and Anonymous says:

    M&A’s Fearless Explanation of WERERICH (NewsdayPuz):
    Bonanza is evidently a major gold discovery, or some such. Upon first discovering said Bonanza, you usher it in (“greet” it) by shouting “We’re Rich!” Har. Pretty rich, for my blood, too.

    Fave clue from any puz in quite a long spell: the CUPHOLDER one in the NYTPuz.
    But for some reason, couldn’t tell my 1-D from 1-A, and had BACH at 1-D forever, with CANDID crossin’ it. Since they crossed so nicely, they were burned-in ‘figs”. (What I call perfectly good wrong answers.)

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    I thought the CUPHOLDER clue was slightly out of bounds.

    But I only thought so after I’d solved it.

    Hmm…

  12. sbmanion says:

    Ascending in difficulty for me: S, W, F, Th.

    My great-uncle was supposedly the paperweight champion of the world (less than about 95 pounds at the time), but I can’t find any online support for that claim. Flyweight as a class (and encompassing all the much lighter weightclasses that had preceded it) didn’t come into play until the early 20th Century.

    Steve

  13. john farmer says:

    SENAT works for both French- and German-speaking Belgians. Dutch speakers call it De Belgische Senaat. The URL, of course, uses the lingua franca of the Internet, English:

    http://www.senate.be/

  14. klewge says:

    Managed to finish the WSJ after an eternity and then had nothing left for this very difficult Stumper which was a major DNF.

    And had a weird moment where I wanted to put WALLY DOW in 18a in the NYT. Finally realized I was thinking of Tony Dow who played Wallace “Wally” Cleaver.

  15. Steve Salitan says:

    @ Amy. In fact the ITS ALL GREEK TO ME (15) was one of the puzzle seeds with it’s mid grid crosser NO MORE MR NICE GUY. My major concern was the appropriateness of the expression. I had the opportunity, early on, to discuss the issue at a monthly NYC crossword luncheon with 2 folks of Greek descent. Informed that it was no prob., that was my green light.

    Steve

  16. pannonica says:

    WERERICH (n): someone who wins the lottery during a full moon.

  17. Jamie says:

    The WSJ was BR/UT//AL but //FAIR. I eventually had to look at the top line of Amy’s solution to get a toehold. ~230 minutes!

  18. ArtLvr says:

    I really liked the “seeds” — NO MORE MR NICE GUY and IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME. Kinda reminds me how sorry I was to see joon knocked out in his last Jeopardy round, but congrats again on getting so far!

  19. klewge says:

    haha, @pannonica.

  20. John Haber says:

    For me, it was a Saturday all about proper names and obscurities, worst in the NE (where I’d COONS, BESET, and REWET and little else to build on). It didn’t help that I remember Clark Kent as having a vain crush on Lois Lane rather than the other way around, and yes Central Park is west and not east of Gramercy Park, a fact I confidently entered right away. I also failed to guess the crossing of ALEGERE and AGNES.

    Also, second puzzle this week for CUP HOLDER, and quite a few recently for AMANA. Are these the new crosswordese? For that matter, not sure it adds anything other than distraction or confusion to label the JAWS awesome or to place the BITER in a junkyard. Anyhow, one of my least favorite Saturdays.

  21. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: That’s a clean-looking map, for one that still has the NY Coliseum on it. Was torn down in 2000.

  22. Tuning Spork says:

    I cropped off the Nehi stains.

  23. Jan (danjan) says:

    I just did the Stumper and came here, even though late, since I knew LOOPERS would throw you for a loop. Loopers are found in sergers, the special type of sewing machine that produces an overlock stitch that is seen in almost every piece of manufactured clothing. (Look at the cut edge of a seam for the wider amounts of thread that are keeping the edges from ravelling.) Sergers used to be found only in industrial settings, but for the last 25 years can be found in the homes of most serious sewers. They run with 3, 4, or 5 cones of thread and have two loopers, upper and lower. The wavy or curved thread path on the top and bottom of a serged seam is produced by the loopers.

  24. Hank says:

    Amy, “hedgehop” was a popular term among us pilots several decades ago (damn – I just dated myself!), and in Britain some of the more testosterone-laden flyboys literally did trim some of the hedges with their props. The occupational “aire” ending is – well, ersatz. Unless you think of “millionaire,”" Legionaire,” et al as occupations (dubious with possible exception of The Donald). “Loopers” drove me loopy – I inspected every part of my wife’s sewing machine and manual to no avail, but of course she doesn’t have a serger. I agree with your take on “Pie Tins” whether it’s the paint that’s ersatz or the pie tin paintholder, I don’t dig the “ersatz” label. This was not a fun puzzle – wonder if Brad was nursing a hangover when he did it…

  25. pannonica says:

    • concessionaire
    • commissionaire

  26. Gene says:

    I worked for ITT (was International Telephone and Telegraph) back in the day. So I did finish that part. But after two weeks, I finally gave up and had to look at part of the solution to finish this one. Being a pun lover, I did love/hate “It renders a seed inactive”.

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