Saturday, 12/3/11

Newsday 6:01 
NYT 5:58 
LAT 3:46 
CS untimed (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 3 11 1203

You want to know a secret? I like DQ’s crosswords better than the other DQ, Dairy Queen. There. I said it. Soft-serve ice cream can bite me.

That said, there are some junky little words in this DQ puzzle—OME ALER SNEE ALEROS all bundled together, for example—that excise a little bit of the joy of solving a funky-fresh Quarfoot. The good stuff includes the following:

  • 15a. CACAO TREE, because chocolate is a good thing.
  • 17a. EMANUEL AX was born in the Soviet Union? Didn’t know that. Doesn’t look like a Russian name to me, but it’s an awesome name. Like the NYT constructor a couple days ago, Rolf Hamburger. Any last name that doubles as a noun is good, no?
  • 20a. In junior high, I had a TROLL collection. True story.
  • 50a. “Pore JUD Is Daid” gives me the giggles. Keep me away from Pore Jud’s funeral.
  • 63a. Couple of my cousins went to UC-Irvine. The ANTEATERS? That’s a ridiculous team name. Gotta love ridiculous team names. Does anything beat the Banana Slugs?
  • 65a. “Shall I make you another themeless puzzle, Amy?” asks DQ. “YES, PLEASE,” I reply.
  • 9d. SEX LIVES don’t get much play in crosswords. Isn’t that a shame?
  • 12d/13d. Where did I read about the U.S.S. COLE bombing? In the N.Y. TIMES, of course.
  • 41d. SNO-CONE! Hello, summertime treat. It’s nice to see you in one piece, instead of SNO [__-cone] style.
  • 44d. I love PINCERS. I wish all humans had them.

It grows late. The LAT has yet to be blogged. And so I conclude with a 3.6666667-star rating.

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 12 3 11

This backwards-S grid has just 64 words, vs. 70 words in the NYT puzzle above. Perhaps to alleviate solver frustration from the grid layout—you pretty much have three discrete puzzles, two arcs surrounding a middle, with not a lot of flow from zone to zone—the clues seemed on the easy side. Now, five years ago, I would have been at a complete loss at 12a: [Counterproductive "Get Smart" apparatus], but now I do know about the CONE OF SILENCE and it broke open the entire top section for me. (Wish that crosswordese OASTS hadn’t been clued with a related word, as [Conical brewing equipment].)

Favorite long answers:

  • 14a. Well, I’d like the [Poster-mounting aid] better if it were DOUBLE-STICK TAPE instead of DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE. How many of you call it “double-stick”?
  • 45a. [2006 Cate Blanchett film] clues NOTES ON A SCANDAL, in which Judi Dench goes lesbian-stalkerish manipulator on Cate.
  • 50a. [Classic 1913 novel called "the tragedy of thousands of young men in England" by its author], D.H. Lawrence, is SONS AND LOVERS. I can’t remember if that’s the Lawrence book I’ve read—it was back in college and I think I lacked the maturity to really grapple with Lawrence then.
  • 51a. [1983 best-seller with a misspelled title word] is a great clue and it took me a lot of crossings to get PET SEMATARY (by Stephen King).
  • 20d. [Where many homesteaders headed] is OUT WEST.

Mildly perplexing clues:

  • 1a. [Auctions] are PUBLIC SALES. “Public sale”—is that an actual thing?
  • 39a. [Fivers] clues ABES, both referring to $5 bills. Who calls ‘em “Abes”?
  • 44a. [French enforcement unit] is SURETE. We don’t use the equivalent “surety” much in English, do we?
  • 4d. ['50s Dodger pitcher Billy] LOES? Nope, never heard of him. Not even a Hall of Famer, so I believe I should not be expected to know the name.
  • 13d. EPACTS are [Solar year/lunar year differentials], and this is a word I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for crosswords.

3.25 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “There’s Someone After Me!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 3

Yesterday we battled motion sickness. Today it’s paranoia, as the first word in each of the four theme entries is a synonym for “tail,” as in what someone who’s spying on you does. Check it out:

  • 17-Across: To [Train for a fight] is to SHADOW BOX. Spies on probation sit in the shadow box.
  • 28-Across: TRACK LIGHTING is an [Illumination option]. Come to think of it, the lighting at most racetracks is awfully nice.
  • 48-Across: Your hot tennis instructor probably doesn’t tell you to work on your [Forehand finish]. Instead, he or she tells you to work on your FOLLOW-THROUGH. And don’t even get your instructor started on your tennis technique.
  • 65-Across: A TRAIL BIKE is an [Off-road vehicle]. In my case, it’s usually an on-the-ground vehicle.

There’s a neat noir feel throughout the puzzle, with a FEDORA and a GARMENT BAG for travel and RATSO RIZZO sitting ON ICE ready to help. Darkness lurks in every corner! I didn’t know ANZIO, the [WWII battleground of 1944], so I don’t know whether the “of 1944″ part really helps. My other big unknown was KEANU (Reeves, I’m assuming) as the [Klaatu portrayer in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"]. I thought this was a reference to the original and not the remake (neither of which I have seen). But it seems to me that Mr. Reeves is a fine casting choice if you need someone to give the appearance of standing still.

What to do when faced with a grid containing both ONE-A and NO ONE? Easy–change the latter to Peter NOONE [of Herman's Hermits]. No one will notice, right?

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

Newsday crossword solution, 12 3 11 "Saturday Stumper"

All right, I like this one. I like these Scrabbly collisions:

  • 15a, 2d. AQUIVER, or [Shaking], meets AQUAVIT, or [Spirits of Scandinavia]. Spirits means liquor here, not ghosts. (Whereas down at 55a, a BANSHEE is a [Spirit of folklore].)
  • 62a, 64a, 55d. What’s the [Rumor], the BUZZ? That somebody’s got nose hair and its tickling him, so he needs some TWEEZES for SNEEZES. Sneezes are [Photic reflexes for some], in that walking into bright sunlight makes some people sneeze. When Sneezy tweezes, he [Roots up] the problem.

I like the wordplay-style mini-theme. 1a: BACK OFF is the [Antonym of "insist"]. And a jai alai court, or FRONTON, is a [Sports facility, "pseudo-antonym" of 1 Across] if you split it into two words. Never thought of that combo before.

Best wrong turn: For 38a, [Possible cause of brain freeze], I had ****REAM and filled in DAYDREAM. Whoops, it’s ICE CREAM. Physical freeze, not mental.

Honorable mentions in the favorite clue department: 24d: [Something kept on a leash to prevent loss] is a LENS CAP. And [Cricket class] is just INSECTS, not sports.

The trivia and etymology categories get their due:

  • 8a. BOUDOIR is [Literally, "sulking place"]. I did not know that! Sort of wanted it to be MOPERIE. “I’m not coming out of my moperie today. Leave me be.”
  • 51a. Samuel PEPYS is our famous [Great Fire of London chronicler].
  • 63a. [Somerset Maugham Award winner of '64] is John LECARRE.
  • 7d. [Sauteuse, for instance] is a FRYPAN. The “sauté” connection looks obvious, but I’ve never seen sauteuse.
  • 39d. COWTOWN is [Nickname for Calgary].

DIT and OAR don’t bring any pep, but overall, solid stuff. Four stars.
Updated Saturday night:

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Stuck Up”

Solved this one Saturday afternoon with my new lamp beside my new(ish) couch. It went much better than Hex’s last cryptic from four weeks ago, “Eights.” Crikey! I never did finish that one. The clues I hadn’t figured out—there was no way to know if those answers would be normal words or words like the ones I pieced together but had never seen before—ENTRESOL, SWANSKIN, the forms COLOCATE and ABIDANCE and TRUSTORS, the spelling MALEMUTE, and I forget what else. I wasn’t even grumbling about ENIWETOK and AMU DARYA. It’s hard to enjoy a puzzle when you stare at the answers and ask the universe, “That’s a word? Really?” And I know a lot of words! I do. Honest. There were smart people who took a week or two to muscle through this puzzle instead of an hour or less. Ouch.

This week’s variety cryptic was so much more tractable. Why, it had only words I’ve heard of! (I will grant you that I learned STRETTO from crosswords.) The theme is explained, sort of, by the unclued central answer COUNTING SHEEP, which is what you might be doing if you have insomnia and are “stuck up” past your bedtime. There are 10 other theme answers that happen to contain the letter strings EWE, RAM, or LAMB, and those chunks are replaced by the words for ONE through TEN when the answers are entered into the grid. So the wine LAMBRUSCO is TENRUSCO, CREWEL is CREIGHTL, and KRAMER is KSIXER. It’s cute that MIDDLEWEIGHTS becomes MIDDLONEIGHTS, which looks like it’d be pronounced “middle o’ nights,” which is when you might be counting sheep.

4.5 stars.

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15 Responses to Saturday, 12/3/11

  1. Gareth says:

    I saw the names on the LAT and NYT puzzles and quailed. But neither was as hard as previous encounters with these constructors had led me to expect. Not that both weren’t what you expect and hop for from themeless puzzles: lively long answers, and not so much of the junk holding ‘em together! LAT mostly harder for me surprisingly, though the SNOWBOOTS/ONEIDA/BOUT/ORLONS area in the NYT that I ended on required a bit of the old letter inference game! In the LAT I’d suggest SCANDAL over the Lawrence novel to be quite poetic. I’d also suggest that it’s surprising that the Lovers in the book: Clara and Miriam, don’t get more play considering the other options out there. Oh, and CONEOFSHAME might be fun, if slightly too specific crossword answer!

  2. HH says:

    “Any last name that doubles as a noun is good, no?”

    Not if you have one, it isn’t.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I agree with Gareth, the names and open grids may DAUNT one at first, but both came very well! As is my WONT, I dropped down into the nether areas of the NYT after leaving such openers as “Timberlands” hanging with choice of Showboats or ? When I got SNOCONE (in spite of my doubt at “syrupy”), I went back and chose SNOWBOOTS. DRIVE home (a point) was one of my favorite tricky clues! And yes, who’d have guessed an ANTEATERS team? In the LAT, it was pleasant to see rarer words like DOLCE, even if it reminds me of a Latin tag about being sweet to die for one’s country, and also PORTWINE which is sometimes used to describe a particularly unfortunate type of birthmark. Add those to the Reptilian clue, BONE-DRY and a PET SEMETARY, and these seem to give the puzzle a slightly grim undertone! Never mind, it’s just me: still dealing with horrid basement flood aftermath.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    HH–And all these years, I’ve been trying to refrain from saying stuff like “I couldn’t find a hook to get into this crossword.” :-)

    Bruce

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Somehow this wasn’t my favorite David Q. and I don’t exactly know why. My reactions to yesterday & today are about the opposite of everyone else’s. I liked Friday’s Ed Sessa just fine–gave it four stars–and didn’t find it especially difficult–probably a little faster than my average Fri. I couldn’t understand why people complained about it. Especially didn’t understand why people complained about the theme, when it was themeless.

    Today’s I found difficult, the SW excruciatingly so, to the extent that I almost didn’t much enjoy it. Somehow I got stuck on ]Margaret] *Drabble* for 38 d, until I finally remembered. But I can’t say I have any concrete objection to the puz. (Maybe not even an abstract objection.)

    Bruce

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, I taught at Wayne State University, Detroit, whose teams were called the “Tartars”, leading me to remark that it was the only known institution named for crap that forms on your teeth.

    Bruce

  7. animalheart says:

    5 Stars for Mr. Quarfoot from this solver. Somehow I was crawling along, with just the NE entirely filled in, until the penny dropped on SEXLIVES, which yielded EMANUELAX, etc. etc. Always nice to see PDJAMES in the puzzle, too. Looking forward to a Wilbur LAT now.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    Liked everything today, but one quibble with the Stumper. The climactic event in “Back to the Future” was not the PROM, it was the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. The PROM takes place near the end of the school year, but this event occured in November 1955.

    The first time I learned that my last name was a noun was courtesy of Cheech and Chong.

  9. Dan F says:

    I know my baseball, and I’ve never heard of Billy LOES. JJF? Joon? Loved the LAT grid though, and found the NYT to be a bit vanilla for a DQ.

  10. klew archer says:

    Started the wsj last night. It was easier to get going than with some of the recent hex puzzles but I couldn’t see how the gimmick worked so I did what I often have to do with a hard cryptic, I slept on it, and then I was able to figure it out in the morning.

    Also would like to re-recommend those Mark Halpin variety cryptics from The Sondheim Review that Dan recommended to us last weekend which are found here: http://www.markhalpin.com/puzzles/puzzles.html

  11. john farmer says:

    Billy LOES does not ring a bell. A little before my time. I wouldn’t say it’s a name we should be expected to know but a small price to pay for a good-looking stack at the top of the grid. Loved seeing CONE OF SILENCE. And in defense of 14A, if DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE is what Scotch calls it, that’s good enough for me. The stack on the bottom was a beaut too. Excellent puzzle.

  12. J. T. Williams says:

    Amy, is it possible for you or Dave to fix the daily standings code? It looks like after the time change, the title is switching over to Sunday at 5:00 p.m. EST even though the applet doesn’t actually switch until 6:00 p.m. EST. Living on the west coast now, that extra hour in the afternoon sure makes a big difference in getting the Saturday puzzle done because I love to sleep in on the weekends :)

  13. sbmanion says:

    Billy Loes was a pitcher for the Orioles in the late ’50s when I first got involved in baseball. I can’t recall anything special about him.

    Steve

  14. joon says:

    nope, didn’t know LOES either.

  15. John Haber says:

    I found it pretty “daunting” myself, especially as I didn’t know JERI, couldn’t easily make the association to EBSEN or INES, and had forgotten the COLE. But eminently fair.

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