Saturday, 12/17/11

Newsday 6:14 
NYT 5:28 
LAT 4:41 
CS 5:25 (Sam) 

Tom Heilman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 17 11 1217

Call me crazy, but my single most favorite thing in this entire puzzle is the bizarro clue for the humble word EATS. 26d: [Manducates]! You can faintly see the etymological connection to your chewing mouthparts, your mandible. (Not man education, no ducal mandates, not Manchurian dates.) But have you ever seen this word, which my dictionary labels “formal”? I have not. I don’t know if I will ever encounter manducate again, but I’m oddly tickled to learn it.

I’m less pleased to learn 38a: SPEKE, [John __, English explorer who named Lake Victoria]. Never heard of him. But now I want to boss around a dog. “Speke, boy! Shake hands! You want a treat? Manducate!”

1a: SALSA DIP nearly lost me. This phrase keeps showing up in crosswords and I keep thinking, salsa salsa, not salsa dip. I suppose if you mixed the salsa with beans or cheese or sour cream, you’d have yourself a salsa dip. Mmm, sounds good.

Highlights, in brief:

  • 16a. ARMPIT! I like Florida because it clearly has an armpit to its geographic anatomy.
  • 25a. [Have a heated phone exchange?] is a terrific clue for SEXT.
  • 32a/60a. The 13-letter ASIAN AMERICAN is split across two entries.
  • 42a. “FLOOR IT!”
  • 52a. [Lowest number on a clock] confused me, but if you look at the bottom of a clock face, there’s the SIX down there.
  • 11d. “I’M JUST SAYIN‘,” y’know. Favorite answer in this puzzle.
  • 54d. Another nutty word in a clue: [One guilty of pseudologia], or false words, is a LIAR.

It’s time for ELI to quit being clued as [TV title lawyer Stone] or the like. If you ran for about a year and the critics didn’t complain bitterly when you were canceled, I’m afraid you have lost your crossword cred. I may need to edit a clue in another crossword that has Maria Bello as the star of Prime Suspect (the U.S. version)—they’ve aired nine episodes and there’s no guarantee the remaining four eps will ever run. If you’re a movie that hardly anyone saw or a song that was never a hit, nobody wants to be quizzed about you in a crossword.

Anyone else try to make 45d: [Dos for dudes] be SHAGS? Is that a hairstyle for men? The answer is STAGS, meaning stag parties, “dos” being a fairly British word for “parties.”

3.75 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Your Choice” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 17

Decisions, decisions. Today’s puzzle puts to us five different choices:

  • 17-Across: The [Choice about a deal] is to TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. I usually take it and wind up wishing I had left it.
  • 29-Across: The [Choice about personal taste] is to LOVE IT OR HATE IT. I kept wanting LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT, as I’m more familiar with that phrase from the popular bumper stickers of the 1970s.
  • 34-Across: The [Choice about an expiring offer] is to USE IT OR LOSE IT. Most of the time I don’t really lose it when I lose it, except for when I lose it on accident. Trust me, that makes sense.
  • 42-Across: Apparently one’s [Choice about acceptance] is to LIKE IT OR LUMP IT. Say what? That expression is entirely new to me, so I sent Google digging for 0.07 seconds. One website says that when “you tell someone to like it or lump it, you mean they must accept a situation they do not like, because they cannot change it.” Putting aside the singular/plural problem in that sentence,  if that explanation is correct then it seems like there’s not much of a choice there. If the expression is synonymous with “like it or not,” there’s no choice to be made, right? Moreover, how the heck does “lump it” mean “accept it anyway?”
  • 55-Across: The [Choice about going all out] is MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. That’s a nice ending, a lively phrase that you hear in conversation all the time (though I tend to say “go big or go home” to express the same sentiment).

Some may subtract points for repetition–the “___ IT OR ___ IT” means you’re only digging for two of the five words in every expression. But I liked it. I’m still a bit baffled by LIKE IT OR LUMP IT, but I decided just to let it go (hey, like it or lump it, right?).

I liked the fill and clues even better. [The time of one's life] is a fun clue for AGE, even though it didn’t fool me. It feeds GO AWOL, [One way to get the attention of MPs]. There’s a nice shout-out to PHIL Donahue as the [Pre-Oprah talk-show host], [Sheepish statement?] as the clue for BAA BAA, [Brave Henry] for the former Atlanta Brave Hank AARON, [Triumphant shout] as the clue for YES (I have my reasons), and good entries like I’M OKAY, and OPT OUT. Lots to like.

With five theme entries and 71 theme squares, some compromises are almost required. Fortunately, the worst here is probably either AABA, the [Swedish group with a spelling problem] [Rhyme scheme of "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening"], or AT. NO. (short for “atomic number”), clued as [8 for O and 6 for C] (i.e., 8 for oxygen and 6 for carbon). TACET, to ["Be silent," in a score], didn’t really bother me, but I think that has more to do from the very gettable crossings.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 17 11

I worked this puzzle last night so it’s not that fresh in my mind, but I don’t remember a single reference to Philadelphia. There is, of course, baseball right at 1-Across: A WILD PITCH can be the [Cause of a run, perhaps]. Because if there are two things Barry Silk’s wild about, you’re looking at Philly and America’s slowest-moving national pastime.

There are a few three-word answers today:

  • 15a. [Two-time Best Situation Comedy Emmy winner] is an oldie but a goodie, I LOVE LUCY.
  • 35a. [Butter up, perhaps] clues BE NICE TO, which looks strange in the grid. BENICETO? Is that an Italian pope name? Why am I thinking about Benicio del Toro and connecting him to 26d: THE MATADOR (26d. [2005 Brosnan/Kinnear film with a bullfight scene])? And does Benicio really wish the Chicago Bulls mascot wasn’t named Benny the Bull?
  • 67a. ["I need a hand!"] clues “HELP ME OUT.”
  • 27d. [Aces] on the golf course are HOLES IN ONE.

Other favorite answers and clues:

  • 9d. [It's always number one]? That’s HYDROGEN, #1 on the periodic table of elements. This has nothing to do with micturition, other than that the water content is H2O.
  • 14d. TEXAS TOAST is that fat-sliced white bread that makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. [Southern side]? Really? Wikipedia says yes, toasted Texas toast is a side with barbecue, fried catfish, and other Southern meals.
  • 28d. [Lottery draw] clues INSTANT WIN. I don’t get how the clue works, though. I thought instant wins didn’t have to wait for the lucky numbers to be drawn.
  • 39d. [Construction site sight] is a BOX LUNCH. I thought construction workers usually brought a lunch box, whereas a box lunch is catered in.

Tough stuff:

  • 21d. [Karl Benz or Henry Ford] fairly shouts CARMAKER but the answer is EPONYM, as they named their cars after themselves. An eponym is either the person a thing is named after or the thing that’s named after a person. Isn’t that lazy, using the same word for both sides of this equation?
  • 31d. [Town in Salerno] makes me want Salerno butter cookies. Suitable for wearing as rings on your fingers! The answer, however, is EBOLI. I never understood the memoir/movie title Christ Stopped at Eboli, because when was Jesus hanging out in Italy? Turns out (according to the Wikipedia discussion at that link) the Eboli area hadn’t fully embraced Christianity. Today, I have learned something new about a word that’s crosswordese to me.
  • 12d. [Featuring built-in columns] clues PILASTERED. Can you use that word in a sentence? “I drank too much Schinapps and got pilastered.”

Nothing much in this puzzle to make me have NOSTALGIA (great clue: [It "isn't what it used to be": Peter De Vries]) for it next year, but it’s solid, even if it would’ve been more fun with a GAR at 10d. 3.5 stars.

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper,” attributed to “Lester Ruff”

Newsday crossword solution, "Saturday Stumper" 12 17 11

If this Stumper stumped you less than you expected, give thanks (or blame, if you’re a crossword masochist) to Stan’s “Less Rough” alter ego. It was still tougher than today’s NYT, if you ask me, so Lester could have made things easier.

This will be a quick post because my kid needs the computer to work on making a zine (!) for homework.

The toughest clue, for me, was 26d: [One seater]. My first thought was BOBSLED, but then SLEDDED popped up at 14d: [Went over banks], which is where I wanted FLOODED. The [One seater] is the MAITRE’D who seats a party of one (or more). I don’t love the clue.

Seven more clues:

  • 15a. [Saint who named a city] is LOUIS IX. St. Louis, Missouri? Yes.
  • 22a. [Robert Turner III] is TED Turner.
  • 26a. MEAD, the old honey booze, is a [Beer progenitor].
  • 64a. [What Adam and Eve never did, per Twain] is TEETHED.
  • 30d. [Stains, or removes stains] could certainly be BLOTS (my first guess), but it’s SPOTS. I think of “spot removal” and “spot treatment,” but not “spotting” to remove stains. And you?
  • 38d. The San Diego [Chargers' group] is the AFC WEST.
  • 39d. [Scrabble player's favorite card game] is the super-Scrabbly BEZIQUE.

3.5 stars.

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31 Responses to Saturday, 12/17/11

  1. Gareth says:

    Yup to trying ShAGS first. SIX I saw right through though! Sure I wasn’t the only one writing in IMJUSTSAYING, running out of squares and having to stop for a half a second!

  2. sps says:

    Woulda been quicker but my pants wanted to be Cargo, not CAPRI…some good solid cluing despite some unfamiliar words. Love a good Saturday puzzle.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Much easier than the fiendish bottom half of yesterday’s beast, but both very nice puzzles. Amy I completely agree with your comment about “salsa dip”. There’s no such thing. The only context I can imagine is the one you raise–If you mix salsa with something else, then you might get a dip which includes salsa along with other ingredients, where “salsa” would modify dip–It’s salsa dip as opposed to some other kind of dipl

    Bruce

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m picturing a truck stop or greasy spoon along a highway in Iowa, with a sign saying “Manducate and Micturate.”

    Bruce

  5. Martin says:

    Amy, the explorer John Speke is not a minor 19th century figure. Speke was a gimme for me, having learned about him in high school.

    -MAS

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Martin, just because your high school textbook covered him doesn’t make him a major 19th-century figure. Perhaps your curriculum was keen on covering accomplishments of the British empire? My son’s 6th-grade world history textbook doesn’t mention Speke (though it does mention Africans’ resistance to European imperialists).

  7. pannonica says:

    NYT: LIVE A LIE & LIAR?
    Stumper: Could the ‘one’ refer to a single MÂITRE D’ (with the hint to the misdirection being the absence of a hyphen in ‘one-seater’)?

    Oh, and did manducate tick you or tickle you?

  8. pannonica says:

    “An eponym is either the person a thing is named after or the thing that’s named after a person. Isn’t that lazy, using the same word for both sides of this equation?” –Amy

    Not only that, but namesake has the same flaw.

  9. Stan Newman says:

    Since I don’t recall this specifically commented upon in this forum, and certainly not mentioned today:

    The principal reason I believe even my easiest “Lester Ruff” Stumpers can turn out with the longest solving times on Saturday: I generally don’t allow answers (especially proper names) that can only be clued in a limited number of all-familiar ways, so there are very-few-or-no “gimme” clues in Stumpers, thus usually no fill-in-right-away places to get started. Any new constructor who submits to me knows about this first-hand. I recently kicked back a Stumper grid with DETOO, for example.

    Doing the NYT this morning, I found these the clues to all of these to be gimmes, and for a lot of you reading this, I’ll bet: SARA, ARI, ELI, ARRAU, SHEL, LIAR, NYSE, GRAZIE and IONE (thank you, Dr. Maleska, wherever you are).

    It’s tough for a themeless to be too tough when so many words can get filled in right away.

    And yes, Erica, the “one” in “One seater” referred to the MAITRE’D herself/himself.

  10. Gareth says:

    MAS, He wasn’t in my syllabus here in South Africa… Livingstone, Stanley, Moffat sure, but we didn’t speak of Speke.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @pannonica: Whoops, I meant tickled, not ticked.

    @Stan, thanks for explaining the no-gimmes policy for Stumpers. That explains a lot! As for the MAITRE’D, he/she is one seater, while a restaurant host/hostess is another seater? Okay, I can see that.

  12. Gareth says:

    Thinking a bit more that could be the difference between living in a republic and a dominion and that in 30 years English colonialism is more swept under the rug, so to speak…

  13. Donald says:

    58 D Rna is not a protein, it’s a nucleic acid. It’s used in making protein but is not a protein itself.

  14. animalheart says:

    Fastest Saturday NYT for me in some time. I’m with Martin on SPEKE; he’s definitely a major figure. His frenemyship with Richard Burton (the explorer) is one of the great stories of the Victorian Era. Loved seeing IMJUSTSAYIN.

    If you haven’t heard yet, Etta James is apparently on her deathbed. Did you know that her birthname was Jamesetta Hawkins? Her decision to chop her first name in two and rearrange the halves changed crosswords forever…

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    Salsa dip is a dance move. (I’ve said that before, and I’ll keep saying it until SALSADIP stops showing up crosswords. :-) )

    One website says that when “you tell someone to like it or lump it, you mean they must accept a situation they do not like, because they cannot change it.” Putting aside the singular/plural problem in that sentence, if that explanation is correct then it seems like there’s not much of a choice there.

    Sam, the choice in “like it or lump it” isn’t about changing the external situation but, rather, either to like it (i.e. to make lemonade out of lemons) or lump it (to bellyache in vain). I’m shocked, I tells ya, to find out that someone has never heard the phrase. But, conversely, I’ve never in my life heard the phrase MAKE IT OR BREAK IT.

  16. klew archer says:

    @Stan, thanks for the explanation. BTW is it true that back issues of Tough Cryptics are for sale?

  17. Dan F says:

    In case Stan doesn’t see that – not back issues exactly, but yes, he’s selling the complete run of Tough Cryptics in PDF format. And it is awesome. email stanxwords (at aol).

  18. john farmer says:

    I hadn’t realized Leows was one of those few stocks with a single-letter symbol (all but one listed on the NYSE). Most of them are the old giants (Ford, AT&T, US Steel), though Pandora and Zillow (the one on Nasdaq) are a couple of new ones. A few letters are still open. Get ‘em while you can.

    @pannonica,
    Generally, repeats are no-nos but some are minor and probably go unnoticed by most solvers. The grid works pretty well as it is and may well be better than any alternative. Better to err on the side of good fill. That’s not to say anything goes, but I believe you’re the only person to comment on …LIE/LIAR, and I didn’t see anyone anywhere mention ISAIDNO/IMJUSTSAYIN as a problem. As I said, most solvers probably don’t notice, or (if all else is good) care.

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Fun Saturday – for a change! The only reason I knew manducate without even thinking is because manducare- “to chew, to eat, to devour etc.” is one of those first conjugation Latin verbs that are indelibly etched into my mind. The Unabridged OED has the last citation of the English word in 1876.

  20. loren smith says:

    I agree with Amy- thanks to Stan on the “no gimme” policy on the Stumper. I guess that’s why I save in for last and dig in with relish!

  21. Anne E says:

    Hmm… SPEKE was my first entry in this onre!

    Thanks, Stan, that was quite helpful.

  22. Anne E says:

    Er, that’s “one”…

  23. Martin says:

    Amy, John Speke is famous regardless of whether I learned about him in high school. Imperialist, or not, he’s still a famous historical figure. There is an excellent bbc documentary About Speke and Burton which is worth seeking out also.

    - MAS

  24. Tuning Spork says:

    Like most of us who comment here, I’ve always absorbed information, whether I wanted to or not. I presume that that’s why we’ve never lost a game of Trivial Pursuit.

    I promise that I have never, ’til this day, ever heard of John Speke.

    But, as evidenced by the familiar/alien nature of phrases like “Make it or break it” and “Like it or lump it”, it looks like we only know what we’ve learned.

  25. pannonica says:

    Speke, Memory

  26. animalheart says:

    There was a (so-so, as I recall) movie about 20 years ago about Burton and Speke–http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100196/ But the best account I’ve read is Alan Moorehead’s THE WHITE NILE. Speke died in a “hunting accident” that many people speculate was actually a suicide.

  27. klew archer says:

    Haha, @pannonica

  28. John Haber says:

    SPEKE sure held me up, too, as not known and an unlikely combination of letters, and I like to think I aced high-school history. Let’s just say that neither RHUD nor MW 11 consider him major enough to list among their proper names. ELI also slowed me up, since I could care less about even current TV, but it was the west and NW that really took me a while.

    By the way, JESTS on Friday also took me a while, because I’d thought of “cut-up” in the sense of a person who’s acting funny as only a noun, but I’ll trust everyone that the verb is normal enough not to comment on.

  29. Lois says:

    John Farmer points out that no one mentioned lie/liar except Pannonica, but I’d like to point out that although I didn’t mention it, I came to the column looking for someone who had said it! I don’t care for it. It’s true that I didn’t notice the different forms of “say” in the answers, but now that it’s been pointed out, I don’t necessarily like that either. Of course, those who didn’t notice cannot declare an opinion. The question is whether Tom Heilman and Will Shortz noticed (I guess they did). It’s those who notice and refrain from commenting whose opinions can be speculated about, if they have any, that is, whether they care or don’t care.

    Stan Newman is interesting on gimmes. For me most of those proper nouns he mentioned were not gimmes, but two were, Shel and Arrau, and one more, Esau. That’s why, although I’m not a good enough puzzler for Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles for the most part, I find the Saturday ones a little easier. They tend to have a few more of those fact bites so that I might find my way into the puzzle. If those hooks aren’t there, I don’t try. Some of us are less quick than others. A couple of weeks ago it took me forever to get Emanuel Ax as an answer, and I had tickets in my handbag to see him that week.

  30. joon says:

    panonica quipped: Speke, Memory

    spe(a)king of nabokov, i knew SPEKE from the steamy scene in ada, or ardor where the two (disturbingly young) protagonists explore each other’s private parts while making highly recondite puns. ada refers to the “blue nile” on van’s … well, i’ll stop there. the speke pun comes a bit later.

    the stumper was not my fastest stumper solve ever, but it came quite close.

  31. john farmer says:

    Some good points, Lois. I hadn’t noticed lie/liar till Pannonica mentioned it, so fair to say it didn’t bother me while solving. The other one I noticed but since no one else said anything I wondered if it was so slight that it flew under the radar. People often speak up about those things here (and elsewhere). I look at them both as less than optimal. They are a bit close, though you could claim they are different enough so it does not matter. A judgment call, I’d guess (assuming they were even a consideration). Apparently, they were not dealbreakers, and I can understand the decision to go with the puzzle as it is.

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