Saturday, 1/14/12

NYT 9:24 
Newsday 5:33 
LAT 5:09 
CS 4:56 (Sam) 

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 14 12 #0114

Great-looking grid with those four corners filled with stacked 9-letter answers. Can this really be a 62-worder? I suppose that explains the inclusion of some oddball fill.

Highlights:

  • 15a. PIXIE DUST!
  • 38a. “¡NO MAS!” is clued as [Spanish uncle?], as in the Spanish equivalent of shouting “Uncle!” to give up.
  • 40a. Anne Bronte’s AGNES GREY—I was blanking on the first name and had no idea what it was until I finally filled in CIGAR ASH and instantly remembered that AGNES was the A name I needed.
  • 51a. If you didn’t get enough literary oomph from 40a, here’s Hemingway’s IN OUR TIME. (Only it’s clued generically as [These days].)
  • 9d. STOSSEL is always good for a laugh. Sure, now his name is a [Fox Business Network show] but back in the day? My husband and I have mocked John Stossel ever since he tried to be inflammatory on 20/20. He did a story on prison inmates doing weight training at the prison gym and looked as alarmed as Dramatic Chipmunk when he warned that these guys were going to be “bigger—and scarier” when released from jail.
  • 35d. If this clue were [From Lands' End, e.g.], you could answer it with MAIL-ORDER. But the apostrophe is in the natural place, [From Land's End, e.g.], so we’re looking for CORNISH. That Land’s End is the extreme southwestern toe of Cornwall.
  • 44d. [Trinity member], 5 letters with an H—you totally went with GHOST too, didn’t you? It’s SHIVA. Different trinity.
  • 49d. ["Best friend" from Germany?] is HUND because that’s German for dog, a.k.a. “man’s best friend.”

Mystery items:

  • 19a. [A.B.A. team that signed Moses Malone out of high school] is the UTAH STARS. Never heard of the team.
  • 32a. It’s sort of inferrable, but I didn’t know CONOID was a word. Cone-shaped, or [Dunce-cap-shaped].
  • 8d. ESTRAY is a word? Huh. [Animal that has escaped from its owner]. Is this an old word or a portmanteau?
  • 47a. A RASTA is a [Grounation Day celebrant]. It’s on April 21, that Rastafarian holy day.
  • 52a. [Waterfall or rapid] is the old French word SAULT that Americans know primarily from its use in such place names as Sault Ste. Marie. Who knew? Not I. (Pronounced “soo,” if you didn’t know.)

In the category of Fill Amy Was Not So Pleased With, we have three crusty bits of crosswordese (RIATA, AEDES, and ADIT), which is not too bad considering the low word count. There’s also a smattering of phrases that don’t feel so aggressively crossword-worthy to me—CIGAR ASH, one NACHO CHIP, a SPY STORY that wanted to be a spy novel, LOOSE TILE.

That D CUP at 10a had me thinking of bras when I filled in WAY COOL at 36d, ([Aces, nowadays]). Anyone else think of Wacoal brand bras here? No?

3.75 stars. Tough puzzle!

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Owl in the Family” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 14

Today’s puzzle is a veritable hoos-hoo for crossword solvers. The four theme entries end with words that can precede “owl:”

  • 17-Across: The [Secretary of State under President Bush] was CONDOLEEZZA RICE. The Rice Owls are the Conference USA powerhouse from Rice University in Houston.
  • 25-Across: POTTERY BARN is a [Home furnishing chain]. The barn owl is the most common variety of owl. One website states that it is rare for an adult barn owl to live more than three or four years. Being smart apparently takes its toll.
  • 43-Across: One [Popular Christmas carol] is SILENT NIGHT. We have many night owls that hang around the university, especially come time for final exams.
  • 55-Across: One who [Is completely apathetic] just DOESN’T GIVE A HOOT. A hoot owl is another name for the “barred owl,” another common variety of the species. Wikipedia says “It goes by many other names, including Eight Hooter, Rain Owl, Wood Owl, and Striped Owl.” I’m partial to “eight hooter.” I like the image of an eight hooter with a six-shooter.

There weren’t many patches that had my head spinning. <crickets chirping>. Head spinning? Owls? Nothing? Really? Okay, let’s just move on.

I like the confluence of Zs around CONDOLEEZZA and PIZZERIA, the [Restaurant with a lot of dough?]. There are a couple more Zs stuffed into the south, which is a cool touch. The Kool-Aid Guy makes an appearance in the southwest with OH YEAH. Other highlights include TV SET, IN A DAZE, and B AND B.

YELP is clued as a [Shrill bark]. Has Yelp, the wiki-review site, gained enough of a foothold nationwide that we use it for the clue now? Or is it still too limited in its exposure?

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (really by Stan Newman)

Newsday crossword solution, 1 14 12 "Saturday Stumper"

This one’s a little harder than I was expecting from the “less rough” byline, but yes, easier than most Stumpers.

Highlights:

  • CH- food crossing, CHEERIO (clued as a [British toast] of the spoken variety) meets CHEETOS, a [Cornmeal product]. The same zone has TIRAMISU, a [Spumoni alternative]. Can’t remember the last time I saw spumoni on a dessert menu, but tiramisu is popular at all the Italian eateries.
  • 65a. SAY UNCLE. See also 38-Across in the NYT puzzle today.
  • 8d. Classic Stumper clue here. [Drawn] could be the past participle of “draw,” for something like SKETCHED (on paper) or PULLED (as drapes) or TAPPED (as a draught of beer). But no, it’s also an adjective meaning HAGGARD.
  • 38d. [Result of soft-palate vibration] is a SNORE. Snzzzzxx.
  • 51d. THREE is a magic number, and also the answer to an anatomy quiz: [Semicircular canal count per ear]. Listen, people: Take good care of your ears. Don’t blast your iPod into your ear buds, lest you kill off the hair cells in your inner ear. And be sure to exercise your semicircular canals regularly, spinning around until you get so dizzy you fall down. (Nice to see a fresh clue for a simple word like THREE.)

MEL BLANC is clued as ["That's Not All, Folks!" autibiographer]. Well, that’s all, folks! 3.75 stars from me.

Alan Olschwang’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 14 12

We see composer Erik SATIE in crosswords fairly often, but if you check the Cruciverb.com database, you’ll see that before today, ["Vexations" composer] was used only twice in 93 SATIE appearances. And here is “Vexations,” in both the LAT and NYT puzzle! I approve. “Vexations” is a great word. Have you got any vexations today? I have at least one.

Alan combines a triple-stacked set of 15s in the middle with a couple more single 15s, and every one of ‘em is good:

  • 17a. AT THE DROP OF A HAT is that rarity, a six-word phrase that fits into a 15-square crossword space.
  • 32a. ULTERIOR MOTIVES? [They're hidden in negotiations]. Hidden by that FILTHY (22a) RAT (19a), no doubt.
  • 37a. We’ve seen REAL ESTATE AGENT in crosswords before, but it still shines because it’s so readily familiar to any solver. (Reminder: When you’re using the trade name “Realtor,” it’s pronounced “reel-tər,” not “ree-luh-dər.”)
  • 38a. BELL-BOTTOM PANTS are largely a blast from the past. These [Cousins of flares] tried to make a concerted comeback but they really still look like refugees from the 1970s.
  • 52a. Old-timey answer here, as hardly anybody puts on a WHISTLE-STOP TOUR ([Rail campaign, traditionally]) anymore.
  • Triple-stacks tend to have ugly little crossings, but the worst instances here are Mount HOREB (maybe this should have been clued as [Biblical peak] rather than [Biblical mount], as MT. ST. Helens is at 50d) and a plural abbreviation (31d: ESTS, short for estimates). More of the ugly bits are found outside the stack—AER, SSE, OVI-, RMS, DEP., ESO, RSTU

6a: BID PRICES—those are actual things? It’s not just “bids”? 15a: CLACK—that’s really a [Collision sound]? A collision between two small, light things, sure.

Seven more clues:

  • 26a. ["The Prague Cemetery" author] clues Umberto ECO. Pannonica tells me this is Eco’s new book. Hey! I have been to two Prague cemeteries. This worldwide best-seller appears to allude to Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery. It’s a must-see site if you visit Prague.
  • 3d. [Revealing] clues TATTLETALE, which I usually see as a noun.
  • 4d. [Hessian pronoun] means German pronoun, and ICH means “I.” At 55d, TOI is a [French pronoun]. I wonder why it’s not, say, [Burgundian pronoun].
  • 9d. [Many a Rilke work] is a PROSE POEM. You know what Rilke called himself. “Ich.”
  • 25d. [Oater omen] clues TOM-TOM drum. What, cowboys versus bad-guys Indians? There are certainly more neutral ways to clue this word.
  • 29d. EVENING OFF is an unusual entry. Would you prefer NIGHT OFF for [Barkeep's respite]?

3.5 stars.

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12 Responses to Saturday, 1/14/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Boy, that NYT was hard! I had CIGAR ASH at 32D, then tried Claro ASH to get Lunatic where IDIOTIC eventually appeared. Had the SE but HUND was hard to see, and the NW too, but the UTAH STARS was a bother. Got the NE with only a hiccup at UNO-DUE-TRE and an overly tricky clue for CAMEO RING – though I always wear one! Thank goodness for the easier BAYER and LIPITOR, and CORNISH… All in all, an excellent Saturday puzzle!

  2. Howard B says:

    Really nice grid, some fun fill, and yet I really, really did not like this one. Nothing at fault, it was just personal preference on the clues and fill. I don’t own a cat, so the TUNA CAN clue just didn’t resonate for me. BODEGA BAY, CORNISH, UTAH STARS, CAMEO RING, STONE OVEN etc. just were all on another planet for me. Just either hadn’t seen those terms before or heard them described in that way, the clues just felt like they were written in a cryptic dialect to me. The literary references, same thing. Others will find “gimmes” in that list.

    And yet as said, there is nothing really wrong with this puzzle. A tip of the hat to the constructor for the design, and it’s quite cleverly done. That I could solve it at all with those gaps in my knowledge proved to me its overall fairness. Taste is just so subjective :).

  3. larry says:

    Amy is there a reason that I can’t play the NYT puzzle as a .puz file anymore? I have a functioning copy of AcrossLite, which works with earlier NYT puzzles than 1/14. Thanks.

  4. Gareth says:

    Had to battle to get into this puzzle, which I really liked: only longish gimme was CORNISH, which, along with HUND allowed the bottom-right to be the one easy section for me. I did stubbornly cling to plANTO for forever! Our campus has lots of locust trees – really cool PODs they look like they have that honey sweet stuff in them! Thought ABOIL’s clue was particularly elegant… CONOID and ESTRAY are two plug-ugly answers I hadn’t heard of. In both cases I was perplexed when CONIC(AL) and STRAY seemed to be right except have the wrong number of letters! UNODUOTRE was a innovative entry. Never heard of a “honey-do list” either…

  5. Matt says:

    I apparently had less trouble with the NYT than others– at least until I hit AGNESGREY, which I finally got only when I remembered that BODEGABAY was a place. Otherwise, I tripped a bit over BRICKOVEN/STONEOVEN, EXILE/EXPAT, GLINTS/TRICES. And, um ADIT? Seriously? Pretty good Sat. puzzle, all in all.

  6. Victor Barocas says:

    Struggled with LOOSEPIPE for a while (didn’t know RASTA or SAULT off the clues), but otherwise, I thought that it was pretty normal Saturday difficulty. Anyone else annoyed by TIMES crossing INOURTIME?

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    @Amy-ESTRAY is a very old word indeed. The OED’s first citation is 1292! It was used primarily as a legal term back when poaching and such were serious offences. Americans might know it from the Longfellow poem “Pegasus in Pound”, sixth stanza:

    http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=123

    Loved today’s puzzle!!

  8. Zulema says:

    I thought “Land’s End ” should have been lower case. NW fell immediately, but SE I filled the whole corner with AT PRESENT and BRICK OVEN and you’d be surprised how many plausible crossing words I came up with, well…constructed on my own. But the “German best friend” wasn’t making any sense.

    Very nice LAT, much easier, and wondered at the same SATIE piece showing up in both. Has this clue been used before?

  9. Jan (danjan) says:

    I thought the Stumper was too easy for a Stumper. I see now that there was a clue about that in the byline. I agree that last week had quite a few gimmes; this week even more so. I hope they return to more challenging territory.

  10. Al says:

    Just spent last weekend in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, at my son’s hockey tournament, so that helped a bit with 52-A! Didn’t really care for the TIMES crossing IN OUR TIME in the SE.

  11. sbmanion says:

    NE was tough for me. The Utah Stars was a succesful ABA franchise, but did not survive the NBA-ABA merger. I am pretty sure they had already moved to St. Louis prior to the merger. Moses Malone is near and dear to me because as a young lawyer, I worked for the law firm in Buffalo that owned the Buffalo Braves. After the merger, Portland got Malone and traded him to Buffalo. Every fan in Buffalo got excited, but he only lasted two games there before the Braves traded him to Houston.

    And as for Buffalo, we like to say that they became the Boston Celtics. They are actually the Clippers, but the owners of Boston and the Clippers traded franchises at some point in the late ’70s or early ’80s.

    Steve

  12. animalheart says:

    I’m late, but did anyone else have a quibble with the clue for ATTHEDROPOFAHAT in the LAT? To me, that phrase means “without much prodding” rather than “without delay.” “He’ll start singing at the drop of a hat” means he’ll use any excuse to start singing, not that he starts singing promptly or quickly.

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