Saturday, 1/21/12

Newsday 9:23 
NYT 7:41 
CS 11:33 (Sam)/4:37 (Amy) 
LAT 4:00 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1 21 11 #0121

All right. I’ll be honest. I didn’t much care for this puzzle. The SACAGAWEA DOLLAR is cool, but when it comes to money in the puzzle, I could do without ever seeing ECU again. I liked REAL ESTATE AGENT last weekend (in the Saturday LAT), but now we have PRIME REAL ESTATE and those common letters of REAL ESTATE are boring me, so I want them to take a break from themeless 15s for at least six months; that’s reasonable, no?

SEEDLESS RAISINS? Wait, you can buy horrible raisins with seeds still in them, and SEEDLESS RAISINS are something special? News to me. Also on the supermarket-news front, we have TENDERLOIN STEAK. Don’t people just call it tenderloin or maybe beef tenderloin?

And these fabric LENOS, [Soft, meshed fabrics]? Bleah. Lots of names (OLAV, TAKEI, TONI, REX, PATON, an ELENA I’ve never heard of, LANI, and LOEWE, plus NEPAL, KYOTO, and ERIES). Not to mention foreign vocab—Russian NYET, French SOIE and NEZ, German ARIE, and crosswordese ALER. And this PAL UP seems casual but also like a mishmash of two separate phrases, “buddy up” and “pal around.” I’ve never palled up.

A RIATA is a lasso, right? Not sure why the clue is [Neck tie?]. Because the neck of an animal is being cinched by the riata?

Now, on the plus side, I did like the hey-that’s-my-job EDITED OUT, Def Leppard’s PYROMANIA, the DJ’s REMIX, CAMP DAVID, and the clue for the abbreviation AT. NO., [He's 2, say] (meaning helium’s atomic number is 2).

The puzzle’s a row too tall, to accommodate the fourth 15 in the central stack. Word count is 71, which means it would’ve been a 70-worder without that extra 15. I don’t know that crossings like ARIE, CIRE, ALER, LANI, A TAN, and RELS make the fuller stack worthwhile. You know what? I usually order the short stack of three pancakes at IHOP. Four is too much.

2.5 stars because of the off-puttingness of the food answers, the clunky little stuff, and the short supply of really juicy answers.
Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Block Busters” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 21

Ever experience The Tale of Two Puzzles? It’s when the lion’s share of the grid falls fairly easily, and then you hit that one impenetrable patch that just won’t yield. It sits there, blank–mocking you and your feebleness. It tempts you to waive the white flag (or hit that solution button, if you’re solving on a computer). Even worse, when you finally work up the courage to try an answer it pretends to play along while silently cackling and thinking to itself, “Well that little guess is going to suck up a lot of time. Bwah hah hah hah hah.”

Sure enough, today’s puzzle was, for me, the best of solves and the worst of solves. I saw the byline and immediately sat up straight–this one would require focus. I tried CPU as the answer to 1-Across, [Base of computer operations], but that didn’t get me any traction. None of the crossing Downs were gimmes (surprise, surprise), so I turned to the Across entries underneath. The three-letter [Attractive little thing] could be anything, and I didn’t even try the one under that because when I saw the clue, [Like, like], I thought it would be too cute for me to get right away. The one under that was a theme entry, I figured, so no need to even read the clue until I had some crossings in place to help. Next came [Moscow's milieu], and sure enough my first thoughts were along the lines of ASIA and RUSSIA, neither of which fit. Fortunately, I got help with the last one in the group: TALE was the [Spinner's yarn]. But that only gave me the last letters of the first three Downs, and that’s a tough position from which to solve.

So I ditched the northwest in favor of the big block in the top center. Got SHMOO right away, and that ending O gave me all I needed to come back to Moscow for IDAHO. Somehow that gave me TIDBIT as the [Yummy nugget], which then yielded ION as the attractive little thing, then WOULDA as [Intended to, informally]. From there I was able to plunk down the first theme entry. Oh, yeah–the theme! This puzzle busts the word BLOCK three times over, with terms that begin with the first letter(s) (and end with the last letters) of BLOCK:

  • 20-Across: To [Go through the roof[ is to BLOW ONE'S STACK.
  • 37-Across: One's BIOLOGICAL CLOCK is a [Jet lag monitor, in a way]. So when it’s ticking, you don’t want kids. You just want a nap.
  • 54-Across: A [Bellwether buy] is a BLUE-CHIP STOCK. Alas, my portfolio has more cow chips than blue chips.

I like how the BLOCK is broken in three different places. I’m not sure how you get a fourth theme entry in there, so the theme feels complete to me even with only three answers.

The upper swath fell into place in fairly short order, though I needed all of the crossings for HEGIRA, the [Flight from Israel]. My dictionary says the term stems from the “flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D., marking the beginning of the Muslim era.” I decided to tackle the northeast section next, but all I could get there was the PASTIES, the [Semicircular British pies] and POPPA, the [Father, familiarly]. So it was off to the other sections.

RAVIGOTE sauce is new to me, but in my culinary world there are only four sauces anyway: red, white, Bearnaise, and chocolate. I also struggled with THYMUS, the [Gland at the base of the neck that produces and "educates" T cells]. But the crossings were gettable, especially SCHMO, a fun complement to the aforementioned SCHMOO. I found [Bastion with billions in bullion, briefly] a, hmm, let’s go with cleverly cute clue for FT. KNOX. So the whole southern hemisphere fell in short order.

But then there was my return to the northeast, and that’s where the second puzzle began. The timer said I had only used just over 8 minutes to get to this point, so I was feeling hopeful (but hardly sure–I’ve been defeated way too many times to have any confidence) I could crack the puzzle within my self-imposed ten-minute time goal for Klahn puzzles. But standing between victory and me was ALECTO, the [Alphabetically first of the Furies], and NANKIPOO, [Yum-Yum's love in "The Mikado"]. All I could get at first was the A to start ALECTO (though I thought any letter from A through E had a decent chance). I had DIMS as the answer to [Fades to black] so the answer to [Razz], I thought, had to end in M. Go ahead, try to think of an answer that makes that work.

By this point I was already closing in on the 11-minute mark. Sigh. So much for the 10-minute par. In a desperate attempt, I erased DIMS and tried KID as the “razzie.” That had me thinking that Paul ANKA could be the ["Fargo" score composer], but that couldn’t be right, could it? Yup, it was. My final entry was LAID, [Like eggs and cornerstones]. As always, it seems, I’m the last to get LAID.

Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 1 21 12

Fun puzzle! A loose 72-word grid is packed with pop culture and literary treats, so it’s right up my alley. (My alley is where I park my wheelhouse, by the way.) Just in those categories, we have all this:

  • 1a. JEAN VALJEAN of Les Miz is our [Fictional Bagne of Toulon prisoner]. The clue didn’t help me until I had enough crossings to see the JEAN ending.
  • 16a. ROO is a [Friend of Piglet]. Yesterday, pannonica and I were hashing out who on the Crossword Fiend team is which of Winnie the Pooh’s friends. Sam (see above) is Tigger, and young Neville is our Roo. We determined that the role of Rabbit is taken by some commenters, like the anonymous anti-Reagler who drops nonspecific venom days late.
  • 17a. BRUCE BANNER is [The Hulk, untransformed].
  • 20a. Midge URE, [Ultravox frontman Midge __]. Wait, man? I always assumed he was a she.
  • 30a. Phil OCHS is a Bob [Dylan contemporary].
  • 38a. IAN Fleming.
  • 39a. Mario Vargas LLOSA.
  • 65a. EMERALD CITY, Frank Baum’s [Yellow Brick Road terminus].
  • 67a. Classic ’70s pop culture: KATE JACKSON was an original ["Charlie's Angels" actress] from TV. The movie Angels and the 2011 failed-TV-series Angels? Illegitimate!
  • 8d. JANE Krakowski.
  • 11d. NORAS [Dunn and Ephron of Hollywood].
  • 26d. MARNIE, [Hitchcock's title kleptomaniac].
  • 28d. Greg EVIGAN! From the same era as KATE JACKSON.
  • 35d. Jimmy OLSEN? [His watch signals Superman]. I had no idea about the watch. Also? I can never remember if he’s Olson or Olsen. Same with the Olsen twins. Hey! They’re all Olsen with an E.(The Price Is Right‘s Johnny Olson has all the O’s.)
  • 50d. R.U.R. author Karel CAPEK is clued as ["War with the Newts" sci-fi novelist, 1936]. Salamander battle! Sounds awesome.
  • 58d. [Romance novelist Elinor] GLYN, I know only from crosswords.

I had a brain malfunction and read 12d’s clue incorrectly. [Lemming predator] is an ARCTIC FOX, and I was trying to figure out how a fox pre-dates a lemming on the evolutionary tree. Predator! One who preys on another. Gotcha.

Also liked SAVILE ROW, the [London street known for high-end haberdasheries], and HOPE CHEST.

Four stars.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword answers, 1 21 12 "Saturday Stumper"

Oof! Tough puzzle. It took a leap of faith to get started in each quadrant of this 68-worder, as the clues weren’t giving much away.

In the northwest corner, I gambled that 3d: ERATO, crosswording’s favorite muse, was the [New Orleans street between Clio and Thalia], since those are also muse names. In the middle, I correctly surmised that 31a: [Rounds often for good] meant a PRO-AM charity golf tournament. The southwest needed our stalwart 33a: OMOO, [South Seas romance]—a crosswordese gimme clue. The lower right, only 41d: DATA SET ([Tabular file]) broke ground. And the upper right was the last to fall, with a what-the-hell-I’ll-try HATHA (32a: [Yoga branch]) leading me to 26d: CHAI. Most of the other clues? I drew a complete blank on at first glance.

Toughest clues:

  • 1a. [Sea of Tranquility toucher] is the moon lander THE EAGLE. I wanted some moon geography.
  • 20a. [Bernstein operetta], CANDIDE. I don’t know my operettas. I’m no Brad Wilber.
  • 22a. Rarely see the word SHIISM. [It's prevalent in Azerbaijan].
  • 23a. Delightful! [Island buyer's acquisition] is more COUNTER SPACE. This is a kitchen island, not an island in the sea.
  • 5d. [Mbube, Cape Jazz, etc.] clues AFROPOP.
  • 10d. [Plodding] clues DRONISH, which I didn’t realize was a word form.
  • 22d. STATOHM, [Resistance unit].
  • 24d. Cute! [What has a neck and a foot, but no hands?] is an URN. Ears are optional, no?
  • 27d. [Film role for Fonda, Garner and Costner] is EARP. Tried NESS at first.
  • 28d. BOSC pears are named after the [Eponymous French botanist]. I was thinking of flowers.
  • 34d. [Anagram of "palimony"] stumped me until I had several letters in place in OLYMPIAN.
  • 48d. Crosswordese weasel the STOAT is a [Predator of the kiwi]. At least in this puzzle, I read the word “predator” correctly.

Four stars. A worthy challenge in which the familiar-to-regular-solvers ERLE and OMOO were the worst bits.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”

WSJ "Rows Garden" solution, 1 21 12

Bravo! A perfect Rows Garden puzzle. Lots of full names (SANDY DUNCAN, ROBERT FULTON, PETER LORRE), plus colorful and sometimes Scrabbly phrases (POP QUIZZES, GOLDEN OLDIE, GRUDGE MATCH, UP TO SCRATCH, ROMAN A CLEF, AUNTIE MAME, RIBBON CANDY). And no weird or variant spellings or unfamiliar proper nouns lurking in the Blooms.

There was one unfamiliar word in the Blooms—I’ve never seen ROZZER used as [Policeman, across the pond], but it’s documented British slang.

My favorite clue was row B’s [Snow removers of old?], the TV antennas called RABBIT EARS. Chicago got 7″ of snow yesterday, so I had a hard time reading the clue any way but literally.

The solving process proceeded exactly as I like it to. I was able to get a handful of Rows answers in right off the bat, but only a few. The Blooms clues were mostly gettable, giving me enough jigsaw puzzle pieces to start working with the Rows answers I had in the grid. When those colorful Rows answers began to emerge, it was fulfilling. Eventually everything fit together, and I learned that beetles pollinate MAGNOLIAS and that the RIO GRANDE covers 1,250 miles of U.S. border. My British vocabulary was expanded not only by ROZZER, but also by LOUNGE SUITS, [Men's business outfits, in Britain].

Five stars. Nary a false step for Patrick Berry in this puzzle.

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28 Responses to Saturday, 1/21/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Not only is there a quad stack with four smooth answers, but you have CAMP DAVID, FEDERATIONS, UNDER ARREST and OCCULTISM each crossing five(!) of the 15s. That is quite a use of PRIME REAL ESTATE in this grid. 4.75 stars.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I very much agree with Jeffrey, the NYT is quite satisfying! As are SULTANAS, those yummy plumper golden SEEDLESS RAISINS which are more welcome in most food preparations than chewier dark ones. I also liked the food clue for EWE, and the TENDERLOIN STEAK. Plus COSMIC, which we don’t see very often. Impressive stacking, a real coup!

  3. Jan (danjan) says:

    I was also quite impressed with the NYT puzzle. It really challenged me, and it was quite satifying to get a breakthrough, be stuck again, get another insight, etc, all the way to the end. I don’t mind having ECU in a hard puzzle. I’m also familiar with LENOS. If all the entries were in everyone’s wheelhouse, what’s the point of it being a Saturday? I haven’t done the Stumper yet; I hope it’s way harder than the last two.

  4. pannonica says:

    The NYT was a real killer for me, but I felt the struggle was worth it. Favorite wrong answer SAUDI PRINCESSES for [Sultanas]. Had another “great” incorrect fill in the LAT, but will wait until after the write-up to be posted.

  5. Cyrano says:

    Can someone please explain WETS to me? If that is supposed to be someone who drinks a lot, as in SOTS, that is terrible. So terrible that it — combined with CIRE — prevented me from getting SACAGAWEA. Also agree on TENDERLOINSTEAK, RIATA. And ONE AM is a late hour not an early one, unless midnight is even earlier.

  6. Dan F says:

    Jan, it is certainly not an easy Stumper today…

    I’ll side with the two-thumbs-up group for MAS in the NYT. Coulda been fresher without the X’s and Z in the corners, but the quad-stack itself was as good as those are going to get.

    edit: Cyrano – a WET was an anti-Prohibitionist. You have a fair point on ONE AM, but it’s legit for Saturday…

  7. Cyrano says:

    Thanks Dan for the Prohibition info. I actually just checked Xword Info as saw that it had been clued that way in the past. Learning is good.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Dan, you’ve nailed exactly my concern: When “as good as those are going to get” includes CIRE and a bunch of other ugly 4s, I feel the “Lookit! I made a quad-stack!” achievement isn’t worth the tradeoffs. I know this stance isn’t universal.

    @Jeffrey, yes, FEDERATIONS is a long answer, but it’s not fun or interesting, and we seldom encounter it in the plural form. I put that on in the “meh” column.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    FEDERATIONS is interesting to me. I think it is a more common term in Canada.

    Still, 2.5 stars is about the lowest I’ve ever see you give a New York Times puzzle. That seems out of whack. But, hey, it is your blog.

  10. Jan (danjan) says:

    Ok, the Stumper was sufficiently brutal, and now Saturdays are back to normal!

    When solving last night, FEDERATIONS really struck me as a fresh answer, and the pluralization didn’t bother me.

    In the CS, I thought “Ungodly” might be AMORAL, and it almost fit, so of course that makes it harder to come up with something else (great clue for MORTAL, though), and then it was sort of eerie when AMORAL did show up in the lower right.

  11. Martin says:

    Sorry if the crossword was not up to your standards, Amy. One of these days I’ll get the hang of these things ;-)

    -MAS

  12. Gareth says:

    Agree LAT was chockfull of fun answers. Favourite was Arctic fox, but all those highlighted were great. Savile Row always looks an l short.

  13. pannonica says:

    Just found out that Alopex lagopus, the arctic fox, has recently been reassigned to Linneaus’ Vulpes, so Alopex becomes a junior synonym. Both generic names mean “fox,” from Latin and Greek. The specific name (obviously) means “hare foot.” Their coats have seasonal color phases.

    LAT: Updating my earlier comment, I had THE LAND OF OZ in place of EMERALD CITY at 65-across.

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    MAS,

    I have to respectfully disagree with Amy. I loved the puzzle, and thought that the 4 x 15s were not only a tour de force, (as always) but that the crossings were very smooth and enjoyable. Didn’t find it really difficult (unlike the brutal but also great Stumper), although I thought Ms. Saca. . .was spelled with a ‘J’ which cost me a little time. Don’t mind “cire” at all. It means “wax” in French, (and I think the fabric is actually the past participle–ciré.) For extra credit what’s the French word for the wax you put on your skis? Answer: le fart. Don’t know lenos, but that’s all right. Anyhow, very positive reaction from me.

    Incidentally, I’m sure you don’t remember it, but you and I were seat mates at one of my early Stamford tournaments, probably back in the 90′s. More memorable to me than to you, I’m sure. I was delighted by the fact that you were carrying around unfinished grids in pencil, folded up loose in your pocket on graph paper. I thought there was something very homespun charming about that. That was in the early days of multiple 15 stacks, and I already knew that was a specialty of yours, which we discussed briefly.

    Bruce

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    Maybe Will looked at the grid and thought, “Hmm, ARIE, CIRE, ALER, SOIE… oh, this is gonna give Amy fits. MWAHAHAHAH!!!”?

    Nah.

  16. Alex says:

    I had never noticed that “Sacagawea” has a “ga” pronounced as “ja”, like “margarine” and the alternate spelling “vagazzling.”

  17. Jan (danjan) says:

    I was sitting at my kitchen island while solving the Stumper, trying to fit in “country place” for the island buyer’s acquisition and wishing I could put in CHEMIST going down, but it wasn’t going to fit. Took a while for the lightbulb to go off – Brad Wilber or Stan was probably going for that misdirection, so I’m happy to report I fell for it, right there at my acquired COUNTERSPACE.

  18. Doug says:

    @Amy – I always thought Midge Ure was a woman too. Turns out “Midge” is phonetic reversal of “Jim.”

  19. Zulema says:

    If I were a rater, I would give the NYT five stars, as many seem to have done to counteract Amy’s. We can’t all know everything, and ECU is a legitimate entry, not crosswordese, but I have explained before what crosswordese is to me: ANI, ANOA, etc., terms not seen outside crosswords. MAS, not to worry.

    Amy, one could do worse than look at Lani Guinier’s life and work.

  20. pannonica says:

    Well, I for one, have encountered ECU almost exclusively* in crosswords, and have had many occasions to discuss ANOA—and to a lesser extent—ANI outside of word puzzles. Our experiences are different, even in the sort of rarefied sphere of crosswords.

    *I remember there was a brouhaha back in the 90s when France proposed ecu (“European Currency Unit”) but other nations balked when they learned écu was the name of an old French coin. So there is the euro, for now at least.

  21. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: ANI = crosswordese (meaning: only seen in crosswords)

    At one of the several Bob Dylan concerts I’ve attended over the years, his opening act was one Ani DiFranco.

    I’d never heard of her at the time. But, before the show, we were standing around outside the small venue (smoking ciggies, of course) and I’d learned from some of the other concert-goers that Ani was the only reason that they’d bought tickets to this event.

    During the show, she was great. Sometimes it’s dull to listen to song after song of unfamiliar original material from a quasi-folk artist. But her songs were tuneful, accessible and, with a great sound system, her vocals/lyrics were crisp.

    (I don’t recall, off-hand, what year this was, but when someone in the audience asked her how old she was, she said “Twenty-four”.)

    Anyway, In the days after that show I tried to find some records/CDs by Ani DiFranco and discovered that she recorded for some small independent label, and that getting her records would require special orders with money down and a waiting period for shipment. So I opted to just forget about it.

    Lo and behold one day, some years later, ANI shows up in a crossword puzzle. “Hey, I remember her!”, I thought. “She opened for Dylan.. Folky-rock stuff… cool chick…” Proud of my specific knowledge, I wrote in ANI.

    Then she was in another puzzle. Then another. Then I started to see that she was on this tour of crossword appearances because, due to the spelling of her first name, ANI is the Muhammad ALI of singers. The ETTA James of folk singers. The ARLO Guthrie of female folk singers.

    She is a Grammy-winner whose music I still, to this day, have not gotten to know. At least I always knew one ETTA James song, a few ARLO Guthrie songs and myriad ELO songs.

    Alas, ANI DiFranco has become nothing more than crosswordese to me — I, who was so impressed by her all those years ago. For that, I am almost ashamed that I didn’t want to plunk down a few bucks to get her CDs on special order.

  22. Jeff Chen says:

    I was a big fan of the NYT! For me it wasn’t defined by its quad-stack nature; instead, my biggest impression was that it was chock-full of good stuff. I don’t mind some crud to get things like SACAGAWEA DOLLAR, UNDER ARREST and CAMP DAVID (with associated fun clues). I got stuck (with no support from Yoda) in the LOEWE / TONI / EWE / REX corner, but I’m still giving it four stars.

    I suppose if push came to shove I would prefer a cleaner 15×15 70-worder, but I like the variety.

  23. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I met and spoke to Lani Guinier several times at AALS (Association of American Law Schools) meetings over the years. I am far from agreeing with everything she has ever written, but she is a likeable, judicious, thoughtful woman, quite different from the wild-eyed, flame throwing radical that was publicly portrayed. In fact she seemed quite bemused and astonished by the acrimonious controversy that her celebrity status generated. I am happy to see her recognized in a NYT puzzle.

    Bruce

  24. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: That small indie label was and is Righteous Babe Records, her own show, based (at least originally) in upstate New York. She’s lauded not only for her music but her trailblazing musical independence and entrepreneurship. I wish I were more fond of her music.

  25. Joan macon says:

    Amy, to add to your character connection, you should put yourself down as Christopher Robin, the kindly person who loves all the animals and is tolerant of their shortcomings. Is Pannonica Owl? I and many others who love this blog are Rabbit’s friends and relations, who seem to be ever present and eager to learn. Thanks!

  26. pannonica says:

    I am not Wol!

  27. Joan macon says:

    Pannonica, I meant it as a compliment as you seem to know so much about so many different subjects. Please don’t be offended!

  28. pannonica says:

    Ha! It’s all right. How many times does one get to exclaim, “I am not Wol”?

    Thank you for the compliment, but I really don’t deserve it. My ignorance knows no bounds, unlike Tigger, who bounds at the drop of a hat and…

    Uh-oh. Got to go, the metaphor police are after me!

Comments are closed.