Saturday, 2/11/12

NYT 5:59 
LAT 5:02 
Newsday 4:58 
CS 4:32 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 

This is the coolest link I’ve ever found in a Google Alert for my name (the automated way to ego-surf): a newyorker.com blog post. It’s about that wild answer in Lynn Lempel’s Wednesday NYT puzzle, and about the “scandalous” answers that have been seen in the Times crossword.

Also, I meant to mention that Joon Pahk and I co-constructed an upcoming Wall Street Journal crossword. Not sure when it will run, but hope to see it soon.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 2 11 12 0211

Super-quick post tonight, as my family’s waiting to watch “Grimm” with me.

Okay. This kruzzle is a 54-worder, but it gets there by taking out a row (the puzzle is 15×14). The left-right symmetry accommodates a heart, as it did in Friday’s Wall Street Journal crossword by Liz Gorski (cute puzzle). There’s a holiday mini-theme, with SAINT VALENTINE’S and TENDERHEARTEDLY. But I have a bone to pick with both of these 15s. SAINT VALENTINE’S is basically a 15-letter partial, is it not? (I am reminded here of the classic SCARES THE HECK.) And while TENDERHEARTEDLY is a validly formed adverb, it seems a tad implausible.

I like Pascal’s PENSEES, but not so much the fact that 6 of its 7 letters are the boring ENS, letters that abound in this grid. ENAS? No! It can’t be. Plural ALICIAS make more sense than plural ENAS, even though every stalwart crossworder can name two obscure Enas, Bambi’s cervine aunt and that Spanish queen. And there are two DODDS in its clue, but that doesn’t make it a great entry.

I like that I remembered Primo CARNERA‘s name, and I appreciate the etymological clue for LA SCALA. I was vexed by how long I kept SILICON at 11a, where GALLIUM belongs, but that’s not the puzzle’s fault. And ROLLIE Fingers amuses me, though it frightens me that my husband hankers to grow the same sort of mustache.

Didn’t like obscure ESPARTO crossing crosswordese ETAPE, odd-jobs MENDERS, unknown-to-me SADLER, the utterly forgettable (and long forgotten) Cadillac ALLANTE, the awkward verb-phrase-with-ONE’S SETS ONE AT EASE (NST + vowels!) Not to mention the “Where is my final O? I miss it” prefix RHIN. Never heard of SEA STEPS and cannot abide nauticalese. I don’t know that CLEARED LANES are so much a “thing,” either. There are lanes that are blocked and lanes that are cleared, but I don’t think they rise to the level of lexical chunks that belong in a crossword.

Also not wild about all the preposition phrases and compounds. OUTSTRIPS crossing OUTVOTED? PRINTS UP and ANTED UP? PEER AT, MAILS TO (that’s just awkward), LURES IN?

On the plus side, the top row gives us a tool to cut this heart in two. Combine 1a and 4a and you get a RIPSAW.

2.5 stars. I need more entertaining fill and less blecchy fill than this to like a puzzle.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Isn’t That Precious?” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 11

The title led me to think I’d be hunting for the One Ring. Fortunately, it proved to be a much less arduous trek. The grid contains four precious metals used as either proper nouns or adjectives:

  • 17- and 19-Across: The [Classic TV catchphrase] is HI-YO, SILVER! / AWAY!
  • 34-Across: A [Result of dyeing, maybe] is PLATINUM HAIR.
  • 43-Across: The name of the [Former NYC concert hall and nightclub] that relates to this theme is THE PALLADIUM. Palladium is a member of the platinum group metals, along with rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, and (surprise!) platinum. They tour every summer with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
  • 63- and 64-Across: The [Baseball fielding prize] is the GOLD / GLOVE AWARD.

It’s unusual to see two theme entries torn by a black square, especially since the break serves to isolate the metal in one case (GOLD / GLOVE AWARD) but not the other (HI YO SILVER / AWAY). It could be that I’m missing a key “element” of the theme that’s served by the split, but my guess is that it was easier to turn two 14s into two 15s for construction purposes. If the 14s stayed intact, they would have to be on rows 4 and 12 of the grid (so would the two 12s, so moving the 14s into the middle is no help). By turning them into faux-15s, they can be placed on rows 3 and 13, and that’s helpful because pulling them away from the other two theme entries makes for fewer constraints in the surrounding fill.

Okay, this paragraph is a technical amendment to the discussion about the placement of 14s in the grid. If such under-the-hood analysis bores you, skip to the next paragraph. I implied in the prior paragraph that the 14s could not appear in rows 3 and 13, but technically that’s not true. You could place a 14 in row 3, but you would have to make the two squares above the black square black too (no two-letter entries, remember). That means two of the corners will be black squares, and we typically frown on black corners unless they are a key component of the grid’s design. I don’t know why, exactly–maybe it’s just for aesthetics, maybe it’s because three “cheater” squares are perceived as a waste of precious black squares. In any case, I’ve been told to avoid it.

If the torn 14s were used to facilitate construction and not for some other thematic purpose I’m missing, look at how well it worked.  The stacked sixes in two corners are great–I especially like the HOAGIE with ONIONS and a MERLOT in the southwest, though you can’t go wrong with SEWAGE in the northeast. [Walking stick, e.g.] was a tricky clue for INSECT, but I loved the “mini-aha” moment (insert your own Minnehaha pun here). I didn’t know that ELM was [Early dartboard material], and for some reason that strikes me as a cool fact.

HOME EC is a [Certain high school course, informally]. I remember we had to choose between taking Home Ec or shop (we called it “Industrial Arts”) in junior high. I took shop only because I felt pressured by society’s expectation for my gender at the time. Home Ec would have been a much more useful class for me, though I always did appreciate what shop did for my handwriting skills (seriously). Anyway, is Home Ec still offered in school these days?

Peter Wentz’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 2 11 12

This is a fun themeless! Look at all the zippy answers in this 70-worder. I had no idea what 1-Across was without working all the crossings, but I like the trivia in the clue. 1a: [2001 OutKast chart-topper whose title refers to Erykah Badu's mother] is “MS. JACKSON,” and I always like a Ms. and knew that “Badu” wasn’t the singer’s birth name. Turns out she was Erica Wright, but her dad left early on and though the Wikipedia article doesn’t give her mom’s name, it does mention that Badu has a son with OutKast’s Andre 3000; the child takes after his dad with a numerical name, Seven, though I’d be peeved to be given a name that was only 7/3000ths of a parent’s. See what we learned today?

Likes:

  • 10a. [Dover souls] plays on the fish dish called Dover sole in order to clue BRITS, people from Dover.
  • 15a. [High seas shout] “AHOY, THERE!” is crossed by AYE, your [High seas okay].
  • 17a. DOBERMANS are [Dogs first bred in Thuringia]. I wonder if SCHNAUZER has been in a crossword.
  • 22a. [Buckwheat's "You betcha!"] is “OTAY!” This is a Little Rascals reference, though I always think of Eddie Murphy on SNL when Buckwheat is mentioned.
  • 34a. [Five-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner] meant nothing to me, and I figured the answer was a female golfer. I was perplexed when I had two letters: ****ZK*. What on earth could that be? It looks so wrong. Turned out to be Wayne GRETZKY. She really tore up the greens, didn’t she? (Kinda rough having stacked sports names, if you’re not a sports fan. Below GRETZKY is 39a: [Only Dolphin quarterback to win a Super Bowl], Bob GRIESE. His son Brian also has a Super Bowl ring.) (Digression #2: More football in the puzzle, with ONE P.M. clued as [Common Sunday NFL game time], though it’s noon Central, and KICKOFFS as [Events after coin tosses].)
  • 40a. [Words after a rhetorical "Is this a good idea?"] clues “I SAY YES.” I say yes to this one. Yes, there’s also “I REALIZE…” at 12d, but I’m okay with the duplicated “I” because it brings us colloquial speech instead of boring phrases.
  • 55a. “OH, ROB!” Love it.
  • 61a. More colloquial speech. “IT’S NO JOKE.
  • 66a. [Rapper with the multi-platinum debut album "The College Dropout"] is KANYE WEST. The Acrosses start and end with pop culture.
  • 2d. [Puzzling sound?] is the SHORT U sound in “puzzle.”
  • 3d. JOB JAR‘s a good entry.
  • 30d. [Hide and seek, e.g.] are both VERBS.
  • 41a. SOYA is a lame answer, because Americans call it soy, not soya. So hooray for Peter W. bringing us the livelier entry SOY MILK, which can be a [Coffee additive for vegans], though I hear better things about almond milk.

In pondering my star rating, I scanned the grid for things I disliked and I couldn’t really find any. There are a lot of names, but they weren’t names I didn’t like. I didn’t know SCREW EYE (14d. [Fastener with a loop]) was a term, but I certainly recognize the thing now that I looked it up in the dictionary. 4.5 stars.

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword answers, 2 11 12 "Saturday Stumper" Peterson

Gasp! Can it be? A “Saturday Stumper” that stumps me less than today’s other pair of themeless puzzles? ‘TIS (that’s a [Quaint affirmation] at 54d) true.

Doug likes to pack his grids with fresh entries, and today’s puzzle is no exception. My top eight answers/clues:

  • 1a, 8a. [Paper work] is interpreted two ways: as EDITING and as ORIGAMI.
  • 36a. HUEVOS RANCHEROS! I always like a restaurant menu that bills this as “eggs rancheros.” It’s [Hearty brunch fare]. That reminds me: I should remember to make chilaquiles the next time I have the appropriate leftovers waiting to be used up.
  • 58a. [Get gloomy] clues CLOUD UP. Verb/preposition phrases can be boring in a puzzle, but this one is low on what Rex Parker is now calling the ANTLERS letters: One L and a D, but the C and P aren’t overused in crosswords the way R, S, T, L, and N are, and the U is the least common vowel. Compare the SENDS TO right below it—that entry won’t excite anyone, and it shares most of its letters with the DNA TEST to its left. The ANTLERS letters are especially handy in the bottom and rightmost edges of a crossword.
  • 2d. DOONESBURY! [First strip to win a Pulitzer], you know.
  • 3d. As I was saying in my L.A. Times crossword review, I like the crossword answers that sound conversational. “I’M OUTA HERE!” fits. (Though the OUTTA spelling is much more common, it’s hard to declare one or the other to be more correct.)
  • 10d. IN GOOD SHAPE is in top form as crossword answers go.
  • 24d. Gotta like the ZERO-SUM GAME, a [Concept in economic theory] that should actually be more fun than it is. A HUGE-SUM GAME is probably more fun than any zero-sum game. Does someone always have to lose?
  • 45d. Descriptively specific clue for IMACS: [Machines with SuperDrives and FaceTime cameras]. I have a SuperDrive? I had no idea. I do know about the FaceTime camera, though. My husband and son like to call me from across the room using FaceTime and before their faces show up on my screen, I’m faced with my own face, poorly lighted. It’s rather alarming.

Some of the short fill is rather “meh,” such as ST. LO, HET, CCL, IOTA, and A TAD. They lower Doug’s grade a bit, to a flat four stars.

Doug Peterson’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 2 11 12 "Smartypants Saturday" Peterson

Doug Peterson gets a double bill today, with both the Newsday and Celebrity puzzles. This “Smartypants Saturday” theme is fashion designers:

  • 18a. [Fashion designer whose daughter is an executive producer for "30 Rock": 2 wds.] is CALVIN KLEIN. I don’t know why he’s not clued with reference to his own work. Come on, those classic underwear ads?
  • 30a. [Billionaire designer who started out as a Milan window dresser: 2 wds.] is GIORGIO ARMANI. I always get this name and that of the late Giovanni Versace mixed up.
  • 40a. [Designer whose daughter runs a chain of candy shops: 2 wds.] is RALPH LAUREN. I’ve heard of the candy shops that Dylan Lauren, I think is her name, runs in New York. Again, though, I’m curious to know why the clue is about Ralph’s kid rather than, say, his Polo line.

There are a few more short fashion-related bits in the puzzle. There’s ["Project Runway" mentor Gunn], TIM. [Baby Phat co-founder Kimora ___ Simmons] clues LEE. (Oddly enough, “Lee” also shows up in a clue for ANG, because what else are you gonna do with ANG in a pop-culture clue?) There are UGG boots, the [Boho-chic boot brand]. [Designer Sui] is named ANNA; usually she appears in puzzles as SUI since there are other famous ANNAs. Last, ELLE is a [Fashion magazine with 40+ international editions].

 

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10 Responses to Saturday, 2/11/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I’d treat the NYT puzzle a bit more TENDERHEARTEDLY! Started in the SE corner with no trouble, remembering ESPARTO and ETAPE. I didn’t know the adjacent SADLER and CARNERA but found the SW corner easy enough with PEPSI, VESTALS and ADELPHI. In the NE corner, CHAINED oarsmen, ALICIAS, SHANTIES and LA SCALA CLEARED that area nicely – and made it definite that SAINT VALENTINES was de rigueur. The heart of the heart-shape emerged fast with the DODDS, LETS DIE, and MEANS NOTHING, while GAS and GALAS gave me enough to finish with GO PRO, though “Fingers on a diamond” meant nothing to me… An OK Saturday! Kudos to Krozel.

  2. Matt says:

    On the subject of ‘questionable’ NYT crossword entries–There was a diagramless ‘second Sunday’ NYT puzzle that ran soon after Shortz became the crossword editor that was full of rather crude double entendres. I was surprised at the time and have never seen any subsequent reference to it, so I assume it was just a start-up blunder on Shortz’s part. Anyone know more about this?

  3. Animalheart says:

    A relatively quick solve, and a cute grid to boot, but the unfamiliar names from boxing, NASCAR, tennis, baseball, and gospel music left me cold-hearted, as it were…

    P.S. Congrats, Amy, on the supercool New Yorker mention!

  4. HH says:

    “…so I assume it was just a start-up blunder on Shortz’s part.”

    Are you sure it was a blunder?

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Grr again, with the SHORT U answer at 2D in the LAT. TI thought 1A started with MA, not MS, and OTAY for okay at 22A was equally unfamiliar. At least I enjoyed the rest of Wentz’s opus and also learned NEGEV means “dry” in Hebrew. Loved the clue “Circus chairperson” for 64A LIONTAMER, and icky KALKAN as the original name for my big cat’s Whiskas..
    In Blindauer’s puzzle, I thought GOLD GLOVES AWARD was supposed to be Golden? No prob otherwise, but it was amusing to see SEWAGE here after SEWER in the LAT and “Sewers, often” as the 25A clue in the NYT — My recent basement flood makes me oversensitive to the YUCKY stuff.

  6. Doug says:

    Great LAT puzzle today! Chock-full of fun entries. I echo Amy’s 4.5 star rating.

  7. Grant says:

    “Short u” killed me. And I guess my parents never used a job jar because I wasn’t familiar with it until I googled it. That was the only real trouble spot. The rest came pretty easily.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I take it Erykah Badu is someone I’m supposed to have heard of????

    Bruce

  9. jefe says:

    @ArtLvr: The Gold Glove is a baseball award; Golden Gloves are boxing tournaments.

  10. Gareth says:

    Behind in puzzles – Great LAT. Had an eye on the 1A entry… What a entry to the puzzle! Was smiling all the way, even with quite a bit of US sports, not my forte, and the final across entry was also a stylish touch!

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