David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
You know, I expected this: an easy Friday, followed by, for me, one of the toughest Saturdays in the last year or so! In fact, I checked, timewise only The Wilber’s KLABERJASS puzzle was longer for me. Was I alone in this? Did Will Shortz deliberately toughen it for ACPT weekend? There were many great mis-directing clues, and tough to parse multi-word answers, but also some of those vague could be anything clues, which are less elegant. Actually had quite a few gimmes, the longest being WEREHERE, but just couldn’t find a way to kick-on in any of the sections.
Phew! Where to start? It was also noticably more R-rated than normal; I got all three of 1A High clouds? POTSMOKE, 11D Stock in an adult store, and 40D Actor who might grin and bare it? PORNSTAR, quite quickly, but didn’t actually believe they would be allowed. That was one more thing that slowed be down. Also, why is our PORNSTAR grinning? Wait, forget I asked!
Hardest answers: Tempted to say all of them, but there were some I found especially vexing:
- 17A “It gets the word out.” PASYSTEM. Even with nearly all the letters I still couldn’t parse it! A lovely answer, though!
- 18A “New Valentine’s phrase added on Sweethearts candy in 2010″ TEXTME.
- 30A “War cry of the ’60s” REBELYELL: that’s 1860′s! Tricksy!
- 36A “Hot dog’s relative” HAM. Just don’t get this. To the point of resisting filling it in with H?M… I’ve just had an idea: hot dog (n.) a show-off, ham (n.) one over-acting. No? I still don’t understand!
- 39A “___ tree” UPA. Two words. I took out PORNSTAR because ?P? made no sense. The answer looks like the deadly Upas Tree of mythology, but minus a letter.
- 50A “McCarthy cohort” SNERD. I thought this was a dummy? Ok it is, and so is McCarthy, apparently.
- 51A “Big name in educational funding” PELL. No idea.
- 60A “Onomatopoeic game on ‘The Price is Right’” PLINKO No idea.
- 3DD “Check that’s inked, perhaps” TESTPAGE . No idea what that is in that context. With ?E?TPAGE, I considered but rejected it as an answer.
- 7D “Fish of sufficient size” KEEPER. Do anglers use this? I thought it might be, but then thought why clue KEEPER that way when there’s the perfectly common sports term. It is Saturday though.
- 10D “They’re near appendices”. ILEA The ileum and appendix are parts of the alimentary canal. I considered and rejected that for some reason!
- 12D “Name-brand targets?” CATTLE. Brilliant clue!
- 41D “Director’s cutoff” ANDSCENE. Not too familiar with what directors say and when. Is this director directing the PORNSTAR next to it?
- 42D “Chorus member” SILENTH. Got me! How after so many times could one of these clues get me?!
- 46D “Rare dynamic marking seen in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony”. PPPPPP. Off the P of PASHTO wanted ?SHARP and kept it there obstinately. It’s evident I don’t know what a dynamic marking is. This presumably means very pianissimo, not something I associate with Tchaikovsky!
- At the beginning, I said I was tempted to say all of them! It seems my list isn’t that far off!
This weary solver begrudgingly gives it four stars, despite it giving him a tiger-mauling!
John Farmer’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I had a fun time here; it was, mostly, a very entertaining 27/70 themeless puzzle. Had that very typical LA Times themeless feel, which is hard to describe. There are definitely many personal touches, and there were some great clues here! First off, John Farmer is a movie buff; this explains 4A “Fay Wray in ‘King Kong’, to movie buffs” SCREAMQUEEN. Another movie answer was 9D “‘Atlantic City’ director” MALLE. Not familiar with this, Wikipedia informs me it’s a 1980 film starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. Quite an odd couple that! I’m more familiar with the 1982 Bruce Springsteen song. A particularly fun combo was TRENCHCOATS/STATESECRET, a pair of spy-related answers, although the former was clued as “Garb for Columbo and Clouseau”, two screen detectives.
- 16A “The Bucharest Buffoon of ’70s-’80s tennis” ILIENASTASE. was a gimme only because I knew he was Romanian, and that Bucharest was in Romania. Nice to see his full name in a grid!
- 53A “Bar order, initally” IPA was wildly unfamiliar – Wikipedia suggests something called India Pale Ale.
- 59A “Manual Transmissions?: Abbr.” for ASL. Is a snazzy clue for an otherwise blah bit of grid.
- 5D “Campaign rewards” CLIOS. Another super clue: ad campaigns not the political ones Americans are being bombarded with at the moment…
- 7D “Gloaming, in verse” EEN. I don’t remember seeing that synonym used before. Gloaming is a fun word to say!
- 14D “Sleeping kittens, e.g.” NESTLERS. The single ugliest thing in this grid. Cats are great when they’re nestlers, it’s the pre-nestle kneading stage I have an issue with…
- 27D “Ordered” INSEQUENCE. Another nice misdirection – adjective, not verb.
3.9 Stars? Not very scientific, I know.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Words’ Worth” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features an [Observation] in four parts: WHOEVER SAID / THAT TALK IS CHEAP / NEVER PAID A TEEN’S / TEXTING BILL. A quip theme for the 21st Century! But aren’t most texters “these days” (meaning “not 2008″) on phone plans that allow for unlimited texting?
Ah, who cares–the quip breaks nicely in half so that you get the set-up in the top half and the punch line spread over the bottom half. Once you get either the “talk is cheap” or “texting bill” part, the rest of the quip is easy enough to suss out, and I think that’s supposed to be a key feature of quip themes–rather than use the fill to get the theme, you use the theme to get the fill.
Okay, it’s an abbreviated post this morning since I have to go limber up for a long day of solving at the ACPT. Let’s outline the highlights here:
- I never knew an [Alarm clock's purpose] was for AROUSAL. Mine doesn’t do anything for me. I’m more into carbon-based forms for my thrills.
- The only thing I know about ["Doodle Soup" poet John] CIARDI is that he wrote a poem called “Doodle Soup.” And I just learned that a few minutes ago.
- Pop culture fans like yours truly will appreciate seeing George [Jetson's boss], Mr. SPACELY, next to ["Dynasty" vixen] ALEXIS.
- I liked [Extremely successful] as the clue for HUGE because it gave me quite a fight. Even with HU-E in place, I still needed to get the last crossing before I figured out what was happening.
Check out the lineup of people in the southeast. Have you ever seen a more eclectic group than Justice Samuel ALITO, LANDO Calrissian, Cicely TYSON and Max ERNST? What a dinner table that foursome would make!
Byron Walden’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”–Amy’s review
Surprise! A new name in the Newsday byline, themeless specialist Byron Walden. I bet there’s a stack of Stumpers in the ACPT hotel lobby for solvers to work on.
The highlights in this 66-worder include the following:
- 5a. BUDGET HAWK, [One who cuts and runs?]. Great answer, tricky clue.
- 44a. BAGGY PANTS, [Comic clothing of yore]. Also underwear-revealing clothing of today.
- 48a. PRIZE TABLE, [Postgame display site]. If I can manage to claim 2nd place in the Midwest after Anne Erdmann, I will be allowed to approach the ACPT prize table to select a book.
- 14d. KLAXONS, [Submarine dive alarms]. I love the word KLAXONS (so Scrabbly) and the horrible “aye-ooga” sound they make. Here’s a submarine klaxon for you.
- 36d. LEGIBLE, [Easy on the eyes?]. Great clue, especially for the 40+ age group.
- 37d. CINEMAX, ["We Are Your Movie Channel" sloganeer]. With all the HBO, TMC, AMC, TBS, USA, and SHO entries in crosswords, it’s nice to have a 7-letter cable channel.
- 52a. ENCEPHALIC, [Brainy]. Never seen this word in all my years of medical editing, though its opposite, anencephalic, is familiar.
- 54a. DEAD HONEST, [Completely straight]. Not a phrase I’ve used, and not one I’m sure I’ve ever encountered.
- 8d. GOT LIT, [Brightened up]. Weird verb phrase. Seems more like a synonym for “got drunk” to me, and it doesn’t feel “in the language.”
- 11d. HALF HOPE, [Feel ambivalent, in a way]. I’m torn. Either I really like this entry or it just doesn’t feel “in the language.”
- 13d. WE’RE BAD, [Cellar dwellers' lament]. Who says that?
- 27d. COCKUPS, [Botches, in Britain]. The clue throws me because it sounds like a verb, but the answer looks like a noun and I haven’t ever encountered botch as a noun. I also haven’t ever encountered the answer word.
- 30d. MINGY, [Scroogelike]. Not a common word, but I like it.
- 31d. OZONIZED, [Cleaned without chlorine]. Can you sanitize the kitchen and bathroom by ozonizing, or is this an industrial/hospital sort of word?
- 44d. BATHO, [It means "depth"]. Prefix.
Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember: If you partake of green beer, don’t be scared to find green pee later on. You don’t want your body absorbing that dye, do you?
- 18a. Jon STEWART, [*"The Daily Show" host]
- 20a. HENRY Ford, [*Ford who founded the Ford Motor Company]
- 30a. ST. PATRICK’S DAY, [March 17 celebration, containing a name that the answers to the four starred clues have in common: 3 wds.]
- 40a. EWING, [*Family surname on "Dallas"]
- 43a. Jack DEMPSEY, [*Boxing legend Jack nicknamed "The Manassa Mauler"]
Patrick Stewart is that British, bald actor from some of those Star Trek dealios. Patrick Henry famously said that “Give me liberty or give me death” line back in the 1776-ish era. Patrick Ewing is a basketball legend who played for the Knicks. And Patrick Dempsey is a non-British, non-bald actor who was (is?) on Grey’s Anatomy, I believe.
I once did a 3/17 USA Today crossword with a similar theme, but the shtick there was that all of the Patricks’ surnames in the grid were supposed to be clued with reference to those exact Patricks. Alas, in the editing process, Patrick Ewing turned into the Dallas name, and I think literature Nobelist Patrick White’s surname was clued as a color. In the end, maybe five of eight Patricks were still clued as themselves, so the theme looked lopsided.
Looking past the theme, did you know 8d: [Gossip blogger ___ Hilton], PEREZ Hilton? I appreciate his play on words (sounds like “Paris Hilton”) but doesn’t his gossip get mean sometimes? In showbiz gossip circles, though, this guy is probably more influential than TV shows like Access Hollywood.