Saturday, 3/24/12

NYT 5:52 
LAT 5:00 
CS 6:55 (Sam) 
Newsday 8:10 
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 24 12 0324

Between a late supper (chicken pot piiiiie) and late work Skyping, it has become … late. I was shooting for Stella and Howard’s sub-4:00 solving times but it didn’t work out. On the plus side, I had pot pie. On the minus side, I burned my tongue. So it goes.

Crossword? Yes! Barry hits up my favorite grid pattern—stacks of long (9-11 letters) and lively answers in all four corners. HOT PASTRAMI, ISAAC ASIMOV, and Stephen King’s oddly spelled PET SEMATARY anchor the top. (New info-bit in my head: “pastrami” isn’t an Italian word, it’s Yiddish. Did everyone else already know this?) Old-time ETHEL MERMAN and the SHOW ME STATE are down yonder, AB POSITIVE and a New Year’s Eve NOISEMAKER hold down the northeast quadrant, and NEWFANGLED is the southwest’s highlight. I could’ve done without the geo-trivia quiz (or Do You Know Your Crosswordese Rivers? quiz) of the ODER-NEISSE Line.

Favorite clues:

  • 28a. [Is in the can], DOES TIME.
  • 6d. [Chutney-dippsed appetizer], SAMOSA. Had Indian food last night. Num!
  • 13d. [One passed out on New Year's Eve], NOISEMAKER.
  • 23d. [Having nothing to part with?], BALD.

I also liked the BASS/IST combo. At first I thought 23a: [Bottom part] was BASE, but BASEIST means nothing so I saw the error in my ways.

Also could do without: SAREE; the DNA TESTS clue [They can answer the question "Who's your daddy?]; fragments -ANE, -ESE, and -OSES; WHELM; and partial A CAT.

Didn’t know the Perry Como hit IVY ROSE or 47d: RENE, [Novelist Bazin].

3.75 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Movie-Musicals” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 24

The last time I solved a Patrick Blindauer puzzle, it was the infamous “Puzzle #5″ at last week’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I won’t spoil it for those who choose to solve the puzzles at home (highly encouraged if you didn’t attend, by the way–I’ve done it myself in years when I couldn’t be there), but it’s safe to say that the puzzle was hard. I think the room was still a good two-thirds full (maybe more?) when time expired.

I was among the group still toiling away until the end. I was two seats down from crossword blogger emeritus PuzzleGirl when, as time expired, she triumphantly shouted, “I finished!” I couldn’t help but admire her accomplishment as I stared at my half-completed grid.

“Okay,” I said, leaning toward her, “explain the theme to me. I never saw it.”

“Oh, it’s super cool!” she gushed.

Fresh off being smacked around by the puzzle for 30 minutes, I couldn’t help but reply curtly, “I doubt you’ll be able to convince me of that right now.”

She politely explained the theme to about a half dozen of us who were sitting nearby and similarly mystified. Sure enough, I didn’t come away impressed at first. But within a short period of time, as I got some distance and took out my frustration by writing extra firmly on poor Puzzle #6, I realized that it was, as PuzzleGirl insisted, super cool. So much so that I made it a point to find Patrick later and offer kudos for the amazing construction. His puzzle defeated me, but it was still a work of art.

Today’s puzzle is easier, certainly, but also very entertaining. The theme consists of four “before-and-after” mash-ups, each of which starts with a film title and ends with a musical title:

  • 17-Across: The [Movie about a disabled painter / Musical about the evils of dancing] is MY LEFT FOOTLOOSE (combining the film My Left Foot with the musical Footloose). I could see Patrick using a whimsical clue like [Pinocchio's complaint after Geppetto's lax assembly work?]. I wonder if that approach got nixed in favor of the more straightforward clues.
  • 31-Across: QUIZ SHOWBOAT combines the [Movie about a cheating scandal (Quiz Show) and the Musical based on a Ferber novel (Showboat)]. I think I would have liked [Captain Wink Martindale's vessel?] for a clue.
  • 41-Across: Oh good Lord, it’s DEAR GODSPELL, both a [Movie directed by Garry Marshall (Dear God) and a Musical based on a Gospel (Godspell).
  • 55-Across: The [Movie starring John Cusack / Musical by Cole Porter] is SAY ANYTHING GOES. This one may be my favorite of the bunch.

Highlights in the fill include THE RITZ, ALL THERE, O’DOULS, PLUNGER, and IN USE. The clue for VERN, ["Trading Spaces" designer Yip] feels about ten years too old, but it’s way more current than [Ernest's unseen friend in movies]. I like how two crossword legends, Yoko ONO and Brian ENO, sit side by side in the southeast corner–I really appreciate that kind of “inside joke” for regular solvers.

Does anyone else wonder whether this puzzle was originally designed as part of Patrick’s recent Musical Puzzlefest? It certainly evoked fond(?) memories of my struggling to get the final answer. If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend ponying up the small price and downloading them. Even if you never get the final answer (I didn’t), you’ll enjoy some entertaining and innovative crosswords.

Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 3 24 12

Hang on a minute: Two Saturday themelesses with SAREE ([Agra wrap] here) in them? No. This can’t be right.

I’m grumpy. Is it the crossword or is it me? I think it’s partly each. Never heard of 17a: END AROUND, [Deceptive football play]. End run, yes. I don’t know how many of you still have chunky computer monitors on your desk, but I feel like CRTS really merits a clue that reflects the technology’s recent obsolescence; [Places for icons, briefly] doesn’t hint that most of us have long since moved on to flat-screen monitors. 30d: IN A SERIES adds nothing to a puzzle. Don’t know who 1d: GWENN, ["Miracle on 34th Street" Oscar winner], is. The 26a: STEN, [Old gun across the pond], has solid crossings but I bet only gun nuts and crossword nuts know STEN. What’s the age range for having personal knowledge of the 49a: STEELIE, [Shooting marble]? I know the steelie and taw only from crosswords. And 56a: ESSES! I’m officially sick and tired of seeing ESS/ESSES in crosswords and have taken to editing them out when I can. (Merl Reagle is perhaps the most notable voice in the wilderness opposing the spelled-out letter crossword entry.)

Now, to be fair, there were certainly things that I liked. [Like a Frisbee's symmetry] is a lovely clue for 51a: AXIAL. The slangy 55a: UP AND AT ‘EM and 12d: RARIN’ TO GO make good use of invisible apostrophes in the grid. 35d: [Mixes well with others] is a neat clue for BARTENDS. PERPLEXES is a delightful word as well.

3.25 stars.

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 3 24 12 "Saturday Stumper" Doubleday

“Lars G. Doubleday” is a great pseudonym. It’s an anagram of the first names of Brad(ley) Wilber and Doug(las) Peterson, and when you see that byline, you’re getting a Double that day.

Highlights in the grid:

  • 1a. CHARISMA, neat word, nice way to start the puzzle even if we have to take a demagogue in the clue.
  • 21a. SFUMATO! Crazy Italian arty word for that ["Mona Lisa" tone-blending technique].
  • 33a, 35a, 52a. Non-boring compound words that don’t see much play in crosswords: LOPSIDED and WINDBLOWN and DISHPAN. Okay, technically that last one is boring, but its clue, [Suds holder], hints at beer.
  • 49a. Tricky clue for EPONYM, [Jim Beam or Jack Daniel]. The lack of apostrophe-S on the second name is your hint that the answer isn’t any sort of WHISKY at all. Speaking of eponyms, we’ve also got 63a; BOYCOTTS, [Won't deal with].
  • 58a. FAUX-NAIF was hard to dredge out of my brain, and it kept looking horribly wrong when I filled in letters from the crossings. [Disingenuous] captures it well.
  • 41d. BIT PART, nice entry, nice clue. [A line or two] is all that’s in the script for a bit part.

Being decidedly unmusical, I’ve never heard of 1d: C SCALE, [Beginner's piano lesson]. I had SCALES at first but that was a nonstarter with the crossings.

Mighty smooth grid, as we expect from either of these constructors. At the ACPT, Doug told me a bit about how he and Brad collaborate. One of them starts a grid, and when he’s having trouble filling a section, he sends it to the other guy. Between the two of them (and their high standards for fill), they’re bound to make great grids. 4.5 stars; nothing super-showy or memorable, but smooth, interesting, fun, smart, and challenging.

Mike Nothnagel’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword, 3 24 12 "Smartypants Saturday" Nothnagel

Mike Nothnagel teaches math at a culinary college, so it’s cute when he devotes a theme to a chef. He’s not the only Celebrity constructor to do so, but he’s got someone who’s not on Iron Chef on account of no longer being with us:

  • 18a. “BON APPETIT!” [44-Across' signoff on 32-Across].
  • 32a. THE FRENCH CHEF, [Popular cooking show starring 44-Across]. The show began in 1963.
  • 44a. JULIA CHILD, [TV star portrayed by Meryl Streep in a 2009 film].

The non-theme answers tend to the Scrabbly side, with less common letters like X (X-RAY/SAX, ALEX/AXE), Z (JAY-Z, ZOE Saldana), and J (JAB/JUST, FIJI/J.LO, JULIA CHILD/JAY-Z). This allows us to get away from being awash in super-common crossword answers like OREO, ORE, and IRE. Nice stuff.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Common Sense”

3/24/12 WSJ Saturday Puzzle answers, Hex cryptic "Common Sense"

The “common sense” evoked in this puzzle’s gimmick is hearing. Some answers need to be changed to their homophones before going into the grid, while other answers have clues with a word that needs homophoning in order to solve. And then there’s the third category, clues with an extraneous letter in one word, and removing those letters gets you the phrase SOUND JUDGMENTS. Nifty gimmick. I wonder if deaf people have a much harder time identifying homophones and grasping the point of written puns based on sound-alike words.

I had trouble figuring out what’s going on in two of the clues. For 32-Down, [Wolfish look from part of dogsled], the S in “dogsled” is extraneous and the wolfish look is OGLE. I got hung up on wanted “dogled” to be a real word, but eventually I realized that removing 23-Down’s extraneous M in anagrammed “to ar(m)ors” also yields a non-word.

The other trouble spot was 19-Down. [Mick's Bar mistaken for state capitol] uses “capitol” instead of “capital,” and I spaced out on noticing that capital = city (BISMARCK) and capitol = building. Kept wanting to discover a homophone of BISMARCK, and the silent K in 38-Across: KNELL ([Dickens creation in Northern annex] = Nell = N + ell; homophonize to KNELL) wasn’t helping me.

Tough puzzle, right? It’s not just me who spent a good long while untangling things to finally piece them all together? I like a good challenge, and I also like a Hex cryptic that’s free of oddball obscurities. (That one puzzle from a few months ago that I never finished? It was marred by maybe five to eight weird answers, which is four to seven more than I can tolerate.) 4.75 stars. Nicely wrought variety cryptic this week.

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18 Responses to Saturday, 3/24/12

  1. Nancy Shack says:

    High five to Barry Silk for including my home town, Syosset. This is not the first time that it has appeared in a crossword, but I always pity any solver who is unfamiliar with it. Until fairly recently this also was Randy Ross’s town.

  2. Howard B says:

    Nice Fri/Sat puzzles to get back into the solving thing again. I do admit feeling slightly guilty for knowing Oder-Neisse more from crosswords than from history study.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, Nancy – I was happy to see SYOSSET since I enjoyed visiting friends there years ago! And for Panonnica from yesterday, you are right about the huge IBM counterpart of Japan — it is NEC, headquartered in Tokyo, not related to NCR of the cash registers and ATMs.

  4. Gareth says:

    Pastrami is Yiddish??? (Head explodes.) More than half my time spent on that top-left… I had nothing above BASS/DOESTIME except for ARIOSI, OSES/SSE and PAS. It was eventually recalling that the Turner Prize is for modern art that set the ball rolling after a long period of stagnation! For me, the clue for ISAACASIMOV was really unhelpful: it may as well have been “Writer” as the second half gives away nothing to anybody! On the other hand, I loved the clue for MORAYEEL, which utterly confused me: “crevice? predator?” until it appeared after many perps. Only things I flat out didn’t know were SYOSSET and IVYROSE… SAMOSA has two O’s in South Africa, a lot of Indian words are spelled differently here compared to England and the US, I think its because our Indian immigrants in the 1860′s were mostly from one region with its own spelling? I’m not sure of this though…

  5. animalheart says:

    Loved those triple-stack elevens in the Silk. Pretty solid all the way through, I thought, with some really clever cluing. (C’mon, Amy, if you have to have DNATESTS in your puzzle, is there a better way of eliciting it than that clue?) I had SCORPION for the crevice-lurking predator for a while, and that held me up in the NW, but ISAACASIMOV saved me. (Gareth, Asimov is known for being a polymath; he wrote a gazillion books about a gazillion subjects.) Don’t know why HOTPASTRAMI took so long; I was going through the entire menu in my head. Now I’m hungry…

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I thought about PASTRAMI as soon as I saw the clue but wanted PASTRAMI ON RYE which, of course, didn’t fit, so gave it up. Duh. I really liked the puzzle, which seemed on the easy side for a Saturday, but that may have been because SYOSSET and ETHELMERMAN and NOISEMAKER were gimmes, so I had a foothold in each quadrant except the NE, and as soon as I filled in the ARS for TSARS and SAMOSAS, that fell nicely into place. I also liked the clue for DNA TESTS. A fun solve.

    Didn’t even notice SAREE in the LAT because I got it from crosses and never looked at the clue, but that is odd – I’ve never seen that spelling before.

  7. David says:

    I had an interesting wrong answer in the Newsday: FAKING IT instead of FAUX-NAIF. With four shared letters, it took me a long time to convince myself that it was wrong. Well played, ‘Lars’.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, that Saturday Stumper! With the H in place I went for a sudsy Bathtub, until it got displaced by the DISHPAN… and so on. Refills at a gas station? no, COFFEE POT! The service center, a CHAPEL. Guessed right on the seaman’s watch and conquered it, finally, but my head is still spinning. LOPSIDED and FAUX NAIF were both icing on the cake! Kudos to Brad/Doug.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Congrats to Gareth who is now a full-fledged veterinarian! I wish he were nearby rather than in South Africa… but there’s probably not much to be done for my ailing cat, age 20+.

  10. Margaret says:

    Re LAT: I had readyTOGO instead of RARINTOGO at first; I was sure it couldn’t be RARIN (without an apostrophe) because the clue said champing at the bit instead of champin’ at the bit. And I expected a (var.) on the spelling of SAREE. Or is that something that only happens earlier in the week to make the puzzle easier?

  11. Jared says:

    Amy, did you get the “pastrami” trivia from Patricia T. O’Conner on the Leonard Lopate Show?

  12. JaxInL.A. says:

    I don’t get here as much as I would like, so I have missed a lot of cool stuff.

    Cool thing number one, which should be linked from the Best Puzzles of 2011, is Sam Donaldson’s hilariously masterful Orca Awards! I stumbled on it from searching something and boy am I glad! it may be a month old, but it’s fresh and clever and gave me a chance to revisit favorite puzzles and discover new ones. What a great service.

    Cool thing number two is learning that there’s a regular crossword from Mike Nothnagel called Celebrity. Not so cool thing is: how the heck does someone find it? The Facebook link to PuzzleSocial goes to a blank page for me, and surely there is another way to get those puzzles?

    Finally, I need to ask for help. For weeks I have been unable to get the Chronicle of Higher Education puzzles. The Cruciverb link does not work, the link on the puzzle source page here only has the March 9 puzzle, not the last two weeks… What’s up with the CHE? Any advice? Thanks very much for any advice that you learned folks can offer.

  13. pannonica says:

    I am upset that non-hot pastrami may exist somewhere.

    Much like my response to 110% the other day, do not get me started on P. O’Conner.

    JaxInL.A.: As far as I know, the CHE has not been posted at their puzzle page since the 9th.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jared, I don’t know what a Patricia O’Conner is. I looked up pastrami in the dictionary and the Yiddish etymology killed me dead.

    JaxinLA: The “Crosswords by PuzzleSocial” app can be found here: http://apps.facebook.com/crosswordsps/

    The Celebrity crossword constructor roster includes not just Mike Nothnagel but a slew of other talent, including Patrick Berry, Liz Gorski, Donna Levin, Frank Longo, Tony Orbach, David Kahn, to name a handful. The Celebrity puzzles are meant to be easy and painless for beginners–the gateway drug to a full-bore crossword addiction. (The Crosswords app also provides the CrosSynergy and Newsday puzzles, along with the best indie/alt-weekly crosswords out there under the “A.V. Club” rubric.)

    Disclosure: I work for PuzzleSocial.

  15. Joan macon says:

    Oh, Amy, surely you and your son have watched the original “Miracle on 34th Street” at Christmas and been delighted with Santa Claus as played by Edmund Gwenn! He won a special Oscar for his interpretation. It seems to be my lot in life to comment on old movies, which goes to show I am probably the only person here who is old enough to remember them.

  16. joon says:

    jax, i too had the blank page problem for puzzlesocial until i turned off my firefox adblock plugin. now i have a different technical problem, but jed is on the ball, so i’m hoping that will be resolved soon. and i think the CHE may be on spring break.

    amy, patricia t. o’conner wrote WOE IS I. i don’t know anything else about her.

  17. Tom Grubb says:

    Somebody should get Barry Silk to check his French grammar: the word “tes” in French is a possessive ADJECTIVE meaning “your” and NOT a “French pronoun” (see clue for 39D).

  18. klew archer says:

    It’s a pronoun AND an adjective: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possessive_pronoun

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