Saturday, 4/28/12

NYT 6:42 
Newsday 5:00 
LAT 4:48 
CS 6:58 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 4 28 12 0428

Super-quick NYT write-up, as I roused myself from snoozeland on the couch to do the puzzle and snoozeland beckons fetchingly.

This 70-worder has nine 15s in triple stacks intersected by one vertical 15. The 15s were mostly good stuff—I liked CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, EAT ONE’S HEART OUT, MAKE A MENTAL NOTE, TAKE-NO-PRISONERS, and RAISES THE STAKES—but what’s holding them together includes some dross. Or, if not dross, a fairly high concentration of answers that don’t add to the fun.

1d: CENTO, [Poem comprised of quotations], is probably solidly literary though CENTO doesn’t ring a bell. However! Let’s look at the clue. I think “comprised of” is defensible but why not “consisting of”? And then there’s the partial A POET, playing with the same word root as “poem.” (Speaking of partials, there’s also SO A.)

IMMIE and ANENT land in my crosswordese category. APEAK, nautical-speak. SAREE, the weird spelling, Less familiar names, KAI and SANDE. Abbreviations, at least five of ‘em. Plural first name, SARAS. Foreign, Spanish OTROS and ESOS and French PEU (at least they’re familiar to regular solvers).

I like a Saturday that expects me to know scholarly things from a broad range of areas, but puzzles packed with 3-, 4-, and 5-letter fill (60 such words here) tend not to indulge that as much as puzzles with chunks of 7- to 11-letter entries, it seems to me.

3.5 stars.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 4 28 12

This 70-worder has a lot to like (if not quite love–none of those “whoa!” never-before-seen entries), and is a little rough around the edges.

In the Liking It zone:

  • 1a. ARMS DEAL, [One may be cut before a fight]. Tricky clue.
  • 17a. LADY LUCK, [Woman on your side, ideally].
  • 37a. “SOUP’S ON!”, ["Chow time!"]. Bonus point for the one-letter difference from soupçon. I love that word.
  • 55a. “I DOUBT IT,” ["Not likely"]. Another spoken phrase. See also NO PROB.
  • 11d. Does anyone still talk about the KILLER APP? I feel like the near-ubiquity of smartphones and iPads and their app stores has knocked the desktop/laptop-linked phrase out of the air.
  • 33d. LORGNETTE, [Opera glasses on a handle]. I find something about that word so appealing.

Favorite wrong impulse: Before reading the clue for 35a, I had OLEOPR* filled in. I thought of OLEO PRO before the clue delivered me to OLE OPRY. (Feels very much like a partial without the “Grand” part, alas. [Grand venue] doesn’t make up for that.)

New clue for ALLIE: 1d: ["The Notebook" heroine]. Duly noted.

Rough patches: The twice-inflected STARRIER, partials IN B and A HAT, the double-scoop of old Mideast titles (PASHA and AGHA), ROKS. And 26a feels off to me–we have no-name products and name-brand products and generic products, but NO NAME BRAND doesn’t sound familiar to me.

Three stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Come Around!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, April 28

And so begins a happy weekend! Whenever I can solve a Bob Klahn puzzle in less than ten minutes, I consider it a victory. Today’s puzzle felt much easier than the standard Klahn offering. Either he’s taking it easy on us or I’m starting to get into the groove of parsing his clues. My money’s on the former.

The puzzle has a split-word theme, as the four theme entries all begin with COM- and end with -E:

  • 17-Across: The [Modern multiple-language discipline] is COMPUTER SCIENCE.
  • 33-Across: COMMON SENSE is the [Paine pamphlet of 1776]. I always liked how all of Common Sense can fit in a pamphlet.
  • 42-Across: [You can step out of yours] is the fun clue for the great entry, COMFORT ZONE.
  • 61-Across: One with an [Ability to outperform] has a COMPETITIVE EDGE.

The two long Downs, ANCHORAGE and IT’S A STEAL, pass through three theme entries apiece. While each of the corners is nice and open, I’m drawn to some of the lively shorter entries squeezed in the middle: SAY AH, TO US, THE A’S, I AM, and XTC are all terrific short items that work especially well as glue here.

The midsection also had my favorite clue, [Room for improvement?] for GYM. Other clues of note: [Jokers and jokesters] for CARDS, [Potential peacock] for EGG, [Thing to do at home] for BAT (home plate, that is), and [Barrels and organ-pipes in the desert] for CACTI.

Never heard of McLUHAN, ["The medium is the the message" man]. Sounds like the love child of Gavin McLeod and Lindsay Lohan (shudder).

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, "Saturday Stumper" 4 28 12

Remember Brendan Quigley’s last “Themeless Monday,” with the corners of intersecting 4×7 chunks? The Stumpers use grids like this a lot more often, with intersecting 3×7 stacks.

Favorite bits:

  • 16a. SNO-CONE, [Syrupy concoction]. Nice to see the whole word, not just a stranded SNO in the grid.
  • 28a. BUZZ OFF! ["Scram!"]
  • 41a. BIG DEAL, [Something impressive, or not at all impressive]. It’s all in the intonation. Plus, you can insert the F-word between the two words and use it positively, like Joe Biden did when the health care bill was signed, or with disdain (and the negative sense even gets an abbreviation we never see in crosswords, BFD.)
  • 2d. ONE CENT, [Words over a 2012 Union Shield]. You know those ugly new pennies with that big shield instead of the Lincoln Memorial? Bleh. Don’t like them. Tried looking up Union Shield in Wikipedia and got the 2011 version: joint Russian/Belarussian military exercises. Red cent?
  • 25a. Comcast XFINITY, [Time Warner Cable competitor].
  • 41d. BIRD-DOG, [Follow carefully].
  • The MEGATON/TNT combo.

By far the single worst answer in this puzzle is 14d: REERECT. [Set up differently] doesn’t quite connect to the answer for me. I don’t know what is being reerected. Erector Set pieces?

The other clue that bugged me was 21d: [Home deconstruction tool], for ADZ. I went with AXE first, because we all know what axes are. You DIY home renovation folks, tell me: Do you use adzes to take out a wall or something? I have not noticed any adzes on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when the crew demolishes a house.

3.75 stars. Would have been a solid 4 without that REERECT blot.

Lynn Lempel’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 28 12 "Smartypants Saturday"

Lynn turns to classic English lit for today’s theme:

  • 18a. CHARLES, [With 41-Across, British novelist whose 200th birthday was celebrated on February 7, 2012]
  • 29a. TINY TIM, [Young 18-/41-Across character in "A Christmas Carol": 2 wds.]
  • 31a. PIP, [Young 18-/41-Across hero of "Great Expectations"]
  • 33a. SCROOGE, [Miser created by 18-/41-Across in "A Christmas Carol"]
  • 41a. DICKENS, [See 18-Across]
  • 4d. DORRIT, ["Little ___" (18-/41-Across novel set in a debtors' prison)]
  • 8d. LONDON, [Home of 18-/41-Across and the setting for much of his writing]
  • 35d. OLIVER, [1968 musical based on an 18-/41-Across novel, winner of the Oscar for Best Picture]
  • 45d. BOZ, [Pen name used by 18-/41-Across]

That’s a lot of theme for a small crossword puzzle and you might think the surrounding fill would suffer, but Lynn Lempel is a master of filling a crossword grid with easy words.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Seven Sages”

WSJ "Seven Sages" solution

Once again, we get a Berry marvel in which 36 7-letter words interlock in clockwise and counterclockwise rings and most of the words also mesh with the quote running around the outer ring. And only one of the words was unfamiliar to me, but I could fill it in because its letters were checked by its three neighbors and the quote. It makes my brain hurt thinking about the work that goes into making one of these puzzles.

That unfamiliar word is #6, PILLION, a [Passenger seat on a motorbike]. The Wikipedia article explains it all. Chiefly British term. Are any of you bikers? Do you use this term?

Favorite clue: #16, ["A form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months": Oscar Wilde]. FASHION!

I think the puzzle took me maybe 12 to 15 minutes. So not a head-scratching, gotta-come-back-to-it-later killer, but a good challenge that takes me about twice as long as a themeless Saturday puzzle.

Oh! The Dali quote around the perimeter is “Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing.” There’s something to that. Artists typically build on all that has come before them and work within certain parameters. You can’t fully reinvent the novel or sculpture or crosswords, because no matter how far afield you go, you’ve still got the basic structure in there. Yes? No?

4.5 stars.

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16 Responses to Saturday, 4/28/12

  1. Jared says:

    Isn’t “comprised of” just flat out wrong or, generously, “non-standard” usage?
    As far as I understand:
    If you want “comprise” then it has to be “poem comprising quotations”.
    If you want “of” then it has to be “poem composed of quotations” or “poem consisting of quotations”.

  2. janie says:

    the m-w site explains “comprise”, what the objections are and how attitudes towards its sense 3 usage remain in flux. “comprised of” — as we see it in today’s clue — is hardly an egregious choice — imoo.

    gary’s puzzle required the overnight treatment. sooooo much i didn’t know — or questioned. those stacked 15s at the bottom are especially beautiful, no? filling in the final letters today was particularly satisfying!

    ;-)

  3. pannonica says:

    It’s more or less acceptable, if not likable. About the same as “hopefully” to mean “it is to be hoped” rather than “in a hopeful manner.” Both have longstanding historical precedents.

    Here’s a relatively recent discussion over at the University of Pennsylvania’s Language Log, in which it’s frequently described as controversial. Sort of like tuning into a in-progress program.

  4. Dook says:

    Sam Donaldson has never heard of Marshall McCluhan?

  5. Jeff H. says:

    I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here.

  6. Josh Bischof says:

    I hated the NYT puzzle today. The down fill is, almost without exception, ugly. As another poster wrote, that bottom triple stack is very nice. But reading across all those Downs: just bad. I understand that to create those big 15 stacks requires some compromise with regard to the fill that crosses them. But to have NO good fill? Very unsatisfying.

  7. Karen says:

    I got stuck in the middle third of the NYT–IMMIE, TIANT, TIKKI, DELOS were all hard to get, and Mimas kept sneaking into MNEMEs spot.

    I enjoyed my trek through the Stumper. I like the word ADZ. The TORNADO came out of nowhere, just like a real one.

  8. Bob Bruesch says:

    No comment on LAT??? Well here’s one: I HATE “cutsie” defs, i.e. “ARMS DEAL”. And why does a So Cal puzzler say that “HALTER” is “summertime” garb in the land of sun, warmth and bikinis???

  9. pannonica says:

    halter (n.): 3: a woman’s blouse or top that leaves the back, arms, and midriff bare and that is typically held in place by straps around the neck and across the back. (from m-w)

    As for so-called “cutsie” clues, I for one appreciate a little tricky or playful twist—a skewed perspective—in the mix, to keep things interesting.

    Stumper: As for ADZ, this from Wikipedia: “The adze is also used for demolition of old buildings by hand for salvage. The single tool can serve all the needs of deconstruction with proper use.”

    The citation is this New York Times article.

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party; LOVED the NYT, comprised, as it is, of such recherché verbiage that others find it “ugly”–Baroque and rococo, à la the castle of Otranto.

  11. Lois says:

    I think that variants such as “comprised of” should be limited to answers (I would rather not see them, though) and should not appear in clues, unless such usages are there for a particular reason. Thank you, Amy, for pointing out the phrase, although it was there screaming already. I was so happy yesterday with Patrick Berry and Will for the spelling “jelled” for the verb, and now this.

  12. Dave Manuel says:

    Being new to the world of blogdom, I’m not sure if this ship has sailed or if any one reads old posts but can someone explain the answer, “OWNER” to the clue, LAND’S END” on the Saturday Stumper. I don’t get it! Help!

  13. Jeffrey says:

    OWNER is the end of the term “LAND OWNER”.

  14. Dave Manuel says:

    AHA! Thank you, Jeffrey!

  15. Kacy says:

    Jared, you are right. Comprises = is made of, is composed of. Comprise is not a correct form; also, folks who say “comprised of” are saying “made up of of”. Correct use is “comprises” for present tense, “comprised” for past tense, “will comprise” for future tense.

    Amy, thank you for solving my question (they’re in feet), this blog was hard to find but love it. I wish you took Pay Pal! I will try to remember to have a credit card handy next time I stop by so I can help try to keep you going!

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Kacy, thanks! The “Donate” button above those credit card icons is, in fact, a PayPal donation button. PayPal: It’s everywhere you want to be.

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