Saturday, 5/12/12

Newsday 7:48 (joon—paper) 
NYT 4:31 
LAT Doug – untimed 
CS 7:02 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) 22:13 (joon—paper) 

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 12 12 0512

Unusual grid, with those 4×8 and 4×6 corners. Lots to like and a few things to question. Let’s proceed to list action before I write any more sentence fragments in this paragraph.

  • 15a. HONEYBUN, love it!
  • 17a. ALTERANT? That’s a word? [Change-producing agent]? This should be an insect superhero doing battle against 40d: FIRE ANT, [Producer of the venom solenopsin]. (And is GET ANTSY a dupe or not?)
  • 19a. I like how MASTIFFS sounds like “massive,” but I really wish this were the name for a teeny toy dog.
  • 20a. Jerry ORBACH! [1969 Tony winner for "Promises, Promises"] and, beginning in 1960-something, also a Tony father.
  • 22a. Deutsch! NACHT, or night, is [When to see der Mond], or moon.
  • 23a. LINDT chocolate from Switzerland, yum. All I remember of that layover in the Zurich airport was the Lindt chocolate shop and that 400 g dark chocolate bar I bought.
  • 31a. I like 30 Rock, but not so much this THIRTY ROCK.
  • 1d, 2d. So I gather [Fast shuffle] has something to do with perpetrating a SHAM on someone? The A and its neighboring L were my last squares. POLA [__ Debevoise, Marilyn Monroe's "How to Marry a Millionaire" role]?? I bet these two are giving people fits.
  • 7d. GUN FOR HIRE is a cool entry.
  • 28d. You know how I got CRYSTAL SET quickly? Because this [Early radio receiver] was in another puzzle recently–I think last Saturday’s LA Times puzzle. What, are the hipsters listening to music ironically on crystal sets these days? Is it trending now?
  • 39d. [Magic show?] clues NBA GAME. Do we like this better than the more arbitrary SIXERS GAME from last weekend, or is the could-be-NFL/NHL/MLB/MLSGAME multi-dichotomy making NBA GAME arbitrary too?
  • 45d. Entre nous, this ENTRE clue is out there: [__ Rios de Minas, Brazil]. Who speaks Portuguese? Is that “Between Rivers of Minas”?
  • 53d. [Kikkoman options] would be soy sauces more than SOYS, no? Maybe people call soy sauce “soy” for short. “Pass me all the soys”?

3.5 stars.

Behave yourselves this weekend, friends and fiends. I’m off for Mother’s Day and will return to blogging action on Monday morning. Thanks to Team Fiend for the weekend respite!

Barry C. Silk’s L.A. Times crossword, May 12, 2012 – Doug’s review

Barry C. Silk's L.A. Times solution - 5/12/12

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Today’s the big day! Crosswords LA goes live at 9:30 AM. I’ll see you there! Or I saw you there, depending on when you’re reading this.

And we got a Barry Silk puzzle in the L.A. Times. This is shaping up to be an awesome Saturday.

  • 10a. [B's equivalent] - C FLAT. I know zip about reading music, so I wasn’t sure whether this was A FLAT or C FLAT. I just wrote in the FLAT part and figured I’d get the note from the down entry. These _FLAT and _SHARP entries are quite useful when constructing a themeless puzzle, because you can plug lots of different letters into that first slot.
  • 21a. [1960s-'70s outfielder Agee] - TOMMIE. What’s this? One of the heroes of the ’69 Mets in a Barry Silk puzzle? That’s blasphemous.
  • 22a. [Application datum] - CITY. It bugs me that this entry crosses CITIZEN KANE at 22d. CITIZEN and CITY are too closely related in etymology. CITIZEN basically means “CITY dweller.” However, the clue for CITIZEN KANE (Film in which Agnes Moorehead debuted as the title character’s mother) is cool. And of course, Agnes Moorehead is also famous for playing a TV mother.
  • 24a. [HBO title agent whose name includes dollar signs in the show's logo] - ARLI$$. Fortunately Barry didn’t have to use dollar signs in the crossing entries. I don’t think he’s a big fan of Ke$ha or rapper A$AP Rocky.
  • 50% off ASTA clues! Today only!

    29a. [Clue outlets] - TOY STORES. Have you ever bought crossword clues in bulk at one of those clue outlets? You can get some good deals, but the quality is awfully shoddy. The clues are full of misspellings, outdated references and (var.) tags. It’s just not worth it. Nowadays I pay full price for all my clues.

  • 40a. [Part of a product name chosen because it sounds Scandinavian] - HÄAGEN. I love that Häagen-Dazs is a completely made-up word.
  • 56a. [Kraft spread] - CHEEZ WHIZ. An S-less, double-Z entry on the bottom row of the puzzle. Excellent. I’m 99% sure that Barry clued this with a Philly cheesesteak reference. As you may know, Cheez Whiz is the official cheese of cheesesteak sandwiches. I think you’re supposed to order it “Wit Whiz” if you want the stuff squirted on your sandwich.
  • 3d. [MillerCoors malt beverage] - ZIMA. Does Zima still exist? Wikipedia to the rescue: “On October 20, 2008, MillerCoors LLC announced that it had discontinued production of Zima, choosing instead to focus on other ‘malternative’ beverages.” Malternative? Ouch.
  • 11d. [D.C. monument that includes a dog] - FDR MEMORIAL. Barry’s known for using interesting runs of consonants, like the FDRM at the start of this entry. I remember Barry once used MGM LION and LBJ RANCH in the same puzzle. Good stuff.
  • 13d. [Contemporary of Jack and Gary] - ARNIE. Golfers, right? Jack Nicklaus, Arnie Palmer, and (I guess) Gary Player.
  • 38d. [Israel's oldest daily newspaper] - HAARETZ. Never heard of this paper, but I’m happy to learn something new.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”—joon’s review

Newsday Saturday Stumper 05 12 12

hey there. joon here with the review of brad wilber’s saturday stumper. after last week’s skull-crusher, this was a more normal challenge. i was mostly on brad’s wavelength here, and when i raced through the top half of the grid, i thought i was going to be breaking records, but i came to a screeching halt in the SW when i put in DEF instead of UHF for {Cell-phone range}. i couldn’t quite get TAILGATE from {Get too near} or ONLOOKER from {Rubberneck} either, and i wasn’t happy with the clues for AUTOS or CHANT (see below). so that little section took me a few minutes to untangle. everything else was pretty straightforward, except for one little itty-bitty trap in the SE, where {Invented things} could be either LIES (the plural noun) or LIED (the past-tense verb). so you had to check the crossing, which was SASSED and not SASSES in this case.

 

likes:

  • the {Kingdom splintered by the Norman Conquest} was WESSEX. i was able to drop this in right away, leading to a fast start.
  • {Aeschylus trilogy}, the ORESTEIA, consisting of agamemnon, the libation bearers, and the eumenides. good stuff. eugene o’neill adapted this, in a way, for his mourning becomes electra.
  • {Causes to shiver} CREEPS OUT and {Reminisce} WAX NOSTALGIC are terrific consecutive long entries. the latter’s symmetric partner, {Flip-top collectible} PEZ DISPENSER, is also great.
  • {Band with Eastern origins} is the OBI. good clue, but you weren’t fooled, were you?
  • {Novelist named for Emerson} is ralph (waldo) ELLISON, author of invisible man.
  • {Spy-movie review adjective} is a nice evocative clue for TAUT. i betcha brad reads a lot of film reviews.
  • {Game played in ”All Quiet on the Western Front”} is SKAT. i learned this from wikipedia a few weeks ago when BEQ suggested that we take up SKAT as a hobby. it’s sort of like whist but the rules seem incredibly arcane and arbitrary.
  • {”Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It” memoirist} is mae WEST. i feel like i must have seen this clue before, because it felt very “right” putting this in off the W.
  • {Bagpiper’s accessory} SPORRAN… is this that tasseled pouch thingy hanging in the front of a kilt? why yes, yes it is.
  • {Ear piece} is a great clue for a KERNEL (of corn).
  • {__ Cristianos (Canary Islands resort)} LOS. not much to say about this clue, but let’s hear it for cristiano ronaldo and real madrid, champions of la liga primera in spain. also, another footballer, david silva of the canary islands, leads manchester city into the last game of the season needing only a win over relegation-threatened QPR to clinch the english premier league title. go sky blues!
  • {Prepared to reuse, with ”off”} is DUSTED. i love this usage.
  • {Uncomplicated} is NO-FUSS. good one.

dislikes:

  • {Some Monopoly tokens} are AUTOS… technically true, but it’s rather a strange clue. does anybody ever refer to the car token as an AUTO? “i get to be the auto this time. you can be the equestrian.”
  • {Celebrate in song} clues CHANT. this feels imprecise to me. you can celebrate someone or something by CHANTing its name, but in the first place, there is a distinction between the thing celebrated and the name of the thing celebrated. in the second place, i wouldn’t consider that kind of CHANT to be a “song”, really. the more liturgical use of CHANT as a verb also fails to work exactly right with this clue, which is part of why i had trouble buying UHF for 50a. the thing you CHANT is the tune or the text, not the object of praise or celebration.

on the fence:

  • {Recurring theme in Lost Generation fiction} is SELF-EXILE. now… is this a thing? i’m all for literary references, and i’ve read my share of lost generation fiction, but gosh, i’d just call it EXILE, even if it’s voluntary.
  • {Rhyme for ”true” in ”Red River Valley”} ADIEU. not hard to get with the AD___ in place, but what is this reference? some old song?

overall, an excellent puzzle with plenty of zippy entries and minimal garbage. four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Course Language” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 12

Hello from partly cloudy Los Angeles, home to today’s Crosswords L.A. tournament. I ate my first In N Out burger last night (they say you never forget your first), and I think I’m still feeling the 1,000 calories from my Double-Double burger, animal style, surging through my arteries. Good thing I’m not competing today! My sluggishness was evident in solving today’s puzzle. I think I should have been able to solve it a minute or two faster, but…no. And even after I was done, I had to stare at the puzzle for at least a couple of minutes before I finally figured out the theme. Oh well–it was totally worth it for the burger.

The “course” in the puzzle’s title is a golf course, and each of the four theme entries ends with a word that describes some aspect of a golf shot:

  • 17-Across: A STAGE GRIP is a [Film set assistant]. Even though it was 24 years ago, I still remember my college course in film appreciation for teaching me the difference between a stage grip, a key grip, and a dolly grip. In golf, of course, “grip” refers to how one handles the club. Some grips have names. Mine is “badly.”
  • 27-Across: The [Hawkish position] is a PRO-WAR STANCE. The grid also contains DOVE, a [Peace proponent]. That’s a nice complement to the hawk.
  • 46-Across: An [Audacious fabrication] is a BARE-FACED LIE. Real quick, before I get to my personal hang-up with this entry: the “lie” refers to the position of the ball. It may be plugged (partially buried in the ground), downhill (you’re standing with your feet above the ball), uphill (feet below the ball), or just plain level. I can’t give you an example of the latter because it’s never happened to me. Now to the hang-up: isn’t it “bald-face lie” or “bold-face lie?” My quick web search suggests BARE-FACED is just as common as bald- and bold-face, but it sure is new to me.
  • 62-Across: The [Homemade backyard plaything] is a TIRE SWING. That’s why golfers are such party animals–they all swing.

Only PRO-WAR STANCE strikes me as a little forced, and I love TIRE SWING and STAGE GRIP. While the theme itself may not be on par with most, the theme entries are interesting enough to hook me in. DEAR ME, there are a lot of interesting entries in the fill. My favorites are PLAN B, THAT SO, LES PAUL, WE WON, AVID FAN, and GAS MASK. WEB ART, the [Internet illustrations], is another new term to me. I think it’s because the internet filters at work don’t allow us to see much of this “web art” stuff.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Double or Nothing”—joon’s review

WSJ Saturday puzzle solution, 05 12 12

joon again with this enjoyably knotty challenge from the master, patrick berry. some time about a year ago, patrick posted one of these “double or nothing” crosswords, made in collaboration with eric berlin, over on his own website, with the “harder” version (the one i tried) having no instructions. well, here’s another one, and i knew how it worked this time, but it was still pretty darn tough. even when you know the answer to a clue right away (which isn’t all that often), you can’t necessarily write any of it into the grid, because you don’t know how it parses. the one exception in this grid was 52a, {Comfortable with one’s surroundings (2 wds.)}, AT HOME. since 52a is only three squares long, each square has to get two letters. but every other answer in the grid contained at least one blank square, so you had to scratch your head over the crossings to see what would fit where.

the puzzle is anchored on a bit of gambling advice from damon runyan: “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” wise counsel indeed, even if damon runyan isn’t exactly anyone’s MENTOR {Source of wise counsel}.

cool entries in this grid included CHIMED IN, VISUAL JOKE, RUN THE SHOW, STALWART, CHERRY TOMATO, and the full-name ED O’NEILL. there was only one mystery name for me, {Former SEC chairman Arthur} LEVITT, but there were plenty of names i had to work pretty hard for, including ED O’NEILL with a modern family clue and {Bill Haley’s band}, the COMETS.

a worthy 5-star challenge. i’d love to see more of these puzzles in the future. it’s pretty daunting to try to imitate the master, but does anybody else want to try their hand at constructing one?

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18 Responses to Saturday, 5/12/12

  1. Martin says:

    I regularly use two Kikkoman soys, regular (koikuchi) and light-color (usukuchi). They’d be shoyus more often than soys, but it works for me. By the way, shoyu (“show you”) being Japanese for soy sauce (and the etymon for soya) will help you understand the weirdest viral promotion on the planet. There’s a version with subtitles, but some of the translations are a bit coarse so I’ll leave that to you. Hint: youtube.

  2. ktd says:

    This was quite a bit more difficult than yesterday’s Natan Last puzzle, though it didn’t have much of the same payoff in terms of “aha!” answers. The FIRE ANT clue about solenopsin was interesting but it would have been cool to see a reference to formic acid, which is another ant venom compound whose name actually derives from the ants (Latin formica) whence it was first isolated, and which is commonly found in chemistry labs along with its related compounds such as formaldehyde.

  3. David says:

    @ktd: Solenopsin’s name is also derived from ants, specifically the fire ant genus [i]Solenopsis[/i].

    I did some entomological/etymological searching to find the origin of ‘antsy’ and see if it’s actually derived from ‘ant’. They probably have the same root, but I couldn’t find anything conclusive, so the puzzle gets by on a technicality. However, the ‘ant’ in ‘pedantic’ is definitely unrelated :)

  4. ArtLvr says:

    My guess is that antsy relates to the old expression “ants in the pants”, and then there’s artsy-fartsy… never mind. Meant to note yesterday that the WSJ puzzle with all the stock- market theme phrases was awesome, especially “pump and dump”!

  5. Gareth says:

    Laughed out loud at the SPILLAGE clue.

  6. Martin says:

    In practice, there is no hard-and-fast “dupe” rule for grid entries, with the exception of the exact word being repeated in the grid (for example; 1-A: ANT, 57-D ANT).

    The rest is pretty much up to the editor’s discretion… as should be obvious by now.

    -MAS

  7. granbaer says:

    I guess I was just not on the same wavelength as this puzzle. Had a heck of a time with it. Just was not fun and there was no “aha” moment or feeling of having accomplished something when I finished. Just felt like a big, long slog.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    The Stumper had a ton of tricky clues, and I only got a foothold with Oresteia! But it all worked out from there — and at the end I took the Chant to be of the Gregorian ilk!

  9. Howard B says:

    SHAM, POLA here. That was my difficulty. Never did quite grasp the SHAM clue.

  10. Martin says:

    Re CHANT clue in the Stumper:

    It works for me, since you celebrate a mass.

  11. S O B says:

    I don’t think FIRE ANTS and GETS ANTSY constitute a dupe since they have totally different meanings here. It’s just a three-letter coincidence; no worse that using POLA and LOLA together.

  12. Zulema says:

    ENTRE RÏOS does mean “between rivers” but the rivers are not necessarily in Minas. There are a few towns named ENTRE RÏOS so saying “de Minas” points to that particular location as opposed to other towns with the same name.

  13. joon says:

    thanks, martin. i hadn’t thought of that usage.

  14. John Haber says:

    SHAM, POLA, that sense of INT and of “turnover,” that property of LEE tide, and ALTERANT definitely made that for me the hardest quadrant in a hard puzzle. Didn’t help that my first thought given _LAGE was “legal age.”

    My other problem spot was having at most a vague idea of something called an ALINE DRESS. But I liked the puzzle. My only gripe, I guess, is that I would not say SOYS in that way for varieties of soy sauce either.

  15. pannonica says:

    PSA (and attn: Martin): WSJ (Friday) write-up is now posted.

  16. jefe says:

    Finished the Stumper in under an hour (including several interruptions); success! Pez Dispenser was a gimme, and I was able to get a foothold in the SW with the S’s and D’s in STEPDADS. I did know ADIEU from the Red River Valley song, but didn’t get the rest of the NE till last. (NW was penultimate.)

  17. Martin says:

    Thanks, panninica. I was out all day, planning a vacation in Aiea.

  18. Bob Bruesch says:

    LAT – Contrived and convoluted clues. Another two hours wasted! Tedious, real tedious. Wake up, guys!

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