Saturday, 6/2/12

NYT 7:56 
Newsday 6:03 
LAT 5:22 
CS 4:27 (Sam) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 
The Week untimed (Jared) 

See “The Week,” right up there? It’s another new addition to the Diary of a Crossword Fiend slate. If you want to solve Peter Gordon’s puzzle before reading Jared’s review, you can download the puzzle as an image and print it out here.

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 2 12 0602

All right, I liked this puzzle. It’s got three triple-stacks of 15-letter answers, most of which are decent, and the crossings are pretty solid, with no grievous compromises.

I will tell you that 1a: STRAINED PEACHES were my favorite sort of baby food in a 57d: JAR. Much better than any of the green vegetables. 16a: ROUND-ABOUT ROUTE is nice, sort of colloquial, full of vowels that aren’t E. 17a: IT’S NO COMPARISON falls flat compared with “there’s no comparison,” though.

I bungled four of the crossings for the top stack, so that was the last area I filled in. 1d: [Eastern titles] proved to be SRIS rather than AGAS. I went with YES INDEED instead of I DO INDEED at 5d. Opted for FRA instead of DOM at 8d. And assumed ETDS rather than ARRS at 11d. I had no trouble filling in EBON for 7d: [Jet] and its German crossing, 19a: IHN, [Him, in Hamburg].

Above the middle stack, there’s another German word, ABEND, at 28a. ["Guten ___" (German greeting)] gets you “good evening.” (Too long to be TAG/day, too short to be MORGEN/morning, wrong gender to be NACHT/night, which follows gute. This has been your German lesson for the Abend.) The stack has 33a: CONCEALED WEAPON, utterly in the language; 38a: TO A LESSER EXTENT, which I bungled with DEGREE for a while; and 39a: IMMEDIATE DANGER, which feels a tad less lexical-chunky to me.

Down in the basement, we get 53a: DIAMOND JIM BRADY, [Tycoon who was the first person in New York City to own a car], and I think I guessed this largely off the M in REMAP. 59a: IT TAKES A VILLAGE is a terrific entry. If you never saw the Tumblr blog of Texts from Hillary, check it out. This one‘s my favorite. Anchoring the bottom, of course, is an entry jam-packed with letters like E and S. But I forgive DEEPEST RECESSES because it sounds all right, and in the deepest recesses of my mind, it doesn’t jump out at me as being an entry I’ve seen parked in the bottom row before.

Really, the ugliest part of this puzzle is the ATNOS/UNPEGS/NOONE’S chunk, but it’s not as if any of these are entries I’ve never seen before.

Other applet solving times suggest that this puzzle was not in the “tough Saturday puzzle” spectrum for everyone, just for me and my four wrong turns early on in the top third. Four stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pre-game Shows” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS, June 2 solution

Ever wonder what CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, THE WAR OF THE ROSES, and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL have in common? Sure, they’re all movies. And yes, they all scored nominations for various awards like Oscars and Golden Globes. But this puzzle finds a unique link among the films–they all start with words that are games:

  • CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is the [2002 Leonardo DiCaprio/Tom Hanks film that starts with a ball game?]. At first I thought, “Hey, the first scene in that film is the bit from To Tell the Truth, not a ball game!” But then I figured out that the gimmick is that the film’s title begins with “catch,” a ball game.
  • WAR OF THE ROSES is the [1989 Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner film that starts with a card game?]. War, you will recall, is a strategic and subtly complex card game that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.
  • LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is the [1997 Roberto Benigni film that starts with a board game?]. I think the appropriate title for the board game is The Game of Life, but we get what’s going on here.

There are a number of fun non-theme entries, like, fittingly, ALL IN FUN, DUCT TAPE, HELLIONS, STOOD PAT, PEBBLE, CIA SPY, LAB FEE, and HEFTED. It helps to know your Scottish, as there’s both SMA and LAIRD. Beginners might have had problems with NABOB, the [Fat cat], [Eliot's "Adam] BEDE,” or ARGOT, the [Specialized vocabulary], but most of these terms are part of the, well, argot of crosswords.

Favorite Entry = TRY HARD, the Bruce Willis vehicle on emoting. Whoops, no. It’s clued as [Give it your best shot]. Favorite clue = ["I haven't a thing to ___!"] for WEAR.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 6 2 12

Quick posting from me on the LAT and Newsday this morning—I slept in. I am gloriously well-rested but running late.

33a: [Without a hitch], SMOOTH AS SILK—hah! Because of Barry’s last name, commenters have long termed his themeless puzzles “smooth as silk.” Is this one, in fact, smooth as silk? I’d say that with the exception of a handful of entries (A LEG, ATTA, ORKAN, N-TEST, and the woeful ENNS-meets-BLONDELL), yes, it is. JAM-PACKS is a little weird (“jam-packed” is by far the most common form of the word), but I like JACK UP, CREDENZA-meets-KAZOO, JIGSAW, HELL’S KITCHEN, “OH, BEHAVE,” TONE-DEAF, and ROCK STAR, all good stuff.

I did not know 49a: [Austrian river], ENNS, and I did not know 39d: [Joan nominated for an Oscar in "The Blue Veil" (1951)], BLONDELL. Somehow I could only think of BLOODELL and BLODDELL as options, but of course ENOS and ENDS have much better clue options than an unfamiliar river. I probably lost a minute of time on that crossing alone.

I quibble with 38d: [Like some nurses], NEONATAL. No. You could have a fill-in-the-blank [___ nurse], but neonatal nurses are not newborns! No. They need a good bit of training, and they generally need to be taller than 21″ in order to be able to lift babies.

3.75 stars.

Patrick Blindauer’s website crossword, “This Puzzle is Rated ‘Arr!’”—Matt Gaffney’s review

patrickblindauer.com June crossword solution, "Arr!"

I had set aside two hours to solve and blog Patrick Blindauer’s June website puzzle. That might seem like a lot of time to allot, but if you did his April and May puzzles you’ll understand. They were so tricky and intricate that I approached this puzzle with extreme caution, determined to solve slow and not get “Blind-sided” too badly by whatever Patrick had conjured up. The “PDF only” warning didn’t help, since that telegraphs to the solver that whatever’s waiting involved a trick that Across Lite couldn’t handle.

But as I solved, the right words kept fitting in their spaces, and I realized eventually that Patrick was taking it relatively easy on us this month with a snappy but straightforward and not-too-tough workout. Hey, I can handle that!

Patrick instructs us to find a familiar four-word phrase. The puzzle is a rebus theme with a single (!) rebus square, a dot in the center of the grid that plays as the keyword SPOT:

  • 41a [Area of potential conflict] is a TROUBLE (SPOT)
  • 7d [Place for public hookups] is a WI-FI HOT(SPOT)

And then, starting at the SPOT itself:

  • 43a [Kind of British pudding] is the due-for-a-renaming (SPOT)TED DICK
  • 43d [Certain fusing process] is (SPOT) WELDING

So what four-word phrase does this theme evoke? The title is a big hint: “This Puzzle is Rated ‘Arr!’”  That’s a pirate phrase, and all those S’s dominating the two long diagonal seem to point right to the middle. You might even say they form an X…so let’s go with “X MARKS THE SPOT” as the meta answer. See solution for my artistically challenged rendering of the trick.

A bunch of subtly sly clues in this one, like [Secret target] for ODOR, [Coastal grain] for SAND, and [Killing time in Rome, once] for IDES. I also liked ["Advance ___ Fair"] for AUSTRALIA (which I didn’t know but I’m glad I do now).

There’s always something innovative in Patrick’s puzzles, and a one-square rebus hitting four entries must indeed be new territory. Interesting stuff, and the fact that it was on the easy side only makes me look forward to July’s puzzle that much more fearfully! See you in a month for that one.

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (in Stan’s less fearsome persona, Lester Ruff)

Newsday crossword solution, "Saturday Stumper" 6 2 12

The only answer I struggled with here was 18a: AA LARGE, [Egg specification]. Hang on while I run to the fridge … Okay, my Phil’s Eggs are Grade A large. I’ve seen extra-large, but I don’t know where these AA LARGE eggs are found. Will probably see them in the egg case next time I’m at the store.

I halfway struggled with 1a: [Paragon of penuriousness], SCROOGE. I don’t know why it wasn’t obvious to me, even when I had the SC from SCREAMS and CHEAPIE. Brain freeze. I suspect the puzzle was easier than “standard Saturday NYT level” for most of you.

I also had a couple brain meltdowns at 21d: [Its website has a Flag Education page]. I had the W in place from TWA, and put down … UAW. The auto workers’ union? What what? So I changed it to DAR and erased the T and A in TWA. Eventually I came back around to VFW. Speed solvers who place in the top 20 at the ACPT don’t normally have so many of these brain farts in a single not-too-tough puzzle.

It’s noon now, so I’ll skip a rundown of clues.

Four stars. Smooth, cleanly filled, crisply clued.

Peter Gordon’s The Week crossword for June 8, 2012—Jared’s review

The Week crossword solution, 6 8 12

Hi. I’m Jared and I’ll be blogging The Week’s crossword puzzle.

Why have I signed up for this?  I could give you some blather about wanting to bring more attention to a deserving puzzle or feed you some nonsense about contributing to the crossword community, but the real reason can be explained in one word:  groupies.

The Week is a (wait for it…) weekly magazine whose tagline is “All you need to know about everything that matters,” which sums it up nicely.

The magazine always has a crossword puzzle constructed by Peter Gordon whose copious seed entries are news-, current events-, and pop-culture-related.

The ballast fill is on the level (and quality) of an early-week NYT.

The only reason this puzzle hasn’t gotten more attention is because the only way to solve it is to print it out, but it is free even to non-subscribers so unless you don’t have a printer, you have no excuse.

To print the latest, go here, right-click to save the image to your desktop, open it from there, then print it. For me, (this may be computer/printer dependent) to get it to print on just one page I uncheck the option that says “fit picture to frame.” I know that sounds counterintuitive but it works for me and prints (almost) as nicely as a normal .pdf puzzle.

This week’s current-event entries:

  • 9a. [Author of the 2012 book The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson] is Robert CARO. Caro has a thing or two to say about Johnson; he’s now up to 3,000 pages on LBJ.
  • 21a. [One of the Bee Gees] was ROBIN GIBB until his recent death. My favorite Robin Gibb song is “Trash,” a song in the persona of Oscar the Grouch on the album Sesame Street Fever.
  • 36a.  [Hoopster who recently earned a doctoral degree from Barry University] is SHAQ. The thesis for his Ed.D is titled The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Style. This sounds made up, which, ironically, is how you know it’s a real thesis in the humanities.
  • 37a. [2012 American Idol Winner] is PHILIP PHILLIPS.  Looks like a theme entry for a traditional crossword.  I personally haven’t watched American Idol since the Ruben Studdard/Clay Aiken season. My wife Nicole and I much prefer America’s Got Talent. In case you were wondering, Nicole still cries herself to sleep most nights over the cancellation (no, sweetheart, not hiatus) of “Fill Me In.”
  • 54a/57a. [Mark Zuckerberg’s new wife] is PRISCILLA CHAN. Note Zuckerberg’s strategic marrying of Priscilla right after going public so that she’d have no claim on his wealth acquired pre-marriage. Though if Facebook’s stock keeps dropping like it has been, there won’t be anything to claim anyway. Look for them at a soup kitchen near you.
  • 2d/52d. [Star Trek actor whose ashes were sent up on a rocket by the company 48d] is DOOHAN, JAMES, who was sent up by SPACEX. See, this is the sort of thing you can learn in The Week’s puzzle, which is one reason I’m a fan.
  • 11d.  [Actress AnnaSophia who will play Carrie Bradshaw in the upcoming prequel series to Sex and the City called The Carrie Diaries] is ROBB. Is this an example of a spin-on?
  • 15d. [What stuntman Gary Connery wore when he recently jumped from 2,400 feet and landed safely without deploying a parachute] is a WINGSUIT, which basically turns a person into a bird.

Other:

  • 25a.  [End-of-week cry] - TGIF. As a professor on summer break, I don’t really care what day of the week it is.
  • 44a. [Got fed up?] – ATE. Kind of a stretch, but cute, I guess.
  • 47a.  [Say Yes to the _____] – DRESS. No.
  • 9d. [Jerry Brown is its gov.] – CALIF.  Again.
  • 31d. [Navigation aid] – MAP. Three-letter navigation aid?  Apparently it’s a sign of the times that at first I had GPS written in and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what else it could be.
  • 37d. [Arroz con pollo ingredient]PEA. Either I’m overly literal or just very poorly educated when it comes to Mexican cuisine but I didn’t know it contained anything other than rice and chicken.

See you next week.

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32 Responses to Saturday, 6/2/12

  1. Erik says:

    barry, i know you put 33-across in your puzzle just to invite the comparison. you sly dog. what a smooth solve.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I zipped through the NYT as never before, wow! Crosses worked everywhere, but I was most intrigued with MOSSY — it sounds a bit too affectionate for these strident times! Does one use it these days?

  3. Daniel Myers says:

    ArtLvr,

    The OED lists MOSSY, in the sense clued, as “U.S. Slang” last citation 1942. This seems a good spot to highlight the limitations of this new favourite reference tool which gives no indication of the sense in which the word is being used. So, I’m afraid I’ve no idea, ArtLvr, but jolly interesting question, and fun, breezy puzzle.

  4. ktd says:

    I tried ihm before getting ihn. Declensions! (shakes fist)

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks, Daniel — I found MOSSY with a google, just a third definition: “old-fashioned”… I think it’s related to Definition of MOSSBACK. 1. : a large sluggish fish (as a largemouth bass). 2. : an extremely old-fashioned or reactionary person : fogy.

  6. David L says:

    “produced some pitches” should be SANG, not SUNG, shouldn’t it?

  7. Martin says:

    I’ve always loved “mossy” as an evocative way of saying “old-fashioned” or “unfashionable” — ideas so undisturbed that they’ve gathered moss. I’m surprised that this is an Americanism.

    There’s nothing good about an ABEND to old programmers. It was the way an IBM 360 job terminated abnormally because you had a bug.

  8. Martin says:

    @David L.,

    Either could be clued the same way. “He had produced some pitches./He had sung.”

  9. David L says:

    @Martin: I thought of that. It seems kind of … cheaty. Oh well.

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    ArtLvr,

    LOL-The OED has MOSSBACK, in sense 2 above (2.b. in OED) as “Chiefly North American”, but last citation 1973! Also, “Often applied to the farmers of the Western States.” is in the definition.

  11. Martin says:

    Daniel,

    An old last citation date doesn’t mean that a sense is no longer de rigeur. It means that the meaning hasn’t changed since then. Citations are not normally added for stable senses so you really can’t tell whether a word is itself mossy from the OED (until it becomes obs or such). First citations are important. Last citations not so much.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    I don’t disagree with anything above, but I think you miss my point, Martin. I was trying to address ArtLvr’s question of whether the word is still in use and was emphasizing the NEWNESS of 1973 as compared w. 1942. Anyway, I’ve got to run and won’t have access to the OED and will only be able to access the blog through my mobile.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

  13. Martin says:

    Daniel,

    Got it.

  14. loren smith says:

    David L – I had “sang” first, too. SUNG absolutely works, though. Funny how reluctant people are to use SUNG, DRUNK, RUNG, SWUM. My very bright daughter says things like, “I haven’t dranken any milk today.” Then I slowly turn around and give her “the look.” She smiles and says, “Drunk.” A lot of irregular past participles seem to be disappearing. Does anyone say “swept” or “dreamt” anymore?

    MOSSY = conservative. Who’d a thunk it?

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Loren: Crossword constructor Vic Fleming is also a judge in traffic court, where he rules on many DUI/DWI cases. In that milieu, people are especially reluctant to use the verb form “drunk.” Lots of “I had drank two beers.” Is it the overall discomfort with the irregular verbs that change from !-A-U, or an aversion to anything that would suggest they were drunk?

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I absolutely loved today’s puzzles, so I skewed the early election returns to the up side. I sometimes wonder if my wild rating swings are as much a function of the puzzles as they are of either my success with the puzzles, or the possibility that I’m becoming bipolar. :-) At any rate, I soared thro the NYT, from bottom to top, like inflating a balloon. One of the rare puzzles where I’d be happy to hoist my time on a pennant, especially given the “par” times. I too started momentarily with “yes indeed”, but I lucked out by starting with ‘sris’ rather than ‘agas’ for 1d, especially since 2, 3, 4 & 6 down were gimmes, so the consonants looked better than the vowels, and I quickly got 15a. But “There’s no comparison” sounds much more idiomatic to me than “it’s no comparison”.

    Also loved Barry’s and good ole Lester’s. 33a of the LAT caused me also to smile broadly.

    I wonder if Ed Asner realizes that the entire crossword puzzle industry would probably need a government bailout but for him. He probably should ask for a cut.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    P.S. There are some conservative spots of sidewalk near my house.

  18. Bruce N. Morton says:

    ktd,

    not to be confused with ‘ihr’, which, if my memory plus dormant intuitions have not totally failed me, is both 2nd person plural nominative, and 3rd person, feminine dative and possessive.

  19. loren smith says:

    @Amy – I’ve wondered the exact same thing on “drunk,” but it’s been my experience that people are just as reluctant to use “swum” and “rung.” And while we’re on Usage Reluctance Stuff – America is terrified of saying, “John and me.” No matter how odd, people insist on saying “John and I.” Hence the ubiquitous “Just between you and I. . .” I actually heard someone say on TV last week, “She talked to he and I about that.” Gotta stop watching The Real Housewives gems.

  20. Bruce N. Morton says:

    loren,

    To get your Jock Card to appear as a color commentator on ESPN, you are absolutely *required* to say “between he and I.” Also, whenever a pass is completed you are required to say “The receiver ran a great ROUT and made the KETCH.”

  21. Martin says:

    The ASTER clue in the Newsday (“Member of the sunflower family”) is fine if a bit mossy. That family is the Asteraceae, more properly called the aster family. Before plant taxonomy was regularized to normally name a family for a type genus, the family was the Compositae, sometimes referrred to as the “sunflower family.” But the proper term today is Asteraceae, which is not a great clue for ASTER.

  22. loren smith says:

    Bruce – My son played AAU basketball, and a letter or mass email or something went out with details on a tournament, including that all coaches should wear collard shirts.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Loren: The green ones always look nice when freshly pressed, but they do tend to wilt.

  24. Dan F says:

    I love the “The Week” puzzles, but after the first year I couldn’t be bothered to go to the trouble of printing them out. Oh, for a .puz! I do highly recommend them as easy, educational, and of a higher quality fill-wise than early-week NYT, because that’s how Peter Gordon rolls. Jared, another reason this is a great gig for you is that blogging increases your puzzle skills faster than merely solving. Right, Sam?

  25. Bob Bruesch says:

    When I can’t get even one word in a puzzle (LAT) who’s the moron – the puzzle solver or the puzzle constructor???

  26. Gareth says:

    Both LAT and NYT were above average today IMO. LAT had HELLSKITCHEN plus a slew of high-end letters, all used to good effect.

    I often find triple triple stacks to be among the less entertaining themeless puzzles, but all 15s were at least average with some, ahem, gems; IDOINDEED was creative (I clung to YES… for quite a while!) and the short answers didn’t really offend either! In other words: Amy’s first short paragraph!

  27. John Haber says:

    I had all those mistakes up top, with aga, yes, ihr, fra, and etds. Between that, not knowing Fay Wray’s part or Hodges, not getting the PUP joke, and never ever likely to think of the dessert, the top was a real killer for me compared to the rest. I guess I’m not complaining though, with three decent stacks.

    Surprised no one mentioned Ben Gunn, which I’m about to surf the Web for, although those literary initials are common enough in crosswords to be easy.

  28. Sam Donaldson says:

    @Dan F (and, thus, Jared): Very true–I think blogging has helped me be a better solver and a better constructor. But Jared’s right–it’s all about the groupies.

  29. Jeffrey says:

    Welcome Jared. Your Fiend number is 24.

    Actually, I blog for the money.

  30. Gareth says:

    I am not a number! I am a free man! (especially appropriate with ITTAKESAVILLAGE in the nyt answer grid). Welcome Jared! Enjoyed your review though I didn’t solve the The Week.

  31. Jared says:

    Jeffrey, do please explain “Fiend number”.

  32. Jeffrey says:

    Fiend number is a term I invented today. It is a ripoff, uh, homage of Jim Horne’s Shortz number, which he gives to each constructor in order of their first appearance in the Shortz-era of the New York Times. You are the 24th person to blog on the Fiend.

    Although maybe you should get 23 since Garth is not a number.

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