Saturday, 7/7/12

Newsday 8:21 
NYT 6:07 
LAT 4:54 
CS 4:58 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) tba 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 7 12 0707

Two consecutive Saturday NYTs by the same constructor is a little weird to see, right? I really did not find the wavelength in this puzzle. All sorts of things just looking foreign to me. Like 23d, [1982 Donald Fagen hit subtitled "What a Beautiful World"]. I.G.Y.?? What the…? I was a big consumer of pop and rock in 1982 and this thing, I’ve never heard of it. Ever. Just sort of an alienating experience. We’ve been talking a lot the last few days here about (pop) culture and individual wheelhouses, and this puzzle mostly eluded me.

Mind you, there was a gimme that let me break into the grid. That was 16a: [Title bandit in a Verdi work], ERNANI. And I know this exclusively from crosswords, so it’s less fun to fill it in.

Before I go all ranty, let me outline what I liked just fine:

  • 1a. [If ya get what I mean...], WINK, WINK, nudge, nudge. Didn’t quite read the clue and had trouble finding the answer, but when the crossings put it together for me, I liked seeing it.
  • 27a. AS GOOD AS GOLD, but not as good as platinum.
  • 42a. [1980s gangster sobriquet], THE TEFLON DON. Not, as it appears in the grid, The Tef London. Love the word “sobriquet.” As in “Kingsford is a charcoal sobriquet.”
  • 56a. OLD NORSE! I’m fond of English words with Old Norse roots. Here’s a list of them. The sleuth went berserk and ransacked his client’s house. Awkward!
  • 61a. Cute clue. [Complement from the chef?] is a SIDE DISH. Whereas a compliment from the chef is “Hey, baby, you’re looking fi-i-ine tonight.”
  • 30d. WUSHU! [Chinese martial arts, collectively] is what that means. Good, because I’ve been wondering every time I drive past that Chicago Wushu joint. See? Crosswords really are educational.
  • 57d. DUD is [One not going out with a bang?], as in a firecracker that refuses to blow up. Really, isn’t that a gift? Those yahoos in San Diego who ruined the fireworks show this week by igniting three barges’ worth of pyrotechnics in a matter of seconds could have used a few DUDs to interrupt their big “oops.”

There were, alas, more entries in the debit column. I’ve never said “IT’S A NO-GO” (17a). STERE (41a) and TESLAS (43d) deliver one more Unit I’ve Never Used in Real Life than I like to see in a single puzzle (or maybe two). ISTLE (2d: [Agave fiber]) is hardcore crosswordese. Burn that stuff in your ingle, yo. ISTLE makes APSES (49d) look fresh as a daisy. KNOWS ONE’S ONIONS (8d) is one of those phrases I’ve never heard anyone say and never read in a book. ENA (13a: [Disney doe]), meh. I wish S.DAK. (26d) would go away; we all just use “S.D.” or “SD,” let’s be real. This LENS HOOD (37d: [Preventer of photographic glare])? Never heard of this thing and I can’t say it sounds particularly exciting.

I’ll be adapting this post for the Rex Parker Is On Vacation So I Do the NY Times Crossword Puzzle blog. I’ll have to embed at least one music video but you know what? It won’t be the Fagen song about the International Geophysical Year. I was listening to it while writing this post but it did nothing for me except irk me while it was playing.

Three stars. I was looking for more fun out of my Saturday puzzle than this one delivered to me.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bummer!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 7

The first word in each of the four longest Across entries can follow “bum” to form a common two-word expression:

  • 17-Across: An [Informal discussion] is a RAP SESSION. To get a bum rap is to receive unfair punishment. “Rap” is one shorthand term for “punishment.” Those who dislike rap music might therefore feel it is properly named.
  • 29-Across: The [Game show hosted by Howie Mandel] is DEAL OR NO DEAL. To get a bum deal is to be on the poor end of a negotiation.
  • 49-Across: To [Avoid] is to STEER CLEAR OF. To give someone the bum steer is to supply that person with inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise misleading information.
  • 64-Across: The [Accessories for a ballerina] are LEG WARMERS. One with a limp might be said to have a bum leg.

One might say a theme based on “bum” is scraping the bottom. But only an ass would be so dismissive. Sure, the “words that can follow a common word” gimmick may be behind the times, but this one was well done. I like that the “bum” pairings come at the front of each theme entry instead of the rear end. The fill was likewise cheeky, with GET REAL, MOXIE, and the comic [Top-grossing film of 1990], HOME ALONE. One might think it would be bad to have two towns from the same state in one grid (LAREDO and WACO, TEXAS), but this puzzle shows it can be done well through clever clues (the former is clued as the [1960s TV western]). I struggled with CHILI’S as the [Restaurant chain that offers a Big Mouth Burger]. Have you seen the buns on that thing?

Fannie Flagg says the Big Mouth Murger will knock you on your keester

(I wanted to work one more synonym for “bum” in that last paragraph, but the grid beat me to it: the [Stock exchange membership] is a SEAT.)

I like that the grid had six-letter entries along the top and bottom rows. That required having three-letter entries in the corners, and when I construct a crossword I sometimes feel like it’s poor form to have a three-letter entry at 1-Across. More often I chicken out and go for a four-, five-, or six-letter entry at 1-Across. I’m glad Randy stuck with his design here because the sixes were a nice touch. (Note, though, that the three-letter entry at 1-Across, G.O.P., is snazzily dressed with the great clue, [Org. whose members like to see red?]. If you’re gonna place a three-letter entry at 1-Across, a good clue really helps.)

Favorite entry = S.O.S PAD, the [Kitchen sink scrubber]. Ever notice that the brand name uses only two periods and not three? I wonder if it’s a plural. Maybe it stands for “Significant Others Pad.” Okay, clearly I need to get out more.

Favorite clue = [Manhattan resident] for KANSAN. I fell for that trick and I’ve been to Manhattan, Kansas!

Vic Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 7 7 12

Ambitious corners here, with the 8s stacked four deep and connecting to the 15-letter 8-Down, which I liked but feel is missing a word at the end, possibly an anagram of the last word in I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS ([Frustrated cry from an experienced pro]). I like SEMPER FI at the top of the northwest stack feeding directly into 9a: OH BABY, ['90s-'00s Lifetime sitcom in which viewers chose the name of the title character]. Not that this TV show means anything to me (and the clue stretches the meaning of “-’00s” as the show stopped airing on Lifetime about two months into the decade), but “Semper fi, oh, baby!” works so implausibly, I like it.

Two of the names in the grid are not your usual suspects in Crosswordland:

  • 4d. [In-your-face '50s-'60s talk show host Joe] PYNE.
  • 7d. [Hall of Fame Chargers quarterback Dan] FOUTS.

I do think, however, that I know both of these names primarily from crosswords.

Ten things:

  • 23a. [Adjective often used with skepticism], LIKELY. Went with “Oh, REALLY?” first, then considered “SURELY you’re not serious?” “A LIKELY story” wins.
  • 33a. [Its production ended in 2004 with a Final 500 Edition], ALERO. Aww. I was hoping this was a game and not an Oldsmobile.
  • 41a. [Mum], MATER. The British seem to like this Latinism. Surely Daniel Myers will have a comment on this (if he does the LAT puzzles).
  • 43a. [Pi opening?], OCTO. As in “octopi,” which plenty of people will tell you is not a valid plural of octopus, but I think it has snuck into some dictionaries anyway.
  • 12d. [Meditation goal], ALPHA STATE. Needed a good number of crossings to get this.
  • 23d. LADY’S [__ man]. Looks wrong to me but the dictionary’s got it as a variant of “ladies’ man.”
  • 34d. T-shirt, polo shirt, leggings, sweatpants, sweater, [Golf shirt, e.g.], KNIT. As opposed to clothes made from woven fabric (jeans, chinos, Oxford shirts, blouses, etc.).
  • 44d. [Rabbit ears sporter, once], TEEVEE. If you’re going to spell it out rather than using “TV,” you are required to use a definite article. As in “What’s on the teevee tonight?”
  • 52d. ["Just a coupla __"] SECS. Clue and entry feel a bit sketchy to me. Do you use the shorthand for “second” in the plural?
  • 56d. [R. Schumann wrote four], SYMS. Symphonies. The Syms chain of cut-price clothing stores went out of business, and there are actually two semi-famous people named Sylvia SYMS (American jazz singer, British actress). [Singer Sylvia or actress Sylvia] would be a bizarre clue. Now, [Singer Sylvia and actress Sylvia] would get you SYMSES. All this is a roundabout way of saying SYMS isn’t a terrific entry and furthermore, I’m not a fan of plural abbrevs.

3.25 stars.

Peter Wentz’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 7 7 12 "Saturday Stumper" Wentz

Good Stumper experience for me: Skimmed the Across clues and got nothing before 22a ([Cube root of "ventisette"], TRE, or 27 and 3). Scrolled through more Across clues and finally hit on 45a: X-MAN ([Any of 40+ comics mutants]) and 49a: SHIN ([Guarded area in soccer]). Those three answers were enough to start working crossings and making headway through three quarters of the grid. And then … I skidded to a halt in the southwest corner. Basically had a blank 3×4 patch occupying squares 36, 37, and 38 plus the three rows below those squares:

  • 36a. [Nimble], ***LIKE. ELFLIKE? No… Left the first three blank for an eon.
  • 44a. [#4 name in Senate seniority], ***IN. Could be a first or last name. Who the heck is in the Senate? Was thinking “seniority” meant “power” rather than “length of tenure,” which held me back.
  • 48a. ["Showtime!"], ***N. Put I’M ON in and took it out before finally getting it back in there.
  • 51a. [Saul Bellow taught there], ***. Eventually put a U in the last square.
  • 36d. [Washer attachment, at times], ****BOX. Wha…? Unclear whether this is the little piece of hardware or the big laundry appliance.
  • 37d. [Long-legged predator], ****ANT. FIRE ANT looks bad with 36a.
  • 38d. [Make an extra effort], ****BLE. Wha…? With the U in place, I wanted REDOUBLE but that’s one letter too long.

Eventually I gambled on CATLIKE for 36a, which gave me an A for ARMY ANT at 37d. That confirmed I’M ON and finally let me see TROUBLE for 38d (as in “don’t trouble yourself on my account, I’m low-maintenance”). With the bug’s Y, I guessed NYU for Bellow, and a laundromat’s COIN BOX on the washing machine emerged and then ORRIN Hatch crawled out of the washer. Whew!

NYT crossword Keeper of a Zillion Stats Jim Horne noted yesterday that Peter’s NYT puzzles are markedly more Scrabbly than anyone else’s. You see that uncommon-letter proclivity here, with a Q, a J, seven K’s, and three X’s.

Favorite bits:

  • 1a. [Decorum], P’S AND Q’S.
  • 32a. [Bit], SMIDGEN. I always like the word SMIDGEN.
  • 57a. [Piece of bread], SILENT A.
  • 62a. [The ultimate pan], NO STARS. This puzzle will get more than that.
  • 12d. [It may involve striking out], EDITING.
  • 13d. [Result of cabin fever?], AIR RAGE. Cabin in an airplane, not in the woods.
  • 26d. [Miss Universe 2004 judge], BO DEREK. Who knew? Nice to see a semi-contemporary clue for her. I bet a ton of under-35 folks assume BO DEREK is a man when they encounter the name.
  • 28d. [Certain kit, after aging], MINK. Kit as in young fox or young mink, apparently.
  • 31d. [Dieter's denial], NEIN, and 53d. [Dieter's alternative], LIPO. The first one is a German fellow named Dieter (pronounced “dee-ter”) and the second is a person who diets.
  • 43d. [Bars with fingers] is a vague clue, no? Iron bars, taverns, bars of music? Nope, candy bars: KIT-KATS. One of my favorites.
  • 50d. [Winner of eight Grand Slam titles as a teen], SELES. Isn’t that impressive? The Wimbledon women’s final is maybe on rain delay right now; I haven’t checked back yet.

I also like STRIDEX, FAJITAS, and KREMLIN. (Has anyone ever strung those particular words together before?)

4.5 stars in recognition of the Scrabbliness and the tough (but fair) challenge. And usually I’m not a fan of the puzzles that are packed with 7s—turns out I like them better when there are lots of juicy 7s in the mix.

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31 Responses to Saturday, 7/7/12

  1. Jan says:

    I was going along fairly well until I hit the middle left. I ended up with GUTS for “extrudes” rather than JUTS. I think of JUTS as being when something just sticks out, where extrudes is something that is being squeezed out, like rotini in a pasta factory, or sausage, hence guts. (Not that I thought that was a great answer.) I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the ONIONS phrase, but it sounds like something Aunt Bee might have said.

  2. Ah, well…continuing Thursday’s comment thread, different strokes. My best friend and I met as high schoolers in S.DAK. 29 years ago because we both loved I.G.Y. And Python, WINK WINK. Say no more.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    IGY was my gimmie and ERNANI the last entry. Would have been a good team puzzle.

  4. Jason F says:

    I hope I am not the only person who fell into the WACKO/IGO trap. That was a little mean, but hey, it’s Saturday.

  5. Jan says:

    No, Jason, you’re not!

  6. Jeffrey says:

    I.G.Y. was nominated for Song of the Year Grammy along with Ebony and Ivory, Roseanna, Eye of the Tiger, and the winner, Always On My Mind. Wow. That’s a whole other blog right there.

  7. Howard B says:

    Shortz only knows where I pulled IGY from. A bit too lite-rock for me personally. Howard Jones recorded a straight cover of it sometime in the 1980s. Wow, obscure knowledge pays off.
    Struggly experience on this one, good challenge with some off-kiltery killer filler. The KNOWS ONES ONIONS phrase I’ve only seen in crosswords (often stacked 15s) before, nowhere else. Seems like an apropos phrase for maybe a sous-chef, but not otherwise. Colorful, though.

    Mr. Croce makes some interestingly odd themelesses, no? I do sort of like being kept off-balance a bit.

  8. larry says:

    I thought IGY must stand for “I Got You” but Sonny Bono had dibs on that line. Wikipedia says it means “international geophysical year”, to which I say: “yeah, but why in a love song?”

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    I.G.Y. was nominated for Song of the Year Grammy along with Ebony and Ivory, Roseanna, Eye of the Tiger, and the winner, Always On My Mind.

    Huh. I was 19 years old in 1982, and I have no recollection of a song called “I.G.Y.”. (Had the WACKO/I GO error.)

    UPDATE: I’m listening to it on YouTube now. Okay, I remember it as being very forgettable.

    Not a Steely Dan fan, here. Sorry, BEQ! :-)

  10. Andy says:

    Was stuck with IGO crossing WACKO for about three minutes. Otherwise a breezy Saturday for me.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    I started with THE TEFLON DON, completed the bottom half with the help of the NEUROSES – thanks to the PBS special on Woody Allen last night! The top half went a bit more slowly, but I got it in the end after changing BACKPACK to KNAPSACK! Agree with comments above: clue Protrudes would have been more exact than Extrudes for JUTS. Just sayin’.

  12. Yves L. says:

    Spork,

    Kind of a sad commentary on the dismal state of music in that era. If those lousy songs were deemed worthy of Grammy consideration, imagine how bad the non-contenders had to be….

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, I particularly enjoyed your NYT review today. Welcome to the Wonderful World of alienating experiences. When I see clues like “Donald Fagin”, at this point I just tune them out and hope for the crosses. What slowed me up was not Junky, but rather 9d “decimal”. For some reason the only thing I could think of, with almost all the letters was “recital” which didn’t make much sense, but I figured that if you were reciting something, there must be some point to it.

    Ernani is hardly top shelf Verdi, but one claim to fame is that it is based on a Victor Hugo play. It has a couple rousing duets, and a suitably preposterous, madcap opera plot involving duels, cabals, revenge, mistaken identity, a princess or two, suicide pacts, etc.

    No blog on the Stumper yet, by Peter Wentz, so I won’t spoil except to say that I did manage to finish without cheating, but tough, tough — and some stuff that’s almost over the top in terms of weird cluing, and at least one entry I don’t understand at all. Not bad, but not my favorite. SE (and the whole south) hardest for me.

  14. Gareth says:

    Changed EGO to IGO to IGY before Mr. HP turned up… “Ego (What a Beautiful World)” Sounded just fine as a song title and I thought en sum could be Latin. WINKWINK was an especially beautiful answer!

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    I remember that album The Nightfly (on which, I.G.Y), as it was one of my friend’s favourites. It bequeathed to us this very romanticised picture of what growing up in America in the 50′s, as Donald Fagen did, was like. Easy, breezy Saturday.

    PS- His tastes were very eclectic, and he also introduced me to Kate Bush and King Crimson, which stuck. I’d almost forgotten The Nightfly.

  16. Mike says:

    I had the WACKO/IGO error as well. Love Steely Dan but not this much. Overall I liked the various directions this puzzle went, but it had its share of crosswordese.

  17. animalheart says:

    WACKO/IGO for me, too (but that should surprise no one). Did you know that modern Icelandic is very close to OLD NORSE? So I was told. Loved THETEFLONDON, though it took me some time. SETS and POPS were diabolically clued, so for a time I had NETS (a b-ball player shoots for it) and POIS (not exactly “light fare,” but at least it was something to eat). Good Saturday puzzle, I thought.

  18. George Barany says:

    Count me among those who likes to see a Verdi opera in a grid — start with AIDA (4 letters, the “A” in the ABC of opera) and graduate to ERNANI (based on Victor Hugo’s “Hernani”) and OTELLO ((based on Shakespeare’s “Othello”). These operas are full of glorious melodies, and are performed regularly in the great houses of the western world. In his day, Guiseppe Verdi (“Joe Green” in English) was every bit as famous as today’s … (help me out here) … Elton John (who provided music for a Disney-fication of the Aida story), Bono, Lady Gaga … (stop me before I further expose my limited familiarity with “pop” culture). Try listening to some Verdi beyond learning it from the crosswords — it is far more rewarding than memorizing little three-letter words (D’OR, ERI and ORY are three that come to mind immediately) that are traditionally clued as partials from operatic arias or truly obscure opera titles.

  19. Erik says:

    “it’s like i said in my non-hit comedy ‘criuse boat.’ i’m getting too old for this ship!” – tracy jordan

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teflon_Don_(album)

  20. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I wonder if anyone else ever indulges in this particular bit of crossword solving stupidity. (Perhaps the fact that I cannot solve online, and always print out the puzzles is a contributing factor here.)

    The entry I said I didn’t get *at all* in the Stumper was 60a {Offensive} cluing “Open Net.” But WAIT A MINUTE. (Actually I had to wait several hours.) The actual clue was {Offensive [go to top of next column] opportunity on ice}, which made the clue a gimme rather than an impossibility. Since the SE was by far the hardest area for me, I’m convinced that getting those free 7 letters, in place of a complete blank, would have caused my time to plummet.

    If anyone has a dumber crossword experience I’d like to hear it, but for now, I’m getting in touch with the Guinness Book of World Records.

  21. Howard B says:

    Bruce, I have also scanned and re-scanned a clue *one below* the correct clue in the list for a partially-filled answer, and wondered aloud why I could not make any mental connection to solve.
    After recalibrating my vision a bit and seeing that maybe I should have read 31-Down instead of 29-Down, things generally made more sense. This has happened more than once, more often online than on paper.

  22. Huda says:

    Well, ACE IN THE HOLE fits in the same space as AS GOOD AS GOLD, and shares a few correctly placed letters with it. This is but one example of my many mishaps today. That ONIONS expression I think has a French equivalent, which I could look up, but I need a CATNAP. My own views about onions can be summed up as: Vidalia whenever possible..
    The WACKY/JUNKY pile up may be my favorite corner, otherwise not on my wavelength.

  23. DocHank says:

    Sympathies, Bruce. I too found this Stumper more than living up to its name – lots of head-scratching, Googling, and finally in exasperation, Amy’s grid. I didn’t care for ORRIN as the 44A “#4 name in the Senate,” as the individuals’ names are ephemeral, and it seemed much more logical that it refer to a permanent position, e.g. “Whip,” “Speaker,” “Moron,” et al. In this modern aviation age where “CRM” (Crew Resource Management) has calmed down the cockpits, I doubt the airlines would buy “AIR RAGE” for 13D “cabin fever.”

  24. John Haber says:

    Glad there are others for whom Steely Dan was too light (or maybe lite, given the commercial gloss). Maybe that’s why I didn’t remember the title of IGY either, but I got it. I had trouble getting started but probably made a faster time overall than usual, with the NE my last too fall.

    I enjoyed that it depended on thinking, as with the clues for SET and DEALER, both of which fooled me for a long time. I, too, liked WINK WINK (and was slow to fill anything there, as after all “hint hint” might work, too). One thing: I don’t understand POPS.

  25. john farmer says:

    I enjoyed the crossing 15s in Vic’s puzzle today. The Brit use of MATER is legit, but I know someone who’d like to see it clued as the tow truck in “Cars.”

  26. Martin says:

    MATER is legit, but it’s very old-fashioned.

    MAS

  27. Daniel Myers says:

    Why does everyone keep invoking Steely Dan in re IGY? Again, it was – for better or for worse – the sole creation of Donald Fagen on his first solo LP, Nightfly. It has a very different sound to Steely Dan.

  28. Daniel — Not all that different a sound from Gaucho, the final classic-era Steely Dan album recorded just a year before. Because of the influence of Gaucho’s musical chops, in fact, I listened to both IGY and New Frontier repeatedly during my sophomore year in high school.

  29. Daniel Myers says:

    Brent,

    I must needs take your word for it, never having listened to Gaucho. I was thinking of old school Steely Dan – “Any Major Dude” “Dirty Work” “Deacon Blues” etc. – Ah well, the key word is survival on the new frontier.

  30. Jared says:

    Sam – well done.

  31. bonekrusher says:

    I really enjoyed this NYT because of the numerous red herrings in it.

    “Person in upper sales?” could have been PUSHER, which suggests that “Jeep Alternative” could be HONDAsomething

    “Orthodontist’s concern” could have been GUM. Well, maybe…

    As already mentioned the “WACKO/IGO” cross instead of “WACKY/IGY”

    fun, deceptive stuff

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