Saturday, 8/11/12

Newsday 11:13 
NYT 4:49 
LAT 4:11 
CS 6:16 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) tba 

Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 11 12 0811

This 70-worder is terrific, isn’t it? The worst things in the grid are partial OR ME, the ALERO, and EMAG. The other 67 answers range from solid to great. I like all four of the 8- or 9-stacks. CREEPSHOW, HEDGE MAZE, ALMODOVAR? Beautiful, with smooth crossings. FESTIVUS between two solid words. The CAPYBARA, our [Largest living rodent]; if there used to be larger rodents, is anyone sad that they went extinct? NEFERTITI‘s TRAUMATIC HORSE RACE, also good. Reggae hit ONE LOVE, a WEREWOLF, two King Lear characters (EDMUND, REGAN), cute XOXO, Scrabbly answers all around, slangy NO DICE, END RUN.

And the clues! I like the cluing here, angling towards contemporary slanginess. Seven highlights:

  • 52a. [Apiphobe's bane], BEES. The prefix is helpful, and the clue takes a fresh tack.
  • 56a. [Save one's breath, maybe?], NOD. Are you shaking your head? Or clapping?
  • 1d. [Political challenger's promise], CHANGE. When you run against the incumbent who ran on a platform of change, what do you promise?
  • 6d. [Really hot], SMOKING. Slangily, not thermally. See also 33d: [Stylish, in slang], FLY.
  • 9d. [One on a lunar calendar?], WEREWOLF. High on the YIN (47a. [Moon in Chinese]).
  • 21d. [Gender-ambiguous name], DANA. Constructor Dana Motley—man or woman?
  • 36d. [Primitive], STONE-AGE. We’re going adjective here, not the noun phrase.

Okay, how about 42a: [Figure of speech?], PHONEME? It’s one word rather than “PHONE ME.” I think. Yes? No?

4.33 stars.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 11 12

I liked this puzzle okay but I didn’t love it. I can’t even find an angle for this review. On the plus side, no truly grievous fill. On the down side, nothing that excited me, either. I like the SNOW SQUALL (who doesn’t love a good [Whiteout cause]?) and I like the PSEUDONYM clue (32d. [Ellis Bell, to Emily Brontë]) because I recently saw the Kate Beaton cartoon “Dude Watchin’ With the Brontës” and loved it. But then you have the flat affect of LANATE/[Woolly] crossing OARLESS/[Like a motorboat], and the is-that-really-a-name MUMY (63a. ["Lost in Space" child actor Billy]), and a lot of stuff that strikes me as more or less just there. I’m feeling mehness.

Best clues:

  • 21a. [Good location for a fault finder?], WEST COAST. Earthquake!
  • 41a. [Dances in the end zone, maybe], GLOATS. Several World Cup quadrennials ago, I read a description of a South American player’s goal-celebrating gloat as a “salacious hip-wiggling dance.” Has any better phrase ever been coined? It’s useful in so many settings, I tell you.
  • 9d. [Party whose name means "renaissance" in Arabic], BA’ATH. I wish they had a Bubble subdivision.
  • 54d. [Where to get a date], PALM. Palm tree, not hairy palm.

Three stars. Maybe 2.95.

Updated Saturday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fast Food” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 11

In the spirit of this puzzle’s theme, let’s keep it brief. The grid features four two-word food items that start with a word synonymous with “fast:”

  • 20-Across: INSTANT RAMEN is a [Noodle soup option]. Does anyone make “non-instant” ramen anymore?
  • 35-Across: SHORT RIBS refers to the [Beef cut that contains a series of bones]. If you have another cut with a series of bones, you might well have a bad butcher.
  • 41-Across: QUICK OATS are some [Microwave pooridge ingredients]. I believe the only other ingredients are sugar, water, and, depending on where you got them, various chemical additions.
  • 54-Across: HASTY PUDDING isn’t just a Harvard revue; it’s also a fancy name for the decidedly unfancy [Cornmeal mush].

We could go on AD INFINITUM about all the goodies in the grid, but let’s stick to the top three:

(1) GRASS STAINS! Those consecutive S’s look really funky, but the [Prototypical laundry challenges] make for a great crossword entry.

(2) VIXEN, the [Reindeer name rhymed with Blitzen in "A Visit from St. Nicholas"]. Old-school Simpsons fans know what I mean when I say I wanted this one to be DONNA DIXON. (Bonus points for the clue–visions of deja vu were dancing in my head as I read the clue for 22-Down, ["A Visit from St. Nicholas" poet Clement Clarke] MOORE.)

(3) Inner Beavis still can’t read the clue for TASER, [Pulsing pronged peacekeeper], without cracking up.

Time for today’s entry in Name Than Constructor Month. Earlier this week we had a grid containing every letter of the alphabet and I bet the farm (well, my first guess) that the puzzle was by Patrick Jordan. Have I learned my lesson not to be so hasty? Nope. I’ll go with these guesses:

1. Patrick Jordan.  2. Gail Grabowski.  3. Ray Hamel.

Dang it!! I swear I started to type Tony’s name as the third choice. But then I thought, “No, I have been guessing him almost every day and it’s starting to look lazy.” Alas, close doesn’t count in Name That Constructor.

Name That Constructor Stats After 11 Puzzles: 2 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 11 points total so far; score to beat = 15.5 points.

Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 8 11 12 “Saturday Stumper”

This puzzle beat me up. Nothing in the top half yielded quickly, save for 31a: SPIELS (which I soon erased because nothing was working in that area). The lower right quadrant wasn’t so hard, but the other three quarters of the puzzle really worked me over.

I…gotta run. My morning schedule just got interrupted, so I’ll post the grid and will be back later to talk about all those deadly clues that turned out to be fair play (just really difficult play). Four stars.

Okay, I’m back. You want to know which clues stumped me? It was most of them. Here are some of the vexing (but ultimately fair) clues:

  • 11a. [Group signed by Polar Music], ABBA. Polar because Scandinavia is not far from the North Pole?
  • 15a. [Popular impressionist subject], PETER LORRE. People who do impressions of famous people, not Impressionist painters.
  • 16a. [LPGA Toledo Classic host], FARR. M*A*S*H actor Jamie Farr, who played a character who was from Toledo?
  • 17a. [Fine-grained carpentry supply], ORANGEWOOD. Manicure kits traditionally include orangewood sticks for pushing back cuticles, but I’ve never heard of orangewood in any other context.
  • 22a. [Strip with a binding], SKI. To me, “strip” connotes something made of a single material, which doesn’t sound like a ski at all.
  • 30a. [Galileo discovery of 1610], EUROPA. Moon of Jupiter.
  • 41a. [Chaplin film about a late-coming homeowner], ONE A.M. Never heard of the movie, and “late-coming” doesn’t suggest ONE A.M. to me. It suggests an hour after any appointed time.
  • 43a. [Cap'n Crunch's pet], SEADOG. Whoa, really? No idea.
  • 54a. [Ersatz letter opener], STEAM. Steam is not a device known as a letter opener, but what is ersatz about it? If it opens the envelope, it’s very much a real letter opener.
  • 60a. [Pair on the ''Invasion U.S.A.'' poster], UZIS. What’s Invasion U.S.A.?
  • 1d. [Algae products], SPORES. Ferns and molds, I knew. Algae have spores?
  • 3d. [Dining partner request, maybe], A TASTE. Not sure the “A” really needs to be there.
  • 4d. [Most prominent position], CENTER STAGE. Did you know CATBIRD SEAT has the same number of letters? I never put those letters into my grid, but having it in mind still interfered with getting to the right answer.
  • 7d. [Bunker Hill victor], HOWE. Not sewing machine inventor Elias Howe, nor hockey’s Gordie Howe.
  • 8d. [They carry brand logos], IRONS. I only now figured out what the clue was getting at. Horrible branding irons used to sear livestock, not golf clubs or laundry irons.
  • 11d. [Home of Globemaster IIIs], AFB. Apparently the Globemaster III is a military plane? Never heard of it.
  • 12d. [Old-fashioned accommodation?], BARSTOOL. Where you sit to drink an old-fashioned.
  • 14d. [Main consumer goods source, before 1750], ARTISANS. The clue suggested a single purveyor rather than a huge group of unallied individuals.
  • 26d. [Coney Island-born singer], ARLO GUTHRIE. Didn’t know that about him.
  • 32d. [Thing in some packs], LIE. I know ICE isn’t a “thing,” but the “pack of lies” concept was not at all in my mental list of “things in packs.”
  • 33d. [Hip-hop technique], SCAT. Have never heard the term used in reference to hip-hop.
  • 37d. [Starting a new movement], SEGUEING. Musical term, yes?
  • 39d. [College final?], EDU. As in the .edu domain. Not happy with this clue, as “final” doesn;t quite work that way.
  • 61d. [Disaster area], STY. As in “Your room is a disaster area! Clean it up or I’m taking away your Wii privileges.” This is my favorite clue, actually.

Did this puzzle pummel you, too?

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26 Responses to Saturday, 8/11/12

  1. RK says:

    I failed to finish this NYT grind of a puzzle, missing a couple of letters. And a grind it was!!!! But I should really restate that: I failed to finish this NYT grind of a trivia test, missing a couple of letters.

    About one half of this puzzle is proper names or factoids. Look at the across NW corner alone. A debacle.

    I thought I might be alone in my opinion but the Wordplay blog tells me I’m not.

    NYT: One star. And I’m grading on a curve! lol

  2. Evad says:

    Just the opposite impression for me, loved this one and I’m one not to like a lot of proper names. Nice mix of the contemporary (FESTIVUS) and the literary (AUDEN) gave me a toehold into each section. Wish I could’ve recalled how to correctly spell CAPYBARA though. Each time I see it I try to commit it to memory, but that Y never seems to stick. Tough clue for YIN as well. Is YANG the sun?

  3. Gareth says:

    Put in me in the 5-star camp, for the reasons Amy stated (more or less). Mostly easy to for a Saturday, except the top-left, which had me in fits! I personally kinda wished FLAREGUN had referenced Deep Purple…

  4. pannonica says:

    Evad:The scientific name for CAPYBARA is tough to remember because due to a historical quirk (there are plenty in taxonomy) it’s repetitive but spelled differently from genus to species: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. Roughly, it means water-pig.

    The NE of the NYT was by far the toughest section for me.

  5. Deb Amlen says:

    “Okay, how about 42a: [Figure of speech?], PHONEME? It’s one word rather than “PHONE ME.” I think. Yes? No?”

    “Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Superb NYT. Nowhere near as tough for me as yesterday’s bear. First and easiest was the NW, hardest for me, and the only slowdown, the SE. (If the clue had been {Tribe of Israel which gave its name to a sandwich} I would have had a really first – rate time. (I’m trying to be funny; I hope no one is offended.)

    I suppose there were names, but they spanned a wide range of topics, and I didn’t even notice them. The first time I commented on rex’s “If you know it it isn’t BS” I confess that my comment was intended as sarcasm and derision directed at him. On the other hand, he has a point. Since 1, 15, 17, 19 and 28a were all gimmes for me, it never occurred to me that anyone would object to them. But it’s true that I feel just as annoyed about stuff that is completely unknown to me. Amazingly, I can actually sing 30a. (I mean that in the sense that I know it; I’m *not* threatening to do karaoke.) :-)

    5 stars here.

  7. pauer says:

    “Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.”

  8. Yves L. says:

    Answer: Change back.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    So, I count 21 capitalized entries in the NYT, which is definitely above my stupidly arbitrary cutoff of 14. But look! RK complained and people at Wordplay complained. You go much above 14, people will complain. Not all of them (lots of us loved today’s puzzle), but certainly some.

  10. Howard B says:

    I liked the Times, found it challenging, but had one hell of a time with some of the names. That said, FESTIVUS was my entry into the puzzle, and CREEPSHOW saved me in the corner.
    Side note: I recently mentioned about how the RHEA gets so much puzzle attention, but not the poor CAPYBARA, and here it is.

    It seems that the more proper names, the more the enjoyment of the puzzle hinges on direct knowledge of the answers or clue trivia, since there is often less room to infer or work out those answers without that knowledge.
    Anyway, solid puzzle here, a worthy challenge. But overall this one put up a fight, though I can seen others breezing through it like a weekday.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Howard’s point is well-taken; I guess it’s a matter of knowing just enough of the trivia. I have never even remotely heard of “festivus”, but I had enough crossings that it just emerged. I didn’t even notice it, didn’t know it was there, didn’t know what people were talking about in the comments.

    Has anyone finished the Stumper? It sure lived up to its name for me. I’ve got the East, but many holes in the West, but an interesting puzzle. If Bruce changed the last letter of his surname from an ‘n’ to an ‘m’, you could make the word “Stumper” from his name, which would be fitting.

    Very interesting post by Deb, re phoneme vs. phone me. Either answer sort of fits (and sort of doesn’t fit) ,the slightly obscure clue.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a Friday or Saturday themeless puzzle that I didn’t fancy, today’s being no exception. I’m sure you lot of pro cruciverbalists have your points. They’re simply beyond my ken. I only ask for a bit of a challenge and some fun. Good show, Josh!

  13. john farmer says:

    Very enjoyable NYT for me.

    I read RK’s complaint about proper names. I read the comments at Wordplay too, but I can’t say I noticed a lot of complaints there. Maybe a couple of DNF’s, probably the norm for a Saturday, but much of the reaction was positive toward the puzzle or comments about “cheating.” The reaction here seems very positive too. At the moment, for whatever it’s worth, 16 of 26 ratings are 5 stars. Yes, RK and maybe some others complained. But people complain EVERY day! There’s always something. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the puzzle.

    In that “debacle” of the NW, there are exactly 4 proper names among 12 answers. Is that too much? Really? It seems very normal to me. Even if you don’t remember CREEP SHOW, it was highly inferable. (The clue was “1982 Stephen King horror film,” not something like “1982 Hal Holbrook film.”) OZAWA and EDMUND were very gettable if you didn’t know them. ALMODÓVAR is arguably the best-known international director working today (other than ANG Lee et al. who have Hollywood careers too). Definitely fair game for a Saturday NYT. (I’d love to see names like Wong Kar-wai and Yasujiro Ozu, though I’m not holding my breath. Can I mention Apichatpong Weerasethakul? You can call him Joe.)

    Some funny comments today, Deb A, pauer.

    ET PHONE ME sounds like a good seed for some constructor more enterprising than I.

  14. Huda says:

    I’m someone who is terrible with proper nouns and even when I know them it takes a hint to retrieve them (I could say it’s old age, except it’s always been my problem. Hated Geography for that reason). Every step of the way was a challenge for me, yet I think it’s an outstanding puzzle.

    So many wrong starts even when I was in the right neighborhood of meaning: ranging from CLEOPATRA for NEFERTITI (did not last long) to HArEm for HAVEN, choP for SNAP, aslant for UNEVEN, ACtuatED for ACHIEVED, etc… But every time I nailed a bit of territory, it gave me enough to build with. I think that’s a sign of very good construction. And looking at the finished product, I cannot complain, except about my own limits. Four Stars.

    PS. APIPHOBE! I get it! My mind went to some Greek heroine!

  15. RK says:

    Just for clarity, my reference to the Wordplay blog was to Deb Amlen’s write-up, not the comments. She reinforced my view.

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Finally managed to finish the SW of the Stumper, but not in any 11 minutes. I was totally committed to “firm” for 35a and “finalized” for 35d (and “Edgar” for 53d, and I was so confident they were right it took me forever to change them. Once I did, it fell like a line of dominos. So I might have done it in 11 minutes, if you don’t count the 30 I spent straightening that out.

    It has often occurred to me that one thing that distinguishes the really good solvers, levels above me, is having an unerring, quick sense and intuition of what has to come out when they do make a false start. I occasionally have competitive times on Fri. and Sat. when I have a perfect puzzle, and my first thoughts pan out, but I’m sure that I’m *much* slower at untangling my screwups than the good solvers.

  17. Howard B says:

    Not much of a rater, but found the Stumper to be 4-star fill with 2-star sadistic clues – even by Stumper standards. Had no idea what an “old-fashioned” was, and there were many clues in that manner, in which just I could not understand the connection between clue and eventual answer. This actually became frustrating after a time. Yet the puzzle was solvable and offered very interesting challenge. Sometimes the Stumper cluing style just goes a bit beyond the pale for me, is all. May be a generational gap in there as well, which is no fault of a constructor or editor ;).

  18. John B says:

    The Stumper beat me up too.

    And, yes…not only did I confidently plunk down CATBIRD SEAT instead of CENTER STAGE, but the R is in the same place, so SEERESS made me think that I had it right!!

    Then, at the end, I had PETER LOCRE for a while, since brand ICONS can definitely have logos in them… Yikes!!

  19. RK says:

    The Stumper stomped me in stultifying style.

  20. Bruce S. says:

    Glad people seemed to like the Stumper. Thanks for the writeup Amy.

  21. John Haber says:

    Seems like everyone had an extreme reaction to the NYT, perhaps depending on whether you watch the same stuff. For me, who’d never heard of Festivus, the entire puzzle but especially that corner (the NE, where I’d also mistakenly clung to “instruct” for “school”) was excrutiatingly difficult … and yeah a bit of a slog.

    Still, I thought the whole thing was pretty fair, give or take two crossings I could have lived without: the infamous spelling issue with YIN and also the alternative spellings of Navaho/Navajo crossing Alladin’s enemy. I’ll say it wasn’t my favorite Saturday by any stretch, but perfectly ok.

  22. larry says:

    For all of you who were puzzled by BEQ’s apparent random connection (in the Friday WSJ puzzle) of days of the week and dog breeds, if you go to good old Google and type in the weekday and the corresponding breed in his puzzle you will see near the top of the hits an answer saying “images for Saturday Beagle” (e.g.) and when you click on that you’ll get more pictures of that breed than you care to look at.

  23. DocHank says:

    Amy, I agree that this Stumper was a bugger – any time I have to start hitting Google with only three guesses written in augurs a bad day!!! The Globemaster III had to be an update of the original Globemaster (the C-124, large Air Force transport affectionately known as “Big Shaky” which when loaded lumbered along at a mighty 140 knots or so) , and once I Googled it and discovered that it’s the C-17, I think exclusively flown by USAF, then that cinched the “AFB,” since they live on Air Force Bases exclusively. And it took me a while to even get that… Ptah!!!! (ancient Egyptian cuss word)

  24. Mike Charley says:

    Hint to sat WSJ: unclued answers are boats (in a row)

  25. pannonica says:

    larry: Your advice regarding the Friday WSJ is unilluminating to me.

  26. klew archer says:

    I think he was claiming that there is actually some kind of dog called a Saturday Beagle. I googled and I did see some Beagles, being photographed, on a Saturday. My understanding was that this was a play on the phrase EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY, which was not actually there in the grid,, as far as I could tell.

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