Saturday, 8/25/12

Newsday 7:35 
NYT 7:05 
LAT 5:05 
CS 5:35 (Sam) 

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 25 12 0825

You know what’s a BUZZKILL? When you’re traipsing through one of Caleb’s lovely themelesses and come screeching to a halt in the bottom right zone. The horse! OY VEY. (Or, as some say, yev yo.) I didn’t recall the last letter of that [1942 Preakness winner]. I blanked on the [Word after many presidents' names] (why on earth did I try ESQ when there was no hint of an abbreviation? why??). I couldn’t figure out which sort of “lead” was meant in [One taking the lead?: Abbr.]. Wasn’t sure if the [Old revolutionist] was a RED or maybe a REB. And the 59a/61a combo meaning ["Nothing new to me!"] had too many blanks. *EENTHE**, *ONETH**. Oh, sure, now it looks obvious. But despite SIGHT‘s clue mentioning “seeing,” I was guessing that 59a started with SEEN. (Come on, don’t tell me that ALSAS looks ridiculous while ALSAB looks utterly plausible as a horse name.) Oof! I spent at least a minute trying to unravel the ALSAB/ERA/DETective crossing the super-fresh BEEN THERE / DONE THAT. Sigh.

Favorite bits, besides BUZZKILL and 59a/61a:

  • 28a. GOSSIP GIRL, [Teen series whose title character is never seen]. Friend of mine loves that show, but I never knew the Gossip Girl was not seen on TV.
  • 35a. I love the word CAHOOTS. It instantly classes up any crossword. Etymology unknown? Even better.
  • 36a. [Doesn't lie gracefully] gives a nice visual for SPRAWLS.
  • 60a. [They get picked] is a solid clue for AFROS. I’m always grateful for an AFRO clue that doesn’t pretend the hairstyle hasn’t been seen since 1975.
  • 9d. MALINGERED is also a great word.
  • 11d. TAYLOR SWIFT‘s new single hit #1 this week, my son tells me. “Do you like Taylor Swift?” I asked him. He replied, “Is it opposite week?” “Yes.” “Then yes.”
  • 21d. TOPSPIN is nice, especially in proximity to that TENNIS ACE. But in tennis, doesn’t everyone just call it an ace and not a “tennis ace”?
  • 22d. Casual GUAC, good entry. I could do without avocados, personally.
  • 24d. The movie THE HANGOVER, great entry. Haven’t seen the movie.
  • 28d. Aww, GOO-GOO EYES! Love.

In the guacamole category of things I could do without, we have [Football Hall of Famer Bobby] LAYNE, who I’ve never heard of; APNEAL, [Like some sleep disruptions], which has dictionary validity but I reckon apneic is far more often used in medical circles; and the plural abbreviation PKS.

Overall, though, I’ll grant this four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Georgia On My Mind” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 25

The postal abbreviation for my new home state, GA, is added to four common expressions, converting them to wacky ones that get related clues:

  • 20-Across: “Pan-American” becomes a PAGAN-AMERICAN, a [Salem witch?]. (Notice I chose a peachy shade for Georgia.)
  • 27-Across: Pierre Cardin becomes a PIERRE CARDIGAN, a [South Dakota sweater?]. I like this one. Hey, it’s the second theme entry to reference a place outside of Georgia in the clue. If this keeps up, that will add a pretty elegant layer.
  • 43-Across: So much for that. Here, [Deserters?] are a RUNAWAY BRIGADE, a play on “runaway bride.” I’m glad my bride chose not to run away. Hopefully she doesn’t regret it.
  • 51-Across: A “vale of tears” becomes the much more interesting VALE OF TEAR GAS, the [Result of a riot in the dale?]. Yeah, yeah–the one-word TEARS becomes the two-word TEAR GAS and that doesn’t happen in any of the other theme entries. But the added zip from a lively theme entry like this compensates for the inconsistency, in my book.

I can’t be a disinterested critic here because I used this very same gimmick in a puzzle I made as part of my wedding contest earlier this year. (If you missed it, the puzzles are here, though it’s too late to claim the prize.) I think two of the theme entries were especially clever (PIERRE CARDIGAN and VALE OF TEAR GAS) and I liked a lot of the fill, notably PET PEEVE, SLAPSHOT, MIX-UP, and EXACTA

I was less thrilled with seeing both ELVIS and ELVES in the grid (same for the crossing LEAVE and EAVE), and it seemed like there was an abundance of awkward entries like EXEC, NATL, AM I, SKED, and GARS. But overall the puzzle worked fine.

Today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month will be a challenge. To my knowledge, none of the CS constructors lives or is from Georgia, so no obvious names comes to mind. I’ll follow my (admittedly unsuccessful) pattern of late by guessing names we haven’t seen in a fortnight or so:

1. Bruce Venzke     2. Gail Grabowski     3. Ray Hamel.

Finally, I’m off the schnide with one point! If I’m going to make my goal I need anything I can get at this point.  Name That Constructor Stats After 25 Puzzles: 8 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 3 correct third choices (1 point each); 35 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 25 12 Jeff Chen

Like Friday’s NYT puzzle, this one’s got 11/13/15 stacks at the top and bottom. The RITARD TERN POI row beneath the top stack kinda turned me off, though. Overall, I had a 3.4-star experience here.

Highlights:

  • 1a. [Bout with padded weapons] made me think of the giant Q-tips on American Gladiators, but it’s a gentle PILLOW FIGHT. A great 1-Across.
  • 31a. [Student's supper spot], COMMONS. My college had nothing called the Commons, but I like this one anyway.
  • 34a. [Where Daniel was thrown], LION’S DEN. I like the non-Biblical, non-zoological uses of the phrase too.
  • 47a. [Tavern order] for a beer might be “I’LL HAVE A COLD ONE.” Words I have never uttered, but the phrase is in the language.
  • 50a. [Characterized by extremes], FEAST OR FAMINE.
  • 51a. [Hybrid sport with seemingly incompatible components], the wildly implausible CHESS BOXING. The two seem further apart than feast and famine.
  • 6d. [Turkey features], WATTLES. I love the word. Wattles—they’re not just for turkeys anymore.
  • 9d. ['50s-'60s title detective whose show's theme was composed by Mancini], Peter GUNN. My kid has a classmate named Donovan Gunn, which is such an awesome name. He needs to be in action movies.
  • 25d. TOP-SHELF, [Of the best quality]. I suspect this originated with premiun liquors stored on the bartender’s top shelf, but it’s applied to more than just hooch.
  • 34d. LOW-CARB is utterly in the language now, [Like the Atkins diet].

Lowlights include the partials IT CAN, OH TO, and ON A and the playground retort AM TOO; the crosswordese MOAS, [Extinct kiwi relatives]; the obscure SALMI, [Highly seasoned pheasant stew]; suffics -ICS; [Button on older phones] PRS; and SROS clued as [Sellout signs] (don’t theater people tell us that SRO signs are a thing of the past? City folks know that SROs are single-room-occupancy hotels). SROS isn’t the only plural abbreviation here—there’s also GOVTS, or [State runners: Abbr.].

Did you know that 36d: [Leisurely walks] are PASEOS? The tourist trap known as the River Walk of San Antonio is also called the Paseo del Rio in Spanish. Isn’t it strange that a word meaning “leisurely walk” got slapped on a sporty Toyota car? Is that really a connotation that will lure buyers to a sporty coupe?

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 8 25 12 “Saturday Stumper,” Brad Wilber

I liked the left side of this puzzle just fine but the upper and lower zones on the right really worked me over. My difficulty in the northeast was the intersection of those five proper nouns with out-there clues and my unfamiliarity with the attributes of yucca blossoms. And my blind spot at 20a—[Stunt __ (extreme sport)] is POGO, really?!—made it hard to crack into the northeast’s 9d. Eventually it all came together but it left me bruised:

  • 16a. [1998 PGA Player of the Year], Mark O’MEARA.
  • 18a. [Its logo resembles an odometer], CARFAX. Perhaps their CarFox is more visually memorable now.
  • 9d. [Musical whose finale is a fashion show], COCO. Must be about Coco Chanel.
  • 10d. [Cohost of the 2007 Peace Prize Concert with Kevin], UMA. She’s got to be Thurman, but who is this Kevin? I’m going to say Nealon or Meaney, because why wouldn’t a Buddhist-oriented actress team up with a comedian for a Peace Prize concert?
  • 12d. [Honorary American citizen], LAFAYETTE. For a long time, I figured we were looking for a generic term rather than a specific person. I knew Casimir Pulaski was in that category, but did you know only seven people have been granted honorary US citizenship? So saith Wikipedia. Winston Churchill, Raoul Wallenberg, William Penn and his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn, Mother Teresa, and Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, aka General Lafayette. Only Churchill and that Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu were still alive when so honored.

Highlights:

  • 17a. [It's filtered in Saudi Arabia], INTERNET. If I hadn’t had the final T from ESTONIA ([Where Skype was developed], which I got from figuring 15a ended with S, because what other 7-letter countries have an S in the second spot?), I surely would have leaned towards CRUDE OIL.
  • 34a. [Not fancy at all], LOATHE. Fancy as a verb, not an adjective.
  • 32d. [Mingle with concertgoers, perhaps], STAGE-DIVE. When a performer leaps from the stage and relies on the audience to catch him rather than standing clear and letting him thwack to the floor. MANHUNTS and HAS-BEENS have a similar “hi, there, I’m a fresh compound word” vibe. As does TAP-DANCE, clued nonliterally as [Equivocate], as when you tap-dance around an issue.

Things I don’t fancy:

  • 19a. [Jam ingredients?], TOOTS. The ingredients of a traffic jam are the vehicles, the pedestrians blocking their way, and road construction barricades. They are not the horns tooting. Those are the jam reactions.
  •  56a. [PDF file, e.g.], ECONTENT. What?? That’s not a word! Unless you’re talking about going camping with Paul Krugman and Milton Friedman.
  • 6d. [Eliot's middle name], ANN. George Eliot, pen name of Mary Anne, Mary Ann, or Marianne Evans. If there’s no consensus that she was Mary Ann, the clue is subpar. And when someone is called both parts, is “Mary Ann” a first name followed by a middle name, or is it a two-word first name?

Random bird remark: 9a: [Long-billed wader] clues CURLEW. Last week, one of the finest themeless constructors ever, Sherry Blackard, posted a bird photo on Facebook, wondering what it was. Two of us guessed the curlew, but it turned out to be an American woodcock. (Which would have been right at home in Byron Walden’s Onion puzzle that included ANDY RODDICK and JOHNSON & JOHNSON in its theme.) Sherry found a funny woodcock video. Can you move your body while keeping your feet and head absolutely still? The woodcock can.

3.5 stars. There’s really no junk fill, so it should be a higher rating, but it wasn’t quite as fun as I’d have liked.

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37 Responses to Saturday, 8/25/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, a tough yet amusing NYT by Caleb — from a horse called ALSAB who won the 1942 Preakness sounding more like a star in a minor constellation, to a Footballer named LAYNE who ought to be a silky alpaca. I could grok GUAC, barely, but a BOT as a web-crawler — not right off the bat… Thank goodness for the PRIE-DIEU, MALINGERED and the ONION SOUP!

  2. Bobby LAYNE was a gimme for a football fan who has studied the game’s history.

    Very impressed with NW and SE, and if I’d entered IS SO instead of AM SO then ONION SOUP would have become evident more quickly. The misdirection in the clues provided a worthy challenge.

  3. RK says:

    Fastest I ever completed a Saturday NYT. Not sure what that says about this puzzle but it probably ain’t good!

  4. Gareth says:

    Tale of two puzzles for me too – everything but the top-left and bottom-right in 7 and a half or there abouts – long gimmes galore: what wonderful seeds this puzzle has!!! GOOGOOEYES! Brilliance! Then stuck in the mud X2. There’s only two answers into those sections – I had PESCI, ETON and both S’s but still! I guessed gUs, nOuN and casES for LOAN, LUC and ZONES which made for believable crossings that went nowhere… BEENTHERE/DONETHAT is a masterstroke, but it makes for a nigh impossible corner!!! Esp. if you want RET for ERA (also considered ESQ). ALSAB is a mad answer as an entrance into it as well! Still, 5 stars again! Great weekend puzzles! (Mistake was actually LAiNE/TAiLOR – fail!)

  5. pannonica says:

    NYT: 44a [End for end] ING. Huh?

    • pannonica says:

      Never mind. Just a suffix clue. POP*, as they say in some circles.

      *“power of posting”

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I have no idea what 1a and 1d mean, and I just guessed at square 1. What is ‘bot’? A robot? What is “modern drag’? Which of the many senses of “drag”?

    “Tennis ace” isn’t idiomatic, but even worse is when a sports announcer who knows nothing about tennis refers to an “overhead smash” (as Howard Cosell used to do). A tennis player just calls it an overhead.

    • Sparky says:

      When you are drinking, or smoking, and getting high you are getting a buzz on. If something happens to break the high the buzz was killed. Or so I am told. Therefore, something that kills good feelings would be a drag.

  7. Huda says:

    Yes, great puzzle but tough cluing. That BEEN THERE/DONE THAT corner is deadly because there are so few entry points to it and that B is so critical and yet unlikely. I had to cheat to get it and then it fell.

    For “point of no return” I cleverly plopped down fiNalSAlE. And even the French clues needed a bit of thinking.

    GOOGOO EYES is my absolute favorite. And it makes you think back on the genius of naming Google…

  8. Huda says:

    And I meant to give it 4 stars but a slip of the finger gave it 3. So I hope someone else will err on the generous side to compensate for the errors of my ways.

  9. Matt says:

    Real tough for me, with one error– intersection of TAYLORSWIFT and LAYNE. But I was pleased to fill the whole thing, even with the goof.

  10. Huda says:

    Bruce Morton, you asked ” What is “modern drag’? Which of the many senses of “drag”?”

    I think it means “It’s a drag”, as “it’s a pain “, and the modern expression is it’s a buzz kill.

    I remember being fresh off the boat (so to speak) and hearing “it’s a drag” and trying to get a mental image of it might mean. I think buzz kill is also quite evocative.

  11. Mitchs says:

    I still don’t get DET. Little help? Great puzzle but GOSSIPGIRL just wasn’t in my vocabulary – and malinger wasn’t coming.

  12. Yves L. says:

    I don’t trust Huda—I’ll bet she gave it a 5, so I’m giving it a 2…

    Whooops! Finger slip—gave it a 3 by mistake. Could somebody give it a 1 to make the average right? I’ll pay you back a 4 tomorrow.

    • Huda says:

      LOL! perfect!

      While I told the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the rating, this made me crack up because I’m a bargainer extraordinaire. Born, bred and trained in the bazaars of Damascus.

      I will try to contain it…

  13. Karen says:

    From wikipedia: “Internet bots, also known as web robots, WWW robots or simply bots, are software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet…The largest use of bots is in web spidering, in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers.”

    Same experience for me in the SE corner of the NYT, except I tried RET after the presidents, and CHE and MAO for revolutionists.

    • Also tried CHE, MAO and (like Amy) ESQ in the SE. Not only was the misdirection great, but there were several answers (like the aforementioned IS SO) for which multiple entries were probable.

  14. Sam: Only problem with PIERRE CARDIGAN is that the root-fill PIERRE (as in CARDIN) is pronounced differently from the PIERRE referenced in the clue (“Peer”).

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    FWIW–(isn’t *that* cool)–I thought yesterday’s wsj was great, not good. One of the most enjoyable letter addition themes in recent memory. I was thinking that Alice was Mike in modern drag, though.

  16. klew archer says:

    Just spent an eternity hacking my way through the Stumper. Hats off to Brad for this and the B. E. Wilbered puzzle from a few days ago

  17. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, spent way too much time on the Stumper. It was the bird at top right I had to cheat for! So close, no cigar… In the LAT, the TOP SHELF bothered me, as I’ve only heard of Top Drawer — Anyone else unfamiliar with that one? Huda, your bargaining in Damascus reminded me of a delightful surprise in the covered bazaars of Istanbul when a vendor gave me a 4th century coin gratis!

  18. Jeff Chen says:

    Great puzzle from Caleb. I had started a themeless with BUZZKILL at 1A, but perhaps I’ll put that aside… (shaking fist)

  19. Gareth says:

    You’re quite the 1A man, Jeff! PILLOWFIGHT was an awesome answer! Agree about the top-left, but I’d still say it’s a 4-star at least! Love the stacks & the medium downs trailing from them!

  20. DocHank says:

    Wilber is more stumpy than any politician! The long-legged wader should have been easy, but “egret,” “cormorant,” “crane” and “pelican’” wouldn’t fit, and my grey matter was too rusty to remember “Curlew,” a name which I’ve seldom seen in recent years. But OK, then…I thought the “jam ingredients” ought to be “pears,” and the “PDF file” really should have been “document” (I think “e-content” is stretching it). Don’t like “Lafayette” as the “honorary American citizen”, because there are enough of them to make even Googling or other research complicated – seemed to me that this should have been a generic term like “legal alien”

  21. klew archer says:

    RIP the voice of LEW Zealand and many others, Jerry Nelson

  22. Chaitanya says:

    Both NYT and LAT were great puzzles. Kudos to Jeff and Caleb…

    Can someone please explain GATS as an answer for street heater?

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      “Gat” and “heater” are both gangster – street slang for a gun.

      • sbmanion says:

        I always thought gat was short for gatling gun, not literally, but as an homage to any kind of rapid firing weapon.

        I had a client one whose “occupation” was robbing drug dealers of their wares. He called his Uzi a “street sweeper.”

        Steve

  23. John Haber says:

    Out of touch as ever, I didn’t understand BUZZ KILL, although I took it. The letter combination for the horse looked improbable, making me recheck that corner several times, but there it is. I lucked out in guessing BEEN THERE DONE THAT quite quickly, merely holding off filling it in until I had enough crossings to feel sure.

    The only real hard part for me obviously wasn’t hard for anyone else, a kind of “greater NE,” with proper names galore: LUC, PESCI, GOSSIP GIRL, STILLER, LAYNE, TAYLOR SWIFT, LEIA. Not that I didn’t recognize them all (except LAYNE and LUC) once I had them, but it sure made a slow fill for me.

  24. Bob Bruesch says:

    Sat. LAT – Please explain “state runners” abbr. = GOVTS??? Too many “silly” defs for me – too cutesy!

  25. klew archer says:

    I actually had “Extreme POLO” for which google provided a seven page National Geographic article

  26. sbmanion says:

    Alsab is considered to be an all-time great racehorse although he is little known today because his only Triple Crown win was the Preakness. His most famous victory ( and the only one I knew about despite being an avid horse racing historian) is that he beat Triple Crown winner Whirlaway in a match race.

    Steve

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