Saturday, 11/17/12

Newsday 5:52 
NYT 5:29 
LAT 5:21 (Andy) 
CS 5:55 (Sam) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 17 12, 1117

Judging from the applet standings, I had an easier time hitting Tim’s wavelength than some other folks did. I don’t think we’re usually in sync, but I’ll take it.

The central answer was custom-made for people like the Canadian of Team Fiend, Jeffrey—the TAX CODE is a [CPA's study], all right.

Not crazy about 1a: LONG ARM (it looks silly without …OF THE LAW appended to it), and I can’t say I’ve encountered ILL-MADE before. A dozen further remarks:

  • 16a. ST. TITUS, the [First bishop of Crete, traditionally]? Huh. Remember that sitcom starring comedian Christopher Titus?
  • 18a. [Pioneer of slapstick cinema], the great Mack SENNETT. Here, enjoy some old-school slapstick.
  • 27a. [Tiny carps], NITS. Carping at annoyances, not “tiny little fish.”
  • 34a. GO EASY ON, solid three-word answer.
  • 41a/42a. [42-Across's creator] and [Princess in 41-Across books] are Frank BAUM and Princess OZMA. I know the latter only from crosswords. Oh, dear. If you don’t know OZMA, good luck in completing the [Largest active volcano in Japan], Mount ASO. Please leave a comment if you got here by Googling Princess AZMA, Princess EZMA, Princess IZMA, or Princess UZMA.
  • 52a. FAKE TAN, great answer.
  • 56a. Likewise, ALL TALK.
  • 59a. ROISTER, or [Party hearty], is a word I know from a Shaw’s Crab House, only they spell their annual oyster fest Royster with the Oyster.
  • 7d. [He supplied Lex Luthor with red kryptonite], MISTER MXYZPTLK. The way I remember the spelling is that it’s Mr. mix-up talk, without the vowels, and with an XYZ for the (m)ix art.
  • 11d. Oh, dear. Always looks terrible in the grid. [Joined the fight], HAD A TIT? No, HAD AT IT.
  • 35d. OUTFALL, [Mouth of a river]? That word’s new to me.
  • 38d. [Ancient double-deckers] is a neat clue for an answer word I learned from crosswords, BIREMES. Two levels of oarsmen on each side of this boat. Never heard of the play in the OBIE clue, [2012 honor for "4000 Miles"], and another crossing is tough: 49a RIMA, [Feature of "pasta" and "basta"], rima being the Italian word for “rhyme.”

3.5 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No Strings Attached”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 17

Today’s puzzle is an homage to Nancy Reagan. Solvers are invited to “just say NO” to four common two-word terms by adding those two letters at the start of either the first or second word:

  • 17-Across: “Mad money” becomes NOMAD MONEY, a [Wanderer's wad?]. Maybe it’s me, but that clue seems kinda gross.
  • 26-Across: The [Waver behind an on-the-scene reporter?] is a PUBLIC NOBODY (a play on “public body”). Those camera hogs have never impressed me much.
  • 43-Across: Your standard [Ginsu?] is no ordinary “table knife.” It’s a NOTABLE KNIFE. This was my favorite theme entry of the lot. It’s so sharp!
  • 58-Across: We all know the eager kids in the classroom who shoot their hands in the air as they exclaim, “Choose me!” Add a little rejection to their lives and we get CHOOSE NOME, the [Words in a travel ad recommending the Iditarod destination?].

This is quite the fashion-forward grid–we have a SKORT, an A-LINE dress, a reference to a turtle-neck in the clue for NAPE, and DONNA [Karan of fashion]. And it’s topped off with a FEDORA, the [Retro topper]. It even comes in the [Eye-catching color] of RED. Tres chic.

Favorite entry = DIRT CHEAP, something [Way underpriced]. But other contenders were READ UP ON, RAN AROUND, OTTUMWA, and IT’S OK. Favorite clue = [It shouldn't be used as an icebreaker] for MOLAR.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.17.12 by Martin Ashwood-Smith

This is exactly the grid I think of when I think of a Martin Ashwood-Smith puzzle: 15×16, anchored by a quad stack of 15s in the center and flanked by two 15s on top and bottom. What’s new, to me at least, are the two 15s running vertically. That’s eight 15s in a weekday puzzle — impressive, no? Let’s go through them together, shall we?

  • 17a, AM I GLAD TO SEE YOU(!) [Words of relief]. Much more hilarious when followed by a question mark.
  • 30a, STATE ASSISTANCE [Food stamps, e.g.]. Not a particularly Scrabbly entry, but it’ll do.
  • 39a, COSMIC RADIATION [Contributing factor in ozone depletion]. Sounds like a good name for a jazz/funk band.
  • 40a, UNSENTIMENTALLY [Without nostalgia]. Microsoft Word gives the word “unsentimentally” a red squiggle, but I can think of many things that I remember unsentimentally. Like Clippy, the Word “helper,” for example.
  • 41a, TENNESSEE TUXEDO [Chumley's title friend in a '60s cartoon series]. From the makers of Underdog. Tennessee Tuxedo was perhaps Don Adams’ finest role — disagree if you dare.

    What possible set of circumstances could have led to this?

  • 59a, POPE BENEDICT XVI [Leader elected in 2005]. This one definitely threw me off. Were you expecting a President or Prime Minister too?
  • 8d, CASTLES IN THE AIR [Daydreams]. This phrase is more familiar to me as “castles in the sky,” but that might just be an idiosyncratic back-formation from the Miyazaki film of nearly the same name.
  • 15d, CATARACT SURGERY [Solution for lens transparency problems]. Again, a successful misdirection! Maybe those of you who don’t wear glasses/contacts weren’t fooled?

The 15s are mostly sparkling, as are many of the 8s (MEATAXES, AVEMARIA, YEASAYER). But, as with all quad-stack puzzles, there is some compromising fill to gripe about: Charles READE ["Peg Woffington" author] rears his convenient head (you may know him better as the author of The Cloister and the Hearth — or not at all); OMY [Hop-___-thumb] is ungood; when I think of TATAS, I’ll admit that my first thought isn’t [Exit lines]; ELYSE Keaton of “Family Ties” reifies her status as ’80s TV’s most crosswordese matriarch; I’m not sure if I’m supposed to have heard of a SEINER before (etymologically related to the Seine, I’m assuming?); and there’s the pair of AMOVE and ANEAR (Guess which one is a partial?).

I’m going to go with 4.5 stars for the sheer number of pleasant 15s in this grid, minus 1 star because I’m a curmudgeon. Until next week!

Lester Ruff’s less rough Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 17 12 “Saturday Stumper” Lester Ruff

Really a Stan Newman byline.

Favorite five entries:

  • 24a. [Whom a UK poetry prize is named for], T.S. ELIOT.
  • 39a. [War game], LASER TAG. My kid loves this.
  • 52a. [Sucralose brand], SPLENDA. I like it as a crossword entry but loathe it as a sweetener. Especially when it’s dumped into food labeled “now with 25% less sugar” that’s sweeter than ever.
  • 26d. [Ingredient in a Matador], TEQUILA. Never heard of the cocktail. Googling … ooh, this sounds delicious. Tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice.
  • 37d. [Student's permission slip], HALL PASS.

Four least favorite entries:

  • 1a. [Commencement ritual], CAP TOSS. It has a name?
  • 55a. [Watt-hour fractions], BTUS. Isn’t the plural also BTU?
  • 39d. [Opposite of "noble"], LOW-BRED. Didn’t we all want this to be LOW-BORN?
  • 44d. [Blocklike], CUBICAL. What’s the difference between CUBICAL and cubic?

Three toughest clues:

  • 18a. [Hitherto unknown], STRANGE.
  • 62a. [2011 voice role for Owen Wilson or John Turturro], RACE CAR. Meh. The “role” was Lightning McQueen or Francesco Bernoulli, if you ask me.
  • 14d. [Part of big-league umpires' attire], REEBOKS. Who knew they had a mandated sneaker brand?

3.75 stars. Fairly smooth and lively for a grid of this style.

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22 Responses to Saturday, 11/17/12

  1. Jason F says:

    NYT: ouch!

    (but keep ‘em coming – I like a hard puzzle on Saturday)

  2. Bruce says:

    The Superman clue was my Kryptonite. DOH!

  3. joecab says:

    Mxyzptlk was my first entry and everything else filled in rather steadily. Yay comics knowledge. But there aren’t a lot of other Supes villains that would be recognizable to enough people anyway once you skip past Brainiac and Bizarro.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    TAX CODE may have been made for me but it was my second answer as I already had the X.
    Not really a Canadian term; we say TAX LAW or TAX ACT.
    MISTER MXYZPTLK was first for this comic book collector turned accountant.

    The entire left hand side then filled really quickly, but I slowed down a lot on the right.

    But I found the LA TIMES harder – not the place you usually find a Martin Ashwood-Smith quad stack.

    • Richard says:

      I had an interesting error for awhile with the LA TIMES for 46D, which was hPYEr for TYPEA. It seems somewhat unusual that two answers with three common letters can both fit. Got it corrected when I realized the last letter had to be A. Getting this right allowed me to get CATS (and I liked the clue for this answer).

  5. Matt says:

    Tough for me. I ‘knew’ the Superman comic character, but not the exact spelling– for future reference there’s also Al Capp’s ‘Joe Btfsplk’. But I eventually got it all, without looking anything up, so I’m happy.

  6. animalheart says:

    For me, an entry like MisterMxyzptlk just spoils an otherwise enjoyable solving experience, totally disrupting the wonderful vertical/horizontal interplay that makes doing a puzzle so much fun. Ugh.

  7. ktd says:

    I still cannot use the Play Against The Clock applet on the NYTimes! Anyone else having this problem?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      @ktd, last night, I got bounced back to the main puzzle page in Firefox rather than taken to the applet–but then I cleared the browser cache and it worked. Have you tried emptying the cache?

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I was pleased with the NYT, even if held up at the end because I wanted a Side-arm before seeing LONG ARM of the Law. I’d started with GIACOMO and KEPI, which helped in all directions; also had a collection of the original Oz books, lost in a flood, which was sad. But I smiled at some of the clues, like Hill people for POLS, and was impressed with IRRATIONAL FEAR though not the kryptonite guy!

  9. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. A seine is a weighted drag-net for haul-fishing, and a seiner is the boat or person using it, in the crossword anyway — just as we often see “eeler”. The River Seine is thought to be derived from the name Sequana, the goddess of the river Seine in Gallo-Roman religion, particularly the springs at the source of the Seine in Burgundy, and the Gaulish tribe the Sequani. Here, in the 2nd or 1st century BC, a healing shrine was established and the sanctuary was later taken over by the Romans. Pronunciation: “As Gaulish is in the P-Celtic classification, q cannot represent the Indo-European kw. Something like Sek-ooana is more likely, unless the local dialect was Q-celtic (which is not impossible).” Finally I know why a former in-law changed her name from Patricia to Sequana: she had a nursing degree and apparently saw herself as a goddess of healing!

  10. Zulema says:

    I agree with Gary on MISTERetc. And my usual nit on plural clues with singular answers that could have been easily remedied. 36D “professors” does not yield EMERITA, singular femenine.

    • Daniel Myers says:

      Correct. The plural would be Emeriti.

      But, it should be noted, that the Latin adjective:

      Emeritus, -a, -um = Pensioned, retired

      allows for many different translations of EMERITA. For example, were the original in the neuter singular, EMERITUM, then EMERITA would be the correct neuter plural. Ahem, but it’s not.

  11. Billposter says:

    LAT passed muster with ENYO and…puleeze…FITMENTS?? Where was MisterMxyzptl when we needed him….

  12. Greg says:

    And my mother said reading comics was a waste of time! This was one of those where I stared at the grid for 10 minutes with nothing — except, from some set of neurons untapped for a half-century, the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk. But eventually, through that magical and inexplicable process, the whole puzzle yielded in 50 minutes (for me, pretty good for a Saturday).

  13. pannonica says:

    Am I alone in initially filling in NADER for NAMER in the CS [Whistle-blower, at times]?

  14. Joan macon says:

    Amy, I have a set of first editions of the Oz books (although I am certain they are in the closet, I couldn’t tell you where) and in what was, I think, the second of the series there was a boy who had been enchanted by a witch and he turned out to be Princess Ozma when the spell was lifted. She went on, I think, to rule Oz in subsequent books (the Scarecrow and the Tin Man disappeared). One day when I have nothing to do I will go in the closet and find those books. You never know when they may come in handy in crossword puzzles!

  15. John Haber says:

    FWIW, with, yes, the plural I confidently entered EMERITI and took a long time getting rid of a blank square that left me nearby, since no words then seemed to fit. But must admit I shrugged and didn’t complain when I got it.

    My hard quadrant was the SE, although I recognized BIREMES once I got it. Didn’t recognize EYEMASK, but it sounds plausible.

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