Saturday, 11/24/12

Newsday 9:02 
NYT 5:14 
LAT 4:18 (Andy) 
CS 4:13 (Sam) 

Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 24 12, 1124

This smooth themeless wins its hand of blackjack with that ACE IN THE HOLE and JACK IN THE BOX. Isn’t that DASHING?

Lots to like in this grid. I’m partial to the AFGHAN/MALAWI/BRAZEN stack, SKI JUMP, DAWN OF THE DEAD, POISONED popes in a clue, MYANMAR (doesn’t [Home of Mandalay] sound like it should be a casino town?), DARKROOM clued obliquely as [Developing area], NO GIFTS, full-name MAUNA LOA. I’m lukewarm on PURE GOLD: is it pure gold or merely gold-plated? My least favorite items in the puzzle are “I’M CALM,” which seems a bit of a stretch as an entry, and KENO, that [Vegas game] I never hear about anywhere but crosswords. If you play keno, please tell me so I quit thinking crosswordese-ill of it.

The puzzle fell a little faster than I expect a Saturday NYT to go. Did it seem a little closer to the Friday end of the the spectrum to you? I will grant you that the NYT’s themeless spectrum is a pretty tight one. I think of my usual Friday range as 4:00 to 5:30; Saturday, 5:30 to 7:00; killer Saturday, considerably beyond. Then you have the CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge,” with sub-FriNYT times, and the LA Times Saturday puzzle clocking in at the lower end of FriNYT times. Not to mention the Newsday “Saturday Stumper,” which can bounce around between FriNYT and super-killer-Saturday level. Oh! And BEQ’s weekly “Themeless Monday” usually takes me somewhere in the SatNYT range.

Four stars from me.

Updated Saturday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hand Gestures”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 24

The three theme answers begin with ROCK, PAPER, and SCISSORS, respectively:

  • 20-Across: ROCK CLIMBING is an [Extreme sport] alright. With my acrophobia and lack of coordination, it’s safe to say it won’t be on my bucket list anytime soon.
  • 38-Across: The [Folded flier] is a PAPER AIRPLANE. Here‘s a site with some helpful lessons for making your own.
  • 56-Across: The [Propelling motion in the pool] is the SCISSORS KICK. “Scissors” is a great word in part because it’s the same in the singular and plural forms. You know, like glasses, fish, pants, and offspring. Okay, I don’t get out much.

Where are the theme entries starting with LIZARD and SPOCK? Despite their absence, I enjoyed this puzzle’s smoothness. Here are some random thoughts that came to me while solving: (1) we don’t often get 10-letter Across answers that are unrelated to the theme, but here we got both INORDINATE and HIGH-OCTANE. Was I the only one who wondered whether they had something to do with the theme at first? (2) There was a lot of lawyerly fill here, what with PLEA, CASE, and CLERKS. That they appeared consecutively in the grid probably exacerbated the mini-theme. (3) [It has a wet floor] is a fun clue for OCEAN. (4) DID LAPS felt kind of arbitrary to me, but by the same token I have to admit that it fell with only the DI- in place. So maybe it wasn’t nearly as arbitrary as I thought.

Favorite entry = V-SIGN, the [Churchill gesture]. Favorite clue = [Jolly Green Giant saying] for HO HO HO. Why give all the attention to Santa Claus when he’ll get enough coverage over the next 31 days?

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.24.12 by Brad Wilber

Happy belated Thanksgiving, solvers! Did you EAT enough on Thursday? If not, heat up some leftovers while we review this delicious puzzle.

Speaking of leftovers, nothing recycled about this puzzle. Tons of fresh fill. Also, you know what I give thanks for? Pangrams that don’t feel forced. I plowed through this puzzle like it was a plate of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Okay, I’m done stuffing Thanksgiving references into this review.

Highlights, of which there are many:

  • 23a, XYZ AFFAIR [1790s diplomatic powder keg]. X, Y, and Z were French diplomats (or, rather, their aliases) who sought bribes from American ambassadors in exchange for détente. The Americans, offended, refused to negotiated further, aggravating the already-strained relations between France and the newly independent America and spurring the onset of the nearly-as-Scrabbly Quasi-War.
  • 35a, CANTERBURY BELLS [Garden blooms named for medieval music makers]. Never heard of ‘em (the flowers or the bells). Now I know (and knowing is half the battle!). Was this the seed entry, do you think? Was it originally supposed to be CANTERBURY taLeS? Was it intended as glue to hold some of the pretty 9s together? Other theories?
  • 38a, ARGO [Ship with a prophetic prow]. The prow was carved by Athena, no less! N.B. When do we get the film clues for this entry?
  • 44a, JUDGE JUDY [Highly rated court figure]. An extremely well-regarded New York family court prosecutor and judge before her 17 seasons (so far) of fame. Now she makes $123,000 a day and $45,000,000 a year.
  • 49a, ADOBE [Clay + straw + water + sunshine]. Great cluing. Resisting the urge to go consumerist and reference the brand name pays off.
  • 8d, PLUS FOURS [Golfer's knickers]. So-named because they extend four inches below the knee. I always wanted a pair of plus fours, mostly because of the late great Payne Stewart.

    The man knew how to wear a pant. And how to golf.

  • 21d, OFT-QUOTED [Like an old saw]. I saw right through this trap. Haha, get it? Saw? Sigh.
  • 23d, XACTO [Maker of the Vortex electric pencil sharpener]. They’re more than just knives, you know.
  • 37d, BAEDEKER [Tourist guidebook publisher]. Namesake of the far-more-interesting Baedeker Blitz, a series of retaliatory raids by the Luftwaffe on British cities. The cities targeted were chosen because they all had been awarded three stars for historical significance by the German Baedeker Guide to Britain, or so the story goes.
  • 42d, RUMPUS [Clamor]. Did anyone else have RUckUS first? I had a bunch of gibberish in the SW corner for a hot second because of it.
  • 44d, JUNTA [Coup group]. As with “Sean Bean,” my brain was convinced these two words had to rhyme. What’s a coo groo?, I wondered aloud to no one in particular.

And still we’ve only scraped the surfaces of the 7×3 corners, which were all solid. Loved 3d, MYOB, and its clue, [Initial warning to an intruder?]. (This stands for “Mind your own business,” BTW.) SNOW could have been a PROSAIC entry without the clue-that-references-the-eleventh-definition-in-the-dictionary, [Bamboozle]. Bamboozle indeed, Brad Wilber.

In the negatives column… what’s even in the negatives column? CANTERBURY BELLS was new but by no means bad. TREADON [Walk all over] didn’t quite feel like a lexical unit to me, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because of “Don’t Tread On Me.” If your puzzle’s worst two entries are APACE and OTO, then you’re doing something really, really right.

4.75 stars from me. Until next week!

Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 24 12 “Saturday Stumper”

Let’s take it listwise:

  • 1a. [Something tamed with acid], HOT SALSA. Huh?
  • 19a. [What a purse might do], SNAP OPEN. I think it snaps shut and unsnaps open.
  • 31a. [Sport with horses], GYMNASTICS. Great clue.
  • 41a. [''. . . cover the multitude of sins'' source], I PETER. A.k.a. “First Peter,” “1 Peter.”
  • 46a. [Products of wood carbonization], TARS. Can also come from coal.
  • 50a. [Ne'er-do-well], BAD APPLE. One ne’er-do-well spoils the bunch.
  • 55a. [Bounty hunter's accessory], AIR TASER. Have never seen this term before.
  • 56a. [Recent arrival], ROOKIE. I tried NEW KID and NEWBIE and both wanted to work out, they did.
  • 58a. [''Hi-lo'' signals], SIRENS. Never thought of them that way.
  • 1d. [Parts of roofs], HIPS. I had no idea.
  • 3d. [Two-note announcement], TA-DA. Sirens, those are often two-note announcements.
  • 5d. [Author taught by Thoreau], Louisa May Alcott.
  • 6d. Art director’s tool], LOUPE. I think of art directors as the people who work on the overall set design for a movie more than people peering at fine detail with a loupe.
  • 7d. “SURE, WHY NOT?” is a great answer.
  • 9d. [How some small cars are bought], KITS. Ick, no. “How” ≠ a plural noun. AS KITS, IN KITS, maybe.
  • 24d. [Series with a ''Secrets of the Sun'' episode], NOVA. I tried LOST first. What?
  • 27d. [''Some Enchanted Evening'' singer], EMILE. South Pacific role, yes?
  • 32d. Transistor descendant], IPOD. “Transistor” being shorthand for “transistor radio.”
  • 36d. [Goodyear partner, 1922-40], ZEPPELIN. Goodyear blimp!
  • 42d. [Astronomical term coined by Galileo], CRATER. From the Greek for “mixing bowl.”

Overall, 3.75 stars.

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27 Responses to Saturday, 11/24/12

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thanks, Amy. Liked the puz. Also 4*, also sailed through it pretty quickly by my standards.

    BUT–Re 7a, — You *don’t* carry poles when you’re going off a ski jump. (Believe it or not, I actually went off a little 30 meter jump a few times, but thought better of graduating to the bigger jumps.) The last thing you want is to be carrying and flailing poles when you’re ski jumping. On the other hand, if you’re just free skiing and jumping off a bump — what the Austrians used to call a gelandesprung — of course you have your poles. But the pronoun “it” suggests that what is being referred is an actual ski jump ramp, not some random bump on a slope.

    • RK says:

      The guys not on snowboards are using poles here. And don’t some freestylers do a few jumps down a slope and use poles?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mRMM7JL3ZE&feature=related

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Yes, in Olympic mogul skiing you go off a couple ledges and do an air trick. And of course you have poles skiing moguls. But again I refer to the syntax of the clue and the word “It.” The “it” which you go over strongly suggests the separate, independent sport of ski jumping (an Olympic event in its own right), where you do not carry poles. They would interfere with your attempt to become an aerodynamic air foil.

        • RK says:

          Is it ever said that one goes or jumps “over” those olympic type ramps/jumps? I don’t recall “over” being used, though “off” is. “Over” seems to be used when a skier is already moving, when a jump represents an obstacle or something that is met while in motion.

    • sbmanion says:

      I put in SKI BUMP originally and was wonderting so hard about how “beer” fit the down clue, that I never noticed whether SKI JUMP fit. When freestylers ski the moguls, they do indeed use poles, but I would not refer to the daffies, helicopters, etc. as jumps.

      Some years ago, I was skiing at Vail when I saw the best skier I have ever seen. There is a double black diamond run called Prima and an incredibly steep short mogul run off it called Pronto. I was at the chair at the bottom (having taken a single black diamond run to get there), when suddenly everyone started yelling “go for it.” Someone was absolutely skiing the fall line, which is an incredibly thrilling sight. He did a double helicopter off the final bump. By a long story, I was part of the Flatlanders Ski Race Association that week (Dallas, Oklahoma City, Lincoln (my group), etc.). So was the skier. Groupie that I am, I went up to talk to him. He pooh-poohed what he had done because he did not do the double helicopter until the bottom. He had been the United States Hot Dog Ski Champion at age 16, but lost his nerve when his best friend became paralyzed in a fall. He said, “I used to do that trick in the middle of the run.”

      Skiing is the most counterintuitive sport I can think of. Your every instinct is to recoil from the hill, which is exactly the opposite of what you need to do.

      Steve

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Right, Steve. Stiffen up and shy away from the slope and you’re dead. You need to relax and let your body lean right down the hill — the steeper the slope the more crucial this is. That’s the trick to skiing moguls. Basically the weight of your upper body has to precede your legs. There are “jet” turns, where your weight is off the skis, and then momentarily on the tails as the skis rapidly swing around, but you have to instantly get your weight forward again. (Guess I really miss skiing. My last big ski season was 04 -05 when I spent the summer and fall in the gym and had a season pass at Stowe. Don’t know if I will ever get back into skiing shape.)

    • sbmanion says:

      On a separate note, Sports Illustrated, among many others has long proclaimed that the event should be called “ski flying” not “ski jumping.” Contrary to the appearance, a ski jumper is usually about seven feet off the ground and is almost never more than 10 feet. In Aerials, where they do flips and spins with names like “double triple full full,” the jumper is truly off the ground, as much as 50-60 feet in the air.

      Steve

  2. Ethan says:

    The Maryland Lottery set up Keno games in several bars and restaurants (not sure if they still do) so I am quite familiar with Keno from real life. This is the only commercial I could find for it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUsQ9eczbo

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Keno is in bars, certainly all over the East. Not sure about elsewhere. You fill in a card, choosing several numbers, (I think the numbers offered are 1 through 72), then the winning numbers appear dramatically one at a time on big screens. The payoff increases as you get more and more numbers correct. Also for pay off for getting no numbers correct, I think. It hardly needs to be said that the house wins, but as I understand it, the house edge is not unconscionably great, and you don’t lose that much because the games proceed slowly, and there is an interval between games. It can be mildly diverting. You can see that I’ve played few enough times to be fuzzy about the details. Perhaps someone has real afficion for the game and can be more precise.

    • john farmer says:

      KENO is still a popular game in Las Vegas. Faro, on the other hand, is game more often seen in crosswords than casinos these days. Vegas is also home to the casino Mandalay Bay.

      Liked the puzzle, and it went pretty quickly for me too. I’M CALM isn’t the most idiomatic of phrases but is a number from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by the aptly named Hysterium, though not exactly “Comedy Tonight.”

      I liked seeing ACE IN THE HOLE, among other things one of the great (if lesser known) Billy Wilder films.

  3. John Chamberlain says:

    But when did Scalia replace Rehnquist? Was it on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals?

  4. Zulema says:

    Agree on today’s puzzle being much easier than yesterday’s, but did not look at yesterday’s comments so I guess I should now, having seen the comments here.

  5. Gareth says:

    If you filled in as many wrong answers as I did today your time becomes Saturday plus! I started with SCOOBY at 1A, which I crossed that with CEREAL and ORGANS at 2- and 3D and then LEAD at 19A. IMCALM was IMCOOl for the longest time. MISHA was SASHA. My rival of Paris was ACHILLES, right story at least! My Freddy Kruger costume had TALONS (He is the guy with the talons, right?) There were others… I’m usually more disciplined!

    Loved Brad’s puzzle too, though I tore through quicker than Thursday or Friday’s LATs! Wilber is usually my LAT nemesis producing Saturday NYT times, but the clues gave no resistence for me, except in the BAEDEKER area… I second Andy’s “great clueing” for ADOBE.

    Average the the two puzzles and I think I had normal Saturday difficulty!

  6. Martin says:

    Keno is vey common in bars and corner stores here in BC. It’s been around for years. So from my perspective, it’s quite uncrosswordy.

    I’ve never played it, but it looks like a simplified and quicker form of bingo.

    MAS

    • Gareth says:

      Never come across it over here. I’m slowly becoming enured to the idea that one man’s crossword-ese is actually quite familiar to a portion of solvers. I possibly won’t keel over if someone here admits to having two pet ernes and employing esnes on their mansion’s estate…

  7. DocHank says:

    Of all the puzzles Amy regularly features, I wonder if there’s a consensus on which is usually the most difficult… Stumper? NYT?

    • RK says:

      I’m just an average solver, but I’d say the Newsday Stumper is the hardest by a pretty good margin, though I don’t do the fireball. As far as those of Amy’s caliber, I’m not sure “difficult” is in their lexicon. Off to the Sunday NYT…

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, that Stumper was very tough for me… I thought maybe Goodyear teamed up for a while with Michelin! One hand up for trying Newbie first too. Even the clue “Campers tops” had me leaning toward T-shapes before T-SHIRTS. It all felt like four different puzzles, getting the SE early on and then needing a time-out before tackling the next section. My favorite answer: BAD APPLE!

  9. pannonica says:

    Stumper:

    [Art director’s tool], LOUPE. I think of art directors as the people who work on the overall set design for a movie more than people peering at fine detail with a loupe.

    That would never have occurred to me, since my father was a commercial art director, mainly for pharmaceutical advertising. Films far from my mind on that one. And yes, he had plenty of loupes lying about.

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