Saturday, 12/29/12

Newsday 5:44 
NYT 5:09 
LAT 2:50 (Andy) 
CS 3:52 (Sam) 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 29 12, 1229

By the bullets:

  • 15×16 puzzle with no grid symmetry at all, with a quintuple stack of 15s near the midsection. Doesn’t quite count breaking the record and building the first quint-stack when the rules of size and symmetry are dispensed with, does it?
  • Three roll-your-own words: REPULSER, plural SECRECIES, plural people SELF-PITIERS. The root words are fine, but when you add the -ER, the -S, the -ERS, things go haywire on the language front. There’s definite haywiriness.
  • Two lovely 15s: PTOLEMAIC SYSTEM and VANESSA WILLIAMS. One overused 15: A TEENAGER IN LOVE. About five years ago, Byron Walden made fun of that entry as one that appears in too many triple stacks. When word slipped out ahead of time that today’s puzzle was a quint-stack, another friend actually predicted that ATEENAGERINLOVE would make the cut. I cackled when I reached [1959 doo-wop classic] and knew it was here. (It’s a fine answer, just one that, like Joe’s past SCARLET TANAGERS and A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE, one is fine with never seeing again in another themeless.)
  • Answers I needed every crossing for: Just one, 36d: ADIGE. [Verona's river] doesn’t get a lot of crossword play.
  • Answers most redolent of HORSE MANURE: ONE REED and plural Carol LEIFERS. Honorable mention: Italian partial A DIO.
  • Trickiest clue: 1a: [Urban contemporary]. Man, I thought the answer was gonna be BLACK and that it referred to radio formats. The answer, TRITT, befuddled me until I figured out that Travis TRITT is a Keith Urban contemporary. Love it!
  • Arcane term: 19d: SERVICE LIST, [Ones to whom an organization's messages are sent]. Does anyone recognize this term?
  • Quaintest answer: 32d: ‘S MARVELOUS.
  • Star rating: Four stars for the good stuff, 1.75 stars for the woeful stuff. A 3.2-star rating comes out in the wash. The pursuit of constructorial “records” is not of much interest to me, and while I’m okay with asymmetrical puzzles (like half the puzzles in Frank Longo’s second book of cranium crushers), the arena of first/best/lowest/most achievements is one in which the rules ought to be followed.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

Los Angeles Times puzzle 12.29.12 by Ed Sessa

This puzzle played somewhere between easy and peasy. Highlights include one 15:

  • 38a, CLENCH ONE’S FISTS [Display anger]. Boring entry, boring clue. Probably wasn’t the seed entry.

Two 12s:

  • 19a, SAY SOMETHING! ["Don't just sit there!"]. What a versatile phrase: it goes with sadness, anger, worry — the whole gamut of emotions, really.
  • 58a, BATMAN BEGINS [2005 Christopher Nolan action film ].Spoiler alert: Bruce Wayne is Batman.

    Don’t just say something. Say Anything.

And a few 9s:

  • 9d, BRAINWASH [Leave without reason?]. It took me forever to suss this one out. It’s not someone leaving somewhere without [a] reason; rather, it’s someone leaving someone else without [the capacity to] reason. Nice clue.
  • 20d, TARANTULA [Hairy crawler]. Can’t think of another hairy crawler, other than perhaps a particularly hirsute baby.
  • 34d, CHOPSTICK [You can't eat with one]. Speak for yourself, Ed Sessa/Rich Norris! As the clue implies, we rarely see this entry in the singular. Try playing “Chopsticks” with only one finger, eh?

A few other entries that tickled my fancy:

  • 7d, TYPE AB [Rare medical classifcation]. While I know this is referring to blood type, I’d like to think it refers to a passive-aggressive personality type.
  • 40d, ‘ENRY [Elision from Eliza]. In ‘artford, ‘ereford, and ‘ampshire, ‘urricanes ‘ardly hever ‘appen.
  • 35a, ADAM WEST ['60s Bruce Wayne portrayer]. Completes the Batman mini-theme. Adam West has had a resurgence as the mayor of Quahog on Family Guy.
  • 68a, GET LOST [Words before a disappearing act?].The only thing that disappears when someone says that to me is my patience.

    Time to get LITEBRITE into a puzzle.

Most of the puzzle was pretty straightforward: the clues had a fairly singular correspondence to their fill. There were lots of unremarkable entries, and I didn’t love the partial ABABA, Peter MAAS, the semi-lexical ON EMPTY, UNTAME, and ABR. 2.75 stars from me.

Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “At the Apple Store”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 29

Not my fastest solve ever (that was 3:34, set on October 25 of this year–but who’s counting?), and not even my fastest on a Doug Peterson puzzle (okay, I’m double-dipping here: that one with the 3:34 solving time was a puzzle by Doug). But still, this one fell mighty quickly. The theme was apparent from the title and the first theme entry–we’re dealing with terms ending with a type of apple:

  • 17-Across: The [Celebration that typically features a countdown] is a NEW YEAR’S EVE GALA. I’m a fan of the Gala apple–it’s nice and crisp, with not too much sweetness–so once this one fell I knew what to look for in the other long Across entries.
  • 26-Across: I knew that ALEC BALDWIN is a [Two-time Emmy winner for "30 Rock"] (one of the most over-rated shows in recent television history, by the way), but I didn’t know there is a Baldwin apple. Wikipedia says it’s “a bright red winter apple, very good in quality, and easily shipped. It was for many years the most popular apple in New England, New York, and for export from America.” That’s what I get for growing up on the west coast, I guess. 
  • 46-Across: ANCIENT ROME was [Where Vulgar Latin was spoken]. You can probably still hear some Vulgar Latin in Rome (though it might be the Rome in Georgia, and it might be Pig Latin). Onay offenshay. 
  • 58-Across: BOARDWALK EMPIRE is the [HBO series set in Prohibition era Atlantic City]. I haven’t seen it yet, but now that I’ve caught up on Breaking Bad, I have to decide whether to start watching Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones. Any recommendations? Oh, I was also unfamiliar with the Empire apple. Here’s some intel from Wikipedia: “Empire apples are red, juicy, firm, crunchy and sweet. They ripen during September and October, and will keep until January. The original seed was a cross between the varieties McIntosh and Red Delicious. Empire apples are excellent for eating and salads, and good for sauce, baking, pies and freezing. It is an ideal lunch-box apple, not least because it does not bruise easily.” Unlike the feelings of the one carrying the lunch box.

As is always true with Doug’s crosswords, there are some fun gems in the fill. ADMIT IT is a great central Down that connects the two 11-letter theme entries. Note that because of the placement of these theme entries, Doug either had to find a five-letter answer fitting D???I, put one or three black squares in the middle, or go with a seven- or nine-letter Down entry. He chose well. Lively fill should always drive decisions like this.

Other fun entries include EVEN SO, FLAWED, CHERUB, TWELVE, NITWIT, and DWARF. I had TROMPS instead of TRAMPS for [Walks with heavy steps], and TRIES instead of TURNS for [Chances to play], but otherwise the solve was nice and smooth. A nice way to end the week!

Favorite entry = either SQUAB, the [Dark meat delicacy], or ["American Beauty" actress MenaSUVARI (the former because of the rare letters, the latter because of the minor crush I once had on her). Favorite clue = [Quite weighty] for OBESE

Mel Rosen’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 12 29 12 “Saturday Stumper,” Mel Rosen

The northwest corner of this 72-word puzzle is way too butch. MAN CAVE is a great 1-Across but it crosses NICE MEN, which fails on two counts. First off, MAN/MEN is a duplicated word, which we might forgive if the answers were at least further apart in the grid, and if MEN weren’t also crossed by the clue ["All men __ boys": Updike]. Second, “nice guys” is in the language as a discrete concept. NICE MEN is just adjective + noun, like GREEN CURTAINS or ANGRY TEACHER.

The last square I fixed was the middle of 56-Across. [Census Bureau category], GEN*ERS? I went with GENDERS, even though the singular would work better as a category name. Didn’t know how 51d: [Strain] worked for TAD, though. Figured out I needed GEN XERS (which is indeed a group the Census Bureau has written about) and the verb TAX.

Fifteen more clues:

  • 17a. [Phonetician's diacritics], MACRONS. My eye keeps reading that as “Phoenicians.”
  • 19a. [__-Illinois Inc.], OWENS. Apparently the company goes by O-I now and makes half of the world’s glass containers.
  • 31a. [Has an itch], COVETS. Are these really parallel? Do you just go around coveting in general, or do you covet a particular thing? Because “has an itch” can’t take another direct object, and “covets” can.
  • 37a. [Ample, as amounts], HANDSOME. “As amounts” is a weird phrase.
  • 46a. [Record-breaking 30th tropical storm of 2005], ZETA. So 26 names for A through Z, then alpha, beta, gamma, delta… I don’t think ZETA should have come up so soon in the order.
  • 48a. [Barrels and beehives], CACTI. I bet there are UPDOS that look a lot like barrels, though.
  • 52a. [Vault expert], GYMNAST. With the right springboard, a gymnast can leap right over a bank vault.
  • 55a. [''You got a better idea?''], “HOW ELSE?” This doesn’t really feel like a question people ask.
  • 4d. [Hamburguesa, por ejemplo], CARNE. Meat, in Spanish.
  • 8d. [British Film Institute's ''greatest film director''], Orson WELLES. Yes, but did he make even a single R-rated comedy?
  • 28d. [Olay alternative], POND’S. Have never, ever purchased a Pond’s product, but I commend Rosen and/or Newsday for using Olay instead of the outmoded “Oil of Olay.”
  • 33d. [Took no action], SAT TIGHT. Good entry. Would have liked to see more fresh long answers in a 72-worder.
  • 34d. [Partygoer's bring-along], GIFT BAG. Good entry. At kid parties, the guests go home with goodie bags too.
  • 40d. [Passed or played], ENACTED. Having trouble thinking of an enact = play usage. Help me out here.
  • 49d. [Daytona winners in '76 and '11], BMWS. I thought 4 letters seemed rather short for a plural name like UNSERS.

Markedly less of a stumper than most Stumpers. On a day when the Saturday NYT plays like a Friday puzzle, we turn to the Stumper for our weekly RDA (yes, I know the “D” in RDA means “daily”) of challenging crossword solving. Aw, I didn’t hit a single expanse I had trouble making headway in. It hardly felt like a Stumper at all! (Still tougher than this weekend’s other themelesses to date. Perhaps tomorrow’s Post Puzzler will be gnarlier.) 3.33 stars.

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24 Responses to Saturday, 12/29/12

  1. I come out of posting retirement to say a pox on this puzzle. Didn’t see the flaw until I was almost done. If you can’t make a five stack without cheating, don’t bother me with it.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    A TEENAGER IN LOVE hasn’t appeared in the NYT since 2005. Hardly OREO. Although it does appear in 100% of the quint-stacks.

    The usual suspects will say the usual things about this one, so I’ll just say I had a lot of fun solving this.

  3. Huda says:

    Maybe I’m easily impressed, but I stared at the 5 stack with amazement. I understand that it came at a price, and the rest of it suffered some (For quite a while, I had REPeLlER, in lieu of REPULSER).

    But I think that one way to break barriers is to try something new even if it’s imperfect. While being the first at doing something can be interpreted as being somewhat narcissistic, it can simply reflect the love of a challenge and the desire for novelty, which is terrific. It will be interesting to see when the next 5-stack comes along, and how it will look…

    My hat’s off to JK.

  4. Gareth says:

    Enjoyed the answers PTOLEMAICSYSTEM, VANESSAWILLIAMS (her short lived pop career was around the time I started listening to popular music!) and yes ATEENAGERINLOVE (I think its usage frequency has obviously been in decline since I started solving, I don’t remember seeing it more than once, so I was pleasantly surprised when it popped up! Dion!) and HORSEMANURE. “Round parts” is in clue of the week territory for me! So is the “Urban contemporary” that you cited!

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    It’s funny — I sometimes turn up my nose at what I regard as a purely technical achievement in construction with little payoff to the solver. But to me this was both off-the-charts astounding, and very enjoyable. I assume it’s a world record, and I don’t give a rat’s . . .nose?. . .about the asymmetry. It’s like successfully building a tower 10 feet high of Bic pens stacked vertically. (I once accomplished 4 — almost 2 feet.)

    I’m sure I could nit a few entries as well as the next person — repulsers, secrecies, service list. Of course a clarinet has only one reed. An oboe only has one reed too, though it’s a “double” reed rather than the clarinet’s single reed. Double reed just means that it’s like a flattened straw that you blow through, rather than a solid piece. The Adige is a beautiful, Alpine river in a beautiful Alpine area in northeastern Italy. The Austrian part of Italy, pretty much due south of Liechstenstein. S’Wonderful is s’marvelous Gershwin song. At least two great jazz pianists, Lennie Tristano and Oscar have done s’wonderful versions. (Well, that’s one great and one greatest jazz pianist.) I thought Carol Leifer was very funny on Seinfeld, and the “and family” cluing gimmick is one we are all familiar with. All the 15′s were great, as well as several of the long verticals (lionesses, self-pitiers, etc. I find it amazing that anyone, especially a constructor, would go out of his way to dump on this 5-star masterpiece.

  6. Matt says:

    I liked it… ‘Round parts’, ‘Thrust item’, ‘Sporting boots’, ‘Deal preceder’ were all clever, and for me only ISSEL really required all the crossings. Not so sure HORSEMANURE passes the breakfast test. In any event, a good, rather tough puzzle with the added bonus of a technical achievement, in my opinion.

  7. Alan says:

    I have to agree with the naysayers that there’s too much dreck for this to be a success. Especially in comparison to yesterday’s wonderful themeless. Plus, I feel that if you’re going to eschew symmetry there’s gotta be a reason.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Don’t we see bits of HAY sticking out of HORSE MANURE much like 50d sticks out of 50a?

  9. Rock says:

    Loved the CS and especially the write up about apples, (my kitchen is apple-themed :)!

    Take a can of unopened condensed milk and put in crockpot, cover with water and cook for 4 hours on high, open can and you have homemade caramel dip, delicious!!

    Hope everyone has a great year and thanks for all the hard work

    • pannonica says:

      aka dulce de leche (made with sweetened condensed milk)

      Can be done in any saucepan, just make sure the water level never evaporates to below the can’s top. May take five hours. Also useful for making banoffee pie, or just putting over ice cream.

      Found the NYT stunter not-so-funter.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed the NYT, and wouldn’t carp at the lack of perfect symmetry. “Round parts” was a riot! And overall this was an awesome achievement…

  11. Ruth says:

    Does Doug Peterson live in upstate New York? Empire apples don’t seem to be well known outside this area (so it makes me wonder).

    • Doug says:

      Hi, Ruth. No, I live in Southern California, and I have to admit I’ve never seen Empire apples at the supermarket here. Thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia. My favorite type of apple is the Pink Lady. Tastes better than candy!

  12. sbmanion says:

    I think Joel used steroids, preceded by amphetamines and also completed this puzzle during an era when blacks were excluded from solving.

    Frankly, eras change and Joe is new wave–and absolutely brilliant. I am on the great puzzle side. I am very happy to see you again, Lee, but I disagree with your opinion about the puzzle.

    I did know VIREO, but did not know ADIGE (thanks for the info, Bruce). I only object to obscurity when two obscurities cross each other. By the way, does Rex’s use of the word Natick refer to the crossing or to the individual entry?

    I never grade, but would be on the 5-star list today. I do not think that I will ever have another opportunity to have Liechtensteiner be one of my first entries.

    Steve

    • Huda says:

      Natick refers to two obscurities crossing… So, your objection is to Naticks

      I read a novel set in Natick and it was startling at first, because I had forgotten that Natick is a real place, and I guess not all that obscure…

  13. Martin says:

    Thanks Joe, for the eye-popping puzzle!

    -MAS

  14. Huda says:

    NYT: The spread on the ratings is remarkable. It’s the least bell-shaped distribution I’ve seen for any puzzle.

    I was telling my husband about this puzzle and he asked me: why is symmetry important? It was an honest question and I’m not sure I know how to answer it. It’s not important to my solving experience. Is it purely esthetic? Is it there to place a constraint on the constructor, and if so, why wouldn’t be acceptable to trade one constraint for another?

  15. Jerome says:

    I dislike half of Joe’s puzzles. The other half I think are great. At least he’s got the juevos to push against convention and attempt some revolutionary stuff while it seems half of us constructors are stuck in add a letter, drop a letter mode… and trying to be the punniest. Wow, what collective brilliance. As for A TEENAGER IN LOVE, you put it in a five stacker today then tell us in a few weeks how things are turning out.

  16. Zulema says:

    I was unhappy with the NW corner, but would not think ever that actually insulting the constructor (and the editor) by using extremely ugly words is proper criticism, even if there is an entry in the puzzle that is more or less a synonym, though more nicely put. I hope such language is not encouraged here.

    Two and a half hours is how long I cook the sweetened condensed milk. When cool, I stir it well with a fork. Fantastic result.

  17. Greg says:

    Enjoyed the puzzle, despite the asymmetry and non-standard size.

    For what it’s worth, “service list” is an extremely common term in litigation (I’m a lawyer), as in “Let’s make sure we mail this notice of motion to everyone on the service list.” But I don’t recall seeing the term outside this legal setting.

    I suppose 15×15 sizing and symmetry are admired for the same reason we admire deft but strict Shakespearean or Petrarchan sonnets. There’s a delight in watching an artist perform miracles within a seemingly confining format. But just as there are plenty of superb sonnets that break all the rules, I think it’s fine to have the occasional variant puzzle, particularly in service of that nifty five-stack.

  18. Zulema says:

    In case someone is still here, what is IDI as a response to “Forest part of 2006″ in the LAT?

Comments are closed.