Saturday, February 23, 2013

Newsday 6:51 
LAT 5:47, 1 error (Andy) 
NYT 4:30 
CS 4:30 (Sam) 

Todd Gross’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 23 13, #0223

This 60-word grid looks like an eyeball, man.

It’s got lots of great long answers, a couple mediocre long answers, some ordinary shorter fill, and some abysmal short fill. On balance, I didn’t find it a fun solve because of the parts that clanged instead of humming.

First up, the likes:

  • 10a. [Massachusetts governor after John Hancock], SAMUEL ADAMS. We would also have accepted [Beer brand].
  • 12a. [One who was very successful with numbered balls] made me think of lottery winners but it was MINNESOTA FATS playing pool.
  • 27a. [Feature of some televised debates], SPLIT-SCREEN. Can be entertaining.
  • 32a. [Survey militarily], RECONNOITER. It sounds a little like yesterday’s ACCOUTERING, only it’s a word people actually use.
  • 45a. [One who is very successful with numbered balls] … hey! Here’s my LOTTERY WINNER.
  • 50a. [Exercise leader], that’s easy. As Jeffrey told us on Thursday, PETE ACHER “was the world’s first referee to use a whistle, at Wagar High School gym class in 1879.”
  • 10d. [Dublin-born singer with a 1990 #1 hit], SINEAD O’CONNOR.
  • 11d. [Kings' home], STAPLES CENTER. The Los Angeles Kings NBA team. The Grammys show was also at the Staples. There was a no-liquor policy and yet Jay-Z had a snifter of brandy with him.
  • 12d. [GQ sort of guy], METROSEXUAL. Nobody much seems to use the word anymore, but it’s still KINDA cute.
  • 37d. [Luster, e.g.], SINNER. As in “one who lusts.”

And now, the dislikes:

  • 17a. [Cerebral canals], ITERS. Anatomical crosswordese.
  • 23a. [Board game found in Egyptian tombs], SENET. Never heard of it despite its incredibly crossword-friendly letters and alternating consonant/vowel pattern. That doesn’t bode well for a word’s crossword-worthiness. And if you don’t know your ANILINE dye (19d. [Chemical used in dyes]), woe to you at guessing that N in SENET.
  • 35a. [Yeomen of the Guard officer], EXON. Wha…?
  • 42a. [Some Japanese-Americans] … I’ve got ISSEI and NISEI, both five letters long. SANSEI? Issei were born in Japan and immigrated to the US (or Canada). Nisei are their kids, first-generation Americans of Japanese descent. Sansei are the grandchildren of immigrants from Japan.
  • 5d. [Street caution], SLO. Can you find me any street signs that say SLO instead of SLOW? A cursory Google image search suggests that the signs actually use the real word, what with the requirement that road signs communicate clearly and efficiently.
  • 7d. [Writer LeShan and others], EDAS. Bring me the others!
  • 14d. [Mess makers], LITTERERS. We call ‘em litterbugs.
  • 16d. ["Just a few more miles"], IT’S NOT FAR. Feels a mite contrived as crossword answers go.
  • 28d. [Battle of ___ (first Allied victory of W.W. I)], CER. Whoa. Just as EXON’s prior appearances in the NYT puzzle were all clued as some old Nebraska senator, CER’s priors are all [Wax: Comb. form]. The world was not crying out for a fresh, old CER clue.
  • SETAE, YMA, -IEST, TOD, ESO, TES, DES, AUER? Meh.

I don’t give bonus points for low word counts that are reduced at a steep cost, and that dislikes section was expensive. 2.75 stars from me, recognizing the zippiness of much of the long fill while feeling disappointed by the goo in between.

Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 02.23.13 by Barry C. Silk

Hi all! A not-too-lengthy review this week (note the use of the lately-crossword-prevalent litotes), as I’m struggling to fill a NOTEBOOK with my thoughts about a massive reading list, to no AVAIL.

First, some factoids:

  • 3d, BAY BRIDGE [Structure damaged in a 1989 earthquake]. The Loma Prieta earthquake, to be exact. A terrifying thought — reminds me of the winds that damaged the Tacoma Narrows bridge.
  • 35a, PYGMY CHIMPANZEE [Former name of the bonobo].Did you know that bonobos use sex as a greeting, as conflict resolution, and as postconflict reconciliation? And some people say we didn’t evolve from monkeys…

    A bonobo, limbering up for some postconflict reconciliation.

  • 15d, LA JOLLA [Home to California's Torrey Pines Golf Course]. Tiger’s done particularly well there — he just wrapped up his eighth PGA Tour win at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago. I like to say “La Jolla” as if it were a Hebrew exclamation. Try it at home!
  • 36d, YTTRIUM [Element No. 39]. Along with ytterbium, one of two elements named for Ytterby, Sweden. Yttrium may be element number 39, but it’s element number 1 in my heart.

Likes:

  • 21a, LEE J. COBB [Johnny Friendly portrayer in "On the Waterfront"]. One of the few actors whose full name seems to show up more than either partial (also looking at you TEA LEONI). I think I remember solving a crossword with LEE J. as an entry. (XWord Info informs me the LEE J. partial has occurred in the NYT puzzle not once, but six times. Blegh.) Anyway, a beautiful entry in full.
  • 4d, UNCLE SAM [Guy giving you a pointer?]. For some reason I assumed the clue had to be referring to the last name of someone named Guy. And that’s how I got hung up on thinking the answer had to be LOMBARDO, which in hindsight wasn’t actually a bad guess.

    Maybe next time, Guy Lombardo.

  • 31d, AMMAN [Mideast capital once called Philadelphia]. I’m pretty sure one of the Ptolemys was responsible for that.
  • 63a, SKEET [Game with a disk operating system?] Good clue!

My error was completely my own fault: as the screenshot above will tell you, I had RHoMBS/HoBBLE instead of RHUMBS [Compass points] and HUBBLE [Eponymous astronomer]. Didn’t check that crossing at all because I assumed it had to be an O; that is to say, I had never in my life heard of RHUMBS. But now I have. While of course I think my wrong fill is better (because clearly RHOMB is a word in much more common usage than RHUMB) /sarcasm, the HUBBLE crossing makes that entry more than fair.

There was a lot of good stuff in this one, not already mentioned: AZURE BLUE, STEAL HOME, RENAULT, NOT GUILTY, CLAIM FORM, UTAHN. Little to gripe about: the initalisms HST/RLS and the French CES not offering too much resistance. I’ll put this one at an even 4 stars. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “You Don’t Know Jack!”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 23

When I say there’s not a whole lot to this puzzle, I’m referring to the theme and not the puzzle’s quality. The theme entries are all clued [It's not much], and three of them have a food connection:

  • 17-Across: HILL OF BEANS. It’s what the problems of three little people in this crazy world amount to. 
  • 28-Across: SMALL POTATOES. As Former Vice President Quayle will tell you, they’re the fancy ones–the ones with an E.
  • 47-Across: PLUGGED NICKEL. Growing up, I knew this expression as “plum nickel.” Too bad that’s not it, because then there would have been a foodie component to the theme entries too.
  • 62-Across: CHICKEN FEED. Surprisingly, chicken feed is actually moderately expensive.

The theme may be modest but the fill is terrific. I especially liked DON CHEADLE, the [Basher Tarr portrayer in "Ocean's Eleven"], GOPHER, the ["Caddyshack" menace], FARRAH, the [First name in swimsuit posters], and ["The Prime of Miss Jean] BRODIE. Good thing I knew that last one or else I would have insisted that the crossing [Acronym used by techies] was GIGA instead of GIGO (which I now know to stand for “garbage in, garbage out”). I also struggled with OSKAR [Werner of "Fahrenheit 451"] and ["The Old Devils" author Kingsley] AMIS (Eek! They even crossed!). But eventually it all fell into place.

Huh, I guess [It's not much] can also serve as a review of this write-up.

Favorite entry = MEAT LOCKER, the [Butcher's storeroom]. Favorite clue = [Thunder and Lightning] for professional sports TEAMS.

Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 2 23 13 “Saturday Stumper,” Bruce Sutphin

A workmanlike Stumper this week. Nothing too clunky, nothing too zippy, lots of 7s and 8s, 72-word grid. (Dictionary defines workmanlike as “showing efficient competence,” in case you thought it was an insult.)

Favorite thangs:

  • 1a. [''Where Happiness Means the World'' sloganeer], CLUB MED. Nice way to open at 1-Across.
  • 28a. [Word from the Italian for ''wine cellar''], CANTEEN. Etymology!
  • 57a. [''It is the nature of ambition to make men __'': Tynan], LIARS. Far better than quote themes are individual quote clues, particularly if the FITB is a single key word and the “punch line” rather than a little-junk-words partial or a woeful obscurity.
  • 62a. [Despotic organization], OCTOPUS. Nonzoological cluing approach, nice.
  • 1d. [Terra-cotta novelty], CHIA PET. Right up there with CLUB MED as a fun start to the puzzle.
  • 8d. [Tough guy's challenge], WHO’S NEXT. I would’ve liked it clued as the album from The Who.
  •  24d. [Stretches out], RATIONS as a verb rather than a noun.
  • 36d. [Sight from the Great Glen Way], LOCH NESS. We don’t get the lake’s full name in the grid too often.
  • 45d. [Fringe group], TASSELS. Ha! Don’t you want to refer to all fringe groups as tassels now?

Tougher stuff:

  • 63a. [Climactic], APOGEAL. Astronomical.
  • 22a. [Fool, to Felipe], TONTO. Spanish word. Rather insulting name to drop on the Lone Ranger’s sidekick.
  • 31a. [Stadium cannon fodder], T-SHIRT. T-shirt cannons to fire free t-shirts into the crowd.
  • 54a. [__ Foundation (major NPR donor)], SLOAN. I guess I don’t listen carefully between the shows.
  • 2d. [Double-edged cutters], LANCETS. Wanted RAPIERS first.
  • 41d. [Respond to pressure, in a way], DARE. I’m not seeing this. Can someone come up with a sentence in which “dare” and “respond to pressure” are interchangeable?
  • 53d. [Persistence over resistance], SIEGE. This assumes that the people the SIEGE is being perpretrated on are the resistance. I suppose two opposing sides in war view the other side as the resistance? Or the aggressor and themselves as the resistance?

Four stars. Nothing higher because it wasn’t a “Wow!”/knock-your-socks-off sort of puzzle, but it’s smooth.

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34 Responses to Saturday, February 23, 2013

  1. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT has a striking grid, and I liked having to RECONNOITRE to get into the nearly SPLIT SCREEN — but the rest, despite MINNESOTA FATS and a LOTTERY WINNER, seemed only so-so.
    Silk’s LAT was delightful, especially with the PYGMY CHIMPANZEE… My only objection was the clue “infect” for IMBUE at 1A, which seemed to be a misprint for “inject”!

    • ArtLvr says:

      p.s. I don’t see “Für Elise” at 29a, Andy — wonder where that came from?

      • pannonica says:

        That may be another joke, as the piece and its trappings have been mentioned and discussed repeatedly here of late, both in posts and comments. Not quite ad nauseam… yet.

        • Andy says:

          Would have been a great joke, but nope. Just forgot to take it out when I copy-pasted last week’s post for formatting. Post edited to remove gratuitous Fur Elise mention.

  2. RK says:

    Easier NYT Saturday than Friday? I thought it was PE TEACHER, as in phys. ed.

  3. Matt says:

    Filling the central ‘O’ just took me forever, what with CER, SENET, TUNED, TES and SAP– all not obvious to me. Eye-catching grid, and amusing until I got to the central piece but not much fun after that.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    The Stumper was a doozie! I had most of it in the wee hours, but the NW didn’t fall till this a.m. Wow!

  5. Huda says:

    NYT:

    Easy Saturday… I solved it with my husband, also a neuroscientist who is an anatomist, and he and I agree that ITER is not a word that is used in current parlance. The canals are named– e.g. the Aqueduct of Sylvius (which I’d love to see in a puzzle some day).

    EXON, on the other hand, could have been clued scientifically, as the part of the gene that encodes the protein sequence.

    Still, I think I liked it better than Amy, mostly because the crosswordese was deducible through the crosses, and I’m a sucker for experimentation with design.

  6. cheeseguy says:

    FWIW — the LA Kings are an NHL team.

  7. sbmanion says:

    It is not definitively known how SENET was played. It appears to be a backgammon type of game and some consider it to be the forerunner of backgammon.

    I truly wish that Minnesota Fats would not continue to be recognized. He is to pool what Anna Kournikova is to tennis, absent the looks.

    I solved it clockwise from the SE and left the center blank for quite a while. It also took me a while to see LITTERERS (I wanted the last three letters to be ART and had in my mind that the clue was referencing some kind of process where the artist makes a big mess and calls it art).

    Easier than Friday’s for me and both were of average difficulty.

    Steve

    • Anoa Bob says:

      Steve, In his prime Rudolph Wanderone was a top NYC big money pool player, known especially for his banking skills. He co-opted his Minnesota Fats moniker from the movie The Hustler and began to show up on TV, e.g. on “Wide World of Sports” playing exhibition matches, especially against Willie Mosconi. But by this time he was way past his prime and in poor health. He was a TV regular, not because of his shooting skills (although you could see traces of what they once were), but for his showmanship skills. He had a non-stop spiel that would make a carnival barker or a stand-up comedian envious.

      In poker, we sometimes say “That was an Anna Kournikova hand.” In response to the inevitable “What do you mean?”, we do a rim shot and say “It looks good, but it never wins.”

  8. Jeffrey says:

    As a Wagar High School graduate, I am glad to see PETE ACHER finally getting the recognition he deserves.

    • Papa John says:

      For what — blowing a friggin’ whistle?

      • Zulema says:

        Papa John, you do get it, don’t you? Parsing joke.

        As I was reading the post mentioning Kournikova, I scrolled back to see if it was Manion’s, and it was.

        Puzzle deserves better than a 2.5, though I don’t vote. It gave me trouble and I worked it out, the main problem was that I happily entered SACRAMENTOCAL for the Kings’ home. Fit, didn’t it?

  9. Karen says:

    Issei, nissei and sansei come from 1, 2 and 3 in Japanese. Ichi, Ni, San. Ichi.. As in ichiban (#1).

  10. AV says:

    NYT was a more pleasurable experience primarily due to the creative grid and long answers. In most cases, did not even see the 3-letter fallouts (really, these 3-letter words just fall in there and all a constructor can do is hope they are real words and minimize the clunkers!). Really liked all the long answers in the outer circle, and the self-referential 26A! If there were a disappointment, it was in the inner circle (EELLIKE/ANILINE/SENET/CER), but I am sure these entries were constrained by the RECONNOITER and SPLITSCREEN crossing the circles. 4 stars for the risk-taking and the grid!

  11. RK says:

    Anyone think that the grid design is a numbered ball?

  12. Julian Lopez-Morillas says:

    Um… it’s not “P. E. teacher?”

  13. Mike Charley says:

    Hint for WSJ:
    [Spoiler deleted. Mike, it would probably be best to be cagier about hints, and maybe even wait until Sunday before posting the slightest hint. Not sure if we can use the white HTML color code to hide the text in a comment ...]

  14. bob bruesch says:

    To check LAT (Silk), just called my friend – a native of Salt Lake City. Never heard of UTAHN. Always spelled UTAHAN.

  15. ktd says:

    I liked the clue for STAPLES CENTER, a rare reference to pro hockey (vis-a-vis other pro sports). The more famous tenants of the Staples Center are the Lakers and Clippers NBA teams. Despite the fact that the Kings are the current holders of the Stanley Cup, they don’t seem to attract a very passionate fan base. I watched their opening home game vs. the Chicago Blackhawks this year and even through the TV I could tell that the arena was strangely quiet (though the Blackhawks’ taking a big early lead probably didn’t help).

  16. Molly Lootens says:

    Why have you stopped doing the Wall Street Journal Saturday puzzle??

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Because (a) hardly anyone ever commented on it to let me know that they were interested and (b) it was cutting into my weekend family time.

  17. Margaret says:

    An odd coincidence arising from the SF Chronicle’s puzzle timing: today’s LAT and last Sunday’s NYT both have SKEET at the bottom of the lower right corner. Struck me funny.

  18. CY Hollander says:

    “Superlative suffix” for IEST was that rare NYT clue that I feel was off the mark. -EST is the superlative suffix; the I of IEST is simply an alteration of Y belonging to the adjective being modified.

  19. DocHank says:

    Just got to the Stumper (Sunday p.m.). Amy, if it’s not too late for you to read this, I would say that “I dare you” is a pretty good form of pressure, and I “DARE” a definite response…

  20. joon says:

    just catching up… andy, there are actually four elements named for ytterby, sweden. yttrium, ytterbium, terbium, and erbium.

    enjoyed all the puzzles. there was some hoary short fill in the NYT, but lots of fun stuff too.

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