Saturday, March 30, 2013

NYT 5:55 
Newsday 5:52 
LAT 4:08 (Andy) 
CS 3:38 (Sam) 

If anyone ever asks you where to find crossword puzzles for teenagers, I say you can’t go wrong with puzzles that skew young and feature contemporary pop-culture references, internet memes, etc. Read my recommendations at Rookie, a website for teen girls. There’s also Natan Last’s book, Word. if you’re looking for a purchasable gift item rather than a download-your-puzzles-throughout-the-week concept. (Plus BEQ’s book and Ben Tausig’s book.)

Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 30 13 #0330

I … don’t much feel like blogging. I’m in Yuengling (pronounced “ying-ling”) beer territory and the first glass was so delicious, I had another one. Now I’m mellow and sleepy. To the bullets!

  • 8a. TEAM USA! Hey, Gareth, do your locals chant “RSA! RSA!” at games in international competition?
  • 24a. KENOSHA, [Wisconsin port]. Wisconsin is home to even more geographically restricted beer, the brews of New Glarus Brewing Company. (Mmm, Spotted Cow cream ale…)
  • 32a. [Writer of the lines "Pigeons on the grass alas. / Pigeons on the grass alas"], STEIN. Gertrude, I presume. Pigeons on the streetlight above your parked car, alas.
  • 35a. OMG, no! The crosswordese SNEE! (See also: SARD, STLO.)
  • 43a. Favorite clue. ON SAFARI: [Watching the big game, say]. Ha! Excellent.
  • 64a. EYEWASH is [Nonsense]? Huh. I thought eyewash was used to rinse out your eyes after you splash chemicals in your eyes, and hogwash was nonsense.
  • 5d. [Alpha senior], PROM KING. This “senior” is not the kind the gerontologist is concerned with.
  • 26d. Needed lots of crossings to see that the [Mustang competitor] was a Japanese import, the Mazda MIATA. I wanted VETTE here.
  • 31d. [Prescribed amount] is a DOSE. Dessert tonight was as the Ice Cream Dr. I ordered the half dose, which was a regular-sized scoop in a small cup. The dose is a larger scoop. The mega dose appeared to be a quart cup.
  • 33d. [Gracile] means THIN? Probably I should have known that, but I did not.
  • 34d. I can’t possibly be the only one who read [Ones unable to swim straight?] and assumed the answer would be SPERM. What? Four letters? EELS? Hmph.
  • YOUNG GIRL, FEMALE, I HATE MEN, and PROM KING are today’s acutely gendered answers.

3.75 stars.

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

LAT Puzzle 03.30.13 by Barry C. Silk

Here’s a riddle for you: where can PEAHENS exist comfortably with a SPERM WHALE on top of them? This crossword, of course! There’s a lot of great entries in this one, but first, factoids:

  • 25d, AL HAIG [Ron Reagan's first Secretary of State]. Without the “Ron” in the clue, I probably would have been at sea for a while. I’ve only ever heard “Alexander Haig” — a quick Google search reveals that “Al Haig” was a pioneering jazz pianist. I wonder if that’s how this entry was originally clued? The crossings are all exceedingly fair, so that wouldn’t have been so bad. I’m not sure whether I prefer the obscure but more-correct entry, or the very-famous but rarely-referred-to-that-way answer. Thoughts? Am I just mistaken about the appropriateness of the nickname? In any case, the Haig referred to here is probably most famous for his statement “I am in control here” following the assassination attempt on Reagan. It’s a common misconception that Haig was ignorant of the 25th Amendment order of succession; in fact, he was merely stating that, in the absence of VP Bush, he was handling White House affairs.
  • 47a, TOLTEC [Ancient Mexican]. A Mesoamerican culture centered in Tula, from circa 800-1000 CE. The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors; historians still disagree as to the extent to which Aztec accounts of Toltec culture are historical, as opposed to mythical.
  • 12d, HOME ALONE [Film in which Marv says, "He's only a kid, Harry. We can take him."]. Spoiler alert: They can’t.

    Daniel Stern agreed to have the tarantula put on his face for exactly one take. He had to mime screaming because the noise would have scared the spider. The scream was dubbed in later.

  • 38d, SOIR [Liszt's "Harmonies du ___"]. The eleventh of Liszt’s twelve Transcendental Etudes, it requires stamina, big hands, and the ability to play a ton of broken chords in rapid succession.

More notables:

  • 1a, WIKTIONARY [Its goal is to include "all words in all languages"]. Plunked this one down right away; not a lot else it could be. Either you’ve heard of it, or you’re working off of crosses for the W and K.
  • 15a, A QUARTER TO [Approaching the hour]. Lovely entry, very “in the language.” Got a bit distracted by the fact that it starts with AQUA-.
  • 17a, RUNS SCARED [Retreats]. Had doubts about my crossings after I saw –NSSC—-.
  • 20a, SERIES E [Bond first bought by FDR in 1941]. Roughly, though not exactly, synonymous with War Bonds.
  • 36a, THX [Texting nicety]. Its complement is PLZ.
  • 42a, DIME NOVELS [Relatives of penny dreadfuls]. Both terms describe quickly written, sensationalized, superficial pieces of written work. Their popularity is tied to the spike in literacy among the working classes of the U.S. and the U.K.
  • 57a, BURGER KING [Instigator of '70s-'80s wars]. That is, the Burger Wars. My mother managed a chain of McDonald’s restaurants for quite some time; I took a job at Burger King in high school. Now there’s the kind of intra-family Burger War that could inspire a dime novel.
  • 26d, “YEAH, MAN” [Cat's assent]. I dig this entry.

    Usually if you have to say “It’s Fun!”, it’s not.

Only two real cringe-worthy moments, in ENNEA- and CLII. EROSIONAL isn’t snazzy, but it’s a real word, and if that’s what sticks out to me as the worst fill, then the fill must have been pretty dang good. And you know what? It was. Pretty much every other entry I didn’t mention was somewhere between good and great. EXIT LANES, SLEEVE, AMADEUS, I QUIT, WARPS [They may be found in board examinations], V-NECKED, just to name a few. 4.2 stars from me. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Close Call”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 30

Well this has to be my fastest time on a Randy Hartman puzzle. For me, the three CrosSynergy constructors who usually slow me down are Bob Klahn, Randy Ross, and Randy Hartman. Bob’s in his own tier, of course, but it feels to me like CS puzzles from “The Two Randys” routinely come in at a Wednesday level of difficulty instead of the normal “Tuesday-lite” that the CS puzzle routinely hits. This one, though, felt like a pure Monday to me. Maybe it’s this new French Roast blend of coffee I’m currently enjoying. Speaking of which, hang on a second while I visit the restroom.

Thanks for waiting. Okay, let’s get going. You’ll note that CALL is hidden inside the four longest Across answers:

  • 17-Across: A [Crazy cackle][ is a HYSTERICAL LAUGH. You know, like this.
  • 25-Across: The RADICAL LEFT is an [Anathema to conservatives]. “An anathema” is quite the little tongue twister.
  • 43-Across: The [Rules of Christian theology] are known as BIBLICAL LAW. .
  • 55-Across: [President Obama, for one], is a POLITICAL LEADER.

I had no idea what to make of [Fibbertigibbety], the clue for DITSY. I’ve never heard that term before. Does that make me ditsy? I also didn’t know KICKS was a [1966 hit by Paul Revere & the Raiders], but that’s what crossings are for.

Lots to like in this grid, including JAILBIRD, BAD SEED, JAB AT, and BELLY FAT (in any other grid, I think, this would have been my favorite entry by far). I like the use of ["That's outstanding!"] for two consecutive entries, I’M GLAD and COOL at 44- and 45-Down. It looks a little strange to have ROME, RONA, and KONA all intersecting each other multiple times, but it sounds sorta poetic. Hmm, the coffee must be wearing off. Better sign off and grab another cup.  

Favorite entry = THE ROCK, [Dwayne Johnson's wrestling persona]. Finally, The Rock has come back to crosswords! Favorite clue = [Facing Justin Verlander] for AT BAT. Definitely not a Monday-level clue (at 1-Across, no less!), which had me concerned for a while. Still, I like the knotty beginning. It kept me on my toes throughout.

Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 3 30 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Bruce Sutphin

Usually this sort of grid pattern in a “Stumper” is associated with yawning on my part, as the fill leans heavily on boring 7-letter words. But I actually enjoyed this one, thanks to lots of good stuff in the 7s:

  • 16a. BLOOPER, [Part of some reels].
  • 31a. MERCY ME, ["Well, I'll be!"].
  • 37a. PC CLONE, ['80s copycat product]. Although wasn’t the term “IBM clone” much more in the language at the time?
  • 41a. JAM TART, ["Crostata di marmellata"]. I never really run into “jam tarts” but the Italian clue sounded delicious. Is marmellata any jam, or orange marmalade in particular?
  • 57a. SPANISH, [Where "abalone" comes from]. An etymology quiz.
  • 1d. STEINEM, [Christian Bale's stepmom]. No idea who Christian Bale’s dad is, but I infer that he’s married to Gloria Steinem.
  • 7d. THE SAME, [Constant].
  • 8d. PBS NEWS, [Sponsor of Student Reporting Labs].
  • 12d. EPITOME, [Word from the Greek for "abridgment"]. Another etymology quiz. Stumpers are good for those.
  • 24d. MCCALL’S, [It became "Rosie" in 2001]. And ceased publishing in 2002.
  • 28d. TYPOS, [Skotch and sooda]. I know this isn’t a 7-letter answer, but with enough typos, it could be.
  • 41d. JUPITER, Jove, Zeus, [Thunderbolt wielder].

Other items of note:

  • 45a. [They run south from the Arctic Ocean], URALS. Best clue I’ve seen for the Ural Mountains.
  • 30d. PROMS, [What Brits call "grads"]. I had ALUMS at first, thinking that “grads” in the clue was an Americanism. Eventually (hours later), I figured out that American PROMS are what Brits call “grads.”
  • 17a. [Federalist Society cofounder], ED MEESE. Anyone else think we needed a name from 200 years ago? No? The rest of you are better versed in American political history?
  • 4d. [AirCalculator.com abbr.], NNE. I’m guessing that AirCalculator tells you how many miles separate two cities, and what direction you travel from one to the other?
  • 34d. [Letters on some collectible belt buckles], CSA. As my restaurant placemat reminded me last night, part of Florida’s rich history is that it fought for the Confederacy in 1861-65. Sigh. Southerners, it’s OK to stop being proud of this particular bit of “heritage,” especially given how hurtful it is to so many people. The Germans got past WWII, right? They don’t paste swastika flags on their pick-up trucks?

Lowlights: The affixes in ENLACED, SNIDEST, REDNESS, ARMORER, RENAMED, RELINES. MARNE, ONS (have you ever heard anyone talk about “ons”?), the regionalism HOV (I know you people with HOV lanes think everyone uses the term, but there are plenty of places that either don’t use the concept or use a different name for it).

Four stars.

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18 Responses to Saturday, March 30, 2013

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I enjoyed Gareth’s puzzle, and was particularly interested to see a cameo appearance by Pierrot (uncommented upon), one of the stock characters both in the traditional Italian commedia dell’arte and in the English “pantomime” comedy tradition. “Pantomime” does not have the meaning that we Americans attach to the term — of miming, without spoken dialogue. Rather, it was a form of stylized, sometimes improvisational comedy, with repeating plots and characters which the audience immediately recognizes, and where the audience sometimes participates, calling out to the stage actors. (Think of the audience behavior at showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.) It was immensely popular in England until quite recently, and I’m thinking perhaps also in South Africa Australia. Both commedia dell-arte and pantomime are fascinating, complex, important historical cultural institutions, which continue to influence creative artists to the present day.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s my impression that pantomimes, or “pantos”, are still popular in England around Christmastime.

      My touchstone for the word PIERROT is the Godard/Belmondo film Pierrot le Fou.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Thanks to Bruce for the notes on pantomime! I enjoyed Gareth’s puzzle too, and my only nit would be that Kenosha WI has a harbor but isn’t exactly a port. Manitowoc is a Wisconsin port that still has a car ferry service across Lake MIchigan to Ludington, but it’s mainly for tourists these days. The Ann Arbor Line transporting railroad cars petered out about 40 years ago. When I was a child, it was a favorite game to guess how many ferries would be in view at Elberta across the harbor when coming in to Frankfort Michigan, and identify each by the smokestacks. After the jobs on the ferries disappeared, those towns were saved by the development of an extensive marina for pleasure craft, due largely to donations by a friend of my father’s. A classic mystery centering on the perils of the car ferries is “The Indian Drum”, written a century ago, in which the legendary sound from the forests beating for the number of lives lost was noted to be one short during the sinking of a ferry from Chicago.

  2. sbmanion says:

    My high school basketball coach was a big man, 6’3″, 280 lbs., who was surprisingly dexterous. He could type 90+ words a minute. He ran a CLAM BAR in Niagara Falls and could shuck clams in each hand at the same time, which is pretty amazing if you have ever tried to shuck clams. I think people went to his clam bar as much to watch him as to eat the clams, kind of a Benihana of clams. I think there is an expression called a “bag of clams,” which I thought had twelve or thirteen dozen, but I cannot find any Google support for it.

    When I was growing up, my all-time favorite on the road meal was fried tendersweet clams at Howard Johnson’s. Steamers in drawn butter are my current favorite.

    I solved this one from the bottom up. Not easy, but not hard. I also did not know GRACILE.

    Steve

    • pannonica says:

      Can’t even imagine how a clam would be shucked with just one hand. Knife and clam in same hand??

      GRACILE is fairly common in scientific names, including the opossum genus Gracilinanus.

      • sbmanion says:

        I am trying to envision it myself. He had huge hands and incredibly sharp knives that he used to cut the muscle with such efficiency it looked like he was simply waving the knife at the clam. On the rare occasion when he missed and the clam clammed up, he could break through the back faster than a normal shucker could snip the muscle.

        By the way, I have never heard of a clam bar selling fried clams or even steamers for that matter. My coach’s bar was strictly a raw clam bar. Does clam bar encompass all types of clams?

        Steve

        • pannonica says:

          I have the vague sense that boardwalk clam bars would have fried clams for the less adventurous. A raw bar would have clams, oysters, and perhaps miscellaneous edible seafoodstuff (scallops, sea urchins, et al.).

  3. AV says:

    Took some time to finish due to HOGWASH; highlight was plonking down YOUNG _ _ _ _ crossing THE AGING PROCESS instantly (without knowing the song at all), and immediately filling in the GIRL (once HAGS went in). Some good cluing (Paper work, Big game, etc.) but thought NE Acrosses were too straightforward for a Saturday. Also, paused for a second on UTILISED!

  4. dook says:

    Today’s NYT felt like a Thursday. Yesterday’s puzzling was much more challenging. Though my mind is full of useless trivia and I knew the Gary Puckett and the Union Gap song immediately and that sure helped. SPIEL was the sticking point for me. I think of a more yiddish-y pronunciation and want it to be SHPIEL.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s spelled SPIEL but properly pronounced the German (or Yiddish, if you prefer) way, with a SH. I have, however, heard it pronounced by people who have apparently only seen it in print as /’spēl/. These are probably the same people who say /’tchutz-spä/.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I was thrilled both by the appearance of ‘Harmonies du Soir’ and by Andy’s accurate comment on it. Those big rolled chords are indeed demanding, and it was uncountable hours of practicing them where I finally became comfortable with the motion. You pre-position the fingers, and then the wrist has to pivot sideways and the elbow move out and up, and eventually the right notes miraculously emerge — (you hope). As with much piano playing, there is a leap of faith involved, as well as a leap of arms, hands and fingers. Nobody understands “Let the Force be with you” better than a pianist who has worked on e.g. the opening octaves of the Liszt E Flat concerto. The end of Harmonies du Soir (with the rapidly repeated chords spanning only an octave) is actually a relief. The trick is to *not* try to play the chords loud, even though it’s marked ‘fff’ or ‘fffff’ in some overly exuberant editions. As one of my teachers once said, “You don’t have to play loud. Just floor the pedal, brush the chords and get out of them as quickly as possible. It plays loud by itself.”

    Just as thrilling, but more surprising: I actually know the “Young girl, get out of my mind; my love for you is way out of line” song. There’s probably a punchline there. (Roman Polanski’s theme song???) :-) Hope I don’t get sued for that.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Gareth’s new word for me today: MOW = Part of a barn.(60D) The OED has this definition down as “now chiefly regional.”

    • David L says:

      Near where I grew up there was a very old pub called the “Barley Mow,” which I had always assumed was named in some sort of general reference to harvest time. Only now, 50 years later, do I discover what the name really meant.

      Well hey, turns out the pub has a wikipedia page

  7. Matthew G. says:

    Is EYEWASH a South Africanism/Britishism? I have never, ever heard that used to mean “nonsense” before.

  8. bob stigger says:

    The only 70s-80s war I could think of was instigated by PENTHOUSE but I kept coming up a little short.

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