Saturday, April 13, 2013

Newsday 9:51 
NYT 6:01 
LAT 3:27 (Andy) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 13 13, #0413

Hooray! I think this is the first time I’ve seen Ebla in a crossword clue instead of as undesirable fill in the grid. (61a. [Modern resident of ancient Ebla] clues SYRIAN. Raise your hand if you knew Ebla but only from crosswords. Raise both hands if you knew it from growing up in Syria.)

Favorite parts of this 71-word (15×16) themeless with a quad stack of 15s plus two more pairs of 15s:

  • 1a. ["Spin the Black Circle" Grammy winner of 1995], PEARL JAM. Great 1-Across, though obviously I am not a true fan because the clue did not deliver me to the answer.
  • 9a. [Sort who needs to button up], GASBAG. This is one of my favorite words. Do you know anyone who fits the title of “gasbag”? If you do but you hadn’t thought of him/her that way, I encourage you to do so for the inner amusement it brings. (But be nice to the person.)
  • 17a. [Not have a hunch?], STAND UP STRAIGHT. I like the clue a lot, though it deprives the answer of its potential as a spoken command.
  • 52a. [Catcher of the rye?], BIB. I’m picturing them good ol’ boys drinking whiskey and rye, wearing baby bibs to catch the drunken drool. (The clue confuses me, though. I’m not aware of any rye baby food.)
  • 12d. [Military brass], BUGLE. Nice mislead in the clue.
  • 28d. [They get stuck in corners], STAMPS. Postage.
  • 32d. [Where Captain Cook landed in 1770], BOTANY BAY. Did you know: It got its name from Cook because his companion collected a slew of plants there. I would like to think that Botany 500 menswear has a similar backstory.
  • French action: 44d. [Jacinthe or jonquille] clues French “flower,” FLEUR (hyacinth or jonquil/daffodil), and 6d. [Vingt-et-un, e.g.], or twenty-one, clues JEU (French for “game”).

AUTOMOBILE TIRES ([Atlas offerings]) is meh because I call ‘em car tires and I’ve never heard of Atlas brand tires. ALEUTIAN ISLANDS has been in five NYT themelesses, including one of Martin’s; one more appearance in an Ashwood-Smith or Krozel puzzle and it joins the ALOTONONESPLATE/SCARLETTANAGERS club. (Although I do like the [Part of the Ring of Fire] clue because of Johnny Cash and volcanoes.) I don’t care for FOUR-WAY STOP SIGN (60a. [Light alternative])—in my book, you have four-way stops with four stop signs, but a “four-way stop sign” isn’t quite crossword-worthy. (Decent people may differ on this.)

In the short fill category, I didn’t much enjoy PAS DE; ESTER; AT PAR; MASHA (8d. [Gessen who wrote the 2012 Putin biography "The Man Without a Face"]—who??); or the utterly-unfamiliar-to-me RENE, or [Conductor Leibowitz]. And I have been mystified my whole life about this 46d. [Salon service], the RINSE. I assume it’s something more than just water rinsing of shampooed/processed hair, but what is it? Is this something that older women know about, that has vanished from contemporary salon business but lives on in crosswords?

3.75 stars.

John Farmer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 04.13.13 by John Farmer

Snazzy puzzle — a lot to like about this one. Quick review this week, starting with some factoids:

  • 23d, SABRE [1999 Stanley Cup finals competitor]. The Sabres would lose to the Dallas Stars in six games, in one of the more exciting finals series of the 1990s — especially after the Detroit Red Wings had won the ’97 and ’98 Cups in 4-game sweeps. Dominik Hasek, goaltender for the Sabres, left Buffalo shortly thereafter for none other than the Red Wings, with whom he would go on to win two Stanley Cups.
  • 62a, HARPER LEE [Author whose only published novel won a Pulitzer]. This is pretty much the quintessential literary trivia question. Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, but she never finished her second novel, The Long Goodbye. She also helped her good friend Truman Capote with the research for his book In Cold Blood.
  • 16a, IMARI [China from Japan]. “China” means “porcelain” here. Imari, like Limoges, refers to a city; while Limoges porcelain was made in and around Limoges, Imari porcelain is so-named because it was shipped to Europe exclusively through the port city of Imari (though it was made in the town of Arita).

    An Imari bowl from the mid-17th century.

  • 13a, BROMANCE [Modern-day male bonding]. One of my favorite bromances in recent pop culture is that between Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) on Boston Legal. Most (all?) episodes ended with Denny and Alan sitting on a balcony, drinking and smoking cigars, and discussing the events of the episode.

More notables:

  • 5d, HULA [Dance in a raffia skirt] / 42d, LEILANI “Sweet ___”: Oscar-winning song from “Waikiki Wedding”]. It’s a Hawaiian-themed crossword! Everyone grab some poi and a mai-tai, and let’s watch some nenes and mahi-mahi.
  • 67a, PITY PARTY [Something to throw when you're down]. Everyone grab a paper hat, and let’s start feeling sorry for ourselves!
  • 56a, ZERO G [Cause of a hair-raising experience?]. Whenever I have ZE–G, I want the answer to be Zelig. I don’t know about you, but watching Zelig was a pretty “hair-raising experience” for me.
  • 1a, LAUGH TEST [Trial run for a far-fetched argument]. At first, I really wanted this one to be LAUGHFEST, crossing FRAIL going down. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate LAUGH TEST. It’s a great way to impute your opinion that an argument is farcical to hypothetical “other people”: “I think it’s a great argument, Johnson; I just don’t think it’s going to pass the laugh test.”
  • 34a, “NO CHANCE!” ["When pigs fly!"]. Well, according to this commercial, this clue is not only inaccurate but also kind of offensive.
  • 41a, IN DENIAL [Whistling past the graveyard, so to speak]. What a fantastic idiom. I’ve usually heard it used to mean “staying cheerful despite adverse circumstances,” but I like this darker connotation. It’s sort of like the opposite of memento mori.
  • 61, OPERA [Philip Glass's "Waiting for the Barbarians," e.g.]. It’s based on the J.M. Coetzee novel of the same name.

The entry that stuck with me as fishy was IT’S MURDER, but I’ve warmed to it. A few partials and abbrevs., but nothing outrageous. A solid 4 stars from me. Until next week!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 4 13 13 “Saturday Stumper”—Brad WIlber

Oof! So many tough clues, but not really so many tough answers. I’ve never heard of SIDE POTS (35d. [Some poker accumulations]), but aside from that, I’ve seen everything in this puzzle before. Except usually not with such difficult, ’round-the-bend cluing.

I liked the Scrabbliness that I didn’t even notice during the arduous solve—MOJITOS (1a. [Drinks favored by Hemingway]) crossing JACQUARD (3d. [Intricate fabric pattern]), SNEEZE (42d. [Hiding place revealer, maybe]) and AZORES (59a. Island, not mountain [Chain on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge]) and ZOO/ZEDS (44a. [Jazz duo in Vancouver]), SQUALOR/AQABA, and JAGGER (8a. [Music icon knighted in 2003) meets JUROR.

Favorite bits:

  • 15a. [Literally, ''little grapes''], UVULAE. I love a good Stumper etymology clue.
  • 25a. [Something worn on a hood], CORROSION. As in rust on a car hood. I think corrosion is iffy as a “thing” in “something,” though. That suggests you can have “a corrosion.”
  • 28a. [Fudge alternative], “DRAT!” Who doesn’t love a good drat ripple ice cream?
  • 34a. [Purchase before going to court], RED ROSE for one who is courting a romantic partner. I was so sure this would be a piece of tennis paraphernalia.
  • 40a. ['97 film with the tagline ''Coming soon. Honest.''], LIAR, LIAR.
  • 57a. [Warning heading], NOTA BENE. Not your general “beware! your life is in danger!” sort of warning.
  • 13d. [Only externally visible part of the central nervous system], RETINA. Science!
  • 24d. [Boxer's destination], STORAGE. Boxer as in “one who is boxing things up for storage.”
  • 26d. [Any of 26 in 1959-60 prime time], OATER. Holy cats! There were 26 westerns on TV at one time? That seems wildly disproportionate, but I suppose big-screen westerns were also a bigger draw back then.
  • 43d. [Wheedler's refrain], “AW, C’MON!” Drat!

Toughest nuts not already mentioned:

  • 46a. [Blackballed], UNWELCOME. Kinda wanted a past tense verb answer here.
  • 49a. [Caper film narrator, often], TEC. That’s old slang for detective, known to me exclusively from crossword puzzles.
  • 54a. [Carthaginian, e.g.], SEMITE. Carthage was near current-day Tunis, in North Africa.
  • 6d. [__ delta (Concorde wing shape)], OGEE. Triangle with an S-shaped surve to the side.
  • 7d. [Tom Cruise's birthplace], SYRACUSE. I thought he was from the Great Plains for some reason.
  • 11d. [Mass movement], GLORIA. Holy music.
  • 12d. [Thing secured with a post], EARBOB. I don’t remember what an earbob is supposed to be. A particular sort of earring known primarily via crosswords?
  • 51d. [__ ''second'' (trance, in France)], ETAT. Second state?

4.33 stars. Smooth fill with some Scrabbly action but not many slam-bang entries. Stumpers, of course, aren’t known for introducing wild new fill—they’re loved and feared for the obstreperousness of their clues.

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35 Responses to Saturday, April 13, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    I plead guilty to using ALEUTIAN ISLANDS once before … 13 years ago.

    (Sigh)

    -MAS

  2. Gareth says:

    Here in South Africa we have special four-way stop signs… They have “4″ at the bottom of the regular stop sign? I’ve never referred to them as such, but I assume that’s what they’d be…

    • pannonica says:

      Where I live they typically have a small rectangular sign reading “4-WAY” bolted onto the pole beneath the familiar octagon.

      • HH says:

        Where I live they have stop signs, but I don’t think anyone knows.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Yeah, we have some of the “4-way” signs, but I don’t think of them as “four-way stop signs,” I think of them as stop signs at four-way stop intersections.

        “Four-way stop sign” sounds like it should be square instead of octagonal.

  3. pannonica says:

    Last correction while solving the NYT was AUTOMOBILE TIRES / RENÉ. Had AUTOMOBILE TIMES, thinking it was a feature of some atlases (i.e., road atlases) and that the clue was inadequate. Silly me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was thinking TIMES (because of those charts of distances between cities and possibly travel times in road atlases) too.

  4. Martin says:

    Pannonica wrote:

    “Where I live they typically have a small rectangular sign reading “4-WAY” bolted onto the pole beneath the familiar octagon.”

    Same here in BC.

    -MAS

  5. animalheart says:

    Four-way stop signs is what I call them, and they drive me crazy, because people try to be courteous and let you go first when they hit their stop sign first, and so there’s confusion where there shouldn’t be confusion, all because someone tried to be courteous. My motto: Never be courteous.

    I really liked the NYT and will take any number of ho-hum Downs to get those great Acrosses.

  6. bob stigger says:

    Just down the street from my house is a stop sign marked “3-Way”. One is well-advised to yield to the motorist traveling the wrong direction on the one-way street.

  7. Huda says:

    NYT:
    Amy, raising both hands and waving re Ebla ! :) That was great to see, thank you Martin! You made my day, as did Amy.
    I truly loved this puzzle… totally on my wavelength. Somehow, it makes me think of traveling–the TIRES (clued with Atlas), the STOPSIGNs, the Frenchiness, the international vibe with the far flung locations. I’d love to go to the ALEUTIAN ISLANDS someday. Better than remaining in the GROVES OF ACADEME, QUIET AS A MOUSE.
    And since I didn’t know ALPH, my husband just sent me a link to the poem.
    Parfait!

    • Huda says:

      PS. Never heard of AMERCE… I had Assess. Good to know.
      PPS. Amy, I think that old ladies with white hair used to get a RINSE to give it a less yellow, more blueish tint. Don’t know if it still exists.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    René Leibowitz was an important, major figure in 20th century French music, probably of greater importance as a composer than a conductor. Some of his music deserves to be better-known than it is. He championed, promoted and publicized the 12-tone techniques of Schoenberg and his disciples, and wrote some worthwhile pieces in that style. As a conductor, he is best remembered for a recording of the Beeth. Symphonies, where he attempted to adhere slavishly and mechanically to Beeth’s metronome markings, some of which are considered by most musicians to be either mistakes of one sort or another, or to have been written down carelessly, or whimsically. (YOU try playing the first movement of the Hammerklavier at the indicated tempo.) Still, he is perhaps second only to Pierre Monteux as the most important French conductor of his generation (which some would consider faint praise.) :-) It is nice to get the occasional, rare gimme of this sort, though.

  9. sbmanion says:

    Great puzzle. Took me along time to see ffour way stop sign. I agree with GK that such intersections are annoying, but had no problem with the answer.

    The Sabres got screwed in that 1999 Stanley Cup.
    The winning goal violated a rule, but wasn’t called.

    On a sidebar, 42 is not a great movie, but it is powerful and has caused me to change my view that Ali was the most important athlete of the Twentieth Century. That honor goes to Jackie Robinson

  10. sbmanion says:

    In poker, a side pot occurs when one player runs out of money before the hand is completed. The basic rule us that you are limited to the amount of money you started the hand with. I have seen as many as five side pots on a hand.

    Steve

  11. Zulema says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the NYT puzzle as much as I didn’t enjoy yesterday’s, which I didn’t comment on. It all came together beautifully, had very interesting fill, etc., etc.

  12. Evad says:

    Inquiring minds want to know…are mice quieter when they are in church?

  13. Gene says:

    Interesting that both the NYT and Newsday had AQABA as an answer, but clued, essentially oppositely!

  14. Zulema says:

    EVAD, I think mice are always quiet, but you reminded me that I saw one in St. Paul’s in London years ago, running in a circle trying to find an exit, I suppose.

  15. Martin says:

    Evad wrote:

    “Inquiring minds want to know…are mice quieter when they are in church?”

    I think you maybe thinking of the (different) idiom: “as poor as a church mouse”

    -MAS

    • Huda says:

      Actually, mice (church and otherwise), as well as other rodents, are not quiet– we just can’t hear them. They vocalize in the ultrasonic range, and with the proper equipment we can capture both sounds of distress and chirps of joy… The tones they emit are quite complicated and they are clearly communicating with each other.

    • Evad says:

      Hmmm…can Family Guy be wrong? Seth MacFarlane is having a bad year….

  16. Bob Bruesch says:

    “Coined words” in puzzles are really getting tedious. Since they have a half-life of a millisecond, editors must be sleeping when they let them creep in! Let’s start using common language again!

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Bob, Reading your post gave me a nerdgasm. You’re probably a brony too, whatever the hell that is supposed to be.

  17. Bob Bruesch says:

    “Coined words” are tedious. Their half-life is a millisecond. Editors shouldn’t let them in.

  18. RK says:

    Hardish puzzle for me but a good one and rewarding. Missed only TODS and GROVES…. cause I barely read and always go barefoot.

  19. DocHank says:

    Stumper-bumpered again! I’ve been active in aviation for many years, and I’ve never heard of a delta-wing configuration described as “ogee.” (unless the aircraft is in trouble, in which case “Oh, Gee” is appropriate, tho’ that’s the sanitized version). The “court purchase” bit had me thinking they wouldn’t be so obvious as to choose a judicial court venue – but then again they might – so I was looking for a robe of some kind, but the Nancy Drew crosser (did any of us guys ever read that series?) wouldn’t really allow the “B.” No court sport seemed to apply, and of course I didn’t think of the romantic aspect for way too long. Hadn’t thought about it as such before, but I think you summarized the Stumper just right, Amy, in describing the clues as famously obstreperous! I think it’s often the hardest regular puzzle, and my masochism index not yet being off the scale, it’s the only one I have time to do any more…

    • pannonica says:

      It’s more mathematics than aviation, I think. Be thankful the answer wasn’t OGIVAL delta.

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