Saturday, May 4, 2013

LAT 6:21 (Andy) 
NYT 4:51 
Newsday 4:32 
CS 6:02 (Dave) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 13, no. 0504

This puzzle’s got some zippy long answers but it’s also got some bleh shorter fill (I’m looking at you, RIATAS, ESTER, URI, and APERY) that you have to take like medicine. The spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down is sweet, though. I really like nine of the longer entries: THIS IS TRUE, RACONTEURS, RIP VAN WINKLE (not to be confused with Rob Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, who will be sampling the Amish lifestyle on an upcoming reality show), NURSE RATCHED, ANNE BRONTE, interesting DEAD LETTER ([Law still in effect but no longer enforced]), HOWDY DOODY (I’m just old enough to have learned about the [Show with a peanut gallery] from my mom), old-school SKATE KEYS, and a BASSINET [Where a new delivery may be placed?].

Assorted clues of note:

  • 16a. [What severe cuts may result in, briefly], TKOS. Technical knockouts in boxing. I’ve never really understood what a TKO was, and this clue is informative.
  • 23a. [Resident of Angola, Brazil or Lebanon], HOOSIER. All are Indiana towns as well as countries, not that I know them as Indiana burgs.
  • 32a. [Mulberry cousin], MAUVE. In terms of purple colors, not botanically speaking.
  • 33a. [It's marked way down], STEAL. It’s a steal!
  • 13d. [Green light?], SOLAR LAMP. As in ecologically sound/green.
  • 53d. ["Tennessee Waltz" lyricist ___ Stewart], REDD. Who knew there was an alternative Redd other than Foxx?

4.25 stars.

Frederick J. Healy’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 05.04.13 by Frederick J. Healy


Oof. Or should I say AAUGH. This puzzle roughed me up. Even in my struggle I recognize that there was lots of good stuff, but this one was a killer.

I did well with the NE and the SW. Everyone’s favorite entry ALOP made an appearance. Highlights in those corners included ELEAZER [Biblical priest whose name means "God has helped"], MONTEGO, GEEZER, ROAD RAGE, IS THAT SO?, and YIELD TO.

I got into trouble in the NW, starting at 1a, [No ordinary joe?], which I assumed had to end in COFFEE. I confirmed that by dropping fANfARe off of the second F in COFFEE at 8d, [Horn blast]. Confirmed fANfARe with a couple crossings, and it was off to the races until… AeUGH? Nope, it’s the equally ugly AAUGH [Hardly a Brown cheer?]. Took me a while to figure out which Brown was being referenced (Charlie).

It wasn’t until I got to 55a, APART ["Things fall __; the centre cannot hold: 20-across] that I started to work my way back into the NW with 20a, YEATS [Poet whose muse was Maud Gonne] (which I guess had just not occurred to me because I was so sure of the F in fANfARE). Then I had twoTOED instead of ONETOED [Like some salamanders or sloths] for a while, and trIM for SKIM [Take from the top]. Eventually, I got enough of the down entries to pull IN LA-LA LAND [Without a firm grip on reality] and REALLY INTO [Mad about]. Virtually the last entry to fall in the NW was MOCHA LATTE (a term I resist as a former barista — it’s confusing! Just say “mocha!”). And then it turned out that fANfARe was TANTARA, which I guess I should have seen coming.

Aaugh indeed, Charlie Brown. Aaugh indeed.

And finally, the SE. I just made a mess of it. The only easy fill for me was GIL [Jazz pianist Evans]. Ended up putting stEAmLINER instead of OCEAN LINER, thought that the adjectival 64a had to end in LeSS (nope, it was WORLD-CLASS), had sIt for 57a [Squat], then I thought I was so clever for figuring out that it was nIl (wrong again: it was ZIP), and to cap it all off, I threw down SOuS for SOPS [Conciliatory offers]. All those errors made the rest of the SE corner far more challenging than it needed to be. I liked TARZANA once I figured it out, but I wasn’t a huge fan of LEAPERS.

Put another notch in the plus column for 21d, RED HOTS [Tongue-tingling candies]; put one in the minus column for 18a, MENE ["Handwriting on the wall" word]. Again, a puzzle with nothing too offensive. 3.4 stars from me. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Taking on a Rocky Peak” – Dave Sullivan’s review

One of the long-cherished members of the Crosswordese Pantheon, TOR, generally clued as [Rocky peak], is “taken on” by three (somewhat) common phrases:

CS solution – 05/04/13

  • WEST COAST RAPTOR – Read all about the distinction between the coasts here
  • LIBERAL MEDIATOR – MSNBC used to be the home of the liberal media, but now that Keith Olberman’s no longer there, is it still?
  • GRUMPY OLD MENTOR – The 1993 Lemmon/Matthau slowmance

Nice that all entries extend to a grid-spanning fifteen letters, but I feel I’ve been shorted a fourth entry. I have two FAVES today, the first based on the clever clue [They often make their calls from home] which was UMPS, and runner-up was [Bartender's question] WHAT’LL IT BE, especially as it practically abuts a typical reply: BEERS. My UNFAVE has to be [Pickleball barriers] or NETS. What the heck is pickleball and I’m not sure I want to know what the nets capture…

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)

Super smooth and, if you ask me, quite a bit easier than the usual Stumper. I don’t think Stan intended that, as he uses his Lester Ruff pseudonym for his easier themelesses. There were plenty of tough clues, but I generally found the crossings easy enough to point me in the right direction for things I didn’t know.

Among my favorite clues and answers were these ones:

  • 5a. [Onetime Peggy Fleming employer], ICE CAPADES. Only now is it dawning on me that this is a play on “escapades” because, of course, “Capades” aren’t really a thing.
  • 16a. [Builder of America's first copper mill], PAUL REVERE. Metalsmithing trivia.
  • 21a. [Brass band, e.g.], RING. If you’re wearing a ring that’s made out of brass. Does anyone do that? Or is this a more generic brass ring that takes the general form of a circular band?
  • 42a. [Pulitzer play for 1938], OUR TOWN. Never have seen that play but I might’ve read it once.
  • 61a. [Engineer's workplace], LOCOMOTIVE. Not the MIT sort of engineer. One of my online friends has a husband whose job is actually locomotive engineer in the Duluth area.
  • 64a. [Helps out at the orchard], POLLINATES. Rather newsy, given the EPA’s release this week of a report on bees and the causes of colony collapse. Funny that they’re blaming a mite for some of it—a mite that I’ve never seen mentioned in any articles I’ve read about dying bees.
  • 1d. [''Politics is the art of the possible'' source], BISMARCK. Quote trivia. I usually don’t know the answers to Stumper trivia clues, but they’re generally neat to learn.
  • 4d. [It sounds the same as Morse's VTB], SOS. Morse code trivia! I did not know this.
  • 28d. [Term coined by Ericsson in '97], SMARTPHONE. More trivia.
  • 40d. [''Fatti per volare alto'' sloganeer], ALITALIA. With a couple crossings in place, I thought of an Italian company with 8 letters. “Alto” means high, right? I don’t know Italian but I’m guessing this slogan is something along the lines of “we make you go higher.”
  • 41d. [Panasonic product], PLASMA TV. Nice entry.
  • 46d. [Freshen up your plants], RETOOL. Factory plants, not garden plants.
  • 59d. [Bitter ender], NESS. Not “bitter-ender,” meaning one who holds out till the bitter end, but an ending for the word “bitter.”

4.33 stars. Clean and pretty much flawless, but not particularly exciting or memorable.

Patrick Blindauer’s May website puzzle — Matt’s review

A smart visual theme from Patrick this month: the four letters ME/SA, split like so, form the familiar topographical feature they spell. The theme entries were:

24-a [Tiny tee szs. / [24-Across, at first: Consciousness rousers (8,4)] = SMELLING SALTS. Noticed only right now that that enumeration should be (8,5).

65-a [[One way to get the word out (4,7)]] = TEXT MESSAGE. Unless I’m missing something, which wouldn’t be the first time on a Blindauer, this entry is a pretty big blot on a very nice crossword. The other four MESAs hide among their two rows without disturbing the surrounding words, which are all clued normally. But in this case 65-a just becomes the non-word TEXT M.

This is a glaring inconsistency, and it may sound harsh but I’m going to ding the puzzle .5 for it. This isn’t just, for example, a minor difference in the way one theme entry in a pun theme plays out, but a structural inconsistency that really shouldn’t happen.

The three possibilities I’m considering (since I can’t find the author online at the moment to ask and I’m already late with this review) are 1) I’m missing something important, in which case I’ll restore this puzzle’s .5 right away; 2) Patrick missed something important, like maybe the answer he intended was just MESSAGE instead of TEXT MESSAGE? Seems unlikely; or 3) which is what I suspect happened, where Patrick couldn’t quite make the final entry in this intricate theme work out like the others, so he just said to himself (as I have myself in similar situations) “Well, this is the only way to make it work, so let’s just go with it and take the ding.” In which case we stay with the .5 ding. Not the end of the world, of course, and when you have such a nice idea it’s tempting to chuck the rules of consistency for a moment.

23-d [People got "Punk'd" on it / [23-Across: Land formation which occurs 5 times in this puzzle's answer (4)] = MTV. The circled letters here spell MESA, letting you know what you’re looking for four other places in the grid. I like Patrick’s method here of revealing the idea: you have that nice little MESA in the circles, and then you go on a little gridhunt for the other four.

46-d [Junio or Julio, e.g. / [46-Across: Group whose name means "stupid" in Spanish (5)]] = MENSA. I did not know that. I believe it means “table” in Latin as well.

The fill has more high points than you’d expect with such restraints, like HELP ME, BIKE PATH, EYE DOCTORS, QUICK SETS, GHANA and PLEASE DO. The clues are above-average funny, like [Gaddafi had 112 of them, according to ABC News] for SPELLINGS and [Waste watchers] for EPA.

Overall assessment: I like the MESA visual a lot and the gimmick reveal was well-handled (also liked how the mesas weren’t always symmetrical, which made it visually more Arizona-landscape-like). Liked the fill and clues. Without 65-across I’d say 4.75 stars, but with it I have to say 4.25 (and again, point out in comments what I’ve missed and we’ll restore this up to 4.75).

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18 Responses to Saturday, May 4, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    LAT: Tell me more about this “one-toed sloth,” please. Also, ELEAZAR crossing MENE is a horrifically Bibble-centric crossing.

    • Andy says:

      Yeah, I had never heard of such a thing either. I guess they’re extremely rare, but here’s a video as proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgfjKAhyUsQ

      • pannonica says:

        That’s just Choloepus hoffmanni, a possibly hypodactyl individual. Not for a second is that anything less than an atrocious clue. Further, I’m not aware of any prehistoric, extinct sloths typified by such a feature.

        • Gareth says:

          Maybe the one-toed sloths live on an island bound by the sea filled with electric eels…

          (Don’t two-toed sloths actually have three toes anyway?)

  2. Bencoe says:

    I also liked the lively long answers in the NYT puzzle. Worked my way up the grid from HOWDY DOODY. Sometimes Saturday and Friday puzzles are easier that way.

  3. RK says:

    LAT was harder than NYT specially top left or maybe I’m spent. NYT would’ve been easier if I knew how to spell RIYADH and RATCHED. What’s the rule about spelling anyway?

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT:I loved how every corner seemed impregnable at first, but managed to crack through patient chipping away. RIPVANWINKLE looks wonderful in the grid, although it just looked like I had wrong squares while it was emerging!

    LAT: Never knew AAUGH although I’ve read a fair number of Peanuts strips… Didn’t really pay attention enough to realise the scream was the same each time… So AX were the last two letters and mystifying ones at that! What’s wrong with “mene” though??? Very famous moment in the Old Testament that: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”.

  5. Evad says:

    Regular Matt Gaffney weekly contest participants probably will know the actress who played Nurse Ratched in Cuckoo’s Nest…

  6. dook says:

    Louise Fletcher played Nurse Ratched and won the Oscar for it. Saturday took forever…not CAUSE, not CREDO, but CREED!

  7. bob stigger says:

    Steve will give you the exact definition if he’s in the house, but a TKO more or less is a declaration by the referee that a fighter is unable to defend himself or continue without risk of grave harm, even though he’s not lying on the canvas. The ref is supposed to protect a boxer from getting killed even if the boxer wants to continue. It’s usually not controversial although there was a case not long ago where the ref stopped the fight a few seconds before the end of the last round.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the shout out.

    Here is the best definition I could find of TKO:

    http://www.predictem.com/boxing/tko.php

    The reason I looked it up is that a friend of mine bet on Holyfield to knock out Tyson in the famous ear-biting fight. He said he won. I always wondered if a DQ counted as a TKO on a boxer’s record. Apparently it does, at least for betting purposes.

    I thought yesterday’s NE was tough. Today, every quadrant was tough except the NW. I also had CREDO and embarrassingly, MANCINI. Superb puzzle.

    When I was in the ninth grade, I made varsity baseball. You would think that would earn me some respect. One day at practice, I was warming up by jump-roping in a very non-boxer efficient manner. The coach announced: “Manion, you look like Howdy Doody.” The next day, some seniors brought me a bag of peanuts. Today’s puzzle was a cruel reminder.

    Steve

    • Huda says:

      Yes, I had the same embarrassing MANCINI…

      And I agree that the puzzle moved from impregnable to feasible thereby making me feel smart. That sits well with me :)

    • Dan F says:

      What’s embarrassing about MANCINI? I was looking at —-INI and the clue had a quote using an idiom in English (which originated in 1958, according to m-w.com, though maybe that’s for the metaphorical usage). So ROSSINI would not have been a good guess!

      on another topic, Gareth: I don’t think MENE is well-known in the wider American culture. It’s only a gimme for those who either know their Bible or know their crosswordese…

      • Andy says:

        Lucky for me, I’m up on both (as well as my John Cheever short stories). I dinged it because it’s not fantastic fill — being a foreign word that essentially translates to a weight or measure, it’s essentially unguessable if you don’t know your Bible or crosswordese, as Dan pointed out. That said, it’s definitely not the worst fill (even in that crossword — that award is always going to go to ALOP for me).

  9. Jesse says:

    LAT: I took issue with a couple of the plurals. You can’t have two “TNTs” or “DNAs”. Perhaps using the possessive would have been less offensive.

  10. DocHank says:

    Amy, I never knew what “pickle ball” was until moving to The Villages (N. Central FL major retirement community, said to now be the world’s largest) several years ago. In experienced hands it is a fast and highly competitive court sport, played with solid racquets and an approx. 2 1/2″ perforated plastic ball, sort of a cross between ping pong and tennis except that the paddles are a little bigger and the ball smaller. It’s all the rage down here, far more popular than tennis, but has a high injury rate (even seniors can develop testosterone poisoning!) If I were still practicing sports medicine I would try to discourage a lot of less than flexible and strong over-65′s from getting addicted to it.

  11. pannonica says:

    No one mentioned it, and I’d now like to point out a great clue in the Blindauer puzzle. 3d [One-third of RAM] for ACCESS. It isn’t simply that ACCESS is one of the three parts of the acronym, but each of the three components is six letters in length, so any one of the components is exactly one-third of the name. Great insight!

    RANDOM
    ACCESS
    MEMORY

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