Saturday, August 24, 2013

Newsday 9:52 
NYT 6:44 
LAT 5:53 (Andy) 
CS untimed (Janie) 

Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 24 13, no. 0824

Hey! I have been binge-watching Orange Is the New Black (I know, I ‘m weeks behind the cool kids who already binged on the Netflix show) and one of the correctional officers is named Mr. Healy. Now I’m going to imagine he has a secret hobby of constructing crosswords, even though his first initial is not F.

I didn’t love this puzzle. Didn’t hate it either. It just didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. There is absolutely some good stuff in there. To wit:

  • 17a. [Malted alternatives], CHOCOLATE SHAKES. I make do with chocolate almond milk.
  • 20a. [Be ruthless], TAKE NO PRISONERS. Hey! I have watched 10 hours of prison comedy-drama this week. I will take all the prisoners.
  • 22a. [Pair of word processors?], CUT AND PASTE. Am also a big fan of copy and paste.
  • 36a. [Place for tiger woods?], ASIA. Tigers live in the woods in Asia.
  • 37a. [Get going], KICK-START. A kouple of K’s put some kick in the grid.
  • 42a. ["Go figure!"], “IMAGINE THAT!”
  • 53a. [Dual diner dish], APPLE PIE A LA MODE. Vanilla ice cream is, if you ask me, sorely overrated.

Curious about 2d. [Brand of literature], ETHAN. Is there some fictional Ethan Brand I should recognize? Hmm, a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story that I don’t recall. Also wondering who this 25d. [Director/ screenwriter Penn], ZAK, is. I’ll bet you no more than two people reading this have seen either of the movies he directed; one of them grossed over $100,000. I daresay Ringo’s son Zak Starkey is better known.

STEIN MART, 8d. [Chain of off-price department stores], was only semi-familiar. There are a few in the suburbs but I’ve never been to one. Wikipedia says the chain is mostly in Texas and the Southeast, with about 20 states having no Stein Mart stores. This … does not make for stellar fill.

Three stars.

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

LAT Puzzle 08.24.13 by Barry C. Silk

Fantastic puzzle, but the SW corner of this one just demolished me. I’m gonna start with the stuff that delayed me the most:

  • 50a, ROYKO ["For the Love of Mike" columnist]. A Chicago legend, but I had just never heard of him. Luckily I knew 42d, THOME [Jim who is the most recent member of the 600-home run club], or else this one might have been a DNF.
  • 22d, FREETHINKER [One who doesn't follow the crowd]. Could not parse this one at all. I had _REET_IN___ for the longest time, and just had no idea where to break the compound word.
  • 36a, MINT MARKS [Numismatist's concerns]. Luckily I knew that a numismatist is a coin collector, and so MINT____S fell quickly, but I really wanted the entry to be MINTYEARS or MINTDATES.
  • 29d, JERKY [Spasmodic]. JUMPY? JOLTY?
  • 27d, JUNKY [Inferior]. [Like certain fill, e.g.]

Not to mention the difficult crossings of ECARTE, DAVEY, CALI, and AVON (clued as [Big name in romance novels]) in the W portion of the grid. But I’m glad that this one had some teeth — the past few weeks of Saturday LATs have been fairly breezy.

Oh, and how about all these beautiful entries:

  • 1a, SQUEAK TOY [Pet's plaything]. The joy this brings to a dog is directly proportional to the anxiety it causes the dog’s owner.
  • 11d, SIZZLE PLATE [Fajitas server]. I didn’t know this had a name, but at least it’s self-descriptive.
  • 21a, HAZMAT [Freight not permitted in some tunnels, familiarly]. I’d have preferred the clue [Type of suit], but this’ll do.
  • 56a, ZONE BLITZ [Gridiron defensive rush]. I couldn’t tell you what it looks like, but I’ve definitely heard commentators say these two words in this order.
  • 54a, IDENTIKIT [Brand used by the police in lieu of a sketch artist]. Apparently it’s the Kleenex® of facial reconstruction techniques: some dictionaries have it listed as a generic term for this kind of composite sketch.

Wasn’t a big fan of the crossing at 10d, ALSATIA [Old name of London's Whitefriars district] and 18a, SZELL [Longtime Cleveland Orchestra conductor]. Was a big fan of the cheeky repeated clues for 15a, OUTSMARTS [Fools], 16a, LIE TO [Fool], and 14d, DOLTS [Fools]. Oh, and 23a, WITLESS [Foolish]. Also liked the clues for 2d, QUIP [Words of {Bob} Hope] and 38d, SILENT B [One in doubt?].

The pros greatly outweighed the cons for me: an even 4 stars. Until next week!


Updated Saturday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Hit Parade” – Janie’s review

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 1.35.05 PMFor these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, Doug’s easy-breezy puzzle still manages to pack a punch—and given today’s theme, you couldn’t ask for anything more appropriate. Because that title refers not to Billboard’s Top 100, but to the array of words that are synonyms for “hit.” Oof! Got it? Good! And we find them at the ends of four familiar phrases:

  • 17A. OUT OF WHACK [Not functioning correctly]. Solid, lively phrase indeed. When something is functioning correctly, do we say it’s whack? And if so—that’s just whack!
  • 29A. ROTATOR CUFF [Shoulder stabilizer]. This is probably the most “clinical” of the themers, but CUFF makes for a terrific theme word.
  • Borscht Belt46A. BORSCHT BELT [Catskills resort area]. Now that’s a phrase that works like gangbusters in my book. Conjures up tons of associations—from the writers and stand-up comedians it spawned for TV, stage and film, to the movies and plays about the place, to its generations-long rich cultural history in general. This one practically qualifies as a tko! Am wondering if it was the seed-phrase for the puzzle as a whole.
  • 62A. GARDEN SLUG [Slimy backyard pest]. These critters give me the willies—still the phrase works to perfection. Am also working on the image of two guys SLUGgin’ it out in the GARDEN.

Not that some of the shorter fill isn’t less-than-ideal (lookin’ at you, GDS…), but as I see it, some “practical” fill comes with the territory. To my eye, there’s nothing in the grid that warrants being called out as an UNFAVE. Nothing that left me AGHAST. DEBIT CARD and IDAHOAN may be a tad dry, but I don’t make that a FATAL flaw. On the other hand, although they’re not both clued in connection to the animal kingdom, I got a smile out of seeing APE and GORILLA in the grid—which added a certain TANG to the solve. The standout, most VIBRANT fill today? I’d make my FAVE SEX SYMBOL. Was Doug perhaps thinking of Heidi KLUM when he dropped that in the grid?

Leaving you to ponder that, I bid you adieu, will see you LATER ON next week, and yes, Dave’s back tomorrow! ;-)

Jeff Chen’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 8 24 13 “Saturday Stumper”

Is this Jeff’s first Stumper? We’ve been seeing a lot of new names in the Stumper bylines, all of them welcome. I don’t know whether Stan had to stumperize many of the clues or if Jeff is, by his very nature, a cruel and devious individual. But this puzzle turned out really hard, didn’t it?

Toughest clues for me:

  • 1a. [A spot], HOT WATER. As in “I’m in hot water now” and not “a spot of tea.”
  • 18a. [Where to get Soul Town, Symphony Hall, etc.], SIRIUS. I don’t have satellite radio anymore.
  • 20a. [For fun, for short], REC. REC short for “recreational”? Isn’t “rec.” typically an abbreviation for “recreation” and not the -al form of the word?
  • 24a. [Mecca market designation], HALAL. Meat market, not carpet bazaar.
  • 33a. [Alpenstock descendant], ICE AXE. Had no idea what an alpenstock is. (It’s a long staff with an iron tip that mountain climbers and hikers use.)
  • 37a. [Maxwells measure it], MAGNETIC FLUX. You don’t say.
  • 50a. [Turk's spit], SHISH. As in shish kebab. I figured the answer would be a spit of land on the Turkish coast, but no.
  • 54a. [Breezes sailed through], EASY A’S. No boats, no winds.
  • 58a. [Expressbake, MyBlend, etc.], OSTERS.
  • 61a. [Director who cowrote ''Giant Steps to Change the World''], SPIKE LEE. It’s an inspirational book for children. Looks good.
  • 6d. Language family including Lao and Shan], TAI.
  • 12d. [What a goatee might signal], EVIL TWIN. Huh? Goatee?
  • 29d. [Aeneas descendant, per Plutarch], REMUS.
  • 43d. [Service or card preceder], POSTAL. I had the ST in place and tried EASTER.
  • 51d. [Party host in an 1865 novel], HARE.Alice in Wonderland and not, say, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Favorite bits:

  • 31a. [Overall examination], BIRD’S EYE VIEW. Great answer.
  • 59a. [Indifferent], LUKEWARM. I like the word. Did you know (I did not until just now) that the luke- part is likely akin to lee, as in alee and leeward?
  • EVIL TWIN, CASH COWS, CAR CHASE, SPIKE LEE—a fair amount of liveliness for a Stumper grid.
  • 57d. [Word from Old Norse for ''wooden stick''], SKI.

The easiest bits, which allowed me to make some headway:

  • 11d. [Unseen ''Frasier'' character], MARIS. The S led me to STAC.
  • 52a. [Word used by some name-droppers], NEE.
  • 53a. [Youngest White House resident since Caroline], SASHA.
  • 60a. [Empty __], NESTER.
  • 34d. [Cop-film staple], CAR CHASE.

Did this one knock you down a few times too? Four meaty stars.

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15 Responses to Saturday, August 24, 2013

  1. Gareth says:

    LAT: Never heard of ROYKO or THOME but guessed right there. Also guessed right at SZELL/ALSATIA despite expecting ?ZELL to be filled by a vowel of some kind… I needed two guesses to get ROYKO/ROYCE though, hence the asterisk. ROYCE clue was sufficiently vague that I didn’t think of the automaker. Scrabbliness agogo but the only ZJKQ entries I liked were SQUEAKTOY, HAZMAT and JUXTAPOSE. The high number of those answers mostly felt impressive as a crossword engineering feat…

  2. animalheart says:

    Tough NYT for me, but it fell after much gnashing of teeth. I confess that I’d never heard of the Hawthorne short story. But I liked the puzzle better than Amy did. The only thing that really bugged me was ATON for “Immensely.” Just doesn’t seem idiomatic to me. But I’m a ton happy I was able to finish.

  3. Jeff Chen says:

    I really liked the NYT. Usually I see double or triple-stacks and wince, waiting for the painful crossings, but they never came. And each of the 15′s was really good.

    Jeff

  4. Martin says:

    No truckers do the LAT? Diesel oil is not a lubricant; it’s a fuel.

    The Newsday was a killer, Jeff.

    • HH says:

      Of course not — My dad drove a truck, and he was an idiot.

    • Gary R says:

      Had never run across the term “diesel oil” before – only “diesel fuel” or just “diesel.” But after a little Googling, I learned that Valvoline, among others, sells “diesel oil” that is a lubricant for diesel engines.

      • Martin says:

        I guess it’s ambiguous now. Wikipedia gives the lubricant a “sometimes” but that seems to be a new coinage, probably so the oil companies can charge Mercedes diesel owners more. Can we still call diesels “oil burners”? BTW, the fuel oil people burn in their furnaces is the same stuff as diesel fuel, just taxed differently.

  5. Jeff Chen says:

    First stumper indeed! I sat next to Stan at the ACPT this year and he asked a bunch of us to submit one puzzle (at least) to him this year. Fun to work with him!

    (nerd alert) I’m an identical twin, clearly the evil one. One Halloween my brother and I dressed as Spock and evil Spock (with the goatee). I thought it was hilarious but I don’t think many people got it.

    Jeff

    • Jeff Chen says:

      P.S. Stan actually called me and went through which clues he thought were good, which ones he wanted to change, and why. Pretty cool.

  6. GG12345 says:

    NYT Agree with Amy on the 3-star rating. Spoiler alert! 19D “hop to”. Normal idiom is “hop to it”. 15A no indication in the clue that the answer will be a foreign word. 46D “TheUN?” Would have expected the answer to be just “UN”. Different strokes for different folks. This did not hit the sweet spot for me.

    • pannonica says:

      I suspect it may be regional. The terse “hop to” is just as, if not more, common to my ears than “hop to it.” And in its hurried brevity it’s more apt.

  7. Art Shapiro says:

    There are a number of Stein Marts here in California, so that one was reasonable. (A lot better than NYC subway line designations!). That puzzle started out scarily slow, but gradually decided to cooperate. Guess I’m woefully ignorant on my muskrats, however.

    Art

  8. lemonade 714 says:

    Do not usually try the trumpets, but Jeff’s byline beckoned. Now I remember why I do not usually go out of my way to be beaten up.

    Loved seeing Maxwell’s and REMUS.

    Thanks

  9. Mark LaFramboise says:

    Really, nobody else drew a blank on GROK? Referring to Saturday’s NYT puzzle.

  10. Garrett says:

    The Stumper overwhelmed me this weekend (I always do it the following weekend. The only area I was able to complete entirely was the SW corner. A** kicker.

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