Saturday, October 5, 2013

Newsday 10:25 
NYT 6:41 
LAT 3:14 (Andy) 
CS 6:40 (Matt) 

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

The hallmarks of a Byron Walden themeless are some unusual entries and wicked clues. The first category includes these:

  • 1a. [It may provide closure in a tragedy], ACT FIVE. Better than the more common ACTI/ACTV type of answers, no?
  • 15a. [City named for Theodore Roosevelt's vice president], FAIRBANKS, ALASKA. Not Douglas Fairbanks?
  • 28a. [Largest city in Moravia], BRNO. Gotta love the Czech places with vowel shortages. I believe my train from Prague to Vienna passed through, and that may be the place where we gave children some money and sent them out to the train platform to buy us some beer.
  • 30a. [Morale], ESPRIT DE CORPS. Lovely entry.
  • 50a. [1965 Beach Boys hit], DO YOU WANNA DANCE.
  • 53a. [Mission], HOMELESS SHELTER.
  • 2d. [Lot arrangement], CAR LEASE.
  • 13d. [Macedonia's capital], SKOPJE. Possibly my favorite world capital from a spelling standpoint.
  • 16d. [Large monitors], KOMODO DRAGONS. Monitors = large lizards as well as computer screens and sentries.
  • 33d. [Hit hard, as in an accident], PLOW INTO.
  • 41d. ["Yowza!"], “OH, MY, MY.” Felt a hair iffy to me, but it’s also a song title and the songwriters were likely drawing on a familiar phrase.

Here are my favorite clues:

  • 17a. [Word search technique?], FREE ASSOCIATION.
  • 18a. [Webby Award winner who accepted saying "Please don't recount this vote"], AL GORE.
  • 19a, 11d. [With 11-Down, animal called "stubbin" by locals], MANX / CAT. Stubby tail.
  • 21a. [Diddly], BEANS. As in “It ain’t worth ___.”
  • 29a. [Mob member, informally], ROO. A group of kangaroos is called a mob.
  • 35a. [Second in command?], AIM. In the command “Ready, aim, fire.”
  • 7d. [Nissan bumpers?], ENS. The N’s at the front and back of the word are analogous to the bumpers at the front and back of a car.
  • 10d. [Cigarette paper source], FLAX. I did not know that.
  • 22d. [Abandon one's efforts, informally], PUNT. Not just in football.
  • 28d. [Dover soul], BRIT. A person from Dover, England.
  • 34d. [Tip used for icing], SILENCER. “Icing” meaning killing, executing—not frosting.

Oh, I forgot another hallmark: Scrabbliness. Three K’s, two J’s, an X and a Z.

Quasi-mystery clue: 27a. [-i relative], ESE. I think this is a demonym ending. Japan : -ESE :: Iraq : -I. Agree?

All in all, an AFFABLE (1-Down) puzzle. Four stars.

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 10.05.13 by Mark Bickham

You know what I really like? This puzzle.

You know why? Cause I’m a sucker for a high Scrabble score. I don’t even care that RAZZMATAZZ and ISUZU RODEO are stacked on top of a lackluster SESAME SEED, or that we needed ARIS to make it happen, because there are FIVE Zs in that corner. In the NE, the literary OEDIPUS REX is the star, sandwiched between the lively CRAPS TABLE and “I CAN RELATE.” Nancy LOPEZ crosses an Arkansas RAZORBACK, JADA JABS in the NW, and there’s an ORAL EXAM on or around SAXONY.

And for having such a high Scrabble score, this puzzle has a lot of good, non-Scrabbly supporting fill as well. The marquee entry is the 15-letter DISCOMBOBULATED spanning the center of the grid. I’m also a fan of FIRE OPAL, SHIH TZUS, “YOU TWO,” DAEWOO, and ALDO GUCCI. And, though your mileage may vary, I liked the phrase-iness of THE TOWEL.

The Isuzu Rodeo: It can stop on a sesame seed!

Lest I be accused of cockeyed optimism, let’s have a look at the minus column: -INI as a pasta suffix, ATTA, AROO, the aforementioned ARIS, UP A, AS LOW, TUE, and A DASH. That seems lower than usual, right?

Somewhere in the middle: PINKED (as in “pinking shears,” but a different tense of the verb “to pink”). Did you all like this entry? I’m still undecided about it.

Just what I like in a Saturday puzzle. 3.75 stars from me. Until next week!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as Anna Stiga)

Newsday crossword solution, 10 5 13 “Saturday Stumper”/Anna Stiga

I made it through the bottom half of this puzzle okay, but the top half knocked me down with a series of wrong turns. I had the R in place for 20d. [Most of Mauritania], and filled in SAHARA instead of the correct answer, DESERT. The H in SAHARA made me think 29a. [Military band] might be HOST (whoops, it’s SASH), which led me to fill in MUSCAT for 8d. [Mideast capital] (but that one’s RIYADH). The S in MUSCAT enticed me to fill in DESI ARNAZ for the 18a. ['50s TV superstar] (this one turned out to be ROY ROGERS). Imagine my surprise to find ARNAZ in the grid after all, clued as 30a. [Co-inventor of the rerun]!

The Stumper is custom-made to lead you down these Pathways of Wrongness, with clues that are open to (mis)interpretation.

My favorite bits:

  • 19a. [Shown to be insecure], HACKED. An insecure website or computer system, not an emotionally insecure person.
  • 27a. [''Ice __'' (tennis great's nickname)], BORG. I swear I did not know this, but the iceberg/Ice Borg play felt natural enough.
  • 41a. [Home of the Tyrolean Lodge and The Innsbruck hotel], ASPEN. Ha! Austrian Alps in the Colorado Rockies.
  • 50a. [Trade partner in the oil business], CAP. Not a “trade partner” but a “word that partners with the word ‘trade.’”
  • 58a. [Result of some successful pitches], STRIKE ONE. So often, “pitches” in crossword clues are sales pitches. Not this time.
  • 1d. [Quest for some Yelp users], SUSHI BAR. Great entry. Not wild about the nonspecificity of the clue, though.
  • 5d. [Take turns], STEER. Would have been easier as [Make turns]. But who wants easier in a Stumper?
  • 25d. [Some pubs], MAGS. Magazines, publications.
  • 26d. [Character last seen at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony], MR. BEAN. Rowan Atkinson, slapstick.
  • 32d. [Stage line], REIN. Stagecoach, not theater stage.
  • 33d. [Modern music outlet], EARBUD. Yes, music comes out of an earbud. Meanwhile, a TAPE DECK is an [Old music outlet], and a JUKE(box) is a [Record holder of yore].
  • 38d. [Letter-reading rituals], EYE TESTS. Individual letters on the Snellen chart, not written correspondence.

Worst fill: None.

4.25 stars.

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy crossword, “The Bee Gees” — Matt’s review

Can’t go on autopilot while solving a Klahn since the clues are so original and tricky. Bob is famous for his clues — the Orca Award for cluing is named in his honor — and this puzzle’s roster won’t tarnish that reputation one iota.

The theme is a vowel progression (with a nice title):

17-a [Hip-hop wear] = BAGGY PANTS
23-a [Seeking compassionate treatment] = BEGGING FOR MERCY
34-a [VIPs] = BIGGIES
47-a [Stretching credulity] = BOGGLING THE MIND
53-a [Heading for the hills] = BUGGING OUT

Works for me. I had UNVIABLE at 35-d [Unable to survive or develop normally] leaving me with BUG-something, but I knew a pro like Bob would never in 1,000,000 years do a vowel progression theme out of order so in the I eventually went. Only other real snag I hit was in the SW corner, where GO/NO GO was unfamiliar but sounds cool [Like decisions to quit or continue] and EGOS was clued with typical Klahnian misdirection as [Star wars starters]. I had E?O? and wanted it to be EWOK. Is EWOK the plural of EWOK, and weren’t they too fuzzy and cute to fight wars? And 10 seconds got added to my time.

Bob has long been a master of smooth fill — he was Will Shortz’s longtime “grid doctor” at the Times — and there’s not much CRUD to complain about here. If AGA is the worst thing in your 15×15, you’re doing well. TAGUS (which is Lisbon’s river) is a bit tough but worth knowing and all its crossings are easy. Standout entries include MR. MAGOO, OOMPH, PERNOD, EGG NOG and FUDGING.

Now let’s get to those clues. There aren’t many constructors you can routinely do a “Top 10 Clues” list on a 15×15 for, but with Bob you can. In no particular order:

[Get up and go] = MOVE
[Top specialist at the bakery?] = ICER
[Nasal passages?] = ODORS
[Place in France?] = LIEU
[Play poker?] = JAB
[Skein game?] = GEESE
[Do goo] = GEL
[Pigmented peeper part] = UVEA
[Brought to naught] = UNDID
[Third of October?] = TEE

Totally professional crossword. 4.25 stars.

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21 Responses to Saturday, October 5, 2013

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT: I was surprised when, in the end, this put up a near normal Saturday fight… I had two long gimmes: ESPRITDECORPS off the C?R?? and KOMODODRAGONS off the D. Of course, I then filled in California Girls off the N of DRAGONS, but I saw that wasn’t working fairly soon! Hardest area was top-left. Even with ????ASSOCIATION that clue meant nothing and still means nothing. ACTFIVE was devilishly tricky too. And then there were clues like [Outgoing] and [Draws]. [Second in command] was my clue of the puzzle – more utter deviousness! Also, bravo to an incredibly dreck-[free] grids. I enjoyed Bruce’s puzzle more myself, but I can’t help feeling Mr. Walden is hard done by following that puzzle! P.S., Brno is also the setting of the Czech Motorcycle Grand Prix.

    LAT: My enjoyment is less hinged on the presence of certain letters than Andy’s; that said OEDIPUSREX, ALDOGUCCI, RAZORBACK, SHIHTZUS, and FIREOPAL all delighted me! Also two clues: [Common subject in "The Far Side"] and [Couple's address]. On the hand, from Andy’s list answers were real stinkers for me: OCAS [oh wait, that isn't on Andy's list...], and ASLOW. UPA tree seems a lot better now that I realise it’s a partial and not a variant of the “deadly upas tree.”

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: Wicked!

    KOMODO DRAGON crossing BRNO is merely an example. And the cluing! Mamma Mia. How can someone with such a poetic name as Byron Walden be so mean?

    I literally slapped my head after BRNO revealed itself, having stared forever at BR looking for the next vowel. That place gets me every time. And the irony is– I’ve been there. I’ve stayed there. And it was memorable. I was at a scientific meeting and went off wandering on my own at one point and discovered this amazingly well-kept secret– Gregor Mendel’s little museum in a corner of a monastery! Right there with a patch of blooming peas with different colors, and on the inside copies of his correspondence with Darwin! I was completely alone and then a staff person showed up and basically indicated that they were thinking of closing the museum because the monastery needed the space. It hurt my heart. And to think that someone plans a meeting for a bunch of geeky scientists and does not bother to mention that this place is literally within walking distance. I don’t recall who didn’t love Mendel, the Soviets or the monks. But that dislike has stuck. So sad…

    And having written this cathartic piece, I have now revised my explanation for why I always repress BRNO.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Oh dear, Huda, now we’ll all wonder if Mendel’s little museum was scrapped or offered at auction or what? Sad thought indeed. The Smithsonian might have been interested…

  3. Martin says:

    Amy wrote:

    “The hallmarks of a Byron Walden themeless are some unusual entries and wicked clues… ”

    I couldn’t agree more. Great Saturday puzzle!

    (liking those 15 stacks too)

    -MAS

  4. Brucenm says:

    It *is* a great Saturday Byron, and I almost got it all, but must protest plowing into obscurity upon obscurity, or, if you like, dreck upon dreck in the SW. which froze me out of the last couple entries at 50 & 54a. I’m sure everyone will scream indignantly that Jason Mraz is someone I’m supposed to have heard of. (He does kinda fit with Brno, though.) It didn’t help that I had Oh Mama! for 41d, and couldn’t come up with any reason to try to correct it . So I kept trying things like “I’m a mess” or “I’m a wuss” for our well-known superstar Mr. Mraz. And for all I know, they’re both true.

    • HH says:

      As a NYT puzzle solver, you’re expected to have heard of everything.

      • Brucenm says:

        Except perhaps Chevalier St. George, (cf. ArtLvr’s post of yesterday), which I’m not expecting in a NYT puzzle anytime soon, but would be a gimme. *You*, perhaps???? Or maybe Nucky. (I know. It’s too many letters.)

    • Papa John says:

      Excuse me, please, Bruce, but I’m going to use your comment as an example of what I perceive as a trend on this blog. That is, protesting “obscurity upon obscurity”.

      From what follows in your post, I gather that you deem Jason Mraz and his oeuvre to be obscure. I won’t dispute whether or not you “should” be familiar with him (despite what Hook says.) The fact is, this guy set a record on Billboard’s Hot 100, and so, while obscure to you, he must not be obscure to all those folks who bought his albums.

      I, too, was unfamiliar with this guy. Doing a Bing search on him didn’t ring any bells, either. He’s completely off my radar. That doesn’t mean I’ll protest his inclusion in a Saturday puzzle. Jason Mraz is just one of a lot of people, places and things I don’t know that show up in puzzles. (Dammit!)

      Again, I’m sorry to single you out. You are not alone in your protest against fills you don’t know. There are others who have expressed this same notion. Unless I’m reading the comments and the blog analyses incorrectly, I’ve found this attitude to be out of kilter with the otherwise sensible commentary on this blog.

      Am I mistaken? Are you not saying that you find a puzzle less satisfying because there are clues you don’t know?

      • Gareth says:

        Further, IMYOURS is an entirely guessable song title, being made up of two common English words and conveying a typical romantic sentiment.

        • Brucenm says:

          So were my guesses, and I did do a bit of a *mea culpa* for having an ‘A’ where the ‘Y’ should have been.

      • Brucenm says:

        Incidentally (or perhaps not so incidentally given the tenor of your comment), I gave Byron’s NYT 5 *.

  5. dook says:

    The worst was that California Girls fit so perfectly and Do You Wanna Dance was a minor hit and a cover.

  6. Brucenm says:

    I loved the Stumper by our transgendered friend Anna, and managed to finish it. Slightly different solving pattern from Amy — right to left. The entire East came fairly quickly, then had to really slog through the West. But I ask all the scientists here who call their big toe “Digit I” to raise their hands! And shouldn’t “pubs” for “mags” at least be “pubs.” to signal abbreviation?

    • pannonica says:

      I would call my big toe, “Hallo, hallux.”

      However, if I were to enumerate them on a diagram, they would be I, II, III, IV, and V. And if I were writing about them, I’d probably use “first digit” or “proximal digit.”

      However-however, on the other-other hand (and/or foot), if I were labelling a diagram very explicitly I would probably have no choice but to write “digit I.”

      Thus:

      • Brucenm says:

        WOW!

        • pannonica says:

          I didn’t whip that up just now, sorry if it gave that impression. It’s from a college student’s blog. Link is now working.

          (I have done scientific illustration in the past. Finished stuff, not just sketches like the above.)

  7. sbmanion says:

    I had some trouble with this puzzle, but not for any of the reasons cited so far. I saw ACT FIVE immediately, but put in OUTCAST instead of OFFCAST and had trouble seeing FAIRBANKSALASKA.

    I saw the possibility of NAPALM, but did not realize that that’s what happened. I was familiar with the phrase “fire-bombing of Dresden,” but only associated NAPALM with Vietnam or perhaps the very great movie, Apocalypse Now.

    The Beach Boys song quickly became obvious too me. The two KOMODO DRAGONS at the Phoenix Zoo both died this week, one from old age (19+) and the other for reasons not yet determined.

    I thought this was a superb puzzle. The clue for AIM was indeed diabolical.

    Steve

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed the NYT and the LAT, but the Stumper gave me a horrid headache. Stubbornly pursued it, and it got worse. I really wanted Leaked where HACKED belonged, etc. I had to smile at the metaphorical PIPERS who must be paid, though. Too true…

  9. Animalheart says:

    If the Byron NYT wasn’t a five-star puzzle, what is? Amazing. I confess to one Google to finish (and I’m too ashamed to admit what it was), but oh my my what a challenge. For the longest time I clung to (Nate) SILVER as the Webby winner, but of course the answer should have screamed out at me. We have to convince Byron to make more puzzles…

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