Saturday, November 16, 2013

NYT 6:33 (Amy) 
Newsday 6:35 (Amy) 
LAT 3:48 (Andy) 
CS 6:15 (Dave) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 16 13, no. 1116

Lots of fresh fill in this one:

  • 1a. [Air protection program?], APPLE CARE. For a MacBook Air, or an iPad Air.
  • 17a. [1992 chart-topper that mentions "my little turn on the catwalk"], I’M TOO SEXY. Heh. Goofy song.
  • 39a. [Long, slender glass for drinking beer], ALEYARD. This is fresh in that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it before, but that also makes it … perhaps a mite dreadful.
  • 60a. [Prevent a crash, say], FORCE QUIT. Yep, been there, done that this week. Firefox seems to have incapacitated itself on my machine.
  • 63a. ["Buy high and sell low," e.g.], BAD ADVICE. Possibly a touch contrived as phrases go, although “good advice” and “bad advice” are definitely two big advice categories.
  • 5d. [___ Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors and PayPal], ELON. Much fresher clue than the North Carolina university.
  • 7d. [Temporarily inactive]. ABEYANT. Never seen this form of the word before, just “in abeyance.”
  • 8d. [___ Place (Edmonton Oilers' arena)], REXALL. I grew up with a Rexall Drugs across town, but the US chain no longer exists and is unrelated to the Canadian chain.
  • 12d. ["G-Funk Classics" rapper], NATE DOGG.
  • 21d. ["Holy smokes!"], “OH, BABY!”
  • 35d. [Pioneering underground publication of the 1960s], ZAP COMIX. Think R. Crumb.
  • 37d. [1990s sci-fi series], AEON FLUX. Kept alive only by crossword clues for AEON, am I right?

Mysteries:

  • 11d. [She loves, in 10-Down] clues AMAT, the Latin word. 10d is ROMA, Italian for Rome. They speak Latin in Roma, do they? With zero suggestion that the answer is intended to be the ancient metropolis of the Roman empire, this makes no sense.
  • 30a. [Contact on Facebook], POKE. Tell me: When’s the last time any of you used Facebook’s “poke” function? I just checked to see if it’s still there, and yes, I was able to poke Michael Sharp. I don’t know how he’ll be alerted. As far as I can tell, nobody uses “poke” anymore. It has always been entirely useless. It’s for telling someone “I’m thinking about you but I’m too lazy to actually type the word “hi.” Update: He poked me back! So I poked him right back. Now he’s asked me to stop and says no one else has ever poked him. (Note: The word is entirely valid, but the Facebook clues have got to stop already.)
  • 2d. [Marmalade fruit], POMELO. You don’t say. Orange marmalade is markedly more popular than pomelo marmalade.
  • 47d. [Italian P.M. Letta], ENRICO. Enrico is a common enough Italian name, sure (heck, maybe it’s Latin too), but I don’t keep up on Italian politics. He has held the position for over six months now.
  • 61d. [Shopper's choice], QVC. Choice as in “preference” or choice as in “one of a zillion options”? QVC has never been my choice.

Fill I would do without if I had my druthers: OATERS, ALER (22a. [A or O, but not B]), ELEONORA Duse (DUSE was in another recent puzzle with an iffy crossing), STOA, EDY, PRS, DEDE, AMAT.

The Java applet solving times are trending toward the agonizingly slow. What areas threw you for a loop? Was it the unfamiliar words and names I mentioned above?

3.75 stars.


Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “The Heat is Gone” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I believe the title is a play on this song by Glenn Frey, but here we have four phrases where the heat is gone:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/16/13

  • [Get party guests to start mingling] clued BREAK THE ICE – party games like “Spin the Bottle” seem to do this effectively.
  • [1983 film in which Kevin Costner portrays a corpse] was THE BIG CHILL – I hear he was very convincing in that role.
  • [Employer's cost containment ploy] clued WAGE FREEZE – better that than demotions, I suppose.
  • [Act casual] was PLAY IT COOL – another cool phrase.

I really warmed up to this puzzle–both the theme and surrounding fill played themselves out well. My only sticking point was the crossing between BILGE ([Leakage in a luxury liner]) and RANGO ([Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature of 2011]). I see here that the movie is about a chameleon in the town of Dirt in need of a sheriff. Should I add it to my Netflix queue? Without belaboring the point, I’ll just refer the gentle reader to this most recent post with regard to clue to 32-Across.

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

LAT Puzzle 11.16.13 by Barry C. Silk

As precisely no one will recall, I wasn’t all that thrilled with Mr. C. Silk’s puzzle two weeks ago. This puzzle? JUST ABOUT perfect.

Can I just say how in love I am with UNBIRTHDAY stacked brazenly next to ONE FINE DAY? It’s as if to say, “Yeah, I put DAY right next to DAY. What’re you gonna do about it?” Those were my first two entries into the grid, and they gave me _AA___ and _YY___ at the bottom.

Surely that can’t be right, I said aloud to no one.

And the puzzle whispered back, Oh, but it is. And don’t call me Shirley.

LA ANGELS and CY YOUNGOf course. I TOLD YOU SO, the puzzle said to me in the SE, mocking my earlier self-doubt. If it weren’t for the signature Silkian, almost oppressive Scrabbliness of this grid, I might have suspected that Peter Collins constructed it — what with the Angels and Cy Young having a little mini-baseball-theme-party over on the left side of the grid, and RUBBER SOUL making an appearance on the right.

ONION RING clued as [Side unit] (no question mark), on top of TENNIS ACE [Court expert] (no question mark) = fantastic. The full name of AMY TAN ["The Joy Luck Club" author] crossing JURY DUTY [Court service] (different court from the aforementioned TENNIS ACE) = so good. I even liked all the short stuff! (YMMV with the TABOR/TYRE crossing, I loved the clue for TYRE as [London flat?].)

What didn’t I like about this puzzle? My only NIT to pick is JAZZES [Spices (up)]. Not a big fan of JAZZES alone — it looks like either a plural of the noun JAZZ, or a transitive verb. (And, of course, if you’re referring to multiple players on the NBA team of that name, it’s Utahs Jazz.) Maybe EDEMAS isn’t so much “in the language” (see also “karsts” from yesterday’s NYT).

4.5 stars from me. Until next week!

P.S.: While I didn’t have any trouble with it on the initial fill, upon reexamining the grid, I misparsed THERON as T-HERON because it was directly underneath T-BONDS. Whoops?

Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 16 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Bruce Sutphin

No particular delight and no particular grumbles here. It’s all solid but perhaps also stolid. I miss having zippy longer answers—Steinberg’s NYT had five answers that really popped, while many Stumpers just say “Here are a bunch of ordinary words with tough clues.”

Overall, this wasn’t as challenging for me as most Stumpers are. Here are the parts I liked best:

  • 1a. [Literally, "low-stature" animal], BASSET hound. From the French for “short.”
  • 29a. [One way to catch the game], SNARE. This is about hunting (UGH) and not a new technology for viewing a sporting event.
  • 45a. [Command to a canine], LEAVE IT. Yes, I hear that a lot at my sister’s house. (She has two dogs.)
  • 6d. [Top choice], TEE-SHIRT. One of your choices when it comes to wearing a top.
  • 24d. [Bits of chaff], HAYSEED. It doesn’t just mean “yokel,” you know. It’s also grass seed from hay. (Just as “grass seed” can refer to a bag containing many thousands of seeds, HAYSEED can be plural too.)
  • 48d. [Carol word sung 12 times], PEAR. I needed the crossings before it became obvious that “…and a partridge in a pear tree” is sung for twelve verses of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Lots of clues that should have led me to fill in incorrect answers, but the crossings were easy enough that I always found myself with a letter pointing the right way. So [Times past] is ERAS, not YORE. [Realizes] is NETS, not GETS or SEES. [Dole out] is LADLE, not ALLOT. [__ tea] is SUN, not HOT or ICE. [Fit to serve] is DONE, not ONE-A. [Paws] is MAULS, not MITTS. [Change] is COINS, not ALTER or AMEND.

I don’t get the clue for GOATEE: [President Lincoln wore one, now and then]. Does that mean now, 2013, as seen on the penny, as well as way back when, or does it mean Lincoln’s beard started out more goateeish and maybe he shaved the sides off periodically?

3.75 stars. Smooth but lacking drama.

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22 Responses to Saturday, November 16, 2013

  1. sbmanion says:

    My first gimme was QUINCE for the marmalade fruit. That set the tone for the NW for me, which was the last to fall. I finally got a real toehold in the SE and solved it SE, SW, NE and finally NW.

    One of my friends in college drew absolutely perfect ZAP COMIX drawings that were even more risque than the originals.

    Very,very hard for me.

    Steve

  2. Matt says:

    I got the right half of the NYT on my own, but had to look up the spelling of ELEONORA to get the SW, and then looked up ADIDAS to get the NW. But the NW was just ridiculously hard: DORMANT/ABEYANT, QUINCE/POMELO, EMIT/STET, IPO/LBO. Egads.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I did this last night with my daughter who contributed answers that I would never know: E.g. VING and I’M TOO SEXY, she saw FORCE QUIT way before I would have, and at various impossible-seeming crossings would say: “I’m fond of Ys, let’s try one… ” Which gave us ABAYANT and ALEYARD (!). We also argued and debated and cheated (ELEONORA) to get it done.

    Then I showed her Amy’s time, and we decided we should keep our day jobs.

  4. Howard B says:

    Unsolvable for me.
    FORCE QUIT, APPLE CARE are unknown to me even in my field (not an Apple user). Also , ALEYARD. ZAP COMIX is either a slam-dunk gimme or impossible. Guess which here.
    Nothing I could do to break in there with the proper name crossings otherwise.
    Lack of sleep might have helped this, but another hour would not have cracked those areas.

    • Matt says:

      My first guess for ‘pioneering publication’ was RAMPARTS, so that counts as another plausible pair where the correct entry was the obscurer one.

    • Howard B says:

      Note – I’ll still take a puzzle with ambitious, unusual fill over a stale puzzle clued dryly, any day of the week.

    • Gareth says:

      Also a DNF for me (second or third of the year? Maybe more and I just have a selective memory!). About half the puzzle was very easy though. And then I had ROME not ROMA. ?ETERS didn’t make sense but METERS was a word so I had MYBABY(!?), RANDY not RALPH (super vague clue! Although it is Saturday), didn’t know NLRB and NTSB sort of made sense. Didn’t know REXALL or NAYA or APPLECARE (got the latter 2 correct, but only OBEYANT didn’t sound right). DSS was as a good a meaningless TLA as any. Not sure which phones had/have PRS and not sure why “old” is there when plenty of people don’t want smartphones and thus have phones with keypads. I had been wondering if it was worth using ELON Musk in crosswords, at least now I know he’s acceptable… Also struggled in the bottom-left – no way in and no gimmes. Eventually guessed STOA and got ZEALOT, but still finished there with ZAPCOMIS.

  5. Animalheart says:

    Total washout in the West half for me. Never heard of ZapComix or AeonFlux or Aleyard, had Single Bed instead of Double (makes much more sense to me), not highly versed in 1990s chart-toppers. And the mold on my bread looks green, not blue (granted, I’m a little color-blind), so I had Moody… Ugh.

  6. Tracy B. says:

    I resorted to Googling “springblade” and “neon flux” (my bad guess) and OneLooking SOR* Fund Management and *PCOMIX, to finish this one.

    Loops thrown:

    At 1-Across I wasted time trying to imagine how OBAMACARE could be related to air protection.
    I wanted POMELO to be ORANGE for a while.
    ROSLYN — I don’t know train stations in Long Island.
    ALEYARD — I had TANKARD there for a while.
    ZAPCOMIX — I could see Art Crumb’s work and all, but not the title. Made the mistake of clicking on HIPCOMIX and it was too early in the morning for all that.
    AEONFLUX — guessed NEONFLUX for too long.

    I like puzzles that make me work hard and have lots of new stuff. I’m happiest when I don’t end up Googling, but it’s a good brain workout.

    Oh yeah, I had SINGLE BED too! I think a double is cozy.

  7. David L says:

    I rarely give crosswords ratings but I was sufficiently peeved by today’s NYT that I gave it one star. A mess of dubious words and obscure names.

    Also, the clue for GAITER seems wrong to me. A gaiter covers your ankles and shin, not your boot.

    • pannonica says:

      Doesn’t a boot cover your ankle and shin? Ergo, a GAITER will cover your boot, just not entirely.

      In fact, you’ve illustrated this very point—a gaiter doesn’t always cover your entire shin. Nor does a boot, incidentally.

  8. klew archer says:

    First Saturday in forever that the Stumper was easier than the NYT.

  9. Jason F says:

    The NYT was tough, but very enjoyable for me. Enough of the puzzle was in my wheelhouse to let me reason through the rest. That’s my favorite type of puzzle.

    Several people I know at Facebook have claimed to work on “poke” or “superpoke” at some point in time, so I suspect it is something of an inside joke at the company.

  10. Brucenm says:

    Same pattern as most people — right side went OK, but the entire left was brutal, and, sad to say, not in a way that I found appealing, though, upon reflection, I should have remembered enough to get through it in a little less than the aeon it took me. I’ve even seen “Aeon Flux” in TV listings, but don’t know what it is. And, as Amy said, I think we saw Eleonora recently. I’ve heard of “Applecare,” for my Mac, but I didn’t know what “air protection” meant. I do have to force quit applications all the time, though, on my screwed up computer. Never heard of zap comics, and for some reason blocked on “zealot.”

    But trying to drink from a yard of ale glass is amusing, and provides an opportunity for everyone to laugh uproariously (if not maliciously) at the novice user. It is literally a yard long, with a thin cylindrical body, perhaps two or three inches in diameter, opening out into a bulb on the top. It sits upright in a wooden stand, or frame rather like a pool cue holder. I would guess it holds a couple quarts, (though that could be figured out.) You hold it with two hands, one under the bulb and one reaching down the body, then tilt it towards your mouth. The high level physics of the design, involving air pressure I suppose, cause a bubble to form suddenly down the side of the container, especially when it’s full, thereby releasing suddenly a large quantity of ale in your face. You have to become adept at starting the tilt, then immediately lowering the base of the glass just as the flood is starting.

    Damn, I just got pomelo marmalade all over my keyboard.

    The other funny thing is that this post started out as an anguished plea for enlightenment as to why {walk} is a clue for “legit,” until, just before sending, it occurred to me to read it as “leg – it.”

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Hand raised for the bubble splash. Hand an aleyard to a novice and watch hilarity ensue = my idea of fun.

  11. sbmanion says:

    I wonder how many of you who have never heard of ZAP COMIX are more familiar with its signature image “KEEP ON TRUCKIN’” than you might realize.

    http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?_adv_prop=image&sz=all&va=zap+comix+keep+truckin+logo

    Steve

  12. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Thanks for mentioning Rexall Drug (not Drugs). The company’s story is pretty interesting, as company stories go, and I see that the name is still used by some American pharmacies. From a nostalgia standpoint, the company is still as alive as, say, AT&T is.

    I have fond memories of buying comics and candy from the Rexall Drug in McVille, ND.

    SRS

  13. 7d5a9b1 says:

    I’d never heard of ALEYARD or AEONFLUX , but could puzzle them out by inferring that a beer glass might have something to do with ale and a sci-fi series something to do with aeons. What spoils this puzzle is the crossing of ELON, the odd first name of an obscure celebrity, impossible to infer if you don’t happen to know it, with NAYA, the odd name of an obscure producer of bottled water, also impossible to infer if you don’t happen to know it. Puzzles that can be solved only by chance knowledge of obscure proper names are no fun.

  14. Alex Vratsanos says:

    I am always amazed at Mr. Steinberg’s work, whether it be for the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project or for the New York Times. From his very first puzzle three days after my first one and his “Giant” Sunday with Barry Haldiman in 2012 to his Windows 8 puzzle this past June and this one, he has shown his amazing talent.

    The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth about this one was that I really wanted TIME TRAX for the ’90s sci-fi series. I look forward to your next puzzle, David… thank you.

  15. Martin says:

    What Alex said :)

    -MAS

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