Saturday, November 23, 2013

Newsday 6:39 (Amy) 
NYT 4:33 (Amy) 
LAT 6:02 (Andy) 
CS 6:07 (Dave) 

Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 23 13, no 1123

This puzzle (A) felt like a Friday to me, (B) reminded me of early, super-Scrabbly Barry Silk puzzles, and (C) pleased me more than most puzzles heavy on 7s in all the corners. Here are the Scrabbly bits that livened up the grid for me:

  • JUJITSU crossing lively JETS FAN and JAKARTA with a trivia clue, 3d. [Home of Southeast Asia's largest mosque].
  • JAZZ AGE crossing ZOOM and unfortunately-not-legit-for-Scrabble ZOT.
  • ZANZIBAR! The islands off the coast that are part of Tanzania. The clue, 33d. [Its main island is Unguja], meant nothing to me, but it sounds plausibly African, those Z’s gave a helping hand, and I knew that Tanzania was a portmanteau name combining mainland Tanganyika with island Zanzibar (in 1964). “Zanzibar” is also a not-so-famous Billy Joel song from the 52nd Street album.
  • Reindeer BLITZEN meets Paul CEZANNE, as the lord intended.

Other juicy fill includes HANG TIME (37a. [Slam dunk stat]), SHOOT UP (without an injection drug use reference), FAST CAR (which seems a mite arbitrary but could also have been clued as the Tracy Chapman song), the word RANKLES (which I need to use more often), the defiant “I CAN TOO,” “GUESS SO,” and Juan EPSTEIN, the Puerto Rican Jew who was a [Sitcom pal of Barbarino and Horshack] on Welcome Back, Kotter, which I was a regular viewer of in my tweenish years. And BELCH! I like that word.

Bits that rankled: crosswordese ANIL, variant TABUS. PIAS, UTE, and TIAS aren’t great, but they didn’t rankle. I know PASEOS (42d. [Leisurely strolls]) from trips to San Antonio’s Riverwalk, also known as Paseo del Rio. Less so from the erstwhile Toyota Paseo; why would you name a car “the stroll or walk”? It sounds slow.

4.25 stars from me.

John Lieb and David Quarfoot’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.23.13 by John Lieb and David Quarfoot

One of my slowest Saturday puzzles in recent memory. There’s nothing particular about this puzzle that would suggest such a relatively high solving time. Maybe the cluing was sneaky-hard? Maybe wanting CURSE AT to be CAR SEAT, or not believing that a verb could end in the letter C only to be disproved by LIP SYNC, didn’t help? Did anyone else have this experience?

That said, even though this puzzle wasn’t on my wavelength, it’s still a thing of beauty.

Bright spots:

  • 1a, TURDUCKEN [Holiday portmanteau]. Really wanted this one to be “Chrismukkah.”
  • 17a, BOX TURTLE [Tennessee's state reptile]. Not sure if I’m supposed to know that offhand, but I don’t. Had a real problem getting this one to fall — I had ENgoRGE forENLARGE and just couldn’t see “turtle” for the life of me.
  • 35d, BABY GATE [Minor obstacle?]. Is it just me, or does “Babygate” sound like a political scandal?
  • 36d, OSCAR NOD [Academy affirmation]. The Academy loves affirming Meryl Streep.
  • 37d, OH SHEILA [1985 #1 hit for Ready for the World]. Watch this immediately.
  • 63a, HOLE CARDS [Stud revelations]. Wanted this one to be WASHBOARD ABS.
  • 65a, SHARK WEEK [Summer TV offering with a "Jaws of Steel Collection" DVD]. Wanted this one to be MAN VS FOOD. (Just kidding. But also I’d probably watch a DVD collection of Man vs. Food.)
  • 21d, PARTAY [Bash, affectedly].

That’s a lot of good stuff (add PLAY-DOH, TSK TSK, RAIN GOD, and EEYORE to my list). On the other hand, there were a few spots that made me cringe: INO‘s not the easiest entry, and it’s near IN E to boot; ANILE(?); DAW; NANS [Some flatbreads]; and worst of all in my opinion, the crossing of Yaphet KOTTO and Manny MOTA. That’s Natick country, my friends.

Overall, 3.5 stars from me. Until next week!


Updated Saturday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Unusual Measures” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four entries where the final word is a unit of measurement:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/23/13

  • ["American History X" costar] clued EDWARD FURLONG – the only Edward I could remember in this was Edward Norton. A furlong is an eighth of a mile (220 yards).
  • [Start of a famous adage] was SPARE THE ROD – …spoil the child. A rod is 5-1/2 yards, or 1/40th of a furlong.
  • [Second rate] clued MINOR LEAGUE – a league is roughly how far a person can walk in an hour, which has been settled to be around 3 miles, but your mileage may vary.
  • [Was unable to grasp] clued COULDN’T FATHOM – fathoms are 6 feet and generally used to measure the depth of a body of water.

I guess I would’ve preferred these in ascending order of length, or fathom, rod, furlong and finally league, but that’s just the Felix Unger in me who likes things neat and tidy. PINOCCHIO and COUGH DROP were nice complements to the fill; initially I was surprised the former had 2 C’s in the middle, but it looks better now that I see it written out that way. The rest of the fill felt pretty standard and appropriate for beginning solvers.

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 23 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Frank Longo

Have I mentioned how lovely it is to have Frank Longo added to the Stumper rotation? He uses his fill database to load his grids, but his fill database is jam-packed with phrases and words that don’t pop up in your standard auto-filled grids. Look at the flawless, smooth stacked 11s: RECOVER FROM, ONE MORE TIME, JAPANESE TEA, ABRACADABRA, PRINT DIALOG box, and HAS NO EXCUSE. All entirely ordinary, familiar things, but we usually just see stuff like RECOVER, ANEW, PEKOE or ASSAM, fragment ABRA-, and DIALOG rather than these longer, fresher things.

Most challenging parts for me:

  • 48d. [Looped upholstery fabric], FRISE. I only know the curlicue salad green, frisée. Least familiar word in the grid.
  • 5d. [Far from wet], SERE. In my crosswordese category—but the typical Stumper solver has known this word for years.
  • 2d. [Chamber groups], SENATES. Tried SEPTETS/SEXTETS (though aren’t chamber music ensembles more often quartets?) and it took a while to unravel that.

Favorite clues:

  • 11a. [Give a resounding knock], PAN. As in “give a critical review to,” not RAP on a door.
  • 28a. [It'll get you blue in the head], TY-D-BOL. Head = toilet. Don’t put your head in the bowl when it’s blue, m’kay?
  • 30a. [Literally, "one who laces snowshoes"], ESKIMO. Huh. I had known the previous supposed etymology, linked to eaters of raw meat; it’s not known whether the Montagnais ayaskimew snowshoe-lacer or the Abnaki askimo raw-meat-eater etymology is on target. Good etymology info to be familiar with. Note that the Canadians consider “Eskimo” offensive but that the term is still used for the relevant Alaskans.
  • 36a. [Heavy metal music producer], TUBA. Not ACDC or LITA Ford.
  • 51a. [Tell tale territory], URI. The Swiss canton where William Tell tales take place.
  • 3d. [Wrench application], ICE PACK. For a wrenched knee, for example.
  • 8d. [Work on a mystery, say], WRITE. Writing a mystery novel, say, not solving a mystery.
  • 32d. [Megagram], METRIC TON. Mega = 1,000,000. 1 million grams = 1,000 kilograms = 1 metric ton, roughly 2,200 lb. Never seen “megagram” before today but pleased to learn it.
  • 38d. [They're made in the world's largest building], BOEINGS. Trivia!
  • 46d. [Real last name of designer Arnold Scaasi], ISAACS. Backwards! He designed for Nancy Reagan, didn’t he?

4.5 stars. FRISE had unambiguous crossings, the rest of the fill is smooth, the clues were interesting, and there were no aggressively hostile corners.

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19 Responses to Saturday, November 23, 2013

  1. Gareth says:

    a strangely easy pair of weekend NYT puzzles. For me, the most difficult puzzle of the week has actually been Thursday! The obvious highlights were the scrabbly long answers, with somewhat awkw. shorter answers the clear compromise. I generally concur with Amy’s sentiments. My biggest a-ha was [Asset in a drag contest] – beautiful dupe that one!

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: Liked a lot of it, did not love some areas during the solve, but looking back it’s really more on me. In general the West felt very easy and the East was more problematic for me.

    This reminded me of ZANZIBAR Buck Buck McFate… My son used to love the “23 Daves ” poem by Dr. Seuss, and when we got to ZBBM he would be rolling with laughter. So seeing ZANZIBAR gives me a happy lift… The mind is a strange place.

  3. animalheart says:

    NYT: Liked it all except for the intersection of PIAS and PENTE. Had no idea in either direction. Guessed VIAS and VENTE. Was wrong.

    • Boston Bob says:

      Me too

      • Zulema says:

        Me too, or three. PIA and PENTE, oof!

        Paseo sounds to me a lovely name for a car you want to take on a leisurely drive through Dutchess county.

        • John Haber says:

          Me, four. Easy for a Saturday, especially the SW, but still rewarding. Still, I’d have liked it better without that crossing I couldn’t touch.

    • CY Hollander says:

      For me this just edges over the line of “guessable”, since you could take an educated guess at Pente if you speculate that the goal of the game is to align 5 stones in a row. A bit of a long shot, but not beyond the pale, and in fact that is where the name comes from. I had more trouble with the vowels in SP_CA/L_TA and L_NZA/P_SEOS.

  4. animalheart says:

    P.S. Must confess that my first impulse for “Asset in a drag contest” was MANBOOB…

  5. HH says:

    And that would be zero, Amy. It’s the other kind I’m looking for.

  6. Bob Bruesch says:

    LAT: Sorry, another waste of a Saturday morning hour. As a basketball fanatic, I totally disagree with the def. of “ONE AND DONE”. Defs. way too obscure for me.

    • Richard says:

      Not sure why you totally disagree with the definition of “ONE AND ONE.” Seems right to me when applied to COLLEGE basketball where they do get to shoot a second free throw on a non-shooting foul only if they make the first free throw (and, of course, this applies only to the 7th-10th fouls of a half).

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Egads — the Stumper really stumped me — I got the Senates and Frisé, but never saw Ty-D-Bol. Ugh.

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