Saturday, January 11, 2014

Newsday 13:24* (Amy) 
NYT 5:25 (Amy) 
LAT 5:34 (Gareth) 
CS 5:45 (Dave) 

Patrick Blindauer’s bringing forth a new puzzlefest—a suite of interconnected crosswords that lead to one grand “meta” answer after you’ve solved them all. Go here to learn more about “College Puzzlefest” and enroll in Xword U.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 11 14, no. 0111

NY Times crossword solution, 1 11 14, no. 0111

Twin quad-stacks of 15s at the top and bottom, plenty of unexciting short fill crossing the stacks? The short fill is pretty much what I expect quad stacks to have.

Favorite bits:

  • 17a: NAVAL ENGAGEMENT crossing 3d: NAVEL RINGS.
  • 25a. [One may remove grease with elbow grease], SOS PAD.
  • 43a. [Dead player?], POSSUM.
  • 51a. [They're usually pixelated on TV], OBSCENE GESTURES. 
  • 10d. [They have bills and appear on bills], EAGLES.
  • 23d. [Many a dama: Abbr.] cluing SRA not far from ADAMA, 4d. [Native of Caprica on "Battlestar Galactica"]. A little double-Adama Easter egg for BSG fans.
  • 36d. [Wisconsin county or its seat], WAUKESHA. My husband grew up in Waukesha County! Intensely Republican area with electoral irregularities. But! Woeful crossing at the K: 47a. [Larry of the original "West Side Story"], KERT? Not remotely a familiar name for me, and if you have no personal connection with the area, there’s no reason to know WAUKESHA. Sure, it shares the “wauke” bit with Milwaukee, but Wisconsin is lousy with other Wau- towns that don’t take a K in that spot: Wausau, Wauwatosa, Waupaca, Waupun, Wautoma, Wauzeka, Waumandee, and more. County/town crossing not-so-famous last name = what they call a Natick crossing, no?
  • 50d. [Book review?], AUDIT. Nice clue.

Scowled at: Somewhat unnatural IT’S A LOT; KERT; plural abbrev CTNS; unfamiliar phrase [Poor as ___ (destitute)] A RAT; partial A TEE; SSTS; plural name DOMS; crosswordese STOAS, BOLE, STEN, SERT (and you can argue that SERT is an important name in art, but I pretty much only see the name in crosswords).

Did not know: 22d. [Freshwater aquarium favorite], DANIO; 11d. [Renowned boxing gym in Brooklyn], GLEASON’S. Also had no idea that LOG SHIP, 8d. [Sawmill supplier], was a thing. Apparently it’s also the name of a tool that Lewis and Clark used in assessing river speeds. And I’d never heard of CANADA BLUEGRASS, but our constructor is Canadian so maybe it’s more familiar to him? Google tells me it grows in 49 states and most of Canada, so it isn’t specifically Canadian. If you’re looking for bluegrass pickers in Canada rather than a meadowgrass, here you go.

3.5 stars.


Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy /Washington Post crossword, “Opposites Attract” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four phrases which consist of two “words” (or portions of words) and their opposites:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/11/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/11/14

  • [Omitted cry of approval?] was LEFT OFF RIGHT ONWax On, Wax Off, anyone?.
  • [Challenge Adrian Peterson to gain more yards?] clued CONFRONT PRO BACK – though the phrase seems an outlier (CONFRONT is one word, not two), how can you not like a reference to the “Purple Jesus” of the Minnesota Vikings?
  • [Surrender two points in wrestling?] was GIVE UP TAKE DOWN – sounds like something from the old Charlie Chan movies: “Wrestler give up take down so not suspect.”

Ambitious theme that I think was a bit too ambitious to pull of with some consistency and phrases that make a lot of sense. But, and this is a big but, having both PERFECTO and EL CHEAPO running just a few squares away from each other make up for any of the puzzle’s other failings. 1-Across’s [A lot of bull?] for HERD was also a fun way to kick things off. So I guess I’m of two minds on this one, which is pretty appropriate given the title, eh?

Timothy L. Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140111

LA Times
140111

Hi! Gareth here subbing for Andy who isn’t available.

Today’s puzzle by Timothy L. Meaker is remarkably black. It’s a 37/72 with six helper squares, which means a much easier time construction-wise than a typical themeless. No biggie, provided Mr. Meaker maximises on the easier grid and we get fun answers, which is, ultimately, what we’re here for, right?

I found the grid generally to have a lot of good answers without any big standouts. There were also a few wrong notes – ATAN and MNO especially. Not enough to normally irk me, but with this grid maybe they stung a bit more.

Other bits and pieces:

    • DEARHEART/DENMOTHER/STAYPUT was the best stacklet.
    • [All thumbs], UNADEPT. Is this used?
    • [...Cyndi Lauper hit], SHE/BOP. You don’t often see masturbation references in newspaper crosswords!
    • [Get real], FACEFACTS is a lively idiomatic answer.
    • [Portable storage container], TOTEBOX. Never heard of that, but it checks out OK. I’d probably call such a thing a box.
    • [Actress Ryan], IRENE. I don’t think I know this particular Irene and I don’t remember seeing her in an IRENE clue, though I’m sure she’s had a turn. Anyway, apparently she played Granny Clampett on Beverly Hillbillies before I was born and before my country had TV. That isn’t the puzzle’s fault.
    • ["All greased up and ready to sing" '70s-'80s TV hosts], SHANANA. My parents are inexplicably fond of them. They are also known for their contributions to the soundtrack of the film version of Grease and more peculiarly for playing Woodstock.
    • [Ben & Jerry's, e.g.], TRADENAME. You went for bRAndNAME first too, didn’t you?
    • [Focus of a 1990 psychology best-seller], INNERCHILD. All I gleaned from that clue was “psychology term”. Google suggests the book is Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by one John Bradshaw.
    • [Reach extenders], STEPSTOOLS. Are these different to step ladders?
    • [Start of an early Grafton title], BIS. Unnecessarily awkward partial clue when there’s a perfectly serviceable French word to reference.
    • [Over there], YONDER. Yonder is fun to say; it needs to come back into the everyday vocabulary!
    • [Fermat's forte], MATH. Short for mathematic.

3.25 stars
Gareth

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 1 11 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 1 11 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Another Toughy McTougherson “Stumper” this week. I did Google one thing: 59a [DHL's headquarters] in BONN, Germany. Did I know that DHL was based in Germany? Not so sure I did. That whole quadrant was difficult for me. The main problem was that I had DARK for 27a [Syrup specification], thinking of real maple syrup when the clue is about the DOSE of cough syrup. DARK seemed so right (along with SPUR ON, APACE, and NIM) that I was mired in impossibilities for 28d through 30d.

Hardest clues, best answers, and other outliers:

  • 16a. THE NATURAL, [ESPN's #6 all-time sports film]. BRIAN’S SONG was made for TV but might be on that list, and it’s also got 10 letters.
  • 18a. BOWDLERIZE, [Cut, in a way]. Cut out the salacious words. Love the word BOWDLERIZE!
  • 21a. UV INDEX, [Measure of burning potential]. With *V*N in place, I contemplated OVEN-something.
  • 25a. [Tool in a vegan kitchen], STONER?? To remove pits from cherries and whatnot? I would think non-vegan kitchens are no less likely to have STONERs, which, of course, are people who smoke pot.
  • 49a. [Elmer holds one in "What's Opera, Doc?"], SPEAR. Cute cartoon trivia clue.
  • 61a. [He wears a yellow coat and pants], ODIE. The dog in “Garfield” comics wears clothes?? I checked the Garfield wiki and the light dawned. Odie “wears a yellow coat” in that his coat of fur is yellowish, and “he pants” in that his tongue’s often hanging out. Super tricky clue!
  • 62a. BEACH PARTY movie genre, great fill.
  • 1d. CROSSED OFF, [Like many to-do list items]. What an optimistic clue.
  • 7d. [Geithner successor], LEW. Jack Lew, the current Secretary of the Treasury. He had to change his signature from stretched-out-phone-cord to slightly-recognizable-letters because the random loops would look goofy on all our paper money. (If you’ve got LEW in your puzzle, better to clue it as a name with current import rather than some largely outdated pop culture figure.)
  • 26d. [Maturation formation], OVA. Man, I had to work the crossings hard for this little word.
  • 28d. With an A in the first square, it took me a long time to see that [Crush with ice, say] meant ORANGE SODA. Hidden capital C at the beginning of the clue, always wily.
  • 52d. [Not to mention], TABOO. “Not to be mentioned” would have made this a lot easier.

I paused at entering ALOHA STATE for 57a since “state” is repeated in [Interstate H-1's place].

Four stars. Not a particularly fun solve for me, but a knotty challenge. The Stumper keeps our skills in interpreting the trickiest clues from atrophying; we used to have a few killer Saturday NYTs every year but it seems like they all toe the line these days.

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22 Responses to Saturday, January 11, 2014

  1. pannonica says:


    Took a 100 dollars off a Slaughterhouse Joe
    Bought a bran’ new Michigan 20 gauge
    Got all liquored up on that roadhouse corn,
    Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
    Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
    Bought a second hand Nova from a Cuban Chinese
    Dyed his hair in the bathroom of a Texaco
    With a pawnshop radio, quarter past 4
    Well he left Waukegan at the slammin’ of the door
    He left Waukegan at the slammin’ of the door

    Was close enough for me.

  2. Martin says:

    Amy, it’s exactly because of all of the electoral “irregularities” that I thought WAUKESHA was fair game for a themeless. It was all over CNN. As you know, I live in Canada, and I’d certainly heard about WAUKESHA last year thanks to the Wisconsin governor. However, it’s obviously not as easy an answer as I thought it’d be.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  3. Gareth says:

    Favourite answers were CANADIANBLUEGRASS (which isn’t a musical genre too, I assume) and POTASSIUMIODIDE. On the other hand, I’m cautious to denounce a cross as unfair but count me as also considering that WAUKESHA/KERT is pretty darn rough!

  4. Brucenm says:

    I liked the NYT *way* better than Amy and the consensus. I thought the 15′s and their crossings were terrific, especially given the tour-de-force aspect of the construction, which seems to contribute more to my solving enjoyment than it does to many people. I still don’t understand what SRA means, though, and I wasn’t sure whether Canada Bluegrass was music, (like Scots-Irish), or something that grows in your garden (overtly, that is, without fear of reprisal.) The only thing I thought was a bit weak was “It’s a lot”, but that’s pretty minor given all the other virtues. Well, maybe “a rat.” I guess “a churchmouse” wouldn’t fit.

    I would have thought that the original Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Chita Rivera, Larry Kert production of West Side Story was a huge deal in the history of Broadway musicals — (not something I am particularly knowledgeable about, by the way.) But from a purely musical standpoint I think it is clearly the greatest Broadway show music ever. And, as MAS says, Waukesha was somewhat notorious, though not up there with Chris Christie and Ft. Lee (which has also appeared in puzzles.)

    I found the top 15′s stack to be the hardest area, even though Gleason’s gym was my first gimme entry. But all the 15′s were superbly idiomatic and natural sounding. I only knew “danio” because my brother is an aquarium fanatic (with a large beautiful salt water and a fresh water tank.) He has lots of little danios darting around, under the name zebrafish. I imagine both he and Pannonica could give the Latin taxonomic classifications.

    Great puzzle.

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    NYT had some clever stuff and the stacks are impressive but there were also a few parts, like the cross in question, that had me shouting, “No MAS! No MAS!.” :)

  6. Brucenm says:

    I love Shanana. They were funny, campy rock & roll singers who did parodies and pastiches of 50′s songs — to the extent that you didn’t quite know where the parody left off. I vaguely knew Jon ‘Bowzer’ Bauman at Juilliard, so I guess that’s one reason I like the group. He was serious, calm and thoughtful in real life.

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: Tough (I can never say “but fair” since that’s such a relative thing”). That K in KERT was a 50:50 option, competing with P– I know people with Pert as a last name, although K seems to abound in Wisconsin.
    I have never seen NAVEL RINGS on Middle Eastern belly dancers, but I imagine that’s done in this part of the world? But the NAVAL/NAVEL crossing brought back memories. I went to the American U. of Beirut and right down from our dorm, by the edge of the Mediterranean (where the American Navy hung out), and cheek to jowl with the US embassy, sat a very noisy bar with belly dancers. It was considered unseemly for young ladies to frequent it, but I eyed it for years wondering about the goings on in there. My last night in Beirut before heading to grad school in the US, my friends and I went there! It was great and the belly dancer was awesome. May be this was my inspiration for taking up belly dancing as a hobby… made me popular at grad school parties.

  8. Zulema says:

    Reminds me of the time I went back to California and we went to an Afghan restaurant at 40th and Telegraph in Oakland with other family members. Had not expected the belly dancers who appeared. My 14 or 15-year old son’s eyes really popped out. Of course he’d never seen anything like it. I am sure there were no NAVEL RINGS. This was more than 30 years ago.

    • Huda says:

      haha… Sounds like the face of my son when he first saw a nude beach in the South of France. I love it when the hormones speak out loud.

      • mmespeer says:

        Years ago, I was lucky enough to accompany my husband on a business trip to Cannes. While he was at a meeting, I took my 6 year old son to the beach. We had a wonderful time but I hardly knew where to look with all the many topless sunbathers. When we all met up later and I told my husband about our adventure, my son innocently said “The ladies didn’t have tops on???” He didn’t even notice. That didn’t last for too long.

  9. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT… except for the difficulty of finishing it off. Had to confirm various iffy letters and had run through A-to-Z on several squares. Finally got Mr. HP to appear, but I was feeling somewhat put-upon by that time.

  10. sbmanion says:

    The second S in SOS Pad was the last to fall for me. Three sports clues is a recent world record. In spite of that, I found this puzzle to be tough. I was thinking liquor for 1a. When I was a teenager, CC and soda was a popular drink (drinking age was 18). I couldn’t remember what the CC stood for, but knew it had something to do with Canada (Canadian Club). 7 and 7 was the other one (Seagram’s 7 and 7-Up).

    Excellent in spite of its difficulty.

    Steve

  11. Alan D. says:

    The LAT actually has 8 cheaters! That’s a lot of cheating…

    • Gareth says:

      Yes. Whoops. Although they’re only cheaters in non-LAT crosswords. In LATs they’re helpers.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’m in the camp that generally doesn’t give a damn about cheaters/helpers. Does the grid have ugly fill? Can it be improved by adding a couple black squares? Then do it; Rich Norris would be okay with that. As long as the number of blocks is still within the usual-and-customary range, why is it a problem? Why does a grid have to use the minimum number of blocks possible? If the goal is “most white squares,” that makes sense, but if the goal is “better fill”…

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    Stumper: Yep, “Brian’s Song” is on the ESPN list, which just happens to be topped by “Bull Durham”, which I had at first and shares a letter with “The NaturAl”.

    2:11:ish. Longest. Solve. Ever.

  13. pannonica says:

    Stumper: “I paused at entering ALOHA STATE for 57a since “state” is repeated in [Interstate H-1's place].”

    As did I, as well as remarking on the peculiarity that Hawaii has an “interstate” route (more than one as it turns out), but I suppose it’s a designation of size or capacity rather than an explicit descriptor.

    Also, have I mentioned the time I saw the guy from Sha-Na-Na at the nude beach Es Cavallet in Ibiza?

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