Saturday, January 25, 2014

Newsday 8:24 (Amy) 
NYT 6:11 (Amy) 
LAT 4:16 (Andy) 
CS 6:07 (Dave) 

James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 14, no. 0125

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 14, no. 0125

Oh, I like the fill in this puzzle! I do. The highlights:

  • 1a. [Body that doesn't remain at rest?], ZOMBIE. Kicking the puzzle off right.
  • Both vertical stacks of 10s: ZAGAT-RATED, ONE TOO MANY, and MOTORCYCLE across from “SURE ENOUGH,” GLUTEN-FREE, and SUPERSTARS. Plus the 9s, WORD OF GOD and NUMBSKULL.
  • 34a. ["The Valley of Amazement" novelist, 2013], AMY TAN, full name. I recently read a dryly hilarious piece at The Toast, “What Amy Tan, Misandrist Hero, Has for Breakfast.”
  • 41a. [Get out of the blasted state?], SOBER UP. A good counterpart to 2d: ONE TOO MANY.
  • 64a. [She wrote "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands"], DR. LAURA. Do you know what degree she holds? A PhD in  physiology. Her thesis, if Wikipedia tells the truth, was on insulin in lab rats. So it’s obvious why one would take her advice on interpersonal relationships. (Also, contrast the book title with Amy Tan’s husband’s proper care and feeding of his author wife.)
  • 66a. ["Spread the happy" sloganeer], NUTELLA. All those common letters—you’d think NUTELLA would be in more puzzles.
  • 48d. [Habitual high achiever?], STONER. Achieving the high. Completely legal in two states.

 

I also like the clue for 7a SWAMPED: [Having way too much on one's plate]. At last! A themeless that makes use of that phrase without spanning the grid with ALOTONONESPLATE.

Less tickled by things like ELIA, NERTS, and ULU, but there was so much good stuff it outweighed the blah stuff.

Bonus points for this two-fer: 5d. [Johns of Britain], IANS, and 6d. [John of Britain], ELTON. Nary a LOO in sight. Although technically Ian is the Scottish variant of John, Great Britain does include Scotland as well as England, so the very Englishness of John is not at issue.

4.2 stars.


Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “After the Fact” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Very appropriate title for three theme entries that begin with a word that can follow FACT:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/25/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/25/14

  • [Maritime law precept] clued FINDERS, KEEPERS – the Wikipedia page has no mention of this phrase’s briny origin; its most common application today is similar to the precept that “possession is 9/10s of the law.” Fact finders are typically employed by newspapers and political campaigns.
  • [White sale purchases] were SHEETS AND LINENS – aren’t sheets types of linens? Seems an odd combination, I would pair sheets with pillowcases at a white sale myself. Anywho, fact sheets are what fact finders produce.
  • [Nixon address of 1952] was his CHECKERS SPEECH – Checkers was the name of his dog and his speech was a defense against accusations of impropriety in gifts he had received (including the dog). Fact checkers check the facts that fact finders find and then report on fact sheets.

Unusual idea for a theme, but fact is, I kind of like it. I find the middle theme entry a bit iffy; perhaps if the constructor had loosened the “has to be the first word of the phrase” constraint, we could have had something like KING-SIZED SHEETS with that nice zed in the middle. I enjoyed the symmetric pairing of SOURPUSS and LOVE SONG, and also liked the clue [What an "F" might indicate] for SEX, as I imagine you, like me, were thinking of course grades at first. Funny to find GUAM clued again as [Territory whose slogan is "Where America's Day Begins"]. I’m with Mike D. and janie and will only consider continental locations for this moniker. Also, I’ve only heard of JELLO shots, not shooters, so can someone more well-versed in this potent potable help me out here?

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

LAT Puzzle 1.25.15 by Barry C. Silk

LAT Puzzle 1.25.15 by Barry C. Silk

I wasn’t familiar with 21d, PUZZLE PALACE [1982 James Bamford book about the NSA, with "The]“], but it was guessable enough, especially after filling in the Zs of ZESTS and ZETAS. I’d also never heard of the clue 26a, EUDORA [Email program named for a writer], so that might have been a bit more challenging if you’ve never heard of Southern author Eudora Welty.

The NW was my dream corner, featuring both EDNA FERBER ["Giant" novelist] and golfer LEE TREVINO [1971 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year]. I really enjoyed all the 10-stacks: BATTER’S BOX is lovely, CHEAP TRICK is a great entry, SETS EYES ON gave me fits but I respect it, and ROSE PETALS and TAKES A DIVE are evocative. NE is a bit weak, but PIANO STOOL is pretty nice. And it’s a bit Scrabble-f***ed — EZR allows for the nice ZIMA, but ELS crossing LIMA and SAPS would have avoided the crossword-y abbreviation. I guess the puzzle just had to be chock full of ZEDS!

Some cool stuff in the middle. RAGDOLL was nice, and if you’ve got to have an entry ending in -ING, FREEZE-DRYING is pretty much the tops. Wasn’t keen on RELAP or EDAMS, but I can live with the rest of the crosswordese.

Favorite clue: 19a, [Pitcher of milk?] for ELSIE (the Borden cow).

3.75 stars for this EPIC puzzle. Until next week!

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 1 25 14 "Saturday Stumper" Peterson

Newsday crossword solution, 1 25 14 “Saturday Stumper” Peterson

Ahh, yes. Perfect puzzle. Terrific and colorful fill, nothing clunky in the short answers, tough clues. Editor Stan Newman’s standards for fill are so exacting, and he’s got a stable of great themeless constructors who can both fill a super-clean grid and write difficult-to-crack clues.

Technical note: I’d been solving the puzzle in Safari at Stan’s website, but Safari and Java stopped working together. I downloaded an updated version of Java to no avail. Was able to access the puzzle using Firefox; Chrome is a 32-bit browser and incompatible with the new Java 7. Pesky software changes and requirements!

Highlights:

  • As in the NYT today, I appreciated the stacked 10s: PASTA SAUCE ([It might cover your elbows]) on SQUARE KNOT ([Common bond]) atop SUSPICIOUS, and CHINCHILLA with the great VOODOO DOLL ([Instrument of revenge]), and SENATE SEAT ([One of 35 available in 2014]). Some mighty fine cluing in there, too. And the crossings are smooth.
  • 42a. [Interviewer's fawning query], SOFTBALL.
  • 49a. [Foul territory], STY. Not a sports clue after all!
  • 11d. [Source of four symbols on the South Korean flag], I CHING. Interesting trivia.
  • 13d. [Came unglued], HAD KITTENS. Never encountered this idiomatic phrase until the last several years. Perhaps it’s got regional limits?
  • 21d. [Was convincing], RANG TRUE. Nice entry.
  • 26d. [Video game franchise since '98], MARIO PARTY. Honestly? The title doesn’t ring a bell. But I know the Mario games do huge business.
  • 47d. [First name of the oldest presidential daughter], LYNDA. Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of LBJ, age 69. A good bit older than Malia Obama, 15. (I like the “presidential daughter” mislead—the Obamas have two 5-letter daughters.)

There was so much good stuff that, as with today’s NYT, I breezed past MEADE and ITA and LAO with nary a grouse. 4.25 stars.

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13 Responses to Saturday, January 25, 2014

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    Loved the Zombie clue.

  2. Matt says:

    Excellent NYT. And I don’t mind ULU– a bit of vintage crosswordese in a tough puzzle is OK by me.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Damn! I meant to enter 4.5 for the Stumper, not 4.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to thank Dave for expanding the rating system; to thank Amy for including the file of puzzles by Andy K, Esq. and Neville; and to thank Andy and Neville for very enjoyable puzzles which I had previously overlooked.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    re NYT, from the M in SMOG, I prematurely patted myself on the back with LAMEBRAIN where NUMBSKULL finally emerged… Too apt! Otherwise all went fairly smoothly if not speedily. Liked TACITUS, also DELETE for “get off the drive”; never heard of NUTELLA?

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: Oh man, this one killed me… Epic fail. I think it was the cluing. My mind went into a million directions, none of them correct, on so many clues. Even answers I should have know (e.g. AMY TAN, I’ve read some of her stuff) did not materialize… After cheating, I was able to get a foothold and the NE and various other micro-environments fell easily enough, while others kept up the resistance.

    Many members of our family need to eat GLUTEN FREE for medical reasons (before it was the in thing to do– trust me, it’s not easy), but the clue threw me because there is a ton of GF pasta available. Even in Italy! Actually, I learned something cool from an Italian taxi driver who has a daughter with Celiac Disease. He told me that if you need to eat GF and that is certified by a physician, the Italian government provides a special allowance for the additional expense required to purchase special foods, including GLUTEN FREE pasta. And he took me to a special place where I bought some for my husband. I wonder how that would go over in the context of the health care system here…

    • Brucenm says:

      Having cooked for people with Celiac disease – Sprue (same thing, I guess (?)), I had the same thought with respect to the easy availability of GF pasta. There’s also quinoa, whose only virtue, so far as I can see, is being GF. I liked the puzzle a lot, and actually found it on the easy side of the Sat. curve, with the NE being the last.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: If you don’t ZAGATRATED, the top-left is just about impossible.

    LAT: Finished with THE AP TRICK. Thought to myself, how can I not know them??? Then the lightbulb came on…

  7. sbmanion says:

    Very, very tough for me. Had ZAG and finally got ZAGAT after an eternity. Only the SE was easy for me. The rest was definitely not in my wheelhouse.

    Steve

  8. GG12345 says:

    Hmm, my experience was almost a 180 from the reviews. The NYT had, yes, some clever clues but seemed like it was trying too hard. Doug Peterson’s Newsday, on the other hand, was almost perfect.

  9. Pickleman says:

    Originally put in KYJELLY for “Spread the happy”

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