Saturday, July 19, 2014

Newsday 9:55 (Amy) 
NYT 6:22 (Amy) 
LAT 2:42 (Andy) 
CS 4:48 (Amy) 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 19 14, no. 0719

NY Times crossword solution, 7 19 14, no. 0719

There were three spots that slowed me down here. First, the YOUR duplication; I was reluctant to fill the word in twice, in crossing answers to boot. 8d. [Call for a timeout], GO TO YOUR ROOM is great, but then there’s also 41a. [1965 Yardbirds hit], FOR YOUR LOVE. I don’t know any Yardbirds songs, and wasn’t expecting another YOUR.

The other two hitches crossed each other, too. 16d. [Fail at falling asleep], LIE UP? What? Who says that? “Lie awake,” sure; “toss and turn all night,” absolutely; “sit up” because you can’t sleep, fine. Merriam-Webster gives two definitions for the phrase, neither of which quite pairs with the clue: (1) to go into or remain in a dock, and (2) to stay in bed or at rest. My other trouble zone was another verb + preposition: 20a. [Marked up, say], WROTE ON. Thanks to SIT UP, I had *ROTTON* for a long time and was perplexed.

Likes:

  • 27a. [Roller coaster feature with a food name], PRETZEL LOOP. Like this one even though the term’s unfamiliar to me.
  • 55a. [Scarab, e.g.], TALISMAN. It’s a neat word, and I’ve always liked it but have rarely used it.
  • 4d. [Be a juggler?], MULTITASK. Good clue.
  • 10d. [John in an arena], ELTON. Hey! We were just partaking of the Billy Joel concert outside of Wrigley Field. Turns out the acoustics are great if you stand in the middle of Kenmore Avenue about four buildings north of Waveland. Sitting on the curb on Waveland, abysmal acoustics, muddy and indistinct.
  • 12d. [Flower child?], BUD. Cute clue.
  • 20d. [Underdog playoffs participant], WILD CARD TEAM. Solid.
  • 31d. [Noted 1-Across studier], CARL SAGAN. 1a is COSMOS.
  • 49d. [Hungarian name meaning "sincere"], ERNO. ERNO is, of course, ludicrous fill, but the clue sent me into various baby name websites, where I learned that ERNO is a variant of Ernest. However, many of these websites also gave distinctly different meanings for Ernest/Erno: Wikipedia says it’s “bold, vigorous, resolute,” while another source says it’s “serious business; battle to the death” (uh, sure), and this reputable site says “earnest, resolute.” Gonna have to go with the last one. I don’t think there are any names that mean “serious business.” The “bold, vigorous” one appears to be trying to market the name Ernest to parents who don’t know what “earnest” means.

In the “meh” category, 54d. ["Cap'n ___" (1904 novel)], ERI is king. Astonishingly, it was adapted into a 2009 movie starring Bruce Dern, David Carradine, Rip Torn, and Mariel Hemingway. Unsurprisingly, that movie grossed about $180,00, per IMDb, but cost $8 million to make. Bringing up the rear in this category, we have AGAR, ELBA, AGT, ESA, -OSE, OZMA, FOTOS, and LEA. A tad more chaff than I like to see in a 70-worder.

3.33 stars from me.

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

LAT Puzzle 07.19.14 by Mark Bickham

LAT Puzzle 07.19.14 by Mark Bickham

This one put up no fight at all. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I don’t ever recall solving an easier Saturday LAT. What else could a [Challenge for a comedian] be than a TOUGH CROWD? Once I had that at 1A, OUTSIDE THE LINES and ULTIMATE FRISBEE went in easily, and it was off to the races. The only place in the entire grid I had trouble was on the right side, where I had TACO [ __ salad] for a good minute instead of TUNA. 

The triple 10-stacks are all nice. TOUGH CROWD, HULLABALOO, and UTTER CHAOS sound like they all go together. Re: [Bond holding?] as DRY MARTINI, I wasn’t aware that James Bond’s martinis were dry (the defining characteristic usually being that they are “shaken, not stirred”), but sure enough, he orders a dry martini in Casino Royale right before ordering what would come to be known as the Vesper (a cocktail that’s three parts of Gordon’s, one part vodka, and half a part Kina Lillet).

I’m not a fan of the partial AMERICAN IN PARIS. Or, for that matter, most partials that require the clue to say, [...with "a", "an" or "the"]. For some reason, the ones that start with “the” feel more acceptable to me. “Wizard of Oz” or “Oracle of Omaha” sound fine to my ear, but “Clockwork Orange” and “Room with a View” don’t. SILENT TREATMENT, for example — usually preceded by “the,” but totally fine here without it.

I like the CERES/CERISE crossing. I also liked SUN RA, RH FACTOR, FETISH (though not clued as racily as I would have liked), KRAKOW, D-MARK, RAH-RAH, “OH, DEAR,” and WOOKIEES. There’s not too much bad stuff: The occasional OSTE, ON BY, MORI, CTY. Some might put OTERI and ANAT in this category too, though I like the  clue for the former [Dumb and Dumberer actress]. Also liked the film clue for GENIES [Former Canadian film awards]. Always nice to learn something from a crossword!

3.75 stars. Until next week!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as Lester Ruff)

Newsday crossword solution, 7 19 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 7 19 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Nobody has posted their solving times at Dan Feyer’s non-blog yet, so I don’t know if my experience is typical. I was expecting a “les ruff” Stumper to clock in between 4:30 and 6:00, and instead it took me longer than last week’s puzzle. Either my clue parsing is out of whack, or Stan’s difficulty calibration is off kilter. Did you find this one to be more like a Friday NYT, challenge-wise, or beyond-Saturday-NYT level?

Here are some clues I found to be tougher than what I expect with a Lester Ruff byline:

  • 1a. [Cartoon character whose first name is Veritably], MR. CLEAN. Cute trivia, but I don’t usually call commercial spokesmascots “cartoon characters.”
  • 8d. [Author of the 20th century's best-selling non-religious book], DR. SPOCK. Solid trivia, but I didn’t get this quickly. Had the RSP portion and wanted Mrs. Paul of fish sticks fame.
  • 15a. [Explorer's birth name], COLOMBO. Cristoforo Colombo. I started with AMERIGO, although that would have been “given” and not “birth.”
  • 30a. [Breakfast order], ***ON, not BACON? No, it’s MELON. I hate cantaloupe and honeydew, for the record.
  • 54a. [Tender offer], “MARRY ME.” Cute clue, but I was thinking more literally and financially.
  • 59a. [Certain smith], STEELER. Not sure I’ve ever encountered this outside of Pittsburgh Steelers context. The team’s named after steelworkers, whom I don’t think of as “smiths.” Smiths work in low-tech little workshops, hammering and forging metal, not in giant plants smelting iron.
  • 61a. [Group using headphones], TYPISTS. What decade is it? Where are these typists working in groups?
  • 1d. [Magazine known for its paper dolls], MCCALL’S. You don’t say. 1951-1995, apparently. My mom didn’t read McCall’s.
  • 5d. [Health Services Dept. licensees]. EMTS. I have never heard of the “Health Services Dept.” Google gave me Wisconsin’s DHS (not HSD, note), which does handle EMS licensing. It’s as if the clue tried to make it as difficult as possible to suss out EMTS. That is not the Lester Ruff way!
  • 8d. [Pall], DRAG ON. “This play has begun to pall. It’s really dragging on.” The clue works, but of all the ways to clue DRAGON, this is on the tougher end of the spectrum.
  • 24d. [Emulating 007], SUAVELY. No direct and obvious “answer will be an adverb” angle to the clue.
  • 32d. [QANTA hub], MEL. Again, of all the ways to clue MEL, going with a foreign airport code is on the harder side.
  • 35d. [Rockport-based magazine], DOWN EAST. You have to piece together “Rockport is in Maine, what would a Maine magazine be called?” The circulation’s about 90,000, and if you’re not from Maine or running a library in New England, you likely don’t know this magazine exists.
  • 51d. [Word from the Latin for "recruit"], TYRO. Didn’t know that etymology.
  • 57d. [Fern or shell product], LEI. I have not been to Hawaii, and nearly all of our LEI crossword clues that reference components mention flowers. Ferns? Shells? Really?

Smooth fill, though. Provided you’re not expecting a Les Ruff solve, it’s a standard four-star Stumper.

Bob Klahn’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Wagon Hitches”

Washington Post / CrosSynergy crossword solution, 7 19 14 "Wagon Hitches"

Washington Post / CrosSynergy crossword solution, 7 19 14 “Wagon Hitches”

The theme is phrases that start with words that can precede “wagon”: COVERED CALL (not a familiar term for me), STATION MANAGER, PADDY CHAYEFSKY, and CHUCK YEAGER.

Top fill: SKYJACKS (though I haven’t seen the word in years), TREADMILLS.

Backwoods fill: LARN, AGIN.

Awkward (to me) fill: R-LESS, OBEAH, SEEPY, ERGS.

Cute clues:

  • 39a. [Make fresh salmon], SPAWN.
  • 41a. [A bushel and a peck, briefly], AMTS.
  • 50a. [Pick axes?], GUITARS.
  • 5d. [Holler heard when one is caught looking], YER OUT. Baseball. I don’t know what “caught looking” means in baseball terms, but I know it’s a baseball thing.
  • 18d. [Agrarian refrain], EIEIO.
  • 26d. [They'll get you nowhere], TREADMILLS.

3.75 stars.

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18 Responses to Saturday, July 19, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Amy says:

    “ERNO. ERNO is, of course, ludicrous fill …”

    Martin says:

    “No it isn’t!”

    -MAS (the great debater)

  2. David P. says:

    One of my favorite pretzel loops (and also the tallest in the world apparently): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatsu

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Fastest Saturday ever for me by 15 seconds (record set one month ago!) and yet I was actually (I thought) taking it slow… The only unknowns for me, IRISHALE and PRETZELLOOP were inferrable from their parts and most sections had big fat gimmes all over! GOTOYOURROOM/ATTITUDE was a great intersection! Big ugh on the brave clue, which AFAIK is rather offensive… The Yardbirds are an amazing band, in all their many line-ups…

    LAT: ULTIMATEFRISBEE, SILENTTREATMENT, RHFACTOR and WOOKIEES (looked utterly implausible until I remembered where I’d heard “bowcasters”) are all perfect seed answers IMO. Odd that the puzzle wasn’t rotated to have the 15′s running horizontally. On the other hand, why? My time and difficulty experience came in at normal Saturday LAT level, and it certainly put up more of a fight than the NYT! (Not often you can say that on a Saturday!)

  4. Tracy B says:

    LAT was a very pleasurable solve with loads of linguistic interest and variety. Agree that the clue at 1-A was a gimme. I don’t think I’ve ever spelled Wookiee correctly! I’ll double the K every time.

  5. dls says:

    I’m sure MAS meant to say “Er, no it isn’t!” And I agree. Erno Rubik is a sufficiently famous Erno.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I contend that the vast majority of the American populace has never heard of Erno Rubik. It’s the Rubik’s Cube, after all, and not Erno Rubik’s Cube. It’s inveterate crossworders who know ERNO because it’s been foisted on them regularly. (I don’t encounter Erno Dohnanyi or Erno Laszlo outside of crosswords, either.)

      • john farmer says:

        But everyone knows Erno Goldfinger, the architect who was the model for Ian Fleming’s most villainous of Bond villains, right? Just kidding, but you do see Erno the architect in a clue every now and then.

        I do think ERNO has a hint of crosswordese (though not nearly as much as EERO, for instance). I wouldn’t call it “ludicrous fill,” in any case. If a lot of people don’t know Rubik’s first name was Erno, they do know he invented the Cube, and that makes him fair game, especially for an end-of-the-week themeless. Not everything in a puzzle needs to be something we already know. As someone else around here has said: “Always nice to learn something from a crossword!”

        • pannonica says:

          Are you suggesting that EERO Saarinen is a more obscure architect than ERNŐ Goldfinger??

          (Alvar and Aino Aalto share a collective gasp)

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: A minor existential crisis playing out in there: Who AM I? IT’S me, I’M A LOSER, juxtaposed with the parental sanction, GO TO YOUR ROOM for showing ATTITUDE. May be someone needs a hug.

    For some reason, repetitions in the answers don’t bother me if the word being repeated is a very common one, e.g. a pronoun, article or preposition. What I don’t like is when a relatively uncommon word shows up in a clue and then in some answer. I think it’s because it primes me and takes away from the “puzzling”.

  7. Huda says:

    @ahimsa,
    I really liked the poem you pointed to last night (if you recall ;). It’s even better if one listens to the poet reading it. Pretty funny! And it’s scientifically accurate, in that anomia and forgetting facts hits earlier than forgetting habits such as riding a bike. As we age, it feels like the brain undergoes a million little wounds, and little snippets disappear with each one. What is remarkable is what remains in the end, some essence of who we are, what we have known and what we have become. I always wonder if we can mold that in such a way that it is still good to behold in its unadorned state.

  8. Zulema says:

    Not a nit, but CERISE as a “Berry color” is funny, since cherries are not berries.

  9. David L says:

    I had similar reaction to the Stumper — I thought it was a little easier than usual, maybe, but not by much.

    I was eagerly hoping that a “person from Luanda” would turn out to be a LUANDAN, but alas. SEEP for ‘diffuse’ doesn’t seem quite right to me.

    The clue for DAS BOOT was obscure — Film about U-96 — but then I haven’t seen the film in question. I ordered it on Netflix once, and when it showed up it was a 3-hour ‘director’s cut’ version. It languished for many weeks before I finally acknowledged that I was not going to watch a 3-hour movie about a bunch of increasingly desperate Germans stuck at the bottom of the sea.

    • Papa John says:

      You may want to reconsider. I remember it being a terrific movie.

      Maybe John Farmer would like to wade in here…

      • john farmer says:

        Not much to add, Papa John. Saw it ages ago and don’t have a strong recollection…vaguely remember it was well-done, on the claustrophobic side…possibly not for everyone. Wolfgang Petersen also directed The NeverEnding Story, and maybe he could have used that title for the director’s cut of Das Boot.

        The clue doesn’t seem too obscure by Stumper standards (assuming U-96 leads you to U-boat).

  10. golfballman says:

    @ Zulema red raspberries might be cerise. Had _ote_ and thought Oteri but looked up Dumb and dumber and in the cast listing no Oteri. What gives?

  11. jefe says:

    Some help with the CS? There were a bunch of words/names in the middle section I had no hope of getting.

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