August 03, 2007

Saturday, 8/4

NYT 7:44
LAT 5:20
CS 3:23
Newsday untimed and not done yet—hey, I'm busy

WSJ 8:25

Updated at noon Saturday

When the Friday NYT crossword proved to be tougher than usual, at least one prescient person (hi, Howard!) predicted that Saturday would bring an even tougher Byron Walden creation. Lo and behold, here 'tis.

Byron's New York Times puzzle has triple-stacked 15-letter entries at the top and bottom. I don't know about you, but that whole top section sat there discouragingly blank after I'd figured out the bottom and middle parts. There were a few things up there that I didn't know and couldn't infer without an awful lot of crossing answers helping me out. For example, the word DEMIT, meaning [Relinquish]. (As always, click those hyperlinks for more info if you're interested in reading up on a word or name.) And [Jazz trumpeter/composer Jones] for THAD; ["Over the Rainbow" vocalist Ray] EBERLE; and the song lyric from GIRL FROM IPANEMA. That Ray EBERLE was tricky because I guessed the Hamlet quote at 24-Across was I DIE rather than I LIE (it's Laertes' line). The Biblical [Villain in the book of Esther], HAMAN. [First] was BEFORE THE something, but what that something was, I couldn't see. (BEFORE THE OTHERS, it turns out, which feels a little not-in-the-language to me.) [Dante characters?] was also elusive; here is a look at the ITALIAN ALPHABET, lacking our J, K, W, X, and Y. (Their high-Scrabble value letters are Q, Z, F, and H.)

The other zones of this puzzle were much less bearish. The BEARDED LADY ([Sideshow staple]) anchored the middle, and the bottom was shored up by the [Patch alternative] NICOTINE LOZENGE and KEEP ON KEEPING ON (clued with the verb [Last]). I liked lots of clues here: [50 Cent cover] refers to the DO-RAG on his head rather than a rap cover song. The BUS is [One way to work]. [Drawing of the heart?], 3 letters ending in G...must be EKG, right? Nope—a TUG on the heartstrings. [Afternoon ora] is UNA— is this Italian? It has no J, K, W, X, or Y. [Place for some prospects] is a baseball FARM CLUB. [Hardy one?] is OLLIE, as in Laurel & Hardy, not Thomas Hardy's literary characters. The EAR is a [Place for a stirrup]. [Like some disappearances] clues the word STAGED. [Chihuahua fare] is a BURRITO—I had Mexican for lunch today, in fact. GRAPE as a [Gatorade choice] is one of my son's favorites; Gatorade chooses to amplify the Manliness Factor for this purple beverage by calling it Fierce Grape now. Speaking of my son, last Friday he managed to sink the girl in the DUNK TANK, a [Charity carnival feature]; his greatest sports achievement to date! YODELING up in the mountains is a [Higher calling?]. SUZI Quatro, of course, played Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days.

I am guessing that the EULER clue, [Discoverer of the law of quadratic reciprocity], is unimpeachable from a mathematics standpoint given that Byron teaches math. Magnesium sulfate alone is MgSO4 (and it's effective in cases of preeclampsia but it has insane side effects); magnesium sulfate hexahydrate adds a 7H2O to the MgSO4 and becomes EPSOM SALTS (38- and 55-Across), which you might like to add to the bath when you're achy. BENE is clued as ["Vogliatemi ___" (aria from "Madama Butterfly")]; didn't know that.

Did you notice that the first Across clue is [First] and the last Across clue is [Last]?

Did you find the top of this crossword to be vexatiously difficult, or were the other parts on a par with the top section?


Yesterday's Wall Street Journal puzzle by Harvey Estes, "The Little Prints," is a rebus puzzle with a [PIC] in seven long answers and their shorter crossing answers. The [PIC] phrases are a flavorful batch: Dickens' THE PICKWICK PAPERS, EPICUREAN TASTES, Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CAPRICORN, Star Trek: The Next Generation's JEAN-LUC PICARD. The longer non-theme fill is grand, too: HORNS IN ON, HEAD STARTS, CENTERFOLD, WIRE PHOTO. Favorite clues: [Wish list opener] for DEAR SANTA; [Head, in Hebrew] for ROSH (Rosh Hashanah means "head of the year"); the verb [Harbor, say] for ABET; [Forbes rival] for BARRON'S (because I have Irish ancestors named Barron); [Flattop's antithesis] for AFRO (did you think of Dick Tracy?); [Layer of rock?] for MASON; [They have big mouths] for JARS (that JA- looked like it wanted to be JAWS, but that's just wrong); and [Inner ear?] for a corn COB.

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy crossword posits "Lesser-Known Superheroes" such as GARBAGEMAN, STABLEBOY, and STUNTWOMAN. In the fill, he's got LEGOS clued as [Colorful building blocks]. Did you know that using the trademark-unfriendly plural with an S is an American thing? Ken Jennings heard from an Australian reader that the Aussies don't use "Legos" in the plural. As a word, that is. It would be sad indeed to play with a single Lego brand plastic brick.

It was unexpected to encounter an [NYC transp. line named for two boroughs] in the LA Times crossword by Frederick Healy. BMT is short for Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit. Having that clue slowed me down in guessing [Small municipality, briefly]; I wasn't expecting one clue's "borough" to shorten to BORO in the grid. I didn't know [Relief pitchers] were called FIREMEN. Favorite clues: [They have their orders] for NUNS; [It counteracts closeness] for FRESH AIR (also the name of my favorite public radio show); and [Fictional name literally meaning "almost like"] for QUASIMODO.