December 07, 2007

Saturday, 12/8

NYT 7:23
LAT 6:13
Newsday 4:38
CS 3:19

Hey! I got a call today from the Merv Griffin's Crosswords people. My episode is scheduled to air on Wednesday, February 6, as the first of two episodes in the two-shows-a-day markets (like Chicago) and as the sole episode in the one-show-a-day cities. Then, as I understand it, it will also be aired again, as the second of two shows in the two-show cities, on March 4. This doesn't make much sense to me. So if you're in a two-show city and you start seeing repeat episodes, let me know so I won't continue thinking that my ability to comprehend spoken language is deeply impaired.

The Saturday New York Times puzzle (and yes, that is one of my favorite phrases) is by Barry Silk. I liked many of the clues in this one. And a few of the answers bring me joy. The [Melodramatic cry] "MY HERO!" always spurs fond memories of the old "You must pay the rent" shtick. Right before that answer is LIEF, descended from Middle and Old English for [Willingly]. And I love LETTERBOX FORMAT both on DVDs and in a crossword grid.

Favorite clues: [Cheaters, for teachers] for ANAGRAM; [It appears first in China] for FAMILY NAME; [Taj Mahal attractions] for Atlantic City casino SLOTS; [Web developer?] for a cobwebby ATTIC; [Lexicographic enlighteners] for USAGE NOTES (here's an example of a usage note for impact); [It's no longer working] for RETIREMENT; [Remove knots from, maybe] for MASSAGE; [Pacific force, for short] for LAPD; [Simon Legree] for a stern TASKMASTER; and the adjective [Mean] for BASE.

Today's sports action: PELE is the [Achiever of many goals] in soccer, and EDSON is his real first name. O'MALLEY pere et fils are or were Dodgers owners. The [Second African-American in the Baseball Hall of Fame] is Roy CAMPANELLA. And [Durable athletes] in the triathlon are called IRONMEN...even if they're women. Today's musical notes: "EBONY EYES" was a [1961 top 10 hit for the Everly Brothers]. PET SOUNDS, a 1966 hit album, is by the Beach Boys. Did either of these recordings benefit from payola (as in the [Pay stub]/OLA combo)?

Today's wickedest crossing: [Sharp workers?] meets [Linemen next to centers: Abbr.]. I never know the football-position abbreviations, so faced with CUT*ERS, I thought CUTTERS. Now, if I'd checked this outline of all the football positions, I'd have been even more addled, because LGS, presumably left guards, aren't listed at all, just offensive guards. A lot of the football-position abbreviations seem to start with R or L, so that L fits into CUTLERS just fine. A cutler, in case you're wondering, is "one who makes, repairs, or sells knives or other cutting instruments." I knew BRUIT meant a certain heart sound and, more generally, noise—I didn't know it was also a verb meaning "to spread news of; repeat." The clue, [Spread news of], is as straightforward as can be provided that you're familiar with the definition.


Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's LA Times puzzle is one of their best joint ventures to date. It provided numerous places to mire myself in the wrong answer before finding the way out. My main stumbling block (nine stumbling blocks, really) was having SNOWBALL'S CHANCE instead of AN OUTSIDE CHANCE for [What long shots have]. That W did me no favors with [Like some subs]—all I could think of was substitute teachers, and not NUCLEAR submarines. I also jumped off the initial S in [Do more than mediate] for SETTLE, but it needed to be STEP IN. Favorite fill: NO-MESS, ["Easy to clean" ad catchphrase]; GUSSY UP, [Prettify]; OLD AS METHUSELAH, [Ancient]; and MY LIPS ARE SEALED, ["Your secret is safe with me"]. I couldn't come up with POL without the crossings—clever clue, [House dealer?]. The grid features top and bottom triple stacks of 15-letter answers, along with two more 15s in the middle. While there's a mild hint of crosswordese reliance for short crossings in the triple-stack zones (ECU, NENE, ERDA, Latin SED), there are zero obscure or tortured abbreviations. DAN'L, the [Fictional Calaveras County nickname], is a zippy abbreviation and not a tortured one, and the USN (U.S. Navy) is not hard to get.

Dan Stark's Newsday Saturday Stumper wasn't too prone to stumping. Favorite clues here: [Mug, maybe] (noun, not verb) for SOUVENIR; [Blank spaces, perhaps] for ERASURES, particularly apt for the pencil-wielding crossword solver; and [One who plays on ice] for CURLER. Do you know what you call someone who has been granted a patent for an invention? She's a PATENTEE, not a patenter. I'm not sure why this should be. Just because they're given a patent by the governmental patent agency? I'm thinking the creation of something patentable warrants the active patenter rather than the passive patentee. The clue for PATENTEE has an intentional mislead: [Land, over 500 times] refers not to the verb or noun land but to the person, Edwin Land. Missed opportunity: The clue for DRAWERS could have played around with dresser drawers or definition 3, underpants.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "The Inner Net," embeds a NET within each theme entry. I like the Scrabbly double-hit of geography with non-theme TEXARKANA and GAZA STRIP. I don't care for the clue for NEW AGE: [Type of music played by keyboardist John]. Elsewhere in the puzzle (at a point I reached later), [Keyboardist John] is a clue for TESH. But it doesn't feel kosher to throw "keyboardist John" into that other clue—it really ought to be a cross-referenced clue pointing the solver to TESH. Either that, or use another New Ager for the NEW AGE clue. Enya! Enya would love to be promoted from quasi-crosswordese fill to a clue for her genre.