April 18, 2008

Saturday, 4/19

Newsday 12:45
NYT 6:58
Second Sunday cryptic 6:32 (the NYT's link needed the date changed—this link works)
LAT 4:22
CS 3:32

Call me crazy, but when I arrived at the NYT applet tonight and saw that Byron Walden and Arnold Reich were both in the nine-minute range, (1) I knew that it meant the Saturday New York Times crossword was constructed by Bob Klahn, and (2) I was thus delighted. And the puzzle did not disappoint—I did indeed enjoy it. Three of the long words ended with I, and one of those bastards was a plural. [Giant perissodactyls] was a mystery—it turns out to mean hoofed mammals with an uneven toe count, like horses and RHINOCERI. Luckily, I had the RH in place, and the "dactyls" part probably meant something with fingers or toes. (Dactyls as a metrical foot in poetry didn't occur to me.) SALMAGUNDI (some etymology here) is a [Mixture], and MONTEVERDI was the ["L'Orfeo" composer].

I'm fond of Klahn's cluing style, and these clues were twisty in a good way:

  • [Lock combination?] is a COIF. I knew it had something to do with hair but definitely needed some crossings.
  • [Seeks change?] means BEGS. Do not be misled into thinking of change in politics.
  • [Poor devil] is a WRETCH...who might be seeking some change.
  • The [Product once advertised as "Ice-cold sunshine"] is COKE. Whe knew?
  • I didn't understand [Bicycle pack?] until just now—it's a DECK of Bicycle brand playing cards.
  • ["A Clockwork Orange" instrument] is a MOOG synthesizer. I have largely blacked out memories of the movie, but loved that paperback book with its glossary of Nadsat language at the end.
  • That vague [Reason] is a PURPOSE.
  • What's [Like M, L or XL]? ROMAN, as in Roman numerals 1000, 50, and 40.
  • Pronounce [Windy?] with a long I and you see why the answer is SERPENTINE. ("Serpentine! Serpentine!" is part of the funniest sequence in the '70s movie, The In-Laws.)
  • [Check for letters] is the RENT payment that the tenant gives the landlord who is letting the place.
  • [Network seen in many homes and not proudly] makes one think of the proud Peacock network NBC, but it's just a COBWEB.
  • ["Love Jones" actress] is NIA LONG. Cute movie. She was good in it.
  • [City whose name is Siouan for "a good place to grow potatoes"] is TOPEKA. I had no idea. Plus: Hey, it's not in Idaho!
  • One sort of [Blade holder] is an ICE SKATE. Hooray, no ATRA or TRAC!
  • A [Hamlet] is a small town or DORP.
  • [What "!" provides] is, of course, EMPHASIS!
  • I love the word STICKLER, but [Person not easily budged] isn't the main way I think of it.
  • [Something well-placed?] is a PAIL in the well, bringing up fresh water.
  • [Powerful], 6 letters, ending with -UST? Could be AUGUST, but it's ROBUST.
  • A relief MAP could be a [Relief provider, maybe]. Who doesn't like a good relief map? Bumpy mountain ridges, smooth plains and oceans.

Tougher entries/clues that were more straightforward:
  • What's an ONIOMANIAC? It's a [Compulsive shopper]. One who buys a lot of onions? The OED says the onio- part comes for the Greek for "sale" and is related to the Latin
  • venum (as in venal). (Thanks for the OED look-up, Byron.)
  • BARCELONA was the [Birthplace of Sert and Miro]—with the first A in place, I filled in CATALONIA, but seven of those letters were wrong.
  • An artist's GARRET is a ["La Boheme" setting]; were you combing your memory for 6-letter Parisian place names?
  • ["Casablanca" screenwriter Julius or Philip] means EPSTEIN. They were twins!
  • [Like a raspberry bush stem] is CANY. A post here explains the canes, or stems.
  • [Folds] means PLIES if you think of noun senses for both words.
  • [Boxing-related] is FISTIC. I suspect it's a back-formation from fist. (Vague letter-advance theme idea: fisticuffs become FISTIC UGGS, sheepskin boots worn while boxing?)
  • To [Engage in cabotinage] is to EMOTE in crosswords; outside of crosswords, it means to be a lousy actor.
  • The [Western Sahara region] is the RIO DE ORO. Most often seen as a partial fill-in-the-blank crossword answer.
  • [Flattering courtier who changed places with the tyrant Dionysius, in Greek legend] is DAMOCLES. I don't know where Damocles' sword figures into the story.
  • [Cousin of a kinkajou] is a raccoon, or COON for short. What, you want a hint that it's shortened? Not in a Saturday Klahn!
  • MARY ORR is the [Writer of the story upon which "All About Eve" is based]. What's this? A famous ORR other than Bobby of hockey and Benjamin of The Cars? Where has she been hiding?
  • GUNN is a ["Treasure Island" character] I don't know at all. Also the surname of that guy Tim from that fashion reality show I don't watch.
  • I wanted PARAPET but it was too short; the [Defensive structure] is a PALISADE.
  • [It could end up in a fiasco]—what? CHIANTI? Huh? Oh, I see now! The word fiasco derives from the Italian for "bottle," and wine comes in bottles. 
  • Speaking of grape products, RAISIN is clued as [Dark purplish blue]. None of the raisin-colored apparel I found online was dark purplish blue—the fashion industry feels no need to hew to specific color definition, does it?

Crikey, that's a lot of knotty stuff, isn't it? If you're enmeshed in an insoluble section of the crossword, I hope this writeup helps you finish. And if you made it through on your own (...or with a search engine), good on you!


It's about midnight now, and I've done the weekend's NYT Second Sunday puzzle, a cryptic crossword by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, along with Merle Baker's Newsday "Saturday Stumper." That Stumper killed me! Maybe this is not the optimal time for me to tackle themeless Saturday crosswords? Am too tired to blog about these puzzles now, but will try to get to them in the morning before my son's birthday party.

Saturday morning:

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's LA Times puzzle has triple-stacked 15s at the top and bottom of the grid. Favorite long answers: SUNSET BOULEVARD (probably a total gimme to Los Angeles solvers—[It forms part of the border of UCLA's Westwood campus]) and the [Seuss classic narrated by Morris McGurk], IF I RAN THE CIRCUS. I never knew a [Full breakfast, in British slang] was a FRYUP. Favorite clue: [Receivers of spot payments?] for parking METERS. Even with the *ETERS part in place, that one wasn't obvious to me.

Will Johnston's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Universal Donor," gives some type O blood to the type AB recipients: Each of three theme entries loses its AB, which is replaced by an O. For example, Bringing Up Baby becomes BRINGING UP BOY, with a Tarzan-related clue. Best fill: AVON LADY, BOOT HILL, and SERIAL NO. Call me crazy, but I love the crossing of "Beau GESTE" and GIST.

Where did I have trouble in Merle Baker's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"? Let's see...well, nearly everywhere. If you've done this puzzle, was it a killer, or just a routine Stumper? I know Byron solved in about 60% of my finishing time, so maybe I'm the outlier and not the puzzle. [Blazing] wanted to be AFLAME, but it was that blah word, AGLARE. [Machine with a shovel] wanted to be a DIGGER, but it was a LOADER. [Big music family]...let's see, the Von Trapps and Osmonds and Jacksons all have too many letters. BACHS? Were there more than two Bachs who were big in music? The SOUSA (3D), ELLERBEE (4D), BYRON (47A), KARAS (23D), RITT (34D), and SUTTON (56A) clues all stumped me, too. Omigod, it finally happened. My love for crosswords packed with names finally came face to face with either unfamiliar names (KARAS) or unfamiliar clues (all the rest of 'em). Throw in a March King clue for SOUSA, a poet clue for BYRON, a news clue for ELLERBEE, and a bank robber clue for SUTTON, and I would've gotten them just fine. (The only name that came easily was AGEE, ["Night of the Hunter" screenwriter].) AD INTERIM ([For now]) took forever to piece together with crossings, which were loaded with missteps. TULA is the [Capital city of the Toltecs]? Ouch. I wish I'd figured out that wee BAIRNS were [Some Glaswegians] sooner—I like the clue and answer. For the [US acquisition of 1917], the Caribbean was the last place I looked—it's SAINT THOMAS.

This weekend's Second Sunday puzzle in the NYT magazine is a cryptic by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. It was a little too easy to guess answers based on part of the clue and the enumeration rather than actually doing the wordplay. For example, [Declaration about split in diplomats' agency (5,10)]—well, STATE DEPARTMENT fits and is a "diplomats' agency." Working backwards from that, the declaration is a STATEMENT and split = DEPART, which is inserted into the former. [Compass heading as in "Alien" (4)]—EAST or WEST? EAST fits the crossings. AS inside an E.T. = EAST. [Bush of greater age (5)]—OLDER or ELDER? ELDER fits the crossings. Oh, as in elderberry bush. I prefer to have to study a clue and try parsing it a couple different ways before it gives up its secrets. Favorite clue: [Hard-to-solve clue upset Mr. Wilder (7)]. Wilder isn't a name here, it's the hint to wildly scramble the letters before it. UPSET and MR anagram to STUMPER, which is exactly what the "Saturday Stumper" was for me last night. If you'd like an explanation of how each answer adds up, Will Johnston lays it all out. Like me, Will is keen on persuading those of you who are hesitant to try cryptics that they're not so tough at all! Once you learn the basic tricks, you've got the tools to master cryptic crosswords.