May 30, 2008

Saturday, 5/31

Newsday 40-some minutes, with liberal Googling
NYT 9:15
LAT 6:34
CS 2:24

Ach, headache. (Pre-crossword.)

You know how 1-Across can set the tone for a crossword puzzle? Robert Wolfe's New York Times crossword has an odd phrase there: [Porky] clues FAT AS A HOG. If you're like me, you had PIG there and eventually changed it to get crossings to work; if you're like me, you then Googled "fat as a hog" to see if it's an in-the-language phrase. Er, it's not. At least not in the internet age. Just 921 Google hits this evening—compare that to the 34,200 hits that misspelled Gremany gets. The adjectival THREE-TON, [Like some adult hippos], also clunked. Here's the rest of the rundown in list form, starting with the Acrosses:

  • "I DON'T CARE," or ["Whatever"], is good.
  • If you don't know that DEARE fills in ["The Wreck of the Mary ___" (1959 film)], you may also not have known obscure author READE recently. With their allotments of common letters, you'll be seeing them every now and then.
  • NUNNERIES are [Where habits are picked up?].
  • The [Seat], as in rump, as in tuchis, is also called the KEISTER.
  • [Get down] has nothing to do with K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight"—it's SADDEN. If you are saddened, why don't you watch a '70s disco video? It'll fix ya right up.
  • The NIN who is ["The Novel of the Future" author] is presumably Anais, but I don't know this title.
  • [First Earl of Chatham] is William PITT, not Brad Pitt (who looks good in a dress, even an ugly one).
  • [Ready to get engaged?] is ON HIRE. "For hire" sounds more natural to me; is this equivalent?
  • One kind of STILE is a [Vertical piece in a door frame]. I had no idea.
  • [Tennis star Petrova] is named NADIA; haven't heard of her.
  • [Product with a rotating ball] is a ROLL-ON. If you get blemishes, bug bites, or assorted other skin irritations, try this wee roll-on.
  • NA NA NA is a [Lyric stand-in, perhaps], when you don't know the words. Although sometimes that is the lyric.
  • I like BAWLED OUT, or [Read the riot act] (obscured past tense).
Moving along to the Downs:
  • [Obnoxious sort] seems rather vague for FINK. When's the last time you called someone a fink? And are you under the age of 50?
  • The related AS ONE and A DUE are clued as [Not independently] and [In unison], respectively.
  • [1956 Olympic skiing sensation ___ Sailer] is or was named TONI.
  • [St. ___ Bay, Jamaica] is the clue for ANN'S.
  • [Retaining instructions] is the awkward plural noun STETS. American Heritage lists only verb definitions.
  • [Top arrangement?] led me astray, what with the whole top vs. bottom gay thing. Here it's just a HAIRDO, and that H is important because it starts turning the PIG into a HOG.
  • Next to that is ORE, [Bank deposit, of sorts]—I had an I thanks to the PIG and banking terms like INT and IRA. It's related to 10-Down, ADIT, a mine entrance or [Passage to get 8-Down].
  • Hmm, 11-Down, [Bears do it]. Is this a four-word rebus entry? Oh, that kind of bear—it's SELL stocks.
  • [Tool for sewing canvas] is a sturdy SAIL NEEDLE.
  • N-RADIATION (hyphenated or not? no idea) is a [Certain atomic X-ray emission]. I'm not sure RADIATION should have a ray in its clue, since they're derived from the same Latin word. I haven't a clue what this N radiation is.
  • [Tick source] is also a tick-tock source: the SECOND HAND of a watch or clock.
  • Maybe lawyers know that DIES NON is short for "dies non juridicus" and means a [Day when courts are not in session].
  • A new(?) ENYA clue: ["Amarantine" Grammy winner].
  • [After the Pentateuchal period] is POST-MOSAIC, as in after Moses. Etymology note: A TILED ([Like many a backsplash]) mosaic derives from classical words for the Muses. Capital-M Mosaic is "relating to Moses."
  • [Attic, often] is the THIRD FLOOR.
  • [It's 8 for O] is ATNO, or AT. NO., or atomic number; oxygen is no. 8.
  • Sammy SOSA was [Sportsman of the Year co-winner of 1998]. I want to tack on an asterisk.
  • RENAULT could be any [One of three French auto-making brothers].
  • "I'll take Geography and Languages for $1,000, please." [Chichewa and English are its two official languages]. Guided by a crossing or two, I tried CANADA and OTTAWA (what?! no) and eventually fumbled my way towards MALAWI. Where is Malawi? It's where Madonna recently won approval to adopt a child, I hear. See the map for its size and location.
  • [Massachusetts motto starter] is ENSE. You will not be quizzed on the rest of the words.
  • [One found in the woods] is the OBOE, a woodwind instrument. You musically savvy types out there, tell me: Are the woodwinds ever called "woods"?
  • [Oscar show airer?] is PBS, the clue question-marked because it's Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street and not the Academy Awards telecast.


Well! Time flies when you go out for Blackberry Bliss Cakes for brunch and then shopping for summer clothes. It was hard to summon up the urge to shop for sleeveless when the lakeside temperatures were limited to the upper 50s.

That Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Stan Newman (writing as Anna Stiga, "Stan again") was a killer. It's definitely in contention for the year's toughest crossword, what with taking me a good 40 to 45 minutes in a couple solving sessions and at least 10 different Google searches. I know it took Byron Walden a fourth as long as it took me, but that's still a considerable amount of time for a solver of his caliber. I can't say I enjoyed the puzzle, though. It felt largely obscure and oblique rather than twisty and clever. [Richard Burton subject] is ALI BABA? Apparently it's this guy, an explorer, and not the actor. [It's usually played sitting down] is BASS SAX—never knew there were saxes besides the tenor and alto. [Declination declaration] means "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WE?" Er, okay. [Mary Collins, familiarly] is BO DEREK; you know how many other Mary Collinses come up ahead of her in Google? [Resort founded by Chet Huntley] is BIG SKY? So what? And a [Beef by-product] is OLEO OIL? (a) That's not remotely a lively answer. (b) It's sneaky because oleomargarine/oleo is a vegetable oil product. (c) It's not a fun sneaky. ["Princess Bride" name] is CARY because Cary Elwes is an actor in it. Now, that seems like a weird way to clue that. So, tell me—what was your experience with the Stumper this week?

Lynn Lempel's LA Times crossword, in contrast, had a bunch of clues with pleasing little "aha" moments when I deciphered them. To wit: [Canal problem] is EARACHE; [Hit the bottom?] is SPANKED; [Where one might be held up?] is a SEESAW; [Head of the line?] of royal succession is SIRE; [Place between Virginia and Tennessee?] refers to the Monopoly board and ST. JAMES Place; [AA or AAA] is an ORG., or organization (also small bra cup sizes, battery sizes, and minor league baseball levels); and [One living off the land?] is a SEAMAN on the water. Other favorite fill includes BYGONES, NOT MUCH TO LOOK AT, GETS DOWN and [Parties], and the Nike SWOOSH.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy crossword, "You Tubes," is a bit easier than most CrosSynergy offerings, which is fine with me given the Newsday beating. The theme entries begin with words that can precede tube: PICTURE POSTCARD is a [Tourist's memento], and picture tube is part of a non-flatscreen TV. Test tubes link to TEST MARKETING, or [New product sales offering]. And tire innertubes join INNER MONGOLIA, or [Region of northeast China].