June 21, 2008

Saturday, 6/21

Newsday 30:26
NYT 28:25
LAT 18:42
CS 8:04

Hey, everyone. I'm sure it's obvious from those numbers, but it's me, PuzzleGirl, with you again for a look at the Saturday puzzles.

The big surprise in the New York Times puzzle today is that apparently Tyler Hinman has a middle name. Who knew? I had a pretty good feeling when I saw his name on the puzzle. I thought to myself, "As long as he doesn't throw in any of that ultra-nerdy stuff -- Star Trek, Star Wars, or whatnot -- I'll be good." (Is he really known for putting that kind of stuff in his puzzles? It's possible that's just my impression of him. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.) So anyone want to guess the last letter I placed in the grid? That's right, the L in RIGEL [Planet system in several "Star Trek" episodes]. It was crossing the wicked, oh-man-I-hope-I-never-get-an-analogy-like-this-one-on-a-GRE clue: [Iberia : Spain :: _____ : Chile]. Iberia, I now know is a Spanish airline; its counterpart in Chile is LAN. The funny thing is, I totally guessed on that letter and it turned out right. That never happens. Overall, I thought it was a great puzzle. Funny-looking grid, four 15-letter entries, tough but gettable clues -- all-around good fun.

Stuff I learned: The [Group whose logo has a clock set at 11:00] is the ELKS. Does anyone know why? The [Six-Day War battleground] is GAZA. When all I had was the G, I thought, "Guam? Was there a war in Guam?" Jethro Tull, the band, was named after [Pioneering agriculturist Jethro] TULL. He invented the seed drill.

Stuff I knew: [It contains M.S.G.] refers to Madison Square Garden, which is in NYC. The [Girl who's the "you" in the lyric "I'll see you in my dreams"] is IRENE. My grandmother's name was Irene and at her memorial service a couple years ago we all sang "Goodnight, Irene" at the cemetery. I tell you what: You get enough old Irish guys together and there's gonna be some singin'. A [Crash pad?] is a FUTON. I had a friend who could never remember that word and always referred to a futon as a fondue.

I've never done the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" before, so it was nice to see a familiar name in the byline. This is the third Doug Peterson puzzle I've blogged in four days. What's up with that, Doug? You trying to take over or what? I've heard the Saturday Newsday puzzle is really hard, so I was a little scared going in. It was tough but fair and I enjoyed all of it. Okay, most of it. That bottom-right corner took me a loooong time to figure out. Let's take a look at the tricky clues:

  • [Major fire] = BARRAGE, not three-alarm or anything along those lines
  • [Throw on the floor] = AREA RUG, so proud of myself that I got this with no crosses
  • [It's cool, supposedly] = MILLION, had no idea what this was going for
  • [Refuse service] = TRASH COLLECTION, it's all about the pronunciation
  • [Price number] = ARIA, Leontyne Price
  • [Batter's need] = EGGS, my favorite clue/answer in the puzzle
  • [Round figures] = DISCS, I actually had pears in there for a while
  • [Coyote, for one] = NHLER, that's a hockey team, the Phoenix Coyotes
The major missteps I had were stave for SCARE, [Deter, with "off"]; first all wet and then sopped for SODDEN, [Soaking]; and, well, this wasn't a misstep but ALDA is an [Oxygen releaser]? From a quick Google search, it appears this refers to the Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Gene (aldA). But, honestly, after about five seconds my eyes glazed over and all the words blurred together, so I'm not 100% sure. Update: Alert reader Dan says the [Oxygen releaser] is ALGA making [Exhausted] ALL GONE. Thanks, Dan! It seemed like that was an awfully long way to go for ALDA.

I can't tell you how happy I was to finish James Sajdak's super-Scrabbly L.A. Times puzzle. I have not been having good luck with the late-week LATs and I was going to be embarrassed to post if I wasn't able to finish.

Things I learned: The ['40s gp. that trained at Congressional Country Club] was the OSS: Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to the CIA. CLETE is the [1969 Gold Glove-wining third baseman Boyer]. In 1969 he was an Atlanta Brave in the line-up with frequent crossword denizen Felipe Alou and a couple other guys you may have heard of: Hank Aaron and Joe Torre. Staying on the baseball topic, [Negro Leagues great Buck] O'NEIL was the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball. In 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.'s highest civilian honor. Oh and that [Ceramic container used as a lamp base]? That's a GINGER JAR.

Things I liked: [Trees for keys] completely baffled me until I had everything but the initial E. EBONIES are used to make piano keys. ["And now," e.g.] is a LEAD-IN even though I wanted it to be a segue at first. I had Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" in my head this morning, but the puzzle replaced it with "ALL I Wanna Do." [Taxpayers] can be described as ASSESSEES. Wow. That is one funky looking word. And, finally, I don't know TOM LEHRER's ["That was the Week That Was"], but here's The Vatican Rag, an old favorite of mine from this brilliant and hilarious musician.

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "On the Mend," and the theme answers all end with things one could use to fix something wrong with your tired, old, broken-down, clumsy body.
  • [Fruity garden] = STRAWBERRY PATCH
  • [Gin cocktail] = SINGAPORE SLING
  • [Actors without major roles] = SUPPORTING CAST
  • [Seven Seas product] = ITALIAN DRESSING
The only real problem I had in this puzzle was in the southwest where I confidently entered DAVID for [Michelangelo statue vandalized in 1972]. I realized that was wrong when I wrote in diet for [Lo-cal] and thought to myself, "But if it isn't David, shouldn't it be PIETA?" Well, yes, it should be. But I first had to change diet to LITE. Whew! Problem solved. [Ricky Martin's hit, "Livin' la Vida LOCA"] got old after the first 500 times I heard it, but I tell you what. If you like Ricky Martin at all -- and even if you don't -- check out this song. I'm putting this on my "Can't Sit Still Mix."