July 11, 2008

Saturday, 7/12

Newsday 6:46
NYT 6:14
LAT 5:21
CS 3:25

First things first: The new standings tool in the sidebar? Don't be a bozo and put in multiple times, or fake times, or asinine names. For example, there are a couple names in the Friday Sun standings that look to be one person posting two different times. We can't have that. And I decree that nobody should be going by "me" here except, well, me. I'm delighted, however, that the sort of people who try to game the NYT applet and post ridiculously unrealistic times have not yet wandered over here to pretend that they can do a Saturday puzzle in two minutes flat. And aren't we all grateful that Crossword Fiend now offers a way for Dan Feyer to let us see how much faster he usually does the Sun compared to the rest of us? Dang, if Peter Gordon started up his own crossword tournament, I'd have to train like hell for it.

Another thing: Adding this feature to the blog meant I had to get a web hosting account. Those things cost money, and donations via the Amazon "honor box" (a.k.a. the tip jar) are always much appreciated. Merci, grazie, Danke, gracias, etc., my dears. xoxoxo

Myles Callum's New York Times crossword was moving along quite well until I hit the southwest quadrant and mucked things up. Focusing first on the happy parts, I liked getting off to a good start in the northwest. [911 pest, e.g.] could have been PRANK CALLER as well as CRANK CALLER, but 1-Down was [100-lb. units], which crosswords have taught me are CWTS (hundredweights). The [D.H. Lawrence novel made into a 1969 film] is WOMEN IN LOVE, which I may or may not have read. (Might've been Sons and Lovers...) Today's lunch was a salad, not exactly a TOSSED SALAD, and I treated it as a main course and not [Many a first course]. I like that the [Cud chewers] are LLAMAS, because a friend of mine has a theory that Will Shortz has a secret llama ranch. [Flight destinations] are birds' NESTS and have nothing to do with flights of stairs or airplanes—this is one of my favorite clues in this puzzle. [True, at times: Abbr.] is an ANS. on a true/false test.

Moving clockwise to the next corner, I love the clue [Track edges] for HEAD STARTS—a metaphorical edge and not a physical one. [Comforters on kids' beds] are TEDDY BEARS, not bedspreads; Ben's got a Komodo dragon, frog, and moose atop his bed. I didn't know that SANTA FE was the [Home of the Museum of International Folk Art]. That Spanish place name sits atop a Spanish word, TIERRA, or [Land at a Spanish airport?]. I have never called anyone a FUNSTER ([Clown]), but that just so happens to be a nickname used by the brother of the llama theorist. I like those little hits of literary trivia that I've picked up over the years without actually reading the works in question—for instance, I know DANTES is ["The Count of Monte Cristo" hero].

NINTENDOS ([They're hooked up to some TV's]) transport us to the next quadrant of the grid. NOAH'S [Dove (the constellation Columba)] is one of those answers I got strictly via the crossings. I didn't know that the English called it an AVOCADO PEAR ([Fruit with a pit, to a Brit])—avocado, sure, and alligator pear, yes, but not avocado pear. Live and learn, eh? Some of the NOTE PASSERS ([Clandestine classroom communicators]) might eventually become one another's DINNER DATES ([Restaurant parties, often]). [Catch, in a way] is a great Saturday clue for HEAR, and [Shade] for NUANCE; either one could be so many other things. TIVO [can stop the show]; so can your cable company's proprietary DVR, as I well know.

The ring around the black-square plus sign in the middle has its knots, too. That [30-day winter month] is one of the Hebrew months that doesn't show up too often (unlike ELUL and ADAR) in crosswords—it's SHEBAT (and I think sometimes it's transliterated as SHEVAT, isn't it?). ELENAS are the ["Uncle Vanya" wife and others]. The '60s dance called the WATUSI is a [Mashed potato alternative]—come on, who wanted fries or another side dish here? I know I did.

I bungled the final quadrant by entering FEEL SAD instead of LOOK SAD for [Be down, apparently]—the "apparently" part signals the appearance aspect of LOOK, darn it, and I should've known that. That confused things like [Sri Lanka exports], which are PEKOES and other teas; with an L in place of the K, I contemplated erroneous melons. I can scarcely imagine a less toothsome beverage than the [Aromatic herbal quaff] called ANISE TEA. *shudder* Cluing highlights in the southwest zone: [Got into the swing, say] for SAT (as in "sat down in a swing"); [Ones with shovellike forefeet] as a particularly non-obvious clue for MOLES; [Play halters] for STALEMATES, not TiVos; [Makes a big hit] for TRIPLES in baseball; and [Longtime flame?] for PILOT LIGHT. AILEEN [Quinn who played Annie in film] helped bail me out in this corner. Did you know that STP was a [1999 Clorox acquisition]? I sure didn't. And [Any one of Handel's Op. 2 pieces] is a TRIO SONATA? I'll take your word for it, Myles and Will.


The theme in Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle was mystifying me. What do these people have in common: DREW CAREY, [Host of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"]; LIONEL RICHIE, ["Say You, Say Me" singer]; JOHN WILKES BOOTH, [Abraham Lincoln's assassin]; and ETHEL KENNEDY, [Matriarch Rose's daughter-in-law]? Right around the time I was approaching the fifth theme entry, it hit me—those first names are all shared by members of the famed BARRYMORE acting dynasty. I love that theme!

Brad Wilber's themeless LA Times crossword duped me with 1-Across. [Formula replacer]? Often that's WHOLE MILK at age 1. But no, SOLID FOOD is what belongs in that spot. (I am now envisioning foods whose phase of matter is gas. That'd give new meaning to "He really inhaled that burger.") RUN TO SEED ([Deteriorate]) and GO TO WASTE ([Be squandered]) belong together, don't they? Other suitable combos here are literary names GARP ([Author of the fictional novella "The Pension Grillparzer"]), GREER (["The Female Eunuch" author]), and ICE PALACE ([Edna Ferber novel set in Alaska]); and the [Upright] and HONORABLE [Unselfish types], or ALTRUISTS. Favorite clues and answers:

  • BATTLE AXE, or [Viking weapon] crossing DEEP-SIXES, or [Junks].
  • AMOS 'N' ANDY, or [1988 Radio Hall of Fame inductee].
  • [Rosetta Stone discovery site] for NILE DELTA. The Mississippi delta figures into The World That Made New Orleans, a book I just started reading.
  • SIGHS can be [Breeze noises].
  • I'm not sure why [Swansdown, e.g.] is FLANNEL, but I do love my Lands' End flannel sheets from October to May. If you've ever been disappointed by flannel sheets, try the ones Lands' End sells. (And yes, that's where they have the apostrophe.)
  • [Company setting?] is BONE CHINA you set the table with when you have company.
  • ED MCMAHON is a great entry; he's cleud as [Cohost of NBC's "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes"].
  • Did you know GIFT WRAP was an [Amazon.com extra]? I didn't.

Things I didn't know: I've heard of the Pentateuch, but [Prefix with -teuch] is OCTA here. The Octateuch is the Pentateuch plus the books of Ruth, Judges, and Joshua. ALETA is [Hal Foster's Queen of the Misty Isles]. Prince Valiant, right? The "Misty Isles" bit made me think I was looking for the name of a boat at Niagara Falls. Silly, I know.

Gail Grabowski mostly specializes in themed puzzles and makes a lot of easier ones for Newsday. Her Newsday "Saturday Stumper" might be her first published themeless—at least, I haven't seen any in the last year and a half since I started using Blogger labels. The OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, a specific [Peat-filled place], crosses HASTE MAKES WASTE, or [Thought for the rash], in the middle. My favorite parts:
  • [Checks for hurricanes] for BAR BILLS for drink purchases.
  • [Farmer, for one] for CHEESE—as in farmer cheese.
  • [Holds, in a way] for SEATS—as in "this car seats six."
  • A VCR is a kind of [Taper].
  • The WALK sign is a sort of [Street light].
  • [Pen, for instance] is a FEMALE—female swans are pens while the males are cobs. The young are named after actor Ryan Gosling.
  • MEADOWLARK is good, as either the bird ([Grackle relative]) or the Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon. That's a way better bird name than Ryan Gosling.