July 25, 2008

Saturday, 7/26

NYT 8:26
Newsday 7:50
LAT 4:15
CS 3:04

(post updated at 10:30 Saturday morning)

All righty, I (barely) finished the NYT crossword before it was time to put my kid to bed. I took a diagramless puzzle with me—I'm test-solving for an upcoming book of diagramlesses. If you dig 17x17 grids that don't tell you where the black squares go, you're gonna like that book, which I'm guessing will come out next year sometime. Anyway, my head is in that frame of mind...going to finish it...okay, now I'm back and will don my standard crossword blogging hat.

Ach! Barry Silk's New York Times puzzle really was quite reasonable, but I had a typo that eluded my vision for the longest time. The [Hunter of fish] is a SEA EAGLE, but I had SEE EAGLE for a ridiculous amount of time. No, WEENERS didn't look right, but what know I of [Stockbreeding devices]? Yeah, those were supposed to be WEANERS. THERE NOW sure seemed to be [Words of solace], but that errant WEENERS and the less-familiar variant RHEBOKS ([Cousins of oribis and dik-diks]) threw me. I'm wondering if Will Shortz is a big Mick Jagger fan, because Sir Mick just celebrated his 65th (!) birthday, yesterday's puzzle included a Stones song title, and ROLLING STONE is in this one, clued generically as a [Drifter]. This STONE is partnered with ELEANOR RIGBY, [Title woman of a song who "lived in a dream"]. These long entries are crossed by ["Let ___"], which surely must be the Beatles' "Let IT BE," except it isn't—it's "Let IT GO."

Favorite entries and clues here:

  • MR. WIZARD, [Conductor of many TV experiments.
  • I thought [Like some palms] was botanical in nature, but no. Just SWEATY palms. The other kind of palms might be found in an OASIS, or [Haven].
  • [Children] are one's ISSUE.
  • [Direct] means BLUNT, and that describes me.
  • [Cause of an explosion] is IRE, not TNT. Were you fooled?
  • A TYPESET publication is [Ready to be put to bed]. Well, after proofreading, of course.
  • B MOVIES [may have just one or two stars], in terms of reviewers' ratings as well as who's in the cast.
  • BONANZA! Good word. Clued here as [Ore galore].
  • GOALIES are [Players with saving accounts?].
  • All the Scrabbly stuff, plus the two entries with W following an unexpected letter, QWEST and DWELL ON. QWEST crosses IQ TEST, so both Q answers don't have a U after the Q.
Random factoids:
  • [Where Charles de Gaulle was born] is LILLE.
  • Scottish : Mac :: Arabic : IBN.
  • The ["Frank TV" airer] is TBS on cable.
  • AKRON, Ohio, is the [Home of minor-league baseball's Aeros].
  • Queen NOOR, née Lisa Halaby, is a [U.S.-born Jordanian queen]; she got "dowager queen" status after her husband, King Hussein, died.
  • OXNARD is [Ventura County's most populous city], while ORSK is the [Second biggest city in Russia's Orenberg region]. This is not to be confused with the Orenthal region of O.J. Simpson's name.
  • Mount Saint ELIAS is an Alaskan/Canadian peak, while MT. SINAI is the [High point of the O.T.].
  • I have friends who went to RPI, home of [The Engineers of N.Y.'s Liberty League].
  • [1966 Pulitzer-winning poet Richard] EBERHART is unknown to me.
  • Did you know there's a New York congresswoman named LOUISE Slaughter?
  • [Oahu "thank you"] is MAHALO.
Clues I dispute:
  • ST. KITTS was a [Columbus discovery of 1493]. Well, except that the clue is imperialistic bullshit. Indians were there for 5,000 years before Columbus "discovered" St. Kitts and Nevis.
  • [Many people get 100 on it] is the clue for IQ TEST. I don't care for that clue because [Many people get 101 on it] and [Many people get 99 on it] are probably equally logical. Okay, fine. "Many people get ___ on it" is accurate enough for any number between, say, 80 and 120.


Patrick Jordan's themed CrosSynergy puzzle, "Bar Stars," isn't about lawyers or drinking. No, it's much tastier than that—the theme entries are famous(ish) people whose last names are also the names of candy bars. SIR EDWARD HEATH was a [1970s British prime minister]. PETULA CLARK is the ["Don't Sleep in the Subway" singer]. KENNETH MARS [was Inspector Kemp in "Young Frankenstein"]; who? I may have seen the movie when I was a kid, but the name Kenneth Mars doesn't ring a bell. BARBARA HERSHEY was ["The Portrait of a Lady" Oscar nominee]. Yum, chocolate! Outside of the theme, fill I like includes the real SLIM SHADY, [Nickname for Eminem]; TOURMALINE, [One of October's birthstones] (usually a crossword cites October and birthstones for the opal); CHAIN GANGS, or [Groups of linked convicts]; and ITZHAK, [violin virtuoso Perlman]. I used to always forget which of the ARNO and EBRO is in Italy and which is in Spain; they're both here, only ARNO is clued as [Cartoonish Peter]. (The EBRO is in Spain, and Iberia's name derives from the river's name; the ARNO is in Italy.)

Doug Peterson's themeless Newsday "Saturday Stumper" was pretty tough. SHARKSKIN JACKET ([Hepcat's attire]) anchors the grid along the middle, and the other entries I liked most include JETTISON ([Toss]), HOME BREW ([Do-it-yourself draft]), ZEPPO Marx ([Brother-act nickname]), and SCREE ([Crater debris]), just because I'm fond of those SK-sounding words of Scandinavian origin (cf. skulk, skid). Favorite clues:
  • [Jaguar juice] is GASOLINE.
  • [Wing or back] for ATHLETE—not, say, chicken part.
  • [Literally, "vault"] is CAMERA.
  • [Simulated] does double work: it's both SHAM and ERSATZ. Hey! It's an adjective in both cases, rather than the clue duping the solver by meaning the verb in one case. Whew!
  • [Puzzle] puzzled me for far too long. It's BAFFLE. I like both words.
Trouble spots:
  • [Merits bleeping] could be CUSSES (which it is) or CURSES (which I had). Having that R there really mucked up [Some stock] by hiding the COWS.
  • A [Line on a sea wall] is a TIDE MARK. I'm a Midwesterner, and Lake Michigan doesn't have tide marks.
  • The [Efficiency measure] crossing 13-Down, [Unrestrained], got mucked up when I assumed the Down answer ending in -REE ended in -FREE. It turned out to be ON A SPREE crossing MPG, or miles per gallon.
  • That [Medieval crossbow] is an ARBALEST. Obscure? Pretty much. That word really slowed me down in that corner of the grid.
  • [Endymion's love] is SELENE, [Gary Cooper's birthplace] is HELENA, and I had to piece both together from the crossings. If only Tejano singer SELENA had joined the party.
  • DANCE is clued as [Reel example]. That feels backwards. Isn't a reel a dance example?

My favorite entry in Mark Milhet's themeless LA Times crossword is JACK SQUAT, or [Zilch]—three uncommon letters plus colloquial? Win-win. The fill was surprisingly dense with prepositions (some used as adverbs here, but they're also prepositions):
  • EASES IN is [Starts slowly].
  • SIT UP is [Show sudden interest].
  • NOT ON A BET is ["Never!"]
  • IN OR OUT is a card [Dealer's query].
  • EXCEL IN is [Be among the best at.
  • STOOP TO is [Use in an undignified way].
  • TROT OUT is [Submit].
  • AGREE TO is [Shake on].
  • FLAIL AT is [Try to hit with wild swings].
  • CHEATED ON is [Two-timed].
  • SLIPS IN is [Enters without notice].
There are other entries that contain the same letter sequences as those prepositions—INGRATE, OTRANTO, ATE A LOT, AKRON OHIO, PLATEAU, SALONGA, HEATHER—so there's an overall feel of sameness in the grid. But! This grid's got only 64 answers, so it's got a fairly low word count. MY personal preference is for a higher word count and more answers in the delightful JACK SQUAT vein.