August 01, 2008

Saturday, 8/2

Newsday 9:06
NYT 4:42
LAT 4:34
CS 4:28

(post finally updated at 5:00 Saturday afternoon)

Karen Tracey's New York Times Saturday crossword took me only a little longer than the Friday puzzle, but it did feel harder and I felt luckier. I wouldn't have been surprised if the applet had snarled at me that my solution was wrong, because the top middle and bottom middle both stymied me to a degree. The roughest spot was at the bottom, where the [Perennial herb with florets sometimes called "ham and eggs"] ran alongside [Dan ___, 1948 Best Actor nominee for "When My Baby Smiles at Me"] and crossed [___ Robbins, co-lyricist of the #1 "Rocky" theme song "Gonna Fly Now"]. Yow! What, who, and who? I was just buying some herbs at the garden center last weekend, and LANTANA was not in the herb section. It was in the flower section, and its multicolored florets are stunning. Indeed, the Wikipedia article I linked to doesn't call Lantana an herb. The actor is Dan DAILEY, and the co-lyricist is AYN Robbins. A non-Rand AYN? My goodness! Up at the top, I wanted SCHNOZZ or SCHNOZZOLA to fit for [Beak], but the less-familiar-to-me SCHNOZZLE turned out to be the answer. Crossing that were SLOANE, [Title role in a Joe Orton play], and AZIMUTH, clued as [Reading from a surveyor's compass]. Is that what those surveyors are doing? Next time I see one, I'll ask what the azimuth is.

No shortage of excellent entries in Karen's 68-worder:

  • To [Lose credibility] is to GET A BAD NAME.
  • A NEON TETRA fish is a [Common addition to a tank]. It is not recommended that you put neon tetras in your gas tank, as it does nothing to improve fuel efficiency.
  • A [Smidge] is just a SKOSH of something.
  • The ESPYS are [Annual sports awards since 1993].
  • The [Setting of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita"] is VIA VENETO.
  • Right next to that is E.M. FORSTER, [Creator of Mr. Fielding and Prof. Godbole]. Isn't it cool that the Indian last name Godbole and the European last name Godbold differ only by their last letters?
  • ZSA ZSA GABOR finally (?) gets her full name in the grid. [She opined "Macho does not prove mucho"], and she was right. Her second Z crosses ZUNIS, [Dwellers along a tributary of the Little Colorado River].
  • James Bond's preferred ride, the ASTON MARTIN, cruises the right side of the grid. (Clued as [Ride for 007].)
  • HAS FITS is unusual to see in a crossword. Synonymous with [Rages].
Favorite clues:
  • [Prussia annexed it in 1802] sheds new crossword light on ESSEN. Yes, it is a sign of doing too many crosswords that I'm singling out this clue.
  • In the same vein, the ASP clue is another fresh one—[Means of execution for favored criminals in antiquity]. Really? I had no idea.
  • [It comes between Shaban and Shawwal] clues the month of RAMADAN. We get a few Hebrew months, but how many non-Ramadan Arabic months have shown up in the puzzle? Me, I could never fast. I get too cranky when not fed.
  • Yes, a VOW is a [Bad thing to break]. So is a LAW, and it ends with a W, too, but VOW is correct here.
  • [One of a pair of fictional roommates]...Kate and Allie? Monica and Rachel? Nope. BERT, who lives with Ernie on Sesame Street.
  • [Sending out signals?] may mean you're ON AIR.
  • [It contains a dash] clues a CAR—as in a dashboard.
  • [Dark picture] is film NOIR.
  • [That's life] is all about BIOTA.
  • I took a wrong turn at [Not just think]—it's SAY, but I opted for ACT.
  • [Numbers place] sounds like it has to do with gambling, but it's the TORAH.
  • [Reaction upon seeing something squeak by?] is EEK. And just squeaking by is to eke it out.
Other clues of note:
  • [Brand with a three-leaf logo] is NESTEA? I can't picture it. Let's see...yep, growing out of the space between the S and T.
  • [Like a Romeo's adventures] is AMATORY, not AMOROUS. Raise your hand if you started with a related word that was not AMATORY.


Today's themed CrosSynergy crossword is by Bob Klahn, so it's tougher than usual. "Ay, There's the Rub" has a quip theme: IT'S EASIER TO / START FROM / SCRATCH IF / YOU HAVE SOME. (Scratch is also slang for money.) My favorite clues:
  • [What Hester wore that Vanna might reveal] is AN A.
  • [It'll be due when it doubles] is UNO, Italian for "one." Due is Italian for "two."
  • [Mamie's mate] is IKE Eisenhower, while the adjacent [Bill's mate] is not Hillary but COO, as in "bill and coo."
  • [Score for a baseball team?] is NONET, if you were writing music for a nine-person team to play.
  • [Professor's plum] is TENURE. We've been playing the board game Clue lately, featuring Professor Plum.

My favorite answer in Robert Wolfe's 70-word LA Times crossword is DOG EAT DOG, or [Ruthless]. Props to Mr. Wolfe and editor Rich Norris for cluing EMOTES with [Works in plays]; yes, not overacting, just acting and conveying emotion to the audience. PAISANOS, or [Pals], is nice too. I'm less pleased by OPEN A SHOP, or [Get started in business]; that seems more like ordinary language and less like the kind of idiomatic phrase that stands alone (compare "open up shop"). THE WAY serves more or less as a 6-letter partial here, clued as [Something to show or lead?]. THE WAY as a standalone phrase has plenty of other cluing options. Clues that may be apt to stymie solvers:
  • POSTS can be [Jobs], blog entries, military places, or a verb with several meanings.
  • One [Butterfly genus] is MORPHO, as in the blue morpho. [Tree parasite genus] is APHIS, as in aphids.
  • ["Madama Butterfly" setting] is NAGASAKI, also the setting of an atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. If you switch two letters, you get that Greek flaming cheese, saganaki.
  • [Mediterranean port near Alexandria] is ROSETTA. I believe this is where the Rosetta Stone was found.
  • [Model McGuire married to Jimmy Connors] is PATTI. Model? Never heard of her. Oh, a Playboy centerfold? That's different.
  • ["Miss ___": gossip columnist autobiography] crosses [Renaissance painter Guido ___]—RONA and RENI, respectively.
  • [Mil. units] are REGTS, abbreviating regiments.
  • DEANE completes [Taunton ___: English district].
  • [Kinetoscope monogram] is TAE, or Thomas Alva Edison. TAE has been clued with ___-bo or ___ kwon do lately, but Edison used to rule TAE in crosswords.
  • It's a SIN TO ["___ kill a mockingbird"].
  • [Stomach: Pref.] is GASTR-.
  • [River to the Laptev Sea] is the LENA.

Stan Newman, writing as "Sally R. Stein," constructed this week's Newsday Saturday Stumper, a 72-worder. It wasn't such a hard puzzle, really, but my brain was set on lackadaisical mode when I solved it. My favorite part was the stack at the bottom with NYPD BLUE ([Three-time Emmy winner of '99]) atop AU GRATIN ([Literally, "with the scraping"]) atop SPAMBOTS ([Automated address collectors]). [Lou Grant's paper], obviously, was the TRIBUNE. Except that didn't work—it turned out to be THE TRIB. Other nice entries and clues include:
  • AJ FOYT IV, the [Indy Pro Series champ in 2002]. Crazy concatenation of letters, no? More names: TEA LEONI has been a [UNICEF good-will ambassador]. JEAN ARP was the ["Cloud Shepherd" sculptor]. ALI BABA is many [Thieves' adversary]. And KURT Vonnegut is the [Kilgore creator]. (That's the character Kilgore Trout.)
  • TWIDDLE, or [Turn about], as one's thumbs.
  • THERAFLU is a [Dristan alternative].
  • [York, notably] was a WAR HERO. Is this the guy from the song, "The Grand Old Duke of York," who had 10,000 men and marched them up and down a hill? I swear to you, the jazzy band that did that song on Teletubbies was good. Go have a listen to the sample.
  • THREE P.M. is a [Soap slot, perhaps], though not in the Chicago TV market.
  • [Stick with lunch] is a KEBAB.
  • [Lower and raise] is DIP, as in the shoulder exercise or the dipping of a donut.
    Weird entry: ECOLABEL, clued as ["Dolphin-safe," for one]. Not familiar with the term ECOLABEL.