September 12, 2008

Saturday, 9/13

NYT 6:37
Newsday 6:10
LAT 4:10
CS 3:02

(updated at 11:30 Saturday morning)

Anyone interested in doing a little guest-blogging next weekend? I've got someone in mind (the quirky Janie) for the Sunday NYT writeup, but that leaves the four Saturday puzzles (NYT, LAT, Newsday, CrosSynergy) and four Sundays (Merl Reagle, Boston Globe, LAT, themeless CrosSynergy). Shoot me an e-mail (orangexw with a domain) if you'd like to throw your hat in the ring. Thanks!

Will Nediger closes out Teen Week with a themeless New York Times crossword. Let me get my foremost grumble out of the way. No fair cluing the next James Bond movie with no reference to the fact that it doesn't open for another two months! [Film in which Olga Kurylenko plays the Bond girl] is the upcoming QUANTUM OF SOLACE—bonus points for the Q, demerits for the incomprehensible-sounding title. And now, here are the clues that are likely to stymie the most people:

  • [Electrum and others] are ALLOYS.
  • [Little show-off's cry] is LOOK, MA. (I got mired in LOOKIT. You?)
  • [World Wind developer] is NASA. The what? A virtual globe. Looks cool—but I can't try it out on my Mac. How much did Microsoft pay NASA for this to be usable only on Windows PCs?
  • [Chicago-based magazine with one-million-plus circulation] isn't Oprah's O, it's EBONY. I could kick myself for not getting this without a bunch of crossings.
  • [Girl's name that sounds like two letters of the French alphabet] for ESTEE. I kinda like this cluing approach.
  • A [Resting place] for a boat, perhaps, is a BERTH. Not your final resting place!
  • [Cat calls] are MIAOWS if you don't like the "meows" spelling.
  • [Peanut butter quantity] is a JARFUL. "Meh," I say.
  • ["___ was!" (German exclamation)] is completed by ACH. I never learned that particular exclamation. Reader Jan is so sweet—she just sent me a German crossword puzzle magazine she brought back from Europe. Wow, there's a lot of German I never knew or have forgotten! Lots of cool varieties of puzzles, though.
  • [Long Island's ___ Hill National Historic Site] is, I think, not well known to those outside the region. It's SAGAMORE.
  • [Result of a long exposure, often] is a BLUR in photography and not a sunburn or frostbite.
  • [Italian writer Pavese] is CESARE.
  • [The late Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, familiarly] is the QUEEN MUM. Great entry.
  • [Ship with a memorial in New York City's Central Park] is the U.S.S. MAINE, another great entry.

What else did I like in the fill? I love the word FEY, or [Elflike]. A JUICE BAR is a [Place to buy a smoothie]. ANNE RICE gets a good trivia clue, [Author born Howard Allen O'Brien]. What were her parents thinking? [You shouldn't go through with it] is easy to misinterpret; you shouldn't go through the intersection with a RED LIGHT. MENTOS, the Freshmaker! That's a [Candy brand. YEAR ZERO gave me fits trying to figure it out; the clue is [Beginning of time?] and it all seems so clear now. YMA SUMAC occasionally gets full-name status; she's that crosswordy [Singer famous for her wide vocal range. [Main route?] refers to the German place name, Main, so it's the AUTOBAHN. ["You're doing it all wrong!"] is a perfect clue for NO, NO, NO!


If you're in the Houston area, you probably aren't reading this on Saturday because your power is out. Hope you're all safe and weathering Ike as well as can be expected.

I liked Barry Silk's LA Times crossword today. I have to laugh at FO' SHIZZLE (or [Certainly, to Snoop Dogg]) showing up in the crossword. Is that phrase played out yet? Apparently Snoop Dogg said he was through with it in 2004, but then he used it in a car commercial the following year. And it's gone mainstream, so it's out of Snoop's hands now. Three 15-letter answers provide the structure for this puzzle: LASER EYE SURGERY [might eliminate the need for specs]. ALL SKIN AND BONES means [Really thin]. And [Title words following "don't say you're sorry, 'cause I'm just not concerned," in 1966-'67 hit] are TELL IT TO THE RAIN, which I don't know at all. I'm not convinced that [Eng. driver's concern] is KPH. Meaning driving speed, a metric version of MPH? I think the English use "km/h" when they speed metrically.

Favorite fill:
  • MANERO, or [Tony ___, "Saturday Night Fever" hero].
  • WIZARD OF OZ, or [Oscar Zoroaster Diggs of early 1900s fiction, with "The"]. Wow, I've never encountered that name before.
  • USA is clued as [About 6.5% of the Earth's land]. Nice geography clue.
  • SAGE ADVICE means [Words to heed]. If you're thinking about learning to construct crosswords, Cruciverb's collection of Sage Advice essays is a must-read.
  • OFF-BASE means [Wrong].
  • LEMON LAW is a [Car buyer's protection].
  • DREI, or German for "three," is clued [Cologne crowd?].
  • [Tribute creator] is automaker MAZDA. Were you also trying to think of odists and elegists?
  • UNINSTALL is a [Program option]. There are other randomly prefixed words that are lousy crossword fill, but "uninstall" is a common bit of computerese.
Tougher stuff:
  • [Checkers but not chess] seems a little misleading as a clue for DISKS. (Maybe even OFF-BASE.) It's like comparing apples and end tables, as checkers are disks but chessmen are not disks. But then, it's Saturday, and the clue does pull the solver to thoughts of the games rather than the gamepieces.
  • [Co-panelist with Bennett and Dorothy] is ARLENE. They were on What's My Line? in the '50s and '60s, with Arlene Francis continuing until 1975.
  • [Seat of New York's Putnam County] is the rather obscure CARMEL. The more famous Carmel in California has fewer people, but is scenic.
  • [Actor William and '50s boy singer Jimmy] are BOYDS. Right now, I'm thinking they were actually birds but somebody in Archie Bunker's Queens is talking about them.
  • [Grieg's "___ Death"] is a crosswordese gimme if you've seen it a million times before in puzzles, but probably pretty obscure otherwise. It's ASE'S. Same with ABELES, or [White poplars].
  • I've heard of Mark Isham, but not ["It Had to Be You" composer Jones], or ISHAM Jones.

The Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Dan Stark isn't too tough this weekend. I counted 44 clues that contain 10 or fewer letters, so a lot of one's progress through a Stumper must rely on lucking into thinking of the right interpretation for a short, opaque clue with multiple meanings. Today, I was not so unlucky, but the southeast corner of the grid is where I ran into the most trouble. [Get on] could mean "get along" as well as the physical BOARD. A [Being] could be a MORTAL, person, or entity as well as the verb. [High-strung] evokes a number of specific adjectives other than EMOTIONAL. [Observes] has plenty of synonyms, including TAKES NOTE. [Made more attractive] can be literal or, as it is here, metaphorical, as in "SWEETENED the deal." [One way to travel] is TOURIST class and not a means of travel, while [One way to go] is the semi-awkward phrase RIDE AWAY. [Piggies' protection] is a baby BOOTEE. I had SPEED for [Go fast] initially, but it's the slangy SMOKE. [Opened] in cards, perhaps, is LED, but there are other senses of the word. Elsewhere in the fill, my favorite bits were MISMANAGE, or [Run badly], and PAMPHLETS, or [Waiting-room reading], with that jumble of consonants in the middle. I'm guessing that ["Camarade"] is French for "comrade" or "buddy," as the answer is AMI. Camaraderie is utterly familiar, but I haven't seen camarade before.

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy crossword theme seems familiar, but familiarity need not breed contempt. (Familiarity does, however, breed solving speed.) The theme in "This One's a TTTT" involves words that sound like plurals of letter names:
[Travel on an ocean liner, alphabetically?] is SAIL THE OPEN CCCC, with CCCC standing in for "seas."
[Baby food, alphabetically?] is STRAINED PPPP, or peas.
[Wordy contests, alphabetically?] are SPELLING BBBB, or bees.
[1993 World Series winners, alphabetically?] are the TORONTO BLUE JJJJ, or Jays.
Geeze (or GGGG?), what sort of word can run beneath four J's? It's going to need four consecutive vowels or a p for JPEG, isn't it? How about five vowels instead? AEIOU, or [Alphabetic quintet], it is. Timely answer: PRECIP or [Rain, snow, or sleet, for short]. The northern part of the Chicago area is to accumulate a good 6" of rain this weekend, and then there's Hurricane Ike traversing Texas and heading north.