November 07, 2008

Saturday, 11/8

Newsday 5:42
NYT 5:33
LAT 5:01
CS 3:33

(updated at 9:10 a.m. Saturday)

If you ask me, Byron Walden's Saturday New York Times crossword didn't fight much harder than a Friday puzzle, but there were still plenty of gnarly bits to stumble on.

These cool answers weren't so obvious:

  • CLOSED-CIRCUIT TV is clued as a [Feeding tube?].
  • POOL CUES are [Sticks you need to break].
  • TECH-SAVVY is clued as [Like computer programmers].
  • [With 50-Down, like the children in "A Visit From St. Nicholas"] clues ALL and SNUG. Aw, cozy.
  • DON'T LAUGH is clued ["No, really"].
  • [Bliss] means RHAPSODY.
Some people populated the grid:
  • ALAN LADD is that ["This Gun for Hire" star].
  • URBAN V was the [Predecessor of Gregory XI].
  • EDWARD II is the puzzle's second Roman numeral person, clued as a [Christopher Marlowe play] not in my ken.
  • [Missouri senator Claire] MCCASKILL has been in the Senate for two years. She's kinda famous.
Three adjective + noun combos raised an eyebrow:
  • [Tearjerkers] is fine, but SAD TALES sounds a bit arbitrary as a phrase.
  • [Standards, e.g.] are OLD MUSIC. See above.
  • [Stretch in the salt mines] clues a HARD DAY. See above.
This being a Saturday puzzle, we have to expect some not-so-familiar pieces:
  • MASTIC is a [Tree that yields a chewable resin]. I considered ACACIA and CHICLE here.
  • Ostrava is a Czech city, so [Ostrava tongue] is CZECH.
  • [Jaculates] means HURLS. So, to hurl something on the internet would be to e-jaculate? This clue word is pretty obscure, though it helps that it's a cognate of a more familiar verb.
  • Who the heck eats PEA SALAD as a [Side dish popular at New Year's]? Is this a Southern thing?
  • SHIP AHOY is a [1942 Eleanor Powell musical set at sea].
  • [Bumps on trunks] are KNARS. That's a word I learned in crosswords.
  • [Relative of a chuckwalla] is an IGUANA, and I don't think I knew that's what a chuckwalla was. It sounds too reminiscent of chinchillas.
  • RYE BEERS are nothing I've ever tasted. They're [Beverages similar to kvass].
  • ["Politics ___ beanbag" (Mr. Dooley maxim)] clues AIN'T. Here's some background info. A conservative writer has used the phrase.
  • ILE LONGUE is a [Base off the coast of Brest for France's nuclear submarines]. You don't say.
  • [Many a Carl Czerny composition] is an ETUDE. Familiar-enough musical term, but I don't know this Czerny.
Clues to chew on:
  • [Saw in the dark?] clues DREAMT OF.
  • A [Gimcrack] is a TRIFLE. I half thought a gimcrack was a gadget or gizmo, but it's a "cheap and showy ornament; a knickknack."
  • [Innovation of the Paleolithic period] is the AXE. Were there any Paleolithic people who scoffed at that newfangled tool and said it'd never catch on?
  • [Used a thurible on] clues CENSED. I don't know why, but I'm fond of the word thurible.
  • [Soap, for example] is a DRAMA if you mean a soap opera.
  • [Like a cob] means MALE in that a cob is a male swan.
  • [Writing of Publius] is a FEDERALIST PAPER. Can that be used in the singular?
  • I wanted [Presenter of bills] to be a POL, or maybe a SEN or REP. It's an ATM, of course.
  • [With brass], figuratively, is SAUCILY.
  • Meshed or Mashhad is an Iranian city, so a [Meshed person] clues IRANI. But it may well be that Iranis are an entirely different group of people from Iranians, who are people from Iran. Just because there are Pakistanis and Omanis doesn't mean every other __an country tacks on an I to make a person. (See also Afghans.)


Okay, maybe I retract the part where I likened Byron's Saturday puzzle to a Friday puzzle. The people have spoken, and they say it's eminently Saturday-worthy.

Brad Wilber's themeless LA Times crossword sparkles with its COSMO QUIZ at 59-Across, clued with ["What Kind of Sexy Are You?" is one], and the bottom half of the puzzle is fairly Scrabbly fare. I'm also fond of BAOBABS, [Trees seen on safari], especially at the right side of the grid where those letters are the ends of seven other answers. COSMO QUIZ is stacked atop two full names:
  • EZIO PINZA is the [1950 Tony winner born in Rome].
  • LES BAXTER is the [Bandleader who had a hit with "Unchained Melody" in 1955]. Have I heard of him?
There are other people whose names weren't gimmes, either. [Soprano Mitchell] is LEONA. The [Portuguese prime minister, 1932-68] is SALAZAR. '80s marathoner Alberto Salazar is more familiar to me. OFFENBACH is the ["Les Contes d'Hoffman" composer].

Tough clues and answers, interesting clues and answers—we've got 'em all here:
  • The [Number-calling game] isn't BINGO but BEANO. Beano is perhaps better known as the anti-gas supplement that may violate the crossword breakfast test.
  • The KOTO is a [Japanese relative of the zither].
  • [Award honoring literature that features women's stories set in the West] is the WILLA Literary Award, named after Willa Cather. This puzzle's other award is the NAVY CROSS, an [Award with a caravel on it]. I will take my award with a caramel on it, if it's not too much trouble.
  • [Change direction] clues REFRACT, as in light rays being refracted. I started out with DEFLECT, which shares four letters, and then REFLECT.
  • [Shy type] clues EFFACER. Is this a word anyone uses? Well, it's the name of this recording artist, whose EP is described thus: "This mix of ambient drones and abstract sounds explore conversations of music with sonic sculpture." Ouch.
  • [1942 Philippine battle site] is BATAAN. The battle was followed by the Bataan Death March, which is a huge downer of an evocation in a crossword puzzle.
  • [Strip at an automaker] is not a verb, but the noun CHROME. How many automakers have strips of chrome on hand in the assembly plant?
  • [You might miss your bus if you hit it too often] refers to the SNOOZE button on an alarm clock.
  • DEMOB is a [Discharged British soldier], one who has been demobilized.
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy crossword feels a smidgen untimely, appearing after the baseball postseason has ended and we've moved on to other sports. Of course, baseball themes appear year-round in this country. In "The Umpire Got It Wrong," three phrases are changed by swapping out a word that's an ump's call for another apt ump's call.
  • [Dressed warmly enough to avoid frostbite?] clues SAFE IN THE COLD. If the baserunner isn't safe, he's out, and we all know the phrase "out in the cold."
  • FOUL AND BALANCED is clued as [Equally vulgar to all?]. The ump makes the call as to whether a ball is fair or foul.
  • When batter meets pitcher, the pitch may be a strike or a ball. BALL UP THE BAND is clued as [Cause confusion while conducting?].
Excellent theme—it plays on the popular perception that umpires make plenty of bad calls, and the three theme entries all involve familiar dichotomies.

The Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Dan Stark wasn't too intransigent. (PDF solution here.) My favorite clue taught me some etymology: [Word from the Latin for "bite again"] is REMORSE. A morsel, then, is a small bite of something, and mordant wit is bitingly sarcastic. Premorse doesn't mean "to feel remorse in advance of doing something you know is wrong," but it should. [Italy's toe] is CALABRIA, which doesn't have any major tourist cities. Maya ANGELOU is the [Lincoln Medal recipient of 2008]. What's the Lincoln Medal? It's an award given by Ford's Theatre and it doesn't seem to have a very high profile as awards go. [Bismarck predecessor] pretends it's looking for another leader's name, but it's just the VON in "von Bismarck."