January 16, 2009

Saturday, 1/17

NYT 7:18
Newsday 4:47
LAT 4:28

(updated at 12:10 Saturday afternoon)

Does it make one lick of sense to let NYT applet time hit and then spend 45 minutes making spring-break travel plans and getting all riled up and tired before doing the crossword? No, it does not. It doesn't make unfamiliar words any easier to piece together. On the bright side, while I may fall asleep whilst blogging, my airline miles are taking me to the Big Easy. Brad Wilber's New York Times crossword had a few vexing spots:

  • [Communist leader?] with a question mark is CEE, as in the letter C that leads off the word Communist. I ignored the question mark and went with CHE for a while. SFUMATO is the [Artist's tone-blending technique, used in the "Mona Lisa"]. Wow. I've never encountered this word before, so I tried SPUMATO for a while. Between the two of those, I was completely flummoxed by 15-Across, [They have extensions]. Eventually FILENAMES asserted themselves there. Before I had any of those answers, I mucked up that corner by putting a set of BLEACHERS at 1-Across rather than SNACK BARS for [Stadium stands]. Another early woe in the northwest was answering [Brown and others] with IVIES instead of TINAS. And I don't recall a [2004 U.S. Women's Open winner Mallon] named MEG. She's a golfer born in Natick, Massachusetts, and PEG would be equally plausible if you liked the sounds of SFUPATO better than SFUMATO. Oh, and also, I had AS is for the [Pricing words] instead of A POP. Like quicksand, this corner!
  • The [One-named Belgian cartoonist who created the Smurfs] was PEYO. Did I ever know that? I think maybe not.
  • [Its flag features an olive branch inside a wreath] clues a 7-letter country that ends with an A. Wow, that really narrows it down! I had an R in the second square, so I tried ARMENIA on for size. Eventually the KREME ([Word after Vanilla or Chocolate, at Dunkin' Donuts]) showed up and ERITREA declared its sovereignty.
My favorite answers:
  • SNIPE HUNT is a [Futile search].
  • BOLO TIE is a [Range accessory]—and not the type of range you cook on. This ties to the WESTERNER who is a [34-Across sporter].
  • DIRTY LOOK is a [Glare].
  • The terrific actress JOAN ALLEN was the [Player of Pat Nixon in "Nixon"]. Also in a Nixon movie: RIP TORN, [Player of Richard Nixon in "Blind Ambition"].
  • To STAY PUT is to [Go nowhere].
  • The PASSAT is my [Volkswagen model]. Still going strong after nearly nine years. Will it last until the 2010 Prius is out?
  • AMHERST is a college as well as the Massachusetts town [Where Hampshire College is]. OBERLIN was the [First U.S. coed college]. And RPI is an [N.C.A.A. rival of Vassar].
  • Are you hungry? PASTA gets the clue [It's sometimes ribbon-shaped], while TORTONI is a [Dessert garnished with crumbled macaroons].
  • ELTON John's [tribute to Marilyn was remade for Diana], and SIR is [What 16-Across has been called since 1998].
  • The aforementioned DIRTY LOOK is tied to OR ELSE, [Words often accompanied by 45-Across].
Miscellaneous orts:
  • [100 sen] equal one RIEL. Cambodian currency!
  • An OOCYTE is a [Future egg].
  • The floor CREAKED and [Gave away an intruder, maybe]. I like this one.
  • Severus SNAPE, indelibly portrayed by Alan Rickman (with bad hair) in the Harry Potter movies, is the [Head of Hogwarts School's Slytherin House].
  • My old friend the KNAR, a tree [Trunk protuberance], pops out again.
  • Wouldn't it be fun if the [Buzz generator on Wall Street] were some sort of electronic contraption emitting a buzzing sound? Alas, it is merely a HOT TIP on stocks, or maybe some lovely credit default swaps.
  • [Music store array] means CD RACKS. I wonder how Coconuts is holding up. Are people still going to retail stores to buy CDs arrayed in their racks, or are they mostly downloading music?
  • [What to flash when you need a lift?] does not refer to hitchhiking or hailing a cab. The answer's SKI PASS.

Barry Silk does the expected and the unexpected in his themeless LA Times crossword. Expected: Answers containing high-Scrabble-count letters like Z, Q, X, J, and K. Unexpected: Little swaths of black squares in the corner allowing stacked pairs of 14-letter answers. We see plenty of stacked 15's, but not much in the way of 14's. Here are the highlights:
  • NO-WIN SITUATION, or [Pyrrhic victory], parks itself atop [2003 Best Actress] CHARLIZE THERON (for Monster—Entertainment Weekly just polled Hollywood insiders to see which '03, '98, '93, '88, and '83 Oscar nominees they like best in hindsight, and a commanding 64% give the edge to Theron, confirming that Oscar voters got this one right). Crossing these answers is a PIZZA BOX, or [Specialty container], with three super-Scrabbly letters in it.
  • The other 14-letter pair is GET-WELL BOUQUET, or [Hospital room arrival], over the ENERGIZER BUNNY, a [Commercial icon with shades]. Did you know the Duracell Bunnies predate the Energizer Bunny and are used in advertising outside North America? The Z answers that cross this pair are Charles SCHULZ, the ["Li'l Folks" cartoonist] and Peanuts creator, and ZLOTYS, clued with [They're issued by the Narodowy Bank Polski].
  • [Area between banks] isn't LASALLE STREET—it's a RIVERBED.
  • [Ruling divisions] are INCHES if you're talking about a ruler for measuring things
  • ["This statement is false," e.g.] is a PARADOX. GI JOE is a [Hasbro best-seller], and KISMET is [Fortune] or fate.
Other clues:
  • [Damping ratio symbols, in engineering] are ZETAS. Who knew?
  • [Where holiday delays are common, with "the"] is MAILS. Admit it—you thought about putting MALLS here.
  • [Embryo sac containers] are OVULES.
  • [Informal states?] is SEZ, as in "says" or "states" spelled informally.
  • NO-HITS is clued [Pitches a gem against].
  • [Uinta and Ouray Reservation inhabitants] are UTES, one of the most popular tribes in crosswordland.
  • [Mideast drink made from fermented milk] is KEFIR. It's available in bottled smoothies in the supermarket, but I haven't tried it.
Merle Baker's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is easier than many Stumpers. (PDF solution here.) You and your boils do not scare me! That's RAGES, SEETHE, and SCALD, all with [Boil] or [Boils] clues, and not a single pustulent carbuncle in sight, fortunately. There's also a trio of 15-letter answers. I like COME TO THINK OF IT (["Say..."]) and CHINK IN THE ARMOR ([Achilles' heel]), but GOLF ENTHUSIASTS ([They're in the gallery]) rings hollow. I dunno—is that solidly "in the language" in golfing circles? Last week's Stumper, I think, clued EDNA with the name's meaning, and this week there's SVEN clued as [Name that means "young man"]. Has Stan Newman picked up a baby name book or something? I loved those baby name books when I was a kid, but prefer famous people in crossword clues for first names. It's surprising to see CHACHI, Scott Baio's ['70s teen-idol TV role], in this puzzle, but I like it. TAMIL is [An official language of Singapore], which surprised me because most of the populace is ethnically Chinese; apparently about 9% are Indian.