January 23, 2009

Saturday, 1/24

Newsday 8:23
LAT 4:33
NYT 4:09

As much as I enjoy a Saturday New York Times crossword that delivers a solid thrashing, I suppose there's something to be said for an uncommonly easy Saturday puzzle. Mark Diehl's crossword just might let some folks finish a Saturday Times for their very first time, which will whet their appetites for more such conquests. Sure, they might get their asses handed to them next weekend, but maybe they'll be more likely to keep trying—and that is objectively a good thing.

This puzzle seems to be trying to convey a narrative: "OPEN YOUR EYES (["Look, bonehead!"]), JAVA MAN ([Early hominid])! JIFFY POP ([Brand for preparation in a stovetop]) is RACIST ([Like some misguided remarks])."

More specific people in the puzzle:

  • The Marquis DE SADE is ["The Crimes of Love" author].
  • [Longtime North Dakota senator Gerald and others] are NYES. Who? Gerald with a hard G, served from 1925-45.
  • [Pitcher Saberhagen] is named BRET.
  • [Peruvian Sumac] is late singer YMA, not a plant.
  • ADELA is [Writer ___ Rogers St. Johns].
  • Gene TIERNEY was the ["Laura" star, 1944]. Gene was really her given name. Speaking of '40s film actresses, ANN BLYTH was the [Nominee for Best Supporting Actress in "Mildred Pierce," 1945].
  • PELE is a [Sports star with an accent in his name].
  • Frank SINATRA was the [Sands part-owner, once].
  • ESTELLA [was a pip to Pip in "Great Expectations"]. Aw, if only the clue had mentioned the 1946 movie.
  • [English singer Corinne Bailey ___] RAE has been dislodging Charlotte and Norma RAE in more and more crosswords lately.
There are a lot of common letters in these names—why, look how many of them can be broken into two shorter crossword answers. DES/ADE, TIER/NEY, SIN/ATRA, EST/ELLA.

The RICE ([Jambalaya need]) University sports teams are the OWLS ([Fifth-year exams at Hogwarts])—I wonder if the constructor originally had these clued together.


Brad Wilber's LA Times crossword introduced me to a marine creature, the SEA HARE (a [Marine slug named for its earlike appendages])—watch it locomote in this video. Here's a good example of how clues transform ordinary, familiar answers into Saturday-grade creatures: ERIE is [1960 railroad merger company] rather than, say, [Pennsylvania port] or [Toledo's lake].

Favorite answers:
  • NASCENT means [Budding], and I happen to like the word a lot.
  • CRYING JAG is clued as a [Meltdown of a sort].
  • A [Phishing lure] is one type of E-MAIL HOAX.
  • [Quality of being possessed?] is APLOMB, as in being self-possessed, not demonically possessed.
  • STONE-COLD means [Completely]. Were you stone-cold flummoxed by this puzzle?
  • That's UNHEARD OF—it's [Not even rare], it's less common than that.
  • CHOP-CHOP means ["On the double!"].
  • Lake [Mead] is a MAN-MADE LAKE.
  • [Made a pass, perhaps] clues GOT FRESH.
Assorted answers from the arts:
  • [Classic song featured in "Lilo & Stitch"] is ALOHA OE. 
  • [Provencal poem] is ALBA. Say what? The Duchess of Alba, Jessica Alba, and linea alba, I know.
  • ["St. Dominic's Glory" painter Guido ___] is RENI.
  • THE GARDEN OF EDEN is, among other things, the title of a [Hemingway novel published in 1986].
  • [1964 Tony winner O'Shea] is TESSIE.
  • LA SCALA was the [Venue for seven Verdi premieres].
  • ["Schelomo" composer] is BLOCH.
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (PDF solution here) taunts me with SLEEP IN ([Stay out late?]), as my son prevents me from sleeping in on 98% of weekend mornings. I slowed myself down with some wrong turns—like MOONSTONE instead of METEORITE for [Exotic rock]—and blanked for the longest time on the ["Still Standing" actress]. I could picture her in Twister and Square Pegs but my brain played word-pattern tricks on me and I couldn't get GOMEZ out of my head instead of Jami GERTZ (same G, same Z...). GOMEZ turns out to be [DiMaggio's first Yankee roommate], six answers to GERTZ's left. Favorite answers:
  • That AVALANCHE ([Onrush]) really PILED IT ON ([Kept adding]). Have you heard that this winter has been a terrible avalanche season in North America?
  • ODD MAN OUT is a [Square peg]. See Jami GERTZ's '80s teen show. I'm beginning to suspect that Doug had a crush on Jami back in the day.
  • SPLURGED is clued as [Shot the works]. Speaking of shooting, there's "I'M ALL EARS," or ["Shoot"], and a CAP PISTOL, or [Noisy plaything].
Crosswordese opera star EZIO PINZA was the ["Some Enchanted Evening" introducer]. [Name meaning "rose"] is RHODA. Apparently complaining about these etymology-of-names clues just makes Stan Newman put more of them in. Uncle! (Though this one was a gimme, Stan...)

Ooh, there's a misspelling in a clue. ALIKE is clued [Analagous], but that should be [Analogous].