February 13, 2009

Saturday, 2/14

Newsday 6:04
NYT 5:15
LAT 4:59

Happy Valentine's Day, all! May the love of a good crossword keep you warm on this midwinter night.

Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword has a bizarre-looking grid—the black squares mostly snake inward from the edges, and those snakes cut off two corners that connect to the rest of the puzzle via a single answer. Avert your eyes from the black squares, though, and focus on the white squares: triple-stacked 15-letter entries criss-crossing in the middle of the grid, with additional 9- and 10-letter answers extending from the triple stacks into the four corners. Here are the 15s:

  • MAN-TO-MAN DEFENSE is an [Aggressive guarding option] in basketball and perhaps other sports.
  • ONCOMING TRAFFIC is indeed a very [Bad thing to drive into].
  • ROLL ON THE GROUND is [What some dogs and flaming daredevils do].
  • RELUCTANT DRAGON was new to me. It's a [1941 Disney film based on a Kenneth Grahame story, with "The"].
  • [They're sold in oversize rolls] clues FOOT-LONG HOT DOGS. Was the roll/dog clue/answer flip-flop between 38-Across and 6-Down intentional, do you think? Both duplications are customarily frowned upon, but perhaps the use of various meanings of "roll and "dog" is meant to mislead.
  • [Bygone emporium] is a FIVE-AND-TEN STORE. My neighborhood had a Woolworth's-type store 15+ years ago, one of the last of a dying breed, but now it's a Gap.
Among the more difficult clues are the following:
  • [Unpleasant face covering] is EGG on your face. If someone hurls an egg in your face, that may qualify as [Battery, e.g.], which is a TORT, legally speaking.
  • I needed all the crossings to get IRENE for the [1973 musical for which George S. Irving won a Tony for Best Actor]. Also in the category of "Broadway musical titles and songs I don't know" is I LOVE PARIS, a ["Can-Can" song].
  • LETT, an old-school word meaning a Latvian, is clued as [Member of a NATO land since 2004].
  • [A long one is 12% "longer" than a short one] clues a TON. North Americans use the short ton, 2,000 lbs. The Brits cling to some of their old imperial system units of measure, and the long ton is 2,240 lbs. There's also the metric ton, which is 1,000 kg and very close to the long ton.
  • [Plasma alternatives, briefly] are CRTS or cathode ray tubes. Fewer and fewer TVs are being made with CRTs these days.
  • ["Tell me more..."] clues PLEASE GO ON. Everyone likes to parse this as "Please, goon."
  • [Fee-faw-fum] clues OGRE. Well, giants are reputed to say "fee fi fo fum," so I suppose this clue is related to that somehow.
  • [Tusks, e.g.] clues the verb GORES. Did you know tusk could be a verb? I didn't.
  • Crossword-friendly OLIO isn't just a mixture, it can also be a variety act. Is a [Number between scenes] likely to be a variety act?
  • Fill-in-the-blank Bible fun! AN OX completes ["He eateth grass as ___": Job 40:15]. That's one way to get your allotment of roughage, I guess. Speaking of religious texts, does anyone like the Book of Mormon clues? ALMA is [Book of Mormon's longest book].
  • The duck called a TEAL is [Cousin of a greenwing].
  • The ["Currently serving" military designation] of ONE-C was completely unfamiliar to me.
Stuff I liked: [Added power, in slang] is SOUP. I haven't seen this noun sense before, but a car or computer can be "souped up." [It's often filtered] refers to E-MAIL. The people who developed spam filters should get some sort of Nobel Prize, shouldn't they? How about a Hallmark holiday where we all send them thank-you cards? [Lionel to Drew Barrymore] is her GREAT UNCLE. They're both in the Barrymore CLAN ([It's all relatives]). [Away, in a way] clues ON FURLOUGH. Last but not least, there's ROAR. "I am woman, hear me roar" is the classic line from the '70s Helen Reddy song, so [Emulate a woman, in "I Am Woman"] clues the word ROAR. This is especially apt if you are a lioness.


Aargh! Blogger or my browser froze up on me just as I was doing the last formatting on my write-up of Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword. The only way to save those next-day puzzle write-ups in progress would be to do "save as draft," which would remove the existing post from the internet. Can't have that, and I'm not about to routinely copy/paste these things just because 1 in 300 times there may be a problem. Anyway, what was I saying about the LAT puzzle? It's got three colloquial 15-letter phrases:
  • YOU AND WHOSE ARMY, or [Skeptical response to a threat].
  • I DIDN'T CATCH THAT, or ["What?"].
  • SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW, or ["Tell me something I haven't heard"].
Entries I liked:
  • FAST TALK, or [Disingenuous persuasion].
  • EAGLE SCOUT, or [Honor earned by only one president (Ford)].
  • ALL THE RAGE, or [Really hot].
  • [At first, say] sounds like it clues INITIALLY but it's about baseball: ON BASE.
  • BONE UP ON, or [Study intensely].
Things that were not so fun:
  • Old-school crossword answer OSIER is [Flexible wood] used for willow basketry.
  • ROOTCAP is [Underground protection]. I haven't a clue what this is.
  • SAGO, or [Papuan food staple], is also classic crosswordese.
  • NOT IN TIME, or [Late], doesn't feel like a distinct concept in and of itself. Is this just NOT + {miscellaneous phrase that can be negated}?
  • STERES is another of those words that seems to live mainly in crosswords, but appears less often than it used to. It means [Cubic meters]. 
  • There aren't any really famous people named ROS, so we get [Children's author Asquith]. In an Onion puzzle, it'd be clued by way of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
  • I've never heard of PASTO, a [Colombian city]. The native art form is barniz de Pasto
SCRATCH is clued [Square one]. Which of you astute readers can explain how this clue and answer go together?

Sandy Fein's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is a mid-range Stumper—not too evilly oblique, not too straightforward. (Solution here.) As with today's NYT puzzle, there are two corner sections connected to the rest of the grid by only a single answer. I've got a question about 24-Across. The clue is [It's over your head], which suggests a singular answer, but the answer is HEAVENS. Doesn't "the heavens" take a plural verb? There's also a typo in the clue for 8-Down; it should be sandpiper and not [Sandipiper relatives]. And now, some assorted clues and answers:
  • SMALL OJ is a [Breakfast order].
  • PAPEETE is a [Windward Islands capital]. I had the eastern Caribbean in my mind rather than Tahiti.
  • [Andorra's official language] is CATALAN.
  • [Puck, for one] is a Shakespearean SPRITE. With the SP***E in place, I tried SPHERE and figured there might be a non–ice hockey puck somewhere that's spherical.
  • [Broadway's first Sweeney] Todd was LEN Cariou.
  • [Bond nickname] is MUNI. Not James Bond, not Paul Muni—municipal bonds are called munis.