March 27, 2009

Saturday, 3/28

Newsday (not timed, but maybe 9:00ish)
NYT 6:31
LAT 3:48
CS 3:21

Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

Joe Krozel makes a habit of stacking and interlocking 15-letter answers in his themeless puzzles. This one is no exception, with two 15's near each edge. Those long answers roll out thus:

  • 15A. [Estate taxes, e.g.] provide INTERNAL REVENUE.
  • 17A. [Grosbeak relatives] include SCARLET TANAGERS. Not to be confused with Scarlett Johansson as a teenager—this is a red and black bird.
  • 50A. A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE means [Tons of work to do].
  • 53A. PLEASURE CRUISES are [Carnival offerings] from the cruise company Carnival. Who calls these "pleasure cruises"?
  • 2D. UNCONDITIONALLY means [Without reservations].
  • 3D. To STAND ON ONE'S TOES is to [Try to get a better view, say].
  • 12D. A telephone [Operator's line] might be ONE MOMENT, PLEASE. Ah, such a treat to actually get a human voice on the line.
  • 13D. The EUROPEAN THEATER in WWII [included the Eastern and Western fronts].
The puzzle's word count is 74—two over the usual max for a themeless puzzle. I reckon 99% of the people who solve this puzzle will neither notice nor care. (Edited to add: What was I smoking last night? The crossword has 64 words and a very low black square count of 19—which, again, 99% of solvers won't notice and won't care about.) What they might care about are the answers that are strikingly unfamiliar—though the Saturday puzzle sometimes bludgeons us with such fill:
  • The last Down answer in this category demands to be listed first, ahead of the Acrosses. AETAT! 43-Down is an [Old tombstone abbr. meaning "at the age of"]. If this is old crosswordese, it has been 25 years since I saw it/
  • The Greek island SAMOS is [north of the Dodecanese Islands]. I wanted NAXOS here.
  • EDO: It's not just for breakfast in old Tokyo any more. It's also a [Nigerian native or language].
  • SINGER is a perfectly ordinary noun and name. I had no idea it would be the answer to this clue, though: [___ Building, company headquarters erected in 1908 in New York City, at the time the tallest building in the world]. Singer sewing machines, I presume? Speaking of erstwhile tallest-building-in-the-world joints, the Sears Tower in Chicago is to be called the Willis Tower, after a British concern, setting the stage for a couple decades of people in my age group saying "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?" whenever the building's name is mentioned.
  • We know what is a [Sentence part: Abbr.], sure. But how often do we see phrase abbreviated as PHR.?
  • Crosswordese alert! ANSA pops back up on occasion. It's a [Looped vase handle].
  • TIR is a [French shooting match]. All my shooting matches take place here in the Midwest, so I didn't know that.
  • We know ERLE Stanley Gardner, sure, but ["Phineas Finn" character Barrington ___] ERLE is not a regular denizen of the crossword.
  • AVAS are [Prizes for video production]. Acronym, I presume?
  • [Having no aisles, in architecture] clues APTERAL, which looks to mean "without wings" if it's got the word roots I think it does.
  • TOSCA is a regular in the puzzle, but not clued as [Object of Cavaradossi's affection].
  • [Be no slouch in class?] clues SIT ERECT, which feels not quite "in the language" as a phrase.
  • Hey, look! It's one of those "roll your own" words that likely not a single one of us has ever uttered: IRELESS is clued as [Having no spleen], relying on the "anger" meaning of "spleen."
I dunno, that sort of felt like a lot of "Huh?" stuff for one puzzle, but I still made it through safely thanks to the crossings. Here are some less vexing clues and fill I liked:
  • [Big catch of 2003] is Saddam HUSSEIN. The year wasn't pointing me in the right direction at all, so I was surprised by the answer. I can't say i liked it, but it surprised me.
  • "SPILL IT!" means ["Fess up!"].
  • [One on a strict diet] is a VEGAN, whose request is NO MEAT. (Also no eggs, dairy, etc.)
  • BISCOTTI are [Crunchy cafe treats]. Horrible excuse for cookies if you haven't got anything to dip them in.
  • [Intrepid palace employees] are TASTERS checking for poison in the royal's food.
  • [Five-time winner of the Copa do Mundo] is BRASIL spelled the Brazilian way, in keeping with the Brazilian way of saying "World cup.
  • [There's sometimes no room for it] clues DESSERT. Nonsense! If you don't finish your entrée, you will have room for bomba al cioccolato like I did tonight.
  • [Work ID] is an OPUS number.

Robert Wolfe's L.A. Times crossword

I'm getting a late start on blogging today, and a crossword proofreading gig demands my attention. So let me lay out just a few clues here and then refer you to my L.A. Crossword Confidential post on this puzzle.

If you haven't checked out the new blog yet, let me tell you one cool feature—a "Crosswordese 101" section for every puzzle. PuzzleGirl, Rex, and I are taking a decidedly educational approach over there, laying out the sort of lessons that are a boon for newer solvers. There's also a lot of content like that in my book, How To Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, but hey, nobody who's Googling because they're stuck on a crossword is able to Google their way to the lessons in my book. Today's Crosswordese 101 focuses on the 4-letter European rivers. Who among us couldn't use a refresher course on those?

All righty, some clues from today's LAT:
  • [What a nyctophobe fears] is the DARK.
  • A [Floating point] is the WATERLINE. I'm sending warm, dry thoughts to the folks battling the Red River up in the Fargo area. I don't know if WATERLINE is a word that the hydrologists use in talking about rivers. Let's look it up. Nope: "The waterline is an imaginary line marking the level at which a ship or boat floats in the water."
  • [Lions or tigers or bears], oh my! Each of those words is a NOUN. Cute clue.
  • [Peggy Lee and Marilyn Monroe, at birth] were both NORMAS. Marilyn was Norma Jeane Baker, and Peggy Lee was North Dakota's Norma Deloris Egstrom.
  • A [Doe to be identified] isn't a female deer. It's JANE or John Doe.
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" crossword

Doug Peterson continues to pep up the Stumper with livelier fill than the themeless Newsdays are generally known for. To wit: Christina AGUILERA, the [Best New Artist Grammy winner in 2000], and Paula ABDUL, ["Cold Hearted" singer]. Not to mention MR. T, the ['80s TV star]. The rest of the puzzle (answer here) doesn't swim in pop culture, but that dose of three pop names makes a difference in my enjoyment of the puzzle. It's when the pop culture backslides into the '50s that I grumble—as with ["Hardy Boys" girlfriend] crossing a word with two accepted spellings. Come on! That's hardly fair. Is the [Steer snarer] RIATA or REATA? Is the Hardy Boys character named IOLA or EOLA? (Turns out it's the more common RIATA crossing the really-not-common IOLA.)

One-word clues with multiple meanings abound! [Upset] is the verb OVERTURN as well as an adjective. [Brook] is the verb ABIDE as well as a noun. [Transport] is the noun ECSTASY as well as a verb. [Compact] is the noun ALLIANCE as well as an adjective. This is now the hallmark of Stumpers—clues that are harder than ever to Google. Why use obscure trivia when a one-word clue will stymie solvers just as effectively?

Other clues:
  • The PLASMA TV can be a [Modern wall hanging], but ours sits on a table.
  • [Word-processor pioneer] is WANG. The WANG! At my first post-college job, we were all on the Wang. Gotta love the green screens. Eventually people upgraded to IBM 286's and 386's.
  • [Military publisher] JANE'S does those "fighting aircraft" books, I believe.
  • ["Pequod" co-owner] is PELEG. With the final G in place, I tried QUEEG, but that was a mashup of Wouk's Captain Queeg and Melville's Queequeg, a more memorable Moby-Dick name than PELEG.
  • [Mortar/pestle material] is AGATE? I haven't seen AGATE mortars and pestles. Mine are ceramic.
  • [Milton and More wrote in it] clues NEO-LATIN.
  • SYDNEY is a [City named for a British home secretary].
  • [Union suit?] is a TUX, the tuxedo a man might wear when embarking on a marital union.
  • The [Largest arboreal animals] are ORANGS. Arboreal animals hang out in trees.
  • [Rossini's forte] doesn't mean his personal strength. It means the English equivalent of the Italian/music word forte—LOUD.
  • Did you know that LP'S were a [Musical innovation of '48]?
Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy crossword, "What's in a Name?"

I wasn't quite firing on all cylinders when I did battle with this crossword. I misread the verb tense in one of the theme clues, and the Anagram Center of my brain was dialed way down. Each theme entry has a verb followed by a famous person's surname that's an anagram of the verb. The verbs alternate between no-final-S and final-S:
  • [Make a Chicago bigwig late?] is DELAY DALEY. I don't know how Mayor Daley does it—all around him, people get indicted and sentenced for corruption within Daley's administration, and yet somehow the evidence never seems to point all the way to the top. Rod Blagojevich should have knelt down and kissed Daley's ring to ask for pointers on not getting nailed by a federal investigation. Daley is the king of eeliness.
  • [Goes easy on a pop singer?] is SPARES SPEARS. I blanked on the anagram name here. Who calls her SPEARS? She's Britney. Alas, "trybine" and "bintery" are not verbs.
  • [Annoy an Oscar-winning actress?] clues PESTER STREEP. I misread the tense here and put PEEVES in for the first half, which impeded my progress in the lower midsection of the puzzle.
  • [Stops a newswoman from going on the air?] is HALTS STAHL. I had the STAHL part but my mind got stuck on LATHS for the anagram. Oy!
LEVEE ([Embankment to ward off floods]) and N. DAK. ([One of Saskatchewan's U.S. neighbors]) are topical. OLD FLAMES makes for a great crossword answer; it's clued as [Long-ago loves].

I also like TRADES UP, or [Exchanges for a better model]. I'm thinking of trading up to a new Ford Fusion Hybrid—41 mpg in the city! Any car geeks out there who can give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on this idea?