May 01, 2009

Saturday, 5/2

Newsday 12:19
LAT 4:36
NYT 4:10
CS 10:14 (J -- paper)

Peter Collins' New York Times crossword

Aw, man! What a rip-off. I count on my two themeless NYT crosswords on Friday and Saturday. This weekend, the Saturday puzzle got bumped up to Friday, and what's on tap for calendrical Saturday is...a Thursday puzzle? Just a themed puzzle, appearing now because it's Kentucky Derby day. And you know how I know it's a Thursday puzzle running on Saturday? Because the solving time is right on target for Thursday, and because there's a little extra oomph to it—you see the KENTUCKY DERBY running diagonally between those corner black squares? There's your Thursday gimmick.

Now, on the plus side, I liked the "aha" moment after I finished the puzzle and said "hey, wait a minute, where's the Kentucky Derby?" and reread the TRIPLE CROWN clue: [It comprises the 10-Down, 34-Across, and a third part found elsewhere in the grid]. The BELMONT Stakes and PREAKNESS are the other two legs (prongs?) of the Triple Crown. [One that bets are on] is 48A: THE FAVORITE. And [One with a stake in 48-Across, say] is a horse BREEDER.

On the other hand, horseracing themes never delight me. Horseracing is of no interest to me.

So what else is in this puzzle?

  • OKRA is a [Vegetable sometimes grown as a flower]. Who knew?
  • [Walrus-skin boats] are UMIAKS. A gimme! Yes, I have been doing crosswords too long.
  • [Spain's Victoria Eugenia, familiarly] clues ENA. Hey, is this the Spanish queen ENA of crosswordese fame? Did I finally learn her full name?
  • [Bad bill collector?] is a Treasury agent, or T-MAN, catching counterfeiters.
  • MOO SHU is not a [Kind of pork]. It's a dish that contains pork. Every now and then, I like to speak out on behalf of those who absolutely loathe the "kind of" clues that would more correctly be fill-in-the-blank clues.
  • [Best Actress winner for "The Great Ziegfeld," 1936] is Luise RAINER. I believe her first name shows up much more often in crosswords.
  • SKIMP ON is clued as [Not provide fully]. That K begins the diagonal answer.
  • SUBARU is [One of two cars besides a Cadillac named in Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac"].
  • [Ruling] is a noun and a gerund, and it can be used to describe the party that is IN POWER.
  • CANONRY is clued as a [Church office]. Don't recall seeing this word before. More religion: [The Little Flower of Jesus] is THERESA.
  • If it's CUT-RATE, the price is [Marked down].
  • OPHELIA's always welcome in the crossword. Her quote clue: ["O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" speaker, in Shakespeare].
  • The [Nintendo product] called the GAMEBOY is a good crossword entry.
  • [Family in Upton Sinclair's "Oil!"] are the ROSSES. Didn't read it; didn't see No Blood for Oil. No, wait, that's not the movie title. Like Oil for Chocolate? No Country for Oilmen? Ah, There Will Be Blood, right?
  • I sure didn't know that the D TRAIN is [Public transportation to New York's Yankee Stadium], but luckily the D's crossing was solid.
Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Bond Issues"—Janie's review

So yesterday, in "Up for Debate," Doug Peterson gave us STOCK ISSUE. And today, Bob Klahn gives us "Bond Issues." No -- I don't take this to be the start of Wall Street trend in CS puzzles, as the "Bond" at issue here is Ian Fleming's Bond. James Bond. Or in this case, the singers of five Bond-movie theme-songs. To wit:

  • 17A: SHERYL CROW ["Tomorrow Never Dies" theme singer]
  • 28A: SHEENA EASTON ["For Your Eyes Only" theme singer] -- I really like the way this one looks in the grid, especially the vowelly EENAEA part.
  • 39A: MADONNA ["Die Another Day" theme singer]
  • 47A: NANCY SINATRA ["You Only Live Twice" theme singer]
  • 63A: CARLY SIMON ["The Spy Who Loved Me" theme singer] -- name that tune! (Spoiler below)
Now this is a pretty straightforward kind of theme with pretty straightforward cluing and fill. And one evocative jukebox. Click here for some terrific trivia about these and the other Bond-movie theme songs.

Is that all there is? Folks. We've got Klahn here. Bob Klahn. It's the tip o' the iceberg. There's more than the theme to unify this one. And it comes primarily from the finely wrought cluing.

There are the alliterative, repeating and/or rhyme-y clues: [Jolts with volts], [Pertaining to a pigmented peeper part], [Porter order], [Boozing or babbling binge], [Surname separator], [Steinbeck surname], [Pickings or Pickens], [Minute or mile], [Minute bit], [Ship slip], [Central point], [Central line], [Needing kneading?], [Dot-com datum], [Cornell founder Cornell], [Light, in a way], [Light yellow], [Roast rotator], [Intense suspense, e.g.], ["There is no try" Jedi], [Highland headland], [Globular goblet], [Pivotal point] -- holy moly!

There's a quadruple, too: [What a kid'll eat, in song], [Kanga's kid], [Kid], [Kidder]. Btw -- if you didn't understand the first of these, you may never have heard/heard of Mairzy Doats -- a novelty song from the '40s.

Animal clues? Gottem: [What a kid'll eat...], [Kanga's kid], [Bee flat?] (loved that!), [Fox or turkey chaser?], [Hog wild?].
And then, in the fill -- to complement all the KIDding in the clues -- he gives us: JOSH, TEASE and CARD.

Not to mention the slew of scrabbly letters: 4 Z's, 3 J's, 2 X's. And the elegant [Central point] crossing of NEXUS and CRUX.

The only crossing that gave me pause was BAIZE and ZORI. Just wasn't certain of that common Z. Kept thinking BAIZE was a color. But no -- it's a fabric. Was I maybe thinking of MAIZE?......

To wrap it all up, will only add that where this kind of solid cluing/puzzle-making is concerned, um, "Nobody does it better"!

Alan Olschwang's L.A. Times crossword

I'm looking forward to a return to Saturday toughness for the themeless L.A. Times puzzle. Not this week—maybe next week. I like themelesses that make me work for 6 to 7 minutes, as 4½ is just too short. I want it 50% more difficult.

Lots of good fill here—there are three widely spaced 15's going Across, held together by another vertical 15. An eight-pack of 9's provide the rest of the long fill, and my favorites among them are A LOT TO ASK, GONE TO POT, and the cool MAELSTROM. Today at Casa Fiend, there's a science fair project to oversee, so here I'll simply refer you to my L.A. Crossword Confidential postif you're looking for more detail.

Stan Newman's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(Solution here.)

I was thisclose to conceding a few squares in the southwest corner when I realized that 37D: [Seat] was INSTATE and not INSTALL. Once again, I find the "original meaning of a first name" clue to be an irritant. 56A: [Name meaning "old city"] is ELTON, presumably an elision of eld + town. I have never, ever heard of ITALO-disco, an '80s European music genre.

I fell into the OKRA trap for 38A: [Gumbo ingredient]. The answer is ROUX, and that crosses a few other toughies. 27D: [Square meal] is CHEX, but it's not the meal that's square, it's a cereal piece. 33D: [Type of rail] is a COOT; both are aquatic bird names. 38D: [Ball playing?] is Lucy RICARDO; since when is a role or character a "playing"?

The most misleading clue is 10D: [Film set in colonial New York]—ANTZ. I knew that took place in an animated ant colony, but who remembers that it was in New York? Second most misleading: 31A: [What element 108 was named for]. If you happen to know that element 108 is called hassium, it might not be obvious that it was named after the German state of HESSE, which is "hassia" in Latin.

I'm not sure why 12D: HOODIES is clued as ['90s fashion statements]—I see no shortage of hoodies in my 'hood in 2009.

I had a couple wrong turns in the grid. 2D: [Spa offerings], ending with UBS? Surely HOT TUBS, right? Nope—OIL RUBS. Do spas call that service an "oil rub"? Because that sounds more like something a mechanic does, not a relaxing spa offering. 45A: [Adidas alternative] is FILA, but I started with AVIA and also considered PUMA.

A couple spots had interesting letter collisions. 42A: [Save or Print] clues MENU OPTION, and that UO looked so impossibly wrong. In the southeast quadrant, the long Acrosses have consonant pile-ups. DR. DEMENTO is a [Comedy Music Hall of Fame charter member]. 57A: [Long-time telethon cohost] is ED MCMAHON. And 59A: [Teen idols] are ROCK STARS.

Random trivia: 30D: ["Rigoletto" inspiration] is Victor HUGO, and 52D: [About 8.8 liters] is a PECK, 8 quarts.