May 08, 2009

Saturday, 5/9

Newsday 13:27
NYT 8:37
CS 5:00
LAT 4:25

Brad Wilber's New York Times crossword

You know what's not a great combo? Doing a Saturday NYT puzzle an hour closer to bedtime and clues pertaining to Broadway shows and horse racing—and an Egyptian pharaoh for good measure. Or bad measure. Slow measure, anyway. Lots of cool stuff in this puzzle, plus a small smattering of the "bleh" type stuff. Here's what I liked the most in this challenging puzzle:

  • 1A: [No backbreaker] means a CUSHY JOB. In the language, fresh, lively—a great way to start at 1-Across.
  • 15A: [Add to marginally?] clues ANNOTATE. I got this one right away, but it didn't bother revealing 1-, 3-, and 4-Down for me.
  • 17A: [One running through town] is the MAIN DRAG. Is that a "one" in any sense of the word "one"? With the middle letters in place, I briefly contemplated BLIND RAT. Not wild about the clue wording, but love the answer.
  • 20A: Juan GRIS was the [Cubist who painted "Violin and Glass"].
  • 29A: [Preach] is short for "preacher" in the way that REV is short for "reverend" as a nickname.
  • 34A: I just had Indian food for dinner, so the clue [Indian currency] didn't shout SACAGAWEA DOLLAR to me. Good entry, tricky clue.
  • 42A: GORDY was ["The Mary Tyler Moore Show" weatherman]. I love that show.
  • 43A: PETTING ZOO is another terrific answer. It's a [Place where kids may feed kids]. I just hope it's the children feeding the goats and not vice versa.
  • 52A: "IKO IKO" is a [Mardi Gras song that was a 1965 hit for the Dixie Cups]. Hey! I knew this one! We'd seen a road sign that said "FEE NAH NAY" on it when we visited New Orleans a month ago. We Googled the phrase and wound up on this Wikipedia page. No idea what the song sounds like, but the crossword did not ask me to hum a few bars.
  • 56A: [Good place to look when you're sole-searching?] is the SEABED. Sole fish, not bottom-of-the-foot sole.
  • 8D: A 15-letter answer is nice when you've heard of it. I think I learned of BEGIN THE BEGUINE, a [Song standard from Broadway's "Jubilee," 1935] via a '70s game show when I was a kid. Does the song pronounce it "be-gyne" or "be-geen"?
  • 10D: [Nation] is a vague yet apt clue for PEOPLE. See also 44D: TRIBE, or [Reservation holder].
  • 21A: [Strech marks, e.g.] are STRIAE.
  • 25D: LIAR'S POKER is a great entry. It's a [Bluffing bar game].
  • 32D: SWOUND is clued [Faint, to Shakespeare]. Weird but lovely.
  • 36D: Crosswords' favorite Melville novel OMOO gets a new clue: [Classic novel whose title means "rover"]. Captain AHAB is here too, but he's clued as a [Wicked king of Israel].
  • 41D: [Steamship employee] is a STOKER. The boiler maintenance company we use is called Williams Stoker & Heating because they've been around since the coal-stoking days.
  • 42D: GO LONG! In footballese, that's [Get ready for a bomb].
  • 45D: that an old king of Albania? No, that's Zog. ZERO G is zero gravity, a [Free-falling phenomenon].
And then there's the more elusive stuff. Come Saturday, you have to expect a lot of this:
  • 18A: [Exclamation near a runway] is OO LA LA. That, of course, is what the airport workers who stand on the tarmac and signal the pilots always say. "You there—go ahead and taxi towards runway 16B now. Oo la la!" (I have heard that the French say "oh la la," not "oo" or "ooh." Is this TRUE ([Not tall], as in not a tall tale)?
  • 19A: ESTE is a [City in Veneto]. Crosswordese Italian place, but not clued obviously. Grr.
  • 22A: I just played PIPIT in Lexulous (Facebook Scrabble knockoff). I did not know that it's a [Bird notable for walking rather than hopping]. And it has such a hoppy name...
  • 23A: COUNT FLEET was the [Triple Crown winner between Whirlaway and Assault]. I hope it was named after the enema maker.
  • 39A: Anne MEARA is the [Tony award nominee for "Anna Christie," 1993]. Broadway, how I do not know thee.
  • 46A: MORRO is the answer to [New Mexico's El ___ National Monument].
  • 2D: UNAS was the [Last pharaoh of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty]. The Fifth Dynasty, you say? I wanted PTAH here because I've seen that in two old crosswords, but Ptah is an Egyptian god.
  • 4D: [It'll give you an edge] clues HONE. Yes, HONE is also a noun. No, I hadn't seen it used that way.
  • 7D: OTARU! That's a [Port on the Sea of Japan]. It's my go-to obscure 5-letter Japanese city. Not to be confused with the OTARY, which is an eared seal, if memory serves.
  • 11D: ["Show Boat" girl who sings "Life Upon the Wicked Stage"] is ELLIE. Three Broadway clues is two too many.
  • 26D: ESCAPE ROAD is an [Emergency racetrack turnoff]. I don't like car racing any better than horse racing or Broadway musicals.
  • 30D: Does anyone know VERA, [Tennis star Zvonareva]? I don't.
  • 48D: EWER is clued as [One whose mouth and lip may be painted]. Again with the "one" referring to something inanimate. It grates.

Bruce Venzke's L.A. Times crossword

See my L.A. Crossword Confidential post after the wee hours of Saturday morning. I'm trying to wrap up the Saturday blogging too late on Friday night, I'm sleepy, and I'm leaving for Mother's Day weekend in the morning.

Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Sign Up!"

The theme here is phrases in which the word SIGN appears upwards. DOWN is [Not the way to look if you need help with this puzzle's theme], and these phrases split NG IS across two words:
  • BURNING ISSUE is a [Hot topic].
  • LONG ISLAND SOUND is [Connecticut River outlet].
  • SPRING IS HERE might be some [March words], unless you live in a place where winter keeps poking you until you're firmly into April.
A few cool clues or answers:
  • PHONE TAG! It's a [Problem connecting].
  • Two guitar legends in a row—[Guitar great Montgomery] is named WES and [Guitar great Paul]'s first name is LES.
  • There are two anniversary clues in a row, another of the patented Klahn clue-doubling moves. [40th anniversary gift] is RUBY and [Anniversary units (abbr.)] are YDS, as in yards on a football field. No? Okay. They're YRS, or years. But when I see "units" in the clue and the answer is Y*S, my default answer is YDS.
Four "Huh?" clues:
  • MOIRE is a [Watered fabric].
  • Old-school crosswordese INGLE means [Fireplace].
  • An [Over-the-hill horse] is called a PLUG, apparently.
  • [Card game favored by Ramses?] might be FARO, which sounds like pharaoh, which is what Ramses was.
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(Solution here.)

Hey! Look at that. I finished without resorting to Google, with only about 10 flat-out wrong answers that I had to rework along the way. (There were many more answers that I couldn't come up with a single workable answer for, in addition to those wrong entries.) A handful of tough clues, extracted from the list of almost-all-tough clues:
  • [Orange teller of bad jokes] is the Muppet FOZZIE BEAR. Is it bad that I wanted to fit CARROT TOP here?
  • LIME WATER is a [Tannery solution]. Sounds refreshing! I'll take mine on ice.
  • [Where a pivot may be performed] is in a baseball DOUBLE PLAY.
  • SALT BAGELS are a [Deli delivery]. Don't some bagels make the bagels themselves rather than having them delivered?
  • [You and me] are GREAT APES.
  • [Cuts from Blades] means SALSA MUSIC—Ruben Blades.
  • [Pocket protectors?] are SKINFLINTS, protecting the money in their pockets.
  • [Provides with handles] is HAFTS, as in knife or sword handles. Yes, I went with NAMES here first.
  • [Rhineland, in the '20s] was a DMZ, or demilitarized zone.
  • A debt [Collector's items] are DEBTS.
  • I need to grumble about ["Heroes" role] for ELLE. ELLE was killed off last season. HIRO, on the other hand, is alive and semi-well this season, and there aren't many famous HIROs who could be used in a crossword clue.
  • ESSEN, Germany's top crosswordese town, is the [Museum Folkwang locale]. I would think that this was the museum of the people's wang, but Volk, not Folk, is German for "people."
There's a good chance that the Oryx recognition of this year's toughest crossword will have to go to the Saturday Stumpers as a group. They've had their easy and medium years, but now they're in a mad-tough year.