June 12, 2009

Saturday, 6/13

Newsday 6:14
NYT 5:44
LAT 4:03
CS 2:57

Don't miss the Crossword Fiend Fourth Bloggiversary dreadful-theme contest! (That's the post right below this one.)

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

You know what I like about this puzzle? I mean, aside from the interesting answers with Q's and Z's in them. And the central 15's. And the stacks of 8's and 9's in the four corners. I like the overall geographic slant to the crossword. Look at all the places:

  • 15A. LITHUANIA is the [Neighbor of Kaliningrad], Kaliningrad being that little land-island of Russia that's cut off from the rest of Russia. I'm an eighth Lithuanian, so I'm pleased to see the country in the crossword.
  • 22A. [Abyssinian language?] sounds like it's geographical, but it's the Abyssinian cat's MEW.
  • 23A. KHMER is clued [Like the Angkor ruins].
  • 35A. The MAGNETIC EQUATOR is the [Line on which a dip needle is horizontal]. What's a dip line, people?
  • 43A. NEV., or Nevada, is the [36th of 50: Abbr.]
  • 57A. The Hague is Den HAAG in Dutch, so HAAG is a [City name part that's Dutch for "hedge"]. If only we Anglophone types called it "The Hedge."
  • 9D. LAE is the [Papuan port in W.W. II fighting] that was also in Kevin Der's record-breaking 8/22/08 NYT puzzle, the one with only 18 black squares. LAE! That's "lame" without the M. Thank you, Kevin, for including that answer. I thought it stunk then, but now I'm glad that I learned it. Isn't that how it always goes? "Horrible, terrible answer. So obscure. ...Oh, hey, here's that answer again!"
  • 35D. MANASSAS was a [Civil War battlefield].
  • 48D. The BRAZOS is a [River to the Gulf of Mexico].

If these answers stumped you, well, then you ought to learn more geography, oughtn't you?

These ones were my favorite answers and clues:
  • 1A. The PEACH BOWL sounds like a yummy dessert rather than a college football game. [Louisiana State won the first one in 1968].
  • 28A. [Indy Jones and others] are PROFS. The "Indy" shortening of Indiana signals the shortening of professors. Speaking of that—SHORT FOR is clued as [A contraction of].
  • 33A. SHAQ O'Neal is clued as [Wilt Chamberneezy, more familiarly]. Dang, that's a nutty clue if you've never, ever heard that long nickname for Shaquille O'Neal. The next answer is another athlete, [Olympic sprinter ___ Boldon], or ATO—a cooler entry than the two-word partial A TO.
  • 46A. The [Male stereotype] of RAMBO probably shouldn't have "male" in the clue, but it's a nice contrast with the [Countertenor], or MALE ALTO, above it. Anyone else try FALSETTO there?
  • 52A. Cartoons! I'll bet Joe Cabrera and Dave Mackey knew instantly that [Splinter, to Woody Woodpecker] was NIECE, but I needed the crossings.
  • 59A. I think we've seen EZIO PINZA's full name in the puzzle before. Two Z's! This crosswordese fella was the [1950 Tony winner for Best Actor in a Musical], South Pacific, I think.
  • 4D. [Bond analysts' field?: Abbr.] is CHEM. Bonds between atoms forming molecules in chemistry, yo.
  • 8D. WIENERSCHNITZEL! Now that's a 15 for you. It happens to be a [Dish akin to cotoletta alla milanese]. Cotoletta looks to be an Italian cognate of "cutlet." I didn't know the answer based on the clue, but with the first couple letters from crossings and a familiarity with Barry Silk's fondness for Scrabbly letters (and the ability to spell German words), WIENERSCHNITZEL came together.
  • 10D. The MAGIC SQUARE is a [Recreational mathematics construct]. All the rows, columns, and diagonals add up to the same total.
  • 23D. A [Good one] is a real KNEE-SLAPPER when one = joke.
  • 32D. Say it with me: PTUI is a [Spittoon sound]. Not to be confused with pfui.
  • 37D. [Person in a mansion] is the GOVERNOR. Wow, I couldn't figure this one out until I had a bunch of the letters filled in. Seems so obvious in retrospect.
  • 38D. [Recycle bin, for one] is a computer ICON.

A special shout-out to 49D. [Much-needed donations] are ORGANS. Yes! Sign the organ donor line on your driver's license, and let your family know that you want to be an organ donor. My Facebook friends include a woman who recently received her second life-saving kidney transplant (and in exchange, her husband donated a kidney to someone else via a matching program), as well as a man who donated one of his kidneys. Live kidney donors are even more heroic than those of us who are willing to donate as cadavers. Three cheers for live donors! And hooray for Barry and Will Shortz for a socially beneficial clue for ORGANS.

Updated Saturday morning:

I'm woefully short on time this morning because I'm meeting my mother at the Apple Store to help buy her first computer. She sets great store by Consumer Reports, and they always rave about the Mac's superior reliability and customer service. Gotta get in before the crowds show up for the new iPhone, right?

Brad Wilber's Los Angeles Times crossword

This puppy's got some colorful fill in every corner, plus RED SONJA (["She-devil with a sword" of comics]) and DOS EQUIS cerveza ([Mexican beer with XX on its label]) in the middle. For the rest of what I've got to say about this puzzle, please divert your attention to L.A. Crossword Confidential. Trust me, I was much perkier when writing that post last night than I am this morning after five hours of sleep.

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "It's a Gift"

Once a month, our Janie heads to her beloved Baltimore and I return to blogging about the Saturday CS crossword. Paula's theme is FREE, [Like a gift, and word that can precede the last parts of 17- and 57-Across and 11- and 25-Down]. [Statement of means to the end?] is a LIVING WILL (free will). Public service announcement: You should have a living will. I don't, no, but I should. POWER LUNCH is a [Meal for wheelers and dealers]. Who doesn't love a free lunch? STUMP SPEECH is clued as [Campaigner's delivery]. Free speech is good too, but less filling than a free lunch. FLOOR SAMPLE is a [Showroom sale item]; free samples are as beloved as free lunches. The theme is none too thrilling, but the fill includes "I GUESS SO" and "YEAH, MAN," SHOT UP clued as [Grew like crazy], OB-GYNS ([Docs who deliver]), and an ODD JOB ([Task for a handyman]). Geography brings us ZAMBIAN, or [Neighbor of a Tanzanian] (I defy anyone to say they filled this one in with no crossings at all), and old crosswordese AINU, a [Japanese aborigine].

Updated Saturday afternoon:

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

Once again, Doug Peterson demonstrates why he has become my favorite Stumper-maker. Now, last week's Stumper had its charms—I heard through the grapevine that Dan and Ellen finished Stan Newman's killer puzzle in the range of 9 to 10 minutes, another top solver took 17 minutes, and several other top solvers just plain didn't finish or finished with more than one wrong square. The Stumper is like a Gumpian box of chocolates—you never know what you're gonna get. Maybe a solid semisweet chocolate piece, not a wishy-washy milk chocolate one; that's today's puzzle by Doug. Maybe a chocolate with a hard nut inside; that'd be a puzzle that takes maybe 40% more effort than this one. Then there's the one with the cyanide in it, and depending on your personal constitution it may or may not be survivable; that was last weekend's.

Here's the solution grid for today's offering. Stuff I was fond of:
  • 1A. [Boarder's need] is BUSFARE. Yes, indeed. I also contemplated room and board and snowboarding.
  • 28A. EEYORE is the [Pessimist of kiddie lit]. Total gimme.
  • 32A. YEARLY is clued [Like a world revolution]. The world revolves around the sun YEARLY.
  • 35A. ["Slumdog Millionaire," e.g.] is a CINDERELLA STORY. Fantastic answer, that.
  • 39A/13D. [Famous last words] are AU REVOIR and [Another way to say] that is ADIOS.
  • 51A. ["Cave," in ancient Rome] is BEWARE, as in cave canem or "beware of dog."
  • 63A. [Ring things] is a vague clue for CAR KEYS, which I had trouble parsing when it was filled in. NO, CARKEYS isn't one word.
  • 35D. [Bores] is one of those classically oblique Stumper clues. Drills a hole? Is dreadfully dull? Dull people? It's CALIBERS, as in the diameter of the hollow part inside a gun barrel.

Did you know a CUTLER is a [Grindstone user]? Did you know that CUTLER was a word? Cutlery, I know, but CUTLER was new to me. I don't know [Novelist Amelia] BARR. Looking at her Wikipedia write-up...no, nope, none of those book titles ring a bell. I didn't know the [Name in the Cartoon Hall of Fame] based on the clue, but the crossings gave me DIK Browne of "Hägar the Horrible" and "Hi and Lois" fame.