June 26, 2009

Saturday, 6/27

NYT 6:06
Newsday 5:09
LAT 5:05
CS 9:05 (J―paper)

I'm not quite sure where the day went, but it's now dark out and I didn't even start the Fourth Bloggiversary bad theme contest wrap-up. Saturday? Maybe.

Trip Payne's New York Times crossword

Have you ever noticed that SEMICONSCIOUS and SELF-CONSCIOUS differ by only two letters? I did, when I let the crossings guide me to the former to answer 31A, [Uncomfortable, in a way]. Why, that would make no sense at all! Eventually I unraveled that. Later, at 52A, [Uncomfortable] clues ILL AT EASE, which I think was in one of last Saturday's puzzles.

Looking at the finished grid just now, for a moment I wondered, who is TOM BRAIDER? That one, of course, is TOMB RAIDER, an [Influential 1996 video game] (43A). Has anyone worked Lara Croft plaiting a turkey or cat's hair into a cryptic clue yet? (Yes, I realize turkeys lack hair.)

Let's run down my favorite answers and clues in this puzzle. There's a lot of cool stuff:

  • 58A. [Contents of a certain household box] aren't fuses or circuit breakers or tools, but CAT LITTER.
  • 10A. GNASH means [Rub together], but not in a nice way. If you and your sweetie are gnashing, you're doing it wrong.
  • 46A. POST-ITS are clued as [Yellow squares, often]. The clue is completely accurate and yet I still needed plenty of crossings to see where this was going.
  • 48A. [Receiver of some contributions] is a ROTH IRA. Am I the only one who sees ROTHIRA and thinks of Vampira?
  • 60A. SPRITZERS, made with white wine, are [Cocktails lacking hard liquor], but not lacking the softer liquor. Is that the other end of the spectrum, soft liquor? Or easy?
  • 11D. [Spring's opposite] is the NEAP tide. Somebody at L.A. Crossword Confidential, I think, or maybe at the Rex Parker blog, was just saying you gotta know your tides for crosswords.
  • 12D. Maya ANGELOU is the ["Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie" poet]. I don't know the poem.

One of the Friday puzzles had a very similar clue and also sat wrong with me. DO-RAGS are clued here (1D) as [Rappers' wrappers]. Yes, it would be gauche to clue them as [Some black folks' head coverings], but the vast majority of people sporting do-rags aren't rappers.

I have to take a break now and put my kid to bed. Back with more later, provided I don't conk out.

—I'm back after a Frank Longo Vowelless Crosswords nap. I recommend the book, but I can't say I advise touching it when sleepy.

Returning to the list of highlights:
  • That Maya Angelou title belongs to an early (1971) collection of her poems. Anyone know if there's a poem by that name within the book?
  • 13D. [They're often playing at home] is a great clue for STEREOS.
  • 21D. [It begins with an E (in two ways)] refers to an EYE CHART, with forwards and backwards E's.
  • 23D. [Throws up] isn't about puking, nope. It's LOFTS, as in tossing something up in the air.
  • 24D, 26D. [They have connections] looks like a clue for INS, but it's actually talking about KIN. You know—like an ANCESTOR, who's a [Genealogical discovery].
  • 29D. Sleet is [Some pellets] of ice. Ouch. Those smart.
  • 32D, 54D. [Is in Athens?] opts not to use an apostrophe in a plural. This usage resource says "Apostrophes are used to form plurals of letters that appear in lowercase. There is no need for apostrophes indicating a plural on capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols (though keep in mind that some editors, teachers, and professors still prefer them)." Here, the Is or I's are the Greek letters called IOTAS. Then you hit [Delta, for one: Abbr.]—and that's another Greek LTR., or letter. Were you fooled? I sure was. Airline, mouth of a river...wasn't thinking of the letter.
  • 35D. [French bread] isn't trying to trick you. It's not really about French currency. It's yummy BRIOCHE.
  • 1A. Hey, I forgot to mention the first clue: [Rock samples] are DEMO TAPES, samples of a rock band's work.

Other bits and pieces that were more straightforward, but not necessarily any easier:
  • 50A. The [Year that Acre fell in the First Crusade] was MCIV, or 1104.
  • 5D. [Hero of "Boys N the Hood"] clues TRE. Never did see that movie. I should Netflix it.
  • 36D. [Milky] is LACTEAL. And no, I've never used that word in a sentence, with the possible exception of crossword blog posts.
  • 39D. Did you know it was the FBI who would be the [RICO Act enforcer]? I didn't pay close enough attention to The Sopranos.
  • 42D. CHRIST is the [Word that first appears in Matthew 1:1].
  • 50D. METZ, France, was the [Birthplace of the poet Paul Verlaine]. He was a French symbolist poet.
  • 56D. [Black-throated ___ (Asian bird)] is a TIT.

Updated Saturday morning:

Stella Daily & Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy/Washington Post Puzzle, "Four Steps to a Perfect Wedding" ―Janie's review

If you're romantically predisposed to love the idea of a June wedding, by all means, fire up the Lohengrin. With only three days left to "enjoy" that particular rite, Stella and Bruce give us a humorous glimpse of the other side of the coin. In four 15-letter theme answers (that's a very healthy 60 letters of theme fill), they take us through the (reality-based?) stages of planning a wedding:
  • 17A. [...step 1] PROPOSE MARRIAGE. "...A very good place to start."
  • 27A. [...step 2] CHOOSE GUEST LIST. Sure. Though this might directly fuel:
  • 46A. [...step 3] ARGUE WITH FAMILY. Which (when love conquers all) undoubtedly fuels:
  • 60A. [...step 4] ELOPE TO LAS VEGAS. Does Bride's Magazine publish this list annually?! (Hmmm. Somehow I don't imagine their AD-MEN [or -women] would take kindly to that...)
I love that we get a bonus clue/fill right from the get-go with [Come together, as in matrimony] for UNITE, off-setting any MISERY generated by that pre-nup planning. I also smiled to see RENO in the puzzle and wondered if at some time it had been clued as the the country's one-time capital of the quickie divorce (rather than the neutral [It's near Carson City]).

While I didn't complete this one with the greatest of EASE, neither did it entirely WHUP me. In puzzles such as this, where the four major answers are minimally and similarly clued, it's almost a necessity to solve the puzzle using the "down" clues, if you want to get any real traction. I did throw myself off, though, entering IAMBS instead of IAMBI, and right next to it, hastily (unthinkingly...) scrawling STEET instead of STEEL. Looking at the whole of 46A [...step 3], what word ends with the letters MSTY?! (I didn't really need the Cruciverb database to tell me, "Sorry, no results for *msty.") I somewhere, somehow knew the phrase Damascus steel, but reading this gave me a better idea of what it actually is.

Had never heard of [Lefty Grove, for one]―a SOUTHPAW, though that "lefty" part shoulda tipped me off. I like, though, how this fill is right below [Elvis's birthplace] TUPELO, a Mississippi town that lies in the South. (And this may be amusing to me alone, but I just remembered that one of the King's movies was Viva Las Vegas...)

And since that brings us back to the Southwest, hello to CS-debut WHITTLED, as in [Created a kachina]. Authentic kachina "dolls" are actually religious icons and they are made only by Hopi artists. And in an attempt to pull everything together, here's a link to a (kinda scary) picture of a kachina doll-head wedding cake. Really!!

Orange clocking in again—with wedding congratulations for Stella Daily, who's celebrating her birthday today by marrying her sweetheart, Dave. (Not in Vegas.) It is ridiculously cute that Stella and Bruce's wedding-themed puzzle is running today.

Barry Silk's Los Angeles Times crossword

Usually I write my Saturday L.A. Crossword Confidential post on Friday night, but I wasn't feeling too hot last night so I went to bed post-NYT instead and blogged this morning. I'm feeling all blogged out about this puzzle now. But I liked it, and I was glad it felt 25% tougher than the last two Saturday LATs did. Mind you, I can't be sure it really was harder because I came it with a couple glasses of wine in me. (Not to worry! I did the crossword last night, not this morning.)

Am I the only one who sees EDAMES in the grid—["My Cup Runneth Over" singer]—and thinks of edamame? Here's a bad cryptic clue: ["My Cup Runneth Over" singer abandons South, hugs mother for a soybean snack] (7).

27D is SHARK, clued as [Whiz]. As I hinted at the other blog, I'd love to be known as a crossword shark. Go ahead and promulgate that, will you? Thanks. Now, I might just be a tiger shark and not a great white shark, but don't underestimate tiger sharks. We're voracious and deadly, too.

Check out L.A. Crossword Confidential for the rest of my thoughts on this puzzle.

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

The Stumper takes another week off from being a real killer. (PDF solution here.) Let's break it down. First up, favorites:
  • 17A. LET 'ER RIP is clued with ["Go for it!"]. Good stuff, that. Looks French in the grid, though: le terrip means nothing in French, I imagine.
  • 42A. A day PLANNER is clued by way of [It's days are numbered].
  • 3D. [Ford feature, often] isn't about cars at all. John Ford directed many an OATER.
  • 4D. THE LION IN WINTER is a Katherine Hepburn/Peter O'Toole movie as well as [Rosemary Harris' Tony play].
  • 21D. [Colon follower: Abbr.] is MIN., as in minutes, as in 6:30.
  • 45D. A movie SCENE is a [Trailer segment].

Next, tough stuff:
  • 19A. ["Green Mansions" hero] is ABEL. 1904 book + 1959 movie = old pop culture unknown to most people my age. I just read the plot summary and it sounds horrible. On rare occasions, the character RIMA shows up in a crossword, even though terza rima (Dante's rhyme scheme in The Divine Comedy) has got to be more broadly familiar.
  • 13D. [Skimmer relative] is a TERN. Who knew a skimmer was a bird? I bought something called skimmers, essentially long, lean shorts or short capri pants.

And finally, random musings:
  • 1A. [Sole treatment] is a FOOT BATH. Now, that sounds relaxing, but it still looks off-putting in the marquee position in the puzzle. I'm glad I finished that corner last, not first.
  • 28A. ["Sputnik" booster], 4 letters? Hmm, is that USSR or CCCP? Neither: it's an ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • 39A. PEENS are [Workshop heads], as in heads of hammers. Could we not use "head" in a clue for PEEN? It's bringing out my inner snickering 14-year-old.
  • 7D. TRICOLOR, [Like some pasta], duplicates part of the clue for 48D TINCT, or [Coloring].
  • 30D. [Salome portrayer of 1918] is Theda BARA. Yet another member of the class of actresses famous 90 years ago who remain popular primarily in crosswords.