June 05, 2009

Saturday, 6/6

NYT 5:00
LAT 4:57
Newsday endless
CS 6:55 (J—paper)

Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword

Oho! Doug Peterson is busting out all over—you'll be seeing his byline on the L.A. Times puzzle too, and I warmly recommend both of these themelesses. The NYT one is s 72-worder with three and a half fantastic 15-letter answers. I gotta dock half a fantasticness unit for the colorful baseball term I've never heard of, but the other three 15's are beauts:

  • 15A. [This and Sputnik 1 were launched on the same day]...hmm, did the U.S. space program get rolling at the same time as the Soviet Union's? Nope. What launched was the TV show LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. Great answer, great clue. Quite possibly my favorite clue this year.
  • 17A. SEEING EYE SINGLE is a [Soft ground ball that finds its way between infielders]. Not a phrase I've encountered before.
  • 59A. The [Nitty-gritty] is the MEAT AND POTATOES of something. The MEAT AND POTATOES of this puzzle is rock-solid fill, cool long answers (like this one), some fun clues, and a soupçon of Scrabbly action.
  • 63A. [Determined one in a kid's song] is the ITSY-BITSY SPIDER, who climbs up the waterspout, is washed out, and climbs back up in a cheerful version of Sisyphean hell.

Let us take a gander at the Scrabbly pieces of this puzzle. The Q answres double-dip in the Scrabble pond—POP QUIZ is a [Classroom groan elicitor], while QUIXOTIC means [Not at all practical]. The QUIZ's Z is also in DOZY, which is clued as [On the way out?], and QUIXOTIC's X is shared by [Swim cap material] LATEX. There's another Z in ZLOTYS, which has an awesome clue: [Poles work for them]. Did you think of magnets here? Me, too. PENZANCE is a [Cornwall resort port], home of fictional pirates if not real ones.

Did you know that CCI, or 201, was the [Year the emperor Decius was born]? Me, too! (Just kidding.) My favorite clues and answers in the rest of this puzzle include these ones:
  • 1A. AL CAPP was the [Creator of Stupefyin' Jones], which would be a great baby name. Stupefyin' Reynaldo! Does that sound like a offensive lineman or what? You'd be TROUNCED ([Mopped the floor with]) by him.
  • 21A. [Sticker by a hospital bed?] is not a medical instrument but the NURSE who wields the needle. The nurse might also use STYLETS, which have medical applications as well as being [Nematodes' piercing mouthparts]. Bleah.
  • 41A. I had no idea that a HADRON was a [Subatomic particle in a collider]. What of this Hadron Collider? I figured Hadron was a person or place it was being named after. D'oh.
  • 65A. PECANS are one sort of [Ice cream shop supply]. Yum, pecans.
  • 2D. LEER is a [Satyric expression], as in the expression of a lecherous satyr and not as in satire.
  • 5D and 11D are two-word phrases that feel quite natural but don't show up in crosswords much. PENT UP means [Kept inside], as in feelings or demand. To [Wish to join] is to WANT IN.
  • 29D. CHUGS means [Downs without a break]. When I was a kid, I could chug 16 oz. of water without stopping. Turned out that was good practice for college.
  • 37D. I've seen the Isthmus of Kra in a couple recent puzzles, and I rather thought it was Malaysian but THAI fit for [Resident near the Isthmus of Kra], 4 letters. I like world geography learning more when it doesn't hinge on 4-letter rivers or little-known ports.
  • 50D. [Main call] is AHOY, as in a call aboard a ship sailing on the bounding main.
  • 54D. [Cutting-edge set]...ooh, I know, must be a word for a brand of knives. Guess again! It's an HDTV set. I'm glad to know my 1.5-year-old TV remains on the cutting edge.
  • 62D. [Shortening in recipes] isn't about vegetable shortening, it's about abbreviations. Specifically TSP, short for teaspoon.

Tougher stuff, for me:
  • 32A. [Killer ___ (green-skinned "Batman" villain)] is Killer CROC. Surely the inspiration for those woeful rubber shoes called Crocs.
  • 40A. [Rice-Eccles Stadium athlete] is a UTE. Thinking of Rice University, I tried OWL here first.
  • 1D. [Therewithal] is an archaic word meaning "besides; together with that." It clues ALSO.
  • 26D. I wanted an English place name for [Edward IV's birthplace], but he came from ROUEN.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Boston Accent"—Janie's review

Before I knew exactly how the theme of yesterday's "Across Beantown" puzzle was going to play out, I thought it might have to do with the city for which "Beantown" is the nickname: Boston. Today we really do get Boston—or rather, we get the sound of the city, as in "I pocked my cah in the Hahvahd Yahd." Like other constructors before him who have used this gimmick (and no doubt like many who will follow...), Randy has created a puzzle with phrases and names that swap out one telling sound for another—in this case, "ark" for "ock"—with some highly successful (and highly amusing) results. In this way:
  • "Mark Twain" becomes MOCK TWAIN at 17A, and the twist is that the new phrase now means [Make fun of Shania].
  • "Loan shark"? Now LOAN SHOCK, 25A for [Bad reaction to a very high interest rate?] Going to a loan shark? Then be prepared for...
  • "Afraid of the dark" goes in a new direction now as AFRAID OF THE DOCK, 38A [Scared to go fishing off a pier?] Silly and funny—and probably something any supplier to these guys should not be.
  • "Spark plug" gets a completely new life as SPOCK PLUG, 50A [Promo by the author of "Baby and Child Care"?] That's Dr. Benjamin Spock and not this guy—although it did amuse me to see ["Star TREK"] in such close proximity to SPOCK PLUG in the grid.
  • "Clark Kent" brilliantly turns on himself to CLOCK KENT, 61A [Knock out Superman?]. I mean really—picture it!

As I mentioned, "Boston Accent" puzzles have been appearing for years. Under those circumstances it's even more impressive that four of the five theme phrases are appearing for the first time in a major puzzle and AFRAID OF THE DOCK is making its first CS showing.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, I love how (CS debut) ROCK OPERA cuts a swath through TORI, IROC and MOCK...; and how we get a mini-math theme (overlapping and) running from top to bottom with ONE-THIRD [Ratio of a foot to a yard] and (CS debut) COTANGENT [Adjacent-over-opposite in right angles].

We also get a quintet of famed (if not all equally talented or deservedly famous...) females by way of their first names: ISAK (Dinesen), SONIA (Braga), TAMA (Janowitz), ENYA (yes-she-has-a-last-name Brennan), and TORI ([Spelling in Hollywood]).

Fave non-theme clue: [Site of many Spanish hangings] for EL PRADO. I let myself get completely misdirected by this one and was trying to come up with something Inquisition-related. Wrong.

And some words that I simply loved seeing in the grid—for their own sakes: DORIC, SWANK, PATIO, ICKIER, WOWS. And FOIST. Maybe we'll see this clued as [Initial ordinal] in a puzzle called "Brooklyn Accent"...


Doug Peterson's Los Angeles Times crossword

Well, I slept in until 9 this morning and need to get on with my day, so I will mostly plagiarize from L.A. Crossword Confidential post. I really enjoyed this puzzle, which took me three seconds less time than Doug's NYT puzzle. The two triple-stacks of 15's were terrific, and 8 of each stack's 15 crossings were 6- to 8-letter words. That makes for a much livelier solve than having a tremendous expanse of 3's and 4's, doesn't it? The fill was smooth, workable, and familiar, except for those three "huh?" answers in the southwest corner, where I had to work, work, work the crossings to assemble those answers:
  • 30D. [Highest rank in sumo] IS YOKOZUNA. Do you know this word? I sure didn't.
  • 31D. ["The __ of Confucius"] clues ANALECTS. Hmm? Analects (or analecta) are "a collection of short literary or philosophical extracts." Is it too late to call this blog "Analects About the L.A. Times Crossword Puzzle"?
  • 33D. [Patron saint of astronomers] is DOMINIC. I know there was a Dominic West on The Wire, and Dominic Monaghan played Charlie on Lost and Meriadoc Brandybuck in Lord of the Rings. Turns out this St. DOMINIC is the one the Dominican order is named after.

And here are the six terrific 15's:
  • 1A. [Winner of 49 Pulitzer Prizes] is the ASSOCIATED PRESS. Did you notice that THENEWYORKTIMES is also 15 letters long?
  • 16A. [Diner order] is a SPANISH OMELETTE. Does anyone prepare Spanish or Denver omelets (the spelling I prefer) at home. or do you just order them at restaurants?
  • 17A. [200-mph swooper] is the PEREGRINE FALCON. I know darn well that trains do not swoop, but I still wanted this to be some sort of bullet train, like the ones in Europe and Japan. Wow! A 200-mph bird? If you are a mouse hoping to avoid being the falcon's next meal, I'm sorry, but you don't stand a chance.
  • 46A. [Two-generation groups] clues NUCLEAR FAMILIES. Some of them tend to have atomic interpersonal relationships, but that has nothing to do with the phrase's origin, I'm sure.
  • 50A. [State collections] make up INTERNAL REVENUE. I just got my IRS refund this week. That money could buy a lot of crossword books...if only I weren't still trying to work through a backlog of puzzle publications.
  • 51A. [Some decks] are CASSETTE PLAYERS. Tape decks! Not boat decks.

Thanks for the double-dip cruciverbal treat, Doug!

S.N./Stan Newman's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

Most constructors are happiest when solvers may have to struggle with their puzzles, but can eventually finish. Stan Newman, it is rumored, lives to frustrate solvers and is happiest when someone can't finish his puzzle. Well, congrats, Stan, you got me on this one. But I'll explain why I didn't like the experience and we'll call it even. (Here's the solution.)

First problem: The grid's pretty much lopped into two separate puzzles. Only squares 24 and 44 connect the two halves of the grid, so all you're getting to lead you into the other half is a single D or S. Second problem: The southwest corner is anchored by [Steel product], which clues DROP SAFE. Say what? Apparently a drop safe is a safe that a business can drop money into and avoid having said money stolen throughout the day. Never heard of it—I think many convenience stores use these, but their "employees can't open safe" signs don't call 'em "drop safes." Then there are all sorts of vague clues. [Line of descent] is that SIDE of your family, ["Macbeth" excerpt] is apparently an opera ARIA (there's an opera by that name?), [Bauhaus course] is OP ART (didn't know Bauhaus and op art were connected, nor that there are classes in op art), and [Back online] is REPAIRED (but could easily be RESTORED, REBOOTED, or RE-other things-ED. Third problem: I'm simply too young for this puzzle. ["Divided We Fail" org.] is the AARP? I didn't know that. ["The Guns of Navarone" setting] is GREECE? Never saw it. A POLTROON is a [Big baby], a.k.a. a coward, in archaic language, and yet the clue is quite contemporary—alas, I was born after archaic language had already become archaic. Sure, 50D CAFE is a [Meeting place], but saying that the way one [Works at a 50 Down, perhaps] is that one SURFS is clunky. Nobody says they're "surfing the net" to work anymore. That usage is now archaic.

The northeast corner is where POLTROON held court with ANNO [___ Hegirae (Moslem reckoning)]. [At or I] is a HALOGEN element, but the atomic symbols are essentially abbreviations and HALOGEN is not abbreviated. Erik SATIE gets clued as a Jean [Cocteau collaborator]. The flower the DAHLIA is clued as an [Aztec food staple], which seems to be minor piece of trivia. Likewise, EDWARD VIII is the [Bahamas' wartime governor, previously].

Favorite clues/fill:
  • KINDA SORTA is [More or less].
  • [It's a little bigger than Alaska] clues LIBYA. I was thinking CHINA or INDIA first, but (a) they're too big and (b) India's mentioned in a crossing clue.
  • ["Chopin of the North"] clues Edvard GRIEG. Chopin was Polish, so my first thought was a Finnish composer north of Poland. Couldn't think of a 5-letter name that fit there, so I moved on to Norway and Sweden and came up with GRIEG.
  • Did you know DR. SEUSS was a [Devotee of anapestic tetrameter]?
  • At the Cru Crossword Fiend forum, folks were just talking about cyan, colors, and the differences between the color blends made by pigments vs. colored lights. So I was prepared to believe that
  • [Cyan + magenta] made ORANGE if lights were involved, but it turned out to be INDIGO, basically blue with a touch of violet.
  • [Flight-safety instrument] is a stairway RAILING. Ha! Good one. Perfect mislead.
  • I didn't recall that KERMIT the Frog was a [TV character with 3,265 siblings], but I love Kermit so I was happy when the crossings delivered him to me.