August 21, 2009

Saturday, 8/22

NYT 6:24
LAT 3:52
Newsday untimed (but not too tough by Stumper standards)
CS untimed (solved with "Downs")

Karen Tracey's New York Times crossword

I had just done the Saturday L.A. Times crossword and appreciated it for its KarenTraceyosity, so it was a lovely surprise to launch the NYT and find a bona fide Karen Tracey puzzle. It's got her hallmarks—Scrabbly letters, names, geography, lively phrases. Highlights:

  • 1A. A spy or [Spook's break-in] is a BAG JOB. I had trouble piecing together 2- and 3-Down, thanks to not remembering this colorful term.
  • 16A. Fresh BRIAN ENO clue! [Co-composer of the "Prophecy Theme" in "Dune"]. I totally guessed on this.
  • 19A. A completely unfamiliar (to me) golf term is FOOZLED, or [Muffed on the green]. Fun to say!
  • 37A. [Olympic gold medalist who was a "Dancing With the Stars" champion]...first I counted to make sure the grid was 15 squares wide. Nope, APOLO ANTON OHNO won't fit. (Maybe he didn't win DWTS anyway.) What's gymnast SHANNON's last name? Doesn't matter—her O conflicted with the I in NITA, [New York congresswoman Lowey]. Thanks to the crossings, KRISTI YAMAGUCHI finally found her way into my puzzle. I refuse to watch that show until Rulon Gardner gets a chance. What, you don't think a beefy wrestler could best Tom DeLay?
  • 46A. Good clue for SUEDE: [Kid that has a nap], "kid" being leather and not a child or young animal.
  • 67A. Finally, something specific for crosswordese ARETES: [The Sierra Nevada Minarets, e.g.]. Don't know what the Minarets are, but I can kinda picture them now.
  • 4D. Suber-Scrabbly JAZZ SESSION is a [Swingers' get-together?].
  • 25D. Unusual letter sequence in ACTAEON, the [Mythological hunter].
  • 27D. The Scrabbly ALBUQUERQUE is [Home of the annual Gathering of Nations powwow, the world's largest celebration of Native American culture]. It's heartening that the biggest powwow's in the U.S., isn't it? Imagine if it were in France. Or Russia—home of OREL, a [Russian oblast or its capital]. I do have a soft spot for 4-letter Russian crosswordese geography.
  • 39D. [Yak] isn't just a burly bovine. It's also IDLE CHAT.
  • 48D. "What's the DAMAGE?" you might ask when it's time to pay. DAMAGE is the [Hit to the wallet].
  • 57D. A [Cutting-edge development?] is a SCAR.

One demerit: 31D: BLAS could've used a Gil Blas clue rather than [Panama's San ___ Islands] since SAN is in SAN REMO, [Italian city with an annual music festival].

This puzzle seemed of standard Saturday difficulty to me, but I'm seeing some uncommonly long finishing times on the applet. Where did people get hung up? I'm guessing it was the northwest corner.

Updated Saturday morning:

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Poetry Reading"—Janie's review

Do you remember the first time you realized that you really liked poetry? For me, it was in my junior year of high school English and the introduction to Walt Whitman as part of our American Literature unit. Whitman was very free with all of the elements I'd previously understood to be part of "good poetry"—and what a great discovery that was! The elements in question? Why, you'll find them at the end of each of today's theme-phrases:
  • 17A. [Tile size, perhaps] SQUARE FOOT. "A group of syllables, composed usually of a stressed syllable and one or two unstressed syllables. The foot is the major unit of most traditional English poetry written since the Renaissance. The most common feet are the following: iamb ( ˘ˊ), trochee (ˊ˘ ), anapest ( ˘ ˘ ˊ) and dactyl ( ˊ˘ ˘ ). ..."
  • 11D. ["The Big Bang" rapper who voiced a character in "The Rugrats Movie"] BUSTA RHYMES. You all know what rhymes are, but in case (like me) you need to know more about Mr. Rhymes, this may help.
  • 25D. [Sign of being a non-native speaker] THICK ACCENT. "Emphasis on certain syllables or words. ... Although linguists make a distinction between the words 'stress' and 'accent,' they are used interchangeably in conventional prosody [study of the structure of poetry]." (Just in case you were wonderin'...)
  • 61A. [Utility's measuring device] WATER METER. "The meter of a line is determined by the predominating foot and the number of feet in the line." Go back to your Shakespeare here (Romeo and Juliet'll do) if you need an example of, say, iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line):
    Two households both alike in dignity
    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...
    All definitions, by the way, courtesy of the glossary in Poets and Poems, edited by Herbert Goldstone and Irving Cummings.)
Poetry not your thing? Don't worry. Lynn also gives you sports fans the ASTROS [Houston celebs] and PLACE [Come in second at the track] to contemplate, or musical genius (madman?) Peter Schickele a/k/a [J.S. Bach's fictional descendent] P.D.Q. for you music lovers.

But I gotta tell ya, I admire the poetic balance in such clues/fill as: [Loads]/LOTS and [Loads]/TONS; [Word on a Lipton box]/TEA and [Word on a Lipton box]/PEKOE; the two (possibly CATERED) events, BBQS [Many summer cookouts] and the LUAU [Maui meal]; and [Emits forcefully]/SPEWS and "BLAST IT!"/["Rats!"].

This morning I'm going to HIE TO the SUBWAY [Underground railway] headed for Queens, for Ryan and Brian's Lollapuzzoola 2. Given the PACE of my solving "talent," it won't take a TAROT reading to predict my results. But it'll be great to socialize-and-solve on what's predicted to be a pretty soggy Saturday here in NYC!

Peter Wentz's Los Angeles Times crossword

I loved the fill in this puzzle. I know my fondness for having people's names in the grid is not a universal fondness, so this crossword might drive some solvers nuts...but I love it. The juxtaposition of [Leader with a bouffant hairdo]—not Margaret Thatcher but KIM JONG-IL—with LIL JON, the ["Crunk Juice" rapper], is inordinately pleasing to me. "Kim Jong-il and Lil Jon, together again!" Throw in the [Stadium vendor's cry] "COLD BEER!" and the cheesy '80s Shatner series T.J. HOOKER, not to mention the JEB BUSH/TED DANSON combo, the slanginess of "You BETCHA!" and RECKON/[S'pose], and cool words/phrases like THWART and KNEE-JERK, and you've got yourself a winner.

More on this puzzle in my L.A. Crossword Confidential writeup.

Merle Baker's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

This one felt like it relied heavily on word endings. -ED x 5, -S x 19, -ER x 3 (UTTERER and AIRER are seldom used in English), -EST x 2. See? It's a 66-worder, and those are hard to make without tacking on word endings. Patrick Berry's 66-word Friday NYT crossword had 11 such endings, vs. this one's 29. I don't know how Berry does it.

Ten clues/answers:
  • 16A: A Utah [Jazz performance] is an NBA GAME. Good entry, good mislead in the clue.
  • Technical jargon collision: 5D: PHON is a [Sound unit] and 17A: OSTEOID means [Bonelike]. "Boy, those high jumpers in Berlin are totally OSTEOID."
  • Government agency pileup: 39A: [Occupational Outlook Handbook issuer: Abbr.] is BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics, yes?) and 44A: [Fair-hiring org.] is the EEOC.
  • 3D: [Ford vehicles] clues OATERS, meaning western movies directed by John Ford. Coming soon to a Ford dealership near you!
  • 10D: TARES is old-school crosswordese trucking/shipping jargon. A misleading clue is wasted on a word like that. [Some deductibles] sounds like it's about insurance but it's TARES? There's no payoff there.
  • 39D: [Grasp the true meaning of] clues BE ONTO. "I'm onto you now" sounds perfectly natural but BE ONTO just looks weird to me. Isn't that one of the Finger Lakes in New York?
  • 46D: I didn't know WART ws [Arthur's nickname in "The Once and Future King"].
  • 47D: What else could [School that observes St. Andrew's Day] be but ETON, the crossword's favorite 4-letter British school?