November 06, 2009

Saturday, 11/7/09

Newsday 8:26
NYT 7:02
LAT 4:05
CS untimed (J)/ 3:57 (A)

Bob Klahn's New York Times crossword

I had just finished drafting my L.A. Crossword Confidential post for Saturday when I checked Twitter and saw this from Rex Parker: "Sat. puzzle = KLAHN! Holy crap. I'd forgotten what it feels like to be brutalized by a puzzle." Bob Klahn does tend to brutalize his NYT solvers. The skewed clues you see in his CrosSynergy puzzles get sharpened to a razor's edge in the Times, and the fill's packed with not-your-usual-stuff, so you get material like this:

• 5D. SPANG means [Squarely], as in "I looked 'im spang in the eye."
• 10A. [Landlocked Muslim land], 4 letters...Iran, Iraq? No, MALI, over in Africa.
• 15A. Only-in-crosswords-now old-time movie cowboy Lash LARUE is clued as [Cheyenne Kid portrayer]. Anyone get this off the clue by knowing it rather than thinking "that sounds like an old Western thing, maybe it's that LARUE guy"?
• 23A. FROTHY like whipped cream? No, [Insubstantial]. You gotta eat a lot of whipped cream for the frothiness to reach the level of substantial.
• 24A. [Appeal from a diplomat] is DÉMARCHE. I have to look this one up in the dictionary..."a political step or initiative." Didn't know that. Also Frenchy: 28A: REGLE, [En ___ (by the rules: Fr.)].
• 26A. The YAZOO is a [Mississippi river named by La Salle]. I tried YAHOO first.
• 27A. [Local operation?] clues UNION SHOP, as in the union local.
• 34A. [Base of a column] isn't architectural, it's the SUM at the bottom of a column of numbers being added. I totally grasped what the clue wanted.
• 37A. [As different as night and day, e.g.] is a CLICHÉ. Hope you didn't spend much time trying to think of a 6-letter word for "opposite."
• 41A. I'd rather have ODALISQUE clued via the Ingres painting than as [Harem slave].
• 43A. [A slew] sounds singular but clues the plural RAFTS.
• 53A. SOFIA, Bulgaria, is the [World capital at the foot of Mount Vitosha]. Never heard of Mount Vitosha before.
• 52A/55A. Good gravy, two entries given over to [lead female role in TV's "Peter Gunn"], which was before my time/aside from my inclination: EDIE HART.
• 2D. [Dancer in a suite] is crosswordese ANITRA. I'll assume this relates to Grieg's Peer Gynt. In a similar category, we have 7D: ARIADNE, [Strauss heroine from classical myth].
• 3D. Israeli writer AMOS OZ wrote Black Box and My Michael years ago. More recently, he's ["A Tale of Love and Darkness" author, 2003].
• 4D. Of all the ways to clue SENATOR, they go with ["Damn Yankees" chorister]?
• 5D. SLATY is an adjective derived from slate. [Dull blue-gray]. Wouldn't you rather call it slate blue than SLATY? Of course you would.
• 6D. PALE is clued as [Cadaverous]. Hey! That's my complexion you're talking about here.
• 8D. [Cores] are NUCLEI. When I had the CLE in place, I was at a loss for what **CLES word meant cores.
• 11D. [Not likely to go with the flow], quite literally: AT ANCHOR.
• 13D. [Doughty] means INTREPID. Got this off the I near the end.
• 21D. [Low finish?] is SHOESHINE. Got this off the first two or three letters. Did anyone watch Parks & Recreation last night, with the shoeshine love triangle?
• 22D. NANCY DREW! She looks terrific in the grid. ["The Bungalow Mystery" solver] is your clue.
• 32D. I briefly wondered if this was about [The first complete navigation of the Amazon was in search of this]. EL DORADO.
• 33D. Trivia! TIA MARIA is a [Liqueur reputedly named for a noblewoman's chambermaid].
• 39D. Why did it take me that long to tease out LUCIFER for ["Doctor Faustus" character]?
• 42A. Wanted TAI CHI and I CHING before the crossings coaxed out QI GONG, the [Chinese meditative practice].
• 44D. [Casting option] in flyfishing is FLY ROD.
• 45D. I totally guessed on the [Four-note chord]. I know there's a triad, so I gambled on TETRAD for four.
• 51D. Holy schnikes, [Flagitious]? It means VILE, criminal, villainous. The word dates back to Late Middle English.

Klahn's puzzles do tend to make solvers gnash their teeth, pull their hair, rend their garments, and curse his name. How was it for you? Was it spang flagitious? I liked it and my teeth, hair, and garments are intact.

Updated Saturday morning (and no, you're not seeing double—yet...):

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Y Not"—Janie's review

This is a great puzzle to end the solving week with. The familiar drop-a-letter theme (you won't find the letter "Y" where you're used to seeing it) yields fill and cluing of the first order, and the remainder of the grid delights in equal measure. As regular solvers of the CS puzzle know (and regular puzzle-solvers as a group know), our constructor is NO SLOUCH, a far more than [Fairly capable one]. As a result, the SHINE [Twinkle] factor today couldn't be higher. Starting with the theme fill, there's:

• 17A. "ISN'T IT A PIT?" [Guess when asked what one calls where the orchestra plays?]. Whether your taste runs to Gershwin, a non-SITAR-playing Harrison or Clapton (covering Harrison), there's an "Isn't It a Pity?" for you.
• 21A. STAG PART [Antler?]. Did you catch The Hangover? If you think that was an outrageous depiction of the stag party rite, do check out some of the traditions in other parts of the world.
• 33A and 35A. THREE TO / GET READ [...the fine print, the riot act, ad your palm?]. Elvis—whose [...early...albums] appeared in MONO)—explains it all in "Blue Suede Shoes"... Love this one, because of the specificity of the clue and for the way the fill-pair crosses the grid at center.
• 51A. DUCK DECO [Design scheme on display at Donald's domicile?]. That's one very funny concept, but with those "V"-like flight formations, maybe it's not such a stretch. The FAQs of this duck decoy site should clarify your "'why-a-duck-' decoy?" questions.
• 55A. PEACE TREAT [Reward for ending the war?]. While this one doesn't go as amusingly far afield as its theme-mates, a peace treaty really is a peace treat.

A word (or three) about construction elements in the grid before looking at the rest of the puzzle. Note: the way 17A overlaps 21A with three letters (ditto 51A and 55A); the triple columns of eight in the NW and SE corners, and the triples of six in the NE and SW; and the complete absence of the letter "Y" in the grid as a whole. "Y Not" indeed, and in this way, a kissin' cousin to Patrick Blindauer's 10/26 "What's Eating U?"

Bob has also unified the puzzle in his inimitable cluing style. There are some 15 alliterative clues which raise the "wit" level of both lively and everyday fill. Some faves include:

• [Cauldron concoction contributor] for NEWT ( think of "the Scottish play"...);
• [Role for Reeve or Reeves] for KENT (a/k/a "Superman," so that'd be George Reeve or Christopher Reeves);
• [Show shamelessly] for FLAUNT;
• [Priggish pronouncements] for TUTS (which might be heard in response to something RIBALD [Bawdy]); and
• [Banshee's bailiwick] for EIRE, whose first "E" was the last letter to go as I solved. That crossing with EOCENE [Epoch in which modern mammals emerged] was tough for me.

Then, Bob has included seven "sequential" clue pairs—where there's a word in the first that's repeated (usually to different effect) in the second. Again, this tends to up the ante on even familiar three- and four-letter fill. Among the best are:

• [Friendly start?] for the oft-seen ECO- and [Big start?] for BANG. No, not exactly as in the "Big Bang theory," but as in the idiomatic expression "start with a bang." When you want to grab the attention of your audience, it's a good idea to give 'em something they'll remember, so start with a bang. That's the kind of "big start" this clue is talking about. This one's twisty, and I like it!

• [Diamond clubs] for BATS (so that's the baseball "diamond") and [Its birthstone is the diamond (abbr.)] for APR (where "diamond" is literally the gem).

• ["One Piece] AT A [Time" (1976 Johnny Cash hit)] and [50 Cent piece] for RAP SONG. The Cash song makes me laugh; the 50 Cent material doesn't...

Finally, some random fill and clues that are more than pleasing:

• the cross of TRIP [Junket] and TREK [Space odyssey];
• [Drawing room session?]/ART CLASS;
• [Cold Italian coneful]/GELATO;
• [Capital place to talk Turkey]/ANKARA;
• [Blow the suds off (your suds)]/BEHEAD (one superb combo!); and, because it's that time of the year, the colorful
• [Pyramid-shaped ornamentals that turn bright red in autumn]/PIN OAKS (at left...).

See how much more playful Klahn's clues are in a CrosSynergy puzzle?

Weird but true: Last night I had a wee spoonful taste of some sweet corn/honey GELATO with NUBS ([Kernels]) of corn in it. Vegetables in ice cream is...not where I'm at.

Bob Peoples' Los Angeles Times crossword

Full write-up over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Excerpts:

This puzzle mostly left me cold, though I enjoyed the retro '90s oomph of 42D: EUROPOP clued as [Ace of Base genre]. A few of the answers crossing it are just insane, though:

• 41A: [Tiny white ovum] (ANT EGG). Uh, ick.
• 48A: [Iberian river] (DOURO). Okay, I have been paying attention to our Crosswordese Rivers of Europe my whole life, and this one? Is not ringing a bell.
• 52A: [Noilly __: vermouth brand] (PRAT). Pratfall, yes. Noilly Prat? Not ringing a bell.

Other unusual inclusions:

• 15A: [Bridge bid, briefly] (THREE NO). Three? No. What? I've seen ONENO as desperation fill in other crosswords, but now THREENO is taking up even more space. Is this totally legit bridge-speak or desperation fill?
• 17A: [Old Meccan governors] (SHARIFS). If you're in my generation, you know SHARIF from The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" perhaps even more than via Omar Sharif. Omar would know THREE NO, wouldn't he?
• 32A: [Shrub with clusters of blue flowers] (HYSSOP). A much prettier word than anything that sounds like "hiccup" has a right to be.
• 4D: [Three times, in Rx's] (TER). Meh. Doctors never write this on a prescription. They'll write tid, short for ter in die, Latin for "three times a day." But they're just not going to spell out TER.

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

Anyone else find this one tougher than the Klahn NYT? My main trouble spots:

• 36D. [Road debut of 1908] is the Ford MODEL T.
• 1A. [Minor mistakes] aren't SLIPUPS or BOOBOOS but BOBBLES.
• 16A. [Screenwriter?] clues E-MAILER. Don't care for E-MAILER as fill. E-MAILED, yes. (See also 14D: TRYSTER, [Romeo or Juliet].)
• 17A. [Rectangular cell] is a NINE-VOLT BATTERY.
• 31A. [Hang over] is MENACE. Not EXTEND, nope. Not even close.
• 32A. [Expedient course] clues POLICY. Not every POLICY is expedient. Some are convoluted or ill-advised or require a tremendous waste of effort.
• 36A. [Makes fast] clues MOORS, as in mooring a boat. Took forever to piece together, even with most of the crossings,
• 41A. ["Canale" crosser] is an Italian bridge, or PONTE.
• 44A. [Western star] is the sheriff's BADGE.
• 8D. [Cats' beats] are BEBOPS. That can be pluralized? I thought of ALLEYS first, and then STOOPS with a few crossings.
• 10D. [Palm product] is a DATE, the fruit from a palm tree. Not the Palm TREO.
• 13D. [Ben Affleck's birthplace] is BERKELEY, California, and not Boston? Who knew?