November 30, 2007

Saturday, 12/1

Newsday 8:06
NYT 7:45
LAT 6:35
CS 2:57

My, isn't that an imposing grid! Robert Wolfe's New York Times puzzle is pushing people towards some uncommonly lengthy solves. Why? Well, for starters, it's a 58-word crossword and two of the quadrants are severed from the rest of the puzzle save for a single answer connecting each to the middle. There were also a number of quicksand traps with multiple tempting answers, obscure references in some clues, obscure names in the grid, and a bunch of "roll your own" words (formed with suffixes, mainly -er here) that don't come readily to mind.

My favorite answer is KARSTS ([Limestone regions with deep fissures and sinkholes]), because I read the clue and knew that I knew it, but at first couldn't remember anything other than that it had a K. It helped kick-start that corner for me. Aside from the sinkholes, where was the quicksand? [Maximally mangy] is SEEDIEST (could be SEAMIEST). [Where much info can be found these days] is ON THE NET (could be ON THE WEB or INTERNET). Once you suspect who the [Dualistic deity] is, you still have to choose the right spelling—here it's AMON-RA, but AMEN-RA is a familiar spelling...and Wikipedia goes for AMUN. (Delicious factoid from Wikipedia: the words ammonia, ammonite {I want to buy a sliced, polished ammonite fossil}, and foraminifera are all derived from Amun/Ammon.) If you figure out that [Prince William, e.g.] is a big brother, you need to choose between ELDER SON (correct) and OLDER SON (wrong). [Comments of annoyance]: DRATS, not DARNS, DANGS, or DAMNS. And [Receive]! It's INCEPT, which one rarely hears outside of inception. ACCEPT, of course, has the same last four letters. Even the [Fawning type]—I went with GROVELER, but it's SLAVERER, which is a word that sounds good with a couple extra -ers tacked on.

Let's run through a few clues in each quadrant. In the northwest: BILLED is not the first thing that comes to mind for [Publicized]. [Baseball Hall-of-Famer Orlando] is Mr. CEPEDA; didn't know him but enjoyed the bio. [Sore spot] is an ABSCESS here. A PIPESTEM is [Something for Santa Claus to bite]. [Gear teeth trouble] means SLIPPAGE. [Bananas] is the clue for MENTAL, and I'd prefer a clue that focuses on cognitive function rather than sort of joshing at the expense of the mentally ill.

In the northeast: Editing papers like this has taught me that PLEURA is the [Lung covering]. The [Phrase of interest] is about the interest rate PER ANNUM. I like the criss-cross of RUMORS ([Products of some "mills"]) and the [Grapevine exhortation] to PASS IT ON. [Wolf __, captain in Jack London's "The Sea-Wolf"] is LARSEN. There are three of what Rex calls "odd jobs": a [Veterinarian, at times] is an ALTERER, [Banes] are RUINERS, and [Merger], which sounds like a union, is UNITER (odd-job clue for an odd-job answer: twice the oddness).

Moving to the southeast: [Webers per square meter] are TESLAS. [John Deere product] is REAPER (aw, no Grim Reaper reference?). [__ Gamp, nurse in "Martin Chuzzlewit"] stumps everyone who never bothered to read that Dickens novel (raise your hand if you've actually read it)—tough clue for SARAH, plain and simple. This corner's other obscure literary reference is SEERESS, ["The Prophecy of the ___" (Eddic poem)]. [Nancy's home] in France is LORRAINE, home of the quiche. I like the word ANTIPODE, [Direct opposite].

Back down to the KARSTS quadrant: Could you fill in the blank in ["The Daughters of Joshua __" (1972 Buddy Ebsen film)]? It's CABE. (And here's a pictorial retelling of the story from this made-for-TV movie, which also featured Sandra Dee and Karen Valentine.) [Pull off] is ACHIEVE—and the reversed clue, [Pull in], appears nearby (ARRIVE). The odd job MOUNTER is a taxidermist. No, a porn star. No, actually, [One who's getting on]. The [Winner's pride] is the TOP SCORE. [Cigarette smoke byproducts] include many toxins, such as ACETONES (which are also helpful for removing nail polish and dissolving plastic). I rather like [Producers of wall flowers?] for CREEPERS (e.g., trumpet creepers).


Karen Tracey's LA Times crossword has a lot of juicy stuff in it, including some particularly deft clues. I had no idea who was the ["Oppression et Liberte" author], but I've heard of SIMONE WEIL and with enough crossings, she firmed up nicely. ["Shirley, Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life" is one] refers to a misheard lyric, a MONDEGREEN. Without Googling it, I can't say what the real lyric's supposed to be. [Day one] is the DAWN OF TIME, which I hear is a phrase oft deployed in lousy college term papers. "Since the dawn of time..." Maybe also on ESSAY TESTS, as [They don't lend themselves to guessing] but padding is tempting. (Also on school papers: [Thesis defenders, at times] may be CITERS.) [One might make you stop and think] is a singular SCRUPLE. LA VIDA LOCA is a nice complement to the J answers (RED JASMINE crossing JORJA Fox crossing a JIFFY, PRIVATE JET crossing TOJO, JAPED crossing MAJUSCULES). I liked the clues for two of those J words—[Twinkling] is a noun meaning JIFFY, and MAJUSCULES is a fancy word for [Capital letters]. Karen previously tormented me with JACQUELINE DUPRE in a grid, so this time DUPRE is [Barbizon School artist Jules]; not any easier, but at least shorter and with easier crossings.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, another Marcel Marceau tribute, is really easy. Hmm, maybe having done another Marcel Marceau tribute puzzle in the last couple weeks helped me out here.

Well, the laser printer is waiting for my kid's computer to rejoin the household network, so I can't print out the Newsday Saturday Stumper yet. It's almost time for lunch at La Creperie followed by a movie followed by a winter storm warning. If I make it back from the movie (just a mile and a half away), I can do the puzzle later. And yes, I know that the Newsday puzzles are also available in an online Java applet, but I cannot abide the crossword applets other than the Times's proprietary one. (I calls 'em "crapplets.")

Updated Saturday night:

Stan Newman, writing as "Anna Stiga," made the Newsday Saturday Stumper. Best fill: SISYPHEAN (clued as [Eternally frustrating]...which may describe many people's experience with today's NYT crossword), ONE'S OWN MAN, Queen NEFERTITI, LOOSEY-GOOSEY, and CONDE NAST. Least favorite clue: [Not to mention] for TABOO. Give me a sentence in which the two are interchangeable that doesn't sound like it's really stretching it. Clues I liked: [What 1000 may stand for] for TEN AM; [Nickname for José] for PEPE and [Bishop of Roma] for PAPA (no PUPU platter or POPO here, alas); and [Not open] for CAGY and [Close] for STOP, muddling the open and shut doors concept. Did it seem a tad off to have ABE FORTAS in there, first and last name, when the [Blackmun's predecessor] clue includes only a last name?