June 06, 2008

Saturday, 6/7

Newsday 9:25
LAT 5:07
NYT 4:26
CS 2:48

Karen Tracey's 68-word New York Times crossword hits that sweet spot—it's got those trademark entries that give me both a sense of recognition ("Ah, yes, there are the Scrabbly long entries," "Here's the kooky geographic name") and sheer enjoyment. If you're keeping score, I think it's something like 60 of Karen's puzzles that I liked, one that vexed me terribly, and a small handful I wasn't enthusiastic about.

Isn't it a pretty grid? I want to climb inside it with a Slinky and let the Slinky stairstep down the black-square diagonals. The marquee answers are the 12s:

  • KATZENJAMMER is a German word meaning [Hangover], or basically "squalling cats." I just read Joan Acocella's New Yorker article about hangovers the other day. Highlight: The Poles, reportedly, experience a “howling of kittens.” My favorites are the Danes, who get “carpenters in the forehead.”
  • An EXTRAVAGANZA is a [Big production].
  • The GRAF ZEPPELIN was a [1929 globe circumnavigator]. Did you try to squeeze JOHNLINDBERGH or AMELIAEARHART in there?
  • LAKE TITICACA is [High water?] because it's at a high elevation in the Andes.

My favorite clues and answers included the following:
  • [Cager Kukoc]'s first name is TONI, he's Croatian, he used to play for the Chicago Bulls, and he's kinda cute for a guy who's almost 7 feet tall.
  • [Nancy's home] is the French region LORRAINE. Have I mentioned that I like geography in my crosswords?
  • The Tanglewood double: LENOX, Massachusetts, the [Tanglewood Music Festival town] and Seiji OZAWA, the [Tanglewood concert hall dedicatee].
  • LENS [__ cap] is clean and simple, but not necessarily obvious.
  • If you're not familiar with SUN RA, the ["Jazz in Silhouette" composer], read up. And watch this clip.
  • On a computer, UNDO is a [Menu choice].
  • It's warm and muggy, and I could use a [Summer cooler] like ITALIAN ICE right about now.
  • [Uitlander foe] made me learn something: In the Boer War, the BOER side was against the uitlanders' side, the uitlanders being mostly British.
  • ASYLA is a tricky non-S plural meaning [Shelters].
  • [Audible small appliance] sounds like an iPod, doesn't it? Nope. It's a STEAM IRON, which goes SSSS, which is also a [Deflation indication].
  • OLD YELLER is a great entry. I had no idea it was a [1957 film with the 1963 sequel "Savage Sam"].
  • [Go into a cabin] means to go into an airplane cabin: ENPLANE.
  • ELOI gets a non-Time Machine clue: [Repeated word in Mark 15:34 that means "my God"].
  • [Attire for a trip around the world] is a G-SUIT worn in space.
  • [Child tenders] are CANNIBALISTIC FRIED SNACKS. No, wait. My bad. They're NANAS.

I don't know why [Track cover-up?] is a question-marked clue. It's a SWEATSHIRT. Is the clue supposed to evoke the steroids scandal in track and field? Miscellaneous other answers I pieced together with the crossings:
  • ISOMERISM is a chemistry-related [Quality of glucose and fructose]. I'll bet it's no coincidence that SWEETNESS also has 9 letters.
  • LA TOSCA is an [1887 play on which a 1900 opera is based].
  • SCHIZOIDS are [Some sufferers of personality disorders].
  • An ANODE is a [Part of a Crookes tube].
  • The [Poisoned husband in "Mourning Becomes Electra"] is named EZRA. Who knew?
  • A WAVEFRONT is [Any one of the concentric circles in a ripple, in physics]. Physics is not my forte.
  • SPINELS are [Red gemstones], but they can be other colors too.
  • [Bluebonnet] is a SCOT. Why? Apparently there's a blue hat that's worn by the Scottish, and the hat's name can be used to refer to the person wearing said cap.


Doug Peterson's themeless 68-word LA Times crossword has some starchy 15-letter entries crossing in the center (BUTTERNUT SQUASH, BREADFRUIT TREES), surrounded by corners with stacked 8s. Clues that slowed me down until the crossings pointed the way:
  • [Abridgement] for PRECIS
  • [Chaminade University site] for HONOLULU
  • [Barre des Ecrins, par exemple] for ALPE (I started with ISLE and moved to CAPE en route to the mountain)
  • [Undealt portion of the deck] for TALON
  • [Combs of Cooperstown] for EARLE
  • [Historic Umbria town] for TREVI
  • [Literary name for part of Britain] for SCOTIA—oh, that part of Britain!
  • [Kiss and stuff, in slang] for CANOODLE
  • [Highly structured echoic poems] for SESTINAS
  • ["Limp Preludes for a Dog" composer] for ERIK SATIE—promoted from crosswordese last-name-only status to full-name stardom
  • [Gleam] for RADIANCY
  • [Mt. St. ___, Alaska-Yukon peak] for ELIAS

None of those are particularly obscure, at least by crossword standards, so the puzzle put up some challenge without being vexing.

Daniel Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is mostly fair and fairly tough. With 10 plurals ending in S, four -ED past tenses, two -INGs, an -EST, and an -ER, plus lots of un-Scrabbly words like ENTREAT and ERASURE, the fill hasn't got much zing. I prefer the combo of zippy fill and twisty clues, not just one or the other. My favorite clues were [Exam mark] for ERASURE, [Former Surgeon General] Joycelyn ELDERS, and [They know the score] for OBOISTS (I wanted MAESTRI). I didn't care for FELT PEN/[Highlighter]; I prefer the term felt-tip pen and even though it's technically accurate, I've never heard someone call a highlighter a felt pen. Marker, maybe, but not pen. [Lamb, for one] is RED MEAT? Baa.

Randy Ross's CrosSynergy crossword, "Spoken Here," concocts some languages in a fun theme. WHEAT GERMAN (which sounds like an adjectival form of wheat germ) might be a [Language spoken by some European grain farmers?]. [Language spoken superbly by Hamlet?] is GREAT DANISH (Great Dane dog). [Language spoken by prospectors in the Urals?] is GOLD RUSSIAN (Gold Rush). And NORTH POLISH could be the [Language spoken by Santa?] (North Pole).