August 16, 2008

Saturday, 8/16

NYT 9:52
Newsday 6:34
LAT 4:36
CS 3:10

Is everyone running around sleep-deprived this week, staying up an hour or two later than usual watching the Olympics? I've been yawning since lunchtime today, and was out all day celebrating MY BIRTHDAY. Then I come home and face the New York Times crossword by Byron Walden, and it nearly slaughtered me. Is it because I'm tired out? Is it because I'm in (to paraphrase Ellen Ripstein quoting someone else) my very late 30s now that I struggled with the crossword. Granted, it also looks to be a wickedly tough crossword (though I hear Rex has labeled it medium-challenging...hmm), with unexpected fill and lotsa hard clues.
The hardest stuff:

  • MSNBC [began with the slogan "It's time to get connected"]. A slogan like that sounds apt for about 100 major companies or products, doesn't it?
  • TENURABLE is a word? [Like some college appointments] is the clue. I guess Byron should know, as he's got tenure.
  • ["Breakfast at Tiffany's" actor] is EBSEN. Buddy Ebsen from The Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones?
  • [___ Island, birthplace and longtime home of Cornelius Vanderbilt] is STATEN. Really? I was waiting for the crossings to remind me of the name of some exclusive resort island in that area, but no, it's Staten Island.
  • RICHARDS is the last name of both Mary on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and [Reed ___, Mr. Fantastic of Marvel Comics].
  • [Drift Prairie sharers] are the DAKOTAS. Not the Indians, but the states—read about the geography here.
  • I just learned of the Yodo River's existence in a recent crossword clue. Four-letter river? How is this not showing up in crossword grids?? The [City of 2 1/2 million at the mouth of the Yodo River] is OSAKA. Just above it in the grid is TACOMA, [Western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad].
  • [With 58-Across, violinists' productions] are HARMONIC / TONES.
  • James Birdseye MCPHERSON was a Union general in the Civil War.
  • ST. GERARD is the [Patron saint of pregnant women], apparently.
  • [___ Tres Marias (Mexican islands)] is lacking merely an article: LAS.
  • [Lion and unicorn wearer] is a BRITON. Hmm.
  • [Spiritedly, on scores] is CON ANIMA. I haven't seen that before, I don't think, but crosswords have taught me animato.
  • Wasn't there a Dorothy STRATTON? No, she spelled it with an E. STRATTON is clued as ["Silver Spoons" family name], and that's a show I never watched.
The cleverest or most surprising stuff:
  • My favorite clue is [Columbus's flagship?], OHIO STATE in Columbus, Ohio, flagship of Ohio's public university system.
  • My favorite answer is HOLY SMOKE! Clued as ["Yikes!"].
  • An Indiana [Pacer pacer?] is a SHOT CLOCK in basketball.
  • A dancing ROCKETTE is [One in a line of 36]. My first thought was some sort of royal lineage.
  • [Winston Smith's greatest fear, in "1984"] was RATS. No recollection of this.
  • Boring old STENO gets a decent clue, [Recording artist?].
  • In tennis, a LET is a [Serve without consequence].
  • [Protection for someone on the run?] refers to the ski run, and thus a SKI PARKA.
  • [Fancy entrees] are VIP PASSES.
  • [Like corn dogs] or other state fair food = ON A STICK. ([Corn dog alternatives] are CONEYS.)
  • [Company retirement asset?] is where your houseguests sleep, a SLEEP SOFA. We call it a sleeper sofa or a sofabed around these parts.
  • [Hope can always be found here] means the town in ARKANSAS, where Bill Clinton was from.
  • [Used lofty words?] clues SKYWROTE. Chicago's annual Air and Water Show is this weekend; we saw a quartet of biplanes doing a precision formation and poofing out streams of smoke. We'll head to the lakefront Saturday or Sunday afternoon to let jets scream overhead. (Speaking of planes and whatnot, [Attain on the wing] is SOAR TO.)
  • TALL ONES, or beers, can be [Hoisted quaffs].
In the "maybe not so tough, and also not so fun" category:
  • [Arizona pol Jon]'s last name is KYL. He and others are SENS.
  • KETONE is a [Compound used to stabilize perfumes].
  • To NESTLE is to [Spoon, say]. Actually, this is kinda fun. And it has nothing to do with Silver Spoons.
  • A [Doozy] is a PIP, but I'll only be using the former term.

So: really challenging crossword, medium-challenging, or easier than that? Seemed like one of the toughest of the year to me, but maybe I'm just tired.


Frederick Healy's LA Times crossword didn't have any big sticking points. This 72-worder has plenty of long phrases in ordinary English, with a handful of abbreviations and foreign or archaic words to toughen things up:
  • [Angelo's instrument] is ARPA, Italian for "harp."
  • [Lille liver] is FOIE, "liver" in French. [Steps for Sarkozy?] are French DANSE steps.
  • PESOS are [Cuban currency] too.
  • "ERES Tu," the 1974 hit, is Spanish but awfully common in crosswords. If you're tackling a themeless Saturday puzzle, you should know this one by now.
  • STOL means (I think) "short takeoff and landing." It's a [USAF plane for short runways].
  • A [Visored helmet] is an ARMET.
  • The last name of ["Saddam's Secrets" author Georges Hormuz ___] is SADA. Family actress Sada Thompson wants to reclaim her rights to all SADA clues.

My favorite long answers are these ones:
  • KARATE CHOP gets my favorite clue: [Hand cuff?].
  • ONE OVER PAR in golf, a [Great round for most].
  • WITTICISMS are [Much of Marx's philosophy], though I'm not sure Groucho Marx's joking falls under the rubric of "philosophy."
  • CRACK OF DAWN is [First light]. I'm quite weary of those who use the phrase "asscrack of dawn."
  • SAM WALTON is a [Noted club founder], as in Sam's Club stores.

Ray Hamel's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" was definitely easier than Byron's NYT but knottier than the LAT. The top and bottom halves of the grid have stacks with an 11, 14, and 12. So, a POWDER MONKEY is a [Worker on old warships]? Hmm. A Stephen [King offering] is a SPINE-TINGLER. The [Ornamental shrub] called COTONEASTER grew in my parents' front yard when I was a teen, so that one was easy for me. To [Show stress] can be to HYPERVENTILATE. A boat's [Course director] steers it—the HELMSMAN. To [Welcome enthusiastically] is to RING IN the new year. I would like to RING IN people who arrive at my house, too. Wouldn't that be fun? Confetti and noisemakers, champagne at the ready? I figured the [Four-time Vardon Trophy winner] would be a hockey player but it's legendary golfer Sam SNEAD. There are two CY- people in the grid, and Cyrus Vance is feeling left out; [Slavic saint] CYRIL and CYBELE, the [Greek "mother goddess"], are hogging the limelight. (There's also actor Cyrus Farmer, who went to college with me.)

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Grounded Pilots." The theme entries are puns on TV shows, positing the existence of shows with the punnily altered titles. [Pilot about a Hanna-Barbera character?] is NAME THAT TOON (Tune). [Plot about a charm school rescue operation?] is SAVED BY THE BELLE (Bell); I hope there'd be room in the storyline for Screech. [Pilot about an airline on strike?] is AMERICAN IDLE (Idol).