September 19, 2008

Saturday, 9/20

Newsday 5:48
NYT 5:42
LAT 4:38
CS 4:00

(updated at 2 p.m. Saturday)

My, oh my, what a glorious day today. I spent seven hours outside enjoying the warm September sun and the cool lake breezes. I hope it's equally lovely where you are this weekend. Speaking of this weekend, it's next weekend I'll be out of town, not this one—so guest bloggers will be in charge next weekend. Janie will be out of town next weekend too, so she'll give us her perspective on this Sunday's NYT and I will sit on my duff instead.

The Saturday New York Times crossword by Joe Krozel dishes up just 58 words, not a one of 'em only 3 letters long. The breakdown is four 4's, six 5's, 24 6's, six 7's, and 18 8's. Given the low word count, you expect to see a few roll-your-own words, here represented mostly by some "odd jobs." (That was Rex Parker's label for those -ER entries you may find in a grid like this—identical to this puzzle from a couple years ago that also had odd-jobbers in the fill.) Krozel's puzzle uses those odd-job entries as the grout between some really shiny tiles in this crossword. The shiniest entries are ones you might not expect to find in a 58-worder:

  • JEB BUSH is the [Founder of the Foundation for Florida's Future]. Change two letters and you end up with NEBBISH...
  • Colloquial "I MEANT IT!" is clued ["That wasn't a joke!"], and "I FORGOT" is a [Lame excuse]. ["You ___!"] could be completed by a number of words and phrases but this time, it's BETCHA.
  • [Its capital is Gaborone] tests your knowledge of African geography: BOTSWANA. Moving over to Asia, we have the HIMALAYA, an [Asian range, with "the"].
  • A [Bit of regalia] is a SCEPTER, not a cognate of skeptic. (I checked.)
  • ARTICLE I [contains the three-fifths clause]. If your American history and constitutional knowledge is rusty, you can read up on the clause here.
  • A [Set piece?] is a GEMSTONE, which may be set in a metal setting. 
The odd-job entries include a [Drama queen] who's an EMOTER; SPEEDERS who [might be weaving]; a [Ballerina, often], or LEAPER; an APPROVER, or [One signing off]; and SEEKERS, [Participants in a kids' game]. The latter word could have been clued with reference to Harry Potter's position in the game of quidditch. Akin to the odd jobs are some slightly unnatural-sounding phrases: NEAR TO is [By]; SHIP IN is [Send from abroad]; and CART IN is [Deliver by truck]. A third "in" phrase, BASH IN, or [Break by hitting], feels smoother to me.

Other clues:
  • [Sports equipment wired for scoring] are EPEES.
  • [Separator of light and dark] is a TAN LINE. Also a laundry sorter...
  • ["Les Mains Sales" playwright, 1948] is SARTRE. The title is French for "dirty hands."
  • [Delivered by a third person, perhaps] clues NARRATED.
  • What is [typically easier to give than take]? ADVICE, that's what.
  • DEHISCES is clued as [Bursts open, as legume seedpods]. I'm more accustomed to seeing the word in its medical setting, as in "wound dehiscence." I don't think I want to Google that.
  • PINAFORE is clued as a [Blouse coverer]. In America, the pinafore is called a jumper.
  • [Said while pounding a fist, say] is DEMANDED.
  • [It's free of charge] refers to a NEUTRINO. Don't ask me the difference between neutrons and neutrinos.
  • [It needs to be built up when it's bad] means CREDIT. Nationally, I think there's a lot of credit building needed at this stage in the game.
  • [Lucia's brother in "Lucia di Lammermoor"] is ENRICO. Did you know this, or just let the crossings coax out an Italian male name for you?
  • Chris ISAAK is the [Singer of the 1991 hit "Wicked Game"]. Here's the sultry video. Now, who wants all that grainy sand clinging to their skin? Honestly.
  • NAPS are [Refreshing things]. Raise your ADES in a toast if that was your first answer here.
I tend to dislike a lot of the low-word-count crosswords, but this one had enough zippy fill to keep me content—plus, it lacked any crappy or obscure entries that might've irked me while solving. Well done, Joe.


And well done, Doug, too—Doug Peterson's 72-word Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is loaded with wonderful clues and answers. Some of the clues flouted my expectations—for example, [Pound pieces] must refer to Ezra Pound's POEMS, right? Haven't we seen that clue before? But no, it's monetary PENCE. [Triple Crown winner of '67], yuck, some horse-racing reference and a horse I don't care about, right? No, it's baseball's CARL YASTRZEMSKI and his Polish STRZ string in the middle of his name. More favorite clues:
  • ["Oklahoma!" character]—oh, great, some musical theater character I don't know, right? Nope, it surprised me by being the EXCLAMATION MARK in the show's title.
  • I was on the right path with [Vandals, e.g.], thinking of medieval Europeans but not getting TRIBESMEN without a lot of crossings.
  • For [Part of a boxer's training], I was convinced it had to do with pugilism. Nope, dogs—OBEDIENCE training.
  • [Selling points] aren't just assets, they're places where things are sold, or MARTS.
  • A [Conversation piece] that's a tool used for conversation is a PHONE.
  • [Nicks on some records] is STEVIE Nicks, not physical nicks.
  • You have to be online a lot to know that ASTERISKS can be used as [Password concealers], though on my Mac I more often see black circles rather than asterisks.
  • YES is a [Triumphant shout]. AHA was my first thought there.
  • [Caddy cleaners] that wash Cadillacs are CARWASHES. Not golf, not tea caddies.
The other answers I liked best included PLOTZ, or [Faint]; CRIES WOLF, or [Is overly alarming]; and OKEY DOKEY, or ["I'm game"]. This wasn't as hard as many Stumpers, but it's not as if it was packed with instant gimmes either. It struck a perfect balance of lightness and rigor, and I loved the overall cluing.

Doug Peterson also constructed the 70-word LA Times crossword. The grid features four 15-letter entries in stacked pairs. Up top, SWIMMING LESSONS are [Occasions to see butterflies] of a sort, and [Mahouts drive them] refers to INDIAN ELEPHANTS. Down below, MARIE ANTOINETTE ([Reign of Terror victim]) clashes beautifully with THE THREE STOOGES (["A Plumbing We Will Go" team]). I like that dissonance between French history and slapstick comedy. Did the Stooges ever use the guillotine?

Favorite clues:
  • ["My only love sprung from my only hate!" speaker] is JULIET. Do we all remember that line from Romeo and Juliet?
  • [Flap near a mirror] is not referring to your bathroom mirror. Rather, it's the rearview mirror in your car, near a SUN VISOR.
  • [City where balsamic vinegar originated] is MODENA. This summer, my kid discovered he loves balsamic vinegar. Who doesn't?
  • [One who gives a hoot?] is a BOOER, someone who is hooting and jeering and booing. Boo, Cardinals!

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Taking Sides," is another with the "three words that fit a clue mashed together in a 15-letter space" theme:
  • [Three words that precede "side"] are FLIP MOUNTAIN SEA and HIGH WILD SUNNY. Working from right to left on that first one, I thought all three would be nature/landscape "sides," but no, the first one in the trio is FLIP. "High side" isn't a familiar phrase to me, unless it's part of "that's a bit on the high side," in terms of price. And "sunny side" seems to want an "up" or "down" after it..although there is a street in the neighborhood called Sunnyside.
  • [Three words that follow "side"] are SWIPE STEP LINE and EFFECT SLIP VIEW. I don't know "sideslip"; it appears to be mainly a skiing and aviation word, and I don't ski or fly planes.

AGONISTS is clued as [Persons torn by inner conflicts]. I think that meaning is less prevalent than the medical/physiological one, the opposite of antagonists. The asthma drugs that are bronchodilators are typically beta2-adrenergic agonists. TAT has been clued as a tattoo lately, but this puzzle returns to the old-school crossword clue, [Work at lacemaking]. The only thing I know about lacemaking is that tatting is part of it (strictly crossword-based knowledge).