November 21, 2008

Saturday, 11/22

Newsday 7:06
NYT 6:14
LAT 4:48
CS 3:20

(updated at 10:30 Saturday morning)

Hooray! We just had a Sun puzzle co-constructed by Frank Longo—who has been keeping himself too busy with things other than newspaper themeless crosswords—and now the Saturday New York Times puzzle proudly sports the Longo byline. And good gravy, is that an insane-looking grid. Triple-stacked 15's at the top and bottom, and a midsection spanned by two more 15's. They're not such easy 15's, either—none of the usual-suspect 15-letter answers that get used over and over. Here are the big boys:

  • COMPARED AGAINST is [Vis-a-vis], kicking off the top triple-stack.
  • [Age-old retaliation] is A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH. I wanted EYE instead of TOOTH, but that was too short.
  • TRUE TO THE LETTER is not a familiar phrase to me. It's clued as [Having no inaccuracy whatsoever].
  • To [Fix things] is to SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Then there's an INTERLUDE, or [Dramatic break], in the center of the puzzle dividing the PROBLEM from IMMEDIATE DANGER, clued with [A firefighter at work may be in it]. (I will not link to firefighter calendars again so soon.)
  • Beginning the lower triple-stack, we see AMERICAN TABLOID, the [James Ellroy novel that Time magazine named best fiction book of 1995]. If you don't know this answer, the letter combos look kinda nutty when you don't have all the squares for TABLOID.
  • [Suitable for all] means rated G for a GENERAL AUDIENCE.
  • [Idolizes] clues SETS ON A PEDESTAL.
Toughest clues:
  • [Automated, often malicious PC apps] are BOTNETS. Not a term I know at all.
  • [First suit?] means the topmost exec, a CEO.
  • [Compete for, in a way] is BID ON, as in the eBay setting.
  • [Fast-food restaurant packets] wasn't so hard—it's CATSUPS. A few weeks ago, I had 15 ketchup packets. I gave them to Ben and his buddy and they rolled a log over them. Omigod! It almost sounded like fireworks. That ketchup flew pretty far too. There were laundry ramifications.
  • The [Italian port with ruins of an imposing Aragonese castle] is a town whose name I learned from crosswords. If Toronto and Oneonta won't quite fit and you need Italy, go for OTRANTO.
  • [Longtime Arizona congressman who ran for president in 1976] is MO UDALL. The clue doesn't warn you that you need a first and last name, so I reckon some people were trying to puzzle out who Rep. Moudall was.
  • [Amenhotep IV's god] was just in the puzzle the other day. He's ATEN, but can be spelled other ways (Aton) too.
  • [Time for an emergency phone call?] is THREE A.M. President Obama, the phone's for you.
  • HOT TIPS [may break open cases] that the cops are having a rough time solving.
  • MERIMEE, the [Writer whose novella "Carmen" is the basis of Bizet's opera], is not a household name. He's right next to MORDENT, a [Musical ornament using two quickly alternating tones]. Wow, two gnarly words butting up against one another. I think there will be complaints even though the crossings aren't insane.
  • ["La Traviata" lover Alfredo ___] makes for the third Down answer in a row that was utterly unfamiliar to me. The answer's GERMONT—but again, the crossings felt fair to me.
How did you survive this one? Did 36-, 37-, and 38-Down kill you? Me, I was just happy to have a too-rare Longo themeless to kick me around.


Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword has 70 answers, and about 20 of them are multi-word phrases—ranging from the very short (MR. T, ['80s Peppard costar]) to the long (I DON'T UNDERSTAND, or ["Huh?"]). Here's a selection of the other phrases:
  • [Create trouble (for oneself)] is DIG A HOLE.
  • ["Cool it!"] is KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON.
  • ["Who knows?"] is YOU CAN NEVER TELL.
  • [Kaput] is DONE FOR.
  • [Pleading words] are I BEG OF YOU.
  • [Villain whose first name is Julius] is DR. NO.
  • [Hit home?] is SIDE A, as in the home of a hit song on a record.
  • [Share in] is PARTAKE OF.
And now, some single-word answers with interesting answers:
  • [It often involves competitive drawing] clues an OATER, or movie Western.
  • [Green prefix] isn't about eco- or enviro-anything—it's CHLORO-, as in chlorophyll.
  • [Water line?] is a WAKE, the lines/waves that trail behind a moving boat.
  • [End beginning?] is THE, as in "the end."
Three things I didn't know:
  • [Like Betty Boop] clues OX-EYED. She has eyes like an ox?
  • NOUS, or "us," completes [___-memes: French "ourselves"]. The [Spanish pronoun] is ELLO.
  • LACEY is the name of [Henry Ford biographer Robert].
Two bits of standard old crosswordese are here. An ARIL is a [Seed protector]; one aril you may recognize is the little juicy ruby surrounding each pomegranate seed. The STOA [often bordered an agora].

Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" was the day's hardest themeless for me. (PDF solution here.) Favorite clues and answers:
  • [Pumapard's parent] must be a puma or a leopard, right? Somehow, it's a COUGAR.
  • KUNG-FU looks great sitting atop the grid. It's clued as a [Fluid-movement skill]. I have no kung-fu skills, but my Google-fu is not too shabby.
  • ELI ([Samuel Morse, circa 1808]) isn't a favorite answer, but that reminds me—constructors and editors, you can quit using the ABC series Eli Stone in clues for ELI now because the show's being cancelled after the episodes in the can have been aired.
  • The verb SHRIMPS is clued [Works on a boat, perhaps].
  • ROMAINE is a [Healthful food for goldfish]? I had no idea.
  • [Plants, for instance] are a KINGDOM.
  • Barbara [Boxer's title] is SENATOR.
  • An [Anomalous rise] is a BLIP on the graph.
Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Le Puzzle," adds -LE to the end of four phrases that end with a CK to transform those phrases into something different. The results sound zingy:
  • Writer Pearl Buck becomes PEARL BUCKLE, a [Fancy fastener?].
  • A dirty trick turns into DIRTY TRICKLE, a [Slow leak of yucky liquid?].
  • Radio Shack feeds RADIO SHACKLE, a [Drastic means of restraining a shock jock?].
  • A league draft pick gives us the [NBA wannabe's predicament?], a DRAFT PICKLE.
I'm fond of PTOLEMY, the [Ancient Greek astronomer with an Earth-centered theory] and a silent P, not at all fond of NO PARKING signs, though NO PARKING makes for an excellent bit of crossword fill.