December 12, 2008

Saturday, 12/13

Newsday 7:23
LAT 4:47
NYT 4:42
CS 3:35

Next weekend, I leave for a week's vacation in the Caribbean—on a cruise where wireless access would cost $20 an hour so I'm leaving the laptop and crossword addiction at home. Starting next Thursday night, this blog will be in the capable hands of Puzzle Girl. Isn't she swell?

Frank Longo follows up his Friday Sun with the Saturday New York Times crossword. It seems that Will Shortz swapped Friday and Saturday this week, as Frank's puzzle is a good bit easier than yesterday's chewy Nothnagel. This 66-worder has a triple stack of 15's in the middle and two more 15's above and below. Those long puppies are rather factual:

  • ACCRUED INTEREST is a [Payback factor].
  • PATRIOT MISSILES were [Desert Storm defenses].
  • [Bathroom buzzers] are ELECTRIC SHAVERS. Did you ponder bathroom versions of joy buzzers?
  • [When many people are off] is a NATIONAL HOLIDAY.
  • A [Verifiable claim] is a STATEMENT OF FACT.
Two 11-letter answers connect the triple stacks to the other 15's: Something [Shrill] is EAR-PIERCING and [Many quiz show fans] are TRIVIA BUFFS.
These ones are my favorite answers and clues:
  • [What I may become] is the ROYAL WE. This one amused us.
  • "I'LL PASS" means ["No thanks"].
  • HAN SOLO was the [Killer of Greedo in a sci-fi film]. For my money, George Lucas is the worst namer in the business.
  • [Biker's wear] is LYCRA. Not a Harley Davidson biker—more like a Tour de France biker.
  • [The planets, e.g.] make up an OCTAD. Poor Pluto, evicted from the nonet.
  • [Year in which Middle English began, by tradition] is MCL, or 1150. I don't recall learning this when I took Anne Montgomery's class on Old and Middle English lit.
  • [1990s president of the Philippines] was Fidel RAMOS. I liked this one because I knew it.
Quibbles, unknowns, and little-knowns:
  • COMPUSA is clued as an [Alternative to Best Buy or Circuit City], and I'm wondering how long ago this crossword was constructed. CompUSA is down to a teeny 23 stores, vs. about 700 Circuit City outlets (they're closing a lot) and over 1,000 Best Buys.
  • [Between green and black, say] is RIPE. When your fruit turns black, no, that's not good. I didn't see where the clue was going.
  • [Fort Worth's ___ Carter Museum] clues AMON. Amon the supreme god of the Egyptians demands obeisance.
  • [Thimblerig thing] is a PEA in that thimblerig means "shell game."
  • [Pulsar, e.g.] is a RADIO SOURCE. Not on the tip of my tongue.
  • UNE ["__ Grosse Legume" (Orson Welles novel)] is not remotely familiar to me. I'm sure it's a gripping tale. We need more stories about big beans.
  • [Tenor Schipa] is named TITO. If only he and Tito Jackson could record together. Who needs The Three Tenors when you can have The Two Titos?
  • [Sitting Bull's tongue] is TETON. I would've guessed Sioux, but every crossing ruled that out.
  • [Cancun kinswoman] is TIA, Spanish for "aunt." There was another recent clue like this, and I was surprised by how much Googling it spurred.
  • [Marsh bird] is a SORA. This, like the erne and nene, is one of those birds I know more from crosswords than from bird books. (The cedar waxwing, on the other hand, never shows up in crosswords.)

Grr! I was a moment away from republishing this post with the LA Times puzzle section added when the browser hung up, so I'll have to recreate what I had. Barry Silk's LA Times crossword has some of his trademark Scrabbliness—BAZOOKAS are [Big guns], JIMMIE FOXX was the [First right-handed batter to reach 500 home runs], [Old times] are ANTIQUITY, and some [Brass band members] are SAXHORNS. (There are eight members of the saxhorn family. Who knew?) There are two 15's, less Scrabbly—the BETSY ROSS BRIDGE is a [Delaware span] I've never heard of, and HEARTBREAK HOTEL was [Elvis's first #1 hit].

Favorite clues:
  • AVERAGES are the [Subject of a familiar law].
  • Yo-Yo [Ma and others] are CELLISTS.
  • [Botanist's workplace] is in the HOTHOUSE.
  • [Colt, e.g.] is neither a gun nor an NFL player—it's a young EQUINE.
Things I didn't know:
  • WYSE is the last name of [Longtime Good Housekeeping columnist Lois].
  • ["The $64,000 Question" host March] was named HAL.
  • The [Role first awarded to British actress Elizabeth Shepherd], who I've never heard of, was EMMA PEEL. Arcane trivia about decades-old pop culture? Oy.
  • [Bitty, in Banff] is Scottish SMA, or "small." I knew there was a Canadian Banff, but not that it's a Scottish place name too.
Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" has, like most Stark themelesses, mostly single words rather than phrases. (Solution here.) Longo's NYT has about 14 multi-word answers, vs. just 3 in the Stumper. The fill tends towards the dry side, with some word endings and beginnings:
  • Verbs with -ING: [Tailor's job] is TAPERING. [Efficacious] is AVAILING. Meh.
  • Verbs with -ED: [Started back] is SHIED. [Hardened] is INURED. [Caused squinting] is GLARED.
  • Comparatives with -ER or -EST: [Less dense] is AIRIER. [Sparkling less] is TAMER. [Guarded to the max] is LEERIEST. [Least slanted] is FAIREST.
  • Nouns made by adding -ER: [Camera hog] is a MUGGER. [Mechanic's offer] is a LOANER. [Orb] is a PEEPER. [Gardener's device] is MISTER. 
  • Prefixes to modify verbs: [Forwarded] is RESENT. [Prepare to take off] is UNBUTTON. [Disentangle] is UNPILE.
My favorite clue was [Its flag has an Osage shield] for OKLAHOMA. Here's what it looks like. [Asian titles] usually seems to clue emirs, ranis, rajas, amirs, shahs...something along those lines. This time it's KHANS, as in Genghis and friends. [Where Birmingham is] is ENGLAND; the trap is that Alabama also has 7 letters and a city called Birmingham.

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy crossword, "Hit Bottom," has four vertical theme entries with HIT at the bottom as part of longer words:
  • ["You gotta face this"] is DEAL WITH IT.
  • [Took care of the tab, maybe] is SIGNED A CHIT. Sometimes a CHIT is clued as an IOU, which sits beside the word in today's grid and is clued as [Creditor's holding].
  • [Head of a hard-up Dickens family] is BOB CRATCHIT.
  • [Zilch] is NOT ONE WHIT. [Zilch, in Zacatecas] is NADA.
STINK BUGS are [Insects with an olfactory weapon]. I misinterpreted [Writer's fixer-upper] as meaning the first draft in need of fixing, like a fixer-upper of a house; instead, it's the EDITOR who fixes up the writer's work. HOT WEATHER is a [Typical forecast in the tropics]—hey! I'll be there soon.