December 19, 2008

Saturday, 12/20

NYT 44:52
LAT 14:45
CS 6:15
Newsday — Gave up after 64:20

[Updated at 12:00 noon Saturday]

Not sure how much I'll be able to write about Brad Wilber's New York Times themeless crossword. What with all the scrapes and bruises I suffered from this puzzle. It beat me up good. I honestly can't believe I finished it. I had to look up one letter, the R in the ORAN/ORALES cross. That's right, Yves Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria. Everybody knows that, right? Wow. And who knew [Papal capes] can be called ORALES? Nobody on the whole entire Internet, that's who. Please, please, please, if you can find a reference to this word in this context anywhere — for Pete's sake, share the link with us in the comments. Apparently, the word is a Spanish slang word that can mean many different things. It is reportedly synonymous with "aitte homie." It's all in the pronunciation, folks.

What else? I was thrown for a loop immediately when none of the three original Mod Squad kids — Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton, and Clarence Williams III — would fit at 1 Across. OMAR EPPS? I only know him from "House," which, in case you didn't know, you can see pretty much any time of day or night if you have enough cable channels. Just ask PuzzleHusband. Anyway, I guess there was a remake of "The Mod Squad." Sorry to go off on a tangent here, but when I was looking this up I found out that Dennis Farina played Captain Adam Greer in this movie. I heart Dennis Farina. He was on Law & Order for a while (speaking of shows that are always on), but I know him and love him as mob boss Jimmy Serrano in "Midnight Run," possibly my favorite movie of all time. And guess what I found? A "Best of Jimmy Serrano" video on YouTube. If you are offended by the F-word, do yourself a favor and don't click this link.

Okay, enough random off-topic stuff. What else can we talk about? I had lots of missteps. I tried chilly for FRIGID [Arctic]. Nuit for SOIR [Time after le soleil sets]. Dollop for JARFUL [Quantity of peanut butter]. Yeah, I know. Dollop is more for whipped cream. I erased it even before I had any crosses to confirm my error. Chess for SHOGI [Game played on an 81-square board]. Layered for FROSTED [Like some cakes and hair]. And I guessed BSA for NRA [Org. with the Eddie Eagle safety program].

Things I didn't know. AGNES GREY is a classic by Anne Brontë. And RITA is apparently a [Classic name in copiers]. Not sure where that comes from. [Thanks for pointing out my error here, guys! Should be MITA since the Trans-Siberian Railroad stop is OMSK, not ORSK.] You know those loose-fitting garments with flared legs that women wear? They're called PALAZZO PANTS. I had no idea. SABU was a [One-named film star of the 1930s-'60s]. Here's a picture.

I liked seeing DRUM SOLO in the grid, although I'm not particularly keen on actual drum solos when they come up at concerts. I'm not going to go looking for videos of THE FRUG, the [1960s dance showcased on "Laugh-In"]. Why? Because I know what will happen. I will start looking at "Laugh-In" clips and the next thing I know the sun will be coming up. Not that I've ever done that. Finally, don't think I've seen NETFLIX QUEUE in a puzzle before, and I've actually been thinking about Netflix a lot lately. Seems like such a great idea, but I've just never been able to commit to it. Something to explore in therapy, I guess. Peace out for now. More later.


Robert H. Wolfe's fun romp of an L.A. Times crossword is full of attitude. Or is it despair? Maybe both. The three long answers are: WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?, I CAN'T DO ANY WORSE, and HOW SHOULD I KNOW?

I was amused right out of the gate with PLAN BS [Backups]. I had a boss once who didn't believe in Plan Bs. He always said what we needed was another Plan A. Always good to see tricky clues in more than one puzzle at a time, like [One who leaves too many things out] for SLOB. We just had that in another puzzle, right? Now we should be more likely to remember it for next time! For [Hybrid cuisine] I originally entered Tex-Mex instead of the correct CREOLE. The ["Go for the Goal" autobiographer] is Mia HAMM. I guessed Gordie Howe off the H. Muhammad Ali had 25 career TKOs. I don't know a lot about boxing. Is that a record? BENIN and Togo are African countries. BWI stands for British West Indies, and not just Baltimore-Washington International airport. I was going to tell you the rest of the stars in VIRGO (besides Spica), but it turns out there are hundreds of them. And they don't all have names. I need to learn more about astronomy....

[Updated again:]

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy crossword, "Covert Ops," provides a nice break from today's other killer puzzles. It's always a pleasure to see PB2's byline. And I'm not just saying that because he owes me money.

Theme answers, which are two-word phrases with the first word ending in O and the second word beginning with P, include the mundane POTATO PEELER and BRILLO PADS. Also making an appearance is the extremely-fun-to-everyone-who's-playing-it-and-annoying-to-everyone-else pool game, MARCO POLO. Rounding out the theme answers are CARGO PANTS which do, indeed, have a bunch of pockets, and TATTOO PARLOR. PuzzleHusband has a tattoo of an eagle on the top of his foot. Legend has it that when he arrived at the tattoo parlor and explained where he wanted it, the 300-pound tough guy tattoo artist with ink over 70% of body winced and said, "Ooh, that's gonna hurt." I once referred to the footrest in our living room as an OTTOMAN and the kids thought that was hilarious. They're like, "It's a footrest." Now they use air quotes whenever they say the word ottoman. I've noticed a scouting theme over a few of the recent puzzles, and now is the time of year when those Boy Scouts are out selling popcorn in big TUBs. Do yourself a favor and try the Mud Puddles. Yum!

I'm 64 minutes into Doug Peterson's Newsday Saturday Stumper and am veerry close to closing the deal. I might have to Google. I'll be back in a little bit with the results.

[Last update:]

Okay, I'm back. When I realized I was going to have to blog the Saturday Stumper I said to myself "God, please, let it be Doug Peterson. God, please, let it be Doug Peterson." Not that his puzzles are necessarily easy — they're not! — but I have a much better chance of being on his wavelength than I do with some of the other constructors of this puzzle. Unfortunately, today I couldn't get it done on my own. After 64 minutes, I had this:

Pretty close, right? Some good guesses? Sure, but finally realized I couldn't get there from here. I just knew that if I could figure out the song I could crack this thing. And I could not get "You Light Up My Life" out of my head. Guess what. That was Song of the Year the same year HOTEL CALIFORNIA was Record of the Year. I was sooooo close! Ack! Still had trouble with the Northern California area where the clue for MAUREEN, [Six-time Jane], looked like some kind of secret code. Turns out Maureen O'Sullivan played Jane in the 1932 "Tarzan the Ape Man" and its sequels. I'm guessing there were five of them. And over in South Carolina, now that I see the X, it makes perfect sense that LEX is [Roman law], but the Bantu speaking XHOSA was no help to me there. Here's the correct final grid:

I know there's much more to talk about, but I'm exhausted and I need to rest up for Sunday's puzzles. In closing, I think we should all make a deal that we'll try to use the phrase SLY BOOTS in casual conversation at least once today. See you tomorrow.