January 30, 2009

Saturday, 1/31

LAT 5:29
NYT 4:50
Newsday (untimed, but longer than either of the other puzzles)

Ken Bessette's New York Times crossword has three answers I adore.

First, there's the KOOL-AID MAN, an [Ad pitcher who's really a pitcher]. I wonder how many people tried desperately to stretch former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer into 10 letters. The Kool-Aid Man was a giant glass pitcher that burst through walls, causing significant structural damage but bringing fruity refreshment. Crosswords like to clue the word HAM with its overacting connotation, and to use ham in clues for EMOTE. Bessette opts to change it up with HAM IT UP, or [Hot-dog]. (Fittingly, this answer crosses ON THE STAGE, or [Between wings].) [Stand-up routine?] sounds like it's looking for comedy, but it's THE WAVE that an arena full of people might stand up to create.

ADAPTATION is clued as an [Evolutionary process], but it's also a MOVIE TITLE ([Marquee name]). [Seek change?] couldn't be PANHANDLE because that's only got 9 letters; it's PASS THE HAT. I would've clued RAINMAKER with its business/law firm connotation rather than as an [Indian tribe V.I.P.]. The S AND P (S&P, or Standard and Poors 500 index) is one [Market yardstick, for short], while the DOW is clued [It has its ups and downs, with "the"]. I recently read that the Dow had 17 days with ±5% changes last year—and it took about 50 years to amass the previous 17 such days. Volatility! (Speaking of ups and downs, STEPS also [have their ups and downs].)

Crosswordy bits of language you ought to know if you're doing battle with Saturday puzzles:

  • [Fungal spore cases] are ASCI; the singular is ascus but I haven't seen that in a crossword.
  • The old British guns called STENS are [Weapons once produced extensively by the Royal Small Arms Factory].
  • APU isn't just the proprietor of Homer Simpson's favorite convenience stores and a father of octuplets. It's also a name from classic Indian cinema: [Satyajit Ray's "The ___ Trilogy"]. I've seen one of the three movies, I think.
  • AHI tuna is [Yellowfin, on Hawaiian menus].
  • [Bygone stickers] are old-fashioned knives of a sort called SNEES.
  • [___ Dinh Diem (first president of South Vietnam)] is NGO. Sometimes the clue may have Ngo ___ Diem just to mix things up.
  • To [Keep in] in proofreading is STET.

Let's see, what else is in this puzzle? I don't recall running into IVA with this clue before: [___ Archer, with whom Sam Spade had an affair]. IVA Majoli the tennis player, yes. EARS are clued [They're near temples], and eyes are just as close. [Dawdling sorts] clues POKES, though I wouldn't call someone a "poke" without appending a "slow" to its front. Have you seen "poke" as a noun meaning a slowpoke? I wouldn't have guessed that TEAKS were [Trees of the verbena family]. The most mystifying clue for me was [Pita source] for AGAVE. That's not pita bread and it's not the abbreviation for "pain in the ass"; it's a Mexican fiber from the agave plant. You know what['s often planted] besides agave? A KISS, that's what. [Last name of father-and-son N.F.L. coaches] is MORA—they were both named Jim. There is also a Melvin Mora who plays for the Baltimore Orioles. SAABS is somewhat awkwardly clued as [Automotive debuts of 1949].

In closing, "Hey, Kool-Aid!" Here's the video of a '70s commercialfor you.


Doug Peterson's LA Times crossword doesn't have a KOOL-AID MAN to woo my cruciverbal heart. Assorted clues and answers:
  • [Monitors, e.g.] are big, lizardy REPTILES, not just display screens.
  • Baseball [Diamond warning] is a BRUSH-BACK PITCH.
  • [Another 35th anniversary gift] is JADE, and its counterpart gift of CORAL is also here.
  • [Mentor to Jim Hawkins] is LONG JOHN SILVER.
  • If you're going down to the [Wire, metaphorically], you're brushing up against a DEADLINE.
  • [Green spans] are LEAS or meadows, no relation to Alan Greenspan.
  • Did you know that [Coins with overlooked flaws that are put into circulation] are called FREAKS? I didn't.
  • The Detroit PISTONS are a [Team named for its city's leading industry]. Other more directly occupational teams: Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, Senators.
  • BABAR the elephant is a [Friend of Zephir the monkey].
  • MUCILAGES are [Glues]. Do they still sell this? With the little clear brown bottle and the red rubber applicator? They do!
My favorite clue in Sandy Fein's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (.pdf solution here) was [Where Easter precedes Lent]. I thought of a dictionary but...the answer is only 8 letters long. Eventually I had the first three squares filled in with WEB, which served only to confuse me. Is there some generic term for a Web-based dictionary? Finally the crossings filtered in and I saw that it was WEBSTER'S dictionary. Aha! I didn't know TAFFETA was an [Early hot-air balloon material]. I have never eaten [Hamburger ___ soup (German dish)]/EEL (ick!). Speaking of German things, OSKAR is ["The Tin Drum" protagonist], and speaking of foodstuffs, BASMATI rice is indeed a [Fragrant food].