June 19, 2009

Saturday, 6/20

Newsday 7:37
NYT 6:19
LAT 4:00
CS 6:55 (J—paper)

Before getting around to the Saturday NYT crossword, I did a few Vowelless Crosswords by Frank Longo. Man, I just flew through one of those puzzles! It only took me 8 minutes, or a third longer than the NYT. Then the next crsswrd took me 26 minutes. Ouch. I'm enjoying the format tremendously but you know what? The fun won't last. Before you know it, I'll have finished the entire book and then what? Then I have to wait until fall for Brendan Quigley's diagramless book, but I test-solved a bunch of the puzzles so those ones will be reruns for me.

Brilliant constructors, please make more tough puzzle books. Publishers, please publish said books. Thank you.

Brad Wilber's New York Times crossword

Tons of cool fill in this puppy, eh? This may be one of the most enjoyable Wilber creations to date. Let's run through some clues:

  • 14A. ROGER EBERT is a [Writer on pictures]. I've been a huge admirer of Ebert's since I was a kid reading his reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • 17A. If you are [Going bonkers for the British?], you have a touch of ANGLOMANIA.
  • 20A. I was thinking of elbowing on a crowded sidewalk for the clue [Response to being elbowed, maybe]. "WAS I SNORING?" is the answer so no, not the sidewalk at all.
  • 22A. ASOK is the ["Dilbert" character who was reincarnated as his own clone]. Does anyone still read "Dilbert"?
  • 25A. [Kind of question] clues TRIVIA. This is a better "kind of ___" clue than the usual.
  • 28A. I waited for the crossings to tell me if the [Companion for Pan] was one of Peter Pan's friends or a DRYAD from classical mythology. For more mythology, we have 15D's TANTALUS, [Victim of terrible teasing]—and the root of the word tantalize.
  • 37A. [Kachina doll makers] are the ZUNI. Not the HOPI, which is what I initially had there.
  • 38A. MACHISMO is a [Bruiser's display]. I could do without.
  • 55A. Have I heard of a MERRY-ANDREW before? It's an archaic word in lowercase meaning [Clown].
  • 64A. Uriah HEEP is your [Blackmailer in an 1850 novel].
  • 2D. There are a few theater references today—an OBIE award, THEATRICAL, and ["The Bald Soprano" playwright, 1950], Eugene IONESCO.
  • 8D. Good gravy, who are these guys? TENIERS is the [Surname of three generations of Flemish old masters]. The Flemish are from Belgium. So, they say, are Belgian waffles. And [Waffling] (32D) means HESITANT.
  • 27D. FT. RILEY is a [Kansas mil. reservation with the U.S. Cavalry Museum].
  • 38D. [Bigger than big] clues the adjective MAMMOTH, which is also an extinct Pleistocene furry elephant. Did mammoths coexist with the [Prehistoric stone tool] called an EOLITH (from the Greek for dawn + stone)?
  • 45D. ["Drop City" novelist, 2003] is T.C. BOYLE. He started out with T. Coraghessan Boyle on his book covers. Why did he change it? I don't know. Apparently he was 17 when he changed his middle name to Coraghessan. Maybe he quit wanting to be who he wanted to be at age 17?
Michael Wiesenberg's Los Angeles Times crossword

I'm leaving town early in the morning (PuzzleGirl will be here to cover the Sunday puzzles in my absence), so let me excerpt what I've written up for L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Just like last Saturday's L.A. Times crossword, this puzzle felt like an easy Friday NYT puzzle—and I had a bottle of Stella Artois before I began the puzzle.

The grid is unusual—if it weren't for the black squares in each corner, this puzzle would have triple stacks of 15-letter answers at the top and bottom. Instead, it's got pairs of 15's with single 13's. I love that last Across answer, TEETER-TOTTERS (61A: They have their ups and downs). It's got the most boring letters in the English language, the sort of letters that often populate the bottom row of a crossword, but we don't see too many 13's in themeless puzzles, and TEETER-TOTTERS have that playground nostalgia cachet.

Clues? Answers? We got 'em:
  • 14A: 1999 Winona Ryder movie (GIRL, INTERRUPTED). Sure, Winona had the lead role but it was Angelina Jolie who went home with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
  • 19A: Partners may form one: Abbr. (LLC). That's a limited liability corporation.
  • 27A: Catalog section (FOR HER). Ooh, I do not care for this answer at all. It might work better as a transgressive six-letter partial answer filling in the blank in the condom tag line, "ribbed ___ pleasure."
  • 30A: RED is a Rare sign? as in a sign of rareness in a slab of beef. (Ick.)
  • 34A: JACK FROST (Nose nipper in a Christmas song) is a terrific answer. The clue seems a little boring, but it's worlds better than cluing this name with reference to that dreadful Michael Keaton movie in which a creepy-looking snowman comes to life.
  • 50A: Double drunk crosswordese! They're usually lit clues SOTS, and I never hear anyone use "lit" to mean drunk or call anyone a "sot."
  • 54A: Kind of butter (APPLE). This is a common cluing convention, this "kind of ___" clue. But APPLE is not any kind of butter. Apple butter is a butter of a sort.There are those who would much rather see a straight-up fill-in-the-blank clue or an entirely different cluing direction than have yet another "kind of ___" clue. Among the old NYT crossword forum crowd, these are called "sea anemone" clues, inspired by SEA clued as "Kind of anemone."
  • 60A: Source of much hard wood? is the PETRIFIED FOREST. Of course, it's not wood anymore. It's mineral deposits that have replaced the wood over the ages. Speaking of geological ages, can you guess 1D: the Epoch in which grazing mammals became widespread? Why, it's the MIOCENE, of course, or, as I like to call it, "that less familiar epoch you get through the crossings."
  • 7D: Kabayaki fish is EEL. (Japanese + fish)/3 letters = EEL. Unless, of course, it's AHI tuna.
  • 21D: Tanner of '70s-'80s tennis (ROSCOE). I can't keep him straight in my head because The Dukes of Hazzard's Rosco P. Coltrane occupies the same mental real estate.
  • 22D: ORSK is a City on the Ural. I always start with OMSK, another Russian city that is four times the size of ORSK.
  • 34D: Island in the Sulu Archipelago clues JOLO. Wow. I like geography and I've been doing crosswords for three decades, but I needed every single crossing to figure this one out. I was thinking Indonesia, but it's the Philippines. It's the site of much unrest, both volcanic and political.

Sandy Fein's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

7:37? All right, not too much harder than the NYT puzzle today. I'll take it as a victory.

I like the mislead of [Early riser] as a clue for an UPSTART, and I like the word SWAGGER ([Bluster]). PIUS VII, the [Adversary of Napoleon], is a Roman-numeraled person I don't recall seeing in a crossword before. Bowling [Lane marks] are STRIKES, if you're lucky. Interesting clue for AVARICE: It's [One of Spinoza's "species of madness"]. In hockey, you might get a PENALTY and [It may be served in a box]; so can some lunches. The NEWBERY Medal is bestowed on authors of American literature for kids; the clue is [Medal won by Lofting], referring to (I had to look this up) Hugh Lofting, author of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.

Lotsa weird fill here. The GRAYLAG goose is a [European goose]. Seven-letter partial HENRI DE [___ Toulouse-Lautrec] pushes beyond the usual 5-letter limit but with no great payoff in amusement value or in facilitating great fill in its neighborhood. There are some odd-jobbers in the grid: a TWEEZER, a DWELLER, and some TILTERS ([Quixote wannabes]).

I suspected that [Name to make up with] had to do with making up stories, but ALIAS didn't work with the crossings. The answr turned out to be cosmetics brand ESTEE Lauder. But...you don't make up with the name. You make up with the makeup. Unfamiliar place name of the day: HALLE is [Handel's birthplace].

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Fly Apart"—Janie's review

I'm beginning to thing that Randy is out to give lie to the notion that "breaking up is hard to do," for in today's puzzle we have yet another example of what happens when you choose a word—FLY, say—and break it up, or take it "apart," so that its letters bookend (and belong to) the theme fill. Last week we were happily "covered in MUD"; about a month ago the theme answers were found "in a NUT shell." Today the tried-and-true theme (a pun itself) plays out even more playfully than in puzzles past—and is especially well-met with its non-theme complement. Behold:
  • 17A. FEEL SILLY [Turn red, perhaps]. While one might not aspire to being embarrassed, it can be fun to feel silly and let one's inner-child have his/her day. Hey, this puzzle features Dr. SEUSS [Creator of Sneetches]. I rest my case.
  • 28A. FRED FRIENDLY [George Clooney role in "Good Night, and Good Luck"]. You haven't seen it?! Put it on your Netflix list now! For many years, Friendly was the president of CBS News and was an esteemed colleague/collaborator of radio- and tv-journalist Edward R. Murrow. But now my inner-child has to admit that the name "Fred Friendly" kinda makes me giggle and reminds me of the man who used to host Baltimore's local Our Gang program: "Officer Happy." Really. I feel silly saying it, but it's true.
  • 49A. FULTON'S FOLLY [Steamboat of 1807]. That would be Robert Fulton's craft, The Clermont—which took a mere 30 hours to make its NYC-Albany journey. OMG. Love the alliteration here—and in the previous fill.
  • 66A. FREE WILLY [1993 film about an orca]. And I can't help but noticing (and enjoying) how Willy rhymes with silly. For my money, the rhyming and alliteration go a long way not only in strengthening the theme-fill as a set, but also in creating an agreeable lightness to it. Nice.
There look to be a few sub-themes here today, too. Baseball for one. We get Mel OTT, ERNIE Banks, the METS, EARNED RUN average, and I'm even going to go out on a limb and include LEGGINGS. Was really thrown by [Giant nicknamed "Master Melvin"]. In vain I tried to think of some long-forgotten fairytale character... In other words, terrific clue.

"Things people say" would have to include YES'M ["Okay" for Tom Sawyer] and PAY UP [Shylock's threat]. Didn't help myself any by trying to make this PAY ME...

Then there's the television sub-theme, with hosts OPRAH Winfrey, Tom SNYDER, Jay LENO—and of course, the aforementioned FRED FRIENDLY. And a trio of working types: the ECOLOGIST, and the symmetrically placed odd-couple of PAINTERS and SOLDIERS. That last one can also be associated with NAM, then USAF, then A-TEST. (I'm afraid the more I see this one clued along the lines of [Big blast, briefly], the less amused by it I become.)

Our music today? DOOWOP. But the clue [Style of Randy and the Rainbows] was zero help. Turns out their claim to fame was "Denise," a song I do remember, and that this quintet included two sibling pairs—the Safutos and the Zeros (truly)—and a lone Arcipowski. (This clip is not of the original group, but does feature one Safuto and one Zero for some "doowop reunion" special...)

Finally—how SASSY is that HOT PANTS clue, ["Cheeky" style of clothing]? A fashion trend best suited for the long of limb and firm of flesh, I imagine that hot pants have long been a staple of the Glamour "Don't" list.