August 28, 2009

Saturday, 8/29/09

Newsday about 6 minutes
NYT 4:17
LAT 3:34
CS untimed (Across clues only)

Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword

See? Didn't I say yesterday that Shortz foozled the order of the puzzles? I found the Friday Quarfoot to be a Saturday challenge, while the Saturday Peterson is a mere Fridayish bagatelle.

The grid's sort of a double-decker Z, with stacked pairs of 15s at the top and bottom joined by two diagonal swaths. The highlights are high, even if the puzzle didn't put up as much of a fight as I hope for on a Saturday:

  • 1A. Mike MUSSINA is the crossword-lovin' [2001-08 Yankees pitcher with seven Gold Gloves]. He was cute in Wordplay.
  • 8. "J'ACCUSE!" That's a [Headline during the Dreyfus Affair]. Zola, right? Yeah. My husband and I like to say that with a dramatic pointing of the finger. Household blaming is so much more fun when done in Zolaesque fashion.
  • 17A. My kid was just asking me about CELL PHONE TOWERS this afternoon. They're [Some coverage providers] that have nothing to do with insurance or clothing.
  • 41A. [Otto follows it] is not about an old emperor or Bart Simpson's schoolbus driver. Nope, it's about the number 8 in Italian, which follows SETTE, or 7.
  • 44A/45A. Good gravy, a pair of Peter and the Wolf clues? ["Peter and the Wolf" bird] is SASHA, and ["Peter and the Wolf" duck] is SONIA. Is SONIA the oboe? What's the other one?
  • 46A. [Something shown off on a half-pipe] is a SKATEBOARD TRICK. I believe snowboarding also uses the half-pipe.
  • 51A. HONESTY? [It can be brutal].
  • 2D. [Butterflies, say], metaphorically, are a sense of UNEASE.
  • 8D. Okay, this isn't a highlight so much as the most insane clue/answer combo all week. A [Bullying seabird] is a JAEGER? Hasn't tennis's Andrea Jaeger been out of the spotlight long enough to be a tough Saturday clue?
  • 27D. [Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Feiffer] is named JULES. Do you all know his stuff? If not, Google it up. I love his style.
  • 28D. Great clue for lying PRONE: [Back up?]. Back down is supine.
  • 32D. PLUTARCH is clued as ["On the Malice of Herodotus" author]. Or, as Glenn Beck would spell it, PLUTARH.
  • 34D. Isn't CATHAY the prettiest place name ever? It's an [Old Silk Road destination], the medieval Europeans' name for China. Wouldn't toxic plastic crap be so much nicer with a "Made in Cathay" label on it?
Fun with chemistry! Did you know URETHANE is a [Bowling ball material] or that [Like turbojet fuel] could clue ATOMIZED? I did not.

Overall, I liked this puzzle a heckuva lot. It's a good start to the weekend.

Updated Saturday morning:

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Outta Sight!"—Janie's review

Greetings, solvers—as Paula's puzzle puts us in a "peace, beads and granola" state of mind in this 40th year since Woodstock. Four theme-phrases begin with a slangy term of approval/admiration (like that of the title) and a fifth one is the song title that ties it all up. Here's how she does it:
  • 20A. COOL CUSTOMER [Unflappable one]. And a phrase that looks to be making its major-puzzle debut to boot.
  • 31A. SUPER BOWL [Football season finale].
  • 38A. BOSS TWEED [Tammany Hall leader]. That's a link to a Thomas Nast cartoon of the man, btw.
  • 49A. NEAT FREAK [Compulsive picker-upper]. This one appears to be a CS-first.
  • 58A. "FEELIN' GROOVY" [Simon & Garfunkel refrain...and this puzzle's theme]. Another major-puzzle first-timer, too. If you need a little "picker-upper" of the non-compulsive variety, this is the tune to tune in.
A spate of lively sevens and eights add to the punch this puzzle packs: THE COPA [New York club, informally] where you certainly could have ordered MIMOSAS [Champagne-and-orange-juice concoctions], FAT-FREE [Words of appeal to a loser?], the no-nonsense "LEAVE IT!" ["We don't need that!"], LANYARD [Whistle holder], "FEAR NOT" [Encouraging words] (and it's nice to have encouraging words when there's also the Scottish "NAE," the German "NEIN" and the ENG. "OH, ME" to contend with), SOUTHPAW [Lefty] and SEES INTO [Knows beforehand, as the future].

But for a small portion of the SW, I really was able to solve this one using only the "across" clues. What messed me up? My insistence in holding onto FANFARE where FAT-FREE lives and not knowing CWT as the abbreviation for [100 lbs.]. A hundredweight=1/20th of a ton—and that "C" (like the Roman numeral) is from the Latin word for hundred, centum. This all makes sense of course, but because I'd not given it any thought before, it did feel a bit like new INFO to me.

There seems to be a SLY little French undercurrent today, too, with ISÈRE [River to the Rhone], ARRÊT [Stop, on the Rive Gauche] and SABOT [French peasant's shoe]. To which I say (with my best French pronunciation), "Impeccable!"

Michael Wiesenberg's Los Angeles Times crossword

As I was saying over at L.A. Crossword Confidential, I really liked the long answers (well, except for the lifeless BELT SANDER) and the clues for a few short ones, incuding these:
  • 16A: Small program with a browser interface (JAVA APPLET). I love me a good JAVA APPLET, like the New York Times' proprietary crossword applet. I generally loathe the Flash interface, though, so I don't do the L.A. Times crossword on the paper's website; instead, I go to and fetch the Across Lite version.
  • 18A: Long-distance messages? (SMOKE SIGNALS). Smoke Signals is also the title of a movie written by Sherman Alexie. Alexie (who likes crosswords!) has a young adult novel out called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It's a terrific read—I'm saving it for my son when he's a few years older.
  • 25A: 1876 Twain hero (TOM SAWYER). Geddy Lee! I have no idea whether the Rush song has anything to do with the Twain book.
  • 40A: Ice cream flavor (PISTACHIO). Me, I don't care for pistachios, but my husband and son like 'em.
  • 46A: When Ovid's "Ars Amatoria" is believed to have been published isn't a dreaded Roman numeral clue after all. Surprise! It's ONE B.C. (Your Roman numeral R.D.A. for the day is provided instead by 3D: XXXI x V (CLV).
  • 48A: Home of the NBA's Thunder (OKLAHOMA CITY). How many much bigger cities lack an NBA team and take the existence of the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics) as a personal affront? (Yes, I do believe that cities can take things personally. Don't you?)
  • 54A: Might achieve clues the four-word phrase HAS A SHOT AT. It looks goofy in the grid. HA! SASH O' TAT.
  • I wish 59A: THIRTY-NINE had been clued as Jack Benny's forever age rather than 78 half. I suspect the clue was meant to mislead us into thinking of old 78 rpm records with A and B sides, but it ends up being a flat arithmetic problem of no import.
  • 57D: Hot spot? is a spot of TEA.

Overall, this puzzle was almost sinfully easy. I miss the days of Saturday L.A. Times puzzles that were only a notch easier than the NYT ones.

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

As Dan F. said in the comments, this is the same grid pattern Doug used in his NYT puzzle today. Me, I enjoyed the NYT version more. This one didn't seem to have any of those horrible dead spots that some Stumpers have, those seemingly insoluble clues that you don't have any helpful crossings for. And by "horrible dead spots," I mean "sometimes welcome challenges, but sometimes vexatious bothers." In other words, my progress through this puzzle was a smooth one with occasional missteps but no real snags or frustration.

Top 5 clues and answers:
  • 1A. To OFFLOAD is to [Empty containers]. Bet you a dollar most people plugged in an S at the end, assuming they needed a plural noun.
  • 49A. [Accessory for the Penguin] is a CIGARETTE HOLDER. See, kids? Smoking leads to trouble.
  • 2D. I like the word FRENZY, as it is much cooler than the phrase [Extreme agitation].
  • 31D. PAGO PAGO is as fun to say as Walla Walla, Bora Bora, or Kinnickinnic. It's most recognizable to crossword solvers as a city in American Samoa. Here, it gets an out-there literary trivia clue: [Setting of Maugham's "Rain"].
  • 32D. HAY FEVER is a [Seasonal condition]. I can like that as an answer because I don't have allergies. Anyone else want to put HEAT WAVE here?