September 11, 2009

Saturday, 9/12/09

Newsday a leisurely 10 minutes
NYT 4:32
LAT 3:00
CS untimed (J)/3:38 (A)

I'm on tuck-in duty tonight and my kid's back on his school-year schedule, so I've gotta run. I'll be back tonight if I don't wind up falling asleep myself.

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

Short-form review:

  • There are tons of terrific long fill. I'm particularly fond of "SIR, NO SIR," the BOX TURTLE (surprisingly, a [Pet that hisses when frightened]), APRIL FOOL, TUMBLE DRY, ACROSTIC, and the crossing 15s LOW-HANGING FRUIT and AIR QUALITY INDEX ([0-to-500 scale that goes from least to most hazardous]).
  • Favorite clue: 17A: [Cow with a drawn-out look] for STARE DOWN. I read that "cow" as an animal rather than a verb, and was picturing various dour-looking cattle.
  • Some of the shorter (3 to 5 letters) fill is on the "meh" side: abbreviations, a partial, a NOTER and a (much better) GIVER.
  • I found this easier than most Saturday NYTs, but I see some longer times on the applet. What were your trouble spots, if any?
Updated Saturday Morning:

Don Gagliardo's Los Angeles Times crossword

(Post excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential writeup.)

I worked an advance copy of the puzzle in Across Lite, and there's an error in the solution. The corrected file has not yet made it onto Cruciverb, but the puzzle should be correct on the L.A. Times website and the newspaper itself presumably doesn't reveal the solution until the following day. The error is a D where 5A: [Snake with a puff variety] meets 9D: [ACLU concerns], and those are a puff ADDER and rights, abbreviated as RTS. There is no "puff added" (though that phrase should appear on packages of cotton candy), and the ACLU does not customarily concern itself with delirium tremens.

  • 14A: [Become equitable in the long run] clues AVERAGE OUT. Not the zippiest phrase in the language, but it's colloquial and reflects English the way we speak it.
    26A: [Show featuring agents 86 and 99] is GET SMART. I never, ever saw the TV show, and I've only seen a portion of the Steve Carell movie. Did I miss much? I know about the shoe phone. (My son peeked over my shoulder at this puzzle and knew this clue thanks to the movie. The title was on the tip of his tongue but he couldn't summon it up. Kids! They're just like adults sometimes.)
    32A: ["See?!"] points towards the wordier "WHAT DID I TELL YOU?!" Now, that's awesome. I love it when the puzzle speaks to me in exclamations.
    54A: The [2002 film for which Adrien Brody won a Best Actor Oscar] is THE PIANIST. And then he inappropriately smooched Oscar presenter Halle Berry, who did not give up her bodily autonomy just because he thinks she's swell. (Hmph!) I always hear that movie title as "The Penis." Anyone else have that problem? No? Just me?
    7D: ["Sound familiar?"] and "DOES IT RING A BELL?" are synonymous. I kinda feel like "Does that ring a bell?" is a bit more natural-sounding.
    13D: [H.G. Wells's island researcher] is DR. MOREAU. Didn't South Park have a Marlon Brando/Dr. Moreau character with a bunch of mutant animal combos?
    27D: [Sargent portrait of a mysterious Frenchwoman] is called MADAME X. Even if you don't know the painting in question, you really can't complain about fine arts content in a Saturday crossword. The Saturday puzzle should challenge, entertain, and expand our knowledge base. And you know what? Right now I'm sort of wishing I'd chosen Madame X instead of Orange as my fake name. I'm a bit of a RUER.
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Opener Openers"—Janie's review

Three theme phrases; each begins with a word that can precede the word opener. Two of these words are tiny; all of the phrases are power-packed. There aren't tons of longer entries, but the four eights are especially good; and the cluing of the many shorter words adds to the overall success of today's Klahn. Looking first at the theme fill, there's:
  • 20A. EYE OF THE STORM (eye opener) gorgeously clued as [Inner calm]. Why the extravagant praise for the clue? It's the combination of the misdirection (this must be something zen or have something to do with finding your inner core, right?...) and then simply thinking about that weather paradox/phenomenon—the literal calm within the eye (center) of an otherwise havoc-wreaking hurricane. Remarkable really.
  • 39A. "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" (can opener) ["I'm amazed!"]. See above...
  • 54A. LETTER SWEATER (letter opener) [Varsity knit]. Never had one—but my brother, who was a varsity swimmer in both high school and college (and brought home his share of letters) sure did! These days, letters are apparently awarded for academic and artistic achievement, too. Are the jocks okay with that? I wonder...
Each of the four eights deserves a mention, too: THE ENEMY [He is us, to Pogo], VOLATILE (because it's such a good word), and the rhyming (and symmetrically placed) INTERPOL and BANKROLL, the latter with its alliterative [Back with bucks] clue.

And then, let's look at the way Bob writes his clues, using repeated words to make sequential connections from one clue to the next and strengthening their impact in the process:
  • [Far from friendly] for both NASTY and ICY, and [Friendly Frenchmen] for AMIS.
  • [Some make calls at home] for UMPS and [Wolf that calls the shots] for ALPHA.
  • [Getz into the sax] for STAN and [Get into the outfit] for CLOTHE (and not enlist).
  • [Down or down time] for NAP and [Downwind] for (old faithful) ALEE.
  • [Big-name] for NOTED and [Big name in stickies] for POST-IT.
Some other clue/fill combos that made me think twice (and smile):
  • [Pioneering pair preserver]/NOAH and [Three-toed bird of the pampas]/RHEA (who knew the rhea had but three toes—and did Noah have a pair on the ark??).
  • [Sound grate?]/RASP.
  • [Duct tail]/-ILE (also like the play on ducktail).
  • [Babbles and blabbers]/YAKS (certainly Noah had a pair of yaks on board).
  • [Mississippi tributary in Mississippi]/YAZOO (what a great name!).
  • [Go, to the dogs]/"MUSH!"
  • [Lapel labels]/ID TAGS.
  • [Like silly fools or maple trees]/SAPPY. And finally,
  • [Jerk's concoction]/SODA.
In other words, this whole puzzle is basically ['60s "Wow!"]/"FAR OUT!"

Sandy Fein's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

I generally prefer themeless crosswords with stacks of long (9- to 15-letter) answers to the ones with a slew of 7s, which feel drier to me. Comments on a handful of clues and answers:
  • 64A. I love SHEESH, the [Frustration exclamation].
  • 65A. Did you know that DESSERT is a [Word from the French for "clear the table"? I did not. I like learning cool etymologies.
  • 8D. [Unwelcome giveaways] are SPOILERS, and this applies to movies and TV shows, outcomes of sports matches, and crosswords.
  • 36D. JOHN TESH is a [Soft-rock deejay]? Boy, I have not been keeping up with his career. He's got a syndicated radio show, apparently. Wikipedia quotes Tesh as saying ""This show was created for my wife. She's one of those people where, you look at her side of the bed (and see) six issues of Prevention magazine and five months of Oprah magazine...(she) never has time to read any of that stuff...I feel there's enough entertainment there - nobody needs to know the latest in the trial of Anna Nicole Smith from us, or who the celebrity birthdays are. So I said, ‘Let's just do something that moves people forward in their life, and we'll do the work for them.'" I don't understand what that means in the framework of a soft-rock radio show.
  • 43D. AIRFARE is a numerical thing associated with a commercial flight, but I don't think [Flight stat] is quite right. The percentage of people paying full fare might be a stat, but the airfare itself? No.
  • 55D. ["Verbe irrĂ©gulier"] clues ETRE, the French irregular verb "to be." Zippier clue than [French irregular verb] would be.