October 02, 2009

Saturday, 10/3/09

Newsday 10:11
NYT 5:24
LAT 3:00
CS untimed (double-Doug!)
NYT diagramless tba

Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword

Did you know that COMEDIAN fits perfectly into the space for 15A: [Stand-up guy]? And yet the answer is FUNNYMAN, but I had the last letter in place so I promptly filled in COMEDIAN. Thank goodness for psychopaths behaving AMORALLY or it would've taken me longer to see the error in my ways. And thank goodness for the NYT's difficulty level remaining intact as an American treasure—I did the Saturday LAT puzzle just before this one, and it's a travesty how easy it was.

Lots of good stuff and hardly any junk in this grid. What's good? This:

  • 9A. [Rey Juan Carlos's home] is ESPAÑA. Yes, "home" is in English, but "rey" is Spanish ("king") to signal the Spanish answer. What better word to display in Spanish than Spain?
  • 16A. [It holds its liquor] clues a FLAGON. Gotta love words that have been with us since the late Middle English days.
  • 17A. OLD-GROWTH FOREST constitutes [Much of Redwood National Forest]. New growth is lovely, but there's no replacement for old-growth unless you've got a couple hundred years to wait.
  • 27A. "PLEASE," [When repeated, start of a Beatles title]—that's "Please Please Me." You dallied with Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in your head, didn't you?
  • 31A. [Sandwich, Edam, or Champagne] is a TOPONYM, or place name. The sammich, cheese, and swill take their names, directly or not, from those places.
  • 40A. MR. MOTO is the [Secret agent created by a 1938 Pulitzer winner], John P. Marquand. The answer makes me think of "Mr. Roboto." I can't help it. I came of age in the '80s.
  • 46A. CAEN was the [Setting of William the Conqueror's castle], which (a) I did not know and (b) tells me Caen is old.
  • 48A. ERIK Estrada has been passed over yet again, this time for [Finnish composer Bergman]. Hey, that name is not Finnish. He should be Eriikk Berggamakko.
  • 51A. [Fixation] clues BEE IN ONE'S BONNET, which takes me straight to the They Might Be Giants song
    "Birdhouse in Your Soul".
  • 1D. [It keeps you grounded] isn't about electricity or humility but rather, gravity: G-FORCE. Thank god the clue isn't about that small rodent Disney movie my kid didn't want to see this summer.
  • 4D. Who knew ANGST was an [Existential topic for Heidegger]?
  • 5D. Wait-wait-wait. TYRE is [Home to a Shakespearean prince]? Which one? Pericles, Prince of Tyre, written at least in part by Shakespeare, they say.
  • 11D. [3, 4 or 5, but rarely 6] is a good clue for PAR in golf.
  • 27D. PEÑA is clued as [Elizabeth of "Lone Star," 1996]. If you've never seen the movie, get it from Netflix. It's excellent.
  • 30D. Wow, did I get stuck on [Source of a body piercing?]. It's TORO, as in a bull in Spain that might gore someone. Friend of mine works as a body piercer so I got distracted by thinking of him.
  • 31D. [Where to get croquetas] is at a TAPAS BAR. Yum.
  • 42D. I had the beginning letter of the [Leader called "the Great"] so I filled in POMPEY. It's czar PETER I.
  • 48D. Gotta love a mislead like ["And Winter Came..." artist]. "Artist"? Singer. ENYA. D'oh!
  • 53D. SEI, Italian for "six," is the [Number of legs on un insetto]. Cute!
You know, I thought this puzzle rolled in on the easier end of the Saturday spectrum, but I'm seeing longer-than-expected times on the applet and the widget in my sidebar. Deadly crossings? Tough clues? Traps? What gives?

Updated Saturday morning:

Doug Peterson's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Concealed Weapons"—Janie's review

You may recall that Monday's puzzle was "C & W" (by Paula Gamache), in which the words of the theme-phrases began with the title letters, and in which one of those theme-phrases was CONCEALED WEAPON. This last puzzle of the week goes one better by literally embedding the word arm, as in 57A. THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS [Constitutional guarantee...] in three more 15-letter phrases. And they just happen to be:
  • 17A. BRONZE STAR METAL [Military decoration for valor]. Not only do I like this phrase, but there's some truth in the advertising here. People in the military do carry arms. Which are sometimes concealed. The phrase stands in striking contrast to the next place where a concealed weapon apparently may be found:
  • 26A. ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT [Organized campaign for peace]. Yikes. How's that for irony? Is there something Doug knows that we don't? The final phrase isn't associated with the military or its opponents, but brings back the advertising phrase we've all come to know:
  • 43A. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? [Cell phone user's query]. (Using arms against the person who came up with this phrase is not an option...)
One "K" shy of a pangram, this puzzle is filled with lively, Scrabbly fill. Some of my faves include:
  • SIZE TWO/[Runway model's specification, perhaps]. Too thin!!!
  • The crossing of the eminently listenable [Jason with the 2008 hit "I'm Yours"]/ MRAZ (whom I'd never heard of [living under a rock as I sometimes do...]) with ZEALOTS, and of AZTEC with ZORRO
  • YAPHET/[Actor Kotto of "Alien"] and also Homicide: Life on the Streets
  • JIU-JITSU/[Japanese martial art]
  • And for those "V"s, even AVAIL, ALIVE and VASSAR—where the female student body may run the gamut from VAMP/[Coquette] to the young woman who's described as PRIM/[Rigidly formal]. No matter where the student lies on the spectrum, she'll still have to find the time to PORE OVER her books. Ditto her male classmates.
Was amused to see SUES right next to ARTE in the grid. While the former has been clued as [Brings actions against] and the latter as ["Laugh-In" regular Johnson], I was reminded that Alan Sues was also one of the regular (if perhaps less memorable) Laugh-In cast members.

Also smiled at the sequential, echoing clues [Newsman Newman]/EDWIN and [New, to Juan]/NUEVO.

Before I "AM-SCRAY!" (I do enjoy the slangy, ig-pay atin-Lay imperative), let me point out that ["Gunsmoke" star James] ARNESS always carried a weapon (if not necessarily a concealed one), and whether at the card table (where he would [Take from the deck]) or on the streets of Dodge City, might have uttered another imperative: "DRAW!"

Orange here. Imagine my surprise when it was nearly 9:30 when I woke up. That set the lackadaisical pace for my morning, in which I've made breakfast and downloaded a couple software updates but done no crosswords or blogging yet. I did the L.A. Times puzzle last night, so I'll start with that before moving on to the Newsday "Stumper" and Patrick Blindauer's NYT diagramless.

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's Los Angeles Times crossword

I can't help wondering if themeless (or, as Matt Gaffney wants to call 'em, "freestyle") crossword constructors are going to be hesitant to submit their creations to the L.A. Times knowing that the clues are likely to be gutted to Tuesday difficulty. I had complained last year when some Newsday "Saturday Stumpers" were hitting the 4-minute range and not stumping me at all—and now the L.A. Times themelesses are closer to the 3-minute mark. I just e-mailed a vague Tribune e-mail address (consumerservices@tribune.com) this morning to ask TMS to provide L.A. Times crosswords that appeal to solvers at all skill levels again, and not just easy puzzles.

Here's some of what I said in my L.A. Crossword Confidential post:

It's loaded with 15-letter answers—a triple-stack in the middle embraced by pairs of 15s above and below. They're all clued straightforwardly, as are the shorter answers. Not a single question-marked clue in the bunch! (And it's almost certain that Stella and Bruce originally wrote tougher clues for the puzzle.) Here are the big entries:
  • 14A: "This can't be true!" ("YOU'RE NOT SERIOUS!"). I prefer the McEnroesque "You cannot be serious!"
  • 17A: 25-Across's WWII command (EUROPEAN THEATER). Who is 25A? DDE, or WWII general who became pres.—Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • 31A: Scorned notion (HARE-BRAINED IDEA). The Hare and Rabbit Anti-Defamation League prefers the term bird-brained.
  • 37A: Oil and vinegar concoction (ITALIAN DRESSING). Make the vinegar balsamic, please. My kid, he'll eat anything if there's balsamic vinegar on it.
  • 38A: "Back off!" ("DON'T GET TOO CLOSE!").
  • 55A: Title guy asked to "play a song for me," in a Byrds hit (MR. TAMBOURINE MAN). I...honestly don't think I know this song. Really.
  • 57A: Cause of many traveling delays (AIRPORT SECURITY). The TSA line is excellent for training people to be obedient sheep who dare not question authority, isn't it?
In the fill, there was a karate BROWN BELT with a clue that worked OK for BLACK BELT. Despite putting in that half-wrong answer early on, I still finished this puzzle in 3 minutes flat. That ain't right!

Stan Newman's alter ego Anna Stiga's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

I may have spent half of my solving time trying to make sense out of the upper left corner of this puzzle. I hated it. It was patently unfair. I was tempted to Google the [Musical with Billy Joel songs] or [Sugar ___ (Monroe in "Some Like It Hot")], both of which I was blanking on. And then I figured out that [Pay back] was AVENGE and that [Yellow] must be GUTLESS (in another part of the puzzle, it's CRAVEN) and eventually everything fell into place (MOVIN' OUT, Sugar KANE). I kept thinking that 1A: [They go up in a plane] had something to do with airplanes (blame the [Fighter heroes], AVIATORS and AIR ACES, for that), but a plane is also a wood-shop tool that scrapes up SHAVINGS. Other clues in that corner that held me back but finally yielded: [Reveals, with "out"] is SMOKES, [Something paid] is HOMAGE, [Gave extra info on] is NOTATED. I ended up liking this quadrant of the puzzle best—lots of mental stretching and bending required to get to the intended meanings of the clues.

Time to put the blog away and play a geography board game with my kid. I may or may not get to the diagramless before tomorrow.