November 13, 2009

Saturday, 11/14/09

Newsday 6:17
NYT 6:15
LAT 3:22
CS untimed (J)/3:01 (A)

Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

Have we seen quadruple-stacked 15s before? I feel like I've seen it in a Frank Longo puzzle, maybe in a book rather than the NYT. Yes? No? Jim Horne suggests that this is a first, but I have some vague Longo deja vu.

Having a central quad-stack requires an even number of rows (this puzzle is 15x16). The 15s are:

• 32A. INCOME STATEMENT is an [Overhead shower] that shows what your overhead expenses are.
• 37A. I actually saw MOON OVER PARADOR, the [1988 comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss and Raul Julia]. The fake country name appears to be a portmanteau of Paraguay and Ecuador. Who's making this up—George Lucas?
• 38A. "ARRIVEDERCI, ROMA" is the [Song with the lyric "City of a million warm embraces"]. We had this answer in a themed L.A. Times puzzle by Lee Glickstein a month ago, grouped with other A__A phrases that ended with place names.
• 39A. MANDARIN ORANGES are, like other citrus fruits, [Pomelo relatives]. My nephew once asked my mom for some "oranges 'n' mander."

Favorite clues/answers:

• 8D. [Charging giant, informally] is AMEX, short for American Express. Surely I'm not the only one who built off the X by putting T. REX here?
• Burrowing animal alert! PRAIRIE DOG is a [Natural tunnel creator] (11D) while MOLE is an [Uninvited rooter] (42A).
• 25D. [Not to be persuaded] means UNMOVABLE.
• 26D. To GET ACROSS is to [Convey] your point.
• 30D. [Item sometimes planted in a garden], sort of, but not planted beneath the soil, not unless you're lucky that your neighbors don't want to be tacky, is a GNOME. (See also ELVES, [Noted workshop workers].)
• 34D. I don't eat CORNED BEEF, but it is indeed [Something to make a hash of].
• 49D. SKID is clued by way of [A screech may accompany it].

What I didn't much care for:

• 10A. SPAN is [6-Across, for one], and 6A is YEAR. SPAN partners up better with GET ACROSS, if you ask me. Or should just stand alone. None of this year business.
• 43A. DELS., short for delegates, are [Pol. convention attendees]. Don't recall seeing that abbreviation before.
• 45A. MESS ROOM is [Where things are bolted down on base]. Anyone not want this to be MESS HALL?
• 60A. [Etym. followers, often] clues DEFS., short for definitions. Most of my dictionaries (two out of three!) put the definitions first, followed by the etymology. Only my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate puts etyma first.
• 61A. [Tenor Cura] clues JOSE. Really? That's your go-to José? I Googled him: opera singer, born 1962. Is it bad that Ezio Pinza is so much more familiar to me than this guy?
• 2D. NEALE is clued as [Former Canucks coach Harry]. I cannot name a single hockey coach, not even for the Blackhawks.
• 6D. "YOU PASSED IT!" ["That was the turnoff!"]. I'd say "You missed the exit."
• 21D. ALOE VERAS in the plural, as [Alternative medicine treatments]? Aloe vera is a scientific name. Can those take a plural?
• 35D. [One way around Spain] is by TREN, which is not among the Spanish words most likely to be known by non-Spanish-speakers.
• 47D. The clue for crosswordese ORIEL, [Large bay], looks calculated to mislead. Does anyone like it when the payoff for a tricky clue is crosswordese? (It's a large bay window.)

Overall, the fill was smoother than we've seen in a number of other Krozel kreations, so I'll give it a modest thumbs-up. The crossings for the quad-stack are a good bit better (save TREN) than you might expect, given the sort of muck that often intersects triple-stacks, and they're mostly on the long side. So we can say that one advantage of a quad-stack is that it cannot have any crappy 3-letter abbreviations crossing it. Another plus is the Scrabbly fill—a Q, two Zs, an X, K, and J. Notably, none of those Scrabbly letters is to be found amid the 15s and their crossings.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "AV Club"—Janie's review

No—not a shout-out to the kids with the plastic pocket-liners who set up the sound and projection equipment for school events. Patrick instead takes the letters that begin A(udio)-V(isual) and interpolates them into four well-known phrases—with some very fine results, namely:

• 20A. BEAVER BELLIES [Abdomens of some dam builders?], which began life as beer bellies. This one really sparkles. It's easy to imagine those industrious beavers knocking back a few after a long day of gnawing, and eventually having to deal with their expanding waistlines. Time to build more damn dams!
• 36A. BRAVER FOX [More courageous vixen] takes its lead from Joel Chandler Harris's Br'er Fox, one of Br'er Rabbit's classic foils in his Uncle Remus stories. This is the only one of the four in which the meaning of the new phrase is not all that different from the meaning of the base phrase—and I'm afraid it suffers some as a result.
• 42A. WAVING TIP [Hint on how to greet from afar]. Ooh, this is good, as it creates its own picture and is so far away from its equally lively base phrase, wing tip.
• 56A. CAVITY COUNCIL [The American Dental Association, e.g.], which also comes up strong. It starts with city council, but that additional "AV" takes it in a whole new direction—one that takes us back to 20A, in fact. Anyone remember Bucky Beaver, Ipana toothpaste spokes-mascot?

There are several other clue/fill combos that kept me on my toes and that keep this puzzle lively:

• [It may be purple]/PROSE. Purple prose, as in Edward Bulwer-Lytton ("It was a dark and stormy night," etc...).
• [Staffs]/MANS. Staffs is a verb...
• [Number that's its own square]/ONE. This is a "do the math" clue and not a reference to a square in the grid.
• [Long-time Moore costar]/ASNER. Should be easy enough, right? But not when your thought process says, "Demi Moore? No, no long-time costar there. Oh, Dudley Moore. So the answer must be Peter COOKE... No, wait. Mary Tyler Moore! Right—Dick VAN DY... never mind..."
• [Eyes guys, e.g.]/OGLES and in the "turn-about is fair play" department, [Eyes thighs, e.g.]/LEERS. Gotta love the specificity. Gotta love the rhymes.
• [Hot shot?]/LOVE SCENE. So that's a camera shot.
• [Long lunches]/HEROS. Submarines, hoagies, grinders. Whatever they're call in your neck o' the woods, we're still talkin' about the sandwiches here.
• [It's worn on the bridal path]/VEIL. And guess what? It's worn along the bridle path, too. Check out these Victorian riding hats!
• ["Houston, we've had a problem..."]/"UH-OH"—and what a fine example of understatement that is!

Two sorta flag-raisers in the mix as well. I was unfamiliar with the term SPOOLED for [Prepared to send, as data to a printer], but it certainly makes sense to me; and then there was UKE defined as [Tiny Tim's strummer]. Is the instrument a strummer (something that gets strummed) or is Tiny Tim the strummer (the one who does the strumming)? And if the latter, does that mean this should have been clued [Tiny Tim's strum-ee]? I know. I'm in the land of overthink, but I'm afraid it goes with the territory...

Oh—and the one link you must check out is the one that goes a long way towards explaining ["An] ENOLA [Gay Christmas" (Off-Broadway show)]. Seems our multi-talented constructor was otherwise engaged in 2003. I'm only sorry I missed it. Any chance of a revival, Patrick?

Adam Cohen's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

The fill in this 72-worder is a bit drier than I had expected. The letters are mostly the common ones, and there's no showy marquee answer. The 15-letter entry across the middle, THE THREE SISTERS ([Literary characters surnamed Prozorov]), is filled with letters like E, R, S, and T. The only question-marked clue is [Dodging the draft?] for ALEE, "on the side of a ship that is sheltered from the wind." I like there to be more payoff for question-marking than a drab 4-letter word like ALEE.

A dozen clues:

• 12D. [County on the Firth of Clyde] is AYRSHIRE.
• 17A. ["Oliver!" director] is CAROL REED. I like full names in the puzzle, but it helps if the names are really famous or packed with crazy letters. Sir Reed died nearly 40 years ago and doesn't have anywhere near the name recognition of Frank Capra, Orson Welles, or John Ford.
• 26D. [With 34 Across, source of the samara fruit] is the ASH / TREE. It's the flying seed thing, not an edible fruit. Samara is also the name for maple trees' "helicopters."
• 26A. Paul ANKA is [Canada's Walk of Fame inductee]. Why, I've heard of more than half of the inductees!
• 53A. AS SEEN ON TV is a good entry, but the clue, [Common come-on], is less zippy.
• 63A. [Carnival ride] clues SEA CRUISE. Does anyone call it a "sea cruise," or just a cruise? (Carnival is a major cruise line company.)
• 6D. TERI Polo is not quite famous enough to be clued as [Polo, e.g.]. Again, as with ALEE, I want more of a payoff for a clue striving to mislead.
• 14D. I had hoped [Upright ones] would be some sort of pianos. Nope: STANDEES.
• 35D. THESAURI are [Places where land may be close to home].
• 36D. [Paramedic device] clues HEMOSTAT. It compresses a blood vessel to stanch the bleeding.
• 43D. EMEERS are [Some dynasts]. The primary spelling in English is EMIR. Secondarily, there's AMIR. EMEER is an unwelcome variant that has fallen out of fashion in most crosswords. It should be used only to facilitate better fill in its crossings, but EMEERS here crosses RAVER and UTILE, which are pretty flat.
• 57D. ["Pagliacci" part] wants you to think it's a role, but VOCE is Italian for "voice."

Frederick Healy's Los Angeles Times crossword

Excerpts from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post:

This one's back down to the easier level we've seen in recent months. I like to be expected to work hard on a Saturday puzzle—harder than I have to work on Wednesdays. Ah, well.

I was disappointed to find the first person singular pronoun lurking in five answers:

• 15A: ["Land sakes alive!"] clues "I DO DECLARE!"
• 22A: ["__ no idea!"] is completed by I HAD.
• 23A: [Cooperative after-dinner offer] is I'LL DRY.
• 29A: [Player's lament] clues I LOST.
• 41D: ["Out of the question"] clues "I CAN'T."

I can overlook a second use, but not a third, fourth, and fifth. Too much!


• 30A: [Voice of Mr. Magoo] (JIM BACKUS). Also the millionaire Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island. Now that's the kind of full-name answer I like in a crossword—someone whose name is familiar, plus it's got a J and K in it.
• 36A: [French capital?] (DES MOINES). Friend visiting from out of town works in Des Moines a lot. Like the answer, but frowned at the clue.
• 50A: ["High Voltage" rock band] (AC/DC). I only know "Dirty Deeds in a Dundle Jeep," as my best friend in 7th grade called it. Cute to clue the band's name with an electrical song title.
• 54A: [Shaq, 15 times] (NBA ALLSTAR). That's one more time than Michael Jordan, who interrupted his hoops career with his baseball interlude. Is 15 the record, or have others been at the top of the game for longer?
• 22D: [Revival meeting shout] (IT'S A MIRACLE). Dang it, the offical Culture Club video of the song by that name cannot be embedded. It's also the title of a Barry Manilow song.