November 20, 2009

Saturday, 11/21/09

NYT 9:07
Newsday 7:45
LAT 4:22
CS untimed

Gary Whitehead's New York Times crossword

I didn't get quite enough sleep the last couple nights, and then there was some beer, and then my eyelids kept closing while I was doing this puzzle. My solving time says "ZOMG! Harder than Klahn!" but that's not a reliable measure tonight.

By the numbers: This is a 64-worder, and fortunately low on the roll-your-own-words scale. (UNITER would feel less roll-your-own if clued with reference to "I'm a uniter, not a divider," but that'd be too easy for Saturday.) It's got 32 black squares, well within the limits. The stair-step stacks at the top and bottom bleed into wide-open spaces, which is something you're less likely to see when the stack contains all 15s rather than the 11/13/15 stacks here.

Worst misstep: Crosswords have taught me that sheep say BAA and goats say MAA, So why on earth is BAAS the answer to 25A: [Kids' greetings]? Sure, MEER makes no sense for 25D: [It has a head], but by the time I had letters 2, 3, and 4, I was no longer looking at the clue. BEER! I blame beer. That was the one square I needed to change after clicking "done" the first time.

Least familiar answer: 11D: [Horticultural practice] is SEEDAGE.

A selection of clues/answers:

• 12D. Lovely "SAVE THE PLANET" is a [Green line].
• 14A. The pretty JAPANESE LANTERN is a [Party lighting option].
• 22A. [Company dinner] clues MESS. "Company" as in "the troops of C Company."
• 24A. Sports trivia clue that went on and on and was no help to me: [World Match Play Championship champ a record seven times] is golfer Ernie ELS. I thought TAL of chess or ALI of boxing first, but let the crossings lead the way.
• 29A. [Lineup at some entrances] consists of {turn)STILES. Aw, my fellow Carleton grad T.J. STILES won the National Book Award for his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt this week. I don't know if T.J. does crosswords, but it'd be cool to see the noun turned into a surname in the puzzle sometime.
• 41A. Who knew SELMA was an [Alabama University] and not just an Alabama town? Not I.
• 45A. Favorite entry: MAKE A MENTAL NOTE, or [Store something for later thought].
• 48A. [One of many American houses] isn't architectural, it's a STATE SENATE.
• 3D. Very Olaf-ish clue. "Olaf" is Crosscan's coinage for clues that provide lots of specific information that really don't help you get the answer if the first couple words don't get you there. Case in point: [Egyptian king credited with founding the First Dynasty]. MENES! Who? 24A was rather Olaf-ish, too.
• 8D. Shakespeare fill-in-the-blank: [" thy possession lies ___ unparall'd": Shak.] clues A LASS.
• 10D. Ooh, long French word. [Hear, to Henri] is ENTENDRE. Not sure why I had ATTENDRE at first.
• 13D. [Alabama and others] is a wonderfully misleading clue for TRIBES. It's also a state, a country-rock band, and a university.
• 14D. JUICE is a [Press release?] if the press is a juice-press.
• 29D. Love the word SMARM, which is clued as [Oiliness].
• 33D. WALPOLE is fun to say. [Britain's first prime minister] is markedly less well-known to Americans than the P.M.'s of the 20th and 21st centuries.
• 43D. ["Abyssinia"] sounds like "I'll be seein' ya," or TA TA. Whoa.
• 44D. Yay, old familiar crosswordese! TARN is a [Mountain lake], and it's one of the crosswordese words I'm fond of.

Good night, folks!

Updated Saturday morning:

Lynn Lempel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "A Ride at Last"—Janie's review

In yesterday's "Opposite Beginnings" we were asked to look at the start of the theme fill to understand the gimmick; today we're asked to look at the end the theme fill (the "last" part) to appreciate it. That's where we meet up with various sets of wheels that'll provide "a ride." What's really fresh about the way Lynn has executed the theme, is that none of the rides appears as a discrete word—even when the fill is a compound; each is a part of the larger word or phrase, almost cryptic-style (though not as tricky to discern...). Take a look. You can travel by:

• 17A. MADAGASCAR [Island known for its unique species]. This one delivers a double helping and that's fine by me.
• 11D. EYESTRAIN [Result of poring over print, perhaps].
• 34D. AWESTRUCK [Stunned]. (This combo has a non-thematic mate, btw, with AMAZE and [Stun]).
• 59A. ED SULLIVAN [Big Beatles booster in America]. Because of the variety and basically high quality of the acts he presented every Sunday night (including excerpts from Broadway shows), Sullivan was one of the great (if almost personality-free) [TV HOSTS] of his day. The jury is still out where [Sajak, Smiley and Springer] are concerned. Here's a clip from 1960 of the original Broadway cast of Bye Bye Birdie performing "Hymn for a Sunday Evening" (an absurd and delicious tribute to Sullivan) while on The Ed Sullivan Show.

There's a lot of nice fill in here today of the non-theme variety as well: TOP HAT [Crowning touch for Uncle Sam], FAT CAT [Campaign contributer with deep pockets], BUY-OUT [Corporate takeover], BEDOUIN [Member of a nomadic desert culture], ANARCHY [Absence of government], and (with reference to the tennis-playing Williams gals) SERENA, by way of the well-clued [She has many court dates with her sister] for starters. (And yes, I am partial to compounds. I feel like they give puzzles a certain ZEST [Gusto]).

I was also amused by the "bad manners" pair of GORGES [Eats like a pig], and what may happen if you do—BURP [No-no at the table], although I always heard that "it's better to belch and bear the shame than squelch the belch and bear the pain"... The other natural pairing is the J.M. Barrie shout-out with ["Peter Pan pooch] NANA and ["]I'VE [Gotta Crow" ("Peter Pan" song)].

Good morning, y'all! I went straight to bed after blogging last night and slept for 10 hours. Now that's more like it.

Barry Silk and Doug Peterson's Los Angeles Times crossword

Fun Saturday LAT, for a change—polished fill, fun clues, and the difficulty level of a Friday NYT rather than a Tuesday. Excerpts from my L.A. Crossword Confidential write-up follow.

When I want to earn some money, I either work on crossword assignments or do some medical editing. So I was pleased with the biomedical slant of a bunch of the fill in this puzzle:

• 1A: We all know what MUSCLE is from an anatomical standpoint. It's also a slangy term for [Hired goons].
• 17A: Use your ears to [Heed], or LISTEN TO someone or something.
• 21A: ["Fantastic Voyage" setting in sci-fi] is the BLOODSTREAM. Great pop-culture clue for a word that could be kinda boring.
• 35A: [Its contents are under pressure] clues AEROSOL. Doesn't look biomedical, except that a sneeze aerosolizes horrid germs.
• 48A: [Geneticist's pursuit] clues DNA RESEARCH. Just read today that there's pressure on the University of Nebraska to limit stem-cell research. Now, "stem-cell research" is a rock-solid phrase. DNA RESEARCH feels kinda iffy to me. Genetics research, sure. What does Google say? Google says "DNA research" is good for 411K hits and that there's a scientific journal by that name. (Objection hereby withdrawn.)
• 63A: [Biological catalyst] is an ENZYME.
• 25D: [Solution for a fertility problem, perhaps] could be a SPERM DONOR, or in vitro fertilization, or a handful of other options. My best friend's son is the genetic offspring of lucky Donor #9. (If you feel this answer pushes the bounds of what's tasteful, be glad that it wasn't clued as, say, "male grad student's side job.")

Other highlights:

• 7A: To [Snub] someone is to HIGH-HAT them. HIGH-HAT is also a noun and adjective. With the G and T in place, NEGLECT seemed like an obvious answer, but all the other letters were wrong.
• 28A: To [Refuse to make changes] is to SIT PAT. No, wait. I don't like this one. I would like STAND PAT, but SIT PAT is a bit weaker.
• 9D: [Rakes it in] clues GETS RICH. How awesome an entry would GET-RICH-QUICK be?
• 11D: The [SUV that replaced the Passport] is the HONDA PILOT. We see relatively few make/model combos in crosswords, and I, for one, would welcome more. VW BUG sometimes shows up, but answers like TOYOTA CAMRY, CHEVY CAVALIER, and FORD MUSTANG would be cool too.
• 15D: The GLIDER is a [Quiet aircraft]. My dad took lessons in the '70s.
• 22D: Hands down, my favorite clue. [Three less than once] looks surreal—wait, is that negative twice?—but once in Spanish is "eleven" in English, so 11 – 3 = OCHO. OCHO is the funniest of the Spanish numbers, isn't it? That Ocho Cinco guy in the NFL has brought the number a great deal of pizzazz.
• 36D: I like familiar brand names as crossword fill. The ["Sorry, Charlie" brand] is STARKIST canned tuna.
• 46D: [2002 Campaign Reform Act co-sponsor] is John MCCAIN. For those who suspect that President "60% Vowels" Obama gets his name in so many crosswords because of a liberal plot, here's your McCain for balance.
• 54D: [Normal in Illinois, say] is a small CITY. Home of Illinois State University, neighbor of Bloomington. I hope some people thought "normal" was an adjective here.
• 56D: One [Instrument played with a plectrum] is a LYRE. You know what a plectrum is? Nothing more than a guitar pick.

Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

Am I the only one whose PDF printout lops off the bottom two clues on the page? 10D and 49D were cut off. Not that it really mattered—10D came via the crossings and 49D, [Harry Senate on "Boston Public"] is a clue that meant nothing to me. KATT? Was William Katt on that show? He is always and forever The Greatest American Hero, and that's that.

8A: PINATA is clued as a [Stuffed party treat]. Check out Patrick Merrell's cartoon in honor of Will Shortz's 16th anniversary as the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle. Pat, we want more cartoons! Ashen and Noir want to come out and play.

17A is HALF-SLIP—[It hangs from the waist]. Hardly anyone wears these anymore. If you or someone you love is Filipino-American, you might enjoy the Happy Slip videos (name derived from the way the video blogger's Filipino mom pronounced "half-slip").

Favorite clues/answers:

• 19A. OLAF is not just a Norwegian king—it's also [One of Snoopy's brothers].
• 20A. LOADED DICE is a great entry. [Pair of cheaters?], not cheater squares.
• 31A. VANITY PLATE is a great answer, too. [Barbara Bush's "I READ," e.g.] is the clue.
• 34A. [Jefferson successor] was looking wrong with two As at the beginning, until AARON BURR bubbled up.
• 41A. [Many months in Mato Grosso] are AÑOS, or "years." The answer and clue are unexceptional, but on Crossword Fiend forum, Zulema mentioned receiving a poorly translated bilingual brochure from New York's State Majority Leader Pedro Espada, boasting that he'd been honored as "el Senador del Ano." That's Spanish for "the senator of the anus" without the tilde.
• 48A. HAD KITTENS is an idiom I never use. It means [Came unglued].
• 13D. ["20/20" creator], 7 letters, starts with A...I went straight for ABC NEWS, but it's Roone ARLEDGE.
• 15D. SPACE INVADERS is an old [Shooting game] in video arcades.
• 28D. [Revolutionary?] clues IN ORBIT. Got this one right away.
• 32D. Egg foo YUNG includes the [Chinese menu word]. You wanted TSO'S, didn't you?
• 34D. [Remote energy sources] are AAS, the double-A batteries used in TV remote controls.
• 39D. Movie trivia: Rod STEIGER was the [Only American star of "Doctor Zhivago"].
• 40D. Boxing [Ring areas] are CORNERS. Were you thinking of AREOLAS? There's no shame in that.

Never heard of 35D: MATHIAS, [Decathlon champ at Helsinki].