Saturday, 12/12/09

Newsday 7:54
NYT 5:22
LAT 4:31
CS untimed

Two things: (1) Horrid theme contest! See the post just before this one for details. (2) Our charming webmaster Dave cooked up a doodad whereby you can click a link for a specific puzzle up top, and it’ll jump you right to that part of the write-up. Less scrolling, more immediate gratification. What’s not to like?

Karen Tracey’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 11Hot puzzle! Wouldja get a load of all the juicy fill in this one? Cool clues, too. I think Karen’s had about two crosswords I wasn’t crazy about, and dozens more than I adore. Put this one in the “adore” column.

Top 10 entries:

  • 12D. BRIDEZILLA! She’s a [Hard-to-please wedding participant].
  • 28A. She crosses VELAZQUEZ, with two Zs and a Q. He’s the [17th-century painter of “Lady With a Fan”].
  • 20A. The FLIP SIDE’s the [Opposite].
  • 26D. [Some hustlers] are POOL SHARKS.
  • 29D. ZACH BRAFF has been a [“Scrubs” Emmy nominee]. Anyone still watching that show? I used to love it.
  • 42A. STEADY JOB is completely “in the language.” The clue, [Daily bread supplier?], almost made me consider BAKERY JOB, which is markedly less “i.t.l.”
  • 11D. ACTIVE DUTY is another terrific entry. The clue is [Reserves are not on it], which is simple enough.
  • 36D. COPULA means [Linking verb]. Hey, how many other cognates does “copulate” have?
  • 41A. I’m a sucker for a good etymology clue. SHTETLS is clued [Literally, “little towns”].
  • 56A. [Historical transition point] is the END OF AN ERA. How refreshing to have the longer phrase rather than the quasi-crosswordese partial, [End of ___] AN ERA.

I don’t quite get [Tip end: Prefix] for ACRO-. Just a straight-up literal definition of the prefix? Poking around the dictionary, I see that acrophobia’s root is akron (“summit”), while acromegaly’s is akron (“tip, extremity”). Would someone who’s studied Greek please let me know whether these akrons are the same?

At 17A, a [Minor employment need?] is a youth WORK PERMIT. Hmm, maybe TROWEL, right below it, ought to have a clue other than [Plaster worker]. Cute clue for CHARM, tno? 46A: [Third time, say]. Less cute is the evocation of that early-’80s fashion woe, culottes; CAPRIS are a cuter [Alternative to culottes]. I’ve been waiting decades for someone to tell me if culottes and gauchos, popular at the same time, are in fact the same garment. 1D: AT. WT. is a blah answer, but I like its clue: [Bit of elementary knowledge?: Abbr.], as in data on the periodic table of elements. BEL AMI is a cute little French phrase, but I didn’t know it was a 31D: [Guy de Maupassant novel].

Grossest clue: 13D: [They often get dressed] for SORES, as in open wounds getting surgical dressings. Eww.

Answer I was most pleased to spell right: 40D: MYCENAE, or [Agamemnon’s domain].

Updated Saturday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Q’s Cruise”–Janie’s review

What a terrific themed puzzle to close out the week with. Will gives us a nice “substitution” gimmick that pays off beautifully with fresh fill and smiles all around. “CR” now begins the well-known phrases that used to begin with “Q’s,”–or, to spell it out–”Q’s” (“queues”) → CRuise… Here’s how it plays out:

  • 17A. Quick study → CRICK STUDY [Research project on neck pain?]. This might also have been clued [Research project on DNA] in a shout-out to Francis Crick
  • 27A. “Don’t be a quitter” → “DON’T BE A CRITTER” [“Stop acting like such an animal”?]. Love this clue/fill pair a lot. Ditto this next one, in which
  • 43A. Quack like a duck → CRACK LIKE A DUCK [Yield under pressure, as Daffy might?]. This one gives us a strong visual (and aural) image, which is always a plus. Re: that base phrase, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.” I can’t confirm it was first used/coined by Douglas Adams (of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame), but that particular sentence did appear in his 1987 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • 58A. Jonny Quest → JONNY CREST [Sci-fi boy with very clean teeth?]. Very funny clue, imoo, with a silly concept that just delights.

Other goodies in the grid? There’re the alliterative and lively JELLY JAR and BAYBERRY. Then, those “K”-containin’ words: PAPRIKA, ANKLETS, CD RACKS, KAFKA–with his lengthy, factoid-filled clue [Bohemian writer whose last request was that all his manuscripts be “burned unread”]. Fortunately for us, Max Brod–the friend who promised to carry out Kafka’s wish–opted out and preserved them for others to publish/put into safe-keeping. This is a really interesting story. Read all about it.

I also enjoyed the range and blend of other “artistes”: [Engraver Albrecht] DURER and DUMAS (père) [“The Three Musketeers” author], from [Bygone days (YORE); funnymen CHICO [Brother of Harpo] (also Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo) and JERRY [comedian Seinfeld]; and thespians ALFRE [Woodard of “Desperate Housewives”] and SHUE [Actress Elisabeth who narrated “Tuck Everlasting”].

Finally, gotta mention the “bonus” fill–namely the one that uses something mentioned in the title, but in a way that is [Not straightforward]: OBLIQUE. Clever!

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 10From my L.A. Crossword Confidential write-up:


  • 1A: [It provides more details] clues a ZOOM LENS.
  • 9A: [Raid target] is a FRIDGE. I was thinking of cockroaches and drug dealers, but a FRIDGE raid is infinitely more pleasant.
  • 23A: [’90s-’00s sitcom star] is DREW CAREY. Is he still wearing his hair longer on The Price Is Right? I think the hair makes him look sad.
  • 36A: [Gets off suddenly] is the clue for QUITS COLD TURKEY. The clue can be read obscenely, but I don’t think there’s a good way to tie this answer to the ribald version of the clue.
  • 57A: EXERCISE is clued with this: [It can involve dumbbells and jerks]. And those, of course, are the gym rats you encounter when getting EXERCISE at the gym.
  • 59A: I like [“High Fidelity” star John] (CUSACK). He was decent in 2012. Things blew up, he remained a nice guy. My favorite Cusack movie is The Sure Thing. No, wait. Maybe it’s Grosse Pointe Blank.
  • 62A: [“I’ll bet!”] clues “YEAH, YEAH.” “Oh, sure.” “Riiight.”
  • 8D: [“A Fish Called Wanda,” e.g.] is a SCREWBALL COMEDY. I love this movie, too! Glad to have a SCREWBALL COMEDY that I’ve seen rather than a classic ’40s-’50s movie that I might not necessarily know is a screwball comedy.
  • 12D: [Bar exchanges, perhaps] are DIRTY JOKES. I started out with CORNY jokes but egads, who wants to hang out a bar listening to corny jokes?

And a lowlight!

  • 61A: Giggled (TE-HEED). There must be dictionary support somewhere for the TE-HEE spelling or it wouldn’t appear in so many crosswords. But this word is despondent. It wants to be TEE-HEE. And it wants desperately to be a noun, not a verb.

Overall, a fresh and enjoyable crossword, as we’ve come to expect from Doug. I like his sensibility when it comes to themeless fill.

Barry Silk’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

Favorite answer: 32A. BILL COSBY, [“America’s Dad”].

Least favorite answer: 20A. USE A BEEPER, or [Page, perhaps]. No, no, no. What next? USE AN IRON. USE THE PHONE. USE A FORK. The Star Wars line “USE THE FORCE,” on the other hand, would be awesome. It’s familiar and has entered the language, whereas “USE A [insert object here]” is arbitrary and contrived fill.

Most unexpected anagram clue: 33D. [Anagram of East Timor] is ESTIMATOR. Weird clueing approach, no?

Trivia I didn’t know, but that Philly Barry Silk does: 1A. BETSY ROSS is the name of a [Bridge from Philadelphia].

In the “Who?!?” category: 37A. [Supermodel Miller] clues MARISA. Wikipedia tells me she’s best known for underwear and bikini modeling. Feh. This one’s for the drooling males in the solving audience.

Pointless trivia: 57A. An AIREDALE terrier ws [John Wayne’s childhood pet]. If you’re under 50, I’ll bet you didn’t know this (and don’t care).

Least rewarding crosswordese: 40A. ESSO was a [Jersey Standard brand].

Coolest crossing: VERBATIM meets VIRTUOSO, or [Copied precisely] and a [Maven].

Toughest square, for me: The final E in 63A: SERE/[Far from saturated] and 42D: SERIES E/[’40s war bonds].

Least favorite sort of clue for foreign answers: 55A is an [Overseas article]. Well! That certainly narrows it down, doesn’t it? Happens to be German DER. Can’t you even call it a definite article and make it a tad more specific? Really, it’s just mean to clue a foreign word so vaguely.

Right answer that’s no better than the first wrong answer I had: For 45A, [Watercraft propellers], I was set to grumble at OARERS. Turned out to be OARMEN instead. OARSMEN is much more common than either of those.

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21 Responses to Saturday, 12/12/09

  1. Will Nediger says:

    I’ve never studied Greek, but according to my Greek-English dictionary, the two akrons are the same. Also, yay, a KMT themeless!

  2. tabstop says:

    OURFATHER fit quite nicely in 42A as well, which I suspect was the point. That made 40D start with MT so I went through a mountain or two. Don’t think I’ve heard of RYAS before, or if I have they didn’t stick. I knew Toots SHOR, but I don’t know why.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Can’t find your puzzle solution, but I think mine is correct… and I did only one google, to confirm the Emmy nominee. Lots to love in this one, though the foreign language words may have spelled trouble for some: PERO, ERES, CARA, JARDIN, BEL AMI, SHTETLS, OPEL, EREBUS, plus that COPULA! At least the carpets were easy for me, relating to a horror story about a dealer in oriental rugs having to remedy his wife’s redecoration in RYAS!

  4. Evad says:

    The one thing I love about KMT’s puzzles is the way they unfold steadily and gradually. Even with obscure entries like RYA and ZACH BRAFF, the crossers are not obscure in the same way, as there always seems to be a familiar phrase like ACTIVE DUTY or STEADY JOB that emerges from the fog to help with those missing crossing letters.

  5. Matt says:

    A good-and-tough one for me, I had to google ZACHBRAFF to finish that area around the middle-east. My hardest-to-fix mistake was TBARS/IBARS for 48D– it led to thinking 47A was C___TS, which was very reasonable, but very wrong.

  6. Joel says:

    I knew Zach Braff with no crossings, so that really opened things up. For me, the trouble spot was in the NW. SHOR, PERO, ASPIC, THENATURAL, and CARA, were not going to come no matter how hard I tried. Oh, and Orange, your solution grid is wrong. It has STEADY PAY and ZACHYRAFF.

  7. Zulema says:

    Oh, dear, RYA rugs were all the rage in the 50’s and even 60’s. Mostly irregular patterned geometric designs in bright but not primary colors, more like earth colors.

    The summit of a mountain is the tip of it, as Will Nediger points out. I’d no idea GM acquired Opel that early, even though I had two of them. I thought it was much later.

  8. Evad says:

    Joel, that was my bad….an earlier commenter mentioned the lack of solution grid and I typed the answers from memory into AcrossLite this morning and attached the grid. I guess STEADY PAY is more intuitive to me than STEADY JOB, but both are rock solid phrases.

    If I ever attempt to do that again, I’ll use the applet so that I can be sure there are no typos.

  9. joon says:

    i’ve seen RYAs in crosswords before, but i definitely know that word from scrabble first and foremost. ZACH BRAFF/VELAZQUEZ broke this one open for me, although i still needed a few more crossings before seeing BRIDEZILLA (great answer!). loved the ARMFUL clue; my son sam, now two, definitely was an ARMFUL from an early age.

    in the stumper, i, too, looked askance (and i’m still looking askance) at USE A BEEPER. (USE THE FORCE would be awesome; i remember cackling over USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE from a recent sunday NYT.) and yes, i did not know or care about john wayne’s childhood pet (whoever that is). still, though, i didn’t think this was that hard as stumpers go. the ESTIMATOR clue was indeed curious, although i guess ESTIMATOR is such a dry word that cluing it straight-up as something like [Statistical best-guess function] would have put most all of the solvers to sleep.

    over in doug’s LAT, SCREWBALL COMEDY is great, but i can’t stand a fish called wanda. augh. why not something of the zucker brothers oeuvre?

    (and yes, i was just pulling your collective legs… i know who john wayne is.)

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    At least Dave was up and tending to the blog while I slept in this morning.

    Joon, I think of the Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams movies as spoofs more than screwball comedies. Does anyone have a cinematic lexicon that offers clear delineations?

  11. LARRY says:

    Amy- Re the Saturday Stumper:
    1. I’m over 75 and didn’t know OR care that John Wayne’s childhood pet was an AIREDALE. Who knows such things? Someone who read his biography? Why would ANYONE do that???
    2. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Walter Scott, DIARIST.
    3. I think you have to be an oldster to remember SERIES E bonds, which to a large degree, paid for WWII (“the BIG ONE” – thanks Archie Bunker).
    4. Neat fact about the BETSY ROSS bridge.

  12. ===Dan says:

    Song lyrics seem to stick in my head, and earworms are triggered by random phrases. That’s why I’m surprised I don’t have “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” going through my head (yet). It just struck me that “steady job” appears there.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    @ Larry — We just had a discussion about SERIES E bonds at Rex’s, so one needn’t have been older to get that, and I got AIREDALE quickly enough from crosses. What I didn’t get in the Silk Stumper was the top center section, not knowing RAVI was Norah’s dad and starting in the NE corner with ERODE for Wear, rather than SPORT. I might even have moved on from just that center O, looking at the ending -OSO, but I don’t think of a Maven as a VIRTUOSO — just someone who is well versed in a particular subject. Ah, well… it wasn’t a total disappontment. Next time I’ll know more about Ravi!

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    ArtLvr: Keep in mind that not everyone follows all the discussions at Rex’s. I read his posts, but only get into the comments every two or three days.

  15. Jeff says:

    I had LOANSHARK instead of POOLSHARK and OLDS instead of OPEL, which threw me for a long time.

    (Oh, and Joon: if you google “USE THE FORCEPS LUKE” you’ll find a funny drawing, and the caption is even better: OB/GYN KENOBI.)

  16. John Haber says:

    I’m afraid the east center defeated me, what with two TV shows coming down (both long entries), the right spelling of the Indian tribe (I thought first of the ship, the Pequod), the unfamiliar COPULA, and the equally unfamiliar CAPRI (not in RHUD, and I guess I don’t buy enough women’s clothing). This left a little too big a hole for me, so I didn’t get SHTETLS either.

  17. Jordan says:

    The best John Cusack movie is the best teen movie of all time: “…say anything.”

    No second choice.

  18. John Haber says:

    Testing to see if I can comment. Sorry!

  19. John Haber says:

    I had most trouble in the center east, thanks in part to the two long down clues both about TV, although I didn’t recognize COPULA or CAPRIS as well. (The latter’s not in RHUD, but no doubt I just don’t buy enough women’s clothing.)

  20. John Haber says:

    I got tied up in the TV shows coming down in the center east, but this is mostly a test, as I’m using IE to try to debug why I usually can’t comment.

  21. Will says:

    Thanks for the nice review of my Q’s Cruise puzzle. The theme was a little strange — kind of a reverse Fuddism theme.

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