Saturday, 12/19/09

NYT 8:05
Newsday 5:55
LAT 4:15ish
CS untimed

Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 16This is one of those puzzles that offers strikingly few toeholds, what with all those oily clues making our toes slip as we try to climb the sheer rock wall that is this puzzle. But hey! I beat it. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Thank you, [All-Star Cubs catcher Geovany] SOTO, for being one of a very small number of gimmes. (FER [“___ sher!”]

Craziest/toughest/trickiest clues:

  • 1D. [Standard buckets] are LAY-UPS, in basketball.
  • 31A. [McCarthy cohort] is ventriloquist puppet Mortimer SNERD, not a Red Scare figure.
  • 39A. [Pleasant enough] clues with weird word NICEISH.
  • 55A. [What flibbertigibbets make] is NO SENSE.
  • 50D. An electric FUSE is a [Current governor].
  • 11D. [Managed banks?] clues AVIATED, as in banking when turning a plane.
  • 10D. [Thread used in briefs] is a LINE OF REASONING. Legal briefs, not Fruit of the Looms.
  • 26D. [Melliferous, perhaps] is APIAN. I started with SWEET, knowing there was a honey tie-in.
  • 22D. TRIM DIE is a [Casting device]. Snore.
  • 18D, 4D. [“Roger & Me” subject] is URBAN / DECAY. I was trying to think of the name of the auto executive Michael Moore was going to see…forgetting that it was Roger somebody and that ROGER would not be the answer because it duplicates the clue word.
  • 3D. DOUBLE OCCUPANCY is a [Split between roommates].

Things that aren’t tricky, but that I just didn’t know:

  • 33A. The CRIMSON TIDE are the [Tigers’ rival in the Southeastern Conference].
  • 34D. [Roger who coached eight different NHL teams] is NEILSON. Never heard of him.
  • 17D. [“The Call” autobiographer] is ORAL ROBERTS and not, as I first suspected, a famous sports referee.
  • 5D. EBAN is the [Host of PBS’s “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews”].
  • 19A. HRE, or Holy Roman Empire, is clued with [Its leader’s flag featured a black eagle: Abbr.].
  • 47A. ERATO is the [Figure in Greek myth whose name means “desired”]. One dictionary tells me it comes from the Greek for “lovely.”

A few “is it this or that?” choices had to be made:

  • 13A. AMOEBAS are [Pseudopod formers]. Not AMOEBAE today.
  • 9D. [Swears] clues AVOWS, not AVERS.
  • 15D. [Chili con ___ (Tex-Mex dish)] clues QUESO. Not CARNE.
  • 21A. [Cal ___] POLY, not TECH.

Time to tuck in my kid. Discuss amongst yourselves, and share your bouquets and brickbats for Byron and Tyler.
Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Following Baseball”—Janie’s review

Really, for the die-hards, after baseball, what else is there? Football? Basketball? Colossal letdown and anti-climax?

For those who are living for the first day of Spring Training, Sarah offers some previews of coming attractions as the second word of each of today’s theme phrase can also follow the word baseball. Easy. We know this gimmick. The good news is that three of the four theme phrases are real beauties. See if you don’t agree, as:

  • 17A. [Dynamite detonator] BLASTING CAP → baseball cap. This is the only phrase that’s comparatively, uh, dusty… (And while AMMO is [Shot for short], “dynamite” certainly counts as ammo, no? I don’t think you’d get an argument from Wile E. Coyote anyway.)
  • 30A. [Large carnivorous nocturnal mammal] BIG-EARED BATbaseball bat. Not sure whether this creature makes me go “awww” or “ewww.” Among other bits of tid I learned about these moth-eaters is that “solitary bats sometimes hang by only one foot.” I’m trying to understand the message there. Is it “I’m available” or “Keep yer distance”?
  • 48A. [Gentle manner intended to deceive] VELVET GLOVE → baseball glove.“The iron fist/hand in the velvet glove”—what a great phrase to capitalize on. This site has a wonderful glossary of phrases and their etymology. On the subject of the velvet glove it says: “The iron hand as a symbol of control is found from the ealy 1700s (the iron fist appears in 1740), but Thomas Carlyle attributes the coining of the expression ‘the iron hand in a velvet glove,’ to mean autocratic rule beneath a soft exterior, to Napoleon, although it has also been attributed to other, earlier rulers. The expression is highly variable, iron fist being as common as iron hand and other variants including steel fist, mailed fist, and silk glove.” Where the metallurgic metaphor is concerned, I like that the puzzle also includes IRON-CLAD referring today not to stove-top cooking vessels but (metaphorically) to mean [Airtight, as an alibi].
  • 65A. [Large gem in the Smithsonian Institution] HOPE DIAMOND → baseball diamond. Fill doesn’t get much more sparkly, now does it? What a sweet bauble it is, too… If diamonds are not your gem of choice, of course, there’s always the more, well, sober (also shiny, dramatic, sleek) ONYX [Cameo stone]. Lotta nice Art Deco onyx jewelry out there. Here’s a little onyx and diamond trifle we all seem to have missed out on…

If baseball isn’t your thing, it looks like there may be a culinary mini-theme here with PASTA [Trattoria staple], KETCHUP [Dip for fries], HALAL [Islamic equivalent of kosher], TYSON [Chicken purveyor], SAGE [Stuffing ingredient], CASABA [Honeydew kin], BEATER [Kitchen gadget] and EATING IN [Dining at home]. You be the judge. Maybe enjoy a glass of GRAPPA [Italian brandy] as you decide.

My fave word today? ARCANA, clued as [Secrets]. The clue feels a tad generic, as I tend to think of the word in connection with “esoterica”–really deeply held secrets about mysterious and/or obscure matters–but I don’t make that a crime. It’s still a great word.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

(Full write-up of this puzzle at L.A. Crossword Confidential.)

Region capture 15Lots of fun stuff in this puzzle. A dozen 10-letter answers provide a wealth of cool phrases to make this crossword really sparkle. To wit:

Music! 1D: [Soul immortal] JAMES BROWN and 50A: the [Singer with four recent best-selling albums of pop standards], ROD STEWART, can be heard ON THE RADIO. Maybe Rod’s standards won’t be on the same station as J.B.’s classics, but his ’70s hits could be.

  • 5A: [Southwestern site of gypsum dunes] is the national park called WHITE SANDS). Pretty! I’ve never really been in the Southwest much. Just on an Amtrak crossing through on the way to California when I was a kid.
  • 16A: [Accountant’s concern] is an AUDIT TRAIL. You know you wanted PAPER TRAIL. I know I did.
  • 18A: [Polite invite] clues “PLEASE STAY.” That’s what I say to my dog. Don’t want to come off too bossy. (That’s a lie: I have no dog, love being bossy.)
  • 37A: [User-edited online compendium of notable snippets] is WIKIQUOTE. It’s the Wikipedia version of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.
  • 44A: [It heats up your food immediately] clues TABASCO sauce. My favorite clue in this puzzle. I was thinking of microwaves and fire.
  • 2D: [It may be twisted apart] clues an OREO COOKIE. Wait, nobody calls it that. They’re just Oreos.
  • 3D: [Source of tears, slangily] is your WATERWORKS. This is my favorite answer after JAMES BROWN. “Turn on the waterworks!”
  • 5D: The [Original “People’s Court” judge] was WAPNER. Judge Wapner! So many imitators came after him, but none have had his avuncular charm.
  • 28D: One [Race infraction] is the FALSE START. That’s when a runner takes off before the starting pistol is fired. We’ve seen [False start?] as a clue for the prefix PSEUDO-.
  • 29D: [Unauthorized explorer of city tunnels and sewers] is an URBAN CAVER. Ooh, what? People do that? Read all about it at Wikipedia.

Fun puzzle, Barry!

Merle Baker’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

Easier than most Stumpers, but tougher than the L.A. Times Saturday puzzle.

I have a decided preference for long fill that falls into certain categories: (1) Fresh and lively terms that can stand alone; (2) names of places and people; and (3) spoken English. The long answers that don’t thrill me are the drawn-outphrases, especially those that include ONE’S as part of them. Poking around the Cruciverb database, I find the examples A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE and CRAMPS ONE’S STYLE. Long entries like those suck the oxygen out of the room.

The 15s here are ONE’S-free, but they’re long verb phrases without much zing:

  • 17A. [Is in a commanding position] clues HOLDS ALL THE ACES.
  • 39A. To [Top] someone is to DO ONE BETTER THAN. Ouch. “I’LL DO YOU ONE BETTER” would be zippy, but the dangling THAN, while dictionary-ready, lacks punch.
  • 62A. If you [Don’t miss] something, you GET ALONG WITHOUT it. Two prepositions?

3D: NO LOVE LOST, or [Antipathy], is much better. 11D: DRAWS LOTS is clued as [Chooses at random], and with the S on the end, I’m sure a lot of solvers were looking for a one-word verb.

There are a few related answers/clues peppering the grid. 19A: [Rooting section] is the SNOUT a pig uses to root in the dirt, and not a cheering section. 1D: [Encouraging words] are RAHS, and this is not a word that looks good in the plural. 37D: [Encouraging word] clues ATTA, as in “Attaboy!” I imagine there must be some dictionary support for this entry, but the two dictionaries I consulted list only attaboy.

Other clues:

  • 22A. [African outback] is VELD. Also spelled VELDT.
  • 36A. [“Major” beast] is URSA. Ursa Major is the “Great Bear” constellation.
  • 44A. [Deflation sound] clues SISS. I wanted HISS or SSSS.
  • 52A. [First “Great” pope] was LEO I, Leo the Great.
  • 57A. RANT is clued as [Extravagant utterance].
  • 66A. [Obtain genetically] clues INHERIT.
  • 8D. FATSO is a [Ghostly uncle of Casper].
  • 9D. [Wherein Hoffman sings “That’s Amore”] is legendary film flop ISHTAR. I wish Philip Seymour Hoffman had a different last name because we don’t need two Hoffmans on the list of past Oscar winners. (The ISHTAR Hoffman is Dustin.)
  • 18D. [Something hot] is LATEST THING. Feels naked without the definite article THE in front.
  • 25D. DERR is a [Name on the cover of “The Chinese Parrot”]. That’s a Charlie Chan mystery written by Earl DERR Biggers. Who doesn’t love author middle names as crossword fill? (Raising hand.) EARL is clued as a 41D: [Count’s equivalent].
  • 29D. [Cinnamon, for one] is a TREE. Ground cinnamon is ground up from the rolled-up bark.
  • 40D. Totally blanked on [“Reader, I married him” speaker] Jane EYRE and needed three crossings!
  • 46D. SCROLL is an [Item on the Great Seal].
  • 51D. TANEY was the [Chief Justice before Chase].
  • Crosswordese geography trifecta! 54-55-56D are EGER, the [Wine city of Hungary]; RENO, [City near Squaw Valley]; and ATTU, [Westernmost of the Near Islands] of Alaska.
  • 64D. [It’s like “like”] clues INE. Don’t get cute with clues for blah prefixes. The payoff is lacking.
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14 Responses to Saturday, 12/19/09

  1. Tim Platt says:

    I saw the tandem of Hinman and Walden in the byline and did an immediate “Oh no!” But the puzzle was actually a little less daunting for me than a typical Saturday. 8D was my first gimme. What else do we xword freaks pick, if not NITS? Perhaps our noses, but I digress. Even the somewhat obscure 1A – LADDER [intraclub competition rankings] came to me fairly quickly, with fond memories of the tennis rankings that were posted at the summer camp I went to as a young lad. 16A and 51A fell into place after only a few letters, and CRIMSONTIDE is a slam dunk for anyone who follows college sports (particularly football) even casually. So for me, I guess this was one of those times where I found myself on (or at least near enought to) the constructors’ wavelength. Tyler must have had a mitigating influence on Byron, as the latter’s concoctions usually throw me for a loop.

  2. Evad says:

    Funny, SOTO was my last entry. (I first thought he might belong to the SOSA baseball dynasty.) QUI VIVE is just one of those phrases I’ll never get no matter how frequently it appears in puzzles. Loved the long entries in this one, YOU CAN COUNT ON IT was really the only way I was able to break this puppy open.

  3. mnemonica says:

    EISNER was my only gimme, and it didn’t help much. I made a lot of guesses, and they were all wrong. Getting YOU CAN COUNT ON IT gave me the top half, but the lower left took me forever. I loved it. .

    .. The ORAL ROBERTS entry is awfully timely, isn’t it?

  4. Evad says:

    @mnemonica, yes I had that thought about Oral Roberts as well. I wonder if Will sat on this until today for that reason. That was one of the few gimmes for me, as I heard them mention his autobiography last night on the radio.

  5. Crosscan (nee Jeffrey) says:

    As you might have guessed, NEILSON was my first entry. LITER also a gimme to those in metric land.

  6. Martin says:


    Oral Roberts was alive when the puzzle was distibuted for test solving.

  7. joon says:

    this one was a tough slog even though i had lots of entry points: SCHEMES, SOTO, FER, HRE (BEQ used the same clue earlier this week!), POLY, CRIMSON TIDE, ICU, LITER, and FINNS. perhaps my problem was trying to do it in the actual newspaper, in pencil. that makes my handwriting even harder to read than usual.

    those clues for DOUBLE OCCUPANCY and LINE OF REASONING practically scream “byron,” don’t they?

    i still frequently mismatch the clues with the answers when solving on paper. today it was thinking that ECSTASY was the {Offering from many a New York City street vendor}. ahem.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I like Geovany SOTO because my son has a classmate named Giovanni Soto.

    Joon, I asked Tyler how they split the clue writing. He said he did most of the Acrosses and Byron did the Downs, so you may be onto something there.

  9. Howard B says:

    Crosscan: NEILSON also went in without crossings, although I did forget whether it was SON or SEN at first. Franz Nielsen was/is a fourth-liner for the Isles, I think. Oh well.

    I guess I haven’t kept up with baseball though, because Geovany SOTO eluded me completely. That one hurt.

    Nice Saturday puzzle, right in the difficulty sweet spot.

    Oh, and I flunked the Stumper due to the bottom-left letter crossing a Hungarian city with an adverb, where I put SOUNDLY for the clue “Flat out” instead of the odder ROUNDLY. I thought both fit nicely. Plus, stuff like the author’s middle name and knowing Casper the ghost’s uncle’s name left me very cold. The fill was fine, but the clues? Meh. And I’m not really one to snark about these things.

  10. bruce n. morton says:

    Fabulous, tough puzzle, with Byronesque clues, which I really enjoyed. I was delighted by the absence of rappers and rock groups in a Tyler byline. A couple gimmes, such as crimson tide, and for some reason Roger Neilson, as opposed to Briggite, (though I started out spelling it wrong), even though I’m not much of a hockey fan. Don’t know Mr. Soto even though my friend and colleague Gary Shaw, originally from Chitown took me on a pilgramage to Wriggley Field, on Addison Street, when I visited him at his vacation home in extreme SW Mich. I never knew it was spelled Geovany :-) I gather from the comments that Oral Roberts recently died. So I’ll refrain from “Oral” jokes.

    Just out of curiosity, not that I would ever want to, but how would I get a cool picture of myself next to my posts? Don’t some people use a cartoon or caricature? Do they call those “avatars”?


  11. larry says:

    Tried as hard as I could to extend the “OR” beginning to 17D into ORSON WELLES, but the crosses eliminated that.
    My Waterloo was TRIM DIE for 22D.

  12. Evad says:

    Bruce, you can sign up for a Gravatar here. It’s based on your email address.

  13. Gareth says:

    Yeah, I’d say that was more of an “easy to get into, nigh impossible to finish” type of themeless for me…

  14. Joel says:

    Actually moved through this puzzle relatively quickly (for me anyway), until I hit the SE, which I couldnt finish. Funnily enough, QUESO was a gimme because I just had chili con queso at Qdoba on friday

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