Friday, 1/22/10

NYT 5:06
BEQ 4:30
LAT 3:39
CHE 3:37
CS untimed
WSJ 9:54

Natan Last’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2

Let’s go straight to a bulleted list of my favorite stuff:

  • 17A. THE CAT’S MEOW, good old-fashioned phrase referring to [Something that’s just too cool].
  • 31A. A person who likes crawling around in caves is a SPELUNKER, or [One exploring deeply?].
  • 36A. OODLES OF NOODLES is a [Ramen brand]. We prefer Maruchan here.
  • 39A. FOOTLOOSE and fancy-[Free] reminds me: I just read that the remake of Footloose is being scrapped. Yay! Because it was too cheesy the first time around.
  • 54A. We see XER a lot in crosswords, but GENERATION X makes for a much better entry. [So-called “baby busters”] are the offspring of baby boomers.
  • 58A. [Song that mentions “the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost”] is Don McLean’s “AMERICAN PIE.” Clue looked to be pointing to a hymn of some sort, not a paean to Chevrolet and levees and whiskey and rye.
  • 60A. [Well-known TV evangelical] also skewed religious but turned out to be pop culture—NED FLANDERS, next-door neighbor to The Simpsons.
  • 12D. And yet DONATELLO isn’t clued as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but rather as the [“St. Mark” artist].

There’s mucho Español here. OTRO’s clued with [En ___ tiempo (formerly, to Felipe)]. VENIR means [To come, in Cadiz or Caen] (Caen’s in France, and VENIR is also French). [Here, in Honduras] is ACA; can someone explain the difference between ACA and AQUI? [Finely tempered blades] are apparently TOLEDOS, and I’m guessing they’re Spanish in origin rather than Ohioan. Maurice Ravel was French; SAXES are clued as [Instruments in Ravel’s “Bolero”], which piece of music is Spanish-inflected, no? Then there’s Italy—ASTI, ITALY and SOTTO VOCE for long fill, the river ARNO, and SIG. abbreviating signore, clued [M., in Milan], throwing French into the clue. Wait, there’s also MIO, a [Pronoun in 20-Across], Asti. And DONATELLO, of course. Lotsa Romance language action today. Too much? I predict grumbling.

The names in the grid aren’t the usual suspects. Besides the ones already mentioned, there are a zillion others. KOFI is our [First name in international diplomacy]. (“The name’s Annan. Kofi Annan.”) OPS is the god [Saturn’s wife], while RHEA is the [Mother of the Gods]. Peter TOSH is the [Musician who was a trailblazing Rastafarian], and there’s also [Grateful Dead bassist Phil] LESH. Earl “FATHA” Hines is the [Nickname in pioneering jazz piano]. Muhammad ALI is a [Big name in flooring?] his boxing rivals. [E.T.’s pal] is the young boy named ELLIOTT. Man, I could use some Reese’s Pieces right now. Bennett CERF, I’ve heard of. But not [Vint ___, the Father of the Internet] CERF. Who? And is it a duplication to have Father in that clue plus FATHA Hines? I do like the Father of the Internet/Mother of the Gods echo, though. Overall, more names than usual. I predict grumbling (though the crossings got me all the names OK).

Standard Friday difficulty for you, or no?

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Moving Day”—Janie’s review

What a fine feat o’ construction this little opus is, providing some visual amusement as MON. is revealed at 59D. to be the [Day of the wk. that “moves” through the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues]. Atypically, the five words which comprise the theme answers are not the longest ones in the grid. Each, in fact, is a carefully chosen 7-letter word. Not only does each of the words have MON in it, the appearance of those letters within the word moves progressively, too, starting with the word’s first, then second, third, fourth, then fifth letter. The five words in question are:

13A. MONTANA [*The Treasure State]. Also “Big Sky Country,” but its motto, “Oro y plata” translates to “Gold and silver.” And that translates to “treasure.” Not to mention the sheer beauty of the place!

22A. AMONGST [*In the middle of].

37A. DEMONIC [*Possessed]. Tricky clue/usage of the word “possessed.” It’s an adjective here.

50A. HARMONY [*Barbershop specialty]. As in “barbershop quartet.” Do take a look at that Wiki article. The information on the etymology of the term makes complete sense, but was (welcome) news to me. The grand tradition continues. If that’s not your thing, EMINEM [“Relapse” rapper] is something of an antidote. And the antidote for that might be “I AM A ROCK” [1966 hit for Simon & Garfunkel]…

62A. POKÉMON [*Japanese video game-based franchise]. Yikes. This series is almost 14 years old. Nice that this crosses OSAKA, Japan’s “second city” and [Hideo Nomo’s birthplace]. Also nice that another geographic location, CAIRO [“The City of a Thousand Minarets”] is, in turn, Osaka‘s symmetric grid-opposite.

The remainder of the fill is lively in its own way, and benefits from cluing that makes you think–and think twice sometimes. [Lady’s-slipper et al.], which I’d always thought of as WILDFLOWERS are also (and correctly), I learned here, ORCHIDS. IMAGINE is that [First song on a John Lennon album of the same name] (still sounding timeless), and JURASSIC is that specific time, the [Geologic period between Triassic and Cretaceous].

The three vertical nines do a great job of intersecting the theme fill. The first and third cross two words; the second, three: ONCE AGAIN [Over], ISLE OF MAN [Bee Gees birthplace] and EVERY TIME [Without exception]. I like SARA LEE, too, (because [Nobody doesn’t like her]), but my fave entire row of fill comes with the “boo-hoo” trifecta provided by 30-, 31- and 32A: “ALAS!”, WOE and MISERY, clued as [Cry for “poor Yorick], [Hardship] and [James Caan movie based on a Stephen King novel] respectively. A word like AWE [Great respect] comes to mind here.

Fred Jackson III’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 3Someday I will write a book—maybe a mystery, maybe a diet manual—and I will call it Deniable Eater. That’s 36D/[Subject to contradiction] and 40A: [Miss Muffet, before the spider showed up].

The theme is phrases starting with B- words changed into BL- words. 17A: BLANK ROBBER is a [Scrabble cheat?]. In online Scrabble or Lexulous, nobody can steal any tiles. 11D: BLEAT THE RAP is clued [Perform a sheepish hip-hop number?]. I really wanted this to be BLEAT-BOXING, but the verb forms wouldn’t match up. 25D: BLAND LEADER is a [Boring boss?]. Bland answer. 53A: BLING CROSBY is a [Singer who loves flashy jewelry?].

Crikey, it’s 9:30 already and I have several more puzzles to go. Focus, Amy! Get a move on.

“Colin Gale”/Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Making a Few Bucks”

Region capture 4Mike’s dropped a few “bucks,” or STAGs, into this puzzle via seven rebus squares. Overall assessment: Solid puzzle, smooth fill, more difficult than most WSJ crosswords. The rebus wasn’t so easy to piece together because (1) usually you’re not looking for 4-letter rebus words and (2) while the six longest Across answers contain the rebus, so does 13A.

Highlights in the rebus zone:

  • Stealthy 13A is {STAG}NATED, or [Stopped developing].
  • 39D. [Has a touching encounter on the playground?] clues PLAY{S TAG}. Might’ve gone with “at recess” to avoid the playground/PLAYS combo.
  • 90A. “JU{ST A G}IGOLO” is a [Hit for Louis Prima and David Lee Roth].
  • 94D. BU{ST A G}UT means [Laugh uproariously]. I like these last two rebus entries that break the STAG across three words.

Hard stuff:

  • 41A. [Carmen’s creator] is MERIMEE. I had MATTRESS rather than MATTRES{S TAG} above it (35A: [“Not to Be Removed Except by the Consumer” item]), so I had trouble with the last square.
  • 44A. The LEVANT is an [Eastern Mediterranean area].
  • 11D. I don’t have allergies, so [Alavert rival] didn’t shout CLARITIN to me. [Zyrtec rival] would’ve been a cinch, though.
  • 24A. The BELFA{ST AG}REEMENT is an [Accord signed on Good Friday 1998]. I’ll bet a lot of people tried BELFAST TREATY or BELFAST ACCORD here before grokking the rebus.

Favorite clue:

  • 2D. [Ancients, for instance] is an ANAGRAM. I am a sucker for ANAGRAM clues like this.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Changing Your Tune”

Region capture 5Brendan’s got that leaderboard in his blog sidebar where people can post their solving times as well as giving the puzzle a star rating. I rarely click the “5 stars” button, but really liked this puzzle. The theme—song titles with the first letter of the last word changed—was well-crafted and on the funny side. The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” becomes HERE COMES THE HUN, about Attila. The cheese-eating suspects…WOULDN’T IT BE MICE (“…Nice”). WISH YOU WERE GERE (“…Here”) reminds us that Richard Gere was Sexiest Man Alive just 11 years ago. Is Clooney out of the running for the People title now that he’s gone salt-and-pepper? And “No More I Love Yous” becomes “NO MORE ‘I LOVE…’ I.O.U.’S.”

Fave clues: 13A: [Fag ___]/HAG; I have definite fag hag aspirations but nowhere near enough contact with my gay man friends to fully inhabit the role. 41A: [Dodge model named after a snake], ending with an R…I very nearly put ADDER in there. Who the hell would buy a Dodge Adder? People are math-phobes. The VIPER is hot. 52A: The BQE is an [NYC hwy. that’s an anagram of my monogram]. 12D: GENE gets a Gong Show clue, which probably means nothing to the average 20-something solver but is much appreciated by those of us who are, ahem, not quite that young. And we get a new clue for staid ol’ ETON: 23D: [British school whose magazine is The Chronicle]. This takes us to…

Clive Probert’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Talking Pictures”

Region capture 6The “talking pictures” in the title aren’t talkie movies, they’re hypothetical paintings with puns on the artists’ names:

  • 20A. [American artist Mary’s painting of promenades?] clues CASSATT DECKS. Took me forever to figure out what this pun was based on. I believe it’s “cassette decks,” with a different vowel sound. Don’t care for that sort of pun.
  • 34A. KLEE PIGEONS sounds like “clay pigeons.” [Swiss artist Paul’s painting of birds?] is the clue.
  • 42A. [French artist Claude’s painting of a bustling city square?] clues MONET MARKETS, which sounds like a French personn pronouncing “money markets.”
  • 57A. I learned about this guy from a Saturday NYT puzzle that crossed the first name of a soap opera writer, a deadly crossing if I ever saw one. [German artist George’s painting of the human form?] is GROSZ ANATOMY. His crossings here include two names—57D: [“Treasure Island” islander]/GUNN (who?) and 58D: [Contemporary of de Maupassant]/ZOLA.

Bottom left corner involved a lot of guess work given the clues for the Downs. Besides GUNN, there were tricky/nonobvious clues for VET, EAR, and NRA…but the Acrosses were fair. Glad to have straightforward clues for those Acrosses! They kept the puzzle within a Wednesday NYT range.

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31 Responses to Friday, 1/22/10

  1. Nancy says:

    This was one of those puzzles that after the first run through with only one or two answers I was sure that I would have to deep six. However, I plugged away, bottom to top and I blazed through it in a mere 30 minutes or so. haha! I love when this sort of thing happens.

    I grew up with Bennett Cerf as a household name. My father was a salesman for Random House his entire career, which dated from the middle ’40’s. My younger brother is named for Donald Klopfer, the co-founder with Cerf of RH.

    It doesn’t appear that Vint(on) Cerf is a relation, but I may have quit looking too soon.

  2. Mel Park says:

    I’m not one to be able to judge standard Friday night difficulty. For me, this was an enjoyably difficult puzzle. I am pleased that I got many of the long answers, like THECATSMEOW and TOLEDOS, plus others, without crossings. However, OODLESOFNOODLES eluded me for ever. I had OO_LE at the beginning but also had METED for 35D and OPALESQUE for 13D and I was convincing myself that _nothing_ in ordinary English begins with OO…. It finally clicked.

    I also got SPELUNKER right away even though, as a serious caver, I am supposed to object to its every use. “Spelunker” is to caving as “hodad” is to surfing, they are wannabes. It’s still a great slang term for crosswords and word games.

  3. Doug says:

    As Nancy said, I picked through this over and over until I got it. Only wrong answer was SEN (was thinking SENOR) not SIG. Of course I then had KOFE and BEFON but those are from being lazy after slogging through the rest. I had BEFUD and was keen to slam this high schooler for being too damned generous with his verbs, but of course…mea bad.

    Do you know how many TV evangelists all have 11 letters?

    James Bakker
    Oral Roberts
    Jim Swaggart
    Billy Graham

    And when you unscramble them they all spell IAMVOLDEMORT :)

  4. jmbrow29 says:

    acá and aquí mean the same thing and it mainly just depends on the region one is in. Aquí is much more common in Spain whereas acá is used very often in South and Central America.

  5. John Farmer says:

    Standard Friday difficulty for you, or no?

    Pretty zippy, I thought. And that’s fine. I liked it. Brown strikes again!

    And is it a duplication to have Father in that clue plus FATHA Hines?

    Funny you should ask. I was just looking at this page a few days ago. (Scroll way down, or do a Find for “repeats.”)

    “By my rules, repeating part of a grid entry as part of a clue elsewhere in a puzzle is not a problem.

    “If a grid has the answer PETER STUYVESANT, for example, as Friday’s did, it is perfectly fine for “Peter” to appear as part of a longer clue elsewhere.

    “Repetitions like this are almost impossible to catch consistently, and in my experience only a small number of crossword crazies care. So I don’t even try to catch them.”

  6. John Farmer says:

    I thought “acá” meant “to here” (“hither”) and “aquí” meant “here” (“this place”).

    But I defer to anyone who actually speaks the language.

  7. Jim Finder says:

    As someone else said above, the Times was enjoyably hard today. I was stuck in the NW for a while, but then ABRACADABRA came and broke it all wide open. I can’t agree that “eon” at 59A is a unit in astronomy, tho. Possibly geology.

  8. What everybody said. Saturday hard but much fun. Ended 54A with an S (it looked plural), which led me to SASES for the instruments in Boléro. Could NOT figure out what self-addressed stamped envelopes had to do with music, and after a while – D’oh! 58A was THE DOXOLOGY to start (hey, it’s correct!) but it died slowly on the crosses. How Christian is that! Non-puzzle wife, when presented the clue, said immediately, “You mean AMERICAN PIE?”

  9. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    Hmm, maybe I should start waking my hubby up at 1:30? Nah…

    I got SAXES and IVS right away, then happily found SPELUNKER, which helped with the SW Downs. I agree re EON–too lame. I was trying to think of a short way to write “light years.”

    The clues alternated between straightforward and cagy, and this took me 30 minutes or so, although I finished with an error–NED FLINDERS. ACI bothered me, but I wanted AQUI, and ACA did not come to mind. I would have gotten “MOLL Flanders,” though…

    Hand up for DOXOLOGY (but it would not fit, of course.)

    Hey, is this Natan Last one of those whiz kids? Because this puzzle made me think of someone at a liberal arts college who just took a survey course in art and music history. We will have to watch out for this guy! Obviously he is about to embark on a life of criminal crossword construction….

  10. LARRY says:

    As I learned in H.S. Espanol, the difference between AQUI and ACA is the degree of “hereness”, i.e., AQUI is closer to you then ACA. I have no recollection (from over 50 years ago) whether there is any precise dividing line.

  11. Gail says:

    Great puzzle! Like Nancy, I plugged away with my earliest successes in the bottom half, starting with AMERICAN PIE. In the top I had CRUMB for the Bun Bit which threw me off for a while. Any puzzle that reveals itself a little at a time, the way this one did, is a winner in my book.

  12. Gareth says:

    Easyish Friday for me, but then I’m much closer in age to Natan than most of you fogies ;). Basically: a beat! Best parts… both 11’s were 3 out of 3 solid gold entries! Hardest part? All those short foreign words made it very hard to mop up… (I don’t speak “foreign,” and being tricked into thinking evangelISTs for 60A… sneaky! Pulled DELCO out of some recess, but would’ve been more at home with JELCO, haven’t seen that in a crossword… Oh OPALESCES and SPELUNKER are both super-cool long 1-word answers (though not as cool as yesterday’s KAKISTOCRACY!) EDUCATION is… less so.

  13. Matt says:

    Excellent, puzzle– a bit on the tough side for a Friday, though. But lots of novel words and clues. I’d argue, btw, that ‘Eon’ is more geological than astronomical.

  14. David says:

    Enjoyed the puzzle which I completed correctly (unlike yesterday) but can someone explain 4D how EACH is the answer for UP?

  15. Matt says:


    My interpretation was ‘up’, as in, a score of ’10 up’ meaning a score of 10 points for both contestants.

  16. jmbrow29 says:

    In relation to the whole acá/aquí thing again, I asked two native Spanish speakers one from Guatemala and the other from Argentina. The Guatemalan said that there was no difference between the two words and that they could be used interchangeable wheras the Argentine that acá required motion as in “Ven por acá” (Come (over) here!) rather than just meaning “here” as a place.
    Confused yet?

  17. ArtLvr says:

    I loved this NYT by Nathan — though at first I wondered where to start! OPALESCES and DONATELLO got me going, then the SW with PORTFOLIO, EDUCATION, and SOTTO VOCE. In the middle I had OODLES OF NOODLES and FRUIT, which made me think “loft” for SOFA until SPELUNKER cleared that up.

    The rest of the midsection was easy, loved the CRUET next to a salad and FOOTLOOSE with more double Os. The SE fell with just HOGAN and SAVE ME, plus the X at the end of GENERATION X. Finally EROICA and ASTI ITALY let me finish the NE, after I’d let go of “let in” for SAW IN… WATERLILIES was neat!

    I knew the goddesses OPS and RHEA, plus FATHA and KOFI, the river ARNO and even DELCO. Never heard of AMERICAN PIE, NED FLANDERS, or TOSH — crosses saved me!

  18. Evad says:

    Thanks to Matt, this David as well was confused on the EACH/Up connection. I was trying to cotton to the notion that the drink 7-Up derived its name from its original cost of 7 cents each. ;)

    Excellent workout this morning, had to take SWAGs at the TOLEDOS/LESH and EACH/TOSH crossings (luckily I only know one word that fits the EAC? pattern), but otherwise everything was completely fair and fun.

  19. Howard B says:

    Peter Tosh, one-time collaborator with Bob Marley, big name in the founding of reggae.
    Know it, remember it… think his stuff’s a bit harsher in content and style than Marley’s more universally-known songs (from what I remember), but still a legendary name in the genre.

  20. Loved it, Natan. Really had to work in three different spots. A+

  21. Jan says:

    In the CS, why did the clue for 6D include “James Caan series”? It seems unnecessary?

  22. Jon S. says:

    I liked 60A – “Well-known TV evangelical”, took me a moment to realize it didn’t say “evangelist”, and NED FLANDERS was the only TV personality I could think of.

    OODLES OF NOODLES? I’ve never heard of that brand, only the aforementioned Maruchan.

    Answers like RHEA seem pretty standard, but I forget that it can have a mythological or an avian clue.

  23. zifmia says:

    I usually get annoyed at clues like 53A, “With 14D, a popular soft drink”.

    Have to go look in a totally different part of the puzzle from where I’m working to see the second half of the answer.

    So in BEQ, 52D “With 52D, a Pacific island”…
    OK, now where is 52D…


  24. John Haber says:

    I knew the word AQUI but didn’t recognize ACA, NED FLANDERS, Vint CERF, or “baby busters,” and HOGAN was something I put in just because I could pronounce it (no doubt from “Hogan’s Heroes”). So the SE was a killer for me. My footholds were LESH and then the crossing of DOE and DONATELLO, maybe the real pioneer of the Renaissance who hasn’t been heard from as much in NYC recently as, say, Ghiberti and Michelangelo, thanks to well-publicized displays.

  25. Zulema says:

    I’ll jump in here (acá) also. I must differ with the Argentinean as I am also one, and “Ven por acá” is not even idiomatic Spanish, unless the meaning is “come this way and not that way.” “Come over here” would be “Vení para acá” to an Argentinean speaking Argentinean Spanish The difference between”para” and “por” is difficult for a non-native but not for a native, and we don’t say “ven” when speaking normally. The real difference between “acá” and “aquí” is one of level of formality. Say in a novel, “aquí would be used in description or narration, but “acá” in dialogue. That’s in Latin America, especially South America. In Spain, standard speech is more formal. For instance, a heart attack would be referred to by the man-in-the-street as “un infarto” whereas in Argentina it would be “un ataque al corazón,” so “aquí” is the standard in Spain.

  26. joon says:

    funny, i also had a chronicle of higher ed puzzle called “talking pictures” last year. it was also built on painting puns, although not the artists’ names. THE BERTH OF VENUS, … i’m trying to remember the other two and failing. can’t have been that memorable a puzzle, i guess. WHAT ARE LILIES? yeah, that was one. (and hey, check out 1a in the NYT.) ah, THE STARRY KNIGHT. that was the other one.

    i liked all the puzzles today. natan’s had a ton of unfamiliar names but all of the crossings were fair. (i know i’ve seen LESH before, but i still had to make an educated guess at the L of TOLEDOS.)

  27. Howard B says:

    That makes more sense now, thanks Zulema! Explains why back in school, we had aquí=”here” drilled into our heads for all phrases, with scarcely a mention of acá (at least early on). I suppose those teachers were going strictly by the book. Good thing I didn’t try using that “school Spanish” in any practical setting. I mean, they even required us to always learn the ‘vosotros’ form when conjugating. I suppose that while formal usage is a good, solid basis for language, knowing the more practical usage should be considered too. (Except for some of the less-acceptable words, which I’m sure in any language can be learned easily enough outside of the classroom :) ).

    So anyhow, glad to relearn “acá”, since it gave me some trouble in the grid.

  28. Barry W says:

    Enjoyed today’s NYT which I was able to work through steadily and continuously to the end. Was helped a lot by filling in AMERICAN PIE instantly thanks to Don Mclain singing the lyrics in my head as I read the clue.

  29. Zulema says:

    Howard, I have a daugher who is studying Spanish through Rosetta Stone and seemed to have great difficulty pronouncing “bolígrafo,” a ball point pen. I told her she didn’t need to say that (she’ll be taking a trip to Spain soon). Everyone just calls it a “boli.”

  30. Jan (danjan) says:

    OODLES OF NOODLES was a gimme for me. The town’s food pantry that I codirect gets a fair amount of them donated. Fortunately, people also generously donate tuna, peanut butter, etc.

  31. Frances says:

    Some years ago, the newspaper in Toledo, OH was The Toledo Blade. Don’t know if it still exists or still has the same name, but the memory certainly made NYT’s 21D clue a gimmie.

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