Saturday, 3/6/10

Newsday 6:25
NYT 6:08
LAT 4:33
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle untimed

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 29I’m pretty sure that today’s constructor is Barry C. Silk, though the byline lacks his customary middle initial and the puzzle is less Scrabbly than many of his puzzles. What this crossword is notable for are the pairs of stacked 15s bolted together by the central Down answer and the reliance on names in the grid. Some of the names look familiar enough in the completed grid but don’t rely on the usual suspects for the clues. Here are some of those names:

  • 15A. BUFFALO BILL CODY, my favorite answer here, is clued as a [Ned Buntline dime novel subject]. I can’t say I’ve ever read a Ned Buntline dime novel.
  • 18A. Lou GEHRIG was called [The Iron Horse].
  • 19A. Why clue LEOS as a plural when you have [Composer Janacek]’s first name?
  • 21A. Besides being the name of Cuban leader or two, CASTRO is also a place name—a [San Francisco street or theater].
  • 24A. I know Lamar ODOM’s name, but not [Defensive end Antwan] ODOM.
  • 36A. ILENE Graff of Mr. Belvedere semi-fame is the usual go-to ILENE, but today we have [Beckerman who wrote “Love, Loss and What I Wore”]. This 1995 novel has been adapted into an Off Broadway play by Nora and Delia Ephron.
  • 37A. The [Poe title character] PYM is Arthur Gordon Pym, protagonist of Poe’s only novel. The English novelist Barbara PYM is sometimes the subject of a PYM clue.
  • 39A. RILEY is clued as [“The Hoosier Folk-Child” poet]. James Whitcomb RILEY is the namesake of Indianapolis’s Riley Hospital for Children.
  • 9D. ALTOONA, Pennsylvania, is a [Town near Horseshoe Curve]. The clue sounds rather Wild Westish, doesn’t it?
  • 12D. [Actress Skye and others] clues IONES. Quick: Can you name another Ione?
  • 14D. The [Food service Fortune 500 company] is named SYSCO. Do you see their trucks around town? I do.
  • 27D. MANETS are [Certain portraits of Zola, Chabrier and Mallarmé].
  • 45D. LAO TSE, also spelled Lao-tzu and Laoze, is an [Ancient philosopher whose name means “old master”].

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 61D. [Stable particle] sounds like subatomic physics, but it’s just an OAT that the horses in the stable might nosh on.
  • 17A. [Signs of unavailability] made me picture the OCCUPIED indicator on an airplane lavatory door, but it clues ENGAGEMENT RINGS. Isn’t it high time we either ditched this tradition or added engagement rings for men?
  • 28A. You can misread the [Ski resort forecast] of NEW SNOW as the demand or boast “NEWS NOW!”
  • 32A. Ah, crazy old crosswordese.. Your AGNATE kin are your dad’s relatives. If it’s your mom’s family and not a [Paternal relative], the word is enate.
  • 53A. [Not baring one’s sole?] clues SHOD.
  • 62A. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not bigger. DENALI STATE PARK is an [Alaska area almost half the size of Rhode Island], which means it’s a teeny, tiny fragment of Alaska.
  • 3D. Lame answer, but the clue rescues it: [What I will follow] is the letters EFGH.
  • 16D. I don’t know much about BELTWAY BANDIT. It’s a [Private consultant to the federal government, in slang].
  • 23D. [Totally dominating] clues OWNING. I would also have accepted PWNING here.

This being Saturday, there are some less familiar words, too. 50A: [Woolly] clues LANATE. Think of lanolin—that Latin lana root means “wool.” Now, if you’re a sheep, do you have AGNATE and ENATE LANATE relatives? 60D: [Red sushi fish] clues TAI, which we usually see as [__ chi] or [Mai __]. TAI is a sea bream that’s a delicacy in Japan.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Three in a Row”—Janie’s review

Once again, I solved with no sense of how the title related to the theme fill–three grid-wide familiar phrases. Major “D’oh!” as I said them aloud and then really looked at the first three letters of each. (And this is why I’m destined to be the Fiend Team’s water-girl/cheerleader…) Games from childhood, anyone? Then how about:

  • 17A. TICKET COLLECTOR [Doorman at a concert].
  • 33A. TACTICAL WEAPONS [Military hardware].
  • 52A. TOENAIL CLIPPERS [Item in an overnight case].

Tic-tac-toe–”three in a row” going down. Nice.

Other fill that looks nice going down in the grid includes MAKES OUT [Detects] and not [Engages in some lip-locking]…; DEL MONTE [Canned fruit brand] that no doubt prides itself on preserving and tinning its products IN SEASON [At just the right time for consumption]–which makes for good EATS [Grub]; CORN SILK with its crafty clue [Tassel on an ear]–because it could have been some variation of earbobs like these; and PETER PAN [Barrie’s boy]. NANA (working off of that final “N,” is clued today as [Granny], but it’s also the name of the [Darlings’ dog]–”Darling” being the surname of the family whose lives Peter changes.

Lotso good/makes-ya-smile cluing today, too:

  • [Flat paper] is LEASE, the “paper” for your “flat” rental. The term “flat” is a Britishism, but we hear it plenty here, too. Another pair from “across the pond” comes by way of [Greenwich greeting] and “‘ELLO.”
  • [Kitt who played Catwoman] for EARTHA followed by [Kitty cacophony] for MEOWS.
  • [Isn’t up to par?] means our golfer BOGIES. He shot par + 1. Here’s a nifty explanation and glossary of terms related to golf scores. (Edited by Amy to say: A correspondent e-mailed me to note that a bogey in golf is pluralized as bogeys, while BOGIES are unidentified aircraft.)
  • [It may come before art in the Bible] clues (the pronoun) THOU… MOSES is in the Bible, too, but is clued today with reference to that [Grandma with a paintbrush].
  • [Burnt Crayola color] is SIENNA, making it #44 on Crayola’s “Top 50” list.
  • [Mrs. Marcos of Manila] makes the list for the alliteration. The woman in question is IMELDA. It’s not likely, however, that the citizens of the Philippines would have ever referred to her as “SUGAR PIE” [Sweet thing to call somebody]. That fill summons up a sweet song by the Four Tops, however.

Only one repeat today, KITES, which we saw three days ago. This is nicely offset by the appealing cross (for its sound-alikeness) of MECCAS and MACAWS. The proximity of MORAINE doesn’t hurt neither!

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 32It’s Silk city this weekend!

Highlights in the grid:

  • 23A. I don’t know much about FORT MCHENRY, the [War of 1812 battle site], but I like that 5-consonant RTMCH pile-up in the middle.
  • 29A. [1970s CIA director, familiarly] is BUSH, SR. Technically incorrect, as George W. is not George H.W.’s “junior,” but it’s in the popular parlance.
  • 39A. Ruth BUZZI! My third-favorite [“Laugh-In” regular] after Lily Tomlin and Arte Johnson. She gets major fondness bonus points for her appearances on kids’ TV in the ’70s.
  • 49A. I’ve never heard of DRAGON TEARS, the [1993 Dean Koontz best-seller], but it makes for a cool phrase. Bigger than crocodile tears?
  • 61A. TRANSOM is a [Narrow window], such as the one at the top of my kitchen door that is, alas, obstructed. One letter off from the Trans Am.
  • 38D. DON ADAMS of Get Smart is clued as the [Actor who often said, “Sorry about that, Chief!”].

There are two more puzzles to solve and blog this morning before brunch, so I’ll leave this here.

Merle Baker’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

Not a ton of sparkle in this one—but also no sketchy fill, nothing too obscure, and only one little abbreviation (21A: TVA/[Utility org.]) out of 68 answers. That’s impressive.

Fourteen clues and their answers:

  • 26A. GLASS is a [Product of fusion].
  • 33A/33D. [Noble one] clues RARE GAS, and [A 33 Across] clues RADON.
  • 37A. HADES is the [Home of five rivers]. Pittsburgh has three rivers. Which place has better fishing?
  • 45A. I don’t like the clue [Example] for FOR INSTANCE. I’m OK with “f’rinstance” as a noun, as in “Gimme a f’rinstance,” but I don’t see how the clue and answer equate here.
  • 51A. [Sporting gear with a net] clues CROSSE, which is the stick with a net used to catch and throw the ball in lacrosse.
  • 3D.The Buffalo SABRES NHL team are the [Pros with a buffalo logo]. I guess sabres are less picturesque than buffalo.
  • 6D. I don’t care for [Perform type casting?] as a clue for DRAW BLOOD. The clue is trying too hard to be clever. I’d prefer a clue that aimed at the metaphorical uses of the phrase DRAW BLOOD. A really tough review could be said to draw blood, couldn’t it?
  • 14D. Nerve impulse [Transmission sites] are SYNAPSES.
  • 20D. I have been seeing the [Lift]/ELATE pairing for decades and have never much liked it. How many people use the word “lift” without an accompanying “spirits” to mean ELATE?
  • 35D. [“The Princess Bride” weaponry] clues RAPIERS. See also 3-Down.
  • 37D. [St. Jerome, notably] was a HERMIT.
  • 43D. In [Hands in a Spanish assignment], the verb “hands in” is not present. “Hands” is a plural noun here, and the Spanish equivalent is MANOS.
  • 46D. One [“Zodiaco” animal] is TORO, the bull.

Patrick Berry’s “Boxing Rings,” the Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle

I’ve done this variety of crossword before, and often don’t get through the puzzle in one sitting. This one was a bit easier, as I finished it in maybe 20 minutes or so. I do enjoy the added challenge of using logic and spatial reasoning to figure out where an answer goes.

Basic approach to solving:

  1. Try to answer as many clues as you can on your first pass through the clue list.
  2. Since the answers all travel clockwise, you can enter the first two letters and the last letter of any answer you’re fairly confident of. Use the orientation icon to tell you which direction the word goes so you can fill in the second and last letters beside the numbered first square.
  3. If an answer is near the edge of the grid, there might only be one possible layout for that answer. For example, #5 is [Alvin York’s rank], SERGEANT, and the answer’s rectangle must be 2×4 because there’s only one row above the #5 square.
  4. Use the filled-in bits to help you figure out other answers in their vicinity. This is like using the crossings in a regular crossword, only with more guesswork.
  5. Use the shaded central ring. I had all but two letters of GOLDEN GL**ES filled in, and as soon as I remembered that the shaded ring had a purpose, I filled in the boxing-related GOLDEN GLOVES. That OV pointed the way for a #20 answer, TIPPED OVER/[Fell to one side], to find its place in the grid.

I had most of the southwest quadrant vexatiously empty when almost everything else was filled in. It was completing GOLDEN GLOVES and putting TIPPED OVER in that was the tipping point.

There were clues for which I definitely did not know the answers, but promising-looking spaces appeared in the grid as other answers were filled in around them. That’s how I pieced together #26: GLENDALE/[California city where Baskin-Robbins was founded], #25: MENELAUS/[Helen of Troy’s husband], and #32: LENTIL SOUP/[Hearty dish that Esau sold his birthright for].

My answer grid:


My overall assessment:

I couldn’t be more pleased that the Wall Street Journal has added the Saturday Puzzle feature. I usually don’t do the NYT’s acrostics on Sunday and I’m not doing the WSJ’s Saturday acrostics either—but the Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon cryptics and the variety grids by Berry and/or Mike Shenk are a delightful addition to my puzzling diet. I’ve always been a fan of Saturday themelesses, but the WSJ puzzles are even more captivating. They take longer to work through than the typical themeless crossword, and exercise parts of the brain that regular crosswords leave untapped. Delicious!

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11 Responses to Saturday, 3/6/10

  1. The Curve is also the unusual nickname of ALTOONA’s minor league baseball team (Class AA Eastern League, Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate).

  2. rick says:

    Not knowing the poet:

    G T
    E L

    seemed to work just fine.

    The 2D clue, to me, was the worst clue of all time. With some imagination ou can find any four letter thing by a lagoon: desk, tree, croc, beer, rock, bead, boss, etc..

  3. rick says:

    Didn’t justify correctly: OGLE, LILOY, TOLL

  4. Ted Pollock says:

    Re. today’s NY Times puzzle, I’ve researched Denali State Park vs. Rhoe Island and as I thought Denali S.P. is over 4 times larger than R.I. ????

  5. ktd says:

    Really like MAGIC for “tricks”–very ELEGANT

  6. bob stigger says:

    According to the Alaska State Parks website, Denali SP has an area of about 500 square miles. RI has a land area of about 1000 square miles, but a total area (including water) of about 1500 square miles, so the clue is sort of right but not exactly. Bob

  7. Gareth says:

    nyt: No time… got blue screen of death halfway through… the puzzle was so hard it melted my computer!

    I found this puzzle another delight… despite it totally OWNING me, at least the first time round! Could get no toeholds, no long answers. And my first string of answers: correct ALPS anchored by wrong ALLOW and LOOSE didn’t help things, when the blue screen came @ +- 17 min had the 2 sides of the middle and basically nothing else… Restarting after, including retyping the answers the puzzle took another 8 min! Bizarre.

    Was also thinking of toilet doors @ 17A, it seems like this was deliberate!
    Weirdest wrong turn: LANATE… for some reason CRINAL popped into my head at the time. I don’t know if that’s what it means though – google’s answer: not quite!
    Favourite entries: BEGENTLE, DENALISTATEPARK.
    It felt like there was something of a lack of punning clues at the time?

  8. Meg says:

    Amy: I totally enjoyed Patrick Berry’s WSJ puzzle, but I seem to recall doing this type without the added hint of whether the answer initially travels east, west, north or south. Those are really hard. Your fontsize 2.5 answer grid above has an error in the bottom left. GLENDALL. I hope Patrick posts some more free puzzles on his website. He’s a very clever constructor!

  9. Art Shapiro says:

    I was so happy when SEWARD PENINSULA fit the Alaska clue – a first-pass “gimme”. Rats!

  10. Brad says:

    TAI is often red snapper, and sometimes appears on the menu as “red fish.”

    The Beltway is the Capital Beltway: I-495 around Washington D.C. A lot of defense contractors are located near the Beltway, particularly around McLean, Tyson’s Corner, Alexandria and other parts of Fairfax County (proximity to Dulles, as well as various government agency headquarters makes the location attractive).

    Because of the obscene amount of money the DoD pays these folks, the nickname is well-earned.

  11. John Haber says:

    I worked my way up from the bottom toward the top and left, although I guessed EFGH right away. No question some of it was the relative number of those proper names there. (How did I forget that Manet painted Mallarme? Maybe because I don’t believe I’ve seen the Chabrier portrait.) I also let myself be fooled by “tricks” (nice clue) to enter an S at the end, which then had me guessing another SF street, and so on into trouble. And then for reflecting, I_E had me hoping for “ice caps,” where reflection is an issue in acceleration of global warming. I also didn’t know AGNATE could be a noun. Anyhow, hard work but worth it.

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