Saturday, 3/13/10

NYT 5:48
Newsday 5:35
LAT 3:28
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle untimed (download the PDF—it’s a Hex cryptic)

Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7I could be utterly wrong, but I think Tyler wrote the Down clues and Byron wrote the Acrosses. Am I right, guys? I like both of your styles, but the Acrosses seemed more Byroniac to me.

The coolest part of this puzzle is that the triple-stacked 15s in the middle intersect six 11s and two 9s, rather than being isolated in a sea of 3- to 5-letter answers. Let’s roll through the puzzle now, shall we?

  • 1A. A generic BMXER is a [Debut Olympian of 2008], as a BMX bike event was added to the Summer Games.
  • 16A. Crossword regulars ORO and PLATA join forces as ORO Y PLATA, the [Treasure State’s motto, aptly]. (That’s Montana.)
  • 21A. [What wavy lines often represent] in cartoons are ODORS.
  • 29A. [Shaker’s cry] clues a shivering c-c-c-cold “BRR!”
  • 35A. [Alcohol, it’s said] is a SOCIAL LUBRICANT. Great answer.
  • 38A. Is TRUE-LIFE ROMANCE totally “in the language”? It sounds a hair off to me. Clued with [Hepburn and Tracy shared one].
  • 39A. ENGLISH LAVENDER is an [Aromatic plant native to the Pyrenees], which doesn’t at all explain why “English” is in the name. I do love me some lavender, though I invariably try to spell it like “calendar” with an -ar.
  • 41A. Latin crosswordese ESSE (“to be”) is clue [Ab __ (absent: Lat.)]. I leaned on the crossings here.
  • 50A. If a question-marked clue begins with “Refrain from,” it’s a singing refrain and not the verb “refrain from.” [Refrain from singing when you’re happy?] clues TRA LA.
  • 58A. [Ulexite is rich in it] clues BORON. Thank you, crossings!
  • 61A. The GENDER GAP in collegiate sports is the [Title IX concern].
  • 62A. NEWTS are [Ones with bewitching eyes?] in that the witches in Macbeth used eye of newt in their potion.
  • 2D. Wasn’t MILLE BORNES just in the Fireball puzzle? It’s a [Game with hazards, safeties, and remedies].
  • 3D. Random trivia! XAVIER CUGAT is the [Entertainer who was the first man to be married at Caesar’s Palace]. Did he marry Charo there?
  • 5D. [Make seedier?] tries to be clever and make RESOW more palatable.
  • 6D. To [Make chicken] is to intimidate or COW someone.
  • 7D. I never counted! An OREO [has 12 flowers on each side].
  • 9D. [One way to break ties] is BY LOT. Can’t say that phrase looks familiar.
  • 11D. Crosswordese! ALBS are [Garments covered by amices]. If this was a gimme for you, you have clearly done a lot of crosswords in your time.
  • 12D. More trivia! LAO is a [Language with no spaces between words]. I did not know that.
  • 20D. Never heard of NELLIS, the [Air Force base near Las Vegas].
  • 26D. Is STAND IN A ROW truly grid-worthy? The clue is [Line up].
  • 35D. [Salsa ingredients?] are STEPS. Another semi-recent puzzle made me think of the condiment rather than the dance, but now I have learned.
  • 36D. [Vulcans, e.g.] are an ALIEN RACE. Cool answer.
  • 51A. The ACTA, or proceedings, are detailed in the meeting minutes. [They’re found within minutes] is not an easy way to clue that word.

I see some crazy solving times for this puzzle. If Tyler and Byron knocked you for a loop, what were the toughest spots?

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Eye Contact”—Janie’s review

A great end to a great week of CS puzzles. Imoo. The “eye contact” Randy speaks of refers to the letter “I” and the way it appears at the end of the first word of the theme fill and makes (grid-)contact with the “I” at the beginning of the second one. The result is that all of the theme fill looks pretty cool in there with those double “I”s. Even better, the theme fill is a rich anthropological/geo-political mix, an exotic and trans-global olio of people and places and sects, and is made up of:

In addition to this spicy “burgoo” (see the 3/10/10 CS), we get some fine non-theme fill and a slew of terrific (unexpected, fresh) clue/fill combos. “EXCUSE ME” is another polite way of saying [“I beg your pardon”] (“Excu-u-u-use me!” would be Steve Martin’s sarcastic way of saying the same thing). SINISTER is clued as [Like Snidely Whiplash]. Happily, his threats never came to fruition. Thank you, Dudley Do-Right! FINANCES [Money matters] aptly shares its final “S” with WAGES [Earnings]. There’s also WATER SKI [Get a tow, on the lake]; and that beautiful AIR KISS, with its superb clue [Something thrown on the red carpet]. Get the picture? Muah!

Now let’s look at some of the outstanding clues:

  • [General acknowledgment?] SALUTE. I.e., a salute to a military General
  • [White lightning containers] JARS. White lightning is one of many colorful names for moonshine. Happy Sally, ruckus juice–check out the other great names on this list.
  • [Movie companion] DINNER. Hah! Not ESCORT. Good one.
  • [Done for] SUNK.
  • [Sticky wicket] FIX.
  • [Type of rock] is not IGNEOUS but ACID. Music trumps geology here.
  • [Submarine base?] DELI.
  • [Blizzard blanket] SNOW. ICES is also in the grid, but it’s been clued non-meteorologically as [Nails]–which is a pretty tricky clue in itself.

Sure didn’t need to see either EDENS or AREA yet again this week, but I did love seeing both JADA and JADES. The former is [Actress Pinkett-Smith]; the latter is not a plural noun, thank-you-very-much, but a verb today [Wears down]. Finally, huzzah for the theatrical cross in the SE of STAGE [Thespian’s spot] and Othello antagonist IAGO [Rival of Cassio]. Now that guy was sinister-incarnate!

Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6If you’ve been struggling with recent Saturday puzzles, perhaps you’ll find this one to be more pliable. I zipped right through it like it was a Wednesday NYT crossword.

I like it when people’s full names are included in the grid. Today, we have two people whose first names show up a lot because they have only three letters, two of them vowels. IRA GLASS and YMA SUMAC, today is your day to shine! I’m especially psyched about YMA SUMAC because she is way overdue for Crosswordese 101 attention.

Before I move on to my other favorite answers, let me call your attention to a couple pairs of answers that bump up against the duplication rule, with related French and English words. 10A: [Orly sight] clues AVION, the French word for “airplane.” Airplanes fly, and words like avion and aviation are derived from the Latin word for bird, avis. That word is half of RARA AVIS (36D: [One in a million]), which is Latin for “rare bird.” Too close for comfort, or a lovely pairing? You decide. Even more closely related are the French IDÉE (7D: [__ fixe]) and the second half of “NEAT IDEA!” (14D: [“Very clever!”]).

Groovy bits:

  • 1A: [“Scram!”] (“TAKE A HIKE!”). I gotta start saying that more often.
  • 17A: [It often requires a bedroom set] (LOVE SCENE). True enough.
  • ELOI’s clue has a little extra oomph today: 27A: [Group that “had decayed to a mere beautiful futility”: Wells].
  • 59A: [Team with a flaming ball in its logo] (MIAMI HEAT). Lively entry, that.
  • 1D: [Know-it-all’s taunt] (“TOLD YA”). I gotta start saying that more often, too.
  • Potty humor! 13D: [Rustic place to go?] (OUTHOUSE).
  • 35D: [Contest that’s usually over in less than 20 seconds] (DRAG RACE). Cool answer.
  • 56D: [Broccoli __] (RABE). I do not like anything in the broccoli category. This is a leafy green veggie with broccoli-like buds and bitter-flavored greens, the dictionary tells me. Bleh. It’s also spelled broccoli raab and rapini, the latter word being a recent killer in a tough Fireball crossword. If you wish the Saturday L.A. Times puzzle were twice as hard, you should definitely subscribe to Fireball Crosswords. $10, cheap!

Less savory stuff:
I dunno. There’s kind of a lot of not-so-hot fill today, isn’t there? A Roman numeral (DCL), a direction (SSE), fill-in-the-blanks (PAO, DRU), ESSES, European geography (AAR, EDAM, ALSACE) and languages (ETE, GATO), RIAS, a weirdly clued plural abbreviation (SCIS, [Some H.S. courses]), a plural first name (GINAS), ANTRUM/[Anatomical cavity]…

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “What Goes Around”

Great puzzle, as expected, with an inventive theme to be teased out and only one obscure word (7D). I made it through the puzzle in one sitting, so it might be a little easier than Hex’s Atlantic crosswords were. (Some of their best Atlantic cryptics are collected in one of my favorite puzzle books of 2009.)


The central square contains not 1 letter, but 4: the planet MARS, as part of MALLOMARS and MARSUPIAL. The two 6-letter rings of shaded squares spell out two moons that orbit Mars, PHOBOS and DEIMOS.

The answers, by clue type:


  • 2A: RETINA (tin ear); 6A: RINGER (erring); 13A: SHOULDER (old usher); 16A: SIMEON (omen is); 18A: MERIDIAN (airmen I’d); 8D: REBOOT (to bore); 10D: MARSUPIAL (puma’s lair); 12D: ALIGNED (leading); 15D: SECLUDE (clues Ed); 16D: SAVIOR (Avis, or); 18D: CENSOR (crones)


  • 3D: TEE (almost “teen”)


  • 5A: S(N)EER; 11A: MALL(OMAR)S; 19A: FAC(E)TS; 1D: RAND(IE)R (R AND R containing I.E.); 4D: CARE(E)RS; 7D: S(O)LANDER (here’s what a solander is); 11D: RE(N)AL; 14D: DEF(A)T; 19D: CRI(M)ES

Hidden words:

  • 1A: restoRED HOTel; 7A: mODESt (Mussorgsky’s first name is Modest); 14A: vampiRE BAts

Double definition:

  • 3A: TIER (rank/someone making a knot)


  • 4A: REDO (notes RE + DO); 8A: SEARCH (SEals + ARCH/roguish); RICE (R = red + ICE = the rocks); 10A: Hilaire BELLOC (Alexander Graham BELL + CO reversed); 12A: ASUNDER (AS + UNDER); 17A: DIGEST (DIG = like + EST = established); 20A: TEA LEAVES (TEAL + EAVES); 1D: RANDIER (R AND R); 5D: DIESELS (DIES = stops + ELS = elevated trains); 6D: BOTHER (B = crumb’s back + OTHER; “harry” means to bother); 9D: DIATRIBE (AID reversed + Indian TRIBE); 13D: GROSS (G = good + Betsy ROSS); 17D: HONEST (HONE = to perfect + ST.)


  • 15A: TIDE (sounds like “tied”); 2D: METE (sounds like “meet”)

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

(PDF solution here.)

Highlights in the fill:

  • 15A. The ALL-STAR GAME is a [Sports-season highlight].
  • 34A. HARD C is the [Leader of Cambodia].
  • 60A. [Rodomontade] means BRAGGADOCIO.
  • 12D. “I CAN’T WAIT!” is clued as an [Impatient plaint].
  • 31D. The BOMB SQUAD is a [Disposal unit?] of sorts.

Other answers, clues, and things that bugged me:

  • 1A. PIPE CLEANER is clued as a [Craft-store purchase]. Is it possible to buy a single pipe cleaner?
  • 12A. ICU is clued not as an intensive care unit but as [Slangy letters of identification], “I C U” sounding like “I see you.” Where the heck did that come from?
  • 18A. Is ARD a true suffix with a unit of meaning? It’s clued as [Dull finish], as in “dullard.”
  • 19A. AGT. is short for “agent.” I have no idea what that has to do with [Case officer’s charge: Abbr.].
  • 36A. [“Happy Days” diner] clues AL’S. Someone was saying recently that when Arnold (Pat Morita) left the show, Al Molinari’s character Al took over management of Arnold’s—and that it was still called Arnold’s and not AL’S. Can any TV savants confirm or deny?
  • 38A. [At this “situation”] clues ICI. What, putting “situation” in quotes can signal that it’s a foreign (French) word, and therefore you know the answer will be French? And we all know that “situation” in French has to do with location, such as here (ICI)? I call a foul.
  • 1D. [Pleasure seeker] clues PAGAN. That’s not the usual meaning of PAGAN that people think of.
  • 2D. “I’LL GO” is clued as [Volunteer’s phrase]. Meh.
  • 5D, 35D. CTS., short for “cents,” is clued as [Price pts.]. CENTI- is the prefix that’s a [Grade preceder] in “centigrade.” Cents and centi- have the same root.
  • 13D. You and your friends’ brains’ [Control centers] are CEREBELLA.
  • 25D. [Island off Devon] is LUNDY. How else you gonna clue that?
  • 43D. As an [Editor], if I came across the word ALTERER in a manuscript, I would change it.
  • 63D. OCC. is short for “occasionally,” or [Not often: Abbr.]. Not such a common abbreviation.

This is perhaps my least favorite Barry Silk puzzle. The fill had more clunkers in it (despite a word count of 72) and the clues didn’t do much for me, either. I will look forward to your next puzzle, Barry, to fade the memory of this one.

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25 Responses to Saturday, 3/13/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Today I learned that WAYNE NEWTON shares two letters with XAVIER CUGAT. I also learned that HARD AS BRASS will result in a giant blank space in the NE, only solved when I googled 16A. Darn American state mottos.

    Also MRS for SRS for a while.
    And SLIDED for SLID ON. Yes, of course that’s wrong.

    Great puzzle, utter fail by this solver.

  2. Howard B says:

    Trivia, trivia, trivia, plus all three middle answers that I had never heard of and (mostly) could not infer without a _lot_ of letters in place. Fine job, you two.
    This one had a feel of a Newsday Stumper, but with a lot more devious clues in there.
    The unusual phrases (STAND IN A ROW) also throw a few extra tacks in the road.

    Finally, facts about XAVIER CUGAT, Air Force bases, and state mottos are also not conducive to speed-solving for me personally, but they make for great fill ;). Looking forward to the next collaboration.

  3. joon says:

    amy, the only one with a crazy solving time for this puzzle is you. al’s is pretty impressive, too. i thought 10 minutes was pretty good for this bear. any puzzle anchored by triple-stacked 15s, none of which i’m at all familiar with, is going to be tough. and the crossing 11s were tough, too (except for MILLE BORNES, which was a gimme, and CANCELED OUT, which was not a gimme from the clue but is at least a familiar expression). XAVIER CUGAT took every crossing. SELF-HEALING took most of them. (what does that even mean?) BOLD AS … BRASS? if you say so. only the NE and SW corners fell without much resistance.

  4. janie says:

    while it took me longer to get this one going, it took me less time to solve than yesterday’s. go figger! ne was the last to give. kept try to make AXE and not ATE work for [fell hard, with “it”]… BY LOX just wasn’t gonna cut it for [one way to break ties]. unless there’s some jewish custom i’m not aware of. ;-) [one way to break fast], however, is another story…

    thank you, fireball, for MILLE BORNES!


  5. miguel says:

    I knew Xavier and Abbe Lane from their real life romance, but found the puzzle very tough. When you look back at the fill, you think, this should not have been that hard…then you look at the clues and realize a new generation has just made crosswords an Extreme Sport. Glad I had my BMX pencil.

  6. ORO Y PLATA fell first, once I remembered which Western state it was. SE corner fell last. And Joon is right regarding the definition of crazy solving times.

  7. Mike F. says:

    Not having ever watched Lost, Daniel Doe Kim seemed perfectly plausible…Cost me a good seven minutes after taking forever to get started (MILLE BORNES was my entry into the grid).

  8. LARRY says:

    Amy – Are you going to post your completed grid for the nyt puzzle?
    Am I the only one who got stuck thinking wavy lines signified ideas (vice odors)?

  9. ePeterso2 says:

    I thought wavy lines signified the OCEAN, which was also no help.

    I didn’t realize I still had SOCRATICS in my brain.

    I completed about 2/3 of this puzzle by Googling TITAN and TIL (didn’t know either). Finished all of the SW, nearly all of the SE and center (got the 3 15s), half of the NW and absolutely none of the NE. Felt good about being able to make as much progress on I did, especially given the comments of others here.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    So very happy to find that the Saturday Stumper is a Barry Silk creation! All you’d want and expect, and then some… No quibbles here, no spoilers.

  11. Jim Finder says:

    Once I got going, after two false starts on this very hard one, I really enjoyed this puzzle, which means I found a lot of fun entries like MILLE BORNES, ORO Y PLATA, XAVIER CUGAT and WAYNE NEWTON (not).

    Which were the hardest parts? The trivia, and the odd phrases, as pointed out by Amy and Joon.

    My pleasure (are you listening, Peter?) is in puzzles based on “the language,” loosely and ill-defined as “what everybody knows (or would like to have known).” Then, to that, you add your crossword skills to put it all together.

    Puzzles based on facts like a TV actor’s middle name or the design of a commercial snack product are not so satisfying.

    It’s Saturday, so get outside if you can.

  12. Joe Cabrera says:

    Didn’t feel like much harder than a usual Saturday for me, but did take a little longer than usual. Had “spare pins” and “Lima” for SPARE TIME and LOME for a short time, but those were my only rewrites. But I had a Friday a while ago that I couldn’t even finish so I guess these things balance out.

  13. David says:

    Can someone please explain to me how Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC yet appointed consul in one AD? What have I missed? (See Saturday Stumper 37A).

  14. SethG says:

    janie, I actually got BY LOT from a Jewish custom. Purim means “lots”, and the holiday Purim was apparently named because the evil guy drew lots (as in lottery) to pick the date to kill the Jews. More quickly than yesterday’s for me too.

  15. LARRY says:

    David – Wikipedia shows Julius’ reign beginning in 49 BC. So Mr. Silk is off by a mere half century. Hmm – I wonder who WAS appointed Consul in one ad?

  16. Zulema says:

    Caius or Gaius Caesar, except I think he also had a middle name Julius according to some sources.

  17. janie says:

    sethg — d’oh! and perfect!!


  18. Judy Pozar says:

    I found this a very hard Saturday puzzle. Finally asked my 19-year-old, who came home yesterday for spring break, what might be the answer for “Alcohol, it’s said”, and with no letters at all, he immediately said “social lubricant”. Well, that opened it all up for me.

  19. Mel Park says:

    I so wanted 10D “Result of a break” to be SPLINTTIME. That would have been a cool answer.

  20. ktd says:

    As I stared helplessly at 38-Across in the Times puzzle, with “T_ _ _L…” filled in, I couldn’t help but wonder if Hepburn and Tracy had ever shared a towel. Once I saw the answer, I figured they probably did.

  21. argol says:

    Zulema, Julius Caesar’s first name was Gaius. Gaius Caesar, also Gaius Julius Caesar, was the son of Augustus’s daughter Julia and was named for Julius Caesar. Confusing, yes, but more so because he was known as Gaius Caesar, as was the first Caesar until he crowned himself emperor, then he was Julius Caesar. Julius died before Gaius was born.

  22. John Haber says:

    Ok, I’m totally lost and have tried to skip by the post and comments, and I don’t like it. On Saturdays I often feel like I’m never going to find a way in, but somehow carrying around the puzzle all day, I do. (I have been known to miss an obscure crossing here and there.) Thus far I don’t have a clue, beyond a few guesses here and there.

    Maybe it’s just me, but this was a very different kind of puzzle. I’ll try again Sunday.

  23. John Haber says:

    I did finish this morning and am grateful to see that others faced the same unfamiliar phrases or trivia. I’d lots of wrong starts (chef salad, skid on, I fold) and lots of things that took me to almost every letter (mille borne, xavier cougat, salda, home for American morning, Innocent I, English lavender, Nellis, …. hard t know when to stop). I don’t recognize still wavy lines for odors or bold as brass but I’ll take my finishing it gratefully. Obviously much more dependent on obscurities than the usual Saturday kind of difficulty, and you either like that or you grunt “maleska” like me.

  24. Quentinc says:

    Late as usual, but at least I didn’t start the NYT until last night. Funny thing, other than the grueling NE quadrant, I found it pretty easy for a Saturday! I was flying through (by my standards) until I hit a gold and silver wall (atually, the “ORO” part was my foothold, along with COW, but thankfully I’ve never been served [Roquefort cheese] as part of any dish.)

  25. Joan macon says:

    Here I am, trailing along weeks later as usual, but I did want to point out that Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is the home of the Air Force Thunderbirds, the precision flying team that makes such great appearances over public events. If you ever get to Nellis, they have a great museum and program about the squadron, and the hanger where they keep the planes is so clean you could easily see yourself reflected in it.

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