Friday, 6/18/10

NYT 6:12
CHE 4:29
LAT 3:54
CS untimed
WSJ 7:53

Karen Tracey’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 12What a surprise! I actually liked one of Karen’s puzzles for a change.

(That’s a joke. I generally love her work.)

Scrabbly? Check. (A couple Zs and Qs, four Ks, a J and an X.) Fun fill? Check. Friday puzzle verging on Saturday difficulty? Check. What I liked best:

  • 1a. The ZEPPELIN was an [Early 20th-century mode of transportation]. Not as popular as the bus eventually became.
  • 9a. Love the word BAOBAB, the African [Tree that’s home to Rafiki in “The Lion King”].
  • 16a. [Less steep] is a great clue for ON SALE.
  • 20a. The mind can go all sorts of untoward places with a clue like [You may try to stop them from coming out in public]. The answer is SNEEZES. Raise your hand if you tried PENISES.
  • 33a. The first name of [French caricaturist Daumier] is HONORE. Check out a sampling of his work here—in particular, the trippy “Gargantua.”
  • 34a. QUICK DRAW MCGRAW is such an awesome name, it can be applied to almost anyone at the slightest provocation. [Baba Looey was his deputy] is the clue, and boy, that meant nothing to me.
  • 38a. Ah, the UNCOLA, 7-Up. [Longtime drink nickname, with “the”]. I have some in my fridge to mix with Pimm’s Cup No. 1.
  • 47a. Mike ROYKO! The first newspaper columnist I read  religiously, and the late [Author of the best seller “Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago”]. Current mayor is Richard M. Daley.
  • 54a. Don’t I always tell you I dig the NYT analogy clues? [Cubs : bears :: crias : ___] LLAMAS.
  • 1d. ZAFTIG is another terrific word. The clue is [Well-proportioned].
  • 2d, 34d. Horse racing x 2 (and luckily, not with obscure names of race horses of yore). [Like some track stars] means EQUINE, and QUINELLA is a [Track betting option].
  • 3d. Forget Tito—PUENTE is a generic [Spanish bridge]. French pont, Italian ponte.
  • 8d. NAKED AS A JAYBIRD is clued [Like all new deliveries?]. It’s true. Not a single baby is born with clothes on.
  • 13d. We see ALOE VERA in the grid plenty, but I like the [Healing helper] clue. Wanted it to be some sort of health care worker.
  • 21d. ZOT! That’s the [Sound from the anteater in “B.C.”], the comic strip.

The ones I wasn’t figuring out without the crossings doing the heavy lifting:

  • 5d. [Bog youngsters] clues EFTS, or young salamanders.
  • 6d. [Bushrope] clues the vine LIANA.
  • 9d. A BORER is an [Unwanted cornfield guest].
  • 32d. EDA moves far afield from LeShan: [Soprano Christiane ___-Pierre].
  • 48d. The OLETA is a [River that drains the Everglades into Biscayne Bay].

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 13It’s a gutsy grid that tosses in a couple 10-letter answers that aren’t tied into the theme. You know what is tied in? TIE-IN. That’s 69a: [Marketing ploy, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Each theme answer has an extra TIE in it:

  • 20a. [Ones wearing designer hospital gowns?] are FANCY PATIENTS. You can’t get a better base phrase than “fancy pants.”
  • 32a. [Massive marina protectors?] are JUMBO JETTIES.
  • 42a. TIERED SQUARE is a [Plaza with many levels?]. Red Square makes for another great base phrase, better than the with-TIE result.
  • 55a. [More passionate language?] is SWEATIER WORDS.

Those bonus non-theme 10s are PETER LORRE (17a. [“M” star]) and DREAM TEAMS (61a. [Heavily favored squads]). Other good fill and clues:

  • 14a. MONDO means [Extremely, in slang].
  • 16a. [Like zero] means OVAL, if you’re thinking more geometry than mathematics.
  • 37a. Danny OCEAN is a [Three-time Clooney title role]. Mmm, Clooney.
  • 3d. ANT FARMS are [Colonies with tunnels].
  • 5d. [Supercell product] is a TORNADO, forming from a supercell thunderstorm.
  • 30d. [Underwater directors] are the FINS fish use to move about.
  • 39d. [Popular fund raiser] clues BAKE SALE. Mmm, cookies.
  • 46d. ED WOOD was the [“Plan 9 From Outer Space” director]. If you haven’t seen the movie Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp, I highly recommend it.

Nuttiest clues:

  • 9d. [Uh-uh, in Ufa] clues NYET, so Ufa must be a Russian place name, though I’ve never heard of it before. Turns out it’s the capital of Bashkiria in southwestern Russia.
  • 52d. [Khuzdul speaker, in Tolkien] is a member of the DWARF race.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Country Club”

Region capture 14Which countries are in the club? Which have won the World Cup in past years? Just seven different countries: BRAZIL, ITALY, GERMANY, URUGUAY, and ARGENTINA have won more than once, while FRANCE and ENGLAND have but a single WORLD / CUP WINNER title to their names. All the rest of the contenders have been skunked. Sure, USA is in this puzzle, but it’s clued as a [Ryder Cup competitor] (that’s golf, versus Europe).

There’s nothing especially zippy in the rest of the fill, but it is surprisingly smooth for a puzzle with nine theme entries occupying space. You know why? Just look at the byline.

Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pop Secret”

Region capture 15Yes, it’s true: Jeffrey is on the road, and I have been roped into subbing for him on the WSJ crossword. It’s late, I’m tired, I’m linking to nothing, and I’ll be brief: I noticed pretty quickly that the words in each theme answer all started with P, but it wasn’t until I found PAPA (130a: [Person honored in this puzzle]) that I realized the words all started with PA. With two PA words per theme entry, there’s your PAPA. Happy Father’s Day this Sunday to all the dads out there!

Eight theme answers, plus a dozen 8- to 10-letter entries in the fill? Solid.
Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A Dynamite Idea”—Janie’s review

Like Deadeye Dick (Cheney’s) Gun Club, what can I say about this puzzle’s theme except that “It’s a blast!” The first part of each of the three themed-phrases are all synonymous with the “dynamite” part of that “dynamite idea.” This paean to Wile E. Coyote and the Acme Corporation is made up of:

  • 20A. EXPLOSION SHOT [Bunker clearer, in golf]. It’s not all that dramatic, but here’s how one looks. Another golf term, EAGLE shows up today, but it’s been clued instead as [Philadelphia football player].
  • 37A. DEMOLITION DERBY [Contest for junker cars]. Yikes. Hadn’t realized this is a team sport… and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or just another really odd thing about this kinda gathering.
  • 49A. BIG BANG THEORY [CBS sitcom about physicists, with “The”]. Oh, those wacky guys. Tagline: “Smart Is The New Sexy.” Okay. But the show really sounds dumb. Is this one of those guilty pleasure shows or has it earned its popularity ratings on the basis of decent writing and terrific performances? We won’t even discuss the double entendre of the show’s title and its premise.

The puzzle has ZEST [Energy] and is bursting with other bright spots that help it shine—like NOVA, that [Intensely bright star]. Yes, I was being jocular there. But there’s also strong, longer fill, too—like REACHES IN [Commits a basketball foul], STILETTOS [Sexy footwear] (the podiatrists’ and orthopedists’ godsend…), TIMETABLES [Train station schedules], FIESTA [Big party], ONE MAN [Kind of band] (comme ça), HOT TEA [Throat soother] and a fave, CACHET [Seal of approval].

A [Concert memento] is a STUB. Your “memento” at a rock concert is more likely to be a stubbed toe, since you might also have the opportunity to MOSH [Engage in frenzied dancing] in the mosh pit. If electronic music is more your thing, you could be a RAVER (though today this is clued as [Wild talker]…).

Always have to check the crosses where the [Title role for Leslie Caron] is concerned. Today she’s LILI—but remember that she was also GIGI.

There are two nice pairs, too—one from the Old Testament: ADAM [First family member?] and NOAH [Genesis boat captain]; and one that takes us from bad to worse: “UH-OH” [“This is not good“] and “OH, NO!” [“That’s terrible!”]. Nah—it’s not so bad at all!

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17 Responses to Friday, 6/18/10

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Wow — I was so happy to get the NW first with ZEPPELIN and ZAFTIG! It seemed to bode well, and that was mostly true. Loved BAOBAB, ROSCOE, GOATEE, ERMINE and NAKED AS A JAY BIRD. Bogged down a bit in the SW as I wagered on Trifecta for a while until it just wouldn’t work, and I knew there was a something -ELLA in the back of my mind. Aha, EUREKA. Kudos to Karen — wish I could create one like this!

  2. sbmanion says:

    Quickdraw McGraw was my first entry and part of my youth along with Huckleberry Hound and Augie Doggy. It was my first entry and led to my fastest solve ever of a Karen Tracey puzzle.

    I wasn’t crazy about the singular ICE SKATE. It really is not responsive to the otherwise clever hockey-related clue. What hockey player wears a single skate?

    My guess is that most racetracks call it QUINIELA, but QUINELLA is certainly OK.


  3. paul cz says:

    I have a question on a 4-month old Saturday clue. Sorry if this isn’t the best forum for this. (I won’t make a habit of it.)
    I really can’t see why the following isn’t an error, and wanted to get some other opinions (or have someone enlighten me).

    In Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword from Saturday, Feb 20, 2010, the answer for “person making a check mark?” is “endorsee”. However, as far as I, and the dictionaries I’ve tried, know, the “endorsee” is the the person to whom a check is endorsed. So the “endorsee” does *not* make a “check mark” (well, yes, they may do it, later, but at that later point they would be acting as an*endorsER*).

    So, is this an error in the puzzle? And, by the way, how often do errors occur in NY Times crosswords?


  4. Evad says:

    Small world, Quick Draw was on my mind a few weeks ago in a CS commentary. Loved KMT’s puzzle; made me realize how much I missed her regular stint at the NY Sun. Figuring out ZAFTIG and ZEPPELIN simultaneously is one of the unadulterated joys of solving her scrabbilicious puzzles!

    My only beef (not stew) was the crosser between Mike ROYKO and the OLETA River. Not familiar with the columnist, I put an A in there. The only OLETA I know is Ms. Adams, but that wouldn’t be a Friday-level clue.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Thanks for filling in, Amy. Ever thought of doing this regularly?

    in honour of the father’s day theme, I’ll link to one of my late father’s favorites – The Mikado

  6. Gareth says:

    “Friday puzzle verging on Saturday difficulty?” – I’d say a tough Saturday here esp. in the the bottom-left – never heard of QUINELLA (had TRIFECTA until remembered QUICKDRAWMCGRAW) or UNCOLA (OK that’s just cos I’m not American I guess) or ROYKA or HEXBOLT. Clue for ICESKATE still means nothing to me! Plus mysterious IRENE and EDA. Really liked the puzzle despite this – lots of scrabbliness, great central 15s. Clue for EQUINE totally had me and the rest of the top-left was great too, even if I needed ZAFTIG to unravel it!

  7. Howard B says:

    ICE SKATE – North American-centric sports clue – refers to the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, who play much better hockey with their ice skates on (except, some would say, during the playoffs :( ).

  8. Jan (danjan) says:

    I got off to a great start on the NYT, with ZAFTIG and QUICKDRAWMCGRAW, but it all fell apart around ROYKO, and even with that figured out, I had FOCUS instead of FOCAL, and the crossings looked legit.

  9. joon says:

    i’m with gareth: this was a tough saturday for a friday. everybody else seems to have started with QUICK DRAW MCGRAW, but i still don’t even know what that means and i needed to work for almost every letter. some were inferrable, which is good because i didn’t know QUINELLA either—also had TRIFECTA. it also strikes me as an unusual grid. or rather, it wouldn’t be unusual for anybody other than KMT, but her grids are usually unusual, if you know what i mean.

    timely puzzle from patrick, but a breeze if you know some world cup history. and how about that USA-slovenia game this morning? wow.

  10. sbmanion says:

    I was going ballistic a few weeks ago over stake race as opposed to the essentially universally used stakes race at American racetracks. QUINELLA is a lot more humorous. In the programs at most if not all dog tracks, the spelling is almost always QUINIELA. At horse tracks, it can go either way. Here’s a site from the Del Mar sports book that has a heading of QUINELLA and yet the individual races are called QUINIELAS:

    QUINELLA/QUINIELA for the uninitiated is a bet on the first and second place finishers in a race in either order. EXACTA is the first two in the exact order of finish.

    How soon we forget. Joon, in the ESPN poll for today, the question was “which call was worse: the blown final out call in what would have been a perfect game or the disallowance of what would have been the winning American goal today.” The goal is leading right now with 64%.


  11. david says:

    can someone explain why front is nose?

  12. Sam Donaldson says:

    @david: The front of an airplane, for example, is its nose.

  13. John Haber says:

    Hard one for me with lots of trouble spots already mentioned, like ROYKO, HEX BOLT, but also quite a few not already mentioned. The NW was my last to fall, thanks to, well most of it, but turned out not to hold my errors. I didn’t guess LEGER, although perhaps I should have from his forms (not that I’ve ever heard the term used in art history once), but I had guessed FOCUS for “center” and didn’t know the rapper (or care) so had nothing to disprove it. At first the SEG led me to guess the only artist I knew with that crossing, George Segal, but then ended up just hoping this forum would clarify. For the SW, I had no idea what the bet was, wondered if a front couldn’t be a pose (as in putting on a front), so had that wrong.

    In sum, some great cluing, like ON SALE and the counterintuitive euphemism for ZAFTIG, but too many annoyances.

  14. The three fundamental rules of a Karen Tracey NYT puzzle:

    1. Scrabbly fill.
    2. Scrabbly fill.
    3. Scrabbly fill.

    I had AQUAFINA in NW early and then forgot the three rules when the Q looked funny on the crossing word and erased it. Note to self: Must remember the three rules going forward.

    Joon — congrats on the birth of your child, and thanks for your response on my NFL/AFL question a few days back. And with respect to Slovenia-USA, all I can say is: Edu was robbed!

  15. Meem says:

    Or as my son queried today: Was he selected as the winner by the FIFA “ref for a day” committee?

  16. joon says:

    steve, the question is ill-posed. which call was worse in isolation, or in context? the galarraga call had no effect on the outcome of the game, just the occurrence (or not) of a statistical oddity. the edu call completely determined the result of a world cup match, and possibly a world cup group. anyway, i don’t blame the ref; mistakes happen. i blame FIFA for the lack of transparency and accountability. it’s infuriating in exactly the same way that trying to be a roman catholic is occasionally infuriating. i love the sport, but the organizing body drives me bonkers sometimes. perhaps the ref didn’t want to fess up to his own mistake, but maybe he was covering for one of his linesmen who blundered. we’ll never know because of the cloak of secrecy.

    lost in the shuffle: what a match! best one of the world cup so far, although i have not watched all of them (missed algeria-slovenia on sunday morning). if the US maintains their level of play from the 2nd half, they will spank algeria. of course, if they play like they did in the 1st half, they’ll be home before the postcards, as the saying goes.

  17. NinaUWS says:

    Just getting to NYT now. I really liked this puzzle, but I was flummoxed by 61A Volunteers’ counterparts: Draftees. I don’t think of counterpart as an opposite. Did anyone else have that problem?

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