Friday, 7/9/10

NYT 8:05
LAT 4:18
CS untimed
CHE (?) tba
WSJ—see Jeffrey’s post

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 13I was all set to declare that this is a Saturday puzzle accidentally published on a Friday, but then I saw that Howard Barkin finished it in 5:37. That’s still longer than he typically spends on a Friday, I daresay, but not strikingly Saturdistic. (That’s my new portmanteau word: Saturday + sadistic.)

The biggest patch of white space is in the center of the grid, where the four 15s crisscross. But that’s not where the hard stuff was concentrated. No, sir/ma’am. The hard stuff sprawled all over the puzzle:

  • 13a. PAULINE is the [Princess who was a sister of Napoleon Bonaparte]. I can’t say I’ve heard of her, but at least it’s not an oddball name.
  • 28a. [Picked-up pickup, perhaps] is a RENTAL. The average airport car rental counter doesn’t offer pickup trucks, does it?
  • 34a. I didn’t know this quote: [“Few can be induced to labor exclusively for ___”: Abraham Lincoln] clues POSTERITY.
  • 35a. I really thought we were looking for a species of shark rather than the generic MAN-EATING SHARKS for [Popular sea menaces of film].
  • 50a. [___ Emperor (Taoism figure)] is JADE, but I was waiting for the crossings to lead me to something like HSIA or XIAN.
  • 55a. Nautical terms, grr. RATLINE is a [Rope-ladder rung on a ship]. One dictionary I checked has this only in the plural, for the rung-like ropes used to climb the rigging.
  • 60a. LASTEX is a [Yarn with a rubber core]. Sounds like “elastics” without the first letter. Never heard of it.
  • 4d. [Pitched blade?] is the GINSU, subject to vigorous sales pitches.
  • 6d. I could only think of CONSTRUCTION ZONE, but that’s too long. [Place with higher speeding fines, often] is a RESIDENTIAL AREA, apparently. Haven’t been aware of such an ordinance.
  • 7d. [Army post unused since the 1950s] uses post as “job position,” not “fort or garrison”: it’s a FIVE-STAR GENERAL.
  • 12d. [Containing element #34] means SELENIC. I tried SILICIC. I don’t know the element numbers.
  • 13d. Oh, dear. [Losers of the Battle of Meloria, 1284]? That would be the PISANS. I don’t know who won. The Melorians?
  • 25d. Never heard of BLYTH. Isn’t there an Ann Blyth? It’s also the name of an [English city that’s home to the Spartans football club]. They’re not in the English Premier League, are they?
  • 35d. [Nova Scotia’s Lake ___, named for an Indian tribe] clues MICMAC. I actually got this one with just one or two crossings, but I don’t know why.
  • 50d. JESU, [“___, meine Freude” (Bach motet)] means “Jesus, my joy.”

Yep, those answers peppered all five of the grid’s zones.

My five favorite clues:

  • 52d. [One way to be turned down] is FLAT. Not only can you be turned down flat by someone, if you turn down your bed covers, those are flat too.
  • 39d. KLEENEX? [It may be offered with a blessing] after a sneeze.
  • Stacking palindromes! 18a: Monica SELES is a [Sports champion with a palindromic name], and 22A: ADA is a [Literary title character with a palindromic name].
  • 59a. [Latin tongue] is LINGUA, the Latin word for a tongue. Does this mean both that muscle in your mouth and a language?
  • 24d. [Magic word] isn’t PLEASE, it’s PRESTO. How many of you voted for PLEASE first?

Nowhere near my favorite Berry themeless, but it’s high-quality all the same. Partials? No. Questionable words? No. There are only eight 3s, and only one of those eight is an abbreviation (and IDA. could certainly have been clued as a name if not for TREVINO, ADA, SELES, PEI, NIA, PAULINE, JANE DOE, RYAN, and ANN already providing plenty of names). So it’s accomplished, but perhaps not as “Wow!”-inducing as many other Berry puzzles. Patrick, you have set the bar for yourself way up high.

Updated Friday morning:

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

Ooh, I sure did like this puzzle with its great set of theme phrases. All four are CS firsts and all but one seem to be making their first “major puzzle”-type appearances. Breathe it in. That’s the aroma of “fresh fill.” Even better, the first five letters of each phrase is an anagram of the first word of the final phrase, which is title-related and occurs at 55A: [Market correction (and a hint to the starts of 17-, 25-, and 43-Across)] PRICE ADJUSTMENT. I was more than a bit of a SLOWPOKE [Dawdler] in catching on, but that only added to the “aha”—and look at the perfect way Randy mixed it up:

  • 17A. [Giftware distributor] PRECIOUS MOMENTS. Omg. It doesn’t get much more twee than this, the official site for Disney figurines and those figurines of children with teardrop-shaped eyes. Uh. Not my taste. But the name sure does make for some fine fill! Somehow never managed to hear of the company before solving this puzzle, but it gets some 3,160,000 Google hits. I’m gonna guess I’m somewhere in the minority.
  • 25A. [Luxury car of the early 20th century] PIERCE ARROW. Now that’s just beautiful. Or perhaps I should say “swanky.” A classic car built in Buffalo, New York, between 1901 and 1938. Those were the days…
  • 43A. [Mushy dessert] RICE PUDDING. “What is the matter with Mary Jane?… It’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again…” Thank you, A.A. Milne.

Then, there’s a bit of a SCIENCE mini-theme. That word is clued as [Lepidopterology, for one]—which is the study of butterflies and moths. Herpetology is the study of the less fragile reptiles and amphibians. Today, the herpetological specimen [Tropical lizard] appears twice, yielding both the GECKO and the IGUANA. Geico Insurance has certainly done its part in improving the visibility quotient of the otherwise lowly gecko!

The [Tetley product] is TEA (with its “tiny little tea leaves”)—a cup of which in the morning suits me [To] A TEE [(perfectly)].

To wrap things up, here are some favorite clue/fill pairs:

  • [Calico comeback] for “MEOW“—so no, this was not about dressing up in prairie skirts…
  • [Boot liquor?] for VINO, where “boot” refers to the shape of Italy on the map.]
  • [Kings and queens] are CARDS today, and
  • [Always or never] is an ADVERB. (See my caveat two days ago re: [Hit or miss?] and VERB…)

Jascha Smilack’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 14Not only does the theme add an H to make S into SH, there are a heap of H’s in the grid. 28, to be exact. That’s a record: shows 24 in the Sun, 16 in the NYT.THis puzzle could be called “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Not only does tHe tHeme add an H to make S into SH, tHere are a Heap of H’s in tHe grid—28, to be exact. THat’s a record: Barry Haldiman’s site shows previous HigHs of 24 in tHe New York Sun and 16 in tHe NYT. So well played, JascHa!

Here’s tHe tHeme:

  • 17a. [“The herring ate my homework,” e.g.?] clues a SHAD EXCUSE. I prefer “lame excuse” to “sad excuse,” but this works.
  • 24a. The SHELL-BY DATE could be a [Number on a bag of walnuts?].
  • 35a. [Stumbling block for a beauty pageant contestant?] are her DEADLY SHINS. I don’t quite get this one. I think of soccer players more than Miss America when it comes to shins.
  • 48a. [Really needing to do laundry?] clues OUT OF SHORTS. Hey! I saw the embodiment of this theme entry at the laundromat a month ago. He had on teeny gym shorts with no evidence of undershorts. I think he was OUT OF SHORTS of both the respectable short pants and the undershorts variety.
  • 58a. MIDDAY SHUN is clued as a [Reason to eat lunch alone?]. Wait. “Shun” is not a noun. It’s a verb.

The purposeful inclusion of so many H’s means we see HAH and HUH and HO HO HO (but no HEH).

Two weird presidential answers: 53a: HCH stands for Herbert C. Hoover, [Pres. during the 1929 market crash]. The plural 41d: ARTHURS were a [1880s first family].

I didn’t know STANFORD was in the Silicon Valley. I had Santa Clara University on the brain because it’s near San Jose (and employs as math professors two crossword constructors, Byron Walden and Jeremy Horwitz).

Horrible crossing: 8d: [Golf club socket] is a HOSEL and 21a: [Cubic meter] is a STERE. If you don’t know your crosswordese units of measure or your golf club minutiae, you could be excused for considering HOSAL and STERA, which scarcely look any weirder than HOSEL and STERE.

Hot stuff: To SHANGHAI someone is to 38d: [Kidnap, in a way]. 1d: [Hemp extract] is HASHISH. Don’t try to make rope out of that, okay?

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14 Responses to Friday, 7/9/10

  1. It’s a Saturday in Friday’s clothing. But a good puzzle nonetheless. PLEASE @ 24D and FORGETS @ 14A added to my difficulties.

  2. joon says:

    nope, BLYTH are not in the english premier league… not by a long shot. according to wikipedia, they’re in the conference north, which is in the sixth tier of english soccer. i have to confess that this is the most obscure sports clue i’ve ever encountered in a crossword puzzle. the town of BLYTH, for what it’s worth, has 36,000 residents, which is the same as natick, massachusetts. i’ve never heard of ann BLYTH either, but apparently she was nominated for a best supporting actress oscar in 1945. that sounds about a hundred times more noteworthy than BLYTH, northumberland.

  3. Howard B says:

    This was a tough puzzle, I felt. Was doing fine until LASTEX and the other trouble spots you mentioned became a few snags, but in this case several first guesses turned out OK. There were just more ways to escape the nasty spots in this puzzle, and in the process, fun to discover the longer answers. (Look, a man-eating shark!)

    @Joon: re:BLYTH – I think my local high school team may have been promoted to a higher league tier at some point. Unfortunately, in their Cup appearance, they narrowly lost in injury time to Northwesterhamptonshire on a disputed penalty kick awarded for spitting in the goal area.*
    No wonder BLYTH was one of the last answers in the puzzle for me. Ye football gods!

    *Blyth supporters – I mean no offense to your football side. I am sure they are a fine group, and would put up at least an even match against my high school team. I am only in agreement with Joon on the relative obscurity of the cluing.

  4. ktd says:

    Re: Battle of Meloria. Turns out there is a major literary connection: one of the lieutenants of the Pisan forces, Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, was later used by Dante Alighieri as a character in the Inferno. Awesome medieval Italian trivia!

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Tough Friday! (But then its PBe!) Did this (and the LAT and FB) on the plane back to Gauteng. Couldn’t get any of the long answers, which usually means a slog. Managed the top-right pretty easily and the bottom-right with only a little sweat. Then got royally stuck. With ROCK in place I almost immediately came up with METAMORPHIC but somehow couldn’t come up with SEDIMENTARY. I too kept trying to come up with specific SHARK types! But what really fouled things up was DEMOCRACY where POSTERITY should’ve gone. Don’t know why I questioned every other answer (took out RENTAL several times) BUT not that one. Only when I got home and switched to AL did I think to change it and pretty quickly the rest of the puzzle capitulated!

    Loved the structure of 4 interlocking 15s and a just ridiculously white centre!

    HATED the answer BLYTH. Like Joon said, 6th division soccer team, obscure town. I don’t get it. Having said that it’s about the only thing remotely icky so… maybe. Would like to see more soccer in puzzles, just not conference teams!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Note that we speak many tongues if multilingual! It wasn’t unusual for me to get my start with JESU and LINGUA, completing the SW first and getting the beginning of MAN-EATING SHARKS as a bonus. The NE came next with EGAD and SELENIC, giving something ROCK plus FIVE something for the old Army post. The latter was very clever, Mr. Berry!

    Laughed at the clues for STREAK, KLEENEX and YETIS, and I’m fond of Fosse so his LENNY fell in okay. My last speeding ticket, some years ago, was in a RESIDENTIAL AREA (no comment). The final breakthrough was GINSU after I stopped mistrusting UPDOS. Voilà!

  7. Anne E says:

    Intimidating (but fun) center, and it felt tough while I was working on it, but the stopwatch didn’t agree. :-) Biggest helpful gimme: SEDIMENTARY ROCK! Yeah! Biggest mysteries: LASTEX and RATLINE, making that the last part of the grid I finished. Biggest stupidity: trying somehow to fit REPO in where RENTAL went, despite the not-even-close-#-of-letters problem.

    Anne the geologist

  8. Ladel says:

    I know it’s just me but some clues/answers just tickle. Run out of clothes/streak is one of them.


  9. Evad says:

    I settled on RATIONE for the unfamiliar RATLINE–somehow landed on FIAT for a way to be turned down (by authoritative sanction), and even though I knew REPRISE over REPROSE, I couldn’t put two Is together in RATIINE.

    Second the HOF nomination for the STREAK clue.

  10. Martin says:

    Isn’t it a little late for the prom?

  11. pannonica says:

    The Proms start 16 July, next week.

  12. John Haber says:

    High-quality but definitely hard. I made it through LASTEX, but eventually foundered on G_NSU crossing PAUL_NE. Still don’t really understand what the first means.

  13. Martin says:


    It’s the Amazing Ginsu.

  14. Joan macon says:

    Ann Blythe was a movie star in the 50’s, famous for having a bunch of kids and feeding them Twinkees. She also sang, although not very well.

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