Friday, 8/6/10

LAT 4:35
NYT 3:43
CS untimed

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5Wow, I don’t know how that happened, but I just whizzed through this 66-word puzzle. The last word I filled in was ASPHODEL (7a: [“That greeny flower” in a William Carlos Williams poem]), after I had enough crossings to put it together, and luckily I never even saw the clue for 8d: SIMNEL [___ cake (marzipan-covered dessert)] because I’ve never even heard of that cake. That reminds me—I have a slice of chocolate-caramel cake waiting for me after I finish blogging this puzzle.

Other answers I didn’t know but pieced together as if I knew these things:

  • 15a. [Husband of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe] is HENRIK. It was the only name I could think of that ended with the IK I already had in place. (The Princess Bride‘s Fezzik doesn’t count.)
  • 27a. Never heard of this party, but the Spanishiness of [Justicialist Party founder] nudged me towards PERON. I know, “Justicialist” doesn’t look aggressively Spanish, but I could swear I saw an accent mark in there before.
  • 28a. [Arid area agriculture] clues DRY FARMS. Nothing I’ve ever heard of, but it makes sense with that clue.
  • 46a. The SNOWBOARD is an [Item first marketed under the name Snurfer]. Ah, I see: a portmanteau of snow + surfer.
  • 50a. [What phorid flies are imported to prey on] is FIRE ANTS. I guess I don’t watch as many of those cable shows about alarming insects as I thought.
  • 11d. Never heard of this [Bruce Springsteen ballad], “ONE STEP UP.” Old? New?

Among the things I did actually know, these were my favorites:

  • 29d. FLOP SWEAT! [It sometimes covers first-time performers]. At today’s day camp talent show, only one kid sat down and cried instead of participating with her group’s performance. Poor kid! Amazing that the hundreds of other kids managed their dance routines just fine.
  • 36a. Love the word TRAIPSES, meaning [Walks aimlessly].
  • 54a. It’s full of those easy-to-fill-the-bottom-row-with letters, sure, but REST EASY is colorful language and I like it. [Not worry] is the clue.
  • 1d. SHAFTED is a colorful verb, too. [Given a raw deal, slangily] is accurate.
  • 5d. FINDS FAULT, [Is critical]: What are two ways you would not describe my reaction to this crossword?
  • 10d. I like words for young animals provided they’re not wickedly obscure. [A leveret is a young one] clues a HARE.
  • 12d. I am fond of the word DEPLORE ([Censure]). If something vexes me, I will deplore it.
  • 20d. [Goes up a degree or two] clues WARMS, as in the temperature. No NTH or PHD trickery here.
  • 27d. Haven’t read PARIS TROUT, the [Pete Dexter novel whose title character is an unrepentant murderer], but I know the title. Is there a sequel called Chicago Smelt?
  • 36d. Yay, it’s not about baseball! [Seeking relief from a pitcher?] clues THIRSTY.

Did you find this one easier than most Friday NYTs, too? If not, did you savor the smoothness of the fill and its high interest level, too? And are you ready for chocolate cake? I know I am.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Copper Colossus”—Janie’s review

Make no mistake—I liked this puzzle tremendously. My one complaint? I think for about the first time ever with a CS puzzle, the title felt superfluous and actually diminished the pleasure in seeing the theme fill emerge. That’s because 63A covers it perfectly: STATUE OF LIBERTY [She has the items at the ends of 17-, 26- and 49-Across]. She has ’em indeed, and they’re there in some excellent phrases:

  • 17A. CARRIES THE TORCH [Serves as leader]. This strong image-based phrase gets things going perfectly. Also appreciated that it was clued in relation to being a beacon and rather than to being lovelorn—making it a most worthy image for “our lady of the harbor.” Along the lines of leadership, the puzzle also offers up (the undemocratic, not very American…) RULED [Occupied the throne]. Which is a segue (of sorts…) to
  • 26A. ROYAL CROWN [Cola brand]. RC has been around since 1905 (when it was known as Chero-Cola). It got the name we know it by today in 1934. Hadn’t realized, though, that Nehi was an RC venture; but Diet Rite? Oh, yeah…that I knew.
  • 49A. COLD TABLET [Dose for a person with the sniffles]. Also a way to describe the contents of the lady’s left hand in winter… Really like the polite “sniffles” of the clue, too.

Patrick keeps things lively throughout with fill like ZEALOUS [Gung-ho] and TARTLY [In a caustic manner]—which might describe the way much of the dialogue in the [Tomlin/Martin comedy] ALL OF ME is delivered. Much the same may be said of Musetta, the saucy soubrette in [Puccini masterpiece] LA BOHÈME.

A [Tram’s haul]? ORE. Which you’ll want to ASSAY [Analyze for smelting value], though you’re not likely to find much “smelting value” in MICA [Sheeted mineral].

We also get “climate” extremes (or a reminder of a Revlon lipstick fave…) by way of FIRE SALE and LIKE ICE (clued respectively as [Event with smoke-damaged goods] and [Frigid to the touch]). The clue for the former ties into an [Adjective for volcanic fallout] ASHY, which lives in the NE corner and has as its grid-opposite ASHE [New York stadium honoree Arthur]. Serendipity or plan? Matters not. The cohesion factor is high here and that’s always good. In my book.

Charles Barasch’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7I didn’t much enjoy this puzzle. The constructor’s wavelength eluded me and I just didn’t experience that sense of flow that I usually have when solving. The theme entries add a K so that a word ending in C instead ends in CK, changing the meaning:

  • 17a. [Pre-1991 Russian veto?]  is a SOVIET BLOCK.
  • 29a. [West Florida currency?] is a TAMPA BAY BUCK. This one feels a little off to me. “Tampa Bay Buccaneers” or “the Bucs,” sure. Do people use the singular shortening, “Tampa Bay Buc”? Maybe they do in Tampa, I don’t know.
  • 35a. [Assault by killer trucks?] is a BIG MACK ATTACK. That’s cute, but this is the only one where the K isn’t added to the end of the final word—and the final word is itself a -CK word.
  • 43a. [Construct a microscopic house?] clues BUILD ON SPECK. Feels rough because you’d build on a speck.
  • 57a. [Jumpy bug?] is a NERVOUS TICK. I do love this one! (We will ignore the fact that too many people misspell “nervous tic” with a final K anyway.)

Other thoughts:

  • 1a. [Like some teeth] was rough. I had the final -PED and went with CUSPED and then CAPPED before GAPPED, which doesn’t work for me. “Gapped teeth”? No. “Gap-toothed” is the term people use most.
  • 40d. I knew right away that [Magic, at one time] referred to Magic Johnson, but I messed things up in that corner by putting the more specific L.A. LAKER where  NBA STAR belongs.
  • 32d. I was stumped on [Slightly eccentric]. The crossings led me to PIXILATED, but I don’t know this definition of the word. I checked one dictionary (the Mac widget drawing on the New Oxford American Dictionary) and it only listed the pixel-related senses.
  • 38d. [Driver’s gadget, for short] clues TACH, short for tachometer. But a TACH isn’t a “gadget,” which is a small device or tool, a stand-alone thing. It’s not as if you go buy the latest cool tach and put it in your car.
  • 3d. [Scissors feature] is a tough clue for PIVOT. Yes, that’s what the screw thing in the middle does; it lets the two blades/handles pivot. But it isn’t what I think of when I think of scissors. I think of the fulcrum more than the pivoting that happens at the fulcrum. See? Not on Mr. Barasch’s wavelength here.
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17 Responses to Friday, 8/6/10

  1. Well, there are two verbs for preparing an animal for display. I chose the wrong one, MOUNTS, thinking of fishing. That made NW a treacherous adventure.

    Missed the ASPHODEL/SIMNEL crossing as well.

    Great solving time, Amy. For me, alas, it was, to quote the Boss, “ONE STEP UP and two steps back…”

  2. Rex says:

    I have one thing to say about the NYT puzzle and that thing is ALPHODEL.

    That is all. Thank you.


  3. SethG says:

    I have one thing to say and that thing is…what Rex said.

  4. sbmanion says:

    I have one thing to say: A_PHODEL.

    I narrowed it down to L, M, N, P, R, S, and T


  5. John Price says:

    Some nice times up there for a Friday! I agree that being expected to know both ASPHODEL and SIMNEL is a bit much, but a fun fill other than that. By the way, did anybody else want Ross PEROT to have been a Justicialist?

  6. Gareth says:

    Re Jeffrey yesterday: in South Africa it’s “atishoo” – learned American from “Gravedigger”.

    NYT: Some sympathy for Brent [sorry, misidentification] – First word in and nearly the last out for me was MOUNTS. Never heard of PARISTROUT and also FLOPSWEAT – I had FINE. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had ONTHEDOT. FIGWASPS for FIREANTS on the other hand… Still a fun hard Friday! ASPHODEL took a while to dredge from my mind, but it was there, even if I couldn’t pick one out a line-up…

  7. Matt says:

    Not so easy for me, maybe a bit tougher than the usual Friday. I knew ASPHODEL was a flower, so I just gritted my teeth on SIMNEL. Last area to fill was SW.

  8. Howard B says:

    – One Step Up was a minor hit for Spingsteen around the late 80s or early 90s. Possibly off the Tunnel of Love CD, but don’t have Wiki at the moment and not really a Bruce fan despite hailing from NJ. At least knowing a few facts and songs of his allows me, by law, to retain my state citizenship. (There’s also a Bon Jovi exemption in the law, so if I’m wrong I can still fall back on that).

    Parallel Times experience to Gareth. I found this to be mostly Friday-level with some bits of extra-difficult fill. Never heard of ASPHODEL or PARIS TROUT, but I’ve seen SIMNEL in a puzzle before (and I love marzipan), so that helped that cross. The speed bumps here were FLOP SWEAT (which I have also never run across), and surprisingly, had trouble parsing MILANESE, and FINDS FAULT crossing HENRIK. On the plus side, no typos today :)! So a mixed bag.

    A puzzle like this could have been be insanely frustrating, but thanks to the cluing, it was instead a mostly reasonable challenge (ASPHODEL, I agree, was a bit nasty). DRY FARMS becomes completely gettable thanks to a clue that isn’t a giveaway, but gently leads you to the answer, once a few letters are in place. Not my favorite fill, but it works.

    Amy, do you have enough cake to share with the whole class?

  9. Karen says:

    John, I put in PEROT for a while (off just the O, so still helpful). One of my few missteps on this puzzle, along with TRACE for follow the leader. I enjoyed the fill. And I’m not at all jealous of Amy’s chocolate cake.

  10. pannonica says:

    In Greek mythology, the ASPHODEL fields were where the so-so people ended up, wandering about desultorily. Not as nice as Elysium, not as horrible as Tartarus; kind of like limbo. I’ve never forgotten it since my childhood readings.

  11. joon says:

    ASPHODEL was lurking in the back of my mind waiting for me to dig it out, but it sure as heck wasn’t the first thing in the grid. in fact, MOUNTS was, although i had lingering doubts about STUFFS and was quick to change it. no way any grid with DRY FARMS, FLOP SWEAT (??), ONE STEP UP and PARIS TROUT was going to be a blazing solve for me, although at least DRY FARMS was inferrable from the clue. SIMNEL i am quite sure i’ve seen exactly once before, and although i was 99% sure it was also in a patrick berry puzzle, xwordinfo is more reliable than my memory.

  12. Sara says:

    What does it say about me that FLOP SWEAT is one of my favorite expressions?

  13. Jesse says:

    To me, pixilated is one of 5 million words to mean “drunk.” However, M-W defines it as “somewhat unbalanced mentally.”

  14. Frances Widmann says:

    SIMNEL was the first word I entered. Not that I’ve ever eaten simnel cake, but reading a lot of British detective stories and assorted cookbooks has obviously nourished my vocabulary. I thought this was a near-perfect Friday puzzle–varied and interesting fill without excessive resort to sports, pop culture, or crossword-ese.

  15. John Farmer says:

    Pixilated, from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936, Frank Capra/Robert Riskin), the courtroom scene:

    John Cedar: Do you know the defendant, Mr. Longfellow Deeds?
    [long pause]
    Jane Faulkner: Oh yes, yes, of course we know him.
    John Cedar: How long have you known him?
    [Jane whispers to Amy; Amy whispers back]
    Jane Faulkner: Since he was born.
    Amy Faulkner: Yes, Elsie Taggart was the midwife.
    Jane Faulkner: He was a seven months’ baby.
    John Cedar: Thank you, that’s, that’s fine. Do you see him very often?
    [Jane whispers to Amy; Amy whispers back]
    Jane Faulkner: Most every day.
    Amy Faulkner: Sometimes twice.
    Judge May: Must we have the echo?
    John Cedar: Suppose you just answer, Miss Jane. Now, will you tell the court what everybody at home thinks of Longfellow Deeds?
    [pause; then Jane whispers to Amy; Amy whispers back]
    Jane Faulkner: They think he’s pixilated.
    Amy Faulkner: Oh, yes, pixilated.
    Judge May: He’s what?
    John Cedar: What was that you said he was?
    Jane Faulkner: Pixilated.
    Amy Faulkner: Mm-hmm.
    John Cedar: Now that’s rather a strange word to us, Miss Jane. Can you tell the court exactly what it means?
    Board member: Perhaps I can explain, Your Honor. The word “pixilated” is an early American expression derived from the word “pixies,” meaning elves. They would say the pixies had got him. As we nowadays would say, a man is “barmy.”
    Judge May: Oh. Is that correct?
    Jane Faulkner: Mm-hmm.
    Amy Faulkner: Mm-hmm.

  16. SethG says:

    joon, Frances commented on Rex’s blog the other time SIMNEL was in the NYT that “SIMNEL shows up only once in the Cruciverb database–used by Patrick Berry in a 2001 WSJ puzzle and clued as “a British Easter cake.””

    You’re good.

  17. John Haber says:

    I’m always the outlier in preferring art, lit, music, whatever to TV, but I actually knew ASPHODEL, even though I know it’s a flower only from the poem. Facing _NEL cake, I wanted “funnel cake,” but I knew that was wrong. Eventually, not remembering the Springsteen song, not knowing OMAR EPPS or PARIS TROUT, and simply not believing that SIMNEL could be a word, I too just gritted my teeth.

    I did as well with FLOP SWEAT.

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