Saturday, 8/21/10

Newsday 8:35
NYT 6:12
LAT 5:58
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle, “Riding the Waves” 10:20 – Patrick Berry variety puzzle pdf

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 31As we have come to expect from Mr. Silk, this puzzle is Scrabblicious up the wazoo: colorful words and phrases dish out four Zs, a Q, a couple Xs, and a J and K. I like it!

First up, the spots that vexed me (sometimes in a good way):

  • 19a. [Dresses down…or butters up?] clues BASTES, and I needed so many crossings to figure this one out. Basting a turkey with butter is meaning 2. Basting, as in sewing loosely, is not alluded to here. (And 16a: [Sew up a hole?] isn’t about sewing either—it’s about finishing up a hole on the golf course, PUTT OUT. And speaking of golf, 37a: [Do some course work] is MOW, as in mowing the grass on the golf course.) Baste as a synonym for lambaste? Not one I use personally.
  • 49a. All crossings, this one. [“Rhapsodie Hongroise” composer] is AUER.
  • 7d. [Perfect-game pitcher Barker] is named LEN. Pfft, baseball trivia.
  • 9d. [An operator may call on one] uses “operator” to mean a surgeon, one who operates. “NURSE, scalpel.”
  • 24d. My vote for trickiest clue of the puzzle: [What ribs are delivered in], for JEST. Ribs = teasing jokes, not barbecue.
  • 34d. [Princess Najla player in Broadway’s “Flahooley”] is a nearly incomprehensible clue for me. The answer turns out to be crosswordese great YMA SUMAC. I wrote my first name backwards on my nametag at Lollapuzzoola last week. Maybe I should change my last name to Camus.

Favorite fill and clues:

  • 8a. [Indicator that you’re back to your own words] is a spoken “UNQUOTE.”
  • 15a. I kinda like this FAR GONE because it looks odd in the grid. FARGONE? A portmanteau of Fargo, North Dakota, and William Reich’s libido thing called orgone? [Nearly shot] is the clue.
  • 17a. Three Zs in a single answer lends pizazz. FREEZING DRIZZLE is a [Winter weather hazard].
  • 35a. DIN is such a simple word, but I like the [Headache cause] clue.
  • 40a. Wonder how many people had the -ER ending and parsed the clue as looking for a comparative word. [Primates vis-a-vis humans] are our ORDER, taxonomically speaking. Primates are not more “ord” than humans.
  • 46a. [Latitude], as in free rein or wiggle room, clues PLAY.
  • 51a. A B COMPLEX VITAMIN is [Part of many a daily supplement].
  • 18d. GROUCHO MARX enhances any grid that will have him as an entry. [He said “I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury”].
  • 30d. [Ivy with deep roots] isn’t a vine, it’s a time-honored Ivy League school, YALE.

Overall, there’s plenty of sizzle and interest in the clues to keep pace with the fill. Good stuff, Barry! (And Will and the team.) Really, if the NYT crossword output included only the other six days of the week and never included Saturday-tough themelesses, the appeal would dwindle for me. It’s the Saturday puzzle that holds my attention.

P.S. Just went back to check the word count: 72, the maximum for a themeless. I like a puzzle that packs in maximum solver entertainment without regard for making a grid that’s harder to construct. I say, make it hard to construct by filling the grid with crazy answers, not by eliminating black squares.

Robert Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 30Whoa, Nelly! Not only did the Friday LAT take me longer than pretty much all the Saturday LATs yesterday, but now the new Saturday puzzle is even tougher. I’m not complaining, mind you—just surprised. And partially wondering whether this puzzle was of standard difficulty for everyone else and I was just slower than usual tonight.

I like the three 15s, all spoken phrases:

  • 17a. [“I’ll do it”] = LET ME HANDLE THIS.
  • 38a. [Words of disbelief] = YOU’RE NOT SERIOUS. Oh, I’m dead serious.
  • 58a. [Words after thanks] = I APPRECIATE THAT.

I ended up liking the FIVE-and-TEN hooked up with the DIME STORE, but the cross-referenced cluing was kinda hideous. 49d: FIVE = [With “and” and 59-Down, 4-Down]. Omigod, really? 59d: TEN = [See 49-Down], but you’ll be sorry when you go look at 49d. And then 4d: DIME STORE =  [See 49-Down] too.

Here are a few of my favorite answers:

  • 34a. SHOOT-‘EM-UP is colorful. It’s clued as a [Film with a lot of reports], with “reports” meaning “sounds of gunfire.”
  • 49a. FRUIT CUPS are [Healthful desserts]. And also, sometimes, disappointing desserts.
  • 62a. A LATECOMER is a [Fashionable partygoer?], as in “fashionably late.”
  • 31d. HOOEY means [Rot], as in nonsense, malarkey, hogwash, twaddle, poppycock, piffle, codswallop, or balderdash. (Can you tell that’s one of my favorite sections of a thesaurus?)

Other notes:

  • The 1a and 15a stack feels so dry. [“Banded” arid-area reptile] is a SAND SNAKE, but I can’t say I’ve heard of the banded sand snake. OLEIC ACID is a [Body fat compound]? Sure. “Man, this spare tire is loaded with oleic acid.”
  • 20a. [WWII soldier in Africa] clues DESERT RAT, which I think desperately wants to be in the plural with that non-animal clue.
  • 61a. Ha! A music VIDEO was an [Early MTV staple], all right. They don’t show many videos anymore.
  • 64a. Who remembered that the [1986 Blake Edwards comedy flop (aptly named, as it turned out)] was called A FINE MESS? Not I.
  • 1d. [Longest note?] clues the 3-letter SOL, which is a longer word than do, re, mi, fa, la, and ti.
  • 8d. Ooh, nonstandard plural! KINE, an archaic plural of “cow,” is clued as [Biblical grazers].
  • 25d. WoooOOOP! WoooOOOP! The crosswordese alarm is sounding! A THOLE is an [Oar fulcrum].
  • 26d. Can you think of a good equivalency sentence where either WOULD or [If only] could fit? “Would that I could” = “if only I could,” but that disappears and I’m having trouble finding a workable substitution.
  • 56d. Say it with me. Say it loud and say it proud: “AH, ME!” It feels great, doesn’t it, to express your [“Alas!”] that way? What’s that? “No, ‘Ah, me!’ sounds utterly off-kilter”?
  • 60d. I think TRS. is meant to be short for “treasurers” here, but it’s just a guess. [Some corp. officers] makes sense for treasurers, but it’s not an abbreviation I’m familiar with.

Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle,”Stop and Go Sightseeing”—Janie’s review

A tidy piece of construction this, which summons up traffic-light colors as they are attached to the names of scenic locales (that are, hence, perfect for sightseeing). The cluing is lovely, too, using the meaning of the signal colors to direct the “driver” meandering cross country. Here’s the itinerary Sarah’s mapped out—with instructions on how to proceed:

  • 20 A. [Stop at this North Dakota region that was the inspiration for a folk song] RED RIVER VALLEY. Though there are at least two other Red River Valleys in the “lower 48” (in the South and in the Southwest), Sarah sends us to the Red River of the North. While the information about it was new to me, it has a history worth stopping for.
  • 39A. [Slow down for this Wyoming site that was the inspiration for the Yogi Bear cartoon] YELLOWSTONE PARK. The world’s first national park, with what is probably the world’s best-known geyser (Old Faithful) and its tallest (Steamboat), this place is truly one of the crown jewels of the U.S. National Park Service. Yeah. I’d slow down for that.
  • 54A. [Go to this Vermont area to hike the Long Trail that was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail] GREEN MOUNTAINS. Vermont can’t seem to get enough of that “green mountain” appellation. “Green Mountain State” is its eponymous nickname since that’s what the name Vermont means (ver [green] + mont [mountain] = you can do the math)!

There’s not lots today by way of longer fill (LISTENED and TABLE TOP), which is kinda SKIMPY (though here I’m not saying this is [Like many a bikini]…), but there are several sets of clues that tie together—and those I’ll point out. First, theres the French trio of AMIE [Girlfriend, in France], TÊTE [Head, to Henri] and COROT, the [French painter of Italian landscapes]. Then, though composed by an Austrian, [“Cosi fan] TUTTE[” (Mozart opera)] is sung in Italian (since the libretto is by Lorenzo Da Ponte) and is filled with many lilting (and humorous) SOLI [Songs for one].

We get a taste of the literary Mideast by way of OMAR [Persian poet Khayyám] and []ABOU [Ben Adhem” (James Leigh Hunt poem)]. This almost-identically-clued fill appeared this past Monday. I was unfamiliar with the man, the (brief and quite moving) poem, the poet and figured it was time to correct that. How about you?

Another culture gap? The meaning of the word “OMOO” [Sequel to Melville’s “Typee”]. Turns out it’s a Polynesian word for an island rover. Which is what Melville was and recounts in these volumes. He spent time on whaling boats then, which brings us to ORCA [Killer whale]. And those “O” words have a most agreeable complement in OKAY and OKIE ([“Sure, why not?”] and [Merle Haggard’s “___ from Muskogee”]).

After last July’s record-breaking heat here in the NE, the more northerly destinations of Sarah’s theme sound like a superb antidote, no? So, too, does Yosemite (another jewel in that National Parks crown), where I’m headed today for the week. If I’m not always computer-accessible (and access promises to be patchy), the CS write-ups’ll still be posted (with more than a little help from L’Orange—and with my sincere appreciation). Can’t wait!!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (under pen name Anna Stiga)

Why don’t I recall seeing printed volumes of Saturday Stumper puzzles? Is it that sales of hard crossword books pale in comparison to the business of easy puzzles?

Stan’s website, Stan Newman’s Crossword Land, has just been redesigned. Of note: Check out Saturday Stumper Solving Hints. If you’ve been doing the Stumper for years and reading my blog posts about ’em, you’re probably already wise to the sort of clues Stan likes to use to stump solvers. If you’re newer to the Stumper, though, the solving hints will be a big help. (For more tips for tackling tough crosswords, focusing on the NYT style, see my book, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.)

I’m not sure why Brendan Quigley is still listed as a Newsday constructor (and a 20-something, to boot!). Thursday was the 10th anniversary of Brendan’s last Newsday puzzle. It’s fair to say he’s no longer in Stan’s stable of constructors, no?

Oh, sorry, were you interested in today’s puzzle? Moving right along!

This one’s in the tougher end of the Stumper spectrum, but on the easier end of that spectrum because it’s merely harder than the NYT, not hair-pullingly insanely difficult. It’s a 68-worder with four 12s pinwheeling around Paul Lynde (the center square). I wasn’t loving the fill. There are some cool bits, yes, and of course plenty of knotty clues to untangle, but the fill’s got 16 plural nouns or present-tense verbs ending in -S, which feels like a lot. Also some -ER (AIMER, meh) and -ING words. O FREEZING DRIZZLE, where art thou?

Let’s take a stroll through the clue list:

  • 15a. [Jean Valjean, e.g.] of Les Miserables is a PRISONER. More pleasant to clue this literarily than with reference to contemporary penitentiaries.
  • 16a, 32a. A [Precocious one at 32 Across], a precocious kid at AGE FOUR ([Not very old]), is a READER. Harrumph on AGE FOUR. For plenty of living creatures, 4 years is superannuated. AGE FOUR sounds like an arbitrary entry; it would work better for me clued as a preschool class group.
  • 17a. [Pepper variety], 8 letters, ending in O? You want JALAPENO, you want HABANERO, but the answer is PIMIENTO, a red sweet pepper most commonly seen as a red bit stuffed into a green olive. The pimento spelling is also valid.
  • 21a. [Stationmaster’s concern] has no abbreviation cue, but the answer is ETA, estimated time of arrival of a train.
  • 29a. [iPad destination] clues INTERNET SITE. Who calls it an “Internet site” rather than a website? Not I.
  • 33a. To [Betray discontentment] is to GRUMBLE as well as to BRISTLE. Boy, having GRUMBLE slowed me down in that section.
  • 37a. [Brain] clues INTELLECTUAL. Hey, I like this.
  • 42a. [Betray contentment] clues COO. (See the echo with 33a?) That’s better than the OOH I was suspecting went here.
  • 43a. Did you know KARMA was [Sanskrit for “action”]? I sure didn’t.
  • 45a. [Poorly done] clues BOTCHY, which is an odd word.
  • 49a. [18th-century fashion] is a wig called a PERUKE.
  • 51a. My first thought for [Nighttime hunters] was __ OWLS, but it’s LEOPARDS. I didn’t know they hunted nocturnally.
  • 56a. BROTHS are [Stock options] for soup.
  • 58a. SALSA is a [Jazz genre]. No connection to the PIMIENTO.
  • 1d. If you are [Less than calm], you may be FRETTING.
  • 7d. Stephen [King’s annoyance] is WRITER’S BLOCK. Does he get that?
  • 13d. [Hulled grains] are GROATS.
  • 20d. The TAPE RECORDER is a [Bell lab patent of 1886].
  • 34d. [Concert promoters’ concerns] are audience TURNOUTS. Not RAINOUTS or BURNOUTS, which were all I could think of with -NOUTS in place.
  • 35d. LA MANCHA is an [Iberian plateau]. I hear they used to have a man there.
  • 39d. [Doesn’t move forward] doesn’t just mean “doesn’t move at all” or “moves backwards.” It also means “moves sideways,” or SIDLES.
  • 41d. Did you know AL GORE was a [Board member of Apple]? I didn’t.
  • 52d. Edgar Allan POE was from Baltimore, but he’s the [Subject of a Richmond museum]. As Stan says in his Stumper solving hints, names are often clued with little-known bits of trivia like this.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Riding the Waves”

BerrybookHookbookIf you like this sort of challenge—answers whose lengths and exact locations aren’t specified, so you have to work back and forth between different dimensions to piece everything together, and mostly long, interesting fill with none of the short repeaters so common in standard crosswords—there are two books you will savor. If you do not already own Patrick Berry’s Puzzle Masterpieces and Henry Hook’s Terribly Twisted Crosswords, you owe it to yourself to acquire both. These books are packed with variety grids that bend your brain in new ways.

“Riding the Waves” has zigzags intersecting three rows of straight-across fill. The triangular spots above and below the grid lack the “checking” of the rest of the answers, as each letter is gained via just one clue, not the crossword-standard two clues. But those top and bottom zones spell out “a shipping line,” “HELLO, SAILOR,” so the puzzle’s instructions provide the checking here.

Favorite bits:

  • Wave 10c. [Repellent piece of neckwear] isn’t for humans—it’s a FLEA COLLAR. Good “aha” moment!
  • Wave 7c. [“Don’t even suggest that possibility!”] clues “GOD FORBID.” When’s the last time you saw that phrase in a crossword grid? Was it…never? Super fresh!
  • FRENEMY is a great new entry.
  • [Wheel man?] is a terrific clue for FERRIS.

Here are my Rows answers:


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m so glad the Wall Street Journal is running its Saturday Puzzles. I’m grateful that editor/puzzlemaker Mike Shenk brings us these puzzles. And I’m delighted that Patrick Berry has this twice-a-month outlet for his cool variety puzzles, and that Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Atlantic-style cryptic crosswords have a new home. And for free! This is the year’s best puzzle development, isn’t it?

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11 Responses to Saturday, 8/21/10

  1. Both 15s and GROUCHO MARX in the NYT should have fallen faster for me than they did — I had several incorrect crossings at first that made them not immediately evident, but the clues were straightforward and I should have risked guessing them and fixing the crossings afterward.

    I always enjoy a Barry Silk Saturday puzzle, but the meteorological dilettante in me has a bone to pick with SLEETS as an answer to [falls like FREEZING DRIZZLE]. I have always understood sleet to be falling ice pellets, but freezing drizzle indicates a liquid precipitation that only freezes after falling, which is much more pernicious for power lines and motor vehicles. I will gladly be corrected on this if I am in error.

    I solved the puzzle tonight immediately after hearing Arturo Sandoval perform at DC’s Blues Alley. He is a world-class trumpeter and a skilled pianist as well, and he exudes fun when performing live. If you love jazz and Arturo has a concert in your area, you must go.

  2. rick says:

    Ii absolutely got married to KANSAN for the tornado alley resident which turned the NE into a nightmare.

    UPDATE finally granted the divorce.

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Fun! Fun! Fun!, but found it quite easy for a Saturday. Got traction at the top and for the most part things just flowed… Finished on PUTTOUT appropriately! BCOMPLEXVITAMIN is clearly an awesome entry, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only hesistant one after slotting OJIBWA next to RESCAN! Learnt something new about Yma Sumac – yay! Was expecting 50D to be in Italian – double bluff!

    LAT: 3 X spoken word phrases = :) here too. Don’t remember seeing “kine” in any Bible I’ve owned… But E-sword (electronic Bible) tells me it’s used 24 times in the King James, including “And the ill favored leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favored and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.” (Gen 41:4) 1D’s clue is extra confusing if you spell most of the rest of those notes with h’s… Would like to see a DHOLE propelling a THOLE.

  4. Johnathan says:

    CS: not sure that “rill” is the best fit for moon valley. Rilles in the lunar context appear to refer more to cracks in the surface rather than a valley. I would have clued that as “lunar rift/channel/trench” instead. Any astronomers out there?

  5. Dan F says:

    Why don’t I recall seeing printed volumes of Saturday Stumper puzzles?

    They’re not in print anymore, but I’ve found two: Stan’s Cranium Crackers and Stan’s Saturday Crosswords, Volume 1 (don’t think there’s a Vol. 2…). Plus the old Ultrahard Crosswords series (Sterling has re-released the first volume as Ultrahard Crosswords to Keep You Sharp). Unfortunately, all those older puzzles are not nearly as tough as the Stumpers from the last five years or so.

  6. animalheart says:

    About the Saturday Stumper, isn’t FSTOP a measure of the size of the aperture, rather than any kind of speed measure?

  7. pannonica says:

    SatStump 33a: GRIMACE is just as much a non-starter as for “betray discontentment” as GRUMBLE. Grumble, grumble.

  8. joon says:

    okay, i liked barry’s NYT quite a lot. lots of scrabbly, very little crap. thumbs up.

    the LAT seemed par for the course for an LAT saturday, maybe a touch harder. definitely one of those grids whose constructor i could identify with the byline cut off. i wasn’t as big a fan of the crazy 5&10 xrefs, though.

    gary: f-stop is, in some sense, a measure of “lens speed.” but lens speed is not speed (in particular, the lens does not actually move. but photographers call it lens speed because a higher one admits more light intensity, allowing for a faster shutter speed. anyway, the clue is not exactly wrong, but it’s misleading in a way that i did not appreciate. but that NW corner was the only place i didn’t have much trouble. the whole stumper took me darn near forever (16 minutes), with a lot of erasing. i learned some new words, though (APPARAT and, i guess, BOTCHY). i liked seeing PERUKE, too.

  9. John Haber says:

    Very Scrabbly, as everyone says, and while for me unlike others that is not at all a compliment, I enjoyed the challenge of finishing it. Or maybe I’m just grateful that I did so much better than yesterday.

    I’ll agree with Amy’s list of clues that made her least happy. BASTE kept me puzzled till the end for sure, and AUER is curious, because I figured I’d have an easy time with classical music. At least now I know who the crosswordese YMA is; I always assumed contemporary top 10. Golf is always hard for me, so both the “course” clue and the odd PUTT OUT slowed me up. The other reason I worked from bottom up is that the top long one eluded me longest. I relied on SLEETS for help there, as I’d expected some kind of mountain falling ice.

    I wonder if anyone else from crossings first guessed “offense” for OFF BASE and “Oneida” for OJIBWA. I also first thought of “applet” instead of UPDATE. Those are all very good clues, though!

  10. Meem says:

    Agree with Amy that it is good fun to have Saturday WSJ puzzles. Loved today’s waves. Tough slog with NYT though managed to avoid the Kansas feint and got Ojibwa on first pass. On to a fresh week.

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: the WSJ Saturday, there actually are 11 unchecked letters — six on top (A,Z,O,C,I and S) and five on the bottom (T,I,O,R and E).

    No biggie, just an observation. I mean, if unchecked letters were completely verboten, who’d’ve ever learned to enjoy solving cryptics?

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