Saturday, 9/4/10

NY Times 8:54
LA Times 4:20
Newsday 10:20*
CS untimed
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 7:31—“Spell Weaving” by Mike Shenk (those tend to be not so tough)

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 12This is the sort of grid I typically like. Stacks of 10- and 11-letter answers in every corner: check. But my alertness was fading rapidly while I did the puzzle. Can’t say whether it was the day’s activities and libations that did me in or the crossword itself. So let’s amble through the grid and see what we have:

  • 15a. [Company mascot introduced in the 1930s that has never been put out to pasture] is ELSIE THE COW. I wish they would move on, because my cousin has a little girl named Elsie and she doesn’t need to contend with “moo”-related teasing.
  • 17a. [Stance in a fashion magazine] clues GLAMOUR POSE. Yeah, I needed lots of crossings here.
  • 25a. [Zeros, in sports slang] are apparently BAGELS. I’m guessing that’s more of a New York thing than, say, an Atlanta or Texas thing.
  • 28a. WISEACRE! That’s one cool entry. It’s [One who’s smart?].
  • 33a. The only Seven Sisters I know are colleges. Here, SEVEN [___ Sisters (daughters of Atlas)] skews mythical.
  • 38a. [Babe-in-arms alternative?] is to use a STROLLER instead.
  • 41a. Another cool answer: THE DUKE is [John Wayne].
  • 43a. The “say” part of the clue threw me. [Kindle, say] is an e-book READER.
  • 53a. The IBM THINKPAD is a [Laptop tested aboard the Endeavour]. Here’s a soupçon of payback for all the IPOD/IPAD/IMAC entries in crosswords.
  • 55a. [Swift retreat?] has nothing to do with Jonathan Swift or swiftness. Swifts are birds: NESTING SITE.
  • 1d. I forgot what [Adjures] means even though the word was just in another puzzle: BEGS.
  • 4d. Huh? TIM is a [Title guy in an animated HBO sitcom]? Okay.
  • 5d. BEOWULF! Great answer. He’s your [Aid to King Hrothgar, in literature]. Shouldn’t that be “aide” with an E?
  • SWEE’PEA! Also welcome any time he wants to show up in my crossword. This [Comic strip adoptee] is Popeye’s kid.
  • 12d. The [Course load?] you bear on the golf course is your SET OF CLUBS, unless you have a caddy or a cart. Tricky clue. (See also 14d: GOLF RESORT, [Kiawah Island, for one].)
  • 13d. [Like the 1974 rope-a-dope fight] is a weirdly adjectival clue for ALI-FOREMAN. I had FRAZIER there.
  • 26d. Okay, I’m  officially tired of all “number” = “thing that numbs” clues. [Number of folks?] clues ANESTHESIA. You know, anesthesia is more than just a numb-er. General anesthesia renders you entirely unconscious.
  • 28d. [Sing vibrato, say] is a tough clue for WAVER. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word used to describe the vibrato sound.
  • 33d. [Luxurious wrap] messed me up because off the K, I filled in MINK COAT. D’oh! SILK ROBE. Between the MINK and Joe FRAZIER, I blew my chance at a lightning-fast solve.
  • 36d. Crossings helped here. [Tekka-maki sushi source] is BLUEFIN tuna. Yo, don’t eat that. I was just reading that recent New Yorker article about overfishing and drastic depletion of bluefin tuna stocks.
  • 37d. I wish DONKING were a gerund. “Have you ever gone DONKING? It’s a blast!” DON KING was the [Promoter of the 13-Down fight].

One last thing: Breakfast test! Putting BAIT BUCKETS at 1-Across is a little wormy for Saturday breakfast, isn’t it? [Fishing gear] filled with worms, yum.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 11Spies! Did you detect the spy action lurking inside this puzzle?

  • 38a. TOP SECRET is the [Clearance level] the best spies have got to have.
  • 22d. [Spy’s doing] is SABOTAGE.
  • 5d. [Mr. Big’s org. on “Get Smart”] is KAOS. This is the sort of pop culture I learned from crosswords. I did see the Steve Carell movie rehash on cable, but I only halfway paid attention.

Editor Rich Norris knows what he’s doing. This puzzle’s difficulty level is exactly where I expected it would be. The Saturday LAT crossword is almost always calibrated so close to this level. Consistency!

Let’s have a roundup of 10 more clues:

  • 1a. Put on your THINKING CAP when it’s crossword time. It’s a [Symbol of concentration] that’s nice to see parked at 1-Across.
  • 15a. [Noted pier site] clues SANTA MONICA. Having never been to Santa Monica, the place is inextricably linked to Sheryl Crow in my head. All I wanna do is have some fun, blah blah blah, the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.
  • 31a. [The south of France] is a more interesting clue for MIDI than anything about skirts between mini and maxi length. That’s le Midi, to be specific.
  • 34a. [Milk sources], **ATS, that’s GOATS, right? Alas, it’s TEATS. I bet Alan Simpson would like this one.
  • 40a. [Pocono and others] clues RACEWAYS]. Meh, motor “sports.” The rest of of know the Poconos as a cheesy honeymoon resort location.
  • 67a. What could be more fun that CAUSTIC LIME? (Ahem.) That’s [Calcium oxide].
  • 26d. A little 4-letter rivers of Europe change-up! The Oder makes it into a clue instead: [Historical Oder River region] is SILESIA.
  • 39d. [Fine and dandy: Abbr.] are SYNS. in that the words “fine” and “dandy” are synonyms of one another.
  • 41d. AMERIND is a [Portmanteau word for a certain native], combining the words “American” and “Indian.”
  • 42d. I always appreciate an Ambrose Bierce clue. [Each of them is “one who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs”: Bierce] clues COWARDS.

Updated Saturday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hero Sandwiches”—Janie’s review

Hope you’ve got an appetite! Martin’s serving up “hero sandwiches” today: four terrific grid-spanning theme phrases, each of which has an embedded “HERO” inside. Note, too, the symmetrical placement of the word in the phrases—a pretty impressive accomplishment in its own right. What has Martin given us to chew on? Take a look at:

  • 17A. FEATHER ONE’S NEST [Prosper]. “Live long and …” Seems the Vulcan gesture has Jewish roots. As for the theme phrase, click the link and be a little patient. You’ll see that the little wren really does add feathers to the nest—making this one upscale kinda place to call home. The avian hero(ine).
  • 34A. DO AS THE ROMANS DO. [Follow local convention]. Cy Coleman and lyricist Carolyn Leigh wrote a song called (“When in Rome) I Do as the Romans Do” that Barbra Streisand recorded. No youtube clip, but you can hear a snippet at this Cy Coleman “Most Performed” site. The Roman hero.
  • 40A. GODFATHER OF SOUL [James Brown nickname]. Is that beautiful fill or what? Here’s the man himself in 1966 on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not hard to see where Michael Jackson got some of his terpsichorean inspiration. The “soul” hero.
  • 59A. RECITE THE ROSARY [Pray, in a way]. The religious hero.

There’s other fine fill threaded throughout, including ON EARTH [Terrestrially], TV GUIDE [Surfer’s aid?], TOP SEED [Tournament favorite] and ROSS SEA [Antarctic body of water]—and get a load of those triple “S”s in the grid!

I love the politesse of SO AND SO for [Jerk]. (The other 7-letter synonym for that clue really doesn’t belong in this puzzle!) It’s the kind of epithet that might get lobbed at some CRAB [Grouchy sort] who’s trying to HIT AT [Punch] you—though I suspect if the threat is real, you might want to go in for something a bit stronger.

For the mathematicians, there’s THEOREM [Something to prove]; for the chemistry and physics mavens, ATOM [Controversial power source] and ION, that (crossword-) ubiquitous [Charged particle]. For Francophiles, there’s some français with OEUVRES [Bodies of collected works], NOIRS [Burgundy blacks] and TÊTE [Head of Québec?]. And for those of us who love wordplay in their clues, there’s [Bath scent?] for the British ODOUR. Just to be clear, Bath is one beautiful, classic city in England’s Somerset county and is famous for its historic spas.

So there’s a little somethin’ for a lot of us. Here’s hoping all of us will be enjoying a fine, final summer-type Labor Day Weekend. Ta-ta til Monday!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Gaah. I did this puzzle before breakfast and still with that summer cold. It knocked me for a loop. I used the “reveal” function for 1 square and “check” for one 3-letter word (which was wrong), as the Dakotas zone of this puzzle was refusing to complete itself. The payoff for finishing wasn’t so hot. “Cover letter” Googles up 23 times more hits than COVER NOTE. Who calls it (17a. [Introductory page]) a COVER NOTE? Hmph.

Anyone who’s ever been in a car knows what an odometer is, but ODOMETRY, 7d: the [Change-in-position science]? Never heard of it. Apparently robots use it.

All right, it’s list time:

  • 1a. [Meteor shower] means “thing that shows meteors,” a TELESCOPE. Is anyone still enchanted by the crossword convention of number/shower/tower/flower meaning verb+ER?
  • 20a. A MIC, or microphone, is an [Amp attachment]. My first guess was the suffix -ULE, which did me no favors in the Dakotas.
  • 28a. PITA is the [Aramaic word for “bread”]. Yum!
  • 30a. [He said, “To have a great idea, have a lot of them”]. Who’s America’s most famous inventor of many things? Could be Thomas EDISON. He had some good ideas.
  • 45a. Wearing SHORTS to a formal event is a no-no, hence the clue [Formal no-no].
  • 50a. [Berth place] is a BASIN. Sounds like “birthplace” but isn’t. A yacht basin is a place where yachts can be moored in their berths.
  • 52a. I thought [Cleared, as a drive] was about golf, but no. Cleared = erased, drive = computer hard drive: DEGAUSSED.
  • 55a. If it’s [All right], it’s IN OK SHAPE. Odd answer, possibly one I’ve never seen in crosswords before. But clearly in the language as a phrase.
  • 3d. This is a Stan Newman throwback. [Carpentry devices] are LEVELS but you could certainly be excused for thinking it’s BEVELS. Stan’s ACPT finals puzzle a couple years ago had a LEVEL/BEVEL dilemma too.
  • 6d. [TV debut of 1980] is several years too late to be SNL. It’s CNN.
  • 12d. [Cheesecake alternative] is another dessert, TIRAMISU.
  • 14d. I can watch a lot of movies on cable [Whenever] I want, thanks to the handy ON DEMAND service.
  • 23d. “Refurbish” is a weird word in that the re- version is so much more familiar than the re-less one. [Fix (up)] clues FURBISH.
  • 24d. [Some brass rings] stumped me until suddenly it was obvious: EYELETS, as in the ones laces pass through.
  • 32d. I couldn’t fit CAT’S PAJAMAS into the space for [Ultimate, old-style], but CAT’S MEOW fits perfectly.
  • 33d. [Gothic architecture staple] elaborates on a crosswordese word: OGEE ARCH.
  • 34d. [Company with a trident emblem] is the MASERATI. My kid and I were eyeballing one in a parking garage Thursday.
  • 35d. This one’s my favorite clue in this puzzle: [Okra cross-section] is a PENTAGON.
  • 40d. To COEDIT is to [Share the polishing] of a manuscript.
  • 42d. City/state abbreviation combos can be tricky. ERIE, PA, is the [“The Flagship City”].
  • 53d. [Letters between two names] clues AKA, “also known as.” Despite NÉE being a word rather than “letters,” it was my first guess here.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Spell Weaving”

The main difficulty in this puzzle variety comes from all the outermost squares, each of which appears in a single answer rather than in two criss-crossing answers. I prefer the other variety grids in which you have to figure out where each answer goes yourself, rather than being given numbered spaces that make it clear where each entry goes and how long it is.

The last answer I figured out was 35: [Like some motor oil additives], where the crossing answers gave me A*TI*EAR. I think it’s ANTI-WEAR, but I can’t be sure.

Answers, with highlights:

  • 1. [One whose weaving may spell trouble] is a RECKLESS DRIVER. Terrific clue! It echoes the name of the puzzle.
  • 3. MEDICINE BALLS. Man, I hate those things.
  • 4. MAI TAIS
  • 5. TEA
  • 6. SANDRA DEE. Why did I think SALLY FIELD was in Gidget?
  • 7. SALIVA
  • 8. PANIC
  • 9. AT EASE
  • 11. RICE-A-RONI
  • 12. RAMSHACKLE. Great word.
  • 13. IN WANT OF
  • 14. ONE-EYED JACKS. Cool entry.
  • 15. DARIN
  • 16. CROW. I like crows as much as I like medicine balls.
  • 17. Mickey SPILLANE
  • 18. AREA
  • 19. DREI
  • 20. GERTRUDE STEIN is the [Writer who coined the phrase “lost generation”]. Did you know ALLEN GINSBERG has the same number of letters?
  • 21. MESS
  • 22. POMADES
  • 23. SWANS
  • 24. RHEA
  • 25. CHINESE
  • 26. BEADED
  • 27. LEAVENS
  • 28. RAVE
  • 29. SMEARS
  • 30. The great LAURENCE OLIVIER
  • 31. AIL
  • 32. ATTUNE
  • 33. SCRIMS
  • 34. Ed ASNER
  • 35. ANTI-WEAR (?)
  • 36. FLAILS
  • 37. ORNETTE
  • 38. JUVENILE
  • 39. DICTA
  • 40. HUTS
  • 41. AIRED OUT
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11 Responses to Saturday, 9/4/10

  1. Zeke says:

    A bait bucket needn’t be filled with worms. It could be squid or chopped up fish guts. Help with the breakfast test?

  2. sbmanion says:

    Amy, I normally read your blog first, followed by the NYT. Today, I happened to read the NYT first and commented that in middle America, people are more likely to refer to a shutout as a DOUGHNUT. BAGEL seems NYC to me as well.


  3. ===Dan says:

    Steve, when I was in Columbus OH in the mid-seventies, I remember TV celebrity Flippo the Clown referring to the Cincinnati football team as the Bagels.

  4. joon says:

    bagel seems familiar enough to this non-new yorker, but only in a tennis context. if you lose a set 6-0, you’ve been bageled. just last night, the announcers during venus williams’s match were talking about how the underdog was trying not to get bageled. (admittedly, the announcer in question was patrick mcenroe, who’s originally from new york.)

    i set a saturday speed record on this one, and judging from the leaderboard, looks like i wasn’t alone. the BIPED clue was just about the only thing that held me up. i loved WINED.

  5. Duke says:

    never heard of bagel in this way and i am a third generation NYC native who’s eaten far too many bagels. Dink?

  6. ktd says:

    I think “aid” is the right word because Beowulf shows up to help Hrothgar by killing the monster Grendel. He is from another clan and not a member of Hrothgar’s court.

  7. sbmanion says:


    Doughnut has no verb counterpart. BAGELED is definitely superior as a verb and I have used it myself. “I gave him a doughnut” is tenable, but cumbersome. I can’t ever recall saying “I gave him a bagel.”


  8. Dan F says:

    Did not set a Saturday record on the NYT! Joon and Plot beat me. I found the NE and SE stacks tough to unravel. At least the applet champs seem to be on my side. :)

    Really liked the Stumper – interesting vocab, and none of those “oh, come on, Stan” clues…

  9. joon says:

    dan, it looks like i didn’t quite beat you, unless you adjust for paper vs AL. i did nick you on spell weaving (5:08). i agree on the stumper—really good fun. not sure i love the {Exercise}/EXERT pairing, but everything else was pretty cool. odd that the EDISON clue was so close to mike shenk’s hidden-quote sunday NYT from last year, which was attributed to linus pauling.

    steve, interesting point about verb/noun bagels. it was literally only minutes ago that sharapova finished off beatrice capra 6-0, 6-0 at the open. john mcenroe referred to it as a “double-bagel,” so bagel clearly has currency as both a noun and a verb.

  10. Plot says:

    Not a Saturday record for me, but its definitely my first time at the top of the leaderboard for a themeless puzzle. I’ve been going through the NYT archives to practice themelesses, and I guess it’s yielding dividends. I don’t know how I correctly guessed GLAMOURPOSE with just the L, since I had never heard of that term before. Divine intervention from the Fashion Gods?

    As a Western New Yorker, I can’t say that I’ve ever used BAGEL as a verb in conversation, but, like Joon, I’ve heard it bandied about in Tennis broadcasts.

    The Stumper was much more difficult for me, though all the answers were fair so it never felt frustrating. Remembering the ACPT trap, I entered BEVELS immediately, which obscured the meteor shower answer (I initially thought it would be a space TV show or something). Entering ELECT instead of EXERT further complicated things since it gave me ??ELANDER for 15A. I briefly tried to convince myself that Icelanders attempted to invade India at one point.

  11. jane lewis says:

    sally field played gidget in the television version.

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