Saturday, 10/16/10

NYT 5:23
LAT 4:38
CS untimed
Newsday 9:38
WSJ Saturday Puzzle 15-20 minutes—Patrick Berry “Rows Garden,” get it here

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 15You know what’s wrong with this puzzle? Me, neither. A 66-worder without woeful compromises and with plenty of interesting answers. It’s an unusual grid design too, isn’t it?

I liked learning new things about two plant products: the PASSION FRUIT is also called the “maypop,” a term I’ve never heard, and delightful PUSSY WILLOWS play a role in Russian Orthodox Palm Sunday. Are you kidding me? A church with Pussy Willow Sunday is a church I might get on board with. PIERRE L’ENFANT and BUTTERFLY KISSES round out the selection of long answers.

Idiosyncratic highlights:

  • 17a. The Indian city of VARANASI used to be called Benares, with the R and N sounds switching places. Isn’t that odd? The V/B switch is natural enough.
  • 18a. STAINS are [Reasons to presoak] or, if you’re me, pre-scrub with soap when you get home. (Dark chocolate gelato, d’oh!)
  • 1d. Madame BOVARY provides the [Literary adulteress’s surname]. I bet a lot of folks said, “Psh, that’s easy. PRYNNE!”
  • 4d. Hang on. THANX is a smidge too long for text messages. THX is better.
  • 26d. A [Case load?] is BEERS, generally 24 of them.
  • 31d. BARBADOS is the [Island nation with a trident on its flag]. You like geography? Good:
  • 39d. The GAMBIA (it takes a definite article, like Ohio State wants to) is the [Smallest republic on the African mainland]. It’s the skinny finger poking into Senegal like an overly aggressive person assaulting the Pillsbury Dough Boy. There, I gave you two answers for the Sporcle map quiz on countries of Africa.
  • 44d. Why clue BAMBI with reference to his aunt Ena when there’s a “Bambi Meets Godzilla” cartoon to cite? I have not seen said cartoon. Is it any good? Does Bambi emerge victorious?

You know what? This puzzle’s easier than yesterday’s, isn’t it? I don’t see my NYT time on this blog anymore. Jeez, where did it go? Gremlins, I tell you. Gremlins everywhere.

Updated Saturday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “P.O. Boxes”—Janie’s review

Behold how yesterday’s “Special OP’s” morph to today’s “P.O. Boxes.” But this is no paean to “post office boxes,” rather it’s an opportunity for Tony to entertain us with four two-word theme phrases whose first word begins with the letter “P” and whose second begins with “O.” And look at the vibrant phrases that fill the bill:

20A. POPULAR OPINION [Majority view]. I confess that this one temporarily misled me. Would all of the phrases do the (initial) “PO”/“OP” switcheroo? That’d be some coup. Or did that starting “PO” correspond to the “P.O.” in the title? I’d soon find out.

25A. PACIFIC OCEAN [Body of water that covers about 30% of the Earth’s surface]. I thought perhaps that frozen water might qualify, so my first attempt here was POLAR ICECAPS. Just wrong on so many levels…

48A. PECKING ORDER [Hierarchy within a group]. Aha. This one confirms the term of the theme fill. Which is a good thing, because look at the beauty it then allows for—

57A. PRIMORDIAL OOZE [Stuff from which life on Earth might have emerged]. Is that gorgeous fill or what? And look at the snazzy way Tony’s crossed that “Z”—with none other than ZZ-TOP [Big-bearded “Legs” band]. (The now-classic DEVO also gets a shout-out as the [“Whip It” band].)

Other gorgeous non-theme fill includes the HIBISCUS, that [Showy flower] and “MAKE IT UP” [“Improvise something”]. Anyone who’s ever done any performing knows that the greatest leap of faith an actor takes is when s/he follows the direction to “just improvise.” The 7/5/10 issue of The New Yorker has a profile of Steve Carrell who speaks about the extent of improvising that is part of the movies he and a handful of other actor-comedians make. Director Mike Leigh is known, too, for the improv sessions that go into making his (mostly) dramatic films.

LIVID [Fuming mad] finds a partner-in-temperament in the less irate TESTY [Short-tempered]. And we get a pasta pair with clues [Al dente] and [One might be cooked al dente] for FIRM and NOODLE. But it’s hard to imagine boiling up one noodle…

And let me call out some of my fave clue/fill combos today, too:

Because I’d never heard of it and it’s a great title-of-show, enjoyed the fitb [Old Saturday morning cartoon “] HONG [Kong Phooey”].

Loved, too, the homophonic connection between [Persian sound] and PURR (since this Persian is of the long-haired, 4-footed variety).

The assonance of [Doozy] and LULU is smile-making as is the quaint [Hidey hole] for NOOK and hipper [Joe vessel] for CUP. (I also like the way nook shares its final “K” with the almost sound-alike KUKLA [Friend of Fran and Ollie]).

And if you noticed a number of words with high-scorin’ Scrabble letters (EQUIP, X-OUT, RIOJA…), you may have guessed that this one’s a pangram—and you’d be right. Yep, every letter of the alphabet get its “15 minutes of fame” today!

Updated Saturday afternoon:

Oh, look, the morning has come and gone. Didn’t blog the LAT and WSJ last night because my husband and I watched The Time-Traveler’s Wife instead, and then I slept in this morning, took my kid out for flu vaccine, did some laundry, spent an hour on the phone with my mom having the best conversation ever, and boom, noon is here. Cursory blogging time!

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 16

Favorite entries: not-Sandra-Bullock’s-ex JESSE JAMES, JOSHUA TREE (just did a Sporcle quiz the other day in which this, the title of a U2 album, was an answer), TIGER WOODS, ISOMETRICS, ZERO MOSTEL, pretty JONQUIL.

Barry’s favorite entry: Gotta be his beloved PHILLIES.

The bottom of this puzzle was tough for me. SHARED FILE wasn’t coming to me. The willfully obscurantist clue for PINE NEEDLE kept me at bay for too long. (Mind you, I applaud willfully obscurantist clues like this one.) SPY STORIES was not so obvious; doesn’t feel like a phrase in my vocabulary. These three 10s were crossed by the obscure ERODENT and STOLLE.

I dunno about the validity of USE FINESSE as a crossword answer. Does this rise above verb+object to become a discrete unit of meaning? STENO NOTES feels a little out-there too, but reaps the benefit of being made of two words that are anagrams of one another.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”

I really didn’t remember JAMES SPADER winning Emmys for Boston Legal and mucked up that row by putting WILLIAM SHATNER in first.

Liveliest Rows answers: THE LORD’S PRAYER, LOCK AND LOAD, INDUSTRIAL ARTS (great clue: [More pretentious name for “shop”] had me thinking “emporium” instead), CHATTY CATHY, EXTRA CREDIT, ROGER FEDERER, and tasty RED RASBPERRIES.

Favorite clue: [One raised by Mr. Spock?] for a Vulcan EYEBROW. Not a child raised by Dr. Spock.

Most confusing clue: [Battle of the Atlantic menaces] for U-BOATS. Hard to parse the clue. I guess it’s “[menaces] from [the Battle of the Atlantic]” rather than “[Battle] of the [Atlantic menaces],” which was how I read it first. I was thinking SEA-WAR.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Tough puzzle—tons of those oblique Newsday-style clues to wrestle with.

Without further ado, some remarks on clues and answers:

  • 1a. Sally [Field pair] are the two OSCARS she’s won. No oxen here.
  • 17a. She who [Plots] the future MAPS OUT a plan. This is a good prepositional verb phrase, as is TEAM UP (48a. [Form an alliance]).
  • 19a. [White Monopoly item] is the ONE-dollar bill. I tried DIE first. And you?
  • 27a. [Mauna ___] takes a break in favor of a new LOA clue, [“Aloha nui __” (Hilo signoff)].
  • 32a. [Site for some seasonal recitals] is SANTA’S LAP, where kids recite their wish lists. “Santa Slap” is not a site of any kind, but could make for an entertaining substitute for Whac-a-Mole.
  • 36a. [Privy to] often clues IN ON, but not today. Here, it’s the two-word UP ON.
  • 41a. [Some Strauss works] are TONE POEMS, and some are not.
  • 54a. There’s no science in [Avalanche counterforce]. It’s the Edmonton OILERS, who play against the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado? Is that correct?
  • 57a. [Banquet appetizer] is a weird clue for RAVIOLI. Chicago’s not a big town for ravioli as an appetizer. Make mine an entree, please, and fill it with pumpkin or butternut squash and douse it with a crispy sage butter sauce with pine nuts.
  • 3d. [“The Wreck of the Hesperus” setting] is CAPE ANN? I was thinking the Aegean or the Ionian Sea. Huh.
  • 7d. My favorite answer today is VISUAL PUN, clued as [“The Far Side” staple].
  • 13d. PEP TALK’s a great answer, too. Clued as [Locker-room delivery].
  • 21d. Geologically, a MESA is the [Result of differential erosion]. The rock that forms the mesa doesn’t erode as quickly as the surrounding ground.
  • 31d. [Popular ornamental] strikes me as a weird clue for PIN OAK. I grew up with a pin oak in the back year, and it was…just a tree. A tree that eventually got sick and had to be cut down. Not sure why it’s “ornamental.”
  • 33d. Your [Circumstances] are your LOT IN LIFE. Terrific entry, that.
  • 34d. I had to play the alphabet game to figure out the first letter for [Stays down]. COPES, DOPES, HOPES, LOPES? No x4. MOPES!
  • 51d. [Armand’s arms] are BRAS, which is French for “arm” and, apparently, also the plural “arms.”
  • 61d. [Entree planner] is a DEB, or debutante, planning her entree into society. What a weird tradition.
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20 Responses to Saturday, 10/16/10

  1. T Campbell says:

    The Bambi vs. Godzilla cartoon is short and predictable.

  2. janie says:

    “Bambi Meets Godzilla.” Enjoy!

    And yes, today’s puzzle fell a lot more smoothly than yesterday’s. go figger!


  3. Bovary chap says:

    nice, nice, nice
    Took me twice as long as a usual Saturday, but still faster than yesterday.
    This was the most fun I’ve had with a Saturday puzzle in months!

    The big, empty swath down the center had me marooned in the corners.
    14a.[In a position of prominence] ON THE MAP really got me.
    Had ON THE END and ON THE TOP for too long.

    jazz crossing:
    “BARBADOS” – BOP composition by Charlie Parker

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Had a ball here! Talk about ON THE MAP –a cousin visiting me in NY City ages ago couldn’t get his tongue around L’Enfant Plaza, kept calling it Elephant Plaza.

  5. Bambi vs Godzilla spends more time on the hilarious film credits (produced by Marv Newland, directed by Marv Newland, etc.) than on the action sequence which, as T Campbell rightly stated, is short and predictable.

    Count me as one who inserted PRYNNE at first, even as the crossings made that apparently wrong.

    VARANASI was a new one. The NW corner, plus a 2-minute applet hiccup waiting for the “incorrect” determination of my first submission, made for an uncertain final solving time. Very enjoyable puzzle on the whole.

  6. Matt says:

    Generally excellent puzzle, few giveaways but very doable. Me too on PRYNNE/BOVARY. Also tickled by the clue for BOP.

    For the literary-minded, btw, there’s been a great series of posts by Lydia Davis on her new translation of Flaubert’s novel.

  7. Karen says:

    I struggled with the entire middle section. And a bit of the NW (including Ms Prynne), and the SE, although BAMBI v Godzilla was a gimme. I still don’t understand the clue/answer to 53A: It’s more than just a game (TWINBILL)–help?

  8. Evad says:

    I think in baseball lingo, a doubleheader can also be considered a “twin bill.” See here.

  9. Duke says:

    Great puzzle. So much easier than yesterday. One complaint: UNBELT.

  10. dfurth says:

    Good puzzle! I was intrigued about “maypop” as an alternative term for “passion fruit” and so of course I nerdily went to Wikipedia. Turns out that typing in “maypop” leads you to a variety of “passion flower” called passiflora incarnata, which yields a berry-like fruit (also called “wild apricot”) that is quite different from the passion fruit variety that you’ll find in the market — the one with the gooey little seeds inside is passiflora edulis, and there are two varieties of that one (purple and yellow) — who knew?

    OK, maybe this is more information than anyone needs but I thought my fellow solvers should know.

  11. Meem says:

    Really needed the crosses to get Varanasi. Amend and roux made Bovary appear without error. Didn’t know oscine, but again the crosses untied the knot. All in all, a good Saturday workout. Will wait to comment on LAT until solution appears here.

  12. Ladel says:

    Right you are, once I had Hester Prynne in my head it was hard to shake loose, clever people these constructors. Evad is correct.


  13. joon says:

    i thought of both PRYNNE and BOVARY (and others that wouldn’t fit, like KARENINA and CHATTERLEY), so i checked all the crosses. YRS got my the Y and then i was off. this is a quintessential patrick berry grid. UNBELT is a little ugly, i guess. i needed the crossings for VARANASI and i actually had some trouble picking up L’ENFANT because i had no idea that his first name was PIERRE, and the last name isn’t easy to parse until it’s all there. still, i agree that it was considerably easier than yesterday’s. i did not know what BUTTERFLY KISSES were, but i still recognized the phrase from an obscure U2 lyric (“daddy’s gonna pay for your crashed car”).

  14. anon says:

    amy, could you please explain why ISOMETRICS was one of your favs in the LAT? when i saw that answer i shuddered so viciously i thought i dislocated my shoulder. i’m just curious to hear what someone else sees in it

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Anon, it’s because I was thinking about isometric exercise last weekend when handing out water bottles to runners in the Chicago Marathon. Turns out if you hold a pint of water with an outstretched arm and nobody takes it from you, man, do your shoulder and arm get tired!

    Why did the answer make you shudder viciously? It’s not a fake word or anything.

  16. anon says:

    just an aesthetic thing. it’s so ugly. the ISO- prefix, plural ending, cold machine-like composition, boring pronunciation devoid of any melodic quality, and even lack of interesting letters or letter combinations all make ISOMETRICS seem to me a technical word that bumbled its way into the modern vernacular by accident, when it should have been relegated to the niche community it started in, let alone left out of a themeless puzzle, whose value mainly derives from the interestingness of the words showcased in it.

  17. John Haber says:

    I thought it was a pretty hard Saturday, partly because the long answers were the kind that require most of the crossings before I could guess. (Funny, but I’d never heard of BUTTERFLY KISSES.) I should have remembered PIERRE L’ENFANT sooner, but I didn’t.

    I thought first of PRYNNE as my first entry, but across answers didn’t look promising, and I figured that there was no shortage of adultery in fiction, so I waited for crossings to help. But I did mistakenly have ON THE TOP for a while. Each corner had its challenges for me as well. VARANASI, OSCINE, and TAILFANS (rather than, oh, “tailfins”) both needed all the crossings.

    I ended up not finishing it, with _AMBIA, _U_, and _EARLE beating me, although I did guess the S correctly, and my ZUS didn’t look at all right.

  18. Meem says:

    Barry Silk’s LAT gave me a workout. Got off to a great start with Join/Joshua Tree. But took a long time to unravel tzu/use finesse. And needed nearly all of the crosses to complete shared file/pine needle/spy stories. Clever clues and overall I liked it.

  19. sandirhodes says:

    Karen and Evad —
    There is also the twi-night double-header, which I believe means an afternoon game followed by a night game, with a few hour break in-between.

    Also, Amy, you didn’t mention the groaner associated with government-owned bars (WSJ)!


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