Saturday, 11/6/10

Newsday 9:23
NYT 8:29
LAT 4:08
CS untimed

Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7Is it just me, or did this puzzle extract a few ounces of brain flesh from you, too? I had to work hard in every section of the puzzle, not a single long answer was a gimme, and the clues did a good job of hiding the answers.

Let’s amble through the clues, shall we?

  • 1a. [Baseball All-Star’s nickname…or a popular food product] clues BIG MAC. Is that Mark McGwire?
  • 7a. I don’t know about SAD SONGS as a regular phrase ([Music that may make you get down], but not get down and boogie), but I do know the ’84 Elton John song by that name.
  • 17a. Man, DO A JIG was hard to assemble. All its parts just plain looked wrong. [Physically show elation] is clear, and yet…
  • 33a. I made [Macaque or marmoset] harder than it needed to be by deciding there was a highly specific term that applied to both. Uh, SIMIAN? A broader term than the nonexisting specific terms that weren’t coming to mind.
  • 62a. Ooh, I’d like some, please: TEACAKES are [Treats served toasted and buttered]. Shout-out to the Zora Neale Hurston character, Teacake.
  • 64a. TOTO IV! Album with the song “Africa”! You know you want to hear that cheesy song: here it is. If only more recording artists went with the Roman numeral approach in titling. Crossword constructors would be able to draw on ENO VI, ONO X, ELO VII, ENYA I, and more.
  • I had no idea that the [Signature song of Peter Allen] is “I GO TO RIO” and you know what? I’m not ashamed of not knowing that. Is he the one Liza Minnelli married? Yes, her first gay husband.
  • 3d. GLADSOME is a word I have never had reason to use. My dictionary labels this one “poetic/literary.” I think I’ll stick with [Delightful].
  • 14d. My favorite clue: [Character traits?] are SERIFS, characters being individual letters and letters sometimes having serifs.
  • 26d. Took ages to figure out that [Bore] meant the past-tense verb meaning STOOD.
  • 29d. Dadaist RAOUL Hausmann is not one of the leading RAOULs that come to mind, but I’m glad I had cause to look him up because would you get a load of his photo? A scowl + a monocle = a helluva look.
  • 42d. On windy days, I always hope to see a COMBOVER being flipped. This hair crime is indeed a [Cover-up unlikely to fool anyone]. I like the cross-reference at 48d: a STRAND of hair is a [42-Down unit]. Here’s a video of a wind-tossed combover atop a tour bus. In case you couldn’t guess, COMBOVER’s my favorite entry in this crossword.
  • 47d. [Poinciana feature] is a RACEME. The last time we had POINCIANA in a puzzle, the clue cited a [Bing Crosby hit in which “your branches speak to me of love”]. A raceme is a flower cluster, and the poinciana is an ornamental tree. Not to be confused with Porcelana, “the medicated fade cream.”

Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “What’s Cookin’?”—Janie’s review

What’s cookin’? Well, it must be something like soup, or stew, or fried chicken, or sautéed vegetables or water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Why? Because each of the pieces of cookware that is the last word of the theme entries […can be found], as we learn at 51A., ON THE STOVE TOP. These kitchen basics include a pot, a pan and a kettle. But you might not know that at first glance. The peppy phrases they’re a part of are:

  • 20A. SWEETEN THE POT [Toss in more chips]. And I don’t think this means cinnamon-sugar chips. But they might up the (snack expectation) ante in their own way.
  • 27A. FLASH IN THE PAN [One-hit wonder]. Another terrific theme phrase. Here’s a “Top 100” site that let’s you manipulate (some) of the factors for recognizing one-hit wonders; and here’s a link to Wiki’s very comprehensive approach to the subject.
  • 44A. MA AND PA KETTLE [Marjorie Main/Percy Kilbride roles]. (Not to be confused with [Mom’s mate] and DAD…) Ms. Main was theme fill herself a few weeks ago. Didn’t post a link about her then, so here’s one now. And here’s one for Mr. K. What a puss on that one. Very much a character actor of his period!

And what might this cookware be made of? Stainless steel? Cast iron? Copper? “NOPE!” [“No way!”]. According to the puzzle, this stuff is aluminum and teflon, a/k/a T-FAL [Nonstick cookware brand].

Take a look, too, at some more of the fine non-themed fill Sarah’s chosen to sweeten the pot with. Under the heading of “Be Prepared,” there’s both FALSE ALARM [Groundless warning] and ALERTS [Warnings]. Under the heading of “Everybody Loves a Saturday Night,” we get NIGHT SPOTS [Discos], BAR HOP [Pub crawl] and SLOE GIN [Fizz ingredient].

Though it’s clued today as [Italian car, briefly], ALFA is also the first letter of the Danish/Norwegian Radio Alphabet (which uses “Romeo” for “R”…)—and makes for a complementary pairing with ALIF, the [First Arabic letter]. (“R” in the Italian Radio Alphabet is, appropriately … ROMA [Capital of Italia].)

Music, art and sagacity get called out through A SHARP [B flat equivalent], [Artist Georgia] O’KEEFFE and ATHENA [Goddess of wisdom].

Word of the day? PELF [Dishonestly acquired riches]. Here’s the M-W definition. Am thinking the word “pilfer” is probably a near relative. Yep. That it is.

Happy weekend, all, and see you again on Wednesday!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as “S.N.”)

Tough one this weekend, no? (Please don’t say “no.”) My experience here was similar to the woes I had with the NYT puzzle—every corner had really challenging clues and I found precious few gimmes to get started with. Among the hardest clues I encountered were these:

  • 16a. [Northern vacation destination] clues DENALI. You know what else has 6 letters? ALASKA, which is where you’ll find DENALI.
  • 26a. LAVA can be a [Glass-forming liquid].
  • 28a. [Emergency-aid system] isn’t a HOTLINE of any sort. It’s an AIRLIFT, which very few of us have ever received aid from.
  • 34a. [Goats, bears, lions, etc.] are ANIMALS, yes, and MAMMALS, sure. They also happen to be sports team MASCOTS. One wonders why there’s no professional sports team called the Goats. Which sport would they play?
  • 38a. [Jenny, e.g.] can mean a spinning jenny, a female donkey or ass, or a nickname for a person named Jennifer. The second meaning is at play here, and donkeys and asses are EQUINEs.
  • 8d. [Part of Lugosi’s “Dracula” costume] is a MONOCLE. Wasn’t hard to get with several crossings, but I wasn’t picturing a Draculean monocle at all.
  • 9d. [He said “Be sincere; be brief; be seated”] clues FDR with no cue that the answer’s initials and not a name.
  • 12d. [Movie inspector] is Dirty Harry CALLAHAN. Did you plunk CLOUSEAU in without a moment’s thought?
  • 14d. SIN TAXES are [Controversial budget enhancers]. I recently read that cigarettes cost something like $12 a pack in NYC.
  • 35d. A [Hooked] nose is AQUILINE.
  • 36d. SUN DECKS are clued as [Cruise-ship amenities]. That’s a pretty basic amenity there.
  • 37d. I kinda wanted SOFT SHOE for [Moccasin, for one], but it’s the horrible sort of moccasin, the PIT VIPER.

So, this was a hard puzzle but I didn’t find much in it to enchant me. I prefer NYT/Washington Post-style tricky clues to the vague and oblique Newsday clues, and it’s always fun to have sparkling words and phrases in the grid.

Timothy Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 8Ah, now that is a tasty crossing: DIET COKE (39a. [A lime-flavored version of it came out in 2004], but I prefer plain. Which is not to say that I don’t add orange pop to my DC whenever I’m at a self-serve soda fountain. Why doesn’t Coca-Cola sell Diet Coke with Orange?) meets a COOKIE JAR (31d. [Where a small hand might get caught]). When you make cookies at home, do you put them in a cookie jar? I tend to leave them out on a plate but wonder if the cookies would be happier in a jar.

Other bits I liked:

  • 52a. JUMBLED UP is clued as [In disorder]. Would [Anagrammed] work just as well?
  • 55a. I like this clue, [Metaphorical victim of an upset]. Have you ever literally upset the APPLE CART?
  • 6d. [Golf’s __ Cup] contains a landmine. RYDER and FED EX both fit the **DE* pattern, and the Ryder Cup is much better known. Did you fall into the trap? I know I did. I like a good crossword trap.
  • 25d. [Rolls seen at the beach?] are SPARE TIRES of flab.
  • 34d. CROCS are rubber [Holey footwear]. I cannot abide Crocs, which only makes the Brett Favre scandal funnier.

41d: [Bird’s song] clues WARBLE because, of course, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird is famous for his pretty WARBLE.

Also from the world of sports, we have 33a: [16-time Gold Glove-winning pitcher Jim] KAAT. What a horrible last name. It looks wrong. I needed all the crossings for this one, so I’m gonna call the guy obscure, but I’m sure you baseball fans will quiver with rage (as is your wont) and tell me how renowned and familiar he is.

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15 Responses to Saturday, 11/6/10

  1. Al says:

    NW was the hardest for me. Stared at it for a minute or two before 1D finally fell.

  2. Conversely, if there was a Brad Wilber Saturday puzzle that should have fallen within 10 minutes for me, this was it (OK, I didn’t miss by much). OGLALA came right away in NW, and despite short stumbles across the board I had no particular problem with any corner. I knew far more trivia than in an average Wilber puzzle and was on a pretty good wavelength on the twisted clues. But I GO TO RIO and TOELOOP were complete d’oh! moments when I finally got them because both were on the tip of my tongue for several minutes.

    And yes, Amy, Mark McGwire is indeed BIG MAC.

  3. Karen says:

    I thought FT SUMTER was a nice toehold. The clue/answer that made me laugh was BIDET/John’s neighbor.

  4. Matt says:

    Tough to get a foothold and slow work from there. Eventually got an anchor in the diagonal area, then had to work my way out of SHEAF/SCRAM and IDOLIZED/IDEALIZE confusions. At the end didn’t know from GM car features, so ENSTAR/ONSTAR was the last thing to get fixed.

  5. Howard B says:

    Yep, NW here too. I GO TO RIO was a complete, brain-twisting unknown (that also looks wrong in the grid even when correct), and crossing BIG MAC (I should have seen that one) and OGLALA was just vicious. A lot of trivia packed into that area. DO A JIG was sneaky as well. I started the puzzle with SIMIAN as a hopeful guess and worked out from there.

    Some great cluing in there as well to further mess with our heads. And TOTO IV! That’s going to be a polarizing answer. Doesn’t that almost look like an obscure, forgotten pope?

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I wondered how you (the Royal You) would handle the “contest” in yesterday’s puzzle, so I logged on this morning and looked at yesterday’s coverage. I am glad that the contest wasn’t spoiled. For one thing, this is a red letter, and banner day for me. *I am in the same group and category as Dan F.* The first and I’m sure only time. I’m afraid this sort of ‘metapuzzle’ doesn’t do much for me. I don’t have the foggiest idea what the contest is supposed to be or mean. An “appropriate phrase” or some such formulation???? If I could find letters to make a phrase like **** Palin, wold that be appropriate? (Sorry to anyone who is offended–I’m trying to be funny.)

    But I love Mike N’s puzzles; he’s become one of my favorite constructors, and these two were no exception. Especially the Thurs. *hole* puzzle which is one of my all-time favorite Thurs. “gimmick” puzzles.


  7. animalheart says:

    OGLALA, FTSUMTER, SETHS, and LAPAZ were just about my only toeholds. A VERY hard puzzle, but fair and fresh from beginning to end. BODYCAST was my final entry (I initially had HIPBOOTS).

  8. Jenni says:

    The NE was my sticking point in this one – I had ARMED for the type of resistance, and since the R from FORT SUMTER was correct I kept it for a lot longer than I should have. It also took me a while to figure out what kind of register we were looking for. Great puzzle – tough but fair. It was so lovely to have a lazy Saturday with time to do the puzzle, and a really chewy one to play with.

  9. Howard B says:

    Within baseball and sportscasting, Jim Kaat is a fairly well-known name, so much as being a solid pitcher and now a widely-heard baseball announcer / commentator. That said, outside of those spheres of knowledge, you would need every single letter to get that name, no doubt. Nothing to infer or figure out.

    This is likely similar to how I feel when encountering a world-famous ballerina or chess champion (both very possibly more well known, worldwide, then most baseball announcers) in any given puzzle.

  10. Jack says:

    Somebody tell Sarah Keller that an ion is NOT an elementary particle. An ion is made up of MANY elementary particles, in general! The absolute simplest ion, the positive hydrogen iron (aka proton) is still made up of 3 quarks and the gluons to hold them together

    Terrible clue.

    If you’re curious, here are the elementary particles:

    Up quark, down quark, strange quark, charm quark, top quark, bottom quark, electron, mu, tau, electron neutrino, mu neutrino, tau neutrino, photon, gluon, Z boson, W boson.

    We may discover others, but I assure you, ION will not be one of them.

  11. Martin says:

    Do you hunt quarks with a 12 gauge boson?

  12. joon says:

    late to the puzzles and late to the party today, but:

    great brad wilber puzzle. BIG MAC was a nice fat(tening) gimme at 1a, but then i couldn’t get the NW to fall at all—brutal corner with OGLALA and DO A JIG. can’t remember having to jump around this much to do a NYT puzzle in a long time. total unknowns included I GO TO RIO, TOTO IV (?!?), RACEME (looks like a dare), the gable film, the donizetti aria, … yeah. some really wonderful clues, though, and a fun workout.

    bruce, if you like thursday’s HOLE puzzle so much, i recommend you take another look at it.

    jack, i’m not on board with your vitriol, but you’re right that the ION clue isn’t a good one.

  13. John Haber says:

    Wow, that was hard, especially the entire NW for me. I didn’t know (or had put out of my mind) the cheesy Toto as well. I actually know what a RACEME is but not a poinciana.

    But definitely, almost everything in the NW looked wrong or unlikely. I didn’t even know the skating term. I considered “Indian” and “Siouan” for Crazy Horse (after terms for Neil Young’s band wouldn’t fit), and I didn’t recognize the actual answer. I thought of “oil slick” for the spill aftermath and “monkey” for SIMIAN. Nothing seemed to work, and I didn’t know the baseball nickname or Peter Allen song. Not sure what finally cracked it.

  14. Martin says:

    Flower clusters (inflorescences) come with two basic architectures. For developmental reasons we can ignore, either the tip flower blooms first or the base flowers bloom first. If the terminal bud matures first (like with roses) it’s a cyme; if the base buds mature first (like with glads) it’s a raceme. There are lots of variations (panicles, umbels, corymbs, etc., etc.) but they are all either cymose or racemose.

    In chemistry, some organic compounds will bend light either to the left or right. A mixture of the L- version and D- version (that’s where the names levulose and dextrose come from, by the way) that is exactly balanced (and doesn’t bend light) is called “racemic.” That’s because it was first discovered with DL-tartaric acid from grape juice. Yep, grape clusters are racemic panicles. “Raceme” is Latin for “grape cluster.”

  15. anon says:

    please start posting the stumper answers again

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