Saturday, 12/11/10

NYT 4:04 (joon—across lite)
LAT 7:41 (Jeffrey)
CS untimed (janie)
WSJ variety puzzle, a Patrick Berry Rows Garden DNF (joon)
Newsday 10:14 (joon—across lite)

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

nyt101211greetings, friends. joon here, filling in for amy, who’s got out-of-town guests this weekend. so the scooby gang is out in full force. i did today’s times in across lite, where i haven’t done much solving recently. so i’m not quite sure what to make of my solving time, which is much faster than i’ve ever solved a saturday before. was it easy, or is it just that i’ve gotten faster since the last time i solved a lot in across lite? i had a good chance to crack 4 minutes, but i spent a good 20-30 seconds staring at the last letter (the B of GAB/JOB) before the light dawned. was it easy for everybody else? i dunno. it felt easy—i got 1a and 1d with no problems, which is always a nice way to start—but it was certainly a good day to know something about italy. the highlights:

  • {What Tito shows, in opera} is CLEMENZA. i dropped CLEMENCY in off just the first letter, but it wasn’t hard to fix the last two letters. la CLEMENZA di tito is a mozart opera i’ve never seen, but i was familiar enough with the title. how about the clue—do you guys think that it’s fair for the clue, containing only a name and english words, to ask for an italian word as the answer? i guess i don’t know why some foreign-language operas are better known (to americans) by their english names (barber of seville, the magic flute, etc.) and why some are better known in the original language (die fledermaus, la traviata).
  • {Daughter of Alexander VI} is LUCREZIA BORGIA, another long gimme. what’s that, you say? popes aren’t supposed to have daughters? hmm, you may be right.
  • {“The die is cast,” to Caesar} is ALEA JACTA EST. i didn’t take latin, but this phrase is just behind “veni vidi vici” (and quite a ways ahead of omnia gallia something something party something). i didn’t do crosswords in the 1980s, but ALEA feels like old-school crosswordese to me, so maybe this is just an easy clue. the only thing that gave me pause was the J, because sometimes it’s spelled IACTA, and (as i mentioned) that JOB clue eluded my ken for quite some time.
  • that’s a lot of squares’ worth of italian stuff. your italian not up to snuff? well there was lots of spanish, too, albeit in smaller chunks: {These, on Ibiza} are ESTOS (this time; can never be sure it’s not ESTAS until you check the crossing); {A third of veinticuatro} is 24/3 = OCHO; {Setting of muchas islas} is el OCEANO (a word i didn’t know, but luckily a cognate); and {One who’s just arrived in Mexico?} is a newborn BEBE. that last clue feels like an easier version of the great {New Mexican?} clue for NENE from last saturday, right?
  • french and german were feeling left out, so a GARDE{-robe (Calais closet)}, the {Stern article} EINE (who’s stern?), and {Time, to Freud} ZEIT round out the european language content at a mere 154 answers covering 952 answers (numbers approximate).
  • {Ancient amulet inscription} is ABRAXAS. also the name of draco malfoy’s grandfather. i think i learned the definition in this clue from a pat blindauer NYS puzzle (“big ten”) a couple years ago. yup, here’s amy blogging it.
  • {What a Yankee is unlikely to have} is a SOUTHERN ACCENT, unless they do manage to sign cliff lee and his homespun arkansas drawl. it’ll cost them a pretty penny, though. an accent that good goes for at least 7 years, $180 million these days.
  • {Thrilling hoops shot} is a BUZZER-BEATER, a nice answer with some scrabbly letters. the bulls-lakers game that just ended did not feature a buzzer-beater, but the bulls eked out a close win. but this clue, like a lot of the other clues for long answers in the puzzle, felt very straightforward. i haven’t looked at the other top solvers’ times yet, but i’m betting i won’t be the only one who blazed through this one.
  • the short answers were another story. the crossing that crossed me up: {Tittle-tattle} for GAB, and {Bread source} for JOB. i don’t think i’ve ever seen “tittle-tattle” before, but it looks like tattletale so i thought maybe RAT. and {Bread source} really wanted to be about money, but ATM didn’t work and i was thinking about IOU (because of the IACTA/JACTA ambiguity), but GAU made no sense.
  • {Country whose name is occasionally used as an exclamation?} is a fun clue for OMAN. in high school, my best friend and i used to exclaim “muscat!” to each other. yeah, we were dorks.
  • {Projection creator} is belgian cartographer andres MERCATOR. and yeah, i made up the belgian and the first name, but you know what? i betcha at least one of them is right.
  • {Element between polonium and radon on the periodic table} is ASTATINE. i have no idea where polonium is, but radon is the heaviest noble gas, and ASTATINE is the heaviest halogen, so this was another long gimme.
  • some nice colloquial language in the grid: {“I got ___”} NOTHIN’, {Best bud} for MAIN MAN, and {Blabs, blabs, blabs} for TELLS ALL.
  • ultimately, the only answer i’d never heard of was the {Kodak film used in surveillance}, TMAX. that really wants to be either TJ MAXX or maybe T-REX (echoed by the TEX-REX crossing in the SE corner).

that’s all from me tonight. see you in the morning with the stumper, not to mention the other fiend friends chiming in with the other puzzles.

Updated Saturday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “There’s Something About Mary”—Janie’s review

And what is it that’s “about” Mary? Why other letters, of course—at either side. Each of the three 15-letter theme phrases is made up of two words; and the last four letters of the first word are M-A-R-Y. I fear the peppiest part of this puzzle is its movie-based title—and the reminder of just how twisted the Farrelly brothers can be. The theme fill/cluing, on the other hand, is pretty straight-forward as we get:

  • 17A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Expedited end to a litigation].
  • 35A. CUSTOMARY MANNER [Usual way].
  • 55A. PRIMARY ELECTION [Political contest to whittle down the field]. And once the general elections are held, who will win? The DEMOCRAT [“Blue state” majority member] or someone from the GOP [Org. with a red, white, and blue elephant on its seal]? Stay tuned to C-SPAN [Channel that’s home to “Washington Journal”] for more information on this NEWS ITEM [Bit of reportage]. Love the way this fill ties in. That’s GRADE A [Top notch] in my book.

Less happy-making is the appearance for the third time in four days of ALOE—making this a very “balmy” week for early December… To offer a more [Agreeable word], there’s “YES“—and to offer a musical treatment of the sentiment, here’s Liza Minnelli singing it. In her prime (this is from 1972), Liza shows us how she really was one of the best “show biz” SOLOISTS [Featured performers, perhaps]—back in the day. Nothing SHRILL [Piercing] in her style. Bold, yes, but with that lilting laugh of hers she managed to charm her audiences easily. We won’t discuss her pipes now. If I [Make a catty comment?] it will only be the feline sort. “MEOW!” Btw, the VENUE [Setting] for that event (the televised “Liza with a ‘Z'” concert) was the Lyceum Theatre.

Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LAT Dec 11

Theme: A Word followed 5D. [Synonymous with, with “for”] – ANOTHER WORD and so on. Commonly referred to as “themeless”.
Theme answers:
None. Please pay attention.

One line review for those in a hurry: Scrabbly fun for your Saturday.

Other stuff:
1A. [Psychiatrist’s recommendation] – PROZAC. Do they recommend or prescribe?
7A. [“Spanish Harlem” singer] – BEN E KING
15A. [NFL team named for a Poe poem] – RAVENS. Because naming a team after a bird would be silly.
18A. [Sitcom with a robot named Hymie] – GET SMART
24A. [__ face] – POKER
28A. [New York and Chicago have the oldest ones in the Americas] – ELS. Ernie’s great-great-great grandparents.
30A. [Dangerous inner city area] – CONCRETE JUNGLE/36A. [Munsee-speaking people] – DELAWARE INDIANS/38A. [Subject of Michael Crichton’s “Prey”] – NANOTECHNOLOGY. What an awesome middle. You could make a movie from this: In a world where DELAWARE INDIANS discover NANOTECHNOLOGY, and the forest has been paved with stone, CONCRETE JUNGLE emerges to save the day…
57A. [Weaken] – ENERVATE. So does unenervate mean strengthen? Sounds backwards.
6D. [Gary hrs.] – CST. Indiana.
7D. [Follower of everything?] – BAGEL. Toasted with butter, please.
12D. [“Wicked Game” singer Chris] – ISAAK
24D. [Repository of Greek mythology] – PANDORA’S BOX. Awesomeness in downs-ville.
31D. [She “sets my heart awhirl,” in a 4 Seasons hit] – CANDY GIRL
43D. [Greene of “Bonanza”] – LORNE
47D. [Mount __, New York’s highest peak] – MARCY.

Doug Peterson’s Newsday Saturday Stumper

nd101211joon here again. well, i had a much tougher time with this one than i did with paula’s NYT. let’s take a quick look at some of the clues and answers:

  • {World Wildlife Fund symbol} GIANT PANDA was my entry into the grid, but i couldn’t break the NW corner. i had URGE for PAGE, RAID for OMIT, and BEAT for DEAD. so this went nowhere. PODCASTING and AMEN CORNER are great answers for that stack, but i just couldn’t crack it until i came back with the rest of the grid done and everything other than GIANT PANDA torn out.
  • {NO PASSING ZONE shapes} are PENNANTS. easy enough, but i wonder if doug clued this one about baseball?
  • {Anti-fly ploy} is a SINKERBALL, and i saw through this one pretty quickly. the SE corner was the only place i didn’t have real trouble.
  • {”. . . one small step . . .” site} is TRANQUILITY BASE. i tried something like TRANQUILLAE MARE, which messed up my NE corner for a while.
  • {$1,000,000 bills, for example} are GAG GIFTS. nice answer; tough clue.
  • {Ford of Ford Models}? no clue. come on, EILEEN? who?
  • {Beach Boys’ second album} is SURFIN’ USA. unfortunately PET SOUNDS has the same number of letters! but once i got the F, the rest of it fell quickly, and the SE with it.
  • {Milton contemporary} is HENNY youngman, i think, contemporary of milton friedmann in the sense that both were popular in the 1950s. nasty trick here—i had DONNE, partly due to my TRANQUILLAE error.
  • {Attics, for instance} are GREEKS, and this didn’t trick me. also made the cross-referenced POLIS easy.
  • {Big name in links history} is a classic, frustrating-as-hell stumper clue for ANNIKA. basically this could be any six-letter name, first or last, of any famous golfer. i started with O’MEARA.
  • {Father of Charlemagne} is PEPIN the short. one of the few factual gimmes for me in this puzzle.

okay, that’s all for now. i don’t know for sure if somebody will be back later with the WSJ rows garden, but if it’s not blogged by, say, 3 pm eastern, feel free to discuss it in the comments anyway.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, “Rows Gardens”

okay, i’m back, but i couldn’t solve this puzzle. i’ve spent about half an hour on it and i’ve got the top and bottom and i’m missing large chunks of the middle. lots of old pop culture in this one that i have no idea about. i’ll come back to it at some point, but right now i’m missing:

  • {Watergate special prosecutor appointed after the dismissal of Archibald Cox (2 wds.)} is LEO something, i have no idea how long. it could be LEO___WOR_______, which would rule out LEOPOLD or LEONARD anyway.
  • {What “day letters” and “night letters” refer to}?
  • {Calm composure}. i want this to be APLOMB but i think it has to have 11 letters.
  • {Bandleader whose “William Tell Overture” featured horseracing commentary} … ugh. at some point i’ll plug in random bandleader names and see if i can get any blooms to agree, but i have no idea here.
  • {Prevented from going up, say}. 11 letters, 1 word.
  • {Measure of a business’s income and outgo (2 wds.)}, 8 letters. NET … something? GAINS?
  • {Late stand-up comedian who was a Pentecostal preacher earlier in his life (2 wds.)}, 10 letters. i think it’s S______SON. but that doesn’t help too much.

feel free to give away the answers in the comments. i won’t peek until i finish or give up for good.

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20 Responses to Saturday, 12/11/10

  1. Neville says:

    Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisi est… That lead to the only Certamen (Latin Quiz Bowl) answer I got right in my Senior year of high school. Happened to know it was the start of De Bello Gallico because we had been reading it all term in class. There weren’t many BUZZER-BEATERs that year. Thanks for bringing back that memory :)

    If you remembered Abraxas Malfoy without looking him up, then I am beyond impressed.

  2. janie says:

    close on the latin, but not quite. “all gaul is divided into three parts” is more like:

    gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres…

    he came! he saw! he conquered! read all about it!


  3. Gareth says:

    Seemed standard saturday difficulty to me. If I’d known ALEAJACTAEST would’ve made it a whole lot easier though… The JACTA/JOB intersection was my last letter. LUCREZIABORGIA is just a name to me, knew nothing about who she was. Once there were enough letters I got that, but spelled her with a T which didn’t help things! So neither of your two long gimmes were gimmes for me. ASTATINE was though – using similar reasoning.

    8 foreign language answers, three of them quite long is pushing it imo. Actually, my choice of vowel for EST?S wasn’t A oR O but E – that’s the politician dude then, right?

  4. Karen says:

    I started off fast in the top half (thanks to Lucrezia) but slowed down a lot in the bottom, due to my poor latin and chemistry, and I wanted sarong instead of SUNHAT. For me, easier than yesterday’s. Do you really east TACOs at a quinceanero? I thought that would have been more like cake.

  5. S.D. Price says:

    re: the {Stern article} EINE (who’s stern?) — “Stern” is a German magazine.

  6. Matt M. says:

    Here is a place where my knowledge did not overlap with joon’s. Like, at all. I’m not sure I’d ever heard of ASTATINE, I did not know the Caesar quote (so was completely lost where the J was supposed to go), I didn’t remember how to spell ABRAXAS, I’d never heard of the opera, and so forth. I found this one really hard, but I learned a lot…

  7. Neville says:

    Janie – I started looking it up online, and I see a bunch of variants on Caesar out there. Fortunately word order is irrelevant – though the omnia/omnis difference gives me pause. I like your omnis because IIRC it’s genitive, but I’ve forgotten the rest of the declension. Fortunately, I will not be tested on this anytime in the foreseeable future :)

  8. jk says:

    Milton Berle, joon.

  9. joon says:

    i know, just making a little joke. my point is that “contemporary” just means living at the same time or being roughly the same age, and indeed, milton friedman and henny youngman were contemporaries. so in some sense, the answer could have been the first name of anybody who was around in the 1940s and 50s. or really, any other time, since there are plenty of miltons.

  10. Zulema says:

    Janie is correct with OMNIS, but OMNIS is the nominative, not a declension. It goes with Gallia which is the subject, i.e. nominative. I believe the genitive singular is OMNE. Without all the foreign language, I would have floundered in (on?) this puzzle. Definitely easier than Fridays for me.

  11. Dan F says:

    NYT was going very fast for me before minor problems in the SW and major ones in the SE – never heard of TMAX or ASTATINE. Chalk up a “win” for joon! (And probably another one – couldn’t finish the Rows Garden without help.)

  12. Doug P. says:

    ALEA JACTA EST was a mystery to me, so that last J took forever. There was a lot of español (my best foreign language) in the grid, so I had plenty of footholds. Overall, I enjoyed it.

    @joon – Yes, ANNIKA had a terribly vague clue, but I liked the HENNY/Milton misdirection. I try to avoid first names in the Stumpers, because there’s a “no gimmes” rule, and you know that’s harder to do with first names.

  13. Al says:

    I found the NYT very tough. Didn’t know the latin at all and had never heard of ASTATINE. I didn’t post a time, because I got interrupted, but it was probably over 10. For me, Paula’s puzzle was about 2 minutes tougher than Doug’s Stumper which I really enjoyed. Rows Garden was fun as well.

  14. Ladel says:

    My grammar school was PS 40 in Manhattan, they taught us everything but.

    And would that I could toss out the cool Latin phrase to nail down an argument, but alas I can not.

    When I lived in Brooklyn my super used to tape messages inside the elevator to alert us to things. He always headed the message with NB, if he hadn’t done that I wouldn’t know any Latin at all.

    Today’s puzzle?, fahgedah boudit

  15. Meg says:

    Joon: In the WSJ puzzle, the “measure of a business’s income etc.” does not begin with NET. It starts with a C. Being older really helped a lot with this one. The bandleader was famous for all sorts of weird sound effects and funny voices. Not your Artie Shaw type. Watergate guy is LEON. Good luck.

  16. Dan F says:

    Joon, that’s about where I got stuck in the Rows Garden too – except I figured out the “night letters” one thanks to a musical-theater song.

    No gimmes, Doug? This one seemed to have more than usual: NED, ARN, PEPIN, NIN, EBAN, EILEEN, NATS, OREM with trivia clues helped me get footholds everywhere. (Not a complaint!)

  17. Howard B says:

    Tough bits scattered in the Times. If you knew CLEMENCY/CLEMENZA from the clue, then you (and those more familiar with opera) have a very big advantage over those of us that do not. That one just killed me. Had to come here for an explanation of it post-solve. (Opera knowledge and I do not mix well). ABRAXAS was total mystery #2 here – the clue reference didn’t open any letters up.

    Same brief confusion as you with JACTA/IACTA, and that final middle section was pretty hideous to end with. At least ASTATINE was a friendly element. Ah well, completed it, so that was nice. Good challenge!

  18. John Haber says:

    The quote from Caesar was a gimme and got me started, although I briefly misspelled it ALEA. By comparison, I needed most of the crossings for the other long down clue, sports jargon not in use when I was a kid and cared enough about sports. Still, it was the top half went unusually quickly for me. (And now I know what the Santana album refers to.)

    The bottom was much harder for me, even though I also knew ZEIT (more from “Being and Time” than from knowing much German). I didn’t recognize DCCA, TEX, or Tiger Balm (where I first thought a Tiger might be a baseball player and it was something like “mink oil” used to soften a mitt). I first tried “tusses” (another kind of scraps) instead of TOSSES and Tri-X (a b&w quality film some time back) instead of TMAX (unfamiliar to me). That meaning of MAUNDY and the sitcom character crossing it were also unfamiliar to me. But all worked out.

    On the fairness of CLEMENZA, I knew the opera but wasn’t sure whether to expect the English or Italian word, so left off the last two letters until enough crossings made the English seem unlikely. For those who don’t know the opera, I can think of it as fair on several counts. One is that, well, opera is often Italian. Another is that Tito might sound like an Italian name (maybe a mafioso even). Another is that, as it happens, unlike “The Marriage of Tito” this one is rarely referred to by its English title.

  19. Jeffrey says:

    D’oh. Sorry, joon, got caught on one of my own tricks.

  20. joon says:

    egads, finally finished the rows garden. so many utter unknowns! never heard of JAMOKE, SPIKE JONES, SHOO-FLY PIES (!?!). now spike JONZE i’ve heard of, and in fact that was the only thing that allowed me to correctly guess the three letters in common between SPIKE JONES and JAMOKE. SAM KINISON crossing terrence MALICK was also serendipity, as i don’t really know who either one is, but it looked like the best guess. whew.

    meg, thanks for your hints. once you gave me the N of LEON, i remembered JAWORSKI, which gave me IN JAIL, which gave me EQUILIBRIUM, and so on.

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