Saturday, 2/26/11

NYT 9:06 


Newsday 6:32 


LAT 6:05 


CS untimed 



 (Hex cryptic!)

Bob Peoples’ New York Times crossword

2/26/11 NY Times crossword solution 0226

Between the cough and the headache, I am in no mood to be charitable. I really didn’t care for this puzzle. It’s a 70-worder, so there should be leeway to avoid the worst sort of compromises, but I fear there were some of those. Tough puzzle, too—not many killer times on the applet at of 10:25 Eastern, but that’s because there are so few finishers (8!).

I will be charitable enough to post my answers before I do the full write-up, just in case somebody is ready to throw in the towel and just doesn’t want to spend any more time on this puzzle.

OK, grid posted. Back to the review.

I liked these things:

  • 17a. EAR CANDY. Not wild about the clue, [Light pop], which made me hanker for a Diet Coke and it’s too close to bedtime for caffeine.
  • 32a. MR. MISTER! “Take … these broken wings … And learn to fly again, learn to live so free …” Ah, yes. Horrible EAR CANDY. I was just thinking of that song this week when there was a Sporcle quiz about one-hit wonders. (Mr. Mister must have had a second hit, however implausible that may seem.)
  • 55a. MRS. MALAPROP, delightful answer. Totally didn’t see a malapropism in the clue, [“She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile” speaker]. Alligator?
  • 60a. OLD FLAME is nice.
  • 1d. I HEAR YA, yup.
  • 3d. CAR KEYS, great entry.

All manner of stuff made me cranky, though:

  • 1a. IT COUPLE—this isn’t ringing a bell. Do people refer to Brangelina as an “it couple”?
  • 18a. UNTAPE?
  • 20a. FALSE RETURN is feeling like one of those adjective+noun things to me, not a lexical chunk unto itself. Tax accountants will surely tell me I am off base here.
  • 28a. Don’t play that “same clue, two answers” game when the two answers are so disappointing. [Italian possessive adjective] SUA, I’ve never, ever seen. 33d: MIA, fine, that’s gettable. But SUA? Ick.
  • 29a. We know Gregor Samsa. He has a sister? Named GRETE? The only Grete I know is marathoner Grete Waitz.
  • 42a. WWII vehicles are blah fill unless you’re a fan of WWII military history or are a WWII veteran. AMTRAC really wishes it could be AMTRAK.
  • 47a. RENOS, short for “renovations”? Never saw that one in my life.
  • 52a. [Avifauna] wants to be BIRDS, but it goes even further down the scientific rabbit hole, to ORNIS.
  • 65a. I have never had an optician say TRY THESE. At Lenscrafters, the opticians are in the back room, working on lenses. The customer service folks up front may suggest different frames for you, though. Also? “TRY THESE” doesn’t feel like a crossword answer.
  • 13d. [Certain red ore] sounds funny with that “certain” in there. Are you thinking iron ores? Wrong! Try copper, in CUPRITE. Apparently it’s red.
  • 43d. [Melodic bit], TRA—tell me, singers, do you sing “TRA” or “tra-la-la” when you’re rehearsing or warming up your voice or singing actual lyrics, or is this an artifact of crosswords? I seriously want to know. If you do, then I won’t grumble at the TRAs so much.
  • 56d. [Chrysler Building architect William Van __] ALEN, perhaps better known among crossworders than architecture buffs? I never run into his name outside of crosswords. Is there an architect in the house? Do you learn this guy’s name?

That’s a lot of cranky-making business in one puzzle. The MR. (MISTER) and MRS. (MALAPROP) don’t make up for it all.

R.M. (Bob) Peoples’ Los Angeles Times crossword

2/26/11 LA Times crossword answers

Okay! We’re going with the same approach here as for the NYT. Another 70-worder, another batch of compromises I didn’t care for. At least this one wasn’t as challenging as the NYT—though it’s a good 40% tougher than the typical Saturday LAT puzzle.

First up, what I liked:

  • 15a. [“Great job!”] YOU DID IT! Somehow I associate this exclamation with potty-training.
  • 58a. An ATTACK AD is [Part of a smear campaign]. Rahm Emanuel didn’t have to run attack ads in his mayoral run. He had boatloads of campaign money and a commanding lead in the opinion polls. It was his race to lose—or win.
  • 61a. I think I like FROM HELL, or [Worst of the worst]. Can it stand alone, or does it lose its oomph without a noun before it?
  • 62a. [Some smart phones], like mine, are DROIDS. More modern clue than a robot/Artoo Detoo clue.
  • 63a. CANOODLE‘s a funny word. [Spoon] can mean “make out.”
  • 42d. [Eccentric], ODDBALL, weirdo.

And now, the bits that evoked the frowny face:

  • 17a. [Some mousses] ≠ HAIR GELS. Gels are clearish gels. Mousses are opaque foams. Never the twain shall meet.
  • 20a. [“__-Jin”: Clavell novel] clues GAI. Would be modestly better away from a hyphen, as in [Moo goo __ pan].
  • 4d. [E. Berlin’s land] was the GDR, or German Democratic Republic (the erstwhile East Germany). Pretty sure the oppressive Communists were winking when they put the word “Democratic” in the middle there.
  • 5d. [1997 Emmy winner for TV’s “Rebecca”] is RIGG. Diana Rigg? What the &#@* is “Rebecca”? Every year when I watch the Emmys, I fast-forward through the made-for-TV/cable movie parts.
  • 9d. [Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth] are LAKE POETS. I majored in English. I have never seen this term.
  • 13d. IN A STEW is in both Peoples puzzles today! And yet I have never once laid claim to being “in a stew.”
  • 21d. Tough fill. [Milano cathedral] clues DUOMO. What in English is called the Milan Cathedral is the Duomo de Milano in Italian. Not one of those Italian words most Americans know.
  • 25d. [Choice words] = “THAT ONE“? Eh.
  • 32d, 34d. Two plurals I don’t like. [Revealing numbers] clues CALLER IDS, and neither the clue nor the pluralization of the answer works for me. And [Edamame beans] aren’t SOYS, they’re soybeans.
  • 36d, 38d. The DOERS and the ASSURER are keeping busy with their tacked-on -ER endings. I might expect such fill in a 64-worder, but not a 70.
  • 49d. [Shaped like a megaphone] clues CONICAL. No, wait, too long. Must be CONIC. Nooo…it’s CONED. Believe it or not, this is in the dictionary, meaning “conical” as well as “having pine cones.” Who knew? The only thing I want CONED is ice cream.

Updated Saturday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Here’s Your Chance”—Janie’s review

We close the CS week with a pithy, pragmatic quote. It’s been divided up into three segments of theme fill; and there’s a fourth theme entry that names the speaker. The roll-up-your-sleeves-there’s-no-time-for-whinin’ message is:


The speaker?


Who? The can-do ship-builder and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Think Kaiser Shipyard, Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel, Kaiser Motors, Kaiser Permanente. Same guy. He never published a MEMOIR [Written recollection], but he certainly doesn’t sound like a man who would have advocated spending too much time in a RECLINER [La-Z-Boy product]. I suspect he’d have considered anyone who did a (metaphorical) DEAD DUCK [Goner]. An upstanding (perhaps PIOUS [Very devout]) man like that exudes moral certitude. You wouldn’t even think about stealing his HUBCAPS [Kin of wheel covers] because dollars to donuts you’d be in for a good DECKING [Knocking out].

Other fill in this grid that comes together nicely includes: the domestic LOAD [Laundry basketful] and RINSE [Part of a wash cycle]; the thermodynamic ON LOW [Simmering, perhaps] and the bumped-up-a-notch-or-three RED HOT [Sizzling]; and the rite-related WED [Get hooked] and not-quite-rite-related YOKED [Hitched in the field].

I’m off now. OK by you? Let’s see—I’ve got my permission and [“You’ve got my permission“], so “OK BY ME.”

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword answers 2/26/11 Saturday Stumper

Doug’s made my favorite themeless of the day. Highlights! There are many:

  • 1a, 15a. [“You snooze, you lose”] is a great clue; though “IT’S TOO LATE” is less zippy. Better are those [Words to a waverer], “NOW OR NEVER.”
  • 17a. Why go to Minnesota for your TWIN CITIES when you can visit Hungary? [Budapest, formerly] was the two towns Buda and Pest.
  • 25a. CUTESY is a great word. [Too coy] works as its clue. Did the clue make you expect an -EST ending?
  • 45a. A MAZE is indeed a [Pac-Man feature]. Fun clue.
  • 58a. Not crazy about the -ER ending instead of an -ING, but YO-YO DIETER is still solid—[One whose losses are temporary].
  • 5d. For [Conductor’s station], I was absolutely thinking about trains and not the ORCHESTRA PIT.
  • 9d. Wicked clue. [Souvenir with four holes] is a TEE as in t-shirt. Two arm holes, a neck hole, and that big opening in the bottom = four “holes.”
  • 22d. ISAAC MIZRAHI is [“The Fashion Show” host]. Somehow I always thought he changed the name from “Izrahim,” but apparently that’s not the case. (He comes from Egyptian Jewish roots.) Not to be confused with his fellow designer Arnold Scaasi, whose original name was Arnold Isaacs.
  • 27d. Another full name—TINA TURNER.

Tougher stuff:

  • 31a. [Out of true] clues ATILT. This isn’t one of the fun A-words like akimbo, amok, askance, and awry.
  • 3d. [Farr costar] is Loretta SWIT. Raise your hand if you went with ALDA first.
  • 10d. [Creator of Jeeter and Ellie May] is ERSKINE. That’s Erskine Caldwell, in his novel Tobacco Road. Just skimmed a plot summary. In this book, a 39-year-old woman plans to marry a 16-year-old boy. And there’s a man named Lov whose wife is his friend’s 12-year-old daughter (she runs away—good for her). There’s also talk of rat-eaten faces. Good lord! This is not a book I’ll be adding to my reading list any time soon.
  • 26d. [Jack-of-all-trades] clues UTILITY MAN. In what arena is “utility man” used?
  • 32dd. The GREGG shorthand system is the [System wherein “Gentlemen” looks like a “U”]. My mom would’ve gotten that in a trice. She used to write her Christmas shopping lists in shorthand so my sister and I couldn’t decipher them. It’s funny that the very next Down clue is [One of the Allman Brothers]. Well, GREGG is already in the grid so this one’s gotta be DUANE!
  • 44d. [Craps-table cover] is BAIZE, the same green felt you see on pool tables.
  • 54d. LAE is Amelia [Earhart’s last known landing spot]. One of those things I know only from crosswords, and from only two prior puzzles at that. It is now the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Picture This” variety cryptic

Did this one late last night and didn’t see all the thematic material in the grid until now. The vertical answers are Ups, not Downs, because a STRATOVOLCANO forms by pushing upward. Mount RAINIER is a stratovolcano. I don’t know that the bars you draw in to separate answers and mark their beginnings and ends make any sort of scientifically accurate picture.

Thematic bits:

  • 34a. TOP
  • 32a. SCALE
  • 31a. ANTICLINE
  • 21a. Is ENLIGHTENMENT thematic? Are you climbing Mt. Rainier to achieve enlightenment?
  • 4a. CRESTED…is that a mountaineering or geology word?
  • 9d. CRAG

Favorite clue:

  • 3-Up. [Cleopatra’s love: male or the opposite?] combines ANTONY + M to make an ANTONYM.

Clue I didn’t understand without checking a dictionary:

  • 29-Up. [Use your finger to hit Alexander’s father in the ear] clues FILLIP, which sounds like (“in the ear”) Philip. Apparently there’s an archaic meaning of FILLIP that relates to fingers: “a movement made by bending the last joint of a finger against the thumb and suddenly releasing it; a flick of the finger.” I hope I’m not alone in never having heard the flick meaning of FILLIP.
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32 Responses to Saturday, 2/26/11

  1. Missed the ORNIS/BIRLER crossing — knew the lumberjack term but misspelled it. Not that I would have joined the 8 finishers at 10:25 even with proper spelling…

  2. Neville says:

    I thought there were some fun entries in this puzzle – OLD FLAME, EAR CANDY, THINK BIG. Unfortunately, I was extremely put off by the cluing… I had a number of wrong answers along the way – too many for me to feel like it was fair – I think this may have been less of a constructor decision and more of an editorial one. Just wasn’t in the mood tonight, I guess.

    DOES for ROES, BOZOS & DODOS for YOYOS, KEN for RIC (obvi), COSMetology for ANATomy, BIRDS for ORNIS(?!?), TEETERS for TOTTERS… it goes on.

    I don’t recall any TRA-la-laing.

    Fortunately I have a small backlog of puzzles to work on to make me happy again tonight! :)

  3. Jeffrey says:

    Towel thrown with most of the bottom half of the puzzle blank, (or wrong, looking at your solution). Also a slog on the LA Times, also by Bob. I hope he doesn’t have an ACPT puzzle.

    Mr. Mister’s second hit was Kyrie.

    FALSE RETURN rang false to this tax accountant.

  4. VetDoctorJon says:

    Ugh…I share Neville’s frustration. Angrily erased DOES, BOZOS, KEN, COSM, BIRDS, and TEETERS. Too tired to battle through this one, so I threw in the towel with the bottom left still spotty. At least I felt better after cracking Matt Gaffney’s meta…

  5. Howard B says:

    My trouble spot was IT COUPLE (I had IN COUPLE). I have never heard this term, but then again, I don’t know any of the people on the Star magazine cover at the supermarket, so there you go ;). I did know CUPRITE which helped, but SUA was way, way out of my ken too. Tough nut to crack this Saturday,

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: Not a lot of sizzling answers (and I agree several iffy ones) in this puzzle, but many many great clues! Definitely a tough puzzle though. EARCANDY was indeed a great answer, as was its clue. MRMISTER has a dash of currency too, it’s referenced in that other dangerously catchy piece of earcandy: Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”. TEAROOM has a different meaning in South African English for some reason: a small shop offering basic goods and open ’til late. a dying breed, it should be noted!

    Bottom-left was my Waterloo: no-way in it seemed, until I made up GUNPORT to connect to BIG, which revealed MRSMALAPROP. ORNIS/ALEN/HENREID/EDWYNN/RENOS were the only DNKs, but still took ages to unravel (and I forgot OLSEN!!!) ORNIS bugs me – who uses this??? I managed to do Zoology 2 without needing it in my vocabulary! After getting to ???MANY I initially had TOO instead of NOT! Still don’t understand clue for ANAT.

    Ended with HENREIL/ELWYNN. Do not feel this is a fair cross for under-70s!

    LAT: Seemed like standard LAT difficulty, again done in by 1 cross though, in this case had GIRT/AVIENO. Enjoyed lots more of the answers: LAKEPOETS (I have high school English and am quite familiar with the term. Huh???) and LEGSIT plus the ones you already mentioned. Also the clue for CAMO is utterly FAB! AMESIOWA was one of those inscrutable answers, but once got all 8 crossers was a big “Oh!” The pair of -ER phrases and the CONED were inelegant, but overall liked this a lot more than the NYT!

  7. HH says:

    “Ended with HENREIL/ELWYNN. Do not feel this is a fair cross for under-70s!”

    Yes — If you’ve never seen “Casablanca”, I have nothing more to say to you.

  8. rick says:

    NYT: 13 minute in and I only had KEN burns and it was wrong.

  9. Matt says:

    I’ll be the outlier, I guess– I rather liked this one. A tough puzzle, I agree, and a couple of weak entries… but doable and entertaining, at least by my lights. Wouldn’t have gotten the intersection of BUB and BIRLER without the aid of Mr. Pencil, though.

  10. S.D. Price says:

    The malapropism was indeed “allegory” instead of “aligator.” Another of Mrs. M’s goodies is “…illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory” instead of “…obliterate….”

  11. Karen says:

    Once I hit my fifth or six google search, I gave up on the NYT puzzle and looked at Amy’s solution. In addition to the other tough spots noted above, I didn’t believe that SODDY would be a real word. I did like it’s neighbor PFFT a lot.

  12. Laura says:

    I recognized the term “lake poets” from high school English. I think it was the first time I’ve seen it since then, the 1960’s.

  13. Zulema says:

    I am glad it wasn’t just me. I feel much better about giving up and going to the LAT which is hard but has some very nice fill and clues that are not so abstruse. The cluing in the NYT was much too outré and I could say the same for a lot of the fill.

  14. Meem says:

    Thought some of the cluing was forced. I guess that anat for a class with many makeup exams is supposed to indicate that one studies the makeup of the human body in an anatomy class. And I have never heard anyone call redecorating a “reno.” Needed Google to finish this one.

  15. ePeterso2 says:

    Mrs. eP’s choirs warm up with do-re-mi-FA-so-LA-ti-do, but not so much with the TRA.

    I like the clue for FALSE RETURN. I think a FALSE RETURN is a thing that contains red flags, not itself a red flag.

  16. Martin says:

    Once the IRS determines your return was false, they’re going to audit you for years in the future. In other words, last year’s false return is this year’s red flag.

  17. Sara says:

    Speaking for architects: yeah, we learn Van ALEN, but just for the Chrysler Building. Can’t think of anything thing else he did.

    I liked the MR ands MRS pairing and appreciated the fact that a lot of the answers had to be pieced together. I had fun with it.

  18. pfeiring says:

    @Howard – Oddly enough “it couple” is used in tomorrow’s NY Times Magazine section in Deborah Solomon’s “Questions For. . .” column. I got TEAROOM first so wasn’t thrown off.

  19. Jeffrey says:

    And I nailed the Stumper in under 10 minutes. Enjoy Backward Day, everybody!

  20. Dan F says:

    I’ll field the UTILITY MAN question: it’s a baseball term for a substitute who can play a bunch of different positions.

    Didn’t hate the NYT puzzle, but the [Documentarian Burns] trick was just mean… then again, KEN would not be a Saturday answer. Between that and having BRO for BUB (not remembering the “Bro” in the 1D clue), I had a heckuva time getting into the SE, and was even doubting LAH-di-dah…

  21. Howard B says:

    @pfeiring – Thanks. I think that answer will be one that now that I’m aware of, I will see everywhere from here on :).

  22. Ladel says:

    Whether on paper or electronic a return is never classified as “false,” it may be fraudulently prepared and hence lead to unpleasant consequences, but once filed it is real. A fraudulent return will usually mean that subsequent years will get more than the usual computer attention.

  23. joon says:

    i’m not an architect, but the chrysler building is pretty famous. one of the earliest skyscrapers, and briefly the world’s tallest building until the empire state building was constructed only a year later. anyway, the building is much more famous than the architect, but it’s so iconic that i think van ALEN has currency, even as a “one-hit wonder.” that said, ALEN is still pretty lousy as fill. VAN ALEN would be better.

    LAKE POETS is totally legit, although i waded right in with ROMANTICS (same number of letters).

    i agree that both peoples puzzles were more frustrating than fun today. luckily doug’s stumper and the hex cryptic made up for it. i’m currently working my way through section 3 of PB’s adventures in puzzling, “climbing the charts,” so that one felt very apropos.

  24. karen says:

    LAT: “Rebecca” is a novel by Daphne du Maurier (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again….”) and an Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.

  25. arthur118 says:

    Many moons ago, in my college days, my English Dept. Faculty Adviser was a charming lady, little in stature but big in mind, by name of Dr. Murphy, whose area of concentration was “minor Lake Poets”. Seeing the entry brought back fond memories of a favorite person.

  26. John Haber says:

    This was iffy for me, too. So much that I didn’t know or didn’t feel quite right. I was hoping someone would post who SPENSER is, but I just found it by Googling. I hadn’t heard of so much, such as EAR CANDY, AMTRAC, and OMNIS (or even, to my surprise, a hit from back in 1985). I had COSM, too, since I have trouble otherwise thinking of what makes “makeup” all that really specific to anatomy. I think of a “red flag” as a signal to look for something wrong, whereas a FALSE RETURN is instead what’s wrong, and you’d need more than a red flag to know it’s false.

    I thought I’d completed it anyway, but I guessed wrong between “bud” and BUB, not knowing DIRLER. (The Chrysler building is such a landmark you’d think we’d all know who the architect was, but I didn’t either, and I’m sure I’ve looked it up no end of times.)

  27. sbmanion says:

    Count me among the few that thought this puzzle was brilliant. My idea of brilliance is anything that challenges me to the limit, which this one did. THINK BIG finally broke it open after GO ALL OUT held me back as did KEN.


  28. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m getting verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. The German Democratic Republic was neither German nor democratic nor a republic. Discuss.

    Okay. Found it immensely helpful that the clue for POOL in the CrosSynergy puzzle was [Game played on green baize, usually]. Never heard of baize before, but then got BAIZE with just one crossing in the Newsday [Craps table cover]. Talk about your cross-synergy.

  29. Jan says:

    LAT – A tough one for me, but I did it without Googling. In only 5 hours! 1A threw me off since BARBECUE fit right in – was that intentional? CALLERID took me forever but I like the clue.

    Can someone explain 19A? I guess EST stands for “estimate” but wouldn’t that be a request TO the insurer? The insuree’s request?

  30. Greg says:

    I thought the NYT was tough but basically fair. Van Alen may be famous only for the Chrysler Building, but it was an impressive achievement. Also, “filing a false return” is a fairly common locution. I guessed “Bud” for “Bub,” and that led me into the wilderness with “dirling,” instead of “birling.” Oh, well…

  31. Tuning Spork says:

    Jan, an auto insurer, for example, would request an estimate from the insuree of repair damages.

  32. Jan says:

    Ah, of course. I was thinking about estimates for insurance policy premiums, having just made lots of calls like that. Thanks!

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