Saturday, 4/23/11

Newsday 6:15 


NYT 4:49 


LAT 4:35 


CS 7:11 (Sam) 



Hex cryptic PDF

Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword

4/23/11 NYT crossword answers 0423

Wait, what? Another Friday puzzle, but on Saturday? Huh. Unusual-looking grid, with the stacked pairs of 15s framed by top and bottom rows with two black squares in the middle, and various 8- and 9-letter answers branching through the grid.

The 15s include PROXIMA CENTAURI, “DON’T MOVE A MUSCLE,” “IT’S NEVER TOO LATE” (I’m a procrastinator, and nobody ever tells me that), and STOCKING STUFFER—all great entries.
Other highlights:

  • 7a. A DUST MOP is indeed a [Dry cleaner], but not in the usual sense of “dry cleaner.”
  • 20a. May 2011 movie blockbuster-to-be THOR brings the pop-culture relevance. It’s the [2011 title role for Chris Hemsworth].
  • 34a. Scrabbly KIBBITZ, often spelt kibitz. Not to be confused with kibbutz, which is likely the reason people end up putting the second B in KIBBITZ.
  • 42a. OUT BOXES—I don’t have any. Maybe if I had an out box, I’d get things finished, just to move them into that out box.
  • 2d. Yes, many an insect has a PROBOSCIS, or feeding mouthpart. The proboscis monkey just has a giant, goofy nose.
  • 3d. HONEST ABE, I know. [President after Ten-Cent Jimmy] just made me wonder who called Jimmy Carter that. Er, James Buchanan, not Jimmy Carter. Dang, Rutherford Hayes had some insulting nicknames.
  • 31d. H.P. LOVECRAFT, cool answer. I never have read anything by him.
  • 35d. ZOOM LENS, great entry.
  • 40d. Olympic event, ends with G, gotta be ***ING, right? Wrong! This tied me up for a bit. It’s the SUPER G ski event.

Four stars from me. Not wild about much of the short fill.

Michael Wiesenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/23/11 LA Times crossword solution

It was only after I finished the puzzle that I noticed the Notepad icon winking at me. “Can you spot the unusual feature in this puzzle’s clues and answers?” I hadn’t been cognizant of it while solving, but whaddaya know, there’s not a single E in the grid or in the clues. That goes a long way toward explaining the presence of the NOT SO HOT (32a: [Just okay]) fill like OSTIA, OPA, INNIS, IRANIS, and ISCHIA.

There’s still room in the grid for some highlights despite the rigors of filling a grid without the most common vowel:

  • 1a. A PUSSYCAT is [Hardly an intimidating soul].
  • 17a. A PIANO BAR is one [Spot to savor old standards].
  • 41a. A [Tough task] is NO PICNIC.
  • 61a. A [Short approach, in golf] in a CHIP SHOT.
  • 13d. GLADIOLI are [Plants with spiky blooms].

My favorite clue:

  • 67a. ASHTRAYS are [Butt loci]. Ha!

The no-E policy makes for some tortured, Byzantine clues:

  • 54a. [Soothing hot drink also known as Lucky Dragon] is HYSON tea.
  • 48d. ISCHIA is a [Volcanic Italian island known for its spas]. Say what? Uncapitalized ischia are your butt bones, the pelvic bones you sit on.
  • 56d. SSTS were [Quondam JFK arrivals]. Quondam means “former, erstwhile, one-time,” but is spelled without an E.

Five more clues:

  • 19a. [Sch. north of Gulfport] clues USM, the University of Southern Mississippi. Famous alumni include Brett Favre and Jimmy Buffett.
  • 28a. [Civil rights activist Roy] INNIS doesn’t have the  political profile you’d expect.
  • 40a. [Auckland yam] clues OCA.
  • 11d. [Sports no-nos, informally] are ‘ROIDS.
  • 24d. Can’t use the word wine or sherry with their E’s, so FINO is clued as a [Dry Spanish libation].

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, cryptic crossword “Piggy Bank”

Cute conceit, rather well executed. The unmarked theme answers have a coin—CENT, NICKEL, DIME, or QUARTER—subtracted before they’re entered in the grid, often but not always leaving an actual word. Add up all the coins you’ve collected, and they total ONE DOLLAR, the answer that fits in the shaded squares in the middle fo the grid.

Entries with money:

  • 13a. {CENT}RIPETAL: anag. of NICE PLATTER
  • 14a. {NICKEL}ODEON: NICK + EL + ODE + ON
  • 30a. RU{DIME}NTARY: anag. of RED ARMY UNIT
  • 8d. {QUARTER}LIES: anag. of SQUIRREL ATE
  • 10d. SE{DIME}NT: anag. of MEN’S DIET
  • 28d. PLA{CENT}A: anag. of CAN PLEAT

That’s 5 pennies, one nickel, four dimes, and two quarters, totalling ONE DOLLAR.

I had to check a dictionary for the dinosaurs called DIMETRODONS. This is no T. rex, triceratops, brontosaurus, stegosaurus, pterodactyl, or brachiosaur. Did you learn about the dimetrodon in childhood?

Four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Special Guess”—Sam Donaldson’s review

You know what happens when I assume? I make an ass out of, well, just me. And that’s precisely what I did here on this Patrick Blindauer crossword–I read the puzzle’s title, “Special Guess,” as “Special Guests” (that’s with a “t” in the second word, in case you missed it too). That inattentive reading on my part sucked up more time than I’d like to admit, as I kept thinking throughout, “where’s the special guest?” and “I see parts of ‘guest’ here but never the whole word–what am I missing?”

What I missed, this time at least, was a little attention to detail. In fact, the puzzle’s theme is revealed at 63-Down, clued [Guess, in brief (and what’s been added to this puzzle’s longest answers)]. That would be EST, short for “estimate,” and indeed the E-S-T sequence has been inserted into four common phrases, with hijinks appropriately ensuing:

  • 17-Across: The [Place with no decorations?] is the BAREST ROOM (from “bar room,” a favorite spot for brawls).  See?  Nothing too fancy at all.  And yet it eluded me like Waldo on the lam.
  • 32-Across: The [Show about some demure cheerleaders?] is THE MODEST SQUAD, from the TV series, “The Mod Squad.” Around this point in the puzzle I started to see the link (or is that Linc?) to the theme.
  • 39-Across: The [Question during a “Survivor” eating challenge?] is CAN YOU DIGEST IT? This is a fun theme entry, playing on “can you dig it?”  On a related note, hasn’t it been some time since there was an eating challenge on “Survivor?”  It seems like it’s all about solving puzzles and balancing on thin precipices these days (and hey, I’m all for the puzzle part!).
  • 61-Across: The [Most adorable girl in Glasgow?] would be my girlfriend, were she in Glasgow.  She’s not, though, so instead the answer is the CUTEST LASS, from “cutlass.” Until writing this post, I only knew a Cutlass as an Oldsmobile model. Turns out the lower-case version is a short, heavy sword.

The two central theme entries steal the show and make this puzzle a winner in my book. To top it off, we’ve got 12 seven-letter entries in the grid and the assortment of goodies we come to expect in a Blindauer puzzle.  Sure, there’s a WARPATH, the [Road to conflict], but close by there’s TOOTLES, clued [Plays the flute]. There’s ANARCHY next to the CO-STARS, with ENYA‘s MOOLAH not far away. Then there’s the small parade of multiple-word entries (for which I am eternal fan) highlighted by DOES SO, SAW IN, TELLS ON, and AS AM I.

It did occur to me during the solve that there were a lot of abbreviations. I don’t mind them so much, so I usually don’t notice when there are more than a couple in any one 15×15 grid. But here we had STDS (clued, alas, as [Benchmarks (abbr.)] and not [Playa’s concerns (abbr.)]), SQFT, APR, ORU, SRO, ADA, and SYST.  If you want to get technical, I suppose we must also include IMF and TBS, even though I think these last ones are a little different in that most generally refer to them by their abbreviations and not by their full names.  We say “square feet” “system,” “standing room only,” and even “the American Dental Association” not infrequently, but no one ever says “The Braves game is on Turner Broadcasting System.” But technically these are abbreviations too. Did it bother you to any extent?

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution 4/23/11

Smooth puzzle, tougher than the NYT crossword but not too gnarly. Four stars.

Let’s stroll through the grid:

  • 1a. I went with IMPART for [Bear upon] because of my distaste for IMPACT as a verb outside of the realm of physiology (impacted wisdom teeth, e.g.).
  • 14a. [They may be carried or passed] clues TORCHES. Nice one.
  • 17a. [Raves] are CRITICAL ACCLAIM. How many 15-letter entries do we see that have no E or S?
  • 21a. [Viking strikes] have nothing to do with the Mars lander or medieval Norse explorers. NFL quarterbacks strike the receiver with TDS.
  • 35a. MUDSTONE is a [Rock that’s easily eroded]. If you’re like me and you know nothing about mudstone, read up.
  • 41a. TRINIDAD is a [Columbus landfall of 1498]. And now I’m thinking of the Fannie May chocolates called Trinidads. Chocolate cream inside a coconutty candy shell. Maybe the Easter Bunny needs to pick up a box of Fannie Mays today.
  • 43d. KP DUTY doesn’t exist as military punishment anymore, right? The mess halls are mostly staffed by civilians? Clue is [Assignment for 52 Down], which is PFCS, or [Specialists’ underlings: Abbr.].
  • 55a. [Miller’s leftovers] are BRANS. Does bran get pluralized much?
  • 60a. FROZEN DAIQUIRIS are [Slushy stuff]. I’m a margarita person, and on the rocks, not frozen.
  • 64a. Is this football? [Referee’s ruling], NO CATCH?
  • 65a. [Bravado] is SWAGGER. Just read yesterday that constructor Eric Berlin’s preferred Old Spice deodorant is now labeled “Swagger.” Is that a brand name any of you would want to buy?
  • 66a. The MERSEY is a [River to Liverpool Bay]. I have taken a ferry ‘cross the Mersey, and it was cold and windy.
  • 5d. [Boxers, by birth] clues CHINESE. As in the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxers were a fiercely nationalistic secret society, and “Boxer” is a translation of their Chinese name, meaning “righteous harmony fists.” How many of you would use Righteous Harmony Fists Deodorant?
  • 7d. FLAKE OUT is a great colloquialism, meaning [Fail to follow through].
  • 18d. “LADY MADONNA” was the [Last pre-Apple Beatles tune].
  • 25d. CACTI are the [Source of dragon fruit].
  • 39d. LABRADOR, part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, is [Home for some Inuit]. Did you know: Labrador is much bigger than Newfoundland but has a sparse population of about 26,000 (1 person per 4 square miles).
  • 51d. Favorite clue: [Man on a mission] is a FRIAR.
  • 59d. ASHY is clued by way of [Wheyfaced]. Wow. No matter how pale from shock, fear, or illness I might get, I would not want to be called whey-faced.
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22 Responses to Saturday, 4/23/11

  1. ktd says:

    Having only the bottom center left to fill in the NYT, I couldn’t parse ZO_____NS or S___RG. D’oh!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Lots of twisty stuff in the NYT, especially COG clued as Peon and the TWIST adding to “diving difficulty” — I kept thinking of deep-sea diving with reefs and depth and finally even kinks in my air line, until I saw it could be a twist in the air above water leading to a higher score in judging! Whew. CELIAC wanted to be Pelvic, and I don’t know what else. Still haven’t looked up AMPAS or OTT, just glad I was done before hittiing a DEAD STOP!

  3. joon says:

    i thought the short fill was fine. one partial, a handful of abbreviations, nothing too terrible. i guess there’s NLER, but this was pretty excellent. i’m not generally a fan of stacking 15s, but if you’re going to stack 15s, they should all be this awesome. i also liked the four crossing 9s, although ONE-SUITER to me is a bridge term, not a piece of luggage.

  4. Erik says:

    Could not detect the LA Times peculiarity, and strangely enough, all my errors were E’s. I had Roy ENNIS, GLADEOLI, and ISCHEA. Even for a pangram this seemed awfully clunky, especially compared to the recent 8-letter Gaffney (E was not one of the eight).

  5. Plot says:

    I solved the LAT before the NYT, so any crosswordese in the NYT short fill wasn’t that big of a deal compared to the Maleskan short fill needed to fit the LAT gimmick. I had some trouble with the words Amy mentioned, as well as FINO (really wanted Vino) and ACA (wanted esa). It would have been okay if the 3x8s were more interesting, but none of the long entries really jumped out at me. The gimmick alone wasn’t worth it.

    So yeah, the NYT was very smooth, especially relative to the other themeless. It took me an embarrassing long time to get PROBOSCIS though, considering I’ve been staring at many an insect proboscis over the past couple months. Also had trouble with SuperG; I had just the ‘erg’ filled in so I tried to think of Swedish olympians’ last names instead of actual olympic events. This makes even less sense because I don’t really know the names of any Swedish olympians (unless they’re also in the NHL).

  6. Don Byas says:

    NYT was too easy, luckily I just bought a heavily blurbed book with 106 Hard puzzles. Proboscis monkey picture – awesome!

    How to pronounce Cthulhu:
    Lovecraft maven on UK Quiz show Mastermind

  7. HEXfan says:

    Thought the HEX beasts were TRODIMERONS !

  8. Gareth says:

    NYT: That was easy for a Friday! Faster than this Thursday! My fastest Sat by 17 seconds in fact! Really liked the top two 15s and the bottom two are just dandy too! Never heard of a ONESUITER, but appeared easily with crossings. One HTG (Had To Guess): AMPAS/SUPERG but what else could it have been? Also not sure what short fill you’re pointing at: all I can see is AMPAS, YETTO and ENSOR. OK, NLER, YOS and ORLON, too, but that’s not a lot and nothing really out of the ordinary either. Just wish the clues had been such that it put up more resistance!

    @Don: Love that show… Can remember that lady!

  9. Matt says:

    I had a typical Saturday time for the NYT, due to difficulty in getting a foothold. So, e.g., with two entries for ‘Modern music genre’, I could guess that one of them was EMO, but which one? And what was the other? Also blocked on LOVECRAFT, who I have read and should have remembered. But once started, I found that filling in the blanks was pretty fast– which probably accounts for everyone else’s speed…

  10. Duke says:

    Thor hasn’t even opened yet and has anyone heard of this actor? I got stuck with Tron for awhile. Not too happy with Yos either. Otherwise fun.

  11. maureen says:

    Can not get the Saturday CS – can you send me a copy or point to where I can find it? THE WP site is not working.

  12. animalheart says:

    What, no praise for SRO as a sign that could mean “Good play!”? I thought that was pretty clever.

  13. Jeff says:

    I have to admit: for a long time I had OUTHOUSE written as the answer to “Temporary storage for completed work.” I assumed it was a subtle dirty joke.

  14. janie says:

    maureen — here’s a link to today’s cs. you’ll also need to download “puzzle solver” as the cs puzzle now appears in .jpz format. patrick’s puzzle today is an especially good one, so do make this your inaugural!


  15. janie says:

    maureen — you’ll find the puzzle at the island of lost puzzles. as it’s in .jpz format, you’ll also need to download (the free) “puzzle solver” software.

    patrick’s puzzle is terrific and should make a great inaugural for you!


  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @maureen: Head to the forum—

    —to get the CS puzzle in .jpz format, solvable/printable via Puzzle Solver. This is the first weekend that the Washington Post is .puz-free, and they’ve got some technical bugs to work out yet.

  17. Martin says:

    The LAT Notepad spoiled the theme, literally.

    I’d have preferred:
    “Can you spot an unusual quality in this crossword?”

    No spoilage and less spoilage.

  18. Mick Brown says:

    No issues with UPHERE crossing UPDOS?

  19. John Haber says:

    For a while I had “planets” instead of PISTONS for the association with rings, and I enjoyed finding that I was wrong. A lot of the other stuff just didn’t do it for me, though. Chris Hernsworth, STU, Joe GIBBS, ANVIL as specifically rural, NLER, AMPAS, SUPER G (totally new to me), Cthulhu, and more. For me the dead S center was the hardest, and I never could decide on AMPA_ and GIBB_.

  20. Art Shapiro says:

    Started out scary-slow, with Lovecraft about the only gimme. Then it flew into place. I always thought it was Probiscus – learned something today. The Sonoma clue was brilliant!


  21. Meem says:

    Super G with no crosses. Probably because one of my kids is a team doc for the US Olympic ski team. But pinkies before pistons for things with rings. Made me laugh when it all came together.

  22. Howard B says:

    Re: Newsday – NO CATCH is an unofficial football term for a referee’s judgement call that a pass was not legally caught, resulting in an incompletion. I don’t think, as far as I know, that it’s in the rule book (that would be “incomplete”), but it’s a common description of such a call, also used by commentators. Also seen in the wild hyphenated, as “no-catch”.

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