In the morning, I’ll be off to my first puzzle hunt! I hear DASH 3 is not as tough as some other puzzle hunts, and you know what? That is fine by me. I’m not keen on partaking of the sort of puzzle hunt that requires people to stay up all night being clever. The DASH site says, “Typical teams should expect to take from 5-8 hours to complete the entire hunt, but expert teams typically finish in 2-3 hours.” Holy mackerel, I don’t know where my team, Honorary Waddle, will fall in that spectrum. Marty Howard and his puzzling offspring (Rachel, Alison, and Philip) and I comprise a team that I hope will verge toward the expert level but who knows? At least the weather’s not supposed to be rainy or cold (but windy ≠ good for working on paper puzzles).
Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword
Didn’t we just see NOT SO HOT and SPRUCE UP in other puzzles over the past week? It’s as if the constructors are casting aspersions about our degree of tidiness. Who tipped them off about the STIES?
Highlights in this 72-worder:
- I like literary corner. 48a: ZANE GREY is a [Western master] who wrote lots of Westerns; my grandma liked to read them. 66a: EM’LY is from Dickens, right? 34d and 40d dish out two genres, the crossword< (well, I guess that’s not a genre per se) and SPY STORY.
- 5a. A karate DOJO is clued as a [Chopping center?].
- 15a, 16a. [Bit of avian anatomy] pulls double duty: QUILL and BILL. I kinda wanted a craw and a gullet.
- 24a, 19a. “AFRAID SO, folks.” “What? No! I DOUBT IT. I really don’t think that’s the case.”
- 50a. European river geography is a staple of crosswords, but usually without a hint of cleverness. [Inn’s end] wants you to remember that Innsbruck means “the river Inn’s bridge” and that the Inn is a river in Austria, so you can find your way to the DANUBE.
- 58a. HAVE IT MADE is a great verb phrase.
- 1d. JUBILANT is a lovely word.
- 3d. [Soap ingredient?] gets a question mark to point you towards soap operas and their MELODRAMA. My favorite clue.
Anything bogus in this puzzle? Not really. A few abbrevs, a few mostly-in-crosswords names (ILER, ELIA), the oddball USEE (13a: [One for whose benefit a legal suit is brought]), but no crossings that brought me to a screeching halt.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I don’t much follow baseball, but I do follow Barry Silk’s crosswords so I figured 9d: [2006 N.L. MVP] would be a player for the Phillies, Barry’s favorite team. Yes, RYAN HOWARD plays first base for them. No, the clue didn’t help me much. A gazillion crossings plus “I’ve seen that name before” did the trick.
Overall, the puzzle felt a notch or two harder than the usual Saturday LAT.
- 1a. Great trivia: [Michael Jordan began college as one] clues MATH MAJOR. I had planned to major in math myself, but then I hit calculus in 12th grade and reconsidered.
- 24a. “I HOPE NOT.” Ties to the response at 46d: “Don’t worry, IT ISN’T.”
- 29d. RICE WINE is an [Eastern quaff that’s typically 18-25% alcohol]? Do people drink that stuff straight?
- 58d. Partial RIN is old-school crosswordese, whereas the full name of RIN TIN TIN is better. Better yet: the clue, [Shepherd of old radio], meaning a German shepherd.
- 60a. Took me a while to figure out [Where three’s a crowd]: in a two-person TETE-A-TETE.
- 26d. ACT THE PART, great verb phrase. I’ll bet some people went with ACT YOUR (or ONE’S) AGE.
- 33d. The MGM GRAND has five consonants in a row.
- 41d. [Certain how-to book targets?] are IDIOTS. Dummies are your other choice here, but one letter too long.
I like the fill in this 68-worder a little bit less than the NYT’s, but there’s not enough difference to knock this one below four stars.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Spell Weaving”
While this puzzle has just 42 clues, every one of them pretty straightforward, it still took me longer than either of the themelesses with about 70 clues apiece. All the answers are “checked” by intersecting answers, but I think it’s harder to look for upward- or leftward-traveling crossers. I’m a glutton for cruciverbal punishment, though, so I wish the clues had been tricker so the puzzle would have taken me lots longer. Four stars.
There are a couple other variety puzzles to point you towards this week. There’s the NYT’s second Sunday puzzle, “Split Decisions” by George Bredehorn (PDF here). Doable, some tough spots, no obscure words to get on your nerves. Didn’t time myself doing the puzzle this evening.
Even if you turn your nose up at regular word searches as too easy, you may struggle with Trip Payne‘s variety word search, “Puzzle 4 U” (PDF here). The 7×7 matrix in the middle of the grid is blank, and you have to figure out what letters go there to complete the answers that cross the blank spots. The letters you add spell out something thematic, as do the unused letters throughout the grid. Note: The word ENEMA is lurking in the grid but isn’t part of the word list so you can pretend you didn’t see it.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “I’ve Got the Blues” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Ross has the blues alright, as he pairs up various shades of the color to form four (more or less) common expressions. Whaddya say we celebrate the theme with a little quiz called “Name That Blue Shade:” the eight shades of blue used in the theme entries are pictured in this post–can you correctly identify all eight? Here are the theme entries:>
- 20-Across: [Winston Churchill’s “so few”] is the ROYAL AIR FORCE, so that means we have both “royal blue” and “Air Force blue” here. The clue is a reference to Chruchill’s famous remark that “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
- 33-Across: The [Nursery application] is BABY POWDER, so you’ll see both “baby blue” and “powder blue” (or will you?).
- 41-Across: The [Fighting force on la mer] is the FRENCH NAVY. That means one of these is “French blue” and one is “navy blue.” As a theme entry, FRENCH NAVY feels a little contrived. It’s not like we all read about the French Navy in our western civilization textbooks. (Unless we did, in which case, then, I was sick that day.)
- 50-Across: The [Edison invention] is ELECTRIC LIGHT, meaning one of these pictures shows “electric blue” (not to be confused with “Electric Youth“) and “light blue.” True story: at age 8, my family moved from the big city (Portland, Oregon) to a farm outside of a small town of 3,000. To help me make the adjustment, my parents let me choose the paint color for my room. My choice was formally labelled “George Washington Blue,” but today I’m pretty sure it’s known as electric blue. In ten years there, I never wanted to change the color, and I still like it.
At first I didn’t much care for the theme entries, but that was because I thought only one half of each phrase related to the color blue. When I discovered that both halves of each phrase were shades of blue, I instantly became a lot more forgiving. Yeah, no one calls it ELECTRIC LIGHT (except for maybe a certain Orchestra of the 1970s), but in this particular theme I’m willing to roll with it. Color me impressed!
Hmm, if I’m going to fit in all of these blue shades, I need to add some comments on the fill and clues:
- [Stately splendor] is POMP. *Sigh* Another William and Kate reference in our crosswords.
- The [Presidential daughter or New York neighborhood] is CHELSEA. And at the Chelsea Market in Chelsea, there’s a wonderful little cheese shop called “Lucy’s Whey.” The next time you’re there, be sure to order some Manchester cheese from Vermont’s Consider Bardwell Farm. Best. Cheese. Ever. Get a half pound and ask them to break it down into two quarter-pound packages. Keep one package for your own consumption and send the other one to me.
- I hit the southeast corner early, so I was sure that the [Civil War side] would be BLUE. I was getting ready to write a long complaint about repeating a title word in the grid. Then, to my delight, I found the answer to be GRAY. I like that the Blue’s nemesis sneaks into the grid.
- Anyone else notice how PLAYBOY, the [Magazine with a centerfold] sits next to the AARP, the [Org. for seniors]? Anyone else like that a lot?
- The [Start of a valentine] is I LOVE. The end of the valentine is CHOCOLATE, SO I HOPE YOU GOT ME SOME.
Okay, that’s enough. Look for the answers to Name That Blue Shade (plus a review of May’s first puzzle) in tomorrow’s post!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name “Anna Stiga”)
I’ve got to DASH this morning, so a quick write-up.
Four weirdest answers:
- 60a. PLUMING, clued as [Priding (oneself)]. Have never seen this usage before. Dictionary example: “She plumed herself on being cosmopolitan.” Related to archaic bird-related term, “plume oneself” for “preen.”
- 8d. [Delete] clues BLANK OUT, as in to delete what you’ve got and replace it with blanks. I prefer the “forget” meaning of the phrase.
- 33a. MUCH LESS looks so weird by itself in the grid, doesn’t it? One word, “muchless.” “I’m flat broke this week, totally muchless.” [Not to mention] captures it well enough, and I don’t consider the answer at all bothersome, MUCH LESS inappropriate for a crossword. It just looks funny to me smashed together.
- 1a. SAGINAW is a [Bay City neighbor] in Michigan. Bay City population, 39,000. Wha…? If you’re like me, the clue put you in mind of the Bay City Rollers’ “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night” from the ’70s. Holy schnikes, did you know where they got their name? Wikipedia says: “Bassist Alan Longmuir, his younger brother Derek Longmuir, a drummer, along with schoolfriend, lead singer Gordon “Nobby” Clarkfounded the group in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1966, as The Saxons. Shortly afterwards, they chose a new name found at random by throwing a dart at a map of the United States. It landed near the community of Bay City, Michigan.” If only they had gone with the Saginaw Rollers.
- 8d. [New grandparents, probably] are baby BOOMERS. Well, except for the ones who were teen parents themselves and whose offspring are reproducing young. Gen-Xers can be grandparents too.
- 50d. [Hail of a sort] clues “AHOY!”—which a sailor may shout to hail you. Byron Walden once clued AHOY as [Salty hail?]. When you see “hail” in a clue, think AHOY rather than ICE PELLETS FALLING FROM THE SKY.
- 62a. EL NORTE, “the North,” is clued as [USA, to Salvadorans]. I recommend the ’80s film by that name, El Norte.
- 36d. TRAIPSED is a lovely word. It’s got a certain panache to it. [Wandered] doesn’t exactly capture my usual sense of the word, but it works.
- 44d. Another lovely word is MELANGE, or [Mixed bag].
Got the Z and the N in ZANE GREY fairly early as I built out from the center first, but I was wondering how ZEN had anything to do with a [Western master]. And once I discovered it started ZAN, I was completely perplexed for awhile. That was my favorite clue and answer here.
If not for Michael OVITZ, I’d probably still be solving the puzzle. It was hard to get even a toehold on this one…though I hadn’t seen SPRUCE UP and NOT SO HOT earlier this week.
Re 26-Down. If the answer’s what I think it is, I’m not sure Alan Cumming has been knighted (yet) … google finds some news reports that he became a Sir in 2009, but that’s the year he was awarded the OBE … not quite a knighthood?
Brent, hah! I had the “G” fairly early and was wondering the same about “GURU.”
Working Healy’s NYT late in the night, I found it relatively smooth sailing — except for the NE! I was too enamored of Stetson Hat for 17A, which fit nicely with correct OST at 8D and also incorrect Sates for Gorges at 12D rather than GLENS! Not knowing BREE or ENOS, I floundered there for quite a while until it finally got straghtened out from ROOD and OVIS on up through BUCKAROO, QUAVER and QUILL! What a beauty… and how did I forget OLLIE, whose human pal Fran was a cousin of my piano teacher?
Barry Silk’s LAT was a breeze by comparison, and by then (oddly) I was listening to a Norwegian Rhapsody of composer Johan Halvorsen who was GRIEG’s little-known son-in-law!
A challenging, worthy NY Times entry. Also a tough LA Times entry, a little heavy on the baseball from a fan, but still good.
I really did not like the Newsday, honestly. The answers cited here were nice, but from the BAITERS and PLUMING-type words to GERE for ‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar villain’ and TOTO TOO (‘memorable line from a ’39 film’) to represent movie trivia cluing, along with the ever-popular one-word Newsday clues, this was a slog. Also never heard of GAP YEAR, which finished me off nicely in the lower-right. A good puzzle mostly, that could have really been much more enjoyable with better clues (see also EVERAGE).
PS – What’s a POLE bean?
Howard, there are two kinds of bean plants: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow in a sort of, well, bush shape and don’t need staking. Pole beans are more like vines and need to be secured to a stake or pole so they don’t flop over.
Rice wine = sake. “Do people drink that stuff straight?”
There’s a special place in hell for people who don’t drink their sake straight.
25% alcohol would be very unusual for the final product. 18% alcohol is about the same as port or sherry or vermouth. You’re not one of those who drink sherry on the rocks, are you?
Grape wines have to be fortified with brandy or other distilled spirits to reach 18% because grape yeast is killed by alcohol concentrations higher than 16%. The mixture of molds and yeasts that produce sake are much more vigorous and can survive at 20%. In fact, most sake (all but “junmai”) has distilled alcohol added to stop fermentation and keep the flavors bright. This is why “-25%” is theoretically correct, although almost all sake is diluted with water during production and typically is closer to 16% alcohol in the bottle. The strongest “genshu” (undiluted) sake I’ve seen has 21% alcohol.
I found it very hard for lots of reasons. The top center had ENOS and DOJO, both new to me, crossing the rather un-Shakespearian Shakespeare, other tricky downs (though I liked the plastic joke), and, I’ll admit, to my ear a slightly arbitrary association with cowboys. The center had Ovitz (hard to me, sorry) and Barry (news to me), and there I had “slobs” for too long for STIES. The SE had tough but clever genre reading going down, but also ILER, EMLY, and the variant spelling GOODIE, all of which I had to take on faith. (And goodness, please have crosswords stop reminding me of DEVO, who I was happy to forget.) I also had for too long “have it down” rather than HAVE IT MADE.
Also had trouble with the crossing of BRE_ (could be Bret, I figured) with “weaponeer” (not an everyday word for me). While USEE, SIRS, and relatively DANUBE were easy to get, must say the first isn’t in RUD, I didn’t recognize a single thing Alan Cumming was in after I looked him up in IMDB just now, and I never did guess that Inn was obscure geography. I figured there must be a hotel chain I don’t know ending Danube. In sum, I enjoyed the challenge but didn’t care at all for the fill.
Martin, I take my sherry and sake only in frozen slushy form. Is that bad. ;-)