Saturday, 5/21/11

Newsday 6:26 


NYT 4:48 


LAT 4:37 


CS untimed (Sam) 



Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers 5/21/11 0521

Lots of Scrabbly and fun fill in this 70-worder. (But nothing about Barry’s beloved Phillies.) The highlights:

  • 14a. XBOX LIVE, double-X action.
  • 17a. COQ AU VIN. A Q right beneath the two-X word! And with some long crossings, too.
  • 19a. The VULCAN MIND MELD!
  • 22a. Truman CAPOTE is clued with a snarky quote: [He said Beat literature “isn’t writing at all – it’s typing”].
  • 48a. I’ve never encountered the term SQUIRREL BAFFLE, but I know exactly what it is. There are all sorts of [Bird feeder protector]s aimed at keeping squirrels from snarfing down all the expensive birdseed you’ve bought, and those damned rodents manage to outsmart nearly all of them.
  • 57a. READ-ONLY is, Merl Reagle once pointed out, an anagram of Reynaldo.
  • 2d. The ABOVE WATER concept is mainly heard these days in its opposite, with all the folks who are under water in their mortgages, owing more than they could sell the house for.
  • 3d. “NO QUESTION,” this is a great entry.
  • 9d. Yum, LINDT chocolates. I once had a layover in the Zurich airport and visited the Lindt shop. How big was that dark chocolate bar I bought? I think it was 300 or 400 grams.
  • 21d. MARILU Henner was on 60 Minutes several months ago to talk about her superhuman autobiographical memory. I didn’t see the show but it’s fascinating to read about.
  • 26d. PATSY CLINE, great full-name answer. I don’t know the song “Sentimentally Yours,” though, so I had to work the crossings.
  • 47d. I chaperoned the fifth-grade field trip on Tuesday. My son’s friend Quinlan is sporting one of those [Big tops?], AFROS. He looks awesome.

Outdated word of the day:

  • 7d. I checked a dictionary and PENMAN is listed as “chiefly historical,” so it’s disappointing that it’s given a clue that doesn’t hint at the word’s outmodedness. [Author]? I’m an author. Many thousands of women are authors. And yet how many of them would call themselves “penmen”? Hmph. Would [George Bernard Shaw but not George Eliot, e.g.] work as a clue that nods to the word’s age and genderedness?

4.5 stars. There’s some ugly little stuff (ENOL, SYS, SESS, ORT) but the cool long answers dominated the puzzle’s gestalt.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 5/21/11

Hang on, hang on—I don’t see anything in this 72-word puzzle about the Phillies, nothing at all. The closest we get is the basebally term BOO-BIRDS, or [Unhappy fans, in slang]. That there is a term I had never encountered before it was in another crossword a few months back. It makes for a colorful 1-Across if you know it, and perhaps a deeply frustrating one if you don’t.

The grid’s fairly Scrabbly, though it feels a little less assertively Scrabbly than Barry’s NYT does.

Did you notice that the EEL (20a: [Sargasso Sea spawner]) spawned right here in the puzzle? It’s true. There’s another EEL lurking in ERNIE ELS, 64a: [One of only three golfers who briefly kept Tiger Woods out of the World #1 spot between 1/11/1998 and 10/30/2010]. See? ELS is in the crossword a lot, but he earned it.

The single most obscure answer here is 43a: LARI, the [Bird suborder that includes gulls and terns]. I wonder why we have LARI/LEANER instead of BARI/BEANER or MARI/MEANER.

Honorable mention in the obscurity sweepstakes (because I have never been a scholar of Neil Diamond’s work) goes to 49d: SHILO, a [1970 Neil Diamond hit]. What, he couldn’t spell Shiloh?

I always thought it was just a “Lincoln penny,” but 36a: [Centennial debut of 1909] is the LINCOLN HEAD CENT.


  • 17a. SHE-DEVIL = [Cruel woman]. I suppose the words shed and evil have been combined in a cryptic crossword clue for SHEDEVIL at some point, eh? If you were a fan of the movie She-Devil, you might appreciate Roseanne Barr’s recent New York magazine screed.
  • 44a, 53a. First you get the HAIRDO, a [Prom queen’s concern]. Then you get [High-profile 44-Across] and you think of dramatic updos fancied by promgoers. But no, it’s a non-prom-queeny hairdo, the MOHAWK, that has the high profile.
  • 12d. QUEEN BEE is a [Colonial leader] in her hive.
  • 31d. Clement weather isn’t generally associated with the noun clemency, so WEATHERMAN isn’t an obvious answer to [One concerned with clemency]. Chicago’s geekiest TV weatherman, Tom Skilling, tweeted the following on Friday evening: “We’re debating whether to run a full 7day fcst tonight on our post Cubs game newscast in light of predictions the world is to end Saturday.” Heh.

There’s a minor duplication between two answers that are on a double date. 32a: BCE (before Christian Era) is clued with [Dating letters], while 10d: REDATE means [Make an archaeological adjustment to].

3.25 stars from me.
Updated Saturday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Breaker, Breaker” – Sam Donaldson’s review

I paid no attention to this puzzle’s theme as I solved, and I admit it took me a few minutes to figure it out.  Levin offers four expressions ending with words that can precede “breaker:”

  • 20-Across: A [Prickly vegetable’s tender center] is an ARTICHOKE HEART, which I suppose could be the go-to vegetable for a “heart-breaker.”
  • 33-Across: The [Theatrical corps of skaters since 1943] is HOLIDAY ON ICE.  When new skaters join the troupe, there’s often an “ice-breaker” activity to help the newbies feel welcome.
  • 40-Across: [Donald Trump’s self-professed talent] is the ART OF THE DEAL, and his recent exposure to the tough questions he would face as a presidential candidate proved to be a “deal-breaker.”
  • 55-Across: The [Drama about the Scopes “Monkey Trial”] is INHERIT THE WIND, during which audience members are encouraged to wear “wind-breakers” or other light jackets to deflect the spraying chunks of watermelon that are smashed on stage during the climactic closing argument.

The longer Downs were fine though perhaps not as juicy as one would normally expect.  There’s nothing wrong with BEATRICE, STAGNATE or AU GRATIN, but they also don’t reach up and grab you by the collar.  And as for IRONICAL, well, let’s just leave that alone.  The best fill here, I thought, consisted of BY THE BY ([“Incidentally…”]) and SATCHMO, the [Nickname of a jazz icon].  The real strength of this puzzle was in the clues.  [Career record held by Pete Rose] is a nice clue for AT-BATS, and [Stable parent?] is a clever way to clue MARE.

I’m having a hard time buying OWN TO as the answer to [Take responsibility for].  I only know the expression as “own up to,” so my first try was “own up.”  And did it seem weird to anyone else that there was both BEER and ALES in this grid?  Despite these nits and my inability to see a them during the solve, though, I still enjoyed the puzzle and felt like I would have posted a good solving time had I not solved on paper and away from a timer.

My guesses as to the clues that stumped solvers:

  • The [Rum-soaked pastry] is BABA.  When served in water, it’s BABA WAWA.
  • [“John Brown’s body” poet] is Stephen Vincent BENET.  I hear the poem is kind of stiff.
  • DER Rosenkavalier” is a Strauss opera.  But you already knew that.
  • [Chang’s twin] is ENG.  Wikipedia describes them as “the conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term ‘Siamese twins.'”

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Message in a Bottle”

I put this puzzle aside late last night, unable to figure out the answer to clue d: [Carry Meg all over Big Apple park], and thus unable to carry out the cryptic’s end game. This morning, I quit thinking of sporting arenas and let GRAMERCY Park (anagram of “carry Meg”) emerge. Then I hopscotched through the shaded 3×3 grid, seeing PLEASE ******* ME easily enough. Had to figure out which letters would need to be used in the middle word—two more instances of the E, the RCY in the bottom row, and two neighboring letters? Writing out EERCY birthed the word RECYCLE. Wouldn’t you feel ripped off if you found an actual message in a bottle and the decoded message read “please recycle me”? (It’d be like the decoder ring in A Christmas Story generating the message “Drink your Ovaltine.”) Works better as a crossword joke than an actual one.

I liked the jigsaw aspect of figuring out where the Adrift answers should be placed, and using their letters to fill out the remaining unfinished Down answers. It’s the same mental challenge that makes Patrick Berry’s Rows Garden and Some Assembly Required puzzles so tantalizing.

4.75 stars.

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution 5/21/11 Peterson Stumper

Is it just me, or are AXLE GREASE ([Universal-joint application]) and a PITTED PRUNE ([Ftuitcake tidbit])pretty flat as crossword answers go? And are both of these used in the manufacture of fruitcake?

Favorite clues:

  • 18a. [It may be due] clues due EAST.
  • 51a. [“Frank and Ernest” or “Hi and Lois”] is not just a comic strip but also a PUN. “Frank and earnest,” “high and low.”
  • 3d. UMLAUTS are [Features in IKEA catalogs].
  • 13d. A BATTERY is an electrical [Juice dispenser].
  • 44d. [Focus of some take-out orders] are TONSILS. At 39a, [Order to go] is also not about carry-out food; it’s the exhortation “SCAT!”

Monkey business:

  • 27a. RODDY McDowall played [Cornelius in “Planet of the Apes”].
  • 45a. APE also appears in the grid: [Great __].

I would write more, but my eyes are rheumy, my nose is sniffly, and my overriding urge is to lie down.

Four stars.

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8 Responses to Saturday, 5/21/11

  1. Todd G says:

    How about [Author’s ship?] as a clue for PENMAN? Penmanship might be kind of sexist, but at least it’s a commonly used word.

  2. Gareth says:

    The part of South Africa I grew up in was supposedly squirrelless, but for a couple of years we had a completely lost tree squirrel raiding our birdseed: we were only too happy to let it do so it was great entertainment! We never did figure out how it was +-1000km outside its native habitat, though we suspect it to be an exotic pet that escaped! The puzzle? A delight!! Though quite an easy one – ten flat is not a typical Saturday time! Loved the ENOL clue – glycolysis!

    Mr. Silk’s LAT was a bit more staid, no less solid though. Knew LARI, but not BOOBIRDS, top-left was last to yield. You sure prom queens don’t wear mohawks?? Darn. PS, I just realized 36A is not in fact a car…

  3. pannonica says:

    Gareth, I remember there is a species of Xerus that ranges that far south, but without looking things up, I have no idea how pervasive it is in the country.

    Incidentally, have you been to the Finbos? Is it really so distinct?

  4. Meem says:

    Kind of fun to have two Silks on Preakness day. NYT much harder for me. In LAT, “on hire” sounds odd to me.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Pleased to see two from Barry Silk today! I worked long and hard on the NYT, but the LAT went much faster. Amusing to see a LEANER again so soon… As for the LINCOLN HEAD CENT, I have a huge litho of Lincoln intended as a gift for my brother but haven’t found a good way to get it to Chicago yet. His book on Lincoln’s connections to the Underground Railway during his legal career, “Fighting Slavery in Chicago”, came out in 2009, and it includes our great-grandfather Dr. Dyer who was later sent to Africa by Lincoln after he became President to work with an international court prosecuting slavers at the source. Most historians overlook Lincoln’s early efforts against slavery!

  6. Howard B says:

    The squirrel clue was my undoing. I ended the puzzle essentially with SQUIRREL ?, and had no idea what could fit there. I’ve never seen or heard of that, and so it really took some heavy lifting to work it out. Very appropriate that BAFFLE was the part that baffled me. Fun puzzle otherwise!

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    The latest citation in the OED for PENMAN is 1974, but that’s under the 1.c. “Criminals’ Slang” definition of the word—“One who commits forgery.” All the rest date back to the 19th Century. But I had to laugh – given my reason for looking the word up in the first place – upon noticing that the title of the work, penned by one H. McLeave, from which that 1974 quote is taken, is “Only Gentlemen Can Play”

  8. John Haber says:

    SAM’S, SQUIRREL, PRNDL, and AUSTIN made that rather a foreign, perhaps suburban corner to me, and on top of URIEL it almost defeated me. Generally, with things like that, X BOX LIVE, NEIL, and MARILU I didn’t like the fill on this one bit. Yesterday’s intriguing grid and clever deceptions were a lot more satisfying.

Comments are closed.