Saturday, 8/20/11

NYT 5:44 (paper) 
LAT 4:22 
CS 5:25 (Sam) 
Newsday untimed 
WSJ (Saturday) about 7 minutes 

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 8 20 11 0820

I had heard that Byron’s Lollapuzzoola finals puzzle was going to run in the NYT and with an annotation that it was edited by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer. Well, I just did the puzzle on paper today (the solve-at-home Lollapuzzoola option) and I noticed very few clues that were different between the Lolla and NYT versions (clues for a Rihanna song, Hulk Hogan, and Luke Skywalker’s mom were made easier for the non-pop-culture crowd, but otherwise the difficult set of tournament clues reigned). The applet Notepad just says the puzzle was from Brian and Patrick’s tournament, not that they had a hand in editing it. Odd. The print/PDF version is clearer on that.

Anyway, had I known the puzzle was coming out tonight, maybe I wouldn’t have done it on my clipboard this afternoon. I decided to be a bozo and submit an applet time anyway (which I shouldn’t have done), but even the second pass through in five hours took me 3:30 to fill in. At Lolla, the champion (Jeffrey Harris) completed the puzzle in 8:something, up on the big whiteboard in front of 200 people.

Anyway #2! It’s good news for Byron fans that his Lolla puzzle is more widely available in the Times. Plus! There’s another Walden themeless in the pipeline, plus a few more submissions awaiting Will’s decision. The good Shortz willing, we will have a steady supply of Byronic fare.

Favorite entries: FAKE SMILE, STAY CALM (Emergency directive?] is a good clue), ATE ALIVE, YES WE DID, WALMARTS, PSYOPS, POLAR BEARS, and MICAWBER are great. SEVENTY-NINE is such a ludicrously random number, but it gets rescued by a pop music trivia clue: [Elvis and Mariah’s record number of weeks at Billboard’s #1].

Favorite clues:

  • 42a. POLAR BEARS are [Ursi maritimi]. That is the Latin plural of Ursus maritimus, believe it or not. I never thought of polar bears as being more swimming-oriented than other bears.
  • 53a. [Some of them are flukes] clues WORMS. Kinda gross.
  • 1d. Bank HEISTS are [Withdrawals that may incur substantial penalties?], such a lengthy prison sentences.
  • 4d. ALLEN is a [Wrench handle?] in that it’s the name of the Allen wrench. That’s the skinny handle-less wrench with the hexagonal cross-section and an L-bend.
  • 26d. [In a bad place?] clues LAST. If you’re in last place, that’s not good.

Weirdest answer: 31d: EX-OUTLAW. That doesn’t quite feel like a thing.

4.25 stars. Fun, fresh, somewhat educational (I learned PINERA and QUAD BIKE)…though I wouldn’t have minded if it were tougher.

Doug “Kouka” Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 20 11

Lotsa good stuff in the expected Doug Peterson vein—you know how Doug likes the zippy fill. What am I talking about? This:

  • 1a. You’re getting hit with some CHEAP SHOTS. [They’re dirty pool].
  • 17a. [Does a bit of informal polling] clues ASKS AROUND, thoroughly in the language in a colloquial way. (Not quite as colloquial as S’POSE.)
  • 33a. Baseball legend NOLAN RYAN is now [Texas Rangers CEO].
  • 38a. [Honey Ryder and Xenia Onatopp, e.g.] are two of Ian Fleming’s ridiculously named BOND GIRLS.
  • 26d. The exxtra-Scrabbly EXXONMOBIL is a [Dow 30 company]. Is that the company that Apple just outdid in terms of total valuation?

Favorite clue: 51d: [One needing social work?] is a NERD. Just saw The Social Network last night, finally. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg’s personal skills have improved.

Eight hardest clues:

  • 15a. [Muse of sacred music] is POLYHYMNIA. Wait—she’s the muse of many (poly-) hymns?
  • 36a. [Story writer/poet Grace who studied with Auden] is Grace PALEY. I recognize the name but wouldn’t have pegged her for a writer of stories and poems.
  • 42a. [Some rectangular bars] are OLEOS, sticks of margarine. The pluralization feels rather bogus.
  • 43a. [Feinting spells?] clues SPARS. The sparring of boxers can be called SPARS, plural noun? I had no idea.
  • 3d. [Paul’s “The Prize” co-star] clues ELKE. Elke Sommer, Paul Newman? Don’t know the movie. Here’s a clip of Sommer and Newman. And here’s a longer clip from the same movie in which Paul Newman hides out at a nudist convention wearing only a towel for 7 minutes on screen. The man was in good shape.
  • 4d. [Bard’s interjections] clues AYS. I dunno. “Ay” has more of an “Ay caramba” feel to me than a Shakespearean vibe. Have zero recollection of “ay” dialogue in Shakespeare.
  • 12d. [It merged with Zanzibar in 1964] clues TANGANYIKA. They became one Tanzania. It was either that or Zanzibanyika.
  • 22d. [Singer of complex songs] is a WREN. This means the small songbird rather than a professional singer, right?

Four stars. I could’ve gone a little higher save for those greasy OLEOS.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fire Escape” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, August 20

Yesterday we opened fire, today we’re putting it out. The three theme entries are expressions that normally end in FIRE, but in this grid the FIRE has “escaped:”

  • 20-Across: For purposes of this puzzle, the [“Got to Get You Into My Life” band] becomes EARTH, WIND AND…nothing at all.
  • 39-Across: The [Song that references Sputnik and “Wheel of Fortune”] becomes WE DIDN’T START THE, a Twentieth Century history lesson from Billy Joel. The song also references, among other things, Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray, South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio, Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, the Studebaker, television, North Korea, South Korea, and Marilyn Monroe.
  • 53-Across: The [1996 film starring Denzel Washington] is curtailed to COURAGE UNDER.

I wonder if Blindauer considered LIAR LIAR PANTS ON as another 15-letter theme entry. That would have made for 54 theme squares, and perhaps that would be too unwieldy. And maybe it would be a tad inconsistent, as the others all have some connection to the entertainment industry. In any case, the theme entries work well as is.

And the fill is lots o’ fun. I really liked NEW KID, the [Recent neighborhood arrival], and it’s part of a nice triple stack of six-letter entries. I DUNNO, clued [“Got me!”], has a lively, conversational feel to it, as does CAN TOO, the [Braggart’s assertion]. Earlier this week we saw JETSAM in another puzzle, so it felt like a nice touch to see FLOTSAM, [Jetsam’s partner], here. For a grid with 76 words, it sure has an open feel. Check out the wide open swaths in the upper-right and lower-left sections.

I stumbled slightly with NEEDY, the answer to [Far from loaded]. I read “loaded” as “drunk,” so SOBER was the only answer I could think of before reading “loaded” in the correct sense (as “wealthy”). Otherwise, it was a very smooth solve. At times I felt like I was on….

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Okay, can I just say that I can’t stand solving in the Newsday online applet? Every time I use the arrow keys to switch directions, it moves the active square instead of just changing directions (as it does in the NYT applet and Across Lite), which means I end up typing things in the wrong squares. The speed solver cannot be so speedy if the technology does not cooperate, and I hit so many keys in the process of trying to move an errant E, the browser crashed when I was 80% done with the puzzle. Stan Newman, please please please consider making the puzzle available in a .jpz or .puz format.

Newsday crossword solution, 8 20 11 "Saturday Stumper"

While this puzzle has some lovely stuff (SNOW ANGEL, “LOUIE, LOUIE,” IN THE SHADOWS, LATE PASS, KETEL ONE), the pluses were outnumbered by the minuses. Who ever says “LET’S NOT GET SMART“? If you accept “DON’T CALL ME A LIAR,” why on earth is 9d: LIE clued as deceit ([Imposture])? You’ve essentially got the same word in the puzzle twice. The ODDS that are [Fairly unlikely] are SEVEN TO ONE, but that feels so much more random than “10 to 1” or “100 to 1.” The outdated interjection NERTS is clued as a [Defiant declaration], which isn’t at all the sense I thought it had; I thought it was more a “Nuts!”/”Drat!” kind of thing. And don’t get me started on MR. MXYZPTLK. This [Impish foe of Superman] is something I know of only from crosswords, and it’s rather mean fill. Most solvers are going to plod through the crossings one by one to piece together the spelling, and since I have zero fond childhood memories of the character, it’s not as if I enjoy seeing the crazy name in the grid. (But look how nicely LOUIELOUIE, with its ample vowels, partners with an all-consonant answer above it.)

Favorite clues:

  • 6d. [Pole-vault filler] is the money, the ZLOTYS, that might fill a bank vault in Warsaw.
  • 18d. A SNOW ANGEL is a [Winter depression], a body-shaped dent in the snow.
  • 8d. [Small tower] is a small boat that tows things, a TUGBOAT.
  • 29a. [Bug first discovered in 1989] is a nice science trivia clue for a VIRUS.


  • 51a. DBA is clued [High degree recognized by the NSF]. Usually DBA is “doing business as,” a corporate naming abbreviation. The NSF is the National Science Foundation, so maybe this is a doctorate of b___ a___, but boy, I sure don’t have any idea what academic degree this DBA might be.

3.5 stars. The fill and clues that are worth 4.5 stars are offset by the minuses. (I can’t promise that the technical snafu didn’t color my opinion, mind you. I’m only human.)

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Spell Weaving”

Easier than most of the other variety-grid types of puzzles, no? The fact that every answer is numbered so you can see exactly where it goes (no guesswork) and exactly how long it is really goes a long way towards making the puzzle more like a regular crossword. It’s just that the Acrosses and Downs wind left and right and up and down instead of in just two directions, and it’s a little harder to find the number of a crossing clue to double-check things. Four stars. Super smooth but (as is the case for pretty much all “Spell Weaving” puzzles) not particularly memorable.

Hey, Mike Shenk! If you’re reading this, can you shoot me an e-mail ( Cynthia Morris, who makes American Acrostics, has been having no luck reaching you via the Puzzability address and has a business question for you.

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13 Responses to Saturday, 8/20/11

  1. Gareth says:

    Mostly a quite easy NYT Saturday, but I tied myself in knots in two places: between REQUIEM and RUDE. Had STAYCALl (don’t ask me why!) So those vowels looked all kinds of wrong. Put in and remove the ULCE, ITH, and EXOU parts! Wanted POACH to be PinCH or PouCH. The other spot between LURID and PINTS. The former I wanted to be mURex and the latter is not how ice-cream is sold here! ATEALIVE was hard to see, as was PARTVI, after eventually seeing it was PART something I tried II first! Another problem there was YESWEcan! And lastly no idea about PINERA either, do the locals make PINERA PINATAs on his birthday? Was very satisfying to eventually unravel those! The entire puzzle was actually five-star quality, just like yesterdays, what a weekend! OK, I’m not sold on STASHAWAY… but besides that! P.S. We got some condemned livers from the abattoir we visited that were crawling with flukes!

    “Zippy fill” is seconded re the LAT. Don’t understand the clue for CHEAPSHOTS at all. Yay for POLYHYMNIA! Finally gets a show in after hundreds of ERATO’s! You can’t think of any bardic AYs: Ay, there’s the rub! Also, did you not see this recently:

  2. Barry G says:


    “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub…”

  3. ArtLvr says:

    With an early heavy fog outdoors this morning, my mind needed clearing too at first — starting Byron’s NYT at 1A and 1D with Tepee and Thefts! Ducked out of that corner to see WORMS in the bottom SE corner and worked my way up and out successfully, with a slight hitch at (verb) Reproves for Reprimands changing to (noun) REPROOFS. OLIVE DRAB and MICAWBER were favorites, but it still took a bit of thought to suss out GEST for Exploit, rather than Feat or Deed… Finally saw GATEWAY CITY, then POLAR BEARS and Harding’s AIREDALES. Great puzzle, and not too LURID!

    Doug’s LAT was also fun and challenging, with BOND GIRLS, PALEY, TWIGGY, TANGANYIKA and POLYHYMNIA, not to mention the birds POLLO and WREN…

  4. animalheart says:

    Five stars for Byron, I’d say. A great challenge. I’d have finished in pretty good time, too, if I hadn’t gotten hung up in the REQUIEM/QUADBIKE area for a long time. I had DOLCE rather than DULCE for a time, and that gave me the vowel-chain OIEM, which I couldn’t make sense of. I can’t imagine trying to solve this on a white board in front of an audience…

  5. pannonica says:

    Since the Newsday applet is made by the same folks responsible for the one in the NYT (, you’d think that minor navigational tic would be a simple modification to make.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    MR MXYZPTLK big gimmee for me. Just as fair as those other things you know but are obscure to me.

  7. alan says:

    50 across should have had a question mark.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    Did the Lollapuzoola 4 final last week (Local Divison clues) in 17:30. Did it again today (with deja vu) with, for the most part, the Express Division clues in 17:03. Hmm.

  9. Jan (danjan) says:

    In the Stumper, I didn’t think the clue for 6D should have had a hyphen where it did. If I were to describe a currency that fills its country’s bank, I would say that it’s a Pole vault-filller. I think the clue would have been ok without a hyphen, but with one where it was, it seemed to me that it was specific to the track and field event, and thus didn’t qualify to be diverting clue to the monetary description.

    Great puzzle by Byron – it still took me a long time, even having been at LP4! I look forward to more Byron challenges, soon, I hope.

  10. pannonica says:

    Regarding NERTS in the Stumper: In my vague familiarity (possibly as uttered by Radar O’Reilly in M*A*S*H (where my Nehi knowledge originates)) it’s an abbreviated version of “Nerts to you!” That seems pretty disparaging defiant to me. Would that make it a synechdochal insult? I can think of another that was in heavy use during my ’80s school days.

  11. John Haber says:

    Go figure, but I found it really hard. Maybe I expected to, with a contest puzzle. Whatever the original clue was, I’ll figure I’m a card-carrying member of the non-pop-culture crowd and didn’t recognize PADME. (I guessed “Padma” for a while until I got the crossing. My last bit to fall centered around the “Jason” clue and PINERA. All told, seems pretty tight, though I’m surprised there’s much Chicago-specific to its cheer.

  12. Martin says:

    NERTS was used frequently in the long-running comic strip “Nancy”. It was probably about as common in “Nancy” as “Rats!” was in “Peanuts”.


  13. lexicon fan says:

    I had an elementary teacher who would say “Let’s not get smart, now!” when someone got lippy. The incongruity always amused me, even as a child!

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