Saturday, 10/29/11

Newsday 9:30 
NYT 5:23 
LAT 4:35 
CS 5:30 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) 12 minutes 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 29 11 1029

Love 1a: WIFI HOTSPOT, 36a: MR. KOTTER, and 38a: BEEF JERKY; like a bunch of other stuff (DIRTY RAT, a tornado EARLY/WARNING, I CONCUR, PIGS OUT); didn’t really scowl at any of the fill.

Favorite clue: 40d: STEPHEN [King with revolting subjects].

Didn’t know 11d: TEENA (Mulder got married??) or 24d: NEW BEATS. I also didn’t know that HYDROXY could mean [Like citric acid and lactic acid]. Hey, does anyone know how Hydrox cookies got their name?

I did know that RYE BEER is a [Cousin of kvass]. Ah, the things we learn from crosswords. And I also knew 5d: James HONG, though not from Wayne’s World 2. He was the Chinese restaurant host on Seinfeld (“Seinfeld, four?”) as well as appearing in the 1979 classic The In-Laws.

Minus 5 points for the I and OUT duplications of I CONCUR/I CAN and PIGS OUT/IRON OUT. Overall vibe, 3.75 stars.

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 29 11

Classic Wilber crossword, with a fair number of Scrabbly letters (Qs, Xs, Ks, and a Z), some musical content, and a low junk quotient. First up, the highlights:

  • 1a. ON THE QT means [In secret]. The “QT” is short for “quiet.”
  • 38a. A TOXIC ASSET is a [Much-devalued holding, in modern lingo].
  • 56a. GRUNGE is a [’90s Seattle-born music style]. I’ve been seeing more plaid shirts on people in Chicago lately. What’s up with that? (ALLEGROS and THOM provide more musical content. No opera this time!)
  • 6d. QUIZ KIDS is a great answer, isn’t it? I have no idea when this [Radio game show with a panel of gifted children] is/was on.
  • 9d. [Home of counterculture?] clues LUNCHROOM. Go up to the counter, get your food, hope you can’t culture bacteria in it.
  • 14d. TALES are a [Raconteur’s repertoire]. I like the double-Frenchiness of the alliterative clue.
  • 28d. My favorite clue, for its oddball trivia nature: Edna St. Vincent MILLAY is the [Female poet known to friends as “Vincent”]. Who knew?
  • 31d. I like a SEA CHANGE too. A [Dramatic transformation].
  • 33d. [Plays for a fool] clues SNOOKERS. Clearly I need to snooker people more often.
  • 34d. PIXIE CUT‘s a great answer. It’s [Halle Berry’s hairstyle].

Pop culture from my childhood:

  • 19a. [Caldecott Medal winner __ Jack Keats] clues EZRA, author of the beloved classic picture book The Snowy Day.
  • 23a. KOTCH was a [1971 Matthau film directed by Jack Lemmon]. Uh, I was watching Disney movies in 1971.

I like the craziness of the word ORMOLU (1d. [Ornamental gilded bronze]). It’s from the French or moulu, “powdered gold.” Who doesn’t like a word that ends with a U?

3.5 stars. AIRE [Yorkshire river], AXIL [Stem-to-branch angle], LOI [Rule, in Rouen], and TEK [“__War”: Shatner series] knock the puzzle down from the 4-star zone.

Updated Saturday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Film Trilogy” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 29

One of my favorite childhood memories is the time my brother and I went to the local cinema and watched three different movies. This was long before the days of VHS tapes and Blockbuster stores (remember those jerks?), and no, we didn’t sneak from one theater to the next–we actually paid the admission price for all three movies (two matinees and an evening show), which seemed to engender much confusion among the cinema’s staff.

Today’s CrosSynergy puzzle contains its own trilogy, featuring three films that apparently should be watched in a particular order:

  • 17-Across: The [Robert Mitchum movie of 1952] is ONE MINUTE TO ZERO. I haven’t seen the film, but I’m curious how they can milk that one minute into a feature-length film.
  • 38-Across: The [James Stewart movie of 1961] is TWO RODE TOGETHER. Here’s the description from “The US Army is under pressure from the desperate relatives of white prisoners of the Comanches to secure their rescue. A cynical and corrupt marshal, Guthrie McCabe (Jimmy Stewart), is persuaded by an army lieutenant to assist in the negotiations with the Comanches. However, just two captives are released; and their reintegration into white society proves highly problematic.” I’m not sure if the two who rode together are the marshal and the lieutenant or the two released captives. Maybe both?
  • 60-Across: The [Betty Grable movie of 1955] is THREE FOR THE SHOW. I think I once saw a movie on Cinemax with that name….

The grid is sorta like an optical illusion–it appears at first glance to have left-right symmetry, but in fact it uses traditional rotational symmetry.  Three Xs and two Zs spice things up in the fill.  I like that there are two [Tubular pasta] entries, ZITI and PENNE. I’m a big tubular pasta fan–they both do a good job of holding a good, thick garlic marinara sauce.

HAZELNUT is the [Coffee flavoring]. I grew up on a Christmas tree farm, and there were lots of hazelnut orchards around us. (We called hazelnuts “filberts,” which is still the term I prefer.) I wouldn’t have thought to use SNORT to describe a [Horse laugh], but maybe it will catch on: I think this guy had a horse laugh of cocaine while he was in the restroom.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, "Saturday Stumper" Wilber 10 29

We’ve mostly been having tough Stumpers of late. The most challenging zone for me was where ROUGED / [Made up, maybe] and WED TO / [At one with] cross WOUK / [1952 Pulitzer novelist] and BERG / [Something tracked by satellite radar]. I played the alphabet game to figure out WED TO and all the consonants from B to V didn’t work out so well.

Eleven other hard clues:

  • 1a. [Schools in morality], the verb EDIFIES. Not a noun.
  • 8a. [Matisse painting of a hand-holding quintet] in a circle is LA DANSE. All five people are naked, of course.
  • 20a. [E on some scoreboards] means PAR. In golf, on the leaderboard E means “even.”
  • 33a. I didn’t know BELA was the [Name of four Hungarian kings], but between the Belas Karolyi, Bartok, and Lugosi, it’s one of the better-known Hungarian first names.
  • 14d. [Apocrypha prophet] is ESDRAS, a name I know only from crosswords.
  • 23d. [Even-__ (of similar height, as forest trees)] clues AGED. Have never encountered the term even-aged.
  • 30d. ARENA comes from a Latin word meaning [Literally, “sand”], as in a sandy place of combat. I never knew that! I like learning oddball etymology.
  • 37d. Wait, [Brynner’s brother in “The Brothers Karamazov”] is William SHATNER? Yes, indeed, in 1958, years before his Star Trek shtick. Have a look for yourself.
  • 38d. I don’t like [Hamper] as a verb clue for MANACLE. Although looking at the dictionary definitions for both, both are usually used in the “be hampered” or “be manacled” formation so I guess the clue is more apt than I thought.
  • 39d. LARVAE are [Certain hatchlings], from smaller eggs without shells.
  • 42d. [Features of top-level staffs] sounds like it’s about the management team, but it’s a music staff and G-CLEFS.

How do you pronounce “AAA”? I guess we all say “triple A” so the “a” is better than “an” to precede it in 17a: [Needing a AAA, perhaps], cluing BATTERY-OPERATED.

VEILED REFERENCE, or [Dig, often], is my favorite entry here. Overal rating dips below 4 stars because there’s not as much zip as there could be, but there’s also little in the way of junky fill; 3.75 stars.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “End Game”

WSJ Saturday Puzzle solution: "End Game" 10 29 11

Neat puzzle, though the end game of “End Game” turns out to be a little grim. Using the Across and Down clues, you fill in the grid with answer words. Everything makes sense except for column 15, which is clued [Guesses] and reads XOELUICTYRBSDKN. Wait, what? The numbers to the right of those crazy letters simply tell you where to put the letters in the blanks below the grid. “1,3,10” means to put an E in the first, third, and tenth spaces. Put it all together and you get EXECUTIONERS, though you probably won’t have to play Hangman to guess at the letters since the answer grid tells you that the L, Y, B, D, and K won’t get used.

Now, I think I filled everything in correctly, but I don’t get why the second 1-Down clue, [Percolates], leads to STEPS. Oh, hang on. It’s SEEPS. I was thinking STEEPS or STEWS so I had the T there, and figured that TRIN was right for 6-Across [The Isle of Man’s Port __]. Why on earth use such an obscure clue for ERIN? (Port Erin has fewer than 4,000 residents.) Especially when ISLE is also in the grid in 14-Down and the ERIN clue duplicates that word. This feels like a rare misstep for a Patrick Berry puzzle.

Ugliest clue: At 10-Across, SDI is suggested by [GPALS predecessor]. Huh? Apparently the first Pres. Bush announced a GPALS initiative, Global Protection Against Limited Strikes. This really didn’t catch on, did it? Among the first 10 Google hits for GPALS, most are entirely unrelated to missile defense.

3.5 stars. The puzzle is missing the usual Berry variety grid cornucopia of interesting long fill.

Edited to add: Okay, this is not the first time I’ve skipped reading a long clue because the answer’s already filled in!

Okay, the letters in HANGMAN can be shaded to draw a game of Hangman, with the upright pole, crossbar, noose, head, body, arms, and one leg. This explains why the fill was less exciting than usual! Cute. Take it up to 4.25 stars.

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15 Responses to Saturday, 10/29/11

  1. Howard B says:

    NY Times puzzle came from a special circle of hell for me today. Two “Ado Annie’ clues, multiple specific TV trivia clues, opera, the NEW BEATS (???) and who knows what else. It’s as if Mr. Silk crept into my mind specifically to find the weak spots.
    Nice fill, playful vibe, nicely done. But probably the toughest time with a Times puzzle in many months.

  2. Gareth says:

    Mostly easy Saturday for me , except the bottom, where I had the first two and last two downs and then did a lot of staring and eventually guessed ILTRAVATORE. Even so that last letter of EN_WSLETTER/TR_ was a stumper! Other than that I also had HYDROus (that clue is just plain weird), and SHOrTpEE, which I admit made no sense but seemed to fit. Lastly HONt/tUM. I’m terrible at spotting these! That J smack-dab in the centre is pretty spiffy!

  3. pannonica says:

    The origin of “QT” is uncertain, but when I was researching it for a previous puzzle write-up, the strongest consensus was for “quiet time.”


    “I haven’t seen the film, but I’m curious how they can milk that one minute into a feature-length film.” – Sam

    I’m still waiting for the film adaptation of Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine.

  4. S.D. Price says:

    Re: the derivation of the name Hydrox, according to a Fortune Magazine article:
    ” Back in 1908, Sunshine’s founders were looking for a product name that would evoke purity and goodness. After deciding that water was the purest thing they could think of, they drew upon water’s atomic elements–hydrogen and oxygen–to come up with Hydrox.”

  5. ktd says:

    I wasn’t keen at first of the use of HYDROXY as an adjective, but apparently compounds with an -OH group adjacent to the “acid” portion of the molecule are called hydroxy acids. So I learned something there!

  6. Martin says:


    “Hydroxy” is only an adjective.

    BTW, compounds with an -OH group adjacent to the acid (carboxyl) group (like lactic and citric acids) are alpha hydroxy acids. If the -OH group is one carbon further away from the acid group, it’s a beta hydroxy acid. Very far away and it’s an omega hydroxy acid. Alpha hydroxy acids are big in cosmetics, and omega hydroxy acids in fish oil. There are many kinds of hydroxy acids.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Funny how reactions differ. Enjoyable, very smooth, straightforward NYT. Only slight hiccup was in the SW. It doesn’t hurt that I lived in a big brick house in Ft. Meade Md. in my youth, and of course the Il Trovatore gimme iced the SE . The Liszt transcription of the Miserere from Trovatore is an amazing piano piece. There are few unknown masterpieces–most of the pretenders are either not so unknown, or not such masterpieces, but that transcription comes close. Of course, I suppose Verdi deserves *a little* of the credit.


  8. Craig says:

    At first, I thought that I solved the WSJ wrong because there was no second leg (i.e., the “u” in purse and “o” in pourer). But then I assumed that there was no second leg to represent that I had won the hang man game.

  9. JanglerNPL says:

    Orange: Check out the last across clue in the Berry puzzle again. I don’t think you’re quite done.

  10. Craig says:

    I am a little confused. When you shade in all the individual letters used in the word “hangman,” you get a head, two arms, and one leg. The “u” in purse and “o” in pourer is where the second leg should be. I thought that you lose a game of hangman when all the body parts are on there. I interpreted, perhaps incorrectly, that the fact that there was no second leg meant that you “won” the game.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jangler: Not the first time I’ve skipped reading a long clue because the answer’s already filled in!

    Okay, the letters in HANGMAN can be shaded to draw a game of Hangman, with the upright pole, crossbar, noose, head, body, arms, and one leg. This explains why the fill was less exciting than usual! Cute. Take it up to 4.25 stars.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Craig: As the puzzle instructions say, “you’ll triumph in the end.”

  13. joon says:

    it’s also kind of elegant how there are 5 misses in the “guess” column, and correspondingly 5 body parts (head, torso, arm, arm, leg) on the scaffold. but who starts a game of hangman by guessing X, and makes 15 guesses without ever getting around to A, including D and K with EXECUTIO_ERS showing? you pretty much deserve to hang for that, if you’ll pardon my gallows humor.

  14. klewge says:

    Met my EXECUTIONER in the Challenging Zone of the Stumper Amy mentions. Had trouble with the four-letter Pulitzer Prize winner at 44a- first I thought about AGEE and then I got the final K I put in BUCK even thought the year seemed off. Messed me up on the bottom of the grid for ages, especially since I alternated between radar-tracked BLIP and BIRD for 48a below it. Below that actual had VEILED REFERENCE but didn’t put it in for a long time because couldn’t figure out how the ‘V’ went with the “Certain hatchlings” and wanted not-fitting EXPRESSED ONESELF and couldn’t think of ASSERTED ONESELF.

  15. John Haber says:

    It was a particularly hard Saturday for me, even just getting started but stuck most on the bottom, ending in the SW. I actually thought I should have got HYDROXY sooner, but nope. I’d mentally the wrong Clinton (Dewitt, who was the sixth governor), but the puzzle didn’t care.

    Incidentally, I see on searching that Newbeats was one word.

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