Saturday, 11/19/11

NYT (untimed—Janie) 
Newsday (untimed—Doug) 
LAT (4:02—Jeffrey) 
CS 9:38 (Sam) 

Allan E. Parrish’s New York Times crossword — Janie’s review

Darned if I could find any Irish or Scottish holidays on the calendar for November 19th, but Allan’s nifty 72-word/29-block puzzle has serious Gaelic overtones, with its quartet of right-angled name pairs beginning with “MC.” The CLAN roll-call delivers up: MC GWIRE and MC COURT, MC CAREY and MC MANUS, MC QUEEN and MC LAREN, and MC BRIDE and MC MAHON. Wow! In a puzzle where half of the fill is made up of 7-letter entries, these eight make up almost 25% of those.

And look how Allan’s configured the grid. Each corner is composed of 3-stacks and 3-columns of seven (24). Then, he virtually outlines that center cross with sevens (8)—and boxes it in with them as well (4). Beautiful. As construction feats go, I’d say this one was NOT EASY.

That it delivers a lot of challenging fill as well marks it as a solid Saturday. New words for me?  CEREBRA—which is the plural of cerebrum, the right and left hemispheres of your brain. Whence the literal and slightly skewed [Think pieces?] clue.  Then there was TAI, [Sea bream in a sushi bar]. Okay. Just glad we saw bream earlier this week so I had something to work from. Those ETESIAN winds were new to me, too—but as the dictionary tells me, their name derives from “Latin etēsius yearly, from Greek etēsios, from etos year”—whence the “annual” reference in the clue.

Nice how that meteorological word intersects with CLIMATE and its [Pattern of highs and lows]. We get another matched set of sorts with the over-the-counter pharmaceutical crossing of TYLENOL and GERITOL. Appropriate, too, that oater star CLU Gulager sits below Steve MC QUEEN, who played in his share of Westerns.

Some FAVE clues would have to include the sneaky/literal [First character to appear in “Carmen”] for CEE; [Treadmill setting] for GYM; and [Producer of a chilling effect] for ICE CUBE.

Nice to be back with that ol’ Team Orange gang o’ mine (for the day)! Them’s some of the highlights for me, solvers (oh—and the colloquial, somewhat snarky “CAN IT!”). What’s your take?

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper” – Doug’s review

Jeffrey Wechsler's 11/19/11 "Saturday Stumper"

Hey, crossword fans. I’ve been assigned “Saturday Stumper” duty this weekend. After I was about half-done with the puzzle, I realized I probably should have been timing myself. Oh well. Difficulty-wise, this one felt like a middle-of-the-pack Stumper. I flew through the bottom half of the grid after dropping in ARACHNE and AS MAD AS / A WET HEN almost immediately. Then it took some doing to break into the upper portion.

  • 8a. [“Dang!”] – OH, FUDGE. Mmmm…fudge. My #1 entry of the day. This section was the last to fall because I tried OH, PSHAW first. And OH, PSHAW is the #1 non-entry of the day.
  • 18a. [Psychologically expansive] – FREEING. I don’t know enough about psychology to fully grasp the clue.
  • 27a. [Names seen on Smithsonian walls] – DONORS. I liked this clue. I had no idea where it was going, and then it hit me. Nice.
  • 49a. [Sincere or insincere approval] – GREAT. Another fun clue.
  • 51a. [“Two Years Before the Mast” author] – DANA. Dana Delany is certainly talented. Actress, crossword constructor, author. She can do it all.
  • 56a. [Pop-art precursor] – DADAIST. I think DADAISM fits the clue better.
  • 28d. [Spherical edibles] – ROE. I tried KIX first, which is a cool answer. Look for that in one of my future Stumpers.
  • 53d. [Communication trademark] – WIFI. Interesting. I had no idea WiFi was a trademark.
  • 43d. [Birds named for their love of flax seeds] – LINNETS. Because flax seed is also called linseed. And linnets get their scientific name, (Carduelis cannabina), from their “fondness for hemp,” according to Wikipedia. I get it. After they indulge in their fondess for hemp, linnets get the munchies and chow down on flax seeds and nachos.

Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

Theme: A bunch of words and phrases that cross a bunch of other words and phrases for your solving enjoyment.

1A. [Quinine target] – MALARIA – I know MALARIA is bad so that must mean Quinine is good.
15A. [Hard to nail down] – EVASIVE. Trying to figure this out but the answer keeps slipping away.
16A. [When parents don’t want a teen to be home?] – TOO LATE
17A. [Equity complaint] – NOT FAIR. Response of said teens.
18A. [“Don’t Wanna Lose You” singer] – ESTEFAN
19A. [Obviously fearful] – WHITE AS A SHEET. I have blue sheets. Does that make me obviously sad?
21A. [Like some jokes] – TASTELESS. Not on this family friendly blog.
25A. [Richard Marx label] – EMI. Grandson of Karl, son of Harpo.
26A. [Crude amt.] – BBL. Barrel. No I don’t know why it has two B’s. I’m a guest blogger, not a Jeopardy champion.
29A. [First of an old film septet] – ROAD TO SINGAPORE. Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio, Bali and Hong Kong are the other sixtets of these Bob Hope/Bing Crosby movies. “Paramount will protect us cause we’re signed for five more years”
37A. [Freezes over] – ICES UP. Hell of a clue.
38A. [Hold back] – KEEP AT A DISTANCE
42A. [“Merv Griffin’s Crosswords” announcer Hall] – EDD. I believe Amy won $199,000 on this show.
45A. [Doughnut-shaped treat] – LIFE SAVER. I consider more of a donut-shaped treat.
51A. [Howls skyward] – BAYS AT THE MOON
55A. [Rolling service station?] – TEA CART. Solving tip – service always leads to tea.
56A. [They were the Browns before they moved from St. Louis] – ORIOLES. Moving baseball teams is not cool.
28D. [Romantic toon mammal] – LE PEW. “Toon mammal” indeed. HE’S A SKUNK!!!!!
31D. [Defense agency since Nov. 2001] – TSA/34D. [Patriot __] – ACT. Help me out, Americans. Did the latter create the former?
46D. [“Wicked Game” singer Chris] – ISAAK. His other hit was…hmmm…
51D. [“__ Green”: Kermit’s song] – BEIN’. The Muppets are back!! Yay!!!

Nothing flashy, nothing yucky here. A fast themeless solve. 3 stars.

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Quarterback Scramble” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 19

Yay! A sub-ten-minute time on a Bob Klahn puzzle! That’s always a nice way to start the weekend. National Anagram Week (well, it seems that way from this week’s puzzles, right?) continues here, with Klahn offering us four anagrams of QUARTERBACK:

  • 17-Across: A BARK RACQUETcould be a [Squash implement with a cork frame?]. Depending on the bark, it might not tolerate much wear and tear.
  • 61-Across: A QUACK BARTER is an [Exchange with a charlatan?]. It’s also the term for bill-swapping with a duck. Remember, kids, when you swap bills with a duck, you’re not only swapping with that duck but with every other duck with whom that duck has swapped bills.
  • 11-Down: A BRAQUE TRACK is a [Cubist racecourse?]. Georges would be thrilled to know he had a track named after him. But given the sharp angles, it’s not very practical for most races.
  • 25-Down: A QATAR BUCKER is a great name to call someone who angers you. In this case, though, it’s a [Middle East bronco?].

“Scramble” is a giveaway for an anagram theme, but I resisted it at first, thinking “there can’t be three to five separate anagrams for QUARTERBACK.” I thought instead maybe the Q and B would be reversed in common phrases. Oops. Even though the four anagrams produce gibberish phrases, it’s pretty cool to see the several ways in which the letters can be arranged.

Four theme entries means there will be four Qs in the puzzle, and that’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but Klahn makes it look easy. My favorite Q crossing is MACAQUE, the [Rhesus monkey]. And here I thought Rhesus only made peanut butter cups.

Anyone have issues with MAKE-UPS, the [Second-chance exams], crossing EATS UP, clued here as [Really relishes]? The duplicate “up” doesn’t bother me, since a grid with, say, WENT IN and SET IN wouldn’t bother me either. Just because the preposition is rarer, it’s still just a repeated preposition (although it helps that it’s only two letters).

My favorite clues this time were [Hardly the big shot] for BBS and the consecutive [Target’s target, e.g.] for LOGO and [Tagamet target] for ACID. The clues felt relatively straightforward for a Klahn puzzle–so much so that I was too tentative to plunk some answers down because I thought there had to be a double meaning I was missing. I guess the harder theme entries led Klahn to be a little more merciful this time.


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27 Responses to Saturday, 11/19/11

  1. Erik says:

    alternate title for the NYT: “sucka MCs”

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Somewhere John McEnroe is screaming “I was out? You can’t be serious.”

    But, aside from the fact that this was a Thurs, not a Sat., and even though there were an impressive number of Mcs, I’m afraid it didn’t do much for me. Never heard of the Director, the cartoonist, or Martina or Becca. I suppose different people will have different knowledge gaps.

    “The” Cid? I suppose you can translate the article into English, but it still sounds weird to me. Could you clue the word “Cirque” as {Famous New York eatery, with “the”} Obviously, I think not. Is Quonset a noun, or a kind of hut? (I guess technically, it’s a trademark, so I suppose it can function as a noun, like “kleenex,” but I’ve never heard “a quonset.” I suppose you could call the geritol – tylenol duo a mini theme, but to me it was inelegant repetition. I suppose you could call a sermon a charge, and rail cars a team, but to me this just shows that the ‘?’ can cover a multitude of sins, or at least peccadillos, in an awkward attempt at trickiness. I never much like clues like 37a, but that’s because I fall for the same ruse over and over again.

    On the plus side, it’s a beautiful, crisp day, unseasonably mild for late Nov. in the north country. But the mountain is tearing its hair out, fearful that it won’t be able to open for Thanksgiving. They say they can open with 36 consecutive hours of solid snow making–which amazes me–but it appears questionable whether they will even get that over the next few days, although they’re spewing it out as we speak.


  3. Tuning Spork says:

    I was having a great time (pun) until I hit the wall in the northeast corner. Once I finally used “check” to discover that HAIRDOS was wrong at 18-Across, I was even more at sea. 45+ minutes into it I correctly guessed the ETESIAN/NISI crosser for the big finish. **phew**

  4. sbmanion says:

    I am just kidding, Bruce, but a trademark used as a noun is a mortal sin. Proper trademark usage demands that trademarks be used as adjectives. Of course, this rule is honored in the breach, often to the peril of the trademark owner. The risk is that the trademark beccomes generic as happened with ASPIRIN and FORMICA.

    I thought Friday’s puzzle was pretty easy and Saturday’s was unusually difficult. Also struggled mightily in the NE. I guessed ETESIAN on the assumption that the wind is a summer wind (ETE). Amy’s write-up corrected that.


  5. pannonica says:

    (sbmanion: That’d be Janie’s write-up.)

  6. janie says:

    actually, steve, you may not be that far off. the dictionary definition “etesian” (as distinct from its etymology) is: “Occurring annually. Used of the prevailing northerly summer winds of the Mediterranean.”

    to cite an old madison avenue catch-phrase: “stop — you’re both right!”


    (p.s. am now gone for the day. enjoy all the puzzles!)

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Hi Steve,

    Of course I understand that, though I confess I sometimes deliberately use trademarks in speech (xerox, kleenex, etc.) just in the hopes that it will annoy the mark owners.


  8. john farmer says:

    I’d say it’s safe to pick any of three languages for the article for CID. “El” or “Le” or “The” are all OK. One of the earliest works about him is usually translated “The Lay of the Cid,” and even in a work like the Charlton Heston film, the title characer is El Cid but he’s still referred to as “the Cid” at times in the movie. (“In my country, we have a name for a warrior with the vision to be just and the courage to show mercy. We call him…the Cid!”)

    If trademarks have to be adjectives, then I’m not sure why Yahoo! used to use the slogan “Do You Yahoo!?” Google is commonly used as a verb, though maybe not by Google itself. Yet unless I’m missing something the company doesn’t seem to campaign against that usage.

  9. animalheart says:

    Not a big fan of the NYT puzzle, but delighted to see Janie commenting. (Hi, Janie!) Also: I laughed aloud at Bruce’s image of an enraged John McEnroe. (Hi, Bruce!) My quibble: Is CLIMATE really a pattern of highs and lows? That would seem to describe weather more than climate, and we KNOW we shouldn’t confuse those two!

  10. Martin says:


    Confusing climate and weather (“blizzards disprove climate change”) is a particularly nasty debate tactic, but I think the clue is fine. Both climate and weather are determined by statistics — temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind vector, barometer, etc., etc. Weather is the picture painted by those statistics over a short period of time and climate over a much longer period. Highs and lows are important data either way.

  11. Gareth says:

    A lot of you guys will feel quite good about the fact I seriously battled with all the names in today’s NYT. The only one that was a gimme was Bruce MCLAREN. Most of the rest I hadn’t heard of at all or only rang a vague bell, same for quite a few of the other names too!

  12. animalheart says:

    Yeah, while I do think it’s a better clue for weather than for climate, I don’t really have a problem with it. But Martin, it’s been some time since we last communicated. I’m dying to know how those ’82 Bordeaux are drinking.

  13. John Haber says:

    I did know Leo McCarey right off, and I recognized McQueen, McCourt, and McGwire once I had them. As for the others, don’t recognize any of them, including McLaren. And it wasn’t easy to make any headway toward them, as I began to wonder if there was any fill that was NOT a proper name (or, with such things as ENSTEEL, TAI, NISI, and this use of CEREBRA, pretty out there), and it annoyed me thoroughly. My hardest part, too, was in the NE, or maybe the part creeping up from due east with McBride. Bruce’s qualms about usage for some of the proper names also range true to me.

    So I’d call it one of my least favorite puzzles ever, despite an expectation of Saturday difficulty. For what it’s worth, I first guessed “sheer” for UTTER, no doubt my fault and slowing me further in the NW. (At least McCourt is a New York name for a change. He taught school locally.) I also guessed “estival” for ETESIAN.

  14. Martin says:


    We had a Lynch-Bages last week, with some rack of lamb that marinated for three days. It was pretty wonderful. O, for a time machine.

    I really should be drinking more of the first growths, but it’s hard. The one that’s an absolute moral dilemma is the magnum of ’82 Petrus that Elaine got me for my birthday in ’85 or ’86 (whenever it was released). What seemed like an impossible indulgence at the time turned out to be the best investment either of us has ever made. Is it even sane to drink that at today’s price? (For the non-wino’s, Elaine probably paid $100 for the bottle, which is now going for $15,000 or so.)

  15. animalheart says:

    A magnum of ’82 Petrus really IS a conundrum. On one level, nothing can be worth $500 a sip (or whatever it works out to). And yet… Have you read THE BILLIONAIRE’S VINEGAR? Wonderful book about the alleged Jefferson bottles of Lafite that turned up back in the 80s. Meanwhile, I’m drinking a Catena Chardonnay tonight–$16.99 at my local wine store, and it’s delicious!

    Sorry. We now return you to cruciverbal content…

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Shock Top Belgian White, here.

    **slinks off**

    EDIT TO ADD: About six years ago, an acquaintance served up some of the best champagne I’ve ever had. It was every bit as good as the Dom Perignon, but at about 1/10th the price. I meant to ask him, again, what the brand was, but he and his girlfriend (my landlady) split up shortly after that and I never got the chance. Anybody know what brand of champagne that might have been?

  17. animalheart says:

    Spork, I just so happen to have bought a six-pack of Shock Top Belgian White this very day–not four hours ago. I love the stuff. No slinking off required.

    Don’t know what the sparkling wine may have been, but if you haven’t tasted Gruet Blanc de Noirs from, of all places, New Mexico, you owe it to yourself. You can usually find it for 14 or 15 bucks.

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    Gruet Blanc de Noirs doesn’t sound like the name I can’t remember but, on your recommendation, I shall jot it down and try it. Thanks, Animalheart. :-)

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gareth, why is it that all the Formula 1 fans I know are South African?

    NYT puzzle killed me. Could be that I shouldn’t do crosswords first thing in the morning, before breakfast, before caffeine, after waking up too early. And I’m with Bruce on McEnroe. I didn’t know a couple of the McPeople.

    Doug made me smile with the dopehead birdies. “Dude, did you ever listen to yourself chirp after going nuts on hemp? It’s weeeird.”

    Jeffrey, I did not win $199,000 on that show. Next best thing: I did win a lovely royal blue men’s “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords” wristwatch. What can I get for that on eBay? Is it more than $25?

  20. Tuning Spork says:

    Amy, I’ll give ya 5 bucks for it. :-D

  21. Jeffrey says:


  22. animalheart says:

    This comments string has morphed from a crossword discussion group to a wine forum and now to eBay…

  23. BobOfArizona says:

    I know its not perfect, but “malaria” could be a theme for the LAT puzzle. Some victims may get “white as a sheet with it”. “The Road to Singapore” may refer to where malaria was once found rampant. One may want to “keep a distance” from malaria carrying mosquitos. And quinine could be quite the “lifesaver” to those subject to it.

  24. don says:

    Shouldn’t 37-across have had a ? Not a bad Saturday for me until I crashed and burned in the NE corner…

  25. hi,this article quite superior.

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