Saturday, 12/31/11

Newsday 7:39 
LAT 5:21 
NYT 4:40 
CS 5:07 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 31 11 #1231

Nice puzzle to close out the year, though rather easier than I was expecting for the Saturday puzzle. It’s even one row taller than usual, so it should have taken longer.


  • The quadruple stack of 15s in the middle has pretty smooth crossings (TESSIE and RETRIM felt “meh” but the rest was fine). Cute to have STARTS SOMETHING on the last day of the year.
  • 4d. Barbara KINGSOLVER! Author of The Poisonwood Bible, one of my favorite books and you know why? Because of the chapters in the voice of Adah, who—despite her non-palindromic name spelling—speaks in palindromes. I love Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, too.
  • BUDGET CUTS, always relevant.

Least familiar word, but one I have seen before (possibly in old crosswords): DENE, [Sandy tract by the sea, to a Brit]. The word’s related to dune, the dictionary tells me. Raise your hand if you plunked DUNE in there first.

Can’t believe REXES are in there (the curly-haired kitties) but there aren’t any ORANGES at all.

Four stars.

Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 31 11

A half a star of my rating for this puzzle belongs to one answer alone: 57a, MAN FROM ATLANTIS! How well I remember that [1970s Patrick Duffy title character who can breathe underwater]. Is there anyone in their 40s who didn’t try to swim underwater like the Man from Atlantis, even though we lacked Patrick Duffy’s webbed digits?

Eight clues:

  • 9a. [Described in letters] clues SPELT, which is not how I learnt to spell “spelled.” Seems like nobody ever clues SPELT as the health-food grain. Is it because quinoa came along and kicked spelt to the curb?
  • 17a. [Style eschewing heavy sauces] is NOUVELLE CUISINE, and RISOTTO sits right under it. I had stuffed pizza for supper tonight but this puzzle’s giving me an appetite again.
  • 32a. [1840s-’50s antislavery party] was the FREE SOIL party. I don’t think I knew they were anti-slavery, but the “free” part will remind me of that in the future.
  • 7d. [Crown in the Henry VIII era, e.g.] was a GOLD COIN.
  • 8d. [Only nonrhyming ghost in Ms. Pac-Man]…hmm. I ran through Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde and had nothing with 3 letters. Clyde’s from Pac-Man, whereas SUE is in Ms. Pac-Man.
  • 21d. [Musical based on an O’Hara novel] is PAL JOEY. Man, I needed a lot of crossings here. Musicals ≠ my forte.
  • 22d. [Key of the last Brandenburg concerto]—no, not the second to last. No, not that one. The last one. The one is B FLAT. (Whatever. I never, ever know these ones. I just piece together something between A and G and either FLAT or SHARP, whichever one fits. Or maybe NATURAL? I really couldn’t tell you. Keys are not my bag.)
  • 40d. [Clipper airlines] clues PAN AM. Can anyone explain why “airlines” is plural in this clue?

Four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Midnight Melody” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword December 31

We bring 2011 to a close with an apt theme from Randolph Ross. Solving from top to bottom, the theme may have been hard to see:

  • 17-Across: A THIRTEEN YEAR-OLD is one way to describe a [Bar mitzvah boy, e.g.]. How else would you clue this entry? [One barely out of the tweens] feels like it’s trying too hard.
  • 25-Across: JESSICA LANGE was the [Oscar winner for “Tootsie”]. You know, because she played a woman who dressed as a woman. The Academy loves it when actors push their limits.
  • 42-Across: A POSITIVE SIGN is clued as an [Optimistic omen]. I would have gone with [+], but maybe it would have been too confusing, what with ADDS in the corner there at 13-Down.
  • So what the heck connects these three entries? 56-Across reveals that [When read together, what the last words of 17-, 25-, and 42-Across sound like]. OLD + LANGE + SIGN = Auld Lang Syne, the traditional NEW YEAR’S EVE SONG.

I might have called it a New Year’s Day song, since normally one sings Auld Lang Syne after the ball has dropped and not while it’s still December 31. But what the heck–why end 2011 being a fussbudget? Besides, there’s lots to like in the fill. SAVE ME, FREE PASS, FAIL-SAFE, and NOSE RAG stand out most. I liked [He came between Harry and Jack] as the clue for IKE, Dwight Eisenhower (serving as President after Harry Truman and before John F. Kennedy). It’s neat how “Ike” alphabetically falls between “Harry” and “Jack” too. Anyone else try LIME and JADE before getting NILE as the [Shade of green]? The only unknown to me was ANA as the answer to [Carrier to Japan]. Apparently it’s All Nippon Airways. All Nippon, all the time.

Call it sappy, call it crappy–whatever. But I’ve always liked this song about New Year’s Eve. Whether you run into an old lover in the grocery store, go out on the town with friends, or get to sleep by ten o’clock, here’s hoping your New Years Eve brings a happy end to 2011. See you on the flip side!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)

Newsday crossword solution, 12 31 11 Anna Stiga

Three quarters of this puzzle worked itself out slowly but surely, while the southeast quadrant forced me to work it out in laborious fits and starts. Here are some of the things I learned in that tough corner:

  • 45a. [Silver braids on uniforms] can be LACES. No idea which uniforms this refers to.
  • 52a. SARI is a [Word from the Sanskrit for “cloth strip”]. I do like a good etymology clue, and it’s a smart way to make a common crossword answer’s clue both challenging and educational.
  • 60a. Ionization can involve dissolution? I had no idea, but [Dissolve, perhaps] clues IONIZE.
  • 35d. Didn’t know the INCAS were [Masters of mortarless construction].
  • 37a. [Like some mascaras] clues FIBERIZED. I’ve heard of mascara having fibers in it to stick to eyelashes and make them look longer, but have never seen the word fiberized.
  • 42a. [Some snow frolickers] clues BEAR CUBS. The clue is rather broad so it took a while for the crossings to narrow this down.

Highlights from the other crossword zones:

  • The Asian 15s, JAPANESE BEETLES (7d: [Corn pests]) and A PASSAGE TO INDIA (39a: [Two-Oscar winner for 1984]).
  • The AMERICAN/BRIT crossing. 16a: [T.S. Eliot, by birth] is the first, while 20a: ELGAR is a BRIT.
  • 62a. CARD GAME is clued with [Klondike or Chicago]. I’ve heard of Klondike but not the game named after my city.
  • 64a. [Blots on blocks] made me think of Lego, but it’s EYESORES on city blocks.
  • 2d. Who knew that AUDIOTAPE was a [’40s innovation championed by Bing Crosby]? Mind you, Hedy Lamarr’s radio inventions were more scientifically impressive but Bing made a difference on the business/TV front.
  • 24d. My favorite clue in this puzzle is [Barely visible stars] for the D-LIST. This is about minor celebrities, not astronomy.
  • 26d. COCOA is a [Brown shade]. Mm-mm, chocolate.

Term I didn’t know before doing this puzzle: 21d: GO BAG, [Part of an emergency supply kit]. You can read up on it if the term is new to you, too.

Very smooth fill + tough clues = four stars.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “X’s and O’s”

WSJ "X's and O's" cryptic crossword solution, 12 31 11

Lots of easier-than-usual clues in this week’s variety cryptic meant that I could fill in enough of the numbered answers to make a reasoned guess at 9-Across. A phrase with N********V* on December 31? NEW YEAR’S EVE! Then I studied the game plan of squares with X’s and O’s. The X’s look like multiplication symbols, and Times Square is associated with New Year’s Eve. Then the other shoe dropped and I realized that the O’s are balls, and the ball drops in the center of the grid. After that, it was just a matter of working the X and O clues and finding spaces where those words could go. No mystifying clues + no obscure answer words = satisfying solve.

Favorite clue: Clue j in the X’s list, [Lifting chopper outside consists of cheap metal]. Here, chopper doesn’t mean helicopter and it doesn’t refer to an axe—it’s a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, or HOG. Consists of = IS, cheap metal = TIN, Put it all together and you have HOISTING.

Cute: The Felix and Oscar references. [“The Apartment” actor is dud in audition] clues Jack LEMMON, who played Felix Ungar in the 1968 movie. Tony Randall played Felix Unger, with a spelling change, in the TV series. [Hey, “The Odd Couple” neatnik is not so old] clues YOUNGER, combining “yo” and Unger.

Five stars. I’m not about to deduct from the rating for the puzzle not being as challenging as Hex’s old Atlantic cryptics because (a) it’s a holiday and (b) I’ve got a lot of stuff to do today and needed a puzzle that was one-sitting-solvable.

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20 Responses to Saturday, 12/31/11

  1. imsdave says:

    Glad this was easy for you – very tough for me. Multiply your time by ten and we’re about even. And if you need to see yourself in a puzzle, I got you in twice in my Rex IV effort, over at the Island of Lost Puzzles.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Very good Sat. puzzle by Krozel, though I’m not familiar with REXES as cats, or TESSIE as an anthem? The 4-stack across the equator was great however, with two easy ways in via AIDA and the Hang SENG index, and the clues were cute, with Parcel referring to land and Folder obscuring the art of ORIGAMI. The echoes are fun also, e.g. ATONE plus MADE RESTITUTION, and BET ON plus OTBS. Many thanks, Joe!

  3. Howard B says:

    BRIDE TO BE has a great clue. There were quite a few other very good clues in this one, some for what would be otherwise overlooked/ordinary fill (ECON, RPMS, etc) which really added to the experience. Clues (constructor and editor) make an impact as well :).

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Great clues, great quad-stack, great way to end the year.

    5 stars.

  5. janie says:

    loved joe’s puzzle today and mike’s yesterday. in both cases, after thinking i’d encountered the unsolvable, made my way by working from the bottom up. no over-nighting required!

    thx, constructors ‘n’ will, for the great 2011 wrap up (ditto will’s year-end comments over at “wordplay”) — and happy new year one and all!


  6. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, Free Soilers were definitely anti-slavery… The point was that they resented the imposition of the Federal law requiring them to return escaped slaves to their owners, which arose from the Compromise of 1840. Illinois had been a free state up until then, meaning that fugitives from slave states got sanctuary on arrival. Abe Lincoln, in his law practice, handled four court cases which involved escaped slaves — winning the two in which he represented the fugitives, but losing the two in which he was representing the pursuing owners. He also supported the “Underground Railroad” which secretly got fugitives they couldn’t hide to safety in Canada. He was a close friend of my great-great grandfather, the first doctor in Chicago when it was mainly Fort Dearborn, and head of the activists in that part of the state — the same group that also made sure the Republican Convention held in Chicago in 1860 nominated Lincoln for President on their third ballot.

  7. Gareth says:

    4-stacker that was nearly as good as a regular crossword. I spoiled my 10:15 by having ADVERT/STAT and taking 3 minutes to find it. Hard to find when both answers are legitimate (though they don’t answer the clue)

  8. Martin says:

    Gareth wrote:

    “4-stacker that was nearly as good as a regular crossword”

    OK, I’ll bite… what made it not quite as good as a regular crossword?


  9. pannonica says:

    “Too many notes”?

  10. Gareth says:

    A themeless puzzle grid (not the clues) would primarily be judged on how many interesting longer entries can be squeezed in with as little junky fill to compramise it? I found only one of the 4 longer entries particularly entertaining: STARTSSOMETHING. There’s less compromise than usual, though DENE is pretty fusty crossword-ese! Compare it to the top-right and bottom-left corners with ITSABLAST/NEWGUINEA and TOGAPARTY/BRIDETOBE… It should be said that the “entertainment factor” of any crossword is quite subjective, I do seem to be in the minority today.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’ve been loving Joe K’s puzzles recently, and today was one of the best. Much harder than yesterday, which I found a pretty easy Friday, but doable. I can’t imagine what kind of talent it takes to bring off a 4 x 15 stack (and that reaction extends to other constructors, MAS included.) I do fret though, about the extent to which computers do the work, but I can’t imagine that this sort of creation can be done free of human intervention. But I do worry, semi-seriously, that computers will completely supplant and replace humans, in what had heretofore been considered the highest and most distinctively human creative processes. In fact computers may render human civilization completely unnecessary and redundant. The omens are there.

    I too am a great fan of Barabara Kingsolver–a brilliant, intellectual woman about town, and apparently a humane an appealing personality. Did you know that she is an accomplished concert pianist, but decided that she probably couldn’t make a living that way. (Surprise) So she said to herself “What are my choices? I could be a hack law professor, or a celebrated writer.” We all make those choices.

    Re 1a–I once accompanied my stepson on a search for an inexpensive used car. He mentioned a particular make (which I will not identify), and the salesman said “Sir, would you like that with black smoke or white smoke.”


  12. John Haber says:

    Very nice. I took a little longer where I’d ONION for food cut in rings, and that use of SASH doesn’t ring a bell, but still fun. I agree easier than I expected.

  13. janie says:

    >that use of SASH doesn’t ring a bell…

    think beauty pageant (miss america or miss usa, e.g.)…


  14. sbmanion says:


    I do all too often to please my wife ;)

    Much easier for me today than yesterday or even Thursday. I enjoyed it. First tme in a while I have been on the right wavelength.


  15. Cole says:


    If you count the X’s and O’s you will note 11 each and I believe they are meant to represent football teams.

  16. Martin says:

    Bruce writes:

    “I do fret though, about the extent to which computers do the work”

    This may sound counter-intuitive, but quad-stack puzzles (such as today’s), require far more human construction and less computer than most “regular” puzzles.


  17. larry says:

    36D says that the 13th Olympics were cancelled by WWII. However, my perusal of the table of Olympic games starting in 1896 thru 1936 were nos. 1-10 (1916 games were canceled due to WWI). Therefore, the 1940 and 44 games would have been XI and
    XII. Anyone have an explanation of Mr. Krozel’s method of counting?
    Drat – I should have looked at Wikipedia first. It seems the IOC keeps the numbering going even if the games are cancelled – so the canceled 1916 games kept the number VI and the cancelled WWII games (1940, 44) kept the numbers XII and XIII.
    Obviously, not the way I would have counted it.

  18. sbmanion says:


    The games of the VI Olympiad were cancelled. I suspect that advertising for the 1916 games used the number VI and very possibly the award of the games for the VII Olympiad was made before Number VI was cancelled. Any Google search of XIII and Olympics will take you to the cancellation of the ’44 Games.


  19. Bananarchy says:

    Loved the Krozel. Just as herculean as any of his construction feats, but much cleaner than most. I’m also a little biased because it was my best Sat solve in I don’t know how long.

  20. chad henry says:

    Either I’m getting old or these puzzles are getting harder all the time! I had to go to the solution of this x’s and o’s puzzle to finish–although I tried to only look up one answer at a time and then keep working. These guys are brilliant. So sorry Atlantic has discontinued their puzzle page.

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