Saturday, 1/28/12

Newsday 9:46 
NYT 8:48 
LAT 4:06 
CS untimed (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1 28 12 #0128

Barry Silk’s got both the Saturday NYT and the LAT crosswords. The NYT is rather challenging, while the LAT is more like a breezy Friday NYT. The NYT is a 70-worder, the LAT 72. Despite my love of knotty crossword challenges, I actually preferred the LAT this time. The fill was more fun.

The NYT slaughtered me in the northeast, which was largely empty when the rest was done and stayed empty. 14d was particularly noxious: [Some ermines] wanted to be STOATS, or maybe (if you ignore the actual identity of various mammals) SABLES. They sure didn’t want to be dead, but there you have it: STOLES. I took a stab at AQABA for the Jordanian place name, though [King Hussein Airport locale] and the Gulf of Aqaba weren’t meshing in my head. That whole corner, eh. It wasn’t so fun.

Neither was 1a. LUMP, [Concern for a dermatologist]? No. If you have a LUMP, it is more than skin-deep and you need another kind of doctor altogether. Take your BUMP or SPOT to a derm, sure, but not a LUMP. Now, clue it as a mashed potato inclusion or a British glob of sugar, and at least you won’t alienate the medically savvy solver. Hmph.

Didn’t know SAND BARREL was a term—56a: [Many a crash cushion at a construction zone]. Aren’t more of those things filled with water these days?

28d: [Passing comment at a poker table] clues I CHECK. What is that? A comment made in passing, or “I’m going to pass, therefore I’m saying ‘I check'”? I’ve never heard that. Not fond of pokerese in my crosswords.

Now, I do like the POPSICLE and HASH BROWNS and BIKE PATH. But overall, eh. Little bits like [P.R., e.g.] for ISL. (Puerto Rico being an island) just didn’t enchant me, and the big stuff wasn’t as zippy at it was in the LAT puzzle. The edge goes to the West Coast this time.

3.5 stars.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 28 12

Now, see? This one’s got those long 10-letter answers piled up in every corner, and there are some juicy ones. Right off the bat, Barry hits us with CAP’N CRUNCH—the [Mascot whose first and middle names are Horatio Magellan]. Way more fun than the NYT’s 1-Across. My other favorite big guns:

  • 15a. ARE YOU SURE? [“No kidding?”].
  • 34a. [They shine in theaters] is a cute clue for EXIT SIGNS.
  • 44a. [Baylor University hoopsters] are the LADY BEARS.
  • 12d. SIR GALAHAD was a [Round Table member]. Oh, you should have seen the way he exchanged bons mots with Dorothy Parker!
  • 28d. DEL SHANNON, full name. He’s your [“Runaway” singer, 1961]. You know what? I’m pretty sure my knowledge of this song and its singer derives from crosswords.
  • 30d. [National Cherry Blossom Festival focal point]…hmm, is this the U.S. or Japan? It’s the D.C. area’s TIDAL BASIN.

The clues were much easier here than in the NYT puzzle, which meant that I breezed past the ugly little bits (NCAR, EREI, PATA) without really noticing them.

Did you notice the two musical improv references? 21d: SCAT is an [Improvisational style] in vocal jazz, whereas 26a: TOCCATA is apparently an [Improvisatory composition]. I tend to get the latter mixed up with veal piccata. Anyone else?

Four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

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

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 28

Go figure. After guessing Randolph Ross as the constructor for most of the crosswords in my recent “Name That Theme and Constructor” game, the first puzzle made appearing the day after the game is by Randolph Ross.

And it’s a good one, too. Today’s crossword honors the mondegreen, an error of the ear. All of the theme entries are truisms that have been “misheard” for a funny effect:

  • 20-Across: The “big bang theory” becomes the BIG BANK THEORY, clued as a [Truism about large financial institutions?].
  • 33-Across: GRISHAM’S LAW is a [Truism about a popular author of legal thrillers?]. I took a guess that there was something called “Gresham’s Law” and went ahead and filled in the two missing letters I needed to finish it. Wikipedia says Gresham’s Law “is an economic principle that states: When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.” So if you’re wondering where all the silver coins went after we started minting them on the cheap, now you know.
  • 40-Across: A [Truism about a heavy heartbeat?] would be a RULE OF THUMP instead of the more commonly known “rule of thumb.”
  • 49-Across: The [Truism about how gyro sandwiches are made?] is the PITA PRINCIPLE, a twist on the “Peter Principle,” an axiom that, as Wikipedia confirms, “states that ‘in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,’ meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position in which they cannot work competently.” It explains why I stink in my current job.

I thought this was a neat idea for a puzzle, and the theme was well-executed. I liked SPYGLASS, HOME ROW, and RAN AWAY among the long Downs, and other good entries included GO NOW, LIT UP, TOP-RATED, and ACROSTIC. I had to guess on the crossing of [Remove by cutting] and [Ready for an upset], but I got lucky with ABLATE and BROMO.

Anyone else try POPE as the answer to [John Paul II, e.g.]? The answer proved to be POLE, for Pope John Paul II was born in Poland.

Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” by “Lars G. Doubleday” (Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson)

Newsday crossword solution, 1 28 12 Saturday Stumper

Oof! This one was even tougher than the NYT. I managed to plow through the right half first, except for one square in the bottom, and the left half proved a bit more resistant to poking.

Why is 54d: [Son of Marge and Homer] MATT rather than BART? I do not know. But the 54a: [One not to be trusted] insisted on being MOLE, and the 60a: [Poaching setting] is an OMELET PAN. (Are omelets technically poached, or are people making poached eggs in omelet pans?)

Let’s take a tour through the gnarliest places:

  • 33a. NAVARRE, a region of Spain, is [Where Pamplona is capital].
  • 38a. [Origin of many drafts] of beer is a TAPROOM, which is a word I encounter mainly in crosswords. How about you?
  • 41a. Not sure why TRIBUNE is [Upholder of rights]. Ah, the dictionary explains. In ancient Rome, the plebeians chose a tribune whose job was to protect their interests.
  • 48a. Wait, what? CNN is clued as [Broadcast debut of June 1980], but it’s on cable, not broadcast TV. CNN does make broadcasts, though.
  • 52a. [Rime ___ (poetic use of homophones)] clues RICHE. New to me.
  • 57a. [Site from Heinz Field] is a COAL BARGE on the river passing the stadium in Pittsburgh, I think.
  • 1d. Not sure that GOT WET really passes muster as a crossword entry. It’s clued with [Lost at logrolling], the literal standing on a log in water and running to make it roll rather than political favor-swapping.
  • 7d. GLAD-EYE?? For [Ogle]? New to me.
  • 9d. [Garland’s sister in “Summer Stock”] clues DEHAVEN. Gloria DeHaven, not familiar to me.
  • 14d. [Growth-factor source] clues PLATELET. As a medical editor, I know all sorts of abbreviations for growth factors, but didn’t realize the platelets were the source.
  • 26d. [Pat Nixon, originally] was a NEVADAN. Who knew? (Who cared?)
  • 39d. Medical [Residents, e.g.], as in “people who have finished their internships but haven’t yet entered fellowships,” clues MEDICOS. Who calls them “medicos,” though?
  • 40d. Ha! [Ray heating stoves] is TV chef RACHAEL Ray.
  • 43d. [Olympian portrayed by Lancaster] is Jim THORPE. I wasn’t sure if we were looking for a Greek god here.

My favorite parts of this puzzle were the DUBIOUS HONOR of the Razzie award across from LIZA MINNELLI the non-dubious [Oscar/Emmy/Tony winner]. A HARDBACK book is clued as a [Jacket wearer]; cute. [Milieu for expert driving] is a good clue for the PGA TOUR. We get an etymology lesson for 44d: VULGAR, [Word from the Latin from “public”]. “ATTAGIRL!” and CONFRERE, TAKE A BATH and ST. THOMAS—also nice.

Four stars.

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

WSJ Saturday Puzzle solution, 1 28 12 Anagrammania

A worthy challenge for a Saturday morning. Half the answers need to be anagrammed before getting entered into the grid, while the other half have an anagrammed word in their clues.

Anyone else notice that 15d: SHERPA had other anagram possibilities besides SERAPH? Both of the words in 20a, PHRASE SHAPER, would also work.

The last things I figured out were 5d and 32a. I figured 5d was TREACLE long before I made sense out of the clue. [Choose Egyptian sun god for a tragic figure] gets you ELECT + RA, or Electra, which anagrams into TREACLE. I tried the anagram server but it doesn’t output proper nouns, so it was useless here. For 32a, stick = CANE, made from CAN (“may”) and E (“get” in the middle); it anagrams to ACNE.

Question about 29d. [Some shenanigans turned silly] clues INANE, which is anagrammed into ANNIE for the grid. But I already had SINATRA at 21d (anagram of ARTISAN), and the instructions said the anagrammed entries include one proper name. Um, I count two. What am I doing wrong?

Pre-anagramming answers for the normally written clues:

  • 1a. SCARLET / 11a. RELIANT / 14a. MASTERING / 26a. DESPAIR / 30a. BARGAINED / 32a. CANE / 3d. MARRIED / 4d. PARENTS / 5d. ELECTRA / 6d. TASTED / 7d. ASCENT / 15d. SHERPA / 16d. DOSAGE / 20d. DOPIEST / 21d. ARTISAN / 22d. RALEIGH / 23d. IN PLACE / 24d. FOWLER / 29d. INANE

Anagrammed words from the clues with normally written answers:

  • 6a. gulps/plugs / 10a. PSAT/past / 12a. rinse/siren / 13a. Craig/cigar / 17a. act/cat / 18a. piers/spire / 28a. sages/sage / 31a. raiments/minarets / 33a. Sierra/raiser / 34a. trestle/letters. 35a. care/race / 36a. team/meat / 1d. carves/craves / 2d. Manila/animal / 8d. loin/lion / 9d. mares/smear / 19d. desirer/Dreiser / 25d. Brian/brain / 27d. Ernst/stern

4.5 stars. How did this one treat you?

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26 Responses to Saturday, 1/28/12

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    WOW–first comment, and do I get to gloat? NE & NW were smooth for me, since for some reason the three 10 x 3’s in the NE fell right in place; my last and slowest was the SW, but I was still in at about the same time (a little under 9.) Who says there are no more miracles? !


  2. Agree with your LAT-over-NYT; flashier fill for sure in the former. As a casual hold ’em player, I can certainly vouch for ICHECK being in-the-language enough; whereas bridge players “pass,” poker players “check.” Though it of course runs the risk of being to niche-y, and I’d rather seen it clued straight-forwardly instead of how it was clued here [Passing comment…]

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Found it very, very tough to get into each section, but once in they almost all yielded quickly: top-left, bottom-right, top-right, but then the bottom-left happened: The 4X4 square bounded by CRUC and SAND mocked me for about 10 minutes!
    I look at the grid, and the only things I’ve never heard of are a SANDBARREL and a ROADGRADER being called that and not just a GRADER, though that was inferrable. Favourite clue was “It cuts power in half”. Sure I wasn’t alone in baGGAGE/bUMP then. Oh, and NOTAIL makes me think of the creepy British sitcom whose name I’ve expunged from memory. @Andrew: I always just say “check.” The “I” seems redundant (I wish I could make my opponents check!), but I don’t doubt people do say it!

    LAT: More Wed. than Fri. but agree had more fun answers than the NYT. Funniest misstep: Misremembering CIRCE as CIRCo created a team called the LADYBoARS!!! Also, DELSHANNON’s “Runaway” has one of the coolest intros ever!

  4. bob stigger says:

    Do poker players ever actually say “I check” as opposed to just “check”? From what I’ve seen on TV the pros never do. Perhaps it’s similar to bridge: “I pass” is not a legal statement at the bridge table, but you hear it all the time in casual social games. I suppose one difference is that in poker, there is no partner to whom information can be improperly conveyed, so that saying “I check” may tag you as a rank amateur but not a possible cheater. Bob

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Like Gareth, I had BAGGAGE/BUMP, which meant I wouldn’t put BAG at 57D (tried VALise), so the SW ended up a mess. ROADLOADER anyone? I did coin a new term: SAND VELVEL.

    Agree that the LAT was the better puzzle.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    It’s funny–it’s only amazingly recently–like within the last couple years–that I learned that what I had always heard as a “road grater”–(after all, it grates up the road, like a cheese grater) was actually a “road grader.” So I’m focused on that term. I too briefly stuck on “Baggage” and “bump.” But I loved the NYT, (maybe because I had a freakishly rapid solve). Haven’t done the LAT yet.


  7. ArtLvr says:

    I was fine with I CHECK, but NOTCH for Step was slightly annoying, because it reminded me of Emeril’s boring phrases like “Kick it up a notch”. That’s probably just me? I enjoyed Ross’ clever twists, especially RULE OF THUMP! The LAT’s TOCCATA was a guess, but worked out okay.

  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: I had the same thought about LUMP. Wasn’t quite as thrown by the mustelid clue because all ermines are stoats, and vice-versa; now, if the clue had used “sometimes” instead of “some”…

    Had AMMAN, not AQABA, which kept me confused for a while. Last, I believe the rationale for the [P.R., e.g.] clue was to echo 27d (and confuse the solver), [P.R. releases] PICS.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I think “taproom” is a regionalism, but I’m not sure what region, I’ve lived in so many. But I’m sure I remember places where every other bar is called a “taproom.” (Just as when I lived in Minnesota, decades ago, rural restaurants were called “cafes” or “supper clubs.”) Gloria DeHaven is somebody’s sister–Joan Fontaine, or someone like that. I didn’t get “hardback” at all until Amy explained it–and that’s a usage unfamiliar to me. Hard *cover* yes, but not hard back. Yes, the Pittsburgh stadium is at the famous confluence of 3 Rivers, the Ohio, and Monongahela (sp?) and–the something else. Neat puzzle, though, much more difficult for me than the NYT.


  10. pannonica says:

    TAP ROOM is more of an old-time moniker. Here’s one I know from West 79th Street in Manhattan: Dublin House. It’s always amused me how it looks a lot like “STAR ROOM.”

  11. xhixen says:

    Marge and Homer Simpson are named after MATT Groening’s parents. I knew this, but I had BART there initially, nonetheless.

  12. animalheart says:

    Like Orange, I had the most trouble with the NE, but STOLES I got fairly early, since INDIE seemed a gimme. My trouble was with the SQUAREROOT, WONTDO, ETAL concatenation. For some reason, I just couldn’t get the penny to drop on WONTDO until the last minute, and I for some reason was clinging to EVAL as the roster curtailer (If a player doesn’t do well in his evaluation, he gets cut from the roster, etc.). But I quite liked the puzzle, and look forward to doing Silk’s LAT, since you all seem to like it.

  13. Tuning Spork says:

    I had BART, too, thinking it was too easy an answer for the Stumper. Then I remembered that MATT named Homer and Marge after his own parents and BART after himself, being an anagram of BRAT.

  14. KarmaSartre says:

    ICHECK Is Apple-ese for the much more common CHECK.

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:


    Re “taproom”–It probably *is* NYC I’m thinking of. 79th. & Bdwy–my neighborhood, specifically 78th & Riv. Do you remember the long-defunct 2nd. story pool room at the NE corner of Bdwy & 79 (OK–you probably didn’t hang out in pool rooms)–or Tony’s Italian Restaurant on the south side of 79 betw. Bdwy & Amst? (It has gone through many incarnations over the years.)


  16. pannonica says:

    Actually, Bruce. I knew Julian’s on 14th Street! Didn’t grow up in the Upper West Side, but worked there for quite a while.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    PAN–You WORKED at Julian’s??????? WOWOWOW. When? (I’m blown away.) It’s possible I know you by sight. I fancied myself as having “worked” in poolrooms too. I did contribute fairly substantially to my living expenses while at Juilliard by carefully picking adversaries. It’s a belief among many pool players that pianists, and even more especially violinists tend to be good pool players. I apologize abjectly for my sexist assumption about your not being a poolroom denizen. (Of course, I’m only assuming that you are female.) email me privately at

    Brucenm [at sign] aol [dot] com

    if you are willing to respond. Julian’s was one of the last holdovers of the great, old NYC poolrooms. It was still around not that many years ago, but I guess gone now. My “home office” poolroom was Manny Hess’s on Bdwy at 96, until he (allegedly) torched it for the insurance. Then I moved to 79th. The order of demise was something like Ames, then 7 – 11, then the wonderful McGirrs in mid-town west.

    I’m dying to hear about your experiences at Julian’s.


  18. pannonica says:

    Oh, no no no. I was employed in the Upper West Side. Never worked in a pool room at all. Sorry for the ambiguity!

    Never saw Ames. Visited Julian’s precisely because of its history. Would play, but was never foolish enough to think of wagering. NYU took over the space, either for dorms or facilities. The comedian David Brenner had (has?) an upscale room on Amsterdam (bet. 80th & 81st?).

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    pan–actually, I guess that was a misread on my part.


  20. sbmanion says:

    I suppose I CHECK is as good as CHECK since most players in casino or tournament environments do not say anything when checking, but rather make some sort of hand gesture such as rapping the table once to indicate a check. I CHECK is certainly plausible even if seldom used.


  21. pannonica says:

    Sorry to disappoint, Bruce.

  22. maikong says:

    Sam —

    Of course, I tried Pope instead of Pole the first time, plus in all my 74 years, I have been spelling aglet “e”glet . Probably because I lived across the river from Kentucky and West Virginia!!!!!!!

  23. Howard B says:

    Fun with the NY and LA Times today.
    Newsday was a challenge until the bottom-right, where I blew out a tire on the MATT trivia clue and its long crossings, and could not finish today. Oh well, until next time, Stan :).

  24. Jan (danjan) says:

    Maybe the Stumper skews older this week; I thought it was on the easy side again (for the Stumper). I had BART originally too, but when the crossings didn’t work, remembered why MATT would be the answer.

  25. joon says:

    bruce, joan fontaine’s sister is olivia de havilland, not gloria DEHAVEN. (i learned this because it was a final jeopardy in the jeopardy tournament of champions, although not in one of the games i was in.)

    i knew pannonica was a she, but i only learned from amy’s post that DEL SHANNON is a he. i’ve answered DEL for {Singer Shannon} in many a crossword, but always assumed it was a woman.

    same thought as amy about ANNIE and SINATRA in the WSJ. i guess they miscounted? i spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out the anagram of BARGAINED that went into the grid at 30a, but it was because i had SEA GOD instead of SEA DOG for 16d (and the 4th letter was unchecked). very hard puzzle, i thought.

    i, too, liked barry’s LAT over barry’s NYT, but the bradleydouglas stumper was my favorite themeless of the day. some great fill and killer clues all over, including the eeeeevil MATT clue. nice work, gentlemen.

  26. Enjoy your website since I stumbled upon it especially when I can’t complete my saturday stumper (which is always all of the time). Did you get an answer to “Son of Marge & Homer”? I had Bart also but this clue is too cute by half – whatever that means. The creater of the Simpsons is Matt Groening. His parents were Margaret & Homer. Have a nice day from here on Long Island.

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