Saturday, 2/4/12

Newsday 8:54 
NYT 4:45 
LAT 3:23 
Celebrity untimed 
CS 5:17 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) 10:39 

Brendan Emmett Quigley and Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 2 4 12 0204

Fun puzzle! I mean, sure. YO! MTV RAPS may now be an outdated pop-culture title, but doesn’t it look great in the grid? Note that YOM KIPPUR would have fit there, too.


  • You’ve got your full names, with enough people to play doubles tennis. STEVE NASH, AMY ADAMS, SETH ROGEN, and A.A. MILNE.
  • Get a STEEP FINE for far exceeding the speed limit. This is exactly why I never go more than 59 when rounding that bend on Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier—my husband got one of those STEEP FINEs for going 61 (speed limit, 40 mph).
  • Row 4: DEVOUR it. It’s LUSCIOUS.
  • Insane utterance zone: UH-UH meets AHAS and that [Sound after “Lower … lower … that’s it!”], AAH.
  • Misleading clue for PVC PIPE: [Line at a water fountain, maybe]. That V is smothered in consonants, with MTVR crossing PVCP.

[Dutch chess grandmaster Max] EUWE? That doesn’t even look like a name! It’s like an expanded “eww.”

So, how’d this one treat you? I thought it was surprisingly easy for a Saturday puzzle, but judging from the applet, that’s far from a universal opinion. 4.5 stars from me.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 2 4 12 Sajdak

Do you think the two Across 15-letter answers are meant to make up a mini-theme, with the SOUND and PICTURE partnering up? I vote yes.

All three 15s are quite good:

  • 17a. A [Blue chip, e.g.] is a SOUND INVESTMENT.
  • 55a. Someone who’s your [Fitness ideal] is the PICTURE OF HEALTH.
  • 8d. [“You look familiar …”]—HAVE WE MET BEFORE?

Now, overall this puzzle was too easy for a themeless Saturday L.A Times puzzle. The clues didn’t push me too hard. I still liked it, despite its lack of rigor, because of things like these:

  • BEHEMOTH, “IS IT ME?,” full names for NED ROREM and SE RI PAK, THE BEAST of Disney fame, an E.R. DOCTOR, and SHORT FOR. I also love the word PASHAS ([Ottoman officials]) even if it’s pretty much crosswordese to Americans.
  • 49a. TRE, Italian for “three,” is clued as [Neapolitan crowd?]. Or, as I like to spell it, Neoplotian. (Try the baby cleams!)
  • 58a. [17th/18th-century division of New France] clues ACADIA. I gather that New France included the area where Maine is now? I like learning little bits of geography via crosswords.
  • 9d. IPSO [__ fatso: bit of Archie Bunker language-mangling]!
  • 42d. [Ring around a crib?] is a baby’s TEETHER. Not literally around the crib.

The toughest stuff includes 20a: OKEMO, a [Vermont ski resort] I was befuddled by the first time I encountered it in a puzzle; 2d: ECOTONE, [Transition zone between plant communities] and I word I’ve only seen in crosswords; 40d: [Elaine’s home, in Arthurian legend], ASTOLAT (ditto); and 41d: [Close overlap of fugue voices], STRETTO (ditto).

3.75 stars.

Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 4 12 "Smartypants Saturday" Cohen

Adam’s theme is U.S. First Ladies. The three main entries are:

  • 18a. [First Lady, 1981-1989: 2 wds.], NANCY REAGAN.
  • 30a. [Current First Lady: 2 wds.], MICHELLE OBAMA. Did you see her on Ellen DeGeneres’s show this week, doing pushups on the floor with Ellen? She whipped through 25 of them before getting bored. Ellen said she stopped early (after 20) so she wouldn’t show up the First Lady. Funny video.
  • 40a. [First Lady, 1989-1993: 2 wds.], BARBARA BUSH. Is it bad that I blanked on who this could be?

Other First Lady names are peppered throughout the puzzle: IDA McKinley, First Lady 1897-1901; PAT Nixon, First Lady 1969-1974; MAMIE Eisenhower, First Lady 1953-1961; BESS Truman, First Lady 1945-1953; and LOU Hoover, First Lady 1929-1933. Secretary of State and former Senator Hillary Clinton’s name is 14 letters, too long for a 13×13 grid; ditto Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Martha Washington.

I like that both SKEE-Ball and Whac-A-MOLE are in here. Man, I haven’t been to Chuck E. Cheese’s in a few years. I miss Skee-Ball.

Updated Saturday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What’s Brewing?” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 4

54-Across says that TEA is the [Brewed drink (found in all four long answers)] of this crossword. Whaddya say we go bag some tea:

  • 17-Across: The RED, WHITE, AND BLUE is a [Patriotic display] if you live in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Chile, Cuba, Nepal, Russia, Croatia, or any of another half dozen or so countries. Outside of those borders, they’re just colors.
  • 25-Across: A DEFINITE ARTICLE is a [Sentence element, often], and a magazine piece with very strong opinions.
  • 43-Across: To [Oppose] something loquaciously is to MILITATE AGAINST it. To use “loquaciously” in a sentence is to SHOW OFF.
  • 57-Across: INTIMATE APPAREL is a euphemism for [Undies, e.g.]. Or is “undies” a euphemism for “intimate apparel?”

Fifteen-letter entries to hide a three-letter word seems like a bit of overkill, but there’s no mistaking the Ashwood-Smith touch, like all the fives that connect the middle two theme entries at nine (!) different points. I really liked FAUX PAS, the [Social no-no] that I seem to commit on a daily basis. ACHTUNG also got my attention. And a grid with an ASS and some DOLTS always makes me feel better about myself.

The clunkiest entry, to my ear, was ULA, a [Fib or form ender] (as in “fibula” and “formula”). I sorta liked how the grid included both IRAE and INRI, two items of Crosswordese that appear altogether too frequently, yet rarely all together. But where was IN RE? Even the ETUI makes a late appearance, and one can go ALEE AT SEA with ALES. That’s enough to make me seasick, so I’ll stop now.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Marching Bands”

WSJ Saturday Puzzle answers, 2 4 12 "Marching Bands"

Ran into a few “Huh?” moments in this puzzle:

  • Row 2. [Go over the line?] is a great clue for TRACE. Remember those awesome coloring books that came with tracing paper? I blanked on what kind of CAR the Monopoly token was and couldn’t make sense out of this clue until finally, RACE CAR and TRACE surfaced in my head.
  • Row 4. [Platform on a ship’s principal mast] is a MAINTOP. I’ve never encountered this nautical argot, I don’t think.
  • Band B. We had a [Mountain ash] tree in the back yard when I was growing up, but we never called it a ROWAN. I’ve encountered that a couple times in crosswords, but to me, ROWAN cries out for a clue with his comedy partner Martin in it.
  • Band D. The clue [Evergreen native to coastal areas (2 wds.)] tries its hardest to lead us to the answer, SEA PINE. I’m Googling that and am having trouble verifying that it’s a specific sort of plant rather than a vague “any pine tree that grows near the sea.” There are “Sea Pines” resorts, and in the Mediterranean region there are maritime pines.

No real surprises or “wow” moments—just a steady solve, working back and forth between the bands and rows, Four stars.

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

Newsday crossword solution, 2 4 12 "Saturday Stumper" Stiga

Lots of tough clues in the weekend’s toughest crossword. The trick to getting through a “Stumper” alive is making judicious guesses on some possibilities and seeing if the letters that make sense will help you work out a crossing answer. I did encounter a few gimmes in this puzzle, though:

  • 5d. [Jeremy Irons in “The Lion King”] played SCAR, Simba’s usurping uncle.
  • 56a. [2007 Best Director Oscar sharer] has to be a Coen brother, because what other famous co-directors are winning Oscars these days? Glad that Joel and ETHAN COEN have different numbers of letters in their first names.
  • 39a. [Athlete’s jitters] could be nothing but a golfer’s YIPS.
  • 51a. [Something to rattle] is a CAGE, usually metaphorically.
  • 27d. THEIR [“__ Finest Hour” (Churchill book)].
  • 28d. Cary ELWES played [Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood].
  • 57d. [Cedar Rapids school] is COE College. Possibly Iowa’s only 3-letter institution of higher learning.

Favorite fill: “ROGER THAT,” THE DUKE, ACED OUT, ENERGY BAR, MAGIC ACT, “SO HELP ME,” and GUNGA DIN. (Not that the clue for that last one resonated with me at all. [“Barrack-Room Ballads” verse]?)

Five more clues:

  • 13d. [Greek bread spread] clues TAHINI, which is a sesame paste I associate with Mediterranean-leaning-towards-Middle-Eastern foods like hummus. The Greeks use tahini? I had no idea.
  • 2d. [Venial] = ATONABLE. ATONABLE is a word? Is something atonable if you can atone for it, or is a person atonable if they’re inclined to atone? Not fond of this one.
  • 45d. [Prime time for oysters] clues R MONTHS. Now, I know you’re supposed to avoid oysters in months without an R, but haven’t heard the converse. Why don’t people just say “don’t eat oysters in the summer months”?
  • 38a. ST. TERESA of Avila is a [Spanish patron] saint. Anyone else thinking of Patron tequila right now?
  • 24d. [Caricaturist] clues SKETCHER, which I’d wager is a word seen much less often than the Skechers shoe brand name.

Four stars.

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14 Responses to Saturday, 2/4/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Are you going to put a link to Celebrity puzzles in your Today’s Puzzles or Crossword Links? I liked the BEHEMOTH too, but was bemused to see Blue Chip as SOUND INVESTMENT, as the clue should have appended “supposedly”. The blue bone-yards are littered with the likes of good old Eastman Kodak, which is the latest casualty…

  2. Gareth says:

    Is it just me, or have Fridays been far easier and Saturdays far harder so far this year. My average Friday this year is nearly half last year, but Saturday has increased 170%? Just me? Ok.

    Filled the bottom mostly ok, except I had RAGWort not RAGWEED – a trap!!! I was adamant, so I gave up on the squares of 41- and 32A. Could get nothing concrete left of FRIED for ages: PVC/LUSC and rEds were written and removed many times. Wanted spEEd FINES even though I knew it lacked an “ing”. Altho in hindsight I’d heard of it, even with ?OMTVRAPS I needed to run the ABCs three times! and then I had fSY… Couldn’t get anything above 25A until I flat out guessed TUNISIA off TU…IA. Sure those for whom STEVENASH was a gimme had a better time. Then went back to those middle-right squares – favourite AHA of the puzzle was when NOPEEKING emerged – perfect inscrutable Saturday clue! IMO this played like a Silk Saturday with more extra-crunchy answers! Amy, I’m guess NASH and YOMTVRAPS were gimmes for you, I think those would’ve changed this from help-my-cranium-is-melting-hard to easy Saturday.

    LAT: Great medium answers: SERIPAK/ERDOCTOR/THEBEAST. Liked seeing NSAID get some clue exposure… Learnt about ECOTONEs in high school. Had ecology been invented when you were in high school Amy? ;)

  3. Matt says:

    I did almost all of the NYT in a reasonable time, but then got stuck around the 6D/6A crossing, got it basically by going through liberal arts departments. My initial guesses for 6A and 18A were Chicken FARM and MOMTVRAPS, so there was some distance between where I started and the right answers, and going through the alphabet wasn’t going to help.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: Acadia occupied much of what is now Maine (hence, as you surmised, Acadia National Park) as well as the Maritime Provinces and Québec. When some of the Acadians relocated to Louisiana, they became “Cajuns.”

    A musical historical vignette:
    Acadian Driftwood” ~ The Band (1975)

    Tried for a long time to make FAULKNER fit where AA MILNE goes. Also had CDC for NIH.

    In the LAT, I don’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed that my first fill was 2d ECOTONE, with no hesitation.

  5. J. Eric says:

    Loved the NYT puzzle today. To me, the pleasure of doing crossword puzzles comes from stacks like the one in the SW corner: BACON, AMY ADAMS, LISTERINE, and SETH ROGEN piled atop one another.

    Ditto the NE and the SE. The very few clunkers in this puzzle are totally worth it for the overall freshness of the fill.

  6. Meem says:

    I did in the puzzle what Amy did in the writeup: aah before ahh. The latter still looks odd to me.

  7. ant says:

    In re: the CS. I liked how the TEAs weren’t just scattered throughout the theme entries, but actually lined up on top of each other. After getting the first three, I threw in that last TEA before reading the clue. I was a little disappointed, however, that it showed up as the unifier at 54A. I don’t think it was really needed, as the title was sufficient…

  8. Howard B says:

    Loved the NY Times today. Unexpected, creative answers throughout. And bonus points for “Yo! MTV Raps!” – that was a minor flashback.
    Thanks, BEQ and Caleb, for a fun ride.

  9. animalheart says:

    Really fresh fill and some great cluing in today’s NYT. I found it of average difficulty, though the NE was pretty knotty for me. YOMTVRAPS was the last thing to fall, because I always forget what the pipe is called (Polyvinyl Chloride, Polyvinyl Chloride, Polyvinyl Chloride–now that I’ve used it three times, it should stick, right?) Especially liked the stacking of ERNST and DEGAS at the bottom SE. Five stars.

  10. Sara says:

    The NYT was my first puzzle back from a weeks-long break. What a pleasure! And I was damn happy to finish it in 30 minutes.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Do we REALLY have to have someone named Fab 5 Freddy and Yo MTV raps in a NYT puzzle? I’m probably voting a bit irrationally, but I’m going to vote my annoyance.


  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Stumper was tough, but at least smoothly doable (unlike the the NE of the NYT, at least for me.)

    MAS’s puzzle was beautifully constructed, but incredibly easy. On the “that’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate front,” I can’t imagine gimmier entries than stretto, okemo and astolat.


  13. Gareth says:

    @Bruce: So crosswords should restrict themselves to answers within your cultural framework only?

  14. HH says:

    Henceforth, crosswords shall include no references that a solver might not know.

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