Saturday, 3/10/12

LAT 4:15 
NYT 3:37 
CS 6:57 (Sam) 
Newsday 8:52 
Celebrity untimed 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 3 10 12 0310 Berry

Okay, you remember how I said Friday’s NYT was Saturdayish? It would appear that Will Shortz got his Friday and Saturday mixed up, because this Berry crossword fell ridiculously fast. Stella Z. did it in under 3 minutes, people. That is not what we call a “Saturday New York Times crossword.” The whole thing fit together like a 100-piece jigsaw, with this bit making that bit obvious.

This being a Patrick Berry creation, there’s plenty of nice stuff in the 66-word grid. I’m partial to LETTER-BOX FORMAT, the GIVE OR TAKE / ONE-NIGHTER / SORE LOSERS stack, SWILLING and HARPED ON. Most of the rest is  more ordinary, but it bears noting that there are hardly any 3-letter answers, the NW and SE corners are ridiculously wide open (three 10s stacked with a 15 and mostly crossed by words of 6+ letters).

Never heard of PYROXENE, the [Mineral found in igneous rocks].

STANDING AGAINST is kinda boring as 15s go, but at least it lacks the letters E, R, and L.

Favorite clue: [Terrible #2s] for SORE LOSERS. You were thinking of off-brand pencils that break, weren’t you? (I can buy only good pencils for my kid, who is hard on pencils. Dixon Ticonderogas make the grade, but RoseArt pencils from Target? Useless.)

When it comes to  rating the puzzle, this whole easy bit has me discombobulated. The grid’s good, but the puzzle had no more bite than a CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge” that hits Wednesday NYT difficulty. As a “Sunday Challenge,” it’s 4, 4.5 stars. But as a Saturday NYT, among the toughest puzzles of the week? I’m not sure. Do I dock it for the quick flow, or do I give it extra credit for making me look smart?

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 10 12 Silk

I hadn’t looked at the byline when I started solving this puzzle, but as 1-Across revealed itself to be WITCH HAZEL ([Natural liniment]), with the TCHH chunk and the Scrabbly Z, I knew whose name I’d see up there. The rest of the puzzle didn’t bear out the Scrabbliness much, but Barry made his mark at 1-Across, as he so often does.

At the other end of the puzzle, ESSAY TESTS parks itself at the bottom to make it easier for barry to fill that corner–STRESS TEST and ESSAY TESTS are both super essy and prone to appearing in that bottom row.

The other Scrabbly bit is the [Mexican salamander] with gills (even in the adult phase), the darling AXOLOTL. If you’re not familiar with this wee beastie, do yourself a favor and Google/Bing it.

Good stuff:

  • The WITCH HAZEL / ARS POETICA / REGULAR GUY stack. Didn’t know the 15a: [MacLeish work inspired by a treatise published circa 18 B.C.], but Aristotle’s Poetics were mentioned in the Mike Rowe TED talk I just watched the other day. You wouldn’t think that castrating lambs would evoke thoughts of peripateia and anagnorisis, and yet …
  • 46a. “AFTER YOU…” is the usual meaning of [“Age before beauty!”]. Rude, no?
  • 60a. NBA ALL-STAR has a hidden Baal in it. [Participant in an annual event since 1951] is a mighty Saturdayish clue, no? Vague, nonspecific, taunting with a hint of trivia.
  • 10d. Bob Dylan’s “LAY LADY LAY” is a [Dylan hit originally written for “Midnight Cowboy”]. The original title was “I’m Walking Here.”
  • 13d. Hee! MINNESOTA is [Where Brooklyn Park is]. It’s a suburb of Minneapolis. Utterly non-obvious for people with limited Minnesota exposure.
  • 40d. Like 1a, NO OUTLET has an unusual letter string, the OOU combo. It’s a [Bad sign for one seeking a shortcut] because one’ll have to turn around and retrace one’s route.

Could do without:

  • ISMS, ESS (neat clue, though: [Sudanese leader?] sounds like trivia), MCDX ([Year of Alexander V’s death] means nothing to me, but you almost have to like a Roman numeral without the common letters I and L), TSGTS (technical sergeants, I think; [USAF E-6’s]), ECU, ESTOS, SSE, NARES.

I’m surprised that OOH and AAH aren’t cross-referenced. One’s a [Word of awe] and the other’s clued [‘That feels great!”].

Don’t think I’ve encountered the phrase SET OFFENSE (30d: [Basketball formation with numerous play options]) before.

Overall rating … hmm, let’s call it 3.25 stars. I missed the Barry’s customary Scrabbliness and his trademark baseball/Philadelphia riff. This one didn’t feel quite as fresh and fun and most of his themelesses.
Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bronze Mettle” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 10

Today’s puzzle is the first in what we’re calling the Jersey Shore Trilogy. Die-hard fans of the “reality” show know that life on the Jersey Shore is all about G.T.L., “gym, tanning, laundry.” Today’s puzzle is about tanning, so we can soon expect follow up puzzles based on gyms and laundromats. I can hardly wait!

65-Across asks for a [Salon application] that is also [(…a hint to 17-, 31-, and 48-Across)]. That application is a SPRAY-ON TAN, and the answers to the three referenced clues are common expressions that have had TAN “sprayed” (?) on the front:

  • 17-Across: Carlton (our “doorman” who sounds an awful lot like Garfield) gets oranged-up enough to become TANDOOR MAN, a [Calcutta chef?].
  • 31-Across: Good ol’ “demon rum” changes into TANDEM ON RUM, a rather in-eloquent way of describing a [Team of horses that had too many mai tais?]. I say “good ol’ demon rum” as if somehow that term was familiar to me before solving this puzzle. It wasn’t, and that made for rough going (that and this was the only entry that gets re-spaced as a result of the added TAN, and my refusal to accept this inconsistency kept me from conquering this sooner).
  • 48-Across: Now “going ape,” on the other hand, I know all too well. Throw in a little King Kong and we’re right back in my wheelhouse. If one sees [King Kong competing on “Dancing with the Stars”?], one might be watching a TANGOING APE. This was the entry that tipped me off to the theme before getting to the SPRAY-ON TAN revealer.

I wonder whether anyone will quarrel with [Cornrow cover] as the clue to DO-RAG. Certainly not everyone sporting cornrows wears a do-rag, and not all donning do-rags have cornrows. Is it fair to associate the two so closely?

Aside from that I think there’s much to like in the fill. You have RUBBER SOUL from the Beatles, the MASON-DIXON line, a TANGERINE, and I’LL SAY. And any grid with SUCK definitely does not suck. The iffy stuff appears to be limited to A SON, clued with reference to a John Irving novel of which I’ve never heard, and ERAT. But that’s hardly sinful.

My favorite clue was [University created by Jane Smiley] for MOO, but for those not familiar with the book I’m sure this clue was probably pretty frustrating. I had that experience elsewhere: I never knew that STIR meant “prison,” so [Slammer] was the bigger “huh?” clue for me.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 3 10 12 "Saturday Stumper" Wilber

I’m short on time to blog this puzzle, alas. It’s a classic Stumper that stumped me equally in all four corners and the middle. The entire thing involved making some cautious guesses on interpretations of clues and working off of the handful of letters I had in each section. But eventually it all came together with not a single deadly crossing.

My top 10 clues:

  • 26d. [Dietary guideline source] clues QURAN, another spelling for the Koran. Not the USDA!
  • 16a. [Players will walk on it] clues a STAGE SET. Actors, not athletes.
  • 61a. [What the most-traveled migrants are] is TERNS, those gull-like birds. They migrate a lot, I guess? Bird trivia.
  • 3d. [Russian : Vanya :: Italian : __] clues GIANNI. I didn’t know Vanya was “Johnny” in Russian but now that I think about it, the Ivan root becomes clear.
  • 12d. [Sources of annoying wind] are EGOTISTS blathering on about themselves.
  • 22d. [Making a crossing], an ocean crossing, clues ASEA. Anyone want to go on a cruise?
  • 33d. [Major Chicago tourist attraction] clues NAVY PIER. All the things I thought of first didn’t have 8 letters. The Bean, Millennium Park, Art Institute, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Sears/Willis Tower, Hancock Building, Grant Park? Not 8.
  • 39d. SUCCESS is [“A lousy teacher,” per Bill Gates]. I hedged a guess on that off of the C in COT and lucked out.
  • 17a. OREGON is a [Place with no self-service gas stations]. I suppose gas costs more there? I bet Oregonians with mobility problems greatly appreciate not having to take extra steps to find a gas-station attendant to pump their gas.
  • 21a. [“Luna de miel” participants] clues SENORAS. I had ESPOSAS first. The clue phrase is Spanish for “moon of honey,” or honeymoon.
  • 24a. Okay, and an 11th clue. A ZIT is a [Minor eruption] although people in their 40s can certainly get zits too despite being of age.

Not sure how I feel about 13d: DONE THAT without a “been there” before it. Is this a stand-alone [Suggestion dismissal]?

Didn’t know 29d: MR. MOTO was an [Interpol agent of filmdom]. Didn’t know Charles (I presume) 4d: OSGOOD was [CBS’ “Poet in Residence”]. Didn’t know 26a: QUALMISH was a word ([Beset by butterflies]). Didn’t know 14a: ANISE TEA was a [Mideast digestive aid]. Didn’t know 50d: G-STAR, [The Sun, for one]; I always wait for the crossing to tell me what letter precedes STAR.

4.25 stars from me. A worthy and tough challenge. Not much in the way of “Wow!” fill (SPIKE TV and PENN STATE are about as showy as it gets here) but a really clean grid, free of junk.
Updated Sunday morning (sorry about the delay):

Dave Tuller’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 3 10 12 Tuller "Smartypants Saturday"

We’ve got a straightforward royal wedding theme:

  • 15a. KATE MIDDLETON, [Wife of 47-Across since April 2011: 2 wds.]
  • 24a. DUCHESS OF, [With 35-Across, title for 15-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 35a. CAMBRIDGE, [See 24-Across]
  • 47a. PRINCE WILLIAM, [Second in line to the British throne: 2 wds.]

Fresh fill includes 3d: WITWICKY, [Last name of Shia LaBeouf’s “Transformers” character], and 28d: N.J. DEVILS, [NHL team that plays in the Prudential Center: 2 wds.].

This puzzle’s more Scrabbly than most Celebs, with a Z, X, J, two K’s, and a handful of V’s.


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15 Responses to Saturday, 3/10/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    My fastest Saturday ever, but I suspected it was the puzzle and not me. I’ll take it anyway. Very odd bird.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Not my fasted Saturday ever, but it’s definately up there. Or, down there. Over there?

    46a. “AFTER YOU…” is the usual meaning of [“Age before beauty!”]. Rude, no?

    I don’t think that’s the usual meaning. I’ve only heard “age before beauty” from people much older than I. (Grandmas, aunts, cat ladies, etc.) I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a breadcrumb tossed to a whippersnapper whilst asserting that age has it’s privileges. I call foul on this clue.

  3. Patrick Merrell says:

    I struggled with the NYT. On the pencil front, I like #3s. A bit harder and longer lasting. Not so many trips to the pencil sharpener.

  4. Michael says:

    I thought 55A was a play on “terrible 2s,” as in the approximate age at which a child might start throwing temper tantrums.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed Berry’s NYT, but agree there was a slightly TART flavor to it with “Takes the big cheese down to size” cluing GRATES plus the SHOCKER, GIBE, HARPED ON, NOIR film, SWILLING and SORE LOSERS. At least I had ORESTEIA to get me started. Oh well, we’ll reset clocks tonight and get on with springtime… Barry’s LAT echoed that with the Age before Beauty line and SADDLE SORE, but was a bit easier with ARS POETICA and an Ontologist’s concern — the latter reminding me of a biology prof discoursing on Haeckel’s theory of embryonic recapitulation in “Ontogeny follows Phylogeny”. Weird, where a late night can lead!

  6. HH says:

    From The Spectator (London, 9/16/38):
    “It is recorded that Mrs. [Dorothy] Parker and a snooty debutante were both going in to supper at a party: the debutante made elaborate way, saying sweetly “Age before beauty, Mrs. Parker.” “And pearls before swine,” said Mrs. Parker, sweeping in.”

  7. Matt says:

    NYT puzzle a bit easier than usual for me, but mainly because I didn’t get stymied anywhere. Had SWIGGED/SWILLED for a while, but that was a minor bump in the road, encountered and overcome while working steadily from top to bottom. A good puzzle.

  8. imsdave says:

    I refuse to believe that most of the cluing in the Silk puzzle was his. I look forward to his misdirection, and none was present.

  9. ethan f says:

    waaaaaaaaaay too easy. 7:06 is ridiculous for me for a saturday even on a computer. For one brief shining moment I get to feel like Trip!

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The Dorothy Parker bit (thanks, Henry) supports my “rude” interpretation. When a young person says “Age before beauty,” they’re implying that the older person has lost beauty. If an older person swans through the doorway ahead of a younger person while saying “Age before beauty,” she’s just being self-deprecating and taking the privileges of advanced age.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    TANgerine in the CS was unfortunate.

  12. pannonica says:

    Contrary to most others’ experiences, my time was a bit longer for the NYT. The FALDO crossing, with PYROXENE, O’KEEFE, and ARGOS, really stymied me.

  13. Badir says:

    I did today’s _NYT_ in a bit more than half of yesterday’s time. But Will says that sometimes when he has a grid for the Saturday puzzle that he wants to show off, he switches Friday and Saturday, since he says a lot more people see the Friday puzzle. I’m guessing that’s what happened this week, with yesterday’s 62-worder. Still, it’s a great chance for folks like me and Jeffrey to get Saturday PRs!

  14. janie says:

    there’s also:

    “age before beauty” and the rejoinder that “beauty was a horse”…

    while i ordinarily complete them, my PROWESS on the fri./sat. puzzles is always scattershot. this one put up more resistance for me than yesterday’s. pretty much filled it in from bottom to top…..

    go figger!


  15. Josh Bischof says:

    A breezy Saturday puzzle, the perfect tonic to yesterday’s puzzle. Typical Berry elegance: a lovely grid, garbage-free fill, and lots of great answers. “Terrible #2s” is indeed an excellent clue, definitely the best in the puzzle. That SE corner is a lovely piece of puzzle-making. Hail to the king.

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