Saturday, 3/17/12


LAT 8:29 (Gareth) 
NYT 46:22 (Gareth) 
CS 6:11 (Sam) 
Newsday 7:27 
Celebrity untimed 

David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 17 12 Quarfoot

You know, I expected this: an easy Friday, followed by, for me, one of the toughest Saturdays in the last year or so! In fact, I checked, timewise only The Wilber’s KLABERJASS puzzle was longer for me. Was I alone in this? Did Will Shortz deliberately toughen it for ACPT weekend? There were many great mis-directing clues, and tough to parse multi-word answers, but also some of those vague could be anything clues, which are less elegant. Actually had quite a few gimmes, the longest being WEREHERE, but just couldn’t find a way to kick-on in any of the sections.

Phew! Where to start? It was also noticably more R-rated than normal; I got all three of 1A High clouds? POTSMOKE, 11D Stock in an adult store, and 40D Actor who might grin and bare it? PORNSTAR, quite quickly, but didn’t actually believe they would be allowed. That was one more thing that slowed be down. Also, why is our PORNSTAR grinning? Wait, forget I asked!

Hardest answers: Tempted to say all of them, but there were some I found especially vexing:

  • 17A “It gets the word out.” PASYSTEM. Even with nearly all the letters I still couldn’t parse it! A lovely answer, though!
  • 18A “New Valentine’s phrase added on Sweethearts candy in 2010” TEXTME.
  • 30A “War cry of the ’60s” REBELYELL: that’s 1860’s! Tricksy!
  • 36A “Hot dog’s relative” HAM. Just don’t get this. To the point of resisting filling it in with H?M… I’ve just had an idea: hot dog (n.) a show-off, ham (n.) one over-acting. No? I still don’t understand!
  • 39A “___ tree” UPA. Two words. I took out PORNSTAR because ?P? made no sense. The answer looks like the deadly Upas Tree of mythology, but minus a letter.
  • 50A “McCarthy cohort” SNERD. I thought this was a dummy? Ok it is, and so is McCarthy, apparently.
  • 51A “Big name in educational funding” PELL. No idea.
  • 60A “Onomatopoeic game on ‘The Price is Right'” PLINKO No idea.
  • 3DD “Check that’s inked, perhaps” TESTPAGE . No idea what that is in that context. With ?E?TPAGE, I considered but rejected it as an answer.
  • 7D “Fish of sufficient size” KEEPER. Do anglers use this? I thought it might be, but then thought why clue KEEPER that way when there’s the perfectly common sports term. It is Saturday though.
  • 10D “They’re near appendices”. ILEA The ileum and appendix are parts of the alimentary canal. I considered and rejected that for some reason!
  • 12D “Name-brand targets?” CATTLE. Brilliant clue!
  • 41D “Director’s cutoff” ANDSCENE. Not too familiar with what directors say and when. Is this director directing the PORNSTAR next to it?
  • 42D “Chorus member” SILENTH. Got me! How after so many times could one of these clues get me?!
  • 46D “Rare dynamic marking seen in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony”. PPPPPP. Off the P of PASHTO wanted ?SHARP and kept it there obstinately. It’s evident I don’t know what a dynamic marking is. This presumably means very pianissimo, not something I associate with Tchaikovsky!
  • At the beginning, I said I was tempted to say all of them! It seems my list isn’t that far off!

This weary solver begrudgingly gives it four stars, despite it giving him a tiger-mauling!

John Farmer’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 17 12 Farmer

I had a fun time here; it was, mostly, a very entertaining 27/70 themeless puzzle. Had that very typical LA Times themeless feel, which is hard to describe. There are definitely many personal touches, and there were some great clues here! First off, John Farmer is a movie buff; this explains 4A “Fay Wray in ‘King Kong’, to movie buffs” SCREAMQUEEN. Another movie answer was 9D “‘Atlantic City’ director” MALLE. Not familiar with this, Wikipedia informs me it’s a 1980 film starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. Quite an odd couple that! I’m more familiar with the 1982 Bruce Springsteen song. A particularly fun combo was TRENCHCOATS/STATESECRET, a pair of spy-related answers, although the former was clued as “Garb for Columbo and Clouseau”, two screen detectives.


  • 16A “The Bucharest Buffoon of ’70s-’80s tennis” ILIENASTASE. was a gimme only because I knew he was Romanian, and that Bucharest was in Romania. Nice to see his full name in a grid!
  • 53A “Bar order, initally” IPA was wildly unfamiliar – Wikipedia suggests something called India Pale Ale.
  • 59A “Manual Transmissions?: Abbr.” for ASL. Is a snazzy clue for an otherwise blah bit of grid.
  • 5D “Campaign rewards” CLIOS. Another super clue: ad campaigns not the political ones Americans are being bombarded with at the moment…
  • 7D “Gloaming, in verse” EEN. I don’t remember seeing that synonym used before. Gloaming is a fun word to say!
  • 14D “Sleeping kittens, e.g.” NESTLERS. The single ugliest thing in this grid. Cats are great when they’re nestlers, it’s the pre-nestle kneading stage I have an issue with…
  • 27D “Ordered” INSEQUENCE. Another nice misdirection – adjective, not verb.

3.9 Stars? Not very scientific, I know.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Words’ Worth” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 17

Today’s puzzle features an [Observation] in four parts: WHOEVER SAID / THAT TALK IS CHEAP / NEVER PAID A TEEN’S / TEXTING BILL. A quip theme for the 21st Century! But aren’t most texters “these days” (meaning “not 2008”) on phone plans that allow for unlimited texting?

Ah, who cares–the quip breaks nicely in half so that you get the set-up in the top half and the punch line spread over the bottom half. Once you get either the “talk is cheap” or “texting bill” part, the rest of the quip is easy enough to suss out, and I think that’s supposed to be a key feature of quip themes–rather than use the fill to get the theme, you use the theme to get the fill.

Okay, it’s an abbreviated post this morning since I have to go limber up for a long day of solving at the ACPT. Let’s outline the highlights here:

  • I never knew an [Alarm clock’s purpose] was for AROUSAL. Mine doesn’t do anything for me. I’m more into carbon-based forms for my thrills.
  • The only thing I know about [“Doodle Soup” poet John] CIARDI is that he wrote a poem called “Doodle Soup.” And I just learned that a few minutes ago.
  • Pop culture fans like yours truly will appreciate seeing George [Jetson’s boss], Mr. SPACELY, next to [“Dynasty” vixen] ALEXIS.
  • I liked [Extremely successful] as the clue for HUGE because it gave me quite a fight. Even with HU-E in place, I still needed to get the last crossing before I figured out what was happening.

Check out the lineup of people in the southeast. Have you ever seen a more eclectic group than Justice Samuel ALITO, LANDO Calrissian, Cicely TYSON and Max ERNST? What a dinner table that foursome would make!

comes from World War Two when everything possible was used to contribute to the war effort…all metal was used for the U.S arsenal. The only objects left out were porcelain kitchen sinks.

Byron Walden’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”–Amy’s review

Newsday crossword solution, 3 17 12 "Saturday Stumper" Walden

Surprise! A new name in the Newsday byline, themeless specialist Byron Walden. I bet there’s a stack of Stumpers in the ACPT hotel lobby for solvers to work on.

The highlights in this 66-worder include the following:

  • 5a. BUDGET HAWK, [One who cuts and runs?]. Great answer, tricky clue.
  • 44a. BAGGY PANTS, [Comic clothing of yore]. Also underwear-revealing clothing of today.
  • 48a. PRIZE TABLE, [Postgame display site]. If I can manage to claim 2nd place in the Midwest after Anne Erdmann, I will be allowed to approach the ACPT prize table to select a book.
  • 14d. KLAXONS, [Submarine dive alarms]. I love the word KLAXONS (so Scrabbly) and the horrible “aye-ooga” sound they make. Here’s a submarine klaxon for you.
  • 36d. LEGIBLE, [Easy on the eyes?]. Great clue, especially for the 40+ age group.
  • 37d. CINEMAX, [“We Are Your Movie Channel” sloganeer]. With all the HBO, TMC, AMC, TBS, USA, and SHO entries in crosswords, it’s nice to have a 7-letter cable channel.

Oddball entries:

  • 52a. ENCEPHALIC, [Brainy]. Never seen this word in all my years of medical editing, though its opposite, anencephalic, is familiar.
  • 54a. DEAD HONEST, [Completely straight]. Not a phrase I’ve used, and not one I’m sure I’ve ever encountered.
  • 8d. GOT LIT, [Brightened up]. Weird verb phrase. Seems more like a synonym for “got drunk” to me, and it doesn’t feel “in the language.”
  • 11d. HALF HOPE, [Feel ambivalent, in a way]. I’m torn. Either I really like this entry or it just doesn’t feel “in the language.”
  • 13d. WE’RE BAD, [Cellar dwellers’ lament]. Who says that?
  • 27d. COCKUPS, [Botches, in Britain]. The clue throws me because it sounds like a verb, but the answer looks like a noun and I haven’t ever encountered botch as a noun. I also haven’t ever encountered the answer word.
  • 30d. MINGY, [Scroogelike]. Not a common word, but I like it.
  • 31d. OZONIZED, [Cleaned without chlorine]. Can you sanitize the kitchen and bathroom by ozonizing, or is this an industrial/hospital sort of word?
  • 44d. BATHO, [It means “depth”]. Prefix.

The agglomeration of oddball words and phrases reduce my affection for the puzzle. Overall rating, 3.5 stars.

Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 17 12 "Smartypants Saturday" Cohen

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember: If you partake of green beer, don’t be scared to find green pee later on. You don’t want your body absorbing that dye, do you?

  • 18a. Jon STEWART, [*”The Daily Show” host]
  • 20a. HENRY Ford, [*Ford who founded the Ford Motor Company]
  • 30a. ST. PATRICK’S DAY, [March 17 celebration, containing a name that the answers to the four starred clues have in common: 3 wds.]
  • 40a. EWING, [*Family surname on “Dallas”]
  • 43a. Jack DEMPSEY, [*Boxing legend Jack nicknamed “The Manassa Mauler”]

Patrick Stewart is that British, bald actor from some of those Star Trek dealios. Patrick Henry famously said that “Give me liberty or give me death” line back in the 1776-ish era. Patrick Ewing is a basketball legend who played for the Knicks. And Patrick Dempsey is a non-British, non-bald actor who was (is?) on Grey’s Anatomy, I believe.

I once did a 3/17 USA Today crossword with a similar theme, but the shtick there was that all of the Patricks’ surnames in the grid were supposed to be clued with reference to those exact Patricks. Alas, in the editing process, Patrick Ewing turned into the Dallas name, and I think literature Nobelist Patrick White’s surname was clued as a color. In the end, maybe five of eight Patricks were still clued as themselves, so the theme looked lopsided.

Looking past the theme, did you know 8d: [Gossip blogger ___ Hilton], PEREZ Hilton? I appreciate his play on words (sounds like “Paris Hilton”) but doesn’t his gossip get mean sometimes? In showbiz gossip circles, though, this guy is probably more influential than TV shows like Access Hollywood.


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17 Responses to Saturday, 3/17/12

  1. Matt says:

    Worked through the NYT steadily until I hit the SW, where I was stopped, even though I had a feeling that I kinda sorta knew, more or less, what ‘etiolated’ means. Eventually filled it all in– particularly once I thought of PELL for 51A– but, yeah, a toughie.

  2. jefe says:

    PELL grants are federally sponsored financial aid packages for college students. It was a big deal last year because of proposed budget cuts.

    PLINKO is everyone’s favorite game on the Price is Right, where you drop a disk through a wall of pegs and hope it lands in a high-scoring slot.

    Also, the bulleted clues for the last three puzzles are for some reason under the LAT instead of their appropriate puzzles.

  3. Gareth says:

    Sorry, the same thing happened yesterday. When my post was moved from today to yesterday, it got garbled some how. I think it’s fixed now.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was rather a shocker…

  5. animalheart says:

    Extremely tough, especially in the SW, since I clung to DONTSHOOT instead of PRAISEGOD for a looong time, until DESADE just had to be DESADE and I had to rethink. Wasn’t fond of the clue for TETE, since, honestly, if you “indicate” a foreign language with a word that in the foreign language is no different from an English word, you open up a can of worms and push it down a slippery slope that ends in impossible puzzles. To mix metaphors…

    Still, I did finish, though with a grid stained with blood, sweat, and tears.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Nice job Gareth. Team Fiend is ready to go in Brooklyn.

  7. Josh Bischof says:

    I had a lot of “That can’t be…” moments when doing the NYT. When I read the clue for 1-Across, POTSMOKE was the first thing that popped into my head, but I thought, it can’t be. Later I read the clue for 40-Down and PORNSTAR seemed the logical answer, but again, I thought to myself, can’t be. And even after I finished those corners and was struggling with the NE (the last corner to fall for me), I wanted SEXTOYS for 11-Down but once again thought, OK, maybe we have some POTSMOKE and a PORNSTAR, but SEXTOYS, too? There’s no way.

    The puzzle had this vibe of, Will Shortz is away at the ACPT, so a smartass intern sneaks this edgy puzzle in. Maybe he’ll lose his job come Monday, but getting PORNSTAR in a puzzle was, like, totally worth it! Yeah, pot and porn, woooooo! Eat it, Shortz!

    Very, very tough puzzle, but it was very satisfying to finish it. It’s always great to see Quarfoot’s name in the byline.

    I agree with animalheart regarding the clue for TETE. That goes beyond mere misdirection.

    (And sex toys, too! Yaaaaaaaaa! How you like me now, Willy! Woooooo!)

  8. David L says:

    On the TETE clue — the French word for ‘Department’ isn’t the same as the English — it’s “Departement,” with an accent on the first e that I don’t know how to insert. So this clue seems like a total cheat to me.

    I also don’t understand TESTPAGE — can anyone enlighten?

  9. Gareth says:

    David: It’s spelled in French with an extra e, but in English as it was in today’s puzzle. The odd spelling would have made it too easy for a Saturday… This is no different to ye olde “Nice X” clues, imo.

  10. animalheart says:

    David, a test page is what you print from your computer printer (usually after you replace the ink cartridges) to check that all is working properly.

  11. Richard says:

    I liked the 8d clue and answer in the LAT puzzle, assuming it has not been done before (“technocrats” being an anagram of “trenchcoats”).

  12. Martin says:

    To add to Gareth’s response to David L, “department” is an English word that means “an administrative division of France”. As such, it is an adequate and fair foreign language signal for Saturday.

    (Gareth: It can be argued that “Nice” is a signal because it is a French word. I agree with David that foreign signals are usually foreign words, so this is unusual. But acceptable. It’s more akin to “Gallic girlfriend” for AMIE.)

  13. Peter says:

    Whoops, I am losing my dexterity! Meant to give the NYT 5 stars, but slipped and rated it 3. Sorry to bring your rating down DQ, it was a great puzzle!

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    Loved today’s NYT! In case anyone is wondering, the rest of the clue for 65A translates as “….and none is more wonderful than man.”

  15. maikong says:

    What a surprise to see John Ciardi pop up. He, like Ilona, appeared a lot back in the day (1950-60s).

    “The reader deserves an honest opinion. If he doesn’t deserve it, give it to him anyhow.” John Ciardi

  16. Molly Lootens says:

    Have you given up on the WSJ Sat puzzle?

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Molly, I’ll be printing out the Saturday puzzle this week and doing it belatedly. Was at the ACPT all weekend sans printer and had told Gareth that blogging it was optional. I hope it’s a juicy puzzle!

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