Saturday, 3/31/12

NYT 7:23 
LAT 5:25 
CS 4:18 (Sam) 
Newsday 6:31 
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Saturday) untimed 

Scott Atkinson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 31 12 Atkinson 0331

Not a ton of 15-letter answers in this grid, but they do make a sparkling foursome: DOLPHIN-SAFE TUNA (still not safe for the tuna), “CALIFORNIA GIRLS,” CAUTIONARY TALES, and PORCUPINE QUILLS. Not a one of these is A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE or A TEENAGER IN LOVE, semi-oft-repeated 15s.

I particularly liked the dual Vulcan references for ALIEN RACES and ETNA; the clues with the wine shop and chop shop (not exactly the same demographic there, eh?); THE CARS and MONKEES; [Ray with lines] as a faux-geometric clue for Ray LIOTTA; GAS-X crossing an X gas, XENON; and [Singer with a black V-shaped collar] for an avian MEADOWLARK, not a human vocalist.

The things I liked outweighed the “meh” parts, like plural EDAMS, an ERNEST who isn’t so famous, SNEE and ESSO, etc.

Four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 31

“So why, exactly, is this puzzle running on a Saturday and not the day before?” That’s my first impression after solving today’s crossword. It features four two-word entries where the first word can also come before “Friday:”

  • 17-Across: JOE COLLEGE is the name for a [Typical male campus figure]. Joe Friday was Jack Webb’s character on the radio and television series Dragnet.
  • 29-Across: A CASUAL REMARK is an [Off-the-cuff comment]. Casual Friday is the dress policy that allows for less formal attire. How does that work at a nudist colony?
  • 49-Across: [A way to reduce a sentence] is for GOOD BEHAVIOR. Good Friday is coming up next week, though there’s the argument that every Friday is a good Friday.
  • 64-Across: The BLACK HILLS is the [Mount Rushmore location] in South Dakota. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, celebrated by perverse shopping rituals that have people lining up outside large stores starting the night before.

Here‘s the official theme song for this puzzle. (Sorry.) My favorite items in the grid were TWO-TIMER, HOT-HEADED, and TO DIE FOR. In my mind they more than compensated for CRI, KIR and ARR, the only awkward fill I could find. I think I’m officially tired of seeing McJOB, the [Position without much room for advancement], in crosswords. It was fun the first few times but now it feels a tad overdone.

I should use my remaining space for this announcement: There’s still time to submit an entry for the My Big Fat Fun Wedding puzzle contest. It’s your chance to have some fun with what one entrant called “the best puzzle suite I’ve done this week, but it’s only Tuesday.” You can win a free flight to Atlanta, Georgia (or, perhaps more enticingly, the cash equivalent) and it doesn’t cost anything to enter. Entries have to be submitted by the end of the day on May 31, so that gives you exactly two more months. Complete instructions appear on the first page of the puzzle suite. Happy solving!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (under the pen name Lester Ruff)

Newsday crossword solution, 3 31 12 "Saturday Stumper" Lester Ruff

I expect a “Les Ruff/less rough” puzzle to take me maybe 4:30 to 5:30 … but possibly it’s hitting Friday NYT level for the rest of you. I’ve been slowish lately. I blame the muscle relaxant.

Cute touch: The first and last Across answers are “TO START…” and “FINALLY….”

Fairly tough, Stumper-grade cluing throughout. Themelesses with this 7-heavy grid layout are seldom packed with juicy fill, and these words and phrases are fairly ordinary. Favorite bits:

  • Pop stars’ real names. 59a: [Lady Gaga’s real first name] is STEFANI (Germanotta), and 44d: [Miley Cyrus’s real first name] is DESTINY. I knew Gaga but just learned of Miley’s real name a few days ago. Hooray, good timing!
  • 56a. BAG IT. I’ll just [Shut up and leave], but more slangily.
  • 8a. Typical Stumper could-go-many-ways clue. [Bucks] isn’t a verb like RESISTS. It’s not male deer. It’s not slang for cash. It’s the more formal cash, CAPITAL.
  • 37d. [One over the limit] doesn’t mean “one X over the limit of X’s you can have.” It’s “a person over the limit,” a SPEEDER on the road.
  • 25d. [Genesis 8 quest] almost sounds like a video game clue, but it’s the bible. Genesis 8 must be the Noah’s ark story, because the quest is for DRY LAND.
  • 3d. Mystifying clue for me. [First in a line of 260+]?? If it’s rulers or popes and they average 20 years apiece, that would mean a line going back 5000 years. That seemed implausible. Then I mangled the clue and wondered if it was the first line of 260+ in some poem. It’s ST. PETER, the crossings told me, so I gather there are 260+ saints canonized by the Catholic Church.
  • 20a. [Teens comment?] is BRR, for temperatures in the teens (Fahrenheit). This didn’t fool me at all, Stan.

I don’t get why 61a: EMAILED is clued [Clicked off, perhaps]. Makes no sense to me. Explanation, anyone?

No junk in the grid, but no real sparkle either. 3.5 stars.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 31 12 Barry Silk

The last letter I entered put 17-Across together, and I looked back at the clue and it was instantly my Retro ’70s Favorite Clue. [Dawn star], TONY ORLANDO, of “Tony Orlando & Dawn” fame. I can’t imagine a song like the snoozy “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” making the top 40 in any decade past the ’70s, can you?

Yes, the word “star” is also in the grid in the crossing F- STAR (1d: [Procyon or Polaris]), but I feel the TONY ORLANDO clue saves the word from the bad feelings engendered by 1d. Does anyone but an astrophysicist keep in their heads which star letter goes with which star names? Ugh. Do not like.

Likes: JUXTAPOSE, EVER-LOVIN’, BURPED baby ([Did a new mom’s job], or a new dad’s), DAR ES SALAAM ([City south of Mombasa]? If you say so), ESCAPE HATCH, SUZI [Pop singer Quatro] (hello again, ’70s nostalgia!), GINGHAM, SCHMO, PEN PALS.

Dislikes: The aforementioned F-STAR, 35d: PIPP (clued as [Wally ___, whom Lou Gehrig replaced as Yankee first baseman]–seriously? A guy whose career highlights were 90-95 years ago? Surely he is known only to hardcore baseball fans and his descendants), UTA‘s UVEA, and the mysterious PEEN clue (35a: [It’s opposite the face]–I suspect this is about hammers but I don’t know for sure and it’s a horrible thing to clue something vaguely and obliquely when it crosses a super-obscure name like PIPP).

Now, this is why I wish more crossword editors and more crossword constructors were women. I know that plenty of women obsess about baseball too, but I can’t see a woman thinking “Oh, we’ll cross a century-old baseball name with a tool part clued obliquely and it’ll be a completely fair crossing.” Boo. Do not like. Women: If you haven’t tried creating a crossword of your own, I encourage you to noodle around with it and submit your work for publication. Do be sure to read the Sage Advice at and buy Patrick Berry’s book, Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies (it’s a how-to book for new constructors, not remotely for “dummies,” that happens to include a bunch of Berry’s excellent puzzles as examples that you can enjoy solving). You can also cast around for a mentor to coach you–crossword constructors are notoriously generous with their expertise and time.

Four stars except for the PIPP/PEEN buzzkill. which brings us down to 3.25 stars.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Spell Weaving”

Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle solution: "Spell Weaving" 3 31 12

The Mike Shenk puzzles we get every fourth week tend to be quite a bit easier than the other Saturday Puzzles in the WSJ (the Hex cryptic and two Berry puzzles). I view them as the gateway drug of Saturday Puzzles, luring in the people who may have struggled with a Berry or Hex puzzle and keeping them hooked.

So I wasn’t afraid to use pen, and the write-overs are more a matter of inattention than incorrect answers. Straightforward solve overall.

What I liked best was the double ISRAELI letter chunk found in BENJAMIN DISRAELI ([Prime minister who had Queen Victoria proclaimed empress of India (2 wds.)] and ISRAELITE ([Exodus participant]). I also failed to know/remember that THELMA AND LOUISE was a [1991 film whose leads were both nominated for the Best Actress Oscar (3 wds.)]. Nice movie/Oscar trivia. Favorite clue: [They may be filled with Joy] for DISHPANS.

Four stars. No clumsy fill, no arcane clues, just smooth going.

Ray Hamel’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 31 12 "Smartypants Saturday"

A bookish theme today, in keeping with the “Smartypants” theme:

  • 18a. A TIME TO KILL, [First novel by 38-Across: 4 wds.]
  • 30a. THE LITIGATORS, [2011 bestseller by 38-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 38a. JOHN GRISHAM, [Author of legal thrillers who has sold over 250 million copies worldwide: 2 wds.]

I missed picking up the title of last year’s Grisham bestseller, but it sounds suitably legal-thrillerish.

Highlights in the non-theme fill include the 8-letter answers THATCHER, SABOTAGE, STRUGGLE, and TOM HANKS, plus ZANY with a Z.

Two mystery answers for me:

  • 31d. IAIN, [Softley who directed “K-PAX”]. Not ringing a bell at all.
  • 51a. ELON, {PayPal co-founder ___ Musk [anagram of 48-Across]}. Never encountered the name before, and I was pleased with myself for finding an anagram of ELON at 48a (LENO) when editing clues for this puzzle.


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21 Responses to Saturday, 3/31/12

  1. Don Byas says:

    Fun puzzle.
    “Call me cousin, but COZEN me not”.

  2. Gareth says:

    Some great clues today for sure: the ones you mentioned for MEADOWLARK and XENON, but also CALIFORNIAGIRLS and NOFEES! Film fundis will laugh that I tried UtA before UMA! Also battled with ERNEST, but he’s pretty famous here; I spelled ISE IZE and had his grandson NICKY in my brain… But at least I got IASIMOV off the “-OV” this week!

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, re the Monkees did you know that Peter Tork (Peter Thorklesen) went to Carleton where he roomed with my lifetime friend, the NYC pianist Peter Basquin? (Well, that last part you didn’t know.) It seems to me that you have said that you went to Carleton. If not, this question has no point whatsoever.


  4. ArtLvr says:

    In the Stumper, I put in DELHI and took it out a couple of times before leaving it in, quite a comedown after two tougher locales in the LAT! But I won’t spoil those here…

  5. Howard B says:

    “Clicked off” roughly = “send off” an email. I think it’s sort of an outdated slang. I had heard it used as such occasionally when email was known as E-Mail and all the latest computer-related terms began with “cyber”, but not so anymore.

  6. ktd says:

    Actually, there have now been 265 popes since the first century AD:

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce! I think Peter Tork was roommates at Carleton with my classmate’s dad, Bill Plank. Maybe they were in a triple or quad with Peter Basquin?

  8. Golfballman says:

    What’s the on going problem with LAT’s write up on Saturday?

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Golfballman: Hey, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do today and I haven’t gotten to that. I have, however, gone out to brunch. #priorities

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    … and of course, I’ll extend your blog subscription for an extra week at no charge. :-)

  11. Jeff Chen says:

    Whoo, I got cozened by COZEN. Nice puzzle, really good clues!

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, Interesting.

    We may be referring to different years, because I’m pretty sure that for at least one year, the roomies were Peter Basquin (active NYC chamber pianist, and former Chair of the Hunter College Music Dept. and Head of the CUNY Graduate Program in piano); Peter Schjeldahl, now Chief Art Critic of the New Yorker magazine; and Peter Thorkelsen, Monkee to be. Quite a remarkable batting order.


  13. Martin says:

    I’ll agree that Wally Pipp is obscure. But “peen”? C’mon. How many times have you seen “hammer” in a clue and automatically went with PEEN for the four-letter entry? Are you saying that, after all these uses, you’ve never looked the word up?

    Maybe you should consult with the erudite and witty blogger who noted, in 2/27/2010,

    [Opposing side of a strike] is a hammer’s PEEN. No organized labor strikes here.

    She would know.

    But Wally Pipp is no Pee Wee Reese.

    PS. If men are expected to know toile from voile, you can learn your way around some tools.

  14. David says:

    I would’ve altered that section fill; my problem with it was mainly because of the pip/pipp homophone. I prefer WEEN/WISP/PIS instead of PEEN/PIPP/PIP, although underground rock bands probably have an age bias even larger than baseball’s gender bias.

    I got slowed down on the stumper because I filled in the perfectly legitimate DHAKA instead of DELHI. The former is actually slightly more populous, but they’re both in that 16-17 million range. This is a sign that I’m thoroughly oversporcled.

  15. Dan F says:

    Martin, “hammer” wasn’t in this PEEN clue, so I can see Amy’s point there. But I don’t think Wally Pipp is nearly as obscure as she implies. He’s probably not even in the top 5 most obscure baseball players to appear in a Barry Silk puzzle since 2011! I have been known to use “Wally Pipp” as a verb, as in “My grandfather was Wally Pipped by Bobby Short.”

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Martin: I have never once, despite my witty erudition, heard of any part of a hammer called the “face.” Why on earth, when faced with a clue about the side opposite a face and a first letter in a deadly could-be-any-consonant crossing, would “Oh! Right! The face of a hammer” come to mind? I merely guessed at that and had no reason to think the applet wouldn’t send me back for another try.

    And don’t blame women for toile/voile/(and tulle). I know what tulle is, but I sure as hell don’t know toile from voile. I just know the first letter of *OILE with a fabric clue must be V or T.

    @David: Honey, there ain’t no such thing as being oversporcled. Quiz on, brother!

  17. Martin says:

    Why on earth, when faced with a clue about the side opposite a face and a first letter in a deadly could-be-any-consonant crossing, would “Oh! Right! The face of a hammer” come to mind?

    Cause the fill was _EEN? “Face” seems less tricky than “strike.”

    But if toile and voile isn’t your doing, I don’t feel as strongly about peen.

  18. Amy: If more women constructors are what you want, you’ll really love next week. I’ve already done next week’s Mon-Thur NYT puzzles at the Minnesota Crossword Tournament (won by Fiend reader Victor Barocas, btw), and ALL four of those puzzles were authored by women! And they were all fantastic puzzles. Stay tuned!

  19. Gareth says:

    Also guessed at Pipp/peen. Loled at Dan’s comment about Silk and baseball… Of course if La Liz is one of next weeks authors we still may get baseball…

  20. joon says:

    dan could have been clearer about this, but wally PIPP has indeed entered the lexicon as a verb, because he was benched for one game in favor of lou gehrig and never got his job back (as gehrig proceeded to start the next 2130 games at 1B for the yankees!). it’s kind of a famous thing, much more so than the clue (or his modest career stats) might have you believe. there are much, much more obscure ballplayers who have appeared in crosswords.

  21. Alex says:

    If it makes you feel better, Amy, Rich once rejected a puzzle of mine which included WALLY PIPP as being too obscure.

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