Saturday, 4/14/12

Newsday 9:50 
NYT 6:28 
LAT 4:37 
CS 13:23 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Saturday) nng* 

*Noch nicht gebloggt. (Is that not the best German verb ever?)

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 4 14 12 0414 Mark Diehl

I’m seeing some Saturday-like solving times on the applet. Felt more like Saturday to me—how about you?

Among the slow spots for me:

  • 36a. [2001 presidential biography by Edmund Morris]. Man, oh, man. I waited forever to work through some crossings until the word DUTCH appeared, as it surely must. Yes, Morris wrote Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. But two years later, he penned THEODORE REX. Reagan! ::shaking fist:: That man has been vexing me since 1980. (You know what historical nonfiction book is hotly awaited now? Crossword solver Gary Krist, aka “animalheart” in the comments, has a book about high drama in 1919 Chicago called City of Scoundrels coming out this Tuesday. I hope it becomes so famous that KRIST becomes uncontestable household-name NYT crossword fill (even if he does have only one vowel). Oh! And Gary is supposed to talk about the book on NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered. This weekend? Saturday or Sunday? I do not know.)
  • 18a. [Parnassian] means POETIC? News to me. Named after an anthology beloved by a group of hardcore French poets who valued strictness of form. Blech.
  • 21a. LORNE, [Marion ___, Emmy-winning actress on “Bewitched”]. Who? She played old Aunt Clara, but I don’t recall ever picking up that name in the credits. You know who came up with a cryptic clue spoonerizing “Bewitched” the other day? Team Fiend’s own beloved Neville.
  • 29a. This one didn’t stump me, it merely vexed me. JEAN JACKETS are [Western wear]? Uh, yeah, I guess them cowboys can wear them, too. But denim jackets kinda broke into the mainstream about, what, 40 years ago?
  • 52a. Stumped by the [TV hotline], pleased to find the beloved BATPHONE when enough crossings were there.
  • 30d. [1920 Democratic presidential nominee] who lost? No idea. Some dude named COX. I bet his ancestors are vexed that most of us don’t remember their great-granddad.
  • 39d. RITALIN is a [Narcolepsy drug]? I wanted modafinil or the brand name Provigil, which is specifically indicated for narcolepsy. Never heard of Ritalin being prescribed for sleep disorders, only for ADD. Apparently it and other stimulants do play a role in narcolepsy management as well. Never heard of the newer Nuvigil, and it vexes me that my professional sleep medicine editorial knowledge is falling out of date. (However! My crossword editorial know-how has never been better.)
  • 53a. I hesitated to enter this answer because I didn’t want TIP O’ to be crossword fill. And yet it is, [___ the hat]. Vexed!
  • 38d. ELM BARK is a [Medicinal tea source]? Hmph. Haven’t seen that one on the Celestial Seasonings herbal tea shelves. Now with more healing mucilage! Yum. Who doesn’t love a little mucilage action?
  • 50a. [Symbol of power], FASCES. Wheat sheaf? Root of the word “fascist”? Not quite, and sort of. Vexing degree of uncertainty until the crossings put it all together.

Irked by 1a: [Skirt raisers?]/UPDRAFTS because it forced me to think about the schlocky public “art” on Michigan Avenue, the giantess Marilyn Monroe subway updraft sculpture. Feh.

STEP FOUR of the Twelve Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous: Great answer or bogus fill? Discuss.

ATM CARDS: Great answer or bogus fill? The correct response is “great answer.” I’m also partial to LOCH NESS and the dismissive “DON’T CARE.”

Nice-looking windmill grid, with four wide-open corners in this 66-word puzzle. Overall gestalt rating…4.25 stars. Didn’t like TIP O’ but there weren’t many short answers at all, and the other ones were all solid.

Updated Saturday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Y Not” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Solution to Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, April 14

Six minutes to get through three corners, another seven-plus minutes in the northwest corner. Sigh. I’ve been through this before, so even as I made my way steadily through the bottom right, then to the bottom left, and over the top right, I knew that turgid waters would lie ahead. Sometimes it stinks when predictions come true.

My chief mistakes in the northwest were using GREY instead of GRAY as the answer to [Black and white together], keeping OHS over OYS as the [Cries of dismay], and insisting on THROAT as the answer to [Esophagus] instead of GULLET. My bad. It also took too long to parse U.S. MARINE as the [Devil dog], as for whatever reason I kept trying to make that into a single word.

Usually I enjoy Bob Klahn puzzles for the workout and the devious cluing. The themes rarely seem to live up to the rest. But I really liked the execution of today’s theme. It’s simple enough (drop the Y from the end of the first word in four two-word terms), but the theme entries are all terrific and the clues really add the high shine:

  • 17-Across: “Army surplus” becomes ARM SURPLUS, clued here as [Eleven tentacles?]. You know, because nine tentacles would be “unusual” and ten tentacles would be “extra.” Only with eleven do you get to a “surplus.”
  • 29-Across: A “battery pack” becomes a BATTER PACK, a [Baseball team half the time?]. The other half of the time, they’re a fielder pack.
  • 43-Across: The “bully pulpit” turns into a BULL PULPIT, the [Point from which a herd head can steer steers?]. This one could have been clued a few different ways that would have been entertaining to me, but probably not to those who take offense easily.
  • 54-Across: I love it when my favorite theme entry comes at the end. A “party pooper” becomes a PART-POOPER, an apt description of [What your dog is to get you to walk him?].

My favorite clues this time were [Madame Butterfly often tied one on] for OBI, [Bad name for a NASCAR driver?] for REX, [Dish’s running mate] for SPOON, and [A word to Virginia] for YES. Can’t say that I’m familiar with BEAR UP, meaning to [Roll with the punches]. As an alumnus of the University of Arizona, I certainly know “bear down” (that’s not a dirty joke–“bear down” is heard many times in the school fight song). But “bear up” is a new find–let’s hope next time I can bear up when a corner has me perplexed.

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 14 12 Bickham

You can’t beat an answer like JAZZ HANDS for starting a puzzle off with a bang (1a. [Campy dance gesture]), can you? It’s fun, fresh, and Scrabbly to boot.

Unusual grid, with two 15s going across and one 15 down. I love 41a: THELMA AND LOUISE (and just saw a similar clue recently that taught me this factoid: [1991 film in which both lead actresses got Oscar nominations (neither of them won)]), but plural 34a: INITIALIZATIONS ([Start-up processes]) falls flat, and 8d: DARWINIAN THEORY ([View opposed by the intelligent design movement]) doesn’t feel like a familiar phrasing. Evolutionary theory, Darwinism, Darwin’s theory of evolution, yes.

The JAZZ HANDS corner also shines with the AMAZONIAN/”DON’T STARE” stack, plus ZZ TOP. The other corner stacks have good long words/phrases, though SYSTEMIZE is less familiar/fun than the rest. I wonder if any people of the British Empire not familiar with the bearded ’80s band read that as “Zed Zed Top.”

Could have done without crossword oldies NACRE and ISERE, not-an-actual-phrase NO PUN (60a: [Something often intended?], and lots of blah short fill. I didn’t notice all of the short stuff because the long answers weren’t so hard to fill in, but I noticed plenty of it. IT OR, ILA, RELET, TSE, AGRI, NES, OSS, etc. didn’t enhance my solving experience.

3.5 stars.

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (really by “Stan again”)

Newsday crossword solution, 4 14 12 "Saturday Stumper" Anna Stiga

Nice to see a Stumper with a good number of answers in the 8+ letter count range. Stan’s also gone all Scrabbly here, with plenty of uncommon letters. Tough puzzle! Took me more than twice as long as the LAT, and 50% longer than the NYT. Nothing scowl-inducing in the grid, either.

  • 5a. FOAM, [What some peanuts are made of]. Don’t eat ’em, kids.
  • 14a. AQUA VELVA, [Men’s product first sold as a mouthwash]. Good lord, an aftershave bracer first intended for oral use?
  • 17a. JUTLANDER, [Person from Kiel]. Northern tip of Germany plus mainland Denmark; Kiel’s on the German side of the Jutland peninsula.
  • 18a. AXING, [Breaking open, perhaps]. Not if you’re Newark mayor Cory Booker. Then you just smash through walls with your bare hands, rescuing a neighbor from a burning building. He’s the new Chuck Norris, meme-wise.
  • 21a. JANE DOE, [Legal placeholder]. Man, this one killed me. Figured it was some Latinate legalese, but no.
  • 24a. PISTOL, [Word from the German for “pipe”]. I had no idea. Took German, too. Had PISTON first.
  • 34a. PARA, [Occupational prefix]. Paralegal, paramedic, paradox, etc.
  • 35a.Richard LEDERER, [Language columnist].
  • 37a. MIMOSAS, [Plants whose leaves close when touched]. Also champagne and OJ.
  • 52a. Charles KURALT, [First ”Sunday Morning” host].
  • 55a. SUR, [Charge preceder]. Prefixes are often blah fill, but this is a nice change from the usual [Big ___].
  • 65a. ADOPT-A-PET, [Nonprofit supported by Drew Barrymore]. Never heard of it, but you can work it out with some crossings, and it’s fresh fill.
  • 1d. TAJ MAHAL, [Metaphor for architectural excess]. A bit much for a mausoleum, really.
  • 10d. TUXEDO, [Traditional cruisewear]. I wanted an Aloha shirt, a bikini, shorts, etc. Casual warm-weather wear. I have been on a cruise but never worn a tuxedo. Seems more of a Titanic thing.
  • 13d. LEGEND, [The Grimms’ ”Folktale historically grounded”]. Anyone watch Grimm on Friday nights? It’s one of two shows we watch as a family, the other being Modern Family. Grimm is fun—lots of quasi-German names of half-human beasts, pronounced non-Germanically. I like to elucidate for my family: “Blutbad means bloodbath.”
  • 22d. ALDRIN, [”Magnificent Desolation” author]. He was referring to the moon, I presume.
  • 33d. JETSKI, [Kawasaki division]. With a few of the crossings in place, it looked like it was going to be a Japanese name. Like Pataki.
  • 48d. SEDERS, [Wine-drinking, egg-eating rituals]. Happy Passover week to those who just celebrated.
  • 62d. EDU, [End of a George Washington address]. Terrific clue for a .edu answer—George Washington University’s web address, not a speech given by General/President George Washington.

You know I wish more of you would come solve the puzzle “for stats” (i.e., play against the clock) in the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial Facebook app. I want to see some more of your Stumper solving times listed there! Click the “Today” button, then choose “Newsday”  in the pull-down menu for the first column, and you’ll see the times.

4.5 stars. No “Wow, what a crazy/great answer!” fill, but super-smooth, challenging, and fresh.

Trip Payne’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 14 12 "Smartypants Saturday" Payne

You need to pay attention to the news from up north to get today’s theme. Or just be Canadian, in which case the theme will be a flat-out easy-peasy three-piece gimme.

  • 15a. STEPHEN HARPER, [Current leader of Canada]
  • 33a. PRIME MINISTER, [Position held by 15-Across]
  • 50a. CONSERVATIVES, [Members of 15-Across’ party]

The BAH/BAJA crossing is kinda cute, isn’t it? It takes me straight to the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” And BAJA also crosses JINX, [Bringer of bad luck]. Hard to clue it succinctly as [The word you say when you and someone else say the same thing at the same time, after which one of you will probably owe the other one a Coke]. Deb Amlen and I, being children. “jinx” each other all the time in Facebook chat.

Trip is a big fan of game shows, so it’s no surprise to me that CAR is clued as a [Big prize on “The Price Is Right”].

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25 Responses to Saturday, 4/14/12

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    “Fasces” is what troubled me, too, but it seemed to fit.


  2. Byron says:

    Cox was eclipsed in history by his running mate, FDR. TIP-O would have been a good modern nickname for the former Speaker of the House. Would have gone with TIPI/KNITTERS myself, but loved the grid otherwise.

  3. Joe E says:

    Step Four — I’m going with “great answer and clue” because it made “step” easy but left several options for the number. Five? Four? Nine? And, though it’s fresh and real, i’ve never seen it in a crossword before which counts for something.

  4. Interesting tidbit about James Cox: He was the first divorced man to gain a major party presidential nomination. I erroneously used a clue in this vein [first divorced candidate] to refer to ADLAI STEVENSON in a past Rows Garden, and was given credence to this fact because Time Magazine referred to Stevenson as the first such candidate during his first match with Ike. I had few solvers e-mail me and alert me of Cox’s marital status during his campaign, which shocked me; divorce in 1920 was hardly common in those days, and even for Stevenson it was a touchy subject. But even if Cox was the most maritally-committed man, he never would have beaten Harding that year. I think it was Eugene Debs (about whom I wrote my undergrad thesis) that said that the Democrats could have nominated Jesus and still would have lost the election.

    But I digress…

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    This one must have been right in my wheelhouse, ‘cuz this was a measium (10:56) Saturday for me.

    ATM CARDS is, indeed, great fill, though I’m not sure about it with that particular clue. If it’s swiped at a checkout counter, as opposed to an ATM, then DEBIT CARD seems more apropospriate.

  6. joon says:

    i agree with byron: TIPI/KNITTERS would be better, but yeah, it’s a great grid. 4×8 in every corner, some hot answers (BAT PHONE!), and it’s really clean. normal-ish saturday time for me, maybe a smidge on the easium side.

  7. Gareth says:

    I swear the singular of phalanges is phalanx, just like meninges/meninx… Felt very essy to me, but I guess that’s what happens when you for a grid like that.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Gareth–Incidentally, as a devoted Elvis fan, I loved your recent puzzle. Inspired idea, and theme entries beautifully realized. (I’m assuming the same Gareth, though I don’t actually know that).

    Also loved the pros and cons of the wsj–not always my favorite puzzle source, but some good ones of late.


  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I thought it was a Friday puzzle but it felt like a Saturday. No wonder: It is a Saturday puzzle. D’oh!

    I had Gareth’s thought about PHALANGE sounding bogus. I suspect it’s a back-formation from phalanx -> phalanges -> er, uh, the singular must be “phalange,” right?

  10. pannonica says:

    Erm, right.

    But then again, “suffixes” suffices.

    (not that it has much to do with it.)

  11. Jenni Levy says:

    Must have been one of my fastest Saturday times ever – wish I’d had the timer on. I know it was less than seven minutes from download to finish. Was there a lot of medical stuff in here? Or was I just on the wavelength?

    Far as I know, RITALIN was the first drug used for narcolepsy. Still widely used because it’s so much cheaper than the new stuff. Loved STEP FOUR and BATPHONE. Didn’t much care for RIPOSTED, but that’s a quibble.

    I also thought the singular of PHALANGES was PHALANX, but I knew what to put in the grid.

    Your first sentence confused me, Amy. I knew it was Saturday but it solved more like Wednesday for me. Now off to the Stumper, which will remind me what day it is.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sam: You might ask “How are you bearing up?” to someone with a loved one in the hospital.

  13. pannonica says:

    I >koff< thought “beaning up” might be a Britishism. Be a good bean, you know.

    To clarify, I’m very familiar with both versions of the singular for anatomical phalanges, even though one is more grammatically correcter.

  14. Hand up for thinking it ought to be PHALANX, but dictionaries give PHALANGE as an acceptable alternative. After all, Curly isn’t a STOOX, i.e. one of the Three Stooges

  15. ArtLvr says:

    The 17A clue in the LAT was odd, unless meant to be sarcastic? You might say DON’T STARE to one who looks you over, but one who overlooks you isn’t staring at you…

  16. Daniel Myers says:

    “Parnassian”, of course, was only appropriated by those French poets in the title of their publication “Parnasse contemporain.” Its identification as home of the Muses and, particularly, poetry, stretches back to Ancient Greece and Ovid, amongst many, many others. Haven’t we covered this issue previously on this blog?

  17. Victor Barocas says:

    Very fast for me on both puzzles, as it was for some of the above. Might have been my fastest Saturday NYT not counting Puns & Anagrams or the like. The Muses lived on Mt. Parnassus, so I liked Parnassian. Also wanted PHALANX over PHALANGES, but, then again, my wife and I occasionally refer to a certain tissue brand in the plural as Kleenices. Yes, our household is a regular laugh a minute.

  18. ktd says:

    One of my fastest Saturday NYT times for sure. “Theodore Rex” is on my bookshelf next to David McCullough’s “John Adams” and Michael Beschloss’ “The Conquerors”. And I’ve heard of SPADES, though I’m more partial to euchre myself.

  19. Dan F says:

    Not even close to my fastest NYT Saturday times! Did well on the other puzzles, so I can’t chalk it up to 12:45 a.m. fatigue.

    BTW, a bunch of people share their Saturday Stumper times on my site, no Facebook required, and they don’t expire on Sunday.

  20. Jenni Levy says:

    Amy, if I always solved the Stumper as quickly as I did today, I’d solve for stats, but usually my time is measured in hours instead of minutes (I walk away and come back, eat and come back, etc…). Today I finished the NYT, the LAT and the Stumper in about the time I usually spend on the NYT. Just one of those days. On the one hand, I’m impressed with myself. On the other hand, I’m now out of puzzles to do.

  21. DocHank says:

    Amy, regarding the Stumper’s “traditional cruisewear,” I lucked into this by virtue of having been on a Holland-America cruise last year, and they (and I think other lines) have a formal dining evening where black tie or at least coat and tie for men is required. Doesn’t necessarily get you dinner with the Captain, tho’…

  22. Alex says:

    Is this the highest-ranked day in the history of the rankings? Lots and lots of stars up there today. Good work by all the constructors.

  23. Tuning Spork says:

    The Sunday comment thread appears to be broken by whatever was at the end of Pannonica’s 9:47 post.

  24. jefe says:

    How about that Anti-lock Braking System SYSTEM in the pangrammatic Stumper?

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