Saturday, 7/14/12

Newsday 7:05 
NYT 5:40 
LAT 4:07 
CS 7:44 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) tba 

nb: Last week’s CHE puzzle has been published and the write-up is now posted.

Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 7 14 12 0714

Happy Bastille Day! This blog’s household finished our observance of Bastille Day last night, when my husband ran the B.D. 8k. Why wasn’t it scheduled for July 14? I do not know.

Seeing the byline made me look forward to a smooth, clean grid and creative clues. The puzzle had some of that, but it also had some weird, non-Braddy, non-Dougish stuff I’m surprised to see, especially in a 70-worder. ISERE, INEZ, unfamiliar KONRAD people, STLO, ESSEN (but finally! A clue that everyone who ever took German has been waiting for: [City whose name means “eat”]), the woeful REPAD … well, I guess that’s all the icky stuff, but it’s still more than I was expecting to see from these two prolific constructorial powerhouses.


  • 1a. CRAFT FAIR, which I like to slightly mispronounce as “crap fair.” There are crafty people who make incredible stuff, it is true (I’m partial to glass paperweights, nice wooden things, and interesting pottery I never actually buy), but there are also craft fairs in which nearly everything is schlock or kitsch.
  • 15a. “OH, SUSANNA,” don’t you cry for me. I’ve left you for a career as a bluegrass banjo player.
  • 60a. ERIC CARLE, with such lovely illustrations in his books for small children.
  • 63a. COCK-A-HOOP, [Triumphantly boastful]. The term derives from the phrase “set cock a hoop,” which has to do with turning on the tap and letting liquor flow. None of the taps in my house run with hooch.
  • 4d. [Nap kin], fun clue for FUZZ. As in the nap on a sweater, little bits of fuzz.
  • 13d. CPR CLASS, [Revival meeting?]. Cute clue. Answer begins with five consonants.
  • 29d. [Rice served after him], starting with P? My first thought was PILAF. Wrong rice. Colin POWELL.

Interesting combo in the southwest: AIR MEDAL is an [Honor for an ace] while AIREDALE is the [Pet kept by Wilson, Harding and Coolidge]. They’re AIR(m)EDAL(e) twins. Fraternal, of course.

Am falling asleep so I’m signing off. 3.5 stars.
Updated Saturday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Not Up for an Attachment” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 14

This little one proved to be something of a challenge, but I very much liked the theme and the placement of the theme entries. Alan Arbesfeld (or “Double-A” as he’s known to…well, no one, I suspect–I just made it up) simply adds DOWN to the ends of four common terms. Naturally, then, the four theme entries appear in the Down position:

  • 3-Down: Add some DOWN to a variety show and you get VARIETY SHOWDOWN, the [Crisis at a Hollywood publisher?]. In a wonderful memory lapse, I kept thinking the name of Variety was VANITY. Seeing as my goof contains one fewer letter, this was really giving me problems. But I think the mistake is hilarious. Isn’t Vanity a terrific name for an inside-Hollywood paper?
  • 5-Down: An ordinary wisecrack becomes a WISE CRACKDOWN, a sign of [Intelligent law enforcement?].
  • 11-Down: The good times of spring break turn to the more dour SPRING BREAKDOWN, the [Cause of a mattress collapse?].
  • 19-Down: If you’re wondering what’s in your milkshake, you might be interested in the MILK SHAKEDOWN, [Extortion at a dairy farm?].

So I lost a good thirty-plus seconds playing “guess-a-letter” at the crossing of TABLA, the [Small Indian drum], and SABRAS, the [Native Israelis]. That’s what I get for going in keyboard order instead of alphabetical order–who put the stupid B on the bottom row, anyway?

The other challenges in this grid were entirely my fault, like typing in IDLE as the answer to [Idle of Monty Python fame] instead of ERIC. That’s just sloppy solving. And it led to another error, for when I saw that the answer to [Genesis brother] started with the E at the end of IDLE, I plunked down ESAU and didn’t give it any more thought. Um, CAIN turns out to be the right answer. But hey, Esau had a brother (right?), so I don’t feel too badly about this one.  Likewise, RETRO seemed like a fine answer to [Not an original, to a dealer] (and the crossing gave me STRING- to start the theme answer at 11-Down, which looked promising), but obviously REPRO is better.

For some reason, I keep blanking on SERE as a crossword answer, even though I have seen it before. It occurred to me that Siri would know about sere. Nope. She kept insisting it was a verb meaning “to char.” But my dictionary confirms that [Bone-dry] is just about the most direct and terse clue there could be for the word.

Favorite entry = MOOD INDIGO, the [Duke Ellington jazz standard]. Favorite clue = [Good vibrations record?] for a SEISMOGRAM.

David Steinberg’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 7 14 12 "Saturday Stumper"

I think this is David’s first Newsday themeless, though I haven’t looked at all the themed puzzles and don’t know if he’s been in the Newsday stable for a while. He’s super-young (just finished his first year of high school but has already attended the ACPT and met tons of crossword people [including me]) and “super-young” is not the general Newsday vibe. This puzzle fits right into the Stumper zone of “lots of answers you can’t possibly get, but then you get a crossing or three and a word starts to take shape, and eventually you may slay the beast entirely.” This particular beast is four mini-beasts connected only by intersecting long answers (the ones that frame the A in the grid’s center), which means four separate times of desperately searching for a foothold or two to get moving. Those four chunks of black squares? They’re the hammers hitting you over the head again and again.

I’d put the southeast quadrant as the easiest (which is not to say it was easy on the general scale of things–“easy” meaning “only as hard as a Saturday NYT”), northeast second easiest, then the northwest, and the southwest hitting me with hammers the most. So the SE rates one hammer and the SW four hammers.

I just checked the word count. 54?!? That is crazy low. The record’s 52, I believe. Okay, that explains the inclusion of the blah REROSE, ENISLED, and ANILINE; the over-S’ed SENSELESSNESS; the not-quite-a-a-lexical-chunk NEEDS REPAIR, and the unfamiliar ARIELLE (7d: [Kebbel of “The Grudge 2”). Take a gander at the difficult SW corner. It’s hard because of the clues—the fill is fiercely smooth. PIERCER is the only thing that isn’t unassailably smooth. I don’t like the plural ENAMELS (43a: [Crown toppers], as in teeth), but the word itself can also be a verb so the word is fine. Basically, this is a Patrick Berry section. So is the SE—each of these corners has only a single proper name (I’m not counting RAVENS since it can be a regular noun). The NE has the ARIELLE/NERISSA ([“The Merchant of Venice” maid]) crossing that might slow people down, but I is the only plausible letter there.

Ten items on the bulleted list:

  • 6a, 6d. [Pontifical] = PAPAL was a gimme, unexpected in a Stumper but welcome with a four-part grid. The first P made [Original language of “The Rubaiyat”] = PERSIAN a snap.
  • 19a. [Vain fancy], CHIMERA.
  • 21a. [Took, as some cards], HONORED. No idea what this means. Is this bridge? Euchre? Ecarte?
  • 25a. [Bud’s beginning], EAR. I was thinking botany rather than earbuds.
  • 36a. [Stadiumgoer’s souvenir], PENNANT. I was thinking of concerts rather than sports, for no reason at all.
  • 42a. [Rap response], IT’S OPEN. Rap on the door.
  • 47a. [Not really nice], SEEDY. This is more about neighborhoods than people.
  • 2d. [California pre-statehood land grants], RANCHOS. Reagan had a rancho, didn’t he?
  • 28d. [Clean, to some sergeants], UNARMED. I think this is a cop sergeant, not a military one.
  • 38d. [Picked up, as oysters], TONGED. Is this about wild oysters being caught, oysters in the kitchen, or oysters on your plate? P.S. Crazy to have 38-Down be the end of the Down clue list!

Three stars for the fun quotient, 3.5 stars for the overall fill quality (irrespective of word count), 4.25 stars for the Stumperish clues challenging me, 5 stars for the smoothness of fill with the word count in mind. Combined score … let’s call it 4.25 stars.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 7 14 12

This 72-worder has room for a lot more fun fill than a grid like David Steinberg’s Stumper immediately above.

Here, for your amusement, is a video of dancing monkeys.

Favorite fill:

  • 1a. [Rakes], CASANOVAS.
  • 15a. [Chicago university founded in 1945], ROOSEVELT. My son’s wonderful fifth-grade teacher got her master’s degree there.
  • 23a. [Justin Timberlake nickname], PRINCE OF POP. Really? Did not know that, am glad to learn it.
  • 39a. [1960s music phenomenon], BRITISH INVASION invading the middle.
  • 47a. [“Casino” Best Actress nominee], SHARON STONE. Nice sound echo between Casino and the crossing CAMINOS.

There are many who hate NLER and ALER as crossword fill. I feel similar about AOLER—Google it and you get under 90,000 hits, meaning that it’s not really in broad use. The Urban Dictionary definitions are mostly insulting. And most of the first 10 Google hits are using it to mean “person working for AOL” rather than “person who pays AOL for their internet access.” As of 2007, Wikipedia tells me, AOL’s subscriber base was down to 10.1 million; by 2010, a mere 4.4 million. [Many an online shopper] hints at a larger percentage of the internet population than whatever AOL accounts for now, if you ask me. The clue feels like it’s from the 1990s. (Mind you, I love the 100% smooth and interesting crossings that AOLER has in this puzzle.)

Toughest crossing:

  • 44d: [Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh __] meets 56a: [Japanese veggie]. I couldn’t get any of NHU (could only think of Dien Bien Phu) despite the name probably appearing in clues for NGO (which still gets clued as a Vietnamese name in the news decades ago rather than as an abbreviation for “nongovernmental organization.” Don’t a lot of crossworders listen to public radio and hear about NGOs? The veggie is UDO and that U was iffy for me.

Crossword-geekiest clue: 19a: [Prefix meaning “beyond”], META. As in Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest‘s meta puzzle, and the Pete Muller Monthly Music Meta. If you don’t know about these already, they’re crossword contests in which first you solve the crossword, and then you have to figure out the meta answer, which goes “beyond” merely answering the crossword clues. You might need to take the initial letters of the theme answers and anagram them into a country, or find a message hidden in the clues, or notice that crossing answers suggest primary colors and then blend those colors together to create secondary colors. It’s a mental challenge that requires flexible thinking, thinking outside the box, discarding what you think you know and finding something entirely different. I love ’em, these puzzles with metas.

This meta monkey rates this puzzle with four stars.






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32 Responses to Saturday, 7/14/12

  1. janie says:

    my first response at 22-a? CAN. wrong, of course, and eventually found my way to NOR. then visited the travel section where this was waiting:

    looks like i shoulda stopped there first!

    a fine saturday challenge — hadn’t known about the goldilocks ASTERS, and loved SITZKRIEG. cool, guys!


  2. Martin says:

    I’m not sure if the latest CHE is going to get blogged, and if it is, where, but note (Evad) that the recently posted CHE is dated 7/6, not 7/13 as your Today’s Puzzles link expects.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    The biologist Konrad Lorenz was the first and easiest gimme, but cockahoop, sitzkrieg, eric carle, inez, etc. — gimme a break.

    Agreed with the favorable consensus for yesterday’s wsj, but why is {Pitcher’s place} a clue for “tent?” A revival tent, where someone is pitching salvation?

  4. HH says:

    “…but why is {Pitcher’s place} a clue for ‘tent’?”

    As in, to pitch a tent.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    HH, OH! OK.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m surprised that there were not more plaudits for TonyO’s ‘all’ puzzle. I thought it was a really outstanding, early week level, letter addition theme.

    I’m in awe of anyone who has actually finished the Stumper. I managed to fill in the top and middle; but I have a couple holes in the SW, and the SE is terra incognita, with a couple trails blazed through it. I wonder if I have mistakes in the SW, because the corner just doesn’t fall into place, and I’m baffled. I guess that’s why they callem puzzles. Furthermore, I swear there is an error in the SW, but as HH is always eager to point out it is usually I (we) who are wrong. Since it hasn’t been blogged, I won’t spoil.

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    I’ve always seen NYT 63A spelt COCK-A-WHOOP which the OED gives as a variant, as well as the longest – essay length – explication of its “doubtful origin” in the etymology section that I’ve ever seen, which is indeed saying something! I like Amy’s etymology. But there is, apparently, “no clear evidence” for it. Fun puzzle!

  8. Huda says:

    Bruce said : “The biologist Konrad Lorenz was the first and easiest gimme, but cockahoop, sitzkrieg, eric carle, inez, etc. — gimme a break”

    Same reactions here. But I actually managed most of it fine except the NW, the SITZ part was the last to fall. But a couple of ZZ and a nearby K makes it all very interesting. And I learned cockahoop!!

    Quick & Dirty Index of difficulty rates this as Easy.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, I just finished the Stumper. The SW was my last corner to attempt and the hardest one to complete. I had a few missteps, three answers I put in that slowed progress until I took them out. Which clue/answer in the SW strikes you as an error? I’m not sure about 39a’s equivalency.

  10. Martin says:


    “Society at large” means “society in general.”

  11. Erik says:

    is that a 54 word stumper? man, did this dude just did this?

  12. Martin says:

    I think Amy’s etymology for cock-a-hoop is most lexicographers’ best guess. It makes more sense if you think of a cask on its side; you remove the spigot completely and set it on top of the cask for the moment. The top of the cask will be surrounded by an end hoop.

  13. drb says:

    the “error” in the Stumper depends on whether you consider when it took place or the season it ended

  14. Martin says:

    Superbowl XXXV determined the champion for the 2000 NFL season. I think the clue is a reasonable editing down of that fact.

  15. Daniel Myers says:


    Yes, but, as you know full well, best guess doesn’t quite do for the editors of the OED.

    BTW, Martin, read The Code Book and reviewed it, favourably.

  16. pannonica says:

    Stumper: HONORED, as credit cards. Martin, I think AT LARGE works better in the sense of editor-at-large.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Yes, drb–I think you have put your finger on what I considered the “error” and it is a confusion of years. (or “seasons” as you more directly put it.)

    Allons’ y to all you enfants de la patrie, and a special note of appreciation to whoever it was in the film *Casablanca* who had the wonderful musical insight to perceive that the Marseillaise could be superimposed perfectly on the Kaiserhymne, (with the lyric, at the time Haydn wrote it of “Gott erhalte Franz den (dem?) Kaiser” but which subsequently morphed into “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles.) “den” I’m pretty sure.

  18. Martin says:


    Yes, agreed. I especially like the OED summary: “A phrase of doubtful origin, the history of which has been further obscured by subsequent attempts, explicit or implicit to analyse it.”

    It’s the lexicographical equivalent of Heisenberg uncertainty.

    But I think it’s interesting that the first cited “explicit attempt to analyse” that obscures the facts is from 1670, and quotes the spiggot-on-the-cask meaning. The OED editors are bemoaning the lax research standards of 17th-century scholars. Wonderful stuff.

  19. Martin says:


    I disagree. That “at-large” means “without assignment.” That’s quite different from “in general,” which means “mostly.” “Society at large” means “representative of most, but not all, members of society.”

  20. pannonica says:

    Okay, I’ll buy that.

  21. Martin says:

    Is this about wild oysters being caught, oysters in the kitchen, or oysters on your plate?

    The first one. Oyster tongs are about 20 feet long, and would be very out of place on your plate. Most oysters are cultivated, so “wild” should probably be “bedded.”

  22. Daniel Myers says:


    Yes, that larger than life, so to speak, high-minded etymological essay was both a joy and a lark to read. It rather reminds one of the Laputans in Gulliver’s Travels.

  23. Peter Piper says:

    What is the ongoing problem with the LA times write up? Every time I look its TBA!!!!!!!!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      @Peter Piper: Hi, I have a personal life and other things to do in addition to writing this blog at no charge to you. I am working on the write-up and it will be up soon. But a whole series of exclamation points and the phrase “ongoing problem” kinda make me want to delay it for a couple more hours. No “I’d really like to see what you thought about the puzzle and could use help with a few clues,” no “Gosh, I hope you’re all right, because I thought your post would be up hours ago”? Ha!

      The above comment is in the “Dance, monkey!” category of blog comments—this is terminology that Rex Parker, PuzzleGirl, and I all use behind the scenes. Luckily, I don’t get many such comments. Most of you are patient and kind, and I appreciate that.

  24. Gareth says:

    Because it’s usually written up in the morning, and well, people have lives and are doing in for love and not money; but you knew that right?

  25. janie says:

    in the stumper, am having trouble making [breaks] = NEEDS REPAIR. i understand that if something [breaks], it NEEDS REPAIRS, but are these usages equivalent?

    also understand that more than the usual amount of stretchiness is fair game in a stumper!


  26. Martin says:


    Yes, that’s the sort of borderline-unfair clue that is a trademark of the Stumper. Something needs repair after it broke, not while it breaks, which is why it seems off. But you’ve stated the justification as far as I see it too.

  27. janie says:

    thx, martin. have only started doing the stumper recently — and already understand where the name comes from!


  28. Anoa Bob says:

    My first NYT entry was KONRAD Lorenz, who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch. All three were ethologists, but as there is no Nobel category for ethology, they were given the award in Physiology or Medicine.

    LORENZ did much to bring ethology to a wider audience by writing popular books such as “King Solomon’s Ring” and “Man Meets Dog”, and appearing in a photo shoot with his geese that had imprinted on him in the Aug. 22, 1955 issue of “Life” magazine. (Sophia Loren, on whom I had imprinted, appeared on the cover of that issue.)

  29. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Bob–didn’t we all.

  30. Erik says:

    re: stumper – “irrespective of word count,” i can’t condone anything over 2 stars for the fill quality of a grid that contains REROSE, ENISLES, EVILEST, PIERCER, et al. a 54 worder is damn impressive from a constructing standpoint, and the cluing makes it a decently enjoyable solve. but let’s be real here.

  31. John Haber says:

    “The biologist Konrad Lorenz was the first and easiest gimme, but cockahoop, sitzkrieg, eric carle, inez, etc. — gimme a break.” More or less same for me. I did get the SE, with enough crossings (the A in COCK-A-HOOP my last guess), but blew it on the T in SITZ and ASTERS, the latter as qualified by goldilocks also new to me. I tried “askers,” even though SITZ looked a lot better in my limited German than SIKS, because i couldn’t make sense of ASTERS, and maybe if you think of Goldilocks wondering which is just right, that makes her an asker with insufficiently fair cluing.

    So this was an oddity: one of fastest Saturdays, but felt unfair and unsatisfying, and I blew it. Meh.

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