Saturday, 7/21/12

NYT 9:23 (Matt) 
Newsday 8:36 (joon) 
LAT 5:54 (Matt) 
CS 4:55 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) tba 

Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times puzzle — Matt’s review

innocent black square pattern, or evil grinning clown face?

Stacked 15’s, so let’s start there:



STATE LEGISLATOR = OK entry (kinda dull)

SUNKEN TREASURES = OK entry (that phrase sounds much better in the singular)


PEER ASSESSMENTS = OK entry (so many S’s and E’s)

So these are generally on the good side, though without any showstoppers.

In the fill I dig DWEEB, GO AWRY, HI-DE-HO, HOME RUN, ON ALERT and TOSS-UP. On the other hand, the grid’s lovely wide-openness necessitated a pretty un-Scrabbly grid with a lot of totally-legit-but-not-thrilling longer fill like ESOTERY, REROOT, SONATAS, HASTENS, ESSENCE and TITULAR. Still, the grid is really clean, with only one partial and a single semi-mystery entry (AKER for [Oslo’s river], but I’ll remember that one now). (Actually, come to think of it, there was once a chess tournament in Oslo called the Aker Chess Challenge, so I definitely should have known that).

Favorite clues: [Bracketology org.] for NCAA and the subtly misleading [Juicy fruit] for ORANGES. Plural, as in “pieces of juicy fruit.” Minor clue ding: 5-d shouldn’t have “Brit.” in the clue since it dupes the B in OBE.

This was a pleasant, ably-constructed puzzle, though you can see why some freestyle writers prefer to work with a higher word count (66 words) than Bruce chose here. Even if you do a good job on it, as Bruce did, your entries will strongly tend to be less dynamic than in, say, a typical 72-word grid.

3.5 stars.

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s review

Pinch-hitting for Amy today and what a nice surprise to see Joe DiPietro’s name on the NYT puzzle. He’s a great crossword writer and a funny guy I’ve enjoyed hanging out with at ACPT’s.

I'm lovin' it, creep

Contrast this crossword with the LA Times puzzle today: both are written by excellent constructors who know their way around a freestyle puzzle, but Joe’s NYT has four more words (70) than Bruce’s LAT. And look how the vocabulary comes alive without the grid constraints of a low word count: HISPANICS, I’M LOVIN’ IT, THE MIKADO, IMHO, IN A PANIC, SOLD AS IS — and that’s just in the NW quadrant of the grid. Let’s keep going to emphasize the point: MALE LEAD, OBAMACARE, HELLO NURSE!, TELL ME THIS, SLIMEBALLS, LOLA FALANA (I had no idea she was a real person until solving this puzzle), YO TE AMO, PAY RAISE, MY DOG SKIP, DREAMBOAT, CHAT UP, YES MEN and SHORT O. That’s a lot of the vocabulary people solve themelesses for.

PALEO should probably have been clued to the Paleo Diet, which I keep hearing about on Facebook and elsewhere, but this puzzle may have been in the pipeline since before that particular Food Fad became hot. And [Mountain on the Armenian coat of arms] is an interesting clue for ARARAT, especially since the mountain is no longer in Armenian territory (it’s in Turkey, but you can see it from Yerevan).

4.05 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bar Exam” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 21

How well do you know your candy bars? Donna puts us to the test in today’s puzzle, as all four theme entries begin with a word that can precede BAR to form a comestible sweet:

  • 18-Across: The [1996 sci-fi movie starring Jack Nicholson] is MARS ATTACKS! The Mars Bar was the British version of the American Milky Way bar. Did you know that the Mars bar was discontinued in 2002, only to be relaunched in 2010? Wikipedia says it’s true, so I believe it.
  • 53-Across: The [“Brokeback Mountain” costar] was HEATH LEDGER. Ah, Heath bars–one of my many food addictions during law school. That wonderful little morsel of toffee is probably now known more as a stir-in ingredient for Dairy Queen blizzards than as a stand-alone candy bar. But hey, whatever helps keep them around is fine by me. Back to Heath Ledger: he co-starred in another movie called The Dark Knight. Perhaps you’ve heard of it lately?
  • 3-Down: The [“Cabaret” cabaret] is the KIT KAT CLUB. Gimme a break! Here‘s a recipe to make your own homemade Kit Kat bars. Let me know if they taste as good as they look.
  • 28-Down: The [Do-or-die moment] is called CRUNCH TIME. I know it as the “Nestle Crunch” bar, but whatever. Here’s another interesting nugget (nougat?) from Wikipedia regarding the Crunch bar: “Nestlé has recently discontinued the traditional packaging technique of wrapping the bar in aluminum foil, sleeved inside a paper label, in favor of more conventional packaging practices. The chocolate bar can now commonly be found in a single-ply inner metallised boPET polyester film, typical of convenience foods packaging.” Ah, metalized boPET. A treat for a new generation!

The sweet treats are indeed BOUNTIFUL in this grid. There’s apple pie ALA MODE, even more ice cream from EDY, and, for those who like a little salt in their sweets, a HAM BONE.

Favorite entry = ROUND-TRIP. Favorite clue = [Site for some monitoring bracelets] for ANKLE.

Updated Saturday evening:

Brad Wilber’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper” – joon’s review

Newsday Saturday Stumper solutions 7 21 12

hey, everybody, joon here with a somewhat belated review of brad wilber’s saturday stumper. oof, tough puzzle today, with opaque clues all over the place. here’s a rundown:

  • {Former capital on the Indian Ocean} DAR ES SALAAM. i actually got this pretty early, but it was shockingly unhelpful for figuring out 1- through 11-down. is there anybody else here who learned from sporcle that the capital of tanzania has moved to dodoma?
  • {”Separate Tables” playwright} is TERENCE RATTIGAN. okay, i’ve heard of rattigan, and i’ve heard of separate tables—the latter only because i tried to memorize best actor winners, and david niven won in (i want to say) 1958 for separate tables. but i don’t know anything else about either the movie or the play.
  • {”Eternal __ impalpable out of the land . . .”: Whitman} clues the partial I RISE. no chance here, even with _RISE in place. but if this had been clued via maya angelou, i’d have known it.
  • {Sitting, for example} is CHILD CARE. just one of many brutal, brutal clues.
  • {Dominant planet, in astrology} LORD. another one. i still don’t know what this means, but it gives me another chance to share this awesome quote about astrology by david hilbert, one of the 20th century’s foremost mathematicians.
  • {Extremely sensitive} clues FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, very obliquely.
  • {Chatterbox’s excess, maybe} is NERVOUS ENERGY.
  • {First Scorsese/DeNiro collaboration} was, apparently, MEAN STREETS. the last three answers formed a really nice 15-13-11 stack at the bottom, but yikes, it took me a while to get them all. in particular, i don’t think i know anything about this movie.
  • {Alpine jumpers} are DIRNDLS, for the “dress” sense of jumper. yikes.
  • {”Footloose” hero} is REN? you don’t say.
  • {More quickly?} is ETC. you see what i mean about every clue being super-tough?
  • {Clinic shipment} is SERA, and this was my first confident answer in the grid.
  • {HBO conductor of prank interviews} is ALI G. second answer.
  • {”Honor Thy Father” author} is gay TALESE. would have been my third answer if i’d noticed it earlier.
  • {Exclamation of impatience} is “TODAY!”. great clue, evocative, but again, this was hard.
  • {Winner of a landmark 1966 Supreme Court decision} is ernesto MIRANDA, vs the state of arizona, over the rights of arrestees.
  • {Buzz} clues GO OFF, like a … pager on vibrate?
  • {Particle emitted by a quark} is a GLUON. MESON was my first thought here; this also works, but it has somewhat rarer letters.

oof, well, anyway, looks like i got beat up all over by this one. i’ll get you next time, wilber! *shakes fist* tough but fair, though.

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26 Responses to Saturday, 7/21/12

  1. RK says:

    Where do you go to do the LA Times puzzle so early?

    Found NYTimes a litle easy for a Saturday–meaning I finished it!!

  2. Erik says:

    neat grid in the LAT, very positive vibe. thanks for stepping up to the plate, matt

  3. Gareth says:

    Yes, thanks for blogging Matt. I agree, today’s NYT was packed with fabulous answers – all 4 spokes of the fylfot sang to me! Battled most in the bottom-right – YOTEAMO was my mystery answer… Never knew HELLONURSE was a Vaudeville catchphrase, I associate it with the Animaniacs! 45D is unfortunate considering.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    @RK, Cruciverb has the L.A. Times puzzles up in Across Lite by 10:00pm each evening. Just go there and register for free free free! One month’s worth of Across Lite versions are archived there, and available at the “LA Times” link in the upper-right of the home page under the heading “Archives” (just below the “Today’s Puzzles” header).

  5. animalheart says:

    Excellent Joe DiPietro NYT. The southeast was also hardest for me, but the intersection of MOS and HELLONURSE required going through every letter of the alphabet until the O made the most sense (I’ve gotta brush up on my vaudeville catcalls…).

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Haven’t done today’a puzzles yet, so I haven’t read the comments.

    But I came across a puzzle from my undone pile, which I can’t identify. (The constructor & date do not appear on the puzzle, which is a problem sometimes with pdf’s). I’m almost certain it is a Ben Tausig–many clever clues which seem to have his his imprint. ( 1a is {One may be blind}, cluing “Spot.”)

    One ungooglable letter which is driving me nuts:

    34 a is {ROFL alternative}. I have “L M A ?”
    37 d is {______ Future} I have “? D D”

    ROFL I take to be “Rolling of the Floor Laughing”
    What the 37 d clue means I haven’t got a clue.

    So what do I replace the ‘?’ with? (Odd future?????)

    Daniel–re your discussion of ‘d’ and ‘t’ confusions among those of us who purportedly speak the same language–When I was in graduate school one of our colleagues and friends was British. Several members of the department engaged in both equestrian and literary pursuits, and there were frequent confusions as to whether someone was being described as a “rider” or a “writer.” In this instance, I actually prefer the British precision.

    A “British” sound I find amusing is pronouncing “deuce” (as in the tennis score) to sound like “juice,” and “Duke” as if it were “Jyuke.”

  7. Al Sanders says:

    Hi Bruce, the square in question is O. Odd Future is a modern rap band. I only know them because my 17 year old has seen them a couple of times and plans to see them in Boulder in September. One of their members, Tyler the Creator (no, not Hinman), won best new artist at the MTV awards a year or two ago.

    LMAO is “Laughing My Ass Off”. I’ll let you derive the meaning of the extra letter in current pop superstars LMFAO of “Party Rock Anthem” and “I’m Sexy and I Know It” fame.

    That’s me, Mister 21st Century Pop Culture :-).


  8. pannonica says:

    Bruce N. Morton: It’s the Onion from this week, and is indeed by B Tausig. The missing letter is O, for “Laughing My Ass Off” and Odd Future, which is a hip-hop group (new to me).

    edit: Ah, someone got there before me.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thx Al & Pan, (which I will condense to ‘Pal’

  10. loren smith says:

    Bruce, Daniel, and Martin -kind of related to the “t” and “d” pronunciation. . . When I was a TA teaching linguistics, the TA who taught the same class after me was really nervous about teaching, and she asked to sit in on my class so that she was already in the room. One day, I was trying to get across the concept of a phoneme, which is tricky. I said, “Take the “t” – there’s the “t” in top, which has a lot of aspiration, the “t” in stop, which has little aspiration, the “t” in pot, which often isn’t even completed, and the “t” in butter, which isn’t a “t” at all, but a flap. All of these “t”s are different, but they share many of the same qualities. It’s like there’s this “t-ness. . .”

    The TA thought that was good way to explain a phoneme, but unfortunately she picked a different consonant –“p”. It took her a while to figure out why everyone was laughing after she said, “It’s like there’s this “p-ness.”

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:


    As I imagine you know, specialists in coaching foreign pronunciation for opera sometimes go into great detail, distinguishing various phases or elements of the pronunciation of various consonants, which can vary subtly from language to language. They often make a bipartate, even a tripartate distinctions among the entry phase, the explosion phase and the exit phase. Take the consonant ‘t’. In the entry phase, is there a slight aspiration? a slight pause before the explosion? In the explosion phase, what is the position of the tongue and teeth; how firmly or loosely are the muscles of the mouth and cheeks contracted? How forcefully is the sound produced? In the exit phase, is there a hesitation before the next phoneme? Is there a change of pitch during the exit? etc. Even with respect to consonants, where the kindergarten version is “They are pronounced the same in English and Foreign Language X”), these teachers will make these complex and subtle distinctions. I’m not a specialist in the art of coaching pronunciation, but in the two languages where my pronunciation is (more or less) native, French and Italian, there is no question that these subtle differences exist. (Of course, in Italian, you have the added complexity of a single or doubled consonant, where the following vowel sound is slightly delayed and is generally sounded with a slightly lower pitch.)

  12. Huda says:

    The DREAMBOAT MALE LEAD in the MIKADO production was CHATting up Ms. LOLA FALANA: “BELLA, BELLA!” He says, “Especially today with the LOTUSES in your hair— I’M LOVIN IT! YO TE AMO!”

    “Tell me this, you CREEP”, said the STORMY LOLA, “Are you in cahoots with this SLEW of YES MEN, those ALSORANS, those SLIMEBALLS who have gone behind my back asking for a PAY RAISE, while trying to cut me out? You guys are SLIER than ASPS, IMHO!”

  13. loren smith says:


    I’m sitting at my desk now going, “ta ta ta ta ta” like a CREEPy lunatic. Wow. I never thought about opera voice coaches understanding voiceless stops! Do they really break down the articulation of a single phone into three parts? Fascinating.

    Is your native language English? I do know that initial p, t, and k are aspirated in English, but not in Spanish or French, so I would assume, too, in Italian. Also – (and I may be wrong; phonology was not my area) I think the American “t” is more alveolar and the Romance “t” more dental? (And the Indian “t” almost palatal.)

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Loren, my native language is English, but as I child, after 4 years as a French lycéen (Lycée Hoche, Versailles), I was completely bilingual. (French ‘louveteaux’ (Cub Scouts), Eglise Française, etc.) Indeed, about the only person I spoke English to was my mother, and my father was convinced that French was just on the verge of taking over as my dominant language. My father was the principal French – English interpreter and translator for the US Army. (Did simultaneous translation for de Gaulle, and others), so naturally, when we moved to Versailles, he chatted up the Proviseur of the Lycée and got me admitted. Something for which I have always been enormously grateful to him, though it created some difficulties and stresses at first.) Of course that was many decades ago (50’s) and is no longer the case (the total bilinguality, I mean) . There were a couple embarrassing or at least amusing episodes, when, shortly after returning to the US, I blurted out something in school in French.

    I also lived in Naples, Italy, and though I never became completely fluent, picked up the sound of the language pretty well. (Being a musician seems to help.) Of course other Italians take a completely condescending, disparaging attitude towards anything Neapolitan.

  15. Yves L. says:

    I can roll my tongue and make funny fart sounds.

  16. loren smith says:

    Bruce – your parents truly did give you a gift. What an upbringing to boot! I majored in French, mais maintenant je parle le francais comme une vache espagnole.

    Yves L. – Hah! I can’t roll my tongue, but I have an impressive arsenal of disturbing noises. AND I can imitate to a tee the sound that that tube-hose thingy the dentist uses to keep your mouth dry makes. (Diagram THAT gem!)

  17. Martin says:


    That thingy is called an aspirator, so you’re an aspirator simulator.

    Did you know the expression was orginally Basque espagnol? But that was insulting to even the French. The Basque language is one of the few indigenous, prehistoric languages spoken in Europe. They’re used to interlopers and their insults.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    Sorry, unfashionably late to the Saturday party. All this phonetics is rather beyond yours truly, but IMHO it makes for good blog posts from loren and Bruce, and Huda’s post made me laugh.

    To return to what started this particular ball rolling: I only know that Americans seem to drink lots of “boddled wadder”, whatever it may be. ;-)

  19. loren smith says:

    Martin – I’m honored to be called an aspirator simulator! I did NOT know it used to be basque, but I always thought it was a weird to talk about cows speaking French.

    Daniel – first, I didn’t know you lived here in the States! I always imagined you posting from your flat in London! Second, I don’t know a lot about British accents, but I wonder if British people would say “boddled wadder” the way Americans say “bottled water.” That sound we’re making there is neither a “d” nor a “t.” I don’t know why this reminds me that in Cockney, “little bottle,” where the “t”s are, has what’s called glottal stops. I love me a good glottal stop now and again.

    And I agree – Huda’s post was a riot!

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    I don’t know anything about glottal stops, loren, except that they sound like something on a church organ. Seriously, “boddled wadder” is indeed what the pronunciation sounds like to me, and I just returned from the grocery store.

    For the record: I lived in Surrey, where I was born, from 1967-1990, not counting the sojourn at Winchester (80-85), then lived in the US for must of the Nineties, spent most of 2000 in Paris, then indeed did live in a flat in London (Mayfair, as it happens.) from 2001-5, then returned to the US when my trilingual Turkish/French/English girlfriend and I parted ways. I think that’s the full peripateticism.

    I never did learn Turkish. A very strange language!

  21. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Evet, Effendi.

    O course, my favorite phonetic sound, more exciting even than the glottal stop is the *voiced bi-labial fricative* (not to be confused with. . .oh–never mind.

  22. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, Bruce, even I’m acquainted w. “Evet, Effendi.” but only through English books. Lalé – Turkish girlfriend – thought it ridiculously formal and outdated. Ahem, she especially thought my pronunciation ludicrous.

  23. loren smith says:

    Daniel – I had to skulk off to look up peripateticism. Quite the globe trotter! Glad you landed here in America. A glottal stop is the way Americans pronounce the “tt” in button.

    Bruce – I did not have to look up voiced bilabial fricative! My son used to do them in his high chair, especially when eating Gerbers peaches. What a mess.

  24. klew archer says:

    Came to say that I liked the WSJ hexagon puzzle, which hasn’t been blogged yet. Am enjoying the linguistics discussion. Tried to find a youtube version of Vivian Stanshall’s “Labio-Dental Fricative” to post but there wasn’t one.

  25. Huda says:

    I have an accent, as I learned English through French from an Irish nun. When I first came to the US, I really tried to relax my jaw and loosen my tongue to achieve an American accent. One day, a friend in grad school who is deaf and reads lips asked me if I was British. It made me crack up and ask him what gave him that idea (I don’t sound British either). He said it’s because I enunciate my letters and he can understand me better than all the Americans. So, I gave up on trying to change my accent… I mean even a deaf person could tell I had one. It seemed hopeless, and it has advantages!

    Oh, I had one grandfather who was addressed as Efendi and the other as Bey.

    Thanks for the comments about my puzzle story.. I feel it’s a way to thank the constructor for using real English words and phrases. Few puzzles inspire them..

  26. joon says:

    i liked that hexagon puzzle, too. not sure who was supposed to blog it while many of us, including amy, are away for the weekend, but … yeah, cool puzzle. something different.

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