Saturday, 10/27/12

Newsday 7:39 
NYT 4:35 
LAT 6:48 (Andy) 
CS 5:05 (Sam) 
WSJ (Saturday) 11 minutes 

Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword

NYTimes crossword solution, 10 27 12 1027

Your mileage may vary, but I finished this puzzle in a Fridayish amount of time so it feels to me like Will Shortz swapped the Friday and Saturday puzzles. Although in general, a themeless crossword with Joon’s name in the byline screams “you’d better know a lot of stuff because this is Joon #&$%ing Pahk here, and this ain’t no walk in the park.”

Sparkle abounds:

  • Great 1-Across, FRENEMIES. [Allies who are also rivals]. Now, in the crossword arena, there are allies who are also rivals (e.g., Joon and Tyler and Anne and Dan and the other ACPT phenoms) but do not fit the “frenemies” category. You know why? Too nice.
  • 20a. LANCE BASS, erstwhile ‘N Sync member who came out of the closet. [“Out of Sync” autobiographer, 2007]—I wonder if he came up with the title himself.
  • 35a. DJ BOOTH—you ever see that in a crossword before?
  • 58a. I think the clue is punctuated wrong (I’d have it as “Excuse me!”), but I love “DO YOU MIND?”
  • 1d. Those [Four-cornered chips], rectangular FRITOS, don’t get much crossword love in their proper plural. I have an unopened bag of Fritos and now I want to eat some, but who wants Fritos breath at bedtime?
  • 12d. I’m in the “CILANTRO is dreadful—it tastes like soap” camp, but I don’t mind it in my crossword.
  • 14d. “LET’S ROCK” is as fresh and lively as 1a, 35a, and 58a.
  • 23d. It takes a little CHUTZPAH to drop this word into the middle of one’s grid.
  • 35d. Joon’s a sports fiend and I believe he’s a big Novak DJOKOVIC fan.
  • 37d. BATTENED is timely, with Hurricane Sandy threatening to merge with a storm from the west to form a stormapalooza situation. If you’re along the Atlantic coast, please be sure to batten down ALL THE THINGS!

This puzzle’s also loaded with fine clues. Among my favorites:

  • 50a. [Show some major respect?], SALUTE.
  • 56a. [Something seen after hours?] and before minutes, the COLON in 10:00.
  • 4d. [Gets to first base], NECKS. Not baseball.
  • 32d. [Plot devices?] to break up the soil in a plot of land, HOES.
  • 34d. [Make the highlights?], DYE. That reminds me—I’m overdue for a touch-up.
  • 38d/40d. [Refusal of Paris], France, is NON. The [Family of Paris] the celebutante are the HILTONS.
  • 43d. [One bringing a speaker onstage, maybe] is a ROADIE. Stereo speaker, not orator.

On the down side, we have six abbreviations (INTL, STD, RAM, INTR, SYST, ONT), but on the plus side, no partials.

4.5 stars from me. Fun puzzle with plenty of treasures in the fill.

Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Seven Sages”

WSJ Saturday Puzzle, 10 27 12 “Seven Sages”

One part crossword puzzle, one part jigsaw puzzle—figure out which spaces the letters go in based on what shared letters two neighboring answers contain. Not too difficult.

None of the 7-letter answers struck me as particularly juicy, and of course (this being a Berry creation) nothing was clunky, either.

Trickiest clue: 22. [Flat thing that smells (2 wds.)] for PUG NOSE.

Cute endgame, with the quote reading around the outside assisting the solver with the exterior word rings. The quote, from I-don’t-know-who-that-is Kin Hubbard, reads “A good listener is usually thinking about something else.” Hah! It takes special talent to appear to be a good listener rather than someone who’s just not paying attention.

Four stars.

John Farmer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle by John Farmer 10.27.

For me, this puzzle was like eating a Snickers for breakfast — weirdly satisfying. There’s a mélange of: sparkling fill with kooky letter combinations (VWTHING, RSVPED, VACUUMED, PROLIX), old-timey stand-by filler (SEPTA, ORONO, ERMA, ARIANE, OSTE, ADOANNIE), and cross references both intentional (CARL/REINER) and unintentional (LETO/LITA, EUREKA/VACUUMED).

A Eureka vacuum.

Also, this was a very educational puzzle for me. I had no idea that SPALDEEN is a [Stickball ball, familiarly], that Audrey Hepburn plays the French cellist ARIANE Chavasse in “Love in the Afternoon,” and that some people say WRONGONE instead of [“Guess again”]. I’ve never used the word PELF [Crooked gains] before, though I’ve seen it in puzzledom; never heard of Sony co-founder AKIO Morita, but the Internet suggests I should have (now he’s the second-most famous Morita I know of!).

Loved the inclusion of TIMALLEN, but I thought [Voice of Buzz Lightyear] was a little easy for Saturday. Same issue with TINFOILHAT and [Wearing one can block a mind reader, some believe]. One of the many bright sides of taking a class on the Art of the Symphony in undergrad is that EROICA was a gimme for me from the date. One of my favorite moments in classical music is about 8:30 into the 1st movement of Beethoven’s Third (and the two or so minutes leading up to the dissonant chord).

In hindsight, the cluing was, for the most part, fairly straightforward. My time suggests a more challenging puzzle, but my prediction is that this was probably on the easier side for those readers who’ve been getting regular amounts of sleep. Confirm/deny?

So as to avoid PROLIXity: this was a fun puzzle that drew from a bunch of different eras. 3.5 stars from me. Now to go put some EMINEM in the TAPEDECK of my VWTHING. See you next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Top-Siders”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 27

The five theme entries are each two words long, and if you were so inclined you could pair the word TOP with the first word to make at least a relatively common expression. I guess that’s what makes these answers “top-siders:”

  • 17-Across: A BANANA PEEL (“top banana”) is a [Fruit discard]. Talk about an entry that cries out for something more playful than a drab dictionary-like clue!
  • 40-Across: The [Portal for a poodle] is a DOG DOOR (“top dog”).
  • 64-Across: A [Defendant who’s unlikely to be bonded out] is a FLIGHT RISK (“top flight”).
  • 11-Down: The [Length of time a product remains salable] is its SHELF LIFE (“top shelf”).
  • 34-Down The [Parade group] is a BRASS BAND (“top brass”).

Those are five terrific theme entries, though I’m still feeling meh about the theme itself. It just doesn’t feel especially tight, and I never felt the “aha” when I figured out what was happening. I got more amusement from one of my mistakes while solving the puzzle: I read the clue for DRAFTY, [Improperly insulated, perhaps], as [Improperly insinuated, perhaps], leaving me in an utter fog as to why an insulting inference would be called “drafty.” Alas, my inattentive eye provides as much trouble as it does entertainment.

There’s not much to say about the fill and the clues. Nothing really stands out as especially interesting or especially ugly. Serviceable fill that doesn’t detract from the theme is always appreciated, but this might have been the kind of theme that needed some pizzazz in the fill to take it over the top.

Favorite entry = PALE RED, a term used to describe pop singer [Pink]. Favorite clue = [Do a full-body scan?] for OGLE.

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 10 27 12 “Saturday Stumper”

Another fine puzzle from the duo of Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson. I’m short on time this morning, so let’s get right down to business.

Tougher than the NYT today. 3.75 stars.

The highlights:

  • 1a. [”Hah!”], “I DOUBT IT!”
  • 9a. [Where travelers may get their shots], BAR CAR. Drinking on a train, not being vaccinated in a travel clinic. Also not a basketball reference.
  • 36a. [Inspiration for Infiniti’s logo], MT. FUJI. Didn’t know this trivia.
  • 62a. [Have joint tenancy], DO TIME. As in “residing in the joint,” not having the “joint tenants in common” legal setup.
  • 37d. [Point-and-click device], TV REMOTE. Why did I need so many crossings to figure this out?

I call foul on 2d, though. The Spanglishy “no problemo” exists, and the Spanish “no es problema” and “no hay problema” exist. I don’t think that [“No problema”] exists, thought. (The answer is DE NADA, “it’s nothing.”) ¿Si? ¿No?



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13 Responses to Saturday, 10/27/12

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT:I was just thinking yesterday, haven’t solved a joon pahk puzzle – boom! Loved that bottom left DJOKO crossing DJBOOTH is a great way to enter into a corner stack! Perfect 1A too, though I dropped in right away, a big relief on a Saturday! I’ll also second your great clue list, esp. “Family of Paris” – so misled! I see I’m the fourth five star rater – I predict a flurry of reactionary 1s. Sigh.

    LAT: Nope Andy, that’s four Saturdays in a row I’ve found the LAT somewhat to markedly harder than the NYT… In this, case doubly so, expressed time-wise. Way less in my wheelhouse (felt very old film-y, not a good area for me – in retrospect not that many answers but it sure felt like it!) and no big fat gimmes liked in joon’s puzzle! OK TINFOILHAT, but that was it! Answers like ARIANE/VWTHING/CARL/REINER and SPALDEEN (still not believing it was a real word) needed every. single. cross. practically; Where 3 of those crossed (plus WRONGONE. Me ??ON GONE???) created a stumped Gareth. Loved the clues on the pet mini-theme ALPHADOG/ODIE/PET!! TIMALLEN is easy, if you know it, I was 8 at the time, does it look like I knew/cared who the voice actors were? Still a nice clue! I considered TOMHANKS off the H!?

  2. Huda says:

    I’m sitting in a Paris cafe thinking: Do I waste my time on the NYT puzzle or do I just people-watch for a while? I seen Joon’s name, and decision made! Happily, it did not take long for a Saturday and there was lots to love, including the cluing! Especially that Paris family! I live on the HURON river, and used to live right next to the JUNIPERO Serra freeway– so this puzzle is my own personal geographic landscape.

    Thanks Joon!

  3. bob stigger says:

    Amy, if you buy your cilantro at Caputo’s instead of Jewel or Dominick’s, it doesn’t taste like soap.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I picked the cilantro from the window box on my back porch. It’s still horrible. And the smell clings to my hands after handling raw cilantro. Dreadful. (My husband loves the stuff, but I’m not growing it anymore.)

  4. animalheart says:

    My fastest Saturday in ages, and it’s a Joon Pahk puzzle. (We had an easy Byron Walden not too long ago, too. The world is out of joint.) Terrific fill and even better cluing. My faves were “Show some major respect,” which clicked immediately, and “Something seen after hours,” which didn’t.

    I trust some constructor is out there building a puzzle around the words FRANKENSTORM, SNOWMAGEDDON, etc.?

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    Great puzzle joon! I got slowed down a bit in the SE corner so felt happy when I worked it out. You could have used this puzzle as an opportunity to make Bmidji MN the new Natick :)

    • Although there’s an “e” in Bemidji.* But point taken, Jan.

      *–I pointed out in a blog post here several years ago that Minnesota may be the only state with two counties named for animal appendages. The Gopher State has numerous interesting place names.

    • joon says:

      thanks, although i can’t say i have any idea what the b(e)midji comment means.

      • Lois says:

        I think they’re just trying for more “dj” combo entries — not sure.

        No need even for the DJ booth to please me — I was ecstatic to see the Djoker in the puzzle. And I actually was able to finish the Saturday puzzle, slowly but on my own, with that helpful start. Thank you, Joon!

  6. ktd says:

    You’re right Amy, “no problema” doesn’t occur in typical Spanish conversation. I wonder what’s more unusual from a linguistic standpoint–that English speakers get away with dropping a verb from “no problem”, or that speakers of Spanish (and other languages?) hold onto a more formal way of speaking (“it is not a problem”/”there is no problem”).

  7. joon says:

    hi everyone—i’m late getting around to the other puzzles tonight, but i wanted to say thanks to everybody who had nice things to say about my puzzle. i guess if you knew some of those crazy names in the SW corner it played pretty easy, but for a bunch of people it was nigh impossible. my goal with this one was to stuff it with fun and new entries, so i let some pretty ugly abbrs slide (INTR INTL SYST… i don’t mind STD or ONT as much, and RAM certainly didn’t have to be clued as an abbreviation). i don’t always do that with a themeless (sometimes i prioritize cleanliness a bit higher), but i am pretty pleased with the way it turned out.

    i am, in fact, a big DJOKOVIC fan, although federer is my all-time favorite. and novak is a terrific player, although his star has dimmed ever so slightly since i constructed this puzzle in 2011, when he was winning everything in sight.

    amy, i agree with you about the DO YOU MIND clue. i noticed that in the print version, it’s {“Excuse me?”}, with the italics, which conveys the gist a little better. i hadn’t seen that kind of useful distinction between the print and online versions of the puzzle since this wacky sunday puzzle from 2010. but maybe it’s a regular thing.

  8. Zulema says:

    Really late, since it’s Sunday night, but “no problema” is also Spanglish, and I have heard it more than “no problemo,” which I believe is skewed on purpose to make it cleverly worse grammatically, though I may be wrong. They are not meant to be Spanish. I have heard Russians say “nye problyem” also.

    As for cilantro, I’m with Amy on it being all right in the puzzle, but even smelling it makes me sick. And the toleration for its taste is genetic. It truly tastes like soap or worse to some of us (most of my biological family) and I understand that people who utterly dislike brussels sprouts or broccoli have a similar problem, though it is “no problema” really. Just don’t let it anywhere near us. To those who like cilantro it tastes totally different, not that they enjoy the soapy taste.

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