Saturday, 12/22/12

Newsday 6:17 
LAT 5:54 (pannonica) 
NYT 3:44 
CS 5:54 (Sam) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 22 12, 1222; image courtesy of Jim Horne’s (because Safari crashed before I took a picture of my grid)

Yesterday, I didn’t say it here, but I thought it: If Friday’s puzzle feels tougher than usual, is Saturday’s NYT going to feel like a Friday? The answer, in my experience, is hell, yes. I’m not positive I’ve ever cracked the 4-minute mark on a Saturday NYT. It’s rare that I do it on a Friday puzzle! But 15s with mostly easy clues give away a lot of real estate.

So we’ve got triple-stacked 15s above and below, and a pair of 15s in the middle bracketing a bunch of 5s.

Favorite parts:

  • STEERING CLEAR OF, CARBON FOOTPRINT, and I STAND CORRECTED are a great trio. The crossings are pretty solid considering this is a triple stack.
  • 7d. [Bears, e.g.], NFC TEAM. That’s my son’s team. My husband’s team, however, is proving to be a superior NFC TEAM.
  • 22a. “AS THE SAYING GOES…” is solid. Also making its NYT crossword debut.
  • 35a. RIHANNA, fresh fill. Her latest hit, “Diamonds,” is catchy. Note that one of the song’s writers has the crossword-ready name of SIA Furler. Sia is also a singer who has been featured on hits by David Guetta and Flo Rida. She just needs one solo hit or a Grammy (Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” is nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration) and she can make her way into mainstream crosswords. I think we’re all pulling for her to make it big. SBA, SEA, SHA, SKA, SLA, SMA, SPA, SRA, SSA, and STA would welcome her to the party.

Underwhelming material:

  • 57. [One whose goal is changing shape?], EXERCISE TRAINER. Say what? “Personal trainer” is a person. I’ve never encountered “exercise trainer,” unless you’re talking about that doodad you hook up to a bike to convert it into a stationary bike.
  • 21a. [She, in Lisbon], ELA. Spanish, French, and Italian are crosswords’ go-to Romance languages. It’s stretching to do Portuguese.
  • 43a. [Big check-printing co.], ADP. In the era of direct deposit, I don’t see a lot of printed paychecks.
  • 53a. [FEMA mission], DISASTER SUPPORT. This was last in a 1998 NYT crossword and, despite its plethora of common letters, has no other appearances in the Cruciverb database.
  • 15d. [1-800-SEND ___ (apropos corp. number)], FTD. Are you kidding me? “Apropos” means “with reference to,” not “appropriate.” The clue would read much better with “appropriate.”
  • 32d. [Maternally related], ENATE. Crosswordese word with precious little usage outside of crosswords.

Two football names I’ve never absorbed (and isn’t three football answers too many for one crossword?):

  • 5d. [Running back Dayne and others], RONS.
  • 46d. [Lloyd in the College Football Hall of Fame], CARR.

3.25 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Crab Tails”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 22

Each of the three theme entries ends with a word that can also follow CRAB:

  • 20-Across: One who is a [Bad influence] might be called a ROTTEN APPLE (“crab apple”). Although I was raised on a Christmas tree farm, we had a small fruit orchard too. By “small,” I mean we had maybe 15 trees total, mostly apple trees of different varieties. One of them was a crab apple tree. It was then that I learned of the joys of crab apple fights with friends. Those suckers hurt, though.
  • 41-Across: A [Concealed danger] is a SNAKE IN THE GRASS (“crab grass”). I kinda prefer the other way of saying this metaphor. 
  • 58-Across: Another way to say something is [“A walk in the park”] is to say it’s a PIECE OF CAKE (“crab cake”).

Inner Beavis knows there’s a joke here somewhere about this puzzle “having crabs,” but he can’t quite put his finger on it (given the subject, that may be a good thing). Anyway, we’re a little thin on thematic content here, but it’s not like there are dozens of words that can follow CRAB. Still, it would appear there’s room for something like STRETCH ONE’S LEGS opposite SNAKE IN THE GRASS. It ain’t easy to add another 15 into a daily-sized grid, but it could have been done here.

A few entries had me somewhat perplexed. I don’t think I’ve heard of AIR ARM before (clued here as the [Military branch with planes]). I know that branch as an air force. And I know I’ve never heard of NOSEEUMS (say it aloud, “no-see-’em”), the [Biting midges]. I know them as sand flies.

Favorite entry = GRUFF, clued here as [Curmedgeonly]. I love both of those words. Favorite clue = [Colorful music?] for the BLUES.

Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 12/22/12 • Sat • Silk • 1222 • solution

The world may not have ended yesterday, but I was without internet service (actually it fell apart on Thursday) and suffered mightily. On the other hand, you were for a time spared my possibly insufferable writing.

Today Barry Silk gives us a fairly wonderful crossword, a themeless jam-packed with long and interesting fill. Check out that block of four Zs in the top center, composed of PUZZLE BOOK, the evocative SOZZLED [More than buzzed]—another double-Z!—and the allied MOZZARELLA and PIZZA BAGEL (which of course avoided duplication).

And then there’s MICRONESIA, INADEQUATE, ESCARPMENT and CASSEROLES. Pretty good stuff, if you ask me. MEMORANDA, Queen ALEXANDRA, and SNEAKY PETE, which I didn’t know is a term for [Cheap wine] but I do know of ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow, who played pedal steel guitar on a host of musical recordings in the 70s and 80s. Knew I was in trouble when the fill was long enough for two iterations of PLONK.

I wasn’t as thrilled with the two other long entries, CALF ROPING and DAWN, GO AWAY, though there’s nothing intrinsically deficient horrific about them.  Surprisingly, with all that meaty content, there isn’t too much short junk, which is not to say that there isn’t any. Witness TECS, ETAS, ELOI, ALOU, ERMA, EDIE, ADD-ON, C MAJ, LCDS, AT AN, ALTE, and so on. Okay, I take it back. There’s a fair amount of crosswordese and aesthetically challenged fill, but the impressive long fill ultimately outweighs them.

Even though they aren’t explicitly linked in the cluing, I liked the constellation of the parallel SKI LODGE and GET WARM linked by the generic [German town] STADT. But perhaps I’m thinking of the Swiss resort town of Gstaad (and why haven’t seen that in crosswords?).

Enjoyable puzzle.

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

Newsday crossword solution, 12 22 12 “Saturday Stumper”

Isn’t this grid (from the dynamic duo of Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson) bizarre-looking? Not your usual 72-word grid pattern at all. With the constrained openings between the NW and SE and the center, via the OR in ENORMITY and ON in MAH-JONGG, I bet a lot of solvers worked through this one like a maze.

Lots of juicy fill. Among my favorites:

  • 1a. [Trattoria dessert], ZABAGLIONE. Never had it, but it launches the puzzle with style at 1-Across.
  • 14a. [Head scratcher’s comment], I GOT NOTHIN’. Have I not written those exact words in this space many a time?
  • 16a. [”Johnny B. Goode” feature], GUITAR SOLO. Who doesn’t appreciate a good guitar solo? This caps (or shoes?) a lively 10-stack.
  • 23a. [”Quantum of Solace” introducer], the MGM LION.
  • 45a. [Second governor of New York], JOHN JAY. I bet Jay St., behind the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott (home of the ACPT), is named after him. The hotel’s about a mile from the Barclays Center, which is on Jay-Z St. (or will be, when they get around to renaming it).
  • 53a. [One of AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies], NINE TO FIVE. Loved it when it came out. Does it hold up today, or have all men learned to behave better in the office and thereby rendered the plot quaintly old-fashioned?
  • 58a. [Phrase on a Fruity Pebbles box], GLUTEN-FREE. I love the splashy “__-free/no __” labeling of things that one would never expect to contain gluten, or trans fats. Like, say, orange juice.
  • 11d. [”Anna Christie” tagline], GARBO TALKS.
  • 12d. [Asset in an appraisal], TRAINED EYE.
  • 34d. ’20s fad just before the crossword craze], MAH-JONGG.

Favorite clues:

  • 52a. [Hebrew word for ”delight”], EDEN.
  • 60a. [Show off a certain paint job], GO BAREFOOT. Great clue!
  • 15d. [They’re broken when kicked], HABITS.
  • 26d. [Hearing necessity], TRIAL JUDGE. Preferably one with working ears.
  • 33a. [End of a Tolstoy title]. MIR. War and Peace, MIR (the name of that erstwhile space station) being Russian for “peace.” What’s “war” in Russian?


  • 40a. [Polyester in paints], ALKYD. The polyester really threw me.
  • 25d. ‘[‘I am an __ of things accomplished”: Whitman], ACME. When I was at the “I got nothin'” point, I was sounding out “I am an ache” and “I am an acre.”
  • 40d. [Organic chemistry building block], ACETONE. Neat to cross that with 60a’s nail polish clue.
  • 44d. [Meat rich in zinc], OYSTER. Gross.
  • 56d. [Beethoven symphonic notation], FFF. Is this particular Beethovenly?

4.25 stars.

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4 Responses to Saturday, 12/22/12

  1. sbmanion says:

    Very easy puzzle for me today. Exercise trainer definitely seems wrong. Weight trainer seems plausible as well as the obviously correct personal trainer.

    I wrote on the NYT site for the first time in a while about ONE IN, which is how chances are expressed. Odds are expressed as ONE TO. ONE TO is called ODDS ON in racetrack parlance because the odds are at best even money since the number after TO must be one or higher.

    Ron Dayne was a powerful running back for Wisconsin and Lloyd Carr was a successful football coach for Michigan. I find it humorous that Big Ten football is terrible these days while Big Ten basketball is terrific.

    There are never too many football clues in a puzzle.


  2. animalheart says:

    Quite a speedy Saturday for me, too. Amy, I think apropos as an adjective is acceptable here: Or do ISTANDCORRECTED?

  3. ArtLvr says:

    The Stumper is a doozie!

  4. DocHank says:

    Made the mistake of trying the Stumper within a couple of hours of taking a muscle relaxant – would have been a toughie in any case, but the grey matter was really all fogged up. “I GOT NOTHIN” is the most appropriate label today! Aaaarrrrggghhhh!!!

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