Saturday, February 9, 2013

Newsday 9:25 
NYT 5:19 (one error) 
LAT 4:29 (Andy) 
CS 6:19 (Sam) 

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 2 9 13, #0209

Yeah, that’s two Saturdays in a row where I filled in the puzzle and received no congratulations from the solving software. Believe me, I fully intended FESTER to be my answer for 41a: [Grow more and more irksome], but I was working on 39d: [Cuban-born Baseball Hall-of-Famer José], whose name rang no bells for me, and before I had all of the crossings I contemplated MONTEZ (the last name of my in-laws’ friends who once regaled a dinner party crowd with a delineation of how, between tennis schedules and menstruation, there’s never a good time for sex—and this is not something you expect to hear from your parents’ peers, people, not even when you are grown) and that made me go with MONDEZ/FOSTER instead of MENDEZ. I am glad we shared this experience.

Errors? Yes, it is true that I am really not “training” for the ACPT one whit. This is the second crossword puzzle I’ve solved today, but there were 45 other crosswords I did various things to for work. I’m puzzled out, yo.

Anyway! Excellent puzzle from Peter Wentz, with a boatload of spice to it. (Yes, spices were traded via ships back in the day.) This 68-worder has solid flow from zone to zone, tons of wide-open spaces. Highlights in the fill include CAT’S MEOW, MAH-JONGG, HOT POCKETS (be sure to take in the relevant Jim Gaffigan video at the end of Deb’s Wordplay post), ROADKILL, MAD MAX, CAME ONTO, KRAZY KAT, STOCK PHOTO, T.S. ELIOT (4d. [“The Hippopotamus” writer]? Really? I had no idea. It seems to be a poem about organized religion, as you might have guessed from the title), “GEE, YA THINK?,” BACK TAXES, CODE NAME, and PAJAMAS.

Top clues:

  • 17a. [One getting poked in the eye?], SHOELACE.
  • 30a. [Ones who are counter-productive?], BARTENDERS.
  • 39a. [Union V.I.P.], BRIDE. What a great clue! Wait. What? *muted discussion backstage* It’s MEADE? From the Civil War? Oh. That’s not so clever.
  • 47a. [Put on the line], AIR-DRIED. Thought it would be about betting or risking.
  • 31d. [Take turns?], STEER. You can steer straight, too.
  • 45d. [One who’s incredible], LIAR. Simply not credible.

UNPILE (16a. [What a mass of footballers do after a tackle]) sure looks like one of those roll-your-own words, but Merriam-Webster tells me the word’s been with us since 1611.

I don’t know the oeuvre of [Rap’s Biz __] MARKIE, and in my head he has zero hip-hop cred because his name makes me think of Night Court actress Markie Post. Apparently he is all over pop culture these days, with TV, movies, and live shows for the preschool crowd.

4.33 stars. Good times, good times.

Robert H. Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 02.09.13 by Robert H. Wolfe

Hi all! It’s a blizzardy Saturday here in the Big Apple — perfect weather to curl up with a crossword.

Let’s start with some trivia tidbits:

  • 1a, STAG FILM [Dirty work?]. This is an old-timey phrase for a porn movie. The only reason it rings a bell, as Urban Dictionary reminded me, is because a character says it in the aptly titled film Dirty Work.
  • 31a, CANDLEMAS [Holy day commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary]. It’s right around the corner. Don’t forget to do your Candelmas shopping early, because before you know it it’ll be Michaelmas.
  • 40a, ANSON [Williams of “Happy Days”]. Crosswordese at its finest. Sit on it, Potsie.

Some entries that nettled me:

  • 46a, KOD (KO’D?) [Put on the mat]. Had TKO for a while, thinking it was in the present tense. Does anyone spell it this way when writing (not that most people have many occasions to write this)? I usually go for “kayoed.”
  • 57a, INDITE [Pen, as a poem]. “Indite” is rarely “indited” anymore.
  • 63a, SEINED [Added to one’s net income?]. The clever clue helps to save this one.
  • 64a, GOOD TRIM [Fine form]. A phrase rarely seen without “in.” Come to think of it, a phrase rarely seen with “in” either.
  • 18a, TWEETY [Animated bird who debuted in “A Tale of Two Kitties” (1942)] / 45d, TWEEDY [Academically stylish]. These are homophones in my dialect. Also, TWEEDY is not in my lexicon.

    This puzzle probably had the Tweedy Elementary Tweety Birds going nuts, though.

A few humdingers:

  • 8d, MENS REA [Criminal intent, in law]. The way to my heart is legal terminology. Also, is “in law” necessary here? What’s a seven-letter word for [Criminal intent, in cuisine]?
  • 11d, ARE WE DONE? [“Can I go now?”]. The kind of thing perps say on Law & Order when they know the detectives don’t have a leg to stand on.
  • 53a, WELL-KEPT [Neat and tidy]. Looks nice in the grid.
  • 39d, SIT IN FOR [Spell]. I really like the entry, but I don’t get the clue. Are they both supposed to be synonyms for “signify” (as in, “This spells trouble”)? I would be much more likely to use “stand in for” that way. The only situation in which I use the phrase “sit in for” is if a news anchor is out sick (as in, “Sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, I’m Anderson Cooper”).

We all know that was just a flimsy excuse to drop in a picture of Anderson Cooper.

You know it’s gonna be a rough review when there are only four things in the “I liked it” column, and one of them is mostly negative. So let me just get the list of gripes out of my system: SRS, ATT, ROW A, ESTAS (Sp.), DROP (object missing) A LINE, RETURNEE, N.A.R., REEDY, RET’D, CIC, ‘OME, TV LICENCE (U.K.). Not big on STYNE or ICAHN either. EURYDICE and AL FRESCO were nice in the SE corner, and I’m sure Amy will appreciate the PEORIA name-drop.

Disappointing puzzle — probably one I would have scrapped and gone back to the drawing board with. 2.5 stars from me. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Apple Insiders”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 9

Look carefully at the three longest Across entries and you’ll find the names of three Apple products:

  • 20-Across: The [Song from “Song of the South”] is ZIP A DEE DOO DAH, conveniently serving as a carrying case for an iPad. Wikipedia says the song has been covered by the likes of The Jackson 5, Miley Cyrus, Connie Francis, Steve Miller, Paula Abdul, Chevy Chase, and the Muppets. My oh my.
  • 34-Across: One who [Filched fuel] has SIPHONED GAS. and, it seems, made off with an iPhone.
  • 51-Across: The [Dashboard dials] here are TRIP ODOMETERS and not, as I initially suspected, anything to do with a car stereo. But you don’t need a very fancy car stereo if you have an iPod, so I guess all is fine.

Thirty-seven theme squares is not especially high, and the solo 11-letter theme entry in the center requires the opposing conglomeration of Utah blocks on the sides. But Ross compensates for these with a fairly open grid (74 total answers) containing some interesting entries like PLAYOFFS, SEND UP, KIT BAG, PEAHEN, and the regressive SALES TAX.

I wasn’t sure of the Latin gem required to complete [___ vincit amor] (it was OMNIA) but when I read the clue I instantly decided that Vincent Amor would be my adult film stage name. I also lost time trying to nail down the precise spelling of Daniel INOUYE‘s last name. You remember him, the [Hawaiian senator since 1963]. (I’m guessing this puzzle was constructed before Senator Inouye’s death last December.) And I had two different answers for [Grade] (RATE and RANK) before the getting the correct one, MARK. But otherwise this felt like it fell steadily, if not in record time.

Favorite entry = BUZZARDS, clued as [Cantankerous sorts]. If, like me, you grew up on Beaky Buzzard, you don’t really think of buzzards as cantankerous. Favorite clue = [Tony’s cousin] for OBIE, largely because it tricked me into thinking of famous people named Tony who would likely have famous cousins.

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

Newsday crossword solution, 2 9 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Lars G. Doubleguy

Another puzzle from the pseudonymous duo that’s really Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber. Toughest crossword I’ve seen all week! Nothing seemed beyond the pale, but so many of the answers were just a bit out of reach from the clues.

We’ll split the clue rundown into two categories: things that stymied or irked me and my favorite things.

First, the vexers:

  • 1a. [Financially independent one], MADE MAN. Wanted HEIRESS. A made man in the mafia may not have financial worries, but can you really call him independent? He’s one double-cross away from losing it all.
  • 15a. [Visceral], EMOTIVE. Pretty sure I’ve never had cause to use the word EMOTIVE (unless I have mentioned it as a crossword answer in a blog post).
  • 17a. [Less likely to split], LOYALER. “More loyal,” anyone? This feels roll-your-owny. (See what I did there?)
  • 27a. [About 91 yards of a football field], ACRE. Who knew?
  • 61a. [Site of the world’s tallest building, 1880-84], COLOGNE. Who knew? Also tricky to clue 51a: OST, a German word, via x-ref to COLOGNE.
  • 67a. [Pitches everywhere], AD CREEP. Definition, anyone?
  • 68a. [Back down], STOOPED. Can you give me a sentence in which these are interchangeable?
  • 5d. [“Hitchcock Presents” story writer in ’57], MILNE. The same one behind Winnie-the-Pooh?
  • 7d. [Inspiration to Napoleon], NERO. Have I learned that from crosswords and forgotten it?
  • 20d. [Literally, ”Children of the Covenant”], BNAI BRITH. I did not know that.
  • 28d. [Mexican cowboy], CHARRO. Kinda wanted GAUCHO.
  • 63d. [Burbank’s locale, locally], LAC. Los Angeles … County?

And now, the highlights:

  • 32a. [Puck handler], OBERON the fairy king from Shakespeare.
  • 34a. [Tee’s usual lack], SHIRT TAIL. I thought of collars and buttons and plackets and all sorts of things that aren’t 9 letters long.
  • 38a. [Cut-and-dried stuff], HAY. Good clue.
  • 39a. [Short race], HOBBITS. Not a 5k.
  • 44a. [Quartet in Mississippi] … you’re shouting, “four S’s!” but the answer is AREA CODES.
  • 55a. [Resumption after an interruption], “NOW, WHERE WAS I?” Love this answer.
  • 11d. [Shellac or silk], POLYMER. Did you know silk was a polymer, chemically?
  • 33d. [Pomology specimen], BOSC. I like the word pomology, the study of pomes, pomes being apples and pears.
  • 52d. [Bug hunt], SWEEP. As in sweeping an office for hidden microphones and wiretaps.

Rigorous challenge, good puzzle, inventive cluing. Four stars.

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17 Responses to Saturday, February 9, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Not sure what it is, but I’m not feeling the love for this one. It’s indeed filled with all kinds of fun stuff. But somehow, the cluing bothered me.

    Or may be I’m in a funk, and feeling SORE…

    • Evad says:

      Just the opposite experience for me, one of my favorite themelesses in recent memory. This one was the CAT’S MEOW for me.

  2. Gareth says:

    Really enjoyed the [NYT] puzzle! Can’t really add much to what Amy said about it though… My first thought for “Hippopotamus” was comic legend Spike Milligan, who wrote: “I’m not frightened of Pussy Cats / They only eat up mice and rats. / But a Hippopotamus / Could eat the Lot of us.”

    Liked the LAT more than Andy. Not so many great answers, but cleanly done, bottom-left excepted. STRAWMAN, AREWEDONE, DROPALINE, WINGIT, ALFRESCO and EURYDICE brought some colour for me though. I can’t see how TWEETY/TWEEDY is anything but a plus though… Never heard of STAGFILM, the G was the last letter in my puzzle. I wouldn’t call it a great themeless, but it certainly wasn’t terrible, or maybe it’s just enjoying a free ride on the coattails of my NYT solve!

  3. pannonica says:

    LAT: It’s a bit colloquial, but SPELL and ‘sit in for’ are interchangeable, as in “You need a rest. I’ll spell you for a while.”

    transitive verb
    1: to take the place of for a time : relieve spell each other every two hours>
    2: rest
    intransitive verb
    1: to work in turns
    2 chiefly Australian : to rest from an activity for a time


  4. Matt says:

    Found the NYT to be very tough, although looking back, it’s not obvious why. In any event, the SW and the NE stayed half-filled for a long time, and the break-through entry that finally let me finish was 38A, ROADKILL. Lotsa good entries, but just too much work to be fun.

  5. Mark M says:

    LA Times SW corner is a shining example of the Natick Principle. Indite and Seined? Enjoyed the puzzle until that point, but that was just not right.

  6. Howard B says:

    Had fun with this themeless throughout. Unexpected answers, clues around every corner.
    Re: Biz Markie: Probably not the best example of his work, but it is the one song that crossed over to mainstream airplay for a brief time (probably for the camp, self-parody value).
    I apologize in advance.

    • pannonica says:

      That’s why I have a soft spot for him! So often hip-hop artists and rappers take themselves far too seriously, even when they think they aren’t. It’s refreshing to genuine, successful self-parody and demolitions of stereotypes. See also “What’s Up, Fatlip” (apologies in advance, et cetera—there are still offensive parts).

  7. sbmanion says:

    I tried to post in the NYT (non-offensively and on topic) and for the third or fourth time, my post did not get in. I used the word Negro. Does that knock you out?

    My usage was associated with my great disdain for the hypocrisy of major league baseball. If you have not heard of a hall of famer, the chances are very great it is because the player played in the Negro leagues, which was the case today with Jose Mendez.

    Footballers did not bother me, but my first association was with rugby. Rugby players are known as ruggers and their girl friends are called rugger huggers. Ruggers would have fit perfectly with unPILE.

    Many years ago, when I used to go apoplectic over the misuse of sports terms, we had a long discussion about the word “drive” in golf. The first shot in golf is the drive even on a 90-yard par three, although we would usually not call a short iron shot a drive, more aptly a tee shot. Today’s clue was correct. I saw a stat once that something on the order of three players on the tour routinely play a one iron. In addition to the fact that it is easily the most difficult club to hit well consistently, modern players are so long with all their clubs that they can hit their three irons in the 240 yard range so they can use that or a hybrid on very narrow holes.


    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Steve, I imagine you’ve heard the line attributed to Lee Trevino that if you get caught in a lightning storm on a golf course, the best thing to do is to hold up a one iron, because not even God can hit a one iron.

    • john farmer says:

      It’s not just golf. Even Monopoly is getting rid of the iron.

      Peter Wentz delivers again. Terrific puzzle. (I thought CODPIECE for “Part of a cover” was clever, but it turned out to be CODENAME. Still, no complaints.)

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m enjoying today’s puzzles, which is a good thing because if I try to go out and have a look at the gorgeous winter wonderland, I’ll probably get arrested and consigned to a reeducation camp. Of course I realize it’s true that the snow plows do better with an unimpeded run.

    Like the NYT; like the LAT better than the consensus. Both solid, interesting, well-made puzzles. Managed to finish the Stumper and did enjoy it, although it was not only brutal in spots, but it had entries and clues which I think are pretty close to the edge, if not over it. I asked myself several times “Is that really a word?” and “Is that clue even accurate?” I won’t identify any details since it hasn’t been reviewed. But anyone who objects to “seined” and “indite” should try this one.

  9. animalheart says:

    NYT was hard but good. A host of solving difficulties for me. Don’t know why my brain wouldn’t let go of Luigi Pirandello as the author of “The Hippopotamus.” Didn’t he write something with a similar zoological title? What am I thinking of, o hive mind?

    Another problem I had was clinging to George MEANY as the Union VIP. Wrong kind of union. Finally saw the light when GRANDE couldn’t be anything except GRANDE. And, of course, PAX for Peace abroad led me to XTREME Puffs, which I figured had to be some kind of new breakfast cereal.

    Sigh. But I finished with no mistakes. Just took me a while to get there.

  10. Mitchs says:

    the stumper destroyed me. anything this tough at the tournament?

  11. DocHank says:

    Me, too, Mitch. Either my gray matter is vanishing or my masochism index is climbing, but I agree with all of Amy’s commentary. I think “MADEMAN” is just plain incorrect, “EMOTIVE” should much better have been “ENTERIC” (as any MD would pick), I wanted “OBERON” to be “GOALIE, ” tho’ it was clever, 67A “pitches everywhere” should have been something __STEEP, and any foreseeable correlation between “confounded” and “DOGGONE” escapes me.
    My rating is “ARRRRGGGHHHH!”

  12. Joan macon says:

    Pannonica, I was going to explain “spell” but you did it first and much better. Thank you!

  13. klew archer says:

    Did the weekend puzzles in reverse and finally got to the Stumper a while ago. The last entry I put in after a long, block by block struggle was AD CREEP. I am assuming it refers to advertisements (“pitches”) being all over the place, as they now might be before, after and during a television program, say, hanging out on the border of the screen and every once in a while darting across the middle before returning to safety on the edge. But really wanted “Pitches everywhere” to be ATONAL.

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