LAT 3:25 (Andy)
Michael Wiesenberg’s New York Times crossword
Not quite as entertaining on the fill front as yesterday’s puzzle (I can’t get excited about a DRILL PRESS or UTILITY POLE, personally), but I did like this 70-word puzzle.
- 1a. [What many checks are for], DEPOSIT ONLY. Maybe this is an 11-letter partial that wants its “for” and maybe it isn’t. But I like having checks to deposit. Do you need my mailing address?
- 17a. [Alternative to lemon chiffon], BANANA CREAM. Mmm.
- 28a. [Victor Herbert’s “naughty” girl], MARIETTA. I have no idea what the clue is about, but my sister’s mother-in-law Marietta likes crosswords, and I bet she would get this one.
- 49a. [London tabloid], DAILY MIRROR. If you have ever passed along a Huffington Post link that’s sourced to the Daily Mirror, you should atone for your sins. (That one about the Polish dentist who removed all of her ex-boyfriend’s teeth? Utterly fictional.) It’s a dreadful (though sometimes entertaining) rag.
- 53a. [1994 Olympic skating champion], OKSANA BAIUL.
- 6d. [Minnesota county west of St. Louis], ITASCA. Named for Lake Itasca, head of the Mississippi River. Is it really true that Itasca is short for veritas caput, “true head”? I have a soft spot for Minnesota.
- 7d. [Large lunar crater], TYCHO. Named after my favorite astronomer, Tycho “Who’s Got My Nose?” Brahe.
- 37d. [Game requiring many plug-ins?], MAD-LIBS.
- 40d. [Home to Liszt and Goethe], WEIMAR. Wasn’t I just saying in Wednesday’s review of Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle that I didn’t know Weimar was a city? Bach and Marlene Dietrich also lived there.
Things that gave me pause:
- 12d. [Very tense], OVERSTRUNG. Is this a word? I wanted overwrought or high-strung. Dictionary says it’s a piano string term or a “dated” word for “nervous or tense.” Not a fan of the dated/archaic/obsolete words in the crossword, unless it’s something cool like yclept.
- 36d. [Finely tempered swords], TOLEDOS. Had no idea. Was leaning towards something like TORADOS.
- 42d. [American Revolution’s “Mad Anthony”], WAYNE. I don’t think I ever learned about him. But sit down and I’ll tell you a bit about Casimir Pulaski.
- 20a. [Like some evidence in arson cases], ASHY. The only context in which I encounter this word outside of crosswords relates to skin, particularly dry skin in folks with more melanin (but even a palepink like myself gets a tad ashy in the wintertime). And yet this word never gets clued with that sense. I blame the dictionary (which seems to be unaware of the dry-skin sense) and the general whiteness of the crossword crowd.
- 29a. [Thomas called the Queen of Memphis Soul], CARLA. I bet some of you can point us to her greatest songs. Me, I don’t think I’ve even heard of her.
Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Another crackerjack Wilberson puzzle. I sped through this one: my time would have been even faster had it not been for those meddling 3×4 corners. Anyway, let’s dive right into the factoids:
- 15a, BLUE CURACAO [Liqueur used to color a Bloody Smurf cocktail]. Great clue: tells me I need a blue liqueur, probably with the word “blue” in the name since it’s not in the clue. Never seen or had a Bloody Smurf, but this has to be BLUE CURACAO. A Google search informs me that while the more common version of a Bloody Smurf uses blueberry Schnapps and cranberry juice, there’s also a version with 1/2 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur, and 1/2 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur.
- 25a, SBARRO [Chain that makes a lot of dough]. The only places I’ve ever seen a Sbarro are malls and train stations. And yet, it turns out that, if you so desired, you could get Sbarro in India, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Guatemala, and a whole host of other countries.
- 44d, ARIETTA [Short operatic piece]. For the life of me, I can’t think of a short operatic piece that is generally referred to as an “arietta.” Maybe some older stuff by Claudio Monteverdi? It’s a word I know from crosswords, not from reading about classical music; I do know of a piano piece by Grieg called “Arietta,” but I don’t know if the title means “short operatic piece,” or if it’s referring to someone named “Arietta.”
- 28d, DIONE [Saturn satellite]. Discovered and named by Giovanni Cassini. Cassini named the four moons he discovered (Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus) Sidera Lodoicea (“the stars of Louis”) in honor of king Louis XIV.
- 17a, SLACKTIVIST [Pejorative nickname for one supporting a cause via unproductive feel-good measures]. Insta-get for me for two reasons: (1) BEQ put it in his Themeless Monday this week (due credit to Wilberson; this puzzle was almost certainly constructed before BEQ’s, despite the later publication date), and (2) It, along with its counterpart clicktivism, have been in the news surrounding the recent Supreme Court hearings about DOMA.
- 58a, MAD ABOUT YOU [Sitcom about the Buchmans]. Did You Know? Mad About You takes place in the same universe as Friends: Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow) is a waitress in Mad About You. After a successful career as a pornographic actress, Ursula becomes Governor of New York in M.A.Y.’s finale.
- 62a, BRAZEN IT OUT [Stand firm in the face of defeat]. I have never heard this phrase before. Is it a regional thing?
- 64a, ABRACADABRA [“Prepare to be amazed!”]. Prepare to be amazed.
- 5d, ECKHART [Aaron of “Love Happens”]. If Aaron were cluing himself, I somehow doubt this is the credit he’d choose.
- 7d, FRIML [Czech composer Rudolf]. I’d call Friml an American composer, but I’m nitpicking. I don’t think Friml is particularly well-known, but if you know him, it’s probably for Rose-Marie or The Vagabond King.
- 30d, LOBOS [University of New Mexico team]. Most recently in the news for falling victim to the Harvard Crimson in the first round (I refuse to call it the “second round” when the “first round” is just those play-in games) of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
- 49d, REBEC [Pear-shaped fiddle].This definitely seems like an instrument that would show up in an indie folk band.
There was some crunchy fill in this one: XII, AUTH, RESP, BARI, RONI, ALLA, (FRIML, to many), AS AN, ON A, UTA stood out to me as the worst of the bunch. But there were a lot of highlights, including the not-previously-mentioned BALLET FLATS, MADE HASTE, DISRAELI, COUNT ME IN!, ENRON, ATOMIC AGE, SO THERE!, AUDIOBOOKS, and MARIMBA. I’m feeling about 3.33 stars. Until next week!
P.S. from Amy: Andy uses “crunchy” for fill I would consider unpleasantly mushy. I use “crunchy” to describe good fill with the mouth appeal of crunchy snack food.
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)
Okay! Houseguests at Fiend Headquarters means we go straight to the time-saving bulleted list for this fun and challenging themeless:
- 1a. [”Sesame Street” character since 2003], MAMA BEAR. I had BABY BEAR. Didn’t know there was a MAMA.
- 1d. [Acacia cousin] wanted to be LOCUST, but the B in BABY nixed that. MIMOSA? Oh, right. Forgot that one.
- 19a. [Big P&G brand], OLAY. Fresh clue, right?
- 23a. [A major’s E], SOL. All crossings for me.
- 30a. [”__ invidia” (unenvied: Lat.)], SINE. Latin for “without.”
- 40a. [Non-island Caribbean nation], GUYANA. I kinda wanted MEXICO. That has both Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean borders, no?
- 55a. [What a hand might say], “AYE, AYE.” Deckhand, on a ship. See also 3- and 4-Down.
- 3d. [’60s sitcom sailor], MCHALE. Never watched McHale’s Navy. Wanted Gilligan or the Skipper, too.
- 4d. [Phone greeting proposed by Bell], AHOY. That’s it! I’m switching to “ahoy,” effective immediately.
- 30d. [It’s heard in ”Slumdog Millionaire”], SITAR. Still haven’t seen that movie.
- 34d. [Ersatz golf-ball holder], EGG CRATE. All crossings for me. Sacks also work if you don’t have a spare egg carton.
- 35d. [Superman claim to fame], X-RAY EYES. Great answer.
- 36d. [Timidity], COLD FEET. Great answer.
- 58d. [Canadian penny, in Quebec], SOU. Who knew?
4.5 stars. Smooth and lively, with knotty clues.
carla thomas and “b-a-b-y” — from the year i started college… ah, well — time flies when yer havin’ fun!
Thank you, old timer. I started college the next year. And here I thought you were 10 years younger.
The old school R&B of that era is still my favorite.
Unusually easy puzzle for me, except for the middle, which was tricky.
lol — will you be my best friend?
She was Rufus Thomas’ daughter. He was famous for being a DJ who also made records, notably quasi-novelty songs like “Walking the Dog” and “Do the Funky Chicken.”
NYT a bit proper heavy.
Every once in a while, a puzzle is right in one’s strike zone, and this was it for me. Somehow, I knew all the “stuff” (except Carla) and it flew off my pencil, and I think I was under the par time. (I’m reminded of a teaching colleague tennis partner – close friend of mine, who had played collegiate tennis, from whom I finally won a set, and pointed out to him that this proved that all those other sets for the last couple years had been flukes.)
For some reason, I know “Toledo” in that sense. I’m not a fan of light operettas, but if there is one I know, it is “Naughty Marietta” (Ah Sweet Mysteries of Life). Great piece in its own way, with a suitably absurd plot involving pirates in New Orleans in the 18th Century, or some such nonsense. When I taught philosophy at Wayne State University, the Department was located on “Wayne Drive” named for Mad Anthony. Yes, the bass strings on a piano are “overstrung” — that is, they are above and at an angle to the middle and treble strings, and have their own bank of hitch pins at the foot of the piano, allowing the bass strings to be longer, and exert great force on the pins, since the bass strings are much heavier and larger in diameter. So the term popped into my mind, though I don’t really know it in that sense either.
Oddly, Oksana Baiul lived and trained for years (maybe she still does) at the Ashburn Ice rink, a mile from where my brother lives in Virginia, so we would occasionally would drop in and watch her skate. I lived and taught in Western Central Minnesota, so Itasca was a gimme. The Icelanders, Indira and Napoleon were gimmes so the SW was a speedwriting contest. I don’t know how to play Mad Libs, but I know of the game (so I don’t know what “plug-ins” refers to. Plugging words into a sentence?) The Daily Mirror — What a rag, as Amy said. “Who’s got my nose”????
Having said that, it’s not my all-time favorite puzzle, but I don’t know when a Saturday has ever felt so Tuesday-ish. Still, I’m surprised by the low early returns, but no where near as astounded as I am at the ratings for yesterday’s LAT which was one of my favorite daily puzzles in quite a while.
Furthermore, Michele used to remonstrate with me if I didn’t write “Deposit Only” on checks I deposited. :-)
I’ve always written FOR DEPOSIT ONLY.
OKSANA BAIUL was a gimme after a couple of crossings. Always thought it was a great name.
Ahh… Tycho Brahe, last of the geocentrists (except that there are still a few weirdos around…)
Yeah, BLUECURACAO seems obvious now… I wanted REDCURACAO cos it’s a bloody Smurf and when that didn’t fit I gave up. MARIMBA is such a fun word, and congrats on getting SLACKTIVIST into a puzzle, contemporary phrases are tough sells! I finished puzzled as my SEEHERE became SOTHERE, SOT HERE??? (About 3 seconds later) Oh…
I always confuse blue curaçao and Barbicide® and have a standing policy never to drink either.
MARIETTA in the NYT and ARIETTA in the LAT, and Bruce N Morton cites an operetta with a song about a Marietta!
This has been an especially busy week for me, and it was only today that I realized that Sam has stopped blogging the CS puzzles. I’m VERY sorry to hear this. I loved your comments, Sam. I don’t do the Sunday Post Puzzler freestyle crossword, so I guess I’ll not see more of them, but many thanks for your helpful and delightful work with CS.
All about Itasca
Interesting article. I was taught the “veritas caput” thing in school, fwiw. The best thing about Itasca County, of course, is that Lake Itasca isn’t in it (it’s a couple of counties away in Clearwater County).
How often does being a Minnesotan actually benefit you in crosswords!?
Well, nary a clue for EDINA eludes me :)
I’m with Andrew donchaknow
Are you also an Ab Fab fan?
Daniel, thanks for the fascinating 19th-century place-name etymology exploration!
St. Louis is so far south why use it as a clue for a minnesota county? I believe almost all MN counties are west of ST louis. Dumb clue. Did enjoy the puzzle other than that. How did I know Disraeli without any letters???
St. Louis County is in northern Minnesota. Duluth is its seat. I believe the county is the largest US county, by area, east of the Mississippi.
In L A Times where: can I find “slacktivist” and “Brazen it out” in common use? These are terms I have never heard of. Could someone site a book or article that actually use these terms or are they words conceived in the private lexicons of the constructors so they can have letters that “fit”?
“Brazen it out” is in Webster’s 11th Collegiate under “brazen(verb)”. As for “slacktivist”, try Google.
If we were allowed to use words from our “private lexicons,” filling these grids would be a heck of a lot easier.