Saturday, May 11, 2013

Newsday 6:13 
NYT 4:52 
LAT 4:41 (Andy) 
CS 5:38 (Dave) 

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 11 13, no. 0511

All right, I finished this puzzle without figuring out what was going on with all the cross-referenced clues. Let’s copy them all over here and see what’s what:

  • 25a. [33-Down, taking into account its 61-Across], SAILED. 33d is PORT and 61a is LOCATION.
  • 49a. [32-Down, taking into account its 61-Across], AT ONCE. 32d is AWAY.
  • 13d. [68-Across, taking into account its 61-Across], CARP. 68a is FEEDER. Oh! I see now. The CARP is a bottom-FEEDER. For 32d/49a, right AWAY means AT ONCE. And for 25a/33d. left PORT and SAILED are synonymous.
  • 56d. [1-Across, taking into account its 61-Across], A-ONE. 1a is top DRAWER. I’m going to dock this theme a bit for including A-ONE, since it’s A1 that is the usual term outside of crosswords.

It’s an unexpected twist to have any sort of theme or gimmick in a Friday or Saturday NYT, which is usually a themeless puzzle. What’s odd about this one is that it was not so hard to solve those four mystery items with just the crossings, and the overall difficulty level skewed (for me) closer to Friday than to Saturday. There’s still a themeless-grade word count of 72, luckily.

Hardest things to spell:

  • 18a. [Act in “The Last Samurai”], HARA-KIRI. If you pronounce this like “Harry Caray,” you probably want to spell it HARI-KARI. Don’t do it!
  • 42a. [German chocolate brand], RIESEN. Reisen has to do with vacations, not candy. Do they put caramel or toffee in with their chocolate, or am I just thinking of Matt Ginsberg’s wife’s famous homemade Almond Roca?
  • 48a. [Mother of the Titans], GAEA. With a soft G. We would also have accepted GAIA with a hard G.
  • 65a. [1950s H-bomb test site], ENIWETOK. It’s an atoll. In the Marshall Islands. North Pacific.
  • 3d. [Bahrain bigwigs: Var.], AMIRS. Without the “Var.” tag, it’s EMIRS. With the tag, your short option is this spelling; one letter longer and it could be AMEERS or EMEERS.
  • 4d. [John Paul II, originally], WOJTYLA. I always want it to be Wojytla, but that’s wrong.
  • 45d. [Site of the Three Gorges Dam], YANGTZE. It’s spelled just like it sounds.

Call me crazy, but I love a good spelling test.

I was mildly put out by the crossing of DRAWER and DREW A, given that both are derived from the word draw.

Favorite bits:

  • 24d. [Iran, North Korea and the like], ROGUE STATES. Also Texas, no?
  • 7a, 19a. [St. John’s, for one] clues both BASILICA and WORT.
  • 23a. [Like King Sargon II: Abbr.], ASSYR. Dreadful abbrev. entry, sure, but my sister was once friends with a woman who had a creepy bald husband named Sargon.
  • 37a. [Milk source, to a kid], MOO COW.
  • 51a. [Home of more than 900 volcanoes], ANDES. Who knew?
  • 5d. [Span of a ruler, maybe], great clue for ERA. You wanted 12″ to fit there, didn’t you?
  • 10d. [“Beats me!”], I HAVE NO IDEA. This answer should appear in all Saturday NYTs.

Least favorite: 9d. SCR, abbrev for “screen,” [TV or monitor part: Abbr.]; and plural abbrev 57d. SCIS, [Univ. grouping].

Four stars.

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

LAT Puzzle 05.11.13 by Barry C. Silk

A Paean to Barry C. Silk:

I think it’s possible that, after about seven months of blogging the Saturday LAT puzzle, I’ve finally run out of new things to say about Barry Silk puzzles. You’re always going to get a high Scrabble value (this puzzle has six Ks!), and even the least Scrabbly corners have fresh stuff: TRUE ROMANCE? HOMESTEADER? Not flashy, but satisfyingly fresh.

Sure, I’ll admit that going back through this one, there were some not-so-hot entries — see HEC, TEK, ATAT, SERO, FUM, REE, and the recently-derided AH, ME! (and while I wasn’t crazy about ORIENTE, it seems like something one might be expected to know). But you know what? I didn’t notice them while I was solving (except for TEK, which was my first entry). It’s easy to ignore filler fill like the entries mentioned about when you’ve got BRUCE LEE crossing BRISKET; NORELCO crossing NO, NO, NANETTEHUCKSTER crossing TREKKIES on top of TWIZZLERS crossing NETZERO. Sometimes even the clues are Scrabbly, like 1-Across clued as [Jerk] and 1-Down clued as [Jacks]. Sometimes you’ll get an entry like KNUCKLEHEAD at 1-Across that keeps you wondering Could this be CHUCKLEHEAD? from the get-go.

This has more or less become Barry Silk’s signature grid–two triple stacks of 10s or 11s in the NW and SE, connected by some diagonals of 4s or 5s, and two triple stacks of 7s, 8s, or 9s along the NE and SW–and he makes filling it look effortless (see also this puzzle from the NYT from a couple years back, which somehow managed to debut both the entries FORT MCHENRY and SOUTH AFRICA). And yet, there are very few people who can pull it off. BEQ is one of them, though in this NYT puzzle from 2006 with the same grid, he needed a few iffy entries to achieve the same level of oomph (EXS and XDOUT; ARAN; ADEE; and a few abbrevs.). Patrick Berry is another: this similar-ish grid from 2004 debuted 19 entries with very little junk fill and a higher Scrabble score.

But probably the most similar grids in the business come from Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber (often together, sometimes solo). See, for example, this Wilberson offering from a couple of months ago, or this Doug Peterson solo NYT from 2010. These two have produced some masterful work together, and when they fill the Silk-style grid, great things follow, but sometimes they’ll turn around and churn out a beauty like this NYT from January of this year.

This is all getting at one point: the Saturday LAT’s distinct style owes a lot to Barry C. Silk. Barry Silk gives us the same thing every time: this grid (give or take), solidly filled, with some fresh entries and Scrabbly fill. What more could you ask for?

We’ll give this one 4.25 units of subjective enjoyment. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Lord of the…” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Another common phrase completion theme to complement yesterday’s musical tribute to “Let’s ___”, today it’s words that can complete the phrase “Lord of the ___”:

CS solution – 05/11/13

  • FLIES AWAY – are high school students still required to read this William Golding novel? I sure hope so; I still have an image of the titular decaying pig’s head.
  • RINGS TRUE – you knew this was coming
  • DANCE AROUND – methinks “The Lord of the Dance” is one of those Riverdance knockoffs with lots of hyperenergenic Irish step-dancing and angelic sopranos.
  • JUNGLE FEVER – yesterday’s NYT had TARZAN THE APE MAN as well, so along with Mom, is this a tribute to the Lord of the Jungle week?

The only other “Lord of the…” that comes to mind is MANOR, but I agree the four above are the most common. My FAVE entry is actually the entire grid, as we have a pangram here; i.e., all letters from A to Zed are found at least once in the grid. (Once I tick off all the high-value Scrabble letters, I start looking for this.) My UNFAVE was the entry BANGED due to its pejorative connotation (which certainly wasn’t intended by the constructor, it’s just that my salacious mind went there on its own accord. C’mon brain, be less prurient!).

Lars Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (really by Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson)

Newsday crossword solution, 5 11 13 “Saturday Stumper”

Not too easy to qualify as a Stumper, but not so hard that I had a big struggle. I’ll take it!

Lots of lively long fill, as we expect from Doug and Brad (see Andy’s LA Times write-up for a discussion of themeless styles). Highlights in the fill and clues include:

  • 1a. [Bomber’s remark?], “TOUGH CROWD.” The “bomber” is a comedian who is bombing rather than slaying the crowd. (Comedy also talks about punch lines. So much violence! This is how you can tell that stand-up comedy began as male turf.)
  • 17a. [Second Oscar/Tony/Emmy/Grammy actress], RITA MORENO. She’s the EGOT who’s most familiar to me—I didn’t know she wasn’t the first.
  • 18a. [Quote source, for short], NYSE. Quote of stock prices, that is.
  • 19a. [Lord Grantham alma mater on ”Downton Abbey”], ETON. Downton!
  • 25a. [Spell checkers], AMULETS. Magical spells, not spelling of words.
  • 26a. [A lot is used for it], TAILGATE PARTY. Great entry.
  • 49a. [Any of the Bee Gees, by birth], MANXMAN. I … have never seen the word Manxman. It’s like Englishman, but for the Isle of Man.
  • 55a. [Largest of the Tuscan Archipelago], ELBA. Look! Fresh clue, taking a geographical look at Elba.
  • 60a. [Crawl space?], great clue for NATATORIUM, fancy word for “swimming pool.”
  • 66a. [Machines that sound like staplers], DATE STAMPS. Cha-CHUNK!
  • 4d. [Parfait layer, often], GRANOLA. In a yogurt parfait, probably, not an ice cream one.
  • 8d. [Domino’s topping introduced in ’07], OREO. Dessert pizza, I presume. Fresh OREO clue!
  • 28d. [What Sunshimmer promises], INSTANT TAN. I started with INSTANT TEA. What?
  • 42d. [Butterflies], ANXIETY. Butterflies in the stomach, not on flowers.
  • 57d. [Sound of a broken seal], BURP. Tupperware reference?

Toughest bit: 45d. [City north of Naples], CASERTA. With Naples in a clue, you never know if they’re talking Italy or Florida. This time, it’s Italy and a city whose name is only faintly familiar to me.

4.5 stars. Lots of good stuff.

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19 Responses to Saturday, May 11, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    I’m worried for my well-being; didn’t even notice NO, NO, NANETTE in the LAT.

  2. Evad says:

    I really enjoyed today’s change-of-pace NYT by the other Matt G. FIve stars from this reviewer for its clever theme and interesting fill. I’ll never remember how JP2 spelled his last name.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I too loved the extra layer on a Saturday, and gave it 5 stars. So, nice to finish (and that took more than 4 minutes, I can assure you) and then ponder for a second and then get that moment of revelation!

    For a while I thought I should find variants of the cross-referenced word that differed according to geographic location. So, PORT is a wine, but in another location, it’s SAngria –which I cleverly plunked down in lieu of SAILED (wow, I must have misspelled it. It doesn’t even fit!). A FEEDER in another location (e.g. in the nursery) is giving CARe. Wait! CARP? That smashed that little hypothesis! I’ve learned not to get too attached to my hypotheses, brilliant though they might be, both in labs and in puzzles. Kill it and move on.

    So, I had to go with the flow and finish the puzzle and then said CARP/FEEEDER combo yielded the key to the puzzle. Cool!

    • Bencoe says:

      I hate to be pedantic, but alcohol is my specialty!
      Port is a fortified wine (wine with eau de vie grape spirits added). It is more similar to certain types of sherry than anything else.
      Sangria is a punch made with wine (usually red, but sometimes white) mixed with fruit. The Spanish like red wine with sweeteners–their national drink is a mixture of red wine and coca cola. Not as disgusting as it sounds.

      • Huda says:

        Yes, it was wrong in many ways:), you know how it goes when it’s Saturday and you’re grasping at straws?

        I do appreciate the new information. I knew that about Sangria, but had no idea what made PORT different.

  4. sbmanion says:

    First failure for me in a long long time. I put in PATINA, not knowing lamina, and as I later struggled with what turned out to be HARA KIRI, it never dawned on me to reconsider.
    Puzzle was superb in spite of having to eat some humble pie.

  5. Bencoe says:

    I used to do spelling bees as a kid, but we didn’t have to worry about proper nouns! Some tough ones in the NYT today. ENIWETOK I sure didn’t know. Apparently the variation ENEWETOK is also acceptable.

  6. stan says:

    First egot actress was Helen Hayes. First person chronologically was Richard rodgers.

  7. mitchs says:

    Loved the Stumper. Was there a way for a non-insider to know it was another Wilbur/Peterson concoction? Aside from the quality fill and terrific cluing.

  8. Brad says:

    Can anyone explain 27 Down in today’s Crossynergy crossword “Lord of the…”? The clue is “Certain” and the answer is “delis.” I don’t get it.

    • Dan F says:

      The clue is actually [Certain sandwich shops], which I’m sure you don’t need explained. Seems like a screwup by your local paper, if that’s where you saw it?

      • Brad says:

        Dan, thank you for the clarification! In the Washington Post yesterday, the clue simply said “Certain.” It was at the very bottom of the column. Thanks for letting me know. I look forward explaining this now to my wife on Mother’s Day!

  9. Jenni says:

    Really enjoyed today’s puzzle, even though I had no idea at all what the gimmick was until I read Amy’s writeup, so I just gave my donation :) Thanks.

    Finished the Stumper with only a bit of hair-pulling. A good day.

  10. RK says:

    NYT NE was too much not knowing what St John’s was, how to spell HARAKIRI, what ARIMAS, IVIE, BAHIA, SCR (strange and desperate entry?) were and LIKEDTO seems like a big stretch for the clue given. Had AONE but that seemed wrong due to the across so the theme was never going to happen. May not have anyway as left port I’ve never heard and I have this handicap some people call my brain. Oh well. Onward into oblivion.

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