Saturday, July 13, 2013

Newsday 8:07 
NYT 5:43 
LAT 3:31 (Andy) 
CS 6:17 (Dave) 

I second Andy’s Lollapuzzoola recommendation in the LAT review. Saturday, August 10, in New York. A one-day affair. Cheap! And tons of fun. If you prefer doing puzzles with a partner, there’s a pairs solving division for you. If you can’t make it to NYC, there’s also an at-home solving division. Low pressure, no big prizes, plenty of whimsy, Utz’s cheese balls, optional pizza dinner for $5 (cheap!). More info here.

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 13 13, no. 0713

Hey, look at that—an actual, living, breathing themeless from Byron. Huzzah! It’s got 66 words and a bunch of them are zippy. The clues are interesting as well. The highlights:

  • 7a. [Main means of defense?], SQUID INK. Main = the ocean.
  • 15a. [First city bombed in W.W. II’s Baedeker Blitz], EXETER. WWII trivia that I didn’t know.
  • 18a. [Prom amenity], LIMO RIDE. Fresh fill, pricey amenity.
  • 19a. [It comes with lots of extras], CROWD SCENE in a movie.
  • 22a. [W’s is 74], AT. NO. The atomic number of tungsten, aka wolfram, is 74. This W is 67.
  • 30a. [Jaguar, for one], BIG CAT. I think of the big cats as being lions and tigers and the jaguars, cheetahs, and panthers as being medium cats, but that could just be me.
  • 44a. [Dark green?], LUCRE. Shady money.
  • 45a. [Automotive plural selected in a 2011 promotion], PRII. Plural of Prius. Nobody really cares how the Latin would work, given that Prius is not technically a Latin word.
  • 49a. TANDOORI [___ chicken], Indian food, yum. Tonight’s dinner was roasted curried cauliflower and butternut squash with chicken and rice and it was damned tasty.
  • 52a. [Frozen treat with Alexander the Grape as one of its flavors], OTTER POP. I don’t think Otter Pops are sold here, despite being manufactured in West Chicago. We have Fla-Vor-Ice here and I never buy them for my kid. Kinda gross. Artificial colors and flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives?
  • 6d. [Late October to March, in West Africa], DRY SEASON. The Midwest doesn’t have a dry or rainy season.
  • 11d. [“White Christmas” singer, informally], DER BINGLE. Teutonic nickname of Bing Crosby.
  • 13d. [Obama descriptor], NO DRAMA. As in “No-Drama Obama,” because he seldom evinces anger in public.
  • 29d. [Expert in facial recognition?], LIP READER. 
  • 50d. [A heavy metal band may have it], ORE. Fun clue for a boring little word.

Least favorite answers:

  • 1d. [Superman accessory], RED CAPE. Slightly arbitrary color + noun.
  • 2d. [Apply to], EXERT ON. This feels completely naked without an object. Exert {pressure} on, yes. ‘Exert on” with nothing inside, no.
  • 14d. [Show reverence to, in a way], KNEEL AT. Sure, you can kneel at a shrine. But you’re kneeling / at a shrine. You’re not kneeling at / a shrine.
  • 30d. [Recall reason], BAD DESIGN. I would like GOOD DESIGN but BAD DESIGN feels arbitrary.

3.8 stars from me, with each of the unfavorites lopping .1 off. How’d the puzzle treat you?

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

LAT Puzzle 07.13.13 by Barry C. Silk

My entree into this one came at 10a, ABACI [Summers of old?]. And with the AKC [Lab org.?] in the vicinity of the AIREDALE [Large terrier], I was off to the races (but not the dog races, that’s just cruel). I feel like the AIREDALE ought to be the new terrier breed of crosswords, as it seems to be rivaling SKYE terriers for popularity. I remember the first time I saw AIREDALES in a crossword was at Lollapuzzoola 4, where it featured prominently in Byron Walden’s finals puzzle. And smooth segue into…

A plug for Lollapuzzoola 6! LPZ 6 is a crossword tournament in NYC, taking place on Saturday, August 10th (less than a month away)! Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer are the co-hosts, and there’s a great lineup of constructors: Blindauer, Der, Lucido, Nothnagel, Orbach, Pahk (last year’s winner), Peterson, and Wheeler. I’ve been twice, and it’s a blast! Click on the link to register and for more info (or, for more info, visit LPZ’s Wikipedia page!).

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. The grid is really eye-catching. All four corners are very nice, though 59a, WEENA [Eloi girl saved from drowning by the Time Traveller] wasn’t my favorite, and her name is probably a mystery to those who haven’t read the book (unlike, say, ELOI, which shows up regularly enough in crosswords to be gettable). And it crosses 51d, DANA [Bill who created Jose Jimenez], which means if literature’s not your strong suit, and neither is racially questionable comedy of the 1960s, then you were up a creek there. I’d go so far as to call the crossing a Natick (though I’m guessing the generation that grew up with Bill DANA will disagree), and an easily fixable one too: I would have replaced WEENA with WEEDS, giving the crossings DADA and PSY (of Gangnam Style fame).

But let’s talk about the good stuff:

  • 17a, CARROT TOP [Lock-related nickname]. This grid is chock full of comedy (see Bill DANA above).
  • We get a geography quiz as well: we start in 38a, MINEOLA [Seat of New York’s Nassau County] and work our way west to 34d, AMES, IOWA [Home to the Big 12’s Cyclones]. (Ames is home to Iowa State University.) Then it’s back east to 45d, SMYRNA [Atlanta suburb].

Other mini-themes include:

  • The drugstore (33a, RITALIN [ADHD drug] crossing 13d, CLARITIN [Allergy-treating brand]);
  • The funny pages (32a, ODIE [Comics patient of Dr. Liz Wilson] and 35d, LIL ABNER [Comic strip set in Arkansas]);
  • Marine life (16a, KRILL [Shrimplike critters] stacked on top of 18a, CORAL [Jellyfish kin]);
  • And sports lingo (24d, RED ZONE [Defensive team’s goal line to 20 yard line, in football lingo] and 40d, HOME RUN [Dramatic game winner]).

Two very nice 12-letter entries running north-to-south:

  • 6d, ASTROBIOLOGY [Study of extraterrestrial life]
  • 21d, DOMINO EFFECT [Chain reaction metaphor].

And my personal favorite entry:

  • 26d, MATILDA [Dahl’s precocious title girl]. Very timely entry: the cast of the 1996 movie Matilda just had a reunion. I loved the book and the movie as a kid, and seeing everyone all grown up gives me so many feels.

    Can’t wait for Matilda 2 The Streets!

I liked the repeated clue of [Flow out] for both 29a, EBB, and 30a, EMANATE. The clue for 57a, SORE LOSER [“You got lucky” mutterer] was cute too.

Other than the aforementioned SW corner, my only real gripe is the repeat between ONE-A and ONE LITER. A few standard abbrevs. and crosswordese, but nothing too unusual for a Saturday. 3.8 stars from me. Until next week!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 7 13 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Frank Longo

Toughest themeless this week, and yet so much easier than the last two weeks of Stumpers! It’s a surprise to see Frank’s name in a Newsday byline, no?

This 66-worder has lots of entries that we seldom, if ever, encounter in crosswords. The usual Stumper vibe is familiar words and phrases and names with super-tough clues, but these answers are different:

  • 17a. [Section of], OCEAN LIFE. Nice.
  • 19a. [It extends into the second quarter], TAX SEASON. When is tax season in West Africa?
  • 26a. [360-calorie sandwich], MCCHICKEN. Only two vowels in the whole thing—more cholesterol and fat than vowels, in fact.
  • 30a. [Language that gave us ”plaid”], GAELIC. We see the word in clues for ERSE, we see the shorter GAEL(S)—but how often do we see GAELIC in the grid?
  • 40a. [Tabasco toppings], SOMBREROS. Hats as “toppings” is suspect.
  • 42a. [Ritzy real estate, for short], PENTS. Short for “penthouses”? Never heard this shortening before.
  • 52a. [Gradually built up], ACCRETIVE. Can you use this in a sentence without a scientific bent?
  • 54a. [They rarely see crossing guards], GOAL LINES. Is this about football? Does soccer have guards?
  • 5d. [Xbox 360 motion sensor], KINECT. Way better than NES as an entry.
  • 7d. [Rattle, e.g.], NOISEMAKER. I don’t think rattles are loud enough to qualify as noisemakers.
  • 11d. [Chesterton collaborator], BELLOC. Hilaire, British but born in France. Had no idea he was British.
  • 12d. [War-room discussion], ATTACK PLAN. That’s a thing?
  • 13d. [Made like a machine], CRANKED OUT. As in “Frank Longo cranked out over 100 sudoku books.” Great entry.
  • 24d. [Clueless], OUT TO LUNCH. Yes! I may be out to lunch in a couple hours.
  • 25d. [Nursing specialty], IN-HOME CARE.
  • 27d. [Barracuda, for one], CLASSIC CAR. Really nice entry.
  • 33d. [World of wickedness], DARK SIDE. In crosswords, the dark side is cryptics.
  • 41d. [Mac-to-Apple TV streaming app], BEAMER. Never heard of it.

Byron Walden, like Matt Gaffney and Trip Payne (and a great many others), handcrafts his grids. Frank is said to lean heavily on software to build grids that draw from his incredible word list. Frank’s handcrafting comes in the laborious process of stocking his word list with interesting words and phrases, like the ones above, and assigning high values to the juicy stuff and low values to the junk fill. I’m guessing that ATO, ETH, and LOI are the cellar dwellers in this puzzle, and that things like CRANKED OUT, MCCHICKEN, and CLASSIC CAR are rated as most desirable.

You may have heard people grousing about the quality of auto-filled grids. That grousing doesn’t apply to Longo puzzles, because he’s not taking a stock word list fill of crosswordese and letting Crossword Compiler go to town on it. There’s no OMOO crossing OLEO here. But plenty of beginners’ puzzles do lean heavily on Compiler to do the hard work of filling a grid (or parts of it) automatically, and they don’t first put in long hours honing their word list. There’s nothing wrong with using technology, as long as you maintain high standards for your work. Ten stars for Frank’s word list, 4.5 stars for the puzzle and its 18 interlocking answers of 8+ letters, its smooth flow, and its lack of cut-off sections.

Updated Saturday evening:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Please Be Seated” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Sorry for the very late post, folks. Was off on a 6-year-old niece’s birthday/friend’s wedding boondoggle, so only time to post the solution and theme entries. Four entries that begin with something you can set your tuckus down on:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/13/13

  • [Exercise eschewers] are COUCH POTATOES
  • [They sing to the cops] clues STOOL PIGEONS
  • [Arrest authorization] is a BENCH WARRANT
  • [Constantinople was one of its capitals] is the OTTOMAN EMPIRE

I promise a longer post tomorrow!

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17 Responses to Saturday, July 13, 2013

  1. Jan says:

    So happy to have a Saturday puzzle by Byron. I also enjoyed his other recent puzzles, and I hope this means that there are more to come in the near future!

  2. sbmanion says:

    Amy, if you turn EXERT ON into a question, it works fine: How much pressure can I exert on him to do my work for me?

    I did not know why MAIN worked until reading your column. Bounding MAIN never occurred to me.

    BAD DESIGN is not the greatest (something more along the lines of DEFECTIVE DESIGN would fit the clue better). Reason something fails or flops fits the answer better.

    I am embarrassed to say that I put in LIMOSINE and did not notice that it was misspelled.

    An excellent puzzle as usual by Byron Walden: tough but fair.


  3. RK says:

    NYT Felt like a knowledge test.

  4. Andy says:

    Oof. The NYT roughed me up, but to be fair I may have tied one too many on before attempting to solve it.

  5. Gareth says:

    Like: Silly PRII, fresh DRYSEASON, colourful CROWDSCENE, DERBINGLE.

    Dislike: most of the top-left corner: REDCAPE, EXERTON, MESONIC, ATTWO. (Add DESTRY as a proper noun I’d not heard of.) Not a fun corner for me, although actually I didn’t find it that hard either… EXERTON in the same grid as PUNTEDON and KNEELAT. Clue for SQUIDINK seems off? Can main actually be used to refer to under the sea? Agree BADDESIGN was a hair arbitrary.

  6. vijay says:

    Barry Silk’s LAT uses the exact same grid pattern as David Quarfoot and Katy Swalwell’s NYT from back in 2007:

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Actually 67 is W’s age; his *number* is 43, which is the AT.NO. of technetium (Tc), the lowest-numbered element with zero stable isotopes (the name indicates that it must be created by nuclear means). An even 5D:NERDier observation is that 43 and 67 are the third- and second-largest Heegner numbers. It will be some time before we see the 163th element or President, or a 163-year-old.

    • Huda says:

      NDE: interesting associations!

      The idea of a finite series of numbers always seems startling to me– I know that their finite nature is proven, it still feels counter-intuitive. But that does give them special status.

      I wonder if W is aware of the uniqueness of his numbers this year. May be you should tell him :)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Noam has done it. At last, the nerdiest crossword blog comment ever has been birthed!

    • sbmanion says:

      I just read four websites about Heegner numbers and am still at a loss as to what they are. Noam, where do you get your pocket protectors? Awesome.


  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: BAD DESIGN is fine with me, but AT TWO (at Four-down)?!?

    In crosswords, as in life, chacun à son goût.

  9. Huda says:

    NYT: The puzzle felt smooth except for the NW corner, which seemed impossible for the same reasons that Gareth described. I had to cheat to get EXETER and hesitated re EXERT ON.

    But it sent me reading about the Baedeker Blitz and the reason for the name. Interesting logic, targeting cities that had historical meaning with a 3 star rating in the Baedeker travel guide!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      That’s fascinating, Huda! I hadn’t looked up (nor known about) the Baedeker Blitz.

  10. Prius is, of course, a Latin word. It is a comparative adverb meaning “previously.”

  11. bananarchy says:

    Frank Longo’s grids are consistently masterful and are the best counterargument to those who worry about the quality of puzzles suffering at the hands of our electronic overlords. It’s been said before but it bears repeating: good constructors make good puzzles, and bad constructors make bad ones, regardless of what tools they use. Using autofill well is not a one-click process of arriving at a great grid, and I appreciate you pointing that out, Amy. Only with meticulous wordlist grooming, restraint, and insightful consideration of grid layout, seed entries, and the balance of sub-par options in tricky spots can autofill be used to produce beautiful grids like Frank Longo’s.

  12. ArtLvr says:

    The Stumper was one of the toughest ever, especially with a TETRA to help fill your (fish) tank!!!

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