Saturday, September 7, 2013

NYT 6:05 
Newsday 5:14 
LAT 3:41 (Andy) 
CS 7:20 (Dave) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 7 13, no 0907

Sigh. I saw 1a. [World’s tallest building], I counted the letters, and I prepared to enter WILLIS TOWER, the new name of Chicago’s Sears Tower. Of course, it hasn’t been the tallest for a while, and the answer is BURJ KHALIFA. Is there any other crossword-suitable phrase that would have the letters RJKH all in a row? That is one showy 1-Across. Lots of other not-the-usual-fill long answers here today—here are my favorites:

  • 15a. [One way to cruise along], ON AUTOPILOT.
  • 17a. [They come out of many mouths], WISDOM TEETH. If you know someone in Chicago who needs their wisdom teeth out, I highly recommend the oral surgeon who took mine out so gently, Alexis Olsson.
  •  50a. [Big time], MAJOR LEAGUE. Clue pulls double duty at 42a: EON.
  • 53a. [“C’est la vie”], AND SO IT GOES. Shades of Linda Ellerbee, Kurt Vonnegut.
  • 12d. [Like every Bond film since 1989], PG THIRTEEN. Not typically a fan of spelled-out numbers but this entry looks neat.
  • 24d. [Is unable to cut the mustard], CAN’T HACK IT.
  • 25d. [Form of strength training], ISOMETRICS.

A few other things of note:

  • 36a. [Belfast is on its shore], MAINE. I have ancestors who were in Belfast, Maine. Actually, my great-great-great-grandfather who’s buried in a cemetery in my neighborhood, he left Maine for Chicago in the mid-19th century. He was born in Belfast. Three generations before him were in Maine, two generations before them were in Massachusetts, and before that they were in Cornwall. They came to America in the 1600s for better fishing grounds, not for the religious freedom to be Puritans.
  • 34a. [“Sweet!”], “YEAH!”
  • 38a. [Site of the Sibelius Monument], HELSINKI. I gather Sibelius was of Swedish descent, which explains why his surname lacks umlauts, K’s, double vowels, and the like. He did build a house at Järvenpää, which is suitably Finnish and has altogether too many dots.
  • 18a. [Protection from pirates: Abbr.], TMS. Trademarks, protection against counterfeiters selling bags with the trademarked Louis Vuitton logo, for example. That sort of piracy. A trademark will be of no help to you off the Somalia coast.
  • 40d. [Ill-paid laborer], COOLIE. We don’t often see words labeled “offensive” in some dictionaries right here in the crossword. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate doesn’t flag it; the Oxford people do.)
  • 44a. [Some partial appointments], CRONYISM. Tough clue. When you are partial to a job candidate because you’re old pals and you appoint him to the job despite his lack of qualifications, that’s cronyism.
  • 45d. [___ Sant’Gria (wine choice)], YAGO. Never seen YAGO before. I assume it’s a variation on the Iago/Diego/Jacob/James. Yago is apparently a brand of bottled sangria.
  • 10d. [Bygone yellow-roofed kiosks], FOTOMATS. Are you old enough to remember seeing (or dropping your film off at) Fotomats?

Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Bank Roll” – Dave Sullivan’s review

This is how constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith rolls: he takes a popular banking term, namely S AND L, and finds four celebrities who share those initials:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/07/13

  • Familiar name, but unfamiliar clue [“Saps at Sea” costar] was STAN LAUREL
  • [Puppeteer with 12 Emmys] clued SHARI LEWIS – before I had the theme idea, I tried Jim Henson at first. I just remember Lamb Chop, who were the other sockpuppets?
  • [“Dog Day Afternoon” director] was SIDNEY LUMET – it’s shameful how few director names I know. I guess I should stay through the credits next time I go to the movies, huh?
  • [“Arabesque” actress] clues the incomparable SOPHIA LORENTwo Women is her greatest work, imho.

Unexceptional theme, but I did enjoy the “pinwheel” theme arrangement, as I think down entries generally develop an inferiority complex with their infrequent theme use. Pretty upscale fill in this one that made it a notch more difficult than the typical daily CS fare. I’m talking about CALUMNY, CACTI, APIARY (which I have in my backyard!), PIVOTAL and SO-AND-SOS. My FAVE entries were the paired (and juxtaposed) [Risqué beachwear] for THONGS and [Like some beachwear] for SCANTY. I’ve only seen TITI ([Mini monkey]) in crosswords, and when I tried to link to an image of one from here, Google thought I added that last I by mistake, and this is a family blog, so I won’t post any of my results here.

Updated Saturday morning:

Alan Olschwang’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 09.07.13 by Alan Olschwang

When I look at it from afar, this seems like a good puzzle. It didn’t make much of an impression on me, though. Let’s have a look at the marquee answers:

  • 18a, GRADE A EGGS [Dairy aisle selection]. I don’t even want to know what grade B- eggs look like.
  • 24a, EVERY LAST DETAIL [End of a wedding planner’s promise]. There are approximately 192 million wedding planning companies named some variant of “Every Last Detail” planning. Not a huge fan of the clue, but I’m not sure how else one would clue it. Feels somewhat contrived to me.

    Maybe if you’d thought of every last detail, you wouldn’t have cut off part of the first letter of your name on your business cards.

  • 27a, MASS MEDIA [Publishing houses and such]. Instant get for me, but I can see how that might be a tricky clue.
  • 44a, ALLA BREVE [In cut time, musically]. Cut time tends to be quicker than common time. It’s sometimes written as 2 2.
  • 46a, TAXI SQUAD PLAYER [NFL practice team member]. Clever way to get an X and a Q into the grid. I’m more familiar with the synonymous term “scout team player,” but they’re apples and slightly different apples.
  • 51a, ACTION DOLL [Toy based on a sports legend, e.g.]. This is a phrase I’m completely unfamiliar with. In my lexicon, something is either a doll or an action figure, not an “action doll.” Am I in the minority here?
  • 7d, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT [Michael Caine memoir]. Spoiler alert: It’s all about Michael Caine.

The other long fill that I liked was OKEY DOKE. Other than that, the 8 stacks were pretty meh. There were some somewhat forced constructions: HAVE OPEN, IS IN ON, EX-STAR; and then there were a few examples of crosswordese: UIE, RAREE, DEREG, NEET, CTS, LOMA, ESA. I really liked TORERA [Patricia McCormick was the first American one in Mexico]. Disliked the clue for AHH [“Feels won-n-nderful!”]. Find me a person that talks like that and I’ll eat my hat.

3.1 stars from me. Until next week!

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

Newsday crossword solution, 9 7 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Lars G. Doubleday

Whoa. A Stumper that is easier than the Saturday NYT? One that is hardly beyond the difficulty level of a Friday NYT? That is a rarity. Or maybe I just tuned into Brad and Doug’s cluing vibe particularly well this week.

The fill neither amazed nor bored me—it’s solid, and as in the typical Stumper, there is no junk fill. The short words Andy singled out in his LAT review? You don’t generally find them in a Newsday puzzle.

Eight faves:

  • 16a. [The worst of evils, per Helen Keller], APATHY. Interesting clue.
  • 38a. [Historic headline of 1898], J’ACCUSE! Emile Zola’s letter on the Dreyfus Affair. My husband and I like to say that with a dramatic finger-pointing. It makes it so much more fun to cast blame.
  • 45a. [Sugar substitute], HON. Cute clue.
  • 56a. [Smallest country on its continent], SURINAME. Geo-trivia. Probably the single most forgotten South American country.
  • 7d. [Gwyneth Paltrow, at college], ART MAJOR. Not known to me, but inferrable.
  • 10d. [Wand holder], MASCARA CASE. HARRY POTTER also has 11 letters, of course; I like the potential mislead here. (Note to male constructors/editors, however: Nobody much calls it a mascara “case.” It’s a tube. I said the same thing back in 2005 when Byron Walden included the entry in his NYT puzzle with hidden capital cities. See the Caracas? But now the term’s been in two crosswords, and this means more and more constructors will see it in the database and assume it’s completely in the language. Which it is not.)
  • 23d. [Newborn on the first TV Guide cover], DESI ARNAZ, JR. When else do you get the ZJR combo?
  • 38d. [Part of a ringmaster’s outfit], JODHPURS. Love that word.

Scholarly bit I dredged up from high school: 20a. [Daughter of Oedipus], ISMENE.

Four stars.

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19 Responses to Saturday, September 7, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    FYI the Burj Khalifa is about twice the height of the old Sears/Willis Tower, at over 2,700 feet!

    IMO if that’s not crossword-worthy, i don’t know what is.

    Constructors take note: BURJ is a great 4-letter entry too!


  2. Bob Stigger says:

    I’m old enough to remember when you mailed your little film canister to a processor because Fotomats hadn’t been invented.

  3. Matt says:

    Fine Saturday puzzle. First pass yielded almost nothing, then a few small footholds gradually grew out until it was all done.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Very geographic puzzle. That HELSINKI, MAINE, SANTA ANA crossing was all news to me (to my embarrassment since I live in SoCal for a while). But I did nail BURJ KHALIFA (wasn’t sure whether it’s spelled KHALIFA or KALIFAH– Both are possible, as there is an “H” at the end in Arabic). Burj= Tower, KHALIFA= Caliph… the tower of the caliph, who’s moving on up.

    Did you know that QUE SERA SERA is the same length as AND SO IT GOES? Did not help with that corner.. what can I say–C’est la vie.

    • pannonica says:

      Did you know that QUE SERA SERA is the same length as AND SO IT GOES?



    • Bencoe says:

      I think that Arabic words can be spelled all sorts of ways in English, due to the fact that Arabic is phonetic rather than alphabetic? This accounts for all of the variations of Arabic words in English.

      • Bob Stigger says:

        Arabic has sounds that English lacks. There is no universal standard transliteration for those sounds since no set of English letters captures the sound. Klingon poses the same difficulty but is of less benefit to crossword constructors.

  5. ktd says:

    Funny, I just had my wisdom teeth removed a few weeks ago. I got through the worst of it in about 5-6 days, and no dry sockets!

    BURJKHALIFA was also automatic for me.

  6. Animalheart says:

    I loved 98% of the NYT. But if you don’t know the building, the boxer, or KTOSLIN (who is as obscure to me as Jan Dismas Zelenka is to the rest of the world), you’re kind of out of luck…

  7. Gareth says:

    Sigh. I made this puzzle SOOO much harder than it had to be. Started at 1A typing BURJALKHALIFA, and when it didn’t fit, left it at BURJ and didn’t fill in the rest ’til much later. Great 1A! Also loved ONAUTOPILOT! And the clue for Igor: Huge Discword fan, and embarassed how long it took to get the clue! I long for the day I see [Librarian’s comment] for OOK in my puzzle, but I don’t see that happening any time soon!

    And finally, I had a huge “wait no, that’s impossible” moment at COOLIE. As you say it’s often offensive; in fact, in South Africa it’s extremely derogatory slang for an Indian (originally it was derogatory slang used by Indians for a Chinese labourer here, at some point the meaning transferred), it’s probably close to the k or n word in offense. It’s curious because Julian Lim is one of the few non-North American crossword constructors, based in I think Singapore, where obviously the word isn’t offensive…

    • Bencoe says:

      It has the connotation of a Chinese laborer here too, I believe, from back when they built our railroads.

    • DocHank says:

      Right on about the Discworld – I think I have every one Sir Terry wrote and love his sense of humor! Am surprised not to have seen much in Crosswordland from his realm. Recently heard a rumor that he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease… have you heard anything about this?

  8. Brucenm says:

    My fave puz of the day is unexpected — Alan’s LAT. Effortless (seemingly) and elegant. So many fresh and original entries that I’ll totally forgive 1a. This raised him in my mind to the top tier. (No doubt he’s been there all along, and I just didn’t notice.) Highly recommended.

  9. Jason F says:

    I absolutely loved the NYT! Lots of fun entries that were, surprisingly, in my wheelhouse. The puzzle is trivia-heavy, and that is a style that I personally enjoy.

    I appreciated the shout out to the fantastic Discworld novels. It would have been fun to clue 53A with a Vonnegut reference, but that’s probably too obscure.

  10. S O B says:

    Would it be less offensive to just clue COOLIE as “A quickie in the snow?”

  11. CY Hollander says:

    bURJ/bOWE was a Natick for me: lots of possible last names that end in _OWE, and I wasn’t familiar with either proper noun. I guessed an H there and it seemed as plausible as anything else. I can’t think of a way to improve the cluing, though, and I suppose that one or both of those figures are probably familiar to most people.

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