Saturday, October 12, 2013

Newsday 11:04* 
NYT 4:52 
LAT 4:32 (Andy) 
CS 3:56 (Gareth) 

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 12 13, no. 1012

Anyone else find that this puzzle landed squarely in the Friday difficulty zone? I was expecting more challenge.

My favorite fill and clues:

  • 1a. [Angry missive], NASTYGRAM. Singing nastygrams are the best.
  • 16a. [Hatch in the upper house], ORRIN. The Senate, not a small door somewhere.
  • 34a. [Not likely to be a “cheese” lover?], CAMERA-SHY.
  • 61a. [Sites for shark sightings], POOL HALLS.
  • 65a. [Disney Hall architect], GEHRY. A little surprised we don’t see him in more crosswords.
  • 66a. [Sci-fi battle site], DEATH STAR. Thought the clue was looking for something more generic, like a planet, but no. Star Wars.
  • 10d. [Vacancy clause?], NOBODY’S HOME.
  • 32d. [John Paul’s successor], ELENA. Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Elena Kagan.
  • 40d. [Musical with a cow that’s catapulted over a castle], SPAMALOT.

A few more things:

  • 63a. [Gut trouble], ULCER? Medically, I don’t like this, as the stomach where the typical ULCER is found is at the opposite end of the digestive tract from what I would call the gut. I will grant you that people use “gut” to refer to the entire abdominal innards zone, but people are also wrong sometimes.
  • 2d. [Like a control freak], ANAL / 15a. [Trailing], IN THE REAR. I believe this is an unintentional crossing, but what could be 49d: APTER?
  • 23d. [Glenda Jackson/Ben Kingsley film scripted by Harold Pinter], TURTLE DIARY. I don’t know this one. John Farmer has seen approximately every movie ever made, so I’ll bet he’s seen it.
  • 13d. [One in a Kindergarten?], that’s easy, anyone who’s taken German I knows that. Even people who haven’t taken German know “eins, zwei, drei.” The answer is EINS, right? … What? It’s not? It’s EINE? That is only faintly defensible, and there is no earthly reason to go for a cutesy clue for a foreign word, especially when a lot of people will feel that your answer for that clue is wrong. Plus! There is a huge problem here. Lots of solvers will confidently fill in EINS. That would affect one square of the not-entirely-obvious-to-all 21a. [Part of Duchamp’s parody of the “Mona Lisa”], GOATEE. Change that first E to an S, let a curious solver Google the resulting word, and you are in a heap of trouble. (Whatever you do, do not Google that if you don’t know what it is already. It is unseeable once seen. Do not see it. It is … disturbingly anatomical.) This, my friends, is why a boring clue like [“___ Kleine Nachtmusik”] is safer than stretching the meanings of German words.
  • 54a. [Tribe whose sun symbol is on the New Mexico flag], ZIA. This Zia is less familiar to me than the erstwhile Pakistani leader.

3.75 stars.

Updated Saturday morning-ish:

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

LAT Puzzle 10.12.13 by Barry C. Silk

Whenever I see SMAZE, I can’t help but think of “smize,” which is the Tyra Banks-coined portmanteau meaning “smile with your eyes.”

Another gem of a Barry Silk puzzle — four Zs, two Qs, a J, a K, and and a smattering of Vs. And none of it feels forced to me.

How about that NW corner? TAJ MAHAL next to AQUAFINA next to BUM STEER? TABRIZ on top of AQUINO and JUMBLE? Six beautiful entries, all crammed into one corner. I love it.

Other good stuff:

  • 34a, QUETZAL [Guatemalan currency, or the colorful bird it’s named for]. Mythology buffs might recognize the quetzal as half of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, which means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl.
  • 39d, ZEPHYRS [Gentle breezes]. Mythology buffs were probably again delighted to recognize that Zephyr is the Greek god of the west wind.
  • 35d, ZIMBABWE [Hwange National Park setting] / 38a, ZEE [Capital of 35-Down].
  • 8d, KEVLAR [Defensive fiber]. I got tripped up by this one; I was thinking in terms of “There’s not a defensive fiber in my body,” as opposed to a literal fiber.

    What does the quetzal say?

I also really enjoyed the references to Marvelous Marvin HAGLER and HERBIE Hancock. There’s just a handful of non-perfect fill in my book (your mileage may vary on stuff I love like STOA, MASSE, and ERTE): LVI, AVEC, SSE. I wasn’t a big fan of POT ALE [Distillery waste] either, but it seems legit. The big problem in the grid was the echo of BUM STEER and STEERS, even though they’re clued differently. All in all, 4.5 stars from me. Until next week!

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Here’s Johnny” – Gareth’s review

“Here’s Johnny”

A well-worn theme here with four answers beginning with the surname of a famous Johnny. It’s worth bearing in mind that CrosSynergy is aimed more at the casual solver and a well-trodden theme, ably-executed is more than fine. Today’s theme set are ROTTENAPPLE, BENCHPRESS, CARSONCITY and CASHADVANCE. Of those, BENCHPRESS was my favourite; I was less wild about CARSONCITY as the Carson is a surname, the same as in Johnny Carson.

The rest of the puzzle was typically clean and conservative. I was pleased on a personal level to see some biological jargon in LIPID crop up. Most of the answers are words and not names or phrases, but there is some colourful vocabulary to be found.

3.25 Stars. Gareth

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, “Saturday Stumper” 10 12 13

Oof. This one was really difficult, particularly the lower half of it. And it wasn’t a pleasant solve for me, either. The asterisk in my solving time is because I Googled 1973 addition to American League and discovered 31a: [AL arrivals of 1973] was DHS; I had assumed it would be a city/team abbreviation like DET. That one answer helped me make my way through the rest of the puzzle—isn’t it wild how sometimes Googling just one answer will break the mental dam? (Note: I do not routinely Google tough clues. The few times a year that I do, I always disclose it in my review.)

I’m short on time, so I’ll blog quickly.

Likes: BASSET HOUND, WITHIN EARSHOT, DIGS ONE’S HEELS IN, TEST OF CHARACTER. I haven’t seen the 30d. [Ingrid Bergman Oscar film] GASLIGHT, but I learned of the concept of “gaslighting” someone from All My Children. I love that term.

Did not know:

  • 25a. [LBJ son-in-law], NUGENT. I want this to be Ted. Will not check to find out for sure.
  • 28a. [Deity invoked in ”The Magic Flute”], OSIRIS. Gettable with a few letters in place.
  • 33a. [Helsinki’s __ Observatory], URSA. Fresh URSA clue.
  • 36a. [Like some experimental biofuels], ALGAL. Had no idea.
  • 46a. ‘[‘Grand Canyon Suite” portrayal], MULE. No idea.
  • 50a. [Fashion ushered out by flappers], HIGH BUTTON SHOES. Didn’t know those were a thing.
  • 55a. [Acrobat’s apparatus], TEETER BOARD. Didn’t know the term. Two long answers in the stack that were unfamiliar = deadly.
  • 35d. [30-footer], LAG PUTT. Never, ever heard this golf term.
  • 40d. [Drove, quaintly], AUTOED. That was a verb??
  • 51d. [Squeaky sound], HEE. That’s squeaky?

Tough clues, most of which I admired:

  • 40a. [Highlighting choice], ASH. Ash blonde highlights.
  • 49a. [Shooting star setting], OATER. Hollywood stars shooting fake guns in westerns.
  • 24d. [Many an admiral], LIFER. Career officer.
  • 29d. [Place for a cache of nuts], TOOLKIT. Not a squirrel’s acorns but hardware.
  • 32d. [One drawn to hilltops], SLED. Pull it up, ride it down.
  • 52d. [Bay in May 2013 headlines], ORB. A bay horse, in the Kentucky Derby, named Orb. Not a body of water.

Underwhelming fill: ENE, URSA, GEE clued as the letter G.

3.5 stars from me.

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18 Responses to Saturday, October 12, 2013

  1. Evad says:

    I learned all about the shape of cello’s sound holes from a Byron Walden puzzle years ago. I remember it came out just before that year’s ACPT and I joked with him about it.

    • pannonica says:

      Even though that shape of sound hole is conventionally called an “f-hole” (which sure looks like a faintly sanitized slur), I’ve long assumed its origin is as the long, or medial s: ſ

      It appears I’m not alone in this theory.

  2. Martin says:

    Challenging Saturday puzzle! Oddly enough, even though I’ve never seen “TURTLE DIARY”, I have heard of it. It might not have been big at the box office, but I think it was a bit of a cult movie at the time when VHS rental first became really popular.


  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Much easier than yesterday’s puzzle. The few tricky answers (TURTLEDIARY I’m looking at you) were more than outweighed by the ton of easy ones! Some nice touches like DEATHSTAR, CAMERASHY and OMAHABEACH; also the clue for NOBODYSHOME was masterful!

    Remark on SDI: Know it from childhood, playing the classic computer game Civilisation, where one builds an “SDI Defense” to protect cities from nuclear attack. Am I the only one?

    LAT: Sometimes too much JQZXK action can be a net negative, but this Silk is a tour de force! As Andy listed, lots of lovely Scrabbly answers and very little downside.

  4. Brucenm says:

    *Very* easy Sat., which I nevertheless enjoyed greatly. Only thing which slowed me down at all was the doubled AA at 8d, but the crosses were easy.

    May I inflict some totally OT bitching and moaning? I slammed the damn door on my damn finger Thurs. evening, at the gas station. Weird sequence of events. I was in a somewhat surly, impatient rush — What? Me? –; I tossed an object in the back seat on the driver’s side, and at the same moment launched the door with my left hand to close it. As I withdrew my right arm, it hit one of those metal pipe barriers next to the pump momentarily impeding my arm from moving out of the way, and catching the end of the middle finger.

    Slight tuft fracture; should heal, though the loss of sensation in the tip of the finger may be permanent. Don’t think that will affect piano practice too much, but we’ll see. Irony is, I had been practicing diligently to play a half recital of Joplin rags, (new enterprise for me), in Maine, tomorrow, Sunday, to an audience of pianists in a group I belong too. I’ve gotten some advice from the wonderful Ragtime pianist Sue Keller, and was really looking forward to playing for her and the others. I will refrain from posting a picture of my poor split finger tip with its butterfly strips, (not that I would know how to do so.) In my entire life, I’ve never done anything directly to a finger which impacted my playing, though I have broken both arms. I do commend myself for having gone back immediately to practicing the Ravel left hand concerto (written for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, brother of Ludwig, who lost an arm in WWI. Paul, that is, not Ludwig.) So this is also an occasion for me to count my blessings. Holding a pencil with 1, 4 and 5, and typing around a finger is also a slight slowdown.

    As You Were — I apologize for this self-indulgence.

  5. Huda says:

    NYT- Did this in a couple of phases but I agree it’s on the easy side of Saturday. But I’m feeling dense, because I don’t get the masterful clue for NOBODYSHOME. At one point, in desperation, I wrote NOBODYSHOws and even NOBODYSHOot… It finally emerged from the crossing.
    Also did not know TURTLE DIARY. Saw TURTLED and put TURTLEDoves… Again, it righted itself, in part because I vaguely heard of it.

    I’ve had dinner with GEHRY. Very nice man. Much more understated than his buildings, which I love. He said he crumples papers to come up with some of the shapes he uses for inspiration, and his team translates them into designs. Maybe he was pulling my leg, I dunno. BTW, there is a society that works at the interface of neuroscience and architecture…

    Bruce, sorry to hear about your accident. It hurts to even think about it. Injuries to digits are painful and can take a while to heal, but I bet you will recover your sensation. Peripheral nerves to a good job of self-repair.

    • pannonica says:

      He said he crumples papers to come up with some of the shapes he uses for inspiration, and his team translates them into designs.

      That’s precisely how I’ve imagined he does it. With very few exceptions, his designs hold little to no appeal for me.

      see also: origami boulders

  6. sbmanion says:

    I had ASHY and was thinking TRASHY for far two long. Even with all the letters filled in, I wondered about the significance of CAME RASHY. It should have been in the NW.

    Turtle Diary got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (only 10 reviews). I think it is fair to say that it is the best movie ever made about hijacking turtles.

    I wonder if Joyce’s comment about Molly Bloom’s soliloquy that YES is the ultimate female word is offensive in today’s world. I read all of Ulysses and all of Finnegan’s Wake and can’t say that I understood any of it except for the soliloquy, which was powerfully erotic to my teenage brain.


  7. lforr says:

    Ulcers may develop on any epithelialized surface. Medically, there is no such thing as a “typical ulcer”. There are aortic ulcers, venous ulcers, cutaneous ulcers, corneal ulcers, as well as oral/esophageal/gastric/duodenal/ileal/jejunal/colonic/sigmoid/anal/rectal ulcers. To say that a “typical ulcer” is in the stomach, and that therefore the clue [Gut trouble?] is misleading is medically incorrect.

    As you said, people are wrong sometimes.

  8. Jeff Chen says:

    I googled it and now am scrubbing my eyes and brain.

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