Saturday, October 19, 2013

NYT 6:54 
Newsday 7:26 
LAT 5:35 (Andy) 
CS 5:45 (Dave) 

Two interesting things for you to consume:

First, on NPR Sunday morning, around 8:45 Eastern (not sure how airtimes vary in other time zones), Weekend Edition plans to air a story about crosswords and the younger generation. Indie editor/constructor Ben Tausig was interviewed for the piece, and possibly we’ll also hear from collegiate constructor Caleb Madison. I gave the reporter, Hans Anderson, some background info on the indie crossword scene, so I’m hoping it will be an uncommonly savvy media story about crosswords.

Second, did you know Matt Gaffney started a new blog? It’s called “Gaffney on Crosswords” and Matt writes daily on various crossword topics. Recent posts cover the “hidden capital letter” clue trick, singer John Mayer’s prowess in bed (it’s solving crosswords), a meta crossword contest from Neville Fogarty (the deadline passed without my figuring out the answer, siiigh), and whatever else has caught Matt’s fancy. Matt has published a number of incisive articles about crosswords, and I’m looking forward to reading him each day.

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 19 13, no. 1019

So, Peter Wentz is one of those constructors who makes zippy themeless puzzles chock-full of pop culture from the ’80s to the present day, and I enjoy such puzzles. Some solvers (hi, Bruce!) have a keen dissatisfaction with such puzzles, as solvers are expected to know all sorts of stuff that they don’t deem truly crossword-worthy. This is a battle than cannot be resolved, other than by throwing up one’s hands and hoping for a more pleasing solve the next day.

There’s so much fresh, lively fill here (or, if you prefer, absolutely dreadful dreck):

  • 1a. [1980 new wave classic], “WHIP IT.” Devo. “If a problem comes along, you must whip it.”
  • 7a. [1996 hybrid animation/live-action film], SPACE JAM. Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan, together again.
  • 15a. [Cole ___, 2008 World Series M.V.P.], HAMELS. I had a decent sense of the name but needed crossings to pull it all together.
  • 17a. [Juices], AMPS UP. Contemporary slanginess.
  • 19a. [“Bait Car” channel], TRU TV. Cable channels have worse spelling than rappers, honestly. Syfy, anyone?
  • 38a. [1985 #1 whose video won six MTV Video Music Awards], “TAKE ON ME,” by Aha. Or A-Ha. No, those are both wrong. It’s a-ha with italicized a’s.
  • 39a. [Rhode Island cuisine specialty], JOHNNY CAKES. If I were a guy and I joined the mob, I would insist on this for my nickname.
  • 43a. [Rapper with the 2000 single “Party Up (Up in Here)”], DMX. Didn’t know this one.
  • 51a. [Jockey competitor], JOE BOXER. Underwear brand. [Jockey’s competition] would have been an even harder clue.
  • 55a. [Rhyme for “drool” in a Dean Martin classic], FAZOOL. Rhymes with “old school.”
  • 1d. [“How’s it goin’, dawg?”], “WHAT’S UP, G?” One of you young whippersnappers will have to tell me if “G” is short for something.
  • 5d. [“___ It” (2006 Young Jeezy single)], I LUV. Meh. Weirdly spelled partial? At least it did go platinum, peaking at #14 on the Billboard pop charts. Rap is much more of a guy thing, isn’t it, generally speaking? Maybe we’d see less rap in the crossword if the editors were all women.
  • 7d. [Dirt, in slang], SCHMUTZ. One of my all-time favorite Yiddishisms.
  • 27d. [Supposed sighting off the coast of Norway], KRAKEN. “Release the Kraken!”
  • 35d. [Soup line], “MM-MM, GOOD!”
  • 36d. [Marketing mantra], SEX SELLS.
  • 38d. [Return service], TAX PREP. Not pop culture, but fresh and modern.
  • 42d. [First marketer of Cabbage Patch Kids], COLECO. An ’80s gimme for me. Did my sister collect them as a teenager for some reason?
  • 46d. [Outrageously freewheeling], GONZO. Love that word, too.

Also nice: The inclusion of a whopping four full names. We have the 6-letter senators, JON KYL and AL GORE, plus KITTY KELLEY, the celebrity [Biographer biographized in “Poison Pen”], and ANNE RICE, the [Female novelist whose real first name was Howard].

Could’ve done without Ulan-UDE and NAUT., but that was really the only fill I’d consider moderately junky.

Did not know, in addition to DMX and I LUV, 10d. [Lewis ___, loser to Zachary Taylor in 1848], CASS, and 48d. [___ concours (unrivaled: Fr.)], HORS.


4.33 stars from me. A fun puzzle to solve, lots of Scrabbly stuff, but not a waltz. I don’t want a waltz on Saturday.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randall J. Hartmann’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Soft Inside” – Dave Sullivan’s review

No, today’s CS puzzle isn’t getting all sentimental and mushy on you. Nor is it a tribute to every crossword solver’s favorite treat, the OREO. We have three grid-spanning theme entries that embed the word SOFT.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/19/13

  • [Hammer and screwdriver, to a carpenter] was TOOLS OF THE TRADE – do carpenters use hammers nowadays? I thought they all use these pneumatic guns to nail boards now.
  • [Items covered in piano practice] clued NOTES OF THE SCALE – yeah that, and make sure your wrists are arched and not resting on the keyboard. (Can you tell I’m still smarting from my lessons when I was a young lad?)
  • [Generational burden, biblically] was SINSOF THE FATHER – also a recent novel by Jeffrey Archer.

OK, I have to say this theme didn’t do anything for me. First, to have the actual word in the title that is embedded in the phrases is far too unsubtle–I prefer to have the title just hint at what the theme entries have in common and include a revealer in the grid when it’s not patently obvious. (Patrick Blindauer had one recently which had I DO as this common entry and titled the puzzle “Broken Promises.” He also had a revealer entry, which I didn’t think was necessary, but that’s just me.) Secondly, there are tons of phrases that are in the form [plural noun] OF THE [another noun]. It’s just not a tough enough constraint to build a puzzle around. These were all 15 letters which is something, but I would prefer zippier phrases that were varying lengths. (I’m looking particularly at you NOTES OF THE SCALE.)

EPIC FAIL was a great entry to include, so I’ll give that a FAVE; “IT’S ME!” and SAD TO SAY were runners-up.

Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 10.19.13 by Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber

Short review this week. Always a pleasure to see the Wilberson byline on a Saturday puzzle, and this was no exception. Let’s hit the high points:

  • 17a, WHISKEY IN THE JAR [Irish folk song that was a Grammy-winning vehicle for Metallica]. When I think “Irish folk song,” I’d probably think ENYA before Metallica. Yet here it is, in all its glory.
  • 53a, BLOOMSBURY GROUP [Woolf pack?]. Cute clue, influential intellectual circle of the early 20th century.
  • 25d, DOT-COM BOOM [Late 1990s Nasdaq phenomenon]. And then, in 2000, the dot-com bubble burst.
  • 38d, UFOLOGY [Focus of an annual festival in New Mexico]. Love this word, but not entirely sure how to say it. Yoo-foll-uh-jee? Yoo-eff-ah-luh-jee? I dunno.
  • 12d, TAJIKISTAN [Asian aluminum exporter]. Tajikistan also exports a lot of apricots and cotton. FYI.

Other stuff I enjoyed: CHEVETTE, PRO TEM, the broken-up USED CAR/LOT, MIGRAINE, C’MON, KIRIN, HOORAH! My least favorites: MAKOS, TOS, AMBLER. That’s a low I-didn’t-like-it count, so I’m giving this one an even 4 stars. Until next week!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as less rough Lester Ruff)

Newsday crossword answers, 10 19 13 “Saturday Stumper”

I solved this puzzle late last night, later than I should have, apparently, as I could barely stay awake while working the puzzle and was definitely too sleepy to blog it cogently. So tell me: Did you find it harder than the Saturday NYT too, or was I just in a stupor?

Nine nifty answers and/or clues:

  • 16a. [Word from the Greek for ”healing”], THERAPY. I love me a good etymology clue. This one doesn’t include any surprise aspect, but that’s okay.
  • 31a. [Checking in a tiny room], TRYING ON. Clothes in the fitting room. Not sure I’ve seen this entry in a puzzle before.
  • 33a. [Fit for a King], BLUESY. B.B. King, in a particular. I like that we also have FOLKSY in this puzzle.
  • 39a. [Short-term quarters]. CRASH PAD. Good entry.
  • 43a. [Twist in ”Oliver Twist”], IRONY. Know your 22a: LIT.
  • 41d. [Opposite of ”together”], ASUNDER. I love this word. It’s as good as akimbo and awry.
  • 42d. [Source of the Rhodes Scholarship endowment], DE BEERS. Blood (diamond) money!
  • 51d. [Roll for a hole], PUTT. I had baked goods on my mind.
  • 57d. [One of an estimated quadrillion on Earth], ANT. Anyone else feel itchy right about now?

The fill was a tad drier than other recent Stumpers, no? EPEE IRE ALIT -INE?

3.75 stars from me.

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30 Responses to Saturday, October 19, 2013

  1. Ethan says:

    Whippersnapper here: G is for GANGSTA.

  2. RK says:

    NYT: Trivial Pursuit in a box. Halfway through I was sure Mr. Wentz was going to ask what his favorite color was.

    LAT: Nice puzzle

  3. Evad says:

    Here’s how unhip I am–I assumed the G was for guv’nor.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Amy, FWIW (how cool is that!) I *liked* today’s puzzle a lot. Yes, like most allegedly themeless puzzles, it was pop-culture themed, but it is also what I keep calling “inclusive”. I *like* trivia, and stuff I don’t know, or only vaguely know, so long as it’s not confined to one, narrow, restricted universe. Some constructors achieve this inclusive balance better than others, e.g. BEQ, Byron Walden, Nucky (Frank) and Karen Tracey.

    At first I thought the double meaning of 49d and 56a was inelegant, but then I decided it was a nice touch.

    (If this post seems to emerge from the ashes of the pyre, it is a continuation of an interesting email exchange between Amy and me.)

  5. Matt says:

    Excellent puzzle. RESTSTOP between EXITs? D’oh.

  6. Animalheart says:

    I wasn’t wild about the NW, but I liked just about everything else in the NYT. Don’t even want to ask what “Bait Car” is about. Please tell me it’s about night crawlers and midges that you put on the end of a fishing line…

  7. Ian Livengood says:

    PW brought his fastball. Great, great grid.

  8. Brad Wilber says:

    Maybe it’s just a family thing, but we grew up calling baked “corn bread” by the name “johnny cake.” I still make it often, using family recipe that’s well over a century old, and eat it with butter (now margarine!) and real maple syrup. But I now know that in many parts of the world, johnny cakes are born in skillets rather than baking dishes. A good friend who has since left my neighborhood actually uses my recipe and makes the johnny cake on the stovetop, so I guess it translates OK.

    • Brucenm says:

      Brad, *loved* your joint LAT.

      Johnny Cake is a corruption of the New England pronunciation of “journey cake,” — i.e. something you eat to fill you up before embarking on a long journey.

  9. Gareth says:


    Error was MBA/BAZOOL. I only know that dish from the song, and, like most people, I battle with inferring what unfamiliar words in songs are.

    Eighty percent Wednesday difficulty, 20 percent virtually impossible. Ironically it was guessing the BOXER of the only truly unknown answer JOEBOXER that allowed the BET/RESTSTOP/HORS/TAXPREP/HELPS impasse to unblock. The bigger nigh impossible area was the top-right: I Had MELO for ACTI, which meant I didn’t put in SPACEJAM(even after erasing MELO) – and it should’ve been a gimme. Didn’t know JONKYL (two words you say???), MASSEY, KITTYKELLY, CASS or SCHMUTZ (not a name, but a bit of vocabulary I didn’t know). Add in some Saturday clues for the rest of the area…

    What makes a band New Wave? I’ve never been sure. The New Wave category on SongPop even includes Madness, and I’m pretty sure that they’re (two-tone) ska.

    • Brucenm says:

      Gareth, this seems to be my day for corrupted pronunciations. “Fazool” is “pasta fazool” — the familiar “pasta e fagioli” (pasta and bean) soup. The southern Italian (Naples and down) pronunciation of “fagioli” is close to “fazhul.” The second vowel is a cross between an ‘o’ (OH) and a ‘u’ OOH. This is consistent with two of the principal characteristics of the Southern dialect — eliding final vowels, and even entire final syllables, and changing the penultimate consonant from an unvoiced to a voiced sound. (E.g., in Naples “manicotti” cheese becomes “manigot.”

      • pannonica says:

        A lot of Italian-American dialect is such, representing the geographical origin of the majority of immigrants back when. Another that really grates on me is scungilli for conch. The original word makes it easy to see the cognate: conchiglia.

      • sbmanion says:

        When I first started to play racquetball in the mid to late ’70s in Buffalo, one of my opponents was an older attorney of Italian heritage. One day, he took me to what was essentially an all you can eat spaghetti place on the West side of Buffalo at which until this particular day, all I had ever had and all I thought you could have was spaghetti (delicious and only about $3.00). My friend knew the owner, which apparently permitted him to order pasta fazool. It was one of the best dinners I ever had.


    • Bencoe says:

      I think every band that came about as a result of punk music without actually being loud fast guitar punk is pretty much considered New Wave, though a better definition might be the quirky, angular pop done by Talking Heads and its descendants.

  10. Gareth says:

    Great LAT for the answers listed by Andy (although I didn’t know Bloomsbury Group). For my money the definitive modern versions of Whiskey in the Jar are by The Dubliners and Thin Lizzy. The Metallica version is based on the Thin Lizzy one.

  11. Animalheart says:

    Henry, I’m relieved. I thought it might have been something about jail bait (but then I suppose it would be on Spike TV, not Tru TV…)

  12. pannonica says:

    Stumper: “33a. [Fit for a King], BLUESY. B.B. King, in a particular.”

    You’re probably correct, but I’d go with Albert King, as his initial is tidier with the “a King” of the clue. Freddie King is fairly famous too.

  13. pannonica says:

    LAT: “38d, UFOLOGY [Focus of an annual festival in New Mexico]. Love this word, but not entirely sure how to say it. Yoo-foll-uh-jee? Yoo-eff-ah-luh-jee? I dunno.”

    I pronounce it ˈü-fä-lə-jē (“oo-foll-uh-jee”), but I’m inherently perverse.

  14. bananarchy says:

    Big ups to Peter Wentz for possibly my favourite NYT themeless this year. Outstanding construction.

    • Howard B says:

      Seconding that sentiment here. So much packed into that grid.
      Then again, short perhaps one hockey-related clue, this was about as close to my proverbial “wheelhouse” as it gets, so my view is admittedly a bit biased :).

  15. Art Shapiro says:

    Thoroughly disgusted by the effluvium of pop culture.

    A couple of interesting and unfamiliar answers spiced things up, such as Anne Rice. About the only think I could confidently enter was Hamels. Having EM at the end of the Norway clue, I put down MERMEN and flamed out magnificently; Kraken were completely unfamiliar – are they well known monsters?

    Anyway, I hadn’t given one star in a few weeks, and this broke the streak.


    • sbmanion says:

      The Kraken has appeared in a number of movies including one of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Many think that the lore relating to the monster revolves around fishermen sighting giant squids. It was a squid-like creature in the Pirates movie. Other movies have given it a more alien-like appearance.


  16. Noam D. Elkies says:

    “This is a battle than cannot be resolved, other than by throwing up”

    Oh, that was just a line break…



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  17. Elizabeth says:

    Re: LAT 34 across–PECKISH actually means hungry, not cranky, though it seems like it would be cranky.

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