Saturday, December 14, 2013

Newsday 8:32 (Amy) 
NYT 6:57 (Amy) 
LAT 3:34 (Andy) 
CS 6:10 (Dave) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 14 13, no 1214

This 15×16 grid has a central quad stack, and I am ready to hit the sack. So let’s talk about this puzzle quickly:

  • 50a. [Enterprise Klingon], WORF. My husband saw a couple Klingons on the L the other night. Another rider pulled out his iPhone and snapped a picture, giggling as he sent the photo to friends.
  • Spelling test: 22d. [19th-/20th-century U.S. portraitist], SARGENT, meet 52a. [Forrest Tucker’s “F Troop” role], SERGEANT O’ROURKE. (Never heard of the latter.)
  • 1a. [2015 Toronto event], PAN AM GAMES—wants to be the PAJAMA GAMES, I just know it.
  • 21a. [Loose end?], NESS. -NESS as a suffix? Eh.
  • 26a. [U.S. city that’s almost as large in area as Delaware], ANCHORAGE, ALASKA. For shame, Delaware! Step up your game.
  • 37a. [Shpilkes], ANTS IN ONE’S PANTS. Is that what that means?
  • 56a. [What solidifies things in the end?], RIGOR MORTIS. We learned yesterday from commenter Michael that rigor mortis occurs when ATP stops flowing in the muscles. If this answer wasn’t gruesome enough for you, it’s sitting on top of a BLOOD STAIN.
  • Shaving/aftershave crosswordese: 2d. [Quattro relatives] are ATRAS and 26d. [Mennen line] is AFTA. Bleh. Raise your hand if you have ever in your life talked about plural Gillette ATRAS. Anyone? I didn’t think so. Also, if you Google atra, the razor doesn’t show up till the 25th search result. Also also, you can buy “vintage” Atra razors on eBay. Gillette sells the Mach3 and the Fusion now. ATRA is the IPANA of razors.
  • 25d. [1958 41-Down by Samuel Barber], 41d being OPERA, is VANESSA. Really? There’s an opera called VANESSA?
  • 17d. [Ottoman ruler nicknamed “The Lion”], ALI PASHA. Never, ever heard of him.
  • 31d. [Big name in modeling agencies], EILEEN FORD. I like this one.
  • 53d. [Literary inits.], ERB. Edgar Rice Burroughs. High-end literary!
  • 11d. [Jacob’s-ladder, for one], PHLOX. PHLOX is one of the best of all the plant names.

3.75 stars, and so to bed.

Updated Saturday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Ever After” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme entries and a revealer, let’s start with the revealer:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/14/13

  • [Fairy tale finisher, and literally, what the last word of…can be] was HAPPY ENDING – so the idea is the last word in each theme phrase can follow HAPPY – not only do they end fairy tales, they can sometimes follow particular spa treatments.
  • [Corporate auditors follow them] clued PAPER TRAILS – though I’m not old enough to have heard this when it first aired, I am familiar with the Dale Evans and Roy Rogers anthem.
  • [How some like their eggs] clued OVER MEDIUM – I’m an “over easy” or scrambled man myself. A “happy medium” is what Goldilocks was looking for when choosing a bed in the bear’s cabin.
  • [Midnight] was THE WITCHING HOUR – also a quite famous book by Anne Rice. I’m reading The Tender Bar right now and happy hours are a prominent feature.
  • [“Stand up!”] clued ON YOUR FEET – a case of “happy feet” would often plague comedian Steve Martin at the most inappropriate moments.

I was pretty happy with this theme and examples, although “happy medium” seemed a bit less common than the others. I wonder if a phrase ending in Rockefeller might’ve taken its place? Funny I keep struggling to spell words like TASSEL correctly, as I just assume it’s -LE instead of -EL. I had ÉCARTÉ before EUCHRE with just that beginning E in place. Are they both [Trick-taking card games]? I’ve never played either. BEEF STEW and HOUND DOG rounded out the fill nicely.

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

LAT Puzzle 12.14.13 by Barry C. Silk

Nice puzzle. Pretty standard Saturday LAT fare: relatively high word count, some 9s or 10s stacked in the corners, and a little bit of fun, fresh fill.


  • The military minitheme, with FT. MEADE and AIR FORCE ACADEMY running vertically right next to each other.
  • OLGA KORBUT [First International Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductee]. Seems appropriate.
  • WIKTIONARY. It’s not a new entry by any means, but I appreciate seeing fill that references current tech and pop culture.
  • NOUN PHRASE clued as [Silly goose or sitting duck].

Nothing else particularly grabbed me. COAL MINER, FIELD TRIP, and TRAIL BIKE are all nicely in the language. Good to learn that aerobic exercise can raise one’s HDL (good cholesterol). I had a bit of a hiccup, putting EvIE for EDIE ADAMS. MFRS, IRR, TIANT, and SEAU struck me as the worst of the lot. Good, fun solve, but not one that’ll stick with me longer than a week or so. 3.1 stars. Until next week!

Anna Stiga/Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 12 14 13, “Saturday Stumper” by Anna Stiga

Standard example of “tough Saturday Stumper,” no? All sorts of things slowed me down here. But eventually it all came together, nothing too brutal or unfair.

Favorite things:

  • 25a. [French plural that’s its singular English meaning spelled backwards], ETATS. State backwards. Hard to make sense out of the clue, and then boom.
  • 31a. [Its score includes “At the Barricade”], LES MIZ. My friend’s first-grader son wore his Les Miz costume for Halloween and many other occasions. They just took him to see his second Broadway-in-Chicago show, Wicked. The boy’s four main loves are Chicago Bears football, musical theater, and his mamas. He’s utterly adorable and looks like early-’80s Adam Ant in his French revolutionary outfit.
  • 37a. [Gary Cooper plays one in “Mr. Deeds…”], TUBA. I reckon this means he plays a horn, not that the character he portrays is a tuba.
  • 58a. [Word from the Latin for “weep bitterly”], DEPLORE. Etymology clue!
  • 60a. [Boxer’s handler], VET TECH. Fresh fill, nice “boxer pugilist or boxer dog?” mislead.
  • 26d. [Food-coloring source], CARAMEL. I love caramel, I do. Caramel color, mind you, does not come from caramel candy.
  • The editorial trifecta of PROOFERS who may have DELETED or STETTED text in this puzzle’s clues.
  • 51d. [Wares on the UK’s], TYRES. Mystery … mystery … inference … answer!
  • 59d. [Forensic scientist’s print source], LIP. Interesting clue for LIP, no?

I don’t get [Small splashing] as the clue for PIT-A-PAT. I think of the sound as more like tapping than splashing. Raindrops pounding on a window?

3.75 stars. Not much else to write about here—nothing particularly vexing, no junk fill, no super-lively fill, just a solid themeless.

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29 Responses to Saturday, December 14, 2013

  1. Bencoe says:

    GOCOMMANDO was also a nice answer. “Holder of Leia’s secret” was good for ARTOO. And Jose MARTÍ was clued cleverly, as when you think Cuban revolution you think the Communist one (at least I do as a Floridian) instead of the original one against Spain.
    Didn’t think I could get into the wide open middle section but things like NORN, -CRAT, and STAN got me there.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: haha, I loved that southern neighborhood– downright creepy with the BLOOD STAIN, RIGOR MORTIS, WAIL and SCARE! How cool is that!

    And it’s a wild and crazy party nearby, with ARTOO, WORF, HAL, ALI PASHA, and a painter, an architect, a musician, an actor, an author, a foreign minister, a first lady, and somebody going commando with ants in his pants… Oh let’s not forget the trained elephant!

    MAS seems to practice what he preaches … GO BIG.

  3. Avg Solvr says:

    Doing the NYT felt like being cross-examined by a relentless reference librarian. Liked a few clues/answers but wowzers.

    • Alan D. says:

      Hey, as a reference librarian I resemble that comment!

      • Avg Solvr says:

        I have nothing but respect, of course, for both librarians and taxi drivers the combination of which is called Ben Bailey.

        And, Martin, make sure not to pass me by if I’m in your neighborhood. You’ll recognize me as the guy not holding books and captivated by the area’s shiny objects.

  4. Martin says:

    “Doing the NYT felt like being cross-examined by a relentless reference librarian. Liked a few clues/answers but wowzers.”

    Actually, you were being cross-examined by a taxi driver.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

    • Bencoe says:

      They say British taxi drivers are the best in the world at trivia, probably because of the memorization skills it requires. Look at all the quiz show winners who have been cab drivers.
      My wife’s cousin is a London taxi driver.

  5. Gareth says:

    Easy clues, lots of unknown names. GOCOMMANDO, RIGORMORTIS & BLOODSTAIN are great answers (admittedly, I’ve spent enough time hacking away at cadavers that I don’t have much of a breakfast test). My mistake was FILLIPe/ESe – I rarely declare crossings to be unfair, but that one is: unless you knew those names, that could be any vowel (except maybe U). Very much more high culture than I’m used to; I didn’t know TERRENCEMCNALLY, SERGEANTOROURKE, ALIPASHA (okay, he rings a vague bell), FILIPPO, VANESSA the OPERA (inferrable, although I considered GANESHA), and EILEENFORD. That’s a lot of answers taking up a lot of real estate, but my time is about normal, although with an error. Oh, and someone is going to have to link to this classic song, and it may as well be me:

    • Bencoe says:

      ALIPASHA features in The Count of Monte Cristo, which I should have remembered. However, he has a section on his Wiki page entitled “Atrocities”, which says something about his real character.

  6. Earl says:

    Top left suggestion: Peeta (hunger games), a trap, naps. Or Evade and -aree (dung ending? or something).

  7. Brucenm says:

    Unusual, different puzzle with things to like, such as the ghoulish, creep-show bottom. Just enough gimmes to get me through it, e.g. Vanessa, Sergeant O’Rourke, Worf, [Calvin] Peete, Terrence McNally, the Eileen Ford agency, Pan Am Games. “Go commando” must be an idiom, but unknown to me. Some of the clues, and answers seemed odd to me, e.g. 35, 37, 40a, and others, though I realize “seemed odd” is not very sophisticated criticism. I liked the mini-themes and self-references — Sergeant – Sargent; McNally – O’Rourke; in the movie, they *joined* to commit a *heist*, and so forth.

    Vanessa is the best and only well-known opera by one of America’s greatest composers. Barber co-wrote it with his partner Gian Carlo Menotti, of Amahl fame. But it’s not the case that 4 million teenyboppers have bought the dvd, so naturally that makes it suspect as a crossword entry. All it managed to do is win a Pulitzer Prize, (at least I’m pretty sure it did.)

    F Troop was a sporadically funny show, though the Sergeant O’Rourke character was a blatant knock-off of Sergeant Bilko. I’m trying to think who the 53d e.r.b. is. I would have preferred to see it clued as the composer Donald Erb, but think of all the approval that clue would have generated.

    All in all, an interesting, but not my favorite, puzzle by one of my favorite constructors.

  8. Boston Bob says:

    I worked for Gillette. I have said “Atras.” I raise my hand.

  9. sbmanionth says:


    Didn’t know: WORF, NORN, MARTI, VANESSA (sorry, Bruce)

    Mistakes: EAP instead of ERB, HALVE instead of CALVE

    Only the SW was easy for me.

    For the non-golfers, Calvin Peete was probably the most accurate driver of the golf ball in the history of the game in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that he had a withered left arm.
    He did not take up golf until he was about 21 and certainly did not fit the mold of the kids today who are groomed with perfect swings from about age 6.

    I agree with Gareth about FilippE/O.


  10. Jeffrey says:

    LAT: 21 Across – KPH are not Canadian road sign letters. Km/h is used.

  11. John Cummins says:

    MAS, seems as though Rex got a trifle under your skin with his quad stack comment. But, you will recall that I encouraged you to keep doing them precisely because he dislikes them so much. So, next time, my humble advice for you is (a) don’t read Rex’s review or (b) read it and weep quietly. I mean, the guy doesn’t even know who Jumbo was, so what credibility can he have?

    PS. I enjoyed working it and especially loved RIGORMORTIS.

  12. Martin says:

    This being slotted for a Saturday, I think Will tried to eliminate most if not all of the gimme clues. For example, my submitted clue for ESO was “Anka’s “___ Beso”” … the new clue, of course, made the FILIPPO/ESO crossing pretty hard.

    – MAS

  13. Zulema says:

    ANTS IN THE PANTS is one way to interpret “Shpilkes.” The more polite one would be “On pins and needles.” The word itself just means PINS.

    I had one gimme, VANESSA, and its corollary OPERA. It was a workout., but a good one.

  14. pannonica says:


    • Was thrown by the clue and answer for 8d [Masked African mammal] CIVET CAT because (1) I know many masked African mammals, (2) “civet cat” is a vague and inaccurate name (though it’s completely legitimate as a lay term, albeit not for any particular species), (3) civets (various genera of the family Viverridae) are found in Asia as well as Africa, and in fact may be more numerous and varied there.
    • 31a [Its score includes “At the Barricade”]. Had just the final Z … anybody else think it was ZARDOZ?
  15. pannonica says:



    The Star Trek character WORF was named in honor of the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf. (edit: Read that somewhere but can’t find confirmation now.)

    Jumbo’s hide was on display at Tufts University, but it was destroyed in a fire in the 1970s. The bones are at the American Museum of Natural History and comprise the type specimen for the (now-unrecognized) subspecies Loxodonta africana rothschildi. That’s a big deal. Losing any part of a type specimen is a great tragedy.

  16. Greg says:

    Calvin Peete, in addition to playing with a withered arm, was the most successful African-American golfer until Tiger Woods came along. Peete won 12 PGA tournaments.

    Perfect Saturday fare; fine in every respect.

  17. DocHank says:

    Just got to the Stumper, which I seldom save for bedtime reading! Much easier than usual for me this time, no idea why, tho’ I fell hard for the Gary Cooper played TUBA mislead (good one, tho’). So if you found it hard, Amy, I get to be swollen with pride for approximately one day…

    I appreciate the several replies I got last week to my query about the mentality of ace solvers. The consensus seems to be (as indeed I suspected) lots and lots of practice as the prime factor. Still, I think there’s some witchcraft involved. However, I may have to give some thought to driving a taxi!

  18. John Haber says:

    Thought it was pretty awful, between proper names, other obscurities, and forced answers. I solved it but had to come here to make sense of ERB, and I agree that the author is about as literary as Lady Gaga. My best guess was that Emily Bronte had a middle name that no one but Will Shortz knows.

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