Saturday, December 28, 2013

Newsday 7:30 (Amy) 
NYT 6:55 (Amy) 
LAT 5:11 (Andy) 
CS 6:28 (Dave) 

Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 28 13, no. 1228

NY Times crossword solution, 12 28 13, no. 1228

There is indeed some lively fill in this puzzle, but somehow the overall feeling for me was one of ennui. It may be on me.


  • 30a. [1975 hit song about “tramps like us”], BORN TO RUN. I don’t know the lyrics and I would have guessed the year was later, but yes, it’s a Springsteen classic.
  • 36a. [It may be said while wearing a toga], LET’S PARTY. I assume this refers to the senators in ancient Rome and is a translation from the original Latin. Can someone tell me the Latin for “let’s party”?
  • 51a. [It’s not drawn due to gravity], SMILEY FACE. The clue had me thinking of physics and curtains. I wonder what percentage of the world’s smiley faces these days are drawn vs. typed.
  • 12d. [Dilly], RIPSNORTER. Both old-fashioned terms I haven’t used.
  • 26d. [Hunky-dory], JUST PEACHY. Old-fashioned term that I have, in fact, used.

On the down side, we also had plenty of blah fill, like SRTA, SMA, AT. NO., LAHR (53a. [Co-star in the U.S. premiere of “Waiting for Godot,” 1956]), DRYS, ODIE, OF OLD, DINAR, BOS, INGE, EGER, BARI, SSA, SSR, and MOLTO. Yesterday’s puzzle felt a good bit smoother to me. This is too much of the short stuff that we run into in crosswords far, far more than in the rest of life.

Five more things:

  • 45a. [Key ring?], ATOLL. Meh. Key = small island, island ring of coral = ATOLL.
  • 22a. [Vino de ___ (Spanish wine designation)], PAGO. Entirely unfamiliar to me. It’s a classification that was only introduced in 2003. This is probably an improvement on cluing PAGO as half of a teeny (population ~5,000) city on American Samoa, Pago Pago.
  • 7d. [#1 spoken-word hit of 1964], RINGO. Not the Beatles! TV cowboy Lorne Greene, speaking about a gunfighter named Ringo.
  • 9d. [Castle of ___ (Hungarian tourist draw)], EGER. Having never traveled to Hungary, I view this as crosswordese. I think Matt Gaffney may have been there. Have any of you been to the Castle of Eger?
  • 32d. [Supporter of shades], NOSE. Sunglasses rest on the bridge of the nose. My favorite clue in this puzzle.

3.25 stars.

Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 12.28.13 by Steve Salitan

LAT Puzzle 12.28.13 by Steve Salitan

Just a very brief write-up this week. I was extremely pleased to see both DEPECHE MODE and MARS ATTACKS in the grid; those are beautiful seed entries. The NE is really pretty, with GRAND PRIX and IMAX crossing XERXES. My only beef there is the plural HELENES. Confidently entered dEcAthlon for RELAY RACE [Track event], which slowed me down significantly, especially because 8d, [Draft picks], works with both AcES and ALES.

The SE strikes me as the most challenging corner, though, with GOONEYS and SWA crossing SKYWRITE [Use lofty words?]. SATORI and CAVIL, while I enjoyed them, might not be at the tip of everyone’s tongue.

41d, SOPHIA [Most popular baby girl’s name of 2011 and 2012] was a gimme for me. I wonder why this name has become so popular lately? Also a fan of 41a, SUN CITY [Arizona retirement community]. For some reason, the Sun City that pops into my head first is the South African city that hosted the 2010 World’s Strongest Man Competition (I’m guessing Gareth thought of the same one first, too). 

That's an orange?

That’s an orange?

I wasn’t aware that OSAGE oranges were inedible, but after looking at pictures of them, I can see why that’s the case.

I really had a hard time figuring out that [Had a row] was just OARED for some reason.

All in all, one of my more favorite puzzles this week. 4.25 stars. Until next week!

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Double Header Ball Game” – Dave Sullivan’s review

This is one of those both-words-can-precede-a-common-word themes, in this case, that word is BALL:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 12/28/13

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/28/13

  • [Cream-colored veggie] was a BUTTER BEAN. “Butterball” is a brand of commercial turkey (and I think a generic description of something roly poly) and a “beanball” is a baseball pitch aimed at the batter. Are legumes necessarily “veggies”?
  • [Octal system] clued BASE EIGHT. “Baseball” and “eight ball.” I’m more familiar with the hexadecimal system myself.
  • [Unpredictable sort] was a LOOSE CANNON. “Cannonball” is quite common, but “loose ball” perhaps is most widely used in basketball as a type of foul.
  • [Military strength] was FIRE POWER. We’re all familiar with Peter Gordon’s “fireball” and “power ball” is a national lottery, specifically that last number they draw.
  • [Hockey puck makeup] was HARD RUBBER. “Hardball” is something you play when you don’t pull any punches (not sure if the Chris Matthews show is still on MSNBC?) and a “rubber ball” bounces.

Extra points for five theme entries today and all pretty solid examples. I thought the sports tie-in of [Stadium disappointment] for RAINOUT and [Ruth or Rivera], who were/are YANKEEs nice touches as well. Some tough stuff in this though, I thought TOD, CONTE, ABBACY and KEAS uncommon. SAYS TO and ATE CAKE also felt a bit unfinished to me as well.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 12 28 13 "Saturday Stumper" by Brad Wilber

Newsday crossword solution, 12 28 13 “Saturday Stumper” by Brad Wilber

This one’s a standard “Saturday Stumper”—certainly not too easy (tougher than the Saturday NYT), but not fiendishly difficult either.

Here are the seven things I liked best:

  • 33a. [Its flag depicts the Blue Marble], EARTH DAY.
  • 35a. [Cordon Bleu topping?], TOQUE. A toque is a chef’s hat.
  • 41a. [Beyoncé started wearing it in 2013], PIXIE CUT.
  • 45a. [Best director Oscar winner five years after Kevin], MEL. Had to think back to what directors were named Kevin. Williamson? Not Oscar-caliber. Spacey or Kline? No. Eventually Costner came to mind, and then his fellow actor-turned-director MEL Gibson. Nice clue gambit, as people think of actors on a first-name basis more than they do directors.
  • 12d. [“Simplify, simplify” source], THOREAU.
  • 36d. [Venerable pyramid game], QBERT. I love the idea of calling a classic ’80s video game “venerable.”
  • 52d. [Mugger’s cliché], “HI MOM.” As in one mugging for the video camera at an event.

Five more things:

  • 48a. [Port authority’s pejorative], GRAPY. Uh…okay. So good port isn’t supposed to taste like the grapes it was distilled from? Not a fortified wine fan here.
  • 7a. [Bouillabaisse flavorer], ANISETTE. You know what? I am not sure I’ve ever seen ANISETTE on a restaurant or bar menu, and yet it is in crosswords all the time. I am tired of seeing it. Also, I cannot abide the anise/fennel/licorice tastes.
  • 32a. [Burning issue], ASH. Pretty sure I’ve seen this clue before, but it’s still clever. It’s what is issued by a substance that has burned, not a topic of hot concern.
  • 57d. [Juan Carlos made him a Marquis], DALI. Artist trivia I didn’t know. Juan Carlos has been Spain’s king since 1975. Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who ran Spain before Juan Carlos, is still dead.
  • 64a. [Yale sobriquet], OLD ELI. Or, as I like to think of it, Ol’ Deli.

Four stars. I didn’t love the puzzle but there isn’t much to dislike, either. Smooth, professional, like the typical Stumper.

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29 Responses to Saturday, December 28, 2013

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Igen, Egerben voltam, 1994-en

  2. Gareth says:

    That Sun City is hardly a city. It’s a giant casino built because during Apartheid, the semi-autonomous Bantustans legalised gambling, but South Africa itself hadn’t. Many of the other race laws were also paradoxically relaxed there, which allowed big, but controversial non-segregated rock concerts to be held there too. I wonder if I can put BOPHUTHATSWANA in a grid.

    • Bencoe says:

      “Little Stevie” Steven van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen’s guitar player for many years (including on BORNTORUN), organized a huge charity album called Sun City, featuring the song “Sun City”. Artists United Against Apartheid.
      Then he played Silvio on the Sopranos.

      • pannonica says:

        I, for one, prefer the Sun City Girls, the avant-wacko band from Arizona. And erstwhile E-Streeter Nils Lofgren to Steven van Zandt. And to Bruce Springsteen for that matter.

        • Bencoe says:

          I am really impressed that anyone other than me knows who the Sun City Girls are! I am wacko rock supreme and this is yet more evidence that Pannonica, whomever he/she may be, is a superhero of the arts.

  3. Evad says:

    Had RIPSNORTIN’ first…and yes, that “gravity” part of the SMILEY FACE clue was a tough misdirection!

  4. Patrick Merrell says:

    Gaudeamus gaudendum!

    • sbmanion says:

      That reminded me of a famous mock commencement hymn: Gaudeamus Igitur.

      I wonder if cupideamus is a Latin word.

  5. Steve Price says:

    36a. [It may be said while wearing a toga], LET’S PARTY. I assume this refers to the senators in ancient Rome and is a translation from the original Latin. Can someone tell me the Latin for “let’s party”?
    – The reference is to college fraternity toga parties, most famously in the movie “Animal House.”

    • Alex says:

      Yet more evidence that crossword bloggers maybe shouldn’t attempt this type of joke …

      • HH says:

        Or crossword-blog readers should be able to identify jokes.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Michael Sharp gets “corrected” all the time by Rex Parker readers who have failed to pick up on his propensity to free-associate when he picks pictures. “The ABE in the puzzle is Abraham Lincoln, not a Simpsons cartoon character, you ignorant fool.” Uh, yes, he is well aware of that.

          • pannonica says:

            That’s why I opt for elliptical obliquity. It’s too far over the heads for potential “correctors” to notice.

      • Jeffrey says:

        Which would leave me with nothing.

  6. animalheart says:

    Nice and crunchy NYT. I was detained by assuming that the gut-busting sides had to be holiday-related (Candied Yam?), and that the Hungarian castle had to be Buda or Pest, so the NW was the last to fall for me. 51A is a brilliant misdirection. Amy, you’re just being crabby.

  7. Brucenm says:

    I guess it’s implicit in what has been said so far, but the chestnut Commencement song *Gaudeamus Igitur* means roughly “let’s party.” (Or more prosaically, “let us rejoice.”) By far the most striking rendition of the tune is at the end of the Brahms “Academic Festival Overture” a superb and amusing quodlibet of popular songs of the day.

  8. Anne says:

    Regarding the Saturday Stumper, can someone explain to me 49 across: Letters by the pound (ans: oper)? It’s probably something simple but I am just not getting it!

    • Evad says:

      Think of a telephone keypad.

      • Brucenm says:

        Just out of free-association curiosity, when and why did the pound sign start getting called a “hash-tag?” To me it’s just another piece of pointless, unnecessary, computerize jargon.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Bruce, the pound sign by itself isn’t a hashtag. The pound sign followed by a word or phrase (without spaces or punctuation) in Twitter is a hashtag, which arose organically out of Twitter users’ desire to have a way to mark their tweets as pertaining to a particular topic. Hashtags expanded to signal moods, snarky asides, and more. For example, if you were on Twitter and you were grousing about kids these days ruining everything, you might append the hashtag #getoffmylawn.

        • pannonica says:

          And for further elucidation and exploration, I recommend Keith Houston’s Shady Characters (2013).


  9. Anne says:

    Ooooh, (head slap). Thanks!

  10. Huda says:

    NYT: hmmm, are a lot of pregnant women on leave? I thought that was a crazy clue. May be post partum, they have a maternity leave. But right now, in my lab, there are three pregnant women working harder than ever… Totally threw me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The ones who aren’t lucky enough to have healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies use leave more. In a group I’m in, one pregnant woman is likely to go on bed rest for the next couple months (cervical shortening), and the other is on leave while she’s treated for breast cancer (yes, chemo while pregnant); and a relative was on leave for about a month before her home birth this fall because her blood pressure was a little high.

      A great many healthy pregnant women do work right up till their water breaks, though. My former boss took her laptop home with her on a Friday night, expecting to work through the weekend, and was vacuuming the apartment Friday evening when her water broke.

      • Bencoe says:

        It’s one of the many reasons I miss living in Europe. They knew how to treat expecting couples well. Tons of leave for the mother and a decent amount of paternity leave for the father as well.

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