Saturday, February 8, 2014

Newsday 12:26 (Amy) 
NYT 7:22 (Amy) 
LAT 6:16 (Andy) 
CS 5:57 (Dave) 

Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 8 14, no. 0208

NY Times crossword solution, 2 8 14, no. 0208

Another puzzle from the themeless power duo of Brohug. As you’d expect from the byline, there’s plenty of juicy fill:

  • 4a. [Snap], FLIP ONE’S LID.
  • 16a. [Foreigner hit in the musical film “Rock of Ages”], JUKE BOX HERO. Totally within my top-40 sweet spot, timewise, but the title doesn’t ring a bell.
  • 18a. [Western way], OREGON TRAIL. Also an early computer game, no?
  • 19a. [Guy], HOMBRE.
  • 36a. [Squalid], SLEAZY.
  • 53a. [Sri Lankan export], ORANGE PEKOE. My favorite tea, actually.
  • 57a. [It once had many satellites in its orbit], SOVIET UNION. Did you all enjoy your dance-filled tour of Soviet history during the Olympic opening ceremony? (See also: 27d. [Low-priced American vodka known affectionately (and ironically) as “Russia’s finest”], POPOV. Also see also: 41d. [Austrian neighbor], SLOVENE, as seen in the parade of nations.)
  • 59a. [Prized cuts], T-BONE STEAKS.
  • 31d. [Music genre of Poison and Guns N’ Roses], HAIR METAL. I’m thinking Doug was a big hair metal fan back in the day.
  • 32d. [Poet arrested for treason in 1945], EZRA POUND. Full name #1.
  • 33d. [Golden Globes nominee who was a Golden Gloves boxer], RYAN O’NEAL. Full name #2. Lovely clue!

Most entertaining misapprehension: I read 49d. [Nancy Drew never left hers behind], I had TE***, and all I could think of was … TEETH. (It’s TEENS.)

The only thing that makes up for ODER (35d. [River through Silesia]) being in the puzzle is its proximity to 38a: ASS.

Did you know 43a. [“Check it out!,” in Chihuahua], MIRA? For years, I’d see the occasional stray bit of Spanish dialogue in a mostly English work, and assumed that mira meant something like “sweetheart” rather than “Look!” Figured it out at some point before now.

Never heard of PEGWOOD (7d. [Watchmaker’s cleaning tool]). You can buy pegwood by the bundle.

Four stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Vamping It Up” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I can’t imagine a puzzle less in my wheelhouse–three theme entries begin with a character’s name from the TWILIGHT SAGA series:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/08/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/08/14

  • [Physicist who received 1958’s Albert Einstein Award] was EDWARD TELLER – “father of the hydrogen bomb.” Next time you put in H-BOMB or H-TEST in a puzzle, you can thank him!
  • [Wilhelm’s folklore-collecting brother] clued JACOB GRIMM – I had no idea what the Grimm Brothers’ first names were, and 10 minutes from now, I’ll have no idea again!
  • [National Women’s Political Caucus cofounder] was BELLA ABZUG – certainly a familiar name to my age bracket, as she was active in the early 70’s.
  • [Film series whose main characters share the first names of…] was TWILIGHT SAGA – this is how far out to lunch I was–I put in ZONE before SAGA, wondering if Rod Serling was referred to by Jacob or Edward in the series.

Ah well, not all puzzles are going to hit a solver’s sweet spot, are they? Unless I’m missing it, I see all the letters of the alphabet in this one save Y. Why is that, I wonder? Seems like a pretty easy letter to sneak in a corner if needed, but many dispute the value of a pangram, which is generally not noticed when solving. (I only start to look for it after I solve and see the rare J, Q, X and Z present.) Nice crossing entries include SOLD ON, WARDROBE (though I wanted a reference to C.S. Lewis for that one), RARE GEMS and TAG TEAMS.

David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 2.8.14 by David Steinberg

LAT Puzzle 2.8.14 by David Steinberg

Quad stack? In my LAT Saturday? It’s more likely than you think.

In honor of Sochi, a figure skating analogy: Much like the quadruple axel, few people can pull the quad stack off successfully, but even a bad one is worth disproportionately more than, say, two cleanly-executed triple-stacked 10s or 11s (the triple toe loops of the themeless crossword). That is, so long as you don’t fall on your butt, metaphorically or otherwise.

Let’s start with the four entries themselves: DINER WAITRESSES is fine, though a bit roll-your-own (is CAFE WAITRESSES okay? BISTRO MAITRE D’S? QUIZNO’S CASHIERS?) ONE-STOP SHOPPING is a lovely entry, my favorite of the four. COMPETES AGAINST is fine, especially in light of Olympics-mania. STOOD ON ONE’S TOES will doubly irritate the crowd who don’t like the word “ONE’S” in their 15-letter-entries. I’m normally not strongly against it, but I don’t like that it echoes the ONE in ONE-STOP SHOPPING.

What’s impressive about this particular quad stack is that it has four 9s and two 7s running vertically through it. STARTED UP, TWO-TONE, TAPENADES (plural?), FIRST-HAND, AEROGEL, and “STEP ASIDE!” I was pleased with these on the whole. This particular grid design is both interesting and a good way to keep your word count low.

Of course, with most quad stacks, there comes some unsavory fill. This one’s no exception: IS SO, SINO, ENSE, and SGTS are varying degrees of not good.

Once you get out of the center of the grid, the rest isn’t so hard to fill. And, due credit, it’s filled well. EXCHEQUER stacked on top of GARLIC SALT, and STIFF DRINK on top of PAKISTANI — all four excellent entries. AQABA and CYD are perfectly valid, if a bit challenging. I was unaware that SONIA was the name of the duck in Disney’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

Not really sure why this one took me so much longer than my average Saturday LAT time, but it did. I have to go eat some JIF, TAPENADES, winter MELON, and ARBY’S now, and wash it down with a STIFF DRINK. 3.75 stars. Until next week!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 2 8 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 2 8 14 “Saturday Stumper”

I was tempted to start Googling when almost 5 minutes into the solve (there were more than the usual complement of Googleable clues—17a, 30a, 43a [Mongolia’s Genghis Khan Club, for one], 58a, 2d, 3d, 5d, 8d, 13d {which was one of my few gimmes}, 49d, 50d, 51d), I had hardly anything filled in and entire sections of clues I had no idea how to crack. But I resisted the temptation and eventually started finding small avenues into each area of the grid. And then before I knew it, in less than double my NYT solving time, I was done. I finished feeling accomplished rather than cheated by unfair clues, so while I didn’t admire all of the fill, overall it was a good experience.

The clues I liked the most (meaning “the clues that worked me over the hardest”):

  • 9a. [Rats at Oxford], “DASH IT!” That’s “Rats!” the interjection, not rats the rodents.
  • 22a. [Concerts with fireworks], ARENA ROCK. I was stuck thinking of Fourth of July concerts syncing “The 1812 Overture” with pyrotechnics rather than rock with pyrotechnics.
  • 24a. [Windows users], CAT BURGLARS. Great clue! Candidate for clue of the year?
  • 47a. [Yielded to peer pressure, maybe], GOT ROPED IN. Was not expecting a three-word phrase.
  • 4d. [I may stand for it], ONE. Roman numeral.
  • 34d. [Filler of some reels], BLOOPERS. I assume most blooper reels are not actually on reels of film these days.
  • 37d. [Pan feature], HOOF. Goat legs on the mythical man/goat creature.
  • 40d. [Box-of-chocolates pick], CORDIAL. Cherry inside a chocolate shell. Plenty of other ways to clue the word CORDIAL, but this was tasty.

In the near-gimme category, besides [“Splendor in the Grass” screenwriter] INGE, I got help from the following:

  • 35d. [Jodie Foster, circa 1984], YALIE.
  • 26d. [Erie or Huron], TRIBE.
  • 32a. [Where firings happen], KILN.
  • 44d. [“Wicked” character], GLINDA.
  • 55d. [Polish off], EAT.
  • 48d. [Online backpedaler’s intro], OTOH. “On the other hand.”
  • 50a. [Fall Classic part-timers], DHS. Designated hitters.

You see what these have in common? Not a single one of them is a long answer. And they pepper the various sections of the grid, leaving very little in the way of solid toeholds to help me proceed. But it all came together in the end and I believe I have earned a cookie.

Four stars.

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17 Responses to Saturday, February 8, 2014

  1. Doug says:

    Yep, Amy, you got me. I was a total hair metal fan. And you’re right about Oregon Trail too. An early video game that I remember fondly. It was supposed to be educational, so we got to play it in school on the nifty Apple II computers. And here’s one of the OREGON TRAIL clues that Brad & I submitted: [Educational video game in which players could contract dysentery].

  2. Martin says:

    Kudos to David Steinberg on his super-nifty quad-stacks in Saturday’s LAT!

    I can retire now ;)

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  3. ArtLvr says:

    re “MIRA”– All I could think of was the Twinkle, twinkle, little star” from HS Latin class:
    Mica, mica, parva stella, Miror quaenam sis tam bella. Super terra in caelo, Alba gemma splendido. Mica, mica, parva stella, Miror quaenam sis tam bella.

  4. animalheart says:

    Oh, what a great NYT from Doug Peterson and Brad Wilbur. I loved every minute of it, and there were plenty of minutes to love–took me a long time, but when it fell, it fell with a satisfying whump. And I laughed aloud when the penny dropped on the Nancy Drew clue. Kudos to two masters of the art. (If you’re wondering, yes, I liked it.)

  5. Papa John says:

    Why does a weekend puzzle get a pass on what is usually protested in early-week puzzles?

    I count 10 abbreviations and/or initials, 5 partials and 5 foreign words. Does the value of full names offset these usual nits? (I’m not sure why full names are noteworthy. Do Ed Ames and Ed Asner fall in that group or are they considered more as crosswordese? [By the way, I’d say Bathsheba is a full name, too. ;-)])

    It’s often bemoaned that lengthy themes are the cause of short, uninteresting fill. Doesn’t he same hold true for long, stacked fills that take up a lot of acreage? This puzzle opens and closes with such fill, stacked in opposing corners: BAS-ACH-TRA, in the upper left, and TUE-ANA-LDL, in the lower right.

    What about ASS clued as “Yo-yo”? Is this some Indy, I’m-talking-about-you-Ben, influence on Shortz to become more “hip” with the inclusion of some quasi-foul language? Its proximity to ODER didn’t strike me as much as its nearness to HOLE.

    Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed today’s solve. I’m just askin’…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Papa J, I didn’t love the short fill either. I sorta planned to mention it, but I had watched the entire opening ceremony broadcast before I was blogging, and I was tired. (Am human, not cyborg.) Did not care for the LDL clue, but the BAS clue redeemed the entry.

  6. Gareth says:

    I recall not knowing the previous Foreigner song… This one was my first entry into the grid… Lots of great answers! A top-notch puzzle! If the music Doug sends me in the game SongPop is anything to go by Amy, you are correct or nearly so (Lots of 80’s metal!) [Wrote this after reading Amy’s blogppost but before reading Doug’s reply]

    • Brucenm says:

      OH! Snookered again ! “Foreigner” is the name of a rock group??? I’ve tried to train myself to assume that when there is a clue which makes absolutely no sense to me, syntactically or otherwise, there is probably some rock group lurking somewhere. But they still manage to keep getting me. Just like e.g. {beginning of gnostic inquiries} for “silentg.” I keep falling for that one too.

      I loved both the NYT and LAT. I’m never sure whether it’s lack of sensitivity and taste on my part, or an excess thereof in others, but the things that seem to bother others so much, I don’t even notice at all, in puzzles I consider as superb as these.

  7. David L says:

    28D: Yet again, a dubious association between OASTS and brewers….

  8. sbmanion says:

    I found both Friday and Saturday to be much easier than their counterparts last week. Friday’s was easy because I immediately entered PRESENTARMS and then saw each tripled repetition answer very quickly.

    Saturday’s was in my wheelhouse. I had at least one gimme T-crossing in each quadrant: BATHSHEBA/BISHOP, EZRAPOUND/HEREON, FLIPONESLID/FJORD (I guess that one was more of an L), and SOVIETUNION/CAROB.

    There was very little fill in my weak categories of music and pop culture, which helped greatly. I did not know JUKEBOXHERO or the HAIR in HAIRMETAL, but thought that both answers were inferrable.

    The only really oddity for me was PEGWOOD.

    On a sidebar, if you don’t have children, borrow one or two so you can go to see THE LEGO MOVIE. It is easily the best, funniest, wittiest movie I have seen in a long time. Eighty percent of the audience stayed to watch the closing credits, which is always a sign that it was thoroughly enjoyed.


    • Martin says:

      “The only real oddity for me was PEGWOOD”

      The Pegwood-Smiths were from the (little known) pirate side of my family.


    • Brucenm says:

      Oddly enough, despite my general mechanical ineptitude and inaptitude, I am good at very precise hand and finger skills (like needle threading); and clock and watchmaking and repair has been an interest, almost an avocation of mine. A graduate school colleague of mine, following in the footsteps of Spinoza who was an horologist, became a skilled watch maker and I became something close to his apprentice.

      “Pegwood” is a generic term for sharpened sticks of very hard wood (toothpick sized), attached to a little spinning “drill” and used to clean the surfaces of the jewels and other parts of the internal mechanism. The “jewels” are not bling; they are used to line the holes into which the tiny rotating spindles or rods are inserted. They actually *are* tiny “jewels”, usually low-grade sapphires, which are functional because of their low friction, the fact that they can be shaped and smoothed very precisely, and the fact that they do not abrade. They also stabilize the mechanism. So watch ads that advertise “X – number of jewels” are generally BS, though of course, a certain number of jewels are functionally necessary.

      So even though “pegwood” was a gimme for me, I consider it obscure and specialized and am surprised that there hasn’t been more outcry about it.

  9. pannonica says:

    Favorite NYT clue: 15a [Dieter’s beef?] ACH.

    Time to address yesterday’s CHE and WSJ write-ups – sorry for the postponement, those of you who noticed or care.

  10. Jbeck says:

    Great Stumper, Brad! Like Amy, it was a slow solve, but somehow I never completely stopped. All three of the long-entry clues on top were great, with [Mountain Pass] LIFT TICKET being my favorite.

    NE was the last to fall. Like Amy, I thought 13D was a gimme…except I had AGEE instead of INGE (oops!)

    One small niggle – I resisted ONE for 4D because the crossing clue at 15A was “Artless one”

  11. bobb says:

    Really disliked LAT middle – 4 long ones. Verticals didn’t help and gave up. Dislike use of brand names in puzzles, too!

  12. mitchs says:

    @BruceNM: the second paragraph in your first post speaks for me.

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