Saturday, April 26, 2014

NYT 8:08 (Amy) 
Newsday 11:13 (Amy) 
LAT 3:44 (Andy) 
CS 12:40 (Ade) 

Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 15Snappy fill in Evan’s latest puzzle. Evan, if you don’t know, has joined the ranks of the indie self-publishers. Every other week, he releases another crossword at Devil Cross. Here, he skews indie-style in his NYT puzzle, with answers like this:

  • 5a. [Cry accompanying a slap], HOW DARE YOU.
  • 23a. [Controversial thing to play], RACE CARD.
  • 39a. [They created the Get Rid of Slimy Girls club], CALVIN AND HOBBES. Somehow that club’s acronym was GROSS, right? Get Rid of Slimy girlS?
  • 51a. [Reality show documenting a two-week trade], WIFE SWAP. Celebrity Wife Swap is on currently, I think. A blogger friend of mine was contacted by the Wife Swap casting people, but she turned them down even though she could use the money. She suspected they would import a conservative Christian wife to replace her in her job running a sex-toy shop and raising heathen children.
  • 61a. [Reverse transcriptase is found in it], RETROVIRUS. Science!
  • 65a. [Q&A query], ANYONE ELSE?
  • 4d. [Abstention alternative], PROTEST VOTE. Started with “PRESENT” VOTE. I like Evan’s answer better.
  • 7d. [Home to Main Street, U.S.A.], WALT DISNEY WORLD. You kinda wanted PEORIA ILLINOIS to fit, didn’t you?
  • 9d. [He called his critics “pusillanimous pussyfooters”], AGNEW. Spiro and the hot wording! Alliteration!
  • 26d. [High (and high-priced) options for spectators], SKY-BOX SEATS.
  • 63d. [Title for knights on “Game of Thrones”], SER. If you don’t read the GoT novels or watch the HBO show with closed captioning on, this is terrible and frustrating and ungettable. But if you do, well, then it’s kinda fun. There’s also a milord/my lord distinction.

AARE and OCULI and OTOES and OLLA feel rather crosswordese-burdened, but overall I enjoyed the puzzle. Four stars.

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 4.26.14 by Brad Wilber

LAT Puzzle 4.26.14 by Brad Wilber

A very quick review this week, since this puzzle is mostly very good. The load-bearing wall of the puzzle is LOAD-BEARING WALL running down the center of the grid, crossed by the related entry HOME IMPROVEMENT. The other two long answers are both beauts: RAY BRADBURY and CRAB RANGOON.

Really wanted lapdog in place of LAPCAT, which made ATCO hard to see. Other than that, extremely smooth sailing for me. YOLKY is a delightful word; I’d normally scoff at IOWAY, but somehow it’s justified sitting next to the equally goofy but way more real OMAHAN. (How does one pronounce that? Oma-hun? Oma-hahn? Oma-hah-un?) ALADDIN, ZEPHYR, POPEYE, MR. DARCY, CZARS and NBA STARS, TAKE A HIT and KID FLASH. RAIN crossing SPAIN (mainly in the plain). I like CHAD WHINED as an accidental phrase.

PIN OAK is new to me, but it seems legit. Any botanists/dendrophiles here?

4.5 stars from me. Until next week!

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Singular Singers”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.26.14: "Singular Singers"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.26.14: “Singular Singers”

Hello everybody!!

Was this a reminder to download a few more songs into my iPod? (Yes, I still use an iPod.) Mr. Venzke’s Saturday special has four theme entries in which the last word of the entry is also the name of a music star that goes by a singular name.

      • THE LITTLE PRINCE: (17A: [Most-translated French book])– Favorite Prince song(s): “When Doves Cry” & “Computer Blue”
      • TICKLED PINK: (37A: [Very, very pleased])– Favorite Pink song: “God is a DJ”
      • POLICE STING: (44A: [Operation that often precedes an entrapment claim])– Favorite Sting song (as a solo artist): “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”
      • SIR FRANCIS DRAKE: (65A: [Knighted 16th-century English seafarer])– Favorite Drake song: pending…

OODLES of fun with this puzzle (31A: [Scads]) until the very end, when AGNUS (52D: [“_____ Dei”] just wouldn’t come, costing me a couple minutes. Definitely a GRR moment (47A: [Watchdog’s warning]). Liked the double-dipping of gross, with YUCKY (53A: [Disgusting, slangily]) and VILE (60A: Beyond disgusting]) right next to each other. My favorite fill was NO LOOK (4D: [Fancy basketball pass]), and I can say that there were a few clues that I did a no-look and filled it in like a Magic Johnson fancy pass. Not all the times did it work so swimmingly!

Some usual crosswordese littered the grid, including RESOD (19D: [Make lawn repairs]), and ENGRS (34D: [Many MIT graduates]). AFRO (58D: [Bushy coif]) also falls into that category, and also what my hair is starting to resemble after a couple of months without cutting it. Time for a trip to the barber pretty soon!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DPS (32D: [They result in two outs])– So if you’re watching a baseball game and hear the term “twin killing,” know that it refers to a DP, which is the abbreviation of a double play. GIDP, just in case, means “grounded into double play,” which tracks how many times a batter grounds into a double play. Which batter has grounded into the most double plays in Major League history? That person also has the record for most consecutive games played: Cal Ripken, Jr., at 350 GIDPs.

Take care, all of you, and will talk with you tomorrow!


Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 4 26 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 4 26 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Tough, tough puzzle. The southeast quadrant fell faster than the other three, but I wouldn’t call it easy. While the northwest was not the last to fall, it was the one I cast a side-eye at. Two unfamiliar phrases crossing each other? Huh. 15a. [Tilt in the wind], HEEL OVER meets 2d. [Really fancy], YEN FOR. YEN as a verb is not so common, and HEEL OVER is apparently a sailing term, and 98% of Americans (including me) do not sail.

Other challenges:

  • 9d. [Watering hole], BISTRO. I confidently filled in *A***N because it had to be SALOON or TAVERN.
  • 39a. [Not assured], AT HAZARD. As unfamiliar to me HEEL OVER.
  • 66a. [Skirted], END-RAN. Not sure I’ve ever seen this past tense.
  • 7d. [Porcelain center], SEVRES. Not my personal style of porcelain.
  • 13d. [Vine growth], ROSEBUD. I don’t think of roses as growing on vines. The climbing roses extend their canes.
  • 35d. [Ant-farm material], AGAR. I had no idea, but with the G in place, this familiar piece of crosswordese suggested itself.

Lots of trivia clues today. 16a ED WOOD, [1994 black-and-white biopic]; 19a RFK Stadium; 43a [“The Cradle of Civilization”], IRAQ; 45a [Sambadrome locale], RIO; 51a TEMPE; 4d [Anderson Cooper, circa 1988], an ELI or Yale student; 7d SEVRES; 14d [Literary source of “out of sight, out of mind”], ODYSSEY; 32d [$100 bill background color], TEAL; 55d [Dragonfruit grow on them], CACTI. I learned a couple things.

Twistiest clue: [Subject of a ’60s movie remake?], ELIZA. Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, being remade into a non-Cockney speaker, not a movie remake.

Zippiest answer: [“Are You Out of His League?” for one], COSMO QUIZ. I love the answer, but HEEL OVER and YEN FOR were called for to make that corner work and I didn’t much care for them.

Four stars.

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18 Responses to Saturday, April 26, 2014

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT: Beautiful central CALVINANDHOBBES! WIFESWAP is great as an answer, but the actual show gives me the grils. The top-left was hardest for me, because I had SPOILTVOTE and ECHO not DIDO. I think the latter is a deliberate alternative wrong answer?

    LAT: Not as B. Wilbering as some – a typical LAT time. RAYBRADBURY, KIDFLASH and MRDARCY were my favourite. No idea what CRABRANGOON is, but I’ll take Andy’s word that it’s a great answer! LAPCAT is a new one for me! IOWAY is nutty too, but in a fun way! At 15d, I considered a RICHARD (too long) & a HENRY before EDWARD was considered.

  2. Linda says:

    Andy: Try Crab Rangoon at lots of Chinese restaurants–usually on the appetizer menu at a fixed price for a half-dozen. They are small folded noodle dough cooked with a crab mixture inside. How good they are depends on the amount of crab they include in the mix, but what else is new!

  3. Linda says:

    Gareth: Crab Rangoon are small, noodle dough foldovers with a crab mixture inside. How good they are depends on the amount of crab in the mix, but what else is new. Lots of Chinese restaurants have them but they are listed in the appetizer section of the menu, usually at a price per half-dozen.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Great puzzle. I was initially dubious about Evan’s work, but he has shown a unique, independent voice and an appealing personal style. His latest FB — (bending over backwards not to spoil) — is . . . interesting and different. I started out hating it, and turned 180 degrees — a full uey — in the course of working it out.

    I too changed “present” to “protest” and preferred the latter. Spiro didn’t actually write his own lines (“nattering nabobs of negativism etc.). [Insert extreme Spiro Agnew jokes here.] I’m not sure whether Peggy Noonan was around yet, but I’m pretty sure Patrick Buchanan and William Safire were, and wrote his material.

    You * do* know the famous anagram on his name, don’t you? (4, 1, 5). I added to the existing anagram — If they make a movie entitled “The Spiro Agnew Story” it anagrams to (4, 1, 5, 5, 3 ?).

    I haven’t the slightest idea what “ser” is, but it *was* easily gettable.

    Am I the only one debased enough to wonder secretly (he asked sheepishly) how much actual swapping goes on in the wife swap shows? I realize all shows of that ilk are totally staged, phony, trumped up BS. (I wonder if Amy would prefer the label “husband swap” or “spouse swap.”) Maybe they figure that half the people who watch those shows don’t know big words like “spouse”. Now I’m getting surly.

    • Bruce, looks like you and I were composing comments around the same time. The third word in the anagram is (to not totally spoil it, I will use a simple substitution cipher) 19-16-9-14-5, n’est ce pas? ;-) And thanks for mentioning Peggy Noonan, who wrote Ronald Reagan’s majestic speech on the occasion of the Challenger tragedy.

    • Bencoe says:

      “Nattering nabobs of negativism” seems to have Safire written all over it, doesn’t it?
      Evan, nice puzzle. Between today’s and yesterday’s NYT offerings the week finished out strong.

  5. Jeffrey K says:

    I booked a vacation this week, and let’s just say I am not headed to PEORIA ILLINOIS.

  6. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Spiro T. Agnew was a mediocrity in American politics (Richard Nixon’s “insurance policy”??) who resigned in disgrace ahead of his boss. Through Agnew’s petty corruption, many Americans were introduced to the term “nolo contendere.” However, the person who actually penned “pusillanimous pussyfooters” was none other than Patrick Buchanan, who later “captured” enough of the retired Jewish vote in Dade County to sway the Bush-Gore election. Another of Agnew’s alliterative phrases, “nattering nabobs of negativism” was coined by William Safire, who later had a distinguished stint as the house conservative on the New York Times op-ed pages.

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: Evan, you had me at RETROVIRUS! I use these suckers in my work– at least the emasculated version, and it was such a rare full length gimme on a Saturday. And well clued too. Woohoo! And all the long answers were great to fabulous. Enough to make up for the NW that gave me fits, but that’s on me.

    A great mix of pop culture, science, erudition. More please!

  8. Evan says:

    Thanks for the review and the plug for Devil Cross, Amy. You’re correct — the club had an acronym of GROSS with the S of Girls capitalized. I had submitted that capitalization with the clue (one of my three clues which I sent in for CALVIN AND HOBBES), though I guess the NYT figured that people might think it was a typo.

    And while I’m not crazy about SER as an answer, I think if one needs it, the way to go with the clue is through Game of Thrones rather than an abbreviation for “sermon.”

  9. sbmanion says:

    East was easy for me. The NW and especially the SW were very tough. Superb puzzle. I also had ECHO. The most baffling clue/answer for me was HERMAN/ONE ARM. I haven’t watched the Simpsons as much in the past two years as I normally do, but I have probably seen 200+ episodes and can’t think of who Herman is.


    • Papa John says:

      From the Web:

      Herman is the one-armed paranoid owner of Herman’s Military Antiques, a shop in Springfield. He wears combat boots, military pants, a blue long-sleeve shirt, and an olive green or brown vest. He also wears a medal on the vest but it is unknown what he did, if anything, to earn the medal. It is also common for Herman to be sucking on a cigarette. Herman’s voice has been described by the creators as a parody of George Bush, Sr., and is provided by the talented Harry Shearer.

  10. Avg Solvr says:

    Evan’s puzzles are always a fun experience, making them some of the best around. Now I’m off to The Stumper to get stomped.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Andy: I grew up with a pin oak in the back yard. It’s got a much smaller distribution range than I knew.

  12. placematfan says:

    I can only speak to the 2004-11 run of the US version, but Wife Swap, despite the tawdry title and associated prurient connotations, is a gem–great binge-watching fodder. In stark contrast to the plague of scripted reality shows, this series has a lovely, earnest “this is what happened” feel and presentation to it. The people watcher in me loves it. In short, it’s well done: narration is succinct and unintrusive; production value is notably uncheesy; momentum is upheld (very comparably to a good drama) with little pandering pomp and much engaging circumstance; the format is simple and brilliant; and the end-of-show sit-downs are indubitably some of the best bouts of layman therapization ever televised. It is very much NOT Operation Repo, or House Wives of Jersey Shore; it’s shining proof that Reality TV doesn’t have to suck but can, in fact, be great.

    What I’ve flimsily gathered are common aversions to the show are: 1) a lack of interest in the human condition, esp. the modern American one; 2) the dismissive assumption that Wife Swap mirrors other shows in its genre; 3) the lack of nudity and violence; 4) that it involves unpalatable subjects such as quality of parenting, comfort zones, the value of perspective, emotional maturity, family vs. the individual–things that may make oneself ask oneself questions that one was perfectly comfortable having never considered asking oneself in the first place, for 5) most viewers of a TV series are seeking escapism, not introspection.

    Fwiw, I was all set to remain in lurk mode but then I went and watched s06e03 (during which I belly-laughed three times and cried twice), and then a certain remark was made above, and then I just had to say something–just fair warning in the event that someone on Fiend should, in the future, diss nanny Jo.

  13. bonekrusher says:

    man, between today’s NYT (CALVIN AND HOBBES!!!) and yesterday’s, this was the greatest themeless weekend ever.

  14. Zulema says:

    Enjoyed the LAT very much and absolutely hated the NYT. Way too many proper nouns from is it still called pop-cult? The Calvin and Hobbs I used to see occasionally was in a newspaper and stayed away from Gross in any form. As for the other, well, I am totally lacking in modern TV lore, horror movies, brand names, etc. But I got it done . And DIDO and AVILA were my first solitary entries for quite a while. I wanted Peoria, Illinois also, but WALT DIS… took care of that thought. And I have to admit the SW and NE ten’s were very good indeed, as was Friday’s NYT.

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