Saturday, May 3, 2014

Newsday 11:03 (Amy) 
NYT 7:10 (Amy) 
LAT 4:12 (Andy) 
CS 12:38 (Ade) 

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 5 3 14, no. 0503

NYT crossword solution, 5 3 14, no. 0503

I liked Sam’s puzzle, I truly did, but I am just not in any sort of blogging mood other than a lackadaisical and unmotivated blogging mood. Don’t expect complete sentences.

Did not know:

  • 16a. [Film featuring Peter Sellers as a matador, with “The”], BOBO.
  • 20a. [___ & Watson (big name in deli meat)], DIETZ. Never heard of them, but their store locator tells me no fewer than 8 grocery stores within 2 miles of me sell their meats.
  • 53a. [Sociologist Mannheim], KARL.


Dumb spelling: 48d. [Bygone publication subtitled “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine”], CREEM. See also: Eric Clapton’s Cream, British duo Godley & Creme, Krispy Kreme, K.R.E.A.M.


  • 1a. [Is guilty of disorderly conduct?], MAKES A MESS. Cute clue.
  • 30a. [1997 role for Will Smith], AGENT J. Tommy Lee Jones played K in Men in Black.
  • 35a. [One with long, luscious legs], ALASKAN KING CRAB. Shellfish, meh.
  • 43a. [Internal development?], FETUS. Good clue.
  • 46a. [Word in the titles of six songs by the Beatles], SHE.
  • 47a. [TV monitor, for short], FCC. Fed overseer for broadcasting, not a TV screen.
  • 56a. [1971 song that was the “CSI: NY” theme], BABA O’RILEY. Sam’s a college freshman. He may know a thing or two about teenage wastelands.
  • 60a. [Performed hits at a concert?], SLAM-DANCED. I was thinking bong hits rather than physical collisions.
  • 31d. [Boston, Chicago or Kansas], PLACE NAME. They’re not just rock bands anymore.
  • 4d. [Source of the word “trousers”], ERSE. Lame crosswordese answer, but I like etymology. Mind you, my dictionary sources the word to Irish and to Scottish Gaelic and not “Erse.”
  • 7d. [Organized crime enforcers of the 1930s-’40s], MURDER INC.
  • 12d. [First place], TOP HONORS.
  • 13d. [“Since you mentioned it …”], “ABOUT THAT…”
  • 14d. [Cut it], DO THE JOB.

So: Lots of extra tasty crispy fill—I overlooked the “SAY HEY” KID—interspersed with some crumbly mortar (ERSE, DIETZ, A POSE, SAO, ABAA, NETH, ODO), but on balance the good far outweighs the meh. Four stars.

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

LAT Puzzle 5.3.14 by Barry C. Silk

LAT Puzzle 5.3.14 by Barry C. Silk

I feel like I could write a book about Barry Silk themelesses. Maybe I already have! (A rough estimate puts my number of Barry Silk themelesses blogged at a little over 20.)

This is a new-to-me themeless grid design, and I like it. All four corners are identical: two stacked 10-letter entries, with two 4s and two 5s on top. One feature/snag is that it’s particularly tricky to get from N to S in this puzzle, since (a) the only connection between them are the center entries, and (b) there are only long entries leading into the center. This one definitely lends itself to working from the outside inward.

Four Zs in a B.C.S. puzzle = not surprising. SHIRAZ WINE [Australian red formerly called Hermitage] is the glitziest of the Z entries, though to me it feels a bit redundant to call Shiraz “Shiraz wine.” Also, I didn’t like that ZEES crossed CHIMPANZEE. Nothing per se wrong with it — just struck my ear wrong.

Speaking of ears, how about EARWITNESS [Provider of sound testimony]? I’ve never used it before, but it’s easily inferred from “eyewitness,” and it’s a very useful concept.

Plus, apparently it's making a comeback! [Use of "earwitness" since 1800, courtesy of Google Ngrams]

Plus, apparently it’s making a comeback! [Use of “earwitness” since 1800, courtesy of Google Ngrams]

In the NW, I felt so clever when I dropped ON THE frItz at 3-Down. An F and a Z felt like a safe bet in a B.C.S. puzzle, but it turned out that [Out of order] clued ON THE BLINK (another phrase I don’t think I’ve ever used). The probable etymology makes sense.

Lots of good long fill in this one, IMHO. Besides everything previously mentioned, I liked KARAOKE BAR, DO NOT REPLY, ARM WRESTLE, ALLA BREVE, FOIE GRAS, STIR FRY, LIE TO ME (sadly not clued as the short-lived Tim Roth show), ROLE-PLAYS, and BRICK RED. OLEO and SMEW rubbed me the wrong way, but CK ONE is really nice. I disliked SHILO, but I suspect others will appreciate a good Neil Diamond reference more than I do.

Solid puzzle this week. 3.75 stars from me. Until next week!

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bop Along”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.03.14: "Bop Along"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.03.14: “Bop Along”

Hello everyone, and hello to Saturday!

This was a very nice weekend puzzle to digest. Ms. Sarah Keller produces a grid in which each of the three theme answers are 3-word entries which, when taking only the first letter of each word, spell “BOP.” Maybe Sarah also wanted us to bop along to some music while we solved to make sure that we’re not TONE DEAF (12D: [Having a tin ear]).

  • BIRD OF PARADISE: (20A: [Colorful avian indigenous to New Guinea])– Once seeing the “PARA” part, I first filled the last four letters of that entry with “KEET.” Umm, oops!
  • BURDEN OF PROOF: (35A: [Plaintiff’s evidentiary onus at trial])– I definitely oohed at the sight of “evidentiary.” Very nice!
  • BALANCE OF POWER: (56A: [Equal distribution of forces among nations])

What I liked (and others may not like so much) was that once the first theme was taken down, filling in the other two answers was a cinch, even without any crossings, which made the solving faster. The down entries were a lot of fun, and a couple of them were symmetric, in more ways than just the symmetry in the grid: those that are UNBEATEN (36D: [Without a single defeat]) are UNUSED TO losing (11D: [Not familiar with]). The cluing on LATINA was stellar (2D: [Jennifer Lopez or Selena]), as J-Lo played the role of Selena in the eponymous hit film. Selena is one of my favorite movies, despite the horribly tragic sequence of events leading to the singing star’s death. Speaking of linking symmetric answers, for some macabre reason, I had the thought that if anything TEARS OFF on your body (8D: [Detaches, as a ticket stub]), you’ll definitely be in need of some NOVOCAIN (37D: [Numbing brand]). Although not symmetrical, one of the best parts of the grid was seeing REV UP (38D: [Increase, as an engine’s speed]) intersect VROOM (46D: [Indy 500 sound]). But ALAS (1A: [“Dear me”)], my 2003 Ford Taurus is neither revving up nor vrooming these days. More like coughing up and wheezing! But it goes forward and the brakes work, so I won’t complain too much.

Living the peripatetic life the past few months covering sporting events, I definitely got used to a HOTEL feeling like a second home (15A: [Home away from home]). Of all the types of chairs/seats I’ve sat on, I’m always hit-or-miss when it comes to sitting on BEANBAGS (35D: [Big ones can be chairs]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NABOKOV (43A: [“Lolita” novelist Vladimir])– We’re focusing away from literature and more on hockey with this entry. Evgeni Nabokov is currently the No.1 goaltender for the New York Islanders of the NHL. Although playing in relative obscurity in Long Island, Nabokov was one of the best goalkeepers for a decade while a member of the San Jose Sharks. In 2001, he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, and from 2008-2010, Nabokov registered three consecutive 40-win seasons, marking only the second time in NHL history a goalkeeper had three straight 40-win seasons (along with future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils).

Thank you so much for the time, and we’ll see you here tomorrow to break down the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as Anna Stiga)

Newsday crossword solution, 5 3 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 5 3 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Tough, tough puzzle. Lots of pesky cross-references that left me shambling helplessly around the grid. But eventually, everything came together and I learned some trivia tidbits as well as appreciating some clever clues.

First up, the trivia:

  • 46a. [What Stephen King called “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe”], the cult-fave TV show VERONICA MARS.
  • 59a. [First singer with a million-selling record], Enrico CARUSO, beloved by many a 33d: OPERA-GOER.
  • 63a. [Will Rogers, for one], CHEROKEE. I did not know that. He was 9/32 Cherokee, Wikipedia tells me. I would have assumed all the famous cowboy entertainers of yore were straight-up white men.
  • 20a. [Literary sidekick introduced in ’54], SAM/3d. [Portrayer of 20 Across in films], SEAN ASTIN. That’s Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. I like the twist of ’50s books and a much more recent film star combined into an x-ref pair.
  • 10d. [Earliest-born Grammy recipient], Thomas EDISON. For his pop vocal performance, of course.
  • 12d. [Masters of mortarless masonry], INCAS. I was just reading about that recently. The Incas engineered their stone walls to be earthquake-proof, using polygonal-cut stones fit together just so with grooves and notches to hold the walls together snugly. 500 to 600 years later, the walls still stand.

Clues I liked:

  • 1a. [It may take you home], BASEPATH in a baseball field.
  • 49a. [Appointments], DECOR. Tricky plural clue.
  • 1d. [Strong suit], quite literally, BODY ARMOR.
  • 34d. [Where to buy posts, gates, and fences], PET STORES. Scratching posts for cats, gates to keep dogs in or out of a room, and fences … what, for the yard? They sell fencing at pet stores?
  • 39d. [Gate crashers], battering RAMS.
  • 44d. [Literally, “scissor-fish”], PIRANHA. Etymology!
  • 46d. [Measure of space or “Time”], VOLUME.

In the fill, I like the neighboring full names of ANNE MEARA (mother of Ben Stiller, wife of Jerry Stiller) and SEAN ASTIN (son of John Astin and Patty Duke, brother of Mackenzie Astin). Two members of show-biz families with (4,5) names. Also like RESIDENCE INN, VERONICA MARS … well, there isn’t a ton of zippy, fresh, shiny new fill here, but there also aren’t compromises in the fill.

Four stars.

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24 Responses to Saturday, May 3, 2014

  1. Bencoe says:

    CREEM were named after their founder’s favorite band at the time, Cream, but changed the name to avoid difficulties. If I remember correctly. Certainly, it was a great magazine, featuring a lot of Lester Bangs’ best writing, probably the greatest rock writer of all time.

  2. Brucenm says:

    Probst and Babaoriley? What an awful crossing. Creem? Bobo? wiimote? AgentJ? blue jack? slam danced? Amazingly, I ended up writing letters in all the squares, and they all turned out correct, but that’s different from “solving” it, let alone enjoying it.

    Karl Mannheim was the only thing that got me through the SE, since I first threw in “mild” instead of “kind.” He was a brilliant thinker; his *Ideology and Utopia* is one of the great books of the 20th century. Oversimplified — post-Kantian epistemology, applied to the study of social organizations, creating an essentially new blending of philosophy and sociology which gets called “sociology of knowledge” Quite approachable and fascinating to read, believe it or not.

    I did think “Erse” was an interesting piece of trivia and that the clue rescued the answer.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s hilariously sad that you’re complaining about a 42-year-old classic rock song that square Time magazine has included among the 100 best of all time, and that was used as the theme song for a hit TV show on America’s oldest-skewing network, CBS. It’s fairly canonical as pop culture goes.

      • Brucenm says:

        I’m wondering if I know it by sound, and am trying to youtube it. I think may have watched the show. I have watched the show with the “Who Am I?” theme song and seem to remember liking it (the show and the song.

        • Billie says:

          The name “Baba O’Reilly” doesn’t actually appear in the song. Hearing it, you’d probably think the name of the song was “Teenage Wasteland.”

          • ahimsa says:

            Yes, thanks for the reminder! I had a feeling that I knew the song but not the title.

            There are so many songs that I know only by sound/lyrics but not artist or title. E.g., I only recently learned the correct title for Tubthumping ( “I get knocked down but I get up again … “).

            The NYT was too hard for me today. I did I manage to finish the LAT with a little help from my husband (he knew MARTY Schottenheimer).

      • John Haber says:

        If I can defend him, I know the song well indeed, but I still took forever to get it or practically anything else in the puzzle. It’s really a clue about a TV show that luckily turns out, once you have enough crossings, to be a familiar song. I got that corner first, thanks to KARL and CREEM, leading me to KIND and FCC, and so on. But after that, just guesswork. We’ve of course no On the Run stores in NYC, I don’t associate children with opera (so had “choir music” crossing “strike three” for along time), and I didn’t recognize (say) WII-MOTE, BOB, DIETZ, SCOTIA, GENT J, etc., etc. either. (I’d had first “ess” and then “zee,” too.)

        • John Haber says:

          You know, maybe I should have said that OPERA MUSIC wasn’t just hard but doubly or triply hard. For one thing, it’s a bit redundant, as opera is music. (It’s a little like “Broadway musical music.”) For another, you can think of a soloist accompanied by the choir, but an opera singer accompanied by the opera?

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Most persistent errors: BETS for LAYS; ITHELP for PCHELP. After MUSIC appeared I wanted ?????PIANO for far too long.

    LAT: The German family up the street used to yell at their GSD in German. The main word I remember sounds something like “phooey!”

    • Huda says:

      NYT: Exactly the same errors as Gareth (and a few more). And like Bruce, I found some of the crossings rather unfortunate. But I also liked the ERSE clue.
      When I look at all the good things that Amy listed, I do appreciate the puzzle more. Somehow it did not translate into a fun solve, though. Maybe it’s because I’m sleep deprived (in Frankfurt), a good way to lose 20 IQ points.

  4. Stan Newman says:

    Fun Fact re MURDER INC: Long before he investigated murders as Columbo, Peter Falk was nominated for a 1960 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a mob thug in the film MURDER INC. In fact, Falk always claimed that it was that role that launched his acting career.

  5. sbmanion says:

    Very difficult puzzles on both Fri. and Sat.

    In the hope that lightning strikes twice, let me give you my Derby picks. Last year, I liked ORB (no. 16) and made several trifecta picks involving ORB and the 14 horse. When I got my tickets, I saw that the teller had given me the 6 instead of the 16, but never noticed that she had given me the 4 instead of the 14. It took several tries to get all my trifectas correct (something that has almost never happened), but when it was over I had one ticket that was 16-4-3, which was the exact order of the trifecta. I assumed I had won about $200. It paid $6,900 because the 4 was the longest shot on the board.

    This year I like 4-5-20 in no particular order (Danza, California Chrome, and Wicked Strong).


  6. Jeff says:

    Whoops, I had ZEE instead of ZIG, which led to WEEMOTE (which didn’t seem right) and SCOTET (completely wrong guess), and I was left trying to figure out when the heck Will Smith played someone named TEEN TJ in a movie.

  7. DaveB says:

    Loved Barry Silk’s LAT today. He has a real knack for using lots of scrabbly letters in a very unforced and smooth way. He really is one of our most underrated constructors. Keep ’em coming Barry!

  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: Probably not the most devastatingly insightful observation, but HANK AARON and SAY HEY KID are both 9 letters long. Subconsciously converted Sultan of Swat in the clue to Babe (but not George Henry) Ruth, so I missed the implicit direction. Oh, wait. WILLIE MAYS (10) is the SAY HEY KID. So while not devastatingly insightful, the observation might be more unusual than I’d thought.

    LAT: SHIRAZ WINE irked me as redundant much more than it did Andy. Conversely, I wasn’t as perturbed by the CHIMPANZEE / ZEE crossing; perhaps because I know (a) it was once spelled ‘chimpansee’ (in fact that’s a junior synonym for the genus Pan), and (b) it comes from a local word transliterated as ‘chimpenzi’.

  9. Bob Bruesch says:

    I really don’t live in my van down by the river – BUT – I’ve never heard of IMHO or CKONE. Give us a break,Barry!

    • Gareth says:

      Oh no! The puzzle had two things you didn’t know! Oh, the humanity! A commonly-used internet abbreviation for In my humble (sometimes honest) opinion and a massively successful men’s fragrance. Not universal knowledge, but hardly esoterica! Expecting to know every answer in a puzzle is nothing short of hubris, and shows a very self-absorbed view of the world. I had never heard of EARWITNESS before or the MARTY in the clue or that usage of AZTEC. If puzzles only included things that 100% of people knew they’d be pretty drab affairs.

      • Bencoe says:

        IMHO seems like universal knowledge at this point, IMHO.

      • pannonica says:

        But Gareth, your LAT puzzle yesterday had a clue/answer dupe*, so whatever you say today is invalid.**

        *13a [Reason to be at sea] ENIGMA; 33a [Overwhelming amount] SEA.
        **IMSO (in my sarcastic opinion)

  10. sbmanion says:

    I hit the tri for the second year in a row. IRS signer. I played 5-all 4. $1,712.30 for $1.

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