Saturday, January 31, 2015

NYT 9:28/1 Google (Amy) 
Newsday 7:02 (Amy) 
LAT 4:51 (Amy) 
CS 8:44 (Ade) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 31 15, no 0131

NY Times crossword solution, 1 31 15, no 0131

Is it the intersection of clues, or is it the headache? I got stuck in the northeast corner with a whole bunch of blanks and saw no way out save Googling. 12d. [His servant is Kurwenal, in opera]?? Never seen that name in my life, so I Googled Kurwenal and that gave me TRISTAN and Isolde, and  that TRIST— was all the boost I needed to piece the rest of the corner together.

Favorite fill:

  • 33a. [Part of a goth dude’s look], GUYLINER. That’s eyeliner on a man.
  • 8d. [“I’d like some of that, bro”], “HOOK ME UP.”
  • 20a. [“I can go for this!”], “ME LIKEY!” One could do without intersecting ME phrases, mind you.
  • 38a. [“Puh-leeze, save the tears”], “OH, BOO-HOO.”

Things that made me grumbly (and I’m not saying they’re bad, just that they made me grumbly):

  • 1a. [Thickburger seller], CARL’S JR. It’s a regional chain, not national, so how the hell would I know this? I went to the restaurant’s store locator and plugged in a Chicago ZIP. My closest stores are Carl’s Jr.  in Ontario and Carl’s Jr. Green Burrito in Oklahoma. The closest one is 479 miles from me, according to Google Maps, but I can get a flight to Toronto for $561. And while the NYT puzzle sometimes includes things that are known among New Yorkers, the store locator gave me Ontario and Oklahoma for an NYC search too. Heard of the chain, no idea what its menu items are called.
  • 8a. [Some gathering spots], HEARTHS. No fireplaces in my home. How many can gather at one hearth?
  • 16a. [Officially request], ORDER UP. The clue doesn’t correspond to the answer in my book.
  • 17a. [Alternative to a babka], NUT CAKE. Couldn’t find an actual dictionary via that lists NUTCAKE or NUTCAKE. Is that actually a thing?
  • 52a. Something developed casually?], FOTO. Bleh. Without a comma before it, “casually” becomes an adverb modifying “developed.”
  • 9d. [Cousins of harriers], ERNES. What’s more fun than crosswordese rendered difficult with an unfamiliar clue?
  • 14d. [Person breaking his word?], SPELLER. Meaning “person breaking a word into its component letters”? Meh.
  • 38d. [80 chains or 8,000 links], ONE MILE. This is a pop quiz on obscure units of measure. A link is 7.92 inches, apparently, or 100th of a chain, which is 66 feet. I was not fazed by the GILL rebus the other week but I’ve never seen these units.

3.9 stars from me. If you dig Croce’s style, check out his puzzle site. A new themeless each Tuesday, a variety puzzle or themeless on Fridays.

Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 31 15

LA Times crossword solution, 1 31 15

It’s a pretty grid design, swirling and on the curvy side for a square crossword.

My favorite answers were the one-two punch of DEMAGOGUE and POPULIST—how many politicians have fit both categories?

Plenty of unusual fill, words and  phrases we don’t see in too many puzzles. I didn’t love all of them.

  • 1a. [Plant reproductive structure], SPORE SAC. Not sure if all plants have that. Is there a botanist in the house?
  • 14a. [Lindbergh nickname], LONE EAGLE. Haven’t heard that one much.
  • 20a. [Trig function], ARCSEC. With two C’s, probably the least common trigonometric function in crosswords.
  • 36a. [School hallway warning], USE INDOOR VOICES. I was thinking “use your indoor voices” was way more common, but I asked my teenager and he’s heard both.
  • 44a. [One Direction singer Zayn __], MALIK. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of myself for getting that one. Niall Horan, Liam something, Harry Styles (ironically, I dislike his hairstyle), Zayn Malik, and the fifth guy I always forget.
  • 56a. [A carve turn may be taught in one], SKI LESSON. Solid.
  • 62a. [Things to obey, like 36-Across and 8-Down], THE RULES. “I don’t make the rules, I just follow ’em” is a great thing to say when you do, in fact, make the rules there.
  • 4d. [R&B artist Des’__], REE. Oof. The fill-in-the-blank with no space separating it is never a good thing.
  • 8d. [Highway warning], CLICK IT OR TICKET. Use your seatbelt.
  • 12d. [Four-stranded DNA structure], TETRAPLEX. Don’t think I’ve ever encountered the word before.
  • 49d. [Novelist Hammond __], INNES. He’s the TETRAPLEX of authors, in that I don’t know his name at all.

In the Blah Zone, we have suffixes –ISH and –ERN; abbrevs MTA, USO, VSO, JAN, and plural ASSNS; and crosswordese IN D, ANAS, neighboring reversals REE/E’ER, and plural AGARS.

3.4 stars from me.

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

Newsday crossword solution, 1 31 15 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 1 31 15 “Saturday Stumper”

I’m feeling like a whiz because not only did I find this puzzle markedly easier than the NYT, but just after I finished it I saw joecab’s description of it as “the toughest Saturday Stumper in recent memory.” *buffs nails* *brushes dirt off shoulder*

I will grouse at 18a. [Enclave or Encore], SPORT UTE, because I don’t know anyone outside of crossword constructors who ever call SUVs “utes.” Strikes me as possibly a woefully dated term. Yes?

Ten things:

  • 1d. [Panini need], CIABATTA. Great entry.
  • 17a. [Most frequently used Atlantic storm name since 1959], ARLENE. Does this suggest that the Atlantic storms from the beginning of the season, when the A names are used, tend to be milder than the ones that come later? ARLENE would be retired if it were ever a really damaging hurricane.
  • 7a. [Specialty of Beverly Hills’ Sprinkles shop], CUPCAKES. Didn’t know it had a Beverly Hills origin. Went to the Sprinkles in Chicago this fall and found the cupcakes disappointing, as so many cupcakes are. Not a fully national chain at this point—while Stan bars regional brands from the easy puzzles, I think they’re fair game in Stumpers.
  • 27a. [Historical period], TIMES. Don’t like this clue/answer match-up.
  • 40a. [Iconic Kraft Foods mascot], MR. PEANUT. Great entry, but I didn’t know Mr. Peanut nuts were under Kraft now. Apparently Planters became part of Kraft in 2000.
  • 50a. [Calabria, vis-à-vis Italy], TOE. What a great Stumper clue. Tough geo-trivia.
  • 2d. [Getting a check from the government, perhaps], ON RELIEF. Does anyone in the U.S. use that terminology? Wherever they use this, perhaps the clue could have cited the place.
  • 36d. [Literally, ”by signaling”], INNUENDO. Just hint at it without saying it outright.
  • 37d. [Ralph Ellison alma mater], TUSKEGEE. I’m reading Invisible Man with a book group this winter.
  • 9d. [Low class], PEONS. Not loving this clue/answer combo. Standard oblique Stumper cluing that messes with the usual ways of interpreting words. Peons are a low class in whatever societies have peons, but the singular “class” and the “is it an adjective?” issue both obscure the answer.

4.2 stars from me.

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hey buddy, in here…”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.31.15: "Hey buddy, in here..."

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.31.15: “Hey buddy, in here…”

Hello everybody…and goodbye to January! Hope all is well, and my apologies for being MIA yesterday in the midst of a busy sports reporting day. But I definitely don’t want to let my buddies and pals down here on Fiend, and today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, is all about having friends in the middle of things. Each of the four theme answers have the letters MAC in the middle of the entry (71A: [Buddy – and a word that appears in 17-, 28-, 48-, and 62-Across]).

  • DRAMA CRITIC (17A: [Brooks Atkinson or Walter Kerr])
  • RANDOM ACCESS (28A: [Descriptive of some computer memory) – Good ol’ RAM.
  • OKLAHOMA CITY (48A: [Home of the NBA’s Thunder]) – Here’s hoping there aren’t any Seattle natives/basketball fans reading this.
  • PANAMA CANAL (62A: [Atlantic-Pacific conduit])

There was something very appealing about the seven-letter entries in the top middle and bottom middle of the grid, and I had no idea the term “word salad(s)” existed until seeing NO SENSE (70A: [What makers of word salads make]). There was also the group of two-word, six-letter entries that stood out, with ROCK ON (5D: [“Play that thing, dude!”]), HARP ON (49D: [Talk about endlessly]) and CRAM IN (50D: [Stuff tightly]). There was enough sports in the grid to make solvers feel either comfortable or uneasy. STRIKE ONE was pretty good fill (11D: [Umpire’s call]). CAV, short for (Cleveland) Cavalier, also makes an appearance, as I’m trying to think of another way to clue CAV outside of bringing up the basketball team (61A: [Cleveland cager, briefly]). Do people call Cavalier King Charles spaniels “cavs” for short?? Oh, and how can I forget the most relevant sports clue of the day: NYE (42A: [“Science Guy” Bill]). What?!?  Yes, Bill Nye weighed in on the whole “DeflateGate” flap, and made a video in which, in his estimation and experimentation, he thinks the more than just science had to be the reason the footballs during the AFC Championship Game were under-inflated. Well, since I mentioned a video, I have to let you see it, right?!?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NFC (1A: [Cowboys’ gp.]) – Our Super Bowl-themed “sports…smarter” notes continues. Between the 1984 and 1996 seasons, a member of the NFC (National Football Conference) won the Super Bowl over the AFC representative at the end of each of those seasons, marking the longest stretch of dominance of one conference over the other in the Super Bowl era. The Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX, during that stretch.

See you all on Super Bowl Sunday, and for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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36 Responses to Saturday, January 31, 2015

  1. Phil says:

    Nutcakes are kin of fruitcakes, but with a much lesser likelihood of being disgusting.

  2. Byron says:

    You’re probably more familiar with CARL’S JR’S doppelgänger, HARDEE’S, which also serves Thickburgers and, alas, also has 7 letters.

    • Martin says:

      …which also starts _AR.

      We Westerners dutifully type in EDYS, knowing it’s our Dryer’s, or HELLMANS, knowing it’s our Best. Until recently, your McCormick spices were our Schilling’s. Just once, the Western name gets an entry and those spoiled east-of-the-Mississippi dwellers cry foul.

      • Brucenm says:

        You’ve also got “Ojai,” which I think of as the Natick of the West. Apparently it’s not pronounced like Mr. Simpson.

        Primer for the Westerners: the first syllable of Natick is pronounced “Nate”, not “Nat.” Say “natenotnat” ten times fast.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Now, a CARLSJR clue that referenced its horribly sexist Super Bowl commercials (apparently tomorrow’s will be more flagrant than that Paris Hilton one of yore) would probably have been more gettable to a national audience.

      Martin, did you know that Stan Newman pretty much forbids regional brands in the easier puzzles he edits? Also, you don’t have Dryer’s, you have Dreyer’s. It must be confusing to remember if one prefers Breyer’s or Dreyer’s out west.

      • Martin says:

        Rachel Maddow calls those ads “skinny women eating fatty foods in slow motion.”

        I’d call those ads sexy. It’s true that there are more sexy Superbowl ads aimed at men than women, but I’d reserve “sexist” for another level of discriminatory intent.

        I mean poor Kate Upton or this year’s Charlotte McKinney are so oppressed when they’re forced to take all that money for rolling around half-naked pretending to eat a hamburger.

        Why are the Chippendales never called sexist?

        Dreyer’s/Edy’s is a cut about Breyer’s so it’s not a problem. But we have a lot of local brands that are way better.

  3. sps says:

    Apparently, Carl’s Jr will be having a huge Super Bowl ad for the Thickburger. Would’ve been easier to get after tomorrow night, maybe. I thought it would be something from the Simpson’s or some other satiric show poking fun at American overeating, but no…it’s from real life.

  4. dook says:

    A babka is a yeasted sweet bread and often eaten at breakfast or brunch. A nut cake (if such a term really exists) is not yeasted and would be more akin to banana bread. I don’t think the two are interchangeable at all.

    • Martin says:

      The clue doesn’t say nut cake and babka are interchangeable, only alternatives. Substituting one for the other with coffee makes perfect sense. Substituting a piece of fried chicken, not so much.

      • Lois says:

        Aside from the more generally familiar fluffy nut cakes, made from nut flour, which are often prepared for Passover because they don’t use wheat flour, there is another nut cake offered in many kosher bakeries alongside babkas which is a kind of hard roll, with a wheat crust and a sweet ground nut filling.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    NYT – one of the toughest for me! Thought Harriers was a kind of hunting dog, not bird. But at least I recognized Rocket as ARUGULA, which let me finish. Me no likey much! At least TRISTAN came to mind, starting with K in the clue led to German opera.

  6. Matt says:

    Yeah, a tough one– but I did actually finish it unaided, eventually. North half was harder, with various multiple options slowing me down– CARLJRS/CARLSJR, DONJUAN/TRISTAN to point to two. But also, just tough.

  7. Brucenm says:

    I managed to finish it unaided too, but even though Tristan was an instant winner for me — 7 free letters — I still had trouble with the NE. I’ll be more blunt. In general, I dislike entries like 20, 33 and 26a, and in this particular puzzle, I did not like 8 and 14d. I suppose “breaking one’s word” can be taken as “breaking down the word into its components,” but even for Saturday misdirection, it’s pretty close to a clue which doesn’t make sense. In a way, I agree with the above comment about “nut cake,” but I suppose the word “alternative” is broad enough that a ciabatta flatbread sandwich could be an alternative to a Cobb Salad (as when surveying a lunch menu.) Still, there was much to like and enjoy about this challenging puzzle.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Nothing was easy for me, but unlike many of you, I solved the NE first. TRISTAN was a gimme for me, but not in the same way as it was for Bruce. In my case, it was the only word I knew.

    Carl’s Jr. has excellent milkshakes and is one of several chains that serves very greasy, very high caloric burgers. We usually go to the Panda Express next door instead.

    My overall impression was that this puzzle had too many sort of but not truly idiomatic phrases. I did enjoy the challenge, though.


  9. joecab says:

    UGH that NE corner!! This is the first Saturday I haven’t been able to finish in a while. Lots of other spots tripped me up for a bit with DRY instead of WRY for “Kind of humor,” naturally “It’s measure in points” for —-P-C- is ONEPICA for me, “Very abruptly” for ONAD–E must have been ONADARE (don’t ask), etc.

    I blame a lack of coffee. Thank goodness I followed that up with the palate cleansing powers of the toughest Saturday Stumper in recent memory.

  10. Avg Solvr says:

    If I don’t see a puzzle like the NYT again it won’t be soon enough. (Yes, I finished, and found no enjoyment or sense of accomplishment in doing so.) Now please remain seated while I restate this unnecessarily in several different languages.

    Seen better Saturday LAT puzzles.

    • Lois says:

      Since you finished the NYT puzzle, the Avg Solvr name mystifies me. Avg among people who had perfect SAT scores?

      I had my usually partial Saturday results, but the puzzle was a little better and more likable than usual for me. I almost never like those little bits of conversational phrases. I thought the misdirection of 52a was nice, despite the lack of a comma, because I got it. I thought JAKE for copacetic was perfect, but I didn’t get it. I’m with CY below on TRISTAN.

  11. David L says:

    Done in by the NE, like many others. I was expecting something German at 22A, and the clue for SPELLER was too cryptic for me. I had DRY for a long time until I saw that WRY would work. And if you “take a cue” from a RECROOM, you are stealing it, presumably, not getting ready to play pool. IBEG to disagree doesn’t sound idiomatic to me — differ would be fine. Some of the cluing pushed cleverness to the point of inaccuracy or incomprehensibility, IMO.

    Also ERNES (I had HAWKS at first) and NUTCAKE are both examples of obscure things clued by other obscure things.

    At least I knew CARLSJR, if only from crosswords.

  12. Papa John says:

    Today’s NYT was not much fun for me. I agree with Amy about Carl’s Jr* and her list of grumblers, but not with her any of her favorite fills. Those come close to being my least favorites. I also agree with Avg Solvr that there were too many foreign words. Many of the clues seemed strained; in some cases, to the breaking point.

    Doesn’t 20A: ME LIKEY fall in the same catagory as “Me so solly” or “Ah, so”?

    *Do businesses run under different names to side-step anti-trust laws?

    • Matt says:

      I suspect that some national fast-food chains ‘grow’ by buying local chains. It’s an under-the-radar type of expansion.

      • dr. fancypants says:

        Right, except the reason for keeping the regional name is not so much to stay under the radar, as it is to retain the goodwill associated with the name in that region. Often that’s a significant part of the value proposition for buying the local chain.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Papa J, linguist Arnold Zwicky delves into the origins of “me likey”/”me no likie” at Language Log. Could be faux Asian, could be Gullah creole/old African-American language, could be other things.

  13. dr. fancypants says:

    I was a bit of a goth in my youth and I’d never heard GUYLINER. Wonder if that’s a more recent term.

    Got killed in the NW, and was pretty unsatisfied once I saw the correct answers in place. Copacetic = JAKE? Babka alternative = NUTCAKE? Sure, I buy that, but I’ve never heard those terms in real life. And I’ve lived on both coasts and never been in a CARLS JR nor seen an ad for one; their menu isn’t exactly a cultural standard like certain other fast food joints.

  14. Zulema says:

    The NYT NE was the easiest for me and so was the SE but after that, don’t even ask! Harrier is definitely a dog and as for JAKE, I will not comment. The whole NW was a disaster.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Thanks, Zulema — I’m glad to see google recognizes Harrier (dog) as I thought. By contrast, Harrier (bird) does NOT mention ERNE: as a sea eagle yes, but no harrier!

  15. Gareth says:

    I got stuck in the ne (and the top-right) but persevered and, eventually, crawled out. It was putting in SOh that revealed TRISTAN and the HEARTHS and slowly it yielded. For a long while the only thing above IBMS/CTRL was HUMORME. I figured that Harrier meant to the bird (Black Harrier and African Marsh quite common here), but forgot that it’s allowed to clue ERNE in that overly familiar way… ORDERUP/ONADIME were very tricky to see, as was the HOOK of HOOKMEUP. Multi-word phrases can definitely ramp up the difficulty on a Saturday!

    The top-left’s difficulty was probably more peculiar to me. CARLSJR was only vaguely familiar and even as it emerged was convinced it couldn’t be as it was just “CARLJR”. Was also strangely convinced of SLAy which blocked MELIKEY (is that not racist?) and the REELIN clue was sublimely opaque!

    OHBOOHOO was my fave answer.

    LAT: Two 15’s wholly unfamiliar. Culture shock! Can’t imagine why you’d need a USEINDOORVOICES sign. Very peculiar. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of tetraplex either, despite studying genetics up to 3rd year university level… Googling and starting to ring vague bells. Very technical for a general-interest crossword!

  16. bob says:

    Really a stretch: SOANDSOS for “scoundrels” and I’ve been an elementary teacher for ??? years (a long time) and never saw a sign “USE INDOOR VOICES”. Otherwise, a pleasant puzzle for a Saturday toughie.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s more of a thing the principal or a teacher hisses at the students than a sign, Bob and Gareth. Audible warning, not printed.

  17. Art Shapiro says:

    Be glad you don’t have Carl’s Jr. outlets near you – as a connoisseur of hamburgers, I’ll offer a fairly-informed opinion that their stuff is remarkably wretched. They’re all over the place here in Southern California.

    I had a fairly rocky time with the Saturday puzzle, and was reduced to DuckDuckGo-ing several clues. Even the operatic character wasn’t, embarrassingly, in my sphere of knowledge. After a pretty tough morning of cycling, I was hoping for mercy today. Nope. And the struggle wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

  18. placematfan says:

    Crossword blogs rock.

  19. Greg says:

    Saturday NYT a struggle with (like many others) the NE the last to fall. A lot of walkaways needed to clear the mind. Me kinda likey. Love “guyliner,” which I’d never heard of.

  20. sandirhodes says:

    “Here’s hoping there aren’t any Seattle natives/basketball fans reading this.”

    Seattle natives/basketball fans need to get over it.

  21. sbmanion says:

    I googled highest calorie fast food hamburgers and the winner is indeed the THICKBURGER (Hardee’s label), although I personally find the Five Guys offering tough to top:


  22. CY Hollander says:

    Is it the intersection of clues, or is it the headache?

    I say it must have been the headache, because I’m a far worse solver than you, Amy, but I managed to finish that section, with perseverance. Hadn’t heard of Kurwenal either, but TRISTAN is famous enough that I was able to get that once I had __I_TAN. (My first, wrong guess was DON JUAN.)

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