Saturday, February 7, 2015

Newsday 16:49 (Amy) 
NYT 6:08 (Amy) 
LAT 6:03 (Amy) 
CS 9:52 (Ade) 

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 7 15, no 0207

NY Times crossword solution, 2 7 15, no 0207

Yep, just like Tuesday and Thursday’s puzzles felt switched, the Friday puzzle was way tougher than the Saturday puzzle. (Your mileage may vary. Byron, like Brad Wilber and Bob Klahn, is known for writing clues that vex many solvers.)

There are a few answers with somewhat unexpected “hey, those two letters are their own word” bits:

  • 19a. [Red cabbage juice, in chemistry class], PH INDICATOR. I don’t recall cabbage juice being involved, so for the longest time I thought this was a chemical name starting with PHIN—.
  • 22a. [Where “Desperately Seeking Susan” appears in the film of that name], PERSONAL AD. A gimme.
  • 25a. [Moniker after a lifestyle change], NEW ME. Before getting the crossing, I pondered whether this was NEW MR or NEW MS.
  • 44a. [Ball boy?], DESI ARNAZ, JR. Perfect little tricky clue. Nice hookup with the crossing double-Z’s.
  • 49a. [Part of a suspended sentence?], EM DASH. Terrific clue—the sort I like to see.
  • 50a. [Banquet offering], TV DINNER. Anyone still buying those?
  • 30d. [The planet in the sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet”], ALTAIR IV. Needed all the crossings.
  • 34d. [Avery product for note-takers], HI-LITER. Didn’t know that was a brand name, despite my fondness for office supplies.

Also did not know:

  • 7a. [Hit radio comedy about a bridge-playing couple], EASY ACES. Wish that “ace” didn’t also appear in the clue for ELEVEN, [Ace high?].
  • 26a. [Cavaradossi’s lover], TOSCA. Guessed TOSCA because the clue name (which I’d never seen, to my recollection) looked operatic.
  • 27d. [___ Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers], LEVI’S. For real?
  • 1a. [Ameche’s “Moon Over Miami” co-star, 1941], GRABLE. Easy enough to piece together the old-time name with some letters in place, but had no idea without some crossings.

Liked the TRIBAL NAME clued by way of Madiba/Mandela getting twice as many squares as BOTHA.

Holy cats, this is a 64-worder? There’s a Roman numeral (CLI, [First noncanonical psalm in the Bible]), abbrevs ATH and EDT, and … that’s about it for blah fill. VERY MILD is a bit blah, too. It bears noting that Byron is one of those constructors who fills his grids based on what’s in his head more than what’s in his word list, so this isn’t smooth because he’s a power user of Compiler and word lists, it’s smooth because he honed the fill till he had it just so.

Other likes:

  • BROUHAHA, PRICE CUT, WEAK SPOT, SEA GLASS, LONDON AREA, PIZZAS/RAZZES, BOB KERREY.
  • 23a. [Lee label, for short], GEN’L. Robert E. Lee, not Lee jeans.
  • 37d. [Holders of pieces of eight?], PIZZAS. I prefer pizza cut into squares.

4.5 stars from me. Byron! Please return to your themeless-making frequency of yore.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 2 7 15

LA Times crossword solution, 2 7 15

Okay, I don’t get it. This is a 72-worder so it should be possible to wrangle some juicy fill, and instead it’s rather dry and has a surprisingly large number of crosswordese-type entries.

Here are the things I did like:

  • 1a. [Three-volume biography of Winston Churchill], THE LAST LION. Didn’t know it at all, glad to learn it.
  • 35a. [Lucrative venture], GOLD MINE. Literally and figuratively.
  • 41a. [Bolivian president Evo], MORALES.With a 3-letter, mostly-vowels first name, I was surprised to get his last name instead.
  • 38d. [“For certain”], OF COURSE. Sure.
  • 13d. [Organ with scales], PINE CONE. Almost put in NOSE CONE when I had the last 5 letters. Was not considering plant organs, just scaled fish and musical instruments.
  • 22d. [Would-be designer, perhaps], ART MAJOR.
  • 34d. [Alphabetical orders?], BLTS. Cute clue.
  • 49d. [Shilling spender], SOMALI. Did not know this currency trivia.
  • 50d. [2003 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor recipient], TOMLIN. Lily Tomlin is awesome. She’s in an indie movie that was at Sundance last month, and she and Jane Fonda are starring in a Netflix series that sounds like a hoot.

In the opening corner, two of the 11s are anchored by dry words that are overused in crosswords—ION and EDSEL. And the crossings, oy. TIE TAC, ENSEAT, IN G, and OGEE, with a neighboring TAE/Thomas Alva Edison and C-STAR? The rest of the puzzle was going to need to sparkle to win me back after that corner. N.CAR. and TER (as I’ve said before, I’ve yet to find anyone who writes prescriptions who has ever jotted “ter” on a prescription pad) lost me in the southwest, ENTR in the southeast, RUER in the middle.

3.25 stars from me. Wanted less OGEE et al, more good stuff.

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 2 7 15 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 2 7 15 “Saturday Stumper”

Oof! This one was tough. It leaves me unbowed but bloody. After 10 minutes, I had the whole left side filled in, and the right side was refusing to yield. I took a short break, came back and filled in the upper right section in under 2 minutes. The southeast quadrant took almost 5 minutes to wrestle with, on top of the previous time spent reading clues and coming up blank. Turned out I hadn’t read the 52d clue, [“Crisantemo o camelia”], chrysanthemum or camellia in Spanish, and getting FLOR was what helped me finally crack that corner. Here were the wicked parts:

  • 36d. [Annual cutting consideration], VASE LIFE. Annual = flower of an annual plant. I have not once in my life seen the phrase VASE LIFE, so having VAS in place was not remotely helpful.
  • 45a. [Cell user], BEE. Honeycomb cells.
  • 55a. [Ones with Pinterest strategies], ETAILERS. I pay no mind to Pinterest.
  • 59a. [Regards with revulsion], SNEERS AT. That overstates things. Contempt or disdain is a milder thing than outright revulsion.
  • 57a. [Passing remark], NOT FOR ME. Contrived phrase? “None for me” is far, far more familiar.
  • 51d. [__ doubles], MEN’S. Considered BODY, got nowhere with that.

Elsewhere, these slowed me down:

  • 18a. [Site of Schindler’s factory], CRACOW. Surprised to see a non-KRAKOW spelling.
  • 9d. [Part of a simple expression], ABC. What, as in “easy as ABC”? Clue seems a bit of a stretch.
  • 1a. [Mob film written by Oliver Stone], SCARFACE. Didn’t know/recall that he’d written that before becoming a noted director.
  • 17a. [Some street scenes], URBAN ART. Not a familiar phrase.
  • 27a. [Most-watched scripted US series since 2010], NCIS. Without the crossings, despite my working in the field of pop culture crosswords, I was drawing a blank.
  • 41a. [What the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in], JARS. Had CAVE.
  • 53a. [Alta California land grant], RANCHO.
  • 56a. [Didn’t root quietly, maybe], OINKED. Pigs rooting in the ground. Nice clue!
  • 44d. [They’re lifted before breaks], RACKS. On a pool table.
  • 3d. [Emperor name in many Indian restaurants], AKBAR. Say what? Chicago has over 200 Indian restaurants and not a one has “Akbar” in the name.
  • 32d. [Some emoticons], SMIRKS. I wasn’t aware that there was a typed rendition of a smirk. Apparently :-, counts as a smirk. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that one used.
  • 27d. [Numbers written on an important delivery?], NOELS. Christmas songs written about Christ’s birth. Tricky/playful clue.

Favorite fill in this tough 70-worder: BLUE LAW, TV ANTENNA, MIA FARROW, ANGEL HAIR. Also liked the FEN clue, 40a. [Rushes home]—it didn’t trick me because the NYT puzzle had a similar use of “rushes. Overall rating, let’s see … the fill is pretty solid, no junk in there; the clues were mostly fair but so tough. Let’s go with 4.2 stars.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “First Shift”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.07.15: "First Shift"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.07.15: “First Shift”

It’s the weekend, everyone! How’s everybody doing? Well, we have a very interesting concept and theme for today’s crossword, offered up to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In it, three common 15-letter phrases are altered by one letter, the first letter, and are rearranged (shifted downward) in each of the three answers, creating some intentional malapropism madness. Or something like that.

  • DENTAL AGREEMENT (17A: [Head nod, because one’s mouth is open?]) – From “rental agreement.”
  • RENTAL BREAKDOWN (39A: [Job for a Hertz mechanic?]) – From “mental breakdown.”
  • MENTAL HYGIENIST (61A: [Person who helps you clean up your fantasies?]) – From “dental hygienist.”

Before anything else, one of the entries today, BLOG, reminds me of how awesome it is to get to write a review of the CS/WaPo puzzles on a daily basis, and can’t thank you enough for reading my take on them here on this amazing blog (55A: [Modern diary, of a sort]). OK, enough with the emotions and the Kleenex…back to crosswords! Had to do a double take before convincing myself that SULFA was correct (5D: [Antibacterial drug]). That definitely was not down my alley, though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of it and didn’t lock it into memory at some point. OLD YELLER is definitely down my alley, though born many years after its original release, and it was pretty solid fill in today’s grid (34D: [Classic boy-and-dog Disney film of 1957]). I’ve been living in NYC all my life, and with all of the delicacies that I’ve consumed, I’m not proud to say that I’ve never had a GYRO in my life (57D: [Greek fast food]). That has to change soon, now doesn’t it?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DREAM TEAM (9D: [Superstar Olympic hoopsters, with “the”]) – Can you name the 12 players on the 1992 United States men’s basketball Olympic team, the first Olympics to feature players who were also playing in the NBA at the time? Here goes: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and…Christian Laettner. Or, in short, 11 current Hall of Fame basketball players and Christian Laettner.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!

Ade/AOK

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34 Responses to Saturday, February 7, 2015

  1. ArtLvr says:

    NYT – Thank goodness for WILHELMINA to start things off, along with WEAK SPOT for a foible… Managed to work up from bottom to top, with GRIPPE the last to fall! A Doozie…

  2. Brucenm says:

    This is the sort of superb puzzle which keeps me coming back, notwithstanding all my expressed frustrations. If this isn’t a 5 * early Oscar candidate, I don’t know what would be. Yes — not as difficult as yesterday, but more satisfying. I don’t know “ruched” and wonder how it’s pronounced.

    I will take “Tosca thoughts” as a command performance, or at least an intriguing invitation.

    1. Yes, Floria (Tosca) and Mario (Cavaradossi) the painter are lovers, but all is not sweetness and light. Mario is working on a religious painting using a Marchesa (whose name I have forgotten) as a model. The first of his two great tenor arias, early in Act One, “Recondita Armonia” apparently compares the beauty of Floria and the Marchesa, thereby evoking Tosca’s jealousy.

    2. The scene at the end of Act 2 is still the eeriest, most chilling, most effective scene in all of opera (at least that I know of.) Mario has been arrested and sentenced to death for treason. The evil police chief Scarpia hits on Tosca; she agrees to submit to him if he will countermand the death sentence; and (apparently) he does so, writing out a document to that effect. A pause, as she sings one of the most famous soprano arias in the literature, “Vissi d’Arte.” As he advances on her, (having patiently waited for her to stop singing), she stabs him in the back with a letter opener, (some say a knife), which was conveniently sitting on a table. Naturally, he dies instantly. She places his supine body in the sign of the cross and lights candles at the four points of the cross, (also conveniently available), as the house lights dim; then utters the famous words in a Sprechstimme, “E avanti lui tremava tutta Roma.” (And before him, all Rome trembled.) That was the first Italian Grand Opera I ever saw, as a child, when sexual blackmail was not my forte, but it is still one of the most indelibly seared experiences of my life. There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief required here. For one thing, if he’s that evil, why does he find her consent so necessary?

    3. The greatest conundrum for the tenor and the Director: At the end when Cavaradossi is facing execution just after he sings the great tenor aria “E lucevan le stelle” (And the stars shone) Tosca shows up and excitedly tells him that his life is to be spared. Does he believe her? The consensus is “No” but a tenor who is a also good actor (think Placido Domingo) can make it clear which way he is playing it. The execution (which Tosca believes is a fake) takes place, and Tosca tells Mario OK stay down a little longer, and finally — OK enough already, you can get up now. When he doesn’t, Tosca does the only sensible thing — she jumps off the balcony of the Castel Sant’Angelo, (where the execution is conveniently taking place), to her death. Legend has it that in a least one performance, the trampoline breaking the soprano’s fall was placed too high, and the corpulent Tosca bounced high enough to be seen clearly by the audience after she jumped.

    Special bonus question: What was Tosca’s occupation in the opera?

  3. huda says:

    NYT: RUCHED was my first entry… then SEA GLASS soon thereafter, showing that being superficial and loving fashion can pay off… Really like BROUHAHA and had several aha moments in this one. The top was dead easy, but the southwest gave me fits… WEAKness vs WEAKSPOT was a significant hurdle…

    Bruce, I pronounce RUCHE as I would the French for beehive, as the material when done looks like a beehive. But I think in the US the right way would be “rooshed”.

  4. David L says:

    Definitely a good Saturday puzzle after an up and down week. I went from SE to NW, where I struggled because I had VOTEON for a long time, and I never used red cabbage water in any chemistry class I had.

    A couple of quibbles. NEWME doesn’t seem right as a “moniker,” because although you might change your job, your marital situation, your hairstyle, your general outlook on life, etc, the one thing you’re not changing is your name.

    And is American cheese a thing in its own right, as opposed to cheese of various kinds that are made in America? As it happens I have some extra sharp cheddar from Vermont in my kitchen, which is certainly American and certainly not VERYMILD.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Oh, yes. “American cheese” is a distinct variety that is blander than cheddar. It’s widely available in the “pasteurized process cheese food slices” format. It tends to be sticky and my son doesn’t care for it, despite it being the default cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich in the US.

      • David L says:

        Good thing I wasn’t asked about that on my naturalization exam.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Real American cheese is quite good,

        • Gary R says:

          I assume you mean “real cheese,” made in America, not “American cheese.”

          There are certainly many very good cheeses produced in the U.S. But what is marketed as “American cheese” is not among them (see Amy’s comments).

          • Avg Solvr says:

            Why do so many people, even many Americans think that Kraft singles, Velveeta, Cheese Whiz, etc. are American cheese? Deceptive labeling. These ‘cheeses’ are made to mimic American cheese, while using cheaper ingredients and typically more fat and more salt than classic American cheese. There is actually a law governing what may be labeled American cheese and these products do not fit within acceptable criteria. For this reason they label their products as ‘American cheese food’, ‘American slices’, ‘American cheese product’ or other similar labels, and since they are not actually calling their products ‘American cheese’ it is allowed. Most people simply do not know the difference and think that they are all simply forms of American cheese. People from other countries, who have never even had a chance to discover true American cheese, see these other products in their countries with those confusing labels and assume that that is American cheese, and it is gross! Americans know nothing of cheese! What a tragedy this misunderstanding is.”

    • pannonica says:

      “How do you like the NEW ME?”

      Yes, American cheese is a ‘processed cheese food product’, or some quite similar designation. It’s what Kraft Singles are. I wanted to fill in that spot with INEDIBLE.

      addendum: Note to self: refresh page before commenting.

      • David L says:

        I understand how you can use the phrase “new me” — it’s just that it doesn’t, in my mind, qualify as a moniker, for reasons I find hard to convey. I guess I take a moniker to be an actual name, not a descriptive phrase. Or something.

  5. Byron says:

    Thanks to the LAT Silk, I won’t ever see NASCAR again without thinking N. & S. Car.

  6. 7d5a9b1 says:

    I seem to be sadly out of step with everybody. I found today’s puzzle twice as hard as yesterday’s. Why? 22 Across, PERSONALAD, required knowledge of a movie I’d never seen. 30 Down, ALTAIRIV, required a specific memory of a movie I’d seen years ago but forgotten. 31 Down, VERYMILD, doesn’t seem to me a crossworthy phrase: why is it more acceptable than, say, “very old” or “very bad” or indeed “very” anything? 5 Down, LONDONAREA, seems only a little less dubious. “Bay Area” is a phrase, but is “London area” any more a phrase than that which might be created by adding the word “area” to the name of any city? Can “Boston area” be a crossword answer? Would a puzzle that crossed PEORIAAREA with VERYBAD be a praiseworthy puzzle? I’m confused.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Agree on VERY MILD. “VERY + any random adjective” is not a great option. As for PERSONAL AD, the “desperately seeking” part is a hint that points to a PERSONAL AD, no?

      • 7d5a9b1 says:

        Yes. You’re right about PERSONALAD. Maybe I’d have got it sooner if I hadn’t kept trying to parse it PER something and then PERSON something. But that was my fault. However, I stand by the unguessable ALTAIRIV and uncrossworthy LONDONAREA. Isn’t LONDONAREA almost as random as VERYMILD?

    • Avg Solvr says:

      Don’t feel bad. You weren’t doing a crossword, you were doing a “Quiz in the Grid.” I’d type of all the trivia answers to show how ridiculous things are but I’m afraid I’ll get carpal tunnel.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Back to TOSCA — which was a play before used as a basis for the opera — She was a singer in the opera, but in the play she was a famous actress said to have been modeled on the really famous “Divine” Sarah Bernhardt. In 1905, while performing the title role in Victorien Sardou’s play “La Tosca” in Teatro Lírico do Rio de Janeiro, Bernhardt injured her right knee when jumping off the parapet in the final scene. The leg never healed properly. By 1915, gangrene set in and her entire right leg was amputated, but she continued her stage career on several continents nevertheless. Do read the book “”The Divine Sarah” if you can find a copy!

  8. Papa John says:

    I’m with you, 7d5a9b1, I found today’s NYT much harder than yesterday’s and I had much the same reaction to those clues/fills you point out.

    “Forbidden Planet” was one of my favorite movies from my youth. Who can forget Robby, the robot’s, spectacular entrance and its utter coolness? Robby had all the celebrity of Darth Vader, in his day. I thought I did recall the name of the planet and confidently entered ANTARA IV. I was certain of the IV.

    • 7d5a9b1 says:

      Yes–and Walter Pidgeon makes a great sci-fi Prospero. But as to the planet’s name: I’d forgotten even the surprising 23rd-century predilection for Roman numerals.

  9. Avg Solvr says:

    Sorry, but the NYT was a virtual Jeopardy! round. The logjam of names in the middle SE area alone is ridiculous. Don’t know how I finished but these are the types of puzzles where I feel, in the name of fairness, I shouldn’t be paying the Times, they should be paying me.

    Enjoyed the LAT.

    And why isn’t The Stumper available in Acrosslite or Flash? Somebody rouse Stan Newman from the 1990s.

  10. Martin says:

    Yeah, perhaps LONDON AREA is a bit off. Having been born there, I would say GREATER LONDON AREA would be the more common phrase. Quibbles aside, a good tough Saturday!

    Also, just in case anyone doesn’t already know this: the top left and lower right corners, accessed by all of those long entries (four per corner), is one tough feat to pull off smoothly.

    -MAS

  11. sbmanion says:

    Very tough Saturday for me. I got a kick out of NEWME. I have a terrible golf swing, but every year for my many years of being a golf fanatic, I was sure that the ensuing year was going to transform me into a scratch golfer. NEWME was not good enough. By the fourth week of a season I would be the NEWNEWNEWME, destined to play on the tour, especially if I got lucky and hit a drive significantly farther than my normal bunt.

    I struggled in the S, but when WILHELMINA finally revealed itself, it was fairly easy after that.

    Steve

  12. dave glasser says:

    Levi’s is their brand new stadium in the suburbs. While I still think that corporate branded stadiums are tacky, I gotta say that Levi’s sponsoring the 49ers is pretty appropriate!

  13. bob says:

    Silk’s LAT certainly won’t earn any lexicography awards for thoughtful defs today!

  14. Art Shapiro says:

    May I share a Tosca story? (Nice to have a gimme on a fairly tough puzzle.)

    I once saw a performance of Tosca. There’s a scene where a cannon gets fired, and they apparently had a real cannon out on the loading dock of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. That is adjacent to a large mutli-floor parking structure.

    The cannon was fired, with a huge BOOM, and suddenly hundreds of car alarms went off to disrupt the performance.

    Art

  15. Dave S says:

    Hello, all. On the CS, the clue for 23 across is Period, and the answer is auras. Can someone help me connect the dots, please?

  16. Gareth says:

    The area with 100% opaque clues for HILITER, TVDINNER, KAYS and SIM plus unknown ALTAIRIV and very hard to see WEAKSPOT made this just as hard for me as Friday, only concentrated in one spot!

    And both South African clues, while obvious, were tone deaf. Botha was never “The Old Crocodile”. He was “Die Groot Krokodil”, The Big/Great Crocodile. Madiba is a clan name.

  17. Ben says:

    I don’t think he was going for Akbar in the name of restaurants, but on the menu as in General Tso. Sorry if someone made this comment already, didn’t read as I haven’t done the NYT yet.

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