Saturday, March 14, 2015

Newsday 18:31* (Amy) 
LAT 5:38 (Amy) 
NYT 5:19 (Amy) 
CS tk (Ade) 

James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 14 15, no. 0314

NY Times crossword solution, 3 14 15, no. 0314

Lots of juicy fill in this puzzle. Look at that top stack with LOBSTER BIB, the ANIMANIACS cartoon, and “MONEY TALKS.” While I frown at the clue for 1a, [Tie one on at dinner]—”one” doesn’t typically work this way in clues—and I also scowl at the ON ONE, SMEE, RIATA, and BSS crossings, I appreciate a showy stack in the northwest corner. I also like SHELL GAME, full names for TAYLOR SWIFT and ERIC BANA, the ridiculous infomercial SHAMWOW, WHAC-A-MOLE beside HARRUMPHS, MACHINE WASH, and the BAHA MEN. At the bottom is another good Across stack, EATEN ALIVE by mosquitoes/THE INSIDER/CARTWHEELS—but this one’s crossings are much smoother.

Seven more things:

  • 20a. [“The ___ Bridge Disaster” (McGonagall poem)], TAY. All crossings for me. If you don’t know your crosswordese or your poetry, that T from RIATA might kill you.
  • 11a. [Online heads-up], NSFW. Means “not safe for work,” meaning “if you’re sitting at your desk, don’t let your colleagues or boss catch you looking at this.”
  • 18a. [Role for Ferrell on “S.N.L.”], RENO. The folks who don’t know the context here are missing out—Will Ferrell famously portrayed U.S. attorney general Janet Reno hosting dance parties.
  • 23a. [It’s found on the toe of a boot], OMAN. The boot being the Arabian Peninsula.
  • 28a. [Bolivian export], COCA. Coke: It’s not just from Colombia anymore.
  • 38a. [Ones pulling strings?], HARPISTS. My cousin Heather plays the harp.
  • 5d. [Singer/songwriter whose name anagrams to ART OF SLY WIT], TAYLOR SWIFT. I am not aware that she is really known for her sly wit, but there may be some of that in her songwriting. But I always like a good anagram clue—they’re best when veiled. Ooh! The Cruciverb puzzle database page of ANAGRAM clues is great. [Ancients, for instance], Shenk. [Chemical agent for climate change], Gamache/Shortz. [Sensation for Estonians?], Tracey/Gordon. [Horrid glances from Charles Grodin?], Merrell/Shortz. Delicious!

4.1 stars from me for this puzzle with all the zippy stuff.

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 14 15

LA Times crossword solution, 3 14 15

I took a break from the Saturday Stumper (where I’m stumped in the northeast corner) to tackle the LAT. Imagine my surprise when the LAT took me longer than the NYT! That’s a rare thing. This 70-worder has some nice stuff interspersed with some awkward stuff and crosswordese.


Questionable bits:

  • 15a. [School acronym], EL-HI. Questionable because crossword constructors use this term far, far more than the education community.
  • 18a. [Specialty brokers], LAND AGENTS. No idea what this means.
  • 53a. [Kyrgyzstan border range], ALAI. Whether it’s the mountains or part of jai alai, crosswordese that most people aren’t encountering in their conversations and reading.
  • Crosswordese: LOD, EDA, ALETA in particular.
  • 12d. [Like some brick walls], VINED. Is that an adjective? Is “vine” a verb? IVIED has better dictionary support.
  • 32d. [They go with chips], SALSA DIPS. In my circles, they’re just salsas and “salsa dip” is the sort of thing you’d say if you thought salsa was some newfangled ethnic thing rather than a very ordinary spicy dip.

Never heard of 17a. [MSNBC anchor Wagner], ALEX, or 24d. [“Angry” adversary in Enid Blyton’s “Faraway Tree” series], PIXIE. Tough clues for me.

3.4 stars from me. Definitely better than TWO-STAR!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 3 14 15 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 3 14 15 “Saturday Stumper”

I rarely ever use the “check” function in Black Ink (a Mac-only alternative to Across Lite). Typically it’s when I’ve completed a rebus puzzle and I’m pretty sure it’s correct but the software doesn’t congratulate me—and it marks a red X on only the rebus squares as I’ve entered them, and I move on with my life because my solution’s correct even if the editor set the puzzle up to accept only the first letter in a rebus square. I used the “check” function in desperation in this puzzle, having spent over 14 minutes on the puzzle but still having the northeast corner woefully blank. Though I eventually finished up, it wasn’t a satisfying solve. Here’s what bugged me:

  • 20a. [Gut course?], PHYS ED. Why the hell isn’t there any sort of cue that the answer is shortened?
  • 13d. [Latex-glove extra], ALOE. Yes, such gloves exist. If you don’t buy latex gloves by the box, how on earth would you know that aloe on the inside was an option? Never heard of that before.
  • 14d. [Was effective], TOLD. Not seeing the connection here. Anyone?
  • 18a. [Avoiding an engagement, maybe], AWOL. Back in the day when Newsday clues were added to the Cruciverb database, there was usually an abbreviation cue in the clue. Other venues have dispensed with such cues in more recent years.
  • 12d. [Big storms, for instance], NEWSMAKERS. When you provide just one nonspecific example of a thing, it’s not very gettable.

I had PHLOEM and GREAT DANE, and KEY PLAYER and HOTEL, but that 4×4 chunk in the corner was absolutely vacant for so long. Ouch!

Clues and answers of note:

  • 21d. [Familiar Bible setting], HOTEL. In the nightstand drawer. You wanted a biblical place name, didn’t you?
  • 15a. [”Schindler’s List” character], APOSTROPHE. Totally tricked me.
  • 40a. [How sunglasses may be bought], RED-TINTED. Really? Apparently yes. News to me.
  • 57a. [Small-scale school], EELS. So … eels have smaller scales than finned fish, then?
  • 26d. [Bolted-down tubes], PENNE. Cute. Didn’t trick me, though.
  • 41d. [Expression preceding a send-up?], T MINUS. As in “T minus 10, 9, 8 …” before a rocket launch.
  • 53d. [Product tag], -IVE. “Tag” is a horrible way to signal a word ending.

3.5 stars from me. There wasn’t a lot of juicy fill (LEO TOLSTOY and LAST DETAIL stood out faintly) and I found the cluing more annoyingly off-base than delightfully tricky.

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23 Responses to Saturday, March 14, 2015

  1. sbmanion says:

    The Insider was a great movie. It was about big tobacco.

    This was one of the toughest puzzles of the year for me. Looking at the completed grid, it should not have been that hard, but it was in spades for me. I always thought that WHAC was WHACK even in the game, but apparently not. It took me way too long to enter that. I did not know SHAMWOW and it took me forever to see SHOVELED.

    Only the SE was reasonably easy for me. Superb puzzle.


  2. ArtLvr says:

    If I hadn’t pictured a LOBSTER BIB right away, I might never have found a foothold! NSFW was a hoot, now it’s explained… Lots to admire in this tricky NYT.

  3. Jeanie says:

    I had “libater bib” at 1-across and didn’t know it was wrong til I came here. :-P

  4. Avg Solvr says:

    I didn’t find the NYT that difficult, but then again I’m way smarter than pretty much everyone. :)

    Weird. I do the LAT on the Chicago Tribune site and it gave me Sunday’s puzzle today, today’s puzzle yesterday and I had to select yesterday’s date to do Friday’s puzzle. Glitch I’ve never seen before.

  5. Matt says:

    NYT was somewhat harder than the average Sat.– first pass through yielded pretty much a big zero. But just pecked away at it and eventually finished in the NW. Good puzzle.

  6. Puzzled says:

    Found this NYT pretty hard. NE quadrant gave me fits. Still enjoyed it.

  7. David L says:

    The Tay Bridge Disaster is an excellent poem. I draw your attention to the last verse in particular. Not just fine words but solid engineering advice too.

    SMELTS for “Goes for the gold” is wrong, I think. Smelting is all about heating and processing ores to obtain the pure metal. Gold doesn’t form ores, and the processes used to extract it are chemical and electrolytic.

    • pannonica says:

      I hope you’re joking. The poem is notorious versemongering and is a fond national joke in Scotland. Even Wikipedia states that McGonagall “has been widely ‘acclaimed’ as the worst poet in history.”

  8. Papa John says:

    A quick online search reveals many sites and videos of gold smelting, including some that give instructions of how to smelt gold from electronic equipment.

    • David L says:

      Interesting — but the examples that come up under gold smelting seem to be somewhat at odds with definitions of smelting elsewhere.

  9. Brucenm says:

    Told: It’s a telling point. It was significant; it meant something; it was effective.

    The LAT was my favorite puzzle of the day.

    WP: Shouldn’t 37d as clued be ‘malapropism’, not malaprop? Is there any way syntactically “malaprop” can be reconciled with that clue?

  10. klew archer says:

    Another victim of the Nor’easter in the Stumper. Had AWOL and eventually managed to put in GRAYED and GNAT but the rest escaped me. Had HELD instead of TOLD at some point. Kept thinking PHY*** was some kind of anatomical term.

  11. sbmanion says:

    I have an entirely different perception of Whac-a-Mole than that which is suggested by the clue. Whac-a-Mole was one of the games on my son’s handheld Gameboy console. I played it against my son and was astonished at how much more dexterous he is than I am. I forget the time constraint, but I thought I played it about as well as you could and scored something like 65 moles whacked in the allotted time. My son routinely scored 85.

    I have ever since viewed the game as a speed, dexterity and reflex game rather than a tedious exercise.


  12. Gareth says:

    NYT: Great puzzle, but far too easy (say wha? everyone)! I finished this faster than Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday! Long gimmes in 3 quadrants: ANIMANIACS, EATENALIVE (off E of ETC), MACHINEWASH, WOODSMAN. After that it became a mopping up operation. Only the bottom-left had some bite. Still – excellent answers and some excellent clues too. [Tie one on at dinner] is genius! TAY I learnt from reading Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – I’m pretty sure I’ve read every page several times over, but given my approach of “open at a random page” I can’t be sure!

    One big HARRUMPH – SCIATIC is not a type of nerve, it is A nerve. MOTOR is a type of nerve; in an unrelated classification so is CRANIAL.

    LAT: Happy to see “The Faraway Tree” – books I read over and over as a kid. When did these stop becoming standard books that “every” child reads? Shamed I fell for the [Dating term] mis-direct! [Only fair] was also brilliantly simple! Biggest disaster area: ESTATEtAx crossed with oxEn. I studied sheep in some detail and still [crimp-haired] is not a trigger for me. I do know that wool has CRIMP but the phrasing remains weird.

  13. Umberto says:

    Awesome NYT

  14. CY Hollander says:

    If you don’t buy latex gloves by the box, how on earth would you know that aloe on the inside was an option?

    You wouldn’t, but it’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world to guess once you get a letter or two.

  15. Dave says:

    One of my worst Newsday Saturday experiences ever…ridiculous (and sometimes baffling) clues and some things I’ve never heard of…yuck.

    Any help on PENNE being bolted down tubes? Anyone? Crickets?

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