Saturday, March 28, 2015

NYT 9:37 (pannonica) 
LAT 4:34 (Amy) 
CS 10:19 (Ade) 
Newsday 22:07 (Gareth, Applet) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up (forthcoming)

 NYT • 3/28/15 • Sat • Steinberg • no 0328 • solution

NYT • 3/28/15 • Sat • Steinberg • no 0328 • solution

Solved this one while in a not-quite hypnogogic haze. Perhaps that clouded my judgment. Have to be honest—I didn’t love this puzzle. Felt as if it was trying too hard to be clever. Too many rare letters, too many clues that sway too far away from accuracy in the name of trickiness.

For instance, I felt the repetition of the suffix -IZE (ECONOMIZE, ATOMIZE) almost viscerally. Usually such a relatively minor repetition isn’t particularly remarkable, but when it’s a flashy letter combination it begs to be noticed. And this puzzle has 5 Zs, at least one in each quadrant and a double-dose in the lower right.

The marginally  unfair clues? Hmm, let’s see … well, even the first one: 1a [Hair-raising experience for a beachgoer?] BIKINI WAX; ‘raising’? I don’t buy it fully. Erm … 47d [Like many radio stations] PRESET, 38a [It has rules for writers] NOTEPAD. Okay, I’m not finding much, so perhaps I should rescind—or at least walk back a little—that plaint.

Maybe I was put off by a slightly creepy subtext? 12d [Under-age temptation] JAILBAIT, 56a [Like some broken pledges?] HAZED, the inoffensively-clued yet still troubling 28a [Catch but good] NAIL. More if you care to search, but then again it might be the fault of this solver’s mentality and perception rather than the crossword per se.

On the positive side, there are big stacks—triple nines, triple eights—in each corner, with very little low-quality fill in the grid as a whole. An acceptable number and quality of cross-references. Some very good clues, 49a [Novel opinions, informally?] LIT CRIT was one of the standouts.

So in the final estimation, I can’t objectively figure out precisely why this one rubbed me the wrong way, but it did. Perhaps it’s operator error.

Kevin Christian and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 28 15

LA Times crossword solution, 3 28 15

Lots of lively fill in this one—four good corner stacks of 9-letter answers with mostly smooth crossings. I’m partial to the FAT FINGER (cross-referenced to a TYPO), QUINOA, Roger DALTREY, wear THE PANTS (I think these metaphorical pants can stand alone without a verb), Little League’s MERCY RULE (crossword tournaments have no mercy rule), the recently free-climbed EL CAPITAN, SOAP OPERA, SQUEAMISH, AUSTRALIA, OHIO STATE, and a BANNER DAY. Oh, and also SWEATHOG and LA-LA LAND! Yes, there are some blah 3-letter abbreviations and whatnot, but overall the puzzle’s contents kept me entertained.

Five more things:

  • 10a. [Father of Reuben, in Genesis], JACOB. Anyone else thinking about sandwiches now?
  • 19a. [Sell the scene], EMOTE. See? It doesn’t have to mean “do a lousy job by overacting,” it can just mean “convince the audience that the character is having those feelings.”
  • 40a. [Spray-making co.], FTD. As in a floral spray, a bouquet.
  • 3d. [River in a Burns poem], AFTON. Seen it in puzzles before, still needed lots of crossings.
  • 9d. [Court leader], FOREMAN. Couldn’t figure out what sort of court this meant but eventually the light dawned: a jury foreperson.

4.2 stars from me. Lots of fun stuff in this puzzle, no scowls.

Doug Peterson’s Saturday Stumper – Gareth’s summary

32815 Stumper

32815 Stumper

My biggest triumph was dropping ITTAKESAVILLAGE without crossers. That meant the bottom was mostly easy to solve. Except a few letters, which ended up being the last ones to be solved and which were guesses. I’m still not really understanding those clues. I’m talking about [Planet associated with a Zodiac sign], RULER. I assume this is some astrological babble. I knew fairly quickly it couldn’t be EARTH/VENUS. [Seen above a flood, say], UPLIT is equally mysterious. I was almost willing to believe in SPLIT. Don’t know who ARNESS is. (He seems to be an actor from the show Gunsmoke.) Don’t know what CSA has to do with “Antiques Roadshow” unless there’s an American knock-off version.

The top was much more Stumper-ish. I wish I could tell you why I clung to mAnIlA for SALIVA as an [Envelope sealer]. That’s a type of envelope, yes? Maybe? SALIVA is an amusing surprise in any case. [Opportunity to show organizational skills], ESSAYTEST is an abominably tenuous clue. I presume it means that, with essay questions, you get marks for how you organise your essay into paragraphs? I liked both 15s, a lot, but boy they weren’t going to come without a lot of crossers!

The clue [Spoonbill cousin] for STORK is problematic. The classification of Plataleidae (Spoonbills & Ibises) within the Ciconiiformes (Stork order) is debated and many taxonomists place them in the Pelecaniformes (Pelican order). Bird taxonomy is a bit up in the air at the moment.

4 Stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Call Pest Control”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.28.15: "Call Pest Control"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.28.15: “Call Pest Control”

Good morning, all! I hope you all are doing well and, if I’m not mistaken, I’m currently addressing some of you as you’re in Stamford for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. If you’re there, I hope you have a great time all weekend and wish you nothing but the best with your solving experience. Oh, and if you are at the Marriott and have a couple of minutes to spare, you can say hello to me. Yes, I made it! Played it coy for a long time since I didn’t think I was doing to make it with my reporting responsibilities in Syracuse just the evening before, but I’m here. See if you can find a real tall person in a suit and tie with a black kangol/Irish wool cap on. That’ll be me!

In today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Lynn Lempel, each of the four theme answers end with words that describe unpleasant people (pests), but are clued in such a way that the resulting theme entries are also common phrases.

  • FRESH TURKEY (20A: [Sassy pest?])
  • SLEEPING PILL (27A: [Pest in dreamland?])
  • MISSION CREEP (44A: [Pest on a military assignment?])
  • GROWING PAIN (60A: [Adolescent pest?])

For the life of me, how come I keep forgetting that fact that ELLIS is also part of New Jersey (6A: [Island shared by New York and New Jersey])? It will stick in my head for good from now on, though that didn’t slow me down at all in entering the answer. (Island, five letters, New York…has to be Ellis, right?) I think three different songs have been mentioned to clue ANKA in the past week and a half on here (35A: [“Diana” crooner Paul]). Speaking of music references, I totally wasn’t aware of the numerical album titles of ADELE (3D: [British singer with the albums “19” and “21”]). Appreciated the serendipitous crossing of QUACK (15A: [Snake oil salesman]) and ICE RINKS, especially given the presence of ‘Ducks,’ as in Anaheim Ducks professional hockey team, in the clue (9D: [Spots for Penguins and Ducks]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WAG (11A: [Playful sort]) – I was surprised, yet not surprised, that the tabloid term WAG is actually an entry in the Oxford Dictionary. Here’s the definition: a wife or girlfriend of a sports player, typically characterized as having a high media profile and a glamorous lifestyle. WAGs are closely associated with the romantic partners of the English national soccer team, who have been known in the past to descend upon countries hosting big international events and proceeding to run up big bar tabs and cause damages in hotels while at the event.

For those that are, or will be, in Stamford for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I wish you nothing but the best in the tournament! Also, make sure to have fun more than anything else!! It’s such a party, and there are so many great people that you’ll meet, that you can’t help but have a perpetual smile on your face!

Take care!


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18 Responses to Saturday, March 28, 2015

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    I thought the NYT had a lot of lively fill and some creative clues. LAT was a trivia slog.

  2. Martin says:

    Very lively grid! However…

    … if anyone was put off by the JAILBAIT inclusion/clue, just be thankful that our intrepid Mr. Steinberg didn’t decide to add an extra “J” to the grid.

    Can anyone see where? It involves changing three grid letters total (including the “J” change).

    (Do not attempt this if you are easily offended… seriously!)


  3. ewww says:

    @MAS FIZZ–>JIZZ,SIRENS–>SEVENS ought to do it…

  4. sbmanion says:

    With the Masters coming up in two weeks, it was fun to see BIKINI WAX. Hair-raising does not fit my mind’s eye when I think of that answer. Creating a perfectly smooth surface does. In the 1994 Masters, announcer Gary McCord, well-known as an irreverent CBS golf announcer, legendarily opined that one of the greens was so fast it must have been bikini-waxed. The high muckety- mucks on the Masters committee were not amused and McCord was kept off the CBS Masters broadcast team thereafter. It will be interesting to see if Tiger plays this year. Whatever you think of him, the ratings will be twice as high if he plays.

    I did notice a certain undercurrent to the puzzle, but was not at all bothered by it. I thought the puzzle was quite hard, but worth the effort. I got off to a very bad start with GO GENERIC instead of ECONOMIZE and made a similar mistaken opening gambit in almost every quadrant.

    Is YEAR ZERO an idiomatic expression?


    • Papa John says:

      From Wikipedia: Year zero does not exist in the Anno Domini/Common Era system usually used to number years in the Gregorian calendar and in its predecessor, the Julian calendar. In this system, the year 1 BC is followed by AD 1. However, there is a year zero in astronomical year numbering (where it coincides with the Julian year 1 BC) and in ISO 8601:2004 (where it coincides with the Gregorian year 1 BC) as well as in all Buddhist and Hindu calendars.

      There’s also a video game with that name.

      However, the actual “beginning of time” would have to be year one. Prior to that, there was nothing.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Way back when B.C.E. became a thing, I asked someone (maybe from Long Island or Boston) what it meant, and was told it stood for “Before Christian Error.” I swallowed that for quite a while! LOL

        • Papa John says:

          From Wikipedia: Common Era (also Current Era or Christian Era), abbreviated as CE, is an alternative naming of the calendar era, Anno Domini (“in the year of the/our Lord”, abbreviated AD). BCE is the abbreviation for Before the Common/Current/Christian Era (an alternative to Before Christ, abbreviated BC).

    • Zulema says:

      STEVE, I did exactly that: GO GENERIC, and it definitely messed me up.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I come down on the positive side on this one. Lots of fun entries and very little junk. My noticing the scrabbly fill helped me in the SE, which I found very hard. I put JAZZ (in lieu of FIZZ) and that immediately gave me ZEST and ZINE… The NE fell like a Tuesday.
    Some of the cluing did throw me, though. I have learned to stretch my mind, but probably not far enough yet. And I agree the BIKINI WAX clue is odd. I understand what it’s referring to, but I dunno…
    Can someone please explain the LOL clue?

  6. Margaret says:

    Amy, I’m glad you pointed out the clue for EMOTE in the LAT — it absolutely jumped out at me after the recent discussions! I enjoyed the entire puzzle, from QUINOA to EL CAPITAN to FAT FINGER to RICHELIEU. Terrific Saturday!

    • huda says:

      To an (affective) neuroscientist, if you can’t EMOTE you’re in serious trouble– you would not, for example feel fear, and that may not be a good thing.

  7. Jerry says:

    For BIKINIWAX…wouldn’t “Hair Razing?” be more accurate?

  8. Ellen Nichols says:

    Gareth, yes, RULER is astrological babble, as depending on when you are born during the month, different planets can “rule”, i.e. influence your sign. (I am not certain about this, but this is what I recall from passing acquaintance.)

    UPLIT refers to a “flood” lamp, although these are not often down by the floor. More often seen at the exteriors of buildings.

    And yes, the US has Antiques Roadshow. There are a fair amount of Confederate States of America relics on the series.


  9. Dook says:

    Not sure why, but I got bikini wax as soon as I read the clue. I thought it was all pretty easy except for the upper right, which had a bunch of names I didn’t know. And, yes, jailbait was a bit of a shocker for the Grey Lady.

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