SATURDAY, April 18, 2009 — Scott Atkinson

THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases

Orange here, and I'll have to make this quick because it's late Friday night and I need to look alert tomorrow at the Marbles Amateur Crossword Tournament.

Crosswordese 101: I'll be presenting some solving tips to the tournament attendees tomorrow:
  1. Make a point of learning today's crosswordese—short words with common letters and lots of vowels are used often. Our "Crosswordese 101" lessons are in every post for a reason: those words appear again and again, so you'll do better if you pick them up.
  2. Look for fill-in-the-blank clues and anything else in your sweet spot. Start with the easy gimmes to get a toehold.
  3. Work off the answers you have. Read clues for crossing answers. Start with less common letters (X, Z, Q, Y, J, K, V, P, etc.), not the super-common ones like R, S, T, L, N, D, and the vowels.
  4. When stuck, look for clues specifying a plural, past tense, verb ending, or superlative. Pencil in those S, ED, ING, ER, EST word endings (but beware of sneaky non-S plurals and phrasal verbs like WALKS IN that end in a preposition, not an S).
  5. The part of speech for the clue and the answer must match. Pay attention to verb tense and number, plural vs. singular nouns, and so on. (Saturday puzzles tend to be rife with intentional muddling of parts of speech. For example, 60A: Yields could mean a verb or a noun; turns out it's the verb ASSENTS here.)
  6. Do you find yourself concocting an elaborate rationale for why an oddball answer fits the clue? That's the #1 sign you should erase it.
Favorite Answers and Clues:

8A: Libyan leader whose name has more than 30 spellings (QADDAFI). So many options when a name is transliterated from Arabic or another language that doesn't use the Roman alphabet. Gaddafi? Khadafy? I'm partial to the Q options. The man has got some nutty sunglasses, that's for sure.

17A: It often has branches (LIBRARY). How many of you tried to get some sort of seven-letter tree in there?

27A: Red Sox pitcher Matsuzaka's nickname (DICE-K). I believe that nickname sounds a lot like his first name, Daisuke.

38A: Manatee relatives (DUGONGS). My in-laws live near the stomping grounds of Florida's manatees, and my brother-in-law just took his kids to swim with the manatees. DUGONGS live along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, unlike the manatees that prefer the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

7D: Deafening silence, e.g. (OXYMORON).

32D: Little dude (LAD). The mismatch between people who say "dude" and those who say "lad" amuses me.

36D: Hardly a free-spirited place? (CASH BAR). Yes, free spirits are a plus.

An Olio of Other Answers:
  • Cats and dogs! We have 36A: Jackal or fox (CANID) and 13D: Catty types (FELINES).
  • 48A: 1 for H, e.g. (ATNO). At. no. is the abbreviation for atomic number, and 1 is the atomic number of hydrogen. The use of the chemical symbol H signals the abbreviation in the answer, I think. Occasionally a Saturday clue will try to trick us by including chemical symbols that are words or single letters. Don't say you weren't warned...
  • 49A: '60s VP (HHH). The initials of Hubert H. Humphrey.
  • 33D: Carpentry guide (JIG). As in a jigsaw.
  • 35D: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" barony (VULGARIA). I saw the movie once when I was little and remember nothing but a flying car. VULGARIA? Like vulgar-meets-Bulgaria? That's...awkward.
  • 37D: Kabul coin (AFGHANI). The people (and the blankets) are Afghans, the coins are afghanis.
  • 42D: The Aztecs' Tonatiuh (SUNGOD). Does Norse mythology have a sun god, or is it too cold for them to remember the sun? Wikipedia says yes, the Norse had a sun goddess. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of Tonatiuh. Quetzalcoatl, yes. Tonatiuh, no.

Everything Else — 1A: 2006 Kentucky Derby winner (BARBARO); 15A: Demand too much of (OVERTAX); 16A: Left over (UNEATEN); 18A: Unstoppable (ONAROLL); 19A: Stubbing victim (TOE); 20A: Took down a peg (DEMOTED); 22A: Rosemary's portrayer (MIA); 23A: Letter-bottom letters (ENCL); 25A: 007 wore one (ROLEX); 26A: __ Fein (SINN); 29A: Traffic stopper (RED); 30A: Out of it (DAZED); 31A: Common Yuletide mail (CATALOG); 33A: Teases, in slang (JIVES); 34A: Saxophonist Getz (STAN); 35A: Life in the Yucat·n (VIDA); 41A: "Platoon" actor Willem (DAFOE); 42A: La preceder (SOL); 43A: Prepare to pray (KNEEL); 45A: U.S. Marine Corps E-6 (SSGT); 46A: Power problem (SURGE); 50A: Like Lake Mead (MANMADE); 52A: "Gimme __!": Columbus cheer beginning (ANO); 53A: Ebbing (ABATING); 55A: Reels off (RECITES); 57A: Encountered (RANINTO); 58A: Thankless one (INGRATE); 59A: Magazine revenue source (PRINTAD); 60A: Yields (ASSENTS); 1D: Downed quickly (BOLTED); 2D: Relating to Space Age technology (AVIONIC); 3D: Novel that begins "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" (REBECCA); 4D: Polar outburst? (BRR); 5D: Somewhat (ATAD); 6D: More valuable, as coins (RARER); 8D: Used another's words (QUOTED); 9D: Attach (ANNEX); 10D: Obsolete (DEAD); 11D: Patriotic org. (DAR); 12D: Make a mist of (ATOMIZE); 14D: Like the Aral Sea (INLAND); 21D: Jackie's designer (OLEG); 24D: "I'd rather skip it" (LETSNOT); 26D: Safari destination (SAVANNA); 28D: CBS's Couric (KATIE); 30D: Managed (DIDOK); 38D: Frequent pizza delivery destination (DORM); 39D: Enjoy the sunshine, perhaps (GETATAN); 40D: Big name in slapstick (SENNETT); 41D: Key before E (DSHARP); 44D: Unleashes (LOOSES); 46D: Seasonal temp (SANTA); 47D: Utopias (EDENS); 50D: Spanking new (MINT); 51D: Heart lines: Abbr. (ECGS); 54D: Like the Wizard's heartless visitor (TIN); 56D: Dudgeon (IRE).


gjelizabeth said...

Good Morning. This was fun and HARD. I had to google VULGARIA to finish as I couldn't get DUGONG either. I took lots of wrong turns, wanting "power problem" to be SHORT instead of SURGE, and "yields" to be RESULTS. I also briefly considered SHARE as the "power problem" word (since it's always a problem to share power) but that would have been a perfect example of Rule #6 above (elaborate rationale). I'm ready to take a big step back and face a nice, easy Monday puzzle!

Joon said...

i didn't know DUGONGS or VULGARIA either. i guessed the U right, but then i tried DUBONGS, with JIB instead of JIG. i know JIB is a sail, not a carpentry word, so that was pretty dumb. well, live & learn.

speaking of learning from my mistakes, i have to say, after botching SENNETT in the NYT a few weeks ago, i was well-rewarded today for learning his name.

Crockett1947 said...

I hope you have an excellent day at the tournament. Thank you for the write-up.

Denise said...

Had to hit "Solve" to get "jig" and "dubongs." I thought I had gone through the whole alphabet with "ji_" but I guess I skipped "g." Weird.

I do it online -- I start with "master level" but switch to "regular" when I am stuck so that at least I get the feedback (red letters).

I have to say, seeing "30 different spellings" made me think that I wouldn't start there, even though I knew who was meant.

obertb said...

About 35 min. for this one, same as today's NYT. Did have to google VULGARIA, though--never saw, or wanted to see, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I'm not a speed solver, as I noted in the NYT blog, but I do, in the words of my esteemed fellow Nebraskan, Larry the Cable Guy, "git 'er done." Or is that Jeff Foxworthy? (Speaking of Larry, he's doing a big show at the Husker's football stadium sometime soon. No, I'm not going. No, I don't go to the football games, either. Yes, that's apostasy here in Nebraska, punishable by odd looks, awkward silences and finally banishment from the "Husker Nation." Oh, well, I'll always have crossword puzzles.)

Greene said...

I found this ever so much easier than the NYT puzzle today. That one took me a couple of hours, but this one fell in about 20 minutes.

Knew QADDAFI off the bat, but went through a half dozen spellings before all the down clues would fit.

Nothing like an arcane film musical reference such as VULGARIA to sweeten the pot. Chitty is an odd film that shamelessly tried to cash in on the enormous success of Mary Poppins. Like Poppins, Chitty was based on a beloved English book (this time by Ian Flemming), utilized a very charming Dick Van Dyke (minus the terrible cockney accent), and employed the same songwriters (the Sherman Brothers).

The film is overly long with enough plot for several musicals, and while portions of it are extremely endearing, the entire sequence set in VULGARIA is just plain bizarre. Children have been outlawed by the child-hating rulers and all the children in the land are imprisoned while a truly vile "child catcher" character stalks Dick Van Dyke's kids (who positively reek of Jane and Michael Banks from the Poppins film) because he can "smell their blood." The children are being hidden by an unemployed toymaker (well naturally there's no work for him in VULGARIA) played by Benny Hill of all people.

OK, enough. Fun puzzle. Now, on to Sunday.

Anonymous said...

How come this says L.A. Times? I found this puzzle in the Chicago Tribune!!! It was hard. Gugongs?!? Thank God for Google!!

Anonymous said...

Actually, a jig in woodworking has nothing to do with a jig saw. A jig saw (most likely) got it's name jig's definition of rapid up and down motion, which is how a jig saw operates. A jig in woodworking is an apparatus to hold something in place and/or provide a template for gluing, sawing, planing, etc.

Dan said...

In the paper, 48A reads "481 for H, e.g." - just like that, complete with the spaces, and "1" was emboldened, too. Confused the dickens out of me.

I should have done it online! :-)

~LA Dan

Orange said...

obertb, I have zero affinity for the Cornhuskers. You come sit by me, okay? We'll have our crosswords.

Anonymous 3:40, the Tribune switched to the L.A. Times syndicated puzzle last month. The puzzles in the Trib now are edited by Rich Norris, and I love 'em. Saturdays are supposed to be knotty—but the rest of the week should feel friendlier.

Anonymous 4:06, I am now picturing a troupe of woodworkers dancing a jig.

LA Dan, what paper was that in? Yeesh.

Dan said...

@Orange - The LA Times, of course.

~LA Dan