Tuesday, 12/8/09

LAT 3:22
NYT 2:40
Jonesin’ 3:56
CS untimed

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

Hah! This puzzle is going to come in for a lot of abuse from folks who don’t like crosswords to have a lot of you-know-it-or-you-don’t names, but I enjoyed it. Every single Region capture 11Across entry is a first name, and the clues are all [(description) (surname)]. I tend to like a lot of names in my puzzles, and only needed the Down clues for a handful of people:

  • 16A. [First lady McKinley] is IDA. Filled her in with the Downs before I even saw her clue, but I would’ve needed the Downs to get this one.
  • 19A. [Mezzo-soprano Resnik] is named REGINA. That actress who was in Jerry Maguire, Regina King, I could’ve gotten without the crossings, but not this REGINA.
  • 43A. [Country singer Bryan] is LUKE. Hey, look, PERRY/[Designer Ellis] is right upstairs for a little bonus 90210 Luke Perry.
  • 53A. [Keyboardist Saunders] clues MERL. My heart has room for only one MERL, and that’s Reagle. Sorry, Mr. Saunders. I’m sure you’re very talented.
  • 56A. [Skier McKinney] is named TAMARA.

The other 36 names, I recognized. (Zoom-zoom! Easy puzzle for me.) Now, if you had more lacunae in your “famous names” knowledge and had to work the Downs, you might’ve been made grumpy by these:

  • 2D. [Earth, in Essen] is the German word ERDE. Rough for a Tuesday.
  • 6D. RIOS, or “rivers” in Spanish, are [Carriers of water to los oceanos]. Not exactly the most direct clue possible. Would [El Amazon and el Orinoco] be easier?
  • 11D. TIDAL is clued as [Kind of basin]. Still don’t know why we get these “kind of __” clues that appear to be asking for a noun rather than a word that modifies/precedes the key word. Why not [___ basin] or [___ wave]?
  • 20D. The INNER EAR is [The body's balance regulator].
  • 25D. LYCEUM is a [Lecture hall]. Pretty word, but not so common.
  • 28D. Love this word: a SCOP is an [Old  English bard]. If you studied any medieval English literature, you might’ve picked up this word. If not, well, I hope you knew all the names crossing it. SMOP and actor MOREY Feldman, anyone? (The correct answer to [Actor Feldman] is actually COREY, not to be confused with his peer, Corey Haim).
  • 31D. Just one ARREAR here, clued as an [Overdue debt]. Is the noun ever used in the singular these days?
  • 36D, 37D. RHET., short for “rhetoric,” is an [Orator's skill: Abbr.]. [Puzzle completion?] clues the suffix -MENT, as in “puzzlement.” Boy, I hope people know the crossers, [Humorist Bombeck]/ERMA, [Newsman Huntley]/CHET, and [Dancer Castle]/IRENE, because if they don’t, this could be an ugly section.
  • 40D. [Creator of shavings] is a kinda tough clue for the wood-shop tool called a PLANE.
  • 52D. ARCA is clued as [Old Spanish treasure chest]. Arca is also the NYSE’s all-electronic trading platform, devised here in Chicago.

Where do you fall on the names-in-crosswords spectrum?

Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Common ERA”–Janie’s review

A three-letter word gives you six possible combinations of letters. Sometimes the results lead to gibberish; sometimes they lead to a theme. Using the title’s E-R-A as a starting point, Patrick successfully parlays the five remaining possibilities into today’s theme-phrases and -names. While I’m fonder of the former, the latter appear in their entirety–and that doesn’t typically happen with these names. There’s:

  • 20A. “ARE YOU DECENT?!” [Words shouted before entering a dressing room]. Spot on clue/fill combo.
  • 28A. EAR TRUMPET [Hearing aid of old]. Not an EARDRUM SET of EAR DRUMSET–which mighta been why the ear trumpet was needed in the first place…
  • 37A. AER LINGUS [Company base in Dublin], which has probably been patronized by Belfast-born
  • 50A. STEPHEN REA ["The Crying Game" actor].
  • 57A. CHARLOTTE RAE ["The Facts of Life" actress].

There are also a couple of mini-themes of note. I couldn’t say how often ROSH [Word before Hashanah] and YOM [ ___ Kippur] have appeared together in the same non-”Jewish holiday”-theme grid, but here they are folks. And how easily they share the spotlight with STS (and not cruciverbal masters*) [Peter, Patrick and Francis (abbr.)]. I’m willing to bet ["Go] TELL IT [on the Mountain"] (sung here by Peter, Paul and Mary…) has been heard not only in many a folk-song concert, but also in many a folk-mass or -service. And for practitioners of Eastern philosophies, there’s also Confucianism’s and Taoism’s TAO [The path of victory]. (On the subject of cruciverbal masters, btw, there’s also a shout-out to MERL ["Wordplay" star Reagle].

“Wordplay” and “The Crying Game” aren’t the only films referenced today though. Filling out mini-theme number two, there’s also SAW [2004 horror movie with many sequels]; EMMA [Thompson of "Sense and Sensibility"]; and two real classics: The Island of Lost Souls a/k/a ["The Island of Doctor ___ ] MOREAU” (first a novel by H.G Wells, then three times a movie, starting in 1932) and ["Potemkin" setting] ODESSA. Don’t know Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 work (The Battleship Potemkin) or the chillingly famous massacre-on-the-”Odessa steps” scene? No time like the present!

I found that I was UNELATED [Not ecstatic] about unelated. But the likes of ORACLES [Ancient answer sources], POSHEST [Superlatively swanky] and GENTEEL [Refined] did their job in servint to APPEASE [Quiet] me.

Three fave clues? [One of six in 1,000,000] which literally describes ZERO, [General assembly?] for ARMY, and (because it’s so specific and that specificity made me laugh), the fresh [Cousin of Silken Mist Buff by L'eggs] for the well-worn ECRU. “Silken Mist Buff”?!?!

*(Peter) Gordon; (Patrick) Merrell, Berry, Jordan or Blindauer; (Francis) Heaney…

Timothy Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 12The theme’s explained by 61A: PHONE is a [Caller's device, and word that can precede the ends of the answers to starred clues]. “Hand me that caller’s device, would you, please?”

Those starred clues are these:

  • 17A. [Art class supply] is a SKETCHBOOK. (Phone book.)
  • 35A. [Suitcase attachment] or a “Hello My Name Is” sticker is a NAME TAG. (Phone tag—that’s a more colorful phrase than some of the theme answers.)
  • 53A. PHOTO BOOTH is an [Arcade attraction]. Remember when you could feed quarters into a photo booth instead of needing a $5 bill? (Phone booth. Those are hard to come by these days.)
  • 11D. [Dreaded end-of-semester handout, perhaps] is a REPORT CARD. (Phone card? What’s a phone card? Is that the same as a calling card?)
  • 27D. WAKE-UP CALL is a great crossword entry. It’s clued blandly as a [Hotel offering], though. PHONE’s clue shouldn’t include the word “caller” when CALL is part of a theme entry. (Phone call.)

The most troublesome answer in the grid was right up there at 1D: [NYSE units] are SHS, abbreviating “shares.” I asked my husband, who works on NYSE’s Arca, if he uses that abbreviation; he says maybe “shr.” more than “sh.”

I like BOTOX and “SHE-BOP” and LOKI, the trickster of Norse mythology. Less fond of the old-school crossword fill, such as APORT, ASPIC, and STEN.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Best of the Decade, Part 1—starting with 2000-2001″

Best of the year, 2000-01 edition–it’s like VH1′s “I Love the Eighties,” only for a shorter time span and in a crossword.
Latin American fill in the Southwes corner–EVO Morales, EVA PERON, and BELMOPAN, which is the capital of Belize (and has only a few thousand inhabitants). I always want that to be an insane Benelux-style mash-up for BELize, PANama, and…um…MOrocco. Hat of the region: a jaunty straw fez.

Region capture 13

This “best of the year, 2000-01 edition” is like VH1′s I Love the Eighties, only for a shorter time span and in a crossword. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, Matt. The best album, STANKONIA. Best-selling book, a HARRY POTTER title. Top-10 TV show, the excellent BERNIE MAC SHOW. Best PC game, EMPIRE EARTH. Best compact car, the ’01 FORD FOCUS; not sure how well that recommendation was borne out.

There’s lots of Latin American fill in the Southwest corner. EVO Morales is the president of Bolivia, EVA PERON’s musicalized version sings “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,’ and BELMOPAN is the capital of Belize (and has only a few thousand inhabitants). I always want that capital to be an insane Benelux-style mash-up for BELize, PANama, and…um…MOrocco. Hat of the region: a jaunty straw fez.

This 70-word puzzle has plenty of white space with a pair of 8-letter answers in the fill in each corner. Favorite non-theme answer: 1D: ME TIME, or [Personal period]. Today, I have no ME TIME because my son is home from school with a fever.

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28 Responses to Tuesday, 12/8/09

  1. Hoo boy! I can’t wait to see what Rexworld says about this one tomorrow. For me, this was fun – interesting and different. The names were almost all well known. A fine Tuesday puzzle.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Went very fast for me… Downs like ICE CREAM and ERE made sure one had ALEC and ALLEN, not Alex and Allan. Still, not particularly enjoyable… Sorry, Joe, it was probaly an amusing idea, but unless it came 100% names both ways, not a real wow!

  3. nancyindg says:

    You mean that there wasn’t any more to this puzzle than the obvious? I couldn’t believe there wasn’t something hidden amongst all those names, but if Orange says to take it at face value, then I’m off the hook! However, if that’s all there is, then what’s the point?

  4. Bill from NJ says:

    I think Will Shortz just weighed in on The Great Name Debate and I don’t suppose it’s going to make the Name Haters very happy at all.

    My feelings on the subject haven’t changed: Proper Names are fair game and we will all have to make peace with that idea.

  5. joon says:

    “what’s the point?” is a question that’s often raised by joe krozel puzzles. the point, usually, is that it’s cool. more than with any other regular constructor, i get the sense that joe constructs for himself, rather than for the solvers. most of his themes are completely new, but they’re pretty far along the “i wonder if this can be done, so i’m going to try” side of the spectrum. it tends to mean that when i like one of joe’s puzzles, i really really like it, but there are also some that just leave me cold.

    so … this one left me cold. even colder than the 30-degree temps outside. i don’t mind seeing names in the grid, but i do mind lots of unfamiliar clue/answer pairs. by my count, this puzzle had ten of them: SCOP and nine of the first names. now, SCOP is a cool word and i’m glad to learn it. but this puzzle was no fun to solve at all, because i didn’t get to use my brain. sure, there were 41 theme answers, but none of them asked me to solve a clue, just recognize a name. that’s not why i love crosswords. the payoff, i guess, is the moment recognition that all of the across clues are the same. but that didn’t do much for me. more of a “really?” moment than an “aha!” moment.

  6. Karen says:

    I liked my aha moment. And while Amy recognized more of the names than I did, there were enough gimmes there to break into every section of the grid. I’m impressed. Well done, Joe!

  7. foodie says:

    For a minute, I stopped an wondered whether I downloaded the wrong puzzle, from the wrong source– e.g. People Magazine ? (I’ve never done one of those). But as one of the “name haters” I was surprised by how smoothly it went. I was also impressed with the fact that the ENTIRE puzzle is the theme. Not only are ALL of the across clues people’s proper names, but NONE of the downs are. And very little clunky fill. I’m impressed.

    And the somewhat unusual, middle eastern, middle names of my two kids (a male and a female) are in there. Can you guess which?

  8. janie says:

    omar and tamara?

    i loved joe’s puzzle, which (once i had the “aha”) simply made me laugh. it felt like a rule-breaker from start to finish and just tickled me. all those crosswordese-y names packed into in a 15×15 format. too funny!

    ;-)

  9. Sam Donaldson says:

    I agree completely with the first paragraph of Joon’s comment above. But unlike Joon, this one I really liked. For one, I admire the construction: every single across answer contributes to the theme! Yes, that constrains the Down entries to some relatively more obscure words (especially for a Tuesday), but if we’re only really griping about 2 or 3 entries, that seems to be on par with the number we normally critique on any given day. (Foodie expresses awe more eloquently than I can on this point.)

    Second, I enjoy names in my crossword, provided they are gettable. I thought all of these were gettable even though there were many I did not know. Despite some of the obscure Down entries, I clocked a fast (for me) Tuesday time, so I think overall this was pitched at the right level.

    There are, I think, three legs to the stool of any good puzzle fill: lively words, names, and multiple-word phrases. We all tolerate abbrs, Roman numerals, and crosswordese as necessary to make these legs work. I see this puzzle as Joe’s attempt to make a one-legged stool. It’s not for everyone, but I sure as heck admire the execution of the concept. And I even found it fun. Like any art, I suppose, this will resonate with some and leave others shrugging.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thumbs-up from me. Cute, novel idea and well-executed.

    Also, it almost seems to be poking fun at the too-common {Actor Stephen}-style cluing of names.

  11. Martin says:

    I had one wrong answer on my first pass: MARTY Feldman. Plus a few blanks.

    No one has mentioned one more constraint — there are no names among the down entries. I’m sure that would have been a major flaw. I’d love to know if that added any challenge to the construction. Is it so, Joe?

  12. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    After my initial “Oh, no!” I did whiz on through. Did not know nearly all (sports figures, musician types) but got enough so that the crosses put me through. I do not get 59D Tennis edge….. but what the heck. This went in without a whimper. Joe K just couldn’t resist shoving that up our noses, eh?

  13. Peter says:

    Just after I started solving and was slogging my way through the NW corner, my first thought was, “Jeez, the fill in this puzzle is bad, I wonder who wrote it. Oh, of course.”

    I will admit, looking now at the completed grid, it is pretty cool to see all those names reading across. An enjoyable solving experience though? Eh… sort of. It was tough, even after catching onto the name gimmick. I have nothing against names in puzzles, but including them gives each answer a “know it or you don’t” quality, especially when it’s only half the name and the clue is the other half. Unlike say, the OMAREPPS “Mod Squad” clue from a while back – a name just about everybody knows, but is clued in a clever, misleading way.

  14. Peter says:

    Oh, love the site redesign by the way!

  15. Wes says:

    This was my least favorite NYT puzzle in a while. I’m 24 and there’s simply no way I should be expected to know a skiing champion from the 80s, a soap actress from the 70s, etc. Plus I thought the down answers were, in general, too hard for a Tuesday. “Scop” isn’t in the Oxford American dictionary.

  16. Gareth says:

    Well the fact I managed to solve it (and fairly quickly too – though looking at the memo I made two mistakes – LYSEUM and CHIT) says a lot for the quality of construction. I did often have the experience, after getting a name, of “I’ve heard of that first name, but not you,” I’m guessing there was a lot of juggling of names to balance out different areas of knowledge!

    SCOP is crazy unknown, to me at least, but no more absurd than ERNE an any of ton of other words which we all wish we’d never have to see again, but in some cases just plain can’t be avoided, like a 6′X6′X3′ pothole on a country road

  17. Gareth says:

    BTW, is that login button on the right for admins? I’ve got a wordpress.com username, but it doesn’t work…

  18. MattF says:

    Pretty much zoomed through this one, taking about a typical time for a Tuesday. I recall thinking at some point “Sure are a lot of names here, I wonder what the theme is?”

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gareth, yes, the login button is just for admins here. Also, there seems to be a divide between “obscure words with common letters that solvers are expected to learn” and “obscure words with less common letters that hardly every show up in crosswords.” SCOP has, at least, been in two NYT puzzles in recent years (Tausig Sun. ’07, Quarfoot Sat. ’06).

    Krozel further solidifies his position as the most polarizing crossword constructor!

  20. lou says:

    At first I thought there was NOTONE new word in this puzzle but ADWARE makes its debut today. I initially entered BLADE for 40D, Creator of shavings, and had to work the kinks out there. I think you should definitely include this puzzle in your next edition of How To Conquer the NYT Crossword Puzzle, Amy-Chapter heading-Names to Learn. BTW, I like your new format.

  21. Howard B says:

    Knowledge of some names are necessary when solving, that can’t be avoided. While I liked the concept of the theme, unfortunately, I’m not into actor, celebrity etc. names, so I had to do a lot of jumping around and typo correcting, which tripped me up constantly throughout. No particular rough spot, but a slower-than-normal solve overall. The theme idea made me smile, the solving experience not as much.

    Striving for originality is almost always worth the effort to me, though.

  22. Aaron says:

    I’m with Wes above–as a young solver (26, though to name-drop, I guess the Calebs, Tylers, and Olivers have raised the bar for “young” vis-a-vis a crossword), the names were murky. There’s nothing wrong with some names in a puzzle, but this gimmick just spelled out NATICK for me. With SOLO for 3D and no idea about 2D, I couldn’t get any of the NW corner, and even with STAG, I was still stuck. LYCEUM, PLANE, and other tricky words/clues also kept me locked up for much longer than a Tuesday–even with ARREAR as a gimmie (for me), that center was hard!

    Crosswords in the NYT shouldn’t be so insular that they lose appeal to a wide audience. Imagine if they ran a puzzle that was entirely full of vocabulary invented on the Rex Parker blog. Or just newly coined words from the blogosphere/twitterverse. Neat trick, those of us in the know would say, but everyone else’d be snapping their pencils.

    PS. Nice redesign.

  23. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    Hmm, well, knowing a few scraps of British background (Venerable Bede, Thanes, 1066, William and Mary) isn’t much to ask of anyone, least of all NYT Solvers. Boadicea….that might be crossing the line, and SCOP might be right ON the line, but look at this as broadening your knowledge base!

    I would hardly expect SCOP to be in the Oxford AMERICAN Dictionary. Be fair.

  24. foodie says:

    @Janie, got it in one!

    : )

  25. Zulema says:

    Other than wishing to see the like with more historical names, I liked this one. But some comments leave me bemused, or wondering at least: Omar Epps better known that Omar Bradley?

  26. ledfloyd says:

    i liked it alot. also i think 4:08 is my fastest time ever on a puzzle.

  27. John Lampkin says:

    Thumbs up from here. Sam Donaldson’s analogy is on the money. One-legged stool indeed!
    Joe’s idea here will likely never be duplicated since any thing in the same vein would be seen as derivative.

    Also, this is a good reminder that puzzles can be concept driven, or clue driven. There really are no theme entries at all, in the strictest sense of the term.

  28. Joel says:

    I’m really suprised there are so many negative comments about the puzzle. I saw Krozel’s byline and the ridiculous line up of names and that made the puzzle for me right there. Sure, I didn’t know way over half of the people, but it’s nice to have a challenge on a Tuesday, I think.

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