Sunday, 12/13/09

LAT 8:13
BG 7:45
NYT 7:26
Reagle 6:20
CS 3:12

Mike Shenk’s New York Times crossword, “Sometimes a Great Notion”

All right, that’s an interesting twist on the quote-theme crossword:

  1. Break up the quote into one-word pieces.
  2. Embed each word in a longer answer, in circled squares. These answers are in symmetrical places in the grid.
  3. Make most of those longer answers (which are otherwise unrelated) an interesting batch of fill.
  4. Have the quote’s words be inferrable within their sequence so that they help solvers fill in the circled letters and get a leg up on the long answers.

Region capture 12I rather like the approach. It’s not more fun than a tricky wordplay theme, no, but it’s worlds better than a standard quote theme. The quote is by Linus Pauling, the acompanying note tells us: “THE BEST WAY TO HAVE A GOOD IDEA IS TO HAVE A LOT OF IDEAS.” That’s pretty much what a blog pal was just saying the other day—in group brainstorming, shoot for volume of ideas rather than One Great Idea. The group asked to come up with 100 ideas is likely more productive than the group charged with shooting down every idea that isn’t unanimously great.

There are 15 of these non-theme theme answers, which is a lot:

  • 1A. AT HEART means [Intrinsically].
  • 24A. “DON’T BE STUPID!” ["That's patently ridiculous!"] I don’t think Linus Pauling would encourage this.
  • 27A. Full-name LEW AYRES of crossword fame (to me) is clued with this: [He played Dr. Kildare in 1930s-'40s films].
  • 39A. I prefer HECTOR, the verb, to [Victim of Achilles].
  • 53A. Knowing little about Brooklyn but having the *H AVENUE, I started with ELEVENTH AVENUE. It’s FLATBUSH AVENUE, which is a pretty cool crossword answer. [It borders the Brooklyn Botanic Garden].
  • 58A. ALADDIN is a [Wishful thinker of story].
  • 59A. GOO GOO DOLLS, whom I’ve seen on Sesame Street, are the [Band with the 1998 #1 hit "Iris"].
  • 66A. Good answer, great clue: HIDE AND SEEK is an [Activity for good-looking people?].
  • 76A. LAPIS LAZULI, which I keep typing as LAPIZ, is a lovely [Rich blue stone].
  • 79A. STINT ON is the dullest of the theme entries, and there’s nothing wrong with it. [Hold back] is the clue.
  • 84A. [All out] clues WITH A VENGEANCE. Great entry, that.
  • 94A. RATTED hides only the word A. It’s clued with [Turned informer].
  • 111A. BOLO TIES are [Western accessories].
  • 115A. [Cause of Irish emigration in the 1840s-'50s] is the POTATO FAMINE.
  • 125A. A [Frequent Security Council topic] at the U.N. is the MIDEAST. I never noticed the IDEAS amid the MIDEAST.

Mike Shenk’s known for being a crossword innovator, devising new grid designs and gimmicks out of his fertile mind. If it were still Thanksgiving, I’d say thank you to Mike, Patrick Berry, Henry Hook, Peter Gordon, Elizabeth Gorski, Frank Longo, Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Patrick Blindauer, and Francis Heaney (…to name a few) for delighting me over the years with creative twists on the crossword format.

What else is in this puzzle today? This and that:

  • 19A. TOOLBARS are [Rows of buttons]. I’m digging WordPress’s superior toolbars after years of using Blogger.
  • 23A. [Setting setting] wanted to be the west, where the sun sets, but it’s the TABLETOP.
  • 47A. CABLE is a [Remote possibility?]. Our other key buttons on the top of the remote control are TV and AUX.
  • 56A. [Unstressed] clues ATONIC. Needed the crossings for this puppy. Is this about music? Poetry?
  • 75A. I never call anyone a [Muttonhead], but an ASS? On occasion.
  • 1D. ATTICA is the [Region of Greece containing the capital], Athens. The Latin Atticus means “relating to Athens or Attica,” and is also the name of my cute nephew.
  • 12D. [Net assets?] are WEBSITES. Have you bookmarked this one?
  • 16D. [Deck spots] are the PIPS on a playing card.
  • 42D. [She won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a man], Dr. Haing Ngor, in The Killing Fields. Do not get LINDA HUNT mixed up with Helen Hunt or Holly Hunter. (Edited to say: Crikey! First Zulema corrected the quote, which I typed wrong. Then she came back to say that Linda Hunt played Billy Kwan, in The Year of Living Dangerously. Haing Ngor won Best Supporting Actor three years later for playing Dith Pran in The Killing Fields. I knew Hunt played an Asian man, but dagnabbit, I had the wrong Asian man altogether. Thanks for the corrections, Zulema!)
  • 78D. ZONERS feels iffy to me. [Members of some city commissions] would be “members of the zoning commission,” not “zoners.”
  • 99D. I have little memory of the APTIVA, an [IBM computer of the 1990s].

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Ho Ho Ho!”

Region capture 13Merl’s puzzle is called “Ho Ho Ho!” because each theme answer contains two HOs and each theme clue contains the third HO:

  • 18A. The CHOP SHOP is a [HOt car's destination].
  • 19A. “Whitman’s Sampler” boxes of chocolates are referenced here. [Whitman's HOund] is a CHOCOHOLIC.
  • 30A. [Oxford HOnoree] is a RHODES SCHOLAR.
  • 33A. [Chute and sHOot, e.g.] are HOMOPHONES. Nice!
  • 47A. “AUTHOR! AUTHOR!” is a play [Audience sHOut].
  • 53A. [Big sHOt] is a HEAD HONCHO.
  • 59A. HOUSEHOLD is [Like some cHOres].
  • 67A. A tall [Plant with sHOwy flowers] is the HOLLYHOCK.
  • 73A. Remember PHOSPHORUS? [It's luminous witHOut heat].
  • 77A. [A cHOice individual?] is THOMAS HOBSON, as in Hobson’s choice. That means having the choice to take a single option or not, as in “take it or leave it.”
  • 93A. [Do (something) tHOroughly] clues the lively GO WHOLE HOG.
  • 95A. [IdaHO's "Niagara of the West"] is the SHOSHONE FALLS.
  • 108A/111A. [A seasonal tHOught] is HOME FOR THE / HOLIDAYS.

The grid kinda looks like a big snowball with the rounded-off corners, doesn’t it?

Before I read the clue for 14A, I had *OOLAI* and filled in KOOLAID. Whoops, it’s COOL AIR that’s [What a weather-map arrow might indicate]. 14D kept me guessing for a bit; [Some intro?] is CHROMO-, as in chromosome. 94D: [Porta-pooch?] clues LAPDOG, though the teeniest dogs these days are called “teacup dogs.” 64D’s clue is [Prefix for the square root of this clue], and the square root of 64 is 8, so the answer is OCTO.

Not much in the way of challenge or giggles in this puzzle, but also no real trouble spots and that counts for a lot.

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Chow Line”

Region capture 14This one’s got a straight-up quote theme. It’s not a quote I’ve seen before, and it’s funny, but…it’s still a quote theme. As ORSON WELLES once said, “MY DOCTOR / TOLD ME TO STOP HAVING / INTIMATE DINNERS / FOR FOUR UNLESS THERE / ARE THREE / OTHER PEOPLE.” I just read the quote to my husband and he laughed.

Best resonance between answers: “I COULDN’T” ([Humble gift-recipient's reply]) vs. “SHOULD I?” ([1952 Four Aces hit]). (Minus one point for the FOUR in the quote duplicated in the latter clue.)

Toughest word to get: 57A: [Papal seal] is BULLA.

Cutest neighbors: Don QUIXOTE beside TUNGSTEN filaments. Surely I’m not the only one who likes that combo?

The Brady Bunch allusion: “YES, WE Have No Bananas.”

Joon Pahk’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Teeing Off”

Region capture 15It’s always cool when a member of the Crossword Fiend blogging team has a puzzle published. (Joon self-published a fun—but not easy—themeless puzzle here this week, too.) There was some discussion at the forum recently about when golfers shout “Fore!” In this puzzle’s theme, FORE is inserted at the beginning or in the middle of assorted phrases to create goofball phrases clued accordingly:

  • 23A. [Sharp rock used by early hominids?] is a BLADE FORERUNNER. I still haven’t seen Blade Runner, though I hear good things about it.
  • 33A. If you FOREGO NUTS, you might [Choose Mounds over Almond Joy?]. I would rather forego coconut, if you don’t mind. “Go nuts” is a fun base phrase.
  • 53A. It took me a while to figure out the base phrase for this one. FOREVER BENDING is clued [Like the elbow of Rodin's "The Thinker"?]. “Verb ending” is the original phrase here.
  • 70A. “Don’t be a stranger” breaks up its last word to become DON’T BE A FOREST RANGER, or [Anti-park service career advice?]. My husband’s college roommate went on to become a forest ranger. Probably not a lot of weekly staff meetings in that job, eh?
  • 87A. This one’s funny. [According to predictions in the show "Medium"?] clues AS FORESEEN ON TV. Gotta love any reference to the cheeseball “as seen on TV.”
  • 103A. HIT FOREMAN (George Foreman) is clued as [What Ali did often at the Rumble in the Jungle?] Nice spin on “hitman.”
  • 119A. An ALL-STAR FORECAST means ["Clear skies tonight," to an astronomer?]. I’ve always been fond of anything “all-star,” like the casts of those ’70s disaster movies.

There are lots of fun clues and answers in the rest of the fill. Like these:

  • The first two Across answers are JEEZ and JAZZ, the former being clued as [Archie Bunker oath]. Say it with me: “Aw, jeez!”
  • A lot of sports fill. Generally the sort of stuff I’ve picked up from (a) my husband and (b) crosswords. Maybe too much for some folks, maybe a delight to sports nuts.
  • 115A. ERIC IDLE, full name. ["Spamalot" co-creator]. My favorite Monty Python case member when I was younger.
  • 130A. LIPS are [Reading material for some?]. If you’re talking to someone who’s hard of hearing, don’t hold your hand, a restaurant menu, or anything else in front of your mouth. You know what lip-reading’s good for? You always know when people are cussing on the basketball court on TV.
  • 4D. Never seen a clue like [12-part belt] for the ZODIAC. A belt of constellations? Is it continuous? Technically, “twelve” should be spelled out at the beginning of a clue, if this is following standard editing guidelines.
  • 10D. Love this one! REN of Ren & Stimpy is the ["You eediot!" speaker of cartoons]. Just in case you ever need to know Ren’s breed for another crossword, I’ll tell you: he’s an asthma-hound chihuahua.
  • 13D. [4 Seasons hit of 1963] is “MARLENA.” Don’t know it. The group’s name is the Four Seasons, though—no numeral.
  • 15D. ALBANY, NY is a [Capital west of Boston, MA]. I usually like the city/state abbrev entries.
  • 51D. Trivia: PAVAROTTI is the [Vocalist who gave his farewell performance at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin].
  • 54D. Fresh clue for ETONS: [Jackets facetiously called bum-freezers].
  • 86D. BEEFCAKE is clued as [Some women's mag photos]. Not a lot of “women’s’ mags” featuring beefcake, though.
  • 108D. HARPO Marx is the [Curly-haired pantomimist]  in the puzzle.

Whoops, shouldn’t have an AUTO in the grid and clue SEDAN as a [Family auto]. at least they’re on opposite ends of the grid.

Updated Sunday afternoon:

I slept in this morning and then had a leisurely breakfast/brunch at m. henry (“blackberry bliss cakes” are worthy of their name). Next thing I know, it’s 3:00 in the afternoon. Not sure how that happened. Perhaps there was an alien abduction?

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”

Today’s constructor was featured in a British Columbia newspaper on Friday. He’s a cab driver who’s been making crosswords since the ’80s and, as regular themeless solvers know, he has long specialized in stacked 15s. (Today’s offering has triple stacks at the top and bottom of the grid.)

Funniest part of the article: Where Will Shortz identifies one of his favorite clues as coming from an M.A.-S. crossword, and M.A.-S. says that was Will’s clue!

Region capture 16What’s in today’s puzzle? These:

  • 16A. IT TAKES A VILLAGE is the Hillary Rodham [Clinton bestseller of 1996].
  • Two movie titles: 17A: MARRIED TO THE MOB is a Michelle Pfeiffer/[Matthew Modine comedy of 1988], and 46A: ENEMY OF THE STATE is, besides the title of a thriller, an [Intelligence concern].
  • 26A. [Kind of score] clues SAT, as in a score on the standardized test called the SAT.
  • I bet at least a few people tried NURSE for 33A: [White-hatted worker] even though nurses did away with the caps years ago. R.N.’S are down below at 43A: [Hosp. staffers].
  • 51A. I prefer Sinbad the comedian and Popeye the sailor man to SINBAD THE SAILOR, a [Title role for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in 1947].
  • 6D. GEE is clued as a [Thou], “G” being short for “grand” which means “a thousand bucks.” A commenter noted the other day that the money is a “G” and not a “gee,” so this is one of those problematic spelled-out-letter entries that drive some people bonkers.
  • 7D. ESD? Short for Esdras? [Either of two books of the Apocrypha (abbr.)].
  • 13D. Buffy! [Buffy's quarry] is VAMPIRES. She has superior slaying skills, you know.
  • 30D. [Orb sparkler] is a JEWEL, an orb being a monarch’s fancy golden globe.
  • 31D. SAMISENS are [Instruments that literally mean "three flavor strings"]. I think I learned about samisens in Memoirs of a Geisha.
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16 Responses to Sunday, 12/13/09

  1. Zulema says:

    The quote reads:

    “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

  2. Zulema says:

    Linda Hunt won her supporting role Oscar for playing Billy Kwan in “The Year of Living Dangerously.” (I was about to add this to my previous post but a phone call interfered and I lost what I was writing, so there are two comments)

  3. Gareth says:

    Thank you circles you allowed me to get LEWAYRES! Oh, and HIDEANDSEEK is clue-of-the-week stuff!!

  4. Jan (danjan) says:

    Congrats, joon, on creating a puzzle that was a fun solve, and provided many smiles as the theme answers emerged!

  5. ktd says:

    I particularly enjoyed the theme in today’s NYT, in part because I knew the quotation immediately upon counting out the circled squares so I just filled those in first. But it’s also a timely quotation theme as this past week the Nobel Prize award ceremonies were held and Pauling was a two-time Nobelist (Chemistry and Peace). Though brilliant, Pauling, like most scientists, probably had more failures than successes in his career (most notably losing out to Watson and Crick in correctly describing the structure of DNA). In my opinion his quotation stands as a great mantra not only for scientists but for anyone engaged in an activity that requires a lot of critical thought input.

  6. LARRY says:

    Pauling was sure that dna was a SINGLE helix. That was his biggest bad idea.

  7. ledfloyd says:

    i really enjoyed the LAT puzzle this week. excelent fill. even if the ZEREX/ZEENA/ZENOs crossing gave me a headache. filling in DRUG instead of EXAM and RIGA instead of ROMA didn’t help things. obviously wasn’t thinking on the latter.

  8. Steve Manion says:

    Two great antiwar movies are ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and PATHS OF GLORY. I remember being moved by ALL QUIET because everyone seemed to die. The movie starred Lew Ayres, whom I as totally unfamiliar with at the time, but whose name I have remembered ever since. Did anyone else run into trouble with AN ACE rather than A CARD?

  9. Evad says:

    Yes Steve, I had the same first impression with AN ACE. Gave me fits in that area…

  10. Gareth says:

    CS: If anyone’s still here, also enjoyed that article (thanks Nancy Shack!). No comment on the difficulty, Amy? The puzzle felt mostly like one of the easiest themelesses I’ve done, despite not getting any of the 15s off the bat, either. Just battled, but really battled in the bottom-right to put in the last few squares. Am I the only one who felt TIPSY and “stewed” aren’t synonyms??? To me stewed is more severely inebriated heading for “paralytic”. Not a big fan of Bible book abbr.’s, since they don’t seem to be in anyway standardized, each edition just sort of comes up with it’s own! But still, a delightful puzzle!

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gareth, doesn’t my 3:12 solving time stand on its own? Yeah, this puzzle was as challenging as an easy Wednesday NYT. I, too, resisted putting in TIPSY when I had the Y because I’m never, ever stewed but it’s easy to get tipsy with one drink.

  12. Quentinc says:

    Joon, terrific puzzle — the most enjoyable LAT puzzle I’ve done in recent memory! I laughed out loud at “Don’t be a forest ranger” and “as foreseen on TV,” something that almost never happens with crosswords.

  13. Martin says:

    Joon,

    How did you resist SKINCARE?

  14. Sam Donaldson says:

    Loved all of the puzzles today. I was just flying through the NYT (by my standards, which most geologists refer to as “glacial”), having figured out the quotation fairly early and using the words to help crack the longer entries in which they were embedded. And then came 77D.

    Have A CARD up one’s sleeve?? A CARD?? I swear on every holy text of every religion I know that I’ve only heard of having AN ACE up one’s sleeve. C’mon – who would carry a deuce or a four up one’s sleeve? This ended up costing me about 4 or 5 extra minutes. Oh well, it was still a most enjoyable solve. I know Mike has more ACES (dammit) up his sleeve, so I look forward to his next offering.

  15. joon says:

    thanks everybody! i’m glad this one seems to have been well-received. i don’t remember all the details about the construction … it was well over a year ago. the germ of the theme was DON’T BE A FOREST RANGER, and (as those of you with great memories might be able to guess) i was inspired by patrick berry’s amazing splits and mergers NYT sunday from march of 2008.

    martin, i’m pretty sure i did not seriously consider anything involving FORESKIN, but i did mull over FOREPLAY BILL as a theme answer. actually, there was a matt jones onion puzzle with the same theme (with totally different theme answers, of course) at around the same time i was making this one, but that one a) had only golf terms as base phrases, and b) took full advantage of the onion’s different target demographic, as MATCH FOREPLAY and FORESKINS GAME were among the theme answers. it was a really cool theme, i admit, but i … wasn’t going to go there.

  16. John Haber says:

    I’m not a huge fan of quote puzzles or of selective, asymmetric placement of a theme; in fact, it sounds like right off BEQ’s horror list. But it was fairly pleasant (and obviously very easy).

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