Monday, 12/14/09

BEQ 7:53
CS untimed (J)/4:04 (A)
NYT 3:29
LAT 2:52


Tim Darling’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 17Time zones! I was trying to do the puzzle during a Simpsons commercial break, and my browser was lagging (always annoying) and then show came back on to distract me (commercial breaks seem really short when you’re trying to finish a crossword during ‘em). Plus I had MALT SHOP instead of SODA SHOP for the [Popular teen hangout 50+ years ago], and the L in MALT made me call [Acupuncture, e.g.] an EASTERN RELIGION instead of EASTERN MEDICINE, and then after all was said and done, it took me some thinking to identify the time zone theme:

  • 17A. The aforementioned EASTERN MEDICINE. Solid phrase.
  • 24A. [Furnace, e.g.] clues a CENTRAL HEATER. I’ve seen “central heating” and “central heat,” but not “central heater.” The Central time zone, by the way, is the very best. Prime-time TV shows are on from 7 to 10, and Conan’s over by 11:35.
  • 40A. A MOUNTAIN BIKER is a [Rough-terrain cyclist].
  • 53A. Who doesn’t love the “Asian and PACIFIC ISLANDER” demographic category? The clue is [Samoan or Fijian]. Did you know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is half-Samoan (on his mom’s side)?

I think this is the constructor’s debut. If it is indeed his first published puzzle (or NYT puzzle), congratulations!

Six assorted clues:

  • 34A. [Surface again, as a driveway] clues RETOP. Aren’t paving clues usually for RETAR? Neither word sparkles, alas.
  • 2D. [Like taking candy from a baby?] means EASY, right? Not today. Here, it’s MEAN. But the baby could choke on the candy! And it’s bad for her teeth! It’s not mean—it’s responsible.
  • 10D. A [Gap in a manuscript] is a LACUNA. Not a Monday sort of word. It’s also a cavity in a bone, and any sort of gap in general. Crosswords are great at identifying the lacunae in your accumulated knowledge.
  • 24D. CORFU is the [Greek port where Prince Philip was born]. Are any European royals still trolling their own ranks for marriageable singles, or has that fallen by the wayside?
  • 34D. I missed the first “stand” in the clue, [Where a hot dog stand may stand], and so wasn’t getting the point. At the ROADSIDE? Eh, I don’t like the clue. The ROADSIDE is where you find farmers’ stands selling melons. Hot dog stands…aren’t they on the street corner or the sidewalk? Is this a small-town Americana hot dog stand? I’m a city girl. I don’t know these things.
  • 36D. The piece of furniture called a [Sideboard] is also called a CREDENZA. I love my semi-custom Room & Board credenza, with seven drawers and two doors with a shelf inside.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hidden Charges”—Janie’s review

The “hidden charges” of the title have nothing to do with financial information that’s so often found in the fine print of our credit card and utility bills. The explanation of today’s title is found instead at 62D. [Charge carrier that forms a bond within each of this puzzle's four longest answers], or ION. The “bond” refers to the way the letters I-O-N span two words in each of the theme entries. Here’s how it’s done:

  • 19A. HORATIO NELSON [Trafalgar Square honoree]. In college, I was a glee club member. We did some superb music (Bach through Britten and Vaughan Williams), including Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. If you enjoy classical choral music at all, try the Kyrie on for size.
  • 31A. PISTACHIO NUT [Spumoni bit, maybe]. Mmmm–pistachio! Mmmm–spumoni!
  • 40A. RADIO NETWORK [It distributes programming to multiple stations]. And not RADIO NEW YORK… (Yeah, I can be pretty provincial sometimes. I’ve never even heard of anything called Radio New York, but that’s what seemed to jump out at me…)
  • 55A. HAD I ONLY KNOWN [Leading woulda-coulda-shoulda words]. This last one is the only example of theme fill with more than two words; and the only one in which the “bond” is between “I” and “ON,” and not “IO” and “N.” It makes me question whether or not it should have a mate or whether there “shoulda” been another “IO”/”N” example. Ah, the vagaries (constraints, more likely) of construction!

And while there’s a decided SPARK [Bit of excitement] to the non-theme fill, it comes to us at no extra charge. There’s:

  • the double negative (so to speak…) of “NAH” ["Uh-uh"] and the firmer “I MEAN NO” [Unequivocal turndown];
  • the graveyard pair of ENTOMB [Treat like a pharoah?] and EPITAPH ["There goes the neighborhood," for Rodney Dangerfield];
  • the pool-ball pair of TWO [Solid blue ball] and TEN [Ball with a blue stripe];
  • the pair of fours–[One of the four horsemen] (of the Apocalypse…) for WAR and [Four on some old faces] (old watch-faces…) for IIII;
  • the paired cluing shout-out to a semispherical shape by way of (triple-rhymed!) [Nome dome homeowner] for ESKIMO and [Dome of infamy] for TEAPOT (as in the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s);
  • the paired cluing shout-out to two (very) different Scotties–[Scottie Pippen's old org.] and [Scottie's greeting] for NBA and “ARF!” respectively; and the tie-in they have with [Great Scott romance] for IVANHOE.

Other fill I loved seeing in the grid includes, HIGH RISK [Speculative], SUNSET and its poetically optimistic clue [It's always on the horizon], POIGNANT [Emotionally moving], and that “SSS” combo of Antarctica’s ROSS SEA [Bay of Whales body] (and not NARWHAL).

Did you know Nome has fewer than 4,000 inhabitants, about half of them Native, and the average high temp in the winter is in the teens? I don’t know whether igloos are much of a present-tense home for ESKIMO people.

Los Angeles Times crossword by “Samantha Wine” (aka Rich Norris)

Region capture 18The “Shaddup!” equivalent “PUT A LID ON IT” unites the other three theme answers, which begin with things you can put a lid on:

  • 17A. JAR JAR BINKS is the [Comical character in "Star Wars" films]. Some say he’s got more of a “blackface minstrelsy” vibe.
  • 33A. [Novel by a hack] is a POTBOILER.
  • 41A. The BOX OFFICE is a [Ticket-selling place].

There are two OUTs near each other, the [O.K. Corral event] SHOOTOUT two rows above OUTRANK, or [Be superior to, as in the military]. Imagine if at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, E Division solvers had to salute those in the other divisions. And if the A Division crowd took meals in a private dining room.

Other thoughts: ["Is the gamble worth it?"] clues “DO I DARE?” but I questioned that when I reached the 39D crossing, ["The Wizard ___"]. OF ID, the comic strip, not OF OZ, the Baum classic. NURSE is clued as an [Emergency room VIP]. SILK is clued as a [Fancy hat fabric], but I gotta say I haven’t seen many silk hats in my time. Is Frosty the Snowman’s hat made out of silk?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 21Usually I’m a big fan of tough themelesses—and this one definitely kicked me hard. But I just didn’t enjoy this one. RAISE SHEEP is borderline as far as crossword-worthy phrases go, and to tie it to the fairly obscure word YEAN (meaning “to give birth to a lamb or kid”) offers an anti-payoff. DEEP SECRET, to me, feels like it’s missing a DARK. STATORS’ clue includes the etymologically related word “stationary” (the word from which STATORS was made). [In a vulpine way] clues ASTUTELY, but “vulpine” connotes an underhanded slyness that I don’t see in astuteness. Can L.P.’S be [Spun stuff] or are they “spun things”? Partials (A FEE, ATE NO), the DEODAR tree, U.S. ONE with that in-crosswords-only spelled-out number, plural ACHS…these all left me cold.

Bright spots:

  • APPLE JACKS cereal, which I liked when I was a kid. [Life rival?] clue suggests magazines, but the clue doesn’t need a question mark.
  • “WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?” is a kickass entry.
  • What? BORSCHT isn’t vegetarian? “Beefshank”? I had BORSCHT once, from the veggie Moosewood recipe.
  • DIANE ARBUS, full name, well played.
  • AFC SOUTH, the Houston [Texans' home] in the NFL. I figured the clue was asking for a stadium I’ve never heard of.
  • Ah, JESUS SANDALS. Customarily worn over bare feet, as Jesus did knew better than to wear black socks with sandals. I wanted [Certain beachwear, in slang] to be BUTT FLOSS or BANANA HAMMOCK, but those didn’t fit.
  • SEX is clued as [It's what made you you]. This is not technically correct if the “you” in question came about as a result of assisted reproductive technology.

Brendan said in his accompanying post that he used Mike Nothnagel’s Friday NYT grid, but without the cheater squares. While BEQ’s version has some good stuff, I give the edge to the MN puzzle. Mike probably tried filling the grid without the cheater squares and didn’t like the results. Me, I like Rich Norris’s nomenclature: “helper squares.” Why call ‘em “cheaters” if the goal is the best fill rather than the fewest black squares? It’s not cheating if the result is a smoother puzzle.

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14 Responses to Monday, 12/14/09

  1. Ashish says:

    Would have been great if the theme answers ran vertically. Oops, Eastern time zone would have been on the west coast! Darn. Nice debut, though

  2. Sam Donaldson says:

    Yes, congrats to Mr. Darling for a fine debut! (I’m sure he’s heard the obvious adjective too many times.) LACUNA was a lacuna in my vocabulary, so hopefully next time I’ll remember it.

    CENTRAL HEATING seems more “in the language” to me as well, and MOUNTAIN BIKER could have been changed to MOUNTAIN BIKING to preserve the symmetry. But this is a minor point; the end result was quite enjoyable.

    Still time to make it to the mall for holiday shopping. Maybe I can buy that sweater at The Lacuna.

  3. SuperBowlXX says:

    One of my prouder moments as a solver — coming within 1:27 of matching Amy’s time. It’s a Monday, so I doubt I’ll ever get that close again. :)

  4. Gareth says:

    Certainly a rock solid theme idea – 4 members of a set with just 4 members = perfect! Also less than happy with CENTRALHEATER though – there’s no such thing as central heating here either, but I’m familiar with that concept. CREDENZA is a really cool-sounding word BTW, though it sounds like someone started at “cadenza” and got lost!

    Anyone else here read the trio of books “My Family and other Animals” / “Birds, Beasts and Relatives” / “The Garden of the Gods” about the early life on CORFU of novelist / animal collector / zoo-owner Gerald Durrell; it’s the first thing I think of when I see CORFU, rather than Prince Philip!

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    Gareth – I also think of “My Family and other Animals” in conjunction with Corfu.

  6. mnemonica says:

    Hey, prime-time TV shows are also on from 7 to 10, and Conan’s also over by 11:35, in Mountain time. Plus, if something cool is on that you might have missed — oh, let’s say the Smothers Bros. make an appearance on The Simpsons, and a Facebook friend mentions it — you can wait an hour and catch it. A definite advantage.

  7. Karen says:

    I was impressed that the CS was the hardest of the daily puzzles today. They usually have fairly easy Mondays. This one felt more like a Wednesday.

  8. joon says:

    karen, the CS puzzles don’t really vary in difficulty through the week, instead landing at around a tuesday level every day. the exceptions are sunday (which is a notch harder, though still the easiest regular themeless now that the saturday LAT has regained some of its bite), and whichever day happens to feature bob klahn’s byline. i actually think that’s been monday more often than not, at least recently. i’m fairly certain that today was my fastest-ever klahn solve, though.

  9. Sam Donaldson says:

    The central and mountain time zones have the edge when it comes to watching late-night television, no question. But now that Amy and mnemonica have both mentioned Conan, I feel the need to point out that you only have to stay up till 11:35 to see the true king of late-night, Craig Ferguson.

  10. obert says:

    @Sam Donaldson
    Craig Ferguson fan! Now there are two of us!

    The BEQ puzzle just killed me. Agree w/Amy about it, though.
    NYT, OK; LAT better.

  11. Martin says:

    Amy,

    Unless you’re a clone or somehow a product of parthenogenesis, sex was involved. Gametes and fertilization are the nonrecreational side of sex.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m not sure what you’re saying, Martin. Where’s the sex in, say, in vitro fertilization? Who’s having the sex? Just the guy providing the sperm…all by himself?

  13. Martin says:

    Biologically, sexual reproduction — sex — is the merging of gametes to produce offspring. This month’s National Geographic has a great pictorial spread on pollen. From that article:

    In allowing plants to have sex at a distance, pollen, and ultimately flowers, led to explosive diversification, turning a brown planet green and then red, yellow, white, orange, and all the rest.

    This is the sense of “sex” that I maintain is involved, even if nobody is enjoying it.

  14. Spencer says:

    I would have been within 30 seconds of Amy’s time, except that it cost me another 30 seconds to find RETAR and change it to RETOP.

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