Tuesday, 12/15/09

NYT 3:26
Jonesin’ 3:26
LAT 3:00
CS untimed

Steve Dobis’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 22Oh, no. I’m broken. Two Wednesday solving times in a row, on Monday and Tuesday puzzles? Not sure what ails me. Today, I approached this puzzle from the wrong side to cotton on to the theme early on. I paid little mind to 17A—the EAGER BEAVER who is a [Zealous sort whose schedule may include 27-, 50- and 64-Across], moving on to the right side of the grid where I filled in the last few letters of those three theme answers. When I finally worked my way back to the left, PLACES TO GO pointed the way towards THINGS TO DO and PEOPLE TO SEE. That’s cute—wish I’d worked the puzzle from the left side so I’d pieced those together sooner. While I like that trio of answers, I’m not convinced that the EAGER BEAVER has anything to do with them.

Hot stuff:

  • 11D, 29D. Great 10-letter answers: AFTERSHAVE is an [Item in a man's medicine chest], perhaps, and an AFICIONADO is a [Devotee]. “Diary of a Crossword Aficionado,” anyone?
  • 5D. [Cynical Bierce]‘s first name was AMBROSE. He wrote The Devil’s Dictionary. Here’s my favorite quote attributed to Bierce“Egotism, n: Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen.”—Ambrose Bierce (American Writer, Journalist and Editor, 1842-1914). (The NYT crossword, of course, began in 1942. Can you spot the error?)
  • 4D. POETIC is a [Word with justice or license].

On the “meh” side, much of the rest of the fill is uninspiring. You expect many of the shortest answers to be drab (e.g., ADZ, FRA, CII, RAF. LAS, NAE, OSAS, ELYS, ARNO, and OPIE), but some of the mid-sized fill left me wanting too. RACEWAY is not too familiar; it’s clued as 18D: [Monticello or Saratoga], and on a Tuesday, no less. I’ve never heard of T-STOPS, or 52D: [Movie camera lens settings]. MISSENT is unusual; it’s clued as 35D: [Loaded onto the wrong truck, say] (why not [Mailed to the wrong address]?). ONE FOOT is a weird-looking answer, and I’d rather see it clued as the unit of measure rather than 9D: [What a flamingo might stand on].
For 5-letter Tuesday fill, LAPPS (54D: [Northern Scandinavians]) and OSTIA (36A: [Port of old Rome]) seem on the obscure side (though later in the week, they’re par for the course and seasoned solvers are expected to retrieve these words from their memory banks).

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Best of the Decade, Part 2—covering 2002-2003″

Region capture 1Last week, Matt featured an assortment of the highlights from 2000 and 2001. We continue with the next two years now:

  • 16A. GIAMATTI is the last name of [Paul from "American Splendor," one of Salon.com's 10 Best Movies of 2003]. Harvey Pekar’s oddball coworker in that film is now on 30 Rock.
  • 19A. The KETCHUP BOTTLE! It’s [Upside-down food packaging that made Business Week's Best Products of 2002 list]. It’s great not to squirt the separated-out liquid on your food, but the squirty valve in those upside-down bottles is tricky. Squeeze…squeeze…nothing’s coming out…squeeze harder—oh, crap, you shot ketchup on your food, your plate, and the table. Or is that just me?
  • 38A. Never played WORLD OF WARCRAFT, the [Game from IGNPC's Best of E3 2003 Awards (for Best Persistent Online Title)].  What kind of prize is that? “Best persistent online title”?
  • 56A. The [Mean-sounding Elvis Costello solo album on NPR's Best Music of 2002 list] is WHEN I WAS CRUEL. Everyone really prefers his earlier work, don’t they? Not sure I’ve even heard the songs on the ’02 album.
  • 60A. LIFE OF PI is the [Yann Martel best-seller that won the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction]. Haven’t read it.

Still enjoying these highlights-of-the-decade wrap-ups. I’m thinking the 2008-2009 theme should be really easy!

Five insane answers in the fill: (1) RACHEL FOX plays some teenager on Desperate Housewives. Haven’t watched the show since season 2; is she famous? (2) CON DUE was gettable but I’ve never seen it before; ["With two," in Italian musical works]. (3) C-FOUR is a [Plastic explosive variety, spelled out]; good to acknowledge that spelling out the number isn’t the norm, but…C4? Does everyone know their explosives? I do not. (4) PIG MASK?!? Really? Sydney POLLACK would also fit the P***A** space with those theme entries. (5) ROY G. BIV backwards is VIBGYOR? Wha…? That’s the  name of a high school in India and a band from Leeds. Haven’t seen it in the crossword before. Wait, there’s one more: (6) HUA is clued as [___ Mulan (Chinese legend that a Disney film was based on].

Joel Fagliano’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 2The theme here is a deviation from the usual sort of early-week easy theme; each theme entry is an 8-letter compound word/phrase that fits the *I*E*I*E pattern. Like so:

  • 20A. [Like Tater Tots] is BITE-SIZE.
  • 24A. The FIRESIDE is the [Metaphorical site of some presidential chats]. What? Metaphorical? FDR wasn’t really sitting by the fireplace?
  • 48A. [Lengthy guarantee period] is a LIFETIME.
  • 53A. ["Ditto"] means “LIKEWISE.”
  • 4D. A [Delicate path to walk] is a FINE LINE.
  • 40D. An [Energetic type] is a real LIVE WIRE.

I’d like this theme better if LIFETIME and LIVE WIRE didn’t repeat two forms of the same word. What other words/phrases would fit this theme? There’s a BIKE RIDE, PIPELINE (LINE’s already in the theme), a FIREWIRE computer connection (both halves appear in other theme entries)…what else?

Four favorite clues/answers:

  • 6D. ["Aaay!" sayer of '70s-'80s TV] is the FONZ.
  • 18D. [Bee parts that are really cool?] in 1920s slang are the bee’s KNEES.
  • 49D. [Chucklehead] is a much more entertaining word than IDIOT. A friend of mine uses it routinely when talking about people at work.
  • 15A. TOKYO is the [City attacked by Godzilla]. I hope it’s not too soon for such references. Have the Japanese recovered from those unfortunate events?

A little crosswordese that newbies should take note of:

  • 59A. An AVISO is a [Dispatch boat].
  • 44A. ["Dies ___": hymn] clues IRAE.
  • 14A. RANI is an [Indian princess]. Her male counterpart is a RAJA or RAJAH, and the princess word is sometimes spelled RANEE.
  • 34D. The three-word phrase ” TO A T” is clued as [Perfectly]. Whenever TOAT is in the crossword, somebody somewhere is asking a loved one what “toat” means, or checking a dictionary, or Googling it.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Capture Device”—Janie’s review

In video editing-speak, a capture device is something that will convert analog video into digital video; in Hamel-speak, it is the clue that the device of today’s theme is synonym-based: the first words of each theme phrase will be another word for capture. Ray doesn’t overwhelm us with theme fill, but each phrase has an active and fresh feel to it. The quality shows in:

  • 20A. SEIZE THE DAY [Go-getter's motto]. “Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it?—Carpe—hear it?—Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” Dead Poets Society, anyone?
  • 39A. CATCH ONE’S BREATH [Take a short break].
  • 58A. GRAB SOME AIR [Launch from a skateboard ramp]. So all the wheels are off the ground and in the air…and after which, you may want to catch your breath before you seize the day and go back for more!

Getting down to the NITTY [Gritty leader?], the non-theme fill is equally appealing, with “BANZAI!” [Japanese battle cry] capitalizing on that “Z” in seize. And the understated response? “UH-OH!” of ["Look out now!"]. And how! Another “Z” appears in the crossing of MATZO and KAZOO. With a mouthful of [Passover bread] one would have to use that [Hummer's instrument] carefully…although I imagine one could still manage to STRUM [One way to play a guitar] while chewing.

I also liked HOLOGRAM [3-D image] (which itself may have a kind of AURA [Outward glow]), and BIG HOUSE [Nickname for the football stadium at the University of Michigan]. EAGLE EYE [Sharp lookout] looks good in the grid; and I’m always amused/surprised by the spelling of PIMIENTO [Olive stuffing]. Where’d that second “I” come from? Must have something to do with its Spanish origins.

Another fave cross would have to be SCOWLS and COWL, [Grumpy expressions] and [Monk's head covering]. And while it doesn’t cross either one, OWLS [Barn-dwelling birds] is right there in proximity. In case you thought I didn’t give a hoot…

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12 Responses to Tuesday, 12/15/09

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    ONE FOOT is a weird-looking answer, and I’d rather see it clued as the unit of measure rather than 9D: [What a flamingo might stand on].

    I was thinking [What you might have in the grave].

  2. John Price says:

    Ugh, this one bugged me. I finished in about 3:10 but had one mistake I couldn’t find to save my life, and gave up looking for it after about two minutes. I had LEPPS / ERNO instead of LAPPS / ARNO – which was very funny to me because I can never remember those two even though I’ve seen each one dozens of times.

  3. Evad says:

    F-STOPS, yes, but T STOPS are what those of us in Boston wait at for much too long as winter approaches…

  4. Gareth says:

    Hot aftershave = not a good idea! You’re right that the fill was quite compromised in today’s NYT, though personally I wouldn’t place RACEWAY in that category. Think Laguna Seca Raceway, with its famous corkscrew.

    BTW, is it just me or has the Jonesin’ difficulty dropped in the last 2-3 months, from Thursday+ to around hard Tuesday / easy Wednesday? This despite the fact the last to have been somewhat, well, eclectic wrt theme entries. And yes VIBGYOR is one of the weirdest answers I’ve seen. Can you then use any answer you want and write it backwards???

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve always heard it that flamingos stand on one leg. This NYT was one of the few that I got the first two theme answers, then filled in the others with no crosses.

  6. Howard B says:

    Threw in FSTOPS early in the Times puzzle… always, always check those crosses. That one error bit me at the end, and took me a while to find and correct. Tricky answer for a Tuesday.

    To me, a T-STOP was previously just a maneuver on ice skates/rollerblades where you turn your skates into a T shape (ONE FOOT in front, horizontally) to stop quickly.
    It’s also a maneuver that usually caused me to injure something in the attempt. (That, coupled with a near-total lack of athleticism and hand-eye coordination ended a not-at-all-promising hockey career before it ever began) :).

  7. joon says:

    as evad pointed out, T STOPS is totally in-the-language for bostonians. like howard, i tossed FSTOPS in there and that contributed to my sea of confusion about this puzzle’s theme, which actually continued even after i had all four theme answers correctly placed. so … i dunno. couple that with some awkward fill and you get a puzzle that isn’t one of my favorites. oh yeah, one more thing: the last time i put LAPP in a NYT crossword, somebody pointed out to me that it’s considered a derogatory by some of the people it describes (who prefer to call themselves sami).

  8. LARRY says:

    Fstops are a measure of the diameter of the iris opening in or behind the lens of a camera. Hollywood cinematographers needed a more accurate measure of light passing through their lenses so that the film would be equally exposed when lenses were changed; so they invented the TSTOP – the T stands for TRANSMISSION – that was based on the measurement of the actual amount of light passing through a calibrated set of lenses. Non-cinematographers would never use this term.

  9. John Farmer says:

    I remember seeing that so-called Bierce quote too. He was wickedly funny, but I’m not so sure he could predict the future. In these post-”Wordplay” days, crosswords get a shout-out in the latest McDonald’s campaign. A TV ad has a lady solving a crossword in pen (!), but the next segment has a man filling a copier with paper–and if those two are supposed to be equivalents then I don’t think you’d call it “egotism.”

  10. *David* says:

    I really do like the concept behind the Jonesin’ puzzles, I just haven’t been overly thrilled with the selected memories.

  11. Meg says:

    Are there still any ANALOG TV’s in existence? I did not like the wording of the clue. I mean “kind of TV now” is digital, or so it seems to me.

    Here in Florida we never say that flamingos stand on one foot, even the pink plastic one in your front yard.

    Amy: The new look of your blog is awesome! I love the fruit and the alternating gray and white of the comments are easy on the eye.

    I still haven’t figured out how to get my picture on my post. Any advice would be appreciated.

  12. Martin says:

    Meg,

    An old TV is analog. If it’s still functioning it’s because now it has a converter box sitting on it that converts from digital to analog. Or alternatively because it’s now connected to cable, which relies on the cable company to covert the signal to analog.

    Does that help the clue parse?

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