Wednesday, 12/23/09

BEQ 4:37
NYT 3:59
Onion 3:57
LAT 3:something
CS untimed

Jonathan Porat’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 29I like the Across puzzle—clever theme with 69 squares, beautiful stacking of long answers in the corners—but the Down fill crossing it suffers from a lack of grace. The theme riffs on the old riddle, “What’s black and white and red all over? A newspaper.” (Red sounds the same as the past tense read.) Four 15-letter theme entries begin with the riddle’s key words, and then the final entry is the answer.

  • 17A. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN is the classic [1970 Santana hit].
  • 32A. WHITE HOUSE TAPES were the [Evidence in the Watergate scandal].
  • 42A. RED-BLOODED MALES are [Macho types].
  • 64A. ALL OVER THE PLACE is clued as Varying wildly]. This, like the three other 15s, is a terrific answer.
  • 72A. NEWSPAPER! [Answer to an old riddle alluded to by the starts of 17-, 32-, 42- and 64-Across].

I love the theme, but the crossings drove me bonkers starting with 2D. [Org. that used to bring people to court?] refers to a tennis court and the USLTA. That’s the United States Lawn Tennis Association, which…I’ve never heard of. There are 31 3-letter answers, including the ugly little box with ABT, SAE, and HRH all in a row. Then there’s 8D: [Gandalf, for one]/MAGE crossing the word MAGIC, to which it is etymologically related.

Ten clues and answers:

  • 1A. “JUST TRY ME” is a menacing ["I dare you"]. Perfect.
  • 10A. [The Hawks of the Atlantic 10 conference, informally] play for ST. JOE.
  • 15A. [This very moment] clues AS WE SPEAK. I like to include “even” at the beginning of that phrase.
  • 26A. [Idol worshiper?] clues GROUPIE. Hey, I don’t think that question mark is needed.
  • 55A. PART B is the [Medical insurance portion of Medicare]. The government could really use some naming consultants to come up with clearer labels for things.
  • 70A. ANAHEIM, CA is [Part of a postal address for Disneyland].
  • 13D. The OKAPI, cousin of the giraffe, is an [Animal with striped legs].
  • 43D. ["Oh yeah...," in a text message] clues BTW, short for “by the way.” Seen in e-mail and blog comments too. I’m hoping BION will catch on—”believe it or not.” C’mon, who’s with me?
  • 44D. [France's second-busiest port] is LE HAVRE.
  • 63D. Did you know this? [Strangely, it's shorter than a day on Venus] clues a YEAR.

Brendan Quigley’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 25

Five theme entries begin with words from a common mnemonic device for remembering the musical notes associated with the G-GLEF, or treble clef. Here are the theme answers:

  • 17A. “EVERY LITTLE STEP” is a [1989 Bobby Brown hit] I’ve never heard of. There are better known “Every Little…” songs out there, but their titles are not 15 letters long. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by the Police, for instance.
  • 23A. “GOOD GAME” is akin to ["Well played!"]
  • 37A. BOY GEORGE! The early ’80s MTV star was the [Culture Club lead singer]. In the decades since, he was hooked on drugs and got weird.
  • 53A. [Serves a sentence] clues DOES TIME.
  • 59A. A [Metaphorical search tool] is a FINE-TOOTHED COMB.
  • 69A. Wrapping everything up is G-CLEF or [Staff figure, and a hint to the starts of 12-, 23-, 37-, 53- and 59-Across].

When the byline reads Brendan Emmett Quigley, you know you’re in for some interesting fill (often some answers that have never appeared in a good newspaper crossword before) and probably some musical references you don’t know. The four corners with stacked 7-letter answers that look like they belong in a themeless Saturday puzzle? Also a common BEQ feature. Speaking of Saturday puzzles, Brendan’s fond of Saturday-style clues. Here are some answers and clues that jumped out at me.

  • 1D. [Some baseballers do it all game long] clues CHEW GUM. Can you walk while doing that?
  • 9D. [Second Amendment-supporting group] is THE NRA. I like it when the definite article joins a word that is usually accompanied by “the” when we talk about it. See also 46D: [What preschoolers learn], THE ABC’S.
  • [Movie trailer?] clues CREDITS. The credits do trail along at the end of a movie. Nice mislead. The *RE*I** letters would also fit PREVIEW, but the question mark in the clue tells us not to take the clue literally.
  • 26D. ["Watermelon Man" musician Santamaria] (MONGO). See? Music. More music I didn’t know. Mongo Santamaria was an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist. His take on Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” was a hit in 1963. Here’s a cool video.
  • 40D. One [Big name in credit reports] is EQUIFAX. Gotta love a brand name with a Q and an X in it. I hope they’re not the ones with that horrible singing spokesperson on the TV commercials.
  • 44D. [Classic shoe polish brand] is SHINOLA. I can’t help feeling that this is a dirty word.
  • 45D. [Stereotypical toy soldier] is an ARMY MAN. Great entry, like many others today.

More on the puzzle at L.A. Crossword Confidential on Wednesday.

Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 30I skipped reading that long clue for 57D because the crossings were easy enough, but then I had trouble figuring out what the theme was. I saw the similar letter groups in three theme answers, and set to Googling the various anagrams of MLF. Oh, yes! FML, shorthand for “eff my life.” That long clue is [Today, I tried to put a self-effacing three-letter acronym inside each theme entry. Turns out it works in any order except the one I want. ___]. Oh, yeah, because there are five theme entries, not three:

  • 17A. PALM FROND is clued as a [Big fan of "Gilligan's Island"?].
  • 19A. HTML FOR DUMMIES is a [Reference for a webpage designer].
  • 36A. ROFLMAO means ["OMG! Too funny!"].
  • 53A. TWO AND A HALF MEN is, surprisingly, the [Series that had 2007 crossover episodes with"CSI"].
  • 57A. FLIMFLAMS are [Swindles].

Highlights in this 72-word crossword:

  • 27A. FAJITAS are a [Common Chili's order]. I read the clue as meaning “an order at Common Chili,” which of course makes no sense.
  • 45A. [Hoisin and Sriracha, e.g.] are SAUCES. Who will be the first to put SRIRACHA in a grid?
  • 49A. ’80s history! PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union, is the [Union that didn't live long to regret endorsing Ronald Reagan in 1980] because he fired ‘em when they went on strike.
  • 4D. This is a thing now? DILF? [Sexy pop, slangily], dad counterpart to MILF?
  • 10D. ALOE****…VERA? No, AL OERTER, [Gold medal-winning discus thrower in four straight Olympics].
  • 11D. Reward for the over-40 solver: DAN SEALS is the [1970s pop singer with "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight"]. I loved that song back in the day. Seals was better known as half of England Dan and John Ford Coley.
  • 35D. The EAST WING is [Michelle Obama's bailiwick].

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Now You C It…”—Janie’s review

And this one is so named to tell us that we’ll be using the letter “C” in place of another letter–in today’s case, that would be “K.” The charm of this puzzle is in the groan-worthy puns that emerge from the three 15-letter theme answers. See if you don’t agree as:

  • Disappearing ink → 17A. DISAPPEARING INC. [Invisibility cloak co.?]. Thank you, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Thanks also to the Brothers Grimm and their telling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”
  • Saks Fifth Avenue → 40A. SACS FIFTH AVENUE [Upscale pouch store?]. Cute.
  • “Look who’s talking!” → “LOOK WHO’S TALCING!” [Words heard in a locker room?]. I love the concept of this one–and the new phrase makes me laugh–but it looks to me like it’s breaking two rules… First, when the gimmick is “change the K to C,” I’m not entirely comfortable with a base phrase with two Ks, one of which remains K. Then, of the three theme answers, this is the only one that doesn’t use the established homophone model. I know there are real problems in the world, but where do you weigh in on these points?

Now it’s the day before “the night before Christmas,” and (mixing the literary references…) I don’t want to be labeled as the Grinch, but having seen them both yesterday, I was also a bit let down to see RHOS and OMEGA make an encore performance today. (Okay, yesterday it was rho in the singular and omega was clued in reference to the watch–I know). This is more a CrosSynergy scheduling issue than something the constructors can be faulted with, but really, it’d be nice to have less puzzle-to-puzzle repetition. Really. I mean we even had EAGLE EYE [Sharpshooting asset] today, fill which echoed yesterday’s “Vision Quest” theme.

On the other hand, we also had AMAHL [Menotti title role] today and that’s a very timely inclusion. Here’s a link to Stratas and company performing “Have You Seen a Child…” The syncing is a tad off. The singing is superb. And while I’m on a musical topic, BY EAR may be [How some play the piano]; AARON [Composer Copland] was not one of them.

There was some playful cluing throughout today with such examples as:

  • [Break records?] for X-RAYS, where break is an adjective and not a verb;
  • [Voids] for CAVITIES, where voids is noun this time and not a verb. Nice misdirection in both of these, no?;
  • [#>!$!%@^%# cause, perhaps] for SHIFT KEY and not SLIPPING or TRIPPING–events which might cause an outbreak of cursing (characteristically notated with those characters)…

She seems to be very hip (and apparently discreet about her age…), but today was the first I’d ever heard of LUELLA [Clothing designer Bartley]. I did know that ESPRESSO (and not EXPRESSO) was the correct response to [Moka pot beverage], and that SSN was the [Phishing target (abbr.)], so mebbe I’m not completely out of the loop. But only just barely!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “All in the Family”

Region capture 31Brendan’s selection for today is a rerun from Paste, but it’s new to me. The theme centers on one of my favorite TV shows of the decade, ARRESTED / DEVELOPMENT. The theme’s not symmetrical—show creator MITCHELL / HURWITZ’s last name lacks a thematic partner in the grid. Most of the show’s main characters are skulking in the grid, clued as other people (or words) by the same name. Patriach GEORGE, maternal lush LUCILLE, responsible son MICHAEL, his twin sister LINDSAY, Lindsay’s husband TOBIAS the never-nude, and brothers GOB and BUSTER. The younger generation isn’t included because George Michael would duplicate two answers and Maeby has no non-Arrested Development clueing options. The names aren’t in symmetrical spots, but the 42 squares of names on top of 36 squares of title/creator makes for a tough fill. MANTLED, STERE, and NOCTI, plus the SEE and BE SEEN dupe, are the lowlights, but everything else is solid.

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20 Responses to Wednesday, 12/23/09

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    Helluva debut! We get some rare letters in the grid’s center and some nice, open corners forced by the nice feat of placing the unifying entry in the very SE corner. I was impressed.

    BION, I didn’t really notice all of the 3-letter entries before reading Amy’s analysis. USLTA was new to me too but I felt it was fairly discernible even though it was next to SWARD and TEC. Why, oh why, can I never remember TEC?

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Venus not only rotates very slowly, it rotates in the opposite direction of all the other planets, so it’s the only planet where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

    Except for Mercury, that is, which is tidal locked to the Sun like the moon is to the Earth.

  3. Karen says:

    It felt like too many three word phrases for some reason in the NYT…Just try me, As we speak, Saw to it, On a whim.

    I saw Gandalf and four spaces and threw in MAIA. Probably too obscure? Did Tolkein use the word MAGE?

  4. ledfloyd says:

    the NYT had a great theme, but stuff like the MOA AALTO crossing made it a bit ugly. the BEQ is quite good. TEC and HRH have been showing up alot lately, and are in both of these. walden’s clue for PALM FROND is fantastic.

  5. Matt says:

    Well, I knew USLTA, but I grew up in Forest Hills– where the USLTA tournament was played, back in the Neolithic Epoch.

  6. david says:

    wow – it took me forever to figure this theme out. Even after I knew what it was. So – in case anyone else out there is as slow as me (or if I’ve still got it wrong …) this long clue is supposed to be a posting to that website, right? Where people confess to stupid or embarrassing things they have done or situations they’ve been in, all tagged with that “FML” acronym. Geez.

  7. Howard B says:

    NY Times was a pangram, too. Really liked the across fill, enough so that I didn’t notice the downs so much.
    JAM UP / DAM UP was a tough corner to work out of, too – ST.JOE isn’t a household name here, but at least I didn’t have to eventually flip a coin to decide which letter.

  8. Faygelah says:

    Amy:
    I completely agree with your analysis of the NYT puzzle. I like themes that I don’t get until the puzzle itself tells me what it is. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that until you mentioned it, it never occurred to me that MAGI and MAGIC were related. What an appropriate week to figure that out!

  9. Matt M. says:

    I really liked the Onion puzzle — I’m not a fan of the FML Web site, but it is certainly au courant, and Byron’s final clue was spot-on for tone… and the entire theme was incredibly well-executed and fun to solve throughout. It was a “wow” puzzle for me.

  10. Alex says:

    The only puzzle I consider a “must-do” is when Byron has the Onion crossword. It’s always A+.

    Let me sneak in a plug for an Across Lite alternative called XWord. It’s in development and there’s no Mac version but it features word wrap in the clue lists … so I was able to read the whole long clue in the Onion puzzle today. The designer is very receptive to ideas for improving it, so try it out and hit him up.

  11. *David* says:

    Once I saw Byron as the constructor, I grabbed the Onion and did it a day earlier. That leaves me with less puzzles for today but well worth it, those two go together very well.

  12. Joel says:

    I’m from the Philly area, and we call it St. Joes. I’m pretty sure everyone calls it that. As for the rest of the puzzle, the fill was ugly but I enjoyed it more than a normal wednesday, perhaps because it was harder

  13. Quentinc says:

    I’ve always heard it referred to as St. Joes too.
    I couldn’t get past all the TLA’s today, even though the theme was very cute. And then there was EKING. Eck.

  14. split infinitive says:

    Byron W made a sizzling ‘Onion blossom,’ here — which is another common Chili’s order. All kinds of tasty cleverness with the clues/fill. I didn’t know about the show with the CSI tie-in for 53A, but the downs did the job for me. Am so tragically uncool that DILF and FML were new to me — am glad I didn’t hit up Google for their meanings until AFTER work!

    Thanks, Amy, for blogging on the Onion and Reader puzzles. I wish more people would take them for a spin. Even a newbie like me can do them or come darn close: they’re always full of infotainment and words/expressions we might not be seeing in our LAT or NYT.

  15. Latka says:

    Byron Walden is the future of crosswords ! I like Byron’s crosswords, just more of a reference to a previous post about BEQ being the future of crosswords. Both are good constructors, but crosswords will live on regardless. Each have their own merits, but I wouldn’t to see either of their puzzles every day. Trying to be too hip is boring frankly, and it shows…predictable stuff. Oh well you can always tweet about it.

  16. Joan macon says:

    This puzzle came out today( January 27) in our paper so I’m positive no one will ever see this comment, but I can’t help wondering what UTNE has to do with the clue ____Reader. I was hoping for elucidation here, but no.

  17. Gareth Bain says:

    Hi Joan Macon! Thanks to Orange’s handy-dandy “Recent Comments” area, we will! I learned it from crosswords it’s apparently some sort of alternative magazine. Uncle Wikipedia, as always, has more:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utne_Reader

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gareth, that was Dave’s idea, adding the “Recent Comments” widget. Such good ideas that one has…

  19. Joan macon says:

    Gareth, thanks bunches and bunches! Now I don’t feel like I’m out here in the wilderness so far behind everyone else!

Comments are closed.