Wednesday, 12/30/09

BEQ 5:58
Onion 4:18
NYT 4:04
LAT 3:11
CS untimed

Adam Cohen’s New York Times crossword

Picture 3The theme is companies with apt stock ticker symbols:

  • 20A. BARNES AND NOBLE is the [Company with the stock ticker symbol BKS], short for “books.”
  • 25A. GENENTECH is the [Company with the stock ticker symbol DNA]. DNA is in another clue: A SWAB is a 1D: [DNA  collector, perhaps].
  • 39A. Mattress seller SEALY is the [Company with the stock ticker symbol ZZ], short for “ZZ Top,” whose fondness for sleep is well known. (Not really.) Competitor SERTA is at 67A.
  • 48A. PAPA JOHN’S is the [Company with the stock ticker symbol PZZA]. I can’t say I’ve ever had Papa John’s pizza. Am I missing anything?
  • 53A. Wisconsin-based HARLEY DAVIDSON is the [Company with the stock ticker symbol HOG], “hog” being the nickname for a Harley motorcycle. See also 60D: SOW, or [Barnyard mother].

I like this theme—a fresh trivia game for me. It wouldn’t be surprising to see an extended version of this theme in a Wall Street Journal crossword, but who’s going to work on that theme now that this puzzle’s been published?

It took me 30 seconds to find my typo in the bottom corner of the grid—SOW/WICK was SOQ/QICK, which should be words but sadly, are not.

Crazy crossing alert: 65A: [Art Deco architect William Van ___]/ALEN meets 58D: OYER/[___ and terminer]. Runner-up: An unfamiliar ALI at 52A: [Rubina ___ of "Slumdog Millionaire"] runs smack-dab into OJAI, 45D: [Ventura County's ___ Valley].

Hot words light up the Downs. EFFRONTERY is 3D: [Chutzpah]. The DOG WHISTLE at 31D gets a tricky clue, [Item used with high frequency?]. The LIMERICK is 38D: [Often-bawdy verse]. And ISABELLA, the [Queen in events of 1492], reigns at 10D.

I don’t know how you East Coasters deal with doing a crossword at 10 pm and then blogging it. What? Very few of you are blogging it? In any case, I am markedly less perky at 10 than I am at 9. On the plus side, I’ll be able to hit the sack after the big ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve this year, the first time I’ve been in the Eastern time zone for the occasion. Yes, I lead an exciting life on vacation, I know.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Quiet on the Set”—Janie’s review

We have a field trip to the film set today. The three theme phrases each begin with a word that the director utters to indicate that it’s time to let the games begin. You probably know them without thinking. What you may not be prepared for are the rich phrases Ray has found to show them off in:

  • 17A. LIGHTS UP THE ROOM [Puts a smile on everyone's face]. This is just gorgeous–clue and fill, both of which create very visual images. Shades of MTM, no?
  • 33A. CAMERA OBSCURA [Projection device]. I still think photography is magic, and have never understood why the images get reversed (for starters…), but the phenomenon is for real even if the physics of the way light bends confound (me). Pinholes and mirrors are both part of the camera obscura, which is Latin for “dark room,” and the first one was built by an Iraqi scientist about 1,000 years ago. Technology didn’t change as rapidly as it does today and the camera obscura has enjoyed centuries of use as a drawing aid and as away to look at a solar eclipse.
  • 53A. ACTION-ADVENTURE [Video game genre]. Also movie genre and book genre.

So we’ve got Lights! Camera! Action! and at the end of the film, when it’s time to “roll credits,” we’ve got the [List of actors] CAST for bonus fill.
The remainder of the fill is just fine if not stellar. The cluing is a tad on the nose, but I liked seeing POIROT and ANGORA and STARCHY in the grid. Just yesterday we had FAIRER clued in context with Snow White. Today it gets a more direct approach and is clued simply as [More equitable]. Yesterday we saw [Poems of praise] as the clue for ODES; Ray goes one better today giving us [Song of praise] for CANTICLE.

Never heard of DACE, those [Silvery freshwater fish]. They come in lots of varieties, but here’s a description of the Common Dace.

For the aural treat, I enjoyed the cross of ROB and BOBBIN for [Rip off] and [Sewing machine spindle]. (This also puts me in mind of the “red, red robin” who comes “bob-bob-bobbin’ along.”) Nice that SPOOLS [Thread holders] found its way into the mix as well. Another aural treat (and visual treat, too) comes in the side-by-side pairing of ROOT BEER and FLOTILLA, clued as [Float ingredient] and [Group of warships]. I’d sure love to see a root-beer flotilla, wouldn’t you? Can you imagine the size of that thing?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “BEQ’s Top Five Albums of the ’00s”

Picture 4Oh, man. I had SWIPE in place of SEIZE (23D), didn’t recall what would fit in ****EE/RASCAL, figured 27A had to be one of those ENE/SSW sort of directions, and did not recall the order of Bible books. I resorted to Google to point me to DIZZEE /RASCAL and the rest of that section fell right after.

There are bands called AVALANCHES, FIERY FURNACES, and THE STREETS? And Brenda likes them? Okay, then. For me, this was a lot like a quote puzzle—a bunch of theme entries requiring heavy reliance on the crossings. At least I recalled that SUFJAN STEVENS recorded Illinois, so it wasn’t a total washout for me.

In the fill, ZIP CODE, “NO JOKE,” and I, FATTY were cool, but the rest was uninspiring. I felt unpleasantly duped by the clue for REDO: ["I changed my mind" on a computer]. I asked myself, what’s the text shorthand for that? ICMM? Maybe the clue should have the word “again” in it—UNDO is when you change your mind, REDO is when you change it back.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Picture 2For my full write-up of this puzzle, please see L.A. Crossword Confidential. The theme, in 25 words or less: PH LEVEL unites four words that contain two PH’s apiece, just phor phun. The PH LEVEL clue doesn’t quite work for me, though.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Picture 5Francis tweeted that if this puzzle had a title, it would be “Double Bills”—and knowing that helped me figure out what the theme is. Each theme entry can be pieced together with the clues even if you don’t have any idea who the mashed-up musical artists are. LIARS OF MONTREAL combines LIARS and the improbably named OF MONTREAL (who apparently are from Athens, Georgia, and not Quebec). M.I.A. FLEET FOXES combines the female rapper M.I.A. and the hitherto-unknown-to-me FLEET FOXES. INTERPOL BATTLES…there are bands by those names? News to me. COMMON is a famous rapper; no idea who PHOENIX is/are. To [Snuggle in bed with some assassins?] is to SPOON THE KILLERS; I’m not sure who Spoon is/are, but love this clue/answer combo.

This theme was easier for me to work through than Brendan’s gotta-know-the-music theme, but still filled with a lot of mystery. And I’m scarcely any older than Francis or Brendan! I suspect they’re both more into new music than the average person. Maybe I’m wrong. But when they’re 75, I think they’ll both still be following new music rather than clinging to what they liked when they were younger.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, 12/30/09

  1. PhillySolver says:

    Amy, Welcome to EST. There are Papa John franchises in this time zone and I will trade them for Uno’s. The middle school kids seem to like it and college students use the ever present discount coupons. You are not missing anything.
    I thought the SE corner was tricky but I spent more time in the Dakotas with the language melting pot eluding me for a bit. Who has the symbol XWRD?

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    That is a nice theme, and Adam chose the five theme entries well.

  3. Sam Donaldson says:

    It’s hard enough for me at 7 on the west coast! I really enjoyed the theme, but the ALEN/OYER crossing together with misspelling EFFRONTERY cost me a lot of time on the applet. I hate hunting for errors when I get the “Submitted puzzle is incorrect” message. I was never good at finding Waldo either.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    MAJOR BLOOPER, unfortunately… The ticker symbol DNA has been retired for nearly a year (my best guess, didn’t check the date) — Genentech was acquired and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roche Holdings Ltd., RHHBY.

    Sometimes a retired symbol will eventually get assigned again to a different company, but usually not for a few years…

  5. foodie says:

    Thank goodness for HOG and GENENTECH. Otherwise, I’d have been dead. I wanted BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY (which is way too long) to be the answer to BKS… Where does the K fit in with BARNES & NOBLE ?

    I imagine this puzzle will be quite easy for the business minded. For scientists– not so much. Still a very fresh theme and well executed.

  6. janie says:

    foodie — think of an abbreviation for what barnes & noble sells…

    me, i’m trying to figure out the significance of the woody allen movie references…

    ;-)

  7. Trip says:

    “It wouldn’t be surprising to see an extended version of this theme in a Wall Street Journal crossword, but who’s going to work on that theme now that this puzzle’s been published?”

    Funny you should say that. I tried coming up with a list of theme entries for this exact theme for the WSJ, and couldn’t come up with a long enough list that I liked. Never even occurred to me to pare it down for the Times, since it seemed so perfect for the WSJ. Kudos to Adam for also coming up with the theme and pursuing it to the conclusion.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    @ foodie — BKS is short for “Books”, as Amy noted… Border’s Group has BGP.

    Genentech stock first was publicly traded in 1980. The Swiss drug giant Roche held a majority stake for years, finally making a “hostile” offer for the remaining 44% in the summer of 2008. Negotiations made headlines for months as the proposed price was raised, lowered, then raised again!!! Agreement was announced by both boards of directors in early March 2009, and the merger was consummated later the same month. See fuller account of the shennanigans at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29650518/

  9. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Example of a recycled ticker symbol on the NYSE —
    The “C” symbol had represented Chrysler Corporation for more than 50 years but became available Nov. 17, 1998, upon Chrysler’s merger with Daimler Benz. By end of December the same year, “C” was transferred to Citigroup upon its merger with Travelers and subsequent inclusion in the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.

    I can’t think of another which was reassigned so quickly! “MO” is still the symbol for the old Phillip Morris, even though they changed their name to Altria. They may have hoped for “A”, but that unaccountably went to Agilant Technologies.

  10. Dan F says:

    Loved the NYT puzzle! So much that was right on my wavelength, from Woody Allen (well, Janie, Adam is another Jewish New Yorker…) to THE OC. As I learned in college, PAPAJOHN’S is way better than Domino’s…

    Welcome back Amy, and an early Happy New Year to all the fiends out there…

  11. Crosscan says:

    I echo Sam – It’s hard enough for me at 7 on the west coast!

    Good thing here is the Times Square ball drop is at 9:00 pm so we can still get to bed at a decent hour.

  12. Gareth says:

    Really clever theme idea! Hadn’t heard of PAPAJOHNS, but then Subway only just arrived here… Toughest area for me was middle-right where the zippy answer DOGWHISTLE (complete with clever, but tough clue), meets AGIN, ALDER ODAY and MYLOVE…

  13. Anne E says:

    Subway??? Yes Gareth, but you have Nando’s, which I still miss with a passion even though it’s been ~10 years now (!) since I lived in South Africa. Spicy rice… peri-peri sauce…. yebo madoda… waah, I’m homesick!

    Anne, seriously considering attending a conference in DC that I rarely go to, just because DC now has the only US Nando’s that I know of.

  14. janie says:

    >Adam is another Jewish New Yorker…

    hmmm. i suspect this observation was offered tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t seem like a particularly compelling reason to clue three names as they were. still… i think it’s the imbalance of the two “radio days” mentions to the one “manhattan.” DIANNE weist, wallace SHAWN and SETH green *all* appeared in “radio days.” why not use just the one; or why not clue ms. w. in connection with “bullets over b’way”? as things stand, the cluing feels less than fully thought out and as a result, draws attention to itself (for the wrong reason). i hardly make this a state offense and no one *dies*, mind you, but in so tight a construction as this one, to me it just feels “off.”

    ;-)

  15. foodie says:

    @Janie and Artlvr: thanks! I’m an idiot : ) Does it help to say that it came to me as I was falling asleep? And suddenly the theme was clearer- that the abbreviations all have to do with the content or product sold by these companies…

    And in re-reading Amy’s post, she even explained it. I should not do this late at night!

    But now, I love the puzzle even more : )

  16. Jeffrey (Crosscan) says:

    Doing Onion and BEQ back to back was 20 minutes of utter confusiion.

    BEQ was a list of unknowns to me.

    Onion was solvable, but determining the theme? I still don’t really get it.

    I’m getting old, I guess.

  17. Jan says:

    Loved “radio-active truckers” in the CS puzzle!

  18. John Haber says:

    I thought it was a clever theme, too (and as a New Yorker I don’t have to worry about what chain restaurants, as with pizza, are like).

  19. Gareth says:

    I’m with Jan – clue of the day (or even week)! (except I haven’t done BEQ yet…)

    Anne Erdmann:
    Subway – I remember it cropping up in a crossword clue about a month back (though I can’t find the puzzle); was surprised to find out the take-away in the local mall was a U.S.-based mega-franchise! Almost never go near fast food places, but cultural phenomena like Starbuck’s are hard to not know…

  20. Zulema says:

    Starbucks is a chain, but does not sell fast food.

    Janie, I am glad you put into words what feels off about the Allen entries. I was even looking for a connection to the main theme.

  21. Latka says:

    Funny I found Quigley’s puzzle easy as I had heard of all the bands before, though I definitely don’t share his taste in music. Two of the five I do listen to at times, but the other three I have no use for whatsoever. I thought the Onion was a tougher solve, but enjoyable nonetheless.

  22. Jokester Joe says:

    Great blurb, I enjoyed that take on it.

  23. joon says:

    oh man. two in one day? should i at least be relieved that i did the BEQ and onion six weeks apart? i was 0/5 on having heard of brendan’s 5 bands, and 0/10 on francis’s. yikes. at least i could tell what brendan’s theme was.

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