Sunday, 1/10/09

NYT 10:51
BG 9:33
Reagle 8:04
LAT 7:10
CS 3:32
NYT cryptic 9:15

Mel Rosen’s New York Times crossword, “Cross Words”

Region capture 10This is essentially a themeless puzzle in which selected answers happen to split into two parts with the same middle letter so they can criss-cross in the center. We have, I think, nine of these cross-referenced two-part answers, and none of them really goose the puzzle’s excitement level:

  • 26A. [With 4-Down, alternative to free enterprise] is a PLANNED ECONOMY.
  • 24A. [With 10-Down, stopover] clues the rather antiquated phrase MOTOR HOTEL.
  • 28A. [With 16-Down, certain plate] clues PARTIAL DENTURE. Breakfast test! Just had a phone conversation with someone today who was rooting through the kitchen trash looking for someone else’s missing partial. Good times.
  • 55A. [With 45-Down, about 29 1/2 days] is a LUNAR MONTH. A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month, and we had one of these on New Year’s Eve.
  • 67A. [With 47-Down, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta] make up the PRAIRIE PROVINCES. All the other criss-cross answers are two words of equal length, so the plus-sign visual gets mucked up here.
  • 83A. [With 70-Down, skilled lawyer] clues LEGAL EAGLE.
  • 110A. This is the one that made my child laugh, as I chastised the puzzle for its wrongness. [With 91-Down, hypertension control option] clues CALCIUM BLOCKER. Say what? I only ever see this as “calcium channel blocker.” The longer term is the one doctors actually use. Call me a hypertensive medical editor if you must, but this answer is a blight on the puzzle for me.
  • 118A. [With 104-Down, utility gauge] is a WATER METER. Snzzzzzzxxx—oh, sorry, I drifted off for a mo’ there.
  • 114A. [With 95-Down, meteorological post] is a WEATHER STATION. I am a sucker for La Crosse Technology’s weather stations. Mine displays the indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. Gotta have the pressure readout, you know.

The inclusion of these 18 plunked-solidly-into-place answers must have constrained the overall fill, because there are a few clunkers. Not that these words are unsuitable as fill, just that they do nothing to liven up the enterprise. I speak here of STUM, 33A: [Unfermented grape juice]. And ERODENT, 68D: [Tending to wash out]. An ORGAN STOP is okay, sure, but the clue, 78A: [Dulciana, for one] is of limited appeal for me. Do you have to be an organist to say, “Oh, dulciana, of course, that’s an organ stop”? Then there are smaller bits like OMSK beside RHEO-, or ETUIS crossing two abbreviations.

There are hints here that we have left the Maleska era behind, but not too many. I like 43A: “BE MY GUEST,” or ["Help yourself!"]. At 50A, [PIN requesters] are ATMS, which did not yet exist during the Maleska era. And the ALERO, clued as an 113A: [Old car similar to a Malibu], was a new car a few years into the Shortz era. I would like the three-word GO TO SLEEP better if it weren’t across the grid from GO TO SEA. The horror of 53D, which era is that concordant with? A NOOSE is [The loop it's best to be out of].

I lost a minute or two by a series of missteps at 62A, [Passed without effect]. I started with SLID OVER and then had FLEW OVER for a long time, with the resulting mystery at 62D: [___ Bobbin of the Oz books]. Hey, I don’t know BETSY Bobbin at all, so FETSY Bobbin was nearly as plausible. It’s terrible and obviously wrong, and I should have pondered whether BETSY worked for the crossing. BLEW OVER is better than FLEW OVER for that clue, too.

It’ll be interesting to see if the reactions to this puzzle break down along age lines. My hunch is that older solvers will have liked this better than younger ones, in general.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Right on Cue”

Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday was Wednesday, and he was wont to say “Thank you. Thank you very much.” So the theme here is THAN-Q VERY MUCH, the [Apt signoff for this puzzle]. Throughout the grid are answers in which the letter Q replaces the “cue” sound; in the answer that crosses the Q, the Q is used as a regular letter. Which is kinda weird, this sometimes-Across, sometimes-Down Q = “cue” business. Among the answers with a Q are these:

  • 23A. PORQPINE QUILL (porcupine quill) is a [Natural defense of a sort].
  • 60A. ["Woodstock" or "Wordplay," e.g.] is a DOQMENTARY (documentary). Hey, Merl, mo fair putting your own movie in the clue!
  • 64A. What’s M SQUAD? It’s [Lee Marvin's old TV cop drama], and I know nothing about it.
  • 118A. DRAQLA is our [Pain-in-the-neck provider?] (Dracula).
  • 120A. To [Smooch] or kiss is to OSQLATE (osculate).
  • 3D. A [Written flourish] is a CURLIQ (curlicue).
  • 7D. This one looks great in the grid: VAQMING (vacuuming). It’s a [Household chore].
  • 13D. French! PRESQUE is [Almost, to Alain].
  • 39D. [Rainier III and Grace Kelly, e.g.] are MONEGASQUES, or residents of Monaco. Love that demonym.
  • 46D. [Like Gable or Crowe] clues MASQLINE (masculine). The clue, of course, refers to PuzzleGirl’s beloved Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable and filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
  • 47D. To AQMULATE (accumulate) is to [Gather].
  • 51D. [Burn the midnight oil] clues LUQBRATE (lucubrate), an archaic word meaning to “discourse learnedly in writing.” Another recent crossword used “lucubrate” as a clue, I believe. Two appearances for this word now? I think that may be it for the decade ahead.
  • 97D. [Romeo's poetic friend] is MERQTIO (Mercutio).
  • 99D. Are you up on your [Strong Louisiana tobacco]? Maybe Stewart L. knew PERIQUE, but I sure didn’t.

Least favorite entry: EIEI, clued as [With "O," a refrain]. E-I-E-I-oy! Elsewhere in the vowel explosion category, we have EOAN, meaning [Of the dawn]; AORTAE, [Busy arteries]; and AEIOU, the [Alphabet quintet]. 62D was a mystery, but Merl provided a helping hand in the clue: [Extinct people of northern California (or backward, an opposing vote)]. YANA backwards is A NAY.

Richard Silvestri’s cryptic crossword, the New York Times’ second Sunday puzzle

Among the 32 clues in this one, these were my favorites or the ones that made me work the hardest:

  • 1A. THROUGH is clued [Wound up and pitched, as they say]. Pitched = “threw,” which sounds like… Something that’s wound up is finished, THROUGH.
  • 9A. [Ragged, topless and relieved] threw me because I was thinking of the two-syllable word, as in “run ragged,” rather than the one-syllable past tense of “rag.” If you ragged someone, you teased them, and a “topless” TEASED is EASED, or relieved.
  • 11A. I don’t get this one. I filled in TARGETED, which means “aimed at.” The sailor part of [Aimed at sailor, cop, newspaperman] is TAR, right? Ah, I get it. “Cop,” the verb, meaning GET; ED., short for “editor” at a newspaper.
  • 15A. SWEETHEART breaks into four pieces. [Finally writes small article: "Cunning Lover"] gives us the last letter of “writes” (S), small (WEE), an article (THE), and the noun “cunning” (ART), meaning a “lover.”
  • 22A. [Smooth, like John Paul II] clues POLISH. To smooth something is to polish it, and the late pope was Polish.
  • 4D. HEAVENWARD splits in half. [Chuck, in a tie, rising up to the sky] has kinda iffy surface sense, but the verb “chuck” = HEAVE and “in a tie” written upwards is DRAWN backwards.
  • 6D. [Otto, in England, possessing fine vision] parses like so: The Italian otto is EIGHT in English. EIGHT “possesses” YES, which is an answer similar to “fine, sure, okay.” EYESIGHT is vision.
  • 13D. [Actor Miller, for one, keeps name in spite of that] clues BEN STILLER. Miller’s a BEER brand. BEER contains N, an abbreviation for “name,” and STILL, meaning “in spite of that.”

Updated Sunday morning:

“Just Do It,” the syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword by “Nora Pearlstone” (aka Rich Norris)

Region capture 11Fairly easy Sunday puzzle with plenty of entertaining theme entries (DO added to familiar phrases to change the meaning) and assorted fun entries and clues in the fill. Highlights, quickly:

  • 120A. Steffi Graf and the Graf Spee and swimwear commingle to give us a GRAF SPEEDO, or [Tennis great's swimwear?].
  • 124A. SEMPER FIDO is a [Typical dog's motto?]. That would be Latin for “always Fido,” and plays on the Marine motto “Semper fi(delis),” meaning “always faithful.”
  • 41D. RAISIN’ BRANDO is clued [Bringin' up a crime boss portrayer?]. He’s not called a don in the clue because Puzo’s The LAST DON is in the fill.
  • 36D. “He’s one of us” expands nicely to HE’S ONE  DOOFUS, or ["What a jerk!"].
  • 61D. [Pens and needles] clues STYLI. Great clue.
  • 66A. CHEETOS! They’re a [Snack brand sold in twists and puffs].
  • 72A. A TIDY SUM is a [Nice piece of change].
  • 90D. RAINY DAY is a [Future time of need, metaphorically].
  • 15D. STUPOR is clued as a [Daze of wine and rosés?], playing on Days of Wine and Roses.
  • 117D. Hey, I didn’t see this while solving. NIKE is clued as [Apt company for this puzzle?], their motto being “Just do it.”

Mystery answer of the day: 49D: HECHT, [Horizontal bar dismount]. Is this a gymnastics term? Google says yes. Isn’t Ben Hecht far more familiar to most of us than this dismount technique?

Will Johnston’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”

Region capture 12Ha! I love 61A here: KTHXBYE is a [Dismissive on-line sign-off] that’s short for “okay, thanks, bye.” It basically conveys the feeling of “here’s what I think, don’t care what you think.” This puzzle is all right. KTHXBYE.

Ten clues:

  • 15A. [Hot stuff?] is EROTICA.
  • 20A. EOM is short for “end of message.” It’s an [Abbrev. signaling that the subject line contains the full content of an e-mail].
  • 30A. KRILL is the [Zooplankton eaten by whales]. I always think of zooplankton when I think of the cheesy ’80s fantasy movie Krull.
  • 45A. MOONSTONE is a [Shimmery feldspar gem].
  • 49A. [One no longer in the theater?] is a VET. As in “theater of war,” not Broadway.
  • 60A. [Italian apparel brand named after founder Leonardo Servadio] is ELLESSE. As in the initials L.S., pronounced aloud.
  • 2D. I had a vague recollection of the ARBELLA, a [Ship that brought Puritans to Salem]. This may have been mentioned in Sarah Vowell’s book, The Wordy Shipmates.
  • 14D. [Like "Pomp and Circumstance"] clues STATELY.
  • 34D. IRONWORK is a [Feature of New Orleans architecture].
  • 40D. [Compass point abbr.] is icky. STH.? For “south”? Who abbreviates that as STH?

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “DL or No DL”

Region capture 13Eight theme entries (one occupying two spaces) either add a DL or lose a DL. The title sounds like the game show Deal or No Deal, so there’s your raison d’etre for the theme. Favorite theme entries:

  • 51A. The Sphinx’s riddle becomes SPHINX’S RIDE, or [Car trip for a Greek monster?].
  • 106A. Beam of light turns into BEDLAM OF LIGHT, or [Daytime pandemonium?]. Anytime you can work bedlam, flotsam, or jetsam into a puzzle, I __am happy.

Boo on adding a DL to the word MIX to make a Roman numeral. [Ribbon #1559?] is MDLIX TAPE.

Toughest spots:

  • 49D. PERCHIK is a ["Fiddler on the Roof" role]. I’ve never seen it.
  • 39D. COSTAIN is ["The Silver Chalice" author]. That’s Canadian Thomas B. Costain, who had a “pink and white complexion.” I’m now picturing the Energizer Bunny and the Pink Panther. Two of COSTAIN’s crossings probably gave a lot of people fits. The GENET is a [Civet's cousin] and I.M. Pei’s first name is IEOH ([Architect ___ Ming Pei]).
  • 20A. The BEECH tree is a [Creosote provider]. Familiar word, easy crossings, but the clue? Total mystery for me. Wikipedia says “Wood creosote is created by high temperature treatment of beech and other woods, or from the resin of the Creosote bush.” Wikipedia said that, but now there’s a lowercase “c” in creosote because I just fixed the page. I feel better.

A couple favorites in the fill: [Portia's partner] is ELLEN DeGeneres. Yep, I was thinking of Shakespeare first. And who doesn’t like a Super Soaker reference? To [Use a Super Soaker] is to SQUIRT someone with a ginormous squirt gun.

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15 Responses to Sunday, 1/10/09

  1. crosscan says:

    Does nap time in the middle of solving count against my score?

  2. Martin says:

    “Stum” is curious because it’s an anagram of “must,” another word for “unfermented grape juice.”

  3. Evad says:

    This one was a real slog for me, lots of unfamiliar entries without much payoff from the crossing theme phrases.

  4. jmbrow29 says:

    I kept thinking there would be something more to this puzzle like all of the crossing letters would spell out something but nope.

  5. rick says:

    Never heard the term “calcium channel blocker” but I take a “calcium blocker”.

  6. Paula says:

    Blah puzzle — too many sports alusions (sp?) tho I got them. Am I the only one who doesn’t like 2-3 word answers especially those ending in up and to??

  7. Gail says:

    Don’t know what your cut-off is for “older” but I’m 60, and this one left me cold. What I like best about most Sunday puzzles is that Aha! moment when the theme reveals itself, and there was no such moment here. And I agree with Paula, but add “it” to your list of ending words in multi-word answers.

  8. Angela says:

    Jeez. Just when I thought I was getting smart about crosswords because I completed this one without resorting to Google I find out from the above comments it was a no brainer! BTW: I’m over sixty but only began doing the NYT crossword recently. Still haven’t completed a Saturday one without a couple of Google hits.

  9. Matt says:

    Well, I’ve been doing NYT crosswords since the cows came home, and didn’t care much for this one– although it did send me here, which has to count as a good thing. The cryptic was more entertaining, with BENSTILLER, SWEETHEART, and HEAVENWARD counting as neat ones.

  10. Paula says:

    Gail — you are namesake of my daughter who is trying to finish NYT Sunday puzzles. Thanks for the “add” of “it.” Am also 60+ but had to figure out calcium blocker. I don’t take BP meds but those who do refer to them as “my high blood pressure pills.” It was a “duh” puzzle, but let’s hope next week’s is more interesting (but with no unfair clues). I don’t like rebus ones — very aggravating.

  11. Matt M. says:

    I fell for FLEW OVER, too — Oz is whimsical, right, so why not FETSY? um, maybe not — so add “1 error” to my solving time…

  12. Sparky says:

    Well, I’m over 70, still use paper and erasable pen, like to curl up with my clipboard. And this annoyed me for the same reasons. No fun to it, just slog along. I don’t understand the tone of references to Mr. Maleska. He was a lovely old gent and called Will Shortz one of the up and coming composers in his book, “What’s Gnu?” So, please be kind.

  13. M.A.Peel says:

    I thought there would at least be another layer to the the criss-cross words. I originally read the theme clue to mean “angry” and that maybe the overlap letter would connect to the word “mad” within each word. Now that would have been clever.

  14. Meg says:

    It was nice to see your write-up of the cryptic. I really miss my monthly dose from Atlantic Monthly. I bought the Cox Rathvon book of Atlantic puzzles and slurped them up like chocolate!

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