Tuesday, 1/19/10

Jonesin’ 3:30
NYT 3:24
LAT 3:23
CS untimed

See this post for an interview with Zoe Wheeler, the 19-year-old constructor of today’s New York Times crossword.

Zoe Wheeler’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2Congratulations to Zoe Wheeler, the teen making her debut as a crossword constructor today. The theme is THE NAME OF THE GAME, and various game animals are hidden in the circled squares within the other theme entries. Now, when you call animals “game,” you imply that they’re going to be hunted, and that generally violates my breakfast (and lunch and dinner) test. Aww, poor boar, deer, hare, and quail, just tryin’ to get by. The theme answers are:

  • 17A. BINOCULARS are a [Bird watcher's accessory]. Yes! Just watch the BOAR and the other animals with your binocs. Win-win solution.
  • 25A. [Tide or Cheer] is a laundry DETERGENT (hiding DEER). People, if your washing machine smells funky,  switch to powdered detergent and it will improve. (This is what we call service journalism.)
  • 48A. HEARTBEAT is a [Symbol of life]. Yes, the HARE has a heartbeat that it is quite fond of.
  • 57A. Yum, QUESADILLA, the [Cheesy Mexican snack]! I Googled it and yes, some restaurants serve QUAIL quesadillas. Is quail anything like squab? Because that grossed me out at French Laundry. A plain ol’ cheese quesadilla is a great snack, though, and QUESADILLA makes a kick-ass crossword entry.

The fill’s got plenty of sparkle. Just a few of the highlights include the ageless (sorry, it’s true; their song is forever now) BAHA MEN/["Who Let the Dogs Out" group]; “HELL, NO!”/["Absolutely not!"]; SMUSHES/[Compresses, informally]; STAGE MOM/[Young starlet's promoter] (though I loathe the word starlet); and NOSEDIVE/[Plummet].

I also loved the clues ["Everyone's a ___"] CRITIC; [Procrastinator's response]/MAÑANA; and [Things with shoulder]/RDS (roads).


Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Book ‘em, Danno”—Janie’s review

Well, for the second day in a row, even with the title’s hint, I didn’t latch on to the theme until I’d finished the puzzle. Needless to say, when I figured it out, I administered the requisite head-slap. Since I’ve never seen the show, I was relieved that this was not a Hawaii Five-0 tribute puzzle. But I do read a lot and have hands-on experience of what a “book” is. Donna (whose name nicely anagrams as “Danno”…) uses a book’s component parts as the basis of the theme today. They appear as the last word in four familiar phrases–like this:

18A. LACKS SPINE [Is a wuss]. So this is the book’s backbone–the part that faces outward when the volume is shelved, the column to which the book’s innards are attached.

26A. DUCK AND COVER [Discredited fallout protection procedure]. What? All those drills for nuthin’?! Ray Mauer, who wrote the film many of us saw in the ’50s died in 2006. Here’s a clip in remembrance. And you all know what a cover is. It’s the thing by which a book can’t be judged!

47A. SPORTS JACKET [Blazer]. A book jacket is an outer cover.

60A. SENATE PAGE [Capitol gofer]. No explanation needed.

There’s some nice fill and cluing throughout. I confess that–while I’m not entirely sure why–SALOON [Tavern] put me in mind of the fifth grade joke: “What’s the difference between a saloon and an elephant fart? One’s a bar room and the other is a BAROOOOM!” Forgive me. (But Donna started it. Did you see that clue for BRAN? [Cereal for regular guys?]…)

I also liked (and like!) ECLAIRS [Pastry shop treats]; and (looking at things French) there’s also the specificity of [Weaponry for the three musketeers] for  RAPIERS, “IRMA [___ la Douce"] and ["Au revoir,] MES [amis"].

Head DUE EAST [To the right, on a Mercator projection] and you could find yourself in the vicinity of the [Indian Ocean disaster of 12/26/04]/TSUNAMI. While CHAI is clued as [Spiced Starbucks beverage], in fact the word is derived from the Mandarin for TEA–but that’s clued today as [Sri Lankan export]. Nice, too, the way chai and tea cross at that “A.” Chai (over here) usually refers to a spicy, Indian-style tea.

A [Rabble-rouser's exhortation] is “ARISE!” and a “rabble-rouser” is someone who’s AVID [Fervid] about his/her cause. There’s another, also not very soothing, pairing in the SE–the stacked RANT and SNIT [Go off on a tirade] and [Hissy fit]. Hey. Chill.

[Body dye art] is HENNA. Because of its temporary nature (two weeks to several months), this kind of “tattooing” appeals to me. And yes, [Funicular's kin] clues the not especially eye-popping TRAM, but what a great word “funicular” is, no? And looks to put the “fun” in “functional.”

Nice puzzle, Donna. TAKE A BOW [Acknowledge applause, perhaps].

“TA-TA” now. ["Toodle-oo"].

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 3

I was going to blog this puzzle last night, but I was too sleepy. I suspect the puzzle’s not actually of Wednesday NYT difficulty if you’re wide awake when you solve it. This morning, I woke up with my glasses still on, but at least I wasn’t also slumped over my desk.

The theme is four athletes’ real names clued with their nicknames:

  • 20A. Lakers legend [MAGIC] Johnson is named EARVIN JOHNSON.
  • 25A. The famous (but also infamous) [TIGER]‘s birth name is ELDRICK WOODS.
  • 46A. DEION SANDERS is known as [PRIME TIME].
  • 53A. The eminently quotable LAWRENCE BERRA is called [YOGI]. I needed the crossings for the LAWRENCE part.

As PuzzleGirl points out at L.A. Crossword Confidential, the theme’s inconsistent in that we talk about Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods, and Yogi Berra using their nicknames in lieu of their first names, but hardly anybody ever refers to Mr. Sanders as Prime Time Sanders. Duly noted.

Not big on having LEW Alcindor in the fill, though [Kareem, formerly] is his legal name (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and not a nickname. And then ARNIE’s Army is there, too, further muddying the athletes/names/nicknames soup.

When I got to the space for 25A, I had three letters filled in via crossings: **OIS*. “Why, that’s ELOISE, of course, from the children’s book. Let’s check the clue. [Little Red Book follower]? Yeah, that works.” I told you I was tired when I did this puzzle. The correct answer is MAOIST. There are, of course, only fine gradations of difference between the two.

KILLS at 59A is clued as [Tells really badly, as a joke]. Isn’t KILLS in comedy a good thing? “Wanda Sykes killed last night” doesn’t mean she sucked, it means she was in the zone, firing on all cylinders, slaying the audience. Yes? No?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “That Bowls”

Region capture 4Is the title a transposition of “That blows”?

Each theme entry combines two college football bowl games into a new phrase that can be plausibly clued. [Party in San Antonio?] is an ALAMO FIESTA. [Carnival food, as you might as well call it?] clues COTTON SUGAR. [Chomper with a peachy hue?] is an ORANGE GATOR. And a [Flower given on Mother's Day, perhaps?] is a HOLIDAY ROSE. Wow. I have never heard of the Holiday Bowl. Is this a new one?

Highlights in the fill:

  • ARMPITS! They’re [Roll-on places].
  • To [Let the moon show?] is to DROP TROU.
  • ALABAMA is clued as the [State at the "Heart of Dixie"]. Their college football team won something, didn’t they? Something big and bowly?
  • SPAMBOTS are [Automated programs that send junk e-mail]. Good gravy, you wouldn’t believe how many spam comments Akismet filters out here so you never see them. One popular approach is to accompany the spammy links with false flattery so that the insecure blogger will keep the comment up. Would you be swayed by this: “Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.”? Or “I just couldnt leave your website before saying that I really enjoyed the quality information you offer to your visitors… Will be back often to check up on new stuff you post!”? Pfft.
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13 Responses to Tuesday, 1/19/10

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    I too thought the fill really sparkled in this NYT puzzle. I always like it when the most clever theme entry lurks at the bottom, and QUESADILLA hiding “quail” hits the mark beautifully. Only 32 black squares, so the corners were nice and wide open. I hope this is the first of many puzzles–congratulations on the fine debut, Ms. Wheeler!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, kudos to Zoe — Trickiest was Atlantic Standard Time (?) AST crossing BAHAMEN which was unfamiliar to me, but at the last minute it looked better than Behamen! Funny to see STAGE MOM for the third day in a row, AS I recall… maybe ROILS and SEATTLE too though not necessarily in the NYT.

    SMUSHES is okay, I s’pose, and HELL NO was a surprise too. STASIS was fresh, ditto the BIO LAB even if an indication of abbr. was omitted… I don’t mean to be too much of a CRITIC — it was quite enjoyable overall. Got it all in a HEARTBEAT, where Hart lurks as well as HARE!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. A STAG lurks in STAGE MOM too, an ASP in the ASPER, a BAT in the AT BATS, plus RAM in the GRAMS. Even the COTE might have been clued as a “Sheep or Dove place”. I guess it depends on what animals you are hunting…

  4. ArtLvr says:

    i forgot the CRAB in SCARABS, yum!

  5. Gareth says:

    Not so sure I want a CRAB and SCARAB dish. Except for STAG I’m not sure those are GAME animals exactly.

    Add my name to the kudos list, really liked the slightly different style of all 1-word theme answers (except the central explanation), plus 2 more Z’s and 2 crazy-wide-open, and above all junk-free and even sparkly corners! I swear I’ve seen STAGEMOM 3 times in the last very short while? Can’t tell you which the puzzles were, so maybe I’m imagining things, but she seems to be everywhere. Nothing I hadn’t met before but managed to forget ESALEN and BAMA. Also managed to write in DRAM instead of GRAM (and I did this the last time we had GRAM, you’d think I’d learn!)

    Rats late for class again, note to self stop rambling on!

    While we’re on the subject of game animals, I’d like to point out if a two-legged hunter doesn’t hunt the game, they’ve probably got a four-legged one in their future, just saying. And the peaceful, contented cows on farms have got a captive-bolt with their name on it too…

  6. Sara says:

    Good point about the hunting, Gareth, but some of us think cow-eating is just as disturbing, just saying….

  7. joon says:

    the holiday bowl isn’t particularly new, but neither is it one of the venerable bowls like the orange or rose. anyway, this theme surprised me, because didn’t jonesin’ editor matt gaffney do the exact same theme for a daily beast puzzle last month? okay, i looked it up and no, it wasn’t the exact same theme, but it was pretty similar: combining a bowl game with a type of non-football bowl (salad, mixing, toilet, etc.).

  8. Martin says:

    Amy,

    Quail are adorable little birds with cute feathers sticking out above their foreheads. Around here, they’re the foxes’ favorite food. Squab are baby pigeons. They’re both tasty.

  9. Zulema says:

    Amy,

    I’m glad you mentioned the downside of classifying animals as “game,” in passing as it were.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    I was given a quail all oven-ready after a client’s trip miles away with his son. I asked about the black talons left attached — it was a regulation of some sort. Anyway I cooked it later, according to instructions, and it was okay… but I’m eating less meat these days!

  11. Martin says:

    Quail are raised in Arkansas by Vietnamese farmers. I get them at a Chinese supermarket for a buck apiece. I marinate and grill them on the BBQ by the dozen at summer gatherings. They are always a huge hit.

  12. Sara says:

    Quail are hunted nevertheless – remember Dick Cheney!

  13. *David* says:

    The Alamo Bowl is less prestigious then the Holiday Bowl and is not as old. The Gator Bowl depending on the year has similar level teams playing. The theme was fine for me since I don’t typically do The Beast. I found some of the fill really odd with TYD and GOR on the bottom, loved the clue for SEUSS.

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