Monday, 1/25/10

BEQ 5:20
CS untimed (J)/3:15 (A)
NYT 3:01
LAT 2:58

Merl Reagle’s got a new blog at his Sunday Crosswords site—so far, one post a week, published on Saturday, covering his Sunday puzzle for that weekend. Last week’s post is “Pet Peeve No. 1″: the flansir. What’s a flansir? A word that is “familiar looking although never seen in reality,” such as IDEATE, IRANI, ALER, and ENISLE. He’s got a whole list of ‘em, so check it out. Merl also gives some background on the kindergarten mystery (part 1 of 2) from the weekend just past and his January 10 puzzle with all the Qs.

Holden Baker’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 16All right, this is the third NYT puzzle in five days with a visual aspect that’s hard to render in the online versions of the puzzle. Liz Gorski’s Thursday puzzle was only modestly different, but yesterday’s was incomplete without the visual enhancements. Listen, Will, these are too tiresome to explain in a blog, and you’re going to turn me into one of those grumblers who wants a return to more straightforward puzzles. Can’t you at least get the word out in advance that there’ll be a PDF version of the puzzle, and then ensure that the PDF is prominently available on the Premium Crosswords page along with the Across Lite and applet options?

Today’s puzzle puts some arrows in the grid (as seen in this image), pointing from 15A to 17A and from 69A to 67A. But even looking at that, it still wasn’t quite adding up for me, so I consulted the Wordplay blog, where Pat Merrell said “The result is what looks to be a scorecard for a four-hole golf course. ONE over PAR (or BOGEY) and TWO over PAR are the scores on the front two. On the back two, it’s just the reverse — ONE under PAR and TWO under PAR (or EAGLE). Three strokes up, three down. Sounds like PAR FOR THE COURSE.” But-but-but—TWO over PAR is a double bogey and ONE under PAR is a birdie. It feels imcomplete to have scores for four holes but only label two of them.

I only noticed one flansir (see link to Merl Reagle’s blog at top of this post): ESSES, or 35D: [Mountain road features]. Can I nominate the “numbers spelled out where they never are in reality” entries for flansir status? This puzzle has TWOD (70A: [Having length and width only, briefly], meaning two-dimensional, 2D) for one of the golf scores’ TWOs, and it’s never spelled out like that outside of crosswords. I was just reviewing such entries at L.A. Crossword Confidential on Saturday; other offenders you may see encounter include USONE, UTWO, BTWO, bingo calls like BTEN, and TWOD’s cousins ONED and THREED.

Nice to see my friendly neighborhood BALLPARK in a clue: 22A is [Wrigley Field or Camden Yards]. Less nice to have all the bodily fluids that are evoked here. [Like an unfortunate torero] clues GORED, and the following clue is [Slaughterhouse], or ABATTOIR. Two clues later, [Lots] clues A GOB, which makes me think of a gob of phlegm. (One dictionary has plural “gobs of” for the “a lot of” sense, and singular “gob of” for slimy or viscous substances.) Breakfast test violations! The Monday familiarity test is violated by AEROMETER, a [Device that measures gas properties].


Updated Monday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Short Cuts”—Janie’s review

Man, when the recession hits, the recession hits. One television series and two movies are the latest cutback victims. In the world of diminishing returns:

  • Six Feet Under → SIX INCHES UNDER at 20A. [Shortened HBO show]. Never watched, but it stays in my mental “borrow-this-one-from-the-library” list.
  • The Green Mile → GREEN YARD at 37A. [Shortened 1999 Tom Hanks film, with "The"?]. Caught this one on the big screen.
  • The Longest Yard → THE LONGEST FOOT at 57A. [Shortened 2005 Adam Sandler remake?]. Never saw the original; never saw the remake…but the premise of a football game between prison inmates and guards appeals.

You know what else appeals? The way the subject matter of three (base) choices connects them. Six Feet Under is about a family that runs a funeral home, so it deals with death…; The Green Mile focuses on a prison’s death row; and The Longest Yard is about a football game set within the confines of a prison. As far as I know, however, no one dies… Whether this interconnection was planned or serendipitous, it goes a long way towards keeping the theme tight. We like that!

We also like all of the lively fill that comes to us by those 7-letter-packed corners, highlights of which include: TWO-STEP [Texas dance?], RAVIOLI [Pasta pockets], FIREFOX [Mozilla browser], CHARLIE [It's between bravo and delta] and CABOOSE [Car in the back]. The SW corner goes a step further as it “speaks” to us, with “ANOTHER” ["The same drink, please"], “SEE HERE” ["Look, sonny boy..."] and “NOW!” ["Don't delay!"]. Notice, too, the nice way that last one crosses its counterpart, “ONE SEC!” ["Be patient for a little while longer!"].

If neither the LYRE [Classical instrument] nor the STRAD [Stringed treasure] are your thing and your tastes are more athletically inclined, there’s also UNC [Duke's NCAA rival], CAL [Stanford's rival in the Big Game, for short], ELI,[He followed his brother Peyton as Super bowl MVP], and ALI [Boxing legend].

And if you just can’t get enough of phenomenon of The King, here’s a video about the folks for whom impersonation of ELVIS [Often-imitated singer] is a way of life…

Susan Miskimins’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 17Nice work in what I believe is the constructor’s debut here: Five theme entries, with the two Downs crossing the middle Across theme answer. The theme is compound adjectives that describe people’s traits with organs of the body:

  • 18A. DOWN-HEARTED means [Dispirited]. HEAVY-HEARTED and LIGHTHEARTED could do the job if the constructor needed a 12, but 12s are harder to place in the grid than 11s because they mandate 3 black squares, with no room for another entry in that row.
  • 38A. [Loud and long-winded] clues LEATHER-LUNGED. Never heard this term before. Is it old? Is it regional? Or am I just out of touch? I feel like there’s another “___-lunged” term for singers or athletes, but can’t think of it.
  • 55A. THIN-SKINNED means [Easily offended]. The skin is, after all, your body’s largest organ.
  • 3D. [Cowardly] clues LILY-LIVERED. See also 9A: [Terror]/FEAR and 48A: [Chicken, so to speak]/SCARED.
  • 27D. [Imbecilic] clues LAMEBRAINED.

I can’t think of other “___-[organ]ed” adjectives outside of the sensory organs (gimlet-eyed, eagle-eyed, sharp-tongued), so I’ll call this a fairly tight theme.

Highlights:

  • 8D. To SCHLEP is to [Carry laboriously]. Gotta love words borrowed from Yiddish.
  • 34D. VIENNA gets a lively clue: [Austrian city with a sausage named for it]. No, there’s no world-famous Innsbruck or Graz sausage.
  • 14A. I like the clue for ATTICS: [High-level storage areas].
  • 33D. EL GRECO’s an interesting answer with a detailed clue: [Crete-born artist with a Spanish nickname].

Some gimlet-eyed observers may say, “Oh, but this puzzle has 40 black squares because of those two cheater squares between the outer edge of the puzzle and 15D/49D, and that’s a couple too many.” Editor Rich Norris calls ‘em “helper squares” and sets a limit of 43 black squares in a 15×15 grid, so there.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 18I flew right through the northwest quarter of the puzzle and was optimistic about a super-fast finish, but the rest of the puzzle slowed me down. Let’s break this one down into highlights, mysteries, and lowlights.

Highlights:

  • Computers! We have EMOTICONS crossing WEBINARS (a pair of modern portmanteau words, emotion + icon and web + seminar), the DAILY KOS blog (visit my Island of Lost Puzzles for a Daily Kos crossword), and the Latin DUMMY TEXT used in page-layout programs (see here for an epic-fail example or “Lorem ipsum” gone wrong).
  • [Vet-assisting legislation] is the G.I. BILL. Did you see the NYT article a couple weeks ago about Columbia University’s G.I. Bill students? Highly recommended.
  • Geo-trivia: MT. COOK is the [New Zealand peak whose native name is Aoraki]. I actually knew the not-famous [Suburb of Kansas City], LENEXA—crossworders Barry Haldiman and Beth Welsh live there.

Mysteries:

  • People! KRISTI Ahlers, Jon AMIEL, ELLIE Light. I’ve heard of director AMIEL but sure as hell couldn’t summon up the name. The other two, I’ve never heard of. Skater Yamaguchi and Dallas‘s Miss Ellie, call your publicists.
  • Things! The EFFIE is an [Annual marketing award]? A RETICLE is a [Grid on an eyepiece]. It’s used, the dictionary tells me, to help measure things seen through a telescope or microscope or on an oscilloscope’s screen, or as an aid in locating objects.

Lowlights:

  • 40A. GOLF PRO is clued as [One with a Masters, perhaps]. I’m no expert on golf lingo, but aren’t Masters winners “professional golfers,” while “golf pros” are those who coach amateurs at the country club and could only dream of winning the Masters?
  • ALER! Why, that’s a flansir if I ever saw one.
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21 Responses to Monday, 1/25/10

  1. Ellen says:

    I requested that a PDF be made available, but it didn’t happen.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ellen, I have a suggestion for the New York Times crossword team, and I’m going to put it in all caps: MAKE A PDF A STANDARD OPTION EVERY DAY. The Onion, Jonesin’, Ink Well, MGWCC, and Fireball puzzles are all provided in both Across Lite and a printable JPEG or PDF. This is becoming the standard for delivery of online crosswords.

    It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to change the Premium Crosswords page to offer four options: Across Lite, applet, solve with a friend, and PDF (or JPEG) options. For new subscribers who like to print out the puzzle, it would be a tremendous boon—why install Across Lite on every computer you might open the puzzle on when it would be so easy to print out a PDF with no added software?

    It would also behoove the NYT to add a note on that page on those days when a puzzle’s visual aspect means that the PDF would offer the most satisfying solving experience. Sure, Jim Horne can post images on his xwordinfo site, and he can notify bloggers to get the word out to their readers. But the vast majority of Premium Crosswords subscribers surely do not check any blog before going to the Premium Crosswords page to get the puzzle, so that is the obvious place where PDFs (or JPEGs) should be made available.

  3. merlbaby says:

    first, i agree with ellen completely on the pdf issue. (i make a one-page pdf of my own sunday puzz every week because i can’t trust what it’ll look like otherwise — except in l.a., where i seem to have no choice in the matter.) second, as to “flansirs,” yes, i never see U.S. ONE or UTWO or THREE-D in real life, but for some reason i find spelled numbers a bit more tolerable. don’t exactly know why, but i do. you’re right, though — they’re still flansirs.

  4. Doug says:

    Yes, I must say I cringed a little bit when the I saw more directions. If there are more in the near future I foresee a theme that reads out “The Fonz has just jumped the shark.” We’re trying WAY too hard lately….

  5. Mel Park says:

    I will opine the following about the missing graphics for Sunday and Monday.

    There was enough in the Sunday NYT’s note plus clues and the 7 and 14-down fill to solve the folding trick without having the vertical dotted lines of the printed version. There was only one way to fold the puzzle that aligned an A and B on the top and bottom rows.

    On the other hand, the graphic trick for the Monday is a mystery to me. I am guessing that the arrow and the “[see grid]” clue must be an attempt to find a Monday-level device to substitute for something that was much more clever but not consistent with an otherwise very simple puzzle. What could be a deeper way to clue 15A and 69A? I don’t know, particularly since 15A BOGEY and 69A EAGLE are asymmetric in the distance that they are above/below the fill part of their clues. BTW, there is no such thing as a four-hole golf course.

    That’s enough; this is too much palaver on my part for a Monday, IMHO.

  6. Gareth says:

    Never met a AGOB before. Had ATON, changed to A?OB when met 22A. Last entry was BOGEY/AGOB and looked at it strangely for about an extra 5 seconds before stopped clock. Otherwise all I gotta say is: weird theme.

  7. Mary says:

    A gob in central PA is a two cake-like cookies with a gob of fluffy icing in between. Also known as a whoopie pie in the PA Dutch areas. Of course, the clue would have to be changed, but would pass the breakfast test!

  8. Just throwing it out there: I, too, give away PDFs as well.

  9. Jon S. says:

    On the subject of printing the puzzles, I think PDFs that accurately replicated the printed version would be great – I printed the Sunday NYT and got a dark lined puzzle with really ugly thick circles that obscured some of the numbers.

    As for Monday’s NYT puzzle, picked up on the golf theme right away – I hope we see a baseball themed puzzle sometime soon.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, please, to the PDF version. It would be extremely useful when traveling/using someone else’s computer, to not have to download software.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Didn’t mean to dis you, Brendan—was just too lazy to click over and see if you had an option other than AL and an online applet thingy.

    Didn’t mean to leave out mention of JOON, [Puzzlemaker Pahk], in Brendan’s puzzle today! Yes, there’s “Benny and Joon,” but what have they ever done for the BEQ crossword? Joon test-solves.

  12. Karen says:

    I don’t think this one needed the special graphics, just a “see 17A” should have been enough. I have the feeling that this type of golf clue has been used before.

    Jon, we’ve seen several baseball themed puzzles over the year, how about a soccer themed puzzle?

    For the LAT, how about big boned? Or raw boned?

  13. joon says:

    karen, i don’t think bone is an organ. i’m trying to come up with another one. WEAK STOMACHED? that’s, well, weak. something SPLEENED? i wish. btw, LEATHER LUNGED looks like you’re talking about a fencing match between biker gangs.

    i still haven’t followed through on my threat to put my own name in a crossword grid, but i’m rather pleased to be in brendan’s. move over, benny!

  14. Gareth says:

    Bone is very definitely an organ! Actually, even blood is in fact considered an organ according to many definitions… But could see some very confused laypeople if it was in the puzzle. Awesome Monday theme idea, BTW

  15. joon says:

    interesting. you learn something new every day! anyway, big-boned or rawboned seems like an inferior theme answer anyway because they literally refer to somebody’s bones, whereas the other usages are all metaphorical.

  16. david H says:

    I had no issues with the graphics of this puzzle, but I can easily see the point for others. Kinda like those little word games in the Sunday Supplement section of the local newspaper (Parade?). My dad asked me a riddle when I was a kid – who is this envelope addressed to?

    Hill
    John
    Mass

    which I passed on to my own children, and now on to you in homage to this golf puzzle. My dad was also an avid golfer, and well familiar with the ol’ “Double Bogie”. (What a sot might see in Casablanca, perhaps?)

  17. Josh says:

    I’d been working on a grid with a similar premise for a month or so. I had yet to submit because I wasn’t happy with the fill. Mine isn’t as smooth, but I did fit in birdie at least. I like the premise and your name, Holden.

    Check out the unclued grid.

    http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/download/file.php?id=290

  18. John Farmer says:

    I’ll jump on the PDF bandwagon. No reason it shouldn’t be a standard, daily feature.

    I offer AL and PDF for puzzles. I’ll have something in March, and perhaps Feb, where PDF will make a difference.

    Still getting started but the puzzles are here:
    http://minaday.com/movies/puzzles

    And while I’m here, a reminder: the puzzle contest runs thru next Sunday (at the very least, all you need to do is send your favorite new movie of 2009 to be eligible for a prize). Details here:
    http://minaday.com/movies/contest

    I liked seeing an inventive puzzle on Monday. No reason Thursday should have all the fun. I did remember the past “one under par” puzzles, though, so there was no real “aha.” The trick has probably run its course.

  19. jane lewis says:

    i don’t have a computer at home and use the library computers. i have tried solving on the computer and hate it. i put in an answer and then realize it’s across when it should have been down. i always print out crosswords even though it costs 10 cents a page.

  20. Latka says:

    Getting sick of terms such as ‘webinars’ and the like. Gimmick puzzles too. Seems like the NYT has been running a fair amount of them lately. Surprised the NYT doesn’t offer PDFs. Never noticed before, but everyone else does so I’m not sure why the NYT doesn’t offer the same option. Perhaps they’re worried about people passing it on to non-subscribers. Beats me.

  21. Badir says:

    Okay, this is way too late for anyone to read, but I wanted to point out that AcrossLite is basically unusable on Linux computers! They have a really primitive version that’s like a decade old, and you can’t, for instance check your answers or (I think) print out the grid. So PDF and mediocre programs like “Xword” are the only options for Linux users.

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