Wednesday, 3/10/10

BEQ 5:06
Onion 4:09
NYT 3:17 (after subtracting browser lag time)
LAT 2:55
CS untimed

Gary Steinmehl’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 15This is one of two Wednesday puzzles by Gary Steinmehl. Seven theme entries in this one—that’s ambitious. The grand unifying answer is 55A: WITHIN COST, [Reasonably priced...or a hint to 17-, 19-, 26-, 34-, 42- and 51-Across]. Indeed, each of those other answers begins with CO and ends with ST. However, “within cost” doesn’t sound like a natural unit of meaning to me. Is it accounting lingo? British dialect? I Googled “within cost” within quotes and the results were not promising.

The answers with the CO-ST coats are solid, if not always thrilling:

  • 17A. CORNER POST is a [Key building support]. Posts are important, yes, but lack glamor.
  • 19A. COAST TO COAST is clued as [Across the entire United States]. Granted, the clue leaves Hawaii and Alaska out, but we always do that. Contiguous 48, represent!
  • 26A. Are you caught up on your laundry? If a fabric’s dye is [Unable to run], it’s COLOR-FAST.
  • 34A. Tough clue for a colorful phrase: COME HOME TO ROOST is clued as [Boomerang, in a way]. When the consequences of your actions whack you like a boomerang, they come home to roost.
  • 42A. Ooh! CONDE NAST is the [Publisher of the New Yorker]. See p. 24 of the new March 15 issue for Michael Schulman’s Talk of the Town piece on the ACPT. Frank Longo, Peter Gordon, Ann Marie McNamara, Eric LeVasseur, Kevan Choset, and Brown University constructors Natan Last and Jonah Kagan are all quoted. If you’re a subscriber, you can access the article online here.
  • 51A. If it will COUNT AGAINST you, it will [Be disadvantageous to] you.

The other day, another puzzle asked for the Italian word for nothing (NIENTE, as in “dolce far niente.” Did you know that meant “the sweetness of doing nothing”? I think I just learned that when I looked it up tonight. The Italian procrastinator’s motto? Today’s NYT puzzle plays the foreign vocab quiz game too: [Never, in Nogales] is the Spanish word NUNCA, much less familiar to Anglophones than nada (“nothing”). (More Spanish: 16A: ESTE is [90 degrees from sur]. And more Italian: 60A: CENTO is [100, in Italy].)

Clue roundup:

  • 15A. The ULNA gets a non-stale clue, [Bone connected to the supinator muscle]. I know that feet supinate or pronate when we run, but I didn’t know the forearm had supinator muscles.
  • 47A. HOSANNA is a [Cry of praise]. And now I have Toto’s “Rosanna” going through my head.
  • 50A. I could swear that the last time I saw GENII in a crossword, it was clued as if it were the plural of “genius.” [Guardian spirits] are genies, a.k.a. GENII.
  • 59A. The OBOE must be by far the most common musical instrument in crosswords, what with its three vowels. [___ d'amore (instrument)] is making me laugh, though. It sounds like a ridiculous euphemism, does it not?
  • 7D. [Prove successful] led me astray. First I had PAY OFF, then PAY OUT, then finally PAN OUT.
  • 9D. Outside of crossword solvers, how many people today think of J. LO as the [Selena portrayer, familiarly]? Isn’t she far better known for her music career and pop diva/icon status?
  • 36D. MEAS., clued as [Tsp. or tbsp.], is not a great entry. If only it were a real word, I could’ve played it alongside another word tonight in Lexulous.
  • 45D. [Woman with vows] means the nun sort of SISTER. Not a sibling with wedding vows, no, ma’am.
  • 48D. NO I is clued with ["___ will not!"]. I’m still waiting for this partial to be clued as part of that Chris Isaak “Wicked Game” lyric, “No, I don’t want to fall in love”—but technically, that might be spelled “No, IIIIIIIIIIII.”

Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 11THEME: “Tie Me Up, Ty Me Down”—There are five familiar ways to spell the “tie” sound (plus the less common tye, meaning a ship’s rope but used only in desperation on crosswords). Five phrases beginning with these words/names appear at the start of the theme entries.

Theme entries:

  • 17A: [National sport of South Korea] (TAE KWON DO). My husband’s nephews and niece have all been into tae kwon do, which is perhaps the hardest-to-spell martial art. I’ll bet jujitsu/jiujitsu would be more popular if it were easier to spell.
  • 29A: [Longtime skating partner of Randy Gardner] (TAI BABILONIA). They were big in the late ’70s.
  • 38A: [Places to order tom yum goong] (THAI RESTAURANTS). The plural is undesirable but you can’t center a 14-letter answer in a 15-square space.
  • 47A: [Host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"] (TY PENNINGTON). If I’m ever in the mood to have a good cry on a Sunday evening, Ty is there to help. The show is emotionally manipulative to be sure…but sometimes you just want to see a heartbreaking true story with a happy ending.
  • 65A: [Overtime causes] (TIE SCORES). I feel like tied score and tie game are slightly more “in the language,” but don’t look to me for expertise in sports lingo.

I like the theme, but oy! The rest of this puzzle…the fill was vexing me. Not because it was hard (it wasn’t) but because it had lots of uninspired fill. Now, SKEPTICAL was great (3D: [Having one's doubts]) and I like the COMRADE/JUDAISM pair, but overall I was underwhelmed by the fill. Here’s why:

  • French! The first (1A: PAS [__ de deux]) and last (73A: [Rimsky-Korsakov's "Le Coq __"] D’OR) Across answers are 3-letter French fill-in-the-blanks. Then there’s ST. LO, the 37D: [Normandy battle site] in France, which crosses another 3-letter French FITB, JUS (35A: [Au __: menu phrase]).
  • Crosswordese musicians! Either ENO (5D: [Ambient music composer Brian]) or ELO (44A: ["Xanadu" band, for short]) is enough. We don’t need two of ‘em. On the bright side, Yoko ONO took the day off.
  • Classic crosswordese! 68A: NACRE/[Mother-of-pearl] has been in puzzles more than in daily life for decades. The ULNA is bad enough in its basic form, and its two accepted plurals (ULNAS, ULNAE) can vex, but 53D: ULNAR/[Of an arm bone] is creaky. There’s not really any interesting way to clue a word like ULNAR. No gathering of classic crosswordese is complete without a 4-letter European river, is it? Here’s the YSER (62D: [River of Flanders]). You’ve gotta have some sort of Eastern potentate too, be it an EMIR/AMIR/EMEER or a RAJA/RAJAH or a RANI/RANEE. This time, it’s RAJA (28D: [Big Indian]).
  • Inexplicable abbreviation! 67D is CPS, an [Early computer printer speed]. Something per second, but what? Googling…characters per second, I think. Ah, yes, the shabby old dot matrix printer days, when printing wasn’t measured by the page.

Favorite clues: There were some terrific clues today.

  • 15A. [Where the ecstatic walk], metaphorically, is ON AIR. Good example of how a lively clue can rescue dull fill.
  • 23A. [Jon Stewart's "moment of __"] ZEN appears at the end of each Daily Show episode.
  • 55A. [Caesar's unlucky number?] is 13 in Roman numerals: XIII. See what I mean about lively clueing?
  • 22D. [Bricks unit] clues a TON, as in the phrase “it hit me like a ton of bricks.”
  • 61D. Holy cow! AERO is clued as [Musical prefix with smith?], referencing Aerosmith. Love this clue!

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 16Much of my knowledge of baseball and golf comes from Kevin Costner sports movies (Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, Tin Cup). It was in Bull Durham that his character, Crash Davis, tutored young pitcher Nuke Laloosh (good gravy, who came up with that name?) on the art of the locker room interview (video clip). The go-to platitudes have expanded since then:

  • 20A. [Locker room interview cliche #1] is that you “play ‘em ONE GAME AT A TIME.”
  • 33A. “IT IS WHAT IT IS” is a newer and even less meaningful line. What does that even mean? It embodies vacancy. It’s [Locker room interview cliche #2].
  • 42A. [Locker room interview cliche #3] is “WE PLAYED HARD.”
  • In [Locker room interview cliche #4] you just “GOTTA GIVE THEM CREDIT.”

Comments on clues:

  • 16A. The NOOK is an [E-reader from Barnes & Noble]. Can anything top the Kindle? Will the iPad?
  • 40A. A car that’s a LEMON is a [Non-starter?].
  • 62A. BALOO is ["The Bare Necessities" singer] from The Jungle Book. You know what kind of animal Baloo is? Do you know all your Disney and Pixar animal characters? Then try this Sporcle quiz. My son and I only managed to get 27 of 40.
  • 11D. [One who may be sexiled] is a ROOMMATE. I don’t suppose the old “tie something on the doorknob” sign is still in use on campuses?
  • 53D. [Neaten up in the morning] clues SHAVE. I was picturing a general tidying of one’s abode.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Animal Matters”—Janie’s review

I really like the programming of the puzzles so far this week. Yesterday, Donna gave us chemical elements; today Ray gives us items of substance (“matter”) with the [Enhancement] ADD ON of creatures: two of the two-legged variety; three of four-legged sort. Whence the title. He’s also provided a slew of (what I see as) bonus fill, making for a theme-rich grid. First the actual theme fill:

  • 17A. CLAY PIGEON [Hurled target]. All sorts o’ lessons available here
  • 10A. IRON HORSE [Old name for a locomotive]. I love this colorful term–the feeling it gives of the period in the 19th century when it emerged; the reminder, too, of the role of the horse as the primary means of transportation in its day. (It’s also Lou Gehrig’s nickname…)
  • 24A. SNOWCAT [Winter vehicle]. And this woulda been the winter to have had one, too.
  • 35D. WOODEN BAT [Louisville Slugger]. This is the only example where the real animal and the theme-phrase use of the animal’s name are completely different. Even metaphorically. Kind of a theme-weakener, but not the end of the world.
  • 64A. PAPER TIGER [Phantom menace]. Like iron horse, another strong image.

Full disclosure: As I was solving, I saw only the metaphorical animals and not the “matters” component. When I finally did, the real beauty of the concept came through. Then, I was double delighted by the aforementioned bonus fill with its references to a veritable zoo of real animals:

  • [Canines] DOGS
  • [Sit, like a wren] PERCH
  • [Plow pullers] OXEN
  • [Cried like a Siamese] MEOWED
  • [Bullfrog sound] CROAK. And bullfrogs can often be found [Where lilies grow], namely in a POND.
  • [Cleopatra's stinger] ASP
  • ["Stop!" to Silver] “WHOA!” Silver was the Lone Ranger’s steed, of course, and fortunately, unlike some of the horses in Central Park, was never called on to draw a HANSOM [Early cab].

There’re also allusions to edible animal by-products , such as EGGS [Poultry products], which is another word for ROE [Caviar] (sturgeon eggs), and PRAWN [Shrimp cocktail piece].

There are three repeats from puzzles we’ve seen this week. This tends to ERODE [Decrease, as confidence] my joy in solving. The guilty parties today are: WATT, EDEN and AGRA. But–what forgives the last one is that the the very next word Across is AGORA [Greek gathering place], or AGRA + O. Whether by design or serendipity, this is kinda cool (and yes, I know that the fill repetition isn’t by design). Also kinda cool, the word that follows agora is RAMA. Now that’s been clued as ["___ Lama Ding Dong"], but Rama is also a Hindu deity. And that brings us back to Agra

Finally, some fave clue/fill combos include: [Ones making cutting remarks?] for CENSORS; [Wee bit] for SKOSH; [Left dreamland] for WOKE; and the fabulous [Burgoo, e.g.] for STEW.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Wednesday”

Region capture 17The common cold is kicking my ass this morning. I don’t much feel like blogging.

Favorite clue: 47A: [Togetherness?] for SANITY, as in “she doesn’t have it all together today.”

Most colloquial usage: 19A: [Scratches the surface?] clues ITCHES as a transitive verb, something you do to your skin rather than something the skin is doing as a sensation. This usage irritates some people.

Answer with the most current fashion violation: 54A: [Rapper will.___] clues IAM (will.i.am.). He wore “drop-crotch man-harem pants” to the VF Oscar party, Go Fug Yourself reports. See for yourself.

Is this wrong? 38D: SKIP is clued as [Green card in a party game]. If the game in question is Uno, the Skip card comes in all four colors.

Most obscure pop culture reference: 37A: SAIS is clued as [Raphael's weapons from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]. The sai is a two-pronged dagger, with the prongs curving outward. It’s sometimes used in pairs in martial arts, hence the TNMT application.

Overall assessment: I liked the long stacks OK, but the diagonal swath of 5s and the short fill crossing the long stacks did not thrill me. REDRY? When you make the clothes dryer [Go through another cycle again], you’re drying stuff some more, not REDRYing it. And this crosses SERER and sits atop STIEB, whose name is useless to all but hardcore baseball fans or Ontarians. ALAI, the not-so-familiar NAIRA (surprising etymology: contraction of “Nigeria”), ONE-L, -ANE…

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9 Responses to Wednesday, 3/10/10

  1. Joe Burke says:

    WITHIN COST — not a real phrase (as far as I/google can tell) and doesn’t really describe the theme answers.
    Nice puzzle otherwise.

  2. Karen says:

    If you hold your elbow in by your side and rotate your wrist from palm down to palm up, you are supinating your wrist (remembered by all med students as ‘soups on’).
    Could you clue ULNAR by which nerve is sometimes called a bone (funny bone, that is)?

  3. Gareth says:

    Clue for COLORFAST = genius. Other than that… really easy Wed NYT! Not that that makes it good, found it about middling, there’s some cool stuff to be sure though. COMEHOMETOROOST is a nice central 15. CORNERPOST IMO would’ve been zestier clued re soccer, but I suspect would’ve also confused a lot of soccerphobic Americans, no? Amy, seems I had the one possibility you didn’t go for @ 7D – WINOUT!

  4. ArtLvr says:

    My favorite so far today is the CS “Animal Matters” by Raymond Hamel. Very quick and smooth, but highly enjpyable. Good theme choices, nice food fill like PRAWN, and how about MYOPIA? More than a SKOSH of good stuff!

  5. joon says:

    possible clue for ULNAR: {Some kind of nerve}. yes? no?

    not sure what got into me today, but i sprinted through the LAT like nobody’s business. i somehow sensed the theme after just TAE KWON DO, even though the first vowel sound in korean is a short E (as in “tech”), not a long I. korean doesn’t even have a long I, really, although you can approximate it by ah followed by ee.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    STIEB wasn’t a gimme for you? Of course, I was a Toronto Blue Jays season ticket holder while he pitched. Does that make a difference?

  7. ArtLvr says:

    I agreed with your quibbles in the BEQ — SERER and REDRY were like dustbunnies under the bed in an otherwise clean room — but I was glad to finish one without much ANGST.

  8. split infinitive says:

    Thanks for continuing to blog the Onion and Ch. Reader puzzles. I hope to never again hear “it is what it is” but it was fun to see in the Onion. “Sexiled” clued in 11D almost got the better of me but MOP and NOOK rescued me from a “do over.” I knew BALOO ’cause I sing the Disney songs to annoy my parents because they sang them to me/sibs, and turnaround is only fair, right?

    Fine puzzle, Team Hinman/Tausig!

    Feel better soon, Amy.

  9. Jeff says:

    The GESSO/AVISO cross had me stumped.

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