Sunday, 3/14/10

NYT 8:12
LAT 10 minutes (on paper)
Reagle 9 minutes (on paper)
BG untimed (on paper)
CS 3:07

Announcements!

  1. Find out what my favorite puzzles of 2009 were, and add your own in comments on this post.
  2. Joon gives the details on the April 11 Boston crossword tournament here.


Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “Book Binding”

Region capture 8Oh, I loved this puzzle. Smart theme, SNAZZY fill, and entertaining clues make for a terrific Sunday crossword.

Each theme entry is two book titles “bound” together (hence the puzzle’s title “Book Binding”). The first word of the second book doubles as the last word of the first book, and the first book gets subsumed into a description of the second book. Like so:

  • 24A. [Plot of a Willa Cather novel?] is STORY OF O PIONEERS. The first title, The Story of O, is a classic erotic novel.
  • 41A. [Unabridged version of a Philip Roth novella?] is THE LONG GOODBYE, COLUMBUS. The Long Goodbye is one of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories.
  • 61A. [Pocket edition of a D.H. Lawrence novel?] is LITTLE WOMEN IN LOVE. You all know about Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, right?
  • 77A. ["Frost/Nixon" director's copy of a Graham Greene novel?] is Ron HOWARD’S END OF THE AFFAIR. Howards End is an E.M. Forster novel. (The apostrophe in the theme entry isn’t in the first book title.)
  • 99A. [Final copy of a Cervantes novel?] is THE LAST DON QUIXOTE. Mario Puzo wrote The Last Don more than two decades after The Godfather.
  • 114A. [Creased copy of a Jack Finney novel?] is A WRINKLE IN TIME AND AGAIN. I know Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, but I confess I’ve never heard of Finney nor Time and Again. (Sci-fi, Wikipedia tells me.)
  • 137A. [Illustrations in a Leo Tolstoy novel?] are ART OF WAR AND PEACE. The Art of  War is by Niccolo Machiavelli.

I’m slightly vexed by the dropping of The from The Story of O and The Art of  War (but not in 41A and 99A). Perhaps including THE in both bollixed up the grid design? The grid pattern did allow for some cool fill, though:

  • 19A. SALT ‘N PEPA is clued as the ["Let's Talk About Sex" hip-hop group].
  • 26A. SNAZZY would have vanished if 24A added THE. And SNAZZY is, well, [Cool-looking].
  • 107A. T.S. ELIOT was the [1948 Literature Nobelist].
  • 128A. More initials! J.S. BACH is clued as [Mass producer, for short], and that is not a very straightforward clue at all. I needed plenty of crossings.
  • 144A. OLD YELLER is a [1957 film dog]. I didn’t even see him while solving the Downs.
  • 3D. [Not sit up] clues SLOUCH, which is such a useful and snazzy word.
  • 17D. [Duke Ellington band instrument] is a JAZZ GUITAR.
  • 83D. “IT’S ON” is a [Fight announcement].
  • 89D. JOSS WHEDON, Caleb’s hero, is best known as the ["Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator]. Whedon also created “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” starring Neil Patrick Harris, who has palled around with musical theater/puzzle legend Stephen Sondheim. NPH is currently on the sitcomHow I Met Your Mother, which will feature a Will Shortz cameo in May. (Rex Parker included NPH’s photo of him idolizing Will at the end of this post.)

Favorite clues:

  • 60A. HATE gets a fill-in-the-blank clue: ["Authority is never without __": Euripides].
  • 67A. OVA are [Things that go through tubes] of a Fallopian bent.
  • 87A. [Bachelor's end?] is the ALTAR, not a suffix like -ETTE.
  • 105A. -SAUR is a [Suffix at a natural history museum].
  • 133A. The word THEY gets split up. THE “Y” is a [Community hangout, informally].
  • 145A. ON TWO looks like a weird answer, but the clue salvages it: [How a call maybe picked up at the office], as in “It’s your boss on line one and your boyfriend ON TWO.”
  • 7D. [Touch, for one] is an IPOD, the iPod Touch. Popularly called the iTouch.
  • 16D. [Fuzz buster?] is a great clue for a RAZOR BLADE, especially for a teenage boy who’s more likely to be shaving facial fuzz than burly whiskers.
  • 18D. [Carter and Adams] are two American presidents as well as AMYS.
  • 57D. The MLS (Major League Soccer) is a [Goal-oriented group?]. So’s the NHL.
  • 73D. PSYCHO is the [Film with the line "Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies"].
  • 78D. ["Lovely!," in dated slang] doesn’t say how dated the slang will be. RAD is what, mainly ’80s?
  • 91D. This is a crazy little bit of botanical trivia: the DAHLIA is a [Flower once cultivated for food].

Some may grumble about the presence of a fair amount of oldish crosswordese in this puzzle. I don’t claim that it’s desirable fill, but it also doesn’t slow me down while solving, so I don’t mind it so much. Guests at the crosswordese party include 119D: ARTEL/[Soviet co-op], 113D: AGA, 104D: ROK, 106A: ANAS, 98D: SETA, 62D: author LESAGE, and 116D: IMARET.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Beware”

Region capture 9Beware the Ides of March! Each of a whopping 15 theme entries ends with IDE in recognition of the Ides of March, a.k.a. March 15:

  • 22A. OCEANSIDE is a [City near San Diego].
  • 24A. The Alabama CRIMSON TIDE were the [BCS champs of 2010] in college football.
  • 32A. To [Achieve normal speed] is to HIT ONE’S STRIDE.
  • 39A. [Come together?] clues COLLIDE.
  • 60A. [Good person to know on the way up] is a MOUNTAIN GUIDE.
  • 69A. ["Here comes __"] THE BRIDE. That’s also what Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill was called, right?
  • 73A. BONA FIDE means [Real].
  • 83A. NOWHERE TO HIDE is [Bad news for the hunted].
  • 103A. CYANIDE is a [Poison in apple seeds].
  • 111A. CARBON DIOXIDE is a key [Photosynthesis need].
  • 123A. COUNTRYWIDE is that mortgage company and an adjective meaning [From sea to shining sea].
  • 126A. [Film fest town and ski resort] clues TELLURIDE.
  • 3D. The GREAT DIVIDE is a [Rockies feature].
  • 46D. “YOU DECIDE” is clued ["Think about it"].
  • 75D. INSECTICIDE is a [Spray of a sort].

I found out the hard way that doing a printout of this puzzle in a not-well-enough-lit room is a bad idea. Small letters! Small numbers! Oy.

Weirdest answers:

  • I needed all the crossings for 15D: [Tokyo's old name], 4 letters. What? Not EDO? It’s YEDO. Don’t recall seeing this answer before.
  • 19A: For [Perfect report card], I entered ALL A’S, which quickly proved to be wrong. AAAAA? How many straight-A report cards cover only five classes?

Toughest intersecting clues:

  • 30A. [What a 3-0 game lacks] doesn’t mention football at all. The answer is TDS, or touchdowns. I suppose a 3-0 game of soccer or hockey or baseball also lacks touchdowns…but the clue would have benefited from a mention of football. The D crossed 25D: ["Life of Riley" character, Digger __] O’DELL. Youth fiction novelist Scott O’Dell is far more famous.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “On the QT” (in Across Lite)

Region capture 10There are 10 theme entries that begin with a Q and end with a T, and they vary in their familiarity. I know the QUARTER REST in music, a QUINTUPLET, the QUEEN CONSORT, a QUICK START, and a QUONSET HUT. And then…sigh. I know the word querulous, but QUERULENT isn’t in either of the two dictionaries I consulted. QUINCY MARKET is completely kosher for the Boston crowd that solves this puzzle, but it’s not something I’m familiar with. A [Teeny semiconductor] is a QUANTUM DOT? Never heard of it. I should have gotten QUODLIBET, but I didn’t know the music definition and I first put QUODLICET, swayed by videlicet (viz.) Then there’s the final Across theme entry—saving the best for last?—the QUANDONG NUT, which is an [Edible sandalwood kernel]. Are you kidding me? Apparently it’s an Australian tree; I would’ve guessed Chinese. What an odd theme.

One thing I learned in my Adventures in Paper Solving today: Emily and Henry write much shorter clues than Merl does, which means that in Across Lite, the clues print out in a larger font. The grid was the same size, but the clues! They made my eyes feel 10 years younger. (P.S. When the hell did I get old enough to complain about small print? Sigh.)

Don Gagliardo’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Why Not”

Region capture 11Each of the theme entries is formed by lopping a Y off the end of a familiar phrase:

  • 23A. [Attire at the UN?] is WORLD-WEAR.
  • 25A, [Loaner policeman?] is a COURTESY COP. What’s “courtesy copy”? Is that what people say “cc:” stands for in e-mail, no longer “carbon copy”? (Psst: “Police officer” is a handy gender-neutral term that would have worked great in this clue.)
  • 40A. [Final step in a marksman's manual?] clues “FIRE WHEN READ.” This mucks up the object of the sentence. “When read” refers to the manual, but the verb “fire” goes with a gun. “Fire when done reading” ruins the theme concept but works grammatically.
  • 53A. [Fairway shot that goes in the hole?] is a DRAMATIC IRON. Do golfers label their shots by the type of club used?
  • 71A. [Autograph candy for the Halloween visitor?] clues SIGN A TREAT.
  • 74A. [Lawyer's sure thing?] is a MIGHTY CASE. I like the evocation of Casey, mighty Casey, striking out.
  • 87A. ["Grey's Anatomy" leading man?] clues not McDreamy but a CLINICAL STUD. Cute.
  • 102A. [Unexpected piece in a chicken order?] is a SURPRISE PART. I was trying to think of a specific chicken part that forms another word when a Y is added to the end. No, SURPRISE BREASTY is not a phrase.
  • 119A. [Russian rodent's approval?] clues GROUNDHOG “DA.” I might’ve gone with an Irish rodent’s father, familiarly.
  • 122A. [Dentistry expo] clues TOOTH FAIR and I’m here to tell you that while I have been to dentistry expos, they have not been called Tooth Fairs. Lost opportunity!

Here’s a handful or two of clues:

  • 43A. AMARETTO is a [Liqueur in a godfather cocktail], which I’ve never heard of. Good heavens! It’s two parts Scotch to one part Amaretto. That sounds as tasty as lighter fluid.
  • 78A. [Sch. that had a Roger Williams Dining Center] is URI, or University of Rhode Island. Roger Williams is a name from early Rhode Island history.
  • 108A. [Quick court contest] is ONE SET of tennis. Not the best entry, but far from the worst.
  • 126A. [Hi-fi pioneer Fisher] is named AVERY. The Lincoln Center has an Avery Fisher Hall, doesn’t it?
  • 2D. SNORRI! ["Edda" author ___ Sturluson] was a medieval Icelandic poet and historian.
  • 5D. [Verb for Tweety] is TAWT, as in “I tawt I taw a puddy tat.”
  • 12D. CARD CATALOG is a great entry. It’s a [Bygone library feature].
  • 73D. “ENDLESS LOVE” is a [1981 Ross/Richie duet]. Was it on the soundtrack of the Brooke Shields movie by the same name? I no longer remember.
  • 61D. IMAGISM is a [Poetry movement promoted by Amy Lowell].
  • 49D, 50D. [Groundbreaking?] clues SEISMIC, while [Groundbreaking] without the question mark is RADICAL. Great pairing!

Updated Sunday morning:

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge”

Region capture 1What is this, a themeless puzzle that’s even easier than the typical weekday themed CS puzzle? Hmph.

Let’s stroll through the puzzle, shall we?

  • 1A. A [Jigger] is a SHOT GLASS.
  • 15A. CAMERA-SHY is a great answer, and when I had the end of it filled in, I contemplated what word that ended with “ashy” could mean [Averse to being snapped]. WISH-WASHY? SLAPDASHY?
  • 17A. Completing the sparkling stack of long answers is THE EAGLES, the 17A. ["Heartache Tonight" rock group].
  • 27A. [Engagement enders] are the “I DO’S” said at a wedding.
  • 31A. “AHEM” is a [Small clearing?] of the throat.
  • 35A. [End's neighbor] on the football field is a DEFENSIVE TACKLE.
  • It’s sauce time. 55A: [White sauces] are BECHAMELS, and 45D: [Gnocchi topper] is PESTO.
  • 8D. I love SHEL SILVERSTEIN’s wordplay-filled poems, but as ["The Giving Tree" author], I take issue with the message his book gives. It’s acceptable for a boy to use the “tree” character for selfish reasons, leading to its destruction, and the tree is happy to be so self-sacrificing?
  • 12D. “SIDE POCKET” is an [Eightball call], as when the pool player calls which pocket the ball will go into. See also 25D.
  • 13D. EVANSVILLE is a [Southern Indiana city].
  • 25D. Speaking of pool, THE HUSTLER is the [Film in which Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson].
  • 26D. Worst answer in the puzzle: REFIGURING, clued as [Double-checking one's math]. Reconfiguring or figuring, yes. REFIGURING? No.
  • 36D. [Women's fashion brand] clues NINE WEST. As far as I know, Nine West sells shoes and accessories, not clothes.
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11 Responses to Sunday, 3/14/10

  1. joon says:

    okay, i loved the theme and i blew through this one, but apparently i had a mistake… i had IVS for {They go through tubes}. SMITE and SMOTE both fit {Hit hard}, and i have no idea what the {Former Wall St. inits} N_SD might be, so NSSD lookd as good as NASD. bummer.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Didn’t love it as much as you. A 23×23 has really got to be great to be worth the effort, otherwise it turns into a slog.

    Also had IVS.

  3. Steve Manion says:

    NASD stands for National Association of Securities Dealers. In the early 1980′s Prudential began to sell hybrid insurance policies in which the cash surrender value of the insurance policy was invested in securities rather than in traditional ultra safe investments. Prudential agents induced many long term policyholders to invest in these products with the promise that the policyholders would get more insurance and greater cash surrender value with the same premiums they were currently paying. Prudential anticipated that the securities would have a sufficiently high enough return to accomplish this, but it didn’t work out that way.

    Starting at some point in the late 1980s, the policyholders began to receive unanticipated premium notices and complained that they had been duped. By the mid-90s, Prudential was receiving an unmanageable sea of complaints and its small compliance staff fell 80,000+ complaints behind. in 1997-98, I spent a year and a half in Jacksonville training 200 caseworkers in how to decide whether a particular complaint letter amounted to an allegation of fraud, which had to be reported to the NASD.

    The irony of this is that when the team of lawyers from around the country was brought in, Prudential did not have the files ready and we all spent a month sitting around playing games. Six of us got into competitive crossword solving. My times were never faster than during this stretch.

    The NASD was merged with some unit of the NYSE a few years ago. I forget what the new entity is called.

    SW corner took me longer than almost the entire rest of the puzzle.
    Steve

  4. LARRY says:

    NASD = NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SECURITIES DEALERS, basically an over-the-counter (OTC) market.

    Why shouldn’t it be YEDO? It and EDO are both transliterations, i.e., someone’s opinion of what a word in a foreign language sounds like. Never could understand how the colonial British heard MYANMAR as BURMA.

  5. Zulema says:

    Neither Story of O nor Art of War had introductory articles in the original. The first 23×23 puzzle I enjoyed, perhaps ever if memory serves. Didn’t even notice til mentioned here. JSBach was my last entry because I didn’t know any Jonas brothers and, like Steve, the little SW corner took me the longest to parse. And considering what was raging outside, definitely a worthwhile pastime.

  6. HH says:

    “One thing I learned in my Adventures in Paper Solving today: Emily and Henry write much shorter clues than Merl does,…”

    Not by choice — BG affords us only so many lines of text. If you only knew how many times the editor has asked me to shorten clues.

  7. Matt M. says:

    D’oh! Was feeling good about my time but then realized I did exactly what Joon and Jeffrey did… a great puzzle, though, with a fun theme and JOSS WHEDON plus SALT N PEPA…

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Henry, your editor at the Globe is not much into crosswords, is he/she? I like long clues (the apotheosis of short clues is the Newsday Saturday Stumper), but until bifocals join my family I want to steer clear of Across Lite printouts of Sunday puzzles with long clue.

    How difficult would it be to construct a puzzle in which every clue could have only one word?

  9. karen says:

    The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu.

  10. joon says:

    difficult, i’d wager. i don’t think you could have any proper names in there, for one thing. i mean, i suppose technically you could clue YMA as {___ Sumac}, which is one word. but i don’t think i’ve ever seen a name clued that way.

    also, that puzzle would be no fun to solve. and i bet it would have one of those lame themes where all the theme clues are the same word, and non-crossworthy phrases go in the grid as answers.

    SNORRI!

  11. SethG says:

    EDDA.

Comments are closed.