Friday, 3/26/10

NYT 8:56
BEQ 5:01
LAT 3:53
CHE 3:46
CS untimed

Henry Hook’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 23Criminy, what are so many things I don’t know doing in a single Friday puzzle? Let us enumerate the trouble spots:

  1. 1A. CASBAH is the [Nightclub in the Trump Taj]. Taj Mahal = India, Casbah = North Africa. Has Trump lost his mind?
  2. 19A. ["Closer Than Ever," e.g.] is a REVUE. Never heard of it. Not a big revue fan, truth be told.
  3. 29A. Should I have known that [Apollonian] means SERENE? Probably. And yet I didn’t.
  4. 35A. Eventually I knew this, with enough crossings. MEG MARCH is the [Oldest of a literary quartet], Alcott’s Little Women. I actually tried MEGILLAH here. I’m not proud.
  5. 40A. “AGONY” is a [Song from Sondheim's "Into the Woods"]. Don’t know my Sondheim.
  6. 43A. SWAPS is a verb I know. SWAPS is also a [Racehorse whose 1955 Kentucky Derby win kept Nashua from taking the Triple Crown]. Man. I hate racehorse, poker, and nautical clues.
  7. 45A. ["Laus ___" (words atop the Washington Monument)] clues DEO. You’d think I’d remember than from visiting the obelisk last summer, but no. At least DEO is a plausible monument inscription.
  8. 12D. ETESIAN is a [Summer wind in the Mediterranean] but not, as ill luck would have it, one of the winds Volkswagen named a car after. I didn’t know what tense the verb in 26A: [Often-used word in Matthew] would be, so I tried BEGET and BEGOT (ETESIEN and ETESION) first.
  9. 23D. Holy moly, are you kidding me? I didn’t know “December Bride” when an actress from that was in Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzle last weekend. What were the odds that another actress would pop up days later? Should’ve eyeballed the IMDb page last weekend. [Actress Felton of 1950s TV's "December Bride"] is VERNA.
  10. 26D. Abe BEAME, sure. Didn’t realize that BEAMY ([Radiant]) was an actual word.
  11. 32D. Totally misunderstood the clue for SHUDDER: [Some people do it to think]. It’s not that some people must shudder in order to think—it’s that people say “I shudder to think that…”
  12. 37D. CALANDO is one of those music words that is utterly foreign to me. It means [Gradually quieting, in music]. I really wanted DIMINUENDO to fit here.
  13. 47D. Never heard of STAN [Coveleski of Cooperstown]. You could say what baseball team he played for, what position, and what years, and I still wouldn’t have known this. Or is he the famous mayor of Cooperstown?

I dunno. That’s kind of a lot of items in the “things I didn’t know” category for a little 15×15 puzzle. Whoa.

Here are my favorite things that I had, in fact, heard of before doing this puzzle:

  • The pair of 16A: [Famous bodybuilder] and 48A: [Famous body builder?]. SCHWARZENEGGER and DR. FRANKENSTEIN, two of the finest Teutonic names ever.
  • At 18A, ETHEL is clued as the ["On Golden Pond" wife] played by Katharine Hepburn. “Ethel Thayer. Thounds like I’m lithping, doethn’t it?”
  • 23A: VAIL took me way too long to suss out, despite the fact that my sister-in-law lives in that [Resort town on I-70] and despite the fact that when we visited her a few years ago, she lived a couple towns down the highway. The bedroom window overlooked I-70, which has really fast truck traffic.
  • 27A. I don’t like RECLASPS as an answer, but I like the clue, [Holds over?].
  • 30A. Playful clue for ARTHURIAN: [In days of knights?].
  • Yay! German I know! SEHEN means [To look, in Leipzig].
  • 6D. “HARRUMPH” is something I write more than I utter aloud. It’s an awesome [Disapproving comment].
  • 8D. Roman numeral clue for a Latin answer? Wha…? We don’t see that much. [CD, e.g.?] is an ANNUS, or year.
  • 11D. Great clue: [Carousel riders?] refers to LUGGAGE at the airport baggage claim.
  • 17D. Terrific fill: ZERO-SUM GAME is clued as a [Balancing act?].
  • 25D. I like the can-you-figure-it-outness of [Barrows]. They’re CARTS, as in wheelbarrows. I half suspected it might also be a term for, I dunno, some sort of livestock.
  • 44D. Tricky! [Michelangelo's country] is not ITALY but rather, the Italian word for “country,” PAESE. So Bel Paese cheese is Pretty Country cheese?
  • Trivia! 50D and 28D are one answer in two parts, clued with [its flag has a lion holding a sword].

The fill has lots of echoes. Besides BEAME and BEAMY, there’s EN MASSE with EN ROUTE and the RE- family: REVUE, RECLASPS, REENTER, REEVES, REOPENED, and REEDIER. I know only three use RE- as a true prefix, but they sensitized my eyes to the REs. Speaking of my eyes, each one has an AREOLA (14A: [Part of the iris bordering the pupil]). Please don’t look at them. You’ll make me blush.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Eastern Direction”

Region capture 24I wonder how many other constructors have submitted puzzles with Kurosawa themes. It seems like the sort of erudite theme that would appeal to constructors, though maybe not quite as much to the daily newspaper solving audience. Yes? No? This puzzle’s appearing this week because it was Kurosawa’s 100th birthday on Tuesday. The theme includes four of his movies; THRONE OF BLOOD, THE IDIOT, RAN, and RASHOMON. AKIRA KUROSAWA balances out the first title’s length. I have not seen any of these films, but know about the Rashomon effect named after the movie.

Favorite clue: 26D: [Plasma balls?] for STARS. A friend of mine just reported on Facebook that her son (age 9) rebutted his teacher, who said the sun was made of gas. Linus said no, it’s made of plasma. Apparently some teachers giving incorrect information to their students think it’s rude to tell them they’re wrong.

Second favorite clue: PUN gets a quote clue, ["A pistol let off at the ear": Charles Lamb]. You know what? It’s quite possible that this is the largest piece of Lamb/Elia’s writings I’ve ever read.

Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 25Oh, this is a fun puzzle. The theme is THE POWER OF TEN (51A), an [Exponential measurement, and in a way, what's demonstrated in how answers were formed in 20-, 34- and 41-Across?]. Those three answers have added 10…but really it’s the letters IO. Like so:

  • 20A. [Barbecue area without chairs?] is STANDING PATIO—”standing pat” + IO.
  • 34A. [Relative value used in a scientific workplace?] is LABORATORY RATIO (rat).
  • 41A. [Small apartment for a comical septet?] clues SEVEN-CARD STUDIO (seven-card stud’s a variety of poker).

I don’t really see any fill that really knocks me out (though the 9s are a nice touch), but I had fun doing the crossword. Highlights:

  • 1A. [Sugar substitute?] is the term of endearment DEAR.
  • 15A. ALPO is a [Rival rival].
  • 23A. [Gray head?] refers to the Civil War, the Grays versus the Blues. Robert E. LEE led the Grays (South).
  • 46A. The Scottish overload is just nuts. I suspected a crazy Scots word, but LASS is pretty familiar. The fill-in-the-blank clue comes from poetry: ["O, gie me the __ that has acres o' charms": Burns].
  • 63A. [One of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers] is the OHIO. OH! IO! Or 10!
  • 8D. My favorite clue: [Berlin number] is not EINS or DREI at all. It’s a SONG by Irving Berlin.
  • 51A. Singer TORI is a [Famous Amos]. Does she make cookies?


Updated Friday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Solving through Trial and Terror”—Janie’s review

This is an add-a-letter theme and as the title hints at, that letter is “T.” So the equation is “well-known base phrase + T = new ‘improved’ phrase.” I had a mixed reaction to the theme-phrase set. That’s because in two cases the “T” attaches to the first word in the phrase, in two to the last. Okay, at least there’s symmetry there, but to my mind anyway, the title promised the alteration to the last word. The more “serious” issue I had though relates to one of the clue/fill combos, where ya really gotta stretch to make it work. I’m afraid I’m making the theme fill sound like it’s just so-so. No, no. With the addition of a single “T”:

  • 20A. Arts and crafts → TARTS AND CRAFTS [Items at the handiworkers' bake sale?]. Now that’s really funny. It also makes me think of the British dress-up PARTIES [Celebrations] known as “Tarts and Vicars.” Anyone who read or saw Bridget Jones’s Diary knows what I’m referring to. For the uninitiated, here’s a description and … it’s complete with a vegan menu for the PERFECT [Ideal] event…
  • 32A. Still and all → STILL AND TALL [Like the big, strong, silent type?]. Icons from the past would include Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck. These days, who? Maybe Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper… The guys of the previous generation were taller, however.
  • 40A. Rock and roll → ROCK AND TROLL [Things found under the bridge in "Three Billy Goats Gruff"?]. Okay, this one’s my [Bête ___ ] NOIRE. Why? Try as I did, I couldn’t find a version of the story that said a word about there being a rock under that darned bridge… Perhaps one exists in some illustrated version–and the idea of the resulting phrase is great fun. But it draws attention to itself for not being easily supportable. Fyi, I did find a children’s theatre version of the story whose troll is a misunderstood guy who only wants to befriend the Gruff family. In one attempt to win their trust he decks himself out as a rock singer and entertains them by singing “The Rock’n Troll.” But all in all, it’s a long way to go…
  • 54A. Oil and vinegar → TOIL AND VINEGAR [Ingredients for effective window washing]. No kidding. Works like a charm.

Yes, we saw LESTAT [Cruise's role in "Interview with the Vampire"] two days ago (time for some garlic, perhaps?), when he was clued in relation to author Anne Rice. On the positive side, her name ties in nicely to [Trainer's advice for a sprained ankle], which is “ICE IT.” The more thorough approach, though, calls for the injured person to RICE it: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. It’s all spelled out at Rice University’s site.

The last items I want to point out today relate to the TIE-IN I perceive between SAGA [Long story] and [Fjord, e.g.] INLET, both of which have Scandinavian connections. Oh. And the origin of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”? Norway.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Check These Out”

Region capture 1Chessmaster puns? As a theme? Ow. Karpov and Fischer (and neglected Kasparov) are familiar names from life, while TAL and ANAND are chess names I know only from crosswords. So the theme was gettable, but forgive me if I fail to be roused by a theme of puns with chessmasters’ names.

I finished the puzzle and then, instead of blogging about it, I started cleaning out my e-mail in-box. Not much to say about the puzzle, I guess.

Favorite clue: [Copy cats?] is a verb phrase and the answer is MEOW.

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28 Responses to Friday, 3/26/10

  1. foodie says:

    Amy, re the NYT– You made me feel so much better! I was making my own list and thinking– I’m going backwards. I should stick to KenKen and forget this crossword business.

    I had to google VERNA and BEAME to budge in those neighborhoods. The rest unfolded in fits and starts. HARRUMPH jumped at me at one point and helped immensely.

    AWAKER? Really? But I too liked ZERO SUM GAME, ARTHURIAN, CASBAH, and the way DR.FRANKENSTEIN echoed SCHWARZENEGGER.

    Interesting puzzle. Quite a workout.

  2. miguel says:

    Obscurity, thy name is Hook. The CD clue was horribilis. l

    I will double your Elia readings in this apropos snippet…Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.

  3. Peter says:

    Re: the NYT, never a good sign if the awful entries outnumber the good entries. Not just the obscurity, but things like REEDIER and RECLASPS… and look at the SE corner. Aside from Frankenstein, what other exciting (or even noteworthy) entry is down there? I don’t mind a few undesirable entries sprinkled in here and there, but they should be framing a few more marquee answers right? Maybe the constructor and I are just on different wavelengths.

    Though I will give props to the longest entries. Liked the symmetry of their placement and cluing.

  4. Gareth says:

    “Criminy, what are so many things I don’t know doing in a single Friday puzzle?” – Good it wasn’t just me then!! DRFRANKENSTEIN was a gimme because I’d actually written this clue/answer pair myself(!) – one thing I can say is that DRFR letter group is mean to try and build around! After that and quite a few other very easy answers I just got stuck, was an unusual turn around, usually the problem is finding a way in! The puzzle’s general tone was rather ARCHAIC, a word I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t work out!

    One thing… Ashamed to say that If 34D wasn’t clued as the ancient song or the 80′s movie but the 1988 Sabrina tune I’d have got it – and yes it’s a horrible horrible song…

  5. Howard B says:

    I didn’t know either why I struggled for a bit with this one, until your description nailed it. The ‘CD’ clue as well, miguel. That one snuck up on me :).

    One eerie thing – In Thursday’s puzzle, the word ESTIVAL was included as an answer. Do you know what word I initially threw in there, confidently, off the existing “E”? ETESIAN. Where in the Hook did I pull that error from? That misstep hurt me yesterday, but saved me today. Loved the coincidence of it though.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Camos?

  7. sps says:

    I agree with y’all—hard, archaic kind of puzzle. AWAKER? Gimmeabreak.I don’t mind hard but there was a lot of trivia in there. “Closer Than Ever” was a Maltby/Shire revue from the 90′s, I think—Maltby of the Atlantic cryptic, who also spoke at the ACPT a couple of years ago. I know the songs but along with Stan Coveleski, it’s pretty obscure.

    @Bruce N—CAMOS as in camouflage pants.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    NYT was hard and not fun. A bad combination.

  9. joon says:

    CALANDO = big mystery for me, too. i’m not a professional musician, but i’ve done a lot of playing and singing and a little bit of conducting, and that’s not a familiar marking. overall i enjoyed the challenge of today’s hook but i agree with some others that there were more awkward inflected forms than i would have liked. the worst was probably AWAKER.

    i liked the CHE well enough, because the fill and clues are always good, but i wonder if there’s anything more exciting that could have been done with this theme. like wordplay or puns or something, instead of a straightforward tribute. i also felt like SEVEN SAMURAI needed to be part of this somehow, but i guess it doesn’t match anything else in length. pity. as for the sun, although most people consider plasma to be a fourth state of matter because of its electromagnetic properties, it remains true that a plasma is just an ionized gas. any star is definitely a plasma, but it is also correct (if less informative) to say it is made of gas. that’s my $.02, anyway.

    speaking of science nerddom, i wanted to like the LAT theme, but THE POWER OF TEN doesn’t appeal to me as a base phrase. POWERS OF TEN, or POWER OF TEN or even THE POWERS OF TEN, okay. but … there are lots of powers of ten. which one is “the” power of ten? i realize this is a hopelessly pedantic quibble, but it affected my enjoyment of the puzzle. sucks to be me, i guess.

  10. janie says:

    i was grateful for the theatre trivia in the nyt today as it helped open up the puzzle. scientific or sports trivia usually keeps me at arm’s distance from anything resembling a smooth solve — so it was nice to encounter a friday puzzle that favored a field where i stood a chance of knowing/more easily recalling what was being looked for.

    closer that ever is about to enjoy a brief reprise in queens: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/138129-Dvorsky-Viviano-Mayes-and-Wintersteller-Will-Be-Closer-Than-Ever-in-New-York

    and i’ve heard tell that the song “agony” (sung by the two princes in into the woods was written originally for carl-magnus and henrik in a little night music (where they now sing “it would have been wonderful”).

    only person i recalled from “december bride” was spring byington. “spring” and (a non-chicago) “velma” — some names, huh?

    ;-)

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Janie, you’re mixing up your “V names that nobody seems to name their baby girls anymore,” Velma and Verna.

    Now, if the VERNA clue had been [Crossword constructor Suit], it would have been a gimme for me.

  12. Zulema says:

    Mobile home? ALA? Help! SEHEN is SEE. There are many verbs meaning LOOK, nouns also, but they didn’t fit. Was afraid it would be SEHEN, but considering it was one of the few fills I got, I can’t complain. Way too many question marked clues. Of course, I remember HH’s statement that clues are not there to help you solve but to hinder you (I’m paraphrasing).

  13. janie says:

    amy — d’oh!! i stand corrected!

    z — mobile, ALAbama…

    ;-)

  14. Jan says:

    I loved all the theme clues and solutions in the CS. Although I wondered about the rock part in “Rock and troll” it didn’t really bother me – there are always rocks under bridges. Absolutely loved “toil and vinegar”!

  15. William says:

    In Quigley’s puzzle, what does “kas in kind” mean?

  16. Zulema says:

    Janie, thank you. Dumb of me, but I was so stymied by this crossword already!

  17. joon says:

    william: K as in kind

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    “forgive me if I fail to be roused by a theme of puns with chessmasters’ names.”

    This I cannot forgive.

  19. William says:

    Thanks Joon, pardon my stupidity!

  20. Angela says:

    As a first generation Italian-American I should have remembered that when two people from the “old country” met here for the first time the first question they asked was “che Paese” or “what is your hometown in Italy.” I totally missed MegMarch and kept trying to fit something from “The Alexandria Quartet” into 36 A.
    When that didn’t work I had a brain drain and filled in “Italy” for 44 d. And when that didn’t work I quit and didn’t finish the lower corner. Harrumph!

  21. Matt Gaffney says:

    I view Henry’s puzzle as “lightly themed” instead of “themeless” so the few obscurities get a pass in my book.

  22. *David* says:

    I have to give a shoutout for KUROSAWA if you only knew how influential he was on much of the later action movies, you would watch all of his movies, great theme was hoping for The Seven Samurai.

  23. Martin says:

    I guess Henry and I were addicted to the same December Bride reruns as kids. Were they after school in New York? VERNA was a toehold for some of us.

  24. Ellen says:

    Yeah, that was hard (9:49 on paper).

    I love love love “Closer than Ever.” I saw it at the Cherry Lane around 20 years ago, recommended it to my sister (who was able to see it twice over the years in Miami), got the CD, recommended it to my friend J (who never saw it, but loved the CD), and bought the piano score. When Richard Maltby gave out the awards at the 2007 ACPT, I was going to bring things for him to autograph, but didn’t and just babbled about my love for “Closer Than Ever” as I walked past to get my award.

    Thrilled to see it’s being revived with the original female singers.

  25. John Haber says:

    Let me add to the chorus. Obscure with no payback. Hard for a Friday, but also just plain lousy. I tried ANNUM for a bit, not knowing enough Latin, and wondered if they didn’t have an obscure word related to “annulus” for a torus like a CD, but all way out there. CALENDO for “diminuendo” seems weird to me, too, and I did study music (even edited a textbook on it).

    Everything was either an obscurity or question mark. I’m grateful that the two paired theme-like long ones top and bottom were easy, although it didn’t give me the central crossing long ones. It perhaps didn’t help that boys don’t read “Little Women.” I got DER ALTE easily enough, but honestly only because it’s crosswordese that should be retired. I’m even old enough to know who Adenauer was and still know it only because of crosswords. (I did remember Abe Beame, but was reluctant then to enter BEAMY.)

    I finally got defeated in the NW, with the Trump Taj, the eye part, “On Golden Pond” (which I never saw), a TV lawyer, the soap, cricket, the weird word RECLASPS, and … oh, just forget it. I’m hoping tomorrow’s puzzle is in English.

  26. John Haber says:

    Incidentally, I’m glad that LAUS DEO actually works out, which doesn’t make the clue any easier. From the little Latin I know, I was wondering if it weren’t a typo for “Laud.”

    But if I can make a distinction: obscurities are ok if the crossings help you learn them and you’re glad you learned them. That intrigued me, and the crossings at least got me VERNA (which didn’t intrigue me at all). Much of the NW, though, fails the test.

  27. HH says:

    It’s nice to see that so many of you are as laudatory of my work as I have been of you all these years.
    And perhaps the fill could have been better if I constructed with a computer database, which I never will do — where’s the challenge in that?

  28. Daz says:

    I liked this puzzle a lot because of the freshness of the clues and fill — and the cute symmetry between the two long answers. I didn’t mind the many things I didn’t know, because they were gettable — eventually — from the crossings.

    (The one thing that didn’t sit well is AWAKER, because I think of the verb AWAKE as intransitive; the transitive version I’m familiar with is AWAKEN. But the dictionary gives its imprimatur to the transitive AWAKE, so this is a non-issue.)

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