Wednesday, 4/28/10

BEQ 4:07
Onion 3:36
NYT 3:28
LAT …betweem, um, 3:05 and 4:10, I think
CS untimed

Andrea Carla Michaels and Peter L. Stein’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1The raison d’etre of this puzzle is 66A: SPOUT or “SP” OUT, [Teapot part…or a two-word hint to 16-, 25-, 43- and 59-Across]. I dunno, though. The original phrases that start with SP are a lively batch, but when the SP is taken OUT, what’s left is just weird:

  • 16A. [Attila, for one?] clues ACE INVADER. The base phrase is SPACE INVADER, in the singular. I know the old video game Space Invaders, but does the singular “space invader” have legitimacy?
  • 25A. [Cowardly boxer?] clues a  boxing RING CHICKEN (spring chicken). But nobody would describe a boxer as a “ring” anything.
  • 43A. The game “spin the bottle” becomes a prepositional phrase, IN THE BOTTLE, or [Where to find a genie?].
  • 59A. [Holders of some pipe joints?] clues ELL BINDERS. This is just not clever or interesting at all. Who says anythings “binds” pipes? Who, aside from plumbers and crossword solvers, talks about ELLs? And the base phrase is “spellbinders.” Who uses that form of the word? Spellbound, yes. Spellbinding, sure. But spellbinders? Feels stilted.

A baker’s dozen of clues:

  • 13A. If you’re [Reporting to] someone, you’re BELOW them on the organizational ladder.
  • 31A. I like the word DEMUR more than the word “demure.” It means to [Voice opposition].
  • 35A. ROUGHAGE! Love the roughage. Love calling salad ROUGHAGE. It’s [Food with lots of fiber]. Keeps you regular, I understand.
  • 40A. Remember Madonna’s hit song, [Like a photon]? “MASSLESS for the very first time.” Joon, is this common physics-speak?
  • 63A. [Nimbi] are AURAE, whereas NIMBY means “not in my back yard.” All your aurae are welcome in my back yard.
  • 1D. [Early counters] are ABACI. Some dictionaries suggest that “abacuses” is the accepted plural, while others are cool with ABACI too.
  • 3D. OLEOS are clued as [Spreads in bars]. This whole scenario has an unsavory feeling, doesn’t it? It’s disturbing.
  • 10D. Not the usual clue for ARIA—["Habanera" from "Carmen" is one].
  • 21D. [Taylor or Tyler] had me thinking of Lizzes and Livs rather than a WHIG.
  • 33D. “Kind of votes”? [Kind of votes a candidate wants], no question mark, clues MOST. Am I missing something here?
  • 44D. Raise your hand if you tried more than one spelling for this [Popular bathroom cleaner]. It’s TY-D-BOL, no “i.”
  • 48D. I like this one. DID UP is clued as [Fixed fashionably], as in “I did up my hair for the crossword tournament.
  • 59D. Okay, this is baloney. ESP is a “skill,” an ["I know what you're thinking" skill]? Prove it.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hop Stars”—Janie’s review

Another perfect pangram from Patrick. Another puzzle in which my expectations for the meaning of the title were dashed. Got me! “Hop” here is not to be understood as “dance” (for lovers of golden oldies and/or those of a certain age, I’m thinkin’ of Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop”), or in connection with that [Mid-March dance], the JIG, or even as another name for a GALA [Festive occasion]. No, today 52A tells us that “hop” refers to FAMOUS RABBITS [This puzzle's theme]. Each of the well-known men named in the remaining theme fill shares his first name with an illustrious lagomorph. This gives us:

  • 20A. ["The Deep" novelist] PETER BENCHLEY → Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.
  • 27A. ["The Carol Burnett Show" regular] HARVEY KORMAN → Harvey. No last name here. Harvey is the (invisible) six-foot-tall rabbit–a pookah–who is the friend of Elwood P. Dowd in Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Harvey. Before I read the clue I’d already entered HARVEYK in the grid. I was about to enter EITEL. Um, then I read the clue. Anyone else?…
  • 44A. [Former pitcher nicknamed "The Rocket"] ROGER CLEMENS → Roger Rabbit, as in Who Framed…?

Stand-out fill of the non-theme variety includes QUEEN SIZE [Mattress specification]; AFGHAN, clued in relation to the exotic (if not brilliant…) [Silky-coated hound]; and the visual/kinesthetic LEAPFROGS [Clears with a bound].

I liked the final “S” cross of LASTS and STAYS, clued respectively as [Doesn't deteriorate] and [Sticks around]. And I could almost hear my grandmother saying ["Is that a] FACT [?" ("Really?")] or “You don’t say!” in response to some (juvenile) accomplishment my brother or I had boasted about to her. Loved FOOT (as opposed to something clothing-related) in response to [Pedal pusher]; and even TOED in response to [Having "piggies"]. Since the latter was new to me, I also liked [Pay or scram suffix] for OLA (“Scramola!” would have to be something like “Amscray!”). But my fave clue/fill pair today is the non-transcription-orientation of the verb in [Puts down in print?] LIBELS combo. A little misdirection goes a long way with me!

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 2

THEME: “Eat Me”—Food dishes that include names are clued as if they have something to do with famous people with that first name.

To accommodate the 12-letter central answer, the grid’s been stretched to 16 squares wide. You can’t center an entry with an even number of spaces within a grid with an odd width.

Theme entries:

  • 18a. [Response to comic Anderson's "What's for dinner?"?] is CRAB LOUIE or rather, “crab, Louie.”
  • 21a. [Response to Spanish tenor Kraus's "What's for dinner?"?] is CHICKEN ALFREDO. Fettuccine Alfredo is more familiar to me than this chicken dish, which in turn is more familiar to me than Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus, whom I’ve never heard of. YouTube reveals the winning combination of opera chops and a silly mustache.
  • 37a. [Response to Revolutionary Arnold's "What's for breakfast?"?] is EGGS BENEDICT. Not sure why the R is capitalized. And what’s with rehabilitating his image? He’s most famous for being a traitor.
  • 58a. [Response to actress Bracco's "What's for brunch?"?] is QUICHE LORRAINE. She played Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos.
  • 64a. [Response to jazzman Peterson's "What's for dinner?"?] is VEAL OSCAR. Oscar Peterson plays piano.

Not my favorite Naddor puzzle by a long shot. For more on this puzzle, see my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 3This week we’ve got an anagram theme in an easier-than-usual Onion puzzle.

  • 52a. The Large HADRON COLLIDER is the [Particle smasher that made 2010 news (and a hint to the scattered pieces found in 19-, 23-, and 43-Across)]. The smashed HADRONs are anagrammed in the other spots.
  • 19a. [Providing a racy sight gag in a coming-of-age movie, e.g.] clues GETTING A HARD-ON.
  • 23a. ["Gee, wouldn't that just figure..."] clues “OH, DARN MY LUCK.” Feels slightly contrived to me.
  • 43a. [1965 hit from The Beach Boys] is “HELP ME, RHONDA.”

I knew that hard-on and Rhonda were anagrams, thanks to overhearing Merl Reagle mention that to Glenn Close. Some anagrams are unsuitable for the family newspaper, but they can come to light thanks to the alt-weekly press. Yay!

Five more clues:

  • 56a. [It's usually written in white letters on a green sign] clues a STREET NAME. At first, I thought the answer was referring to, say, the name a tagger spray-paints on a building or billboard. Why is the sign green? Why is the paint white? Oh, because we’re talking about street signs.
  • 2d. [Art Bell topic] is ALIEN. I have no idea why. Who is Art Bell? To the Google! Wow. The Wikipedia article is way too long. Nobody needs a day-by-day recounting of his AM radio appearances.
  • 3d. [Energy-efficient deadly sin?] is SLOTH. Yes! It’s green. Go green, sit on your duff. Just try not to use power-draining TVs and computers while being slothful.
  • 18d. ARGYLE is clued as [Pattern seen on some feet]. Don’t the argyle patterns usually limit themselves to the leg part of the sock?
  • 45d. RENNAE is clued as [Australian Grand Slam doubles winner Stubbs]. How else are you going to clue that name? (Never heard of her; don’t really follow doubles tennis.)

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “What’s Left”

Brendan’s puzzles are now part of the family of crosswords that the Droid app Shortyz Crosswords downloads automatically. I just installed the app (it’s free) to try it out. It downloaded the following puzzles: Mon and Wed BEQ; 4/18-28 Houston Chronicle (CrosSynergy) and L.A. Times; 4/21 and 4/28 Onion;  last week’s WSJ and Ink Well; 4/18 and 4/25 Merl/Philly Inquirer and Boston Globe (the delayed Across Lite puzzle); 4/18 LAT; and something daily called Thinks.com (appears unthemed and easy). You can provide your NYT log-in to get that puzzle, too. I’m not crazy about the interface, but if I’m away from the internet and craving crosswords, I’m all set with my smartphone now. (iPhone users can get BEQ and other crosswords via the Stand Alone app.)

Region capture 4The theme entries can all be typed with just the left hand. Brendan explains the theme in his post—they’re the longest words that can be made from just the letters typed with the left hand. I did a Sporcle.com quiz the other day—naming all the countries that can be typed with just the top two rows of letters on the keyboard. Surprisingly challenging! There are an awful of country names that contain an M or N, you know. Only 26 country names omit ZXCVBNM.

Lots of 6s and 7s in the fill, which didn’t thrill me. JOCK JAM is Scrabbly, but I’ve never heard the term before. Song title? Or generic term?

DIETED is clued as 16d: [Ate more salad, perhaps]. If it’s a taco salad, look out—you may be blowing your diet.

Spent too much time talking to my mom on the phone this morning—gotta edit now. Ta ta!

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14 Responses to Wednesday, 4/28/10

  1. jim hale says:

    I agree, the phrases related to the themes were pretty lame and imho unsatisfying. That being said, the level of difficulty lived up to a Wednesday puzzle.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Amusing in its own wacky way — at least the theme wasn’t immediately obvious, to me!

    Glad you spelled out TY-D-BOL, Amy, as I could say it but wouldn’t have seen it that way.

  3. MASSLESS is fine IMO.

  4. pezibc says:

    Overreaching on theme and clueing I thought. The theme is ok for its type; it just isn’t the type that, for me, holds a lot of appeal.

    Loved TYDBOL because it made me trip all over the spelling, which was all on me. Good one.

    Very nice clue with 53D ‘They may swivel’ – spot on, and I had it instantly.

    I like demure – because I like demure:))

  5. Gareth says:

    Otted this theme early… with ACEINVADER. Had a little trouble around ELLBINDERS… still can’t believe TYDBOL is in fact a right answer.

    What’s wrong with someone ranching in bars anyway?

    Ditto on 21D.

    (And you’ve written ARAI instead of ARIA)

  6. andrea carla michaels says:

    Originally SPOUT is where DEMUR now is…Will wanted SPOUT as the last word, more elegant to have the reveal the last word…so our ELLCHECKER (Building extension inspector?) became ELLBINDERS…what can I say? ;) See everyone in LA!
    I agree, to add something is more fun than to subtract, but Peter was going off my SP-IN puzzle and I loved his idea of RINGCHICKEN!

  7. Barry G says:

    This one started out ridiculously easy for a Wednesday and got progressively harder as I moved south.

    Shouldn’t the clue for 24A be “When said two times, a dance”? I mean, I know the commercials for Purina Cat Chow used to say “cha cha cha,” but the dance itself is actually called the cha-cha.

  8. Howard B says:

    Well, thought it was a cute theme, and liked that the theme answers didn’t reveal themselves too easily. Agree with Andrea in that ELLCHECKER would have been a more playful theme answer, but what can you do?
    Bonus points for TY-D-BOL, for its inherent apparent wrongness.

  9. joon says:

    yep, people say MASSLESS all the time. well, slightly less often now that we know that neutrinos have nonzero mass, but it’s still a common word in particle physics.

    i liked the first few theme entries well enough, and i was definitely amused at the SP-OUT theme because i remember andrea’s SP-IN theme. but yeah, ELL-BINDERS was pretty lame, and the clue for MOST is still mystifying.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Massless chaps!

    Andrea, ELL CHECKER is a lot better, yes.

  11. Sara says:

    Massless chaps: excellent.
    I couldn’t see the theme for the life of me. Also, I was really slowed down in the area where MOST crossed MASSLESS.

  12. nmHz says:

    This “kind of” thing has, in my opinion, gotten out of hand. It’s being used as shorthand for “this answer is an adjective that might be applied to the following noun.”

    Kind of ice cream = Vanilla? Perfectly fine. I can hear the dialog “I want ice cream.” “What kind?” “Vanilla.”

    Kind of moon = Blue? Not really, but ok. “Blue moon” is not about a moon that’s blue; it’s a noun phrase that stands on its own. I can’t imagine anyone saying “That’s a lovely full moon tonight.” “What kind?” “Blue — there was another one on the first of the month!”

    Kind of times = New York? I expect to see that someday. But it’s worse than my hypothetical “blue moon” clue. “I’d like a Times, please?” “What kind?” “LA”. No, the question would be “Which one?”

    But today’s clue? The one that brought me here so I could complain? Kind of votes a candidate wants = Most? No way. Portion of votes a candidate wants, sure, but “mostness” isn’t a property of the votes themselves. (“Mostihood? Mostosity?”)

  13. Evad says:

    BEQ’s JOCKJAM sounds like athletic supporter version of TOEJAM.

    Enjoyed the “A lot of ass-kissers” clue a lot. (Does that make me an ass-kisser as well?)

  14. John Haber says:

    Ty-D-Bol definitely was tricky, and NAS, too, made the bottom harder for me, but I rather liked the theme, which I was slow to catch. MASSLESS is totally fine. In fact, it’s really what makes photons photons. Otherwise, they couldn’t travel at the speed of light, which means light couldn’t travel at the speed of light!

    The only other thing you need to define photons is much more obscure. They’re a kind of particle called bosons, like protons and neutrons. That means they act more or less normally. They can cluster together in what you picture as beams or rays of light. They can stimulate matter instead of orbiting around the nucleus like electrons, which are pretty weird.

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