Sunday, 5/2/10

LAT 10:30
NYT 10:29
BG 9:01
Reagle 8:47
Post Puzzler 5:58
CS 3:21

The Crosswords LA tournament rocked Los Angeles today. Eric Maddy pulled out a narrow victory with the other two finalists raising their hands seconds later. More details here.

Kelsey Blakley’s New York Times crossword, “Fix-a-tion”

Region capture 2You’d think I would’ve cottoned on to the theme a little faster with that title, wouldn’t you? You affix a -TION to the end of assorted phrases to create a fake phrase with an altered meaning. I wasn’t feeling the groove of the theme so much, but there was a good vibe with the overall clueing. Here’s the theme!

  • 23A. [Following the rules?] clues CONTRA VIOLATION. I don’t quite understand this. Following the rules means being opposed to violation thereof? The contra viola must be a musical instrument. Let me Google that. Oh, good lord, it’s an organ stop or organ pipe? Then I say “boo” to that as a theme entry on account of unfamiliarity to the non-organic among us.
  • 36A. [Variety of arbitrating technique?] clues MIXED MEDIATION, playing on the familiar art term “mixed media.”
  • 53A. [Title under a photo of rain?] might be a SHOWER CAPTION. We all know what shower caps are, right?
  • 73A. A soap opera expands to SOAP OPERATION, or [Detergent factory, e.g.?]. This one’s my favorite. Possibly because of nostalgia—it was the first place I had an inkling of how the theme worked.
  • 90A. Sales quota feeds into SALES QUOTATION, or ["$100 per dozen plus shipping," e.g.?]. My REVIEW QUOTATION on this entry is “Meh.”
  • 106A. This one might be tough for the younger generations of solvers. Smith Corona makes typewriters. (Still! I know, right? It’s shocking.) SMITH CORONATION is clued as [Enthronement of a metalworker?].
  • 16D. HOME DEMOTION is [Being forced into a smaller house, say?]. Wow, topical and sad! And mystifying to me. What’s “home demo”? Is that a demonstration of a home, or a demolition thereof? The term’s not one I know.
  • 60D. KING’S MENTION is clued as a [Passing reference in the "I Have a Dream" speech?]. “King’s men” makes me think of poor Humpty Dumpty as well as the Kingsmen of “Louie, Louie” fame.

So no, the theme didn’t quite gel for me. I see a number of long solving times, so I suspect the puzzle is on the more challenging end of the spectrum. I attribute that more to the theme than to the rest of the fill.

Highlights in the grid:

  • 1A. Always nice to get off to a good start at 1-Across. “DING!” is the sound effect that means [That is correct!].
  • 29A. I have a Pillsbury Doughboy SPOON REST. I do not use him as a [Ladle cradle] but like the answer all the same.
  • 31A. Vocabulary word! OBDURATE means stubborn, [Unbending]. With the last two letters in place, I wanted RESOLUTE but the crossings just didn’t want to accommodate that.
  • 77A. The CALDERA is a [Depression at the mouth of a volcano]. Isn’t it just a cool word? It should be a car model.
  • 84A. [Wedding proposal?] is “A TOAST” to the happy couple. I was completely lost on this clue until suddenly the light dawned. Yo, my wedding anniversary’s coming up this week. Hey, Nineteen!
  • 99A. ART MUSEUM is tasteful. [Place for hangings] is grim.
  • 105A. CRIBS are [Mobile homes?] in that you might hang a mobile over a crib to entertain a baby.
  • 110A. TOOLS? [They're sometimes found on belts]. Good clue.
  • 11D. When I filled in CRISCO, I muttered, “Gross!” My husband inquired. I said CRISCO was the ["It's digestible" sloganeer, once]. He was similarly grossed out. Way to set the bar low, Crisco! “Unlike gravel or petroleum, it’s digestible.”
  • 13D. The TENOR of this puzzle, the [Pervading tone], is one of challenge.
  • 55D. [Family secret, maybe] is a RECIPE. My family doesn’t have any secret recipes.
  • 59D. I couldn’t tell you why I love the word SLURRY. It can’t be the [Wet cement mixture] aspect of it.
  • 79D. FLIP SIDE is a lively term. The clue isn’t so obvious—[Opposite number].
  • 90D. If you interpret the wording wrong, [Leaves without an answer] makes little sense for STUMPS. If Will Shortz leaves you without an answer, he stumps you.
  • 103A. TOGA is a [Word repeated in an "Animal House" chant]. The clue’s identical to the one Tyler Hinman used in Saturday’s CrosSynergy puzzle, where it seemed so fresh to me.

In the “Say what?” category, we  have these tough spots:

  • 35A. IDES is clued [St. ___ (malt liquor brand named after an Irish nun)]. Never heard of the hooch or the sister.
  • 69A. [Montemezzi's "L'Amore ___ Tre Re"] clues DEI. I know Agnus DEI and Opus DEI, sure, but this one was a work-the-crossings answer.
  • 24D. [Australian P.M. Kevin] RUDD is not quite a household name in the U.S.
  • 25D. LIE AT [___ the heart of] is awkward. I wanted GET TO.
  • 34D. AIR UP? That’s a phrase? Meaning [Inflate]? Can’t say I’ve encountered AIR UP before.
  • 57D. A [Brougham, e.g.] is a horse-drawn carriage with a roof and an open driver’s seat, or a car with an open driver’s seat. The answer is SEDAN. I looked up a definition for SEDAN, and I don’t quite see the equivalency but I expect it appears in a dictionary of record.
  • 92D. Whoa, Nellie. TEGNER? [19th-century Swedish writer Esaias ___] TEGNER? Wholly unknown to me. At least ex-NFLer Boomer Esiason’s last name finally makes sense to me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Once is Enough”

Region capture 3Merl gathers up a whole lotta 3+-word phrases phrases in which the first and last words are the same, and then he jettisons the duplicated word at the end (adding a “briefly” to the clue to hint at the curtailment). When is the last time you saw 16 theme entries in a single crossword? Sure, most of ‘em are short, but near the top and bottom of the grid, Merl’s got two rows of stacked theme answers. Here are the dozen and a third answers:

  • 16a. [Oscar-winning film, briefly] is KRAMER VS. Kramer.
  • 18a. [Neutrogena's owner, briefly] is JOHNSON AND Johnson.
  • 20a. [Warning about blanket statements, briefly] is “NEVER SAY never.”
  • 21a. [1971 film, briefly] is SUNDAY, BLOODY Sunday. Also a U2 song.
  • 33a. [Continually, briefly] is TIME AFTER time. Also a Cyndi Lauper song.
  • 45a. [Hugo hero, briefly] in Les Misérables is JEAN VALjean. This one deviates from the formula a bit because the second “jean” isn’t a stand-alone word.
  • 47a. A needlepoint [Sampler sentiment, briefly] is “HOME SWEET home.”
  • 56a. [Starting words, briefly] are “FIRST THINGS first.”
  • 64a. [Be optimistic despite the odds, briefly] is HOPE AGAINST hope.
  • 77a. [English novelist, briefly] is FORD MADOX Ford. Gee, why’d he use that middle name? I read one of his books in college but all I can remember about it is being bored.
  • 81a. [Differentiation query, briefly] is “WHICH IS which?” I dunno—is this one straining the limits of the theme?
  • 88a. The answer to [Elite group, briefly] is another odd man out because the repeated part is two words: LA CREME DE la creme. Also, in English, we skip the opening “la” in lieu of “the.”
  • 104a. [Huxley novel, briefly] clues POINT COUNTER Point.
  • 107a. [Payback of a sort, briefly] is AN EYE FOR an eye. This also has two repeated words, but the phrase is incredibly familiar.
  • 110a. [Truth-assuming query, briefly] is “AM I RIGHT OR am I right?”
  • 111a. [Like some traffic, briefly] is BUMPER TO bumper. Now, if that’s what the traffic’s like, odds are there’s no “briefly” about it.

I need to get right to the grumble now: the entirely nonstandard, “he can’t do that, can he?” split answer. The cross-referenced 84a: [With 79 Across, a sci-fi guy] clues ANDR and OID, but no, you can’t just split a word into two non-word parts. Solvers aren’t expecting that. At all. Not unless they do those crappy puzzles in which words are routinely shattered (e.g., [A___id: a robot] for nonsense fragment NDRO. No, no, no. Merl, baby, a slap on the wrist for you. Please don’t go there again.

Other stuff in this puzzle:

  • 50a. [Place to gambol, maybe] is a LEA. I know it’s where I do all my best gamboling.
  • 52a, 55a. [Fleischer Studios cutie] and [Fleischer Studios cutie, sort of] are Betty BOOP and Olive OYL.
  • 100a. [Gore's guy-girl] is MYRA. This refers to Al Gore and his transgender running mate MYRA, whom you may know as Joe Lieberman. No, wait. It’s Gore Vidal’s title character, Myra Breckinridge.
  • 3d. [Orange feature] is a NAVEL. An innie, not that it’s any of your business.
  • 29d. PICA is a page [Layout unit].
  • 45d. [Marrying VIPs] are JPS, or J.P.’s, plural of “justice of the peace.”
  • 57d. [Big bus. in Hartford] is INS. I think this means “ins.,” abbreviating “insurance,” rather than a large company called I.N.S. Agree?
  • 58d. If you knew that [Quoits peg] is HOB, does that knowledge come only from crosswords?
  • 72d. Editors, or EDS., rock. [They get the last wd.], or should I say we get the last word.
  • 78d. [___ for effort] messed me up a lot for a measly 3-letter answer. It’s AN A for effort. Not AN E or A IS or E IS.
  • 89d. The MESABI iron range is a [Minnesota mining range]. You may, if desired, call it “da range,” ya.
  • 93d. Oh, dear. [Danish ballet star Erik] clues BRUHN. He retired in 1972. Did you know the name? I sure did not.

Updated Sunday morning:

Jared Banta’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Schwalterations”

Region capture 4I give this theme points for freshness—I can’t say I remember seeing such a theme before. Eight phrases or words that contain a schwa (unstressed and vague vowel sound). Phrases with “of” often elide the “f” so the word sounds like a schwa all by itself, as in “a real piece of work” sounding like “piece-uh work.” In this puzzle, those phrases get the supposed-to-be-there schwa replaced with “of,” with the surrounding words’ spelling changed as needed to make a plausible {__ of __} phrase. Not the shortest theme explanation, is it? Here are the theme answers:

  • 23A: [Passion for Ferris wheels and funnel cakes?] clues TORRID LOVE OF FAIRS. (Torrid love affairs.)
  • 40A: [Bozeman native named after a "Star Wars" character?] is the awkwardly clued HAN OF MONTANA. (Hannah Montana.)
  • 66A: [Mom's bearing?] is AIR OF PARENT, which isn’t worded in a way anyone would actually say it. (Heir apparent.)
  • 74A: [Mary Poppins outburst?] clues HOOT OF NANNY. Sounds like “eye of newt” only without the Elizabethan vibe to make it sound natural. “Nanny’s hoot” would be more natural. (Hootenanny—my favorite of the base words.)
  • 98A: [Math class curse?] is HEX OF DECIMAL. That’s cute, but the base (hexadecimal) refers to base 16 numerical notation. Not a household word unless the household is mathy.
  • 117A: [Occasion to hang up the fangs?] is RETIREMENT OF COUNT—Dracula, I presume. Again, the {noun of person} wording feels awkward to me.
  • 3D: [Country's military organization?] is CORPS OF NATION. “Core of nation” would sound more natural to me. (Coronation.)
  • 61D: [Describe a trip to work?] is TELL OF COMMUTE. Newspaper headlinese—most of us would precede “commute” by an article or possessive pronoun. (Telecommute.)

I started this puzzle last night but was too sleepy to finish. So my solving time includes 6.5 minutes of increasing drowsiness and 4 minutes of pre-caffeine morning alertness. Maybe it’s not really a tough puzzle at all—though I think it’s the sorta theme that takes a while to unravel.

Clues of answers:

  • 1A: [Start of a kids' learning song] is the “A, B, C, D, E” at the beginning of the alphabet song.
  • 20A: [Italian town NW of Venice] is ASOLO. I sort of know a guy, an NYT crossword fan, who lives in Asolo part of the year. If not for that, I wouldn’t know the place.
  • 32A: [Strikes a chord] clues RESONATES. “Rez of Nates.”
  • 47A: [Super Bowl XLIV runner-up, briefly] is INDY. I didn’t know the city of Indianapolis was abbreviated like that outside of the Indy 500 car race.
  • 53A: [AM frequency meas.] is kilohertz, or KHZ.
  • 71A: [Carmen, e.g.] is a MEZZO. That means a mezzo-soprano role, yes>
  • 73A: Is this the same Carmen? LILA LEE is the [Silent film star who played Carmen in "Blood and Sand" (1922)].
  • 90A: [It stops at la estación] clues TREN, which is Spanish for “train.”
  • 108A: [Cookie nut] is MACADAMIA, though I prefer pecans. “Mac of…Damia”?
  • 124A: [Haitian capital?] is the AITCH, or “H,” at the beginning of the name “Haiti.”
  • 9D: [Pitcher Labine of the '50s Dodgers] is CLEM. No, there aren’t a ton of famous Clems to choose from.
  • 11D: [One of 20 on the Titanic] means a LIFEBOAT. Dang! That was really not enough.
  • 18D: [Third in a sequence] is TUESDAY, which I generally think of as the second day in the week. I’m a Monday starter.
  • 37D: [Last speaker in many an old cartoon] is PORKY “Th-th-that’s all, folks!” PIG.. Terrific fill!
  • 58D: [Rapper who feuded with Dr. Dre] is EAZY-E. You gotta know your rap beefs for crosswords.
  • 77D: [Aslan's land] always looks like “Asian’s land.” It’s NARNIA, which is not in Asia.
  • 90D: [Auto security device hawked in infomercials] is THE CLUB. Great answer!

Karen Tracey’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 4″

Region capture 5This crossword wasn’t quite as fun as the typical Karen Tracey puzzle, but 17A shines:

  • LOVE CONQUERS ALL, [Adage from Virgil's Eclogue X]

The fill includes some less familiar words. Like these:

  • 8a. I’m familiar with FRIEZES, sure, but [Entablature bands] sounded to me like it had something to do with musical notation.
  • 15a. [New York city that's home to the National Soccer Hall of Fame] is ONEONTA’s claim to fame. It’s no Cooperstown (yet). I know ONEONTA mainly from crosswords.
  • 20a. LOCUMS are [Substitute doctors at hospital, briefly]. “Locum” is short for locum tenens, and hospitals that need doctors and nurses on a temporary basis may turn to a locum tenens agency to fetch some LOCUMS. The official plural is locum tenentes, but I’ve never encountered that.
  • 33a. For [Beethoven's ___ Sonata], I used nearly all the crossings to get KREUTZER. Music and I, we’re not so close.
  • 44a. EMPENNAGE is [Aircraft's tail assembly]. It’s from a French word relating to feathering an arrow to make it fly right.
  • 52a. [Number of days in avril] is TRENTE, French for “thirty.” Probably not among the basic French words non-Francophones have picked up along the way.
  • 3d. SEVE [__ Trophy (biennial golf tournament)] is unknown to me. Named after Seve Ballesteros, I presume?
  • 7d. [Retreats] are SANCTA, plural of “sanctum.”
  • 8d. [Claptrap] clues FLUMMERY, and I can’t believe I didn’t know this word. I thought I was familiar with the thesaurus listings for “nonsense,” where we find hogwash, malarkey, balderdash, poppycock, tommyrot, and codswallop.
  • 10d. I know ISR. is Israel, sure, but [Hula Valley land: Abbr.] sounded more Hawaiian than Mediterranean to me.

Favorite clues/fill:

  • 16a. [Lucerne predecessor] sounds like it’s about Switzerland, but it’s really about Buicks. The LE SABRE came before the Buick Lucerne.
  • 22a. [They might get pushed back on vacations] clues BEDTIMES, particularly relevant for vacationers with kids. CUTICLES would also fit.
  • 39a. ["No way!"] clues “IT CAN’T BE!”
  • 46a. [Ones who have to pull some strings to get a job?] are HARPISTS. I was thinking of marionette puppeteers.
  • 53a. Cassius [Clay, after remodeling?] is Muhammad ALI.
  • 62a. DEEP-SET is clued as [Sunken, in a way], like eyes.
  • 4d. Iowa’s COE College is the [College originally named the School for the Prophets]. That’s some crazy trivia right there.
  • 34d. I forgot the ["One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy ..." character] part, but do fondly remember Lily Tomlin’s ERNESTINE character on Laugh-In.

Will Johnston’s CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”

Region capture 6Or, as I like to call it, the Sunday Not So Challenging.

Nobody likes a puzzle to include a variant spelling, much less start out with it at 1-Across. AMIRS is the variant of “emirs,” or [Arab chieftains (var.)].

Bright spots, tough bits, and other miscellany:

  • 6a. [They may be split] refers not to atoms or restaurant checks but PEAS. If only we could harness the power of split peas for something other than soup.
  • 18a. PROM QUEEN is a great answer, and one of several Q answers today. [Carrie at her school dance, e.g.] is the “Aww, poor thing” clue.
  • 21a. Old classic rock: ["Smoke on the Water" rockers] are DEEP PURPLE.
  • 22a. I like a good first/last name combo in the grid. MAX BAER was the [1934 heavyweight champion] in boxing.
  • 27a. Gertrude EDERLE was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. [She played herself in "Swim Girl, Swim" (1927)].
  • 37a. [Reaction of some investors to an unsettled economy] is the FLIGHT TO QUALITY.
  • 53a. [Stuck between two bad choices] clues IN A DILEMMA. I thought people had dilemmas rather than finding themselves in dilemmas.
  • 58a. It’s only 10:30, but now I want those [Baked tubes] called cheese MANICOTTI. Yum!
  • 64a. I had the final H for ["Intelligence for Your Life" radio host] and amused myself by thinking the answer was John TESH. The joke was on me when that turned out to be the answer. You all caught that recent tabloid report that John Tesh and Oprah Winfrey had a dalliance, didn’t you?
  • 6d. [Minor office injuries] clues PAPER CUTS. They can be minor, sure. But if you keep sawing away with that envelope flap, you can do some serious damage. Did you see the movie Swimming with Sharks? The disgruntled and long-abused Hollywood assistant held his overbearing boss captive and slashed him with an envelope flap. Tongue cuts were involved. I’m sorry, does that make you…
  • 35d. …SQUEAMISH, or [Easily nauseated]?
  • 9d. [Always, in music] is SEMPRE.
  • 10d. [Cutting remark?] is “PLEASE, NOT MY TONGUE!” No, wait. It’s “YOUR DEAL” in a card game after cutting the deck.
  • 44d. I’m always relieved when [Giant star] is MEL OTT and not astronomy.
  • 46d. I never knew that EAGLET was the [Nickname of Napoleon II, with "the"]. If the plastic tip of your shoelace had a virtual incarnation, that would be an e-aglet.
  • 50d. DAVIT is one of the few nautical words I like. It’s a [Lifeboat lowerer].
  • 51d. [It shares a flag with Formentera] clues IBIZA, which I’ve heard of. Not so with Formentera.

Updated Sunday afternoon, because I lost interest in blogging and focused on doing laundry and writing checks instead:

Henry Hook’s six-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “Add a Letter”

Region capture 8This theme offers a twist on the usual “add a letter” theme: Each made-up phrase consists of two words, the second of which is identical to the first but with an added letter at the end. Rock-solid consistency in structure, that’s good. BITTER BITTERN, FLU FLUB, DOW DOWN, HUG HUGO, and PARTON PART ONE—no, wait, that’s a structural inconsistency, PART ONE is two words—run across. The Down answers are LATE LATEX, BRAND BRANDY, DUSTIN DUSTING, BEDLAM BED LAMP—another two-word second part, and one that I grumbled at the in-the-languageness of in a recent NYT puzzle—SHOVE SHOVEL, and BOOT BOOTH.

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9 Responses to Sunday, 5/2/10

  1. Byron says:

    “Brougham” probably refers to the Cadillac model.

  2. pezibc says:

    My mother has a very old pump organ; from when she was a girl. The stops are so cool. Contra Viola is one of them.

    If I ran a kitchenware store I would have a ‘Ladle Cradle’ sign printed up and sell me a bunch. (Maybe a speaker tucked behind playing a soft lullaby.)

    Had PASSES for PAPERS until forced to see the problem.

    Like BRAMBLE, AQUEOUS

    Only one letter where I wasn’t pretty certain of the answer. Had to throw a dart to get the I in OSRIC – CIE. Had to be a vowel, and got to I or O pretty quickly. Guessed right.

  3. Martin says:

    Re ANDR/OID word-clue split:

    To come to Merl’s defense, at least both ANDR and OID are valid stand-alone entries, whereas, in crappy puzzles the word fragments are usually just nonsensical groups of letters. Also, the combining form ANDR (“male”) and the suffix OID (“-like”), are probably most familiar to solvers in the ANDROID combo anyway.

    -MAS

  4. Martin says:

    To second Martin-of-the-North: splitting a word into parts that could be otherwise clued happens regularly in Puns and Anagrams. I enjoyed it here and wouldn’t mind more of them, particularly if they were as witty as Mel Taub makes them.

    - M of the S

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I especially admired Merl’s inventiveness… and all the connector words between the repeats are different! Not just VS, TO, FOR, AFTER, AGAINST, IS, AND and OR, but also BLOODY, SAY, SWEET, DE, COUNTER, THINGS and MADOX!! I ask you, man oh man, how great is that?

  6. LARRY says:

    CRISCO is simply hydrogenated vegetable oil, like oleomargarine without the color. I’m sure glad it’s digestable.

  7. Eric Maddy says:

    Nitpick on the US Soccer Hall of Fame — it WAS in Oneonta, N.Y., but closed permanently in February of this year.

  8. John Haber says:

    I’ll agree that the roots of the theme entries could have been smoother. Even with “King’s men,” it felt funny to me as a phrase apart from “all the.” Amy caught my obscure spots, like TEGNER, although I also didn’t recognize SPOON REST, making the corner with that and IDES my hardest. I didn’t find it a hard puzzle overall.

Comments are closed.