Tuesday, 5/4/10

Jonesin’ 3:40—.puz & .jpg at the Google Group page
LAT 3:06
NYT 2:54
CS untimed

Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 12Excellent Tuesday puzzle from Doug Peterson! Except for that middle theme entry that I’ve never heard of, but then, I’m not a shellfish fan. The five theme entries end with words that are worth $1 in other contexts but aren’t money when they appear in these phrases:

  • 17A. [Disk-shaped sea creature] is a SAND DOLLAR.
  • 24A. PASS THE BUCK means to [Shift blame to another]. The phrase does not use “buck” to mean $1 (the dictionary tells me this “buck” is short for “buck-handled knife,” which makes zero sense to me), so it’s consistent with the theme.
  • 35A. [Chowder ingredient] clues SOFT-SHELL CLAM. I have heard of clam chowder, yes, and I know about soft-shell crabs, but I swear I have never encountered the term SOFT-SHELL CLAM. I Googled it and it’s completely legit, but it was new to me.
  • 49A. With ****P SINGLE, I figured it was POP-UP SINGLE. What do I know about baseball lingo? The [Hit that just clears the infield] is a BLOOP SINGLE. This is only faintly more familiar to me than that clam.
  • 58A. FORMULA ONE is an [Auto-racing designation].

The five theme answers make a nice bunch, don’t they?

Highlights in the fill:

  • I rather like the AUEL/ALEUTS and MENSA/MENSCH crossings, with their shared letters.
  • And I like the four corners, stretching to hold 6s, 7s, and 8s.
  • 5A. TWANG is a [Banjo sound]. It’s folk singer Pete Seeger’s 91st birthday, and he has a way with a banjo.
  • 15A. WATER gets clued as a verb: [Tend to, as plants].
  • 64A. EXES are clued as [Ones who've been through divorce court]. These “ones” are not dollar bills.
  • 18D. [Hornswoggle] is a great word. It means to cheat or DUPE someone.
  • 34D. [Sound of thunder] is a CLAP. I like to interpret thunderstorms as rolling applause for me.
  • 39D. MARIANAS [__ Trench (deepest point on Earth's surface)]—raise your hand if you learned that when you were a schoolchild and never forgot it. It’s something like 35,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.
  • 42D. Wasn’t [Orange part, e.g.] used to clue NAVEL the other day? Today, it’s a SEGMENT. That feels less intrusively personal.
  • 44D. CLIMAX is clued discreetly as [Part of a book where you're unlikely to stop].
  • 45D. Learnin’! HORACE is the Roman [Poet who originated the phrase "harmony in discord"]. Why, I’ve never heard that one.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Retaining Wails”—Janie’s review

A perfect pun of a title (and yes, I read it first as “Retaining Walls”…) sets just the right tone for this terrific puzzle whose three theme phrases are basically all about following the Archie Bunker directive to “Stifle yourself!” The “wails” that go up today are:

  • 20A. “SAVE YOUR BREATH!” ["Don't even bother!"].
  • 38A. “KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON!” [Don't get so excited!"]
  • 54A. “HOLD YOUR TONGUE!” [Don't say a word!"]

So there’s this in-character, in-the-language and snarky feel to the theme fill, and that keeps it lively. And there’s plenty of lively non-theme fill as well, in addition to some very specific, well-honed cluing. Here’s a perfect example: SIDESWIPE and [Give a Geo a glancing blow, for example]. While it’s clued in a more straight-forward way, I liked seeing TROJAN WAR ["Iliad" setting] in the grid. Nary a HOWITZER [Short cannon] to be found there, but lots of armed combat. Oh, yeah. And a big ol’ wooden horse…

Fill that’s fit for a nursery includes CHOO-CHOO [Thomas the Tank Engine, to tots], “WAH!” [Cry from a crib] and NANA, because this [Dog that saw its people fly] was in the nursery of the Darling home when Peter Pan came to claim his shadow and where he encountered Wendy, Michael and John and taught them to fly. Fill with an Eastern edge? That’d be Chinese-American architect I.M. PEI [Designer of Dallas's Patriot Tower], EDO [Former name of Japan's capital] and UDON [Japanese noodle]. (Because of the assonance, it’s nice how this word sits next to OONA in the grid–and nicer still that this crossword staple has a fresh twist in the cluing, [Chaplin granddaughter].) Fill with a clandestine feel? HARI (and not BOND) is that [Last name in spydom]–and how apt that her name crosses RADAR, clued today as [Something a spy might fly under].

Finally, some fave clues:

  • [Bankroll] as a verb and not a noun for FINANCE.
  • [Iron products in a salon?] for CURLS, since a curling “iron” produces…
  • The sequential [Tablet brand that keeps you alert] NO-DOZ and [Alert], which is a verb here and no longer an adjective, for WARN.
  • [Count with a dumbell] for REP. This one just makes me laugh. Took me a while to realize “count” was a verb and not a titled nobleman… (So does that make me the “dumbell”? Rhetorical question!!)

Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 13I believe this is Mr. Barocas’s debut crossword, and it’s an auspicious beginning. The theme is simple but not stale: Four phrases have nonchromosomal YY pairs, which look weird in the grid because how often do you see a double Y?

  • 20A: [Roger Clemens has won it seven times] is about the CY YOUNG AWARD.
  • 27A: The [Tammy Wynette classic] is “STAND BY YOUR MAN.”
  • 46A: The [1618-'48 conflict] is the THIRTY YEARS’ WAR. True confession: I didn’t remember how many years the “___ Years’ War” was and waited for the crossings to help me out. Yes, I see the 1648 – 1618 = 30 math problem staring me in the face now but skimmed over the clue while solving.
  • 53A: [Sunny color] is CANARY YELLOW.
  • 58D: [There are contiguous pairs of them in 20-, 27-, 46- and 53-Across] clues WYES, the plural of the spelled-out name of the letter Y.

I Googled the constructor’s name to see if I’d written about him before but forgotten. I hope he’s the same Victor Barocas who translated English fairy tales for Fairy Tales in Latin: Fabulae Mirabiles because “huffabo et puffabo et tuum domum inflabo” (from “Tres Porcelli,” or “Three Little Pigs”) is kinda funny.

The fill is pretty smooth and contains plenty of echoes within. There’s ELECTRIC /EEL pointing toward both the marine menace ORCA and the slithery SNAKE. AUDI crosses a couple SATURNS, though the Chevy IMPALA is clued as a [Savanna grazer]. The PAN AM plane will LAND ([Finish a flight]). Your [Wisdom teeth, e.g.]/MOLARS are in the vicinity of a TONSIL ([Throat tissue]).

Overall, an enjoyable crossword that makes me hope the constructor’s going to keep making puzzles.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Schoolyard Pranks: Platinum Edition”

Region capture 16Matt classes up schoolyard pranks and depredations by fancying up a key word in each:

  • 17a. [More formal version of an ear-related prank?] might be a WET WILLIAM. Giving a “wet willie” is licking your finger and sticking it in someone else’s ear. I am afraid to look up the etymology for that, given that “willie” is slang for, well, you know.
  • 33a. [Chest-related prank with a more posh color option?] clues VIOLET NURPLE. The rhyming “purple nurple” is also called a “titty twister” and involves twisting and yoinking of another’s nipple.
  • 40a. [Dignified version of a punch-to-the-leg prank?] clues CHARLES HORSE. Now, I know a charley horse is a cramp in the calf, but I did not know it was the name for punching someone in the leg too.
  • 57a. [Version of a punching prank for a more refined palate?] is a HERTZ TORTE, a torte being a much classier pastry than the common donut. Do you know this prank? I didn’t learn it until adulthood, from my husband’s sister. You ask someone if they’d like a Hertz donut. They ask what that is. You punch ‘em in the upper arm and say “Hurts, don’t it.”

Freshest fill:

  • 4a. [Rockin' out] is JAMMIN’. Appropriate fill for Jonesin’.
  • 21a. Chuck WOOLERY! I remember back when he was the host of Wheel of Fortune, with Susan Stafford in the Vanna slot. The way she kicked up her heel when proffering her cheek for a kiss—I tell you, a generation of American girls learned a lot from that. He’s the [Chuck who told viewers he'd "be back in two and two"] on, uh, some later show. Maybe Love Connection?
  • 4d. [Fast-moving ball game] is JAI ALAI, which hardly ever gets its full name in the crossword. It’s always Jai ___ or ___ alai.
  • 25d. “GEE WHIZ” and ["Shucks"] are equivalent.
  • 33d. VCR REPAIR was a [Correspondence course for fix-it types, once]. So quaint now.
  • 59d. I have never seen TVM before—["I really appreciate that," while texting]. It must be short for “thanks very much.” TYVM would be nicer, wouldn’t it?
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15 Responses to Tuesday, 5/4/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Puzzle 2 at Crosswords LA with a properly working clock. Doug claimed 1 across was my Canadian shoutout. Certainly helped as this was my fastest puzzle.

    Many people tried SOFT-SHELL CRAB. BLOOP SINGLE also stumped non-baseball people.

    MENSCH continued the Yiddish theme from yesterday.

  2. Eric LeVasseur says:

    SOFT-SHELL CLAM came right away to me, because I’d remembered reading that SOFT-SHELLED CLAM was one of the first multi-word phrases to appear in a crossword. Except that I looked it up just now, and apparently the actual phrase was HARD-SHELLED CRAB.

  3. Alex says:

    We had fun in the scoring room with the people who wrote SOFT SHELL CRAB because of what it did to one of the crossings. (tee-hee)

  4. Ben says:

    That “N” at “tonier”/”monsanto” was completely unknown to me, I have never heard of either of those.

  5. Gareth says:

    Seen a couple of money-themed puzzles before, but this one had a slightly different bent, felt refreshing!

    Hand up for MARIANAS (although it was in my head sans S, but put an S in anyway for the length) POPUP after getting SINGLE.

    Last letter: RCMP/MONSANTO – they make that round-up ready soybean stuff don’t they? I had to do a project on that in 2nd year, but it’s already only vaguely familiar!

  6. LARRY says:

    What – no Jonesin puzzle yet???

  7. Howard B says:

    You know, for anyone who stays away from early-week puzzles because they feel jaded, that maybe there’s not a challenge in them or anything new to learn, there’s always a possible surprise lurking in there.

    MONSANTO (after looking it up), is a huge, huge company. Gigantic. And I have never, never in my life heard, seen, nor read about it. I had zero familiarity with the name, and needed every single crossing letter in it. On a Tuesday. How cool is that? That’s a knowledge hole to drive a bus through. Just brutal, but really interesting. Guess I’m not in soybean/agribusiness country here.
    Edit: CALEB and GUM UP weren’t gimmes, either.

    Smooth theme, though, liked it. Had heard of the clam, but not an everyday term either.

  8. Eric Maddy says:

    FWIW, Victor Barocas is a professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, who I had the pleasure of meeting at ACPT in 2009 (his rookie tournament).

    Knowing this, I got a special kick out of the fact that his crossword managed to work genetics into the theme entries….

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ah, the other Victor Barocas Google turns up…

  10. D Finan says:

    I got a big charge out of seeing Professor Barocas’ name in the LAT today… I took a course from him at the University of Colorado, oh about a decade ago. Small world. He was a fun prof!

  11. joon says:

    just an fyi–there’s a problem with wordpress that’s keeping my MGWCC post from publishing. not sure what’s going on, but hopefully dave will know what’s going on and how to fix it.

  12. Evad says:

    It’s up now.

  13. Hi -

    Yes, the LAT puzzle today was my debut puzzle. I’m glad that Amy enjoyed it (for three whole minutes!). As noted by a couple of other posters, I am currently a professor of biomedical engineering at Minnesota (formerly in Chem Eng at Colorado). I am the same guy who wrote the Latin fairy tale book. I’d been meaning to send in a fan post to say that I enjoy this blog a lot, but I never got around to it – who knew that verifying my non-crossword life would give me an excuse?

    Best to all,
    - VB

  14. Martin says:

    If you transported Mount Everest into the deepest part of the Marianas Trench, the summit would be more than a mile under the surface. That’s what I remember from school.

    Mariana Trench is the preferred name today; it’s associated with the Mariana Islands. But those are still the Marianas, so most of us ignore the name change along with sea stars and sea jellies. Oceanographers and marine biologists seem to be easily distracted by unimportant things. I wonder if ADHD is linked to love of the sea.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    Many thanks to Victor B for the enjoyable puzzle and for stopping by here! Also thanks to Amy and Janie for the excellent write-ups…

    Never heard of the Nurple, or the Wet Willie or the Herzt Donut but left them in my Jonesin’ solution anyway. Now they’re explained, I really didn’t want to know. Yick.

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