Sunday, 5/23/10

Reagle 9:38
BG 8:37
NYT 7:27
LAT 7:12
WaPo Puzzler 5:41
CS 9:27 – 1 error (Evad)

Yaakov Bendavid’s New York Times crossword, “Flip-Flops”

Region capture 9I loved this theme. Various compound words have their parts flip-flopped, changing the meaning of the phrases that contain them. Each theme entry had its own satisfying “aha” moment:

  • 23A. [Where ETs do knitting and art?] is ALIEN CRAFT SPACE.
  • 34A. [Thug living next to humorist Will?] swaps in Will Rogers for Fred Rogers in MR. ROGERS’ HOOD NEIGHBOR.
  • 46A. ["Get that first down…and don't fumble"?] could be a HAND-OFF REMARK on the football field.
  • 67A. [Watching over Warsaw's national emblem?] is POLE FLAG-SITTING. Gee, I wonder why flagpole sitting petered out as a pastime.
  • 88A. [Waiting in line for hooch?] is AT A STILL STAND.
  • 97A. [Competition among shrinks?] might be a PSYCHOLOGICAL FARE WAR. This one’s especially good, isn’t it? Airlines have “fare wars,” so the reversed part is still “in the language.”
  • 119A. This one’s my favorite. [Visitors' fair warning?] is WE SHALL COME OVER.

The non-theme fill tends to be on the short side—just two 8s, and none of the longer Down answers that some constructors like to work into the picture. Overall, though, the fill’s pretty smooth.

Ten more clues:

  • 57A. TARAWA was a [Pacific atoll in 1943 fighting]. Tarawa boom-de-ay.
  • 61A. [Shortish piano piece] clues SONATINA. Deb Amlen (buy her funny bookIt’s Not PMS, It’s You!) and I were just discussing the best way to prepare a sonatini, which is half sonatina, half martini.
  • 79A. ["Parade de Cirque" artist] is Georges SEURAT. Not familiar with that painting.
  • 4D. [Husband of Pompeia] is CAESAR. Which one? I don’t know.
  • 10D. [Plato's "tenth Muse"] is SAPPHO. Wow, I didn’t know that.
  • 13D. [Chateau ___ Michelle winery] is missing its STE. Tasty wine! Speaking of wine, 56A: OPORTO is a [Wine city north of Lisbon], where port comes from.
  • 47D. [Clothier, in Cambridge] is a DRAPER. I wonder if clueing this as Mad Men‘s Don Draper would have been harder or easier for most solvers.
  • 63D. [Place to stick a comb] clues an AFRO. Technically, what gets stuck in a ‘fro is a pick, not a comb.
  • 70D. [Pedestal topper] clues the IDOL you put on a pedestal.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “The Can(i)nes Film Festival, Part 2″

Region capture 8Like last week’s Part 1, this puzzle has a theme of dog-related movie/star puns. Neither iteration grabbed me. Here are this week’s puns:

  • 23a. [Blue-eyed dog star?] is PAW NEWMAN (Paul Newman).
  • 25a. [1957 Tyrone Power film about a dog that's left behind?] clues ABANDON SHEP (Abandon Ship). Shep = German shepherd. Never heard of the movie.
  • 34a. [Film about the happiest dog in the West?] is WAGGIN’ MASTER (Wagon Master). Never heard of the movie.
  • 38a. [Popular canine character that sheds a lot?] clues HAIRY POTTER, which just sounds gross (Harry Potter).
  • 52a. [War film starring Snoopy as a flying ace?] is WHERE BEAGLES DARE (Where Eagles Dare).
  • 63a. [Dogs' favorite actress?] clues DROOLIA ROBERTS (Julia Roberts).
  • 75a. [Film whose poster slogan is "Scratch me if you can"?] clues LORD OF THE FLEAS (Lord of the Flies).
  • 86a. [Dogs' second favorite actress?] is MARY LOUISE BARKER (Mary Louise Parker).
  • 101a, 104s. ["Scariest movie ever," according to dogs?] is ATTACK OF THE / GIANT LEASHES (Attack of the Giant Leeches). Not a familiar movie title for me.
  • 118a. ["Scariest actor ever," according to dogs?] clues DAVID SPAYED (David Spade). Okay, that clue/answer combo is funny.
  • 122a. [Where the festival is held?] is COLLARADO (Colorado).

Some of the fill felt awkward, too. Like these things:

  • 15a. [Michael Ondaatje novel, "___'s Ghost"] clues ANIL. A valiant effort to avoid a crosswordese clue referencing the blue/indigo dye. Anil Dash isn’t famous enough for crosswords, is he?
  • Hail, hail, the gang’s all here! UNA Merkel, UTA Hagen, OONA Chaplin, Pola NEGRI. They kicked INA Claire and NITA Naldi out of the Crosswordese Club this week. Actually, it’s rumored that INA and NITA caught sleeping sickness after being bitten by TSETSE flies.
  • 24d. [Playthings bought online] clues ETOYS. Ick. No. Bad clue. The website eToys sells toys. Not “e-toys.”
  • Partials include NO BIG, OF ALL, ON IN, A JOY, and TOLD A [___ fib].

Updated later Saturday night:

Trip Payne’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 7″

Region capture 10Trip’s 68-worder stacks the long answers at the top and bottom in 11/13/15 pyramids. Here’s what I liked most in this puzzle:

  • 1a. THIS INSTANT means [Right now].
  • 12a. I knew [Follow a losing plan] was about dieting, but it took plenty of crossings for COUNT CALORIES to emerge.
  • 26a. DISNEY is the [Recipient of the most Oscars in history].
  • 39a. [Experts in noncurrent events?] are SEERS, who foretell future events.
  • 53a. [Cause of a fan dance?] means “reason a group of fans might dance,” and that’s a WIN.
  • 60a. [Reaction to an understatement] is “AND THEN SOME.”
  • 1d. I used the crossings far more than the clue, as the only info I picked up from the clue was “uh, a football player.” [He replaced Drew Bledsoe] clues the full name TONY ROMO.
  • 10d. [Sudoku sections, e.g.] are NINTHS. You got a better way to clue NINTHS?
  • 26d. [Aptly named mistress in "Sunday in the Park With George"] is DOT. I didn’t know this, but it makes sense with pointillist Seurat.
  • 53d. I am inordinately fond of the word WONT, meaning one’s [Custom].

I encountered some mystery clues in this puzzle:

  • 23a. [Cumbernauld resident] is a SCOT.
  • 37a. ["Magister Ludi" author] is Hermann HESSE.
  • 6d. [Basque Country neighborNAVARRE
  • 12d. [Hair shirts] are CILICES, which is the plural of cilice. The word traces its roots to the Asia Minor region of Cilicia (which I’ve never heard of), because the hair shirt cloth was originally made from Cilician goat hair. Yes, that’s right: I said “Cilician goat hair.”

Updated Sunday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

cs523

Man, did I struggle with this one. Things I just did not know:

  • “Egyptian fertility god” is AMON. Easier for me would be the partial “Hey, look at me! I __ TV!”
  • POWER GRAB looks all kinds of wrong to me. POWER STRUGGLE, yes, but this phrase clued as “Attempt to gain control, say” is unfamiliar. Perhaps this is what Al Haig did when Reagan was shot.
  • “New Kids on the Block” songs are pretty far from my wheelhouse. Let’s listen to HANGIN’ TOUGH to see if it rings a bell:
    Nope.
  • Kept thinking of BEETLE BAILEY for “Bailey personality,” which was instead RUMPOLE. “Old Bailey” is the nickname for the London court where Rumpole defends his clients.
  • MATZO, MATZA or MATZOH, Oy vey!
  • My one error was the F shared between “Beyonce’s Alter Ego, in a 2008 album” SASHA FIERCE and “Harry Potter pooch” FANG. I tried P and B first (I know, PANG and BANG seem unusual names for a “pooch,” but I rationalized it as from a children’s fantasy novel). I offer this diagram to illustrate the “Bermuda Triangle,” which is the intersection of these two areas of utter bewilderment for me:
    cs22b

So quite a challenge for me this Sunday! Hope you fared better than I.

Pamela Amick Klawitter’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “They’re Beside Themselves”

Region capture 11In this theme, seven people are beside themselves: made-up phrases consist of two words, one ending with a certain 3-letter name and the second beginning with that same name. Like so:

  • 22a. [Introductory assortment of wreckage?] is a FLOTSAM SAMPLER.
  • 40a. [One-of-a-kind book?] is a CUSTOM TOME. A tom-tom is a drum, but sam-sam isn’t a word.
  • 65a. [Place to leave the flock during vacation?] is a CHICKEN KENNEL. Ken-ken is that arithmetic logic puzzle.
  • 92a. [Try to get tallow?] clues PURSUE SUET.
  • 114a. [Music for painters?] clues ENAMEL MELODIES. I would’ve gone with dentists rather than painters; I think of artists rather than house painters when I see the word “painters,” and artists don’t do too much with enamel paint.
  • 15d. [Scallions for an anniversary party?] are JUBILEE LEEKS. Vague shout-out to actress Lee Lee Sobieski.
  • 59d. [Short treatise on junk e-mail?] is SPAM PAMPHLET.

The theme works, yes, but it doesn’t do too much for me. The phrases and clues aren’t really very funny.

I had a weird thing happen when solving this puzzle in Black Ink (which is akin to Across Lite). I filled in the last square but didn’t get the congratulatory message one gets when the solution is correct. So I had the program check my work, and it highlighted 35a: [Be of service to] as PUZZLE. Which is odd, because I swear I had entered ASSIST there, and ASSIST is the answer. Maybe my husband is gaslighting me.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s 6-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “By the Numbers”

I had a flashback to last year, when I worked on a bunch of Brendan Emmett Quigley’s sports puzzle books for Cider Mill Press (crosswords and word searches devoted to various MLB, NFL, and college football teams). So I spent hours with the Red Sox and the Yankees, with the MVPs and All-Stars and record holders and World Series teams. But I really don’t care about any of that, so this theme—TED WILLIAMS and JOE DIMAGGIO by the numbers—was not up my alley. I didn’t really even let the clues into my head. I filled in the other eight theme answers by working the crossings, not by considering what sort of stat paired up with the numbers. Big ol’ yawn for me. I didn’t grow up with my parents enthusing about the baseball legends from their childhoods—they weren’t into baseball at all.

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18 Responses to Sunday, 5/23/10

  1. pannonica says:

    re: Phil. Inq.

    Oof, the 3×3 cross of NASDAQ debut perh. and Toll rte. Not difficult, just ugly.

    Does anyone maintain a list of when the same clue/answer appears in more than one puzzle on the same day? I’m thinking specifically of the King Kong/T. rex connection. but it seems to happen often enough to be remarkable (or is that unremarkable?). Someone (I’m talking to you, General Mills/Chex!) needs to market trail mix for parties and call it Trex.

  2. Norm says:

    @pannonica: the cross may have been ugly but at least the puns were more interesting (to moi) than last week’s blandness. the “trex” was curious. i was thinking much the same thing. probably would not have got it in merl’s puzzle (certainly not as quickly) but for the other appearance, which made it more or less a gimme. law of averages, it will probably happen now and then — although the synchronicity of clue AND answer was odd.

  3. Mike F. says:

    Had to google the MT. APO/OPORTO crossing. Otherwise, a typical Sunday NYT, right around 18 minutes.

    A couple of general questions for our gracious host:
    1) What would be a typical ratio of solving times online (NYT applet/Across lite) to solving times on paper? Is there an easy way to quantify it, or does it vary person-to-person?
    2) Did we ever get the results of this?

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Mike F., I’m still torn on the Ubercross Fiddy contest! (Plus, I procrastinate like nobody’s business.) I’ve got it narrowed down to seven candidates.

    There’s no consistent ratio for online/AL vs. paper. There are those who are markedly faster with a keyboard than with a pen or pencil, and there are those who are stymied by the online solving experience. For me, I think I’m a smidgen faster online than on paper.

  5. Will Nediger says:

    I love, love, love Hesse’s “Magister Ludi.”

  6. HH says:

    “What would be a typical ratio of solving times online (NYT applet/Across lite) to solving times on paper? Is there an easy way to quantify it, or does it vary person-to-person?”

    I’ve always wondered … has there ever been a really-fast-online solver who went to the ACPT and failed miserably because (s)he actually had to write something without a keyboard?

  7. Yaakov Bendavid says:

    Hi, I’m the constructor of today’s NYT. Amy – I’m so happy you enjoyed the theme and felt that each theme answer gave the “aha” moment. I went through over 2200 compound words to find those that made sense with the halves reversed and also appeared in familiar phrases. Then I tried to take the most amusing. Thanks so much for the feedback.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I wonder if someone can help me identify and find an old (I would guess a couple months) WSJ Saturday puzzle (or rather the solution thereto.) I’ve been searching and searching for it in various archives, (including the “Older Entries” here, B=but without success. Now I’m so frustrated at being unable to finish the bottom, after staring at it for a couple months, that I’m becoming desperate.

    The Saturday WSJ’s, unfortunately do not state the date of the puzzle. It was in the form of a large snowflake with 7 smaller numbered snowflakes within the grid, the idea being to fill in words tangent to the edges of the snowflake. Let me quote from the directions, which will be best way of identifying it:

    “When completed this snowflake grid will be filled with 42 interfacing answers. Six answers, all seven letters in length, surround each of the numbered sections of the grid; each of these answers reads in a straight line of seven hexagonal spaces running tangent to one of the sides of the numbered section”. . .and so forth.

    I whizzed through the top of the puzzle then ran into a stone wall in the 5, 6, 7 region. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Thanks.

    Incidentally I loved, loved both Patrick’s Fri. & Wil’s Sat. Wil’s was tougher but Patrick’s incredibly smooth and elegant.

    Bruce

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, try this post. It talks about Mike Shenk’s “Snowflake” puzzle but there’s no solution given. Or just peek at the answers at the WSJ puzzle site.

  10. Karen says:

    I thought the Boston Globe had, in addition to sports stuff I don’t know much about, a lot of fairly obscure crosses in it and unkown (to me) names. In particular the southwest section. Also, crossing the marathoner Mota and ‘player off the pine’ which I can see being a SUB in retrospect.

    I enjoyed the NYT today, I liked the gradual reveals of the theme answers. I just need to remember how to spell IRABU.

  11. Ruth says:

    Interesting that TOM BRADY also fit the spaces for Drew Bledsoe replacement. Messed me up for a while.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    I recall both Dan Feyer and Joon were fast online solvers who were unsure how it would go once they switched to paper. It appears to have worked out for them.

    I’m still faster on paper, due to lousy typing skills.

  13. Dan F says:

    Joon and I both practiced a lot on paper before the ACPT. If we hadn’t, it wouldn’t have gone so well for either of us, I daresay. As for the original question, I find I’m anywhere from 20-50% slower on paper than online, with the bigger differences on easy and Sunday-sized puzzles.

  14. Zulema says:

    Will Nediger,

    I also loved “Magister Ludi” and “Steppenwolf” in particular, though at one time when I was young I devoured all of Hesse’s books. The exception was the Glasperlen Spiel or however it’s spelled (I don’t want to look it up right now). I couldn’t get through it.

  15. joon says:

    i switched over to paper-only about 6 months before the ACPT, and basically my times doubled. so mondays, which regularly take me 2 minutes in across lite, took me 4 minutes on paper. the difference wasn’t quite as dramatic for harder puzzles. but after a lot of paper practice (still orders of magnitude less than what somebody like al has logged), i’m down to about that same 20-50% gap that dan mentioned.

    will, i read magister ludi with high hopes, and then i … only kinda sorta liked it. and zulema, it’s actually the same book as das glasperlenspiel (the glass bead game), so now i’m really curious whether you liked it or not. :)

    ruth, i fell into the TOM BRADY trap too. and confirming the first two letters made it really hard to erase. (so did the fact that i was solving in ink.) mucked up the top of my puzzle for a good long while.

    karen, i had a mystery crossing in the BG, where {Tennis great Fred} ST_LLE crossed {Blues singer Taylor} K_KO. in retrospect, KIKO/STILLE was a pretty dumb guess, because the only KIKO ever is middle reliever kiko calero, and that’s probably not how STILLE would be clued. but who the hell is this guy STOLLE? the only tennis great fred that i know is fred perry, and he wouldn’t fit.

  16. Gareth says:

    If anyone’s still here… What about cricket’s ANIL Kumble?

  17. Can(i)nes Part 2 was to me the poorest Reagle in memory.

    “Volume setting” as a clue for SHELF? Volume, OK, but setting?

    Collarado sucks for anything at all, but “Where the festival is held?” C’mon ….

    “Repetitive buzzer” is a reasonable clue for tsetse, but NOT with a question mark.

  18. pannonica says:

    Rey–

    I agree that it was a weak puzzle, but:
    - a setting is where one is likely to find something, so a book on a shelf is fine.
    - question mark is okay in my opinion for the tse-tse clue, as the word itself—not the animal—is repetitive
    - no defense for “Collarado” clue

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