Sunday, 6/6/10

NYT 9:39 (on paper…writing neatly)
BG 8:03
LAT 7:13
Reagle 6:26
WaPo Post Puzzler 5:19
CS 9:20 (Evad)

Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword, “Typecasting”

Picture 3I wonder if the same people who pitched a fit (over at Wordplay) three weeks ago when Matt Ginsberg’s “Double Crossers” puzzle was presented in PDF form are going to whinge about this puzzle, too. I haven’t checked out the Across Lite version yet, but the elegance of the theme clues in the PDF is so cool, I don’t even want to look at the lesser presentation.

This puzzle’s title hints at the theme’s typographical bent: each theme answer is clued by means of both the words in the clue and the way the clue’s printed. The theme’s fresh and fun and memorable, and what more can you ask for in a Sunday puzzle? The fill includes a good assortment of longer answers, and I didn’t hit much of anything to inspire UGHS (74a: [Critical comments]). Here are the theme entries:

  • 23a. [JAIL OR FINE] is in uppercase, and those are two forms of legal punishment. Thus, the answer is CAPITAL (letter) PUNISHMENT.
  • 37a. [Perspectives] in italics? SLANTED VIEWS.
  • 59a. [Putting in a carton] is boxing something up. With a shadow of the clue appearing below it, we get SHADOW BOXING.
  • Picture 179a. [Wordsmith] means “writer,” and in a script font that’s a SCRIPT WRITER. I don’t have a handwriting font on the blog, but the picture at right displays the font.
  • 101a. [Birthday cake toppers] in Courier are ROMAN CANDLES. You kinda wanted the answer to start with COURIER, didn’t you? All but one of the clues are printed in roman fonts rather than italics.
  • 118a. [Couple-swapping] represents STRUCK OUT SWINGING, a baseball term. Gotta love a reference to spouse-swapping. (And I appreciate that it’s not clued as [Wife-swapping]; I like to see gender-neutral clues.)
  • 16d. [Assertion] is a BOLD STATEMENT.
  • Picture 258d. [Untruths] in a Gothic font (see right for a similar look) are GOTHIC FICTION. Nice!

I hope to post a scan of my completed grid, but my in-house tech guy is at the beach right now. Maybe later. Or maybe I’ll key my answers into the .puz file.

If you went straight to the Across Lite version, you see what you missed? I’m fairly confident that Will Shortz doesn’t find the anti-creative contingent’s arguments remotely compelling, but if enough angry readers complain to the newspaper (“I’m paying for online access to all of the puzzles!”), Will’s bosses might ask him to lay off the too-cool-for-Across Lite puzzles. I sure hope that doesn’t happen, because the creative twists are so captivating. Maybe a small disclaimer for iPhone and Premium Crosswords subscribers could mention that rarely, puzzles will be unsuited to that format, and not every single puzzle will be provided that way?

Boy, looking at the PDF, I sure wish the Kenken puzzle would move so the crossword grid, clues, and clue numbers could be a smidgen bigger.

All right, what else bears mention?

  • 1a. [See above] flirts with being part of the theme because it deviates from the usual. The answer is ACROSS, which is the clue section heading right above “See above.”
  • 30a. Ah, dreaded Roman numeral. CDVI, or 406, is the [Year Attila the Hun was born].
  • 35a. A SORE LOSER is an [Excuse maker, maybe]. “The sun was in my eyes.”
  • 42a. [Sound city] isn’t about music—no Motown, no Nashville. It’s SEATTLE, beside Puget Sound.
  • 47a, 67a. [___ spell] clues both DRY and SIT A. The presence of 47a makes the 67a partial more tolerable.
  • 63a. Yes! NEET is clued as a [Bygone name in hair removal]. The brand exists in the world still, but you’re unlikely to find it on the shelves at Walgreens or CVS.
  • 73a. -IERE, as in premiere, is a [French suffix]. Ugly answer, no? Okay, I’ll give this one a little UGH.
  • 98a. [Mercury and Saturn] are DEITIES. As cars, Saturns are used cars now, and the last new Mercury will be made later this year.
  • 113a. [Desiderata] are NEEDS. This word and desire share the same Latin root.
  • 126a. I’m fond of etymology clues. URDU is the [Language from which "loot" comes]. The language from which “booty” comes is Piratespeak. Arrr!
  • 2d. Did any of you know this one? I sure didn’t. CHAPALA is the name of [Mexico's largest lake]. Not to be confused with chalupa (Mexican food) or chapatti (Indian food).
  • 3d. [Snoop, e.g.] refers to Snoop Doggy Dogg, the RAP STAR.
  • 12d. AAMCO is the [Company with a "beep-beep" in its ads]. It’s “Double-a [beep-beep] M-C-O,” isn’t it?
  • 14d. How awesome would it be if the YANKEES logo featured a small flying mammal in a hat? The time has come for a good bat mascot. [Team whose logo features a bat in a hat] means a baseball hat, sadly.
  • 34d. [Snicker part] clues HEH. See also PEANUT (110a: [Mr. ___ of advertising]).
  • 45d. [What a penguin doesn't really wear] is a TUX. Stud puffins do wear tuxedos, though.
  • 49d. CALTECH, good entry—[Prestigious West Coast school, for short].
  • 52d. Excellent clue: [Neither here not there?] means EN ROUTE.
  • 55d. News to me—[Warren : rabbits :: couch : ___] OTTERS. I do love the analogy clues in the NYT puzzles. I wonder if Will writes them himself, or if constructors submit them.
  • 61d. Seinfeld flashback to the episode where Elaine is squiring a Russian writer around town, and relays the misinformation she got relating this song to Tolstoy. WAR is clued [It's good for "absolutely nothing" according to a 1970 hit]. (See also 88d: YADA.)
  • 105d. NAURU is a [Country that's just 8 square miles in area]. Not to be confused with 76a: PALAU, [2005 "Survivor" setting], though both are 5-letter island nations in Oceania ending in U.

P.S. I used the applet to generate a solution grid. Man, the theme is clunky in the non-PDF iteration. Putting in a carton  [repeated underneath in gray] just doesn’t sing. Between this puzzle and Matt Ginsberg’s, I’m fully in favor of using the PDF when one is provided and recommended. I appreciate it that NYT bloggers Jim Horne and Pat Merrell make a point of alerting the main NYT crossword bloggers in advance, so the rest of you won’t be caught off guard.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “A Noisy Stroll Down Memory Lane”

Region capture 13The theme is names of things—people real and fictional, foods, and works of art—that include words that double as sounds. Each one is a blast from the past, hence the “Memory Lane” part of the title:

  • 23a. [1958 smash] is the song “SPLISH SPLASH.”
  • 25a. [1960s funnies] clues ZAP COMIX.
  • 35a. [1950s cereal] is SUGAR POPS. Now it’s called Corn Pops.
  • 37a. [1960s moonwalker] is BUZZ ALDRIN.
  • 47a. [Snacks that debuted in 1967] are HOSTESS DING-DONGS.
  • 70a. [Pioneering rock critic that Philip Seymour Hoffman plays in "Almost Famous"] is LESTER BANGS.
  • 89a. ["Cowabunga!" shouter on "The Howdy Doody Show"] is CHIEF THUNDERTHUD. Never heard of him.
  • 103a. [Cereal introduced in 1963] is CAP’N CRUNCH.
  • 106a. [Espionage figure who was paroled in 1954] is ALGER HISS.
  • 115a. [Cartoon character introduced in 1963] is BAMM-BAMM, from The Flintstones.
  • 117a. [Hogan's keeper] is COLONEL KLINK.

The whole dang puzzle is largely focused on the pre-Summer of Love ’60s. Which is great if you had grown up by then and remember all these things, but if you’d barely been born? The crossword theme and fill feel like they’re decidedly not for you. Mind you, I didn’t have any trouble filling in the puzzle quickly, but a lot of this stuff I learned from crosswords and not from personal exposure. Examples: [Bilko's boys] are GIS. [Napoleon Solo, e.g.] is a SPY. LES [Brown of "The Dean Martin Show"]. [Comical Conried] is HANS; he was comical?? Perry [Mason, e.g.: Abbr.] is an ATTY. An old-school [Mimeo] is a COPY from the days before photocopier hegemony. There are only a handful of more contemporary clues, like STEPHEN [King of the macabre]—and of course, King’s first big novels came out back in the mid-’70s.

Yes, Merl’s target audience includes an awful lot of people in their 60s and 70s, the diehards who still subscribe to newspapers and like to work the crossword puzzle over breakfast. I’m sure they’re delighted with this trivia/onomatopoeia puzzle, but it left me unmoved.

Karen Tracey’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 9″

Region capture 14This isn’t my favorite Karen Tracey puzzle ever, but that is really not saying a lot. The bar is so high for her fill, one that falls flat is still more interesting than many people’s best efforts. The triple-stacked 10s and quad-stacked 9s are great, and you are unlikely to spot a single partial in one of Karent’s grids (and I count only two abbreviations). It may just be that I’m a tad disgruntled about playing vowel roulette for the last square. TZIPI LIVNI (17a: [Leader of Israel's Kadima party]) has the sort of name that makes you think “That should be in one of Karen’s puzzles” the first time you encounter it. The 5d crossing, though! [Potent Pabst brand], ST*DES—the only place I have heard of two-word ST. IDES malt liquor is in another crossword in the last couple months. St. Ides, you are no Colt 45 when it comes to brand recognition.

Highlights:

  • 1a. [Has kittens], idiomatically, means BLOWS A FUSE.
  • 33a. [Figure (out)] clues SUSS. Love the phrase “suss out.”
  • 48a. CELEBREX is a [Pfizer painkiller] in the NSAID family. I was thinking that it was no longer on the market, but it’s cousin Vioxx that went kaput.
  • 63a. The TIMES TABLE is a [Matrix with squares along the diagonal]. As in 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, and 100.
  • 11d. CRASH TEST is [Part of a vehicle evaluation]. Remember the ’90s band Crash Test Dummies? “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.”
  • 12d. For [Performers at Bush's 2001 inauguration], I was thinking of country music. The ROCKETTES!
  • 42d. Love the word COXCOMB, meaning a [Dandy] or fop.
  • 45d. Heeey! The radius plays a new role, with no RADII or ULNA action in the grid. [Radii termini] are the WRISTS at the end of your forearm bones.
  • 47d. Goofy little trivia: DE SOTO is the [Mississippi county whose seat is Hernando]. Hernando de Soto died of a fever on the Mississippi River’s bank. So no, you’re not expected to know county seats in Mississippi, but you should be able to make the Hernando/DE SOTO connection.
  • 52d. An ALIBI is an [Out of sorts?]. Cute clue.

Updated Sunday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

cs66 What have we here? Lynn Lempel, the queen of early week puzzles, serving up a “Sunday Challenge”? Are we in for something easy, or has Lynn saved up all her harder clues for now? Let us see….

I found this one pretty easy as Sunday Challenges go, and smooth as silk. The showy parts are the double stacks of 15′s:

  • “OK, you can come out now” is THE COAST IS CLEAR. Very in the language, and I like how both phrases sound like something kids would say to each other.
  • “Thoroughly depraved” is ROTTEN TO THE CORE.
  • “Without delay” is AT THE DROP OF A HAT. I’m guessing this refers to how quickly a hat would reach the ground when dropped. I wonder if Gallileo considered dropping a hat instead of feathers from the Leaning Tower, how history may have changed?
  • “Neil Simon comedy set at the Beverly Hills Hotel” is CALIFORNIA SUITE. I’m thinking Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss, but let me check….nope, that’s The Goodbye Girl. (I should be spending more time at John Farmer’s movie site.)

Everything else was very smooth, as to be expected from a constructor so adept at constructing early-week puzzles. My only question was around RLS, clued not as Treasure Island’s author’s monogram, but “Twitchy sleep disorder (abbr.)” This turns out to be Restless Leg Syndrome, characterized by the uncontrollable urge to move one’s legs when at rest due to an uncomfortable feeling. (I do that, but I thought it was just because I was hyper due to an elevated metabolism!)

¡Hasta mañana!

Jim Page’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Taketh Away”

Region capture 15As the title suggests, the constructor has taken TH away from various phrases to concoct the theme entries:

  • 27A: [Reason for a burglar to take aspirin?] is a ROBBING HEADACHE (throbbing).
  • 35A: [Display a casual shirt?] clues SHOW ONE’S TEE. Is “show one’s teeth” really a common enough phrase to spin off some wordplay?
  • 53A: [One who sings during meals?] is a MUSICAL EATER (theater).
  • 60A: [Where to buy "Splitting Up For Dummies"?] is at the RIFT STORE (thrift).
  • 74A: [Reaction to a New Year's Day birth?] is JANUARY “AW” (thaw).
  • 85A: [Salamander coverage?] is EFT INSURANCE. What’s “theft insurance”? Is that for businesses?
  • 97A: [Defy a parent?] clues CROSS ONE’S PA (path).
  • 109A: [Corn that may or may not be eaten?] is EAR IN THE BALANCE (Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance). Not sure how this corn is “in the balance.” Weighing the options of eating it or not?

I had two wrong squares here, thanks to carelessness. Had an S instead of E at the end of GAZETTE, and the crossing was largely meaningless to me whatever the letter. 42A: [Mr. ___": old detective game] is “Mr. REE“!? Mr. Res is equally mysterious. The other wrong square arose from a lazy misreading of the clue for FLUTED, 26A: [Like some champagne glasses]. I ignored the “like some” part and had plural FLUTES. The crossing, again, was a mystery to me. 18A: [1962 Paul Peterson hit] is MY DAD, but I had MY SAD awkwardly crossing SO SAD. I really wanted an anachronistic MY BAD.

REE is emblematic of a lot of the fill, crusty little bits that detracted from my solving experience—partials like A BIG, IT AT, IN UP, SLY AS, OFF ON, and A DEAR; crosswordese like ERN crossing AAR, OSIER, and ERTES; fragments like EPI- and -ESCE and GAI.

YANNI is clued as a 105D: [One-named Greek singer]. He’s not known for his singing, though—he’s a pianist and composer of the New Age variety. If he wants to be a singer, he should pair up with Enya. They could label themselves with the portmanteau Enyanni, and how awesome would that be?
Updated Sunday afternoon:

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword from 6 weeks ago, “Interior Decor”

Region capture 16The theme is SECRET furniture and home decor decorating the interior of the long answers. Now, why are we having SECRET (1a: [Hidden, as eight related pieces in the grid]) furniture? Furniture isn’t secret. There’s a desk in GRADE SKIPPING (which doesn’t feel in-the-language to me the way “skipping a grade” does), table in GET A BLESSING (which also doesn’t feel in-the-language), carpet in OSCAR PETERSON (which is awesome, that there’s a CARPET lurking in his name), stool in “IT’S TOO LATE” (a song I’ve never heard, and a furniture that makes me think of…samples), sofa in WORKS OF ART, chair in FRENCH AIRPORT (not in-the-language), chest in CACHE STORAGE (this may or may not be in-the-language for techies, but it’s definitely not in my vernacular), and a bed in BABE DIDRIKSON.

The last part of this puzzle I filled in was the upper left corner. I had CHAT instead of SIGN for 1D: [Talk digitally], and MALI instead of CHAD for 3D: [Abutter of Sudan], and had no idea what 6D: [NBA fumbles] might be—after I finally pieced everything together, I ran that clue by my husband, who said “Turnovers.” Ah, so that’s what TOS means.

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12 Responses to Sunday, 6/6/10

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Very clever theme. Wish I’d thought of it!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Not so bad in Across Lite! I could picture the fonts…Wanted Scrollwriter for the cursive Wordsmith at first, and Lag for Trail where DOG belonged. PILE IN as an answer and “It’s on top on piles” made my mind VEER in an UGHS direction…

    I toyed with Anime where that MANGA appeared, and NAURA and PALAU were also unfamiliar. Still learning new stuff every day, but I was happy at the inclusion of MIASMA!

  3. Peter says:

    Very fun theme in the NYT. Got just about every one instantly, but they were still clever. Briefly had BOLD-FACED LIES for 58-Down. The WII crossing didn’t make my error obvious until later.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    From the best 1 Across ever, this is just a cool puzzle. Yay paper!

  5. joon says:

    amen. great idea, great puzzle.

  6. Sam Donaldson says:

    Amen x2. I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to get SEATTLE with the -TLE in place. But what a great clue – and just one of many.

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Loved the NYTimes puzzle! And I don’t see why anyone should complain about having to use the PDF rather than Across Lite. Then again, I almost always print out the puzzles from Across Lite, so printing from PDF didn’t make much difference, especially since this time (unlike once in the not too distant past) it all fit on one side of one page.

    I liked Merl Reagle’s puzzle, too, but even though I am one of those diehards of a certain age who still subscribes to newspapers and likes to do crosswords at breakfast, you still managed to do the puzzle a lot faster than I did, Amy. I may have been an adult in the 1960s, but everything I know about the Flintstones and Hogan’s Heroes I learned in the last few years when I started to do crossword puzzles. I never ate Sugar Pops, Cap’n Crunch, or Hostess DingDongs (Twinkies, yes), and even though I did watch Howdy Doody as a child, I don’t remember Chief Thunderthud.

  8. Karen says:

    I think that I would like a little popup box when you solve in across lite, saying ‘Best solved as a pdf’, so I wouldn’t be caught flatfooted. I vaguely remember seeing mention yesterday of a pdf.
    The AL version was adapted well, though.

    I got stuck with 1A (kept thinking they were referring to the title) and 19A, crossing 1,2, and 3 downs. (I figured Snoop could be a rap or a pop star). Also, the crossing of Sex and the City and Casablanca trivia hit a blank spot. But overall a fun puzzle.

  9. pannonica says:

    I don’t wanna think about Yanniraffi, especially not performing for Gaddafi (aka Qadhafi, Kazzafi, and 29 others).

  10. ArtLvr says:

    TZIPI LIVNI? St Ides? I just got around to this one and spent over an hour working it all out, but got stuck finally at the NW. So glad you posted the solution; it would eat at me!

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    TZIPI LIVNI. I know. Jumping at the chance to insert that (insert Valley Girl accent) totally comes from a BEQ/Peter Gordon mindset. But it’s fun only when the crossings can give it to you.

    I, too, played vowel roulette on that one. But the one that cost me three minutes was COW/POLAU vs CAW/PALAU. I had LOW originally and my spidey senses told me the answer could not be COW, but I let it go. Silly me.

  12. Lily says:

    “Yes, Merl’s target audience includes an awful lot of people in their 60s and 70s,”

    OUCH! I’m only 55 and I knew every reference except “Thunderthud.”

    Golly, I feel old…

    ;-)

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