Tuesday, 6/22/10

Jonesin’ 3:45
NYT 3:11
LAT 2:53
CS untimed

Two announcements:

First, Simeon Visser is developing new (and free) software for constructing crosswords, to run on multiple platforms. If you’re interested in helping to shape the program, read Simeon’s announcement at the Crossword Fiend forum.

Second, I’m heading to New York this week, so you’ll be entertained here by an all-star cast of bloggers: Sam, Jeffrey, Janie, Evad, and Angela. Yes, I’ve listed them in reverse alphabetical order. What of it? Wednesday through Sunday, they’ll have the goods.

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 25What the…? Barry Silk, is that you? With an early-week themed puzzle? And fill that’s not overtly Scrabbly? I don’t know you anymore, man.

GHOST is the name of the game—a [Word game…or a word that can precede the starts of] the four longest Across answers. I forget what sort of game Ghost is. Is it the word game equivalent of the basketball game Horse? In my head, it is.

  • 18a. TOWN COUNCIL is the [Governing body of a municipality]. Somewhat dull theme entry. You know what would be great? A ghost town council full of specters rattling chains as they discuss zoning variances.
  • 26a. SHIP OF FOOLS is a [1965 Vivien Leigh movie] about which I know nothing. Ghost ships are the subject of great dread and merriment on SpongeBob SquarePants and in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  • 43a. BUSTER BROWN is the [Old comics boy with the dog Tige]. Wait, he was in comics? I had no idea the character existed apart from the children’s shoe brand. The singular Ghostbuster strikes me as odd. Are those movie characters ever referred to in the singular, or just as a group of Ghostbusters? You’re really hankering to see the video of the Ray Parker, Jr. theme song now, aren’t you?
  • 54a. A STORY TELLER is the [Center of attention around a campfire, say]. Now, the person telling stories at a campfire is generally telling ghost stories, so the campfire reference in the clue makes this one stand apart from the other three. It’s too ghostly, this one.

Five clues:

  • 3d. [Hockshop receipt] is a PAWN TICKET. I’ve never hocked anything, so I needed plenty of crossings to be sure of this one. Cool to have a couple 10s in the fill.
  • 41a. [Strait of Hormuz vessel] is an OILER. An acquaintance of mine was on Jeopardy! recently and missed a Strait of Hormuz question; so did his opponents. I knew it (she says smugly). On the same episode, all three contestants were clueless about most of the sports questions, which was great to see. Hey, I don’t know those ones, either!
  • 62a. PEYOTE is your [Hallucinogen-yielding cactus]. Anyone have a good peyote story to share?
  • 19d. UMPS in baseball are [Stereotypically "blind" officials]. Cute clue!
  • 5d. We don’t see a ton of short three-word answers in which none of the “words” are single letters. A LOT OF means [Many].

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Rumble in the Bowl”

Region capture 26Ah, two of my favorite things: breakfast cereals and anagrams. (I’m serious!)

  • 17a. [Cereal for people with good fortune during a fictional "Simpsons" month?] is LUCKY SMARCH. Hmm, I don’t recall Smarch, and I hate those grody little “marshmallows” in Lucky Charms. Those things? They’re not marshmallows. I don’t know what the hell they are.
  • 21a. Fiber One turns into FIBER EON, [Cereal that's really healthy, but takes forever to pass?]. Gotta love fiber-related regularity humor.
  • 35a. [Cereal that's shockingly good?] clues GRAPE STUN. No more stunning than Grape Nuts, which are grapeless and nut-free.
  • 43a. Nice reversal here: HONEY BMOC, spelling the COMB part backwards, is a [Cereal eaten mainly by important students?].
  • 53a. [With 62-across, cereal that sounds like a bad accident between fighting ermines?] is CINNAMON / STOAT CRUNCH. Gotta love an anagram that yields a crosswordese animal.

Five clues:

  • 46a. SYREN is a [Book in the Septimus Heap series]. I know nothing about this.
  • 10d, 28d. Two solid full names, ANSEL ADAMS, the [Yosemite photographer], and TATUM O’NEAL, the [Record-setting actress at the 1974 Oscars].
  • 22d. R. CRUMB is a great entry. He’s the ["Keep on Truckin'" cartoonist]. I like that he’s opposite PACMAN in the grid.
  • 33d. An IGLOO is a [Cold home heated by a qulliq]. Who knew?

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 27What a terrific early-week puzzle! I really admire this theme because of the built-in surprise factor. I shop regularly at all the stores in the theme, and yet it took uncovering RETAIL to make the connection.

  • 20a. [Information disparity in a social system] is a KNOWLEDGE GAP. The Gap sells clothes.
  • 32a. [Ready-made graphics for frames] are CLIP ART BORDERS. I don’t exactly know what these are, but I do know what Borders stores are. There are two in my neighborhood. Alas, we lost our Barnes & Noble.
  • 40a. [Standard cooking supplies], such as flour, sugar, and oil, are KITCHEN STAPLES. Staples has become my preferred office supply store because I pass one more often than I see the Offices Max and Depot.
  • 56a. [Skeet challenge] is shooting a MOVING TARGET. Ooh! I have a Target store opening in my neighborhood next month. I suspect I’ll start going a lot more than once every month or two.
  • 45a, 66a. [With 66-Across, each of this puzzle's four longest answers ends in one] clues RETAIL / STORE.

Five clues:

  • 14a. Boo on ONE K, or [Short race distance, for short]. Grown-up runners run the 1,000 meter event. It’d be better if clued with reference to those races for kids that sometimes precede longer races for big people.
  • 19a. Just the other day I voiced my antipathy for the word COED as a noun. But hey! This clue gets it right: ["Here Come the __": 1945 college comedy] properly references COEDS as an old-fashioned word for women attending college.
  • 5d. Who doesn’t love MAGENTA? It’s a [Purplish hue]. Etymology time! The color gets its name from an Italian place where a battle was fought not long before the discovery of fuchsin, a blood-red dye also called magenta.
  • 25d. A STELE or stela is an [Inscribed pillar]. Commit this piece of crosswordese to memory if it’s unfamiliar, as you will surely see it again.
  • 43d. ["Here's what happened next ..."] clues “AND THEN…” This entry can’t quite decide whether it’s iffy or awesome.


Updated Tuesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “From Orzo to Ouzo”—Janie’s review

This is one charming puzzle. Like yesterday’s, it was a very smooth kind of solve and (because it works so well) is graced with a smile-making gimmick. It’s a substitution theme where (as the title suggests) the “R” in a well-known phrase is swapped out for a “U.” I don’t think it’s often that we see a consonant replaced with a vowel, but Sarah accomplishes the task handily—and happily—as (at):

  • 17A. Morse code → MOUSE CODE [Mickey's secret language?]. This is terrific and conjures up a strong visual of Mickey as a telegraph operator. I had no success in finding an actual image of him in that role—but I bet there’s one out there. Somewhere.
  • 36A. Back porch → BACK-POUCH [Modern baby carrier?]. Love the transformation but was surprised by the cluing. Haven’t Native Americans been using papooses for a long, long time? Actually, this didn’t escape Sarah’s notice and she was generous enough to share her thinking with us. In her own words: “My generation used hand held baby carriers, strollers, and carriages. Younger, more “modern” parents then began the practice of using back pouches to tote their infants. Thus, the definition of modern in my clue.” Thanks for the insight, Sarah. Apparently everything old is new again!
  • 41A. Torch song → TOUCH SONG [Music read by fingers?]. This exists, in fact, and is known as Braille music. I suspect there’s many a “torch song” that’s been converted, too. (While “ESO Beso” probably wouldn’t qualify, there are arrangements of ["I've Grown Accustomed] TO HER [Face"] that certainly could.)
  • 62A. High horse → HIGH HOUSE [Multistoried residence?]. I do like how the theme-fill is bookended with the rhyming mouse and house. I was thinking, too, that an aerie is also a kind of high house. For birds, of course…

Someone who’s arrogant may be said to be on his/her “high horse.” While this is a figurative horse, the puzzle does include the literal type as well with [Horses' relatives] ASSES and [Get back on, as a horse] REMOUNT. And those horse references lend the puzzle a bit of a southwest feel, which is reinforced with CACTUS [Spiny plant] and ARROYO [Dry gulch] and yep, NOOSE [Lasso loop].

As for the “charm” factor I mentioned, that’s not limited to the theme fill but is also apparent in such fill as CUTEST [Most adorable], SWEE’ PEA [Popeye's son], EWOKS [Furry sci-fi creatures], ABSENCE [Fondness intensifier?] and COO, with its model-of misdirection clue [Bill's partner in love?]. Because HILARY, while fitting, just wasn’t gonna fit.

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17 Responses to Tuesday, 6/22/10

  1. Martin says:

    No peyote stories, but some pretty weird stuff thanks to mescaline. The X-ray vision was excellent.

  2. sbmanion says:

    Amy,
    When I was in high school in Niagara Falls, I applied to all the top Ivy schools and each one had a reception in Buffalo for all the students applying from Western New York. One of the guys who was applying to all the same schools was a genius named George S. who had scored 1600 on the SAT at a time when scores above 1400 were rare and perfect scores unheard of. The first words he ever said to me were “How about a fast game of Superghost?” In case you were really asking, ghost is a game in which each person in turn adds a letter to the existing string without forming a word and at the same time tries to force his opponent to spell a word with the next letter. In Superghost, the players can place the ensuing letter either in front of the first letter or after the last letter.

    When I found out that the local Harvard Club was going to recommend that I be a Harvard National Scholar, I asked “What about George?” The local head of the club didn’t say much but suggested obliquely that it wasn’t clear that he was going to get in. In the fall of my freshman year, there was George, who had made a bet with one of his roommates that he would wear the same Colombo-esque trench coat with a question mark sewn onto the back and a pair of khaki shorts for the entire school year. And he did. I was at a party early that year with Fred Jewettt, the head of admissions at the time, and he was discussing what it took to get in. I asked about George in light of the less than favorable comments about him I had heard. Fred said that everyone who ever met George immediately thought he was strange beyond belief, but in reality, he had written a personal essay that was a work of comic genius and that if you could simply look beyond his strange looks and mannnerisms, you would immediately recognize it. And he beat me at Superghost.

    Steve

  3. seahedges says:

    For the record, “South-of-the-border outlaws” are BANDIDOS, not BANDITOS.

    SEA

  4. Martin says:

    Stephen (seahedges),

    In English, Mexican outlaws are banditos, via Italian. Ironic, no?

  5. Alex says:

    Announcement #3 — Jim Horne warns that tomorrow’s NYT is best solved in pdf form.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT – did have to check the byline more than once; not the typical Silk opus. PAWNTICKET sounds like it should get you into one of those dodgy inner city cinemas…

    LAT –
    Re: STELE. It can also be spelled STELA, which is how I had it originally. Weird thing is I’ve come across the OTHER meaning of STELE outside of crosswords, viz “central vascular column of plants” in first year botany, but it doesn’t seem to get much cruciverbal airtime. Fun theme idea, even though not one of those stores occurs here…

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Regional irony, I guess — in our area, Borders is getting squeezed (a friend lost a job as manager when his local store closed), while near you it seems to be Barnes and Noble cutting back… Both survive here in the biggest mall, but I usually avoid big malls! Ugh.

    Meanwhile, our local library is sweltering without air-conditioning because the crane needed to replace the system is awaiting a special permit! The one needed is taller than buildings around the airport, and that’s normally a no-no. Sic transit, etc.

  8. Matt J. says:

    Funny you should ask. In Lucky Charms, nope, they’re not true marshmallows… I think the trade name the inventor gave them was “marbits”. More like circus peanuts, if you ask me. :)

  9. joon says:

    great puzzles today. loved the cereal anagrams (relace, anyone?). a friend of mine who has dabbled in constructing made a puzzle with a theme very much like today’s LAT, so i was quick to catch onto that one, i think. still don’t know what CLIP ART BORDERS means, though.

    janie, i think the CS theme is a bit tighter than you give it credit for: all of the theme answers (and the title) change OR to OU. we carry our daughter (also named sarah) in a sling or baby bjorn (in the front), but when her head control gets better we’ll switch her to the backpack-like carrier that’s a lot easier on the shoulders.

    steve, great story. freshman year of high school, we used to play superghost on the bus all the time. i was reminded of it by matt ginsberg’s theme of 10/6/09.

  10. seahedges says:

    Martin,

    “In English, Mexican outlaws are banditos, via Italian. Ironic, no?”

    True, bandito is the Italian word for bandit, but why would American English borrow an Italian word for Mexican bandidos? i suspect it’s an example of mispronouncing and/or mistranscribing a borrowed word–from Mexican Spanish in this case–a transformative phenomenon that’s common to all languages.

    Diminutive little banditos are cute: “Little edicts.”

    SEA

    PS How does one add ones pic to one’s posts? And how do you format hypertext?

  11. Jeffrey says:

    Janie, I can’t find a picture of Mickey as a telegraph operator, but I can share a secret I learned on a tour of Disneyland I took in May. At the New Orleans Square station of the Disneyland railroad, you can here clicking. It is a Morse code message from Walt Disney’s opening day speech:

    “To all who come to this happy place: Welcome- Disneyland is your land!”

    You can’t see him, but I’m guessing Mickey is typing it out!

  12. John Haber says:

    I figure that we can’t quarrel with MW11, unlikely as “via Italian” sounds as etymology, but fortunately RHUD agrees with us, calling BANDITO pseudo-Spanish.

    I don’t usually do Mondays or Tuesdays (and sometimes skip Wednesday) but was lured in hearing it involved a word puzzle. Little did I know it asks only for the name of one. Oh, well. Like Amy, I didn’t remember what the rules of the game were anyway and had never played it. The Web just filled me in.

  13. Evad says:

    SEA, a hyperlink is inserted using the standard a (anchor) HTML tag, e.g., < a href = "http://www.disney.com" > link text < /a >.

    (Remove the spaces above, except for the one between the “a” and “href”…otherwise, it would show as a link here.)

    The personal images are called gravatars. Get yours by supplying your email address here.

  14. janie says:

    jeffrey: cool!! and i’m guessing you’re right!

    ;-)

  15. Martin says:

    Stephen (SEA),

    I’ve kind of got bandito fatigue from defending it all over the crucisphere, but the short version is that “bandit” in English began with a reference in 2 Henry VI to “bandito” (spelled “bandetto”). Through the 18th century, “bandito/banditti” were standard English. The anglicization to “bandit” took hold by the 19th century but an exception was made for Mexican outlaws because the Romance-language flavor seemed appropriate.

    This usage of bandito remains standard American English and is a relic of the original standard usage, not a misspelling of a Spanish word.

  16. Matt J. says:

    I bet the rhyming Frito Bandito didn’t help matters much.

Comments are closed.