Friday, 7/23/10

NYT 5:05
LAT 4:25
CS untimed
WSJ tba

My poor husband. He really thought this was Friday evening, and tomorrow was sleep-in Saturday. If crossword blogging is good for nothing else, at least it keeps one oriented to the day of the week.

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7The word count of 68 partners with a black square count of 41 in an unusual layout. There are four 15s that mostly intersect with shortish answers, which perhaps made it a little less difficult to fill the grid. The 15s have a ton of sparkle, with Scrabbly letters in all four:

  • 14a. DIAMOND JIM BRADY brings home the J. He was a [Gilded Age tycoon with a legendary appetite].
  • 52a. The Z is in ON THE RAZOR’S EDGE, meaning [In a precarious position].
  • 1d. [Christ's visitor in a tale from "The Brothers Karamazov"] is THE GRAND INQUISITOR. The “The” belongs there.
  • 10d. The BLACK SOX SCANDAL is the [Subject of "Eight Men Out"].

My favorites:

  • 28a. [Wasn't off one's rocker?] is a clever clue for SAT—as in SAT in one’s rocking chair.
  • 33a. [Sporcle.com feature] is a QUIZ. Ooh, have they got quizzes. Probably hundreds and hundreds of trivia quizzes. Geography, pop culture, sports, science, literature, math, vocabulary, wordplay—what more do you want?
  • Ancient peoples of Europe! You’ve got the TEUTONS at 31a ([Whom the Romans defeated at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, 102 B.C.]) and a NORMAN at 58a ([See 48-Across], which is ROIS/[58-Across leaders]).
  • 35a. I love the word SOUPÇON. It’s a [Hint] or teeny amount of something.
  • 46a. The clue [People born on February 29, colloquially] is a good way to salvage an entry like LEAPERS.
  • 57a. A DO-OVER is a golf [Mulligan, e.g.].
  • 5d. Colorful old sports name: REDLEGS is [Ted Kluszewski's team when he won the 1954 N.L. home run title]. This is what the Cincinnati Reds called themselves during the Red Scare/McCarthy era of anti-Communist paranoia.
  • 11d. The snarky Ambrose BIERCE was the [Writer of "Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another"].

Toughest clues:

  • 9d. NARA was the [First capital of Japan].
  • 15d. [Frank Zappa rock opera "___ Garage"] is completed by JOE’S.
  • 32d. [Male sheep] isn’t just a RAM, it’s also a TUP. ‘Tup, bro?
  • 37d. [Metaphor for a flood of tears] is NIAGARA. I went with the saltiness of tears and the DEAD SEA. Whoops.
  • 53d. EVA [___ Air (carrier to Taiwan)] is not an airline I’ve ever heard of. Maybe those of you who travel to Taiwan more often than I do are hep to Eva Air.

Most likely to be questioned:

  • 43a. ["I'm such a ___!" (klutz's comment)] clues SPAZ. Apparently the word derives, offensively, from “spastic.” Most people in my generation, I believe, have used the word more innocuously to describe someone who behaves like a dork or freaks out easily, and have never linked the word to people with spastic muscle conditions. I’m betting that Will Shortz will be getting some angry mail about this one.

The one I recently learned a mnemonic for:

  • 35d. SPIRO Agnew was the [Two-time running mate of Richard] Nixon. Do you have trouble remembering how to spell “Spiro”? SPIRO AGNEW anagrams to GROW A PENIS. (Thanks, Penny!)

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 8Whoo, I must be tireder than I thought, because I went ahead and left an only faintly plausible answer in place and didn’t check the crossings, but two squares were straight-up wrong. For 58a: [Tidings], I had NODS crossing, yes, OLOO and WODS. NEWS! And OLEO and WOWS! Yes, that makes a lot more sense.

The theme is hat puns with assorted consonant and vowel changes, and they’re…not funny. This one left me cold. Here are the four puns:

  • 20a. Playing on “close encounter,” CLOCHE ENCOUNTER is an [Opportunity to examine some headwear?]. The base phrase ties into the “examine” bit, and the specific CLOCHE seems to have no real purpose here aside from sounding vaguely like “close.”
  • 33a. [Call-in broadcasting for chefs?] clues TOQUE RADIO, playing on “talk radio” with the chef’s hat, a TOQUE. Mind you, there’s no reason that a chefs’ radio show would be named after the hat they wear.
  • 40a. [Northerners who dress with Scottish flair?] clues TAM YANKEES (“Damn Yankees”). Except nobody would use TAM as an attributive adjective describing people in Scottish attire.
  • 47a. Bowlers are hard and rounded? I guess so. So [Hats that are soft and angular?] are BOWLER OPPOSITES, playing on “polar opposites.”

A dozen more clues:

  • 14a. A COOP is a [Multilayer farm site?] in that it has multiple hens laying eggs.
  • 19a. [Pachacuti, for one] was an INCA.
  • 38a. [Idol whose fans are known as Claymates] is Clay AIKEN. Wait. He still has fans?
  • 45a. [Mendicant title] clues FRA. Usually the word “mendicant” in a clue sends us to FAKIR, which is a Muslim or Hindu ascetic who lives on alms. Friars, whose title of address is/was FRA, traditionally also lived on donations.
  • 4d. [Garb for Apollo] is a SPACE SUIT for a moon mission. This is not about Greek gods and what they wore.
  • 28d. ADAM’S is [Apple or ale lead-in]. Adam’s apple is that laryngeal cartilage lump in the front of a man’s throat. Adam’s ale is a “dated humorous” term for water.
  • 29d. [Pierre, e.g.] is a CITY in South Dakota.
  • 32d. Ooh, I don’t think I knew this! PANSY is a [Flower name derived from the French for "thought"], or pensée.
  • 35d. Here’s a cool entry. BIKINI TOP is a [Halter, perhaps].
  • 40d. [Lady Hillingdon is a cultivar of one] clues a TEA ROSE.
  • 51d. The PEAR is a [Fruit with a "check the neck" ripeness test] that nobody ever told me about.
  • 53d. Ooh! Tricky clue! [Slovenia capital] should be LJUBLJANA, but there are only four squares. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and uses the EURO as currency, so “capital” means money here.

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Growing Boys”—Janie’s review

If there were a prize for the greenest theme, this puzzle would surely be a contender. The last names of each of the five “boys” who make up today’s theme fill combine to make a veritable botanic garden (of earthly delights). And a very “cool” kind of place to contemplate. The gents in question:

  • 17A. ROBERT PLANT [Lead singer of Led Zeppelin]. While Led Zeppelin was very much around in my college years, I was never much aware of the group. I know—I need to go back and fill in the gaps. Now, Mick and the Stones on the other hand… Enjoyed being reminded of them with ["I] SEE A [red door and I want it painted black" (Rolling Stones lyric)]. For the record, however (well, last year’s at any rate), Robert Plant took the top spot in a poll of greatest rock voices. Sir Mick took ninth…
  • 23A. GEORGE H.W. BUSH [President who was also Director of the CIA].
  • 37A. ART FERN [Johnny Carson character who hosted "The Tea Time Movie"]. OMG. Such a throwback. Had forgotten how jaw-droppingly politically incorrect Carson could be. And how late-night audiences lapped it up.
  • 47A. STIRLING MOSS [English racer with a car named after him]. A Mercedes-Benz no less—a classic auto-manufacturer if not a [Classic car] REO.
  • 56A. GÜNTER GRASS ["The Tin Drum" author]. And Nobelist.

And if all this greenery presents just too lush a picture for you, Randy has also included an arid and “un-green” bonus by way of the SAHARA [Egyptian expanse].

There’s some terrific long, strong fill in the mix today—four 10s running vertically as paired columns in the SW and NE and yielding EVEN STEVEN clued colloquially as [Square], SOLICITORS [Unwelcome doorbell ringers, often], “MISS SAIGON” [Modern adaptation of "Madame Butterfly"] and the feisty IN YOUR FACE [Defiant]. Appropriately, FIT [Temper tantrum] emerges from that “F” in face.

For sports lovers, Randy comes through with AT BAT [Facing a reliever] (top-ranked Mariano Rivera is also the closer to catch), NBA [Org. of Raptors and Hawks] (and not the NAS), SLO-MO [NFL review technique] and BEARS, clued as [Windy City gridders]. And I thought that one might have a cruciverbal twist. Dang.

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15 Responses to Friday, 7/23/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    I was definitely on the right wavelength for this one with two exceptions: WITS END instead of WAR ZONE and DREGS instead of DROSS.

    I am not proud of it, but most of my friends and I have used SPAZ in a definitely un-PC way to refer to a particularly uncoordinated effort.

    Steve

  2. It was dizzying to see the ACPT A Division all complete their puzzles by 10:15 and see my solving time quickly go down the first page of the “Fastest” board. Then seeing Joon’s time here…very impressive, all.

    As this site has been full of anagrams in the last 24 hours, I mention one that I have previously mentioned here: a speedsolver can easily be a WORD EGOIST, which anagrams to a rather famous golfer who’s had quite the annus horribilis…

  3. Dan F says:

    I loved how the J/Q/X/Z were symmetrical, which reminded me of this grid. John, did you try to get JINX or JEUX at 34A?

  4. joon says:

    brent, i thought i was doing well on this puzzle (shattered my old friday record by almost a minute). then i saw dan’s time and almost wept. is there a division above A that we can stick him in?

    beautiful grid, john. and if i’m going to be eating dan’s dust anyway, i almost wish i had gone slowly enough to see the great clues for SAT, BIERCE, and QUIZ, none of which i read fully while solving.

    TUP is a funny word known to scrabblophiles. since the OSPD always lists a verb definition in preference to a noun (because a verb has more inflected forms), TUP is defined as “to copulate with a ewe.” but it’s referring to rams, not randy farm boys. i didn’t even know it was also a noun until today, but when i got there with the T in place, i worked it out.

  5. John Farmer says:

    Dan, It did end up a little like the ’07 puz. Thanks for noticing. I had made this after another a puzzle ran (4/3/09), with sort of an ugly grid. I wanted the shape of this to have a little more appeal, and use 15s. With the long four crossers in place, I just aimed for a grid that looked as novel as I could get…and fillable. A little more black than normal, a little less dreck (hopefully). I thought it was a little odd how all the 7′s meet in the middle. Anyway, JINX or JEUX would have been welcome. I don’t exactly recall, but I think I was happy just to get what I got.

    I realize some people are sensitive about SPAZ. I don’t have an issue with it myself, but I think the thing to do is just clue it as inoffensively as you can (and keep the load in Will’s mailbox to a minimum).

    I knew the puzzle wasn’t gonna be a killer, but times of 5:39 are very good. Oh…that’s the two of you combined. Yikes.

  6. Plot says:

    Not a good day for me, with errors in both puzzles. Without fully reading the clue, I entered PIERCE, as it was the most common name given the crossings I had at that point. I’m far too young to know about Miss Jean BRODIE, so I never noticed the mistake. It’s a shame that middling QB Brodie Croyle or Jason Lee’s “Mallrats” character aren’t yet ready for crossword primetime; that would have made things a lot smoother.

    As for the LAT, I misread the 4D clue as “Garb for Apolo”, and eventually wrote in SKATESUIT and never looked back. That probably wasn’t the trap that was intended, but it was equally effective.

  7. LARRY says:

    The Bierce definition was my second of the day. The first was this afternoon at the Oakland Museum of California, where a big sign quoted his definition of “ART” as being “a word without a definition”.

  8. Gareth says:

    I think I’ve seen this tactic with John Farmer themelesses before, lots of black, word count on the low side, and plenty of ZQJX action! Works for me (though it took a bit of accepting)! It’s a pretty looking diagram too.

    Very easy Friday for me too, despite having to dodge American sports clues (though I count only 4 which is less than it seemed at the time). First entry in was 14A – getting a 15 early helps majorly! Agree, nice to see a sporcle shout-out, waiting for the day a grid has SPORCLE in it, probably not soon though… A LEAPER for me will always be Scott Bakula. 2 letters took nearly a minute though… G and D of GRAND (1D)

    LAT: I liked the middle 2 puns enough to make this a net thumbs up. “Scottish flair” seems to imply normal attire plus a TAM? I thought Apollo war referring to Battlestar Galactica (but then he didn’t wear a SPACESUIT) – got the right answer though damnit! Yep, BIKINITOP definitely the coolest entry. 36A LOUIS is also the most recent winner of The Open!

  9. pannonica says:

    Amy: My take on BOWLER OPPOSITES was that “soft” and “angular” were in and of themselves opposites, not together the antithesis of what such a hat should be like. Not that this observation improves matters much.

  10. Howard B says:

    Fun Scrabbliness in the Times today. Shows that it’s often worth a few more solid squares for some lively answers, and more unexpected words and letters hiding around every corner.

  11. Karen says:

    Like Plot, I had mistakes in NYT and LAT…I had Diamond Jim Black, since I had no idea on 9D or 13D; I really liked John’s fill though. For the LAT, I fell into the SKATESUIT trap as well. I think CLOTHE ENCOUNTER would make great fill on some puzzle.

  12. Mitchs says:

    I can’t get the Chronicle puz through Ephraim’s Pointers. Any help?

  13. John Haber says:

    This was easy for me, since the long ones contained a gimme (The Brother’s K) and a couple familiar enough once I had crossings to get them fast. I didn’t know about “Eight Men Out,” but again with crossings it was entirely plausible. Thus, I raced right through it. Nice grid, though, and nice to see literature (even if, ok, Ambrose Bierce is not the most important writer ever, but agani familiar enough with crossings).

    Must admit that EV_ crossing RE_TA forced me to guess, but the alternatives to A looked pretty ugly. (Don’t even think of C.)

  14. joon says:

    mitchs, the CHE only publishes every other week during the summer. there was a puzzle last week, so none today.

  15. Mitchs says:

    Thanks Joon. Didn’t realize that. To Mr. Farmer, who has taken some slings and arrows in blogdom, I’d like to register my thanks for some terrific fill. A very fun solve to go along with the unique construction. (Not always the case)

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