Sunday, 8/1/10

NYT 10:21
LAT 7:55
BG 7:45
Reagle 7:22
WaPo Post Puzzler 4:29
CS – 7:55 (Evad)

It’s August 1 and time for links! Okay, no, I don’t do a first-of-the-month links post, but I do have a few links for you today.

First up, innovative constructor Patrick Blindauer is launching his website, PatrickBlindauer.com, this weekend. He’s got his first monthly crossword, a place to buy his terrific (and challenging) holiday puzzle suite, a chat about vowel-rich crossword answers, links to his books, and more.

There are two crossword tournaments this month. The bigger one is Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet’s Lollapuzzoola, which I’ll be attending for the first time on Saturday, August 14. Lolla includes fun crosswords with multimedia aspects to them (such as sound effects or accompanying live performances), and a bunch of top constructors and top solvers descend upon Queens to take part.

A week earlier in the Pittsburgh area, the first Pittsburgh Crossword Puzzle Tournament will take place. It’ll have crosswords from Will Shortz, and I expect it will be much like other smaller regional tournaments. So check that out if you live around there, because what better way could there be to spend August 7? (Edited to add a link to a newspaper story about the event.)

Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword, “Play Bargaining”

Region capture 40The title should evoke “plea bargaining” and suggest to you that the theme entries change a long E sound into a long A sound, which is exactly what’s going on in the 10 theme entries:

  • 21a. “We Three Kings” becomes WEIGH THREE KINGS, or [Put a few monarchs on the scale?].
  • 29a. A Sharpie permanent marker becomes SHAR PEI PEN, or [Wrinkly dog holder?].
  • 105a. The General Lee, a car named after some guy from the South, becomes a GENERAL LEI, or [Floral garland for whoever?]. Technically, that should be “whomever.”
  • 114a. [Indecisive wolf's question?] is TO BAY OR NOT TO BAY. I cost myself a full minute by not paying attention when filling in my blank squares here. Had OR NO TOO BAY and didn’t notice that it made 119d into OMI instead of TMI (["I didn't need to know that," in modern lingo]). The base phrase, of course, is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.” Other Shakespearean puzzle content includes OSRIC at 112a ([Duel overseer in "Hamlet"]).
  • 15d. SHOPPING SPRAY (spree) is a [Mist from a mall?].
  • 27d. Valley girl turns into VALET GIRL, [Miss who parks cars?].
  • 33d. She-devil becomes CHEZ DEVIL, or [In hell?]. This one’s my favorite because the spelling change is so stark.
  • 56d. [Generous carhop's prop?] is THE GIVING TRAY, playing on Shel Silverstein’s irksome book The Giving Tree. (I love his other work, just as I love all of Robert Munsch’s picture books except the bizarre Love You Forever.)
  • 58d. [Brawl at a ball?] is a FANCY FRAY (fancy-free).
  • 62d. [Leno's necklace?] is a JAY STRING. Surely I’m not the only one now picturing Jay Leno in a G-string and frantically trying to scrape my mind’s eye clean?

I really enjoyed the theme (62d notwithstanding) and appreciate the English language’s propensity to spell sounds in a surprising number of ways. Hard for spellers, sure, but it provides a rich vein of material for crossword constructors.

Brendan has included a good number of longish answers in the fill. Here are my favorites among them:

  • 42a. TRAP DOOR nearly shares a clue with 47d. This one’s the [Location for a fall], while EDEN is [Location for the Fall].
  • 62a. JOE CAMEL is the [Smoking character] the Camel cigarette marketers introduced in the ’80s. Kids love cartoon characters!
  • 74a. SCHIPHOL is just a cool word to look at, isn’t it? It’s the [Amsterdam air hub].
  • 91a. The RED BARON is a [Famed Fokker flier].

Other things I liked:

  • 98a. AARGH! ["Why is this happening to me?!"]
  • 16d. [Leonard Bernstein called her "The Bible of opera"] clues Maria CALLAS. Dean Olsher called me “the Pauline Kael of crosswords” in his book, From Square One. Which of these epithets is cooler? And can I be the Roger Ebert of crossword criticism too?
  • 32d. An ICON on your computer is the [Only thing between you and an open window?]. Cute clue.
  • 39d. “SIC ‘EM!” ["Attack!"]
  • 43d. Interesting: PITY is ["The scavenger of misery," per Shaw].
  • 90d. The EGG TOSS is a [Game in which it's easy to make a mess].

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “You Are My Punshine”

Region capture 39Merl dips deep in the well of SUMMER puns for this puzzle:

  • 17a. ["It's gonna be a hot one," e.g.?] is a SUMMERY JUDGMENT (summary).
  • 22a. [Hot product guide?] is CONSUMMER REPORTS. Consumer Reports gave high marks to my new car, the Ford Fusion Hybrid. I just might be in love with that car.
  • 47a. [How students with the hottest grades graduate?] is SUMMER CUM LAUDE (summa).
  • 55a, 80a. [With 80-Across, hot song from "The Wizard of Oz"?] is SUMMER OVER THE RAINBOW (Somewhere).
  • 66a. [Like the puns in this puzzle? (mostly the latter)] clues SUMMER GOOD, SUMMER BAD (some are good, some are bad). Omigod, yes! Thank you, Merl. Some of these puns are indeed terrible.
  • 89a. [Taken the wrong way in a heated argument?] clues MISSUMMERSTOOD (misunderstood). This is the only theme entry in which SUMMER replaces the middle chunk of a long word and becomes incomprehensible. Or maybe I’m just missummerstanding things.
  • 117a. This and the next one put SUMMER in place of the beginning of two longer words. [Perfect wear for a hot day?] is a MEXICAN SUMMERERO (sombrero). Not a fan of the sombr- syllable turning into two-syllable SUMMER.
  • 122a. [Hot-running navy vessel?] is an ATOMIC SUMMERINE (submarine).

The puzzle started with an unfortunate little answer, -OSE, clued as 1a: ["Adip" add-on]. The clue’s nearly incomprehensible; the word adipose is where you’re supposed to arrive. Later on, there’s 48d: [Nod add-on], -ULE. These are both ugly.

Ten more clues:

  • 31a. [Ulu user: abbr.] clues ESK., short for Eskimo. I do like ULU as a handy word in Scrabble when you’re stuck with two U’s and can’t play a UVULA anywhere. An ulu is a short-handled crescent-bladed knife used by Eskimo women, the dictionary explains.
  • 53a. [Guitar pioneer Paul] is LES. Last night, we were watching Antiques Roadshow. A guy had a Les Paul Gibson goldtop guitar he’d bought for $120 in the late ’50s. Turns out the instrument is worth about $175,000 today. Good thing the guy never refinished the guitar like his family suggested.
  • 72a. [Rafael Nadal ranking] is a tennis tournament SEED. I was wondering how to fit ONE or TWO into a 4-letter space.
  • 123a. HENS are literally [Nest-egg protectors]. I bet some people try FDIC or IRAS here.
  • 2d. [Java's island chain] is SUNDA. Just saw another crossword the other day that told me SUMATRA was the biggest of the Sunda islands. Java and Sumatra are each part of Indonesia.
  • 22d. A corn COB is [Part of an ear?].
  • 30d. The [WNBA team in Seattle] is called the STORM.
  • 46d. [Amos's condition?] is FAMOUSNESS. Now, who will bring me some chocolate chip cookies? Made from scratch, please, and not store-bought Famous Amos.
  • 64d. [Hold a grudge against] clues the three-word phrase BE MAD AT.
  • 65d. [Bears, to Bertolucci] clues ORSI, Italian for “bears.”

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s six-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “Word Breaks”

Region capture 41I like the type of wordplay in this theme: Assorted words are clued as if they’re two-word phrases because they can be split into two words, but none of the original words is a compound that gets split into its components. The coolest word splits are:

  • 41a. The Greek Hippocrates becomes HIPPO CRATES, or [Boxes for moving behemoths?].
  • 85a. [What spurs madmen?] are their LOCO MOTIVES.
  • 103a. [Round Table runt?] is a WEE KNIGHT.
  • 3d. To [Make light humor?] is to PUN GENTLY. That’s the name of the game.
  • 76d. REAR RESTS are [Cushions for the bum?].

The theme includes 11 of these word breaks in all. I like a theme that lends itself to a larger-than-usual number of theme entries, even if they’re short ones.

Random thoughts:

  • 51a. [Lubed shaft] is an AXLE, but as I tweeted, this is the “salaciously misconstruable crossword clue of the day.” @MFAMama replied, “Oh dear. What’s the answer that *doesn’t* rhyme with ‘smock’?” Then I responded, “AXLE. My nominee for Arcane New Euphemism Nobody Will Understand If We Use It. ‘His axle rose.’” It sure doesn’t help that the word SWELLS is right above AXLE.
  • 52a. I love using LOUSY to mean [Rife, slangily], especially about good things. “This place is lousy with cookies.”
  • 58a. [Archaically bonked] can also be salaciously misconstrued, but I don’t know any archaic verbs that fit the “have sex with” meaning of bonk. The answer is SMOTE.
  • 96a. [One of twelve grinders] is HAM AND SWISS HOAGIE. No, wait, it’s a MOLAR.
  • 53d. Okay, Emily and Henry are definitely having fun with this puzzle. Here’s an ORGY, or  [Fairly wild party].

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 17″

Region capture 1So, I guess that’s that, then. The Post Puzzler is going to hover at Saturday LA Times difficulty, a couple notches tougher than the CrosSynergy “Sunday ‘Challenge,’” and easier than a lot of Friday NYTs. Editor Peter Gordon, don’t you miss the really wicked clues? Maybe you should incorporate more of them in your weekly Fireball crosswords.

All righty. Highlights in the answers and the cluing, coming right up:

  • 1a. [It can help you make a connection at the airport] clues FREE WI-FI. Fie on all those airports that charge for Wi-Fi, and fie on the hotels that charge a mint for that too.
  • 29a. [Spot-checked?] clues PET-SAT.
  • 31a. [Scratch at the door?] is a noun, not a verb, and scratch is slang for money: ENTRY FEE.
  • 33a. Kicking it literary, we have [Falstaff's friend], PRINCE HAL.
  • 51a. [Dances on a beach] is, like 31a, a noun that looks like a verb: HULAS.
  • 5d. [Rings up?] cleverly clues WEDS. See also 6d: I DO, [Nuptial affirmative].
  • 7d. [Diamond concerns] are the jeweler’s FOUR C’S: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.
  • 12d. [Ice cream flavor with chocolate-covered peanuts] is TIN ROOF.
  • 35d. [It's spotted in Africa] is a two-sided clue for GIRAFFE: The animal has spots and you might spot it.
  • 36d. I wanted [Bloomers at the Masters golf tournament] to be PLUS FOURS, those crazy baggy golfing knickers, but the answer is AZALEAS, the flowers that bloom at Augusta National in April.
  • HaringMural48d. [Many a Keith Haring work] is an eye-catching MURAL.

Among the less obvious clues are these ones:

  • 27a. ["The Venice of the Middle East"] is BASRA, Iraq.
  • 43a. [Its subgenres include harem and magical girl] refers to ANIME.
  • 48a. ["Papa" Monzano's adopted daughter in "Cat's Cradle"] is named MONA.
  • 1d. Does everyone know that a hair [Style similar to a high and tight] is a FLATTOP?
  • 3d. [Worn away] clues the awkward-sounding EATEN AT.
  • 10d. This is inferrable, but who knew that AERO was the [End of an aviation-related URL]? I have yet to encounter a .aero website.
  • 11d. STA is usually clued as an abbreviation for station. This time it’s STA [___-Green (fertilizer brand)], which I’ve never heard of.
  • 25d. DOYLE [___ Brunson (nickname for a starting hold'em hand of 10-2)]? Whatever. Poker and nautical lingo are among my least favorite crossword clues. My disinterest in poker extends to bridge—40d: [Bridge combinations] clues TENACES.
  • 32d. [Like some lamb dishes] clues THYMY. What you don’t want to eat is old thymy lamb.

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Them’s Fightin’ Words”

Region capture 2This pun-filled theme swaps words out for similar-sounding words that pertain to fightin’:

  • 23a. [Protective gear for public disorder?] is RIOT GUARD, playing on Right Guard deodorant.
  • 28a. [Condiments aisle dispute?] clues CATSUP BATTLE, spun from catsup bottle.
  • 43a. THE BELLE OF THE BRAWL (belle of the ball) is a [Looker in a free-for-all?].
  • 67a. [Hostility between pinky wrestlers?] might be a FINGER FEUD (finger food).
  • 69a. Classmates become CLASHMATES, a [Couple that's always at it?]. Now, “going at it” has more than one common meaning.
  • 90a. [Grammar class skirmishes?] clues PREPOSITIONAL FRAYS (… phrase).
  • 106a. [Table game for tusslers?] clues SCUFFLEBOARD (shuffleboard).
  • 117a. [Pasta before an affaire d'honneur?] clues DUEL CARBS. I have no idea what the original phrase is supposed to be. Dual carbs? Is this a carburetor thing? A carbohydrates thing? Checking via Google…yep, it’s dual carburetors. Is that really familiar enough to spin off a pun?

Eh, none of these puns really did much for me. I have been disenchanted with pun themes of late. I used to like them.

Other stuff:

  • 14a. [Seasonal flue shouts] isn’t about flu shots, it’s about Santa Claus’s HO-HOS.
  • 22a. [Critic with an influential thumb] is my newest Facebook friend, Roger EBERT.
  • 32a. RAIN is a [Certain dancer's hope]—someone doing a rain dance, not the hopefuls auditioning for A Chorus Line.
  • 54a. [Knotty situation?] seems promisingly playful, but the answer is just the not-so-common word NODUS, which means “problem, difficulty, or complication,” so I’m not sure why there’s a question mark. To point at the Latin “knot” etymology of NODUS?
  • 56a. [Solid alcohol] clues STEROL. Snooze.
  • 58a. Terrific answer: EX LIBRIS is clued [Bookplate words].
  • 99a. [Golfer's "flat stick"]  is a PUTTER. I prefer the verb putter, as in “putter around the house.”
  • 102a. ERLE Stanley Gardner is the [Gardner that sounds like a peer]. It intersects 91d: EARL, [Peer that sounds like a Gardner]. Cute double-dip—which is not to be confused with 110a: ONE SCOOP, an [Ice cream order].
  • 121a. Here’s your T&A special: [Boobs] are ASSES.
  • 5d. [Swallow greedily] feels off-base for ENGORGE. Dictionary tells me “engorge oneself” is archaic, means “eats to excess.” These days, various things can be engorged, but overeating isn’t involved.
  • 15d. [Ultimate words?] are an OBIT, while 17d: [Ultimatum words] are OR ELSE.
  • 29d. [Anaheim stadium nickname] is BIG A. I had no idea.
  • 35d. To WHOOP IT UP is to [Celebrate in a big way].
  • 44d. Whoa, really? [Village] clues BOURG. This is not a misspelling of “burg.” A BOURG is a French market town or a village under the shadow of a castle. This word’s new to me.

Updated Sunday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

cs81
A very pretty grid from fellow Bay Stater and constructor Will Johnston. Fairly smooth solve as well, as one would expect in a 72-word themeless. (Count me among those who like smooth and more entries over some clunkers with a lower word count.) The highlights are the 4 sets of adjoining 8-letter entries, one in each quadrant.

Starting our trip around the grid in the NW, I immediately thought of one of my favorite words GORP for “Hiker’s snack.” Once I saw that the answer was 8-letters long, I quickly shifted gears to TRAIL MIX. Curious about what 7-letter word would start with that final X, I came up with X’S AND O’S for “Chalk talk symbols.” HESSIANS reminds me of my high school history classes where I learned that a quarter of the British forces in the American Revolution were actually these German mercenaries.

Over in the NE, FALSE CUT (“Cardsharp’s sleight”) was my only sticking point, falling mainly from the crossing down entries. (Here’s how to do one if you’re interested.) I guess the idea is to make it look like you’re cutting the cards, but you still leave the same cards at the top of the deck. Sneaky! Also learned here that UTOPIA literally means “No place”…here I was thinking we’ve found it here at Amy’s site!

Around to the SE, CINEAST stands out as a variant (the preferred spelling adds an E to the end), and no, this isn’t how the east side of Cincinnati refers to itself (that I know of). AESOPIAN is a new word to me (“Moralistic, in a way”) but inferrable once the first few letters fell. My only real sticking point in the whole grid came at the crossing of LUSAKA (“Capital of Zambia”) and the MLA, which I see stands for the Modern Language Association. Guess I should brush up on my world capitals and style guides.

Finally, our journey ends in the SW, with the notable clue of “Heel with a high p.s.i” for STILETTO. Now I only think of tires having pounds-per-square-inch, how does that apply to a shoe? Perhaps there is some way to measure the pressure on a woman’s heel when elevated to a great height on a toothpick?
Enjoyed the Klahn-esque rhyming “Critters in litters” clue for PUPPIES and the reference to the lyrics of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”:

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed
That they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and….

And all this time, I thought the line was “Your scar came from Africa.” There’s a mondegreen for ya…I guess I was thinking “the girls” would more likely go for a man injured in a safari than in an apricot scarf.

Evad out!

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7 Responses to Sunday, 8/1/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    Amy,

    There are a lot of nicknames for poker hands. Some are part of the lingo, such as pocket rockets (also American Airlines); some are humorous, such as Anna Kournikova for AK (looks good, never wins), and some are named for players who made them famous, usually in the World Series of Poker main event. Q-10 is called Varkonyi for a little known player who won the World Series while seeming to always win when he held that normally mediocre combination. 7-3 is called Hachem after Joe Hachem who won the World Series when he caught a straight on the flop (456) with that normally terrible hand. Texas Dolly Brunson has two hands named after him–10-2, because he won the World Series at least once and possibly twice with that combo and AQ, because he considers it to be a terrible hand in the sense that its holder frequently gets trapped into a losing pot against AK.

    Steve

  2. sbmanion says:

    And by the way, a TENACE in bridge is not hyphenated and does not refer to a 10 and an Ace. It refers to any hand in which one player holds split honors, such as AQ or KJ

    Steve

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Spotted theme off title and fact was BEQ, who likes “sound change” puzzles… SHARPIE to SHARPEI, GENERALLEE to GENERALLEI are delightful.
    Made for a generally easy puzzle, until I got to the middle area (anchored by theme enties 33 and 58D) which took as long as the rest put together! Had only seen CHEZ written so pronounced it like FEZ and was looking for an EE to AY sound change that wasn’t there… SCHIPHOL, “Brunonian” and the vague clues for 57 and 62A weren’t helping my cause either. Neither was OLEO not OREO! SCHIPHOL and SIGHTSAW are both pretty nuts, but in a good way, btw. I too have an image of JAYLENO in a g-string that’s rather disturbing…

    LAT: Lots of playful clueing!! RODENTIA – more orders in crosswords please, maybe XENARTHRA would be good for next time! Weird mistake: SCAR for LAHR. Getting “The Lion King” and “The Wizard of Oz” confused!! BOURG looks weird without “Cher-” or “Stras-” in front of it!

    FRAY’s in both puzzles, both times went for AFFRAY. Aargh!

  4. Karen says:

    I had the same trouble area as Gareth in the NYT, trying for some sort of Cheese Whiz answer for “In hell”, and trying to shoehorn in Sevastopol into Amsterdam (it’s really in the Ukraine). Even after I finished the puzzle it took me a minute to figure out the FIFED clue.

    In the CS, I couldn’t get the Zambian capital either, and was trying to come up with a specific L&O character in the NW, but having not watched the show it was just an incorrect guess.

  5. Howard B says:

    Post was pretty difficult, I dunno. Fill like FOUR Cs can stop you cold if you’re not looking for it or not quite familiar with the term. Same for TIN ROOF, TENACES etc. Fill was harder than the cluing though, with unexpected past-tense PET-SAT, letter combinations like THYMY (!), etc. Nice surprises throughout, found myself erasing more than a few times :).

  6. Howard B says:

    Oh, forgot to mention – for the ESK clue in Reagle’s puzzle, the ulu knife is indeed still crafted and sold in Alaska. Can even get them on Amazon. Just like to see crosswordese in actual, real-life use. I actually saw a bunch of these on sale in a home store as well, possibly in the “As Seen on TV” section, although I’m fairly sure the craftsmanship of those wasn’t quite on a par with the handmade Inuit versions.

    Gotta go, so have a good rest of the weekend, all.

  7. joon says:

    i agree with gareth about the middle section of BEQ’s NYT. i had the same OLEO mistake, and it pretty much froze me even though i did get CHEZ early on. the real problem was not being able to work out AGREE from A__EE. anyway, i liked the puzzle, and i did work it out, but in an ugly, ugly time (my slowest ever timed puzzle on paper). i briefly considered putting it aside and coming back to it later.

    i agree with howard about the difficulty of the puzzler. lately, every single saturday LAT has taken me 4:00, and this one took me almost twice as long.

    amy, i think the biblical verb for “bonk” that you want is KNOWETH. or maybe LIETH WITH.

    funny writeup today! T&A had me QC2M, quite literally. and sometimes with clues like {Lubed shaft} i wonder if the constructors and editors are having a little fun with us on purpose.

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