Tuesday, 8/24/10

LAT 3:40
Jonesin’ 3:12
NYT 3:09
CS untimed

Caleb Madison and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 4Teenage hotshot constructor Caleb Madison teaches a crossword constructing class to senior citizens in New York, and they make a puzzle together that’s of NYT caliber. This is the second J.A.S.A. class effort we’ve seen here. Word count of 76, 36 black squares, four funny theme entries? Yep, that’ll pass muster.

The theme entries have been formed by adding -ANA to the end of familiar phrases:

  • 20a. [Title for a South American mensch?] is MR. NICE GUYANA. This was the last theme entry I filled in, and it’s my favorite. So I’m glad I saved the best for last, even though I did the puzzle upside down in order for that to happen. (I took the PROCOL HARUM express down the left side of the puzzle and mostly worked my way upwards through the theme entries.)
  • 34a. [Result of heating a certain fruit too long?] is a SMOKING BANANA. Nice resonance with the old-fashioned “smoking banana peels” concept.
  • 42a. [Informal headwear that can't be shared?] is a ONE-MAN BANDANA. Any evocation of a one-man band is good for a smile.
  • 56a. Joan of Arc turns into JOAN OF ARCANA, or [Secretive singer Baez?].

Some more clues:

  • 16a. Did this clue come from the senior citizens? Because I didn’t really know that CUBA was the [Destination of many 1960s-'70s airplane hijackings].
  • 23a. I had the PIE in place and thought “MAGPIE!” Then I read the clue: ["Hair" extra] is  HIPPIE, not a bird.
  • Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 51a: [German "Oh!"] is ACH and 66a: [What a Katze catches] is a MAUS.
  • 3d. Good clue for NOW: [When repeated, a phrase of reproof]. I could only think of TUT and TSK at first, but “now, now” is rock solid.
  • 9d. STYGIAN makes me think of stinky stogies, which are indeed [Hellish].
  • 11d. Didn’t know MUHAMMAD ALI was the [Self-proclaimed "astronaut of boxing"].
  • 12d. African rivers to know for crosswords include the everybody-knows-the-NILE, the UELE, and the UBANGI, a [Congo tributary].

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ themeless crossword, “Crossing Over”

Region capture 3It’s Themeless Tuesday! But with easier clues than Matt has for a themed puzzle, if you ask me. The word count is 68, if you like to keep track of such things. Let’s amble through the grid, shall we?

  • 16a. [Do an entry-level job?] is a wonderful clue for GREET—as in the job done by a Walmart greeter at the store entrance.
  • 17a. No, no, no. [Loses membership?] implies severance of the member proper, i.e., the frank. Whereas CASTRATES means the removal of the gonads, i.e., the beans. I like the playful intent, but the answer doesn’t fit the clue.
  • Re: RE—27a: [Beats twice-over in a race] clues RELAPS, and 12d: [Bring on again] clues REINDUCE. Reno thanks.
  • 36a. Did you have your [Lucky charms] for breakfast? Here are your FOUR-LEAF CLOVERS.
  • 44a. Cute retro VW BUGS are clued as [Herbie et al.]—that’s Herbie the Love Bug, of course.
  • 47a. [Microchip with thousands of transistors, for short] clues LSI, which stands for…no, don’t tell me, I’ll guess. Lonely Silicon Instructions? C’mon, computer geeks, help out the crossword blogosphere. No fair Googling. One of you knows this, right?
  • 2d. [One place to keep candy] is IN A JAR. That’s the problem with freelancing—you can’t just walk over to somebody else’s desk and take candy from their jar.
  • 4d. [Piers Morgan show, for short] clues an abbreviation that I don’t know any better than I know LSI. Oy! AGT must be a CNN show, because he’s the guy who’s going to take over Larry King’s slot, but I don’t know what AGT is short for. Always Gonna Talk: that’s my guess.
  • 9d. LESKO? [Infomercial guy Matthew with those question mark-covered suits]? Yep, I used the crossings here.
  • 28d. [Attacking, slapstick-style] clues PIEING. Um, have you been using this verb?

Updated Tuesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Suggestion Box Bounty”—Janie’s review

Bruce’s puzzle today is filled with [Some suggestion box findings]. Woe to the personnel at the company whose head of HR and/or company manager and/or CEO scans the contents and pronounces ‘em:

  • 17A. “COCKAMAMIE IDEAS!”
  • 32A. “HALF-BAKED
    42A. PROPOSALS!”
  • 60A. “CRACKPOT SCHEMES!”

They do RAM HOME [Stress strongly...] the message though. Shades of The Office, eh? They may not be QUICK [Sharp-witted] retorts, but what delicious fill the words of those malicious managers (DESPOTS [Oppressive rulers] really) manage to provide! The colorful cockamamie looks to derive from “decalcomania” and yes, this does have to do with (temporary type) decals. Who knew? Notice how all of them have the plosive “K” sound in ‘em. I think that’s another thing that adds to the bite of those emphatic put-downs (in the first and third examples especially).

There’s some nice image-making cluing, such as [Like ocean depths] for INKY (which ties in, however grimly, with AHAB [Fictional sea hunter]); or made me take stock of what was being looked for, as with [Gymnastic coups] for TENS. In four letters this could never be BACK HANDSPRINGS or STRADDLE SWINGS, but my first thoughts had nothing to do with scores.

And in case anyone was wond’rin’, there’s no SMUT [Salacious stuff] in the clue [Snakes and birds do it]. While he may be summoning up the witty (and in some versions, racy) Cole Porter lyric, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love),” Bruce is simply reminding us that they MOLT.

Dave Mackey’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 5I wasn’t expecting a Tuesday LAT puzzle to take me longer than the Jonesin’ and NYT crosswords, but there you have it. I can’t really pin down a reason for the greater-than-expected solving time other than not quite hitting Dave’s cluing wavelength throughout the puzzle.

I like three quarters of the sub rosa baseball theme:

  • 20a. COTTON BATTING is the [Quilter's layer] of padding between the two layers of fabric.
  • 28a. [Camper's activity] clues TENT PITCHING. That phrase Googles up fine, but “pitching a tent” sounds more familiar to me. I never did get into camping, so maybe it’s unfair to discount this theme answer.
  • 49a. IN THE RUNNING means [Not out of contention].
  • 59a. ["Tom Jones" author] HENRY FIELDING is my favorite part of this theme. Who doesn’t like to combine baseball and 18th century English novels? Both seem slow to me, and probably both are improved by a little sunshine and cold beer.

Kudos for the theme listing the key baseball activities in a reasonable order. Though PITCHING comes a split second before BATTING, they’re nearly simultaneous and their order couldn’t be swapped without putting base-RUNNING at the bottom. FIELDING →PITCHING →RUNNING →BATTING, e.g.,  would be infelicitious.

Five from the fill:

  • 25a. I drew a blank on this clue and instead solved this section via the crossings. Guess what? [Country with borders on three diff. oceans] is the good old USA. Alaska abuts the Arctic Ocean, yes?
  • 37a. [Capital west of Haiphong] is HANOI. Have I heard of Haiphong? Heck, no, I haven’t. Hoo-boy. Hard clue, huh?
  • 11d. NEW GUINEA is the [World's second largest island], and I’m embarrassed to report that I needed a good four or five letters in place before I got this.
  • 35d. [Plea made with one's hands up] is DON’T SHOOT. Here’s how you know I’m a parent: I filled in DON’T SHOUT first.
  • 51d. There are a couple more baseball references in the puzzle (RBI, GO DEEP), but this turns out not to be one. To UNYOKE is to [Break up a team?] of oxen.
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16 Responses to Tuesday, 8/24/10

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    You caught the PROCOL HARUM express , but I was stuck on the PROCOL HARUM local. After I finally deciphered it, I was all set to blame young Caleb for inserting something way too modern and hip into the grid. Good thing I looked ‘em up on YouTube before commenting–their hit precedes Caleb’s birth by about 25 years. Great Tuesday puzzle, though.

    As long as I’m embarrassing myself, the Piers Morgan show “AGT” is “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s version of “American Idol,” Fox’s version of “Star Search.”

  2. Sara says:

    I had to guess my time today because I took a break to tell my husband and son to pipe down. Afterward:

    Husband: The crossword police is going to come and take you away for misreporting your time.
    Son: They’re going to put you in a room with no computer.
    Husband: And no crosswords.
    Son: Only Sudoku.

    You’ll find me cowering in the corner.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sara! Don’t worry—I’m hiring Gloria Allred for your defense, and refusing to press charges against you anyway. I was using the applet, so my solving time includes my husband/son pipe-down exhortations. All I’m asking for is three minutes of peace and quiet at 9:30 at night. Why is this so difficult to come by?

  4. joon says:

    sam, i think i saw you on my train. was that the one with a lengthy delay at the penultimate stop (the U of MAUS)? i do not know enough german. so that was tough. the theme, though, i got very quickly. aren’t most bandanas one-man? unlike, say, this headband.

    in the jonesin’, i thought LESKO and PIEING were awesome. RELAPS(E) and REINDUCE, not so much, and i had similarly little clue on AGT and LSI. and GET LOW? NGOS? SHONA? no, apparently it’s NGOR and RHONA. whatever. no part of “haing s. ngor” looks like a name. i’d call that a weak effort for an anagrammatic pseudonym. “ron higgans” is much more plausible. or gashing. or shaggin, if he’s a porn actor.

    why is {Between Taylor and Pierce} an acceptable clue for FILLMORE? i’ve seen clues like this a few times, and it’s obviously in the wrong part of speech.

    i thought the LAT puzzle was suitably easy for a tuesday LAT. i wasn’t sure about COTTON BATTING, but once i got that, the theme was not hard to guess. my only hesitation was when i had trouble reading my own handwriting in a couple of places, including when i thought i had written KVEIN instead of KLEIN.

  5. Zifmia says:

    LSI is Large Scale Integration, state of the art for integrated circuits– in the 70s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Scale_Integration#SSI.2C_MSI_and_LSI

    Unfortunately, there is a slight mismatch with the clue, as a “Microchip with thousands of transistors” is not an “LSI” but rather an “LSI device” or an “LSI chip”.

    “The Killing Fields” was an Academy Award winning movie set in Cambodia, which was audacious enough to cast an actual Cambodian with no acting experience. I didn’t know the name Ngor, but it looked reasonable enough to me considering Nguyen is a common Vietnamese name.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon, Joon, Joon. Haing Ngor remains the only Asian actor to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. And I’m guessing he’s the only physician to win an Oscar in his first acting gig. He was murdered in ’96 by L.A. gangbangers.

  7. John Haber says:

    Right, PROCOL HARUM is definitely not contemporary. I was surprised that I needed a fair number of crossings, given how ubiquitous that song once was, but I suspect it’s something I worked hard over the years to put out of mind. :-)

    Of course, an easy puzzle with fun puns as themes. I didn’t care for “secretive,” though, as opposed to maybe “Cult singer Baez.” I know that arcane is defined as a nexus of words like obscure and esoteric but also including secret. Still, I think of things becoming arcana not because their fans are keeping them to themselves but because no one knows or cares (like maybe certain rock bands). RHUD does trace the word to a secret formula that the alchemists tried to discover, but then it’s not secret in the sense that someone was trying to keep the secret, no?

  8. joon says:

    hmm, that sounds like the kind of trivia i’m glad i learned (despite a lack of interest in 25-year old movies). i just wish the crossings had been cleaner. the R from RHONA was totally ungettable.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    …unless you watched Rhona Mitra go up against James Spader on Boston Legal and couldn’t forget an unusual name like that.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Matt Jones gave me a pop quiz on Tuesday: What entries were specifically included in his puzzle for a reason? I’ll give you a hint: Three longish answers and one 3-letter answer.

  11. Dan F says:

    Aha! I can’t believe I didn’t notice, but that’s why I don’t work for API. Now I’m wondering why Matt didn’t work in the fourth long answer, and what covert ops are being triggered by the publication of this puzzle…

  12. joon says:

    ONESIDED BICAMERAL FOURLEAFCLOVER … ?

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    AMC: home of Rubicon, the show with the conspiracy-theorist crossword solver working hideous crosswords with wildly substandard grids. BICAMERAL = reference to the legislative branch. FILLMORE = executive. Thurgood MARSHALL = judicial.

  14. Matt J. says:

    Actually, Dan F, I put in FOUR LEAF CLOVERS, since I really didn’t want to work in “marsilea quadrifolia”.

  15. Dan F says:

    D’oh, I was looking for MARSHALL in the corners and missed it.

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