Wednesday, 9/8/10

Onion 3:50
NYT 3:30
LAT 3:00
CS untimed
Patrick Berry’s Rows Garden #5 19:54—get the PDF

Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 17Another debut? Yes, indeed. Watch for more debuts next week when the NYT crossword celebrates the Brown University crossword club with a batch of puzzles by Brown students.

This is a Wednesday puzzle here, and yet there’s a rebus. Whoa! It’s not Thursday. The puzzle’s of Wednesday difficulty, though. CATCHING SOME {ZZ}, using “ZZ” in lieu of “some Zs” anchors the middle of the crossword with an intersecting FRI{ZZ}, and eight more rebus squares also contain a double Z. There’s RA{ZZ}MATA{ZZ} crossing GI{ZZ}ARD and PU{ZZ}LE; a JACU{ZZ}I/BU{ZZ} combo; the musical clash of JA{ZZ} and {ZZ} TOP, and the latter’s P hooks up with PI{ZZ}A{ZZ}, which intersects with Scrabbly QUI{ZZ}ED and SWI{ZZ}LE; and last but not least, FU{ZZ} WU{ZZ}Y nuzzles O{ZZ}IE and a GRI{ZZ}LY. It’s a dazzler, fo’ shizzle.

Toughest and/or most interesting bits:

  • 21a. MARLBORO is the cigarette [Brand with an iconic cowboy]. Has the Marlboro cowboy been retired? I haven’t seen him lately.
  • 30a. SEDERS are [Passover meals]. Another Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, starts Wednesday. I was tipped off by what the guy in line behind me was buying at the grocery store—six tubs of fresh chicken livers to make chopped liver. *shudder* (As for 3d: GIZZARD, a [Giblets component], I repeat my *shudder*. Organ meats are not for me.)
  • 43a. [La ___ (San Diego area)] clues JOLLA, pronounced “la hoya.” I always assumed La Jolla was a separate suburb.
  • 46a, 71a. Two obscure old game names I learned from crosswords: NIM is a [Matchsticks game] and REE completes [Mr. ___ (old whodunit game)]. Less arcane is 22d: BRIDGE/[Game with a dummy], though the clue told me nothing. (I don’t know much about bridge.)
  • 71a. I know about swizzle sticks but had no idea SWIZZLE was a [Iced rum cocktail that's stirred with a stick].
  • 36d. KISMET is [Destiny].
  • 56d. [Dimwit] clues STUPE this time. Usually we’re stuck choosing between DOPE, DODO, and DOLT, but the answer’s got 5 letters this time.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hi, Mom!”—Janie’s review

Even with the title, it took me until 64A to grasp the theme—and how much more I appreciated the entirely charming endeavor once I did. This key-to-the-puzzle clue is [Care for in a nurturing manner, and what can precede the last words of 20-, 27-, 44-, and 52-Across] for MOTHER, who matches up to the theme fill as:

Mother Superior at 20A. LAKE SUPERIOR [Longfellow’s Gitchee Gumee, more familiarly]. I don’t think I ever knew that. I think I always assumed that like Minnehaha Falls, Gitchee Gumee was in Minnesota. And this is why we must “never assume”… And I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that the phrase Mother Superior tends to summon up John Lennon and this riff (at 1:19).

Mother Nature at 27A. SECOND NATURE [Deeply ingrained habit]. Great phrase. Summons up Henry Higgins owning up to his attraction to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, singing that “…her smiles, her frowns, her ups, her downs are second nature to me now—like breathing out and breathing in…” Those lyrics (in “I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face”) are by Alan J. LERNER, of course, Fritz [Loewe’s Broadway collaborator]. Another song from the show is “ASCOT Gavotte,” which ties in very nicely with [Cravat named after a racecourse]. As for Mother Nature, well, it’s not nice to mess with her!

Mother hen at 44A. LITTLE RED HEN [Folk tale fowl]. Here’s a link to the character, famous for her work ethic. Of the group of mother figures we get today, I suppose the mother hen is the most nurturing in the non-conditional way. Far more so than (or in a far different way than the left-leaning socio-political)

Mother Jones at 52A. who is rarely confused with SHIRLEY JONES [She played the matriarch of the Partridge family]. You might even say she was the “mother hen” of the musical Partridge family who traveled by bus with her brood. (Was thinking DEY [Susan of “L.A. Law”] was a Partridge, but no, she was a Brady.) Mother Jones was a labor leader and co-founder of Industrial Workers of the World. Not exactly [Reform Party founder] Ross PEROT, but a revolutionary in her own right.

There isn’t a lot of other long fill in the puzzle, but there are lots of lovely connections to be drawn between several of the entries. Opposites [Low points] and [High points] yield NADIRS and UPS, for starters. Then, a shared “U” joins the rhyming (and recreationally-connected) ARUBA and SCUBA, clued respectively as [The “A” of the “ABC Islands”] and [Diver’s acronym]. The “B” island is Bonaire; the “C,” Curaçao. As for scuba—that’s a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

If you [Take a swing] (in the ballpark, say), you BAT; get up to do so more than once and you’ll get some AVGS [Hitting statistics (abbr.)] to show for it.

Finally, in keeping with the gender-orientation of today’s theme, we get a feminine pronoun in the clue [It helps to keep a roller coaster rider in her seat] for G-FORCE and GIRL (one day, perhaps, a mother herself) for [Lass].

Patrick Berry’s variety puzzle “Rows Garden #5,” from his website A-Frame Games

I love this kind of puzzle, especially when the constructor is Patrick Berry and the fill is so sprightly. The grid accommodates 22 long answers and 38 6-letter answers, so there’s not a single boring 3-, 4-, or 5-letter entry to be found.

On my first pass through the Rows clues, only one or two answers jumped out at me so I got off to a much slower start than usual. (Note to self: Maybe don’t do a Rows Garden late at night when sleepy.) But eventually everything linked together beautifully.

Highlights:

  • Four first/last name combos: PATTI PAGE, TED DANSON, CLARENCE DARROW, VERA DRAKE.
  • Lively phrases: TOYS FOR TOTS, STAR OF DAVID, DEEP POCKETS, SPEED DEMON, ASTON MARTIN.
  • Cool 6s: GADFLY; POPPET ([Endearment for a young British miss]); actresses DANNER, STREEP, and GILPIN.
  • More pop culture, besides the names already mentioned: the movie MEMENTO, Talia Shire’s Rocky character, Salman Rushdie, MTV reality show LAGUNA Beach, and Olivia Newton-John’s song “Have You Never Been MELLOW.”

Mangesh Ghogre’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 18Tough theme to construct: The theme answers are seven terms that begin with stand-alone letters, and they’re in alphabetical order from A to G. The entry for F isn’t as familiar as the other six, but the more familiar “F-___” options are too short to balance the B- entry in the grid. Here’s the septet:

  • 20a. An A-LISTER is an [Elite socialite].
  • 22a. B-SCHOOL, short for business school, is a [Place for a finance major].
  • 27a. C-SECTION is a [Delivery method]. The clue had me thinking of FedEx and UPS, which would be much easier methods of delivering babies, but the drivers would be so busy feeding the parcels and changing their diapers.
  • 37a. D-DAYS are [Planned attack times].
  • 48a. E-TRADING is clued as [Online investing]. Is this an established generic term? I haven’t seen it before, just the brand name E*Trade.
  • 54a. F-NUMBER is a [Camera lens ratio]. F-stop is the term that’s more familiar to me, but F-number is the same thing.
  • 56a. G-STRING is [Bare wear] indeed.

Rock-solid consistency: each term is hyphenated. Rock-solid theme entry placement: alphabetical order. H-bomb, I-beam, K-ration—is there a J-___ term other than J-school (journalism school)?

More clues:

  • 10a, 68a. [Cell signal strength indicators] are BARS. [Like some bars] reuses 10a’s word, but with an entirely different sense of the word: some taverns are SMOKY. In Illinois, bars are no longer smoky; it’s the sidewalk outside that’s smoky now.
  • 61a. Etymology trivia! NIVEA is the [Body-care brand named from the Latin for "snow-white"]. Neve, as in actress Neve Campbell, is Italian for “snow.” See the connection?
  • 1d. [Kate of "We Are Marshall"] clues MARA. Didn’t know this one; needed all the crossings.
  • 32d. [Bit of a fairy tale trail] in “Hansel and Gretel” is a BREADCRUMB. My car’s GPS system offers a breadcrumbs function that will record the route you take so you can follow your breadcrumbs on the way back.
  • 4d. [Oxford vests], or “vests” in British English, are WAISTCOATS. I’m partial to the word’s alteration, weskit. It reminds me of vittles as a spelling of victuals. I learned just this minute that victuals is pronounced as “vittles.”

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 19I almost gave up trying to discern the theme. I reread the clues for the four longest answers. I scanned the clue list for an explanatory entry. I read various combinations of words from the theme entries. And then it hit me. The long answers begin with “Push! More! Oh, God! Faster!” The theme is exhortations in the sack. The PUSH part seems a tad off, but maybe that’s just me.

The theme entries:

  • 17a. To [Be edgy, in a way] is to PUSH THE ENVELOPE.
  • 28a. [1990 single with the line "What would you do/If my heart was torn in two?"] is “MORE THAN WORDS.” Never heard this ballad before. Here’s the video; it made me laugh when the person on the couch held up a lighter.

  • 45a. OH GOD, YOU DEVIL is the [1984 George Burns comedy].
  • 56a. FASTER DOWNLOADS is a [Common promise from BitTorrent software].

Other items of note:

  • My favorite entries include SANS SERIF, VEG OUT, LEVITATE, and KAFKA.
  • 36a. [Place to go?] is the TOILET. In the ladies’ room atop Rockefeller Center, there’s a sign on the wall: “Please wipe me and flush me. The next person will thank you.” I’m uncomfortable with the use of “me” in that way. “Me” ≠ “toilet,” in general.
  • 66a. [Foolish place to store the leftover hot dogs] is in your TENT, on account of the bears.
  • 3d. INSPIRON is the name of a [Dell model]. I find it uninspiring.
  • 8d. [Backwoods hypothetical] clues IF’N. As in “If’n y’all are fixin’ to put away them hot dogs, remember there’s bars in them woods.”
  • 15d. [Patron figure of getting hammered at 9:00 a.m., for short] is ST. PAT.
  • 29d. [Biblical name that means "God the Lord"] clues ELIAH. That’s a name?
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23 Responses to Wednesday, 9/8/10

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Fun debut! GIZZARD clued me in to the rebus theme right away, and SWIZZLE was the oddity of the day, being a drink… Amusing to see the Kipling — all nicely done!

  2. Jeff says:

    Wednesday’s NYT puzzle was so great to me– I’m still an early-intermediate puzzler and tend to throw in the towel whenever there’s a rebus puzzle, but this one worked so well. An amazing (and painless) intro to the world of rebus.

  3. ktd says:

    By my count, the puzzle is just a V and an X short of being a pangram–a nice debut! I remember Mr. REE from past puzzles but NIM is a new game. The crossing of GRIZZLY and FUZZY WUZZY is cool. Rum SWIZZLE is something like the national drink of Bermuda, I think :-).

  4. janie says:

    terrific nyt debut indeed!

    re: the marlboro man. not a very happy ending…

    and, yes, other men have worn the mantle, but the cautionary tale kinda puts a damper on the glamor.

    ;-)

  5. Gareth says:

    Wow! Stylish rebus! And a debut too!! Double wow!! Also had the rebus pretty quick (like 10 seconds) off GI(ZZ)ARD The challenge from there on was finding out where they’d pop up! So convinced self that 19A was some bottle water brand I hadn’t heard of – JACU(ZZ)I!! GRIZZLY/FUZZYWUZZY intersection was quite delightful to. And the rest of the puzzle didn’t clunk either, far from it. Great, Amy, now I feel like spicy chicken livers something bad… and it’s 11am!! Was anyone else wondering if VAJA(ZZ)LE might make an appearance? (Not >too< surprised that it didn't…)

  6. Sara says:

    Organ meat and licorice. Check. How do you feel about brussels sprouts?

    The rebus had me thinking it was a Thursday and that my time was really good. Oh well. Great debut!

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sara, I’m against them.

  8. Matt M. says:

    Oh, but roasted brussels sprouts are so good…

  9. Sara says:

    Amy, you and I can play Mr and Mrs Jack Sprat in the biopic.

  10. Meem says:

    Happy puzzle. Look forward to more from Tracy Gray. “In idle” sounds off to me. When I am out of gear I think I’m in neutral (or maybe park).

  11. joon says:

    this grid was so smooth, i’m astonished that it was a debut. very promising! i don’t really keep track of such things, but this has got to be my fastest rebus solve ever, although there was a 21x rebus a while back that i blazed through in across lite (something like 6 minutes). can’t remember if it was the globe or WSJ.

    awesome LAT theme. simple, but clever and elegantly executed, with A-G in order. two thumbs up on that one. as for J, i’ve often heard the neighborhood of san francisco around geary & webster referred to as J-TOWN. i got kate MARA from crosses, too, but much to my surprise, i know who she is, not from her acting career but because she’s the granddaughter of the late wellington mara, longtime owner of the new york football giants.

    janie, susan DEY was indeed a partridge (laurie, if i remember correctly) in her pre-LA law days. i remember this not from ever having seen, or even known anything about, the partridge family, but from a previous crossword blog.

    loved the rows garden, as usual, but to me it felt like one of the easier ones. though i had an interesting moment there when i thought MELLOW was the answer to {Unruffled}, because i didn’t know the olivia newton-john song.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Never seen the Partridge family? Don’t know Have You Never Been Mellow?

    Joon makes me feel old, part 25.

  13. Dan F says:

    Kate Mara’s little sister, Rooney, just got cast as the girl with the dragon tattoo, so look for her to be the go-to MARA at some point.

    Be sure to look around Patrick Berry’s site for other puzzles – when I checked in last week, there were two Rows Gardens and a variety cryptic that I hadn’t yet seen! He needs an email list…

  14. Ladel says:

    @Amy & Sara

    I’m the black sheep in my family so I tend to root for the misunderstood in any circumstance. Offal (no puns please), organ meat, brussel sprouts and the lot not only misunderstood but almost never prepared properly. Aye, there’s the rub, when properly prepared they will cause your tongue to throw a party for your mount.

    Ladel

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m one of the fortunate few with legitimate medical reasons to avoid the organ meats and brussels sprouts. (Also lima beans.)

  16. Howard B says:

    Grew up with some people who ate all of the above, in many different ways and preparations, and I haven’t yet seen a way that would make liver palatable to me. Not even close. To each their own though.

    However, on brussels sprouts (and other veggies) I agree with Ladel. Never thought I would like those until I tasted the farmers’ market-bought version, not overcooked and with a little olive oil – much unlike the frozen/supermarket variety. World of difference there, and this is from a major food skeptic. Actually, I didn’t realize that carrots were not found in nature as mushy things in a can, until I was past my formative years. So an open culinary mind is a good thing, allergies and medical issues notwithstanding.

    Still taking a pass on the liver though. If, say, I was on The Amazing Race and survival or elimination depended on eating that, I would hop on the next plane home without a second thought.

  17. Ladel says:

    Howard B.

    In a restaurant you trust, calf’s liver sauteed until pink inside, with proper crispy bacon, caramilized onions, in a red wine reduction will change you the way you were changed when you discovered how fresh veggies properly prepared are a world apart from your past experiences.

    Amy, follow doctors orders as I do, organ meats play havoc with my cholestorol so while I avoid them, I know that when treated with respect they are yummy.

    Ladel

  18. Eric Maddy says:

    Note to constructors and editors–
    UCAL as a purported abbreviation for the University of California is entirely bogus.
    This entry has been in at least a few of the top-tier puzzles, and that unfortunately will probably result in it appearing in the future.

    UMASS, UCONN — sure. People actually use those. But UCAL is about as legit as UILL, UFLA….geez, I’d guess I’d better stop as not to encourage people.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ah, but UOFI and UOFM are great for Illinois and Minnesota, if not other state schools. And UOFC for University of Chicago is also very much in the language.

  20. Meem says:

    Ladel: Agree totally. If in Chicago (as Amy is), visit Kiki Bistro and order calves liver. A once a year treat that even my cardiologist endorses. And veggies, between our garden and local farmers’ market can make the freezer last the winter. Also, UCAL is legit when followed by -Davis, -Berkeley, etc.

  21. janie says:

    was out all day. thx for setting me straight on the tv shows i never saw (and didn’t research before publishing)! coulda gone w/ my gut after all…

    ;-)

    j.

  22. Eric Maddy says:

    @Amy — I have no problem with UFOI and UOFM because they’re “in the language” — people actually use those terms to refer to the respective schools. (And you could extend that if you want to get more slangy, like “THEU” for Miami-FLorida, “UDUB” for the University of Washington, and others I’m sure. Not so with UCAL. (nor UOFC — the shorthand is “UC” or “Cal”.

    @Meem — “UC Davis” and “Cal-Davis” are both legitimate constructs, with the former far more prevalent than the latter (and you can substitute Riverside, Irvine, Santa Barbara, and so on). But “UCal Davis” et al. — I don’t see it. It isn’t used in print outside the aforementioned crossword misuse, it isn’t used in speech — I’m a California native and I’ve NEVER heard anyone refer to “UCal”, with or without a campus name afterwards. Try Googling for UCAL usages – - you get a handful of results from news aggregators and a couple cases where “ucal” appears in an URL, but no legitimate citations of usage. It simply isn’t in the language — it’s a made-up usage to make it easier for a constructor to clue a difficult group of letters rather than cleaning it up, and that’s something that I’d think most puzzle fans should frown upon.

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