Friday, 9/17/10

CHE 6:07
NYT 4:54
LAT 4:39
CS untimed
WSJ 7:19

Jonah Kagan’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2Wow, I really admire this puzzle. A dozen effervescent long answers? Bravo! Here’s a message for Jonah, the latest in this week’s line of Brown University student constructors: Make some more themeless puzzles. You’re good at this.

Here’s my Top Twelve list:

  • 13a. “NO PROBLEMO!” ["Easy peasy!"]
  • 16a. HYPERBOLIC means [Over the top] with hyperbole.
  • 29a. ALLOSAURUSES are [Literally, "different lizards"]. I like a clue that works the etymology, even if I end up turning to the crossings for help.
  • 32a. Too often, we get ERGO in the grid with a Cartesian fill-in-the-blank clue, but here we have the whole COGITO ERGO SUM. [Descartes found this truth to be self-evident] is a cute clue for that.
  • 34a. BLUE MAN GROUP! They’ve been [Colorful stage performers since 1987]. I don’t think they’ve been in Chicago quite that long, but I did see them here in the ’90s and they’ve never left the North Side since.
  • 49a. UNREQUITED, [Like some love]—those of you who are all grown up now may well remember an unrequited love from your college days.
  • 52a. I like STAY UP LATE as an answer to [Put off retirement?], but I like it even better as the fun Talking Heads song. Go have a listen.
  • 6d. The BLOOD MOON is an [Autumnal event so called because it helps hunters kill their prey]. My aunt Rose forwards (or writes?) “National Moon Service e-lerts” describing the various names for a month’s full moon. I shall be on the lookout for mention of the Blood Moon.
  • 10d. Hard to spell? Sure. Hard to do? I dunno. JIUJITSU is a martial arts [Practice with locks and pins?].
  • 11d. [Troubador's creation] is a LOVE POEM. Any of you ever have a love poem written for you?
  • 31d. [Certain navigational aids] called ARROW KEYS help you navigate a computer screen but are fairly useless for finding your way across the ocean.
  • 32d. Aw, I was so sure this was gonna be an underwear or bra company. [Company that gets a lot of its money from foundations?] is the department-store cosmetics brand CLINIQUE.

Six more clues:

  • 17a. NUVA [___-Ring (birth control brand)] was a gimme.
  • concreteR26a. The verb DOCTOR, as in what’s done to magazine cover photos, is clued with the verb [Photoshop, say]. Love it! I don’t know if any dictionaries yet list Photoshop as a verb; if they don’t, they will soon enough.
  • 41a. ["Wassup, ___?"] clues DAWG.
  • 46a. [Where you might see some initials] is carved in tree BARK. Or, on my block, in concrete. (That’s my R!)
  • 2d. The TOY BOX is a [Home for Barbie and Ken, perhaps].
  • 14d. [Makes roar], as a car engine, is REVS.

Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Spot Test”

Region capture 11Here’s the beautiful thing about solving a puzzle in Across Lite on a 27″ monitor: When the clues are so long that you normally can’t see them in the Across Lite window, you can stretch the window waaay out and see the clues in their entirety—and still only use two thirds of the screen.

The four theme entries contain the letters A, B, C, and D, circled and in order but interspersed. The answers are also the answers to the fill-in-the-blank “Spot Test” questions, and those questions also include a multiple-choice component. The answer is A, B, C, or D. How do you know which one is correct without either knowing the fact already or looking it up on Wikipedia? Easy. You work the A/B/C/D crossings. In one of them, the letter doesn’t work and you have to BLACK in the circle with a #2 pencil because that circle is a {BLACK} rebus square in the Down entry. Here are the theme entries:

  • 17a is ANABOLIC STEROIDS, which mimic the effects of b) testosterone. The circled B also appears in 18d, but that answer is {BLACK}LISTS, not B LISTS. I spent an extra-long time eyeballing 1d: [Christine ___ (“The Phantom of the Opera” heroine)] because DAAE looked wildly implausible. But Christine Daaé is indeed correct.
  • 24a is BASEBALL CARDS, with the D {BLACK}ed out with 28d’s {BLACK} HOLE.
  • 40a, ALBRECHT DURER, wrote a four-book treatise on a) human proportions. 24d: BOOT{BLACK} is a [Shoeshiner].
  • 53a. PAPA BABY DOC DUVALIER malruled c) Haiti, and his C crosses the place to {BLACK}EN Cajun fish.

Region capture 10My, that’s an ornate and involved theme. Todd McClary seems to have found his niche in providing interesting and challenging crosswords to the Chronicle of Higher Education—puzzles that are sometimes a tad too involved for the daily newspaper setting, but that fit into the slot Patrick Berry has carved out at the Chronicle.

Never heard of BB EYES, the 41d: [Dick Tracy villain who trafficked in stolen car tires].

Did you spend as much time on this as you do on a Saturday NYT crossword? I did.

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1The theme here involves phrases or compound words that start with __AP words but get changed to __IP words:

  • 17a. [Ballet?] is TIP DANCING (tap dancing) in that dancers may move about on the tips of their toes.
  • 27a. [Photo session with a klutz?] is TRIP SHOOTING (trapshooting). Vacation photos would make more sense in the clue. If you were taking pictures of someone stumbling, would you call it “trip shooting”? Not at all.
  • 47a. [Part of a barber shop review?] might be a SNIP JUDGMENT (snap judgment).
  • 62a. [Christmas morning ritual?] clues RIP SESSION (rap session).

I’m lukewarm on the theme. I love some of the fill:

  • 55a. [Shot to the face?] is a mighty dramatic clue for BOTOX.
  • 6d. If you apply BACKSPIN to a ball, you might be applying [English, maybe].
  • 8d. A MENSCH is a [Good guy].
  • 24d. WINGNUT is a lively term when used in partisan politics, though it’s a tad dry as a [Hand-tightened fastener].
  • 38d. [60606 and 70707, e.g.] are ZIP CODES.

And then there was some fill that chafed:

  • 21a. [Au pair in a ring?] clues KTS. I don’t get this clue. I think the answer is an abbreviation for “knights.” No? Maybe karats. And Au is the chemical symbol for gold. But gold’s purity is measured in karats, with a maximum of 24. A “two-carat ring” (with a C, not a K) describes the weight (not purity) of the gemstone in the ring. If you have a two-karat gold ring, the rest of the metal could be tin. Okay, people, what am I missing here?
  • 44a. NITA [Naldi of silents] maybe wasn’t considered crosswordese in the crosswords of the 1910s and ’20s, but these days? Theda Bara and Nita Naldi and Virna Lisi are known mainly by hardcore puzzlers.
  • 68a. ETAPE is [Military camp]. You may never encounter this word outside of crosswords.
  • 40d. [Proctor's announcement] clues TIME IS UP. Feels too long or too short—either “time’s up” or “your time is up” sound more natural to me.
  • 53d. [Terse concession] clues I LOSE. Wouldn’t you be more likely to say “I lost”?

Among things I didn’t get quickly were these—and clues that addle me are often my favorites:

  • 19a. [Iberian Peninsula invader] is a MOOR. Anyone have MOOP here? No?
  • 22a. [Salsa instrument] is a BONGO. Good gravy, with a few crossings in place I was contemplating what salsa music might sound like with a BANJO.
  • 18d. ATARI is a [Game company first called Syzygy]. Did you know this? I’d never heard that.
  • 11d. [Macintosh's apple, e.g.] is a most iconic ICON, but not the sort of icon you click on your computer screen. Yep, I went with LOGO first.


Updated Friday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Brand X”—Janie’s review

Nice use of a solid gimmick today. This is the one where a single letter is added to a familiar base phrase to create the theme fill. What distinguishes this set of theme fill is that the addition of the single letter (“X“) yields a brand name we’re all likely to be familiar with. That’s how:

20A. Role reversal → ROLEX REVERSAL [Putting an expensive watch on the other wrist?]. Ooh, cute. I like this.

40A. Time management → TIMEX MANAGEMENT [Executives who keep their products ticking?] Timex: “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking”—even under water. So, will the theme be developed in an all-watches-all-the-time pattern? No, no. Once you emerge from the [Sea, to Costeau], MER, you may want a glass of milk to make the most of the metamorphosis of

54A. Hydrotherapy → HYDROX THERAPY [Cure with cookies?]. Don’t remember the now-defunct Hydrox Cookie? That was Sunshine Bakery’s answer to the OREO [Sweet sandwich]. This is a wonderful example of theme/clue/fill synergy (if you will…). Smile-making all around.

And there’s a lotta clue and fill synergy to be found in the non-themed portion of the puzzle as well. There’s the tonsorial [Hair weave] and [Toupee] for BRAID and RUG; or the appearance of both RUMPS and SEATS, clued as [Cuts of beef] and (the non-anatomical) [Ticket entitlements] (but that’s where the anatomy goes…).

Another playful pair comes by way of [Skin treatment] and [Remove, as skin], for PEEL and PARE. The former is for humans, the latter for fruit. Just be careful not to mix ‘em up!

To [Destine for destruction] is to DOOM—like the tragedy of being on the wrong side of a HEAD-ON [...collision...] because the other driver was DWI [It makes MADD mad]. Alas, many’s the time such an event also [Makes a loud noise] that GOES “BOOM,” leaving the COUPE [Sedan alternative] or SUV or convertible involved no longer UTILE [Functional].

ESSEX is that [English earldom]. And how does one address an earl? (No, not “His Earliness”…) One says, “My Lord.” Ditto his eldest son. Any younger son goes by “SIR,” just like [Paul McCartney or Elton John].

Finally, let me add that I loved seeing the gritty EATS DIRT [Grovels] in the grid as well as the two cries, both “OH, NO!” [Forlorn cry] and the more jubilant EUREKA!” [Finder's cry].

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cash Deal” (nom de grid Judith Seretto)

Region capture 4I haven’t yet made sense of the quote theme here but enjoyed the heck out of the rest of the puzzle. Let’s see…from [The start of a quote by Evelyn Waugh] to the end, it reads MONEY IS ONLY USEFUL / WHEN YOU GET RID OF IT. IT IS / LIKE THE / ODD CARD IN / OLD MAID: / THE PLAYER WHO IS FINALLY / LEFT WITH IT HAS LOST. Yup, you can’t take it with you; you can only bequeath it to others. And yes, spending can be a good use of money.

I’m seldom excited by quote themes, but luckily this puzzle had much to commend it aside from the theme. Interesting fill + interesting clues = crossword victory.

Favorite entries and clues:

  • 30a, 37a. [Dregs, e.g.] pulls double duty cluing stacked synonyms, RESIDUE and SEDIMENT.
  • 32a. [Creator of Fritz the Cat], cartoonist R. CRUMB. Did he ever make a FLIPBOOK (5d. [Simple animation form])?
  • 34a, 25d. Crossing verbs with cool clues: [Had a list] clues LEANED and [Made a vault] clues LEAPT.
  • 63a. [Villa in Mexico] isn’t a vacation house, it’s PANCHO Villa.
  • 112a, 128a. Interesting geographic clues: [World capital laid out in the late 1950s] is BRASILIA, and [View from Baku] is the CASPIAN Sea.
  • 82d, 91d. ["Right on, brother!"] “I HEAR YOU.” Can you hear me? No? Maybe LIPREADS ([Watches one's language?]) works better for you.

The overall vibe in this puzzle was so smooth. Just an all-around good solving experience. Much appreciated!

I needed the crossings for 40a: [Child's 1999 co-star]. I was trying to think of actors surnamed Child, but it’s chef Julia Child who did something on TV with Jacques PEPIN.

Speaking of needing the crossings—

  • 61d. [Steplike mine excavation] is STOPE? Say what? I’ve never seen that word. A deadly crossing would have ruined the good time I working this puzzle.
  • 81d. And I didn’t know this term [Darkroom solution] is STOP BATH, apparently.
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10 Responses to Friday, 9/17/10

  1. *David* says:

    I did the CHE on Wednesday and was DYING to talk about it. I loved it and did it on paper so the aha moment was looking at DHOLE and going what the heck! This made the puzzle take even longer since some of the downs made no sense and I still hadn’t gotten the concept. The theme was fresh and the extra black spot made it exceptional. What a beauty, my favorite puzzle in a long while.

  2. Julian says:

    Have to chime in here and agree that Todd’s CHE theme was fantastic — if you’re reading this, kudos for thinking of it!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Tough NYT by Jonah Kagan, but I remembered a DUGONG from somewhere! The bottom two-thirds went well. Then I toiled most in the NW and finally got that, but ended up with a tone poem in the NE instead of a LOVE POEM, not having gone back to proofread. I see now that JLO was more likely, but would never have known a NUVA ring anyway…

  4. Gareth says:

    @NYT: Found top and bottom right very easy… The rest, less so. Had ALLOSAURUSES and the ERGOSUM bit (completely blanked out on the first word)… never heard of BLUEMANGROUP and not sure why couldn’t see ARROWKEYS! or BLOODMOON (brain went HUNTERSMOON – out of cheese error!) Also, still confused by OUTOFUSE and INHALE as clued… Like the premise and execution of this themeless – add a couple more black squares and then just go completely nuts on high-end letters! 12D and 32D – brilliant clues!

  5. pauer says:

    Cool CHE, Todd! Great idea.

  6. zifmia says:

    BTW, while your solution grid is correct for CHE, in your writeup you have Papa Doc Duvalier for the last theme answer, while it should be his son Baby Doc.

  7. john farmer says:

    ¡Ole! on the CHE!

    Enjoying the week of Brown. Have we seen a puzzle from Natan yet?

  8. Meem says:

    Thanks, Jonah. Your contribution kept the week’s fresh breezes blowing. A couple of words were unfamiliar to me, but crosses were clear. The CHE had me scratching my head. Finally sussed out that one entry in each column ABCD needed the word black to make sense. Clever, Todd.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John F., Natan’s on the docket for the Saturday puzzle. Stay tuned!

    Thanks for the correction, zifmia.

  10. John Haber says:

    Descartes is a gimme for me, and that was one big foothold, so I raced through the center and from there into the NE (even thought I didn’t know NUVA and yes that sure is one hard word to spell coming down, in an alternate spelling) and then SW (especially since BLAME ME seemed easy). I slowed a bit for the SE, but still was easy for a Friday, till then.

    Then I hit the broad NNW corner and ground to a total halt. So many proper names!!! And BLOOD moon (as opposed to hunter’s moon) isn’t even in RHUD. Hate to keep complaining about such schlock culture trivia, but I don’t blame myself. I confidently entered ZOOEY, from the last name. Good actress, and aah, I thought, some respect for indie films for a change. But nope, another TV person I hadn’t heard of.

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