Wednesday, 10/13/10

LAT 3:50
NYT 3:28
CS untimed
Onion 3:06

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 11This theme is not for those who don’t follow football. Did you know that the CENTER, TACKLE, END, and GUARD are all LINEMAN varieties? I sure didn’t. I would’ve said that “offensive lineman” and “defensive lineman” were specific positions on a football team. Go figure. Anyway, the theme entries end with those positions:

  • 20a. SHOPPING CENTER.
  • 30a. [Anchor-hoisting equipment] clues CAT TACKLE. Are you kidding me? On what planet is that a Wednesday-level approachable term that people might be expected to know? It was more plausible than CET TACKLE, but the 31d crossing, a dreaded variant spelling (oh, dear) could have been EMEER instead of AMEER.
  • 37a. I know the general term “the BITTER END,” but sheesh, [Longtime Greenwich Village music venue, with "the"]? Never, ever heard of it. Here’s their schedule for October. I have heard of exactly one artist. Bonus points for freshness, outweighed by demerits for obscurity.
  • 48a. SHIN GUARD.
  • 57a. It is indeed a tragedy that RHINESTONE COWBOY is too long for a 15×15 puzzle. That song was such a hit when I was a kid and the occasional country artist got major airplay on the all-hits stations. Instead we have WICHITA LINEMAN, that other Glen Campbell song. He is a lineman for the county? Which county is Wichita in?

I slowed myself down by reading the 9d clue for the 8d spot and deciding that Richard CRENNA was really named CRENSHAW. Dang, that CRENSHAW wasn’t working at all. Not a single square in common with EXECUTOR, which really belonged at 8d.

My favorite answers include several of the multi-word answers. Some multi-word answers that tack on a lousy little preposition leave me cold, but Alan had a good batch of phrases here: SEA STAR/IN SHAPE/ON TOP OF in the upper left, IN A MOOD and DOING OK in the opposite corner, MT. FUJI in the middle, and “LET ‘EM” in the bottom. MYRIAD and CHORTLE are both cool words, too.

Less savory: The aforementioned AMEER, SION defiling 1-Across, suffixes -ENNE and -STER, plural RUTHS, boring ASTA and NEAP, one-L ENROL, nautical APORT, TOASTERS clued as fake-job people rather than appliances, and plural abbreviation EES.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 12Cool theme—subtle, yet not too arcane. The four longest answers begin with a decreasingly moneyed series of adjectives (which are entirely unrelated-to-money words in the theme entries):

  • 17a. LOADED QUESTIONS are [Challenges for an interviewee]. I tried to fit LEADING QUESTIONS in there but it just wouldn’t work. Oprah Winfrey is an example of someone who’s loaded.
  • 25a. [Not even close] clues the phrase WELL OFF THE MARK. Your average surgeon is well-off, but not quite loaded.
  • 40a. A MANAGING EDITOR is a [Journalism bigwig]. If you’re eking out a living, just getting by but not quite getting ahead, you’re managing. If you’re doing fine but not amassing enough money to be well-off, you’re also managing.
  • 51a. [Defied tradition] clues BROKE WITH CUSTOM. Are you broke? There’s a recession in progress. I’m not surprised.

Highlights:

  • 31a, 37a. [Neptune, for one] is a SEA GOD, not just a planet. [Seventh of eight, now], not nine, is the planet URANUS, also the first ruler of the universe in Greek mythology.
  • 3d. BLAH, BLAH is clued as [Mindless chatter].
  • 34d. [1950s Niners Hall of Fame quarterbackY.A. TITTLE has a funny name.

Other clues and comments:

  • 1a. [Mr. or Mrs.] is a great clue for ABBR., but ABBR. is not a great 1-Across.
  • 30a: IN AT is echoed in the other partial, 49d: IT NO. Bleh.
  • 45a. [Kind of will or trust] clues LIVING. I know what a living will is but am unclear on “living trust.”
  • 4d. [Reacted to giving out too many cards] clues REDEALT. Yeah, how else are you gonna clue a word like that?
  • 7d. ETUI is clued as a [Case in a purse, perhaps]. Damn, I keep forgetting to call that little zip-up case in my purse an ETUI.
  • 12d. [Joan of "Knots Landing"] clues VAN ARK. She hasn’t really been famous in about 30 years.
  • 13d. [Longtime Syrian ruling family name] is ASSAD. Could be a tough corner there if you don’t know VAN ARK and ASSAD.
  • 27d. [Eight-time British Open host town] is TROON, my pick for most-likely-to-be-Googled.
  • 28d. Ooh, I was duped. [Greek leader?] is the HARD G sound that begins “Greek.”
  • 48d. To [Communicate digitally?] with your hands is to SIGN. I hope a bunch of solvers were tricked into putting TEXT here.

In the “meh” category are such entries as TVA, OLLA, EDY, plural abbrev ESQS, prefix OENO, and crosswordese puppeteer Tony SARG.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ma-Ma’s Girls”—Janie’s review

For her theme fill today, Nancy’s collected a quartet of actress whose first and last names begin with the letters “MA”—making “Ma-Ma’s girls” of ‘em all. (Actually, they all share the first three letters of their first names, but “Mar-Ma’s Girls” really doesn’t cut it…) Three had their time of being, well, Hollywood “hotties” (two of whom are actually highly respected actresses; one of whom is mostly famous for being famous…); one was always more “homespun.” Today’s players are:

  • 17A. MARSHA MASON ["The Goodbye Girl" star]. This film got Ms. Mason the second of her four Academy Award Best-Actress-in-a-Leading-Role nominations.
  • 28A. MARLEE MATLIN [Star of "Children of a Lesser God"]. And Academy Award Best-Actress-in-a-Leading-Role winner. At age 21. The youngest winner in the category. The role also earned Phyllis Frelich one of the Broadway production’s three TONYS [Theatre trophies].
  • 43A. MARJORIE MAIN [Ma Kettle portrayer]. In case you were wondering which was the “homespun” one, that’d be Ms. Main, who began playing Ma Kettle in 1947 in The Egg and I and appeared in nine more “Ma and Pa Kettle” movies, the last one being in 1957. That first time garnered her an Oscar nom for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Each of these three actresses carved out richly diverse and vital careers for themselves. If they’ve not always spent every minute in the limelight, neither would they be called HAS BEENS [Faded stars]. That would be a pretty CYNICAL observation [Critically contemptuous].
  • 58A. MARLA MAPLES [TV actress once married to "The Donald"]. Received a lovely financial award on divorcing “The Donald”…

No SOUR NOTES in this one of the literal [Singers' slip-ups] or figurative sort. The puzzle’s internal glue takes care of that. F’rinstance there’s the tie in between MOGAMBO and SAHARAN. The latter is defined as [Dry as a desert]; the former is the [1953 Gable-Gardner movie] about a safari that was filmed in Sub-Saharan Africa. And if it gets too hot down there, there’s an antidote in the IDITAROD [Annual Alaskan sled race] with its sometimes POLAR [Arctic or Antarctic]-like temperatures/climate.

Then we get two quantitative items—the sequentially clued WATT [Current measure] and BTU [Air conditioner meas.]. There are also the baseball-related items: a [Yank, for one] is an AL’ER; the [D.C. ball team] is the NATS (of the National League); each has been involved in a TIE GAME situation [Contest headed for overtime] (or extra innings, as the case may be); and each has seen team members subject to a [General Manager's maneuver], a TRADE. There’s the [Sticky situation] JAM, which works well with SNAG, that [Fly in the ointment]. And there’s also the sequentially clued ASSAY [Rate for purity] and [Like a diamond] for HARD, as gemstones as well as ores may be taken to the assay office.

Other strong fill/clue combos come to us via CAME CLEAN [Fessed up], ARMFUL [Carrier's load], DEA [Traffic-stopping org.?], ONE HALF [Equal piece of a two-way split] and (even with a lovely “autumn in New York” in full swing) those appealing sounding LAGOONS [Tropical shallow waters]. Sigh.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 13

So, I have CNN on to watch the Chilean miners emerge from their tunnel like inspired cicadas. The anchor was interviewing NASA’s chief of space medicine, who noted that the Chilean officials had sought help from experts all over the world, “literally, the four corners of the earth.” I dunno. I’m not sure NASA is the right place for him with that grasp of planetary science.

Easy Onion puzzle this week. The theme riffs on Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars by taking other familiar phrases and reimagining them as Facebook games. There’s DIRT FARMER, TRAFFIC ISLAND, PET PEEVES, NOWHERESVILLE, and SHANTYTOWN. I’ve never played any of those simulation games on Facebook (I’m a Lexulous and Bejeweled Blitz woman), so the theme didn’t really sing to me.

Highlights in the fill include EL NORTE (which I saw in college, a year or two after it came out), CURFEW, a PRINT AD, RULE OUT (which is an discrete unit of meaning unto itself, vs. those random tack-on-a-preposition answers like PLACE ON or PUSH IN), DEAD ENDS, RED ALERT, DIMWITS, and Julie KAVNER.

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24 Responses to Wednesday, 10/13/10

  1. Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side includes her character’s opening monologue about the importance of the left offensive TACKLE position in the wake of Lawrence Taylor’s gruesome hit on Joe Theismann many years ago. I doubt that any other film has focused so intently on a single LINEMAN position, except perhaps the NFL Films library.

    ACPT moment du jour: my nearest grocery store in rural north-central Virginia now carries PIAVE cheese, eliciting a Walden Puzzle 5 memory (2006) regarding a variety I’d never previously heard of. Five months and counting to Brooklyn…

  2. jim hale says:

    An annoying puzzle. I finished it without getting the hint. That being said “the bitter end” was actually a pretty well known club in my day (70′s) when I lived in Greenwich Village.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Have to agree, faintly annoying even if I MANaged to finish in the END. “Go away” for GO HOME, at first. WTF: A L Central city, CLEveland? Alans, for RUTHS… Georgia as Emory’s home, before ATLANTA! CAT TACKLE? So am I IN A (bad) MOOD? Nah, DOING OK, barely.

  4. David L says:

    scientific illiteracy alert: in the CS puzzle, 39A, WATT, is clued as “current measure.” That’s just wrong. A Watt is a unit of power, not current. Different things.

  5. ePeterso2 says:

    Another hand up for CET TACKLE. The CASCA/CRENNA crossing was also ungettable. I liked the theme but felt the puzzle had to make too many compromises to get ‘er done.

  6. janie says:

    i couldn’t begin to argue the merits of the WATT clue scientifically, but cruciverbally, i think there’s some wiggle room. no, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but the definition in the wiki article does use language that suggests [Current measure] is not an egregious kind of cluing “error.”

    imoo.

    ;-)

  7. Wes says:

    For [Fleet letters] I had USS, crossing an actor’s name I didn’t know. CRENSA seemed plausible enough. I suspect I’m not the only one…

  8. Howard B says:

    CAT TACKLE was last to fall for me too. I was picturing a kitten ambitiously pouncing on a large ball of yarn twice its size, and I can’t get past that mental image as a definition. Whatever works ;).

  9. Matt K says:

    REDEALT: [Coped again?]

  10. Gareth says:

    LAT: Loved, loved that theme! Simple, elegant. TVA/VANARK was IMO a rough crossing – I’ve said before I CANNOT remember New Deal programs!!

    NYT: Liked the grid but wasn’t really the target of the theme – know nothing about American football! The medium length downs had some gems though: INSHAPE, ONTOPOF, DOINGOK… Oh, CATTACKLE = WTH here too! It sounds a lot like what happened with the cat I (more or less) spayed today – woke up from anaesthetic after last sutures were in, but still on the table!! Went manic and ripped out drip! Students and doctors then played cat tackle for a bit – chaos!

  11. pannonica says:

    On Janie’s “Mar-Ma” observation: an alternate title for the puzzle could have been “Lady Marmalade.”

  12. Jeff L says:

    I know football but I didn’t get the theme until the end anyway. I’d never heard of WICHITA LINEMAN and the SE was the last to fall for me.

    In the LAT, SNORT/TROON crossing was a mystery – almost any vowel seemed plausible to me. Obviously I don’t understand the “Bar shot” clue.

  13. John Haber says:

    CAT TACKLE was just a guess, as it looked more plausible than CET, but glad I got it. I also wavered on USS/USN vs CRENNA/CRENSA.

    The Bitter End may sound obscure, like just another local music spot. In fact, it’s the rebranding or reincarnation of a famous place, back when Greenwich Village often meant the central Village (between Sixth Avenue and Washington Square) and was truly a cultural center. (Nearby was the Village Gate, where John Coltrane recorded live.) It went under and, while I was in New York after college many years later, lingered on with a different name and owner, before someone decided that it’d be better to invoke the past.

    It was a central venue for the folk scene that was so dominant in the early 1960s, and its successors, but also for comedy acts. Woody Allen performed there. Of course, I’m more likely than Amy to consider anything in New York as valid for the NYT puzzle and less likely to condone TV, but I think this place is genuinely a part of cultural history.

  14. sps says:

    Piggybacking on John Haber here, check out the history portion of their website.

  15. Meem says:

    Jeff L.: The bar shot is a “short snort” of whiskey. NYT was very straightforward for me except for the time it took for me to convince myself that ameer/cat tackle was really possible. Thought Ruth Gordon/Ginsburg was clever. Agree with John H about music venues from the 60s. Left coast had an equivalent in the Hungry i. Actually knew all four Ma-Ma’s, so Wash. Post was a fast solve. Now off to more mundane things like watering uber dry young perennials.

  16. Sam Donaldson says:

    Usually when I’m outside the demographic that would consider a certain term familiar, I still consider the term fair and blame my own limited experiences. It’s not the puzzle’s fault.

    Still, I think BITTER END should have been clued in a way that makes it more accessible to a broader range of solvers. The clue would be suitable for a Thursday and perfect for a Friday or Saturday; it just felt a little too hard for a Wednesday, especially when it crosses a variant spelling, a superhero sidekick, and a scientist (all within my wheelhouse but maybe not for others).

    Oh, and hand up for CET, though I immediately switched it once I got the “Submitted puzzle is incorrect” message on the applet.

  17. Sara says:

    Gareth, I’ve never been spayed, but a C-section gives me an idea of what that poor cat went through.

    Me, too, for CET TACKLE.

  18. sbmanion says:

    Left tackle has become the second highest-paying position in the NFL after quarterback. The football-challenged may not have fully appreciated the significance of the title in Brent’s post. Right-handed quarterbacks are partiuclarly vulnerable to the rush from their left side (the blind side) because they can’t see it coming. Left tackles are paid multi-millions these days to make sure that the quarterbacks survive.

    I was a high school quarterback and can remember to this day being dizzy and disoriented for several days after being blind-sided by a guy who was 6’1″, 215 lbs. and ran the 40 in probably 5 flat. I am amazed that quarterbacks can survive at all when they are blind-sided by a 6’6′, 280 lb. lineman who runs the 40 in 4.6. Football is just beginning to deal with the unbelievable concussive forces players deal with.

    Steve

  19. calbright says:

    I agree with David L and his scientific illiteracy alert [in the CS puzzle, 39A, WATT, is clued as “current measure.” That’s just wrong. A Watt is a unit of power, not current. Different things.] — Indeed! This threw me off as I was solving the puzzle. I was trying to put in “amps” which is the measure of current. Power (watts) is obtained by multiplying current (amps) times voltage (volts). I don’t think any “cruciverbal” argument holds water in this case. It’s kind of like saying “feet” is a measure of “speed.”
    Sorry. ;>)

  20. John Haber says:

    Not a puzzle I do, but as a former physics major, I’ll agree that definitely it’s not right to say that a watt, a unit of power, measures current. Power is the rate at which you can deliver energy. It need not be electrical, rather than swift kicks in the behind, but watts are used specifically for the energy from electricity, which we obviously depend on these days. But translating the current, or flow of charge down all those wires, into power takes an extra step.

    You are stuck with the current that the wall outlets give you, but the power of a light bulb depends on the bulb (and whether your lamp accepts it). The current flowing from Con Ed hasn’t changed, but a replaced a floor lamp with a new model that takes only bulbs up to fewer watts, and it’s darker in here. (Wait, what is the post saying?)

  21. rmac says:

    One more vote against WATT as a measure of current. It’s just not.

  22. Matt J. says:

    Hey, Amy, what happened to my review? I have a feeling you intended to write more than “d”. :-D

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    D’oh! Matt, I am besotted with WordPress because after I finished cussing, wondering how the Onion-less version of the post got published, I clicked the “edit” button and darling WordPress said, “Oh, there’s a newer version of this post in Autosave. Would you like to see it?” And boom, click “restore,” click “publish,” and Bob’s your uncle.

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