Wednesday, 10/20/10

NYT 3:14
LAT 2:54
Onion 5:35
CS untimed

Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2Congratulations on your debut, Finn! Crossword Fiend blogger Janie tipped me off about Finn this morning, having talked with the 18-year-old Columbia student at the recent Pleasantville tournament. We look forward to seeing more of your work.

Do you know the (fairly youth-oriented) clothing chain, H&M? The ampersand gets spelled out in the central answer, H AND M, and those letters are the initials of six (!) more theme entries. They’re a lively batch of phrases, too. The Lion King song “HAKUNA MATATA” has nothing to do with HEAVY METAL other than being in the broad category, “music.” HASH MARKS, le HAUT MONDE, a HOTEL MANAGER, and HORACE MANN round out the theme. (If you Google the constructor’s name, you learn from MTV that he attended Horace Mann School. Nice work sneaking your alma mater in there, Finn.) We don’t see a ton of 67-square themes from newbies, do we?

I shopped at H&M in Vienna before the chain expanded to the U.S., and I still wear as PJs the cozy leggings I bought there. And then there’s the olive sweater I bought at the Michigan Avenue location. So I’m fond of the basis for this theme.

There’s plenty of tough fill in here, what with the theme locking down so much real estate:

  • 31a. ARHAT is clued as [Enlightened Buddhist].
  • 47a. MNEME is [One of the three original Muses]. What, there weren’t always nine of them?
  • 63a. [Germany's ___ Canal] clues KIEL.
  • 28d. NINON is a [Sheer fabric] I know from crosswords.
  • 45d. ASTARE is one of those words you’re unlikely to encounter outside of crosswords. [Rubbernecking] is a better way to describe it.
  • ASCH, ALY, BAÑO, HAMM, and ENNIO may also be a long time coming for some solvers.

Highlights in the fill:

  • I love the super-fresh LIVE CHAT and GLAD-HAND, and a nice WORLD MAP is always welcome.
  • Omigod! The two-L ENROLL spelling is in a crossword for a change. All too often it’s ENROL.
  • I like how HI MOM and IMAM cross and echo each other phonetically.
  • Also cute: The ESAI Morales/ NYPD Blue one-two punch. Speaking of TV shows I used to watch when they were on, I like the WKRP shout-out.

Trickiest clue:

  • 40a. [Hi-tech heart] means the metaphorical “heart” of a high-tech computer, the CPU. With CP* in place and the word “heart” in the clue, I halfheartedly tried CPR, which doesn’t make sense.

Elizabeth Long’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1Wednesday’s LAT constructor depicts the theme entries visually:

  • 4d. [Online IRS document submission system, literally?] is e-filing, and here there are a bunch of E’s filing down the grid. Fifteen of them, to be exact: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. (Note: Not a shoe width.)
  • 7d. ['60s sitcom set at Fort Courage, literally?] is F Troop, and there are 15 F’s trooping down the grid.
  • 8d. A G-string is represented by 15 G’s as a [Skimpy bikini part, literally?].

It’s an oddball theme, to be sure, but I give it points for freshness and for the E-F-G alphabetical sequencing.

The stalest crosswordese lives in the left of the grid, where the E’s nail down the boring stuff, such as ERLE, AGUE, E. LEE, EELY, RTES, ESS, and EEC. The G zone, though, is zippier: GOBS, GNAW, EGYPT, GOYA, and GYRO. “In Egypt, Goya gnaws gobs of gyros.”

There’s plenty of sparkle in the long fill. WEREWOLF, LATE SHIFT, UFOLOGIST, FOIE GRAS, AFTERGLOW, and FINAGLES are all awesome entries. I don’t usually expect to see so many colorful long answers in a mid-week themed puzzle.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 3It took me a long time to get down to the lower left corner, which held the key to understanding the theme. 71a: [With 26-Down, luggage tag letters added to this puzzle's theme answers] clues AIRPORT / CODES, and four noted 3-letter airport codes are added to familiar phrases to make them into something entirely different. Only the state is given in the clues, but frequent fliers should know most of the airport codes here:

  • 17a. [Democratic contest to replace an Andy Griffith character? (Georgia)] is a MATLOCK ELECTION, with Atlanta’s code, ATL, snuck inside a mock election. Bonus points for Matlock being based in Georgia, though there’s no apparent geographic tie-in for the other three.
  • 29a. Chicago O’Hare is ORD, and a laser disc + ORD = LASER DISCORD, or [Bickering over who gets to fire the doomsday weapon? (Illinois)]. I don’t think of lasers as doomsday weapons.
  • 49a. Ha! [One who goes to the can for going to the can too often? (California)] is an EX-LAX CONVICT, with L.A.’s LAX combined with an ex-con.
  • 64a. [Salvage holiday paper like your grandmother? (New Jersey)] clues OLD-SCHOOL REWRAP, with Newark’s EWR and old-school rap.

All right, I like that. Good theme.

Five clues:

  • 32d. An IRANI is a [Zoroastrian descendant], not a generic Iranian.
  • 7a. MAMMALS are [Hairy animals] and reptiles and amphibians are not.
  • 48d. [Material for some artificial humans] is more barnyard than sci-fi—it’s the STRAW in a scarecrow or Halloween dummy.
  • 31d. [Letter in advance?] is the SOFT C that’s the sixth letter in the word “advance.”
  • 22a. [Slugger who has paintings of himself as a centaur above his own bed] is A-ROD. Why, A-Rod? Why??

Ecko, Ekco, Ecco…

  • 5d. [Maker of woks and kettles] is EKCO.
  • 59d. [Danish footwear brand] is ECCO.
  • Marc Ecko is a fashion designer.
  • Echo is a nymph and a repeated sound.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “All for One”—Janie’s review

Take a look at that title. Now forget The Three Musketeers and think of it in a literal sense, because that’s what Randy’s done with his clever substitution theme, where the letters “A-L-L” are used for “O-N-E” in three lively and familiar phrases. F’rinstance… the base phrase tone cluster would become TALL CLUSTER, clued perhaps as [The NBA All-Star team en masse]. Or something like that. I’ll leave it to Randy to show us how it’s done. The clues are all gems, too, as:

20A. bad to the boneBAD TO THE BALL [Like a klutzy soccer player?]. Got it? Good, ’cause next

37A. engagement stoneENGAGEMENT STALL [Putting off popping the question?]. (E. g., “Sorry, honey, not tonight. I have to get my shoes shined”…)

55A. ice-cream coneICE-CREAM CALL ["Next," at Baskin-Robbins?].

No, there isn’t a lot of theme fill here, but as the saying goes, what there is, is cherce. And the remainder of the puzzle delivers as well. First of all, there are two strong eights, TRAVAILS [Hardships] and [The Velvet Fog], MEL TORMÉ. VIC [Singer Damone] is a Tormé contemporary; and for vocal music in a different vein, ARETHA [Queen of Soul] and TRINI ["If I Had a Hammer" singer Lopez] are heard from as well.

Then there’re the NW and SE corners with their triple 6-columns—plus the many other sixes that appear in the grid. Among the best: 1-Down’s LA-Z-BOY [Couch potato's spot] and [Like someone in a 1-Down], AT EASE—which connects nicely both with [Boot camp reply] “YES, SIR!” (perhaps [Delinquent G.I.] AWOL, too) and also SIESTA [Sonora shuteye]; THRASH [Clobber] seems to work with ENMITY [Bad blood]; and the work of ARTIST [Renoir or Rembrandt] offers a civilizing influence—and that’s not just a lot of HOT AIR [Empty talk].

On Sunday we were reminded that [Pierce, e.g.] was a PRESIDENT. Today Randy builds on that beginning, reminding us that the [Only president born in New Hampshire] was … PIERCE.

Some nice clue/fill combos come our way with [Sweet ending] for OSE; [Took a tumble] for the slangy ATE IT; [Home to the Craters of the Moon] for the terrestrial IDAHO; [Mercury, for one] for DIME (synecdoche, anyone?); [Candy that's dispensable] for PEZ; the punny [Fodder figure?] for SILO and [Continental divide?] for AISLE (think “airline” here…); and [Terminological inexactitude, to Churchill] (or something that’s truthiness-deficient, to Colbert…) for LIE.

Like a [Request from Allen Funt], this puzzle makes me “SMILE!”

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18 Responses to Wednesday, 10/20/10

  1. In five years of speedsolving, I can say without hyperbole that the two subjects that frequently appear in NYT puzzles about which I know the least are (1) fabrics and (2) The Lion King. And today, they formed a crossing…aargh. I guessed the NINON/HAKUNA MATATA intersection correctly on the third attempt.

    Great debut, Finn.

  2. Finn V says:

    Hey everyone! I’m a pretty infrequent commenter on Crossword Fiend but I do love reading Amy’s posts every day, so I’m ecstatic and thrilled and honored and humbled and quite amazed I’m the subject of today’s.

    I last made an apperance on this blog about a year and a half ago for being a poet… some of you may remember! http://crosswordfiend.blogspot.com/2009/02/its-finn-for-win.html

    Many thanks to Amy for such a warm review. I also want to extend my gratitude to Janie, who’s been a great friend ever since we met at the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament two years ago. She’s been very encouraging of my constructing endeavors!

    HIMOM is kind of a bonus theme entry for those of you keeping track at home. That emerged by chance. Once I saw it though, I tried to turn the symmetrical entry (currently MNEME) into HITME (as in a poker game, also preserving the last two already-existing letters in MNEME), but it proved to be too great a challenge.

    And Brent… tough luck. I’ll make sure not to cross my fabrics and my Disney movies next time! Is crossing European rivers with 1990′s pop songs fair game though? :)

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    BANO stumped me for a while as, for [Ran], I had FLED rather than BLED. FANO seemed as familiar as any other obscure non-English word in an English language crossword.

    Other than that (and ANAEROBE as one of the long entries) pretty snazzy stuff at WORLD MAP, GLADHAND and LIVE CHAT.

  4. janie says:

    i thank you, finn, for that generous mention and cyber blush! but i gotta say, it’s the meeting fellow-cruciverbalists (solvers of all levels, constructors — tyro and established) that enriches / humanizes this somewhat arcane pastime. the smaller-venue events are especially sweet — and conducive to both socializing and solving.

    bravo on that well-earned debut. the credit belongs to *you*!

    ;-)

  5. Doug says:

    Is it Wednesday? Super puzzle, with fine fill, and nice debu Vinn. I listened to a podcast today featurning a music critic, and put in DEATHMETAL and BJORK without looking at the clues too carefully. Now, how about an M&S puzzle for the Brits?

  6. john farmer says:

    After finishing the puzzle, I looked at HIMOM and wondered if MNEME could have been HITME. At least somebody was thinking along the same lines! Congrats on the debut, Finn.

    I liked a lot of the fill. I gotta confess though, HANDM was all crosses. Can’t say I ever heard of it…but clothing retail is not exactly my strong suit. Another confession, I ended up with FANO, thinking I had no idea of the Spanish word for tub. Oh, that bath…

  7. Dave G. says:

    Really fresh, surprisingly tough Wednesday puzzle. Had a tough time in the southwest. Also in the center, since I also have never heard of HANDM. Excellent debut, Finn. Congrats!

  8. Howard B says:

    Congrats, Finn! Same here, no heavy trouble in the puzzle except for never hearing of, you guessed it, H&M. Nicely done though, as you could infer it from the theme itself – but the store is a mystery to me. Not the first time I’ve been stumped by a retail chain in a puzzle though, seems to be a squishy spot for me in general ;).

  9. John Haber says:

    I found it unusually hard for a Wednesday, which I usually breeze through in a few seconds. I needed every letter crossing the Lion King song, and unfortunately that ran into a fabric, which could have been a lot of things and required in turn a crossing from a Spanish word to nail it down; I failed.

    The trio with the same song, HAT, and ARHAT was also hard, although I got that one right. Same with the whole SW between only slowly getting HAUT MONDE, MNEME, FJORD, FLAK, LENO, and KIEL (and initially wavering between ENROLL and “enlist”).

    I went to Horace Mann, too, and always found it disconcertingly ironic that an expensive private school was named for the advocate of public education.

  10. Meem says:

    The fun did continue. Thanks, Finn! Though I’m not sure I buy smelled for knocked someone out, say. And needed crosses to make fjord fall as a Viking training camp. Liked ratchet, live chat, world map. Hope Finn has more in Will’s queue.

  11. joon says:

    never heard of H&M either, but i filled it in because i already had two *ed answers in the grid and, well, that had to be the theme. nifty puzzle, and a nice construction. nice subtle trickery on {Hilton head}. congrats finn! and yes, i remember that contest. eva gabor ftw.

  12. Finn: Cross LeAnn Rimes’s first platinum CD with the river bisecting Budapest, and I guarantee I’ll waltz through it (yes, horrible pun). As for me, it’s time to rent The Lion King for a week and attend some fabric workshops. Once again, congrats on a well-crafted puzzle.

  13. Dan F says:

    What do people think of Tausig’s Onion clue for MMCI – [Year in the reign of Empress Sarah Palinbot IV]? I laughed at the surface joke, and the in-joke playing on Year-of-the-Pope clues, but isn’t it odd that the clue has no connection whatsoever to reality? I’d like a question mark or some qualifier at least…

  14. Neville says:

    Congrats, Finn! A very nice debut.

    I like HAKUNA MATATA a lot – but I’m just 22. I ran the clue [No, in Swahili] in my school paper last year, and got the expected response: A bunch of “How do you expect me to know THAT?!?”-like remarks that turned into “Yes! Lion King!” because the answer was simply HAKUNA.

  15. Scott says:

    My wife and I found this brutal. ASCH crossed with ARHAT. OCALA crossed with CIERA. ERGS crossed with RITT. Maybe those were all just crosswordese, but we’ve been doing NYT puzzles for over a year now, and nothing looks familiar. This is the first puzzle in a while that we simply gave up on.

    I do agree the Hilton head clue was nice, and the Hi-tech heart.

  16. Rosa R. says:

    Please, please! please explain the “knocked out” = smelled connection. Looked everywhere I can think of, to no avail, Many queries, many sufferers. Succor, please!
    Thanks.
    RR

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Rosa, I think it’s “His stinky feet knocked me out”/”his stinky feet smelled/reeked.” Though the substitution doesn’t quite work because “knock out” requires an object—who’s getting knocked out?—whereas “reek” or “stink” are intransitive verbs.

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