Friday, 10/29/10

CHE 5:20
NYT 5:16
LAT 4:43
CS untimed
WSJ 8:53

Hooray! Patrick Blindauer’s made a new suite of crosswords with a final meta answer, like the one he did last winter. This one’s called “Summer Puzzlefest” (oh! how I miss summer), it’ll cost you $9.99 for 10 puzzles (one of ‘em diagramless), and you might win $250 and 15 Blindauer books if you submit the correct answer. Visit Patrick’s site for details. I’ve ordered “Summer Puzzlefest” myself and can’t wait to receive it on Monday.

Barry Boone’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 8I’m glad I started this puzzle in the upper right because if I’d figured out that 1-Across was RESODS at the very beginning, it might well have colored my solving experience. For my money, the upper right is the showiest corner. My first answer was 18a: [April shower?], a CALENDAR. Whaddaya know? That’s right. It pointed me toward the BICYCLE/ED AMES/DALEY swath, and ZEN said “hey, 7a is BEDAZZLE.” BEDAZZLE gave me ZYDECO—great clue there, 12d: musical [Style associated with washboards]. (This is not about abdominal muscles.)

In my “meh” list together with RESODS are EXAMINEE, SOLIDER, ORLE, and H-TEST. Far more numerous were the entries in the “nodding approval” list: BEDAZZLE, “BE STRONG,” SOLO ACTS, ZYDECO, ZIPPO lighters, the redundant CHAI TEA, DUNCE CAP, FLEABAG, and HOBNOB.

Were you jarred by 34a: GESTAPO, [Like brutal tactics]? I was okay with it, but it’s clearly a polarizing word.

Complete mystery answer: 54a: NUDE BOMB? [1980 Maxwell Smart film, with "The"]? Never heard of it.

Among my favorite clues is 38d: [Responded to a crash, maybe]. I was thinking of car crashes, but the answer is REBOOTED. Also suggestive of car crashes (or psychological implosion) is 20a: [Causes of breakdowns]. I was surprised to see ENZYMES take shape. I liked 47a’s clue too: [It's worn while driving] refers to a tire TREAD.

Answers I learned from crosswords eons ago and still have rarely encountered anywhere else: AMO, EDO, DENEB, and OCA. And ELBA doesn’t get much attention in America among those who are not palindrome fans.

Medical clue/answer of iffy validity: 55d: [Apnea diagnoser, briefly] clues ENT, an otolaryngologist. Sure, they can see a flabby soft palate or chubby neck and suspect obstructive sleep apnea, but there’s now an entire medical specialty, sleep medicine, whose practitioners may order sleep studies for patients with suspected sleep apnea. It’s not an office diagnosis, no.

Overall assessment of this puzzle: I like all the lively entries (including four Zs, two Xs) but could do without the blah bits. I’d have liked more tricky clues, but the puzzle did weigh in as a semi-tough Friday crossword, and it’s not supposed to be Saturday-challenging.

Jonathan Porat’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9Remember when all the Friday LAT puzzles played like Tuesday or Wednesday NYT crosswords? Either I’ve been losing my mojo every Friday, or the Friday LATs have resumed putting up a fight.

Today’s theme is a horrifying one, what with Halloween being just around the corner: EXTRA MAYO! Aaaaah! Make it go away! It’s scaring me. (I’m a “hold the mayo” person.) The extra MAYO is split up into the four component letters, which are slathered at the beginning of four familiar phrases:

  • 19a. [Designed for ancient sorcerers?] clues MAGE-SPECIFIC.
  • 27a. ATOM FOOLERY is [Pranks at the Bohr Institute?]. Tomfoolery is a great base word.
  • 46a. [Genesis baking ingredient?] clues YEAST OF EDEN.
  • 54a. [Banning CFC production, e.g.?] is an OZONE DEFENSE.

The four 9-letter answers in the fill (DALAI LAMA, OPERA STAR, DRIVE-THRU, ENVISIONS) may look like they could be theme answers, but they’re not. They’re simply decent fill of the long variety.

A baker’s dozen of clues:

  • 1a. [Type of pigment used in artists' paints] is AZO, which is usually clued with regard to dye.
  • 16a. [Blanket-toting toon] is LINUS from “Peanuts.” Do you believe in the Great Pumpkin? I’m a cucurbitatheist.
  • 18a. An NFLER is clued as [One often working on Sun.]. Well, technically, football players are probably off more Sundays than they’re on. Sixteen regular-season games (some on Monday night) and a handful of preseason games?
  • 21a. Double hit of slang: your CRIB is your [Digs], where you live.
  • 23a. [Sonoma prefix] clues OEN-, the prefix for wine. Usually we have the 4-letter OENO instead. AZO, OEN—these aren’t the only yucky little answers today. IN RE, ENDE, ENO, SWE, DIAG, ERNE, ADE, ASTI, OLDE, ESS?
  • 39a. [USN officers] clues CDRS. Plural abbreviation that isn’t obvious to those without Navy knowledge.
  • 43a. [Do a little math] clues SUM. Raise your hand if you went with ADD first.
  • 3d. [Oxford campus] means Oxford, Mississippi, not Oxford, England—OLE MISS.
  • 9d. Whoa! [Sea change with far-reaching effects] is quite literally a change in the sea: EL NIÑO. Love this clue.
  • 10d. [Two shakes, with "a"] clues JIFF, meaning “moment.”
  • 36d. [Campaign weaponry?] is the MUD that political candidates sling at their opponents. Timely!
  • 41d. With a Z, I couldn’t help thinking [Rookie's initiation] was some variation of HAZING, but it’s RAZZING.
  • 45d. [Explorer initials] clues MSN. Not sure this really works. It’s a Microsoft browser, not an MSN one; Internet Explorer can load a gazillion websites other than MSN.com. Good clue? Bad clue?

John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Italy, Wittily”

Region capture 10Either this puzzle’s harder than the Chronicle crossword usually is or after 11 p.m. is not my brain’s peak time.

The theme is Italian city puns. “Venus flytrap” becomes VENICE FLYTRAP. “Room service” turns into ROME SERVICE. A “turn signal” is altered to become TURIN SIGNAL. And PISA FURNITURE plays on “piece of furniture.” The puns didn’t really grab me; maybe my pun receptors have settled down for the night already.

Two of the longish entries in the fill are dull verb/preposition phrases: TIED INTO and LIE ABOVE. Meh.

Favorite bits:

  • 24a. [Tribeca developer] is about the SUV, not the New York City neighborhood: SUBARU.
    30a. [Designer of Djoser’s tomb in Saqqara] gets my nomination for Most Insanely Impenetrable Clue of  the week. The answer is IMHOTEP. Why, I never knew he had tomb design on his résumé.
  • 9d. “BEATS ME.”
  • 29d. [Steinbeck novella published in 1937 is THE RED PONY. Never read it, but I like to see literature in the crossword.


Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Silent Treatment"—Janie's review

Ah, Coolidge. Our country's 30th president had the nickname "Silent Cal." When he was serving as Vice President under Harding, he's said to have gained some attention through this anecdote: Dorothy Parker is seated next to him at some official dinner. Saith she, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His famous reply: "You lose." In a tribute to his understated way with a word, Patrick gives us a three-part quip today from 47A. CALVIN COOLIDGE:

  • 20A. I HAVE NEVER BEEN
  • 25A. HURT BY WHAT I
  • 43A. HAVE NOT SAID.

Guess that's about as understated as ya can get. But I have to wonder if swallowing one's words doesn't do some of its own damage. Experience, however, has taught me that soooo very much depends on time and place... Still, this makes for a terrific little reminder and quip puzzle.

If there's not tons in the remainder of the puzzle that GRABS [Impresses] me the way the quip does, there’s still some good solid fill—like ABOVE ALL [More than anything else], DOVECOTE [Place for pet pigeons], WARNS OF [Issues a caveat about], DÉTENTE [Easing of diplomatic tensions], FELINE [Leopard or lynx] and the active “ACT NOW!” ["Don't delay!"].

I like the memories that SEPIA [Photographic tint] evoked. The once-esteemed Baltimore Sun used to run “the brown section” on Sundays. Wow. Just Googled it and the very first hit was for it—including (parts of) this paragraph: “The most attractive part of the Sunday Sun was the three-part Photogravure section known by everyone as ‘The Brown Section.’ This was a hodgepodge of international, national and local pictures. … On other pages were spreads of Coolidge’s summer retreat in the Black Hills…”

Since even sepia has brought us back to Cal, I’m simply going to close out with one more (friendly) swipe at the guy, this time with the reminder of the time he was a punchline in one of filmdom’s most charming films about itself, the always sunny Singin’ in the Rain. Quoth Lina Lamont: “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than – than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!” – Jean Hagen, Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boo Who?”

Region capture 12Another Halloween theme, and a variation on the theme in today’s L.A. Times puzzle: Here, there’s a SCARECROW whose letters are added to nine words/phrases to change their meaning to something sorta Halloweeny—e.g., WITCH HONORS, DUTCH COVEN. Witches, owls, ghosts, eerieness, etc. My main conceptual problem with the theme is that while SCARECROW includes the word SCARE in it, it’s not generally scary to people and it’s more a farm thing than a Halloween thing.

As a bonus, there are spooky words scattered throughout the grid. Halloween pranksters EGGING houses, SHIES with fear, VERMIN like rats, SNOWMEN (what? tell me Frosty isn’t terrifying when he comes to life), the Frankenstein monster’s SCAR, NEW AGE music…Aaaah! LET ME GO!

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15 Responses to Friday, 10/29/10

  1. This was a 7-minute puzzle that turned into 9+ because of H-TEST and T-BAR. I had the NOB of HOBNOB in the wrong half of the word with N-TEST in place for quite a while.

    And now back to the comment of the individual who questioned Amy’s solving time yesterday (Howard’s response was very good): so often on a puzzle of Friday difficulty, the ability to untangle a “mostly correct” thicket speedily is critical, and the best solvers are masters at it. This skill seems most important in separating the A solvers from the B solvers (in tournament lingo).

  2. Aaron says:

    I’m still getting killed on the Friday puzzles–OCA/EXOCET was just as likely to be OJA/EXOJET and HOBNOB would not come to me. But I did enjoy this puzzle more than usual for a Friday (especially ENZYMES, for some reason), and I’ve ordered me some Blindauer Puzzlefesting as well–it was a blast last year, and I can’t wait to see what this diagramless looks like.

    If only there were some cryptics, too.

  3. Anne E says:

    Hey Patrick B fans – I went to his website to order this suite, but all I could find was a Paypal-account option. Usually Paypal lets you order without setting up a Paypal account (something I don’t want to do), and for Patrick’s last suite I was able to do that, but I couldn’t find that option on Patrick’s page this time. Did anyone have better luck with this? Thanks.

  4. pauer says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Orange. I’m excited to see how this ongoing experiment of Puzzles-to-the-People goes, and it sure is amazing how quickly word travels these days. Almost 40 people have pre-ordered already!

    @Aaron: I’ve never written any cryptics, but I suspect it would be like learning to walk all over again. I will try my hand at one someday, I’m sure, but maybe I’d better start with a Puns & Anagrams puzzle first.

    @Anne: I didn’t know about that option, but I’ll see if I can adjust the PayPal button accordingly. If not, we’ll figure something else out.

  5. Evad says:

    Aaron, I also hesitated on that J/C crossing; OCA seemed the more familiar word to me, but EXOJET seemed a more appropriate name for a missile. An obscure crossing to be sure!

  6. sbmanion says:

    I knew EXOCET. I did not know the SW corner. I did the puzzle on paper and was certain of N TEST, leading to NO PROB going down. RUDE seemed as likely as NUDE and ditto for POI/BOI. It didn’t seem totally right, but not totally wrong either. I don’t think I have ever missed so many letters.

    Steve

  7. Duke says:

    Really didn’t like THORO, EXAMINEE, LALALA (awful). I have no idea why SOLOACT, RASPED.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I actually kinda liked “LA, LA, LA, I can’t hear you!”

  9. joon says:

    once i got the C down i tried AVOCET, which i think is some kind of long-necked wading bird. both __OCET words i only know from previous puzzles. i really liked LA LA LA and a few other things, but overall the puzzle left me kind of cold. maybe because i put in RESODS off the bat? interesting theory. SOLOACTS was a nice clue, but that answer really doesn’t want to be in the plural (although it’s not as bad as MONISMS, which i’ve seen a couple of times).

    i agree about the LAT fridays creeping back towards the old difficulty level, but i thought the CHE was pretty normal for a CHE; i did it faster than the LAT and even the newsday. and maybe the LAT would’ve been easier if i’d done the WSJ first? on the other hand, it’s two days before halloween and i’m pretty tired of halloween-themed puzzles.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I had AVOCET before EXOCET like many others, too.

    SOLO ACTS is completely fine in the plural. Sting, Michael Jackson, and Paul McCartney are all solo acts that hit it big after first having great success in groups.

  11. Alex says:

    I’ll say it: MONISMS is hands-down the worst plural to ever appear in a crossword, beating even things like ONOS and OYLS. If you ever think a plural is bad, compare it to one of those.

  12. Blanche says:

    I, too, had a lot of trouble with PayPal (and I have an account). It took four tries, each time getting a different error message. Hope I don’t receive four books now.

  13. pauer says:

    @Anne: No luck with the PayPal button – write me a note and we’ll work it out. (patrick att patrickblindauer daught calm)

    @Blanche: Sorry to hear you had problems. It’s just me at the Puzzlefest offices, so I’ll make sure your order gets processed properly (so far only one request has come through).

    Darn technology – did “2001″ teach us nothing?

  14. John Haber says:

    I somehow didn’t take to either of the two Haloween jokes, so a normal Friday was fine with me, even if I did feel lucky that, with enough crossings, EXOCET looked familiar again so that OCA didn’t bother me (and I didn’t know the Maxwell Smart movie either). My last corner was the SE, in part because after ELI and “extract” I tried “elixir.” But all a good challenge.

  15. T Campbell says:

    Scarecrows aren’t Halloweeny? I beg to differ!

    http://www.google.com/search?q=halloween+scarecrow

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarecrow_%28comics%29

    They’re not all the cute Oz guy.

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