Monday, 11/8/10

LAT 2:56
NYT 2:44
CS 6:18 (Evad)
BEQ 5:50

John Dunn’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 13What a perfect theme for a Monday! Dunn interprets the term CATCHPHRASE as “phrases that start with synonyms for catch,” and all three phrases are lively and utterly “in the language”: SEIZE THE DAY, GRAB A BITE TO EAT, and the kids’ game CAPTURE THE FLAG.

The fill’s mostly Monday-smooth, with a handful of answer words newbies need to memorize if they’re unfamiliar:

  • 57d. ATRA razors are a [Gillette brand].
  • 50d. UTEP, the University of Texas at El Paso, is a [Lone Star State sch.]. Other Texas universities are more famous, but UTEP is usually your 4-letter Texas college (RICE can be clued so many other ways—the grain, footballer Jerry, author Anne, etc.). The 3-letter Texas school we see most often in crosswords is SMU (Southern Methodist), home of the Bush Library and Laura Bush’s alma mater.
  • 42d. [Comic Mort] SAHL gained fame as a political humorist.
  • 7d. [1987 Masters winner Larry] MIZE is a golfer.
  • 13d. Got a STYE on your eyelid? The STYE accounts for 99% of ocular maladies seen in crosswords. MACULAR DEGENERATION is way too long for a 15×15 grid.

Neville Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 15Bombastic! The theme entries all start with __ASTIC words:

  • 17a. [Last resort actions] are DRASTIC MEASURES.
  • 27a. [2009 Clooney/Streep film based on a Roald Dahl book] is FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Nope, no “The” in the title. It was a good movie, though I didn’t find myself switching to using the word cuss in lieu of other 4-letter words, as Mr. Fox did. Cuss-hole!
  • 44a. [Scrunchie, e.g.] clues the awkward ELASTIC HAIR TIE.
  • 55a. The PLASTIC FLAMINGO is a [Kitschy lawn ornament].

Favorite clue:

  • 43d: [A, B, C, D, E, or K] for VITAMIN.

Hoo-wee, am I tired. It’s that dastardly time change! Pardon me. I must go change some clocks and get to bed.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “This Puzzle is Rigged!”—Evad’s review

cs118 Ah, my arch-nemesis Bob Klahn appears again; luckily for me, it’s an early-week puzzle as opposed to his truly diabolical “Sunday Challenges.” This time his inspiration was to shoehorn the letters RIG into two-word phrases for comic effect:

  • A “Havana highwayman?” could be a CIGAR BRIGAND. Bob had lots of choices here, why not RUBBER BRIGAND or BOY BRIGAND? Did he choose the best one?
  • TEMPTING FATE becomes TEMPTING FRIGATE. The “sirens” in the clue “Warship with sirens?” aren’t the kind that make loud noises…
  • Peter Pan‘s Cathy Rigby gets a big hug with SQUEEZE RIGBY. Not a big fan of the base phrase here, one can say “I just squeezed by,” I suppose, but most of us squeak instead of squeeze.

As I’ve come to expect, there are many lively clues and entries surrounding these three theme entries:

  • So how ridiculously large is a GOOGOL, you ask? Try 10-to-the-hundredth power ridiculous.
  • Paused a bit on “Raw material for Ed Norton?” (SEWAGE), as I was thinking Fight Club, not The Honeymooners. The latter worked in the city’s sewers, and would say stuff like this to Ralph Kramden: “As we say in the sewer, here’s mud in your eye.”
  • “Berth place” for QUAY, “Battle of the bulge” for DIET and “‘Got milk?’ comeback” for MOO were all very cute.
  • Bob even offers us a clue in the form of a HAIKU:
    A poem like this
    Of 17 syllables
    Split 5-7-5

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Before I forget, let me link you to the guest themeless (by Peter Wentz) posted at Brendan’s site last Friday.

Region capture 16Okay, the morning is gone and I want to get some puzzle editing done, so I’ll be quick about this. I like the freshness of NEAREST EXIT—it’s thisclose to being an arbitrary adjective+noun phrase and likely is not found in any dictionary as a single entry, and yet it really does feel like a distinct lexical chunk to any air traveler.

I like “HERE’S WHY” because it reminds me of a cheesy lecturer my husband once saw. That guy’s shtick was “Blah blah blah, and I’ll tell you why,” over and over.

The clue for THE GAP, [Company with a recent failed logo change], amuses me because I was following that story on Twitter a couple weeks back. Echoes of the Tropicana juice redesign—(1) Company spends money designing new logo/packaging. (2) Company springs it on the marketplace. (3) Marketplace says “Good god, what are you doing? That’s awful! Go back to what you had. Don’t mess with iconic, you dipwads.”

You know what slowed me down in the southeast quadrant? I had ACES for [Whizzes]. Mm-hmm, Brendan went with PEES.

34a looks like a disease afflicting those who take on more than they can handle: YESITIS.

BEER GUT! Yes, it’s an unsightly [Belt covering]. *shudder*

SUCCORER suckorers.

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31 Responses to Monday, 11/8/10

  1. Michael says:

    Amy, you forgot LAIC. Otherwise a very lovely, easy Monday puzzle.

  2. I can’t remember when I last saw a 5-word answer in a 15×15 grid. That was the most impressive item for me.

    Note to Joon: You mentioned Lou Groza of lineman-placekicker fame in the comments several days back. Did you see the Ndamukong Suh “highlight” today?

  3. Karen says:

    The other Texas school to remember is TCU. It looks like that one is clued by the Horned Frogs or Fort Worth–about half as often as SMU.

    I was curious about Amy’s number for STYE percentile, and the MYOPIA and GLAUCOMA clues brought it down to 95%. Corneal ULCERs and ABRASIONs get clued to other body parts, and no one has yet put HORDOLEUM, CHALAZION, or PTERYGIUM into xwordinfo’s database. Or, more surprisingly, UVEITIS.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Karen, I was thinking TCU was SCU and then Googling didn’t bear out “Southern Christian” (SCU is Santa Clara University) so I deleted that part. D’oh!

    IRITIS has made it into crosswords and my sister and I have actually had that. (Dang, you caught me making up a percentage!)

  5. joon says:

    brent—strange day. in the game i was watching, wes welker kicked an XP (and the ensuing kickoff) for the pats. but thanks for bringing the other one to my attention. ndamukong suh might be my favorite player in the whole league.

    i thought this puzzle was hard for a monday—i had trouble all over the top section. had JEEPS for JEANS, never heard of this MIZE (only the baseball one), and blanked on the clue for WANT. the rest of the puzzle fell pretty quickly although LPN kind of tripped me up. nice theme, though.

    the ICE clue made me grimace, because i got hailed on while i was taking out the trash this evening. boo. i’m ready for winter to be over.

  6. Larry MIZE’s astounding chip shot to win the 1987 Masters in a playoff against Greg Norman elicited this memorable quote from the playoff loser: “I didn’t think Larry would get down in two, and I was right.”

  7. Anne E says:

    Welcome back to the applet times, Doug P! Where have you been??

  8. Gareth says:

    Agree, pretty much perfect Monday theme! Loved GRABABITETOEAT. Spending today and tomorrow in our university’s (animal) hospital’s ophthalmology department, no styes, only keratitis and ulcer follow-ups and an iris prolapse (which resulted in an enucleation :(…)

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Delighted to see my old home town in Klahn’s CS puzzle — known not only for Hemingway but also Edgar Rice Burroughs and Frank Lloyd Wright!

  10. Meem says:

    Nice, solid Monday NYT. I really liked the long downs and even the short fill was fine. Favorite of the day was Bob Klahn. Great Scrabble-like puzzle pitched well for a Monday. Just a “J” short of a pangram. And nothing to kvetch about in LAT.

  11. Martin says:

    How large is a googol? It’s many orders of magnitude larger than the number of elementary particles in the universe, at least according to current models. So with a googol-sized serial number, every quark can have its own address.

    At least I can get my head around “twenty orders of magnitude larger than the number of atoms in the universe.” That’s not the case for a googolplex (ten to the googol). That’s big.

  12. Matt K says:

    @Martin: A googolplex big? Mere chicken feed:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham%27s_number

  13. Neville says:

    I wish that ELASTIC WAISTBAND would’ve fit, but alas, no luck there. I was happy to avoid using FANTASTIC FOUR, because I felt it too obvious :)

    Matt K – I did a little work with Ramsey Theory two years ago… glad I’m not the only one here who’s heard of this!

  14. joon says:

    to me, one of the appealing things about physics is the fact that it can be used to describe phenomena across a mind-bogglingly vast range of scales. but if you take the size, mass, or age of the entire known universe and divide by the planck length/mass/time, you get “only” about 10^61. 39 orders of magnitude larger than that? it’s just stupid. only mathematicians could have any use for a googol. normal human beings don’t even really have a sense of the difference between a billion and a trillion, although those are both numbers that actually might be useful to describe something interesting enough to talk about.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    joon: “if you take the size, mass, or age of the entire known universe and divide by the planck length/mass/time, you get “only” about 10^61.”

    Of course you do, joon. But can you name an 80′s number 1 song?

  16. Neville says:

    LA Times’s 25A’s “Take on Me” Freebie.

  17. Doug P. says:

    @Anne E-

    I swore off the applet a while back, but I figured I’d give it a shot today for old time’s sake. I tend to do a lot of letter-pattern guessing (i.e., not reading all the clues) when I’m racing on the applet, and that’s a bad habit to get into. :)

  18. Ladel says:

    Jeffrey

    your point is well made, my human universe got much smaller when Doo Wop died in the early 60s, reduced from the collapse in 1957 when the Brooklyn Dodgers left.

    for me, if it’s not interpretable on a human scale it’s just too big or small to care about, I mean, a light year, that’s nice.

    Ladel

  19. ajaxfam says:

    Innocent question – is it really possible to solve even a Monday crossword in or around 2 minutes flat, let alone 1:50? I don’t think I could even read all the clues in that much time let alone enter everything without any typos.

    I can’t fathom running a mile in under 4 minutes either but obviously people have done it, so curious on opinions about the solving times in today’s stats.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    ajaxfam, the 1:50 on the applet today is Stella Daily Zawistowski (“sarameon”), a regular top-10 finisher at the ACPT. A glance at 2010 ACPT champion Dan Feyer‘s blog shows his honest-to-goodness lightning-speed solving times—1:24 for today’s NYT, and 3:39 for the (tough!) Saturday NYT.

    Do note that one doesn’t have to read all the clues. It’s possible to solve using only one direction of clues, especially with an easy puzzle, just glancing to make sure the crossing words look solid. Doing thousands of crosswords and having a certain brain wiring can allow one to become much faster at crosswords than the average person can believe!

  21. Ladel says:

    Amy

    nicely put regarding those rapid solving times. i never questioned that it was possible, i just couldn’t figure out how, now i know.

    if you hang around enough professionals in different fields you get a sense of how they have learned to beat the clock as it were. some call it tricks of the trade, i prefer just plain smart. see for example Julia Child make an omelete in 30 seconds without any tools, just by shaking the saute pan. tah dah!

    Ladel

  22. ajaxfam says:

    Thanks Amy – totally makes sense. And you correctly anticipated my next question – based on those amazing times, what can I learn from those folks to get better myself? I still have to read your book….and get better with the solving applet!

  23. Al Sanders says:

    While the applet times are impressive, I was truly blown away by Anne’s sub 2 minute *paper* time for today’s NYT. Has Dan ever broken 2 for a paper NYT? He probably has, but this is first I recall seeing such a feat documented.

  24. Anne E says:

    Thanks, Al – the irritating thing was, I had to erase 5 letters when I started to write in COLLDWARERA! Gaa! I was all the way to the first R before I realized what I had done.

    I’m sure Dan has posted sub-2 paper NYTs before, but since I don’t distinguish paper from applet in my spreadsheet, I can’t find any offhand. Dan?

  25. Anne E says:

    and @Doug – you COULD post your paper times here, you know. :-)

  26. Doug P says:

    @Anne –

    I could… but I don’t actually time myself. I’m more of an amateur speed-solver. :) But I can guarantee I’ve never come close to 2 minutes on paper. That’s just awesome.

  27. Alex says:

    AjaxFam — Dan has actually posted some video “proof” of his solving times. (I put “proof” in quotes because you may suspect him of cheating … but he’s not).

  28. Dan F says:

    Yes, I’ve been under 2 minutes on paper a few times – Monday NYTs and a CrosSynergy or two. This is the only instance I can find on my site.

    Amy, I don’t think it would be as fast to use only acrosses or downs. But I’ve never tried it – even on the easiest puzzles there are usually only 5 clues at most that I don’t see.

    ajaxfam – first step in becoming speedy is to do many thousands of puzzles! And yes, for applet/Across Lite, you gotta type fast and learn how to move around quickly with the arrow keys/Enter/Shift+arrow. Reading this site and Amy’s book will help too. :)

  29. Howard B says:

    <2 minutes on paper, that's just ginormously ridunculous. But completely cromulent :).
    OK, I have broken 2 min. on a Newsday puzzle once long ago, since it's syndicated in my local paper (and I was timing it in the days before a tournament, just for fun), but I don't believe I've ever timed myself on paper on a Monday NY Times for the purpose of speed-solving. I usually solve in the applet or AcrossLite to save a tree and for convenience. On the applet I can't really break about 2:15 with my hunt-and-peck typing skills, even if I want to. AcrossLite I can top out at maybe 1:55 if it's easy enough, for the same reason. Don't believe I would have broken 2 on a Times puzzle though.

    Closest I can get for NY Times experience, a couple years back I did finish the first tournament (ACPT) puzzle, checked, looked up and saw that I was at (I think, caffeine makes things fuzzy) 2:05 or 2:06. Cursed my few early mistakes and erasures, did extra checking with the time, and handed in before the 3rd minute.

    What was I saying? Oh yeah – Yes, I find it is possible on paper with experience (and quick writing), but it does require some risk-taking by most likely not checking a few crossing clues along the way.
    —–
    ajax – Remember that speed solving is a slightly different pursuit than solving itself, and enjoying one does not always mean enjoying the other. You can be an experienced, thorough solver with practice, but not enjoy or really take to speed-solving. Someone who solves for speed is not necessarily a "better" thinker or puzzle solver, but they have the experience to quickly recognize patterns they have seen before, which also helps to adapt when a new clue or concept is encountered.

    Just practice solving puzzles first, learning the words, clues, tricks, and themes along the way. Eventually you may find that as soon as you see a familiar clue, you know the answer. You also become better at completing partial letter patterns before seeing the clue. Maybe not quite like the woman who solved a Wheel of Fortune phrase with 1 letter, but still quickly. (P–P-E = people, potpie… etc.)

    Once you become comfortable with solving all kinds of puzzles, and the tricks and wordplay involved, it's another challenge to see how quickly you can complete a puzzle, then if you can top your own times. Speed-solving evolves from there, I think. If you find that you enjoy the extra challenge of racing the clock and your own limits, in addition to the puzzles themselves, then go for it. Good luck!

  30. Howard B says:

    <2 minutes on paper, that's just ginormously ridunculous. But completely cromulent :).
    OK, I have broken 2 min. on a Newsday puzzle once long ago, since it's syndicated in my local paper (and I was timing it in the days before a tournament, just for fun), but I don't believe I've ever timed myself on paper on a Monday NY Times for the purpose of speed-solving. I usually solve in the applet or AcrossLite to save a tree and for convenience. On the applet I can't really break about 2:15 with my hunt-and-peck typing skills, even if I want to. AcrossLite I can top out at maybe 1:55 if it's easy enough, for the same reason. Don't believe I would have broken 2 on a Times puzzle, though I can't say for sure.

    Closest I can get for NY Times experience, a couple years back I did finish the first tournament (ACPT) puzzle, checked, looked up and saw that I was at (I think, caffeine makes things fuzzy) 2:05 or 2:06. Cursed my few early mistakes and erasures, did extra checking with the time, and handed in before the 3rd minute.

    What was I saying? Oh yeah – Yes, I find it is possible on paper with experience (and quick writing), but it does require some risk-taking by most likely not checking a few crossing clues along the way.
    —–
    ajax – Remember that speed solving is a slightly different pursuit than solving itself, and enjoying one does not always mean enjoying the other. You can be an experienced, thorough solver with practice, but not enjoy or really take to speed-solving. Someone who solves for speed is not necessarily a "better" thinker or puzzle solver, but they have the experience to quickly recognize patterns they have seen before, which also helps to adapt when a new clue or concept is encountered.

    Just practice solving puzzles first, learning the words, clues, tricks, and themes along the way. Eventually you may find that as soon as you see a familiar clue, you know the answer. You also become better at completing partial letter patterns before seeing the clue. Maybe not quite like the woman who solved a Wheel of Fortune phrase with 1 letter, but still quickly. (P–P-E = people, potpie… etc.)

    Once you become comfortable with solving all kinds of puzzles, and the tricks and wordplay involved, it's another challenge to see how quickly you can complete a puzzle, then if you can top your own times. Speed-solving evolves from there, I think. If you find that you enjoy the extra challenge of racing the clock and your own limits, in addition to the puzzles themselves, then go for it. Good luck!

  31. Howard B says:

    Less than 2 minutes on paper, that’s just ginormously ridunculous. But completely cromulent :).

    OK, I have broken 2 min. on a Newsday puzzle once long ago, since it’s syndicated in my local paper (and I was timing it in the days before a tournament, just for fun), but I don’t believe I’ve ever timed myself on paper on a Monday NY Times for the purpose of speed-solving. I usually solve in the applet or AcrossLite to save a tree and for convenience. On the applet I can’t really break about 2:15 with my hunt-and-peck typing skills, even if I want to. AcrossLite I can top out at maybe 1:55 if it’s easy enough, for the same reason. Don’t believe I would have broken 2 on paper on a Times puzzle though.

    Closest I can get for NY Times experience, a couple years back I did finish the first tournament (ACPT) puzzle, checked, looked up and saw that I was at (I think, caffeine makes things fuzzy) 2:05 or 2:06. Cursed my few early mistakes and erasures, did extra checking with the time, and handed in before the 3rd minute. That first puzzle is generally considered to be a Monday or easy Tuesday level puzzle.

    What was I saying? Oh yeah – Yes, I find it is possible on paper with experience (and quick writing), but it does require some risk-taking by most likely not checking a few crossing clues along the way.
    —–

    ajax – Remember that speed solving is a slightly different pursuit than solving itself, and enjoying one does not always mean enjoying the other. You can be an experienced, thorough solver with practice, but not enjoy or really take to speed-solving. Someone who solves for speed is not necessarily a “better” thinker or puzzle solver, but they have the experience to quickly recognize patterns they have seen before, which also helps to adapt when a new clue or concept is encountered.

    Just practice solving puzzles first, learning the words, clues, tricks, and themes along the way. Eventually you may find that as soon as you see a familiar clue, you know the answer. You also become better at completing partial letter patterns before seeing the clue. Maybe not quite like the woman who solved a Wheel of Fortune phrase with 1 letter, but still quickly. (P..P.E = people, potpie… etc.)

    Once you become comfortable with solving all kinds of puzzles, and the tricks and wordplay involved, it’s another challenge to see how quickly you can complete a puzzle, then if you can top your own times. Speed-solving evolves from there, I think. If you find that you enjoy the extra challenge of racing the clock and your own limits, in addition to the puzzles themselves, then go for it. Good luck!

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