Friday, 12/10/10

NYT 6:53
LAT 3:40
CHE 3:32
CS untimed
WSJ around 13 minutes (Jeffrey)

Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 15Liz Gorski is widely held to be the queen of the visual-gig crossword. Today, she’s made a crossword with a big musical note made of black squares in the middle. Just one note, ergo the central Across answers tie to it with JOHNNY / ONE-NOTE. Mind you, their joint clue did nothing to help me: ["Babes in Arms" tune that's apt for this puzzle]. I don’t know what “Babes in Arms” is. A Broadway musical? Is it about young people with weapons? People carrying infants? Who is this Johnny One-Note and is it important to know which note he has? Before I ever heard of “Johnny One-Note,” I heard a pun on the name. On HBO’s 1990s series Dream On, Michael McKean played a guy at the office and everyone called him Johnny One-Nut because he had but one testicle.

[Edited to add: Hang on! From a friend's latest Facebook post mere minutes ago: "Oh. My. God. Judy Garland in blackface. 'Babes in Arms' 1939. No wonder this never shows up in Garland retrospectives. Holy crap." I feel much better about not knowing the title now.]

The rest of the puzzle plays out like a themeless. There’s some fresh fill but there are also some clunkers. To wit:

  • 6a. [Clothes hangers?] is a cool clue for PRICE TAGS, but the answer is SALES TAGS. Who calls tags on clothes in the store “sales tags”?
  • 15a. Old crosswordese I knew: AMOLE is a [Plant whose roots are used as detergent], a.k.a. the soap plant. Haven’t seen it in a puzzle in at least half an eon.
  • 16a. POOL TABLE, [Something you can bank on] when you’re making a bank shot off the side. Love it!
  • 17a. Nice mislead: PECAN is a [Tart flavor] that’s not sour, it’s just the flavor of a pecan tart.
  • 27a. I love the word amok, so RAN AMOK is welcome any time.
  • 31a. What the…? MORITAT?? [Alternative title of "Mack the Knife"]? Surely I’m not the only one who looked askance at this one. [Edited to add an explanatory link.]
  • 38a. Gruesome. I thought [Like some people resisting arrest] was looking for a synonym of obstreperous or something. TASERED serves only to remind me of that tendency too many police officers have today to zap people who pose no threat to them. Tasers are not safe and  innocuous tools; people have died.
  • 55a. The ERIE CANAL is not terribly exciting, but I like the clue, [Early 19th-century engineering marvel]. I was thinking of mechanical devices so there was a nice little “aha” moment when ERIE CANAL came together.
  • 57a. Ah, DEAD SPOTS! Hate the cell phone dead spot in a building, love it in a crossword puzzle.
  • 3d. “ROCK ON!” If you insist.
  • 11d. Old crosswordese again. TAWS, the [Fancy shooters] in the game of marbles. Kids haven’t really played marbles in decades. Perhaps the older crossword solvers know TAWS from personal experience?
  • 12d. Ugly word, this ABNEGATOR, or [One who surrenders]. Have you ever used it in a sentence?
  • 13d. GLUTAMATE is what the G in MSG stands for. Add the BORATES and you are now over the limit of how many chemical words the solver who is not a retired chemist is pleased to encounter in a crossword.
  • 23d. IN MOTHBALLS! Love it. Hate the smell, love the idiom. Prefer mothballed, actually, but both versions are good.
  • 24d. Wanted [They may be incubating] to be NEW IDEAS or something chicken-related but got NEONATES. Fair enough. (Primarily the premature neonates. Any full-term newborn is also a neonate.)
  • 33d. JOE TORRE, good first/last name combo for New Yorkers.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “I Hear a Symphony”

Region capture 13Hey! There must be some mighty easy cluing throughout this puzzle, because I’d never even heard of three of the seven symphony names in this puzzle, and it blew past like a Wednesday NYT puzzle. SURPRISE, JUPITER, and SPRING don’t ring a bell for me at all, and not a single composer + symphony number clue was any sort of gimme for me. I’m mildly put out by the inconsistency of names that precede the word Symphony vs. names that stand alone. EROICA is Eroica, yes. But is the Schubert one called UNFINISHED, or Unfinished Symphony? Similarly, Haydn’s SURPRISE Symphony and Dvorak’s The NEW WORLD Symphony stick out. I have no idea if PATHETIQUE, JUPITER, and SPRING are one-word titles or not. Hmm.

Anyway, I imagine this theme captivated the classical music lovers among you, but it did nothing for me. (Don’t call me a philistine. Start your life over with impaired hearing and see how much you get into classical music.)

Freshest clue:

  • 63a. [“You can’t be a real country unless you have a ___ and an airline”: Frank Zappa] clues BEER.

The grid features a baker’s dozen of 7-letter answers, just for the heck of it. Every one of them is rock-solid. SNIPPET and BAROQUE are particularly nice.

Question about one of the 7s: Why is 12d: PANACEA clued as [General medicine?]? Just because a cure-all would be good “in general”? Why the question mark?

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 14[Some employee benefits, and this puzzle's title] are STOCK OPTIONS. Gagliardo interprets that phrase by taking selected “stock ___” phrases and replacing “stock” with an S-word that rhymes with it. O-o-okay. Seems like an odd sort of theme, but at least it’s fresher than one of those “first word of each phrase can follow CORN” themes. The rhymes are:

  • 20a. SPOCK ANALYST, or [Shrink for a noted Vulcan?].
  • 29a. SOCK ISSUE, or [Reason for a laundry odor?].
  • 37a. SCHLOCK MARKET, or [Neighborhood garage sales?]. Ha! “I made a killing in the schlock market last weekend.”
  • 45a. SMOCK FUND, or [Collection for an artist's garment?].

What, no SHOCK OPTIONS ([Gasping and fainting?]), TRADING, or BROKER? SOCK TRADING would have been fun.

Ten more clues:

  • 15a. ["Brusha, brusha, brusha" toothpaste] is the 1950s classic dentifrice, IPANA. The mascot was Bucky Beaver. “Use Ipana and you, too, can have giant yellow incisors!”
  • 23a. TERRACES, handy in hilly or mountainous areas, were a [Feature of Incan farms].
  • 36a. Mimsie! I had no idea that cat had a name. Mary Tyler Moore’s [TV production co. whose mascot was Mimsie the Cat] is MTM.
  • 49a. Apparently there’s a ["Tiny Toon Adventures" bunny] named BABS. I’d be surprised if more than a few of you (hello, Joe C and Dave M) knew this off the top of your head.
  • 69a. [1954 event coded as "Castle Bravo"] is an H-TEST of a hydrogen bomb. I didn’t know this either.
  • 3d. [Marathoner's lament] is “I’M SORE“? No, no, no. That’s not “in the language”!
  • 12d. An EON is defined as [Two or more eras, in geologic time]. Or rather, an EON is subdivided into more than one era.
  • 2d, 13d. Two different sorts of locks here. [Locked, in a way], in the hardware way, is HASPED. [Artificial locks] of hair form a WIG.
  • 32d. Michelle KWAN is a [Nine-time U.S. skating champ].
  • 41d. [Three-course military supplies] during World War II were called K-RATIONS. Interesting bit of history there—I didn’t know K-rations were so much worse than current-day MREs.


Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Barreling Along”—Janie’s review

There are several nice things that distinguish this puzzle. First of all, it’s a pangram, so all the letters of the alphabet get their “15 minutes of fame” today. But then, didja notice the title? Didja notice yesterday’s (“Stock Options”) and Wednesday’s (“Lox”)? That, folks gives us the “Lox, Stock and Barrel…” trifecta. Sweet, no?

And how does Tony’s puzzle add to the mix? All five of his theme entries (and clues) are lively and descriptive progressive verb phrases that are synonyms for the title. Even if you’re rushing around (so to speak…), slow down long enough to savor:

17A. WHIZZING BY [Going like a shot].

24A. RUMBLING PAST [Clanging down the road].

40A. HURTLING THROUGH [Rocketing across space].

52A. RUNNING AHEAD [Blazing the trail].

65A. FLYING AWAY [Flitting off].

I keep wondering what kind of mph these vehicles are using, what kind of mpg they’re getting and whether or not the EPA [Anti-pollution org.] should be on alert…

If the remainder of the fill isn’t “brilliant,” it is beautifully presented by way of the active or twisty cluing. To wit:

[Hit list?] for CHART. You know, like AM radio’s “Top 40.” No Sopranos reference here. And sure, SNUFFS [Puts out] can certainly refer to candles, but here I really did think of a mob tie-in.

[Bug's end?] yields -ABOO and not “SWAT!”

A [Person who sits in or walks out] is a STRIKER. We have Mohandas Gandhi to thank for non-violent confrontation as a way of voicing dissent and it was he who mobilized the citizens of South Africa (and then India) to stage the sit-ins that changed their lives—and history. And while it’s told in a style that’s way more than a bit “by the numbers,” Made in Dagenham casts a fond eye on the walk out by the women’s work force (the “girls”) at the Ford factory in Dagenham, England. It really happened (late ’60s) and it really focused attention on—and got results for—the “equal pay for equal work” movement.

["Taste a piece!"] “TRY ONE!” Why, thank you, I’d love to.

[Use a roller and brush] to PAINT. Of course you can also use these items to STYLE your coiffure; then you might also like to have some GELÉE [Fancy hair goo] at your disposal. I s’pose that stuff is better than just plain ol’ gel

“Natalia Shore’s*” Wall Street Journal Crossword, “Human Resources Department” – Jeffrey’s reviewWSJ Dec 10

*Natalia Shore is an anagram for “Another Alias” of Mike Shenk
Theme: Add “HR” to phrases with wild and woolly results.
Theme answers:
23A. [One department of a landscaping company?] – SHRUB DIVISION. One ha.
32A. [Person who puts one and two together?] – THREE TOTALER. One ha.
48A. [Specialist for cooks who are kooks?] – KITCHEN SHRINK. Four ha’s.
66A. [Dome of the Rock's outline?] – SHRINE CURVE. Two ha’s.
79A. [Garbage dump?] – THROWAWAY ZONE. Two ha’s
95A. [Name for a whirling carnival ride?] – ROTO THRILLER. Three ha’s
109A. [Trim for the royal limo?] – KINGDOM CHROME. Three ha’s minus one for pronunciation change.

One line review for those in a hurry: Standard add letters trick done nicely with clean fill.

Other stuff:
12A. [Private eye in Lawrence Block's novels] – SCUDDER/15D. [Scottish river] – DEE. Fail on the “D” crossing.
21A. [City on the Nile] – ASWAN/13D. [City on the Nile] – CAIRO. It’s a long river.
22A. [Tahiti's largest city] – PAPEETE. Right under SCUDDER led to a tricky NE.
27A. [Jeweler in many 116-Across] – ZALE’S. Good thing I’ve been in many U.S. 116A. [Spree settings] – MALLS.
28A. [Dog track dummy] – HARE. Hey you dumb rabbit. There are dogs around! Run!
40A. [Mournful wails] – YOWLS. Did you start with HOWLS?
52A. ["Hottest spot north of Havana," in song] – THE COPA
61A. [Bug-squashing sound] – SPLAT. SPLAT is the most funnest onomatopoeiac word ever wever.
72A. [Film for which Frances McDormand won an Oscar] – FARGO. What has she done lately?
91A. ["Hell ___ no fury..."] – HATH. Hell HATH no fury like outdated verbs.
100A. [Antepenultimate letter] – CHI. Amy, how are the CHI Bears doing? Are they in Antepenultimate place?
101A. [Frank's second wife] – AVA. Before MIA. Sinatra was picking wife’s out of the crossword puzzle. His first wife was ANOA.
113A. ["Baby ___ Your Loving"] – I NEED
114A. ["$#*! My Dad Says" star] – SHATNER. Turn around, bright eyes!
1D. [One of the Seven Sisters] – VASSAR. Hmm, I’m guessing Groucho, Chico, Sneezy, Dopey, Donner, Blixen and VASSAR.
9D. [Sounding like taffeta] – SWISHY. SPLAT and SWISHY in one puzzle. Wait, maybe they are two of the sisters.
20D. [Common shoe buy for men] – SIZE TEN. I wish. Size 13 wide is hard to find.
28D. [Album that included "Ticket to Ride"] - HELP
34D. [Princess Leia's friend Wicket, for one] – EWOK. Yay, Star Wars clues!
39D. [Singing legend Jackson] – MAHALIA
53D. [Neighbor of Minnesota, Michigan and New York] – ONTARIO. That should be neighbour. Can’t you see the red squiggly line Word has put under it? Wait, Lenny and Squiggly were also sisters.
55D. [Delphinium's cousin] – ANEMONE. Cousin?! I’m still working on sisters!
58D. [Five-time Wimbledon champ] – BORG. He assimilated McEnroe.
68D. [Crisp bread] – MATZOH. Fun to eat the first day of Passover. By the seventh day, not so much. Wait, MATZOH is the Jewish sister.
70D. [Lord High Executioner in "The Mikado"] – KOKO. Wait, KOKO is…
75D. [It covers your nut] – SHELL. I beg your pardon?
85D. [Final answer in "Slumdog Millionaire"] – ARAMIS. A gimmee for those who haven’t seen the movie. /end sarcasm
94D. [Human Resources folks] – HIRERS. A sly nod to the theme.
97D. [Monopoly buy] – HOUSE. Yes, I put HOTEL. And so did you.
109D. [Co-star of Kristin, Cynthia and Sarah Jessica] – KIM. Wait…

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29 Responses to Friday, 12/10/10

  1. Speaking of musicals, MORITAT, er, “Mack the Knife” was originally performed in Brecht and Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera,” of roughly the same historical vintage as “Babes in Arms.” Perhaps it’s a German word?

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Brent, I added a link up above in the post that sort of explains MORITAT. Rex has more info in his post.

  3. Gareth says:

    No clue about this puzzle’s theme either… Wow!! Actually finished this! Didn’t think that was EVER going to happen! Super-tough, but ultimately fair! Really 4 mini-puzzles: top-right – first, easy. top-right – second, moderate: didn’t help started with 1D confidently putting in NEWTON and confirming with NARCS… Any one else put in SPAMEMAIL off SPA…? Bottom-right: very hard. Even once got rid of NESTEGGS (NEONATES) and USUALLY (ASARULE) could find no way in until blind guessed KNICK and IRENE. Bottom-left: couldn’t find a way in either till remembered BORATES even then took another 10 minutes. Would like to say that MORITAT (which I am similarly clueless about) and ORESTEIA have zero inferrable letters. Not one. Oh any one else try HIGHCHAIR for PRESCHOOL off the CH? Also LOVED INMOTHBALLS!

  4. Matt says:

    I liked the NYT, a lot of good words and challenging, but doable. And ABNEGATOR is a good word, IMO. I once wrote a review of a fantastic multi-course, multi-hour meal I had at a restaurant in DC, and ended it with the admonition: “Not for the weak-kneed or self-abnegating.”

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Abnegation and self-abnegating are fine. But who uses the form ABNEGATOR? I Googled it and the few first pages of hits are junk, dictionary definitions and foreign translations and word lists and “what rhymes with abnegator” lists. “Self-abnegating” summons up some dictionaries but then also real-life uses.

  6. Howard B says:

    Wow, MORITAT. That was a chunk of my solve right there. I liked the design though. Had fun with this, toughie for Friday.

    Abnegator? Sure:
    “Tired of all those exercise machines, those diet plans, and all of that effort and time spent improving your midsection? Forget it! Undo all that you’ve worked so hard for with the AB-NEGATOR! This revolutionary machine loosens those stomach muscles, enabling you to relax effortlessly in front of your flat-screen 3D plasma TV in comfort. Cancel your gym membership this minute.
    Act now, and we’ll send you a case of PowerlessBars! OK, so they’re just giant peanut butter cups. But still! Yours for only $99.99, or just 2 easy payments of $59.99!*”
    * Add $137 for S/H. We ship via burro and Pony Express from anywhere.

    There’s 3 minutes I won’t get back. Enjoy!

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Perfect, Howard!

  8. sps says:

    Howard, I’d buy one!

    Ms Gorski and I, we just don’t get along. For some reason, I have never been on her wavelength and I often find her puzzles really hard to crack open. Luckily, I did know Johnny One Note from my old Ella Fitzgerald songbooks, and it made sense with the visual aid so my time wasn’t too slow for me for a Friday. Loved POOL TABLE, but slowed down in the SW with DEAD ZONES instead of SPOTS.

  9. joon says:

    i liked liz’s “one-note” puzzle well enough. ABNEGATOR and BEMIRED are odd words, and i had absolutely no clue on MORITAT, but the rest of the fill and the cluing were pretty delightful. i don’t know the musical but the song is somehow familiar (“johnny one-note could only sing one note and the note he sang was this…”). the stacks in the NE and SW were particularly lovely, i thought.

    i think the PANACEA clue was supposed to make us think of general practitioners… maybe?

    i knew BABS from many hours spent watching tiny toons as a youngster. they’re furry; they’re funny; they’re babs and buster bunny! i remember that show being inordinately clever, but perhaps it’s because my own sense of humor was not very sophisticated at age 12.

  10. pannonica says:

    Gripes:

    CrosSynergy 25a: The answer is MEDIVAC but the term is correctly medevac. It breaks as medical evacuation rather than medical [vacuuming?]. The confusion must arise because medi– is a common prefix and –vac is a common suffix. Maybe it’s time to take my medes.

    WSJ 71a: “Defile” clues GORGE. I don’t get it, and wonder if it’s possible that the answer had been GOUGE and was later changed without the clue being updated. On the other hand, “defile” isn’t the greatest set-up for “gouge” either, so perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

    Last, prompted by two recent puzzles, I’m noticing* that laser and taser seem to be diverging in their verb formations: “lase” and “taser” seem to be more prevalent than “laser” and “tase.” This despite both being acronyms (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Radiation, and Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) and my impression that the word “taser” was intentionally modeled on “laser.”

    *A little bit of web-research as I was typing the comment suggests that my observations might not be so accurate, but I decided against deleting in case someone else has insight.

  11. Sparky says:

    @ Howard, sign me up. Mel Torme also did a wonderful JOHNNY ONE NOTE. I think old musicals are as legitimate as old sports open champs.

  12. Ladel says:

    Amy

    is it my machine or is everybody being redirected to the magic puzzle piece for a while?

    Ladel

  13. LARRY says:

    Interesting: When ships are Preserved, they are “mothballed”.

  14. pannonica says:

    Ladel— It’s been happening to me too. The browser (chrome) automatically skips down to that section of the home page. I figured I’d have to wait until it got mothballed to the “Older Entries” section.

  15. Ladel says:

    pannonica

    thanx, I like chrome, I was hoping Amy would see this and use her good offices to help us out.

    my grandmother’s house always smelled of mothballs, there must have been a lot of moths in the old country. but we fixed ‘em, we got polyester, woo hoo.

  16. janie says:

    hey, pannonica — i didn’t love MEDIVAC either (and feel your pain…), but opted not to cite it since there is what looks to be viable support for the variation:

    medivac…

    and yeah, my browser (firefox) is taking me mid-page, too…

    ;-)

  17. Jeffrey says:

    I don’t have the problem (IE) but since I was the last to update I’m pretty sure it was my fault.

  18. pannonica says:

    janie: Gah. Did not know about that. Must be popular-usage creep, which is 84% bad 90 percent of the time. *thanks for telling me*

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Safari doesn’t jump me anywhere, but there was a weird black flicker. Anyway, I don’t have a clue what to tell you all. That’s more Genius Technical Wizard Evad’s domain.

    Pannonica, I like your stats on popular-usage creep. Ever see KLEIG light in a crossword? Creep, 100% bad.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Oh, wait. I kept seeing the magic video yesterday too. But not now. Huh.

  21. John Haber says:

    I wouldn’t blame Rogers and Hart for the movie with Judy Garland (although they were not known for coherent plots until the pioneering “Pal Joey”). Hollywood has a long history of ruining things from books or the stage. I couldn’t have told you what the song was going to be, and the theme took a little work, but I did know it was a Rogers and Hart musical, and almost every song in it is a classic.

    Nice theme. At first, looking at the asymmetry, I wondered if the theme would involve cutting some words off somehow that would otherwise have restored symmetry. Finally guessing the title led to an aha moment making the connection.

    BEMIRED is an odd word, and I didn’t know IRENE Rich, but the bottom half went quite quickly for a Friday (ORESTEIA to me was a gimme), and then I had a hard time on top. Don’t really get even now what MORITAT means or what makes a GAR air-gulping. (I was expecting a mammal rather than a fish.) ABNEGATOR is unusual but actually a nice fill, and “Something you can bank on” is a nicely tricky clue. I didn’t really get either, though, why SPARE KEYS are found in some mailboxes.

    What killed me was the NW, especially since I misremembed the tennis player as YVONNE. Then the crossing of the golfer, the Egyptian deity, and the plant A_OLE defeated me. I couldn’t finish. Always hate that.

  22. Meem says:

    Liz Gorski killed me today. Discerned the eighth note and got the song title right away, but a long, slow slog from there. On the other hand, knew the symphonies, so CHE was a fast solve. Laughed out loud at kingdom chrome, but hear Jeffrey’s point about pronunciation shift in WSJ.

  23. Blanche says:

    “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” translates as “The Ballad of Mack the Knife.” The German word “Moritat” means “street ballad.”

  24. pannonica says:

    Too bad “One-Note Samba” (6,5) isn’t balanced.

    KLEIG lights? Really? For Rod STIEGER, maybe?

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John H: Who’s blaming Rodgers and Hart? The clue didn’t specify movie or stage show.

  26. Martin says:

    Re the CS puzzle [spoiler] I was stumped at 28 across / down (Loesser / Lehi). Stumped at the 28/28 square itself — the “L”. One is a songwriter who published Adelaide’s Lament in 1950; one is an extra-obscure Biblical place. Googling “Samson philistines lehi” returns “about 15,400″ hits.

    If there had been a Guys and Dolls clue that would have lessened the pain. At least I have heard of and seen the play.

  27. Meem says:

    Martin: So you would be happy if the clue read: Penner of “The average unmarried female, basically insecure . . .”. And we as solvers “show a neurotic tendency to react”!

  28. John Haber says:

    If MORITAT just means the “ballad” part of “The Ballad of Mack the Knife,” have to say that the clue then looks even fishier.

    I never saw a Rogers and Hart musical, although City Opera regularly stages revivals of old musicals. I was exposed to their music mostly after college, through my father’s sheet music at the piano. Impressive.

    Hollywood could be cruel to Judy Garland, but obviously it made her a star, too. With “The Trolley Song” in “Meet Me in Saint Louis” (also the source of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) or “The Man That Got Away” in “A Star Is Born,” she burns right through the screen in movies that otherwise might be formulaic.

  29. Trey says:

    Punt…Boat… What was that about?!

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