Friday, 1/14/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/13" plug="frday-11411" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]4:41[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/13" plug="frday-11411" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:10[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/13" plug="frday-11411" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]4:02[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/13" plug="frday-11411" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/13" plug="frday-11411" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]8:02[/time_hdr]

Californians! The Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest is in two weeks. On Saturday, January 29, there’s a day-long line-up of free (!) puzzle workshops on crossword construction, solving diagramless crosswords, sudoku, and more. Sunday, January 30, is competition day. You can try your hand at the sudoku tournament in the morning and the crossword tournament (future NYT puzzles) that afternoon, for a combined $25 donation. There are events for kids both days, too. Visit the svpuzzle.com site to register or learn more.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 1/14/11 0114

I like the sinuous curves (well, as sinuous as you’re going to get in a grid made of boxes) that connect the two triple-stacks of 15-letter entries, with the 8/9/10 stacks stretching out. A grid like this doesn’t lend itself to shiny seed entries with crazy letter combos, though, and it’s got easier Friday clues rather than gnarly Saturday clues—so it’s a smooth but not particularly exciting solve.

Highlights:

  • 17a. A LITTLE LEARNING is a [Dangerous thing?], they say. They’re right. If you’re not going to master a topic, it’s best to remain wholly ignorant.
  • 44a. [Frosty's relative] isn’t about snowmen, it’s about the thick chocolate semi-frozen sort of MILKSHAKE they sell at Wendy’s. Good for dipping fries in.
  • 66a. I, for one, had no idea where this [Union of 1284] was going. ENGLAND AND…who? France is too long, I don’t think it’s Spain. WALES? Okay.
  • 3d. [One who knows the value of a dollar] is a COIN DEALER. Cute clue.
  • 36d. To MAKE A CASE is to [Argue (for)] something.
  • 47d. TOUCAN Sam is a [Bird on a Kellogg's cereal box]. Hey, do you know your cartoon birds? There’s a Sporcle quiz for that.

Things I didn’t know:

  • 50a. [Auburn competitors] are REOS and no, REOS are not Oregon college football players. I don’t recall ever knowing that there were Auburn autos in the early 20th century.
  • 60a. There’s such a thing as a NAUTICAL ALMANAC.
  • 7d, 10d. That CHE isn’t just the recent Benicio Del Toro (that’s Spanish for “Benny the Bull”) movie but also a 1969 Omar SHARIF movie.
  • 26d. [Violinist/bandleader ___ Light] was named ENOCH. You can read about his stereophonic accomplishments here.
  • 39d. The isle of SKYE is an [Island along Cuillin Sound], which is a sound I’ve never heard of.
  • 54a. INGE isn’t just the “of Bus Stop fame” writer. He’s also the ["Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff" novelist]. The book was made into a movie that sounds like a flat-out exploitation flick. “The film was released on videotape with these alternate titles: The Sin, The Shaming and Secret Yearnings.” Puh-leeze.
  • 58d. ["All Fool's Day" writer] didn’t ring a bell, but when you’re inside a crossword grid and you need a writer with a 4-letter name, ELIA is never far from your mind.
  • 64d. A MEW is a [Small gull]? Also a sound made by cats and birds, as in “the mewing of gulls,” the Mac’s widget dictionary tells me. “Mama in her muumuu heard the mew mew and the moo-cow moo.” Say that three times fast.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Author Ships”

Literary trivia is the name of the game: The theme entries are six fictional ships and hey! I’ve heard of three of them, the PEQUOD from Moby-Dick, Jules Verne’s NAUTILUS, and the JOLLY ROGER from Peter Pan. I didn’t know Kipling’s WE’RE HERE, Stevenson’s HISPANIOLA, and Conrad’s NELLIE. I will confess that the Pequod is the only ship for which I’ve actually read the novel that features it.

Lots of nice longer words (6 to 7 letters) in the fill. ESQUIRE, NUTMEG, and NEUTER in one corner; AMERIGO and FEDORA in another; ELYSIAN DAWNS down below; and an ASTOUNDing NIAGARA of GOSSIP on the last corner.


Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Without Further Ado”—Janie’s review

This delight of a deletion-theme puzzle begins with four familiar phrases and names (ordinarily) containing the sequential letters “A-D-O” and proceeds to eliminate them, yielding (smartly clued) new and amusing results. That’s how:

  • 17A. head of lettuce → HEF LETTUCE [Playboy founder's moolah?]. New phrase kinda brings to mind Milne’s Heffalump. (What a calorie-watcher adds to her tea?…) There’s more $-related slang fill with DOUGH [Bread], too.
  • 29A. Boulder, ColoradoBOULDER COLOR [Gray?]. Love the economy of the clue.
  • 49A. tornado sighting → TORN SIGHTING [Red-carpet appearance of actor Rip?]
  • 64A. Audrey Meadows → AUDREY MEWS [Catty remarks from actress Hepburn?]. Two outstanding Audreys here—one earthy, one ethereal.

I thought, perhaps, there was some counter-fill when I saw the clue ["Oklahoma!" role] and skeptically entered ADO ANNIE. But no, the correct fill is AUNT ELLER. Her grid opposite is the terrific FAIR SHAKE (not FAIR SHARE…) clued as [Equal opportunity]. The adjacent fill is the kinda scarifying combo of MAN-EATER and [Great white shark, for one]. Its (not inappropriate) grid opposite is GROSS OUT [Turn off, to the max]. The balanced placement in the grid of the “ST” starting STAMINA [Triathlete's asset] and STEEPLE [Cathedral tower] makes for a pleasing pair; then, with “INC,” the almost-symmetrical INCITE [Egg on] and IN CASE [To be safe]. As you’ve heard me say on more than one occasion, whether it’s happened by design or by chance, this kind of internal glue adds to a puzzle’s overall integrity.

Other highlights today come to us from SPEEDO clued as ["Dangerous" thing to wear on a water slide] (cue the HA-HAS [Laugh track sounds]), KEEPER with its new-to-me clue [Quarterback option], GET-UPS [Outfits] and the Norwegian pairing of HENRIK and OSLO ["An Enemy of the People" playwright] and [Scandinavian capital].

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 1/14/11

The late Dan Naddor squeezed in a whopping seven theme entries by making ‘em shorter than usual. The name of the game is two-word phrases or compound words in which the first part ends with -CK but Dan lopped off the K, changing the meaning:

  • 18a. [Apple delivery vehicle?] might be a MAC TRUCK. I bet they travel unmarked to avoid hijacking by Apple fanatics.
  • 19a. [Lobbying gp. bigwig?] clues PAC LEADER. “Leader of the pack” feels a little more in-the-language to me.
  • 39a. [Trap for large reptiles?] is a CROC POT. Anyone have a slow-cooker recipe for alligator soup?
  • 58a. [Coalition celebration?] is BLOC PARTY. Political echoes of 19a.
  • 61a. [Court dispute over footwear?] is a MOC TRIAL. The CROC POT could have taken a stab at the footwear category too but the reptile approach is better; I don’t know that the Crocs brand has a singular Croc usage.
  • 3d. [Movie with style?] is a CHIC FLICK. Not a thematic inconsistency to have FLICK in there, I don’t think, as the theme changes only the first word.
  • 35d. [Employee using a word processor?] could be a DOC WORKER.

Nice stacks of 8s and 9s with the theme entries, particularly the intersecting theme 9s and the spots where the 8s overlap by two squares with some 9s (e.g., 18a, 19a). Highlights in the fill include U.S. MARINES, AMARILLO, and OPPORTUNE.

Myles Callum’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pat Answers”

Wall Street Journal crossword answers 1/14/10 "Pat Answers"

This theme must’ve been put together less than two months ago—or else the theme clues were rewritten to be oriented to TSA pat-downs. TSA is what ties all the theme answers together: It’s 111d: [Whom the agents work for (and a chunk of each theme answer)]. The theme generally felt creepy to me, and muddles the same-sex facts of pat-downs. Why on earth would a female agent whisper TEN CENTS A DANCE during a pat-down of a female passenger? (Not to mention that the TSA agents aren’t trying to sexually turn on the pat-downees. Do any TSA agents do the WSJ crossword? If they do, I’m thinking they’ll find this one offensive.) And the clue for IT’S A MIRACLE—[What the agent said when Megan Fox showed up?], really? Why the hell does “agent” mean “male agent” here, when “agent” is a gender-neutral term? And again, the creepy man who wants to feel up actress Megan Fox is going to instead be patting down the 50-something male business traveler or the 12-year-old boy traveling with his family, because cross-gender pat-downs aren’t allowed.

The other phrases are so entirely unrelated to hands-on physical contact, it’s a stretch to clue them with reference to TSA pat-downs. I’m thinking Myles originally had a plain hidden-TSA theme before the “enhanced pat-down” was introduced, and editor Mike Shenk wanted to make it more timely and topical with the “Pat Answers” bent. However the theme came about, I don’t like it in its published form.

How about you? Did you get a kick out of the theme, or just an uneasy feeling?

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26 Responses to Friday, 1/14/11

  1. Gareth says:

    Easy Friday clues se moer… this was a bear for me!

    I find with these puzzles, if I get one or two of the 15s quickly everything tends to falls into place. This didn’t happen here at all! Despite getting the first words of the bottom 3 very quickly couldn’t guess the rest of them. Only GENERALINTEREST really seems like something that SHOULD have leapt out at me. I like the phrases in the top stack a lot more, I battled to puzzle them out as wel… ONONESHIGHHORSE is what opened it up eventually. SOLARPOWER is a flat out trap – I fell for it! No idea about SHRINERs… or MEWs though the Afrikaans word is “meeu” pronounced same, which only occured to me post-solve!

  2. Matt says:

    You can get The Nautical Almanac here, and if you’re wondering what the ‘UTC’ in that box in the upper right stands for, it’s all explained in here, in exceptional and grisly detail.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gareth, I Googled “se moer” and learned the key word has been described thusly: “a word used only in the worst of company.” Thank you for cussing in Afrikaans and bringing a little cosmopolitan vinegar to the table!

  4. Howard B says:

    The Friday Times had an on-again, off-again kind of rhythm to it – it initially fell easily, then some clues in the lower areas bogged me down nicely.
    I almost found myself at that point swearing in several languages that I do not speak (before today – thanks, Gareth!). The bottom-center was especially rough. Once through that tough spot, though, it evened out and became a challenging, enjoyable jump through the hoop in the middle, then back up to the top for the finish.
    - Spots where I tripped up and attempted to curse in Esperanto, Xhosa, etc.: LTD, REOS, MEW, AGENT.

  5. joon says:

    *click click f-click*

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I always enjoy Howard’s dramatic tales of struggles…on puzzles he finished way faster than I did! I think time slows down in Howard’s world, allowing him to feel like he’s slogging away on a Friday puzzle he finishes in under 4 minutes.

    Pretty sure Howard will be finishing ahead of me at the ACPT again…

  7. sbmaaanion says:

    I worked for 14 hours yesterday, then tried to solve the puzzle with almost no success. Only SELA was apparent. Off to bed. I got up this morning and solved it in 10 minutes, an excellent time for me. I have found that in triple stacks, I have to be mentally alert or they fall (or don’t fall) just as occurred yesterday and this morning.

    I guess I am not as sharp as I think as I misspelled my own name and can’t fix it.

    Steve

  8. joon says:

    another stunner from dan naddor. who will take up his mantle? my goodness.

    i’m eagerly awaiting the WSJ writeup, because i can’t figure out what the hell is going on with the theme.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    joon: See 111 down

  10. Myles Callum says:

    Hey folks. No, Amy, this wasn’t Mike’s doing–it’s all on me. I had just read Dave Barry’s funny piece on his experience at a TSA patdown (they told him he had a “blurred groin”) and I tried to have some fun with the theme while working in phrases that had TSA in them. One of the short theme entries (16 Down) was changed but
    the rest of it’s mine, for better or worse. I imagine it was scheduled quickly because of topicality.

  11. Zulema says:

    That “little learning” quote is from Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism, so all English majors knew it. This was the easiest NYT Friday in months for me.

  12. Karen says:

    In the NYT I liked that the down answers started off real long also, no four letter gimmes.

    Amy, here’s your crock pot croc stew. And you can turn the recipe into a word search, too!

  13. sandirhodes says:

    Re: WSJ, I thought something was going on with song titles and people named Pat. But since Miles didn’t mention it, I guess I’m off base.

  14. Meem says:

    No speed for me today. NYT wasn’t that hard, but took me a long time to complete. The shape of the grid is enticing! Was delighted to see Dan Naddor’s name on LAT. What a great grid and many chuckles as the answers paraded by. I agree with Joon. Perhaps one of our “young’ns” will pick up the thread.

    Did not know all of the ships in the CHE and needed google to finish. And as one who was taught not to say anything if one has nothing nice to say, I will withhold comment on today’s WSJ.

  15. Gareth says:

    Have seen the LAT’s theme before, but this time it was well executed both in density and choice of theme entries: and it has a themeless grid!!! One nit is that bloc party is a real band. Have a listen to “Hunting for Witches” – Awesome guitar riff!!

  16. Ladel says:

    I dunno, maybe google has language laundering police, but Gareth’s “se moer” translated as, “nuts.” I was hoping for something with more depth of cultural nuance, something unfit for a family newspaper.

  17. Martin says:

    Amy,

    What? You don’t think some sophomoric allusions to “don’t touch my junk” plus “flotsam and jetsam” and “waits a bit” comprise a tight theme? Picky, picky.

    Myles,

    How about a “blurred groin” puzzle?

  18. HH says:

    “…cross-gender pat-downs aren’t allowed.”

    Oh. Well, then, next time I go to the airport, I’m going in drag.

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Very well, relatively easy puzzle for a NYT Friday. Everything correct, no nits to pick etc….But, will someone please explain – with as little Schadenfreude as possible – how 53A [Ace]=Pal??!!?? I only got it by crossings and truly do not understand it. Thanks.

  20. Martin says:

    Daniel,

    “Ace” is street slang for totally loyal friend.

    Urban Dictionary
    Video.

  21. Daniel Myers says:

    LOL–Many thanks Martin, especially for the explanatory video. Word!

  22. ap says:

    Can anyone explain to me the SQUARES theme in Stan’s Newsday puzzle?

  23. Tuning Spork says:

    ap,

    Four SQUARES in each row. Square feet, square deal, square meal, etc.

    Does anyone get how [R.I.P part] = PACE?

  24. pannonica says:

    Requiescat In Pace, the Latin original.

  25. Matt Jones says:

    Pannonica, I’ve been trying to figure out what your userpic is, and what it’s from. Somehow it looks familiar.

  26. pannonica says:

    I’ve used it elsewhere on the web, but you’re probably thinking of the original.

Comments are closed.