Wednesday, 1/19/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/18" plug="wednsday-11911" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:14[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/18" plug="wednsday-11911" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:14[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/18" plug="wednsday-11911" puzz="Onion" anchor="av"]3:12 (Amy)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/18" plug="wednsday-11911" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]

Kristian House’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 1/19/11 0119

Four theme entries are formed by adding a G that’s pronounce as “gee” to the beginning of familiar words and phrases:
  • 18a. The GMAIL ROOM could be the [Part of the house where one might check Google messages?].
  • 23a. [Cry for help on an F.B.I. cruise?] might be “G-MAN OVERBOARD!”
  • The constructor riffs on science by giving us the G-STRING THEORY, or [Guess as to how the thong came to exist?].
  • 60a. The G-SUIT CASE is [Where Neil Armstrong might store his gear?].
  • 37a. These are tied together by GEE WHIZ, which is clued with [Beaver Cleaver expletive...or what you might need to be to answer] the theme clues. Now, parsing GEE WHIZ as “person who’s a real whiz at wielding the letter G, which can be spelled out as GEE” may be a bit of a stretch.

Further notes:

  • 6a. [Locale for a lashing] is a MAST. Is this a helpful lashing of things or a painful lashing of a sailor being punished? Me and nautical fill, we don’t go way back.
  • 20a. Interesting clue. NONE is the [Number of trades Jack is a master of]. I swear I’ve never seen the “and master of none” part that follows “Jack of all trades.”
  • 2d. I don’t think the HI MOM sign makes many appearances at Wrigley Field. Where is this [Bleachers sign] typically seen? And does this clue suggest that the clue writer watches far more televised sports than I do?
  • 6d. [Word with babe or bar] clues MAGNET. A bar magnet is a rectangular magnet, while a babe magnet is synonymous with “chick magnet” and is not a term I care for.
  • 8d. The [Deep blue] is the SEA. Didn’t you want a color here?
  • 11d. BLOOD LUST! That is [Rambo's drive]. You ain’t seen blood lust till you’ve been to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
  • 21d. AVA Gardner is [One of Frank's exes]. Really not a fan of the “define a woman by the man she married, even if she’s famous in her own right” clues.
  • 24d. ONE G is [A thousand bucks]—or what has been added to each theme entry.

Michael Sharp and Angela Olson Halsted’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 1/19/11

Congratulations to Angela on her first published puzzle! It’s always fun to see how people respond to puzzles constructed by people who are also crossword critics. (Angela runs the freshly redesigned L.A. Crossword Confidential, while Michael’s alias is Rex Parker.) I saw this puzzle in draft form ages ago, and it took 24d’s revealer answer to remind me what the theme was. A TANK TOP is [Sleeveless summer wear, or what each answer to a starred clue might be said to have], and the “top” of each vertical theme entry is a ___ tank. Nice reimagining of the term tank top, no? From left to right:
  • 3d. [*"Heads up!"] clues the the crisply colloquial “THINK FAST!” A think tank is not a literal tank.
  • 17d. SHERMAN ALEXIE is the [*Award-winning author of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"], a terrific YA novel that I’ll let my son read in a few years. I read it and loved it. I have no idea if Sherman has ever seen this blog, but he has been known to read Rex. (Such a name-dropper, Michael!) A Sherman tank is one of those armored military doodads.
  • 8d. GASOLINE ALLEY was the [*Pioneering Frank King comic strip featuring Walt and Skeezix] that I read as a kid. It was utterly old-school by the ’70s. Mystery: Why the name Skeezix never caught on. Personally, I have never called a gas tank a “gasoline tank,” but it’s true that GAS remains at the top of that entry.
  • 33d. [*Trendy place for a breather?] clues an OXYGEN BAR, which is full of oxygen tanks. Minus one point for this entry and its affiliated tanks being inextricably linked rather than unrelated, like Mr. Alexie and Army tanks.

Highlights:

  • 24a. A TALL TALE is a [Whopper].
  • 49a. Best entry in the grid: GOLF CLAP, or a [Polite links response]. Quiet, unenthused, at times sarcastic—gotta love the GOLF CLAP.
  • 60a. Fresh entry: EX-NAVY is clued as [Like former admirals]. Pity the poor admirals. How often did they get to ride in tanks?
  • 9d. Bill O’REILLY used to be a [1990s "Inside Edition" host]. There’s an infamous viral video (don’t worry, the swear words are bleeped out so it’s safe for viewing at work) of him wigging out during a commercial break on that show because the teleprompter was out of sorts. “I’ll do it live!” has become a catchphrase of sorts around my house. “There’s no words there!”
  • 28d. [John in Scotland] clues the name IAN. Okay, how many of you wanted LOO there?

I have no idea what the 25d: SEMI clue means. [Climbing lane occupant]? What is a climbing lane? Is that a mountain road thing? I’m a flatlander and know nothing of such things.

Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword—Jonathan Porat’s review

Onion A.V. Club crossword answers 1/21/11 Matt Gaffney

Matt Gaffney gives us a superfly puzzle for those surfing the web with Google Chrome:
  • 60a + 66a. [How to solve this crossword] tells us to solve WITH FLYING COLORS, which describes the colorful theme entries that possess the ability to fly.
  • 17a. The BLUE ANGELS’ [Navy squadron at air shows] appearance is probably a good indicator of how awesome the event you’re attending is. E.g., the Super Bowl? Check. The GoDaddy.com Bowl? Not so much.
  • 20a. Spoiler alert!: [Alan Scott’s superhero alter ego] is the GREEN LANTERN, who derives his powers from a ring and a lantern, which I assume sounded much cooler in the 1940s than it does now. Do not confuse him with (other possible theme entry) the Green Hornet, who is being played by Seth Rogen in a theater near you. Just in case you were afraid that Hollywood hadn’t made a movie of every comic book character possible, The Green Lantern is supposed to be released this year with Ryan Reynolds wielding the power ring.
  • 37a. BLACK SWAN is accurately summed up as a [Portman vs. Kunis smackdown] referring to the Golden Globe–winning film’s fight scenes featuring its leading ladies. I’m not sure if anyone saw it but I thought it was really good. I wonder if the movie was supposed to be a campy flick, because it certainly seemed that way.
  • 56a. Stay back if you hear a [Striped buzzer], which is neither a zebra barista nor a referee with his phone on vibrate. It’s actually the quite scary YELLOW JACKET.

Overall this was a great theme. The theme entries were fun and not obscure at all. Plus, even though the color gimmick did not take too long to suss out, I hadn’t noticed the “flying” part of the theme until I finished the puzzle, which gave me that great “Aha!” moment that you want in a crossword.

Portfolio of olio:

  • 1a. The 1-across snobs probably feel that Matt must have some big juevos since he STARTED (12d) his puzzle with EGG SAC, [Where spider babies incubate].
  • 25a. So that we don’t need to review Scottish geography or The Little Rascals, we get one-time YouTube sensation TAY Zonday (“Chocolate Rain” singer Zonday]).
  • 64a. [First letter in Israel] is “I” but since “I” is not four letters (hold your hate mail, I triple-checked), ALEF, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, will have to suffice.
  • 13d. [Made a corny joke, probably] clues PUNNED. Done. (See my poignant analysis of 56a. No response necessary, or NRN [62d.])
  • 23d. How great is The Simpsons’ connection with crosswords? The show has three three-letter Springfield small business owners: MOE (Moe’s Tavern), Apu (Kwik-E-Mart), and Ned (The Leftorium). There’s actually four if you count The Android’s Dungeon owner Comic Book GUY, which would be the worst clue ever.
  • A brief META (31a) -analysis of the great intersecting answers in this grid. You get A BUG’S LIFE (32d) stung by a YELLOW JACKET (56a), BLACK SWAN (37a) necking with its feathered friend OSTRICH (35d), who cannot fly by the way, and the end result of the Portman/Kunis smackdown as one PIN[s](45d) the other to mat as she TAPS (43a) out, resulting in a fat LIP (50a).
  • 18d. [Beatles #1 hit of 1969] is “GET BACK,” which was memorably performed on a rooftop:


Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Side Dishes”—Janie’s review

Clever title/theme-execution combo today. Each of the four theme phrases have the letters of the word “dish” at their sides; more specifically, each phase begins with “DI” and ends with “SH.” All phrases fall into the “lively” category and to top it off, they come in rhyming pairs. Not bad at all!

  • 17A. DINNER RUSH [Busy time at a restaurant]. A time when side and main dishes are being delivered in abundance. An apt choice for the theme.
  • 23. DIAMOND FLUSH [Big red poker hand]. While the winning hands pictured here focus on diamonds, it seems there’s no “winning suit” in poker. At least I didn’t find anything that supported that idea…
  • 46A. DIGITAL FLASH [Modern camera feature]. Remember flash bulbs and flash cubes? Take a trip down memory lane.
  • 55A. DIAPER RASH [Baby powder might prevent it]. Sure, it’s uncomfortable for baby, but I think this makes for great image-conjuring fill.

And I got nuthin’ but praise for the strong non-theme fill/clues as well—starting with the symmetrically placed UP FOR GRABS [Not yet taken] and IN-YOUR-FACE [Provocatively direct]. That’s muscular fill in my book. PREMIER [Foremost] and NOSTRIL (with its giggle-making [Blowhole] clue) are another pair of strong grid-opposites, ditto WARBLE [Sing like a bird] and LIES TO [Misinforms].

We get a variety of alphabet-fill with V-CHIP [Screening device]; A, B OR C [Multiple-choice choice] (where I first entered OTHER…); R-LESS [Like non-oyster months]; and A-FRAME [Popular chalet style]. There’s more wordplay to be found in the crossing of EIS [Cold stuff in Germany] and FRIO [Cold, in Spain]; and in the presence of both SOSA [1998 N.L. MVP Sammy] and SO-SO [Just okay]. It looks to me like there’s a natural tie-in, too, of that SNEAK [preview] and that INDIE [Outside film]. Was on the nominating committee this past year for the SAG Awards (where I was one of “only” 2,100 paid-up members…). Was invited to (and got to see) more than my share of sneak previews!

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22 Responses to Wednesday, 1/19/11

  1. pannonica says:

    Knew a handyman whose business cards read JOATMON under his name.

    Never saw one identified as a “climbing lane,” but that’s probably what they’re called; you’re envisioning the right thing. Low gears for surmounting steep grades, then (sometimes) emergency damper runoff lanes* (oh and by the way CHECK BRAKES) for the way down.

    *Someone help me out here. Martin?

  2. Deb Amlen says:

    Congratulations to Angela and Michael for a really nice grid! We definitely need to hoist some sonatinis in March to celebrate!

  3. Neophyte says:

    G-reat theme… even if I did get off-track initially with EMAILROOM…

    I thought 2d [Bleachers sign] was an odd clue for HIMOM. I watch a lot of sports, and you don’t see “Hi Mom” said as much anymore. But usually it was players on the sidelines who would say it when the cameras turned to them, not so much spectators in the stands…

  4. Nancy says:

    I don’t know why, but way back when I registered with YouTube I created the user name geeewhiz (sic). Considering that I have uploaded lots of crossword related videos, this Gee Whiz puzzle was A-OK with me!

  5. Victor Barocas says:

    NYT theme was clever, and I like the fill, but little things in the cluing got to me – I have not seen the “Fee fi fo fum” sayer referred to as anything but a giant, not an OGRE. Yes, the general term OGRE would apply because the giant was big and scary, but it felt wrong to me. Perhaps it’s the Dungeons and Dragons of my youth making me care too much about ogres vs. giants. Also, I don’t associate bloodlust with Rambo at all. He is violent, but he is not bloodthirsty – the violence always has a purpose (“they drew first blood!”). Not as troubling as GRASSHOPPER was some days ago. I loved RAINGAUGE in the fill but wish that it had been clued as “pluviometer” because that’s a cool word. Favorite clue by far was Humpty Dumpty for OVATE.

  6. Evad says:

    Yes, a big huzzah to Rex and PG! One question tho, was it your decision or Rich’s to have the theme entries run down the grid? Nice change of pace….

  7. Matt M. says:

    Amy’s right — that Alexie novel is really terrific.

  8. Steve Salitan says:

    Very nice debut Angela. Kudos as well to Michael. I particularly enjoyed the vertical themers. Saw them as refreshing and plenty amusing.

  9. Rex says:

    Thx, all. Puzzle was originally constructed w/ theme answers Across (a couple years ago). Angela and I went back and forth with several different incarnations. Fine, but … we figured for the “top” thing to really work, the themes would have to be vertical. I had almost no grid-making experience At All at that point, so just getting five to work, with those Xs and what not, was tough. (BEQ convinced me it could be done)

    Puzzle was rejected by NYT twice (horizontally & vertically)! Will hadn’t heard of SHERMAN ALEXIE, so that didn’t help (his name was what inspired the theme in the first place). Anyway, I’m grateful Rich took it, because (thanks to Andrea’s influence) it’s easily the smoothest grid I’ve ever been affiliated with—so much so that ILO makes me want to scratch my eyes out.

    Enjoyed the House puzzle.

    rp

  10. Howard B says:

    Really nice LA Times puzzle – and the Sherman Alexie novel is great as well. (Recommend it to Will). Both deserve more than a golf clap!

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Victor: The New York Times did run a correction about the GRASSHOPPER clue: The crossword puzzle on Tuesday provided an erroneous clue for 51-Across, seeking the answer “Grasshopper.” The clue should have read, “Term of endearment used by Master Po for young Kwai Chang Caine in TV’s ‘Kung Fu’ ” — not “Term of endearment for the Karate Kid.”

  12. Meem says:

    Good puzzles across the board today. Congratulations to “Rex and PG” on a clever debut. Think having the “tank tops” run vertically gives the grid extra sparkle.

  13. LAT was a nice puzzle – with one exception. The L in SHERMAN A(L)EXIE/GOLF C(L)AP was a blind guess. Who knew GOLF CLAP was a phrase and who ever heard of S. A.? I rejected an R in that square….

  14. joon says:

    yes, across the board. i can’t think of a day recently when the worst (whichever it was) of the daily puzzles was quite this good. nice themes, great fill (GOLF CLAP, UP FOR GRABS, A BUG’S LIFE, IN YOUR FACE!), some xlnt clues.

  15. Alex says:

    @Rex — it’s okay to have a theme rejected by Will because he didn’t know a person in the puzzle. Every constructor needs to have a story like that. In fact, we should start collecting them.

    Great puzzles today.

  16. Rex says:

    To be fair to Will, lots of people haven’t heard of Sherman Alexie, which is why I’m happy Rich let him in. Pen/Faulkner winner, National Book Award-winner, frequent Colbert guest, amazing writer and all-around good guy. Also, his “Diary” is frequently in the news, as parents groups thru/o the country to ban it from school reading curricula. Despite (or perhaps because of) its awesomeness.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Rex, I’m pretty sure it’s the narrator’s mentions of masturbation, with nary a caveat about hairy palms or sinnin’, that freak the parents out. And maybe also the youth drinking that’s mentioned, though it’s certainly not glamorized in the slightest. I don’t think my 10-year-old is ready for Alexie’s “Diary” yet, but I’ll certainly hang onto the hardcover for a few years so he can read it at 12 or 13ish.

  18. Jeff says:

    Loved the LAT today! Way to get Sherman Alexie into the cruciverb files. I recently read “Flight” which I didn’t like quite as much as “Part-time Indian”, but only because the latter is one of my favorite YA books of all time.

  19. Karen says:

    I’ve kept track of Sherman Alexie since he wrote the movie Smoke Signals, a wonderful indie film with a good soundtrack (John Wayne’s Teeth!). An all around entertainer.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Karen, my husband and I LOVED Smoke Signals! A terrific introduction to the wit and heart of Sherman Alexie, plus a fascinating peek inside reservation life for outsiders.

  21. NDE says:

    Matt finds a new way to put a 31A:META in his puzzle.
    But I’m pretty sure he has no juevos. Huevos, on the other hand,
    I can believe. You’re probably confusing with “jueves” = Thursday.

  22. PuzzleGirl says:

    Hey, gang. Just wanted to drop in and say hi and thanks for all the kind words. This really was an exciting day for me. I’m exhausted. :-)

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