Friday, 1/28/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]6:42[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]5:37[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:38[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]6:59[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/27" plug="friday-12811" puzz="TriplePlay" anchor="tp"]14 minutes[/time_hdr](Squeezeboxes #2)

Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 1/28/11 0128

This is the second Friday in a row with a distinctly Saturdayish puzzle in the New York Times. I just hope that tomorrow will bring an insane Killer Crossword, the sort that leads to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and not one of those “oh, this was surprisingly easy!” puzzles. I know, “Speak for yourself, Reynaldo.” I just want an NYT Killer Crossword for a change, because last year’s toughest themelesses were all Newsday puzzles.

I am just not in a blogging mood tonight. I finished this puzzle a half hour ago and I haven’t yet summoned up the will to talk about its specifics. All righty. Here goes.

Favorite fill, etc.:

  • 21a. WENT BY, clued with [Used the name]. Not an entry I recall ever seeing before, but I think it works as a lexical chunk, better than if it were clued with [Passed].
  • 8d. [Brands…or carrier of brands] clues the verb SEARS and the department store SEARS.
  • 12d. PAD THAI is a Thai noodle [Dish topped with crushed peanuts and lime].
  • 13d. The whole SHEBANG is the whole [Ball of wax].
  • 37d. A [Small change] to something is a TWEAK.
  • 42d. Don’t you want to use the word BIENNIA more often? You know you do. Those two-year periods are the [Stretches between Ryder Cups], in golf.

Tough clues:

  • 1a. [Run in two places at once] clues SIMULCAST. Used to describe, say, a concert being shown on TV and aired on the radio simultaneously.
  • 10a. [Savannah growth] clues COPSE. A copse is a small stand of trees, and a savannah is a grassy plain with few trees.
  • 18a. [Iron Age people] are the MEDES.
  • 20a. [Aye's opposite, poetically] is NE’ER. That’s the old Scottish “aye” meaning “always or still.” I did not know such an “aye” existed.
  • 2d. [Like much oil] isn’t ITALIAN olive oil or ARABIAN petroleum, it’s IRANIAN petroleum.
  • 5d. [Lord __ (overseer of Scottish heraldry)] clues LYON. Never heard of this either. What’s with all the Scottish landmines in this puzzle? Sheesh, they even cross at the N.
  • 6d. CIDERS are [Press releases?]. Cider presses, that is.
  • 9d. TAL [__ vez (Mexican "maybe")]. Well, on the plus side, it’s not Scottish. But I still didn’t know it.
  • 35d. I don’t get this clue. Why is SMART [Upper-class?]?
  • 43d. One of my favorite tricky clues. [Plays without a break] looks like a verb phrase, but it’s a noun: ONE-ACTS.
  • 55d. [President after Auriol] is French René COTY. Who the heck is Auriol? That doesn’t ring a bell at all. You, sir, are not crosswordese.

Okay, I’m beat. [What you may do when you're beat] is NAP. I am, in fact, considering sleep rather than more Thursday-night puzzle blogging.


Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “… and Sometimes Y”—Janie’s review

While Sarah teases us with the title, it does tip us off to a theme that is vowel-based. All five of the theme entries contain a word in the pattern D-_-N. All but the central theme squares are part of familiar names and phrases. In all cases, though, that blank between the D and the N gets filled with each vowel, in sequence—except for Y. So yes, the vowels are A, E, I, O, U “…and sometimes Y”—but not today. Today it’s:

  • 20A. DAN BLOCKER [Hoss Cartwright portrayer]. Yikes. Bonanza is still running in syndication. First episode aired in September of ’59. Time flies when yer havin’ fun…
  • 29A. DEN MOTHER [Cub Scout leader].
  • 39A. DIN [Half of a tot's evening meal?]. Din-din. Cute clue. There is a martial arts champion named Din Thomas, but until I went lookin’ for ‘im darned if I’d ever heard of the guy. Plain din + fun clue = Better choice. I also like the way it’s embraced by those black-square crosses in the grid.
  • 46A. DON KNOTTS ["The Andy Griffith Show" costar]. Really—the guy had a career that looks to have been powered by the Energizer bunny. He was never a fave of mine, but he musta been doin’ something right.
  • 56A. DUN-COLORED [Like a dull brownish-gray horse].

I don’t have lots more to HOME IN ON [Target directly] except to say I do like that phrase and the adjacent DIORAMA [Three-dimensional display]. Ditto what I see as an “odd couple” pairing of GALOOT [Big lug] and GAMIN [Street urchin]. (Thinking of Wednesday’s Fagin reference, I’m imagining Bill Sykes and Oliver Twist.)

Oh–and then there’s the “war and peace” pairing of IDI [Despot Amin] and [Former UN head Kofi] ANNAN. And the academic trio, going from PRE-K [Class for a four year old, briefly] to GRAD [Commencement VIP]— perhaps with a PH. D. [Advanced deg.].

Finally, lotso names, mostly of the “first name” variety. Roll call today includes: ELMO, ARTURO, ANNS [Landers and Curry], ISAO, ELLE, CYD, and [Sex researcher Alfred] KINSEY.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Building Blocks”

1/28/11 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword solution

This theme reminded me of the various Sporcle quizzes in which the answers are all spelled with chemical symbols. (This week, there’s one with musical artists such as the famous band “potassium, iodine, sulfur, sulfur.”) Patrick has four phrases that start with words that are CHEMICAL ELEMENTs—IRON CHEF AMERICA, COPPERPLATE, CARBON COPY, and SILICON CHIP—and where letter pairs double as chemical symbols, those two letters appear in a single square. The single letters between rebus squares are also chemical symbols. Thus, {Co}PP{Er}P{La}{Te} contains the symbols for cobalt, phosphorus x 2, erbium, phosphorus again, lanthanum, and tellurium. These are not only all-star elements that everyone knows off the top of their head, so this puzzle’s well-suited to the chemistry professors among the Chronicle’s readership.

It was challenging to figure out which letters were going to be rebused up, especially where GEI{Co} and AS{Ca}P cross the top two theme entries. The only places the chemical symbols are squished into a single square are in those long theme answers—so ACME isn’t {Ac}ME.

I will confess here that yesterday I thought the theme entries just contained several two-letter symbols, and it wasn’t until the light of day today that I realized their single letters were also chemical symbols. Okay! The theme is much cooler than I initially thought. Lots of interesting fill, too—HYPE{Rb}OLA (Rb is rubidium, don’t you know), Hector ELIZONDO, “W{He}RE AM I?”, EL A{La}MEIN, ROADIES.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 1/28/11

It took me a while to understand what was happening in the theme entries. Words that end with -UGH have lost those letters. Only after I finished the puzzle did I recall that U + silent GH can also be pronounced “Ugh!” Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. [Where to sleep off a bender?] is a SOT (sought) SHELTER.
  • 24a. [Anxious campus society?] is a FRAT (fraught) WITH TENSION.
  • 38a. [Hair styling prodigy?] is a DO (dough) BOY.
  • 46a. [Talented jazzman?] clues CAT WITH THE GOODS. I don’t feel like “caught with the goods” is quite familiar enough to serve as the basis for a play on words.
  • 57a. ["Airport music so early?"] clues “ENO ALREADY?” Brian Eno composed an ambient music album called Music for Airports.

Toughest clues:

  • 1d. [Pianist Hofmann] = JOSEF.
  • 49d. [Town on the Firth of Clyde] = TROON.
  • 64a. [Mearth's mother, in a '70s-'80s sitcom] is MINDY. As Mork is from Ork, so is Mearth from Earth.
  • 38d. [Competitive missile hurlers] is a DART TEAM? Is that a thing?

Favorite fill:

  • 10d. [Is, when simplified] clues BOILS DOWN TO. When’s the last time you saw that in a crossword grid?
  • 25d. [Stays afloat, in a way] = TREADS WATER.
  • 3d. If you’re [More than just into] crosswords, you may be NUTS ABOUT them. I don’t know. Is this an awkward answer or a great one?

Randy Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crime Spree”

Wall Street Journal crossword answers 1/28/11 "Crime Spree"

By and large, this is a successful pun theme. Each theme answer is a pun on a familiar crime:

  • 23a. JURY PAMPERING plays on jury tampering.
  • 36a. CHOP-LIFTING is the shoplifting of pork chops.
  • 50a. [Crime at Burger King?] is PATTY LARCENY (petty larceny). SpongeBob SquarePants fans know that the wily Plankton is always scheming to steal the recipe for Krabby Patty burgers.
  • 69a. [Crime committed by Yentl?] clues MALE FRAUD (mail fraud). Note that in general, passing as the other gender is not considered a crime.
  • 88a. Carpet tacks give us TACKS EVASION (tax evasion).
  • 99a. [Crime on a party boat?] clues DRUNK DIVING (drunk driving). I don’t think it’s illegal to dive drunk, but it certainly is unwise.
  • 119a. [Crime involving a gold digger?] clues SEX WITH A MINER. It’s kind of gross that it evokes the unsavory crime “sex with a minor.” (See also 21d: AGE OF = [Consent preceder].)
  • 15d. [Crime of selling flying carpets?] is RUG TRAFFICKING (drug trafficking). If flying carpets were real, I would absolutely be willing to spend thousands of dollars to have one.
  • 49d. [Crime committed by insomniacs?] is RESISTING A REST (resisting arrest). My gosh, the poor insomniacs aren’t miserable enough—now you’re going to take them to jail? You know they won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep there, with all the clanking of bars.

Five more clues:

  • 36d. [World of tabbies] clues CATDOM. I can’t think of any circumstances in which I would need to use this word.
  • 9d. A SEIDEL is a [Glass beer mug]. I know the word only from crosswords. Yes, the word can be found in dictionaries. But I bet Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel is more familiar to more people than this “glass beer mug” is. C’mon! He’s always getting soaked by hurricanes. Who’s with me?
  • 20a. [Celtic folk singer McKennitt] is the most famous LOREENA we’ve got. (Mrs. Bobbitt spelled it Lorena.)
  • 27a. [Contest that takes seconds] is a DUEL. If you’re in a duel, your assistant is called a second.

Trip Payne’s “Squeezeboxes #2,” at Triple Play Crosswords

If you’ve never noodled around at Trip’s website, you are in for a treat. He’s archived all sorts of crosswords (including plus-sized themeless challengers), regular and variety cryptics (I never did manage to finish his last variety cryptic), and a wealth of variety puzzles. You’ve got some “Something Different” crosswords (aka “Wacky Weekend Warriors” when he crafted them for the New York Sun), spirals, Marching Bands, Rows Garden, a vowelless puzzle, and now a second “Squeezebox.” The Squeezebox concept is similar to Frank Longo’s “1, 2, 3″ puzzles in Games, only instead of having 1, 2, or 3 letters per box, Trip has 2 to 5 letters. (Yes, you’ve got to print small.) It’s kind of like a rebus crossword, but with 100% rebus coverage.

I opted for the “hard” version, which omits the word counts and enumerations. I got off to a swift start and was plowing right through the grid, pleased with myself and scoffing at anyone needing the “easy” version. And then. Oh, dear. I hit the skids. The bottom left quadrant, the upper right quadrant, and the lower right quadrant all proved most vexing. The upper left lied to me! It made me think I could make quick work of the whole shebang. But no!

Highlights, maximum points of struggle, etc.:

  • 39d. [Head banger?] clues MIGRA/INE. Love it! But until I remembered that the birds alluded to in 39a MIGRAted, man, was I stuck.
  • 9a. I like a city/state combo in a crossword. The squeezing here allows Trip to include the whole state name in RE/NO/NEVA/DA instead of its postal abbreviation (as in entries like ERIE, PA).
  • 18a. I didn’t know HUNG/ARI/AN G/OU/LASH was spicy. That’s a whole lotta letters to fit into five squares.
  • 26a, 22d. KAN/YE W/EST crosses GAR/Y EW/ING at the YEW.
  • 42a. This one killed me, as the clue—[Group who sang "On Broadway"]—didn’t ring a bell at all. THE /DRI/FT/ERS? Okay.
  • 11d. Wonderful clue for CHA/IN G/ANG: [Con catenation?].
  • 29d. HAN/NA-B/AR/BE/RA cartoon studio—needed lots of crossings because my brain failed to do anything useful with the clue.
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25 Responses to Friday, 1/28/11

  1. Neville says:

    I spent a good minute trying to fit TWO YEARS into BIENNIA’s place. Well played, KGD.

    I thought I was in for an easy time as SIMULCAST seemed apparent to me, but dropping in SAVES UP instead of SCRIMPS told me that this puzzle would not be so easy. In fact, I found it more Saturday-ish, too. I agree with Amy regarding tomorrow though, if only because I need the practice that a Killer could bring.

  2. ktd says:

    Seeing as the clue for WE’RE TOAST is “Dead duck’s cry”, shouldn’t the more appropriate answer be I’M TOAST?

  3. ArtLvr says:

    It sounds a bit like a herpetologist’s nightmare, VIALS of ANTIVENOM missing in a crisis: Lost the whole SHEBANG? You and your CRAZY IDEA, why didn’t you MIND the warnings, what a SNAFU, STRUCK by its JAW, COME on, QUICK, I’m in a DAZE, just A MO, too much time WENT BY, failing VITAL SIGN, bad OMENS, we’ll NE’ER make it, WE’RE TOAST. ADIEU!

  4. Howard B says:

    Been trying to solve late at night and exhausted this week – it’s not working well.
    Did not finish today, the lower-left killed me. Did not know COTY, and the finishing touch was somehow entering MANTARAYS for CASTAWAYS with ****A*AYS in place. In my semiconsciousness it made perfect sense, really!
    There was no going back from there, and nothing else solvable in that corner in that half-asleep state. I think had I solved this in the morning with some sleep and caffeination, the experience would have been different; I really liked the general vibe in this one, and the corners were crazy fun.

    Anyway, I am ready for a killer Saturday. I will solve it. I will solve it correctly. And I will call you squishy. Wait, that’s Finding Nemo… forget that part.

  5. joon says:

    über-tough, but i loved this puzzle. 4.5*. excellent fill and really thorny cluing. and count me in for the saturday killer.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Just sitting down to the NYT, ergo don’t want to read the write-up or the comments, but I would swear I’ve done this puz. For a moment I thought I had somehow picked up last Fri’s paper. Is it possible that it has run somewhere? (No I don’t think so.) Some of the clues, in the exact same location in the grid. . .Maybe I’m losing my mind after all, but if anyone has a different explanation, I’d be open to it. :-)

    Bruce

  7. ePeterso2 says:

    It took me 3 or 4 complete passes through the entire list of clues before I was able to put any entry in the grid with any confidence, and that was the W in WYMAN/WENT BY. I had PAD THAI and SHEBANG early, but I thought they must be wrong. I ended up working counter-clockwise, starting in the NE corner, and I had to walk away from the SE corner twice before I could get anywhere with it.

    I enjoyed this puzzle a lot … no-Googling it seems like a major accomplishment for me given how little I got at the outset.

  8. ePeterso2 says:

    I can’t say I get SMART as [Upper-class?] either, but I think maybe it means in a valedictorian, class-ranking kinda sorta way … maybe?

  9. Howard B says:

    That was the best feature of this puzzle; it all seemed solvable with time and patience, with several fun entries and moments of sudden realization upon finding the right answer. Really what we essentially seek when solving.

    Well, except maybe COTY, but everybody has one answer that they simply don’t know; that’s the solver’s burden and not the constructor’s when the crossings are generally fair ;).

  10. Meem says:

    Looking at the completed puzzle makes me think it shouldn’t have taken soooooo long. But for me, this was a real slog. Literally one word at a time with no real breakthrough. I took upper-class to mean at the top of the class which would be smart.

    Thought the CHE was great fun. And I agree with Amy that Mike Seidel is better known than a glass beer mug.

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    Like Joon said, the fill in the NYT was excellent. Scrabbly, but it didn’t feel forced at all. I got lucky with SIMULCAST, OMAHA, PAD THAI (which I know as “phad thai”), VITAL SIGN, and VIALS right out of the chute, so I finished with a solving time well below my Friday average.

    In a short time, Kevin Der has established himself as a quality freestyle constructor good enough to join the Sunday WaPo rotation. (But I don’t want to add to the rotation because that would dilute the number of great freestyles we get from Berry, Shenk, Longo, Tracey, and Payne. The obvious answer is that the Sunday WaPo needs to become the Saturday-Sunday WaPo.)

  12. sps says:

    Another cool thing about the CHE puzzle is that I’d just done Trip’s Squeezebox puzzle so my brain was already in multiple-letters-in-a-box mode…

  13. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m not sure at all about SMART either, but the first thing to occur to me was smart=chic=upper class, as in “the smart set” etc. I think now that the fun of it is that – with the obligatory question mark in the clue – it can be interpreted as ePeterso2 says or this way. Take your pick.:-)

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Donald, if you’re here to suggest that I’m a liar or autistic because I’m a fast solver, please go.

  15. Jan Hunt says:

    I haven’t been able to print the 1-23 CS puzzle on the WA Post site. I get an error message “cs110123.gif Crossword not found. Please inform web master.” I’ve written to them but I’m still getting that message. Is there another website where I can find a printable version of this puzzle?

    Thanks,

    Jan

  16. Evad says:

    Hi Jan, does this link work for you?

    You may have to right click it and “Save as…”

  17. Jamie says:

    Amy, Was that you with the Mrs. Bobbitt reference? I know it will make all your male readers wince (rightly so, dear sirs, violence is bad). I’ve always thought her last name would make for an awesome clue in an Onion-type crossword. [Q: Annoyed Flappper with long hair to stylist in the 20s? A: Just...] Sorry – even Merl wouldn’t pull a groaner like that. I’m here all night.

    I don’t understand why the NYT was considered so difficult. I clocked in at 2x Amy’s speed, which is pretty good for me. I’m not planning on showing up at the ACPT anytime.

    However, I have a question for any speed solvers out there. How good is your handwriting? I almost always solve puzzles on the computer, but a week ago I got two books, Amy’s and one of Patrick Berry’s, both of which are great. The biggest problem I had with the paper crosswords was trying to recognize my own writing. My “n”s look like “r”s, my “a”s are sloppy, my “i”s look like “l”s, etc.

    BTW, I see the LAT puzzle was rated an UGH by reviewers. I am sick to death of puzzles with the theme of either drop some letters or add some letters and get wacky answers, but for some reason, I would rate this a solid four. The “boils down to” and “nuts about” answers are reason enough to appreciate this crossword. It was a themed puzzle, so fresh, completely-in-the-language fill is always welcome.

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, my handwriting is passable. At the ACPT, I do try to make my C’s and L’s a little more distinct from each other. Not everybody makes an effort with their printing at the tournament, though. The judges really have their work cut out for them, trying to decipher 700 people’s hurried printing.

  19. Doug P. says:

    @Jan – The Washington Post doesn’t carry the Sunday CrosSynergy puzzles, so that dead link to Sunday’s puzzle shouldn’t be there.

  20. joon says:

    2 things:

    1. never heard of mike SEIDEL, and i only know the beer mug from crosswords. for my saturday stumper last year i clued it as {Poker star Erik}, who really is one of the all-time greats (8 WSOP bracelets, among other accomplishments). but stan changed it to {Large beer mug}.

    2. my handwriting is atrocious even by speed-solver standards. i like to say that the best handwriting award is the one that i couldn’t win even if that’s the only thing i were trying to do. pretty much all of my letters look like all of my other letters, but particularly indiscriminate (so to speak) are L/V, a/U, e/o, e/P/R, T/Y, a/G, a/R (yes, really), P/D, … there are probably more. BEQ, who was a judge, said that many solvers had terrible handwriting, but whenever there was a truly atrocious one, it invariably turned out to be mine.

  21. Jamie says:

    @amy, @joon: Thanks for the info on handwriting. Now I have to find some other reason why Amy can solve the NYT in less time than it takes me to read the clues. Egad!

  22. Didn't get ENO says:

    re: the LAT puzzle.

    Which of these doesn’t match? SOUGHT, FRAUGHT, CAUGHT, ENOUGH ?

    The last makes a clunker. It’s not, well, enough to have UGH drop out. In ENOUGH, it’s not at the end of the word, and UGH isn’t “silent” in that case.

  23. Jan Hunt says:

    @evad – Yes, that link worked, thank you!

    @doug p – I’ve always been able to get Wash Post Sunday puzzles at this link.

  24. Christine Anderson says:

    I really enjoyed today’s NYT. Favorite clue: “Still no more” (=astir). I thought “‘Still no more?’ What does that mean?” There were several similar clues that I just didn’t get until I got them and said “Ohhhhh.” I like that.

    That’s one advantage, I suppose, of not being a puzzle ace. It’s so much fun to say “What th..?” and tear out a few clumps of hair, and then get it after a certain amount of torment.

    I used to be much better and faster. That got boring.

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