Monday, 1/31/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/30" plug="monday-13111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:02[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/30" plug="monday-13111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]2:23[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/30" plug="monday-13111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]5:42 (Evad)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/01/30" plug="monday-13111" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]5:24[/time_hdr]

Congratulations to Eric Maddy, winner of the Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest crossword tournament!

Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 1/31/11

Iconic commercial mascots for various food brands carry the day. AUNT JEMIMA starts us off with breakfast. BETTY CROCKER brings the cake mix for dessert. For lunch, you can have some JOLLY GREEN GIANT veggies with your can of CHEF BOYARDEE. And then we’ll all have a bowl of CAP’N CRUNCH cereal for supper, with shots of CAPTAIN MORGAN rum on the side. Okay, so that last one isn’t part of the theme. Not only does a 13-letter answer not fit in, but we’ve already got our “man of the sea” position filled.

Easy, breezy Monday crossword. There are at least nine Across clues I never saw, since I marched through the grid with mainly the Down clues, glancing at Acrosses to get starting letters for Downs.

The crossword world is ripe for the arrival of a fabulous new AIMEE. [Old-time evangelist __ Semple McPherson] is really old-time—she died in 1944. The Wikipedia capsule info showed that she was twice divorced, which struck me as odd for an early 20th-century preacher. Well! You have got to read her Wikipedia bio. What a colorful character. Don’t miss the lurid tale of her reported kidnapping.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Between her, Anouk AIMÉE, and singer-songwriter AIMEE Mann, well, nobody’s really commanding the AIMEE stage. We need a new one to put in our crossword clues.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 1/31/11

A bowl of THREE-ALARM chili ties together the other three theme entries:

  • 17a. [Exec's perk] is a COMPANY CAR. Car alarms are annoying.
  • 23a. PLAYS WITH FIRE means [Tempts fate, in a way]. Fire alarms come in handy, as do smoke alarms. (Are your smoke alarms’ batteries working?)
  • 50a. Hey! Sue Grafton books get a lot of play in crosswords, but usually it’s a fill-in-the-blank A IS, B IS, or N IS, something along those lines. [Second in a Sue Grafton series] clues B IS FOR BURGLAR.

Highlights:

  • 38a. [One in an extra-large baby carriage, perhaps] clues a TRIPLET. I was thinking we about a carriage for an extra-large baby here. (Whoops.)
  • 5d. SPAMALOT is the [Musical with the song "The Holy Grail"].
  • 10d. One tasty [Pita filling] is FALAFEL. Yum!
  • 25d. [Country with a da Vinci drawing on its one-euro coin] is a great Monday clue for ITALY.
  • 34d. [Barnes & Noble link?] is the AMPERSAND in the middle of the store’s name.
  • 63d. ['70s TV boss of Mary, Ted and Murray] is the best clue I’ve ever seen for LOU.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Meeting of the Minds”—Evad’s review

CrosSynergy 1/31 crossword answers

Tomorrow, constructor Patrick Blindauer announces the preliminary results of his sweeping 10 puzzle cum meta contest, I Know Where I Was Last Summer. I understand he had over 170 participants, unfortunately I don’t think we can discuss the contest until March as he is adding an eleventh puzzle (and another month to the deadline) to help those who haven’t figured out his final destination yet. (I wonder if next year we’ll be asked to find out where he and his now fiancée spent their honeymoon?) Today, his designs are much less broad in scale as he offers us three 15-letter phrases with the letters of MIND tucked inside.

  • “Business sector that moves people” isn’t the publishers of Harlequin Romances, but instead the TOURISM INDUSTRY.
  • “Mass that Mozart did not complete” is the REQUIEM IN DINOR. I believe the music from this requiem features prominently in Peter Shaffer‘s Amadeus. Can any movie buffs out there confirm?
  • “Fare that’s rich in nutrients” is the somewhat forced feeling HIGH VITAMIN DIET. Too bad VITAMIN D is 7 letters 2 short and VITAMIN DEFICIENCY is 2 letters 2 long. Speaking of which, those of us in Northern climes are being advised to supplement our diets with up to 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily to make up for the lack of sunshine. Sheesh, if all the snow we’re getting isn’t bad enough, we have to shovel the stuff up in the dark!

A couple of longish entries, HAD A CAMEO (another forced phrase in my book) and the much better IT’S A SHAME seem placed to have a bearing on the theme, but damned if I can see how. Enjoyed GAS HOG and what the Swedish Chef (from The Muppet Show) wears, a TOQUE. Were we supposed to understand anything he said? I just recall a lot of incoherent mumbling.

I can’t help but close with this link which, in full disclosure, brings you to Rick Ashley‘s Never GONNA Give You Up, now with almost 30 million views. Wouldn’t it be cool if you’re number 30,000,000? That’s something to tell your grandchildren.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ #302

So, Ben Zimmer sends Brendan a picture of an insane crossword grid from the back of an old record cover. Brendan renumbers the grid conventionally (because he’s nothing of not conventional, right?) and whaddaya know? It’s a 70-word grid so he can use it for a themeless. He’s got a crazy amount of cool fill in this one:

  • CLIP-ON TIE, THE AUGHTS decade, the desert bush OCOTILLOS (don’t know how I got that one), the Greek pair of TSONGAS and ONASSIS, slangy “IZZAT SO?”, Chinese leader HU JINTAO, KNIEVEL instead of repeater EVEL, the SCREWY faux-zodiac constellation OPHIUCHUS, QWERTY, poet Anne SEXTON

Totally fell in the 16a trap. [Game seen around Christmas]? We used to have the Cranium kids’ game CARIBOO. That final O made it hard to figure out the name at 13d. HO- who? No room for HO CHI MINH. That was HU JINTAO’s spot, crossing a northern CARIBOU. Has anyone put Hu’s name in a crossword before? It’s a fearsome entry.

“You know Hu’s in Chicago?” I asked my husband the other week, when the Chinese delegation visited town. “Who,” he replied. “Yes, exactly,” I said. I slay me, I tell ya.

Hey, Brendan, have you even heard of the game called Cariboo?

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33 Responses to Monday, 1/31/11

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Andrea (SHE’S ACME) is laying claim to the Queen of Monday crown with this gem.

    I flew through the top half as fast as any puzzle I’ve ever done. Then I wrote APPLE in 49d instead of 50d and then put EFLAT in the wrong place, leading to a very difficult SW corner. What might have been… Better to do that now than in Brooklyn, I guess.

  2. John E says:

    Overall, this NYT was about the easiest one I have ever done – was at 4:30 (which would have been a personal record), but entered “YIKES” instead of “YIPES” and it took me a minute to find it.

    Just watched “Bruce Almighty” this afternoon, with the scene where they find Jimmy Hoffa’s body – had to laugh when that came up in the puzzle.

  3. Zulema says:

    When I visited Forest Lawn I came across McPherson’s grave. It’s a tremendous horizontal monument with her name in large letters. There must have been other markings, but I just remember that. Very impressive. Not quite Eloise and Abelard’s, but impressive nonetheless.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: Even with none of those brands to my knowledge being sold in SA at the moment (I can remember CAPNCRUNCH as a kid but haven’t seen it for 15 years…) could still tear through this in super quick time!

    LAT: Never heard it called VDAY, but wasn’t a huge logical leap to make…

  5. Matt says:

    Funny, I had the same experience as others– zip through the puzzle, but get one letter wrong. For me it was the crossing of BALD and AND (had a Y instead of a D). I guess it’s a case of FAST, FASTER, and FASTEST$%#&#.

  6. sps says:

    Amy,

    I learned about Aimee McPherson through Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry and then later through the movie starring Burt Lancaster (with a great bit part by Partridge mom Shirley Jones as a hooker—I think she won an Oscar for that role). McPherson truly was an interesting and controversial figure in the 20′s and 30′s, storming across the country pitching tents and holding revivals. But I agree, her name’s dated in xwords. Actually I’m always thankful when she appears in a clue b/c I know I’ll always recall her name… :)

    sps

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    Andrea “French Girl” Michaels is at it again. You’ll notice that Aimee McPherson lived up to her, ahem, Christian name in the French.——-Of far more interest is 56A [French "her"] = Ellle where our constructor gets tricksy avec nous. Normally in French, “Elle” is only used for “she” in the Nominative. “Her” as an object in the Accusative is almost always rendered “la,” but in the rum exception of “Disjunctive” pronouns, such as objects of French prepositions, as in as “pour elle” = “for her” the clue works. Puzzle bonne, Andrea!

  8. joon says:

    i don’t think there was any intentional trickery there—it couldn’t have been clued as {French “she”} because SHE’S was elsewhere in the grid.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    True enough, joon. But she could have clued it as, I don’t know, [Cad ending?] or something more appropriate for Monday. Anyway, the clue is a bit tricksy, whether intentional or no, which is the way I fancy thinking of Andrea.:-)

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Daniel, ELLE isn’t a suffix in cadelle. Plus, that word is wildly obscure!

  11. Daniel Myers says:

    Amy,

    LOL- I know. The clue I suggested – off the top of my obscure head – was [Cad ending?] NOT [Cad suffix] and I qualified it w/ ” or something more appropriate for Monday.” Why so hidebound today? I’m merely having a bit of fun w/ a very enjoyable puzzle and constructor whom I admire.:-)

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I thought the general rule for [__ ending] clues was that the letters in the grid had to form a discrete unit of meaning, to be a recognized affix. Even a question mark doesn’t save your clue, if you ask me. It puts us on the slippery slope to such abominations as [Key opener?] for TUR. Just say no! Zero tolerance!

  13. joon says:

    a few years ago, i had a themeless rejected from the NYT that included HU JINTAO. it wasn’t my cleanest grid ever, but i was surprised when the rejection notice cited HU JINTAO as one of the hard/undesirable entries. this was right after the beijing olympics, too.

  14. john farmer says:

    Questions: If Aimee Semple McPherson is “really old-time” and “dated in xwords,” could someone explain how old is too old for crosswords? I’d really like to know where we’re supposed to draw the line. I understand she’s from before your time (before my time too). Is anything before your time too dated? Or is there some other magical date we should use?

    If the answer is “before my time” = “too dated,” then I’d be curious to know if you’ve always had that attitude. Were you never interested in what came before you? Is all that matters what happened during your generation and later?

    A good friend of mine’s father is a daily solver of the Times puzzle. He’s old enough to remember McPherson when she was still around. Does he get a vote in deciding how old is too old? Or is the answer, “Sorry, Pops”?

    Seems to me one of the appeals of crosswords is that they test a wide range of knowledge. A classical composer crosses kids’ action figures. The “Jane Eyre” writer crosses Snooki’s hairdo. There’s a Beatle and the Beatles’ record company, some Biblical history, a labor leader, a kid lit heroine, and five brand names from the kitchen. I don’t see the problem with having a range of dates for cultural references that seems to cover the broad range of puzzle solvers.

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    Amy and Joon,

    Very well, demoisELLEs:
    I shall refrain from proffering clues that, well,
    Violate affixal norms.

    As under HU JINTAO,
    One must conform!

  16. Jeffrey says:

    I think ET TU should be removed from all crosswords before the reference is before my time.

  17. Jamie says:

    @john farmer: I thing Amy just meant that cluing Aimee as the mysterious preacher was out-dated, not that you are. There are other Aimees out there.

    I really don’t understand your post. On most weeks in the NYT, I am expected to have at some point knowledge of ancient Greek places and Gods, names of muses, Shakespeare down pat, famous and not-so-famous painters of centuries past.
    Plus Snooki..

    Snooki (I know who she is) has a crosswordable haircut? I must have gotten that on the crossings.

    Sorry John – I think Amy’s comment was reasonable (and the links so funny). Whoa, that woman was a piece of work.

    Plus, I know I face ancient crosswordese in every puzzle. That’s why Amy and Rex give thanks when they see fresh fill. And so do I.

  18. pannonica says:

    I’ve thought for a while that China’s President Hu [Jintao] and Premier Wen [Jiabao] need some more appropriate colleagues, to round out a theme. You know, like a Chairman Hao, a Minister Wai?

    I suppose the theme could be less constrained and rounded out with an Elias or Gordie Howe, a Chris or David S. Ware, and… uhm… Wyclef Jean? the Bikos (Stephen and family)?

    On second thought, forget it.

  19. john farmer says:

    @Jamie,

    I’m not sure what you didn’t understand, but let me recap. I took Amy’s comment (and moreso, sts’s; and even moreso, yours) that Aimee McPherson is too “out-dated” (your word) to be used for a crossword clue. I disagree.

    As I said, just because you don’t remember her doesn’t mean there aren’t solvers who do.

    This has nothing to do with having fresh clues. I’d guess most of us like to see new stuff in puzzles. Even Snooki’s hairdo (which may seem a lot more dated than the preacher in another ten years). McPherson hasn’t been in a NYT clue for AIMEE in five years. It’s hard to say she’s been overused. Since then we’ve seen 6 Anouk’s and 4 Mann’s. I agree with Amy: we’d all love to see a new AIMEE come along so there’s more variety.

    Anyway, my objection is the the arbitrarily enforced mandatory retirement age that seems to be in the wind here. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it should apply.

  20. Meem says:

    Just catching up with all of you today. Thought Andrea’s NYT got the week off to a great start. Pitched very well for a Monday. Five theme offerings from the pantry with Claude Debussy and Amelia Bedelia is quite an array. So I’m unclear as to why the conversation has devolved to a disagreeable tit-for-tat about “too old.” Was Adrian III too old? Babe Ruth? Mel Ott? I hope not. When one follows puzzle discussions over a period of time, it is fascinating to learn of solvers’ varying long and short suits. So I would not favor anything that smacked of “retirement” age.

  21. John E says:

    I read Amy’s comment to say that we need a new cluing for AIMEE, not so much that McPherson is out-of-bounds for being too old.

    Did you guys know that one of Ozzy Osbourne’s kids is named Aimee? Apparently, she didn’t want to appear on “The Osbournes” though, so not sure how difficult of a solve this would be….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aimee_Osbourne

  22. pannonica says:

    …and when was the last time we saw Pure Prairie League’s “Aime”?

    (Even if it isn’t as classy as referencing Birkin and Gainsbourg.)

  23. Ladel says:

    All this bickering signifying nothing is directly attributable to the cavemen of blessed memory. It was they, having solved the food and shelter thing, who began painting on cave walls, and necessarily provoked the first critic.

  24. john farmer says:

    Hey, I guess that was me being the disagreeable one. My point in commenting was to disagree. I didn’t mean to be disagreeable. Sorry if anything I said rubbed you the wrong way. (Though compared to some things I’ve read on crossword blogs, I thought it was rather tame.)

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read comments about a clue or answer or something or another in a puzzle was too old or dated. After a while, those comments begin to rub me the wrong way. I think we each have our own cultural references, but puzzles — at least ones in the papers like the Times — are trying to appeal to a wide audience. Any clue or answer is likely to skew older or younger for many of us. Some will hit our sweet spot. I think the variety makes puzzles more appealing.

    That’s really all I meant to say. This is way too much to go on in defense of a clue with Aimee McPherson, which is hardly the most au courant of names (even the clue had “old” in it). But it’s still a name worth knowing, and I didn’t see any problem with it.

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John, in 30+ years of doing crosswords, I have known the name Aimee Semple McPherson and that she was an evangelist—but never knew anything else about her because she’s so seldom mentioned anywhere other than the occasional crossword clue. Why is it a name worth knowing? It took me three decades to work up enough curiosity to look her up (and I still haven’t learned anything interesting about Virna Lisi or Nita Naldi). The solvers in their 80s may know the backstory first-hand, but when the famous name dwindles to a footnote in a small corner of history, what differentiates it from ANOA to 98% of solvers? Now, a fresh new trivia clue that’s a FITB name clue but also reveals something interesting—that might have piqued my curiosity.

  26. joon says:

    i know i’m not the only one who categorizes my knowledge into “things i know from outside of crosswords” and “things i know only from crosswords,” but i guess the same thing can fall into different categories for different people. AS-M definitely goes into the first category for me, so i have no problem with her. there are many things in my second category that fall into other peoples’ first category, though, including, to name a few, LADY GAGA and BAD ROMANCE, DATE MY MOM, and HEY THERE DELILAH. (the most surprising thing, perhaps, is that all of those are things i both learned from a crossword and then later used to solve a different crossword.)

    i do think there is inherent value in being newer, but there is also inherent value in being better and/or more famous. shakespeare is old, and the bible is really old, but that doesn’t matter because they’re so huge that everybody will know something about them. i’d still rather see shakespeare than snooki any day, i’ll tell you that.

  27. Meem says:

    Thanks, joon. Shakespeare over Snooki any day!

  28. Jamie says:

    @John Farmer: Thanks for sparking a debate here. I’d love to see more comments – Amy’s blog is top-notch and she has great fellow-bloggers, but it attracts so few comments that I feel shy about posting here. Okay, last week I sorta unlurked, but I have been reading it for ages, and my fellow posters daunt me. I’m in the presence of giants here.

    If there’s a mandatory retirement age in the NYT, it has completely escaped my notice. There ought to be – not for people, but for clues/answers that are just [sigh] old. Old as in trite, over-cooked, banal, boring, done-to-death, been-there, done-that utter crosswordese.

    I think blogs like Amy’s have added great value to the crossword world by hammering away at boring old clues with convenient vowels, like Aimee.

    I’m a solver, and a slow solver, but I think the NYT is rapidly losing its stature as the go-to place for the best crossword in town. In fact, it mostly shines when it uses the new kids.

    I hope to see others post here. We from the slow-solver, non-constructor part of the world known as the audience.

    So, go for it Mr. Farmer. BTW, I am old enough, like Amy, to confidently write in Aimee when I see the McPherson reference and like most of us, young enough not to have ever seen her in person. I thought it was really cool that Amy steered us to her Wiki page. California in the early 20th century must have been quite the place, and Ms. McPherson sounds quite the person who would have fit in there.

    I think Snooki would like it there too. I have never seen Ms. Snooki and couldn’t pick her out in a line-up.

  29. john farmer says:

    Agree with many of the comments. Time only to say why ASM is a name to know. Admittedly, it’s a judgment call, but I’d say she’s a historical figure of note. Like it or not, media evangelism is big, and she was one of the first and one of the most influential. Maybe one or two others have had more political impact, but she is arguably the most popular evangelist the country has seen. Someday they’ll do a biopic (plenty of drama there for that) and she’ll be famous to all the young crossworders again.

    Sorry ’bout the attitude earlier. Tomorrow we can debate Leopold and Loeb.

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yes, McPherson’s story is as lurid and dramatic as today’s reality TV can be. Real Evangelists of Beverly Hills, anyone? Not sure how hard it is to get a biopic greenlit about someone so unknown to today’s audiences; it’s definitely a good story.

    Curious that all of the most prominent evangelists of recent decades have been men, aside from Tammy Faye Bakker (whose evangelical career was less prominent than her ex-husband’s).

  31. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jamie: So glad you commented! No need to be daunted.

  32. Jan says:

    LAT:

    Apollo on Wikipedia: “Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; medicine, healing, and plague; music, poetry, and the arts.”

    Adonis on Wikipedia: “An extremely attractive, youthful male is often called an Adonis.”

    No wonder I stubbornly kept ADONIS until the bitter end!

  33. Lois Padawer says:

    Regarding Aimee Semple McPherson, I would like to recommend an old film (1931) starring Barbara Stanwyck entitled The Miracle Woman. Great movie! It’s not a biopic about McPherson but rather “inspired by” McPherson, in the words of the first comment about it on the IMDB site. Since most of us can watch and enjoy films on TCM, what is really outdated? As Joon indicates, what is obscure crossword-ese to one is a gimme and enjoyable re-meeting to another. (I guess Tuesday night is not a good time for a recommendation about a Monday puzzle.)

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