Thursday, 2/24/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/23" plug="thursday-22411" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]7:39 (Gaffney)/4:40 (Amy)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/23" plug="thursday-22411" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]4:35[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/23" plug="thursday-22411" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:27[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/23" plug="thursday-22411" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword 2/24/11 answers 0224

The theme here is NO UNDERWEAR, a [Fashion rule for the liberated … or one of four arrangements found literally in this puzzle]. I dispute that it’s any sort of “fashion rule,” that it has any connection to “liberation,” and that it’s a lexical chunk worthy of being a crossword entry. Here, it serves as the rationale for putting WEAR in four symmetrical entries and placing a hidden NO somewhere below the WEAR squares.

The execution of this theme leaves a bit to be desired, however. Putting one WEAR in 20a: WE ARE DEVO is great (at least for people of my generation). The other three are in 22a: WEARY, 50a: WEARIN’ (where it has quite literally the same meaning), and 52a: I SWEAR. The NO under each WEAR is found in an odd assortment of answers:

  • 23a: NOTATE, ordinary word, nothing exciting.
  • 24a. PHENOL, clued specifically and grimly as a [Chemical embalmer].
  • 54a. Whoa! Really? NOTUS, [God of the south wind]? That’s a new one on me. I would almost have preferred the two-word NOT US, though there may not be a clue that would rescue it.
  • 55a. GOLD PIANO? Not. A. Lexical. Chunk. [Elvis instrument now in the Country Music Hall of Fame]? I’ll take your word for it.

I have to dock the puzzle for having another NO floating two rows above WEARY, in 16a: NORAH.

The word count is just 72, meaning there was leeway to rearrange the theme and get a potentially more forgiving grid.

And now! More things:

  • 46a. I started with the three S’s and wanted it to be the ’70s snake horror flick SSSSSSS, but then I read the clue. [Body of water named for an English explorer] and packed with S’s is the ROSS SEA.
  • 58a. [Muscovite prince known as "Moneybag"] is such a colorful clue. It’s just IVAN I? Aww. Minus two points for crossing yet another medieval leader name + Roman numeral, LEO VII. Hey! Didn’t I just ask for a moratorium on all the numbered LEOs? I did. There’s another Roman numeral in the puzzle—in the clue for NOON, [XII, maybe].
  • 64a. Say what? GIING? G.I.’ing? [Cleaning, as if for military inspection], is apparently GIING.
  • 3d. [F.A.A. center] is AVIATION in that “Aviation” is the central word in “Federal Aviation Administration.” Don’t care for that clue’s trick.
  • 21d. [Abbr. for those who didn't make the list] is, if you want to be picky about it, et al., since “those who” connotes people. The abbr. for the items that didn’t make the list is ETC.
  • 34d. Love the clue [Bud's place] for EAR (as in earbuds). I first thought of Budweiser and buddies, but not flower buds.
  • 41d. Weeeeiiird clue. Totally stumped me. [Brown strip] is PEANUTS because that’s the comic strip with Charlie Brown.
  • 42d. In a puzzle about NO UNDERWEAR, who raised an eyebrow at the clue [Balls at balls?]?


Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Tube Tops”—Janie’s review

So how did you do in catching on to the gimmick today? Sure took me a while, but then—there was both the “aha” moment and yes, the requisite head-slap. Well done, Patrick! Notice that each of the four theme phrases appears vertically in the grid. We don’t see that everyday—and its a choice that aptly supports the gimmick.

The “tube tops” of the title refer to the names of four different TV (tube) shows, each of which (by virtue of that vertical configuration) sits at the top of the theme phrase. The TV shows in question are Lost, C.O.P.S., Fame and Soap. (While I may have seen an episode or two of Soap [a hundred years ago...], I’m completely unfamiliar with the others…) Each title is four letters long, one syllable only; and each is also half of a familiar pairing—with the construction of each conforming to the “___ and ___” model. Beautiful. Comme ça:

  • 4D. LOST AND FOUND [Spot for misplaced stuff]. Probably some misplaced kids every now and then, too. (I’m thinkin’ visits to theme parks and the like.)
  • 14D. COPS AND ROBBERS [Tag variation]. For some reason my first thought was of a “price tag” and not the schoolyard game… Nice though, how the “schoolyard game” understanding ties in to “DOES, TOO” [Playground retort].
  • 7D. FAME AND FORTUNE [Star qualities?]. Amazing how many stars sadly manage to squander both
  • 24D. SOAP AND WATER [Cleaning staples]. These two basics manage to accomplish a myriad of household tasks!

In addition to these four lively and lovely theme entries, Patrick has fashioned a the grid with lots ‘n’ lots of sevens. There are triple columns of ‘em NE and SW, paired stacks NW and SE, four more running horizontally in the mid-section and two more peeling off two of those. That’s how we come to see such terrific (and well-clued) fill as BELATED [Like some birthday wishes], PARASOL [Victorian sun blocker], “EN GARDE!” ["Let's fight!"], KOOKIER [More eccentric] EMBASSY [Attaché's mission], [Time is of the] ESSENCE, RED DAWN [1984 Patrick Swayze movie...], BI-POLAR [Like some who have mood swings] and “O, CANADA!” [National anthem of North America].

Musical references abound—and run the gamut, from the sultry EARTHA [Kitt who sang the song "Santa Baby"] to the silly (funny!) “FAT” ["Weird Al" Yankovic song with the lyric "I'm the king of cellulite"] (do check out this video with its section-to-section comparison of “Fat” to “Bad”); from classic rock ‘n’ roll’s DEL ["Runaway" singer Shannon] to classic hard rock’s ["Dude (Looks Like)] A LADY[") Aerosmith song] to pop diva [Singer Celine] DION (though it doesn’t look like she’s ever recorded ["]ALL [That Jazz"]); from the patriotically referenced FOR [Third word of "America the Beautiful"] to the school-tie referenced ELI for witty, sophisticated composer/lyricist [Cole Porter, collegiately].

In case you couldn’t tell, I really admired this puzzle. “I SWEAR!” ["Cross my heart and hope to die!"].

Harvey Estes’ Los Angeles Times crossword

2/24/11 LA Times crossword answers

I’m tardy with the blogging this morning because I woke up this morning with a sore throat and laryngitis, took Tylenol and went back to sleep for a couple hours. Ahh, sleep. Good stuff.

Harvey’s theme swaps in -OLE homophones for other words:

  • 17a. Poll taxes become POLE TAXES for the Polish.
  • 25a. Soul music becomes SOLE MUSIC for the feet.
  • 35a. Cole Porter’s metier is COLE FIELD, which plays on…coal field? Is that a thing?
  • 49a. This one’s my favorite: roll calls turn into ROLE CALLS for an actor and agent.
  • 58a. Whole wheat becomes HOLE WHEAT.

Nice open corners with lots of 7′s. I like PELL-MELL, WINSTON Smith, BOLOGNA, and TROTSKY.

Names galore: LEIA, EYDIE, WINSTON, WEIL, Rob (not Harvey) ESTES, ESPO, TROTSKY, SAL, LOHAN. Granted, we’ve certainly seen a higher number of names in crosswords.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Garb Bag”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 309 solution

I liked this puzzle quite a lot for the first six minutes of the 7:39 it took to solve. And who could blame me? Nifty theme with funny entries—LOBSTER TARP and SHRINK WARP are goofy images, and PIECE OF CARP plays off a good base phrase. With lively fill like HEY JOE, BLUEBIRD, NORTH BAY, BE PROUD, Jon ARBUCKLE, BBGUNS, and EX-SPOUSE, Quigley was clearly in the zone. The clues were also snappy: [Dollar competition] for AVIS, new info on an old standby at 7-down, [Gain momentum on Twitter] for TREND, and [Opera annoyance?] for POP-UP AD all had my solve grooving right along.

But then, we hit a small blot. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it is a blot. Imagine Brendan taking a no-hitter into the ninth, then giving up a solo home run. He still gets the win and it’s a fine performance, but that one imperfection rankles. Here, that imperfection is the inconsistent theme entry at 27-down: the other three finish with a four-letter word in the pattern ?RAP, and change that to ?ARP. So “lobster trap” becomes LOBSTER TARP, “shrink wrap” becomes SHRINK WARP, and “piece of crap” becomes PIECE OF CARP. But at 27-down the the second word is just the three-letter “rap,” which switches to finish GANGSTA ARP (which in itself is another hilarious entry).

I also liked the title: it has several different intriguing wordplay aspects to it so you don’t know right off the bat what’s going on (it looks like a palindrome at first glance, for instance).

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ—and enjoy your Thursday, everyone!

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19 Responses to Thursday, 2/24/11

  1. John E says:

    Although I didn’t like that the Mets WS 1969 rival was strangely singularized, overall the puzzle was fun – bonus points for the vertical symmetry of justifying the NO’s left on the left side of the puzzle and vice-versa on the right.

    At least the clue for 64A wasn’t “Donating, Burnsian style”.

  2. john farmer says:

    Rather cool puzzle, I thought. One of my faves of recent memory. The theme brought to mind the “no underwear” subway rides* put on by an improv group last year. It was a pretty big deal, and the videos went viral, so I thought the theme hook had plenty of currency.

    Though 72 words, the corners are open, so not an easy grid to fill. GI’ING seems kind of goofy, not in my vocabulary, but it’s got dictionary support. Altogether, much more to like than not, imo.

    * The actors in the “no underwear” subway rides actually wore underwear. But that’s what the rides were called.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m sure this puzzle was made before January 24th when I posted
    THIS. Not exactly the same but, whoa.

  4. Howard B says:

    NY Times theme was actually interesting, and WE ARE DEVO scores quirky points here. But I was miffed by GOLD PIANO. Am I supposed to know that? Now I have a family friend who is quite an Elvis fan, and I’m sure that would be a gimme for him. But otherwise, that’s really rough.
    I think that theme answer and a couple other quirky bits (IVAN I / LEO VII, I’m looking at you two) took half my solve and really ate into the puzzle experience overall.

  5. D_Blackwell says:

    Doesn’t this call for a “Going Commando” poll?

  6. Aaron says:

    Not a fan of the NE and SW corners, but aside from that, I didn’t have a problem with the puzzle/theme. Then again, it didn’t *do* anything for me either, so this is floating between an average three and a sub-par two.

  7. Matt says:

    Just my opinion, but I didn’t care much for this one. Theme is cute, but the fill was inconsistently easy/hard/frustrating. Had an E at the intersection of INAPT and ARIANA for a while, top middle was stuck for a while with ARATED/GRADEA mistake, and the bottom middle area was empty until I guessed OBOE for the instrument at 59A.

  8. Meem says:

    Note to John E.: The clue at 33A. is the singular possessive Met’s. So the singular Oriole is OK. Mixed feelings about the puzzle. Interesting idea but not ready for prime time.

    Thought Pauer’s puzzle was elegant. Fun with the theme and smooth non-theme fill.

  9. Howard B says:

    Whoa, GIING? How did I miss that while solving? I was blinded by the nearby Pope, I guess. Surprised to see that in there.
    I’m going to have to try and construct a puzzle now with made-up fill that has funky letter patterns. I’ll include WIIFAN, JAYZ QUIP, and maybe QTIP FUZZ.

    Was feeling a bit snarky there, but better now, so snark done :).

  10. Jeffrey says:

    [resume snark]

    >Whoa, GIING? How did I miss that while solving?

    I wish I had. I refused to put the extra I in there for a long time. Agree this one wasn’t ready for prime time.

  11. Steve D says:

    @ John Farmer, the Improv Everywhere subway ride is actually a “no pants” event that has been held every January since 2001. It is not related to “No Pants Day” which is the 1st Friday in May.

  12. JaxInL.A. says:

    Comparing today’s NYT and CS puzzles is a little like eating a candy bar versus an elegant pastry. Both will hit the sweet tooth, but the latter satisfies on many more levels.

    PB’s grid just sings, though I did get a giggle out of Will Shortz selecting a theme of No Underwear and Mr. Cee’s clever idea. I just wish his execution were less spotty.

    Harvey Estes’ LAT puzzle today fell in the middle for me. Clean grid, and serviceable, workman-like theme. Nothing special.

  13. John Papini says:

    Perhaps the “fashion rule for the liberated” refers to the no-bra statements in the early seventies during the women’s lib movement. NO BRA would not have provided much of a cluing opportunity for a puzzle. I do not recall any women burning their panties for the women’s lib cause, so NO UNDERWEAR is a stretch.

  14. joon says:

    i spent over half my time on the LAT on one square: the theme answer POLE _ANES crossing _ENT, {Certain caterpillar’s creation}. i still don’t really understand TENT there, but obviously this would have been infinitely easier to see if i hadn’t had REN instead of REX for the comic dog (also unfamiliar to me).

    yikes. i hope this doesn’t happen to me at the ACPT. scary moment (well, if you’re easily frightened), but cool puzzle.

  15. john farmer says:

    @ steve d, I may have misremembered and the video at the link confirmed my misremembrance. I remember when my remembering wasn’t so mystifying.

  16. John Haber says:

    I rather liked the theme, although after three of four I was expecting all four NOs to come at the start or end of the fill. I also had no trouble with GOLD PIANO after I had the P, not because I felt I should know it, but because I’m ready to accuse Elvis of practically anything.

    I do agree with issues with some of the other fill, such as GIING and NOTUS. Those two also came in the corner with IVAN I and LEO VII, and I so wish we could have a moratorium on numbered LEOs for a while. It’s getting awfully trite. I also had trouble with the crossing of NORAH and ARIANA, and there didn’t seem anything all that particular to Bach among all other musicians about an OBOE. Still, WE ARE DEVO for a “wear” and “Brown strip” were nice.

  17. Jamie says:

    This was a 2-star puzzle just in terms of execution and fill. The theme is indefensible both by its clue (Amy already dealt with that) and that clue’s appearance in the NYT.

    I reluctantly filled in GIING, outraged. That can’t be a word! Tonight, I was re-reading a book published in 1982, and two errant air force plebes had to GI floors as punishment. The author didn’t feel the need to explain. So, to GI not only exists as a verb, but it has slipped my eye the last two times I saw it.

  18. Howard B says:

    I stand corrected on my GIING comment. I should have added that it *felt* like a made-up word, not that it at all was.

  19. Jamie says:

    @ everyone Good luck at the ACPT. Now that I’ve seen Wordplay, I think anybody who enters is awesome.

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