Tuesday, 3/22/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/21" plug="tuesday-32211" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:35[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/21" plug="tuesday-32211" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:06 (Neville)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/21" plug="tuesday-32211" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]6:32 (Evad)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/21" plug="tuesday-32211" puzz="Jonesin'" anchor="jn"]3:40[/time_hdr]

Albert Picallo’s New York Times crossword

3/22/11 NYT crossword solution 0322

Hey! Guess what? I didn’t get caught up on sleep last night, so I’m still in a state of post-ACPT exhaustion. I have a sore throat from having conversations with old friends and new ones for 15 hours a day for four days. Eyes bleary; nearly submitted puzzle to the applet with a semicolon in the grid. Ergo: Short post!

Theme: TWIST OF FATE is manifested in eight symmetrically placed answers in which the letters of FATE appear scrambled in the circled squares.

Likes:

  • PORTHOLE, THE MAFIA (good use of the definite article) hooked up with OMERTA, and SLIDER clued as a [Small burger]. Remember when sliders were exclusively a term for White Castle’s little burgers? Now they’re ubiquitous bar food.

Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

3/22/11 LA Times crossword answers

Before we get to today’s LA Times puzzle, I want to take a moment to share how much fun I had at my first ACPT this weekend. It was great to see some old friends and make a lot of new ones, too. A big thanks to everyone who helped make the event possible, especially those who hid behind the scenes most of the time. And congratulations to all of contestants, even those who didn’t walk away with any hardware – you’re still “nationally ranked”! Even if you’re not yet a Feyer-esque solver, I highly recommend coming to the ACPT. It’s simply too much fun! You’ll get to meet some of your favorite puzzle people (solvers, bloggers, constructors and editors alike) as well as take part in some superb crosswords and other games on the side. Do not miss ACPT 2012 – March 16-18.

To the puzzle now – puns on Tuesday! Kurt and Jan-Michele have four stately phrases here, each of which builds off of an extended state abbreviation. No need to go postal here – these are 3- and 4-letter abbreviations.

  • 17a. [Having a sense of the Prairie State?] is FEELING ILLINOIS. That’s FEELING ILL… INOIS. Now we’re all on the same page. This was the only state nickname I didn’t know immediately.
  • 27a. [Webster's impression of the Natural State?] is NOAH’S ARKANSAS. How about RAIDERS OF THE / LOST ARKANSAS? That one would break symmetrically.
  • 44a. [Watch the Evergreen State?] = EYE WASHINGTON.
  • 59a. [Close to the Magnolia State?] = NEAR MISSISSIPPI. Wiktionary defines a near miss as “very, very close. Nearly a hit, but a miss, nonetheless.” Any arguments that you’ve heard about the meaning of that phrase are officially settled. Even cooler – Wiktionary suggests anagrams! (Can you figure out the anagram of near miss without cheating?)

I liked this puzzle – nice early week puns, even if state-based themes are familiar. There’s some nice fill going on in here, too. You can find XANDY in the SE corner, and the fun long answer department features an ACE BANDAGE, ALL SORTS, and SPRING OPEN.

Top clues:

  • 4d. [Beethoven's fifths?] are SOLS – the fifth degree on the diatonic scale. think it’s a prettier clue in the singular, but we take what we can get, don’t we?
  • 45d. [Nut] is WEIRDO. Somehow, I’m not tired of vague clues even after the dastardly puzzle 5 at the ACPT.
  • 52d. [Most popular baby girl's name, 1996-2007] is EMILY, like my friend Emily who came along to the ACPT. Despite this connection, I wanted ELLEN here with only the E in place. I declare this entry ungettable without crossings.

Ew moment:

  • 10d. [Toe inflammation] is a BUNION. Nothing pleasant to see here.

See you on Thursday!

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gym Membership”—Evad’s review

3/22/11 CrosSynergy crossword solution

The “gym” in the title is a homophone of “Jim,” short for JAMES, which is the first name of the men whose last name starts these theme phrases:

 

  • [1971 Rolling Stones hit] is BROWN SUGAR. Riddle me this: If James Brown is the “Godfather of Soul,” who is the Godmother? (Sam Cooke and Aretha outrank them both in the royal court as the King and Queen, respectively.)
  • Really enjoyed the clue [Enclave for the impractical] for IVORY TOWER since the clue seems to have been written by someone living in one! James Ivory is the Ivory portion of the Merchant-Ivory movie producing juggernaut.
  • [Wall Street activity] is BOND TRADING. Rather dull phrase that spices up real quick when you think about James Bond, particularly in his most recent incarnation.
  • James Hilton (unrelated to founder Conrad of the HILTON HOTEL chain) rounds out the theme entries. He wrote Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. The first of those two novels ended up being my one incorrect letter in the ACPT puzzle 6, in which constructor Maura Jacobson “futurized” the novel’s name to LOST VERIZON. (I had an H for that V, the crossing was a prince from the comics, and I had HAL instead of VAL. If the clue had been “Actress Harper to her friends,” I’d be sitting on an extra 200 points or so!)

So are these the most famous Jameses whose last name can start a phrase? I’ll take the constructor’s word on it. Some clues and entries that caught my eye:

  • Three cute clues: [Cow poke] for PROD, [Stick up at sea] for MAST, and the rhyming [Howl from an owl] for HOOT.
  • Do SNL comedians really call their sketches BITS? I’d be more apt to call them SKITS.
  • An etymologist studies the origins of words; William SAFIRE writes about this in his How Not to Write. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting linguist Ben Zimmer of the NYT’s “On Language” column and the Visual Thesaurus over the weekend.
  • The “soap” in the clue [Soap ingredient] is not the kind you wash yourself with, it’s what you might watch on daytime TV, full of LUST.
  • Odd to clue DIG IT as an outdated “Dude…” phrase, when “Number” or “Finger” are much more current usages.
  • Also liked the longer entries GAG ORDER, TY COBB, JAILBIRD and (The) DARK AGES.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Westerns Philosophy”

Jonesin' crossword answers "Westerns Philosophy"

There’s a famous spaghetti western called The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The title’s “Westerns” points at the pluralization in the theme entries that appear in this puzzle with left/right symmetry:

  • 17a. [Follow through on a promise] clues DELIVER THE GOODS. Solid.
  • 34a. [Be a positive, on balance] clues OUTWEIGH THE BADS. That sounds just plain weird to me. “The good outweighs the bad,” people say. Who speaks of “the bads”? Boo.
  • 51a. [Doing the nasty] clues the slang phrase BUMPING UGLIES. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen that in a crossword!

Highlights:

  • 1a. Fresh ZYNGA, the [Company behind FarmVille and CityVille], those Facebook games I have completely blocked from view.
  • 9a. Don’t bogart that JOINT, my friend. [It may get passed in secret].
  • 49a. MALT-O-MEAL is a hot [Breakfast cereal brand]. When I was in college, the Malt-o-Meal plant in town disgorged a pleasantly toasted industrial aroma.
  • 37d. THE SMURFS are a [Blue man group?]. Also a blue woman group.
  • 43d. [Folk singer Pete and his poet uncle Alan, for two] are SEEGERS. I like Pete Seeger (grew up with his folk songs for kids) and am pleased to learn he had a poet uncle.
  • GLIMPSE, SQUALL, FROMAGE—all good too.

 

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31 Responses to Tuesday, 3/22/11

  1. jim hale says:

    A little too easy for a Tuesday but Okay.

  2. joon says:

    6 theme answers yesterday, 9 today. good grief! not my favorite genre of puzzle, but if you’re going to do it, this is how it should be done: zillions of theme answers (including some shiny ones), all with different arrangements of the letters, and a nice “reveal” payoff. congrats to albert picallo, whose name i don’t recognize.

  3. Plot says:

    So this is Albert R. Picallo’s debut puzzle, eh? I have my suspicions that this is a pseudonym for a more experienced constructor. Think about it: nine theme entries, including two stacked pairs, no serious compromises with the fill. It just seems too good to be true. But, Mr. Picallo, if you are indeed a real person, then muchos kudos for a very impressive first puzzle.
    Coincidentally, a brief search revealed that his name is an anagram for “ACPT laborer ill” (Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the stress of running the tournament is too much for Will to handle).

    Don’t have much to say about the LAT, except that I have never heard of LOGY, so that slowed me down a bit.

  4. jemini says:

    Does anyone have pictures of the Tournament that they will post on the Internet?
    Would love to see some.

  5. jamie says:

    @jemini There are lots of pics at the acpt site http://www.crosswordtournament.com/
    (uncaptioned, so useless to me) and there’s video of the final here: http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/2667/

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Plot: There are two Albert Picallos on LinkedIn, so I’m pretty sure it’s the constructor’s real name. And I only know of one instance in which Will allowed a constructor to use a nom de plume in the NYT. And hey! You’re the guy from the B finals who finished ahead of me in the overall standings at ACPT, aren’t you?

    @Jamie: The captions will likely follow later, as in past years. Patience!

  7. Gareth says:

    Sure I’m the only person who knew 4D from the Penelope Keith Britcom (which uses the song as it’s theme). 5D can be also be the abbr. for Original Soundtrack, but it never is! Quite a lot of fun clues/entries in this one, esp. considering the grid and theme density! Never heard of SLIDER or EXEL, but guessed right. Sure sliders will start appearing here soon, had my first BLT sighting last year!

  8. David (Plot)kin says:

    @Amy: Yes, that’s me; I only go by ‘Plot’ because I’m usually too lazy to type out more than one syllable of my name. Sorry that I did not really get a chance to meet you in person at the ACPT, except for that brief moment inbetween the B and A finals. I had spent a lot of my downtime solving the free crosswords to ‘warm up’ for the tournament puzzles. Next year, I’m going to spend more time with the people and less time with the puzzles.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Plot, my first year at the tournament, I ordered room service and spent most of the unscheduled time alone in my room. It was a lot more fun the next year when I hung out in the bar for hours. And drinking is completely optional, so I encourage nondrinkers to hang out in the hotel bar too! Smart conversations, word games, puzzle gossip, and witty banter abound in the bar and lounge at the ACPT.

  10. Gareth says:

    The Island’s been rather quiet. Put a puzzle up now: http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=579.

  11. joon says:

    in plot’s first ACPT, he wasn’t even old enough to get into the bar, no? :) at any rate, he’s certainly made a name for himself this year, stepping into the ranks of the elite solvers at a very young age. i’d claim to be looking over my shoulder at him in the year to come, but he finished several places ahead of me, so i guess that’s fairly inapt.

  12. sps says:

    And Plot’s a pretty swell guy to boot. David, I spent Friday night in a group with Peter Gordon playing his new iPhone app. It was awesome! Best part of the weekend: all the great people, all there to celebrate words and puzzles and have fun…

  13. jamie says:

    Amy, I have a question on the tournament. Can people in wheelchairs compete? I’m temporarily in one and it has made me much more sensitive to these issues. Are there provisions for people with disabilities of any kind?

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in a wheelchair, but I would assume that the hotel is fully accessible. As for the tournament, all the official events take place on a single level, and the entire back row of competition tables would be pretty accessible (just move a chair or two to make space for a wheelchair). (The other rows of tables are generally too closely placed to accommodate a wheelchair, though a wheelchair at the end of one might not get in anyone’s way.) The restaurant, bar, lounge, and lobby are on the same level as all the tournament activities.

    Several blocks away on Montague Street, there are definitely restaurants that are accessible only by stairs. Restaurants on Adams and Fulton are street-level.

  15. jamie says:

    Thanks, Amy. I wasn’t asking about the hotel – they have to be ADA compliant. Just whether the tournament was. Sorry if this sounds testy – coping with this w/c makes me more than usually so, I’m afraid – but I wasn’t asking if someone in a wheel chair might get in anyone’s way. I’m afraid I am not so well-mannered as to apologize to anyone for the inconvenience my wheel chair poses to them. And I’m only in it for a couple of months. If this were a lifetime condition and someone told me I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, I’d be way beyond testy.

    P.S. Amy, feel free to delete this. I know it’s off topic. It was just a gut reaction I had to the videos of the finals. Apparently to be the top solver, you not only need to be way brainier than I am, but also agile and able to reach high and low. I don’t see what the latter qualities have to do with puzzle-solving skills.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, have you seen “Wordplay”? The tournament has many rows of tables in a hotel ballroom. Judges have to squeeze past contestants to pick up people’s papers, and people who finish early have to be able to get past too. And there may be fire codes regarding open space in aisles. From a logistical standpoint, I’m thinking the back row tables are the optimal place for a wheelchair, but that someone in a wheelchair who wants/needs to be closer to the front (to hear announcements, to see the clock, etc.) could probably sit in the aisle at the end of a table without causing any safety hazard for others, or on the opposite side of a table in the front row. The aisles are pretty wide. I wasn’t at all thinking “Darn those wheelchairs, getting in people’s way.”

    But now I see your point about the finals. Someone who can’t navigate the whiteboards on a small stage (which generally has no ramp anyway) would need an alternative finals option. I don’t see any reason a finalist who’s in a wheelchair, has limited arm mobility, is 3 feet tall, etc., couldn’t compete via a paper copy of the puzzle. It would be churlish for another finalist to complain that a disabled competitor had an unfair advantage in being able to solve on paper rather than a whiteboard, though it’s widely held that whiteboard solving is slower than paper solving.

  17. jamie says:

    Thanks again, Amy! I hope Shortz reads this. I have another suggestion for the final show-down, not related to ADA issues.

    To wit: Perhaps it is great fun for the audience to watch the final three on the whiteboards, but the angles are not flattering. You can’t see the contestant’s faces as they sweat through the puzzles, but you get a fine view of their rear ends. I know the contest operates on a budget, but it would not cost much to project their boards on big-screen monitors and keep the cameras focused on their faces. It would be better entertainment, since you might be able to watch their progress through the puzzle in detail – I can hardly read a word from the whiteboards in the videos; it would be wonderful to have a split screen showing their boards in clear focus as they fill it in, and their faces as they contemplate a clue.

    Plus, I wouldn’t have to look at all those asses who can solve a crossword about 280 times faster than I.

    Yes, I have seen Wordplay. Great.

  18. Tony O. says:

    Jamie,

    I met a woman at the ACPT this year named Jen – didn’t get her last name (and if you see this Jen, it was terrific hanging out with you! She happened to be the first person to the wine and cheese reception, signifying to me it was OK to begin imbibing…we did hit it off!) who was competing in a Rascal/Hoveround-type scooter unit: she, indeed, sat in the back corner at one of the tables, where there was plenty of room behind and around her. The issue of getting to white boards is, as Amy noted, another story – but I, too, could not imagine it would be a problem to solve on paper should the opportunity arise.

    Someone else mentioned this weekend about having a screen as it was difficult to see the finals but also some of the other special events, including the magic show (which, alas, I missed altogether). I guess the cost could be a factor but, considering all the multi-tasking judges combined with the proliferation of wondrous, relatively inexpensive amateur-proof gadgets, it might well be a possibility whose time has come. For the issue of unwanted views of posteriors? Maybe some kind of blind, or curtain – like the Wizard of Oz’s station, but half-height? This needs some extra thought!

    Do attend if you’re able – it’s a lot of fun, and if you make it to the boards you will be accommodated somehow, no doubt!

    Tony O.

  19. jamie says:

    Thanks Tony. I will never make it to the boards, so it’s not a problem for me. I solved the puzzles online (which I think must be quicker than on paper) and I was a dead loss.

    I’m laughing at your suggestion of a Wizard-of-Oz-like curtain to hide the posteriors. Let’s face it – crossword maniacs, by their very nature, are unlikely to have toned bodies. Neither do I.

    Butt, apart from suggesting that this isn’t the most appealing view of most people, I was thinking that a split screen /six cam view of the three finalists and their boards would be much more entertaining than watching their arses for most of the competition and not being able to see what the hell they were doing on their whiteboards.

    Jen sounds great. Go Jen. I would definitely be the second person at the wine & cheese reception.

    I’m going to attend next year because it just sounds like so much fun. I’m pretty much guaranteed to go from C to hell, or whatever the next level is.

  20. joon says:

    the technology that would actually solve all of the above-mentioned issues already exists: have the finalists solve on tablets, which are connected to projectors. (additional face cams optional.) you could still hand them the clues on a sheet of paper, but they would write their answers into the grid on the tablet. a laptop-sized tablet is almost certainly big enough to accommodate a 15×15 grid with comfortably large letters, and it would be just as easy for somebody to compete in a wheelchair.

    about the only downside i could think of for this plan is that we wouldn’t get to see howard do the limbo as he attempts to write answers into the bottom row of the grid. :)

  21. jamie says:

    @Joon – from your mouth to Will’s ears. I knew it could be done. Also, well done on the tourney. Plus, re Howard doing the limbo – don’t know him, never met him, but do you mean he is too tall? Again, what does that have to do with solving crosswords?

  22. Faygelah says:

    It’s frustrating reading how much fun the ACPT was this year when I couldn’t go :-(. Next year, for sure. L’shana Haba Brooklyn (or something like that) , as we say on Pesach. Next year in Brooklyn.

    @Joon I’m missing the analysis of the Gaffney puzzle. Aren’t we going to get that this week?

  23. Jan (danjan) says:

    @faygelah – because of the ACPT, there’s an extra day for the contest, so the deadline is tomorrow at noon.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Matt sent the puzzle a day early and added a day to the deadline. Wednesday!

  25. jamie says:

    I almost promise to shut up now, but where’s the Jonesin? I totally failed at this one. I don’t want to add spoilers but a complete Natick in the NE.

  26. JenCT says:

    @Tony O: it was great meeting you too! Maybe next year, I’ll stay up until 3 a.m. too…

    @jamie: I wondered the exact same things about the boards at the finals – I thought maybe I’d have two hunky men lift the boards up & down so I could write on them – but @joon’s suggestion sounds much easier. Darn. (Like I’d ever, ever make it to the finals!) I did sit all the way to the right, at the end of a table & it was fine.

    @joon: actually, I think they should adopt your idea right now!

  27. jamie says:

    @JenCT: Seconding the motion re Joon’s idea. I know the ACPT probably just pays for itself, but I all I saw was a place where I couldn’t begin to compete. Not because of my innate inability to solve crosswords, but because I am in a wheel chair. Under current rules, Dan Feyer would have a hard time winning if he were in one too. No offense to the awesome Mr. Feyer, but try completing the white board from a chair.

    It’s time they stopped that discrimination against the handicapped.

    You sound fun. I hope to meet you next year.

  28. JenCT says:

    @jamie: I’ll look for you next year! I usually post on Rex Parker’s blog (no offense Amy); there’s actually a picture of me from the tournament: if you look at the Saturday pictures, the 23rd one down (I think?), you’ll see me in my scooter & crossword vest (that I made the night before).

  29. Michael says:

    @Jamie: ACPT would be the last place/organization to accuse of discrimination. If there was a contestant in a wheel chair who made it to the finals, I’m sure the creative staff would find a clever way to accommodate without undermining the fairness and integrity of the competition. Puzzle people are problem solvers.

    Fabulous puzzle today, one of my favorite Tuesdays in a while. Every single theme answer is part of a giant interlock… and if it’s not, then it shares a seven-letter border with another theme answer. Tons of cool phrases and solid fill. Loved it.

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    OK, Jamie—Jonesin’ is posted.

  31. joon says:

    i agree with michael—they would absolutely find a way to let anybody who qualified for the finals compete. but i kind of like the tablet idea because it would also improve the experience for the spectators. i suppose you could also just print the blank grid on a transparency slide, but that’s so 20th-century.

    as for howard, no, he’s not particularly tall. but the bottom of the easel is pretty low, and you kinda have to stoop, kneel, or limbo to write down there. you can see from the video of last year’s playoffs that anne chooses to kneel, dan does a kind of knee-bend/surfing thing, and howard does the limbo. i couldn’t remember what i did, so i watched the video, and it turns out i’m short enough (and fluent enough with a dry erase marker, thanks to my day job) to just reach down and write without bending over noticeably.

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