Friday, 4/1/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]9:08[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]7:30[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]7:18 (Amy)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]7:18[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/31" plug="friday-4111" puzz="Tyler" anchor="th"]0:19[/time_hdr]

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers 4/1/11 0401

Boy, I picked the wrong night to get to the puzzle late after allowing sleepiness to attack. Instead of a midrange themeless puzzle, we’ve got an April Fool’s Day theme. Three 15-letter highway answers run vertically:

  • 4d. ONCOMING TRAFFIC.
  • 7d. MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, right in the middle of the grid. The Across answers that intersect 7d all dead-end there, except for AFT int he middle. I like that the answer sort of serves as a traffic-free median strip.
  • 10d. NORTHBOUND LANES traveling northbound, thus reading as SENALDNUOBHTRON. Everything to the right of MIDDLE OF THE ROAD is cockeyed, running northbound. Took a while to unravel that!

The four vertical 7′s can also be considered thematic. AIR BAGS ([They're subject to rapid inflation]—good clue) and the ODYSSEY of a traveler, a northbound TOWN CAR ([Lincoln, maybe]—tricky clue) and GAS CANS.

The theme began to reveal itself to me before I had anything in the right third of the puzzle. 26d: [__ Bell] really wanted to be TACO, but the T and C were in crazy places. Hell, why not go upside down?

Nifty gimmick, and not one I recall seeing before. I like that there’s a clear rationale behind the reversal—why, those are the northbound lanes over there. The oncoming traffic is going the other direction. The only part that doesn’t make sense is the existence of the Across answers, moving inexorably across the highway, Frogger-style. But you gotta have the Across answers or it’s not a crossword!

Seven lanes in each direction makes for an exceptionally wide highway, doesn’t it? And even with six lanes to the right, you know there’s gonna be a slowpoke holding up traffic in the left lane.

The clue for 46a: NUBILE strikes me as icky. [Available, in a way]? This dictionary defines the word as “1. (of a young woman) suitable for marriage, especially in regard to age or physical development; marriageable. 2. (of a young woman) sexually developed and attractive: the nubile girls in their bikinis.” My objection is that these days the word usually evokes definition 2 (hi, objectify much?), while definition 1 completely skirts the issue of the young woman’s interest (or lack thereof) in marrying. Just kind of a gross word. I can’t think of a suitable clue other than, say, [Word a skeevy guy uses to describe a 17-year-old girl].


Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Two-Way Streets”—Janie’s review

No “April Fools!” twist in today’s puzzle, but if you think you’re seein’ double when you look at the theme fill, well, in some ways, you are. (Get your copy of the puzzle right here.)  Randy’s “Two-Way Streets” are paired, two-word phrases and compound words that are each others’ reverse. The effect is something like full-word palindromes or mirror images. Each is a verb-phrase/noun combo and the full phrases in question are:

  • 20A. PASS BY BY-PASS [Skip a detour?]. That’s one consonant-rich phrase.
  • 28A. BACK OUT OUTBACK [Remove a Subaru from the garage?].
  • 46A. RUN OVER OVERRUN [Review a busted budget?]. Hmm. This is an activity being engaged in by state and city legislatures everywhere it seems. Oh, yeah—and in D.C., too. Sigh.
  • 54A. KEEP UP UPKEEP [Maintain maintenance?]. Nice the way the clue almost pulls off the same mirror image trick.

Both today’s puzzle and yesterday’s succeed in finding ways to keep the puzzle’s gimmick fresh. No mean feat when you’re constructing (and publishing!) so very many puzzles a year. Both Randys are also consistently successful in cluing and then filling the remainder of the grid in lively ways. “HOLY MOLY!” ["Jumpin' Jehosephat!"]. See? That just leaps right off the page. (“Holy moly!” was pretty much my response to seeing YANNI ["In My Time" musician] peel off that final “Y.” I’m not a Yanni fan, so I’m not sure I mean that in an entirely “happy” way…) Then there’s a clue like [Water coolers?]. Nope. This has nuthin’ to do with the office. Or even The Office. ICE CUBES. D’oh.

Other fave fill today includes VLASIC, the classic [Pickle brand with a stork mascot], RAKISH [Devil-may-care] and ACUMEN [Sagacity]. And you really are seeing double where BIG SUR and MALIBU are concerned. Both are clued as [California coastal destination]. Close-but-no-cigar double cluing applies to two Alans: the sequential ALDA and LADD, clued respectively as [Alan of "What Women Want"] and [Shane portrayer].

[Cry after a hectic week]? Why, “TGIF!”, of course. Hope yours wasn’t too hectic and you’ve a fine weekend ahead!

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, ”Publish or Perish” – Jack Nosy Cracker Sniffers’ review

All right, listen up. We’re going to “review” a crossword the proper way today. First, I want to say to you, the reader – what is wrong with you?! Why are you reading about an obscure crossword puzzle on an even more obscure blog? Get out of the basement! Go outside. Breathe some real air. This is no life.

Speaking of the 2011 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, here’s my financial recap of where your entry fee goes. Just pretend this is the Wall Street Journal crossword review.

Name tags, binders, other handouts: $11.50
Marriott hotel: $35.00
Judges: $3.50
Evening events: $12.50
Dan Feyer Annuity Contribution: $10.00
Trophies: $1.45
Will Shortz Table Tennis Fund: $11.50
Utilities: $2.75
Constructors: $0.75
Federal, state and municipal taxes: $23.05
Pencils and water: $0.85
Donation to Crosswords Anonymous: $3.00
Computers, scanners: $5.00
Photocopying, paper: $10.50
Website: $4.50
Crossword Bloggers Voodoo Dolls (sent to each constructor in attendance): $18.75
Extra ink and paper to print “Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan” 700 times: $25.40
Total fee = $180.00

Now, as for this puzzle. You want the solution with explanations? What am I, your mother? Solve it yourself.  Then go outside. Go on. Get out of here!

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/1/11 LA Times crossword solution

It’s April Fool’s Day. Down is up is and Across is backwards. The NYT worked vertically while today’s LAT theme reverses the theme horizontally:

  • 17a. [Start of an aptly expressed linguistic observation] is CIBARA DNA WERBEH, or HEBREW AND ARABIC backwards.
  • 31a. [Observation, part 2] clues DAER ERA, or ARE READ in reverse.
  • 45a. [End of the observation] is TFEL OT THGIR MORF, or FROM RIGHT TO LEFT reading from  right to left.

I can’t tell you whether this puzzle was unusually difficult outside of the backwards theme or not. It took me forever (relatively speaking), but it may be that I was sleepier than I thought when I was solving the crossword last night. I sent myself to bed without finishing the CHE, that’s how tired I was. Did this puzzle knock you for a loop too? No?

Clues that slowed me like molasses:

  • 1a. [Lexington and Concord fighters] clues MILITIAMEN. I started out wanting MINUTEMEN to fit there, and halfway convinced myself that there would be a blank square in it because of April Fool’s Day. Um, no.
  • 15a. [Apple consumers?] clues ADAM AND EVE.
  • 20a. [Roma road] clues STRADA. La strada is Italian for “road,” yes?
  • 28a. [Flying need] is a PHOTO ID to prove the ticketed passengers are who they claim to be.
  • 35a. [It's about 325 miles east of Texas's H-Town, with "the"] is New Orleans, the BIG EASY. Lovely answer. I was mired here because I had HEHS instead of HEES for 29d and BIG HASY was not making any sense.
  • 37a. RHENISH means [Like Cologne and vicinity]. Whoa.
  • 3d. [Checkup charges] clues LAB COSTS. I don’t know that I’ve ever described how much lab work costs as LAB COSTS.
  • 4d. [Inviting words before "Want to come over?"] clues I’M ALONE. Feh.
  • 25d. [Canadian young adult fiction author McClintock] is named NORAH. Who?? She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Wikipedia tells me.
  • 28d. [Numbers in a corner, often] looks like it’s asking for a noun but it’s an awkward verb phrase. PAGINATES can mean “mark page numbers in the corner of each page.”
  • 37d. [Hall of Fame defensive back Mel] RENFRO is no one I’ve ever heard of. I am usually quite good with names in crosswords so it’s weird that this puzzle has two I didn’t recognize at all, RENFRO and NORAH.
  • 48d. [Some alarm respondents: Abbr.] clues FDS as a plural of the abbreviation for “fire department.” Okay, raise your hand if you think “Feminine Deodorant Spray” when you see FDS.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fools Rush In”

Wall Street Journal crossword solution 4/1 Fools Rush In

Really, can you have a “stick an ASS in” theme any time other than April Fool’s Day? April 1 gives that plausible deniability: “What? Of course we mean nothing other than the synonym of ‘fool.’” Further supporting the innocuous interpretation of the theme is the use of the familiar phrase “Fools Rush In” as the title and rationale for the theme. “Stick Yer Ass In There” doesn’t have the same logic at all. Here are the theme entries:

  • 23a. [Girl watcher in Glasgow?] is LassIE DETECTOR.
  • 32a. [Part of the FAQs on Volkswagen's website?] clues PassAT ANSWER.
  • 50a. [Entrance hall?] is THE FRONT PassAGE. Nice use of the Ben Hecht play The Front Page.
  • 69a. To [Hold the circus alfresco?] is to Pass UP TENTS.
  • 83a. [Mouthing off to some St. Louis skaters?] is SassING THE BLUES.
  • 101a. To PLACE A BassET is to [Find new owners for one of the pound hounds?].
  • 116a. [How to truly appreciate a wild mustang?] clues LassO AND BEHOLD. Mind you, the wild mustang will not be behaving normally once you’ve lassoed it.

Lots of tasty clues in this week’s puzzle:

  • 48a. [Boxer's title: Abbr.] is SEN., as in Senator Barbara Boxer. Last names that double as common nouns have great cluing potential.
  • 74a. [You might have a shot at it] clues a BAR.
  • 91a. [Soul of the dead, in Philippine folklore] clues EEL. Whoa! Really? I did not know that.
  • 56d. [It might make you pretty late] clues a NEGLIGEE.
  • 76d. [Job holder?] is the BIBLE, with the Book of Job.
  • 81d. [They may be on a roll] refers to SEEDS, such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

Mystery items:

  • 114a. [Grand] clues EPICAL. Not a commonly seen word, as epic serves as both noun and adjective.
  • 19d. [Adriatic port that was the birthplace of Rossini] is an Italian town I’ve never heard of, PESARO.
  • 108d. [Central Pacific's eastern terminus] is OGDEN. Railroad and Ogden, Utah, I presume?

Tyler Hinman’s “Classic Crossword #2″

Tyler has posted a couple new puzzles at his blog. Tyler has always had a tight bond with tradition, and now he’s tapping his brainpower to bring us crosswords in the classic style. There’s a massive audience for classic crosswords, and we are ill served by these newfangled newspaper crosswords filled with malarkey like pop culture names and titles. I won’t spoil “Classic Crossword #1″ for you, but let’s review “#2.”

  • 1a. [___ es Salaam] is one of two fill-in-the-blank clues, and it’s a delight to have an FITB at 1-Across to gently usher us into the puzzle. DAR! It would’ve been a mite tougher had Tyler clued this as the Daughters of the American Revolution abbreviation.
  • 4a. [Eagle's home] is an AERIE. My god, would you look at that splendid beast of a word? It’s 80% vowels! A high vocalic index is as cool as anything containing a lot of the Wheel of Fortune RSTLNE letters.
  • 6a. [Eero's architect father] is the unjustifiably not-as-famous ELIEL Saarinen. You know what he ought to have done? Named his son Eliel Saarinen, Jr. Then ELIEL Sr. might have a shot at a higher percentage of the Saarinen clues.
  • 7a. [Type of lily] clues CALLA. No. Just…no. This clue is inaccurate. The calla is no more a lily than a koala is a bear. Would you clue KOALA as [Type of bear], Tyler? I daresay you would not. Fie!
  • 8a. [Draft org.] is the S.S.S.
  • 1d. [Spanish historian Bartolomé ___ Casas]—ooh! Another FITB! But this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to rely on the crossings. Am I the only one who didn’t fill in DE LAS as a mindless reflex gimme?
  • 2d. [Seed coverings] are ARILS. What I want to know is whether the anil/indigo plant has arils.
  • 3d. [Cambodian cash] is RIELS. Not to be confused with the Saudi, Qatari, and Yemeni currency, the riyal or rial.
  • 4d. [Nuclear agcy. in the Truman administration] is the A.E.C. Modernists talk of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but if you kick it old school the A.E.C. is where it’s at.
  • 5d. [Guido's note] is ELA. Yes! It has been far too long since this delightfully musical answer has graced the crosswords I’ve seen.

Now, I love a good themeless puzzle, but I like them to have tough clues. So Tyler’s classic, while generally welcome, left me wanting more. Come on, Tyler! Next time, give me a crossword that will take at least a minute.

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25 Responses to Friday, 4/1/11

  1. Al Sanders says:

    Excellent April Fool’s puzzle. Like Amy said, it’s very well done how the gimmick is motivated by the theme entries, rather than just because it’s April Fool’s Day. Oddly enough, since I was looking for a trick, I caught on to the upside down entries on the right side pretty quickly, but it took me a long time to unravel the “normal” side. Did Will make the cluing harder on that side? I got totally stuck in the NW corner. Don’t miss the late, great Dan Naddor’s LAT today either. It’s uncanny that we’re still able to experience his brilliance well over a year after he passed away.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Marriageable would have been better than “available”, I suppose, but never mind! I tried some things backward which weren’t meant to be so, having done thw left half first… but all was straightened out soon. For some reason I took ages to think of EGGO, so the NW was the last to fall… Loved the the MIDDLE OF ThE ROAD and the implied movement thoughout, even BAR-HOPping.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Marriageable would have been better than “available”, I suppose, but never mind! I tried some things backward which weren’t meant to be so, having done the east half first… but all was straightened out soon. For some reason I took ages to think of EGGO, so the NW was the last to fall… Loved the the MIDDLE OF ThE ROAD and the implied movement thoughout, even BAR-HOPping. Great puzzle for April First!

  4. Linda B. says:

    TACO was my first upside-down solve, too. Fun puzzle, though I never did finish because I couldn’t crack the NW … had Aron and zinc but for some reason couldn’t see the rest of it. Sigh. Time for bed.

    PS Totally agree with the “nubile” ick factor.

  5. Plot says:

    In hindsight, I shouldn’t really complain about this puzzle; it was a fun gimmick and it should have been expected.But, it was a little frustrating because I totally forgot what day it was. Spent 4 minutes floundering on the right side of the puzzle, entering and deleting across answers that HAD to be correct but just didn’t fit. Actually spent time looking at _CAT bell and wondering if Ella Fitzgerald was ever accompanied by a specific percussion instrument. Eventually saw that I inadvertently spelled INRE backwards and everything fell quickly after that. Also spent a long time struggling with the LAT ‘trick’ as well; again, nothing wrong with the puzzle, but I was annoyed that I couldn’t get on the right wavelength.

    Brutal Friday, and it hasn’t technically started yet. Good night and good luck, people.

  6. Dan F says:

    I got the left side done without much trouble (maybe Saturday-level trouble, not Friday) — but didn’t twig to the gimmick for way too long, even as I knew something was up. Ha, up!

    Was hoping for something even more cuckoo-bananas (if I may use that term again), what with 4/1 falling late in the week, but as I was indeed fooled, I’ll take it.

    Great LAT too, cracked it quickly, but spent a minute-plus on four squares in the SW.

  7. Gareth says:

    When I typed the last letter in my AL crashed?! I think the puzzle overheated it?!

    Figured both parts of the gimmick within 5 minutes, if not the reason for it. TACO was my tipoff as well, had ECO, AFT and the (wrong) nAn.) Was still slow as mollasses to solve though! My experience was the same as Al’s: the right was easily the easier half! With ?UBILE refused point-blank to put in the N because, those are NOT in any way shape or form synonyms! Only meaning 2 was registering in my mind… Couldn’t see 7D because had ERS, rookie error! The only other stubborn wrong answer was STENTS for GRAFTS… Finished in top-left, even with MINGTRAFFIC couldn’t see ONCO! Wrote and erased ORIG and EGGO about 5 times over the course of the crossword!

  8. Jan (danjan) says:

    I had the same experience as Al – tried putting the left-hand side downs as ups.
    I also have been appreciating Dan Naddor’s puzzles; it’s always a pleasant surprise to see another one, and they never disapoint.
    @Plot – sorry you struggled, but I’ll just be enjoying this one day of having my name above yours in the standings – since it probably won’t ever happen again.
    @Amy – I didn’t react well to the nubile clue, either.

  9. Howard B says:

    Really love this kind of theme, although there were almost no answers other than TACO that I could use to break into the right side. NUBILE? Had no chance. Also could not figure out TOWN CAR. Also did not understand the clue for the third theme answer until post-solve. Really odd that it just missed my wavelength. Also feeling rather sick, so maybe I can blame it on that too.

    I could not get enough of the acrosses to break the theme, many of the downs were cryptic or vague to me, and so I needed a rare Google assist. Once I found one the rest fell, but I could not figure it out without outside help.

    Also did not help that I forgot the date! ;). All that aside, this is a great theme and a fine puzzle! The issues were in my mind and not with the puzzle.

  10. Matt says:

    I suppose I should have been more suspicious when the left side of the puzzle was all filled and the right side was all empty… My first ‘right’ answer was INRE, since I was pretty sure of REC and ORS. After that there were a few obvious ones, like TACO, LEONAS, and ARC, but it still took a while to fill in the right side. Definitely NSFW, though, I spent ‘way more time on this than is strictly legal at my day job. I suppose I can always explain to an auditor that it was April Fools day…

  11. joon says:

    yup, i struggled big-time with this one, too, including taking damn near forever to put in MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, which perhaps should have been easier from the get-go. ultimately i loved the gimmick, but i couldn’t quite rate it a 5* because i did not really enjoy the clues. they were definitely saturday tough, but not in a vague stumpery way rather than a fun NYT way. also NUBILE, icky ick ick.

    i thought for sure when i saw amy’s CHE time and the byline that we were going to get another brain-bender, but it was “just” a normal PB puzzle, clever and funny and smooth as butter. hey, i’ll take it. also, i spent way too long de-anagramming to figure out what might be jeffrey’s middle name (which is maybe alan?), only to realize that i’d dropped a letter, so the extra letters were just CROSSCAN. i thought crosscan had been retired?

    gentler gimmick than i might have thought on dan’s LAT, but would you look at that grid! 66 words and he makes it look ridiculously easy. was i the only one giddy with delight filling in SNORRI sturluson? just about made my day.

  12. Toby says:

    Cool puzzle. I knew *something* was up (!) when I had solved nearly the whole left side, and the right side was a bunch of chicken scratches. Then it hit me (the oncoming traffic)… So the whole right side dropped into place fairly quickly after that

    This left me with just a bit of gnarliness in the northwest corner. I eventually got it, but am left with this question:

    3a {Hammer accompanier} GONG
    I’ve heard of “Hammer and tongs” — but when or where does a gong accompany a hammer? The comments over at Rex’s place confirm this was confusing for at least a few other solvers: http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/2011/04/english-novelist-bawden-fri-4-1-11.html

  13. Stephen Yates says:

    I love it. ” …. skirts the issue …” :-) Indeed!

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Well, Toby, I know whenever I’m hammering some nails, I like to play some gong music on my iPod to accompany it. Just me?

    But seriously: Apparently railroad crossings and boxing matches involve gongs hit by hammers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gong#Signal_gongs), though your standard Asian gongs maybe don’t involve anything called a hammer.

    Joon, I thought of you when I filled in SNORRI.

  15. Martin says:

    The first citation for “nubile” (of marriageable age) is from 1642. The word was no ickier than its relative “nuptial.”

    The first citation for the sense “sexually attractive” is from 1973. It strikes me that asking for the 400-year-old word to be struck from the language because of a 40-year-old usage that you don’t like is blaming the victim.

    I don’t generally agree with “why clue a word that way when there’s another inoffensive sense?” I absolutely dislike “why clue a word with an inoffensive sense when there’s another sense I hate.” Blaming the victim.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin! Just when I was telling someone nobody had yet defended the clue, there you are, like clockwork. Don’t you know it’s April Fool’s Day? This was your one chance to slam the clue.

  17. Toby says:

    @Amy – Even if I were to accept for a moment that a hammer is sometimes used to strike a gong (which suggests a variant of the Pottery Barn maxim: “sure, hit the gong with a hammer… but if you dent it, you own it!”), in what way is the gong an “accompanier” of the hammer? I mean, the gong is this big metal platter hung up on some leather straps, ringing away while some schmo is booed at by the crowd as he is yanked off the stage with a big shepherd’s hook. Meanwhile, the hammer is just lying there on a table doing nothing, hoping that it’ll get picked up again sometime soon. That’s like cluing AROD with {Batboy accompanier} (or something like that).

    Whoops! I hear a gong ringing, and what’s that big hook about to pull my hands off the keyboard? Heeeellllpppp!!! …. ;-)

  18. John Haber says:

    I was impressed, and it took me a long time to get it, even though there aren’t a whole lot of possible answers to “_ Bell.” There were, after all, lots of hard ones in the right half to impede a foothold, such as Betjman, BAWDEN, and Katherine Frank. (I also guessed “tram” for DRAY and “gas caps,” but then I don’t have a car or a garage.) But fun when it finally fell, even if it meant writing over my very few “gimmes” (really just LEONA and ARC).

    NUBILE struck me as really hard, since the first meaning is so unfamiliar, but not offensive or wrong, since it is after all the first meaning. And the word isn’t exactly a common slur against women.

    I, too, found the NW trickiest. I first tried “shoo” for GO GO, didn’t interpret Elvis’s “follower” in the right way quickly, didn’t think or know about ZINC in this context, and like others couldn’t quite explain GONG. No one mentioned it, but I’d also have got “look” = GAZE faster without the “(over).” “Look over” made me think of something like “scan” rather than a long gaze, and I can’t recall using “gaze over” as opposed to “gaze at.”

  19. HH says:

    Or, as I prefer it, “why clue a word that way when there’s a much more offensive sense?”

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Henry, Henry. You’re all talk.

  21. Jeffrey says:

    I love how Tyler’s puzzle uses all eight letters of the alphabet. A true octogram!

  22. cryptoid1 says:

    Apparently the dictionaries took a while to catch up to usage. I learned “nubile” from classy magazines like Rogue and Cavalier in the early 60s. Not that I spent much time reading the text, mind you.

  23. Andrew "nmHz" Greene says:

    I also had the experience of getting my first answers on the right-hand side (AHH and then HUCK/KUDOS), so I started with all the “UP” answers (and was so proud of myself for not regretting doing the April 1 puzzle in ink) and then spent far too long wondering why I couldn’t break into the left side.

  24. pannonica says:

    So I belatedly get back online—using a scrounged and cobbled together monstrosity, which I hope to soon replace with something spiffy and new—after my o-l-d computer finally put itself out of its misery, and I get the topsy-turvy one-two of these NYT and LAT? Ouch! A disorienting reentry for sure.

    Anyway, besides more pressing and necessary responsibilities, I now have a backlog of puzzles to enjoy, old posts and comments to peruse, a fresh month of MGWCCs, and more.

  25. pannonica says:

    Aha. This should fix the “gravatar.”

Comments are closed.