Monday, 4/11/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/10" plug="monday-41111" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]7:19[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/10" plug="monday-41111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:21 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/10" plug="monday-41111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]2:59[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/10" plug="monday-41111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"] 5:29 (Sam)[/time_hdr]

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

New York Times 4/11/11 – solution

Mr. Livengood brings us a puzzle about people who make a living out of being bad, specifically larger-than-life villains. Larger than life they may be, but this puzzle is one column narrower than a typical 15×15 daily. Let’s round up the unusual suspects:

  • 8a. ["Star Trek" villain] is KHAN, here spelled with a meager single vowel.
  • 15a. ["Batman" villain] is THE JOKER. Romero, Nicholson, Ledger, take your pick.
  • 19a. ["Superman" villain] – LEX LUTHOR.
  • 36a. Spanning the center is ["The Silence of the Lambs" villain] – HANNIBAL LECTER. Far be it from me to correct his oenological pronunciation.
  • 51a. [Harry Potter villain] clues VOLDEMORT. Since I have neither read the books nor seen the movies, I can’t tell you if he’s the potions guy or the SPELLS (48a) guy or someone else altogether.
  • 58a. [Sherlock Holmes villain] is the ever-elusive MORIARTY.
  • 63a. Last, and tied with 8a for least, is ["The Lion King" villain], SCAR, voiced by Jeremy Irons.

I found the theme a little underwhelming since the villains are a motley crew: two from comic books, one from television, and three from books, although all seven appeared in movies. It would have made the theme a little stronger if all of them were clued as movies, but the lack of quotation marks for Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes undermine that approach.

However, the fill was Monday-smooth with only a few abbrevs. and partials.

Highlights:

  • 31d & 48d. SHED and STRIP share the same clue ["Get out of, as clothing"]
  • The two  non-theme  entries at 3d & 28d, THEME SONGS and EXTRA LARGE are welcomed for their length but they’re kind of dry.

Missed opportunity to tie 43d to 19a, as Margot KIDDER was in the 1978 Superman movie. On the other hand, I’m not much a fan of cross-referenced clues (they’re only a notch above Roman numeral arithmetic clues), so I won’t complain.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/11/11 LA Times crossword solution

So, people congratulated Gareth last week on his NYT crossword debut. He’s been so prolific over the past year and half in other venues, it seems odd to take note of a debut. Congrats on having yet another LAT puzzle published, Gareth! (And congrats to your countryman Charl Schwartzel on his win at the Masters tournament. He’s lucky to have made it so far with so few vowels to his name. He might as well be Czech, honestly.)

The first two theme answers led me astray. Blah-blah PRICE, blah-blah VALUE, oh, this theme has phrases that end with boring synonyms. But no! That’s not it at all. The five theme entries begin with the components Americans include when giving their mailing address:

  • 18a. ["I'll pay whatever you're asking"] clues “NAME A PRICE.” I think I like “name your price” a little better.
  • 30a. [Cost to the customer, as of illicit drugs] clues STREET VALUE. Although I think the term is used more to state the monetary value (if sold on the street) of a drug dealer or smuggler’s stash.
  • 36a. [Smooth urbanite] is a CITY SLICKER. Not sure there has ever been a smooth urbanite who was willing to refer to him- or herself as a “city slicker.”
  • 44a. [Subject of a highly classified file] is a STATE SECRET. The post office would be happy if you’d use its 2-letter abbreviations for the states.
  • 59a. ["Not another word!"] = “ZIP YOUR LIP!” You know the “ZIP+4″ numbers appended to your 5-digit ZIP code? Apparently those are used to route mail to your post office. But if someone mangles your street address, it may well be that the mail carrier will completely disregard the ZIP+4 that codes your multi-unit building and find the letter to be undeliverable. (The things you learn on Facebook.)

Lucky seven:

  • 9a. The ITALO[__-Abyssinian War: 1936 Mussolini triumph] was a war in which Mussolini led the Italians to victory over a wily cadre of short-haired cats.
  • 22a. [Holy smoke] isn’t “Holy smoke!”—it’s INCENSE.
  • 40a. [Campus VIP] clues BMOC, short for “big man on campus.” How come a female-friendly or gender-neutral version of this term has never emerged?
  • 51a. [Mustard's rank: Abbr.] is COL. in the game of clue. Personally, I find mustard to be quite rank.
  • 8d. [Early antiseptic compound] is PHENOL.
  • 25d. I like this one. ["Lord knows __!"] I TRY!
  • 55d. [Rugby radial] means a radial tyre in Rugby, England, or a TYRE. Wouldn’t you think the people who invented the English language would know how to spell things? Silly Brits!

Updated Monday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Made For Each Other”—Sam Donaldson’s review

Orbach plays Matchmaker to the Stars, pairing famous people according to their surnames:

  • 20-Across: [Actress Karen married to singer Barry?] would be BLACK AND WHITE. So much for the coupling of Jack Black and Betty White. Karen Black is the Oscar-nominated actress from Five Easy Pieces, and Barry White is the distinctive bass behind hit like Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Baby. (By the way, the streak is over! We had six straight days where the first theme entry of the CS puzzle was 17-Across. It was a great run while it lasted. Six now joins the pantheon of other legendary sports numbers like 56, 762, and 2,632 and 4,256.)
  • 27-Across: [Singer Faith married to actor Jim?] clues HILL AND DALE. Faith Hill is a famous crossover country-pop vocalist, and Jim Dale is the British actor who narrated TV’s Pushing Daisies and the Harry Potter audio books. Their relationship must have its peaks and valleys.
  • 48-Across: [Actress Helen married to actor Gregory?] is HUNT AND PECK. Helen Hunt starred in Mad About You before becoming a temporary A-list actor in movies like As Good As It Gets, while Gregory Peck inspired generations of young Americans to attend law school thanks through his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • 55-Across: [Fictional chocolate lover Veruca married to a sergeant of song?] clues SALT AND PEPPER. Bonus points for the reference to Veruca Salt, the uber-annoying brat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though I would have been just as happy with a reference to Evelyn Salt, Angelina Jolie’s secret-agent character from the 2010 film, Salt. It’s hard to imagine Sergeant Pepper putting up with Veruca Salt for very long, but I guess that’s what having a lonely heart will do to someone.

Highlights in the grid include the entire northwest corner, with I’M OFF, ODDBALLS, and FAR AWAY. Other good stuff includes TOLD A LIE, IT’S OK, and the [2002 Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson movie], I SPY.

Let’s see if we can pick out the clues that will have some solvers turning to Google (and thus tumbling to this site):

  • 10-Across: [Island series] is LOST. I loved the show. And while I may be in the minority, I thought the way the series ended was brilliant.
  • 14-Across: [Jason’s sorceress wife] is MEDEA. I watched a performance of the Euripides play about eight or ten years ago, and you only need to see this once to remember Medea forever.
  • 33-Across: One may have to be “of a certain age” to get [“The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo” star Claude] AKINS. I am of that certain age.
  • 37-Down: The [Gadget guru Popeil] is RON. I think Ron Popeil was the star of the first infomercial I ever saw. I think it was for a food dehydrator.

Anyway, the theme was nicely executed. I’m having a hard time thinking of additional theme entries. The best I can do is [“Believe” diva married to her own impersonator?], which is CHER AND CHER ALIKE. Okay, so that’s no good. What ideas do you have?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 322 solution

Quickly, because I’m due at the gym soon—

Highlights:

  • MY HUMPS, which may be considered an EARWORM. Friend of mine was just asking which is worse: “My Humps” or “Friday.” Both eschew standard grammar, both are inane, both are sadly catchy.
  • TABLE-HOP, v. nice.
  • TRANS AM! Don’t we all have a special fondness for the cars that were deemed “cool” when we were about 12? (IRON-ONS were all the rage then too. Anyone else ever have a “Seventh graders do it better” t-shirt? Good lord, why was that iron-on available? I had a different idea of what “do it better” meant.)
  • HOGWARTS always looks good in the grid.
  • Geography—ALGIERS, SLOVENE, ICELAND, CANALED Venice (though CANALED is “meh”), fake DAGOBAH, DEAD SEA.

Lowlights:

  • CHUN-LI is a choice example of the category “video game stuff I don’t know at all.”
  • ARN and ITER!
  • Mindless wrong letters. I knew Joe Paterno’s Penn State so I entered…PSA? Not PSU? That made me think there was a STACEY or STACIE Stuart at ESPN. D’oh! My bad.
This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Monday, 4/11/11

  1. Karen says:

    Voldemort is the dead, noseless, divided-into-seven-parts villain. Some impressively fast times posted today.

  2. ktd says:

    A personal best solve time for me too, but the smaller grid probably helped that

  3. Plot says:

    I can’t say I’m surprised that everyone is having these personal bests. When all the theme entries (and the large down answers) are gettable without crossings, it’s hard to slow down.

    It’s a shame that Dan will be doing this puzzle on paper for his radio interview; otherwise, he would have a good shot at a 1 minute solve.

  4. My time tied a personal applet best and included 7 seconds of delay at the start due to a typing mix-up. On the other hand, it was a 14×15 grid and, as Plot mentioned, almost no crossing confirmations were needed while solving the across clues.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Stella Daily Zawistowski blazed through the puzzle in 1:31. My applet time is 2:49 but it was 2:15 (really fast for me) when I clicked done. Curse you, adjacent-key typo! I wasn’t trying to type MOROARTY, honest.

  6. Gareth says:

    Funny, I found the NYT to be a perfectly satisfying puzzle! 7 theme answers, 7 gimmes! Joon: under 2 on paper!! Madness I say! My time was slowed by HANNIBALLECTOR the cannibal orator!

    Re my puzzle, never occurred to me it would run on Monday when I made it, was thinking wed/thurs… Really liked the clue for INCENSE, which I can say because I didn’t write it! On the other hand “Gutter percher” and “They’re picked up for a good time”, didn’t make it. They are admittedly a bit woolly… Also I had Penelope Pitstop where the clue now says Pauline… I’m more of a Penelope Pitstop person!

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Zipping along made for trouble here — Lora for LARA in the NYT’s SW and Disk for DISC in Gareth’s LAT, but I enjoyed the address sequence. Also, I had a silly error in Tony Orbach’s NW… I was able to correct all these when Mr Happy Pencil didn’t show up, but I’m giving up on pushing the speed thing, especially on a Monday morning!

    I still hope some Big Person on the Crossword Campus can persuade the CS people to continue offering their puzzles in Across Lite. Just found out that my online dictionary has shut down in favor of a new format, and that’s pain enough!!!

  8. John E says:

    I’ve probably seen “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” 20 times and I still somehow thought the villain was CHAN – ugh – going to be a long Monday. Overall a solid puzzle though – nice review by pannonica.

  9. Neville says:

    Another hand up for LECTOR instead of LECTER… but still another hand for a personal best on the NYT :D Wonderful puzzle today, Ian!

  10. Alex says:

    I hope someone from Guinness is on hand for Dan’s radio interview.

  11. Meem says:

    Smaller grid = faster solve here, too. I liked the puzzle. Also liked Gareth’s LAT.

  12. Jamie says:

    How on earth did someone solve this NYT in 1:31? I’m not doubting for a second (ahem) that it happened. But I solved on paper, came here and confirmed my answers were right except that darned LectEr (hadn’t checked the crosses) – and then decided to solve it in AL. I mean, I knew every answer, I type w/o looking, and I still took 2 minutes to enter the answers. I had the cheat tip engaged on AL so if I typed a wrong letter it got marked.

    I know this was a short and painless puzzle, but 91 seconds?? Egad!

    @Amy – agreed on retiring the BMOC idea. Let’s retire that, and CO-ED, as answers. Completely dated, passe, old hat, trite, stale & etc.

    Nice puzzle, Gareth. Agree with Amy – why all the fuss about the NYT debut? You’ve been publishing for ages. Your LAT with “Yesthereisagod” remains one of my favorites of the year thus far, just for that answer. Noiamnotabeliever. Also agree with your own assessment, the NYT puzzle wasn’t your best. But, whatever.

    I think you’re rapidly becoming one of the best puzzlers out there, and it’s all the more amazing since you are constructing in a different language from another continent. Good job.

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, “sarameon” is Stella Daily Zawistowski, who’s been a top-10 finisher at the ACPT. She is FAST. I accidentally refreshed the applet page after I finished the puzzle so I ended up reentering my answers. I was only 7 seconds faster than Stella when I already knew the answers.

  14. Matt M. says:

    I thought Brendan’s puzzle today was really great. Lots of great fill and fun clues.

  15. Martin says:

    The sexist side of BMOC doesn’t bother me as much as the clue containing “campus.”

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Call me a rebel, but I see nothing wrong with using a word that one of an abbreviation’s letters stands for in the clue. All those ORU/KSU/ASU clues with “sch.”—exactly what is the benefit of avoiding the word “university” in the clue? “Omigod, if we have that in the clue, the people may guess that the answer ends with a U!” You know what? They’re gonna guess that anyway. The policy tends to lead to more awkward clues.

  17. joon says:

    alex, i doubt it would be considered a true record because of the 14×15. but yeah, i suspect he’ll clean right up on this one. if he doesn’t beat my 1:57, i’ll eat my hat.

    i had the same “PRICE, VALUE, … whoa, neat!” thought progression on gareth’s puzzle. nice theme—i wish i’d thought of it, and i’m impressed that gareth, who doesn’t even live here, did think of it. do south african mailing addresses follow a similar format?

    matt, i agree with you—this is BEQ at his finest.

    we see clues like {Part of “www”} or {The “I” of I.M. Pei} all the time, and that gives you one letter for free, right? the only issue with using campus in the clue for BMOC is that people who do too many crosswords will think, “hmm, it won’t be BMOC because campus is in the clue. maybe it’s DEAN or PROF or something.”

  18. Martin says:

    Ooh–I like your wild side, Amy.

    Actually, I see a difference between noise words, like the “U” in NYU, and high-content words. The point of the rule is to avoid spoilage: “campus” may well be the trigger that draws “BMOC” from the recesses.

  19. Martin says:

    As long as I’m carping, isn’t [Firebird, e.g.] (TRANSAM) in the BEQ backwards? A Trans Am was a kind of Firebird. [Firebird model] would seem more accurate. Lots of different cars competed in Trans-Am racing, but that’s a disjoint set.

    I’d carp about BEET carpaccio, but that one’s not a clue flaw. I mean, the beets are cooked, so how is it a carpaccio? I guess vegetarians are entitled to stretch the language. It’s a small consolation for having to eat soybean “meat” and beet “carpaccio.”

  20. Today’s haul of personal-best times reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a former supervisor who was most interested in my speedsolving endeavors. He predicted that I might reach a point beyond which I may not have the mental wiring or data processing skills necessary to replicate the very fastest solvers in the puzzle universe.

    His prediction appears quite accurate. I have reached 30th place at the ACPT and I can solve an occasional Monday puzzle on an applet in less than 150 seconds. After six years of concentrated speedsolving, however, I cannot duplicate the regular speed feats of Howard, Stella, Dan, Amy, Al, Joon or Plot (to name a few).

    I’m sure this conversation has occurred numerous times in this space and I simply missed it…but I’d be curious what the rest of Fiendland thinks about the alternative roles of inborn talent and consistent practice in lowering solving times. I think both are important and can be maximized to a point — i.e., I should always be a 30- to 60th-ranked solver in Brooklyn — but the diminishing marginal returns eventually become too few to make solving more than three puzzles a day worthwhile except for fun.

  21. Gareth says:

    Joon: no, but the letters i send to will shortz do! FWIW, here it’d be name, street, suburb, city, province, postal code. Less conducive to a crossword theme!

    in other news, i didn’t see it announced here, but at crosswordcorner.blogspot.com it was said sunday will be the last dan naddor puzzle. :( . But hope and expect it will be a wow puzzle!

  22. Jeffrey says:

    Brent: I asked a similar question in a column I wrote last November.

    I too have reached the point where I could reach around 30-40th place with a perfect tournament but will never get to the top most ranks.

  23. Thanks for the link, Jeffrey. Many of the usual suspects on this blog commented on your article with trenchant thoughts.

  24. Plot says:

    Here’s my take on “speed solving potential”. Note that the following theory really only applies to easy, early-week puzzles.

    For an experienced solver, the ability to process a clue is equivalent to the ability to translate a foreign language. Some clues are used very frequently and correlate to exactly one answer. These clues can be thought of as vocabulary in the cruciverbal dialect of English.

    If I told you that a person fluent in two languages could translate a list of 70-80 common words in less than two minutes, would you really be that surprised? I doubt it. Thus, it should similarly be unsurprising that speed solvers, who are fluent in “cruciverbian”, can translate 70-80 clues at a comparable speed.

    Yes, typing speed can be an issue and can be the sole reason for a higher solving time. But, unless you are at the point where the answers come to you instantly, it’s not a real difference-maker.

    I wish I had more time to further elaborate, but I’m going to have to leave it at that for now. So, is any of this valid? I’d be interested to see what you all think.

  25. Plot says:

    Also, it’s come to my attention that, since Dan had to solve on paper, I may have the fastest time in the country for today’s NYT (which would be a first for me). But, if someone did it faster (Tyler, Anne, Trip, etc.), please let me know before I go on Facebook and make an ass out of myself. Much obliged.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Plot, I like your foreign translation analogy. I don’t like doing crosswords on a phone app because the interface makes me spend several times longer entering each answer, and yes, the clue “translation” is often instantaneous in easy puzzles. If it takes more than 10 seconds to read the clue, figure out the answer, and enter the answer, it’s far too slow!

  27. joon says:

    plot, don’t go making a big deal out of it, because it’s going to happen again and again. next time it does, act like you’ve been there before. :)

  28. Dan F says:

    Heh, Joon. Plot: Anne and Trip never solve online, so you’ve got them beat early in the week. (Plus, Trip doesn’t speed-solve for fun or bother with easy puzzles.) I like the analogy too. Hard for me to say whether practice or “talent” makes more difference. Typing speed and facility with navigation definitely helps in Across Lite – I can re-fill a previously solved puzzle in under a minute.

    Joon posted an “eating my hat” photo on Facebook, because I didn’t beat his time today! In case anyone’s wondering what the hell they’re talking about… I’m in the Detroit area doing a show, and one actress’s boyfriend is a local NPR reporter, who saw in me the opportunity for a nice fluff piece. I did an interview today and solved the Sunday and Monday puzzles in the studio, facing off against their morning host (an NYT puzzle subscriber and Rex Parker reader), and the segment should air next week on WDET. Watch my “blog” for details.

  29. Jamie says:

    Amy says: If it takes more than 10 seconds to read the clue, figure out the answer, and enter the answer, it’s far too slow!

    I say: I am doomed.

  30. Erik says:

    I can almost see the Slytherin insignia in the black squares.

Comments are closed.