Wednesday, 4/13/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/12" plug="wednesday-41311" puzz="Onion" anchor="av"]4:12[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/12" plug="wednesday-41311" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:44[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/12" plug="wednesday-41311" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:36[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/12" plug="wednesday-41311" puzz="Tausig" anchor="bt"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/12" plug="wednesday-41311" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"] 6:32 (Sam)[/time_hdr]

Hey! This Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m., please join me at the third annual Chicago Crossword Tournament, hosted by Marbles: The Brain Store. If you live in Chicagoland and you’ve never participated in a crossword tournament before, don’t miss this opportunity! You’ll get to:

  1. Do crosswords (unpublished New York Times puzzles, courtesy of Will Shortz)
  2. Mingle with like-minded puzzle people
  3. Browse through the Marbles game/puzzle store before or after the event
  4. Meet a famous author!*

And if you have attended a puzzle tournament before, you know what to expect—a low-key afternoon of competition and puzzle people without the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the ACPT.

Registration info here.

(*Uh, that would be me. That counts, right?)

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

4/13/11 NY Times crossword solution 0413

The theme is built around the Acura INTEGRA, a car model that was discontinued about 5 years ago (making me wonder if perhaps the puzzle was submitted quite some time ago). The four longest answers begin or end with anagrams of INTEGRA:

  • 17a. RED GRANITE, which I did not know was [Wisconsin's state rock]. I asked my cheesehead husband, and he knew. Then he told me the state mineral was galena. But I stumped him on the state soil!
  • 23a. TANGIER, MOROCCO.
  • 45a. Song I don’t know, “TEARING US APART.”
  • 55a. “YOU INGRATE!”

The long non-theme Across answers are fun—SLAP-HAPPY and DEAR SANTA. The Downs are sort of weird. OPERA ROLE feels not quite lexical-chunky, HAD AN IDEA feels odd, I have never encountered PEA SALADS (n.b.: The first two recipes I found online contained dairy and thus are not vegan) and PRIORATES is not a familiar word (but puzzly people will note that subtracting the I gives you PRO-RATES).

Not sure what 25d: REPR. stands for. Reprint? That makes some sense with [Second ed.], but typically a reprint is a straight-up reprinting of a book, no changes, while a second edition has been updated enough to make a new edition worthwhile.

54a: JERI Ryan hasn’t been on Boston Public lately, since the show ended in 2004. But she’s on a brand-new show called Body of Proof, where she and Dana Delany play medical examiners. Man, I hope the show is a success because JERI needs a solid new clue.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

4/13/11 Onion AV Club crossword answers Deb Amlen

I kept looking at this puzzle’s theme answers without understanding what the theme was. It took sending a Text Message of Desperation to the constructor to jar things loose in my head and see the theme. The first three theme entries invert familiar two-word phrases about the day’s meals:

  • 20a. A snacky breakfast bar becomes the verb phrase BAR BREAKFAST, or [Forbid a meal?].
  • 35a. [Smash a meal?] clues BREAK LUNCH, which flips your lunch break.
  • 43a. The dinner rush at a restaurant turns into RUSH DINNER, or [Hurry through a meal?].
  • 53a. Now that you’ve skipped breafast, broken the midday repast, and rushed through supper, you have the sudden [Realization after doing 20-, 35-, and 43-Across]: “MAN, I’M STARVED!”

Freshest fill:

  • 7d. “GO GREEN!” is a [Come-on in many modern campaigns].
  • 9d. A HOOKAH is a [Pipe at some Turkish restaurants]. Listen, people, don’t put 4d: HERB/[Weed] in your hookah at the restaurant. You’ll get arrested.
  • 39a. “YOU’RE ON!” ["I'll take that bet!"]
  • 32d. Gun-[Firing lobbyists] are THE NRA. Looking over my grid, I pondered whether “Then-Ra” was an Egyptian god.

Favorite clues:

  • 44d. [Washington post] with a small P isn’t a newspaper, it’s a SENATOR.
  • 47a. Current-events clue for SYRIA: [Nation with 2011 protests]. It’s not even a gimme. Other 5-letter countries with 2011 protests include Egypt and Yemen.
  • 40a. TEN-CENT is an odd sort of answer, but [__ Beer Night (predictably catastrophic '70s stadium promotion)] salvages it.

Needed-every-crossing-answer-to-get-it words:

  • 37d. UNUS [__ the Untouchable ("X-Men" villain)]? Okay, I’ll take your word for it. I want this villain to be paired with a character named Pluribum.
  • 41d. I’m sure Joon knows this one, but I sure didn’t know that NISSE was a [Shapeshifter of Scandinavian legend].

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Starting Rolls”

4/14 Ink Well crossword solution "Starting Rolls"

You know how Henry Hook (commenting as “HH”) often expresses his disdain for crossword themes in which the point of the theme is overtly explained by a theme-revealing clue and answer? One thing that tends to make Ink Well puzzles as tough as Thursday-plus NYTs is Ben’s trust that solvers can figure out his themes without being spoon-fed an explanation. This week’s theme is bowling, and each theme entry starts with a bowling term:

  • 17a. [Member of a certain homeless subculture] is GUTTER PUNK. I’ve never heard of that.
  • 27a. [Narrow ring outcome] is a SPLIT DECISION in boxing.
  • 44a. [Person who's really crossed the line] is a STRIKE-BREAKER, or scab.
  • 58a. SPARE PARTS make up a [Repair shop's stock].

Gutter, split. strike, and spare are all bowling terms. (This additional spelling-out-of-theme provided just for Henry.)

Eight more clues is enough:

  • 1a. [Sinatra song people are sometimes killed for singing at karaoke in the Philippines] is “MY WAY.” You gotta be able to carry a tune.
  • 16a. [Language for Pakistan's Daily Jang] is URDU. I’m guessing the Daily Jang is a newspaper, and now I’m thinking, Who among us couldn’t use a little jang in our day?
  • 42a. [Dominate, as a noob] clues PWN. Rhymes with “own.”
  • 5d. A Y-LEVEL is a [Surveying tool shaped like a letter]. Pretty sure I don’t own one.
  • 13d. The ZUNE is a [Microsoft media player]. You wouldn’t believe how often this blog gets spam comments (caught in the filter) that talk about the Zune.
  • 18d. [Sparks again, as a love affair] clues REKINDLES. Weird to see those syllables in the absence of a discussion of Amazon’s e-book reader.
  • 29d. [Scatters throughout] clues INTERLARDS. As in “The cook interlards the non-vegetarian refried beans with lard”?
  • 33d. [Where to find super-young chicks] is still in their mama’s NEST.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Next of Kin”—Sam Donaldson’s review

It’s a pretty simple gimmick today, as Hartman adds “-KIN” next to the end of three common phrases then clues the ensuing wackiness:

  • 20-Across: The [English marsh plant?] is a CHESHIRE CATKIN (the result of adding “-kin” next to the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland fame). Um, okay. If I knew what a catkin was, I’m sure I would appreciate this more. I have pasted a picture of a “male catkin on a willow” immediately below the grid, in case the word is as new to you as it was to me. Now I know the name for those yellow flowers.
  • 41-Across: The [Windy city rug?] is a CHICAGO BEARSKIN (adding “-kin” to the Chicago Bears football team). I suppose this was a better option than making a theme entry of “Come to the fores.” (Yes, yes, I know it’s “come to the fore” and not “come to the fores.” Throw me a bone here, people.)
  • 56-Across: To [Order actress Ellen to switch sides?] is to say, “ROLL OVER, BARKIN” (the result of adding “-kin” to an SUV’s rollover bar). Something feels a little off-putting about this. Ordering someone to “roll over” just seems wrong.

With only 43 theme squares, Hartman has considerable freedom to design a grid with good fill, and on the whole this one realizes the potential. I loved ARMY BRAT and its great clue, [Base bawl origin?]. Other liveliness included DEVIL DOG, the [Leatherneck], WHATEVER (clued as [“I’m so through with this discussion!”]), WHACK, ME TOO, EAT UP, and the TV SET.

Let’s finish up with four random tidbits, presented in convenient bullet form:

  • ARMY BRAT had my favorite clue, but a close runner-up was [Shpeak like thish] for SLUR.
  • For reasons I can’t explain, I held on to WRITE as the answer to [Put on paper] when this grid wanted the past tense, WROTE. That made my crossing OTT I (father of Ott II and grandfather of Ott III). I’m guessing [Maestro Klemperer] would not be amused.
  • [Kitty twitter?] as a clue for MEW seems like it’s trying too hard to be clever (and if anyone knows “trying too hard to be clever,” it’s me).
  • Geez! See all those E’s in the southeast corner? E-gad!

Michael Blake’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/13/11 LA Times crossword solution

Okay, I’m not loving today’s crosswords. This one is no exception, as the theme doesn’t quite add up. 48a: CHECK BEFOREHAND is supposed to tie together the other three theme entries, which could be said to have a type of “check” at their beginning. But the BEFOREHAND part, it loses me. First of all, “check beforehand” isn’t a smooth, natural lexical chunk. “Look before you leap,” yes. “Measure twice, cut once,” yes. “Check beforehand” just falls flat. Now, if the theme were things that are “checks” coming before things that are “hands,” you could argue that it works on a playful level. Then there are the “checks”:

  • 20a. IN VOICEMAIL JAIL? I know “in voicemail hell.” Haven’t heard the “jail ” version. But—but—but! You can’t just grab an INVOICE by breaking and recombining words, not when the next two theme answers have their TAB and BILL as stand-alone first words.
  • 25a. TAB ALIGNMENT, a really boring [Word processor setting].
  • 42a. BILL OF RIGHTS, solid.

So the theme just feels terribly muddled to me, not well thought out.

Love 38d: MUGSHOTS, [Pictures of perps].

Weirdest clue this week:

  • 63a. [White man's makeup?] is SNOW. The white man in question is a snowman. (The oppressor!)
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14 Responses to Wednesday, 4/13/11

  1. D_Blackwell says:

    Loved the seven letter anagram gimmick. Overall – loved it.

    ………………………………………..

    That said:

    I have to make a huge deduction for including ERE at 333 appearances. A bit lazy there – especially for such a kick-ass crossword from a top-notch constructor.

    The easiest fix is ERR for ERE and YRS for YES. Not great, but still better.

    But it only took a couple of minutes to sketch out ERS for ERE and YSL for YES, with 41A&D the key, DAIS / DEP alternatives include HAIL / HEP, PAIL / PEP, and RAIL / REP. Surely, The Smart People can come up with even better options. The salient point is that the inclusion of ERE suckity-suck-sucks.

  2. HH says:

    “You know how Henry Hook (commenting as “HH”) often expresses his disdain for crossword themes in which the point of the theme is overtly explained by a theme-revealing clue and answer?”

    Apparently not often enough.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    Re Deb Amlen’s Onion puzzle: 52A [They play during many a bathroom break] – I had 33 down wrong so I thought it was ASS instead of ADS. But it wasn’t ASS, it was me.

  4. sandirhodes says:

    Onion: 44d I had GENERAL for the longest time –
    47a kept trying to fit Libya.

    Hmm … break-fast, break-lunch, but no dinner break!

  5. David L says:

    The Onion puzzle defeated me — didn’t know ACTH or NISSE, had CUNY for CCNY (and why not??), so couldn’t see the TENCENT beer.

    Also, I didn’t understand the theme. And I would say “I’m starving,” not “I’m starved” (if you’re starved it’s already too late…) Other than that I did great!

  6. joon says:

    amy, NISSE was a surprise to me, too. just read up on them. interesting stuff, but i’m much poorer-versed on folklore than mythology.

    HH, i feel your pain. i like rich norris’s editing a lot, but i winced when saw that he changed the reveal clue of my recent LAT puzzle from {Some sculpted abs … and this puzzle’s theme} to something that explicitly mentioned each of the other theme clues by number.

  7. Dan F says:

    Just yesterday I saw PEA SALAD in a Simon & Schuster puzzle… also by Liz Gorski!

  8. *David* says:

    I found it interesting that UNUS the Untouchable changed his name legally to Gunther Bain.

  9. Meem says:

    joon: From my solving spot and experience, your LAT clue in the puzzle with ACME was more than adequate. I tend to be on HH’s frequency on this one. in today’s NYT, the clue at 36A. should have stopped at Bygone Acura. Though it might have taken me longer to complete the solve!

  10. John Haber says:

    I actually got REPR right away while knowing it was wrong. A second edition is not a reprint. In some kinds of books (textbooks), you even have by law to make substantive changes or it’s not a new edition, and you have to list them in the preface. That’s so that students aren’t ripped off by being made to buy new rather than used books, at a higher price at that, for old books with new covers slapped on. It’s perhaps a dumb law, but no question new editions keep competing to show something new. (The theme was a foreign language to me, not in automobile country, and with assumptions about anagrams from cryptics, but I got it anyhow. Come to think of it, the Clapton answer could have included a cryptic anagram indicator.)

  11. Todd G says:

    I just wanted to say that, as far as I’m concerned…yeah, you totally count as a famous author. Enjoy the tournament!

  12. Jamie says:

    Amy, I’m familiar with you as a famous author(TM) but it so happens that on a day of really awful crossswords (don’t know who is awarding 5 or 4 stars today, they are out of their minds), I just happened to get delivery of a book by Peter Gordon.
    http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book-Hard-Daily-Crosswords/dp/1402768672

    It’s called The Big Book of Hard Daily Crosswords, and, just from the title alone, I want to extend my sympathy to Mr. Gordon.

    So I guess that establishes I am not Mr. Gordon.

    That said, I’m only six puzzles in and I love it, I love it, 5 stars, etc.

    I hope you don’t mind my plugging someone else’s book. I clicked on it from a link at the Englishman’s blog. I know you want an ad-free site, but as a reader I would find it helpful rather than annoying if you had a list of books you recommend. It would add value to me as a visitor, and I’d gladly click through to earn you a few shillings.

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, for anyone who hasn’t already done the full run of New York Sun crosswords edited by Peter Gordon, I recommend them highly! But don’t go buy all of the books, because there will likely be overlap between the hard and easy books and the by-the-day-of-the-week books. A lot of hotshot constructors did their best and most innovative work for Peter and the Sun.

  14. Jamie says:

    Deleted.

Comments are closed.