Monday, 4/18/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/17" plug="monday-41811" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]5:52[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/17" plug="monday-41811" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/17" plug="monday-41811" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]2:22[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/17" plug="monday-41811" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]5:02 (Sam)[/time_hdr]

James Tuttle’s New York Times crossword

4/18/11 NYT crossword solution 0418

This was the first puzzle in the Marbles Chicago Crossword Tournament on Saturday, and the first finisher, Eric Maddy, solved it in 3:05. (He approached it at a leisurely pace, I imagine.)

Cute tennis theme: The first four theme entries start with the increments of tennis scoring, and then victory is declared in the final theme answer.

  • 20a. LOVE TRIANGLE is a great answer, whether in the service of a theme or on its own.
  • 28a. FIFTEEN MILES is the [Distance on the Erie Canal, in song]. I don’t know the lyrics and the entry looks like such an arbitrary thing, number + unit of measure.
  • 38a. Ah, back to great fill with THIRTY-SOMETHING, clued cruelly as [One approaching middle age]. I’m pretty sure the criteria have been reset and it is only people in their late 40s who are thinking about middle age, which will take them clear through to 65, at which point late middle age verges on “senior citizen.” Ask a 32-year-old if he thinks he’s “approaching middle age” and he’s not going to be pleased.
  • 46a. FORTY THIEVES has a hint of the arbitrary to it, or a touch of “wait, that’s a 12-letter partial,” but I think most Monday solvers are familiar with “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” so it’ll fly.
  • 57a. “GAME, SET, MATCH!”

A question for the botanically inclined: What sort of ELM is a [Tree with seeds that whirl like helicopter blades]? I know the maple samara is what I grew up calling a “helicopter.” The ELM trees I know have teeny round disks with seeds in the middle, not at all prone to spinning delightfully.

If the rating system were granular enough to afford half stars, I’d call this one 3 1/2 stars.

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/18/11 LA Times crossword solution

Super-breezy puzzle with a theme that’s basic and yet not hit-you-over-the-head-with-it obvious—each theme answer ends with a synonym for “electricity,” used in a different sense. Nice to see zero explanation of the theme in the clues, trusting the solver to put the pieces together:

  • 17a. APPLE JUICE is a [Mott's product].
  • 55a. A [Gust of wind, e.g.] is an AIR CURRENT.
  • 10d. A COVER CHARGE is a [Nightclub minimum].
  • 24d. ['60s-'70s passive resistance slogan] clues FLOWER POWER. My first thought was “Make love, not war.”

I don’t know what RYE BEER is. Seems like a lot of [Microbrewery offering]s run along the lines of extra-hoppy bitter ales. Let us Google…here are 10 well-regarded rye beers. Hmm, I should try this local one, Cane & Ebel.

Four stars for a solid Monday offering.
Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Art 101”—Sam Donaldson’s review

We start the work week with a simple theme that’s well-executed. Keller gives us three phrases starting with art-related verbs:

  • 17-Across: To [Deduce] is to DRAW A CONCLUSION.  If you had to draw a “conclusion” in Pictionary, how would you do it?  I might draw a donkey and then use an arrow to point to its bottom.  I figure the double reinforcement of “ass” might lead my partner or team to think “end,” which would then feed “conclusion.”  I suppose that’s why no one wants to be on my team in Pictionary.
  • 36-Across: Another way to say ["I'm bewildered"] is COLOR ME CONFUSED.  I know “Color Me Badd” and “Color Me Mine,” but this expression is new to me. Yet ironically (or is it coincidentally?), I didn’t have any problems getting this one with just a few crossings.
  • 56-Across: To [Go on a spree] is to PAINT THE TOWN RED.  This has always been a favorite expression, mostly because I envision people with brushes and paint buckets slathering sidewalks and buildings in thick coats of ruby red, and that just sounds like great fun.  Would different colors signal different moods?  Do Democrats paint the town blue?

Having 45 theme squares allows for fill that is both more colorful and longer than the average themed crossword. There are only ten three-letter entries, and there’s nice stuff in here like LOSE TO, AU PAIR, SEXES (well-clued as the [Proverbial battlers]), DOWNER, AS ONE, and GOT ON (clued simply as [Boarded]).

Not too much more to say, so let’s close with four random observations:

  • As a clue for PASTE, [Grammar school goo] is wonderfully evocative. But is paste really a “goo?” Isn’t paste a little starchier or stiffer than goo? Still, no other answer comes as close to the description, so it didn’t slow me down.
  • That whole northeast corner with its ORGY in LEES jeans and GEESE is a little wild for this plain-vanilla boy, but I don’t mind my crosswords getting a little PG-13 now and then.
  • Anyone else notice that A LA and AMA were symmetrically apart in the grid? Makes one wonder where Coach ARA, ADA and the ABA were lurking.
  • Just once, it would be nice if the answer to [Q.E.D. part] was DEMONSTRANDUM instead of ERAT.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 324 solution

Golfer CHARL SCHWARTZEL has popped his cruciverbal cherry, going from someone none of us had ever heard of to winner of the Masters a week ago. Wordplay fans will appreciate knowing that his first name appears interspersed in his last name: sCHwARtzeL. Just like crossword constructor Narayan veNkAtasubRAmanYAN.

Didn’t know that reruns of “That’s So Raven” are on the ABCKIDS cable channel; my kid watched it on the Disney Channel a few years ago.

Rather startling to see an AREOLA parked so close to that WEBCAM.

PALISH looks terribly wrong but is, in fact, a word.

Favorite clue: 7d: [Java covering] for SARONG. Java the island, not java the coffee. Runner-up: 64a: [Sounds of the harbor?] for INLETS.

Three and a halfish stars. So many names in the grid—I counted 14 people and brand names here.

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14 Responses to Monday, 4/18/11

  1. joon says:

    i’m 32 and no, i don’t think i’m approaching middle age. but 32 is definitely old enough to frequently be reminded how young you’re not any more.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    ” it is only people in their late 40s who are thinking about middle age”

    Well, now I am.

  3. Roger says:

    1-30, 31-60, 61-90, on borrowed time. You can deny it all you want, but facts are facts.

  4. ed says:

    We used to sing Erie Canal in elementary school. If you know the song, “Fifteen miles” is a great clue — the lyric is repeated over and over, and the song is catchy and memorably. But if you don’t know it, you don’t know it.

  5. Those of us already PAST middle age look back fondly at the ‘Thirty-something’ decade; in fact, I’d gladly take my 50-yr-old body back, because this one keeps having to go back into the shop for repairs! CREAK. Fortunately, not yet a GONER.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I agree, why worry about your age? Just be glad you are still here, compos mentis… I did learn something today, and that made for speedier solves ever — I just did the NYT again, having done it once last night, and found out how fast I could enter everything merely going across in sequence. Then I tried the same technique on the CS and the LAT, and wow — all were fastest ever. It probably could only happen on a Monday, but it was a revelation! JUICE was perfect to express what I suddenly seemed to have.

  7. John Papini says:

    Thirty-something? Approaching middle age? Nonsense. I’m 70 and feel as though I’ve been middle aged for a couple of decades. Thirty-year-olds are just a bunch of kids. Seventy is the new fifty (I wish)!

  8. Zulema says:

    No wonder Mean Old Lady thinks she is old in her 50′s, if thirty-something is approaching middle age; Dantean middle age , yes, but that is literary and Biblical.

    Tennis is always welcome.

  9. @Zulema
    Uh, I’m not in my Fifties–darn it. Back when I WAS, my mother referred to my being ‘middle-aged,’ and I had to say, ‘Mother, I’m only middle-aged if you know a lot of people who are 112!’

    I had missed the theme completely–just whipped through the puzzle and moved on. I should pay better attention!

    ELM seeds are ‘winged’ in various degrees, but I agree that maples are the true ‘helicopter seeds.’ I just spent 2 hours picking them out of my herb and asparagus beds. I have found that a lot of people do not really know one tree from another (my DHubby being one such. I don’t get it–he knows every make of car but can’t see the individual differences between dogwoods and redbuds unless they are blooming.)

  10. Gareth says:

    Biggest smile of the puzzle for me: FIFTEENMILES (I had The Boss’ version in my head, you guys?). GAMESETMATCH: I guess the GAME part finishes the pattern , and the SETMATCH is a bonus of sorts? Cos not every GAME wins a set or a match…

    The LAT was a great example of the genre, really nicely executed! I too wanted “make love not war”

  11. Jamie says:

    @Mean Old Lady: Oh, c’mon. A man who is 40 today has an average life expectancy of 38 years. That surely does not mean he is PAST middle age when he hits (78/2 +1) 40? In any case, it’s not a particular age; it’s a decades-long span, around average middle age.

    However, I see nothing wrong with the clue. If you’re 39 and you don’t think you are at least “approaching” middle age, you’re delusional. Try asking a 19-year-old out on a date. Yep, generation gap.

    You’re equally delusional if you follow Amy’s definition of middle age as starting in the late 40s. Picture your parents at 46. Weren’t they well into middle age by then?

    Just for fun: http://fis.org/LE-Calc/ – I’m sure they are trying to sell vitamin supplements.

  12. *David* says:

    I think of middle age as 40-60 yet I wouldn’t think of someone at 65 as old anymore. I have worked with plenty of 60-70 year old and other then the hair color they don’t make me think old. Maybe we do need to revamp the defintion a decade or so up based on overall health and medical improvements. This is a fluid definition that changes based on where you live and the times you live in. OTOH it may be that I’m in my early 40′s and delusional.

  13. Jamie says:

    Instead of redefining the age at which middle age starts, how about redefining what it means? Let’s not freak out at labels.

    Despite all the medical advances made since 1900, the long end of the bell curve for human life expectancy remains solidly rooted at around 90 (and the mean much closer to <80). We haven't found a way to regenerate cells, so instead of dying of what our grandparents died of in their late 60s, we die of something else in our mid-70s, or 80s if we are lucky. Or unlucky, depending on how long your health insurance can keep you "alive."

    How about we re-define middle-aged as what it more-or-less is? You’re still agile and healthy, if you haven’t fallen to an unlucky disease. You’re no longer tethered to the kids. You’re established in your career. This is your time to go explore the world without any worries.

    What’s that? Your parents are sick and live in another state and need 24/7 care? You started the family a bit late, and your kids are just now approaching college age, with huge bills?

    OMG. You’re middle-aged. And so FFFed.

  14. Mel Park says:

    Well, throughout my now past middle age, I never encountered a truly ambiguous crossword, that is where there were, by mistake, two correct solutions. This old geezer is so old (mid-sixties) that maybe my understanding of time and tense has become fuzzy, but I don’t think so.

    In the LA Times today 63D [Gambler's words of lament] could be ILOSE which crosses just fine with 42A [Fix] SEERIGHT instead of the given ILOST and SETRIGHT. Do I see that right?

    BTW, youngsters, one of the big shocks of our modern prolonged age-expectancy comes the first time you talk with a retirement adviser. We are all expected to provide for our retirement to age 90! Wow, I guess people do quite commonly live that long.

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