Thursday, 4/21/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/20" plug="thursday-42111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/20" plug="thursday-42111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:20[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/20" plug="thursday-42111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]6:00 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/20" plug="thursday-42111" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]8:55 (Matt)/5:55 (Amy)[/time_hdr]

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

4/21/11 NYT crossword solution 0421

Julian Lim’s been concocting some cool crosswords lately, hasn’t he? This one’s got a neat Thursday twist that has you doubting Will Shortz until you figure it out:

  • 17a, 25a, 42a, 56a. The [Solving hint] is EACH ONE-WORD CLUE / IN THIS PUZZLE / IS A HOMOPHONE / OF ITS ACTUAL CLUE. It’s a big help that it’s not, say, 10 random tricky one-word clues that are hard to distinguish from a dozen straight one-word clues. My only quibble with the theme is that the solving hint reads weird at the end—”of THE actual clue” would be better than “of ITS actual clue.”
  • 10a. [Lessons] sounds like lessens, which means EBBS.
  • 35a. [Urn] sounds like earn, which means MAKE (as in money).
  • 38a. A ROCK is a boulder or [Bolder].
  • 62a. [Tails], tales, LORE.
  • 63a. [Pores], pours, RAINS. Welcome to Chicago this spring.
  • 8d. [Add], ad, advertising SPOT.
  • 10d. [Flea], flee, ESCAPE.
  • 23d. [Sail], sale, AUCTION.
  • 26d. Uh, ["Keen!"] is a one-word clue with punctuation, and it doesn’t play the homophone game.
  • 27d. [Chews], choose, TAKE, as in “I’ll take chocolate.”
  • 54d. [Waist], waste, RUIN.

Forty theme letters in the homophone-clued entries, 54 in the solving-hint entries, several crossings between the long and short theme entries—this can’t have been too easy to construct, can it? There’s some blah fill (about 10 abbrevs, two Spanish words, two prefixes, a Latin word) but I wasn’t conscious of it while solving.

When I filled in 13d: SUEDE for the [Upholstery material], I couldn’t help thinking of swayed.

Favorite fill:

  • 49a. LET IT BE
  • 5d. KOOL-AID
  • 36d. MEATBALL
  • 41d. SPOILER

Toughest bits:

  • 40a. [Where Samson slew the Philistines] is LEHI.
  • 51a. [Having three parts] clues TRINARY, not a very common word.
  • 9d. TERRAZZO means [Mosaic flooring]. Nice to have a double-Z crossing the double-Z of PUZZLE.
  • 57d. TYR is a [Norse god of war].

Four and a half stars from me for the clever gimmick.

Neville Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/21/11 LA Times crossword solution

Kids these days, am I right? Neville’s puzzle makes me feel old. His theme includes four phrases that could be abbreviated the same way as four textspeak shorthand bits:

  • 17a. To [Acquire incriminating info (on), as hinted by 19-Across] is to GET THE GOODS on someone. 19a is GTG, which was a new one for me. I think that one’s short for “got to go.” So, BRB (“be right back”) promises a quicker return than GTG?
  • [33a. Lament about a lost opportunity, as hinted by 32-Across] is the spoken phrase “I MISSED OUT,” which would be IMO (“in my opinion”). I’d be way more likely to say “you missed out” than “I missed out.” Does that make me mean? I MISSED OUT feels like awkward fill to me, but I might just be mean.
  • 38a. ["Break time's over," as hinted by 41-Across] is “BACK TO WORK,” or BTW, which really means “by the way.”
  • 56a. [Charity for young alopecia sufferers, as hinted by 55-Across] is LOCKS OF LOVE. LOL used to mean “little old lady” but has shifted into “laughing out loud.” You ever hear the story about the woman signing condolence letters “LOL,” thinking it meant “lots of love”? “I’m so sorry for your loss, LOL!”

I like the theme structure, with the phrases and their affiliated abbreviations appearing in single rows in the grid.

I can’t believe OMG and WTF didn’t make the cut! Let’s see…WTF used to be the Wisconsin Tourism Federation but they had to change that. “Where’s the fire?” could work, except it’s too long to share a row with a 3-letter answer. OMG…Ol’ Mister Gasbag? I give up.

Eleven clues:

  • 5a. JUAREZ, Mexico, is a rather Scrabbly [Chihuahua city]. Last week I passed a guy walking three chihuahuas, one of which was barking like a big mean dog. You don’t expect such a sound from a creature scarcely bigger than a rat, do you?
  • 25a. [Stone's 14: Abbr.] is an incomprehensible-looking clue if you don’t know that the British unit of measure called the stone is equivalent to about 14 LBS. I once overheard an English woman trying to rent skis who needed to convert her weight from stones to pounds.
  • 28a. CLEO, as in Cleopatra, was a [First-century B.C. pharaoh, briefly].
  • 44a. [Bullish start?] is a good clue for an iffy answer, the prefix TAUR-.
  • 1d. The game of TAG is a [Playground runaround?].
  • 4d. A NETMAN is a tennis [Court figure]. As in “That Venus Williams is quite the netman”?
  • 12d. [Private place] just means a RETREAT, not the private place people can’t touch without your permission.
  • 26d. [Water bearer, maybe] had me thinking zodiac instead of BUSBOY. Great misdirect in the clue.
  • 38d. BAZOOKA! Great answer, be it bubblegum or [Antitank weapon].
  • 41d. Sidekick [Robin's way down] into the Batcave is the BATPOLE. Great partner for BAZOOKA!
  • 44d. [One taking a lot of notes] of currency is a bank TELLER.

A warm four stars because of all those groovy clues and answers.
Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Middle School”—Sam Donaldson’s review

At the school where I teach, we’re in the middle of spring quarter right now, which turns out to be an apt time to discuss this crossword. Ashwood-Smith finds three 15-letter entries with the letter series S-C-H appearing exactly in the middle. The theme is revealed by 36-Down, SCH, conveniently placed at the grid’s center and clued [PTA’s concern found in all three theme answers (abbr.)]. The theme answers themselves ain’t too shabby:

  • 17-Across: The [Breaded dish] is WIENERSCHNITZEL. I knew this one once I had the WIEN- in place, but I felt nervous entering it into the grid as I was uncertain of the spelling. Fortunately, I got lucky. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted wienerschnitzel. Veal is not my thing, and I’m trying to lay off the breaded foods. Am I missing a culinary treat?
  • 39-Across: The [Augusta tourney winner, e.g.] is a MASTERS CHAMPION. Charl Schwartzl is the most recent one, and yes, I have added CHARL, SCHWARTZL, and CHARL SCHWARTZL to my wordlist. (Heck, his name is one letter off from being a legit theme entry for this puzzle!)  I’m a bit perplexed as to the use of “e.g.” in the clue—are there other “masters champions” besides the golfers who win the annual tournament in Augusta, Georgia?
  • 62-Across: The [Grocery store feature] is the EXPRESS CHECKOUT. You know, the one with the “10 items or less” sign that should read “10 items or fewer?”

I like the grid’s design, what with the crosses in the center. I wish one of the horizontal bars in the fifth and eleventh rows had one fewer black square just to make the grid feel a little more open. As it was, my solving experience was like tackling four miniature puzzles (the north section, the east, the south, and the west, in that order by the way) that felt just a tad too disconnected. But this is a minor point—today’s puzzle is a 78/38 grid (78 answers, 38 black squares), which is certainly acceptable for themed crosswords.

I felt like I should have posted a faster time, like maybe 5:15 – 5:30 (a Monday/Tuesday time for me). Looking back, there were a few items that I didn’t get right away, and I suppose the cumulative weight of those brief pauses resulted in the slower time:

  • [Housman piece] as a clue for POEM meant nothing to me.  All I could think of was John Houseman, the Oscar-winning actor who played Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase.” I think my world is a little narrower than I would like to admit.
  • It took me a while to figure out that the first letter in the answer to [Intrinsically] was a P. I had –ERSE and kept thinking “verse” or “terse.” Of course, that’s my own fault for assuming it’s a one word answer. The actual answer is PER SE.
  • I guessed ELLE as the [She, in Capri], then ELLA. I finally tumbled to ESSA when I divined the theme-reveal in 36-Down. Oops.
  • I think we’re past the day when the automatic answer to [Apple bestseller] is IMAC, what with the success of the IPAD. Sure enough, I tried the wrong one first. This time I was supposed to go with the IMAC.
  • I hadn’t a clue about CLU, [Actor Gulager].

Final note: I love the modern touch in the southwest corner, with SETH clued as [Green or MacFarlane] (both are voice actors and writers for the wholesome animated TV series “Family Guy”) and EPIC fail, the [Big thumbs-down].  This was hardly an “epic fail”—for using such modern clues, I say it’s Ashwood-Smith FTW!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Making Money”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 325 solution

Beautiful rebus theme from BEQ today, in both concept and execution. The puzzle’s three across theme entries are:

  • 20a. LINE YOUR POCKET$
  • 41a. DOW JONE$ AVERAGE
  • 59a. $IX-FIGURE INCOME

The only S’s in these three aren’t just S’s, they’re dollar signs that serve a double purpose: going across they’re S’s, but going down they’re I’s. You sometimes see this gimmick (rebus where the key square represents a different letter(s) going across and down) with little rhyme or reason as to why; this theme is a cut above, since the $ neatly atomizes into its two component parts.

But wait, there’s more: the three crossing entries that take the dollar sign I are:

  • 13d. SCR$P
  • 7d. ACCRUED $NTEREST (grid-spanner; nice touch)
  • 52d. Y$ELD

Notice that all six of these $ crossers are money/finance-related, not just the three 15s going across. Nice. And notice that the three $’s are placed symmetrically in the grid. Another nice touch. And, as if this puzzle needs another flourish, notice that the two 9-letter entries in the grid (PLUNK DOWN, as clued, and BANKNOTES) are also money-related.

Fill and clues don’t seem as important when a puzzle’s theme is as clever as this one, so I’m going to just briefly say that both were fine or better. The star of the show here is an inventive theme concept crafted with great skill and I’m giving it the maximum 5-star rating.

Thank$ for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a profitable Thursday, everyone!

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25 Responses to Thursday, 4/21/11

  1. Erik says:

    Argh. I spent an extra minute on this puzzle, convinced IRITIS was wrong, because I threw down VASE for ‘Urn’ before I sussed out the theme.

  2. donald says:

    With all due respect, 26-Down appears to be a two-word clue, e.g., “That’s keen!”.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    26-Down was changed after the puzzle was prepared for the Chicago Crossword Tournament—on the PDF I solved last week, it’s just ["Keen!"]. Presumably Will or one of his posse caught that in the nick of time.

  4. Plot says:

    Did not figure out the theme until I had already entered most of the theme answers, but I definitely would have been stuck on the EBBS clue if I hadn’t taken the time to figure out the homophone. Lessens/lessons seems the most clever to me; I wonder if that was the seed entry?

    Most people haven’t done today’s CS yet, so only light spoilers right now; I made the puzzle particularly interesting by trying to shoehorn Charl Schwartzel into the middle theme entry. It was not the right answer in the least, but considering the theme and the clue, it was a near perfect fit.

  5. pannonica says:

    Factette: The original bazooka was a musical instrument and the weapon was named for its similar appearance.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Further factette: “Bazoo” comes before “bazooka” in the dictionary and the New Oxford American Dictionary lists two definitions: “1. A person’s mouth. 2. A person’s buttocks or anus.” I read these to my family and my kid said, “I have an itchy bazoo.” His new nickname is Itchy Bazoo.

  7. Erik says:

    Double blerg! I went for C CLASP instead of C CLAMP. Who the heck is HASLET?

    WTF = Why The Face?
    OMG = On My Grind

    No more comments today, I promise.

  8. Todd G says:

    Well, if your willing to accept titles to song that I’ve never heard of but get a sizable number of Google hits, you could have:

    OMG == One Man Guy
    WTF == Way To Fall

    WTG Neville, awesome theme!

  9. Matt says:

    Finally! A puzzle for the bad speller. I filled in lots of ‘wrong’ answers and only barely noticed it until after getting the all the ‘hint’ clues. Easy for me, tough for all you superior spellers out there.

  10. Neville says:

    Thanks for the 4 stars, Amy! Couldn’t find an OMG phrase that worked at the time of construction, though ONE MORE GO might’ve worked. (Not as good as ONE MORE TRY, but that doesn’t fit!) And I doubt WTF would’ve flown, unfortunately IMO.

    Todd – haven’t heard of those songseither. Glad you liked the theme!

    In re NYT, broke in at ROCK because it wouldn’t ed with an -ER. Great puzzle, Julian!

  11. Ladel says:

    Cute, but badly distracted by my need for a Costco run today.

  12. Meem says:

    Definitely four and a half stars for Julian’s NYT. Liked the LAT, too. And the CS is also solid construction. Nice puzzle day!

  13. joon says:

    it really is a good puzzle day. liked julian’s puzzle even though it had me tied up in knots—and not just because of the theme. i just had a really hard time breaking into that NW corner. i finally had the light bulb moment at {Bolder}—perhaps because of this memory.

    BEQ’s puzzle has something i’ve never seen before in the theme, and all the extra elegant touches matt points out make it a true 5*. nice one.

    didn’t BEQ do an onion puzzle with a WTF theme a while back? WU TANG FOREVER was a theme answer. can’t remember the others. ah, here we are: “WHAT’S THIS FOR?”, WENT TOO FAR, WAVES THE FLAG, “WHERE’S THE FIRE?”… okay, none of those is quite as good as WU TANG FOREVER, but WENT TOO FAR would fit into today’s theme rather nicely.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Wow, good puzzles today.

  15. pannonica says:

    Sunday Mon Tu W TF

    The BEQ was very good, but for some inexplicable reason it took me a very long time to dissect the S/I.

  16. Alex says:

    Sam – you should edit your word list. CHARL SCHWARTZEL’s name has an “E” in it. Can you imagine if it were 14 letters with only two voewls?

  17. Jeff L says:

    In the BEQ, I figured out the I/S thing but didn’t put togther that it was a dollar sign until I checked this blog. I thought it was some play on IRS and I was missing something. I feel slightly moronic.

  18. Evad says:

    Didn’t Patrick Blindauer do a Fireball with the I/S idea last year? Off to the archives to check…

  19. AngelSong says:

    I think you’re right Evad. I know I have seen this done somewhere before.

  20. John Haber says:

    Very clever, and tough given both the four long and the many short theme entries. I also got into trouble with the sounds for hurting and relaxing that have many variants, crossed with the rare LEHI and, for me, difficult CYST. I kept wondering if one could count as surgery cutting costs!

  21. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, Alex. I was relieved to see that my word list has the correct spelling of SCHWARTZEL both times–the typo was limited to the blog post.

  22. AV says:

    Wow, three 5 stars for me today – NYT, LAT, and BEQ, all well done, all themes I wish had thunk of!

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    I no knot watt too dew hear, sew mani awed clews.

  24. Alex says:

    Daniel — you spelled “eye” wrong. Or should it have been “aye”?

  25. Daniel Myers says:

    LOL—Quite right, Alex! Aye was waiting for someone to catch that.

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