Monday, 4/25/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/24" plug="monday-42511" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:13 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/24" plug="monday-42511" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]2:48[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/24" plug="monday-42511" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]7:21 (Sam – paper)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/24" plug="monday-42511" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]6:22[/time_hdr]

Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

4/25/11 NYT crossword answers 0425

New York Times April 25, 2011 solution

I didn’t notice until after finishing the puzzle and discerning it on my own that the link among the four theme entries is made explicit in the final across: [Logan Airport luggage letters...BOS. Hence each long across entry consists of three words with the initials B·O·S.

  • 17a. BARBER OF SEVILLE. I can’t hear you, la la la lalalala la la laaa…
  • 27a. BOX OFFICE STAR. I would have preferred the more common “box office smash” which returns—according to my now-dubious Google piloting—a whopping 8,390,000 hits to bostar’s paltry 608,000. Of course that would require an extra letter in…
  • 49a. BARACK OBAMA SR. and that can only reasonably be achieved by adding the middle initial H, for an aesthetically challenged entry. Star it is.
  • 64a. BLOWING OFF STEAM. I know nothing about this behavior.

Before I noticed the spoiler at 72a, my take on the connection was Bos taurus, the scientific name for domestic cattle. And what do you know, it turns out that the astrological sign Taurus spans the dates April 21 to May 20 or 21 (so it just started recently)! But that, as much in astrology, is mere coincidence.

Since this is a Monday puzzle, everything is very straightforward. Not a single Just one question-marked clue to be found in the bunch, low abbrev. count, a minimum of partials and crosswordese. The only stretch-words I noted are 71a (the question marked clue noted above) [Sum more?] READD and 18d. [Vitamin whose name could be a bingo call] BSIX, and neither of those are even close to egregious; they barely qualify as dubious. So, overall a very solid and stolid puzzle.

Inadvertent imagery:

  • Column Seven: Atop fur kegger and, uhm, Column Five: Speedos ramming. Perhaps Column Four could hearken back to 18d’s clue: B-Six…ours win!

Updated Monday morning

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy Crossword, “State of the Union” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Solvers of the world unite! Levin makes a theme out of four two-word phrases where one word relates to unions:

  • 17-Across: The [Harbinger of an imminent delivery] is LABOR PAINS. Unions often represent the collective interests of labor (i.e., workers) in negotiations with management.
  • 52-Across: A [Pitcher's target] is the STRIKE ZONE. A tactic used by unions to succeed when said negotiations are at an impasse is to have members go “on strike.”
  • 11-Down: [It was whitewashed by Tom Sawyer] refers to a PICKET FENCE. Striking laborers often form “picket lines” outside their place of work, so called, I would guess, because they form a human picket fence. (I would check the origin of this phrase, but I’m currently flying across the country on my way home, and I’m on the one plane left in the United States that is not equipped with a wifi connection. By the time I’m home, I’m going to have just enough time to post this review and head out again, so I’m going to have to wing it here.)
  • 25-Down: The [Discounted price] is a BARGAIN RATE. Labor unions and management often work toward a “collective bargaining agreement,” so “bargain” would be the union-related term here.

There is some great fill here that really makes the puzzle shine. I’m looking at you, BE A HERO, AT A CLIP, SCRAPE BY, YAHTZEE, EXCELS AT, and NEO-CONS. (Neo-cons in a puzzle about unions. I like it.) With only 74 words and 34 black squares, the grid has a nice, open feel, including the staircase of entries through the midsection.

My time was a tad slow, in large part due to four entries:

  • TIGE is [Buster Brown's pooch]. I have seen this before in crosswords but it has yet to stick with me. FIDO sure seemed promising for a long time.
  • A SECKEL is a [Small pear]. The only pears in my wheelhouse are Bartletts and Boscs. I must come clean and admit that I don’t care for pairs very much at all. The texture is way too weird for me, and the juice isn’t all that flavorful. Give me an apple (well, a crunchy one, preferably tart) any day. Does one suckle a seckel?
  • A [Tonic] is a BRACER. In the sense that it braces you for what’s to come? Oh how I wish I could access my dictionary at 34,000 feet right now!
  • The [Crayola shade of blue since 1990] is CERULEAN. I tried CERYLEUM, CERULEUM, and CERULEAM, each time getting a little closer as I uncovered more crossings. Those other three should all be colors too.

The most interesting thing I learned in this puzzle is the answer to [Most popular dog breed in the U.S.A., familiarly]. Who knew that LAB was short for Australian shepherd?

Jennifer Nutt’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/25/11 LA Times crossword answers

So, Joon’s NYT puzzle had a theme tying into last weekend’s Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament (and subsequent NYT puzzles this week will also be by Boston-area constructors, I believe). The LA Times puzzle plays along, by coincidence, with 61d: BOS, [Logan Airport city: Abbr.]. That’s not Jennifer Nutt’s theme, though. She goes with the BARBER SHOP (61a: [Establishment where the ends of 16-, 22-, 37- and 49-Across take place]):

  • 16a. [Near miss] is a CLOSE SHAVE.
  • 22a. [Boxer's fit condition] is “in FIGHTING TRIM.” Not sure it works without the “in.” What say you?
  • 49a. [Specially edited version of a film] is the DIRECTOR’S CUT. Terrific entry.

The overall vibe in the fill was that of an ’80s puzzle. Not that there’s any ANOA or ESNE in it. And 7d: HAVE IT ALL, or [Succeed in every way], is terrific. But words like NASH and NAST, LAMA and SHAH, KENO and ARETE, SEGO and AMATI—they felt a little retro. Especially those last four, which I think used to show up far more often in crosswords than they do now, and than they do in other discourse.

Three and a half stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 326 solution

Yes, there’s some shorter fill that’s “meh,” but the four interlaced pairs of 15s all kick ass. THE LATE LAMENTED and AEROBIC EXERCISE. The CANTERBURY TALES (publisher W.W. Norton is compiling some Canterbury Tales tweets starting today) atop KNICKS AND LAKERS, one of a handful of sports rivalries that’s famous enough to make the grade as crossword fill. (Lakers and Celtics = 16 letters.) THEME RESTAURANT (with a great clue) beside the half-hearted promise, “WE’RE WORKING ON IT.” And STINGING NETTLES next to the verb phrase TESTED THE WATERS. Aren’t those great? Yes, they are.

Also good: MR. RIGHT, JACKO, AKBAR.

Never heard of R.A.B. or OLNEY. Not fond of inflections LAXLY, UNHID, and REMOUNT. And the three-S PSSST?

Five stars for the 15s, two and a half stars for the short stuff. So…3.75 stars overall.

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23 Responses to Monday, 4/25/11

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    This was the first of five stellar puzzles in yesterday’s Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament. When Will Shortz introduced it, he also announced that, with this Monday puzzle, joon has now had a NYT puzzle published on each day of the week. I hope I’m not messing up the terminology – is it that he has “hit the cycle” or, as in baseball, “hit for the cycle”? In any event, congrats, joon, on this wonderful feat, and also for the great tournament yesterday. It was great to see so many constructors (all five who had puzzles in the tournament), Will, and lots of puzzle friends. I’m glad I played a small part in keeping the finals exciting by keeping neck-and-neck with two very worthy opponents.

  2. Gareth says:

    It seems not everyone (see other blog) liked BARACKOBAMASR as an entry. Me, it won my heart with its sheer goofiness. Solid construction. Dense theme esp for Mon. 4 stars for me!

    (P.S. not all cattle are Bos taurus. You also get Bos indicus cattle, which descended from zebu as opposed to aurochs if I remember correctly. They can be and frequently are crossed.)

  3. Meem says:

    Congratulations, joon! The 36 of you who have hit for the cycle in the NYT are a formidable group of constructors.

  4. pannonica says:

    Good point, Gareth, although I think zebu are also descended from B. primigenius (aurochs). The whole taxonomic shebang frequently gets screwy when it comes to domesticated species.

    Even though it hasn’t been written up yet, I thought the grid on today’s BEQ is amazing: only singleton black squares!

  5. Ladel says:

    Nice work Joon, making a puzzle hard is easy. Making an easy puzzle interesting is really hard, and this one was spot on, especially appreciated on a Monday.

  6. pannonica says:

    LAT 11d. I believe a picket line is so named because the signs are traditionally—or were originally—affixed to wooden pickets, the same sort that can be used to construct a fence. But if there’s ever a place to wing it, Sam, it’s on an airplane flight.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Cute puzzles, both joon’s and Jennifer’s — and they both included a BARBER! Reminds me that I need a TRIM! Also, I meant to mention that Merl could have used one more egg yesterday for a baker’s dozen by adding a famous Norwegian, Arne EGGEN, clued either as the composer who died in 1955 or the winningest football coach in the 1980′s!

  8. joon says:

    thanks pannonica, and jan, and gareth, and meme, and ladel. and jan, congrats on your finals appearance at the tournament! the finals were super-exciting (although from my vantage point, i could only really see jeffrey’s and matt’s boards).

    as for “hitting for the cycle,” it’s more of a statistical curiosity than a real achievement, i think, although this puzzle was fairly difficult to construct. i think the fill ended up clean enough for a monday (with READD the biggest clunker, but i fell in love with KEGGER so it had to be done). but i kept having to rein in my cluing instincts. i wanted to clue RAMMING as {“___ speed!” (galley command in Ben-Hur)}, for example. that might have been fun.

    BARACK OBAMA SR seems to be a divisive entry. brendan and i thought it was the best thing in the puzzle—something most people know, but don’t even know that they know. the SR is maybe off-putting, but … that’s his name. (not at birth, obviously, but nowadays his son is just a little bit more famous.) how else would you refer to him? surely not by writing out “, senior”? still, i can see how it would seem awkward to some solvers.

    anyway, the tournament overall was great fun and i’m looking forward to seeing the reception of the other puzzles this week. BCPT puzzle #4 won’t run this week due to similarity to a relatively recent NYT theme, but it’ll run eventually. the other tournament puzzles will be tuesday, wednesday, and friday.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    Love the taxonomic exchange between pannonica and Gareth. It all makes one feel rather BOSsed around.

  10. Jan (danjan) says:

    joon – the Barack Obama Sr entry was quite timely, as the biography of Pres. Obama’s mother just came out and there has been a lot of press about her life.

    As Amy pointed out, the LAT is on your wavelength today, with BOS at 61D, which amazed me when I solved it last night.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I did the LAT puzzle in their online applet today; I finished it fine, but the puzzle says SEE NOTEPAD and I can’t see the notepad. Any AL solvers know what was in the notepad?

  12. Jan (danjan) says:

    The notepad had this explanation of Saturday’s LAT puzzle: “Saturday’s puzzle had no e’s in either the clues or answers.”

  13. wij says:

    Saturday’s LA Times puzzle had a Notepad said there was something unusual about the clues and the answers in the puzzle and challenged the solver to figure it out.

    Monday’s LA Times puzzle Notepad reveals the answer to that challenge.

    The Saturday LA Times by Michael Wiesenberg had no Es in the answers and no Es in the clue wordings. I guess that’s why OCA was clued as “Auckland yam” instead of a reference to South America, and why SST was clued as “Quondam JFK arrivals” instead of “One-time (or Former) JFK arrivals.” Etc.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Jan and Wij!

  15. bertie says:

    joon, i think the problem with BARACK OBAMA SR. is not that you’d spell his name another way, but that it doesn’t even fit the theme. including it as an entry requires his initials be “BOS”, which surely they are not.

  16. Jan (danjan) says:

    bertie – I respectfully disagree. Perhaps “initials” isn’t the right way to think of it, but phrases whose components follow the pattern B-O-S.

  17. bertie says:

    @jan: there is a name for the XYZ in “phrases whose first letters in every word follow the pattern XYZ” when the phrase is a name: initials.

  18. joon says:

    obviously you’re right, but equally obviously, the theme of the puzzle is not initials (in the sense of a person’s monogram). the other theme answers are not people’s names; “of” wouldn’t even be capitalized in the first answer; etc. the commonality is first letters, and the first letters of BARACK, OBAMA, and SR are B, O, and S, even if you would not say those are his initials, any more than you would say that the barber of seville has initials BOS.

    of course, if you think it’s inconsistent with the theme, you’re entitled to that opinion, and i’m sorry that it was unsatisfactory. as i said, i can totally understand why some people would find it awkward. but i’m glad not everybody saw it that way.

  19. Martin says:

    I think BARACK OBAMA SR elevated a common, pedestrian, theme with a surprise ending. I’m trying to see it through the eyes of those who didn’t like it but I’m failing miserably.

  20. wobbith says:

    BEQ – Astonishing grid! No doubt it’s been done, but crikey. No abutting blocks? Kudos!

    Plus it was solvable for an old fart who usually can’t finish an *EASY* BEQ without Google because of the abundance of pop culture stuff that’s simply on the other side of the world from my wheelhouse.

    Got one letter wrong on a coin flip – ATAT/ATAG and T-MEN/G-MEN. ATAT? OK, I’m off to research The Battle of Hoth. : D’oh! Star Wars!

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I liked BARACK OBAMA SR because it gave me a Saturday-style freakout. “Wait, it ends with SR? What kind of name is that? Erase! Erase!” You don’t see a lot of that in a Monday puzzle.

  22. Jan (danjan) says:

    What joon, Martin, and Amy said. Plus the relevency in the news I mentioned earlier.

  23. bertie says:

    Martin and Amy referred to the phrase’s unusual letter combination at the end, which I also like. The objection is with its relevancy to the theme. Joon mentions that the theme isn’t initials, which wasn’t the point, and that the barber of seville also doesn’t have initials BOS, which is obvious because that isn’t an actual name. Anyway, I can see how some solvers could just ‘let it slide’, which is fine with me. Good idea for a (BCPT) puzzle, moderate execution.

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