Friday, 4/29/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/28" plug="friday-42911" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]4:28[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/28" plug="friday-42911" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]5:03 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/28" plug="friday-42911" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:45[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/28" plug="friday-42911" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]9:39 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/28" plug="friday-42911" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]9:12[/time_hdr]

Southern Californians, if you haven’t already registered for Sunday’s Crosswords LA tournament, fret not! You can sign up as a walk-in. Just get yourself to Loyola Marymount University before 11 a.m. I’ve test-solved all the Crosswords LA puzzles (constructed specifically for the event) and they’re excellent. Especially Tyler Hinman’s crossword, which plays the role of the ACPT Puzzle #5 here (but is a good bit less likely to evoke tears of rage and frustration)—that is one cool puzzle.

David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword

4/29/11 NYT crossword solution 0429

This was the finals puzzle at the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament last weekend, and it’s got the standard Friday NYT difficulty level (meaning close to the Thursday level of rigor, but themeless). When I test-solved the Crosswords LA finals puzzle, it took about 20% longer than the Quarfoot—but was still markedly easier than an ACPT A Division finals crossword, which is generally Saturday NYT plus. And then there are the smaller regional tournaments that use a Thursday NYT for the final round. Isn’t it lovely that there are so many events for solvers of different levels?

Anyway! Am I the only one who finds that Quarfoot and Nothnagel themelesses have a similar vibe? Both guys started getting published around the same time and both favor super-zippy fill. Let’s call them The Themeless Twins. Me, I’m a fan of both of ‘em. Highlights in today’s puzzle:

  • 1a. Holy cats, SNOOKI from Jersey Shore! I love that she’s clued as a novelist and TV star. Makes her sound all classy-like.
  • 7a. [Bass alternative]…hmm, cello, electric guitar, baritone, salmon? No, SAM ADAMS, alternative to Bass Ale. I love a clue word with a multiplicity of meanings.
  • 15a. Why stop with two bang-up Across answers in a row? Keep it rolling with KEN-KEN.
  • 19a. Who knew PRAY FOR RAIN would have topical currency? The governor of Texas declared last weekend to be an official pray-for-rain weekend. Wait, did it work? I heard Texas had rain this week.
  • 34a. EXAM ROOMS are best when the tables are lined with butcher paper, in case you need to wrap up any pickles or meat while you’re in there.
  • 48a. [Green grp.?] may have made you want EPA, but it’s the PGA and golf-course greens. I want to play a prank on a golf course and fill the greens with salad greens and/or collard greens.
  • 54a. This is an oddball answer, isn’t it? THE POSITION isn’t quite a lexical chunk outside of the phrase “assume the position,” but the clue, [It may be assumed], tries to get the “assume” in there indirectly.
  • 57a. SUBPRIME mortgages, good entry, not-so-good entity.
  • 63a. Why not place SEXTED opposite SNOOKI in the grid?
  • 5d. I love the word KERFUFFLE and its synonyms. One of the finest pages in any good thesaurus—hullabaloo, hubbub, ruckus, brouhaha? Every one of these words is fun to say. Now, in the wrong sort of company, people will just look at you funny if you use the word kerfuffle.
  • 7d. ST. CROIX! Not only does NYT columnist Paul Krugman have a house there, but that’s where I honeymooned. My 20th anniversary is next week. Dang, I should’ve booked another trip there.
  • 35d. You know what else goes nicely with SNOOKI? REFUDIATE.
  • 40d. [Troglodytes] is another of my favorite words. I had SOLID in lieu of VALID and plunked in an S plural for this answer so you better believe I was confused by CASEMES. Um, no. CAVEMEN.

Four and a half stars. Lots of fun stuff, nothing ugly.

Michael Ashley’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Meaty Novels”  — pannonica’s review

Chronicle of Higher Education April 29, 2011 – solution

On the menu this week: classic novels for the carnivoracious reader, prepared in a demi-glace and exhibiting a distinct pungency.

  • 20a. [Meaty Thomas Mann novel?] DEATH IN VENISON (Death in Venice)
  • 32a. [Meaty D.H. Lawrence novel?] SONS AND LIVERS (Sons and Lovers)
  • 40a. [Meaty Jane Austen novel?] MANSFIELD PORK (Mansfield Park)
  • 52a. [Meaty James Hilton Novel?] GOODBYE, MR CHOPS (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)

The puns themselves aren’t so bad, but I found that the theme stuck in my throat rather than to my ribs. It’s my contention that overall consistency is paramount when putting together a theme, even more so than the intrinsic quality of each thematic entry. In that regard, this puzzle has a variety of consistencies and inconsistencies:

Consistencies:
• Each themer uses as its foundation a well-known novel generally considered to be a classic.
• The pun is an alteration of the final word in the title, and in each the consonant sounds are unchanged.

Inconsistencies:
• One of the themers, “Death in Venison,” is distinct from the other three in that it adds an extra syllable. As this the most satisfying pun of the lot (and probably the seed entry), it’s excusable but somewhat unfortunate.
• Two of the answers are types of meat (vension, pork) while the other half are cuts, or preparations, of meat (livers, chops).

To my thinking, this last aspect outweighs the others because it involves the fundamental nature of the theme, and somehow undermines the spirit of the endeavor.

Divisions, decisions

I feel the constructor should have chosen one or the other, either types or cuts. This of course would make things more difficult, for the types used have a specific quality; they’re meats that have a different name from the animal itself. Few meats meet this criterion. Those that come readily to mind are venison (deer), pork (pig), ham (also pig), bacon (pig again!), mutton (sheep), beef (cattle), and veal (cattle calf). The first two are already in the puzzle, and the next two aren’t kosher because they’d put the whole thing in danger of becoming a pig-themed affair (in which case a fourth pigmeat would be needed: gammon?). That leaves three possibilities for two more entries, which would have to conform to the technical aspects of the punning. Not so easy.

The alternative approach, cuts of meat, provides more options (cutlet, loin, filet, ribs, shank, et al.), but of course it would still be difficult to create theme entries given the other constraints. The best I can come up with is “[The] Tin Drumstick” for 12 or 15 letters. It would also prevent “Death in Venison” from being unique in its construction. But it’s still messy. Butchery can be that way sometimes. Problems like this are why all my overambitious attempts at creating puzzles end up three-quarters finished.

The hitherto undescribed Macropus microcephalus

The rest of the fill is strong but unremarkable. It’s cute that 30a. is clued as Lady BRETT Ashley, who shares the constructor’s last name. The symmetrically balanced AMAZE and SNORE (1a & 67a) bookend nicely. Row two, BOXER ROO RINGO, is evocative in its inadvertent imagery. The black sections composed of five squares, especially the two shaped like Utah (okay, reflected and rotated) are distracting and perhaps disruptive.

Perhaps these quibbles seem somewhat rarefied; nevertheless I can only BRAND (51d) this puzzle as “medium” and not “well done.”

 


Jeff McDermott’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/29/11 LA Times crossword answers

In this theme, four familiar phrases get an AB- appended to the beginning of their first words:

  • 17a. [Entrance exam study guide?] clues ABOUT DOORS. I love the disconnect between “entrance exam” and entrance DOORS here. The answer’s AB + OUTDOORS.
  • 62a. [Behar's home?] is ABODE TO JOY. The View‘s Joy Behar is evoked here. I liked the wordplay, though it occurs to me that “house to joy” is a meaningless phrase, that you can’t have an abode that is TO anything.
  • 11d. [Steal office supplies?] clues ABDUCT TAPE. Cute. Who doesn’t love duct tape? (Sometimes spelled duck tape, but that would interfere with our wordplay here.)
  • 28d. [Missing letters?] are ABSENT MAIL.

I like that there’s no fifth entry with an overly wordy clue explaining how the theme works. On the other hand, there’s also no specific rationale for adding AB to the original phrases. (Addis Ababa? No.) Some people are bothered by the inclusion (or perhaps the exclusion) of a helper answer explaining the theme. Some people demand a reason behind the theme’s wordplay (while others scarcely notice themes in the first place). Some people are utterly agnostic on these issues.

Five faves:

  • 21a. ["Break a leg"] means “GOOD LUCK!” to an actor.
  • 51a. The Belgian ANTWERP is clued as a [Flanders city]. No relation to Ned Flanders.
  • 67a. [Six-sided rooms] are ELLS. You were thinking of six walls with congruent angles forming a beehivey hexagonal room, weren’t you?
  • 7d. [Throat trouble] is a metaphorical FROG in your throat.
  • 38d. KEY WORDS are [Googling elements].

Other clues:

  • 49a. [Squash relative] means sports, not vegetables. I have no idea what sort of sport RACQUETS is. Same as racquetball?
  • 61a. [Man __] O’ WAR makes for an ugly fill entry.
  • 66a. [Maternally related] clues the crosswordese word ENATE. Your relatives on your dad’s side are your agnate kin. Now, if you have two moms or two dads, I don’t think the crosswordese vocabulary has caught up to distinguish between your two parents’ families.
  • 53d. [Its maker claims it won a blue ribbon in 1893] clues PABST. Ergo, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. This brew has been embraced by hipsters who, perhaps ironically and perhaps cheapskatedly, like its low price.

Threeish stars from me. It’d be closer to four if OWAR and ENATE hadn’t found their way into the grid.
Updated Friday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “In-Tern-Al Affairs” – Sam Donaldson’s review

This puzzle is for the birds. At least I think that’s the intent, for each of the theme entries is a well-known name or phrase with the letter sequence T-E-R-N appearing somewhere in the middle, and the tern is second only to the erne as the favorite bird of crosswords. In this puzzle, each T-E-R sequence is at the end of the first word and the N- starts the second word (bonus points for this consistency):

  • 17-Across: The [Head Hermit of the '60s] is PETER NOONE, lead singer of the rock group, Herman’s Hermits (he was “Herman”). Check out the pictures below. One is of Noone, the other is of Blue Collar Comedian Ron White. Seperated at birth?
  • 26-Across: Another term for [Poppycock] is UTTER NONSENSE. Perhaps that’s the term you’d use to describe my comparison of Peter Noone to Ron White.
  • 42-Across: The [Unfailingly friendly fellow] is MISTER NICE GUY. Lots of people say “No more Mister Nice Guy,” but no one ever says “Time to start being Mister Nice Guy.” Looks like the Mister Nice Guy title is well out of favor.
  • 56-Across: [Naiad, Nereid, or Oceanid] refers neither body parts nor to words that induce one to say “Bless you.” In fact, each is a WATER NYMPH. Nymphs aren’t gods, says Wikipedia, they are “beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing.” As opposed to “old nubile maidens?”

The fill is perfectly adequate, but, as is often the case with Klahn puzzles, the clues really shine. Here are some answers and clues of note:

  • I struggled for a little while with [3/15 but not 1/5], stepping right into the trap laid to make me think of both as fractions. Sure, as fractions, 3/15 and 1/5 are equal, but as dates, March 15 is quite different than January 5, as the former falls on the IDES of the month. That was a well-disguised trap (wasn’t it? I hope I’m not the only one who fell for it.).
  • It helps to read the words carefully here: the [Cel block occupant] is not a CON, a FELON, or a PRISONER, but a TOON.
  • I never realized that POLO is a [Game never played left-handed]. I’m guessing this is mostly for the safety of the rider and his or her mount.
  • Both ["Hair" producer Joseph] PAPP and ["The Year of Magical Thinking" author Joan] DIDION were unknowns to me, so I had to rely heavily on the crossings.
  • I love that OMNI, the [Science magazine founded by Bob Guccione], sits directly next to SPIN, the [Pop music magazine founded by Bob Guccione, Jr.].

Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Branch Office”

Wall Street Journal crossword solution 4/29

“Branch Office” is the WSJ-friendly, business-minded title of a puzzle with a tree rebus, celebrating not branch offices but Arbor Day. “PLANT A TREE,” Ms. Gorski exhorts us, because it’s Arbor Day today. She herself has helped each solver plant eight trees in rebus squares—ASH, PEAR, FIG, PINE, FIR, OAK, GUM, and ELM.

Most of the long answers containing the tree letters are a lively bunch: the M{ASH}ED POTATO dance, {PEAR}L EARRINGS, the movie THE {FIG}HTER, {FIR}ST LADY, {GUM}MY BEARS, and the fun, appropriate-outside-of-a-song-title “PE{EL M}E A GRAPE.”

The best part of this puzzle is the upper left corner, where the STATUS QUO and ORRIN HATCH are stacked on M{ASH}ED POTATO, with a TR{ASH}Y UTAHAN crossing Sen Hatch (R.-UT). Not that he’s trashy. He seems rather genteel, actually. I like the demonym echo between UTAHAN and OMAHAN, too.

Mystery entry:

  • 59d. [West Sumatra's capital] is PADANG. Dang! I had never heard of that. I wanted PENANG, which is a Malaysian island rather than an Indonesia seaport.

Four stars.

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24 Responses to Friday, 4/29/11

  1. joon says:

    if my memory is correct, jeffrey schwartz finished this puzzle onstage in 9:01 (maybe 9:08, since he had a 7-second head start). jan o’sullivan finished in 9:30, and matt matera took 9:31 (or 9:33, depending on how you count)—they were literally only 1 second apart. but jan had an error which gave matt 2nd place despite nosing him out on time.

    anyway, i loved this puzzle to death. it’s got all kinds of crazy, audacious fill. I HEART and THE POSITION are basically long partials, but both of them made me smile. THE POSITION actually made me laugh while i was test-solving it. great stuff all around.

  2. Jan (danjan) says:

    What a great puzzle – and plenty challenging for a finals showdown. I was on the Boston wavelength and plunked down SAM ADAMS with no crossings. Should have gotten KEN-KEN quicker, but I’m more of a Kakuro fan, which also has six letters and involves math (sorry, Will). The final two squares I needed to fill in were in PGA, and, as mentioned, I was thinking EPA for the green group, which didn’t fit. With TRIX right nearby, I was thinking “silly rabbit” and from there went to “silly moose”. This would make sense to fellow watchers of the original Captain Kangaroo; there was a running gag with the rabbit puppet dropping ping pong balls on Mr. Moose.
    I didn’t realize we had done it in less than 10 minutes; I guess I remembered Will saying something about 15 minutes, so that must have been what was left on the clock. It seemed a lot longer up there!

  3. pannonica says:

    Hmph! Terrible puzzle! Nothing about the royal weddinnnnng!

  4. Eric LeVasseur says:

    Registration for the CrosswordsLA tourament starts at 10am. The front page of the website does state 11am; however, the actual schedule (and an email sent to us preregistrants) says the first puzzle drops at 10:45am. I sent Elissa an email requesting confirmation.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Yeah. No Royal Wedding references! One star.

  6. Howard B says:

    Everything a Friday puzzle should be (except maybe Snooki, but we can let that slide on account of the fun spelling). 5 stars, only because I cannot give 6. A little easier than normal, but fun anyways :). I think the fastest Friday I’ve had in some time, and was not racing a clock, just filling in squares and having fun.

  7. Gareth says:

    NYT: Another easy puzzle, in what’s been a pretty easy week. Agree: Lotsa the fun stuff! A shoo-in for a four-star! In contrast to Jan, needed EVERY crossing for SAMADAMS, BTW – meaningless string of letters for me, as it doesn’t occur here (AFAIK.)

    LAT: Quite fun theme entries! A puzzle like this IMO does feel more complete with some cute answer to wrap things up… Don’t see anything in the slightest wrong with ENATE, personally, but agree OWAR is icky, but it’s one entry.

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    “Macropus microcephalus”—Very droll, pannonica.

  9. joon says:

    one of my favorite things about the boston tournament was BEQ convincing quarfoot to come out of his dormancy to make this puzzle for our playoffs. it’s a fabulous grid, and DQ worked extremely hard to make it so (he said something about “50 hours” of effort … ?!?). i didn’t realize it would be regarded as easy; when i test-solved it, i had a saturday+ time. so i suggested to will that the clock be set to 25 minutes for the playoffs (instead of 15 or 20). looking over the final clue list, it’s been eased up quite a bit from what i first encountered, but i didn’t realize that at the time.

  10. Meem says:

    How can you not like a puzzle with kerfuffle and refudiate? And a debut for sexted, I presume. Really clever puzzle.

    Also liked Liz Gorski’s Arbor Day offering.

  11. DQ says:

    Hey guys,

    Glad to hear many enjoyed the puzzle. Joon is right about the timing – it probably took about 50 hours to make this. The reason is that I had an insane idea of trying to stack 3 never-before-used 6-letter words in the upper left corner. Even dreaming up a single such word that is interesting and well-known is difficult. Stacking three was an endless task. I think this is the most original puzzle I’ve ever done, and the one I’m proudest of.

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: the CHE.

    How does [White American] = ANGLO? Anglo- is a prefix meaning, either, “English” (as in the language), or a reference to the Angles, an ancient Germanic people who emigrated to the British Isles along with their western neighbors, the Dutch-German Saxons. Anglo-Saxons are distinct from Gaelic, Nordic, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slavic, and all other varieties of “white Americans”.

  13. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: Anglo is also used as a blanket term in contrast to “Latino.”

  14. Michael says:

    One of the best themelesses in my book.

  15. Alex says:

    DQ — I noticed that when I analyzed your puzzle at xwordinfo. Not only that, but the three in the upper right and lower left had never been used either. Nice job!

  16. Meem says:

    DQ: Hearty congratulations on the success of your “insane idea”!! I hope you will let your mind wander, keep a notebook of brilliant ideas, and brew us another cuppa in the not distant future.

  17. Peter says:

    The LA Times’ theme could have been titled or even had the entry AB POSITIVE yeah?

    Really liked the DQ NYT too.

  18. John Haber says:

    Must admit that MANI slowed me up. I wondered if maybe “mini” was short for a hair-do. Got it in the end, though.

  19. Jamie says:

    @spork – You have a point, just like a spork ought to. It’s also a bit irrelevant, like a spork. I don’t think you meant to go there, but your comment sounded racist. Can you explain why you care so much about the distinction between an Anglo-Saxon and your average pasty-faced person?

  20. Tuning Spork says:

    @ Janie — Um. That’s interesting. Linguist, maybe, but racist? Anglo : English :: Sino : Chinese :: Greco : Greek, etc. A Russian-English dictionary is an “Anglo-Russki slovar”. The Church of England is the Anglican Church, etc, etc. I commented about the definition of a word, Jamie, and have no idea why you’d think it sounded racist.

    Oh, and why, beyond that, would I care about the distinction between Anglo-Saxon and others? Because I’m Irish. ;-D

  21. pannonica says:

    (Jamie ≠ Janie)

  22. Tuning Spork says:

    @ Pannonica — Hey, I got it right the second time. :-P

    And, just to wrap this up, if you ever called my Irish Catholic Grandmother an “Anglo”, I’m sure she would have been righteously offended.

    “Anglo-” is not synonymous with “Euro-”.

    No “racism”. Just sayin’.

  23. oeuftete says:

    I’ll add to the chorus on the NYT puzzle. Most enjoyable puzzle I’ve done this year.

    For the LAT, maybe AB INITIO as a title?

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @oeuftete: Ooh, I like “Ab Initio”!

    @DQ: I hope your next puzzles don’t take you 50 hours to craft, but man, you can’t argue with the results. We’ve all missed your work and hope to see you in the rotation more often.

Comments are closed.