Friday, 5/13/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/12" plug="friday-51311" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:37[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/12" plug="friday-51311" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:57[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/12" plug="friday-51311" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]6:04 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/12" plug="friday-51311" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/12" plug="friday-51311" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]7:43[/time_hdr]

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

5/13/11 NY Times crossword solution 0513

Well, I never would have noticed this puzzle’s raison d’etre were it not for the Notepad explanation: In honor of the Friday the 13th SUPERSTITION, all the possible daily crossword puzzle answer lengths are included except for 13. So you have answers that are 3 to 12 letters long and also 14 and 15 letters. Whoop-de-doo.

These non-13s do include some good stuff, but the 66-word grid also includes a number of stinkers. First up, the highlights:

  • 13a. I haven’t had a BUSINESS DINNER since 1997 and I really miss taking a group of doctors out on the town for a lovely meal.
  • 18a. “NO CAN DO” is a good colloquial phrase.
  • 37a. CALL TO ORDER, solid phrase.
  • 46a. Geography + etymology = clue custom-made for me. The Japanese island of HONSHU is the [Island whose name means, literally, "main land"]. Didn’t know that. Speaking of GEOG., that’s a [Popular Sporcle subj.]. Speaking of Sporcle, see my 35d comments.
  • 5d. RENEGING ON, great verb phrase.
  • 35d. You’d think AL PACINO would see more full-name crossword action, what with the alternating consonants and vowels in his surname. (Speaking of CVCV—click the “Sporcle” tab up top for a quiz in which all the answers alternate between consonants and vowels. Go bananas!)

The lowlights are mostly found in the Down dimension, crossing long answers, but not exclusively:

  • 26a, 39a. Music FITB IN E and suffix -ANE make me wonder why not suffix -INE and Wheel of Fortune purchase AN E. Or—this may be crazy talk—neither one.
  • 36a. EX-ENEMY feels clunky.
  • 41a. Good ol’ HOD, the [Mortar carrier] I learned about from crosswords as a child. My grandpa the bricklayer never spoke of HODs.
  • Partial action: I DONE! A LIAR! I started to feel like AND SO and FED ON were partials too. Gonna start saying “I done” when I finish a crossword.
  • Abbreviations galore: FRI, MRS, SUNY, USSR, SST, TSP, USFL, APO, LAPD, GEOG, SSS, and SSN. Between USSR, SST, SSS, and SSN, I worry that there is a snake loose in the constructor’s house.
  • 23d. [End of the 26th century]?? Now, why would anyone give a darn about Roman numerals over five centuries from now? MMDC is…blurgh.
  • 32d. Speaking of “blurgh,” there’s also a 4-letter [Alphabet run], LMNO.

Three stars from me. How’d it treat you? And are you superstitious about 13? My orthopedist’s office is on the 13th floor, but of course the elevator button calls it 14. I’m OK with knowing it’s the 13th floor. What could be more medieval than taking nutty old superstitions seriously, am I right?

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Problems at the Literal Library” — pannonica’s review

"Problems at the Literal Library" CHE 5/13/2011 • solution

This looks like a job for Jurisfiction!

Here’s the story: I liked the puzzle very much, liked the theme answers too, but was underwhelmed by the theme itself. Cliff’s Notes version: the motif of this short work is illustrated by five books that are, for various reasons, unavailable or unusable. This represents the futility of existence, the infinite variation of the cosmos, and of course man’s inhumanity to man.

  • 17a. [Item: 1936 novel. Problem: Missing from collection after a freak storm.] Answer: GONE WITH THE WIND.
  • 24a. [Item: 1966 true-crime work. Problem: Pages soaked with viscous red substance.] Answer: IN COLD BLOOD.
  • 37a. [Item: 1991 play. Problem: Borrowed by New York patron, never returned.] Answer: LOST IN YONKERS.
  • 51a. [Item: 1937 memoir. Problem: Sent to us by wrong supplier (text is in Swahili).] Answer: OUT OF AFRICA.
  • 60a. [Item: 1947 novel. Problem: Currently inaccessible, also probably sustaining fire damage.] Answer: UNDER THE VOLCANO.

The theme feels, if not incoherent, then at least tenuous because the conceit lies in reinterpreting the titles in ways that demonstrate the books’ inaccessibility. But only two of them (gone, lost) can be viewed this way independent of the clues, while the other three (in, out, under) are entirely reliant on them. I’m not enough of a linguist to assert that it’s due to the former being adjectives and the latter prepositions, but it is a suspicion.

I’ve cast about my mind, trying to think of other titles that satisfy this more rigorous criterion, without much luck. The most promising—meaning one that’s conceivably been heard of by at least 20% of the audience—is Tim Cahill’s 1993 collection of travel writings, Pecked to Death by Ducks; then again, a book is never technically alive. Casting with a wider ’net, I discovered, and rejected, Stolen by the Sea (2006), Buried in the Snow (1879), Left in the Dust (2006), Blown to Bits (1889), Dropped In It (vanity-published 11 May 2011!), and (my favorite even though it’s 17 letters long) Eaten by a Giant Clam (2010). Burnt by the Sun is a play based on the original movie.

Bonus chits for having the titles in alphabetical order, but in true library fashion it should have been by author. Of course that would cause critical construction complications.

Robust fill, solid cluing, very low CAP Quotient™ and pangrammatic save for the letter X. The symmetric cascade of 10d, 26d, and 47d (A MINOR, OFF YEAR, AT ODDS) appeals to my sensibilities. Pairing (Russell) CROWE and [Untrustworthy sort] ROGUE (57a & 58a) just can’t be coincidental. For the inadvertent imagery category, I can easily imagine a whole story—more than one, actually—based on Row 15, “DRS. STUN WAYNE.” Am undecided about the all-names Row 14 (NED, NAOMI, OLSON).

Other notable fill:

  • The balanced QUEBEC and KOREAN (32a & 43a), the identically clued neighbors (7d & 9d) D’OH and MEH [Exclamation popularized by “The Simpsons”], 3d SAN MATEO, 46d JOCUND, 40d REST EASY. 45a, J-BAR, was new to me; T-BAR is the more common [Ski-lift type] found in crosswords.

Unsavory quasi-repetitious fill:

  • 6a & 10a ADAM next to ADM.
  • 31a & 69a DR. NO, DRS.
  • 57a & 48d CROWE intersecting ROWE.

The non-theme fill lacks that distinct Higher Education vibe (the existence of which may eventually turn out to be some sort of confirmation bias on my part), but overall I enjoyed doing this puzzle, recommend it to other solvers, and would seek out other works by this author constructor.

Gary Lowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 5/13/11

This is a sound-switch theme, sort of a spoonerism theme. Each theme answer swaps the order of the consonant sounds in one word:

  • 20a. Hell’s Kitchen becomes HELL’S CHICKEN, a [Red-hot entrée?]. This is the only theme entry in which the sounds wind up spelled with different letters, and it’s also my favorite of the four. Who wouldn’t like to try Hell’s chicken?
  • 33a. Magnesium sulfate is another word for Epsom salts, which can be dissolved in the tub. A [Bather using magnesium sulfate?] could be a SALTED TUBBER (salted butter), provided you’re willing to use “tubber” as a word meaning “bather.”
  • 42a. [Avoidance of chewy candy?] clues NON-TAFFY DIET, playing on non-fatty diet. Whoa, that’s not a phrase I’ve ever encountered. It gets only about 5,000 Google hits. “Fat-free diet,” on the other hand, gets 89,000. “Low-fat diet,” which is eminently more reasonable to follow, gets over a million Google hits.
  • 58a. [Best man's moment of uncertainty?] is a TOAST STAMMER, playing on “toastmaster.” Solid.

This puzzle took me longer than the Friday NYT and as long as a typical Saturday LAT. Part of that is attributed to my difficulty in making sense out of the clues in the upper left corner of the grid. Wanted 1a: [Newspaper section] to be OP-ED, but it’s DESK, as in the foreign desk or metro desk. 14a: ANTE is a common enough crossword entry but [Required payment] had me thinking RENT, DUES, or FEES. 17a: [Shipmate of Starkey] completely mystified me; it’s the pirate SMEE from Peter Pan. I know two Starkeys: Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey. And 1d: [Bolts] sort of wanted to be hardware rather than the verb DASHES.

And then! The upper right corner was the last part I tackled, and it too stymied me. 10a: [Drop hints, say] clues FISH, as for compliments. 16a: [Strength] is an unusual clue for AREA; “that’s not really my area” sort of gets at it. Without the F and A from 10a and 16a, I wasn’t quite seeing that 10d: [Timid] wanted FAINT. 11d: [Sched. producer] is the IRS, but the word “producer” had me thinking of TV schedules. And then 13d: [Horse power?]—it’s a rather loose way to clue HAY, isn’t it? Between those two corners, this definitely felt tougher than the usual Friday LAT.

I loved these clues:

  • 37a. [It's heard around the water cooler] = GLUG.
  • 50d. [Secret spot?] is one’s ARMPIT, Secret being a brand of antiperspirant.

Never heard of this person:

Three stars.
Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Singin’ in Any Weather” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Keller features three SONGS ([This puzzle's theme entries]) that are 15 letters long and fit the pattern “___ IN THE [weather condition].” The three songs on our playlist:

  • 17-Across: The [Elton John tribute] to Marilyn Monroe is CANDLE IN THE WIND.
  • 36-Across: The [Everly Brothers' 1960s hit] is CRYING IN THE RAIN.
  • 56-Across: We had joy, we had fun, we had the [Terry Jacks hit adapted from a Jacques Brel musical work], SEASONS IN THE SUN.

Normally I try to be all “head in the clouds” when I review a puzzle, but this one didn’t do much for me. The theme is a bit sparse and the fill has too many abbreviations and other unpleasantries. The worst offender is LTYRS, short for “light years,” clued as [A very long distance]. Had this been the lone abbreviation, it would have been forgivable. But there’s
also ORIG (for “original”) and ISTH (for “isthmus”), together with crossword regulars SSRS (Soviet Socialist Republics) and HRS (home runs). 2 many abbrs 4 me.

DIPSO as a synonym of [Alky] was new to me, and it didn’t help that it crossed the not-so-lovely OPES, how one says [Unlocks, poetically]. On the bright side, I really liked ONE LEG, [What a flamingo usually stands on. But I can't decide whether I like or dislike U WAIT, clued as ["While-___"
(repair shop sign)
. It's kind of goofy, but in a nearly endearing way.

Mike Shenk's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Sandwiched" (written as "Colin Gale")

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, May 13, 2011, Sandwiched

Two weeks in a row with puzzles bylined by Mike Shenk pen names? Constructors with good 21×21 puzzles, submit them to the Wall Street Journal! I’m guessing the pipeline is running low.

This is one of those themes in which the theme entries are all regular entries, clued normally, that camouflage particular letter strings that appear in combination. (T Campbell recently described a bunch of camouflage themes, but didn’t label this variety.) So there are eight places where the letters HAM appear right on top of RYE, and 120a: HAM ON RYE ties them all together. Elegant touch: Even the RYE in HAMONRYE has a HAM on it.

More clues!

  • 4a. [Fighter of the frost giant Ymir] = ODIN.
  • 26a. [Peak south of the Vale of Tempe] = OSSA. This is Greece, not Arizona.
  • 45a. [V8 alternatives] = ROTARY ENGINES. Were you thinking about juices? I sure was.
  • 52a. [Rites of Spring and Fall Out Boy] = EMO BANDS. Nice inclusion of two seasonal words.
  • 63a. [Move for Massine] = PAS. Massine was a ballet dancer and choreographer.
  • 74a. [Will of "Blue Bloods"] = ESTES. Who? What?
  • 97a. [Target of a CRT's shielding] = EMF. Electromagnetic frequency.
  • 116a. [Odd trinket] = WHIM-WHAM. Wha…?
  • 118a. [Lockheed spacecraft] = AGENA. I know this word only from crosswords.
  • 4d. [124-Across, in Germany] = OHR. 124a is [Mr. Potato Head stick-on], or EAR.
  • 44d. [Ones trapped in nonexistent boxes] = MIMES. Ha! Can we put them in existent boxes?
  • 47d. [Bowl with a lid] = TOILET. Ha! I was thinking of dishes and Tupperware.
  • 61d. [Iapetus circles it] = SATURN. One of Saturn’s moons.
  • 63d. [Party animal?] = PIÑATA. Cute.
  • 70d. [Stocking stuffer] = LEG. I like this clue, too.
  • 71d. [Drop down, in London?] = MOULT, the British spelling of “molt.”
  • 75d. [Not a single person] = SPOUSE. Good clue.
  • 92d. [Azadi Tower setting] = TEHRAN. Not a tower I knew.

Four stars.

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29 Responses to Friday, 5/13/11

  1. Mike Winter says:

    Has something happened to the Times puzzle being available at 9 Chicago time? It hasn’t been anywhere near 9 for the last few nights. Are there other places to get it? Thanks

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    If you can make do with solving online, the puzzle’s generally up by 8:59 in the “Play Against the Clock” applet.

  3. Mike Winter says:

    Thanks, Amy. Has the paper said anything about changing the time?

  4. pannonica says:

    I can usually download the Across Lite version through Will Johnson’s links page (click “2011 puz”) at 10pm Eastern (=9pm Central).

  5. Mike Winter says:

    Thanks, pannonica. That worked. I tried the todays puzzle option a few times and always got yesterday’s puzzle. Never thought of trying the 2011s.

  6. pannonica says:

    Great! Calendar Time is not always the same as Puzzle Time.

    Weird. Fudged my NYT time upward (that is, added seconds) and just now noticed that it’s the same as my CHE time! I assure you it wasn’t an instance of cerebrobombulum.

  7. Erik says:

    Thought the NYT was another fantastic construction feat from JoeKro, even if it wasn’t all that fun to solve.

  8. Pomeranian says:

    Didn’t like the NYT. A “who cares?” theme with very bad fill for a themeless (despite a couple of nice entries). Amy I’m (genuinely) curious: you seem generous with your stars, have you ever given a puzzle less than 3 stars? Today might’ve been a good day to start. 3 stars should mean average. This one is sub-par, even according to your writeup. It doesn’t seem like “RENEGING ON” would be a highlight in any normal themeless, for example.

  9. Rex says:

    Thumbs (mostly) down, but I can’t tell you that formally because Blogger is down (in Read-Only mode). If the problem hadn’t started on Thursday the 12th, I’d blame Friday the 13th. Anyway, LA Crossword Confidential and my blog are stuck in a time warp (rolled back to Wed.!) until further notice.

    I DONE,

    rp

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Pom, my beginning rating when I start every puzzle is 4 stars. It has to really wow me to move up, and disappoint me to hit a 3. Although on further reflection, perhaps I should have dipped down to a 2-2.5 for the NYT and LAT today. I think I’ve done 1 star once and have given several 2s as well. Mostly, I think the editors do a good job of accepting puzzles that earn a B (3 stars). My grading scale is:

    5 stars: A++, memorable
    4 stars: solid A
    3 stars: B
    2 stars: C to D+
    1 star: D to F, probably shouldn’t have been published

  11. joel says:

    the LAX theme is anagrams..not spoonerisms

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It’s not anagrams. FATTY -> TTAFY, not TAFFY. MASTER doesn’t get you to STAMMER. CHICKEN has no T, TUBBER anagrams to BBUTER.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Left 4 blank squares in the upper right of the LAT. Words are quite normal, so I can only blame the cluing.

    NYT disappointed me as well. I have done 1000s of puzzles, but never thought that it would be cool to see a puzzle with no 13 letter answers.

    So the puzzle with SEASONS IN THE SUN wins Friday. I hesitate to admit it has been ranked as the 92nd top Canadian song of all time. “But the stars we could reach were just star[drop hints, say] on the beach”

  14. Roger says:

    Re NYTimes varying avialability time, I copied and bookmarked the url: http://www.nytimes.com/premium/xword/today.puz (I think from somewhere here), and it seems to be up there at the correct time.

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    and to the extent that I know them, great guys, but their obsessive focus on things which I not only don’t know about have no interest in knowing about annoys me. (And there are not many things I have no interest in knowing about.) Of course that’s not their fault. I recall one puzzle where one not only had to know about Eminem, which pretty much everyone does (since I do), but one also had to know some cognomen for him–Shaky Slick, or something of the sort. Do I down rank these puzzles because of my own idiocyncratic annoyance, or do I take a more objective view of the skill that went into the construction? (That’s a rhetorical Q; I’m not necessarily looking for answers.)

    Bruce

  16. pannonica says:

    That list is BUNK. Not a single Mary Margaret O’Hara song in the top 500?!? No Kate & Anna?

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Something happened to my message; The beginning (first screen) got cut off. I expressed my more favorable take on today’s puz., and was musing about rankings. I was asking whether I should allow my own preferences, some of which border on prejudices, to affect my rankings. There was a recent “commemorative” puzzle” which I actually abandoned (something I rarely do) and gave one star. Ditto puzzles that focus on rappers, rock music, American Idol, reality shows, etc. I referred to BEQ, Matt Jones, Tyler, Francis Healy and others and pointed out my respect for them as constructors, and so forth. (I said it more elegantly the first time through, so I sorry I lost it. Many computer problems these days.

    Bruce

  18. Jeffrey says:

    And the 93rd song “Live is A Highway” is in the LAT today. All we need is number 95 “Safety Dance”.

  19. andrew says:

    NYT – wanted ex-enemy to be fr-enemy

  20. Sparky says:

    My family used the expression “hod carrier” to mean a hard laboring Irish immigrant just off the boat. I always thought they carried bricks in the hod. Happy to finish a Friday. Would not have noticed the 13 if the Note wasn’t there though now I see not only 1A but 28A and no 13 clue.

  21. Daniel Myers says:

    Daily Dose of Literary trivia: The manuscript of Under The Volcano almost did sustain fire damage when author Lowry’s shack outside of Vancouver burnt down. It was the only thing saved from the blaze.

  22. joon says:

    i really don’t care about triskaidekaphobia at all, but as a themeless this NYT wasn’t bad. the short stuff was very blah, but there was a plethora of interesting longer answers, so it worked for me. two stars would definitely be too low, i think.

    am i the only one who thought this was just about the hardest weekday LAT ever? i’m actually getting the sense that the late-week LAT is creeping back up to the difficulty levels it used to have before the great dumbing-down of 2009. if so, that would be a very welcome change from my perspective. i didn’t much care for the theme, but i enjoyed the extra-crispy clues, once i accepted the fact that they were really tough. the NW was particularly difficult, but i spent a good minute or two on the SE as well with the ambiguous clues for MOWS and STAY, the unknown TORREY and SHEENA, and the why-couldn’t-i-get-that-quicker WINE. ARMPIT was about the only thing i had in there for a while.

    great CHE in my opinion. i’ve noticed that this isn’t the first time pannonica has seemed in her writeup to want the CHE theme to be more than it is. the theme is reinterpreting the titles to refer to the volumes themselves. since we’re dispensing with the original meanings of the titles, i can’t see why it would be relevant whether those original meanings would also make sense in the same way. to me the clunker was OUT OF AFRICA, because it seems awkward to me to imagine using it to describe a copy of a book in the wrong language. but it was a small problem.

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    What’s wrong with wanting a theme to be more than it is? It demonstrates an involvement with and deep interest in the theme – and it makes for jolly interesting, erudite writeups, appropriate for the CHE.

  24. Zulema says:

    I just want to add something that is totally OT though relevant to the CHE and amusing to me. I have not read (or seen) Lost in Yonkers but I cannot count the times I have been just that and have learned never, never, to drive through downtown, where North Bwy and South Bwy change directions, or many other places in that town, and I am definitely not alone in that.

    I also seem to be in the minority finding the NYT very satisfactory today. But my criteria are not the majority’s here.

  25. Martin says:

    Zulema,

    I once lived at 309 North Broadway. Ever confuse Warburton and Ashburton Avenues?

  26. arthur118 says:

    I have always considered 3 stars as the equivalent of a “gentleman’s c”.

    I’ll adjust accordingly.

  27. Jeff Chen says:

    Amy:

    I would totally watch “Snakes on a Crossword”.

    Thanks for the reminder of the star ratings!

    Jeff

  28. pannonica says:

    joon: It’s probably frustrated constructor syndrome exacerbated by perfectionist tendencies. Last time (28 April) I said, “Problems like this are why all my overambitious attempts at creating puzzles end up three-quarters finished.”

    And nobody pointed out that Pecked to Death by Ducks is 38 21 letters long, even less plausible for a 15×15 grid than Eaten by a Giant Clam.

    See? I’m delusional.

  29. John Haber says:

    I liked the Friday theme much more than others, perhaps because I’m not working in an app as a speed solver, so the instructions were the first thing I saw, and I found it intriguing. It had me looking first at the grid and thinking that, to get the effect, is it going to lose out on symmetry? And then admiring that it wasn’t. Also that I like seeing a theme on a Friday.

    For me, though, the downside was that I could guess 1A right off and the whole fill went too fast for a Friday, at perhaps a Wednesday level. I realize one can’t run a Friday the 13th puzzle on a Wednesday, but still. Oddly, Thursday’s, though, was very hard for me, because of proper names and factoids that annoyed me but no doubt were gimmes for some of you.

Comments are closed.