Monday, 5/16/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/15" plug="monday-51611" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:05 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/15" plug="monday-51611" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]2:45[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/15" plug="monday-51611" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]6:12 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/15" plug="monday-51611" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]5:31[/time_hdr]

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword 5/16/11 solution 0516

Nine theme entries; eight plus an explainer. Let’s work from the bottom up.

  • 63a. [Roughhousing... or a hint to the ends of 17-, 21-, 26-, 33-, 40-, 43-, 47-, and 56-Across] HORSEPLAY, which means that each of those other answers end in a word that can be followed with “horse” to form a phrase or word.
  • 56a. [Lift weights] PUMP IRON. (Iron horse)
  • 47a. [Like the best straight in poker] ACE HIGH. (High horse)
  • 43a. [Really dimwitted] BRAIN DEAD. (Dead horse)

study (Pablo Picasso, 1917)

  • 40a. [Daily nine-to-five struggle] RAT RACE. (Racehorse)
  • 33a. [In the evening] AFTER DARK. (Dark horse)
  • 26a. [Advocating “Bring the troops home now!,” say] ANTI-WAR. (Warhorse)
  • 21a. [Lumberjack's tool] CHAINSAW. (Sawhorse)
  • 17a. [Greece/Turkey separator] AEGEAN SEA. (Seahorse)

That’s a lot of theme content for a 15×15 grid; even though they’re all in the 7–9 letter range, they collectively occupy a sizeable amount of the real estate. Without the contortions often engendered by long entries, the fill is allowed to flow smoothly throughout and avoid the compromise of invoking too strongly the weird sisters Crosswordesia, Abbrev.a, and Partia.

This is what a Monday puzzle should be. Simple and solid theme, clean fill, with more than a few interesting words. One of those interesting words is right at 1a, SCRUM. We also get UTENSIL, CHIA PET, MEADOW, EUREKA, and RWANDA. Tying into the theme somewhat, (68a) [Jockey's attire] is SILKS.

And there’s a bounty of coherent columns and rational rows: (C4) UTENSIL ICEPICK, (C4) RAIN GOD CHIA PET (would have been spiffier the other way around), (R7) COOL AFTER DARK, (R9) BRAIN DEAD…CAN’T. A little more flexibility and smuttiness will net you (R14) THICK OLE KEATS and, erm, (R1) SCRUM LEO ORALS. Perhaps those constitute a little too much imagery? Or perhaps a little too much imagination on my part.

Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Rec Center” – Sam Donaldson’s review

The theme consists of four two-word entries where the first word ends in -RE and the second word begins with C-. As a result, each entry has a “rec center.”  Well, to be honest, only one of the four theme entries actually has the R-E-C sequence in the center.  But since there’s such a thing as a “rec center” and no such thing as a “rec split” or “rec division,” I suppose we’re stuck with the awkwardness.  Here are today’s theme entries:

  • 17-Across: The [Beaver by birth] is one THEODORE CLEAVER. That’s the Beav’s name on “Leave It to Beaver.”  I’ve never seen this show.  I know there was a Beav, a Wally, a Ward, and a June.  I’m guessing Ipana was one of the sponsors (thanks, crosswords).  And thanks to 9-Down, I now know that one of the Beav’s catchphrases was “GOLLY GEE.”  But beyond that, I know nothing.
  • 25-Across: The [Panhandler's pursuit] is not, alas, A BETTER JOB or even a LIFE COACH.  It’s just SPARE CHANGE.
  • 43-Across: The [Fictional character known for its mischievous grin] is the CHESHIRE CAT. Now there’s a good mascot for Ipana!
  • 55-Across: The [1989 Matt Dillon film] is DRUGSTORE COWBOY.  I haven’t seen this one, but I’ve always enjoyed the 1998 Matt Dillon films, WILD THINGS and THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.

I spent a good chunk of this past weekend working on a PowerPoint presentation, so right now I can only think in bullet points.  Hence the following:

  • I was a little sad to see that the answer to [Glee club member] was ALTO and not PUCK, FINN, or TINA.
  • Today’s highlight #1: [Dogs that don't bark] as the clue for FEET.
  • Today’s highlight #2: The long Downs, especially the aforementioned GOLLY GEE and the heretofore unmentioned BAD SEED, DR. RUTH, and NO-HITTER.
  • Speaking of the NO-HITTER, it’s a bit baseball heavy in the southern hemisphere, with the Tampa Bay RAYS, OREL Hershiser and HOMERS all nearby.  Is Peter Gordon or Barry Silk doing some editing for the CrosSynergy?
  • Don’t know if this was intentional, but I like that WON appears so close to LOSE.
  • I’m thinking I’ll make a puzzle with two-word phrases where the first word end in -T and the second word begins with UM-.  You know, like BURNT UMBER.  Then I can title the puzzle either “Upset Stomach” or, my personal favorite, ”Wrecked Tum.”

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

5/16/11 LA Times crossword answers

5-minute blog post.

4.5 stars.

4 theme entries’ first words are ALL BARK, NO BITE. Not wild about BARK COLLARS as an entry, but the other…

3 (ALL-NIGHTER, NO DOUBT, BITE THE DUST) are really zippy, aren’t they?

2 be sure, the fill is great. Some of the short stuff is blah, but you’ve got DINGBAT, VIAGRA, PRAIRIE DOG, CROP CIRCLE, PIT BOSS, YUPPIE, and CAROUSE keeping things lively. Quite a lot of flavor for a Monday puzzle.

1 singular sensation. Lots of good clues here, too.

0…BLAST ([Turn way up, as the radio volume]) off. Gotta go! (Hope some of you caught the space shuttle launch this morning.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 5/16/11 answers

Love most of the the long answers and some of the medium answers, but have grievances with a number of the mediums and shorts.

Hot stuff:

  • 17a. CROWD-SOURCE, awesome. Though I haven’t yet seen crowd-sourcing used to hire freelancers who are then paid—just “hey, let’s ask the people of the internet to give us ideas for free.”
  • 35a. First time I’ve seen the stage show NUNSENSE in a crossword. Note that it could easily have been NONSENSE crossing SMOG, but NUNSENSE/SMUG packs more Quigleyan punch.
  • 52a, 3d. SKO! A SKOSH and a tasty, delicious, wish-I-had-one-right-now-god-I-love-crunchy-toffee SKOR BAR.
  • 63a. LIQUID LUNCH is a great seed entry.
  • 67a. The AZTEC EMPIRE is a nice Scrabbly pedestal for LIQUID LUNCH.
  • 12d. Goofy Star Trek ROMULAN is fun.
  • 42d. GROUPON, super-fresh as well.
  • 45d. Usually it’s Matt Gaffney who feeds us German words other than EIN/EINE/DER/HERR/FRAU. PFENNIG is a cognate of the word penny, which is in the clue, but this upsets me not. Those of us who took German appreciate a break from French/Spanish/Latin crossword answers.
  • 53d. [Kosher for Ramadan] is a funny clue for HALAL.

LARRY SANGER? Who? I know who Jimmy Wales is, but have never heard of Larry Sanger before. I say boo on that. He’s not the one that Wikipedia places front and center.

Dislikes: WIRIER is hard to say and unlikely to be used. Same complaint about ACCRUER. “He’s a wirier accruer of books about low-fat diets and weight training, far wirier than I.” Never heard of a SWATHER, as I am not a grain farmer. And I’ve never seen the adjective SLUICY.

3.75 stars. I would be more inclined to look past those dislikes if the word count were lower, but in a 72-worder from someone as talented as Brendan, I set the bar higher. Is that fair?

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18 Responses to Monday, 5/16/11

  1. Karen says:

    NYT was my fastest Monday to date. Thank you, Mr Livengood. Nice and smooth.

  2. joon says:

    whoa, NINE theme answers? remember when mondays used to have three? geez. super-smooth, though. i’m in awe.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    SCRUMptious!

  4. Meem says:

    Five stars to Ian Livengood.

  5. Ladel says:

    Exempary, and sadly demonstrates why a good Monday puzzle is so rare, really hard to get it right.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    The LAT’s IDLE THREAT was cute… And I’m puffed up on completing the BEQ in one sitting, since it usually needs to marinate a while after a slow start if I get it at all.

  7. Gareth says:

    NYT: Newsday easy Monday, but lovely phrases abound and as you say a LOT of theme!! Remark: why does it seem that scrums are the only rugby play that appear in crosswords? Yet to see maul, or try, or lineout or ruck or… appear!

    @Pannonica: general remark, you seem, at least in the way you write, to consider all partials, abbrs. and obscure words equally. If so, that is a mistake: especially when it comes to abbrs. There are plenty of abbrs. I for one would consider A-grade fill: YMCA, e.g. Also some obscure words, like ESNE (which I loathe) are enough on their own to blacken the name of a crossword grid, whereas others are tolerable in moderation… (Four cents over)

    LAT: Utile enough theme, but yes, fun phrases. Don’t get the necessity of the cheater squares in the top-left and bottom-right.

  8. Jeff Chen says:

    Gareth:

    I couldn’t help myself, wanting to keep VIAGRA under an ALL-NIGHTER, crossed with a DINGBAT. Tee hee hee.

    (insert sound of girlfriend rolling her eyes at me here)

    Jeff

  9. pannonica says:

    Gareth: I don’t mean to give that impression, so if I come across that way it’s a failure on my part. Certainly there are variations in quality and degrees of acceptability for that type of fill, and each solver’s subjective calibrations are unique (though there are consensuses of opinion).

    I try to treat them as perfunctorily as possible because no one wants to read an exegesis on that element of a puzzle or a thorough dissection of each and every instance of crosswordese, abbreviations, and partials. So, since starting my write-ups I’ve refined and distilled my label down to the somewhat glib “CAP Quotient™” and invoke it as a barometer for the overall quality of such supplementary fill. Let me emphasize that ideally, this should reflect overall merits. In the parlance of contemporary politics, I’m using a machete and not a scalpel or laser, because nanosurgery is interesting in the abstract but can be tedious in execution. Occasionally, I’ll cite what I feel to be egregious transgressors: the most obscure abbreviations, the hoariest crosswordese, the awkwardiest partials.

    For the record, I’m in total agreement with you on the relative merits of those examples, YMCA and ESNE.

    I’ll work on being clearer about this in my writing.

  10. Pomeranian says:

    Ha! Three days ago I asserted that “RENEGING ON” would not be a highlight in any normal themeless, and sure enough the superior RENEGE ON occurs in BEQ’s themeless and it is not listed as a highlight. All the more reason to give puzzles like Friday’s NYT 1 or 2 stars when that’s all they deserve.

    “but in a 72-worder from someone as talented as Brendan, I set the bar higher. Is that fair?” Answer: No! Constructors choose how many words to put in, and if their fill sucks because they tried to go too low, that’s too bad for them. If BEQ regularly knocks it out of the park, don’t start moving the pitcher’s mound closer to the plate. Score his puzzles on the same scale you claimed to follow in your comment to Friday’s post.

  11. Ladel says:

    @Gareth

    what does (Four cents over) mean?

  12. Martin says:

    @Ladel,

    I think it means he’s done putting in his two cents’ worth — twice.

  13. Ladel says:

    Thanks Martin, the man sure knows how to get his money’s worth. LOL

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pomeranian, your words did indeed echo when I was blogging the BEQ!

  15. Gareth says:

    Well i have to put more cents in; due to the exchange rate, my cents aren’t worth as much as yours

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    “He’s a wirier accruer of books about low-fat diets and weight training, far wirier than I.”
    …in a 72-worder from someone as talented as Brendan, I set the bar higher. Is that fair?

    No. But then again, perhaps it’s not that Brendan’s scores are more demeritted from a higher bar but, rather, that lesser talents benefit from a bar more lowlier set. Not that that makes it any differenter, of course.

  17. Ladel says:

    Exemplary, ah-hem

  18. Ladel says:

    @Gareth

    You should have been around in the days when a two cent plain meant something.

Comments are closed.