Friday, 5/20/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/19" plug="friday-52011" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]5:16[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/19" plug="friday-52011" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:05[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/19" plug="friday-52011" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]3:59 (pannonica)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/19" plug="friday-52011" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/19" plug="friday-52011" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]9:48[/time_hdr]

David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword

5/20/11 NYT crossword solution 0520

It’s a cool-looking grid, with those six blocks of letters flanking the walkway of triple-stacked 15s and those six vertical 15s marching across that walkway. Some of the 15s are great, some not so great:

  • My favorites are OPEN PANDORA’S BOX, INDEPENDENCE DAY, the U.S.S. CONSTITUTION, and MADAMA BUTTERFLY.
  • READ ONE’S FORTUNE is all right. Don’t recognize the title A DANGEROUS PLACE. Not sure if GIANT SEA TURTLES is fully kosher for crosswords; if it is, it moves to the favorites list. SOCCER ANNOUNCER doesn’t feel like a “thing” (but maybe it does to Latin Americans and Europeans). And INTERNAL AUDITOR put me to sleep.

Favorite clues:

  • 54a. [Character in "I, Claudius"] is a COMMA, the punctuation mark in that title and not a member of the cast of characters.
  • 5a. [End of an era?] is the SCHWA sound at the end of “era.”
  • 19a. That wordplay-geek geography clue for S. DAK.
  • 35d. The […descendant of a Japanese emperor] clue for Yoko ONO.

Only Faintly Familiar Word of the Day:

  • 1a. The [Central knob of a shield] is an UMBO. The dictionary definition for umbo calls it the central “boss” of a shield. Did you know that boss is also a word for a stud/protuberance in the middle of a shield?

Could do without:

  • 40a: SETT, the crosswordese [Rectangular paving stone]; 30d: ORI-, clued as [Mouth: Prefix].

Mystery names:

  • 41d: [Pioneering blues singer Smith] is MAMIE; 42d: [Thomas Mann's daughter who married W.H. Auden] is ERIKA.

Four stars for this 66-worder.

Mark Feldman’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 5/20/11

We’ve seen classical composer pun themes before, but this one builds the theme around movie titles (edited to add: PuzzleGirl checked the Cruciverb database and found out that this exact theme was in the N.Y. Sun in ’06):

  • 17a. [Biopic about a time-traveling composer?] clues BACH TO THE FUTURE. In this movie, Bach gets hooked on composing for the theremin.
  • 27a. [Biopic about a composer who is unrecognized in public?] is HAYDN PLAIN SIGHT. One problem: “Plain sight” without a preceding “in” feels awkward. Problem two: Hide in Plain Sight is not such a well-known movie.
  • 48a. [Biopic about a composer from a WWII hero's perspective?] clues SCHINDLER’S LISZT. Hey, for all we know, Oskar Schindler had his favorites among Liszt’s compositions.
  • 63a. [Biopic about a composer fighting his inner demons?] is BATTLE OF BRITTEN, Benjamin Britten. Never heard of the ’69 movie, but that’s a high-powered cast with Laurence Olivier et al.

Ten things:

  • 4a. An ABBOT is a [Mozzetta wearer]. What’s a mozzetta? A short hooded cape worn by the pope, cardinals, and selected other Catholic men.
  • 41a. If only the [Political pacifier] was a baby pacifier sized up for adult politicians you like to mock. Instead, it’s a generic SOP.
  • 42a. [Ruled quarters?] are a ROOST, as in “she rules the roost.” Tricky clue, that.
  • 54a. [Legendary luster] first made me wonder what sort of sheen had legendary status. It’s not that kind of luster, though—it’s a legendary “one who lusts,” a SATYR.
  • 68a. [Former transp. regulator] clues ICC. Interstate Commerce Commission? As crossword fill goes, that’s kind of iccy.
  • 71a. [Canadian LPGA golfer Dawn __-Jones] has a COE in her name. Miler Sebastian Coe and Iowa’s Coe College—you have to share the spotlight now. With a golfer I’ve never heard of. She retired in 2008, apparently.
  • 1d. WABASH is an [Indiana county or its seat], as well as a river, an Indiana college, and the street beneath the “L” tracks in the Chicago Loop.
  • 9d. PIU means [More, in music]. It’s also a plausible spelling for the sound a kid makes when firing a make-believe gun.
  • 51d. The coolest entry in this puzzle is ZYDECO, the [Louisiana folk music]. Here’s a Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band video for your enjoyment.
  • 56d. [Brewery feature] clues OAST. On Twitter, Jen Muehlbauer once said I’ve been a beer geek/writer for almost a decade, but I’ve only ever encountered the word “oast” in crossword puzzles. #justsayin

Four stars.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Body Art” — pannonica’s review

Mark Feldman's CHE crossword, “Body Art” · 5/20/2011 · solution

I see nekkid people!

This week’s puzzle imparts a little art historical culture in the form of six famous European works, ranging from the Renaissance to the 19th Century, featuring nude figures.

  • 17a. [Sandro] Botticelli’s THE BIRTH OF VENUS (ca. 1486).
  • 23a. Leonardo da Vinci’s VETRUVIAN MAN (ca. 1487).
  • 39a. Auguste Rodin’s THE KISS (1889).
  • 41a. Édouard Manet’s OLYMPIA (1863).
  • 51a. Francisco Goya’s THE NAKED MAJA (ca. 1797–1800).
  • 60a. Titian’s [Tiziano Vecelli's] DIANA AND ACTAEON (ca. 1556–1559).

So that’s four paintings, one drawing, and one sculpture. Three Italian, two French, one Spanish. Four female nudes, one male, and one mixed doubles pair. All, incidentally, artists whose works I like (Titian is my least favorite of the bunch). Not bad. Two of the themers are only six letters long, so it feels like there are only five, which is still not bad: 66 squares in a 15×15 grid.

The remainder of the fill is strong, with a few neat flourishes. Despite the presence of some of the “high-value” letters, it doesn’t feel Scrabbly, but neither does it have a boring, workaday vibe.

The string of POSY, NOSY and SMOKY (13d/26d/35a) wafting along the NE corner pleases. In the same area the intersecting MOMMY and YELL speaks volumes (27d & 45a). To me, there’s something unsettling about OOZE (30a) settling under VITRUVIAN [MAN], even though there isn’t any linguistic connection; it’s just the way they sound together. Speaking of which, 66a & 67a, YARD and NOME are not to be confused with garden gnomes.

  • 66a [Sail supporter] cluing YARD didn’t faze me because I was mindful of the tricky cluing in Gareth Bain’s CHE from two weeks ago.
  • The two sports clues were mysteries and I needed all the crossings for them: 58d [Cowboys quarterback Tony] is ROMO, 61a [Postseason hoops competition, for short] is NIT (apparently the official name for the US college basketball playoffs is the “National Invitation Tournament”).
  • A [Gesture at Sotherby's] turned out to be BID, not NOD as I had originally thought (34).
  • I’d always believed (56a) ZEN ["__ in the Art of Archery" (1953 book)] was one of the many bandwagoners that flooded the market in the wake of Pirsig’s 1974 motorcycle/ego trip opus. Now that I know it’s a precursor, I’m more inclined to read it some day.
  • The biggest non-acronymic nit for me in the puzzle was 65a [Ear bone named for its shape] because they’re all named for their shapes: hammer, ANVIL, stirrup (that’s malleus, incus, stapes in Latin, which have the same meanings as their English equivalents).

Solid puzzle, with a theme that pretty much guarantees that the Chronicle of Higher Education is the only venue that would publish it.

Updated Friday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “E-I-E-I-O” – Sam Donaldson’s review

This fun puzzle has a theme, E-I-E-I-O.  And in this grid you’ll find the vowels, E-I-E-I-O.  With a white square here and a white square there; here a white square, there a white square, (nearly) everywhere a white square.

Okay, enough of that, I suppose.  The four theme entries do feature only the vowels E-I-E-I-O, and in that precise order, to boot:

  • 17-Across: The ["He kept us out of war" campaigner] was PRESIDENT WILSON.  CLINTON and NIXON would have worked here too, but only WILSON has the right number of letters to span the grid.
  • 27-Across: The [Basis of most religions] is a BELIEF IN GOD.  This is the most natural-sounding of the theme entries.
  • 51-Across: The [Change of focus] is a REDIRECTION.  It’s interesting that the theme here is entirely contained within a single word, and I’m leaning toward the conclusion that this uniqueness trumps the awkwardness of being the only one-word theme entry.
  • 61-Across: The [Aviator in a combat mission] is a JET FIGHTER PILOT.  The coolest theme entry, in my book.

I have previously gushed on this blog about my admiration of Lynn Lempel puzzles, so I’ll just say this is another smooth grid that leads to an entertaining solve.  My favorite entries included GOAT’S MILK, the [Common ingredient in feta cheese], INERTIA, the [Resistance to change], PET DOG (clued as [Nana or Toto]), and IN A JAM, clued as [Facing trouble].  I like the commercial vibe in the northwest with IPAD and QTIP, and the dueling tennis players, ILIE Nastase and Arthur ASHE, was fun for me though I suspect others might have thought it overkill.  I wonder if Lempel toyed with something along the lines of [Tennis score] for LOVE instead of [Common literary theme].

Harvey Estes’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Gathering”

Wall Street Journal crossword 5/20/11 answers

Wait, what happened to the morning? And then also the afternoon? It was a Procrastination Battle Royale between two projects, neither one requiring more than 30 minutes, and the battle was won by…me. Doing nothing. Anyway! The other project remains undone but by gum, I will blog this puzzle before sundown.

As it happens, this is a timely theme for the day before the upcoming Rapture. Robert Herrick’s old poem, “To the Virgins, to make much of Time,” begins “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Hurry! The rosebud-gathering time is running out!

Harvey takes eight phrases, lops off their final letters, clues the altered phrases in a jokey way, and gathers those deleted letters in 112a: [Gather ye here letters dropped from eight answers]. They spell ROSEBUDS.

The theme entries are as follows:

  • 27a. [Arthur in the Arctic?] = POLAR BEA(r).
  • 29a. [Bookkeeping pro?] = LINE-ITEM VET(o).
  • 45a. [Brazen dads?] = FORWARD PAS(s).
  • 47a. [Short flight from Midway?] = CHICAGO HOP(e).
  • 70a. [Needing to restock the brandy shelf, perhaps?] = OUT OF PLUM(b).
  • 92a. [Guys that bring pies?] = DESSERT MEN(u). I have a dessert man here at the house. He brings cupcakes, pie, and cake whenever they are needed.
  • 95a. [Bookmobile?] = LIBRARY CAR(d).
  • 107a. [Some Mexican unmentionables?] = TIJUANA BRAS(s).

I like the way the theme also made me think of Citizen Kane, with a ROSEBUD-related secret lurking at the end.

Four stars.

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13 Responses to Friday, 5/20/11

  1. Jeffrey says:

    LAT was very Jeffrey friendly. I lived in London, ONTARIO for two years, and Dawn COE-Jones is from Vancouver Island.

    And, wake up! INTERNAL AUDITOR is a very lively phrase.
    4.9 stars for the NYT, with UMBO being the sole deduction.

  2. Rustin says:

    I penciled in and subsequently erased ENGLAND thinking it was too easy (for the aforementioned clue). Was that mislead intentional? I’m new so I’m not quite familiar with the standards.

  3. Pomeranian says:

    Don’t understand the quibble about PLAIN SIGHT lacking a preceding “in” in HAYDN PLAIN SIGHT in the LAT… “HAYDN” is pronounced “Hide in”, so there really is an “in”.

  4. Evad says:

    I came here wondering who was this COMMA in the BBC dramatic series. *headslap*

  5. Grape Ape says:

    OPEN A CAN OF WORMS also fits. Open a “whole new” can of worms doesn’t.

    UMBO is not even faintly, vaguely, somewhat, quasi-remembered/dreamed/envisioned, maybe-heard-of-it-yes-I-think-so to me–.

    Wait!. . .

    Nope.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Hand up here for Boss where UMBO finally was revealed in the NYT, but SETT was simple. The whole was a tour de force, with the SCHWA, COMMA, CONGA line, etc. — though I’d have preferred MAMIE clued with Eisenhower rather than a Smith! And as for the late Pat Moynihan’s “memoir”, not mentioned in wiki — I never heard of it though he was my brother-in-law!

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Pomeranian: Well, if it were HAYDN IN PLAIN SIGHT, there would really be an “in.” If you changed the name, MOZART PLAIN SIGHT wouldn’t work at all with no “in.”

  8. pannonica says:

    Ah, so it’s a two-word pun substitution while the other three themers are one-for-one replacements. Some might say you’re demanding too much from the theme, wanting it to be more than it is.

  9. Howard B says:

    HAYDN works is you simply speak the pun. The word IN is then contained in the pun, and so on that level it works. And that seems to be all it really needs, as that’s all that it’s going for (hide vs. hiding in the phrase) :).

  10. pannonica says:

    Howard B: It seems to me that Amy appreciated that distinction, as she named the movie correctly in the post.

  11. Larry T. says:

    The ZYDECO link made my day. Thanks!!

  12. Howard B says:

    Whoops, you are correct as usual, pannonica. My apologies. Brain vacation.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    Loved the LAT with its classical music theme and the CHE with artists ditto! Made my evening… Lived near the WABASH river in Lafayette, Indiana, for a year and recalled the street by the same name in Chicago’s Loop too… Nice to hear that Chicago has major projects in full swing, planting roofs on downtown buuildings with grass to cut the heat and using new filtering paving materials lighter in color, etc. — all part of planning ahead to deal with climate change!

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