Wednesday, 5/25/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/24" plug="wednesday-52511" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]5:09[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/24" plug="wednesday-52511" puzz="Onion" anchor="av"]3:53[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/24" plug="wednesday-52511" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:23[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/24" plug="wednesday-52511" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]Untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]

Jeff Dubner’s New York Times crossword

5/25/11 NYT crossword solution 0525

So, the rhyme scheme of an ITALIAN SONNET (2d, 49d) is ABBA ABBA CDE CDE. Those letters are embedded within the four 15-letter answers, CABBAGE PATCH KID, SABBATH BLESSING, EN BANC DECISIONS, and MANIC DEPRESSION. That’s straightforward enough, and yet this puzzle kicked my butt. The central answer, 34a: [Gilbert and Sullivan's follow-up to "The Mikado"]?? What the hell? RUDDIGORE?!? Aside from musical theater freaks, who has ever heard of that?

Crikey. And EN BANC DECISIONS required a lot of crossings. So did everything after SABBATH. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered HI DADin a crossword, so I had HI MOM there too. And ANTIOCH, that’s much more familiar to a Chicagoan as a local suburb than as the 44d: [Ancient capital of Syria].

Fill looks pretty solid overall. Clues work fine. Theme is scholarly/literary, but that shouldn’t have taxed me. Nothing seems unfair except perhaps the wrong-looking RUDDIGORE taking up so much space in the middle. Can I blame the upper respiratory virus that’s kicking my butt along with this puzzle tonight?

3.75 stars.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 5/25/11

The theme is inspired by 50: SURROUND SOUND, and the other four theme entries are wrapped with SOU and ND, SO and UND, or S and OUND:

  • 19a. ["Afraid you can't have your money back"] clues “SORRY, NO REFUND.” Phrase would sound better as “sorry, no refunds,” but that wouldn’t fit the theme’s constraints.
  • 22a. SOUP BRAND is a rather dry phrase for a wet thing, like [Progresso or Lipton].
  • 32a. To STAND ONE’S GROUND is to [Refuse to budge]. Nice 15 anchoring the middle.
  • 46a. [Home of Notre Dame]—the university, not the cathedral—is SOUTH BEND, Indiana.

The stacking of theme entries at the top and bottom poses limitations on the fill. Thus, the upper middle has that ugly RESOD/PETR/A NEST combo, and the bottom central has the sort of awkward-sounding TO NOW (49d: [Thus far]).

Took me forever to understand the clue for 5d: STARR, [Best successor of 1962]. Pete Best, Ringo Starr, the Beatles. Aha!

3.5 stars.

Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution 5/26 Gaffney

The theme entries have letters added to make them be about flames when the original phrase is not. At least, I think that’s the theme. It works clearly three quarters of the time:

  • 17a. [Result of hiking with pyromaniacs?] = TRAIL ABLAZE. Trailblaze + A.
  • 28a. [Steak Diane or Bananas Foster, served at noon?] = LIGHTED LUNCH, flambé. Light lunch + ED.
  • 48a. [Skilled at spontaneous combustion?] = ON FIRE AT WILL. Fire at will + ON. This one adds a short word rather than a letter or two.
  • 62a. And…um…I don’t know what the original phrase is for the last one. Open flame –E, +ING? But the flame in open flame is, in fact, fire rather than not-fire. [Result of arson at a tennis event?] = OPEN FLAMING. People! Help me out here. What am I missing?

The fill’s fairly fresh. And there are some fun clues:

  • 36a. A NEWBIE is a [Person who needs to RTFM, perhaps]. (RTFM means “read the effing manual.”)
  • 7d. [Queer-positive straight person, as it were] is an ALLY. Ally in the house!
  • 13d. Prince [Wills' wife] is KATE.
  • 35d. White ZINFANDEL is a [Pink drink].
  • 54d. On Sesame Street, ERNIE is [Bert's special friend].

Three stars. I’m holding one more star in abeyance until I find out what I’m not understanding at 62a.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Time Line” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Today’s puzzle features a timely quip:  A DIGITAL WATCH / MET A GRANDFATHER / CLOCK AND BOASTED, / “LOOK PA, NO HANDS!” It’s nice how the punchline of the quip is contained entirely within the last line, leading to a more elegant payoff.

With only three partials and one abbreviation, the fill is quite smooth, even though there are few really interesting entries (like the symmetrically placed CELIBATE ARSONIST, whose need for some lovin’ is clearly burning a hole in something).  But I don’t want to come across as second-guessing the fill–with quotation and quip puzzles, I believe, the fill needs to be direct and very gettable so that the solver has a chance with the theme entries that comprise 25%+ of the white space.  If the fill gets too cutesy, the puzzle becomes much harder, and that’s not this syndicate’s typical intention.

Some random observations:

  • I tried DWARFS as the answer to 10-Down, [Grumpy's group, e.g.].  Right idea, wrong answer.  This grid wanted SEPTET.  Looking back, I see that’s entirely my fault.  The seven dwarfs are an example of a septet, but dwarfs are not an example of Grumpy’s group–they are Grumpy’s group.  Must pay attention to the “e.g.!”
  • For 50-Down, the [Church area], I plunked down APSE without any crossings, confident my time with crosswords had paid off here.  Oops, wrong guess.  It was NAVE.  How naive of me.
  • My favorite clues were [Brass building?] for PENTAGON and [It may have an attachment] for EMAIL.
  • For reasons I can’t explain, I always thought the expression was “bid a hasty retreat.”  Now I know that it’s BEAT A [hasty retreat].  Crossword puzzles: slowly advancing the English language since 1913.

I’m normally not into quotation or quip puzzles, but this one worked for me because of its elegant construction.  4.2 stars (not to be confused with 4:20).

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26 Responses to Wednesday, 5/25/11

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    NYT looks to be a debut puzzle. Impressive if that’s the case.

    Edit: someone gave this one star? Hmmm? I gave it four.

    I’d like to hear the rationale behind that rating, assuming it wasn’t vandalism.

  2. D_Blackwell says:

    It wasn’t me; I don’t do the star thingee. But really, did the theme shine enough to accept the fill? Not for me. Not from the NYT.

    I went down with SEEM SO instead of SEEM TO, just assuming that ANsIOCH was obscure:(( I expect to have company. If I had reason to scroll the alphabet there, I would have spotted the problem.

    ABSENTS is going to be a rough cross for some people.

  3. Erik says:

    The petty side of me, the side that just put up a seven minute time on this Wednesday puzzle, wants to give it one star. Of course, that’s the side who doesn’t know an ITALIAN SONNET from an Italian sausage. My more reasonable half (or tenth, as the case may be) appreciates the elegant construction and above average fill variety. Is it just me, or is there an odd abundance of two-word, second-word-two-letter phrases? Especially in the northeast corner?

  4. AV says:

    Since we are discussing stars, I gave it a 3. The multiple double-word preposition ending entries bugged the heck out of me (especially since I have trouble with them). SEEMTO, ODETO, LETSAT, LIEON, etc. Otherwise fine puzzle, liked the theme.

  5. joon says:

    gosh, really? i thought this was a fine puzzle. i really liked the fill: LA BAMBA, REPO MAN, PASSEL, OIL UP, and HI DAD are entries that you rarely see, but they’re all fun. DCCL, of course, is a clunker, but everything else seemed totally fine. RUDDIGORE is not one of the most obscure of the G&S oeuvre; i certainly wouldn’t call myself a musical theater freak (barely even a fan), but it’s familiar enough. pirates, pinafore, and mikado are certainly the big three (in some order), but there are dozens of minor ones that never get staged, and RUDDIGORE isn’t one of them.

    and ANTIOCH is not obscure either. knowst thou not the holy hand grenade of antioch? and if your ancient geography is still shaky, best bone up before attempting to cross the bridge of death.

    four stars from me. i really dug the puzzle’s scholarly but still young-ish vibe. and in case there are people who don’t recognize the constructor’s name, he’s the 2011 ACPT C division champ and an awfully swell guy. congrats to jeff on an enjoyable NYT debut.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    I’m a big Gilbert and Sullivan fan (who knew?) but after the big 3 and Trial by Jury, Princess Ida, Iolanthe and Gondaliers I drew a big blank. RUDDIGORE? AL Gore’s lost cousin?

    Puzzle is 3.7865 stars.

  7. Neville says:

    I had ON A DATE instead of IN A DAZE. Darn you, Jeff Dubner! :) I liked it, there were things I didn’t know (RUDDIGORE), but the crossings Made It Work. I give it something that rounds to four stars. (Not sure if it’s up or down.)

  8. Art Shapiro says:

    After all the obscure Hollywood names of late, it was a pleasure to have Ruddigore. Not a gimme but easy after a few letters were present.

    “En banc decision” wasn’t familiar, but as we see “banc” every so often, it didn’t seem overwhelmingly nasty.

    Art

  9. Morgan says:

    I, too, enjoyed this puzzle.

    I must say, Amy and Erik, that it’s all relative. A huge number of puzzlers (like me) would be ECSTATIC with 5-7 minutes on this. The great majority of puzzlers will never, ever post the kinds of times that you guys do. ;-)

    One day, I do hope to come to an ACPT again (Beijing is a little too far to justify the expense) so I can learn some techniques to speed up a bit (e.g. it took me 10 minutes today, and I’ve never gone under 4 minutes, I don’t think). I went once, many years ago, and was thoroughly humbled by the likes of you guys, having thought (in a vacuum) that I was quite quick…In the meantime, are there any books that deal with moving up that level from “sort of fast, on easy puzzles” to “could compete at C-E levels”?

    Or is it just innate?

  10. Morgan says:

    Oh…and I might argue that “Hi Dad” was the weakest link…I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything but Hi Mom. Unless, of course, he was referring to rookies greeting veterans before the snap with some good natured ribbing. Or am I misunderstanding the clue…?

  11. Matt M. says:

    1. Allow me to join Joon, Matt, and others in praising this puzzle. Interesting theme answers, a lot of good fill and clues, and a different type of theme made this puzzle a win. And Joon’s right — Jeff’s a great guy. Congratulations!
    2. Morgan, Amy’s book about conquering the NYT puzzle has some good tips. But really, in my opinion I think it mostly boils down to practice. If you do all the puzzles blogged on this site and try at least a little for speed, I think you will find that you get significantly faster. Here’s a post (and comments) that explores the issue really thoroughly and interestingly… http://bemoresmarter.squarespace.com/blog/2010/11/29/clues-first-2-life-in-the-fast-lane.html

  12. pannonica says:

    The NYT had a CHE vibe, “scholarly/literary” as Amy said. All my times were slow this morning, but I can pinpoint where the Times did me in: EN BANC… crossing ABSENTS, which for no discernible reason I could not latch on to. Stymied for a long while.

    No insight on the AV 62a. I thought perhaps an open fling might be a chapter in an open marriage, but Googlehuelpa only seems to know about flinging open doors.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    I’m with joon too — Delighted to see RUDDIGORE and congrats to Jeff for a very good Wednesday level work! Ditto the LAT, with favorite word SULLY. Lofty language is an upper, even if there’s a Strauss-Kahn lurking underneath… All one can hope for in the DSK case is that a medical condition like brain tumor or carotid artery occlusion will mitigate the dishonor. The French are finding it especiallly hard. Quelle horreur!

  14. pannonica says:

    ArtLvr: I can’t help thinking about The Singing Nun.

    Is Jeff a relation of Freakonomics luminary Stephen Dubner?

  15. janie says:

    congrats to jeff on that really literate and really lively debut! am wondering whether or not RIMINI was originally clued in the context of music or theatre (as in francesca da RIMINI. regardless, geography’s good, too!

    more, please, jeff!

    ;-)

  16. Pauer says:

    Who you callin’ a freak? Ok, maybe I am; I knew Ruddigore with only a couple of letters.

    Only 72 words and a debut? Color me impressed!

  17. pannonica says:

    Ruddigore conjures an image of rutting stags goring each other.

  18. John E says:

    Jeffrey, she was nee BAYGA before she married into the Gore family

  19. Meem says:

    Four stars from me, too. Pretty much what joon said.

  20. Gareth says:

    NYT: Liked the simple, elegant theme idea: the only theme entry that really hit my sweet spot was CABBAGEPATCHKIDS, though. HIMOM was such a trap, which yes I did fall in. Didn’t know RUDDIGORE, but see no objection to it. Do object to DIDNTGO though. Otherwise those open corners were much appreciated! Also: there are several Antiochs in antiquity, the main ones being the Syrian one in the clue and Pisidian Antioch, Asia Minor. AlsoAlso: I too tried ONADATE first. 3.5 here but went with 3

    LAT: Tied self into all sorts of knots in top-left wanting TNT to be TCM or NASH to be LEAR which were a) mutually exclusive and b) both wrong!

  21. John Haber says:

    I don’t object to RUDDIGORE either, and I don’t care for G&S or know all that much about them. (I’d heard of it, though.) I totally hated HI DAD, whose only excuse was how utterly forced and stupid the frequent HI MOM entries have been. (Can we just abolish the variants on UIE as well?)

    I didn’t like the theme, as the theme entries didn’t seem to need it much and the central long answer wasn’t thematic. It just didn’t do enough as a theme to fill the puzzle or enliven it in an especially witty way. And it had the usual drawback of circled entry themes, that the setter can stack the deck in his or her favor by placing the circles anywhere.

  22. Jeffrey says:

    Thanks for remembering Matt.

  23. Martin says:

    The wordplay for OPEN FLAMING involves the “open” being the tennis event — a very different use of the word than in “open flame.” So the theme is a little less specifically about fire/not fire words than changing a word in a phrase to change the meaning to something a pyro would love.

    “Fire” in “fire at will” certainly has combustion in its etymology, so a “tight” interpretation of the theme isn’t great here either. By the way, the “blaze” in “trailblaze” doesn’t relate to fire, although you might think it does. A trailmarker or the white mark on an antelope is a “blaze,” from the Old Norse blesi.

  24. Meem says:

    Just had a chance to solve the Onion. The solve was not particularly difficult, but the theme felt very scattershot (off) to me. Got the tennis reference but didn’t much like it. And agree with Martin that the blaze in trailblaze has nothing to do with flame or fire, rather with types of markings. Three stars here.

  25. Lanulos says:

    As I mentioned on the forum, the CrosSynergy puzzle appears to have an incorrect clue for 24 Across. The answer to the clue, “German count starter”, is EINS, as in “eins, zwei, drei”. The puzzle solution requires EINE, which is the German feminine indefinite article. A clue I have seen for that is “____ Kleine Nachtmusik”.

  26. sandirhodes says:

    Granted, the ‘open’ is the tennis, but what is the original phrase that has been modified?

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