Wednesday, 6/15/11

Onion 4:43 
NYT 3:27 
LAT 3:01 
CS 6:47 (Sam) 

Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 15 11 0615

I like this theme. There are three pairs of answers that play the container game:

  • 16a/22a. [What 16-Across has] is a HIDDEN AGENDA, since the letter string AGENDA appears within HAAGEN DAZS.
  • 28a/39a. There’s a DENTAL FILLING in RESIDENT ALIEN.
  • 46a/58a. GRAND OPENING has the INSIDE DOPE.

Isn’t that neat? It’s a fresh take on the hidden-word theme, hiding three different words and coupling them with familiar phrases that hint playfully at the way the words are hidden in the crossword entries.

This 72-word grid includes a number of long nonthematic answers as well. The CEMENT NAIL puts me to sleep, but I like AM/FM RADIO, USED CAR LOT, and DELIRIOUS. The short stuff doesn’t do much for me.

The names in the grid mostly skew older. LILA Kedrova (1964 Oscar), IMOGENE Coca (best known for a ’50s TV show), EDSEL Ford (d. 1943), Sammy CAHN (most active 1940s to early ’70s), Noel NEILL, (’50s TV—she’s the [Noel who played Lois Lane], and I’ve never heard of her) and LEO Gorcey (most active 1930s-’50s)?? LIANE Hansen is the baby of the group, and she just retired from NPR a couple weeks ago. We have no NAS, no DRE, no Lady GAGA, no CEE LO here today. I miss them.

Four stars for the theme, three for the fill: 3.5 overall.

Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 6 15 11 Byron Walden

Too bad this puzzle didn’t run a month ago, rather than right after a Republican presidential debate that included seven people, none of them named Trump. I seriously needed to work the crossings to figure out 41a: [Subject of this puzzle's quip]. I had the whole quote in place but it sounded so New Gingrich! The theme is, it turns out, a CHRIS ROCK quip about Donald TRUMP: “I WON’T VOTE FOR HIM. / I’M AFRAID / HE’LL LEAVE / US FOR / A YOUNGER, / PRETTIER COUNTRY.” Funny enough. I didn’t hear this one when Rock originally said it (which I think was in late April, judging from the Google trail).

Highlights:

  • 19a. A NEW DO is [Part of a makeover, slangily].
  • 62a. [Desert plant for which a U2 album is named] is the JOSHUA TREE.
  • 6d. [Beginning of many "Jeopardy!" responses] clues WHO IS. Sure, it’s basically a partial, but c’mon, it’s Jeopardy! Gotta like that.
  • 18d. [Out-of-the-closet coverup?] is sort of a weird clue for TOWEL, but I like its accidental evocation of the Rep.-Weiner-in-the-gym towel pix.
  • 27d. Insane trivia: [Ming, the oldest animal ever discovered (400+ years), was one] clues a CLAM. I was going to guess CRAB with the C and A in place. But those clams, they’re merciless.
  • 60d. [Outfit that may have feet] clues PJS. Oh, how I loved footie pajamas as a child.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of THE HOOTERS. The clue, ["And We Danced" band], cites a 1985 song that doesn’t sound at all familiar to me.

Another ’80s pop clue is found at 13d: [Gloria Estefan band, briefly]. MSM is short for Miami Sound Machine, as well as the “men seeking men” personal ad category and the mainstream media.

The fill is unusual in that there are two multi-word phrases split into more than one entry (much like the theme quip is). There’s “YES, I / KNOW” and “GETS / OFF OF.” Between those, the PLAUTUS/TERRA Roman/Latin combo, and the theme, there’s an awful lot of cross-reference action this week.

3.5 stars.

Jennifer Nutt’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 6 15 11

The theme felt familiar so I checked Cruciverb.com and indeed, the same concept was worked out by Norm Guggenbiller in his 2/13/07 LA Times puzzle. Jennifer’s theme was more ambitious, with six theme entries rather than four:

  • 17a. [*Aid for loose-leaf filing] clues a HOLE PUNCHER.
  • 10d. [*Pay for a verdict] clues FIX THE JURY, which feels a tad non-lexical-chunky to me.
  • 14d. A SPOT CHECK gives you a [*Random sample]. Norm had SPOT REMOVER in his puzzle.
  • 32d. [*Deli container] is a PICKLE JAR. Norm had this one, clued as a [Dill holder].
  • 29d. [*Improvisational gig] is a JAM SESSION. Norm had JAM-PACKED, along with a PINCH OF SALT.
  • 61a. PREDICAMENT ties it all together as the [Trouble at the starts of the answers to starred clues]. As single-word theme-revealers go, that sure is a long one. Usually theme-revealers are 3 to 6 letters long, aren’t they?

There’s not much to say about the fill, except that you’d better be up on your 4-letter comic strip dogs whose names start with O, as both OTTO and ODIE are scratching around the sides of this puzzle.

Five clues:

  • 46a. [American realist who painted "The Gross Clinic" (1875)] is Thomas EAKINS. Do you know about this painting? It’s 8 feet tall and depicts surgery. At first I feared the title meant it was a gross anatomy lesson and autopsy, but a painting of surgical advancement is less cringeworthy, no? Interesting from a medical history standpoint.
  • 66a. [He's got the life] refers to RILEY of The Life of Riley.
  • 69a. FLEX is clued as an adjective: [Like variable work time]. Sounds weird on its own, but “flex time” is completely familiar to me.
  • 1d. [Mormon prophet, or the Utah city named for him] clues LEHI. There’s a Utah city of that name?
  • 59d. [Charon's river] is STYX, which is found in the bottom right of the grid. I could swear STYX shows up there more than anywhere else in crossword grids, though XWord Info suggests I am totally wrong. (It was in that spot in the 5/24/11 NYT puzzle, though!)

3.5 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Quarterback Protection” – Sam Donaldson’s review

A little bit of sports knowledge is helpful for cracking open today’s puzzle.  It features four entries ending with words that double as positions on the offensive line of an American football team.  The offensive line is charged with protecting the quarterback (hence the puzzle’s title).  Here are your theme entries:

  • 20-Across: The [Styx hit of 1983] is DON’T LET IT END.  The tight end is the player on the line with buns of steel.  The split end is the player most likely to find work as a plumber.
  • 27-Across: The [Gated community employee] is a SECURITY GUARD.  On the offensive line, guards are primarily responsible for blocking.  The left guard blocks against oncoming players from the defense.  The right guard blocks against body odor.
  • 42-Across: [Spinners and spoons, e.g.] are forms of FISHING TACKLE.  On the football field, offensive tackles play outside the guards on both sides of the ball.  You can thus have a left tackle and a right tackle.
  • 49-Across: The [TV show with more than 30,000 episodes] is ESPN’s SPORTSCENTER.  The network treats it as a single word, “SportsCenter,” so I’ll follow suit.  In football, the center starts each play by snapping the ball to the quarterback.  After hiking the football, the center’s general job is to block, like the other linemen.

Highlights in the fill include IN RAGS, MASONRY, IT’S ON ME, EN MASSE, FOOTER, and AIMEE Teagarden of “Friday Night Lights” (pictured to the right).  But there are more items of note:

  • I really liked [Buzzing cloud] as an evocative clue at 1-Across for SWARM.  A very nice way to start the puzzle.  Another evocative clue sits at 26-Across: [Emulates Frosty, sadly] for MELTS.
  • Anyone else try SEXTET as the answer to the [Rhythmic group of six]?  The correct answer was SESTET.
  • The perfect [Cheese go-wth] is MACARONI. Yum. Comfort food at its finest.
  • There’s heavy dose of crosswordese in this grid, including EIRE, EPEE, SSTS, NMI, and ICI.  But I like the general layout of black squares–the two mailbox flags allow two sevens and an eight to abut or intersect two theme entries in each corner.

Even those who don’t especially like football should find the positions “gettable” from crossings and the familiarity of the theme entries.  So I’d give this puzzle a solid three stars and possibly four stars.

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17 Responses to Wednesday, 6/15/11

  1. John E says:

    I thought today’s NYT was great – never heard of a GLUON before. Overall good fill though!

  2. Plot says:

    The best part of the NYT was in the NW corner. IMAC and AFAR are gimmies, but then there’s the unlikely MF above an even less likely AA for the long acrosses; I was sure there was an error somewhere, and it took me a bit to figure out that everything was actually correct. On a related note, this was the first time that I’ve spelled Haagen-Dazs correctly on the first try (though I can never remember where that damn umlaut belongs).

  3. kratsman says:

    I know I’m fighting a losing battle…but cement is a gray powder that you mix with sand and water to make concrete–the hard stuff that our sidewalks and driveways are made of: concrete pavement. Cement nails…nails for use in gray powder, really shouldn’t exist. And yet I also know Google will give a gazillion hits for cement nails and cement whatever-else-you-can-think-of, but that doesn’t make it right. (In some places, like Baltimore, it’s in the genes apparently: zement payment.) Cement and concrete–2 different things–why is this so difficult? As I said…losing battle.

  4. Gareth says:

    Never eaten HAAGENDAZS but as a crossword answer it’s just perfect! (It costs 3 times (or as I know a factory shop, 6 times actually) what most ice-cream costs for a quarter of the ice-cream. Sure it’s heaven though!)

    Loved the LAT theme! Hadn’t seen it before. Trio of names I hadn’t heard of: LEHI, EAKINS and PLATH!!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I loved the Nutt-y LAT puzzle too, and didn’t recall seeing a similar one before. Her life’s PREDICAMENT for poet Sylvia PLATH was a dark one, ending in her suicide. Very tragic…

  6. Papa John says:

    Kratsman, is that right?

    I thought a mixture of cement, sand and water produced mortar. Cement, sand, water and agrregate rock make up concrete, no?

  7. Ladel says:

    Gareth

    Haagen-Dazs is one of the great marketing successes of all time, completely made up name, coupled with high quality ice cream sold for sinfully high prices. You are a savvy shopper, the factory shop is the way to go.

  8. Tony O. says:

    Anyone here (or anywhere, for that matter) do the dead tree edition? I’m thinking there must have been a typo at 34A. To me the clue [Anonymous surname] calls for DOE not ROE – 34D did clue GRR, but with the aforementioned clue and the mysterious GLUON I was pretty sure something went awry. I even tried muttering “GRD” to myself, to see how it felt – I’m sticking with “GRR”.

    Fun theme though! (“AHH” … or is that “AAH”?)

    Tony O.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Tony: Think “Roe v. Wade,” and the John Doe alternative Richard Roe. (Of course, I had DOE/GRD first.)

  10. sps says:

    Amy beat me to the punch on Roe v. Wade. Just read a bit about Norma McCorvey, the Roe in that case. Interesting.

  11. Daniel Myers says:

    Just idiosyncratically, one supposes, I love the type of theme in the NYT today. I’m not quite sure why, but those inserts transposed into words are the verbal equivalent of a heaping tablespoon of Häagen-Dazs for me. Good show, Jeffrey!

  12. joon says:

    HAAGEN DAZS/HIDDEN AGENDA is a brilliant find on all counts: HAAGEN DAZS itself is an awesome answer, the reveal phrase is very in-the-language, and AGENDA is not something you’d chance upon in pretty much any other phrase. so big thumbs-up for that one. the rest of the puzzle was fine; INSIDE DOPE is a lot less challenging because DOPE is so short and common (in fact it’s been the entire theme of at least one puzzle i can think of, maybe more), and DENTAL FILLING didn’t excite me. nevertheless, it’s a terrific puzzle that i really enjoyed solving, and a nontrivial piece of construction with the 6 long themers that had to be paired up order-wise. well done, jeffrey wechsler.

    i liked jennifer nutt’s LAT, too. another 6er, with intersecting themers to boot. and i’m always happy to get a chance to FLEX my mostly-dormant art history knowledge, so EAKINS was a nice surprise. AM IF is one of the uglier partials i’ve seen, but most of the fill was fine.

  13. Ladel says:

    Why don’t you fellows stop this futile discussion of what makes up concrete and consult your local mafia tribe. Inquire about shoes for misbehaving members, then you’ll know for sure, you may even get to try on a pair.

  14. Martin says:

    kratsman,

    It’s a lost battle.

  15. Ladel says:

    Martin

    well played sir.

  16. kratsman says:

    Martin,

    I concede.

    Papa John,

    Of course I should have included gravel or some such in the recipe for concrete. I blame that oversight on my being in the middle of a circle-the-country road trip with my 24-year-old daughter and our pet beagle. The mind is getting a bit road-weary.

  17. ArtLvr says:

    joon, thanks for noting your nice surprise at seeing EAKINS! I meant to mention him too.

Comments are closed.