Tuesday, 7/12/11

NYT 3:03 
Jonesin' 2:46 
LAT 4:20 (NLF) 
CS untimed (Sam) 

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 12 11 0712

Interesting two-way theme that’s about 90% effective—DAY can squeeze between the two words of each theme answer to make two new phrases:

  • 22a. CLEAR OFF generates a clear day and a day off. Who doesn’t love both of those?
  • 28a. GREEN LIGHT gets the band Green Day and daylight. Vampires are 50% pleased with these, at best.
  • 46a. EASTER LILY suggests Easter Day, which I think is far, far more likely to be called Eater Sunday, and a daylily. Was just explaining the difference between lilies and daylilies to my husband. Wait, the dictionary definition tells me each daylily bloom lasts only a single day. Can that be true? Because a stand of daylilies is in full blossom for days on end.
  • 55a. D STUDENT is an answer I don’t recall seeing in a crossword before, and I like it. D-DAY, day student.
  • 68a. DAY in the bottom center, tying it all together.

Highlights:

  • DAILY/ DOUBLE, MOOCHED, GREAT LAWN, AFTER DARK, TROUNCE, TIKI, FRISK, and TATTLE are all crisp and interesting.

Lowlights:

  • 44a. MESNE, for the second time in the past week or two. MESNE! It means [Intermediate, in law] and no, I most certainly cannot use it in a sentence. It is time for this word to retire from crosswords for the next couple years.
  • 4d. LIENEES is only a hair more interesting than MESNE, and it too can take a break from crossword appearances.

Four stars.

Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ crossword, “Nose Job”

Jonesin' crossword answers, "Nose Job"

Breezy Monday/Tuesday-grade puzzle this week. The theme is four rhyming phrases that sound a wee bit like sneezes at the end:

  • 17a. ["Black Swan" footwear] clues BALLET SHOE. I dunno about that. I feel like toe shoeand ballet slipper are both more “in the language.”
  • 24a. A HOT-BUTTON ISSUE is an [Emotional debate topic].
  • 36a. BIG LEAGUE CHEW is the name of a shredded [Bubble gum sold in pouches]. Because what children need is to learn the routines of chewing tobacco before they’re old enough to buy tobacco products, right?
  • 48a. [It may be answered with "Who, me?"] clues “I’M LOOKING AT YOU.” Hmm, I can’t think of the circumstances of this dialogue. But thumbs up for the “achoo” sound at the end of this phrase.
  • 59a. [What you might say after hearing 17-, 24-, 36- or 48-across?] is GESUNDHEIT. That means “health” in German, and isn’t that a lovely thing to wish someone? Even if their sneezes are just from a little dust or whatnot.

Highlights:

  • 30a. “L’CHAIM!” is a [Toast at a bar mitzvah].
  • 9d. To complete the line about The Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” you need to add the words A MEAN to ["...sure plays ___ pinball"]. No, partial answers like this aren’t desirable, but as in many Merl Reagle puzzles, they can evoke good feelings in the solver anyway. Partials need to be fresh and interesting; yet another ONE I or IN ON adds nothing to a puzzle (except an easy way in for a solver who’s having trouble figuring out the answers).
  • 11d. [Question asked many times in "Marathon Man"] is “IS IT SAFE?” I’ve never seen this movie, but my husband quoted that line enough that it amuses me. Probably not the reaction the filmmakers were going for, huh?
  • 12d. ["Reversal of Fortune" family name] is VON BULOW. Claus, Sunny, and their Count Olaf.
  • 36d. To BAD-MOUTH is to [Talk smack about].
  • 40d. If you LAID LOW, you [Didn't attract attention].
  • 49d. A KEGEL is a [Pelvic floor exercise]. Leave it to Jonesin’ to bust out the pubococcygeal muscle action!

Four stars.

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 7 12 11

LA Times crossword answers, 7 12 11

Chug! Chug! Chug! Double-fisting puzzles from Bill Thompson today!

  • 17a. [Type of government spending typified by the Bridge to Nowehere] is PORK BARREL – though there have been a few bridges that have gone by this name, I can’t help but feel like Bill Thompson is calling out the late Sen. Ted Stevens.
  • 25a. ["Two Tickets to Paradise" singer] is EDDIE MONEY
  • 37a. [(At) maximum capacity] is FULL BLAST – not sure why we needed the (at) in the clue – I think [Maximum strength] might’ve done better overall.
  • 51a. [Classic candy bean] - JELLY BELLY
  • 62a. [Brew after a shot (and, in a way, what the end of [the above] can be)] – BEER CHASER – Beer barrel, beer money, etc. It’s weird, as the the beer follows the shot, but each of the four words follows the beer. Just a little mindfreaky for me

No issues with the theme – a nice Tuesday puzzle with a tie-in answer that pulls them together nicely. And look at some of these seven letter entries: T-SHIRTSI LOVE ITSHUT-EYE – some nice, solid work in there. Shorter fun entries like SAY ‘AH’ and LETS GO help sell this puzzle for me, too. BREASTS got a tame clue with [Chicken choices], and that’s fine by me.

I wrote in BLURRY for BLEARY, which had me confused at MESR (acutally MESA) for a while. GNARLS for SNARLS wasn’t helpful either. Nothing tricky about them – just similar looking words.

15a. [Place for doves, not hawks] is COTE. I understand that it is a place for doves and not a place for hawks. That makes sense. But why is the clarification about hawks necessary? Someone please explain this one to me – I’m at sea.

3.8 forehead-smashed beercans – ran out of energy for that last one.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Seven and Seven” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword solution, 7 12 11

Appropriately, here are seven items of note about today’s puzzle:

  • The theme.  The puzzle features four nouns consisting of two seven-letter words (thus, each entry is a “seven and seven”): SPECIAL EFFECTS, AVIATOR GLASSES (though I first tried GOGGLES), RUBBING ALCOHOL, and MEDICAL STUDENT.  A black square comes between the two words, so each theme entry spans the entire 15-square length of the grid.
  • Seven is the max.  Did you notice that no entry in the grid is longer than seven letters?  That’s a nice touch.
  • That’s a lot of sevens.  There are 24(!) seven-letter entries in this grid.  I’m guessing that at least ties a record for a single 15×15 grid.
  • 16-Across. UNPOSED is a pretty awkward entry, but I love the clue, [Like candid photos].  That’s the perfect way to describe a blah word in an interesting and accessible way.
  • Highlights in the fill.  My favorite entries in this grid were PIEROGI, LET’S SEE, SELL FOR, WE DID IT, and my favorite iced-tea go-with, SPLENDA.
  • Comics row. I like how the 12th row of the grid contains two staples from the funny pages, HAGAR the Horrible and DENNIS the Menace. And both were clued in fill-in-the-blank form so even solvers like me could see and appreciate the wonderful coincidence.
  • Not exactly conversational. I’m not sure that anyone has ever said, “Where’s the treed cat?” But it’s a good way to elicit “UP THERE!” as the response from a distressed pet owner.

I dig unusual themes like this.  While some would think it fitting to give this puzzle seven stars, we max out at five.  But this one merits a solid four stars in my book.

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29 Responses to Tuesday, 7/12/11

  1. Rihat says:

    LIEN is annoying crosswordese. LIENEE is absolutely terrible. LIENEES might be the worst thing I’ve ever seen in the (early-week) NYT… all to support this most hackneyed of themes? Nice having a theme answer cross two others and at least it’s not just the one-way add-a-word theme, but LIENEES stole the show for me.

  2. Martin says:

    Rihat: LIEN might be an annoying repeater word in crosswords, but it certainly is not crosswordese. Unfortunately, as many borrowers can attest to, liens are all too common in the real “non-crossword” world :(

    -MAS

  3. Matt Jones says:

    Re Big League Chew: Just the opposite. The idea in the 1980s was to make chewing tobacco an unglamorous idea to kids, so they marketed the bubble gum to get kids going the “right” direction, and supposedly it became popular with the ballplayers, too.

  4. pannonica says:

    re LAT 15a: Hawks is included as a misdirection. Hawks and doves are warmongerers and peaceniks, respectively.

  5. Dave G. says:

    @NYT – MELC crossing MESNE? Big minus.
    And LIENEES, those the medial leg joints of a large cat (ALT).

  6. Gareth says:

    De ja vu with the author, but also the 3-letter alcoves. Enjoyed his LAT more; had a punchline, more lively theme phrases, and was smoother too IMO. Dave, what on earth is wrong with MELC: bygone popstar, yes, but that doesn’t make her unacceptable!

  7. Howard B says:

    I think it’s that Mel C hasn’t been in the pop-culture or celebrity spheres here for at least 10 years, didn’t do much notable here as a solo artist, and so probably isn’t a name on the forefront of the collective consciousness. That makes it a fine name for a later-week puzzle, but rather surprising to see so early in the week.
    (No problem there, but I was actually unfamiliar with the term ‘day student’, personally). Liked the NY and LA Times themes and how they worked with the full theme answers.

  8. Matt says:

    I was not so happy with this puzzle– I got all the letters in the theme-revealing entry at 68A through crosssings and so never actually saw the hint. And even with the hint the theme seems kind of weak, IMO. Not my cuppa tea, I guess.

  9. Tyler says:

    Was I the only one really bothered by 1-Across?

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Tyler, I hadn’t seen DAILY DOUBLE as connected to the theme, but now I see that it is (and should be clued as such), and that the inclusion of DAY is both unnecessary and a duplication.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    DAILY bugged me too.

  12. joon says:

    “If you LAID LOW, you [Didn't attract attention].”

    nope, that’s not right. and actually, i’m pretty sure LAID LOW has been incorrectly clued literally every time i have seen it in a puzzle. if you lay low, you didn’t attract attention. that’s the past tense of “to lie low”, i.e. to hide. but “laid” is the past tense of “to lay”, a different verb entirely, and one that is strictly transitive. to lay (someone) low is to floor them with a punch. i feel like this is about the 4th time i’ve tried to explain this in a blog comment. last week, BEQ had LAID LOW in a themeless, misclued in much the same way. when i pointed it out to him during test-solving, he changed it to {Hid oneself, ungrammatically}. well, at least it’s honest. and frankly, maybe it’s such a common usage error that it’s becoming what “laid low” means.

    tyler: i wasn’t bothered by it, but only because i had forgotten all about 1-across by the time i figured out the theme. now that you mention it, yeah, it’s kind of sore thumbish. although amy’s idea of DAILY/DOUBLE as the theme “reveal” is rather cute.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT puzzle was okay by me, especially since it included Paul HENREID at 10D — and our whole extended family had rented Casablanca to view last night! What a great film, even more moving when one knows that nearly all the large cast themselves were Jewish actor refugees from Nazi persecution!

  14. Byron says:

    DAILY/DOUBLE is definitely thematic. I’m pretty sure that we wouldn’t have LIENEES and YESI in that corner otherwise. Contra Amy, I don’t think that would have been enough of an explainer, particularly since DAY can also follow OFF and kinda follow STUDENT. The clue at 1-Across would have to be “With 1-Down, Jeopardy!…and a
    hint to the word that can appear after the first word and before the second word etc..” As the first clue you see, that would have been a mess. Maybe, maybe with DAILY/DOUBLE crossing on the L’s in the opposite corner instead, so that the spoilage comes at the end, and if all the words had DAY as a follower, it would work. But as is, it needs the DAY, and DAILY/DOUBLE is a nice lagniappe.

    As for LAID LOW–amen, Brother Joon, amen.

  15. Dan F says:

    Sam – BEQ’s Friday NYT puzzle had 28 7-letter words. That freestyle design guarantees you 24 with the 7×7 corners. But 24 in a 78-worder is quite a lot indeed…

  16. HH says:

    apropos of nothing….

    if your cable package includes the Sundance Channel –
    July 13. 11 a.m. EST — a movie called “Fermat’s Room” (Spanish, w/ subtitles) … synopsis reads “A group of mathematicians must solve a series of puzzles before the walls close in.”

    now, if we could run the ACPT like that, I’d be a lot more interested in attending!

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m in complete agreement with joon regarding “LAID LOW”. It’s like fingernails down a chalkboard for me, though it does seem, as he suggests, to have become part of our contemporary idiom to confuse the transitive and intransitive senses/tenses of LIE/LAY. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone saying that he/she is going to the beach to LIE out (i.e., sunbathe). O tempora, O mores!

  18. Jeff L says:

    I second Joon’s LAIDLOW comment. Enormous pet peeve of mine. It’s as bad as “Between you and I” for me.

  19. Howard B says:

    Also forgot about the Daily Double bonus post-solve. It’s a bit awkward, although in a non-purist sort of way, I like that it’s in there as a playful wink to the solver. Too subtle on its own as a bonus hint, but fun.

  20. joon says:

    jeff, you can’t second my comment. take a number! looks like you can fourth my comment.

  21. Matt says:

    An interesting historical note on ‘messages hidden in crossword puzzles’:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/11/news-of-the-world-hidden-message

  22. Tyler says:

    I love DAILY DOUBLE as a theme revealer. I hate it when DAY is there too.

  23. frc says:

    We had the 2nd Pittsburgh Crossword Tournament on 7/9/11 so used this weeks Mon-Thurs puzzles as supplied by Will Shortz. Quite a number of contestants could not figure out the mesne/melc crossing (I agree a difficult crossing for a Tues puzzle)

  24. john farmer says:

    No idea what the “record” is, but counts of 7-letter answers in themeless puzzles get into the high-20s and 30s now and then.

    Manny Nosowsky’s swan song in the Times had 40, with a grid that Manny and J. Clonick had used before. Chuck Menning had a grid with 44 in 2002, a puzzle that has the third-lowest Scrabble score in the Xword Info db (at some point there’s a trade-off).

    I fifth Joon’s comment on LAID LOW.

    I second ArtLvr’s comment on “Casablanca.”

    On DAILY DOUBLE…I’ve lost count.

  25. Karen says:

    I had to take an extra minute to find my mistake–CLEAN OFF instead of CLEAR OFF. I know MEL C much better than HENREID.

    And I feel like I’ve been surrounded by ALPACAS lately.

  26. Gareth says:

    Karen. Me too for clean off initially. The last time i said i didn’t know henreid i was branded a philistine, but like whatever. (Didn’t remember it this time)

  27. andrea carla michaels says:

    Hi! I think it’s GREAT that Bill Thompson has a true DAILY DOUBLE to have in both the NY Times and the LA Times on the same day!!!

    @HH @10:41 am
    Now THAT’S a great idea! Funny!

    Also funny, Amy, is your vampire comment :)
    MELC is a terrible entry, esp for a Tues, but, as I said on @Rex’s blog, it’s fabulous that Will must have thought that an obscure Spice Girl nickname would be known to the audience, so one thumbs up for girl clue! ;)

    Now to do Patrick’s puzzle.

  28. Matt J. says:

    I (nth place) Joon’s comment. It’s a shame that LAIDLAW isn’t as well known.

  29. sandirhodes says:

    @HH: I’ve seen that movie! FWIW, it’s worth watching. Don’t expect cinematic gold.

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