Sunday, 7/17/11

NYT 10:50 (joon—paper) 
Reagle 8:23 
LAT 7:53 (11:31 p’ca) 
BG tba
WaPo 12:12 (pannonica) 
CS 10:06 (Sam) 

Everything is tba! My block just lost electricity, and I can’t really blog crosswords on my phone. We are at the mercy of the estimable Team Fiend, who may or may not be busy tonight. Gah!

Daniel A. Finan’s New York Times crossword, “The End is in Sight”—joon’s review

NY Times crossword solution, 7 17 11 The End is in Sight

hi, i’m joon and i’ll be filling in as your backup generator, to stretch a metaphor to the point of uselessness. daniel finan’s crossword had an interesting theme that i had never seen before, with some uncomfortable weaknesses, and very difficult cluing, especially in the NW. let’s take a look at the theme first: seven long phrases leave off the last word, which is a homophone of a letter (or possibly its plural) contained in the phrase. that doesn’t make much sense by itself, so let’s see how it works:

 

  • {Parting words from the busy type} clues PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO, with the “see” omitted but the C of PLACES circled. u c now? plain as day. incidentally, this was the best theme answer, in my view.
  • {Hans Christian Andersen story} is THE PRINCESS AND THE (pea). i don’t actually know the original story at all; luckily, i have passing familiarity with the plot of “once upon a mattress”, which is based on it.
  • {Hardly breaking a sweat} is WITH RELATIVE (ease). little twist here, with the plural Es. one thing i liked about the theme is that every instance of the key letter in each theme answer is circled. so there’s exactly one C in PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO, one P in the next one, and exactly two Es here. elegant. having said that, WITH RELATIVE EASE is not a very exciting crossword answer. it reads more like a clue.
  • {End of a command at the Battle of Bunker Hill} is THE WHITES OF THEIR (eyes). okay, this one irked me, because it’s a 16-letter partial (or 18, or 20, depending on how you count). i don’t really like how it just sits there without its “don’t fire until you see”.
  • {“Godspeed!”} is “BEST OF LUCK TO” (you). unobjectionable, if dull.
  • {End of a Benjamin Franklin aphorism} is HEALTHY, WEALTHY, AND (wise). again with the long partials from colonial america. did not like this one either. on the bright side, the Ys/wise thing is clever.
  • {2009 fantasy film based on a best-selling book} is WHERE THE WILD THINGS (are). this one was good, too. the answer, i mean. i didn’t see the movie. i love the book, but i don’t really understand how somebody made a feature-length film out of it, because there’s about 10 minutes of material there. same goes for the polar express, another book that my three-year old loves that i can’t imagine as a movie.

so the theme is cool, and i had a major problem with the way a couple of them were executed. that said, once you figure out the theme, there’s nothing to stop you from basically slapping down every single theme answer, so in order to put up any resistance, the puzzle had tougher clues than a typical sunday. or maybe i was just having an off night. i kept misreading clues and clue numbers. looking back, it doesn’t seem all that tough. i liked COOL IT, NUNCIO, KRAKEN, MWAH, KNOW-HOW and the hilarious clue for PEEP SHOW, {Something to watch when there’s nothing on?}.

HARVARD makes a rare appearance, and amy likes to complain about harvard grads who take every opportunity to mention that they’re harvard grads. i’ve found that most of the ones i know go the other way, and try not to mention it because it can cause awkwardness in conversation. but i guess even if she knows the same ones, maybe she doesn’t know they went to harvard.

i’m not going to list all the entries i didn’t like, because i think it’s pointless and kind of petty to do that to a sunday-sized puzzle. there was the usual smattering of partial phrases and words/names that can’t stand on their own (PIK, POLLOI, TUTTE, YSIDRO, IRAE), plus assorted crosswordese. the only things that really made me crinkle my nose were LACS, an awkward plural of an already crosswordesy word, and TINK, apparently short for tinkerbell.

let me complain here about cross-referenced clues. ODA+MAE, sure. that makes sense, because those go better together than on their own. but why, exactly, did BORAT need to be cross-referenced to ASIA? nobody wants to start a puzzle and immediately be confronted with {See 96-down}. ALPHA+DOGS is in between. it’s not as bad as BORAT/ASIA, because it’s actually a phrase, but still, those are both eminently cluable on their own.

3.6 stars for this one. if he’d been able to find a few more non-partials, it would’ve been one of my favorite sunday themes this year.

Updated Sunday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, July 17, 2011

This week we get a 70/23 freestyle from The Prince of Triple 15s, Martin Ashwood-Smith. This time, the two triple stacks of 15-letter entries run vertically along the sides instead of the normal horizontal run across the top and bottom. The visual change is appealing because it is different, yet there seems to be no obvious reason why the triple stacks should run vertically when one can easily flip and rotate the grid to have them run horizontally. I read somewhere (Patrick Berry’s “Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies” maybe?) that editors tend to prefer theme entries in a themed puzzle (and long triple-stacks in a freestyle puzzle) to run horizontally on the grounds that it is easier for solvers to read and, thus, appreciate. Personally, I like seeing theme entries and big stacks run in the Downs once in a while–it adds a nice variety.

Speaking of the big stacks, the one on the west side is superb. PLAYED HARD TO GET, RAN A TEMPERATURE, and ON INTIMATE TERMS are all conversational and interesting. Sometimes one finds a duller entry sandwiched between juicier ones to make the stack work, but here it’s like we’re getting three layers of savory beef (soy, if you prefer) without a boring bun in between. The eastside stack feels more tepid. NATIONAL COSTUME is legitimate, but it feels forced to my ear, and I’m not giving a lot of love to the plural noun COUNTER-CULTURES, as I am more a fan of the adjective “counter-culutre.” THE FIFTH ELEMENT, however, rescues the stack (at least in this Fanboy’s eye). I’m more a fan of the three 7s atop the eastern stack: ADJUNCT (which gave me some fits because I had TENURED as the answer to [Kind of professor]), PHARAOH, and HABITUE are all great mid-length entries.

As is usually the case with freestyle puzzles featuring triple-stacked grid-spanning entries, the rare letters tend to congregate in the grid’s center, where they’re easier to sneak in. In this puzzle, we get three Js, two Ws, a Q and a K, and nearly all of them feel the gravitational pull of the center square. There are some tricky entries here, too, which contributed to a slightly slow (but not too bad by my standards) solving time:

  • ANILINE is a unique [Kind of dye] that should be spelled with two A’s, not two I’s. (Did you like the rhyme?)
  • JIBS are [Triangular sails]. Having never sailed, this was new to me. Perhaps one day it will be my job to jab with a jib.
  • GANEF is, according to my dictionary, a Yiddish term for “a thief, rascal, or scoundrel.” So I suppose it qualifies as a [Crook, informally].
  • I took two years of Spanish in high school and another two years in college, but I never learned that un APAREJO is a [Mexican packsaddle]. Perhaps I was horsing around that day. Neigh, that can’t be it.
  • One who lives on Capri is a Capriote. Thus, the [Ending for Capri] is OTE. That sounds authoritative now, but it was news to me fifteen minutes ago.

My favorite clue was [NO followers] for the alphabet string that follows N and O: PQR. That’s much more clever than the typical [Letter sequence] or [O trailers].

Finally, a plea for comfort: anyone else want TOP GUN as the [Kilmer classic] instead of TREES?

John Conrad’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Wi-Fi Interference”

LA Times crossword answers, 7 17 11 Wi-Fi Interference

Theme: Phrases with words that begin with WI turn into phrases with FI words. Is “Wi-Fi interference” an actual thing? It doesn’t ring a bell.

Theme answers:

  • 24a. [Angler's daydream?] = FISHFUL THINKING.
  • 33a. [Participate in a food fight?] = FLIP ONE’S FIG. Yes, because cafeterias always have figs, and flipping one of them is invariably construed as an act of aggression?
  • 51a. [Ophthalmologist's diagnosis?] = EYE-FITNESS NEWS.
  • 83a. [Auto design now, vis-à-vis the 1950s?] = NO-FIN SITUATION.
  • 101a. [Offshore WBA venue?] = ISLE OF FIGHT. My husband likes watching the Isle of Wight Festival on the Palladia HD  music channel. The U.K. seems to be big on huge music festivals packed with top acts.
  • 111a. [Round up a passel of stoolies?] = CATCH FORTY FINKS. Cute! Also: Bonus points for the word “passel.”
  • 4d. [Bulldozer specification?] = FILL POWER.
  • 82d. [Unrestrained Kentucky Derby entrant?] = FREE FILLY.

The theme’s all right, no great shakes. Favorite answers in the fill:

  • 6a. “IGNORE ME,” ["Forget it, I'm just ranting"].
  • 43a. RAN WITH, or [Implemented, as an idea].
  • 76d. DOORMAT, clued as an [Unassertive sort] rather than an actual doormat.

In general, the fill felt a little more crosswordese-ish that I might hope, with your AH SO (groan), AMAH (oof), OBAD., -OSE, -EROO, API-, LEO I, and TANTARA.

3.5 stars.

Bonus Rashomon-style second review of the LAT crossword, by pannonica

Due to a miscommunication at Fiendquarters, two reviews were written for today’s Los Angeles Times offering. Our mistake is your windfall.

This week’s puzzle sees a simple letter substitution theme, the wi– in each original phrase replaced by fi– and the new version clued.

  • 24a. [Angler's daydream?] FISHFUL THINKING (Wishful thinking). If wishes were fishes, waffles would be faffles.
  • 33a. [Participate in a food fight?] FLIP ONE’S FIG (Flip one’s wig).
  • 51a. [Ophthalmologist's diagnosis?] EYEFITNESS NEWS (Eyewitness News). I believe this is a trademarked program of ABC-TV affiliates.
  • 83a. [Auto design now, vis-à-vis the 1950s?] NO-FIN SITUATION (No-win situation). Strong entry.
  • 101a. [Offshore WBA venue?] ISLE OF FIGHT (Isle of Wight).
  • 111a. [Round up a passel of stoolies?] CATCH FORTY FINKS (Catch forty winks). Couldn’t help but think of Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves.
  • 4d. [Bulldozer specification?] FILL POWER (Will power).
  • 82d. [Unrestrained Kentucky Derby entrant?] FREE FILLY (Free Willy). 1993 feel-good film.

This whole puzzle felt below par in both theme content and ballast fill; the grid construction was merely average.

First, the theme. I liked the concept just fine but in execution it falls short, in quantity and quality. It seems as if there should have been a ninth entry of substantial length in the middle row. The absence of any theme content in the middle five rows—save the very last and first letters of the down themers—was glaring. Speaking of those two down entries, they’re both short (nine letters) and generically uninteresting; the puzzle would have been stronger without them, despite the scanty theme quantity.

Unwelcome redundancies “vis-à-vis” the theme answers were to be found throughout.

  • 43a. RAN WITH. If you’re going to have a mechanical theme, it’s best to ensure that it can’t be employed elsewhere in the puzzle. Here that means the non-theme fill should be free of any WIs. Ideally, there should be no original FIs either; none of those, thankfully.
  • 23a. [Slant] ANGLE immediately preceding theme clue at 24a (Angler‘s daydream?].
  • 37d. [Witness's words] I SAW uncomfortably echoes the nearby themer at 51a, EYEFITNESS NEWS.
  • A little tenuous, but since my mood was  already soured, I felt that 6d [Pugilists' org.] IBF (International Boxing Federation) overlapped too much with 101a [Offshore WBA venue?].

Hoary crosswordese and other snaggles:

  • 13d [Bars at the bar] ESTOPS. Both clue and answer are extremely tired. Ditto [Candidate's concern] IMAGE (44d) and 86d [Asian nursemaid] AMAH. 27d [Gray area?] ANATOMY is rather dusty-and-musty too.
  • 73a. [Shrek, e.g.] OGRE. There needs to be an immediate moratorium on ogre clues. Doesn’t matter if the clue references Shrek or fairytale baddies, but the Shrek spin is really overused of late.
  • SOAPER [Daytime TV fare] and SMASHER [Lollapalooza]? Ugh.
  • The suffix –EROO (39a) paralleling the suffix –ERO (88a) nine rows below.
  • The stacked NATL. and ASST. (31a & 40a) was irksome. So was 67d [Small salamander] NEWT, which smacked too strongly of eft for this solver, but that’s more ascribable to the aforementioned soured mood.
  • 65a. [Cardinal] MAIN and 122a [Main road] ARTERY. More repetition.

Likable bits:

  • 103d FIFTY intersecting the FORTY of  the themer at 111a.
  • Some interesting longer fill: FORESAILS, BROCADES, HYDROFOIL.
  • Favorite clue: 11d [End of a dean's address] .EDU
  • I’m conflicted about cross referenced clues. I usually carp about them when they’re employed but then lament when an opportunity to use one isn’t capitalized on. Unfair on my part. In this puzzle, I was kind of longing to have 26a STELLA linked to 75a BRANDO, especially since the latter’s clue references the play (A Streetcar Named Desire) in which the famous character appears. In fact, both clues could have been identical: [Kowalski portrayer].

Finally, I posit that when an internet meme becomes played out, it should be downgraded to an IGNOREME (6a).

Win. Fin.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Card Game”

Merl’s “card game” is to hide 14 JACKs in rebus squares joining 28 answers. Mostly, but not all, familiar to me:

  • 18a. [1967 film starring George Hamilton as a jewel thief] = {JACK} OF DIAMONDS. Don’t know it.
  • 20a. [Largest city by area in the contiguous United States] = {JACK}SONVILLE. Did not know that! Weird.
  • 36a. [Slangy sailor] = {JACK} TAR. Dictionary tells me the term is British, informal, and dated—that’s a lot of distinctions.
  • 40a. [Cold weather personified] = {JACK} FROST.
  • 47a. [Plug-in of a sort] = PHONE {JACK}.
  • 48a. [Heavy military footgear] = {JACK}BOOTS.
  • 60a. [Theme of this puzzle] = {JACK} IN THE BOX.
  • 63a. [Son of a 1970s president, or host of the weekend edition of "Today" in the late 1990s] = {JACK} FORD. Forgot he existed. Is this two Jack Fords, or one?
  • 74a. [Noted fat avoider] = {JACK} SPRAT.
  • 81a. [British flag] = UNION {JACK}.
  • 101a. [Dairy case item] = MONTEREY {JACK}. Oh, thank the crossword gods, it’s not OLEO.
  • 103a. [Forsyth novel] = DAY OF THE {JACK}AL.
  • 110a. [Wesley Snipes-Ice T drama, "___ City"] = NEW {JACK}. Seven-letter partial in four squares.
  • 5d. ["Faster than you can say" guy] = {JACK} ROBINSON. I asked my mom about this. She says she hasn’t heard that in 40 or 50 years, it’s something her late mother used to say. Apparently “faster than you can say Jack Robinson” is akin to “quick as a wink.” This one’s for the 100-year-old solvers!
  • 13d. [Radio legend] = WOLFMAN {JACK}.
  • 18d. [Big money prize] = {JACK}POT.
  • 20d. [Tom Clancy hero] = JACK RYAN. Are you in the book, Alec Baldwin, or Harrison Ford camp?
  • 36d. [Adds to the bottom line] = {JACK}S UP THE COST.
  • 40d. [Star of the original "Hawaii Five-O"] = {JACK} LORD. Thank you, o Jack Lord, for not being Jack Elam or Jack Oakie, both of whom I know only from crosswords.
  • 48d. [European crow] = {JACK}DAW. Sounds vaguely like an insult. “Don’t be such a jackdaw.”
  • 60d. [Early TV host] = {JACK} PAAR.
  • 63d. [Chan, Collins, or Cooper] = {JACK}IE.
  • 64d. [IHOP offering] = FLAP{JACK}, though IHOP calls ‘em pancakes. It’s not IHOF, is it?
  • 72d. [2003 Down Under comedy] = KANGAROO {JACK}.
  • 74d. [Fitness guru, 1914-2011] = {JACK} LALANNE. I’ll bet he used to say “faster than you can say Jack Robinson.”
  • 86d. [Seaman's wool coat] = PEA {JACK}ET. I call it a peacoat.

Did I miss any? Is that 28?

Outside of the giant theme, there’s no room left for any oomph, so the fill’s got less long stuff than we usually encounter in a Merl puzzle.

Four stars.

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 67″ — pannonica’s review

Washington Post Puzzler No 67 • answers WaPo • 071711

Mmm, stick-to-your-ribs granola: crunchy, chewy and good for you. And not the super-sweet kind, either. This was a monster of a crossword. Heavy-duty fill, tightly-packed grid, tricky choices, killer clues. 70 words, average length well over 5 letters. This is the kind of puzzle that superlatives were made for, but you won’t find that baneful three-letter chestnut –EST here. Not even its cousin, the unnatural –ER.

Abbrevs., none, unless you count USA for the cable channel. Fill-in-the-blank clues, none. Partials, none. Crosswordese, none that I could see. The weakest entry was 33d [Address from far away] SHOUT TO, which isn’t all that bad.

The cluing is typically Shenkian, with a mix of cleverness, gettable obscuriana, and surprise. I fell for the wrong alternative answer in just about every section, which augmented my solving time considerably:

  • NW: 19a. [Convince]. Had the S, dropped in SWAY before further work pointed me to SELL.
  • NE: 12d. [Acrobat's attire]. It’s UNITARD, not LEOTARD. I blindspotted completely when filling it in and it took a long time to see the alternative. Careless, careless.
  • SW: 40a [Ear coverings]. Wrote SILKS for HUSKS, which made me question if 35d was “alibies.”
  • SE: 53a. [No longer a minor]. Was saved from writing in ADULT instead of OF AGE by checking against 51d and favoring—correctly—HOG for 51d.

Some of the many highlights:

  • 20d TALONS [Kite features] alongside 23d FURIES, classically clued as [Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone]. Okay, so maybe it was the Harpies who bore talons, but still…
  • Repeater clue at 3d and 7d, [Some Aspen buildings]: CHALETS and A-FRAMES.
  • Blue beings: 6a [542-year-old blue character] PAPA SMURF, 2d [Na'vi greeting in James Cameron's "Avatar"] I SEE YOU. Did not know either of these facts, enjoyed them nonetheless. I do know that there’s a Smurf movie coming out, which I have no intention of seeing. I also know that there’s been some controversy regarding the Smurfs and the Dutch creator, having to do with antisemitism; don’t know if anyone’s compared them to the Blue Meanies, but I’d certainly expect so. Speaking further of PAPA SMURF, would you look at that high-fiber triple-nine stack it comprises with AFRIKANER and PRIMITIVE?
  • That stack’s symmetrical counterpart isn’t anything to sniff at either: TOP SCORES (not hi scores as I was groping for), TREEHOUSE [Branch headquarters?], and OYSTERBED [Site of many spats]. For that last, I first tried to think of a shorter synonym for haberdasher, but changed course when I realized that was a dead, dead end. Spats are young oysters.
  • GOOD EGG, LUSTROUS, SARATOGA; the colloquial [Lost it] FREAKED (which in my mind was sympatico with APEMAN [1970 Kinks song]),  CANVASED.
  • 6d [Smart from a book?] had me thinking about a fictional character named Smart. Best I could come up with was Madison Smartt Bell, and then television’s inept secret agent, Maxwell Smart. PAPERCUT.
  • Knew 41a right away because Sherwood Schwartz , creator of The Brady Bunch (among other shows), died this week and the theme songs to his shows invaded the airwaves. CINDY.
  • A couple [of] other fine clues: 24a [It might hold your interest] BANK. 44a. [Figaro offerings] SHAVES. He was a barber, you know. From Seville.
  • All this and much, much more‼

Good, good stuff.

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14 Responses to Sunday, 7/17/11

  1. Jeffrey says:

    And it was oddly a 22×21

  2. john farmer says:

    “Farmer’s ___” should have been right up my alley, but nothing I could think of (cheese, daughter) fit. In the end I was left with LAN, which didn’t make sense, but my final letter for the crossing _AP DANCERS seemed obvious. Oops.

    Who knows how many puzzle themes have used letters to stand for words, but the concept for this one still seemed novel. Quite clever.

    Movies. My 5-y.o. said The Polar Express was OK, but then he never showed interest in seeing it again. Not a good sign. I thought it was ho-hum, except for the dreadful parts. Otoh, WTWTA was terrific (though targeted more toward older kids and adults).

    Many years ago in a bar in LA I saw a guy try to pass as a Harvard grad. He picked the wrong table . One of the other guys had in fact gone to Harvard, and soon enough the jig was up. Not a great way to impress the ladies.

  3. Gareth says:

    And when you don’t quite grasp the theme, it’s really tough… Satisfying though! Battled to get correct cross of HIRES/ARPEL to finish. KRAKEN and MWAH were faves here too. Was also irked by ASIA/BORAT x-ref. COTP was “___ tan.” FITB FTW!

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I found the cluing difficult, too, which I normally like, but not in the NW so much as the heartland. I don’t know why this puzzle didn’t really grab me, despite the clever theme. I had to guess (incorrectly) at the ‘d’ in “oda” and “kid.” Maybe somebody can explain the clue at 61d for me. I haven’t a clue what the clue means even after I saw the answer. I”m wondering if my computer butchered the actual clue. On my screen it came across as

    {Word repeated in “I ____! I_____!”}

    HUH?????

    Bruce

  5. Howard B says:

    I actually really enjoyed the NY Times theme, very clever in its seeming simplicity. The partials didn’t even bug me as much, since the discovery of the theme elegance kind of overrode that a bit.

    I have heard the phrase, “I kid, I kid!”. It can be used as a defensive way of backpedaling after a “joking” remark is taken as offensive (or for that matter, an intentionally offensive remark). I don’t know if it’s a Eastern regional / New Yorker phrase or not.
    I somehow have a mental image of a Don Rickles-type personality saying it, though.

  6. Martin says:

    The Sunday Newsday is by the great Charles Deber. It’s not one of his most exciting themes, but it’s great to see his byline.

  7. Wordy8 says:

    Where is today’s Boston Globe – has the url changed???

  8. joon says:

    re: M A-S’s CS (how’s that for an alphabet soup): if your triple stacks are this awesome, and your quad stacks are that dry, why would you ever make quad stacks? 5 stars for this one. i wish the clues had been tougher, but the 15s were terrific and there was a bare minimum of garbage in the shorter answers. great work, martin!

    the sunday newsday was a reasonably interesting puzzle, chewier than most ND sundays. good theme density, some tricky clues, and reasonable fill.

    shenk’s puzzler is the puzzle of the day, though. at least a dozen brilliant clues, and a grid so clean you could eat off it.

  9. John Haber says:

    I thought it was a good theme weighed down by too much Hollywood, the grill brand (sorry, no backyards in New York apartments), and other junk. (ORYX is true crosswordese, if not obscure even to crossword fans.) In the end, I had no clue what was going on in two spots. One was with Lil Wayne, the boxer, Whoopee Goldberg, and “I kid,” which was a huh???? for me, too. I ended up with a blank at the D.

    The other was amid the palm tree, NORAD, and Farmer’s tan. The last of the three is again a huge huh???? for me. I had another blank. I hate having blanks, especially on a Sunday rather than a Saturday.

  10. Howard B says:

    pannonica gets 5,000 Whose Line is it Anyway? points today for her use of “obscuriana”. Redeemable at a comedy improv club near you. Nice writeup :).

  11. Barbara T says:

    How come I got an LA Times puzzle entitled “Card Game” by Merl Reagle for July 17th?

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Barbara, the syndicated Sunday LA Times puzzle appears nationwide in newspapers and on the LA Times website, but not in the print edition of the LA Times. Please note that we also review Merl Reagle’s weekly syndicated Sunday puzzle (which is printed in the Calendar section of the LA Times).

  13. Matthew G. says:

    I tried OYSTER BAY at the bottom of the Post Puzzler and justified it by thinking that rich people in the Town of Oyster Bay, Long Island, would wear spats. I was unaware that young oysters were called spats.

  14. Lois says:

    Re Reagle: ["Faster than you can say" guy] = {JACK} ROBINSON – “This one’s for the 100-year-old solvers!”
    I’m 61, like Reagle, and this is very familiar to me and would have been a gimme except that I was slow to get the rebus. I guess I don’t actually use the expression much, though.

Comments are closed.