Wednesday, 7/20/11

Onion 3:33 
LAT 3:17 
NYT 3:07 
CS 4:38 (Sam) 

Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 20 11 0720

Yay! I ignored the Notepad message and found it easy enough to grasp the theme without paying any attention to the [See blurb] commands. The four answers with that clue spell out ROYAL FLUSH (1a, 71) and SAME SUIT (15a, 67a). The other five theme answers end with the playing cards that constitute a royal flush when they’re all in the same suit: BIG TEN, FLAPJACK, THE AFRICAN QUEEN, ALAN KING, and AIR ACE. (The “Yay!” was for the Notepad not containing instructions for marking up the puzzle in order to find the theme.)

Straightforward enough theme—so I’m not sure why the Notepad was even deemed necessary. How hard is it to eyeball the answers to the starred entries and realize that the theme isn’t “BIG FLAP, THE ALAN AIR”? You know what Henry Hook is doing, right? He’s sighing with dismay. I’m OK with the ROYAL FLUSH/SAME SUIT bits appearing in the grid, as they fancy up the theme rather than dumbing it down. They’re in symmetrical spots too, which is good.

Lots of nice fill in this one: ORGANISMS and SIGOURNEY are long. You’ve got your Semitic double-letter answers, RABBI and HAJJIS. The symmetrical A-I pair ADELPHI and ASHANTI look cute together.

Didn’t know ARMA was the [First word of the "Aeneid"]. That answer is out-crosswordesed by NORIA, though—that’s a [Waterwheel]. Oh! Crazy name combo in the bottom center: ANOUK Aimee beside NGAIO Marsh. Boy, if you don’t know them or ASHANTI, you might have been cussing.

I’m wondering when we’ll ever see DESIS clued as people of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi descent living abroad. Have you encountered desi used that way? Mr. Arnaz died 25 years ago, so maybe it’s time to branch out a little.

Four stars.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 7 21 Deb Amlen

Easy Onion puzzle this week, no? The theme is puns ending with ethnicities:

  • 20a. [Bangkok native into orgies?] might be a THREE-WAY THAI (tie).
  • 39a. [Prague native appearing as an extra?] is a BACKGROUND CZECH (check). My friend Robin appeared as an extra in an SUV commercial when she lived in Prague. They wanted all the extras to look plausibly like American auto workers, so they rounded up all the non-white people they could find. You’re Chinese? Or Ghanaian? Excellent! Here’s your oil-stained jumpsuit.
  • 58a. [South African native with a lousy driving record?] is a CRASHING BOER. Although technically, the Boers were European settlers rather than natives of South Africa. Alas, “crashing Afrikaner” is a lousy pun.

I like the amalgamation in the seventh row of the grid: ASS NERDS.

Five more clues:

  • 14a. [Punk rocker Tessa Pollitt, e.g.] is a member of the Slits, ergo a SLIT. Did you know Deb Amlen has her own punk cred? It’s totally true.
  • 68a. [Destination for vacationing whiskey lovers] is ERIN, or Ireland. Don’t go there if you’re an E-less “whisky lover.” Those people have to go to Scotland…or Canada.
  • 70a. [Word before ring or swing] clues MOOD.
  • 5d. [Kool-Aid instruction] is ADD ****R. ADD WATER, it turns out, though the unsweetened packets demand that you add sugar as well.
  • 7d. [Gangsta with game] is a PLAYA.

Other clues and answers of note include the well-clued partial SO ARE, static CLING, Carnegie DELI (not Hall), “We WUZ robbed!,” and the never-in-the-NYT-crossword answer SEMEN.

Four stars.

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 7 20 11

Baby DUCKS are called ducklings, baby geese are goslings, and baby employees are hirelings. Plenty of other words ending with LING are not diminutives, but Scott Atkinson pretends they are for his theme:

  • 17a. [Very narrow fissure?] might be a CRACKLING.
  • 26a. Aww, look at the cite widdle [Landfill in a toy city?], the DUMPLING.
  • 38a. Wimps who freak out after the tattoo artist makes the first needle contact end up with a tattoo of a period. INKLING is clued as a [Minuscule tattoo?].
  • 40a. [Dollhouse dress adornment?] is a teeny bow, or BOWLING.
  • 49a. [Where to wear a training bra?] clues BUSTLING, a junior-sized bust.
  • 62a. [Very young hobo?] is a TRAMPLING.

Haven’t seen a theme quite like this one before. Playful, fresh.

Felt like there were a lot of names in this grid—I hope you didn’t get entangled in a tough crossing. There’s the AMATI GAMALIEL ATARI ARON corner. The MIA/GINO crossing. GIAN meets GAGARIN, who abuts DALY. RICHELIEU encounters LEIA. Then there’s the KUNIS/ERICA stack.

Four more clues:

  • 42a. [Opposite of perfect pitch] clues NO EAR. Wait, that’s an actual phrase? I’ve never seen it, but I’m pretty sure it describes me.
  • 39d. [Unwanted playground game teammate] is the LAST PICK. That definitely describes the fifth-grade version of me.
  • 3d. [Twinkie or Ding Dong] is a SNACK CAKE. Have you eaten any Hostess cakes lately? They’re either worse than they used to be, or I’ve lost the NO TASTE I had in childhood to go along with my NO EAR.
  • 9d. [The N.Y. Nets were its last champion] clues the ABA, or American Basketball Association. The Nets were originally not a New Jersey team? Who knew?

3.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Emotional Spectrum” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword Solution, July 20, 2011

Today’s puzzle features four colorful ways of portraying emotional states:

  • 21-Across: [Colorfully happy?] = TICKLED PINK.  I remember this phrase as a theme entry from another great crossword, but this theme’s different.
  • 56-Across: [Colorfully sad?] = IN A BLUE FUNK.  Hmm.  A sad person can be described simply as “blue”–no additional words required.  That makes this one a little different from the others (well, that and the fact it has four words, but who’s counting?).  Accordingly, it was the hardest for me to figure out.
  • 3-Down: [Colorfully envious?] = GREEN-EYED.  If green-eyed people are perpetually jealous, then perhaps brown-eyed people are perpetually full of it.  (And hazel-eyed people like me are just nutty.)
  • 36-Across: [Colorfully angry?] = SEEING RED

There are 40 squares devoted to the theme, and the pinwheel layout of the theme entries (two Across, two Down) gives Jordan considerable freedom to devise a snazzy grid.  I love MUZAK, the [Elevator rider's earful], smack dab in the grid’s center. Other great fill includes BAD EGG, I QUIT, and THE TOY, a [1982 Pryor/Gleason comedy].  I even liked Star-KIST tuna.

The center section alone contains a J, a K, and a Z, so it comes as no surprise that the grid’s a pangram.  My favorite clues included [Allstate's hands, for one] for LOGO, [Wrestle or Beatle suffix] for MANIA, and [Adjective for Dolly Parton] for BUXOM.

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30 Responses to Wednesday, 7/20/11

  1. Erik says:

    I’m just whining because you beat me by a minute… but HA[D/J]JIS crossing [D/J]EAN is just ridiculous and unfair. Yes, I know there’s no Dean Shepherd. And yes, pretty much everything else about the puzzle sparkled. But in the immortal words of Gob Bluth… come on.

  2. joon says:

    erik, i agree with you. i’ve never heard of either dean or jean shepherd, and the clue does not fill me with chagrin at not knowing it. his (apparently he’s a man) imdb page is rather unimpressive. that’s a horrible clue in the context of an ambiguous crossing. i won that coin flip, but lost the one on ASHANT[E/I] crossing NOR[E/I]A. i can’t remember the last time when a NYT puzzle had one square that i was outright guessing on, let alone two. leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, such that i’m more inclined to glare balefully at DESIS, EM ALL, and ACNES than i would be otherwise.

  3. Jan (danjan) says:

    That crossing tripped me up, too. I wondered how I was still only a couple of minutes behind joon!

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    HADJIS/DEAN here. I lost that coin toss and stroked my chin for six minutes before trying the J. 7:17 became 13:39.

  5. sbmanion says:

    Sadly or happily depending on one’s perspective, I did not realize that DEAN could have worked and knee-jerk inserted HAJJIS, I think because the rarely seen HAJJ was just in a puzzle in the past few days.

    Steve

  6. Dave G. says:

    I had problems with ASHANTI and NORIA. I vaguely remembered the name as ASHANTE and NOREA seemed as good as guess as anything. Lost a good five minutes looking for the error. I also guessed JEAN instead of DEAN because of the other HAJJ this week. Filled in HAND for 67 across, but that fell quickly to NGAIO, which I knew. I was unsure of ANOUK, which slowed me down. I am not a big fan of multiple difficult names in one section (names in general are my weakness).

  7. Art Shapiro says:

    Add me to the HADJI crowd, and I’ve certainly never heard of Mr. Shepherd. The BBGUN answer surprised me, as I was incorrectly thinking of the Charles Dickens story.

    Art

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    The Nets were originally not a New Jersey team? Who knew?

    **hand up**
    For a brief time in the mid-’70s we had the New York Nets, New York Jets, New York Mets and World Team Tennis’s New York Sets.

  9. tperki says:

    I do the puzzle on my computer, and can’t find anything related to the [blurb]. Had to look in the NYT to see it after I finished. Sigh. I did not like Hajjis (should be marked var) and have no idea what a Noria is. For those who don’t know about Jean Shepard’s A Christmas Story, then no “Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time” for them. That movie is a riot. Fragile – must be Italian.

  10. Matt M. says:

    I’m with Amy — I thought the LAT was really fun today. Also, it may be the only time in my life that knowing GAMALIEL is useful…

  11. Gareth says:

    NYT: Finding that I had dEAN not JEAN took about a minute. I also contend that crossing’s a bit on the mean side! Didn’t care for the SAME/SUIT ROYAL/FLUSH; it seemed a bit forced, though I’ll admit its a bit thin without that. I got to “water wheel” and norii (getting confused with torii clearly) immediately came to me, though I was reluctant to write it in, it’s the type of crosswordese thats so rare in US crosswords!

    LAT: Agree: indeed a playful, fresh theme! GAMALIEL, GINO and GIAN – all crossings! With second A of LASTPICK in place I initially tried BADLOSER, then BADSPORT – subtle misdirection! Hope Neville doesn’t tell anyone his WISH (Happy day!) Also wanted SNACKfood, for a while.

  12. HH says:

    “You know what Henry Hook is doing, right? He’s sighing with dismay.”

    I’m not sure what you meant by this.

  13. cyberdiva says:

    I print out the puzzles, and I never noticed that there was a blurb. So [see blurb] was of no help, but given how little I know about cards, I doubt it would have been of much use. I saw ROYAL FLUSH without the blurb, but I had no idea what specifically constituted one. ARMA was a gimme, since a thousand years ago I had to memorize the opening two lines of the Aeneid. (That was the high point of my success with Latin, alas.) ANOUK and NGAIO were also pretty easy for me, but like many other commenters I had no clue about whether 19A should be JEAN or DEAN (I guessed right, but it hardly matters when you print out the puzzle, since no one tells you you’re wrong, as I was with ASHANTE/I crossing NORE/IA). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word NORIA before, and I’ll probably forget it before I need it in another puzzle.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @HH, wait, I meant “disdain.” You’ve made clear your antipathy for themes that explain themselves explicitly, depriving the solver of the chance to suss out the theme herself.

  15. pannonica says:

    Boring chime-in comment here.

    Easily knew ANOUK and NGAIO; ASHANTI looked more correct than ASHANTE (which I never considered) so avoided the NORIA/norea problem. Hadj(i)/hajj(i) are among the words for which I leave a strategic blank while solving, and JEAN Shepherd was known to me as a celebrated storyteller, especially on radio, as well as the (semi?)autobiographical author of A Christmas Story.

    Another hand up for NY Nets (and the rhyming quartet, including the Sets!).

    Hazel eyes too, but perhaps instead of nutty it symbolizes being full of it (twice over, don’t forget the yellow specks) and jealous, in variation according to mood and environment? Uhm, not speaking from personal experience, or anything, mhmm.

  16. Lois says:

    Joon: Pointing out that Jean Shepherd’s IMDb page is unimpressive sounds funny when one knows so many people who are crazy about this one film. Granted, that audience skews older, and I’m no fan of crosses of proper nouns and multiple possible spellings. Got that one right, of course, but had Ashante/norea. At least noria is a word with only one spelling, I guess.

  17. HH says:

    @amy — I see. But I suppose I’ve failed to make clear my growing antipathy for all crossword puzzles.

  18. Howard B says:

    Seen A Christmas Story enough times to remember JEAN (luckily), and NORIA from having it played against me in various online Scrabble variants. Fun theme, with some icky fill. At least NORIA has a nice, melodic sound to it, distinguishing it from other crosswordese.

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    The comments show how difficult the life of a constructor must be. There is always something to p*** off everybody, except that it’s different things for different people.

    Jean Shepherd may be the most celebrated radio personality and raconteur in the history of American radio, certainly up there with Wolfman Jack, Cousin Brucie, and the like. A wonderfully soothing, late-night radio presence. If there is one famous, mantra-like Latin quote, it is “Arma virumque cano,”–I sing of arms and the man. Noria is crosswordese, but famous crosswordese.

    On the other hand the things that make me apoplectic–Has anyone ever actually heard of Tessa Pollitt? Husker Du? Bob Mould? Artie Lange? the name of Metallica’s debut album (crossing something unclued)? Those are serious, not rhetorical questions. I am always stunned at the incredible number of rappers, rock groups, reality TV shows, video games, that one is apparently expected to be familiar with. I know I whine about this all the time, but it is becoming a serious obstacle and impediment to my continued interest and participation in crosswords. It seems foolish to me to participate in competitions when 20 – 30% of the clues are apparently gimmes to everyone else, and complete blanks to me. It’s way too much of a handicap to give up. To me it’s like expecting me to know thousands of Chinese characters. (linguistic, not dramatis personae) I do know that when I get the clue “Tessa Pollitt, e.g.” and I have SL-T, I get worried.

    Having said all this, I actually liked both these puzzles. I agree that the poker explanation was unnecessary, though I missed out on the “same suit” minitheme which would have given me that annoying Metallica album. And Deb’s was great. I almost even got a clue which I have had in mind for years: {Asian who repairs books for a living?} for “Thai that binds.” (I know–the word “that” is a solecism, but. . .)

    Bruce

  20. joon says:

    perhaps i should have been clearer: if you are going to cross JEAN with the first J of HAJJIS, then it has to be a clue that everybody can get. not just the people familiar with the oeuvre of a particular radio raconteur (even just saying that makes it obvious how incredibly old-fashioned such a notion is) or co-writer of a screenplay, no matter how iconic the movie. i literally can not name a single person who is best known as a writer of screenplays. i know mamet, stoppard, simon, agee and even faulkner have some famous ones, but they would all be famous if movies had never been invented.

    anyway, the point is, unlike the vast majority of crossword answers, this one has an unchecked letter, so the jean has to be incredibly famous. (billie jean king probably qualifies, but she’s an order of magnitude more famous that jean shepherd.) or you could clue it as a common word like {___ jacket (denim garment)}. or, of course, you could make it DEAN/HADJIS. but again, if you do that, you have to go with james dean or the college official for the DEAN clue, not dean cain or dean witter or dizzy dean. in a normal answer, the standards for knowability can be much lower, because the solver has the possibility of getting the letter from the crossing answer. so no, i don’t know who tessa pollitt is either, but i didn’t need to. but apparently i needed to know jean shepherd.

    anyway, this was a stunning editorial oversight, but the fact that it happens so incredibly rarely is a useful reminder of how meticulous crossword editors normally are (and need to be!).

  21. Howard B says:

    I should add that as far as pop culture, I agree in some senses, but if you’re going to raise issues with that, all of the above do not apply to independently published puzzles, especially those such as the Onion. (Tessa Pollitt, for example – didn’t know that either). These have a more limited audience and so the clues are geared to that. You also wouldn’t have any grounds to complain, say, about curse words or offensive terminology in the Onion, as these are fair game there.

    Now regarding the Metallica album partial in the Times, that’s a separate discussion on partial answers. Have to say it’s pretty fresh fill for an ugly partial, though.

  22. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Joon: Akiva Goldman is a screenwriter and I don’t know that’s famous for anything else. (I also don’t know whether he qualifies as famous in general. Just saw his name in an article about the “Dark Tower” movie series being scrapped.)

    @Henry: What about cryptics? People rave about your cryptic crosswords but Amazon is filled with out-of-print titles (plus a mini “Sit & Solve” book). I don’t suppose you have a new collection of full-size cryptics in the works?

  23. joon says:

    i don’t know who akiva goldman is, but since posting my previous comment, i thought of charlie kaufman and m. night shyamalan, although the latter has become known for directing and producing (terrible) movies as well. i’ll stand by my point that screenwriters, by and large, are not famous.

  24. pannonica says:

    joon: For people famous primarily for screenwriting, the first I thought of is Robert Towne, and I’ll agree he isn’t known to everyone. William Goldman is another, but he’s also known as a novelist. I’d also mention Paul Shrader, but he’s latterly become a director as well. Graham Greene should have been on your list with Faulkner and the others.

    Your point is valid and eloquently stated. I didn’t mean to imply that that J[D] crossing was unimpeachable, only that it wasn’t an issue for this solver.

  25. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Delighted that I succeeded in roiling–producing a small stir, ado, todo. -:)

    Remember, my bottom line was that I really did like both puzzles.

    Bruce

  26. John Haber says:

    I think I’d seen “see notepad” rather than “see blurb” before, so at first was wondering if there wasn’t some kind of clever meaning to “see blurb” that “same” might have been part of, such as “ibid” and “op cit” or some reference to a previous citation. But the theme entries came clear very fast, and I too easily lived without the Notepad, which I didn’t bother to read.

    I guessed HAJJ rather than Hadj because I’d had to correct myself on a puzzle that way within the last two weeks and got over the annoyance. As it happens, for me JEAN confirmed this. it wasn’t that the movie was a hit. He had this radio show of a long monologue that people listened to religiously, a little before my time. My father was a huge fan. I think it mixed narrative, humor, improv, and the heartwarming, so to speak, but without the huge emphasis on the latter and a repeated fictional community as in Garrison Kieler, but perhaps with the same appeal?

    Arma wasn’t too hard for me, as I knew in English the beginning is the origin of the common phrase “Of arms and the man,” leading in turn to the G. B. Shaw title. But ASHANTI crossing NORIA was a killer for me. I did have HENNA and ANOOK at first but got over them.

  27. HH says:

    @Henry: What about cryptics? People rave about your cryptic crosswords but Amazon is filled with out-of-print titles (plus a mini “Sit & Solve” book). I don’t suppose you have a new collection of full-size cryptics in the works?

    Point taken — I should’ve said American-style crosswords.
    A new collection? Find me a publisher.

  28. john farmer says:

    Another point to the issue Bruce raised: I’d say there’s been a big generational shift in crosswords in recent years. We’re older now, of course, but more puzzles aim young, imo, than they did in the past. Not to mention, there are new puzzle venues now (alt-weeklies, BEQ, etc.) that skew younger and more topical than puzzles in the papers.

    “…screenwriters, by and large, are not famous.”

    I’d say that’s true…by and large. The most famous screenwriters tend to be (a) best known for directing (Preston Sturges, Quentin Tarantino, et al.), or (b) best known for other media (William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, et al.). In the Hollywood pecking order, screenwriters don’t have the clout that directors or big stars do. Unlike (some) authors and playwrights, writers of movies don’t have final say about what they produce. (Like crossword constructors, in that way.) But according to an analysis I had read some years ago, if you want to pick one person that best correlates with the quality of a movie, pick the screenwriter. A much better indicator than director or actor. Which makes sense. It all begins with the script.

    Leaving aside categories (a) and (b), here’s a smattering of some “famous” names in the screenwriting trade. You may know a few. Frances Marion, Ben Hecht, Anita Loos, Dudley Nichols, W.R. Burnett, Robert Riskin, Julius & Philip Epstein, Charles Brackett, Leigh Brackett, Nunnally Johnson, Carl Foreman, Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Garson Kanin, Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr., Cesare Zavattini, Paddy Chayefsky, Ernest Lehman, Michael Wilson, Robert Bolt, I.A.L. Diamond, Abby Mann, Waldo Salt, William Goldman, Robert Towne, Frank Pierson, Paul Schrader, Steven Zaillian, Richard LaGravenese, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Brian Helgeland, Charlie Kaufman, Aaron Sorkin. (No, I didn’t include Joe Eszterhas, but apologies for other omissions.)

  29. Gareth says:

    John, as a younger constructor I must point out that I find, in general, that putting nearly any reference from my own generation means I’m liable for a reedit, silents era actresses etc. Are a far surer bet. I guess some of this is down to precedent.

  30. Lois says:

    Joon: It’s funny for you to assert that screenwriters are not famous as a general category – indeed they are not usually, though I like John Farmer’s list. Jean Shepherd was an example of an unusual case, as his film is autobiographical, a memoir of his childhood (so he was the story, not just the writer). He was famous to the general public, not particularly to film buffs, and had little to do with the old argument about who is more responsible for the quality of a film, the director or the screenwriter. You don’t have to start studying lists of screenwriters for puzzles on account of Jean Shepherd.

    I do remember your moderate remarks of a few months ago that one person’s gimme is another person’s Natick, or something to that effect. Your recent NYT Wednesday left me with the most blanks I’d had in weeks of Wednesdays. So please allow everyone the pleasure of having their specialties catered to sometimes. I agree, though, with your main point – only very famous people’s names should cross unchecked letters, or no proper nouns at all in that position.

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