Friday, 8/5/11

NYT 7:23 
LAT 4:10 
CS 6:31 (Sam – paper) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed 

Barry “Where’s My Middle Initial?” Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 8 5 11 0805

Hmm, this is the second recent puzzle byline that dropped a constructor’s customary middle name/initial. Who is messing with puzzle-makers’ brand identities? People are quite attached to their preferred name, you know.

I’m sleepy so I’m going to go random here:

FORT MCHENRY is star-shaped? NO-TELL MOTEL is great. The word SKULKS is great—with the SK-, I figured it had Scandinavian roots, but what I did not know is that the word has been with us since the Middle English era. Surprised that Cicero’s servant TIRO is so unfamiliar to me; with letters like that, he’d be in crosswords all the time if he were more famous. “I AM WOMAN,” hear me roar, and don’t mess with me. NEAPS is not a pretty plural, is it? Who was just complaining about PC LAB being an outmoded term? I wanted [Natal setting] to be something uterine or vaginal or nursery-related, but it’s SOUTH AFRICA.

Moving from Acrosses to Downs, I love a good RAT FINK. This household does enjoy The Deadliest Catch, but I needed some crossings to narrow down the type of crab to SNOW CRAB. SENARY?!? That’s a word? Meaning [Based on the number six]?? It’s new to me. Good gravy, it’s an unhelpful “Olaf clue”: [King surnamed Tryggvason] clues OLAF I. Just say [Norwegian king] and we’ll know it’s OLAF or OLAV (check your crossings, people), with an optional Roman numeral tacked on if it’s more than a 4-letter entry.

3.75 stars.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 5 11

Who doesn’t like growing puns in an herb garden? Gareth reworks four phrases by swapping in sound-alike (or sound-similar) herb names for other words:

  • 17a. [Means of turning an herb into energy?] is BASIL METABOLISM. A pun based on basal metabolism? Gareth is unrepentantly sciency.
  • 29a. [Herb lovers' chat organized by Sarah Palin?] is folksy CHIVE TALKIN’. That’s as good a way as any to signal the -in’ ending found in “Jive Talkin’.” Fox News commentator + Bee Gees = win. The clue should’ve omitted Palin’s first name, though, as SARAH is in the grid as 27d.
  • 47a. [Herb eaten with a nightcap?] is THYME FOR BED. Wow, Google tells me there are a lot of B&B’s and inns that play on the thyme/time thing.
  • 63a. [Remark on another encounter with an herb?] is “DILL, WE MEET AGAIN.” Like jive -> CHIVE, this one gently alters the initial consonant sound.

I don’t know who 2d: SIAN [Phillips of "I, Claudius"] is, but I’ve seen that first name spelling before. I might’ve guessed it was a male name, but Siân Phillips is a Welsh actress. She and her ex, actor Peter O’Toole, have two grown kids.

Good stuff:

  • 9d. Favorite clue: A [Single white male who likes the cold?] is a SNOWMAN.
  • 1d. Second favorite clue: [They may be chocolate] for LABS, the dogs.
  • Three cool entries, starting with 35a. ["The Gods Must Be Crazy" setting] is the KALAHARI Desert. Have you been there, Gareth? Have you neutered a rhinoceros there?
  • 4d. [Discuss business, in a way] clues DO LUNCH. I much prefer a social DOing of LUNCH, but I’ll take it in the crossword any way.
  • 46d. [Flake] clues ODDBALL.
  • And I like the adjacent goddesses: 10d: HEL, the [Norse underworld goddess], and 11d: ISIS, the Egyptian [Goddess with cow's horns]. HEL by herself in the grid = meh. As part of a gathering of goddesses, much cooler.

4.25 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Revolving Bodies” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 5

AS THE WORLD TURNS, the [Soap opera that ran for 54 years], may be gone but it is not forgotten.  Today, Hartman uses the soap’s title as [a hint to 17-, 25-, and 43-Across].  That’s because each of those entries turns (anagrams) a synonym for world, with wacky clues to match:

  • 17-Across: The [Typewriter roller for gorillas?] is PLATEN OF THE APES, a play on the sci-fi classic, Planet of the Apes, that rearranges the letters in PLANET to form PLATEN.  Here’s where my days as a typing teacher for a community education program really pay off.  Yes, I’m that old.
  • 25-Across: [Comedian George, in his senior years?] is GOLDEN GOBEL, a play on the Golden Globe award.  Okay, I’m old but maybe not that old, because I don’t remember George Gobel having anything but senior years.  My memory of him ties almost entirely to his appearances on the Peter Marshall version of the Hollywood Squares. One website credits Gobel with having this snappy answer to the question, True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years:  “Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.”  That’s comic gold, so to speak.
  • 43-Across: [One who despises search engines?] would be a GOOGLE HATER (an anagram of the orbiting orb in Google Earth) and would presumably have something against Bing, Yahoo, and more too.

George Gobel on "The Hollywood Squares"

I like that the two Texas cities in the fill, WACO and EL PASO have parallel clues: [Home of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum] for the former and [Home of the National Border Patrol Museum] for the latter.  My favorite clue, though was [Siamese cat?] for a THAI.  I dig it, man!

The only really troublesome entries for me were ASIA and RIFF.  ASIA was slow to fall because I’ve never heard of the thingie referenced in the clue, [Home of the Kara Kum].  The Kara Kum (also spelled as Karakum on many websites) is a desert in Turkmenistan.  For the record, I’ve typed and erased five jokes here, none of which are appropriate for a TV-PG crossword blog.  RIFF was a problem because the clue, [Trump], sent me down a number of paths–trump cards, Donald Trump, trumped-out charges, the works.  And I confess I still don’t quite understand the clue.  Anyone?

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dog Days”

WSJ crossword answers, 8 5 11 "Dog Days"

The dog days are typically found in August, though July really gave August a run for the “oh, man, is it hot” money. Mike adds a CUR to the start of seven phrases, thereby changing their focus:

  • 22a. [Airship wrapped around its mooring mast?] is a CURLED ZEPPELIN. When’s the last time you saw Led Zeppelin as the base of a little wordplay?
  • 32a. [Joining others in swearing sprees?] clues CURSING ALONG. My friend Jodi’s kid just complained that it would be better if people didn’t swear because there are too many curse words to remember. Clearly, the child just needs a set of flash cards.
  • 45a. [Only thing that should be on a pitcher's mind?] is the CURRENT STRIKE. Did you notice that the U crosses 46d: [Decision maker at home], UMPIRE?
  • 64a. [TV tryouts that have the fewest lines of dialogue?] are the CURTEST PILOTS.
  • 76a. [One with just a touch of mal de mer, say?] is a CURABLE SEAMAN.
  • 91a. Tailgates gets split in two for CURTAIL GATES, or [Keep Bill from giving away all of his billions?].
  • 104a. [Two favorite things for a dance-party-loving cassis producer?] are CURRANT AND RAVE. I think this one would read a hair better in the plural, CURRANTS AND RAVES. It is hard to love a single wee currant.

I like the general openness of the grid, with a fair amount of white space and tons of flow between sections.

Highlights:

  • I like the bulls and bears combo. 41a: [Bear, maybe] is a SELLER on the stock market. (Lotta those this week.) But 65d: [Like some bulls] heads in the PAPAL direction, not to Wall Street.
  • HYDROGEN and HELIUM rock the periodic table.. 6d: [First item on a certain table] is the former, 55d: [Contents of party store tanks] the latter.
  • 74a. [Musical Mars] is current hitmaker BRUNO Mars. His “Grenade” was inescapable this spring (my son requests the top-40 station in the car). I love the video.
  • 1a. [Laugh from Beavis] is “HEH, HEH.” Didn’t I hear that Beavid and Butthead are coming back?
  • 54a. [Defect] is a verb here, not the noun I took it as. JUMP SHIP is a terrific entry.

I was mildly surprised to see DOG ACTS (82d. [Performances by barkers]) in the grid when dog is in the puzzle’s title.

4.5 stars. The theme is eminently serviceable and has a cute tie-in with the month of August. Mighty smooth work throughout the grid (as you would expect from the constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley calls one of the “crossword Jesuses”).

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24 Responses to Friday, 8/5/11

  1. Al Sanders says:

    I recently watched “I, Claudius” and Sian Phillips was deliciously evil as Livia. As unashamedly manipulative of a character as you’ll ever see. I’ve often wondered if the producers of “The Sopranos” named Tony’s mother Livia in homage to Sian Phillips’ portrayal. NYT fell pretty smoothly for me today. I was pretty sure of 1A and filled it in with only a couple of crossings and it all flowed from there. I leave for NY in the morning, hope to see some of you at LP4!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I’m not sure why you added a comma in your rendering of “DILL WE MEET AGAIN”, as I like it better as a punny variant of ” ‘Til we meet again” — see also ‘TIS at 50A. Good fun anyway, Gareth!

    Barry’s was harder, since I wanted 17A to start with MOTEL and found it went at the end, in the end. Roman TIRO was a surprise but gettable, even though I may have confused him with Tiresius of the Greeks. “Festive cry” wanted to be EVOE too, but it didn’t fit. LOL at OH OH OH, what a gal. (And I hate the adjective “eponymous” with a name, viz. – or namely — the Isle of LESBOS.) ∑;)

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    I am shocked — shocked, I tells ya — at the repeat of “Sarah” in the LAT. (Actually, I am pretty surprised.)

    And, in the NYT, I’m with ArtLvr on the somewhat frequent questionable use of “eponymous”. The Beatles’ “white album” is an eponymous album because it’s titled “The Beatles”. Donald Trump created eponymous entities like Trump Tower and the Trump Shuttle. Impressive for a guy who doesn’t know how to eat pizza. Cluing LESBOS as [Eponymous Greek island] seems way off since the god Lesbos is never refered to, however obliquely. I mean, the island isn’t named after itself, is it? Cluing it as [Greek god's eponymous island] would have been the way to go, imo.

  4. Matt says:

    NYT was rather tough for me, particularly the northern area, but a good puzzle overall– with a couple of snags. I agree with everybody above about ‘eponymous’, and 19A– ‘ARF’? What’s that about? Also, some years ago, I tried reading one of ERLE Gardner’s Perry Mason novels. FYI, it stank. It was really awful, badly written.

  5. bob stigger says:

    Maybe Mr. Silk prefers it without the middle initial. I’ve had to beg editors to change they way they present my name — only one ever asked. Bob

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It would be weird if Barry’s published a zillion puzzles in multiple venues with his middle initial in the byline and it took until now for him to ask for it to vanish.

  7. pannonica says:

    I think there’s a case for eponymous being used to describe the nature of a relationship and not simply the direction, or causality, of the relationship. In this sense it may be mimicking the usage of “namesake.” Even so, I too find it less than intuitive to interpret either word treating the supposed antecedent as the object.

    ArtLvr: That’s Tiresias, since he was Greek. And mythological, not historical, but far be it from me to question the idiosyncratic connections other people make between names or concepts; I’m notorious for inscrutable, tortuous and tenuous ones myself.

  8. Lois says:

    Re the comment about the comma Amy used for the LA Times answer “DILL, WE MEET AGAIN” to the clue “Remark on another encounter with an herb?,” the comma is correct for the answer to the clue. Of course there would be no comma in the common phrase alluded to.

  9. Howard B says:

    As today’s commentary on eponyms is too (enjoyably) erudite for me to add anything intelligent, I’ll just state that I loved the upper-left of Barry’s Times puzzle. Fort McHenry, on top of a potato, on top of the no-tell motel, is so far beyond bizarre that it’s just perfect for the artistic randomness of a crossword.

  10. Sam S says:

    It’s RUFF not Riff. A bridge term. I believe to ruff is to play a trump card.

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    Well that would explain it now, huh? Thanks, Sam!

  12. Jeffrey says:

    George Gobel had a classic moment on the Tonight Show when he had to follow Bob Hope and Dean Martin.

  13. sbmanion says:

    Great link, Jeffrey.

    Here’s a link on RUFFING:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruff_(cards)

    To ruff is to play a trump card when a suit other than the trump suit is led. In all trump games, the highest trump always wins if there is a trump in play. If someone leads the ace of diamonds and spades is trump (by the way should that be is or are?), a player with no diamonds could ruff the diamond ace with a low spade and win the trick.

    There are three types of games in which a player can ruff: in bridge, ruffing is optional. A player with no diamonds in the above example can either ruff or discard; in pinochle, the player must ruff if he has no diamonds, but does have spades; in pitch, my all-time favorite game, the player can ruff even if he has diamonds.

    Steve

  14. Martin says:

    Speaking of dropping byline initials, I’m reminded of the time way back in 1998 (at the ACPT) when BEQ and myself collaborated on a NYT 15×15… for the sole purpose of seeing if Will could fit both of our full names under the puzzle! (he did, BTW).

    Martin Ashwood-Smith

  15. jamie says:

    I’m sure there a gazillion grammar experts here, so please answer sbmanion’s question: If … spades is trump (by the way should that be is or are?)

    I think it has to be spades ARE trump, but my ear is usually off on these things. I mean, spades is a suit. I still can’t hear “diamonds is trump.” Although I’ll bet the Donald can.

    Lotsa luck to the LP contestants tomorrow.

  16. jamie says:

    @Martin Ashwood-Smith: Ha! How do you fit Brendan Emmet Quigley, Martin Ashwood-Smith, and Will Shortz into a byline? No, this isn’t a dirty joke. Link??

  17. Jeffrey says:

    Martin and Brendan’s puzzle is January 8, 1999.

    Record later beaten by Ashish Vengsarkar & Narayan Venkatasubramanyan on December 6, 2008.

    Xword info solution links:

    http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=1/8/1999
    http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=12/6/2008

  18. sbmanion says:

    jamie,

    I was also hoping for a more definitive response from one of our mavens on the trump issue. I am by no means certain, but I think the better answer is “Spades is trump” notwithstanding that Google has 29,000 hits for “spades are trump” and only 2,900 for “spades is trump.” Many of the “are” group are preceded by the word “all” as in “all spades are trump,” which would tend to undermine the Google-ites who use occurrences on Google as the ultimate authority.

    The reason that I think “spades is trump” is better is that the Google query “what is trump?” bridge has 45,000 hits and “what are trump” has only 5 hits.

    Spades as a suit is singular imho and if the question is “what is trump?”, shouldn’t the answer also use “is”?

    Steve

  19. Tuning Spork says:

    @ sbmanion & jamie

    I’d say that the usage of “is” vs. “are” depends on the context, and that context is what you’ve got in your mind’s eye when you say it.

    For instance, if you’re announcing that the suit “spades” is the trump suit then you’d say “spades (singular) is trump”. But, if you’re playing a low spade against the ace of diamonds, you’d more likely be thinking that the 13 spades in the deck are the trump cards and you’d say that “(all) spades (plural) are trump”.

    But, I’m not a bridge player. Is “trump” a verb, a noun, or both depending on context? Would the spades be 13 (potential) trumps? If so, then the choices would be “spades is trump” and “(all) spades are trumps”.

    Anyway, I remember discussing this with my friends when we were teenagers. Is it “The Beatles is my favorite group” and/or “Led Zeppelin are my favorite group”? It felt more natural to say “The Beatles are” and “Led Zeppelin is” because of the plural vs. singular nature of the names, even though they’re both one group (made up of four members) and, arguably, should be treated in exactly the same way. We never did resolve the issue.

  20. John Haber says:

    On a suit, RHUD allows both. Used as singular or plural noun, it says, although the example given is singular: spades is trump. MW as “plural but singular or plural in construction.” I’d have sworn I’d always said “are” over the years and not had this disproved by bridge columns in the paper.

    Both RHUD and MW11 allows “eponym” to work both ways, as the source of a name or the thing named. RHUD then allows “eponymous” to work only one way, as ArtLvr prefers, but MW11 defines it simply as related to an eponym and thus implicitly working both ways.

    I got side tracked in a few places and was puzzled at SNOW _ and S_AN in Persian for a while, but it fell.

  21. Gareth says:

    The top-left of today’s NYT killed me. Trio of American-ese = Gareth’s Waterloo. FTMCHENRY is quite a consonant pile-up! Great 1A, even if I ain’t heard of it! I had BIRTHOFFICE for SOUTHAFRICA with F_IC_ in place.

    Re my puzzle: Really appreciated most of Rich Norris’ furbeloughs (consults dictionary… I’m mean furbelows. Getting mixed up with furlough!) Also, quite a few of my clues I was attached to made it through. One exception was “Twenty-digit figure” for SKELETON; but people seem to like Rich Norris’ just fine! My version had CHIVETALKIN’ as a rather dry “Chef’s herb-based cant?” BTW. Oh, and no Amy never been to the Kalahari, or castrated any rhinos anywhere. Only ever castrated a dog and a half a cat.

  22. Jan says:

    I came here to learn why “Siamese cat” would be THAI, only to read that it’s Sam’s favorite clue. Oy.

    Can someone enlighten me?

  23. pannonica says:

    Jan, the kingdom of Siam was renamed “Thailand” in 1939. There was a brief period in the Forties when it went back to Siam, but it’s back to Thailand now.

  24. Jan Hunt says:

    Ooh, how did I not see that? Thanks for explaining!

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