Tuesday, 8/9/11

Jonesin' 3:51 
NYT 2:53 
LAT 2:50 
CS 4:32 (Sam) 

Tony Orbach’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 8 9 11

Three (semi-)famous “THE {adjective} {food}” phrases are clued as themselves and with reference to their soup potential. Charlie Brown’s Godot figure, THE GREAT PUMPKIN, would make a lovely autumnal potage. THE FUNKY CHICKEN is a ’70s dance but would make for a foul soup. I had no idea that THE FLYING TOMATO was redhead Shaun White’s nickname, but my kid knows that; who doesn’t like tomato soup? I’d rather the soup not be FLYING, though. Think of the clean-up.

Highlights:

  • TAKE IT EASY, FALLS FOR, HYPNOTIC, and I BELIEVE SO are all great answers in the longish department.

I didn’t know MAIA was [One of the Pleiades]. Turns out the Pleiades aren’t just an astronomy thing (a star cluster), but also the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Orion chased them all until Zeus turned them into stars. See? That’s so typical. It’s like telling women to stay off the street after midnight. Why didn’t Zeus just zap Orion away and leave the Pleiades where they were? (And is it just me or is that a tough 1-Across for a Tuesday puzzle?)

Speaking of soup, do you like alphabet soup? This puzzle has A.T.M.’S, ATV, ISBN, AABA, TWO-D, LSAT, TCM, I.S.P.’S, UIES, and A.S.A.’S.

3.33 stars.

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 8 9 11

(Sorry, Neville fans—Neville is taking a break from blogging this week while he relocates to the Bluegrass State for graduate school. You’re stuck with Amy.)

The revealer answer certainly provides a rationale for the theme, but it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily a “thing” unto itself. You’ll probably all tell me I’m wrong and it’s completely “in the language.”

  • 60a. You’ve got CASH UP FRONT, clued as [Seller's assurance of payment, and a hint to what the last words of the answers to starred clues can have in common]. Thus, the other four theme answers end with words that can fill in familiar “cash __” phrases.
  • 18a. [*Duplicator in an office] is a COPY MACHINE. It took me years to switch from saying “cash machine” to “ATM.”
  • 24a. [*Great Chicago Fire scapegoat] is MRS. O’LEARY’S COW. Didn’t turn out to be much of a cash cow, did she?
  • 39a. [*Classic chocolate treat] is a MARS BAR. I psychically bought a Snickers Almond bar (what used to be labeled a Mars bar in the U.S.) this morning. A cash bar will cost you, whereas an open bar will serve you free drinks.
  • 49a. [*Take a path of least resistance] clues GO WITH THE FLOW, and who doesn’t need some cash flow?

SOCIAL REGISTER is 14 letters long, which wouldn’t fit in this grid layout—can’t go in the middle because it’s got an even number of letters, doesn’t have a mate to balance it on opposite sides.

Highlights:

  • 1d. A QUALM is an [Uneasy feeling].
  • 11d. SHIPWRECK is a great answer, clued as a [Marine salvage crew's job]. Not a lot of words with a PWR in the middle.
  • 37d. AARGH! ["I can't believe this!"]—I like how AARGH crosses GRR.

Proper names in the puzzle include brand name REDDI-Wip, BUSTA Rhymes, LAILA Ali (clued as [Former boxer Ali], so I guess she’s retired from the sport), AKRON, ARSENE, CCR, MIA, STOLI vodka, FT. LEE, BASRA, DES Moines, a BUC, EDDAS, Vikki CARR, Warren SAPP, [Red Sox pitcher Jon] LESTER (who?), Bret HARTE, and LANA Turner. Eighteen! That’s kind of a lot. TAUR-, AGAR, EXO-, DEP., and -URE also don’t bring the fun.

Three stars. The fill didn’t do much for me, but MRS. O’LEARY’S COW buys you a lot of goodwill. How awesome is that answer, I ask you?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Orcs Are Here”

Jonesin' crossword answers, "Orcs Are Here"

You know what rhymes with “orc”? Matt does:

  • 20a. [Sci-fi geek who loves a "Deep Space Nine" alien and a Robin Williams sitcom?] = QUARK/MORK DORK. I wouldn’t have clued the QUARK part that way because…Quark? That’s a Trekkie character name?
  • 40a. [Icelandic singer's silverware-twisting stat?] = BJORK’S FORK TORQUE.
  • 56a. [What a baby-delivering bird uses to store meat in bottles?] = STORK PORK CORK. The idea of corking a bottle of pork is so gross.

The Monkees’ Peter Tork is deeply saddened to have missed playing a role in this theme.

Highlights:

  • 10d. KAFKAESQUE means [Bizarre and nightmarish]. Slam-bang great word, super Scrabbly.
  • 38d. SKYY VODKA is a Scrabbly [Spirit in a dark blue bottle].
  • The USA/USSR crossing at 62d/62a is cute.
  • 64a. [Lickable animal] is a hallucinogenic clue for a TOAD.
  • Brr! The top of the grid’s got ICE, HAIL, and HOAR.

The names in this puzzle tend to be the sort that can only be clued with reference to one person. SHAW, EDDIE (excuse me, [Fashionable Bauer]? Fashionable??), and ALEX have some options (not only are there many ALEXes to choose from, but there’s the new tidbit that Trebek sleeps in the nude), but ERIQ La Salle, MEKHI Phifer, EARTHA Kitt, Michael STIPE (his last name is also a mushroom or fern stem), ODIE, Scott BAKULA, Isabelle ADJANI, and Yaphet KOTTO are pretty much all one-offs. Not to mention 45a: KULA [___ Shaker (band with the 1996 hit "Govinda")]. Who?? (Props for crossing KULA and BAKULA, though.)

Not crazy about partial entries, of course, but IN DUE [__ time (soon)] is better than cluing INDUE as a variant spelling of endue. ONE TO and BAD TO just kinda sit there, though.

Three stars because the redeeming features KAFKAESQUE and SKYY VODKA nudge the rating up.

Updated Tuesday morning:

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

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 9

69-Across, tucked down there in the southwest corner, tells us that RYE is the [Bread "broken" in the five longest entries]. That’s because these two-word entries have the letter sequence R-Y-E spanning between the words. Check it out:

  • 17-Across: I’ve heard of a SLIPPERY ELM, but that’s about all I know about it. I certainly didn’t know that [Its bark is used as an herbal supplement].  I wonder if its taste has slight hints of oak.
  • 24-Across: The [Part of Mazda cars since 1967] is a ROTARY ENGINE. Not the juiciest of theme entries, but it certainly fits.
  • 39-Across: [First round of voting] is an apt description of a PRIMARY ELECTION.
  • 51-Across: For those still on a lunar calendar, [January 31 to December 31] is the new CALENDAR YEAR.
  • 62-Across: The [Traffic light color] is AMBER YELLOW. You know, amber yellow, as opposed to amber green, amber white, or amber red.

I like how the RYE breaks between the Y and the E in the three top entries and between the R and the Y in the bottom two entries. The title gives away the hidden word gimmick, but after getting the first theme entry I thought perhaps we would see a different kind of bread broken in the others. When you think about it, though, finding a common expression containing SOURDOUGH, PUMPERNICKEL, or CIABATTA would be a tall order.

Have you seen this lady's marble rye?

This puzzle had some stuff I really liked, some stuff I really didn’t like, and some stuff that just seemed peculiar. Rather than cover them in that order, though, let’s start with the peculiar. First, I’m probably as big as Star Wars fan as there in the crossword-solving community, and yet I think Lando CALRISSIAN is a bit too obscure for a mainstream puzzle that tilts to the easy (light?) side. Second, while I get that Hamel wanted two consecutive clues with Star Wars references, it felt a little forced. [Many a "Star Wars" character] is just not the kind of clue for ALIEN that one would expect had there been no reference to the film in the preceding clue.

On the stuff I liked side, there were some really clever clues, like [Word from a con] for NAY and [Beefalo or Prius], a great clue for HYRBID that emphasizes multiple examples of hybrids. And [Impolite sounding cross?] may be about the best way to keep ROOD from standing out as ultra-awkward. My favorite fill entries were REEGE, the [Morning talk show host, to fans], and IGNATZ,the [Mouse in "Krazy Kat]. Have I ever seen Krazy Kat? Nope. Would I know Krazy Kat if it introduced itself at my doorstep? No, but that probably means I need to listen more carefully. But since I know IGNATZ as a funny synonym for “silly,” I was able to knock this one down with just a few key crossings.

As for what I didn’t like, I can tolerate a famous author’s initials as a legitimate entry (especially where the initials are often used in lieu of the author’s name, like GBS for Shaw). But to have both RLS and EBW in the same grid feels more cheap than clever. Finally, I question the value of SEMANA, the [Week, in Mexico] in the grid. We’re told that foreign words are fine as long as they are either very common even to those who don’t speak the language (ADIOS, OUI) or close enough to their English equivalents to be gettable (OFICINA for “office”). It doesn’t seem to me like SEMANA fits the bill here, even though I had no problems with it thanks to four years of high school and college Spanish.

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28 Responses to Tuesday, 8/9/11

  1. Todd G says:

    I give Matt’s orc-word puzzle three Croonchy Stars. Bork! Bork! Bork!

    See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9YnPlQScpI for an explanation.

  2. Southern Belle says:

    “yall” is singular.

    “all yall” is plural.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    But “Quark” rhymes with “park”. At least, that’s how Quark, Sisko and most others pronounced it. I do recall that Odo rhymed it with “pork”, though.

    [Fast food utensil specially made for a geeky Brit?] YORK DORK SPORK?

  4. pannonica says:

    Björk is (properly) pronounced with a schwa sound, roughly speaking.

  5. Kvon says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with Southern Belle, ya’ll. You is singular; ya’ll, you all, you guys are plural. And yes, I put my apostrophe in the wrong place routinely.

    Diana Wynne Jones wrote a novella about the Pleiades, The Game.

  6. John E says:

    Laughed at the funky chicken clue, but hey, I’m easily amused.

    BIALY pretty much did me in, as without it I couldn’t get SONG or SING out of 33D.

  7. pfeiring says:

    Where’s Janie’s puzzle?

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I know, right? The Daily Janie Puzzle.

  9. Gareth says:

    NYT: I found this theme a whole lot of fun, and only a few of the answers that irked you seem to irk me: the rhyme scheme, ESCE and to an extent MAIA and TOD. Didn’t notice ASAS but now you point it out it is ugly! I knew the Lake from Piers Anthony’s Xanth books, whose fantasy land is based on Florida geography, only tortured by puns: in this case it became Lake Ogre-Chobee.

    LAT: IMO “completely ‘in the language’”. You told yourself so! Filling here bugged me more than it did in the NYT. Esp. the top-left, which could have been filled cleanly at the expense of that darned Q!

  10. Sam Donaldson says:

    Kafka’s favorite cheese was gorgonzola. Just sayin’.

  11. janie says:

    >Where’s Janie’s puzzle?

    lol!

    i cede that distinction to tony!! ;-)

    yeah. there are more of my submissions with the editors — but the competition bein’ what it is, i’m not bankin’ on any rapid acceptances. even then — there are very few UIES when it comes to publication!

    “well” (as the song goes), “maybe next year…”

    ;-)

  12. lexicon fan says:

    The argument about the spelling, apostrophizing, pronounciation, and/or meaning of the southern variations of “you” and “you all” will not be solved here. However, I can state from experience that Southern Belle’s interpretation is common in the south.

  13. Jan (danjan) says:

    Janie – thanks for coming over so I could meet you at LP4! Wish we had had more time to talk – see you at the next ACPT. Hope to see your puzzles soon!

  14. Zach says:

    I just moved to DC a month ago and got a subscription to the Post recently. I’ve been working the CS crosswords almost every day and enjoyed most of them. I enjoy the daily commentary here (plus a place for some help when I get stuck but don’t want to wait for the next morning’s paper). Thanks!

    That being said, today’s puzzle was probably my least favorite so far. I admit to being a relative novice, and being young (23) I tend to struggle most with pop culture references from before my time.

    I did alright on the Calrissian clue (although I admit I had to check the spelling on wikipedia) but a few clues totally stumped me. 51-down [Basketballer] totally lost me, as did 37-down [One-third of a war film] and 36 across [sparkling Italian wine] (I could only come up with prosecco, which obviously didn’t fit, and cava, which I knew was spanish). The initials clues were rough, and I’ll admit to not knowing Dickens’ novels very well.

    Don’t know why I felt the need to rant about it today, but anyway thanks for providing a place for commentary. I don’t have many friends who are very interested in these, so it’s fun to have a place to see people talk about them

  15. joon says:

    welcome zach. keep at it! you’ll find that ASTI is a frequent repeater in crosswords, so it’s well worth committing to memory. “cager” is very old-timey slang for basketballer, and also shows up often in crosswords—though almost always in a clue rather than an answer, e.g. {Dallas cager} for MAV. (similarly, “gridder” is used for football player.) and TORA is a reference to the 1970 film tora! tora! tora!, about the attack on pearl harbor. definitely from before your (or my) time, but it seems to have legs.

    as for authors’ initials, the good news is twofold: one, these clues aren’t very common. i don’t believe i’ve ever seen two in the same grid before, and sam correctly points it out as a flaw in the puzzle. and two, there are only a very small handful of authors who get the monogram treatment in the grid: thomas stearns eliot, edgar allan poe, robert louis stevenson, and george bernard shaw are by far the most common. ralph waldo emerson has come up a few times. not sure i’ve seen EB white before (and off the top of my head, i don’t remember what EB stands for).

    in general, most of the monogram clues will be about US presidents, actually. JFK, FDR, and LBJ are easy because that’s actually how people refer to those presidents (but can also be tricky, because that means the clue doesn’t necessarily need to indicate an abbreviation). but HST, DDE, and RMN come up from time to time (actually more than that in DDE’s case), and i’ve seen RWR, GHWB, GWB, and BHO. i’ve never run into GRF, JEC, WJC, or any of the pre-FDR presidents. maybe JQA once in a blue moon, as a cheap way of sneaking two scrabbly letters into the grid?

  16. Zach says:

    Thanks joon, great tips. I’ve found one of the hardest things about getting better at these is actually forcing myself to commit things from them to memory, rather than going “oh dang, I didn’t know that” and moving on without trying to put it away for future use.

    Cager. Good to know. Gridder I might have been able to figure out, but Cager was a new one.

  17. pannonica says:

    Zach: Just echoing joon’s on-the-mark comments. For that basic crosswordese, the learning curve is fairly rapid.

    Another tip that occurred to me in context: DDE’s purview during WWII was the ETO (European Theater of Operations); that comes up a lot. Oh! also EDO was the old name for Tokyo…you see how it goes.

  18. Matt J. says:

    Todd G, you got my original intent!

  19. Sam Donaldson says:

    Another (now belated) welcome, Zach! As someone who would rather drink diesel fuel than most wines, ASTI was something that came slowly to me over time.

    CAGER was no problem for me because I was on the staff of my high school newspaper, and our adviser made us learn all the nicknames for athletes so we could write shorter, crisper headlines. So CAGER = basketball player, GRIDDER = football player, HARRIER = cross-country runner, and GRAPPLER = wrestler. (I got in trouble for pointing out that GRAPPLER was just as long as wrestler. I think my adviser just liked the imagery.)

  20. John Haber says:

    I think in NY not knowing what a bialy is could have dire consequences. Anyhow, I didn’t care for the puzzle, as the second two of three theme entries, long enough to take a lot of the fill, were for me hardly famous.

  21. Jan (danjan) says:

    Zach – I’ll add my welcome! I thought of another term that has to be as old as cagers: Old lab burner = ETNA. I took chemistry in the early 70s, and have only run into this in crossword puzzles.
    Amy, our favorite hostess and crosswordfiend, has written a wonderful book that will get you up to speed on all of this crosswordese (see top right of this page). By March, you’ll be ready for the ACPT in Brooklyn and then Lollapuzzoola next August!

  22. Tuning Spork says:

    Zach (and anybody else who didn’t attend the most recent ACPT), I recommend Roz Chast’s address to the troops just prior to the awards presentation:

    http://www.crosswordtournament.com/articles/nyer032311.htm

  23. Lois says:

    John Haber, That’s funny. It’s the first one of the theme answers that I never heard of in my life. I preferred the short fill today; I don’t cook. I love bialys and TCM, though, and I love figuring out the easier foreign language stuff. Now I’ll know how to spell Venice in German.

  24. Bruce G. says:

    I enjoy coming to this site to learn additional tricks and tips for solving. Seems as if this site is much more accepting of newbies, novices and those of us who still actually use the printed newspaper to solve than another popular blog. Just one question, though, is there an iPhone application for this site? Thanks much.

  25. Sam Donaldson says:

    Following up on Joon’s observation regarding presidential monograms, I recall seeing GRF in a grid before. The Cruciverb database confirms it was used in a July 11, 2008, WSJ puzzle by some guys named Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer. I looked up the puzzle and actually remembered the theme–I liked it a lot.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce G., there’s not a Crossword Fiend app but if you scroll to the bottom of the blog on your phone, you should find an on/off toggle switch labeled “Mobile Theme.” Flip that to ON and you’ll get a phone-friendly version of the site.

  27. Gareth says:

    amy: I don’t see it on my phone. But that’s fine, because it displays close to perfectly (the stars are too fancy for it!)

  28. Zach says:

    Thanks for all the warm welcomes, all. Look forward to learning quickly!

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