Thursday, 8/25/11

NYT 5:05 
LAT 4:30 (Neville) 
CS 15:20 (Sam – paper) 
Tausig 6:58 (pannonica) 
BEQ tba (?)

Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 8 25 11 0825

I tell you, it’s very hard to get reliable substitutes to cover for you during vacation. Do you think the pay ($0) has anything to do with that?

But seriously, big thanks to pannonica, Jeffrey, Sam, Neville, and Joon for all the blogging while I’ve been Out of the Country. I’m still up in the Great White Diverse North, enjoying such things as thunderstorms with tornados in the vicinity and earthquakes whilst 1100 feet up in the CN Tower. And here I thought Canada was a sleepy  little big place where not much happens. Who knew?

Anyway! Crossword. 6-Across tips you off to the FOOD pyramid represented by the triangular pile-ups of SOUR CREAM, SNOWCONES, COBB SALAD, and a SWEET ROLL. Yes, those are indeed the four major food groups depicted on the old USDA food pyramid. I do wonder if this puzzle has been in the hopper for a while, as the pyramid was replaced by a food plate this summer. Aside from the answers that contribute building blocks to the food pyramid answers, this is essentially a themeless grid, right? If it  isn’t, then I am too pooped to pick up on the extra theme layer.

I bet you a dollar that Francis and Patrick originally clued NEW EDITION with the musical group rather than as a generic noun.

Other foody bits in the puzzle: Almond ROCA, yum! The SWISS BANK above the SWEET ROLL puts me in mind of Swiss rolls. ICKES! Such DRECK! Musical SONATINAS remind me of the mysterious cocktail Deb Amlen and I joke about, the sonatini. LESS SALT is always good, and don’t people say “If blah-blah-blah, I’ll eat my SHOE”? (Or is that just the edible hat?)

Like the puzzle overall, but can’t help feeling I’m missing something. Could do without RYAS (which come in handy in Scrabble and Lexulous sometimes), DIPL, and A WAR. Also, there are a ton of proper nouns in the grid, not all of them equally distinguished.

3.5 stars.

My esteemed colleagues will be back later with more of the Fiend puzzle party.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword answers 8 25 11

Los Angeles Times crossword answers 8 25 11

Here’s a miniature Wall Street Journal type theme to brighten up your Thursday:

  • 20a. [Chicken, beef, or fish?] – STOCK OPTION
  • 11d. [Shop specializing in Winnie the Pooh merchandise?] – BEAR MARKET
  • 29d. [Money set aside for garden mazes?] – HEDGE FUNDS
  • 58a. [Expensive bottle of wine?] – LIQUID ASSET

I found this theme to be rather well executed. After the first theme entry, I was able to get the remaining theme entries off the clues alone. Were you as successful? Because of this, it was a pretty easy Thursday puzzle for me. One small nitpick: I feel like we usually see LIQUID ASSET in the plural, and HEDGE FUNDS would be better in the singular. All in the name of symmetry, right?

Some freebie clues for some long entries:

  • 9d. [Tight braid] is a straightforward clue for CORNROW… shades of the HEDGE FUNDS again.
  • 51a. [Word with crew or key] – SKELETON. Not a gimme, but not Thursday tricky.
  • 5d. [Archie's heartthrob] – EDITH was too short, so it must be VERONICA. I can’t think of Archie et al. without thinking of T Campbell’s Penny & Aggie. (Yes, our T Campbell!)
  • 42d. ["___ with Morrie": Albom best-seller] – TUESDAYS. Are we sure it’s Thursday?

I liked seeing EQUUS in the puzzle, especially as a play reference. Of course, that means I’m stuck with the idea of a naked Daniel Radcliffe in my head for a while… and now you are too. Sorry (unless you’re into that)! The movie trivia for me came from learning that BERGMAN was a [Three-time Oscar winner for best foreign language film].

Favorite clue: [German sub?] for ERSATZ. Doesn’t get much better than that!

EONS and ERAS in the same puzzle doesn’t thrill me, but you have to go with what works. I’ll give it 4.2 stars; I would’ve given it a fraction more had it run on a Tuesday or had the fill cluing been trickier.

Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Intellectual Center” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 25

Boy oh boy did the wheels come off for me on this one! The theme is simple enough, and finding it somewhat early proved helpful in navigating through the rest. As 67-Across explains, NERD is the [Geeky sort found within this puzzle's four longest answers]:

  • 17-Across: A [Remarkable time period] is a BANNER DAY. Though “banner day” seems fine, “banner year” gets three times as many hits on Google. If the theme had been “hidden breads,” then BANNER YEAR would have been the winner.
  • 59-Across: The [Short-legged pet's nickname] is WIENER DOG. This confused me for a while, as I thought this clue was looking for a specific pet name, like how FLUFFY is a [Good name for a poodle]. That and I also thought that “wiener dog” was a valid name for the breed and not just a nickname. Further proof that you don’t have to be especially smart to blog.
  • 10-Down: The [Dark parts of one's persona] may be described vividly as one’s INNER DEMONS. This means every inner demon has an inner nerd. Go figure.
  • 24-Down: The [Social event] is a DINNER DANCE. This one also slowed me down, as I first tried DINNER DATE (doesn’t fit!) then DINNER DATES (bu the clue calls for a single noun and not a plural!). I tried sussing out the last word through crossings, but [Being tracked, maybe] gave me no traction (it turned out to be AT LARGE), and I held on to ROLE as the [Piece in a movie script] (it was LINE) for way too long. Oh, and I managed to convince myself that HOSE had to be the answer to [Water down]. So that whole corner became a self-imposed Gordian knot. Ugh, it hurts to recall it.

My trip through this grid sprung so many traps that it started to sound like Riverdance. In addition to the errors described above, I had AMEND instead of EMEND for [Fix, as text] (rookie flub, I know), ETA instead of ARR for the [JFK info], EATS CROW instead of EATS DIRT for [Humbly accepts blame], AVER instead of AVOW for [Declare openly], and MOPE instead of MOUE for the [Sulky expression]. You can try to convince me it’s good fill until the cows come home, but I just hate MOUE.

But these are my mistakes, and I’ll humbly and happily eat crow, er, I mean, dirt. The grid itself is pretty lovely. Though it had me wondering, “What’s a 1920s term for a ewer?”, I love [20s containers] as a clue for ATMS. I resisted MOOLA as the answer to [Lettuce or cabbage] just because I know it as MOOLAH. But the clue is certainly on the money.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Geez, That’s Fast” — pannonica’s review

Tausig crossword • "Geez, That's Fast" 8/26/11 • answers

How fast? Megahumongogigantofast, that’s how fast. Actually, as the central entry indicates, Tausig is talking about a [Modern type of data network, and this puzzle's theme], which is FOUR-G, aka 4G. The “latest and greatest,” which in technology often implies fastest as well. Each long themer contains four gees. Geez.

  • 17a. [Frozen waffle catchphrase] LEGGO MY EGGO! Or is it a “snatchphrase”? Good to see the full slogan in a grid, as opposed to just EGGO and, tangentially, LEGO.
  • 27a. [Big business at the border] DRUG SMUGGLING. If I were Jeffrey, there’d be a link to that Glenn Frey song here. It’s against my principles to subject anyone to Glenn Frey.
  • 47a. [Autocompleting search aid] GOOGLE SUGGEST. You know what it is, even if you didn’t know what it was called until now. The feature can be helpful, but it can also be funny.
  • 60a. [Nations mentioned in Genesis] GOG AND MAGOG. Now that’s just fun to see and read. Gog and Magog, Gog and Magog, Gog and Magog…

I liked this theme and found the puzzle an enjoyable solve. Can’t quibble with any of the four long themers, which are all “things,” nor with the clues, which are all succinct and—either by coincidence or design—seem to exhibit distinct literary consonance. The single nit, and nitpicking is lately in the air in FiendLand, is that the grid is free of extraneous Gs except for the one at the crossing of GOUGE and GO NO near the center. Wish that could have been avoided.

Some non-thematic long fill keeps the grid lively, including the 11-letter verticals (11d) TRANSGENDER and (24d) RUMMAGE SALE. The former shares its clue [Part of LGBT] with 61d GAY; refreshing to see that neither is abbreviated. Sparkly quartet of seven-letter entries in OBERLIN, NAMASTE, TEE TIME, CASE LAW. Okay, 75% sparkly. Maybe 66%. I mean, I liked them more than I didn’t like them. Also charmed by the symmetrical pairing of QI GONG and GAWAIN; not that they’re related in meaning, but that they look and sound good together.

Least favorite things:

  • LTYR (light year) and LDRS. (leaders). Yicky-looking. GM CORP too.
  • 22a [A vegetariano avoids it] CARNE. Even though “vegetariano” is legit español, it smacks of stereotypical ‘fake’ Spanish, especially with the hybrid language clue.
  • Could do without ANA and -IANA in the same puzzle.

Other things:

  • Contrary to that last complaint, the HARTZ/HERTZ crossing at the Z pleased me.
  • 1a opens the puzzle with the odd-looking THEQ, clued as [Where LeBron used to play, for short]. With no looking, all by my onesies, I infer that the home arena of the Cleveland Cavaliers is informally called “The Q.” Thank you, thank you. I have no guesses for what the Q is in its expanded form.
  • Symmetrical pair TEETH and MA’AMS are a letter-pattern pair as well. May they be called a “cryptogram-pair”?
  • I’m usually not too charitable when it comes to less-than-very-common abbrevs. and acronyms, but I’ll unhesitatingly make an exception for [Doctors Without Borders, abroad] because MSF is such an admirable organization, and also because Médecins Sans Frontières sounds so much better. Everyone should use its official name.

Gotta get going.

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31 Responses to Thursday, 8/25/11

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    Is the applet working for everyone else? I’m getting a blank leader board and no puzzle.

  2. linda murray says:

    It’s all blank for me, too.

  3. Deb Amlen says:

    The New York Times thanks you for your patience. :(

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    Meanwhile, BEQ is yesterday baby-blogged.

  5. john farmer says:

    I realize that not all of us see puzzles the same way. We each are entitled to our own opinion. True. But to a point. As I write this, the Times puzzle has a rating somewhere between 2 and 3. That strikes this solver as the height of undue parsimony. I don’t bother with rating puzzles myself, and I may be missing some of the finer points of parceling out stars, but I do have a question. With all due respect, are you people nuts?

    Here goes with my two cents: this was one of the most original and clever and memorable puzzles that I’ve seen in ages. I loved it.

    Aside from the answers that contribute building blocks to the food pyramid answers, this is essentially a themeless grid, right?

    Isn’t that like saying, “Aside from the theme, this is a themeless, right?” (Aside from the all the sunlight, isn’t the day just like the night?)

    It’s an interesting way to look at it, but in the end the puzzle is simply not a themeless. I agree, the quality of fill for a couple of the answers might not measure up to the quality you’d expect for a very good themeless — but it doesn’t have to: it’s not a themeless. If that is why the puzzle has a subpar rating, it’s like docking a reverse 4½ somersault pike because it’s got a couple of inches of splash more than a forward tuck. The diving world adjusts for degree of difficulty. Why not crosswords? (Yes, this was a difficult grid to fill. Don’t judge by the 40-letter theme count.)

    I thought the puzzle had a terrific theme, wonderfully done, and many other virtues. Not to get into the rating game, but I’d rather see a puzzle like this than nine out of ten of the crosswords that get 4′s and above around here.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I may be with the consensus next time out, but not today. (It’s probably Thursday gimmick puzzles for which I most often see things a different way.)

    One last note: I’m sure the puzzle was submitted long before June, when the USDA switched to its “MyPlate” program, but I don’t think the USDA decision affects the relevance of the theme. A food pyramid is still a food pyramid.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    John Farmer — 2.5 stars for this is completely illogical, you’re right. More like 4.15 territory, if you ask me — doesn’t quite hit the heights these two regularly reside in, but they can’t help being clever even when it’s not 100% right on (why these four foods, if I can nitpick? Why not one from each of the four food groups? I’m nitpicking.)

  7. Tuning Spork says:

    Matt, the four groups are represented. SOUR CREAM for dairy, SWEET ROLLS for grains, COBB SALAD includes both meats and fruits & veggies. So the only one left is the fifth food group: snacks!

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I kinda like a theme in which the theme clues and answers hold some entertainment and challenge. This puzzle was largely missing that aspect, as the theme answers just happened to be lurking within other fill (which is not so say it was easy for the constructors to put them there) and piecing them together was more of a waiting game than a real puzzle.

  9. HH says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the four basic food groups are crust, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni.

  10. pannonica says:

    Sliced meatball.

  11. Howard B says:

    In agreement with John and Matt on this one; and that’s including some dislike in the fill, but the enjoyment of discovering the theme overruled any misgivings on the names, abbrs, etc. I really enjoy original, playful theme ideas. Sometimes you can just feel that the constructor(s) had fun designing and creating a puzzle.

    Like pizza toppings, theme preferences are a very subjective thing. Some like pepperoni, some anchovies, even ham & pineapple works for others. I don’t know what category this theme would fall into, but I know there’s no right or wrong.
    Except for anchovies. That’s seriously disgusting. But I digress, as usual.

  12. pannonica says:

    But I thought we were going to have a food fight?

  13. HH says:

    Am I the only one who likes anchovies?

  14. Zulema says:

    Wonderful! Here is the old fuddy-duddy to point out that DRECK in English would not be allowed in the NYT, let alone pass the Breakfast test, but since it got dragged in in from another language(s), it’s fine with everyone? There is a good standard word for “shoddy stuff” in German (or Yiddish), and it’s BRACK. My late father-in-law would call it “birdcloth.” When he was asked to explain, he would add “cheep-cheep.” End of semi-rant.

  15. Stevens says:

    LAT is the plural of axis, axes as in 14 across
    X,Y and Z , in math?

  16. pannonica says:

    Amy: It isn’t the pay ($0.00) so much as the grossly uneven distribution of financial profit. We, the unionized employees of Fiendco, Inc., resent that you receive 98% of nothing, while we scrabble to divide the remaining 2 percent.

  17. pannonica says:

    Stevens: yis.

  18. John Haber says:

    I’d no strong feeling about the theme, but I did dislike the fill’s leaning on proper names, DIPL., and RYAS. The cluster around the due south took me longest. I could also say that EKCO has become a bit of crosswordese, unexpectedly so given its consonants. Curiously, I hadn’t heard of ROCA and wondered if it was a west-coast product.

    I could also quibble that, at least in my business, a new edition isn’t a reissue. In fact, there’s now a law requiring us to justify a new edition by listing changes in the preface, so customers aren’t scammed by being forced into a higher-priced text (or into buying a new text at all, as opposed to used books).

  19. Gareth says:

    Nice to read from you again, Amy!

    Appreciated the novelty of this NYT, but I can’t see any reason why THESE foods, which bugged me slightly. Fill a bit DRECKy but look at how many words each pyramid affects! Those are the four major food groups? If you say so!

    I too liked the LAT’s theme execution, and overall was a fun, if yes a teensy easy Thursday!

    Zulema: Does that mean I can’t use POPPYCOCK in my next puzzle? (It’s from the Dutch for “soft shit”)

  20. Matt says:

    Zulema’s comment/rant reminded me… I’ve heard that ‘fanny’ (as in 20A) is quite obscene in British English, and certainly not crossword-appropriate. Is this still true?

  21. pannonica says:

    Matt: yes. Strangely enough, the c-word, not so much.

  22. joon says:

    i haven’t commented here in what seems like forever. i liked the food pyramid puzzle and it never occurred to me to ask “why these foods?”. maybe because those are the foods that could be put into a pyramid without resulting in dreadful fill?

    also really enjoyed the tausig. THE Q = quicken loans arena.

  23. Jeff Chen says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT today. Here’s one example of a stunt construction where the amazing nature of the beast (look at how many constraints each pyramid put on the words surrounding it) far exceeded the DIPL, RYAS, BSMT, MASC, etc.

    Plus, the pyramids themselves gave a nice visual bang, whereas I usually groan when I see circles in a puzzle. Love it!

  24. ArtLvr says:

    The Food Pyramid always returns sooner or later, after being shelved for a while… The grid in the LAT has an all-too-accurate downward BEAR MARKET, with visual slide of black squares diagonally at its heart, but hey — it’s very clever and timely too. Sigh! My appetite is definitely on the wane, while a LIQUID ASSET of the potable kind is gaining in appeal.

  25. AV says:

    I have started rating puzzles lately – it started out probably for the same reasons as john farmer mentions (i.e., you see a good puzzle, you see some 2′s and maybe 1′s, and you feel an urge to right the wrong). And yes, this was rated a 4 by me.

    More interestingly, I wonder how many readers get affected by Amy’s rating – maybe a good stat to check!

  26. Gareth says:

    @Matt: I’ve mentioned this before, but the first time I saw FANNY in a puzzle I nearly fell out my chair!

  27. Shteyman says:

    Fun and clever literal take on the food pyramid, but I could also do without DIPL and RYAS (I say this as a solver, of course). CONESTOGA was a cool word (38A). Didn’t know the last name of Michael from “Superbad” (27D), googled him and, oddly, the name of the school he attended was Conestoga high school. How about that – a word I’ve never heard of before just presented itself twice in a matter of minutes!

  28. Jan (danjan) says:

    I made a RYA rug once, from a kit. That was before I owned an ETUI.

  29. John says:

    The bad news for Neville is that the movie trivia in the LAT puzzle is wrong. Bergman directed three Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and may well have accepted them, but the award is actually won by the country that submitted the film for consideration, which in the case of the three Bergman films was Sweden. Three other nations have won three Foreign Language Film Oscars: the Soviet Union, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

  30. Francis says:

    DIPL was originally DAN’L (as in Boone) crossing WEEN (as in the “Chocolate and Cheese” band), which we decided was preferable if still not what you might call awesome…and admittedly wasn’t helping bring down the proper-name ratio of the puzzle overall. Will decided to go the other way, and I can understand his reasoning: WEEP is clearly better than WEEN, and DIPL isn’t great but it is legit. Either way is a bit of a compromise, but that’s the kind of stuff one ends up having to deal with when there are a lot of triple-checked squares.

  31. Lois says:

    In the NYT, it bothered me that in the first three pyramids, the first four letters are a word and fill two lines, with the last line being a word by itself, but in the last pyramid, the first word is five letters and bleeds into the third line. It wasn’t a matter of elegance for me, but a confusion that kept me from filling the bottom. Cute idea, cute theme, but I’m giving it three stars because of this flaw, which was troublesome to me.

    It seems to be very much a theme puzzle. If it’s a themeless by some definition, I think that must be some abstruse definition of themeless that I wish would be explained to us beginning puzzlers.

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