Friday, 8/26/11

NYT 12:19 (pannonica) 
LAT 6:04 (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 7:39 (Sam – paper) 
WSJ (Friday) 12:16 (pannonica) 
CHE MIA

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword 8/26/11 • answers • 082611

Despite the top-right top-left [thanks, Kelly] corner containing fill such as REAL EASY, SURE CAN and YES SIR (the latter two both clued as ["Absolutely!"], this themeless puzzle was a real toughie for me. Perhaps despite the hopeful tone of that section, the true character is that constructor Quigley can GLOAT OVER (12d) solvers’ flailings?

It feels densely packed, but not being an aficionado of cruciverbal mathematical analysis, I don’t know if 66 words with 31 black squares is confirmation.

What made the puzzle tricky for me is the fairly even distribution of devious, or oblique-seeming clues in combination with fill that was unfamiliar.

Some examples:

  • 11d. [Dollar store?] RENT-A-CARS. Yes, Dollar is a rental car company, and they have storefronts, but I didn’t realize that store is used here in the sense of “stock.” Also, I have never encountered the word RENT-A-CARS in the plural. Rent-a-car, yes. Rental cars, yes. But not that.
  • 19a. [Glossy scarf fabrics] ALAMODES. New to me.
  • 59a. [Romulus and Remus, to Rhea Silvia] TWIN SONS. Not recognizing their mother’s name took me off course, headed for the hills I suppose.
  • 25d. [Aid in gaining an edge] HONE. The subtle misdirection didn’t fool me, but not knowing that HONE is a noun as well as a verb stymied me. Couldn’t get the five-letter strop our of my mind. Whetstone was out of the question.
  • 54a. [Like pupils that are too small] MIOTIC. I claim ignorance, pure and simple. For a while had MYOPIC filled in for no good reason.
  • 39a. [Deep orangish hue] MARS RED. Unfamiliar, and I frequently work with colors. A Google search for “mars red” is front-loaded with ‘Why is Mars red?’ questions. However, the estimable Pantone company has had Mars Red in its collection (18-1655 TPX) for well over a decade.

Observations:

  • Very few abbrevs. and partials. On the other hand, there were many multiple word phrases, which are not as offensive but seem to break the flow of the fill. REAL EASY, DEAL IN, DARE TO, MARS RED, IGNORE IT, HAVE AT IT, TWIN SONS, SURE CAN, YES SIR, GLOAT OVER, MADE A MOVE. Related, was it really necessary to have TARGET | AREAS cross-referenced in the clues (the disparate 9a & 46d)?
  • Full names, however, are always welcome. JOAN OF ARC and GRAPE APE. Speaking of which…
  • Double monster action! RODAN in the NW and GRAPE APE in the SE.
  • Double micmac action! Ed MCMAHON and Ali MACGRAW.
  • Double ocular action! DILATERS and MIOTIC. I still prefer the -or suffix for these words that have “traditionally” ended that way, even if the verb forms end in e. I don’t see anyone writing aviaters, by the way.
  • Double long down -ate word action! ELIMINATE and ALIENATES. The former is trickily clued as a noun.
  • Whew! Enough action for me.

All in all, despite my many shortcomings exposed in the experience, I found this crossword a solid challenge and a satisfying solve.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times Crossword — Jeffrey’s Review

Los Angeles Times Crossword Aug 26 2011

Theme:  Change a Z to a D and watch the fun begin!

Theme answers:

  • 20A. [Easy-to-use sock drawer organizer?] – PEDS DISPENSER. I guess PEDS are some kind of socks.
  • 28A. [Dog show eye-catchers?] – COOL BREEDS. Time for one.
  • 36A. [Feline alpha groups?] – TOP PRIDES. Like the Lion King.
  • 48A. ["Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions"?] – QUEEN SIDES. Better would have  been “We Will Rock You” and  “We Are the Champions” since they were flip sides on the same single.
  • 56A. [Winter Olympics winner's wall hanging?] – BLADES OF GLORY

Other answers:

  • 1A. [Henri's here] – ICI. It is about time.
  • 4A. [Sci-fi psychic] – EMPATH. Troi is an EMPATH. Remember that, crossword fans.
  • 16A. [Like some terrible reviews] – ACID. Not this one.
  • 23A. [Emphatic words] – I-REPEAT. Also a setting on your IPod. Another IJoke Jeffrey? really? Yup. I went there.
  • 53A. [14th-century Russian prince] – I-VAN I. The first Apple truck.
  • 54A. [Retro tees] – TIED? YES! We’re going to overtime!
  • 63A. [36 for nine, often] – PAR. Golf humour. But not funny.
  • 5D. [Zealot-plus] – MANIAC. Two from Flashdance!
  • 61D. [Three-switch railroad track section] – WYE? Because we like you! (But RAIL is in the solution).

Nothing to hate here. Gentle Friday stuff.
Happy birthday Will Shortz.
I-GONE.

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Write On” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 26

Today’s puzzle gives us four entries ending with words associated with writing. There’s a little more tightness to the theme, though, because the writing terms, when read top to bottom, represent progressively longer writing assignments:

  • 17-Across: [Impersonal mail] is a FORM LETTER. And one who’s writing some prose always beings with a single letter.
  • 23-Across: To [Renege on a promise] is to BREAK ONE’S WORD. After writing a couple more letters, pretty soon you have a word.
  • 47-Across: [It may be handed down by a hanging judge] describes a HARSH SENTENCE, and not the DEATH SENTENCE I tried first. (Looking back, I guess I went to a dark place a little too quickly.) And yes, after penning a few words together, you might well have a sentence.
  • 57-Across: The [Capitol Hill runner] is a SENATE PAGE. Several sentences = one page. The House of Representatives recently terminated its page program. I wonder if the Senate will follow suit.

Creamy smooth fill in the grid; the only possible nut (to continue the peanut butter metaphor) might be O-LAN, ["The Good Earth" heroine]. I haven’t read the book, but I found this excerpt from an online plot summary somewhat amusing: “When Wang Lung reaches a marriageable age, his father approaches the powerful local Hwang family to ask if they have a spare slave who could marry his son. The Hwangs agree to sell Wang a 20-year-old slave named O-lan, who becomes his wife. O-lan and Wang Lung are pleased with each other, although they exchange few words and although Wang is initially disappointed that O-lan does not have bound feet.”  The key to happiness, one infers, is conversing very little and accepting your mate’s flaws, like the lack of bound feet.

Those with severe nut allergies (the metaphor won’t die) might also balk at STOATS, the [Summer weasels] who seem more famous in crosswords, and NINON, the [Sturdy chiffon]. Personally, I found them only very minor annoyances. Overall, I really liked the grid. Highlights include KISS OFF, the [Slangy dismissal], SCRAWNY together with its fun clue, [Hardly like Atlas], and [One making a feudal effort?] as a clue for a SERF.

Andrew J. Ries’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Proper Channels” — pannonica’s review

WSJ Fri crossword 8/26/11 • "Proper Channels" answers

The clever theme imagines which movies would match certain television channels, based on the names of those channels rather than their existing programming content:

  • 29a. [1989 Richard Dreyfuss film shown on BET, appropriately?] LET IT RIDE. When you keep your bet the same in the next round, that’s one way to announce it.
  • 30a. [1950 Jose Ferrer film shown on C-SPAN, appropriately?] CYRANO DE BERGERAC. I’m not sure I understand this one. Does a long nose suggest a span? The C- part correlates to Cyrano, but that isn’t the essential bit.
  • 40a. [2007 Brendan Fraser film shown on Oxygen, appropriately?] THE AIR I BREATHE. Diatomic oxygen constitutes 20.8% of air.
  • 66a. [2003 animated film shown on Discovery, appropriately?] FINDING NEMO. Find = discover.
  • 91a. [1972 Woody Allen film shown on Encore, appropriately?] PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. I don’t know if the perennial misquote of the famous line from Casablanca originated with this work, or if Allen was capitalizing on a preëxisting phenomenon. Encore comes from French, “still, again.”
  • 102a. [2004 John Heder film shown on TNT, appropriately?] NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Trinitrotoluene = dynamite.
  • 110a. [2000 Ben Kingsley film shown on FOX, appropriately?] SEXY BEAST. A “fox” is sexy, as the whippersnappers say. Wish the clue referenced Ray Winstone, as he was the protagonist. Kingsley’s scene-stealing performance was unforgettable, but he gets enough ink.
  • 4d. [2007 Emile Hirsch film shown on Comedy Central, appropriately?] ALPHA DOG. Did not understand this one either. Does it have something to do with “Triumph the Insult Dog”? The Wikipedia page shows no overwhelming association with Comedy Central, but it makes for a frightening read.
  • Yes, it was introduced on an April Fool's Day. Notice how even the manufacturer didn't consider it a "car."

    90d. [1984 Phoebe Cates film shown on AMC, appropriately?] GREMLINS. Who can forget the AMC Gremlin?

Fun theme, well executed. Presumably as a bonus, a few other channels appear in the grid:

  • 58. [HBO rival] TMC.
  • 1d. ["The Rachel Maddow Show" carrier] MSNBC.
  • 103d. ["Hoarders" airer] A AND E (A&E).
  • And in the final across spot, [13.5-inch-high trophy] OSCAR. I’m fairly certain that none of these films were HONORED (81a [Presented with an award, say]) with one in the Best Picture category.

Other stuff:

  • Geography! MAUI, NEMEA, SAGINAW, AMES, EDO, ANDORRA, LAGUARDIA airport, USA, (ASIAN), MENLO Park. Also, DINAR and RIEL, currencies of Kuwait and Cambodia, respectively. Also, mapping reference in 65a [Capital symbol] STAR.
  • People! IVANA Trump, (LEDA), Christine LAHTI, ALLAN Pinkerton, Cleveland AMORY, Harmon KILLEBREW, Germaine GREER, GAIL Collins, DINAH Washington, Olympia SNOWE, NGAIO Marsh, (DARLA), NEHRU, (TOSCA).
  • DRAB and DREARY, both clued as [Cheerless]. …sigh…
  • Lovely vertical nine-stack in the center-right: TOTEM POLE / HUMANIZED. GYPSY CAB very nice too.
  • Tricky clues:
    • 94d. [Drive function] STORAGE. As in disk drive.
    • 18d. [Targets for crackers] SAFES.
    • 43d. [Manhattan setting] BAR. Rye (or bourbon) and sweet vermouth, cherry garnish.
  • Trivia learned: 62d [Brand originally called Froffles] EGGO. I liked this, especially since I’ve quipped that “if wishes were fishes, waffles would be faffles.”
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26 Responses to Friday, 8/26/11

  1. Martin says:

    “Very few abbrevs. and partials. On the other hand, there were many multiple word phrases, which are not as offensive but seem to break the flow of the fill. REAL EASY, DEAL IN, DARE TO, MARS RED, IGNORE IT, HAVE AT IT, TWIN SONS, SURE CAN, YES SIR, GLOAT OVER, MADE A MOVE.”

    Darn those multiple-word phrases!

    [sigh]

    -MAS

  2. pannonica says:

    hahaha! I won’t fix it.

  3. Rihat says:

    Agree 100% with MAS. “On the other hand, there were many multiple word phrases, which are not as offensive but seem to break the flow of the fill.” is absurd criticism. Nice puzzle, BEQ.

  4. pannonica says:

    Not to micromanage in the comments, but in a write-up I think I’m allowed to express the opinion that in my experience such fill “seemed to” interrupt the mental flow of the grid content. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to word spacing than most (even if the spaces are not typographically represented in the grid).

    I believe MAS was primarily pointing out that “multiple word phrases” is a laughably redundant construction.

  5. Martin says:

    Pannonica: are you suggesting that crossword constructors seriously avoid using multi-word entries in (themeless) puzzles? Because, as a constructor, I can tell you that I deliberately put them in… and I’m sure BEQ does too. As for interrupting the solver’s mental flow… I guess that’s what good hard puzzles do.

    -MAS

  6. pannonica says:

    Martin: No, I’m not saying constructors do so or that they should. Multi-word entries add much-needed variety and help avert staleness, but I do feel that too many in a single grid begins to create a different kind of monotony. And by “mental flow,” I should more accurately have said they affect my perception of the visual aesthetic flow within the grid. In this puzzle, none of those entries slowed me down by the nature of their appearance while solving.

  7. Kelly says:

    that would be top *left* not right on the NYT one there. It’s late and it realllllyyyyy confused me for some reason.

  8. Matt says:

    I agree that the NYT was tough one– obscurities and trivia mixed with misleading clues make for longer solving times, no doubt. But that’s how you make a themeless tough, and, dare I say, fun. We solvers like to express our anguish at the horrible things that constructors impose on us– but, one may observe that we keep coming back for more. An excellent puzzle, IMO.

  9. Duke says:

    Not a word about “ox tongue”? Ox tail would certainly be more common. And while one can make a stew of ox tongue, I’ve never seen it on a menu. Wasn’t too pleased with mars red either. But otherwise, much fun.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I loved the puzzle, and I’m delighted to see a BEQ *not* featuring the 3R’s. (I’ll spare the elucidation for those who haven’t seen it enough times already.) I personally love the multi-word entries, and I think BEQ is the master of them.

    One question–I don’t know how rentacars (in the plural can be a well-formed entry. Is “renta” taken as an elided form of “rental”? I don’t hear it as such. I finally decided that maybe there was a color “Marl red”. Not that Renta Carl makes any sense. Unless you really want a Carl. I’m not sure what color marl is, but I suppose it could be orangeish clay.

    Bruce

  11. sps says:

    Depends how much it would cost to rent a Carl…And are we talking Sagan here or Malden?

  12. HH says:

    Not Malden — he was a Karl.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Carl Sagan would cost billions and billions.
    Another fan of the multi word entries.

  14. Karen says:

    I had lots of trouble in the NW section of the grid for the NYT. I kept going back and forth between LOESS, ENDO and DILATORS. And the OXTONGUE didn’t help.

    GRAPE APE made me smile. MARS RED is the shade on my house; when I was looking at paint chips, the name did influence me.

  15. pannonica says:

    Please don’t misunderstand: my highlighting of entries that gave me trouble because of unfamiliarity or tricky cluing does not mean that I didn’t like them.

    Returning to RENTACARS, I still find it weird. “Renta” is definitely not an elided form of rental; the origin is the hyphenated rent-a-car. The problem with pluralizing it lies with the indefinite article a; when car is changed to cars, the article needs to change to remain in agreement. Rent-some-cars, anyone?

    Another thing to think about is the possibility that “rent-a” is evolving into a legitimate prefix, renta-.

  16. Howard B says:

    Re. NY Times:
    Thank goodness for GRAPE APE and RODAN. Felt that OX TONGUE was unpleasantly unexpected and arbitrarily difficult. Enjoy odd and unusual answers, but that one was maybe a bit too out-there due to the vague cluing. (I’ve seen oxtail, but that might be more of a delicacy?)

    Fun, challenging week ending puzzle, some good fill here, some not-so-good.

  17. Gareth says:

    NYT was tough to break into those large areas without much short fill! It takes an age for me to rememeber RODAN and then another one to remember the spelling! dEAdEASY wasn’t helping… I must add that “Do I have enough multiple-word phrases?” is one of my main sources of paranoia in any crossword I send in…

  18. David says:

    pannonica:

    Re: your questions about a couple of WSJ answers. CYRANO DE BERGERAC is appropriate for C-SPAN since it starts and ends with “C”, hence “spans” from C to C. ALPHA DOG fits with Comedy Central since “HA” is in its center.

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Do not understand NYT 11D at all, for reasons upon which pannonica has already expounded. A case of the illustrious BEQ having feet of MARS RED clay?

  20. pannonica says:

    Aha. Thank you David. I wasn’t considering typography this time! The other seven themers involve the meanings of the words.

  21. john farmer says:

    Unlike some of you, I didn’t think RENTACARS sounded odd. ALAMODES seemed a bit strange but that’s because I hadn’t heard of the fabric before.

    Both are nouns, so you add S at the end to make them plural. That’s standard stuff.

    The “rent-a-” part serves as a modifier and doesn’t need a plural inflection. The plural of “one-horse town” isn’t “two-horse towns” and the plural of “one-liner” isn’t “some-liners.” (Maybe that’s not an exact parallel but it’s close enough for me.)

    You could say “rental cars” if you want to avoid “rent-a-cars,” but the former sounds a tad more business-y to my ear.

    Maybe it depends if you’re renting Lincoln Town Cars or Corvette convertibles.

  22. John Haber says:

    I didn’t hate it as passionately as usual with BEQ, since I was down to just one crossing I didn’t feel I had to know in each corner. Alas, one ultimately defeated me.

    I didn’t recognizer RODAN / A LA MODES (as fabrics), JAMIE / MIOTIC (where “miosis” looked to me like an alternative spelling of meiosis, I have to admit, and I edit bio tets), or NAVI / GRAPE APE (after my childhood). But ultimately I just stared at the shade of red and RENT-A-CAR plus an ending, puzzled. Maybe there’s a “mark red” and, like a K-car, a Car-K? I just gave up. The plural still doesn’t feel right, even with Amy’s explanation.

    John

  23. ArtLvr says:

    TGIF — with a great bunch of clever puzzles! Nothing here to bore… And in the other sense of “bore” meaning an extraordinary tidal surge, as famously seen on the Severn River for example, does anyone know if the Hudson River has ever exhibited this phenomenon? Is it possible that our oncoming Hurricane Irene will force a wall of water through the funnel into upstate NY, since I believe we are tidal as far north as Albany? I wanted to twitter the question to weather-watchers, but don’t know how to do it…

  24. jane lewis says:

    re wsj crossword: cyrano de bergerac spans from the first c to the last c. i don’t understand 4 down either.

  25. pannonica says:

    jane lewis: See David’s explanatory comment, above.

  26. John says:

    Late to the game here, but with regard to 25D in the NYT puzzle, I also did not know HONE was a noun as well as a verb, but the clue parses perfectly well even it wasn’t, since one could [Aid in gaining an edge] by honing the blade.

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