Monday, 9/5/11

NYT 3:24 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:51 
CS 6:19 (Sam) 
BEQ 5:51 

Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword 9/5/11 • Patrick Merrell • 090511 • answers

I didn’t know that Monday was the day for “Must-Watch TV,” but that’s the idea in this puzzle. With one exception, each of the seven theme entries consists of two words, the first ending in T, the second beginning with V. 63-down spells it out: [Appliances hidden in seven answers in this puzzle] TVS.

  • 20a. [Charleston is its capital] WEST VIRGINIA.
  • 31a. [Trumpet's saliva-draining key] SPIT VALVE. Yum.
  • 48a. [Not a unanimous ruling] SPLIT VOTE.
  • 60a. [Swedish liquor with memorable ads] ABSOLUT VODKA. Not only memorable, but influential, for good or ill. As such, they were ripe for parody from the start. There have been two lavish books on the subject, one published in 1996 and a sequel in 2005. Since vodka in general is a nondescript liquor driven almost entirely by advertising, I’ve always disdained the brand, silently furnishing an addendum beginning with “B” and loosely rhyming with “toolkit.” Why, yes, I do have an opinion about this.
  • 5d. [Venomous snake] PIT VIPER. The nominal pits are structural and do not refer to the snake’s habitat.
  • 42d. [Permit for leaving the country] EXIT VISA.
  • 13d. Symmetrically opposite the revealer is [Off-road transport, briefly] ATV. This is the anomalous entry, because it’s the abbreviated version of a two-word phrase, in which the first word is hyphenated: all-terrain vehicle. The abbreviation isn’t A-TV or (AT)V, so it becomes a tripartite construction. If it had been me constructing the puzzle, I’d have scrapped the ATV—it’s only three measly letters—and put the TVS revealer in the center (either horizontally or vertically), so it wouldn’t require a themic counterweight.

The crossword is early-week smooth, with a minimum of Those Types of Things That I So Often Complain About. With such a high concentration of theme fill, there’s little room for attention-grabbing ballast, although DISHRAG, HANG-UPS, STILTED, GOOD OMEN, and BRAINIAC are fine medium-length entries.

In a brilliant bit of economy, constructor Merrell arranged the long down themers intersecting the across ones at the V. Otherwise the grid would have necessitated even more entries like MERV, IRV, and MARV (aka The Three Mavi).

As was pointed out to me by another solver, two clues reiterate the “west” from 20a. They are the obviously intentionally linked 12d [North, east, west or south: Abbr.] DIR. and 28d [What literally comes from the north, east, west and south?] NEWS. Either answer could have been clued differently, without “west.”

Three least favorites:

  • 24a. [First part of a ski jump] INRUN. Ugh.
  • 45a. [Author Asquith of children's books] ROS. Who?
  • 47a. [511, in old Rome] DXI. At least it wasn’t muddied up with Roman numeral math, because that’s a farce-and-a-I/II.

The cluing is a little more playful than the average NYT Monday. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • 10a. [Talks like this in "Star Wars" films he does] YODA. As some comedian once quipped, 900 years old and he still can’t grasp basic syntax? Break me a f*ing give! (See, this is just to show you, after Thursday’s Tausigate, that I’m not at all prudish.)
  • 18a. ["Fat chance, laddie"] Amusing way to clue the musty NAE.
  • Also liked the paralleling of RIPPER and TALONS in the southeast, even if USER ID separates them.

Andrea Carla Michaels’ Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 5 11

My mother recently handed me some pages torn from the Pencilwise Plus pages of a 1986 issue of Games magazine. The section featured puzzles and photos from the two crossword tournaments that year—the Stamford Marriott Crossword Tournament and the U.S. Open. (Mimi Raphael in middle age, Stan Newman and David Rosen decidedly pre-middle age!) Anyway, there was a quiz by Andrea, name the words that start with “tar.” When she says she and Will Shortz et al. have been friends since the early ’80s, she means it. (Team Fiend’s own pannonica was on the edges of the Games crowd in childhood, when her mom worked in the offices.)

Moving right along. The theme is movie titles that include (at the end or in the middle) a body of water: ON GOLDEN POND won Oscars. THE LAKE HOUSE may have increased Kleenex sales. THE RIVER WILD might be the closest thing to an action/adventure film Meryl Streep’s made. BEYOND THE SEA is Kevin Spacey’s Bobby Darin biopic, and it has the same number of letters as THE SEA OF LOVE (but is a decade or two more current). MYSTIC RIVER would have been good to have, but its 11 letters don’t partner up with the other titles.

Zippiest fill: ORTHODOX, ZIPPIEST, PHISH, KIWI. I like the Scrabbliness of K’NEX (69a: [Tinkertoy alternative] but I’ve never bought or played with K’nex building sets. Less fond of LINE A, EIEIO, and the ERSE/EIRE Celtic combo.

Overall, pretty smooth and light fare: 3.5 stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sudden Departure” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, September 5

This puzzle reminded me of the days I used to listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40″ radio show. I remember finding other things to do when the “long-distance dedications” came on (hey, I was age eight or nine, and those kind of sappy things don’t generally appeal to boys that age), but I would always come back to find out what songs I was supposed to like, and in what order.

Kasem’s show comes to mind because today’s puzzle features a countdown theme:

  • 17-Across: [Like some weekends] is the clue for THREE-DAY.  What a coincidence—this is the tail end of a three-day weekend.  Hope yours was fun and safe.
  • 28-Across: You may be up on your TWO-STAR GENERALS trivia, but you probably still didn’t know that they are [Soldiers in an O-8 pay grade].
  • 49-Across: [Vegas enticements] are ONE-ARMED BANDITS. Most slots don’t even come with arms anymore, so simply “bandits” might be a more appropriate term.
  • 66-Across: This means the [Apt follow-up to the starts of 17-, 28-, and 49-Across] would be BLAST OFF. We have lift off!

I liked the theme for its simplicity and subtle consistency (note that the numbers are all parts of hyphenated phrases, “three-day,” “two-star,” “one-armed”). Some of the fill might trigger Amy’s patent-pending Scowl-O-Meter, like AAAA, A-RONI, SAR, and having both ERAS and EONS in the same grid. And then there’s PACA, the [Large South American rodent] that probably isn’t familiar to many people here in the Northern Hemisphere.

But the rest of the fill is smooth, albeit a bit bland. The only interesting long entry is SNAPS TO, clued as [Comes alive]. I didn’t know BEREA, the [Kentucky college town] (one dollar says Neville knows it), but the crossings made it easily gettable.  Speaking of the crossings, can we all agree that TAE BO has officially reached “so five minutes ago” status? Is anyone still doing this workout? I’m just about to start the second month of the Insanity exercise program (check out this link if you want to see the hell I’m currently experiencing) with the hope of looking like most of the people in the “before” pictures. So far so good.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 364 answers

I’ve never heard of 19-Across, nor was I familiar with his first or last name. So I had to wrestle with the clues for 1- through 14-Across, all of them needed to piece together NNAMDI ASOMUGHA. Who?? I needed Google to know where the split was between his first and last names (my first guess was Nnamdia Somugha), and glanced at his Wikipedia page. The guy just turned 30, and would you look at the neat philanthropic ventures he’s set up already? I’m impressed.

Other names in the puzzle include ABEL, ANITA, AMITY, EDSEL, NANCE (nice break from [John __ Garner]), ERTE, ELLA, and RYE. Not too bad. RERUN is clued as a Hulu offering rather than as a ’70s TV character; aww, he could’ve been a fun name.

This 70-worder has a dozen 7s stacked in the corners with smooth crossings (including two more 7s, and 8, and a 9 at the top and at the bottom), plus a smattering of longer answers. MADE FOR TV is the best, isn’t it?

I don’t know about the clue for 24d: BATHE. [Go jump in a lake?]? And get all those waterborne organisms on you?

I thought 25d: [Make with the Teletouch system] was looking for a verb and wondered what one might produce with said Teletouch system. But it’s a noun, a make of automobile: the EDSEL. The Teletouch was, Wikipedia explains, an “electro-mechanical push-button transmission system. Teletouch placed the transmission buttons in a ring within the center of the steering wheel.”

3.5 stars.

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15 Responses to Monday, 9/5/11

  1. KarmaSartre says:

    Very fun review of Patrick’s fine puzzle. But, if memory serves, there are some non-Absolut Vitamin V’s (as Herb Caen called them) such as Grey Goose and Ketel One which taste very good. And, I’m curious about ATV being “three measly letters”. None of the letters strike me as measly, though the V could be considered measly in usage, and unmeasly in Scrabble. The YODA bit was very funny.

  2. andrea carla michaels says:

    THE SEA OF LOVE!!! Good one! I didn’t think of that but I wish I had bec originally the last one was OCEANSELEVEN but was told it was someone’s name, not the body of water and plural. SO I had to rack my brain to come up with another 12 letter body of water, in a movie title, 12 letters AND bigger than a pond, lake, river in that order!

    When Rich came up with BEYONDTHESEA I was so excited I almost plotzed!
    But now that I think about it, altho I loved the film THESEAOFLOVE (How sexy was Ellyn Barkin back in the day???!!!) it is a bit old and I would have had three of four titles with “THE”.
    AND I would have preferred MYSTICRIVER, but as you pointed out, it was the wrong length and I wanted things to grow in order. The original impetus of this puzzle was to have a reveal of WATERWORLD, but sometimes the lengths just ain’t in your favor!
    (And yes, I have known Will 25+ years and he STILL has not the slightest hesitation in rejecting one of my puzzles, lest you think it buys me any favors!) ;)
    Thanks for the nice review!
    (btw, imho, EIEIO will grow on you, if given time! Think less “lazy fill”, more “actually fun to say!”)

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Congrats to Patrick M and to Acme for two enjoyable Monday puzzles… I had to figure out the NYT’s TV theme after finishing, because I hadn’t read the 63D clue while solving. Also, ROS Asquith as author appeared in a crossword somewhere in the last week or two and I’d made a mental note to remember it — but didn’t. Len Deighton, move over! PIT VIPER was a PET at first, weirdly.

    I didn’t know K’NEX in Andrea’s LAT but had no trouble solving there either, very smooth. PTUI was a funny echo of Patrick’s SPIT VALVE… I’m sure the sequentially growing bodies of water were conceived long before the recent dire floods from Hurricane Irene, but how timely can you get? Eerie… Mold or something in my basement nearly caused a friend helping with the mess to pass out with an asthmatic reaction, and I have unimaginable piles of ruined stufff yet to get rid of!

  4. pannonica says:

    KarmaSartre: You’re right, should have said “a measly three letters.” Maybe I shouldn’t have made fun of Yoda?

  5. Gareth says:

    Great pair of Monday puzzles, think ACM’s has the edge by a nose! Something about clutch of song/movie etc. themes that always appeal to me, even if the only one of the films I’ve seen is the first… The NYT used a simple gimmick to gather together a bunch of fun entries: win! Snorted at SPITVALVE, which I hadn’t heard of! Found it strange 7D wasn’t clued with the “emotional block” definition, which is more naturally pluralised… I thought the etymology whereby NEWS is from the directions is a folk etymology, and it actually came from the word “new?”

  6. pannonica says:

    Gareth: I’ve never even heard of news from the compass points as a folk etymology, only as an interesting coincidence. The clue doesn’t explicitly invoke etymology, despite the appearance of ‘literally.’

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The CrosSynergy theme appears broken to me. I wonder if it would have worked better with three parallel-construction 15s—THREE-DAY WEEKEND, TWO-STAR GENERALS, and ONE-ARMED BANDITS. You still have the one singular/two plurals issue, but it’s better than stranding THREE-DAY without a following noun. And since the CS puzzles all have titles, “Blast Off” could have moved to the title bar. You miss the punchline that way, yes, but that stranded THREE-DAY bugs me.

  8. seahedges says:

    Etching his name in the heavens above The City of Angels to promote cheap, stripped-down television sets, Madman Muntz coined TV: first known usage (1948) sky-written MVNTZ TV.

  9. pannonica says:

    Complete digression: Although vodka is rarely my drink of choice, if you want one with flavor try a potato vodka or a bison grass style. French Grey Goose and Dutch Ketel One have pretty bottles and clever ads, but they really don’t taste much better than the others, especially since the primary use is to add alcohol content to mixed drinks. Best bang for your buck is the American Smirnoff, really. If I’m going to blow money on a ‘standard’ vodka I’ll take Russian Zyr, which has discernible and pleasant flavor, rye and wheat notes in the…uhm…profile.

  10. joon says:

    i laughed when i saw NNAMDI ASOMUGHA in brendan’s puzzle. he’s an amazing player, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, but not really a household name—partly because he’s toiled in obscurity on a bad team for his whole career, partly (perhaps) because his name is so unusual. maybe this will change now that he’s on a super bowl contender.

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    O.T.: Lollapuzzoola 4 Solve at Home results are in.

    http://bemoresmarter.squarespace.com/

    Further O.T.: Hey, the Sporcle link is gone! Aw, now I gotta type it into my address field.

  12. Evad says:

    TS, I can restore the Sporcle link…I was afraid by now everyone had done that particular puzzle. I’ve embedded a new one–I’m afraid our host won’t be so happy with that 5th to last clue/entry pair, though.

    Further OT (and a spoiler!): joon is missing the word “is” in his “Guess my word” challenge today! :)

  13. Dan F says:

    The movie is SEA OF LOVE, no “The”, so no worries about missing that opportunity, Andrea…

  14. Jeff Chen says:

    Nice, solid NYT today! Nice to have all those Vs in snappy theme answers. When I played trombone in high school/college, we used dump our spit valves by the hapless clarinet players.

    Hmm. It probably was funnier back then. Now it just seems gross.

    Jeff

  15. ArtLvr says:

    WHAT ARE THE ODDS? I finished a “hard” BEQ despite the NNAMDI name. Amazing. Plus SQUALL is all too apt, weatherwise, in that on top of the floods and damage from Irene we had two other rare events this week just west of Albany NY — an earthquake and a tornado!

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