Friday, 9/16/11

NYT 6:28 
LAT 3:52 
CHE 6:02 (pannonica · this week) 
CHE 4:37 (pannonica · last week) 
CS 5:13 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 8:15 

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 16 11 0916

A bit tough for a Friday, no? There was enough connection between sections to allow for smooth flow through the grid, except for that problem of all the clues I didn’t know. Especially in the southwest quadrants. I took a stab at 46a: ELF OWLS, which seemed faintly possible (of course EL FOWL is much funnier than ELF OWL) and turned out to be correct, but those extra letters weren’t much help. No idea that 37d: Alice Cooper’s Ft13thPtVI song was called “HE’S BACK” but now I’m guessing that this was the sequel subtitled “Jason’s Back.” Or maybe “Freddy’s Back.” Wait, that was Nightmare on Elm Street. No idea if there was a “Jason’s Back” episode. 38d: ELLA MAE [Morse who sang "Cow-Cow Boogie"]?? Here’s the 1940s video—a must-see for her googly shifty eyes alone. Figured that 39d was I-something, but “I, FOR ONE” was slow to dawn. That crossing hockey term (SLOT) and the 5-letter answers with multiple possibilites weren’t helping me, either.

Oof!

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of NEW ULM, Minnesota. I went to college in Minnesota, so I have. They make beer there but I don’t know if that’s why I know NEW ULM.

Favorite bits: That was one HEINOUS SHINDIG, wasn’t it? I like the colloquiality of ON AVERAGE and the contemporaneity of GONE VIRAL. I belatedly learned of the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” viral video today (NSFW: Don’t click if you don’t want a to see a nature video with cuss words) and then I watched the same guy’s bullfrog video and saw a bullfrog preying on a mouse, scorpion, and bird. (I bet the GRASS FROGS of 30d are less predacious than the bullfrog.) 5d is a HEINOUS-looking partial but you know what? POP A [__ wheelie] is a fresh phrase that deserves to be an 11-letter crossword answer.

Overall gestalt rating, 3.5 stars. The three-S PSSST is a minus, and something doesn’t sit right with me with past-tense GOT WELL as an answer. I dunno, maybe it’s closer to 4 stars.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 16 11

(Confidential to Donna: Hey, can you email me?)

Neat theme. Four familiar phrases end with words that sound like words that mean “yes” in other languages:

  • 20a. [Approval from a Cádiz resident?] is a MEDITERRANEAN “SI.” Cádiz is in Spain and is Spanish for “yes.”
  • 29a. [Approval from Louis XIV?] is THE ROYAL “OUI.”
  • 40a. [Approval from a shocked Scot?] is an ELECTRIC “AYE.” Technically, “aye” counts as an English word too, but it’s not really the go-to “yes” word if you’re not Scottish.
  • 50a. [Approval from a sushi chef at the lunch counter?] clues TWELVE O’CLOCK “HAI,”hai being Japanese for “yes.”

Four more clues:

  • 4d. [Sugar plant] is a REFINERY. Ooh! Were you duped, too? I was thinking of sugar beets (RED BEETS??) and sugar cane.
  • 42d. [Sniggling gear], or gear you use when (as is your wont) you are fishing for eels, includes your trusty EELPOT. I like how EEL is flirting with ELECTRIC in the grid.
  • 33d. [One garnering lots of interest] is a LOAN SHARK.
  • 2d. [Like the northern Lesser Antilles, vis-à-vis the Windward Islands] clues ALEE. The Leeward Islands, further downwind from the prevailing southeasterly winds that hit the Windward Islands, include Montserrat, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Guadeloupe.

Two margarita answers! There’s NO SALT on the rim and a STRAW to sip your drink with.

3.5 stars. I like the theme’s freshness, but the fill isn’t out of the ordinary.

Pam Klawitter’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Continuing Ed” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword • "Continuing Ed" • Klawitter • 9/16/11 • answers

37a. [A charming place, or what both halves of 17, 24, 50, and 61 Across are capable of doing] FINISHING SCHOOL. The former as a two-part noun, the latter as a verb phrase. Such institutions, some with a twist or two, are still extant.

I’m perennially impressed by this type of theme because it seems as if it should be difficult to come up with enough entries to fulfill the requirements of both parts being able to form a compound word (or phrase) with the same word, and be a viable word or phrase on its own. Though it feels that way, since such themes appear fairly often I suspect that English, glorious sprawling mess that it is, actually has quite a lot to offer in this vein.

  • 17a. [Crowning achievement] MASTERWORK (schoolmaster, schoolwork).
  • 24a. [Bill splitter] HOUSEMATE (schoolhouse, schoolmate). Clue was initially  inscrutable to me.
  • 50a. [Meeting place] BOARDROOM (school board, schoolroom).
  • 61a. [Employee's respite] LUNCH BREAK (school lunch, school break). The two halves of this themer feel like the two weakest school words of all, which finishes the puzzle on a slight sour note.

Obviously, I enjoyed the theme, and mostly liked how it was executed. Low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs. partials), which is always nice. The grid has a good flow and no sections felt isolated. I found the fill to be more engaging than the cluing.

Notes, such as they are:

  • Symmetric pair AEROBIC and AMNESIC echo each other somewhat.
  • Rather obscure clues enlisted for a couple of relatively common proper names: [Becquerel who shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with the Curies] for HENRI; [Violin-playing orphan in "Little Men"] for NAT. That’s part of what gives a puzzle that Higher Education Vibe. A greater-than-average dose of literary, scientific, classical music[al?], and globetrotting clues keeps it cozy.
  • So nice to come across ORINOCO without ENYA anywhere in sight.
  • BECOMETH, which I’m not particularly fond of but accept because the fill-in-the-blank clue has a sturdy source (Proverbs, from the Bibble [sic]), nearly had me wishing its partner-in-symmetry had been INCREASETH rather than INCREASE, word length be damned. Interesting that SCADS is right alongside.
  • I need a reliable way to remember playwright Alfred UHRY.
  • 40d [Sickening thing] GERM. I take issue here; many germs can be beneficial.
  • Little bit of an editorial faux pas: 27d in this puzzle has the same clue/answer combination as 38d in last week’s puzzle; further, both entries lie in roughly the same place, just to the left of the grid’s center. ["I'll pass"] = NAH.
  • None of the clues are memorable, some are a little playful. No favorites.

B-something.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “G-Force” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, September 16

First and foremost, congratulations to today’s CrosSynergy constructor, Patrick Blindauer, on his wedding day! This isn’t exactly inside information, because the answer to 64-Down, I DO, uses the clue [What this puzzle's constructor is saying to his fiancée today]. Best wishes today and forever to Patrick and Rebecca; this happy ditty is dedicated to you!

Now for the puzzle—a letter addition theme that gives a G to four common expressions and plays along as each expression affixes the extra letter up front:

  • 17-Across: We’ve all seen a rain check or two, but making its debut is the GRAIN CHECK, a [Silo inspection?].
  • 28-Across: The wedding sub-theme continues with GROOM SERVICE, [What the best man gives at a wedding?]. That’s a twist on room service, which, at most hotels, is a twist on one’s wallet.
  • 47-Across: The [Social events with lots of handwarmers?] are not mere love affairs but GLOVE AFFAIRS. They’re famous for five-finger discounts.
  • 63-Across: The [Member of a sparkly swarm?] is a GLITTER BUG, a play on litterbug.

Look at the variety in the fill! There’s NERDS, both EMO and ENO (what, no love for E.L.O.?), NOVEL IDEA, MINDSET, HAM IT UP, and NO SWEAT. And check out the celebrity dinner party in the northwest, with OPRAH Winfrey, REESE Witherspoon, Georgio ARMANI, PERRY Como, and Marilu HENNER. I would think Oprah picks up the tab for that soirée, no?

<rant> I’m so happy to see DOT as the answer to [Morse symbol]. Only in crosswords have I seen “DAH,” and it bothers me every time. DAH just looks all kinds of wrong.  There are DOTS and DASHES and nothing else. </rant>

Finally, check out 19-Across: ["…and they lived happily ___ after"] as the clue for EVER. Perhaps that’s one more part to the wedding sub-theme. Indeed, we all hope it comes true!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking the Fifth” (nom de mots croisés = Natalia Shore)

WSJ crossword solution, 9 16 11 "Taking the Fifth"

The last time I encountered the concept of “taking the Fifth,” it was in a Sun-Times article about the Cicero town president being sued. The plaintiff reported that he “turned around and grabbed a breast, passed some gas, got out of the car.” Classy! Cicero, Illinois, has been a reliable source of tacky and sleazy news for decades.

Mike’s theme plays out well. He riffs on the title by taking out the fifth letter of nine phrases and cluing the altered phrase appropriately and playfully. Going in clue order, the nine removed letters spell out NOT GUILTY. Cute! That’s a nice touch that elevates the theme beyond the ordinary. Feels sort of PatrickBerryesque. (Of course, in a chat with Francis Heaney, Brendan Quigley determined that Shenk, Berry, and Frank Longo are the three Crossword Jesuses, so if something is Berryesque, it can also be considered Shenkian or Longoese.)

  • 23a. [Perfect moment to put parsley on the plate?] = SPRIG TIME. (Springtime.)
  • 25a. [Bathroom fixture that's only 39 inches tall?] = METER SHOWER. (Meteor shower.)
  • 37a. [Destiny of a person who can't get a full-time job?] = TEMPING FATE. (Tempting fate.)
  • 54a. [Woman clearly weary from all the wedding prep?] = BRIDE OF SIGHS. (Bridge of Sighs. Good one!)
  • 65a. [Shrine to Artemis that houses a deer statue?] = HIND TEMPLE. (Hindu temple, plus Greek mythology.)
  • 69a. [Open house?] = REALTY SHOW. (Reality show.)
  • 83a. [Places for files detailing a craze?] = MANIA FOLDERS. (Manila folders.)
  • 95a. [Weighing device with more pounds?] = RICHER SCALE. (Richter scale.)
  • 112a. [Chick from a Seven Sisters college?] = BARNARD FOWL. (Barnyard fowl. Ha!)

Not much jumped out at me during the solve this time. More “huh?” clues than usual, starting right in the 1-Across corner, slowed me down some. For example, 4d: [Tuque] clues SKI CAP, but I’ve mostly seen that spelled “toque” so I was lost. And 5d: [Bearer of a cost] suggests the party who’s paying for something rather than the price TAG. WTO (6a. [GATT successor]) and HAN (20a.[China's second imperial dynasty]) just to the right had me further despairing of my chances here, but the rest of the puzzle was a good bit more pliant.

It’s a 4.5-star theme but the fill isn’t quite at that level, so let’s go with 4 stars overall.

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20 Responses to Friday, 9/16/11

  1. joon says:

    oof, toughest friday of the year for me (not counting the trick puzzle on friday 4/1). couldn’t break into that SW at all. i did like seeing STEGNER; angle of repose was pretty good. but there was a lot here to IRK me—at least 10 answers made me frown.

  2. Al says:

    I really like “Angle of Repose”, STEGNER was my first entry. Like Joon, I came to a grinding halt in the SW. It killed me that I couldn’t get the hockey answer. I didn’t think the SLOT was all that close to the net, but I could be wrong.

  3. Back in my drinking days I made many a foray into Grain Belt Premium, which is made in NEW ULM along with Schell’s. If you like a sweeter beer, Grain Belt’s the way to go. Not sure if it’s available nationally, however.

  4. Anne E says:

    I had an Al-like experience! STEGNER was my first entry also – I’ve read his “Beyond the 100th Meridian” a few times. And SW was the killer here for me also – ELLAMAE and HESBACK being things I’d never heard of before, and SLOT could have been anything as far I knew. Another boneheaded mistake – from just the A in 31A, writing in ADAMANT. Thank goodness for NEWULM (I went to grad school in Minnesota, so at least I’d heard of this place!). I ended up really liking this one, though.

  5. Matt says:

    I didn’t get STEGNER instantly, but it was my initial (and for a while, only) entry that poked into the NW corner. I then got NEEDSAPUSH and finished everything else, but then nothing else in the NW for a loooong time. The other quadrants, including the SW, were not as tough. A good one, but quite a tough one.

  6. gareth says:

    Hit Submit at 14:56. In the process hit one of those stupid links above the tabs… when I went back my grid was clear… Had two mistakes hPi crossing NOAh and STEiNER. Probably should count as a DNF, don’t think I’d have figured them out – were the last two letters in as well. Was thinking something PRICE INDEX. The other three sections were quite pleasant, though a pox on PSSST!

    I now want to see a crossword with THEICEMANBECOMETH as a theme entry!

  7. ArtLvr says:

    HEINOUS! ELF OWLS? wow, those escaped me for ages. Great words, and great puzzle overall but I agree with joon — hardest Friday of the year. (Had loads of fun last night looking up the hairy-nosed wombats.) I liked the LAT a lot too, clever but not so tough.

  8. Howard B says:

    I enjoyed most of the Times puzzle today. NEW ULM was ridiculously local and kind of frustrating, however; especially with STEGNER.

    The SLOT clue is only partially correct, as it’s considered to be the central area ranging from right in front of the goal outward; players will refer to the “low slot” as the area in front of the net, and the “high slot” as a bit further away, but still aligned with the net. So this confused me (you can be in the SLOT and not near the net).

    Actual usage: This week in my local armchair athlete street hockey league, I was slow to cover my opponent waiting in the high slot – he received the pass, took a heavy slap shot, which caught me directly under the nose. I’m still bruised up today ;).

    So a lot of great stuff, and a bit of nasty on the side. A fine challenge.

  9. Matt says:

    @Howard B

    Yeah, I had a similar reaction to SLOT. My hockey knowledge is quite ancient– I was an undergrad at Cornell when Ned Harkness was the coach and Ken Dryden was the goalie– so each time I looked at that clue I thought ‘CREASE’ but it didn’t fit.

  10. pannonica says:

    Sam: Actually, dit and dah are much preferred to dot and dash by those who actually use Morse code. They more accurately reflect the sounds of the code and are far easier to pronounce when speaking on the subject. Dot and dash are derived from the written version of the code, which is already one step removed. Unnecessary layers of artifact.

    Compare for SOS (say out loud):

    dit-dit-dit, dah-dah-dah, dit-dit-dit

    dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    I stand by my prejudice (dot dot dot) but I can see where others would feel differently.

  12. NEW ULM…home of the greatest barbequed pork ribs in the upper Midwest at the Kaiserhoff restaurant. A bit easier to get to when attending college 30 miles away as I did, as opposed to the roughly 80 miles from New Ulm to Northfield.

    And SW took me at least five minutes to unravel.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    @Matt – SLOT bugged me too. Wow, I grew up watching Ken Dryden in Montreal. FYI, nonsports fans: he took a year off from hockey to finish law school. Smartest athlete ever.

  14. sbmanion says:

    Matt and Howard,

    Identical reaction to SLOT/CREASE. Dryden in his signature arrogant way would rest on the net when the puck was at the other end, but he was the greatest goalie I ever saw.

    in the year that Cornell was undefeated, he made a save against Boston University that literally left the Boston Garden in stunned silence. B.U.’s all-American, Herb Wakabayashi ripped a slapshot from about 30 feet to Dryden’s right side. Dryden somehow got his right arm up to deflect the shot and cause the puck to just skip over the top of the net. It caromed off the glass right in front of the left side of the net and onto the stick of another B.U. player who wristed it instantly for a certain goal–except that Dryden darted his glove out at the same moment and caught the puck.

    Single most athletic reaction I have ever seen.

    Steve

  15. Jeffrey says:

    With the Canadiens, the puck was on the other end of the rink most of the game. He would lean on his stick, not the net. I wouldn’t call it arrogance. He was just trying to stay awake.

  16. Harry says:

    Loved the WSJ! How clever to take the theme “losses” to form the words “not Guilty.”

  17. Tuning Spork says:

    Great WSJ, except for the part about DOWNSTAGE being [Closer to the audience]. Upstage is closer to the audience (“you upstaged me!”). Downstage is toward the rear and away from the audience. **nit nit pick pick**

    UPDATE: And now that I’ve checked what I just wrote, I realize that the education I received in my brief time as a college theater major has long since deserted me. I remembered it completely backwards! The WSJ clue is correct. Nevermind. :-D

  18. kludge says:

    Another victim of today’s NYT SW. At one point thought IFORONE was going to be some very long variation on IMHO.

    Enjoyed the WSJ. Wish I had remembered HERMIA from one of the teams at Lollapuzzoola, which I think Rex was on. 120 Across should have been clued “Some office memos”

  19. John Haber says:

    Sorry but I couldn’t crack the SW, even with BARER, A MOVE, and NOT EVEN, and don’t blame myself. Just think it’s dumb. I’m looking at the answers above now and don’t get them. Even in the NW I can’t say POPA made any sense to me (and didn’t know DORS or NOAM but was happy to figure them out). You can rate this highly, but to me it was just a bad puzzle.

  20. Jenni says:

    Loved this one. Nice and chewy and tasty. Thanks, Joe! The SW was the last to fall for me. I’m not much of a hockey fan – I wanted “crease” and just shrugged at “slot”. Amy, I’ve also heard of New Ulm, and it’s definitely because of beer.

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