Monday, 9/26/11

BEQ 5:57 
NYT 3:23 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:50 
CS 5:04 (Sam) 

David Gray’s New York Times crossword — pannonica”s review

NYT crossword • Mon 9/26/11 • Gray answers • 092611

Yet another début. There’s a British pop musician named David Gray but it’s unlikely to be the same person, as it’s rather a common name.

Three juicy 15-letter word themers, girding the top, middle and bottom of the puzzle. Hey! Maybe there’s an idea for a theme with the same layout: Cancer, Equator, Capricorn. Actually, that’s so obvious it’s probably been done long ago.

Anyway,

  • 20a. [Some McDonald's burgers] QUARTER POUNDERS. See? I told you it was juicy. Well, kind of juicy. It is McDonald’s after all.
  • 38a. [Part of a 2005 Harry Potter title] HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Mm… juicy, juicy blood.
  • 50a. [1987 Stanley Kubrick classic] FULL METAL JACKET. More juicy, juicy blood and, uhm, characters?

Not seeing the revealer at 67-across [Word that can follow the start of 20-, 38-, or 50-Across] until composing this write-up, I’d thought the theme was simply a progression from a quarter to half to the full ___ . But now I understand this is a football theme. BACK.

Granted, it would have been better if all three themers were films or if all three were different entities. Having two-thirds of the theme form a natural group while leaving the other one out in the cold is not, shall we say, the height of cruciverbal etiquette. Oh, and the middle one is a partial fill-in-the-blank while the others are self-contained. Oh, oh, and the first one is sort of gratuitously pluralized. So there’s a little something off about each themer. I’ll put on my positive-spin hat (Where is that thing? Ugh! Stowed in a moldy crawlspace at the back of my mental basement… >cough! cough!< There we go.) and say that this is a brilliant sub-theme. Yes! Each of the three long answers has a slight imperfection that makes the puzzle that much more aesthetically pleasing. Wabi-sabi.

The CAP™ Quotient is pretty low, but I’ve seen smoother Monday puzzles. Things that twigged the scowler-counter: DENTI-, ONE I, ACT IN, the sequence of USAIN | ESAI. A handful of common-enough abbrevs. Not much, really. Liked the long 11-letter entries LOADED DICE and INFIDELITIES, together they sort of tell a story.

Not bad for a first effort, but I’m withholding full marks.

Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Take the Plunge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution September 26

Those who have been solving for a few months often ask, “Why do the theme answers almost always appear in the Across position and never exclusively in the Downs?” Patrick Berry explains on page 100 of his seminal 2004 book, Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies:

Why is there a bias for putting theme entries into Across slots? Primarily because Across entries read more naturally than Down entries. Everyone’s used to reading words left-to-right; reading them top-to-bottom is more of a stretch. Across entries also lend themselves to themes in which the entries need to be read in order. Arranging the entries in the grid so that they read left-to-right and top-to-bottom mimics the layout of a paragraph. … But what if you’d rather have all of your theme entries be Downs just to be different? Trust me, don’t do it. Because any all-Across theme can become an all-Down theme simply by flipping the puzzle, you’re not really being different. What you’re being is a pain in the neck, because editors generally prefer all-Across themes.

Berry later acknowledges that this generalization is subject to exceptions. Sometimes it just makes more sense to have the theme entries in the Down slots. Today’s Sarah Keller offering illustrates the perfect use of an all-Down themed puzzle. The three theme entries all appear in the Down slots because they start with two-word expressions that are synonymous with the “plunge” in the puzzle’s title:

  • 4-Down: To [Be remembered for all time] is to be like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (i.e., to GO DOWN IN HISTORY).
  • 7-Down: To [Discontinue one's education] is to DROP OUT OF SCHOOL.
  • 10-Down: To [Resume one's drinking] is to FALL OFF THE WAGON. If one is pressured into drinking by one’s peers, is it more accurate to say that one has been “pushed off” the wagon?

Experts in baseball and Hindu had an advantage in solving this puzzle. There’s both [Hindu garments], DHOTIS, and the [Hindu honorific], SWAMI, here (and the bonus [Indian tourist city], AGRA), along with baseball’s TINO Martinez and Rod CAREW (and the bonus HURL, clued here as a [Pitch on the diamond]).

The Scowl-O-Meter entries (NETH, ALAI, ASSN, SEM, UNIV, et. al.) are offset by livelier stuff like I’LL GO, INNIE, IS TOO, and SPORK, the [Hybrid eating utensil] that always makes me think of Taco Bell. I’ve been on the fast food wagon for nine weeks now, with only about a week and a half left in my fairly regimented diet and exercise regime. At first I thought I would celebrate the end with a 7-layer burrito, but now it doesn’t seem to be all that alluring, especially since I can have a chicken breast and spinach salad for the same number of calories. The program has worked well for me, as I now look like the “before” pictures in the video linked above.

There wasn’t too much that stood in my way during the solve, as it was helpful to be able to plunk down three 15-letter theme entries with only one or two letters in place. I suspect the trickier spots for most solvers would be: (1) LIANA, the [Jungle climber] that appears more in our grids than in the wild; (2) ENGEL, clued as [Georgia of the "Mary Tyler Moore" show]; and (3) ROWENA, [Ivanhoe's mate].

Robert Fisher’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 26 11

Yay! The theme I thought I was solving in the NYT puzzle showed up in the LAT puzzle instead. I was a little disappointed when the other puzzle tied the theme answer to football. Here’s the gas tank dealio:

  • 18a. [Ceremonial uniform] is FULL DRESS.
  • 23a. One [Necktie knot] is HALF WINDSOR.
  • 38a. An [NCAA Elite Eight team] is a QUARTERFINALIST.
  • 50a. A [Parent whose kids have moved out] is an EMPTY NESTER.
  • 59a. [Dashboard device, and a hint to the starts of 18-, 23-, 38- and 50-Across] is a FUEL GAUGE.
  • 66a. And finally, GAS is [What to add when the 59-Across gets low].

On Brendan Quigley’s Facebook page, a bunch of us were comparing Monday NYT solving times. Brendan and Team Fiend member Jeffrey both trounced me. I bet they went with BACK where I put in TANK.

The fill’s pretty smooth, if undistinguished. (Hello, Monday!) Nice to have those 5×5 corners, though, and I do like that ANTEATER/ZOT crossing. I hereby request that all puzzles that include ZOT should make a wholehearted attempt to get ANTEATER into the grid, too.

3.75 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 370 solution

By the numbers:

70 words. One triple-stack of 15s, two of them lively, with decent crossings except for those four blah 4s. Two quad-stacks of 9s, with HE GOT GAME, a MARGARITA, and OCTOPUSSY bringing the zing. Fun in the Downs with three answers: ARENA ROCK, BYE FOR NOW, and FITNESS GURU.

Tough clues in general, as there were few gimmes that got me going. Now, ANTHONY BOURDAIN would have sped things up if I had truly read the clue and realized that I could answer that one.

Favorite clue: 35d: [Boston and Chicago are known for it] for ARENA ROCK. I first put in the no-no-that’s-wrong plural MARATHONS.

3.5 stars.

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12 Responses to Monday, 9/26/11

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I wouldn’t CRAB about this NYT at all — it was very smooth, fast and enjoyable, and didn’t have too many proper names. USAIN and DUANE I don’t really know, but have seen before… ELENA, RAISA, GAGA and comic FUDD — no problem. Nice debut!

  2. Gareth says:

    There’s no picture at xwordinfo yet… What’s wrong with either USAIN or ESAI… RAISA maybe you have a case, but still perfectly legit IMO. Didn’t spot the extra “juicy” layer of the theme so you’re one up there! Aside: I can’t come up with many viable entries for your geography theme, I’m guessing it hasn’t been done and for that reason.

  3. pannonica says:

    Gareth: My whine was about the visual (and aural) sequence of USAIN and ESAI together; I can be sensitive to that sort of thing. Also, I’m very, very tired of ESAI these days. In crosswords, anyway.

    Let’s see… Capricorn One is twelve letters. I bet there’s a distinctive type of cancer that could match that. Then a phrase of any length up to 15 letters for “equator” hmm…

    (edit: I forgot! They all should be 15 letters. Never mind. I think I need some more sleep.)

  4. donald says:

    Can you do better?

  5. Gareth says:

    Never heard of that film (thank you google). The phrase would have to begin with CANCER though: CANCERSTICKS might fit the bill; but then there’s EQUATOR…

  6. Howard B says:

    This was a quick one! Very smooth and easily clued. A nice puzzle to introduce a new solver to the puzzle pastime.

    Pannonica, Gareth: Why not stretch to a 16 and go for EQUATORIAL GUINEA? Yeah, it’s not flashy, it’s straight geography, it’s 16, it’s a partial theme answer, but other than that… you work with what you’ve got. :)
    Also opens up potentially wonderfull fill such as CANCER PREVENTION ;).

    Sorry, having some editing issues here.

  7. The Ridger says:

    Am I just dim? I don’t get CrossSynergy 27A. I solved the thing, but how is “leant” “hung over in Highgate”? What am I missing?

  8. Martin says:

    Ridger: the past tense “leant” tends to be a British construction… hence the reference to the London area (“Highgate”).

    -MAS

  9. KarmaSartre says:

    Pannonic (is it OK if I call you Pannonic for short?), I loved the whole positive spin / moldy crawl space bit, very funny.

  10. pannonica says:

    It isn’t much of a shortening, one letter (although it’s also a syllable). If you like.

    Thanks!

  11. Martin says:

    Pannonica de Koenigswarter went by “Nica,” which is so much more mellifluous than “Pannonic.” I fear that KS might call you Panasonic next.

    I’d hate to see your good nature abused like that. But I do like Nica.

  12. pannonica says:

    Martin: She did indeed. “Nica’s Dream”

    “pannie” works for me too. I use it in the Daily Standings and elsewhere.

    And I agree that “Pannonic” is quite harsh-sounding and looking.

Comments are closed.