Friday, 9/30/11

NYT 8:23 
CHE 4:53 (pannonica) 
CS 4:59 (Sam) 
LAT 3:40 
WSJ (Friday) 8:58 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 9 30 11 0930

You know how it goes when you’re filled with aspirations for a productive evening but then 9:00 hits and you’re walloped by the sudden onset of sleepiness? Yeah. It took me nearly three times (!) as long as Howard Barkin to finish this puzzle, helped along by such missteps as having MAMMALS instead of LITTERS at 1-Across and then mangling 31-Across. [Having been overexposed to the sun, maybe]? That’s gotta be something with BROWN- or BRONZE- in it, right? Wrong. Wait. Maybe WRINKLED, yes, that’s the ticket. Wrong again. Eventually FRECKLED worked its way out, and I changed 30-Down from RISK-something to RECKLESS. Oof!

Goofy-looking grid. Those stairstep wads of black squares occupy the middle of each side, and there are single black squares in the middle of each quadrants—not to mention a ridiculous swath of intersecting 8-letter Acrosses and Downs marching across the midsection, centered around that diagonal line of K’s. You saw that, right? From PORKPIES down to PLANKTON and from RECKLESS up to PAUL KLEE, the K’s are lined up neatly. The KKKKKKK does have the unfortunate effect of evoking the KKK (Did you hear about the Florida ice cream shop whose ice-cream cone mascot was recently mistaken for a Klansman? True story. Yes, I know KKK robes don’t generally include a waffle-cone bottom and sprinkles on top. No, I don’t know what those people were smoking.) I’m not generally one to get fired up about “whoo, look at that” feats of construction, but this was pretty neat. If the row of letters had been R, S, T, L, N, or E instead of K, it might’ve seemed pointless, but K’s pretty Scrabbly and it brings us juicy stuff like JACK LORD, a TRACK MEET, CLOCKS IN, PLANKTON (my favorite cartoon villain, from SpongeBob), funny-to-say SPACKLING, and those other answers I already mentioned.

Wait, this is a 62-worder? Surprisingly smooth for that low a word count, with some caveats. The periphery of the puzzle’s not as zippy as the innards. (“Zippy Innards” will be the name of my next band.) I like SPUTNIK and VARMINT, but two ones (ONE TERM, ONE OVER) don’t make a right and ON LEASE feels awkward and dull. GINGERS should, in the Harry Potter era, be clued as redheads rather than as cookies ([Choices for snaps]? That’s just terrible. Nobody calls gingersnaps “gingers.” Bring us the Weasleys!).

We can probably all agree that 6d: RENOS is a horrible entry, but it got me to look up this promo clip for RENO’S Most Wanted, a best-of DVD for Reno 911! that made me laugh. I didn’t watch the show much, but when I did, I giggled my fool head off.

Four stars, because I forgive Joe for RENOS.

Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Copy Writers” — pannonica’s review

 

CHE crossword 9/30/11 • "Copy Writers" Holland • 093011 • answers

Well, this is just the sort of theme for the Chronicle! Take five famous authors and pair them with synonyms of (verb) homophones of their surnames; have the clue describe an action involving a physical copy of a representative work, et voilà!

It’s more complicated to explain than demonstrate. Here:

  • 17a. [Damage a copy of "Common Sense"?] HURT PAINE (Thomas Paine, “pain”).
  • 19a. [Really enjoys "Tarzan of the Apes"?] DIGS BURROUGHS (Edgar Rice Burroughs, “burrows”). What, is William S. too controversial?
  • 34a. [Notice "All Quiet on the Western Front" sitting on a shelf?] OBSERVE REMARQUE (Erich Maria Remarque, “remark”). By far my favorite of the five. Inspired and lovely. At 15 letters and the centerpiece, this must have been the seed entry.
  • 47a. [Got to the last page of "Divine Meditations"?] FINISHED DONNE (John Donne, “done”).
  • 53a. [Bring "Uncle Tom's Cabin" on a trip?] PACK STOWE (Harriet Beecher Stowe, “stow”).

Very clever and deftly executed theme. I appreciate that the tenses match between synonyms. If the ballast fill had been crappy, I still would have had affection for the puzzle. As it is, the rest of the grid is strong, if not terribly exciting. There are a handful of medium-length entries, some cute and clever clues, and a minimum of crosswordy dross. No Js or Xs, so we can’t say it’s exactly Scrabbly. Extremely low CAP Quotient™.

  • Vertical eightstax EMIGRATE/REASONER, ACIDOSIS, RAT SNAKE. Swoony stuff.
  • Non-thematic literary material: a Marcus Aurelius quote for CRIME, PERUvian Mario Vargas Llosa, ECHO and Narcissus.
  • Favorite clue: the subtle misdirection of [Cut bait] for CHUM.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to catch up on some kipling.


Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Candy Land” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution September 30

The proper spacing for this puzzle’s title is not Candy Land but C and Y Land. That’s because each of the puzzle’s five theme entries is a two-word term where the first word starts with C and the second word starts with Y:

  • 17-Across: CAUGHT YOU carries the fun clue, ["Aha!"].
  • 28-Across: [1/1 through 12/31] is the CALENDAR YEAR.
  • 40-Across: The [Pitcher with an award named after him] is Denton True CY YOUNG. Yes, that was his middle name. It’s True, it’s True.
  • 51-Across: The [Color named after a bird] is RAVEN BLACK. Oops, no.  It’s FLAMINGO PINK. Whoops again. It’s CANARY YELLOW.
  • 64-Across: The [Form of exercise from a seated position] is CHAIR YOGA. Other exercises from a seated position include Coca-Cola curls and Cheeto crunches.

Like the Candy Land board game, this puzzle was pretty easy to figure out. Both Cs and Ys are helpful letters for solvers, so having five of each in the grid just from the theme entries certainly helps. Among the many highlights: SARDINE CAN is indeed a [Cramped locale, slangily]; the interesting pairing in the northeast, as MARTYRS wear ODOR-EATERS; ORATORY, a nostalgic entry for this former high school speech and debate competitor; BY WAY OF; NO-DOZ, the [Caffeinated tablet brand]; HOMIE, the [Bro nowadays] and also Marge’s loving nickname for Homer Simpson; and LOGICAL (clued as [Like some thinking], which had me entering LATERAL).

Easily the best clue was [Passé gas] for ETHER. There were other contenders for the best clue, but they didn’t cut the chee…er, mustard.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 9 30 11

Given how familiar the phrase FROM LEFT TO RIGHT is (not to mention its abbreviated version), it makes sense to have a theme that changes a letter “from L to R”:

  • 17a. [Halloween tricksters' route?] = FRIGHT PATH.
  • 23a. [Best place to watch "Animal House"?] = FRAT SCREEN TV. The “frat screen” formation really doesn’t work and yet, when I solved the puzzle last night, this was my favorite theme answer.
  • 45a. [Feathers?] = FROCK OF BIRDS.
  • 56a. [Work the late shift at the diner?] = FRY BY NIGHT.
  • 35a. [How most reading is done, and this puzzle's title] = FROM LEFT TO RIGHT.

Six favorites:

  • 46d. [Title chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp in a 2011 animated film] is RANGO. My son didn’t want to see this movie, but we made him watch it when we had a (grown-up) house guest and all the adults in the house wanted to see Rango. Quite entertaining.
  • 52d. [Look like a creep?] is a wonderful clue for OGLE.
  • 16a. [Piece of one's mind?] is a LOBE of your brain. Yo, watch out for zombies.
  • 25a. [Close, for instance] is an ACTRESS. Glenn Close. She saw Wordplay at Sundance, you know.
  • 2d. [Bach title?] is HERR, German for “mister,” rather than the title of a Bach composition.
  • 7d. [Tug and junk] clues BOATS. If you briefly pictured some guy “adjusting himself,” that’s understandable.

Tricky four:

  • 29a. [Kate of "Ironclad"] clues MARA. Mara Liasson, Rooney Mara, Wellington Mara—those are the MARAs I know.
  • 51a. Apparently Claudio ARRAU is a [Noted Beethoven interpreter].
  • 26d. [Word spoken with amore] is CARA, Italian for “dear.” Also my niece’s name, which turns out to be surprisingly uncommon.
  • 49d. [Two-time loser to McKinley] is BRYAN.

Four stars.

Trip Payne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “My Strange Ad Diction”

WSJ crossword answers, 9 30 11 "My Strange Ad Diction"

Have you seen that TV show, My Strange Addiction? It can be unsettling, but Trip’s riff on the title is anything but. He takes seven advertising catchphrases and puns on them (with his altered “ad diction”), putting them in entirely different contexts:

  • 23a. [Congratulations to an English singer's fiance?] = DUDE, YOU’RE GETTING ADELE. (“…a Dell”)
  • 29a. [Dr. Seuss book about a home aquarium?] = PLOP PLOP, FISH FISH. (Playing on Alka-Seltzer’s “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”)
  • 51a. [Spring celebrant's exclamation?] = I WANT MY MAY POLE. (I don’t really know what Maypo is. A hot breakfast cereal goop?)
  • 68a. [Why the bull calf didn't get the jewelry?] = A DIAMOND IS FOR HEIFER. (“…forever.”)
  • 85a. [Demand made of a paralegal?] = WHERE’S THE BRIEF? (Wendy’s ’80s ad, “Where’s the beef?”)
  • 104a. [First priority of an Australian beverage company?] = KOALA TEA IS JOB ONE. (“Quality is….” Don’t remember whose slogan that is.)
  • 111a. [What might precede a three-martini lunch?] = BREAKFAST OF CHAMPAGNES. (Champions, Wheaties cereal.)

Generally smooth fill and interesting clues throughout the puzzle.

I don’t think that “ü” in Turkish is supposed to be represented diacritic-free as “ue,” because I’ve never seen the spelling in the clue for LIRA, 93a: [Coin depicting Kemal Atatuerk]. It’s fine for German umlauts to replace the umlauted letter with that letter followed by an E, but in Turkish?

Four stars.

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17 Responses to Friday, 9/30/11

  1. Impressive feat, but points detracted for dupes JACKLORD and JACKSONS and, more inelegantly, BACKLESS and BACKTIRE. Shockingly easy for me; 5:22 may be my fastest NYT themeless to date.

  2. AV says:

    Completely agree with AJR that the two JACKs and two BACKs were bothersome, and spoiled the elegance of the stair-K-s.

  3. Gareth says:

    That middle part was imposing, and suitably tough to crack! Took a lot to give up mailBOX… “Wheelie supporter” totally got me, great clue! “Sea food” clue too! Didn’t know SPACKLING, from google’s results I’m guessing it’s kinda similar to PolyFilla. STOCKMEN, in my world, work with cattle not crates. Knowing what “viviparous” means didn’t help me as much as I thought it would, as I too plonked down MAMMALS off the bat, and was feeling quite smug about it. Apropos of nothing, TSETSE flies are also viviparous, and give birth to single young…

  4. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT a lot– the puzzle as a whole has sparkle and variety that more than make up for issues with the BACKs and the JACKs, IMO. Also, JACKLORD was the entry that gave me a foothold in the central diagonal, so I’m not going to complain about it.

  5. Sam Donaldson says:

    Amy’s right: two ONEs don’t make a right. I was stumped in the northwest, as I was sure EVEN PAR was the okay golf score. Yes, ONE OVER came to mind, but I quickly dismissed it after having uncovered ONE TERM in the southeast. I can’t decide if I’m more frustrated at the puzzle for the duplicate or at myself for stubbornly refusing to consider that duplicates happen on occasion.

    “Frustrated” overstates it, though. I liked the puzzle a lot. The diagonal line of seven Ks is just awesome.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    I liked this NYT quite a lot – but can someone please explain the logic of 4D? Yes, I know who Tom Petty is. That’s how I got the answer, by association – and crossings. Is perchance TOM the name of one of his songs/albums with which I’m unfamiliar? I don’t see how the answer passes the substitution test which Amy is always stressing otherwise. Perhaps my brain is a bit off-KKKKilter today, but I’m totally Klueless.

  7. Matt says:

    Daniel Myers: I think the trick with the clue to 4D is to parse ‘recording’ as a modifier of ‘Petty’, e.g., as in a ‘matters arising’ item on an agenda.

  8. Martin says:

    The K’s are nothing. They’re just the median strip of the TRACKMEET’s oval, delineated in vowels.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, hm, quite. That would do the trick, though it’s a particularly unwieldy, unaesthetic bit of parsing. Oh well, the rest of the puzzle, for me, makes up for it. Thanks Matt!

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, why is one end of the supposed oval bulging outwards? I don’t like it as a supposed visual feature of this puzzle.

  11. Jeff Chen says:

    I’m usually not one for “trick” puzzles, but count me as a big fan of this Krozel beauty. I grumbled a bit at the repeated words, a few roll-your-owns, but that huge white swath in the middle and the diagonal line of K’s made me smile.

    @Sam: speak for yourself on Candyland – I’m not sure how I keep losing to nieces and nephews. Is it wrong to slap the board into the air while shouting “You lousy stinkin’ cheater!”?

  12. Martin says:

    Amy,

    That’s where the track goes around the two-hundred year old oak tree. It’s a campus treasure planted by Jedediah Springfield himself.

    And why “supposed”? The constructor says it’s a feature (on Wordplay), so it might be flawed but it’s not supposed.

  13. John Haber says:

    I liked it a lot, and I didn’t mind the ONE- or BACK- clues. My hard corner was the NW, not knowing RENOS, say. Funny, but I’ve spackled in my time (and thought it was pretty essential to working with Sheetock and other walls, so not too obscure) but have no clue what PollyFilla is.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Good puzzle day — all five of these are comfortably above average.

    If I had to pick one, I’d say I like the CHE best. But the competition is fierce.

  15. Gareth says:

    John: the answer is spackle:usa::polyfilla:southafrica, although google suggests there are chemical differences…

  16. Martin says:

    Spackle got verbed, meaning that anybody is free to sell spackling compound. Since it was never easy to say “polyfillaing,” the UK vendor has managed to retain more market share in its trading areas.

  17. pannonica says:

    The mara I know best is Dolichotis sp.

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