Monday, 10/17/11

BEQ 11:03 
NYT 4:52 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:56 
CS 5:56 (Sam) 

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

NYT crossword 10 17 11 solution 1017

As announced earlier, this week the New York Times is running a crossword meta-contest. Apparently this first of all involves the puzzles not being available in Across Lite format. (Note from Amy: No, that’s just a glitch tonight.) The Notepad explains, sort of:

“CROSS” WORDS CONTEST All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Berry. Have your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six. When you hav

Got that? Good.

Now, I wonder if the NYT is withholding solutions so as to make the meta more challenging, only for the deserving. I am aware that an Across Lite file can be instructed to disable the Reveal Solution option. As far as I know, we in the cruciverbal blogging community haven’t been instructed to sit on solutions this week. (Note from Amy: Will Shortz requests that we not reveal the contest answers, and squelch any comments that reveal them. I believe the grids are fair game, though.)

It’s been a long time since I used the Java applet, and my time was slower than it should have been. Also, I deleted the completed grid twice after filling it in.

The theme involves replacing a terminal \(k)s\ sound, originally formed using the letters K and S, with a spelling involving an X. Perhaps the title should be sung, “I’m too Exy for Across Lite”?

  • 20a. [Catch Groucho while fishing?] LAND MARX. ks → x
  • 22a. [Blues player's instrument?] SAD SAX. cks → x. There are, of course, happy blues too. It’s a misconception that all blues music is “sad.”
  • 29a. [Cereal that doesn't really taste like anything?] BLANK CHEX. cks → x
  • 42a. [Wildcat that can't sit still?] HYPER LYNX. inks  → ynx. One word also becomes two. Similarly… style note: “Wildcat” refers to actual species of felines; it would have been clearer to say “Wild cat that…” This despite some dictionaries’ inclusion of smaller wild felids as a sense for the one-word term.
  • 51a. [Levy paid by white-collar workers?] TIE TAX. cks → x. My favorite of the theme clues.
  • 52a. [Formal wear for one's belly?] TUMMY TUX. cks → x. There just isn’t a non-awkward way to clue that one, is there?

I’d be surprised if a similar theme hasn’t appeared before, but it’s all in service of a meta. Besides, the puzzle is just fine without worrying about its other duties. As expected for a Monday puzzle, the fill is smooth and relatively free of abbrevs. and crosswordese. The necessitated X-crossers don’t seem forced: V-SIX, STYX, MIXUP, TEX, LEXUS, XENA.

The most irxome part of the puzzle is 5-down. [Rampaged] RAN AMUCK. I can’t imagine either constructor Berry or editor Shortz missing this blatant mistake, as it should be ran amok, amok from the Malay language. (Not to be confused with 25A [Chaotic battles] MELEES, from the French mêlée.) As such, I can only assume that it’s significant in the meta. Sorry if I’m giving something away, but the error is so patently obvious that it cannot go unremarked.

Some varied fill for an early week puzzle, including LILY PAD,  the ethnicky FATWA and KAPUT, and the colloquial WHAT SAY? Less welcome was the induced -in fatigue from the repeating SENDS IN and DUG IN, which made me less charitable toward the rustic AGIN and even SATIN. Cross-referenced clues for FDR and New DEAL fine but unnecessary.

Overall, I liked the puzzle, despite running afoul of that vexing 5-down.

Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 17 11

This puzzle’s got a basic theme type—four phrases end with synonyms—but the quartet of theme entries make for a diverse group:

  • 20a. CHICKEN LITTLE is our ["The sky is falling!" critter].
  • 33a. RICHARD PETTY is the [Seven-time winner of the Daytona 500]. After Sunday’s horrible fatal crash at an IndyCar race, how much longer will the “motorsports” crowd insist that car racing is a sport? Imagine if every few years an NBA player died on the court during a game, and occasionally a fan would be killed by something flying off the court. /soapbox
  • 41a. [Like Chopin's "Funeral March," keywise] clues IN B FLAT MINOR. I never care for this sort of musical answer, but I give 41a credit for going all out with a four-word phrase.
  • 57a. [New Orleans daily, with "The"] is TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Picayune cost one picayune, or a sixteenth of a dollar, when it first published in 1837. Picked up the “Times” part in a 1914 merger. This is, of course, my all-time favorite newspaper name.

Seven more clues:

  • 16a, 23a. [Get the lead out], with and without a question mark, clue ERASE and HASTEN. Who doesn’t like double clue action?
  • 4d. [Not off by even a hair] clues EXACT.
  • 10d. [Taken with a spoon] reads weird, doesn’t it? “I’m quite taken with your spoon, you know.” ORAL medicine is taken with a spoon.
  • 11d. [Singles, on a diamond] in baseball, are BASE HITS.
  • 21d. A KEPI is a [Foreign Legion cap]. Raise your right hand if you learned this one from crosswords. Raise your left hand if you didn’t know this one. Anyone still have both hands down?
  • 42d. ["Hands off!"] “LET ME GO!”
  • 48d. PAULIE is the [Talking parrot voiced by Jay Mohr]. Good gravy. Surely this was the nadir of his career? Or maybe it’s not so bad, and it’s just that I can’t help thinking of Pauly Shore when I see PAULIE.

Three stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Only Four Left” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 17

The theme consists of four well-known terms, each of which begins with a word meaning “only.”  Thus, a synonym for only appears four times to the left of of the grid.  Here are the theme entries:

  • 20-Across: [It may be found on a wedding reception table] can refer to many things: GROOM’S CAKE, FAVORS, PLACE CARDS, CHAMPAGNE GLASSES, BRIDESMAID DRESS, and, well, let’s just stop there.  This time, its for  SINGLE-USE CAMERA. I have only seen this at a handful of weddings, and each time I wonder if the paid photographer kinda-sorta hates to be competing with the free pictures guests will take with the disposable cameras.
  • 25-Across: Would you rather someone called you a [Rare entity] or ONE IN A MILLION?  The latter sounds much more flattering to me.
  • 50-Across: The [Nickname for Mexico's northern neighbor] is the LONE STAR STATE, the nickname for Tejas.
  • 56-Across: [Diva's aria, e.g.] could be TERM I FIRST LEARNED IN CROSSWORDS.  But here, it’s a SOLO PERFORMANCE.

It’s just another Manic Monday today, so I have to keep the rest of this post (mercifully) short.  Bottom-line:  I liked the nice, simple theme to get my week going on a happy note.  I loved, loved, loved the long Downs of SIGNS OFF ON and IT’S BEEN FUN, and I found it interesting that ISOPODS sit mirror opposite from MAMMALS.

On the other hand, GORSE slowed me down some, and I suspect the crossing of OSSA, the [Northern Greek peak] and SISAL, the [Rope fiber] caused some problems for quite a few solvers.  So too might the confluence of ARAL, the [Sea near the Caspian], MIRO, the [Picasso contemporary], and AMF, the [Bowling center letters], short for “Aw, M***** F*****!  I rolled another gutter ball!”

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 376 answers

Holy smokes, the bottom of this puzzle was normal but the top half killed me. Too many clues that didn’t take me to their answers. I love 1a: AIN’T NO JIVE, but I was going to need some crossings to put it together. And with all the names-clued-in-unfamiliar-ways in the top of the puzzle, I was doomed to a slo-o-ow solve.

I wouldn’t equate 1d: ABRADES with [Bothers]. That clue abrades me. (See? It doesn’t fly.) Never heard that Adidas named a shoe after Ilie NASTASE (3d). For 5d, NENA was a solid guess off the A, but it could have been a song title or a performer, couldn’t it? Didn’t figure out JET LAG for the longest time; was thinking the discomfort related to being a stranger rather than to having flown to a strange land. I think of starships and rental cars much more than VANs for Enterprise. What, the airport shuttle? Guessed ELGAR at 10d for the composer because he’s so crossword-friendly, not because I recognize “The Dream of Gerontius.” Crossing these Downs, we have a BRAKE PEDAL that doesn’t tame the Jaguar—it just activates the brakes that tame the Jaguar. And RESONATING, as clued, seems a little off base; if a movie resonates with just 1% of its viewers (“some audiences”), would you say that it’s resonating?

Moving to the northeast corner, didn’t know TONI Onley. WIDE GAP doesn’t feel like a lexical chunk to me. An AEROBE isn’t a culture, it’s a bacterium that can be grown in a culture medium; [Culture that requires oxygen] seems scientifically inaccurate to me. Took me a while to remember that KOALA Kare is the label on those public-bathroom diaper-changing tables; haven’t changed a diaper since 2003 (but it’s cute to see Brendan working his papahood into his puzzles). 18a: A RED is just a stinkin’ partial but I love the WCW clue reference. Jacques DEMY, in the middle row? Oof. Don’t remember seeing the name before, though I must’ve at some point.

In the less memorable (because I zipped through it compared to my topside slog) bottom half, I like the topical NBA LOCKOUT, TEXAS BBQ, and QUE PASA. I really could do without TOOTLER and SHOOTEE, and the YEAR TO DATE clue, [Snow listing], feels off to me. I do not at all understand why—oh! I get it now. BEE is a [Letter-perfect time] if you’re talking about a spelling bee. I wouldn’t call that a “time,” though.

Three stars.

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23 Responses to Monday, 10/17/11

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    I just want to say that I am not paid by white-collar workers.

    And I also noted AMUCK for AMOK and wondered about it, but had forgotten about the meta-contest, so didn’t think of that.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    From the Wordplay blog:

    Administrivial Puzzle Link Alert! The Across Lite link is currently not working, and the tech department is working on it. Please use this link in the meantime.

    Also, here is the complete notepad message (I’ve added some white space to make the read a little more pleasant):

    Administrivial Contest Rules Alert! All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Berry. Have your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six.

    When you have the answer to the meta-challenge, mail it to: crossword@nytimes.com.

    Please do not post your answers here on the blog and please do not mail them to me! Only answers e-mailed to the above address will be considered.

    Twenty-five correct solvers, chosen at random, whose entries are received by 6:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday, Oct. 23, will receive copies of “Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles: 101 of the Top Crosswords From The New York Times.”

    Only one entry per person, please. The answer and winners’ names will appear on Friday, Oct. 28, at http://www.nytimes.com/wordplay.

    Oh, btw, AMUCK is an acceptable var. spelling according to the clue database, so I doubt that there’s any significance to it vis-a-vis the meta:

    AMUCK (12)
    1 Th WSJ 01 Out of control
    1 We CSy 03 Frenzied way to run
    1 We CSy 01 Mad with murderous frenzy
    1 We CSy 98 One way to run?
    2 We CSy 98 In a wild and crazy fashion
    3 Mo+ >1 04 One way to run
    1 Mo NYT 05 Bad way to run
    1 Mo NYT 02 Sort of way to run
    1 Mo NYT 99 Frenzied: Var.
    1 09 Bad way to run (Var.)
    1 07 Run (go berserk: Var.) –
    1 06 In a frenzy: Var.
    1 02 One way to run: var.
    1 02 Wild way to run
    1 00 “Chuck ___,” Chuck Jones book
    2 08 Wild way to run?
    2 02 Beyond control

  3. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: Thanks for all the supplementary information. I’m surprised at all the instances of the variant spellings, some not even clued with that indication.

    And, btw, the “Chuck Amuck” title (1 00) is a reference to Chuck Jones’ 1953 cartoon, “Duck Amuck,” spelled that way—I’ve always assumed—for the visual rhyme.

  4. klewge says:

    Another person who only knows the “uc” spelling of that word from Chuck Jones- like pannonica, I always assumed it was for the visual rhyme. Much more familiar with the way Gene Roddenberry spelled it for the Star Trek TOS episode in which Mr. Spock suffers a painful case of the Vulcan version of spring fever, “Amok TIme.”

  5. Martin says:

    RUN (RAN) AMUCK is totally legit. See RH2, page 71.

    Also, it is not cited as a variant.

    As far as I know Random House 2 is Will’s main dictionary of reference (it’s CrosSynergy’s too).

    I (politely) suggest checking the dictionary before suggesting that Patrick and Will have made a mistake.

    -MAS

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    Merriam-Webster lists AMUCK as a variant AMOK. Dictionary.com lists the same, and lists AMOK as a variant of AMUCK, as well.

    I’d check every online dictionary but I’ve got a lot on my plate.

    (Sorry, Martin. Couldn’t resist.) ;-)

    EDIT 1:
    Anyway, AMUCK always looked like an illegitimate spelling, to me — (kind of like DONUT) — and that it’s accepted in English only because some people keep spelling it that way and will simply die if they don’t.

    EDIT 2:
    I’m guessing now that, even though the Malay spelling is A-M-O-K, it’s pronounced in a way that makes A-M-U-C-K a more accurate representation of the sound for native English speakers, and that’s why it’s an accepted Anglicised spelling.

  7. Martin says:

    :-)

    That may be… but editors usually stick with their chosen dictionary of reference when deciding if a crossword entry is a variant spelling or not. Even though AMOK is the older spelling, AMUCK (and RUN/GO AMUCK) are cited as bold-letter (separate) entries. As I mentioned, I’m reasonably sure that Random House 2 is the NYT dictionary.

    -MAS

  8. Martin says:

    There’s something a little odd about this puzzle from a constructor’s point of view. Can anyone guess what I’m talking about?

    Hint: it concerns the top left corner of the puzzle. Remember, Patrick Berry is a highly proficient constructor!

    -MAS

  9. Gareth says:

    Both LAT and NYT were really clever, simple and constructed with watertight precision: 2 X Monday :). I’ve been keeping an eye on that too MAS, congrats on your first Monday crossword PB, not bad for a rookie ;)! (As of tomorrow, Berry will finally have “hit for the cycle” in the NYT, though that he hasn’t until is as good an indication as any of the meaningless of that as a metric of constructor ability…)

    Also, it bears pointing out Amy, that there hasn’t been a death in F1 in nearly 20 years…

  10. Jamie says:

    From Webster’s 1913 dictionary:
    \A*muck”\ ([.a]*m[u^]k”), a. & adv. [Malay amoq furious.]
    In a frenzied and reckless manner.

    {To run amuck}, to rush out in a state of frenzy, as the
    Malays sometimes do under the influence of “bhang,” and
    attack every one that comes in the way; to assail
    recklessly and indiscriminately.

    Satire’s my weapon, but I’m too discreet To run
    amuck, and tilt at all I meet. –Pope.

    (How un-PC!)

    Regardless of its place in the competition, this was a superb puzzle for a Monday NYT. Easy, clean, fun.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    As we’ve learned from Joon’s excellent blogging of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, it never hurts to be alert to awkward clues or unsavory answers that stick out while you’re solving. Yes, why would the Legendary Patrick Berry have an abbrev (ITAL) and crosswordese (ELON) in that easy-to-fill corner? He could’ve easily had something like JAMS/ERIE/LIEN-JELL/ARIA/MIEN. So possibly something in that corner will come into play later. (And maybe it won’t.)

  12. pannonica says:

    Mea culpa on amuck; should have investigated it more thoroughly before criticizing so harshly. The responsibility of the reviewer. I was just so confident in my opinion—and behind schedule—that I didn’t bother. As I mentioned, was also seduced by the notion that it was meta-related.

    Amy: I had meant to call out ELON! Lost in the shuffle.

  13. Martin says:

    BTW,

    Last week’s and this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education puzzles are up now. I think Patrick might have been busy.

  14. ArtLvr says:

    Agree on the BEQ — I thought of ABRADES but rejected it, then cheated on IA and put it back. At the bottom I had Yearly Rate before YEAR-TO-DATE. The STAR clue was obscure too. Etc. Not the most fun I’ve ever had, for the time spent!

  15. Jan (danjan) says:

    I saw the comment on ABRADES before I did the BEQ, and I still didn’t get it! I think that having abrades as a clue for bothers would work more than in reverse. I just cut stiff tags out of the back of a couple of knit tops; the abrading was really bothersome!

  16. Martin says:

    Think of someone with an abrasive personality.

  17. Deb Amlen says:

    A thankful shout-out to Tuning Spork for posting the Administrivial Alerts with their proper spacing and paragraphs. For reasons known only to the NYT WordPress Gods, there is no way to insert HTML inside the yellow boxes.

    But I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried.

  18. Jamie says:

    @pannonica

    “I can’t imagine either constructor Berry or editor Shortz missing this blatant mistake, as it should be ran amok, amok from the Malay language. As such, I can only assume that it’s significant in the meta. Sorry if I’m giving something away, but the error is so patently obvious that it cannot go unremarked.”

    So, since you are capable of obvious errors and capable of blogging that Patrick Berry and Will Shortz are capable of an “error that is so patently obvious that it cannot go unremarked,” a “blatant mistake.” I have a polite suggestion to you: You made a laughing stock of this blog with your unresearched vitriol.

    I think you should consider resigning. Seriously. Your post today lowered the bar on this blog. I have no problem with a blogger taking on a constructor or Shortz, but if you are going to lay into them with bad info because you are too lazy and arrogant to even check the word in question, I’d like to see you post elsewhere.

    Mea Culpa does not get you out of this. You arrogantly attacked a leading constructor and the editor because you were too lazy to google and assumed you were right.

  19. Gareth says:

    Jamie, keep your hair on. This sort of assumption has probably happened to about everyone, it’s just a lot more obvious when you’re leading the blog…

  20. Tuning Spork says:

    Jamie,

    To err is human and all that. There are myriad “facts” that we know so well that we don’t even think to look them up. For instance, I could confidently state that most tigers in the world live in Asia, mainly in India, China and southeast Asia. Do I really need to google that obvious fact?

    Oh, wait, maybe I should because most tigers in the world actually live in the United States in zoos and, mostly, as private pets. We all have our cache “common knowledge” (2 + 2 = 4, turkeys can’t fly, an aquatic dinosaur lives in a Scottish lake, etc) that we don’t question.

    I think you’ve, somewhat, misunderstood Pannonica’s post. 1) In her travels, she has encountered only the more common AMOK, apparently. 2) She had one eye on the lookout for possible clues to the meta-puzzle. The way I read it, she did not “take on”, “attack” or “lay into” Berry and Shortz for AMUCK, she merely concluded that the “obvious error” must be intentional since “I can’t imagine either constructor Berry or editor Shortz missing this blatant mistake…”.

    Should she have continued that thought with “…and therefore I’ll check a dictionary for acceptable variant spellings”? In hindsight, of course. But, for Pete’s sake, “resign”? We all live and learn new facts and alternate spellings. Some people will forever listen to the Greatful Dead while eating a baked potatoe and forever be none the wiser. This fact can not be refudiated. Then there are those that aknowledge their mistakes and oversights and walk away wiser.

    Besides, we’re not writing the Magna Carta, here. This is supposed to be fun and, as a bonus, an educational and enlightening exercise.

  21. Jamie says:

    @Gareth, @Spork: I understand your points and I over-reacted a bit. Gareth, it would be nice if I had any hair left.

    This may not be the most visited blog on the NYT crossword, but it IS the go-to-place if you want reviews of all the best puzzles. It has the best comments, not including mine.

    My problem is not that Pannonica made a mistake, and not her first – it’s the know-it-all arrogance that accompanies it. She dashes off her acidic comments without bothering to do the least bit of research. It’s not the first instance; I remember a recent xword where she confused two french verbs, but it never stopped her from criticizing the clue, wrongly. She apologizes promptly, but how about some research before she has to? Incorrect reviews damage the blog and leave the constructor and editor with egg on their faces.

    If you’re going to criticize a Berry/Shortz puzzle as the critic on this blog, it would be appropriate to google the word and ask yourself, could I possibly be wrong before launching into language like “blatant mistake” or a “patently obvious” “error.”

    @pannonica: If you’re going to stay, learn some humility. You’ve earned it.

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