Wednesday, 10/19/11

Onion 4:47 
LAT 3:41 
NYT 3:28 
CS 6:03 (Sam) 

A little advance heads-up from the Times gang: The Friday episode of Patrick Berry’s New York Times Crossword Contest Weekstravaganza will be an unusual one in that it’ll only be available in the newspaper and as a .pdf to print out. No applet, no Across Lite, no smartphone/iPad version.

Plan ahead if you’re not usually a newspaper/.pdf person or don’t have a printer. Berry + Friday + crazy + contest = win-win-win, so let’s have no whinging about the puzzle’s unavailability in some of the usual channels. (If you have no printer and live somewhere you can’t buy the Times, by all means, curse the fates.)

(I bet one of my clever readers could figure out how to make a .jpz version of the puzzle, though. I know some folks don’t like the Crossword Solver interface, but Antony Lewis’s file format does seem to offer tons more flexibility when it comes to presenting funky crosswords that break the mold.)

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword (contest day 3)

NY Times crossword solution, 10 19 11 1019

Day three of the contest, and I haven’t a clue where this boat is sailing.

Today’s theme is idiomatic phrases that mean “angry” clued quite literally. Who among us has not been SEEING RED when stuck at a stoplight, am I right? The fussy baby is UP IN ARMS of a caregiver, the cloned dude is BESIDE HIMSELF, the cranky lady IN A LATHER takes a bath to relax, and the INCENSED aromatherapy client encapsulates my feelings when I walk into a shop where incense is burning. (Smells like a headache to me.)

Four stars for the theme. In the fill, I like HIT LIST a lot, but the rest of the puzzle feels so much plainer than the stuff in a Berry themeless. And blah little URI parked at 1a where you can’t miss it—o [Swiss canton], I have not missed thee. And TALENT clued as a currency unit in the cross-referenced BIBLE—what? That’s not bringing the fun either. Overall grade 3.75 stars.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 10 19 11

I didn’t make any sense out of the theme until after I finished solving it and really paid attention to the revealer clue at 59a:

  • 59a. I’VE GOT A SECRET was a [Long-running game show, and a hint to the starts of 20-, 28-, 37- and 51-Across].
  • 20a. [Add-on for a large party's tab] is a SERVICE CHARGE. (Secret Service.)
  • 28a. [Even thieves have one, it's said] clues CODE OF HONOR. (Secret code.)
  • 37a. [Largest city in California's wine country] is SANTA ROSA. (Secret Santa.)
  • 51a. [Nickname seen on a Northeast license plate] is New Jersey’s GARDEN STATE. (The Secret Garden.)

It took me a while to put CODE OF HONOR together because I had EASED IN for 2d: [Entered carefully, as a highway] rather than EASED ON. Outside of “Ease on Down the Road” from The Wiz, I don’t think “ease on” exists in that way. I guess you could ease a sock on over your broken toe, but I don’t think you can “ease on” by merging from the on-ramp.

Favorite bit:

  • 1d. [Wishing one hadn't rocked the boat?] is a fun clue for SEASICK. I don’t get seasick so much as landsick after the boat lands.

Boo to cluing 9d: SOSA as [Wrigley slugger]. Yes, he slugged during his days at Wrigley, but those days ended in 2004. Isn’t it sad that nobody has displaced Sammy Sosa as a hotshot Cubs player since then? Poor Cubbies.

Boo, too, to the glut of seen-mostly-in-crosswords answers: The run of OMOO OGEE IDI ALERS EES OTOE UTES OLAND breaks my solving spirit. Interesting (well…not really) to see OLAND clued as a two-word partial, 30d: ["__ of Our Birth": Isle of Man national anthem] rather than as Warner Oland, the Swedish dude who played the Chinese Charlie Chan.

2.75 stars. I’d rather have four theme answers and zippier fill than five theme answers and grid sections cut into 3- and 4-letter chunks.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, Heaney 10 19 11

What did I just say about the number of theme entries vs. getting a bunch of 3s and 4s? Francis has six theme answers buffered by even more 3s than Jack’s LA Times puzzle has. But my headspace falls in line more with Franciscan fill—FTW (which is not a reversal of WTF but rather, short for “for the win”), SKA, and D.O.B. instead of IDI EES OMOO. The LAT’s fill isn’t far removed from what I saw in 1980s crosswords. Mind you, Francis has a few clunkers in there (EWER, MCM, the MST/MTN combo) but overall his fill draws me in more. JIHADS, ONE-HIT wonders, HEADS-UPS, the MGM GRAND, CROOK and SPUNK and STINK? Those breathe life into the grid.

Anyway…let’s move on to the theme. It’s odd. A word or phrase gets a chess piece added to it, and like an amoeba, the chess piece ingests a piece of the preceding word/phrase and forms a new word or phrase:

  • 17a. [Kimono-accessory store that was not demolished in an earthquake?] merges “standing O” (ovation) and ‘bishop” to make a STANDING OBI SHOP.
  • 23a. [Tough-guy actor Steve who would have fallen for anything?] clues SUCKER MCQUEEN. What’s “Sucker MC”? Apparently the hapless sort of rapper described in Run-D.M.C.’s 1984 song “Sucker M.C.’s.”
  • 31a. [Announce via Twitter that Fidel passed his annual health exam?] mashes together “typecast” and “rook” for TYPE “CASTRO OK.”
  • 41a. [Evening after work set aside for a urinary tract exam?] clues PEE WEEKNIGHT, “peewee” + “knight.”
  • 49a. This one’s a special shout-out to journalist Andrea Mitchell, whose husband is former Fed head Alan Greenspan. [Globally conscious S&M?] is GREEN SPANKING.
  • 59a. [Latin term for coming back to life at the exact midpoint of a video game level?] clues IN MEDIAS RESPAWN, merging “in medias res” and “pawn.”

The Onion puzzle often brings a few “never heard of”s to my attention, particularly when the constructor is Francis. 32d: AYERS, [Roy of jazz or Kevin of rock]? I drew a total blank on both of ‘em. Kevin Ayers of rock should absolutely go to Ayers Rock in Australia. 4d: AHN, ["What's Going ___" (creatively spelled Big Star song)]? Never heard of it, but I imagine that the lyrics are sung with a Chicaahgo accent. The way the we pronounce “on” would probably sound like “ahn” to the rest of youse.

Favorite clue: 54a: EARS are [Prominent parts of an Obama costume].

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Shorts for Richard” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 19

You don’t get many chances to say this on a family crossword blog, so I have to get this out of the way fast before my privileges here are revoked–did you notice the DICKS hanging down there in the lower right?  69-Across (um, is that intentional?) is clued [Gumshoes, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 46-, and 61-Across]. That’s because the starts of those answers are surnames of famous people with the given name Dick:

  • 17-Across: CLARK UNIVERSITY is the [Worcester educational body since 1887]. Here on the west coast, we have a Lewis and Clark University, but a college where Clark flies solo is new to me. Dick Clark is, oh, I dunno, maybe the most famous person ever.
  • 26-Across: I know TRACY CHAPMAN as the singer of “Fast Car.”  Here, she’s the ["Where You Live" artist]. Whatever happened to Tracy Chapman, anyway? That would make a good case for detective Dick Tracy.
  • 46-Across: The clue: [Colonel Sanders and General Custer both wore one]. The answer: not THONG, but a VAN DYKE BEARD.  Dick Van Dyke is the great comic actor cursed by many an ottoman.
  • 61-Across: BUTTON BATTERIES are [Small power sources] that I’m pretty sure are entirely new to me.  Fifteen seconds of online research suggests they’re used in pocket calculators, hearing aids, and wristwatches.  Then there’s Dick Button, the champion figure skater who was the first ever to land a triple jump of any kind.  (I didn’t know that until just now as I was writing this point–I was confusing him for Red Buttons during my solve, which led me to question whether the puzzle had an error by using the singular “button.” As usual, the puzzle is right and I’m wrong.

My favorite clue came at 1-Across: [Put down in writing?] is a great clue for LIBEL.  (But [Make the rounds?] was also a fun clue–the answer is ROTATE.) The only ugly patches were the ugly TNPK and BAD END, which feels kinda arbitrary or forced to my ear.

I wonder how many other solvers got slowed down by the pile-up of AVOCETS, the [Long-legged shorebirds], URIEL, [One of the archangels], and BITTE, the [German's "please"].  In the name of Uriel, bitte, no more avocets!

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17 Responses to Wednesday, 10/19/11

  1. Jamie says:

    Somebody please create a jpz (whatever that might be) of Friday’s puzzle! My printer died a week ago, and I have a new one due to arrive after this puzzle is published.

  2. donald says:

    How is it that you don’t know where the boat is sailing when you receive advance copies of the week’s crossword? Just wondering. Oh, and the day-to-day folk already know the gimmick!

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @donald, I shouldn’t even reply to your lunacy. Why do you persist in claiming I get the puzzles in advance? I do not. Will Shortz, Deb Amlen, and Ellen Ripstein (people who do see the puzzles ahead of time) can confirm this. If you paid the slightest attention to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, you’d know that one simply cannot finish in the top 10 without being able to solve Monday and Tuesday puzzles in under 3 minutes and Saturday and Sunday puzzles in well under 10.

  4. donald says:

    No need to throw things …

  5. Martin says:

    I’m on the early distribution of the puzzles that Ellen Ripstein sends Deb Amlen and others and I can confirm that Amy is not on it. Unless she’s blind copied. Or maybe she’s on a different distribution even earlier.

    I forgot that Amy has a stalker.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Francis’s Onion theme is extremely original and clever; 5 stars. I’m saying that not because it has a chess theme, but in spite of it (I hold it to a higher standard due to its theme).

  7. Martin says:

    “Mind you, Francis has a few clunkers in there (EWER…”

    Amy, I’ve gotta ask: why do you consider the word EWER a clunker? It’s not exactly obscure… or maybe the word for that type of jug was not commonly used in the States. It certainly was in the UK where I grew up. My family never owned one, but I know my grandparents did. They were a very common item back in the day. They were as common as a facecloths, soap, and toothbrushes.

    -MAS

  8. ArtLvr says:

    IMO, lots to enjoy in Berry’s NYT – including the GASBAG with a pol’s SPIN dripping off, diabolical CABAL cutting through divided BERLIN, a TALENT like silver crossing one’s palm in BIBLE tales, and hard-ridden STEEDS running through IN A LATHER ducking under HIT LIST. I wouldn’t carp at URI either — wasn’t that William Tell’s canton where USURPerS were put down? And AHA punctuating punny BESIDE HIMSELF? An imaginative FEAT which can EDIFY, that’s my take anyway!

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @MAS: In the U.S., for a person born in the 1960s, EWER is a word from crosswords and not an everyday object known to those who don’t do crosswords. Too much indoor plumbing?

  10. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Without throwing in a spoiler, I want to congratulate Ben Tausig for including in this week’s Ink Well puzzle a composer whose birth bicentenary is being celebrated around the world (born Oct 22, 1811). Unlike many musicians and artists little appreciated in their lifetimes, this one was more popular than is easily imagined today. He garnered fees enough to subsidize others, and even had the suffix “-omania” widely attached to his name!

  11. pannonica says:

    I know EWERS from art history. As we solvers know, it’s a staple of still lifes.

    ArtLvr: …which is also the title of a godawful 1970s Ken Russell/Roger Daltrey film. Now I’ll have a slight advantage going into my solve and write-up! Unless I’ve guessed wrong…

  12. Gareth says:

    For this solver born in the 80′s, it’s a word I know primarily from reading novels set in the 18 and early 19 hundreds. For some reason EWER is associated in my mind with Stuart Cloete, but I have no idea as to why him specifically.

  13. Martin says:

    A basin and ewer were required decor for the hip antiques collector in the ’80s. We liked modern furniture but all of our friends preferred old and rickety. And the bedroom full of old crap wasn’t done until it sported a chipped basin and cracked ewer.

  14. Victor Barocas says:

    I learned EWER doing crosswords but fell in love with it when I learned that it comes from the Latin AQUARIUM. When the water goes out of (EX, which was reduced to an initial S) something, that’s the SEWER! The crosswordesitude is trumped, for me, by the great etymology.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Victor, that is neat! I never knew the etymology of either word.

  16. Martin says:

    Let’s replace from “cradle to grave,” “A to Z,” “soup to nuts” and such with “from ewer to sewer” in our conversations. I can’t wait for my first opportunity.

  17. Martin says:

    “@Victor, that is neat! I never knew the etymology of either word.”

    Well, if Victor won’t say it, I will:

    “Ewer welcome!”

    -MAS

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