Friday, 10/21/11

NYT 8 minutes 
LAT 5:25 
CS 5:59 (Sam) 
CHE 5:54 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 9:23 

Note: The October 21 New York Times crossword is not available in Across Lite, the Java applet, or smartphone/iPad apps. If you’re an NYT subscriber with access to a printer, print out the .pdf. If you don’t have a printer, buy the newspaper. If the newspaper isn’t sold in your area, gnash your teeth and curse the NYT for not releasing a .jpz version, and take a gander at my solution grid (or the one at xwordinfo.com) when the time comes to figure out the contest answer using all six puzzles.

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, contest day 5

NY Times crossword answers, 10 21 11 1021

This puzzle put me in mind of Tyler Hinman’s wonderful Lollapuzzoola 2010 crossword, a themeless puzzle where the answers that hit the edge picked up again on the opposite side. I imagine it’s fearsomely complex to construct one of these puzzles, but once you know what the gimmick is, it’s not all that much harder to solve. At least, it shouldn’t be.

This one, Berry’s fifth contest puzzle, has three 15-letter answers: TERRI FLEW INCHES, ELDEST ROY IN GANG, and CHARTER ISLES LIE. Those oddball phrases match up just fine with their clues, but they really circle around the back of the page and
pick up on the other side. You may be more familiar with a Winchester rifle, destroying angel (The dictionary tells me it’s a poisonous mushroom! Who knew?), and Leslie Charteris. Now, I couldn’t tell you for sure if Leslie Charteris is male or female—mostly before my time in pop culture—but I’ve seen the name.

Weird grid for Berry—he’s so good at low-word-count puzzles, but this week’s puzzles have flirted with maximum word counts and maximum block counts. Is this relevant to the contest? I have no idea.

Four stars. I love the crossing-over-to-the-other-side gambit, but the fill is mostly undistinguished stuff.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 21 11

Whoa, I don’t know exactly why this puzzle took me so long. Was it surprisingly challenging, or am I surprisingly dim this evening?

The theme entries are phrases that start with two individually pronounced letters, only the letters are flipped:

  • 17a. [Violent comic book protesters?] could be DC BURNERS, as in people burning DC Comics publications. CD burners are computer components.
  • 26a. [The wind at Chi-Town's Wrigley Field?], whether it be blowing in or blowing out, is an HR FACTOR affecting the home run count. Rh factor is a blood antigen. I don’t know why “Chi-Town” is in the clue instead of just “Chicago.” It made me think the answer was going to do something weird.
  • 33a. [Flintstone receivers?] hint at prehistory and BC RADIOS, playing on CB radios. I was confused here because there was just a Jeopardy! category about actual flint stones.
  • 45a. A public address (P.A.) system turns into AP SYSTEM, a [News agency's betting method?].
  • 50a. [Where horses box?] clues KO CORRAL, flipping the Wild West’s OK Corral.
  • 64a. [Pleasure craft loaded with Charmin?] clues TP CRUISER, inverting the Chrysler vehicle called the PT Cruiser. Don and C.C. saved the best for last.

Highlights: 14a: Fred [Couples choice] is an IRON, a golf club. 43a: [Shout to an awardee] confused me until I remembered “SPEECH! Speech!” 3d is Dick Van Dyke’s character ROB PETRIE, [Fictional writer on the fictional "Alan Brady Show"], on The Dick Van Dyke Show. (“Oh, Rob!”) 52d: [War adversaries since the '70s] are COLAS, with the Coke and Pepsi taste tests.

Lowlights: 28a: EAT LESS feels like a random verb + adverb than a real lexical chunk of meaning. Don’t care for AERI (42a. [Gaseous: Pref.]), RUER (47a. [[Who's sorry now]), ILEA (6d. [Intestinal sections]), nauticalese ABAFT with a question-mark clue (11d. [Sailor's back?]) that leaves you hoping for something clever, RIMY (38d. [Frosted]), and the I-don’t-even-know-what-that-means EPS (41d. [Bottom line for stockholders, briefly], maybe earnings per share?).

Three stars.

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pay Up”

WSJ crossword solution, 10 21 11 "Pay Up"

If you order something COD (cash on delivery), you’d better “Pay Up” or the delivery person isn’t handing the box to you. The theme entries all have C.O.D. initials:

  • 22a. [Performs exorcisms] = CASTS OUT DEMONS.
  • 36a. [New York nickname] = CITY OF DREAMS. Not one of the city’s top four nicknames. Husband and I haven’t heard this one before.
  • 50a. [Starting to actually file things] = CLEANING ONE’S DESK.
  • 68a. [Fixed-term investments] = CERTIFICATES OF DEPOSIT. All the plural does is make this fit a 21-square space.
  • 86a. [Cable operator's offering] = CHANNELS ON DEMAND. We use Comcast’s on-demand service plenty, but I can’t say “channels on demand” sounds remotely familiar as a phrase.
  • 104a. ["Calm down, my man"] = CHILL OUT, DUDE. Okay, this, I like.
  • 118a. [Understand what's implied] = CATCH ONE’S DRIFT. My, that’s an awkward nonspecific pronoun there.

The theme’s one of those “everything starts with…” themes that basically has no inherent humor, no wordplay. It’s just…there.

Ten more clues, both “ooh” and “meh”:

  • 55a. [From a central Swiss canton] clues BERNESE. Meh. A reference to the Bernese mountain dog might’ve been a little zippier.
  • 60a. [Like an unlucky winter pedestrian] clues SLUSHED. Didn’t know that word could really be used like that. Are you SLUSHED by stepping in slush, or only by being splashed with slush by a passing vehicle?
  • 91a. [Symbol on a University of Oregon football helmet] is the LETTER O, not an animal or other mascot.
  • 103a. IAGO is the [Villain who says "I am not what I am"]. I don’t think I knew that.
  • 131a. [Guest among poets] is poet EDGAR Guest. Wikipedia describes his work as “sentimental, optimistic poems.” I.e., not the stuff of English lit classes.
  • 4d. [One method for discovering new places] is GETTING LOST. That’s lovely.
  • 5d. [Bridge setting] is your NOSE. Ha! Not the card game, not a span across a river.
  • 79d. [Having half as many digits as hex] clues OCTAL. I honestly don’t understand the purpose of having numerical notation systems other than the regular base 10 and the binary system.
  • 88d. NODUS means [Difficult situation]? Did I know this? It seems like the sort of word that would get plenty of play in crosswords.
  • 90d. [Investors' bonuses] are MELONS? All right, then.

Highlights in the fill include MR. SANDMAN and CONDE NAST in addition to the aforementioned GETTING LOST.

Three stars.
Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “After Midnight” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 21

According to the expression, nothing good happens after midnight.  I’ll leave it to you to assess whether that’s exemplified in today’s Randall J. Hartman puzzle. The hidden theme here appears to be “three movies and a train.”  The first word in each of the four theme entries can follow “Midnight” to form either the name of a movie or the name of a passenger train:

  • 17-Across: The [1989 Madonna hit] is EXPRESS YOURSELF, and Midnight Express tells the story of a guy sent to prison for trying to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. Unlike some other movies we saw in our CS puzzle earlier this week, this one scores very favorably on Rotten Tomatoes with a 95% approval rating on the tomatometer.
  • 25-Across: [Tony Lama product] meant nothing to me as a clue, but the answer’s the very familiar COWBOY BOOTSMidnight Cowboy is the Oscar-winning film featuring great performances from Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie’s dad.  It carries a 90% approval rating on the tomatometer.
  • 43-Across: The [Diamond stat] is a RUN BATTED IN, and Midnight Run is the Robert DeNiro-Charles Grodin buddy comedy with a 96% approval rating. This was back in the day when it was surprising to see DeNiro in a comedic role. Has any actor’s street cred faded as much over the past decade as DeNiro’s (for reasons that have nothing to do with extracurricular issues a la Mel Gibson)? Once upon a time I would have made it a point to see one of his movies.  Now, not so much.
  • 55-Across: An [Advocacy group's cause] is a SPECIAL INTEREST, and the “Midnight Special” is, compared to the other “Midnight” theme entries, well, special (meaning different).  Wikipedia says it was “an American passenger train formerly operated between Chicago and St. Louis.” Best as I can tell, though, there was no movie called Midnight Special. The closest I could get on Rotten Tomatoes was Midnight Blue – The Deep Throat Special Edition, a 1970s porno that, shockingly, no critics have reviewed.

Until hitting that last snag, I thought this puzzle was a solid four stars. I didn’t expect the light at the end of the tunnel there at the bottom of the grid to be an oncoming train. Now I feel like it’s in three-star territory, but maybe I am being too harsh. I’ll end this post on a positive note by listing my favorite entries and clues in no particular order: (1) [Montreal or Vancouver] was, to me, an interesting clue for ISLAND; (2) DREAM ON is just a fun entry; (3) I like the musical lineup of JAY-Z and ALANIS Morissette, and especially the shout-out to Peaches and Herb with REUNITED (it felt so good to see that); (4) [Toothbrush handle?] is a super clue for the brand name (or “handle”), ORAL B; and (5) [Fanta size?] is a great clue for the otherwise ho-hum LITER.

Doug Peterson’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Varisty Matches” — pannonica’s review

CHE 10/21/11 • "Varsity Matches" • Peterson • solution

Appropriately for the Chronicle of Higher Education, this puzzle’s theme features institutions of higher learning. The matches referred to in the title are not athletic contests of opposing teams, but rather the apposite names of teams for four schools.

  • 20a. [Aptly named college team from Michigan] AQUINAS SAINTS. As in Saint Thomas Aquinas.
  • 28a. [Aptly named college team from Florida] STETSON HATTERS. As in the famous American milliner. Originally called DeLand University, in 1889 it was renamed to honor said manufacturer and notable benefactor.
  • 46a. [Aptly named college team from Massachusetts] BRANDEIS JUDGES. As in Judge Louis Brandeis, for whom the school was named upon its founding in 1948. Easily the institution with the highest profile among the themers.
  • 54a. [Aptly named college team from Southern California] WHITTIER POETS. As in John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker poet and school namesake.

Well, I learned something from the puzzle, anyway. Solid theme, varied grid. Long down entries are KISS ME KATE (of course clued with a reference to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew) and THE WAY WEST, clued as a [Pulitzer-winning novel by A.B, Guthrie, Jr.]. I was completely ignorant of the book and the 1950 film based on it, starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark, but do know of the 1995 Russell Baker-narrated documentary because I have the soundtrack. MOLASSES is the [Rum base] (see also RYE [Whiskey-mash ingredient), while [Bones connected to the sternum] are TRUE RIBS (seven pairs in humans).

ETON appears as an entry, but I don’t know if the college’s athletic teams have names. My favorite apt college team name, the U. Conn Huskies, doesn’t appear, but also doesn’t quite fit the theme. Incidentally, minor league ice hockey once included the Macon Whoopee among its franchises.

The ballast fill is has a low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) and many of the entries—perhaps slightly more than usual, even in the CHE puzzle—are given a literary slant: Jonathan Swift, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Faulkner, Seneca, Isabel Allende, P.J. Wodehouse.

Last, I could not for the life of me remember that a [Sundial's shadow-caster] is called the GNOMON, though at one time I knew that fact well.

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32 Responses to Friday, 10/21/11

  1. Shaw says:

    Anyone else get a different puzzle for Fridays NYT via download? Not by Patrick Berry, but rather David Bunker… I got the same puzzle downloading via the crosswords iPhone app and via a straight up download on the NYT website.

  2. joon says:

    yeah, i got the david bunker puzzle. it confused me until i remembered that patrick’s puzzle was PDF-only.

    incidentally, this should be straightforwardly JPZ-able, although i’m not really the one to do it.

  3. Alex says:

    I offered my services for making a JPZ but was turned down. Would have been easy.

    Tyler’s LP puzzle was built on a torus, which is even wackier than this cylindrical one. And PB2 pointed me to a crossword built on a Klein bottle, which is ludicrous.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Definately JPZ-able. Though I’m not sure if anything about coding a JPZ could be called “straightforward”.

  5. joon says:

    alex, this puzzle is on a torus, too, with the extra wrinkle of the 15-letter answers running into themselves.

  6. @Alex: I don’t know if this was the same puzzle you’re thinking of, but check out Thinking Outside The Box from the 2007 MIT Mystery Hunt. Not only is it on a Klein bottle, but the starting locations and lengths of the answers not given, making it devilishly difficult.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I got the David Bunker puzzle too. How do I “print out the pdf”? Exactly what does that mean? Where do I find the pdf to print it out? (I won’t even bother asking what “jpz” means.)

    Bruce

  8. Alex says:

    Whoops! It is a torus. Thanks, Joon. And Adam — that is the one.

  9. Gareth says:

    Really neat LAT theme, though indeed tough for me too, as I don’t the abbrs. HR and AP. EPs are records in my world, though the crossword world seems to resist that meaning. Even with the death of the phonograph many smaller bands release “EPs”. ROBPETRIE was all crossings, that show predates television in my country, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen reruns. Tricky clues for SAP and EATLESS had me a bit stymied. BAIN was a gimme though :)

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, see the top of this blog post for the PDF link. You download it (it’s always available on the Premium Crosswords page, right near the Across Lite link) to your machine, then print it out.

  11. Daniel Myers says:

    Anywhere I can find a write-up on the David Bunker puzzle, which I quite fancied? – I don’t really care a fig about this PB contest rot…pace to all those here who do!

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @myers: “Rot” and “Patrick Berry” do not belong in the same sentence! (No idea if anyone anywhere has reviewed the Bunker puzzle.)

  13. Tuning Spork says:

    Okay, now I’m curious about “the Bunker puzzle”. Is this a puzzle from the archives put up just to give certain downloaders something other than the Thursday puzzle again? Or is it something that is scheduled to run in the near future? Daniel, what’s the date on that puzzle?

    EDIT:
    I see that the Bunker puzzle is in the Across Lite option (with today’s date), though the applet still shows PB’s Thursday puzzle. I’ll assume that this is a new puzzle.

    Two Fridays! Woohoo!!! Perhaps Team Fiend can give it its own write-up?

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    It would be nice if someone paid it some attention. At least two people, David and I, would appreciate a very fine puzzle’s not being given the cold cruciverbal shoulder because everyone else is so ensorcelled by the PB gag.

  15. Martin says:

    Over at Rex there was some speculation that “the Bunker” is the puzzle that was pre-empted for the Steve Jobs tribute (which was also a Friday). It’s not. Which is fortunate because that one was by — Patrick Berry.

    The unwitting people trying to solve the metapuzzle with an unrelated Berry substitution would be the victims of a — what? — metascrewup?

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Martin, and their solution be a meta-morph. Their symptoms from the torment due to a metallergy. Their complaints about it would be meta-carpal. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

  17. joon says:

    i didn’t solve the bunker puzzle. i printed it out and noticed that it wasn’t patrick’s puzzle, and then i remembered that i needed to get the PDF.

    looking at the puzzle, it appears to be david bunker’s puzzle of friday, october 27, 2006. so if you want to read amy’s writeup of it, feel free to step into the hot-tub time machine of the old blog.

  18. Gareth says:

    NYT:So after CRAMming all night, then having two extremely stressful ORALs (Yes this crossword felt the need to remind me of all this…) I printed out the puzzle, and left it in the printer in the PC lab. So I solved this puzzle in Crossword Compiler using clues from the PDF. I thought I was really smart and started a timer in AL, only to find it doesn’t count while the grid isn’t in focus. Probably better off not knowing, though it was about average difficulty for a Friday, the overlapping entries concept was genius, but not to hard to pick-up on. The long entries were a lot more mysterious, but appeared word by word and by crossers. Most confusing thing was the wrong numbers provided by my obstinate insistence on solving Crossword Compiler and the switching back and forth! Best puzzle of the week (and the month) so far, wonder what Saturday holds…

    The Bunker puzzle is from 2006: http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=10/27/2006. Amy’s blogpost: http://crosswordfiend.blogspot.com/2006/10/friday-1027.html.

  19. Ellen R. says:

    The Bunker puzzle is just a placeholder from the archives, since some of the systems require a puzzle to be there.

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    And a very enjoyable placeholder from the archives it was, for me. Perhaps we should have more of them during these contest weeks, for those who value a leisurely themeless solve; NOT, again, to knock all you out there who assiduously track your solving times and make the yearly pilgrimage to the ACPT etc. etc. It’s just that some of us simply like to print the puzzle out, grab a ball-point pen and curl up in a chair with a cup of coffee and completely lose track of time whilst we immerse ourselves in the puzzle.

  21. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thanks, Amy.

    If I had been more attentive I would have seen the ‘pdf’ link at the top. I *do* know that pdf stands for Personal data file, or something of the sort.

    BTW I loved the LAT with the reversed two-letter abbreviations–more so than the current ratings would suggest.

    Bruce

  22. pannonica says:

    “Portable Document Format”

  23. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Oh Well. . .

  24. Jeff Chen says:

    Whew, I struggled mightily with the Bunker puzzle. Liked BIG SPENDER, DESERT FOX and USTINOV very much, but trying to wrangle KRAALS, GARGANTUA, SUPPE, NEGRI, RIN (as a coin), ADANA, ESNE, SEINERS, ROAD TAX, singular TEA LEAF…

    I think my brain is broken.

    Nice to have two Fridays though!

  25. Tom Grubb says:

    This puzzle (NYT, 10/21) completely baffled and finally alienated me so as to allow me to spend my Saturday morning at the pool instead of x-wording. Actually, I was hoping for some elucidation from our dear Amy Reynaldo but even she seemed to give this puzzle short shrift despite her relatively enthusiastic rating. I always look forward to the Friday puzzle as the one that will keep me “glued” long enough to get it all right, something which I do not normally experience with Saturday’s, but today I just gave up due to lack of interest and went swimming. What a good decision that was, or so I say to myself, now that I observe Amy’s pencilled (one “el” or two?) solution and scant “explication de texte” which tells me that she is really not so fond of this puzzle at all. Am I wrong?

  26. Daniel Myers says:

    And don’t forget NELLY, with whom others are perhaps familiar, but which I had to get completely by crossings, making the SW corner the last to fall.

  27. John Haber says:

    You guys probably have a book mark that gets you directly to the puzzle, and thus got the puz substitute. I go to the “crosswords and games” page, it was headed with a warning that Friday’s was pdf only, so it was offering an additional puzzle for those who can’t give up timing themselves.

    I liked the Berry gimmick of wrapping, at least for most entries, and it went fast enough. Yet I’d have liked it a lot more if I’d made sense of applying the wrapping theme to the strange long entries. Since I hadn’t heard of two of them, that wasn’t easy.

  28. Meem says:

    Am I the only one who works the CHE in the hard copy publication? If you can get your hands on a copy, take a look. The grid does not match the clues! Not even close. So I printed myself a blank grid and worked it as a diagramless. Good exercise.

  29. Tuning Spork says:

    Meem, I LOVE turning “easium” puzzles into diagramlesseses!

  30. Doug says:

    @Meem – Yes, there was a problem with the CHE grid in the Chronicle Review. According the editor, “…the correct grid is in the news section of our October 21 issue, along with a correction notice directing readers to that puzzle rather than the version in the Review.” Regardless, I’m glad you enjoyed the diagramless challenge.

  31. Tuning Spork says:

    Is anyone else not able to see the comments on the Saturday post?

  32. john farmer says:

    What comments on the Saturday post?

    No, I can’t see them either. Must be a glitch somewhere. Maybe all the complaints about the Times puzzle not being available brought down the Fiend site too. (Just kidding.)

    What’s odd, though, is that melmoth has left a couple of comments on Saturday since yours, TS.

    [insert musical interlude here]

    OK, the problem is browser-related. With Firefox, the Saturday comments come up, no problem. With IE (I use IE9), no such luck.

    Something to keep Evad busy.

Comments are closed.