Wednesday, 11/16/11

Onion 6:00 
LAT 3:47 
NYT 2:37 
CS 5:53 (Sam) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 11 16 11

Who scheduled this Monday puzzle to run on a Wednesday? Probably the same guy who scheduled a Wednesday puzzle for Tuesday and a Tuesday puzzle for Monday. Cute theme, though: BEER CHASER plays a second role, that of describing the first words of the other theme answers. BOTTLENECK, GARDEN PARTY, BARREL OF MONKEYS, and BELLY DANCER make for a zippy foursome, and they evoke a beer bottle, beer garden, beer barrel (is that a thing?), and lovely beer belly.

Favorite bits: The WHEAT penny. VLOG (my favorite vlogger is Jay Smooth, and PuzzleGirl can attest to his awesomeness). Salade NICOISE, which was just on Jeopardy! [Social contract theorist John] LOCKE. (Locke! I miss Lost.)

Nonfavorites: ALAI, AGAZE, OLEO, REA, TOR, AMU. I didn’t even see all of these while solving, though, because the puzzle was solving itself so expeditiously.

3.5 stars.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 11 16 11

This puzzle sort of threw me off balance with all the long Across answers that don’t have starred clues and aren’t part of the theme. I kept trying to merge them with the grand unifying answer GO OFF, but no. It’s a neat theme, though:

  • 40a. [Explode, and words needed to complete the four starred answers] clues GO OFF. If something “goes off” in another sense, it departs—just as the GO OFFs have gone off in the four theme answers. It’s rather circular, isn’t it?
  • 17a. To [*Get carried away] is to go off THE DEEP END.
  • 64a. To [*Act prematurely] is to go off HALF-COCKED.
  • 11d. To [*Lose it] is to go (or be) off ONE’S ROCKER. I feel like “be” works better than “go” here. Yes? No?
  • 28d. To [*Digress] is to go off ON A TANGENT.

There’s a lot of sparkle to admire elsewhere in the grid:

  • 1a. “OH, SNAP!” is a [Response to a good barb]. I started out trying TOUCHE but Kermit the Frog’s “HI-HO” wouldn’t allow that.
  • 35a. [Fly without a plane] clues HANG-GLIDE. I rather like consonant pile-ups like that NGGL in the middle.
  • 45a. UP TO SPEED is an idiom meaning [Informed of the latest news] or abreast of the standard procedures.
  • 54a. MR. GOODBAR is a [Nutty Hershey's treat], peanuts in milk chocolate. Also a cinematic gigolo reference.
  • Technically, these two have a duplicated word, but both are zippy and I can forgive the dupe. 49d: “AND HOW!”(["Amen!"]) and 9d: “AND YET…” (["Even so…"]) are both examples of the colloquial speech that livens up a crossword. (See also: 1-Across.)

Less pleased with IDA., ENYA, OBI, ALTA, ANAT., OYEZ, P.E.I., BELG., and ACRO-. But at least there’s juicy stuff outside of the theme. When a theme is the only place to find any sparkle, it bums me out (especially when the theme fails to make up for its environment), but this puzzle has a 90% solid theme.

Four stars.

Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, Quigley 11 16 11

I zipped through the first theme answer but quickly found myself in over my head in trying to figure out the other four theme entries. They’re mashups of three band names, but boy, it really helps if you recognize something in the clue:

  • 17a. ["La Bamba" band covering "More Than a Feeling" with "Funky Cold Medina" rapper?] references Los Lobos, Boston, and Tone Loc in LOSLOBOSTONELOC. A flat-out gimme.
  • 23a. [Bill Callahan covering Scottish math metal with "I Know What Boys Like" band?]…huh. The end is the ’80s band the Waitresses. “Scottish math metal” means nothing to me and I’ve never heard of Callahan. The answer is SMOGWAITRESSES. So Callahan is Smog? And Scottish math metal clues, um, OGWAI? Google-fu powers, activate! Mogwai.
  • 39a. ["TV Party" punks covering some '80s Hollywood glam metal with "Scrape" punks?] clues BLACKFLAGUNSANE. Know Black Flag is a punk band (I’m thinking of starting a hardcore punk band called Goutrage), have no clue on the rest. Google-fu to the rescue: L.A. Guns, Unsane.
  • 48a. [Richard D. James covering "Seventeen" with Pat Smear's band?]…let’s see…Did Janis Ian sing “Seventeen”? That’s not helpful here. The answer is APHEXTWINGERMS. There’s a band called Germs? Yes, there is. Mr. James is electronic musician Aphex Twin, and Winger recorded “Seventeen.” Pretty sure they’re a Debra Winger tribute band. Is it a coincidence that my head started hurting while that video was playing?
  • 58a. In ["I Feel For You" singer collaborating with "Psycho" garage punks to cover "MMMBop"?], Chaka Khan covers half of Hanson and…Sonics? That’s a group? The Sonics are a ’60s group that just recently reunited. (Not to be confused with “Reunited,” which is Peaches and Herb.)

Whew! That was a lot of research just to understand five answers in a crossword. Thank goodness the crossings weren’t too ambiguous to piece the theme entries together—though my last square was the X where 48a meets 40d:[DJ Funkmaster ___] FLEX. Nice job with the Downs’ cluing and fill, Brendan, or I never would have made it through all the theme answers.

Fave answers: “I RULE,”14a: “Recognize and realize, fools!”]. VALUE MEAL. Total FACE PLANT (which I narrowly avoided doing on this puzzle).

Rating: somewhere between 4 “wow, impressive” stars and 1 “what is this…I don’t even” star.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “401(k)” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 16

As the resident United States tax practitioner here on the Fiend, it makes sense that I get to cover the puzzle entitled “401(k).” Alas, the theme has nothing to do with the taxation deferred compensation arrangements (ooh, that gives me an idea!). Instead, each of the four theme entries contains four Os followed by one K. In shorthand, I suppose, that would be “4-O,1-K.” Cute idea! Let’s check out the theme entries:

  • 17-Across: The COLORADO ROCKIES are the [Western team with a geographic nickname]. I guess LOS ANGELES LAKERS wouldn’t quite work.
  • 27-Across: Hey, GOOD LOOKING! You sure are [Pleasing to the eye]. How about giving me a hand with my…
  • 48-Across: SCHOOL BOOKS?  You know, my [Backpack fillers, often]? Whoa, hold on! It was just an innocent favor!  Put down that…
  • 63-Across: MOLOTOV COCKTAIL before you hurt someone! Namely me! That [Bottle-based weapon] is super dangerous!

The long Downs are bustin’ out all over with coolness, from RIGOLETTO and SPLOTCHY to BLAST OFF and even MAO ZE DONG. Why does it seem like there are a dozen ways to spell Mao’s name in English? Is there a definitive one?

As good as the fill is (c’mon, what did you expect from a Lynn Lempel puzzle?), I found some of the clues to be the real highlight. I liked [What a prognosticator might scrutinize] as the clue for PALM. That’s indirect enough to slow me down but ultimately gettable with one or two crossings. ["God's joke on human beings," a la Bette Davis] is a fun clue for SEX (though why not use “per” instead of “a la?”). But my favorite was [Mr. America bulges] for PECS. Not my first guess.

I’ve heard of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, but I’ve never seen the acronym WCTU for the [Alcohol-eschewing org. for the ladies]. Did that trip up anyone else?

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15 Responses to Wednesday, 11/16/11

  1. Gary says:

    “… beer barrel (is that a thing?)” Oh, my – generations of Cheeseheads know how to dance (for small values of “dance”), only because of the Beer Barrel Polka!

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ah. yes, of course. I know it well from the K-Tel polka commercials of my childhood. (“For small values of ‘dance’” = funny.)

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    R-r-r-roll out the barrel-l-l-let’s have have a barrel of fun! Okay, maybe after work.

    Nitpick time! CrosSynergy has the clue [Identity card tidbit] for AGE. I’ve seen variants of this clue before, but are there any forms of ID that actually have one’s age printed on it? “Date of birth”, yes, from which you can calculate a current age. But, “Age”? Even imagining some after-school event that might assign students by age group, I’d think that would entail ID tags (i.e. as stickers on their shirts), not ID cards.

  4. Just saying: I’m going to shoot for somewhere between 4 “wow, impressive” stars and 1 “what is this…I don’t even” star from now on.

  5. Howard B says:

    Lively, simple Times puzzle.

    With Amy on the BEQ, but I gotta give bonus points for mashing up stuff like Aphex Twin and Winger. That just disturbs me in such a way that I have to give it respect.
    Even the bands I wasn’t familiar with belong to genres that I now have to check out. “Scottish math metal”? That phrase alone is gold.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    GO OFF can also mean rot or smell bad, which could lead to an entirely different puzzle, but I liked this one! Also enjoyed the BEER theme, even if a bloated stomach is ugsome. But BEQ’s bands? No way — give me swing and sway with Sammy Kaye, any day….

  7. john farmer says:

    The Janis Ian song is “At Seventeen.” Hard to picture her hanging out with the Onion punks. There was a time in my life when I was very plugged into the music world, and the BEQ puzzle reminds me that was a long time ago.

  8. Jan (danjan) says:

    Just did BEQ’s Onion – for me, a great exercise in figuring out what letters might work, and I surprised myself in how close I came to finishing! Wouldn’t want to do this every day, but I enjoyed the challenge.

  9. Golfballman says:

    Oh sh*t yes but I ain’t buying oh snap.

  10. Jeff Chen says:

    Really liked the NYT! I would have loved it if it had been on a Monday. And if AMU and SITZ hadn’t been invited to the GARDEN PARTY.

    Speaking of which, I’m curious why ALAI, REA (NYT) and IDA, ENYA (LAT) caused our gracious B-log hosts to cringe. Jai alai is a perfectly normal game where people die horrible deaths. Steven Rea: I loved him in V for Vendetta, oh snap! IDA Tarbell is one of my favorite muckrakers, only after… uh… Anyhoo, ENYA isn’t my favorite of singers, but she’s famous, yes?

    Oh, snap! (I didn’t use that right either time, did I?)

  11. MD Solver says:

    Wow, divisive Onion.

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Will Johnston’s puzzle pointers site is completely refusing to open for me. I click on the link and it totally ignores me. Is this a problem anyone else is having, or is it localized to me and my computer? (Also, I go to the NYT site, and try to open the puzzle from there, and it also ignores me.)

    Bruce

  13. Tuning Spork says:

    @Bruce, Just went there via Cruciberb, no problem.

  14. Martin says:

    Bruce,

    Try clearing your cache.

  15. Mike says:

    Agree w/JFarmer…what remains of my music lexicon seems bound up, somehow, with the oldies channel. When did that happen?

Comments are closed.