Sunday, 11/20/11

NYT (untimed—PuzzleGirl & Doug) 
Reagle (9:04 – Jeffrey) 
WaPo (untimed – Jeffrey) 
LAT (untimed—Doug) 
CS 8:55 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 10:22 (pannonica) 

Trip Payne’s New York Times crossword — PuzzleGirl & Doug

Hey, everybody. Doug & PuzzleGirl here. Yes, it takes two people to do the job of one Crossword Fiend. Actually the reason we’re co-blogging today is that we always solve the Sunday NY Times puzzle as a team on the “Solve With a Friend!” applet. One of us takes the Acrosses, one of us takes the Downs, and it works great. (If you find the Sunday puzzle is a slog to solve sometimes, you should try the buddy system too.) Turns out we didn’t solve the puzzle as a team this week, because we heard that it wouldn’t make any sense in the applet. There are slashes in some of the squares, and of course they don’t show up in the AcrossLite or applet versions of the puzzle, only in the pdf. Well, they fixed it later, but when we downloaded the pdf: no slashes. Lame! (We’re pretty sure it was Deb’s fault.) So we each printed out the AcrossLite version, with circles in place of slashes, and solved the puzzle in sad solitude. You know, the slashed/circled squares weren’t really that hard to figure out, and we could have done it on the applet.

Doug: So there are 9 squares in the puzzle that take a letter going one way, and a number going the other way. Check the answer grid, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • 79d. [Thiamine] / 119a. ["___ questions?] - VITAMIN B-1 / ANY.
  • 2d. [Dinner date request] / 52a. [Ill-gotten gains] – TABLE FOR 2 / SWAG.
  • 23a. [Computer animation option] / 4d. [Sitcom waitress] – 3-D GRAPHICS / FLO.
  • 39d. [It was first broken in 1954] / 39a. [Gourmet's treat] – 4-MINUTE MILE / DELICACY.
  • 35d. [Sci-fi series set in the 23rd century] / 72a. [Furthermore] – BABYLON 5 / TOO.
  • 58d. [One step up from a four-cylinder] / 63a. [How to get this puzzle's final word] - V-6 ENGINE / PUT NINE LETTERS IN ORDER.
  • 14d. [Fruit-flavored soft drink] / 45a. [Thuggish sorts] – CHERRY 7-UP / BRUTES.
  • 108a. ["My sources say no" source] / 97d. [Blood type system] – MAGIC 8-BALL / ABO.
  • 74d. [Oscar-nominated sci-fi film of 2009] / 116a. [Pants] – DISTRICT 9 / SLACKS.

PuzzleGirl: So even once you get the letter/number thing, it’s still kind of tricky. The “hint” to the meta puzzle at 63A says PUT NINE LETTERS IN ORDER. If you’re anything like me (and you know you are even if you won’t admit it), you put the letters in order from 1 to 9 and thought “This really doesn’t look like a word.” Well, there’s a good reason for that. You have to read it backwards! From 9 to 1. Like in a COUNTDOWN! Haha! See how that works?! This is a really ambitious theme and the grid is loaded with good stuff. There’s a little bit of ugly stuff (I’m looking at you, IRING and COILER), but overall, well, let’s look at some of the good stuff:

  • 18a. [Rank in kendo] – DAN. I don’t know what “kendo” is, but it made me think of a UFC fighter named Henderson who is often called “Hendo” and his first name is Dan. Then when I got DAN through the crosses I had the same thought I always have when I see DAN in puzzle, which is that someday someone will clue DAN as Iowa wrestling legend DAN Gable. A girl can dream. Ha, I also have a kendo/wrestling connection. (Fake wrestling.) I used to watch pro wrestling back in the day, and occasionally Mr. Fuji, one of the managers, would whack someone on the head with a “kendo stick” when the referee wasn’t looking. I wonder if Dan Gable ever tried that while he was coaching?
  • 42a. [Within the grace period?] – PRE-MEAL. This is why Trip is one of the best puzzle constructors in the business. No one really wants PRE-MEAL in their puzzle, but when you’re building an ambitious grid like this one, you’re going to need a couple borderline entries here and there. So what does Trip do? Comes up with a super-clever clue. And now we all love our PRE-MEAL treat.
  • 51a. [Alternately] – BY TURNS. This is one of those times it would be good to understand the difference between “alternate” and “alternative.” (As if there’s a bad time to understand the different between “alternate” and “alternative.”)
  • 55a. [The Great Commoner] – PITT. I do not know what this means.
  • 84a. [Singer Morissette] – ALANIS. That last name bugs me. The double letters are in the wrong places or something.
  • 87a. [Bob Marley's group, with "the"] – WAILERS. As some of you know, I work in a law office that specializes in real estate. We often find ourselves on the phone with an engineering firm here in town that has Bob Marley as their on-hold music. I think that’s bizarre.
  • 108a. ["My sources say no" source] – MAGIC 8-BALL. My favorite entry of the day. Lovely. When I was in college, we broke open a Magic 8-Ball to find out how many sides the floaty message thing had. And after we were done, it wasn’t magic anymore. A part of me died that day.
  • 3d. [Zithromax treats it] – PNEUMONIA. When I was a kid, my mom liked to threaten me with double pneumonia. “Put on your hat or you’ll catch double pneumonia out there!” I found out later that the “double” part means that you have it in both lungs. At the time, I thought it meant that I’d get double sick, and if I forgot my hat and my gloves, I could get triple or quadruple pneumonia.
  • 35d. [Sci-fi series set in the 23rd century] – BABYLON 5. At first, I put in BABYLON 9, and it didn’t sound quite right. I probably got it mixed up with the Deep Space 9 show. I’m a big geek, but I never watched any of those outer space shows. I’m more of a Xena man.
  • 48d. [Chi Cygni, for one] – S-STAR. I thought Chi Cygni was a sorority for geese.
  • 60d. [King, for example] – WRITER. See now, this could have been just about anything, right? TENNIS PLAYER (Billy Jean), ORATOR (Martin Luther), TALK-SHOW HOST (Larry), BLUES GUITARIST (B.B.), SINGER/SONGWRITER (Carole) … okay, none of those fit, but you get my point. (It’s tricky. That’s my point.)
  • 65d. [Singer Marie] – TEENA. If you’re so inclined, please enjoy the sultry sounds of Lady Tee.
  • 78d. [Ladylove] – INAMORATA. Fun word to pronounce. Or maybe I’m doing it wrong. Sounds just like In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, right?
  • 90d. [Conversation stopper] – GAG. What exactly did you picture here? Two things came to my mind. One was a person getting kidnapped. You know, just sitting there casually chatting with the kidnapper and then all of a sudden BAM! The conversation is stopped with a gag. The other was two people having a conversation about oh, I don’t know, rotten food or something. One of them starts gagging and, yep, that’s the end of the conversation. I’m pretty sure neither of those is necessarily what the puzzle is going for.
  • 96d. [Color whose name is French for "flea"] – PUCE. French!

Frank Longo’s Post Puzzler No. 85 – Jeffrey’s Review

Theme: None. Nada. Uh-Uh. Themeless. Ain’t gonna happen.

So here I am again slaving away while Amy does something fun or illegal or perhaps both.

1A. [Little blue bum] – LAZY SMURF. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!. Show me a better clue and answer combo at one across this year. Ain’t gonna happen.
15A. [Camel executor] – ICE SKATER. A camel is when the ICE SKATER jumps in the air and spins around. An axel is when the ICE SKATER jumps in the air and spins around. Completely different thing.
16A. [Root picked by Roosevelt] – ELIHU. Some guy picked by some president to do something. Like in the Cabinet under Teddy.
22A. [Titter bit] – HEE. Hitter bit is TEE.
23A. [Like many tournament players] – SEEDED. Do they seed the bad ones?
25A. [Theoretically, it would obey the law pV = nRT] – IDEAL GAS. I bet joon got this in less than a second. I needed “theoretically”.
27A. [Nothing comes after it] – END. Wrong. The credits come after the END.
31A. [Dick Thornburgh followed him at Justice] – ED MEESE. U.S. Cabinet theme?
33A. [Joan followed him at Woodstock] – ARLO
34A. ["Worcester, get thee gone" speaker] – HENRY IV. HENRY V said “Ketchup, appear on thy french fries.”
42A. [Baker in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] – LAVERN.
45A. [Summer in early spring, briefly] – CPA. Accountants do more than sum and they do it all year round. How about a CPA clue that doesn’t involve filing taxes?
48A. [Prepare to overwinter, perhaps] – FLY SOUTH. I will be doing this very soon. Although I consider that to be underwintering.
50A. [Specifications within D-days] – H-HOURS. Ok Mr Peter “I-never-repeat-a-clue Editor” Gordon, let’s see you clue this without a D-Day reference.
56A. [Bowl attachment?] – ORAMA. That’s not a word, that’s almost a president.
62A. [Selection for a striptease] – TEDDY. I do not want to see TEDDY Roosevelt do a striptease. For one thing, he’s dead.
63A. [Openings in floes that lead to shores] – LAND LANES. What Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen tried to do at Lois’s sister’s house.
1D. [Enzyme catalyzing fat breakdown] – LIPASE. Huh? joon?
2D. [Can't-lose blackjack holding] – ACE TEN. Ace is 11 and Ten is 10 and 11+ 10 is 21 and you win at blackjack with 21.
4D. [Swedish seaport on the Baltic] – YSTAD. The clue could have been “DATSY backwards” and I still wouldn’t get this.
6D. [Bit in a Mauna Loa package] – MACADAMIA NUT. Say Macadamia three times and you will smile. It is a happy word.
9D. [Slip eponym] – FREUD.I do not want to see FREUD do a striptease. For one thing, he’s dead.
11D. [He dropped many men] – ALI. Muhammad. He knocked out Superman!
12D. [Song knocked out of the No. 1 spot by "Dancing Queen"] – RICH GIRL You’re going too far. But you know it doesn’t matter anyway.
13D. [Altair's constellation] – THE EAGLE
21D. [Operation in 1990 news] – DESERT SHIELD. Yes! Protect the pastries at all costs!
24D. [Current development?] – EDDY. Wasn’t EDDY THE EAGLE?
26D. [Things that may be faith-based?] – LEAPS. Didn’t EDDY THE EAGLE leap?
34D. ["Shine" pianist] – HELFGOTT. Any other words with an LFG sequence?
36D. ["Anchors Aweigh" performer] – NAVY BAND
38D. [I.M. Pei's "I"] – IEOH. Hence the reason for going by his initials.
41D. ["Umbrella" Grammy winner] – RIHANNA. Is that Stevie Nick’s daughter?
45D. ["Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" director Alfonso] – CUARON. I didn’t know either.

I liked this one quite a bit. Challenging but solvable. 4.25 stars.

Merl Reagle’s “Swapping Spree” Puzzle – Jeffrey’s Review

Theme: National Anagram Week: Two adjacent letters flipped in a phrase for humourous effect

Theme answers:
22A. [Favorite stopover of Spanish sailors?] – THE ARMADA INN (The Ramada Inn). I prefer Hapmton Inn, but that’s just silly as an answer.
26A. [School that invented the drinking song?] – BRANDIE’S UNIVERSITY (Brandeis University). You’re a fine girl, but was the sailor Spanish in Brandy? I think so:
Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the north of Spain
37A. [What the dieting seagull was on?] – A LOW CRAB DIET (A low carb diet) – Allow me. What!? DIET is in the clue and the answer?! This is the worst puzzle ever made and Reagle is the worst constructor ever. Can’t the guy find an editor?! I hate this clue, I hate this puzzle, I hate paper, I hate pencils, I hate black and white boxes, I hate bloggers, I hate commenting on blogs, I hate spinach!!!

(Ed. – The preceding will be brought to you by one of the commenters. It does not represent the opinion of Fiend© Management or the expert team of bloggers. It is a mistake. It happens. Get over it. Everyone not named joon makes mistakes. 0.1 star deduction and move on).

47A. [Inventor of bread?] – WILLIAM BUTLER YEAST (William Butler Yeats). Knead softly because you knead on my dreams.
67A. [Reality according to Sarah?] – THE PALIN TRUTH (the plain truth). She can see Spain from her home.
85A. [Three Stooges short set in Wisconsin?] – CHEESE FILLED CREEPS (cheese filled crepes)
96A. [Q: "What do you see lots of at Jerry's family reunions?" A: "___"] – GARCIA’S AMIGO (Gracias amigo)
107A. [Why Andy Capp took a class on 'andicapping?] – THE SUBJECT WAS ‘ORSES (The Subject Was Roses). I remember the first time I heard about this play/movie. It was 2.6 seconds ago. I do have short term recall you know. Now, where was I?
116A. [What a Teamster may take in Manhattan?] – UNION CAB RIDE (Union Carbide)

Other stuff:
17A. [Eschew plastic] – PAY CASH. Why won’t paper bag fit?
53A. [Strummer's buy, briefly] – UKE
59A. [Some fractions] – SEVENTHS. My fourth favorite fractions.
81A. [___ Na Na] – SHA
95A. ["I've been framed!"] – ITS ALIE. Hi, Alie. What are you doing in a window?
102A. [___ happens] – A SIT. What occurs to create a lap?
9D. [Small, to Salvador] – MENUDO
15D. ["K-i-s-s-i-n-g" place] – IN A TREE.
38D. [Like some rappers] – LIL. Abner was the first rapper.
49D. [James Bond was kicked out of it] – ETON. I thought of Easton
60D. [Bad to the bone] – EVIL
64D. [Vampire vaporizer] – SUN. I like this clue.
74D. [Extracts by boiling] – DECOCTS. Ugliest word ever.
89D. ["Born Free" lion] – ELSA
105D. [Shish finish] – KEBAB. I never get the vowels right. KOBEB? KABIB? KOBOB?
111D. [Org. for ladies who dribble] – WNBA. Women Needing Bibs Again.

Not Merl’s best, but a solid effort. 3.4 stars.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Pair Options” – Doug’s review

Don & C.C.'s syndicated LA Times solution 11/20/11, "Pair Options"

Fun puzzle today from Don and C.C. Seems like I see one of their puzzles in the L.A. Times every other week or so. They’re establishing themselves as a cruciverbial power couple. I tried to come up with a cute name for their partnership, something like Brangelina or TomKat, but GagBurn doesn’t quite work. How about “D-Double-C”? That’s not bad.

The theme reminds me of Wheel of Fortune‘s “Before and After” category:

  • 23a. [Ring from Chuck Berry?] – ROCK AND ROLL CALL.
  • 32a. [Tiny decathlon entrant?] - TRACK AND FIELD MOUSE.
  • 54a. [Contest for a free night at the inn?] – ROOM AND BOARD GAME
  • 71a. [Trait of gentleman in training?] – HIT AND MISS MANNERS. My favorite theme entry. I’m an official Crossword Gentleman©, and my manners are still hit and miss at times.
  • 92a. [Show that makes teens cringe?] – MOM AND POP CONCERT.
  • 107a. [Fixture that refunds money for unused time?] – FAIR AND SQUARE METER.
  • 125a. [Mess hall handout?] – RANK AND FILE MENU.

I’m running late today, so a couple of bullets and I’m outta here.

  • 10a. [Bratz product] – DOLL. Those dolls are horrifying, aren’t they?
  • 37a. [Writer who worked on Friday?] – DEFOE. I can never remember whether it’s DEFOE (Daniel) or DAFOE (Willem). I need a mnemonic for this. Hmmm, the Actor’s name has an A and the Author’s name… Never mind.
  • 130d. ["The Neverending Story" author] – ENDE. You create some steep expectations when you write a book called The Neverending Story. Now matter how you end it, readers are going to be disappointed.
  • 12d. [Rap name adjective] – LIL. L’il Abner used to drop some phat beats back in the day.
  • 39d. [What-eats-what orders] – FOOD CHAINS. That reminds me. It’s time for Doug-eats-breakfast. See you all next week. Everyone’s favorite Fiend will be back tomorrow.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 20

Patrick Jordan brings us an enjoyable 70/33 freestyle puzzle for the Sunday Challenge. It features two 15-letter entries (OPEN AND SHUT CASE and the I-can-never-remember-how-to-spell JANEANE GAROFALO) across the top and bottom, both with lots of long entries either crossing or adjoining them. Plus, there’s only eight three-letter words.

Let’s tackle the highlights, lowlights, and traps (well, the ones I fell for, at least). We’ll start with the highlights:

  • LEMON ZEST is a lively term, though the clue, [Certain citrus scrapings], makes it sound gross.
  • GOOD DEEDS are the [Instances of Samaritanism].
  • IT’S SO HOT is a [Complaint during the dog days] but a compliment when describing a well-fitting suit.
  • [Many an extra on "Taxi"] is a cute clue for FARE, the name for a passenger.

And now the lowlights (of which there are few, thankfully):

  • Is a [Dull offering] really just a SNOOZE? Isn’t it more like a SNOOZE-FEST or a SNOOZER?
  • [Summer's column] feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to be cute.
  • MERRINESS, the [Mirthful mood], really should have been MERRIMENT, right? MERRINESS just feels too awkward.

And finally, the traps:

  • JANEANE GAROFALO needs to change the spelling of her first name. I propose “Janine.”
  • I had GOING TO POT as the answer to [Worsening, slangily]. But it was GOING SOUTH. I like that answer better than mine.
  • I knew that the answer to [Admission of defeat] would be either I LOSE or I LOST. I admit defeat: I chose the wrong one. I lose lost.
  • It’s not a “trap,” but it took me a second glance to accept INGOT as the answer to [Bullion cube?] (as in a brick of gold). Ingot dingot doo.
  • I got WOOER as the answer to [Courting sort] at 25-Across, but for the crossing [Was a successful 25-Across] I insisted on WED for too long before tumbling to WON.

Fun puzzle overall.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword puzzle, “Threefers” — pannonica’s review

H/HH BG crossword 11/20/11 • "Threefers" • Cox Rathvon • solution

X and Y and Z. I believe Jeopardy! calls this type of thing “Before and After.”

  • 23a. [Go from frozen to cooked?] SHIVER AND SHAKE AND BAKE.
  • 35a. [Dinner party mix?] FISH AND CHIPS AND DIP.
  • 53a. [Everything in the smithy?] ARM AND HAMMER AND TONGS.
  • 76a. [Bashful imitating Grumpy?] SHORT AND SWEET AND SOUR. My favorite of the themers. I guess Bashful was kind of sweet-natured.
  • 92a. [Like some well-tested garments] WASH AND WEAR AND TEAR.
  • 110a. [War games?] HIDE AND SEEK AND DESTROY. Second favorite, for its naturalness.

Cute theme, some interesting images. Catching on to it early gave this solver the advantage of being primed for a bevy of ANDs, which helped the process.

Notes:

  • 74a. [2006 singer of "Duets"] is Tony BENNETT. The follow-up album, Duets II, was released on 20 September of this year, shortly before this puzzle  should have appeared in print. Speaking of Tonys, 114a [Tony who won batting titles] OLIVA was unknown to me (as was 102d) Mets speedster REYES). And speaking of two clues involving the same given name, 37d [1966 hit "__ Rock] I AM A primed me to think Simon for 52a [Songwriting Paul] ANKA.
  • MOO and BAA, 50a and 74d. Not clued in relation to each other, unlike the sequential 100a and 103a, [Yuletide tree] FIR and [Like a Yuletide tree] TRIMMED.
  • SAMOA crossing MOA. Not sure how I feel about that, do they have linked etymologies? I know that moa is a Maori word and that Samoan is a language of its own, but there are historical connections between the two islands. How about that symmetrical quartet of MOA, YAO, BOA, and OTS? Somebody’s the odd one out.
  • I completely fell for the misdirection in 56a [Treat rudely on line] ELBOW, because even though I’m from New York and “on” is the colloquial preposition in the phrase there, I say “in.” Didn’t notice that “on line” was neither hyphenated nor combined into one word.
  • 34a [Golden Horde capital] SARAI also new to me.
  • Did not care for the crossing of 33a [N.R.C. predecessor] and 25d ["Hic, __ , hoc"], AEC and HAEC. That’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Atomic Energy Commission, and a basic Latin declension, which I didn’t know. The quotes suggest that it’s a reference to the song of that name from the musical, Ben Franklin in Paris, but the lower case “hoc” subverts the reference.

Over and over and out.

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20 Responses to Sunday, 11/20/11

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Very elegant. I didn’t know which #B vitamin thiamine is or the Babylon show, so I thought he was going for CROSSWORD as the meta answer at first since no word fits in _ W _ D _ N U _ C. Then I got the aha moment. Clever touch.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Well, besides the Vitamin B_ guess, I never heard of Babylon _ or District _ so the NYT was a bust. COUNT DOWN was clever-ish, but since that usually starts witth 10, and since there are 2 Ns and 2 Os, it’s a stretch to see any order. Congrats to those who did! Merl’s 2-letter-switch anagrams were easier and made more sense than rearrangements of greater length we’ve seen lately, much more fun too! Longo’s HELFGOTT, IDEAL GAS and LAZY SMURF came only with the crosses, but LIPASE was a gimme, so that helped… Lipids are a common topic these days, HDL vs LDL (Highly Desirable and Less Desirable, if you need a mnemonic). And in the LAT I especially liked the “What-eats-what” clue!

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    I’m extremely surprised by the lukewarm reaction from solvers to Trip’s puzzle here and at Rex Parker’s site. I didn’t know the B vitamin number or Babylon 5 but you can still easily figure out the meta without a couple of answers, and backsolving one or two like that is often a normal part of a meta like this (and neither thiamine nor the show are particularly obscure).

    It seems like solvers may be taking their frustrations with the technical glitches out on the puzzle itself. I think it’s one of the best puzzles of the year.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Interesting puzzle, but I don’t get Pitt either. I thought the Great Commoner was William Jennings Bryan. William Pitt is an interesting British PM, but I don’t think he had that nickname. Doubt that it’s Brad Pitt. So I’m confused.

    Bruce

  5. Martin says:

    From The wikipedia article on Pitt the Elder:

    He was also known as The Great Commoner, because of his long-standing refusal to accept a title until 1766.

  6. jj says:

    Frank Longo’s NW corner in the WaPo dupes David Quarfoot and Katy Swalwell’s NYT puzzle (http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=6/1/2007) pretty badly (they had PAPA SMURF at 1A and ICE SKATER right below it, then the clearly better RUPP ARENA below them with MARCH MADNESS crossing the entire stack).

  7. bolete says:

    The only part of today’s NYT puz that I liked was “inamorata”, a word I learned from Flanders & Swann’s “Hippopotamus Song” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjnOj9O16_I):

    The fair hippopotama he aimed to entice
    From her seat on that hilltop above
    As she hadn’t got a ma to give her advice
    Came tiptoeing down to her love
    Like thunder the forest re-echoed the sound
    Of the song that they sang as they met
    His inamorata adjusted her garter
    And lifted her voice in duet…

  8. Deb Amlen says:

    “We’re pretty sure it was Deb’s fault”.

    NUH UH! I … I … Oh, never mind. {headdesk}

  9. halfstone says:

    I resisted doing this puzzle because of the “It Doesn’t Work In The Applet” warning. It works fine – just use the “Insert multiple letters …” function; and know that you won’t get that little congratulatory pencil-guy, which you won’t get in the PDF version unless you draw it yourself anyway. I had “Media” as the politician’s supporters and couldn’t figure out how to “mut nine letters in order”. I also misspelled “enamorada” which caused me some consternation. “Sorority for Geese … ” Ha! Though it’d be swanlets, or swanlings, no?

  10. cyberdiva says:

    Like Matt Gaffney, I was surprised and dismayed at the lack of enthusiasm for the NYTimes puzzle. I didn’t know which B vitamin Thiamine was, nor did I know Babylon5, and like Halfstone, I had MEDIA rather than PODIA and thus couldn’t make sense of the hint in 63A. Moreover, as soon as I had CHERRY __ __ P, I put in CHERRYPOP, and that further sabotaged my success. Even so, I really enjoyed the puzzle and thought it was one of the most interesting NYTimes puzzles this year. Kudos to Trip.

  11. JoelF says:

    I wouldn’t say it was one of the best of the year, but it was ambitious and interesting. The fill was shaky in lots of places, which definitely detracted from the overall solve (the PRE-MEAL, REMEET, REBIDS, BERU section for example). Cool theme though

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m shocked at how many people (here and at Rex’s) have never heard of “Babylon 5″. I never watched the show, but then I’ve never watched “Glee”, “Hill Street Blues” or a Super Bowl either, but I know what they are.

  13. roxanne cormier says:

    French!! hah sure do miss you Puzzle Girl

  14. Loved the Times puzzle. I first thought that thiamine was B12 (actually, I first thought it was a nucleic acid, but that didn’t come close to fitting—I was confusing it with thymine, the T of DNA), but then I realized there were only 9 numbers so it had to be 1–9.

    I knew something funny was going on with the meta when I had a word ending in UO_. When I got it down to __ODT_UOC, I had the aha moment, and used that to backsolve the missing theme answers, which helped me finish out the rest of the puzzle.

    Only had one wrong letter in the end (I started out with MEDIA for 63D, which made sense, as did maltESE for 69A), but I changed the M to a P when I finally figured out 63A. That left me with the non-sensical PeDIA (half of WIkipedia??).

  15. HH says:

    When are you people ever going to learn? — If you have any hopes of solving a Times crossword, You Must Know Everything!

  16. John Haber says:

    With District 9, Babylon 5, Cocoon, and Beru, does this have a sci-fi fixation? For me, that’s one part of culture I put out of my mind as fast as I can. So if you throw in that the engine and the vitamin could have more than one answer (and I guess so even could “Table for _”), and 3D graphics crosses a sitcom, the theme answers were precisely the hardest for me. (I’d also have got ATP a lot faster as the biology factoid than sports, didn’t know DAN or TERRI or TEENA, am getting a little tired of the _-STAR clues that could be anything without a crossing, and am having trouble believing that REMEET or WIREMAN is a word, but that’s got nothing to do with the theme.)

    I’d thus be inclined to the “bust” side with ArtLvr, but feeling clever from working things out backward from the ultimate payoff put me in a better mood. Let’s say it wasn’t the puzzle the theme deserves and leave it at that. I guess it averages out to an average puzzle for me, between special and awful summed and divided by 2.

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  18. John Haber says:

    BTW, hardly Trip’s fault, but I’ve never cared for “lede.” It wasn’t needed to distinguish the word from uses outside journalism, since journalists had been talking about the lead for ages. It seems to have come about quite recently with bloggers (not speaking about their work, as a blog post is short enough to be all lead) but commenting on the “mainstream media.” Or at least that’s where I first encountered it. But no question the usage has stuck.

  19. John Haber says:

    I stand partly corrected. MW11 dates “lede” to 1976. dictionary.com dates it to still earlier, ca. 1965, although neither source gives references the way the OUD might. Several commenters on the MW Web page who worked as journalists well after 1976 express surprise at the word, however. MW10 (published in 1995) did not include it, and RHUD also does not. So I guess it’s fairer to say it had first use in journalism earlier (to distinguish it from “lead” in the sense of lead type) but did not spread until the last few years.

  20. Lois says:

    Yes, the lede spelling is familiar to me from long ago, though I always wondered at the seemingly unnecessary change in spelling. Thanks for explaining, John. The puzzle broke me, especially the theme answers. As people have pointed out here, difficult and unfamiliar phrases are gettable with crosses. In this case some crosses were only available by almost completing the puzzle. For me, the hardest theme answers were Magic 8 box, which I’d never hear of, and V6 engine, though hubby helped me with the “6.” I admire the puzzle, though.

    Re Merle and Jeffrey’s blog: Regarding “96A. [Q: 'What do you see lots of at Jerry's family reunions?' A: '___'] – GARCIA’S AMIGO (Gracias amigo)” – I do believe the theme answer should be punctuated as GARCIAS, AMIGO. That is, the family members are Garcias, and the Spanish word “amigo” is just hanging around from the original phrase and refers to the questioner in the clue, or the reader. But, Jeffrey, good catch on the word “dieting” in 37 across, and that’s a great riff on the error you have there. I did like the puzzle a lot despite the error, even a bit more than you did.

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