Monday, 11/28/11

NYT 3:16 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:38 
CS 7:33 (Sam) 
BEQ 7:23 

Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT 11/28/11 • Michaels • Mon • solution • 1128

Super-smooth Monday puzzle, providing a very fast solve time for me (even with the still-unfamiliar new keyboard). As 1-across indirectly proclaims, this crossword has a lot of FLOW.  The theme here is adjectives to describe comparative aesthetic appeal, associated with people’s names.

  • 20a. [Notorious 1920s–'30s bank robber] PRETTY BOY FLOYD.
  • 33a. [America Ferrera's Emmy-winning role] UGLY BETTY.
  • 44a. [Hardly a beauty queen] PLAIN JANE.
  • 54a. [1940s–'50s wrestler with golden locks] GORGEOUS GEORGE.

Not in order, we see the transition from disparaging UGLY to the neutral PLAIN to the merely PRETTY and finally to the apotheosistic GORGEOUS. I kind of like the similar clue construction—with the decade ranges—of the first and last clues; provides a bit of a bookend effect. Good too is the balance of boys and girls. [edit: It would have been better, though, if  the allocation of epithets had been more egalitarian among the genders. –p.] Unsurprisingly, and reflective of society in general, the whole thing skews slightly toward the visually pleasing.

Other things:

  • Perhaps subconsciously primed by the theme, I notice that OBESE directly follows SARA Lee Cakes in Row 2. GALUMPH (25a) is a deliberately ungainly portmanteau word, meaning to [Walk clumsily], courtesy of Lewis Carroll.
  • Speaking of clumsiness, the crosswordese REUNE makes an appearance at 64a. That’s about the worst offender in this fluid puzzle.
  • Some appealing mid-length fill, with ISOTOPES (clued somewhat freshly with a Simpsons reference), PILSENER (with the middle-e unelided), and SLOE GIN appearing in full,  for a change.
  • 13d. [Nettled, with "off"] is TEED. This clue took an errant path in the pachinko of my brain, so I thought the answer was TIED. Until just now, I assumed it was an unfamiliar golf term. Being so far off really steams me!

This pleaser of a puzzle should garner plenty of 35d YEAS [Approving votes].

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 11 28 11

Hot on the heels of his triumphant Sunday New York Times puzzle, Jeff pops in here with a Monday puzzle that felt like a Wednesday to me (but maybe it’s just past my peak cognitive hour). The theme goes to college to earn a B.A.:

  • 55a. [Common college degree, whose abbreviation is a hint to 20-, 28-, 39- and 48-Across] is a BACHELOR OF ARTS. The other four theme answers have B.A. initials.
  • 20a. [Ted Williams had a .344 lifetime one] refers to a BATTING AVERAGE. This answer tricked me into reading 23a: [Stat start] as being about baseball, so I took the R and ran with it for RUNS (although runs/hits/errors isn’t technically a statistic)—the answer is the prefix RHEO-. And then when I had ERA via the crossings, I looked to see if it had a baseball clue; luckily, it’s [Disco ___]. Mind you, I didn’t want everything to focus on baseball—it’s just that so many crosswords have trained me to think that way.
  • 28a. [Site of many a shady transaction] clues BACK ALLEY.
  • 39a. [Boo-boo protector] is a brand-name BAND-AID.
  • 48a. [Bullet-proof vest, e.g.] is BODY ARMOR.

Five more clues:

  • 63a. [With 67-Across, innovative or experimental artists' group] clues AVANT and GARDE, centered and stacked together nicely.
  • 71a. DIPS are [Chip enhancers]. What’s your favorite dip?
  • 4d. [Dance that precedes "golf" in the NATO phonetic alphabet] is FOXTROT. Lovely clue.
  • 5d. [Wheelchair guy on "Glee"] is ARTIE. I don’t watch the show so this one was all crossings for me.
  • 15d. [St. for gamblers] is NEV., short for Nevada. State, not street or saint.

Highlights: DREADLOCKS, EGG ROLLS, FRAIDY CATS, FOXTROT, and HOBNOB are all terrific. And I like seeing 11d: YANG, [Yin's counterpart], given Jeff’s other work. Four stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Closing the Gap” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 28

The four theme entries are three-word phrases with the letter pattern ___G A P___, and since we don’t enter spaces into the grid, solvers effectively “close the G-A-P.” It’s a fine theme idea, but look at how some of the theme entries appear to have even more in common, suggesting an added layer that’s not quite fully developed:

  • 20-Across: [Being superpowerful] is PACKING A PUNCH.
  • 28-Across: [Promoting something] is MAKING A PITCH. That looks an awful lot like PACKING A PUNCH, right? Doesn’t that suggest the theme is more along the lines of __KING A P__CH? That’s what I was thinking until I got to…
  • 46-Across: COPPING A PLEA, clued as [Bargaining for lesser charges]. So much for that idea! But then we get…
  • 57-Across: TAKING A POWDER, clued as [Disappearing with no notice]. The __KING part is back, but not the P__CH. So while the theme entries are perfectly consistent, something feels a bit irregular to me.

I got a little lost in trying to suss out the exact parameters of the theme, but my slower-than-average time is more attributable to my grappling with lots of unknowns in the fill. Among the more confounding parts: (1) TITI as the [Small monkey found in the Amazon]; (2) ARNE as the ["Rule, Brittania" composer]; (3) PICT, not an abbreviation for PICTURE but an [Ancient Briton]; (4) U.A.R., short for “United Arab Republic,” clued as [Egypt and Syria, at one time (abbr.)]; (5) RHODY as the [Aunt from a children's song] (don’t know her, don’t know the song); and (6) PET PIG as the answer to [It may be potbellied]. I had the PIG but had to play guess-a-letter twice over to find the first word (since it intersected both ARNE and PICT–yeesh!

That’s a half-dozen “huh?”s, which is two or three times my normal quota. It wasn’t all frustrating, though. I liked ONE POTATO, the [First words of a choosing rhyme], LI’L KIM, UNCANNY, and BARGE IN. It’s a little cliche to say that solving crosswords helps one in constructing them, but my experience to day was the opposite: this time my work in construction paid off during the solve. I used to struggle with the spelling of GANDHI, the [Indira of India]. But now I remember that the correct spelling contains three consecutive postal abbreviations: Georgia + North Dakota + Hawaii = GANDHI.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 388 answers

I just plain didn’t enjoy this puzzle. The clues didn’t deliver any of the 15s to me easily, and then none of the first 15 Down clues were 100% obvious either. And when I did start piecing things together, from the middle on outwards, there were a lot of weird things that didn’t make me happy.

ELIS with a clue that I had no clue about.. SID with a clue that meant nothing to me. DIT with…I don’t even remember the clue there. IRED as a letdown for a clue that promised more, ENOLA as a trite answer with a new clue, the AHSO/STERE/STOAS grouping…those things just weren’t working for me. And the insulting reference for BAM—and here I thought the anti-Obama crowd preferred “BHO,” “Obambi,” or “Barack HUSSEIN Obama.” Guess I don’t keep up with the anti-Obama internets.

I did like NEVER HEARD OF HIM, POSTSEASON GAMES, BANANA PEEL, ISRAELI COUSCOUS balls, Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill WATTERSON, TRIBECA with a car clue, and the etymology clue for HAMAS.

Three stars.

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19 Responses to Monday, 11/28/11

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I too was pleased to see Jeff Chen’s work again today in the LAT, with the sneaky little echo of his Sunday NYT’s theme and the snaky clue. Andrea’s Monday NYT puzzle was also well done — maybe slightly tongue- in-cheek with the WISEGUY and JEERING to accompany less attractive adjectives for gals and more positive descriptions of guys?

  2. andrea carla michaels says:

    Hi, Orange!
    Thanks for the sweet write-up! (I explain the whole balance thing more fully over at…gasp…Wordplay, but of course it was unfortunate that the women got the short end of the (ugly) stick in this puzzle… What can you do? I tried to throw in GINA Lollobrigida, you don’t get more beautiful than that!

    But REALLY I’m writing in bec I glanced at Jeff Chen’s grid and mis-read your final highlighted entry as BACHELOR O’FARTS…and thought it was some sort of Simpsons rude boy puzzle!!!!!! Quelle embarrassment!

  3. Gareth says:

    Andrea: That’s Panonica’s write-up… The gender disparity was bugging me too, and I’m male. Maybe Amy’s been rubbing off on me! Unusual that many of the longer answers were one word, but GALUMPH and PILSENER are great words for any day! If this wasn’t Monday 63D could’ve been Emilio Estevez, to Martin Sheen!

  4. Katie says:

    CS
    “Go tell Aunt Rhody the old gray goose is dead…”

  5. ArtLvr says:

    BEQ wasn’t too bad, but you’re right — lots of really obscure stuff there. I got the TRIBECA section and worked the lower half first. O’HAIR and NO PAR opened the rest. The top and bottom lines often sum up my reactions to some of his clues… Will anyone explain ELIS? Yalies?

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    ArtLvr,

    I’m fairly certain, without checking, that ELIS came about as sobriquet for Yalies due to ELIhu Yale, from whom the college takes its name.

  7. Gareth says:

    The one she’s been saving to make her feather bed!

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Yes, Elihu Yale. And Amherst teams are the ‘Lord Jeffs’ and even more obscurely Williams College teams are known as the ‘Ephs’, pronounced to rhyme with “leafs” (though I guess there’s no such word.) It’s named for Ephraim Williams, who founded, or at least funded the college. Of course that doesn’t explain why Akron is the ‘zips.’ As far as I know, it wasn’t founded by either Moses, or his wife Zipporah. (At least I seem to remember that Moses’ wife was Zipporah. Any biblical or Torah scholars confirm that?)

    Bruce

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    @Andrea: I originally proposed this to Rich as a BATHING (B A thing) puzzle, but he wanted a simpler revealer (I think he’s right given it’s a Monday puzzle). It’s quite a bonus that different parsing allows for some amusing results. Tee hee!

  10. Always Constructing Mondays says:

    Smooth, indeed! Yes, the balance was a little skewed, with the guys looking better – but thanks for throwing us dumb, stinky guys a bone: we know the tables are turned in the real world!

    Tony

  11. sbmanion says:

    Bruce,

    Don’t say anything bad about the EPHS (I know you didn’t); while I didn’t go to Williams, it is near and dear to my heart as one of the three schools in the country that recruited me for football and the only one whose coach came out to see my father and me.

    Somewhat harder than a normal Monday for me, but excellent nonetheless.

    Steve

  12. pannonica says:

    Daniel Myers: I don’t think the Eli-Yale connection was the issue for ArtLvr, but rather the locale in the clue (Toad’s Place), which I in turn have assumed is a New Haven establishment.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks, pannonica –I do have a graduate degree from Yale, as it happens, so it was the Toad’s Place that left me out in the cold!

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    Thanks from me as well, pannonica. Why didst thou not correct me, ArtLvr?!? I’m the one who feels left out in the cold!

    Things are seldom what they seem,
    Toad’s Place was a clue unseen etc. etc.

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    My apologies to pannonica, ArtLvr, Gilbert, Sullivan and, perchance, Kenneth Grahame.

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Toad’s Place has been around for decades. Among the bands I’ve there are the Ramones, the Patti Smith Group, XTC and a host of local bands. (It was a regular stomping ground for Michael Bolton back when he was still Michael Boloton.) One song on Billy Joel’s “Songs in the Attic” album was recorded there (I was at the local punk club, Ron’s Place, that night), and Bob Dylan gave an impromptu long concert there back in the Travelling Wilbury days. Ah, mem’ries.

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    Oh, Tuning Spork, your illustrious avatar became a trivia question around the family Thanksgiving table this year – introduced by moi. After about five minutes of mastication, scratching of pates and general bemusement, one person got it!

  18. andrea carla michaels says:

    sorry, Pannonica, it’s YOU I must thank! I thought my puzzle was extra-warmly received, now I know why! ;) As for ELIS, I’m under alumni obligation to issue a mild HISSSSSSS.

  19. Luke Rasmussen says:

    SEAMEN. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahaha!!!

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