Tuesday, 12/13/11

Jonesin' 3:30 
NYT 2:50 
LAT 3:41 (Neville) 
CS 5:41 (Sam) 

Jonathan Gersch’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 13 11 1213

Aww, Muppets! Not the ones from The Muppets, but the ones from 19a/63a: SESAME STREET. How cute is this theme? Five long answers begin with first names that also belong to Muppets, and just for the heck of it, ELMO sneaks in at the end.

I like how two of the theme answers are people who’ve become modern-day crosswordese: BERT LAHR and ERNIE ELS have grid-friendly names. OSCAR MADISON was nearly as curmudgeonly as Oscar the Grouch. GROVER CLEVELAND is far less delightful than blue Grover (c’mon, who doesn’t love Grover?). And TELLY SAVALAS brings us Telly Monster, who joined the cast after my early childhood (around the same time that Elmo joined, it turns out).

The theme is so adorable, I forgive the puzzle’s ventures into crosswordese. Yes, SORER, VIERS, TSETSE, and ERTES all made me scowl, but who can be mad when there are Muppets about. Four entirely subjective stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I’ll Go Last”

Jonesin' crossword solution, "I'll Go Last"

As the title suggests, if “I’ll go last,” then you can put ME at the end—and that’s exactly what happens in each theme answer, which is a mashup of two phrases, [word 1+ word 2] and [word 2 + ME]:

  • 20a. [Phrase telling off a blood-sucking bug?] is “MOSQUITO, BITE ME.”
  • 37a. [Punishment of having to wear a paper sign on your back?] is a PENALTY “KICK ME.”
  • 55a. [Time-sensitive demand on a dirty car?] clues “PRESSURE-WASH ME.”

I like the variety of ways the phrases read, each one giving a different vibe.

Six more clues:

  • 3d. [Add machines and conveyer belts] confused me with its wording. “What the hell are ‘add machines’?” I wondered. “And shouldn’t it be ‘conveyor’ with an O?” The answers are “Duh, ‘add’ is a verb, and what’s being added is machines and conveyer belts, that being another acceptable spelling.” So if you add that sort of factory equipment, you AUTOMATE things.
  • What’s that noise? It’s MWAH if it’s an [Air kiss noise], HISS if it’s a [Rattler's noise], and TOOT if it’s how you [Make steam whistle noises]. Am now having uncomfortable flashback to horrible “Silly Train Song” on Caillou.
  • 50a. [Wilberforce University's affiliated denom.] is AME, or African Methodist Episcopal. Wilberforce is a historically black college.
  • 40d. ETAGERES are [Shelves for knickknacks]. My sister calls it a “curio cabinet,” but who is she kidding? It’s an étagère, and she might as well start filling it with pretty etuis.

3.75 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Sizzling Inside” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 13

Just like yesterday’s CS puzzle from Bob Klahn, today’s Martin Ashwood-Smith offering is a very well-executed take on a very simple theme. 22-Down is HOT TIME, clued as a [Fun experience, or alternate title for this crossword?]. That’s because each of the three 15-letter answers running across the grid contain the letter sequence H-O-T at some point:

  • 17-Across: HEARTBREAK HOTEL is the [Elvis hit of 1956].
  • 32-Across: TELEPHOTO LENSES are [Camera attachments].
  • 51-Across: My favorite of the group, a SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN is a [Shortened weapon].

There’s no unity to when the H-O-T sequence appears–first it’s at the start of a word, then buried inside the first word, then pretty plainly within the last word. The precise location of the H-O-T sequences likewise appears to have no pattern–first it’s in squares 11, 12, and 13, then 6, 7, and 8, then 10, 11, and 12. Sometimes you can kinda hear the “HOT” (as in SHOTGUN) and other times you can’t (as in TELEPHOTO and HOTEL). So the theme offers little beyond “hey look, here’s three words that: (1) have the letter sequence H-O-T in them; (2) have nothing to do with temperature; and (3) can be added to other words to make common 15-letter expressions.” And yet I really loved this puzzle.

The wide-open corners and mid-section give the grid the look and feel of a Sunday Challenge freestyle. Sure enough, it’s a 70/28 grid, well within the typical limitations for word counts and black squares in a freestyle (nee themeless) puzzle. You don’t often see four 10-letter non-theme entries and six eight-letter non-theme entries in the same grid, and it’s this impressive grid that makes me like the puzzle so much. The long entries themselves may not pack much wallop (LET-DOWNS was my favorite, probably followed by LATE FEES, but TABLE SET and AT THE OPERA felt less zippy to me), but note how none of the crossings are obscure or trite. The only two compromises appear to be ENNA, the [Central Sicilian city], and GAIA, the [Greek earth goddess], but neither rises to the level of a party foul.

My favorite clues included [Places with many loafers] for SHOE STORES, and, for personal reasons, [Sandra Bullock techno-thriller of 1995] for THE NET. The only reason I even know that is because, back in 1995, I joined a “movie of the month” club–you know, one of those gimmicks where you got 20 movies for 20 cents and then had to buy four more movies at full price over the next two years? The fine print said that a new movie ships automatically every month (along with a bill for full price) unless you affirmatively elected out. I missed the deadline one month and that’s how I got my VHS copy of The Net. Still shrink-wrapped, in case there are any collectors out there.

Mike Nothnagel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 12 13 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 12 13 11

Mike Nothnagel! One of my favorite constructors is writing for the LA TImes today. I’m not sure that I remember his last puzzle for the LAT – just his work for the New York Times. Regardless, this is a winner of a Tuesday puzzle that reeks of Mike’s usual sparkle.

  • 3d. [*Where evidence is gathered] – CRIME SCENE
  • 18a. [*Strikers' formation] – PICKET LINE
  • 35a. [*Severe reprimand, in metaphor] – RIOT ACT
  • 28d. [*Extremely easy task] - CHILD’S PLAY
  • 55a. [1963 hit for the Drifters... or where you can see the ends of the starred answers] – ON BROADWAY
  • 48d. [Setting for this puzzle's theme] - STAGE

This is a cute little theme. I think we’ve seen the play/act/scene/line bit before, but I like the two-timing theme reveal at the bottom. The theme answers are all fun answers I’d be happy to see in an end of the week themeless. In fact, I see great entries all over:

  • ARMY TENT
  • HOLY WAR
  • X-RATED
  • JET PACKS
  • STAND PAT
  • LAP DOGS
  • CLEAN AIR

These are all great entries, and my jaw just drops that we’ve got all of this in the same puzzle without any compromising fill. The worst thing I see in this puzzle is NANS, and that’s nothing. A couple of notes before  I resume studying for final exams:

  • DORIS Day’s new album “My Heart” drops stateside tomorrow. It’s been out in the UK for a few months, and it has bestowed Ms. Day with the honor of being the oldest artist to enter the UK Top 10 with an album featuring new music.
  • SINE is a [Trig class ratio]. Mike is a professor of math at the Culinary Institute of America when he’s not constructing crosswords (or is that vice versa?) – do your students use the sine function, Mike? Does anyone not involved with mathematics use the sine function? Do you know what it is? Do you care? (Fortunately, there should be no sine problems on my exams.)

4.2 stars – points off only for a familiar theme.

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17 Responses to Tuesday, 12/13/11

  1. Plot says:

    Some personal synchronicity between the NYT and Jonesin: I would not have known about Stella D’Oro if I hadn’t heard Patton Oswalt’s hilarious bit about an old commercial for Stella D’Oro Breakfast Treats. “Snack time, anytime!”.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Fave personal connection for me in the LAT, as the “I Claudius” star also was featured in a film version of one of the medieval Brother Cadfael tales by Ellis Peters, which I’m now reading again with great pleasure!

  3. Bill Bucceri says:

    what happened to the LA Times Crossword site? I can not access and print puzzles anymore; Am I the only one upset about this? Bill Bucceri Erie PA

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bill Bucceri: The LAT crossword URL has changed. The new link is http://www.latimes.com/games/daily-crossword/.

    Mute your computer speakers, click that link, wait for the ad (with audio!) to finish, and the puzzle should appear. To access the print option, click the “Options” button to the right of the crossword.

    The alternative is to sign up for a free account at Cruciverb so you can download the LA Times puzzle in Across Lite format. You’ll also need to download Across Lite—it’s a small application that doesn’t require a ton of memory. You can then solve the .puz file of the LAT crossword on the computer or print it out from Across Lite.

  5. Gareth says:

    I’m not sure what to make of MAS’s CS puzzle. The theme really isn’t much of one, but as you say as a themeless alone, it’s pretty darn good! Also, I thought ATTHEOPERA was a great entry! Curious to know, are American’s familiar with motorcycle racing great Mick DOOHAN? Or are we limited to Scottie?

  6. John Haber says:

    Oh, I just peeked over after a long while at the “lost puzzles” forum, and I see it’s overwhelmed by daily CS puzzles. Since there’s also a CS post here every day, are they the same, and are they really lost? (I thought that forum was to let some readers post their own puzzles.)

  7. Gareth says:

    They were lost for a while when CS switched from PUZ to JPZ, but now they’re available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/r/WashingtonPost/Content/Puzzles/Daily/cs111213.jpz (change to appropriate date); however, they’re still posted at the Island board. The post here describes the crossword, so it’s different to what’s on the board.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @John: The Island of Lost Puzzles is for both. Solvers who want to download a .jpz to solve offline can’t easily extract that file from the Post site, so we quietly post it at the Island with CS’s permission.

  9. John Haber says:

    Ah, thanks much. (I’ve been printing the NYT most days from the online puz, so I guess I’m used to Across Lite.)

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Bill Bucceri,

    No, you are not alone. I’ve been complaining, (if not bitching), about the sudden unavailability of the LAT for several days.

    Amy, I appreciate your attempted resolution of the problem, but I’ve managed to get that version of the puzzle before, and it is completely unprintable, which to me is tantamount to non-existence, even though I know some people seem to be (amazingly to me) able to solve online. And today is a Mike N. I be curious solve an easier puzzle from him. I guess the new link is not compatible with Acrosslite, or whatever the right computer lingo is. I think you and I and the rest of our clan are doomed to life without the LAT.

    Bruce

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I meant that last sentence for Bill Bucceri.

  12. Gareth says:

    @Bruce, I’m not sure what you mean: File, Print, OK. Or do you mean you don’t like the layout it prints in…

  13. pannonica says:

    Perhaps he needs jpdavidson’s .jpz to .puz converter? Link to Crossword Fiend Forum topic.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, I solved Mike N’s puzzle in a printout from latimes.com. Two columns of clues to the left of the grid, landscape orientation, somewhat smaller print than I like but the lettering was bold and clear.

  15. C says:

    I am able to print out the LAT from the new applet. Click on ‘Options’, a pop up window will appear with two rows of three buttons, print is the rightmost button on the second row. If you want the “master” clues, make sure you click the middle button on the first row. Please note, you will have to click ‘print’ again once the landscape version appears on screen. Not the most intuitive interface.

    Personally, I prefer the older portrait version. The landscape version works fine and I have no complaints. If asked for a preference, I preferred the portrait version of the previous applet. Tomato, tomato.

  16. Alex says:

    John has a good point. Maybe someone (hint) should create a new forum uniquely for the cs puzzles? That way any user-submitted puzzles won’t get lost in the shuffle.

  17. Bob Margolis says:

    The LAT crossword is still available in the older (Across Lite) .puz format at

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/games/

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