Friday, 12/16/11

NYT 4:55 
LAT 4:18 
CS 5:05 (Sam) 
CHE 4:05 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 9:34 

Patrick Blindauer sent out his “Musical Puzzlefest” crossword suite today. Fret not! If you didn’t get a chance to order it already, it’s not too late. There’s no prize for solving the 10 crosswords and submitting the correct meta answer fastest—the deadline is February 15. So visit Patrick’s website and buy your crossword set (or buy it as a holiday gift for a smart puzzler on your list). I printed out my pack but haven’t had a chance to look at the puzzles yet. Can’t wait!

Doug Peterson and Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 16 11 1216

You know what? I don’t think I hit anything in this puzzle that rubbed me the wrong way. No Scowl-o-Meter action, no “wait, that’s unfair, nobody knows that,” no “ooh, bad crossing,” no “wait, that clue doesn’t quite work.” Just a solid, smart themeless Friday crossword.

Now, if you’re not up on your Northern California/Taiwan geography, I grant you that the M crossing between AMOY (learnt that from crosswords) and SAN MATEO could be a rough spot.

The four 15s aren’t overly familiar as crossword fill, and three of the four aren’t unfamiliar as English phrases. STELLAR PARALLAX, [Effect used to measure astronomical distances]? Can’t say I’ve seen the phrase before, though the two individual words are familiar to me.

Seven fave clues/answers:

  • 29a. [Where to make tracks], as in “cut music tracks,” is a recording STUDIO.
  • 31a. [Drops for dirty clothes] are laundry CHUTES. Bonus points for faint evocation of “dropping trou? that’s dirty.”
  • 50a. [What brains do well on] is ENOUGH REST. Wait, that doesn’t fit. Brainy brains score well on IQ TESTS.
  • 12d. ["Route 66" car] is a CORVETTE. Well, the clue really means nothing to me—never watched that old show—but my son is a big fan of Corvettes of any vintage.
  • 14d. [Goal facilitators] are ASSISTS, in sports like basketball and (I think) hockey. Today in the Learned League trivia competition, there was a question about the basketball player who has great assists stats. I disappointed my husband by not getting the obvious answer. (And don’t give it away in the comments in case there is anyone lurking about who’s in Learned League and hasn’t submitted their answers yet!)
  • 22d. [Orange half of a TV duo] is ERNIE, partner of yellow Bert. I know. You wanted Donald Trump to be the orange half, but you weren’t sure if he was part of a duo on The Apprentice.
  • 31d. I know it only from crosswords, but COTOPAXI is just such a cool-looking name. Like Kokopelli and Lake Titicaca and Quetzalcoatl. Cotopaxi is a [Volcano south of Quito], Ecuador.

4.5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed the solve, even though the puzzle’s not jam-packed with splashy answers.

Bruce Sutphin and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 12 16 11

Quick report, as I need to get to bed. Theme: How do you do that HOODOO (45d. [Bad luck, and a hint to the four longest across answers]) that you do? You doo it by putting the HOO in various phrases:

  • 20a. [Anti-sweatshirt slogan?] = NEVER SAY HOODIE
  • 25a. [Rabid B-ball fan's shout?] = HOOPS, I LOVE YOU
  • 43a. [Conspiracy resting place?] = CAHOOTS CRADLE
  • 50a. [Harried photographer's wish?] = RESHOOT IN PEACE

Feels kinda odd as add-some-letters themes go, because the DOO of HOODOO is more or less unaccounted for, no?

Five clues:

  • 17a. [Auger shape] is a corkscrew HELIX.
  • 36a. ["Waverley" novelist] is SCOTT. Sir Walter? Yes. Really not among his most famous works, if I’m not mistaken.
  • 4d. [Greek salad leftover] clues OLIVE PIT. Reason #1 I don’t eat Greek salad. Reason #2 is feta. Hey, I know someone who thinks the concept of goat cheese, or any milk-based product not made from cow’s milk, is gross. And yet she loves feta. She refused to hear it when I said that feta is a goat or sheep cheese.
  • 21d. [Dauphin's destiny] is to be ROI. Dauphin = the eldest son of a king of France.
  • 39d. [Subject to removal] clues ERASABLE, as in ink. Just let my son take some Frixion erasable pens to school, but cautioned him not to use them for anything that needs to be permanent. I used Frixion pens for that Hex cryptics book and before I’d finished the book, some of the completed puzzles became half undone because the ink vanished.

3.25 stars. Nothing really woeful in the fill or anything, but the theme didn’t quite do it for me.

Jim Curran’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “What’s the Meaning of This?” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword 12/16/11 • "What's the Meaning of This" • Curran • solution

I was a little surprised to find an explainer toward the end of the puzzle, but didn’t mind it. 64a [Word that has two diametrically opposed meanings (like this puzzle's eight theme entries)] CONTRANYM. Good old Wikipedia provides a neat summary of the phenomenon, with a host of synonyms (I was aware only of auto-antonym/autantonym, contranym/contronym, and Janus word). Links are provided there to a few lists of such lexical beasties.

  • 17a. [Word that can mean "now" or "later"] PRESENTLY.
  • 20a. [Word that can mean "show" or hide"] SCREEN.
  • 26a. [… "join together" or "fall apart"] BUCKLE.
  • 39a. [… "deteriorate" or "resist deterioration"] WEAR.
  • 41a. [… "entangle" or "disentangle"] RAVEL.
  • 42a. [… "gone" or remaining"] LEFT.
  • 50a. [… "attach or separate"] CLEAVE.
  • 59a. [ …"a hit" or "a miss"] STRIKE.

Well, the theme is self-explanatory, and it’s essentially just a list, so there isn’t much to say about it in and of itself. Because most of the themers are short, the grid has a flowing, well-integrated  construction. Nifty, too, that the center row is comprised entirely of three theme answers. Very, very low CAP™ Quotient (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials), so a smooth, enjoyable, if perhaps too quick a solve.

Something that struck me while working the puzzle was the number of clever and entertaining clues. Here’s a bunch:

  • 28a [Round of ground round] PATTY. Rhyming! Consonance!
  • 33a [Oeuvre in the Louvre]. ART. More rhyming! Speaking of art, nice to see MARC Chagall (although I cringe at the thought of the following clue: ["__ the Village": Chagall painting]) and a reference to Picasso’s longtime muse/model/lover DORA Maar. I’d venture that in any other CHE puzzle, RAVEL would have been clued as the French composer.
  • 43a [Rover's owner] NASA. Misdirection! Capitalized letter!
  • 62a [Encrypt?] INTER. Prefix avoidance!
  • 66a [Trading places] MARTS. Noun-adjective misdirection!

For the long fill, I liked OPERETTAS; HEADS INTO, not so much. Cute how 70a ROARS [Ocean sounds] echoes AT SEA, stacked above it at 67a.  I find it strange that the AMA, American Medical Association, can be clued as generically as [Journal-publishing org.]; there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of professional journals out there! Is the general populace so parochial as to think immediately, or at least primarily, of that one organization? All right, TIRADE (25d) over.

Good puzzle, but disappointingly not enough of a challenge for a weekly offering, especially from the Chronicle.

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Warning Signs” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 16

In an abundance of caution, today’s puzzle contains four admonishments commonly posted at or near hazards (um, in other words, it’s four different warning signs):

  • 17-Across: KEEP OFF THE GRASS is both a [Park warning] and a warning to stoners.
  • 25-Across: HIGH VOLTAGE is a [Pole warning] that can also be posted on certain used Chevys. (If you have a better “volt” joke, go for it.)
  • 42-Across: BEWARE OF DOG is a [Junkyard warning] that could also be given to those trying to evade Dog the Bounty Hunter. (See the prior parenthetical remark about roll-your-own jokes.)
  • 53-Across: SLIPPERY WHEN WET is a [Road warning] that has potential jokes at the G-, PG-, PG-13- and R-rated levels.

Notice that the grid breaks the puzzle down into three quadrants. Wait, can you have three quadrants? Is it triprants? Let’s just call them segments. Anyway, there’s the northwest section, the southeast section, and the swath of mostly 3s and 4s running from the southwest to the northeast. There’s only two white squares through which you can pass from one section to the next, and that’s what gives this grid a three-puzzles-in-one feel. My own solve went from the top of the northwest, down the swath from right to left, then over to the southeast, finishing back over on the Oregon section of the northwest.

I loved the clue for L.A. LAW at 1-Across, [Show whose title appeared on a license plate]. Here’s the title sequence if you haven’t seen it, have forgotten about, or just want to see a young Senator Bail Organa. Other good nuggets included RED HOT, [Perspicacity] as the clue for ACUMEN, PILE IN, SCHNOZ, and WHOMEVER.

Randy Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “For Cagey Solvers”

Wall Street Journal crossword, "Cagey Solver" 12 16 11

The cagey solver will soon note that the theme is “K/G”—what was originally a G in the theme phrases becomes a K, changing the meaning:

  • 23a. [Hypothesis about major financial institutions?] = BIG BANK THEORY.
  • 37a. [Dessert in the slammer?] = CLINK PEACHES.
  • 57a. [Payment to release the singers of "Lola"?] = KINKS RANSOM.
  • 77a. [Powerful fur family?] = MINK DYNASTY.
  • 96a. [Adonis getting sober?] = HUNK OUT TO DRY.
  • 115a. [Emulate an aesthete?] = THINK OF BEAUTY.
  • 17d. [What you might get from a flirtatious friar?] = A WINK AND A PRAYER. Deft work with the quaint “friar” in there, skirting any suggestion of modern scandals.
  • 43d. [The Ice Capades under the big top?] = THREE-RINK CIRCUS.

Solid theme with no clunkers and a modicum of humor. It was not always so easy to guess the theme answers on first clue reading, and perhaps the overall cluing and fill were a little tougher than usual—this puzzle took me maybe 15% to 20% longer than most WSJs. Lots of answers in the 6- to 8-letter range, which means plenty of fill that you don’t encounter daily in other crosswords (which lean heavily on words in the 3- to 5-letter range), and thus plenty of clues that you haven’t built up an instinctive response to. ([Toast spread]? OLEO!)

Five small highlights in the cluing department:

  • 25a. [Like some buildings and jeans] = LOW-RISE. I like both.
  • 50a. [Fairy's pickup] = TOOTH. The tooth fairy!
  • [65a. [You might have a hand in it] = PUPPET.
  • 18d. [Targets of stitches] are GASHES. Bloody!
  • 34d. [Sore spots] are THROATS if you’ve got a cold, often.

A couple “huh?” moments:

  • 22a. [Basement entrance] = AREAWAY. New to me, but there it is in the dictionary.
  • 84a. [SAT overseer, formerly] = CEEB. Wha…? Apparently the acronym lives on in “CEEB code.” Don’t recall seeing these letters together before.

Four stars.

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13 Responses to Friday, 12/16/11

  1. sandirhodes says:

    Late note from yesterday repeated here:

    Nobody mentioned Akbar as another of Matt Groening’s characters???

  2. Will Nediger says:

    Waverley is a pretty important novel, but among linguists it’s definitely best known for its appearance in Bertrand Russell’s “On Denoting.”

  3. Bruce S. says:

    Thanks for the writeup Amy.

    Quick explanation on our HOODOO theme… Doug and I had been talking theme ideas and I suggested we do a just add water type theme where we added HOO to some phrases and let wackiness ensue. Doug said sure and we ran with it, making a good puzzle with a WATER reveal at the end etc.

    Got a nice email back from Patti at the LAT that while Rich really liked the theme answers, HOO was not the chemical designation for water, that would be HHO. DOH!! We rearranged a bunch of stuff, Doug was able to get HOODOO in the grid, and we ended up with a nice “huh, why did they stick HOO in there?” themed puzzle. I guess the morale of the story is that you do not want me to be your chemistry lab assistant…

  4. Bruce S. says:

    @Will

    I had clued SCOTT as “___ Pilgrim vs. the World” and when I redid the puzzle I was stumped since I am unfamiliar with “Waverley”.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce: Okay, I won’t hire you as a chemistry lab assistant, but I definitely want you on my trivia team, as you are tearing it up in your rookie Learned League season. Toppng Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions players Joon Pahk and Tom Nissley? Nice job!

  6. Doug P says:

    In fairness to Bruce, I didn’t catch the H2O thing either. And thanks to Patti for not laughing at us (at least not to our faces).

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Cute story about the H2O mix-up! And WALLIS was a surprise… As for the CHE theme, I once made a list of contranyms for my own amusement, but hadn’t a puzzle in mind. My favorite today for nuttiness was the WSJ!

  8. Gareth says:

    Doug P takes over Friday!

    I pretty much agree with your synopsis of Friday’s NYT. I knew the PARALLAX bit immediately, but was uncertain which side to put it before a few crosses. I thought TOSPARE was also a clever answer… Similar level of clueing to yesterday, but knew the proper names, and no tricky theme answers…

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    @Amy Thanks for that link. I was wondering what the heck Eric Berlin was writing about.

    Any LearnedLeaguers out there, I’m available for some trivial pursuits next season.
    **waves** :-D

  10. AV says:

    Tough NYT for me today, although all themelesses are.

    WSJ: would have been better if “K”ings ransom were replaced by another theme entry without a K. (but the BIG BANK THEORY and A WINK AND A PRAYER were definitely topical)

  11. Daniel Myers says:

    I love Friday NYT puzzles like this one and last week’s. Saturdays, of late, seem to me to play much too fast and loose with those invidious, ambiguous, anomolous clue-end question marks for my – very idiosyncratic – taste.

    @Will Nediger—Russell’s pellucid “On Denoting” is an essay, it seems to me, that most crossword enthusiasts would lap up with pleasure, not merely professional linguists. Thanks for reminding me of it. I’m off to read it again!

  12. Meem says:

    CEEB once upon a time was College Entrance Examination Board. Now does many things beyond the SAT and is known simply as the (or they would say) The College Board.

  13. John Haber says:

    I liked Friday’s, with a lot of clever cluing. Indeed, enough to stump me on the crossing of JESTS and JETS. (Could pets be grounded when misbehaving?)

    My difficulty after a quick start in the NW was getting into the south half, because of the geography, including the volcano, and PAULO. It didn’t help that I entered “tram” for trolley, which led me to risk “titan” for one in a clash, as in “clash of the . . . .” Did work out, though.

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