Thursday, 1/5/12

NYT 4:54 
LAT 5:37 (Neville) 
CS 5:37 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 
Tausig 5:08 (pannonica) 

Dan Schmiedeler’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 5 12 #0105

Funky theme: ALL FOR ONE and ONE FOR ALL tell you to swap the ONEs for ALLs and vice versa. Like so:

  • 14a’s clue, ["That was funny!"], calls for “GOOD ONE!” but what fits is GOODALL.
  • In the opposite corner, 59a: [Jane who wrote "In the Shadow of Man"] should be GOODALL but it’s GOOD ONE that fits. Aww, look, they swapped places.
  • 4d and 49d also play the game, with T-BONE and T-BALL being clued as [Schoolyard game] and [Certain steak], misrespectively.
  • 24a: [Captivates] and 47a: [Crowns] swap their one for all and all for one, with ENTHRONES and ENTHRALLS partnering up.
  • 3d: [Set up, as software] gets IN STONE while 41d: [Fixed] gets INSTALL.

I like the theme but the grid had a few rough spots. I’ve heard of the Douay Bible but never seen the current spelling of DOUAI, the [French city near the Belgian border]. TV cooking star Alton Brown is familiar to me, but I’ve never heard of ALTON B. Parker, Teddy Roosevelt’s 1904 political opponent. I predict that in the 2090s, crossword solvers would be similarly unfamiliar with Michael Dukakis. LESSER OF is an 8-letter partial, TOR is old crosswordese … and DOUAI! Did I mention DOUAI? Wikipedia shares this scintillating tidbit: “Located on the river Scarpe some 40 km from Lille and 25 km from Arras, Douai is home to one of the region’s most impressive belfries.” Speaking of scintillating tidbits, have you ever eaten an OAT SEED? Have you ever encountered the term? I don’t recall seeing it before.

On the plus side, the fill’s also got AUNT BEE, “NO, NO, NO!,” OUTGROW (hmph! my 11-year-old kid is outgrowing his men’s size 9 shoes), and TWEEZES. And I love “OOF!”—clued well as a [Gut reaction?].

Somewhat surprised to see N.W.A. in the grid, clued as the [Early gangsta rap group featuring Dr. Dre]. It cracks me up to see those three capital letters emblazoned on a billboard advertising Northwest Airlines, because who among us thinks of Northwest as “NWA” rather than as “Northwest”?

3.25 stars.

Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 5 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 5 12

It’s a required reading quiz in today’s puzzle. Across four rows of this puzzle, the four major characters of The THREE MUSKETEERS. And since D’Artagnan isn’t found in any crossword-worthy phrases, our constructor Victor Barocas has cleverly broken the entries across multiple entries. Let’s take a look:

  • SCHWA/THO/SPOON
  • SEAPORT/HOSTESS
  • BARBARA/MISSIVE
  • RADAR/TAG/NANOS

This is a hidden-entry puzzle type that’s pretty new to me; I think I’ve seen maybe one other puzzle like it. And the lack of long entries makes the search for characters a bit of a trickier word search. Kudos to you for this unique idea, Victor Barocas. I do wish that the use of distinct words had allowed for more colorful entries involved in hiding the Musketeers.

Because most of the thematic content is in shorter entries, I had thought at first that the fun WARP SPEED was involved in the theme. Still, I really liked that entry. The same goes for the Texas TWO-STEP down the center.

Tips for solving crosswords for those blog readers still learning:

  • [Where Christ stopped, in a Carlo Levi title] isn’t ebola, but EBOLI, a town in southern Italy.
  • 5-letter composers are often Ned ROREM; this time he’s the [Composer of the 2005 opera "Our Town"].
  • When you see a clue like [Boxer from California] where the first word looks like it could be a common noun, consider that it might be a proper noun (usually a last name); that’s how we get Sen. BARBARA Boxer here.

A nice Tuesday puzzle – see you next week!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “A Separate Piece” — pannonica’s review

Ink Well crossword • 1/6/12 • "A Separate Piece" • Tausig • solution

The phrases each of the theme answers derive from have a key word beginning with a phonemic a (in some cases with faint consonant sound). However, that initial syllable is detached so that a + [new word] is formed, and spelling is adjusted as necessary.

  • 22a. [Request that the bank not give out all of their money before you arrive?] LEAVE ME A LOAN (alone). That’s quite the tortured clue.
  • 38a. [Was pesky on deck?] AGGRAVATED A SALT (assault). Here, salt is in the familiar crosswordese sense of veteran mariner, aka tar, gob, jack, sea dog, lobscouser.
  • 50a. [Give stage instructions to someone's gown?] DIRECT A DRESS (address). Relatively concise clue, but kind of inane.
  • 7a. [With 67-Across, nominate officer Chicken?] RUN A FOWL | OF THE LAW (afoul). Uhm, okay, ya.

I half-imagined 16a AVERAGES might be clued as [Confirm lifetimes?] but, alas, the themers don’t work quite that way. (Instead, it has the subtly misdirectional [Mean relatives].) Uneven theme, with the the central, grid-spanning 38-across the obvious star of the show, almost certainly the seed entry.

The ballast fill is similarly an uneven mix of interesting words, clever clues, crosswordese, alphabet-soup entries, and partials, with a dash of Inkwellian ribaldry.

Lights of varying altitude:

  • The triple-eight stacks in the northeast and southwest corners, including the two halves of a theme entry, are strong, with the single-word KEROSENE and AVERAGES; SEAT BELT [Restraint on the road] is either a compound word or two words; LEAN OVER is definitely two words.
  • Letter pile-ups! [Winnebago enthusiast, briefly] RVER. Where is CBER? [Derrick Rose, in 2010–2011] was apparently the NBA MVP; pair that with its related row-mate YMCA [Rec center where Naismith invented basketball] and you get quite a whopper: YMCANBAMVP.  In context and location (triangulated within the three aforementioned entries), the normally relatively innocuous abbrev. CTR. looks mighty ugly indeed, even if it happens to be a [Pt. in the center] of this grid. Oh, hello LSTS, almost forgot you, hiding in the corner.
  • Olé? ELO? Ha! For amateurs. Tausig lays in the full palindromic title of  the [Greatest hits comp with "Evil Woman"], the odd-looking OLEELO. All right, OLÉ ELO. Its symmetrical partner is the strangely similar quasi-partial OPTSTO. Er, OPTS TO.
  • When I saw the lengthy clue at 51a [Colleague of  John, Antonin, Anthony, Clarence, Ruth, Stephen, Samuel, and Sonia] I kept moving, registering that it was all but one of the SCOTUS justices, but unwilling to take the time to suss out who was missing. That’s what crossings are for. ELENA.
  • 10d [Design school studio, say] ART LAB. I’ve never cared for this term because it sounds too clinical and antiseptic for artistic endeavors. At least it’s moderated somewhat by the clue specifying “design school.”
  • 3d. [Ms. Aguilera, in tabloids] XTINA. New version of “Christina” for me, but I’m not in the habit of reading tabloids. Or celebrity-watching.
  • Crosswordese? We got ‘em! YOD, OGEE, AFTA.
  • I have to confess that, when solving, I didn’t quite grasp [Vegan singer Jason] even though I was able to fill his surname, MRAZ. I breezily thought it meant he was from Las Vegas. Afterward, I thought perhaps he claimed to be from the distant star Vega, the way Sun Ra claimed to be from Saturn. It’s only just now that I realize it has to do with his eating habits.
  • It seems that [Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in __ "] ELKO is a 1992 short story comprising a screed against Clarence Thomas (see 51a), deliberately echoing the title of his famous work about a different place in Nevada (don’t see 28d).
  • Enjoyed the clues for LUXURY [What a rich person might live in], LOCAL [Like some produce], and FACE [Bad thing to lose].

To recap: uneven theme, uneven fill, so-so puzzle.

Updated Thursday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, January 5

Here’s one of those puzzles where the theme is so straightforward you think it must have been done before. But I can’t recall ever seeing it before. The four women presented in this crossword’s theme can be called “cheerful” because, as 54-Down explains, their first names end with RAH:

  • 20-Across: FARRAH FAWCETT was the [1984 Emmy nominee for "The Burning Bed"]. She was also the winner of Hottest Swimsuit Poster That 10 Year-old Me Always Coveted. Tell me that smile is not incredible.
  • 26-Across: One thing that practically everyone knows about OPRAH WINFREY is that [Her talk show ended in 2011]. One thing you may not know is that her final episode was not the highest rated in the show’s history. According to a Washington Post article, the finale was the most-watched episode since “a Feb. 21, 1994 episode called ‘People Shed Their Disguises….’ In that episode, a man with a 20-year-old beard shaves it; (sic) another man took off his toupee, a makeup addict went in for an intervention and a woman who’d worn wigs for 25 years was convinced to let her false hair down.” According to Oprah.com, the all-time highest rated episode was one from November, 1988, when the host “rolled out a little red wagon loaded with 67 pounds of fat—equal to her weight loss success at the time.”
  • 42-Across: DEBORAH HARRY is, of course, [Blondie's lead singer]. One of their “hits”–this song–was the first 45 single I purchased with my own allowance money. Hey, we all make mistakes. (The video, by the way, sucks so bad you can feel the air pressure in the room change.)
  • 50-Across: SARAH FERGUSON was the [Royal bride of 1986]. And now she does spots for Weight Watchers. I always liked her cheeky attitude and almost intentional disregard of regal formalities.

There’s a fair dose of testosterone in the grid too, what with ALAN ALDA and REDD Foxx along for the ride, not to mention the [Beefcake posers], MEN, in the upper-right. Four of the remaining five long Downs are really interesting (YEARBOOK, COAT TREES, PIT BOSSES, and DAY NURSE), and the fifth, HATCHING, has the best clue, [Coming out of one's shell].

I found the northwest corner the most difficult. I wasn’t familiar with SHAY as a [Light horse-drawn vehicle] (I assume from the punctuation that the vehicle is light and not that the vehicle is pulled only by horses of light color). And SHAFT didn’t strike me as the obvious answer to [Elevator's environment]. [Lapis lazuli tint] was unhelpful to me as a clue for AZURE, though it doesn’t help when I know only one of three words in the clue. Thank goodness for HAGAR the Horrible and some good AGUA to help me crack that section open.

Is it blasphemous to have ALLAH alongside HOOCH and Willy WONKA? Regardless, I liked it.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Oh! ‘Ey, You!”—Mtt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 399 answers

Tough one from BEQ today: he changes O in five entries to AU, with ensuing hilarity. To wit:

  • 16a. PAUSED A QUESTION [Interrupted the press conference?]
  • 22a. CHEVY VAULT [Storage area for unsold Camaros?]
  • 38a. L’ETAT C’EST MAUI [French declaration after a Hawaiian island declares independence?] Now there’s a declarative sentence!
  • 53a. FAUX SPORTS [Quidditch, Calvinball, etc.?]
  • 61a. CLAUSE ENCOUNTER [Meeting with a sentence fragment?]

Six observations:

  1. NW corner is lovely.
  2. Clues that slowed me down: [Cut with a pick] for FRO, [Starter follower] for ENTREE, and [Road hog, for short] for SUV.
  3. BEQ-quality fill all over: PET RAT, HAS A SEAT, ATTORNEY, APATOW, PEET’S, CRUSOE, plus a lot of lively stuff in the 4-letter range, not easy to do.
  4. 67a clue sounds autobiographical!
  5. Unusual letter combination: VYV in CHEVY VAULT.
  6. The grid is pangrammatic.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ — whom I hope to cO-AUthor a book with someday!

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15 Responses to Thursday, 1/5/12

  1. Pete says:

    No, the question is, who among us sees NWA and doesn’t think of N.W.A, and then wonder why a) someone didn’t catch that, and b) as they must be aware of it now, how can I get some of those pills which enables me to see a huge mistake I’ve made and feel comfortable doing nothing about it?

  2. Jeffrey says:

    So is there a reason why today is three musketeers day?

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Jeffrey, the only relevance I can find is that 2012 is the 80th anniversary of the candy bar.

  4. Todd G says:

    Pannonica, you’re not the only one who doesn’t much like OPTS TO: on page 136 of Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies, the estimable Patrick Berry discusses OPT TO under the header “Verb phrases that aren’t.” Nuff said.

  5. cyberdiva says:

    I liked the NYTimes puzzle considerably more than Amy did. Probably that was in part because I have so much more difficulty with these puzzles. I spent a good deal of time scratching my head trying to figure out why GOODONE didn’t work in the upper-right corner, and similarly TBONE in the lower right. Thus, when I finally got the ALLFORONE and ONEFORALL, I was delighted to finally get the trick.

    However, once I got the trick, I also appreciated the fact that the substitutions came in pairs, not just eight random words in which ALL was substituted for ONE or vice versa, and I was similarly impressed by the symmetric placement of these eight words.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Agree with Cyberdiva — the aha moment with GOODALL and GOODONE was great fun! The -RAH ladies were also quite cute.

  7. AV says:

    5 stars from me – exactly what a Thursday should be! Really liked the symmetry of the all-one/one-all swaps. And nice fill to boot.

  8. janie says:

    gotta second the emotions of cyberd., artlvr and av. some debut – wow!!

    ;-)

  9. John Haber says:

    I agree with the string of praise. Almost a whole new type of gimmick and a neat aha. Also a special satisfaction that it turned out not to be a substitution or symmetric switch gimmick, but rather both at once. I didn’t know DOUAI (my last to fall) or OAT SEED, but they worked out ok from crossings. The only one that didn’t look obvious to me once I finally had it was MISSY.

  10. Jamie says:

    How is everyone getting the Onion, Tausig, and Jonesin, when Will’s page hasn’t been updated to 2012? I found the Onion puzzle on the Onion site, but the UI was really really painful.

    Are there other places I can find these puzzles?

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    Jamie,
    The “Today’s Puzzles” page linked at top, in the dark orange bar under the banner, is automagically updated daily. (Or weekly, as the case may be.)

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, Jamie. How many times have I encouraged people to sign up for the Google Groups for these puzzles? You can have Jonesin’ emailed to you on Mondays and the other two emailed to you on Tuesdays–no muss, no fuss. Do also check the Today’s Puzzles page RIGHT AT THIS SITE.

  13. Tuning Spork says:

    Hah! Beat’cha by a few seconds, Amy! :-D

    Though I guess I don’t get credit for the full minute. :-/

  14. Jamie says:

    Oops. Puzzles found. Thanks all.

  15. Old Geezer says:

    CS also had a nice AGUA SLEET RAIN line (with HAZE SCUM and OOZE nearby!).

Comments are closed.