Tuesday, 1/10/12

NYT 3:20 
Jonesin' untimed 
CS 5:00 (Sam) 
LAT 5:06 (Neville) 

Wow, I upgraded my Mac OS to Lion today, so I had to download that newer version of Across Lite. It looks good but I hate, hate, hate solving in it. Every time I change directions, the active square jumps to the side. I tried a few different options in the “solving” menu, to no avail. Anyone figure out how to get Across Lite 2.2.1 to feel like the older versions of the program?

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 10 12 0110

So the theme is really carried all the way here. There’s a TEPEE in the middle to tip you off to the other nine theme answers with T.P. initials. The top half of the puzzle is all solid (hey, hey, keep your solid waste jokes to yourself), but then there’s all this crazy fill in the bottom (the jokes, they write themselves), and you need some T.P. for that s…tuff. You hit the crosswordese [Fireplace], INGLE, on your way into the toilet bowl of BELEM and LEVENE (who??), and then you swirl over to the left side and encounter the decidedly un-Tuesdayish APSIS. These four answers completely wiped out the good feelings I was having from the assorted T.P. phrases.

The T.P. action comes from THINK PIECE, TACK PIN (Wait, what the heck is TACK PIN?? Seems redundant. Let’s flush it away), THE PIPS, TEAM PLAYER, TENNIS PRO (love how that crosses ASHE), TEA PARTY, TAR PITS (meh), TOM PETTY, and THEME PARK. So seven of these theme answers are Terrific Phrases.

I could see people grumbling at the U-BAHN at 13d, but I’m with Matt Gaffney—I studied German and I like seeing the basics (beyond the lifeless DER, DIE, EIN, EINE, EINS) in my crossword puzzles.

Overall rating for this Themed Puzzle: Three stars because of the flushable fill (which is out of place in a Tuesday crossword) and that TACK PIN.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Cheatin’ With the Codes”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 1 10 12 "Cheatin' With the Codes"

There’s some old video game that had some sort of “cheat code” involving pressing a sequence of buttons on the controller. “Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start,” I presume? Those things are found in the theme answers:

  • 16a. [Direction for "my beautiful balloon," in song] is UP, UP AND AWAY.
  • 19a. [What "we're" doing, in a Fall Out Boy song lyric] is GOING DOWN, DOWN.
  • 30a, 39a. [With 39-across, marching chant] is “LEFT, RIGHT, / LEFT, RIGHT.”
  • 50a. [Degree that focuses on human behavior] clues a B.A. IN SOCIOLOGY. As opposed to Bain sociology, which explains why Mitt Romney made the choices he did while working at Bain Capital.
  • 56a. [Panicky yell to a getaway driver] is “START THE CAR!”

Themes that hinge on video game arcana that are completely out of my experience do not tend to captivate me.

Loves: The slangy/casual verb phrase DRUG OFF. The slangy/colloquial “OH, LORD!” The [1970s song with a letter-forming dance] cluing approach to YMCASHAWTY, or [BET Hip Hop Awards "Rookie of the Year" winner ___ Lo]—because, as a woman who sometimes wears the petite sizes, I’m fond of the Shorty/Shawty slang meaning. THREE clued as ["A magic number," according to "Schoolhouse Rock"], because my family of three loves that song. “NOW WHAT?” is good too.

Unloves: GO BY CAB feels ungainly, and so does BROTHY.

3.5 stars. There’s not really anything wrong with the theme—it just doesn’t do anything for me.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Green Economy” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 10

Today’s puzzle features four economic terms from today’s turbulent times that start with a word that can also have a botanical meaning:

  • 20-Across: An ANNUAL REPORT is a [Yearly accounting of economic health]. (An “annual” is a plant that blooms and dies on a recurring basis annually. Like many of the weeds in my lawn.)
  • 31-Across: HEDGE FUNDS are [High-risk investment companies] and not vehicles for investing in shrubs.
  • 41-Across: One [Contentious economic issue from the 112th Congress] was the BUSH TAX CUT. The term is usually plural (“Bush tax cuts“), but hey, I’ll happily take whatever tax law references I can get in my crosswords.
  • 54-Across: A PLANT CLOSING is one [Event with a negative effect on employment]. This one struck me as a bit arbitrary coupled with a hyper-generic clue. But it certainly fits with the theme.

For a half-second I wondered whether TAKE ROOT ([Become established]) was part of the theme. But of course it’s not–it’s not a distinctly economic term, the plant-related term is not the first word in the entry, and it’s symmetrical cousin in the grid, EYE TESTS, clearly has no relation to the theme. Put aside those three important facts, though, and it would fit right in.

This is a 74/37 grid, so there’s a host of 5- and 6-letter entries that give the grid a nice, open feel. Working off the M in PANAMA at 1-Across, I tried MALOMARS as the [Marshmallow and chocolate treats]. It fit, so I was confident. But that meant 20-Across, a likely theme entry with 12 letters, would start with AO-, and that didn’t sit well with me. Eventually I tumbled to MOON PIES. I blame the lapse on the first moon pie I ever ate, back in high school. It came from a vending machine and looked enticing. Heck, I should like moon pies–I changed my food pyramid into a food Star of David just so chocolate and marshmallows could get their fair shares. And yet I can’t recall a less enjoyable sugar treat. Did I sample a bad brand or are they just gross?

Some of the other stand-out entries include SNEAK IN, TOYLAND, GIZMO, TIP-TOE, RATED R, and UP CLOSE. My favorite clue was [Now you see it, now you don't] for the MIRAGE. Yep, that’s what I say to my money every time I gamble at The Mirage.

Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 10 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 10 12

There’s just something about this puzzle:
  • 17a. [Cosmopolitan piece] - MAGAZINE ARTICLE
  • 27a. ["This can't lose"] - IT’S A SURE THING
  • 49a. [Los Angeles Times piece, e.g.] - NEWSPAPER ITEM (self promotion!)
  • 63a. [Stipulation from a wealthy purchaser] - MONEY IS NO OBJECT

Each long entry ends with with a synonym here. The NEWSPAPER/MAGAZINE similarity is a but too much for me.

Some quick notes, since this is coming out so late:

  • When you have a TA—Y pattern and the clue [Cheap and gaudy], don’t you just want to write in TACKY even if it won’t fit? TAWDRY stymied me for a while this morning.
  • DOPES OUT is a new phrase to me.
  • I think we saw TONIER recently, and it still doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s because I’ve never heard anyone use it (or just the word TONY).
  • 10d. [Pain in the neck] – NUISANCE. I love this clue because I thought we were looking for an actual neck pain. Overthinking it.
  • INA JAM got a rather literal clue: [Experiencing serious traffic]
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25 Responses to Tuesday, 1/10/12

  1. I got Natick’ed by the BELEM/LEVENE crossing, it felt like it could have been almost any vowel (I suppose I should have guessed E, given that Levine is a perfectly reasonable name, but I ended up guessing A on account of BELaM sounding vaguely Portuguese. Not that I know any Portuguese.).

    I also liked the pre-Lion Across Lite better. I’m not really sure how to get it to behave as before; I guess I’ve gotten used to its quirks by now.

  2. JoelF says:

    I had the same Natick with the BELEM/LEVENE crossing.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    BELEM/LEVENE was my last square. Tried an I. Then, when I didn’t get Mr. Happy Pencil, tried an E and that’s when E got Mr. Happy Pencil.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks to Santa, I now have a Snow Leopard: so far, so good… Whatever the JZ was getting at, it left me code — er, I mean cold… Not very fond of the NYT either, with TEAM PLAYER crossing PLAY-IN. Also had a ROTTER for the No-good, which gave me “Just the ORE”. It took an age to set that right and see the Happy Pencil. Grump.

  5. Howard B says:

    Learning to solve on old-skool style puzzles before the Shortz era (before I knew the difference) paid off there – I had vaguely recalled seeing BELEM before. If not for that, any vowel would have worked for me there, including perhaps an ö.

    The U-Bahn was cool to find in the grid, since I got to travel it once and it brought back the memory. Maybe not quite as confusing as the NY subway system during construction, although unlike NY they seemed to take fares on the honor system via random checks (we were good tourists and paid the fare). Anyway, as Amy said, this was mostly a fun Times puzzle with a few rough edges.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. After all the puzzles with a letter-substitution trick, I was tickled by the title of Dennis Rattigan’s recent book on political class warfare: “When Posh Comes to Shove.”

  7. joon says:

    BELEM is the kind of thing i actually like learning from a crossword. 1.4M is a very, very large population, bigger than all but 6 US cities. but i wish the crosses had been cleaner.

    also, did you know that APSIS is closely related etymologically to APSE? unclear why this word for arch/vault is used for planetary orbits.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    Ah, this explains the Jonesin’ theme:

    Konami Code

  9. Howard B says:

    I was at just the right age and geekiness level to fully appreciate the Konami code in the Jonesin puzzle. So I suppose I am in the sights of that puzzle’s target audience.

    Quick summary: You would press the controller buttons in that exact sequence at the start of the game to give yourself powers, extra lives, something to ease the difficulty – an approved ‘secret door’ built into that company’s games, if you will. Cheat code that a programmer presumably left in a game by accident for testing. Has become a standard used in many software applications since to enable a special or secret feature.

  10. Cyrano says:

    I solved the Across Lite dilemma by going back to version 2.0. Once I realized you can’t change the appearance of the newest version (I like mine to look more Black Ink-ish), I just deleted it and went back to using the old version. It still works fine.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Cyrano, that’s not an option with the Lion OS. PowerPC applications (like the old AL) are no longer supported.

  12. sbmanion says:

    joon,

    APSIS appears to mean “fastening together,” which would not shed any light on your question. However, “apo-” is the Greek prefix for “(farthest) away” as in “apogee” and the apse is normally far away from the center of a church and the apsides are the two farthest away from the center points of an orbit.

    My mnemonic of sorts for remembering where the apse is in a church is to think of apogee, so at least for me there is a link of sorts.

    Steve

  13. KarmaSartre says:

    The surname Cee entitles the constructor to any sort of fill that fits.

  14. Gareth says:

    NYT: Basic theme, but whoa! that’s a lot of theme entries! Liked seeing quite a few of them: TOMPETTY/THEPIPS/TEAPARTY, but, yes, TACKPIN??? KINER was all crosses as was LEVENE. That last cross with BELEM was undeniably iffy.

  15. pannonica says:

    BELEM was not a problem for me, having spent time studying gazetteers and creating distribution maps for Central and South American critters, which is good because the unusually-spelled LEVENE was off my radar.

    Personal gripe: I’m unhappy with the increasingly prevalent (or so it seems) clues pairing the traditionally British ALE(S) with the traditionally German STEIN(S). German beers have historically been lager, weißbier, and pilsener (the last originally Czech).

  16. John E says:

    KINER should be a given for anyone who has watched NY Mets games in recent years. He’s still got loads of great stories, even after all these years.

    This would have been a good puzzle for October 17 (Mike Judge’s birthdate).

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    @joon and sbmanion – FWIW, the OED has this rather enigmatic note at the end of the etymology section for APSIS:

    “It would be well to restrict APSIS to the astronomical sense, leaving APSE in the architectural.”

    I can understand this as a note regarding English usage, but it’s firmly in the etymology section.

    Typical of the OED etymology notes, it’s a tad, hm, arch.

    Oh, sbanion, the connexion, according to the abovementioned dictionary’s etymology, is that the Greek ἀΨἵς originally denoted “the fastenining, the felloe of the wheel, hence a wheel, arch, vault”—My Liddell & Scott Greek lexicon says much the same.

  18. Lois says:

    I loved the NYT today (a rare feeling on Tuesdays), and I’m almost sorry I gave it only four stars, but I guess it’s the right number for me. Many theme answers, and I was not Naticked. U-Bahn appears in English writing – everyone knows about the fast speeds. I think the only thing I didn’t like was the abbreviation for astronomy, because astr. could also abbreviate astrology. Was able to get the things I didn’t know from the crosses (Pena, Kiner, apsis and ingle), and the common nouns looked like words worth learning. (I had some doubts about the use of “The” for the theme in “the Pips,” but the answer was worth it. I used to have a cashmere Gladys and the Pips hat, which I lost!) The misery Natick for others was a delight for me. When I remembered the second “e” in “Belem” as my last square, the delightful character actor Sam Levene appeared before me, a treat upon the puzzle’s completion! One of his very good movies was Three Men on a Horse, based on a play. I liked it so much that my husband and I went to see the play when it was revived on Broadway. Rob Schneider, the actor and comedian, sat behind us.

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Follow-up: So, just to fully clarify the answer to joon’s original question, the “wheel” definition evolved into the first, now obsolete, definition of the English usage of APSIS: “Circumference, circuit; orbit of a planet” which led to its current definition in the puzzle today, whereas the “arch, vault” part evolved into APSE, or so it would seem. Sorry to bang on so, but I hope this provides some clarification for joon, Steve and others.

    Back to the originally scheduled commenting.

  20. Jeff Chen says:

    I made up my own letter for that LEVENE / BELEM crossing. I call it “kreplagh”, also known as “The letter formerly known as Impossible”.

  21. Bananarchy says:

    I want to be upset that words and names so foreign to a crosswordese n00b like myself reared their weathered heads on a Tuesday, but then I did manage to solve it all from the crossings (save the “kreplagh”), and really solvability is a puzzle’s raison d’etre in my books. Elegance is a nice bonus, and earns the constructor further solidification in my memory and an extra gold star. In fact, I almost prefer unknown entries, crosswordese or not, that are gettable from the crossings and a good linguistic sense to stale obscurities. I know ESNE, ANOA, STOA, etc., but venturing into the parts of my brain that hold them makes me feel like I’ve been used.

    On the other hand the Jonesin’ was right in my wheelhouse. If it were a MGWCC, I’d be one of the smart-alecs that got it from the title.

  22. Zulema says:

    If anyone mentioned it I missed it. but BELEM is Bethlehem in Portuguese. And I’m happy someone besides me remembers Sam Levene, a great actor. But I do have a question: why is INGLE crosswordese? It’s not on the level of ESNE or ANOA, which BTW have not been seen for a while. It was part of the normal vocabulary about house interiors not so many years ago, particularly if one read novels.

  23. Bananarchy says:

    @Zulema. True, neither ESNE nor ANOA are really seen anymore; they’re just my go-to examples. INGLE fits what I understand to be the broader definition of crosswordese (words more likely to appear in xwords because of their letter combinations, which are rarely used), but then it’s only a vaguely familiar term to me; I do understand that others have different vocabularies from me.

  24. Cyrano says:

    @Amy – Just saw your response. I guess since I am still using Snow Leopard I didn’t realize that Lion was more restrictive. I feel for you. I really wish that the Crosswords app by Stand Alone was better – or cheaper – for the Mac. (I use it on my iPhone and it is excellent, but the computer version is just not as well done or customizable.) I enjoyed Black Ink during the trial period but couldn’t justify the cost. I’m sure you’ve used Crossword Solver, which I like sometimes, mainly when using it for CrossSynergy puzzles.

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