Thursday, 1/12/12

NYT 6:05 
LAT 7:13 (Neville) 
CS 5:12 (Sam) 
BEQ 6:56 (Matt) 
Tausig 6:35 (pannonica) 

The NYT applet seems to be kaput Thursday night. The .puz file is available in the usual place, though.

Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 1 12 12 #0112

Hey, what’s this Canadian puzzle doing in an American newspaper, eh? Gareth (who’s South African, which means he has more of a Canadian sensibility than an American one, no?) has stretched the grid one row wider to accommodate the explanatory CANADIAN PROVINCE, which has a clue telling you that there are 10 province abbreviations in the rebus squares.

Those rebus squares? I found two of them before I found Crossword Solver‘s “REBUS” button and figured out how to enter rebus answers. So the puzzle wasn’t quite as hard as the solving time suggests. (And I’m using Crossword Solver because I can’t stand Across Lite 2.2.1 for Lion. It’s yucky. No idea why it refuses to feel like the previous versions. Hmph.) And I’m only using the .puz file because the applet wasn’t working. Glad to have options like Crossword Solver and Black Ink (which is Mac-only)—there’s also a (currently) Windows-only solving application that Tyler Hinman likes, but I can’t find the name of it.

Anyway: The rebus answers have Ontario in PR{ON}E/{ON} GOOD TERMS, Saskatchewan in PE{SK}Y/{SK}IM, Manitoba in LI{MB}ER/A{MB}IEN, New Brunswick in MARLO{N B}RANDO/W{NB}A, Alberta in BL{AB}/{A B}ONE, British Columbia in ONE {BC}/{B-C}UP, Quebec in COMPA{Q C}ENTER/S{Q C}M, Prince Edward Island in QUARTERPI{PE}/S{PE}AK, Newfoundland in AN{N L}EE/MEA{NL}Y, and Nova Scotia in I{NS}ET/[UR{NS}.

What a lovely geography theme, and a smart one that says "hey, Americans, there is more to the world than just your country, you know." Gareth further cosmopolitanizes the puzzle with South African flair. [Windhoek-to-Pretoria dir.] is ESE, the capital of Namibia being, apparently, WNW of Pretoria. Speaking of Pretoria, [Andries Pretorius, e.g., who gave his name to a national capital], was a BOER. The ALOE is a [Veld flower], the veld(t) being a southern African grassland; A Lesson from Aloes is a play written by a South African writer, Athol Fugard. PLATA, ESSO, and BEIRUT also draw the solver’s attention to the rest of the world.

4.25 stars.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (7:13)

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 1 12 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 1 12 12

It’s Double Gareth Thursday! Here’s another puzzle from Mr. Bain, this one with a veritable century of things to like about it. I won’t list them all here, of course.

  • 18a. [*Publicist, often] - SPIN DOCTOR
  • 23a. [*Have nowhere to go but up] - HIT BOTTOM
  • 34a. [*1952 Cooper classic] – HIGH NOON
  • 40a. [*Shared] - IN COMMON
  • 55a. [*Place for a row of potted plants] - WINDOW BOX
  • 61a. [It suggests the vowel pattern in the five starred answers] – ONE HUNDRED (100 = IOO)

Figuring out this theme was a lot of fun for me. I had a couple, but not all of the theme entries before I made my way to 61a, so I was able to figure it out by reading the theme entries I had, and then made my way back up the puzzle. I like it when a puzzle has enough snags in it to force me to skip down and back up.

Oh man, look at the corners in this puzzle:

  • 2d. ["101 Dalmatians" mother] – PERDITA. That required a little brushing off of the cobwebs to find in the attic. HOTBOT gave me a similar issue. There was a search engine before Google? Sheesh!
  • If VESTAL means [Chaste], doesn’t that make Vestal Virgins rather redundant?
  • I think I’ve seen “TOTO TOO” in as many crosswords as the number of times I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz. This entry never seems to make me smile.
  • Some other fun two-worders are IN HOCK and WORKS ON. There’s something off about BAD END to me, though.
  • I didn’t know about a fire association with a BONGO drum. I just think about hipster poets reading in coffee shops.
  • 57a. [Everything, so they say] – TIMING was a great moment of giving a colloquial clue that’s easy to mindread.
  • Seeing ATHOS was a bit of a throwback to last week, no? That’s a bit Gaffneyesque. (Or maybe it just fit.)

My favorite clue was SEMI‘s [One of two elimination games], which led me to believe we were looking for a game involving elimination, like Musical Chairs. Close second: DIDDY, the [Rapper who said, "the 'P.' was getting between me and my fans"].

Guess I’M DONE here. Side note: I’m looking forward to my first MIT Mystery Hunt this weekend. If you’re playing too, good luck!

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Satellite Tracking” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 12

37-Across, the central entry in the grid, reveals this crossword’s theme. GPS is a [Modern navig. tool, or [an] alternative title for this puzzle]. That’s because the four theme entries are two-word terms with the initials G.P. (thus they are all “G.P.s”):

  • 17-Across: The [Eco-friendly political group] is the GREEN PARTY. They’re just jealous of the other parties. Maybe it’s because they’re new.
  • 59-Across: A GRAND PIANO is a [Steinway instrument]. Could there be any other answer?
  • 11-Down: The [Zoo favorite is the GIANT PANDA. I'll stick my neck out and say I'm more of a giraffe guy. But it wouldn't fit this theme, unless a GIRAFFE POSSE counts.
  • 26-Down: GRAPH PAPER is a cool entry, and it gets a great clue to match: [It's often used for plotting]. Ah, the days of plotting equations on graph paper in high school math class. Alas, I suspect it’s all done on computers now.

I really liked most of the long fill. I wonder whether some will consider IN HARNESS arbitrary; to me it seemed natural. My favorite entry was CHEAP SHOT, but STAYED PUT was a close second. Even the EAST SIDE was pleasant to see. It’s pretty syrupy in the south, where GOO and OOZE meet–but this I like.

Today’s roll call of Crosswordese is mercifully short: ASEA, OGEE (crossing GEE!), ETRE are headliners. We don’t often see ALGA and AGAR in the same grid, and I wasn’t especially agog to see it here.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Heavy Lifting”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ #401 answers

Four terms meaning “steal” begin Brendan’s theme entries today:

  • 18a. [Galley workers] are COPY EDITORS.
  • 28a. [Reveal, as an unreported crime] is CRACK WIDE OPEN. I think you’d crack an unsolved case wide open, so the clue as written feels off. I also don’t really get how “crack” means “steal” in this case, but perhaps someone could enlighten me in comments?
  • 48a. [Remove, as a poster] is RIP OFF THE WALL.
  • 68a. ["Pump Up the Volume" theme] is PIRATE RADIO.

Five observations:

  1. BRAIN CRAMPPENALTY BOXOCTOMOMYOPLAIT — that’s 4 for 4 from outside the arc.
  2. NE corner took me a while as I had ??TOMOM and still couldn’t parse it. Elegant section of the grid.
  3. Took me 6:56, so this is a medium.
  4. 1-across will win him some brownie points in the Crucisphere.
  5. The clue for 46-a [Jealous org.?] refers to the NAACP‘s current president, who has the excellent name of Benjamin Jealous.

Thanks for the puzzle, Brendan!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Wife Swap” — pannonica’s review

Tausig crossword 1/13/12 • "Wife Swap" • solution

FYI: The punny title is a bit of a pronunciation stretch, but since I couldn’t think of anything nearly as good, I can’t criticize it much. If you elongate the sound of  ”wife” and introduce a diphthong, it will sound like Y-F, wye-ef, and that’s just what happens with the four themers: those two letters swap positions. Specifically, the original phrases of the first two start with Y and those of the second two start with F.

  • 17a. [Wistful farewell on December 22nd?] FALL COME BACK NOW (“Y’all come back now!”). That date is often the first of winter.
  • 27a. [Summary for someone dealing with phobias?] FEAR IN REVIEW (year in review). Look back in angst?
  • 45a. [The Cowardly Lion, e.g., among Dorothy's companions?] YELLOW MEMBER (fellow member). But of course in crosswordland lions are invariably TAWNY. Wait, what? Yellow like a chicken? But baby chicks are a much brighter yellow! What, wait? I see, well never mind then. Oh. By the way, weak original phrase. On the other hand, I’m glad constructor Tausig didn’t make a blue clue of it.
  • 58a. [Fungus on Calvary?] YEAST OF THE CROSS (Feast of the Cross). This is when people ritually consume hot-cross buns, yes? Far and away the most entertaining derived phrase, and I suspect it was the seed entry. Two arms up!

I wasn’t wowed by the theme, but having two spanners and two a respectable twelve letters long, it felt like the right amount of content so as not to compromise the rest of the fill. The solve was in general smooth but some answers that were unknown to me added a lot to my final time.

  • PROTEA is a [Pretty flower from South Africa]. Gareth, Did you have a hand in this puzzle too?
  • An [Arcing novelty pitch in baseball] is an EEPHUS. Mighty Wikichitlán sayeth: “When asked what it meant, Van Robays replied, “‘Eephus ain’t nothing, and that’s a nothing pitch.’ Although the origin is not known for certain, Eephus may come from the Hebrew word ‘efes’ (pronounced ‘EFF-ess’), meaning ‘nothing.’” Eephus Christ!
  • [Prelate's title: Abbr.] RT. REV., for Right Reverend. Well, at least I know what a proconsul is. Sort of. Clever how it sits under PADRE in the grid.  In case you’re wondering about the crossing [Dr. certified by the RIAA] for DRE, RIAA is not exactly equivalent to the AMA or ADA, it’s the Recording Industry Association of America.

Other notes:

  • EVA PERON (full name) BOWED OUT. Madonna, “Take a Bow”?
  • The up-to-the-minute RETWEET. Well, up-to-the-hour, or year. It’s current, anyhow. Although some people do seem to tweet every minute.
  • GNOSTIC [One who seeks salvation through knowledge] is a good word, but it’s a bit disturbing  that its row-mate is the vaguely similar sounding NO CARBS [Extreme dietary rule for models]. Gnostic = Teflon?
  • Answers that needed to wait for crossings:
    • 49a [Org. with eagles] PGA. Having recently learned that Eagle is interchangeable with Eagle Scout, and unsure if it needed to be capitalized, I thought the answer might be BSA. See also 33d [Cry that might prevent a head injury] FORE.
    • 25d [Part of 'ftw'] FOR? THE? WIN!
    • 46d [Life sentences?] Which crossword staple was it to be? BIOS or OBIT?
  • 2d/66a: I SAID, U SAID!
  • Favorite clue: [Words that, as a rule, should make you skeptical] TRUST ME. Really, it was.

I will not mention what else FY is associated with. Not directly.

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24 Responses to Thursday, 1/12/12

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    Loved the puzzle – even better than doing geography on Sporcle! Seriously, nice job, Gareth.

  2. janie says:

    in addition to the (“local-boy-makes-good”) african references in the cluing, also loved the way the rebus fill was placed symmetrically in the grid. impressive!

    ;-)

  3. Nice puzzle. I was impressed he was able to work in QC, though admittedly SQCM is pretty ugly. It would have been extra nice if the rebus squares were (roughly) placed according to their geography, but I’ll forgive that since they are placed symmetrically.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    What a lousy looking map of Canada. :)

  5. Martin says:

    Great puzzle. However, I’m embarrassed to say that (aside from BC, where I live) I was really scratching my head trying to remember the correct official two-letter abbreviations for the other provinces! :-(

    -MAS

  6. Gareth says:

    Thanks, guys! Especially my Erato, Jeffrey, who was complaining about the plethora of US State puzzles sometime last year… ESE was written by Will Shortz, I guessed he felt like getting into the swing of things. And speaking of clues written by editors, I also laughed at Rich Norris’ clue for DIDDY!

  7. Tuning Spork says:

    Had the bottom half and center done, but I had Ontario at MARL{ON}BRANDO. Thought all I was missing was Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    Then when I filled in PR{ON}/{ON}GOODTERMS, I realized I’d forgotten all about New Brunswick. (Oh, like you haven’t.) Then in all came together like a back room party at Studio 54. :-)

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Wow, Gareth, I forgot about that. So I’m one degree of separation away from being an actual New York Times crossword constructor?

    I have more complaints…

  9. Jeffrey says:

    March 6, 2011: My review of Merl Reagle’s “Heads of State” puzzle, which was actually from the 2010 ACPT:

    As for the puzzle itself, I must admit I dislike state abbreviation puzzles. This Canadian fails to understand the fascination Americans have with their postal abbreviations.

  10. LIve and learn. This American was looking for Labrador. However, I was wrong:

    “A former colony and dominion of the United Kingdom, Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province to enter the Canadian Confederation on March 31, 1949, as Newfoundland. On December 6, 2001, an amendment was made to the Constitution of Canada to change the province’s official name to Newfoundland and Labrador.[5] In day-to-day conversation, however, Canadians generally still refer to the province itself as Newfoundland and to the region on the Canadian mainland as Labrador.” (Wikipedia)

    It was an enjoyable solve in any case. NIce fill, new info, fun to look for the rebus squares. Thanks, Gareth.

  11. Anne E says:

    Ha, I had the South African clues done and part of the right side done, and thought for a moment that it was going to be South African provinces… yeah, right! Nice work, Gareth – I had to fight for those codes!

    Anne, who lived in both GP and KZN during my time in SA

  12. Bananarchy says:

    And here I thought I alone was representing for the great white north. Who knew? Now if only we had respectable daily Canadian puzzles as well as respectable Canadian puzzlers…

    Great puzzles today, folks!

  13. cyberdiva says:

    Great NYTimes puzzle! The first of the provinces I got (without knowing that provinces were what I was looking for) was MB. Then I got MARLONBRANDO and momentarily thought that the puzzle was going to pay homage to him, until I filled in the letters and realized that it needed an NB. Next was AB, and so I was now sure that all the rebuses would be _B. Oh me of little imagination! Fortunately, soon after that I filled in CANADIANPROVINCE. That helped, except that now 1) I was looking for a place to put QB, and 2) I thought that Northwest Territories was a province, and so I was trying to fit NT into the puzzle. I finally settled for the little-known COMPACENTER and SCM and hightailed it over to here to try to see where QB belonged. Sigh.

  14. Zulema says:

    Great puzzle, which sent me to the LAT, though I usually do the Saturdays only, and it was also very enjoyable with its surprising take on the theme. Keep them coming, Gareth.

  15. John Haber says:

    Hard one for me, but I liked it a lot. It didn’t help that I was sure Frankfort was on the Main. But mostly the challenges were the obvious ones: finding out that it’s a going to take the abbreviations to fall like in a rebus, thinking of what they could mean, and dealing with the fact that the giveaway answer is hard to get because it runs the full length of the puzzle.

    It’s funny but only yesterday I read a press release that used two-letter country codes, and I didn’t know they existed. (It turned out that they got one wrong, though.)

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Love the Canadian north country, LOVED the puzzle. Believe it or not, I once drove from Stowe, up the St. Lawrence, up the 300 mile dirt road, past the MANIC-5 hydroelectric plant, (and several other MANICS) to Labrador City Newfoundland, and hung out there for a couple days for no particular reason, other than to do it. Wonderful experience. I’ve lived near Canada much of my life (Detroit, MI, central Minnesota, Rochester NY, Northern VT.) I guess the only provinces I’ve not set foot in are PEI and the NWT.

    I seem to remember that there was someone here, or in one of the earlier X-wd fora, from Yellowknife. I was always fascinated and eager to visit him. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

    Bruce

  17. Howard B says:

    Cool puzzles today, Gareth.
    Poor Nunavut. No love for you today. Ditto for the Yukon. Then again, how often do most of us mail stuff there? (No offense to those of you from those locales…)

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    But Howard, the revealer answer specifically says CANADIAN PROVINCE. It would be hard to squeeze OR TERRITORY into a puzzle with an even-numbered width.

    “How much of the Canadian territories have you visited?” “Nunavut.”

  19. Jeffrey says:

    Actually, while paper mailings have diminished, the government web addresses use these abbreviations. The British Columbia government website is gov.bc.ca for example. I am involved in committees featuring members from all of these jurisdictions, so I have virtually used them all. Physically, I’ve been in all ten provinces but no territories yet.

  20. Meem says:

    Congrats to Gareth on a well-crafted daily double. Both NYT and LAT were fun to solve.

  21. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, congrats to Gareth for the great daily double. But I remain a bit mystified on BEQ’s Steal synonyms when it comes to Crack: I can see where robbing might be a follow-up as in cracking a safe or a code, but can’t think of an instance where the crack is equivalent to the theft.

  22. J. T. Williams says:

    I don’t think it’s just ways to steal, I think it’s ways to misappropriate electronic data. Copy, crack, rip off, and pirate are all perfectly legitimate answers for that.

  23. Gareth says:

    @Pannonica: No, I didn’t have a hand in it, but it did make me smile. The protea is of course one of three characteristic plant families of the fynbos biome, to which foreigners haven’t attached as much romanticism as say the savannah biome…

  24. pannonica says:

    Gareth: I have an abiding fascination for the fynbos. And well done on the puzzles!

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