Friday, 1/13/12

CHE 6:12 (last week – pannonica) 
CHE 5:49 (this week – pannonica) 
LAT 4:20 
NYT 3:58 
CS 4:41 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:13 

Holy cats, people! It’s Friday the 13th! And you know what that means. Yep, that’s right: The next day will be Saturday the 14th.

Todd Gross and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 13 12 #0113

Hey! This puzzle is a hair too easy. If I can dip below the 4-minute mark, that means the Tyler Hinmans and Dan Feyers of the world may be flying through this puppy in 2 minutes.

What makes this puzzle easy is that the five 15-letter answers aren’t too tough to fill in—no awkward wording or oddball terminology there. Now, if you’re stuck on the long Down answers, or if you get hung up at the center square that offers the only path from top to bottom, you may be out of luck.

Lots of familiar 3-, 4-, and 5-letter words in the Down direction can also speed things up.

Did you notice that DANGEROUS CURVES is the central anchor of a puzzle that proceeds in an S-shaped fashion? I bet Doug and Todd did that on purpose.

Highlights:

  • All the long answers—the five 15s as well as the four 10s. LOVERS’ LANE and Sherlock Holmes’ IRENE ADLER, ANTONIO BANDERAS and a SPRINKLER SYSTEM, an ELEPHANT TRAINER who does not work with your standard DOMESTIC ANIMALS.
  • 20d. [Web presence] had me pondering terms for online fame and reputation, but it’s a SPIDER in a spider web.
  • 8d. [Hold hands?] might be asked to come up from the hold. “All hands on deck!” Sailors are TARS.
  • 38a. [Hit film directed by James Cameron] is trying to trick you into filling in AVATAR. I had the AL- in place by the time I saw the clue, though, so I went with ALIENS.

My one gripe: [Unhealthily light] cluing PALISH. Hey! Some of us are naturally pale even when in the pink of health. And if you’re PALISH, does that mean you’re not quite as pale as you could be?

Four stars, but I would have been happer with somewhat tougher clues.

Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Questionable Marks” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword 1/13/12 • "Questionable Punctuation" • Holland • solution

The title refers not to the marks one would receive for completed work in academic institutions, but hypothetical types of punctuation, via imaginative cluing.

  • 17a. [Extremely long punctuation mark?] HUNDRED YARD DASH. Not to be confused with a hundred-yard STARE (40d).
  • 25a. [Punctuation mark at the end of a prayer?] GRACE PERIOD.
  • 45a. [Punctuation marks on a 1040 form?] TAX BRACKETS.
  • 57a. [Punctuation mark that dips below the line?] DESCENDING COLON.

All of the themers registered favorably on my Smile-o-Meter. A fun idea, well done.

The ballast fill is smooth and relatively free from crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials. The medium-length fill, though minimal, was mostly good: EXPEDITE, TAKES TEA, TALENTS (clued as [Renaissance man's many], natch], and… Well, let’s talk about EAR DROPs. [Dangler from a lobe]. While drop earrings are common enough, ear drops are liquids delivered  to the ear canal for the purpose of combating infections, or dissolving waxy buildup. Tsk, tsk. (correcton: EARDOP, one word, is a valid term for earrings of the dangly disposition. Thanks to MAS (see comments).)

Things I didn’t know:

  • 8d [Broadway star Salonga] LEA.
  • 6d [Defraud] DIDDLE. But I do know what a paradiddle is.
  • 23a [Hustings figure] POL. Hustings (noun pl. but singular or pl in constr) a : a local court formerly held in various English municipalities and still held infrequently in London  b : a local court in some cities in Virginia
    a : a raised platform used until 1872 for the nomination of candidates for the British Parliament and for election speeches  b : an election platform : stump  c : the proceedings or locale of an election campaign. (m-w.com).  ”Hustings, we have a problem.”

Though the non-theme fill was admirably smooth, it wasn’t inspired enough, nor the cluing engaging enough, to hold my interest beyond the need to complete the grid. In sum, a good puzzle with a slightly above-average theme.

B-plus?

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 1 13 12

“Why Indeed?” could be the title for this puzzle, which tacks a Y onto the end of the first word in each phrase to make it an adjective:

  • 17a. A [Peevish audience?] would be a TESTY GROUP rather than a mere test group. Is “audience” in the clue because you can have test audiences?
  • 27a. [Irritable telemarketer?] clues CRANKY CALLER. Raise your hand if you get cranky every time you get one of those junk calls from “cardholder services” about your “eligibility for lower interest rates,” those jerkwad robo-calls that flagrantly disregard the Do Not Call registry and switch phone numbers faster than the FCC can crack down on the callers. CRANKY! Cranky callee.
  • 48a. [Sect members telling off-color jokes?] are SALTY SHAKERS. Probably telling dirty jokes the whole time they’re making furniture. June, Arnold, and Frances are the names of the three remaining Shakers. I bet Frances is the saltiest of the three.
  • 63a. [Surly sort?] clues TOUCHY TYPE. Would’ve been nice to stretch this to TOUCHY TYPIST, no?

Five more clues:

  • 20a. Cubs legend Ron SANTO is [Third baseman Ron posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2011]. A year or two before he died, my friend Jodi flew out to Arizona to interview him. A peak experience for her, what with her family of Cubs fanatics.
  • 5a, 58a. [High capital], 5 letters, starts with L? Hmm, that could be two things: LA PAZ, Bolivia, or LHASA, Tibet—both of them at an elevation of about 12,000 feet. Did you feel LHASA pulling at you for 58a even though you’d already written it in for [Asian city whose name means "place of the gods"]?
  • 4d. Wait, RATTAN is a wood? [Wood being tested for use as artificial bone]? Apparently yes, but often the flexible canes are what’s used.
  • 39d. [Briefly, show whose name appears under "123" in its logo] clues SESAME ST. Bzzzzz! No. Who abbreviates Sesame Street? Not the people of Sesame Street. I don’t like this answer at all.

3.5 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Giving Credit Where Credit is Due” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 13

Friends, readers, crossword lovers: lend me your eyes as we talk about today’s Patrick Blindauer crossword. The theme features four two-word terms beginning with words that can follow “credit:”

  • 17-Across: [Doing the Electric Slide, e.g.] is SHOWING YOUR AGE or MAKING AN ASS OF ONESELF. But neither of those fit in this grid, so we’re left with LINE DANCING (“credit line”). I have modest credit lines with Visa, American Express, and Discover–the usual suspects. I must say that Discover is the most vigilant about protecting against theft. I do a fair amount of traveling in my work and it seems like two or three times a year my Discover card gets dishonored at an out-of-town location and I have to call Discover’s fraud unit to let them know it’s really me. (Or someone pretending to be me, anyway. Good thing I never tell anyone my mother’s maiden name was Slaghoople.) Visa and American Express either don’t care or have their satellites tracking my every location.
  • 26-Across: The HISTORY CHANNEL (“credit history”) is the [Station that shows shows about past lives], at least when they aren’t showing Pawn Stars. The History Channel’s highest-rated show is a reality show with little connection to history. Syfy’s most popular show is Friday Night Smackdown, a pro wrestling show with a marginal connection to science fiction (the storylines are fiction and wrestling is cousin to the “sweet science” of boxing, but that’s about it). And MTV is better-known for shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, shows with little music connection (save for the fact that they identify their soundtrack artists at the bottom of the screen as the songs play–so I hear, anyway). There are countless other examples, of course. The point is that today’s channels have little real distinctions between them anymore. I’m not entirely convinced this is a good thing, but it’s what the market seems to dictate.
  • 44-Across: A [Picket leader, perhaps] is a UNION ORGANIZER (“credit union”). I’ve never worked at an institution with a credit union (at least I don’t think I have) so I’ve never banked with one. My understanding, though, is that a number of credit unions are increasingly open to the public at large. Any readers bank with credit unions? Do you find them better than traditional banks or about the same?
  • 58-Across: An [Outdated library reference] is the CARD CATALOG (“credit card”). Ah, the old card catalogs. Only those of us born in the 20th Century are familiar with these. Remember how they used to take up row after row in a larger library? They enabled users to get answers to the questions in a couple of hours or less. Today, if Google hasn’t replied to a search within 5 seconds, or if it retrieves less than a million results, we’re disappointed. You can’t tell, but I’m waving my cane in the air as I type all of this.

I like the grid layout with the two plus signs. For a vaguely financially-related theme, it seems fitting. From the fill, I liked GOOEY most, even though its clue, [Like roasted marshmallows], awakened my sweet tooth. It never takes no for an answer, so I’m trying to think of a relatively guilt-free way of addressing it. This would be the perfect job for frozen grapes, if only grapes were still in season. I understand I can get a good deal on Brazilian oranges now, so maybe I’ll go for that.

I can’t say I’m familiar with the term CHAT LOG, but it made sense as the answer to [Record of a web exchange] so I felt fine with it. LIVE ON TAPE is one of those wonderfully oxymoronic terms that makes for a nice long entry. Remember when you had to INITIALIZE a floppy disk for its first use in a PC? Hell, remember PCs? Where’s my cane?

My favorite part of the puzzle, though, was that it managed to sprinkle the entire trilogy of AMO, AMAS, and AMAT into the grid. The first one made me sigh. The second one made me think, “this is only cool if the third one is in here too.” The third one had me audibly exclaiming, “Sweet!” upon discovery. That’s a superb touch. If you’re going to sample some Crosswordese, go big or go home!

Updated, uh, Monday evening:

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Code of Silence”

WSJ crossword answers, 1 13 12 "Code of Silence"

This review is days late (whoops!) so let’s go with the capsule approach, sentence fragments all the way.

Funky theme: Four long answers tell you to hush (NOT ANOTHER WORD, STUFF A SOCK IN IT, PUT A LID ON IT, JUST BE QUIET. Seven rebus squares, in symmetrical spots, contain “SHH,” so there are 14 more thematic answers that criss-cross at the rebus squares. Darn near killed me, trying to figure out what kind of HORSES fit at 26a and how a phrase fit in at 4d. FRESH HORSES (meh) meet CRASH HARD. Aaah, I see. Particularly nice: SPANI{SH H}ARLEM, “FINI{SH H}IM,” BRITI{SH HUMOUR} (Brit-spelling and all), CORNI{SH H}ENS, and CATFI[SH H}UNTER. Never heard of the BU{SH H}OG [Rotary mower brand], thought a CRU{SH H}AT was just called a crusher, and didn’t know that [Instrument also called a clarsach] was an IRI{SH H}ARP.

69a: [Japanese clothing chain] is UNIQLO. Have heard of it from the internet, I think because of its unusual name. 73d: [Russian city on the Dnieper] is SMOLENSK. Sounds faintly familiar, but maybe more as the name Smolensky?

I like the double-fisted theme, a meaty challenge. 4.5 stars.

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20 Responses to Friday, 1/13/12

  1. ktd says:

    Neat grid design in the NYT! I’ve noticed that Doug Peterson often uses the 2×7/15/15 pattern in the top and bottom three rows of his themeless puzzles, more often than not with excellent results

  2. Doug says:

    @ktd – You’re right. That’s one of my favorite patterns. When I try to do triple-stacked 15s, I end up with a lot of junk in the crossings. But credit for this grid goes to Todd, who came up with the grid and the DANGEROUS CURVES entry.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    I confidently went ahead and filled in AVATAR at 38a.

    38a. [Hit film directed by James Cameron] is trying to trick you into filling in AVATAR. I had the AL- in place by the time I saw the clue, though, so I went with ALIENS.

    This is why I hate you. :-)

  4. Gareth says:

    Quite easy for a Friday, but a ton of fun! Sure I wasn’t the only one who started off with M?SL?MS – tricksy Arabic spelling! Fun 15s – especially SPRINKLERSYSTEM. Definitely noticed DANGEROUSCURVES – elegant touch! Favourite answer was IRENEADLER. She rescued me from the AVATAR trap in the puzzle!

  5. Matt says:

    I finished the NYT rather faster than I expected to, even with the misleading clues– I’ll admit that my first guess for 27D (Black-and-white giants) was OREOS, which had the unintended benefit of preventing the AVATAR/ALIENS problem. A nice puzzle.

    Did you know, btw, that the thirteenth day of the month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day of the week? Yes, folks, the deck is stacked.

  6. Spencer says:

    Did anyone fill in ORCA for 40A? And then erase it when they hit 27D? I did. Also got bit by AVATAR and confidently filled in MANX for 13D and PALLID for 21A.

  7. Martin says:

    “While drop earrings are common enough, ear drops are liquids delivered to the ear canal for the purpose of combating infections, or dissolving waxy buildup. Tsk, tsk.”

    A quick check of my trusty RH2 confirms that an eardrop (one word) is: “An earring with a pendant”

    -MAS

  8. pannonica says:

    Thanks Martin! I did some looking, but obviously not enough. Went only with Google, no dictionaries. It’s a term I’ve never heard, even though it’s my preference in otic adornment.

  9. Jan (danjan) says:

    @Matt – I had the same OREOS experience!

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Agree with all the comments. Excellent puzzle, distinctive, neat grid; quite soft clues. But that’s OK on occasion. I rarely think that ignorance is a good thing, but I didn’t even know Cameron directed (the grossly overpraised and overhyped) Avatar, but did know he directed Aliens–so I was too dumb to be misdirected. Also started with M – SL – MS

    Re orca–I don’t know how many of you are Stamford oldtimers (as I still refer to it nostalgically) but in one of Jon Delfin’s many wins, the final puzzle was the worst killer in the history of the tournament (so far as I can recall.) By Joe di P, I think. Jon won notwithstanding a mistake–the clue was “Black and White killer” for which he confidently entered “oreo” where the correct answer was “orca.” Astonishingly the other two finalists (I can’t remember who they were) both had a DNF– the only time I can remember a winner with a mistake, (but it may have happened.) Jon was visibly stunned when he discovered he had won.

    Does anyone else miss Stamford as much as I do? For me, it was easily accessible, convenient, and comfy–the antithesis of Brooklyn–which just doesn’t do it for me. Brooklyn is also about twice as expensive–(comparing successive years, not different eras.)

    Bruce

  11. Greg says:

    In the LA puzzle by Duguay-Carpenter 40 a clue is Bucs and Nats. The answer is NLERS. I thought Bucs were a football team.

  12. Doug P says:

    @Greg – The Pittsburgh Pirates are sometimes referred to as the Bucs.

  13. Jeff Chen says:

    Love the elegant touch on the NYT today! DANGEROUS CURVES in the middle of a puzzle that actually has dangerous curves – genius. I enjoy subtle mini-themes like that on a Fri/Sat.

  14. pannonica says:

    Apropos of everyone mentioning DANGEROUS CURVES, I heard this song performed live on WNYC’s Soundcheck earlier this week. “Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves” – The Little Willies. A country outfit including Norah Jones.

  15. Bananarchy says:

    @Matt, re: Fri 13th being more likely. Yes, amazing but true. Although it seems like black magic is at work, there’s a simple reason for it: the Gregorian calendar has a 400 year period, and the number of days (21,000-some I think) in this cycle happens to be divisible by 7, so since Jan 1 was a Sun this year, then Jan 1, 2411 will also be a Sun. Thus, there are a set number of Fri the 13th, Thurs the 13th, Wed the 13th, etc. in this 400 year cycle, and it just so happens that there are slightly more Fridays that fall on the 13th (an entirely unremarkable corollary: the 12th is more likely to be a Thursday).

  16. John Haber says:

    Actually, for me it was hard to get a foothold for a Friday, and the grid dismembered things a bit, so that made it harder too in getting new starts. But I agree in that I thought the unusual grid was just great, and I enjoyed the fill. I could say as a nit that TAs in my experience are grad students, and I work in textbook markets, but I know there are exceptions.

  17. Todd G says:

    Hello everyone! Sorry I’m late.

    Yes, DANGEROUS CURVES was my idea…but did you notice it crosses A TURN in the center of the grid? I believe that was Doug’s idea. Actually, I think the whole rest of the puzzle’s fill was Doug’s doing. Having a good partner is very helpful.

  18. ant says:

    No write-up of the WSJ today? I finally got around to finishing it (football seemed to take precedence this weekend), and came here looking for everyone’s thoughts.
    What a great puzzle! Two different gimmicks related to the theme, and each was symmetrical. Very clever…
    I guess the review was slashed due to Friday the 13th?

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @ant: Just got around to it late on the 16th! Not sure how I forgot to do the puzzle. Friday was a busy day, and then by Saturday I’d moved on without realizing I’d missed the puzzle! You’re right: great puzzle with a two-pronged theme.

  20. Greg says:

    Thanks Doug. Big baseball fan here
    And never heard that. That’s quite a curveball.

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