Friday, 1/20/12

LAT 3:58 
NYT 3:20 
CHE 4:47 (pannonica) 
CS 5:42 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 6:25 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, #0120 1 20 12

Patrick Berry, a 64-word grid, long answers stacked four or five rows deep in every corner, and hardly any 3- or 4-letter answers? How can you go wrong? Well, for starters, it was somehow crazy-easy for me, taking just two seconds longer than the Thursday puzzle, which in turn was easier for me than most Wednesday puzzles. Plus, the puzzle felt like a PALE, DRY facsimile of a Berry themeless, with a handful of clunkers that brought no joy. With another name in the byline, the grid would appear much more accomplished—but we’re used to such fabulous heights of achievement from Berry that this outing felt a bit lacking. Not a bad puzzle by any stretch of the imagination, but not all it might have been, either.

Highlights:

  • 19a. ULEE’S GOLD. The full title! Not just ULEE or ULEE’S stranded in the grid.
  • The business section. HARD-SELLS, BUYS OUT, and RAN SHORT go together well.
  • 42a. The CHA CHA CHA.
  • 1d. “NO DUH.” Lexicographer Grant Barrett did a survey not too long ago to investigate where people say “Duh,” “No duh,” “Doy,” and “Der.” I came up in a “Duh” environment.
  • 12d. LAKE HURON is the [North American home of 30,000 islands]. Who knew?
  • 46d. Cute clue for ADLAI Stevenson, and not one I recall seeing before: ["We're Madly for ___" (old campaign song)]. How do Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum’s campaign songs go?

Surprising lowlights:

  • Nauticalism/crosswordese 5a: BITT, a [Mooring post on a ship]. (See also 16a: ABEAM, [Nautical direction].) Boring old 2d: ENOLA, [Name on a famous B-29]. (Please remember that these would be less surprising in a jillion other constructors’ puzzles. Berry TENDS BAR but it’s a bar he has set high.)

In yesterday’s post, Matt Gaffney called attention to 5×5 sections of white space in BEQ’s puzzle. So do note Patrick’s 5×7 and 4×9 corners—those are not easy to craft, and most of the stuff is solid and few of the shorter crossings disappoint in the slightest. Now, the grid lacks a lot of flow between sections, but I suspect the clues were made easy enough to make sure that solvers had a way to break open each quadrant without getting frustrated. Frustration is for Saturday puzzles more than Fridays.

Four stars.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Academic Circles” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword • 1 20 12 • "Academic Circles" • Berry • solution

Quietly impressive theme. Each of the long across themers bears the name of an institution of higher education (all universities), in order, highlighted by the circled boxes. What elevates the theme beyond the usual circled-letter shtick is that each of the containing entries is also related to the sphere of learning. Even though the connections may be a little stretched, it’s still quite a feat.

  • 17a. [Mortarboard wearer] COLLEGE GRADUATE (Colgate).
  • 24a. [Rhode Island senator who created Basic Educational Opportunity Grants] CLAIBORNE PELL (Cornell). More commonly known as Pell Grants, and not to be confused with Rhodes Scholarships.
  • 40a. [Academic exam tailored to lucky guessers] TRUE/FALSE TEST (Tufts). Quibble: while it may be more favorable than other formats to lucky guessers, it’s still tailored to students who know the material. No?
  • 50a. [English translation of the University of California's Latin motto] LET THERE BE LIGHT (Lehigh).

Don’t know if it was intentional or just artifactitious of the theme’s developmental process, but each circled answer begins with the same letter as the containing phrase.

In addition to the swell theme, the ballast fill is solid. Most noticeable are the longest answers: CALAMITY, TUTORIAL, ARBITRATED, SLEEKEST, STAMP PAD, and ENAMELWARE. The last is clued somewhat awkwardly as [Glossy cooking utensils]. I say awkwardly because in general I think of utensils as tools that are wielded: knives, beaters, ricers, corers, et al. Of course, it would have been repetitive—a cruciverbal no-no—to write something like “cookware” in the clue. Nevertheless, I’d have gone for something like mainstays, vessels, or containers rather than utensils.

Other:

  • More institutional content: 20a [Broadcasting award inscribed with the words "The University of Georgia'] PEABODY. I’d long assumed it was from Yale University, both because of its prestige and that one of its more prominent donors was George Peabody.
  • Favorite clue: 30a [Removable locks] WIG.
  • Authors! ANTON Chekov, James AGEE, ANNE [ __ Hathaway, wife of Shakespeare] (in turn, author of Othello, with the character IAGO), ERLE Stanley Gardner. nb: 32-down deliberately omitted.
  • Not having an automated coffeemaker, I don’t know if (44a) PRESET is a button to be found on one. I figured such a function would be embodied by one called “Timer” or something closer of that ilk. Would “Preset” determine what style of brew is desired?
  • 46a [Like Florida's landscape] FLAT. Indeed, Florida has the lowest highest elevation of any state in the union.
  • New to me was 57a [Machine frequented by bettors], TOTE, which is short for totalizator/totalisator. It’s the big board with all the numbers, odds, payouts, and so on. The device was invented in New Zealand in the 1920s, at the Scrabble-anaemic ELLERSLIE Racecourse.
  • I’m pleased that a MARMOT was correctly described as a [Ground squirrel]. You know how I can get.

Solid A.

Updated Friday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “All Stars” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 20

The “stars” suggested by the title of today’s puzzle are those of stage, screen, and television. Specifically, those words are found at the end of the three grid-spanning theme entries:

  • 20-Across: A [Genuine drama venue] is the LEGITIMATE STAGE. This is well outside my wheelhouse, so I’ll have to defer to our many theatrically connected readers for verification as to whether this is a common term and whether it’s appropriately clued. It seems fine to me, but by the same token it’s not very exciting.
  • 41-Across: A PANORAMIC SCREEN is an [Expansive movie display]. Not much to say about that.
  • 60-Across: One [Source for home viewing] is CABLE TELEVISION. Others include DVD PLAYER, SATELLITE DISH, and EYEBALLS.

That’s what I saw as the theme–three nouns ending in STAGE, SCREEN, and TELEVISION, respectively. Is there something more I missed? I hope so, because otherwise there’s really not much to this one. None of the theme entries feel jazzy to me–it seems they were selected only because they were 15 letters long.

The fill was considerably better, especially with DINGALING and BE SERIOUS. I also loved the inclusion of ELVIS and ARON, both clued as [Graceland name], though upon discovery of the second one I was really hoping PRESLEY was lurking somewhere in the grid. [It may be circular] was a nice clue for a circular SAW. These highlights are accompanied by a heavy dose of tired entries, though (we’re looking at you, SSGT, VSO, ETS, STA, ITER, YSER, and ETAS).

GEED apparently means [Hung a right]. If you turned left, have you AITCHED? ZEED? KAYED?  Either way, you’re EFFED.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 20 12

I enjoyed this puzzle, as I hadn’t figured out the theme yet when I reached the revealer at 62d—CBER, or [Handle user, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]. The B in 62d gave me the B in DOESN’T HAVE A BLUE, which became more obviously a C-to-B swap. Mind you, CBER isn’t really all that clear an explanation of the theme, but it got me there. It still wasn’t all that easy to finish the rest of the theme entries, though, not until I had enough crossings to see what the C-to-B word was going to turn out to be.

The theme answers are:

  • 17a. AUSTRALIAN BRAWL = [Adelaide altercation?].
  • 31a. GREEN BARD = [Beginning poet?].
  • 39a. DAIRY BATTLE = [Fight over the last quart of milk?].
  • 46a. APPLE BORE = [One always talking about his MacBook Air?]. (Or her iPad or iPhone.)
  • 63a. DOESN’T HAVE A BLUE = [Can't color the sky, say?].

Likes include the Crayola clue for 55d: FLESH; the geo clue for 15a: EMIRATES, [Ajman and Fujairah, for two]; 68a: [Stuff in the back] sounding like a verb phrase for “load the trunk of the car” but meaning the APPENDIX of a book; and the one-two punch of the clues for 1d/2d, [Gets behind] and [Things to get behind] for TRAILS and CAUSES.

Not thrilled with SAGO, UTA, IS IT A GO, SEATO, YGOR, ADZ, OPE, LOTT, NOTS, etc.

3.75 stars.

Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deconstruction”

WSJ crossword solution, 1 20 12 "Deconstruction"

Let’s see how clearly I can explain this theme. Take an occupation. Take a noun that pertains to that occupation. Turn that noun into an adjective by sandwiching it inside DE- and -ED. Clue accordingly.

Thus, [Journalist who's in a funk?] is a DEPRESSED REPORTER, though there’s no hint of the PRESS being removed from the journalist, so that sort of literal wordplay is absent. DELIGHTED ELECTRICIAN is a [Workman who's very happy to give others power?]. (Boo to the gendered word “workman.”) DEGRADED TEACHER is an [Educator who's been shamed?]. DEBUNKED CAMP COUNSELOR is a [Summer worker who's been caught in a lie?]—although I question whether a person can be debunked, or just the person’s statements. DERANGED COWHAND is a [Buckaroo who's bonkers?]. DEMEANED STATISTICIAN is an [Actuary who's abased?]. (Aww, who would do such a thing to a statistician?) And a DEVOTED CAMPAIGNER is a [Political ally who's loyal?], though I question whether CAMPAIGNER is as much an occupation as the other ones in this puzzle.

Shall we discuss 16d? [Had an allergic reaction] clues FELT ITCHY. This is not a good entry. By that token, you could append any adjective to a verb like feel/felt/is/were and call it a crossword-worthy phrase. Just say no! And besides, who says “I feel itchy”? “I’m so itchy,” “This itch is driving me crazy,” “I can’t stand the itching!”

Three stars, or maybe 2.75. The puzzle didn’t do much for me.

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12 Responses to Friday, 1/20/12

  1. Gareth says:

    Didn’t know that there was a “We’re Madly for Adlai” to go with “We Like Ike”! Only real misstep was NOLANRYAN instead of DONLARSEN. Was quite smug about “getting” that answer… For the vast swatches of white not nearly as much junk as one would expect. Hell this could probably run on a Monday: except for BITT! Perhaps not as many colourful answers as some puzzles, but I’d say PALEDRY is taking it a bit far! [Aside: in my mind I'm completing PALE DRY with SHRUNKEN ROUNDED - adjective's used to describe a bitch's cervix!]

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    For all you comedy writers out there–straight lines abound, from AR’s “How do the campaign songs for Romney, Paul, Gingrich and Santorum go, to the last line of Gareth’s post above, which has me rolling on the floor in shock, awe and amusement. (And yes, I do know what a bitch *actually* is.) :-)

    Agree with Amy that this is about as close to a “start writing and don’t stop” Friday as I’ve ever seen, and agree that this doesn’t make it bad, but a bit of a let down. One of my early childhood memories is walking home from school turning on the TV and seeing Yogi Berra run up and jump into the arms of Don Larsen–about the last 10 seconds of the perfect game–wondering what the hell was going on. And I vaguely remember “I like Ike–but I’m voting for Adlai,” but not the ditty in the clue. It’s the hugely raised expectations from PB I which make this one feel OK, but a bit routine.

    Bruce

  3. Gareth says:

    The APPLEBORE answer was most droll – there are indeed a lot of that sort!

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    RIP, Etta James.

  5. maikong says:

    Sam — I can tell you are a city boy. If you turn left, you hawed. Gee and Haw is horse speak!!!! I work the puzzle on POGO and then I hurry over and see if you and I agree.

  6. Anoa Bob says:

    Speaking of campaign songs, I remember the “We like Ike” ditty—I was about six—but I remember even more vividly the song for his running mate, Richard Milhous Nixon. My grandfather, who was a conservative, very religious man, couldn’t restrain himself from laughing when we heard a group of local ladies at a political rally singing “We like Ike and we like Dick”. True story.

  7. Jeff Chen says:

    @Gareth: I smugly wrote in BOB FELLER, then of course knew, absolutely, positively, that ED NORTON starred in Ang Lee’s Hulk.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    No, no, no. ED NORTON wrote “Swanee River”.

  9. Sam Donaldson says:

    “Sam — I can tell you are a city boy.”

    Guilty as charged, though my parents would want me to add that I lived on a farm for the majority of my youth. As for my familiarity with horse-speak, I plead neigh.

  10. Not Ron Paul says:

    “46d. Cute clue for ADLAI Stevenson, and not one I recall seeing before: ["We're Madly for ___" (old campaign song)]. How do Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum’s campaign songs go?”

    There are dozens of songs written about Ron Paul. Here’s a good one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naMtwqBzja0

  11. pannonica says:

    Quibble with the WSJ, 41a: I consider SCAT to be a technique in jazz, not a variety of it.

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    Fun song, Not Ron Paul. I’m not a PaulBot, by any means, but the man does have the basics of freedom down pat.

Comments are closed.