Monday, 2/20/12

NYT 3:47 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:36 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 5:25 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 
BEQ untimed 

Samuel A. Donaldson’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • 2/20/12 • Mon • Donaldson • 22012

Well! This was a breezy Monday puzzle, with an apt theme which was smartly implemented. 52-across is the revealer: [February occasion, some of whose honorees can be found in the starred clues] PRESIDENTS’ DAY.

  • 18a. [*Some reddish-brown caviar] SALMON ROE (James Monroe, № 5).
  • 23a. [*Major road] TRAFFIC ARTERY. (James “Jimmy” Carter, № 39).
  • 31a. [*Nancy Pelosi was the first person ever to have this title in Congress] MADAM SPEAKER (John Adams, № 2; John Quincy Adams, № 6).
  • 40a. [*Parliamentary procedure] RULES OF ORDER (Gerald Ford, № 38).
  • 60a. [*Really hunger for] LUST AFTER. (William Howard Taft, № 27).

Notice how all five hidden presidential surnames span the phrase words? Consistence of mechanics, that’s good. Unlike some folks, I don’t feel that such hidden elements must be part of all words in a phrase (see 40a). Also notice that there a  generous six theme answers in total, for a total of 68 of 187 white squares in this 15×15 grid. That’s 36.3636363636… percent, for you stat-fiends. Further, I appreciate that two of the themers are explicitly related to government: MADAM SPEAKER and RULES OF ORDER. One could wax poetic and make connections for the other three (caviar signifying lobbyists and fancy dinners, procedural congestion, and the seductive  influence of money and power) but there’s no need to, unless one wanted to, say, pad the volume length of a write-up. In general, a low CAP™ Quotient (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials), and a smooth solve.

Bonus patriotic content:

  • 1a [Patriot Allen with the Green Mountain Boys] ETHAN.
  • 6a [Things "bursting in air"] BOMBS.
  • 26d & 48a TIP | O’NEILL [ … leader of the House of Representatives, 1977–1987].
  • 51d  [The "L" of L.B.J.] LYNDON (№ 36).
  • The …almost… of 7d [Suffix akin to "à-go-go] -ORAMA.
  • The totally non-democratic fill at dead center: ROI. Vive la revolution!

Other items of interest:

  • TIERRA crossing TIARA in the upper-right corner.
  • Sequential clues: [Dog sound] and [Cow sound] ARF ’n’ MOO.
  • Least favorite clue/fill: 37d [What a ramp does] SLOPES UP. I just don’t, okay?
  • Most surprising fill for a Monday puzzle: SLOVENE [Ljubljana dweller] (10d). Type that five times fast. Ljubljana, that is.
  • Row 12: SWEEP | NEAT | URN.
  • Topological nadir: abbrevs. FEM. and FLA. stacked vertically.
  • Favorite clue: A tie!
    • 44d [Word before know and care] DON’T.
    • 34d [Francis Drake, Isaac Newton, or Mix-a-Lot] SIR.

Very enjoyable solve and an above-average puzzle.


Geoffrey Lewis’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Monday Feb 20 2012

Theme: 60A. [One of the four that end this puzzle's starred answers] – IRISH COUNTY

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [*Get really angry] – POP ONE’S CORK
  • 25A. [*Belfast-born flutist] – JAMES GALWAY
  • 35A. [*2004 loser to George Bush] – JOHN KERRY
  • 51A. [*Sandwich request] – HOLD THE Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown. Oops, I mean MAYO.

Two people sandwiched by two expressions. Acceptable for those who obsess over that kind of thing.

Seven-letter downs madness:

  • 1D. [Expels from the country] – DEPORTS
  • 2D. ["Should I deal you a hand?"] – IN OR OUT. I’m out. You deported me.
  • 3D. [Abundantly supplied (with)] – REPLETE. I should start using replete in ordinary conversation. Maybe not.
  • 11D. [Secretion used in hives] – BEE’S WAX
  • 12D. [Stir up] – AGITATE
  • 13D. [Strolled, as to the saloon] – MOSEYED. The problem with the world today is not enough people mosey.
  • 39D. [Humiliated] – ASHAMED. The problem with the world today is not enough people are ashamed.
  • 40D. [Like many rural roads] – TWO LANE. The problem with the world today is not enough people drive on two lane roads.
  • 41D. [Thousand thousand] – MILLION. Math without roman numerals!
  • 44D. ["Papa Don't Preach" singer] – MADONNA
  • 45D. [Radiated] – EMITTED

No pretend words.  A little Tuesday-ish. ***½ stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “White House Caper” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 20

Hmm, I’m not so sure about a theme built around Presidents Day….

Lempel takes four familiar terms that start with the surnames of former United States Presidents and re-imagines them as terms relating to those Presidents:

  • 17-Across: A [President's snack?] is an ADAMS APPLE (I think I’m supposed to leave out the apostrophe here). A less healthy (but better tasting) alternative is the EISENHOWER CHEESE PUFF.
  • 28-Across: The [President's biographer?] is the FORD EXPLORER. I like the image of a biographer as an “explorer” of a subject’s past.
  • 44-Across: [President's papers?] clues GRANT WRITING, a topic that gets a lot of attention at my workplace.
  • 59-Across: The [President's alliance?] is BUSH LEAGUE. Lively term, though hardly an apt description for this (or any other) Lynn Lempel offering.

I like how each of the theme entries has two-word clues. [President's sports conference] might have been a little more straightforward than [President's alliance], but it would have been unsightly to have only one three-word clue when all of the others have two words.

The fill really shines. I love NEAT FREAK, DEAR SIR, ALL AT ONCE, DIG UP, IMELDA Marcos, GAZETTE, and PENSIVE. I thought [Nim Chimpsky and kin] was a fun clue for APES, and the oxymornic [Eloquent speechifier] as the clue for ORATOR is terrific. For whatever reason I had YAR as the [Cry from the crow's nest] (apparently I think all ships are staffed by pirates) instead of CAW.

Overall, a great Presidents Day tribute. (You won’t hurt my feelings if you liked this take on Presidents Day better than the one in the NYT. Second place to Lynn Lempel is just fine by me.)

Elizabeth Gorski’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 2 20 12 "Movie Monday" Gorski

The theme is a 2010 rom-com I didn’t see, a movie with a lousy Tomatometer rating and a dramatic finish involving vomiting (!). It sounds terrible but it made money.

  • 15a. ALEX O’LOUGHLIN, ["Hawaii Five-0" actor who is 32-Across' love interest in 49-Across].
  • 32a. JENNIFER LOPEZ, ["American Idol" judge and star of 49-Across].
  • 49a. THE BACKUP PLAN, [2010 romantic comedy starring 32-Across].

How fortuitous for a recent movie that isn’t obscure to have a 13-letter title and two stars with 13-letter names when the Celebrity crossword uses a 13×13 grid. Hey, Hollywood! Make more movies and TV shows with 13-letter titles and stars.

Other celeb names in the grid besides J.Lo and A.O’L include SELA Ward, the Dalai LAMA, ARLO Guthrie, Amanda PEET, Lucy LIU, CARLA Gugino, ANA Ortiz (anyone named Ana who gets famous is going to be used a lot in crosswords), MEL Brooks, NKOTB (New Kids on the Block), Alan ALDA, ENYA, CEE Lo Green, KAL Penn, and UMA Thurman. Fictional characters in the puzzle include Legally Blonde‘s ELLE, The Phantom Menace‘s ANI/Anakin Skywalker, Cold Mountain‘s ADA, Star Trek‘s SULU, and Moby-Dick‘s AHAB. I hope anyone who didn’t know SELA Ward could piece her name together by knowing CEE Lo, KAL, and UMA’s names.

Brendan Quigley’s blgo crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 2/20 solution

See where it says “blgo crossword”? I’m leaving that typo and telling you that most of the times that I try to type “blog crossword” in a BEQ heading, I mistype it. And then it makes me think of Rod Blagojevich, casually referred to as “Blago.”

Great puzzle, no? You’ve got THE JOY OF SEX clued as [Comfort reading] because it’s a book by Alex Comfort. PAT AND VANNA, not heretofore seen in any crossword I know of, and yet totally gettable as a [Wheel pair]. (So much better than any obscure term for wheel components, that’s for sure.) Plus their fellow game show host, Alex TREBEK. Music newcomer LANA DEL REY, hot new fill. LEAN CUISINE frozen dinners. An FHA LOAN. THE HAWKS playing strong defense with a definite article. Plus a single delicious PINE NUT with its fellow foodstuff, the PARSNIP, up above; my husband just had parsnips in a restaurant meal on Friday. Lots of good clues, but I test-solved this one a week ago and I don’t recall specific clues other than the [Comfort reading] one, and thanks to technical difficulties at Casa Fiend, I’m way behind schedule with my day so I’ll bid you adieu with a 4.25-star rating.

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12 Responses to Monday, 2/20/12

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Those were my two favorite clues, too. A real treat to encounter such fun clues any day of the week, but particularly welcome in a Monday puzzle.

  2. I don’t know if Sam reads rex, but i know he comes here, so i just want to reprint my comments on this wonderful puzzle…that i thought Pannonica did justice too!
    i think this puZzle is FANTASTIC!

    68 themed squares! Hidden presidents!!! Six theme answers! Fabulous phrase like MADAMESPEAKER!
    No circles, let’s us discover!!!

    A lesser person ( probably me) would have been content to have the phrase PRESIDENTSDAY across the middle, with four presidents of equal length, just their real names!
    But Sam Donaldson has them all hidden, crossing both parts of the answer!!!
    9 13 12 12 13 9 !!!!!!
    Does everyone understand how hard that is?
    And to construct where it isn’t even show off-y but equal pleasure to solver and constructor!

    And altho really Tiesday-esque words (CARELL, LAREDO, SLOVENE, NAS) manages to get them into a smooth and fast Monday!!!!
    AND contemporary with SIR Mixalot and NAS and Steve CARELL thrown in with your old ETHAN Allens!

    PLUS ETHAN Allen and BOMBS bursting in air, TIP ONEILL…both first and last name!!! AND LYNDON Johnson totally adding to the whole President’s Day atmosphere…
    Even ONES as dollar bills with a prez on them!
    (And I’ll bet ORAMA was originally ObAMA! Sam?)

    TERIYAKI! WUSS!
    Tis puzzle is just all kinds of WOW to me!
    SWOOOOON!!!

    1:06 AM

  3. loren smith says:

    @Alex (from yesterday) “I wonder what the breakdown is (of those who care) of crossword types who prefer the descriptive or prescriptive approach to language.” Count me on the descriptivist side but with a secret, reluctant Miss Fiddich part that can’t help but take note of stuff like “just between you and I” and “I laid down for a while because I was tired.”

  4. Howard B says:

    Very nice execution of the hidden word theme; I actually didn’t know what was going on while solving until the theme revealed itself until the end. Well-done!

  5. joon says:

    sam, there’s no need to compare. i loved your puzzle and lynn’s. her theme was a bit more playful, but your six theme answers and fun cluing made up the gap. great monday all-around.

  6. Giacinta says:

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  7. Alex says:

    Please don’t delete giacinta’s comment. It is an excellent example of the genre.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Re @BEQ: If STRESS TESTS in the bottom row gets a pass in an otherwise fine puzzle, (and I think it should) then A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE gets one next time it shows up.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Okay, @Alex. It’s instructive, isn’t it? The human commenters here have a much better grasp of spelling, punctuation, and grammar than the average spambot. It makes it so easy to spot the spam comments. The spambots usually are even more obvious with their use of automatic synonymizers, which allow the creation of comments that are word puzzles in and of themselves. What was the original text? When one is exhorted to “Maintain up the favorable career!,” the original “Keep up the good work” just seems so flat.

  10. joon says:

    jeffrey, there’s nothing wrong with STRESS TESTS as an entry, except that it’s been used a lot in themeless puzzles before. A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE is a highly dubious entry to begin with; the fact that it’s been used 3 (4?) times in triple- or quad-stacks within the last year or so just exacerbates the awkwardness.

  11. maikong says:

    Sam –

    In addition to enjoying your reviews, I can now say I also have enjoyed one of your puzzles!!! It took me too long to figure out “two cents” but finally the light came on.

  12. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, maikong! It was a fun challenge to construct that puzzle. As I said on one of the other blogs (there are other crossword blogs?), much of the credit goes to Will Shortz and his editorial staff. They made the puzzle shine.

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