Friday, 2/24/12

NYT 6:04 (joon—paper) 
CS 5:26 (Sam) 
LAT 7:10 (Matt) 
CHE 2:49 (joon—paper) 
Tausig tba?
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (Jeffrey) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—joon’s review

NYT solution grid 2 24 12

joon here, filling in once more for still-indisposed amy. i was licking my chops when i opened up this puzzle and saw that it was a patrick berry. as usual, the fill is so clean you could eat off it despite a pretty wide-open 64-word grid. highlights and lowlights:

  • {1968 Best Actor nominee for “The Fixer”} is ALAN BATES. never heard of him, unfortunately.
  • {Coat that’s easy to take off} is WATER-BASE PAINT. great clue. the entry itself is a little blah for a 14, but not bad by any means.
  • {French loanword that literally means “rung on a ladder”} is ECHELON. i really like this word, and the clue was a gimme for me, unlike most etymology clues.
  • {Perfect} is DEAD-ON, but even with DEA___ in place i didn’t know where this was going. i actually though it might be a verb.
  • {It was MSNBC’s highest-rated program when canceled in 2003} is DONAHUE, which i did not know. is this the same as the phil donahue show? because i thought that went off the air much earlier.
  • {Paper assets} are STOCKS AND SHARES. this one didn’t sit well with me. is this an actual phrase? i’m not a finance guy, but it seems like it’s just two nouns stuck together with an AND. STOCKS AND BONDS seems like it has some in-the-language value, but i haven’t heard STOCKS AND SHARES. aren’t they the same thing anyway? a little disappointing for the grid’s longest answer to be so blah.
  • {It has a denomination of $1,000} is a T-NOTE. more finance, more blah. i actually was worried this one was going to be G-NOTE. i cost myself a few places at last year’s ACPT when i filled in C-NOTE for a clue like {Large bill, slangily} and didn’t notice the problem with the crossing; i’d never seen G-NOTE in a grid before (and haven’t since).
  • {Homeric character who commits matricide} is ORESTES, who kills his mother clytemnestra and her lover aegisthus in revenge for their having killed his father, agamemnon. did you know? he committed matricide with the help of his sister ELECTRA, who also appears in homer and also has seven letters—and two of them were in the right place (__E_T__). once i confirmed the T with TOGAS, i had a hard time pulling ELECTRA out of the grid.
  • {Weapons used to finish off the Greek army at Thermopylae} are ARROWS. now this is ancient trivia that i did not know.
  • {What a robot might resemble} is a weird way to go to clue PERSON. generally, the less you remind people of the uncanny valley, the better.
  • {Psychedelic 1968 song featuring a lengthy drum solo} is IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA. by far my favorite of the grid-spanning answers, in no small part because it reminds me of that simpsons episode where bart switches the music at church. also, there’s nothing more self-indulgent than a lengthy drum solo in a rock song. so there’s that.
  • {What a whatnot has} is BRIC-A-BRAC. much nicer here in its full form than as a partial like BRAC (or worse, A-BRAC).
  • {President’s daughter on “The West Wing”} is ELLIE. no idea, of course. needed every crossing, because even after i had _LLIE it could have been ALLIE (or maybe even OLLIE).
  • {Alternative to “your”} is ONES. way back in the earliest days of crossword fiend, our esteemed hostess ran a contest to see who could come up with the freshest and best new clues for some stale crossword entries, and ONES was on the list. i think that was the first time i noticed that ONES isn’t the liveliest entry as far as clue possibilities are concerned. but i admit, this simple and straightforward grammatical clue had me stumped. the payoff was pretty cool, though, especially to all of us who have complained about the use of ONES instead of YOUR in multi-word crossword answers.
  • {Poet who gave us “carpe diem”} is HORACE. more ancient trivia, and another one in my wheelhouse. carpe carpem (seize the fish) is one the more amusing bits of dog latin.
  • {Trees in Gray’s country churchyard} are ELMS, and yes, there is a highbrow bent to some of the clues for common words in this puzzle. that sits all right with me, though. i remember a few lines from this poem, but not the bit about the ELMS.
  • {Acknowledge a commander’s entrance, maybe} is SNAP TO, but i can’t have been the only one who plunked down SALUTE off the initial S.
  • {Kaplan who co-hosted six seasons of “High Stakes Poker”} is actor GABE. i only ever remember this guy’s name because of the former rangers/red sox fourth outfielder named gabe “the babe” kapler.
  • {Not going with the flow?} clues AT ANCHOR. nautical terms aren’t my favorite, but this one is pretty familiar, and of course, the clue is perfect.
  • {Round-bottomed container} is a TEST TUBE, and yeah, if you think about it, that’s weird, right? it’s designed so that you can never put it down without a special piece of equipment involved.
  • {One hanging at a temple} is an EARLOCK? okay, this had me fooled a few times. i thought i was so clever when i put in EARLOBE. i don’t even think i know the word EARLOCK, although i’m guessing it’s a lock of hair near the ears? apparently so.
  • {Christmas green?} is a holiday BONUS. very good.
  • {It’s all in your head} clues your BRAIN, and for your sake, i fervently hope so. it’s much less useful for thinking and stuff once it comes out of your head.
  • {Nonwoody plant parts} are HERBAGE, and that looks awfully like a roll-your-own kind of word. i kind of want it to be herbiage, just because of its proximity to verbiage.
  • {Disobey the rule?} is a terrific clue for REVOLT. say, how about those syrian crimes against humanity, eh? (note to self: small talk needs work.)
  • {Got a lot of laughs out of} is SLAYED, in exactly the way that that syria joke didn’t. i guess i’ll just leave the slaying to [anonymous syrian higher-ups].

overall, i’ll give this one 4.2 stars. it’s a fine construction with some great clues, but it takes a ding for two long entries that didn’t shine.
get well soon, amy!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Oscar Wild” (under the pen name Judith Seretto) – Jeffrey’s Review

WSJ crossword • 2/24/12 • "OscarWild" • Shenk, Seretto • solution

WSJ Fri Feb 24 2012

THE .puz version of this file was unavailable by deadline so click the link above to see a live picture from Fiend headquarters of my solution using a green Pentel Twist-Erase Click 0.7 pencil. I’ve ordered the 0.9 version (not sold in Canada), since the leads keep breaking on the 0.7, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Here’s a fun game – check if I made any errors. [edit: image of grid inserted into post –p]

Theme: Anagramming Oscar winning movies for the great amusement of the solver.

Theme answers:

  • 23A. [THE KING'S SPEECH remake featuring pencils and pens?] – SKETCHING SHEEP
  • 42A. [BRAVEHEART remake about an addict warding off treatment?] – AVERT REHAB
  • 48A. [GOING MY WAY remake about a victorious exercise facility?] – YOGA GYM WIN
  • 59A. [ON THE WATERFRONT remake about a Texas city's cleanup effort?] – NEATEN FORT WORTH
  • 68A. [THE SOUND OF MUSIC remake featuring a loud, bewildered fellow?] – SHOUT I’M CONFUSED
  • 83A. [MY FAIR LADY remake set on a suburban lawn? - FAMILY YARD
  • 86A. [GRAND HOTEL remake about an unraveling shirt?] – LONG THREAD
  • 109A. [CHARIOTS OF FIRE remake featuring steamy sturgeons?] – EROTICA FOR FISH

Song of the Day:

  • 44D. [#1 hit for Marty Robbins] – EL PASO

No time for more today. Talk amongst yourselves.

***stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “You Da Man!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 24

Today we take a quick trip through the filmographies of four famous male actors, each of whom appeared in a film containing the word “man:”

  • 17-Across: PAUL NEWMAN was the [Star of "The Mackintosh Man"]. I’ve never heard of this film. imdb.com offers this synopsis: “A member of British Intelligence assumes a fictitious criminal identity and allows himself to be caught, imprisoned, and freed in order to infiltrate a spy organization and expose a traitor.” The 1973 film sports a 56% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not the worst Paul Newman movie (What a Way to Go! got 0%), but certainly not the best (100% for Cool Hand Luke).
  • 23-Across: ROBERT PRESTON was the [Star of "The Music Man"]. That one I’ve heard of. It has a 94% fresh rating on the “Tomatometer,” but it’s not Preston’s best movie (at least according to the Tomatometer). That would be the 1962 classic, How the West Was Won. (Spoiler alert: the west was not won easily, as it took three directors to tell the story.)
  • 49-Across: BURT LANCASTER was the [Star of "The Midnight Man"], another film with which I have zero familiarity. It’s not even on Rotten Tomatoes! I think the film’s poster (which you can see here) says it all: “The Ex-con. The Hippie. The Senator. The Pervert. The Lesbian. The Professor. The Sheriff. The Sadist. One of them is a murderer. All of them make the most fascinating murder mystery in years.” My money’s on the Senator. It’s a 1974 film, and political corruption was all the rage then.
  • 60-Across: JERRY LEWIS was the [Star of "The Ladies Man"]. I wanted the answer to be TIM MEADOWS, but his 2000 film only scored 11% fresh ratings (who’s in the 11% that liked this film?). The 1961 film with Jerry Lewis, on the other hand, got 90% fresh reviews. Lewis wanted to star in the film because he adored the screenplay (co-written by Jerry Lewis) and desperately wanted to work with the director (Jerry Lewis). The last time I saw a movie called “The Ladies Man” in which the same guy was the director, writer, and lead actor, it told the story of a lonely pizza delivery guy and the ravenous customer who didn’t have enough money to pay for the pizza.

I liked the idea of this theme better than its execution, but that has more to do with my own lack of familiarity with three of the films. So I blame it on me and not on the puzzle. I really liked IBUPROFEN, the [Anti-inflammatory choice], and TOP DRAWER, the two long Downs that intersect three theme entries. The Indiana Jones in me cringed at both a COBRA and some ASPS in close proximity, but I made it out of that corner alive.

My favorite clue was [It's out of the mouths of babes] for DROOL. There aren’t many ways to make drool cute, but this clue did it.

Ian Livengood’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Matt’s review

What a clever little puzzle this is; solvers have to unravel the mystery of eight nonsense phrases stacked in four sets of two:

THREE CHIPS and CORN CHEERS in the northwest;
OPERA COACH and LABOR HOUSE in the northeast;
AMEN STANDS and TAXI CORNER in the southwest;
LOST COWBOY and DALLAS ARTS in the southeast.

I’d noticed that DALLAS and COWBOY could go together, but hadn’t figured out the whole idea until I hit the revealer at 24-d: [With 35-Down, fairs, and a hint to making sense of this puzzle's pairs of adjacent 10-letter answers] yields TRADE SHOWS. I got the nice “aha”: Ian has taken eight one-word TV shows and swapped them between stacked pairs, leaving the aforementioned nonsense phrases. For the record, the base phrases are THREE CHEERS / CORN CHIPS; OPERA HOUSE / LABOR COACH; AMEN CORNER / TAXI STANDS / LOST ARTS / DALLAS COWBOYS.

Must’ve been difficult to come up with four pairs that swap nicely and leave a fillable grid, but he pulled it off. Standout entries include GAYDAR, PAWED AT, ODD SHOE, WIGWAM, LAOS, and of course the WHOA! I said when the theme was revealed. I’ll admit that there’s some dreck in the grid, but since there are 90 (!!) theme squares at play — almost half the 187 white squares in the grid — I’m not going to SHOAT and scream about it.

Top three clues: [Artist's pad] for LOFT at 22-d; [Saint in red] for CLAUS at 34-a; and [It covers all the bases] for TARP at 54-a.

Snappy theme idea, stellar execution considering the many constraints. 4.52 stars.

Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 24 12 "Sports Fan Friday" Longo

This week’s sports theme is Baseball Stuff I Don’t Know:

  • 14a. EDGAR RENTERIA, [Cincinnati Reds shortstop in 2011]
  • 19a. GIANTS, [Team that 14-Across played for in 2009 and 2010]
  • 26a. WORLD SERIES, [14-Across was its MVP in 2010]
  • 37a. TIGERS, [Team that 14-Across played for in 2008]
  • 44a. SILVER SLUGGER, [NL batting award won by 14-Across in 2000, 2002, and 2003]
  • 49a. GLOVE, [Gold __ (fielding award won by 14-Across in 2002 and 2003)]

I’ve heard of the player, the teams, the awards, and the World Series, but I sure wouldn’t have known that these things all went together.

Unusual grid for a Celeb puzzle, with all that wide-open space in the southwest and northeast corners. WARTIER O’REILLY wearing STILETTO heels! Works for me.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Screenplay’s the Thing”—joon’s review

Chronicle of Higher Ed, 2 24 12

on the eve of the oscars, we have a straightforward theme of five screenplays adapted from shakespeare:

 

  • {1953 film based on “The Taming of the Shrew”} is KISS ME, KATE. i think this was a musical before it was a movie, no?
  • {1957 film based on “Macbeth”} is kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD.
  • {1956 film based on “The Tempest”} is FORBIDDEN PLANET, a movie i don’t think i know anything about.
  • {1961 film based on “Romeo and Juliet”} is WEST SIDE STORY, the only theme answer which took home best picture. also the only one of these movies i’ve seen in its entirety.
  • {2006 film based on “Twelfth Night”} is SHE’S THE MAN, the forgettable amanda bynes vehicle. i actually saw part of this (i think on a plane). i … can’t recommend it.

so—four classic movies from 50+ years ago, and amanda bynes. hmm. well, it didn’t bother me that much. the fill and clues were fairly unremarkable—clean, of course, but not much zing due to the real estate taken up by the 5 theme answers. there were a handful of clues and answers to give that “higher ed” vibe:

  • {First name of a Dickensian villain} URIAH heep.
  • {“Can You Forgive ___?” (first of Trollope’s Palliser novels)} HER. don’t know this title.
  • {“Beau Geste” author} clues WREN. i didn’t know this, so i looked it up—it’s not christopher (although he was a writer in addition to his more famous work as a scientist and architect). it’s an adventure novel by somebody named p.c. WREN.
  • {“The Garden of Earthly Delights” artist} hieronymus BOSCH.
  • {Poe title character} arthur gordon PYM.
  • {Car-rental agency} ALAMO… hey, wait, shouldn’t this have a history (or geography) clue in the CHE puzzle?
  • {1936 presidential candidate Landon} ALF. at least this one wasn’t 80′s sitcoms.
  • {“Foo fighter”} is WWII slang for a UFO. i learned this from dave grohl, of course.
  • {“My Antonia” author Cather} WILLA. i love, love, love that book.
  • {“No good ___ plot can be sensible”: W.H. Auden} OPERA. i’d put $5 on this being patrick berry’s clue rather than mark feldman’s. i think i’ve seen a quote clue expressing a similar sentiment for OPERA before, and my mind wants to associate that with patrick. let’s see… oh dear, a check of the databases reveals this clue from a patrick berry puzzle in the NYT 6 months ago. i was more right than i wanted to be.
  • {Service lines?} are a POEM, if you’re talking about robert service, the poet of the yukon.

so-so puzzle. 3.5 stars.

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32 Responses to Friday, 2/24/12

  1. I filled in GNOTE too, joon, and like yourself got a not-so-welcome flashback to last year’s ACPT puzzle #7.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Yup, went with SALUTE at first. And got TINCTS off the T???TS, to boot.

  3. KarmaSartre says:

    joon — your “note to self” was very funny.

  4. Gareth says:

    Wanted WATERBASEdPAINT from the get-go… and yet the PAINT corner was the last to fall – is the lack of a D some sort of American variation? INnagaDADAVIDA was a false gimme – I too thought of The Simpsons episode! Only WTF was EARLOCK I was naturally loath to give up LObe. My pasture science professors loved the word HERBAGE! A little dry, but hardly a compromised entry in sight, and with a very ambitious grid too – but then we’ve come to just expect that from a Berry!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Best clue: “Christmas green” for BONUS. Worst fill: that drum roll… ugh. Peskiest nit: should have been WATER-BASED with a D. Most off-base: STOCKS AND SHARES. Also odd: I can’t see an EARLOCK hanging from as high as a temple, which I picture over a brow! Otherwise? OK!
    p.s. Feel better soon Amy, and many thanks to joon for filling in…

  6. Bob says:

    Stocks and shares was jarring and artificial; like saying “cattle and head” for livestock.

    Alan Bates is best remembered for his starring role in King of Hearts, a wonderful cult film about lunatics escaping an asylum and taking over a deserted French town during WWI. It ran for five years at the Central Square Cinema in Cambridge.

  7. Cyrano says:

    Earlocks are the curled hairs that hang on the sides of the head, from the temples, in front of the ears, on Hasidic Jews. The clue is brilliant. Much better than some of the other less rewarding ones, see ELLIE, Bartlett’s least interesting daughter on West Wing.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    @Cyrano

    Ah, “hanging at a temple”. Brilliant!

  9. sbmanion says:

    Bob, Thanks for the post. I wonder if you had to be draft eligible in the late ’60s to fully appreciate how great a movie The King of Hearts was for those beginning to appreciate how insane the Vietnam War was. Alan Bates is a private and stumbles upon a town in France where the lunatics have escaped the asylum. He is asked who he is and responds with the first thing he can think of: “Le Roi de Coeur”whereupon everyone bows to him. I saw it on several occasions at the Central Square Cinema.

    Steve

  10. Anthony the K says:

    DONAHUE was the name of Phil Donahue’s comeback show on MSNBC, six years after his syndicated show went off the air. While the highest rated show, the network as a whole had low ratings at the time and cancelled the show because the ratings weren’t high enough to justify paying Phil’s salary. It only lasted two years, I believe. I’d forgotten about it and was baffled by the clue until the letters from TEST TUBE and AT ANCHOR fell into place. At that moment, I though “oh right!”

  11. HH says:

    Re WSJ — Did I miss something? I thought the whole point of using a pseudonym was so no one would know it’s you.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Then don’t use an anagram of JUST THE EDITOR as your pseudonym.

  13. Daniel Myers says:

    For better or for worse, I had to memorise Gray’s Elegy when quite young: The ELMS come from the first line in the fourth stanza in the company of another three-letter tree:

    “But those rugged elms, that yew tree’s shade…”

    But ELMS is the only pluralised three letter tree. There are beeches toward the end as well. I always delight in Berry’s puzzles.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Two different people junked the LAT?? Love to hear your rationale, if you’d care to share.

  15. Howard B says:

    @Joon: You weren’t the only one who entered SALUTE. Salud!
    A fun traipse through the grid today.

  16. Gareth says:

    LAT: A clever, unique theme, four double stacks of theme entries (!) – I’m in awe, are you in awe? Not sure what’s with the two hosers Matt.

  17. C says:

    Count me as a fan of the LAT. I would have given it 4.53 stars if I could.

  18. john farmer says:

    DONAHUE was not canceled because of his salary. I don’t recall hearing that before, and I doubt Donahue’s salary was high compared to Chris Matthews’s. Matthews, at the time, was fawning over our would-be cowboy president. Donahue in 2003 was virtually the only TV host who seriously was questioning our mad march to war. MSNBC was property of defense contractor GE back then, and Dohahue was not hewing to the company line. He was telling inconvenient truths, in fact. He was canned, good ratings or not. That whole period was a great lesson in journalism 101, one that most of our media elite have taken in whole.

    OK, now back to crosswords…

    Nice one from Patrick Berry today!

  19. Jeff Chen says:

    I’m amused at how easily Gareth dropped PASTURE SCIENCE into the conversation without batting an eye. I’m totally curious as to what this is.

    Agree, great LAT today! What a feat of construction.

  20. Matthew G. says:

    Ah, I’ve seen “The King of Hearts”! Brilliant cult classic. It didn’t imprint the actor’s name in my brain, though (very little ever does).

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I know ALAN BATES from Zorba the Greek and his many supporting roles in crossword puzzles.

  22. Josh Bischof says:

    The LA Times puzzle: wow! Ian Livengood in full beast mode.

  23. Brad Wilber says:

    ALAN BATES my first entry today…LOL.

  24. Bananarchy says:

    A little late to the party, but I’ll chime in with my “wow” for the LAT. Sadly, I didn’t solve the puzzle before reading the blog, but I spent some time drooling over the grid.

  25. Lloyd Mazer says:

    Mea Culpa for late availabiltiy of WSJ .puz version. I have been in the hospital all day while father-in-law was having surgery – forgot it was Friday for a while – fortunately hospital has wifi throughout.

    L

  26. ArtLvr says:

    Very favorite ROBERT PRESTON movie: Victor, Victoria! Twistiest of the puzzles I did so far: WSJ. Totally amazing, where did he/she get EROTICA FOR FISH? Egads… And a heads-up on Ibuprofen: it can be quite risky in several ways, notably for the elderly. Check it out!

  27. pannonica says:

    Another King of Hearts viewer; saw it at the French Institute Alliance Française in the late ’90s. An even younger Alan Bates was excellent with Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl,

  28. Matt Gaffney says:

    Three 1-star votes for the LAT? Is this vandalism or what? Can one of these people explain their vote to me? I’m mystified.

  29. Doug says:

    Matt, I suspect there are some raters who try to “balance things out.” I’ve noticed that sometimes when a puzzle receives a lot of 5s, it also receives a few rogue 1s. Same thing happens when a puzzle racks up 1s. It seems like a couple people will give it a 5 to try to bring up the ratings.

    Or maybe they’re just jealous. If you don’t like Ian’s puzzle today, you don’t like crosswords.

  30. Matt Gaffney says:

    Maybe, Doug, but I think these voters really didn’t like the puzzle. I understand there can be puzzles that a lot of people like a lot but that a small number of people don’t like at all; this doesn’t strike me as one of those puzzles, though. I can’t see the downside to it.

  31. Tuning Spork says:

    Well, I loved the LAT and gave it 4 stars. But — just trying on someone else’s shoes — the only downside that I can imagine is that the theme answers are made up phrases.

    OPERA COACH, THREE CHIPS and LOST COWBOY are real things. But CORN CHEERS, AMEN STANDS and LABOR HOUSE may just be too much for some people. Maybe they see the theme as being annoyingly clever? I dunno.

  32. pannonica says:

    I don’t vote, but can say that in the LAT I preferred the two pairs in which the parallel words “switched” at the same nexus. That is, the breakdown of the word lengths were the same. OPERA COACH/LABOR HOUSE (5,5/5,5) and AMEN STANDS/TAXI CORNER (4,6/4,6). The others—the two acrosses, as it happens—are THREE CHIPS/CORN CHEERS (5,5/4/6) and LOST COWBOY/DALLAS ARTS (4,6/6/4).

    It would have been much nicer if all the pairs had shared crossovers, but considering the constrictions of the ambitious theme, that’s unreasonable.

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