Tuesday, 2/28/12

NYT 3:13 
LAT 4:52 (Neville) 
CS 5:38 (Sam) 
Jonesin' untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Randall Hartman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 2 28 12 0228

The theme is spelled out in the three 15-letter answers: EVERY SINGLE CLUE / IN THIS PUZZLE HAS / THIRTEEN LETTERS. Well. That’s not much of a punch line, is it? Lots of crossword clues are pithy little phrases that aren’t much longer or shorter than 13 letters.

With a theme occupying three entries and with only four Down answers intersecting more than one of the theme answers, you’d think that the fill would be pretty lively. And yet it’s a parade of answers commonly seen in crosswords. You’ve got your OSLO OPIE LOGE IAGO corner, the OLES ELAN ORAN zone, the ERIE IRANI bit, AOLER RAN ON, and ATOLL ELIA OLIO. One has to think that zippier fill could still be clued with 13-letter hints, and then the puzzle would be more prone to keep the solver from nodding off. The length of the clues is not in and of itself a means of entertaining the solver.

I do like the ZEPPELIN OPOSSUMS combo, but there wasn’t much else that hooked me.

Could certainly do without clues like [Half a wolf's cry] for HUBBA. Who the heck says “hubba hubba” anymore? The “wolf” bit feels a tad outdated too, and gendered—it’s putting the HUBBA saying onto a male and making a woman the object of the male gaze. Clearly the folks who market Hubba Bubba bubble gum need a more aggressive P.R. approach.

2.5 stars, for the relative dullness of the venture.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 27 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 27 12

Arf, arf! This puzzle’s going to the dogs.

  • 20a. [Golfer's gadget used at the edge of water hazards] – BALL RETRIEVER
  • 34a. [Early leader in a race] – PACE SETTER
  • 43a. [Pelvic contusion] – HIP POINTER
  • 55a. ["Joy to the World" group, and based on the ends of 20-, 34- and 43-Across, what you're having if you solve this puzzle after dark?] – THREE DOG NIGHT

Don & C.C. usually put together a great puzzle, and this one’s no exception. At the beginning, I saw RECEIVERS atop the first theme entry and thought that the similarity there was involved, but no dice. And of course, if you find a dog with no collar and bring it home, then you’ve LED ASTRAY.

COVER ME – I’m going in. PERRY WHITE was out of my ken, but I bet comic fans were happy to see him in there. SCOTCH TAPE, on the other hand, is something I’m familiar with. The cluing felt a little tricky for a Tuesday; were any of these clues difficult for you?

  • ["The Censor" of Rome] – CATO
  • [Call from one who more than calls?] – “I RAISE”, a standard poker answer that I didn’t see coming.
  • [Toast type] – MELBA. I just kept thinking about a wedding toast. Not on the right wavelength tonight!

Updated Tuesday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Give Me a Hint” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 28

Earlier this week I was speaking to a group of crossword fans about the construction process. One of them asked a familiar question: is it cheating to use Google (or, I suppose, any other reference material) when solving a puzzle. I’ve always liked Will Shortz’s answer to the question: “it’s your puzzle, so solve it however you like.”After all, we do this for entertainment and we usually do it alone (hoo boy, does Inner Beavis have some interesting parallels to offer). Unless you’re solving in a room with others–like in next month’s ACPT, for instance–no one is going to know (or really much care) how you solved the puzzle, so it’s just a matter of setting our own standards and following them.

I personally use the “no references” rule when solving only because I like to see how much of a puzzle I can tackle myself. When I hit the impossible crossing or the vexing corner, though, I have been known to look up a thing or two to get it right. I usually try to look at just one item, though, so I try to be strategic in picking the one thing I’ll look up. If I’m still stumped, then I’m either hitting the “reveal entire solution” button (if solving online) or look for the answer key (if solving on paper).

In a way, today’s puzzle gives solvers five hints right off the bat. That is, the five theme entries are two-word terms having a first word synonymous with “hint:”

  • 17-Across: [Brad Pitt in "Moneyball," e.g.] is a timely clue for LEAD ACTOR given that he was an Oscar nominee just a couple of days ago. Well, I guess he’s still a nominee–it’s just that the Oscars are now over.
  • 41-Across: The answer to [It's hit in a pool hall] is neither ROCK BOTTOM nor HUSTLER’S NOSE. It’s just the white CUE BALL.
  • 64-Across: The [Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1987] is the legendary TIP O’NEILL. No one ever served a longer consecutive term as House Speaker.
  • 11-Down: An [Expeditious response] is how the loquacious would refer to a PROMPT REPLY.
  • 25-Down: I confess that I’ve never heard of SIGN PAINTER, defined here as [One who once created billboards]. But it makes sense that this would be the title for one who made signs.

I loved all the great entries in the southeast–YAY TEAM crossing WHY YES and RIPS OUT is a thing of beauty. “Yay Gail!” I also liked RED TIDE, TYLENOL, and made par. My favorite entry, though, was CHIA PET, the [Gift that grows] (with an ad campaign that likewise grows…on your nerves).

CLUBS was my first answer to [Golfers' rentals], but when I discovered the answer started with CA-, I spent some time trying to make CADDIES or even CADDYS fit. Turns out the answer was CARTS. I highly doubt that clue was intended to mislead a solver twice, so it’s just another illustration of temporary (I hope) ineptitude.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Dishing on Celebrities”

Jonesin' crossword solution, "Dishing on Celebrities" 2 28 12

The celebrity dish here isn’t gossip, it’s puns made from mashing up food and celebrity names.

  • 20a. [Baked dish made of eggs, cheese, cigarette butts and cocktails?] is QUICHE RICHARDS (Keith of the Rolling Stones).
  • 33a. [Seafood dish with butter, served in a bed of  NBC News dispatches?] clues LOBSTER HOLT. Lester Holt used to be a local news anchor here in Chicago.
  • 44a. [Fish dish served with lemon and pepper, simmered in pretty hate and dissonant synthesizer lines?] clues TROUT REZNOR (Trent of Nine Inch Nails).
  • 59a. [Dessert served a la mode, while the waiter jabbers about winning a million dollars?] clues PEACHES PHILBIN (Regis).

So, the sound changes are a mixed bag. 20a changes one consonant sound, gently. 33a changes a vowel and inserts a consonant. 44a changes a vowel and loses a consonant. And 59a changes two consonant sounds, one gently and one (R to P) discordantly. 20a is the most successful of the puns since your mind’s ear doesn’t have to go so far to get from Keith to quiche.

Lots of goodies in the puzzle:

  • 4a. [Jeremy Lin's arena, for short] is a fresh clue for MSG, Madison Square Garden.
  • 26a. [Multipurpose doc, for short] is an ENT, ear-nose-throat specialist. Did you read the clue as “multipurpose document” as I did?
  • 30a. A TYPO can be a [Slip of paper?], slip meaning “mistake.”
  • 55a. [Former Illinois governor, in headlines] is BLAGO. He’s heading to the federal prison in Colorado. I hear it’s scenic.
  • 9d. [Apparel brand name big in the 1980s] is ESPRIT. A gimme—that was my decade to be a teen.
  • 10d. [Sloth, for example] is a trendy mammal and also a DEADLY SIN.
  • 35d. [Fallout victims?] sounds dire, but it’s just BABY TEETH.
  • 54d. [Host with a 276-car stunt] is OPRAH. She famously jumped a canyon filled with 276 Pontiacs lined up end to end, powered by a personal jetpack.
  • 46d. [Realty database site] ZILLOW is fresh fill. Is that someone’s surname? Is it a made-up word? If they made it up, were they at all concerned that nothing about Zillow evokes realty, property, or home? Zoning pillows?

3.5 stars. Didn’t love most of the theme, but the fresh fill and clues redeemed the puzzle.

Liz Gorski’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 2 28 12 "TV Tuesday" Gorski

Modern Family is one of the few series I watch regularly, so I’m pleased to see a puzzle devoted to one of its stars:

  • 14a. MODERN FAMILY, [ABC Wednesday night sitcom starring 49-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 25a. ED O’NEILL, [He plays 49-Across' husband on 14-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 37a. COLOMBIA, [49-Across' native country]
  • 49a. SOFIA VERGARA, [Portrayer of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on 14-Across: 2 wds.]

She’s got a great slow burn.

Five more clues:

  • 22d. [Type of scratch used by DJs] clues CRAB. I got this one from the crossings.
  • 39a. [2011 straight-to-DVD Bruce Willis heist film] clues SET-UP. Wow, straight to video? Bruno, what happened to you? Never even heard of this movie, but the clue amuses me.
  • 53a. [Former presidential hopeful Pawlenty] is named TIM. Remember him? Bachmann trounced him in Iowa and he went away. Remember her?
  • 20d. I just misread [Metal found in pennies] as “metal found in penises.” The answer, of course, is ZINC. There’s not all that much copper in pennies.
  • 33d. [2011 "World Series" broadcast by ESPN] clues POKER. No, I don’t know why a card game is on a sports channel.
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28 Responses to Tuesday, 2/28/12

  1. AV says:

    Five stars!

    Wait, someone (nay, two people!) gave the NYT five stars? Explain! :-)

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Perfectly dull.

  3. pannonica says:

    Jeffrey: dall, dell, dill, doll, dull?

  4. Grant says:

    Neville,

    Puzzle seemed appropriate for a Tuesday. I too thought the receivers/retrievers pair meant something at first. Very smooth puzzle with little ugliness. Didn’t much like ows, srs, and neh. Otherwise, it was well put together. Outside of hip pointer which took me a minute, I was watching Castle and solving at the same time, all of the theme answers as well as the two long downs came quickly.

  5. Gareth says:

    Well that seems like a lot of constructing effort for absolutely no payoff. Yawn.

    The LAT is a well trodden path, but the choice of dogs was interesting, as was the revealer – even if it’s a bit, restricting.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I’d have at least waited to run the NYT on a Friday the 13th or something, but who knows? And I want to know if there’s something I’m missing in the LAT theme — is there such a thing as a “three-dog fight” on which this is based? Or am I just mentally mired in the muck of the Michigan primary campaign lately?

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jeffrey: That’s 14 letters.

    @ArtLvr: Three Dog Night is a ’60s-’70s band (“Joy to the World”) named after a phrase for a cold night. There’s no fight, but now I’ll be thinking of the GOP primaries as a “three-dog fight” (with Ron Paul watching from the sidelines).

  8. Jeffrey says:

    p-1;e-2;r-3;f-4;e-5;c-6;t-7;l-8;y-9;d-10;u-11;l-12;l-13

  9. Howard B says:

    re: Tues NY Times:

    Not a bad puzzle.
    Smooth Tuesday.
    Times-friendly
    (for new solvers).

    I did not notice
    the weird clues
    until finished.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jeffrey, I was viewing “perfectly” as a 10-letter word. Apparently I had it mixed up with “purrfectly.”

  11. janie says:

    re: howard’s post:

    your review — wow!

    ;-)

  12. pannonica says:

    Haiku are nicer.

  13. janie says:

    terse is cherce…

    but i sure wouldn’t enjoy a steady diet of it!!

    ;-)

  14. Howard B says:

    @pannonica:

    Very much agree.
    13-letter haiku, uh,
    undo many rules.

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    There once was a Times puzzle on Tuesday
    with thirteen letters where each of the clues lay
    I shake my head, still
    at Randall and Will
    Perhaps it was just a slow Newsday

    But, seriously, constraining each clue to exactly thirteen letters, and to have them read smoothly, is an accomplishment of sorts. A New York Times-worthy accomplishment, though? Needed much more lively fill. And it should’ve run on a Tuesday the 13th, which we’ll have in just two weeks.

  16. Gareth says:

    Could’ve sworn it was yesterday we had doggerel.

  17. John E says:

    AOLER? Really? Are we opening up ourselves for more silly CRUCIVERBIAGE?

    Anyone here a SPORCLER? NYTER? EBAYER? PAYPALER?

    Who decides when we should use different suffixes? Is it a MSNBCER or a MSNBCOVITE? Is it a YAHOOER or a YAHOONIAN?

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    Internet Explorerer here. :-)

  19. pannonica says:

    Chromagnon.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I am an avid Sporcler, in fact, and delighted to see my kid exploring the Sporcling lifestyle.

  21. HH says:

    “49a. SOFIA VERGARA, [Portrayer of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on 14-Across: 2 wds.]
    She’s got a great slow burn.”

    To say nothing of her … oh, never mind.

  22. Jenni Levy says:

    I think 2.5 is generous. I second Amy’s objection to “HUBBA”, which makes street harassment seem cute and harmless. Ick.

  23. pannonica says:

    Not thrilled with HUBBA either However, there’s nothing to stipulate that the wolf is male.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @pannonica: Just the dictionary. MWCD-11, definition 2 a (2): “a man forward, direct, and zealous in amatory attentions to women.”

  25. pannonica says:

    Oh, that.

  26. Gareth says:

    Ah street harassment. I remember that from my (fairly recent) ponytail days. Turning around was fun.

  27. Jenni Levy says:

    OK, now I’m annoyed with the dictionary.

    It may be time to go home and have a drink.

  28. DF says:

    For those of us who solved the puzzle on paper, the 13-letter length of clues was obvious. I can’t remember ever seeing every clue running on one line, only. The clues look almost justified right.

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