Monday, 3/5/12

NYT 3:52 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:12 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 6:09 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT 3/5/12 • Nothnagel • Mon • solution • 3 5 12

62-across [Children's game hinted at by the circled letters] is the, erm, revealer: HIDE AND SEEK. The circled letters in the four other “theme” entries read “READY OR NOT, HERE I COME,” the traditional declaration by the player designated “it” at the onset of the searching.

  • 17a. [Hirsute carnival attraction] BEARDED LADY.
  • 24a. [Trying to make sense of] SORTING OUT.
  • 37a. [Hit HBO series set in Baltimore] THE WIRE.
  • 51a. [Eleventh hour] NICK OF TIME.

All right, the entries have nothing in common other than rather compactly providing a home for the letters of the spoken phrase. Said letters are sequential, but not consecutive, although they frequently clump in pairs, and once in a triplet. This struck me as kind of weak as far as theme content goes, but then (with the benefit of discussion with another solver), I pictured the hidden letters as being analogous to the hiding participants. As I’m sure most of us have experienced, players hide in pairs or small groups as often as they do singly. With that in mind, I cast my GIMLI gimlet eye a little more benevolently over the puzzle.

The longer non-theme fill has some winners: ESPRESSO, HERESIES (which I had first as HERETICS), RED RIVER, HALF MILE, DEN MOTHER, KING COBRA. The last is clued [World's longest venomous snake], which it is, and I can attest to their fearsomeness, having encountered one while I was alone during some field work. Fortunately, the beastie slithered away, completely uninterested in me.

There felt to be some staleness among the remainder of the fill, starting most notably with crossword stalwarts [Writer Anaïs] NIN and ELO ["Evil Woman" rock grp.], as well as DARER and the like . Then there were all the partials and tepid phrases: I BET, ARE SO, ODDS-ON, I’M EASY, I GIVE, I HEAR, SEE IN, ASK TO. A little fresher, but still less-than-ideal are OH OK, GUN IT, and perhaps even AT ISSUE. CARRY ME and TRY ONE feel much more self-contained.

Some repetition, as RETRY, clued by [Hear again, as a case] crosses the aforementioned I HEAR at 53d.

Where I was briefly tripped up: SATCH, not SATCHMO, at one-across left me nonplussed at the outset, wondering if there was some sort of atypical-for-a-Monday-puzzle trickery afoot. Also, filling in AGRI- for AGRO- gave me pause when it came to OH, OK. Then there was HERESIES, which I’ve already discussed. Last, and by far my favorite part of the entire puzzle, was 48d [One in a pit at a concert]. With a few letters down, I was certain it should be MAESTRO, which didn’t fit. I wondered if it might be MASTER, but it turned out to be the surprising MOSHER. Very fun, and refreshingly tricky.

So, my overall impression the puzzle and the solve were slightly less-than-average. But as has been discussed, it’s no mean feat to construct these early-week offerings, which must be easy enough for neophytes to finish, robust enough to please more experienced solvers, and hopefully with an interesting theme.

Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 3 5 12 "Movie Monday" Orbach

This puzzle features last weekend’s Oscars:

  • 15a. DIRECTING, [Category for which 21-Across won the Academy Award for 44-Across last Sunday]
  • 21a. HAZANAVICIUS, [Michel who also wrote 44-Across]
  • 35a. JEAN DUJARDIN, [He won the Best Actor Academy Award for 44-Across last Sunday: 2 wds.]
  • 44a. THE ARTIST, [French film that won the Best Picture Academy Award last Sunday: 2 wds.]

Timely theme.

I like to say “Hazanavicius” out loud. Good, solid Lithuanian name. And everyone loves to say “Jean DujarDIN,” too, in their best French accent. Have you seen The Artist? My husband and I forced our kid to see it on Christmas afternoon (since we somehow had no family plans that afternoon, we celebrated Jewish Christmas by going out for Peking duck and a movie). He predicted that he would be so bored he’d fall asleep, and yet his final review of the movie (which he stayed awake through) was “It’s okay.” That right there is a rave review for an 11-year-old’s first B/W silent film. Too bad the movie wasn’t filmed in 3-D, eh?

I’m sorry, where was I? We were talking about a crossword? Yes. 20a is SRO, clued as [Box office sign that means "no seats left"]. I hear that Broadway theaters no longer use this convention; I don’t know whether theaters in other cities still post “standing room only” signs. SRO remains a frequent crossword answer, pretty much always clued as a theater sign for a sold-out show. City dwellers also know SRO as “single-room occupancy,” used to describe residential buildings with cheap, small apartments–sometimes called “transient hotels.” We almost never see crossword clues referencing this SRO meaning, however.


Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

Los Angeles Times crossword Mon Mar 5 2012

Theme: 71A. [Name associated with the start of 17-, 39- or 63-Across] – MINNIE

Other theme answers:

  • 17A. [Click-and-drag tool] – MOUSE BUTTON
  • 39A. [Learner's permit prerequisite, often] – DRIVER EDUCATION. Shouldn’t that be driver’s education?
  • 63A. [Memorable surprise attack site] – PEARL HARBOR


Other stuff:

Hungry?

  • 14A. [__ pork: Chinese dish with pancakes] – MOO SHU
  • 16A. [Betty Crocker product] – MIX
  • 22A. [Enjoyed, as a lollipop] – LICKED
  • 56A. [Samples a bit of] – TASTES
  • 70A. [Egg foo __] – YUNG
  • 23D. [Animals, casually] – CRITTERS
  • 32D. ["Famous" cookie guy] – AMOS
  • 54D. ["The San Francisco Treat" suffix] – ARONI

Thirsty?

  • 69A. [Fruit drink ending] – ADE
  • 12D. [Rosé or Cabernet] – WINE

Doug P shout-outs:

  • 4D. [Superman's monogram] – ESS
  • 9D. [Very productive] – PROLIFIC

Please rise:

  • 49D. ["O Canada," e.g.] – ANTHEM

Just a simple theme to start off the week. *** stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Letters” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 5

Tyler Hinman is back with his usual liveliness in both fill and clues. The theme ain’t too shabby either. It’s what the Cruciverb theme list calls a “definitions” theme–you’re given the term and you have to determine a particular definition. Tyler had to do that here because all of the terms have the same “double letter” pattern:

  • 17-Across: A [B&B] is a COZY PLACE TO STAY.
  • 28-Across: Any self-respecting (or recovering) geek will tell you that [D&D] is a ROLE-PLAYING GAME.
  • 42-Across: An [M&M] is a CHOCOLATE MORSEL.
  • 54-Across: [R&R] is a VACATION BENEFIT often given to members of the military, for example.

Even if you’re not a fan of the “definitions” theme (I don’t mind them myself, but I know other Fiend-sters aren’t especially fond), I think you have to admire the execution here. All of the definitions are 15 letters long, so with 60 theme squares you’d expect some mediocre fill. Instead we get treats like EEYORE, LYING TO, TESTS FOR, IN DEEP, LA-DI-DA, ONE CUP, MAZATLAN, C TEAM, I PASS, DINE AT, LAND HO, and my favorite, the [Urging at a birthday party]: OPEN IT! That’s a lot of sparkle in a grid with 60 theme squares.

There were certainly entries that slowed me down. Take, for instance, PICT, the [Ancient Brit]. According to the experts at Wikipedia, the Picts were “a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland.” Is that a valid spelling of Medieval?

But there’s more. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a MELODICA, the [Wind instrument with a keyboard]. Wikipedia says it’s also known as a “blow-organ.” (Inner Beavis thinks Tyler missed the gimme clue for that one.) Speaking of Inner Beavis, he liked REAMER, though Outer Sam had trouble realizing it was the [Metalworking tool]. I also struggled with the clues for both OPTIMA and DIADEM, [Ideals] and [Crown], respectively. And foolish me insisted on KATY as the answer to [Singer Perry] instead of COMO. Sometimes it hurts to be hip.

My favorite clues, besides the aforementioned one for OPEN IT, were [Have a fight agin] for RASSLE and ["___ Ng" (early They Might Be Giants song)] for ANA. That last one is just too cool for school.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday #159″

BEQ 416 answers

Smooth puzzle with lots of good stuff.

Favorite fill:

  • JOHN ADAMS and MICHAEL MCDONALD‘s full names.
  • A Duke BLUE DEVIL.
  • ADBUSTERS with an Occupy Wall Street clue.
  • Roberta Flack and the Fugees’ “KILLING ME SOFTLY With His Song.” The song title is incomplete in the grid, but doesn’t everyone just call it “Killing Me Softly”?
  • BAD FORM.
  • The KISS ARMY.
  • KEEP CALM!

Favorite clue:

  • 18a. [Slices of a Greek pizza?] are ZETAS, Greek letter Z’s.

Nice combos:

  • CHIcago Cubs legend ERNIE Banks always said, “Let’s play TWO.” Banks played shortstop, so 2d: ONE-HOP relates too.
  • [Ben Jonson vis-a-vis Gabriel Spenser, e.g.] was a DUELLER, which runs through the answer to 52a: [Runs through], or PIERCE. Jonson stabbed Spenser to death in that duel.

Blah bits include the word combos SPA TUB and LOGE SEAT, IRANI, EATS A LOT, IN A SNARL, and little homelies like ANDS, RET, SSS, ALAR, ATNO, ENOL, OPA, and the ECO-/SCI-/GEO- prefixapalooza.

Four stars.

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20 Responses to Monday, 3/5/12

  1. Martin says:

    The containers contain words, not letters. In other words, no word in the phrase “Ready or not, here I come” is split across two entries.

    While not earthshaking, it is a significant constraint beyond mere clumping.

    I know that circles are the Great Satan for some, but any Monday theme beyond “words that precede ‘cheese’” is a winner in my book.

  2. pannonica says:

    True enough. I noticed that, but as I didn’t mention it explicitly, I suppose I felt it was obvious and expected. In fact, that aspect of their distribution barely registered with me. However, had they been split across entries, I definitely would have said something!

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Circles?
    Monday?
    Nothnegal?
    Perfect!

  4. JanglerNPL says:

    Of the phrases you listed, AT ISSUE seems the most solid to me. It’s in both MW and RH2 under “issue”. I’m glad that jam-packing a puzzle with a bunch of “I”-phrases and “OH OK” doesn’t have the luster it once did, but with database ranking the way it is, I’m betting that it’ll be a while before constructed puzzles catch up to changing sensibilities.

  5. Josh Bischof says:

    I jumped right into the NYT puzzle without glancing at the byline. I started thinking, wow, this fill is really fun, especially for a Monday. I looked at the byline. I saw the name Mike Nothnagel. And I thought to myself, where has that dude been? Seems as though it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a themeless from him.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    NYT crossing a GIMLI with a MOSHER is not quite Kosher for a Monday, IMHO. And elsewhere, in the LAT, what is a MINNIE DRIVER? Is it used in miniature golf? Or is it a short person?

  7. Howard B says:

    (major Lord of the Rings character) x (form of word that’s been verified (by our friends at Webster) since at least 1983) = fair crossing. At least by my fuzzy math. It probably was the toughest crossing in this puzzle.

    In this case, I agree that GIMLI is the tougher of the two answers; you can’t intuit that M, since most of us don’t speak Dwarvish. But ‘mosh’ should be a common enough term now to narrow down the possibilities for -OSH, associated with “pit” and “concert”.
    You can at least rule out ‘nosh’. Rock concert concessions aren’t especially four-star cuisine.

    Edit: I need to correct myself. It seems that several people had similar issues with the same MOSHER crossing. So it’s not as clear as I believed; I forgot my own mantra that the puzzle is a different experience for everyone based on experiences, and that this particular crossing is particularly thorny for a large segment of solvers.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Josh—I love Mike N’s themelesses too. Did you do his themed diagramless in the NYT this weekend?

  9. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Thumbs up for the BEQ themeless today — it was designated as Hard, but this time I sailed through! Whoopee!

  10. Lois says:

    The tough crossings with mosher also included tiki torch. I’d never heard of either a tiki torch or Gimli. But mosher was fun to figure out, though it took a while, and then I had to get Gimli by guessing about the first vowel in tiki. A satisfyingly tough Monday. But I didn’t understand 52 down, “I give.” Wouldn’t it be “I give up”?

  11. Josh Bischof says:

    If you gave me G I _ L I and told me that my life depended on my finding the right letter to identify something associated with the Lord of the Rings or the Fellowship of the Rings or the Anything of the Rings…well, at least I would die doing a fun puzzle. Luckily, MOSHER was a gimme. I’m wondering if listening to the type of music that might generate a mosh pit makes me a rarity among the At-Least-40-Crosswords-A-Week crowd.

    Amy: I have yet to attempt a diagramless puzzle. (Not for any good reason.) I’ll have to give it a try.

  12. Martin says:

    Tyler is my second-favorite CS constructor now. I’m sure he won’t mind coming in after Bob Klahn. I still don’t understand why these two can consistently offer interesting and reasonably challenging puzzles when most of the others feel they have to provide Monday-Newsday-level clues because that’s what the customers expect. I’m just glad they get away with it.

    Speaking of challengeless puzzles, our paper runs something called the Daily Commuter from the same syndicate that publishes the “LAT” puzzle. I did one the other day and it seems to be a themeless with Monday-level clues. Is it always? What’s the point?

  13. Gareth says:

    Not only does Tyler’s puzzle have 60 theme letters, it also has a themeless grid! I can appreciate puzzles like this one where it doesn’t mean, like some NYTs, that the dreck floodgates have been opened…

    Josh, very broad musical tastes here, but I have been listening to Motorhead a lot recently. I’d say that’s moshable…

  14. janie says:

    >…when most of the others feel they have to provide Monday-Newsday-level clues because that’s what the customers expect. I’m just glad they get away with it.

    a little harsh, no? ;-)

    i don’t think anybody’s trying to get away w/ anything at cs. nor do i see an intentional lack of variety in the cluing. otoh, cs‘s puzzles *are* intended to be beginner-friendly. they don’t get more difficult as the week progresses but they do mix it up. thursday’s puzzle might be the easiest of the week; monday’s the knottiest. as one who blogged the cs puzzles for two years, i saw no discernible pattern.

    and don’t forget, each of the constructors has a different number of puzzles that they contribute. this also may account for how much edginess may or may not be part of a particular constructor’s style.

    just my 2¢.

    ;-)

  15. Lois says:

    I often seem to be posting boring corrections of myself, or just making mistakes without correcting them, but of course in the NYT tiki does not cross mosher. As Josh Bischof wrote, it was Gimli that was the hardest. The crossings of tiki and mosher did not help me very quickly. Unfortunately, the 30-minute grace period here for corrections to posts does not help me all the time, but I’m grateful for it.

  16. Martin says:

    Janie,

    I didn’t mean it to sound harsh. In fact, my comment wasn’t meant as a criticism of the other CS constructors. I respect and enjoy all of them, and if I came off as blaming them I apologize, especially to MAS, Tony and others who hang out here more than I do.

    But it’s been said many times, by those who should know, that the CS dailies are not targeted at us, the lunatic fringe. The papers that run it get nasty letters if they get too challenging, and the syndicate hears about it. It’s also been documented online that there are occasional discussions within the group when they, as communal editors, feel the line has been crossed.

    It seems to me that the more challenging puzzles tend to be constructed by certain people. And that many of the other constructors often publish more challenging puzzles in other outlets than they do here. It really doesn’t seem to be only attributable to style (and certainly not to the volume of their work — all of these constructors are in a class where they can be prolific and always produce quality work of any challenge level they intend).

    No, I really think that some constructors “get away” with pushing the envelope more. I’m just a solver with no inside knowledge so I may be way off base. But to the extent that any of them get flak for a Monday puzzle more challenging than a Sunday Challenge, I want to be on record saying thanks.

  17. pannonica says:

    Being Tolkien-agnostic, I didn’t care for GIMLI, even though I knew the answer. I’d prefer the more obscure but infinitely more interesting Tales From The Gimli Hospital.

    (edit: Oh, I see I made that same connection in the write-up and forgot all about it.)

    BEQ: 34d [Built how you like it] is ON SPEC, not TO SPEC? Anyone else for SEMIOTICS before SEMANTICS?

  18. janie says:

    not to worry, martin — truly! the take-away for me? the reminder that “the CS dailies are not targeted at us, the lunatic fringe.” and that the politics/art of getting published is a whole other thang!

    ;-)

  19. Martin says:

    Yes for SEMIOTICS (for a sec because the crossings were so wrong).

    And yes, “on spec” is not the same thing as was clued. It means “on speculation,” or without a buyer — in other words, created at risk of not being able to sell. By definition it’s not built to anyone’s specifications, so you better hope it’s the way somebody likes it.

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