Thursday, 3/8/12

NYT 3:31 
LAT 6:58 (Neville) 
CS 5:53 (Sam) 
BEQ 5:58 (Matt) 
Tausig untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 3 8 12 0308

The theme is BROKEN PROMISE, and four synonyms for “promise” are broken by the invasion of other letters in the four remaining theme answers, VARIETY SHOW (vow), WATERFORD crystal (you’re only as good as your word), OSTEOPATH (solemn oath), and PERCY SLEDGE (pledge). Percy Sledge! Here’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” A classic. Didn’t know Sledge had a diastema.

Because I so seldom read the entire clue when I hit a theme-revealer, I had no idea what the theme was until after I finished the puzzle and went looking for an explanation. You know why I missed the revealer this time? Because the puzzle was so dang easy. Much easier than the usual Thursday puzzle. I’m tired, and yet it took me no longer than a Wednesday puzzle. It’s a 72-worder, which Thursdayifies it, but the clues didn’t undergo full Thursdayification.

Lots of interesting/longer fill. I’m partial to DIASPORA (which is also the name of a would-be Facebook rival), EURYDICE, and SIDLED UP, which is an example of a great verb + preposition answer.

Favorite experience while solving: Staring at 25d: [One of four in "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house"] when I had ANA**** in place, I thought, “ANAGRAM?” I also conflated that line with the entire poem, and entertained the possibility of the poem including four ANALYSTs. ANAPEST! I wasn’t thinking of you at all. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the anapest, which is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed on: “Because of its length and the fact that it ends with a stressed syllable and so allows for strong rhymes, anapaest can produce a very rolling, galloping feeling verse, and allows for long lines with a great deal of internal complexity.” Gallop away, O internal complexity!

Three stars.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 3 8 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 3 8 12

Long down answers in a wonky-shaped grid? What is this blasphemy? Surely it must be related to the theme! Don’t worry – it is:

  • 3d. [2000 Ben Kingsley drama] – SEXY BEAST
  • 5d. ["Who shot J.R.?" e.g.] – BURNING QUESTION (It was Kristin.)
  • 9d. [People, for one] – POPULAR MAGAZINE, which I’m not convinced is a real phrase.
  • 15d. [Piquant sushi choice] - SPICY TUNA ROLL
  • 33d. [Easily angered, or what the answers to 3-, 5-, 9- and 15-Down appear to be?] - HOT-HEADED

Neat theme idea here – I just wish a real “popular” phrase had been used.

I really like the corners in this puzzle – the lower right corner is my favorite with BIG DAY stacked atop ANTE UP. (Its brother I CALL is hiding near the top of the puzzle.) What is PUPPY FAT? According to a Wikipedia redirection: Childhood obesity. I thought it was just a little pudge one (hopes to) grow out of that’s not necessarily a [Teen dieter's target, perhaps]. I suppose that’s the point of the “perhaps.” CAP GUNS and A LEG UP are great, too. And as much as I despise SciFi’s name change to SYFY, it does look neat in this grid.  I’ll look past PSEC and CCU for the benefits of this puzzle.

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let’s Dance” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 8

Take four two-word entries–each ending with a word that’s also a style of dance–then clue the entries as if they were, in fact, dances. Et voila, you have yourself a nice theme for a crossword:

  • 17-Across: It turns the FISHING REEL into a [Dance done in a boat?]. The first dance I learned was the Virginia Reel, a square dance taught to us in the fourth grade. Do-si-do!
  • 23-Across: A PERFECT SHUFFLE is a way of mixing playing cards by dividing them into two equal stacks of 26 cards and then shuffling them so they interweave perfectly. (After eight perfect shuffles, the cards are back in their original order.) In this puzzle, though, the “perfect shuffle” is a [Dance done in a casino?].
  • 51-Across: CHRISTOPH WALTZ is the Oscar-winning actor from Inglorious Basterds. Naturally, then, he becomes a [Dance at the Academy Awards?].
  • 60-Across: You may know a FRENCH TWIST as a stylish “up-do” hairstyle, but here it’s a [Dance at the Eiffel Tower?].

It’s interesting (to me, anyway) that the two 14s are the middle two theme entries and not at the top and bottom. Had they been on the extremes, the 14s would have been on the fourth and twelfth rows (they couldn’t be on the third and thirteenth rows without also having black squares in the corners). That could have avoided the little “Ls” of black squares in the northwest and southeast, and the 11s could have been on rows 6 and 10 or rows 7 and 9. But maybe that arrangement just didn’t work to make smooth crossings. In any case, the arrangement of the theme entries facilitated interesting entries like SEAHAWK, MISDIAL, OFF-KEY, I AGREE, GRADE A, TUSKEGEE, TORTOISE, and my favorite, NAME IT, clued as ["Anything you want!"]. I also liked the stacked 6′s in the northeast and southwest corners.

On the other hand, EASTS, the [Compass points], had me muttering, “yeesh” as I keyed in the letters. And were it not for crosswords, I would have been lost with SEL, OEIL, and ETOILE. Do you suppose French crosswords feature SALT, EYE, and STAR?

Just when I thought I had seen every clue for ETON, along comes [___ mess (strawberries and cream dish)]. Why ruin a perfectly good treat with a name like that? Other clues of note included [Have some wings] for EAT and [It has its ups and downs] for YO-YO.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Double O Agent”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 417 solution

If there’s ever going to be a crossword I can speed-solve faster than Reynaldo it’s today’s BEQ. Brendan bounced the theme off me earlier in the week so I knew all the long answers beforehand, which may or may not be too much of a head start for Amy’s lightning-quick cursor to overcome. 5:58 was my time; can you beat that, Dear Leader? (Amy says: 4:53 without foreknowledge. But I wasn’t really pushing myself to go fast.)

Add-a-letter and drop-a-letter themes are so familiar by now that you’d better have a new twist to showcase if you don’t want to end up on a list like this one. Brendan does just that, and nicely: you add not one letter (an O, in this case) to the theme entries’ base phrases, but two O’s.  Hilarity naturally ensues:

  • 17a. [Compliment the double-reed wind instrument?] is not “praise be,” but PRAISE OBOE.
  • 25a. [Black cat, maybe?] is OMINOUS SIGN instead of “minus sign.” This is an interesting one, since OMINOUS SIGN is a (semi-)legit phrase in its own right.
  • 35a. [R&B singer Norwood forgoing the band?] is not the alcoholic beverage known as the “brandy sling,” but BRANDY SOLOING.
  • 48a. [Kobe Bryant, vis-a-vis the NBA All-Star Ballot?] is a SHOO-IN GUARD, as opposed to a “shin guard.” The O’s touch here.
  • 58a. [When the curtain goes up for a Verdi opera?] is OTELLO TIME, not “tell time.” O’s on the outside here.  Nice variety.

Thumbs up from me on the theme. All of the resulting nonsense phrases sport decent syntax and there’s a solid humor factor to the group as well.

I guess I’m starting to sound like a broken record but I hope no one takes Brendan’s grids for granted.  There’s no moral imperative to go wide-open when you’ve got five theme entries running around, but look at the beautiful SW and NE sections. Not a weak entry in all that white space, and lots of excellent stuff like BUSHISMBONHOMIEJAGGERTHE JUNGLEEDGING OUT, and AS A GIVEN. Would anyone have complained if he’d blacked out the J in JAGGER and the G in HONING?  No, and it would’ve made his life a whole lot easier. But he’s an artist, so he wants to maximize a grid’s potential, and certainly does so here.

Best clue: [Drop it] for LSD at 33d.

4.45 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Etailers”

Ink Well crossword solution, 3 8 12 "Etailers" Tausig

The theme works by adding a tailing “E” sound to the end of various phrases:

  • 18a. [Dude who carries monks' guitars?] = ABBEY ROADIE. Cute. My favorite of the theme answers.
  • 24a. [Underwear prank performed while someone takes a photograph?] = CHEESE WEDGIE. As in “Say cheese!”
  • 36a. [Work about a wish-hoarding spirit?] = THE SELFISH GENIE. The Selfish Gene is an old Richard Dawkins book about natural selection.
  • 53a. [Musician who looks damn fine in that kilt?] = PIPING HOTTIE. I once discovered a bagpiper playing in my backyard. If you like tie-dye on hippie types, then he was a hottie.
  • 61a. [Boxer in his first match for promoter Don?] = KING’S ROOKIE. I presume “king’s rook” is a chess term, but I’ve never seen it before. My other mystery item in the puzzle is 51d: [The ___ Bay] = PIRATE.

Eleven more clues:

  • 9a. [Title for each of two series standouts] = CO-MVP. Don’t think I’ve ever seen this term before, inside or outside a crossword.
  • 22a. [Play the sax, say] is a good clue for WAIL.
  • Sex! To 33a: [Hook up] is to DO IT and 40d: SHAG means [Bone, to a Brit].
  • Shortz! 57d: WILL [Shortz in recent usage news] had ILLIN in recent puzzle and some people disputed the cluing. So Ben sidesteps any controversy with his clue for 64d: ILL[Good or bad, in hip-hop slang].
  • 69a. [Salon alternative] is SLATE, another online magazine.
  • 3d. [Playboy's crowd] is the JETSET. Not Playboy-with-a-capital-P.
  • 4d. [Defensive section with fewer players, in football] clues WEAK SIDE. Didn’t know the term.
  • 38d. [Composer of crosswords?] clues Brian ENO. Some folks use “crossword composer” as a synonym for crossword constructor.
  • 42d. GO TO HELL! ["Eff off!"]

Four stars.

Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 3 8 12 "Top 40 Thursday" Cohen

Adam reaches into the wayback top 40 for a timely tribute to Davy Jones:

  • 15a. DAVY JONES, [Monkees vocalist and teen idol who left us on February 29: 2 wds.]
  • 21a. MICKY DOLENZ, [Monkees drummer who was a bandmate of 15-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 38a. MIKE NESMITH, [Monkees guitarist who was a bandmate of 15-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 46a. PETER TORK, [Monkees bassist who was a bandmate of 15-Across]

Whoops, the editorial team missed the “2 wds.” tag for 46a. We shall share the blame.

Peter Tork was one of two Peter Thorkelsons in his class at Carleton College back in the ’60s. The other one roomed with my friend’s dad, while the one who changed his name and joined the Monkees dropped out. I wonder if Carleton’s pinball/video game room (a) still exists and (b) is still informally called the Peter Tork Game Room.

Smooth enough puzzle overall, no?

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20 Responses to Thursday, 3/8/12

  1. Agreed that the NYT was way easier than a typical Thursday. I was well on my way to a record Thursday time, but I couldn’t quite close out the SE fast enough. I couldn’t quite pull ECOLOGIC out of my hat with E____GIC for some reason, and putting in ReLaY for RALLY tripped me up for a bit.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was nicely done, but not terribly challenging — I liked the fill rather more than the theme phrases, from Eurydice and Diaspora to Anapests and full last name Gardner when so often we see Erle! (Didn’t care for 27A HONI as comic strip daughter, when it could have been the lead-in to “Honi soit qui mal y pense” to complement 6D IPSE dixit and 36A ET SEQ). The LAT was more amusing with the reveal in that unexpected place — though “The ART OF the Deal” reminded me of an unpleasant encounter in NYC where Trump’s pushy saleswomen swarmed aggressively all over me and other passers-by on the street, trying to sell the book! It was definitely unappealing and NO DEAL. Just like the Donald!

  3. Lois says:

    In “sidled up,” “up” is an adverb, not a preposition.

    I guess this puzzle kinda skewed older, what with Percy Sledge and “osteopath.” Loved it.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Had most of it done in under four minutes. But that dang middle area…

    EURYDICE, DISPORA, ANAPEST. I knew them all, thankfully, but refused to believe, for a time, that they could all appear in one puzzle at the same time.

    Don’t care much for the clue for SOARED. But, all in all, it’s just a puzzle — Thursday or not. Onto Friday…

  5. Gareth says:

    Two tough-to-fill grids filled quite entertainingly. I must ask, why does RSTU appear so damned often? I’d like to think these entries are worse than any specialist vocabulary, abbreviations or even -er/re- words, but probably I’m in the minority…

  6. Nina says:

    I agree w/Gareth. I also didn’t like USAGES. USAGE covers the field, I’d say.
    But I did like the puzzle. Very clever!

  7. pannonica says:

    LAT: POPULAR MAGAZINE is a legitimate phrase; it’s a category, not merely a casual description.

    So what is the theme in the puzzle? The write-up isn’t explicit.

  8. Howard B says:

    One of the fastest Thursdays ever in the NY Times, for sure. But the fill words in there were excellent, and I enjoyed discovering them along the way. DIASPORA, EURYDICE, etc. Maybe not OSTEOPATH so much, although it’s true that you don’t see that word every day, either. I’d consider my specialty more of Oreopathy.

  9. Old Geezer says:

    @Gareth: For the most part, I agree with the alphabet partials, but I think the one earlier this week (LMNOPQ) was cool enough to be excepted (and accepted!).

  10. Richard says:

    @pannonica: I think the theme of the LAT puzzle is that the first word, in each instance, is a synonym for “hot.”

  11. Josh Bischof says:

    Four stars for the NYT puzzle. Clever theme with nice consistency (each promise word is broken up between the first and second letters). Tons of great fill, especially ANAPEST, since I just finished torturing the students in my senior English class with poetry. In fact, the completed puzzle is currently hanging on my board–25-Down highlighted–waiting to be noticed by someone. Which it won’t be, but still.

    Lots of great long fill, like SPARERIB, EURYDICE, and DIASPORA. Definitely easier than most Thursdays.

  12. loren smith says:

    Lois – I thought a lot about your UP statement, and I think I’ll agree with you. My first instinct would have been to call it a verb particle. Irregardless,* I think with UP, we have another chameleograph!

    climb UP the billboard ( preposition)
    sidle UP to the bar (adverb)
    UP the ante (verb)
    I’m not as up today as yesterday because it’s rainy. ( adjective)
    lots of UPs and downs ( noun)

    And of course we can’t forget its “completive” usage

    Finish that UP so we can leave. I guess here it’s a verb particle?

    *for you, Daniel ;-)

  13. Golfballman says:

    Puppy fat sucks as an answer!!!!!! Its baby fat one wants to lose. In the NYT thats about the 4th different spelling of uie I’ve seen, somebody
    make up their mind.

  14. Zulema says:

    There are more and more medical schools around NYS that teach Osteopathy. It’s not a term from the past. As for the puzzle both the fill and the clues were very nice, except for PARRED. Does anyone really say PARRED?

  15. joon says:

    golfballman: i guess 2 is “about” 4, then? UIE has 8 hits in the NYT and UEY has 15. that’s it. i don’t love these entries either, but i don’t understand why some people seem to be so upset about the fact that this word has two spellings.

    zulema: yes, people do say PARRED.

  16. John E says:

    In the golfing community, parred (and eagled, birdied and bogeyed) are all pretty common.

    Although an albatross is possible, I’ve never heard “albatrossed”, but that’s probably because I don’t know anyone who’s actually accomplished that.

  17. bob stigger says:

    Albatross also goes by the term double-eagle, or at least used to in these parts, and I have not only heard it verbed as double-eagled, I have done the deed. Fortunately it was a company outing and the folks on the green were neophytes who didn’t realize they had every right to beat me up for hitting into them. Hey, who knew I could hit a 3-wood 250 yards.

  18. John E says:

    Did they know that you were supposed to buy drinks for everyone on the golf course upon the accomplishment?

  19. pannonica says:

    Richard: I understood the theme, but mistakenly thought the write-up didn’t address it. I hadn’t noticed that 33-down was a revealer, and that Neville replicated it in the review.

  20. Lois says:

    Loren Smith: It seems from a cursory search that “up” used here can be called a verb particle or an adverb, no need to choose. I like your list. I’m not sure about the completive usage. That might be a matter of particular definitions of “up,” not about parts of speech. To me “up” looks in that case like another use of the adverb or particle, with “up” describing “finish.”

    Zulema, I never meant to imply that osteopathy was an old-fashioned specialty! Far from it. Did I mislead with a haphazard use of quotation marks? I go to one, and have a great respect for him. I’ve also met several young osteopaths. I meant, when I said the puzzle skewed older, that it’s often older folks who have need of an osteopath. And for that matter, younger folks can like Percy Sledge. I don’t mind at all.

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