Friday, 3/9/12

NYT 6:27 
LAT 3:39 
CS 6:14 (Sam) 
CHE 5:41 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 10:27 (pannonica) 
Celebrity untimed 

Attention, crossworders in the Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore metro areas! Marbles: The Brain Store will host amateur crossword tournaments the weekend of April 28-29 in several locations:

  • The Grand Avenue flagship store in downtown Chicago
  • The King of Prussia Mall (the Court) in King of Prussia, PA
  • The Mall in Columbia in Columbia, MD)

Marbles is hoping to arrange tournaments in the other regions where they have stores, but those aren’t confirmed yet.

We’ll post the links here when registration opens.

If you’re a crossword pro interested in judging at these local tournaments, let me know. Published constructors, people who edit or proofread crosswords, ACPT hotshots–we’d love to have you as judges.

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 3 9 12 0309

Cool-looking grid, no? A 62-worder with those two massively open corners divided by a fat diagonal swath of words. The low word count brings a handful of compromises, but there’s some fun stuff to offset the bad mouthfuls. And there’s an uncharacteristic difficulty level, with the puzzle feeling more like a Saturday NYT than a Friday. Stark contrast with the prevailing vibe of late, which has been surprisingly pliable Friday NYTs.

Highlights:

  • In the upper left chunk, I like the HOT SPELL (wanted HEAT WAVE initially) and FAT CATS, and I love HAM-FISTED.
  • In the diagonal zone, we get SALLY RAND ([Dancer who was a fan favorite?] thanks to her famous “fan dance”), DENTAL CARE, PHYLA trickily clued as [Parts of kingdoms], RAW DATA, CAN’T MISS, SHOE STORE, TORI AMOS, and I HATE IT ([Short, strong pan]).
  • In the last section, I’m partial to the itchy CHIGGER and MAITRE’DS. Tricky to put that Frenchy answer in the bottom with a tricky clue, [Four-seaters, maybe?], since the answer just refuses to take form as a recognizable English word for the longest time.

On the negative side, I wouldn’t have said that MEAT DIET was a “thing.” Latin plural [Tabulae __] RASAE is alarming to see. I rarely think of “sediment” as a verb (SEDIMENTED = [Deposited into a bank]). “I’LL NEVER” feels incomplete in a way that ["Not if my life depended on it!"] doesn’t. And the VALLI/VOILES crossing is probably miring a lot of solvers in cruciverbal quicksand. Those [Curtain fabrics] are VOILES, not TOILES. And I listened to pop radio in 1975, but have no recollection of the song in the Frankie VALLI clue, ["Swearin' to God" singer, 1975]. And yes, I had TALLI first. (Nice echo of the clue for TORI AMOS, though–[Singer with the 1994 #1 alternative rock hit "God"]. That song hit #72 overall in the US but topped the “modern rock” charts. Apparently the Valli song hit #6.

Obscure name of the day: ODO [__ of Lagery (Pope Urban II's real name)]. Who knew there was another Odo besides the Star Trek spin-off shape-shifter? (Answer: Probably Joon.)

3.75 stars.

Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 9 12

You know those puzzles that flip the usual phrasing between clues and answers, with a single short word serving as the clue for a group of answers that read like crossword clues? This puzzle’s theme does that, but it has the sense to use [Flip] as the theme clue. The various definitions for that word include BECOME EXCITED, COMEDIAN WILSON, DIVING MANEUVER, and RESELL QUICKLY (as in real estate).

Now, these sorts of themes seldom move me, but I like the flippiness of the [Flip] twist and I like to be reminded of Flip Wilson, whose TV show my family loved when I was a kid.

Five more clues:

  • 5a. [Nerdy guy in "Meatballs"] clues SPAZ.
  • 62a. SUEDE is a [Good thing not to wear in a rainstorm]. Shouldn’t it be [Bad thing to wear in a rainstorm]?
  • 66a. [Hockey Hall of Famer __ Stewart] clues NELS. Who?? And why does he have a Scandinavian first name and Scottish last name?
  • 2d. [Shop alternative] is HOME EC, “shop” being another word for industrial arts class. I don’t remember the food or sewing projects I did in junior-high home ec, but I remember three things from shop: making a wooden napkin holder, making an acrylic desk-set doodad, and sawing through my thumbnail while working on that acrylic project.
  • 11d. [Good street for playing] is a pleasant clue for a CUL-DE-SAC.

3.5 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Center of Gravity” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword • 3/9/12 • "Center of Gravity" • Wechsler • solution

There are few different activities going on in this astrophysically-themed crossword. First and foremost is the central block; that little square packs quite a punch. The across and down fill preceding it both end in BLACK, while the two answers following it begin with HOLE. Thus we have a BLACK HOLE reading in both directions.

  • 39a. [#1 Rolling Stones hit single featuring a sitar] PAINT IT (BLACK).
  • 41a. [Chad-creating devices] (HOLE)PUNCHES.
  • 21d. [Soot used as pigment] LAMP(BLACK).
  • 45d. [Unshown part of a stud hand] (HOLE) CARD.

Additionally, there is a related two-part symmetrical component:

  • 17a. [With 65 Across, theorist of the phenomena at and around this puzzle's central square] STEPHEN | HAWKING.

Oh, and there are also circles, arranged in a circle, ringing the central ■. These letters—starting slightly unconventionally just before the “12 o’clock” spot, say 11:55—spell E-V-E-N-T–H-O-R-I-Z-O-N. Merriam-Webster’s definition of event horizon is “the surface of a black hole : the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing can escape from within it,” and states that the first known use was in 1969.

Oh! And also additionally, there’s another theme-associated clue, running down the east side of the central feature. 37d [What this puzzle's central phenomenon may once have been] STAR. The may seems unnecessary, since as far as I’m aware, the science is fairly solid on the matter. The fill’s symmetric partner is 29d RIPE [Somewhat smelly], which is wholly unrelated.

I like the theme, but my sense is that it lacks elegance because too many elements are piled on in a fit of overzealousness, with STAR the lopsided cherry on top.

Many of the clues, in varying amounts of tandentiality and tenuousness, seem to have a relation to the theme, although it’s probably a combination of having one’s mind primed and the vastness of the subject. Thus we have SPIN, ITALO Calvino as the author of Invisible Cities, NASA, the light-related RAINBOW. Stretching a little, cases can be made for the wonderment of OVERAWE and OOHED, the religion/cosmology divide (choosing a theologist named EDWARDS, rather than director BLAKE, politician JOHN, Egyptologist AMELIA, or another), the consuming destructive force of MORDOR, and so on.

Elsewhere, admirable triple seven-stacks comprise each of the four corners, this symmetry is a by-product of  the central vertical theme content, LAMP and CARD. We have RAINBOW, INDIANA, STEPHEN; STEAMED, CORRIDA, TRAINER; OVERAWE, MIRAGES, ELEMENT; and HAWKING, EDWARDS, DEFTEST. The longest non-theme entries are the very welcome BIOSPHERE and MINNEHAHA (which means “rushing water,” not “laughing water,” as some have said—don’t be misled by the -haha).

A minimum of junk fill and a number of playful clues elevate the puzzle as well. Overall, a solid solving experience, but I do wish that either the constructor or editor had pulled things together more compactly and forcefully.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Hip to Be Squared” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 9

The premise behind today’s crossword is that “squares” would see common expressions containing numbers as the square of those numbers:

  • 17-Across: The traditional “two-party system” that pervades most of American politics becomes a FOUR-PARTY SYSTEM, the [Form of government for squares?]. (Two squared equals four, remember.)
  • 38-Across: “Three little maids,” all in a row, become NINE LITTLE MAIDS, or ["The Mikado" trio for squares?]. (Three squared equals nine, you know.)
  • 58-Across: Why take the “Fourth of July” off when you can instead celebrate the SIXTEENTH OF JULY, the [Parade date for squares?]? (Four squared = sixteen.)

I knew right away that I was in for a little bit of “fun with math,” as the clue for 1-Across was [Number that's its own square]. (The answer is ONE.) But it still took a lot of crossings before I finally figured out exactly how all the squaring was to be used here. Indeed, I had FOUR and NINE in place early on but couldn’t figure out how those entries ended until the SIXTEENTH OF JULY fell.

There’s some really cool stuff in this puzzle, but I have come to expect highly entertaining puzzles from Patrick. Some notable goodies include: (1) OYSTER BED; (2) STANK, clued as [Offended the olfactory senses]; (3) fun names like RUPAUL, YODA, and, of course, SAMMY Davis, Jr., the guy with the [Rat Pack name]; (4) HIT ON; and (5) that whole conglomeration of Professor SNAPE, NINJA, SHAFTS, HAN Solo of Star Wars, T-SHIRTS, and MONTAGUE. It all abuts UGH, but entertaining fill like that is the furthest thing from UGH!

Dave Tuller’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 9 12 "Sports Fan Friday" Tuller

Good puzzle for “Sports Fan Friday,” with a three-piece theme and a bunch of sports-related fill throughout the puzzle. There are some names I didn’t know, but the crossing answers filled in the letters for me.

The theme is about my second-favorite pinoy who weighs under 150 lbs:

  • 15a. MANNY PACQUIAO, [Filipino boxer and politician]
  • 31a. WORLD CHAMPION, [Title earned by 15-Across eight times]. Pacquiao has fought in many different weight classifications.
  • 48a. SERGEANT MAJOR, [Army reserve title of 15-Across before his promotion in 2011]. Didn’t know he was a reservist.

The names I didn’t know were 20a, STAN, [Chicago Blackhawks GM Bowman] and 25d: DOM, [Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Capers]. Yes, I live in Chicago and yes, my husband’s a Packers fan, but I still didn’t know these names. Player names are far more familiar.

Other sporting content includes RORY McIlroy, a Maple LEAF, REY Mysterio (does WWE wrestling count as sports?), an ACE pitcher proud of her ARM, Barry Bonds being Bobby Bonds’ SON, Tony ROMO, RENE Bourque, a sportscaster’s LAPEL, SKI TRAIL, CAM Newton, GRIDIRON, number ONE ranking, Nascar CUP, PEP rally, boxing MATCH, and Mexican boxer ERIK Morales. No ugly pile-ups of unfamiliar names crossing each other. I liked this puzzle despite not really being much of a sports fan.

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal Crossword, “Beware!” — pannonica’s review

WSJ (Friday) • 3/9/12 • "Beware!" • Jones • solution

“Beware the ides of March,” sayeth the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act I, scene ii).

105a [Time to beware, found in eight of the across answers) IDES, which is indeed to be found nestled among the words of the theme fill. Why the ides? Viaduct?

Anyway, this is a timely theme, as next Thursday is that unfortunate date. If the puzzle were to be published next week, the warning would be too late. Well, for Caesar it's 2,054 years too late, but that's a mere quibble, eh?

The clues follow a standard format, and try to frame the answer as something to beware of, with middling success.

  • 22a. [Beware! (if you're a rookie pitcher)] SUICIDE SQUEEZE.
  • 33a. [Beware! (if you were planning to elope)] BRIDESMAIDS.
  • 40a. [Beware! (if you're squeamish about violence)] RINGSIDE SEATS.
  • 59a. [Beware! if you're a cautious poker player)] INSIDE STRAIGHT. This one feels the strongest to me, as something that should unequivocally be avoided.
  • 68a. [Beware! (if you're a mediator trying to forestall a war)] RAPID ESCALATION.
  • 87a. [Beware! (if you're a manufacturer of picture tubes)] WIDESCREEN TVS. Not sure I get this one entirely, is the implication that all widescreen televisions are flatscreens (which is not the case) or that widescreen picture-tube televisions are bulkier, more awkward, and more liable to be damaged than standard-screen models?
  • 93a. [Beware! (if you like solitude during your commute)] RIDE SHARING.
  • 109a. [Beware! (if you're afraid of lions and hyenas)] KALAHARI DESERT. Great phrase for a hidden IDES, but it also would have been at home in Todd McClary’s “Repeating Geography” crossword, published five weeks ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Wikichitlán sayeth: “Derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning ‘the great thirst’, or KhalagariKgalagadi or Kalagare, meaning ‘a waterless place.‘”

Nice variation in how IDES is divided. Four IDE|S, two |IDES|, one ID|ES, and one I|DES. The symmetricist in me would have liked the revealer at 105d to have been counterbalanced by something else relevant to the theme. The most obvious four-letter entry would be the crossword staple ET TU (Brute), but it’d be a feat, seeing as that entry crosses the first across themer. Still, one can wish. For what it may or not be worth, 53-across, near the center, is ["Blood hath been shed __ now": Macbeth] ERE.

The cluing is pitched with a difficult, or at least occasionally recondite spin, which I believe is typical for these 21×21 WSJ crosswords. Some examples are:

  • 12a [Like some bulls] PAPAL.
  • 54a [Muzzles] SILENCES.
  • 90a. [Everyone in the pool, in bygone days] STENOS. I’ve long been fond of the meta aspect of the shortened steno.
  • 52d [Historic events] FIRSTS.

Other notes:

  • click for a YouTube clip

    New to me is 40d [Bandleader Edmundo] ROS. Other people’s names in the grid are William INGE, Herb RITTS, SAL Paradise, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HEGEL, Heddy LAMARR, the fictional elephant CELESTE, DEBRA Messing, Christian SLATER, Muhammad ALI, Roone ARLEDGE, Frank LOESSER, BEN Wallace, Edith PIAF, GINA Gershon, Julia STILES, Scott WEILAND, John O’HARA.

  • Air travel action! [Onetime JFK lander] SST, 76a [American, for one] AIRLINE, 12d [ABC premiere of September 2011] PAN-AM.
  • Ugliest fill is probably 34d [Detailed accts.] RPTS. Also, not particularly fond of the partial at 71d [One way to be sick] AS A DOG.
  • Very pleasing vertical stacks in the northeast and southwest: PAIRING [Somellier's suggestion],  ARLEDGE, LOESSER, and ISRAELI, MAILMAN, ENDGAME.
  • Cute flourish at the end: the final two verticals are TORTE and OTTER, anagrams.

I declare this a well-made puzzle. Et tu?

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19 Responses to Friday, 3/9/12

  1. Clyde Niesen says:

    You missed a chance for more joking around by not assigning ‘stars’

  2. Nina says:

    When I was in High School way back in the day, girls took Home Ec and boys took Shop. No alternative. Good thing times have changed.
    ILLNEVER didn’t bother me till I read the blog. But for me, mostly, this is a great puzzle with some wonderful clues.

  3. Howard B says:

    My feelings too. ILL NEVER and others had me scratching my head; some of it was very close to or over the edge of plausibility. But HAM-FISTED, TORI AMOS (full name!) and many others were fun to discover. Not easy in such an open puzzle.

  4. joon says:

    Who knew there was another Odo besides the Star Trek spin-off shape-shifter? (Answer: Probably Joon.)

    yep, i knew ODO off the bat. urban II is one of the few medieval popes who’s actually (in)famous for something, in his case launching the crusades (ugh) at the 1095 council of clermont. deus vult, and all that. there are another couple noteworthy medieval ODOs; i think i had to read something by odo of cluny for a medieval studies class in college.

    on the other hand, i had no idea about the singer so i ended up with the tALLI/tOILES error.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was an excellent challenge! I started with HEAT WAVE and HAM-HANDED, thought the fan dancer was GYPSY ROSE, which has the YR in common with SALLY RAND, felt what hadn’t yet been interpreted might refer to the ROSETTA stone –and saw the singer as Rudy Vallee (the famous megaphone crooner of the 1930s who recorded “As Time Goes By” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, way off on his dates!) Fortunately I got it all sorted out, with MAITRE D’S to finish it off. Whew!

  6. Matt says:

    I fell right into the TOILES/VOILES trap, never heard of VALLI. Otherwise, a fun puzzle with a lot of good entries.

  7. Lois says:

    Earlier in his career, Frankie Valli was the longtime lead singer for the Four Seasons. The popular Broadway musical Jersey Boys is based on the story of the Four Seasons.

  8. Torbach says:

    Joon, I love your “(ugh).” It’s like “He started the Spanish Inquisition (bummer)!”

    I liked the NYT – I thought the clue for IHATEIT was dastardly! Also, I’m surprised no one’s said anything about DOPESTERS – I was able to piece it together but it was new to me, and fairly awesome in my book.

    Amy, I confess I knew “Swearin’ to God” right off (though still managed to question myself and the penciled in TOILES) – and I am more than a tad embarrassed to admit I know that there’s an alto sax solo in the extended, album version of it.

  9. pannonica says:

    Alas, Clyde Niesen, I don’t do stars, not even in the service of a little extra fun.

  10. halfstone says:

    There were a number of traps here, and I think I fell into all of them. I patted myself on the back for a long time with TOILES – who knew? (well, many did, I guess). I also started with “Ham Handed” which I’m more familiar with than “Ham Fisted”, and even tried out “Lame Assed” before I remembered this wasn’t The Onion. I also had a brief fling with “Acquired” instead of “Achieved”. Took me three separate seatings to finish this, and two Googles (Valli and Sally Rand). I knew Talleyrand, but not his sister.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. I also thought the LAT with the four FLIPs was terrific… Maybe because of the last theme answer, RESELL QUICKLY, a maneuver difficult to execute in many markets these days — including the art market! I’m sticking to the stock market these days for such opportunities… As for the CHE, that was also stellar (pun), because I knew LAMP black and hole CARD, though the Rolling Stones’ single was pure guess. Very clever concept, and well carried off. I’m saving the WSJ for later tonight…

  12. *David* says:

    Excellent CHE, quite creative.

  13. larry says:

    I’ve been a golfer for ages and I’ve NEVER heard anyone say a putt “RIMmed out”. The only thing close is “LIPPED OUT”. (“LIP” in 44d is totally misleading.)

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    You know time is marching on when you hear someone say “I’ve never heard of Frankie Valli.

  15. Martin says:

    I don’t understand why “I rarely think of ‘sediment’ as a verb” is a negative for the entry. I don’t think you’re saying it’s obscure. To me, a word that makes the cut in a popular abridged (desk) dictionary (with both intransitive and transitive senses, no less) is reasonable fodder for a Friday puzzle. It’s the odd words that add sparkle, I think. A word that I rarely think of as a verb is a plus in my book.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, it’s that it turns the word into sort of a crutch: familiar word with an -ED ending tacked on. This puzzle, at least, is not packed with RE- and -ING and -ED affixes, but there are about 15 plurals or +S verbs. It gives it that “less fresh” feeling when there’s too much of that.

  17. Martin says:

    That makes sense. Inflected forms are the negative. They don’t bother me as much, but I understand.

  18. ArtLvr says:

    OK, I did the WSJ before the stroke of midnight… Here was HAM again, so glad someone else tried HAM-HANDED earlier! This one fooled me until the end, as I’d noticed the SIDE words INSIDE phrases as I went along, but tangled rather than STRAIGHT! Then I got it — they were supposed to be IDES after all, to go with BEWARE. Oof. Didn’t mind “One way to be sick” clue for AS A DOG, that’s generally of more interest than an analog, except it made me mad at a certain Sanctorum again in mocking JFK’s commitment to Separation of You-know-what and State. Down, boy! You’ve much to learn.

  19. oeuftete says:

    +1 to larry above. 44D could be “Not quite make the basket…”, but it’s just wrong in reference to a putt. That was a deal-breaker for me.

Comments are closed.