Friday, 3/23/12

LAT 4:42 
NYT 3:50 
CS 5:13 (Sam) 
CHE tba
Celebrity untimed 
WSJ (Friday) 11:52 (pannonica) 

Steven Riley’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 23 12 0323

I’m about ready to hit the sack, but luckily the fill in this puzzle kept me from nodding off mid-solve. Super-Scrabbly, full of zippy language. I approve!

Favorite wrong answer I considered: 7d: [Ball wear], ***EDOS? Why not SPEEDOS? What’s that? TUXEDOS? Oh. Yes. Well. That will do, too. “Formal balls.”

Highlights: A casual XMAS CARD, the ice cream/shake/Slurpee malady of BRAIN FREEZE, JERSEY SHORE, puzzly MAGIC SQUARE, PONZI SCHEME, DRE DAY, and the brilliant Hayao MIYAZAKI. Any puzzle would be proud to contain a couple of these, but all seven? ::golf clap::

This puzzle continues, if you ask me, that trend of Friday NYT puzzles being easier than usual. For months, they’ve been easier than before. I do wonder, if it’s a delilberate choice on Will Shortz’s part, what the reason is.

Not so pleased with the MAMMAS spelling at 1a: [Aunties' sisters]. But I do like the female content: GOLDA Meir, ANNE Archer (what’s she done lately?), Anna KARENINA, JANA Novotna, Pauline KAEL, Rita MORENO, and ISABELLE Brasseur (though I don’t know of [Figure skater Brasseur]).

4.5 stars. I understand this puzzle marks the constructor’s debut and I look forward to seeing more crosswords from Steven.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 23 12

Good thing this puzzle didn’t come out a week earlier, or Gareth would have been assigned the task of blogging his own puzzle.

I don’t know about you, but I got off on the wrong foot here. 1a: [Fast food sides], 5 letters? That can only be FRIES, right? Oddly, it’s plural SLAWS, which are available sides only in the cole slaw variety and typically at fried chicken joints, but not your average burger or pizza fast food joint. Now I’m wondering if South Africa’s fast food joints serve SLAWS. The McDonald’s South Africa site shows me French fries … and a cup of corn. I’ll take it! But it’s not slaw.

I was slow to pick up on the theme, as I first parsed 26a: CHAPLAIN JANE ([Female padre?]) as a riff on G.I. Jane rather than plain Jane with a CHA tacked on. The rest of the theme plays out like this:

  • 18a. CHAIN TOTO, [Keep a movie dog from wandering?]. In toto is the base phrase.
  • 42a. CHARIOT SQUAD, [Ancient mounted police?]. I like this—it’s as zippy as CHAPLAIN JANE.
  • 55a. CHA-CHA-CHA, [Dance that reflects the pun-creating elements found in 18-, 26- and 42-Across].

I’ve seen PISTE before, but this word meaning 37a: [Ski run] isn’t really in my vocabulary.

Foreign vibes abound:

  • 16a. CHAI, [Tea traditionally made with cardamom]. The clues don’t usually give a recipe.
  • 36a. OMAN, [Dhofar Rebellion country].
  • 48a. INVICTUS, [Poem that ends "I am the captain of my soul"]. Also the name of a Morgan Freeman/Matt Damon movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team. I didn’t know the meaning behind the movie’s title until just now—here’s an interpretation of the poem.
  • 57a. RUPEE, [Mauritius money]. Why go with India when you can go with a tiny island country?
  • 59a. SLAV, [Croat, e.g.].
  • 6d. BBC, [Airer of the sitcom "'Allo 'Allo!"]
  • 9d. BRISBANE, [Eastern Australian seaport].
  • 11d. DHOTI, [Indian loincloth]. No word on whether any such garments are worn in Mauritius.
  • 28d. ARAB, [Dhow sailor]. Whoa, two words starting with DHO-.
  • 29d. NISEI, [Second-generation Japanese American].

My favorite clue is the dorky 4d: [Rhea stat], which sort of sounds like rheostat. A rhea’s a bird with a giant WINGSPAN.

3.75 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 23

Each of the four theme entries has two words, and the first word in each entry can also precede “pool:”

  • 17-Across: The [Cajun side dish] is DIRTY RICE (dirty pool). It’s the chicken giblets that make it so wonderfully dirty.
  • 26-Across: One [Promotional freebie] is a BUMPER STICKER (bumper pool). I used to play a lot of pool in college, but bumper pool…not so much. The one time I played I got snookered.
  • 48-Across: GENE McDANIELS (gene pool) is [Someone I've never heard of]. He’s also the ["A Hundred Pounds of Clay" singer]. I tried CHARLIE DANIELS, but that wouldn’t fit. Then when I got the C in front of DANIELS I realized I would be in for a long ride there. Thank you crossings!
  • 63-Across: Always nice to have one gimme theme entry: MOTOR CITY (motor pool) is the [Detroit nickname] that spans nine letters, unless you really butcher the spelling of Motown.

This is the second CS puzzle in the past couple of weeks to feature BAMBI, the [Disney deer], at 1-Across. I have nothing more to say about that. On the other hand, I have many great things to say about BATH TUB (with its great clue, [Vessel for making homemade gin]), SUCK DRY ([Siphon to the last drop]), SOIREE, and the stacking of BIG ON and IT’S ME in the southeast corner. But since you now know I would be saying great things about them, I guess there’s not much point in actually saying them.

I liked [Angry Birds targets] as a fresh clue for PIGS. But my favorite is [Like Kate, at the end of a Shakespeare play] for TAMED. I never read that play, so it’s good to know the whole taming thing worked.

David Kahn’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 23 12 "Sports Fan Friday" Kahn

Since Crosswords by PuzzleSocial isn’t targeted at a primarily NYC-area solving audience (unlike the New York Times crossword), it would have been fun to dilute the focus on New York baseball stadiums. The theme is ballparks:

  • 31a. YANKEE STADIUM, [Home of the Bronx Bombers]. The clue uses a team nickname rather than “New York Yankees” as the latter would give away the answer.
  • 5d. CITI FIELD, [Home of the New York Mets]. Shea Stadium was torn down and replaced with this.
  • 22d. PETCO PARK, [Home of the San Diego Padres]

41a: YARDS, [Camden __ (home of the Baltimore Orioles)], is a bonus theme answer. 8d: ALAMO, [Prefix for "dome" in a San Antonio stadium name], is not—San Antonio has no Major League Baseball franchise.

More baseball content includes 25d: ENSHRINE in the Hall of Fame and a trivia clue for 9d: COLUMBIA, [Ivy League school attended by Lou Gehrig and Sandy Koufax].

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Nerve Center” — pannonica’s review

WSJ (Fri) • 3/23/12 • "Nerve Center" • Gorski • solution

I’ll just get this over with and state the obvious: “This puzzle has a lot of gall.”  Nine, to be exact, as the revealer 116-down implies: [Nerve found in eight of the across answers] GALL.

  • 22a. [Police department's mug shot collection] ROGUES GALLERY. It occurs to me that someone with an alcohol problem might partake of mug shots.
  • 31a. [Using 110% of one's resources] GOING ALL OUT. Do not get me started on this 110% stuff.
  • 52a. ["Spend less than you earn" philosophy] FRUGAL LIVING. Yup.
  • 67a. [Co-founder of a California winery] JULIO GALLO. Sneer all you want, the Gallos were instrumental in establishing and legitimizing the US wine industry. It is a bit unsettling, however,  to know that one in every three bottles (of wine) produced in this county is from that company.
  • 72a. [Breathalyzer basis] LEGAL  LIMIT.
  • 91a. [Strike zone?] BOWLING ALLEY. Cute clue, and ironically spare.
  • 102a. [Pharmacist's concern] DRUG ALLERGY.
  • 120a. [Oater wardrobe staples] TEN-GALLON HATS. Next time someone tells you it’s about fluid capacity, you can upbraid them and Stetson set them straight.

So that’s 3×|GALL|, 3× G|ALL, and 2×GAL|L. Short of a fantastical quagga-llama hybrid, I don’t think you could ask for more distributional variation of this particular hidden word. All of the containing phrases are legit.

Well-constructed and well-integrated grid, with some interesting fill and a lot of playful cluing. It all makes for a fun puzzle, one that gently eases us into the weekend’s other large-scale offerings.

Bits:

  • First up is FIRST  UP, at one across. Liked it fine, but I was kind of sour on 14d’s UPTILTS [Adjusts, as a steering wheel], and not just for the repeated UP. Not a fan of the verb.
  • Favorite clue: 46a [Country stores?]  ATLASES. Slightly different kind of store.
  • Fell for the misdirection in 77a [Observed]. With plural S of SAMOAS in place, I was confident that the ho-hum SEEN was the answer, but SAID is what was being looked for. Also had MAIN, not the eyebrow-raising BONG for [Water pipe].
  • A non-Leopold clue for LOEB at 81a [Financial columnist Marshall]! I had no idea if it was a first name or last name, but—hey—it is the Wall Street Journal. See also: 127a [Exchange memberships] SEATS (could have been much trickier as [Exchange places]), 70d [Wall St. deals] LBOS (leveraged buy-outs), and 34d [Mutual fund charges] LOADS.
  • 9d [Alban Berg opera] LULU. Nice to see the crossword-ready composer get some ink, even if it is only in the clue.  I’m fond of his Lyric Suite. Nice alternative clue for LULU, by the way.
  • Editorial note: seems as if 98a [Music to a wolf's ears] BAA should have had a question mark, especially considering the other clues so adorned.
  • 11d [ATM maker] I can never seem to recall the three letters of this frequently-found-in-crosswords abbrev., or their correct order. NCR.
  • 13d [Reed on guitar] LOU. No, I’m sorry; the correct answer to this is always JERRY.
  • 16d [Prestigious Conn. institution] You know you’ve been doing crosswords too long when that awkward clue leads you to unhesitatingly ink in the aesthetically-challenged YALE U. without hesitation.
  • AN EGG and A NEST in the same puzzle, both descending from the first row. Not too thrilled with that. Plus, there’s A ROOM not too far away at 29a. A little much for me.
  • TV IDOLS for [The Jonas Brothers, e.g.]. Meh.
  • ON HBO, USE TO (f-i-t-b)?
  • Liked the slightly unusual central symmetrical pair of MAILLOT and BISSELL.
  • Appreciated that cross-references weren’t made between some clues, such as those for UNSTOP and DRIPS (6d & 102d), MAILLOT and TAN LINE 40d & 90d), GLOATS and BRAG (84a & 91d), BARD and TALE (54a & 57a).
  • I also perceive, or imagine, a connection among three seven-letter acrosses in the lower half of the grid: PREMISE, PERUSES, RESOLVE. There’s a story there.

To reiterate: nice, fun puzzle.

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29 Responses to Friday, 3/23/12

  1. joon says:

    yes, super-lively NYT. very scrabbly too, but that doesn’t matter too much to me. a very promising debut indeed!

  2. Thank you, Steven, for not trying to squeeze in a W somewhere for the pangram. The puzzle is sizzling, and compromising that would have been a darn shame.

  3. David says:

    You know a themeless has to be good when you can’t figure out what the seed entry is. Many of the long entries are strong contenders, but there’s no compromising fill around any of them. “This puzzle, perhaps” would be an appropriate alternative clue for 4D :)

  4. Erik says:

    I got stuck on the NYT’s bottom half for like 2 minutes and then I realized I hadn’t looked at the clue for 47A and I’m 18 and I really have no excuse to be missing things like this.

    Awesome clue for 53D in the LAT. That book/movie is all over my timeline ugh

  5. Gareth says:

    Amy: that’s an awful lot of research you’ve done, except my original clue was “KFC sides”. Guessing Rich Norris felt it should be tougher. Or, to borrow a phrase from Tyler Hinman: “If you don’t like my clue, the editor wrote it!” On the flip side, Erik’s clue was also Rich Norris’, and mine was a more dated cultural reference…

  6. loren smith says:

    Adam – I didn’t finish because I couldn’t get the first letter of 26A and 26D. I was certain it would be “w,” and was admiring how a pangram could be so elegant!

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Congrats to Steven Riley on his NYT debut! I didn’t check, but it might be a pangram? Loved PONZI SCHEME, but hesitated over the start of MIYAZAKI, since there aren’t many words with I before Y, except DIY? (Do it yourself). Gareth’s LAT was fun too, and as to SLAWS I’d note that our local grocery sometimes offers a variation on the usual type by adding kernels of cooked corn, which I’ve adopted at home as my favorite sort… Re Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, did you miss out on the hilarious version in the musical “Kiss Me Kate”? A must-see!

  8. jason says:

    We also have broccoli slaw, but I agree with GB, KFC is the slaw of fast food connoisseurs.

    Loved the puzzle GB.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    Since I’ve banged on about its being incorrectly clued so often here, tis only fitting and proper that I congratulate Steven Riley for his superbly, um, grounded clue for 6D SERF:

    Congrats, Steven! Great puzzle!

  10. Zulema says:

    “UNLOOSEN”? Ugh.

  11. AV says:

    Rhea stat? – NICE!!

  12. loren smith says:

    Zulema – I blinked at UNLOOSEN, too. Doesn’t it mean the same thing as “loosen?”

  13. Greg says:

    Pretty clever combo of 27d and the clue for 39a.

  14. Zulema says:

    Loren – It’s actually in venerable dictionaries, not just new-fangled ones. I’m glad we don’t see it too often.

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a sec on this UNLOOSEN ado: Looking over the citations in the OED, the word does have a distinct rhetorical power absent, it seems to me, from loosen:

    “Ankle chains…riveted together,…never to be unloosened night nor day”

    It just sounds better, to my ears anyway.

  16. Howard B says:

    Don’t have to like UNLOOSEN, but it’s definition and synonym appears to be ‘loose(n)’ from several sources, including Merriam-Webster. It may be on the poetic side and maybe a little musty, but I appreciate it for the reasons Daniel already mentioned. It’s a valid clue.
    I like the quirkiness* of the English language at times, for examples such as this where a word’s apparent antonym is its synonym.

    * I would not like this quirkiness so much if English were a second or third language. Instead I would be cursing unambiguously in my native tongue.

  17. Todd G says:

    Not saying he should have, but you could put a W on the 40 square of the NYT and fill the SE corner pretty easily to get your pangram. The tricky part would be to make the puzzle a tangram.

  18. Loren Smith says:

    Zulema and Daniel – so UNLOOSEN/loosen is like debone/bone and depress/press? They mean the same thing without the prefix?

  19. Flammable/inflammable, fill out a form/fill in a form.

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    Loren Smith, aka propeller-headed OED memoriser, Sic et Non – Yes and No – Words have a flavour, a savour, a rhetorical effect, a je ne sais quoi not present in their denotation. If you look those abovementioned words up in a dictionary, yes, their definitions are identical. But their connotations vary widely!

  21. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the puzzle except for UNLOOSEN, and that is a small thing, I realize – but it’s SO good that I was more disappointed than I would have been if there had been a bunch of ELIA/RHEA/EMU in the fill.

    I know it’s Friday, but some nod in the clue to the antique and poetic nature of the word would have made me much happier.

  22. Loren Smith says:

    Daniel – after an icky day, you made me laugh. Je t’en sais gré!

  23. David says:

    Unloosen means loosen? What a country!

  24. Daniel Myers says:

    Loren – Je suis heureux avoir fait tu ris. J’espère que tu sens moins…”icky”. ;-)

  25. Loren Smith says:

    Daniel – Merci bien. Tu es OK by me! Doomo arigatoo. Just testin’ the language waters. . .

  26. ArtLvr says:

    @pannonica – just as IBM was originally named International Business Machines, NCR used to stand for National Cash Register. I hope that history, plus the image of CASH enclosed in a machine, will help to register the manufacturer’s letter sequence in your memory!

  27. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. recent notice:. – “NCR Corporation today announced a reseller agreement for its APTRA Cash Connect software with Glory, Ltd., one of the largest providers of cash handling devices in the world. Glory will resell NCR APTRA Cash Connect as a software offering with its teller cash recycler (TCR) hardware globally. APTRA Cash Connect is run by more than 700 financial institutions in more than 40 countries, making it the most installed teller automation software in the world.” (There’s something ironic about that Glory, Ltd. rolling around in all that cash!)

  28. pannonica says:

    Wow. I really wrote “unhesitatingly … without hesitation.”

    Thanks, ArtLvr, I can remember “National Cash Register.” I’d always assumed it was some Japanese company with recondite initials.

  29. Trey says:

    Gregg,

    I bet you got this one and found it creative!

    Dad

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