Monday, 4/9/12

NYT 2:58 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:54 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 6:28 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Nancy Kavanaugh’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 4/9/12 • Mon • Kavanaugh • 4912 • solution

A crossword for the discerning solver?

  • 17a. [Negative reaction to failure] SOUR GRAPES.
  • 23a. [Sort of words that sailors are famous for] SALTY LANGUAGE.
  • 47a. [Feuding families, e.g.] BITTER ENEMIES.
  • 57a. [Sugar craving] SWEET TOOTH.

I believe a few of these adjectives for taste apply in my reaction, because I don’t think it’s fair that umami is omitted here. Just because for quite a long time only the four were recognized (by Western science), it’s no reason to perpetuate a false representation, even in a Monday crossword. True, the only phrase I can come up with beginning with umami is Umami Burger, which seems to be a modest California chain. It isn’t as if the theme phrases are purely metaphorical. On the other hand, I would have appreciated a gesture of inclusion, perhaps in the five-letter central location, where B-SIDE resides?

Otherwise, I felt the puzzle had some chewy and tasteful fill, what with STYX, SANSKRIT, WINGSPAN, SPRITZ, CAPSIZE, and the like. Not quite Scrabbly (no Js, Qs, or Fs), and with some a-bit-rich-for-a-Monday crosswordese, abbrevs. and partials—the CAP Quotient™—(ERNS, EL-HI, KOR., SWE., A MOO,  AS I). Makes for a sweet-and-sour, bittersweet solving experience. How meta!

Spinach in my teeth:

  • 18d [Icy cold] GELID (unusual for an early-weeker) and 51a [Chilling, as Champagne] ON ICE: too redundant?
  • Other long fill: POLISH OUT, SOUP SPOON.
  • Full—sort of—name: T.S. ELIOT.
  • 22a [Former congresswoman Bella] ABZUG. This felt like a very old clue; I would have preferred [70s congresswoman Bella]. “Former,” though technically unimpeachable, has a bit more of a “recent” connotation, and ABZUG served as a New York State representative to the US Congress from 1973–1977.

And now to brush!

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Very Funny” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Solution to Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, April 9

31-Down, the central Down entry, tells us that LOL is both a [Texter's chuckle (and an opening to 17-, 34-, and 55-Across)]. Accordingly, those three Across answers start with each component of LOL:

  • 17-Across: LAUGH TRACKS are [Sitcom sweeteners].
  • 34-Across: OUT OF PROPORTION is one way to classify something [Not to scale].
  • 55-Across: LOUD SPEAKER is a [Stereo part].

True to Ashwood-Smith form, the grid could pass as a freestyle puzzle. It has only 72 entries and 30 black squares. It has triple-stacked 8s in two corners and some non-theme 9s. I tend to like this ambitious style, but in this case it forced some noticeable compromises. Check out, for example, the sole white squares allowing ingress and egress from the northwest and southeast corners. I prefer having at least two white squares into every corner so it doesn’t seem so isolated from the rest of the puzzle.

Then there’s the over-inclusion of sub-optimal entries like IS AS, ARR, STER, AM ON, ENA, A TASTE, ATONER, HEHS, ASSN, ELIS, A RULE, and ARSENE. Any one of these (heck, any two or three or maybe even four) would not be cause for concern, but this grid feels like it has too many. Sure, the junky entries allow for some real gems like ROTH IRA, DR. DENTON, GOT MAD, TURN AWAY, URETHANE, and CALAMARI. But I’m not so sure that the sparkle outweighs the rust in this case.

My favorite clue was [Mass communication?] for SERMON, something many readers no doubt experienced yesterday. After seeing my absolute least favorite crossword entry–the abbreviation SER–way too many times, it was refreshing to see the full word for a change. The clever clue only enhanced the satisfaction.

Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Mon Apr 9 2012

Theme: ACK!!!

Theme answers:
17A. [Donald Duck's title adventures, in a '90s Disney series] – QUACK ATTACK
31A. [Retrace one's steps] – BACKTRACK
44A. [Lunch box pudding brand] – SNACK PACK
57A. [Expert] – CRACKER JACK. The Fiend Handbook to Crossword Blogging requires I point out the “ER” in CRACKER that doesn’t appear in the other theme answers. I am required to call this (a) inelegant, (b) flawed, (c) an affront to all crossword solvers since the beginning of time or (d) no big deal. Let’s choose… (d).

Other stuff:
66A. ["__: rewind": VCR rental reminder] – BE KIND. You see kids, there was a time when movies could only be seen on things called tapes, that moved from reel to reel. And you couldn’t contact any of your friends from a VCR. It was a real pain carrying it on the bus to watch on the way to school.
28D. ["Casablanca" pianist] – SAM. I must remember this.
50D. [Three-time Masters winner Sam] – SNEAD. Timely clue with the Masters ending yesterday.

Gerry Wildenberg does not appear in the vast Fiend database so this could be a debut. If so, congratulations!
*** stars.

Lynn Lempel’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 9 12 Lempel "Movie Monday"

How fortuitous that a movie title and its star have the same number of letters, and that the name of the puzzle’s subject also splits into first and last names with the same letter counts.

  • 15a. MARGARET, [With 50-Across, former English prime minister recently portrayed by 21-Across]
  • 21a. MERYL STREEP, [Star who won the Best Actress Oscar for 40-Across]
  • 40a. THE IRON LADY, [2011 biopic set in England]
  • 50a. THATCHER, [See 15-Across]

Mea Culpa Department: When reviewing this puzzle during the editorial process, the clue for 1-Down felt a tad off to me, but not enough so that I changed it. Commenter Erik contacted me this morning to say that the clue seemed to have it backwards, and indeed it does: An ARM is not [Something filled by a shirt sleeve], it’s something that fills a shirt sleeve. A shirt sleeve might sort of fill a coat sleeve, but generally not without an accompanying arm.

Nice to see a Z, Q, and X in the grid, isn’t it?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 4 9 12 answers

Interesting story about this puzzle. Brendan sent me an earlier version to test-solve, which unfortunately had TANK at 7-Down, duplicating part of 43d: TANK TOP. I can rejigger a corner of a grid with shorter answers, but three 7s stacked atop a long answer? A daunting prospect. You know how long it took Brendan to get a better corner? I think it was 5, maybe 10 minutes of work. And the new northwest corner is better than the original one. I don’t know that Brendan would accept placement in the ranks of the Crossword Jesuses, but he’s definitely at least one of the top Crossword Apostles.

Best stuff in the grid: Fresh phrase NHL MOCK DRAFT (I don’t understand mock drafts at all), the TIME BOMB/GIGOLOS/X FACTORS progression, Scrabbly JANET JACKSON, EDAMAME, STICK TO IT, the three-3s term DVD BOX SET, and BON JOVI. The Conversation Department is staffed by “LEAVE IT” (which my sister says to her dogs all the time) and “WHAT FOR?” I also like LITANY and OUTFOX; both are great words.

Three Four fave clues:

  • 1a. ATHEIST, [One who doesn't believe he's being watched?]
  • 39a. FIE, ["Thou pribbling hasty-witted moldwarp!"]
  • 7d. TOCK, [Second sound?]
  • 41d. BON JOVI,  [Band whose original name was Johnny Electric]

Four stars.

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27 Responses to Monday, 4/9/12

  1. Martin says:

    You don’t need to feel especially sorry for umami. There are many more than four or five types of taste receptors. For example, Indian cuisine blends piquant and astringent basic tastes with salty, sour, bitter and sweet. Apparently “fat” is a basic taste with receptor cells.

    These four basic tastes are more a philosophical continuum than neurological.

    There’s something to be said for the view that glutamate (umami) enhances flavors. The MSG industry (particularly Aji-no-Moto Co.) have spent millions elevating it to the top tier of taste components, and there is evidence that we have receptor cells specifically sensitive to glutamate and related amino acids. But we experience that taste very differently than the classic four. You can recognize a little salt or sugar on your tongue as the essence of a corresponding flavor in food. A little MSG on your tongue is different. There’s no hint that traces of that same unpleasant taste will multiply the “savoriness” of a dish, as it does.

  2. pannonica says:

    It’s on my to-read list:

    Taste What You’re Missing, by Barb Stuckey.

  3. JaxInL.A. says:

    Amy,
    Can you email me at jaxhamilton (at) gmail? I’d like to ask a couple of questions and perhaps make a proposition. If your email address is on the site, I couldnt find it. Thanks!
    Jacqueline Hamilton

  4. jefe says:

    Another goof in the BEQ for those solving on Facebook – 57A should be [Ketel One competitor], not Kettle One. Had me thinking popcorn instead of vodka.

  5. David says:

    UM, AM I missing something, or was there a fifth theme entry that should have been in the puzzle? (Yeah, I know Pannonica covered this already, but this forum is my only outlet for that sort of ‘humor’).

  6. Evad says:

    @Jax, if Amy hasn’t emailed you, her email is hidden behind her name in the upper right of this blog (above her profile). Just click her name and it should open up your mail program with a msg addressed to her.

    Appropriate to find an Easter Egg this morning, isn’t it?

  7. pannonica says:

    CS: I was under the impression that LOL was Laughing Out Loud. LAUGH TRACKS could relatively easily have been replaced with LAUGHING COW (La vache qui rit); that’s famous enough, no?

  8. janie says:

    HA-HA-HA and TITTER neatly open and close the cs, adding to the quality (and quantity) of the theme fill. in the words of ira gershwin: “…who’s got the last LAUGH now?”

    ;-)

  9. DGK says:

    NYT: nice Monday puzzle, but don’t like clue for SMITHY. A smith forges; a smithy is the place where forging is done.

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    @p–Delightfully droll Wodehouse reference.- LOL, HA-HA-HA, TITTER.

  11. Zulema says:

    I agree with DGK. It’s a small nit, I know, but it goes to the very meaning of language. And to those of us who were ever SMITHS’ clients a hundred years ago, it’s not in the obsolete category.

  12. cyberdiva says:

    Hey, Sam, what have you got against Arsène Lupin? The novels featuring him are great fun. I think my husband owns (and has read) every one of them. Frankly, I was surprised and delighted to see the clue in today’s CS puzzle.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    Ha – let’s allow for oddities in English? The product can be identified with the place of production as well as the person — wine:winery but winemaker; baker or grocer: bakery or grocery (though baked goods or groceries); the person who forges may be a forger at his forge, or a smith, but you can’t call his place a “forgery”… ergo, I’m not unhappy with the SMITHY!

  14. Martin says:

    I have yet to find an American dictionary that doesn’t support the smithy clue. The sense of “blacksmith” is not in the OED, but it’s clearly acceptable American usage.

  15. Old Geezer says:

    “Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands …” And then Longfellow describes the ‘smith.’

    Let one peron who is ignorant of the meaning of the word get a voice, and forever more it means the person rather than the place.

    Conjecture, yes, but …

    :)

  16. Daniel Myers says:

    The sense of blacksmith IS in the unabridged OED. It’s the last definition upon which OG elaborates supra: “[Said to have arisen through a misreading of Longfellow's line (qout. 1839 below)]“. The usage is limited to the U.S. – so says OED – and the last quotation listed is from – Where do you suppose? – the New York Times 1982, 21 November: “The main concern of a smithy is to make sure that his shoeing keeps a horse healthy.”

  17. Howard B says:

    The inclusion of NHL MOCK DRAFT put BEQ up over the top into the 5-star range today. There was just insane fill in every part of that grid, lurking around every corner. Had fun solving almost every bit of it.
    (Both NHLMOCK DRAFT and DVDBOXSET start with 4 ridiculous consonants each, making you question your ability to solve at times).
    I have no idea how he does it.

  18. Erik says:

    what howard said. dios mio

  19. Josh Bischof says:

    Just popped in to say exactly what Howard B already did: definitely a 5-star effort from BEQ today. Ridiculous, both the fill and cluing.

  20. maikong says:

    Am wondering if Bounder is the word of the week? Yesterday we had Roos and today we have that cad?

  21. Martin says:

    Thanks for noticing HAHAHA and TITTER Janie… they, nor their placement in the grid, were not accidental :)

    As for “Laugh out loud” vs. “Laughing out loud”, they are both correct.

    -MAS

  22. Daniel Myers says:

    I’ve never seen LOL used as “Laugh out loud” though I know a woman who, for the longest time, thought it meant “Lots of love”…..you can imagine the confusion this assumption caused…Speaking of confusion,

    Martin: “they, nor their placement in the grid, were not accidental” That nor-not double negative, on purpose?

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jax: Sorry, I forget that the blog has comments when someone else initially publishes the post and I don’t take an extra step to get comments emailed to me. See my name atop the right sidebar? Click that (or hover over it) for my email address.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    (Uh, as Evad already explained. I haven’t made it through all the comments yet!)

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @DM: You haven’t seen anyone write “I LOLed”? There’s no ‘ing in there, certainly.

  26. Daniel Myers says:

    @Amy-No, I haven’t. Put it down to my own lack of experience. I’ve only encountered it as as the stand alone acronym. But, hey, at least I never thought it meant “Lots of love,” – sigh – thereby hangs a long tale…..LOL :-)

  27. janie says:

    mas — de nada — figgered those extra laughs were there by design! the more the merrier, eh?

    ;-)

Comments are closed.