Tuesday, 4/10/12

NYT 3:08 
LAT 3:44 (Neville) 
Jonesin' untimed 
CS 5:47 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 

Gregory Philip Butler’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 10 12 0410

In keeping with my habit of not reading the full theme-revealer clue until after I’ve finished the puzzle, I went through this whole crossword having no idea what the theme was. The clue for ROLE REVERSAL at the end points you towards the ELOR (reversed ROLE) inside DANIEL ORTEGA, a BARREL ORGAN (which is … perhaps not such a broadly known term), and a NAVEL ORANGE. You know what? I was at the grovery store today when the freshly squeezed OJ was being squoze. My gosh, that’s a wonderful aroma. And a BARREL ORGAN is this sort of thing, with an organ grinder (accompanying monkey optional).

Lots of clunky fill here, and fill that’s too tough for a Tuesday puzzle. Those 8- and 10-letter answers in the non-theme fill knock the word count down to themeless level, but with compromises like AREAL (clued as a partial, but also a single word that’s derived from AREA, which crosses AREAL), the mystifying BLOATER ([Smoked herring]? I only know of the “blue bloaters” and “pink puffers” in pulmonary medicine), ERNE, BEGEM (“If they still haven’t given you what you want, BEG ‘EM! And then threaten to kneecap ‘em.”), always boring OLEO, and ALLA. I knew famous (among doctors) old physician William OSLER because I’ve worked in medical publishing, and I knew the VIREOS because I grew up with my folks eyeballing the birds visiting the birdfeeders—but it would be hard to argue that most people doing the Tuesday puzzle will nail both of these answers.

Also, what’s with cluing Daniel SCHORR as a [Late NPR newsman]? He’s dead? Is that why he hasn’t been tweeting lately?

I wanted 40a: [1970s Chevy] to be the NOVA, but it’s VEGA. Ms. Subramaniam, I thought of you, of course. And for 24d: [Alfalfa's girl in "The Little Rascals"], I thought of you, Ms. Spiers, when I filled in DARLA.

Most alarming clue/answer combo, which I didn’t see until just now: [What a milkmaid holds] and TEAT. Anyone else moving on to thinking of Milk Duds? No? Just me?

4d: SATIABLE spurred me to check the dictionary. Satiate is the main entry, and subsidiary SATIABLE is listed as “archaic.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen the word before.

2.75 stars. Over and out.

Updated Tuesday morning:

David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 10 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 10 12

Today’s puzzle wasn’t hard at all. You might even say that it’s AS EASY AS ABC. Look for a consecutive ABC in each of these theme entries:

  • 17a. [It arranges pickups] – CAB COMPANY
  • 25a. [Emir] – ARAB CHIEF
  • 50a. [Maryland seafood fare] – CRAB CAKES
  • 59a. [Sit-up relatives] – AB CRUNCHES

I had the pleasure of meeting constructor David Steinberg at the ACPT this year. He’s far too young to remember ["The Prisoner of] ZENDA” or BELA [Lugosi of "Dracula]. Heck, I bet he’s not even seen Tony DANZA on TV. I think ESME, [Carlisle's wife in "Twilight"] is more in the right age range.

Some quick thoughts:

  • 10d. [Tiny fairy tale hero] – TOM THUMB is the sparkliest bit of fill here, from my viewpoint; AXE MAN is a close second. The rest is… okay.
  • 26d. [Having a lot of nerve] – BRASSY, but I tried BRAZEN first. I least I put in SERTA instead of SEALY.
  • 54a. [The Lusitania, e.g.] – LINER. I mentioned the Lusitania to one of my students yesterday, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I’m officially concerned about the college admissions process.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What a Shock!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Solution to Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, April 10

I hate when a good solving time is ruined because of two little squares that just won’t yield. But more on that later. Let’s get through the theme first. The four longest Across entries begin with words that can precede “shock:”

  • 17-Across: [Some art gallery patrons] are described as CULTURE VULTURES (“culture shock”). I’m more of a “word nerd” myself.
  • 25-Across: The [Place to gas up with a scallop as its logo] is a SHELL STATION (“shell shock”) and not, as I wondered, a SEAFOOD RESTAURANT THAT SERVES CHILI.
  • 42-Across: The [Figure on a new car] is the STICKER PRICE, which certainly can induce “sticker shock”). Hmm. Is the connection between the “stick” phrase (sticker stock) and the theme entry (sticker price) a little too close for comfort?
  • 55-Across: Holy cow, it’s FUTURE INTERESTS (“future shock”), the [Legal concept regarding real property] that I cover in my property law classes. Seeing work and crosswords collide is a little unnerving, like the mixing of Relationship George with Independent George.

Okay, now the two blank squares. My Waterloo Moment (or, if you prefer, my “aha moment”–”aha” being the reverse of “aha”) was at the intersection of 59- and 62-Across with 50- and 56-Down. I was positive with the VI- in place that the [Specimen holder] was a VIAL, but that didn’t fit nicely next to ENT, which had to be the answer to [Middle-earth inhabitant]. Certainly NACE was not the answer to [Ruff stuff]–that had to be something related to a canine (I know, I know) and NACE has the assortment of letters that leads me to think I would have seen it in crosswords before now if it was a legitimate word. And no amount of rationalization in the world was going to make TLED the answer to [Took a powder]. Certainly that answer would be a synonym for “rested” or “relaxed,” I thought. (Sigh.)

I just couldn’t unravel it. I tried to think of a canine-related term that ended with -ACE, but MACE and FACE were the closest I could get. (It never occurred to me that the “ruff” could be anything but dog-related.) It wasn’t until I tried to make sense of the “took a powder” clue that it finally broke open. I tried thinking of anything that fit -LED. I tried BLED (by this point, I just wanted a word…something…anything–I didn’t care whether it fit the clue). SLED spent some time in there too. (“Could ETS be Middle-earth residents?” I wondered.) Finally, I tried FLED, which suggested the Middle-earther was an ELF instead of an ENT. At last that gave me LACE for the “ruff stuff” and the happy message that I had solved the puzzle.

Looking back, I’m taking away two lessons. First, random letters can be my friend. Second, “take a powder” doesn’t mean “relax” or “take a break.” It means “skip town” or “get out of a thorny situation fast.” Maybe that’s what I should do with this review, before it gets more embarrassing.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Jonesin' crossword answers, 4 10 12 "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

I might add another “Turn!” to the song title because this theme’s got four examples of 48a: DOWNWARD SPIRALS ([What the four longest entries in this puzzle (except this one) are examples of]), all running downward:

  • 4d. CINNAMON BUN, [Sweet breakfast]. A spiral of dough with thin brown interstitial layers of cinnamon. On Chicago’s North Side, Ann Sather’s restaurants add two sides to your breakfast order. You could get toast and fruit, say, or hashbrowns and two giant cinnamon buns slathered with glaze, big enough to fill you up without the omelet and hashbrowns.
  • 27d. BOX SPRINGS, [They support sleepers]. Technically, this one is multiple spirals.
  • 28d. SNAIL SHELL, [Slowpoke's home].
  • 10d. STOVE BURNER, [Surface for a pot of boiling water]. Electric burners only, as gas burners and their grates aren’t spiral.

Didn’t even notice before that the grid has left/right symmetry. A pretty symmetry is obvious, but the ones that look more like they have random agglomerations of black squares? I don’t gaze so closely. Also hadn’t notice 24a: SPRANG, [Jumped (out)], which more or less duplicates part of BOX SPRINGS.

Best entries: Pouty ZELLWEGER (though I misread the clue as [Poultry actress Renee]), PAULA DEEN, AGENT K (new MIB 3 flick coming out soon), LADY GAGA, DAWGS. And DOWNWARD SPIRALS is a great phrase unto itself. I also like “shame spiral,” which I think I learned from Senator Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live.

Clue I needed every crossing for:

  • 45a. LUO, [Kenyan ethnic group that Barack Obama, Sr. was part of]

3.75 stars.

Donna Levin’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”

Donna Levin's Celebrity crossword answers, 4 10 12 "TV Tuesday"

Boy, this was not an easy theme for me. I don’t watch the cooking competition shows often. That’s more my husband’s domain, and he’s seen more of the dessert competitions than the Top Chef shows lately.

  • 17a. TOP CHEF: TEXAS, [Title of the most recent season of the Bravo reality series whose losers are told, "Please pack your knives and go!"]
  • 31a. EMERIL LAGASSE, [Judge on 17-Across]
  • 41a. TOM COLICCHIO, [Judge on 17-Across]

Had no idea Emeril was on that show. Just the TX season? And I wouldn’t know Tom Colicchio if he walked up and introduced himself. I’d say, “I’m sorry, what was that last name again? Can you spell that, please? Nice to meet you, Tim.”

Nice to sport a DASHIKI, or [Brightly colored African shirt]. And I like the neighboring nationalities: SAUDI, GRECIAN (Formula, anyone? Here’s the classic Pete Rose commercial.), and JAPANESE.

Fresh clue for TARA: [Actress Reid of "American Reunion"]. I’ve been hoping this American Pie years-later sequel does well enough at the box office that we can quit cluing TARA with Toni Collette’s canceled-last-year Showtime series, The United States of Tara, and go back to Tara Reid. Guess what? The movie grossed $21 million in its opening weekend just a few days ago, which means about 2 million viewers in 3 days. The Showtime series had … 230,000 viewers? Ms. Reid wins!

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14 Responses to Tuesday, 4/10/12

  1. John E says:

    I thought today’s NYT was a manageable challenge – it was actually kind of fun.

    Interesting that SATIABLE is archaic yet INSATIABLE is fairly common. I would think the prefixed or suffixed word forms would be the less common version.

  2. rex says:

    I ate an ORDINATE amount of food for dinner.

    Whoever gave this 4 stars should have his/her ratings license revoked.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Nice NYT debut for Gregory! I saw the OR- at the start of the second word in each otherwise unconnected theme answer, so finding the reversal of ROLE at the end led to a chuckle… The LAT was similarly easy, even though I began at the bottom and was wondering what RUNCHES might be leading to besides brunches: shades of a satiable appetite like Rex’s?

  4. john farmer says:

    Methinks some people enjoy giving low ratings to puzzles. Boo.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Really enjoyed Sam D.’s review of Hartman’s “What a Shock!” — I got the whole puzzle filled in okay, but never went back to consider what the theme might be… Talk about spine-tingling: I saw a news report on the American History channel (Neville might assign a few hours there to his students) — and it was about the discovery of a boarded-up third-floor office in D.C. in a block scheduled for demolition. The GSA carpenter who was checking out the building for the last time had paused to gaze out the second-floor window, when he felt a tap on his shoulder twice. No one was there, but it led him to spot an envelope over his head, caught in a trap door. After grabbing a ladder to check out the letter, he made his way into what turned out to be Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office — as she’d last left it in 1868, complete with lists and correspondence from bereaved families seeking lost relatives, plus amazing artifacts like bloody socks saved to be recycled. He was able to get the discovery checked out by a very skeptical Park Service higher-up in time to prevent the demolition, and it will become D.C.’s newest museum next year after restoration! Hair-raising true tale…

  6. Martin says:

    Not every dictionary indicates satiable archaic. In fact none of mine do.

    This is a good opportunity to point out that the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition has the final say. If, and only if, the RHUD included an “archaic” tag in its entry for satiable, it should have been signaled in the clue. It doesn’t and it wasn’t.

    We sometimes forget that crossword clues are considered editorial content by the Times. This means that disagreeing with editorial standards on something like whether a word is obsolete, archaic or otherwise non-standard is a no-no. Thus, a publically declared standard (the RHUD).

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, you didn’t finish your thought there.

    I bet the NYT’s news and features editors wouldn’t blithely let a reporter drop”satiable” into a sentence unless he/she was being whimsical. And just because RHUD-2 includes something in a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s universally accepted that way and it doesn’t mean we can’t say “that word stinks and is obsolete and I’ve never, ever encountered it, so I’m pretty sure it has no place in a Tuesday (Tuesday!) crossword.”

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    (And you would do better to cite the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which also includes the word without an “archaic” tag and which we’ve also been told is one of Will’s accepted references. We expect RHUD to include thousands of words we’d hate to see in a crossword.)

  9. Martin says:

    Huh?

    I never said you can’t think satiable stinks. I never even thought it. I was merely pointing out that even if Will might have thought it would improve the clue, he couldn’t have included an archaic signal.

    And I’m not sure what your second comment means. I did cite the MW11C (my link). Did you mean “you would better than to cite…”? I really am not sure what you mean.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Oh, your “Thus…” sentence wasn’t meant to have a verb. Never mind that.

    I do recommend the New Oxford American Dictionary. Its American editors began with the 1998 Now Oxford Dictionary of English, so it’s fresher and more modern. It’s huge and it’s derived from a corpus of contemporary English usage. I wonder how many of the RHUD definitions have merely been reviewed and left as is for decades.

  11. Martin says:

    You’re a strict editor.

  12. Steven J. St. John says:

    The fact that satiable is archaic and insatiable is fairly common might be a comment on modern society…

  13. Scott says:

    I first learned the term “take a powder” from a crossword some time back. Then, as I watched my favorite movie channel (TCM) I realized how often it came up, especially in 30′s and 40′s gangster movies. It’s now one of my favorite terms, despite it’s rather dubious etymology. Thus, even though I always want “Middle-Earth inhabitant” to be an Ent, I had no problem getting Elf.

    As always, I love sam’s reviews. I know from his commentary that we have similar minds and solve alike.

  14. jefe says:

    Had Ent for ELF as well, compounded with VIse for VIAL. With that E there, I was considering peED for [Took a powder] as in “made a trip to the powder room”.

    Sticker shock is definitely derived from sticker price, so I didn’t like that.

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