Thursday, 4/19/12

NYT 6:17 
Fireball 5:30 
LAT 5:26 (Neville) 
CS 6:08 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
Tausig untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

* Have you blogged it yet? No? Me, neither.

Sean Dobbin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 4 19 12 0419

It wasn’t until after I finished the puzzle that I realized the missing letters outside the grid for 4d, 7d, and 10d were all R’s and thus were not merely OUTSIDERS but OUTSIDE R’S. Neat trick.

Mr. Dobbin, have you done crosswords for decades? If so, you have probably seen the classic clue [Morsel for Dobbin], answer OAT. Apparently Dobbin is the crosswordese name for a horse, much like Fido, Spot, Rover, or Rex for a pooch. Sean “Morsel for” Dobbin, that’s how I’ve got you in my head now. So sorry!

Anyone else try a few wrong answers at 20a: [World capital at 7,200+ feet elevation]? Usually we get a higher elevation and it’s LA PAZ or LHASA, but this time I find out that Yemen’s SANAA is higher than Denver. Who knew?

Other things that slowed me down: ALEC Trevelyan and ILSE Steppat (more Lesser Known James Bond names, please! I mean, please no more); ASANTE, ["Thank you," in Swahili] (I wanted UBUNTU); and SELECTS clued as a noun, [Superior things], which is an odd choice.

Peculiar clue alert! [Ones protected by the safety net, with "the"] clues POOR. Wait, is Mitt Romney guest-editing this puzzle? My bad—Romney said he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, who have a safety net. The working poor, the long-term unemployed poor, and plenty of the not-all-the-way-to-destitute/homeless poor have, of course, fallen through the gaping holes in this safety net. (As have many of the very poor, unfortunately.)

The double-H theme layout (the OUTSIDE R’S crossbar connecting the three 15s) must’ve constrained fill options, because the RASE, OTTO I, EST’D, ASTR, TROI stuff felt a tad overabundant, as did the inflected forms (DURABLY, DRESSES, VASTEST, HOER). I did like POINT B when I finally figured it out ([End of many trips]), and NITPICKS, VENDETTA, TUSH, and the double Fats Domino references. Plus the playing piece fake-out in the (r)OCK AND ROLL SINGE(r) clue, [Checker or Domino].

3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless Fiddy”

Fireball 4/19

Who doesn’t like a little OMPHALOSKEPSIS ([Navel-gazing]) in a crossword? And look, the OMP crosses another OMP in WHOOMP THERE IT IS ([Hip-hop duo Tag Team's only hit]? Yeah, I couldn’t have told you their name, but the song is eternal**). PRESSURE COOKERS are clued more interestingly as stressful situations rather than as kitchen gadgets. And the other long answer is CHELSEA CLINTON, though it PAINEs me to see the words “porn star” in her clue.

I’m glad that Doug Peterson has joined Peter Gordon in exploring the potential of 14-letter answers in themelesses. So many answers maxing out at 11 letters or running 15, very few 13s and 14s. Bring ‘em on, I say. Especially if they aren’t heavily laden with the sort of letters we find in TEST SITE.

Never heard of CLIPSE at 21d. Recent rap duo or old one? Perhaps from the baroque era?

I think [Sister of Anton?] means “sister character written by Anton Chekhov,” but that pushes a little hard on the door of what “sister of __” means. IRINA‘s one of his Three Sisters, yes?

Favorite clue: [Part of G.R.O.S.S., the club in "Calvin and Hobbes"] isn’t, as I often misremember, “Girls R Slimy and Gross” (which doesn’t work at all with the acronit). It’s “Get RID Of Slimy girlS.”

3.75 stars.

** Yesterday at IHOP, the opening strains of a song on the sound system triggered a frightening instinct in me. “Christopher Cross,” I said. My husband thought I was wrong, that it was someone else—until the vocals began and confirmed it. (Usually he’s way better at identifying songs than I am.) And then! The song didn’t sound familiar after all. Googled it, and it turns out it hit something like #15 on Billboard but went to #1 on the adult contemporary charts (which I was not listening to in 8th grade, I swear), whereas the more easily remembered Cross songs were huge mainstream hits, but less popular on adult contemporary. I won’t look up the song title (which I’ve already forgotten) because I don’t want to interfere with the other Christopher Cross earworms that are insinuating themselves inside you now. But I digress.

Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 19 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 19 12

O, JAI! It’s a feat in and of itself to construct a puzzle without relying on a few well-placed plurals ending in S, but this puzzle takes it a step further.

  • 20a. [Phenoms] – WUNDERKINDER
  • 55a. [Trochee and iamb] – METRICAL FEET
  • 3d. [Some living legends] – GRAND OLD MEN
  • 5d. [Exemplars of poverty] – CHURCH MICE
  • 26d. [Some molars] - WISDOM TEETH
  • 32d. [Museums for astronomy buffs] – PLANETARIA
  • 59d. [Last letter in most plurals (but not in this puzzle's six longest answers, which are the only plurals in the grid)] – ESS

This puzzle didn’t feel GIMMICKY to me – just a solid theme idea with a nice selection of plurals. I’m glad we saw a German and a Latin plural in there, not just a reliance on one language. The choice of ESS as a revealing entry provided a nice AHA that I doubt I would’ve caught otherwise. Beyond these six longer entries, there’s not too much that grabs you and makes you fall in love with it, though.

ILE and ISLA get enough play in crosswords that the Italian ISOLA is a welcome foreign word. It pairs right nicely with NIKOLA Tesla.

CMVI got the Peter Gordon Roman numeral math treatment with [CCCII x III], which I approve of, especially since I see more and more people relying on a calculator for basic math these days. Underneath, [Gray with age] had me looking for a verb, but the answer is HOARY. People don’t use the word hoar much these days (spellcheck even thinks it’s wrong), and I blame homophones.

The link of -ITE and ORE makes the suffix a little more welcome than usual as far as constructor’s glue is concerned. Can’t SCOWL at that, nor at AU JUS. And with that, ADIEU!

Updated Thursday morning:

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

Solution to CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, April 19

Whenever theme entries run down instead of across, there’s usually a reason for it. Here, it’s because the start of each theme entry contains a type of tree. By placing the entries vertically, we thus get “tree tops:”

  • 3-Across: ELMER GANTRY is the [Satirical Sinclair Lewis novel] that was (or is) likely required reading for many readers of this blog. I managed to take my share of literature classes high school and college, but I never had to read Elmer Gantry. I still haven’t. Should I?
  • 9-Across: The [West Coast football player] is an OAKLAND RAIDER. Yes, I first considered SEATTLE SEAHAWK, but I saw there weren’t enough squares.
  • 18-Down: ASHTON KUTCHER is both the ["Punk'd" co-creator] and [The guy who ruined "Two and a Half Men"].
  • 26-Down: The PINEAL GLAND is a [Melatonin source]. I’ll say “true.” Oh wait, this isn’t a quiz, is it?

Please tell me there’s not a tree hidden at the top of PREFECT, the [Parisian police officer] that sits in the center of the grid. The pref tree?

The re-configuration of theme entries from Across to Down to drive home the “tops” aspect is a nice touch. I liked that we also had some OWLS and a PERCH in the grid, though now I’m wondering if it was intentional to have an ASS sticking out from the pine tree. There was plenty of interesting fill too, like CUM LAUDE, BROWN RICE, CIRCUS ACT, NOT FAIR, the EVERLAST brand from boxing, and YO HO HO (what are pirates doing in the forest?).

I was lost at the intersection of CLEW, the [Ball of yarn], and LAA LAA, the [Yellow Teletubby] with which I am, to put it mildly, unfamiliar. CHEW seemed to me to be a fine answer–aren’t there at least some cats that will chew on a ball of yarn in addition to batting it around with a paw? And HAA LAA was as good as anything else. Finding that error took me over the six-minute mark, but otherwise the solving experience felt efficient enough.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Touchy-feely Question”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 4 19 12 "Touchy-feely Question" answers

Brendan’s theme today is a quote from novelist Sherman Alexie, who also happens to be a BEQ solver. It says:

HOW TERRIFYINGWOULD THE FIFTHDATE BE WITH A /SEXADVICE COLUMNIST?

Yes, I imagine you’d eventually show up in your partner’s column; a fraught proposition to the average person, I’d hazard. So if it has to be a quote puzzle, this is a good one (although why the fifth date? Is there a significance to that number?). Easy to blog a quote puzzle: you just tell everyone the quote and who said it, and done.

Left-right symmetry to accommodate the quote, so not much from 3-point range; BREWPUB is good, though. Also like vowelless MSNBC and DR J as the first two across (only one vowel in the whole top row, in fact). Odd plurals like PAPYRI are welcome of course, and the margins are all Scrabbly.

Best clue: [Ancient Civ paper?] for the aforementioned PAPYRI.

4.00 on starrage. Or maybe 3.97, though 4.02 is also defensible. Anyway, around there someplace. Thanks for the solve, Brendan!

Updated Thursday evening:

Here it is, nearly time to move on to the Friday puzzles and I have two Thursday puzzles left to blog. Well! Let me tell you that I am in no mood to do anything at all except whine and/or holler. Or maybe cuss. So these will be blessedly short reviews.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “High Season”

Ben Tausig Ink Well crossword solution, "High Season" 4/20/12

Five answers have been created by sticking a little THC (1a: [April 20th substance, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]) into actual phrases. Ear hair (eww!) becomes EARTH CHAIR. Go ape is GOTH CAPE. A slangy bro hug becomes a BROTH CHUG. Tee up on the golf course and put your dentures in a TEETH CUP. Saving the best for last, Ben has converted the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” into MYTH CHUMPS (you know–those gullible types who forward you all those urban legends and other untrue tripe).

Lots of white space in the corners, especially the SW and NE. Fun fill includes THE DUDE, I’M TIRED, NOONER, and RELINED. (Just checking to see if you’re awake here with that last one.) How do you like 30d: DOT EDU? I almost wish there were a college for helicopter parents’ kids, Doted U.

3.75 stars.

Dave Tuller’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 19 12

If you don’t know the song that’s featured in this crossword, I can tell you that I found the song incessantly annoying every time my kid listened to it on the radio, but once I saw this video, I was a convert. Zombies! Breakdancing! Goofball fashions! Good times.

  • 16a/17a. PARTY ROCK ANTHEM, [2011 hit for 47-Across]
  • 30a. SKY BLU, [A 47-Across DJ]
  • 33a. REDFOO, [A 47-Across DJ (uncle of 30-Across)]
  • 43a. BERRY GORDY, [Motown founder who is the father of 33-Across and grandfather of 30-Across: 2 wds.]
  • 47a. LMFAO, [Electro pop duo]

Rough fill, with SAB crossing SACRA, AWK, BLACK EYED split off from a singular PEA, LEY, and the hard-to-clue-easily CYRIL and LUC.

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23 Responses to Thursday, 4/19/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Was it Never Be The Same?

  2. john farmer says:

    The NYT theme is simple but sweet. Three 17s, all crossing the central reveal, with big open corners. Nice. Congrats to Sean Dobbins on the debut. I’m impressed. Btw, same here on LHASA and LAPAZ. I liked the Bond names, even if ILSE is a bit of a reach. (Lazenby!)

    I’m a fan of FB themelesses, and 14s in general, but I’m on the fence about OMPHALOSKEPSIS. Maybe it’s just me, but I needed every crossing to get it and one or two letters were guesses. CRIPSE? CLIPSE? CHELSEA CLINTON is good fresh fill, but the clue is my least favorite in this or any other puzzle. The snickering of Rush Limbaugh fans (assuming they’d be capable of solving the puzzle) outweighs the cleverness behind the clue. Not the hardest of FBs, but otherwise a fun time.

    Next time you’re at IHOP trying to identify the name of song, remember there’s an app for that.

  3. ALEC Trevelyan was the first thing in the grid for me, since I played a ridiculous amount Goldeneye 007 way back in the day. ILSE Stepphat, on the other hand, was a total unknown—needed every cross.

  4. pannonica says:

    “hybiynmn”?

    The Houyhnhnms were such intelligent, gentle, and dispassionate creatures. What are they doing here on this blog?

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    I liked the “porn star name” clue. Though, I thought it was supposed to be your first pet’s name plus your mother’s maiden name, meaning hers might be SOCKS RODHAM. Pennsylvania? The street where you lived with that pet, I suppose.

    In that case, my porn star name would be a gender-bending SALVATRICE BOSTON.

    Might look good in lights.

  6. Matt says:

    I thought the FB was excellent– OMPHALOSKEPSIS is a good word to keep in mind, just in case. Also liked the NYT, reminiscent of the ‘R and R’ theme of last Sunday’s diagramless puzzle.

  7. HH says:

    “I thought it was supposed to be your first pet’s name plus your mother’s maiden name”

    What if, like myself, you never had a pet?

  8. sps says:

    And my kids say it’s the your middle name and the name of your street…

    I thought the NYT, while it was a clever theme, had too many classic, overused clues: the Matthew 26:22 clue, the Safire clue, the blarney clue, the trig clue, etc., etc.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    No, middle name and street name are your soap opera name, not your porn star name. Porn star name goes with pet. @HH, you’ll just have to use a generic pet name like Fido or Fluffy.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    Think HH should use “Chia” — figurative pet!

  11. pannonica says:

    “What if, like myself, you never had a pet?” –HH

    That might explain a lot.

    LAT:
    Unlike Neville, I strongly dislike Roman numeral clues such as 2a. They engender needless busywork for a solver. It isn’t that doing arithmetic is difficult, it’s just that the attendant conversions represent an unnecessary speed bump (even for those who aren’t solving for time). If a constructor has to resort to Random Roman Numeral Fill, he or she shouldn’t try to dress it up with equally random arithmetic (or hopelessly obscure dates, especially those involving coronations of lesser popes).

    That was the clue following 1a, which had already put a sour taste in my mouth. [Historical novel, usually] SAGA. No! Not “usually.” Often, or occasionally, but there are acres and acres (possibly most, i.e. comprising the “usual” type) of historical novels that span relatively short—and sometimes objectively very short—time periods. I regard this one rather harshly because the lead clue in a puzzle bears a greater responsibility for accuracy; had it been buried in the grid, I wouldn’t take such epic umbrage.

    I also didn’t like the gratuitous cross-referenced clues for small, bland fill, especially as both referring clues precede the referenced clues. For some reason I find “retro” cross references less offensive, perhaps because the solver has ostensibly (I stress that) already encountered the referent? 33a [10-Down suffix] -ITE / 10d [Raw material] ORE (this also contra Neville (as Daniel Meyers would write)). 46a [64-Across spec] EEE / 64a [Nine West product] SHOE.

    Particularly icky fill: OJAI, OF THY, UNPOT, ADDR., ADIT (not, you’ll notice, cross referenced with either 33a or 10d), AT. NO.

    What I liked most in the puzzle (yes, I did care for parts of it): AHA [Word of discovery] immediately following the theme revealer ESS (60d and 59d).

  12. pannonica says:

    BEQnits: 55a ORVIS (the fishing-cum-fashion outfit) is a competitor with liquidator Sierra Trading Post? Really? Only in the vaguest sense, in that they’re both apparel and accessory retailers. 32d Is BBC a “channel” somewhere? In the UK, it’s BBC One, BBC Two, et al., and here we have BBC America. I admit that I haven’t had television—cable or otherwise—for years and my knowledge is out of date.

  13. Greg says:

    I agree with pannonica so I can keep it short. The Barocas puzzle is lame, was not fun, and seemed more like a chore.

  14. Sean says:

    Pannonica sure does rant a lot!

  15. pannonica says:

    Yesterday and today I felt a particular compulsion.

  16. Sean says:

    It’s sad to watch.

  17. pannonica says:

    Why so?

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    I, for one, welcome Ranty McRant’s contributions.

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Not sure why both the “safety net” clue and the Chelsea Clinton clue set me on edge. In the first case I started wondering if there was some political undertone which I should be bristling at; in the second, I was startled by and wondered if I should be offended by, the incongruous image of Chelsea as a porn star. But even after a fair amount of omphaloskepsis, I don’t know that there’s anything really objectionable about those clues.

    I liked yesterday’s “round dance” puzzle a lot. (Didn’t do it until today.) Congrats to Steve. Was it a debut? I don’t recognize his name. But I’m amazed that the puzzle generated a near record number (so far as I can remember) of comments.

    Stan: YES–I too think Bernard Herrmann is a superb composer, and yes, North by NW is a kind of fandango, though ‘fandango’ is a loosely defined dance form. The typical fandango is in 3/8 or 6/8 and the rhythm is often subdivided into 4 16th notes on the second of the three beats (2nd and 4th beats in 6/8 meter.) So Ravel’s Bolero is clearly a fandango. (Think of the of rhythm–DUMP dadadada DUMP dadadada DUMP DUMP, etc. Fandangos are often, but not always characterized by a passacaglia-like descending chord progression. . .Anyhow–I liked the puzzle a lot.

    Bruce

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    To belatedly answer Jeffrey, yes, that was the song. I had honestly re-forgotten the title until you mentioned it.

  21. Matthew G. says:

    My understanding is that one’s porn-star name is the name of your first pet plus the first word of the name of the street you grew up on.

    So the Chelsea Clinton clue made perfect sense to me, although it kind of made my skin crawl as it did Bruce’s. I guess it’s silly enough that it’s okay, but I was discomfited.

    Elsewhere, I had to google to finish the Fireball this week. OMPHALOSKEPSIS, ARTURO, KANE and some other entries in that vicinity were too tough for me.

    Signed,
    Tigger Riverview

  22. jefe says:

    @Sam – Never read Elmer Gantry, and wouldn’t have been familiar with it had it not been the Final Jeopardy answer on Wednesday.

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