Friday, 5/4/12

LAT 4:27 
NYT 4:16 
CS 6:17 (Sam) 
CHE 9:46 (w/ one quantum error – pannonica) 
Tausig untimed 
WSJ (Friday) 10:05 (pannonica) 

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 5 4 12 0504

I can’t help feeling that 5/72 clues being sports-related is too much. I’m pretty sure much less than 7% of my mind is dedicated to sports, but probably considerably more than 7% of Barry Silk’s is. Thus SIXERS GAME (who knew Wells Fargo had a stadium that far east, in Barry’s beloved Philadelphia?), MILT (“Never Heard of Him”) Pappas, STAN MUSIAL, ESPN’s SUZY Kolber, and a Buffalo SABRE. Meh.

Loves: 5a: JAWS OF LIFE (but not so much “emergency” in the clue and EMS at 40a; a repeat of “life-saving” in 5a’s clue would have been nice). Opening rhymes of EARLY RISER and WHIRLY BIRD at 16a and 18a. 37a: MAELSTROM, a cool word. The Beatles’ RUBBER SOUL, with a clue that made me think it would be something like “I CAN’T GET UP” (50a: [Follower of "Help!"]). In general, I liked the long Acrosses a good bit more than the Downs.

Dislikes: Opening 1a with a crosswordese duck, the [Goldeneye relative] called the SMEW. The I-only-see-this-one-in-crosswords ODER-NEISSE Line. Partials I ATE, IS IN. Abbrevs PENNA, SEP. Short names MOAB, RAGU, WES, RUDI, EBEN, MILT, REA, OYL, ERDA, PASO.

This puzzle felt less polished than the typical Barry Silk crossword, so I’ll go with 3.25 stars. It’s been a long day. Maybe the puzzle’s better than I give it credit for?

Caleb Rasmussen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Thinking Inside the Box” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 5/4/12 • "Thinking Inside the Box • Rasmussen • solution

Oh, so geeky! The theme is the famous 1935 Gedankenexperiment, which has insinuated itself into popular culture in so many ways.

  • 33a. [Item in Schrödinger's box (and in this puzzle) that exists in two different states simultaneously] LIVE/DEAD CAT, more on this later.
  • 20a. [Item in a sealed box, in a famous thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger] FLASK OF POISON.
  • 53a. [Item in Schrödinger's box that detects if a radioactive particle decays, thus triggering a hammer to shatter 20-Across] GEIGER COUNTER.

So I had filled in the grid with DEAD CAT in the center, but… ach! Keine Herr Glücklich Bleistift. Was war los? Used the trusty insert function to add the letters of both LIVE and DEAD in the squares and the rewording was properly rewarded. This sort of gimmick has been used before (notably in the 1996 New York Times CLINTON/BOB DOLE puzzle) and, as with those others, the crossing answers and clues work with either letter.

  • 21d [Knight's trusty thing] STEE(L)/STEE(D).
  • 30d [Rests] S(I)TS/S(E)TS.
  • 34d [It helps one accomplish a goal] (V)IM/(A)IM.
  • 31d [What follows the second letter of the alphabet] C(E)E/C(D)E.

Unlike the absolute equilibrium of the experiment, these lexical ambiguities tend one way or the other. For this solver, it was STEED, SITS, AIM, and—in the most balanced entry—CEE (which I chose because of 36a [Kindergarten learning] ABCS). That got me, provisionally of course, DIAE CAT. One way to look at it is that it’s half DeAd and half lIvE even on that level. Anyway, this is a perfect subject for the theme mechanism.

Is it wishful thinking or does the central section of the grid—the part that deviates from the mirror symmetry elsewhere (the grid retains standard 180° rotational symmetry)—resemble a one-state-or-the-other Necker cube?

Okay, let’s look at the rest of the puzzle. There are the symmetrically paired ABNORMAL/VISITORS, and SARCASM/PIPETTE. As enamored as I am of the stories they seem to tell together, each has an excellent clue: 50a [Wonky] in the sense of awry or ABNORMAL, rather than obsessed with the nerdy or arcane, as might be expected for the Chronicle. 23a [Team with fewer rooters] VISITORS, obviously a handicap in competitive truffling. 46a ["The language of the devil": Carlyle] SARCASM, which if potent enough, can be successfully delivered via PIPETTE [Titration tool] (27a). That’s Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881).

And then the fully symmetrical vertical triple sevens: FOXFIRE/ARAL SEA/REMAINS; FRASIER/LECONTE/END NOTE; BATGIRL/CREEPER/SCRIPPS; MORTALS/NUMERAL/OCARINA. Very solid, at all times. Speaking of Carlyle, and the devil (at least in his original, light form), FOXFIRE is attributed to the enzyme luciferase. Foxfire, the bioluminescent fungi, not to be confused with firefox, the flashy misnomer for Ailurus fulgens, the red panda. Oh, and that’s [French tennis champ Henri] LECONTE (b. 1963), not to be confused with French tennis champ René LACOSTE (1904–1996).

Else:

  • 31a & 57a: double-duty clue, {Moving machine part] CAM and ROTOR.
  • 58a: Literate clue for ARID, referencing Emily Dickinson’s poem.
  • 65a: Originally had SLAB for SLAW [Raw side]; mine is the more visceral image. Also, LOLLS for LOAFS at 7d.
  • Naughty sequential clues: 35d [Wyoming's Grand __ National Park] TETON, 36d ["The Golden __" (Apuleius work)] ASS.
  • BALTO [Iditarod trail runner] stymied me for a while, had me thinking of breeds rather than an individual dog who was the inspiration for the race; perhaps I was nudged by the stacked clue below, [Wolfpack member] U-BOAT. I’m sure the Disneyfied version has the husky facing down some wolves.

Very enjoyable.

From Josh Cooley's "Movies R Fun!" (Lil' Inappropriate Books)

Updated Friday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 4

About two-thirds of the way through the solve, I finally looked at the puzzle’s title. I visibly shuddered, which must have been a cause for concern to the person sitting next to me on the flight. I thought the names of various European and Asian port cities would be buried in the theme entries, and that’s never been my strong suit in crosswords. But then I got to 64-Down, which told me USB was the [Computer port found in the four longest answers]. Whew–that’s one port I know! Sure enough, you’ll see the U-S-B letter sequence straddling the two words in each of the theme entries:

  • 17-Across: A [Misconception] is not a RENEGADE EMBRYO but an ERRONEOUS BELIEF.
  • 30-Across: VITUS BERING was the [First European to discover Alaska]. Really, he is. I’m being strait with you.
  • 47-Across: SIRIUS BLACK is [Harry Potter's godfather]. Has enough time gone by that we can provide the definitive ranking of the Harry Potter books? (Spoiler alert: the correct answer is 4-6-7-3-2-1-5.)
  • 63-Across: When there’s [No monkeying around here] it’s SERIOUS BUSINESS. A little too serious/Sirius here for my tastes, but it’s not exactly like the number of potential theme entries is limitless.

Though our Fearless Leader loathes “May the Fourth Be With You” jokes, let’s bring order to the galaxy by balancing the five best entries in this puzzle against the five worst ones. On the best list: SKOSH, which means [A little bit]; GREEN PEA, the [Soup bit] that I originally had as SPLIT PEA (hey, a split pea is even more of a “bit,” right?); NAME IT; AKIHITO, the [Japanese emperor since 1989]; and XYLEM, the [Plant circulatory system] (thank you, high school biology!).

On the worst list: OBAD, whose last three letters say it all (curiously, it even crosses BAD in the puzzle!); I BEG, a rather awkward partial that kicks off the Downs at 1-Down; APER, a term you just never hear in regular conversation–go ahead, refer to an “aper” the next time you mean “impersonator” or “impressionist” and see if your colleagues in conversation don’t take a step or two backwards; NUS, because, you know, one nu is rarely enough; and…well, let’s see, there must be a fifth one…how about OBAD again–it really should count twice.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Switching Positions”

Ben Tausig's Ink Well crossword solution, "Switching Positions" 5 4 12

Take an XYing phrase or word and change it to a YXing one and you’ve got the gist of Ben’s theme:

  • 17a. BEAR BALLING, [Grizzly hoops?]. Ball bearing originally.
  • 20a. SPOT TRAINING, [Obedience school objective?]. Trainspotting.
  • 36a. HOUSE ROUGHING, [Hockey penalty for members of the Committee on Ways & Means?]. Roughhousing, likely the only word (not counting its other inflections) with an “ughh” groaning in the middle.
  • 56a. TRADE BONDING, [Retreat activity for investment bankers?]. Bond trading. You know how investment bankers are famously into interpersonal trust activities at corporate retreats. Probably a lot of emotional sharing while sitting in a circle outside, am I right?
  • 60a. CHILL BONING, [Slow sex?]. Bone-chilling.

Highlights:

  • 1a. [Joe, Kevin, or Nick with such soft white cheeks] is a brand-new clue for JONAS. (See also 3d: NBA, [Org. whose champion is determined at the beginning of each season by a cackling David Stern].)
  • 31a. [Don Henley or Tom Petty songs, e.g.], DAD ROCK. I need to teach my kid this term, don’t I? He will likely accuse me of having mom rock too.
  • 5d. SUBPOP, [Nirvana label, for a while]. I’m including this because I couldn’t think of anything but SUBGUM for too long.
  • 52d. LOINS, [Junk area?]. It’s always good to organize the loins in a fit of spring cleaning.

3.75 stars.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 5 4 12

The theme changes a T sound to a D sound in five phrases, always necessitating a broader spelling change. None of the theme answers amused me, though, and while the stacking of three long answers is impressive, (a) it means the shorter theme entries are next to non-thematic answers of the same length and (b) the Down crossings tend to be ugly. Here’s the theme:

  • 14a. CODE OF ARMS, [Weaponry etiquette?]. Coat of arms.
  • 19a. WIDE BLOOD CELL, [Corpulent corpuscle?]. White blood cell.
  • 34a. KNEAD FREAKS, [Fanatical bakers?]. Neat freaks. Wouldn’t they be “kneading freaks”?
  • 53a. WADE UNTIL DARK, [Warning sign at a kiddie pool?]. Wait Until Dark.
  • 61a. SUED TO A TEE, [Built the perfect case?]. Suit to a tee. This one bugs me because SUED and (law)suit are basically two forms of the same word.

What do I mean by “ugly” in (b) above? 5d. [Picking up in tempo, in mus.], ACCEL. 6d. [Ending for ab or ad], SORB. 10d. [Prefix for element #33], ARSENO. 44d. [Heat transfer coefficient, in insulation], U VALUE. 45d. [Certain kitchen server], LADLER., 51d. [Basie's "__'Clock Jump"], ONE O. 55d. ["Suffice __ say ..."], IT TO. Elsewhere in the puzzle, PHS, NLE, LGS, ETDS, AES, and PIK inspire another “meh.”

I do like SKULKING (both as a word and an activity), JEWISH, and DRAWBACK—all lovely fill. I saw another recent puzzle in which the Dvina River utterly stumped me, and here it is again: 33d, [The Western Dvina flows through it], LATVIA. Who knew?

2.9 stars.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fanciful Collaborations” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 5/4/12 • "Fanciful Collaborations" • Fri • Harrison • solution

An older song is melded with a newer song in each of the theme answers, which are clued by the songwriters. Television game shows tend to designate this sort of lexical tomfoolery “before and after.”

  • 23a. [Result of a Gershwin collaboration with Lennon and McCartney?] A FOGGY DAY TRIPPER.
  • 38a. […a Peter DeRose/Mitchell Parish collaboration with Jimi Hendrix?] DEEP PURPLE HAZE.
  • 56a. […a Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg collaboration with Van Morrison?] OLD DEVIL MOONDANCE.
  • 79a. […a Cole Porter collaboration with Foreigner?] TOO DARN HOT BLOODED.
  • 94a. […a Heyman/Sour/Eyton/Green collaboration with Isaac Hayes and David Porter?] BODY AND SOUL MAN.
  • 115a. […an Arlen/Mercer collaboration with Holland-Dozier-Holand?] ONE FOR MY BABY LOVE.

I’m guessing that, for many solvers of one demographic or another, the writing credits will provide little guidance. Instead, it’s a matter of filling in enough crossing matter to recognize the tunes. By the way, I don’t recommend trying to sing these mash-ups unless you’ve had plenty of COGNAC (104a), or something more potent.

Although the ballast fill seems to contain some of crossword’s greatest hits (for instance, the NW corner starts off with SAAB, ALFA, ALPO, and IPOS, with APSO lurking below), on the whole it’s varied enough and interesting enough to hold its own, not simply support the theme.  Longer words like SHYNESS, KICKBOX, MONDAVI, BASSINET. Fluid phrases à la TAKE A HIT, ASK AFTER, LAY AN EGG, ON AUTO, and I GET IT outnumber and outweigh awkward partials such as AN ERA and UP AT. Felt as if there were A BIT too many short abbrevs. for an expansive puzzle, including GER., VAR., VOL., ILA, OCR, IPOS, EOM, RNS, AMA, The winner for most crosswordese is… a tie between 82d [Mountain pool] TARN and 77d [Istanbul inn] SERAI.

Like the fill itself, the cluing is solid and varied enough in tone to remain interesting. That is to say, the whole affair is workmanlike. Kind of the way they banged out those tunes in Tin Pan Alley.

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19 Responses to Friday, 5/4/12

  1. sbmanion says:

    Too many sports?????

    Steve

  2. Nina says:

    THANK YOU for the comments on the CHE puzzle. I had never heard of the experiment (poor cat!), and was really baffled.
    Now that I understand, I can really appreciate this awesome puzzle, esp LIVE/DEAD in the middle and what it does to its neighboring words.
    Thanks Again – Nina

  3. Gareth says:

    Did everything except two squares and the bottom-right in 7 minutes. But then I was stonewalled: PASO/MEASURE/SAC/RAGU weren’t enough for any of the downs to be plain, until I noticed 28D matched the letter pattern of STANMUSIAL. I knew he was a baseball player, but not for whom… Then back to where I didn’t know 20- and 23D, except it turned out my MAKEUPORAL should be an EXAM: got AXIL mixed up with ARIL! And I did Botany 101 through 4, doh! Also liked both horizontal stacks stacks! The Oder-Neisse line is legitimately important, historically: it gave a large chunk of Germany to the Pole as compensation for Hitler’s atrocities. A few more fusty answers than I expected from a Silk. I don’t buy SIXERSGAMES as it’s no more idiomatic than [any sports team]GAME.

  4. David says:

    Gareth, the full name of the team is the 76ers (because Philadelphia was the capital when the US declared independence). SIXERS is a popular, though unofficial, shortening of the name. That’s why it’s considered more idiomatic, within the ‘dialect’ of NBA fans.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @David: Right, but it’s a hair arbitrary as there are scores of ___ GAME options. Do you want RAYSGAME and FIREGAME and CHIEFSGAME and INDIATESTMATCH to all be fair game?

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, believe me, I sympathize with you concern (re sports clues) even though I don’t share that specific issue. I would say (I hope not truculently), now you understand how I feel much of the time with many puzzles. There were only five sports-related clues. I have counted as many as 11 clues relating to rappers and rock songs–most of them to me bizarrely obscure–in a daily sized puzzle, by the usual suspects e.g. BEQ, Tyler, Matt Jones, Francis Heaney etc–fine constructors and commendable human beings all. :-) It’s impossible to set forth criteria for a universal, all-inclusive theory of obscurity. But to me, for a person not interested in sports to have at least heard of Stan Musial and the Buffalo Sabres, is about on the same level as a person not interested in fashion designers (e.g. myself), to have heard of, say, Bill Blass and Tommy Hilfiger.

    Bruce

  7. joon says:

    no problem with stan the man or the sabres, but SIXERS GAME is indeed pretty arbitrary. (it’s barry silk, though, so you know you’re in for some philly and some sports.) i had more of a problem with ODER-NEISSE. it’s not that the entry itself is so terrible, but it always smells a little funny to me when i see an unusual entry twice in a row from the same constructor. thrice would definitely be too much (A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE/SCARLET TANAGERS territory).

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Incidentally, Joon, meant to say that I warmed up to your puzzle, and really enjoyed the mental gymnastics of working it out–Wait a minute–”The Birds” would fit there; and “Xanadu” would fit here. . .Do you think maybe. . .? YES! That must be it. Great fun.

    Bruce

  9. lemonade 714 says:

    Mr. Poole’s puzzle also incorporates the A E I O and U sound in each of his theme conversions, though not in order as he did in his first published effort. I enjoed the theme and the twist on the sound exchange grid.

  10. Papa John says:

    I would like to have more discussion about the cat-in-the-box puzzle. (Sorry, pannonica, but I found your explanation to be every bit as obscure as the existence of a live/dead cat. For instance; what the heck does “Keine Herr Glücklich Bleistift. Was war los?” mean? )

    In my version of Across Lite, only LIVECAT at 33A produced Mr. Happy Pencil. The clue for 33A – “Item in Schrödinger’s box (and in this puzzle) that exist in two different states simultaneously” — seems to bear this out; for, in fact, only the live cat that was put into the box can exist in two different states simultaneously, while sequestered in the unopened box.

    I understand how one might think that that the four down clues intersecting the start of 33A may each be perceived as two different words, simultaneously, but that model could only exist in one’s mind, much like the cat in the box can be both dead and alive only in one’s mind.

  11. john farmer says:

    How arbitrary SIXERSGAME feels probably depends on how much Philly sports means to you. I doubt it feels arbitrary to Barry. For me, LAKERSGAME or YANKEESGAME isn’t arbitrary but something very real — though ROYALSGAME would be much less meaningful. Sports is for many a local interest. One person’s SIXERSGAME is another’s CUBSWIN.

    Keeping with the local flavor, I wonder if that’s why we got PENNA instead of PENNE.

    I liked lots of stuff in the puzzle. Barry knows how to fill a grid. If anything, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more misdirection in the cluing, though.

  12. john farmer says:

    To Bruce’s point about the alt puzzles: I’m not the best judge on what rapper or song etc. is really obscure or just outside the range of things I give a damn about — I realize the puzzles are not aimed primarily at me — but somewhat often I find the crossings no help. It wouldn’t hurt if some of those puzzles gave us all a fair shot at filling in all the squares.

  13. pannonica says:

    Papa John: Wouldn’t you know, I tried DEAD first, then the double letters, but never went back to check if LIVE would work. I assumed that since the point of the thought experiment is the superposition of the two states of one cat, that LIVE would be as equally invalid as DEAD. Or perhaps it’s simply the limitations of AcrossLite.

    While it was indeed a living feline that was initially put into the box, my sense is that the puzzle represents the point at which the atom may or may not have decayed, that is, the juncture when our little quantum kitty is of indeterminate vitality.

    Translated from German, I wrote: “no Mr Happy Pencil,” and “what was going on?”

    Tausig: V-SIGNS & SIGN ON?

  14. john farmer says:

    The CHE puzzle is a beaut. Loved it.

    LIVE works in Across Lite only because AL requires one answer or the other. I had DEAD, checked the grid, yet didn’t get Mr HP. That led to one of the nicer ahas I’ve had in a while. The true solution, I think, is to leave the four squares blank. We just don’t know.

  15. jane lewis says:

    wells fargo has taken over a lot of different banks in the past few years. wachovia, which was a north carolina bank for many years, was merged into wells fargo a few years ago.

  16. Papa John says:

    Most of my post was tongue in cheek, playing off the absurdity of the experiment itself.

    I’m fully aware of the limitations of Across Lite, but I think pannonica’s solution is much more eloquent and certainly within the capabilities of Across Lite to include multiply letters in a square.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What does Kevin, etc. with soft white cheeks mean? I seem to remember that there are singers called the Jonas Brothers. Does it have something to do with them?

    Bruce

  18. jefe says:

    I prefer DIVE CAT / LEAD CAT myself.

  19. pannonica says:

    See what I was talking about when I said it’s insinuated itself into popular culture?

    “Here’s the thing: The ivory-billed woodpecker is the Schrödinger’s cat of contemporary media — dead to those who’ve looked inside Tom Nelson’s blog but alive to the professionals who can’t bear to.” — from “Science and Truth: we’re all in it together,” a current NYT Opinion piece.

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