Tuesday, 5/8/12

NYT 3:34 
LAT 3:50 (Neville) 
Jonesin' untimed 
CS 4:36 (Sam) 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 5 8 12 0508

I like the way 6a: SHUSH gives a little sonic foreshadowing of the theme to come. Each theme answer’s last part begins with an SH sound replacing the S sound the original phrases had. Thus 17a is BEST SHELLER, playing on “best seller.” (Though I want that to be BESHT SHELLER, don’t you?) 28a is the best of the theme answers, PICK-UP SHTICKS. The ALL-DAY SHUCKER at 48a is less sweet than its base phrase, the “all-day sucker,” as shucking corn is almost entirely without entertainment value. And the fourth one, 62a, had me shcratching my head. MARRY IN SHAM? First of all, “in sham” doesn’t quite work the way “in haste” does. You could get married and have it be a sham, but not be in sham. And then there’s the mysterious base phrase. Deb Amlen looked into it so I don’t have to: Marryin’ Sam was a “Li’l Abner” character–which means the theme entry also divorces the marry- from the -in’, which gives me a third reason not to like 62a.

Speaking of old comic strip characters, the fill contains HEROIC (Prince [Valiant]) and CHIVALROUS (Goofus and [Gallant]). What, you thought  I was going to mention Elmer FUDD?

I was in Colorado a month ago, so I like the clue for 71a: ASPEN, [Tree with a namesake ski destination]. I saw aspens in Vail, but only the spring incarnation and not the glorious autumnal gold. Maybe next time.

2.9 stars.

Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 8 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 8 12

Get your GAME FACE on – it’s time for the LA Times puzzle.

  • 17a. [Comfortable indoor setting]ROOM TEMPERATURE
  • 26a. ["Wait, I'm not done..."]AND ANOTHER THING
  • 43a. [Corporate oversight group]BOARD OF TRUSTEES
  • 57a. [Guesthouse where one would enjoy the starts of the three longest answers] – BED AND BREAKFAST

It’s a cute theme for a Tuesday. The liveliest entry in this puzzle is DIRTY RAT, which gets the clue [Epithet never actually used by Cagney] – a reference to James Cagney in Taxi!. The closest he ever got to this line was “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” I was led astray by the clue, thinking that Sharon Gless was involved. It made sense after a few letters.

CHOPRA and KITSCH are both fun words to say, so they’re quite nice. I like the look of RV PARK – [KOA facility]. I put RV HOOK-UP in a puzzle last year, and it got a KOA clue, too. KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America, which makes it great for the “abbr. implies abbr.” rule in cluing RV ___.

The top row of this puzzle was something else:

  • 1a. [Award sewn on a sash] – BADGE. Sure, a merit badge maybe, but I was going off on a beauty pageant tangent in my mind. No merit badges on those sashes, regardless of how skilled Miss America is at wilderness survival.
  • 6a. [Froth in a mug] – could be FOAM, could be SUDS, but it’s HEAD. Wrap your head about the misdirection available there.
  • 10a. [Frat party empties] - I usually think of BOTTLES, CUPS and (most often) CANS when I think of empties, but KEGS works too. Just my luck that two of my first three thoughts were four letters long – and wrong.

Before I had TUNE in at 20a. [Adjust for pitch], I tried it at 25a. [Out of ___: discordant]. (That answer was really SYNC.) I feel like this could’ve been really mean if played right. Someone turn this into a gimmick, please?
Updated Tuesday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Meeting Places” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 8

Today’s puzzle is a punny but fun tour across the country. Randolph Ross makes slight modifications to the names of six well-known American cities in order to make them suitable “meeting places” for various constituencies:

  • 16-Across: Wondering [Where the Stephen King fan club meets in Pennsylvania?] That would be EERIE COUNTY. And here we thought it was Erie County.
  • 22-Across: SANTA MONIKER is [Where admen nicknaming Kris Kringle meet in California?], not Santa Monica. Change “admen” to “PR pros,” “spin doctors,” “image reps,” or any other gender-neutral term and you’d have the perfect clue.
  • 35-Across: CAPE GOD, not Cape Cod, is [Where theologians meet in Massachusetts?]. I always thought Batman was the cape god. No one rocked a cape better–he isn’t called The Caped Crusader for nothing.
  • 37-Across: SUE CITY, not Sioux City, is [Where the American Bar Association meets in Iowa?].
  • 44-Across: STATIN ISLAND, not Staten Island, is [Where doctors discussing cholesterol medications meet in New York?].
  • 54-Across: ASSAULT LAKE, not Salt Lake, is [Where the Army Special Forces meet in Utah?].

It’s one thing to play punny with the names of cities; Ross kicked it up a notch by incorporating the “meeting place” layer into the theme, and that gives it a certain elegance. I love a grid packed with theme entries provided they don’t compromise the fill. Here we have 60 theme squares and smooth fill: mission accomplished. Yes, there are awkward moments (OID, ERS, DER, SLO, AS I, THE CAT) but none of them alone ruined the puzzle and I didn’t find the cumulative weight of them to be all that terrible either. Maybe this puzzle caught me on a good day: a sub-five-minute solve is about as fast as my fingers can fly (okay, mosey) around the keyboard, so none of the wince-inducing entries stayed with me for very long. About the only entry I didn’t know was MONTAND, clued as [Actor Yves of "Z"] (two more Z’s shy of a snore-fest).

In the clue department, my favorites were [Look bad?] for LEER, [It may be grand] for PRIZE, and ["Hand-y" subj. for nonspeakers to learn] for ASL, American Sign Language.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Stretch Those Quads!”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 5 8 12 "Stretch Those Quads"

A couple weeks ago in a blog post entitled “The War on Fill,” Tyler Hinman wrote, “If I never see a quadruple-stack of fifteens again, it’ll be too soon. Sure, it’s eye-popping, but it’s no fun at all to muddle through the inevitable handful of weak answers crossing the stack.” I was among the many who gave Tyler an “amen, brother” for that remark.

Well, Matt Jones read that as a challenge, and I’m delighted that he did. Matt muscled his way through constructing a grid with a quad stack of 15s in the middle, plus two more pairs of 15s above and below. And were the Down answers a mirthless slog through crap fill? Were the 15s themselves weak? No, and no. The puzzle plays like a regular Jonesin’ themeless, with funky fill and fresh content. The central quad team is anchored by “WHAT CAN I DO YA FOR?”—a zippy Jonesin’/Onion/BEQ/Ink Well sort of answer. A THING OF THE PAST and EASTERN TIME ZONE are 100% solid, established phrases. INTERNET REFORMS sounds duller but has its clue’s currency ([SOPA subject]) to help it. Only two of the stack’s crossings are 4-letter words (GARN and HOME both solid), with FRITTER, EAT DIRT, IT’S ON ME, and SPAZ OUT bringing flavor to the crossings. (Let us not speak of EYE FLUIDS. It feels…squishy. And not really in the language. I’m calling it the worst thing in the puzzle. Okay, so I spoke of it.)

The other 15s have WILMA FLINTSTONE, classic pop culture; BOLOGNA SANDWICH, a Matt Jones-sort of answer; a terrific SECRET HANDSHAKE; and a solid but plain RECONFIGURATION. Those paired 15s are where we find the short crossings, but look at them. Of those 28 3- to 5-letter words, 25 are pretty common crossword fill. U NU is old crosswordese we seldom see anymore, LCM is grade-school math that doesn’t get into many crosswords, and BORS the Younger isn’t too common. Among the short Across answers, DIC. is the worst thing in the bunch and it’s still gettable.

So! Now we know that it is indeed possible to make a quad stack that’s fun to solve even for people who say “ugh, if I never see another quad stack, it’ll be too soon.” Thanks for showing off, Matt, and demonstrating that a show-offy grid can coexist with regular-to-great fill rather than being marred by lots of compromises.

The EYE FLUIDS knock this one down from 5 stars. Let’s call it…4.89 stars.

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14 Responses to Tuesday, 5/8/12

  1. joon says:

    i think it must be MARRYIN’ SHAM, but that just provides yet a different reason to dislike the answer. not what i expected from a lynn lempel puzzle.

  2. Dan F says:

    If you don’t usually do the Jonesin’ puzzle, give it a look this week before the answer is posted here – it’s a quadruple stack that’s livelier than most (if not all) of the NYT’s quads.

    Also: I don’t see the big problem with MARRYIN’ SHAM. Sure, it’s hoary, but it’s not a dealbreaker.

  3. Gareth says:

    I hadn’t heard of an ALL-DAY SUCKER either… but I see it’s some American thing… Guess this is balance for yesterday!

  4. Howard B says:

    Enjoyed solving the NY Times up until that last theme answer, which was an utter mystery and required all crosses to confirm; even then it did not look like something familiar or correct. Then again, I am out of the demographic for that answer. In line with Gareth’s comment, I considered it karmic balance for Ghostface Killah. That was one rough spot, but otherwise was a cute theme.

  5. Martin says:

    Dan,

    Amy’s problem stems from parsing the entry as MARRY IN SHAM, which has a couple of things wrong with it. I believe that your interpretation, MARRYIN’ SHAM, is the correct one, but it has its own negative. There is nothing in the clue to signal the informal “marryin’,” and if you don’t recognize “Marryin’ Sam” you have no reason to expect it. Perhaps adding “between mountain folk” or other such signal would have helped. It really comes down to knowing Al Capp.

  6. Martin says:

    Gareth,

    I once stopped by a firth in Scotland, at an oyster stand. I asked the woman to “shuck a dozen.” She was so offended that I thought she was going to call for the police. You “open” oysters in Scotland, and either “shuck” is a nasty word or just sounds like one.

    Apparently that’s not the same in RSA?

  7. granbaer says:

    Well, I AM part of the Al Capp generation. In fact he designed the mascot logo for my Highschool. We were the Seneca Redskins (no longer PC) in Louisville, KY. But I do not recall Marryin’ Sam and in the grid that was my last entry which it was just a lucky guess. The other “sh” entries came easily.

  8. Gareth says:

    “Shuck” is a word I’ve only encountered since solving American crosswords… Are you sure she didn’t hear an “f” instead of a “sh”?

  9. Agree with Dan on the Jonesin’. Cleanest quad-stack I’ve ever solved.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Also appreciate Dan’s heads up on the Matt Jones quad stack. Great puzzle. I was also motivated to download some of his previous puzzles, which I am also enjoying. Some reaction (or overreaction) from eons ago had caused me to shun his puzzles, which I now see was a great mistake. Met Matt at a tournament some years ago. Very likable young man.

    The puz. today was actually *not* one used at the Brown tournament, though yesterday’s was.

    Bruce

  11. JanglerNPL says:

    They give you the opportunity to edit a comment but not to delete it. Interesting.

  12. pannonica says:

    JanglerNPL, you can edit it (within the first half hour) to blankness. They can also be deleted administratively.

  13. cassandra says:

    Jonesin’…. where to begin- i look forward to this crossword every week, you really let me down on this one, Matt. not only were all of the down answers WEAK, but they did not set me up to solve ANY of the EIGHT (8) FIFTEEN LETTER ANSWERS. the level of difficulty of Matt’s weekly puzzles is an achievable challenge (enjoyable too!), although this week i wanted to scratch my eyes out. NEVER AGAIN JONES, NEVER AGAIN.

    yours truly,
    cassandra

  14. Matt J. says:

    Sorry to hear that, Cassandra. I can see where trying to break into any section of the grid may have been trickier than usual. You can be sure I’ll be doing the occasional freestyle/themeless grid, but I’ll always be doing the themed crosswords, too. Just don’t go scratching your eyes out–otherwise, how would you solve other puzzles? :-P

Comments are closed.