Monday, 5/14/12

NYT 3:11 (pannonica) 
LAT untimed (Janie) 
CS 6:32 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

John Dunn’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 5/14/12 • Mon • Dunn • solution • 51412

A breezy Monday, a smooth solve. 70-across, the last one, reveals the theme: [Roget offerings (abbr.) … or, loosely, the first and last words of 20-, 28-, 48-and 56-Across] SYNS. So…

  • 20a. [Impatiently endure passing time] WATCH THE CLOCK.
  • 28a. [Win by enough points, in sports slang] COVER THE SPREAD.
  • 48a. [Perform a routine household chore] WASH THE LAUNDRY.
  • 56a. [Pass through a crisis safely] TURN THE CORNER.

As you can see, it all works because each of the first words can be a verb—as in the sense of the phrase—or a noun. Interestingly, three of the four last words (all but LAUNDRY) can also be verbs, and two of them (CORNER and SPREAD) work as synonyms in that direction as well. In fact, CORNER-as-verb is a closer synonym to TURN-as-noun than vice-versa, as per the theme. In my experience, WASH THE LAUNDRY is not as natural a phrase as the others. (Google bears this out, with about 97,000 hits versus 4.7 million for DO THE LAUNDRY.) Nevertheless, it’s an interesting theme, well executed.

Of course it would be more elegant not to have an awkward abbrev. as the revealer, and I would be far from surprised if the original intent was to place the full word SYNONYM in the center, either across or down. That no doubt would have entailed too many compromises in the fill, resulting in an ugly late-week puzzle rather than a relatively elegant early week offering.

Longish non-theme answers appear vertically: BLOW OVER, SUCH THAT (clued simply as [So]), PREËMPT, ETCHERS, the kind-of hip TALL ONES (clued kind-of hiply as [Some brewskis]), and UNDERWAY. A pretty good bunch.

Notes:

  • While solving, I didn’t even notice the unfamiliar WAUSAU [Onetime Wisconsin-based insurance giant]. That seems an odd one to me for any puzzle, let alone a Monday.
  • Don’t know if it’s due to my learning only recently that the SAL in the old song, “My Gal Sal” was a mule and the song is about the Erie Canal, but it seems like an old-time reference and clue. (33a)
  • Though I’m not much a fan of cross-referenced clues, some entries really seem to scream for it. Such is my feeling about 10d [ __ borealis] AURORA and 55a [Line of Canon cameras] EOS. The former is the Roman name for the goddess of the dawn and the latter is the Greek. Perhaps it was an editorial decision not to link them, but I wonder.

In all, a fun puzzle, a good solve, and what is expected of a Monday, with a little spice in the clues and a slightly more involved theme than usual as bonuses.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Janie’s review

Your mileage may vary, but David’s very cleanly filled grid guarantees that you’ll crawl or walk or run your way to completion. How so? His three-bagger (each a grid-spanner) changes the context (and the part of speech) to deliver:

17A. AUSTRALIAN CRAWL [Swimming stroke]. I’m a fan of the breast stroke myself—or the hybrid trudgen crawl (which alternates scissor kicks with flutter kicks…).

39A. INTENTIONAL WALK [Often-booed baseball play]. ENOS [Baseball's Slaughter] was pitched one on August 21, 1948—filling the bases. Next batter up, Ron Northey, hit a grand slam off of pitcher Kirby Higbe. Oops. At the time, Slaughter was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, in the NATL League. And, he’s one of the major league players to have earned more than 1,000 RBIS.

63A. BATTLE OF BULL RUN [1861 or 1862 Civil War conflict]. a/k/a the Battle of Manassas. Neither was good for the Union. Well, both sides suffered huge losses, but these were more promising wins for the Confederates. At the time…

Looking for EXTRAS (since [They're more than what's needed])? David delivers those, too, starting with the two symmetrical 10s that reference the cosmos: SATELLITES [Phobos and Deimos, to Mars] and (to explore those moons, perhaps) SPACECRAFT [Mariner 4 or Voyager 2]. Mariner 4, in fact, did do a fly-by of Mars, while Voyager 2 made fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Also happy-making is that SEA OTTER, the [Playful marine mammal] and its grid-opposite, PASSIONS, our [Intense emotions]; and, because of the cluing, what is probably my favorite cross in the puzzle: SNORE and SENSE, clued as [Sound asleep?] and [Sound judgment]. Sweet!

Finally, heads up, newbies! You’ll want to tuck these words away for further use: those [Greek walkways], which are STOAS; and that [Hawaiian porch], or the LANAI.

That’s it fer me, folks. Nice filling in. For a little while anyway. Happy puzzlin’, all!!

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Introductions for Latin Lovers” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, May 14

Welcome to the début episode of Who Did It Better?, the game where we compare two crosswords with the same theme to see which one better executes on that theme. Today’s episode features two crosswords with theme entries containing the familiar Latin triumvirate, AMO, AMAS, and AMAT, roughly translated as “I came, I saw, I conquered.” (Before you rush to comment, that’s a joke.)

First up is Martin Ashwood-Smith’s version running today, where the trio come at the front of every theme entry:

  • 17-Across: [Ages and ages] is A MONTH OF SUNDAYS.
  • 35-Across: To [Accumulate wealth] is to AMASS A FORTUNE.
  • 56-Across: One thing you can say about  A MATTER OF COURSE, [It's customary]. Something else you can say: it’s not A MATTER OF CUSTOM, which I stuck with as the answer for far too long.

The Other AMO, from February 14, 2012

The second crossword is the February 14, 2012, NYT puzzle from Paula Gamache. You can read Amy’s review here, but the grid is posted to the right. In Paula’s puzzle, the trio is hidden in the middle of three entries (SANTA MONICA, ALABAMA SLAMMERS, and SERTA MATTRESSES). Since the NYT puzzles run without titles, this one has AMO, AMAS, AMAT as a payoff entry.

So which one pulled it off better? Consider these additional points:

Martin’s puzzle has only 72 words (Paula’s is 78), so it has a very open feel. That allows for many interesting entries like RUN DMC, O CANADA, ALABAMAN, NO MORE, IRA LEVIN, and HOSERS. But there’s also KVASS, a [Russian barley beer], and that seems a little out of place in an easy-medium puzzle.

Paula’s puzzle also has LATIN and LOVER on the middle row for an extra layer of “theme-age” (I don’t think the intent was to have it read LATIN DIM LOVER). It features NINE PM, JITNEY, SPARE ME, TROJANS (for lovers), and DARN IT. Perhaps most importantly, it ran on Valentine’s Day, a suitable date for this theme. On the other hand, Amy observed (and I agree) that SERTA MATTRESSES doesn’t seem especially in the language. And AMYL isn’t especially attractive.

I think my favorite is the one that references ALABAMA. Yours?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 436 solution

This is far from my favorite BEQ themeless, though I think part of my negativity stems from mis-parsing 1-Across as MARGARITA AND ___ when there is no double A there—you’d think the DHO* in 11-Down would have tipped me off, but 20-Across’s first letter was a complete mystery to me so that didn’t help me see the OH OK. (Plus the clue for OH OK was different when I first solved this puppy.) CHARLES IN CHARGE is nothing more than a punch line to me; never saw the show, so 16a’s clue was another mystery to me. And the horse? Needed lots of crossings to get that. The short crossings and neighbors for the top triple stack included MCAN, AH ME, RAES, NES, NCR, and TER.

The bottom triple stack had the terrific CALLING THE SHOTS and CREATURE OF HABIT on top of the arbitrary (and S-filled) SPURS-SUNS SERIES, plus NUS, GRU, HAR, and LSTS in the crossings.

So what I’m saying is that puzzles anchored by triple-stacked 15s really need to sparkle everywhere for me to rave about them, and this one felt low on sparkle.

Favorite bits:

  • 12d. SAT ON is clued with [Didn't run right away], and I first read the clue as being about not fleeing. Instead, it’s about not running something in a publication. I like clues that are spot on but still manage to lead me astray.
  • Never heard of the ARP 2600 synthesizer but now I know that ARTOO DETOO‘s voice was made on one. Trivia! Maybe this will show up some day as a Learned League trivia question. (The new season of LL began today so I’m in for a month of daily trivia battles. Love it!)
  • 34a. [Does some island work] clues REMODELS, as in remodeling a kitchen and putting in a workspace island. Another good mislead.

Three stars.

So really,

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24 Responses to Monday, 5/14/12

  1. Jim Horne says:

    Like pannonica, I’m impressed with today’s NYT. Innovation is increasingly difficult as more and more puzzles get published so something original, and on a Monday no less, is always appreciated.

    Unrelated to this puzzle, but because this issue came up in the comments here a few days ago, I have decided to go with Joon’s suggestion to rename those crosswords with more than one correct answer Schrödinger puzzles. Much better than my original name. Click through for an explanation.

  2. Martin says:

    My reaction to WAUSAU was sort of the opposite: “there’s no more Wausau Insurance?” I missed it getting acquired by Liberty Mutual.

    Did anyone ever explain why we got two Schrödinger’s Cat puzzles last week?

  3. pannonica says:

    Quantum resonance?

  4. JanglerNPL says:

    What, no BRING UP THE REAR?

  5. Gareth says:

    Loved how Mr. Dunn’s puzzle began “Money Owed”! Agree re WASHTHELAUNDRY. @Pannonica: You’ve got two old songs about Sals in a muddle there! My Gal Sal has nothing to do with mules. Sal the mule is from “Erie Canal” – “I got a mule and her name is Sal / Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal etc.” @Jangler: that’s brilliant!

  6. ethan f says:

    I’m in the minority here–significantly unimpressed with the NYT. Blah fill — WAUSAU, ETCHERS, SIMP, etc. and uninspired cluing. Meh.

  7. Matthew G. says:

    I’m with you, ethan f. Not my cup of Monday tea.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    The Erie Canal song reminds me of the Volga boat song, with a straining slow beat in the minor, followed by a more cheerful upbeat refrain in the major! “But you’ve always got a neighbor, you’ve always got a pal – if you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal!”

  9. Doug says:

    BRING UP THE REAR is great! Nice one.

  10. Sparky says:

    Nice write up Pannonica. My two cents: 15 Miles on the Erie Canal (Low Bridge), 1905 by Thomas D. Allen has a mule named Sal. My Gal Sal, 1929, Paul Dresser. A wild sort of devil but dead on the level. Both Tin Pan Alley, interestingly enough.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    A friend of mine named Wanda just retired. (really). I did feel constrained to point out to her that now Wanda can wanda anywhere she wanda.

  12. Jeff Chen says:

    Totally agree with Pannonica and Jim – it’s not often we see innovation, especially in a Monday xw! I don’t mind a WAUSAU or a ETCHERS if it means we see something pretty cool.

    I wouldn’t say the same thing if it used a EUSE, of course.

    Schrodinger puzzles, love it!

  13. Martin says:

    pannonica,

    Do the laundry = Wash the laundry + dry the laundry + [iron the laundry] + fold the laundry

  14. pannonica says:

    Thank you Gareth and Sparky for the correction on Sal. I did know about the Rita Hayworth movie, so it’s strange how I conflated the two. But this I know: In “You Are My Sunshine,” Sunshine is a horse, and the song was written by Jimmie Davis, who later became governor of Louisiana.*

    Martin: I appreciate the nicety of washing being a component of the laundry process, but it’s still awkward as a phrase. As you rightly indicate, there are a number of compulsory [and optional] steps. Using Google once again, “start the laundry” (i.e., wash) returns 307,000 hits to the aforecited 97,000 of “wash the laundry.”

    *So I looked it up and it turns out the story I’ve long heard is incorrect. Davis has the writing credit, but he bought it from someone else, who may or may not have actually written it. Furthermore, as he used the song during his campaign for governor her took to riding a horse named Sunshine. So, between the story and the details of the song, there seem to be various carts and horses in a jumble.

  15. pannonica says:

    ArtLvr: Must be something in the water!

    JanglerNPL: Very clever, but is the theme loose enough to allow a two-word synonym? Probably, although I don’t think it’s loose enough to contain Rex’s suggestion (on his blog) of of PUNCH THE CLOCK, since that requires a sense of “clock” distinct from the one in the phrase itself; sort of a proxy synonym.

  16. John E says:

    Our car ran out of gas once in Wausau (actually I think it was Rothschild, but close enough to remember this one for a long time).

    P.S. Martin, don’t forget SORT the laundry since that’s the one that ends up in many crosswords….LOL

  17. Martin says:

    pannonica,

    You seem to have decided that the routine household chore is the totality of washday activities, and that “wash the laundry” is therefore not what one would normally call it.

    But if the answer were “iron the laundry” would that sound okay? “Fold the laundry”? Any of these steps are certainly routine chores. Why isn’t “wash the laundry,” the step after sorting and before drying, something we might talk about in its own right?

  18. joon says:

    i think PUNCH THE CLOCK and BRING UP THE REAR would both work fine. notice that in COVER THE SPREAD, the sense in which “cover” and “spread” are synonyms has nothing to do with the meanings of the two words in the theme answer. anyway, i enjoyed the idea of this puzzle, despite my misgivings about WASH THE LAUNDRY and WAUSAU. if all four themers had been just right and the grid had been slightly cleaner, i’d call it a 5-star puzzle due to the originality of the theme.

  19. pannonica says:

    Martin: I don’t know. I’m not being absolutist about it, just observing that it’s a much less common phrasing. I will point out that washing laundry practically obligates one to dry it one way or another, and sooner rather than later—lest one risk the onset of mildew—whereas sorting, ironing, and folding can be done discretely.

    Back to Google. “Dry the laundry” returns 186,000 results, roughly twice that for “wash the laundry.” My thinking is that one, as I said before, generally “starts the laundry” but the next step is to dry it. Perhaps the notion of merely washing may evoke the mildewy specter.

    joon: Good point about SPREAD, I lost that thread in the shuffle. Ergo, PUNCH THE CLOCK is excellent.

    _____
    addendum: To add some rigor, I’ve Googled the other associated phrases, and the results (specifically, “iron/sort the laundry”) somewhat undermine my wash-as-tied-to-dry hypothesis:

    • “do the laundry” ~ 3,660,000

    • “sort the laundry” ~ 85,000 · (“sort the clothes” ~ 213,000)
    • “wash the laundry” ~ 97,200 · (“wash the clothes” ~ 910,000)
    • “dry the laundry” ~ 186,000 · (“dry the clothes” ~ 632,000)
    • “iron the laundry” ~ 68,300 · (“iron the clothes” ~ 152,00)
    • “fold the laundry” ~ 299,000) · (“fold the clothes” ~ 166,000)
    • “put away the laundry” ~ 210,000 · (“put away the clothes” ~ 279,000)

    • “pick your dirty laundry off the floor, dammit” = 0

  20. Martin says:

    People who google have their mothers do the laundry.

  21. pannonica says:

    Ha! (But I do my own laundry, and obviously google.)

  22. Jan says:

    While you were all talking amongst yourselves, I got three loads of laundry done.

  23. jefe says:

    CS links to the 2011 puzzle again…

  24. pannonica says:

    Ya, okay, fixed.

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