Thursday, 5/17/12

NYT 5:05 
LAT 4:58 (Neville) 
CS 6:58 (Sam) 
Fireball 5:36 
BEQ PuzzleGirl – untimed 
Tausig tba 

I didn’t go to the Crosswords LA tournament last Saturday and I didn’t have time join the ranks of test solvers, but I hear wonderful things about the puzzles that were commissioned for the event. Good news! They’re for sale now, five bucks cheap, in both .puz and .pdf form. Six tournament puzzles (by Donna Levin, Aimee Lucido & Zoe Wheeler, Todd McClary, Trip Payne, Brendan Emmett Quigley, and Byron Walden) plus two bonus crosswords (Andrea Carla Michaels, Doug Peterson) and a team game (John Schiff) can be your for that low, low price and the money goes to charity (Reading to Kids). To order the puzzles, visit alexboisvert.com/xwla/.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 17 12 0517

I liked the look of the grid and the theme’s neat—three 7-letter words that are spelled out in songs are spaced out in rows 5, 8, and 11. The only one I’d recognize is Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” as I don’t listen to country music and don’t know Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” song or Travis Tritt’s “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” one. PuzzleGirl’s the crossword-solvin’ country-lovin’ one, not me.

Now, packing more than 30 7- and 8- letter answers into a grid brings certain challenges, and I cannot affirm that the challenge was met here. While there are plenty of solid entries (USED CAR, TALIBAN, “WRITE ME,” lovely if now dated NEW MATH, “I INSIST,” EGO-SURFS, SIR DUKE, and LION CUB are the highlights), regrettably there are also … regrettable entries:

The verb dupe of GONE APE and GO PRO. The plural propers ARTUROS and O’TOOLES and ITOS. The is-this-a-lexical-chunk ONE BASE. The Connecticut town MERIDEN. Te DEUM, meh. Partial A POT and overlong partial ST. ELMO’S. Crosswordese SETTS. The enpair ENTWIST and ENLACES. And the most ungainly “word” in the puzzle, 50d: IASI, [Former capital of Romania]. Is this about money or a capital city? In my three-plus decades of solving crosswords, I don’t recall seeing this one before. Googling … capital city of Romania from 1916-1918, while Bucharest was occupied. Wikipedia quotes historian Nicolae Iorga as saying, “There should be no Romanian who does not know of it.” I bet Iorga would pardon those Americans who do not know Iași. And maybe the Romanians shouldn’t be so proud of it (horrible pogrom). Now I know a bit about IASI but I sure hope never to see it again in a crossword.

2.5 stars.

Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 17 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 17 12

Don’t touch that dial! It’s time for the LA Times puzzle.

  • 17a. [Gene Rayburn-hosted program with a six-celebrity panel] - MATCH GAME
  • 35a. [Sitcom that received 17 Emmy nominations in 2011] – MODERN FAMILY
  • 41a. [2000s high school drama] - BOSTON PUBLIC
  • 60a. [Jon Stewart vehicle, with "The"] – DAILY SHOW
  • 48d. [Den, often, and in way, what 17-, 35-, 41- and 60-Across end in] – TV ROOM

It took me a while to fully understand the theme. The TV bit refers to the fact that each theme entry is  television show. In addition, ROOM can follow the last word of each theme entry. A public room is a lounge that’s open to everyone, like in a hotel or on a ship; I had to look that up. It’s a large part of why the theme confused me. Oh, well.

Two ? clues start off this puzzle, giving you a little doubt in how to begin. Admittedly, DEBT is pretty obvious for [Result of a dough shortage?], but DAMSEL is the cute answer for [Distressed gal]. Further, the [End of a court game] is ALAI – as in jai alai – I thought we were squeezing MATCH POINT into four letters.

I’m not convinced that OLD ENEMY is a real phrase. NO HAIR is better, if only for the thought of Telly Savalas. Of course, SLUGGO from the comics is as good as bald, but he’s no Kojak.

When SITKA, Alaska was under Russian rule, it was called New Archangel. Well, it was called something in Russian, but you get the idea. Fortunately this made more sense than SYTKA, and that made [Lancelot's unrequited love] ELAINE and not ELAYNE. Whew – crisis averted.

I can get behind HAN SOLO and MOTORBOAT in a puzzle, so all in all, this puzzle’s Must See TV.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Capital Punishment” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, May 17

The Co-Queen of Mondays, Lynn Lempel, pops up on a Thursday with a simple but effective anagram theme playing with the names of world capitals:

  • 17-Across: The [Piece of South American game equipment?] is QUITO QUOIT, Quito being the capital of Ecuador and “quoit” being an anagram of Quito. So what’s a quoit? According to my dictionary, it’s a “ring used in a game of quoits.” Um, thanks. So what’s quoits? (Don’t tell me–a game in which you use a quoit?) The same dictionary says it’s a “game in which flat rings of iron or rope are pitched at a stake, with points awarded for encircling it.” I get it–horseshoes with rings.
  • 27-Across: The [Pacific island critter?] is a MANILA (of the Philippines) ANIMAL.
  • 48-Across: The [Men like Macbeth sent to the Mediterranean?] are ATHENS (Greece) THANES. Interesting cross-pollination of Europeans.
  • 63-Across: A [Contemptible Asian?] is a SEOUL LOUSE. My favorite part of this is “contemptible.” An adjective to which I can aspire!

This has a more Scrabbly feel than the typical Lempel grid, what with a couple of Q’s in one theme entry and a couple of X’s in opposite corners. I fell into quite a few traps, like SNEERS for [Shows contempt] instead of SNORTS (how contemptible!), RATED R instead of R-RATED, ASS instead of OAF for the [Blockhead], and so forth. All of these errors took a toll on my solving time. But I do feel a little smarter for learning that SUET is the [Hard fat used in bird seed].

Favorite entry: OSMOSIS, but that came to me gradually. Favorite clue: [A fair to remember] for EXPO, with an honorable mention to [Outing to watch the big game?] for SAFARI.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “The Evolution of President Obama” – PuzzleGirl’s review

I don’t always do all the puzzles right away when they come out and I often have a couple BEQ’s on the old clipboard just waiting to be solved. But I volunteered to blog this one today so I got to it right away and I’m glad I did. What we have here is an excellent, hilarious puzzle. As I’m sure you know, President Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage has been “evolving” for some time. Last week, it finally evolved to the point where he believes same-sex couples should have the right to marry. (Yay! if you believe in civil rights for everyone.) (Boo! if you’re scared of the gay.) And I can’t think of a better way to commemorate that historic announcement than creating a puzzle where theme answers are anagrams of PRESIDENT OBAMA and one of the entries is DREAMBOAT PENIS. Everybody else can just give it up — Brendan wins the internet today.

Other theme answers are PIRATE ABDOMENS, SPIDERMAN TAE-BO, and SO IN A BAD TEMPER. Those are good — funny even. But come on. DREAMBOAT PENIS! There’s also some other good stuff in here, including answers (CHEM LAB, UNIX) and clues (68A: Some Matt Gaffney Crossword Contest prizes, 39A: Facebook stalker), and some clue-answer pairs (35A: Derring-do (BALLS)). I even had to chuckle at [1A: Classic Massachusetts vacation spot, with "the"]. I have jokingly called Cape Cod “The Cod” for so long that I actually hesitated when I saw the answer was four letters instead of three.

Of course there might also be some clunkers hidden in this grid. But … who cares? DREAMBOAT PENIS! Thanks, Brendan, for the great puzzle. In conclusion, DREAMBOAT PENIS.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 51″

Fireball Themeless 51 solution

Liked the puzzle but didn’t love it, so I’ll call it four stars. Short on time this morning, so I’m going short here. Highlights: APOCALYPTO, GIUSEPPE VERDI, MEAN JOE GREENE, MACKINAC County and Island (final C pronounced as a W), TAPIR (word to the wise: don’t stand within 6 feet of a tapir’s back end if there’s no glass between you, and also do not be alarmed if a male’s crazy-shaped penis is on display), PED XING, Rebecca ROMIJN‘s Dutch spelling, Eric Berlin’s Winston BREEN (mysteries for kids in the 8-12 age range), and DOG KENNEL.

Blah filler: TSETSES (27a. [Glossinas]??), EDER, UNOILED, ESO BESO (which I’ve seen in three or four puzzles this week! ¡No mas!), SSTS.

What’s with this CUT NO ICE at 37d? [Fail to impress]? This isn’t ringing a bell. Do you use the phrase? Have you heard people use it?

Time’s up. Back later for the Tausig.

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48 Responses to Thursday, 5/17/12

  1. David says:

    I bought and solved the LA crosswords earlier tonight, so I will also vouch for their excellence. Especially puzzle 3 (Trip Payne’s “To Your Corners”), which had not one, but two aha moments.

    For the sake of comparison, I’d like to know what the finalists’ solving times were for the last puzzle. I’d appreciate it if anyone who attended the tournament could post that info.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I thought Joe Krozel’s NYT puzzle was super clever and well executed, with a Catch 22 seen in the black squares, plus four corners of 4 x 7 blocks, and clues fitting neatly adjacent to the spelled-out words: wow. I’d give it lots more stars! Got a kick out of the No-Tell Motel, and recall when Telstar was an IPO on the stock market (I was tempted to invest in it, but didn’t). Kudos to Krozel…

  3. Jared says:

    Nicole and I are competing in the LA crosswords tournament right now (time- and location-shifted). Highly recommended.

  4. Martin says:

    What’s meh about Te DEUM? Not a Monday word for sure, but fine for a later-in-the-week puzzle.

    FYI: Berlioz’s Te Deum is one of his most famous works (and widely recorded too).

    -MAS

  5. Gareth says:

    Theme was clever and different! There were also a lot of fun answers: WRITEME/NEWMATH/EGOSURFS/MINICAM/CARAVEL were my faves. But then there were ARTUROS, OTOOLES, ATONERS and SETTS. Having one or two would be defensible, but four? It could be the pattern of unches plays havoc with grid design, but I haven’t tested that… I don’t see much wrong with DEUM either. Who else fell into the trap of RWANDAN/WENTAPE? I realize now Rwanda isn’t on Lake Victoria: geography fail!

  6. Cmm says:

    Long time follower, first time poster (as of yesterday) . I was very nervous when first looking at the grid. It took me til 2/3 of the puzzle was filled before I realized the “/next line spelled out” theme… Even being only 29 I know everyone needs a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and I’ve been known to get in a little T-R-O-U-B-L-E, never been DIVORCED though… Suprised myself when NEWMATH was my first answer in the NW cornern, didn’t like that “sorry bunch” for ATONERS got clued with a “?” and “it’s not big for shots” didn’t (for MINICAM) …. I thought ?s were used for ironic/unconventional answers. I.e. “fire starter?” (STELMOS.. Thank god I love Demi Moore) (coneventional use as ironic antecedent BTW). Oh well maybe I’ve just finally got used to the “rules” and they’re changing them, I look forward to more challenges… Happy puzzling

  7. Howard B says:

    Similar experience as Amy and Cmm here. I enjoyed the rule-bending part of this one, had some troubles with the fill, and actually didn’t know the Travis Tritt song by the clue, so had to work a bit for that. (Yes, it gave me trouble).

    I vaguely remember seeing IASI – perhaps in an airline-magazine style puzzle that had clues like “One who atones” for ATONER.

  8. pauer says:

    Nice puzzle, Steve! 4 sets of stacked 6′s in a themed puzzle? Now you’re just showing off. :)

  9. Dook says:

    I was left unsatisfied by the Times puzzle. There was no relation between the two answers, so what was the point? What is the rationale for two clues in one? And why a slash, which would indicate that the answers are somehow connected? Also, not happy with entrust, assist on (is this really a phrase?), arti (really??), I can… one star

  10. XwJ says:

    It appears that IASI and SETTS have each appeared about five times in NYT puzzles since 1999. Never together—until now.

  11. Bruce S. says:

    @Dook

    The pairing of those clues with the slash was only in the across lite version. The PDF (and I assume the paper version) have a clue number in the first box of the across answers so the song titles appear as their own clues.

  12. PuzzleGirl says:

    Not only am I country-lovin’, Travis Tritt is my favorite country artist! I just saw him do an acoustic set last month at the Birchemere. So, yeah, T-R-O-U-B-L-E gave me no trouble at all. Other than that, I agree with the general consensus here: great theme, some great fill, some awful fill. All-in-all an enjoyable solve. I hope y’all did today’s BEQ puzzle.

  13. HH says:

    “didn’t like that “sorry bunch” for ATONERS got clued with a “?” and “it’s not big for shots” didn’t (for MINICAM)”

    Maybe because declarative sentences don’t take question marks.

  14. Martin says:

    “What’s with this CUT NO ICE at 37d? [Fail to impress]? This isn’t ringing a bell. Do you use the phrase? Have you heard people use it?”

    Yes.

    -MAS

  15. Papa John says:

    Regarding today’s NYT, all I can say is “Why?”

  16. jefe says:

    Aw, the Facebook app’s version of the BEQ has a different SE corner, using DREAMBOATS PINE instead.

    (The puzzle’s title is “The Evolution of President Obama”. “Themeless Monday” was, you know, on Monday.)

  17. Chaitanya says:

    Interesting theme…

    Did anyone else want “it’s not for big shots” to be MINIBAR ? ( I guess I have been spending way too much time in hotels!)

  18. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m afraid this is almost a perfect instance of the sort of puzzle I don’t like. It cuts no ice with me whatsoever. What kind of word is “egosurfs”? Disliked iinsist, assist on, one base, writeme, asshe, sirduke, entwist, enlace, apot. Not “eso beso” again. I’m way past critical mass on that one. Wasn’t crazy about seeing ‘taliban’, but–they’re there. I suppose “waffenss” would be a novel, tricky and unexpected entry too. But I wouldn’t want to see it. I didn’t like, and am not sure I understand the unchecked letters. Is the idea that the words are spelled out in the songs? (The only one I know is Aretha Franklin R E S P E C T) I don’t understand the “next line” line in the clues. Something about the order in which lyrcis appear, I suppose. Oh Well. I guess a lot of people liked it and that’s a good thing.

  19. Bananarchy says:

    “Regarding today’s NYT, all I can say is “Why?””

    Because it’s fun to try new things, I guess. This puzzle had some dreadful fill, yes, but I personally loved the theme and the far-out grid, and there was also some great fill in there.

    The only thing I didn’t like, really, is not so much the fugly spots in the fill as the overzealousness that led to them. Had I been filling this and found myself unable to avoid ARTUROS and the like, I would have put black squares at the starts or ends of 4- and/or 11-down (and their symmetric counterparts). I’m not saying I could have filled this any better than JK, but to me those 4×7 corners seem unnecessary.

  20. pannonica says:

    I can appreciate many people’s reflexive and associative response of MINIBAR for the “big shots” clue, but any further examination reveals that it makes no sense (cuts no ice? neat?). A shot is a shot, regardless of the bottle’s size. True, there are different size shot glasses, but that’s also irrelevant. And while a small camera can take large photographs, in general the larger the lens the more information is being processed, which in turn means it’s more appropriate for larger reproductions (which don’t equate 100% to “shots,” but synonymize better).

  21. Howard B says:

    @Bruce: Ego surfing is running a Google or internet search on your own name to view the results. It’s a more modern, slightly slangy, and perhaps more ephemeral term than the dictionary-standard crossword fill of past puzzles. It keeps things lively, although I suspect some of these terms may feel a bit more awkward if encountered in reprint form some years down the road (‘MYST’, e.g.). But in the moment (and by moment I mean ‘current decade or so’), it’s fun to discover these in the grid.

  22. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Howard, I do appreciate knowing that there is a real context for the word (egosurfs, that is); that it’s not just some adhoc coinage for the sake of convenience.

  23. animalheart says:

    Well, I’m often more annoyed than enchanted by Thursday gimmicks, but I thought this one was brilliant, and it led to a really interesting grid. (I suspect the puzzle was stronger on paper than in AcrossLite, judging by what I’ve read here.) I say, hat’s off to Joe Krozel! I loved the puzzle, and that’s rare enough for a Thursday…

  24. Zulema says:

    Is there or isn’t there a connection between the first and second parts of the theme clues (or the answers)?

  25. pannonica says:

    Zulema: No. It’s due to the limitations of AcrossLite formatting, as Bruce S. and others have said. I liked the puzzle, but it does expose some of AL’s shortcomings. It’s still my preferred electronic crossword interface.

  26. John Haber says:

    For me the grid, and the sense in which it embodied the songs as theme, made up for a lot. I definitely also can’t complain about Te DEUM. (It’s only the plague of crosswordese that makes me expect “te AMO.”) I do agree that hitting ENTWINE after ENLACES felt ugly.

    My gripe hasn’t come up, so maybe it’s just me. For a long time, even after getting the theme answers, I kept looking for more connections to the clue before. After all, that’s how they’re presented. Seems to me it’d have been easy enough to clue them separately, numbering the first square of the theme answers. It wouldn’t have changed anything in deciphering how to place them. It’d just have kept me from wracking my brains over why divorce is so polite or why an accounting firm is trouble.

  27. Martin says:

    John,

    Across Lite doesn’t allow one-letter entries to have numbers. That’s the limitation that makes the printed version superior.

  28. Erik says:

    I think the rule should be you can only pluralize a name if there are two sufficiently famous people with it. So [Lance and Midori] is kosher (if regrettable), but entries like UMAS [Thurman and namesakes] are next level ugly. I mean, who names their kid after Uma Thurman, anyway?

    Loved the Krozel puzzle but I got stuck on MINIC__/I_SI/STEL_OS. You learn something new every Thursday.

  29. Erik says:

    And what, PuzzleGirl and I are the only cowboy cruciverbalists? Say hey, good L double O K I N G…

  30. Pete says:

    @ PuzzleGirl

    I for one would appreciate it if you’d leave your divisive political comments out of your write-ups. I don’t think a crossword puzzle blog is the place.

  31. pannonica says:

    Whoa, Pete. The blog is filled with gentle non-cruciverbal (read: social and political) editorializing, both in the write-ups and in the comments. I’d like to think this place isn’t so formal, dry and uptight as to preclude that kind of personal content.

  32. Susan says:

    Since when was Lebanon an “Asian land,” as in 39D in the NYT? (I resisted filling it in b/c it seemed so wrong.) I always thought – and my atlas confirms – that Lebanon is on the Mediterranean Sea, considered the Middle East.

  33. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Susan, the entire Middle East is part of Asia, continentally speaking. They’re not “Asian” but they’re in Asia all the same.

  34. Jeffrey says:

    [deleted as Amy scooped me]

  35. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jinx!

  36. Matthew G. says:

    As usual, the Fireball clue that truly puzzled me was one that Peter _didn’t_ explain in his answer key. Despite having navigated NYC’s cutthroat apartment world for the past decade, I’ve never heard of the term “classic six” before, so the clue on APTS was baffling to me. Also guessed wrong on the last letter of GIUSEPPE VERDI’s first name, so I finished with an error.

    NYT puzzle theme was fun, but man, after several days of horrible fill I’m hoping for some quality themeless action Friday and Saturday.

  37. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Double scooped. Lebanon is in Western Asia.

  38. Tuning Spork says:

    The inconsistency is that a non-spelled out “RESPECT” is the title of the song, while “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” are the other titles. So why not R-A-M-O-N-E-S? :-D

  39. joon says:

    nobody else seems to have pointed this out yet, so i’ll just say here that i loved the sly GIUSEPPE VERDI/MEAN JOE GREENE mini-theme in the fireball.

  40. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Joon: I totally missed that! Mean Giuseppe Verdi. So awesome, Peter!

  41. Martin says:

    Funny how we ascribe meaning to “Asian.” By the dictionary, Lebanese are Asian. assume that Amy means that when we say “Asian,” we mean people who have certain racial features that distinguish them as Far Eastern. Not only is this not the first meaning in the dictionary, it is an American idiom. In England, “Asian” is more likely to mean “Indian” or “Pakistani.”

    I would guess that these usages are an attempt to be polite. Our sad history has given us a plethora of insulting terms for Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. Amy and I have discusses some of them here. Because of England’s colonial past, more natives of the Subcontinent have immigrated there. And the Brits have plenty of nasty names for these peoples — more than we have.

    I believe “Asian” on both sides of the Pond is usually used as a euphemism — for different racial groups. But stripping the word of its baggage — and looking in the dictionary — Lebanese are clearly Asians.

  42. Andy says:

    @Joon: Mind. Blown.

  43. Alex says:

    Across Lite doesn’t allow one-letter entries to have numbers. That’s the limitation that makes the printed version superior.

    Can I once again ask why we don’t have jpzs along with puzs and pdfs?

  44. Jan says:

    @joon – I noticed the green theme! I then looked at the other longish answers to see if there were others!

  45. PuzzleGirl says:

    I’m fascinated by this idea of the word “Asian” as a “euphemism.” When I use the word I mean something or somebody from Asia or of Asian ancestry. I guess I always assumed that’s what everybody else meant too.

  46. Zulema says:

    A few years ago. attempting to identify a woman who had just left, I asked whether her husband was Chinese. The answerer said, “You mean Asian,” so I said “No, I mean Chinese.” Of course, this was in California. I am not sure Martin meant “euphemism” in its literal meaning, but it is rather an attempt to sound, I believe mistakenly so, politically correct. I was once corrected by someone who wanted me to refer to another person as “Native American,” but the two people I know who would fit that description dislike it very much. They would rather be called “part Cherokee” or some such attribution.

  47. pannonica says:

    My sense is that Asian has been applied as a corrective for Oriental, which unfortunately has pejorative overtones.

  48. Zulema says:

    Pann, that is a good insight, thank you.

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