Monday, 5/21/12

NYT 3:21 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:34 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 4:29 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 5/21/12 • Mon • Livengood • 0521 • solution

Wow! Or, more appropriately, Oh!

This was a peach of a crossword, so lively and smooth, and most critical for an early-weeker, interesting! Running through this puzzle was like having a conversation, with perceptible trends, comments echoing off each other, and discernible wit. And without the sort of things that can drag a puzzle into a murk, like heavy-handed cross-references, answers that don’t ring true, or too a high a CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials).

The theme inandofitself is not particularly amazing—interjectory phrases starting with the word OH, each clued with a terse quotation—but the casual feel of the phrases outweighs the onus of seeing the word OH five times in the grid. It’s the ballast fill that makes this puzzle a winner. More on that later, first the rohll call:

  • 16a. ["Incidentally …"] OH BY THE WAY. Oh by the way, this exact entry was part 6 of the stepquote announcement in yesterday’s Hex puzzle.
  • 38a. ["Holy cow!"] OH MY GOD.
  • 61a. ["Never mind"] OH FORGET IT.
  • 10d. ["Let's be serious here …"] OH COME ON. Let’s be serious here, a theme consisting of answers like this would be hard-pressed to come across as stale.
  • 32d. ["You've gotta be joking!"] OH BROTHER.

Oh yes, very good. It’s nearly pangrammatic, lacking only a Q, yet doesn’t feel forced. And here are some examples of what I was talking about before, little things that allow the puzzle to shine:

  • Interesting fill like RAY-BANS, SLIM JIM, full name YO-YO MA, bits with currency such as TASE, PERP, THE HELP.
  • Non-cross-references: 18a [Performs in a play] ACTS, 49d [Performing in a play, say] ON STAGE; and better yet, 30a [Pairs] DUOS and 44a [Pairs] TWOS—they’re a symmetrical pair! I wonder if it was intentional that the clue for 45a ERRORS (which can be clued so many ways) is [Goofs], which sonically echoes the answer for 51d [Large fishing hooks] GAFFS (not to mention its homophone, gaffe). I believe it was, which indicates conscientious constructing and/or editing.
  • Some slightly challenging fill, to help keep it interesting: AVILA, a [Walled city in Spain]. DENNY clued (to me) obscurely and lengthily as [1968 A.L. M.V.P. and Cy Young winner ___ McLain] rather than something like [Musician ___ Laine ] or (yuck) [Breakfast chain namesake]. And some newer solvers might be unfamiliar with the Biblical CANA or figure skating’s LUTZ.
  • Icing on the cake: the last across answer is [Rear end] PRAT. Nice touch.
  • All told, an excellent puzzle and what Monday offerings should aspire to.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Happy Victoria Day from Victoria, B.C. Don’t miss the parade! And congratulations to today’s constructor, Jeff Chen, who got married this past weekend.

Theme: The trouble with electricity
Theme answers:

Los Angeles Times Crossword solution Monday May 21 2012

  • 20A. [Add a little gin to a party drink, say] – SPIKE THE PUNCH
  • 25A. [Game requiring full 25-square coverage to win] – BLACKOUT BINGO
  • 46A. [Efficient, wordwise] – SHORT AND SWEET
  • 52A. [Front page staple, and, in a way, what 20-, 25- and 46-Across begin with] – CURRENT EVENTS

Quite shocking for a Monday.

Other stuff:

  • 9A. [Salami and turkey jerky, e.g.] – MEATS
  • 14A. [Steak and hamburger, e.g.] – BEEF
  • 58A. [Salami type] – GENOA. Today’s puzzle is not for vegetarians.
  • 32A. ["Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" composer Jerome] – KERN
  • 50A. [Minnesota's "crazy" state bird] – LOON. So crazy it is on the Canadian dollar coin.
  • 64A. [It may lose its mate in the laundry] – SOCK. My theory is that dryer lint is composed of odd socks.
  • 5D. [Tight game] – SQUEAKER. Fun to say.
  • 54D. [Ellington/Strayhorn's "Take __ Train"] – THE A
  • 59A.["Dang it!"] – OH NO! – R.I.P. Robin Gibb

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “O Captain! My Captain!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, May 21

Here’s a puzzle to Marvel over–it features five common terms that begin with the surname of a famous Captain. Call me a Caveman but I really enjoyed it. Let’s start with the theme entries:

  • 18-Across: AMERICA WEST is the answer to [It merged with US Airways in 2005]. Captain America is one of the many superheroes you can see in the current blockbuster, The Avengers. Calling all superhero movie lovers: I feel like I need to see both Captain America and Thor before I see The Avengers. Is that right? Or can I enjoy The Avengers without seeing those other films first?
  • 23-Across: The [Hospital location on "ER"] is COOK COUNTY. That’s where Chicago sits. Captain Cook, of course, is the noted explorer famous for leading the first European contact with Australia. I remember learning that Cook had asked the natives the name for that strange, big-eared, small-handed marsupial that could leap great distances, to which they replied, “Kangaroo.” But “kangaroo,” roughly translated, meant “I don’t understand you.” I wonder if that’s true or just a fun legend.
  • 39-Across: Speaking of Kangaroos! One place [Where it's hard to get a fair trial] is a KANGAROO COURT. Captain Kangaroo was one of my childhood staples, but I confess I watched the show only for Mister Moose and the classic ping pong ball drop. Looking back on it, all I can say is I was easily amused.
  • 55-Across: [When the pressure mounts], it’s CRUNCH TIME. Captain Crunch, or, more accurately, Cap’n Crunch, was not one of my childhood staples. I was more of a Cheerios and Raisin Bran kid who occasionally got to dabble in the crack that was Count Chocula.
  • 60-Across: The [U. of Texas slogan] is HOOK ‘EM, HORNS. Captain Hook is best known in crosswords as the associate of Smee.

I really liked the execution of this theme. Five theme entries, and all of them have a certain inherent zip beyond their captain-ly connection. They’re surrounded by a bevy of 6′s that include SMOOCH, I ROBOT, and some ORTEGA salsa. There are some compromises to make it all work (hello CIRC, ORAN and RHOS), but none is especially jarring. I would have added TYS to that list of unseemly entries, but the clue, [Cobb and Burrell] name-checks one of the most underrated comic talents on television today. (That’s right, Ty Cobb is a regular cut-up.)

Favorite entry = MCRIB, the [Fast-food pork sandwich]. Favorite clue = [Lunes, e.g.] for DIA. It’s not a plural but the Spanish word for “Monday.” I wonder if any math-heads got tricked by that one.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ solution, 5 21 12

Not my favorite BEQ themeless, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible puzzle. It just means Brendan’s bar has been set way up there, and this puzzle is down more at regular people level.

I liked the profusion of Vs in the upper left corner, with VA VA VOOM and STEVE VAI dropping five Vs. I liked AM I BOTHERING YOU, though the clue (["Got a minute?"]) sounds more like it wants CAN I BOTHER YOU FOR A SEC; I’d ask AM I BOTHERING YOU if I were, say, running a Dustbuster in the room where someone’s trying to work. I wished KEVIN DURANT’s name would have presented itself to me before I missed him as a Learned League trivia answer, though the clue doesn’t mention that he was the NBA scoring leader. Love YOGA MATS.

When I test-solved this puzzle, I suggested changing ONE KARAT (which had  different clue) to ONE CARAT and rejiggering 47a and 50a. Instead, Brendan wrangled the [Like an extremely impure gold alloy] clue out of the talented Frank Longo. Good for a laugh, right? Whereas a straight-up ONE CARAT diamond clue just sits there amusing no one. Good call, BEQ.

Had no idea there was such a thing as LOWER CANADA. Canadians, does the [Quebec's location] clue pass muster, or is Lower Canada strictly a historical, not geographic, designation?

The clues and fill included a few only-in-crosswords things. ARA is the constellation of the ALTAR. [Turkish inns] are IMARETS. [Elemi and copal] are crosswordese RESINS (and thank goodness elemi and copal are in the clue, not the grid). DIAPASON, the [Full-toned organ stop], is hardly crosswordese, but it is a word I know only from crosswords. The organs I know about are anatomical.

3.5 stars.

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16 Responses to Monday, 5/21/12

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Knew DENNY McLain. Would not have known DENNY Laine.

    Five-star Monday.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Lower Canada is the former name of Quebec. Upper Canada was Ontario. There are a few remnants of the names, like an Upper Canada College in Toronto and historic park Upper Canada Village, but otherwise these names are from history class.

  3. Jeff Chen says:

    When do you stop fiddling with the wedding ring?

  4. Matthew G. says:

    @Jeff Chen: My third anniversary will be this Thursday, and I still take my ring off and on constantly as an absent-minded habit. Drives my wife berserk, especially when I do it somewhere where dropping it could be a disaster, such as a subway platform or a baseball stadium.

  5. Jeff Chen says:

    If I ever lose it, I blame Jill. She wouldn’t let me draw a ring on with a Sharpie every morning.

    P.S. Thanks for the congrats Jeffrey!

  6. joon says:

    jeff: not in the first 6 or 7 years, i can attest. congrats! and nice puzzle, too.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, Oh Kay is perhaps not top-shelf Gershwin.–as I recall it’s a convoluted, farcical story about the Prohibition Era (not surprisingly)–but it is, I believe, the source of the wonderful song “Someone to Watch over me.”

    I don’t know “like fun” in that sense either. “Like fun it is” I take as a euphemism for a stronger word than “fun.”

  8. sbmanion says:

    I always get a kick our of clues for “obscure” sports figures and, perhaps even more so, out of those deemed obscure. “Baseball great Hank ______, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and whose last name has an opening double letter that places him near the top of the alphabet and rhymes with “Errin” which is humorous because he did not make many.”

    Denny McClain was the last major league pitcher to win 30 games in a season; he was 31-6 in 1968. Sadly, he was out of baseball within a couple of years after that and was not yet 30 years old when he retired.

    His later life was a complete shambles. He was a bookmaker who became involved with organized crime figures and spent six years in jail on one charge alone.

    Steve

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Steve,

    I was in Detroit, teaching at Wayne State just as Denny McLain was starting his descent into oblivion. (remember Mickey Lolich, Bill Frehan, Gates Brown, Willie Horton etc?) Interesting (?) factoid–McLain considered himself a talented organist–though you can omit “talented.” One among many sources of notoriety was that he served up a batting practice 70 mph “fastball” to Mickey Mantle, so Mantle could ascend in the all-time home run list. But McLain’s life was a self-induced tragedy.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jeff C: Still fiddling. Just celebrated our 21st anniversary earlier this month! Consider it an always-available replacement for worry beads.

  11. john farmer says:

    Jeff, nice work in the LAT today. Save the Sharpie but don’t lose the ring (you’ll never be able to explain). Congratulations!

  12. maikong says:

    Sam, pay attention to the comments today. You are going to be in Jeff’s shoes soon.

  13. Winnie says:

    I always thought it is “Mojave” desert.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    @Winnie, yep. The Spanish “Mojave” is the common spelling. Some people, apparently, think the name needs to be Anglicized to “Mohave”, but I consider that a variant spelling. (When I consider it a legitimate spelling, at all.) That gave me THEJEL? crossing ?LAT. Stared at that one for a bit.

  15. Martin says:

    The MOHAVE/MOJAVE debate reminds me of an infamous incident that Maleska mentioned in one of his books:

    NAVAHO was in a grid clued as “Type of blanket”. The crossing “H” was part of “HEW” which was clued as “Cut down”. Unfortunately many solvers filled in “NAVAJO”… which as you may imagine, generated lots of angry mail when the down answer was matched with the clue.

    The only thing that puzzles me about the story, is why the “J” was not in the grid in the first place (appropriately clued, of course).

    -MAS

  16. jefe says:

    Wikipedia says that the kangaroo story is indeed just a legend.

    Had LAUNCH TIME for CRUNCH TIME, which, as a physicist, makes sense…

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