Wednesday, 5/30/12

NYT 3:41 
LAT 3:55 (Jeffrey-paper) 
CS 5:37 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 30 12 0530

The Celebrity crossword (available in the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial app on Facebook) ran a DICK CLARK tribute puzzle back on April 25, a week after his death. Not sure why Steve Jobs merited a “hurry up and run it now” NYT tribute puzzle that ran a mere two (was it two?) days after his death but Dick Clark can wait five weeks here. Who can explain the inscrutable ways of Will Shortz but the man himself?

Kahn’s theme is a bit of a hodgepodge. The two longest answers (with their conjunction) are delightful—IT’S GOT A GOOD BEAT / AND / YOU CAN DANCE TO IT. But then the other four longish thematic elements appear in a topsy-turvy order so that they could fit into the grid when two of them are stacked along the 15s. BANDSTAND leads to World’s Oldest TEENAGER, followed by AMERICAN and finally DICK CLARK. There’s a stray EMCEE tied in at 16a but without a symmetrical partner.

The fill … with 69 theme squares, you know what happens to the fill. Partials IN SO, ADD A, A REST, A NO. Suffix FARER. Extinct TNN. Bible crosswordese EDOM and ENOS. Financial abbrevs CKS and STKS. Popular-in-crosswords O words OBIS, OBIE, OPIE, and OTT, all in one area. Crosswordese SHOAT and AGASP. GET crossing the answer that contains GOT. [Buffalo Mets-affiliated team], the BISONS (minor leaguers apparently are unconcerned that the plural of bison is bison). All of this stuff detracted from my enjoyment of the puzzle and made me scowl my way through the grid. Didn’t take me any longer than the usual Wednesday puzzle, but it made me wish I’d spent even less time on it.

2.66 stars.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Wednesday May 30 2012

Theme: Its all about EWE

Theme answers:

  • 17A. ["My bad!"] – I SCREWED UP
  • 24A. [Compact disk carrier] – JEWEL BOX
  • 37A. [Stairway post] – NEWEL
  • 51A. [Like shish kebab] – SKEWERED
  • 59A. [Fight insomnia, in a way ... and if you do it in this puzzle, you'll find ten 62-Downs] – COUNT SHEEP
  • 3D. [Steered clear of] – ESCHEWED
  • 11D. [Dodger great Reese] – PEE WEE
  • 26D. [Common time between paychecks] – ONE WEEK. I don’t think that is very common at all anymore. If you are paid weekly, please speak up in the comments. I think bi-weekly and twice monthly is much more common, and much less paperwork.
  • 39D. [Fashionable retailer named for an address] – NINE WEST
  • 46D. [Gushed] – SPEWED
  • 62D. [See 59-Across] – EWE

This puzzle put me to sleep.

Other stuff:

  • 5A. [Pals, in slang] – PEEPS. I thought PEEPS were some sort of candy.
  • 15A. [__ vincit amor] – OMNIA. Random letters pretending to be Latin. Ok, ok. Love conquers all.
  • 19A. ["MacArthur Park" songwriter Jimmy] – WEBB. R.I.P. Donna Summer
  • 31A. [Composer of "The Wizard of Oz" songs] – ARLEN
  • 64A. [TV musical set in Lima, Ohio] – GLEE
  • 65A. [Kitchen occupant of song] – DINAH

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Deal ‘Em!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS, May 30 solution

The central Across entry (39-Across, to be precise) tells us that POKER is the [Game that can follow the first part of this puzzle's four longest answers]:

  • 17-Across: A [Beef entree cut from the short loin] is a STRIP STEAK, and “strip poker” is the game I always wanted to play in college but could never find anyone to join me. Looking back, I understand why potential opponents would be afraid to beat me.
  • 57-Across: The [Moat structure] is a DRAW BRIDGE. “Draw poker” is the variation where you get a hand (usually 5 cards, but sometimes more) and, after a round of betting based on the preliminary strength of the hand you have received, you get to exchange the unhelpful cards for replacements. There is then a final round of betting, whereupon the losers remove…whoops, now I’m confusing the poker variations. The one with the best five-card poker hand gets the pot.
  • 11-Down: VIDEO PIRACY consists of [Stealing movies, e.g.]. Video poker machines can be found in bars across the country (indeed, around the world). Like the old-fashioned pay phones, they’re very good at letting you put coins in and very reticent about giving them back. If you find the right machine and play every hand perfectly according to the odds, however, it is statistically possible to win at video poker over the long term. But that takes training, patience, and the kind of bankroll this recreational gambler just plain lacks.
  • 25-Down: A [Function of former racing stallions, often] is STUD SERVICE. I’ve heard of “out to stud,” but the term “stud service” is new to me. I’ve thought about offering a stud service as a second source of income, but I get the feeling I would be just too exhausted by the end of the day. (“Stud poker,” incidentally, is the poker variant where you don’t get to “draw” replacement cards–you have to play the cards you’re dealt, And very often your opponents get to see several of your cards–not to mention the way you twitch in your chair when you have a good hand.

This is a timely theme, as the annual World Series of Poker is now underway in Law Vegas. My bachelor party will be in Las Vegas next month, and the WSOP will still be going on when I’m there. I hope to check out some of the action in person, but strictly as an observer (or “railbird”).  The one event going off when I’m in town is this one. (If you don’t want to click the link, it’s a tournament with a $1 million buy-in. That’s right–the entry fee for the tournament is $1 million. At least 11.11% of the entry fees will be going to charity, so that’s a good thing.)

It’s a grid with “pangrammatic” fill (for new readers, that means every letter in the alphabet appears at least once). Though a grid with every letter is an impressive accomplishment, it tends to induce scowls among many of us Fiend-sters because often the Quest for the Pangram forces some ugly compromises elsewhere. As most of us are of the view that the lion’s share of solvers never notice whether a grid’s a pangram in the first place, it feels wrong to sacrifice other entries in the name of something few would appreciate. Fortunately, this grid doesn’t have any glaring compromises. In fact, a number of the entries are quite good, like MAKES PAR, SPOKE OF, PINNED ON, JUMBLE, EVEN SO, and ARE TOO.

Favorite entry = POP TOP, the [Soda can feature]. Favorite clue = [Some kind of jerk?] for SPASM.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 5 30 12 Heaney

In the season of Game of Thrones, what better than a castle-related pun theme?

  • 17a. THAT’S A MOAT POINT, ["Perfect spot for the water that'll surround the castle!"]. That’s a moot point.
  • 28a. UNDRAWBRIDGED, [Like dictionaries without a word meaning "raisable castle door"?]. Unabridged.
  • 46a. DUNGEON DONUTS, [Breakfast option for prisoners in the depths of the castle?]. Dunkin’ Donuts. (Or, if you move the first D to the end of its word à la Merl Reagle in Wordplay, Unkind Donuts.)
  • 60a. TURRETS SYNDROME, [Inability to stop building castle towers at inappropriate moments?]. Tourette’s syndrome.

Cute enough, neither too obvious nor too much of a stretch.

Five clues to talk about:

  • 4d. [Peter Pan journeys, e.g.] clues BUS RIDES and I had no idea why. Turns out the Northeast has had a bus company called Peter Pan for 75 years. Who knew? My favorite regional bus company is Lamers, which ferries Wisconsinites to the Windy City. Lamer is in the dictionary as “a stupid, inept, or dull person,” and yet LAMERS isn’t in the Cruciverb database. C’mon, constructors, use this word that looks fake!
  • 4a. BANFF, [Canadian town that sounds like a "Batman" sound effect]. “Banff! Kapow!”
  • 20a. MOTOR ["___ Inn! What's your price per night?" (misheard "Sister Christian" lyric)]. Best MOTOR clue ever, if you ask me. I reckon anyone listening to Top 40 radio in the early ’80s agrees.
  • 68a. TASTY, [Like salty licorice, to me at least]. Raise your hand if you had NASTY.
  • 48d. TEAR, [Stoically suppressed moisture, at times]. Raise your hand if you had MILK or SPIT.

Four stars.

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24 Responses to Wednesday, 5/30/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I’m sure many will go all mushy over the NYT — nice guy, nice puzzle — but I still don’t like having to jump all around a grid…
    I did like the LAT, zippy enough even if it had a couple of composers I’d have clued differently!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. really enjoyed the Onion, funny punny theme phrases — even if the last one isn’t quite PC. (It’s nowhere near as nauseating as the real-time Trump slime, however.)

  3. Nina says:

    I really liked the LAT puzzle! Thought it was clever. Sometimes counting sheep puts me to sleep, but this time it was funny.
    NYT was OK, but I don’t like jumping around so much either.

  4. Gareth says:

    Should there be a limit on cross-referenced clues? I felt like I was trying to juggle one too many answers in my head! Amy, you seem to have forgotten OUTA making your partial list a partial partial list. That answer really hurt, as it wants to have 2 T’s.

    Also thought the LATs concept was cute! Jeffrey: I’m disappointed you missed an opportunity for Canadian referencing at 26D.

  5. Matt says:

    Yes, too many xrefs in the NYT… however, for what it’s worth, “The Buffalo Bison” sounds to me to be a singular bison from Buffalo, rather than a team of grammatically correct even-toed ungulates from that City on Lake Erie.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I am usually not a fan of this “memorial” genre of puzzle, but I liked this one a lot. I thought the “multiple interlock” feature was clever, so I tolerated the cross-referenced clues–something which I also grumble about sometimes. And there was some good, lively fill, as well as a few banalities.

    it was a wonderfully sappy show–the sort of thing one loves to hate, as they say. I’ve heard the same thing said about “American Idol”, but I’ve never tolerated watching it for more than about 30 seconds. I appreciated the clue for 46d, inasmuch as the expression “from whence” is one of my little peeves.

  7. Howard B says:

    The Times may not have been a puzzle of the year, but it was a nice little tribute to a memorable personality, and for that reason I think many will appreciate it on those merits.

    Relatively easy for its day of the week, but tribute puzzles do work a bit outside of that framework. It also made me think of New Year’s parties past, and that made me smile. What can I say, I’m a softy today :).

  8. Jeffrey says:

    @Gareth: Yeah, how did I miss that. One Week .

  9. Papa John says:

    Is a TERAflop the opposite of terahit? RE: NYT 37A: Preface with flop.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I agree with Howard. Tribute/anniversary/holiday puzzles are different than the usual Monday – Saturday rigid structure, and should be assessed in a separate category. On a scale of 35 to 98, this gets an 80 from me.

  11. Pete says:

    Amy – Possibly a first here, but for one glorious minute your rating of the NYT (2.66) actually equalled the average rating of the puzzle.

  12. Victor Barocas says:

    I think that the NYT is a nice example of trying to do too much and sacrificing the fill as discussed in Tyler Hinman’s blog. ITSGOTAGOODBEAT/AND/YOUCANDANCETOIT was awesome, but then the thing got too crowded and became unsatisfying. Wouldn’t it have been nicer to have stopped with DICKCLARK and just BANDSTAND? Yes, AMERICAN would be helpful, but “American ___” or “___ Boogie” or even “The B in X-Across’s AB” would have been a fine standalone clue for BANDSTAND, and the fill could only have been a lot smoother with less theme.

    And where was the Don Cornelius memorial?

  13. John Haber says:

    I’m in the camp that gets really turned off by x-refs, and this could be a record number. And speaking of “Give it A REST,” it sure had plenty of the overly familiar, like OTT. I suppose I liked it much more than that would suggest only because, as a Wednesday level, it was over so quickly and painlessly. Not that that’s itself exactly a recommendation . . . .

  14. john farmer says:

    The Celebrity crossword (available in the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial app on Facebook) ran a DICK CLARK tribute puzzle back on April 25, a week after his death. Not sure why Steve Jobs merited a “hurry up and run it now” NYT tribute puzzle that ran a mere two (was it two?) days after his death but Dick Clark can wait five weeks here. Who can explain the inscrutable ways of Will Shortz but the man himself?

    Obviously I don’t speak for the Times or for Will, but since you asked, a few comments. If you are really wondering why Steve Jobs would get priority treatment over Dick Clark, it’s because he’s a bigger name. It’s not even a close call. No disrespect to Clark, who was a popular TV host with a long career, but Jobs was one of the key business and cultural figures of our times.

    The Jobs puzzle definitely was unusual. The “stop the presses” behind-the-scenes action was pretty well documented at the Wordplay blog. I would guess the Times team wouldn’t want to go through that routine very often. For the Jobs puzzle, they made an exception. That’s an editorial decision that I can understand.

    If your point is that Times puzzles are not as topical as puzzles available on the web, that’s true. Typically at the Times, there’s a long lead time between puzzle creation and publication (sometimes a few months and often longer than a year). Rarely are Times puzzles about this week’s news. If the Times tried to be more topical on a regular basis, that would require a massive change in how puzzles get through the mill, including the reliance on a wide pool of freelance contributors. I don’t see that changing. (As one of those freelancers, I hope not, anyway.)

    The Celebrity crosswords are made by a group of about 15 constructors who make their puzzles with a lot less lead time than at the Times. That’s part of their appeal — the puzzles can be topical and quicker to commemorate an event in the news.

    None of this seems all that inscrutable. Puzzles on the web, in newspapers, and in books, for that matter, go through different processes and aren’t all aiming to do the same thing. Nothing wrong with that, as I see it.

    (Being topical, btw, is not an unalloyed virtue. A puzzle that’s topical is only going to be topical for a short time. It may feel dated if you’re doing it later.)

  15. Martin says:

    Another reason that web puzzles can be more topical is that they’re web puzzles.

    The Times has to go through production with old-fashioned layout for the actual papers (don’t forget the IHT). New Yorkers who get their Sunday Magazines on Saturday know that this is done in advance. Close to a week’s lead time is needed for a Sunday puzzle. There’s also a thing called Times Lite or something, which is another subscription service that distributes the puzzle. All of these have their own production flows.

    Then there’s conversion to .puz format and the applet. The latter is done in Europe, which doesn’t make rush changes easier. The .puz file might not work properly, and the Across Lite people have been known to make one-off changes in a special version in order to get a working file produced. This happened most recently last Sunday when Byron’s State Quarters used 42 unique rebus elements and Across Lite was limited to 36. Not every puzzle requires Across Lite heroics, of course, but you never know what will.

    The .puz file may or may not break the iPhone/iPad app, which can introduce another wrinkle. (Or it can stay broken.)

    Then there’s the Wordplay blog post, which obviously requires Deb Amlen to get a bit familiar with the puzzle, write about it, and go through the Gray Lady Editorial process. Amazing but true: the Times considers blogs to be editorial content which means editors.

    All told, I am amazed at the percentage of puzzles that make it to all of the formats unscathed. Will’s got a crack team that I’m lucky enough to watch do their magic. Ellen Ripstein is one hell of a traffic cop.

    BTW, the solving experience was improved, in my opinion, by having Dick Clark’s passing recede into one’s memory a bit. The fact that people were complaining about cross refs means that the subject wasn’t totally obvious. That wouldn’t have been the case the week after he died.

  16. John E says:

    Suggestions for themed entries in the Don Cornelius puzzle:

    “SOOOOULTRAAAAIN” (assuming a 15×15 construct)

    Wait, that’s all I can think of. Others?

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Martin, John F: So my real question, then, is why on earth the whole NYT system was upended to run a Steve Jobs tribute so dang fast when really, running it the following week (9 days after Jobs’ death, IIRC) would still have been perceived as being speedy and topical.

    Also, @Martin: Deb Amlen does lots of work producing the puzzles so that they will actually appear online and also make it to syndication. She does a lot more than just writing Wordplay now!

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    @John E

    DONCORNELIUS (12)
    PHILADELPHIA (12)

    That’s all I got. Except HOTBLACKCHICKSINSKIMPYOUTFITS (29).

  19. Martin says:

    Amy,

    That’s true. I know Deb’s been promoted to Puzzle Goddess but I haven’t fiqured out exactly what the new division of labor is. Thanks for catching that.

    As to why Steve Jobs, Will obviously thought it was a worthy time for a fire drill. And you have to admit that Jobs has made an impact on humanity like few other contemporaries. Revolutionizing music distribution, revolutionizing music consumption, computers for all, smartphones — any one of these would assure his place in history. All of them puts him up there with Thomas Edison, except that you can make the case that Edison stole most of his ideas while Jobs only stole the GUI.

    I love Dick Clark, but he’s no Steve Jobs.

  20. Jeffrey says:

    Five stars for the Onion. Francis Heaney is my favorite cluer. Even standard fill gets a clever, funny spin. And the theme is amusing as well.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jeffrey: Right! It’s almost as if Francis has worked under the tutelage of Peter Gordon. Oh, wait, he has. Though Francis is so clever, he’d be writing zippy clues even if Peter Gordon were no realer than Mickey Mouse.

  22. Jeffrey says:

    Hey I’ve got pictures of me with Mickey Mouse but none with Peter Gordon, so who’s the real one?

  23. Bruce N. Morton says:

    i’m trying to figure out what what so exceptional about the F. Heaney clues. Certainly OK, but to me nothing noteworthy. I have a feeling that 52d relates to a culture that I don’t relate to at all, and it just seems borderline offensive to me. On the other hand if Ben Tausig’s 15a in his May 31 ‘Labor Movement’ puzzle is not the funniest clue in the history of Xwd’s. I don’t know what is.

  24. Francis says:

    As an unbiased observer, I agree more with Jeffrey than Bruce. (Tausig’s 15A is very funny, though, it’s true.)

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