Tuesday, 6/12/12

NYT 3:50 
Jonesin' tba —see 6/13 post
LAT 4:06 (Neville) 
CS 6:08 (Sam) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 6 12 12 0612

Trying to blog this puzzle in 15 minutes so I can hit the sack, having been up since 3 a.m.

The theme is BRAD / PITT, who was in A River Runs Through It, and the first letters of all the Across clues spells out something about that. So then there’s THE BRIDGE / OVER THE / RIVER KWAI split into three chunks and four other river things, sorely lacking in consistency and with the arguable inelegance of so many repetitions of the word RIVER. I put in RIO BRAVO at 3d, not knowing the years of my John Wayne westerns’ 3d is RED RIVER and 39d is RIO BRAVO. There’s also another old movie, WILD RIVER, which I’ve never heard of, and then MOON RIVER, which isn’t a movie! If everything else is a movie, why isn’t this? And it’s a cheap dodge to clue KWAI as a “best seller” book when nearly all of us are more familiar with the movie than the book. Is that just to excuse MOON RIVER not being clued as a movie? Pfft. Have the rest of you heard of this WILD RIVER movie of 1960? And then! Two long Acrosses, DON CORLEONE and ANNIVERSARY, are longer than every last piece of the theme, but are not thematic? Vexing.

If the theme is tied together by A River Runs Through It, where is this river that is running through “it”? Is “it” the puzzle? Because we have a good four or five rivers running through that, but not so much running as occupying short segments.

The Scowl-o-Meter was mostly perplexed by this theme, but also rattled into action for some of the fill. Lots of names, no? DAVE ROE AGEE DONCORLEONE NOEL (Rex Harrison’s son Noel is famous??) RONA HERRERA AHAB ARON STYNE ALAN. And the other fill I groused at included KNAR DAR REAVE RES INA AIRACE RELET EEC ENE TESTEE BENE ITA VENETO NOVO ENDWAR -INE THERMO- STE. Some of that can deter the newer Tuesday solver, no? The ones scratching their heads asking, “RELET, REAVE, and KNAR—are those words? What’s the capital of Benin? Where is Benin?”

I am disappointed, I am. 2.5 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Games People Play” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, June 12

Doug finds four common two-word terms where the last word is also the name of a game, then clues the terms as though they are references to the games:

  • 20-Across: Twister is the party game where you have to put your hands and feet on colored dots strategically placed on a floormat. So the [Party game for linguists?], then, is TONGUE TWISTER.
  • 34-Across: The [Card game for artists?] is not just bridge but DRAW BRIDGE. Here in Seattle, I cross over two drawbridges on the way to work. When ships pass through it can sure gum up your commute.
  • 41-Across: The [Kids' game for telemarketers?] is PHONE JACKS. I was never really into jacks. Do kids today play it at all?
  • 55-Across: The [Board game for witches?] is SPELL CHECKERS. Once they get bored with that, most witches turn to hex chess. (This is the second CS crossword in a row with some variation of “spell-checking” as a theme entry. How will it be used tomorrow?)

I like that each theme entry contains a different kind of game (party, card, kids, and board). But my favorite part was how Doug was able to connect clues between two pairs of entries. First was [Hungarian's neighbor] pulling double duty as the clue for both CROAT and SERB. Then there was the double Star Wars reference with Jabba the HUTT and EWOKS (much as one tries, one just can’t dismiss Ewoks from the Star Wars universe).

REGGAETON, the [Urban music genre with Jamaican and Latin roots], was entirely new to me. Indeed, it’s a subject about which I am not IN THE KNOW (the wonderful entry symmetrically opposite). I’m embarrassed to admit I also didn’t know JILL as the name for [Joe Biden's wife].

Favorite entry = SHOEBOX, the [Place for sling-backs]. Favorite clue = [Person who might watch your mouth] for LIP-READER. It’s reminiscent of a great line from Star Wars (Episode IV), when Han Solo tells Luke Skywalker,”Watch your mouth, kid, or you’re gonna find yourself floating home.”

Mark Vago’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 6 12 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 6 12 12

Let’s cart out the golf clubs for today’s puzzle.

  • 17a. [Born February 4, he had 52 official wins on the 40-Across] - BYRON NELSON
  • 25a. [Born May 27, he had 82 official wins on the 40-Across] – SAM SNEAD
  • 40a. [FedEx Cup sponsoring org.] - PGA TOUR
  • 50a. [Born August 13, he had 64 official wins on the 40-Across] – BEN HOGAN
  • 64a. [Milestone 17-, 25- and 50-Across would have all reached this year had they lived until their birthdays] – CENTURY MARK

To quote the second line of Wikipedia’s page on Byron Nelson, “Nelson and two other well-known golfers of the time, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, were born within seven months of each other in 1912.” It almost feels like Wikipedia wrote the theme itself.  I’m in favor of this puzzle over a 100-year celebration for each golfer, mostly because I hadn’t heard of two of them. Convenient that it worked out so nicely, yes? Well, in the future, I think we’ll start to have more convergences of birthyears for sports – I hope this doesn’t become old hat.

But this puzzle does bring it in the fill. We have good long fill with I THINK NOT, SAPPORO, SWORN IN and WHITE WINE. The clues aren’t that exciting… it’s Tuesday. I did appreciate the reference to the kiss between Kirk and UHURA in the clue at 14a.

The only entry that seems out of place is the [Japanese mushroom] ENOKI – that seems like it’s a little too tricky for a Tuesday. I guess one answer like this is okay, though.

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37 Responses to Tuesday, 6/12/12

  1. pannonica says:

    I didn’t bother to find out what the initial letters of the clues spelled out either.

  2. David says:

    The movie was titled “Bridge ON THE River Kwai”, which was why the theme entry had to be clued as the book. Knowing that factoid, however, does not make the puzzle any better IMO.

    Amy, I’m surprised you don’t remember Benin (AKA Dahomey) from Learned League. Getting that question wrong cost me a win, so I won’t be forgetting that country anytime soon.

  3. Mickey says:

    The crossing of NOVO-VENETO-NOEL is hideous. Three non-English, non-inferrable words — and NOEL coud have been clued Tuesdayesque instead of Saturdayesque. Plus the theme was stupid. There you go.

  4. ktd says:

    Ok, I bit–the first letters of the Across clues read “The Robert Redford film A River Runs Through It“.

  5. rex says:

    2.5? You are Santa Claus.

  6. granbaer says:

    Really baaaaad. I did see Wild River, which was not as bad as this puzzle. Just no sparkle here and very contrived with all the river business. When solving a puzzle on a timed iPad app, you cannot stop to check the first letters of particular clues to come up with a movie title! Also, a bit too much John Wayne reference for me. I gave it 1 star.

  7. Jared says:

    Amy, if this NYT doesn’t warrant 1 star (let alone 2) then what crossword published in a “good crosswords” venue would?

  8. sps says:

    I didn’t like this puzzle very much either, for all of the reasons Amy mentioned. I had Bridge ON THE River Kwai for a while, with a gap between ON and THE thinking there would at least be a clever river running through that, but no…

  9. cyberdiva says:

    Well, I guess I liked the NYT puzzle better than some of you. I gave it three stars. I might have given it two, but I was impressed with the gimmick of the first letters of the Across clues spelling out A River Runs Through It. True, there were several rivers running through the puzzle, not one. but still….

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I don’t want to get flagged for piling on.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The movie should have had the same title as the book, because “The Bridge on the River Kwai” sounds wrong. Bridges go over rivers, not on them.

    @David, I did know Benin and its capital. When I write about a typical Tuesday solver, I’m not talking about myself. Seven says a week of Saturday puzzles would suit me.

    Can’t help thinking that the “first letters of the clues spell out a hidden message” bit is best used as a reward for attentive solvers wrangling a tough Thursday theme to the ground rather than as a Tuesday extra that solvers are pointed to. It’s not a Tuesday trick at all—as when the NOEL clue gets forced into obscurity because [Playwright Coward] and [Christmas carol] wouldn’t work with the initials trick.

  12. Lois says:

    I’d like to point out that Brad Pitt is not the theme of the NYT puzzle, as Amy said earlier. As clue 1d says, he’s the star of something that’s the theme, A River Runs through It. But Amy, along with everyone else, knows that already, I guess. I liked this one a lot. Nice for a Tuesday, with lots of stuff I could pull out of my head, like Kazan’s Wild River (well rated on IMDb, by the way), and the rest gettable after a bit. I agree that it’s not a good thing that picking up the first letters of the clues was not possible with all formats, but I do my puzzles on paper.

  13. Erik says:

    my theory is: there’s the name of a famous river hidden in the grid in the shape of a river, and nobody’s found it yet.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Erik: MUD and DAR are part of AMU DARYA. Alas, I was unable to find AMU, UDA, -ARY, and the Swedish rug RYA in the fill to complete the meanders.

  15. Howard B says:

    Whe I do rate a puzzle, I rate generously and anonymously, as a regular solver would feel (not removing stars for minutiae such as a less-than-ideal corner, etc.). More of a fun factor, design, and overall feel kind of thing. Not an exact science. I rarely give 5 as that is very special, and I rarely give 2 unless a section of the puzzle was especially vexing or overall unwieldy.
    NY Times is a rare 1-star puzzle today. I am sorry, but it just is. Hey, it happens, and it is nothing personal against anyone.
    As a baseline, I used a book (found at a thrift store) of syndicated puzzles circa 1992-94 from various publishers – many unknown, but also including M.Nosowsky, C.Allis/Millhauser, and some other frequent Times constructors active during that time – it’s a cool book for comparing styles. The offerings here are of mixed quality by today’s standards. It includes some similar repeated-word themes (GOLDx / SILVERx, for example), and these puzzles are on the lower end of the quality scale in that book in both classic crosswordese fill (hello, EVOE and ANOA!) and theme content and consistency *. The feel here was markedly similar.
    * The book puzzles mentioned are not by the Times constructors cited.

  16. Winnie says:

    Since I am an average solver I liked this puzzle, thought it clever and I knew Noel Harrison because I am old! You all are too erudite and I have no business posting but someone has to speak up for the long long time average NYT crossword solver who feels more and more like a “dull normal”.

  17. klew archer says:

    I liked the river puzzle, except that I got off on wrong mistakenly put GRR into 1A instead of BRR for some reason so I had GRA_ and couldn’t remember who was in that movie and my brain locked into some weird non-river movie loop over Zane *GRAY* or Zane GREY (sorry if this is too much misinformation) Enjoyed the mention of WILD RIVER, which I saw three years ago at the Film Forum. The two leads, Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick were great, and there were some interesting actors in the smaller roles, such as James Earl Jones’s father and, in his first screen appearance, Bruce Dern.

    Amy, MOON RIVER is not a movie, but it is basically the theme song of the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” so I gave it a pass.

  18. Howard B says:

    No worries, Winnie, it’s great that everyone has a different take on it, and appreciate your opinion. You don’t at all sound dull or average, and have every right to post as we do.
    N.B., I am not at all erudite. Just solved a bunch of puzzles :).

  19. Winnie says:

    Thanks Howard B.

  20. Beach Comber says:

    Who rated the NYT 5 stars?

    They might need their head examined.

  21. Anoa Bob says:

    @Howard B. The anoa is an existing animal. That is the animal’s name, not some variant. There is an Anoa Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. There’s a YouTube video of an anoa playing get-the-hell-out-of-my-territory with a cardboard box. At the end the anoa comes over close to the camera and looks like it’s expecting a treat as a reward for its performance.

    Why some animals, like the emu or rhea, show up regularly in contemporary xword puzzles, while the anoa is considered Maleskan anathema, is a mystery to me. Some kind of biobigotry, I say.

  22. pannonica says:

    Anoa Bob: He only said it was crosswordese, and for most solvers it is, alas. It’s also tangibly familiar to me, and I wonder why one never sees GAUR.

    Scrabble doesn’t even accept JIRD. Don’t let me get started.

  23. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Winnie,

    I’m not the arbiter of this site, but I guarantee you that anyone who enjoys crosswords, and presents thoughtful opinions, is more than welcome to post here. The fact that you (like many of us) sometimes have a contrarian or non-majoritarian opinion is to be encouraged and applauded, not suppressed or apologized for.

  24. ===Dan says:

    (Noel Harrison was famous in the mid-60s as a co-lead (with Stephanie Powers) of “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” (spinoff from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”).)

  25. pannonica says:

    Winnie: I second what Bruce has said. Sometimes when enthusiasts get together it seems—or actually is—exclusionary, but that shouldn’t be the case here.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Winnie, you’re an old regular around here! You’re always welcome, as are dissenting opinions.

  27. pannonica says:

    No they aren’t.

  28. Amy Reynaldo says:

    That’s the spirit!

  29. Gareth says:

    Now we’re back on gerbils again, Pannonica…

  30. pannonica says:

    Gerbils are just undergrown springhares.

  31. Martin says:

    “when the NOEL clue gets forced into obscurity because [Playwright Coward] and [Christmas carol] wouldn’t work with the initials trick.”

    Amy, how about “Rouen Christmas”, or something similar?

    -MAS

  32. Gareth says:

    The springhaas is a weird thing to see in your headlights after dark…

  33. Jeffrey says:

    I consider today the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree crossword. I never thought it was a bad little puzzle. It just needs a little love.

  34. Bruce N. Morton says:

    LOL, Pan!

  35. David says:

    @Amy: Sorry, I should have read that paragraph more carefully in order to deduce the context of your Benin comment; I did not realize you were speaking hypothetically. I quickly skimmed through that section because, like you, I did not enjoy seeing all of that crosswordese in rapid-fire succession.

  36. Shafty says:

    I can’t say the NYT puzzle was my favorite ever — having gotten stuck at NOEL/THERMO/NOVO. But I appreciate the work that obviously went into it. Very theme-dense. Maybe a few too many bells and whistles — the first-letters thing seems to have compromised the fill quality — but this can’t have been an easy puzzle to construct.

  37. Matt J. says:

    Any followup on the TBA status?

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