Monday, 6/18/12

NYT 3:43 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:53 (pannonica) 
CS 4:36 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 6/18/12 • Mon • Collins • solution • 61218

How unusual is it for the NYT to have something other than a 15×15 grid on a Monday? This 16×15 is also a bit odd in that there aren’t any clues sixteen letters long that absolutely necessitate the stretched dimensions.

Notepad says, “When this puzzle is done, the circled letters, reading from left to right and top to bottom, will reveal who wrote the seven songs in the theme.” Didn’t look at this until after I was done, and the theme as well as the circled bits were very obvious as I was solving. For the early-weekers, though, it’s best to spell things out.

  • 20a. [1970 song with the lyric "Whisper words of wisdom"] LET IT BE.
  • 21a. [1965 song with the lyric "Isn't he a bit like you and me?'] NOWHERE MAN.
  • 28a. [1969 song with the lyric "Once there was a way to get back homeward"] GOLDEN SLUMBERS.
  • 38a. [1965 … "These are words that go together well"] MICHELLE.
  • 46a. [1965 … "Think of what you're saying"] WE CAN WORK IT OUT.
  • 57a. [1968 … "We all want to change the world."] REVOLUTION.
  • 61a. [1968 … "Remember to let her into your heart"] HEY JUDE.

The circled letters—exactly two per theme entry, by the way—of course spell out LENNON and MCCARTNEY. I’m really disappointed that the constructor didn’t manage to have the two names be of equal length, seven letters each. Instead we see six and eight. Sloppy, sloppy.* Seriously, it’s quite nice that constructor Collins managed to find qualifying song titles of the appropriate lengths which contain the required letters sprinkled throughout in proper order. I suspect all of those requirements (not to mention the generous seven theme entries—I suppose you could say that the puzzle is full of [41d] HOOKEs) are what warranted the grid extension.

Three of the clues for those entries—20a, 38a, 46a—select lyrics having to do with words. Would have been quite spiffy and impressive if all of them did. Oh, and 18 June is Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday.

Lot of good stuff in this grid. The northeast and southwest have seven-stacks which incorporate the two shortest themers: KISS-UPS OCEANIA | LETITBE and HEY JUDE | UNPOSED | BOOBOOS. 23d ["For __ know"] was just begging to reference the Beatles’ “Give Peace a Chance,” but it’s better not to muddy the theme. Was ruffled by the clue for 26a EMIL, [Disney's "__ and the Detectives"] because I grew up with a copy of Erich Kästner’s 1929 book. Don’t get me wrong, the clue is accurate, just as DisneyCo interpreted Lewis Carrol’s Alice stories, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books, and so on; I found it personally irksome, that’s all.

Handful of observations:

  • A Z in the first square [ZEST, ZION) has piquancy.
  • UNSEEN, UNREAL, UNPOSED (plus UNTO).
  • 42a [Low island] CAY, 50d [Archipelago bits] ISLETS.
  • 31d RICE U is yewgly.

Smooth solve, decent CAP Quotient™, and somewhat more involved than a typical Monday offering. Adds up to an above-average experience.

* I was completely and utterly incorrect there. See janie’s comment below. So much for that joke.

Jacob McDermott’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 6/18/12 • Mon • McDermott • solution

After some, erm, technical delays, here is the correct write-up of the puzzle. Or, rather, the write-up of the correct puzzle. Apologies in advance for the brevity.

37 across, at the center, reveals the theme. [Pencil-and-paper diversion where the starts of 17-, 25-, 48- and 57-Across denote incorrect guesses] points straightforwardly points to HANGMAN. And here are the parts:

  • 17a. [Prime minister, e.g.] HEAD OF STATE.
  • 25a. [Fender-fixing facility] BODY SHOP. Because MUSIC STORE doesn’t fit, and also because that isn’t the right answer.
  • 48a. [Superpowers' weapons escalation] ARMS RACE.
  • 57a. [Prohibition era gangster] LEGS DIAMOND. Also known as Jack Moran. The Peter Allen musical of that name will not be discussed, move along. Also, this is head and shoulders above the other theme entries in terms of interest and distinction.

There you have it. Ironically, this would have been a nice time to see a hoary old TORSO (which is almost invariably clued as having to do with sculpture, as if that’s the only object such artists ever produce—but that’s how things go in crosswordland) in a puzzle, since a torso is technically a BODY sans appendages and head. Of course, the word body is broad and ambiguous enough to mean both the torso and the entire corpus. Example from Merriam-Webster: 1a: the main part of a plant or animal body especially as distinguished from limbs and head : trunk … 2a: the organized physical substance of an animal or plant either living or dead.

Wouldn’t it be appropriate to describe the stick figure produced in the game as CARTOON (41a)? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, its symmetrical partner at 33a—[Tropical straw hats] PANAMAS—is unrelated, unless there’s an exotic variant involving an extra guess that I’m unfamiliar with. The rest of the puzzle was a BREEZE (63a) to fill, as early week puzzles tend to be.

Items with personal relevance: IDIOTIC, OFF, AIL, PFFT, SLEEPY, KANT, [Bad __ day], GOES MAD.

Good puzzle, although there was a wee (oh hullo, NAE and AYE) too much junky fill. including LDS, LBO, ISLS, NGO (at least it was clued as something other than a non-governmental organization), LAS, and RETAB.

Over, out.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Single Minded” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, June 18

I never saw the clue to 64-Across until after I was finished and trying to suss out the theme. It turns out that MISS is the [Title that can precede the starts of the four longest Across answers]:

  • 17-Across: Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog’s beau, is at the start of PIGGY BANK, the [Kid's coin collector].
  • 26-Across: Miss Scarlet from “Clue” is at the front of SCARLET TANAGER, the rare singular form of the [Bird named for the male's bright color] that occupies many triple- and quad-stacked puzzles.
  • 42-Across: That’s Miss America at the front of AMERICA FERRERA, the ["Ugly Betty" star].
  • 57-Across: Miss Kitty from “Gunsmoke” heads up KITTY HAWK, the [Town associated with aviation history].

There’s some interesting (if offbeat) fill here, like KIPPERS, the [English breakfast fish] (the only appropriate breakfast fish, for the record, is lox), SEAL SKIN, the [Waterproof material opposed by PETA], and GAYER ([More merry]). EMOTER isn’t especially pretty, but the rest had a very smooth feel to it.

Favorite entry = MA BELL, the [Quaint nickname for the phone company]. Favorite clue = [City famed for with trials] for SALEM, Massachusetts. I liked that clue only because I mis-read “trials” as “trails.” Witches ought to have trails so they exercise more and ride their brooms less.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 6/18 answers

Lots of groovy stuff, offset to a degree by the compromise stuff.

Highlights:

  • THE LAW, although the clue would be better if it referred to the cops, who are the law, rather than what a burglar breaks, which is a law at the time of the crime.
  • EDMONTON! I knew the big mall had to be in Canada or else the clue wouldn’t have said “North America.”
  • RECALL ELECTION, oof. Can’t help thinking Walker is just a putz. I wonder if the people who voted for him also think he’s a putz, just that he’s their putz. (Just as I voted for that putz Blagojevich.)
  • Rock and pop, JODECI meets JIMMY PAGE.
  • BROTOX! Elsewhere in bro vocabulary, my son has a friend who’s a brony. His online name is Lyra Heartstring (I think), combining My Little Pony names.
  • JALAPENO PEPPER, lotsa P’s.
  • LOVE NOTE, always nice to receive with or without jewelry.
  • GO NUTS? Sure, let’s do it.

Downsides:

ENGLUT? Ouch. Crosswordese ANILE (and the ETs, ETNA, ET TU, and ETTE). I TOO clued as a stilted phrase rather than the Langston Hughes poem. Those TOILERS aren’t working hard enough because some things are still UNFIXED.

Four stars.

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36 Responses to Monday, 6/18/12

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It’s the central MICHELLE with an even number of letters that forces the 16 (or 14) squares.

  2. John E says:

    One of my all-time favorite songs, “Golden Slumbers” makes it’s way into the NYT – 5 stars just for that. I could listen to Side 2 of Abbey Road all day long.

  3. pannonica says:

    Erm, of course. And “Drive My Car” has an even 10… (searching for more)


    “It’s All Too Much” has 13, but George wrote it…
    “Magical Mystery Tour” EIGHTEEN…
    “You Like Me Too Much,” 16, also by Harrison, and not well-enough known.

    Fin.

  4. janie says:

    >The circled letters—exactly two per theme entry, by the way

    or, in the case of WE CAN WORK IT OUT, three…..

    no matter what, one sweet musical monday!

    ;-)

  5. pannonica says:

    Okay, fine. I can’t count and I can’t add and I overlooked a basic principle of crossword construction. Is it bedtime yet?

  6. janie says:

    but ya sure write a post that’s always fun to read!!

    ;-)

  7. pannonica says:

    Aw, thanks, janie! All right, no more chit-chat comments from me. Just substantial analyses and, you know, stuff like that.

  8. Foodie says:

    Interesting grid and puzzle, but methinks it’s misplaced for a Monday in terms of difficulty. It felt that way while I was solving and my Quick & Dirty Index puts it in the Challenging range.

    Did not like RICE U, I think for abbreviation people just say RICE.

    Liked KISS UPS, CON JOB, RAVING and C’est La GUERRE.

    It would have been a good Tuesday. Nice to see that people like this better than the last puzzle from this constructor.

  9. janie says:

    okay, then — along those “loftier” lines… have neither read nor seen EMIL — but should probably put it on my “to read” list as it also gets a serious shout-out in guus kuijer’s the book of everything, a superb story that is *definitely* not the context for a monday clue!

    ;-)

  10. Martin says:

    It would have been a good Tuesday.

    Except then people would be complaining about running it a day late for McCartney’s 70th birthday. 70? 70??

  11. Jeffrey says:

    Exactly. Tribute puzzles don’t follow standard day of the week difficulty. A good puzzle is a good puzzle, no matter what day it runs. And this is a very good puzzle.

  12. Niemand says:

    How is this a “very good puzzle”? The fill includes SAES, ITNO, ITOO, NOV, ANI, ESO, DEO, UAL, SAINTE, NOBS, ENTO, ITE, OSO, ALLWE, OENO and HYPO, all on a Monday.

    And the circles are not cleverly-used in any way — for example, there are 58 Beatles songs that contain an L and then an E in them, and then 38 that feature two N’s. So it is not difficult to find phrases that “fit” when the bar is set so low. You could spell out any message you want this way using a list as long as “Beatles Songs.” And notice the circles are not even consistent — five of the six entries have two circles, and then one has three.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Add symmetry and your choice of songs decreases significantly. And the letters have to be in order. Although this would have been more fun if the message was “Paul is still alive”.

  14. Niemand says:

    The letters are in order in the examples I gave. You have 58 choices for LE, 38 for NN, and about 75 for ON. And so on. Getting symmetry is simple when you have such a huge number of choices.

    Just because a puzzle has circles doesn’t mean it’s a good theme; the circles have to be put to a clever purpose. Finding Beatles songs with and L and an E somewhere in them, or a T and an N in them anywhere just isn’t clever; there are so many possibilities.

    But I agree, “Paul is still alive” you have been a much better thing to spell out. And you can spell anything you want out with enough circles.

  15. Jared says:

    Umm…why is the LAT I get from cruciverb not even sort of the same puzzle as pannonica reviewed? Mine is by [ed. - redacted] and features a [ed. - redacted] theme.

  16. Jeffrey says:

    Jared, the April 18 LAT puzzle was re-reviewed due to a tear in the time-space continuum. Doc Brown is being contacted.

    Once the time line is restored, it will be as if it never happened.

  17. Jared says:

    OK. Sorry for the spoiler. Too late to edit.

  18. Jared says:

    I’m having trouble giving this NYT a fair rating in light of the last Peter Collins offering.

  19. Jeffrey says:

    Your comment is unspoiled. Flux capacitor working overtime tonight/yesterday/tomorrow.

  20. Jacob says:

    Exciting to see my debut puzzle reviewed here! Initially I was trying to use TORSO but I couldn’t come up with anything.

  21. KarmaSartre says:

    Could some one please do a grid with threes sets of stacked 15s using:

    SHESLEAVINGHOME
    WHENIMSIXTYFOUR
    PAPERBACKWRITER
    GOODDAYSUNSHINE
    HERECOMESTHESUN
    DEVILINHERHEART
    IWANNABEYOURMAN
    TILLTHEREWASYOU
    YELLOWSUBMARINE

    ?

    Thanx in advance . . .

  22. Howard B says:

    Well, while the NY Times (already said) is not necessarily an airtight theme due to other songs having the letter sequences, the set of songs seems to be (mostly) the most well-known of the bunch, with the required symmetry. A few fill hiccups in there, but for a Monday puzzle this was quite plesanatly surprising. I don’t mind circled letters when there’s a nice reveal.
    This puzzle also happens to have some personal significance, so that biases my view a bit as well :).

    @Karma: Sure, I will get right on that… ;)
    “It’s a Wednesday level, give or take a few,
    I’ll submit some more in a week or two.
    I can tweak the fill some if the theme’s your style
    Or just change it ’round, and I want to be a crossword constructor…
    Crossword Constructor!”

  23. Gareth says:

    Also celebrating his 70th today is Thabo Mbeki… In a parallel universe somewhere the Beatles are John, Thabo, George and Ringo…

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Nice job, Howard!

  25. Lois says:

    The 1931 German movie of Emil and the Detectives is fabulous and fun, and Billy Wilder co-wrote the screenplay. I did not know that Disney did it too.

  26. Sparky says:

    Really neat, Howard. I’m singing it now.

  27. Howard B says:

    Thanks.
    A cup of caffiene and 5 minutes can inspire us to do unexpected, completely meaningless things. Which is why some of us require a second cup on Monday.

  28. Dook says:

    Really enjoyed today’s puzzle. I liked that the theme was complex, yet answering was so easy and fun. And it’s Paul’s birthday!

    Of the 15s – George wrote Here Comes the Sun. Till There Was You is actually from the musical, The Music Man. It is the only song from a musical they ever recorded.

  29. john farmer says:

    It is the only song from a musical they ever recorded.

    You may need to add a few qualifiers to that sentence. The Beatles made several musicals of their own. McCartney’s latest album, “Kisses on the Bottom,” is mostly standards, many of them from musicals.

  30. Jared says:

    Is anyone a brony from a non-ironic stance?

  31. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It is also Roger Ebert’s 70th birthday today. Aw, no puzzle for Roger.

    I heard a little bit of Paul McCartney’s concert at Wrigley Field last summer–from my car. Got home and commanded my husband to go loiter outside Wrigley and enjoy the show! McCartney really has not lost a step at all. My brother-in-law took my nephew to see the concert from inside the ballpark and absolutely loved it. The BIL had been a big Beatles fan since he was a kid and finally got to go to a (1/4) concert at age 54. Really incredible musical longevity for Macca, no?

  32. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I liked Peter’s Beatles puzzle.

    A tired, depressed, muted rant over BEQ’s off the charts BS Index puzzle–the sort of thing I wish we could declare a moratorium on. Jo something crossing Jimmy Somebody at 33. Somebody named Etheridge. (I’ve actually head of Melissa.) Somebody named Barone. Somebody called Helm. Something called “Cloud City”, and someone named Lando, neither one of which means a thing to me. Something called “hot topic.” etc. etc. Infuriating puzzle. I suppose the solution is to toss it after 5 minutes rather than allow myself to get exercised over it.

  33. J. T. Williams says:

    So let’s see, I suppose that would be a moratorium on most contemporary music, popular TV sitcoms, contemporary culture, and huge classic movies. What would you prefer the crossword to include, obscure zoological and anatomical terms? An alternative solution next time you get all exercised might be to Google or Wikipedia the terms you didn’t know and make sure that they really are as BS as you think they are…

  34. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What I really object to is the tendency to describe puzzles as “themeless” when in fact they have a narrow, specialized and focussed theme. Much as a puzzle focussed equally obsessively on zoology and anatomy would have. The only thing I would take back is the word “moratorium.” Obviously anyone can draft any kind of puzzle they want, and if some people like them, so much the better.

  35. J. T. Williams says:

    I’m still curious as to what the “narrow, specialized and focussed theme” might be, especially given the smorgasbord of answers to which you objected. Star Wars, Everybody Loves Raymond, Being Bobby Brown, Hot Topic, and then a couple musicians don’t seem to have a lot of overlap from my perspective, nor do these answers make up anywhere near a majority of the puzzle.

  36. joon says:

    bruce, i have a much better idea: just stop doing brendan’s puzzles. they are (obviously) not for you. if it’s not making you happy, and nobody’s making you do it, just stop. you’ll feel better. but there is something perverse (not to mention tiresome) about continuing to do them, and then continuing to complain about them here.

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