Sunday, 6/24/12

NYT 7:21 
Reagle 7:54 
LAT 10:37(Jeffrey-paper) 
Hex/Hook tba 
WaPo Doug – untimed 
CS 9:50 (Sam) 

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 24 12 "Element of Surprise"

In August, my mom’s taking another trip to Montana’s Glacier National Park. She’s bringing a circa-1980 book with photos of the glaciers to compare their current size. Do you think the 14d: GREENHOUSE GASES that bring about global warming have shrunk the glaciers so much that a layperson can see a marked difference?

Liz’s theme is all about protecting Mother Earth. The theme answers include the following:

  • In this 44d: THROWAWAY society, millions buy plastic junk made from petroleum and then put it in landfills soon after.
  • There are 40a: OZONE HOLES over the planet’s poles—one of which Gary Krist, a.k.a. regular commenter “animalheart,” is near. He’s just below the Arctic Circle in Iceland, where he enjoyed a 10-minute night on the solstice.
  • 69a. SAVE WATER, especially if you live in a region without massive freshwater sources. Arizona, Texas, California, Nevada? Maybe you’re full up on new subdivisions now.
  • 94a. PLANT A TREE, because trees absorb carbon from the air. Richie Daley was called “Mayor McTree” mockingly, but you know what? Chicago is a greener city thanks to that initiative. Looks like Rahm Emanuel is continuing it, as I see many new trees in the parks.
  • 117a. CONSERVE FUEL. Walk, bike, or use public transit if you can. Drive a hybrid car if you can afford it. Unplug those electricity drains you’ve been keeping plugged in all the time (guilty here!) so the electric company doesn’t burn so much coal. Buy local when you can, so the stuff you buy doesn’t require a dirty truck transporting it thousands of miles. Use less plastic, too.
  • By conserving gas and electricity, using less new stuff (reduce, reuse, recycle!), planting trees instead of clear-cutting them, and being generally a conscious caretaker of the planet, you can reduce your CARBON FOOTPRINT.
  • Carbon is, of course, a chemical element, and it has an 23a: ATOMIC SYMBOL. That symbol is the letter C, which appears 14 times in this puzzle solution. I’ve circled the C’s and connected the dots. Why, look! It’s a deformed carbon footprint! The foot part looks pretty good but those five toe C’s at the top give you mangled digits if you try to draw them separately.

Some of the fill is clunky, but generally it’s attributable to the firmly planted C’s issue. ECONO clued as [Car opener?] at 9d, above 97d: ECOCAR? Plural CELERIES? Now, the ELEMI/LVOV duo crosses a theme answer and the lively YELL FIRE and VIXENS, but bleah. ([Ukrainian city, formerly] and [Varnish ingredient] are their clues.) There are four C’s in the neighborhood, though.

Mostly the fill is ordinary stuff, not too exciting but not ugly. The quality of the fill really is pretty good considering this is a puzzle with a visual theme locking down the C squares in addition to the eight theme entries.

4.5 stars. I like the goofy nerd joke of a footprint made of carbon atomic symbols. And my favorite entry was one I encountered early on in my solve—27a: ["Tough-actin'" medication], TINACTIN. It’s used for foot fungus and it’s being applied between the big toe and the second toe of our footprint!

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 116″ – Doug’s review

Karen M. Tracey's Washington Post solution 6/24/12, "The Post Puzzler No. 116"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Interesting grid. It not only has the normal 180-degree rotational symmetry, but it has 90-degree rotational symmetry too. In other words, no matter which way you turn it, the pattern’s the same.

  • 5a. [Predecessor of the Pontiac Torrent] - AZTEK. I’ve heard of the Aztek from crossword puzzles, but I’ve never heard of the Torrent. I’m not good with car names. I bought a new-to-me used car last week, an Acura. PuzzleGirl asked me if it was an Integra, and I told her, “No, it has letters… TS, CT, something like that.”
  • 29a. [One-named children's author who wrote "Poppy" and "The Good Dog"] - AVI. I’m surprised this guy doesn’t show up in puzzles more often. He’s written a ton of books and has won the Newbery Honor & the Newbery Medal.
  • 41d. [Belly-baring shirt] - CROP TOP. Great entry. And a great fashion choice if you’ve just beamed in from 1982.
  • 52a. [Italian sports apparel company] - ELLESSE. I vaguely remember seeing this entry in an old puzzle. This might help you and me remember it next time: “Ellesse was founded by Leonardo Servadio in Perugia in 1959. The name Ellesse derives from the initials of Servadio’s name, L.S.” I wonder if they sell a line of crop tops.
  • 9d. [Sport with shinai] - KENDO. Shinai are bamboo swords, and kendo is fencing with bamboo swords.
  • 22d. [Academic metaphor] – IVORY TOWER IVIED HALLS. This was a devious trap, and I fell right into it. I saw that initial IV and plunked down IVORY TOWER without a second thought. Nice bit of misdirection.

Some sweet scrabbliness in the grid with ZSA ZSA GABOR, SINE QUA NON, and SCHMUTZ. I wasn’t thrilled with ANEMO or OTIC, but they didn’t cause too much pain. See you next Sunday.

Updated Sunday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, June 24

Now that I have moved to the east coast, I’m getting settled into my new digs. They include a new computer that, for whatever reason, doesn’t like the old software I used to solve CS puzzles. Fortunately, though, it does like XWord, a software program that likes all kinds of traditional crossword files (those ending in .jpz, .puz, and a few others). So consider this another avenue for getting access to your favorite puzzles.

So my first puzzle on the new solving platform is this 70/29 freestyle from fellow Fiend-ster Doug Peterson. I’m guessing 1-Across, FRANGIPANI, was the “seed” entry around which Doug designed the puzzle. (If it wasn’t, then my vote’s for IRON MAIDEN, ["The Number of the Beast" band].) All I know about frangipani is that [Its blooms are used in leis]. If it helps, it’s also known as “plumeria.” (That doesn’t help me, but there you go.) Underneath sits LINER NOTES, the [Information inside a jewel box]. I knew that record albums had liner notes, but I didn’t know that was a feature of jewelry boxes, too. So yeah, that was a tough corner for me. Thank goodness for I LOVE TRASH, [Oscar the Grouch's signature song]. That, together with the crossings, saved my bacon. (I was surprised to see XENA up there, too. It’s so unlike Doug to include a reference to the Warrior Princess in his puzzles.)

The other big unknown for me that cost some time was BIBELOT, the [Knickknack]. Even with BIBE- in place I couldn’t figure it out, and I was hurting for crossings that would help me break into the triple-stack on the bottom. DILETTANTE is not a word in my everyday vocabulary (heck, it’s not in my every-decade vocabulary), but I like it, especially its contrast with the aforementioned IRON MAIDEN and PATTED DOWN, clued as [Searched, in a way].

This is just a ridiculously smooth grid, but we’ve come to expect that from Doug’s puzzles. When RTE and TENN are the weakest entries in a freestyle grid that has so many long entries (ten 10s, four 8s, four 7s), you’re looking at a terrific construction.

Favorite entry = MOE’S TAVERN, the [Haunt for Homer] in The Simpsons. Favorite clue = [Jack-o'-lantern feature] for APOSTROPHE. Yep, I fell into the trap of wondering what features distinguish a jack-o’-lantern from an ordinary pumpkin. You might say I was tricked, but I thought it was a treat.

Joel D. Lafargue’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Novelties” – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times Crossword solution Sun June 24 2012

Theme: Add “TT” to a familiar phrase in the hope of amusing the solver.

Theme answers:

  • 23A. [Not a waste of time carving?] – WORTH THE WHITTLE (worth the while)
  • 36A. [Tinker Bell's blabbing?] – FAIRY TATTLES (fairy tales)
  • 60A. [Municipal mascot?] – TOWN CRITTER (town crier)
  • 87A. [Pane in an infested attic?] – BATTY WINDOW (bay window)
  • 108A. [Lollipop for a dog?] – SETTER SUCKER (seersucker)
  • 127A. [Butterfly?] – FREQUENT FLITTER (frequent flier)
  • 15D. [Duke's Droid?] – PATTY PHONE (pay phone)
  • 78D. [Where smoking remnants are stored?] – BUTTS DEPOT (bus depot)

Other stuff:

  • 9A. ["Ma! (He's Making Eyes __)": 1921 song] – AT ME
  • 26A. [Anti-apartheid author Alan] – PATON. Never heard of him.
  • 65A. [Political theorist Hannah] – ARENDT. Never heard of her.
  • 95A. [Blue shoe material of song] – SUEDE
  • 104A. ["Smooth Operator" singer] – SADE
  • 17D. [Kent's Smallville sweetie] – LANG
  • 36D. [Farmer Al __: Paul Terry toon] – FALFA. Never heard of it.

Now I have a problem. The extra TT words: ETTAS, LOTTERY, MATT, RATT, OTTO bugged me. But last week, I wrote:

Hey, shouldn’t there be no other “OO’s”? What about EROO, HOOD, NO ONE, O’TOOLE, SOOT? Isn’t that inelegant or some other fancy word for imperfection? Do I dock the puzzle’s pay or stars or something? Should I refer back to the glor[y] days of crosswords? Shall I rant about the editors?

Stop thinking that. It is all good. The puzzle is good, the theme is good, the fill is good. Really. Stop looking for nits. It is just a crossword puzzle. Solve it, enjoy, and read the comics. In fact, why are you reading this? Go outside! Get some air.

So why was it ok last week and not this week? It just felt wrong. And that’s the thing about being a critic. There is no real logic. Check out any of the other reviewers.

Fill that is deemed horrible in a quad-stack puzzle is just fine in a elegantly themed crossword. Friday fill stinks on Tuesday. It’s a pangram, so it must be bad. It’s too easy. I had a record time, so I think this is the best puzzle ever. I hated this guy’s last puzzle, so I will automatically hate this one. If I see one more freaking add-a-letter then I will snap. I didn’t like the book written by 20 across, so this puzzle sucks.

In the end, there are only three reactions to solving a crossword:

(1) yay!

(2) meh.

(3) yuck!

All the other stuff is just trying to justify your reaction.  Thus ends this week’s episode of “Secrets of the Crossword Blog”. Tune in next week, when I blow the lid off the 2 ½ star quota system. Same BATTY time, same BATTY channel.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Unstressed Syllables”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 6 24 12

Merl takes names and phrases and knocks out an unstressed vowel, creating 13 puns. The results are uneven:

  • 23a. [College subject for dentists?], FLOSSOPHY. Philosophy. Flossoophy’s not a word (see also: CLAMITY, DRAINIUMS, CLIPSO, DRECKTORIAL, PLAYDIUM, FLIPPIANS).
  • 25a. [Famous cowgirl who didn't talk much?], CLAMITYJANE. Calamity.
  • 31a. [Pro athlete who whipped all of his opponents?], CREAMABDULJABBAR. This is the first theme entry I filled in, so I figured the puns would all change a name/word into another real word, like Kareem -> CREAM. But no.
  • 42a. [Words written above a lamb-filled Christmas scene?], FLEECENAVIDAD. Feliz.
  • 54a. [Flowers that grow near sewers?], DRAINIUMS. Geraniums? B-b-but when you drop out the unstressed E, you don’t get a D. You just don’t.
  • 58a. [Steak that needs a lot of tenderizing?], FLAYMIGNON. Filet. But the answer sounds like a verb phrase.
  • 69a. [Most popular siesta spot in Mexico?], THESNORINDESERT. Sonoran -> Snorin’. Ouch.
  • 86a. [What Fidel had after his operation?], ACUBANSCAR. Cigar. Arbitrary inclusion of the indefinite article.
  • 91a. [Name of Jacques Cousteau's barber's boat?], THECLIPSO. Calypso.
  • 96a. [Citizens who don't have it so good?], PLIGHTSOCIETY. Polite.
  • 108a. [Bad first effort from Hollywood?], DRECKTORIALDEBUT. Directorial. “Drecktorial debut” one should be a real phrase!
  • 122a. [Great place to see a drama in London?], THEPLAYDIUM. Palladium.
  • 127a. [Part of the Bible that turns its own pages?], FLIPPIANS. Philippians.

Now, one problem with packing 13 theme entries into a grid is that it constrains the rest of the fill, and there sure was some terrible fill in this puzzle. Tons of names (BILLE, NURMI, TANYA, PRYCE, EGGAR, RHEE, STUS, BEERY, MARIETTE, LANI, UREY, TOJO) that have fallen from the A list, if indeed they were ever there. Tons of partials—I think I counted nine, and I was keenly aware of them while solving. You want your partials to disappear, but ATUS/IATE are below STILLI and to the left of OUTA. Too much! Also a lot of crosswordese (e.g., ESTE, ISSEI, GESTE, ETUI, ELOI). And insane foreign stuff! MOI is okay, sure, but 64a ["The king," in Italian], IL RE? It’s got such common letters and yet it has never become crosswordese. Why is that?

And I saved the worst for last, even though the puzzle dished it out right at the beginning: 1d [Largest republic of the USSR], RSFSR. I liked geography and maps when the Soviet Union was a superpower. This abbreviation? Never seen it before.

I really only liked one pun, 108a, and the rest of the puzzle was a fairly unpleasant solve. Two stars from me; your mileage may vary.

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30 Responses to Sunday, 6/24/12

  1. George Barany says:

    Putting on my chemist hat, may I point out that 14C is the radioactive isotope of carbon? During the golden age of biochemistry, many discoveries (e.g. Calvin cycle, 1961 Nobel Prize) were made using radiolabels, and the decay of 14C is the basis of carbon dating (1960 Nobel Prize to Libby).

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    You can put on any hat you want after that CHE puzzle.

  3. paula says:

    Lucky for me I am an avid enviro-fan and was good in chem in HS (oh so long ago!). The fill was clunky (perhaps one might say ‘tortured’) in order to fit. Didn’t get the footprint outline, but didn’t care. Gimmicks aren’t necessary for enjoyment of a good with a beneficial theme.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Note that besides getting those 14 C’s in place (with some leeway as to the exact placement) the constructor had to make sure that no stray C’s showed up anywhere else in the grid!

    BTW there’s no tin in “tinactin”; the name must have been chosen because it’s “actin’” against a condition known in medical Latin as “tinea” (so “tinea pedis” if it’s foot fungus).

  5. Martin says:

    I’m pretty sure TINACTIN holds the big toe. As C19H17NOS, tinactin provides 19 C’s all by itself.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The two TINs in TINACTIN did distract me when I was trying to figure out the bit about ATOMIC SYMBOLS. I scanned the grid for other short names of elements but iron and gold eluded me.

  7. George Barany says:

    TINACTIN might also be parsed as the muscle contractile protein, actin, modified by the heavy metal tin, perhaps in preparation for an x-ray crystallographic experiment. And closing the chemistry lesson begun in my earlier post, it is now considered environmentally more responsible to do one’s experiments with the non-radioactive stable isotope 13C (natural abundance 1%, shall we coin the term ECOCARBON?).

  8. donald says:

    Where is thiere a dictum for digits? Why would a footprint need toes? What?!

  9. rex says:

    What NDE said about the Cs. This puzzle is great. It is the answer to “What will it take for you to overlook some clunky fill?” You have to earn it. Few do. This does.

  10. John Haber says:

    With Gorski, I expected a puzzle with a pattern, with a not too difficult solve. It was both. As for quality, I’ll call it “if you don’t look too hard.” If you don’t look too hard, that’s a footprint. If you don’t think much about it, CELERIES or ECONOCAR might be words. If you don’t worry about it, the rest of the fill isn’t so clunky. So much as I like chemistry and environmentalism, I’ll be a dissenter on this. I’ll give it a C.

  11. ktd says:

    Very nice take on CARBON FOOTPRINT. I imagined the footprint to have been made in sand or mud, hence the lack of distinctive toes.

    @George: I appreciate seeing the chemistry/crystallography lesson (though I wouldn’t probably use tin-actin myself; for actin structures, molecular replacement should do the trick by now). The theme also calls to mind the time-honored technique of DNase FOOTPRINTing, which provides qualitative and quantitative information about a protein-DNA interaction

  12. Lou says:

    Enjoyable Sunday puzzle from one of my favorite constructors.

    Another locale where a receding glacier (Athabasca) is a stark reminder is the Columbia Ice Field Centre in Jasper National Park in Canada (UNESCO World Heritage site). Went there in 2010 and was stunned looking at the marker denoting where the glacier edge was in 2000 and where it was in 2010.

  13. George Barany says:

    @ktd: We’re obviously meandering from our main focus, but your reference to DNase FOOTPRINTING brings to mind the mind-boggling Gorski about DESOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID, which can be viewed at: http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=10/13/2002. And it was only yesterday that DEOXYGENATED made its debut on the crossword pages of the New York Times, albeit in a physiological rather than a chemical context.

    @John Haber: Any relation to Fritz Haber, Nobel Prize in Chemiistry 1918, Haber-Bosch process and Born-Haber cycle. Fascinating life story.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    What’s more ECO is NO CAR. And now we’ve come full circle with ECONO and ECOCAR.

    The toes aren’t necessary to a footprint, but good heavens, when there’s an opportunity to draw toes on a crossword, you take it.

  15. Papa John says:

    Most of the eco-devastation to our planet is caused by the more industrialized nations, who are more likely to be shod than barefoot; hence their carbon footprint would be toeless. Think of the most iconic of all footprints, the one left on the moon by the first astronauts.

    Once again, I think Elizabeth has nailed it.

  16. john farmer says:

    Puzzle thoughts: the Liz Gorski puzzle worked pretty well, imo, though the image of the footprint was slow to come into focus for me. The picture here helped. (Btw, the puzzle ratings would be mystifying if I gave them much thought.) Rumors of Karen Tracey’s retirement seem to be greatly exaggerated. I love I LOVE TRASH. Very cool.

    There hasn’t been an Alan Turing comment yet today, so here’s one for George, Martin, et al.: Daniel Dennett on Darwin and Turing. A good read.

  17. Martin says:

    John, this Martin thanks you for the linked Turing article.

    -MAS

  18. I had ATOMIC nuMBer at 23A for the longest time in the NYT. Took me until the very end to correct it, at which point I finally understood what was going on in the theme.

  19. ArtLvr says:

    I can’t find the link to the Doug Peterson WaPo Puzzler blogged above… please send a link? I’d still like to do it. Thanks…

  20. janie says:

    artlvr — i’m a little unclear about which puzzle you want. the one *by* doug can be found in “the island of lost puzzles (crossynergy)”:

    http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/

    the one doug *blogged* can be found here, by scrolling down to “sunday”:

    http://www.fleetingimage.com/wij/xyzzy/nyt-links.html

    either way — hope this helps!

    ;-)

  21. ArtLvr says:

    Sorry, Janie — neither one is giving me Doug’s “Sunday Challenge” puzzle. One download I tried had a .jpz ending and was blank. No .puz for that anywhere… too bad.

  22. janie says:

    hmmm. this link will give you the .jpz:

    http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1139

    maybe try sam’s link above (for downloading the puzz.). that may do the trick!

    outta here for now. good luck!!

    ;-)

  23. Doug says:

    ArtLvr, check your email. I sent you a copy of the puzzle.

    Sam, the actual seed for the upper part of the grid was 17-Across. I couldn’t get it to work well at 1-Across or 15-Across, so I shifted it down.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @ArtLvr, the CrosSynergy puzzle isn’t distributed in .puz form, hence Janie’s daily posting of the .jpz files the CrosSynergy folks send us. Crossword Solver (free download here: http://www.crosswordsolver.info/) opens both .jpz and .puz files.

  25. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Doug’s Wa Po was an easy 5 * for me. What an effortless, flawless puzzle. Bibelot is a familiar word to most French speakers, and to most readers of Victorian and Edwardian literature. Just means a trinket or decorative object. Those mansions in those novels had etageres covered with bibelots.

  26. sharon says:

    Re Reagel puzzle 1d RSFSR:
    Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics???

  27. Martin says:

    The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, according to Wiki.

    -MAS

  28. ArtLvr says:

    Dear Doug — Many thanks! I’d always prefer AcrossLite format so I can revisit downloads…

  29. ArtLvr says:

    Many thanks to John Farmer too, for the link to the Darwin & Turing parallel — fabulous!

  30. jefe says:

    @Sam – A jewel box is the plastic case that CDs (and their liner notes) are packaged in.

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