Friday, 7/6/12

NYT 5:19 
LAT 5:40 (Gareth) 
CS 4:35 (Sam) 
CHE 5:51 
WSJ (Friday) tba 

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 7 6 12 0706

The most important answers in this “five, five, five puzzles in one!” crossword are 21a, 24a, 46a, and 48a. If you nail those, you can travel between the four corners and the midsection. I lucked out and got SILENT K ([Start to kneel?]), JARHEAD ([Leatherneck], both slang for a member of the U.S. Marines), DR. SEUSS ([Writer who coined the word "nerd"]), and KNOCK ON ([Tap, as for luck]). Also had good luck with the trivia/pop culture bits, like KIKI DEE and Pauline Kael’s “I LOST IT at the Movies,” but the crossword still played out a bit tougher than a lot of Fridays.

This 66-worder is mostly 7s, isn’t it? Let’s count. I count 30 shorter answers, leaving 36 of those 7s, indeed. Each corner crosses a quad-stack of 7s with a triple plus a midsection-connector 7. To achieve this, Peter has included a number of little prepositions along with all those Scrabbly J’s and K’s (JIGSAWS NITPICK JARHEAD KNOCKON HACKSUP CASKETS JAMESON SNEAKBY KIMONOS JETPACK INCHECK KIKIDEE KEYEDUP). The preposition action lands in KNOCK ON, HACKS UP, SPEED TO, FENCE IN, SNEAK BY, PATCH UP, IN CHECK, and KEYED UP—two IN’s and three UP’s.

Fave fill, clever clues:

  • 1a. JIGSAWS, [Popular gifts that make a distinctive sound when shaken].
  • 21a. SILENT K, [Start to kneel?].
  • 43a. LOAN, [Redistribution of wealth?].
  • 24d. JETPACK!
  • 25d. AREA MAN, [Local, in a news story]. Betcha a dollar that Peter’s original clue referenced The Onion, which has a running gag of asinine “Area Man …” headlines.

Not wild about the astronomical URSAE/C-STAR meetup, the incompleteness of I LOST IT, the eh-ness of IT’S HERE, and the I-lessness of CAN’T SAY. I didn’t know [Voice actor Gary] OWENS but my husband quickly said, “Gong Show.” You probably watched something he’s been in—my personal highlight on his list of gigs is Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy. Oh, I loved that show. Here’s a Powdered Toast Man bit. Overall, I wasn’t hitting much that bugged me while I was solving.

By the way, Pauline? We found the IT you LOST. IT’S HERE. Just stop by the front desk and describe IT and one of our staff will reunite you with IT.

3.75 stars.

Erik Wennstrom’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review

A cursory search of Fiend archives suggests this to be Mr. Wennstrom’s second puzzle (unless he has had others in publications not covered by DOACF). Here is a link to his first puzzle, a real doozy!

LAT 7/06/12 solution

The core theme concept is a strong one. I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out for you, as the theme revealer, 65A ATOZ “The whole nine yards, or a hint about how the starred answers are formed” explains all. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but like a puzzle with extra Z’s in! Z words almost all sizzle with pizzazz! (No, I don’t think that phrase makes a lick of sense…) There is inconsistency in that three answers have one ATOZ change and one has three changes, and that some phrases have A’s that are still A’s, but really, “because this way we have fun answers” is a good enough reason for me!

  • 18A ZEROPLANES (AEROPLANES) “*Serious problem when planning an air force?” Zeroes are also ‘planes from WWII
  • 62A LOVELYRITZ (LOVELYRITA) “*Alluring Piccadilly hotel?” There have been a lot of Beatles references recently! This is not a complaint, just an observation.
  • 4D PEZSHOOTERS (PEASHOOTERS) “*Malfunctioning candy dispensers?” I could imagine how Pezes(?) are solid enough to sting quite a bit!
  • 27D ZZZBASEBALL (AAA BASEBALL) “*Game of nothing but pop flies and walks?” Clue aside, my thoughts exactly. I’d much rather watch 5 days of test cricket, thank you.

In case you’d like to know this puzzle’s average Scrabble score is 2.02, which is astronomically high; and yes, it does have a “Q”. The high-end letters are not limited to the theme answers. Mr Wennstrom clearly thought ”this is fun”, and threw them all over the grid! Some of the other fun Scrabbly answers include:

  • 30A JAZZED
  • 41A SQUAB, clued as an “Avian delicacy”. Funny, I thought it was a baby pigeon. Who eats pigeons? Except really desperate homeless people???
  • 44A KIRK Clued not as James Tiberius but “Diamondbacks manager Gibson”
  • 5D ENZYME “It often ends in ‘ase’” Some of the common ones that buck that trend include pepsin, papain and thrombin. I’m sure there are ones that end in neither “-ase” nor “-in” but I can’t think of any… Anybody?
  • 19D PUNJAB One of those really fun words to say!
  • 41D SKANKY “Foul” It has another, more common, and more offensive meaning…
  • 49D PANZER “German for ‘armor’”. Here’s today’s “laugh at Gareth’s ignorance” moment. I always thought it was German for “panther”, this being reinforced by the fact that there is a Leopard tank and a Lynx tank.

A further olio of entries I’d like to pass comment on: 24A SASHIMI – I’m sure I’ve seen this answer somewhere recently! Emulating Alfred Hitchcock, 32D is ERIK. The clue for 69A BOWED strikes me as odd, but then I’m not up on my classical music jargon, so maybe cellists do “bow their cellos”. It’s a 100% legit answer in any case, though I’m personally more familiar seeing it in a phrase like “bowed with age.”

I’ll leave you with some Lovely Rita.

 

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Starting Point” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 6

Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that can also precede “point:”

  • 17-Across: The [Pump selection] is HIGH OCTANE. I’m looking forward to a personal high point in a couple of weeks. Of course I mean the release of The Dark Knight Rises.
  • 53-Across: The [Wildlife manager] is a GAME WARDEN. I once lost a ping pong match even though I had several game points, any one of which would have given me the victory. (When I play, it’s ping pong, not table tennis.)
  • 11-Down: A FLASH DRIVE is a [Computer storage accessory]. My dictionary defines a flash point as “the point at which eruption into significant action, creation, or violence occurs.” When my trainer made me do another set of chest dips with weights attached earlier this morning, we just about hit the flash point.
  • 28-Down: The [Top-notch restaurant offering] is FINE DINING. I used to do all of my work using a fine point pen, but for the past few years I’ve been using almost exclusively pencils. (0.9 leads, in case you’re curious.)

I’m hoping I caught all the theme entries. At least I don’t there are such things as “lee point,” “tea point,” “eric point,” and “code point.” Those four 8′s (LEE CHILD, TEA WAGON, ERIC IDLE, and CODE NAME) made for great fill, though. A few friends have recommended the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, so I’m thinking about reading one. Any Reacher fans out there? If so, should I read the series in order of publication, or does the order not really matter?

The short fill had some notable highlights too: GET IN, DRAN-O, PINATA, PHISH, and FETID (which I wanted to be ACRID) add some punch. In contrast to the zippy fill, the clues felt a little too routine and lifeless. That’s about the only weakness in an otherwise well-constructed offering.

Favorite entry = MAD DASH, the [Scramble]. Favorite clue = [Started to pucker up, perhaps?] for AGED.

Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Educationo crossword, “Presidential Library” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 7/6/12 • "Presidential LIbrary" • Livengood • solution

Delayed publication of puzzle + further delayed review + extremely straightforward theme = brief write-up + implied apology.

The library in question is quite an exclusive one, consisting of well-known books of fiction whose titles contain a US president’s surname.

  • 17a. [With 22-Across, 1992 Robert James Waller novel in our library] THE BRIDGES | OF MADISON COUNTY. James Madison.
  • 32a. [1941 James M. Cain novel in our library] MILDRED PIERCE. Joseph Mildred. Franklin Pierce.
  • 46a. [1894 Mark  Twain novel in our library] PUDD’NHEAD WILSON. Woodrow Wilson.
  • 53a. [1921 Booth Tarkington novel in our library] ALICE ADAMS. John (and John Quincy) Adams.

Granted, the source material for such a theme is scanty—the absolute pool of candidates is 44, with only a small fraction of those names common enough divorced from presidential context—prior to being filtered through the lens of the back half of the conceit, titles of famous novels. And that’s all preliminary to the consideration of the pragmatic niceties of symmetry and complementary fill. As a result, the theme doesn’t feel rigorous or consistent enough for my liking. Nevertheless, it’s a feat that constructor Livengood was able to pull it off at all.

  • Only one of the themers is split over two entries.
  • The other three themers are books whose titles are simply the full names of a character, who shares a presidential surname. One of them is a nickname (Pudd’nhead for David). Admittedly, the other entry is also a proper noun derived from a surname.

As for the ballast fill, it’s welcomingly free from too much junk and furnished a smooth solve.

Minimal notes:

  • Some pleasingly fortuitous-seeming fill: NADA and NASA as symmetrical partners (16a & 57a). USSR (52a) crossing one of its major port cities, ODESSA (42d), which parallels the nautical BURSAR (41d). Techie WEBCAM and E-TRADE paired with each other (4d & 5d).
  • More maritime fun: 21a [Oceans, to poets] DEEPS. Invariably makes me think of vasty deeps.
  • 58a [Pool-table cushion] BANK. I never think of the object as a bank. Cushion is the best term, with the technically less accurate rail a practical synonym. As far as I’m concerned, bank is only a verb in pool and billiards. Appreciated that the potential cross-reference was averted by cluing 36d CUES as [Shuffleboard sticks]. Plus, I learned something new!
  • 44d [Allowed to travel, in a way] is VISAED. Sounds made-up but it isn’t, it’s just awkward. I think “ENVISAED” sounds better. Either way, it still cries out for a G.
  • Toughest crossing, and last square filled, was 53d/61a: ABU/UTES with less familiar references in the clues. The former was [ __-Bakr, father in law of Muhammad], the latter [Some Black Hawk War combatants] (which misdirected me into thinking about Somalia in the 1990s).

In sum, an okay but perfunctory-feeling puzzle from the solver’s standpoint.

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26 Responses to Friday, 7/6/12

  1. Jeff M. says:

    Wow. Never heard of any of the SE suspects. Blew through this until then….and [insert banana peel slip].

  2. My recently deceased 6th-grade teacher, the most influential educator in my life, taught Gary OWENS in middle school in Mitchell, South Dakota. She told us that he was a cut-up even then. Drawing upon his famous Laugh-In quotes, I’d love to see “Morgul, the Friendly _________” as an NYT clue. (Look it up.)

  3. pannonica says:

    Even though I knew KIKI DEE and the Kael title, the southeast slowed me down, particularly the left section. Impressive grid and fill, but the parts weren’t integrated enough for it to feel right, like a single puzzle.

  4. backbiter says:

    LAT– I just like Kirk and Atoz in the same grid as “All Our Yesterdays” is a favorite of mine. I know it wasn’t intentional, but I will just pretend that it was.

  5. Nina says:

    MAILMEN, ADMAN, AREAMAN – What gives?

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Nina, I noticed the maleness of MAILMEN and ADMAN but didn’t connect the two to each other or to AREAMAN. So the secret theme of the puzzle is “Man up!”

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Not to mention AM RADIO and ONE AM.

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    This puzzle – the NYT – was quite a breeze for me (esp. compared to Wednesday’s monstrosity) even though I had to get 42D entirely from crossings (or rather, endings) and then Google what it meant, after finding the blog unhelpful. Did everyone else know to what Dr. DENTON’S referred?

    Whitley Denton was, presumably, a man as well, though – Who knows? – what an odd given name.

  9. David L says:

    I read a couple of Jack Reacher stories a few years ago when I was recovering from surgery (somehow I couldn’t manage to dig into War and Peace). They are utterly preposterous, fantastically absurd, and insanely readable. I can’t remember much about the plots except that the bad guys were operatically bad, and there was a lot of smiting. I wouldn’t worry about reading them in the right order, whatever that might be. Subtle they are not.

  10. loren smith says:

    Amy – “man up.” Spot on perfect for today.

    Jeffrey – I noticed ONE AM and AM RADIO, too, but then figured they’re two different AMs?

    Daniel – finally someone who’s not saying DR DENTONS was a gimme!

  11. Erik Wennstrom says:

    Hello, everyone! This is Erik Wennstrom, the writer of today’s LA Times crossword. This is actually published crossword number 3. I had one in April’s Games Magazine, and number 4 will appear in Games later this year.

    Re: SKANKY. I almost didn’t include this in the puzzle because of its other associations. But it fit so well that when I remembered that it could also just mean stinky, I ran with it.

    I’m glad that people seem to be enjoying this one. It’s certainly less controversial than my first one (no astronomy-term-based wordplay here).

  12. Jim Horne says:

    Look at all those Js and Ws in the NYT. There are 7 Ks.

    I know Amy has no use for stats but others here may be interested in knowing that Peter Wentz holds the distinction of being, by far, the scrabbliest constructor in my database. Nobody else is even close. This list mentions the usual scrabbly suspects — Kevin Der, Ian Livengood, Mike Nothnagel, Joon, Karen, etc., all in the 1.6s. Will Nediger leaps above them all with 1.78. Peter Wentz has only nine puzzles, one shy of the minimum required, but he’s currently sitting at 1.95.

    Peter is also remembered, of course, for this amazing feat.

  13. Gareth says:

    I don’t normally go for these “only one way in” type themelesses, but none of the areas was designed to be frustatingly hard to get a foothold, in fact I found the puzzle to be mostly Thursday in difficulty, rising to Friday only in the top right. But I really can’t not like a puzzle with all those fun answers in, even if many of them dipped into the word-preposition fountain of answers as you alluded to! @Daniel: Knew Dr. Dentons vaguely as something American, though I first wanted it to be Dr. Demento! @Jim H.: Erik beat Peter in the Avg. Scrabble values today, FWIW.

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    @Gareth-LOL-Dr. Demento was what initially crossed my mind as well!

  15. Jeffrey says:

    Love the stats. Keep them coming, Jim!

  16. Erik says:

    his name is WENTZ. clearly he was born for scrabbly greatness.

  17. AV says:

    Apart from the MAILMEN AREAMAN ADMAN “repeats”, I noticed the DR. DR. repeat (SEUSS – DENTONS) as well, which lessened my love for this elegant 66-worder.

  18. Martin says:

    First time I had squab, 50 years ago, was in a Chinese restaurant. One of their specials was “Salt and pepper squib.” I thought it was a typo for “squid” but it turned out to be a typo for “squab.” It was delicious. I’ve been eating it ever since.

    The Italians eat a lot of piccione too. In fact, most cultures do. It’s another one of those weird American phobias. If you eat chicken, turning your nose up at squab makes no sense. Pigeons are cleaner than chickens, by the way. Of course, any squab you buy in a market has been raised for food, not trapped on the roof of an abandoned building.

  19. Marion says:

    I liked the Peter Wentz puzzle, although the SE was definitely tough for me, what with Dentons, Kiki Dee and whist/Owens. Unusual clue for ochre, and I loved “pipes”!

    LAT was great, with the last area to fall the East Coast.

    @Martin: I had my first squab in NY, in a Chinese restaurant, served in a piece of bamboo. It was delicious, but I don’t see it on menus much anymore.

  20. John Haber says:

    SE was hardest for me, too, because I didn’t know Gary OWENS, recognize Dr. DENTONS, or remember KIKI DEE, although Pauline Kael’s book was a gimme for me. I grew up so excited by her reviews, really turning me on to movies. Otherwise, about average Friday difficulty for me and a nice enough fill. I can’t decide if the unconnected sectors is a flaw or not, since at least it meant an interesting looking grid.

    Must say, I didn’t know jigsaw puzzles, as opposed to tools, could be jigsaws, and I’ve never heard I KID spoken (as opposed to “I’m kidding” or “I kid you not”).

  21. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed the xwords reviewed above, but the WSJ by Harold Jones was a real WOW… Most clever ever, IMHO.

  22. Nina says:

    Wow, I was so bummed by the 3 generic men, I didn’t even think about repeats, man/man; Am/Am.
    I think, in the end, the best thing about this puzzle is that it has made me want to go down to the basement and give my Jig Saw a shake.

  23. Papa John says:

    John,

    I had the same question about JIGSAWS. I’ve always heard “jigsaw puzzles”.

    Watch Bill Maher. He says “I kid” quite often, although I would guess “I’m kidding” is more prevalent.

    For what it’s worth, I breezed through the NYT, raising an eyebrow every time up, men, in and on were repeated.

  24. joon says:

    I’m sure there are ones that end in neither “-ase” nor “-in” but I can’t think of any… Anybody?

    well, there’s rubisco, which is kind of cheating, but nobody actually calls it ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (which ends in -ase twice, in some sense).

  25. lemonade 714 says:

    There is a restaurant in red-neck Tallahassee, Florida near FSU that serves a great Squab, but you need more than 1.

  26. Lemonade 714 — Having lived in Florida’s capital city in the late 90s and early oughts, I know many of its best eateries. What restaurant do you speak of? And Tallahassee itself is not what most people would understand to be “redneck.”

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