Monday, 7/9/12

NYT 2:28 
LAT untimed 
CS 6:10 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Repeat announcement from Sunday’s post: Teen constructor Erik Agard has a website where you can download 14 of his crosswords. Anoa Place … check it out.

C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, July 9 2012 0709

Someday I will open a restaurant and I will call it Topaz Okapi.

Crisp Monday theme: LAW STUDENT, BANK DEPOSIT, NEWS COMMENTATOR, RECORD LABEL, and ICE MACHINE all start with things you can BREAK. “Breaking the LAW, breaking the law” (Judas Priest, with bonus Beavis & Butthead appeal) is illegal. Breaking the BANK is coming into a ton of money, though I’m not sure how the phrase came about. Break the NEWS … gently. (Evad just got the good news that his first puzzle construction in a few years will run on some future Wednesday in the New York Times! Yay! He ran the theme by me and you’re gonna like it. Really neat theme.) Break a RECORD and solve a Monday crossword more slowly than anyone has ever done it—just keep solving continuously but very slowly. Could you stretch it to 48 hours? Break the ICE: “Hi, I’m Amy, pleasure to meet you. What an interesting name you have; what does it mean?”

I zipped through the puzzle at a good clip but spotted some entries that might be unfamiliar to crossword newbies. Here’s a primer:

  • 10a. [Writer James] AGEE won the Pulitzer for his novel A Death in the Family, wrote film criticism. I always think he’s African-American because all the other Agees I’ve known are black.
  • 14a. [Relative of a giraffe], OKAPI. It’s got a shorter neck and looks more like a zebra.
  • 62a. [Art Deco artist], ERTÉ. Real name Romain de Tirtoff. The initials R.T. are pronounced “air tay” in French, hence his adopted name of Erté.
  • 63a. [Kind of tide], NEAP. “A tide just after the first or third quarters of the moon when there is the least difference between high and low water.”
  • 64a. [Western, in old slang], OATER. As in a movie in the Western genre.
  • 4d. [Cathedral area], APSE. Cathedral area, 4 letters? It’ll be either NAVE or APSE so you can fill in the E and check the crossings to determine the rest.
  • 18d. [Russia's ___ Mountains], URAL. Home of the dividing line between the European and Asian continents. I went to school with a boy named Ural.
  • 34d. [Poi source], TARO. Taro is a root vegetable, poi is a starchy Hawaiian food made from it. I think.
  • 56d. [Prime draft classification], ONE-A. Really 1-A. From back when the U.S. military had a draft, 1-A meant you were good material for the service, physically and mentally fit.

Four stars. Maybe a bit heavy on the APSE/URAL business for noobs but it didn’t slow me down. The theme is so smooth, it buys forgiveness on the fill front. And OUTDRINK, GUESS? jeans, and GETS EVEN were sweet.

Updated Monday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Farmer Brown” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 9

Today’s puzzle tells the tale of Farmer Brown through expressions that start with the names of farm animals:

  • 17-Across: [Farmer Brown's farm was in a] COW TOWN.
  • 18-Across: [...and embellished with] DOGWOOD [trees].
  • 28-Across: [Farmer Brown's income was] CHICKEN FEED.
  • 47-Across: [...but he spent his time watching] HORSE OPERAS.
  • 60-Across: [...and taking] CAT NAPS.
  • 63-Across: [As for hard work, he said] HOGWASH!

It doesn’t exactly give one a favorable impression of Farmer Brown, but it’s hardly a TALE OF WOE, the [Sob story] at 37-Down. I liked how some of the fill echoed the rural theme, with Li’l ABNER, the Hatfield-McCoy FEUD, and some HAM on the side. But I think we can all agree that the puzzle would have been better off without the HOR in the middle (though Inner Beavis finds it oddly amusing that the clue is [Level with the ground (abbr.)]).

The triple 7s in two corners add some flair, though ENNOBLE is one of those words you’ll only see in a crossword grid. This didn’t feel “Lempel-ian” in its smoothness (one doesn’t expect to see IWO, EST, and TWI together in a Lynn Lempel puzzle), but that’s a very high standard. At first I thought it was because of the theme’s density, but there’s only 50 total theme squares. While that’s certainly above average, it’s short of the usual range where one starts to see compromises in the grid in order to make everything work. So in the end we have a good puzzle, just one that’s not quite on par with most Lynn Lempel offerings.

Favorite entry = CATCH COLD, to [Come down with the sniffles]. Favorite clue = [Make some new connections?] for RE-WIRE.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 6/9/12

No .puz file out there today so I solved online. C.C.’s theme is LOCO: Four phrases beginning with LO- and CO- words.

  • 18a. [Area's distinguishing qualities], LOCAL COLOR. Great phrase.
  • 29a. [Bud Abbott's partner], LOU COSTELLO.
  • 48a. [Fly off the handle], LOSE CONTROL.
  • 59a. [Jurisdiction whose decisions may be appealed], LOWER COURT.
  • 68a. [Off one's rocker, and a hint to what the four longest puzzle answers have in common], LOCO.

Solid twist on the “phrase initials” theme by going with letter pairs instead of single letters.

The dozen 7-letter answers class up the fill with corners that are fit for a themeless puzzle (though the overall word count is 76, a standard themed-puzzle word count). SOAP BOX is Scrabbly, LUMP SUM has two “UM”s, SILENT E is always fun (my peers likely remember the Electric Company skit featuring the powerful Silent E character), PANDORA is classic and modern (it’s also an online music service), and ARAPAHO POTOMAC cries out for a third word. “Arapaho hippopotamus Potomac” is actually not a tongue twister, though. RED BULL is fresh fill, too.

Now, I think C.C. is roughly my age peer, but she came to the U.S. from China as an adult if I recall correctly. It always blows my mind when someone for whom English is not a first language masters the art of crossword construction. It’s impressive enough that my mother-in-law loves to do crosswords despite growing up speaking a language entirely unrelated to English, but more mind-boggling that Michael Shteyman could quickly move from speaking Russian to making crosswords in English, and for C.C. (Xhouqin) to be solving puzzles, blogging them (L.A. Times Crossword Corner is her site), and constructing prolifically for the L.A. Times.

Four stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 7 9 12

Okay, it’s Monday evening already. I worked, I ran errands, I cooked dinner, and here we are at 8:09 pm. Quick blog!

Like RAP-ROCK (the answer, not the genre), TEAM USA beside ALL-STAR, the zippy HATERADE, the dreaded ROBOCALL, “YEESH,” PAISLEY, and two language clues, KOREANS who use the Hangul alphabet and the ESPANOL of telenovelas. Never heard of TUNEYARDS (one of BEQ’s germinal entries) or SLYDINI, but grant you that SLYDINI is a fun magician name. Bored by EDUCE, ORONO, EER. Dislike RWE, ENA, EAGAN, IN A MIST. (IN A MIST would be better if it appeared right with NIAGARA, no? Feels sort of awkward to me but waterfall proximity might’ve sold it.) Amused that Brendan explained ITCHY LEGS in his post as a Byron Waldenesque move. I note that the Y could be blacked out to make ITCH and LEGS, perfectly ordinary, crossing TUNE and medical acronym ARDS (acute/adult respiratory distress syndrome), but then Brendan would lose his TUNEYARDS, whatever that may be.

3.5 stars.

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24 Responses to Monday, 7/9/12

  1. Martin says:

    Erik Agard (of Amy’s announcement) also did a fine guest blog appearance at Rex’s (blogging the Friday puzzle), followed by Amy’s stint blogging Saturday.

    Befitting his lack of seniority he signed his post Satrap of CrossWorld. Amy is All-Powerful Creator and Goddess of CrossWorld. I think he’s off to a good start.

  2. Abashed says:

    Surely you are recommending his puzzles because of their excellence alone. I can’t imagine his age would be of interest to your readers.

  3. Erik says:

    thanks for the shoutouts, amy. (and for the props, martin.)

    @abashed, this whole thing arose from a clerical error – i’m actually 81, not 18.

    and most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS, EVAD!

  4. Huda says:

    Very lovely NY Times Monday puzzle. Creative theme, smooth execution. I had to wait till the reveal to connect the dots, which is something I love– a puzzle is meant to be puzzling, no?

    CANT I?, GUESS? FLOPPY, ZIT… Good stuff in the fill.

    I remember the first time I learned the expression “break the news” and could not figure out how it might have evolved? I can imagine each of the others if I think figuratively. But why does the news need to be broken? And while we’re at it, why is the news singular?

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Abashed: Mentioning that Erik is a teenager is shorthand for saying “so he probably doesn’t fill his puzzle with Maleskan vocabulary.”

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    This is a continuation of a theme from yesterday. I ask this question seriously, not sarcastically or rhetorically, which is why I post it here where it is more likely to be noticed.

    I pointed out that I had entered “Damen” rather than “Fraus” in response to the clue {German women}. On the basis of the views and analysis offered yesterday, would “Dames” also be considered a correct response to the same clue? If not, why not? (I don’t think the number of letters in the respective singulars and plurals is dispostive, but I will not go into the illustrations here which I think demonstrate that.)

  7. Martin says:

    Bruce,

    The rule is that a foreign noun becomes English once it enters the grid, and thus may be pluralized as if it were English. Therefore, there is nothing at first blush to prevent DAMES with this clue. That said, I wouldn’t expect it for a number of reasons.

    For one thing, such a clue is a clue of last resort. It’s not something a constructor enjoys; it’s a sign of desperation. Since DAMES can be clued without resorting to it, I wouldn’t think any constructor or editor would go that route.

    Also, such clues are always very direct. It’s bad enough that the hybrid plural is needed and there is no need to spend any more time on solving the clue than is necessary. Since Dame is normally “lady” while Frau is “woman,” I would expect [German ladies] to clue DAMES, except that it would never be clued that way when there’s the Ruby Keeler movie, Edna and Helen Mirren and what “We ain’t got” in a South Pacific number, among a large universe of possibilities.

  8. seahedges says:

    UEYS struck me as odd, though I do find it listed in a couple of dictionaries (Collins, Wikionary) as an Aussie variant. Crossing SMELL made it inevitable, but it did leave me wondering.

    -sea

  9. Martin says:

    Hi Stephen!

    You never took your bows after your LAT a week ago Friday, did you?

    UEY + UEYS beats out UIE + UIES in NYT crossword appearances. I think they’re both American English but are rarely written except in crosswords.

  10. Martin says:

    Huda,

    BTW, do you have examples of science clues that you think were off? If not, please mention any future ones you think are questionable.

  11. Anoa Bob says:

    I think the LAT is a splendid example of an early week puzzle. The theme and its entries are rock solid with a perfectly placed, concise reveal (LOCO). What put it over the top and led me to rate it 5 stars was the wide open grid design and outstanding fill.

    Having only 35 black squares gives it a themeless feel and leaves lots of room for C.C. to bust some moves on us. We get ARAPAHOs visiting the POTOMAC River. A SOAP BOX for PANDORA to do ANTI-WAR protests.

    So much fun solving this one I think I’ll treat myself to a VSALIC pickle. It’s a little late, so I’ll skip the RED BULL.

    Great balance between theme and fill.

  12. Bananarchy says:

    Congrats, Evad!

  13. Evad says:

    Thanks, everyone! Not only is Amy the undisputed All-Powerful Creator and Goddess of CrossWorld, she’s a great crossword theme muse as well, right up there with ERATO.

    Little did I know when I added the rating system to this blog that one day I would be subject to it…I hope everyone remembers that, fashion trends being what they are, 5 is the new 3.

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Martin, I agree with everything you said, (including the woman – lady subtlety), and would have made the same points myself, had I been feeling expansive last night. My question was narrower — whether you (and others) were of the opinion that the answer would have been technically and minimally acceptable. I still wonder whether the Rule is of such broad and general application as you suggest, or whether it would have to be limited in some way. I guess, (and now I am getting a bit whimsical), that for the clue {small German rodents} “Mauses” would be acceptable, but “Mice” would not, inasmuch as Maus is pronounced the same, (well, more or less the same), as “mouse” but spelled differently, and it is only the spelled out English word “mouse” which takes the irregular plural. (?)

    At this point I *am* trying to achieve a *reductio ad absurdum* of The Rule, and by implication urge that it be abandoned. On the other hand, as a non-constructor, (or not very successful constructor), I have some appreciation of how difficult constructing is, and I wouldn’t want to create any more obstacles for them than already exist.

  15. mitchs says:

    I went to Anoa page but no download links (except software) appear.

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    mitchs (and Erik)–I got the same result, and Erik, I would love to see your puzzles.

  17. Erik says:

    should be able to click on the links in the picture, but i just added links in the text as well. better?

  18. Huda says:

    Martin, I don’t have any examples at my fingertips. I remember discussing such nuances on Rex’s blog. But I will point them out when I see them.

  19. Sparky says:

    There’s an old song “He’s the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.” Ralph Morgan used to sing it on a radio show. It means win so much that the bank of the casino goes broke. I thought the puzzle was pleasant but had a few too many old friends in addition to the nine you cited, ALOE, DYNE, ROC, OVA and AVATAR (recently).

  20. ArtLvr says:

    Erik — Nothing came of clicking picture on your ANOA page: maybe you could email the link which will show the puz collection? Never mind, I got it! Thanks…..

  21. Erik says:

    any problems with the website should be fixed by now but y’all can reach me at agarderik at gmail for any tech support or whatever.

  22. Huda says:

    Erik, very cool. Have done a couple and love the cluing. And the READ ME nomenclature.

  23. Meem says:

    So glad to see that conversation remains civil here and refuses to obsess on a single word!

  24. Joan macon says:

    Amy, poi is served at every luau ever given in Hawaii and tastes a great deal like library paste, if anyone is old enough to remember library paste (it was white and came in little jars). When you open your restaurant, I would advise you to leave it off the menu.

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