Friday, 8/3/12

NYT 5:21 
LAT 8:35 (Gareth) 
CS 5:04 (Sam) 
CHE 5:54 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:13 (pannonica) 

Announcement! Patrick Berry just posted a new variety cryptic at his A-Frame Games website. Here’s the PDF link. Haven’t had a chance to poke the puzzle yet.

Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 3 12 0803

I suspect Jeff seeded his grid with the longer answers on the periphery, because HIGHJINKS, HISSY FIT, WONDERBRA, and HOT PANTS are the funnest things in the grid. Also nice: HAVE A CASE, the *AMES* duo GAME SHOW and NAMESAKE, and “I DARE YOU.”

Less savory: IRANI, NOTER, partials I REST and AND I (plus the quasi-partial I’M NOT, bring the total number of “I” answers to four). I don’t care for the clue for 39d: TIN, [It might take the cake]. Cake pan, pie tin. This is my rule.

Favorite clues:

  • 21a. [These, to a Tico], ESTAS. A Tico is a Costa Rican. Does anyone know if Dora the Explorer’s monkey pal Tico is supposed to be a shout-out to Costa Rica? My Tico cousin-in-law didn’t know.
  • 43a. [Little jerk], TIC. Didn’t fool me, no, sir.
  • 62a. [Doesn't keep off the grass?], TOKES. I finally watched the Louis C.K. comedy special I bought for $5 and learned that today’s marijuana is not at all the same as the pot of decades ago. Apparently science has made it much stronger.
  • 64a. [Material named for a country], SUEDE. For Sweden.
  • 13d. [Being displayed conspicuously], ON PARADE. Remind me to use the phrase “on parade” the next time there is a puzzle with lame fill galore. As in “lousy fill on parade.”
  • 33d. [Accouterment for Fred of "Scooby-Doo"], ASCOT. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago, one of her guests (a 30-something family man) sported an ascot. I don’t know if he wore it ironically or with genuine affection for the look.

3.75 stars.

Bruce Sutphin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 8 03 12

Today, I experienced one of every crossword blogger’s big fears – finishing a puzzle and not knowing what was going on. For some reason, I initially couldn’t parse the clue at 50a, [Speaker's challenge scrambled three times in this puzzle], TONGUETWISTER . It turns out that 19a, [Novice chocolatier's lessons?], SWEETTUTORING, 23a, [Walks in the rain, vis-a-vis fair-day activities?], WETTEROUTINGS and 44a, [Vacations led by Twitter?], TWEETINGTOURS are all anagrams of TONGUETWISTER. Well played, Mr Sutphin. You had me well confusedl! I know that, with this type of theme, it’s very tricky to make sensical theme answers. I can’t claim that I found any of those answers riotously humorous, but this sort of thing is often hit or miss and differs between individuals.

Like Wednesday, I was impressed by the swaths of white space in the corners. I must say, I found the two corners above SWEETTUTORING very difficult to get traction in; was I alone in finding those two areas tough? Some of the best answers from the corners include:

  • 17a, ["Just curious"], NOREASON
  • 9d, [Taking a break], ONHIATUS I was thinking of a shorter-term break.
  • 10d, [Graceful plunge], SWANDIVE
  • 40d, [Wavy lines], WIGGLES They’re also Australian kiddy-pleasers, aren’t they?
  • 42d ["Consider it done"], NOSWEAT
  • 47d, [1977 Australian Open champ Tanner], ROSCOE. A bit of a forgotten man in tennis circles, no?
  • 58a, [Tab, for one], DIETCOLA
  • 60a, ["Enough already"], OKAYOKAY

That’s a quite a list, isn’t it?

Oh look, here’s a YouTube clip of those Wiggles, I guess I’ll leave you with them. (Just for Jeffrey! I know he likes that sort of thing.)

Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “World Piece” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 8/3/12 • "World Piece" • McClary • solution

Nine theme entries in this puzzle, with a two-part revealer in the bottom row.

  • 67a. [With "the," orchestral work whose movements share the names of the starred clue/entry pairs…] PLANETS.
  • 68a. [And its composer] HOLST. Gustav [von] Holst.

  • 1a. ["The Bringer of Peace"] VENUS.
  • 6a. ["The Bringer of Jollity"] JUPITER.
  • 25a. ["The Winged Messenger'] MERCURY.
  • 27a. ["The Bringer of Old Age"] SATURN.
  • 46a. ["The Magician"] URANUS.
  • 47a. ["The Mystic"] NEPTUNE.
  • 33d. ["The Bringer of War"] MARS.

The Planets is a very accessible symphonic work and I suspect it may have been an entrée to classical music for many people. Two of the more recognizable movements are Mars and Jupiter; the first for its propulsive 5/4 time and use by marching bands, and the other as the longtime theme song National Geographic television specials.

Kind of nifty that Pluto has come and gone—by discovery after the piece’s composition and subsequent demotion to dwarf planet some 76 years later, in 2006—so the roster remains intact. Nevertheless, a Pluto movement (“The Renewer”) was commissioned and recorded in 2000. It isn’t so significant anyway, since the rationale was astrological rather than astronomical (which is why Earth (Terra?) doesn’t appear).

The grid is 15×16. The extra row is necessitated by the even-lettered and centered MARS running vertically. Adding an extra column instead might have thrown the paired planets in the acrosses out of alignment (constructors: feel free to correct me). In any case, the central MARC Chagall in Row 8 strikes me as a remnant of an earlier configuration attempting to have all across themers. The net result—especially with the black squares in the four corners which, if you stretch your imagination, round things out—make for a grid that is vaguely elliptical in aspect.

In any event, the extra room allows for more robust fill throughout the grid. Longer entries such as MAIN IDEA, NOSE JOBS, POP MUSIC, and YOSEMITE, the consonance (parachesis?) of ASIMOV and MIMOSA in the northwest and ITURBI and TAR PIT in the southeast.

Other:

  • 2d [Key with one sharp] E MINOR. Not sure if any part of The Planets is in this key.
  • 43a [Profile changes?] NOSE JOBS. Great clue, suggesting social networks in our internet-preoccupied era.
  • 28d TIKRIT, Iraq [Operation Red Dawn city]. That’s where Saddam Hussein was hiding. HOLES UP [Stays out of sight] 23a.
  • 49d [Gibson Girl model Evelyn] NESBIT. Although she was not the only one.
  • Had to check to see if 52d Anwar SADAT shared the title of [Time's 1977 Man of the Year], but the accolade was his alone.  He and Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.
  • Favorite clue: [He captured Boss Tweed] NAST (31d). In caricature form.

Solid, yet also gaseous, puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Heat Is On” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 3

It’s Day 3 of Name That Constructor Month, the gimmick where, after solving, I try to guess who made the CS puzzle. I’m batting .500 so far with two points in the bag (I’m trying beat 15.5 points, the score I would get from random guessing). Okay, let’s roll.

37-Across tells us that SUN is the [Summer blazer, which can come before the starts of this puzzle's four longest answers]. Put on your shades and let’s check them out:

  • 17-Across: The [Hippie's slogan] is FLOWER POWER. Surely every hippie would dig a sunflower.
  • 57-Across: The [1967 Doors hit covered by Jose Feliciano] is LIGHT MY FIRE. C’mon baby, how about a little sunlight?
  • 11-Down: The [Display seen on an idle monitor] is a SCREEN SAVER. Here’s a little tip: never use sunscreen as a screen saver. Now don’t say you never learned anything from this blog.
  • 25-Down: The [Japanese serving ritual seen in "The Karate Kid, Part II"] is a TEA CEREMONY. Few such ceremonies offer sun tea, it seems.

Okay, the pinwheel arrangement of theme entries smacks of Donna Levin–I’ve noticed that a number of her most recent puzzles have used this arrangement. Or at least I think I have. So she’s gonna be my first guess. After that, well, it could be most anyone. Whoever made the puzzle did a nice job with the paired sixes in each corner (especially MORPHS). And there’s some goodies scattered throughout, like I GET IT, SPRAWLS, and LATVIA. Any grid with two [Fanatic]s can’t go wrong–there’s both a NUT and a FIEND in here.

I also like all the two-letter abbreviations in L.A. TIMES, SEVEN A.M., and DR. WATSON, [Martin Freeman's role in the BBC's "Sherlock"]. I hear that’s a great show, by the way. If I ever get caught up on all the TV I’m supposed to watch, I’m including this one in the “must watch next” list.

Okay, time to guess the constructor. Let’s go with:

1. Donna Levin     2. Lynn Lempel     3. Alan Arbesfeld (aka “Mister Third Guess”)

D’oh! Patrick Blindauer! I was totally duped. Okay, the bad news is that my batting average has dipped to .333. The good news is that a .333 average would make the Hall of Fame. Let’s see if I can get back to .500 tomorrow!

Favorite entry = MARITAL, the [Word before bliss]. Indeed. Favorite clue = [It may be burnt or raw] for SIENNA. Thank you, Crayola!

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dual Personalities” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 8/3/12 • "Dual Personalities" • Fri • Ross • solution

For the theme entries, the clues augment the acknowledged definitions of familiar personal appellations with another, skewed sense. So we get two, two… two meanings in one.

  • 23a. [Egotistical conversationalist, like Cher?] NAME-DROPPER.
  • 24a. [Slacker at Fort Knox?] GOLDBRICK.
  • 41a. [Piker in the National Hockey League?] CHEAPSKATE.
  • 52a. [Lice checker who's fussy?] NITPICKER. Not seeing much of a difference here, as it’s merely metaphorical expansion. Or am I being too critical?
  • 68a. [Sycophant who takes good care of his computer?] APPLE-POLISHER.
  • 85a. [Tyro with a colorful instrument?] GREENHORN.
  • 92a. [Beggar with skills in the kitchen?] PANHANDLER.
  • 112a. [Nemesis who causes podiatry problems?] ARCH ENEMY. Hmm.
  • 114a. [CPA with a carefully monitored garden?] BEAN COUNTER. Am now thinking of Gregor Mendel.
  • 39d. [Party pooper who likes picnics in the rain?] WET BLANKET. I will not think of “MacArthur Park,” I will not think of “MacArthur Park”… aargh.
  • 49d. [Novice with a sore bunion?] TENDERFOOT.

A gentle theme, not spectacular, but mildly entertaining. I liked it. It wasn’t overly ambitious and at least partly as a result allowed for a more balanced puzzle in general, with lively ballast fill. On the other hand, the uniformly short fill around the perimeter initially gave me a viscerally sour reaction, and it wasn’t until encountering some longer nonthematic fill in the interior—words like FANTASTIC, EVERLAST, PERMANENTFIRST AID, and MALARKEY—that I fully warmed to this crossword.

Quite random notes:

  • 46a Ross clues ROSS.
  • T-NUT and T-TOP (118a & 48a). AH, ME and ALAS (105d & 22a). SASK and SDAK (84a & 89a). ERLE and ASTA (81d & 108a).
  • 44a [Place for a shot] THE ARM. I usually don’t care for fill with tenuous definite articles, but this one manages to be clued strongly enough to bolster it across that rubicon.
  • 7d [Easternmost province of Indonesia] PAPUA. This is all correct, but I feel like being expansive. New Guinea is a large island, the world’s second largest, after Greenland. The western half belongs to Indonesia—a nation of many islands—and the eastern comprises the independent country Papua New Guinea. The Indonesian section, containing the provinces of West Papua and Papua, was also known collectively as Irian Jaya (and prior to that, Netherlands New Guinea).  The smaller West Papua is essentially the Vogelkop Peninsula, which is Dutch for “Bird’s Head.” Ta-da.
  • 72a MINSKY’S is fun fill, and I suppose as a famous and infamous burlesque house it was fun-filled for many of its patrons.
  • Oddest fill: ARRIERE [Back in Bordeaux], EDHS [Old English letters], PIUS II [Only reigning Pope to write an autobiography] (that one just looks strange in the grid).
  • Help me out here: 77a [Bicycle clips setting] ANKLES. Not toes or soles?
  • 4d [Words with Reason or Reptiles] AGE OF. Really enjoyed this clue for a Dreaded Partial.
  • 67d [Hunt with an Oscar] HELEN (1997)? LINDA (1993)!
  • 70d [Duck] SHIRK; see themer 24a.
  • 78d [Calamitous, as an error] FATAL. Kind of like this?

Pleasant puzzle, about average.

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24 Responses to Friday, 8/3/12

  1. Huda says:

    Mother TERESA gone wild! Throwing a HISSY FIT in her SUEDE HOTPANTS and a WONDER BRA– a HIATUS from sainthood! We all need those!

    Very funny perimeter indeed! Center was also very good, with minimum junk, but what really is great, IMO, is the low preponderance of proper names. Mother TERESA has AESOP and STEVEN Chu for company. I’d love to crash that little gathering.

    I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but it was too easy for a Friday (and the stats back me up, I think it’s like a medium Thursday). I feel that some of the cluing is too straightforward and could use a little trickery ! Still, a very elegant, smooth and enjoyable puzzle.

  2. Erik says:

    never love multi word partials, but they’re so much better when they get a clue like the one for AND I.

  3. In the late 1970s, I devoured Saturday morning CARTOONS. Besides learning the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution (thank you, Schoolhouse Rock), I became a huge fan of Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes. And I never had interest in Scooby-Doo, which although somewhat funny (Meddling kids!) featured the utterly wimpy Fred and that awful orange ASCOT.

    It seemed to me then that Looney Tunes fans and Scooby-Doo fans were distinct groupings with little in common. Does anyone else of that era feel the same?

  4. Jeff Chen says:

    I wonder what it feels like to grow up.

  5. Evad says:

    Had I PASS and NO BID before NO BET. And are Swedes typically covered with nappy short hair?

    Enjoyed the perimeter entries as well.

  6. RK says:

    Liked a lot NYT answers: Hissy fit, tokes, kneeled, hot pants, wonder bra. Eraser, perps, tell a story seemed off though.

    LA and WSJ were unremarkable I think, though the theme answers in the WSJ were preetty good as usual.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Liked the NYT a lot. Very smooth, elegant construction. Agree that it was on the gentler end of the Fri. difficulty curve, but the NW was, if not a bear, a good sized raccoon.

    Jeff, when somebody asks me “Where did you grow up,” my usual snappy comeback is “If it happens, I promise to get in touch with you promptly.”

  8. pannonica says:

    LAT: This is far from the first time I’ve seen an inaccurate clue along these lines regarding electric EELS: 63a [Ocean current sources?]. Those guys are exclusively freshwater denizens. I carry no truck with calling them “eels” even though they’re actually members of the knifefish family, because that’s a matter of the vernacular name.

  9. Bruce S. says:

    @pannonica
    My submitted clue was [Some current carriers]
    Didn’t know there were things called “knifefish” pretty cool.

    Thanks for the write-up Gareth!

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    In the off chance that anyone’s interested in context, the full quote for NYT 11D:

    “Be gone, I say; for till you do return
    I REST perplexed with a thousand cares.”

    Act V, Scene V of King Henry VI, part one, spoken by said, eponymous king to Lord Suffolk.

  11. Gareth says:

    Quite a lot of fun answers in the NYT. My favourites – HIGHJINKS/HIATUS, HISSYFIT, WONDERBRA, HOTPANTS. Like everybody, found it an easy Friday, despite quite a few write-overs immanENT then aNyMOMENT, pePsin off the P (sigh), nettED for EARNED, and Cad for CUR were the most persistent… Well done Jeff!

    @Erica: Thanks, I made a mental note to complain about that, but I forgot to!

  12. pannonica says:

    NYT: Meant to brag that I quickly filled NYALA in with just the N. Then again, Ns were scarce (and hence memorable) when I coerced the family into playing “animal geography” with me.

  13. RK says:

    I put in earned as well instead of netted which was almost my doom.

    No one feels eraser is an awful answer for rubber. Maybe I don’t fully understand either term.

    And how is “tell a story” = yarn. If yarn meant tell a story, “spinning a yarn” would be redundant.

  14. ArtLvr says:

    ON PARADE twice today! Chicago will have a major welcome-home for veterans on the one- year anniversary of ending the Iraq debacle on Dec. 15 — and why can’t NYC defy the Pentagon decree and do likewise? Anyway, I for one adored the WSJ, chock-full of punny clues…

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    @RK—-I grew up saying rubber for eraser. I think it must be a Brit thing.

    Yarn = one of many words that are used as a verb and a noun. Do you have a problem with “hit a ball” = hit?

  16. RK says:

    @Daniel–Thanks for the Brit heads-up.

    Didn’t know that yarn can be a verb so it makes sense now. Thanks again.

  17. Martin says:

    Yep. A marine electric eel would fry itself in short order. I’ve made that point s few times.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    @RK,

    You’re quite welcome.:-)

  19. Huda says:

    There’s a Pentagon decree against parades?

  20. Zulema says:

    Absolutely lovely NYT crossword. When we spoke English we said India Rubber for ERASER. And a couple of other comments. I assume from what I read here that TICO is nor pejorative. The only TICO I ever heard of is Tico Tico no fubá, made famous by Carmen Miranda and a very popular song when I was growing up. Last, HOT PANTS were a big thing 40 years ago, but the clue exaggerates their minimalism. It was more their colors and materials that caused them to stand out.

    As for HOLST, I have never taken to his music and perhaps it’s my loss.

  21. Daniel Myers says:

    Citation from OED in re rubbers:

    1968 F. G. Holliday Man. Stationery v. 113 “Erasers are often called ‘rubbers’, but today a surprisingly small proportion of them actually consists of rubber.”

  22. pannonica says:

    Tico (and Tico Tico…), not to be confused with Ctenomys, the tuco-tuco. I bring this up in part because of a recent conversation including kudu and pudú.

    It’s my understanding that The Planets is atypical of HOLST’s oeuvre and he was rather unhappy with its disproportionate popularity. As I’m familiar with only that work of his (and find it enjoyable, if not challenging), I can’t comment further.

  23. Ruth says:

    I have known several British gals and one Canadian who had embarrassing stories related to their announcing the need to procure (or borrow) a “rubber” and then being treated to loud American sniggering (and more).

  24. Old Geezer says:

    Brett H: “It seemed to me then that Looney Tunes fans and Scooby-Doo fans were distinct groupings with little in common. Does anyone else of that era feel the same?”

    I had the experience of loving Looneys long before Scooby (and possibly the creator!) were born. So I didn’t have much in the way of liking Scoobs. Except maybe that puffnstuff guy. Whatever …

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