Wednesday, 8/8/12

NYT 4:17 
Onion untimed 
LAT 4:03 (Gareth) 
CS 4:58 (Sam) 

Spent all my crosswordfiend.com time today rooting out malefactors in the forum. Did you get an “account suspended” message when you tried to load this page? Yeah. That was the result of the bad eggs. If you should try to go to the forum only to discover that your account has been deactivated, shoot me a note and I’ll reactivate you.

Peter A. Collins’ New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 8 8 12 0808

I was entirely underwhelmed by the word ladder in this puzzle and didn’t see any other thematic content until I clicked on the Notepad message: [When this puzzle is done, the answers to the six starred clues will form a word ladder, starting with 4-Across, whose record of 33-/42-Across was broken by 68-Across.] Oh! Hank AARON, with HOME and RUNS placed in symmetrical spots, evolving through BARON and BORON, BOROS and BONOS, to Barry BONDS, who broke Aaron’s HR record. That’s pretty neat. Mind you, there’s no innate connection between word ladders and baseball performance, but whatever.

Highlights:

  • 9d. [Block from rebounding, in basketball], BOX OUT. Lively phrase.
  • 20a. [Victoria Falls river], ZAMBEZI. This may be the most fun to say of all the world’s major rivers. It certainly beats the Oder. (Or the AMUR, a [Russia/China border river] I know only from crosswords.)
  • 8d. [Baylor basketball uniform color], NEON GREEN. Really? Google image search suggests it’s sort of a neon yellow. My son is wearing a shirt that is neon green right now, but in certain light it looks more like fluorescent yellow. So I’ll buy the clue. Love the answer, NEON GREEN.
  • 32d. [Creature prized for its claws] made me picture bear claws worn on a cord around the neck, but it turns out that you need to think in culinary terms rather than adornment. Have never tried STONE CRAB but I have yet to find the shellfish that I can abide the chewing texture of. ::shudder::
  • 50a. [Potpourri fragrance], JASMINE. I hereby apologize to my erstwhile colleague who was enamored of her new jasmine perfume. I shouldn’t have told her it reminded me of the deodorizer smell from Greyhound bus bathrooms. That was wrong and it made her feel bad.
  • 55a. ["The Mayor of Simpleton" band, 1989], XTC. Knew this only because my husband’s an XTC fan. Love the idea of a town called Simpleton.

Could have done without suffix ANE, plural name IVANS, crossing partials A NEED and A NO, solo partial ON ONE, crosswordese ADANO, half-crosswordese BADEN, abbrev AME, and discontinued-in-2008 ZIMA.

3.75 stars.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 8 8 12 Tyler Hinman

Do you know your metallurgy? Tyler does. He brilliantly adds a scientific spin to an Olympic theme:

  • 17a. [Color one might turn after too many airport security scans?], RADIATION AUBURN. Gold, chemical symbol Au, is added to “radiation burn.”
  • 25a. [Exam on board a stuck ship?], FINAL AGROUND. Silver, chemical symbol Ag, in “final round.”
  • 47a. [Pay attention instead of dozing off?], FOCUS, NOT REST. Copper (Cu) and tin (Sn), “footrest.” And yes, I had to Google bronze to confirm that it’s copper and tin. (The tin can be replaced by another metal but I guess it’s usually tin.)
  • 62a. [What the three theme entries in this puzzle are, in either of two ways], MEDAL RECIPIENTS or METAL RECIPIENTS.
  • 52d. [Mover through a river] can be WADER or WATER.

The D/T option puts this puzzle into the category of Schrödinger crosswords, puzzles that have a square(s) with more than one correct answer. (Hat tip to Joon for suggesting the term for crosswords like the famous CLINTON/BOBDOLE puzzle.) Many Americans pronounce medal and metal the same, rather than having a crisp /t/ in metal. So it’s neat to have a Schrödinger square that pokes at this indistinction.

I want to talk about five clues:

  • 32a. [Justin Bieber fan, maybe], TWEEN. I keep seeing TEEN clued as a typical Bieber (or iCarly) fan, and I learned from the Olympics that plenty of 16- and 17-year-old girls are still into the Biebs, but I can’t help thinking that TWEEN is far more accurate. I have little exposure to teenage girls so what do I know? My lens is that of the mom to a 12-year-old boy who’s a Flo Rida fan.
  • 42a. [One of life's certainties], DEATH. TAXES would also have fit. Has anyone made a Schrödinger puzzle with DEATH and TAXES in the same spot?
  • 3d. [Label on many a modern weapon], MADE IN USA. Why outsource your weapons manufacture to China?
  • 11d. [People often shaken down after school?], ALUMS. Yes! I supported my college every single year after graduation—until now. Really, Carleton? You just couldn’t find a single candidate for college president who wasn’t a white male? In 2012, a liberal-leaning college continues to be led exclusively by white men?
  • 51d. [Impudent youth], WHELP. I’ve got to add this to my vocabulary before my son grows up.
  • 61d. [Person kissing Kate, in a tongue twister], ESAU. “I saw Esau…” and that’s all I remember. “…sells seashells by the seashore”? “…rubber baby buggy bumpers”? I got nothin’.

Tyler’s good at working interesting longer fill into his grids. This puzzle’s got ON DEFENSE, CON MEN, and SCORSESE adding value. I could do without AT A TILT, though, which looks like a rival to Atatürk.

4.5 stars for the elegant and timely theme.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 8 03 08

Our previous encounter with Mr. Chen was last week Friday, in the NY Times. Easy for a NY Times themeless, it was still a tougher nut than a Wednesday LA Times, it was also chock-full with great answers; so let’s see what Jeff has in store for us today.

As the central answer, 37a, “Randy Newman song about SoCal, and a hint to the ends of 17-, 23-, 48- and 58-Across”, ILOVELA suggests, Jeff is being a shameless suck-up today, focussing on the home of everyone’s favourite crossword, LA. So why do you live in Seattle then, huh, Jeff? I made a themeless once with HATENEWYORKCITY as a marquee entry; that didn’t go down so well. If you haven’t cottoned to it, each of the four answers end in something that can also be prefixed with “LA”. It’s a far livelier choice for a “words that follow x” theme than most, don’t you think? A lot more fun than, say, “fire” or “line”, and it includes a great revealing answer, so it’s already two up on standard themes of its genre. Okay, let’s see, the answers are:

  • 17a, “Recent history”, MODERNTIMES. It just so happens this puzzle is published in the LA TIMES
  • 23a, “Custom-based rule”, UNWRITTENLAW. LA LAW is an old TV show.
  • 48a, “Ones who refuse to serve, pejoratively”, DRAFTDODGERS. The LA DODGERS are a baseball team. I say “are”, I think they’re an extant one? Here’s a Phil Ochs song about draft dodgers.
  • 58a, “It’s lowered for a touchdown”, LANDINGGEAR. LA GEAR make shoes.

Another impressive aspect of this puzzle is the pair of 10-letter double stacks. The four across theme answers are 11,10,10,11, so there’s no confusion, and tradition dictates that down non-themers can be longer than theme answers in an all across theme arrangement. Anyway… all four answers are great: 11d, “Bathtub gin distiller”, BOOTLEGGER, 12d, ”Old maker of sequential highway signs”, BURMASHAVE (which I’m sure resonates more with American solvers), 26d, “Selection made with a frown”, LESSEREVIL (very nice clue, BTW), and finally 27d, “Sierra Nevada photographer”, ANSELADAMS who gets honoured with full-name treatment today.

A few other clues/answers I’d like to bullet:

  • 1a, “Peter Pan rival”, SKIPPY. Peter Pan is peanut butter, I’m guessing? Skippy peanut butter is found here but not Peter Pan. In the last year, Planter’s peanut butter has been appearing and I see it’s imported from the States.
  • 11a, “Not-so-big shot?”, BBS. A superb clue. If only the answer was too; IMO, BBS as the old-fashioned online bulletin-board service is a more legit answer, unless there really are people who say, “I went down to the shop to buy some BB’s for my BB gun”.
  • 40a, “Online buddies, e.g.”, USERS. Really? And I thought you guys were all so nice.
  • 43a, “Garfield’s favorite food”, LASAGNA. My dictionary has it with a terminal “e”, but crosswords favour an “a.” Is this a US/everybody-else spelling difference? It seems so.

That’s all I’ve got. Thank you for a very fine puzzle, Jeff. So what did I forget to mention?

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Around the House” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 8

The four longest entries in the grid are all two-word terms that start with the name of a room you might find in a house (or, perhaps, in a MANOR, the [Imposing residence] in the middle of the grid at 29-Down):

  • 18-Across: [Twenty Questions, for one] refers to a PARLOR GAME. The Wikipedia page for parlor games lists as examples several games with which I’m not familiar. I love “Are You There, Moriarty?” and “Squeak Piggy Squeak” most, though I worry that the latter might be most popular in Deliverance country.
  • 62-Across: A STUDY GROUP is an [Informal educational gathering]. I’m a law professor by day (and night, for that matter), so I see new law students forming study groups all the time. Most of the time, they don’t last very long. It’s hard to find someone else who can complement your studying practices and tolerate your idiosyncrasies. Well, at least that was the case for me, though I’m willing to concede that my own quirks exceed the norm by at least one standard deviation.
  • 4-Down: A CLOSET DRAMA is a [Play meant to be read rather than performed]. I’ll come out of the closet to confess that this term is new to me.
  • 27-Down: One with a [Look of seduction] is said to have BEDROOM EYES. That may be better than Bette Davis eyes, but it for sure beats Marty Feldman eyes.

Some of the fill plays off the house theme, like DOOR, KNOB, and HOOKS all sitting in the grid’s midsection. That can’t be entirely unintentional, right?

The rest of the fill has a mix of good (IN PERIL, TEN A.M., POPS IN, TEAM U.S.A.), unknowns (I didn’t know the play or movie or whatever called “Father Goose” that starred Leslie CARON, nor the [Wooden toy train maker] BRIO, nor that the [Former Heathrow initials] were BOAC, the British Overseas Airways Corporation), and eww (here’s looking at you, LATEN).

In the clue department, my favorite was the one that tricked me most: [Lay out dough] had nothing to do with baking or kneading because the “dough” in question is cash. So the answer was SPEND. (You’ll see it’s the last entry I wrote into the grid.)

Let’s end with today’s guesses in Name Than Constructor Month. It felt to me that several of the entries and clues skewed to the over-40 set, so I have a hunch this submission comes from a more seasoned member of the CS syndicate. (In fairness, OMG and IPAD have contemporary clues, so my gut feeling may well be way off here.) I’ll go with:

1. Lynn Lempel.   2. Randy Ross.   3. Alan Arbesfeld.

Rats, it’s Raymond Hamel! Oh well, better luck tomorrow, I hope. Name That Constructor Stats After 8 Puzzles: 2 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), no correct third choices (1 point each); 10 points total so far; score to beat = 15.5 points.

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16 Responses to Wednesday, 8/8/12

  1. Jason F says:

    Hmm, and STEROIDS and ASTERISK appearing in the same puzzle: just an unfortunate coincidence, I am sure.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Not to mention OVERSIZED.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jason F: Ha! I noticed the shared STER letter string but (not caring so much about baseball) didn’t think of the words in a Bondsian context.

  4. John E says:

    Can we please ban the usage of hydrocarbon suffixes from all future crossword puzzles?

    And, I agree that the usage of STEROIDS and ASTERISK and the fact that they join up with the main two theme answers in symmetry….all seem to suggest that there is a message here. We obviously can’t speak for Mr Collins – would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

  5. Gareth says:

    I know the Amur mostly from its falcon (Falco amurensis, which migrates here for the summer. Even as a baseball atheist, I can appreciate this particular idea for a wordlist as a very clever one! I just learned about stone crabs (from qi again – just went on a binge, nearly finished watching six seasons of it!)

  6. Bananarchy says:

    TH’s AV puzzle is a beauty. Just sayin

  7. pannonica says:

    I know AMUR from the Amur leopard, a subspecies of that most dispersed cat, as well as from producing distribution maps of other Asian animals.

    Agree with John E, no way that was accidental considering the symmetry and apropinquity.

    Gareth, you’re correct about the typical US spelling of lasagna/lasagne. On the other hand, how many anglophone countries hew to the original (and potentially confusing) paste rather than pasta? I’m agnostic on the subject, but my hackles are raised by such Italian-American dialectical atrocities as “scungilli” (for conchiglia). Also, I believe people would go to the store to pick up “some BBs.”

    Onion: Brilliant puzzle, so well-executed!

  8. Charles Montpetit says:

    Re Onion review: That’s six clues, Amy, not five.

  9. Howard B says:

    Nice NY Times puzzle today, unexpectedly fun fill that I actually enjoyed more than the theme.
    XTC’s “Mayor of Simpleton” is a fun little song, by the way.
    I’ve probably posted this before, but it also contains the lines,

    Well I don’t know how to write a big hit song,
    And all crossword puzzles well I just shun,
    And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton,
    But I know one thing,
    And that’s I love you.
    - So bonus points for the [British] crossword reference, even in that context.

  10. Jenni Levy says:

    I don’t think STEROIDS and ASTERISK were at all accidental and I found it obnoxious, but then I’m one of those liberal paranoid people who thinks that a fair amount of the ranting about Bonds has racist overtones, and one of those nutty baseball partisans who wonders why it is that steroids in baseball threaten the very fabric of American life, while steroids in football are just the way the game is played. Traumatic brain injury is epidemic in American football, and steroids probably make that worse – but hey, let’s just forget who gets suspended for steroid use.

  11. Dave C says:

    Today (or yesterday?) marks the 5 year anniversary of Bonds breaking the Aaron record commemorated (lampooned?) in today’s puzzle.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Charles Montpetit: It’s a baker’s quintet, obviously.

  13. RK says:

    Never saw the Onion theme, a cool one and type I don’t really remember seeing in quite this way. I put in wader not water, was glad I finished, and moved on. Probably wouldn’t have figured it out anyway. Better puzzle than NYT and LAT even without the theme. NYT was a pretty good one though.

    @Jenni Levy Bonds alluded to racism himself and it may be the case, but Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa are also persona non grata to most baseball fans as well.

  14. ArtLvr says:

    Tyler’s answer FOCUS, NOT REST drove me crazy because I couldn’t decide which metal, CU or SN, to take out… Duh, both of them!

  15. mitchs says:

    Quite a Wednesday with really excellent FB and AV!

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    There’s a new one in the forum. Just because. :-D

Comments are closed.