Wednesday, 8/15/12

NYT 3:50 
LAT 3:18 (Gareth) 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:09 (Sam) 

Hello! Thanks to Evad’s technical wizardry, all those customized features here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend have been transferred successfully to a new template. My husband was delighted to hear that (a) somebody missed his mascot drawing when it was gone and (b) Evad restored the mascot to its rightful place. I’m pleased to have nested comments now—when people may be writing about so many different puzzles, it’s especially helpful to be able to get your reply in just the right spot. Thanks for the birthday present, Evad!

Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 15 12 0815

I like the theme but not what it does to a bunch of the fill. The theme redefines TOWN SQUARES as 2×2 squares containing 4 letters that can precede town. We’ve got the BOOMtown in the northwest corner, your HOMEtown in the North Dakota zone, BOYS Town in the upper right, FREEtown (capital of Sierra Leone) in the Florida corner, South Africa’s CAPE Town (home to my friend Tertia), and DOWNtown in the Los Angeles corner. I’m especially partial to BOYStown, the nickname for part of my neighborhood—I saw Sheena Easton singing last Sunday at Boystown’s Northalsted Market Days, an awesome street festival that also showcased Olivia Newton-John and the Pointer Sisters. “For Your Eyes Only” has been earworming in my head since I heard Sheena sing it—she still sounds the same.

Where was I? Puzzle. Yes. So I like the consistent layout of the TOWN SQUARES, all traveling clockwise from top left. And I like the longish answers that lattice through the grid—EPHEDRA and PEACHTREE, the SHERATON and BISQUES, SONATINAS and BUSTIERS. But PEACHTREE is clued as [Atlanta's main street], and that’s a little misleading. When I visited Atlanta for Sam’s wedding, the hotel was right between W. Peachtree Street NW and Peachtree Street NE (two streets that run sort of parallel but then kind of intersect), and Peachtree Circle NE and Peachtree Walk NE are a few blocks away. What the hell, Atlanta? Didn’t anyone ever teach you about grids … and logic? So the clue should read [Name of 12% of Atlanta's streets].

I was not enamored of the compromises that enabled the TOWN SQUARES to fit. BIBI, HIHO/SOMMER, ENA, SESE, and I DON’T/-IAL all felt less elegant than I expect Gorski fill to be. Plus U PENN/PIU/TETS! Ouch. Am making a mental (and written) (or rather, typed) note of the [Cadillac model unveiled in 2012], ATS. This may be the new ALERO, people—the car model that will haunt crosswords forevermore.

HOMEtown girl grumbles at 36d: UNO being clued as [___ Chicago Grill]. Here in Chicago, it’s still called Pizzeria Uno and its sister is Pizzeria Due. The “Uno Chicago Grill” moniker has not been applied to the flagship locations, and that name just seems cheesy and chainy to me. (Sigh.)

3.25 stars.

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

First off, a hip-hip-happy 21st (more or less) birthday to Queen Amy of Fiendland!

LA Times crossword answers, 2012 08 15

I’ve seen this puzzle’s theme a few times before; that’s the not the puzzle’s fault exactly, it’s kinda inevitable considering the number of crosswords that have been put out there and the number I’ve solved. I don’t think I’ve seen it with the revealer 59a, “Ran into on the road, or an apt description of 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across”, REARENDED, which is clever! So the four answers end with a synonym for fanny (American meaning). There are a lot of words for that bit of anatomy; Hillary Duff could’ve been a theme answer, but she wasn’t. The theme answers chosen by Mr. Krauss made a great set, though; only the first was a little blah, and only if you’re being absurdly picky. They are:

  • 17a, “Support, as a cause”, GETBEHIND. “Behind” is an adverb, not a noun like the original, at least I think so, so that’s one point in its favour.
  • 23a, “Inside scoop”, SCUTTLEBUTT. That’s a fun word to say, isn’t it? My concise Oxford doesn’t have an etymology, but let’s see… Wikipedia’s cousin Wiktionary suggests it was the nautical equivalent of the water cooler.
  • 36a, “Washington neighborhood that’s home to the State Department”, FOGGYBOTTOM. I confess that I don’t know the names of Washington neighbourhoods, although again it’s a really colourful, picturesque name, isn’t it?
  • 49a, “Position of advantage”, CATBIRDSEAT. I knew this only from the Thurber short story. Is there a public domain copy? Here ya go!

We also have a Biblical mini-theme running through the grid with 22a, “”Lord, is __?”: Matthew”, ITI; 30a, “Hebrew name for God”, ADONAI; and 10d, “Biblical spy”, CALEB. I always associate the second answer, ADONAI, with the worship song “El Shaddai”.

There’s little if anything to complain about in this grid. Two partials, yes, and a few repeaters, though all of them perfectly acceptable in my book. OK, crossing the theme answer GETBEHIND with 3d, “Eradicated”, GOTRIDOF is probably less than ideal. Of those repeaters, 29a, “Great Lakes’ __ Canals”, SOO is memorable to me, as it left me with an empty square in an old New York Sun Monday puzzle. I’d just started solving US puzzles, but still, the shame!

I think the song referenced in the penultimate answer, 60d, “Telephone Line” rock gp., ELO is the perfect earworm to leave you guys with, as we say our 11d, “Farewells”, ADIEUS!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Agriculture Shock” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 15

Beware the Ides of August, for they contain quip themes! Yep, today’s puzzle features a riddle: HOW DOES A TRACTOR / BREAK OFF A / ROMANCE? / IT WRITES A / JOHN DEERE LETTER. Even if the punchline is guessable from fifty miles away, it’s still a fun riddle, so the puzzle gets a thumbs-up from me. I know some readers are opposed to quip/quote/joke themes regardless of the actual content, so the star ratings for this puzzle may be lower than for most CS puzzles. (Hopefully the auto-haters can’t figure out how to post their ratings on the redesigned blog!)

One nice thing about quip/joke themes–they don’t take long to explain! Let’s focus on a half-dozen interesting clues and answers:

  • The answer to [Not long] is FOR A BIT, noteworthy because it crosses three “theme entries.” I was thinking the answer would be along the lines of IN A SEC, or ANY MOMENT NOW. For some reason I didn’t process that I was supposed to look for a synonym. Maybe I imagined quotation marks around the clue?
  • Anyone else try T-NOTE as the [Treasure repository], misreading “Treasure” as “Treasury?” (And also forgetting that “Treasury” wouldn’t be in the clue for T-NOTE since that’s what the “T” stands for, but no need to make me feel especially dumb, right?). Alas, the answer was TROVE.
  • The [Ground water source] is an AQUIFER, introducing a Q into the grid. Hmm, a rare letter. And there’s an X down south and an extra J in here. Do I smell a Patrick Jordan puzzle?
  • The extra J facilitates ABJECT, a wonderful word for an [Utterly hopeless] state.
  • I can’t decide if my favorite entry is GO SOFT or UNCURL. Luckily, I gave up the “favorite entry” and “favorite clue” gimmick a couple of weeks ago, so now I don’t have to choose.
  • There’s a mini-theme of outwearing one’s welcome here, with the symmetrically placed END LATE and OUT-STAY. I’ll take the hint and wrap up now.

But wait! I need to take my guesses in today’s segment of Name That Constructor Month. I nailed both the Monday and Tuesday puzzles, but I’m very unsure on this one. As mentioned above, the inclusion of rare letters makes me think of Patrick Jordan, but there’s no Z, and I would think Patrick would shoot for the full pangram. I’ll still guess him, but I won’t feel good about it. My other guesses will be pretty random too. I feel that if I sit and think about this I’ll be just as lost as I am now–kinda like when I play Learned League. There’s no point trying to stall–let’s do this:

1.  Patrick Jordan.   2. Randy Ross.   3. Ray Hamel.

Holy cow, three in a row! If this was NBA Jam, the announcer would be screaming, “He’s on fire!” Still, I can’t get cocky. Tomorrow, I may well go down in flames.

Name That Constructor Stats After 15 Puzzles: 6 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 23 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 30.5 points.

Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 8 16 12 Byron Walden

Beautiful grid, isn’t it? Yes, I know it’s a 16×15 rectangle instead of a square, but it’s got a surprising amount of wide-open white space for a 78-worder. The theme is portmanteau words:

  • 18a. [*Out-of-bounds shooters?], STALKERAZZI. Stalkers meet paparazzi.
  • 21a. [*Fine in the end?], BOOTYLICIOUS. Booty meets delicious.
  • 60a. [*Member of the dreaded 1%?], TRUSTAFARIAN. Trust funder meets Rastafarian. For more on what this means, consult the “search inside this book” function for this title.
  • 65a. [*Neologism that describes any of this puzzle's starred entries], FRANKENWORD. Frankenstein meets word. Franken- gets around. See also: Frankenfood.
  • 12d. [*Athlete who's going for the gold?], SHAMATEUR. Sham meets amateur. Haven’t encountered this word before. I do think it’s silly that the Olympic definitions for “amateur” athlete eligibility vary so widely from sport to sport. Missy Franklin can’t get endorsements and still swim for a college team, whereas the NBA stars make millions and some track stars make a lot from endorsements.
  • 34d. [*One who'd be bedridden without rehab?], SEXAHOLIC. Sex, alcoholic. This is the oldest of the portmanteaux in this puzzle.

I admire the stacking of the top and bottom Across theme answer pairs, as well as the triple-stacked 9s containing the Down theme answers.

Five clues and answers of note:

  • 7a. [Rocket material?], SNOT. My personal trainer saw someone blow a snot rocket inside his shirt while running on the treadmill this week. Horrifying.
  • 32a. [NY Times movie critic], A.O. SCOTT. I saw his cubicle a couple years ago when Ellen Ripstein gave me a tour at the Times building. It’s delightfully cluttered in a bookish way.
  • 52a. [Salsa, e.g., or a salsa dancing move], DIP. Nice two-way clue.
  • 1d. COSBY [___ sweater]. Did you know those colorful patterned sweaters are not merely generic Cosby sweaters, but brand-name Coogi sweaters? I just learned that this week. They ain’t cheap, either.
  • 8d. [Godwin's Law epithet], NAZI. Godwin’s Law states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Four stars.

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28 Responses to Wednesday, 8/15/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Happy birthday, Amy!

  2. Huda says:

    Yes, Happy Birthday, Amy! What a snazzy present to get, for all the world to see! Puzzledom’s equivalent of plastic surgery for Hollywood. You look fabulous!

    Gorski puzzle, yeah, I agree, cool idea but too many trapped corners with 3 letter words as a result.

    The whole puzzle felt very geographic. Beyond the TOWN SQUARES, there are lots of places represented either in the clues or answers, Egypt the home of ANWAR, the BRONX, Mt PALOMAR, Atlanta’s PEACHTREE St(s), SCOTIA, Chicago’s Pizzeria UNO, UPENN, Choate PREP school, Zaire’s SESE. So many spots to EAT OUT or SUP and then feast on an APPLE pie…

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Many happy returns, Amy! Trivia note: South Carolina now produces more peaches than Georgia, and Georgia’s blueberry production is double that of its peaches — thanks to agricultural research. Did I mention that we are currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862, which established land-grant colleges in all the states? In the works for 20 years, its passage in Lincoln’s first term was only possible because most of the nay-sayers in Congress had left to join the Confederacy. Probably our most signifiant piece of legislation ever, much enlarged over the years to include more public higher-education facilities for DC, Indian reservations and “persons of color”, yet today the old states-rights anti-federalism is ballyhooed anew to benefit the elite. Can you imagine our nation today without the public universities?

  4. ktd says:

    Happy birthday!

  5. scotteindc says:

    Sam, sorry to hear you’re off the favorite clue/entry gimmick, I rather enjoyed that. Maybe you can replace it with a worst clue/entry gimmick when you’re done with your constructor month.

    • Sam Donaldson says:

      Thanks for the feedback, scotteindc. A “worst entry/worst clue” gimmick might be a little too mean, even for me. Besides, it would get old if, twice a month, I was calling out SER as the worst crossword fill ever. But maybe I can revive the “favorite entry/favorite clue” sign-off in September. It’s nice to know someone liked it.

  6. Gareth says:

    Nice segue from Ian Livengood’s puzzle, and, like Amy, I Really admired today’s NYT theme! Very clever variation on the “words that follow” theme type. Like Amy, the frowny answers forced by the tough to fill grid (MMCC, TETS, IAL esp.) made me frown!

  7. Gary says:

    Nice write-up, Amy. My reaction to the puzzle was a lot like yours – nice theme, but some fairly ugly fill, too. I looked at Rex’s blog earlier, and there’s just way too much “adulating” going on over there!

    I thought maybe the PEACHTREE clue was an inside joke. I used to travel to Atlanta fairly regularly on business, and there was standing joke, if anyone asked about the location of a restaurant, bar, hotel, or whatever, the answer from the group, in unison, was “It’s on Peachtree!”

    Seemed like a few too many proper names, including some that were fairly obscure (at least in my world). Must be pushing your 14-answer limit.

  8. Will Nediger says:

    Happy birthday, Amy!

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    As I recall “Foggy Bottom” is so called because it is literally a geographical depression
    that is (or at least was) often fog-filled. Yes, fun puzzle.

  10. Papa John says:

    I thought today’s NYT was pretty darn good, with just the right challenge for a Wednesday. I didn’t notice an overly bunch of abbreviations, although there were many three-letter fills. Like most of the fill, I thought these entries were lively, without too much crosswordese. If there were an over-abundance of proper names (seven, by my count), I didn’t notice that, either. I also thought it interesting that the town square fills ran around in a clockwise fashion, as opposed to a more conventional left-to-right pattern. Kudos to Gorski and Shortz for a solid Wednesday fare.

    Atlanta isn’t the only place that is rampant with streets in close proximity having the same name with various endings. Forget grids — out here, in the West, streets were laid out by following the paths of herding animals or logging trails. Housing developments seem to be the worst. Another bugaboo I’ve run across, especially in the LA area, is streets that start and stop; that is, they run for a few blocks and then come to an end, only to begin again on the same line and direction half-mile away, using the same name and the same numbering along its entire length. Probably the most outrageous example of this is Old Highway 99, which stutters its way along the entire Best Coast.

    • Gary says:

      I guess I should have said proper “nouns” rather than proper “names.” For people (or fictional characters) I have Bibi, LeBon, Tso, Rita, Anwar, Sese, Sommers, Alec(s), Loy, Ena, and Apu. Then, if we add geographical names, I see Scotia, Bronx, UPenn (well, maybe not geographical, but ugly – UMass okay, UConn of course, but UPenn only in crosswords), Palomar, Gila, Peachtree, Tyrone. Then throw in trade names – HiHo, Ephedra, IBMPCs, Sheraton, ATS, Uno. It’s a lot of capitalized stuff.

      Re: Peachtree in Atlanta, this web site http://www.atlanta.net/visitors/folklore.html claims there are over 65 streets in Atlanta named with some variation of “Peachtree.”

  11. Sparky says:

    Happy Birthday, Amy. Hope you have a happy Day.

  12. Sean P says:

    Love the nested comments, which will make conversation livelier, though I don’t care for the redesign visually at all. Looks generic to my eye. No big thing, though.

  13. Jenni Levy says:

    Start-and-stop streets are not unique to the West – we’ve got them here in Allentown and the rest of the Lehigh Valley. Hate ‘em.

    I had the same experience Amy did with today’s puzzle but the livelier-than-usual Wednesday theme made me smile and I enjoyed it overall. SCOTIA was new to me. Nova Scotia, I guess.

    Happy Birthday, Amy!

    • Gareth says:

      those streets are plentiful here too… Guess it’s what happens when civil engineers change their plans or some big civic building swallows up a few blocks or any of a number of other scenarios

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        The Canadian “Nova Scotia” is “*New* Scotland”, à la New England. Same Scotia, different place.

  14. joon says:

    re SHAMATEUR: many years ago on the old old blog, i suggested a theme consisting of FAUXHAWK and MOCKTAIL and admitted i was stuck for a third theme answer. seth G proposed SHAMATEUR, which i’d never seen then and don’t believe i have seen since. anyway, 8/9/8 is pretty thin for a theme, of course, but that’s a nice tight one. unless people start saying things like ERSATISFIED or FALZHEIMER’S, i doubt it’s going to get any bigger.

    • Byron says:

      FAUXMOSEXUAL was in the puzzle for the early part of the construction–can’t remember exactly why I had to scrap it.

    • Alex says:

      Joon, why not just do a themeless with FAUXHAWK and MOCKTAIL as the first and last across entries?

  15. John Haber says:

    Happy birthday!

    Nice as the new design is, am I wrong that it raises type size above typical pages (with of course thus less per page)?

  16. Dan F says:

    Happy birthday, and kudos on the spiffed-up digs!

    …less elegant than I expect Gorski fill to be
    I expect cool themes from Gorski, but not elegant fill – she tends to prioritize sparkly midrange answers over the 3′s and 4′s. (EEW, anyone?) This is not a bad thing…

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Many thanks for the birthday wishes!

  18. Josh Bischof says:

    Hard to rate the Onion puzzle as anything less than a four and a half, but since that’s not an option, I gave it a 5. Beautiful grid, great fill, and cluing that’s clever, tricky, and funny at the same time. Easily one of my favorite puzzles I’ve done this year. Awesome constructing feat.

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