Friday, 8/17/12

NYT 5:36 
LAT 5:44 (Gareth) 
CS 4:25 (Sam) 
CHE m:ia? 
WSJ (Friday) 11:52 (pannonica) 

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 8 17 12 0817

Is it just me or did these feel a smidgen more like a Saturday puzzle than a Friday one? I kept hitting slow patches:

  • 16a. [The Bay of Fundy has the largest one in the world], TIDAL RANGE; 7d: [Cho ___, romantic interest for Harry Potter], CHANG. I knew Cho’s last name was CH*NG but was at a loss for the vowel. And TIDAL what? I tried SURGE for a while there. And 6d: [Downright], ARRANT? That wasn’t coming to mind either.
  • 28d. [Grateful Dead album whose title reads the same forward and backward], AOXOMOXOA. Have seen it before in a crossword but had to work the crossings to put it together this time. Luckily, each letter you get gives you its palindromic partner.
  • 33a. [Compromise of 1877 figure], HAYES; 36a. [Southern writer William Gilmore ___], SIMMS. All crossings, all the way, for both names.
  • 37d. ["Dude, I got something to tell you..."], DIG THIS; 40a. [Nickname in classic jazz], DIZ (Dizzy Gillespie, yes?). I have never once said “Dig this,” but if I had a shovel to give you, I might.

Favorite clues and fill:

  • 1d, 21d. [It controls the amount of light admitted], F-STOP and IRIS. Was the F-stop devised as a mechanical simulacrum of the iris? I’ll bet it was.
  • 24a. [Having a bad trip, maybe], CARSICK. That’s right. You don’t need LSD to have a bad trip. Just ride in the back seat with a headache, crank the heat up a little too high, and try to read a book.
  • 54a. [What a drawer may hold], FELT TIP PEN. The answer looks weird without spaces between words.
  • 10d. THE FATES is a pretty answer. Wouldn’t have known [Moirai, in Greek myth], but I had the F*TE* part so that helped.
  • 11d. REALITY TV is clued as ["Big Brother," for example]. Not Orwell’s Big Brother but the one hosted by Julie Chen. This answer is what dissuaded me from British LIT at 11a (it’s RAJ). 11d looks good grouped with ARTICLE IV and JOHN KERRY, especially with those two final V’s.
  • 33d. HIT IT OFF, terrific answer. [Clicked], got along great with, etc.

New term for me: 39d: TELCO, [Verizon, e.g.]. I’ve seen telecom plenty but not TELCO.

Four stars.

Chuck Deodene’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 2012 08 17

Chuck Deodene is someone I think of as a constructor of long standing, but one who’s been a lot less active since I began solving. His puzzle today hit my “wacky” sweet spot, I don’t know about yours. I cottoned to what was going on pretty quickly; when I came across the first entry I had “LUN” in place and it wasn’t much of a stretch to get to LUNATICMOTH. I often battle to figure such answers out so it was a pleasant surprise for me. I don’t think that had anything to do with my enjoying the answers. If you need an explanation, each long answer has a 40a, “Like one afflicted with the added elements in 17-, 24-, 53- and 65-Across?”, NERVOUS TIC. Adding a trigram, like TIC, is quite a coup in my book, although the fact that TIC is a common suffix does make Mr. Deodene’s task a little easier. However, he also used that fact to create an extra layer of consistency: each TIC is added to the end of the first word. Let’s see what we have:

  • 17a, “Berserk flutterer?”, LUNATICMOTH. How do you make a moth a lunatic moth? Just add a light source, as we all know. Instant lunacy!
  • 24a, “Trans-Alaska pipeline repairer?”, ARCTICWELDER. Brrr!
  • 53a, “Alluring facial feature?”, ROMANTICNOSE.
  • 65a, “Assembly celebrating digestion?”, PEPTICRALLY. Quite a bizarro image, yes? PEP to PEPTIC and ARC to ARCTIC get extra points as the answers are in no way cognates.

What else do we have? You know what they say (I don’t who they are, but anyhow): “When in doubt, do bullets!”

  • 1a, “Unlikely hits”, BSIDES. Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles. Anyway, that’s a nice 1a answer and I had no idea where the clue was going for a while.
  • 22a, “Source of silky wool”, ALPACA. I did an autopsy on one once. Very weird anatomy; for instance, no gallbladder (like horses).
  • 26d, “Where rocking is not suggested, CANOE. A very clever clue
  • 33d, “Native of Shiraz”, IRANI. Amy’s taken us through why this answer is in fact wrong before, yes? Such a person would be an IRANIAN.
  • 47D, “Body wrap offerer”, SPA. My first answer here was BOA. It made sense in my head, I swear!

That’s all I have for you today, but feel free to bring up whatever you’d like to in the comments, of course.

Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It Takes Two to…” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 17

Those solving crosswords as a mechanism for coping with loneliness might find today’s CS puzzle a little sad. It reminds us of four activities that require a second person to enjoy fully. Well, as we’ll soon see, one of the four may not be very enjoyable, unless you’re in Fight Club. Whoops, I’m not supposed to talk about that. Never mind.

Each clue to a theme entry is supposed to be read as though it started with the puzzle’s title, but each begins with an ellipsis instead. For ease of reference, we’ll just use the complete clue here:

  • 20-Across: [It takes two to ___ (compete in a paper-and-pencil game)] clues PLAY TIC-TAC-TOE. At a summer camp just before the start of seventh grade, we learned the optimal strategy for tic-tac-toe. Proving the strategy involved a lot of solo games. I suppose some might find it sad that most of my summer camp was spent indoors with pencil and paper. But I liked it.
  • 28-Across: [It takes two to ___ (stroll like loverbirds)] clues WALK HAND-IN-HAND. You don’t need to be an ornithologist to know that lovebirds don’t stroll–they waddle. And they waddle wing-in-wing, not hand-in-hand. Duh! This puzzle could have used some editing!
  • 47-Across: [It takes two to ___ (duke it out)] clues HAVE A FISTFIGHT. Here too, two people aren’t required: on many occasions, my older brother proved I could hit myself, only to ask me repeatedly why I kept hitting myself.
  • 57-Across: [It takes two to ___ (step to the sounds of "Hernando's Hideaway")] clues DANCE THE TANGO. I want a hideaway someday.

The fill is a mixed bag of zippy stuff and flat stuff. The peppier entries include GLAD TO, I NEVER, FACADE, and HEF (even if the clue, ["The Girls Next Door" mogul Hugh, familiarly], is a tad dated). But there was also OEDS, A SEC, BAHS, TOGGED, HICS, and, worst of all, E. LEE. Throw in all the foreign words (like ARTE, MERCI, AMO, and UNE), and you’re making some significant compromises.

I liked the double reference to yummy Mexican food with carne ASADA up top and EROSE con pollo on the bottom. (Click here for full effect.) Was I the only one who wanted LION for [Rap music's Snoop ___]? This grid’s looking for DOGG. That’s so five weeks ago!

We end with today’s entry for Name That Constructor Month. This puzzle doesn’t seem to have any signature features that points to one of the constructors in the CS stable. I haven’t seen many instances of the unusual clue formatting used in this puzzle, and I don’t associate it with anyone in particular. So most of my guesses today are just random shots–I’m using names I don’t remember seeing in a while. Here goes:

1.  Sarah Keller.   2. Alan Arbesfeld.   3. Patrick Blindauer.

Hot dog–three more points! Name That Constructor Stats After 17 Puzzles: 7 correct first choices (3 points each), 3 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 28 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 30.5 points.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Lady Vanishes” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 8/17/12 • “The Lady Vanishes” • Fri • Gorski • solution

Considering that I twigged to the theme very early, I should have had a much faster time. Probably just moving a little slowly this morning.

So, yes, at 25-across, after swiftly jotting in ARRAS (20a, which I learned in the course of reading Hamlet in junior high and is thus eternally linked to Polonius in a veritable gumbo-okra axis), the clue was very leading. [Enigmatic feature of this puzzle's subject]; at five letters I was supremely confident it was going to be SMILE. Only then glancing at the title did I know whose smile it was, for there were two strong candidates.

As for the mechanism of the theme, that took me slightly longer to figure it out, but I had a hunch which turned out to be correct. The letters of the puzzle’s subject, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” are dropped in sequence from eight of the theme entries. A ninth entry, spanning 19 letters across the center, fastidiously confirms this with a historical tidbit: [On 8/21/1911 the subject (the letters dropped from the starred answers) was __ ] STOLEN FROM THE LOUVRE. Proud to say I plopped in the full answer off of just the first S and the F. Was this puzzle intended to be run last year at this time, on the occasion of the centenary?

The themers are clued to the new, wacky™ phrases.

  • 23a. [*"Here's to you, Napoleon!" perhaps?] (M)ELBA TOAST.
  • 32a. [*Rack's well-liked partner?] POPULAR (O)PINION.
  • 39a. [*Public protest against Hawaiian noisemakers?] NO (N)UKES RALLY.
  • 55a. [*Counseling offered by TV's Downey?] (A)ROMA THERAPY. I don’t even know if this person is Roma Downey or Downey Roma. I also don’t care.
  • 75a. [*Pusillanimous particle?] COWARDLY (L)ION. Tee-hee. That reminds me of an obscure personal mondegreen. From The Rutles’ “Another Day,” the refrain is “You’re so pusillanimous, oh yeah / Nature’s calling, I must go there” but I always thought the second line was “Nature’s call in animus, oh yeah.”
  • 90a. [*Cliburn's nickname after winning the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition?] (I)VAN THE GREAT. Not to be confused with Van the Man, George Ivan Morrison.
  • 97a. [*Superego] (S)URGE PROTECTOR. First imagined Jung, now Freud.
  • 113a. [*Exotic center of instinctive impulses] FOREIGN (A)ID. Freud again? We’ve got to stop meeting like this. People will talk.

To further strengthen the theme, all of the letters are lost from the beginnings of words. There’s a bonus as the symmetrical partner of SMILE at 112a: [Birthplace of the puzzle's subject] ITALY. This one gave me some trouble because I don’t think of Italy being so cohesive back in the 16th century and was looking for a city, like MILAN (although the supposed subject, Lisa del Giocondo, was from Florence).

Good mix in the ballast fill. Notable longer entries include the vertical stacks in the northeast and southwest with MISS INDIA / PHOTOSHOP and OHIO RIVER / WINE GLASS. The usual assortment of good and bad, unusual and crosswordese, partials, abbrevs., etc.

What really holds the puzzle together, beyond the robust theme, is the cluing. A lot of playful and entertaining stuff to be found in this one. Some of my favorites were [Private lunch area] MESS, [They wear very little clothing] DOLLS, [It ends at Cairo] for the aforementioned OHIO RIVER, [Advice from a pro?] VOTE YES, [Driver's warning] FORE.

On the other hand, [Shower head?] for RAIN GOD doesn’t work well enough for me. Also, I often feel victimized by clues whose answers are (take your pick) US OF A, THE USA, THE US OF A (97d).

Litchi chinensis

Strange that the clue in 51d [Less cowardly] for BRAVER repeats an unusual word from one of the theme entries. Predictably I first filled in STAGE for the more argotic ÉTAPE at 100d [Leg of a cycling race]. 67d [It has juicy white flesh in a rough red shell] LITCHI. Yum! They’re in season now. I’d call their rind reddish rather than red (they vary from pinkish to brownish), but that’s like quibbling about LITCHI vs. LYCHEE (or RANI vs. RANEE (68d).

Now go eat some litchi with an enigmatic smile on your face. Pretend they’re eyeballs.

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25 Responses to Friday, 8/17/12

  1. Evad says:

    Really enjoyed the NYT, lots of interesting fill and very little crosswordese. Last letter was the R crossing ARRANT and TIDAL RANGE. Well done.

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Wow. If that’s not a Saturday I don’t know what is, but what a great puzzle. I’m astounded by Amy’s time; that’s about as hard as a puzzle can be for me to actually finish it. It didn’t help that I was stuck on tidal *surge* instead of range, and filled instead of fillin. I guess it’s coincidence that 13d and 27d share several unusual letters, and that 26a and 38a each have 3 ‘t’s’ out of 8 letters. (These are both symmetrical pairs.) I thought I’d encountered every Reality show there was in crosswords, but “Big Brother” is a new one. Only real downer entry for me.

    Interesting that the soprano in Les Pecheurs de Perles makes an appearance — an opera where the male singers have by far the lion’s share of the great music. It’s a sexually ambiguous tale of a devoted (passionate?) friendship between two male pearl fishers, Nadir and Zunga (Zurga?) whose devotion to each other is threatened by their infatuation with the virgin priestess Leila. They have perhaps the greatest male duet in opera literature, plus lots of male chorus stuff. I’m told that you can tell whether the stage director was gay or straight, depending upon subtleties of the staging. I saw it with John Vickers, but I forget the baritone and the soprano, and I wasn’t focused on that issue.

  3. Huda says:

    Yeah, this one chewed me up and spit me out. Especially the NE. But I can admire it after the fact. Had YA for the Y.A. TITTLE and kept wanting someone called YALE or YAZ or something. I had nooo idea.

    As to Amy’s times, they are a source of fascination to me. She describes some of the same hangups I have, she talks about Saturday feel, and for a femtosecond, I feel we’re in the same boat. But I’m rowing mine and she’s hydro racing hers.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Great puzzles today! I also enjoyed Bruce’s notes on the opera above, and will always from now on picture Gareth doing an autopsy on a silky ALPACA when it appears! Amusing coincidence to have the composer of The Planets in two different offerings, as well….

  5. seahedges says:

    Lovely Lizzy: Liked “Flute, for one” a lot.
    SEA

  6. joon says:

    the NYT was the best themeless i’ve seen in months. that is a flawless grid: zero (!) abbreviations, partials, obscurities, or other junk, but absolutely stuffed to the gills with awesome entries. hats off to pete wentz!

    incidentally, amy, the HAYES in the compromise of 1877 is none other than president rutherford b. read up on the disputed election of 1876 if you are so inclined.

  7. Gareth says:

    Impressive combination of scrabbly answers and low junk quotient in the NYT! How awesome are the V’s at the bottom of the 11-13D stack? Clung to aiRSICK for too long; also, wanted JOHNKERRY to be JOHNdEeRe!

  8. Meem says:

    Agree with Joon on NYT. And really liked Liz Gorski’s WSJ. Great clues in both.

  9. HH says:

    “I thought I’d encountered every Reality show there was in crosswords, but “Big Brother” is a new one.”

    Understandable, since it’s been on CBS only since 2000.

  10. Richard says:

    I did not know Van the Man’s real name. Thanks for the trivia tidbit, pannonica. “Van” seems to fit him better, right?

  11. @Huda: Fitting Y.A. TITTLE’s first name in a grid (Yelberton) would be an impressive feat for a constructor.

  12. Jemini says:

    How does one vote for the puzzles ( 5 stars down to 1 ) in the new site.

  13. RK says:

    @Jemini At the top of this page next to the puzzle names and stars you should see “rate it.” Click that.

    I agree that the NYT was a really good puzzle and tough. Almost gave in at the SE corner but I somehow “saw” a few answers. WSJ was a good puzzle as well.

    Like the new look here.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jemini: You have to click through to an individual day’s post—having the ratings widget available on the main page too was using too much bandwidth.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    joon, thanks for the link to the Compromise of 1877, by which Republicans agreed to remove federal troops from the South — ending Reconstruction and allowing further rise of Jim Crow repression.

  16. Jemini says:

    Thanks to RK and Amy for their directions. I wanted to give a rating of 5 to Elizabeth Gorski’s puzzle. I thought it was outstanding and enjoyed it greatly. That’s the first opus to which I have voted 5.

    Amy – The new site is neat.

  17. Jared says:

    @pannonica, I’m not necessarily 100% convinced that you (personally) can trademark “wacky”.

  18. Joan macon says:

    I was somewhat surprised to see in the LAT the answer to the clue “like most people” was Asian. I don’t have population figures at my fingertips, but “most” seems to me to be a lot more than “majority”. Any thoughts?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      According to the figures here, the world has about 7 billion people, 4 billion of them in Asia. Ergo, “most people.” If you read it as “like most of the planet’s population,” does it feel better to you? “Most” doesn’t have to be “nearly all”; it can be a simple majority.

      • pannonica says:

        More to Joan’s question, I think that “most” and “majority” are equivalents. That is, “most” doesn’t imply a majority qualified with, say, a “significant” or “vast.”

        m-w.com:
        majority (n.) 1 obsolete : the quality or state of being greater … 3a a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total [3b the excess of a majority over the remainder of the total] 3c the greater quantity or share

        most (n.) 1 greatest in quantity, extent, or degree <the most ability> 2 the majority of <most people>

        So, there’s a direct relative relationship between majority 3c and most 1, but it isn’t exclusive. And in any case, it would be difficult to argue that most 1 is the sense being used in the clue.

  19. bonekrusher says:

    Brilliant NYT. I can’t believe how much time I wasted trying to justify that the “A stronger America” sloganeer could be BEN’NJERRY.

    I feel bad that I accidentally clicked on 3 stars when trying to rate this puzzle a 5…

  20. Joan macon says:

    Amy and Pannonica, thanks so much for taking the time to address my question. I am sure you both have many more important things to think about and the fact that you did so about my question just reinforces my opinion that this is the best blog going. Amy has christened me “saucy old dame” so I will try to live up to the title.

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