Monday, 8/20/12

NYT 3:31 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:26 (pannonica) 
CS 5:21 (Sam) 
BEQ tk 

Robert Cirillo’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 8/20/12 • Mon • Cirillo • 8 20 12 • solution

52-down acts as revealer: [Word that can follow the starts of 2o-, 26-, 43- and 52-Across] LUCK. Judging by its symmetrical partner in the grid, that would be oozy luck. I hate when that happens.

  • 20a. [Help for newbies] BEGINNER’S GUIDE. Which may include advice such as…
  • 26a. [There's no such thing as this, according to a saying] DUMB QUESTION. Another ADAGE is ["Honesty is the best policy," e.g.].
  • 43a. [Really strong] TOUGH AS NAILS. I’d say resilient more than strong.
  • 52a. [First woman to sit in the British House of Commons] LADY NANCY ASTOR. The pivotal word in the clue is “sit.” And she was American-born, British by marriage.

Zippy puzzle. Almost a mini automotive theme among the longest downs. ♪♫ One of these things is not like the others ♫♪…

  • [Stop, Yield or No U Turn] ROAD SIGN.
  • [Like a car or home, to State Farm] INSURABLE.
  • [Arrange for transport to the airport, perhaps] CALL A CAB.
  • [Former German chancellor Konrad] ADENAUER, who also appears in crosswords—all or in part—as DER ALTE (“the old one”).

Feels a bit Scrabbly for a Monday, with a Q and some Zs and Ks. No J, X, or F though. Surprisingly, according to XWord Info, all four of the theme answers are unique in the Will Shortz era, as well as BARN OWL, CALL A CAB, and ROUGHER.

Along with 43a, there are a couple other clues that felt a tad “off” while I was solving. 4d [Large-tubed pasta] ZITI; not compared to rigatoni or manicotti. In fact, it’s a fairly small-bore (caliber?) pasta in the absolute. 58a [Not straight, as a street] CURVY; the clue wants curved, or possibly curving, in my opinion.

Else:

  • 15a & 55d UOMO e SUMO.
  • Least favorite clue: the vague fill-in-the-blank [Latch __ ] ONTO (32d).
  • 27d [Elizabeth I or II] QUEEN. Yes, but with just the U and one E in place, it’d easy to think it’s RULER. Hypothetically.

This crossword was neither HARD nor BAD. Lucky, that.

Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 8/20/12 • Mon • Miller • solution

36a [Youth organization whose focus areas begin the answers to starred clues] FOUR-H CLUB. This seems the sort of theme that has probably been ploughed before, but not being possessed of an encyclopedic crossword mind nor access to some key archives, I can’t verify this.

The areas, or qualities, are encapsulated in the organization’s pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

Unlike the scout organizations, the 4-H club is explicitly secular. It had better be, since it’s a federal entity, under the purview of the Department of Agriculture.

  • 16a. [*Place to prop a pillow] HEADBOARD.
  • 29a. [*Vital central section of a country] HEARTLAND.
  • 47a. [*Effortless way to win] HANDS DOWN.
  • 61a. [*Recuperative resort] HEALTH SPA. “West and wewaxation, at wast!”

The rather short length of all five theme entries (each of them exactly nine letters) frees this Monday offering from the constraints and compromises that tend to entangle more ambitious puzzles later in the week. Even so, it has its share of crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials (examples, one of each: OTOE, ACCT. at 1a, A NOSE).

  • Edgy double-entendre clue for a mainstream puzzle: 8d [Roll-your-own grass] SOD.
  • 4d ["Bill & __ Bogus Journey"] TED’S. have you heard? There’s a third film in the works.
  • Some less-common fill was elevates and enlivens the puzzle: WAX BEAN, NEPHEWS, DELVES, PERILS—hmm, that’s a bunch of plurals right there—KOOSH, STREWN.

On-par Monday.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I Before E” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 20

Today’s puzzle features four two-word entries that contain the I-E letter sequence in both words:

  • 17-Across: MARIE CURIE is the [First person with two Nobel Prizes]. She must have been radiant about the news.
  • 28-Across: The [Up-tempo instrumental style of jazz] is BOOGIE-WOOGIE.
  • 49-Across: A [Piece of equipment for a security guard, perhaps] is a WALKIE-TALKIE. MACIE-WACIE wouldn’t fit.
  • 63-Across: A [Honey bun] is one’s SWEETIE PIE.

But the real stars of this puzzle are all the clever, edgy clues. Some of my favorites:

  • [John, to Paul McCartney] for LOO.
  • [King with a gilt complex?] for MIDAS.
  • [Bridges of Los Angeles County] for BEAU.
  • [Hooters that come out at night] for OWLS. No, Inner Beavis didn’t relish that one at all.
  • [Sound investments?] for STEREOS.
  • [State with 99 counties but 100 county seats] for IOWA.

This attention to cluing reminds me of a Bob Klahn puzzle. But in today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month I’m leaving Bob’s name off my entry. Though the clues were great, they were, on balance, free of the many traps Bob likes to set. My attention instead turns to Ray Hamel because of the trivia-based clues like [State whose highest point is Borah Peak] for IDAHO and the reference to Marie Curie’s two Nobel Prizes. There’s a fair amount of music here too, with SITAR, I AM the Walrus,” IRA Gershwin, SONATA, the song “SKID ROW,” and more. That tells me Tony Orbach may have made this puzzle. And I’m adding Patrick Blindauer in the mix just because I’ve always found his clues to be similarly playful. To recap, then, I’m taking:

1. Ray Hamel. 2. Tony Orbach. 3. Patrick Blindauer.

Whew–good thing I’m giving myself three guesses each day! Name That Constructor Stats After 20 Puzzles: 8 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 2 correct third choices (1 point each); 34 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 8 20 “Themeless Monday”

Compare this grid to that of the latest “Saturday Stumper,” which filled its corners with 7×3 stacks. The intersecting 7x4s are, Brendan says, “mighty tricky to make.” I bet! Look at the lower left corner. For three of the Acrosses, there’s really no other alternative for their endings (TVHO***, LAER***, and ETAG*** can only go one way). Now, most of the 7s are not particularly INSPIREd, as is typical of 7-dense puzzles, but Brendan did work some freshness into the mix. Soccer player Megan RAPINOE, WARHEAD, DUBSTEP, and BOLSHOI all add flavor. And the quartet of 8s includes ODESSA TX and an EDGE CITY, interesting stuff.

Favorite clues:

  • 24a. [Used a pot on the main], EELED. Not about toilet action, as they call that the head on board ships.
  • 32a. [Team that will move to the American League in 2013], ASTROS. I wish MLB had relegation the way the English Premier League does. I don’t know that any AAA teams can compete in the majors, but some MLB teams can’t either.
  • 62a. [Cashes in a scratch ticket], REDEEMS.
  • 9d. ["I ___ peace"], AM AT. Hey, look! AMAT is clued as actual English words, not Latin.
  • 14d. [Beach ball covers?], SPEEDOS. Saw pictures of Ryan Lochte on morning TV today, at a pool party in a hot pink teeny weeny bikini. At first I thought, “Well, sure, that’s what he’s used to wearing in competition” … and then I remembered that Olympic swimmers wear long, tight trunks.

If you just grab the puzzle every Monday and Thursday and don’t read Brendan’s accompanying blog posts, you’re missing his constructorial tidbits—I hadn’t noticed that the grid had only four 3s, but it’s a notable achievement and Brendan is rightly pleased with himself for wrangling that.

And Brendan is also right to give a shout-out to Patrick Berry’s terrific variety cryptic, “Teleportland.” The puzzle’s Across answers are split into two parts and one part teleports into another answer, forming a third valid word. My surname can play that game with famous soccer players’ names, you know. Claudio REYNA and Brazil’s RONALDO can split in a few ways to make a REYNALDO; say, REY + NALDO, putting the other fragments into CHI/NA and RO/STER. Great way to bend your brain, figuring out how PB has split up all his words.

3.75 stars.

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8 Responses to Monday, 8/20/12

  1. Travis says:

    ADENAUER/AAR seems insane for a Monday to me. Am I the only one?

  2. Huda says:

    It was an interesting exercise because I solved it quickly and never saw the revealer. So in trying to figure out a theme on my own, I thought it had to do with being naive… being a beginner, asking dumb questions, occupying a position for the first time and acting tough..

    I think it’s well done, but in spite of the mini automotive theme, some of the entries felt, well, pedestrian– BEGINNERS GUIDE is not very exciting, INSURABLE doesn’t make me smile…

    BTW, a woman is CURVY, a street is crooked.

  3. Erik says:

    coulda sworn there was an error in NYT 11-D clue

  4. Jared says:

    Amy, I noticed you wrote that the answer to 11d is ROAD SIGN, which it most certainly should be given the clue, but (as you’ll see from your solution grid), it’s actually ROAD SIGNS. This, I imagine, extends your list of clues that feel off.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    The LAT’s 4-H theme rang a bell, but probably from ages ago. KOOSH was an unknown, for me… In the NYT, it was odd to see the LADY title for one in the House of Commons, even if acquired by marriage!

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    26a. [There's no such thing as this, according to a saying] DUMB QUESTION

    Hrmph. The saying is, “The only dumb question is one that isn’t asked.”

    • Huda says:

      I’ve actually heard that saying, phrased as it was in the clue. I think teachers and professors are fond of saying it nowadays, to encourage discussion. Not sure if it actually achieves its purported goal…

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