Wednesday, 8/22/12

NYT 3:29 
LAT 4:25 (Gareth) 
Onion untimed 
CS 4:16 (Sam) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 8 22 12 0822

Today’s theme skews literary and fills assorted spots in the 15×16 grid with left/right symmetry:

  • 38a, 40a, 41a. STURM UND DRANG is an [18th-century literary and musical movement].
  • 45a, 47a. JOHANN GOETHE is a [writer associated with 38-/40-/41-Across].
  • 7d, 36d, 53d. STORM AND STRESS is the English [translation of 38-/40-/41-Across].
  • 26a. GERMANY is the [Country associated with 38-/40-/41-Across].

The theme content is solidly scholarly, though it’s a tad bothersome that every single word of it appears alone in the grid and all the theme clues contain cross-references to other entries.

My favorite part of the puzzle, 27d: IT HAD TO BE YOU, has nothing to do with the theme. The other long non-thematic entries didn’t thrill me. There are [Marsh rodents] called WATER RATS? This [Place for an English king?], DRAUGHTBOARD, has nothing to do with the Draft Board; it’s the British name for a checkerboard but is a word I’ve never encountered before.

Peppered throughout the grid are answers that made the Scowl-o-Meter clang up a Sturm. Lots of foreignness besides the Teutonic theme: French ETE, OST, RESTE, and  MONDE; Latin(ate) ALAE; Spanish UNO and OLES (plus TECATE cerveza), not to mention the partial DE ORO ([Rio ___ (African region)]); and Italian ERI. Abbreviations that grated include ALG, CMD, and SDS. Plural violators include ISAOS (Wikipedia will show you all the famous Isaos other than golfer Aoki, but I wouldn’t say any of them, including the golfer, is a household name in the U.S.) and the suffix -ANES. The non-plural prefix OEN- is equally scowl-inducing.

There are lots of ways to clue SOL, but the clue here mystified me: [G, in the key of C]. It’s sol as in do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. I suppose that’s better than cluing it as another foreign word or another abbreviation, but the clue meant nothing to me as I don’t understand what “key of C” means. (Spare me the explanation. Really. I accept that such music things are foreign to me.)

I needed all the crossings for 30a: ["Babes in Toyland" composer]. There’s a composer named HERBERT? Victor Herbert? Am I the only one who’s never heard of him? Deb Amlen cites Goethe’s American counterpart in the movement, HERBERT PERATIO, which is equally plausible. I like that Deb.

My second favorite word in the puzzle is 17a: GOLEM, the [Humanoid of Jewish folklore]. Never heard the word before I visited Prague in 1997, but Prague’s golem is famous. I made a little golem myself, but I fired him in the kiln before making any incantations and wouldn’t you know it? He stubbornly insists on remaining an inanimate ceramic objet.

2.25 stars.

C. C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 12 08 22

I don’t think I’ve ever seen 67a, “With “the,” much-watched index, a different component of which is hidden in 16-, 21-, 36-, 48- and 59-Across”, DOW Jones Industrial Average members used as fodder for a theme before. It’s a well-defined, pretty well-known 30-member set, so an obvious target for crossword constructors. The rub is what to do with them; not many occur in unrelated phrases, for example. C.C.’s chosen the creative option of finding natural phrases in which five members of the DOW are buried. Some of the hidden companies have quite long names, so I’d call her execution quite impressive! The theme answers are:

  • 16a, “Certain music teacher”, VOCALCOACH. C.C. opens with ALCOA, crossword-land’s favourite member of the DOW!
  • 21a, “Outmoded street fixture”, COINTELEPHONE. They’re still found occasionally around here, but are definitely an endangered species since cellphones have become so ubiquitous.
  • 48a, “International Tennis Hall of Famer who won consecutive US Opens in 1997 and 1998″, PATRICKRAFTER. Nice to have a tennis player in the grid! I had a bit of confusion when I initially tried to write PATRAFTER only to find I had too many squares.
  • 59a, “Louisiana nickname”, THEBIGEASY. Also reigning British Open champ Ernie Els, but we already had sports in the previous answer, so why not vary things a bit with some geography. Hmm, I can’t see this one, I’m off to consult the list – General Electric, aka GE. Bit of a weak link, but I can’t see any other companies whose names are hideable; Pfizer, for instance, is a dead end in that regard.

Elsewhere, we have a pretty rock-solid grid – one partial and some garden-variety crosswordese, nothing actually objectionable, I’d say. Three helper squares (they’re only cheater squares when they’re in the NY Times!) each on top and bottom is above average, but I doubt many who aren’t constructors pay much attention to such things. C.C. has space for two long Downs: 8d, “Unfaithful” Oscar nominee, DIANELANE (never seen that, she was the actress from Cheers, yes?) and 30d, Napa equipment, WINEPRESS.

Courtesy Wikipedia

What else did I want to talk about? Well, 14a, Printing measure, PICA should never be confused with the pika, an Andean lagomorph, pictured right Pika. How many picas long is a pika? 1d, Museum piece, RELIC had me off to a false start, as I wanted CURIO. I reinforced the mistake by confirming it with 18a, Keen on, INTO. I’m not the only one who was duped? 7d, Maker of Opium, initially, YSL was a mystery clue; I’m just gonna presume it’s a perfume or some such and move on, OK. 41d, Cantankerous, CRABBY and 44d, Belly laugh, GUFFAW are two great words and nice to have following each other as well.

Well, that’s all from me. As always, feel free to write about your own experiences of the puzzle in the Comments section!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Reality TV Makeovers” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 22

Today’s puzzle takes four reality TV shows and re-imagines them as programs more closely related to their titles:

  • 17-Across: STAR SEARCH ought not be a talent show but a [Reality show for aspiring astronomers?]. The first to find a new star wins immunity this week!
  • 25-Across: Perhaps TRADING SPACES could be re-formatted from a show in which neighbors work with designers to redecorate one room in each other’s homes to a [Reality show set at a swap meet?]. But wait, I think there’s a current show that already follows life at a swap meet. Or am I confusing it with Storage Wars?
  • 43-Across: PROJECT RUNWAY shouldn’t be the Top Chef for clothing designers; it should be a [Reality show about an airport construction crew?]. I seem to recall a reality show from maybe six or seven years ago about life at an airport from the perspective of airport employees. Hold on–lemme check. Yep, it was called Airline, and it was about employees at Southwest. And get this–they’re remaking it! Only this time it will be called On the Fly. I can’t wait…for it to be cancelled.
  • 58-Across: SUPER NANNY need not tell the tales of a British butt-insky brought in to correct the behaviors of poor American parents and, by extension, their snotty kids. No, it could be a [Reality show focused on breeding the best female goat?]. I’m not even kidding.

I’ll admit it here: I like a lot of reality TV shows. I have season passes on my DVR for many of them. Given my affection for the genre, I really want to love this crossword. And yet, perhaps it’s because I love the subject so much that I can’t quite give the puzzle five stars. Yes, there’s some terrific fill here, like BROMANCESHODDY, and NIGHTCAP. But I can point to three things that, cumulatively, keep me from pulling the trigger on a five-star rating.

First, only one of the four shows is still on the air. That makes the puzzle feel a little dated. Without doing any brainstorming, I would hope there would be enough current (or at least relatively recent) reality shows to make for symmetrical theme entries. But who knows, maybe not.

Second, I took Spanish but even I think it’s a bit much to have have AGUA, SOL, and POR in the grid. Other entries that stuck with me included EINE, MDI, STEELIE (maybe that one’s just me), APR, and ON A. Maybe that’s not so much, but it does detract just a little from the really sparkly stuff.

Finally, I’m having trouble with the fact that the grid includes REAL when the puzzle’s title and all of the theme clues use “reality.” I know that’s not technically a duplication, but aren’t there are any number of ways to fill in that southwest corner that keep you from having to deal with the issue altogether?

Eh, I feel like I’m carping on technicalities too much here. Perhaps it’s because I wanted to love this puzzle so much that I ended up judging it a little more harshly than I normally would. Let’s see if I can recover through today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month. I need to figure out which of the CS constructors is likely to think of a theme this clever and whose byline we haven’t seen for a while (though I’m tempted to guess Randy Hartman just because his name seems to pop up all the time lately). I’ll go with this slate:

1. Gail Grabowski.   2. Randy Ross.   3. Ray Hamel (I think I’m going to keep guessing him until his name finally appears).

Whoops! Sorry, Doug! Normally I’m good at figuring out which puzzles are yours. Name That Constructor Stats After 22 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. Uh oh, only nine more chances to get 16 points. I don’t like my chances!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 8 22 12 Brendan Emmett Quigley

I was terrified of Indian food until I was almost 30. And then a vegetarian colleague strong-armed me into trying an Indian restaurant that had a lunch buffet (buffets: the dream restaurant format for the picky eater). I discovered what approximately 2 billion South Asians already knew: that their cuisines are delicious. Brendan knows this:

  • 18a. ["You sold out of marinated Indian cutlets or what?"], “ANY TIKKAS?” Pun (slightly forced) on “Any takers?” I have been to a McDonald’s restaurant in London with tikka-something on the menu.
  • 23a. [Attacking with Indian bread?], NAAN-VIOLENCE. Gandhi espoused this. He really preferred paratha to naan.
  • 40a. [Indian lentil dish used as an aphrodisiac?], SEX DAAL. (Sex doll. Ick.)
  • 51a. [Creamy Indian dish prepared by just adding water?], INSTANT KORMA. Instant Karma.
  • 62a. [Indian yogurt/cucumber dish that even a child could make?], EASY RAITA. Easy Rider.
  • 46d, 4d. [how you might smuggle Indian food?], CURRY ON / LUGGAGE. “Ouch” re: the pun.

Highlights in the puzzle: the delightfully named (but not much used) search engine ASK JEEVES and the morose MORRISSEY.

Clues that aren’t cross-referenced but should be:

  • 1a. [Dog covering], CHILI.
  • 39a. WHO ["___ farted?"].

Mistake, I think (?) that I initially glossed right over: 58d. [Arnold's husband, in the '90s], BARR. Roseanne Barr was married to Tom Arnold, but she was not his husband. Unless there is a joke there, and she called herself his husband?

3.25 stars.

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25 Responses to Wednesday, 8/22/12

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    I’m not much for music as light as operetta, but Victor Herbert is well worth knowing and is an exception to my normal preferences. He wrote some gorgeous music; perhaps you can find a CD at the public library.

    I guess it never occurred to me that I had no idea what Goethe’s first name happened to be. Interesting puzzle, and at least the several proper names weren’t silly Hollywood ones.

    Art

  2. RK says:

    Hardish NYT with all the proper nouns but liked that so many answers tied to the theme. Storm and stress crossing through sturm und drang was a nice touch.

  3. Martin says:

    “… Victor Herbert is well worth knowing and is an exception to my normal preferences. He wrote some gorgeous music; perhaps you can find a CD at the public library.”

    Yeah, from what I understand, there was no getting away for Victor Herbert back then. His music was everywhere (according to my father, who hated it).

    -MAS

  4. joon says:

    i realize that it’s his first and last name and they have the same length, but i found JOHANN/GOETHE to be highly off-putting. i’ve seen him referred to as goethe, and as johann wolfgang von goethe, but never johann goethe. would you put LUDWIG BEETHOVEN in a crossword just because it’s 15 letters? or build a theme around ARTHUR DOYLE? both of those seem awkward to me, and JOHANN GOETHE combines the two wrong things in each.

  5. pannonica says:

    Just to note that the NYT is 15×16. And too many annoying cross-references, as Amy noted.

    joon, how about “Ludwig Van”?

  6. MM says:

    Gareth, I can’t tell if that’s a joke about Diane Lane or not.

    • Gareth says:

      @MM – no joke, I guess I could’ve actually looked it up, but it’s more entertaining this way isn’t it? In a “look how ign’ant he is” kind of way… I looked through her (extensive) filmography – I’ve watched Lonesome Dove.

  7. Greg Owens says:

    In response to your comment about not being able to find the other Dow Jones companies hidden in the answers: Alcoa; Intel; Kraft; GE. Not knowing would have driven me nuts…so I figured I would post them.

    • joon says:

      don’t forget IBM.

    • Gareth says:

      The only one I couldn’t find was GE. I highlighted the companies in red, except I see they aren’t highlighted anymore. Also one of my sentences has disappeared into the caption of the photograph… sigh.

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    And, blow me down, all that time I thought I was reading The World whilst in Paris, I was actually perusing The Earth! ;-)

  9. David L says:

    Small correction on the language front — 50A in the NYT is German, not French (nord is north is both languages, but French east is est, not OST).

  10. Richard Levinson says:

    Ost….French? French clue, German answer. Puzzled me indeed.

  11. Gareth says:

    Did the Aussie cop show Water Rats not appear on US TV then? I’ll assume so. Oh and look, my scowl-o-meter just went to 11…

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    For some reason, I liked today’s NYT just fine, even though it’s the sort of one-trick pony I often don’t like. It was very easy, and sort of comfort food, like a jelly doughnut, although I take joon’s point about “Johann Goethe.” No one ever says “Wolfgang Mozart”either, although I think they played fast and loose with first names in those days. Many of the early Beeth. sonatas were published by Riccordi, in Rome, under the name “Luigi Beethoven.”

    Incredibly, I read a French translation of Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers, in 6th grade in the Lycée; the original in a later German class, and an English translation in a later yet literature class. Do ya think I got a little fed up with all of Werther’s whining? Some people don’t realize that Goethe later renounced all that Sturm und Drang romanticism, with its glorification of suicide, and so forth. “Renounced” is too weak–he condemned and disparaged it. It was a small, brief part of his creative output.

    I am so all over the place with BEQ puzzles, it even drives me crazy. I thought Monday themeless was wonderful–an easy 5 *. Today’s Onion I absolutely hated. I won’t even try to enumerate the reasons (though a couple of the theme entries were amusing.) Nor will I enter the number I would probably select, since I don’t want to act out of what would feel like ill will.

  13. Deb Amlen says:

    Interesting Historical Note: Herbert Peratio wanted a middle name, but his parents couldn’t afford one.

    • Pete says:

      It’s sad when poverty becomes so engrained in a culture that people don’t even think they can afford a middle name. I keep berating Irish folk for naming their sons Liam. I mean, the additional Wil is free. But, it’s becomed part of their DNA to scrimp, and there’s no changing that.

    • And here I thought PERATIO was a Shakespearean character, perhaps a merchant of Venice or something…

  14. Martin says:

    I loved this puzzle, but I’ll accept it hit a weird wheelhouse.

    BTW, I’m in Astoria, OR and the place is hopping. I don’t know why, but the first three hotels I tried were fully booked. Will have a nice Bosnian dinner.

    You should give the place a visit, Amy.

    • Huda says:

      Martin, your post struck me as funny, to be eating Bosnian in hopping Astoria, OR!
      What’s Bosnian food like?

      • Martin says:

        Huda,

        This is a continuation of an earlier discussion, when Amy objected to Astoria being included in NYT fill.

        Bosnian is like other local cuisine: great roast lamb, gulash, sausages and home-smoked beef. All with a slivovitz chaser.

  15. KarmaSartre says:

    In the final scene of Phaedra (Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins), the Perkins character refers to Bach as John Sebastian. Don’t know if he was a Spoonful fan.

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