Friday, 8/24/12

NYT 4:16 
LAT 8:55 (Gareth) 
CS 5:13 (Sam) 
CHE tba 
WSJ (Friday) 10:34 (pannonica) 

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword

Friday 8/24/12 NY Times crossword solution, 0824

Only 60 words, which is a mighty small word count, but with 44 blocks to ease the process of filling the grid. I do like the freshness of fill you get when those blacked-out corners allow 11/13/15 stacks—but even the two 15s don’t feel like seen-’em-too-much-before boring answers. I don’t really know SPIDER SOLITAIRE, but it’s got flavor despite only the P not being a super-common letter, and EIGHT-TRACK TAPES are retro fun. Also good to see a bottom row with only two S’s, EL PASO, TX. (Hi, Monica!)

Oh! I just noticed something neat. You see how the grid is sort of shaped like a fat number 8? EIGHT-TRACK TAPES and OCTAGONAL evoke that essential eightness too. If only SPIDER SOLITAIRE used eight stacks of cards.

You expect to see some iffy fill in a 60-worder. The worst of the lot here is 9d: LOTI, [French novelist Pierre], whose name I know only from crosswords; 28d: TALOS, [Giant bronze man in Greek myth] (not that Greek myth = bad fill; just a name I didn’t know, and I don’t expect to see words I don’t know before the Saturday puzzle hits); 33d: ATTRITE, [Reduce through retirement] (I have only seen this as attrit, a back-formation from attrition); and partial 46d: I LET. Really quite good as low-word-count fill goes. There are rather more plurals than one wants to see, but not a single “I’ll just tack on an RE- or an -ER or a -LESS” shortcut. It makes for a more enjoyable solve, if you ask me, than a 60-worder with half as many blocks.

You know, my grandma’s father spent some years in Colorado’s DESERT CLIMATE (29a:  [Early "cure" for tuberculosis]). It didn’t cure his tuberculosis one whit. In fact, his TB death in 1935 was followed soon after by those of his 24-year-old son and his wife. I am grateful to live in the era of antibiotics, that’s for sure.

[Sea fan colonists] is a much more pleasant clue for 32d: POLYPS than, say, [Rectal growths] or [Growths removed from Reagan's colon]. I know Will Shortz says he doesn’t subscribe to the “breakfast test” concept of un-upsetting material, but sea fans are pretty. And Wikipedia just taught me that sea fans are also called gorgonians. Who knew? Not I.

Four stars.

Marti DuGuay Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 12 08 20

Today’s puzzle has an elegant, but quite subtle theme, which I only figured out completely post-solve. I say completely, but I’m still not sure of one thing. The first three words are wacky-style two-word homophones of one-word answers ending in “-ise”. The last three word is a homophone of “queen-size”, which ends in the same sound, but is not quite like the first three is it? The theme answers are:

  • 17a, “Trendy ski slope?”,POPULARRISE. Popularise.
  • 26a, “Monogrammed neckwear?”, ALPHABETTIES. Alphabetise.
  • 45a, “Red, blue and green food colors?”, STANDARDDYES. Standardise.
  • 61a, “Indicators of royal contentment?”, QUEENsSIGHS. Queen-size.

I don’t know about you guys, but I really struggled to fill in the area around the RISE of POPULARRISE. Nothing really untoward but I found the clues tough. I wanted 8d, “Yes-or-no decision method”, FLIP, to be COIN for instance. I also found the clue for 15a, “Living proof”, PULSE to be brilliantly devious!

A couple of other clues that had me scratching my pip: 32a, “Mini successors”, NANOS refers to the Mini and Nano iPod models. As for 37a, “Scout’s honor”, AWARD, I can’t be the only one who wanted BADGE. The clue for 60a, “Airport 100+ miles NW of PIT”, CLE was terrifying – the only US airport codes I know are from crosswords; it’s a refreshingly different angle for CLE though, rather than “Indians on scoreboards”.

What else do we have? Well, I thought the answers 53a, “Trucker’s view”, OPENROAD and 56a, “‘Same old, same old’”, NONEWS were lulus! The clue for 36d, “Pea jackets?”, PODS is clever misdirection, a pea jacket is also a type of jacket, I think? Yes! As for 40d, “Caroling consequences”,REDNOSES… if you’re in the Northern hemisphere and it’s winter when it’s Christmas. On the other hand, you don’t have those kitsch Santa-on-a-surfboard Christmas displays in your shopping centres, hey? Lastly, 50d, “Like Mount Rushmore at night”, UPLIT – to Yoda, maybe. To the rest of us, it’s LITUP.

I’ll leave you with a song tangentially related to 24d, “Teen Spirit deodorant brand”, MENNEN. Kurt Cobain smells like Teen Spirit. Also, something Smells Like Nirvana!

Updated Friday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Flash Bulletin!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 24

The four theme entries in this puzzle start with a word that can also follow FLASH:

  • 20-Across: To [Annoy the heck out of] is to DRIVE UP THE WALL (“flash drive,” aka thumb drive, memory stick, USB stick, and jump drive, among others).
  • 25-Across: GORDON RAMSAY is the [Potty-mouthed "Hell's Kitchen" chef], and Flash Gordon is the science fiction hero of fame. Is this song going through anyone else’s head right now? Interesting how the clue for DRIVE UP THE WALL uses “heck” when this clue uses “Hell.” Sure, one’s a title and the other’s just a toned-down version, but it makes you wonder whether there’s a bit of a double standard at play. Could I clue COHEN as ["F--- the draft" jacket wearer, in a famous Supreme Court case] just because I’m quoting it? (Rhetorical question, toned down so as to aid in the digestion of your breakfast.)
  • 42-Across: The [Behavioral tendency of people in large groups] is a MOB MENTALITY. A “flash mob,” as explained by our friends at Wikipedia, “is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.” Or, as we call it, the ACPT.
  • 48-Across: To [Saturate store shelves] is to FLOOD THE MARKET (“flash flood”).

Let’s get right to today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month before I forget my guesses. All the rare letters are signaling Patrick Jordan, though the grid misses a pangram by a Q. Though there are 38 black squares (toward the upper end of the usual limit), there are only 74 answers (toward the lower end of the usual range for themed puzzles). And there’s little echoes throughout the grid, like both VOOM and ZOOM, and RAKE IN and ATE IN. I can associate Patrick with all of these features. So he’s going to be my first guess.

The puzzle has both a contemporary and classic vibe. Hey, there are theme entries based on flash drives and flash mobs, so no one can claim this puzzle was recycled from the Seventies. But NOT DONE as an answer to [Afoul of proper etiquette] seems a tad quaint. So it’s hard for me to employ my ageist tendencies in figuring out my other two guesses. I’ll go with some names I have been using lately because I don’t recall seeing their bylines lately:

1.  Patrick Jordan.     2. Gail Grabowski.     3. Randy Ross.

Rats! Yesterday’s third guess is today’s constructor. Those darn rare letters deceived me again. Okay, I think I’m officially on a cold streak now. Name That Constructor Stats After 24 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.

Two last notes. First, I saw the clue for SHEIKDOM, [Araby, for one], and instantly thought of the reference to the Sheik of Araby in the Jimmy Buffett tune, “Pencil-Thin Moustache.” I’m kinda pleased with how my minds works sometimes. Second, had it not been for a famous law review article I recently re-read alluding to Monet’s paintings of the cathedral at ROUEN, I think I would have been lost on the answer to [City with a cathedral depicted in a series of Monet masterpieces]. So that one was pure luck.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Round Numbers” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 8/24/12 • “Round Numbers” • Fri • Long • solution

It’s a letter-insertion theme. More specifically, a word-insertion theme, as the three letters injected into each original phrase are P-A-R, which spell “par,” which is significant number when playing a round of golf.

  • 23a. [Does a taste test on the full-calorie version?] COM(PAR)ES TO LIGHT. As the workings of the theme should to the solver, with the help of this answer and others.
  • 32a. [Some royal galas?] WINDSOR (PAR)TIES. Google hits: Windsor tie: ca. 115,000Windsor knot: ca. 435,000.
  • 48a. [Dali's watches reinterpreted by Warhol?] MELTING PO(P AR)T. That one works nicely, dovetailing two things in modern art just about everyone in bound to be familiar with: Dali’s most famous painting (“The Persistence of Memory”) and the most public of the Pop artists. Possibly the seed entry, despite the breadth-spanning…
  • 71a. [Divorce?] SE(PAR)ATING ARRANGEMENT.
  • 87a. [Victor's crown after the Peloponnesian War?] S(PAR)TAN LAUREL. A fine mess he’s gotten himself out of?
  • 107a. [Flints?] S(PAR)KY SCRAPERS. Cute, but just about anything called “Sparky” is going to seem cute.
  • 121d. [Like a spy car that's cloaked when not moving?] INVISIBLE IN (PAR)K. A bit tortuous, that clue, but how else are you going to describe such a thing?

Entertaining transformations. I appreciate the variety in creating, separating, and consolidating the new words.

Random notes:

  • Art! 92d ["The Child's Bath" painter] Mary  CASSATT. 76a [Like many Turner seascapes] STORMY. Joseph Mallord William, or JMW Turner. An example. “One popular story about Turner, though it likely has little basis in reality, states that he even had himself ‘tied to the mast of a ship in order to experience the drama’ of the elements during a storm at sea.”
  • In the news today is the death of puppeteer Jerry Nelson, who brought to life (or at least undeadness) the muppet Count von Count. In his honor I’ll enumerate the “A” partials in the puzzle. A NAP, A NO, A GRIP, (A-LINE), A SEC, A LOT (back-to-back!). That’s five “A” partials, ah-ah-ah!
  • French! [Before, to Baudelaire] AVANT; [Denial from Dumas] NON; [Very, at Versailles] TRÈS; [Dijon designations] NOMS. All alliterative, you’ll observe. Honorable mentions to 128a TREYS and 117d LILI.
  • Fooled the same way twice! 12d [Contemptible] NO GOOD, and 29d [Doom] BAD END. In neither case was I expecting the answer to be a phrase. For the first, I presumed an adjective ending with -ED, and for the second, a verb. The inclusion of the antonymic pair GOOD and BAD is coincidence.
  • 50d [Any of ten lords in a seasonal song] LEAPER; 61d [One dancing to "Rakish Paddy"] REELER. Oh, DEAR ME (60a).
  • Digressionary musing! In crosswordland, the only Spanish months that exist are the wildly popular ENERO and her jealous sister MAYO. MarzoAbril never even get asked to the dance.
  • New to me: 19d [Twelve-time presidential candidate] Harold STASSEN. Twelve times? That’s… what? 44 years? Oh, consulting Wikipedia, it’s an even longer span, as he skipped some seasons (1956, 1960, 1972). So it was between 1944 and 2000, sixty-six years, ah-ah-ah!

As you may have inferred, nothing really wowed me among the ballast fill (comfy SERTA[S] (25a) in the stateroom’s BERTH[S] (29a) notwithstanding), so my overall impression of the puzzle rests unevenly on the strength of the theme, which I found to be good, but not great.

Good, but not great, puzzle. Obviously.

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26 Responses to Friday, 8/24/12

  1. Spider says:

    Let me give you a leg up in seeing how I’m a “theme” answer.

  2. John Ellis says:

    Spiders do have eight legs.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Aha! V. nice. A 39-square theme with a thematic grid design and pretty decent fill is remarkable for a 60-word puzzle.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    The NYT is more than an 4-star puzzle…

    • joon says:

      yeah, it’s pretty awesome, and i didn’t even notice the thematic stuff. just a good themeless with a fairly spectacular “hey, didja notice this?”.

      i’m fond of TALOS because i dig mythology, and let’s face it, he’s pretty awesome. just a big bronze dude who circled crete thrice a day and protected the island by chucking huge rocks at incoming ships. good times. i can’t remember what the argonauts did to get around him.

      • pannonica says:

        Talos was one of the more memorable of Ray Harryhausen’s creations in the 1960s film version of Jason and the Argonauts. GIS.

  5. T Campbell says:

    Gareth, in Los Angeles, those words end in -ize, not -ise.

    • Gareth says:

      LOL! It’s not my fault nobody has taught you guys to spell properly! Still, three suffix “ize”‘s and one “ize” that’s part of the word is a bit inconsistent? Nit-picking?

      • Anoa Bob says:

        One of my pet peeves is when a theme entry is gratuitously pluralized…er, pluralised, to make the letter count balance with other themes. I don’t think that’s the case here, though, as the three plurals as written are necessary to make them a play on the ending “ize” sound. So rather than being gratuitous, they are essential to theme consistency.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Difficult for me to appreciate the NYT inasmuch as it throws at us Craig’s list, google, a computer game and a computer key–three of them in the same little area, even though the puzzle fits together nicely. Why is “idol” a target of a fox hunt? Fox (so-called) News, or a regular, terrorize the innocent beast fox hunt? (Fox is capitalized in the clue and they certainly engage in witch hunts, but against idols?) Loved the LAT, though. The SW is the area I struggled with. Is “Junior” a partner of “lesser”? Don’t really get that.

    Neat that we’ve gotten the Golem and Talus in quick succession. Didn’t Medea seduce him, or something of the sort?

    • Evad says:

      Bruce, think Ryan Seacrest.

    • pannonica says:

      Bruce: The clue [Lesser partner] is tricky. Instead of reading it as “partner [of] lesser,” we must parse it as “the partner who (or which) is lesser (in relation to the other).” Yay English!

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Pan, yeah, thanks. I see your point. (I’ve actually been a junior partner.) Funny how one gets hung up on one syntactical way of parsing something, even when one is attuned to to the ruse of unexpected syntax. (Or maybe the one is me, though I imagine others do the same thing. In effect, I was taking “lesser” as the name of a word with quotes around it, not as a straightforward adjective.

  7. HH says:

    “…think Ryan Seacrest.”

    This is something no one should ever be asked to do.

  8. pannonica says:

    CS: Sam, regardless of the Jimmy Buffet tune, “Sheik of Araby” is a classic jazz song from the 1920s. It was inspired by Rudolph Valentino’s heartthrobby star turn in The Sheik.

  9. Gareth says:

    5 Stars here too. Even without the theme! Adored all the long answers (SPIDERSOLITAIRE is standard software since what ’98?) and some of the medium ones too: POLYPS (wonderful clue!), SPUTNIK and GAGRULE especially. Embarassingly, SPCA had me utterly stumped – another great (and mis-directing) clue, BTW! I had one of those weird moments with TALOS – I knew the answer before I had any crosses, but didn’t put it in as I didn’t know why or how I knew it, or any more about it, either. Very weird!

  10. Huda says:

    NYT: Yes, great puzzle that looks better the more your stare at it. That subliminal 8 aura it has going on is pretty awesome. I did not find it easy, because the cluing got me in various critical spots– e.g. the clue for OCTAGONAL. I’ve been to the Dome of the Rock (when I was a kid) so that should have helped, but I kept thinking of its religious significance for Jews and Moslems and was looking for a word that would capture that. Is there such a word?

  11. ArtLvr says:

    I thought the WSJ was a real tour de force! INVISIBLE IN parK, and all the rest…. Amazing!

    • Huda says:

      I meant something that indicates relevant beyond one religion– bireligious…

    • ShortShrift says:

      I agree, though this was a dnf for me, thanks to the north center where I was thrown by (perfectly fair) 8A Changing places (kept looking for a verb answer) and so got only the PAR parts of 23A (comPARes to) and 32A (PARties). Maybe too distracted watching the Yankees’ subpar performance in plating RISPs last night — they did succeed in the north center (in Chi-town) but it was closer than it should’ve been! Anyway, kudos to Alice Long. Enjoyed the Warhol and Laurel answers especially.

  12. Billie says:

    In Spider Solitaire, the object of the game is to sort the cards by suit, ace through king, into eight stacks. So it fits perfectly with the “eight” theme.

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