Tuesday, 8/28/12

NYT 2:53 
Jonesin' untimed 
LAT 3:39 (Neville) 
CS 8:19 (Sam) 

Northern California puzzlers, BACFill (formerly called the Bay Area Crossword Tournament) is coming up on Saturday, September 8 in Oakland. Click the link for details. Advance registration is $30, the proceeds support a worthy cause, and there are cash (!) prizes. The tournament puzzles will be unpublished New York Times crosswords.

Lou Borenstein’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 28 12 0828

All right, the concept is cute: Take songs that end with HEAVEN or HELL and swap the afterworlds. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Mr. Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell” become HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN and BAT OUT OF HEAVEN. On the other end, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Bing Crosby’s “Pennies from Heaven” (which I don’t know at all—the other three songs rock a lot harder than crooner Bing) become STAIRWAY TO HELL (which I can only hear to the tune of “Highway to Hell”) and PENNIES FROM HELL (which are the coins that weigh down my wallet). The theme is sort of needlessly beefed up with the addition of 1a: BELOW and 64a: ABOVE; I don’t think they add anything.

Now, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN was also a TV series, with Michael Landon in his post-Pa phase, while the other three theme answers have no life outside of this crossword. I never saw the show, but the first 15 seconds of this bloopers/outtakes video made me snort.

The Scowl-o-Meter was quiet tonight but you know what? The Squinch-o-Meter turned on instead. My face went all squinchy when I hit NERTS, SROS, NISI, STOA, plural LYES, and the AMAH/LUMENS collision. Much of the other fill was on the snoozy side (BAHS, EMIR, APSE?).

I didn’t realize that SAAB ([Discontinued Swedish car]) was no more. An electric car concern has bought what remains and plans to bring out an all-electric version of the Saab 9-3. They may or may not get the rights to use the Saab name; apparently the cool griffin logo is off limits.

2.5 stars from me. And you?

Updated Tuesday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Box Office Receipts” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 28

Only five puzzles left in Name That Constructor Month, and I need a lot of points to make my goal. No margin for error now–it’s go time!

Fortunately, this one has Bob Klahn written all over it.  The tricky clues, the easy theme that actually helps you solve the tricky clues, and the occasional sprinkling of the complete unknown is the most reliable recipe for a Bob Klahn puzzle. In this one, the theme involves tacking the letters -BO to the end of four common terms to get some wacky-slash-entertaining new ones:

  • 20-Across: An “elevator car” becomes ELEVATOR CARBO, or [Pasta and potatoes that really lift you up?]. Okay fine, but doesn’t everyone refer to it as “carb” instead of “carbo?”
  • 27-Across: In the “first place” becomes the FIRST PLACEBO, a [Garden of Eden sugar pill?]. They say the first placebo is a gateway drug to more intense placebos.
  • 46-Across: Here’s your winning entry–”Bazooka gum” morphs into BAZOOKA GUMBO, the [Creole creation strong enough to launch a rocket?]. Methinks this might have been the seed that started it all.
  • 56-Across: Another goodie comes at the end, as “Match (dot) com” becomes MATCH DOT COMBO, a [Two-for-one at a leading dating site?]. I suppose some might be into a two-for-one when it comes to dating, but I suspect that kind of promotion would have limited appeal once you get beyond teenage boys.

The title leaves me a little wanting, as I don’t normally think of “B.O.” as “box office.” Then again, a title along the lines of “What’s That Stench?” or “Smelly Behinds” might have been pushing the envelope a little too far.

Let’s get to some of the notable clues:

  • Some of my favorite wordplay-based clues were [Something to get out] for LEAD (as in “get the lead out!”), [Devours Bacon] for READS, [Couch material] for NEUROSES, [Fiddlelike?] for FIT, and [Member of the service?] for a TEACUP.
  • But the best clue of the puzzle was [Cry ... cry again?] as a description for an ECHO. That one just might get an Orca nomination in a few months.
  • Honorable mention to ["That's full enough"] for WHEN. Just a terrific clue.
  • Pugilists will appreciate that there’s both BOXED ([Went a round]) and SPAR ([Pull punches, perhaps]). And slackers will dig MEH and NAH lurking together.
  • Under the headings of either “New to Me” or “Why Can’t I Ever Remember These?” come COTE, the [Pigeon pad], KEAS as the [Green kiwi parrots], MERE as the [French family member] (not to be confused with merde), OSIER as the [Wicker willow], and TOPER for a [Pub crawler].
  • I only now understand RES as the answer to [B's in the key of A]. To me, a res is a thing. But here, it’s a plural term for the second notes sung in do re mi fa sol la ti do.

As for the best entry in the grid, it would be hard to top KICK ME, the [Note on a victim's behind].

Finally, two comments about ULE, the [Mod finale] (as in “module”). First, the correct answer is either ERN or, perhaps more humbly, ESTY. Not ULE. Second, ULE might give SER a run for its money as the worst piece of crossword fill ever.

Oh, and I’m so sure on this one that I’ll take just one guess for my entry in Name That Constructor Month. It’s Bob Klahn. Wait, if I use Bob for all three guesses, would I get six points? Nah, that would be cheating. If I was tempted to cheat, I sure as heck wouldn’t be 0-7 in LearnedLeague right now! So I’ll take Bob Klahn for (just) three points, please.

Yay! Three more points! Yes, they were easy points, but I’m in no position to insist on hard-earned ones at this juncture.  Name That Constructor Stats After 28 Puzzles: 10 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 4 correct third choices (1 point each); 42 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 8 28 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 8 28 12

Hey there, Mr. MISTER – there are eleven(!) entries in this puzzles that complete the names of notable misters across all realms. I’ve circled their symmetric(!) locations in the grid for your ease of searching… especially since there are so many of them!

  • COFFEE
  • WIZARD
  • BEAN
  • MOM
  • BIG
  • PEANUT
  • BILL
  • DEEDS
  • TOAD
  • BLUE
  • CLEAN

There’s theme material all over the grid; the only mister I didn’t know was “Mr. BLUE. That’s not bad considering how many fellows we’ve got in the grid. I love that COFFEE/BEAN are clued together as [Roasted aromatic seed].

The longest words and phrases in the grid – only 7 and 8 letters long – aren’t part of the theme. Winners abound: BAR CODESBREAD BOXPET LAMB, BLESS ME and RUNNER-UP are good by me. How’s that irony at the end of the across clues? [Begin] for START… shouldn’t that be in the upper left?

Though IVANA may have been The Donald’s first wife, I doubt that she was [The first Mrs. Trump]. I mean, wasn’t his mother called “Mrs. Trump”?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “That Show Is So Corny”

Jonesin’ crossword answers, 8 28 12 “That Show Is So Corny”

Merl Reagle hasn’t quite cornered the market on pun themes. This week’s theme from Matt is corn-related puns on TV show titles:

  • 16a. [Corny game show set on city streets?], CASH COB. Cash Cab.
  • 22a. [Corny reality show set all over the world, with "The"?], A-MAIZE-ING RACE. The Amazing Race.
  • 37a, 39a. [corny buddy cop show?], STARCHY AND HUSK. Starsky and Hutch. This is both a grievous double pun and a pun that I like.
  • 48a. [Corny coming-of-age dramedy?], THE WONDER EARS. The Wonder Years.
  • 61a. [And all these corny TV shows are brought to you by...] E-HOMINY, a riff on dating website eHarmony.

Five for fighting:

  • 2d. [Family played by Alexander, Stiller and Harris], COSTANZAS. Jason A. played George, Jerry S. played his dad Frank, and Estelle H. played, oh, what was George’s mom’s name? I’m drawing a blank. In any event, this is my favorite fill today.
  • 36d. [Between S and F on a laptop], D KEY. As in the keyboard key for the letter D. Not a fan of this construct. SHIFT KEY, COMMAND KEY, ARROW KEY, a phone’s STAR KEY or POUND KEY sure. But not A through Z keys or the rest of them.
  • 58a. [Home perm brand], OGILVIE. Retro? No, it still exists! Who knew?
  • 41a. ["Andre the Giant ___ Posse"], HAS A. For real? What on earth is this? Google to the rescue: A Shepherd Fairey street art/viral marketing thing from 1989, eons before his Obama iconography took off. Interesting.
  • 31d. [Major German river, in German], RHEIN. You know what? “Rhine” always looks a little bit wrong to me. There’s nothing wrong with the German spelling.

3.5 stars.

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32 Responses to Tuesday, 8/28/12

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it better than you did, Amy. It’s cute, as you said. The theme is a little binary, so that definitely makes it a little too easy for a Tuesday. It was really Monday easy except for that NE corner — that clue to OXEN elicited a total blank. What the heck is Olly, Olly, OXEN free?

    I just looked it up- Children’s games! Never heard of it and I’ve been in this country for decades. It’s amazing to me that I keep discovering pockets of ignorance that seem insurmountable, just because I did not grow up here. I remember having to understand the concept of “popular” when my kids where in middle school. It seemed rather opaque since some “popular” girls seemed to be the object of great animosity, but everyone else seemed to get it. Anyhow, I’ll add this Olly, Olly business to my “learned from puzzles” pile.

    • pannonica says:

      One theory is that it comes from German, “Alle, alle auch sind frei” (“everyone, everyone is also free”). I assume that would be from a children’s game as well.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    Huda, I never heard of Olly Olly Oxen free either, and I was born and raised here.

  3. Jared says:

    I think the “above” and “below” do add positively to the theme since they’ve also switched places, in a way. ABOVE is at the bottom of the grid while BELOW is at the top.

  4. Martin says:

    I remember it from an old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy. It was on of Lewis’s catch phrases.

    MAS

  5. M says:

    Sam, your second title suggestion is masterful toilet humor and reminds me of WaPo’s Style Invitational, to which Klahn incidentally has supplied crosswords.

    Re SER and ULE, would SERULE [Village in Botswana] be so bad that it would threaten the existence of the universe?

    • Sam Donaldson says:

      Maybe not, but [Start of a Botswanan village] may well be an Armageddon-inducing clue for SER.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Eureka! Shout out to my home town outside Chicago in Stan Newman’s last theme answer, in full! Most famous former residents: Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. That was fun. The BO stuff in the NYT seemed only so-so to me, but I ended up smiling at the wacko GUMBO, PLACEBO and COMBO. Agree that the Box Office link is unlikely.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. I also enjoyed the LAT “Misters” – very clever. And I would add that a reading of the wiki bio for Edgar Rice Burroughs is fascinating, as he reinvented himself several times. Mired in low-level jobs like “pencil-sharpener wholesaler”, he got the idea for writing science fiction from the pulps, made his fortune especially from the Tarzan series including films, and ended up in Hawaii where he became one of our oldest war correspondents after Pearl Harbor!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, Daniel — I really need that Edit function back for my corrections!

  9. Old Geezer says:

    There was a discussion last week about the coincidence of words appearing in different puzzles on the same or adjacent days. Can we say it may be a colossal coincidence today?

  10. Dan says:

    Re the NY Times puzzle, the idea of switching hell and heaven in song titles just doesn’t seem all that clever to me, found it pretty much uninspiring. But hell knows, I may be totally off base here.

  11. joon says:

    loved the LAT theme and all the MISTERs. like neville, i recognized them all except for BLUE, which i thought might be a (fairly lame) reference to one of the minor characters from reservoir dogs. i only wish 49-down itself had been starred. meta!

  12. Peter Piper says:

    Mr Blue is a song done by the Fleetwoods circa 1959-1960

  13. Martin says:

    Friday’s Inkwell puzzle has been posted, although the Today’s Puzzle link is still to last week’s. Those of you who get it here might like the extra-credit note:
    After solving “Brushes with Flame,” you’ll see that one of the horizontal grid rows includes three words that yield a number of wonderful two-word anagrams, including five that could be clued as “Supremely virile tools,” “Little brats who get criticized,” “Understands bluegrass instruments,” “Evil forces intent on giving you hypertension,” and “Ballroom dance done by rote.”

    I’ve been gone a few weeks. Was there a vote to trade threaded comments for Edit?

    • Lois says:

      I’m sure I haven’t seen all the explanations of the changes, but I believe Amy has discussed those two functions separately. She wanted the threaded comments. I think she said the edit function was too difficult to handle right now (it started out as five minutes to edit instead of 30 right after the changes were made, and then disappeared completely), but she and Dave might still be working on reintroducing it. I’m not sure of that any more. You probably have noticed that you can only rate a puzzle and see the ratings after you have clicked on a particular day’s puzzles. I couldn’t figure that out myself, but Amy explained it.

  14. rock says:

    Yes!! Finally a Bob Klahn (I love his puzzles) so sorry to hear Sam won’t be doing “guest the constructor” anymore. I looked forward to it, but anyway thanks to you and Amy for writing about puzzles, off to batten down the hatches! ;)

  15. Amy,
    Thanks for the BAC Fill mention, esp because the Morgan Hill extravaganza just folded after a terrific 7 yrs, partially due to lack of attendance translating into much needed funds.

    And i must echo that I think the addition of BELOW/ABOVE. Was more than unnecessarily beefing up, it was an extra dollop of cleverness, ten more theme letters in an already wonderfully dense count (14 x 15 x 15 x 14) is quite fabulous I think…tho the fill seemed to have suffered from it or maybe was autofill or something… We’ll never know unless Mr. borenstein chimes in.

    @huda
    Totally regional, generational, etc…but definitely tied to Hide and Seek…so folks wouldn’t remain hidden after the It person gave up or it was time for dinner!
    When I used to babysit my niece, I’d have her hide and then I’d go take a nap!

  16. Jeff Chen says:

    I’m not a fan of reality TV, but I would totally watch “What’s That Smell?” Ah, we miss thee out in Seattle, Sam.

  17. backbiter says:

    C’mon Sam! Two 3-pointers and one 2-pointer away from 50 points. I have $200.00 riding on this. I’m gonna chant! Don-ald-son! Don-ald-son! Don-ald-son! You can do it! Concentrate! Yeah!

  18. WashingtonBarb says:

    I was surprised that Sam Donaldson’s comment on the thematic answer in the WP puzzle for Aug. 28 didn’t reference “elevator car” since that was the phrase to which the puzzle’s key “bo” was added — it wasn’t adding an “o” to “carb” to make “carbo.”

    I also thought that there were several surprisingly annoying clues in the puzzle including some Sam really liked. For example, I found “Cry . . . cry again” for “echo” annoyingly obscure but I can respect it. Somewhat obscure was “biceps” for “pull-up pullers” (49 down).

    However, “elks” as the answer to “bugle call responders?” (68 across) – even with the question mark. Elks presumably respond to hunting horns, not bugles which have military uses.

    Isn’t “cote” the home or “pad” for doves, a cousin of pigeons or the technical name for pigeons, so- called “rock doves” whereas don’t pigeons congregate in coops (like chickens)?

    And re: his title suggestions, doesn’t “b.o.” refer exclusively to under-arm odor from perspiration there?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The verb “bugle” also means “issue a loud sound resembling that of a bugle, particularly the mating call of a bull elk.”

      B.O. applies to all stinks emanating from the skin. The armpits are a prime offender, it’s true, but a sweaty, unwashed underpants zone can also reek.

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