Wednesday, 8/29/12

NYT 3:51 
LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:27 (Sam) 

Tony Orbach’s New York Times crossword

Wow, I’m so tired I could barely figure out how the second theme answer was made, and thought the central answer was a theme revealer. Nope, all five theme answers flip an LA into an AL:

  • 17a. SALVE TRADE, [Balm business?]. Now, having “slave trade” as your original phrase does not imbue the puzzle with whimsy.
  • 23a. ALP-TOP COVERS, [Yodeling tribute band's repertoire?]. I kept trying to anagram ALPTOP into something else, like TOPPAL, before the LAPTOP asserted itself.
  • 38a. “ALTER ON,” baby, alter on! [Words of encouragement to a tailor?].
  • 48a. PALIN’S INDIAN, [Figure at Sarah's cigar store]. Nice flip from Plains to a possessive, with both the original and the new word being proper nouns.
  • 57a. Peter FALK JACKET, ["Columbo" trench coat?].

Lots of sparkle in Tony’s fill. You’ve got that GOOSEFLESH ALL OVER, for starters. With tons of PANACHE. Plus the MIRACLE BRA CAVEATS. That Tony is NO DOPE, you know. (Although he did bring us the OLIO of HEXA BSMT IRT KEA.)

I was confused by 16a: [Nursery bagful]. I thought immediately of a baby nursery. What do you have by the bagful in the baby’s room? All I came up with is a LOAD, also known as a LOAF. Er, it turned out to be the rich soil called LOAM and nursery’s where you buy stuff for the garden.

3.5 stars.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review


Today we have a quip theme from our regular octogenarian (I think?) crossword constructor Jack McInturff. The quip mentions FACEBOOK, which is surprising. Said quip, ONCE WRITING ON A / WALL WAS GRAFFITI / NOW IT’S FACEBOOK, does have something of a “get off my lawn” tone to it, it must be said. It’s also arguably out of date, as Facebook walls have mostly been converted to “timelines”. (Though some lucky souls remain unaffected.)

There are a couple of deft crossing answers. SOCCER/MOM is explicitly clued, whereas SORE/BEAR isn’t, though it lacks the HEAD part… A third pair nearly cross, VHS and BETA, which feels like it’s missing a “max” as clued. There are two long non-themers, SWINGVOTER is topical to Americans, though the clue was somewhat opaque for me. I kinda liked the angle for WIDOW, Golfer’s nonplaying wife, facetiously—it’s less morbid, for one thing!

I often find the names in Mr. McInturff’s puzzles to be out of my wheelhouse. I don’t have a problem with that at all, though. Today’s mystery line-up consisted of BODE [2010 Olympic skiing gold medalist Miller], the particular ERIC [Stoltz of "Pulp Fiction"], LURIE ["Foreign Affairs" Pulitzer author Alison], the particular [MARGOT [She played Lois in "Superman" films] and OWENS ["Catch This!" autobiographer Terrell].

Is the last one related in any way to C&W’s Buck? I know him! How’s about I leave you with him in any case. As always, feel free to air your own opinions below.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Them’s Fightin’ Words!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 24

Foiled again! I was cruising along on my way to a fairly good solving time (by my comparatively sluggish standards, mind you) when I hit the intersection of Deadly and Crossing. I would have bet a considerable sum that the [1935 film whose title refers to Shirley Temple's hair style] was CURLY SUE, figuring that maybe the modern film from the 1980s or 1990s would have been a remake. But the middle letter in that second word had to be O, since OUCH was obviously the answer to ["That stings!"]. CURLY BOB? Much as I would have loved for BONG to be answer to [Pick up with a certain grasping tool], I knew that wasn’t it. But darned if I could figure out what it was, and that led me to running through the alphabet for help.

Naturally, it took a while to get to T for TONG (though Inner Beavis had fun along the way with DONG and LONG). So, CURLY TOE maybe? Hey, it could have been anything to me. I knew the crossing ended in -IET, but who the [Geometric painter Mondrian] was would be anyone’s guess. Finally, after what felt like forever, I tumbled to CURLY TOP as the movie, with PIET for the crossing. (I would have preferred a reference to the Empire admiral from Star Wars as the clue for PIET, but according to this, his name was spelled with two Ts. Nerts. On the bright side, though, Inner Beavis liked his first name.)

Oh well, I can’t get too obsessed with two little squares. Let’s talk about the rest. The theme is three terms that have their origins in the squared circle (that is, a boxing ring):

  • 17-Across: THREW IN THE TOWEL comes to us from one method that a boxer’s manager could use to call it quits on behalf of the fighter. Today it has a broader usage meaning [Conceded defeat].
  • 36-Across: When a boxing match lasts until the end of the last round, it is said that the fighters WENT THE DISTANCE. Now we use that term in any situation where one [Never called it quits].
  • 57-Across: In boxing, a fighter can be disqualified if the referee determines that that the fighter HIT BELOW THE BELT. So we use that term whenever one has been [Attacked unfairly].

It’s always nice when these themes yield three 15-letter answers, giving the puzzle a little added elegance. Other strong points from this grid include THE BURBS, DEW POINT, and, yummo SORBET.

Time for today’s entry in Name That Constructor Month. I’m having a hard time figuring out who made this puzzle. The trivia-based clues like [Maker of the first car with seat belts as a standard feature] for SAAB and the Shirley Temple clue referenced above bring Ray Hamel to mind, while the near-pangram fill (Where’s the V?) suggests Patrick Jordan. (Then again, the fact that the grid’s not a pangram suggests it’s not Patrick Jordan.) We know it’s not Bob Klahn, since he was yesterday. For similar reasons, I’m striking Randy Ross, Bruce Venzke, Ray Hamel (despite the trivia), Donna Levin, Tony Orbach, and Doug Peterson. While I’m here, I doubt that Lynn Lempel, Sarah Keller, or Gail Grabowski would have a puzzle with FLOOZY in it, but maybe I’m projecting a sensitivity onto them that’s not even remotely accurate.

Are any of the CS constructors boxing fans? It doesn’t look like it from the bios. Randy Hartman’s a wrestling referee, but that’s not boxing, and we just saw his byline last week, He’s been incredibly prolific of late, but I’m just thinking it’s a little too early to see his name yet again. That’s leaving me with Alan Arbesfeld, Martin Ashwood-Smith, and Patrick Blindauer to join Patrick Jordan for my guesses today. I’m going to put Martin first, simply because the theme entries are all 15 letters long, and we know that no one except maybe Frank Longo would have a more comprehensive list of 15-letter entries than the King of Triple Stacks. Patrick Jordan will be my second choice, though that missing V has me very worried. And Alan will be my last choice, only because the clues lack the Blindauer panache I have come to expect in his puzzles. Okay, then, here goes nothing:

1. Martin Ashwood-Smith     2. Patrick Jordan     3. Alan Arbesfeld

Chalk up two points to methodical deduction! Name That Constructor Stats After 29 Puzzles: 10 correct first choices (3 points each), 5 correct second choices (2 points each), 4 correct third choices (1 point each); 44 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points. I need two correct first guesses to end the month if I’m going to make my goal. Um, don’t hold your breath.

Aimee Lucido’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 8 29 12 Lucido

Veiled sports theme this week, with phrases ending in words that are also professional sports teams:

  • 17a. [Chicago basketball team sold to the Vatican?], PAPAL BULLS.
  • 23a. [St. Louis hockey team sold to a high school?], VARSITY BLUES. Does “varsity blues” have a meaning aside from the Van Der Beek movie Varsity Blues?
  • 47a. [Minnesota baseball team sold to Thailand?], SIAMESE TWINS. No more hot dogs in the stands, but plenty of chicken satay. Singha beer instead of Grainbelt.
  • 57a. [Philadelphia football team sold to Just For Men?], BALD EAGLES. Now I want the entire team to shave their heads.

The theme is solid, but feels more like a daily newspaper puzzle concept than the Onion. Maybe this is Aimee’s attempt to average out her Onion content, since she’s had much racier themes before.

Fill less likely to appear in the New York Times crossword:

  • 1d. [Jacks off, slangily], FAPS. New to me. I believe it’s an onomatopoeic word.
  • 22a. [Wino], ALKIE. I have heard “alkie” far, far more than I’ve heard “sot,” although crosswords give the impression that “sot” is an everyday word everyone uses.
  • 40d. [Deodorant targets], ARMPITS. Underarms or axillae, if you’re squeamish.

3.5 stars.

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29 Responses to Wednesday, 8/29/12

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed it! It put up a little resistance to begin with, but once I tumbled to the flip (flipped to the tumble?) it became a lot easier. My favorite theme answer is ALTER ON! Short, sweet and captures the spirit of the theme. GOOSEFLESH AND MIRACLE BRA, now that’s a combo!

  2. Howard B says:

    Cruciverbalists untie!

  3. Evad says:

    Same nursery idea here, with the O of LOAM I wondered if POOP would work. Took me a while to figure out how the theme entries were generated, but finally glommed onto Tony’s signature humor. Wondering how different a cover to an yodeling song might be from the original?

  4. JanglerNPL says:

    I still don’t buy RRR as an entry, any more than I’d buy TENOR TENOR TENOR.

  5. JanglerNPL says:

    Fun theme though! I love ALTER ON. Alter on, Wayne! Alter on, Garth!

  6. Papa John says:

    In today’s NYT: 37A “Streamrolled stuff”= TAR

    Really? All I can thnk of is a bizarre Looney Toons scene.

    • pannonica says:

      How about Sleeper, A Fish Called Wanda, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Or James Taylor?

      • Papa John says:

        pannonica, I swear, your musings become more and more cryptic to me with each offering. “What about” those films, indeed? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Was a sailor run over by a steamroller in these films? What does James Taylor have to do with anything? Did he write some banal lyrics about the death of the poor sailor? Is your reply actually a defense of the clue?

        While I am at it, I have a question about your reply to Evad. Who’s Sam and why is his name underlined? Am I right in assuming a Gravatar to be the small graphic box that accompanies messages posted here?

      • pannonica says:

        I completely missed your tar/sailor connection, and was only thinking about memorable scenes with steamrollers (the Leader’s nose, Kevin Kline, Christopher Lloyd). James Taylor wrote a clunky white-boy blues song with a steamroller metaphor.

        Sam is Sam Donaldson, who reviews the CrosSynergy puzzles, and you are correct about Gravatar, which is an acronym/portmanteau of “globally recognized avatar”).

  7. pauer says:

    Nice one, T! I had fun with it and liked not having an explanatory entry for a change. Solvers had to figure it out this way, and we got an extra theme answer, to boot. I’m gonna guess that ALPTOP was the seed for this one.

  8. Gareth says:

    The NYT was very Friday LAT Times! The LAPTOP/ALPTOP change mentioned by Patrick above is indeed inspired! I needed every crossing for MIRACLEBRA, despite researching types of bra once for a puzzle (that didn’t see the light, or, at least it was self-published), and some of those crossers were tough to suss… Agree with the the “sparkle list”, though I also really like OSMOSIS, with its non-technical, sort of informal clue!

  9. Papa John says:

    pannonica, the sailor aspect didn’t occur to me until after I read your post. My original post was a critic of the clue/fill. Think about it – why would anyone want to steamroll tar? My Looney Toons image is one of a steamroller trying desperately to free itself from the sticky mass of tar. Pity the poor fool who has to clean up that mess.

    Methinks Evad’s Gravatar (why is it capitalized?) is a detail from a Mondrian painting, no? How do you guys make them?

    Finally, would someone please explain the quip in the LA Times puzzle?

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    *Loved* (not liked) today’s NYT. 5 *

    {What my gf was by comparison to the fastest finishers on today’s puzzle?} (3, 6)

    Haven’t done the CS, but love gimmes like Piet Mondrian.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Howard, except for feeling like I might get into trouble, I like the bumper sticker:

    Dyslexics of the world UNTIE

  12. HH says:

    @ ===Dan …

    Um, okay. Does anyone have an illustrated list?

  13. Torbach says:

    Hey gang,

    As ever, nice to read your musings on my puzzle – I need something in lieu of solving the thing on the day, and incessant checking here fills the void nicely.

    I think PLAINS/PALIN’S was the first entry I had. I had alluded to the INDIAN motorcycle brand in my submission to Will, which he wisely changed to a more broadly gettable connotation – though I did like/fear the image of the Alaskan rogue on a bike!

    Happy holiday and end of summer.

  14. Aaron Brandes says:

    In the A.V. list of NSFT (not safe for Times) clues Amy didn’t include 10 d. [Spit alternative] SWALLOW, which I read as an oral sex reference.

  15. Noam D. Elkies says:

    “Spit vs. swallow” can be simply a wine taster’s choice…

  16. Aimee Lucido says:

    It was totally an oral sex reference :)

Comments are closed.