Tuesday, 9/11/12

NYT 3:25 
Jonesin' untimed 
LAT 4:00 (Neville) 
CS 5:06 (Sam) 

Kenneth Leeser’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 12 0911

There’s a surprising number of things (two!) I’ve never heard of in this Tuesday puzzle, along with some entries that may be unfamiliar to people who don’t do 1,000 crosswords a year. My two mystery items are 2d: SODA BATHS, [Soothing soaks], and 10d: MICRODOT, [Pinhead-size spy photo]. I also can’t say I’ve ever seen the verb 35d: SONNETIZE, [Write Shakespearean poetry]. Whoa x 3.

The theme doesn’t occupy a ton of real estate. Three capital cities from the Greater Middle East are paired with variably whimsical sound-alike phrases:

  • 24a. BEIRUT BAY ROUTE is clued as [Lebanese water passage?].
  • 38a. KHARTOUM CAR TOMB is a [Sudanese junkyard?].
  • 50a. TRIPOLI TRIPLE E is a [Big shoe specification in Libya?] “Triple E” sounds like more of a real thing than BAY ROUTE and CAR TOMB, so I liked this one best.

In the “possibly a stretch for beginning solvers” category, we have EDAM, ETO, ESTER, REATA, Val d’ISERE, German RUHR, and French ABBE.

While I am a fan of the letter Z and my last name used to be Zekas, I call a foul on the inclusion of both ZEKE and biblical book abbrev EZEK. Zeke is short for Ezekiel (and also for Zekas).

I do like the SCAPEGOAT who is COURTEOUS despite the depredations of SCLEROSIS. I like the non-medical “sclerotic,” as in being hidebound, rigid, resistant to adaptation, though the non-medical noun form seems less used to me.

Lots of French in this puzzle. SUD, ADIEU, ISERE, ABBE, and ETE? Folks who never studied the French language can be excused for grumbling.

Did you notice the clue for 21d: SRO? This time it’s not a theater sign announcing “standing room only” but rather a [Fleabag hotel, for short]. Now, that’s perhaps more insulting than it needs to be. Maybe some single-room-occupancy hotels, a.k.a. transient hotels, are not too shabby or run-down. I hope such SROs exist for the sake of the tenants’ dignity. (My local SRO has the delightful name Chateau Hotel, which rivals Pagoda House in its redundancy.) At any rate, I’m glad to see a gritty but current clue for SRO for a change.

2.75 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 11

I have a funny feeling that knowing the title or theme of this crossword would have helped my solving time, as three of the four theme entries were among the last to fall. But I’m still playing Name That Puzzle, the game where I try to guess the title after the fact. That requires that I first suss out the puzzle’s theme, and it’s not readily apparent to me. Here are the four longest Across answers, which I’m guessing to be the only theme entries:

  • 17-Across: [Benjamin Bradlee, during the Watergate era] was a NEWSPAPER EDITOR.
  • 28-Across: A [Nordstrom dick] is a STORE DETECTIVE. Yes, Inner Beavis giggled.
  • 49-Across: You’ll often find [Arson investigators] associated with the local FIRE DEPARTMENT. For me, this was the only gimme theme entry of the bunch.
  • 64-Across: The [Popular class for many 15-year-olds] is DRIVER EDUCATION.  I had most of EDUCATION in place when I got to this clue. Is it so wrong that my first thought was SEX and then, when I saw the first was six letters long, HEALTH? I sometimes shudder to think what our solving instincts say about us.

Since each theme entry has two words, my first assumption is that the theme involves a common bond among the first words (NEWSPAPER, STORE, FIRE, and DRIVER) or the last words (EDITOR, DETECTIVE, DEPARTMENT, and EDUCATION). Hmm, either list could be the source of the common bond. Perhaps I should check the clues.

Nope. None of the clues directly reveals the theme, though I should pause to note that there are some real gems here. I especially liked [Scout master?] for TONTO (Tonto’s horse was named Scout), [Spots on the screen] for ADS, and [Curfew for Dracula] for DAWN. But my favorite was [Behind...or hit from behind] for the noun/verb REAR END. (Inner Beavis has no comment on [Go down], for the only thing that comes to mind, of course, is DROP. What? Why are you looking at me like that?)

The parallel clues of [Product with a museum in Austin, Minnesota] for SPAM and [Sport with a museum in Lake Worth, Florida] struck me as more jarring than cool, but I could well be in the minority on that point. Does the theme have something to do with museums, then? Not that I can see. The hunt, therefore, continues.

Let’s see, there’s Sunday DRIVER and Sunday NEWSPAPER, but Sunday STORE and Sunday FIRE make no sense to me. There’s a board of EDUCATION and newspapers have EDITOR-ial boards, but…yuck. That can’t be it. So maybe this one’s not about common bonds.

The CS puzzle often features the “split-word” gimmick, where the same word (or words within a group) can be found at the start and end of each theme entry. STORE DETECTIVE has a STOVE at the beginning and end, for example, but the same isn’t true for the others. So that’s not it.

The kissin’ cousin of the split-word gimmick is the hidden word gimmick, where the same word (or words within a group) are hidden at or near the middle of each theme entry, often (indeed, preferably) straddling two words. By jove, I believe I’ve got it! The word RED is hidden in each theme entry: NEWSPAPER EDITOR, STORE DETECTIVE, FIRE DEPARTMENT, and DRIVER EDUCATION. I’m pretty certain, then, that this is the theme.

That leaves the issue of the title. Something about splitting red. “Seeing red” I know, but is there such a thing as “splitting red?” Ooh, maybe it’s just Seeing Red, since you can “see” RED straddling the two words in each theme entry. I like that, so I’ll go with it for my guess.

Nope, it’s the much cleverer “Parting of the Red … See?” Great title! (I’m trying to make common use of “cleverer” so I can use it to fill a tricky section of a grid at which I’m currently toiling. Pass it on!)

Two other points that slowed me down: I kept wanting DONUT for the [Krispy Kreme order] even though I knew the last letter was N from the aforementioned REAR END (note, by the way, how the Krispy Kreme order goes straight to your REAR END). Turns out it was DOZEN. Also, [Ananias] is not, as I suspected, a long-version of Diarist Nin’s first name, but instead a LIAR. Apparently the word comes from the New Testament character who was struck dead for lying. Were his pants aflame?

Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 11 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 11 12

Is there a doctor in the house?

  • 20a. ["Yes, indeed"] – NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
  • 25a. [Dinner table dispenser] - PEPPER SHAKER
  • 45a. [Sentry's question] - “WHO GOES THERE?”
  • 52a. [Tenth novel in Sue Grafton's "Alphabet" series] - J IS FOR JUDGMENT
  • 66a. [Brief titles for the starts of  20-, 25-, 45- and 52-Across] – DRS.

Neat idea here. I have perhaps the nittiest of picks with the execution, though. We typically see Dr. No, Dr Pepper and Dr. J with the abbreviated form of doctor (and yes, Dr Pepper is stylized without a period). However, I’ve never seen Dr. Who – I’ve only seen Doctor Who. A small survey revealed some cheaty ways to get away with Dr. Who, but most agreed that it should be written out and a Dr. would appear as a cop out. If we usually saw it the others written out, I’d be fine with it and would understand the brevity alluded to in the clue at 66a. But since we have one that’s not like the others, it draws undue attention. And since it’s undue, let’s just move on.

As is often the case, I like the multi-word long down entries like FROU FROU and WET BAR. (Someday, I hope to have a wet bar and a giant keyboard like the one in Big. That’s how I’ll know I’ve succeeded in life.) But SLOUCHES really popped out at me when I was solving the puzzle. Maybe it’s all in how the clue sounds. Say it with me: [Sits sloppily]. Mmm, lick that one up. Tuesday clues can still be fun without being tricky.

I keep hearing an ad on the radio with JOAN [Rivers of comedy] in which she reminds us that she’s not dead. Who does she think she is — Abe Vigoda? (May he rest in peace.) Imagine if a DRAG queen were a [Wet blanket, so to speak]. I doubt this is possible. Does anyone abbreviate Ecuador as ECUA.? I guess I’m just not on board with heading down South America way on this one; there’s probably an easy fix. Maybe it would’ve taken an axe to the WET BAR; I guess we’ll never know.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Two-Card Studs”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 10 12 “Two-Card Stud”

In this pun theme, assorted familiar phrases are tinkered with to make them include two playing cards:

  • 20a. [A pair of cards reduced to a fine powder?], DUST JACK EIGHT. (Dust jacket.)
  • 28a. [A pair of cards, a few hours from now?], SEVEN FOUR LATER. (Saving for later.)
  • 46a. [Pair of cards with unreasonable aspirations?], WISHFUL TEN KING. (Wishful thinking.)
  • 55a. [Pair of cards that are...a pair of cards?] NINE TWO ITSELF. (Unto itself.) Grammatically, wouldn’t that be “nine two themselves”?

I didn’t find any of the theme entries to be amusing, surprising, or particularly clever. So the theme doesn’t do much for me.

Here are some entries we don’t see in crosswords too much:

  • 10a. ["Don't let your boss catch you watching this" acronym], NSFW. “Not safe for (viewing at) work.” Generally means there are sexual images or swear words in the audio. Facebook apparently thought a New Yorker cartoon went too far in the “female nipple bulges” department and temporarily shut down the New Yorker’s Facebook page of cartoons.
  • 53a. ["Weetzie Bat" author Francesca ___ Block], LIA. Man alive, do we need a famous person named LIA. She’d be in so many crosswords!
  • 5d. BURJ [___ Khalifa (world's tallest building)]. If you didn’t see the third Mission: Impossible movie, in which Tom Cruise spiders down the outside of the Burk Khalifa, you should. That is just one of several over-the-top set pieces to boggle the eyes.
  • 7d. [Popular wedding website, or what's tied at a wedding], THE KNOT.
  • 9d. [Like some security software], ANTI-TROJAN. The Greeks, of course, were the original anti-Trojans.
  • 11d. [Redundant count], SUM TOTAL.
  • 31d. [Reply to a liar], NO, YOU’RE NOT.
  • 36d. [Totally awesome], KEWL. It’s a respelled “cool.”
  • 37d. [Toyota hybrids, jokingly], PRII. Didn’t “Prii” win a contest as the most popular plural of Prius?

Three stars.

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13 Responses to Tuesday, 9/11/12

  1. Michael says:

    Hard to believe COURTEOUS and its symmetrical partner SCLEROSIS are both debut answers in the Shortz dailies/Sundays era.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT:

    Dissident yell in the Syrian Capital ? Damascus: Damn ask us!

    This was from my neck of the woods… I’m from Damn ask us, and my second home is BEIRUT, although my favorite ROUTE there wasn’t along the BAY but along the seaside, the so-called “Corniche”, at sunset. Speaking of which, our website sunset has disappeared! But I like the orange with the puzzle on it. Very apt considering Amy’s old avatar!

    Back to the puzzle: Did you know that KHARTOUM means an elephant trunk? So the theme makes me think of an elephant stomping on a bunch of parked cars with his trunk in the air. Can you hear the trumpet sound?

    I really enjoyed this puzzle. I’m not sure people will recall all these capitals or know all this French. But it’s so rare for me to have some sort of advantage in puzzling, I’m not even going to try to be objective.

  3. Jenni says:

    I liked the theme, but SONNETIZE? Really? Ugh.

  4. Sparky says:

    Enjoyable puzzle. Nice new banner Amy. Clear and descriptive.

  5. D F says:

    NYT, 58a: [Alternative to Travelers] is not an accurate clue for the answer (AETNA). Travelers and Aetna are both insurance companies, but in completely different businesses (property/casualty v. health). Neither one is considered an alternative for the other. Cigna or Humana would have been the better reference here rather than Travelers.

  6. Gareth says:

    I had Victor’s theme in my “to send off” pile. Except the revealer was DOCTORWHO. All the doctor’s were the same too, except I also had Dr. Hook. Makes me wonder if there were indeed any more possibilities…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Patrick Merrell’s Celebrity crossword back on 12/24/11 had the following famous “Doctors”: Phil, Doom, Frankenstein, Octopus, Laura, Seuss, Zhivago, Frasier Crane, Ruth, Reid, Teeth, and Evil—many of whom would lend themselves to longer phrases.

  7. Aaron Brandes says:

    I happen to have reviewed the order of the books in the Hebrew Bible with my eldest daughter last weekend, so I knew immediately (for the NYT) that the book of Daniel is preceded by (66 A) Esther and followed by (34 A) Ezra. However this puzzle uses the order in the Christian canon, which is Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea so I had to rely on the crosses :)

  8. Matt J. says:

    That’s “nigh unto itself”.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I just Googled “nigh unto itself” in quotes, as it didn’t sound too natural to me. Six hits! (It will be seven after Google has indexed this page’s comments.)

  9. Old Geezer says:

    I HATE change! I guess that makes me human. That said, I like the new banner! Much more in the spirit of the site. Nice.

  10. Dan says:

    RE: NYT puzzle – I get the sense that the editor was extremely lenient on some of the questionable fill because he was enamored with the three (which is a little light for themes, no?) long world capital puns.

  11. backbiter says:

    Hey, Sam. So close! So very close. You were right there with the splitting red. A short hop and you would have had it. Anyway, we’ve given you three titles on the curve. C’mon, buddy, let’s do this thing!

Comments are closed.