Wednesday, 9/12/12

NYT 3:59 
LAT untimed (Matt) 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:55 (Sam) 

Robert Harris’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 12 12 0912

I really liked this puzzle from beginning to end, despite not grasping the theme until halfway through. That theme is a familiar one: Take a two-word phrase or compound word in which the second part begins with S, and move the S to the end of the first part (preceded by a possessive apostrophe).

  • 17a. [Index, middle, ring and pinkie fingers?], THUMB’S CREW. My thumb is old-school and calls the other fingers her posse.
  • 29a. ["Lord, make me impervious to Raid"?], BUG’S PRAYER. Ha!
  • 43a. [Reason everyone whispered during the afternoon on Gilligan's island?], GINGER’S NAP. My aunt and cousin make amazing little gingersnaps every Christmas. They’re the size of oyster crackers and so addictive.
  • 57a. [Excursion for Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock?], COMIC’S TRIP.

The theme doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done plenty of times before, but the BUG’S PRAYER made me laugh and thumbscrew, gingersnap, and comic strip are such crisp original versions.

Lots of zing in the fill, too. I’m partial to Les NESSMAN (because I loved WKRP in Cincinnati and because my indie pharmacist reminds me of Les Nessman despite having Rambo as a last name), SOLD OUT clued as [Compromised one's values] rather than the “they’ve all been sold” option, CRUEL clued via [Steve Martin's "__ Shoes"], work done IN-HOUSE, a suddenly explosive automobile AIRBAG, the EVIL EYE, and the diner-kitchen “ORDER UP!”

There’s plenty of Across fill that’s on the blah side, but I missed noticing some of them because of filling in the longer Downs. 4.25 stars.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 9 12 12 Francis Heaney

This eight-piece, seven-entry theme is super-tight: Take a two-word phrase whose second word ends with a T, and move that T to the start of the same word.

  • 17a. [End-of-week farewell?], PARTING T.G.I.F. Parting gift morphs into the T.G.I.F. abbrev, switching it up a bit.
  • 26a. [Group that lost their mittens, e.g.?], PUSSY TRIO. Kittens! Yes. That is, coincidentally, the same meaning of the word that the Russian Pussy Riot was getting at.
  • 28a. [Brews with very low caffeine content?], NEAR TEAS. I consider Ohio to be the Near East. It’s too far east of me to feel like it’s still the Midwest.
  • 35a, 37a. [narrator of "Hitchhiking With Lolita"?], HUMBERT THUMBER. I bet this was Francis’s seed entry.
  • 47a. The greatest possible number of seabirds?]. MAX TERNS. Artist Max Ernst was a leader of the Dada movement.
  • 49a. [Adolescent astronauts' favored drinks?], TEEN TANGS. Teen angst. Man, did I love Tang orange breakfast drink as a kid. I also relished a Tang mimosa that I had last year.
  • 57a. [Say "Yes, officer, that's the singer that was using Auto-Tune"?], FINGER T-PAIN. Who misses finger painting? Raise your hand.

Seven interesting entries in the rest of the grid:

  • 4a. [Base measurement], PH LEVEL.
  • 15a. [Self-referential phrase on green packaging], REUSE ME. Is this a follow-up to the Bill Withers song, “Use Me”?
  • 4d. [Jason of "Beverly Hills, 90210"], PRIESTLEY. I would be remiss not to fill you in on the latest 90210 gossip, which is that Luke Perry (the one who was hotter than Jason Priestley) is not actually dating Jennie Garth.
  • 11d. [Movie that may be remade again with Beyonce in the Gaynor/Garland/Streisand role], A STAR IS BORN. That would be the third iteration I haven’t seen.
  • 25d. [British actor nicknamed "Serena" after his knighthood], IAN MCKELLEN. Check out this video of a guy doing his impression of Ian McKellen doing a dramatic reading of “Baby Got Back.” (I hear it works best if you close your eyes.)
  • 34d. [Tiny bugs that often live in pillows, but try not to think about it], DUST MITES. I’m pretty sure that there are NO DUST MITES IN MY HOUSE. (Hush.)
  • 51d. [Political family that probably shouldn't go to their dad for sex advice], AKINS. Referring to Missouri congressman Todd Akin, a.k.a. Legitimate Ape.

There are plenty of three-letter answers in this puzzle, but they mostly do not offend. 4.25 stars.

Gareth Bain’s LA Times crossword—M.C. Gaffney’s review

Fiend blogger Gareth crosses the Seven C’s in today’s puzzle, where each theme entry follows the pattern some letter-C-another word. They are:

  • 17-a [Perspective-bending artist] = M.C. ESCHER. Everyone’s favorite M.C.
  • 19-a ["Beau Geste" novelist] = P.C. WREN. Never heard of him/her.
  • 30-a [Sears rival] = J.C. PENNEY.
  • 39-a [Blues standard first recorded by Ma Rainey] = C.C. RIDER. Never heard of it. Perhaps you are beginning to think me uncultured.
  • 46-a ["Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" star] = W.C. FIELDS.
  • 61-a [Pepsi alternative] = RC COLA. Do they still make this stuff? It has a mellow flavor, as I recall from long ago.
  • 63-a [Justice League publisher] = DC COMICS.

So that’s a solid theme, and 4 or 5 (depending on what C.C. RIDER is) out of the seven are names so that’s fine (you wouldn’t want just 1 to be different than the others, but 2 or 3 makes it OK).

With seven theme entries floating around it’s tough to get good fill in, but look: IN EXCESS OF, NICK AT NITE, BO PEEP, ME ME ME!, I GIVE! and NO MORE! OK, one more: BAD EGG. Speaking of which, there are a few bad eggs hiding in the fill: a killer crossing at the first letters of CC RIDER and CNET, which is going to be guess-a-letter for a non-trivial number of solvers (I only got it via CNET); another tough one at the intersection of CNET and STOL; and a little bit of ESME/COES/PLEB (“plebe” is how I’ve seen it more commonly) and RE-MI (though that one has the quirk of crossing its own anagram). But considering the theme constraints, those don’t set the Scowl-O-Meter off too badly.

Noteworthy:

  • Any SCOT would love a BRAE with a GLEN nearby. And [St. Andrew's Day celebrant] is a fortuitious clue for SCOT, since Andrew (well, Andy) Murray just won the US Open on Monday.
  • [It may be bendy] for STRAW at 28-d is cute. Next door, [One of three in Coca-Cola] for HARD C is nice, though it steps on RC COLA‘s toes a bit hard.
  • OK, you’re really going to think I’m uncultured now, but never heard of RISSOLE at 43-d. Looks good, though!

Fun puzzle, 3.65 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 12

Today’s puzzle offers a user’s guide for staging and prevailing in a coup d’etat. The four theme entries all share the same clue, [Coup to-do list item]:

  • 17-Across: First, it’s helpful to GET THE UPPER HAND.
  • 28-Across: Then you want to SEIZE POWER. That’s sort of the whole point, you see.
  • 46-Across: Apparently the next step is to TAKE CHARGE, though if you argued this was the same as seizing power, I would not oppose you.
  • 61-Across: Lastly, it seems, the real trick is to MAINTAIN CONTROL. But doesn’t this part technically come after the coup, once you have assumed the helm of leadership? Meh, why quibble about it.

So there you have it, from small fry to The Man in four easy steps.  The surrounding fill isn’t horrible, but only a few entries have sizzle, like YO HO HO, HASIDIC, RAT PACK, and GOTCHA. THICKET, the [Dense growth of bushes], is interesting because it’s word you tend to see more in real life than in crosswords, and that’s always a plus. Of course, there’s plenty of the stuff that populates crosswords more than the real world, like ISTH, IKES, O’ER, AMAHL, A RIOT, IONE Skye, and U.S.P.O.

We finish today by trying to Name That Puzzle. More specifically, I’ll try to answer the question, “What’s this puzzle’s title?” There are many potential titles. How Revolting! comes first to mind. That Coup You Do could also work. There’s Cuckoo for Coup-Coups, Keeping Coup, even Anatomy of a Coup (strike that last one, the ugly ANAT is in the puzzle–how’d I miss that in my recitation above?). I keep coming back to How Revolting, so that’s my guess.

Of course, I’m wrong. It’s the more straightforward “To Do a Coup.” This one’s probably better since it emphasizes the “to-do list” part of the theme more so than any of my titles. Oh well.

Finally, a shout-out to my favorite clue, [Cook book] for COMA, the novel by Robin Cook. That’s a five-star clue for a potentially depressing entry.

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20 Responses to Wednesday, 9/12/12

  1. Doug says:

    STEEPS at 8-Down tripped up quite a few solvers at the Bay Area tournament, because STEAMS is also a likely answer for [Gets into hot water?]. That leaves you with Across answers that don’t seem so bad: BALS for [Loudness units] and RAM for [Strike]. OK, BALS should have been a tip-off, but it’s not like BELS is an everyday word. And there’s the extra pressure of the ticking clock! Fortunately I avoided the trap.

    • Jason F says:

      What trap? AAAAaaaaa…

      I also fell for it completely, though BEL really is obvious if you think of decibel (dB).

      Thanks for the post – makes me feel better to not be alone.

  2. Evad says:

    Exactly my mistake. RAM and RAP both work with the clue and STEAMS is a lot more common than STEEPS. I questioned BALS, but BELS didn’t jump out at me either. If I had thought of DECIBELS, I would’ve figured it out.

  3. John E says:

    LOL – 3D in today’s NYT, I was again left with AxxLET(S)…..

    I echo Amy’s appreciation for the longer down fill – and I don’t chuckle much when I do corny puzzles, but I did giggle at GINGERSNAP.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I too really enjoyed it even though the type of theme is not new. But I prefer taking a well-known phrase and breaking it up somewhere else, as this puzzle did, to the insertion/deletion strategy which often produces stuff that feels is forced. Here the phrases were all good to great, and BUG’S PRAYER is terrific. I’m seeing a praying mantis.

    The EVIL EYE, TEMPTER, ERASER neighborhood echoes Monday’s WICKED theme, and TOKE, STASH, AMULET has a 60′s vibe.

    @Doug, I totally fell into the STEam trap, except that I knew it had to be -ELS (BELS? dELS?) Remembering DeciBELS saved the day. I also had SSN in lieu of SEX, Settled in lieu of SOLDOUT, and NESbett instead of NESSMAN. It all sorted itself out in due time.

  5. Actually, I started with the Pussy Riot reference. The Lolita and Auto-Tune clues were the last two theme entries I came up with. I had a symmetric set before that, but it wasn’t quite lively enough for me. Bumped from the set: LIONEL T-BAR (Part of a model train set’s ski area).

  6. pannonica says:

    Really enjoyed Francis Heaney’s playful cluing in the Onion/AV puzzle. Two favorites: 56a [Cholesterol that doesn't start with H (I can never remember which is the good one)] LDL; 43d [Abbr. followed by "!!!!!1"] OMG.

    Also, as Amy suggested (inadvertently or not), I think the clue for 11d A STAR IS BORN would have benefitted by a minor insertion: […that may be remade yet again…]. There are already three versions (1937, 1954, 1976).

  7. Kate says:

    Crossynergy Crossword “TO DO A COUP”
    Don’t get this one:
    35. Cook book (answer: coma)

  8. Todd G says:

    I dunno, the list in the CrosSynergy crossword seems less like a coup than a pseudocoup to me.

  9. M says:

    Matt, PLEB and “plebe” are related but different words, not variants of the same word.

  10. Greg says:

    LAT: bad clues AND bad answers equal a bad puzzle.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Re cholesterol mnemonic: HDL is Highly Desirable, and LDL is Less Desirable… And yes, COMA, the Cook book, took the cake! Also yes, there’s a YouTube thingy of Elvis doing C C RIDER, according to Google! And O loved the LAT!

    • Huda says:

      Ooh, I like this mnemonic! I try to think about it physiologically but this is so much simpler. Thanks!!!

      • ArtLvr says:

        Hi Huda — glad you enjoyed it! I also invented a new syndrome similar to “tennis elbow” some time ago — it was “microwave thumb”, because I finally realized that the latch to open my microwave oven was giving me the same sort of problem: I was cured permanently when I got a newer oven…

    • Karen says:

      I use Happy and Lousy cholesterol to explain it to people.

  12. Aaron Brandes says:

    LAT – NCAA fills in a little diagonal with JCPENNEY and CCRIDER

  13. Old Geezer says:

    Onion: Isn’t Beano a PRE-chili digestion aid?

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