Tuesday, 9/18/12

NYT 2:58 
Jonesin' untimed 
LAT 3:49 (Neville) 
CS 5:07 (Sam) 

Andrew Reynolds’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 18 12 0918

It’s astonishing how hard it was for me to find the hiding-in-plain-sight theme answer occupying the circled squares. I tried reading the letters as two parallel lines and I tried reading them from the top down before the stair-stepping upwards “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” BY LED ZEPPELIN sledgehammered me in the nose. Yes. That would be a totally obvious tie-in to Jimmy PAGE, his GUITAR SOLO, and his bandmate JOHN BONHAM. Fairly adventurous format for a Tuesday puzzle, but (provided that you are fluent in the language of crosswords and nailed ALETA, ELUTE, ESTOP, EDO, UTO, AFTA, ADZ, and GNAR) it landed solidly in the Tuesday difficulty zone. (That parenthetical list keeps expanding as I peruse the grid.)

Non-Zeppelin musical references include NILS Lofgren, an ABBA song, NIK Kershaw (wait…that’s [Suffix with neat or beat]), and ISAAC STERN.

Likes: [Long-running PBS film showcase] POV; TED KOPPEL; NORWEGIAN; and WIN BY A NOSE. Also enjoyed the clue for ANTS, [Small marching band?]. Dislikes: Those things at the end of paragraph 1.

Four stars for the rockin’ STAIRWAY and good long fill, with deductions for the UTO-ALETA of EDO situation. Let’s call it 3.25 stars overall.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 18

At first I thought this puzzle had four theme entries:

  • 17-Across: FORT WORTH, the [Cattlemen's stop along the Chisholm Trail];
  • 61-Across: GRANT WOOD, the [Iowan known for an iconic painting] (called Dogs Playing Poker);
  • 11-Down: GUEST WORKER, the [Foreigner legally employed on a temporary basis] (a completely new term to me, by the way); and 
  • 26-Down: SPIRIT WORLD, the [Realm sought at seances].

When I finished solving the puzzle, it was easy to see what these answers had in common: the number TWO straddles the two words in each theme entry. Having figured out the theme, then, I spotted a fifth theme entry in the middle of the grid at 40-Across: AT WORST, a term for [Under truly awful circumstances].

But just because the theme was easy to spot doesn’t mean the puzzle’s title is readily apparent. As regular readers know, this is Name That Puzzle Month, where my goal is to guess the puzzle’s title (or come up with a better one if I can). The title should be something about the split in TWO. Splitting Twos is a blackjack strategy rarely recommended, and I have a hard time believing this would really be the puzzle’s title. I did a quick search of phrases starting with “two” and couldn’t find anything apt, so I’m guessing that’s not it.  Wait, how about Split in Two, as in “each entry features a split in TWO”?  Ooh, I like that, so it will be my guess.

So close! The actual title is “Break in Two.” Split, break. Tomato, To-mah-to. I’ll claim credit for a correct guess here, even though I’m not keeping any stats this month. More important is talk about the puzzle, and this one has a lot going for it. Loved PARTY HAT, OUT OF IT, SCREW UP, COYOTES, and MISFITS. In case anyone cares, yes, Inner Beavis relished THROB in a puzzle that also featured both a SEX SCENE and an ADULT, a [Suitable viewer of an X-rated film], though the ODORS and the PRIG were something of a buzz-kill. My favorite clue was [Coddled ones] for EGGS.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 18 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 18 12

Get ready to enter this puzzle… just scroll the page down. (Those were terrible and I’ll stop now. Sorry.

  • 17a. [*Keep charging drinks] – RUN UP A TAB
  • 24a. [*"Occasion to say "Whew!"] - NARROW ESCAPE
  • 39a. [*Annual April paperwork] - INCOME TAX RETURN
  • 51a. [*Running amok] - OUT OF CONTROL
  • 64a. [*Overnight work assignment] - LATE SHIFT
  • 71a. [Each answer to a starred clue ends in one] – KEY

OH, BOTHER. We’ve seen this theme before, so it’s nice to see five theme entries, each a fun one, in this grid. I don’t mind an old theme when it’s a fun puzzle, though, and this one was pretty darned fun.

I really liked [Sugar bowl invaders] for ANTS; it had me thinking about college football. The symmetric placement of ROAD RAGE and REAR SEAT is great for a minitheme. I’m not sure why I’ve heard of Phillies second baseman Chase UTLEY, but I have and it made the SW that much easier. Of course, we’re all familiar with [Noted kneeling NFLer] Tim TEBOW by now. On the other hand, I don’t remember Toyota SUPRAS.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Whacked-Out Wordage”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 18 12 “Whacked-Out Wordage”

Matt’s in a themeless mood this week. He’s turned to the South for the lead entries TRACTOR PULL and HONEY BOO BOO. We watched part of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo last night. I see what those TV writers were saying when they said mama June was A-OK—she is. I could hang out with her (but not when couponing or pageanting is going on). You knew HONEYBOOBOO was coming to an indie/alt crossword, didn’t you? The jury is out on whether the nickname will settle into the lexicon and become fair game for the daily crosswords that get reprinted in book collections for years to come.

Other entries I’m rather fond of: the STATE PEN, CAKE MIX, RONCO, “INTEL INSIDE.” This 70-worder does have more in the “eh” department than I expected—ILER ALAR SONE EKING ROH ETO LEY IKO TSETSE TENONER CEDER.

Were you surprised to see the spelling used here for 50a: [Romanian composer George of the opera "Oedipe"], ENESCU? We see him more often with his French-friendly ENESCO spelling, but that may well be the case only because O is more crossword-friendly than U.

3.33 stars.

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25 Responses to Tuesday, 9/18/12

  1. John E says:

    I thought today’s NYT was a lot of fun – it must be hard for constructors to come up with 10 letter parallels to theme answers. My only problem was that I figured out “Page” and “John Bonham” pretty quickly so I was naturally trying to find where to enter “Robert Plant”.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I too thought it was fun, and I also stared (I actually typed “staired”) at it for a long time and then looking sideways, it popped up.
    Today, it was helpful to be a scientist, because DELTA WAVES, ELUTE, curriculum VITAE, in SITU were all real obvious. It also helps to be into music, what with ISAAC STERN cheek to jowl with JOHN BONHAM… and all the other thematic and not-thematic musical entries.
    My son was doing a Junior Year Abroad and his school (Cornell) shared its program with Duke. One day I finally get a hold of him on the phone and the first thing out of his mouth was: “What the heck is a cotillion??”… A Duke DEBUTANTE was apparently regaling him with details and he found it all rather bewildering.

  3. pannonica says:

    The NYT seemed to suffer too much in service to the admittedly spectacular climbing flight. The other “theme” elements felt like sloppy afterthoughts, and incomplete at that. Where were (Robert) PLANT and (John Paul) JONES, at the very least?

  4. Mike says:

    Agree with the others. Where are PLANT and JONES? Both five letters could have been put in the grid somewhere symmetrically to round this out and add a little more theme than just PAGE, GUITAR SOLO and JOHN BOHNAM.

  5. Christopher Jablonski says:

    Solving the upper right first sure made the staircase crumble easily. What else ends in PELIN?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      How’d you get into the canyon—rappel in?”

    • Papa John says:

      I dive-bombed the circled squares before I had anything else in the puzzle! I did the same thing with Jack and the beanstalk puzzle. Wha..? Don’t ask me how I did it, I wasn’t even aware it’s a Zeppelin tune. The phrase just popped into my head. “Giant” in the title for the beanstalk puzzle was enough for me to fill it in.

      Hee hee…don’t you just love it when that happens?

      • Huda says:

        Papa John, Yeah, that must feel amazing. It’s a whole different way of solving problems, seeing something in one fell swoop instead of through stepwise logic.
        Christopher J, you basically did the same thing, which is why you couldn’t imagine any other answer. I’m fascinated by these non-incremental jumps that the brain makes, that we sometimes call insight.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I thought the NYT was nicely done, good fun… but getting my last letter in the Jonesin’ was a pain, where an old Superman foe crossed a former file-sharing site (12D, 18A) — Who knew ?

  7. Jeff Chen says:

    Cool NYT! That double stairstep is such a neat visual element, and perfect for the theme. Wish I had thought of it.

  8. janie says:

    >Cool NYT! That double stairstep is such a neat visual element, and perfect for the theme.

    truly! and what with the likes of those DELTA WAVES and, well, all the longer fill, makes for one dazzling debut. welcome to the cotillion, mr. reynolds!

    ;-)

  9. Andrew Reynolds says:

    Thanks for the feedback, all-

    Since I know many of the comments here are from other constructors, I’ll give a bit of an explanation (excuse?) for the theme answers as they are, or at least my train of thought while constructing:

    I too was bothered by my inability to fit in Plant and Jones. Unfortunately, for all the ridiculous luck that made the stairway fit perfectly, none of the band members have full names of the same number of letters (9/10/11/13). Even the first names aren’t easy to work with, symmetry-wise (5/4/6/4, respectively). Because of the steps and a complete lack of places to intersect them with a band member’s name, any full (first & last) name theme answers had to go in the NW or SE, so I decided symmetry was more important than full name inclusion to get some longer theme answers into those corners.

    From there, the decision became which full names, if any to force in? John Bonham won out for a few reasons: as the only deceased member of the original group, I think it is only fitting he received the fullest tribute in a tribute puzzle; also, with a 10-letter name, he did not force the corners to be full of 3-letter words, as a longer name would have (longer names would have also forced too many black squares which would have been necessary to avoid 2-letter words and not overlap the stairway). JIMMY, JOHN PAUL, and JONES all presented some tricky letters to fill around, and even though adding ROBERT or PLANT would have been easily managed, that would have forced me to fit JOHN PAUL or JONES somewhere else, further degrading the rest of the fill.

    Ultimately, I decided to leave two of the band members out rather than one or none so as to preserve as many of the interesting longer non-theme answers as possible. Ideal for a tribute puzzle? No. An acceptable compromise? I hoped so, cause I just couldn’t get over that 29-letter stairway!

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Am I the only one who thought “ISAAC STERN played on Stairway to Heaven?”

  11. Mikeymike says:

    I had a question about “Jonesin’” I’m not a crossword expert so maybe it was part of the puzzle, but in the paper I saw the puzzle in(the Willamette Week, I think) half of the “down” clues were missing! It went to about thirty down, then there was a picture of last week’s solution. I may be thinking of the wrong week, but where were the clues, Matt Jones?

  12. Mikeymike says:

    Ah, WW somehow messed up the puzzle, never mind: http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-29216-missing_jonesin_cros.html

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