Friday, 9/21/12

NYT 4:18 
LAT 6:26 (Gareth) 
CS 5:08 (Sam) 
CHE tba 
WSJ (Friday) 12:19 (pannonica) 

Terrific publicity for Merl Reagle’s upcoming crossword contest—Merl’s moving essay in The Huffington Post details his reasons for partnering with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. I just registered for the contest here. I’m pretty sure I won’t win (Trip Payne deserves to, after that messed-up endgame in the Starbucks contest several years back), but my $25 entry fee is going to an organization that helps Alzheimer’s patients’ overtaxed caregivers and I feel good about that.

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 21 12 0921

Distracted, sleepy, clock ever advancing towards bedtime? Check. Blogging desire on the wane? Check. Let’s do this.

Top 8:

  • 5a. [Logic problem]? Oh, yay! Logic problems are fun. … FLAW? Still fun!
  • 18a. [One blatantly disobeying traffic laws], DRUG CARTEL. Now. I like the “traffic laws” mislead but a cartel doesn’t really feel like a “one.”
  • 41a. BROMANCE has been in the puzzle before, right? I like the clue, [Relative of a man crush]. Guys, who is your man crush on? My husband’s man crush is on Aaron Rodgers.
  • 46a. IT’S ALL GOOD.
  • 3d. CIVIC PRIDE? It’s all good.
  • 8d. WIGGLE ROOM, lovely. Wish it weren’t crossing that GO-GO DANCE.
  • 28d. JOHN CUSACK? If I were a man, he’d be a top contender for my man crush.
  • 39d. GO SOUTH, aptly running downwards in the grid.

My “Huh?” category includes an OIL HOLE, an [Aperture in some drills], and TITUS, a [Flavian dynasty ruler]. The “Huh? Oh … yeah, right, crosswordese island” item is ATTU, [1943 U.S.-vs.-Japan battle site]. It’s an Aleutian island, and the Japanese occupied it during the war. Apparently Attu is all the way over in the Eastern Hemisphere, and its population is 20.

Rather like the AUDI SAUDI combo in the second row.

3.5 stars.

Neville L. Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 9 21 12

Writing this after work on Thursday. Have taken a Lenapain for a headache and am feeling quite stoned! I can’t promise cogent!

Today’s puzzle is by Neville Fogarty, who blogged yesterday’s puzzle. I’m Gareth, and I wrote Wednesday’s puzzle. It’s all feeling rather circular!

The theme is ambitious: add a whole RAT into familiar phrases—as indicated by the revealing phrase, ISMELLARAT—to create wacky ones. The phrases are: PORKPIRATE, VICTORIANERRATA, and RRATEDLETTERDAY. All three changes are very cool as they change the word dramatically, a big plus in my book.

In the rest of the fill, Neville has gone for the not-one-bad-answer-in-the-grid approach (well, maybe ONESET?), whose downside is EMERGENT as a long answer, which isn’t bad as such, but is as dry as biltong but not as tasty. Still, that’s not too big a downside considering! MRKOTTER is a fabulous answer! And TREXES, ALLALONE and CARALARM are pretty neato too. I also liked the Egyptian cross of AIDA/ASPS; it can’t be coincidental.

There were also some great clues:

  • [Insect-eating singers] for WRENS made no sense at all until the answer became EMERGENT!
  • MOAN as a [Zombie's sound].
  • LENO clued not only for his talk show hosting, but also for his car collecting.
  • [Bupkis] for NADA is more zippy than your average one word clue.

Lastly, two more clues I found really tough: I did not know that a LARK is a [Bird symbolizing daybreak]. Really wanted cocK after confirming (I thought) with PEKOETEA; I also didn’t know the pope wears a TIARA, I thought he wore a mitRe!

Gareth over and out.

Updated Friday morning:

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

CS solution, September 21

Smack dab in the middle sits 40-Across, the key to this puzzle’s theme. WATER is [H20 (and a word that can follow the starts of  17-, 27-, 49-, and 65-Across)]. See for yourself:

  • 17-Across: [Charlemagne's domain] is the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. No doubt some holy water was involved at some point during his reign.
  • 27-Across: COLD COMFORT FARM is the [Stella Gibbons novel]. I’d like to think I have the time to read it right now, but I should splash myself with cold water and realize that I have too many rods in the fire at the moment.
  • 49-Across: The only answer to [Loretta Swit role] has to be HOT LIPS HOULIHAN, right? Did she have any other role that would crossword-worthy? I should back-off–if I come across as too mean I might get into hot water.
  • 65-Across: If you need a [New perspective] you should ask for a FRESH PAIR OF EYES. I kept wanting FRESH SET OF EYES, but the abundance of white squares was too great an obstacle. Sometimes my own stubbornness makes me want to jump in a freshwater lake. (Yeah, yeah–that last one was a bit far-fetched.)

So many theme possibilities–terms beginning with WHITE, UNDER, STILL, SALT, RUNNING, ROSE, ICE, HARD, DISH, and ABOVE are likely abundant, suggesting more than a couple of symmetrically-paired possibilities. One could fairly say, then, that the theme is not especially “tight.” But I doubt the lion’s share of solvers care much about that. As it is, the theme entries here are interesting, and that’s good enough.

I found greater entertainment in the fill (which is fine by me). SPY KID, RIMSHOT, FLUFF, FETCH, and I GUESS are all great. I liked that we have both OLIVE and FETA for a [Greek salad ingredient], and both ATOM and MESON for the [Physics class topic], though I won’t pretend to say that I plunked down MESON without any crossings. (Did physicists talk about mesons when I took physics in high school? If so, I missed that day.) My favorite clue was [First person?] for the UMP assigned to first base.

So then, how about a title? Time for today’s installment of Name That Puzzle Month, where I (usually pathetically) try to guess the puzzle’s title. So far this month, I haven’t been all that great. In fact, you could say I’m All Wet, so that’s the title I’m choosing for this puzzle.

Ding ding ding! “All Wet” it is! That’s two in a row, which means I should be swinging-and-missing for the balance of the month. Don’t forget to watch the humiliation unfold before your eyes–it likely starts tomorrow.

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “End Notes” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 9/21/12 • “End Notes” • Fri • Jones • 9 21 12 • solution

The “notes” of the title is the word SING, which is affixed to the ends of phrases to produce new, wacky versions thereof, which are then clued appropriately.

A liability of a theme using this sort of mechanism (in which content and location are predictable) is that, once it’s grasped, it provides a bunch of “free” letters. To the solver, this potentially can be a boon or a source of feeling shortchanged, depending on the difficulty of the puzzle’s content and cluing.

  • 23a. [Flawless preparation for being punched?] PERFECT TENSING. Well, that’s a fine way to introduce a theme!
  • 34a. [Checking out products on the top shelf?] HIGH BROWSING. Highbrow gets split.
  • 47a. [Swiping a finger across a touchscreen?] MODERN ERASING.
  • Inconvenience store. (© Gary Larson)

    67a. ["You're Really Old" on a birthday cake?] ICED TEASING.

  • 83a. [Critic's job at a Nicholson movie?] JACK ASSESSING. Jackasses gets split.
  • 98a. [Failing to finish one's grammatical analysis?] UNDERPARSING. Under par gets contracted. That’s three of seven themers that receive such adjustment; good variety there.
  • 110a. [Result of  champion not defending his title?] VICTORY LAPSING. Hm. Seems that that would constitute something more along the lines of a streak lapsing.

Overall, a fairly entertaining group of theme entries. I’m less inclined to like 83a and 110a since they require the original phrases to be arbitrarily pluralized in order to work (i.e., jackass and victory lap are just fine, or even preferable, as original phrases). Very good how each one radically changes the meaning and association of the augmented word: ten → tense, brow → browse, era → erase, tea → tease, asses → assess, par →parse, laps → lapse. As is now easily perceived, this parsing (forgive me) further demonstrates how much of an oddball the asses/ass pair is; all the others (including laps/lapse) rely on the same infinitive/gerund quirk.

Given the title, for once I would have been happy to see all sorts of latinate citation abbreviations among the ballast fill. You know, IBID., OP. CIT., ET AL., and the like.

 Morsing (yes, I know):

  •  Little bit of misdirection (at least for me) with 20a [Like waiters, often] IN A LINE crossing 1d [Appreciative diner] TIPPER; I’d suggest the latter clue is inaccurate, as it suggests a big or generous tipper since tipping is de rigueur, at least in this country. Bonus: 8d [Diner display] PIES was my first fill. Bonus bonus: pie À LA KING (68d [One way to serve chicken] sounds awful).
  • 118a ALOHA OE always looks odd in a grid, but not in a bad way. Also, CARAVEL is a fun word. Such ships have LATEEN sails.
  • Linked things. HANK and AARON, LENNON and ONO, and two fencing clues for CLANGS and LUNGES (sounds and moves, respectively). 46d & 80a, 120a & 114d, 45d & 89d. Also 69a [Major accounts] SAGAS and 85d [It's a long story] EPIC TALE. And arguably even 81d [Surprise at the box office] SLEEPER and 32d [Early pictures] SILENTS. What? Hush.
  • Factette: 78a [Highly spiced stew] SALMI shares the same French root as salmagundi, namely salmigondis.
  • Both ON A ROLL and ON END in the same puzzle? Not so horrible, but less appealing when their ONs cross each other. 56a & 48d.
  • Was not sure if the three-letter answer to 71a [From, in Frankfurt) was going to be AUS or VON. Should have expected it to be the more familiar (to non-German speakers) VON.
  • 66a [More than miffs] IRES. Thought Miffs had escaped from the clue for 24d TRIG [Brother of Track, Bristol, Willow, and Piper].
  • Whos? 3d [Jamie who headed ABC's entertainment division in the 1990s] TARSES. 37d [Aldis of TNT's "Leverage"] HODGE. 117a [Former labor secretary Chao] ELAINE.
  • Favorite clues, although I’ve probably seen them before: 89a [Creative sort] LIAR, 15d [Merger acquisition?] IN-LAW (especially good considering the venue).

Fun puzzle.

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16 Responses to Friday, 9/21/12

  1. Huda says:

    Really liked it! Drugs, crushes, dancing, wiggling, and cantaloupes… It’s all good!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Agree with Huda — somehow the Silk puzzles always satisfy, even with EEL GRASSES and ANGORA GOAT! Neville’s LAT was very cute with hidden RATS, and only slightly raised one eyebrow at the crossing of ERRS and ERRATA.

  3. Worried Reader says:

    “Blogging desire on the wane? Check.” Hopefully that meant just last night, and not in general?

  4. David L says:

    I was taken aback by JEEZ for “All in the Family” exclamation, but then I realized I was thinking of that sappy cartoon, the Family Circus. ‘Jeez’ would be far over the line for darling little Billy and Jeffy, dadgumit.

  5. Gareth says:

    4:58 for me in the NYT. Fastest of the year by half a minute… A tad disappointing it yielded so easily, though as that Top 8 highlights, it’s still a damn fine grid! ITSALLGOOD my fave!

  6. RK says:

    NYT: I struggled with a lot of the trivia as usuual which hampered an otherwise good puzzle for me. Drug cartel seems off and I had drug dealer initially which almost spelt doom. It’s all good though, which suprisingly is what my man crush says about my bromance.

    Anyone else getting an error with the link to the Friday WSJ for AcrossLite?

  7. Zulema says:

    I really liked the NYT even if I can’t visualize the “composition of some orange spheres” for CANTALOUPE.

  8. Mona E. says:

    Gareth,
    “Over and out” is incorrect usage. You say “over” when you want your listener to speak; you say “out” when you are entirely finished with the transmission, often “out here.” Anyone who has served in the military can confirm this.

  9. Aaron Brandes says:

    I had VICTORIANERRORS which I thought was a bad pun until I got the theme.

  10. Tuning Spork says:

    For the WSJ clue about hearing bad music, with a few letters in placed I entered IN HELL.

    Seemed right because it reminded of the Simpsons episode where Disco Stu was in Heaven and it was, of course, a ’70s disco. He came upon Frank Sinatra, complete with fedora and jacket draped over his shoulder. Stu says “Hey, Frank Sinatra, you made it Heaven!”, to which Frank snarls “For me, this is Hell, Pal.”

  11. Trey Roth says:

    I bet Gregg didn’t even need to look up anything once he got the theme! And he probably got the theme early on. The one reviewer who said “free letters” was right on.

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