Wednesday, 9/26/12

NYT 4:12 
LAT 4:06 (Gareth) 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:55 (Sam) 

Last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword has been posted now. Head over there to get David Steinberg’s puzzle.

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 26 12 0926

What unfortunate timing! I was just reading my husband (a lifelong Packers fan) some of today’s hooha about the gnarled officiating at last night’s Packers/Seahawks game, and so I wasn’t apt to be kindly disposed towards a football theme. It doesn’t help, either, that I’m not an attentive enough football fan to have found the core theme entries to be anything but gibberish. Really? “THE KICK IS UP / AND IT IS GOOD” is a thing? They say that? Now, where else would be ball go after the kicker kicks it but UP? Sports color commentary is just silly.

The ANNOUNCER is the one saying the color commentary about those FIELD / GOALS (or attempts thereto), and HASH MARKS are those marks on the football field (not that they really have anything to do with field goals, do they?). And then “this puzzles outer circled letters” spell FOOTBALL, but I don’t understand what the word “outer” is doing in that clue. The middle of this football has three X’s (XXX, [Pigskin stitching]). I did a Google image search for “football” and I see stitching that’s a straight line with 8 crossbars. I see no X’s. Is there an XXX-rated football stitch that has eluded my notice? Because XXX seems more about 51-Across than footballs. We have GLADIATORS in the grid, and don’t some people liken NFL players to gladiators? I don’t think it’s a theme entry, though, because its opposite answer is OIL PAINTER. Is that a thing? I thought they were just painters/artists. Manet and Monet would be fabulous even if they used finger paint, am I right?

Furthermore, the Packers wuz robbed and everyone knows it.

I paid little attention to the theme while solving. It was a bunch of cross-referenced clues and I just went on solving via all the crossings. It worked. Not the fastest, but I got there.

Not sure about 12d: SYSOP. [Online honcho] bespeaks WEBMASTER more than SYSOP. Your sysop is the person handling your in-house network more than the website that faces the world, no? Evad is my webmaster, but my sysop is my husband. Both are important, but they manage entirely different computery things for me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

Oh, wait, I’m supposed to blog Wednesday LATs, aren’t I? It’s been a while! Thanks Matt and T for subbing in tricky circumstances.

Once I fully grokked the theme, I was really impressed by it. It’s super-tight. Before, when I was just noticing the “ending in a letter” part, I was feeling a little underwhelmed. Nice when you get that delayed “a-ha!” So the phrases, 5 of them, all include parts with plural letters. None of those work with singular letters. As I said, that’s super tight. The two pairs both have their thematic parts at the end, but the middle one breaks the mold by having two parts, PS AND QS, which is elegant.

I can’t be the only one who had the first few letters and proudly dropped MINDYOURmanNerS in! MINDYOURPSANDQS is a great phrase, with that crazy mish-mash of consonants at its end. In fact, barring one theme answer, they were all great. That answer was INEEDSOMEZS, which was jarring to me. Do Americans say that? CATCHSOMEZS is the same number of letters, so the phrase wasn’t used solely for reasons of symmetry.

The theme occupies quite a large chunk of real estate (57 squares), so you’d think Jeffrey would be compromised in his ballast fill—but it doesn’t seem to be the case. I see only the odd bit of STD crossword-ese, and a few “1-point-letter-heavy” answers like ASSESSES, but I also see a pretty nice array of medium to long stuff. I’d say the grid looks to be ably and meticulously filled, even if the theme density doesn’t make that stand out.

What else is there?

  • [Bindle carrier], HOBO. Bindle??? Apparently that’s a posh word for blanket-roll.
  • [Cookies with a bite], GINGERSNAPS. Was there ever an episode of Gilligan’s Island with that title?
  • [Quark's locale], ATOM. Not Deep Space Nine.
  • [Reader with a sensitive screen], KINDLETOUCH. I have an old, inherited generic e-Book reader. It reads ebooks. No matter what format you throw at it. That is all.

Three options for closing music related to today’s puzzle:

Gareth, over and out!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 26

The last few days of Name That Puzzle Month have been relatively easy. Not so today. The title for this puzzle is a lot harder for me to guess, in part because I only think I know the theme. If I’m right, there are only three theme entries (that already has me queasy):

  • 24-Across: If you’re wondering [Where to keep those rags and machines hummin', according to a Rose Royce song], it’s AT THE CAR WASH.
  • 38-Across: The [Reuters rival] is the ASSOCIATED PRESS.
  • 50-Across: Speaking of the press, the [Place for an important newspaper story] is ABOVE THE FOLD.

There are some 8-letter answers in the grid too, but only one of them (MAMA CASS) has more than one word, so I’m assuming they’re not part of the theme. There are also two 9-letter Down answers (BELOW ZERO and BOOK VALUE), but if I’m right about the theme, these entries are unrelated too.

So what’s the theme? Well, the three highlighted answers end with (in order) WASH, PRESS, and FOLD–words that describe basic laundry operations. My guess, therefore, is that the title has something to do with laundry. (Of course, if I’m wrong about this, then I’m all washed up, so to speak. But hey, I’ve made a bigger fool of myself here.)

Let’s see, how about Doing the Laundry or Laundry Day? I thought about Dirty Laundry, but there’s nothing especially “dirty” going on here. Laundry Room seemed too dull, and Loads of Laundry felt off to me. Without a whole lot of confidence, then, I’ll make Laundry Day my final guess. It’s a little tighter than Doing the Laundry.

Hey, whaddya know–it’s “Laundry Day” after all! I guess I got scared by all the 8- and 9-letter entries. I think if I saw the title first I would have appreciated the longer non-theme entries a lot more. They wouldn’t have made me think I was missing something. There were other good entries, like ISOTOPES, TRASHY, ADELE, G-FORCE, and GOT ON. But there seemed to be an abundance of subpar entries too, like RONI, AUST (eww!), SRA, DORADO, ENCL, NONCE (really?), ESSE, SANAA, AT A, TBSP, and SSTS. Alas, to my eye the ugly entries here significantly detract from the good ones.

Some of my errors were so bad they’re funny. I especially like the one where I had NEO as the answer to [Prefix for political or thermal]. “Neo-thermal?” Up top, I had T-BOLTS as the [Letter-shapped fasteners] and was so convinced of it I figured the error was elsewhere when I had SITTATED for [Placed] instead of SITUATED. Oh, and I still like FLOOR as the [Two-dimensional surface] over PLANE. Mathematicians might blanch, but it makes more sense to this liberal arts major.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 9 26 12 Tyler Hinman

This political wordplay theme feels a tad dry to me:

  • 17a. [The candidate from the Bachelor Party said that under him the country would ___] BE A GLOBAL PLAYER.
  • 29a. [The candidate from the Pajama Party promised that her plan would ___] COVER RETIREES. As in covering the naked bodies of people retiring for the night.
  • 47a. [The candidate from the Dinner Party pledged to ___] FEED THE HUNGRY.
  • 60a. [The candidate from the Beach Party swore to ___] DEFEND OUR SHORES.

The best part of this theme is the repurposing of familiar “__ party” phrases that are actual festive events into political parties.

Seven faves:

  • 5a. [Cheese served at crossword conventions], EDAM. I’m not sure if the ACPT wine and cheese reception has, in fact, offered Edam.
  • 32a. [Chipper Jones's son, named after a stadium his dad played well in], SHEA. Wouldn’t have identified Chipper Jones as a Mets player (sounds more like a golfer), but it’s cute trivia. Pretty sure no Cubs player has named his child Wrigley.
  • 51a. [1980s hip-hop hairstyle], FADE. Think Kid ‘n Play.
  • 67a. [Matchmaking service available in Hebrew], JDATE.
  • 8d. [Mars's symbol represents it], MALE SEX.
  • 26d. [Term in police brutality cases], DEADLY FORCE. Grim phrase, lively fill.
  • 40d. [Mike Tyson's in-fight snack], EAR. Poor Vnde Holyfield.

3.5 stars.

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21 Responses to Wednesday, 9/26/12

  1. Erik says:

    there was a field goal controversy in the ravens-patriots game on sunday (though the refs actually made the correct call in that one)

  2. David says:

    I was going to mention the Sunday night game, but it looks like Erik has that covered.

    As someone who loves semantics (to the frustration of everyone else), I’m happy to point out that “The kick is up” is not redundant per se. In the event of a bad snap, a bad hold, or an excellent special teams defense, it is possible for the kicker to make contact with the ball without actually sending it up in the air. Though usually, ‘up’ is short for ‘up above the defense’, to indicate that the field goal attempt was not blocked.

  3. Danielle says:

    The field goal phrase isn’t as silly as it sounds. Instead of being color commentary, it’s jut a narration of what’s happening: the kick has been made (so the ball is up in the air)… pause to see if it goes through… and the ball made it through the posts. Think of it as the kind of narration that’s good for someone listening on the radio or who isn’t looking at the screen.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: 57a A mojito is made with lime juice but the garnish is a sprig of mint. At least that’s how all those in my experience have been built.

  5. Evad says:

    SYSOP sounds very old school to me–someone who was an administrator of bulletin boards (keeps posters on topic and clean) back when the internet highway was a gravel road. Tech support is what I think your husband provides (in addition to his many other husbandly duties).

    This webmaster will (hopefully) be doing much more than a FIVE K in a week and half from now.

  6. Jan (danjan) says:

    The Across Lite version of the NYT puzzle (and the one we solved on paper in Westchester) had circles in the three boxes that have the Xs in them, hence the reference to “outer” circles to make the football shape. The applet version doesn’t seem to have those inner circles.

  7. David L says:

    Dandy = ONER? Can anyone explain? (Is it dandy meaning peachy (adj) or fop (n)? — not that either one makes sense to me)

    • Daniel Myers says:

      David,

      What comes to mind is “That’s a dandy!” perhaps equalling “That’s a oner!” Even so, agreed, it’s more than a bit of a stretch.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, but I am confident in saying that ‘oner’ is a word I have never heard or used. A bit of language that exists Only In Crosswords?

        (When I was a boy I would on occasion use words like 89er or even 156er, but that was in connection with ye ancient game of conkers, which will be mystifying to many of you.)

  8. Pete says:

    If anyone’s interested, here’s the history of today’s NYT puzzle. It started with the FOOTBALL in circles, including the stitching. Then I noticed that FIELD/GOALS could intersect the FOOTBALL symmetrically. From there I threw in EXTRA/POINT up high and TOUCH/DOWNS down low. I even had SAFETY and SCORES as the last pair of themed entries (since I’d then accounted for all the ways to score in football). That version was rejected because of a) the fact that two of the three split entries were plural and one was singular, and b) the fact that TOUCHDOWNS is one word. I really liked the intersection of FIELD/GOALS and the FOOTBALL, so I decided to keep that.

    And there you have it. Just dumb luck that it ran a few days after the replacement ref fiasco this weekend.

    - Pete Collins

  9. cyberdiva says:

    I rather liked the NYTimes puzzle, though why the middle Xs are circled is a mystery. As is often the case, I was more quickly successful with the bottom half than the top, but as soon as I got ANDITISGOOD, I knew that 23A was THEKICKISUP. And everything went pretty smoothly from there. I especially liked GOTAB for “Scored in the 80s.” I was much less enthusiastic about ONER (huh??), and I’m still not sure why SOLIDS are “Pool sides.”

    • pannonica says:

      SOLIDS. The game Eight Ball, played on a billiards—or pool—table, is often called “Stripes and Solids” since one player must sink the low balls (1–7) and the other the high ones (9–15). (The eight ball, which is also solid (black) must be pocketed last.)

  10. John says:

    Chipper Jones has famously been an Atlanta Brave for his whole career (ending this year). He just happened to play well at the Mets.

  11. RK says:

    Loved the NYT write-up. Made me laugh. Hash marks are used to spot a field goal kick. I liked the XXX as it was novel even if it wasn’t precise .

    I enjoyed the Onion, liked REDCOAT.

    @Pete Looks like your puzzle should’ve been left as is.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    Back to ONER: Yes, it’s rather rare these days. The last citation from the OED, in this context, is from 1862. Here’s the word’s history courtesy of Google.

    • Gareth says:

      Aren’t those last citations a bit iffy? I’ve come across commonly used meanings of words whose last citations are 18 or even 17 footsack. Don’t they just provide initial, early use of the word to establish that it is “in the language?”

      • Daniel Myers says:

        Yes, a good point, Gareth. That’s why I provided the frequency of usage graph hyperlink above as additional evidence of this particular word’s falling into disfavour.

  13. cyberdiva says:

    Thanks, pannonica, for explaining the “Pool sides” clue. I guess I’ll add billiards to games I know about only from crossword puzzles.

    Gareth, it’s been a while since I’ve looked at the OED, but I have a vague recollection that it also tries to provide the last known instance of a word’s being used. It’s possible that that’s only when the word has been marked “obsolete,” but it’s also possible that the practice isn’t restricted to obsolete words. I’m just not sure.

    • pannonica says:

      You’re welcome, but I see I neglected to mention that the “low” balls are of solid color and the “high” balls are striped. Oops.

      The color progression for both sequences is: yellow (1, 9), blue (2, 10), red (3, 11), purple (4, 12), orange (5, 13), green (6, 14), burgundy (7, 15). Perhaps there’s the germ of a theme there.

      You can see the rudiments of color theory as well. Primaries, secondaries, etc.
      RGB mixture

      (from Wikipedia: RYB color model)

    • Daniel Myers says:

      “Billiards” is one of Shakespeare’s more famous anachronisms. From Antony and Cleopatra: “Let it alone, let’s to billiards.”

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