Friday, 10/5/12

NYT 5:17 
LAT 5:13 (Gareth) 
CS 6:24 (Sam) 
CHE 7:21 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

I’ve belatedly reviewed Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword in the Thursday post. I suggest an alternate clue for one of his answers. Can you guess the answer to [Noted role for soprano Géori Boué]? There is also a shout-out to Ooxteplernon.

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

10 5 12 NY Times crossword solution, 1005

This … is … not quite a Friday puzzle. It’s got a crossing that is insane anywhere but in a Saturday puzzle. Mix one part Polish names in pop culture and one part historical churchy vocabulary and what do you get? Square 18, where I started with an O and the applet refused my answer. EDYTA [Sliwinska of "Dancing with the Stars"]?? Okay, that’s probably the Polish equivalent of “Edith,” but my first guess was a putative Polish equivalent of “Odette.” And this [Stipend paid by a cathedral to a clergyman], PREBEND? Whoa. Haven’t seen that one before, and PROBEND sounded reasonably. That crossing’s even uglier than 49a: ENHALOING. I wasn’t thrilled by another recent Berry puzzle and hope this does not bode a future disenhaloing.

Highlights abound despite those lowlights. The OCTAGONAL gazebos, Indian TOE RINGS, JUNK DNA (though the clue, [Worthless inheritance?], is outdated—remember the September 5 NYT article about the new findings of actual impact in what was called junk DNA?), GET WELL clued as [What invalid card readers might read] (be sure to pronounce “invalid” as the noun referring to a medically indisposed person), MING VASE, MISTER BIG, STOP-AND-GO, ORANGE BOWL, and ANY OLD WAY. HINGE‘s clue is great, too: [Its role is pivotal].

I don’t know about that clue for ROOT CANAL, [Drilling-and-filling job]—that is the very beginning and the very end of the procedure, but the meat of it is neither drilling nor filling; it’s using teeny-tiny files (21 to 31 mm long, so wee!) to ream out the teeny-tiny insides of tooth roots. Can you tell I used to do dental editing?

3.66 stars.

Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Shades of Meaning” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 10/5/12 • “Shades of Meaning” • McClary • 10 5 12 • solution

Not entirely sure why it took me so long to finish this crossword, as there was nothing noticeably difficult about it.

Admittedly, I was disinclined to read the clues for the theme answers because they appeared in tiny type in Across Lite, but that isn’t reason enough. Eventually deigning to look at some of them, I saw something like “test subject x” and some colors and it seemed like too much trouble to play along with that scenario. So when I filled it in, the two-part answer in Row 8—TRIVIAL | PURSUIT—certainly looked like the revealer, and I then assumed the colors in the other clues comprised the six category wedges of that game. Wrong.

Turns out the revealer was elsewhere, in the traditional final-long-across-answer position (59a in this grid) and the crucial part of each theme clue was at the end. Sure, Across Lite’s format created an artifactual impediment to my solve (the minuscule font size), but neither the constructor nor editor—not even the software developer—can be held responsible; “I have only myself to blame.”

All right, with that personal exegesis dispensed, on to the actual theme!

  • 16a. [Test subject #1 perceives 1 as brown, 2 as red, 8 as gray; maybe he works as an …] ELECTRICIAN. Well, that makes no sense to me, but in light of seeing how the other theme clues work, it’s safe to assume that’s a significant, standardized color scheme for wiring things. No, I’m not going to run to Wikipedia to look it up.
  • 23a. [Test subject #2 perceives 1 as yellow, 3 as red, 8 as black, maybe she owns a …] POOL TABLE. Crossword Fiend had a discussion of billiard ball color coding last Wednesday, spurred by a clue in that day’s NYT puzzle.
  • 36a & 38a. [ … Test subject #3 perceives G as blue, E as pink, H as yellow; maybe he likes to play …] TRIVIAL | PURSUIT. In the classic (“Genus”) edition those were Geography, Entertainment, and History.
  • 48a. [Test subject #4 perceives A and C as blue, B and D as orange, 1 and 2 as red; maybe she rides the …] NYC SUBWAY. Those lines all run through the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Additionally, the A and C extend into Queens. But together they constitute the entirety of subway options in the Upper West Side. Bonus information for solvers curious about those other MTA abbrevs. that often appear in crosswords: the A, B, C, and D lines were part of the IND (Independent Subway System ); the 1 and 2 belonged to the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit Company).
  • 59a. [Or maybe the subjects have __, a condition in which letters and numbers are perceived as colors] SYNESTHESIA. Aha. All is revealed. Anyway, that’s a narrow explanation of synesthesia, tailored specifically to the puzzle’s theme. More generally, it’s perception of one stimulus as belonging to another sense, and may include concomitances of sound, smell, and even touch, as well as the sight-based conflations illustrated here.

It’s a fun theme in retrospect. Quite nice how the first two associate numbers with colors, while the third (or third and fourth if you’re being generous) involves letters to colors, and the last incorporates both numbers and letters.

Much else to like in the puzzle. UNRAVELS and OK CORRAL laying alongside for nearly the full length of two theme answers. The long downs PINOCCHIO and TIME BONUS [Video-game score for finishing quickly]; MATA HARI and ROAD SHOW, both with very clever and playful clues: [Oft-exposed operative of World War I] – she was an exotic dancer (see also 43a SPY), and [Moving theatrical production?].

More:

  • Nifty that CAROM is close to POOL TABLE, though it’s understandably clued in an unrelated fashion. 27a [It makes campfires crackle] SAP, 53d [Incense ingredient] RESIN.
  • Some rough-looking customers and crosswordese, including NOTAH [PGA player __ Begay III], AN WANG [Computer entrepreneur of the 1950s] – not in a thousand years could I have told you his first name, [Longtime Arizona congressman Mo] UDALL, DORIS [College-basketball commentator Burke] – not unusual fill but an uncommon clue, and perhaps geared for the “higher education” crowd.
  • More institutional content: 6d [Frat-row fork] PSI, [Tuition recipient] BURSAR, 47d [Brown vs. Board of Education city] TOPEKA, 58a [John Irving's alma mater: Abbr.] UNH (and many of his novels are set in New Hampshire).
  • Liked the symmetrical pair of 21d VANES and 37d VERSO.
  • 55d [John Deere logo], four letters? DEER, of course! Oh, STAG, okay, fine. At least I was circumspect enough not to write in PHỢ for the three-letter 34d [Savory bowlful] before getting some crossings. That one turned out to be the blah DIP.
  • Last, I’m not happy with 65a [Barolo or Barbera, e.g.] RED. While it’s a fine clue (and I very much like Piedmontese wines), it both infiltrates the theme and duplicates the “red” in three of the theme clues. I feel it would have been worth it to make the simple adjustment of changing the R to an L to create the less-common-but-still-appropriate-for-this-venue BURSAL and LED. I mean, c’mon, AORTAE is in the grid. Which reminds me, the odd-looking Y’KNOW [Informal contraction equivalent to "see"] at 49d was great fill.

Good, but not great, puzzle. In truth I just wasn’t feeling the theme.

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Inc. Incorporated” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 5

I love the title for this puzzle! Notice that INC is “incorporated” into five common terms to make new, wacky terms clued accordingly (further proof that bigger isn’t always better, but it’s almost always wackier):

  • 17-Across: A plain old “vent fan” becomes a VINCENT FAN, a [Van Gogh acolyte?]. A real fan would give his left ear to own an original Van Gogh.
  • 24-Across: Your hot tub might be “PH-balanced,” but are you PINCH-BALANCED, [Like a kid's face after both cheeks are tweaked by grandma?]? Interesting to see “grandma” in this clue, [Granny] for another clue, and NANA in the grid. A definite matronly influence here.
  • 40-Across: “Pre-owned cars” are a dime a dozen, but PRINCE-OWNED CARS are the rare [Fleet driven by the star of "Purple Rain"?]. Surely one of them is a little red Corvette.
  • 53-Across: A “med student” becomes a MINCED STUDENT, a [Class clown taken apart by the teacher?]. Great clue for something that could have been ugly.
  • 65-Across: Cy Young becomes CINCY YOUNG, the [City kids from the Buckeye state?].

Aspiring constructors, take note: the INC is consistently added within the first word of each entry, and the 10s appear on the outside of the 13s, making it substantially easier to cram five theme entries into the grid without compromising the fill. Them’s the kind of skillz that get your puzzles published.

There’s an abundance of interesting fill, too. What’s not to love with HALF-TRUTH, AB FAB, NO WAY, a CVS store, NECCO, and a little NEVE Campbell to spice things up? I learned a few things, too. I didn’t know that [Producer Ziegfeld, informally] was known as FLO, that anyone referred to a paralegal as a PARA, that TENON is a [Mortise companion] (to me, that’s the same as saying that gefultah is a companion to winderflugen), or that there was a [Killer whale in a 1966 film] called NAMU. Perhaps it came from Ork.

Favorite entry = DON’T PANIC, clued as ["Stay cool"]. Favorite clue = ["Oh, my stars and garters!"] for EGAD. I’ve never heard that expression, but I’m planning to incorporate it into my vocabulary post haste.

Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

Today’s quote will probably mildly titillate those who haven’t heard it before, which is what you want and expect out of a quote theme. I recognize that feeling of triumph at finding a quote that actually breaks into symmetrical chunks that causes such puzzles to be made.

The crossword is more than ably filled, but with the quote taking up so much space, that doesn’t leave much room for shiny disco-ball answers! We do get POIROT sporting a BEERGUT, a SITCOM, NSYNC, and NEWSREEL, which is an evocative, old-timey answer, despite having a plethora of common letters!


In the miscellanea column:

  • I nailed 1A, OCALA, straight away based solely on “Florida”… Yeah, it could’ve been the better-known TAMPA or MIAMI, but this is a crossword! (I did check the downs.)
  • There is quite a long list of potential answers fitting the pattern ?OO? that describe the clue [Airhead.] Apart from LOON, I also came up BOOB and FOOL. TOOL and NOOB are also loosely synonymous.
  • As far as a SNOB being a [Cocktail party irritant], I’d contend that you’d have to be a snob in the first place to be at a cocktail party, no?
  • The consecutive HOLD, [Tactic on a mat] and RIC, [Wrestler flair] will make long-time LA Times blogger PuzzleGirl’s heart sing.
  • As for LEWIS, the one in the news recently, at least here, is Hamilton the F1 driver. He is moving from McLaren to Mercedes next year, FYI.

That’s all I wrote, as always, chime in with your experiences down below!

Ian Livengood’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Initial Reaction” —pannonica’s review

WSJ • 10/5/12 • “Initial Reactions” • Fri • Livengood • 10 5 12 • solution

Each of the theme answers is a name or phrase beginning with two initials, and the gimmick is that the same two letters are tacked on at the end, reversed and pluralized with an S. So that explains the initial and the reaction parts of the title.

  • 23a. [Aides for an honor student ordeal?] AP TEST PAS. Advanced Placement, Personal Assistant.
  • 25a. [Investment options for Batman's publisher?] DC COMICS CDS. Detective Comics (an example of RAS syndrome?), Certificate of Deposit.
  • 37a. [Acts of prank vandalism to a retro Chrysler?] PT CRUISER TPS. Personal Transport, Toilet Paper(ing).
  • 49a. [Record spinners working for a reclusive writer?] JD SALINGER DJS. Jerome David, Disc Jockey. Not to be confused with nonreclusive writer Eric Jerome Dickey.
  • 69a. [Big blows in Tombstone?] OK CORRAL KOS. Old Kindersley, Knock-Out.
  • 82a. [Family doctors who curse and show a little skin?] PG-THIRTEEN GPS. Parental Guidance, General Practitioner. Technically, under the MPAA rating system, “PG” indicates “Parental Guidance Suggested – Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children” and “PG-13″ extends that notion to mean “Parents Strongly Cautioned – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”
  • 99a. [Sleuths hired to track online hackers?] IP ADDRESS PIS. Internet Protocol, Private Investigator.
  • 115a. [Nightwear for a steel tycoon?] JP MORGAN PJS. John Pierpont, Pyjamas (have never seen this one in the singular).
  • 117a. [Bathrooms at a Long Island university?] CW POST WCS. Charles William, Water Closet.

Clever theme, but not wildly exciting or amusing. Of course they can’t all be superstars. I’d call this one very much worthwhile, but not essential.

The remainder of the grid is populated with a lot of mid-length fill, which results in generally solid and interesting material, but no flashy, knock-your-socks-off stuff. The payoff for that approach, though, is that gives the constructor greater flexibility in avoiding  and minimizing junky short fill. The longest non-theme items are 24d [Brag] SPOUT OFF, and 77d [They're often on a wet bar] SOAP SUDS.

Notes:

  • While it’s nice to see iconoclastic journalist IF STONE, it’s one of those entries that steps on a theme’s toes and can put a strange taste in a solver’s mouth. Oh, right. Isidor Feinstein.
  • Double-duty clue at 92d & 93d [Amazing triumph] EPIC WIN and MIRACLE.
  • 126a [Teller's stack] ONES; 10d [Small denominations] SECTS. 31a [Horace's "__ Poetica"] ARS; 91a [In it, feet are divisions of a meter] POEM.
  • 86a [Import from Sweden] SAAB. Yes but no but yes. Earlier this year the venerable automaker was sold to a Chinese-Japanese company, but they will continue to use the Swedish factories. They’re going to be electric. The cars, that is.
  • [Chicken] is a rather vague clue for a great word, MILKSOP (110a).
  • 123a [Fresh] RECENT. Speaking of timeliness, 6d [Flag pin settings] LAPELS.
  • Tricky clues: 113a [Slice holder] SODA CAN; Slice is a brand of citrus soda. 124a [Bay filler] OATS; bay is reddish-brown and is often used to describe an animal’s coloring, especially horses, and it can be used as a noun as well.
  • Cute clues: 75a [Element of change?] COIN. 76a [Picture shows?] ART SALES.
  • Who are we talking about? 7d [Wife of Juan] EVA, the Peróns. 8a [Mamie's predecessor] BESS, Mmes. Eisenhower and Truman.
  • 1d [Navigating aid] SEA MAP. Bleah.
  • Favorite clue: 95a [Nonspeaking role on "CSI"] CORPSE. See also 1a [Ward of "CSI: NY"] SELA.

Good puzzle, average to slightly above average.

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11 Responses to Friday, 10/5/12

  1. Huda says:

    I guess I just have a thing for PB puzzles. They make my heart sing, and this one is no exception. The combination of clever cluing and in the language answers just works for me.

    In spite of the recent insights into the hidden functions of JUNK DNA, this was such a great clue, and I’m glad he snuck it in before they change the term!

    I remember EDYTA from watching a couple of reruns of Dancing with the Stars (never watched it when it was new), and that definitely helped. But PREBEND is something else!

    All in all, a decorative puzzle, with a ROSE, a BLOND HALO, a MING VASE, TOE RINGS … And most decorative of all, the ARGENTINE!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    pannonica – there’s a typo above, in that the Deere logo isn’t a star but a STAG! My own hang-up was Pinocchio since I didn’t have the SAP crossing the beginning of the puppet’s name… Trivia: the U of Vermont is UVM and I’m told that’s derived from U Ver-Mont (green mountain)!
    p.s. Like Huda, I smiled at Junk DNA — such a fun phrase, though no longer accurate!

  3. Matt says:

    I agree, EDYTA was popcult and not-english, but I knew PREBEND and a lot of the longer words were relatively easy to fill in, given one or two crossings– so my time was Friday-ish rather than Saturday-ish. The flat-earth clue was cute, my original thought for the answer was CRANK.

  4. RK says:

    For the elite solvers: Are there any puzzles out there that challenge you, that you actually struggle with?

    Having learned that solving can be competitive, are there any legendary solvers?

  5. Howard B says:

    That one season of “Dancing With the Stars” viewing unexpectedly paid off! It still didn’t help me with the PREBEND / RED OAK area. Smooth, interesting puzzle outside of that knotty spot.

  6. HH says:

    “Favorite clue: 95a [Nonspeaking role on "CSI"] CORPSE.”

    Apparently you never saw the episode “Toe Tags” — http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0831020/

  7. Bananarchy says:

    I wonder if PREBEND could have been clued more gettably as the guitar technique (a pre-bend is where you bend the string before playing it, so that you can bend down into a note instead of up from it). Just as esoteric, yes, but at least the BEND part is kind of inferrable in that context.

  8. Michael says:

    3.66 stars because of a tough cross and ENHALOING? That’s too harsh. There’s so much to like in there. I mean, look at all these gorgeous answers (JUNKDNA, MINGVASE), misleading clues (37A, 48A) and chunks of eye-pleasing white space. No less than 4.88 stars!

    • Alan says:

      Totally agree with Michael. Yes, there was 1 ungettable square, but so what? The rest of it sparkled so much that I just deleted the themeless I was working on…

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