Friday, 10/19/12

NYT 4:01 
LAT 7:00 (Gareth) 
CS 5:53 (Sam) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:11 (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 10 19 12 1019

This 66-worder is mighty smooth, although it has rather more +S answers than I might expect in a Berry Friday. None of them are awkward shams (e.g., UMAS or CEELOS), however. Let’s take this by the numbers:

My favorite 13s are all three of ‘em, the BARNSTORMERS crushing WALNUT SHELLS with their STILETTO HEELS. (Any nominees for Best Wrong Answer Impulse for 20d: [They're wrinkled and cracked]?)

Best 10s: SWING STATE with a great clue, [Purple territory on some maps]. (You were thinking of the board game Risk, weren’t you?) SCOUT TROOP, in the news Thursday. LIBRARIANS, occasionally IN BAD TASTE.

Nifty 9: “SHE’S A LADY.”

Super 8s: SAM RAIMI, DURACELL with an “indefatigable pink bunny” clue.

Sweet 7s: GOLIATH, woefully underused as a baby name.

Sexy 6s: WONTON, Midwestern MUNCIE, Donnie BRASCO (I always try to make that BRACCO, with The Sopranos‘ Lorraine Bracco running mental interference).

4 cleverest clues: 1a: [Upscale kitchen feature], ISLAND. 26a: [Worldly path?], ORBIT. 2d: [Boy band?], SCOUT TROOP. 3d: [Quiet demanders], LIBRARIANS.

Stars: 4.5.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

A gimmick theme – in the LA Times! Gasp! Because the theme was so opaque, I found it tough going initially, but sped up considerably as the layers revealed themselves.

The top answer, FLUORINEARSENIC, showed up early on, but meant nothing then… The middle clue [Symbolic sum of 17-, 22- and 50-Across] also meant nothing… There wasn’t any emphasis on “symbolic” and I didn’t connect the dots. Once FASHION eventually emerged I saw F/As and filled in the other two (H/I and O/N). At that point my reaction was “novel gimmick, but why ‘fashion?’” It seemed so arbitrary. Then I got to the punchline, ELEMENTSOFSTYLE. How awesome is it how this puzzle is tied together?! The neatness and originality of ELEMENTS being used to spell out a synonym for STYLE, plus the initial meaningless of the theme answers gradually crystalising into understanding—fabulous!

  • 10a. TVAD clued as a [Spot that many avoid] is superlative as clues go!!!
  • 30a. [Elem. school staple], PBJ. I wanted PBS. Serry as a first name was implausible so I reconsidered.
  • 56a. [Signal to try to score], WAVEIN Somebody? Anybody? I don’t understand. Yes. I know. I’m meant to be the one explaining all the hard parts. I strongly suspect this is American Sports. Google is being unhelpful. (Amy says: Baseball. Person standing nearish home plate waves the runner on third in, I think.)
  • 67a. [Pup without papers], MUTT. Subtle reinforcement of breed snobbery.
  • 3d. [Comedian Shore], PAULY. That’s using “comedian” in a mighty loose manner.
  • 10d. ["Why, I never!"], THEIDEA. Brilliant colloquial (if quaint) answer.
  • 11d. ["Fast Five" star], VINDIESEL. I haven’t seen him around much recently.
  • 23d. [Jazz lick], RIFF. Really wanted this to be VAMP.
  • 32d. [Ex-Laker silhouetted in the NBA logo], JERRYWEST. This is US sports. The J and the W were the two hardest letters in the puzzle! BAVEIN seemed unlikely.
  • 40d. ["Eli's Coming" songwriter], NYRO. Didn’t know her or the song. She seems legitimately famous. I’m sorry if my ignorance offends.

Updated Friday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sight Gag” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 19

It’s quippin’ time! Today’s puzzle has a four-part observation that really is a “sight gag:” AN EYE DOCTOR ON AN / ISLAND NEAR / ALASKA IS AN / OPTICAL ALEUTIAN. That mash of letters at the end of the first line and at the end of the third line had me befuddled for a while, as I kept thinking the first line ended in TO RONAN and the third line had me misspelling ASIAN. Good thing I know my Aleutian Islands or I would have been at sea even longer. (There’s a joke in there about being “at sea” near the Aleutians, but I feel like it would be too much work for too little a result.)

The grid has a late-1970s-slash-early-1980s feel to me, what with LUCI, [One of Lyndon's daughters], [Choreographer Twyla] THARP, Marshal TITO, [People like Oscar Madison] for SLOBS, [Singer Sheena] EASTON, and ALAN ALDA (though his clue is a little more modern, referencing his being an [Oscar nominee for "The Avaiator"] instead of the start of M*A*S*H). If it weren’t for JUNO, the Barnes & Noble reference in the clue for ISBN, and GEEKS, I would totally believe you if you told me this puzzle was 35 years old. 

In addition to LUCI, I struggled with MENAGERIE, the [Wild animals on exhibit]. But I made it harder than it had to be, as I saw the word “wild” in the clue with the MENAGE- start and could only think of -ATROIS for the ending. It didn’t help that I kept thinking of SHOVES UP for [Buttresses] instead of SHORES UP. Oh well.

Favorite entry = Nothing beats a great pair of L’EGGS, the [Hosiery choice]. Favorite clue = [One who reports to M] for British agent James BOND. Go ahead and whet your appetite here.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Cautionary Tales” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 10/19/12 • “Cautionary Tales” • Berry • 10 19 12 • solution

This 15×16 grid contains a quartet of ominous stories, all heading downhill.

  • 3d. [1985 dystopian novel in which a theocracy has reduced women to second-class citizens] ROMNEYRYANIN2012. Whoops, sorry. It’s Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE.
  • 9d. [1953 dystopian novel in which books have been outlawed] FAHRENHEIT 451 (Ray Bradbury). Also known as Kindleville.
  • 11d. [1992 dystopian novel in which mass infertility has doomed the human race] THE CHILDREN OF MEN (P.D. James). On the bright side, contraception and abortion aren’t hot-button issues in that scenario.
  • 22d. [1932 dystopian novel in which humans give up individuality to mindlessly pursue pleasure] BRAVE NEW WORLD (Aldous Huxley). As if that’d ever happen.

I have no idea why the small version of this image is so blurry.

Spiffy rebus action at the crossings for the numerical part of Bradbury’s title: 50a [Like many interstate highways] {FOUR}-LANE; 55a [Golf clubs also called mashies] {FIVE}-IRONS (“5″ at 55 !); 59a [Playing pieces in the game of Go] ST{ONE}S. And speaking of numerals, for those of you wondering why perhaps the most famous dystopian novel doesn’t appear in the puzzle, George Orwell’s book’s title is spelled out, and Nineteen Eighty-Four is eighteen letters long, too large for this grid. See also 18a [Full rounds of golf] EIGHTEENS (“eighteen” at 18!—what’s going on here?).

Notes:

  • 2d [Red roof] for PALATE. Are we talking anatomy here? If so, it seems as if this clue might have needed a question mark. Even so, I’m not sure how well it works.
  • 31a [Year during Emperor Justinian's reign] DXLV. Grrr. Factette: you can spell “Byzantine” without the letters d,x,l, and v.
  • 45a GO IN DEBT seems kind of phrasey, 66a FALA is old-school crosswordese, but obviously very useful.
  • 23a [Revolver, to Roaring Twenties gangsters] ROSCOE.
  • Did not realize that DAEWOO had gone bankrupt, in 2000 as per the clue.
  • Did NORBIT [2007 film that earned Eddie Murphy a Worst Actor Razzie] TANK [Fare badly at the box office]? I would think so. And wow, it’s in the center of the grid! That’s bold.
  • Personal peeve: 29a [Grilled sandwich] PANINI. It’s a plural, peoples!
  • Very much liked the paired DRY CELLS and TALISMAN.
  • Unfamiliar names: 68a [Miss ___ Quested ("A Passage to India" character)] ADELA; 19d [Comedienne Fields] TOTIE; 46d [Early U.S. diplomat Silas] DEANE. Not knowing any of those made me feel ignorant in subjects high and low.

Apologies if the bulleted rundown makes it seem as if there was a lot that was problematic in the puzzle, but not so. In general, I thought it was a good puzzle with strong ballast fill and a fine, if somewhat pessimistic, theme.

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Separated at Birth” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 10/19/12 • “Separated at Birth” • Fri • Ross • 10 19 12 • solution

What this theme boils down to, despite any conceits engendered, is nothing more than puns on first names, which sound like professions.

  • 24a. [Twin of a Tom Hanks character who makes wedding arrangements?] FLORIST GUMP (Forrest).
  • 39a. [Wine-serving twin of a fictional mouse?] STEWARD LITTLE (Stewart).
  • 53a. [Actor's thieving twin?] ROBBER DENIRO (Robert).
  • 69a. [Singer's twin who makes the cut?] BARBER STREISAND (Barbra).
  • 90a. ["Friends" star's twin who rents apartments?] LEASER KUDROW (Lisa).
  • 100a. [Film star's twin who works on a movie set?] CAMERAMAN DIAZ (Cameron). Also?
  • 122a. [Singer's suit-altering twin?] TAILOR SWIFT (Taylor).
  • 3d. [Movie reviewer's royal twin?] RAJAH EBERT (Roger).
  • 16d. [Action actor's twin in silks?] JOCKEY CHAN (Jackie).
  • 76d. [Actor's twin who's good at paperwork?] CLERK GABLE (Clark).
  • 79d. [Tennis great's published twin?] AUTHOR ASHE (Arthur).

So. Some of these are straight-up homophones, some are near-homophones, and some require a slightly greater stretch. What’s more curious to me, however, is the unbalanced overrepresentation of actors: of the eleven themers, five are explicitly actors, one is clued as a film character (and mentions the actor who portrays him), and one is a singer who has acted in many films. Of the remaining four, one is a film critic, one is a book character that may be best known these days for the film versions of his story, one is another singer, and one is an athlete.

Underwhelming theme, which is unfortunately not saved by exceptional ballast fill. In fact, I thought it was pedestrian at best.

Meh:

  • AYLA and ARIE in the same grid? No thank you. (17d & 120d)
  • 21a [Stoned, in a way] ON POT.
  • 27a [Like a trio of rhyme] IN A TUB. Though a charming clue, it’s still a partial.
  • OF AGE, OR DIE, IDED, A KISS, -IER, -ASE, A REST.
  • SCIS.
  • THE GIANTS, bleah. E-WEAR, ugh. PRESSER, pfft. (67a, 109a, 66d)
  • For a clue like 74d [Half a state name] I’d prefer a question mark, because oftentimes in crosswords things are taken literally, and RHODE is five letters while ISLAND is six, making the full state name eleven letters long.

Crossword Eternalities:

  • If a clue contains “Yellowstone” and the answer is three letters long, it’s always ELK. (99a)
  • “Some TVs” (or DVDs, etc.) at four letters is invariably RCAS. (54d)
  • A clue referencing Chekhov’s play Three Sisters will want OLGA 82% of the time, IRINA 18% of the time, and MARIA 0%.

Good:

  • 63a [Group of players] CAST.
  • 93a [Leaves in hot water] TEA.
  • 111a [Travel restrictions?] SEATBELTS.
  • 111d [Not a nice film] SCUM.
  • OFF BUTTON and ESCAPE KEY. (5d & 30a)

Neutral:

  • [Deli device] SLICER, [Deli display] MEATS. (9d & 46d)
  • 36a [Migraine attack precursors] AURAE, 75d [Heard] AURAL. Although they aren’t etymologically related (Greek for air and ear, respectively, although it’s conceivable that those two might ultimately have something in common), the similarity is fishy-looking nonetheless. Have I mentioned AYLA and ARIE already?
  • French! In the same row: [ __ humains (people, in Paris)] ETRES and [ __-Couer (Paris basilica)] SACRE, then also [Monaco moniker] NOM. (48a, 50a, 108a)

Finally, the last square I filled in was the crossing of 37d ["All My Children" role] and 59a [Billionaire Icahn] because I didn’t know if they were ERIKA and KARL or ERICA and CARL.

Subpar offering.

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18 Responses to Friday, 10/19/12

  1. Huda says:

    Berry sherbet– cool, smooth, sweet.

    After I’m done with one of his puzzles, I just love to look at the completed grid. All real words! A grid you can show to someone who doesn’t do puzzles and they don’t roll their eyes and look at you with pity. And with the STILETTOHEELS bisecting the grid, crossing SHE’S A LADY, LUSHER -TART they might even want to get into solving.

    I may have BABBLED enough, but two more things before I go…

    Thank you to Brent H who explained on Wednesday: “In Virginia, “run” is frequently used to describe small streams (e.g., Bull Run)”. Gave me STREAMLET today, clued as short run!

    And I was at an event tonight on our campus, where the LIBRARIAN told us about a rare original manuscript that our university owns written by Galileo– describing the first use of a telescope that he had built, and the first observation of 4 of moons of Jupiter. Galileo, through careful observation, discovered that the moons ORBIT around Jupiter, concluding that the world does not revolve around the earth–in agreement with the controversial theory of Copernicus. He wrote to Kepler and asked him to review the manuscript and render his opinion! So, LIBRARIANS do talk– and this was fascinating!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Would one of the LAT 1-star raters be so kind as to explain their decision?

    • Gareth says:

      Good, I was going to say something. It looks to me like it was done out of spite just because it got 5 star ratings. The NYT is all 4′s and look, no 1′s…

  3. Loren Smith says:

    Gareth – thanks so much for the heads-up yesterday about today’s LAT. Same experience as you – the theme slowly revealed itself. Unbelievably clever.

    I wanted “rrr” before PBJ, “bog” before FEN, “roo” before DOC, and “wacko” before NUTSO.

    Two 15′s, two 14′s. . .How Jeff figured out that the symbols matched the letters of FASHION *and* thought of ELEMENTS OF STYLE!! Wow.

    This is one for the record books.

  4. Jeff M says:

    Not a frequent commenter, but I second Matt G’s request. I would say I’m very stingy with both 5 stars and 1 star ratings…and I gave that one 5 stars without hesitation. What’s the deal with the 1 stars?

  5. Kristi McLean says:

    I see clearly now why I was able to finish this puzzle in record time. As we age the past becomes crystal clear in our minds while the present (what was I looking for when I came into this room) can elude us. The 70′s answers just came to me without any mental sweat…Allow me to keep kidding myself that I am not that old..I will call it an optimal delusion..

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Gareth – WAVE IN – It is usually the third base coach who will wave his arms to tell a baserunner heading to third base that he should keep running and head to home plate.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Sam – “I would totally believe you if you told me this puzzle was 35 years old.”

    As someone who is currently “litzing” 35 year old Maleska-edited NYT puzzles, let me assure you that this is nothing like them! (and that is a good thing)

  8. ktd says:

    Science! :-D

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    One star for the LAT from me! I mean, what a brilliant idea and impeccable execution. Not to mention how dashingly handsome the constructor is.

    Wait a sec…

  10. Lemonade714 says:

    What is amazing is that now there are 15 votes of 5 stars and 3 votes of 1 star; perhaps those three all flunked chemistry.

  11. Gareth says:

    Wonderful New York Times today too, so many great answers – Can only be Patrick Berry – although very, very easy. 6:15 is one of my fastest ever Fridays I think (away from home, don’t have my spreadsheet on me).

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Our friends with the 1-star ratings for Jeff’s LA Times puzzle are, surprisingly, not from Mars. One’s from Austin, TX; one’s from Tampa, FL; and one’s using a Cingular device.

    Did you guys hear about that creepy troll from Reddit who ran the “CreepShots” section (with photos of women’s bodies taken in public, without their knowledge) whose identity was revealed publicly. He thought it was entirely unfair for him to be outed, because he could lose his job. (And, in fact, he did get fired.) Funny how he didn’t think “Gee, I shouldn’t be a horrible, misogynist creeper online because horrible, misogynist creepers add no value to the planet.” He saw the downside only when he felt the down-sides, not when all of those women did. I don’t commend outing people who are just randomly pseudonymous on the internet—but if they’re abusive to other people, pfft, they scarcely deserve their privacy.

    And yes, I am implying that people who plunk 1-star ratings on fine puzzles are generally trolls. I am glad this site is usually quite troll-free.

  13. Martin says:

    The “Nijo Castle” clue in the WSJ reminds me how surprised I was when I first visited it to learn that “Nijo” just means “Second Avenue.” The main north-south streets in Kyoto have names like Nijo, Sanjo, Shijo, Gojo, etc. It’s actually pretty cool for a city to have a Second Avenue Castle.

  14. Michael Hawkins says:

    LAT tripped me up with DETOX instead of BOTOX for “It might make you forget your lines.” Makes just as much sense to me.

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