Wednesday, 11/21/12

NYT 3:41 
LAT 3:31 (Gareth) 
AV Club tba 
CS 4:55 (Sam) 

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 21 12, 1121

I’m partial to the theme—French-derived words with acute accents on the letter E actually use their accent marks in both the Across and Down answers—and a few of the long answers, but there was also some off-putting fill.

The thémé answérs aré as follows:

  • 9a. PLIÉS
  • 14a. NÉE
  • 39a. RÉSUMÉS
  • 69a. TÉA Leoni (not a French word—tea in French is thé)
  • 70a. DÉCOR
  • 2d. DÉTENTES
  • 12d. ÉCLAIR
  • 23d. SAUTÉS
  • 35d. SÉANCE
  • 42d. ATTACHÉS
  • 48d. EXPOSÉ
  • 31d. ACUTE [__ accent, mark used symmetrically six times in this puzzle's solution]

Less reliance on plurals (and that +S verb) would give the theme a more élégant mien, non? Do note, however, that the É appears in exactly symmetrical spots in the grid, so the two 8s needed the É in position 2 and position 7, for example.

I’ve believe I’ve seen this theme concept before, but with Ñ as the target letter + diacritical. Given the crossword convention of dispensing with diacriticals altogether, it’s fun to thwart that expectation and make use of the accents for a change.

Like: EXOTICA, BEACH BUM, HIT LISTS, LEAP YEAR, OVERLAP clued via [What circles in a Venn diagram do].

Could do without: HENIE/MII/RETIE, SHEENY/SAE, RAE/EATER/EWERS. CUTEY is also jarring to eyes accustomed to the cutie spelling.

Did you catch the grave accents in a couple clues? See 67a, 46d.

3.5 étoiles.

Gary Cee’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 11 21 12

DJ Gary Cee is in the booth today. As explained in the clue for BADCONNECTION, [Phone line difficulty ... and what literally appears four times in 20-, 35- and 42-Across], the word BAD spans all the words in YABBADABBADOO, SCUBADIVER and WEBADDRESS (which sounds clunky.) The revealer is colorful, even if it reminds me of the woeful cellphone signal in my granny flat. It also cocks a snoot at a frequent nit leveled at this sort of puzzle, namely that some of the answers have more than two words, but only two are used for the theme. YABBADABBADOO is a 3-word phrase, but it has two BAD connections. If only it were the last phrase, it’d be perfect! It’s still a great find, and the seed of the puzzle, I bet.

I know Pitney as in Gene Pitney but [Pitney's partner] was today’s mystery man for me: BOWES. When I first started listening to pop music ca. age 5, Pitney’s partner was (Marc) Almond (although I think the song was already a year or two old)… I’m off to try and figure out who that is… not her. not him either. Hmm, let’s try googling Pitney Bowes. OK, it’s not Gene at all, it’s a company with 28,000 employees… Feel free to laugh at my ignorance and this rambling interlude.

Some other DJ shout-outs EPS are [Four-song discs, briefly]. I have EPs with other amounts of songs, not sure what’s with the specificity of the clue. If you aren’t familiar, they’re records longer than singles, but shorter than albums: extended players. We also have ["My Way" singer] Frank SINATRA, [J Geils Band record label] EMI, and NILS [Lofgren of the E Street Band]. If we really stretch things, we can include MAST, KNOB, EARS and STEREO into the mix.

There’s also a BIBLEBELT mini-theme going on in the bottom-left corner, with AMEN and DIOCESE as bonus answers.

That’s me out. Feel free to leave Gary your bouquets and brickbats in the comments!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Moving Parts”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 21

Check out how the P-A-R-T letter sequence moves from left to right in these four theme entries:

  • 17-Across: A PARTING SHOT is a [Snotty over-the-shoulder remark]. So the PART starts at the far left.
  • 27-Across: A TEA PARTY RALLY is a [Gathering for Palin acolytes]. PART commences four letters in from the start.
  • 47-Across: A SENIOR PARTNER is the [Likely denizen of a law firm's corner office]. Here the PART stops four letters from the end. Symmetry!
  • 62-Across: Things [Separated by a wide chasm] are WORLDS APART. Fittingly, this one ends with the PART.

That added layer of symmetry and the fun clues for the theme entries really add to this puzzle’s elegance. I also liked the long Downs, NEARBY TOWN ([It's where someone in the sticks might go to buy groceries]) and AD ABSURDUM ([Latinist's "ridiculous degree"]). Other highlights in the fill included OIL RUB, THE PEN, SPUMONI, MAGRITTE, OOPS, and MWAH.

Favorite entry = TOP MODEL, [What Tyra Banks's competition winner is expected to become, per the show's title]. [Banks show, familiarly] would have been a more concise clue, but this one works well. Favorite clue = [Captain Hook's diving board] for PLANK. If I ever plank, I think I’ll do it on a plank. Can’t ask for a much easier way to get started.

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29 Responses to Wednesday, 11/21/12

  1. pannonica says:

    LAT: But Gareth, Gene Pitney’s heyday was in the ’60s as a solo artist. The thing with Soft Cell’s Marc Almond was a one-off comeback bid.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: diacritic (n.); diacritical (adj.). It’s a peeve. Possible spoiler for AVC.

    • Martin says:

      1. FYI, diacritic was an adjective before it was a noun.
      2. Diacritical is used as an adjective in DIACRITICAL MASS. It seems a perfectly reasonable coinage for “lots of diacritical marks” (the phrase most people use for diacritics).

      I’m down with HYPERCRITICAL, but where’s the beef?

      • pannonica says:

        Yes, I was fine with its use in the AVC puzzle, but I felt even insinuating its presence might constitute a spoiler. I realized after I’d left for the morning that I was ambiguous about that.

  3. seahedges says:

    LE MOT JUSTE

    Loved the Frenchy theme. One stylistic note, however: {Outlet for une riviere} cannot, in fact, be MER. By definition, a riviere spills into a fleuve; it is the fleuve whose “outlet” is la mer, “sea.” The Missouri is a riviere, the Mississippi a fleuve. A relatively minor point that hardly distracts from getting the puzzle answer, yet one that is worth noting for the sake of precision in a language that demands just that. As with rues and avenues, rivieres and fleuves are by no means interchangeable.

    -SEA

  4. MM says:

    Gareth, I don’t share your nit with the LAT. Every adjacent pair of theme words has a BAD connection; seems pretty elegant to me. My nit is with the ridiculous ERL/BOWES crossing.

    • Gareth says:

      Huh!? I specifically said that people frequently complain when these puzzles have 3 word answers and the spanning word only bridges two of them, but that in this puzzle the 3 word answer has two spanning phrases.

  5. Peter Piper says:

    This is the 3rd puzzle this week for Nils Lofgren. Quite a coincidence. So Evil Doug had a spat with
    Acme and is self imposed out.

  6. Evad says:

    So Amy, did your husband René enjoy today’s NYT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I can’t even bring myself to show it to him. Did you know that SHEENY is offensive slang defined as “contemptuous term for a Jewish person”? Ick.

      • Martin says:

        My thought on SHEENY was “that’s a form we don’t see in nature” but the insult never ocurred to me. As derogatory terms go, this one is almost quaint. I don’t know that anyone really uses it anymore. If someone called me a “sheeny,” I’d honestly probably laugh.

        This is a classic “chink in the armor” entry objection, named for another perfectly valid world I defend from your desire to exile because it also has a derogatory meaning.

        Of course, the problem is how zealous should the expurgators be? My wife hates the term “Nip,” even more than “Jap.” Should an editor ban “nip in the air” because of her sensibility (which, by the way, Elaine would not want — she distinguishes someone calling a person of Japanese descent a Nip from a cool breeze )? Assuming one editor doesn’t realize that nip, or sheeny or mick can be derogatory, who maintains the all-inclusive list?

        Punishing good words for the sins of bad people is an injustice.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          A good friend of mine has been called a SHEENY and she didn’t care for it one bit. I don’t get it, Martin. Since when is SHEENY a “good word”? Most of us probably wanted that answer to be SATINY, which is a word we actually use. I have never, ever used the adjective SHEENY (and certainly do not toss ethnic slurs at people), and it’s not the sort of word that good writers seem to call on much, is it?

          • ArtLvr says:

            Agreed, the NYT had a clever theme and was elegant in execution — but I too was disturbed at the end when I had to change my Satiny. “Nip” isn’t a made-up word, but I think that sheeny for shiny falls into that category and should have been excluded, (although I’d also have guessed this derogative had disappeared 50 years ago!) Very sorry to learn it’s still around, anywhere…

          • Martin says:

            It’s not a good entry, perhaps, but “sheeny” is a perfectly good adjective. It’s in the dictionaries, even abridged ones. You might call an iridescent oil slick on a wet road “sheeny” if you were waxing poetic. You’d never call it “satiny.”

            It’s a good enough word that executing it because of some derogatory use (which doesn’t even make sense) strikes me as wrong.

            I truly don’t mean to disparage your friend’s reaction to being called a sheeny, but for the life of me I don’t see why I should be insulted. Does it mean my hair is greasy? My nose needs powdering? Insults based on alleged racial traits, or even mocking abbreviations of ethnic group names I get. But “I’m going to call you a made-up word and I expect you to be hurt by it”? I should avoid using an adjective so I can enable someone else’s bigotry?

            btw, agreeing to disagree is the only way this conversation can end and I should have explicitly done so at the start of the thread. I salute your intention, but feel a little more strongly about the collateral damage to the language.

          • Martin says:

            Art,

            “Sheeny” isn’t a made-up word for shiny. It’s the regular inflected form meaning having a sheen.

          • KarmaSartre says:

            I prefer “estevezy”.

          • Martin says:

            Don’t mess with Martin. But Charlie’s all yours.

  7. Yves L. says:

    Amy,

    You’re like the pot calling the kettle black. I feel like I’ve been gypped. Indian giver!

    Not very white of you.

    Where the lexicon has legitimate words being twisted into slurs, it seems to me the appropriate reaction is to presume innocence unless circumstances indicate derogatory intent. Then blame the shooter, not the gun.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The adejctival form of “sheen” isn’t being twisted into a slur. The anti-Jewish slur has an unknown derivation, whereas the shiny-sheen sheeny is akin to “shine.”

      • Yves L. says:

        Well, I don’t want to engage in useless commenter infighting with you, Amy; but it seems like you’re making my point. As ‘sheeny’ was clued with ‘lustrous’, it’s obviously not of the same intent as the attack your friend suffered. Lousy crossword work? Okay. But to dominate this discussion over a clearly innocent word seems like giving a rat’s patootie about nothing.

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    O for another Disraeli – He was Jewish, don’t you know. -”So in the night of ages riseth some lofty sage. The depth of darkness with his sheeny wit piercing.”

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