Thursday, 12/13/12

NYT 6:16 
LAT 4:16 
AV Club untimed 
CS 4:49 (Sam) 
BEQ 6:40 (Matt) 

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword

Hey! I just test-solved Sam Ezersky’s puzzle for the Red Cross fundraiser puzzle pack that Michael Sharp is organizing. Have you heard about this? It’ll have something like 25 crosswords for a $20 or $25 donation, puzzles from all sorts of familiar constructors. And the proceeds go to Hurricane Sandy relief. So if you aren’t donating via the Sandy relief concert that is on TV now (I counted about 25 channels airing it on my TV), don’t fret! You can make a donation later this month and get crosswords out of the deal. The constructors, organizers, editors, test-solvers, etc., are all volunteering their time. I’ll be sure to post the order details when the puzzles are available.

Anyway, I liked young Sam’s puzzle for the fundraiser better than this one—I really liked the freshness of his fill and clues over there. He’s part of that younger generation of puzzlemakers doing terrific work. I know I will leave out some great people, so know that this listing is far from complete: Erik Agard, Xan Vongsathorn, Aimee Lucido, Zoe Wheeler, Joel Fagliano, David Steinberg, edited to add Caleb Madison. I think they’re all college or high school students; someone like grad student Neville Fogarty is already too old for this group. (By the way: Click Erik and Neville’s links and you’ll find their weekly self-published crosswords that everyone’s raving about.)

NYT crossword answers, 12 13 12, 1213

Hmm? What’s that? You are wondering about today’s puzzle? Neat theme: The theme entries begin with “{x}ing-{x}ong” rhymes that are condensed into a single syllable, with the I and O both working in the crossing word:

  • 18a: [Feature of many a rec room] PING PONG TABLE crosses 7d: [Proceed, say], which could be GO IN and proceed into the room or GO ON and proceed with your remarks.
  • 61a: [1986 film sequel Razzie-nominated for Worst Visual Effects] is KING KONG LIVES. Never heard of it. It crosses 52d: [Major European river], RHINE/RHONE.
  • 3d: [Insincere-sounding speaking style] clues SINGSONG VOICE. Really? Insincere? Huh. Not crazy about the crossing here, 14a: [Put to paper], present and past tense WRITE and WROTE.
  • 34d: [Kids' doorbell-ringing prank], DING-DONG DITCH.Yes. That is exactly what we called it when I was a kid. 41a: [Teensy bit], MITE/MOTE.

I like the theme, but the fill in this 74-worder is a lot less smooth than Sam’s Red Cross puzzle. ORBITZ and SPACE JAM are neat, but … TEGRIN, VIVO, AVI, NONLEGAL, ART ROOM, ALTHO, ONE-A, ESSO, ORNE, NO-CAL, UNAS, and ATRA are a tad off-putting. Three stars from me.

Pawel Fludzinski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 13 12

As one of those EDITORS, I cannot overlook the misspelling at 45d. [Like some conclusions] partners naturally with FOREGONE, but alas, it is FORGONE that’s in the grid. Forego means “go before,” whereas forgo means “go without.” Big oops.

The theme’s a [quote attributed to Victor Hugo]: FORTY IS THE OLD AGE OF YOUTH. FIFTY IS THE YOUTH OF OLD AGE. And what, M. Hugo, is an age between 40 and 50? Inquiring minds want to know. Is this limbo? It sure is nebulous.

A small oops: Having A DIET in the grid and cluing METABOLIC as [Like diets based on body type]. Too many diets!

I mostly admire the NW and SE corners, with all that themeless-grade interlocking of 7s. I could do without that CIII, though, and without 44d: [Fatty-acid ointments]/OLEATES. But having the first six and last six Across answers all be 7s is cool. Overall, the fill had a bit more in the STETS ARRAS AGAS RANI vein than anyone craves.

2.9 stars. Would have made 3, but one must dock points for the FORGONE/foregone confusion.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Stonecutting”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 13

Yesterday, 51-Down was the revealer. Today it’s 61-Down: GEM is the [Stone that's "cut" in this puzzle's four longest answers]:

  • 17-Across: GEORGE MASON is the [Founding father after whom a Virginia university is named]. Where’s George Old Dominion when you need him? 
  • 26-Across: The [Arcade device] is a CHANGE MACHINE. The only slot machine guaranteed to have a 100% payback.
  • 45-Across: SCROOGE McDUCK is the [Great-uncle of Huey, Dewey, and Louie]. Here he is in a rare network television appearance.
  • 60-Across: A [Typical "Toddlers & Tiaras" parent] is a STAGE MOTHER. My first guess, UNBALANCED, didn’t fit.  

I like how all of the GEMs split in the same spot. A theme entry along the lines of SHOWING EMOTION would have stood out for its inconsistency.

As with all of Doug’s puzzles, there’s lots to like in the fill. I loved AM-FM STEREO, the [Source of car tunes], but the symmetrically opposite entry, ADVICE GURU feels a little forced to my ear (though I liked the clue, [Dr. Phil, e.g.]). Other great entries included TOE RING (with the fun clue, [Little piggy's decoration]), OLE MISS, I REPEAT, CARLOAD, SAM I AM, CD-ROMS, and CYAN.

Did anyone else try III as the [Sundial numeral]? It ended up being VII, so I was either early or late. And while we’re broaching the subject of errors, I misspelled BROOCH, the [Pretty pin], and I bet you can guess how. I didn’t know ballerina MOIRA Shearer (Moira Tierney is pretty much the only Moira with whom I’m familiar), nor that FEINT was a [Fencing move]. But the rest seemed to fall into place quite nicely, if not especially quickly.

Favorite entry = B DALTON, the [One-time mall bookstore name]. Boy did that entry evoke some nice memories. Favorite clue = [Dynamic leader?] for AERO. Not very hard, but very clever.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “You Can Count on Them” — Matt’s review

“You Can Count on Them” is the perfect title of Brendan’s website puzzle today, as the six names serving as themers therein use only Roman numerals as their consonants:

14-a ["Candle in the Wind '97" subject] = LADY DI.

17-a [Mathematician believed to be the first computer programmer (she had a Google doodle devoted to her 197th birthday this past Monday)] = ADA LOVELACE.

25-a ["If you can find a better car, buy it" speaker] = LEE IACOCCA. I’ll venture to guess there’s not another crossword entry ensconcing EEIACOCC in it.

50-a [Former Lakers center who won two Olympic silver medals playing with Yugoslavia] = VLADE DIVAC.

37-d ["By any means necessary" speaker] = MALCOLM X. “Machiavelli” not a bad guess, though three letters too long and the H isn’t a Roman numeral.

39-d [Runner-up to Jimmy Carter at the 1976 Democratic Convention] = MO UDALL. Not the entirely plausible MONDALE, which I had early and didn’t change until late. He even works with the Roman numeral thing, if you count the N as n. I’m sure the Romans knew algebra.

This is a nice theme idea I can’t recall seeing before, and a quality sestet illustrating the concept. I like that he limited it to people, which both enables the aforementioned perfect title and also tightens and enlivens the theme. Wasn’t bothered by the scattered nature of the theme entries, mostly because I didn’t notice the grid’s asymmetry until later, when MALCOLM X and MO UDALL emerged as separate aha moments (I had see the clue for ROMAN NUMERALS but hadn’t realized from it that there were such short theme entries hidden away).

One reason I don’t get bored solving Brendan’s puzzles is the vast quantity of high-quality fill in the 6-8 letter range, which I’ve been calling “three-pointers” when blogging here. This puzzle’s rundown in that range: FLEXOR, OVER HERE, LUDACRIS, SPIT CURL, MIMOSA, LET ONTO, BEAVIS, EVELYN Waugh, and, with his foot on the line, VH ONE and THE O.C.

BTW, I just now thought of a motto for Brendan’s site, emphasizing both how profilic and prodigious he is: “Quality + Quantity = Quigley.” What do you think? Is it Andrea Carla Michaels-worthy?

4.44 stars, one day after 12.12.12.

Caleb Madison’s American Values Club crossword, “Hookups”

AV Club crossword solution, 12 12 12 “Hookups”

What, no WHERETHERUBBER meets THEROAD? Fine. WHERETHERUBBER would look terrible in a crossword grid. Caleb’s theme entries are familiar “X meets Y” phrases where the X and Y answers intersect at a common letter, visually representing the “meets” part:

  • 17a. [At the circled square, a '90s "TGIF" sitcom], BOY meets WORLD. Was just reading that there’s a Girl Meets World spinoff coming to the Disney Channel, with Girl being the daughter of the original Boy. Whatever. Was far outside the original show’s target audience.
  • 18a. [At the circled square, a "Transformers" slogan], MORE THAN meets THE EYE.
  • 46a. [At the circled square, paradox of divine power], UNSTOPPABLE FORCE meets IMMOVABLE OBJECT. No, those don’t meet in the grid’s center as you expect. It’s because they’re both 16s, and the puzzle’s middle is the nexus of four squares, not a single square. The grid pattern is also entirely asymmetrical, in case you didn’t notice.
  • 66d. [At the circled square, former Food Network show hosted by an Asian-American], EAST meets WEST.
  • 52d. [At the circled square, classic (and very short) animated film], BAMBI meets GODZILLA. I wasn’t loving the theme until I got to this pairing, which made me love the puzzle. Now go watch the movie. You have 90 seconds to spare, right? Be sure to read the opening credits.

Did not know:

  • 69a. [Porter on a long journey, say?], ROAD BEER. Don’t drink and drive, friends.
  • 19a. [Color oddity on a dog], MISMARK.
  • 44a. [Kanye signee who is, in fact, 5'8" and skinny], BIG SEAN.

Favorite clue:

  • 48a. [Ass emission], 4 letters? Is it FART? Is it TOOT? Is it CRAP or TURD or SH*T? No. No, no, no, you filthy creature. It’s a donkey’s BRAY. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Four stars. I should have included Caleb Madison in my listing above of hot young constructors. Caleb does some amazingly polished work, and not just for AV Club and NYT but also niche publications like Directors Guild Quarterly.

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23 Responses to Thursday, 12/13/12

  1. Huda says:

    I/O flip/flop is pretty clever. The rest of the fill had some rough edges. That SIGEP/LARAM neighborhood wasn’t close to the theme entries, so I wonder if it could have been made a little prettier?

    Crosscan– your link to the commandments (Monday) led me to a whole host of hilarious videos. Thank you!

  2. pauer says:

    I’ve seen an I/O double rebus before–it was a Pat Merrell puz with crossing P(I/O)NGs and S(I/O)NGs. Ah, here it is: Today’s was a cool twist with longer theme answers, though I wonder if there should have been a note or a reveal.

  3. Huda says:

    Interesting Merrell puzzle! but I think there’s an important difference:
    That older puzzle used the rebus I/O or I/A the same way in both directions. Today’s puzzle reminded me of an old logic game for kids on Apple II called Rocky’s Boot. In constructing logic puzzles you could use Flip-Flops, AND Gates and OR Gates. Here, the same I/O flip flop indicates an AND in one direction and OR in the other. So it’s pretty unusual!

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: For a while I had LO-CAL at 21-down and was thinking it was a clever-but-acceptable exact superficial dupe of 66a LOCAL. The former turned out to be NO-CAL, but I’m curious to know if others feel the hypothetical situation would have been legitimate.

    Never heard of DING-DONG DITCH. Where I grew up, that “prank” was called ring and rip (or ring ’n’ rip).

    • Daniel Myers says:

      Yes. I, for one, thought it would have been rather clever. Too bad it’s illegal – as opposed to NONLEGAL – in Shortz’s rule book.

      Unrelated Gallic nit: I do think that – as in 6A – the clue to 2D should have an accent. It is, after all, the way they WRITE it in France.

      • Lois says:

        Hi, Daniel. No, I don’t think so. The clue is just English here, so it doesn’t have an accent (note the extra “e” in the French). The answer is just a name, so no need for French. The accent in vis-a-vis (sorry for the lack) in 6A is good in English too.

    • Gareth says:

      It’s called toktokkie here. That corner was brutally hard for me…

    • CY Hollander says:

      I had the same correction (LO-CAL → NO-CAL), but IMO it bespeaks the brilliance of the NYT crossword. The one aspect of the NYT crossword puzzle that sets it above all others (IMO) is that it’s nearly always solvable, no matter how difficult it may be. Many other crossword puzzles end up with patches that depend on your knowledge of trivia: if you don’t have the information, there’s no way to get at the answer. The NYT, through a combination of good arranging and good cluing manages to avoid this. I’ve almost never come across a NYT puzzle where I look at the solution and think, “There’s no way I could have gotten this.”

      Case in point: TEGRIN, an obscure shampoo that’s no longer produced, was completely unbeknownst to me before this crossword. That’s all right, we have the crossings—but the last letter of Tegrin crosses with _O-CAL. Is that LO-CAL or NO-CAL? It could be either, and TEGRIL and TEGRIN sound like equally plausible names for a shampoo. So how do you enable someone who doesn’t have the requisite trivium to still get at the correct answer?

      The brilliant solution: include LOCAL somewhere else in the puzzle! Well-edited crosswords don’t contain homographs (much like well-constructed verse doesn’t rhyme homophones)—whatever you may think of the practice , it’s considered bad form. Therefore, when you find LOCAL elsewhere in the crossword, you are forced to enter NO-CAL for the earlier entry. Problem solved!

      I take off my hat to Will Shortz.

      • Daniel Myers says:

        Very well asseverated, CY. By the bye, your use of “trivium” here reminds me of James Joyce’s riposte at a critic who panned Ulysses as “trivial.”

        “Yes, and it’s quadrivial too.” was his rejoinder.

        • CY Hollander says:

          You know, I would have sworn that I had seen “trivium” used that way before, but looking it up in the dictionary now, I see it doesn’t seem to be formally sanctioned. Oh well; if it’s not the singular of “trivia”, it should be.

  5. sbmanion says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle and as usual for me in the past few months found it to be somewhat harder than the norm.

    Today, as the Golf Channel discussed Tom Watson as the new Ryder Cup captain, there was a discussion of him going “mano a mano” with the European captain. I think that 99% of Americans think that that term means “man to man.” Is there a word or trope that describes this kind of misunderstanding?


    • pannonica says:

      Don’t know. If not, I propose pseudocognate.

      addendum: false cognate.
      addendum two: “The term “false cognate” is sometimes misused to describe false friends. One difference between false cognates and false friends is that while false cognates mean roughly the same thing in two languages, false friends bear two distinct (sometimes even opposite) meanings.” source

  6. pannonica says:

    CS: Sam, I know of a Maura Tierney, but not a Moira. There is a famous Moira Kelly, though.

  7. Gareth says:

    The extra layer of the theme answers being stacked on top of each other as it were made for late a-ha! Very nice gimmick!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    To me, Doug’s B DALTON had to be Borders off the initial B, but MOIRA Shearer of the film “Red Shoes” changed all that… A friend lost his management job when Borders went under, & now is still working part-time at three different places. Very discouraging!

    • ArtLvr says:

      p.s. A few days ago, J T Williams asked for an alternative way to find the jonesin xwords: one can Google for “google groups jonesin crosswords” and get the link there.

  9. Jenni Levy says:

    Really liked the NYT today, although honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t get the entire theme until I read Amy’s review – I happened to fill in SING for the first one and thought the gimmick was that all the _ONGs were dropped. That helped me fill in KI/ONG LIVES, which I’d never heard of. That extra layer makes it even better. Wow. Since Amy explained the theme to me, I’m off to click her “donate” button.

    Really did NOT like the LAT. Just seemed clunky, plus all Amy’s objections.

  10. Matt J. says:

    Given that ADVICE GURU uses the pattern ?????E???U, that may have been the best viable entry to fit that pattern. I like it. It’s better than I CAN SEE YOU, PRINCETON U., HE’S OVER YOU, or any other more contrived entries. Well, maybe HE LOVES YOU (yeah, yeah, yeah? No, that’s a SHE.)

  11. Michael says:

    I hate to make unfounded accusations, but the fill in the LAT makes me suspect extensive use of autofill took place (STARTER, EDITORS, GRILLER, AVIATOR, ENCYST, OLEATES, ARRAS, TRESSES, not a single J, Q, X or Z… you get the idea).

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