Sunday, January 20, 2013

NYT 8:27 
LAT 8:18 
Reagle 7:16 
Hex/Hook tba 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 8:06 (Sam) 

Fans of the Boston Globe crosswords by Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon and Henry Hook, have you heard the news? If you’ve been getting the puzzles online for eons, you can get the electronic .puz file emailed to you each week, along with a PDF version, by subscribing to CRooked Crosswords. $10 gets you all 52 puzzles for the year—that’s less than 20¢ a puzzle. I know you’re used to getting them for free, but now there is a nominal charge. I believe various mobile solving apps will also support the CRooked subscription soon, if they don’t already.

Yaakov Bendavid’s New York Times crossword, “All-Inspiring”

NYT crossword answers, “All-Inspiring” 1 20 13

Take “awe-inspiring” and add an “L” sound and you get “all-inspiring.” And that’s how the theme entries were made:

  • 23a. [Prince's pottery equipment?], THE ROYAL WHEEL. The royal “we.”
  • 104a. [Stop proceeding in the maze when you reach the end?], DO NOT PASS GOAL. Do not pass go.
  • 3d. [Strategy employed by a Siberian Hansel and Gretel?], ICE CUBE TRAIL. Ice cube tray.
  • 11d. [Fencing coach's pronouncement?], DUEL AS I SAY. Do as I say.
  • 14d. [Haymakers?], GREEN BALE PACKERS. Green Bay Packers.
  • 36d. [Advice to Jonah?], GET OUT OF THE WHALE. Get out of the way.
  • 58d. ["Waiter, we ordered the fish!"?], I TOLD YOU SOLE. I told you so.
  • 67d. [Approach a thruway booth?], HEAD TO TOLL. Head to toe.

Solid sound-based theme, not an overdone approach at all. The theme entries are mildly amusing, with “GET OUT OF THE WHALE!” being the brightest spot.

The grid’s got plenty of longish fill in the 6- to 8-letter range. The highlights are H.G. WELLS (13a. [Dr. Moreau's creator]), TRIBECA (42a. [Manhattan area bordered by Broadway]), Hal HOLBROOK (65a. [Best Actor Tony winner for "Mark Twain Tonight!"]), HOLED UP (81a. [In hiding]), SWEET ON (93a. [Infatuated with]), DR. LAURA (7d. [Big name in radio advice]), and LOT’S WIFE (18d. [Biblical figure punished for hindsight?]—great clue).

There are also some arid pieces, such as LAICAL (1a. [Like some church matters]), TEPIDITY (57a. [Lack of enthusiasm]), HEMATIC (67a. [Of the blood]—been doing medical editing since 1989 and this is not a word I run into), ESSENES (109a. [Dead Sea Scrolls preservers]), OLEATES (82d. [Some chemical salts]), and SNAPLESS (19d. [Fastened with Velcro, e.g.]). (Instead of “Hooked on Classics,” may I propose “Sweet on Oleates”? Who’s with me?)

Can one of you construction-minded wizards explain why most of the theme entries run down instead of across?

I … think I have run out of discussion topics here. 3.5 stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Pre-K Class”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 1 20 13, “Pre-K Class,” Washington Post, Los Angeles Times

Each theme answer is a familiar phrase changed by the addition of a K at the end:

  • 22a. [What tree-huggers do?], BELLY UP TO THE BARK.
  • 30a. [Not enough movies starring a certain actress?], A SHORTAGE OF SPACEK. “A shortage of space” doesn’t strike me as a discrete unit of meaning.
  • 43a. [Hot tar?], SMOKING GUNK. So accurate!
  • 58a. [What pirates use to keep fit?], EXERCISE PLANK. “Exercise plan” doesn’t feel like an in-the-language phrase, either.
  • 67a. [Story of a famous conqueror, Hollywood-style?], ATTILA THE HUNK.
  • 79a. [Performer known for the peeling away of outer layers?], GYPSY ROSE LEEK.
  • 95a. [Food-fight shout?], LOOK OUT—FORK! Word to the wise.
  • 103a. [Weekend military chore?], WORKING ON ONE’S TANK.
  • 116a. ["Well, ___?" (breakfast query?)], ISN’T THAT SPECIAL K?

Can one of you explain why 34d: [They help Eliza cross the river] clues FLOES? Is this a My Fair Lady reference?

Five more clues:

  • 83d. [Cigarettes once touted by a cartoon penguin], KOOLS. As seen here.
  • 71d. [WWII battleship], U.S.S. IOWA. Neat answer.
  • 80d. [The common type?], ROMAN. As opposed to italics.
  • 27a. [Palindromic city in Bolivia], ORURO. No, you are not supposed to have ever heard of this city. It’s near a salty mountain lake (yes, such a thing exists) called Poopó Lake, which gets its water from a river that comes from Lake Titicaca. That’s right: Poopó and Titicaca.
  • 90a. [Start of a Lulu hit], TO SIR With Love.

Good gravy, two clues pertaining to the ’80s TV series Charles in Charge? Willie AAMES of Eight Is Enough fame, Scott BAIO of Happy Days fame.

3.5 stars.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 146″ – Doug’s review

Frank Longo’s Washington Post solution 1/20/13, “The Post Puzzler No. 146″

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here with another Post Puzzler. Huge shout-out to Neville for covering for me last week. He’s a good guy. Solve his puzzles. You won’t regret it.

Some very nice entries in this Frank Longo 68-worder. I’m digging the big chunk of white in the middle of the grid.

  • 14a. [It collects in drops] - MAIL. Love this clue.
  • 15a. [New Mexico national monument whose name is a misnomer] – AZTEC RUINS. Actually built, and later ruined, by the Anasazi.
  • 18a. [Heaven Hill hooch] – RYE WHISKEY. One of Heaven Hill’s brands is called Fighting Cock bourbon. Wikipedia tells me that it’s known as “the bad boy of Bourbon” and “appeals to both male Gen X-ers and serious Bourbon lovers.” I’d like to tell you more, but I’m not clicking on fightingcock.com.
  • 47d. [Intellivision-playing kids, say] - X-ERS. Hey, it’s those bourbon-swilling X-ers! Being an X-er myself, this clue hit my sweet spot. We were an Atari household, but I had friends with Intellivision consoles. Then there was the weird kid with ColecoVision. Everything was a little off at his house. His mom would bring us tomato juice and raisins as a “snack.”
  • 39a. [Chain of big-box electronics stores] - FRY’S. Is this a nationwide chain? We’ve got quite a few in California.
  • 6d. ["King of kings," in a celebrated sonnet] - OZYMANDIAS. This is one of the two poems I like and actually understand. The other one is “The Raven.” Most poems baffle me. I think I read them too literally.
  • 26d. [Language related to Nahuatl] – PIUTE. The only “huh?” entry for me today. Well, maybe I’ve seen it as PAIUTE before. Crossings were fine, unless you had trouble with TRINI as shorthand for a person from Trinidad.
  • 40d. [King with dreadful subjects] – STEPHEN. This clue really tickled me. I thought it was going to be a monarch from a fairy tale or something. Well played, Mr. Longo.

Good news, everyone! The Post Puzzler has been renewed for another year. Here’s the tweet from editor Peter Gordon: “Just signed the contract for another year of Post Puzzler crosswords (April 2013 to March 2014). Themeless puzzle fans: rejoice!” (If you’re a twitterite, you can follow Peter @XWORDS). Thanks to Peter and the Post for bringing us top-notch, brain-straining puzzles every Sunday.

Updated Sunday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 20

The solving time for all but two squares was 6:28; the remaining 100-or-so seconds was spent trying to find the two errors. Well, I knew where the errors were, but I had to randomly type a bunch of letters until I found the two that worked.

The first troublesome crossing was where [Russian river] met [Reggae artist ___-Mouse]. For whatever reason, I thought the last name of the artist sounded like “mousse” and not “mouse.” Had I not been so fanciful, there’s a chance EEKA might have come to me. Instead, I was stuck playing guess-a-letter on the Russian river until I got to OKA. Unless I make it a point to study my European rivers, I don’t think I’ll ever break into the top 200 at the ACPT. (I’ll need to study some French and world capitals if I’m ever going to crack the top 100. That and get addicted to speed.)

The other nettlesome square sat at the intersection of the [Mooring post] and the [Native-born Israeli]. Guess I need to add Hebrew and the nautical sciences to my to-do list for studying. The mooring post turned out to be BITT and the Israeli was SABRA, which I heretofore only knew as a brand of hummus.

I borrowed Amy’s Scowl-o-Meter this weekend, and it was pinging like mad at some of the fill. LT YR, EPI, IGAS, AT YA, OMA, IER, HEMA, A TOE … that’s a lot of subpar fill for a 72/30 grid. Yet it doesn’t look like those entries were forced upon us in the name of stellar entries elsewhere. The three 15s (PHYSICAL THERAPY, ANTONIO BANDERAS, and TELEVISION PILOT) are fine but not especially lively. (Sorry, Antonio. You had a good run while it lasted.) The next longest entries, JOHN WAYNE and YIELD SIGN were probably my favorites. Then there’s two 9s and a ton of 8s, highlighted by FUJI FILM and AM I RIGHT. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the subpar shorter fill outweighed most of the niceness from the 8s, 9s, and 11s.

Favorite entry = As mentioned above, the 11s were my favorite. I’ll go with the YIELD SIGN, clued as [On-ramp posting, perhaps]. Favorite clue = [Russian base?] for MAYO.

Jim Hyres’ syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Turning Heads”

Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword solution, 1 20 13 “Turning Heads”

Interesting theme—the first word in each familiar phrase is flipped completely.

  • 23a. [Nail salon supplies?], TIPS AND POLISH. Flips “spit and polish” and totally nails it on the clue front. Tips are indeed something you can buy from the manicure menu.
  • 34a. [Couch-jumping and yard-running?], PETS’ AEROBICS. This one confused me because “couch-jumping” makes me think of overly demonstrative Tom Cruise on Oprah.
  • 40a. [Tongue twister?], TRAP OF SPEECH.
  • 64a. [Good golf rounds?], PAR SESSIONS. I have had many conversations over the years, but have never once considered them to be “rap sessions.” And you?
  • 72a. [Energetic ghosts?], LIVE SPIRITS.
  • 92a. [Torches in Dracula's crypt?], DOOM LIGHTING. Nice visual.
  • 99a. [Sharp dresser features?], DRAWER POINTS. Not very plausible, but I’ll give extra credit for the 6-letter word flip.
  • 116a. [Talk shows?], YAP TELEVISION.

This theme is much stricter than an anagram theme, as there’s only one way to change the letters when you’re reversing a word. The results aren’t always “wow!” or “hee-hee!” but they’re solid.

I felt slightly put out by the plethora of dry two-word answers. GOT BY, A PILE, STAMPS ON, PUT UP, WAS AT, and CAN SO were bleh, but I NEVER, AS A RULE, and LET GO are good. Perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed if the first four weren’t squeezed into the upper left corner.

Least tasteful clue: 62a. [Funeral lighting?], PYRES. It’s jarring when a dismal word gets a playful clue. Plus, there’s DOOM LIGHTING five rows down.

Eight more clues:

  • 46d. [Eponymous Italian mathematician], FIBONACCI. I just saw a cartoon punning on the Fibonacci sequence.
  • 30a. [Former NBA coach Brown], HUBIE. Who?
  • 35d. [Computer program suffix], EXE. “Suffix”? If y’all are calling file extensions “suffixes,” you should stop. You only confuse people.
  • 81d. [Responds to a yellow], SLOWS. This clue does not compute in Chicago. I tried to fit FLOORS IT into five squares but it just wouldn’t work.
  • 108a. [When doubled, Northwest wine valley], WALLA. Walla Walla, Washington wine? Weally?
  • 122a. [Lighthouse lens inventor], FRESNEL. That name backwards is Lens Erf. Too bad it isn’t Flesnel the Lens Elf.
  • 97d. [Like some of the Sahara], LIBYAN.
  • 48d. [Another name for Saint Agnes], INES. I had no idea these names were related.

Four stars.

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8 Responses to Sunday, January 20, 2013

  1. HH says:

    “Can one of you explain why 34d: [They help Eliza cross the river] clues FLOES? Is this a My Fair Lady reference?”

    No, it’s an “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” reference.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: GET OUT OF THE WHALE is definitely the highlight.

    Most of the theme answers (6/8) add the L sound added at the end of the expression. So, having two theme entries that run vertically have it in the middle (DUEL AS I SAY and GREEN BALE PACKERS) seeming a little jarring.

    Did LOT’S WIFE not have a name?

    • HH says:

      I don’t see why the themes should be that predictable — why should all the added L sounds have been at the end? It’s the same argument I have against symmetrical rebus placement.

      • Huda says:

        I can see the argument for less predictability. But there is a certain esthetic to themes, some being highly systematic others more whimsical or varied.. This felt inconsistent from an esthetic standpoint. But you could of course argue that if it were balanced with, say, 4 terminal additions and 4 mid additions, that too would be predictable…

        • HH says:

          But then, I’d say it’s too predictable that the grid alone usually tells you where the theme answers are.

          Oh … little known fact — Lot’s wife was named Jennifer.

    • Steve Price says:

      No. She’s referred to in Genesis 19, but not by name.

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