Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fireball 7:18 
AV Club 6:32 
NYT 4:21 
LAT 4:33 (pannonica) 
BEQ 9:46 (Matt) 
CS 5:10 (Sam) 

Mike Buckley’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 31 13, 0131

What an intricate theme! No, not really. 23d: T SHAPES describes the chunks of black squares, and there’s that center row of TEAS/TEASE/TEES, and then all the rest of the white squares are just … themeless. A 66-word grid, so aside from 23d, it’s a themeless grid. There’s some good stuff in it and some ungood stuff.

I like the SPACE JAM/ORGANIZER/WOEBEGONE stack, though I could do without the crossings of AGENA, plural ENEROS, and AZO dye (though I appreciate AZO when playing Scrabble-type games). I like SCOOTERED as a verb, but would like KENNEDYS better if clued in reference to the classic punk band, Dead Kennedys. Perhaps it’s clued as [Ted and others] without mention of dead because it’s too soon after Teddy’s death? (In which case it’s merely a plural last name, and not a neat entry.) I like SEE NO EVIL a lot, and TINDERBOX.

In the woebegone category, we have too many way-out-there, it’s-only-Thursday answers:

  • 21a. ["This Little Girl of Mine" country singer ___ Young], FARON. Who??
  • 28a. [True: Ger.], WAHR. Does anyone know this if they haven’t studied German?
  • 27d. [Turkey or chicken dish served cold], GALANTINE. What? Apparently this is like a Swiss cake roll but with chicken instead of chocolate cake. Here, watch Jacques Pepin debone an entire chicken. I bet it’s a lot like watching Dexter. Then you add your filling to your flattened, boneless whole chicken, roll it up, tie it closed, cook it, refrigerate it, and then cut into Swiss roll slices the next day. Never heard of it. And you?
  • 34d. [Trumpet blares], TANTARAS. Old long crosswordese! Been a while since I’ve seen this one.
  • 43d. [Tec group in old France], SURETE. Do I know this word from old Agatha Christie novels? Perhaps. The dreadful word “tec,” which I never see outside of crosswords and which one dictionary doesn’t even list and which another dictionary defines as things entirely unrelated to detectives, is in this clue because—

Oh, for Pete’s sake. All the clues start with a T. That added nothing to my solving enjoyment. It’s a “Look what I did” feat for constructor/editor rather than an “Enjoy the way we use words” puzzle for solvers. I used to marvel at such things, but no longer. Sigh. It bears noting that T SHAPES offers no solid rationale for starting each clue with the letter T. All that does it make the clues stilted or forced, awkwardly worded.

I think 51a. [Text you might R.S.V.P. to] is incorrect for EVITE. Yes, “text” starts with a T, but Evite is a brand name, a website that people use to invite others to their parties. I don’t think “evite” is a generic term for an electronic invitation. If someone sends you an invitation via text message, that’s an invite, not an Evite.

2.5 stars of disgruntlement.

Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Dangling Conversation”

Fireball crossword answers, 1 31 13 “Dangling Conversation”

Brilliant concept: Take a familiar phrase ending with the word EDGEWISE and make it so that the word can only fit in edgewise, outside along the edge of the grid. It is no surprise that the lower right corner took a lot more time to piece together—each of the Acrosses has its last letter shunted outside the grid. The central TRY TO GET A WORD IN continues with EDGEWISE, and the DGEWISE forms the final letters of IME(d), SMU(g), GER(e), DARRO(w), LASS(i), ICEE(s), and ESS(e). Isn’t that neat?

The theme’s completed by the CHATTERBOX and MOTORMOUTH who PRATTLE on in a GABFEST and make you TRY TO GET A WORD IN edgewise.

Toughest/best clues:

  • 13a. [Line of revolvers?], AXIS.
  • 43a. [Often-mustachioed leader], EMIR.
  • 53a. [Mayo player], GERE. Richard Gere, Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman.
  • 3d. [Potter's field], WIZARDRY. With a lowercase P, the clue would mean a cemetery for paupers. With a capital P, it’s Harry Potter.
  • 26d. [Hammer, e.g.], BONE. In your ear. The other little ear bone, of course, is the sickle.
  • 34d. [Creation of some weavers], TWILL. I had SPELL at first.
  • 45d. [Stop pussyfooting around], COMMIT.

Favorite fill: PAN OUT, WIZARDRY, SHA NA NA, WORMED, and of course, MR. CLEAN.

4.5 stars. Great gimmick hanging off the right side.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AV Club crossword, “Going Viral”

AV Club crossword solution, 1 31 13 BEQ “Going Viral”

Huh. Ben’s email labeled this one as having 4-star difficulty, but it took me longer than last week’s purported 5-star AV Club puzzle by Byron. Was that your experience too?

This week’s THEME is 66a: [Adding certain letters to phrases to mark the 30th anniversary of the seminal "Elk Cloner" computer virus, e.g.], those “certain letters” being PC. Now, I’ve never heard of Elk Cloner, and was briefly confused by the presence of ELK at 25d. The Wikipedia article doesn’t explain why the 15-year-old who disseminated that first computer virus called it Elk Cloner. Anyone know where the Elk came from?

  • 17a. Inspection by a drug-sniffing feline?], COP CAT CHECK. (Coat check.)
  • 27a. Icing technique that creates a vinyl-like look?], LP CAKE EFFECT. Hey! I am all about lake-effect weather conditions.
  • 47a. Quarterback tackle cheered by clearing your digestive tract and then putting your hands together?], BURP CLAP SACK. (Burlap sack.) Pardon me. I was thinking of the other extreme of the GI tract.
  • 61a. “That bozo who works for the gas company isn’t here right now”?], BP CLOWN AWAY. (Blown away.) I think of “gas company” as the public utility providing natural gas, as opposed to oil companies with gas stations.

Has there ever been a virus involving insertion of the letters PC into places it doesn’t belong?

Five clues:

  • 6a. [His Grammy-winning "Jazz From Hell" album got an "Explicit Lyrics" sticker even though it's instrumental], ZAPPA. For real?
  • 64a. [Report from the rear?]. GAS. See? I knew this was in the puzzle somewhere.
  • 5d. [Big joint?], STATE PEN. Former Illinois governor George Ryan got out of federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana today. He went to a halfway house in Chicago, whereupon he was soon discharged to finish out his sentence at his home in Kankakee. And Kankakee was totally on his way to Chicago! Really not a direct route home.
  • 33d. ["Since you mention it, I should tell you ..."], “ABOUT THAT…” Fun fill.
  • 43d. [2005 Beck single with the chorus "Na na na na na na na"], EPRO. Hunh? “E-Pro.”

3.5 stars.

Paul Hunsberger’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 1/31/13 • Thu • Hunsberger • solution

Revealer in the usual spot, the last of the long acrosses. 60a [1967 #1 hit for The Buckinghams, which can describe 17-, 31-, 37- or 47-Across] KIND OF A DRAG. Yes, that’s right, I linked to a popular/non-obscure, music video. Two observations: (1) the first themer soured me a lot on this puzzle, because I’m virulently anti-smoke, (2) hearty kudos to constructor Hunsberger for picking such an apt, self-explanatory title for the revealer (though I’m quite sure the theme extended from the song title, rather than the other way ’round).

  • 17a. [Illusionist's effect] PUFF OF SMOKE.
  • 31a. [Major bore] SNOOZEFEST. Bonus: I believe there are such events as “dragfests.”
  • 37a. [County fair competition] TRACTOR PULL. This is where burly guys pull tractors with ropes clenched in their teeth, yes?
  • 47a. [Many towns have one] MAIN STREET. Oh what the heck, in for dime, in for a dollar.

So, yes, the PUFF OF SMOKE thing, combined with the revealer, which I managed to fill in early, influenced my perception of the theme, especially with PULL in the mix. It, uhm, clouded my judgment for quite a bit.

The grid is seriously bolstered by some strong long fill among the verticals, with UNETHICALLY and RANSACKER as standouts. LAVENDER and DEFENDER are nice, but the phrased GO ON TOUR, TORE INTO, and DONATE BLOOD were less impressive. DRESSED UP occupies some sort of middle ground of quality, to my mind. CORONET‘s a nice plant there in the center, again vertically.

A Few Notes:

  • Love, love the yin-yang of the symmetrical pair NASCAR and TAI-CHI.
  • Relatedly, the paired EVEREST and SALTIER [More racy, as humor] put me in mind of this.
  • Horrific partial at 9d ["__ mouse!"], but at least it affords me the opportunity to include a more interesting music link. First runner-up: 48d NO I.
  • At 62d, I filled in RUN for [One of four in a grand slam], which gave me a U in 67a [Stereo knob], which was a shoo-in for VOLUME, but alas it was All Wrong. The correct fill was RBI and TREBLE.
  • 1d [Slurp (with "up")] LAP. Nosir, I don’t buy it. Metaphorically, LAP up is akin to “eat up,” physically and descriptively it’s closer to “suck up” or perhaps “shovel in.” This one’s a severe disconnect for me.
  • Most abstruse clue: 18d [He played James] SEAN. Bond, Connery. Only gettable retroactively.
  • Unfun abbrevs.: ADM., SLC. (7d, 23d)
  • 56d [Audiophile's setup] HI-FI. Isn’t that characterized nowadays as hopelessly retro, 1950s or 60s?
  • 3d, 22d. CAF, DIF. Pff.

Trying to counteract my personal pendulum here, soooo… average to slightly-above average puzzle.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fashioned Statements”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 31

Look, I’m about as fashion-backward as they come, but I still loved this puzzle. The theme involves punning with the names of four famous fashion designers:

  • 17-Across: To [Confuse designed Vera?] would be to BUFFALO WANG (“buffalo wing” meets Vera Wang).
  • 26-Across: Did you see [Designer Christian doing a pirouette?] That’s what you call a REVOLVING DIOR (“revolving door” meets Christian Dior).
  • 43-Across: [Designer Coco, while "hanging ten?"] refers to CHANEL SURFING (“channel surfing” and Coco Chanel).
  • 57-Across: The [Device connected to designer Bob's computer?] is a MACKIE MOUSE (Mickey Mouse meets Bob Mackie). Actually, when Bob Mackie meets Mickey Mouse I think the discussion will relate less to computers and more to the relative dearth of Mickey’s wardrobe.

The four designers are all famous (trust me, if I’ve heard of them, they’re famous fashion designers). And the puns are all solid. Add some interesting fill and I’m happy. This one succeeds. Highbrows have their RICHARD III, LEO V (Roman numeral = highbrow, like Star Wars Episode III), and a VEAL CUTLET, while the lowbrows among us can feast on Bart’s NERDY friend, Milhaus, RAIN MAN, and a HODAD, a [Pretender, to a wave rider]. (I won’t mention EDWARD from Twilight because, frankly, I didn’t know he had ESP.) Those of all brows can enjoy Morgan FREEMAN, Alfred NOBEL, and I KID. So I think this one worked on all levels.

Favorite entry = WHO AM I, the [Query that ends some riddles]. Favorite clue = [Squinting toon who's an alumnus of Rutgers] for Mister MAGOO. Neat nugget of knowledge!

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “The Har Bowl” — Matt’s review

One of the great advantages indie crossword writers have over the newspapers is timeliness. You may recall the Hinman/Walden themeless in the NYT a couple of years back where ORAL ROBERTS and CRIMSON TIDE crossed in the center. Due to the long production time of the paper’s puzzle, neither clue was able to reference that the preacher had died four days before the puzzle ran and and that Alabama was scheduled to play for the national championship (which they wound up winning) a couple of weeks after.

Brendan doesn’t have that problem, as today’s timely theme showcases. As you already know, brothers John (Ravens) and Jim (49ers) Harbaugh will be coaching against each other in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday. So Brendan takes the syllable HAR (as in Har-Bowl) and inserts it into base phrases to make wacky phrases.

20-a [Organizations that help out look-alikes?] = TWIN CHARITIES, not Twin Cities.

26-a [Headline about a Sundance film destroyed in a fire?] = INDIE CHARRED, not indie cred. Of which Brendan has much.

46-a ["Inferno" character who leaves them rolling in the aisles?] = COMIC CHARON, not the comic book convention Comic-con.

53-a [Get it on with half-bird, half-woman monsters?] = PORK HARPIES, not “pork pies.” An entry you will never see in a crossword again.

70-a ["The View" host Joy's wife?] = BRIDE-TO-BEHAR, not “bride-to-be.”

78-a [Give those engaged in PDA a hard time?] = HARASS KISSERS, instead of — well, you know.

A middling theme, but given a big boost by its timeliness. I also liked the big NE and SW corners and the tricky clue [Head of ___] for STEAM instead of the more likely state.

4.05 stars.

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19 Responses to Thursday, January 31, 2013

  1. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Well, I loved the NYT. To me it had a fresh, unhackneyed elegance, proving that at least once it is possible to publish a puzzle without massive doses of what I regard as BS. I won’t bother writing a detailed brief in favor of the puzzle, but to me it’s one of the rare puzzles where I’m not thinking the whole time “Are people really supposed to know that stuff?”

  2. Mike Buckley says:

    How often has this happened to you? You’re searching through your daily newspaper for the New York Times crossword. Finally you shout “I found the Shortz” just as a big ugly dog with underwear in its mouth drops a heavy door on your head. Then you blanc out. Don’t you find that annoying? This video is relevant on so many levels. Well, two anyway.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP9JCfCIh1c

    Thanks for your comment, Bruce.

  3. bob stigger says:

    My grandchildren receive evites all the time. They arrive as emails. Clicking the link to the website provides further details but to me links in emails are functionally email attachments. I wasn’t even aware that evite is a specific website. There are any number of sites that can be used for this purpose, and I use the term evite generically to refer to invitations sent through any of them. What would you call a comparable email from Shutterfly? An electronic invitation? Not.

  4. Matt says:

    Loved the FB. A fairly tough one, and then came the SE corner. I knew something was up because IMED was the only reasonable answer to 44A, but it took a while to get the whole trick. Liked the NYT, at least more than 2-stars worth, but I agree that FARON and WAHR were problematic. On the other hand we now have better knowledge about a cruciverbal metamorphosis.. what with newts, efts, and now tadpoles…:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I liked the FB too, though I didn’t know what I was doing in the SE corner until I finished it. I saw that words had to extend out of the grid, (we’ve seen that before) — first lassi, then smug, then imed, then Darrow, but it wasn’t until I finished that I realized that I had written “edgewise,” and that it connected with the across answer. Nice touch, though.

    In the NYT, “wahr” was a gimme; I don’t know “Faron” either, but to me that’s just one instance of the 4- 6 equally obscure names that appear in about 50% of the puzzles I see. Faron is, to me, no more and no less obscure, and the puzzle is therefore much less obscurantist than most. My reaction is still that the puzzle had a much more interesting, lively, varied vocabulary than most, and it stands out as being one I really enjoyed, albeit relatively easy.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: Visually very interesting! For a while, I was working with the hypothesis that there was a letter T nestled next to the black square T’s, and it worked for a goodly number of the cases. But based on that notion, I had – - BBS and put TUBBS in lieu of GIBBS. Just goes to show how little I know about singers and their songs, which also meant that FARON was really hard and the intersection of FARON and AGENA a Natick.

    But I too don’t mind when Thursday’s gimmick is very minimalist or hidden in the clues rather than the grid. Keeps us all guessing.

    WOEBEGONE my favorite entry…

  7. ArtLvr says:

    re GALANTINE — do google “galette” for recipes… A guest brought one with apple filling baked in a paper bag to Xmas dinner and it was quite a hit!

  8. Susan from NJ says:

    I thought the Fireball was just awesome. Crunchy, but not impossible. Of course, I think it’s because I figured out the EDGEWISE thing and used it to get the rest of the SE answers.

  9. Beth Willenborg says:

    In the LAT, a county fair competition is a tractor pull where a tractor pulls a sled with a fixed weight a fixed distance. The tractor that can pull the most weight the furthest wins.

    My cat slurps when he laps up the juice on his canned food.

  10. Greg says:

    I kinda liked the NYT puzzle. perhaps it was just early morning fog, but I didn’t pick up the theme until I’d actually filled in “t-shapes.” Then, in not quite an epiphany but at least a pleasant surprise, I noticed the use exclusively of identically shaped “t”s for the black squares; the line of themed “t” homonyms across the middle; and the use of only “t”-commenced clues. And it’s a pangram, to boot.

    • Huda says:

      Martin! You’re alive. That’s great.

      No comment about the food clue? I’m glad I gave back my foodie moniker. I could not think of that GALANTINE to save my life. May be because I can’t handle cold fowl.

  11. Zulema says:

    Again, as is lately usual, I agree with Bruce on the NYT. I found the fill very interesting. A few cavils, though not actually nits. I have never seen ENEROS in my life, but it’s Thursday and it is not wrong, but looks so weird. The only Spanish month that has a plural is “abril” but it is a figurative meaning. As for GALANTINE, it need not be cold at all. The recipe in The Joy of Cooking is immensely complicated just to read.

  12. Gareth says:

    NYT: Tough crowd! I kinda liked it despite the infelicities. Just had to pretend it was Saturday… My 15 minute time suggests it was. Had some most persistant wrong answers: hAnds for RAISE. powdERkeg for TINDERBOX. If Afrikaans wasn’t my 2nd language I have the feeling I might still have ecHt where WAHR was supposed to go (the Afrikaans spelling is waar). And to think it all started with a gimme at 1A: I saw the movie in the theatre! Didn’t think much of it then, didn’t have much of a basketball frame of reference of course! Also thought Celeron was fresh as an answer. I gave it 3 stars. (but what Amy said about the clues beginning with T)

    What a wonderfully executed LAT theme: brilliant! Definition themes inevitibly resort to made up “clue” answers but all of Mr. Hunsberger’s were real answers, and SNOOZEFEST and TRACTORPULL are great answers in their own right! Plus a great revealer! Loved the shout-out to Maldini who my soccer-mad nephew nicknamed Adam as it seemed he had been playing forever and would never retire!

  13. Mike Buckley says:

    forwarding from “Laszlo in Jackson Heights,” re NYT . . .

    Today’s teaser: ‘Twas tremendously terrific, though touching torturous ‘t times. True, Thursdays tend to take tricky turns, this tastefully taxing trinket topped the tier tables.
    (Tempted to take two timely Tylenol)
    Thanks, team. Ta-ta & toodaloo.

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