Thursday, February 28, 2013

NYT 6:22 
Fireball 4:22 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 5:57 (paper) (Jeffrey) 
CS 6:53 (Sam) 
BEQ  (5:52 Matt) 
AV Club see Wednesday post 

Note from Amy: Meant to blog Ben’s Ink Well puzzle yesterday and Aimee’s AV Club puzzle today but accidentally swapped them.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 2 28 13, #0228

My review of this puzzle will follow the PRO AND CON theme (1a. [With 4- and 7-Across, both sides ... or the missing starts for all the remaining Across answers]).

Pros:

  • I enjoyed the extra puzzle of figuring out what each Across answer word was—and was it missing a PRO or a CON? Often the PRO and CON bits were separable prefixes, but occasionally Joe threw us a {con}KS OUT, {pro}NTO, {pro}NE TO, or {Con}NIE to mix things up.
  • I like how some of the PRO- and CON-less words are also words in their own right. BONO, VERSE, TROLLED, SIT, SCIENCE, TONS, STRAINS, CLAIMED, NOTE, SORTS, and GRAM are all entirely ordinary fill.
  • I kinda like the insanity of how the filled-in grid looks. MENADES? IFER? HIBIT? SODY? NIVE? It looks as if someone just filled in squares willy-nilly. (Heaven help the hapless constructors who blithely add all the NYT answers and clues into their Crossword Compiler databases and think their auto-filled SODY grid will be published anywhere.)

Cons:

  • Well … some of the straight Down fill blends in pretty well with the nonsensical Across answers. Variant 1d: PNOM [___-Penh]. Plural STANS, 24d: [Laurel and Lee]. Abbrev FICT, 50d: [Half of a best-seller list: Abbr.]. Partial IF HE, 51d4d: ["___ Death" (Grieg work)], ASE’S27d: [German article], EINES (that’s “a” when it precedes a noun with a particular gender and grammatical status). 13d: [Group of three rhyming lines], TERCET—not a term I recall learning ever. 8d: [French wave], ONDE, and its neighboring dreadful anagram, 9d: [Declined], NOED. !! In what universe is “no” a verb?
  • Michael (Rex Parker) Sharp noticed that {pro} BONO could easily have been changed to {con}DONE at 14a, with DFLATS and the very-much-a-real-word NEED crossing it. One would like to think that every subpar part of a puzzle would get eyeballed intently to see if there was a way to improve it, and yet we have this NOED. Somebody in charge ought to be noing that word.
  • As for 62a: [Big shells], {con}CHES, and 23a: [Bowl-shaped part of the ear], {con}CHA—well, they’re nearly the same word, etymologically. In fact, the ear conCHA is sometimes called the conch.

4.5 stars for the “dropped PRO and CON” theme, 2 stars for the low notes in the fill. 3.25 stars overall?

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Letter Sets”

Fireball 2/28 answers

This 16×15 grid expands to accommodate the central answer in this factual tidbit theme:

  • 21a. [Game that often ends with a bang], RUSSIAN ROULETTE.
  • 38a. [It can be made into a jack-o'-lantern], HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN.
  • 53a. [21-Across, for the one-point Scrabble letters; and 38-Across, for the letters of the Hawaiian alphabet], MNEMONIC DEVICES.

Well! I didn’t know either of these mnemonics but they might come in handy someday in the trivia, Scrabble, or crossword arenas.

My eyes let me down at 2d: [Robusto! brand]. The crossings filled it in as RAGU, but my eyes told me I was to think about Robustol. Had no idea what Robustol might be.

Fave five:

  • 17a. [Instrumental hit from "Beverly Hills Cop"], AXEL F. I leave it to you to track down the song if you are feeling compelled to get that stuck in your head.
  • 28a. [They're about "ideas worth spreading"], TED TALKS. Have you seen the one about how to tie your shoelaces “right”?
  • 64a. [Latin phrase in the etymology of the word whose symbol is "&"], PER SE. Whoa. Did not know the root was “and per se and.”
  • 53d. [Eliminating word in One Potato, Two Potato], MORE. That Fireball contest puzzle in which you had to play One Potato, Two Potato to knock out every eighth (?) letter in the theme answers and keep cycling through “One potato, two potato, / Three potato, four; / Five potato, six potato, / Seven potato, more”—yeah, I didn’t come close to figuring out that meta.
  • 19a. [Early employer of Benjamin Spock], MAYO CLINIC. When I had the MAYO part, I started to ask myself what mayor he worked for.

Not too much excitement in the puzzle outside of the theme, and the 1a/1d letdown of ARAL-crossing-AGAR put me in a bored frame of mind at the start. Tons of names in the puzzle, too (over 20, if you include people, places, titles, and brands). 3.75 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let Me Add ‘Em”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 28

Did anyone else find today’s puzzle harder than usual? The title gave away the theme (EM is added to common terms), but even then I had some trouble getting the theme entries to fall. Some of the clues were pretty straightforward but others really took a while to unravel. From the onset I had trouble getting any traction, and that kept me from developing any real rhythm during my solve. Perhaps it’s just an off day for me.

Like I said, the theme involved adding EM to common (okay, relatively common) two-word terms. What made this one harder than usual, I think, was that the EM might be added anywhere–the end of the first word, the end of the second word, or even jammed in the middle of a word. See for yourself:

  • 17-Across: A yummy “tater tot” becomes a TATER TOTEM, the [Spud farmer's family symbol?]. See, we’re led to believe that the EM will come at the end, right?
  • 55-Across: Au contraire, mon capitan. ["The" team to call for a high-tech transmitter?] is the MODEM SQUAD, a play on The Mod Squad from early-1970s television. So maybe the theme involves just placing EM at the end of either word?
  • 10-Down: Nope. The “Land Rover” vehicle becomes a LAND REMOVER, perhaps a fancier name for a [Bulldozer?]–and the EM’s just crammed in the middle of Rover (poor Rover!).
  • 24-Down: And this one was a complete unknown to me–”Oxford Don” (whoever that is) becomes OXFORD DEMON, a [Fiend targeted by a shoe store exorcist?]. Not a crossword fiend, I hope! Oh, BTW, in response to my parenthetical remark a couple of sentences ago, here comes Wikipedia: “A don is a fellow or tutor of a college or university, especially traditional collegiate universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in England.”  I don’t give myself the best odds for remembering that a week from now.

My solve included missteps (RUNS instead of OUTS for [Scoreboard data], IN A POD rather than PODDED for [Like peas], CREED rather than CREDO for [Doctrine], WALTS rather than POETS for [Whitman and Whittier]–hey, why not?), stuff I just didn’t know (chiefly SORTIES as [Air combat missions]), and clues that just didn’t make sense to me (e.g., I don’t see an ATLAS as a [Globetrotter's reference] in that a globetrotter wouldn’t be more or less apt to use an atlas than anyone else who’s map-curious–a globetrotter has been to many of the places in an atlas, but I’m not sure that makes an atlas a reference that is particularly associated with a globetrotter). All of the above, I’m sure, contributed to my slower than usual solving time.

It’s Daily Double time, as today’s Favorite entry also has today’s Favorite clue: A [No-tell motel patron, perhaps] is a TWO-TIMER. It’s kinda cool when crosswords occasionally slip into the seedy underbelly of the world.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Lean Meat” — Matt’s review

“Lean Meat” is the title of BEQ’s puzzle today, and the first word has a different meaning than the one we’re used to. Guided by circles we see that there are five pieces of delicious flesh leaning symmetrically along the diagonals: PORK, RUMP ROAST, TENDERLOIN STEAK, TURKEY LEG and LAMB. You can keep the turkey leg but I’ll take the other four. And where the hell’s my bacon? I ordered bacon!

So that’s a cute idea, though I think it would have worked better with “lean meat” revealed in one or two theme entries in the grid, or as a meta. Like put LEAN and MEAT in the fill and say that the meta answer is two grid entries that would have made a perfect title for the puzzle, and get rid of the circles. As it is there’s no revelatory a-ha; you see the idea right away. Still, nice concept and execution.

Easy puzzle which I plowed my way through in under six minutes. The theme meat all fell quickly which made the rest of the grid a cinch to fill (you’re getting an across and a down hint on each of those diagonal letters).

The grid was tainted by a slew of horrible entries like GOLD COAST, APATOW, CAESAR, TO THE HILT, THNEEDS and I’M MAD. OK, that was sarcasm. Grids with diagonal entries are tough to fill well (for the same reason they’re easy to solve once you get the diagonal words) but he did a nice job here. There’s some dreck (OTOES, SERT, SNEE) but it’s unavoidable with all those diags.

Favorite clue: 59-a [Compound measurement?] for ACRE.

4.00 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Let the Right One In”

Ink Well crossword solution, Ben Tausig: “Let the RIght One In” 2 28 13

The title is that of a vampire movie, but the theme involves adding a noted right-wing figure to the inside of a familiar phrase or word:

  • 17a. [Proctologist's "time to go to work!"?], “BUTT BECKONS!” Glenn Beck, buttons.
  • 23a. ["My plan is to hide inside John's piano and jump out at him"?], I AMBUSH LEGEND. George Bush, I Am Legend.
  • 36a. [Transgender modeling school that promises quick results?], RUPAUL BY TUESDAY. Ron Paul, “Ruby Tuesday.”
  • 49a. [Hamster's exercise bestie?], GAL PAL IN A BALL. Sarah Palin, gala ball.
  • 58a. [Navy computer programmer's project?], UNIX ON BOATS. Richard Nixon, U-boats.

Nice assortment of elected and unelected righties, from decades past and from the current era, from moderate (Nixon) to libertarian to I’m-not-sure-what-describes-Beck’s-politics.

And who doesn’t like the hamster ball? Here’s a video.

Lots of terrific fill in this puzzle. Check out IN THE NUDE, RAVING MAD (wait, is that good without “stark”?), “NO CLUE,” GAY BAR, RUM RAISIN ice cream, SPIELBERG, and GRUMP.

There’s also the lesser breed of fill:

  • 35d. [Old-timey cries of distress], AYS. Nobody likes plurals of interjections, right?
  • 47d. [Highland scotch brand], OBAN. Don’t know it.
  • 51d. [Sixth-century Chinese dynasty], LIANG. Having the century in the clue doesn’t really narrow things down for me. One of these years, I’ll actually study a list of the Chinese dynasties in chronological order.

I know we’re all pulling for that [Recent notable Couric get], Manti TE’O, to get drafted into the NFL and also have a distinguished pro career. We have been waiting for a TEO for so long! And MANTI isn’t bad either–fairly common letters. If he doesn’t make it in the NFL, though, he’ll fade to a footnote and will be lame fill.

3.8 stars.

Steven J. St John’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Happy Thursday, everybody!

Today is awkward clue cross-reference day.

Theme answers:

  • 7A. [With 22-, 37- or 48-Across, familiar line] – HEY BABE
  • 22A. [See 7-Across] – COME HERE OFTEN
  • 37A. [See 7-Across] – YOUR PLACE OR MINE
  • 48A. [See 7-Across] – WHAT’S YOUR SIGN
  • 64A. [Probable response to 7-/22-, 7-/37- or 7-/48-Across] – GET LOST!

Translated version:

“HEY BABE, COME HERE OFTEN?” “GET LOST!”

HEY BABE, YOUR PLACE OR MINE?” “GET LOST!”

HEY BABE WHAT’S YOUR SIGN?” “GET LOST!”

Let’s have a special welcome to 31A. [Mosquito-borne fever] – DENGUE, making its crossword debut! Woo-hoo!

Fun stuff:

  • 18A. ["Pull it together"] – GET A GRIP
  • 53A. [Words often said with a fist pump] – NAILED IT
  • 5D. [Forks over reluctantly] – COUGHS UP
  • 11D. ["Life of Pi" director] – ANG LEE

Awkward segue away from the current puzzle to unrelated attempt at humour department:

Speaking of ANG LEE, he got to make an acceptance speech at the Oscars for winning Best Director. Trophy winners at the ACPT don’t get to make acceptance speeches (we aren’t played off; we don’t get played on), so in case I win “First in Foreign Region” this year, I will give my speech now:

To my fellow Foreign Region competitors, I am honoured to be in your company. Emily, Ken, Frasier and the rest, you inspire me every day to be the fastest solver I can be.

I’d like to thank Dell Crosswords for giving me my start as a child.

To Bolen Books for their large crossword section.

Thanks to Homeland Security for letting me in the country. No hard feelings over the eraser issue.

I’d like to thank the judges for going easy on my handwriting. To Will and the constructors, way to keep it in my wheelhouse.

To the staff at the Marriott, thank you for remembering the time change when giving me this morning’s wake-up call.

Finally, most of all, I couldn’t have done it without Pentel and their 0.9 TwistErase pencil.

Oh, also, my fam…

[played off by ABC’s When Smokey Sings, with the classic line “When Smokey Sings, I fear violence”]

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17 Responses to Thursday, February 28, 2013

  1. john farmer says:

    Point taken re DONE, but since you asked, In what universe is “no” a verb?, the answer appears to be this one:

    no [noh]

    verb (used with object)
    9. to reject, refuse approval, or express disapproval of.

    verb (used without object)
    10. to express disapproval.

    Loved the novelty, and I don’t recall seeing any quite like this before.

  2. Jason F says:

    NYT: It’s a beautiful concept and the +’s and -’s in the grid design are a neat touch. However, I found it a bit odd to solve a puzzle in which I enjoyed one direction (across) so much more than the other (down – with all the fill problems noted in the review).

  3. RK says:

    6 Stars Great fun.

  4. Matt says:

    Easy FB, in my opinion, maybe as a respite from the meta-puzzle last week. Only hangup was the intersection of AXELF and ELIE. Knew the tune (and now I’ve got the earworm) but not the name.

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: I love the grid and how it symbolizes the theme. One extra star for that!
    I had appreciated most of the PROS, but AMY added the fact that the fill looks so crazy to the casual observer.

    Beyond the CONS listed by Amy, the phrasing of the first clue gave me pause (crosswords have made me very literal):

    “…or the missing starts for all the remaining Across answers”
    Pro AND Con are not the missing starts of all answers. Pro OR Con are. It might have helped a bit if the clue had omitted the “the” and said “or … missing starts for all the remaining Across answers”

    Luckily, there aren’t too many words that start with PROCON (Proconsul?)

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Speaking as someone who (a) once met Ms. Lucido and thought she was a smart, dynamic, charming young woman, and (b) is totally outside her target audience generationally and culturally, and who, therefore, often dislikes her puzzles, I loved the Walk of Shame puzzle, and am surprised by the preliminary returns. I thought the theme entries were funny and clever; the reeling walk across the grid was elegantly constructed. {Heat up} for enarm was my favorite entry; I think it’s an inspired clue of Klahnian or Waldenian proportions. (I confess to picturing Aimee as the reviewer described, with mascara goop in her eyes. . .but. . .moving on. . .)

    There were a couple favorable ratings for the Tausig, yesterday. I assume that was the Feb. 28 puz. entitled “Let the Right thing in.” It hasn’t been reviewed, so I guess I shouldn’t spoil it, but does anyone have the foggiest idea what it is supposed to mean? what the theme is supposed to be? I filled in all the squares, including the theme ones, but it was more like the monkey typing Shakespeare than any understanding of what is going on. For me, like trying to solve one of Matt’s Metas — (i.e. I can’t do it.)

  7. mitchs says:

    @Matt: yep easiest FB for me by a fairly long shot. My only hang up was Ibar/dIna.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Picking the PROper prefix was a bit CONfusing, at times! But it worked…

  9. Lois says:

    I hate to be part of the PC police, but in the NYT puzzle, 51d, “If he” hollers, should not have been used. Will should avoid it. Some people are quite hurt by this universal childhood rhyme. That said, I loved the puzzle, though I had a couple of errors and I agree about “conches” and “concha.”

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Since posting earlier about the Tausig, and with a little external help nudging me towards full understanding — (Thanks, Doug) — I managed to figure it out. Very nice puzzle indeed.

    I really enjoyed reading the Orcas award ceremony, and I commend Sam and Asta for a superb presentation and hosting job. It is my understanding, though, that a coalition of squirrels, at a website they frequent, is planning a protest. (Now. . .I hope *I* don’t get in trouble for *that* attempt at humor.)

    I was interested in the “Most Divisive Puzzle” category. I have long reflected about an analogous phenomenon in my own puzzle ratings. I would say that overall, I rate about 70% of puzzles either 3 or 4 *. But there are a few constructors where my ratings are wildly skewed to the extremes — higher or lower than 3 or 4. (That is, for each of these constructors my rating for a particular puzzle is likely to be very high or very low, and more rarely in the middle.) The constructors who come most quickly to mind are Quigley, Tausig and Blindauer. And I do mean *both* ends of the spectrum. Except perhaps for PB I, I have probably given a higher proportion of 5′s to those three constructors, than any I can think of. (Of course, I don’t keep organized records of that sort of thing, the way some people do; but it’s a strong subjective impression.)

  11. john farmer says:

    FB: I liked it a lot. I hadn’t heard about those “devices,” and extra credit to PG if those are his own. RR is likely one he’s known for a while, since his 1-pt. puzzle years ago. Hawaiian has 5 vowels and 8 consonants, so not a lot of slack to get them all into one xword answer. Nice work.

  12. Huda says:

    NYT: Quite a full range of scores on this puzzle! I like looking at the variance, and I think that puzzles that generate a lot of it are usually the ones that break some new ground.

  13. joon says:

    ben’s puzzle today absolutely defeated me. i spent a long time flailing around with the penultimate theme answer and then just threw in the white flag. that doesn’t happen to me a lot.

  14. Howard B says:

    Jeffrey:
    > [played off by ABC’s When Smokey Sings, with the classic line “When Smokey Sings, I fear violence”]
    Followed closely by “When Smokey Sings, I phone ya every day.”

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