Thursday, March 28, 2013

NYT 8:01 
AV Club 6:45 
LAT 3:57 (papyrus scroll) (Jeffrey) 
CS 5:31 (Sam) 
BEQ 5:49 (Matt) 

Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 28 13 #0328

Two related 16-letter answers happen to both have an NC in the middle, so here they cross in a 15×15 grid with an NC rebus square. They are THIRTEEN COLONIES and AMERICAN CITIZENS, and the current 2-letter postal abbreviations of the other 12 colonies are also found in this grid, rebus style.

The puzzle was likely tough for most solvers to get started on, since the top three rows boast five rebus squares. Heck, it took me as long to solve as a surprisingly challenging Saturday NYT. Having 13 different rebuses plunked in random locations further ramps up the difficulty.

Furthermore, we’ve got a ridiculous crossing that my lucky inferences proved to be right for. 44a: [Impressionist Frank] is not a 19th-century painter but a comedian who does impressions; he used to show up on the TV screen a lot but I haven’t seen his face in a couple years. CALIENDO is not exactly a household name, and tough to infer as there are not a zillion people with that surname around. 44a crosses 42d: [Best-selling thriller author Daniel] SILVA at the I. Boy, that does not ring a bell for me at all. Not a big thriller fan. (Here’s the author’s Wikipedia page, if you’re curious too). SILVA crosses a  Roman numeral, 54a: [Year "Othello" was first performed], {MD}CIV. MDCII and MDCIX (1602, 1609) are also plausible Shakespearean play years, but SILVA looked more likely than SILIA or SILXA. Did this spot entangle you? Did another spot? (My other quicksand zone was in the northeast, where Virginia is found–10a: [Aging equipment?] is a tough clue for VATS, or {VA}TS (recall that people, cheese, steak, and oaky wines do not age in vats), and until I counted up the rebus squares and found only 12, I had no idea my blank square would hold a rebus. 10d: [Not the same], {VA}RIED? Also not a directly straightforward clue.

I would have a keener appreciation for this extensive theme if the fill had been smoother and zippier. POETE, NOT ON, double-S {GA}SSES up, ATRA, HEP, ["Jar of Hearts" singer Christina] PERRI, INDO, PRS, unfamiliar OSCINE ([Relating to songbirds]; I wanted PASSERINE to fit in), and a general plethora of names (DON HO, STEELE, UPTON, CALIENDO, EDNA, LAINE, TAMPA, CAMDEN, INTEL, COEN, SCOTTS, ATRA, PERRI, OTTOS, URI, SNYDER, LAY’S)–these felt like compromises to me. (Remember my rule of thumb that exceeding 14 proper names is associated with an uptick in solver complaints.) Three stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AV Club crossword, “Upchuck”

AV Club 3 28 13 answers

The title promises vomit but delivers surnames of famous guys named Chuck, written upwards in the circled squares. The answers the names appear in are ungodly hybrids of two unrelated entities sandwiched together with the upside-down mayonnaise of the Chucks:

  • 3d. [Adult beverage that really cleans you out?], PINE-SOL COCKTAIL hiding artist Chuck Close. Pine-sol and a cocktail do not, of course, belong together in the usual world. I was trying to fit PINEAPPLE or PINA COLADA in there.
  • 5d. ["Good luck" to cast members you can't stand?], BREAK A LEG, A-HOLES. Chuck Hagel, our new defense secretary.
  • 9d. [Knighted Gipper?], SIR RONALD REAGAN. Chuck Norris.
  • 11d. [TP in a Bronte novel?], JANE EYRE LOO WIPE. Man, that YRELOOWI part looks strange–but it contains the multitudes of one Chuck Woolery.

Tough puzzle, no? Those nutty theme answers took some work to piece together.

The liveliest fill includes IT SUCKS, GORBY, and PIKACHU. My favorite clues:

  • 5d. [Makes stout, say], BREWS. Brewing beer, not causing weight gain.
  • 35d. [Go on about your Employee of the Month awards, e.g.], BRAG. I have it on good authority that Brendan was Employee of the Month at Fleetwood Wack Enterprises in January and February. Can he keep the streak going??
  • 60a. [Calculus 101 (for me, at least)], EASY A. Eep.

Mystery clue: [Most of the members of OFWGKTA]. I tried MEN but it turned out to be MCS. I bet my answer is correct too. OFetc. is Odd Future, which I have heard of but didn’t know about the abbreviated longer name.

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “O Positive”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 28

Today’s puzzle takes four familiar terms and adds an O in front, converting the first word into a famous surname in the O’___ form:

  • 17-Across: Henry VIII becomes O. HENRY THE EIGHTH, a [Distant descendant of author William Sydney Porter?] Porter’s nom de plume was O. Henry. O. I get it.
  • 24-Across: Dell computers change to O’DELL COMPUTERS, [Children's author Scott's laptop and desktop?]. I didn’t know him, but I’m familiar with his best-known work, Island of the Blue Dolphins.
  • 41-Across: The well-known “Casey at the Bat” morphs into O’CASEY AT THE BAT, or [Playwright Sean in a softball game?]. O’Casey is perhaps best known for Juno and the Paycock, a title Inner Beavis loves. I’m not at all familiar with this work or even O’Casey in general, but luckily with this theme I didn’t need to know him. 
  • 54-Across: “Hair: The Musical” becomes O’HAIR: THE MUSICAL, an [Unlikely Broadway production about the life of an atheist?]. I’m guessing the subject of the musical is the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a noted atheist. Perhaps she can watch the musical from her cloud in … er, never mind. Small nit: Having never seen the real musical titled anything but just Hair, I did some digging and found the title of the show is really Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. “Hair: The Musical” doesn’t appear to be correct in the strictest sense. But whatever.

O’kay then–that’s the theme. I liked the fill even better. KING LEAR, MOBILIZE, DIGS AT, SENDS IN, ACRIDLY, PUFF the Magic Dragon, and even the grossest word in the language, MOIST, all serve to entertain. I didn’t know PORGIES, the [Atlantic catches], but happily the crossings were easy enough. WEBER, the [Big name in barbecure grills] was fun for me, as I just assembled one last weekend. Bring on the warmer weather–it’s time to barbecue!

Favorite entry = FREE SPIN, clued as [Another chance from Pat Sajak]. Favorite clue = [Some produce centers?] for PITS.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Premier Opening” — Matt’s review

Are you ready for some “football”? Brendan is: today’s (13×13) puzzle features three teams from the English Premier League:

18-a [2008 NBA Sixth Man of the Year] = MANU GINOBILI. That’s Manchester United, or Man U.

30-a [Handler's show] = CHELSEA LATELY. Chelsea.

40-a [Summer assignments] = READING LISTS. Reading. Them I haven’t heard of but I don’t doubt that they exist.

Works for me. I like watching soccer occasionally but, seriously, who amongst us can disagree when I say that the two best sports ever created are tennis and football? And by football I mean football. Which is a weird name for it, considering how small a role the foot plays in it.

This is BEQ so of course he views a 13×13 grid not as an excuse to call it in but as an excuse to go to town on the fill. Check out those lovely NE and SW corners and you’ll see why this guy is considered the Man U. of crosswords: ZBIGNIEW, SLOW LANE, LOUIS NYE, TALL TALE, I HOPE NOT and ORZO all stand out.

He claims this is an “easium” (easy/medium) on his site, but it took me almost six minutes. Bottom left would not reveal itself; I had the LISTS of 40-a but couldn’t come up with READING. Finally dropped ACCURATE in and the rest fell but that whole corner took me more than 100 seconds.

3.93 stars because 39/3 = 13, and this is a 13×13 grid.

Jeff Hyson and Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

 

Los Angeles Times crossword Thurs Mar 28 2013

Theme: Can you FLOAT alone? Can you FLOAT a loan?

Theme answers:

  • 20A. [New Year's Day staple, familiarly] – ROSE BOWL PARADE
  • 32A. [Place to learn to crawl?] – SWIM CLASS
  • 43A. [It has a handle and flies] – TACKLE BOX
  • 56A. [Place to split a split] – ICE CREAM PARLOR
  • 68A. [What one might see in a 20-, 32-, 43- or 56-Across] – FLOAT

Also:

  • 19A. [Beatles movie] – HELP!
  • 40A. [Band since 1980 that disbanded in 2011] – REM
  • 42A. ["The Wizard of Oz" device] – IRONY. REMember the part where it rained on Dorothy’s wedding day?
  • 45A. [Comaneci score] – TEN. Okay, I’m old enough to REMember when Nadia Comaneci got a perfect TEN in the 1976 Montreal Olympics (and I lived in Montreal at the time, which also HELPs,) but I sense this could be a clue whose time has come and gone.
  • 22D. [39-Across automaker] – RENAULT/ 39A. [Aptly named 22-Down] – LE CAR. Again, it was very HELPful to be living in Montreal in the 1970’s.
  • 57D. [Quatre et un] – CINQ. Or half a Comaneci.
  • 54D. [Doone who turned out to be Lady Dugal's daughter] – LORNA. Haven’t read it but I’m guessing: SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!

Did this one FLOAT your boat?

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25 Responses to Thursday, March 28, 2013

  1. john farmer says:

    Same here on the two thorny spots. I thought I had never heard of Frank CALIENDO, but he was the impressionist in those rather annoying TV spots that ran during the baseball playoffs a few years ago, making me wish that MLB never sold TBS rights to the games. SILVA the author I don’t know. Raoul Silva is the latest Bond villain, though I doubt that would have been a helpful clue for most people. Still, the letters were inferable — which is to say that I got them somehow. Likewise, with VA in the NE. O[NH]ER gave away the rebus theme early, and overall I thought it was just a shade harder than a typical Thursday.

    I think the number of names is secondary to what the names are, especially when they cross or are stacked. It seems the names issue gets raised more often with NYT puzzles, but I actually find the Times to be much more fair in general with crossings, names, etc., than some other venues. For example: Ben T’s puzzle yesterday had more than 20 names, including some complete mysteries to me, and last week’s featured a crossing of CK ONE and KIVA, with a K I didn’t guess right. Neither got a mention here, afaik, and I’m not complaining about the puzzles. I enjoy Ben’s work a lot, and if I miss a letter or two it’s no big deal. I may learn something. But those tough crossings seem to happen regularly in some puzzles, and rarely for me in the Times. Others may have a different experience, and a lot may just depend on what territory of the pop-culture map you know best.

    Speaking of names, did somebody say “Eep“?

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I thought BEQ’s palindromic Chucks was a brilliant construction, and I was amazed to see an appearance by the prosopagnosic painter Chuck Close. I would not have thought he was part of the “general canon,” but I guess he is well-known by visual art specialists. He specializes in portraits and faces. Some people consider this strange and ironic, but I do not.

    I met him once, in his gallery way out West on 25th Street, not that many years ago, when I was still in the process of “coming out” about my own prosopagnosia. He paints faces by breaking them down into tiny squares, almost pixels, and painting tiny, abstract designs in each little cell. Some are black and white, some in color. To me, the black and white ones are the most extraordinary. Up close (?!) they don’t look like much of anything. Back off, and a face emerges, displaying incredible depth and intensity, often with almost trompe l’oeil photographic realism. Some of the most stunning ones, (which I have seen) are of Merce Cunningham, Philip Glass, John Cage and Bill Clinton.

    When I met him, he was delighted at my understanding of what he paints, and the methods he uses.
    “Of course you paint faces. We have spent an inordinate amount of time since early childhood studying faces bit by bit, piece by piece, just as you describe. It’s a natural and automatic process for us.” His prosopagnosia is more severe than mine. I do not have to look at tiny cells, but I do study small units, perhaps square inches, looking for details and peculiarities, memorizing and putting the pieces together mentally. I liken meeting people (I almost said “meeting new faces”), to studying complicated Chinese characters, and trying to memorize the details to be able to recognize the character again later. Close is sometimes described as aloof, unfriendly, awkward and inept, but of course that is just someone else’s characterization of the natural and inevitable behavioral consequences of his affliction, which I also understand very well. Well, I’ll stop here, but I also did independently love the puzzle.

  3. Gareth says:

    Maybe it was having made a similar (Canadian Provinces) rebus puzzle before, but I figured out the theme was American State postal codes at O(NH)ER (same as John). Knew there had to be some restriction though, as 52 rebus squares is pushing it! The fun in this puzzle was ferreting out the rebus locations rather than the answers themselves. Not too fond of CALIENDO/SILVA either, though I’d also include LAINE – all guesses as I never heard of any of them; pleasant surprise they were all right.

  4. dook says:

    Yes, lots of names. But both Don Ho and Snyder were nice and tricky. I immediately placed NENE in the Don Ho answer and it took a while to figure out it was wrong. And although I got SNYDER right away, I thought it was the DE answer, not the NY one. So that slowed me down as well. Overall, lots of fun.

    Never heard of Calienda. The impressionist I thought of was Frank Gorshin and I kept trying to place an extra e in there.

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: For some reason, I tumbled to the theme very quickly, and even though there were several rough spots, knowing the theme helped immensely. I finished the East first, then listed the 13 abbreviations, and checked them off as I found them. In the end, having 3-4 remaining abbreviations helped me complete the puzzle. The NC in the middle is genius.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Again, something I thought I had posted disappeared.

    What I said was that it was the AV Club BEQ I intended to give 5 stars. I haven’t done the regular BEQ yet, but I’ll consider my 5 star rating a trial in absentia.

    I also loved Randy’s NYT.

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    Vermont was not an original colony! Who knew? Apparently everyone else who attended school in America and learnt said colonies by heart. I kept watching for a VT block to appear; and when it didn’t, and I’d counted all my blocks and made certain that I had 13, I shrugged my shoulders and visited the Vermont Wikipedia page before stopping by here.

    Vermont is, so far, my favourite state in the union that I have visited…in the summer, mind you.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      People from Vermont know. (I’m not from there, but recently moved to Massachusetts after living in Vermont for many years.)

      The 1770′s in Vermont were a fascinating period; Vermont was fought over by New Hampshire, pursuant to land grants from King George of that little island nation across the Atlantic, and the Duke of Albany, who claimed the territory for New York. Vermonters eventually (i.e. towards the end of the 1770′s) repulsed them all, and established an independent Republic, which persisted until 1791. (The Green Mountain Boys, the Battle of Bennington, etc.) Some would say it has persisted to the present day. I’m not a historian, but my dear friend Will Randall (Willard Sterne Randall) is, and his most recent biography is of Ethan Allen, which I urge you to read. He sets it all forth.

      • Daniel Myers says:

        Many thanks indeed, Bruce. I’ll certainly educate myself per your instructions about my favourite state, so as to shrive myself of my ignorance of its history. Today’s puzzle has left me feeling rather – sorry – green about it.

  8. Zulema says:

    My problem was CALIENDO crossing LAINE, SILVA I knew. I thought it was a great puzzle, bar these people, though Cleo LAINE rang a kind of faint bell. The clues were very clever. Randy is always a literate constructor.

    • Gareth says:

      Some background on Principal Ross:
      http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/15/me/

      • Zulema says:

        Tried to correct a typo and it did not work, would not accept the correction.

        • Zulema says:

          I can’t make sense of this system here. I was responding to Gareth, thanked him, and said that though I had not seen the interview he posted I had always thought highly of Randy Ross and knew he was a school principal. There was an insignificant typo in my post so I tried to edit it, but the edit froze; I got tired of trying and cancelled the post. I was asked to explain why I was cancelling. All right, it’s your privilege. But why did my reason for cancelling appear as a post? And if I had to give another reason for cancelling this meaningless post, would that also be printed? Quaker Oats boxes ad absurdum?

  9. Golfballman says:

    Amy was there ever a write up of BEQ’s March 15th WSJ puzzle? In the money.

  10. AV says:

    Loved the NYT since I picked up the theme instantly … but my little nit is the presence of SC in OSCINE, and the RI’s in TRIP and AMERICAN, kinda double daring me to rebus them. Hard puzzle to construct I bet, so adding these extra constraints may be too much to ask.

  11. xan says:

    I think I have possibly never been so baffled by a puzzle as I was today in the SW of the NYT puzzle. The names down there did not help, but they were not the direct reason. First, I had CAM(DE)N instead of CA(MD)EN. But this gave me MCIV instead of (MD)CIV, meaning “Othello” was written in the 1100′s. So I knew there was a problem, but to compound my confusion, when I checked my MCIV in AcrossLite, it said it was correct!

    I was so confused that I googled Othello to find out if there could possibly have been any other version of “Othello” before Shakespeare. (No). Only later, when I found a Delaware elsewhere and still did not have a rebus square for my home state of Maryland, did I have my epiphany. Because AcrossLite also accepts the first letter (M) in place of the whole rebus (MD), it did nothing but confuse me. In fact, even Revealing words in AcrossLite will not uncover rebuses if you have already filled them with the correct first letters.

    Fortunately I like being confused. This sort of fortuitous bafflement does not arise frequently and it was fun to get to the bottom of it.

  12. sbmanion says:

    Frank Caliendo is well known to anyone who listens to sports talk radio. He is most famous for his imitations of John Madden and talk show host Jim Rome. Madden is easily parodied for his antic style and Jim Rome, IMHO, is simply not funny, although his callers are occasionally quite good. I rarely listen to Rome. Caliendo imitates Rome by repeating some unfunny line ad nauseam.

    This does not sound like much of an endorsement for Caliendo, but I have actually found him to be occasionally excellent and he is by any standard a good impersonator.

    Tough puzzle for me.

    Steve

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I would really be curious to know if anyone if familiar with Chuck Close. I don’t think would be, except for the connection I described.

    • pannonica says:

      Oh, absolutely. Since the ’70s, when I was wee. His stuff was in the MOMA then. This was before the grid-blob phase.

  14. Paul says:

    Your March 28, 2013, puzzle that ran in the Los Angeles Times contains an error. The solution for 20-Across (New Year’s Day staple, familiarly) — Answer: RoseBowlParade –is incorrect. As a Southern California native, and living in the Parade formation area for many years, I can attest that the parade is ONLY known as the “Rose Parade” or the “Tournament of Roses Parade.” I can hear the gnashing of teeth and sotto voce swearing at this gaffe by other SoCal residents. It’s a bad habit to get into. Even some of the media coverage misstates the name of this event — mostly Easterners who don’t know any better.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      I think the last word of the clue, “familiarly”, which you quote correctly, responds to your concern.

      • Paul says:

        Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t make it correct. Just like folks — media included — who say “nook-you-lar” instead of “nuk-lee-er”. Or leave out the first “r” in FebRuary. The state of education in this country is going straight downhill. If upcoming generations keep us with this trend, we will turn into another third world natin.

        • Bruce N. Morton says:

          I dunno. Actually calling the Rose Bowl parade the “Tournament of Roses Parade” sounds hopelessly pretentious to me. But I do hope all you yahoos (and googles) will stop talking incorrectly about “Rhode Island” and refer to it correctly as “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

  15. bonekrusher says:

    one brilliant bit of misdirection in today’s NYT was 19 Across “1974 John Carpenter sci-fi film” which I filled in as THE THING, whose G then fits with ORIGINAL COLONIES (that is, if you’re so desperate to make the puzzle work that you convince yourself that Alabama was an original colony)

  16. No mention yet of Matt Gaffney’s brilliant Appalachian Trail puzzle from last year? Very similar theme, but with a slightly different set of states, all along the diagonal and with an AT in the middle. And to cap it all off, KATAHDIN and SPRINGER (the trail’s termini) at the first and last across clues.

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