Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NYT 3:06 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 5:07 (Gareth) 
CS 6:02 (Sam) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

Do you like to play bridge? Do you also like crosswords? Jeff Chen has just published a book of bridge-themed crosswords just for you! Check it out.

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 3 13, #0403

Today’s theme is baseball because MLB’s opening day was just this past Sunday. The theme answers end with SWING, HIT, RUN, SLIDE, and SCORE, and that’s what a successful batter does.

  • 17a. [Sign of bipolar disorder], MOOD SWING. Hey! If you have any interest in/curiosity about bipolar disorder, try to catch one of the scattered screenings of Wordplay editor Doug Blush’s new documentary, Of Two Minds. I caught it several months ago at a film festival and loved it. Don’t fret if there are no screenings anywhere near you—the DVD will be released in mid-May.
  • 26a. [Tune in a D.J.'s rotation], TOP TEN HIT. Wow, it’s New York Times style to put periods in “D.J.”? The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary goes with DJ and says it’s often lowercase. Gray Lady, you are so cute.
  • 37a. [1981 Burt Reynolds movie, with "The"], CANNONBALL RUN. I got this off the first A. Is that bad?
  • 53a. [Electoral college blowout], LANDSLIDE. Poor Walter Mondale, circa 1984.
  • 62a. [Start of a Lincoln address], FOUR SCORE. (And seven.) You only score four if it’s a grand-slam homer.

I really liked the freshness of the fill in this crossword, which announced it as definitely a modern puzzle. Consider SNOOKI, TWEETS, and BIG UPS (8d. [Kudos, in street slang])—I love all three of these entries. (Disclosure: I have never watched Jersey Shore.) MIKA [Brzezinski of MSNBC] is also current. Big ups to Mr. Cee. GROK (59d. [Totally get, in slang]) isn’t new but I like it too. The word comes from the sci-fi world of Robert Heinlein but has traveled well beyond that. [Predator __] DRONE is up-to-date cluing, too.

You know the 57a. [General on Chinese menus], TSO? I had a piece of his chicken at a Chinese buffet last week … in OCALA. Crosswordese two-fer!

Less thrilled with ALAI, DOM, O SAY, EYER, NAVE, and UTE—but pleased with MACKEREL, STELLAR, ANOMALY, LIE FOR, and ARETHA. Still waiting to see ARSENAL clued as the English football club.

Smooth theme, some crackling fill, Four stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Q-tips”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword solution, “Q-tips” 4 3 13

Change the /k/ sound at the end (“tip”) of a word to a Q, and here’s what you end up with:

  • 17a. [Seven-foot golf assistant?], CADDY SHAQ. Caddyshack.
  • 21a. [Restraint choice for a root beer magnate's dog?], BARQ COLLAR. Bark collar.
  • 36a. ["Jacques, I rate your face a perfect score, but your butt is très mediocre!"], CINQ TO THE BOTTOM. Sink to the bottom.
  • 49a. [Device that automatically cooks a certain French dish "au vin"?], COQ MACHINE. Coke machine.
  • 57a. [Copy of a copy of a Persian Gulf republic?], THIRD IRAQ. 30 Rock. The only one of the theme answers to assimilate a syllable from another word in the base phrase.

When I test-solved this puzzle, I had to ask Ben what 57a’s base phrase was. All I could think of was “Third Rock (from the Sun).” If you heard 30 Rock in there, you are one up on me.

I like the opening corner two-fer of WHAP and BEANO. You don’t see that combo every day in the crosswords.

Toughest pieces of the puzzle:

  • 65a. [Scottish criminal], NED. Scottish slang I’ve never seen before.
  • 1d. [City where Bach, Goethe, and Marlene Dietrich lived], WEIMAR. I … did not know Weimar was a city. Weimar Republic, yes, but no idea about the city.
  • 3d. [Not contemp.], ANTIQ. Abbrev. for “antique”? Meh.
  • 9d. [A doctor might tell you to cut it out], CYST. Technically, a responsible physician will suggest that you have a doctor do the cutting.
  • 32d. [Two of four, e.g.: Abbr.], SQ. RT., or square root.

Favorite clues:

  • 32a. [They're beneficial to the core], SITUPS. The core muscles, that is.
  • 61a. [Sucks or blows, as it were], BITES. As in “stinks.”
  • 37d. [Popular glowing rectangle], IPAD.
  • 39d. [It lost to VHS in part because the porn industry didn't adopt it], BETAmax. Ron Jeremy was on Hoarding: Buried Alive last week. He was the level-headed friend of the hoarder.
  • 45d. [Company lover?], MISERY.

Top fill: PHONE CARDS, POSTCOITAL, HASBRO.

3.75 stars.

Patrick Blindauer’s April website puzzle, “The Cheat Is On” — Matt’s review

I feel like a music critic about to review The White Album in late 1968. Where do you even begin?

The top and bottom thirds of this puzzle are a standard crossword; the downs in the middle third are also standard. But the five long acrosses in the middle, forming that monster quint-stack of 15x15s, are Trip Payne-style “Something Different” entries where any phrase that can be semi-reasonably clued is legit.

When you’re done, the central three downs spell out APRIL / FOOLS / TWIST, clued as [Feature of this puzzle's quintuple stack]. Which I must admit I didn’t get — I had the whole grid except the middle 3×5 trick part, where I just had the LST on the bottom. But after I clicked “reveal” I felt stupid for not thinking of APRIL FOOL’S.

Those middle five are:

26-a [Control behind singer Newton-John] = REIN IN AFT OLIVIA

35-a [Workplace punch line sanitizer brand] = OFFICE POW PURELL

36-a [Pizza topping king, to some inner city area] = OLIVES ROI BARRIO

37-a [Word command they, in Paris stat] = SAVE AS ILS AT ONCE

38-a [On the ground, in ballet troop carrier of WWII author Lofts and singer Jones] = A TERRE LST NORAHS

So you can see why I had trouble piecing together APRIL FOOLS TWIST from the acrosses, since the syntax is pretty strained on these, even for a Something Different entry. I didn’t catch AFT as “behind,” the three-letter “punch line” could have been BAM et al., and ROI and ILS were tough since I didn’t realize we were looking for French in the former and didn’t know the French in the latter (had LUI, which I think now is “he” or “him”). LST on the bottom row I got. So a bit frustrating there, though again, I should have come up with the APRIL FOOLS idea.

Bonus theme 15s in the third and thirteenth rows: 17-a [Prearranging in a favorable way] is STACKING THE DECK, slyly referencing his quint-stack, while 50-a [Doing something underhanded] is PULLING A FAST ONE, which Patrick certainly did here.

OK, so how do you rate a puzzle like this? I admire the ambitious, novel idea and enjoyed the solve, but can’t quite put it into the Pantheon of Blindauer Immortals because of the syntax issues in that crazy center. Maybe the clues weren’t supposed to make perfect sense, but rather be divided along the 6-3-6 pattern the entries share? I enjoy the occasional Something Different, but the clues/entries generally have to make a bit more sense than they do here.

The downs crossing the quint stack are awesome, too: UNIVERSALLY, RICE-A-RONI, TOP BANANA and SIDE MIRRORS are standouts.

One word you can’t use to describe Patrick’s puzzles is “boring,” as he proves yet again this month. 4.50 stars.

Erik Agard’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

“LA Times crossword solution, 03 04 13″

The genre of puzzle of today’s offering by Erik Agard frequently lacks in fizz. This is one of the best examples of it though. The revealer POWERCOUPLE is a colourful neologism. As it implies, another 5(!) answers consist of two parts, each of which can be completed with “power”. The resulting phrases are often either questionable or dry, but I liked all of Erik’s answers today! My only disappointment was that none of the phrases had “puppy” in them!

We have:

  • [Much-sought-after celebrity], SUPERSTAR. Has synergy with POWERCOUPLE. SUPER power and STAR power.
  • [*Career soldier], MILITARYMAN. MILITARY power and MANpower
  • [*1995 movie flop dubbed "Fishtar" by some critics], WATERWORLD. I’ve not seen the film but am told the plot is holeyer (is that a word?) than Emmental. WATERpower and WORLD power
  • SOLARWIND. SOLAR power and WIND power.
  • FLOWERGIRL. FLOWER power and GIRL power

Erik also managed to squeeze in two nice long downs: PAPARAZZI, which echoes the revealer, and PHOTOSHOP. No more than your typical crossword-ese, really top-notch construction considering the 6-part theme!

Had an amusing misreading-the-clues moment at 3d: I read [Too popped to poop] – breakfast test, what breakfast test? My other amusing error was filling in LArd for [Congressional output] off LA – like pork only not.

4.3 Stars? I’ll leave you with Fleetwood Mac.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Mathagrams”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, April 3

Just one day after I brag about reducing my solving time to the 4:30-6:00 range, I end up today with a solving time outside of that range. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

The theme for today’s puzzle contains two anagram sets related to numbers:

  • 20-Across: ELEVEN PLUS TWO is [13, and an anagram of 28-Across]. 28-Across, in turn, is TWELVE PLUS ONE, and is clued as [13, and an anagram of 20-Across]. PLUS anagrams to … PLUS; that ELEVEN TWO anagrams to TWELVE ONE makes this many times more interesting. I doubt I’ll create a divide when I say that’s pretty neat.
  • 45-Across: [., at times, and an anagram of 52-Across] refers to A DECIMAL POINT. 52-Across is I’M A DOT IN PLACE, clued as [., at times, and an anagram of 45-Across]. This one lacks the same inherent level of interest, as both expressions feel a little forced (that “a” accompanying “decimal point” subtracts from the luster).

If the union of anagrams and math is hitting your sweet spot, you might like this. In addition, there’s this.  Okay, you’re right. This “math puns” angle is getting a little silly. Its roots may be admirable, but most readers find it odd. I’m just trying to do more than reach the lowest common denominator.

SPLASHY, clued as [Flamboyant], has an appealing zazzle to it. I also liked SAO PAULO, SHIVERED, PROWL, and AZALEA.

LA RAM, NOT TO, NSEC, and ALTHO were unsightly, but I can’t say they detracted from my solving experience. In sum, a perfectly fine puzzle. 

Favorite entry = CSI: MIAMI, the [TV crime show spin-off set in Florida] that I’ve never seen. Favorite clue = [They often work in beds] for the suboptimal entry, HOERS. That one would have made the “unsightly” list but for the fun clue.

Oh, one more thing: this is my final CS posting, and very likely the last CS review on this site. I’ve very much enjoyed the opportunity to discuss puzzles every day on this blog, but new time commitments pending in the near future will limit the amount of time I can devote to reviews. I’m not leaving Team Fiend, however. Starting this Sunday I will be blogging the Sunday Post Puzzler freestyle crossword with Janie and Gareth. You’ll see me two or three times a month, and Janie and Gareth will each review a puzzle monthly. See you on Sunday!

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22 Responses to Wednesday, April 3, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    Tausig: Robert Zildjian died this past week, on 28 March. (52d)

  2. Gareth says:

    Solid theme, although I’m sure I’ve seen it before and I don’t care too much for baseball. Some beautiful answers: WAWA, BIGUPS, TOPTENHIT (for DJ Gary!), USEDTOIT… Needed about every cross for CANNONBALLRUN. I’m guessing this is why my time is above average for Wednesday whereas most people scorched it…

    PS anyone else think of the show “The League of Gentleman” on seeing “NO TAIL”

  3. Ethan says:

    This exact same theme was done on April 2 of last year. I mean, really, the same theme: SWING, HIT, RUN, SLIDE, SCORE, albeit with different theme entries.

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    With regards to the Blindauer Puzzle: I think the quints in the middle were less “Something Different” and more “mash three regular clues together into one”. I realize that may not sound all that different, but the syntax is a little less strained if you consider each clue as three separate parts, like “Pizza topping / king, to some / inner city area”. Still, cute theme.

  5. Todd G says:

    Jeff:

    Have you seen BIDDING WITH THE BARD, an NYT Sunday puzzles from 1985? You can see it at XWordInfo. Pretty amazing puzzle.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Thanks for pointing it out! Ah, halcyon days when bridge was played by most households in America…

  6. Doug says:

    Thanks for the memories, Sam! You deserve a break after two years of wonderful write-ups. And a tip of the hat to your predecessors on the CrosSynergy beat: Janie, Dave, and Amy.

    • Evad says:

      I bet no one is missing the scans of my error-filled grids, but I appreciate the shout-out all the same, Doug. I am in awe of the amount of time and effort Sam put into these commentaries and then add to that the Orcas write-ups, all I can say is “I am not worthy! Party on!”

  7. Milo Beckman says:

    A minor correction to the Blindauer review: Patrick’s quint stack is not a Something Different but five separate sets of 6 | 3 | 6 answers whose clues are concatenated with one another. So:

    26-a [Control] [behind] [singer Newton-John] = REIN IN | AFT | OLIVIA
    35-a [Workplace] [punch line] [sanitizer brand] = OFFICE | POW | PURELL
    36-a [Pizza topping] [king, to some] [inner city area] = OLIVES | ROI | BARRIO
    37-a [Word command] [they, in Paris] [stat] = SAVE AS | ILS | AT ONCE
    38-a [On the ground, in ballet] [troop carrier of WWII] [author Lofts and singer Jones] = A TERRE | LST | NORAHS

    • pannonica says:

      I perceived that, but still couldn’t avoid thinking about the Olivia Tremor Control.

      And how do we feel about OLIVIA | OLIVES, by the way?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      I wondered about this (as you can see in my writeup) but rejected it since the commas in the last three made it look like he was going for the semi-logical syntax typical of Something Different entries. But Patrick confirmed that you’re right, his intention was that they be read as three separate clues to three 6/3/6 entries.

  8. Maikong says:

    Sam

    I really enjoyed your reviews and will miss them very, very. very much. I feel as though I am losing an old friend. I wish you well in all your future endeavors.

  9. Bruce S. says:

    Sam,

    I always enjoyed reading your take on the daily CS puzzle and often the subtleties of the theme I may have missed. Thanks for all the laughs.

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    I too am sorry to see Sam moving on. Although the CS isn’t usually tough, except when it’s a Klahn, Sam has always been an enjoyable read.

    Best o’ luck!

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, everyone. I look forward to seeing you all on (most) Sundays. After two years of blogging every day, I have an even deeper appreciation for what Amy has done for many more years.

  12. JP says:

    Sam I taught myself how to do crosswords and your reviews were what helped me become a fiend. Thanks so much and I wish you all the best.

  13. Maura says:

    Sam,
    I wish you well. I will miss your daily injections of good cheer. I’m not a huge solver — in fact I only do the CS on paper in The Washington Post — but discovering this blog has been a nice addition to the solving experience. Thanks to all you dedicated blog contributors who make it more fun than just solving on my own.

Comments are closed.