Thursday, April 4, 2013

NYT 6:34 
AV Club 4:46 
LAT 4:13 (Jeffrey – paper, the way nature intended you to solve) 
BEQ 7:16 (Matt) 

Corey Rubin’s New York Times crossword

Before we get started, I noticed on the NYT puzzle page that this and the previous seven NYT crosswords were made by men. So I started scrolling backwards in Fiendland to see when the last time a woman’s byline appeared above the NYT crossword. No one since Paula Gamache, 3/8/13. Before that, three in February: Angela Olson Halsted, 2/25/13; Sara Kaplan, 2/19/13; Judith Martin, 2/13/13. Four in January: Jaime Hutchison, 1/28/13;  Susan Gelfand, 1/21/13; Elizabeth Gorski, 1/13/13; Andrea Carla Michaels, 1/6/13. So that’s 13% of the puzzles in January, 11% in February, and 3% (!) in March. Didn’t the NYT used to run closer to 25-30% women’s bylines? Have women stopped sending their puzzles to the NYT, choosing instead to pursue the LAT and other venues? Are women less inclined than men to tolerate the longer waits for decision/publication at the NYT? Are they fine-tuning their beef Stroganoff recipes? Or is it just random distribution, and most of April’s puzzles from here on out will be by women? Curious. It’s really a dramatic drop.

NY Times crossword solution, 4 4 13, #0404

Moving right along! If you solved in the newspaper or on a PDF, Corey Rubin’s puzzle looks different from what I have. Each 2×2 chunk of circled squares holding the same letter in all four squares should be envisioned as one big square holding one big letter, and those letters in the 10 big boxes spell out LARGE PRINT. Cute! It wasn’t too hard to figure out that the same letter should repeat in all four squares, given how many of the answers seemed to be one square too long. I knew ALEK Wek, for instance, and LAT had to be LAT. I did get tangled by putting SNOW PEAS where SNAP {P}EA goes, though.

There aren’t any theme entries per se, are there? The central 15s, FEA{R} OF HEI{G}HTS and STR{A}IGHTE{N}S UP, are just random fill, right? DR. ZHIVA{G}O and T{R}UMP CARD are great fill. And who doesn’t love a HO{E}DOWN?

Toughest spot: 18d. [Swiss resort city], LOCA{R}NO. Population 15,000? No, I don’t think I need to know this place, not unless the Olympics are held there.

So this puzzle mostly has standard Thursdayish fill, not too easy but (mostly) not too obscure. The gimmick is cute, though I do feel robbed of my fair share of letters. Those central 15s are only 13 letters long! Rip-off! 3.5 stars.

Ben Tausig’s AV Club crossword, “Oral Tradition”

When I filled in the four circled squares in the northwest, I figured the theme had something to do with BETA. But no, you read across both lines rather than looping around clockwise, and you get BEAT boxes. Thus:

  • 17a. [Nonsense word sequence referring to footwear and slashes that, spoken repeatedly, allows one to emulate 24-, 35-, and 52-Across], BOOTS CUTS. Go ahead, say it a few times.
  • 24a. ["Wipe Out" trio], THE FAT BOYS.
  • 35a. ["Just a Friend" rapper], BIZ MARKIE.
  • 52a. ["La Di Da Di" voice], DOUG E. FRESH.
  • 59a. [Vocalizes like 24-, 35-, or 52-Across, or things that appear four times in this puzzle], BEATBOXES.

If you don’t know what beatboxing is, check it out here. But I can’t imagine many AV Club subscribers are not in the know already. In fact, most of you probably know more about our theme entries today than I do. I had no recollection of THE FAT BOYS and don’t know the songs for the other two. But despite that, I liked how the theme played out.

Five things:

  • Did not know 28a: [Tribe of the Carolinas], CATAWBA—but I’ve heard of the Catawba grape.
  • 30a. [Hides from the enemy, in a way], great clue for ENCODES.
  • 1d. [Its genus is Nicotiana], TOBACCO. Ergo, nicotine.
  • 11d. [Ingredient in toothpaste], SAL SODA. I feel this is a crosswordese toothpaste ingredient best suited to IPANA.
  • 35d. [Cave muck used to make explosives], BAT GUANO. Breakfast test!

Liveliest fill: T-BOZ, DRIVE BY, SEE ABOVE.

3.75 stars.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LA Times crossword Thursday April 4 2013

Third Jeff in eight days in the LA Times. I really should submit more to them.

Theme: Look at the completed grid. Eight “BALL”s, which form the shape of a ninth BALL.

  • 7D. [Diamond deception found in this grid nine times: eight in square four-letter clusters, the ninth formed by the clusters' outline] – HIDDEN BALL TRICK

From my Litzing over 500 New York Times crosswords since 1970, I can say that, with the possible exception of dogs, baseball is the most frequently repeated theme. However, this puzzle is a nice fresh take.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Vicious with a bass] – SID of the Sex Pistols. Never liked their music, so no link. (I can do that, you know. It’s my post and I’ll link if I want to.)
  • 19A. [Kelly who voiced Nala in "The Lion King"] – MOIRA. Best opening scene ever.
  • 35D. [Prideful place?] – LION’S DEN
  • 4A. ["That's gotta hurt!"] – OUCH. LION in a clue and an answer is an OUCH.
  • 28A. [First name in jazz] – ELLA. I want to link.
  • 23D. [In an arranged swap, she guest-hosted "The Tonight Show" in 2003 on the same day Jay guest-hosted "The Today Show"] – KATIE. If it was an accidental swap, that would have really been cool.
  • 37D. [Two-bagger: Abbr.] – DBL. Bonus baseball reference.

Some bloggers would make a list of all the crosswordese and make a big deal out of it, but a cute puzzle is a cute puzzle. You have to make the crossings work somehow. In this case, the constraint on placing BALL in specific boxes adds a further level of difficulty. Highlighting your 78th favorite word is pointless and I wish bloggers would stop doing that. [/end rant]

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Clearing the Air” — Matt’s Review

Do you pronounce the word “air” as two syllables? If so, today’s BEQ will be a piece of cake for you:

20-a [Spiced analgesic?] = CINNAMON BAYER. What’s a “cinnamon bear”? Is it those boxes of bear-shaped cookies?

27-a [Municipal chief who's been in power for-ev-er?] = OLD GRAY MAYOR. From “old gray mare,” who may be an acquaintance of the cinnamon bear.

42-a [The totality of those using the scale?] = EVERY WEIGHER. From “everywhere.”

49-a ["I know he looks like speed solver Dan, but ..."?] = THAT’S NOT FEYER. “That’s not fair!”

Thumbs-up on the theme. Tough grid which took me 7:16. HOW’S THIS?, DIRECT HIT, ENERGY TAX and I RULE make the best-of list. 3.85 stars.

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27 Responses to Thursday, April 4, 2013

  1. I had BOOTS CATS in the AVXW before I realized that NYA made no sense at 6D.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I ‘ve come to the conclusion that I can safely ignore the Times exhortations on the notepad to go to the paper to solve non-standard puzzles. This instance confirmed that it’s a safe assumption. I imagine that someday it will come back to bite me.
    As to the puzzle itself, I guess I admired the construction without loving the solving experience…

    • Huda says:

      Two other quick notes: where was that PDF that we were supposed to print?

      And is URN really a part of a hookah? I grew up in the land of hookahs (which are called Argileh or Nargileh in several parts of the Middle East), and I have one sitting in my house, as part of my “drugs of abuse” collection (purely educational, I assure you). Anyhow, the darn thing has a water bowl at the bottom– is that the URN?

      • Ethan says:

        3andi nafs el-su2al, ya Huda, kan lazim aru7 l-”archives” minshan ajib el-PDF.

        • Huda says:

          Ah, I see!
          Amazing that you can do this, Ethan! I understood what you wrote but I don’t know how to do this transliteration of Arabic. So cool! And good phrasing. Are you fluent?

          • Ethan says:

            Shukran, ya Huda! I am studying in Cairo but I remembered you said you were from Syria so I used Shami :)

  3. Evan says:

    For the AV Club, I had TOMACCO instead of TOBACCO. “Simpsons” fans will recognize TOMACCO as the tomato-tobacco hybrid plant that Homer fertilized with plutonium. I didn’t really read the clue for 1-Down carefully, so I just filled in something I thought Ben would stick in the puzzle for us young ‘uns. And MOOTS CUTS sounded just as plausible as anything….

  4. LARRY WALKER says:

    The NYT site suggests one do the puzzle in pencil on a printout of the PDF version. I seem to recall seeing a button to print out a PDF version but couldn’t find one on the NYT puzzle page. Any suggestions???

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      They hide the PDF link in two places: the archive page (which is counterintuitive for a brand-new puzzle!) and the blog page (right next to the Wordplay post about the puzzle, making it hard to avoid spoilers). Just scroll down past the previous week’s puzzles and their big blue buttons on the NYT puzzles homepage, and click the “Browse the whole archive” link.

      Or just click the PDF link right here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend, on the “Today’s Puzzles” page.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Not the greatest puzzle ever, (and as Amy suggested, it seemed shorter and smaller than most), but I’m willing to give substantial extra credit for originality and creativity. Funny, though, I read it as “Print Large” (i.e. “print” as an imperative verb), not “Large Print”, and wondered if WS would count it as wrong if you didn’t print large.

  6. Evad says:

    Bad morning to try this in the Stand Alone app – no circles were imported, so I was envisioning diagonal blank lines through the puzzle!

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    SURLINESS ALERT
    **************

    Re AV Club: Well, I can’t imagine a NYT Puzzle Subscriber who hasn’t heard of Peter Gelb either, but that seems to be taken only as a lack of imagination on my part.

    • Jeffrey says:

      Peter who?

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        I guess you would find out the same way I would find out (if I wanted to) what — Beatboxing, “Your love is sweet misery,” The fat boys, Wipe out, Left Eye and Chili, Birmarkie, TBor, Up in the air, Anna Kendrick, Dougefresh, Second word of Superstar, Worm, Group quoted by Romney, Just a friend, Bootscuts — are.

        Peter Gelb appeared in a NYT puzzle a few months ago — one four-letter entry — generating much grumbling, (which I predicted to myself when I solved the puzzle). The most conspicuous, best-known figure in arguably the most important cultural institution in the world. Certainly one of them. But a puzzle can throw all the above bizarre arcana at us without creating a ripple. Well, I’m becoming militant about at least trying to create a small ripple.

        • pannonica says:

          I feel Peter GELB is acceptable in the NYT primarily because—as Director of the Metropolitan Opera—he has local currency (though of course it’s a world-famous institution and New York is a “world city” ). Would you feel as comfortable if it was a clue for the administrative chief of, say, La Scala?

          Oh, and HOWE GELB had a band called Giant Sand, so there’s that.

          • Jeffrey says:

            I’ve also never heard of any of those AV names.

            I accept that the New York Times will have many local references unknown to me.

            I do know who Neil deGrasse Tyson is.

  8. john farmer says:

    30a. [Hides from the enemy, in a way], great clue for ENCODES.

    Fine clue, and nothing wrong with it, but it uses the one sense of “encode” that we almost always see in crosswords, meaning the same as “encrypt” (def. 1 or 2 below). In the computer age, however, most encoding is not done to hide a message but to put a message into a standard format so that it is received and understood (def. 2 below).

    en·code (n-kd)
    tr.v. en·cod·ed, en·cod·ing, en·codes
    1. To put (a message, for example) into code.
    2. Computer Science To format (electronic data) according to a standard format.

    en·crypt (n-krpt)
    tr.v. en·crypt·ed, en·crypt·ing, en·crypts
    1. To put into code or cipher.
    2. Computer Science To alter (a file, for example) using a secret code so as to be unintelligible to unauthorized parties.

    Not a big deal, but I just wanted to point out that “encoding” and “encrypting” are not the same thing, even though you’d think they are by crossword cluing convention.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ll keep that in mind the next time I run into ENCODE while editing puzzles, John. Thanks.

  9. Gareth says:

    Yeah ACME (1 puzzle), Gorski, Lempel, CW Stewart, Wheeler (et al in case I ruffle anybody’s feathers) all quiet all of a sudden… Very odd. Maybe Will is hoarding their puzzles together for a giant women’s puzzle month???

    • andrea carla michaels says:

      yeah, Gareth, from your mouth to God/Will’s ear! (and I was only half that Jan puzzle that really Dan constructed!) He definitely has about 10 of mine on hold, so who knows?
      Part of the problem is that there were prob only two or three women in that 20 under 30 thing.
      It is about on par for the number of women constructors there are. Our mentoring thing didn’t wildly take off, save Zoe and Aimee the wundergals from Brown who are everywhere now. Don’t know what to say. I still think there are many reasons but yes, too tired to enumerate them. But keep keeping track, it’s a good reminder…

  10. LARRY WALKER says:

    Thanks Amy for the information.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I liked the BEQ a lot better when I realized I didn’t have to figure out who Carl Ease was. I was surprised to see Carl crossing Carl, though. What is ORLY?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I didn’t do the puzzle, but O RLY is text shorthand for “oh, really?” I’m guessing that’s what Brendan was going for rather than the French airport.

  12. Papa John says:

    Hey, Amy, thanks for the link to the story about Ms. Brill’s “mean beef stroganoff”. It cracked me up!

  13. Rock says:

    Miss you already Sam (CS xword)

    • David says:

      I completely agree. You never really know what you have until it’s gone. And it’s only one day.

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