Friday, April 5, 2013

NYT 3:52 
LAT 8:51 (Gareth) 
CHE 5:38 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Roger Ebert, rest in peace. His Sun-Times colleague Neil Steinberg wrote a lovely tribute, as have many others. Roger was perhaps the best and the most beloved critic ever. When I met him at his book signing, I told him that I was once described as “the Pauline Kael of crosswords,” but that I really wanted to be the Roger Ebert of crosswords. I’ve still got a long way to go to reach that goal.

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 5 13, #0405

Hey! Peter starts the puzzle appropriately with KICKS OFF at 1-Across, but then neither of the Z answers shows up in the last spot. But that’s okay. It’s a fun puzzle without a “The End” entry. And it feels more like a zippy 72-worder than a 66-worder.

My favorite 10 entries are as follows:

  • 31a. [Pop punk band with the 2002 triple-platinum album "The Young and the Hopeless"], GOOD CHARLOTTE. Totally needed crossings, but I know the band’s name even if the album title and genre were no help to me.
  • 35a. [Last song heard on Disneyland's Splash Mountain], ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH. Now that is a zippy answer. (Even though, on their own, DEE, DOO, and DAH are boring answers.)
  • 42a. [Big game show prize], a NEW CAR!! You can’t say this without the exclamation points.
  • 1d. ["Batman" comics sound], KAPOW! 
  • 12d. [Noted cliff in Yosemite Valley], EL CAPITAN.
  • STAN LEE and ZAC EFRON, full names.
  • 29d. [Grp. whose flag has 12 stars], THE E.U. First time I recall seeing this in a grid.
  • 31d. ["Up top!"], GIMME FIVE!
  • 36d. Greasy part of pork], FATBACK. With a name like that, it has to be … inedible?

Also, did you get a load of those three long answers in the bottom? VW BEETLE, AAA RATED, and NBA STARS all begin with non-word-type letters. (Is AAA RATED pronounced “AAA rated” or “triple A rated”?)

And now, some clues I wanted to mention:

  • 48a. [People without a religious affiliation, in modern lingo], NONES. Did you need crossings to put this answer together, or do you use this modern lingo? It’s odd that this word has “nuns” for a homophone.
  • 17a. [Half of an old comic film duo], PA KETTLE. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello … Ma and Pa Kettle?
  • 18a. [It includes picking the place], EXACTA. Horse race, betting, correctly picking the “win” and “place” (1st and 2nd) horses. Horse racing, of course, is an industry rife with abuse that leads to the untimely demise of far too many horses. /soapbox
  • 59a. [Court luminaries], NBA STARS. Coming a week and a half after high-profile Supreme Court hearings, I was picturing black robes rather than long shorts.
  • 21d. ["Well, that one doesn't work"], IT’S A DUD. I’m afraid the entry itself is also my opinion of this entry. It’s so meta. It’s as if TERRIBLE ANSWER were in the grid. I hated, hated, hated this entry. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it.
  • 40d. [Mortimer of old radio], SNERD. Hang on a second! You can’t be a ventriloquist on the radio! You could totally move your mouth and nobody would see it! (Snerd was the name of Edgar Bergen’s dummy. Edgar was Candice Bergen’s dad. I don’t know whether the dummy was like a brother to her.)

4.25 stars. Lots of zip and very little doo.

Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

“LA Times crossword solution, 05 04 13″

I am feeling ambivalent towards today’s puzzle theme. If you’re still confused, the theme answers are all spoonerisms, i.e. the consonants of two words have been swapped and the result clued “wacky-style”. That’s pretty broadly defined as themes go. On the other hand, Ned White has used the opportunity to cherry-pick (er) some great, original answers rather than golden oldie spoonerisms… At least this is one for those who love hookers!

The answers are:

  • [Falk and Fonda after mud wrestling?], ICKYPETERS. “Picky eaters”
  • [Overzealous peach eaters?], PITNICKERS. “Nitpickers”
  • [Oils a deck of cards?], SLICKSUPTHEPACK. “Picks up the slack”
  • [Security images of an armed robbery?], STICKUPPIX. “Pick-up Sticks”
  • [Gal idolizing actor Matthew?], PERRYCHICK. “Cherry-pick

Quite a dense theme, so mostly the non-theme fill is predictably utilitarian. We do have NOTACLUE and the fun-to-say CHOCTAWS. I don’t remember seeing INDUS in many puzzles despite its letters and geographical stature.

There were some cunning clues [Net profit makers] are ISPS – as in internet. [Lost, as a tail], SHOOK refers not to actual tails and lizards, but people following you.

Lastly, I found myself stuck in a few small corners and struggled to put the puzzle to bed, how about you? I’m not sure why the clue for WHISK was so opaque, but my unfamiliarity with BUCKO and my sketchy familiarity with ARKIN made that area tough. I even started doubting HUR for a bit! I had to post-solve google what [1970s-'80s self-improvement course] was all about. Apparently this. Oh and in the process I discovered this, which is if anything weirder! Also didn’t know [Coney Island" documentarian Burns] – Flair and Ocasek are the two typical crossword strong>RICs. Also was semi-stumped at STOLI/LAG as I wasn’t thinking about specific brands of gimlet ingredients. Let it be clear none of this is being held against the puzzle, it is after all a puzzle, so complaining simply for being puzzled is unfair. None of those crossings are unfair in the slightest. I’m just supposed to record my solving experience, and a lot of it was spent on those few squares!

Perfectly fine puzzle, I’m rating it a 3 but feel free to share your own experiences below!

Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Musical Comedy” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 4/5/13 • “Musical Comedy” • Holland • solution

I suppose this could also be called “Mr Holland’s Opus.” The long across answers offer common musical terms, but the twist is that they’re reimagined in a lateral way, and clued in this alternative sense. More opportunistic clue than revealer, 58-down [This puzzle's theme entries, e.g.] PUNS, offers some guidance.

  • 18a. [One clever kid?] A SHARP MINOR. This one works better on paper than as spoken, since the emphasis moves from the first word to the second in the punnification process.
  • 25a. ["John Hancock" on the Declaration of Independence?] KEY SIGNATURE. Hm, I like the twist, but is his autograph more crucial than any others, or just famously the largest?
  • 48a. [Flawless bottle of booze?] PERFECT FIFTH. Good, but my mind habitually goes to the practice of incorporating both sweet and dry vermouths in a cocktail when I hear “perfect” in this context. This is idiosyncratic and not a real slight against the clue or answer.
  • 63a. [IOU for twenty-five cents?] QUARTER NOTE. Damn, I can’t find any nit—marginal, far-fetched, or other—to pick with this one. What will all the other mean, nasty critics think of this lapse? I’m such a failure.

Puns are verbal riffs, and if I didn’t already think MIDRIFF was a great word, I’d certainly think it is in this puzzle, appearing as it does down the backbone of the grid. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s such a thing as a MIDRIFF in musical notation. In any case, riff does have a musical connotation.

Three of the four long downs—SENATES, ARMADAS, STYLETS (all plurals, you’ll notice)—have strong Latin roots. SLANTED is the odd one out here. Speaking of that location, it’s the part of the puzzle that I completed last. The trouble was with 20-across [Rid of impurity], which I figured was past tense, first filling in CLEARED, much later modifying it to CLEANED, and finally—when the crossings simply would not coöperate at all—realizing there was no clever misdirection of tense predicated on “rid,” and that the answer is CLEANSE.

Notes:

“Fitzcarraldo” by deviantartist “Fleischparade”

  • 32a/35a: What a nice, higher-eddy way to clue the evisceratingly blah words THE and DEAD by presenting them in sequence and referencing the [ … James Joyce novella from "Dubliners"]!
  • The consecutive appearance of NAIF and YAHOO is also scintillating, at least mildly so. Can something be said to be “mildly scintillating”?
  • 57a [Verb associated with Neville Chamberlain] APPEASE. He’ll never live that down, poor guy.
  • 8d ["Fitzcarraldo" director] Werner HERZOG. Great movie, but I adore even more the earlier Herzog/Kinski South American film/debacle Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes.  Don’t miss the documentary My Best Fiend. You read that right.
  • Low CAP Quotient™ makes for a non-ruffling solve overall.

Good, enjoyable puzzle, despite musical terminology being not 100% my bag.

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chance of Showers” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 4/5/13 • “Chance of Showers” • Stone • solution

The chance is 100% that RAIN will show, if the fill is a long across theme answer.

  • 23a. ["Push 'em back! Push 'em back! Way back!"?] FOOTBALL REF(RAIN).
  • 39a. [Imposter pretending to be from Manama?] BAH(RAIN) HUMBUG.
  • 49a. [Parts of transportation for passengers and their autos?] CART(RAIN) WHEELS. Both clue and answer are strained. Speaking of which,
  • 63a. [Cops huffing and puffing during a chase?] POLICE ST(RAIN)ING, which is not strained at all. Such is the quality of mercy.
  • 81a. [Like a jumbo egghead?] B(RAIN)Y AND LARGE.
  • 89a. [Mariner who can be taught?] T(RAIN)ABLE SALT. See also 48a [Ingredient of eau de mer] SEL.
  • 111a. [Put handcuffs on, and get no resistance?] REST(RAIN) IN PEACE.

[Unstable internet this morning caused my brilliantly literate and stunningly insightful analysis to disappear into the ether. You'll have to settle for this hasty, inferior approximation. Apologies.]

Cute theme. Most of the precipitated phrases caused at least a smirk to cross my face. Two of the phrases (49a, 89a) share the train root and two others (63a, 1a1a) share the strain etymology. It’s clear, however, that an effort was made to separate these phyletic entries from each other: train as a noun and then as an adjectival version of a verb in the first pair, and strain converted to restrain in the latter.

I also appreciate how the position of the inserted letter quartet varies from phrase to phrase (although it never appears at the very beginning of one). RAIN never spans across two words; I’ll not undertake even a cursory investigation to see how feasible it may have been to generate a few of those (enough to ensure that the theme answers didn’t have just one or two anomalies), but I suspect the answer is “not so feasible.”

And in a poetic touch, the base phrase for the last themer is “rest in peace,” which has an obvious sense of finality.

During the solve I was encouraged by the unusual number of single words among the long non-theme answers: NEOLIBERAL, BILINEAR, IDIOCIES, PORTRAYALS. They so often  feel more impressive or gratifying than phrases, even strong, cogent phrases. Speaking of which, NOBLE BLOOD and LOW FAT DIET are none too shabby.

More:

  • [Burn soother] for both 37a BALM and 55a ALOE.
  • 56d LINE ONE, the not-so-pretty answer to also not-so-pretty [Spot for gross receipts or sales on Schedule C] (though it is timely) detracts from the appeal of the aforementioned BILINEAR.
  • New-to-me vocabulary: CALTROP, which is apparently the name for the [Spiky device thrown in the road to puncture tires]. It’s an ancient technology and seems to be derived from its similar appearance to the water caltrop. This gives me an opportunity to lay down one of my favorite fun words: rozsocháč.
  • With the interruptions, I’ve forgotten many details of the solve, but I don’t recall an excess of crosswordese, abbrevs., partials, et cetera that unduly intruded on the experience.
  • Favorite clue was probably 20a [Way to order dressing or earn extra money] ON THE SIDE. Many others were typically tailored and framed for the business-oriented readership befitting the Wall Street Journal.

Good puzzle.

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46 Responses to Friday, April 5, 2013

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Five stars. This puzzle was fun and flawless. ZIP A DEE DOO DAH indeed!

  2. andreacarlamichaels says:

    KAPOW! Peter Wentz, my fave constructor KICKSOFF a great puzzle from word one!
    Four K’s in the first four downs!!!! You have got to love this guy!

    Easy one for some reason bec I kept guessing right…
    (Like, even on GOODCHARLOTTE, even tho I thought their name was sweetCHARLOTTE and don’t know the song!)

    Fave part was the lower SE with the first two letters of all words being totally unexpected:
    VW
    AA
    NB
    At first you think you are making a mistake (Tho what could it be besides “EVAN Almighty”…and I had just read an EVAN comment…PSYCHOPOP! (Kidding…))
    But then the crossing words are VWBEETLE, AAARATED, NBASTARS.

    Ironically, ACME was my last fill as I struggled to think of ZAC’s name.

    Loved EXACTA and his ZIPADEEDOODAH right across the grid.

    There is always some much verve and Scrabbledyness and energy in his puzzles! I just love him!

    I never know if playground taunts are ARESO, AMTOO, IAMSO, AMNOT…
    Or if party folks are DEM, GOP, REP, before POL…but that’s my only trip up.

    And I learned a lot (eg SIXTY for Babe Ruth, Kegler being related to bowling, you know, sports stuff).
    Fun, visual def for FREE.
    Anyway, thank you, Peter Wentz, definitely not a dud

    • Evan says:

      And this is how I know “psychopop” is reaching critical mass — it’s being exported outside of Rex Parker’s blog! All I need is for Will Shortz to say it at the ACPT….

      *** For those who don’t know, it’s a term I invented a short while ago to describe a situation where you think of a certain answer one day and then it shows up in the puzzle the next day. The more uncommon the answer, the better the psychopop.

      • Gareth says:

        I’ve had the reverse happen so often… Some answer I had no clue on in the puzzle? Almost guaranteed to come across it 3 times in the next week!

      • pannonica says:

        Just a variation of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, no?

        • Evan says:

          Yes, but with a super-cool and catchy sound! Plus it makes me feel like a super-villain every time someone says it, so I’ve got that going for me.

          • pannonica says:

            Actually, it makes me think of a slicker, more produced version of “psychobilly,” as exemplified by the Cramps.

  3. Martin says:

    Exceptionally smooth grid today. I agree the fill was more like a 72-worder than a 66. Nice central stacking with lively phrases too. The absence of 3-letter crosses down through the stacks is a good touch as well. THE EU had me completely fooled until the very end … a totally legit, and quite unexpected answer.

    -MAS

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Also enjoyed the puzzle. Wasn’t there also a movie called “Bruce Almighty,” or did I make that up?

  5. Howard B says:

    Can anyone explain the answer at 48A, NONES? Is that one word? ‘NON-Es’? It’s completely alien to me and I needed all of the crossings. Thanks much :).

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Howard,

      I *think* the point is that sometimes on questionnaires you are asked to state a religion, and the last choice is often “None,” which I take as a roughly synonymous shortened form of “I have deeply felt and important spiritual and metaphysical interests and preoccupations which cannot easily be subsumed under the rubric of any organized religious faith with fixed dogmas, rituals and cultural formats, some of which may be appealing to me, and some which are not.” (etc.)

      • Howard B says:

        Thanks Bruce, that answers that very well. Clearly NONES fits better in the grid though.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Excellent, very clever, somewhat challenging LAT. *Highly* recommended.

  7. Gareth says:

    Strange but true: this is the first time Woody Guthrie was mentioned in a clue for OKIE/OKIES. To me he’s probably the second most famous name associated with okies after Steinbeck!!! I mean he had a whole album called Dustbowl Ballads. Topnotch puzzle. Black-square heavy, but all five stacks chock-full of great answers!

    • Huda says:

      Guthrie also wrote a book called “House of Earth” which has been newly discovered and published, and which I have on my reading list. My father-in-law is an Okie who lived through the dust bowl era. An amazing struggle and it sounds like this book captures it in Guthrie’s inimitable voice.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Superb puzzle.

    Here is a link to 10 reviews by Roger Ebert of movies he hated:

    http://now.msn.com/roger-ebert-quotes-10-films-he-hated

    I did not realize how many zingers he had. He was my favorite movie critic primarily because he reviewed movies from the perspective of whether or not he enjoyed them at some level.

    Steve

    • john farmer says:

      Much to say about say Roger, who will be dearly missed. Though he famously “hated” some movies, he was also famously easier on movies than other critics, a sign, I believe, of his broad appreciation of different kinds of movies as well as his deep passion for film, which came through in all his work. He addressed why he gave out so many stars in this post a few years ago.

      • john farmer says:

        Here, btw, is the Metacritic page on popular critics. Roger: “On average, this critic grades 12 points higher than other critics.” (Really only two critics rated higher, and one was a guy named Siskel.)

        • sbmanion says:

          John,

          Do you remember the name of the famous critic who could routinely be relied on to provide a positive quote for some execrable slasher movie that might get 10% or worse on Rotten Tomatoes? The guy I am thinking of has been interviewed and spoofed on numerous occasions. I am not even sure he is still around. Not sure that this is enough info either. My info reads kind of like a “what’s in my pocket” riddle. he may have worked for Entertainment Weekly, or else Entertainment Weekly had another critic who found something positive in the worst movies. And I am not talking about myself either, who routinely gives four stars to a Steven Seagal straight to video opus.

          Steve

          Steve

          • john farmer says:

            Armond White? He’s gotten into some (semi-)famous dustups with other critics over the years, including Ebert (who had supported him at times too). He used to write for the N.Y. Press. Not sure what he’s doing now.

          • sbmanion says:

            I have heard of White, but don’t think that is the one I have in mind. I did a Google search and I am pretty sure the guy I am thinking of is Jeff Craig, who did a show called Sixty Second Preview. I am not positive he is the one or if he is still around.

            I used to go to movies that Ebert praised and avoided ones that the best blurb available was from Jeff Craig.

            Steve

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            The technical term for such “critics” is blurb whore. Do we know if they pocketed payoffs from the studios for the glowing quotes?

          • sbmanion says:

            Amy.

            Thank you for the reference to “blurb whore.” I googled it and the blurb whore I was thinking of was Jeffrey Lyons. What is it with these guys named Jeff.

            Further review of Jeff Craig reveals he may never have seen the movies he raved about.

            Steve

          • Jeffrey says:

            “What is it with these guys named Jeff.”

            I don’t know, but a lot of them seem to like crosswords.

          • john farmer says:

            Yes, but at least the Jeffs that like crosswords actually do the puzzles. So I hear.

          • john farmer says:

            I, on the other hand, would be willing to offer my services as a blurb whore for any crosswords, whether I’ve done them or not.

            That is, if there are payoffs to be had. (I have to draw the line somewhere.)

  9. Matthew G. says:

    I have definitely seen NONES used to mean, collectively, atheists/agnostics/secularists/nonbelievers, etc. But that’s because I am obsessed with opinion polls, which often use the term in reporting their results on religion matters. I was not aware it had become a common-enough term to be in the NYT puzzle, and hesitated to fill it in because I thought I was mistakenly letting a jargon term I knew supersede some more common term. I was somewhat surprised when the crosses confirmed it.

    Anyway, it’s hard to imagine a better Friday puzzle than this. I’d argue that maybe the cluing could have been made a tad tougher, but the grid is utterly flawless. Five stars from me.

  10. cyberdiva says:

    Steve, thanks very much for the link to the Ebert reviews. I loved it!
    Perhaps I’m just in an enthusiastic mood. Enjoyed both the NYTimes and the Chronicle puzzles. My favorite musical answer in the latter was A SHARP MINOR for “one clever kid.”

  11. Katie says:

    What am I to do without Sam’s CS review? I enjoyed his sense of humor and appreciated his insight into the clues and answers I missed. Thanks, Sam! I shall miss checking in with Crossword Fiend each day. I’ve got my fingers crossed that another quick-witted crossword lover will pick up the CS review some day…

  12. Jeff Chen says:

    Fantastic NYT! Zippy fill with PB smoothness. And loved the LAT too; SLICKS UP THE PACK made me laugh (perhaps an insider shout-out to Erik “Slicks” Agard?).

  13. JP says:

    Where is the crossynergy review? I’m lost.. Halp

    • Rock says:

      no longer reviewed here:(

      But did John Farmer just offer?! LOL

      I’m no pro, but the theme was tables …picnic periodic etc.

      Have a good night everyone

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Great day of puzzles, which I clearly liked better than the consensus, especially the LAT, and also the wsj, which I thought was great. Surprised, though, that Pan or Amy didn’t scoop me by pointing out that women play rugby too.

    • pannonica says:

      Don’t recall which puzzle it was, but seem to remember the clue was something along the lines of [Like {sport x} and rugby] and the answer was MANLY. Manly isn’t synonymous with manhood. Sound reasonable?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        My roommate in my first year of college played rugby. Oh, you should have seen how proud she was when she sustained her first rugby blood.

        • sbmanion says:

          I played two years of rugby when I was in law school. I discovered that I was not as manly as I thought. It is one thing to hit a guy/girl real hard with pads on, quite another when your only equipment is a rubber-buttoned rugby shirt.

          Steve

  15. Papa John says:

    Amy, are you seriously questioning Snerd being on radio? I remember listening to him on the Chase and Sanborn Show in the early nineteen-fifties.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ventriloquism on the radio is not a neat trick! Did he at least have a large studio audience who could be impressed at Bergen’s ventriloquism skills?

      • Jeffrey says:

        Wikipedia: Bergen was not the most technically skilled ventriloquist – Charlie McCarthy frequently twitted him for moving his lips – but Bergen’s sense of comedic timing was superb, and he handled Charlie’s snappy dialogue with aplomb. Bergen’s wit in creating McCarthy’s striking personality and that of his other characters was the making of the show. Bergen’s popularity as a ventriloquist on radio, where the trick of “throwing his voice” was not visible, suggests his appeal was primarily the personality he applied to his characters.

        And per your other comment, Candice frequently spoke about being treated as Charlie McCarthy’s “little sister” and she was not thrilled.

      • janie says:

        hmm — maybe try this on for size:

        http://theoldtimeradioshow.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/209-03-09-bergen-and-mccarthy-final.mp3

        i’m pretty sure that’s the real thing and no laugh track.

        and here’s a backgrounder:

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

        ;-)

  16. AV says:

    Excellent NYT – not too happy about COSTS being on the Balance Sheet. NETWORTH, mmm, maybe, but not COSTS. Anyone else insert ASSET for COSTS?

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