Sunday, April 7, 2013

NYT 9:34 
LAT 7:45 
Reagle 7:26 
Hex/Hook 10:16* (pannonica) 
WaPo 9:51 (Sam) 

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Fitting Rearrangements”

NY Times crossword solution, 4 7 13 “FItting Rearrangements”

I enjoy anagrams, but apparently I have been enjoying anagrams for far too long because at least three of the anagram pairs in this puzzle were familiar to me:

  • 24a. [College student's place], DORMITORY.
  • 116a. [Apt anagram for 24-Across], DIRTY ROOM. Learned this one at least 20 years ago, probably more like 30.
  • 31a. [Procrastinators' enablers], SNOOZE ALARMS. I was going to argue that procrastinators merely put off work during their waking hours but then I remembered how long I stay in bed in the morning.
  • 3d. [Apt anagram for 31-Across], ALAS, NO MORE Z’S.
  • 42a. [Visa offering], DEBIT CARD.
  • 94a. [Apt anagram for 42-Across], BAD CREDIT. Hey! That’s a good pair. I don’t think I’ve seen it before.
  • 55a. ["Decision Points" author], GEORGE BUSH.
  • 30d. [Apt anagram for 55-Across], HE BUGS GORE. From 2000, probably. Feels familiar.
  • 79a. [Galileo, for one], ASTRONOMER.
  • 54d. [Apt anagram for 79-Across], MOON STARER. Also one I’ve known for decades, and an annoying one because when does anyone ever use the word “starer”? Has a roll-your-own word vibe to it.
  • 103a. ["Great" 1666 conflagration], FIRE OF LONDON.
  • 63d. [Apt anagram for 103-Across], INFERNO OF OLD. I prefer “of yore” for such formulations.

Hey! Wasn’t I just saying the other day that I have been waiting for ARSENAL to be clued as the football club? 26a. [British soccer powerhouse], boom.

Lots of longer fill in this grid. Highlights include ARSENAL the team, MADE NICE, FROM A TO Z, HIDEOUTS, REPO MAN, ABERDEEN, ROSSETTI, and CORDELIA.

I slowed myself down by trying an electric EEL at 83a (instead of EYE) and misdoing MARG Helgenberger as MARJ, and thus having two wrong letters in the Al Gore anagram.

Most hesitant fill: 71a. [Local bird life], ORNIS. I had it in there and took it out. Ornithology is the obvious cognate, but avian was intruding in my head.

Favorite clue: 1a. [Postal ID], IDAHO. Not “postal identification” but “ID to the postal service,” the abbreviation for Idaho.

3.25 stars. I like a more open grid, but if you’re going to play the game of apt anagrams, ideally you’ll slave over the art of creating your own set … and then matching up lengths and building a theme. It’s a lot more work, I know. And likely there are many solvers who will either enjoy learning anagrams they didn’t know or appreciate the gimmes for the ones they did know. (I appreciate gimmes most in really hard puzzles or in tournament settings.)

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Northern Neighbour” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 4/7/13 • “Northern Neighbour” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

This was a funny puzzle for me to solve. The theme played havoc on my somewhat shaky and inconsistent spelling that awkwardly straddles American spellings and their British counterparts (antiparts?), here couched as “Canadian.” I blame early exposure to UK editions of various books (as well as a measure of æsthetic (see?) bias).

The most noticeable difficulty, however, is evidenced by the black mark at the intersection of 53a and 39d. But that isn’t the real problem.

There’s an asterisk next to my reported time because that’s when I gave up and used the check solution option in Across Lite. I was convinced that the problem lay with 27-across [Furnace withstander]; I checked and rechecked the crossings, convinced that ABEDNEGO was wrong and that I was looking for something closer in spelling to asbestos. My failure here is due to my ignorance of the Bibble, for I have no knowledge of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and ABEDNEGO. My focus with that entry blinded me to the typo that was the actual problem, the one mentioned in the previous paragraph. Ironically, my obsessive rechecking of the crossings interfered with RETRY [Take another shot at]. Ha, ha.

Back to the theme.

  • 23a. [Ottawan's pet hue] FAVOURITE COLOUR. I don’t do the U thing.
  • 31a. [Canadian on a sci-fi journey] TIME TRAVELLER. I use doubled letters in such situations. Travelled, focussed, et cetera.
  • 40a. [Manitoban mug feature] MOUSTACHE. My preferred spelling.
  • 46a. [Acting and staging for Albertans] THEATRE ARTS. I generally don’t do the ER/RE terminal transposition, but will for effect or if replicating a place’s name.
  • 49a. [Home level around Hudson Bay] SECOND STOREY. I do that, which helps distinguish architecture from narrative. See also 61d [Flight segment] STAIR (for once, I didn’t fall for the misdirection!).
  • 65a. [Banff car tag] LICENCE PLATE. It took me forever as a child to understand the inconsistency I’d encountered with licence and license. My intention these days is to spell it the American ‘s’ way, but sometimes I slip.
  • 80a. [Acadian's grapevine phrase] RUMOUR HAS IT, which is the title of a hit Adele single, but that angle wasn’t available for cluing (notice how I didn’t spell it clueing?) as the decision was to go Canadian, and Adele is British.
  • 83a. [Mountie's slick move] MANOEUVRE. This one’s a hot mess no matter how you spell it. Up for grabs.
  • 92a. [Notable Vancouver skyscraper] HARBOUR CENTRE. Both variations covered elsewhere.
  • 106a. [Proof of payment in Toronto] CANCELLED CHEQUE. Yes to double-L, no to -que in lieu of -ck.

Nice how a few (the first one and the last two) double up on the spelling differences, especially as it’s done while (naturally) avoiding vocabulary duplications. The rest of the grid is filled with good variety: long and short, common and unusual, easy and difficult.

Notes:

  • Didn’t know: 68d [Racehorse __ Lap] PHAR, 69d [Woman's toga] STOLA, 6d [River through Verona] ADIGE, 73a [Praying figure] ORANT.
  • 81d [Rappish Rihanna hit] UMBRELLA, near 88d [Rappers' sounds] KNOCKS.
  • 90d [Pentagon alert rating] DEFCON, short for DEFense CONdition.
  • 84d [People things are named for] EPONYM. Also, perhaps curiously, the thing named for the (eponymous) person.
  • 36d [Still-life fruits] PEARS.
  • 12d [Batting champ Joe] MAUER, 34d [Skiing medalist Phil] MAHRE. Wasn’t familiar with the former.
  • AVAST, AFOOT, ABLAZE, AFAR, ADIEU, AMIDST, (but not A WETÀ LA, ACORN, ADORNS, ARAB, AGUE, APLOMB, A-LINE, AQUA or ADOBE). Think I assorted those correctly.
  • 89d [Reprint mag "__ Reader"] UTNE. Haven’t seen an issue in ages, but in my experience it contains a fair amount of original material as well.

Good puzzle, but the only rating I could possibly give it is of course an Eh.

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 157″- Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 157, April 7, 2013

I’m pleased to be one of the new reviewers of the Post Puzzler, along with Fiend vets Janie and Gareth. (Yes, it takes three of us to equal our predecessor, Doug. Even then we might come up short.) The Post Puzzler is routinely one of my favorites each week, so I’m eager to talk about it with you. For my first assignment, I drew today’s 66/26 gem from Patrick Berry. (I think I’m gonna like this gig.)

For new readers, “66/26″ is my shortcut way of noting that the puzzle has 66 entries and 26 black squares. For whatever reason, I always make note of this when I solve a freestyle crossword. I guess I’m more impressed with open grids, so for me it’s fun to track stuff like word counts and black square counts. When I’m solving, of course, these things mean nothing. But if a puzzle feels smooth and has a low word- or black-square-count, I’m super-impressed. And Patrick Berry is the Czar of Smoothness when it comes to low-word-count grids.

I broke into the grid with MBA as the [GMAT taker's goal]. Working off the rare letters M and B, I had little trouble with METEORITE as the [Lunar lander?] and BALD-FACED as the answer to [Audacious, as a lie]. Anytime you can get adjoining nines in the grid that early, you take it and run. Or, in my case anyway, take it and mosey.

It felt nice to plunk down ALASKAN KING CRAB as the [Catch on the TV series "Deadliest Catch"] with only a few end letters in place, as it gave me lots of new letters to work with and a sense that all that time spent with reality TV had its payoff. I then used the two Ks in ALASKAN KING CRAB to fill in the crossings, and in fairly short order the bottom half of the grid was complete.

The cuter-than-cute Valerie Bertinelli stars in a film that’s RATED G. As the film’s title implies, that bites.

It proved more difficult to crack into the top half, as the tail end of RECKONS ON (clued as [Expects]) just looked confusing. What could possibly end in -ONS ON? Once I figured out the [Planning problems] were KINKS, though, I started making my way up the staircase in the middle. That fed nicely into the northeast corner, and eventually I was able to work my way into the northwest corner. I thought I was done but wasn’t getting the green light from my solving software, so I lost another ten or fifteen seconds trying to find my mistake. Turns out I forgot to add the G at the end of RATED G ([Like "Hawmps!" and "C.H.O.M.P.S."]). Stupid blank squares! They always cost so much time.

Let’s cover the remaining observations with bullet points:

  • The grid is anchored by the four 15s, with the aforementioned ALASKAN KING CRAB and a DISMISSAL NOTICE on the bottom and INTER-OFFICE MEMO and TAILGATE PARTIES up top. TAILGATE PARTIES is not only the best of the 15s, it also has a terrific clue, [Vehicular blowouts].
  • I figured I was in for a real slog with the clue for 1-Across, [Balneotherapy venue]. What? I tried breaking down the word for hints: new ball therapy? I was befuddled. Luckily the crossings saved me. Once I finished the puzzle, I looked up the term online. The folks at Wikipedia (you know, the 15 year-olds?) define balneotherapy as “the treatment of disease by bathing, usually practiced at a SPA.” Um, isn’t bathing at a spa how you get a disease?
  • Anyone else try RANTS as the answer to [Shows signs of delirium]? It turned out to be RAVES. I’m just now seeing that Patrick squeezed a CLEANSE between TAILGATE PARTIES, SODOM, and RAVES. If we were playing the Sesame Street game of “One of these things is not like the others,” this would be a gimme.
  • [It offers time for change] is a great clue for a parking METER. It nicely echoes the clue for GULLS, [Parking lot scavengers, often]. I also liked [Pioneer wares] for STEREOS.
  • Hmm. TEA is clued as [Meal that might include cucumber sandwiches]. Really, high tea is a meal? For the peckish, maybe, but for this solver the finger foods at a tea service don’t even count as appetizers.

Favorite entry = SLIPCOVER, cleverly clued as [One rarely leaving the couch?] Favorite clue = [Cement layer] for a MASON.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Oh, It’s You”

Merl Reagle crossword answers, 4 7 13 “Oh, It’s You”

On the way out the door to lunch, so super fast. (LA Times after lunch and shopping.) Theme answers change an O (or multiple O’s) into U(s). IN THE WURST WAY was the best of the batch. MATCHING RUBES took me the longest to make sense of (when I wasn’t paying attention to the title’s hint that the base phrases had an O changed to U). “Matching robes” is the original here. WENT HUG WILD is cute, too.

Lots of ungainly/stodgy fill, capped by 86d. [Island group off the west coast of Sicily], EGADI. ["___, don't know what to make of this one"]. I have the sense that this might be an encore presentation, as not much in the puzzle feels too 2013 to me. I could be wrong, of course. But I do prefer puzzles that feel like they are from today.

2.9 stars, because while the theme was okay, I wasn’t loving the solving experience.

Don and Barbie Gagliardo’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “PC Connections”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 4 7 13 “PC Connections”

Utterly straightforward theme: A gazillion medium/longish answers have P.C. initial letters. They include the following: PIT CREW, PIN CURL, PLACE CARD, PLASTIC CUP, PASTRY CHEF, PURPLE COW, POOL CUE, PACE CAR, PET CRATE, POLAR CAP, PIE CHART, PEACE CORPS, POP CULTURE, PAINT CAN, PINE CONE, and PAPER CUT. Sixteen theme entries! That is a lot.

I was mildly thrown off the scent by the answer lengths. Some theme answers are 7 letters long, stacked with non-theme answers and shorter than a couple nonthematic 8s (BAD SPORT, which is great, and ARPEGGIO, which is interesting).

I wasn’t paying heed to the puzzle’s title, so for a long time this felt like an unthemed puzzle with lots of nice 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s.

Least familiar answer: 71d. [Waterproof boot], SHOEPACOld word—its use has been attested back to 1731. Who knew? Not I.

Worst crossing: DE* meets CL*P. 28d. [Every other horse sound?] has to be either CLIP or CLOP. Quick! What’s the Latin word crossing it? 41a. [__ volente] clues DEO (the phrase is Latin for “God willing”), but Agnus Dei is another churchy Latin phrase. If you don’t know your Latin grammar and when your god takes an O and when an I, you are fresh out of luck here. I would have opted for CLIP (clueable in an unambiguous way, as a verb or a noun rather than a partial sound effect) and DEI.

Least modern clue: 1a. [Bebop aficionado], HIPSTER. Today’s hipsters live in Brooklyn or analogous neighborhoods in other cities, wear dumb-looking hats, and buy new music on black vinyl. They probably are not into bebop. (No offense intended to our hipster readers. You know your hats aren’t for everyone because if they were, you wouldn’t wear them.) Honorable mention: Cluing PSY as 102a: [College subj. in which 44-Across would be discussed] rather than the unabbreviated “Gangnam Style” rapper from South Korea.

Three stars.

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20 Responses to Sunday, April 7, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    I didn’t know that these were preexisting anagrams. Having never encountered them, I chuckled at almost each of them and thought the puzzle was a nice change of pace.

  2. AV says:

    NIT: IF MATT G. RERAN GENRES?

  3. AV says:

    MATT REGRETS FANNING IRE :-)

  4. Ethan says:

    I could be off here, but I don’t remember ever hearing the phrase SNOOZE ALARMS. Digital alarm clocks have SNOOZE BUTTONS which you hit when you want ten extra minutes of sleep.

  5. Matt Ginsberg says:

    Most people seem to have liked this (and everyone seems to have liked the clue for 1-A, which I’ve been waiting to use for a while). But let me defend myself on the choice of anagrams.

    For me, these were all new although I didn’t think of them. Yes, I found them. But I assumed that the average solver would find them fresh as well — and the chances that I, with some huge amount of work, could find new anagrams that were as good, were probably zero. So by using these existing anagrams, I believe that I made the puzzle better for the vast majority of the five million or so people who solve each Sunday NYT. And yes, I saved myself some work in the process. :)

    Anyway, that’s my defense! For those of you (like Amy) who had already heard most or all of the anagrams, I’m sorry!

    • Huda says:

      I buy it. They were already done and fun, and the creative part was weaving them into a different kind of Sunday puzzle. Thanks!

      BTW, I just read a piece in the NYT about how to give positive and negative feedback. One of the most interesting points was that the more expert the feedback recipients are, the more they can tolerate criticism bit want it to be specific. I think the Fiend Team does this perfectly. Do the constructors agree? As a scientist who gets feedback all the time, I greatly appreciate the constructive, professional tone in Crossfiendalia.

      • john farmer says:

        My two cents, Huda: Feedback that is positive, regardless of how specific it is, tends to be appreciated; feedback that is negative, not so much. I hope that doesn’t come as a shock.

        A few other comments, in no particular order:

        - I think this site is aimed more at solvers than constructors (and not all solvers, but ones who have been solving for a while and are fairly proficient at it).

        - The NYT article, if it’s the one I saw, discusses the importance of not making judgments in giving feedback. Isn’t that the antithesis of much of the analysis here, with commentary and judgments culminating in a star rating?

        - The most valuable time for feedback, positive and negative, is when you’re learning to do something. Nobody is ever too old to learn something new, but for many constructors, especially ones who’ve been doing it for a while, feedback that points out the highlights and lowlights of a particular puzzle probably has limited value. Most likely, the constructors already know it, and they’ve accepted whatever tradeoffs they feel is necessary.

        - Feedback can be useful, but it’s probably best not to get too wrapped up emotionally in what others have to say. That goes for the good and bad. You need to develop your own sense of what works in puzzles, or doesn’t. That’s a surer way to success than trying to make puzzles you think others will like.

        - Once you have so many puzzles under your belt, you develop somewhat thicker skin, and if ever I cringe at blog comments (here or elsewhere) it’s probably when a new constructor’s puzzle gets slammed.

        My point, in short: this site can be many things, and entertaining and informative, but it’s really not the ideal environment for giving feedback to constructors. That’s not what it’s designed for.

        • Huda says:

          John,
          That’s a very interesting perspective about this site. I can’t really judge, since I’m no constructor. I had assumed that constructors would be curious about what plays well and what does not, why, etc. I can see your point that they already know the compromises they had to make and the highlights of their puzzle, and the feedback is “too late”, at least for that specific puzzle.

          I totally agree about developing one’s own sense of values and therefore a thicker skin. It’s definitely the case in my business… Being too responsive can dilute one’s style and originality and sometimes downright kill creativity.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I dunno about that “the constructors already know it, and they’ve accepted whatever tradeoffs they feel is necessary” part. How often is there an ugly corner of a grid that could be smoothed out with just a teeny bit of effort? There are plenty of examples where genuinely unnecessary tradeoffs have been made, which might suggest that the constructor doesn’t even view that particular spot as being problematic.

          For the record, when I list highlights and lowlights, I’m not really trying to coach the constructor of that puzzle. I’m calling attention to really nice things that solvers should appreciate, and with the lowlights, trying to coax the constructors and editors who read the site to try to avoid using the more blechy fill. We see ASEA all the time, but good gravy, there are good dictionaries that don’t even list the word! It’s not in modern usage, it just isn’t. It’s crosswordese (by my definition), and I’m tired of it. If nobody ever points out its crappiness, it will simply continue to live on in crosswords as if it’s perfectly respectable (#11 among 4-letter words in the Cruciverb database!).

        • john farmer says:

          Let me elaborate a bit. I didn’t say that the site can’t be valuable for constructors. I don’t see it as a site for constructors, however, but as a site for avid crosswords fans to talk about puzzles of the day. (Fwiw, I’m both, a fan who solves puzzles every day and constructs a few too.)

          I’ve read books by filmmakers about filmmaking, and books by critics about films. The approach in the two kinds of writing is very different. If you’re a filmmaker you may find value in both, but the creative and practical insights you’ll get from another filmmaker is not the same you’ll get from a critic. (I knew a film school professor who used to tell his students they should read widely to learn moviemaking, but they should avoid the critics and the trades. I wouldn’t go that far.)

          I don’t look at this as a “how to make crosswords” site. It offers criticism, good and bad, which is fine. In the world of crosswords, there are few places to go read about puzzles, so this site is especially valuable to anyone connected to puzzles. But if it were designed for constructors, I think it would be different.

          One valuable thing the site offers is noting changes in the language and the effect on puzzles. ASEA is a good example. Opinions may vary but I’d agree it’s sliding down the scale of acceptability. Otoh, I don’t think it’s news to the constructor that EGADI is less than desirable. (My comment about constructors knowing the good and the bad was for folks who’ve been at it for a while. Generally, I think that’s the case.)

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Oh! Well, EGADI, that’s for solvers who might be thinking that’s a word they should have known (it isn’t), solvers who are Googling the clue because that answer looks so wrong, and for me to enjoy an little “Egad! I ___” joke.

            When unfortunate words appear in crosswords, I don’t ever want a solver to go away feeling discouraged and dumb for not knowing those words. I want them to know which words appear mostly in crosswords so they’re not supposed to know them from their education and reading. I want solvers to expect (or at least hope for) the best.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    As an attempt to demonstrate that the most startling and unexpected forms of spiritual growth are always possible, I have been trying to remedy some of my most extreme and aggressively trumpeted forms of cultural deprivation. My guru is the 13 year-old son of a single Mom friend of mind, who (I hope) is becoming a *very* close friend. He and I drove to NYC yesterday for the auto show, and he played quite an interesting series of rap and dub-step pieces. I became quite interested, musicologically in dub-step. There are obviously many different sub-genres, which are hard to categorize musically in terms which identify the genre clearly. It has affiliations with Reggae and rap, clearly, yet there were passages several measures long which could easily have been lifted from Philip Glass, Steve Reich or Terry Riley, (and my guess is that some of them were.) Some of it was trivially uninteresting and some of it quite interesting. There was one piece which riffed in an interesting way on the 5- Note theme from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    By far the most amusing and entertaining stuff he played, (and this is what I’m asking about), were comedic rap/dub step pieces where famous figures “rapped on” each other, in the original, Eminem, 8-Mile sense. E.g. Albert Einstein Vs. Stephen Hawking; Darth Vader Vs. Adolph Hitler; Abraham Lincoln Vs. Chuck Norris. Some of it was pretty damn funny. He didn’t know who the comedic rappers were. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

    Has anyone heard of rapper called MacLemore (sp?)

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Oh Yes. Required content: I liked the NYT anagram puzzle better than the consensus, even though a couple of them were stale, but some were not.

    • Thomas says:

      The series is called Epic Rap Battles of History, and most of the episodes feature guest rappers. Einstein was played by MC Mr. Napkins, my favorite comedic rapper. As evidence of his love for language, his songs include “Sphygmomanometer” and “Antepenultimate.”

      Interesting trivia: Macklemore is the first Seattle rapper to get a platinum single (“Thrift Shop”) since Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

  7. Zulema says:

    To me they were all new, and I particularly liked it when they intersected. Thank you for a more interesting Sunday crossword than the usual.

  8. Milo Beckman says:

    One theme pair in the NYT is a part of what Will Shortz called his favorite anagram:
    ASTRONOMERS –> NO MORE STARS –> MOON STARERS

  9. Dan F says:

    For the record (since it’s late the next day and nobody’s mentioned it): the salient feature of the LAT puzzle is that the 16 themers are arranged in intersecting pairs. Thus, “PC Connections”.

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