Thursday, April 18, 2013

NYT 5:35 
Fireball 4:49 
AV Club 4:40 
LAT 3:58 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:17 (Matt) 

Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 18 13 #0418

We see a lot of the Alps in our crossword puzzles. We even see a lot of the singular ALP (blurgh—yes, it’s in the dictionary, but I still don’t like it because who the heck is using that singular in common discourse?). This time, ALPS is clued as 68a: [High points of which five are found going up in this puzzle]. There are five answers that include the letters ALP in their midst, and those answer phrases have the ALP portion climbing up a few rows in the grid. So that’s kinda fun, and it takes a little legwork to piece together what’s going on in the puzzle. Good Thursday ruse. Bonus points for the regularity of the theme answers, “__AL P__” phrases:

  • 22a. [Where seawater remains after an ebb], TIDAL POOL.
  • 38a. [Unethical law enforcement practice], RACIAL PROFILING.
  • 44a. [Baseball, in America], NATIONAL PASTIME.
  • 54a. [Engine's output], MECHANICAL POWER.
  • 67a. [Long writers' blocks?], LEGAL PADS.

Of course, when you have triple-checked squares where the diagonal portions are, the fill can get gnarly. There was only one flat-out “Wha…?” answer for me: 51d. [Perfume ingredient], ALDOL. Chime in if you actually knew that one so the rest of us may admire your chemical knowledge of perfume ingredients. (Dictionary tells me aldol means “a viscous liquid obtained when acetaldehyde dimerizes in dilute alkali or acid.” When the definition of an unfamiliar word itself contains two more unfamiliar words, you tumble further down the rabbit hole.) AAR is usually a wan little junk entry, but it has alpine cred. Take a gander at this paragraph from the Aar’s Wikipedia entry: “The Aar rises in the great Aar Glaciers of the Bernese Alps, in the canton of Bern and west of the Grimsel Pass. It runs east to the Grimsel Hospice, below the Finsteraarhorn, and then northwest through the Haslital, forming on the way the magnificent Handegg Waterfall, 46 m (151 ft), past Guttannen. Between Innertkirchen and Meiringen, the river carves through a limestone ridge in the Aar Gorge or Aareschlucht.” It’s almost Tolkienesque.

There’s even some good fill in the puzzle. Consider MAFIOSI, MIDDLEMAN, I’M HOME, and DIG UP.

4.25 stars, even with that crazy ALDOL.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 61″

Fireball 4 18 answers

There’s much to like in this week’s FB. Before I detail all that, tell me: What does the clue for 8a: CHANGE mean? [Slow pitch] … is this baseball, coins, tar, sales pitch, what? This isn’t one of the handful of answers Peter provides more info about.

Fave fill: CARL’S JR, HIT ON, FURSHLUGGINER (I had VERSHLUGGINER at first and was pleased to have nailed most of the letters on the first pass), VITAMIN B, CAMARO, AMY TAN, FOUL BALL, ALL ABOUT STEVE, GETS OVER, and ED ASNER.

Fave clues:

  • 14a. [Central American city], AMES, IOWA. Central U.S., not the south-of-Mexico region of Central America. Enjoyed this mislead very much.
  • 33a. [Bit part], ONE-LINER. Nice double meaning for “bit part.”
  • 51a. [Pal joey of Eeyore], ROO. “Pal joey,” lowercase j—cute.
  • 54a. [Police action?], TOUR. Pretty sure that seeing Sting et al twice when the Police were touring a few years ago knocked out some of my hearing.
  • 62a. [Any member of the Fierce Five], GYMNAST. The 2012 USA women’s gymnastics team at the Olympics.
  • 7d. [Setting of Volcanoes National Park], RWANDA. Did you think we were looking for somewhere in the US? Because I sure did.
  • 8d. [Group of buds], CREW. Nailed it off the R.

I just looked up my least favorite word in this puzzle. Did you know that NETTY is a word from the North of England, from the Northumbrian dialect, meaning “a toilet, especially an earth closet”? If only I knew for sure what an earth closet is. It’s this?

4.5 stars.

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

“LA Times crossword solution, 18 04 13″

University student Erik Agard has taken an offbeat approach to today’s theme. The observant among us have already noticed that the grid has left/right symmetry. The revealer occupies the bottom row: HIDDEN/AGENDA, which is a swell revealing answer! The next part is a little bit of a stretch, the hidden word is “item” as in the items in a meeting. We have BITEMARKS (interesting clue!), SITEMAP (modern), WRITEME (colloquial, although it looks like a cousin of phoneme and lexeme!), WHITEMEAT, and the mystery-to-me KITEMAN (apparently from the Batman comics. See here).

With 3×7 and 2×9 theme answers plus the revealer, we have 49 squares of theme, which is about par for the course. The grid, however, is designed peculiarly; where the two pairs of theme answers cross is a 4×8 swathe of white space. 4×8 stacks are tough enough without crossing themers, but Erik’s fill doesn’t suffer too badly, and there are actually fun answers among the 8-letter downs: HOMEBOY and BRASIZE especially!

With the wide-open spaces, come equal and opposite constricted corners. Erik has gone the Scrabbly route there: MAXX/REX/SEX and OSX/AXE. Only ISH is weak there and I liked GHEE as an answer: it doesn’t appear in as many crosswords as you’d expect for its letters! Also, is it hellishly expensive your end: a tub goes for around R100 ($11) or about double the cost of regular butter…

Other remarks:

  • I didn’t know [Restaurant survey creator], ZAGAT, but I’m guessing it’s Americana.
  • When I first bought ADELE‘s “21″, I was surprised that “Rumour has It” wasn’t a single; it took a while, but these days they space out singles from big albums for maximum overexposure (I think Shania Twain’s “Come On Over” was still spawning hits four years after its release!
  • UPCLOSE and SHOEBOX make for a nice bottom-left stack. I wonder if Erik considered [Stoner's purchase] for SHOEBOX…
  • The [Fish-and-chips fish] COD is I think typical in the UK. Here it’s mostly hake and gurnard.

Four stars: Appreciated the oddball approach to theme and grid construction and many nice answers balanced out the gristly bits like ENER and EELED.

I’ll leave you with music… KATY Perry? nah. Rather some bad-in-an-interesting-way early Wham!

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Love Handles”

AV Club crossword solution, 4 18 13

Everybody’s in love in Francis’s theme, and they’re all gay to boot (in the framing of the crossword, not in real life as far as I know). The conceit is hyphenated surnames after weddings:

  • 17a. ["Congratulations, Tina and Condoleezza ___!"] BROWN-RICE.
  • 21a. ["Mazel tov, Iggy and Chris ___!"] POP-ROCK.
  • 23a. ["It couldn't happen to a nicer couple, Sally and Doris ___!"] FIELD-DAY.
  • 34a. ["You look radiant, Martin and Berkeley ___!"] SHORT-BREATHED. You tried to figure out how SHEEN would fit in there, didn’t you? And then you said to yourself, “I’ve heard of ‘short of breath’ but not this ‘short-breathed’ concept.”
  • 44a. ["I think I'm going to cry, Natalie and Tyra ___!"], MERCHANT-BANKS. I don’t know what merchant banks are. I am no merchant.
  • 54a. ["May you have many happy years together, Eric and Frank ___!"] IDLE-RICH. Ooh, that’s a good one.
  • 59a. ["What a beautiful ceremony, Megan and Helen ___!"] FOX-HUNT.
  • 66a. ["Well, this is kind of a surprise, but ... good for you, I guess, Donald and Orson Scott ___!"] TRUMP-CARD. Card is the author of Ender’s Game and a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, so yes, that would be a surprise.

Eight theme answers is a whole heckuva lot. Which explains why there is so much horrible fill, like GHOST IMAGE and QUARTET and CASH CAB. Oh, wait, those are good fill. 8d: [Cassingle successor], CD EP, threw me for a while, but I can’t call it bad or inappropriate fill. URSO looks terrible in the grid, but it’s actually a two-word textspeaky partial that’s part of Francis’s overall LGBT theme: 11d. [Katy Perry's debut single "___ Gay"].

Okay, two pieces of out-there/what-the-hell-is-that fill: HMV, 39d. [Business acronym taken from a painting of Nipper], and XARO, 61d. ["Game of Thrones" merchant ___ Xhoan Daxos]. I’m fine with everything else, much of which is quite smooth because Mr. Heaney has mad constructing chops. The theme and bonus entries are delightful. 4.5 stars from me.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Concert Reports” — Matt’s review

A few stumbling blocks in this one for me. You know you’re a gridhead when you have ??LE for [African river that two capitals are on] and throw UELE in there without even considering that other really long African river that would have fit (and that turns out to be right). That finally fell, but E-TEXT took a while in that upper-middle, too.

Blew through the grid clockwise after that, getting WRONGFUL ACT [Tort] off the WRO- with no formal legal training. But a little trouble: had the E??? off [Freezer brand] at 38-d and put EGGO down before realizing it was EDY’S.

The theme entries are all clued as [Classic bit of inane rock star stage banter], and turn out to be THIS NEXT ONE’S…, PUT YOUR HANDS UP, HELLO CLEVELAND and I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I’m too UNHip to know the exact provenance of these; they might be all general rockstar jabbering, but I think HELLO, CLEVELAND could be a “Spinal Tap” reference. Yes it is.

SHIRR is to prepare eggs? Did not know that word. Liked TITLE SEARCH, CHILE, HAJJ, LITURGY, JITTERY and MYLAR.

Finally, re his alma mater UNH at 64-a: Brendan kvetched on Twitter this week that his Wikipedia page is not linked to by UNH on their “notable alumni” section. That prompted a surge of Twitter rage, and the school’s omission has now been corrected.

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16 Responses to Thursday, April 18, 2013

  1. jim hale says:

    Great puzzle. I enjoyed discovering the pattern and probably would not have gotten some of the fill without it.

  2. RK says:

    Thought it had to be national pastime and I saw pastime but I wasn’t sure of NATION. When I filled in ALPS I thought maybe Alps names was the thing which didn’t seem quite right (don’t know the Alps, they have names right?) but the diagonal upper third became too frustrating for me at the moment so I gave in unfortunately. Didn’t know OMAR, LENOS, POME, TRINI, DRNO, ATOY (who says that and why?), SELAH, SKI, ERIKA, ICET. Probably wouldn’t have seen the pattern anyway (or stuck around after finishing to see it) though if I knew what a tidal pool was… Hate being schooled, but then again being smart is not an accusation that’s ever been hurled at me. Rating: 0 stars……….for myself.

    Puzzles like these, or any puzzles really, demonstrate that Marx was right, right?

    • HH says:

      “ATOY (who says that and why?)”

      It’s often printed on plastic bags so that kids whose parents have better things to do than watch their kids don’t play with them and maybe put them over their faces and suffocate.

  3. Howard B says:

    Re: Fireball – CHANGE is a shortened form of “change-up” as in the slow baseball pitch. Not my favorite clue there, as it’s slangy announcer shorthand – but listen to enough games and you’ll hear it for sure.
    “He’s got a wicked change to complement that fastball. It’s keeping the hitters off-balance tonight… ” insert baseball anecdote… some stats… break for ads…. ” etc.)

  4. Gareth says:

    I’ve done organic chem as part of my BSc. Vaguely remember aldols, but had alkyl first… Finished with one mistake: AUR/LUTKA. AAR! AUR just sound more Germanic LATKA was always gonna be an “all the crossings answer”. Really neat gimmick though!

  5. Jeff M says:

    This remind anyone of the Blindauer Ant puzzle from ACPT 2012?

  6. Evad says:

    Thanks for the ‘splanation, Lucy….I mean Amy. I solved in the Stand Alone app and wondered if the print version had the ALPs circled, but I see from the pdf link here, they did not. I saw that the phrases were continued, but first thought the diagonal rows of 3 black squares held the ALP connections, but that didn’t seem to work.

    I enjoyed the gimmick a lot now that I see how it works.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    NYT was tough! I stared at the end result (having cheated on 1A) and finally saw POOL, POWER, PADS, etc., but not the full hidden answers… too bad I missed the full effect! The LAT’s HIDDEN AGENDA ITEMS was more my speed today, I guess. Or I was up too late in the wee hours looking at the horrific explosion in West, Texas — more nightmares after the Boston bombings. Very shocking.

  8. Matt says:

    I’ve seen the Aar– in Berne, it’s a baby river (à la Marianne Moore):

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Railway_bridge_over_the_Aar_Berne.jpg

    Really neat puzzle, only saw the climbing ALPs when the whole thing was done.

  9. David L says:

    ALDOL was at least vaguely familiar — I couldn’t tell you what it is, exactly, but I knew it was something chemical. The big mystery to me was SELAH, which Wikipedia tells me is a word of uncertain meaning that’s found in the Hebrew Bible. Now that’s esoteric…

  10. Francis says:

    SELAH is crosswordese from way back; you see it in the book of Psalms at the psalms’ endings. I assume it was the mic-drop of its day.

  11. AV says:

    And three 1-stars for this gem of a Thursday. Oh boy!

Comments are closed.