Friday, April 19, 2013

NYT 4:31 
LAT 2:49 (Gareth) 
CHE 4:17 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Ned White’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 19 13 #0419

Solid Friday puzzle, with some fresh fill, little in the way of iffy fill, some interesting clues, and the perfect level of difficulty for its day. Four stars from me. Over and out.

What? You wanted more? If you insist.

Top fill: BRAT PACKER, REHYDRATE, I’VE HAD IT / UP TO HERE, BE AN ANGEL, KID SISTERS, FRABJOUS, CHEERIO, THREE-DAY weekends (who doesn’t appreciate that?), and ROLAIDS. Oh, and DAPHNE from Scooby-Doo.

Favorite clues:

  • 18a. [She said "Don't be humble. You're not that great"], MEIR, Golda.
  • 37a. [It might elicit a shrug], APATHY. I don’t care about apathy, I really don’t.
  • 53a. [Giverny's most famous resident], MONET.
  • 54a. [Evidencing change?], JANGLY. Nobody likes an inveterate pocket jangler.
  • 4d. [Digital print source?], TOE.
  • 31d. [Mate via mail], PEN PAL. Did you read the clue as a verb phrase first and wonder how that worked?

No idea about these:

  • 44a. ["There's many ___ ..."], A SLIP. AS LIP? A slip, “…twixt the cup and the lip.
  • 47a. [Composer Harris and others], ROYS. Paging Bruce M. Who on earth is Roy Harris?

Unimpressed by ISL., N-TEST, IS A, A SLIP, ROYS, three-S PSSST, CVII, FAINTISH.

Loren Smith’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Front Rhos” — pfannonica’s write-up

CHE • 4/19/13 • “Front Rhos” • Smith • solution

I confess that I don’t understand what holds this theme together. Exhibit A: The title: “Front Rhos.” Rho is the Greek letter that looks like the modern P but is unrelated. Visual comparison: Ρ, ρ, ϱ : P, p. The capitals are nearly indistinguishable (at least in the blog’s typeface). Exhibit B: 64a [What the people who came up with the spellings of 17, 21, 40, and 57 Across apparently were] PEA-BRAINED. All right, keep that in mind. Continuing: the four theme entries enumerated are longish words beginning with a silent P, obviously fulfilling the “front” element of the title. Let’s list and consider them in typical FiendCo. write-up style:

  • 17a. [Term that means "treatment of the soul"] PSYCHIATRY. The good news: the etymology is Greek. The bad news: the root is ψυχή, which begins with psi, not rho.
  • 21a. [Canadian game bird] PTARMIGAN. Aside: have always loved this word. Moving on, ptarmigans are holarctic in distribution (though the familiar white-tailed ptarmigan is indeed restricted to North America). That they are found in the Old World is sensible, as the common name is a modification of Scottish Gaelic tarmachan. Where the initial p comes from, I don’t know. The name entered English in the 16th century, so perhaps it was the contemporary penchant for Latinizing many things to within an inch of their lives. Nevertheless, no rho.
  • 40a. [Old German coin] PFENNIG. You’ll be unsurprised to hear (I don’t say learn) that it’s the source of our penny. The pf- lexeme is common in German, originates from the Great Consonant Shift of I-Can’t-Bother-To-Look-It-Up-Long-Ago-Century and has, you guessed it, nothing to do with rho.
  • 57a. [Affliction of the lungs] PNEUMONIA. From the Greek πνεῠ́μων (lung), whose first letter is pi, which is also – you guessed it – not rho.

So, four-for-four for that “front rho” not being a rho at all. From this perspective, the puzzle’s title makes no sense. Back to the revealer. The clue, once again, is [What the people who came up with the spellings of … apparently were]. The pivotal words here are spellings and apparently. “Spellings” places the focus on (English) orthography rather than etymology. “Apparently” is a more generalized, get-out-of-jail, weasel word, but don’t misunderstand me and think I’m being scornful—I use such words often, more than I should. But let’s think about the clue some more. “PEA-BRAINED,” at face value—which is to say, in its metaphorical sense—means to have a small, pea-sized brain and presumably limited intellect.

However, it seems the intent in context is primarily to emphasize the Ps which start each theme answer. Disregarding the conflict with rho in the title, this is not so bad as a way to characterize the four themers, but it’s still somewhat (see? a weasel word!) problematic. How? Because now the element of a homophonic pun has been introduced, which adds another layer of complication and confusion. The conventional spelled-out version (name) of the letter P is is pee,” not “pea.” Of course, PEE-BRAINED means not much aside from describing puerility, and has no independent standing (that is, it isn’t a recognized preëxisting phrase). Now, were I to think of PEA-BRAINED as a revealer in a crossword, I’d probably expect the other answers to contain words like POD, VINE, SHOOTER, SPLIT, et cetera. To summarize my take on the revealer with a clever SEGUE (67a), it tries to split the difference between the metaphorical and the somewhat literal yet succeeds in neither. So, even divorced from the “rho” issue of the title and despite the deployment of the two extenuating words, the revealer remains fraught.

Now, the good news! The puzzle’s fill – including the four theme answers, let me emphasize – is very strong and—

Oh, wait. One more thing. 40d [Sacred hymn] PSALM. Another silent initial P. Not a rho either, but I should think you already knew that by now. The original Greek ψαλμοί begins with psi, just like PSYCHOLOGY (17a). This entry isn’t identified in the revealer and its symmetrical partner (MR BIG) does not possess the relevant characteristic. As such, 40d is an unauthorized interloper, employing the theme conceit but not officially part of the theme, and further muddies the field.

We now return to the beneficent part of the write-up. The medium-length theme entries (two pairs of which contain words that physically overlap each other significantly: four letters) provide room for the ballast fill to stretch out and intermesh well. The quartet of seven-letter downs is commendable and the bottom two have tough clues: NBC NEWS, UGLIEST, TRIUMPH [Ancient Roman equivalent of a ticker-tape parade], JAMAICA [Spanish Town location].

Pfeffernussen:

  • Puzzle begins with a toughie: 1a [ __ Bill Weedles (Land of Oz character)] CAP’N.
  • Trickiest clue: 23a [Holes in trunks] NAVELS. 47a [Try to see the present?] UNWRAP is fun, too.
  • Favorite clue pair: [Habiliment] and [Harbinger] for TOGS and OMEN, respectively. (33a, 12d)
  • Head to toe: 9a [Fancy hairstyle] UPDO, 55d [Fancy footwear] HEELS.
  • Other clues of note: the alliterative OWEN [Wister who wrote westerns], the concise yet evocative [Frog-pond sounds] for PLOPS. (34d, 48d)

Good but troubled puzzle.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

“LA Times crossword solution, 19 04 13″

As the more of astute of you have already noticed, I’m scheduled to blog my own puzzle today. Obviously I’m not fit to objectively review it, but I’m more than qualified to summarise how the theme is supposed to work, and I can give you a bit of insight as to what went on behind the scenes.

First off, I’m surprised Rich Norris chose to run this on a Friday. Normally he runs wordplay themes on Fridays, and considering that’s (mostly) the only day he runs them on, I assume he isn’t running low? But I think the change is good, lest things become to predictable!

The theme is MINCEDOATHS, which are defined as interjections that are altered forms of swear words. The minced oaths here are minced a second time, in this case in the cryptic crossword sense where it’s one of many clues to anagram. We have MIDDLEAGED (EGAD = “Oh G–!”), OBJETDART (DRAT = “G– rot!”), SALLYRAND (DARN = “Damn!”, and COSTPRICES (CRIPES = “C—–!”). A bit flat as a set of theme answers? Maybe. My first draft had the anagrammed parts alternating from front to back, but that was vetoed: too difficult to explain which part to anagram without circles (which don’t appear in all the places the LAT is published) and too loose too (to heavily paraphrase, but I think that was the gist). Another idea I had was QUENTINTARANTINO as a theme answer, but the grid would have had to be 16×15, it would’ve been a tough sell…

Rich Norris rewrote the bottom-right corner. KKK at 62d was a terrible answer, in hindsight. He also (of course) changed a number of clues, less than normal though, which is weird because I wasn’t expecting this to run on Friday! Highlights in the changes:

  • [*Celebrating the big five-oh, say], I had “big four-oh”. Fourty-somethings and can all breathe a sigh of relief!
  • [*Dancer with many fans]. My clue was more straightforward. Clever!
  • [Its young are called crias]. I wish I could take credit for that! (It could’ve been an in-joke for participants at learnedleague.com!)
  • [The "you" in the 1968 lyric "Gee I think you're swell"]. Terser than “The ‘you’ in “I really think you’re groovy / Let’s go out to a movie”".

Oh and don’t think you’re getting away without an earworm!

Mel Rosen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On a First Name Basis” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 4/19/13 • “On a First Name Basis” • Fri • Rosen • solution

It wasn’t until beginning to compose this summary that I looked at the puzzle’s title and appreciated the fullness of the theme. Until then I’d only thought that the gimmick was entries functioning as clues for other entries, cross-referenced. But it turns out those “other” entries are also people’s given names.

  • 22a. [Definition for 13-Down] COFFEE, SLANGILY.
    13d. [See 22-Across] JOE.
  • 43a. [Definition for 45-Across] NIGHT BEFORE.
    45a. [See 43-Across] EVE.
  • 51a. [Definition for 67-Across] TAVERN TOTAL.
    67a. TAB.
  • 71a. [Definition for 63-Down] PLAINSPOKEN.
    63d. FRANK,
  • 81a. [Definition for 46-Across] FRANK.
  • 101a. [Definition for 98-Down] COLLEGE OFFICER.
    98d. DEAN.
  • 36d. [Definition for 12-Down] BEAM OF LIGHT.
    12d. RAY.
  • 39d. [Definition of 100-Down] GENTLE TOUCH.
    100d. PAT.

I was unfortunately at first deceived into thinking the theme was much, much tighter because the first pair I completed was 43a/45a; I thought all the cross-references would end up being sequential! No such luck – with the exception of the intersecting 101a/98d, none of the other pairs are proximate. Also, there’s no consistency with acrosses and downs   among the relationships. So it turned out to be the kind of puzzle that may be an admirable feat of construction, but generally isn’t a crowd-pleaser: either an exercise in tedium, slavishly following the references, or a partially blind solving experience in which one simply ignores the cross-references and works with the more immediate and accessible clues.

Else:

  • 65a [Density symbol, in physics] RHO. Say, where have I seen that recently? See also 89a [Pitchfork-shaped letters] PSIS. Bonus! 6d [Where H and Z rhyme] GREECE, that’s eta (Η, η) and zeta (Ζ, ζ).
  • Opening down salvo of FCC, IOOF, and LIFO. Ew.
  • Vaguest and most laughable clue, but probably just to me: 7d [Possum's Australian cousin] PHALANGER. I won’t go into it here, but if someone needs to know, I’ll address it in the comments.
  • Cute clue: [Prez after Bubba] DUBYA. (34d)
  • Best clue? 51d [A bicycle's built for two] TIRES.
  • Last square filled: crossing of 44d [Alla __ (simple, in Sicily) BUONA and 60a [Anwar's predecessor] GAMAL. Yes, I had an O there.

Okay puzzle, rather a slog.

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35 Responses to Friday, April 19, 2013

  1. Brendan says:

    Roy Harris is in that group of second tier mid-century American symphonic composers, which is basically all of them not named Aaron Copland. A couple more examples are Howard Hanson and William Schumann.

  2. Cyrano says:

    Anyone else not able to get the NYT today, either through Crosswords app or AcrossLite link here on Fiend? I had a subscription hiccup recently and want to make sure that my problem is not related to that issue. Thanks.

    • RK says:

      I had no problem with the AC link. And thank heavens the NYT was pretty easy as Dark Souls has almost completely sapped my patience. Don’t play Dark Souls, it will slowly destroy youuuuuuu……..

  3. Gareth says:

    “Bean angel can you hear me? Bean angel can you see me? Are you somewhere up above? And am I still your own true love?” Lots of great entries in today’s NY Times!

  4. HH says:

    Why didn’t LAT include “WATCH THIS”?

  5. Gareth says:

    Loren’s CHE is wonderful sans title… The title could’ve been “Pea-brained Spelling” or some such. I’m going to guess she sent it to somewhere that doesn’t do titles first, and had to come up with something… The PEA-BRAINED / SILENT P link is perfect IMO!

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Ditto to Brendan. Roy Harris is a major, though probably not great American composer who wrote in what I think of as a bold, brash, midwestern, not especially subtle style. Staccato melodies; wide open spaces. He was important as a composition teacher, and wrote some decent pieces of which the 3rd Symphony is probably the best. Here — I’ll hum the first couple bars for you:

    Dum DUMMMMMM, duh duh duh duh DUH. Duh DUHHHHH duh duh duh DUH.

    Do Sol mi fa fa re Do. Do Sol la ti do Do (downward octave leap on the last two Dos

  7. janie says:

    loren’s puzzle looks to be a debut — to which i say “brava, DIVA”!

    understand the possible compromise the title presents, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the solve, including GNAW, KNEE and even AETNA as bonus fill. even RHEA — which echoes the RHO in the title.

    ;-)

  8. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it. But is it kosher to have to answers with SLIP– CREDIT SLIP and A SLIP ? I hesitated over the latter because I thought it was frowned upon to have the same entry twice?

  9. Amy L says:

    In response to RHOnnonica’s rant: the silent Ps might as well be Rhos, since you don’t say them, i.e., RHOtarmigan is pronounced the same as Ptarmigan. For those of us who don’t know Greek, it makes psense.

    • Papa John says:

      “RHOnnonica’s rant?” It seems much more than that — perhaps a passionate dissertation.

      What mental contortions does the poor girl go through when deciding on a pair of shoes, not to mention a new car or — can you imagine — a lover?!?!

      Someone needs to remind her that it’s only a crossword puzzle. (Although it is fun to watch her put out all that effort and so much typing. For that we should all be grateful. Thanks, pannonica.)

      • pannonica says:

        Are you implying that I have trouble getting dates?

        p.s. I’m going with “exegesis.”

        • Papa John says:

          “Exegesis?” You’re not suggesting that a Friday puzzle should be treated as a Biblical passage, are you? No, no – I’m sure you mean simply as a lengthy, critical analysis of a text, using linguistic, historical and other methods of interpretation.

          • pannonica says:

            Exegesis doesn’t have to be about scripture. For instance, Flann O’Brien’s An Béal Boċt (The Poor Mouth) is subtitled “an exegesis of squalor.”

  10. Huda says:

    I loved the CHE puzzle. I “know” Loren from the Rexville, which is why I decided to solve the puzzle, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I ignored the title, and I don’t think it would have bothered me either way (for the same reasons Amy explained– insufficient knowledge of Greek). I thought it was a terrific puzzle, both fun and erudite. Girlie UPDOs and HEELS, sassy NAVELS, PEABRAINED PTARMIGANs, a cool definition of PSYCHIATRY (I have 3 psychiatrists in my immediate family. Where are they when my soul needs them?). Great cluing…

    Brava, Loren. It’s a TRIUMPH!

  11. cyberdiva says:

    I too loved the CHE puzzle, and the title contributed to what I liked. I loved the pun on “front rows,” and it seemed quite fitting, since the silent Ps are indeed at the front of each word or, in the front row. And so what if the etymology of the words didn’t include a word that began with rho? For me it was more than enough that each word began with a silent P, and that a P looks like a rho. That, plus some fresh and clever clueing, made this one tops in my book.

    I also very much enjoyed the NYTimes, but for a quite different reason: I solved this puzzle more quickly than any previous Friday in memory. Heck, I’ve had an occasional Tuesday (blush) that took me longer. It helped that EVAH (one of the first answers I put in) was all I needed to get IVEHADIT UPTOHERE and THREEDAYWEEKEND.

  12. twangster says:

    On the LA Times puzzle, I see how you unscramble AGED to get EGAD, DART to DRAT, etc., but can someone explains how the oaths are “mixed a second time.” In what sense does EGAD = Oh G–!, DRAT = “G– rot!, etc. Or maybe the reference to a second mixing is tongue in cheek?

    • Papa John says:

      I think “minced minced oath” is a more accurate reveler. The oath is “minced’ from its original form into a less offensive one and, then, minced again for this puzzle.

    • Gareth says:

      Not all oaths are minced. A minced oath is a word that deliberately sounds like a real oath. They entered the language as a way to swear without swearing back when that was far more serious than it is today. There are plenty more, like heck (hell), zounds (God’s wounds), and sblood (God’s blood). See

      • Papa John says:

        “Not all oaths are minced.”

        Hmm, true dat, but aren’t all minced oaths minced?

        (And why are we all posting in Italics?)

        (And now we’re not?!?!)

      • twangster says:

        Thanks, now I get it and can appreciate the theme. I did not know that a “minced oath” was a thing, but I see that it is. I also see that you explained it in the explanation (“interjections that are altered forms of swear words”) but my eyes somehow missed that.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        As an aside, the same phenomenon is found in other languages — e.g. the common French “Sacré Bleu” is really “Sacré Dieu” etc. I liked Gareth’s puzzle a lot, and found it very imaginative and creative.

  13. loren smith says:

    Hey, all! Thanks for the comments. It is indeed my debut as a published constructor, and it pfeels really weird. I just wanted to hide under my bed all day and hope the puzzle quietly slips by. . .As it was, I had to go to a meeting/lunch at the prison where I teach and have only now gotten home.

    Pannonica wasn’t ranting at all! Her points are all very well taken. I was extremely pleased that she put so much careful thought into everything, and I enjoyed the thorough analysis. And, honestly, I hadn’t even noticed the PSALM! In retrospect, though, I think I actually like that the P retains its silent integrity. I thought I would take a hit for PHDS or TRIUMPH, maybe. You notice that there’s no PH-initial entry, but there was one on the original theme list. My thought was simply a bunch of words that look like they begin with P but they really don’t. Patrick was obviously correct in wanting to limit it to silent P’s.

    David L – my P in PFENNIG is not totally silent, either. But I looked into it (polled co-workers, husband, friends. . .) and it seems for most, it is silent. My “Where’s my Hasenpfeffer?!” definitely has a slight little P in it.

    What a great experience to work with Patrick. The guy is so good. And nice. And generous.

    • pannonica says:

      I should have stipulated that the German pf- lexeme for all intents and purposes (as we borrow it) elides any p sound.

      Another thing that I neglected to mention and – amazingly, I think – no one else has is that the four theme answers each have a different letter after the P: S, T, F, N. That’s a very nice touch.

      • loren smith says:

        What started it all was when I was subbing a couple of years ago, and we were discussing alliteration. I asked my eighth graders if the following was alliteration:

        Paranoid Psychotic Pneumatic Philanthropic Pterodactyl

        We said “no”because every single word begins with a different sound. But we decided it looked kicky and hence is its own “visual alliteration!”

        In retrospect, I see I could have had a better one:

        Paranoid Psychotic Pneumatic Philanthropic Ptolemaic Pfennig

  14. Margaret says:

    Gareth, thanks for the puzzle and the explanation. I got the anagram part easily enough but the fact that these were “minced” versions of real oaths escaped me. DARN for damn and heck instead of hell I knew, but DRAT, EGAD, zounds or the others in your comment never occurred to me as being variants. Knowledge is good!

    As far as Elenore goes, did you know The Turtles deliberately wrote this as a parody? They tried to make the lyrics “strange and stupid” but they couldn’t help themselves, it was insanely catchy anyway. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elenore

  15. Amy L says:

    I didn’t mean to knock pannonica’s rant. I love it when people get obsessed with something and go all out. It WAS a passionate dissertation and was wonderful.

    Thanks pannonica and thanks Loren for getting us to hoe this rho.

  16. ArtLvr says:

    Hi Loren — Congrats: I enjoyed your debut immensely! Also got a kick out of Gareth’s notes on his own puzzle…

  17. Zulema says:

    I loved the whole discussion of the CHE prompted by P(f)annonica’s wonderful review – the opposite of a rant. And I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to the Bronx’s own An Beal Bocht (var. sp.), a congenial Irish pub, with a side-room where different kinds of music are played weekly (jazz, Shubert, etc.).

  18. I loved the CHE puzzle! I thought it was rather interesting!

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