Friday, May 3, 2013

NYT 5:58 
LAT 9:09 (Gareth) 
CHE 5:35 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 
CS 4:57 (Dave) 

David Kwong’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 5 3 13, no. 0503

I am beat. Long day, with a cold/cough. You know how it goes. Eyes blearing when solving the crossword? Check. Unable to remember the puzzle 5 minutes letter? And mistyping “later” as letter? Check.

David Kwong is, to my knowledge, the only combination magician/crossword constructor working today. I could be wrong.

Highlights: The structure of the puzzle is cool. Four 15s, spaced apart from one another, with the grid broken into six wide-open sections. ELECTRA and ORESTES make a nice pair. Carrie Fisher’s WISHFUL DRINKING is a book whose cover I just saw online recently, and yet I completely blanked on the title until I had approximately a dozen of the letters. TWITTER FOLLOWER is fresh and crisp. SEVEN OF DIAMONDS + Kwong = I’ll never know how those damn card tricks work. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, solid. MAKE GOOD ON, solid. PAY DIRT, lively. ARIANNA Huffington, au courant.

Favorite clue: 1a. [Singer's tongue], YIDDISH. The writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, not a little-S singer. Wonderful mislead.

Four stars. LAE, STEN, and ANUS … I mean, ANIS … are the demerits. IPSE and IDEM would grate in an early-week puzzle, but I think the Latin is fair game by Friday.

Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Heads Down” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I always enjoy the twist when the theme entries run down a grid instead of across, and today, constructor Sarah Keller positions them that way for good reason. Each ends with a word that can precede the word HEAD:

CS solution – 05/03/13

  • WALKING ON AIR – airhead; I’m not familiar with the original meaning of this word, just it’s more recent connotation of being ditzy.
  • HOURGLASS FIGURE – figurehead; another word that we now take on figuratively (“leader in name only”) instead of the carved figure at the bow of a large boat
  • LOOK WHO’S TALKING – talking head; time for an ear worm!
  • BUTCHER BLOCK – blockhead; for some reason I think of Charlie Brown when I hear this. Did Lucy call him that a lot?

In general, not a huge fan of themes like this, but the downward orientation rises it from the abyss of run-of-the-mill ennui. My FAVE and UNFAVE entry today was the same: [Like a woodshop floor] or SAWDUSTY. It’s so unusual in both a good and bad way it garners both awards today. I wonder if anyone who’s heard Son Of A Preacher Man live can claim to have done so?

Norm Guggenbiller’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth

“LA Times crossword solution, 03 05 13″

We have ourselves an old-timey idiom theme today made Friday-hard by the vague [Support #x] clues. RICHUNCLE feels quaint as an idiomatic phrase. I’m not sure I’m fond of the implications of the phrase SUGARDADDY. MEALTICKET/FATCITY also feel dated, but the MEALTICKET for A FREERIDE to FATCITY connection is clever!

Bullets highlighting entries from the rest of the puzzle:

  • 1a, [Tricky shot], MASSE. In pocket billiards. Here’s an extreme example
  • 32a, [Travelling Wilbury's co-founder Jeff], LYNNE. And originally of crossword favourite Electric Light Orchestra.
  • 37a, [Clichéd film assistant], IGOR. I like how the clue seems to imply a film assistant that’s a cliché but actually it’s asking for a clichéd assistant in films.
  • 66a, [Deg. for Tim Whatley on "Seinfeld"], DDS. I’ve watched a number of Seinfeld episodes. Not enough to recognise secondary characters though… Except iconic ones like Newman.
  • 4d, ["The Lord of the Rings" Hobbit], SAM. Full name Samwise Gamgee.
  • 7d, [Hang on a line], DRIPDRY. Great answer!
  • 8d, [Landlocked European country], MACEDONIA. Not one of the first I thought of! And you know what? I think it’s Sporcle quiz time!
  • 11d, [Magic Eraser spokesperson], MRCLEAN. Wanted McCLEAN or MaCLEAN, but neither looked enough like a name of the mystery Jets coach…
  • 12d, [Mishmash], MELANGE. Another spicy answer!
  • The 45d, 46d answers LIKENEW/ACETONE are particularly good when you consider there are two theme answers in that corner!

Skilfully-filled grid with a theme that other people will probably enjoy a lot more than me…
Gareth

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Color Mixing” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 5/3/13 • “Color Mixing” • Fri • Gale • solution

Solved this in the morning and am composing this midafternoon; as of this writing, I still haven’t bothered to go through the mechanics of assembling the theme components, and if I weren’t doing this for the blog, I wouldn’t trouble myself at all.

The puzzle is studded with the identical clue [Paint color] among the acrosses and downs. These answers are in turn cited by the clues (as “x + y”) for the conventionally-located answers, as bonus (or superfluous, depending on your opinion) definitions clues.

  • 22a. {Gathering of doves [66-Across + 72-Across]} PEACE MARCH {PEACH + CREAM}. Aha! I figured the colors would form a phrase that constituted an extra definition, but it turns out the two can be anagrammed (mixed) for the theme answer. This puzzle now officially falls into my category of “constructor’s puzzle.” That is, a puzzle that is more an achievement of cleverness and constructing, with little actual in-solve appeal.
  • 24a. {“Carribean Queen” singer [42-Down + 65-Down]} BILLY OCEAN {EBONY + LILAC}.
  • 41a. {You can see it with your eyes closed [37-Across + 4-Down]} MENTAL IMAGE {MAGENTA + LIME}.
  • 62a. {Winter breakfast, for some [39-Down + 101-Down]} HOT CEREAL {TEAL + OCHER}.
  • 89a. {Palomar 5, for one [98-Across + 75-Down]} STAR CLUSTER {SCARLET + RUST}.
  • 109a. {Bygone roadster feature [88-Across + 51-Down]} RUMBLE SEAT {SLATE + UMBER}.
  • 111a. {“Please be patient” [53-Across + 38-Down}] BEAR WITH ME {WHITE + AMBER}. Is this, the final themer, an apologia?

Okay, so it’s kind of neat that two random short color names (out of hundreds) can be combined to form a bunch of mundane, medium-length phrases. Is this worthy of a 21×21 crossword? Is it worth it for 14 short answers in said puzzle to have a relatively unhelpful clue? No. The solving process—for me, and I suspect most others—was simply to work with the clues for the the theme answers and ignore the color clues. So in effect, the theme was a hindrance rather than a help or an extra level of satisfaction (for the solver).

Perhaps if this were a fiendishly difficult puzzle in which the fill was so abstruse that it would be necessary to follow the cross-references to separate out the anagram constituents to finally complete the grid, it would be a different story. But this is decidedly not that sort of puzzle. It may be that a novice solver would require the extra help, but would such a solver be able to negotiate the mechanism of the theme? I don’t think so, so the crossword doesn’t satisfy in that hypothetical situation either.

Other:

  • 50a STAUB [Baseball's Rusty] duplicates theme contributor 75d RUST.
  • 82a, 83a [100 nanojoules] ERG, [Nanojoule, for instance] UNIT.
  • 40d, 91d [Ready for a tough task] ABLE, UP TO IT.
  • 51a [The Sakmara River feeds it] URAL, 25d [Missouri River feeder] OSAGE.
  • 100a [Name shared by counties in New York and Pennsylvania] TIOGA. Who knew there was another besides ERIE? For the record: Allegany/Allegheny (ny/pa), Chester, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Monroe, Montgomery, Sullivan, Warren, and Wyoming.
  • 35d [Beta preceder] ALPHA, 102d [Beta follower] GAMMA.
  • Critical misreads during solve: 49a [Aid the chef, in a way] PREP; I saw chief. 1a [Pre-1991 Georgia, e.g.: Abbr.] SSR; I saw 1891.
  • Ego boost that 68d was a gimme: [She took the concept "men are pigs" literally] CIRCE.
  • The partial ON A is unsavory, but it’s redeemed by having a current clue: 34a [Broadway's Hands __ Hard Body"], though it’s apparently “Hardbody” (the reviews aren’t nearly as damning as I expected them to be for such an odd subject for a musical). See also 31d ["The Anarchist" playwright] MAMET.
  • Appreciated the tricky-but-fair cluing such as 5d [Rosetta Stone vowels] ETAS and 19d [Introducer of Land-O-Matic landing gear] CESSNA.
  • Great misdirection clue at 59a [Mug for the camera, perhaps] ROB.
  • Unfamiliar fill: 107a [Game akin to gin rummy] COON CAN, 12d [Whimper] PULE.
  • Don’t hold your breath for St Ringo. 92d [Paul, George or John] SAINT.
  • Nice long down fill with Czarina ALEXANDRA and the MINUTEMEN, but only two feels kind of stingy in light of the middling size of the main themers.

Decent fill, relatively low CAP Quotient™, but a palpably unsatisfying solve.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Hard Places to Visit” — pannonica’s write up

CHE • 5/3/13 • “Hard Places to Visit” • Feldman • solution

Brief summary for a belatedly-available puzzle (I write this on 7 May). The five theme answers take the puzzle’s title literally; they’re locales beginning with a word describing ”a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids” (Wikipedia).

  • 17a. [Site of the largest government-owned U.S. arsenal] ROCK ISLAND. I hear tell of a train that goes past there. Also, I’m concerned – does the clue insinuate that there’s a larger non-governmental US arsenal?
  • 25a. [Ancient royal burial ground, according to recent evidence] STONEHENGE. Had not heard that news.
  • 34a. [Site of the National Pro-Am golf tournament] PEBBLE BEACH.
  • 49a. [Depression-era construction project in Colorado] BOULDER DAM.
  • 58a. [Historic Brooklyn neighborhood] COBBLE HILLCobble is an acceptable shortened form of cobblestone, but what exactly is a cobblestone? It is in fact “a naturally rounded stone larger than a pebble and smaller than a boulder; especially : such a stone used in paving a street or in construction” (m-w.com). Too bad rock wasn’t also included in the definition!

Just a few observations:

  • 22d [With 52 Across, stadium phenomenon] THE, 52a [See 22 Down] WAVE. Really? That warranted a cross-reference? While 50d [Gambler's accumulation] DEBTS languishes, uncoördinated with 3d [Amassed] RACKED UP? Despite the synonymity of accumulate and amass, I’m certain that they could be clued without mutual interference.
  • 38d [It translates to "belly cut"] HARA-KIRI. I was misdirected, thinking of beef or tuna, not people.
  • Ooh, look! ERTE! ARTY! (27d, 62a)

Solid puzzle, good theme, quasi-robust fill with a low CAP Quotient™, but not much about either theme or fill has that distinct Higher Education Vibe.

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28 Responses to Friday, May 3, 2013

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Loved it! It’s the kind of puzzle that makes you think, knowing that it will get you somewhere. Very nicely clued. Contemporary fill and yet some classics. Perfectly balanced, IMO.

    And I love the fact that there are 4 long answers vertically (10-mers) interweaving with the 3 horizontal 15-mers. Great design.

    Most poignant intersection: WISHFUL DRINKING and A CRY for help…

    Kudos!

  2. ktd says:

    1-Across had me thinking of Alvy Singer, what with the Woody Allen tie-in at MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I suppose Isaac Bashevis Singer is more accurate though! He’s an author I know by name only, not by works.

    Very nice puzzle overall. I liked finding ELECTRA/ORESTES, since I enjoyed reading the Oresteia in college.

  3. RK says:

    Enjoyable puzzle. Agree with Amy about YIDDISH. Kind of clue where your brain lights up, you smile and say, “nice.”

  4. Bencoe says:

    I’m usually not so much faster than Amy, so I was all excited when I saw her time for the NYT. But then–of course, she’s handicapped by illness. I’m not so smart after all.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Superb NYT. This is what keeps me coming back when I get morose and feel like walking away from puzzles altogether. I too was pretty close to par. No real snags, just a consistent, lively, enjoyable challenge.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    In Re NYT: Brucenm said it all. Great puzzle! I got 1A from the off. Those unfamiliar with Singer’s works, could do far worse than start with his gem of a short story –
    The Spinoza of Market Street

  7. Howard B says:

    Loved the NY puzzle today! Very lively.
    I had no idea what the YIDDISH clue meant, and after reading the explanation, I still have no idea, since I’ll have to check a Wiki link later. Wow, that one went above misdirection for me into the stratosphere. Just a knowledge canyon (wider than a gap) for me there in the writer category.

    Otherwise, a fun suprise around every corner.

    • bencoe says:

      Isaac Singer wrote his stories in Yiddish, to represent his heritage. I read one or two in school. I think I remember a funny one about the devil.

  8. e.a. says:

    am i the only one who takes issue with 5-down in the CS puzzle

    • Dan F says:

      Yeah, that was a bizarre clue! Is this 1956?

      Meanwhile, more weirdness in the Newsday puzzle — 20A and 62A shouldn’t be in the same grid.

    • Evad says:

      I meant to point that out as well. Anne Hathaway certainly doesn’t have one and look how popular she is!

    • Gareth says:

      OK, I didn’t solve this puzzle, but I went and looked at the clue: That’s just bizarre!!! It’s stating an opinion as though it’s some sort of objective reality!?

    • Martin says:

      My first reaction was to glance up and confirm the constuctor was a woman. That removed a lot of tension.

      OK — referring to female beauty is sexist and all, but I think that secondary sex characteristics are more than an opinion.

      To start with, an hourglass figure has a definition. It comprises a bust from zero to one inch larger than hips and a waist 9 inches or more less than the bust.

      I do anticipate pushback of the “these ratios are attractive only because advertising …” variety but I really think evolution has played some part. Believe it or not, scientists of both genders study such things and there lots of theories as to why this profile is attractive to men. I don’t think any of the theories are close to being accepted, so there’s little point in discussing them.

      I think the entry causes the problem. I’m not sure there’s a way to clue it that doesn’t call attention to a woman’s physical attributes, which, I think, is what we’re sputtering about. But calling the sexiness of 36-26-35 an opinion is a bit much, in my opinion.

      • Evad says:

        Why not just clue it as “36-26-35, e.g.” and get the opinion out of it?

        • pannonica says:

          Martin has a lot of good points, many of which I would have pointed out, but as I hadn’t seen the clue I went to check in order to get a fuller perspective on the brouhaha before wading in.

          I agree with Evad, the primary issue is the way the clue is stated, in the superlative [Sexiest shape a woman can have].

          Some, or even many, psychological studies may show that to have validity on average and in the aggregate, but it’s simply tempting fate to make such an assertion—without any qualification whatsoever— in the abbreviated style of crossword cluing. Tempting fate beyond tempting fate, I should say, since it also, predictably, will be and obviously has been interpreted by many to be retrogressive and/or sexist.

          • huda says:

            That definition is so un-PC it’s actually appealing in a retro sort of way.

            And Martin, I admire the depth of your knowledge on the subject.

            I had a colleague at Stanford who had a “bust:arm ratio” that he held as sacred (pre PC days).

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Martin, this is an evolutionary psychology–free zone.

  9. joon says:

    so i can’t be the only one wondering if the SEVEN OF DIAMONDS entry means that this puzzle is part of a david kwong magic trick. (especially since the D crosses DEALT, clued via a reference to cards.) in fact, i’m convinced of it. surely this has something to do with it, too, right?

  10. Martin says:

    I think Joon has a point. I was wondering the same thing… especially after the constructor tweeted about this entry (or probably this entry) a couple of times before the puzzle was published.

    -MAS

  11. jefe says:

    Minor error in the Blindauer – the clue for 24A should end with (8,5), not (8,4).

    Loved 20A – we used to call our trivia team “How the F— do you spell Gaddafi?” and we’d write it a different way each round.

  12. sandirhodes says:

    WSJ: Can’t let this go without a comment, albeit late. A lot of 5 ratings means a lot of disagreement with the review. While not a speed solver, I found the puzzle a nice mix of back and forth between clues and answers to come up with a complete grid. I kind of like solves like that. If I could go through a grid without at least some confusion, I wouldn’t solve crosswords. What would be the point? I liked it, and that opinion is not biased by how I felt on the particular day I solved it. Sorry, p, but I just couldn’t let your words be the definitive review of this puzzle!

    • pannonica says:

      No offense taken. That was my impression, and I’m neither authority nor arbiter. Just to be clear, though, I didn’t come to the puzzle in a bad mood. This kind of showy puzzle that involves what’s essentially make-work on the solver’s part does not please me and rarely holds my interest. I do, however, enjoy a challenging puzzle, one that puts up a fight or causes me to really think creatively.

      • sandirhodes says:

        I thought I’d throw in, completely irrespective of the above conversation, what I’ve come to find is the basis for my favorite puzzles. When I’m finished with a puzzle, the inherent feeling of accomplishment is nice. But when it is overpowered by a nagging regret that the experience is over, I gotta know that I really enjoyed the puzzle.

  13. Lou says:

    I also enjoyed the WSJ puzzle and used the colors to figure out some of the answers.

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