Monday, May 6, 2013

NYT 3:27 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:30 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:43 
CS 5:11 (Evad) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 5/6/13 • Mon • Fagliano • 5 6 13 • solution

Three lengthy answers, each containing a long-u sound, each time spelled differently, and each appearing in a different part of the answer: the end, the inside, and the beginning.

  • 20a. [E. M. Forster Novel] A ROOM WITH A VIEW.
  • 38a. ["Count on me"] I WON’T LET YOU DOWN.
  • 51a. [Signature song for MC Hammer] U CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Fourteen letters, then 15, then 14 again. Five words, five words, four words.

Long verticals are E FOR EFFORT [Grade meaning "Maybe you failed, but at least you tried"] (I never knew that it implied failure, just that it indicated a subpar performance accompanied by a certain enthusiasm), and O HOLY NIGHT [Carol with the words "hear the angel voices"] (I momentarily thought Carol who?), DROVE MAD, and NEATNIKS.

Favorite part: that the across answers begin with [Big first for a baby] STEP, and end with [Call it a day] STOP. GET-GO is in the middle, vertically, which mars my preferred poetic interpretation of those other two.

Crosswordiest fill for this Monday: ADZES, AGHA, Villa d’ESTE.

Good, modest puzzle.

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Say Ah” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Constructor Randolph Ross reminds us today to see your dentist regularly by adding “ah” to words in common phrases:

CS solution – 05/06/13

  • [U.S. Navy officer who smokes a water pipe?] is CAPT. HOOKAH – put that in your pipe and smoke it!
  • [Really delicious and colorful sushi fish?] is SPECIAL OPAHS – I eat a lot of sushi, but have never seen opah on the menu; does it have another name? (I wonder if the constructor considered another related theme entry, [Sushi named after a Roman emperor?] (play along in the comments)
  • [Building an ark, for one] is NOAH DECISION – but aren’t arks for two, not one?
  • [Nice comment about the God of Islam] is ALLAH‘S FAIR – wanting an “in love and war” to finish that phrase off. I wonder why we don’t see the Renaissance poet Lyly in puzzles more often?

I think I prefer my ah’s to end words instead of be imbedded in them (as was done with ALLAH’S and OPAHS). Seems a bit clearer that way. Was a nice twist, though, to have the modified word be spread between the first and last words of phrases to keep the solver guessing. My FAVE today is the clue [Old laptop instruments], which aren’t iBooks, but LYRES, I guess traditionally played in one’s lap. My UNFAVE is the unusual abbreviation (to me, anyway) of MUS. for [Juilliard subj.]. What’s wrong with [What Menelaus and Morpheus have in common]?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 5 6 13

Lots of FRESH, [Never-seen-before] stuff in this 62-worder, despite the low word count. Highlights:

  • 6a. First word in a Bobby Darin hit], SPLISH (splash, I was taking a bath).
  • 20a. SNEAK PEEK.
  • 23a. GET BUSY.
  • 38a. [State of mind whilst going ballistic], BEAST MODE.
  • 42a. [Cup in a coffee shop], TIP JAR. Tough clue, as cup ≠ jar. But I can envision a cup being used as a countertop top jar.
  • 13d. [Website feature that's designed to get traffic from elsewhere], LINKBAIT. Dreadful stuff.
  • 21d. [Last thing to do before getting one's Masters], PUTT. And then put on an unattractive green jacket.
  • 29d. [One akin to a Directioner, Selenator, or Swifty], BELIEBER. I’ve never seen the other three in the clue—One Direction, Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift fans, I presume.
  • 45d. [The ___ Fund (Boston Marathon bombing charity; please give)], ONE. $28 million raised so far to help support victims over the long term—with medical care, psychiatric care for PTSD, etc. Donate here.
  • 1a. [Shunning community?], AMISH. Break the rules and you may be shunned forevermore.

Four stars.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write up

LAT • 5/6/13 • Mon • Chen • solution

Much like an O. HENRY (43d) tale with a twist, this puzzle’s theme resolution took me by surprise.

  • 20a. [Blew a fortune] LOST ONE’S SHIRT.
  • 35a. [Prim and proper sort] GOODY TWO-SHOES. (“Ah,” I thought to myself, “it’s going to be about articles of clothing. Yawn.”)
  • 52a. [Protector of the president] SECRET SERVICE. (“Huh? Neither is apparel!”)

But before I could stop to think about what properly linked these three answers, I was finishing the grid, coincidentally—or, I suspect, by design—at the bottom right: 65a [Emphatic refusal, and words that precede the ends of 20-, 35- and 52-Across in a restaurant warning] NO NO NO. Three nos, in an actual phrase, one for each of the three long answers: NO SHIRTS NO SHOES NO SERVICE. Yes, I still picture a pantsless customer demanding service, and it still gives me a giggle.

This puzzle worked so well for me—first confusing my expectations, then subverting them, followed by an explanation—because it was an easy crossword, which I was able to solve in essentially a smooth top-to-bottom manner. Had it been a more difficult, late week puzzle, the theme would have been just as intrinsically clever but perhaps not quite as rewarding an experience.

While solving, it felt as if there were a lot of short multiple-word phrases. Not “damnable” partials, but a noticeable presence. Let’s see how many there were …

SO TRUE, OH RATS, IN A SEC, LEER AT, IN VAIN. Not many, really. So it seems to have been a misperception on my part, which is not exactly unheard of. (see also: my NYT write-up, above)

Longdowns are GODPARENTS and HITS THE HAY (should I have included that in my phrase list?), as well as pair of  words derived from Italian: STILETTO and ESPRESSO (the latter clued cleverly in conjunction with the following 38-down, SODA).

The cluing and fill are appropriately early-week level. I will note that there’s a movement for the original sense of HACKER to be reclaimed from the pejorative notion that it’s a (usually malicious) [User trying to get through a firewall].

Very enjoyable Monday offering.

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36 Responses to Monday, May 6, 2013

  1. Pete says:

    Or is the theme A, E, I, O, U?

    A ROOM WITH A VIEW
    E FOR EFFORT
    I WONT LET YOU DOWN
    OH HOLY NIGHT
    U CANT TOUCH THIS

    • janie says:

      ooh — that seems more better. more typical of joel’s cagy style, too. a monday hooker. fancy that!

      ;-)

  2. Ethan says:

    Yeah, it took me a while to figure out the theme too, because the E is above the A. So it’s out of order. Other than that I like it a lot.

    • Lois Padawer says:

      As others explain below, it’s not really out of order. It just looks that way. First “A” across, then “E” down, then “I” across, then “O” down, then “U” across. I didn’t get it either. Nice to have a challenging Monday! But I wish everyone could read these blogs.

  3. Martin says:

    Pete, you’re right, there are 5 theme entries, and they are not variations of the “u” sound either. I missed them too.

    -MAS

  4. RK says:

    Wow, did this puzzle in :47 cause that’s how fast I am……….in dog seconds.

  5. huda says:

    I don’t ever recall finishing a Monday and not having a clue what the theme was! Wow!

  6. John says:

    Amy, Pete is right. See Deb and Rex. But I had what you had, so I think you have proven how bad this puzzle is. When a professional blogger gets the theme wrong, the puzzle should be burned in a large ashtray and its ashes dumped in Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach.

    • Gareth says:

      WTF???
      Sour grapes much!

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        John isn’t such a careful reader—that was pannonica’s review, not mine.

    • pannonica says:

      Yes, I missed the theme, but I’d say that reflects more on me and my expectations (see Gareth’s “conditioning” comment, below) than the puzzle. As Martin said, it’s more cogent with the intended five-part theme. Pete’s list misrepresents one of the answers, though. It’s O HOLY NIGHT and not OH HOLY NIGHT, which wouldn’t be as elegant with the other four single-vowel openers.

      I dismissed—or at least suppressed—my sense that the “theme” was a bit clunky and unsatisfying in the name of haste and with knowledge that it was “only a Monday.” This is explanation, not excuse.

      • janie says:

        >Pete’s list misrepresents one of the answers, though.

        or perhaps this was simply a typo. somehow don’t imagine he *intended* to “misrepresent” but rather wished to shed new light on the themers.

        ;-)

    • Martin says:

      First, it’s pannonica, not Amy. Second, “how dare a puzzle puzzle me?” Really?

      Yes, it was a curve for a Monday. And yes, pannonica’s “theme” was a reasonable guess. Was it a trap? I doubt it. I suspect it was (un)fortuitous.

      I also thought that might be it at first. But it seemed way too weak to attract Will Shortz’s attention, so I kept looking.

      I wish more crosswords would force a second look, even on Monday.

      • john farmer says:

        Indeed.

        Looks like I had a letter wrong in this morning’s LAT (STING for STUNG). Again I’m reminded I need to check my crossings. My consolation, though, is that I’m not a “professional blogger.” Lake Michigan has seen enough.

  7. Bencoe says:

    blew through this puzzle so fast I didn’t notice the theme or anything else about the puzzle, besides MC Hammer. 2:30, with a typo I had to correct at the end. I know Monday is supposed to be easy, but I found this to be mostly easy because it contains so many answers we’ve seen a million times, clued exactly the same way as they always are.

  8. Gareth says:

    I didn’t spot the two downs either… How much of that is conditioning to look in certain places for theme answers? Very elegant construction when you consider all five vowels and that the two downs cross two acrosses each!

    • HH says:

      And how much is due to the fact that most constructors won’t bother to try to make theme answers intersect? There’s no rule that says they all have to be parallel.

    • Martin says:

      And the organization is so elegant: alternation between horizontal and vertical, with all entries in ascending order.

    • joon says:

      henry: there’s no rule, but for a theme whose answers have a logical order imposed on them (such as today’s), it makes more sense to arrange the theme answers sequentially.

      martin: can you explain what you mean by “all entries in ascending order”?

      • Martin says:

        Top to bottom, left to right, like we scan text in English. H1; V1, H2, V2, H3. It’s not random.

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    Now I have an excuse to wear my hammer pants again, woo hoo!

  10. pannonica says:

    Moving on, can anyone shed light on the meaning of “E FOR EFFORT,” as I posed the question in the write-up?

    • Martin says:

      “E for effort” is a consolation prize. It’s not quite an F but, since it’s worse than a D, it’s not a passing grade.

      The fact that “E” comes between “D” and “F” sort of implies your efforts were not effective. In any case, the clue seemed accurate enough to my ear.

      • Gareth says:

        Of course, around here, sometimes an F is a pass (heck, sometimes so’s a G). Yeah, I know, that’s nuts!

      • pannonica says:

        I didn’t think the clue was inaccurate, just different from how I had thought about it. In fact, I’ve never taken the E literally as an E (that is, between D and F) because I’ve never seen an E grade, academically speaking. Not that I’ve thought too much about it until now, but I suppose that it was averted to avoid confusion (perhaps with “excellent”?), in the same manner that an I is sometimes eliminated from a sequence to avoid mistaking it for a J.

        • Martin says:

          I’ve also seen “A for effort,” which is the self-esteem-aware version. “If only your effort had not been totally misguided, you would have excelled.”

          Either way it means you failed, but not for lack of trying.

          I must admit I don’t get the I/J thing, but I admire the depth of your analysis.

  11. Martin says:

    “How dare a puzzle puzzle me?”

    Indeed!

    -MAS

  12. Bencoe says:

    I agree that the NYT puzzle was a masterful construction. But doesn’t that prove that good fill trumps fancy construction every time?

  13. RK says:

    It actually gets better. If you connect the vowels in the right order you get a map to DB Cooper’s house.

  14. John says:

    Amy, I later realized my error in attribution (thanks to Martin) and corrected it elsewhere (not being a frequent visitor I actually didn’t understand the reference to Pannonica immediately). I am a better reader when not drinking Wild Turkey (my beverage of choice when watching Mad Men). Probably also better at spotting hidden themes. Still, I assume you only allow those who know what they are doing to sub for you (not to mention this is your blog and Pannonica is your agent and hence Pannonica’s comments are your comments) so I stand by my original criticism of the puzzle. One page of ashes shouldn’t muddy Lake Michigan too much.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ya know, Rex Parker knows what he is doing after blogging roughly 2,000 NYT puzzles. And he had trouble seeing the Monday theme. Trickier than usual Monday theme, given the unusual Across/Down mixing, but not a bad theme, and not a bad blogger either. So neither the puzzle nor any blogger should be burnt to ashes.

      • Ellen R. says:

        If you’re burning people to ashes, add me as well. When test solving the puzzle, I had to ask Frank L. what the theme was. He said he had trouble with it too, and hinted to look at the downs. I still didn’t see it and had to be told. Duh!

        I’m about as far as you can get from a puzzle neophyte, so either I was extremely dense or this wasn’t the most obvious theme.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    I’m way late, joining the fun here — but the absence of the LAT for so long put me off. Really loved all the comments on the NYT, which fooled me too but left “Minuit Chrétien” running through my head.
    The LAT also escaped me, with ONE SHIRT, TWO SHOES and then SECRET SERVICE. ? Guess I should have paid more attention to NO NO NO at the end! Very clever…

  16. Joan macon says:

    I loved the discussions about letter grades. I recall during the War (guess which one) there was something about the “Navy E” which I think was awarded for Excellence in production. My husband, who was among other things a school principal, used to enjoy talking about grades as A, B, C, D, F, and R for Rotten.

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