Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NYT 3:16 
LAT 4:02 (Gareth) 
CS 4:47 (Dave) 
Tausig untimed 

Dave Sullivan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 13, no. 0515

Hey, look! It’s our faithful webmaster, none other than Evad Navillus, or Dame Evadna, as I think of him. When he was putting this theme together last year, I helped him brainstorm potential theme entries. And despite that, I had to take some time after I finished solving to figure out what the theme was. (My thematic memory empties its cache regularly, apparently.) I bet I’m not the only one who had to sound out the theme answers to make sense of them—it’s a subtle homophones-of-opposites theme without a revealer entry.

  • 17a. [Good stretch for the Dow], STRONG WEEK. Strong, weak. Super-timely, as it turns out—the Dow closed over 15,000 today.
  • 23a. [Extra after a movie's credits, perhaps], HIDDEN SCENE. Hidden, seen. Is … that a thing, this HIDDEN SCENE? Tough to clue.
  • 39a. [2006 Jay-Z single], LOST ONE. Lost, won. Wow, this one has a factual trivia clue that fits.
  • 50a. [Midas service], BRAKE REPAIR. Break, repair. Super-smooth. I wanted mufflers to squeeze in here somewhere. Also, my dad spent much of his techie career with the Midas company.
  • 59a. [Cry accompanying the arrival of visitors], THEY’RE HERE. There, here. Perfect.

What are the five toughest bits in this puzzle? I vote for these:

  • 46a. [Pitcher Dennis in Cooperstown, for short], ECK. Short for Eckersley. ECK is also the German word for “corner.”
  • 58a. [Conical woodwind], OBOE. It’s … conical? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that word in an OBOE clue.
  • 10d. [A bionic part of Steve Austin], LEFT EYE. Now, I was just reading about the upcoming movie (on VH1 this November) about the hip-hop group TLC, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, featuring Lil Mama as the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. I don’t suppose this LEFT EYE is quite famous enough for a daily newspaper crossword?
  • 25d. [Biblical verb], DOEST. “Verb” doesn’t narrow it down much, and “Biblical” just pins it down to -EST or ETH, though BEGET/BEGAT is also plausible.
  • 62d. [English comedian Mayall], RIK. I would’ve guessed that Rik Mayall played bass in a British band that was big in the late ’60s. I may be thinking of Toots and the Maytals.

I like seeing NAME-DROP in the puzzle a day after the name-dropping theme, and I like to MULL OVER various things (but not ESSO and YSER).

Does 29d: META‘s clue, [Self-referential, informally], pertain specifically to the meta puzzles of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest? I suppose the metas do refer back to the crossword each time. Dave has contributed a guest puzzle to MGWCC, hasn’t he? And he has a Fireball contest puzzle coming up later, if I recall correctly. Dave is way better than me when it comes to solving meta puzzles.

Four stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Going for a Spin”

Ink Well crossword solution, 5 16 13 “Going for a Spin”

54d: [With 30-Down, journalistic selectivity, and what this puzzle's starred entries contain] clues MEDIA / BIAS, and that’s what the answers I’ve circled contain. A news network appears on the bias (diagonally), skewing our theme answers.

  • 4a. [*Part of Georgia named for a relative of baseball legend Ty], COBB COUNTY. This answer’s “bias” comes from BBC. Note the inclusion of verboten 2-letter entries in the grid; they work because they’re really just the beginning of longer answers and not 2-letter words.
  • 17a. [*Place to get clean], REHAB CENTER. ABC bias here.
  • 48a. [*Furry arctic creatures], WHITE FOXES. Fox News bias. Did you know there were white foxes? (I circled the wrong ES. Should be the 2-letter entry in the bottom row, not the end of MINXES.)

I guess Ben couldn’t find any phrases that contained an MSNBC in the middle.

The long fill in this puzzle is terrific. SIDE BETS, the RIVIERA, and PHANTASM spiff up the Acrosses (along with the shorter G.I. JOE and MINXES), and the Down direction gives us JAZZ HANDS and BEER NUTS along with MOCKTAILS and PUSSY RIOT. You wouldn’t expect a puzzle with three-way checking of the squares that get diagonal action to have good fill. You’d expect lots more of the following sort of stuff:

  • 20a. [Greek colony associated with philosophy], ELEA. Crosswordese classical place name.
  • 36a. [Second-best of the Hank Williamses], III. Great clue. Roman numerals aren’t so bad if they’re in the I to XII range.
  • 40a. [Mauna ___ ("long volcano")], LOA.
  • 41a. [Cordial texted word], PLZ. I spell it “pls.”
  • 57a. [Magazine with an Independent Press Award], UTNE. I like the Utne Reader, but it’s in more homes via crossword answers than actual issues.
  • 7d. [Midget car-racing org.], USAC. No idea what the letters stand for.
  • 58d. [Nonpro sports org.], AAU. Amateur Athletic Union.

Favorite clues:

  • 1a. [Genre vaguely alluded to by No Doubt], SKA. The daily newspaper puzzles have so little snark in their clues.
  • 8d. [Ryan who made out with Billy Crystal], MEG. That wasn’t CGI?
  • 34d. [Kitchen initialism popularized by Rachel Ray], EVOO. Extra-virgin olive oil. This puzzle is so virginal—there’s a Virgin Mary in the MOCKTAILS clue and a gummy candy shaped like the Virgin Mary in the HOAX clue.
  • 59d. [Source of "frankenfood," briefly], GMO. Genetically modified organisms. I believe the large majority of mainstream grocery-store items containing corn products are made with GMO corn, but U.S. law doesn’t require them to be labeled as such.

Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Theme Songs” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Doug brings us four phrases that end with a synonym of “song” and reclues them as “theme (entry!) songs”:

CS solution – 05/15/13

  • [Sherpa's theme song?] clues MOUNTAIN AIR – lots of that here in our new hometown of Woodstock, VT
  • [Physicist's theme song?] clues ATOMIC NUMBER – a “number” is a song in a longer “routine” or “set.” I wonder if this one would start “The itsy bitsy atom ran up the water spout…”?
  • [Bodybuilder's theme song?] clues MUSCLE STRAIN – I think a “strain” is part of a longer song, but maybe I’m thinking of the rhyming “refrain”?
  • [Docent's theme song?] clues MUSEUM PIECE – I think of classical music when I hear a “piece” of music. Would a current hip hop song qualify?

Excellent repurposing idea, and I love how Doug reinterpreted the word “theme” of “theme songs” to refer to the theme entries in his puzzle. Very meta! Hard to pick just one FAVE entry with some great fill around the theme songs. I’ll go with SPELLBIND for [Enchant], which this puzzle did for me. My UNFAVE entry was the spelled-out A AND E (["Storage Wars" network]). Reminds me of entries like U-TWO, etc., which you never see spelled out that way.

Thomas Takaro’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth

“LA Times crossword solution, 15 05 13″

Thomas Takaro is not a name I recognize; I think it’s a debut: if so, congrats Mr. Takaro!

Today’s puzzle is a mash-up of two common crossword tropes: the vowel progression theme and the clue-as-answer theme. Five one word clues [Hack], [Heck], [Hick], [Hock], and [Huck] are defined in their answers. The answers are not too strained, which is a common problem with this type of theme. ANNOYEDOATH seems to be a nod to The Simpsons, where Dan Castellaneta famously interpreted “annoyed grunt” as “D’oh!” If you’re not familiar with the term “Hock” keep in mind it is used not only for equines, but any four-legged mammal.

This is a dense grid for a (presumed) newbie, but its ably filled. Inevitibly, we get mostly short fill, the exceptions being ALLWRONG and ADORABLE. The two small blemishes for me were OUSE and ARMA, real old-school crossword-ese those!

What turned out, in hindsight, to be a ridiculously shorted bulleted list of notable answers:

  • [Suitable for marriage], NUBILE. I can’t help feeling the word NUBILE has somewhat icky connotations in modern day in English.
  • [Quaint "Listen!"], HARK. A vagrant!

3.5 Stars. I like the idea of combining those two theme types. I’ve seen it before, but I liked how it played out.
Gareth

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25 Responses to Wednesday, May 15, 2013

  1. Doug says:

    Wow, great theme, Dave! Took me way too long to catch on, but that’s not a bad thing. Excellent puzzle.

  2. Martin says:

    Yes, nice puzzle Dave/Evad.

    The nifty thing about the theme that it was not really obvious until most of the puzzle was completed (the way a good puzzle theme should be, IMO).

    -MAS

  3. bencoe says:

    Toots and the Maytals are one of the oldest Jamaican bands. They went through ska, rocksteady, and reggae periods, and are still around in some version after 50 years.
    Rik Mayall is a hugely famous comic actor in Britain, but here he’s known for being Drop Dead Fred, in a pretty stupid movie. The Young Ones was a comic sensation in the early 80s, anarchic to say the least, about a bunch of losers sharing a house. Rik played a political wannabe student who was obsessed with Cliff Richard and annoyed everybody. Used to show it on PBS sometimes, and Comedy Central in the old days.
    Good puzzle, I also didn’t see the theme until after completion.

    • Gareth says:

      Ah, I loved the few episodes of The Young Ones that they sparingly show on BBCE here (although I don’t have TV so when I’ve been at relatives with a TV). Didn’t know the actors names though…

      PS and Now I see he’s Lord Flashheart on Blackadder too. Of “Woof!” fame.

    • Pete Collins says:

      Toots and the Maytals opened for the Who in December 1975 — the first-ever concert in the Pontiac Silverdome. Yeah, I was there. I might still have my ticket stub.

      I loved watching “The Young Ones” when I lived in England in the early ’80′s.

      - Pete

  4. Evad says:

    My submission had the clue [Lopes of TLC] for LEFT EYE–”Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs” were iconic late-90s songs for me. I think “meta” has recently become something kids say to each other, “That’s so meta!” meaning a kind of circular logic where a comment or question refers back to itself.

    Thanks again to Amy for being a sounding board on this one, even if she hardly remembers the assistance she gave. I was first playing around with made-up theme entries (like “MOURNING NIGHT” clued as “Ruing the darkness?”), but when I found BRAKE REPAIR, I knew I had to go scouring for real-life phrases. Granted some of these are “realer-life” than others, but they’re all better than ones that I would’ve invented on my own.

  5. Gareth says:

    Wonderful five-star theme! Just brilliant! Puzzle played like a Tuesday until the last few answers, but because of them my time is closer to Thursday: E?? of ECK (normally he’s a theologian…), ?OSTONE of LOSTONE, BRA??REPAI? (I’m pretty sure we have that company here. Probably not actually the same one though.), and I had FADE for WANE. Once I changed that I slapped myself: KADE didn’t look right but since I read the clue as Patty Hearst I shrugged and moved on… So yeah, that took some unravelling!

  6. Howard B says:

    Wow, it took me a looong time to figure this theme out. One of those concepts that even if you gave me the basic idea and asked me to cite examples, I don’t think I could have come up with one valid answer, let alone a set for a puzzle!
    Impressive work, Evad[ave]! As well as to Amy, your fiendishly clever muse.

  7. pannonica says:

    Very spiffy puzzles by both Evad and B Tausig!

  8. Mike Hawkins says:

    The NYT today was a pleasant solve. However, the grid is broken. NAMEDROP and MULLOVER are both longer than one of the theme entries (LOSTONE), making the theme very difficult to parse. A solver should never have to guess which entries are part of the theme.

    STRONGWEEK, BRAKEREPAIR, and THEYREHERE are all great theme entries, but HIDDENSCENE isn’t idiomatic enough (“Hidden Scene” Googles low at 75,500). CDs have “hidden tracks” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_track ) but movies don’t have “hidden scenes” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-credits_scene ). I’ve most commonly heard it as a stinger.

    I’m conflicted. The grid itself was well clued and clean, but broken. The theme idea itself is great and has three great entries. But then it has one that’s too short for the puzzle and one that isn’t actually a thing (I’m guessing this was the last theme entry added.)

    Three Stars?

  9. John E says:

    @Mike Hawkins – I always thought theme answers in the very centre of the grid got special privileges in that they didn’t have to follow symmetry or length rules. I always assume these are themed until proven otherwise – not sure how other approach it.

    @Evad – I always find it interesting to hear background on how puzzles are created – and the fact that you transformed the theme from a simple homonym exercise to actual known phrases surely added some complexity to the theme creation process – but the end result is great. Thanks for sharing part of the background process (Amy too).

    Why not “Mild oath from Higgins?” for “ECK”? lol

  10. Evad says:

    Thanks John. Yes, I abided by that center (or “centre” as you say) exception. Perhaps in retrospect I shouldn’t have relied on two-word phrases for the longish fill, but I (like I hope many solvers) generally enjoy discovering them over just long words. “Why have CONSIDER when you can have MULL OVER instead?” was my thought process.

    But Mike is right in one respect, HIDDEN SCENE was indeed my last discovery and if it had instead been clued along the lines of “DVD extra feature” it might’ve been more palatable to solvers.

    Thanks for all the comments folks, I really appreciate both the kudos and the critiques.

    • Bencoe says:

      I think you’re right–”DVD extra feature” probably would be more accurate. Crossword people can be so literal, though, for a medium which encourages playful innovation of language!
      “Brake repair” was perfect. I’ve heard those 2 words next to each other so many times and never made that connection.

  11. joon says:

    evad, wonderful theme. love love love. i had to stare at my completed grid for maybe 2 minutes afterwards, and then when i saw it, i couldn’t wipe the big goofy grin off my face.

  12. Martin says:

    Cool puzzle.

    Amy,

    The oboe’s conical bore is the reason it sounds so different from its cylindrical-bore cousins, the clarinet and flute. The conical bore encourages a richer complement of overtones, which is why a clarinet or flute sounds “purer” than an oboe or saxophone.

    The math has been well-understood for a couple of centuries but the proper shape was figured out empirically centuries before those couple. Think of the pronounced cone shape of a primitive oboe, like the zurna that we associate with Asian or “Turkish” music. (The zurna is the grandparent of the oboe, via the medieval European shawm.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Speak for yourself, Herbach! Not all of us are in the “we” who associate the zurna with Turkish music, or know that zurnas exist. (But thanks for the info.)

  13. Martin says:

    Martin… the conical bore is only part of the story. A double reed instrument, overblows to the octave (just like a flute). A single reed instrument, to the twelfth. That’s one of the main reasons double reeds and flutes have a longer history of more elaborate music written for them… they were easier to construct.

    (I’m a lapsed flautist)

    -MAS

    • Martin says:

      Sure, but the bore is an important part. It’s why a sax sounds so much “richer” than a clarinet, which sounds almost like a sine wave generator compared with the sax. Since they’re both single-reed instruments, the timbre is mostly determined by bore.

      BTW, we US flutists, lapsed or not, sort of hate “flautist” the way San Franciscans hate “Frisco.” I guess that’s another difference in our respective versions of English. (We deride flautist as an Italianate affection since we play the flute, not the flauto. Hence, we’re flutists, not flautists. But some English-speaking Europeans still speak of “flauto traverso” to distinguish it from the recorder, and I guess Canadians are just being good Commonwealth citizens. Good to know.)

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pannonica says she’s going to try using “conical bore” as a personal insult. Let me try:

    “No, you’re a conical bore, sir.”

    • Mary Long says:

      Amy,

      I’ve always liked “tidal bore”, myself.

      • pannonica says:

        Ah, back in junior high I wrote a tripartite paper on tsunami, rogue waves, and tidal bores.

    • pannonica says:

      It may have more sting with the epithet at the end: “No, you sir, are a conical bore.”

      On a related note, when grinding coffee beans, a machine with a conical burr is the way to go; it does the job evenly without heating the beans (which are of course seeds).

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