Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NYT 3:42 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 5:16 (Gareth) 
CS 5:47 (Dave) 

Mobile crossword app update: Puzzazz now offers another avenue to accessing the NYT crossword on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, with full support for special features like circled letters and diagonal answers. You can even connect the dots, as in Liz Gorski’s recent Sunday horse-race puzzle (click here to see a Puzzazz image). Puzzazz offers a tool called TouchWrite that lets solvers write a big letter on the screen to enter it into a little square; this is a nifty idea but thus far useless for the speed solver (I found myself writing the letters too fast for the app, and all the letters just wrote over the previous ones in the same square rather than ending up in the following squares).

Whenever the NYT has circled squares that are key to the theme, I know there are mobile-app solvers who are frustrated that they had a version of the puzzle without circles. I’m guessing those folks are using the officially sanctioned NYT puzzle apps from Magmic and Across Lite, but don’t know for sure. I also don’t know if StandAlone’s Crosswords app or the Shortyz app support circles, but Rumination Software’s Crux app definitely does. (Readers: Please do share any corrections or additions to my understanding of this issue.)

David Steinberg and Bernice Gordon’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 26 13, no 0626

David is a talented 16-year-old crossword constructor and editor, and Bernice Gordon is a 99-year-old legend in the field who made the NYT’s first rebus puzzle, in 1965. (David interviews Bernice here; scroll down past the Mel Rosen interview to find Ms. Gordon.)

  • 38a. [83, for the creators of this puzzle ... or a hint to the ends of 17-, 25-, 51- and 60-Across], AGE DIFFERENCE. The other theme answers either add or lose an AGE at the end.
  • 17a. [Result of someone yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater?], EXIT RAMPAGE.
  • 25a. [Looting of a legislature?], DIET PILLAGE. Yes, pillage can be a noun, too.
  • 51a. [What an exploding microwave can make?], INSTANT MESS.
  • 60a. [Exemption from playing an instrument at school?], MUSICAL PASS.

There is almost a lurking mini-theme here, with AL DENTE and THE FIRM. The firm noodle!

Five more things:

  • I didn’t know SEX was lurking in the Latin numbers; 2d. [Number between quinque and septem] is the nonsexual clue.
  • 12d. [County name in California, Florida and New York], ORANGE. Guessing New York’s is named after the House of Orange rather than the citrus fruit.
  • 6d. [Source of the saying "Brevity is the soul of wit"], HAMLET. I kinda forgot this and had to use the crossings.
  • 13d. [One blowing off steam], GEYSER. Have you ever geysed?
  • 9d. [Chillax, with "out"], VEG. Smart money says Ms. Gordon wrote this clue. Dictionary says the word is a portmanteau of “chill” and “relax” and dates back to the early 21st century.

I grumble at DYER clued as a [Salon employee]. The employee is apt to be a colorist or a stylist and DYER is decidedly not the sort of word anyone uses in a salon. I wonder if the world of fabric dye uses DYER? Dictionary suggests yes. Editors and constructors, take note.

Could also have done without the likes of INURE, ASTRA, ENID, and CEE

3.75 stars. The theme works well and the fill’s got a little zing to it.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “One Plus One”

Ben Tausig: Ink Well crossword, 6 25 13 “One Plus One”

Not as inventive as Dr. Tausig’s usual themes—this “X and X” theme is a little on the arid side. But even our cleverest constructors are allowed to phone in theme development on occasion, eh? And when your duller theme still has seven entries, you’re not slacking off.

  • 1a. [Band-Aid maker, briefly], J AND J.
  • 17a. [Brothers on a classic Nick show], PETE AND PETE. Not from my 20-something Nick viewing (Ren & Stimpy, Fifteen) or my son’s more recent viewing. No idea what the show is.
  • 26a. ["No problem"], DONE AND DONE. Zippy. I like this.
  • 35a. [Blended whisky cocktail], SEVEN AND SEVEN. Make mine without whiskey (I’m more Irish than Scottish, hence my preferred spelling), please.
  • 50a. [Consecutive games between two teams in their respective stadiums], HOME AND HOME. Never heard this one before.
  • 58a. [Coffee shop freebie], HALF AND HALF.
  • 69a. [Place with mandatory communal meals, sometimes], B AND B. I’m not sure they can force you to join the crowd for breakfast, but they won’t give you a meal without the crowd.

Five more things:

  • 5d. [Paper inserts in cassette tape cases], J CARDS. I know what these things are, but never knew there was a specific term for them.
  • 20a. [Nocturnal emission?], DROOL. Yes. On pillowcases, at times. Not mine, of course.
  • 48a. [Half of a series couple], TV WIFE. Yes, usually. For example, either of the wives in the family on The Fosters. But not either of the spouses in Cameron and Mitchell’s partnership on Modern Family. And on Big Love, the couple consisted of one husband and three wives.
  • 49d. [Hippie's bus, casually], VEE DUB. Short for vee-double-you.
  • 30d. [Rumored Xbox competitor from 7-Down], ITV. 7-down is APPLE. I don’t know of these game console rumors yet.

Did not know: 11d. [Chinese steamed bun served with dim sum], MANTOU. The word puts me in mind of manitou, from the Algonquian language, and thus seems completely non-Chinese.

Favorite fill: “OH, SNAP,” NSFW, EN DASHES (here they are: – – –), plus the aforementioned TV WIFE and VEE DUB. Least favorite: OPAHS, EWR.

Overall rating, 3.5 stars.

Paul Cuerdon’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times
130626

As I filled in IDLEHANDS then FORKEDTONGUE I assumed both were themers, but the former is a red herring. Although anatomical, it doesn’t fit the ORALFIXATION theme:

  • [Liar's trait?], FORKED TONGUE
  • [Cold-sounding windup toy], CHATTERING TEETH. Great answer!
  • [Warning to a sassy kid], DONTGIVEMENOLIP. Only the one lip? Also a fun answer, although there are a lot of variations and I’m not sure that’s the most common phrasing…

What! No phrases with SALIVARYGLANDS or UVULA then? Rats!

I guess I have to comment on BOTHA at 1a. I wouldn’t put PW, the man who resisted the fight against apartheid to the bittereind, in a South African crossword. Louis, otoh, was fairly progressive – for his time. He fought in Zulu king Dinazulu’s army at one point, and I think returned the Zulu king from where the British had exiled him on St. Helena. Hope none of that is wrong… Being the most common Afrikaans surname there are lots of other famous Bothas: numerous rugby players, a boxer and one my favourite musicians. None of these are appropriate for US crosswords of course…

Other POI include:

  • [Disney World vehicle] for TRAM, smart money says that was Jeffrey’s favourite clue…
  • ["... her kerchief and ___ my cap..."], IIN. Rather awkward, even by most partial standards… From A Visit from St. Nicholas apparently, though I didn’t recognize it!
  • LOVESCENE over ORALFIXATION. Now then!
  • I believe there was a recent kerfuffle about CICADAs Stateside. What I do want to applaud is that the clue [Loud bug] correctly identifies it as a member of the Hemiptera or true bugs.

Simple enough theme, but with lively entries and a solid grid: 3.8 stars from me!
Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Simmer Down!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Constructor Tony Orbach offers us six (well, seven if you count the title) phrases that mean to “chillax” (the only one I could think of he didn’t use!):

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 06/26/13

  • ["Easy, big fella!"] clues DON’T HAVE A COW – given the pervasiveness of The Simpsons in American culture, most of you probably add a parenthetical [man] to this phrase.
  • ["Hold your horses!"] is KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON – yes, this is good advice, particularly in convenience stores.
  • ["Take a deep breath"] clues RELAX ALREADY – the entry seems a bit more imperative than the clue in this one.

Unless I’m missing something (which is always a good possibility), the clues and the entries could be easily swapped in this one (except for length and symmetry concerns, of course). I’m wondering too if there are so many ways to get this point across why we only have 3 (and not 4) of them in the grid; to have your first theme entry of 12 letters on row 5 (instead of 4) seems a bit thin. But I do love expressions like this; please add your favorites in the comment section. (Let’s see if we can break yesterday’s record of 108 of Matt Gaffney‘s latest meta as of this writing.)

Given the lower theme density, we have some nice medium-length fill, such as ERSATZ, OUIJA and PSYCHO. I also enjoyed the pairing of the clues for 1-Across: [Genre for Gillespie and Parker in the '40s] for BEBOP and 21-Across’s [Gillespie and Parker, slangily] for CATS. (I think Tony is into jazz if memory serves.) My FAVE entry today was the Scrabbly RITZY for [Fancy], which is an adjective I hope I can use in tomorrow’s puzzle commentary. My UNFAVE was the [Drumming or gunning sound] of RAT-A-TAT-TAT. Too many of the same letters repeated in that one for my humble tastes.

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26 Responses to Wednesday, June 26, 2013

  1. Shortyz (and the new Words With Crosses) do indeed support circles. But they don’t yet support other fancy features like rebuses, larger-than-1×1 squares, writing outside the grid, drawing lines on the grid, etc. Of those features, only circles and rebuses are actually supported in the AcrossLite .puz format AFAIK (not sure about .jpz files).

    So I’m actually really curious how the Puzzazz app gets the puzzle delivered to it—does anyone know if it uses some other format that’s not .puz or .jpz? Any chance that Roy LeBan reads this blog and can comment on that?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Roy uses the .ipuz file format. Not sure how the NYT’s .puz or .pdf would get converted into that and retain special features, but .ipuz was designed to be more flexible than the remarkably limited .puz format. Ipuz is open source. Beyond that, I don’t know any specifics.

  2. Martin says:

    Speaking of en dashes, David Steinberg (of today’s NYT and the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project) has asked that date ranges in clues, among other situations, use en dashes instead of hyphens. So it’s “1941–45,” not “1941-45.”

    Can you imagine what this perfectionist will be like when he matures, say in 60 years? It boggles the mind.

  3. Gareth says:

    Much better DYER (I’ve linked to this before):
    D’Yer Mak’er

  4. Brucenm says:

    I liked both the puzzle and the fact about the constructors. But I wonder about the editor’s decision to give away the whole point by revealing their ages in the title. (OK — it didn’t use the word “age” but it wasn’t the most difficult meta in the world to figure out that the numbers referred to “age.”) I’m of two minds about this. Those of us who do these things constantly already know who these constructors are, so revealing the ages up front levels playing field for casual or novice solvers who would not be familiar with the constructors — and that may be a good thing. But on balance, I wish the puzzle had just identified the constructors by name and let it go at that. I wonder what others think.

    Speaking of metas, it never ceases to amaze me how different minds function differently. I am resigned to the fact that I just don’t have the kind of mental apparatus which allows me to even come close to figuring out anything other than the simplest metas, (usually Matt’s ‘week one’.) Mostly, I’m in a constant state of awe and astonishment that anyone can actually engage in the (to me) bizarrely convoluted reasoning needed to get the intended answer. For example, the recent one where you were somehow supposed to find the letters spelling out “Blaise Pascal” — I am absolutely incredulous that anyone could actually do that, and yet I see that a good number of people did. So, I’m resigned to recognizing that “intelligence” is not some generalized trait, but rather a series of particularized abilities and talents, and this is one I simply ain’t got.

    Nevertheless — I didn’t get around to doing Matt’s most recent puzzle (the one with the A’s and the V’s) until early early afternoon, yesterday, (Tues). As I say, I have such a defeatist attitude towards metas that for the most part I don’t even bother trying to think about them any more. So I noticed the A’s and V’s and knew that they figured into the solution, but just shrugged. But doing the puzzle, I said to myself — Well, you’ve got the most famous, widely – known tenor, alto and bass (actually bass – baritone — the Ole Man River dude), and the only thing left is a soprano — like that Tony guy in that serial I never watched. As I say, it didn’t occur to me that V stood for voice, and the A’s I didn’t think about at all. It never would have occurred to me in a million years that they stood for “awards.” So actually I had the answer in 0 seconds — before I finished the puzzle. But my reaction was — (a) The answer couldn’t possibly be that blatant and obvious; and (b) I think the polls are closed anyhow, since it was just after noon when I did the puzzle.

    • Matt says:

      I agree that metas are unpredictable– I rarely get the tougher ones (like that one with the Beverly Hills zipcodes…), but I got BLAISE PASCAL with barely a ‘Hmmm.’ Go figure.

    • Gareth says:

      Considering that a large number of casual solvers are still convinced Will Shortz constructs the puzzles, I’ll take anything that draws solvers to the by-line as a good thing! Also it’s an unusual an interesting feature that casual solvers would not have known otherwise…

  5. Martin says:

    Evad said re today’s CS:

    “My UNFAVE was the [Drumming or gunning sound] of RAT-A-TAT-TAT. Too many of the same letters repeated in that one for my humble tastes.”

    OK, so how do you propose spelling it?

    Seriously though, it’s a perfectly good entry IMO, and I’d use it over a lot of other 10-letter entries in one of my puzzles.

    -MAS

    • Evad says:

      I’m not suggesting it be spelled any other way, I was just implying that 10-letter entries that only consist of 3 different letters (A, R and T) are not that interesting to me, unless it’s a theme idea.

      Just my humble opinion, as I wrote. You are certainly free to disagree.

  6. Katie says:

    Thanks for any enlightenment you can offer (from today’s CS):
    Clue: Made some rounds?
    Ans: Boxed
    (don’t get it…)

    • Gareth says:

      I think it refers to rounds of boxing?

      • Evad says:

        Yes, that was my sense as well, but I do think the verb “made” in the clue is a bit off. You “go” rounds in my lexicon, as in “that bout went 12 rounds before the champ ultimately prevailed.”

        • sbmanion says:

          I agree that the clue is off and that boxers “go” rounds. However, “made” is occasionally used in the context of boxing: “He only made it to the sixth round” or “He could only make it through five rounds before the body punches took their toll.”

          Steve

  7. Jeffrey says:

    “[Disney World vehicle] for TRAM, smart money says that was Jeffrey’s favourite clue…”

    Actually,no. There are loads of interesting vehicles at Disney World and the TRAM is at the bottom of the list. DOOM BUGGIE would have been a great answer.

  8. Martin says:

    “I’m not suggesting it be spelled any other way,”

    I know Evad, I wasn’t being serious.

    -MAS

    • Evad says:

      Maybe I’m absorbing some of Matt Gaffney’s “tetchy-ness” from yesterday’s meta discussion. I’d apologize for the defensive stance, but then that might be making it worse! :)

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I’m not being defensive, you’re being defensive! Why is it always the other person who’s being defensive; did you ever ask yourself that? Why don’t you ask yourself that?

        Is it me? It’s him, right?

        –N. Thurm

        • pannonica says:

          Don’t know this N Thurm, but he seems like M Short’s jumpy lawyer from his SNL run, in the 60 Minutes-style exposé pieces.

  9. Huda says:

    Bruce wrote:
    “So, I’m resigned to recognizing that “intelligence” is not some generalized trait, but rather a series of particularized abilities and talents, and this is one I simply ain’t got.”

    That’s an AGE-old debate in psychology, but where I come down on it is that there are specific talents (intellectual, perceptual, etc.) that are indeed very diverse across individuals. But there is also a general dimension of intelligence that cuts across situations– it’s the ability to analyze and synthesize in a productive and creative way. As importantly, there are affective components that we often ignore. Bruce, you gave a great example– you don’t think you are good at metas, so you came really close but did not go all the way with it because of that affective bias. Someone else might think– hey, I should be able to do this if others can, or if they don’t get a particular one, they think it’s an exception (e.g. Amy’s description of her slump). We underestimate the power of these internal biases (negative or positive) about our abilities or the risk they allow us to take. I see them all the time in young scientists– they hate to be wrong, for example, because they are high achievers, so they are more conservative in their thinking– but you can’t be a good scientist without being willing to be completely wrong. That’s a bias that one can learn to overcome and become more creative in the process.
    I am not trying to diminish the importance of unique talents– I am in awe of what I see here. But I also believe that they get developed and need to be maintained, and only flourish in the context of a broader level of intelligence and passion about a certain pursuit.

    • Brucenm says:

      Huda, these are issues I too think about a great deal, and I’d love to have the opportunity to discuss them with you, though probably not on this public Forum. Perhaps the occasion will arise. I am positive, by the way that my self-professed inability to understand the first thing about computers or other electronic devices is in large part a function of my own attitude, or, as you put it, affective bias.

      I feel myself drawn towards a long essay, but I’d better defer it.

    • sbmanion says:

      Huda,

      “they hate to be wrong, for example, because they are high achievers, so they are more conservative in their thinking”

      I see this all the time in tutoring students for the SAT, particularly in the sentence completions of the critical reading section. I mentally place a student as a “500-600-700 vocabulary student,” i.e., does this person’s vocabulary make it likely that he or she will get the rough equivalent of a 500, 600, or 700 on the vocabulary portion of the test. Perfectionists tend to score either at or below my prediction for them because they tend to beat themselves up as soon as they don’t know something. High ego students often self-sabotage their performance because they want to minimize what a low score says about them. My mantra is always to have the student engage the process of getting better rather than focus on a score, something that I relax and naturally do in standardized tests and yet lack the ability to do in golf, my favorite game/sport.

      I suspect that our meta solvers of Matt Gaffney’s puzzles would tend to score higher on standardized tests than perhaps their native intelligence would warrant because they treat such tests as games rather than a referendum on their intelligence.

      Steve

      • Huda says:

        Steve– yes, absolutely agree re the idea of “referendum on intelligence” vs. relaxing. We actually see this in measures of stress responses in people– a given task can be seen as a fun game and not elicit a biological stress response in some individuals, but be stressful and lead to higher stress steroids in the blood if someone thinks you’re secretly testing their intelligence or general abilities. Feeling judged (even if the judging is internal) is reliably stressful– based on blood measures, and affects and is affected by mood. But that’s a whole other topic.
        Bruce, I agree– it would be good to discuss further elsewhere.

  10. Jeffrey K says:

    If you can’t enough of the popular “Crossword Constructor Age Differential” genre, may I humbly suggest:

    http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1223

  11. Thanks for the cool write-up, Amy—and for all the nice comments, everyone! The AL DENTE and THE FIRM mini-theme was unintentional, but it has me really craving pasta now! In addition to Deb Amlen’s great write-up and interview on Wordplay (http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/four-score-and-three/), Sarah Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article about the collaboration between me and Bernice: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130626_Puzzling_collaboration_has_Phila__connection.html

  12. jane lewis says:

    i can remember watching “the adventures of pete and pete” which, according to wikipedia, nickleodeon from 1993 until 1996. pete and pete were brothers – i can’t remember if they were supposed to be adopted or their parents were in a name rut.

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