Friday, July 5, 2013

NYT 4:45 
LAT 6:13 (Gareth) 
CS 5:49 (Dave) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 5 13, no 0705

I mostly enjoyed this puzzle, which had a few low spots (K-STAR, NO STEP, OTTO II) but far more good things. My favorites:

  • 35a. [Date shown on the tablet of the Statue of Liberty], JULY IV MDCCLXXVI. Timely given that I solved this puzzle on July IV, MMXIII and that the Statue of Liberty just reopened after having been closed since Hurricane Sandy. Is 11 a record for the most consecutive squares of Roman numerals?
  • WASABI WASATCH HASACHAT makes an interesting progression.
  • 16a. [Kind of pie], SHOOFLY. That’s heavy on molasses, isn’t it? Not my first choice in pie. However! Did you read that NYT article the other day about stack pie? Appalachian folks hit on the practical idea of stacking pies up, four to seven pies high, sometimes gluing them together with caramel, and serving tall slices of multipie. Imagine chocolate cream pie with strawberry pie and banana or coconut cream pie on top. Or blueberry and lemon. Or peach and blackberry.
  • 17a. [What a blog provides], SOAPBOX. Mm-hmm. Sometimes one must declaim about pie wonders.
  • 31a. [1980s TV outfit], THE A-TEAM. Not sure I’ve seen the full title in the grid before—things like [Mr. T show, with "The"] are much commoner.
  • 41a. [Situated near the middle line of the body], MESIAL. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate it when I have specialized knowledge that shows up in a crossword. See also: 9d. [German possessive pronoun], IHRE. As a medical editor who started learning German in 8th grade, these were a cinch.
  • 12d. [When to wear a cocktail dress, traditionally], AFTER SIX. Is that a.m. or p.m.?
  • 21d. [Oscar winner once named Sexiest Man Alive by People], MATT DAMON.
  • 28d. [Massachusetts governor ___ Patrick], DEVAL. Once named Sexiest Governor Alive by Political People.
  • 37d. [Eat crow], LOSE FACE.

Least favorite: the crosswordese ABRI, 51d. [Shelter dug into a hillside]. Read all about it. How many solvers do you think threw up their hands in frustration with the AGFA (51a. [Digital imaging brand]) and IKETTES (61a. Ike [Turner backers]) crossings? Not to mention RECURVE (59a. [Bend backward]), which I recall from my days as a dental editor; the word has endodontic (root canal) applications. If you’ve never seen ABRI before, ouch. Knowing the University of Cincinnati BEARCATs will only get you so far in this corner.

Four stars overall, minus the ABRI corner demerit—so 3.66 stars overall.

Robyn Weintraub’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times
130705

Today’s puzzle by Robyn Weintraub is of the clue/answer reversal type; we’ve documented that this is not my favourite theme type, so let’s move on… I can only assume that the second answer: ANTHEMLYRICIST, is the reason this puzzle is running today, it being one day off a very patriotic day for you guys… I don’t think I need to explain but each answer is defined by the same clue [Key]. I appreciated that the [Keys] were well-spaced in terms of meaning! Another unusual feature was that there were no 15-letter answers but 2×13, 2×14 entries. For whatever reason this theme type is usually done as 3, 4 or 5x 15. The latter feature is neither good nor bad, I’m merely remarking that it is unusual. For completeness the theme answers are:

  • 20a, [Key], PADLOCKOPENER
  • 27a, [Key], ANTHEMLYRICIST
  • 42a, [Key], MAPEXPLANATION
  • 50a, [Key], FLORIDAISLAND

We have an ably filled grid, with some nice medium-length downs: EYEPATCH, TODDLER, DOREMI, MULLET, MIXEDBAG, FARAWAY and EVILDOER held up by mostly shorter across answers (outside of the grid-spanning theme answers). There are one or two of your standard crossword-ese answers: LAO, LYS, ILIA, ETTE, ONEA, and SENS; except for perhaps ONEA and SENS, I wouldn’t even consider any of those to be even minor demerits, merely commonly-used fill-enabling answers. I must say, how rare is it that we see truly tortured fill in the LA Times? Very, would be my answer… [Sound of can of worms opening]

Back to the crossword, and my favourite part of this puzzle, the clues. We had some real lulus today didn’t we? My personal highlights reel includes [One prone to falling] for TODDLER; [Trip up] for ASCENT as in a trip (n.) up; [Two stars, maybe] for ITEM, which totally fooled me into trying to type in some sort of synonym for rating; and [English fin] for END – The French word fin means “end.”

To conclude, the theme, for what it is, was well-executed, and the rest of the puzzle was interesting too: 3.5 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Have Some M&M’s” – Dave Sullivan’s review

An add a letter (well, really double letters) theme in today’s CrosSynergy, two M’s are inserted into the first word of four common two-word phrases:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/05/13

  • The common fall allergy “hay fever” becomes [Hype that spreads among melodramatic actors?] or HAMMY FEVER
  • “Clay pigeon” becomes [Sucker who's broken out in a cold sweat?] or CLAMMY PIGEON. I’m guessing “pigeon” here is taken figuratively as someone who easily falls for something (“sucker”) as opposed to a literal interpretation; but then again, pigeons generally do suck, especially if you’ve been splatted upon by one.
  • Chris Brown‘s 2006 hit “Say Goodbye” becomes [Former Cub slugger's abrupt departure from Wrigley Field?] or SAMMY GOODBYE. Can you name other famous Sammy’s (other than Sosa)? I can think of Davis, Jr. and what Uncle Arthur called Samantha on Bewitched.
  • The common gray wolf gets the MM treatment with [Lothario at a music awards ceremony?] or GRAMMY WOLF. That “lothario” / “wolf” connection is some highfalutin cluing there.

I like how the base phrases were “sweetened up” with the addition of M&M’s, but I’m wondering if I’d prefer the treatment mixed among other words that don’t end in -AY. (Can anyone answer the clue [Spanish Egyptologist's exclamation on a discovery?]) The fill was above average, CREAM SAUCE, AVERAGE JOE, FOGLIGHT and TAR PAPER hold the theme entries in place nicely. I guess my FAVE though was BY WAY OF for [Via], since it’s fun to have three words packed into 7 letters. I’m torn between choosing THE RAM or VITA for my UNFAVE; the former since I’m afraid of opening the floodgates to a whole host of “the…” entries and the latter since I think a [Job-hunter's bio] is either a résumé, or a curriculum vitae.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hawaii Bound” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/5/13 • “Hawaii Bound” • Fri • Fisher • solution

Greetings! ALOHA (1d)! Pressed for time, so this will be a wikiwiki write-up. The state abbreviation for Hawaii—HI—is bound up in a bunch of base phrases to create new, wacky ones.

  • 23a. [Line from a snowcap catalog?] ONE SIZE FITS A {HI}LL (all).
  • 34a. [Magazine for Santiago residents?] C{HI}LEAN LIVING (clean).
  • 40a. [Lionel, after a grueling concert tour?] FRIED RIC{HI}E (rice).
  • 57a. [Which of two pen points should be cleaned first?] FILT{HI}ER TIP (filter).
  • 63a. [Where some jeans are tight?] AROUND THE BE{HI}ND (bend).
  • 74a. [List of all one's previous romances?] LOVE {HI}STORY (story).
  • 85a. [Responsibility of the Pentagon's personnel office?] BRASS {HI}RING (ring).
  • 94a. [Greet the "Chances Are" singer with open arms?] WELCOME MAT{HI}S (mats). Whew, “greet” didn’t lead to “hi.”
  • 108a. [Prayer from an outdoor enthusiast?] GOD SAVE THE {HI}KING (king).

Mixed bag, some cute bits as well as a high incidence of profound inanity. Good variation in the placement of the introduced bigram, though none span two words.

Transcription of my brief notes from the solve late last night (with some additional notations):

  • AUS vs VON” – 90d [From, in Frankfort] is VON, as in names, but another word for it is aus. However, AUS appears nearby at 97d as [Neighbor of Switz.], abbreviating Austria.
  • TENNIS NETS?” – Feels a bit contrived. (16d)
  • RIDEAU?’ 37d
  • “ONE SIDE … ONE SIZE …” – Had that inexplicable crossed-wire mistake for longer than I care to admit.
  • “CAT CHAIR vs CATCH AIR” – Even though I had all the letters filled in correctly, had trouble parsing this one properly, similarly for longer than I care to admit. (9d)
  • CELEB / VOCAB” – (44d / 67a)
  • FERRET vs FISHER (SHA vs TRA)” – Not to mention the constructor’s surname. (114a, 110d)
  • A PILE to start?” – at 1-across.
  • ENDO / ENTOI AM / SUM – (26a, 78a)

Also, SCALAWAG!

Good puzzle, about average.

Mark Bickham’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Hiding Places” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 7/5/13 • “Hiding Places” • Bickham • solution

Presto-change-o! After solving this crossword conventionally, there’s another solve to make. Not a meta, more of a shift to a different gear.

The longest pair of entries, 22- and 46-across, provide the instructions: [ … group whose smallest member is Niue, and whose 10 other members can be found in the grid, word-search style] COUNTRIES | OF FOUR LETTERS. Quasi-bonus entry: 11d ["Just the ___ of Us" (sitcom about a large family)] TEN OF.

For the record, that dectet consists of: CHAD, CUBA, FIJI, IRAN, IRAQ, LAOS, MALI, OMAN, PERU, and TOGO. (Mouse over the grid to see the circled country names.) They’re relatively well distributed in the grid, though there are more in the bottom half and also more in the right half, with the result that the northwest quadrant is underpopulated. All but LAOS were a cinch to detect, and I almost thought there was a mistake, with LAOS supposed to have been in the upper right corner, reading northwest and ending at the S in SCAT; the problem here is that that spells OAOS (I thought perhaps 20a DYNAMO had been a late change). In fact, LAOS is to be found down and over to the left, beginning at the L in 26a LEARN and reading southwest—it was the passage through the two black squares that had effectively thrown me off in my hunt.

It’s an enjoyable extra layer to the puzzle, and one that is completely optional but rewarding. And no, I have no qualms about the hidden countries not being located within the grid to approximate their positions in a standard world map. Why would you even think such a thing?

Long non-theme fill are ONE-LINERS (which kind of informs the word search element, as the words—whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, forward or backward—are still straight lines), ENUNCIATE, LEE MAJORS, and the DALAI LAMA. All very good. A step down in length we have POTENCY and CORONET, also excellent. Took my a while to parse the clue for POTENCY [It may be determined by concentration], but once I got it, I appreciated its clever misdirection.

  • ECG, CFO, GDP, NSA, NCO, EPA.
  • 52d QATAR, as another nation, is a bit of a distraction from the theme. Other geographic entries, TIRANA [Southeastern European capital], HARLEM [Neighborhood named after a Dutch city].
  • Although not from Haarlem, Hieronymus Bosch was from what is now the Netherlands. 31a ["The Garden of Earthly Delights" setting] clues EDEN, but that was just the left panel of the triptych, one-quarter of the piece (or one-sixth, if you include the outer elements).
  • More tricky clues: 4d [Waxed thing, often] SKI, 9d [Terminal sections] CODAS.

Very good puzzle.

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12 Responses to Friday, July 5, 2013

  1. RK says:

    Funny thing happened to me on the way to a crossword puzzle, I ran into a game of trivial pursuit.

  2. Gareth says:

    My asterisk: finished with MEVAL/MRT rather than DEVAL/DRT. Also wasn’t sure of the V after yesterday’s discussion at Rex Parker mentioned that July II was when the document was penned (or something like that…) ABRI and IHRE made the biggest clunks for me! On the other hand I loved UBERGEEK, a central MATTDAMON, SOAPBOX and IKETTES! I’ve seen a themeless with a giant roman numeral before so it was less exciting for me than that time. It still looks crazy in the grid though! And I actually typed in the numeral to get to the top-right quadrant! I feel ambivalent towards MAUMAU who have a somewhat bloody history… I had MEDIAL rather than MESIAL for the longest time, the former is more common although has a subtly different meaning of “situated on the side closer to the midline”. AGFA should be familiar to most people who owned a film camera, which I think is still most people. Not sure what that whole digital business is doing the clue, although I’m sure they’ve tried some way to stay in business. I’ve mostly come across them these days making x-ray film I think?

    All in all I’m very ambivalent towards this puzzle.

  3. Bencoe says:

    I only got AFGA because it was in the NYT a couple of weeks ago. Made it easy.
    ABRI and RECURVE were my downfall.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: “All in all I’m very ambivalent towards this puzzle.” “I ran into a game of trivial pursuits” Exactly.

    I admired the Roman numeral stretch, although I usually dislike them in puzzles. I was a little unsure about the mix, that the month would be spelled out in English and the day and year would be in Roman numerals. But I checked and this is how it appears on the tablet. So, very apt.

    I did not love all the names, some obscure to me. But Matt Damon in the center is great– I like that he’s not just a pretty face. And I loved UBERGEEK. They’re some of my favorite people.

    PS. Amy, that pie plan makes me a little queasy.

  5. sbmanion says:

    I knew ABRI and AGFA fell easily by the other crossings. IKETTES was a gimme. My downfall was Yi/aPSAT crossing Ti/aMLA, which I find humorous as I was going to list all the rappers and old-school R&B groups and vocalists who have no chance of ever finding their way into a crossword puzzle. I guessed correctly, but YIPS and YAPS could each communicate shrillness.

    Ike Turner was no picnic by the way.

    I admire Bruce’s high cultural knowledge, but people with that knowledge are a very, very low percentage of the population, although undoubtedly disproportionately represented in the group that can do a Friday or Saturday NYT. On the other hand, some of the video games that kids play have opening day sales in excess of $200,000,000 and yet would elicit screams of unfairness if they appeared in an NYT puzzle.

    I have largely given up when a clue such as LeBron ________ has to have a further explanation such as NBA star LeBron _______. There are certain parts of pop culture that I am weak in (for example, I have yet to see an episode of Friends or any of the CSI group), but I consider this to be a weakness on my part, not a stand against pop.

    Steve

  6. Jeffrey K says:

    Interesting that you ask if 11 a record for the most consecutive squares of Roman numerals, although you frequently claim not to care about such things.
    I don’t think it has been mentionned here yet the source of many such answers, http://www.xwordinfo.com is fading away.
    This is just terrible news and a huge loss to the crossword community, particulary as a source of constructor info. I hope we can collectively convince Jim to reverse this decision.

  7. sbmanion says:

    If you like tennis and even if you don’t , set 5 of Djokovic v. Del Porto is about to begin. Watch it. ESPN. As good as sports get so far.

    Steve

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I especially liked the WSJ today, with HI inserts for wacky phrases… FILTER TIPS to Filthier Tips is hysterical. And I’m so sorry to hear Jim’s valuable site is probably fading away! Downer.

  9. Traditionalist says:

    The death of xwordinfo is nothing but good news for crossword solvers. Let’s stop encouraging constructors to break records and create pangrams and all the other BS. We don’t need any more draw-on the-grid or write-outside-the-lines or even rebus puzzles. They’ve been done to death. There’s a reason Rex and Amy never mention the site. It’s poison. It would provide some value if it tracked crappy fill or crosswordese but those kinds of statistics seem to be conspicuously absent.

    • 21st Century says:

      You may find the USA Today puzzle to your liking.

    • Martin says:

      Crossword constructors were trying to break records long before the dawn of Jim Horne’s info site. That traditionalist of traditionalists, E.T. Maleska often mentioned crossword records in his books (“Across and Down” and “A Pleasure in Words”).

      -Martin Ashwood-Smith

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