Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NYT 3:18 
Jonesin' 3:08 
LAT 2:42 
CS 7:42 (Dave) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 
Blindauer 7:05 (Matt) 

Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 3 13, no 0903

“And this little piggy cried ‘wee, wee, wee’ all the way home.” Various spellings of “wee” serve as clues and they’re defined in the answers:

  • 17a. [Wii], XBOX RIVAL.
  • 23a. [Oui], FRENCH FOR YES. Ouch.
  • 36a. [We], PERSONAL PRONOUN. First person plural, if you want to get specific.
  • 46a. ["Whee!"], CRY OF DELIGHT.
  • 58a. [Wee], MINIATURE.

I’m on record as not generally liking this sort of theme … and this puzzle fits right into that vein. I don’t care to see the type of phrases that normally don’t pass muster as crossword fill populating big expanses of the grid. I like plenty of unexpected twists but not this sort of twist.

What’d you think of the “quaintly” crossing? 3d. [Soon, quaintly], ANON meets 20a. [Farther away, quaintly], YON. In the opposite corner, quaint cousin ERST appears, but clued as a word fragment (55d. [While preceder]) rather than a stand-alone archaic word.

Speaking of word fragments, let us never speak of 63a. [Suffix with road and hip], STERS, again. Plural suffix?? Oy.

2.75 stars for a theme type that does nothing for me and fill that doesn’t make me forget the theme.


Updated Tuesday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Down in Front!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A phrase someone might use to ask someone to sit down so that you can see better is interpreted literally by taking the first letter of a two-word phrase down a notch:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/03/13

  • [Song about bad weather in Limerick?] clues EIRE AND RAIN – the original phrase, “Fire and Rain,” comes from this James Taylor tune. I kept wanting to parse this as ending in “drain” instead of “rain.”
  • [Apt moniker for a "stock" market figure?] is COW JONES – nice double entendre in the clue with “stock.” The Dow Jones was the original phrase here.
  • [Puts a fixer-upper on the market?] clues SELLS IT LIKE IT IS – “tells” become “sells.” This seems the most natural of the theme set and may have been the theme inspiration, especially as it spans the grid at 15 letters.
  • [Shop workers?] are VISE GUYS – also what they call “wise guys” in Transylvania.
  • Finally, we have [Armed forces academy?] cluing MIGHT SCHOOL – do they teach there that might makes right? The original phrase was “night school.”

Ambitious theme with five entries in the grid, but I was a bit confused with the two longer across entries–NAME PLATE and SEEING RED–which didn’t seem to be part of the theme set. Overall, I had lots of false starts in this one as well–SORT for NEST was my first most obvious one for [Stack in descending size order]. I enjoyed the unusual entries of PLATH, USURP, HYDRA and SCHMO, as it’s difficult to find many five-letter entries that sparkle like these do. On the other hand, I wasn’t as fond of the four-letter ENTR, MIDI, NL’ER, the variant IGLU and the French IDÉE. It’s much harder to find three- and four-letter entries with some spunk.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Whoop-de-Dough!”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 9/3

Crossword Nation 9/3

Oh, yay—a pun theme today, where dough in the title tips us off to the focus of the groaners theme fill. Now, these won’t be dough-as-in-“I’m a real cool head—I’m makin’ real good bread-puns (thank you, Beach Boys), but dough-as-in-”How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?”-puns (thank you, Julia Child). Happily, we’re served up a variety of breads, some leavened, some un-, all chewy: no Kleenex here! Brace yourself…and take your pick from:

  • 20A. “PITA AND THE WOLF” [Prokofiev composition about a bread-loving pack animal?]. So that’s a pun on “Peter and the Wolf.” Ouch. And beautiful, right? The recording my brother and I grew up with was narrated by Sterling Holloway—and it sounded something like this. Whose version was/is in your home/iPod?
  • 25A. BIALY BUTTONS [Campaign lapel pins for deli bread fans?]. Hear that, candidates? “Give us this day our deli bread!” Oh, yeah. Please, though, don’t attach these pins to you belly buttons. Talk about “ouch”…
  • 48A. THE FLYING NAN [Sally Field sitcom about light-as-air Bombay bread?]. The visual on this one is pretty silly. Am seeing rolling hills where kids of all ages are tossing about nan loaves (yes, sometimes naan—both get used) as if they were frisbees. Sally—once Sister Bertrille in “The Flying Nun—is their coach. Or something like that…
  • 54A. ARSENIO CHALLAH [Talk show host's brand of braided bread?]. Hah. It’s kind of a MIRACLE that this one works, and yet—it does. Think of someone whose first language is Italian pronouncing the word hall. If that person is of a certain age (i.e., a later-in-life English-language-learner), dollars to, uh, doughnuts, yer gonna hear that word (also ARSENIO’s last name) pronounced with an extra syllable. Hall-uh. I leave it to you to connect the dots.

And though it’s not a pun, we do get a bonus bread-related clue by way of [Stiff, wearable "sandwich"] for SIGN. Okay, I didn’t say it would be edible…

squirreling awayHappy-making fill elsewhere in the grid is easy to find: CABOOSE (and nicely clued, too, as [Red car on a train track]), AGELESS, that aforementioned MIRACLE, HOBNOB, and the STENCIL / [Pattern-making guide used in decorative painting] combo. Ditto STASHES and the vivid [Squirrels away]. I’m also seeing—and imagining the good effects of—a spa-like mini-theme, where I can have a SOAK [Enjoy a bubble bath], exfoliate with my LOOFA and remind myself to “INHALE green; exhale blue…”

Nope, not in love with the Roman numerals required for either ART I or MML, though I’m more inclined to find the former acceptable ([Beginning drawing class]). I think the latter example would have benefited by having been anchored to something meaningful in the past, and not come to us as some gimme-year in the future ([2050, in Roman numerals]). Also while a HEDGE may indeed [...come between you and your neighbor], it’s made up of shrubs or plants, but in my experience is not a “plant” in and of itself.

Perfect to wear while drinking grasshoppers, too!

Perfect to wear while drinking grasshoppers, too!

Far better are the sartorially-based [Like mint-green polyester leisure suits]

Jane Greenwood's sketch for Madeline Kahn

Jane Greenwood’s sketch for Madeline Kahn

for TACKY and its fashion opposite, the [Iconic Chanel design] for SUIT. Anyone see (the late) Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig featuring (the late…) Madeline Kahn (as Gorgeous Teitelbaum)? She was the outgoing, cash-strapped sister who could use the word “funsie” in a sentence and make it sound sincere, and whose heartbreakingly touching dream was to wear a Chanel SUIT that was not a knock-off.

Finally, love the sequential, twin “jazz” clues—one for the basketball team in UTAH; the other for pianist Chick COREA. But my favorite musical reference today would have to be [Like Chopin's nocturnes] for TONAL because it sent me back to listen to classical pianist Artur Rubinstein playing the exquisite Op. 9, No. 1 in B-Flat Minor. It’s got tension and release to die for!

Patrick Blindauer’s September website puzzle, “Catching a Few Winks” — Matt’s review

It’s OK for a home run-hitter to hit for contact once in a while, and that’s what Patrick does this month with this puzzle, which is a double into the gap.

Double indeed, in fact, since eight rebus squares in the grid contain ZZ. Fun plan — if nothing else we’re getting 16 Z’s to mess around with — so let’s see how the master handles it:

  • 17-a [Flashy display] = RA(ZZ)MATA(ZZ).
  • 66-a [Hairless creature of rhyme] = FU(ZZ)Y WU(ZZ)Y.
  • 11-d ["Chicago" song] = RAZZLE DAZZLE. Good to clue it as the song since it’d be a little similar to 17-a if clued straightforwardly.
  • 30-d [Words from a cheerleader of yore] = HUZZAH, HUZZAH.

Crossing those four double-barrelled shots we have ME(ZZ)O, RI(ZZ)O, EMBE(ZZ)LE, O(ZZ)IE, BU(ZZ)ER, JA(ZZ) AGE, SHI(ZZ)LE (!) and, aptly, PU(ZZ)LE.

Fancy stepping required to get everything to fit, but he even shows off a little with a crowded center that includes GATTACA, IRISH SEA, BLUE BALLS (!), POLLUTER, UNSETTLED and the aforementioned EMBE(ZZ)LE. Bravo.

Top 5 clues:

  • 63-d [Ob objection] for NYET. That’s the Ob River of Russia.
  • 54-d [Singer in the Adams family] = BRYAN. Not Ryan Adams, who’s a different person.
  • 1-a [A musing sound] = HMM.
  • 39-a [Rub out a boner] = ERASE. Channeling BEQ!
  • 61-d [Get down quickly] = GULP.

Good stuff, and I don’t at all mind an E-Z Blindauer once in a while. 4.20 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Mouthpieces”

An easier-than-usual Jonesin’ this week, no? The theme is mouth parts:

  • 19a. ["Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" band], THE FLAMING LIPS.
  • 32a. [It's made with a lot of folding and chewing], GUM WRAPPER CHAIN. You can’t make a chain from the packaging for gum pellets. I predict that gum wrapper chains will become extinct in the coming decades.
  • 39a. [Item for an exhaustive search, so to speak], FINE-TOOTHED COMB.
  • 52a. ["Unique New York" and "Cinnamon aluminum linoleum"], TONGUE TWISTERS.

I’m not crazy about the inconsistency in the location of the mouth parts. Inside the right edge, at the left edge, as part of the middle word, again at the left edge. I could also do without fill like AZO, ICAO, TANGLER, and STEN, and crossings like ARIE/URIE.

Favorite clues:

  • 17a. [Place where cuts are part of the profit], SALON.
  • 5d. ["I love you," in a telenovela], TE AMO.
  • 35d. [The ___ from French Lick (Larry Bird)], HICK.
  • 40d. [Orange drink on some of Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts], TANG. Presumably the unreconstituted powder—which is also used to make cubes that go in champagne for a Tang mimosa.

Three stars.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 3 13

Interesting theme idea: Take two famous American Indian leaders (not of the Bobby Jindal variety), split their names in two, and assemble four phrases starting with the name words:

  • 17a. 1976 debut single for Heart], CRAZY ON YOU. Here’s a 1977 live performance.
  • 27a. Stable warmer], HORSE BLANKET.
  • 37a. Nationality of the two leaders suggested by the starts of 17-, 27-, 43- and 57-Across], SIOUX.
  • 43a. Biding one’s time], SITTING TIGHT.
  • 57a. Informal name for the double bass], BULL FIDDLE. I have never encountered this term before. Is it familiar to the rest of you? Here’s the “Bull Fiddle Boogie” from 1949.

We sure don’t see TEXARKANA (11d. [Portmanteau region between Dallas and Little Rock]) in too many grids. Nice entry.

I was underwhelmed by the rest of the fill. Nothing horrendous, but not much to write home about, either. 4 stars for the theme, 3 for the fill.

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18 Responses to Tuesday, September 3, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    I have a bit if a soft spot for this kind of “definition- in-the-grid” theme. This is.pretty good example of the genre (if I can call it that), especially because it includes the relatively new word WII, which has been a godsend to crossword constructors.

    My favourite example of this type of puzzle ran in Games Magazine when Will Shortz was still editing the Pencilwise section. The 15×15 was called “Set Piece” and had (I think) five 15s all of them definitions of the word “set”. The striking think about the grid was that one of the 15s ran vertically down the middle of the grid, while the other 15s interlocked it horizontally.

    Lots of fun :)

    -MAS

    • Gareth says:

      Except variations of this have been done twice in the last few years in the NY Times alone. This one: http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=2/2/2009, and this one http://www.crosswordfiend.com/blog/2011/12/18/monday-121911/. There are other versions in other publications, but that shouldn’t really matter. So it seems we’ll be getting WII puzzles every two years for the foreseeable future.

      (I realise most people don’t remember the puzzles they did two years ago. I also realise that many constructors are going to make the connection that NINTENDOWII has an unusual spelling, and that there are thus enough homophones for a puzzle.)

      Post-script – From xwordinfo.com: “Will Shortz notes: This puzzle had been languishing in my files for several years, because I’d run a couple of others with we/wee/Wii/etc. themes. But I thought Dan’s treatment was nice — and after a few years the whole idea feels fresh again.”

      • Mike Hawkins says:

        I’m not enthralled by the 2009 puzzle, but the MARIOnette on top of Nintendo is a nice touch.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      If I ever get a book published, I’m going to name one of my characters Anoa. Or Adit. Doesn’t Adit Potter sound good?

  2. Matt says:

    I’m generally tolerant of ‘meh’ fill, and I liked the theme– but– ERMA, ERST, ANON, EERIE, STERS, CDE, OPTS, QED, AGOG, AONE, SEN, OPTS, ASST, RENEE… It’s like a class reunion of ALUMS of Cruciverbal U.

    • Huda says:

      yeah, agreed. It was enough to be intrusive even if you’re not a perfectionist. Combined with the very straightforward cluing and definitions, it felt kinda beige.

  3. Angela Osborne says:

    How does one get “Old Files” from clue “Something achieved”>

    • pauer says:

      Try reading the clue again.

      • jefe says:

        Hold up; I distinctly remember having that same question. It now makes sense that it should be “Something archived”, but I don’t remember if I’d read it wrong or if it was a misprint (I solved the newspaper copy). Anybody have the paper on hand to confirm?

  4. Gareth says:

    I was trying to come up with a thematic justification to use CRAZYONYOU but I never came up with one that satisfied me, so seeing that alone made me happy! Of course the one musical link Amy didn’t provide was this one

  5. Matt J. says:

    Re the TANG clue: One of my favorites out here, the Mango Tango. Yes, it is Tang powder. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. http://voodoodoughnut.com/doughnuts.php

  6. Lorraine says:

    anyone know if/when the MGWCC solution will be posted? Thanks!

  7. Dave C says:

    Tomorrow at noon (EST). We got an extra 24 hours due to Labor Day.

Comments are closed.