Sunday, September 8, 2013

NYT 9:14 
Reagle 7:25 
LAT 7:13 
Hex/Hook tk (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Janie) 
CS 9:16 (Dave) 

Pete Muller and Sue Keefer’s New York Times crossword, “Bumper Cars”

Impressively sized theme—seven very long answers, five of them spanning the entire 21-square width of the grid, each a clueable phrase made up of three car models:

  • 23a. [Search for a cradle-robbing woman in New York City?] PARK AVENUE COUGAR QUEST. Buick Park Avenue, Mercury Cougar, Nissan Quest.
  • 37a. [High-handed ambassador stationed off the Italian coast?], CAVALIER CAPRI DIPLOMAT. Chevy Cavalier, I forget the Capri (an old Ford, apparently), old Dodge Diplomat.
  • 55a. [Peace treaty between a predator and its prey?], BOBCAT/RABBIT ACCORD. Mercury Bobcat, VW Rabbit, Honda Accord.
  • 67a. [Tom Brady, in the 2002 Super Bowl?], INTREPID RAM CHALLENGER. Dodge Intrepid, Dodge Ram, Dodge Challenger. The all-Dodge center.
  • 78a. [Musical piece for a "Star Wars" battle scene?], STORMTROOPER SONATA. Ha! Geo Storm, Isuzu Trooper, Hyundai Sonata.
  • 98a. [Advocate for pro-am tournaments?], CELEBRITY GOLF DEFENDER. VW Golf, sure, but I’m hazy on the other two. To the Google! ’80s Chevy Celebrity and … the Land Rover Defender? That doesn’t ring a bell at all.
  • 116a. [Diminutive Aborigine?], MIDGET OUTBACK EXPLORER. Sigh. Using MIDGET to describe a person? That’s not to be done anymore. MG Midget, Subaru Outback, Ford Explorer. Three vehicles I have actually been in!

In general, the fill is quite good despite the long expanses of theme answers. (Yes, there are some “meh” bits like IMRE and SERE and OCTA, but the sign of a good puzzle is that I don’t get irritated by such fill when I encounter it.) And the theme provides a nice mental workout, trying to puzzle out what car names double as words that make sense in the clue’s context. Five more things:

  • 19a. ["Idomeneo" heroine], ILIA? Did not know this.
  • 81d. [Book of Judges judge], EHUD? I know the Israeli Ehud Barak, but not the biblical Ehud.
  • 9d. [1969 Peter O'Toole title role], MR. CHIPS. Nice entry. Also? Chips, mmmm.
  • 99d. [Pussy ___ (Russian girl group)], RIOT. I have two comments here. First, “girl group”? You have got to be kidding me. As Wikipedia defines it, a girl group is “a popular music act featuring several young female singers who generally harmonize together.” Pussy Riot is a punk band. They are open to members who really can’t sing. They’re not a girl group. Secondly, I’m pretty sure that this use of the word “pussy” specifically connotes the vagina/vulva zone, and as such I am rather surprised to see it in the Gray Lady’s crossword puzzle. Not remotely displeased, mind you, but surprised. It’s a fresh and 2013-newsy way to clue RIOT.
  • 32d. [Brief remark upon retiring], NIGHT. Really a nice clue for the word.

4.25 stars. Welcome to the land of the NYT crossword byline, Sue Keefer! Lovely debut with the seasoned Pete Muller.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Groundbreaker”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 9 8 13 “Groundbreaker”

The theme is … farm equipment in other contexts.

  • 18a. [Marine predator], THRESHER SHARK.
  • 23a. [Team up], COMBINE FORCES. I know what a combine is (roughly), but “join forces” is more solidly in the language. Google shows me headlines in which two things “combine forces,” yes, but it looks weird in the grid.
  • 67a. [Theme of this puzzle], FARM MACHINERY.
  • 119a. [Give a thrashing to], CLEAN ONE’S PLOW. “Clean your clock” is far more common.
  • 123a. [Construction project bidder], SUBCONTRACTOR. In this one, the TRACTOR is part of a longer word rather than a stand-alone word. Don’t like the inconsistency.
  • 15d. ["Perry Mason" co-star], WILLIAM HOPPER. I know there’s a train car called a hopper, but I don’t know the farm equipment by that name and I don’t have a clue who the actor is. TV shows that ended before I was born are generally not my forte.
  • 55d. [Rex Harrison-Maureen O'Hara drama of 1947, with "The"], FOXES OF HARROW. Never heard of it, I don’t think.

Not only didn’t the theme resonate with me, but the FILL (41a. [Non-theme entries, to crossword constructors]) kicked the old Scowl-o-Meter into action so many times. While I like OH REALLY (but not the repeat of OH four columns to the left) and I’D LOVE TO a lot, there was so much else I didn’t care for. 124a. [Would-be attorney's trial] is a LAW EXAM rather than a BAR EXAM? Plural URSULAS? Crosswordese REATAS, ARA, and ETAPE125a. [Blues great's monogram] BBK and 21d. [1970s ABC News co-anchor, Howard ___] K. SMITH? Awkward abbreviation LIC. NO.?

35d. [Matzo ___] BREI was new to me. Apparently it’s matzo cooked with eggs.

2.5 stars from me. I simply didn’t enjoy myself solving this puzzle.


Updated Sunday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I’m sitting in a hotel in the Vieux-Port de Montréal this morning ready to hit the city, so a brief commentary on today’s “Sunday Challenge” from constructor Randolph Ross.

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 09/08/13

I count fourteen 10-letter entries in this low word-count puzzle; here are my FAVEs of the bunch:

  • Beginning as most solvers do, at 1-Across, we have [Role played by Margaret Rutherford, Helen Hayes, and Angela Lansbury] which was JANE MARPLE – I only know her as “Miss” and wasn’t familiar with her given first name. She is the amateur detective found in many of Agatha Christie‘s novels and short stories.
  • [Cult film of 1978] clued ERASERHEAD – man, that one still gives me nightmares over 30 years later–I haven’t seen a cooked chicken in the same way since.
  • I first thought [Kenny Rogers duet partner] was DOLLY PARTONIslands in the Stream comes to mind, but it was DOTTIE WEST instead. Here’s a clip of them singing Every Time Two Fools Collide.
  • I’ve actually met [Renowned crocodile hunter] or STEVE IRWIN – he’s from Marshfield, Mass. and was at a benefit for a local nature conservancy. Nice and generous guy. Speaking of the Cape (or nearby), a RANCH HOUSE is an alternative to a Cape Cod (“saltbox”) style of home.
  • Finally, I enjoyed the parallel rhyming schemes of [Super-duper] cluing the old-timey HOTSY TOTSY.

Not too much dreck holds these long entries together, although I have to call out that OOOO ([Haunted house sound]) and O-TWO ([Pure oxygen]) crossing. Why isn’t the first O-FOUR? :) Enjoy the end of the weekend, folks!

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 179″—Janie’s review

doug9:8While I love a good word game—or even a guilty-pleasure, part-logic/part-luck solitaire-style computer game (like that literal time-killer Bejeweled 2, say…), I’m generally not much of a game-player. But that won’t stand in the way of my enjoying the snappy central-/marquis-crossing Doug gives us in today’s mini-themed themeless. Here’s where a 20-sided game-die and a steroid-fed handheld cube-puzzle meet by way of a shared “R” in SCATTERGORIES and RUBIK’S REVENGE.

And just as impressive is the roundup of fresh 8-letter fill that concludes with or peels off the first and last two letters of both of those entries: REDHEADS, ACOUSTIC (where my initial response to [Type of bass] was ATLANTIC…), the cunningly clued ROAD RAGE with its reference to the [Condition caused by...] the non-medical type of [...clogged arteries?], UNDOINGS, EGOMANIA (and its non-luggage-based [Vanity case?] clue, the oh-so timely SALINGER (new biography and documentary just released), BLEEPING (and not BLEEDING…) as an [Adjective that can replace an expletive], and OAK RIDGE, the [WWII atomic research center near Knoxville].

Was this an easy puzzle for me to solve? Not by a long-shot. Neither did it require AI, so I take that for a plus. But I was initially flummoxed by the number of contemporary pop-culture references that (as clued, especially) didn’t resonate at all… (e.g., MIA [Character Toretto in the "Fast and the Furious" films"], [She & HIM (Zooey Deschanel's band], NIKITA [Drama on the CW about an assassin], [Band on Butt-head's T-shirt] for AC/DC, [No. 1 hit from the 1997 album "Middle of Nowhere"] for “MMMBOP,” and even LPGA champ [Beth in the World Golf Hall of Fame] DANIEL).

ScatDieSo I took a deep breath and went to the references that did resonate. First items in the grid? Lillian Hellman’s ["Watch on the RHINE"], SALINGER [Author of the short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"], GARTH [Two-time movie role for Dana] (SNL’s Carvey), [Disney cocker spaniel] LADY, and ÊTRE [Verb with a circumflex]. Somehow BON AMI and BLITZER—the non-Jack-London response to [Wolf with many stories]—surfaced and I could begin in earnest, solving NE to NW to SE to SW.

Even with an ultimately strongish start, however, I was misdirected more than once, not only by the ACOUSTIC and BLEEDING snafus, but also by entering PECS for LATS [Rowing develops them], UGANDA for UBANGI [Congo feeder]. [They're garnished with cherries]—that has to be some kind of dessert, like an (over-long) ICE CREAM SUNDAE, right? Wrong. Not even close. MANHATTANS. “Bottoms up!” D’oh..

Then there was the fill I felt certain I knew but couldn’t dredge up without some letters in place to nudge my brain. This made the “aha” sweet, though, for fill like PRAGUE [Setting for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being'] (never read the book or saw the movie, but remembered hearing about both); THUNDER BAY [Canadian port on Lake Huron]; GARN [Senator Jake who flew on space shuttle rr scrambledDiscovery], OAK RIDGE and TEASELS [Prickly-leaved plants].

If I don’t adore ADORER or TES (football’s tight ends [Targets for quarterbacks, at times]), for my money there still ain’t a weak quadrant to be found, and yes, I could probably PRATTLE on MORE, but let me conclude by giving a shout-out to the beautiful trios-of-six columns, NE: ZANIES, EGGNOG and RE-SENT) and the especially lively SW: “MMMBOP,” MOOLAH and EUREKA. All in all, between the grid-wide twisty clues and the vibrant fill, one very satisfying solve!

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “What Was In Is Now Out”

LA Times crossword solution, 9 8 13 “What Was In Is Now Out”

Phrases with an IN within a word get it changed to an OUT:

  • 23a. [Patiently do tough tile work?], GROUT AND BEAR IT.
  • 44a. [Displeasure over a split?], BOWLING POUT.
  • 65a. [Big toe, often?], GOUT JOINT. Nice riff on gin joint! For those who don’t know, the stereotypical gout spot is the side of the big toe/ball-of-the-foot joint. If it hurts like hell and it’s hot, red, and swollen, call your doctor. You don’t have to ride out the agony.
  • 87a. [Fight over a washing machine?], LAUNDRY BOUT. “Laundry bin”? I know laundry baskets. What’s a laundry bin? Google says this.
  •  107a. [Campaign oratory?], POLITICAL SPOUT. I don’t care for this usage of “spout” as a noun. You spout out words, but the words are not spout.
  • 16d. [Belligerent headliner?], SHOUTING STAR. I’m okay with the unchanged IN in shinINg because I like the “shining star”-to-SHOUTING STAR change.
  • 58d. [What Army recruiters do?], TOUT SOLDIERS. Don’t they tout military service rather than the soldiers?

So the theme is okay but not great in terms of execution.  The humor level is mild but not nonexistent.

Four more things:

  • 37d. [Poetry Out Loud contest co-creator: Abbr.], NEA. National Endowment for the Arts.
  • 82d. [190-member enforcement group], INTERPOL. I assume the 190 members are nations.
  • 90a. [Memory Muse], MNEME. Gosh, I never remember this Muse. Does anyone have a mnemonic for remembering it?
  • 50a. [Stats often in APBs], HGTS. Nobody loves plural abbrevs, do they?

Three stars.

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12 Responses to Sunday, September 8, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: Further, Pussy Riot is just a project of what’s really an activist art collective. I liked the puzzle too, but noticed far more of the funny little proper names; besides ILIA, EHUD, and IMRE, there were YSER, ARA, ENYA, LINA, ILSA, NEMO, IRMA, TIA, OONA, AGRA, and KIRI. Don’t mean to say that they’re all awful, but the preponderance was unmissable.

  2. Roger says:

    Yakima is not near Mount Ranier. For six letter cities, Seattle and Tacoma are.

    • HH says:

      Seattle is only 6 letters?

      • Oldmike says:

        Could you please leave your full name, I am stuck on 89 across :-)
        .
        (here in eastern Canada we get the puzzle two weeks late)

    • Papa John says:

      I realize “near” is a relative term, but you may want to look at a map. Seattle may actually be further from the mountain than Yakima. I would say all of the named cities are near Mount Rainier.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked me. I did it with my husband who knows stuff like ACER. Some of the combos cracked me up–the PARK AVENUE COUGAR. Although it would have been better if the clue had implied that the QUEST was hers, rather than her being the target… What/who would a Park Avenue Cougar be searching for?

    I got hung up on the Aborigine clue. The MIDGET issue aside (and I must have inhibited that word because I wanted MINI… and could not get unstuck). But is the definition of an Aborigine an OUTBACK EXPLORER? They live in the Outback and I am sure they explore it, but explorers are the ones who came from Europe and disturbed the Aborigine.

    Final nit: AXIS is not a “turning point” it’s a line. Wrong enough that I really had trouble putting it in, and did it only as a last resort.

  4. Karen says:

    TV Trivia: William Hopper of Perry Mason was Hedda Hopper’s son.

    • ArtLvr says:

      And he played Paul Drake, as I recall — attorney Perry Mason’s go-to private eye, and also the father of the Natalie Wood character in Rebel Without a Cause… Perry Mason reruns are still a TV staple.

  5. Nance says:

    Had 3/4 of the puzzle completed before I realized the theme. I would have enjoyed the challenge more had the theme clicked for me sooner. Clever idea!

  6. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Pussy 99D:RIOT, no prob — we had PUSSY Galore back in 1995. Puzzle in general, meh — 21 brand names for car models forced into 7 contrived phrases, whatever.

    NDE

  7. bananarchy says:

    Loved the post puzzler today. As a canuck THUNDER BAY was a gimme but nice to see in the grid. Also, I’m not above admitting that I got MMMBOP nearly instantaneously and without any crossings.

  8. Evan says:

    Got the theme based on the middle answer (67A) and then got thrown off trying to make each theme answer fit with a single brand (ie dodge)!

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