Monday, September 23, 2013

NYT 3:52 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:41 (pannonica) 
BEQ 4:53 
CS 5:26 (Dave) 

Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 9/23/13 • Mon • Gelfand • 9 23 13 • solution

Start the week. 34a ["Let's go!" … or a hint to the ends of 20-, 28-, 41- and 52-Across] IT’S TIME TO ROLL. The final word in each of those answers is something that can be rolled in one sense or another.

  • 20a. [Food preparation cutting technique] SLICE AND DICE. Roll, or toss them.
  • 28a. [School basics] THE THREE RS. Abstract item! Imaginative choice. The alveolar trill caused by labiodental vibration. Those “three Rs” are reading, writing, and arithmetic, which has always struck me as educationally inauspicious, considering the sloppiness. Not thrilled that the identical clue is used for non-theme material, ABCS (51d).
  • 41a. [Look of infatuation] GOO-GOO EYES. Orbital rolling, in two senses.
  • 52a. [Fancy dress affairs] COSTUME BALLS. Axial rotation.

Roll is a relatively expansive word, with a plethora of definitions in three parts of speech (noun, transitive verb, intransitive verb), so it’s a natural choice for this sort of theme. All verbs herein, though. For the record, using Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, the appropriate senses for the five answers are:

  • 20a – trans. v. 1a, (also, in a metaphorical sense, to assume a risk)
  • 28a – trans. v. 5c, intrans. v. 6b
  • 34a – intrans. v. 9a, 9b
  • 41a – trans. v. 1c, possibly intrans. v. 2b
  • 52a – trans. v. 1b, intrans. v. 1a

HAM can also be associated with a ROLL, but that isn’t pertinent here. More worrisome is 50a [Mexican dish sometimes described as "hot"] TAMALE; here’s the m-w.com definition of TAMALE: “a Mexican food that consists of seasoned ground meat or beans rolled in cornmeal, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed” (emphasis mine). No problem obviously with 1a BRAD Pitt in any of his various ROLES, but I fear I may be getting carried away.

Roll out the barrel:

  • Four meaty long answers in among the ballast, spiffy for a Monday: MEN’S ROOM, SORCERERS, STOOD OVER, VICE-VERSA.
  • Un-Mondayish fill, in an unwelcome way: French river OISE, IMARET crossing IMAM (might prove an impediment for novice solvers), SOG [Soak, in dialect].
  • Unnecessary cross-reference: 53d [Annapolis inst.] USNA, 48a [53-Down grad: Abbr.] ENS. Two abbrevs., to boot. Better to have clued the latter as the letters or perhaps the typographical dash size (though the plural is clunky there).
  • Moving through the puzzle relatively quickly, I scanned 11d [Suffix with capital or Marx] improperly. My sweeping eyes pinged on -fix, capital, and Marx and automatically filled in DAS, as in Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, never mind that (1) das is a definite article, not an affix of any kind, and (2) “capital” is lowercase and begins with a c. The next-door DES Moines didn’t help my subconscious either.
  • Oh, it was -ISM.
  • 1d [Short-legged hound] BASSET, which comes from the French word for short, which in turn derives from one meaning low. Factette: breeders managed to develop the distinctively-shaped dog, for the purpose of hunting rabbits and hares, by essentially reducing the length of the leg bones (effectively localized dwarfism); however, it wasn’t a perfect job; there’s enough loose skin on each limb for that of a full-height dog.

Average puzzle. A few too many three-letter abbrevs. lower my estimation, while the standout “rolled Rs” elevates it back to the middle.

Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/23/13 • Mon • Stillman • solution

Forgive me for inflicting this upon you, but it simply must be done. There’s no avoiding it.

71-across, down in the lower left, plays revealer today: [Beginning for this puzzle's five endings] I AM

Ironically, that’s most often clued in crosswords along the lines of [Cartesian conclusion] for his famous line, “I think, therefore I AM.” The Latin version is “Cogito ergo SUM,” so solvers can never be confident of filling in without crossings anything beyond the M. By the way, the original French version gets zero play: “Je pense, donc je SUIS.” Also, I promise the above link has nothing to do with will.i.am—I’m not that cruel.

The reflexive quotes that comprise the theme answers are:

  • 17a. [Ending from Ali] … THE GREATEST.
  • 21a. [Ending from Nixon] … NOT A CROOK.
  • 39a. [Ending from the Elephant Man] … NOT AN ANIMAL. Would have preferred the clue to name Joseph Merrick.
  • 57a. [Ending from Lennon and McCartney] … THE WALRUS.
  • 64a. [Ending from Beyoncé] … SASHA FIERCE.

What else, what else? The paired longdowns FREEBORN and LANYARDS are unusual but welcome fill, nor do they seem out of place for an early-week offering.  Uhm… 69a TIVOLI always sounded more Italian than Scandinavian to me, but eventually I was able to sort it all out in my mind; thanks to Fellini and De Toth for helping with the process. Erm… regrettably 4d SAGO will never in my lifetime be clued as [Flann O'Brien's "Slattery's __ Saga"]. Ah… 31d [ __ of mistaken identity] for A CASE—ick. Oo… 50d [Garam __: Indian spice mixture] MASALA; factette: it’s generic, not specific, though it typically includes cinnamon, cumin, peppercorns, clove, and cardamom. Eem… 23a [Civil War soldier] REB; see also 44d [Grant's opponent] LEE; not to be conflated with Grant Lee Buffalo.

Fine puzzle, strong theme.


Updated Monday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Pro and Cannes” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I think this is my second quip puzzle since I reupped for the CS reviewer chair here Chez Fiend, and this one is a tribute to a famous French moviemaker:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/23/13

  • TO THE DÉVOTÉE
  • OF FRENCH FILMS
  • A TRUE FRIEND
  • MAYBE A TRUFFAUT.

If it’s not obvious, faut (fault, or to be necessary, such as Il faut que…) in French, is pronounced like the English “foe,” so this phrase is playing on the friend/foe dichotomy. I at first bristled at the “a Truffaut” construction, but I guess we call films by a certain director “A [insert director's name here]” such as “A Spielberg” or “A Tarentino,” etc. Curious about the timing of this one, since the Cannes festival was in May this year and this director died in October almost 30 years ago. Got a tough start in the northwest–actress DEBI Mazar is obscure to me, I guess because I don’t watch the HBO series, Entourage. Speaking of things foreign, EIS for [Rink surface, in Munich] and IÇI for [Here, to Henri] might be a bit difficult for beginning solvers.

Nice longer fill here, though–I enjoyed LINEUPS, IN THE END, RED GIANT and my FAVE today, WINDFALLS. Not as big a fan of the abbreviated LIEUT and the unusual FLOURED, so those receive my UNFAVE award today.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

What the …? MISTERM was just in another puzzle and I grumbled about it (when do you ever use this word?), and here it is again, at least with a cool clue: 36d. [Make a wrong call?].

Highlights, quickly:

  • 16a. “MY SHARONA,” because (a) The Knack and (b) my husband’s college band would play the opening notes and the crowd would get excited and then the band would stop and say, “You didn’t really want to hear that, did you?” Well, kinda sorta.
  • 31a. THE IDIOT. Was Iggy Pop referring to Dostoevsky, by any chance? Please say yes.
  • 36a. [Place where people tend to show up late?], MORGUE. Grim but clever.
  • 38a. CUTIE PIE, cute.
  • 44a. [Places where many get off: Abbr.], STNS. Plural abbrev = bad, but clue that gets dirty-minded people wondering what on earth the answer is = good.
  • Full RICE-A-RONI, not just a partial ARONI or RONI answer.
  • MATT DAMON, full name.
  • 3d. [Flight simulation?], good clue for DISAPPEARING ACT. Just watched Now You See Me, the magician caper movie. Entertaining, didn’t see the twist coming.
  • 12d. [NFL quarterback whose signature move is kissing his flexed bicep after scoring a touchdown], COLIN KAEPERNICK. He stole my move. I do that at the gym. (Does he do that after throwing a touchdown pass to a player who catches and runs with the ball, or only after entering the end zone himself?)
  • 53d. [Reason for a relaunch from Venus?], LET. Tennis, not space. Great mislead.

3.75 stars. Deductions for STNS entry, OCHRES, ELIST.

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29 Responses to Monday, September 23, 2013

  1. Adam N says:

    The three R’s I learned in school were reduce, reuse, recycle. The reading, writing, and arithmetic are sort of old-school.

    • pannonica says:

      I don’t feel that trio is school-specific, even if we as a society are (ever so slightly) more environmentally aware these days, so it’s natural for children to be introduced to the concept. Wikipedia seems to agree with me.

      • HH says:

        I think it was Dennis Miller who once pointed out, “What does it say about our educational system when only one of the three Rs actually starts with an R?”

        • pannonica says:

          I shudder at the notion of having any thoughts similar to Dennis Miller’s.

          • HH says:

            Point taken, but he said this long before he went all red-state on us.

          • pannonica says:

            Oh, you mean back when he was merely a smug jerk who wasn’t one-eighth as clever or funny as he thought he was, sans political trappings? I feel so much better now.

          • Adam N says:

            Well, if we were to take reading, writing and arithmetic and turn it into a correct acronym, we would have RWA, WRA, RAW, or WAR.

            It’s better to have to Three R’s than WAR in schools.

          • Karma Sartre says:

            I give him credit for using that great Tears for Fears song.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I really loved the concept of the puzzle. I have had to work hard not to ROLL my Rs. I’ve learned to say R’s in 3 different ways in this lifetime- ROLLED for Arabic, whatever that back-in-the-throat sound is for French, and the light, slurred American. And I’ve had a number of Japanese students who have turned Rs into L’s. That letter is such a mess ! Everyone seems to say N’s the same way, why not R’s?

    And the MEN’s ROOM clue cracked me up, because I did once walk into one, in Finland… They had some M vs N code that had me confused. I turned right around and came out, but it was in a theater and a lot of people standing in the lobby saw me and politely pretended not to. Except for my husband– he ROLLED his EYES.

    • Loren Smith says:

      Huda – things may have changed over the past 25 years, but back in the day, R’s and L’s were called “liquid” consonants – vowelish consonants, if you will, whose articulation can be all over the board.

      leaf
      feel

      Most speakers will articulate those L’s differently. In fact, many speakers will replace the L in “feel” with a kind of an O sound.

      Liquids are normally the last class of sounds that a child develops, and, in my experience, the most difficult sounds to master in other languages. It’s just so darned hard to see what’s going on with the tongue.

      The utter lack of liquids explains Elmer Fudd’s speech.

      Widdle Wabbit

  3. Evad says:

    26d. in the NYT shall henceforth be clued not as an abbreviation, but with a reference to this, now closing in on 2 billion views on YouTube…

    • Adam N says:

      It’s weird, I haven’t seen anything about any his songs or origin in any “PSY” clues out there.

      • Martin says:

        December 27, 2012 NYT by Julian Lim; January 3, 2013 Jonesin’; January 20, 2013 Post Puzzler by Frank Longo; Februay 8, 2013 CrosSynergy by Tony Orbach; March 28, 2013 Jonesin’; April 10, 2013 NYT by Julian Lim all clued PSY with Gangnam Style.

        The BEQ themeless of October 15, 2012 had GANGNAM STYLE with Psy in the clue.

  4. Gareth says:

    The NYT has a Beautiful theme: Rolling r’s is a masterstroke! On the other hand [Soak, in dialect] and [Pres. Jefferson]/THOS are pretty out-there as answers go! PS, Clechos are generally considered to be plus points…

    The LAT theme was also neat, and had generally less sticky fill – even with the 5-letter overlaps in two pairs of theme answers! I assume that’s why PASTO is there; quite, high-end Italian that, although inferrable from antipasto. Had an ACME malapop moment filling in SUET for SAGO (yes, that was a pretty dumb mistake, SUET is kidney-fat) only to find SUET a few answers further along!

  5. pannonica says:

    CS: The puzzle’s title perpetuates the bizarre, possibly hypercorrective, faux-sophisticated misconception that the French place name is pronounced ˈkän. It’s simply ˈkan.

  6. Zulema says:

    Am I the only one who thought the NYT crossword clues and fill other than the theme belonged to a lesser publication we do not review ever? Was this to counter Saturday’s difficulty, perhaps?

  7. Jeffrey K says:

    The lyrics to I Am, I Said always bothered me. “Except for the names and a few other changes…the story’s the same one.” So you’re saying the story isn’t actually the same one at all.

  8. Loren Smith says:

    Panonnica – I’m such a sucker for Neil Diamond and that song. Loved it!

  9. Jeff M says:

    Two quickies:
    1. Really enjoyed BEQ’s puzzle today…when I saw 36A I was hoping the answer was OBGYN…
    2. On ratings (and the mystery low-ratings troll): Is there any way to filter out ratings/comments sent from a particular IP address? (It would be very cool if there was a way to filter ratings by IP so people could see if they’re especially complimentary or overly critical…)

    • Zulema says:

      Jeff M., I hope you didn’t mean me, because I am not usually critical. This NYT puzzle was a minor opus, and I thought I should mention some of its shortcomings.

    • Evad says:

      Hi Jeff, we do track the IP addresses of raters and their ratings (that’s how we make sure folks only vote once per day per puzzle); however, IP addresses are notoriously dynamic based upon service providers doling out the next available IP in their set of addresses whenever one of their clients connects.

      My request is not to block anyone, but to ask those who rate on either end of the spectrum to explain their rationale in the comments (like the person who said he gives all rebus puzzles 1 star no matter what…I can’t say I agree with that philosophy, but I give the rater credit for explaining him- or herself). The rating system, and even moreso the comment section, are sometimes the only concrete feedback constructors receive, in an otherwise isolated trade. Very few are making a living wage from this, so constructive praise and criticism are much more meaningful than if constructors were paid like sports stars.

  10. Jeff M says:

    @Zulema gosh no. I’m responding to Amy (or whoever from the Team) made the comment the other day about trolls who assign one star ratings to even the best puzzles. Trust me, I’m as guilty as anyone of making negative comments and rating puzzles harshly!

  11. Adam N says:

    Doing the BEQ puzzle, I realized that from the NE to the SW of the grid, it spells: SNL………AIM.

  12. Amy L says:

    Thank you, Loren, for the L and R explanation. Next time, tell us about V and W and why they’re mixed up.

    As for the three Rs, I thought they were reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.

  13. Lois says:

    As one who perhaps errs on the side of high ratings – I often don’t vote if I don’t like a puzzle – I’d like to defend one-star ratings, and their submitters. Why are you concerned with why someone gave a puzzle one star when that particular puzzle was in general well liked? What is really the problem, if the puzzle received an average high rating and was overall well liked? The constructor should be happy about that. I think it’s better for diversity to be shown. If I loved a puzzle for a particular reason, I wouldn’t like my five-star vote to be deleted just because it was the only one. I like to see the broad range of views. I don’t focus on the one-star rating, but it is interesting when it is there. It isn’t always there. That said, I also don’t like it when someone says he or she will always give a one-star rating when, for instance, a roman numeral clue is used. I don’t really think such a vote should be deleted by someone else, though.

    • Gareth says:

      OK some people have gone a bit far. There’s nothing wrong with having a dissenting opinion. Of course, it’s more meaningful if people express it here in the comments, even if things can get a bit prickly at times!

      What the original point of the post was is false one-star ratings / five-star ratings. For instance, a puzzle is averaging 4.5 and you feel it’s about a 2/3; instead of that, you give it a 1 because then the rating is closer to your own. I don’t know how many people do this, but some do. Same with high ratings. But it’s sort of inevitable as more and more rate puzzles…

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