Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jonesin' 4:31 
NYT 3:30 
LAT 3:10 
CS 6:45 (Matt) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 8 13, no. 1008

If this puzzle had a title, it would be “You Can Say That Again.” Each theme answer is clued with a circular cross-reference to itself because each one needs to be repeated two or three times to fit the clue:

  • 1a. [With 1-Across, toy train], CHOO.
  • 21a. [With 21-Across, "I'll believe it when I see it!"], PROMISES. Who remembers the 1983 Naked Eyes song?
  • 23a. [With 23-Across, CBer's opening], BREAKER.
  • 26a. [With 26-Across, #1 hit for the Mamas & the Papas], MONDAY.
  • 37a. [With 37-Across and 37-Across, a holiday song], LET IT SNOW. Or, as I like to think of it, “Snowletit Snowletit Snow.”
  • 51a. [With 51-Across, town crier's cry], HEAR YE.
  • 53a. [With 53-Across, "Nothing's changed"], SAME OLD.
  • 55a. [With 55-Across and 55-Across, real-estate catchphrase], LOCATION.
  • 70a. [With 70-Across, #1 hit for Billy Idol], MONY.
  • 1d. [With 1-Down and 1-Down, lively Latin dance], CHA.
  • 2d. [With 2-Down, "Ver-r-ry funny!"], HAR. We would also have accepted HEE.
  • 14d. [With 14-Down, like some talk shows], LATE.
  • 29d. [With 29-Down, nursery rhyme starter], PETER. Pumpkin eater.
  • 54d. [With 54-Down, food gelling agent], AGAR.
  • 63d. [With 63-Down, title boy in a 2011 Spielberg film], TIN. I don’t like this one because the name is simply Tintin, not Tin Tin.
  • 64d. [With 64-Down and 64-Down, Fat Albert's catchphrase], HEY.

That’s a lot of theme action, but of course most of the answers are quite short. I like the concept, and it’s executed fairly well. The Scowl-o-Meter groused at [Early Tarzan Ron] ELY, the odd WEE-UNS, and antiquated OSTLERS ([Stable employees]), but I liked THE OMEN, the COSMOS/MYTHOS pair (very PBS), and the TB TEST.

Four stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Understand?”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 10 8 13 “Understand?”

I don’t know why the theme answers run vertically. 22d: GET CONNECTED is what ties them all together, as these four entries have a word ending with -GE connected to a word starting with T-:

  • 3d. [Athens, Ohio and Athens, Georgia, for two], COLLEGE TOWNS.
  • 25d. [They say where your plane will land], LUGGAGE TAGS.
  • 21d. Like some crossword books], LARGE-TYPE. Isn’t “large-print” more common?
  • 8d. [Actor-turned-Facebook humormonger], GEORGE TAKEI.

Other nonthematic long fill includes the lively ALCOPOP and BALL BOY, pretty CAMELLIA, JET-SETTER, PAIRED UP, Deutsch ACHTUNG (60a. [German word in a U2 album title]), TAKE A TOLL, and RECURRENT crossword themes.

The gnarliest spot was where two mystifying words crossed another not-so-obvious answer:

  • 51d. [French stew with beef, wine and garlic], DAUBE.
  • 53d. ["Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop" singer Landon ___], PIGG. Never heard of this guy before. I’d have found a Simon PEGG/J.J. CALE crossing easier.
  • 65a. [Hunter's gatherer], GAME BAG. Is that a thing? That’s the terminology?

6d. [Genre for James Bond or Austin Powers] clues SPY-FI. How common is that term? It’s not really ringing a bell here.

3.5 stars.

Clive Probert’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 8 13

Subtle theme with—alert Henry Hook!—no revealer at all. If you’re addressing an envelope, there are six things you’ll need to include:

  • 17a. [Shows off one's connections], NAME-DROPS. Who are you writing to? Write their name on the envelope.
  • 21a. [Top of the charts], NUMBER ONE. Address number.
  • 32a. [Modernized pre-1949 auto], STREET ROD. Not a familiar phrase for me. You’ll need the street name too.
  • 45a. [Metropolitan distance unit], CITY BLOCK. Not standardized, you know—a Chicago city block is 1/8th of a mile, whereas New York’s is, I believe, 1/16th of a mile. Chicago cleverly runs the address numbering system such that one mile takes up 800 spots on the number line; 2400 North and 3200 North are one mile apart.
  • 58a. [Aptly named Nevada border community known for its casinos], STATE LINE. Never heard of this place. The USPS prefers its two-letter abbreviations for states.
  • 64a. [Lunchbox sandwich protector], ZIPLOC BAG. “Boston, Mass. 02134.”

I wasn’t expecting to have to puzzle out what the theme was in a Tuesday puzzle. How many people out there are asking themselves, “What do drops, one, rod, block, line, and bag have in common?”

Five more things:

  • 7d. [Refill to the brim], TOP UP. This skews a little British, no? My 2000 VW Passat (not customized for the American market, apparently) had a dashboard message saying “TOP UP WASH FLUID” when the wiper fluid was low, along with “BOOT LID OPEN.” This makes me associate TOP UP with the Brits, but now I’m thinking you’d top up somebody’s drink stateside too.
  • 60d. [Ice cream thickener], AGAR / 63a. [Three-time Tony winner Uta], HAGEN.—That intersection at the G? I’m thinking it will give plenty of Tuesday solvers fits.
  • 16a. [Like one in the sulks], POUTY. “In the sulks” is not phrasing I’m familiar with. Is “the sulks” plain American English, or might it skew British?
  • 46d. [It's unpleasant when things end on one], BAD NOTE. Call me crazy, but I like this answer.
  • 19a. [What the truth sometimes does], HURTS. Interesting clue.

Four stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Hey Sister”—Janie’s review

CN 10:8“Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister!” Yes. Liz’s title immediately put me in mind of Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” (though these days the song might be more closely associated with Christine Aguilera…). And even though we find the word LADY at 13D cluing the aforementioned [Marmalade or Chatterly], the puzzle is still not a tribute to the miss with Mies van der Rohe hair. Instead, we’re tacitly invited to insert the word sister after the first word of each of five theme phrases—which yields up a well-diversified list of “kinds of sisters.” With or without Ms. LaBelle, the puzzle is teeming with a range of contemporary music references—which keeps things way lively—so while this is not my favorite kind of theme style, the first-rate theme fill (and some sharp cluing) made this one hard to resist. The themers:

  • 17A. [You might need one to wrap your brain around this clue] TWISTED MIND. Which gives us Twisted Sister. Which—between the base phrase, the new phrase and the clue—gives us one strong start out of the gate. One thing about this long-playing heavy metal group: not just a bunch of pretty faces! (To judge from the way their makeup is sometimes applied, looks like they could use some practice with finding their [Eyeshadow target] LID and may’ve suffered a [Mascara mishap] SMEAR or two as well…)
  • 11D. [According to a Yiddish proverb, it's a "whole lie"] HALF-TRUTH. And half-sister. And another triple threat for my money.
  • 35D. [Long-running musical variety show created by Don Cornelius] SOUL TRAIN. Soul sister. See above. And take a look at the adjacent 34D while you’re at it. That [Dover delicacy] is SOLE. Nice conjoined homophonic pairing, no? Then, at 61A, there’s CEE LO Green who, guess what? In addition to being a judge on “The Voice,” is also the 2011 winner of a SOUL TRAIN music award for Best Male R&B/Soul Artist. This kind of “synchronicity” of puzzle elements makes for one tight construction and (again—from where I sit) speaks to the constructor’s wit—and makes for a more smile-making solve altogether.
  • 40A. ["American Bad Ass" singer] KID ROCK. Kid sister. Like Jill Ritchie to big brother Bob. Like when he was 13 or 14 and she was 10 or 11, perhaps. Yes, Bob is KID ROCK‘s family nickname…
  • 65A. [Volunteer to testify] STEP FORWARD. Step-sister. These days, like Kourtney, Khloé or Kim to Brody Jenner. Back in the ’70s, that woulda been Marcia, Jan or Cindy to Greg, Peter and Bobby.

And this may or may not have been intended to be perceived as bonus fill, but down there in the SE, clued as [He-man's opposite], we get SISSY. But that word is also associated with defining a sibling of the female variety.

Other high points today? I’d have to include all of the longer fill—all of which falls vertically—and their clues:

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHOT STOCK [Tabasco, in financial news headlines?]

“IT DEPENDS…” [Commitment-phobe's answer]

BOTTLE-FED [Nourished away from mama, like some kittens]

KEY WORDS [Google search terms]

Two clues that caught my attention—[Bloody footprint, perhaps] for CLUE, which was a tad too specific for me (shades of the macabre Edgar Allen POE [Writer who said: "I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity"]; and [Rehab treatment] for TLC. Without lots of qualifiers, I don’t see how “Tender Loving Care” naturally substitutes for “rehab.” Though now, staring at the picture above, I’m thinking that adding one word might make the difference for me: [Some rehab treatment].

Lots more about the strengths of this puzzle that could be discussed (more music with ["I'm Like A BIRD" (Nelly Furtado hit single)]; more great clues with [Drive crazy?] for SPEED and ["I'm stuck in an elevator!"] for “HELP ME!”)—but I’ll leave you to put the finishing touches on for yourselves… See you next week!

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy puzzle, “Make It Italian Style” — Matt’s review

Fun theme from Gail, who adds the Italian diminutive suffix -INI to four base phrases to make new phrases:

21-a [Family moniker for Oleg's parent?] = MAMA CASSINI, from Mama Cass.

30-a [Bond's drink when he's short on time?] = MINI MARTINI, from mini-mart.

40-a [Swimwear worn by G.I. Jane?] = ARMY TANKINI, from army tank.

51-a [Specialty sandwich from Domino's?] = PIZZA PANINI, from pizza pan.

Thumbs-up on the theme, which I haven’t seen before and was good for some laughs. MINI MARTINI is my favorite of the four, but they’re all strong.

The grid had some high points, like NO GIFTS, AGE GAP and YES MA’AM, but overall didn’t do as much for me as the theme did. E-BOAT instead of the much more familiar U-BOAT at 7-down is something I would’ve scrubbed from the grid if at all possible, for instance, and CHASSE at 10-down [Gliding dance step] was something I needed every crossing for. But hey, now I know a new word, so not all bad.

Clues were nice and tough. Had a difficult time breaking through on the top with vague stuff like [Sources for college funding?] for DADS and [First-come, first-served pickup spots] for CAB STANDS. But eventually things rolled along and once I grokked the theme the -INI went into the end of each theme entry right away. Vivid clue: [It might pose a marital challenge] for AGE GAP.

3.75 stars.

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17 Responses to Tuesday, October 8, 2013

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    I thought this was a delightfully-refreshing theme for a Tuesday – good show!

    Crossing a movie character with a rock and roll piece, however, was absurdly unfair. The crossing letter N, I submit, was highly unintuitive.

    Art

    • To be fair, the movie is also an internationally acclaimed series of children’s books.

      But I agree, fun theme.

      • Loren Smith says:

        I never filled in that N and forgot to run the alphabet. I probably would have guessed “m” there. But I agree with Gareth – this puzzle sang! I SELDOM say SELDOM. Hmm. Had to change “strum” to THRUM. And I kinda liked WEE-UNS. Reminded me of my grandparents, even though they said “young-uns.”

        • Lois says:

          I agree with everything Loren said, except that I had that “n” but missed the “y” to the right. My husband told me who Fat Albert was. During those years, I was at the movies.

  2. Gareth says:

    NYT: I feel like I’ve seen this before, but the execution was superlative, which is what matters. Beautiful theme answers like BREAKERBREAKER, HEYHEYHEY, and LATELATE made this puzzle sing for me!

    LAT: I too did not know what a STREETROD was. PS, I just realised that I used to play this classic computer game as a kid, so I guess I just forgot about the term. Silly me.

  3. Jonesy says:

    echo Art Shapiro – i enjoyed the different NYT today.

    Count me among those not noticing LAT theme… I’d say “top off” someone’s drink i think.

    And as far as i know, (midtown) Manhattan has 20 blocks / mile… though it could be different in the other boroughs

  4. Matt says:

    NYT SE corner was not Tuesday-level, but otherwise a very nice puzzle.

  5. Nick says:

    I get an “Italian” crossword by Gail G. from the WaPo site. Where’d this hill thing come from?

  6. Erik says:

    Isn’t the dance the “Cha Cha,” not the “Cha Cha Cha”?

  7. Adam N says:

    LAT: On an envelope, you need your NAME, NUMBER, STREET, CITY, STATE and ZIP.

    (I can’t believe I figured that out…)

  8. Huda says:

    Very narrow distribution of scores on the NYT. It’s really interesting to see how some puzzles elicit a uniform response while others create dissension.

    • Lois says:

      If others felt like me, the scores conformed with a liking of the theme and enjoyment of the challenge of the harder clues and answers. The pop stuff mostly didn’t resonate with me so well, and I couldn’t complete the puzzle. Yet I enjoyed myself and gave it four stars.

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