Friday, October 11, 2013

NYT 5:30 
LAT 6:43 (Gareth) 
CS 4:14 (Gareth) 
CHE 3:56 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 11 13, no, 1011

Unusual six-pack of latticed 15s in this grid—the overall vibe is “feels like there are a lot of M’s, H’s, and W’s, and less of a reliance on the RSTLNE letter set.”

  • 17a. [Turkey sticker], MEAT THERMOMETER.
  • 27a. [Benchwarmer's plea], “PLAY ME OR TRADE ME.”
  • 46a. ["That subject's off the table!"], “DON’T EVEN GO THERE.”
  • 59a. [Universal query?], “WHERE’S THE REMOTE?” “Universal” in that many homes have a universal remote.
  • 3d. ["And now?"], “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?”
  • 11d. [Gets payback], SETTLES THE SCORE.

I like that two thirds of these (plus “HEY, MAN”) are spoken English rather than dictionary-grade fill. ARMY STRONG is a neat answer, too.

Mind you, some of the shorter fill leaves a bit to be desired. In Partial Land, we have A STAR, -SOXER, USE AS, and RETIN-. ESPO, the dreaded E-NOTE, REE, SERE, and CWTS ([1/20 tons: Abbr.]) can fit into the crosswordese category.

I’m not a big fan of ARAL‘s disproportionately large presence in crosswords, but you can always win me over with an etymology clue like 64a. [Turkic word for "island"]. (Bonus points if the source language family is Turkic.)

The clue for GINO’S is terrible. 43a. [Papa ___ (Northeast pizza chain)]? Puh-leeze. Give me [___ East (classic Chicago pizza joint)] any day. Why, a few of their locations are even situated outside of Cook County.

3.75 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Runic Inscriptions” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 10/11/13 • “Runic Inscriptions” • Burnikel • solution

Standard hidden-word theme this week. As the clue for 58-across NORSE GODS explains, [They're hidden in 16, 24, 34, and 47 Across].

  • 16a. [Common Cajun side] DIRTY RICEYric, the Norse god of slashed vowels.
  • 24a. [Fictional Japanese character who wears a bow] HELLO KITTY. Okit, the god of flat-packs and hex wrenches. Factettes: Hello Kitty’s head is bigger than the rest of her body, and her forehead is bigger than the rest of her head. Also, over 50,000 different products have been officially branded with her likeness.
  • 34a. [James Hilton novel that's the source of the term "Shangri-La"] LOST HORIZON. Ostho, god of taciturn films and little meatballs.
  • 47a. [Duke Ellington classic] MOOD INDIGO. Dindi, goddess of fjords and snorkfröken.

Speaking of fjords, do you think those blocks in the grid are meant to resemble such formations? Eh, me neither.

The longest downs are ELECTION and LEMONADE, neither of which are too exciting, but when considered along with their stacked neighbors, AVIATOR/DENTYNE and SUMATRA/KNOW-HOW, their impressiveness improves markedly.

  • 1d [Mythical monster depicted on the flag of Sicily] MEDUSA. What the frigg? I never realized that was supposed to be Medusa. In truth, I mainly think of the triskelion, that three-legged symbol. The Medusa on the flag has no snakes in her hair, just a pair of wings and three lengths of wheat, durum no doubt. Perhaps it depicts her prior to her punishment at the hands of Athena?
  • 9d [Les Cayes's country] What the hel? Misread that at first as “county,” and anyway I thought it was the guy who played guitar with Patti Smith. Turns out to be HAITI.
  • Like a dagr to my heart! Interesting quote: the great Union general and later US President Ulysses S GRANT, a West Point graduate, said, “I have never felt any sort of fondness for war.” (43a)

Fun puzzle, but about average, all told.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter & Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

I’m going to be putting up shortish write-ups to both puzzles I’m set to blog. I’m taking over from Matt covering for Dave who’s on holiday.

In today’s puzzle, phrases that end in -UN now end in -UNK. I loved ATTILATHEHUNK, which amused me, and the rest are rock-solid.

Otherwise:

  • DARKHUMOR/TEAMPHOTO are a nice pair of long answers, that obviously went in the grid first after the theme!
  • AHAB linked to ISHMAEL was tricky for me, probably because, being the narrator, he isn’t mentioned by name.
  • I liked the trivia clue for NERO, which I didn’t know. Apparently he lyred while Rome burned.
  • Had sAlt for NACL initially: should’ve worked out the hint of “H2O” [sic] in the clue.
  • Remembered JARTS after learning about the previous time.
  • Surprised to find SHISH/KEBAB spelled the way I see typically see it. Normally I get confused by weird spellings like KABOB!
  • I was totally fooled by [Boxer's attendant]!
  • I didn’t care too much for the HAJJI/ALOUS/ALEG/JOANI corner…

Generally entertaining: 3.5 stars

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy crossword “Mum’s the Word” – Gareth’s Review

In today’s puzzle, three 15-letter phrases are clued with the title. MYLIPSARESEALED is fun, and IWONTTELLANYONE and ITLLBEOURSECRET work.

There are couple of clues winking at the theme: [Mom's mates] and ["Mamma Mia!" inspiration]. More colour is added by MOBSCENE, CASABA and OLDSAW, but the grid felt rougher around the edges than I’d expect, especially with a three-part theme. For instance, I’m not sure why the tiny corner at the top-left needs SSA and partial DOI. The middle-right has a Roman numeral CIV as well as EELER. Unless I’m missing something, these are the types of answers you would only use in utter desperation…

2.5 Stars: Sorry I just wasn’t feeling this one.
Gareth

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “J. Crew” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/11/13 • “J. Crew” • Fri • Ross • solution

Presto-Jange-O! Substitution time! The theme answers contain words that begin with ch, whij is janged to a j. Less orthographically and more phonetically—not to mention technically—the voiceless palato-alveolar affricate t͡ʃ slides over to the voiced palato-alveolar affricate, d͡ʒ.

  • 23a. [Athlete who consumes too much trail mix?] JOCK FULL O’ NUTS. No comment.
  • 33a. [Jack's grownup partner?] THE BIG JILL.
  • 51a. [One voting for Ford in the 1976 election?] JERRY PICKER.
  • 68a. [Not very good bread spread?] JUNKY PEANUT BUTTER.
  • 86a. [Hiss and boo orchestration?] JEERLEADING.
  • 100a. [Totally prepared to go on at the comedy club?] ALL JOKED UP.
  • 117a. [Funny president?] JESTER A ARTHUR.

It reminds me a little bit of that simplified spelling satire, often misattributed to Mark Twain:

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter c would be dropped to be replased either by k or s, and likewise x would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which c would be retained would be the ch formation, which will be dealt with later.

Year 2 might reform w spelling, so that which and one would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish y replasing it with i and Iear 4 might fiks the g/j anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.

Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez cyand x — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais ch,sh, and th rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Back to the crossword, though. I found the new, wacky phrases to be occasionally smirk-inducing, but not guffaw-worthy. Even with just seven of them, it felt played out, although I can’t say exactly why.

Thirteen-across irks my-don’t-let-the-theme-gravy-touch-the-regular-fill-peas instinct; it’s the only instance of a J—and that voiced palato-alveolar affricate—appearing outside of the theme (discounting the necessary crossing downs). And it’s at the beginning of a word too.

  • 62a/68d [Volkswagen model] PASSAT / JETTA. 31a [Iraqi's neigbors] SAUDIS, 64d [Iraqi's neighbor] SYRIAN. 104a [Baker's tools] WHISKS, 109a [Baker's wear] APRON.
  • SNARERS, SEATERS, blech. (45a, 123a) But BAJA | MAJA running down Column 1 is cute. TOTTER, SCEPTER, et al. are okay.

Plus the usual mix of clever and entertaining clues and fill. A couple unfamiliar names (José MARTÍ, HAP Arnold), two musical abbrevs. (RIT., A MAJ), and some other minor “infractions” lowered my estimation of the puzzle, but it’s nevertheless about average.

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32 Responses to Friday, October 11, 2013

  1. Ethan says:

    I had no idea what the medicine in the center was, even after getting NY_O_. HOOP or LOOP would both work for “ring” so I had to run through the alphabet for the middle square with both H and L in the last square.

    I know what a retina is, but RETIN-A? Does NYTOL have anything to do with Tylenol?

    I liked the puzzle otherwise, but that middle section, ugh.

    • Jason F says:

      Acne medicine. Fri/Sat obscure, but it’s been around for at least 3 decades now.

      • Matt says:

        Acne medicine that was found to be an effective treatment for wrinkles, so it passed into rather general use. It seems to have fallen out of favor, not exactly sure why.

  2. Martin says:

    Nice array of 15s. I particularly liked the clue for WHERES THE REMOTE.

    -MAS

  3. Papa Gino’s is pretty big in New England, there’s nothing wrong with that clue. Granted there are no Papa Gino’s locations in NY, but CT is heck of a lot closer to NY than Chicago. I count 157 restaurant locations on their website (Wikipedia says 220) across 5 states; Gino’s East has 10, all localized around Chicago, with one in southern Wisconsin.

    • pannonica says:

      If it isn’t in NY, it isn’t “Northeast,” it’s just New England.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      P.S. I was joking with the parochial outrage. Never heard of Gino’s of New England, but wouldn’t expect the nation to know Gino’s East either. Although if you want to be technical about it, Chicago is far more notable for pizza than New England is, so a smaller Chicago chain may be of more import than a larger NE chain.

    • Davis says:

      There used to be a few Papa Gino’s restaurants in the Albany area that I would go to when I was a kid, but apparently those have all closed since I left. Not a huge loss given the mediocrity of their pizza, but their absence tweaks my nostalgia gland a bit.

  4. RK says:

    Some funny stuff in WSJ and LAT.

  5. Gareth says:

    OMER/SEGAL – shrug.

  6. David L says:

    I didn’t do the LAT but pannonica’s funny write-up reminds me of a reference I saw recently to Fryggin, the Norse god of minced oaths…

  7. Alan D. says:

    Isn’t the clue for 58-down in the NYT wrong? “Some use electric organs” for EELS. Implying that “some eels” use electric organs. They don’t. Electric eels are fish and not eels at all.

    • Gareth says:

      “Electric eels are fish and not eels at all.” This statement implies that eels are not fish, which they are. Electric Eels are however, not eels as you stated. The clue is as wrong as clueing FOXES as [Some can fly] because flying foxes can fly and are called foxes.

      • Alan D. says:

        I knew the clue was wrong somehow!!

      • Martin says:

        A flying fox is not a fox but an electric eel is an eel.

        A quick comparison of dictionary entries for eel and fox will verify this. An electric eel is not a member of the order Anguilliformes, true, but it’s an eel as the word is defined in English.

        The electric eel clues that have been challenged here, rightfully, include the word “marine.” An electric eel operating in salt water would electrocute himself.

  8. Adam N says:

    CHE: Anyone else see LOKI in HELLOKITTY?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      But you were okay with the other supposed Norse gods mentioned in pannonica’s theme write-up?

  9. Brucenm says:

    Ishmael Not Mentioned By Name ???????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sheesh. (Or Jeesh)

    I would have said that the most famous first line in the entire novelistic literature is

    Call me Ishmael.

    up there with “It was the best of times, etc.)”, but I can’t think of anything else close.

    • Gareth says:

      Sorry that was poorly phrased. I was in a hurry. What I mean is, for most of the novel, as the narrator he is referring to the other characters by name.

  10. Amy L says:

    Pannonica’s CHE write-up was very funny. I wonder if she worked out all the Hello Kitty info herself or actually looked it up on the internet. She forgot to mention RIZON, Norse goddess of homemade bread.

    I liked that Hello Kitty had both Hel and Loki in hiding.

    • pannonica says:

      Actually, I’d recently come across them while reading John Bradshaw’s Cat Sense, but they simply confirmed and quantified what I was already aware of. The book’s pretty good—I definitely learned some things—but I think a stronger editing hand would have improved it; there was redundant information (usually between chapters) and noticeably unaddressed information which seemed to be well within its purview.

    • pannonica says:

      RIZON and HEL, they don’t span words in the phrases; the deities I mentioned all do.

  11. Brucenm says:

    I’m trying to focus more on the puzzles where I’m an outlier to the up, rather than the down side, and today’s NYT is a prime example. To me it is wonderfully dense in unusual, original, different unexpected entries and clues, ranging over widely diverse areas. Certainly all the 15′s but also, for divers reasons 21, 23, 33, 36, 40 43, 50, 56, 63, 66a and 4, 7, 8, 48d. And others. I even liked 51d because of the interesting clue. I’m amazed that I’m still alone on the left coast in the ratings.

    Also, to seal the deal, the constructor lives in Ann Arbor (I think). Go Blue.

    I think of Nytol as a very familiar product, in the ballpark with Dristan, Benadryl and the like. There’s a Papa Gino’s down the road from me. It’s good, bit not wonderful. Whoever said that New England is not noted for pizza, is mistaken. New Haven pizza is considered an great delicacy around here, though frankly, I think it’s oversold. If you like burnt, cracker hard, ill-formed crusts, it’s for you. The original Frank Pepe’s is the best of the bunch.

    The best pizza I’ve ever had is still what I’ve had in Naples. Next and closest are the emulations in New York. I actually think that good, Chicago style so-called pizza can be a wonderful dish, it’s just not pizza, but rather an Italian casserole. And some of the celebrated, iconic Chicago pizza places do not do a good job preparing it. You cannot have a ludicrously thick apple pie crust, filled with absurd quantities of raw ingredients and expect them to cook fully before the crust gets burnt to a crisp. So at both Uno’s and Malnati’s, I have gotten harsh, almost raw green peppers and onions — an unpalatable, over salted mess. Obviously they have to be par-cooked before being put in the dish. If the best and most respected Chicago chefs can’t figure that out, well . . . that’s not my problem.

    Do I need to fill this up with smiley faces and such?

    • bonekrusher says:

      Completely agree with you on the NYT puzzle. I loved all the fresh phrases and cluing.

      Completely disagree with you on pizza. Chicago-style all the way. Also, ketchup on your hot dog is an abomination.

      • pannonica says:

        Who puts ketchup on a hot dog? There are only 3* condiments/toppings that should go on one: mustard, sauerkraut or diced onion.

        * 4 if you include chili under certain circumstances

    • sbmanion says:

      Sorry, Bruce, but Bon Appetit among others considers Pizzeria Bianco in PHOENIX, AZ (go figure) to be the best pizza in the country:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzeria_Bianco

      It is excellent (if you want to wait for hours, which is not bad at all to do at this time of year), but I still think the best pizza in the country is in heavily Italian heritage Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

      I thoroughly enjoyed today’s puzzle, which was slightly easier for me than either Wed.’s or Thur.’s

      Steve

      • Brucenm says:

        Yes, I’ve heard the rumors about “Arizona Pizza” but I confess I’ve never experienced it. Suffice it to say that I’m dubious.

  12. Shawn P says:

    For the CHE puzzle, I may have my Norse gods wrong, but found Tyr, Loki, Thor, and Odin.

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