Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NYT 3:07 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:02 (Gareth) 
CS 5:58 (Dave) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 13, no. 1120

We’ve got an automotive theme today, with a feature from the dashboard:

  • 44a. [Direction indicator], ARROW. This one is pointing to the E in the nominally unchecked square. The F (for “full” is on the other side, where the arrow would swing after refueling).
  • 55a, 57a. [With 57-Across, 1977 Jackson Browne album ... or a hint to what's depicted in this puzzle's grid], RUNNING / ON EMPTY.
  • The circled squares in the top half of the grid spell out GAS GAUGE and trace the arc the arrow would follow from F to E.

I don’t think anything else is thematic here. The 15s, ELECTROMAGNETIC and SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, don’t appear related, do they?

Now, not all car dashboards display a gas gauge in that orientation. Mine goes from full at the top to empty at the bottom, which makes perfect sense visually. When the yellow runs out, you need to gas up.

Among the less familiar entries are these:

  • 14a. [Ravel's "La ___"], VALSE.
  • 16a. [Lincoln Center's Alice ___ Hall], TULLY. What, no love for Illinois’s state fossil, the obscure-everywhere-else ancient invertebrate called the Tully monster?
  • 17a. [Division signs], OBELI. We editorial types know the obelus as the dagger (†) rather than the division symbol. (It’s both. Which is awkward, no?)
  • 72a. ["___ Flux" (Charlize Theron movie)], AEON. Raise your hand if you got this one only because it was mentioned in another recent puzzle. Raise your other hand if you’d be okay with not seeing it in puzzles again (despite Charlize Theron’s general awesomeness).
  • 10d. [Ndamukong ___, 2010 N.F.L. Defensive Rookie of the Year], SUH. Football fans know how to pronounce that name.
  • 29d. [Bel ___ cheese], PAESE. I know this more from crosswords than the grocery store. Is it any good?
  • 48d. [1965 Physics Nobelist Richard], FEYNMAN. He has more pop-culture cred than the average physicist thanks to his popular books.

Fave fill: SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, LUPINE (it’s a flower as well as [Wolflike]), OLD GLORY, MOONBEAM (Jerry Brown!), CORN SILK.

3.75 stars from me.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Laughing Stock” – Dave Sullivan’s review

So one is to take the word “stock” in the title literally–as in livestock, or COWS. Here, words or phrases that begin with CAL are changed to COW:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/20/13

  • [Tools used by dairy farm accountants?] clued COWCULATORS – “calculators” became “cowculators.” Now don’t ask me why!
  • [Builder of strong bones at the dairy farm?] was COWCIUM – odd to have a 7-letter theme entry when there are longer across entries not part of the theme.
  • [Where the brilliant dairy farmer went to college?] was COWTECH – “Caltech” is short for California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Cowifornia, I mean California.
  • [Dairy farm clothing designer?] was COWVIN KLEIN – so what are fashionable bovines wearing these days? I’m sure they are udderly lovely.
  • [Hall of Famer on the dairy farm baseball team?] clued COW RIPKEN – isn’t he a Junior?
  • [Dairy farmer's wife who was named after Mrs. Julius Caesar?] was COWPURNIA – Calpurnia was the third (and last) wife of JC.

Sorry, but I just don’t get the rationale to change CAL to COW–why not words that begin with CAR or CHOW or anything else? CAL isn’t all that close to the same sound as COW, but maybe this is a regional accent thing that I just don’t know about. I guess I should be impressed with the theme density in this one, but seven-letter entries have to be really good to be justified and COWCIUM and COWTECH just don’t do it for me. Also, the cluing seems forced–there’s really not a lot of surface sense to them. As for the fill, it was serviceable–BOAC ([Airline mentioned in the Beatles' "Back in the USSR"]) was my only sticking point; it stands for British Overseas Airways Corporation, and became part of British Airways in 1974. It’s actually in the first line of the song

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Dear Leader”

Great title—Who doesn’t love hearing an insane dictator referred to as “Dear Leader”? In this theme, synonyms for the term-of-endearment sort of “dear” (hon, love, boo, pet) are added to familiar phrases and glue themselves to the phrases’ first words:

  • 17a. [Obnoxious young Civic driver?], HONDA BRAT. Da Brat is a female rapper who first hit it big about 20 years ago.
  • 28a. [Lagers with a macabre twist?], LOVECRAFT BEERS.
  • 44a. [Food that's either cooked or not cooked, tasty or not tasty?], BOOLEAN CUISINE. Boolean variables are binary: either cooked or not cooked.
  • 59a. [Sight in a botanist's horror movie?], PETAL GORE. “Botanist’s horror movie?” I would see that, my pet.

The fill stands out most boldly for having the KISS ARMY and BI BIM BOP. I also like BURKA and BARCA (57a. [Spanish football powerhouse, familiarly]), CAT-SIT, and TABASCO.

People who’ve worked in publishing, proofreading, or graphic design probably know this ORPHAN: 26a. [Single word on the last line of a paragraph, say].

Top clues:

  • 15a. [It has banks in Switzerland], the AARE River.
  • 24a. [Park neighbor, often], REVERSE. Gears on a car gearshift, not the place with trees and a playground.
  • 8d. [Legendarily giant white dude], YETI. White fur. You wanted PAULBUNYAN, didn’t you?

Four stars. The theme was executed quite well, and I like the inclusion of the more contemporary “boo” with its African-American vibe. The corner stacks of 8s are deftly constructed too.

Victor Barocas’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Nice choice of revealer in today’s words that precede/follow iteration. The answer BACKBUTTON suggests that the second part of each two part phrase can have BUTTON appended to it. So we have:

  • 17a, [Series of "Got milk?" spots, e.g.], ADCAMPAIGN. Campaign button. A button of the clothing kind.
  • 31a, [Snowballing financial crisis], BANKPANIC. Panic Button. A button of the pressing kind.
  • 38a, [It's used to break a habit], WILLPOWER. Power button. If referring to a computer, then another button of the pressing kind.
  • 50a, [American bacon source], PORKBELLY. Belly Button. A button of the protruding (maybe) kind.

Can you see a weak answer in this puzzle? I can’t! APA? That’s about it, really, and that’s certainly impressive. The puzzle also has four “big” corners, with stacks of 7-letter answers. The answers themselves are not absolutely “wow”, but still fun to fill in, especially HOMINID, BLASTER, HOMINID and ARTEMIS.

Straight-forward puzzle, but constructed with care. 3.5 stars.

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19 Responses to Wednesday, November 20, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: very well done. Very visual. A lot going on but it all comes together. Weirdly enough. I had the most trouble with the GPA/ART/ZOO stack. Mostly because I plunked MFA in lieu of ART.

    Considering the visual constraints of the theme, the long downs are just fabulous. And they do have an automotive vibe… This may be my favorite Peter Collins puzzle.

  2. Matt says:

    Good NYT, with a little something for everyone. I’ve known about AEONFLUX since the animations first appeared on MTV’s Adult Swim (which would be a neat crossword entry), and it’s qute famous in the artsy-animation world.

  3. Matt says:

    Correction: Wikipedia says AEONFLUX first appeared in 1991 on MTV’s ‘Liquid Television’ late-night series, and I don’t doubt that’s right.

    • Davis says:

      It was definitely on “Liquid Television”—I was hooked on that show as a kid largely because of AEON FLUX. I think I might still have some episodes recorded on VHS collecting dust at my mom’s house.

      • Bencoe says:

        Yeah, adult swim is still a going concern, every night on Cartoon Network. Over the past ten or fifteen years it has produced much of the edgiest comedy on the planet, and has been very influential in changing the tone of comedy. Not all of it is great, though, just a warning…
        Liquid Television ran for a while in the early 90s and besides Aeon Flux it was also responsible for launching the career of Mike Judge with Beavis and Butthead, who were much less grating in the short form of a few minutes at a time.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Gee, I initially thought Amy’s “less familiar” list was “most familiar.” Liked the puzzle. Bel Paese is soft, creamy and mild. Not my favorite sort of cheese. Ndamukong Suh has mostly gained notoriety as the consensus dirtiest player of the past decade. Charlize Theron is *totally* awesome.

    • joon says:

      what you (and zulema) mean to say is that you were familiar with her “less familiar” answers. surely you don’t mean to suggest that FEYNMAN and TULLY are more familiar than answers such as AHEAD, INTEND or GAZE.

      SUH is a dirty player, no doubt. but richie incognito, himself a past “winner” (and runner-up, last year) of the dirtiest player poll, is staking a pretty strong claim to the all-time title.

  5. Gareth says:

    I’m sure glad TULLY/SUH is a triple-checked square! Weird, our petrol gauges are clockwise not anti-clockwise, so the arrow is pointing to where full should be. Possibly, this is in reverse because the driver’s seat is on the right-hand side not the left?

    • pannonica says:

      In my experience, dashboard designers do it however they want, though it generally correlates with whichever side of the instrument panel the fuel gauge is on.

  6. pannonica says:

    Tausig: Another kind of typographical orphan is the single last line of a paragraph at the top of a page; its complement is a widow.

  7. Davis says:

    For anyone who considered FEYNMAN an unfamiliar name, it’s really worth your while to know more about the guy—he was quite a character. He worked on the Manhattan Project, and while he was at Los Alamos he got in the habit of cracking the combination locks his colleagues used to protect top secret information. He was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, but he was also known for playing the bongos. And he was a central figure in the investigation of the Challenger explosion.

    His reminiscences are accumulated in some entertaining books—Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! is probably the most popular one.

    • Bencoe says:

      Not that their safes were so hard to crack…many of them didn’t even bother to set the combinations, leaving them at default! Crazy lack of security for the most top secret military program of its time.
      Mr. Feynman was a very entertaining man, but he’s also probably the most important physicist of the last 50 or 60 years!

  8. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Judging from the comments at Rex’s site and here, I think I may be the only one who looked at the unfilled grid and saw this happy fellow from England. Despite that not being the case, I really enjoyed the puzzle though admit to not getting the significance of the unchecked squares until reading the blogs. :(

  9. Zulema says:

    Amy’s lesser known list was my best known, and yes, my hand is up for knowing AEON from the recent puzzle, but no objection to seeing it again. The grid itself didn’t help me see the theme and the circles in it were so faint in my printout I didn’t know they were there till I came here. I don’t consider it a loss, though.

  10. Ruth says:

    Dave -

    I felt Randolph was right on with his cow sounds. I always enjoy his puzzles.

    • Evad says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Ruth. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Nice to know someone liked it more than I did.

  11. Hawkins says:

    Gareth apparently *really* loved HOMINID in the LAT puzzle.

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