Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jonesin' 3:49 (Amy) 
NYT 3:09 (Amy) 
LAT tk (Amy) 
CS 5:19 (Dave) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 13, no. 1217

I filled in the revealer answer via the crossings so I never saw the theme-revealer clue. So I thought it was quite odd to have a theme in which each phrase or compound word joined its parts with NB. Then I came across 30d. [Bruce who played Dr. Watson], and thought it was odder still to have NIGEL Bruce’s initials as the impetus for a theme.

Oh, wait, there it is: 54a. [Org. found in the answer to each asterisked clue], NBA.

  • 17a. [*Sheriff's insignia, in old westerns], TIN BADGE. Crosswords seem to throw us TIN STAR more often, no?
  • 29a. [*Actor named in a "Six Degrees" game], KEVIN BACON.
  • 46a. [*Tangy breakfast item], ONION BAGEL.
  • 59a. [*Packers' hometown], GREEN BAY. The Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Go, Packers!
  • 3d. [*Tanning method], SUNBATH.
  • 11d. [*Recover, as lost love], WIN BACK.
  • 40d. [*Tommy's game in the Who's rock opera "Tommy"], PINBALL.
  • 44d. [*Feature of many a charity gala], OPEN BAR.

Somewhat surprised to see SONNY touching A SON at the corner of the Y. You could change SONNY to SUNNY but then the dupe is with SUNBATH. A SON isn’t budging without major rework of the entire southwestern quadrant.

The fill didn’t feel particularly Tuesdayish to me, what with KNT, AARE, SAT I, plural abbrev ACADS, and this -ULA, 9d. [Suffix meaning "little one"]. That last prefix is seen, of course, in such words as formula, spatula, and Be-Bop-A-Lula.

All those 7-letter answers (10 of them, including 4 themers) look fancy on a Tuesday, don’t they?

3.5 stars from me.


Updated Tuesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Call the Exterminator!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Seems like the common theme idea today is to find entries that have in common a three letter word (or acronym, in the case of today’s NYT) in their midsections. Here, it’s a RAT:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/17/13

  • [Part of a biblical retribution] was A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH. The other part is “an eye for an eye” I believe. I had FOR LET instead of TO RENT as the crossing [Available, in a way] at first, so was I wondering what would phrase would begin with A TOOF. (Perhaps how someone without a tooth might say it?)
  • [Certain math instructor] clued ALGEBRA TEACHER. My FAVE teacher in all of high school was my geometry teacher in 10th grade. Actually made me want to become a teacher (which I have tried and failed at now two times in my career. Perhaps the third time is a charm?)
  • [Second "Star Trek" movie, informally] was THE WRATH OF KAHN. I always read this as Klahn instead of Kahn.
  • [Ozone layer area] was UPPER ATMOSPHERE. Isn’t all atmosphere “upper”? I suppose if you’re in a plane or a spaceship, some of it’s below you.

So one thing I’m noticing as I’m pulling these theme entries together is that the RAT is split in four unique ways: R/A/T, RA/T, RAT (not split) and R/AT. That’s the sign of a constructor who took some time and care choosing his/her theme entries. Bravo, Mr. Taxi-Driver! :) I was less impressed with the fill in this one, though; the partials A SET and A RUSH seemed A LOT for one’s plate. LOUSE, on the other hand, for [Wingless parasite] worked well with the theme I thought.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Extended Forecast”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/17

Crossword Nation 12/17

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…” At least it was this weekend, as I prepared this post. But it’s also perfectly well-suited to this week’s theme—which takes its cue from four different weather conditions (snow, sun, rain and fog) and then builds on them. “Extends” them, if you will, giving us four examples of weather-triggered “before and after” wordplay (meaning that the two components of the final fill will share a word in common). Here’s how:

  • 17A. [Moniker for Frosty the Fireball]. As I did last week, I’ll spell out this first one and leave it to you to do the heavy lifting with the others. What’s “Frosty”? A snowman. What’s another term for a person who’s a “fireball”? A man of action. Put ‘em together (with the word man connecting the two answers) and you get: SNOWMAN OF ACTION. Excellent!
  • 26A. [Random sampling of a solar flare?] SUNSPOT CHECK. Another goodie.
  • 44A. [Magician's sleight-of-hand with a shower cap?] RAIN-HAT TRICK. And my thinking is so literal at times I couldn’t understand what a “shower cap” was doing in the clue. Isn’t that what women wear to protect their tresses while bathing or in the shower? Well, yes. But a “cap” is a kind of hat, and a “shower” is also a sprinkling of rain. D’oh…… The result is one of my favorite answers today.
  • 60A. [Musical piece performed by a lighthouse keeper? (It's a real blast!)] FOGHORN CONCERTO. My fave by far—in one very strong set of themers. (And that’s true for every clue as well.) But knowing that Liz feels strongly that “…art, music and literature … inform good puzzles,” it’s a HOOT to see her sense of low-humor emerge here—even in connection with the loftier musical references she’ll weave into a puzzle.

If there isn’t a lot of dazzle in the remaining fill (there is some: BUM RAP, and TEA CUP with its canine clue [Petite poodle variety], e.g.), there’s a lot of internal cohesion that makes this a tightly constructed little work of art. Foody? We get CRUMB [Cake dish morsel] (and the related [Decorates, as a cake] for ICES); the more filling [Pot-]AU FEU [(French stew)] and PÂTÉ [Rich French spread]; a [Wine] AND [cheese party]; or, if that’s not your style, some KEFIRS [Fermented-milk drinks] to wash it all down.

From the world beyond, we not only see UFOS, but we also get both ETS and an ALIEN [Visitor from Mars]. THEN, I’m particularly fond of the crossing of SLOB [Grungy guy] and OAF [Bad china shop hire] (with a good clue!)—and find they make rather a striking contrast to the two women we find in the grid (both clued in connection to music [though at opposite ends of the genre-spectrum], Handel’s “ESTHER” and the Beach Boys’ RHONDA. santa(It’s not everyday that Handel and the Beach Boys get mentioned in the same breath!)

With Christmas Eve but one week away, jolly old St. Nicholas gets a triple shout-out, by way of both ["]HE’S [making a list..."] and NICE being clued as [Opposite of naughty] (see: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”…); and ROSY being clued with reference to his cheeks. Interesting, too, to see both DOGMA [Set of beliefs] and CREEDS [Words to live by] sharing the stage (two sides of the same coin?). Two terrific conversational, colloquial clues also keep things lively with scenario-creating ["This pan of brownies is hot!"] for “OUCH!” and the more succinct ["No dice!'] for “UH-UH!”

Other entries in the “nice clue!” department would include:

  • [You, among Friends] for THEE. That’s “Friends” of the Amish variety…
  • [Treat with 16-Across] for SOOTHE. “Treat” is a verb here and not a noun. I was somewhere in foody-land when I first read this one. A visit to 16-Across, however, quickly made me change my thinking since the fill there is ALOE
  • [Trumped-up charge] for the aforementioned BUM RAP.
  • [Pilot opening] for AUTO.
  • [Mathematician's favorite steakhouse order?] for PRIME RIB. Whoops! Add another to the “foody” column! This is both a clever and smart clue/fill pair all around. Gives one a whole new way to think about roast beef—and mathematicians!
  • [Liberal following?] for ARTS. And while I love the arts a lot, tend to think I might’ve appreciated BRACKETS more had it been clued in connection with sports. Never thought I say that, but it’s so!

And that, friends, is a wrap. Whatever the weather in your neck of the woods, hope the extended forecast (literally and figuratively!) is a fair one. And now, in the words of that [Fairy tale finish], I’ll say (’til next week), “THE END.”

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Time Shift”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 12 17 13 “Time Shift”

I solved this puzzle last night and didn’t quite get the theme. Clearly I was too sleepy to actually blog the puzzle at that time. Let’s take a fresh look at it this morning … oh, yes, I see it now.

  • 17a. [Guy who avoids fighting (one hour behind)?], PACIFIC MAN. Pacific time is one hour behind Mountain time, and “mountain man” is a familiar phrase.
  • 35a. [Scenic fly-fishing activity (one hour behind)?], MOUNTAIN CASTING. “He’s a bad guy straight out of central casting.”
  • 43a. [The key elixir (one hour behind)?], CENTRAL MEDICINE. “Eastern medicine.”
  • 63a. [Airline hanging on the edge (three hours ahead)?], EASTERN RIM. “Pacific rim.” Eastern Airlines, of course, is long defunct. Eastern Airways is based in northeast England, and no, I’d never heard of it before.
Solid theme concept, although EASTERN RIM doesn’t quite jibe. What would this be, Eastern Rim Airlines or Eastern Airlines on a rim?

Five more things:

  • 21a. [Handy children's game], PAT-A-CAKE. “Handy” in that it involves clapping of hands.
  • 48a. [Electronics co. whose slogan was once "So Real"], TDK. All crossings for me. Did TDK make cassette tapes?
  • 58a. [Bird in the constellation Aquila], EAGLE. And an aquiline nose is one that curves like an eagle’s beak.
  • 24d. [Beijing Olympic gold medalist sprinter ___ Powell], ASAFA. Man, I blanked on his name.
  • 36d. ["Hold it right there, buster!"], “NOT SO FAST!” Great answer.

Not wild about ASEA, ELON Musk, RHUM—but overall, the fill is pretty zippy. 3.8 stars.

Steve Blais’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 17 13

The first word of each theme answer can follow the word “flash”:

  • 17a. [Canasta, e.g.], CARD GAME.
  • 23a. [Exasperate, metaphorically], DRIVE TO DRINK.
  • 37a. ['60-'70s Canadian folk-rock icon], GORDON LIGHTFOOT.
  • 48a. [The same as it was hundreds of years ago, say], FROZEN IN TIME.
  • 60a. [Spontaneous gathering, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 23-, 37- and 48-Across], FLASH MOB.

A fairly lively batch of theme phrases here, and the “flash” phrases bring us Flash Gordon in addition to three lowercase-f “flash” terms. Solid.

Five more things:

  • 36d. [It may be ear-piercing], STUD. A stud earring, or a virile guy with a really shrill scream.
  • 38d. [Rodrigo __ de Vivar: El Cid], DIAZ. I had filled this in via the crossings, which is good because I didn’t know this one.
  • 32d. ["The Bucket List" director], ROB REINER. Nice to see a full name in the fill.
  • 16a. [Environmentally friendly auto], ECOCAR. Nope. Still haven’t heard anyone use this word. “Hybrid,” yes. “Electric,” yes. “Small car that gets good mileage,” sure. Not ECOCAR. And yet it keeps appearing in crosswords as if it is familiar vocabulary.
  • 27d. [Ravi Shankar genre], RAGA. Is RAGA a genre, per se? Wikipedia gives Shankar’s genre as Hindustani classical music. A raga is a melodic mode (whatever that means) used in Indian classical music.

The Scowl-o-Meter chugged along with tired fill like EFTS, LOC, TRU, OTO, ALAR, MOC (does anyone refer to moccasins as “mocs”? Is this the ECOCAR of shoes?), RESOW ([Plant anew]? Wait, you sow seeds. Are you digging up an already-planted seed so you can RESOW it? I think not), and EBON.

Four stars for the theme, no more than three stars for the fill. Let’s call it 3.5 overall.,

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26 Responses to Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I was going to put BACON where the BAGEL ended up, thanks to NIGEL etc. Fun Tuesday!

  2. HH says:

    “Somewhat surprised to see SONNY touching A SON at the corner of the Y.”

    Perhaps a clue was changed? I would’ve tried ["Chacun ___ goût"].

  3. Martin says:

    In the spirit of friendly discussion :)

    It seems that we sometimes have reviewer’s rules and constructors/editors rules clashing. In the case of my Washington Post puzzle today, our editorial rules/guidelines involve minimizing partials, but 2 partials in a 15×15 is certainly considered OK by our standards.

    Used sparingly partials have helped minimize or eliminate many of the old Xword zombies (like ANOA, ERAL and OSAR), that were once frequent grid “denizens”. To be sure , the use of partials is only part of the reason Xword fill has improved so much over the last 30 years… but they are still a necessarily “evil” at times, and I’m not sure that continually pointing out the one or two that appear daily in most modern Xword grids is really that constructive .

    Cheers

    - MAS

    • Evad says:

      To continue in a friendly vein :)

      If the partials indeed were needed to rid the grid of those Xword zombies, then I’m all for ‘em. Since I’m not aware of what alternatives you had for those areas, I can’t speak to the partials being the most superior entries there. Perhaps it’s just editorial laziness on my part when I glance over the fill, these stand out to me as areas that I would like to see different, but without knowing at what cost, I defer to your better and more informed judgment.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I am not resolutely anti-partial. I am anti-terrible partial and anti-excessive partials. There are other excellent constructors who strive to avoid all partials and to use only good fill. Tyler Hinman of “The War on Fill” fame comes to mind. It’s not quite fair to suggest that the choice is between partials and ANOA.

  4. Lou says:

    Re: “So one thing I’m noticing as I’m pulling these theme entries together is that the RAT is split in four unique ways: R/A/T, RA/T, RAT (not split) and R/AT. That’s the sign of a constructor who took some time and care choosing his/her theme entries.”

    Where are the crossword construction rules that say words have to break as you suggest? Just curious.

    • Evad says:

      No rules, just more interesting than them all breaking the same way.

    • Jonesy says:

      I think the splitting in a consistent way is viewed as more elegant/consistent generally… (i certainly think it is – and noticed post-solving) in the same way that XXXX or XXYY are viewed as better than XYZX from a word/theme order perspective…if that makes sense

      Also, MEAD being clued as “honeyed liquor” (in the LAT i think?) rubs me the wrong way… mead is really a honey wine and is created from fermentation (not distillation…) pretty semantic but wine and liquor are pretty distinct beverages — surely “grape liquor” wouldn’t be kosher for MERLOT (as grape liquor would be brandy…as would distilled mead). i’m sure MEAD has previously been clued that way but still…

      • Evad says:

        Well, let’s ask the constructor if he had this as a goal or his entries just (serendipitously imho) covered the four possible permutations of splitting those three letters.

  5. Martin says:

    Now that I’m on a (complaining) roll, I gotta ask: what’s wrong with ELON Musk in Matt’s puzzle? Sure, the college is uber-old-skool crosswordese, but the Telsa guy, is very much up-to-date, relevant, in the news… and for that reason, grid-worthy, IMHO.

    -MAS

    • Jonesy says:

      Totally agree with MAS — just b/c it’s a strange group of letters doesn’t make it ugly… the guy’s in the news 24/7 and was a founder of 3 significant companies (paypal, spaceX and tesla)

      of course, his fame doesn’t mean you have to be wild about him being in a Xword…

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        It’s because I hate PayPal’s fees.

      • Gareth says:

        He’s South African too… He (or at least he and the guys on his think tank) also has that crazy plan to send people from LA to San Francisco by compressed air!

  6. Martin says:

    Thanks Evan,

    Regardless of my occasional carping, we at CS are still very grateful for all of the reviews here. As Oscar Wilde once said/wrote:

    “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

    -MAS

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Over at Xword Info, Will Shortz wrote, “Some people seem to judge puzzles by the ‘worst’ answers in the grid. For me these would be SAT I (which isn’t used anymore), KNT, GE’S, ENT, and NONNA.” For what it’s worth, chess aficionados don’t use KNT at all, which makes that a pretty objectively terrible entry. It’s interesting that Will included ENT and NONNA, which didn’t bother me at all, in his list of the worst fill.

    But I’m not sure these “some people” are wrong to judge a puzzle by the fill that takes them out of the solving vibe and puts them into a grousing vibe. It bears noting that the bloggers (and surely a great many commenters) also ponder how well-conceived and executed the theme is; how much good fill there is; how interesting and smart the clues are; and how many “worst”-type answers are in the grid. Most of us can overlook two or three junk answers, but when a puzzle gets up over five junk answers, that fill grows in its impact on the solving experience.

    • Bencoe says:

      I didn’t know NONNA, but thought it was completely inferrable and worth learning. Maybe Will thought it was too obscure for a Tuesday? I like that it was something new.

      • Zulema says:

        And what’s wrong with NONNA? A lot of people don’t know it, they think it’s “Nana.” I really liked to find it in the puzzle.

    • Alan D. says:

      Amy, by “some people” I hope Will wasn’t talking about you. I’ve always found you fair in your reviews, especially with “fill” issues. I think Will has someone else in mind ;-)

  8. Gareth says:

    The NYT is crying out for a revealing answer; INSIDENBA seems obvious. Of course the best of both worlds would be “Inside NBA” as the title and retaining 8 theme answers!

    Loved Steve slapping a 15-letter Canadian answer right in the >centre< of his puzzle! FLASHMOB is a great revealer, and I agree with Amy that Gordon as one of the Flashes is a cute touch.

  9. Martin says:

    It’s always good to have hidden word theme entries split differently in different theme entries. It’s certainly desirable, but not always possible.

    -MAS

  10. Martin says:

    Re “inside the NBA”:

    FYI: I used the same theme in a CS puzzle from about 6 years ago titled: “Hoop Groups”.

    -MAS

  11. ahimsa says:

    LAT: Enjoyed the puzzle, the FLASH MOB theme was cute and I didn’t see it coming.

    One nit for me was the clue for RAGA (or raag). I don’t think raga is a genre. A raga, which is often associated with a mood or time of day, specifies which notes can be played, sometimes even in which order (e.g., ascending but not descending). In Indian classical music the raga and tal (rhythm) form a structure around which the musician improvises.

    I’m not a musician–no talent at all! So my description may be incomplete. I learned this from my husband who has played the sitar since he was quite young. I think he’d agree that a raga is not a genre. Indian classical music would be a genre.

    PS. I liked Gareth’s LAT puzzle from yesterday. I didn’t comment because I didn’t get to solve it until today!

    • ahimsa says:

      Oops, I now see that my comments on RAGA were already included in the puzzle write-up. That will teach me to post a comment before reading what’s been written!

  12. ArtLvr says:

    Re Jonesin’s “Eastern Rim” — If you google, you’ll find this seems to be a bike thing!

Comments are closed.