Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fireball 5:07 (Amy) 
AV Club 3:21 (Amy) 
NYT untimed (Amy) 
LAT 5:03 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:02 (Matt) 
CS 7:16 (Dave) 

I hear the Thursday NYT is best solved using the PDF or print newspaper. Having trouble finding the PDF link? Quick shortcut: visit our Today’s Puzzles download page. (Will only work if you’re a paid subscriber to the Times’ online puzzle service.) Here’s the link: http://select.nytimes.com/premium/xword/2014/01/23/Jan2314.pdf

Patrick Blindauer’s American Values Club crossword, “Members Only”

AV Club crossword solution, 1 23 14 "Members Only"

AV Club crossword solution, 1 23 14 “Members Only”

What, GRANT’S WOOD is too classy for you, Patrick? (Besides not having a useful letter count.) The theme takes people whose last names are slang terms for “penis” and adds a possessive ‘S:

  • 20a. [Certain roaster's spit?], ANDY’S DICK. Celebrity roast, not a chicken roast.
  • 25a. [The Rock's rocket?], DWAYNE’S JOHNSON.
  • 42a. [Disgraced politician's pole?], ANTHONY’S WEINER.
  • 50a. [Certain fashion designer's unit?], VERA’S WANG. A little gender-bending going on in this one. Just because it’s a penis theme, it doesn’t mean that the theme answers all have to be men.

A little reminiscent of Byron Walden’s “double-hung” Onion AV Club puzzle from 2007, but with its own angle.

The puzzle was labeled as a 2.5 out of 5 on the difficulty scale. I dunno, I think 3:21 makes it more of a straight 2. Maybe it’s a tad heavy on the proper names front? That can make it harder for some folks.

Highlights in the fill include “COME ON DOWN!” from The Price Is RightKRUSTY O’S cereal from The Simpsons, and the musical ALL SHOOK UP. The fill’s smooth overall.

Favorite clues, because they’re all not the standard “we see this clue all the time” sort of clues for these entries:

  • 25d. ["Buffy the Vampire Slayer" extra], DEMON.
  • 31d. ["Animal House" brother], OTTER.
  • 52d. [Brittney Griner's league], WNBA.
  • 33d. [Dionne Warwick or Zora Neale Hurston, sorority-wise], ZETA.

Four stars from me.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 69″

Fireball crossword solution, 1 23 14 "Themeless 69"

Fireball crossword solution, 1 23 14 “Themeless 69″

This puzzle’s anchored by a word I’ve never heard of: 15d. [Word accented on the antepenultimate syllable (the answer is an example of one)], PROPAROXYTONE. Ultimate is the last, penultimate is second to last, and antepenultimate is third to last. So proparOXytone, then. Sounds like an acne medicine. Anyway, crossword nerds tend to be fond of oddball words that describe words (see also: 33a), so I don’t mind having this curveball tossed at us.

Highlights in the world of fill and cluing:

  • 16a. [Supreme court achievement], CAREER GRAND SLAM. That’s the tennis court’s supreme achievement.
  • 30a. [At the end of his life he was all wet], MARAT. Killed in the bathtub, immortalized in a painting. Aww.
  • 33a. [Broadcast television and terrestrial radio, e.g.], RETRONYMS. The emergence of cable TV and satellite radio meant these terms needed to be coined, and that the meanings of “television” and “radio” had expanded.
  • 39a. [Cell body revealer?], SEXT. As in cell-phone naked-body revealer.
  • 56a. [Subject of a famous quantum mechanics thought experiment], SCHRODINGER’S CAT.
  • 29d. ["Gone Girl" wife], AMY. New AMY clue; Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star in the upcoming (Oct. 2014) movie adaptation.
  • 31d. [Fox title], BRER. As in “Brer Bill O’Reilly.”

Did not know: 1a. [Magazine founder James], MCCALL. Hang on, that classic married-lady magazine was founded and named after a dude? Yes. He started the magazine in order to market his sewing patterns.

Also did not know: 21a. [Château ___ (prison in "The Count of Monte Cristo)], D’IF.

A tad heavy on the names front, like the AV Club puzzle. (Don’t bother me none.) Four stars, maybe a bit less.

Michael Hawkins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 23 14, no, 0123

NY Times crossword solution, 1 23 14, no, 0123

So I solved in pencil, on the PDF. The constructor emailed me last week to recommend the PDF, so I dutifully obeyed. Solved the puzzle, didn’t particularly enjoy it, and don’t understand at all why Will Shortz chose to leave the this-way-and-that-way rebus squares unnumbered. The whole shebang was just a mysterious muddle until I chanced upon one of those extra clues in the clue list, with a number not provided in the grid. I think most speed solvers jump from a spot in the grid to a specific spot in the clue list—and if there’s no number 23 in the grid, you’re not going to look for that 23-Across clue. The .puz version has the two clues for an apparent single entry split by a slash, which seems much more sensible than the PDF approach to me.

So, yeah. There are three rebus squares that spell out BLOCK. They should be numbered 23, 39, and 56. What appear to be single entries at 20a and 9d, for example, turn out to be two entries—one ending with BLOCK and the next starting with BLOCK. Like so:

  • 20a. [Member of a boy band with nine top 10 hits], NEW KID ON THE {BLOCK}. Awkward singular here.
  • 23a. [Supply line cutter], {BLOCK}ADE.
  • 9d. [Beach bag item], SUN{BLOCK}.
  • 23d. [Represses, as bad memories], {BLOCK}S OUT.
  • 34a. [Kitchen counter option], BUTCHER {BLOCK}.
  • 39a. [Some street gatherings], {BLOCK} PARTIES.
  • 15d. [Building unit], CINDER {BLOCK}.
  • 39d. [Set-off chunks of text], {BLOCK} QUOTES.
  • 51a. [Bygone delivery], ICE {BLOCK}.
  • 56a. ["Titanic" or "Avatar"], {BLOCK}BUSTER MOVIE.
  • 37d. [Cooler part], CELL{BLOCK}.
  • 55d. [Obstruction], {BLOCK}AGE. Ooh, I don’t like the overly strong similarity between BLOCKAGE and BLOCKADE.

So I don’t mind this method of squeezing a bunch of extra letters into the grid, but the choice to leave the 23, 39, and 56 as an exercise for the solver is perplexing.

Lots of tough little words in here. Are you up on your Names From Greek Mythology Starting With I? There’s 13a INO, [Sea goddess who rescued Odysseus], and then there’s 53d IDAS, [One of the Argonauts]. The L crossing of ELOI and ELEA, calculated to vex those who don’t do too many crosswords. The UTZ/TSU neighborhood, ENOW, OXI [__Clean]—the latter being one of those awkward bits that can’t even stand alone with a respectable word space after it. SHEB Wooley.

The clue for SLEET is 8d [Weather warning]. It’s not a “warning,” it’s a “kind of precipitation.”

I was irritated by the answer to 22d [Angel food cake requirement] being TUBE PAN rather than BUNDT PAN. And then I looked it up, and you know what? Tube pan is the name for the exact pan that is used for angel food cake. (Wikipedia warns against greasing the tube pan because “this allows the cake to have a surface upon which to crawl up helping it to rise.” Yes, to crawl up upon. Not every Wikipedia page has had a savvy editor working on it.

Also! 1a, [Pudding flavor]. “Oh, this must be a wild rebus! Because there’s only three boxes, but the primary puddings are VANILLA, CHOCOLATE, and BUTTERSCOTCH so it’s gotta be one of those.” Working the crossings … working the crossings of the crossings … wait a minute. FIG? This is worse than the ‘Be sure to drink your Ovaltine’ reveal in A Christmas Story!” Now, the British dish called figgy pudding is not a “pudding” in the American sense. It’s more like a fruitcake. When an American crossword uses the term “pudding,” we think of a soft custardy concoction, not a firm, steamed cake made with flour and ginger and nutmeg. USA! USA! USA!

3.25 stars from me.


Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Cornfield” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Theme entries where the first word is a type of corn:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/23/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/23/14

  • [Colorful pattern with parallels] clued CANDY STRIPE – anyone else remember “candy stripers” who I believe would visit patients in a hospital? Apparently they got that name due to the red-and-white striped suits they would wear. “Candy corn” is that goopy saccharin concoction you get at Halloween.
  • [Matters of mass appeal, collectively] had me thinking of church collections initially, but ended up being POP CULTURE – we all know what “popcorn” is.
  • [Noted hemispherical instrument] had me thinking of African drums initially (hemispherical here is the shape not a geographic reference), but was KETTLE DRUM – “kettle corn” is popcorn that has added sugar to make it sweet I believe. Here in Vermont, a common popcorn topping is maple butter. Yum!
  • A real head-scratcher, [It's invigorating] was a PEPPER-UPPER – picker-upper, yes, but pepper-upper? Sounds like something from a very bygone era. I do know what a “peppercorn” is, though.

Pretty standard daily theme, but tough with particularly that last entry I had never heard of before. I also struggled with other clues as well: [Chain gang checkers] or IRONS used “checkers” in the sense of “things that hold something back,” not in its more typical sense of “to review.” I enjoyed the trivial (in a good sense of that word!) [By tradition, no pope chooses this name] for PETER, as St. Peter was the first pope and only one allowed to go by that name. Big fan too of KGB SPY, since I really enjoy these virtually all-consonant entries, which are quite unusual in American crosswords due to the crossing constraints. As a beekeeper, I’m a bit perplexed as well on the clue for NEUTER, which was [Like worker bees], since worker bees are all female in my hive anyway, and they can actually lay eggs as well if the colony requires a new queen.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Wintry Mix” — Matt’s review

beq

Brendan lives in the Boston area, so you can imagine that snow is on his mind (and shoes). Hence this theme:

18-a [Keep a poker face] = SHOW NO SIGN. This phrase really wants its “of” at the end.

24-a [Makes something better, big-time] = DOES WONDERS

35-a [In Georgia, e.g.] = DOWN SOUTH

43-a ["Land ho!" spot] = CROW’S NEST

51-a [Some townhouses] = BROWNSTONES

62-a [Winter storm occurrences ... and a hint to the theme of this puzzle] = SNOWDRIFTS. As you can see, the circled squares use the letters S-N-O-W in various ways. Timely.

Highlights:

*** [Physician who sponsors the Eroscillator vibrator] = DR. RUTH. 85 and still going strong!

*** at 40-A we have [Number of Z's in this grid] for ZERO. Meta.

***Quality fill: SNIPE HUNT, SNOOP DOGG, GITMO, LONG O (not Frank Longo, but a long letter O), KOKOMO and UH-OH.

3.75 stars. Stay warm out there!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times – Gareth’s Review

LA Times 140123

LA Times
140123

Today’s puzzle features a common enough theme starting point: short tree names. The twist today was interesting: all down theme answers, which tie in to the revealing TREETOP. The answers themselves are all zesty; this is partly facilitated by the fact that the first words only start with trees, the words themselves being longer. To top it all off, TREETOP itself intersects the middle two theme answers! Snazzy!

  • 3d, ["Sesame Street" segment with Dorothy the goldfish], ELMOSWORLD. Not a part of my childhood, but a very fun entry nonetheless.
  • 4d, [Combat with one survivor], FIGHTTOTHEFINISH
  • 9d, [Input for a personnel interviewer], FIRSTIMPRESSION
  • 31d, ["Dolphin Tale" co-star], ASHLEYJUDD

A notable feature of the rest of the grid was interesting, but slightly difficult vocabulary. Consider this trio: DIADEM, ODDMENT, COMITY.

Others odds and ends:

  • 14a, [__ Harbour, Fla.], BAL. It seems to be a tiny suburb of Miami. How crossworthy is this? (I’m asking because, as a non-American, I honestly can’t judge.) Changing the subject, I am always fascinated by the way Florida has so much building on tiny flat islands just off the coastline… The keys being the craziest example!
  • 30a, [Thought before taking a risk], DOIDARE. Good spoken-word (sort of) phrase.
  • 34a, [Excessively affected], TOOTOO. Always a fun answer, even though it’s fairly common in crosswordland.
  • 41a, [Group __], HUG. Simple, but I liked this FITB clue.
  • 63a, [Down Under school], UNI. South African too, but we don’t get referenced in clues for this word, for some reason.
  • 27d, ["I know! Pick me!"], OOHOOH. Another fun spoken word answer.
  • [It may precede meat and potatoes], RED. Very nicely thought out clue!
  • [Island only 2% owned by Hawaii], LANAI. I think the rest is owned by the Oracle mogul, Larry Elliston I think his name is? [Ellison]

Generally an enjoyable outing!
4 Stars
Gareth

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26 Responses to Thursday, January 23, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: in general, ignoring the exhortations to do the printed version of puzzles works out just fine about 90% of the time… this one being a case in point. No problem, none, on Acrosslite. There was a slash which was very nice and helpful in telling me that the rebus was at the interface. I thought the theme was well executed, especially considering all the constraints.

    FIG is a gorgeous and scrumptious fruit that deserved its place in the Garden of Eden (and those leaves came in handy). That clue was just sad.

    But the best combo bar none, and I’m not even a guy, is the BUXOM BRA crossing…

    • HH says:

      “But the best combo bar none … is the BUXOM BRA crossing…”

      Why can’t some constructor use that as a rebus?

    • Brucenm says:

      I’m glad someone of the female persuasion pointed that out. I wasn’t going to say that the two words were stacked, or anything gauche like that.

    • Gareth says:

      I agree. This puzzle worked very well in Across Lite! In fact it looks like it worked far better in Across Lite!

      • Bencoe says:

        Also agree. Did the .puz version and don’t understand why the PDF was supposed to be better.
        Also thought there was going to be a rebus at 1 Across, until I remembered “figgy pudding.”

  2. Brucenm says:

    I liked the NYT a lot, and don’t understand the objection to the cluing. Each of the blocks created a double entry in each direction, each using the ‘block’, and each part of each double entry had a separate clue, with the two clues separated by a / . That is a pretty standard crossword convention, perhaps most frequently seen in certain variety puzzles; and I thought all the theme entries were terrific. I understand the quibble about {Weather warning}, but surely a sympathetic parsing would yield something like “warning with respect to inclement and potentially hazardous weather.”

    Also liked the FB, and loved learning the word ‘proparoxytone’. I would say that the career Grand Slam is not *the* Supreme career accomplishment, in the sense of the highest possible accomplishment, but it is *a* supreme accomplishment. Higher yet would be winning all the majors in a single season, Australian in January, French in May, Wimbeldon in June and the US Open in Sept. Just below that would be the “calendar year slam,” i.e. winning the four majors consecutively spanning two seasons, e.g. if I were to rehabilitate my game and win the 2014 U.S. Open, and the 2015 Australian, French and Wimbledon.

    Marat was definitely all wet, killed by Charlotte Corday. I actually liked the clue {Cell body revealer}, though I don’t like that annoyingly trendy word “selfie”, and wonder where it came from. The Chateau D’If is famous if one has read the book, obscure otherwise.

    Re the AV Club — the law firm that Michele administered had many German clients, one of them a small corporation whose CEO had the unfortunate name of Dieter Prick. In the U.S. he would go by the name ‘Pirick’, when he could get away with it. His partner was named Karlheinz Loser, making it the only known corporation headed by prick and loser.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, in the PDF and the newspaper, there was no slash. Instead, there were separate numbered clues in the clue list, but with the numbers left out of the grid (I wrote them in with red pen). So 20-Across’s clue was just the boy band member, with no hint that there was another answer in the 20-Across space.

      • Brucenm says:

        Oh — OK. I’m sorry. Now I understand. That would be not only confusing, but inaccurate cluing.

  3. Matt says:

    Thought the FB was excellent– no weak spots, even in the small words. Also, vocabulary building, clues involving math and physics– all good for me.

    Also, did NYT in AcrossLite and had no problem with the theme. Very nice puzzle with a couple of tricky crossings, particularly IDAS/DONALD in the SW– I had an R at the crossing and wouldn’t have fixed it without the ‘Did you get all the letters correctly?’ hint at the end.

  4. Brucenm says:

    My favorite retronym: Natural snow.

    Also “classical music” which I treat as a retronym.

  5. JFC says:

    Amy, I found your write-up the most entertaining of the three blogs I read on this puzzle (Deb’s and Rex’s). Your reference to the Ovaltine decoder is a keeper. I remember getting my decoder and having the same reaction as Ralphie. However, if you go to this site and click on the lyrics, you will appreciate 1A more, even though your point is well taken:

    http://www.carols.org.uk/we_wish_you_a_merry_chris1mas.htm

    PS. I would like to hear more about why Huda left Rex and what the two of them had going for Rex to come here and prostrate himself the other day.

  6. pannonica says:

    NYT: On the bright side, I was pleased to see Jasper Fforde make an appearance (in a clue).

    Also, those are some relatively obscure Greek mythology figures. I’d say that IO, IRIS, IDA, and IPHICLES are all better-known. Relatively speaking, I reiterate.

  7. Gareth says:

    Your comments caused me to finally look up “Bundt pan” and see that I own two!! I refer to them as ring pans and I’m pretty sure that’s what the shop called them too… (Actually, I may have looked this up before now and forgot, I do that.)

  8. Andy says:

    I think I would have liked the NYT just a touch more if it had been printed as the author originally intended: http://www.xwordinfo.com/images/MichaelHawkinsBLOCK1.jpg

    Thoughts?

    • pannonica says:

      That does explain why they’re symmetrically positioned.

      • Bencoe says:

        I thought that’s what people were supposed to do in the print version, actually draw in the blocks rather than make a rebus. It makes more of an interesting theme.

        • Hawkins says:

          Correct, that is the intent. When I submitted this puzzle I had the print version in mind, and felt it was unlikely that the digital version would properly represent the idea.

          The idea that the numbers should be in the grid is odd to me; those numbers wouldn’t appear in the grid until a block was placed in and necessitated it. If the number was already in the grid it would be a dead giveaway (which the digital version partially is).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yes, that is a much cooler puzzle. And with the clue numbers included in the grid, for Pete’s sake!

    • Hawkins says:

      The PDF/paper version is printed as intended. The xword grid I sent to Jeff is the original solution grid I submitted (not the blank).

  9. Zulema says:

    I actually downloaded the PDF after I saw the warning, but had already started on the AcrossLite version and it helped fill the PDF. I agree with everyone here. The AcrossLite version made more sense.

  10. ahimsa says:

    NYT: Amy, I enjoyed the puzzle more than you did, but I enjoyed your write-up, as always! I had similar questions about the clues for SLEET and FIG. No problem with TUBE PAN, though.

    I’m sure it was more fun for those of us who found those the extra clues that weren’t marked in the grid. In other words, I’m definitely *not* a speed solver!

    Like others mentioned I also drew in “blocks” (well, I just drew in squares, too lazy to fill them in) for the rebus. I figured that the idea was that each block was supposed to represent a dark square. Many thanks to Michael Hawkins for posting that link to your solution grid. (although I notice it has an extra 26–fortunately, the PDF did not)

    LAT: I really enjoyed this one. I had a hard time seeing the theme at first because I was sure it was BAr Harbour (D’oh! That’s Bar Harbor, Maine!). I don’t know BAL Harbour, FL, and I even spent a couple years living in Tallahassee. Maybe that’s a partial answer for you, Gareth? Not that I’m any expert since I have not been to Florida for many years.

    Eventually I figured out it was BAL and everything fell into place. So, it was a fun Aha! moment to finally see all those TREEs in the forest of letters.

    • ahimsa says:

      Oops, my mistake, I see that it was Andy who posted the link to the solution grid and then Michael who posted the comments with a more detailed explanation.

Comments are closed.