Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NYT 3:58 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 3:51 (Amy) 
LAT 2:32 (Amy) 
CS 5:15 (Dave) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Psst: Did you know Matt Gaffney is blogging the NYT puzzle all week over at the Rex Parker site? Don’t miss it.

Jeff Stillman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 28 14, no. 0128

NY Times crossword solution, 1 28 14, no. 0128

Theme adds a -BO and tweaks the spelling as needed:

  • 20a. [Celebration dance after a goal?], SOCCER MAMBO. Soccer mom.
  • 57a. [Punched out a Disney elephant?], STRUCK DUMBO. Struck dumb.
  • 11d. [Aerobics done to Chubby Checker music?], TWIST TAE BO. Twist tie.
  • 29d. [Give a hobbit a ring?], PHONE BILBO. Phone bill.

That’s solid and not stale. Not in the puzzle: TREE LIMBO, BUBBLE GUMBO.

Whoa, unfamiliar word: 27a. [Combat engineer], SAPPER. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that word anywhere, least of all in an early-week crossword, but the crossings were all unambiguous.

65a. [It may be checked, in more ways than one], COAT. Um, what? Stow your coat at the coat check or … check the pockets of your coat? A coat with a checkered pattern? Not sure what the “more ways” are supposed to be.

HART is clued as 68a. [Politico Gary]. Uh, he left politics 26 years ago. Surely by now comedian/actor Kevin Hart is more famous? His current movie, Ride Along, has won the box office race two weekends running, and K.H. will star in the About Last Night remake (based on a Mamet play) that opens in a couple weeks. And he’s on TV, he does stand-up, he’s hosted the VMAs…

Favorite clue: 41d. [One known for talking back?], PARAKEET.

Could do without fill like OBI, AEON, ULNA, and URGER. (Have you ever used URGER?) But mostly the fill is solid, with 6- to 8-letter answers that are crisp (MADCAP Groucho Vs. the GAUCHO).

3.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ themeless crossword, “Large and in Charge”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 1 28 14 "Large and in Charge"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 1 28 14 “Large and in Charge”

It’s time for another freestyle Jonesin’, which reminds me that Matt’s No Holds Barred collection of barred freestyle puzzles is coming out in February for Kickstarter backers (don’t know if non-backers will be able to buy the puzzle packet later).

This puzzle has yet another one of those oddball Jones themeless grids, a 66-worder. The 3×3 and 3×4 sections feel out of place, but take a gander at those other two wide-open corners and the insane midsection. Nine 7- to 9-letter Acrosses piled on top of each other, crossing a bunch of 7- to 12-letter fill? That is just nuts. In a good way.

Grid highlights: BIG BERTHA, SQUID INK, THE ALAMO, PRIME FACTOR, SAFE RETURN, HOME-SCHOOLER, Erich Maria REMARQUE, BARBITURATE, and BOUTIQUE.

Grid lowlights: 8a. [Old French Communist Party of Canada inits. (hidden in EPCOT)], PCO; semi-contrived HERE FOREVER and DRIVEN TO FEAR and IN LIFE; maybe not so famous [NASA astronaut Leroy ___] CHIAO; arbitrary (?) tarot card the TEN OF CUPS; 6d. [Canadian singer/songwriter ___ Naked], BIF.

3.9 stars from me.


Updated Tuesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “See Here!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four phrases which begin with a synonym of SEE are clued as imperatives:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/28/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/28/14

  • [See some barware?] was EYE GLASSES – to “eye” something is to look at it.
  • [See some payday handouts?] was SPOT CHECKS to “spot” something is also to catch a glimpse of it.
  • [See some lighthouses?] clued WATCH TOWERS. I believe this is also the name of the magazine handed out by Seventh Day Adventists; has anyone read what it has to say?
  • [See some gifted artists?] was VIEW MASTERS- are these those old devices that you put a disk in to see a photo with sort of a “stereoscopic” effect? “Masters” reminds me of the game Masterpiece where random values are assigned to pictures of great paintings.

Clever theme and very consistent. Having the theme entries in the “pinwheel” configuration also allowed some interesting fill; namely the Q shared between QURAN (I tried KORAN at first, is one more common than the other?) and QUESTION, the Z of MERTZ and ZODIAC and the K of PEKES and KAYO (which I think of as an old-timey drink prior to its variant spelling of K-O or a boxing knockout). I do take issue though with the clue [Often-misused pronoun] for WHOM, since whom does the constructor thinks misuses it?

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Cheeseheads!”—Janie’s review

1:28 cn

1/28 Crossword Nation

Let’s get this straight from the start: today’s title “cheeseheads” are not citizens of the great state of Wisconsin (who turned that one-time epithet into a source of pride). Instead, you’ll find the name of a kind of cheese at the head of phrase that has nothing whatever to do with dairy-food. Making this puzzle something that can be enjoyed safely even by the lactose-intolerant! We get five themers today (three 15s and two 12s for a hefty total of 69 theme squares) and I’m happy to say that as a group of phrases they are far zestier than the kinda mild cheese spread we’re served. See if you don’t agree.

  • 17A. “FARMER IN THE DELL” [Kindergarten tune, with "The"]. Well, “heigh-ho the derry-o,” we’re off an runnin’. Hmm. And just checked—it is “derry-o” and not “dairy-o.” See for yourself. Darn… Farmer cheese? Actually you can liven it up quite a bit (or even use it as a “healthy” substitute for cream cheese), but as “pressed cottage cheese [more on that later],” it’s not the most exciting dairy product out there. (Small wonder “the cheese stands alone”…)
  • One of the more modest examples out there...

    One of the more modest examples out there…

    23A. STRING BIKINI [Two piece suit that won't keep you warm]. Especially in the kind of weather a lot of the country has been having of late! Love this combo—the understatement of the clue, the utter freshness of the fill. And string cheese? Depending on how it’s made, it can be pretty salty. Especially love it when there’s some caraway thrown in!

  • 16A. SWISS ARMY KNIVES [Compact tools that open bottles of wine and cans of beans]. M-m-m. Now there’s a savory combo! (Not all that far-fetched though, now that I think about it. A nice red wine with one’s cassoulet? Mais oui!). The multitasking Swiss Army knives really are amazing. The most complex ones can accommodate close to 90 tools. There’s probably something in there that can even gouge out holes in Swiss cheese!

46A. COTTAGE FRIES [Potato side dish on a brunch menu]. Now I’m someone who’s eaten more than her share of cottage cheese—but probably because I’ve also enjoyed more than my share of cottage fries. And all in all, I think a serving of crisp-on-the-outside cottage fries are more likely to SATE [Please a foodie] than cottage cheese. Unless we’re talkin’ a diet-conscious health-foodie. Like its farmer relative above, cottage cheese fares somewhat better (by this palate anyway…), when doctored with fresh fruit, or maybe some cinnamon. Somethin‘ to give it a flavor boost! (These oven-baked cottage “fries” sound an awful lot like roasted potatoes to me. Nuthin’ wrong with that!)

57A. AMERICAN ACCENTS [Across-the-pond speech patterns studied by British actors]. Like Benedict Cumberbatch in August: Osage County. Or Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man. Emma Watson in The Bling Ring. Or Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis. Wonder how they feel about American cheese. I associate it so strongly with childhood and think of more in terms of texture than actual flavor. As for those orange-y cheeses in general, make mine a sharp cheddar or tangy Cheshire, please!

As I mentioned at the top, there is a lot of lengthy theme fill in today’s puzzle. Which means that where this puzzle is concerned, there’s little else by way of longer fill. Eight sixes, and everything else in the three, four and five range. But when those sixes include the scrabbly music duo of SEDAKA and DVORAK, and CRESTS clued as [Family emblems], I’m all right. That last one reminds me of the laugh my own family got when we received a solicitation to get information about the “Smulyan Family Coat of Arms.” Sure. What Jewish family in TSARist Russia didn’t have one of those? (Maybe you can find your family’s here.)

And though it’s clued colloquially, ["No problems here"] for “I’M EASY, this phrase brought back fond memories of seeing (Robert Altman’s) Nashville, and being seduced by Keith Carradine’s rendition of his Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning song of the same title (which he wrote as well as performed).

My fave of the sixes, though, would have to be SALAMI. With all that cheese in the grid—well, a spicy salami makes for a great go-with. But what adds to its strength as an entry is its vertical (“hanging”) placement in the grid combined with its clue, [It hangs around a deli counter]. And it crosses three of the themers to boot!

Not wild for the MNOP action in the SE corner and think the SW corner might be improved by changing the “S” that joins NOS to STARES to a “D,” for NOD and STARED—thereby eliminating an abbreviation. Still—small potatoes by any measure!

salami deli

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA TImes crossword solution, 1 28 14

LA TImes crossword solution, 1 28 14

The theme is a movie doubling feature:

  • 20a. [2002 Sandra Bullock film], TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE.
  • 24a. [1981 Alan Alda film, with "The"], FOUR SEASONS. There are some other movies that begin with FOUR and could sidestep the [... with "The"] crutch, but they’re not necessarily any more famous than this 1981 movie … which is not all that big itself. Four Weddings and a Funeral was big, but the title’s too long.
  • 45a. [1988 John Cusack film], EIGHT MEN OUT.
  • 54a. [1984 Molly Ringwald film], SIXTEEN CANDLES.

I suspect a number of solvers struggled to get through this puzzle owing to the relatively large number of proper nouns in the grid. MCRAE, TRIS, MACAU, GLESS, LAHTI, SAHL, UTE, ERIK—those are the ones that are less household-namey than the others 10 or so names in this puzzle.

Four more things:

  • 17a. [Resembling an equine], HORSELIKE. The word is best applied to ponies, zebras, and certain large-faced football players.
  • 43a. [Peter and Paul, but not Mary], APOSTLES. More often this clue leads to SAINTS. And speaking of folk music allusions, we at Crossword Fiend were saddened to hear of the passing of the legendary Pete Seeger. He was a good guy and a beloved part of my childhood.
  • 4d. ["Cow's Skull with Calico Roses" painter Georgia], O’KEEFFE. This painting lives in the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • 34d. [Trig finals, e.g.], MATH EXAMS. Slightly arbitrary entry? I think so. It sort of looks like it’s tied to the theme, but the symmetry partner is CROISSANT. But wait! Laminating dough involves many steps of incorporating butter and folding the dough over to double the layers. A hint of thematicness. Mmm, croissants…

3.25 stars. A few too many names and entries like EES, SOU, and ESTER for me to grade it higher.

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26 Responses to Tuesday, January 28, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Cute theme! SAPPER was definitely news to me…

    And -11 outside is also news to me… I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that. I hope I can get to my early meeting tomorrow without freezing my eyeballs.

    • ahimsa says:

      Oh, Huda, I feel for you! I survived a couple winters in Champaign/Urbana where the lowest temps I remember were about -15 F (before wind chill). Brrr! And good luck.

  2. sps says:

    I remembered SAPPER from “The English Patient”…One of the characters was a sapper, a combat engineer who had the fun job of defusing and getting rid of mines during WWII.

  3. David L says:

    I may be in a minority, but SOCCERMAMBO didn’t work for me because MOM and MAMBO have different vowels. Nice puzzle otherwise.

    • pannonica says:

      But the sound of the vowel (IPA: ä) is the same for nearly all English speakers. As Amy said, the answers tweak the spelling as needed. Do you feel similarly about the vowel change in TIE vs TAE? The dropped L from BILL? The dropped (or overlaid) B of DUMBO?

      • David L says:

        The sound is not the same for me — that’s my point. As I said, I may be in a minority on that.

        As for the others — I pronounce the TAE of TAE BO the same as TIE. Whether that’s strictly correct or not I don’t know. And I don’t understand your point about BILBO vs BILL — the first syllable is pronounced the same regardless of one L or two.

    • Bencoe says:

      How do you say it? Moom? Maimbow?

  4. pannonica says:

    I dimly recall SAPPER, but with a few letters in place went with SNIPER, thinking the clue was a particularly callous governmental euphemistic reworking.

    • Papa John says:

      I think they called the engineers on Omaha Beach, in Saving Private Ryan, sappers. They crawled ahead of the troops and blew up obstacles with bangalores.

  5. I’d like some words with anyone who agrees that a TACO is a “Crunchy sandwich.”

    Not even angry words. Just words. I think it makes for an interesting analysis of character what one deems a sandwich.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Given that the vast majority of tacos I eat are on soft tortillas (corn, preferably), the “crunchy” bit throws me. And then you call it a sandwich? Now I’m picturing a taco sandwich. Store-bought hard taco shell with fillings, crushed between two slices of Wonder bread with mayo.

    • Evad says:

      I agree. I think Will should be spending more time at his local Taco Bell.

    • Gareth says:

      There seems to be an American phenomenon where anything involving grain and fillings is deemed a sandwich. See also: PITA.

      • Huda says:

        Gareth, weirdly enough, when people in the Middle East fill a Pita they call it a sandwich (pronounced: sun dweesh). We distinguished between sandwiches on French vs. Arabic (i.e Pita) bread. Then we had something we call ‘arousseh’ (the bride) which is made up with the very flat nan-like bread and rolled up…

        Halvah, feta, halloumi, falafel combined with various fruits or veggies were sandwiches I grew up eating. I still love them. No ham in sight, though…

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT:This puzzle stinks! I mean it has serious BO!!! Actually, I somehow always find letter addition themes with spelling changes work better with the answers seeming to have more imagination!

    LAT: Doubling is very basic idea. With, the extra layer of movie titles though, I was impressed that David managed to achieve symmetry!

  7. Jeffrey K says:

    STRUCK DUMBO? That’s just cruel. Who doesn’t love Dumbo?

  8. JohnV says:

    Also posted elsewhere, but anyone else going to be at the Westport, CT, tourney this Saturday?

  9. ahimsa says:

    NYT: Cute theme. I see I’m not the only one who filled in SniPER before SAPPER. I only got SAPPER from the crosses. The lower right corner was a bit tough though I guess it was geared to oldsters like me. I had to really dig into my memory to come up with Gary HART. And OTTO is a comics canine? Oh, that’s the dog from Beetle Bailey. I didn’t know it was still running.

    LAT: The math/computer geek in me really liked this “powers of two” progression even though it started at two, not one. :-) Just kidding, starting at two was the better choice.

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