Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NYT 3:17 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 
CS 6:10 (Dave) 

Michael Black’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 14, no. 0129

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 14, no. 0129

Cute enough theme: Four people whose names include relevant three-letter bits in order (but spaced apart in two of the four).

  • 20a. [A general and his country], ULYSSES S. GRANT and USA.
  • 37a. [A hoops great and his league], ELGIN BAYLOR and NBA.
  • 44a. [A comic and his former show], ADAM SANDLER and SNL. Ooh! I watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the first time tonight, starring the other A*** SA***** from SNL, Andy Samberg. Hilarious show. Give it a peep if you haven’t seen it.
  • 59a. [A president and his conflict], WOODROW WILSON and WWI. It’s “his” war? Okay.

I’d rather see this theme with the circled letters all bundled, as in NBA and WWI. And it would be nice to see a woman or three in the theme, too.

The fill was a bit of a mess. I felt my face scowling so much, I pulled out my phone and took the first ever Scowl-o-Meter selfie. It was … not pretty. Also not pretty: I LOSE, OAST, HYPO, UNPIN, PRS, ENO, DEBI, EATER, ENOL, ALEE, A MOLE, ENA yet again (third time in the last week that I’ve seen it, I believe), A-TESTS, ‘OME (oy!), SYNE, SABO, ELSA clued as [Joy Adamson's big cat] (um, you know how the latest Disney toon Frozen has made $348 million in the US alone? and the soundtrack album dethroned the new Beyoncé album on the Billboard charts? Broadway star Idina Menzel does the voice of ELSA the Snow Queen. This is a rather more current ELSA clue possibility), ELIS, AGIN, NALA, WEIR, RAVI, ISOLA, and GTO. In all seriousness, I would not want to see more than four or five of these entries in a single 15×15 puzzle and we’ve got over 20 of them here. For just four theme entries occupying 48 squares! I don’t understand why the fill is so rough. A 78-word puzzle, 48 theme squares … seems like the grid would have accommodated a better fill. And the theme answers aren’t locked into this layout, either (unlike, say, a vowel progression theme where five entries have to appear in alpha order).

Anyway, it’s not fun to solve a puzzle with one’s brow furrowing and one’s mouth downturned. It promotes wrinkles, for crying out loud. I won’t have it.

2.5 stars from me.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Not For Vegetarians” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Those who eschew MEAT won’t be happy with today’s CrosSynergy puzzle, as it’s found in five theme phrases:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/29/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/29/14

  • [Ratty] was WORM-EATEN – rancid meat is sometimes worm-eaten…not a pleasant thought at this hour of the morning, huh?
  • ["Finally, I can put my feet up!"] clued “HOME AT LAST!” – I enjoyed this entry, with echoes of “Free At Last!” from earlier this month.
  • [Movie line spoken by Renée Zellweger after "Just shut up"] clued YOU HAD ME AT HELLOJerry Maguire.
  • [Urgent summoner's words] were “COME AT ONCE!” – sounds more like a movie line (cf. theme entry above) than something someone might say to someone else in everyday parlance.
  • [Fightin' words] were “LET ME AT EM!” – another fun phrase.

Pretty chatty puzzle; lots of talking going on (or summoning) in these theme phrases. I was a bit surprised to see that the first entry had MEAT split differently than the other four, as I know this constructor pays attention to the consistency of either splitting the word in the same way in each theme entry or having each one be unique. Funny to have EXALT cross EXTOL, since I often confuse the two. Perhaps a missed opportunity to clue them both the same way, as the former was [Pile on the praise] and the latter was [Heap kudos on]. I enjoyed the parallel between the theme clue of [Fightin' words] with the entry AGIN clued as [Opposin']. Fun way to spice up a less-than-great fill word. Finally, CLIP-ON TIE (which I’m sure the constructor has never worn) and GIRL SCOUT were nice down entries in a puzzle with an above-average amount of theme material.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Wherever You May Roam”

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword solution, 1 30 14

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword solution, 1 30 14

The letter U roams wherever it pleases, changing key words into entirely different words:

  • 17a. [Group of priests dipping fruit in melted chocolate?], FONDUING FATHERS. Founding fathers. Mmm, chocolate fondue.
  • 37a. [Comparatively bare-bottomed military assault?], NUDER SIEGE. Under siege … by buttocks.
  • 42a. [East African safari park effort?], GNU CONTROL. Gun control.
  • 62a. [Press charges against a Snuggie-clad werewolf encountered on an acid trip?], SUE YOUR ILLUSION. Use Your Illusion, which I’m told is the title of three seminal Guns N’ Roses albums—I and II as well as a compilation of the two. I know one GNR song, and only because it was played by a kickass band at Byron Walden’s wedding.

Interesting fill:

  • 15a. [Comic Marc who hosts the podcast "WTF"], MARON. Haven’t listened to him (not much of an aural person) but have certainly read enough about him to know the name well.
  • 21a. [KitchenAid mixer add-on], DOUGH HOOK. I may have a dough hook. Have never used it, certainly.
  • 52a. [Give someone else heads], CALL TAILS. Hmm, are CALL TAILS and CALL HEADS not rather arbitrary phrases?
  • 4d. [Senator at the center of the 2013 government shutdown], TED CRUZ. This is factually incorrect, per Cruz’s remarks on a Sunday-morning talk show. ”I think it was a mistake that President Obama and the Democrats shut the government down this fall. The reason they did so is that President Obama dug in and said he wouldn’t compromise and he wouldn’t negotiate.” Good and newsy entry, though.
  • 10d. [Islamic fundamentalist branch], WAHHABI.

EELER is never welcome in my crossword, but Ben’s clue is funny: 33d. [Pot user out on a boat?]. I could also do without fill like REDUG, OYEZ (but I like the Night Court clue), ODIE, and UKE.

Utterly unfamiliar name: 52d. László who lost repeatedly to Michael Phelps], CSEH. Given that I didn’t know Use Your Illusion was at the root of 62a, it’s good that 62a’s clue begins with “Press charges against.” Has to be SUE, even if CSEH looks so implausible.

3.66 stars.

C.C. Burnikel’s Louisiana Times crossword—Gareth’s review

LA Times  140129

LA Times
140129

We have an interesting take on the state postal abbreviation theme trope today. Phrases that start with two-letter initialisms that are also state postal codes are reimagined as referring to said codes. There are 7 theme entries, though some are shorter than is typical and the overall letter count is 53, about normal. The central MSDOS is the weak link. It is the only one that modifies the second part of the theme answers, and it does so not only in meaning but pronunciation too. That said, in general you want a bit more separation between changed and original phrases than is present; on the other hand, I can’t see a practical way to achieve this here.

  • 4a, [Hartford markeSmew_RWD1t checker's action?], CTSCAN. (Originally computed tomography.)
  • 17a, [Boise jewelry?], IDBRACELET. (Originally identification.)
  • 31a, [Harrisburg loudspeaker network?], PASYSTEM. (Originally public address.) To me this clue’s answer is “PA PA System.”
  • 41a, [Jackson hair styles?], MSDOS. (Originally Microsoft.)
  • 46a, [Tulsa bull pen?], OKCORRAL. (Originally Old Kindersley, Wikipedia informs me.)
  • 64a, [Richmond medical center?], VAHOSPITAL. Never heard of this phrase, but apparently it’s “Veterans Affairs”. I assume this is something every single American has heard of? OK, then.
  • 70a, [Baton Rouge equipment?], LAGEAR. (Los Angeles.)

Elsewhere, the snazziest part of the grid are the big corners featuring SENATERACE, LADYKILLER & PINACOLADA. A lot of low-level, inoffensive but neverthelesss “crosswordese-y” answers are present. The only answer that irked me was ADES, which is “not a word”.

Theme: more interesting than most, inconsistencies aside. 3.5 stars

—Gareth

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19 Responses to Wednesday, January 29, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Hey, both Ben and I received one-star ratings right from the git go. Whose cornflakes did we **** in this morning?

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  2. Martin says:

    Evad,

    Don’t you know that you and your fellow bloggers are supposed to be spending every waking hour of the day writing, rewriting and polishing these critiques? (That’s why you get paid the big bucks). ;)

    -MAS

  3. David L says:

    I also object to OAST on the grounds that it’s clued incorrectly, as it pretty much always is, as “brewery fixture.” An oast, or oasthouse, is the place where green hops are dried. For obvious reasons, oasts are built (or were, they’re not really used anymore) where the hops are grown. The dried hops are then shipped to a brewery.

    Cluing OAST as a brewery fixture would be like cluing FLOURMILL as a bakery fixture.

  4. Martin says:

    David L. has a good point about OAST houses.

    When I was growing up in England, a neighbouring county, Kent (AKA: “Garden of England”) had a great many OAST houses. So many that they became an iconic symbol for that area… with their conical roofs and unusual-looking heat vents on top, almost like weather vanes. Very picturesque. However, these buildings were parts of hop farms and not breweries. (That’s not to say modern breweries don’t have them too).

    -MAS

    • Bencoe says:

      There are a few breweries which are located in the middle of their own hop fields. St. Bernardus in the hops-growing region of Western Belgium comes to mind. So perhaps the case could be made that these breweries do have OASTS? A very tenuous argument, I know.

  5. Martin says:

    FYI:

    A typical rural scene in the English county of Kent… with OAST houses.

    http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/928179

    -MAS

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: 4×3 corners with ENOL/ENA/DEBI & OAST… embarrassing.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Can’t one make various ades from grapes, limes, oranges, etc.?

    • Gareth says:

      Are they ever referred to as such?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Many dictionaries do not list ADE as a stand-alone word.

      • Brucenm says:

        I would take a middle position and say that “ades” is a word, if and only if “ade” is. But perhaps, as Amy points out, the latter is questionable.

      • Stan Newman says:

        Of course ADES is a word, since, as my lexicographer friend Jesse Sheidlower says, it’s not a ham sandwich. The reason it doesn’t belong in 21st-century crosswords is that it’s just about invisible in current usage. Anyone can check this using Google News and/or Google Books. Of course, its pervasiveness in crosswords DOES NOT COUNT.

        I’ve allowed ADES exactly once in the past 10 years, in a November ’13 Longo Stumper, as “Census Bureau drink category,” just about the only recent usage I could find for it with Google Books.

        ADE should be allowable only as a suffix for Gator, lemon, etc. And there is of course the famed George Ade, if you must channel the late Dr. Maleska.

        Speaking of plurals, why exactly is it allowed to add an S to any and all exclamations that no dictionary says can take an S? There are only a few that can legitimately take an S, such as OH and TSK, because they can be nouns or verbs.

  8. Tracy B says:

    What’s wrong with DEBI? Isn’t it a straight-up proper, like MARY?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Well, how many truly famous DEBIs are there? We have Mazar, who’s never been a true marquee name, and ’80s figure skater Thomas and … that’s it. If Mazar had a career of lead roles in prominent movies, like UMA Thurman, DEBI would be a much better answer than it is. I don’t feel it’s reasonable to expect solvers to know Mazar’s name at this point.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    re TED CRUZ — I don’t know why people talk about him as a possible candidate for U.S. president? Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, which makes him ineligible for that office!

    Wish I could say the same for that bloviating “Birther” Donald Trump, who seems to be considering a run for NY Governor… Ugh. Was anyone else here besides me accosted on the street in NYC some years ago by his girl employees trying to sell his book “The Art of the Deal” to passers-by?

    • HH says:

      Trump missed a golden opportunity. When Obama’s birth certificate finally came to light, Trump should’ve said, “Yes, but is it the *same* Barack Obama?”

  10. Tuning Spork says:

    re: LAT
    I’m with you, Gareth. MSDOS does not belong there. Should’ve have either gone with KYJELLY or left it at four theme answers.

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