Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jonesin' 3:36 (Amy) 
NYT 3:31 (Amy) 
LAT 2:42 (Amy) 
CS 5:38 (Dave) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 14, no. 0218

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 14, no. 0218

The 13 (mostly) short theme answers begin with the letters from A through M, and their last letters work their way back from N to Z:

  • 1a. [*Everything], A TO Z.
  • 15a. [*Rap devotee, slangily], B-BOY.
  • 18a. [*One who goes on and on], CHATTERBOX.
  • 20a. [*"What should I ___?"], DO NOW. Somewhat awkward partial.
  • 31a. [*Sarah Palin or Arnold Schwarzenegger, informally], EX-GOV. Cursory Googling suggests it’s more often a headline abbreviation than an “informal” shortening. Here’s a Wonkette headline that doesn’t include the period at the end of “ex-Gov.”
  • 36a. [*Dish served with long-handled forks]. FONDU. What an ugly spelling. I prefer the mor respectabl fondue.
  • 40a. [*Part of Manhattan's Midtown West], GARMENT DISTRICT.
  • 44a. [*Football snaps], HIKES.
  • 47a. [*Less welcoming], ICIER.
  • 60a. [*2002 Denzel Washington drama], JOHN Q.
  • 64a. [*Wood cutter?], KARATE CHOP.
  • 69a. [*2014 TV retiree], LENO.
  • 73a. [*Standard deviation deviates from it], MEAN.

Interesting concept for a list of words. As the core of a crossword puzzle, I found it wanting, as the surrounding fill is larded with compromise. ORONO! ERI! ONERS! GEN’L! ENOTE! IRANI! X’D IN! IVOR! NO BET! ENORM! NISI! QUIN! Plus rather too many proper nouns: CODY ORONO HAKEEM LEAH ORK JOHNQ LENO OMNI ALEX ODIN KIRK SHEL LEONE ORR IVOR SHOLOM ROXIE UTNE HUME NANA QUIN ([Christie's "The Mysterious Mr. ___"])? That’s more than 20, and a recipe for a lot of displeased solvers. Plenty of “Wait, how is that spelled?” names in the mix, too.

Given that the entertainment value of the theme lies solely in detecting the there-and-back-again alphabetical run—no wordplay to speak of, no humor—the fill needed to do the heavy lifting on the entertainment front. I feel it fell far short of the target, what with all the awkwardness and uncommon names and whatnot. And on a Tuesday, no less!

2.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “We’ve Got Clout”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 2 18 14 "We've Got Clout"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 2 18 14 “We’ve Got Clout”

Again with a nutty only-by-Jones grid design—those mazelike stretches of black squares, stacked 9s crossing two theme entries apiece. And how often are the two middle theme answers connected by 5s that stretch between them?

The theme is “CL out”:

  • 17a. [Where to hold your hands while guiding a horse?], REINING POSITION. From reclining position.
  • 26a. [Acted like the "Supermassive Black Hole" band?], PULLED A MUSE. Pulled a muscle.
  • 44a. ["I couldn't be there--I had to sell my steam press" and others?], IRON AD ALIBI. Ironclad alibi.
  • 57a. [Shaw or Lange, no faking?], THE GENUINE ARTIE. The genuine article. Ha! I like this one.

Highlights in the fill: PRO SHOP, SORE SPOTS and CRIME LABS (though these both would be better in the singular), “YOU BET I AM!

Favorite clues:

  • 18d. [Gallagher who didn't smash melons], NOEL. Noel Gallagher from the band Oasis, as opposed to prop comic Gallagher.
  • 42d. [Murphy has one], LAW.

Could do without LAW appearing across the puzzle from 3d with “Law & Order” in its clue, -OLA, [Volks ender] WAGEN, API-, and the clue for EEG, [Mental picture?]. “Picture” suggests that an EEG is an imaging study like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, but it’s a tracing of brain electrical signals. I’m tired of clues that conflate the EEG with a head scan. Broken record = me.

3.5 stars from me.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Weather Balloons”—Janie’s review

2:18 cn

Crossword Nation 2/18

Is everyone having a fun winter? Enough snow for ya? Enough slush? Enough SLEET [Wintry mix revealed in the circled letters (it's this puzzle's theme!)]? Think of those circles as the “weather balloons” of the title, and you see where LIZ (the non-Lemon variety) is going with this puzzle that highlights anagrams (makes a mix) of that wintry, bone-chilling combo of rain and snow. Br-r-r. Also br-r-rava as this conceit yields five lively themers in which each set of “weather balloons” bridges the phrase’s first and second words.

  • 17A. FLEET STREET [London's newspaper hub]. Wow. Less so now, but yes—since the early 16th century. Also home to Sweeney Todd (“the demon barber of…”).
  • 27A. DOUBLE STEALS [Diamond "heists" executed by two base runners]. While I love my O’s, the biggest baseball fan I ain’t—but this particular winter I’m actually happy seeing reports from spring training and experiencing vicariously the warmth of the Florida sun. Aaaah.
  • 38A. “LET’S EAT!” ["The lasagna's ready!"]. Bring it on!
  • 48A. TABLE SETTING [Dinner party arrangement]. With maybe that lasagna as the main course…
  • 63A. ESTEE LAUDER [Cosmetics mogul who said "Beauty is an attitude"]. Also a source of bi-i-i-g bucks. As I learned in a puzzle clue last week, she was also “the only woman on Time magazine’s 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century.” One impressive dame!

Impressive fill? How about the way BUBBLE TEA and EGO-SURF and NUT-JOB PRESIDE over the lot. Love them all for being fresh and lively. Also love the way that [Layers of jumbo eggs] leads us to DINOSAURS. Full disclosure: I was actually thinking this was going to result in some bizarre breed of …HENS. Don’t ask. Then there’s the name that crosses three of the themers at dead center: LISZT. That’s not an easy area to fill (given the constraints of the theme fill, not particularly ADAPTable), so this is especially fine (and fortuitous) fill. And suspect this bit of whimsy was unplanned, but I also like the way SHIP [Icebreaker, for example] crosses ICE (here clued as [Freezer cubes] and not in conjunction with anything [else] meteorological).

I don’t adore [Mississippi's official airline?] cluing DELTA, as it feels like it has to work too hard to make its point. Mississippi DELTA. I get it, but even though Delta is an airline, it’s not Mississippi’s “official” airline. That’s why the question mark is there, of course. The upside? The combo sent me to reading about Delta‘s history (it turns 90 this year)—including its actual Mississippi Delta tie-in. Check it out! The NUT-JOB clue (also question-marked) also felt somewhat strained to me [Kooky employee on a cashew farm?]. Seems to be equating the person with the location of the work. As I read it, anyway. Or is it that “on a cashew farm” gilds the lily (so to speak)?

Much happier-making: the mirrored, kinda euphonic AKIMBO and ANGORA; the “paesano” proximity of writer Gay TALESE to Puzo’s Luca BRASI. For anyone who needs a Godfather refresher, have at!

That’ll do it for me for this week. Keep warm y’alls—spring’s just a little less than a month away!

"let's eat!"


Updated later Tuesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Double-O 27″ – Dave Sullivan’s review

So I’m guessing from the title that a “double-O” sequence appears 27 times in this puzzle, but I’m not counting to confirm my theory.

CrosSyngergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/18/14

CrosSyngergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/18/14

Though there are technically 20+ theme entries (perhaps 22 if the following have 2 double-O sequences?), here are the longest five:

  • [Test site] clued SCHOOLROOM – I kept thinking of bombs instead of quizzes for some reason.
  • [Flighty redhead with a distinct laugh] was not, as I first surmised, Lucille Ball, but WOODY WOODPECKER – for some reason, I recall this in black & white and had no idea what color his “hair” was.
  • [Play some b-ball] was SHOOT HOOPS – great example of the theme here.
  • [Bit of baby talk] was KOOCHIE KOOthis tune comes to mind.
  • [Ivy League fight song] clued BOOLA BOOLA – Yale, specifically, as I recall.

Nice that the enumeration of double-O’s ended in a 7 to groove off the James Bond moniker. I wondered why one of my FAVE groups, Ten Thousand Maniacs, was clued as a TWO-HIT wonder, as I can name at least five songs in their Natalie Merchant days that I’m pretty sure were considered hits. You don’t see many entries of 8 letters with just one bona fide vowel (not including Y), but we have THIRTY B.C. here. Great clue for an old crossword standby, [One found in the woods] for OBOE.

Robert E. Lee Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 2 18 14

LA Times crossword solution, 2 18 14

An old nursery rhyme serves as inspiration for today’s theme:

  • 53a. [One of the things little boys are made of, and a hint to 20-, 31- and 41-Across], PUPPY DOG TAILS. The Mother Goose book I grew up with illustrated this verse with severed tails. Eww! The other three theme answers end with “tails” that are traditional (but probably well out of favor now) dog names.
  • 20a. [Phrase on a treasure map], X MARKS THE SPOT.
  • 31a. [Luxury SUV since 1970], RANGE ROVER.
  • 41a. [Sophocles tragedy], OEDIPUS REX.

Simple, solid theme. With 46 theme squares, the grid isn’t overcrowded. There’s space for NORTH POLE and PILSNER and lots of ordinary fill. Now, ordinary fill is not the most thrilling thing in the world, but it’s a damn sight better than tortured, compromised fill. ETAS, OTT, SLOE, EEE, and ESTEE are about the worst this puzzle has to offer.

I’m always mystified when ACER is clued as something like 36a: [Hard-to-hit tennis server]. Nobody in tennis ever calls a great server an “acer,” do they? And the entry has a perfectly workable clue, as Acer is right behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell in worldwide sales of PCs.

3.5 stars.

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28 Responses to Tuesday, February 18, 2014

  1. Bencoe says:

    I feel like “FONDU”, although used less over here, must be the preferred French spelling. You don’t pronounce langue “long goo” or morgue “more goo”. But pendu has no “e” at the end.

    • Bencoe says:

      Yes. It is the French word for “melted” and doesn’t have an “e”.

    • Davis says:

      Words ending in “gue” are not the right phonetic analogy.

      There are in fact plenty of French words that end in “due”: perdue, the feminine form of perdu; pendue, the feminine form of pendu (which can in fact have an ‘e’ on the end); and fondue, which is the French word for fondue.

    • Brucenm says:

      I haven’t done today’s puzzles, but we have a tale of two languages here, and a confusion over parts of speech.

      In French, “fondue” is a feminine noun, referring to the familiar cheese fondue, or beef fondue (seared in hot oil) or even chocolate fondue (Yum). “Fondu” as a noun is plain incorrect in French.

      “Fondu [e} is also the past participle of the verb “fondre,” with “fondu” the masculine form, “fondue” the feminine. So one could correctly refer to “fromage fondu” but that would be more likely to mean “soft cheese,” or “runny cheese” or spreadable cheese.

      To the extent that the word is used as a noun in English I’m sure the preferred spelling is “fondue” but perhaps “fondu” shows up somewhere as a variant.

      • Brucenm says:

        And of course the same goes for “pendre” (to hang) pendu (masculine past participle) and “pendue” (feminine past participle.)

      • Ethan says:

        I don’t know why we spell it fondue in the first place. Fromage is masculine, chocolat is masculine, what feminine thing is ever being melted in these fondue houses?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Bruce, MWCD-11 lists “also fondu” in the “fondue” entry. Dictionary support or no, it’s an ugly spelling.

      • Brucenm says:

        I apologize for the overlap with Davis.

      • Bencoe says:

        Yes, it seems to me that it must have been used as “fromage fondu” first and then changed to simply “fondue.”

  2. Seahedges says:

    FONDU, an adjective that describes the “melting” maneuver of bending a knee in the execution of a ballet “pas” (an arabesque fondu, for example) should not be confused with FONDUE, a noun that fits the wrong-headed clue in this substandard puzzle.

  3. HH says:

    I wonder if a different sixth theme entry ever came to the condtructor’s mind … something maybe two letters longer?

  4. David L says:

    I didn’t figure out the theme and didn’t know the JOHNQ/QUIN cross, so a rare Tuesday DNF for me.

    Also, how come it’s SHOLOM Aleichem? Sholem is the spelling I find everywhere on the google, except for one site that has Shalom. Is this some variant Hebrew-to-English transcription that we gentiles are supposed to know ?

    • 7d5a9b1 says:

      I agree. The southwest corner is a trainwreck of proper names: QUIN, NANA, HUME, SHOLOM and, crossing them all, the idiotically titled movie I’ve never heard of, JOHNQ. A deep knowledge of Yiddish authors, Fox newscasters, and Hollywood movies of fading renown ought not to be required for any puzzle, much less a Tuesday one. I am a displeased solver.

    • Lois says:

      I agree with you, David L, about Sholem Aleichem. Of course we should use the familiar spelling in English of a well-known author’s name. I wonder how that happened. But the theme helped with some of the other names.

  5. Tracy B says:

    Seemed tough for a Tuesday. I had one of my nominal aphasia episodes when I entered TRIP instead of TRIG at 19-Down. I won’t claim that Trig Palin and Trip Payne are the same guy, but my brain seems to have sorted them into the same slot due to sound similarities. Perhaps this error led to my overlooking the backward-running part of the letter run. At the end I was thinking “shouldn’t 1-Across be A TO M?” It was certainly lazy or sleepy of me not to question that oddness further and find my mistake.

    Seems unlikely I’ll be soaring into the C-division at this year’s ACPT…

    • Tracy B says:

      I had decided on EX-POL for EX-GOV to make that error feel like it fit. I didn’t know the crossing proper name, IVOR, though I did think ILOR was weird.

      I’m always having to remind myself: if something seems off, it probably is. Something you were certain about is wrong.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: Would’ve made a perfectly good Sunday… Instead it was squished into a 15×15 grid and so you get theme entries like DONOW. DONOW is a theme entry!?

    • Evan says:

      Agreed, though good luck finding anything longer than five letters for J___Q. The closest Sunday relative I could think of was this, though that was a straight letter progression through the alphabet from top-to-bottom.

  7. Zulema says:

    I feel sorry for the constructor who must have worked very hard to get this theme into this puzzle, as he reads this blog. And didn’t I guess when I saw ORONO that our Amy would object? But it’s a perfectly legitimate town!

    • Brucenm says:

      I haven’t done this puzzle, and won’t, because I’ve spoiled it for myself. but I agree. I think it’s an amazingly original, creative concept, and I’m pretty sure I would have overlooked nits and carps and rated it much higher than the consensus, (if that’s any consolation to David.)

      • lorraine says:

        yeah, once i caught on to the theme, i pretty much overlooked the ugliness of some of the fill, as I was too impressed with the feat of construction. I’m often left cold by such puzzles (e.g., pangrams), but this one tickled my fancy for some reason.

        I thought JOHNQ was easily inferable/gettable; I can’t remember the last Denzel Washington movie I saw, but JOHNQ came readily to mind.

  8. Lois says:

    A lot of things were gettable once one got the theme, including John Q. The theme was everything, and I loved it. There were some small things wrong, though.

  9. Margaret says:

    Just getting to today’s puzzles and I was surprised to see REX in the LAT in two answers: as part of TREX and part of OEDIPUSREX. No one else?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I had missed that but a constructor friend pointed it out to me yesterday afternoon. Rather a startling oversight (on the constructor and editor’s part, and also on this blogger’s part). It’s the king of crossings!

      • Margaret says:

        Thanks for replying when I got here so late! And I’m glad to know I wasn’t crazy when no one else mentioned it. It *is* the king of crossings!

Comments are closed.