Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fireball 5:55 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:41 (Amy) 
NYT 3:38 (Amy) 
LAT untimed (Doug) 
BEQ 7:33 (Matt) 
CS 5:19 (Dave) 

Stan Newman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 27 14, no 0227

NY Times crossword solution, 2 27 14, no 0227

Whoa, that was kinda quick for a Thursday puzzle, wasn’t it? Felt like a Wednesday, but in a 72-word themeless-grade grid. The 46-square theme is a quip, of all things, and I did not hate it: [Sign at a neighborhood bar, part 1], part 2, part 3, and [End of the sign] spell out DON’T TALK ABOUT / YOURSELF. WE / WILL DO THAT / AFTER YOU LEAVE. Ha! Hadn’t heard that one before.

I actually enjoyed the solve, quote theme be damned. Ten 7-letter entries, not a one of them stale. YELLOWY, though it has dictionary cred, felt a bit weird to me. Super-smooth fill overall. CHOSE UP sides is crisp, and FOODIE is fresh. SHRIVEL is a common and colorful word but seldom seen in crosswords. AMAZIN‘ Mets is kinda fun. APPALL with its proper American second L is welcome given how often we see the one-L variant in crosswords. IDIOCY, WHINY, FAKE, and SLOB suggest how we’ll talk about you when you’ve left the thematic bar.

Stan shared his process with some of us bloggers. He explains, “I clue puzzles hard by having as many ‘new’ clues as possible, requiring some thought and reasoning to solve, rather than ones that can be solved at sight by solvers with good memories.” My favorite clues are these ones, all far from the stale repeats seen too often in newspaper crosswords:

  • 28a. [Crowd drawer, often], SALE. Had to think about it a bit.
  • 61a. [Epicurean explorer], FOODIE. A little alliteration is better than a lot. ([Ring of rebels] for CABAL, [Suede source] for TANNERY, and [Canine command] for STAY round out our alliteration collection today.)
  • 1d. [Redundant-sounding refreshment], SODAPOP. Yes! Redundant. One need only call it “pop.”
  • 3d. ["Hit 'em where they ___"] AIN’T.
  • 26d. [Challenging employer for a maid], SLOB. But hopefully lucrative.
  • 37d. [Locale of three Summer Olympics], ASIA. Not your standard [Populous continent] clue.

Stan writes, “One other clue nicety here that might not be obvious: a factual balance between new pop culture (like 18A, 55A), older (40A, 25D), and historical (42A, 10D).” I do grumble when too many clues skew older, given that I’ve been solving crosswords for over 30 years and some such clues/fill were already old back then. (“Maria ELENA,” for example, or Theda Bara.)

As for the smooth fill, Stan writes, “In the 1,000+ crosswords I’ve constructed and the 5,000+ I’ve edited (for the New York newspaper Newsday and PuzzleSocial.com) since adopting Crossword Compiler in 2000, I’ve found that with careful grid patterning it’s never necessary to use obscurities, even for wide-open grids such as the 72-worder here. This sometimes requires that I check Google News and Google Books, to be sure that words I think are in common current use actually are. I look forward to the day where this fussiness will be standard procedure for constructors, so we can finally bid the OLEOs, OLIOs and ANILs of crosswordese an unfond farewell.” I have taken to checking Google News and Google Books on occasion to check fill familiarity—a more sensitive technique than just doing a Google Web search.

4.5 stars. Smooth fill, thoughtful clues, and a quip theme that failed to be a turn-off since the punch line was fresh to me and the rest of the puzzle carried its weight. I do like it when a constructor takes just as much care with the non-theme fill as he or she does with the theme. Fill is king, and fresh clues are gravy.

Zoe Wheeler’s American Values Club crossword, “Partly Inserted”

AV Club crossword solution, 2 27 14 "Partly Inserted"

AV Club crossword solution, 2 27 14 “Partly Inserted”

Various body parts get inserted into familiar phrases to change the meaning. In each instance, the body part is one of a pair in the body, and each has 3 letters.

  • 17a. [The story of "Sleepy Hollow" set in outer space (or wherever else comes to mind)?], LOOSE LEGEND. “Loose end” with LEG.
  • 26a. [Shopping list for one lost on a malaria-infested island?], GARMIN AND TONIC. “Gin and tonic,” ARM. This one is terrific, although I’m not sure how useful the Garmin GPS device will be at getting you off the island. The quinine in tonic water used to be used as an antimalaria drug.
  • 43a. [Builds something on which Apaches can land?], FORGES A HELIPAD. “Forges ahead” plus LIP. In this one, a word gets broken in two after the body part is inserted. Took me a little longer to figure it out as a result.
  • 59a. ["Robin Williams's best work was playing a comics character in the early '80s"?], “POPEYE” ROCKS. “Pop Rocks” candy, EYE. Disclaimer: Do not put Pop Rocks in your eye.

Solid theme with a modicum or two of humor.

AFTER-PARTY, MOLTEN LAVA, DIET TIP, AVOCADO, SWADDLE, BUTTS IN (which wants to be BUTT SIN), DEADPAN, and “SAYS WHO?” are AWESOME. (And if you have seen The Lego Movie, you are probably now singing, “Everything Is Awesome.”)

Favorite clue: 42d. [Country song in which "c-u-s-t-o-d-y" is spelled out], “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

Never heard of: 15a. [Tony-winning actress Daisy of "The Secret Garden"], EAGAN. [Twin Cities suburb], now, I would have known. But many of you would cry foul that it wasn’t EDINA.

Overall, I was not loving the fill. Too much in the vein of OSOS OLAV NACRE EDDYS KALB LISI ARS URSI and OSES, you know? Where’s the right balance between zippy 7-letter fill and lifeless 4s?

3.75 stars.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Doug’s review

Gareth's nifty 2/27/14 LA Times grid

Gareth’s nifty 2/27/14 LA Times grid

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Guess what? Gareth’s got another puzzle in the LA Times. He’s a machine. Today’s theme involves anagrams of various world currencies. Let’s take a look.

  • 17a. [*Place for a soak in Bangkok?] - THAI BATH. Anagram of BAHT. I think I learned that currency from crosswords.
  • 23a. [*Mumbai baby food?] - INDIAN PUREE. Anagram of RUPEE.
  • 36a. [*Low point in Oran?] - ALGERIAN NADIR. Anagram of DINAR. My geography skills aren’t stellar, so my first reaction to this clue was: “Oh great…where the heck is Oran?”
  • 47a. [*Stance in a Monterrey studio?] – MEXICAN POSE. Anagram of PESO.
  • 60a. [Emergency fund ... or what the second part of each answer to a starred clue ends with?] - MAD MONEY.

Solid, fun theme. The anagrams aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, but they’re all cute. My favorite is the Algerian nadir. I’m glad Gareth didn’t try to include his native currency. [Aromatic ointment from Johannesburg?] doesn’t quite cut it. [Mended part of a Cape Town sock?] maybe? Nah.

Interesting pattern of black squares today. It’s not often that you see a theme with entries of 13, 11, 11, 8, and 8 letters. And central 13-letter entries are killer. Gareth did a nice job with it.

  • bethkat1d. [Behrs of "2 Broke Girls"] - BETH. Near as I can tell, this is the first time BETH has been clued as Beth Behrs. Pay attention, because this could be our new go-to crossword Beth. Beth is one of those names that looks fine when you’re constructing a grid and then turns out to be a pain when you need to clue it. You can go old school with a Little Women clue. Your other options are a golfer no one’s ever heard of, a playwright no one’s ever heard of, or a singer/songwriter no one’s ever heard of. So I like seeing a new Beth on the scene. (Knowing Gareth, I’ll bet his original clue referenced the Kiss song.)
  • 41a. ["Fear of Flyingg" author] - JONGG.
  • 42a. [2011 NBA retiree] - YAO. Yao Ming. I kept reading this clue as [2011 NBA referee] and was getting very confused.
  • arrowandcanary52a. [Green Lantern or Green Arrow] - SUPERHERO. Excellent entry and clue. Any Arrow fans in the Fiend audience? I like it. It’s a TV show all about Green Arrow. He’s a bit like Batman with a bow. Or an immensely cooler version of The Avengers’ Hawkeye. (Although let’s face it. Even Aquaman is cooler than Hawkeye.) And don’t forget his butt-kicking girlfriend Black Canary. And villains Bronze Tiger and China White. They’ve got a thing for colors.
  • 28d. [Anticipate uncertainty] - HALF EXPECT. Wow, what a fabulous entry! Colloquial and fun. Almost worth a full star all by itself.

Thanks for letting me sit in today, Gareth. See you all in the comments.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “And Then Some” – Dave Sullivan’s review

We are treated today to four theme phrases where SOME has been added as a suffix to one of the words:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/27/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/27/14

  • The musical “whole note” gets the “-some” treatment with [Memo promoting morality?] or a WHOLESOME NOTE – I’m inspired to leave a note for my partner this morning reminding him to “Be kind to others today.”
  • [Sprite with sex appeal?] was TOOTHSOME FAIRY – I think of “toothsome” more in the delectable from a culinary standpoint, but I guess it can apply to sprites as well.
  • [Snoozeworthy CD selections?] clued TIRESOME TRACKS – as iTunes makes it easier to buy singles instead of complete albums, one’s music collection will perhaps have fewer of these tiresome tracks.
  • I’m trying to imagine what the attributes of a [Good-looking bath accessory?] or a HANDSOME TOWEL might be – certainly neatly folded, with a nice nap on it?

I enjoy these type of themes when the made up phrases encourage me to think about what they might be if they really existed, and Doug scored on all four of these. Quite a winsome effort, imho. Very timely entry with August: OSAGE County, as we hope to see the Meryl Streep film this very weekend. CAR CHASE, CAROUSEL and KOWTOW round out my FAVEs in this offering.

Peter Collins’ Fireball contest crossword, “Left Shortchanged”

Contest puzzle, so no answer grid and no review. I just solved the puzzle and have no idea what the meta answer is, so kudos to the Peters for cooking up a contest that isn’t too easy. Hmm, what could the answer be?

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “G-Force” — Matt’s review

BEQ

Couldn’t figure out the theme until after I was done with the puzzle: “G-Force” needs to be parsed “G for CE,” so you replace CE’s in theme entries with G’s. Like so:

18-A [Lazy landscaper's cleanup routine?] = TWIG-A-DAY. Hilarious imagery. From “Twice a day.”

24-A [Do a little boasting without help?] = BRAG YOURSELF. From “Brace yourself.”

38-A [Dessert nicknamed "The Merciless"?] = MING PIE. From “Mince pie.” I’m not sure who “Ming the Merciless” is — must be either a figure in Chinese history or a nickname for Yao Ming. Let me check. It’s neither of those.

40-A [Shitty hat?] = DUNG CAP. From “dunce cap.” Gross image, let’s move on.

49-A [Moralizer's rules?] = PRIG CONTROLS. From “Price controls,” a dubious economic tactic.

60-A ["You want me to do karaoke now?"?] = SING WHEN? From “Since when?”

Had a longish solve (7:33) since I didn’t grok the themage and spent the last minute untangling issues in the lower-middle. I had the incorrect ACHES for [Sign of burnout] instead of the correct ASHES, so I had ACCE??S for [Heads up] so couldn’t see ASCENDS. So I tried to convince myself that [Done to death] was OUT instead of the correct OLD and that ACCENTS somehow answered the clue [Heads up] and that the unfamiliar [Singer ___ "Paperboy" Reed] was EUI (??) instead of ELI. Finally unraveled all that but it took a while.

I do enjoy that part of solving crosswords, though, when you know one of your entered answers is incorrect and you have to go back and find it, like a detective.

Highlights:

20-A [Singer Lovato] = DEMI. She’s been pushing Demi Moore out of crosswords lately. Not to the degree that the one-named singer ADELE has pushed Fred Astaire’s sister out of crosswords, but I bet Lovato is getting 50% + of DEMIs these days.

4-D [1983 titular Woody Allen character]. I’ve seen every Woody Allen movie pre-1998 or so, including this one, but could not come up with it, even with ZE???. I remembered it was the guy who changed appearance and identity throughout history, but could only thing of ZELDA and ZENDA. Finally ZELIG fell but I needed crossers.

6-D [Groups in joint ventures] = CONSORTIA. I dig a nice irregular Latin plural like this. I had CONSO???? and mentally filled the S in so got nowhere.

36-D Here’s my Rex Parker-style word of the day: TUBE-NOSED, clued as [Like some fruit bats]. OK, I’ll have to do a Google image search so you and I know what a “tube-nosed bat” looks like. It looks like a “Lord of the Rings” character:

Greetings, I am a tube-nosed fruit bat from New Guinea

Greetings, I am a tube-nosed fruit bat from New Guinea

39-D — aw, shucks.

4.05 stars.

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5 Responses to Thursday, February 27, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: if this puzzle were a first date, I’d wind up becoming good friends with the guy but not in love with him. Likable, amusing, and simultaneously solid and trustable. But I’m not feeling the sparks. Too perfect, may be?

  2. Gareth says:

    Thanks, Doug! Yes, Beth was clued as the KISS song. I have no idea who that actress is, but I definitely think the KISS song is underrepresented in BETH clues! I did consider SOUTHAFRICANDARN. Apart from being 16 letters, it wasn’t really the greatest of entries…

  3. pannonica says:

    There was one very significant clunk for me in the NYT: 31d [Second version] REDO / 38d [Second version] REDRAFT. Obviously, the clue repetition is intentional, which I generally like, but the straight-up (-down, actually) reuse of the re- prefix in the same context? Nuh-uh.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: Just a quote theme, but that grid is seriously amazeballs!!! WOW!!! For me, the most famous use of YELLOWY would be this rock classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfK-WX2pa8c

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I especially enjoyed the Quigley G-force puzzle, since I made my way through without taking in the title & then lo! perfect aha moment. We don’t often get treated to the likes of a tube-nosed bat either… (Snowstorm swirling down again here in Albany NY, and I hope the various neighborhood critters are surviving all this.)

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