Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jonesin' 3:28 (Amy) 
NYT 3:22 (Amy) 
LAT 2:46 (Amy) 
CS 8:33 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Alex Bajcz’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 5 6 14, no. 0506

NYT crossword solution, 5 6 14, no. 0506

The theme revealer’s in a slightly unusual spot—a Down answer a couple rows from the southeast corner. 47d. [Learn ... or a word that can precede the ends of 20-, 29-, 44- and 53-Across] clues PICK UP and PICKUP. Those four answers are:

  • 20a. [Player of a summer lilt], ICE CREAM TRUCK. Ooh, an ICE CREAM TRUCK is welcome in any crossword and on any street. (Pickup truck.)
  • 29a. [Shows rudeness at checkout], CUTS IN LINE. If you know someone who’s further up in the line and you want to hang out with them while you’re waiting, is it still taking cuts? Because a friend and I both rode the got-in-line-early coattails of another friend at the Jimmy Carter book signing this spring. I thought 45 minutes outside in the chilly drizzle was plenty and didn’t want to do the 2-hour version of the wait. (Pickup line, bleh.)
  • 44a. [Jeopardy! or Facts in Five], TRIVIA GAME. Ooh, Facts in Five! I loved that as a kid but haven’t seen the game in years. (Pickup game.)
  • 53a. [Cocktail stirrers], SWIZZLE STICKS. (Pick-up sticks.) The rare pluralized long answer that actually needs to be plural thematically—a single pick-up stick is not a thing. SWIZZLE STICKS are also welcome in my puzzles.

The only ding on the theme is that the UPTAKE at 40a echoes part of PICKUP.

The fill had a few dry patches (ESS, IMRE, NIP AT, NES, STYES, APIA, CLV, AD-IN, plural NEDS), and I’m not so sure about this spelling of 24a: YAH (["Uh-huh"]). But we are also treated to PICAYUNE, CAME EASY, a BALL PIT, PRECALC, and the U.S. NAVY, and between the better fill and the crisp theme, I’ll call this a 4-star puzzle.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Twisted Mister”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 5/6

Crossword Nation 5/6

MITERS? MITRES? REMITS? STIR ME? “IT’S…ERM…” What can I say? Right idea; wrong word. No, the “mister” in the title who gets “twisted” (anagrammed) is revealed at 36A. [Inventor and electricity pioneer (the coil named for him is twisted up in four answers)] and that’d be NIKOLA TESLA. (Ever see The Prestige? David Bowie plays him in that one and gets a nice cameo.) An eccentric genius in his lifetime, the anagrammed Tesla name today anchors four meaty themers. The beauty part (and here you can also read that as “challenging”) is that they break down into two overlapping pairs—one north, one south. Those eight two-letter bonds don’t make things easy for the constructor but Liz finesses them with her usual flair. Behold:

  • 18A. FAIRY TALES [Mother Goose's product]. There was some discussion on this site last week as to whether or not, with all the hi-tech, ON-LINE ways of delivering “the stuff of dreams” (not to mention the sheer volume of literature), today’s children were still learning the “classic” nursery rhymes. Oh, please: I hope so! Ditto Mother Goose’s trove. But the competition for getting and keeping a child’s attention has gotta be enormous.
  • 20A. “TO SAY THE LEAST!” ["That's putting it mildly!"]. That final observation for starters. Or describing Tesla as an “eccentric genius.” Love the colloquial, idiomatic tone of both the clue and the fill. Ditto the long and attitudinous “BE LIKE THAT!” ["I'm done arguing with you!"], or the shorter, less flashy but still very much in-the-moment “YOU OK?” ["Is everything all right?"].
  • 54A. LIE, CHEAT, STEAL [West Point honor code no-nos]. “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” This is kind of a very long fill-in-the-blank, and thus a tough one to clue. To me, the “no-nos” (or TABOOS [Prohibited practices]) are lying, cheating and stealing. Perhaps [What a West Point cadet may not do per the honor code]? Btw, if you do steal, better be prepared to be met with a STEELY gaze. And then some!
  • 58A. CLEAN SLATE [Fresh start]. Yer basic tabula rasa. Until reading this piece it never occurred to me (or perhaps I’d forgotten?…) that those ancient slates were made of wax and that one “erased” them by applying heat. D’oh. But, wow. Pretty brilliant, no?

More fill highlights: the lengthy and chewy ANTAGONIZE (hello, “Z”); the lively JOLT COLA (hello, “J”) and its equally lively grid-opposite, NIMBLEST. Need another superlative? How about the cagey SLYEST.

teaselAnd there are clueing (with related fill) highlights, too. Love that [Prickly plant] precedes antagonize‘s [Rub the wrong way]—because you definitely don’t want to go against the grain of a TEASEL (which, you may notice, also = tesla + “e”…). And while we’re in prickly mode, there’s also the near-rhyming [Kerfuffle] and [Ruffles] for SPAT and IRKS. [Unload on Craig's list] for SELL tells me that whatever’s being sold may fall into the one-man’s-trash-is-another-man’s-treasure column and creates its own scenario. I like that in a clue—especially for fill that may not be so colorful all on its own. [Pocket picked in a grocery store?] plays on those first two words. We’re talkin’ PITA here—the bread pocket that you may select (pick…) when you’re out shopping. Or even shopping on-line [Doing some site seeing?]. Cute.

And YES’M, we got us a lot o’ ladies in the grid today—from the (lower…) pop-culturey PAMELA Anderson, KHLOÉ Kardashian, MARLA Maples, EVA Herzigova and (the fictitious) TESS Ocean; to the higher-minded union activist Norma RAE Webster, the biblical LEAH, and the recently Tony-nominated (and previous Tony-winner) TYNE Daly. Well, in addition to Mr. Tesla, they’re keepin’ company with LEN Cariou, ALAN Thicke, URIEL and Pope LEO VII. Which somehow (appropriately or in-) summons up the “two girls for ev’ry boy” ratio of “Surf City“……..

And on that note, I am outta here. No—I lied! Have to give a shout-out to today’s most unexpected, funniest item—also one I was totally unfamiliar with and had to google (for meaning): CYA [Job-protecting initials]. Wtf? Cover Your Ass. Hah! Just sittin’ there all quiet-like down in the SW corner, minding its own business. And just when ya think you’ve got a handle on most of the internet slang, too. That’ll show me!

Have a good week, all!

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 5 6 14

LA Times crossword solution, 5 6 14

Nice theme, though one could say that there isn’t much to it:

  • 17a. [Fill-in-the-amount document], BLANK CHECK.
  • 25a. [Expanding bullet], HOLLOW POINT.
  • 37a. [Uncomprehending look], VACANT STARE. Please practice your vacant stare right now.
  • 52a. [Like men modeling swimming trunks], BARE-CHESTED. Putin!
  • 61a. [Insincere talk, and a hint to the starts of this puzzle's four other longest entries], EMPTY TALK.

Good revealer that is itself an example of the theme phrases: {word that means “empty”} + {noun or noun-based word}.

In the fill, I liked seeing EVA PERON and PLASMA TV. The 6×4 corners look nice in the empty grid, but when you see ANGE, SELA, OMARR, ATMO, and RETOSS holding them together, they pall.

Four foreign words in the puzzle:

  • 16a. [Cherub, in Chambéry], ANGE.
  • 41a. [French girlfriend], AMIE.
  • 42a. [Soviet newspaper], PRAVDA.
  • 27d. [Mama bears, in Spain], OSAS.

14a. [Seat of Allen County, Kansas], IOLA, really? This is the sort of entry that turns off beginning solvers, isn’t it? Unless they live in Allen County or a neighboring county. I live in a county seat, but the town (Chicago) is more famous than the county.

49a. [Opening for a chorus line], TRA, really? Granted, musicals and choirs are not my thing(s), but I would like an example of where this clue is literally true. What works have “tra la la” written into them?

3.25 stars. It’s a 4-star theme but I wasn’t so FONDA the fill.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Get Two Rooms, You Two”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 5 6 14 "Get Two Rooms, You Two"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 5 6 14 “Get Two Rooms, You Two”

I couldn’t make sense out of the theme till I reread the puzzle’s title: Each theme answer is made by joining two words that can precede “room.”

  • 17a. [*Wrestler, at times], HEADLOCKER. As in putting someone in a headlock (which is not a verb outside of this theme’s conceit). Head room, locker room.
  • 39a. [*Tedious detective duty], LEGWORK. Legroom, work room. The problem here is that, unlike the other theme answers, LEGWORK is a straight-up real word.
  • 61a. [*Karate class feat], BOARD BREAK. Boardroom, break room.
  • 11d. [*Tremble in fear, maybe], SHOW PANIC. Showroom, panic room. “Show panic”? Meh. Dull.
  • 35d. [*Nintendo's yearly concern], GAME SALES. Game room, sales room. “Game sales,” also dull.

I am not usually too enthused by “words that can follow or precede X” themes, not even when they double up in the theme answers. This one … is no exception. A step or two up from quote themes, but not something I look forward to solving.

Five things:

  • 6a. [Language spoken in "Airplane!"], JIVE. Yes.
  • 27a. [Oscar the Grouch's pet worm], SLIMEY. Cute.
  • 33a. ["Nerd Do Well" author Simon], PEGG. The actor/writer from Shaun of the Dead and other movies. Great/punny book title!
  • 12d. [Expensive seating], LOGE. I feel like this word finally fell out of favor—it stopped showing up in so many crosswords. I hadn’t missed it.
  • 26d. [Babe Ruth rival], TY COBB. I was trying to think of a 6-letter candy bar ending with a B. Um, that would be the Baby Ruth, silly.

Favorite bits: MATLOCK, the PLANK clue [Engage in a recent fad (not owling)], the RUBIK clue [Inventor of a six-color fad].

3.5 stars.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Gallop Poll”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.06.14: "Galloping Along"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.06.14: “Gallop Poll”

Hello everybody!

This past weekend, the biggest showcase in American horse racing, the Kentucky Derby, took place in Louisville. Don’t think this was a belated ode to the “Run for the Roses,” but this offering from Patrick Jordan keeps the thoughts of our equine friends alive. In it, the first names of three celebrities are tweaked, so that the resulting altered first name is also that of a person known for riding on a horse. Giddy up!

    • MOUNTIE HALL: (17A: [Classic game show host who moonlights with a Canadian police force?])- “Let’s make a deal, eh?” From Monty Hall.
    • JOCKEY CHAN: (31A: [Action film star who moonlights at Churchill Downs?])- Are you imagining a scene where our action star is standing on the saddle as the horse is racing at full speed, only to jump off and karate kick a bad guy in one motion? From Jackie Chan.
    • GAUCHO MARX: (42A: [Leering comedian who moonlights on the South American pampas?])- The eventual remake of Duck Soup will be full of Gauchos! From Groucho Marx.
    • HORSE AROUND: (60A: [What 17-, 31-, and 42-Across do on their moonlighting jobs?])

The fill was ok, and the first answer I filled, ATMS (1D: [24-hr. cash sources]), reminded me of this funny Chris Rock joke: “Have you ever taken out $300 at four o’clock in the morning for something positive?” Also liked BIC PENS in the grid, although I have now stopped using them for a few years now (26A: [Round Stics and Clic Stics]). Used BICS religiously in elementary school and into high school and made a nasty habit of biting them. If I used any other pen, I wouldn’t bite on them, but if they were BIC pens, I was chewing away. Sad, I know.

Always like geography in grids, and ever since I learned of the city from watching international soccer, I’m always itching to fill in HAIFA (43A: [Israeli city near Mount Carmel]) in a grid…and today, I got lucky! Strange, yes, but true. Seeing BELGIAN (9D: [Sharing Hercule Poirot’s nationality]) is making me want waffles right now as well.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RUNBACK (4D: [Gridiron sprint following an interception])- Which player currently owns the NFL record for most interception returns (runbacks) for touchdowns in a career? (Hint: He’s a Hall-of-Famer.) Former longtime Pittsburgh Steeler Rod Woodson had 12 interception returns for touchdowns in his illustrious 17-year career that started in 1987 with the Black & Gold. Ed Reed, a future Hall-of-Famer and currently an active player in the NFL, holds the NFL record for the longest interception return in NFL history with a 107-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. Wanna see that runback???? Well, you’re in luck! (Disregard the title of the video, as the return is officially 107 yards in the record book.)

Thanks so much once again for your time, and make sure you don’t engage in any horseplay today! You could get hurt!

Take care!

AOK

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11 Responses to Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    YAH is seems perfectly legit.

    Q: “Walking In L.A.”s a totally gnarly tune, huh?
    A: Eyyy-YAH

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Janie: As Liz’s clue suggests, CYA is office slang, not internet slang. I learned it at work 25 years ago, when the Web was first being created but we certainly hadn’t heard of it.

  3. Richard says:

    An interesting tie-in to the theme, whether intended or not, is that “shirts” and “skins” tends to be a PICK-UP game.

  4. Jeffrey K says:

    Given that he is Canadian, I figured a picture existed of Monty Hall with Mounties.

  5. janie says:

    >What works have “tra la la” written into them?

    off the top of my head, and with a *slight* variation, here’s one. and a most timely one at that!

    off of google…

    also amused by the similarity of today’s lat theme to yesterday’s nyt.

    ;-)

    • ahimsa says:

      Tra la la! The Banana Splits! That brings back memories of Saturday morning cartoons.

      And that CYA acronym is definitely old. I may have learned “flame on” and spam from the internet (from reading USENET groups in the early 1980s) but I’m sure I learned CYA from in person meetings. This makes sense since anyone talking about this type of thing would not want to have anything in writing. :-)

  6. EB says:

    Crossing APIA with SAKI seems a little tough for a Tuesday! Are there any non-crosswordese-speaking humans who know both of those?

    • Gareth says:

      I knew both of these before crosswords – Saki’s short stories are standard high school literature fodder around here. Apia is a capital, and it some point or other, people learn the names of world capitals? I can totally see that some people would know neither, but I wouldn’t expect many.

  7. sandirhodes says:

    LAT: After all the discussion about DAW the other day, lo and behold looky here!!

  8. Joan Macon says:

    Sandi, I was going to say the same thing; there’s Margery Daw again! Twice in one week must mean something, although I don’t know what!

Comments are closed.