Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NYT 3:21 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 3:40 (Gareth) 
CS 9:17 (Ade) 

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Click Language”

Ink Well /  Chicago Reader crossword solution, 5 14 14 "Click Language"

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 5 14 14 “Click Language”

Morse code! Who doesn’t enjoy a crossword that makes them look up the Morse code alphabet? We’ve got 5a. [Inventor whose name is spelled out by the horizontal lines of special characters in this puzzle], Samuel MORSE. And there are {DOT} and {DASH} rebus squares that use those letters in the Across answer, skip over them in the Downs, and then demand that you read the dots and dashes as Morse code. The two dashes in 17a: DASHIKI and 19a: DASHING make an M. The three dashes in 26a: SLAPDASH, 29a: DASHER, and 31a: SODA SHOP translate to O. The center row has 40a: GODOT, 41a: BALDERDASH, and 44a: DO THE (a partial), the letter R. Morse’s S comes from the three dots in 50a: DOTED ON, 52a: DOTTY, 54a: DOTCOMS. And then the E is a single dot, rebusized in 62a: “LET’S {DO T}HIS.” Neat!

Until I grasped what was going on, I was irritated at the obscurity of 17a. [West African wardrobe item] cluing the mysterious AIKI, but that was before Ben changed 1d’s clue from [Pro __] to [President pro __]. (Pro TEAM was a little weird but not entirely implausible.) {DASH}IKI crossing TE{_}M, much better!

The sections with multiple dots and/or dashes were the trickiest to piece together. Those middle five rows? The unusual abbrev SVGS (26d. [What you put away for a rainy day: Abbr.]) surely didn’t pave the way for me to fill in that section. Two {DOT}s/blanks? 43d: ELS and 32d: AMO being 3-letter answers in 5-square spaces? Tough rasslin’.

Least familiar bits:

  • 9d. [Cable channel that covers college sports], ESPN U.
  • 53d. [Maid from the movie version of "Clue"], YVETTE. Still haven’t seen it.

Top fill: ORBITZ, MAINSTAY, BALDER{DASH}, LET’S {DO T}HIS, BA{_}RHOP, GO VIRAL, and CZECH.

4.25 stars. A Morse code puzzle with nary a DIT nor a DAH in sight!

Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 14 14, no. 0514

NY Times crossword solution, 5 14 14, no. 0514

We’ve got a theme that centers on a grievous pun: 64a. TURNING A PROPHET is clued as [Punny description of the circled letters in 17-, 27- and 48-Across], and those circled letters spell out biblical prophets backwards. “Turning a profit” is the straight version of that phrase.

  • 17a. [Words of resignation], “WIN SOME, LOSE SOME.” Moses.
  • 27a. [Barista-operated gadgets], ESPRESSO MAKERS. Amos.
  • 48a. [Governor elected in a 2003 recall vote], SCHWARZENEGGER. Ezra.

A little on the easy side for a Wednesday NYT puzzle, no?

YIPES (36a. ["This is looking bad!"]) always throws me. I want YIKES every time.

I like seeing JINX ([Put the whammy on]) in the grid, and the X-MEN crossing is fine but I tolerate fusty old name abbreviation JAS only because my dad’s name was thus abbreviated in the phone book and a family friend assumed he went by Jim because he didn’t care for “Jasper.” Maybe one Scrabbly letter was plenty in that corner, giving us MAS crossing MINX, or (my preference) GAS/GINA/AMEN. The opposite corner also works in a Scrabbly letter, a Q, but elsewhere I was giving an example of an ugly forced Q with QED crossing QEII. QED crossing QTIP is only marginally better than that. One wag likened that to finding a hairball in a box of chocolates (QTIP, IRON, POPE, EURO, and DROP are all fine, but I could do without NNE and QED). Would you rather have a dozen plain chocolate truffles, or a box with 10 chocolate truffles, one splendid raspberry-chocolate truffle, and a hairball? I hear Victor was shooting for a pangram, but the Q and the J weren’t worth their hairy costs, and the sole F is between EPODE and SSTS. Meh.

Favorite clue: 49d. [Country with a gorilla on its 5,000-franc note], RWANDA. Numismatic trivia!

It’s a nice shift to find a pun theme in the NYT (Merl Reagle himself may well account for the majority of pun themes I see), and the theme entries are solid forwards and partially backwards. The fill’s mostly okay, but PTL OLEO QED ADES NNE SLO JAS OTO EPODE SSTS OHMS ETON didn’t enhance my solving experience. 3.66 stars.

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Five Vowels”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.14.14: "The Five Vowels"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.14.14: “The Five Vowels”

Happy Hump Day everybody!

A very straightforward theme for today’s puzzle by Mr. Raymond Hamel, with each of the theme answers featuring each of the five vowels exactly one time. For some reason, when I saw the title of the puzzle, The Five Vowels, I thought that would be an awesome name of a musical quintet. It would be even better if the first name of each member of the group started with a vowel: Andre as lead singer, Eric on guitar, Ian on bass, Omar on drums, and Ulrich playing the keytar. Solid!

  • MOUNTAIN DEW: (17A: [Drink using the five vowels])
  • ATOMIC NUMBER: (23A: [Unique identifier using the five vowels])
  • COTTAGE INDUSTRY: (36A: [Business using the five vowels])
  • BRAIN SURGEON: (49A: [Medical expert using the five vowels])
  • HOUSE MARTIN: (58A: [Bird using the five vowels])

Very fun long answers, including one of my favorite musicians, FATS WALLER (29D: [“Ain’t Misbehavin’” co-composer]). Symmetric to that was BEER BOTTLE (11D: [Longneck, e.g.]), something you would see regularly at a BBQ (11A: [Rib letters]). Although a partial answer, I liked I CALL (64A: [Poker player’s declaration]), given the fact that you usually see I FOLD many times in grids. Along with Fats Waller, there’s another full name in the grid that stands out in ED MEESE (46A: [Attorney General under Ronald Reagan]).

Have some crosswordese next to more crossswordese, with HRH (58D: [Princely letters]) next to OHO (59A: [“Look what I found”]) next to UEY (60A: [180-degree turn, slangily]). Never, never, never heard of NARD before (25D: [Aromatic ointment]) and thank goodness for the crosses that helped me suss that clue out.

“Sports will make you dumber” moment of the day: HOYAS (66A: [Georgetown squad])- Being that I attended Syracuse University, Georgetown’s main sports rival, it’s perfectly fitting that I use this space to say that you’ll only become more sports illiterate if I talk positively about the Hoyas. Go Orange!! If you do happen to root against Georgetown during a sporting event, use the playfully clever line coined in Syracuse as a jab: “Your mama’s a Hoya!”  (The next time “Hoya” appears in a CS grid, I’ll be more positive and informative, but just wanted to show some rival school spirit for now.)

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NYSE (35D: [Big Board inits.])- Yes, the abbreviation stands for the New York Stock Exchange, but in the early 1980s, it also  stood for the New York Sack Exchange, the nickname given to the All-Pro defensive line for the New York Jets – Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko and Abdul Salaam. Although not an official NFL stat until 1982, the Jets led the league in sacks in the 1981 season with 66.  Gastineau was the most successful of the quartet, recording 107.5 sacks in just 10 NFL seasons (all with the Jets) and was named an NFL All-Pro five times. He retired from the game in bizarre fashion in 1988, as he left the team during the middle of the season to spend more time with his then-new girlfriend, actress Brigitte Nielsen, who had recently been married to Sylvester Stallone. Those are the Jets for you…

Thanks so much for the time once again, and enjoy the middle of the week!

Take care!

AOK

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140514

LA Times
140514

What a perfect theme from Zhouqin Burnikel! For one, we have a lovely revealing answer in SUNRISESUNSET; I’m partial to Roger Whittaker’s version myself. The interpretation features 2 pairs of long down answers on either side of SUNRISESUNSET. In two, sun “rises” as NUS, and in the other two SUN appears as SUN – really clever! Another more subtle plus point is that SUN is never SUN but crosses two answers. The answers themselves are lively too. We have:

  • [Pageant for under-20s], MISSTEENUSA. Before the theme emerged, I tried MISSAMERICA – same number of letters!
  • [Admits defeat], SAYSUNCLE
  • [Like our secret], BETWEENUS. This feels marginally awkward as a spoken word phrase? It’s a nice touch to have it run parallel to PRIVYTO though!
  • [Cheating victim's cry], THATSUNFAIR

Outside of the theme, the grid felt on the conservative side. Not a lot of other gems, but given the 5-part theme that’s sort of expected. On the other hand, only a few big frowns: NOU is an awkw. partial and I’ve yet to see SER outside of a crossword, even in church!

Other bits:

  • I haven’t heard [Unsportsmanlike sort], SOREHEAD used as a noun like that, only as in a context like “I have a sore head,” or in the simile about the bear.
  • [Big name in antivirus software], NORTON. Ugh, a sensibly cautious person shouldn’t get computer viruses, but having NORTON on your computer makes it so sluggish it may as well have one anyway! Relatedly, Windows has defaulted to hiding the EXE and other extensions for a while; I always turn them back on though!
  • [Treatment for burnout], RESTCURE. Nice answer!

Really great theme! 4.25 Stars

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17 Responses to Wednesday, May 14, 2014

  1. Papa John says:

    Ben Tausig’s puzzle gave me fits trying to parse the down answers with the rebus squares in them. I finally decided they didn’t matter, but I’m still confused where that came from. I mean, isn’t that really stretching the conventions? (It seems even more egregious than allowing a capital I to mean I, in one direction, and the Roman numeral for one, in the other. Grr..!) It would have been okay if he had included a revealer to let the solver know that those squares didn’t count — some kind of hint, anyway. I also had wasted time discerning what Across Lite would accept in those rebus squares.

    • Bencoe says:

      I just used a “D” in those squares. Worked fine.
      I didn’t really have a problem with the rebus squares not counting in the down answers. Don’t know why, but I caught on early that they only mattered in the across clues and breezed through it. Enjoyed the concept and execution of the puzzle.

  2. Gareth says:

    Loved the theme concept of the NYT!

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with QED – it’s in the top 10% of 3-letter answers for me. Do Americans not use QED slangily when coming to the end of convoluted explanations? Agree that MAS/MINX is a huge improvement, although MAS would have to be [No ___!"] or similar because of MABELL.

    • Alan D. says:

      No, we don’t use QED in the U.S. that way. In fact I don’t think you would ever say it. Do you pronounce it somehow? Or just Q-E-D?

      • Gareth says:

        Like so: “blah, blah, blah; cue-ee-dee, I’m better than you.”

        • ahimsa says:

          For what it’s worth, I’ve heard it used that way. I think I’ve even used it myself a few times.

          • HH says:

            Americans generally try to avoid referring to things we learned in school. But if I were to use QED in conversation, I would pronounce it “qued”. Save time and confuses more people that way.

  3. Evan says:

    I enjoyed the Ink Well puzzle, though I don’t really understand the clue for 55-Across. How is VICE magazine conservative? Admittedly I’m only oh-so-familiar with it, but every time I’ve read a Charles Davis piece there, I would never have thought of it as a conservative publication.

    • Ben Tausig says:

      This blog post summarizes the position, also advanced elsewhere, that Vice is conservative: http://garconniere.tumblr.com/post/23543641218/why-i-hate-vice-magazine

      I don’t hate Vice magazine at all, and in fact in certain ways consider it extraordinary, but I agree with the author that it is on balance politically conservative.

      • Evan says:

        But those examples which that blogger brings up don’t really say much. She makes a lot of accusations without really citing specific evidence or linking to the things she finds objectionable.

        The Vice co-founder wrote a piece in The American Conservative. So what? Lots of writers publish their work in many different outlets, not all with the same political bent. The New York Times features op-eds from guys like David Brooks and Ross Douthat, yet it would probably be mistaken to call the NYT a conservative paper on balance.

        Vice publishes “Do’s and Don’ts” of fashion. Okay, but without getting into the merits of how valuable that is, I don’t see what that has to do with political orientation. Gawker has published similar gossip and clickbait material, and it wouldn’t make any more sense to me to label them as a conservative outlet based on that.

        The writer of that blog post may be right, and maybe Vice is more of a conservative publication than I realize. I just don’t think her case in that post is that persuasive. At least show me an example of Vice doing what she says about “hipster racism,” or how that co-founder’s essays reflect conservative ideology, is what I’m saying.

        • Bencoe says:

          Agreed that the post wasn’t very persuasive (or even rational, in my opinion). I looked up the essay in American Conservative and read it–it would certainly, on the surface, show the co-founder to be politically oriented on the right. But then there are a whole bunch of other inflammatory articles, and a “confession” piece in which McInnes cops to intentionally trying to manipulate the media and create controversy, even inventing facts outright in that American Conservative article. Childish, perhaps, but certainly not evidence of the magazine’s true politics. The vast majority of the magazine’s political content seems to be leftist, while the supposed “right wing” material seems mostly to be anti-PC baiting by people skilled in media manipulation.

        • Ben Tausig says:

          To be clear, I don’t hate Vice like the blog poster does, nor does the clue make a value judgment about its (possible) conservativism.

          But I think her points are valid to the extent that a certain mode of irony (which Vice certainly peddles) can be considered conservative. This is not really conservativism in the GOP sense, but rather is tacit acceptance of a political system through a refusal to engage that system. I am certainly not inventing the charge that such irony is ultimately conservative.

          Vice’s co-founder publishing of an essay in a conservative publication is not equivalent to the Times employing someone like David Brooks, who is one of that paper’s small handful of token conservatives. It is much more like a manifesto for Vice’s distaste for hewing to its largely liberal urban readership through punk-rock gestures of disdain bordering on nihilism. That is, the content of the American Conservative article is less what makes that act conservative than the nose-thumbing at readers who would deign to object on the basis of sincere opinion.

          I realize that this is all very tortuous, but I think it’s an accurate characterization of the acrobatics that Vice engages in, and I do think the upshot is fundamentally conservative. (Again, not in the Tea Party sense, but in a more classical political sense).

          • Bencoe says:

            I think this also speaks to a division on the left between people who believe speech should be free, even (at times, especially) if hurtful, and people who believe that speech should first and foremost not be intended to harm. There are valid points on both sides. We recently saw this played out in the “cancel Colbert” campaign. And it reminds me of how, while the ACLU protects the rights of hate groups to have their beliefs, these groups and their activities are banned in many of the liberal European countries.
            I personally think some of the obvious baiting of people à la Lenny Bruce can be childish and immature, not helping to expand people’s minds but rather provoking a negative emotional reaction which causes people to become more entrenched and reactive. But I also think that it’s easy for a leftist publication to skewer the right, and not all that constructive (preaching to the choir). What’s more difficult is to challenge the received orthodoxies of their own readership.

          • Evan says:

            Fair enough. I don’t know enough about Vice’s claims to irony or the co-founder’s behavior to make a judgment about that — it may stem from some form of nihilism or some reluctance to be pigeonholed as a publication that serves only a liberal audience. I’m sort of reminded of the fact that the writers of South Park have vehemently refused to set their guns on any one group or ideology, and one of them said that they felt like Jon Stewart cornered the market on making fun of conservatives, so just to be different, South Park would lampoon liberals as well.

            Still, my (limited) experience with Vice is similar to what Bencoe said — it’s always struck me that most of their articles are liberal in their political persuasion, though I’m sure that there are examples to the contrary.

    • Bencoe says:

      I wondered the same thing. Never read the magazine, but I’ve seen most of the HBO shows, and they certainly don’t seem to have a conservative bent, basically arguing for climate change research and laws, renewable energy, human rights, and gun control.

  4. me says:

    Thought the dashes and dots were a stretch. Should have been more than just two clues (morse code and 5a) to indicate that there were characters involved beyond the alphabet. too many assumptions were made

  5. Teresa says:

    Thought the May 14 puzzle brilliant but for one glaring error (63D): the little hand is the hour hand–at least it was when I was a child–and it makes the full circut in twelve hours, not one (making me honestly suspect 12HR at first, though I didn’t know where that could possibly go). I initially cracked the code, pardon the pun, when I got to Morse, but it took Dasher to give the game away. Took a while to figure out the down/across difference in which symbols were to be ignored. Favorite clue answer: Godot. Excellent puzzle!

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