Wednesday, June 4, 2014

NYT 4:21 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 3:35 (Gareth) 
CS 11:45 (Ade) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 4 14, no. 0604

NY Times crossword solution, 6 4 14, no. 0604

Huh! A word games theme? That should be right up my alley! And yet it includes some games I’d never heard of. We’ve got eight circled squares spelling out WORD GAME, and then a bunch of games clued [See circled letters]:

  • 20a. SCRABBLE. Cross your words, hit the good squares.
  • 29a. TABOO. Give hints to lead your partner to guess the mystery word, but don’t use the five words that are taboo.
  • 37a. HANGMAN. Guess the letters, don’t get hung by too many wrong guesses.
  • 46a. PROBE? What sort of word game is Probe? Don’t recognize this one. There were 1976 and 1982 editions, right in the thick of my board-game-playing youth, but this one escaped my notice.
  • 55a. ANAGRAMS. I know what anagrams are, but what’s the game? Judging from Board Game Geek, this 1910 game’s most recent edition was in 1964, before my time. That explains why I don’t know it.
  • 9d. JOTTO. Okay, I’ve heard of this, but it’s quite possible I know it only from crosswords. Apparently this also-old game is like Mastermind for words.
  • 51d. GHOST. I should know this one, right? It’s a pencil-and-paper sort of game? Yes, but it’s also a bizarre and old-looking buyable game.

I have several bones to pick with this puzzle, aside from the focus on games that largely vanished from the market by the time I was a sentient word game fan. First and foremost, good gravy, that northwest corner. I slew my husband with that 1- to 4-Down lineup:

  • 1d. [Relatives of tuts], TSKS. Is this pluralizable and does the single properly TSK stand alone, without a tsk-tsk partner on the other side of a hyphen?
  • 2d. [Hic, ___, hoc], HAEC. Okay, I knew this one (from crosswords!), but have no idea what it means. This … is not exciting crossword fill. If you want more Latin, there’s also ["Quo ___?] VADIS and ["... in excelsis ___"] DEO.
  • 3d. [Still-life pitcher], EWER. I know several of you use the word, or your grandma had a ewer, but I think for most of us this is just an example of crosswordese.
  • 4d. [Grass for cordage], ESPARTO. I think I’ve seen this in crosswords before, what with all those common letters, but come on now. Tuck it into a gnarly corner in a tough Saturday puzzle if you must, but it’s not so Wednesday-friendly. Especially spilling out of the TSKS HAEC EWER spout.

And then we have KEEP HOUSE and SHAME ON ME. Both are great entries, but they’re longer than all the theme entries, which can throw off some solvers who fruitlessly try to figure out what unites the longest Across answers. Two 9s and four 8s, but only two of the 8s are themers?

My least favorite entries from outside the northwest corner are 23d. [Bulblike plant part], CORM, 32a. [Tend to another spill], REMOP, and 24d. [Realm of Garfield], CATDOM.

While I like the concept of putting seven word games in a crossword puzzle and cluing them all by way of circled letters, the inclusion of seven theme answers plus locked-down letters in the 3rd and 13th Down rows seems to have been too much for the grid to bear. 2.5 displeased stars from me. The 1-Across corner has a big job: It sets the tone for the puzzle, and it can color the solver’s mood as he or she progresses through the rest of the grid. HAEC EWER ESPARTO lost me and the rest of the puzzle didn’t win me back.

Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140604

LA Times
140604

Solid early week theme premise: A DIAMONDBACK rattlesnake (or, as clued, a baseball player) provides the hint that the other four answers’ first words can make phrases of the form “diamond ___”, that is they are “diamond” backs.

The answers themselves made a nice set, with RINGBINDER being the one snoozer:

  • [*Computer logic game named for a warship], MINESWEEPER. As name-dropped in this song!
  • [*Loose-leaf organizer], RINGBINDER.
  • [*Upscale golfwear brand], CUTTERANDBUCK. Never heard of them, but lets count that as a fresh answer!
  • [*Recruiting specialist], HEADHUNTER. The clue neatly sidesteps the other meaning!

I liked some of the long answers here. PETSTORE (but please don’t buy dogs or cats from pet stores, as most get them from very questionable sources, and most have very questionable vaccination programs), INTOUCH, GOESDUTCH and ARTISTE - were all welcome.

n the other hand, the grid felt unnecessarily clunky in many places. For a 3×3 corner like the top-right to have ECO and ORO seems too casual. Those are answers I find perfectly tolerable mind, but here they’re completely avoidable! Its opposite is equally so: XIN is a cheap way to include an X. Three of the other answers there are abbrs. DUI/UPI/IPO - in this case, this is a case of, in my opinion, misguided priorities: first make sure the grid is as solid as can be before throwing X’s in!

In a similar vein, I’d not use MDLV unless absolutely desperate. VEDAY and WICCA are nice answers, but the first priority for me should rather be avoiding that RRN and ABEE! A “crossword-ese type” answer to achieve those wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, but resorting to contrived answers shouldn’t be done lightly.

2.25 Stars. The theme is solid, but I really think this grid should’ve been redone. I realise that’s a big thing to say, and my own experience has been that Rich Norris is an extremely fastidious editor!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Game Changers”

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 6 4 14 "Game Changers"

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 6 4 14 “Game Changers”

The theme takes phrases that include the name of a video game character and reimagines them as video game titles:

  • 17a. [Video game that focuses on a Nintendo icon's Italian heritage?], MOLTO MARIO. Molto Mario is … something to do with chef Mario Batali. TV show? Cookbook? Restaurant name? I forget. The gaming Mario is the mustachioed Nintendo legend.
  • 26a. [Video game starring a badly out-of-shape Nintendo protagonist?], THE WEAKEST LINK. Link is from … the Princess Zelda games, I think? I’m no gamer. The Weakest Link is/was a game show imported from England.
  • 43a. [Video game about a PlayStation character who bombs his SATs?], CRASH TEST DUMMY. Crash is a character from … some Sony PlayStation game. Crash Bandicoot?
  • 58a. [Video game detailing the early years of an anthropomorphic Sega speedster?], SONIC YOUTH. Sonic the Hedgehog meets Kim Gordon’s alternative rock band, Sonic Youth.

Five Eight more things:

  • 63a. Caucuses locale], IOWA. Electoral caucuses in election years. If you read the clue as “Caucusus,” you might have tried ASIA here.
  • 1d. Berry Gordy label before Motown], TAMLA. I don’t know about you, but I know this label name only from crosswords. (See also: 27d. [French card game with betting], ECARTE.)
  • 3d. Minnesota city where pie à la mode was invented], DULUTH. Nice!
  • 4d. Outrageous, in Internet slang: Abbr.], OTT. Over the top.
  • 10d. Place with an extremely strong expectation of staring straight ahead], URINAL. I dunno. I like to look around and be friendly.
  • 11d. Some tokes], BONG HITS. Freshest fill of the day, for sure.
  • 37d. Field that governs the use of the moon, e.g.], SPACE LAW. I don’t think I knew that was a thing. Interesting.
  • 44d. “Motherffff …”], SON OF A…. When I test-solved this puzzle, it had a different clue here. I like this one! Perfect ellipsis usage.

Four stars.

Patrick Blindauer’s June website puzzle, “Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark — Matt’s review

blindauerjune

I’m long past being surprised when certain entries don’t fit or make sense in a Blindauer, and that’s what happened here. Fortunately for my sanity the wackiness soon revealed itself to be contained to the three long theme entries, which were clued simply as [With 57-Across, "Hamlet quote #1] and ["Hamlet" quote #2]. They turned out to be (or not to be):

SWECDLOMBEOV / YXVIDYLOUSXN and the doubly-repeating GYBNCGYBNCGYBNC.

What’s going on? Well I’d noticed the repeating nature of quote #2, so naturally I thought we were looking at ciphertext. And there at 65-D we had [___-13 (simple substitution cipher in which letters are moved 13 places forward in the alphabet)], so game over: I confidently plunked the twelve letters at 20-A into a rot-13 decoder (just Google rot-13 and many will come up to choose from), and got…not the expected “Hamlet” quote, but just gobbledygook.

Surely there’s some mistake? Maybe that rot-13 decoder doesn’t work? So I tried a different one and got the same nonsense. Then I put in GYBNC and got more nonsense. Well, I reasoned, there’s always one more level in a Blindauer, so let’s go back and see what I missed.

hamlet

The light bulb came on in just two minutes: rot-13 is the most popular alphabet-shifting encryption code, but you can in fact use rot-any number — rot-13 shifts the letters 13 spaces, but rot 12 shifts them 12, rot-11 shifts them 11, rot-10 shifts them…wait a second…rot-10? Rot-ten? Rotten! That must be it (see puzzle title). So I found a Rot-10 decoder (again just Google), put the phrases in, and discovered our two quotes:

I MUST BE CRUEL / ONLY TO BE KIND

and

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!

After solving this yesterday I tweeted:

Don’t you agree? 4.55 stars.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Metro Menu”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.04.14: "Metro Menu"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.04.14: “Metro Menu”

Good morning everyone!

A very nice theme from Ms. Lynn Lempel on this Wednesday, as she throws in some intentional malapropisms (or mondegreens?), substituting words in typical phrases with homophones that happen to be names of international cities.

  • PISA ROLLS: (17A: [Sandwich options on an Italian menu?])
  • TUNIS SALAD: (29A: [First course option on a North African menu?])
  • DELHI WRAPS: (47A: [Lunch options on an Indian menu?])
  • SEOUL FOOD: (62A: [Anything at all on a Korean menu?])

I forgot which airport I was at a while back, but I totally remember almost accidentally walking into the LADIES ROOM coming off a flight because the men’s and women’s bathrooms were right next to each other and I wasn’t concentrating (31D: [Restricted spot at an airport]). All that jet lag can do things to a person! That was nice fill, as well as WISE OLD OWL (3D: [Smart bird in a nursery rhyme]) and IN TOTAL (25D: [With all accounted for]). Initially had CON instead of COP, which totally made sense to me at the beginning (39A: [Figure in an "America's Most Wanted" episode]).

Crosswordese included ORCA (24A: [Whale of a theme park performer]) and GO ON, which made me think of a GOON (either the mafia bully variety or the designated hockey fighter variety) more than anything else (54A: ["Continue..."]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SEAM (13D: [Dressmaker's product line?])- A seam route (also called a fly pattern, or a 9-route) is a pattern run by wide receivers in football that call for them to run straight up the field, hoping to outrun the player(s) assigned to cover them and catching a deep pass from the quarterback. This is usually the pattern run by a wide receiver when a Hail Mary pass is called for.

Thank you everyone, and see you all tomorrow!

AOK

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16 Responses to Wednesday, June 4, 2014

  1. clark says:

    hic – this (masculine, nominative, singular), haec – this (feminine, nominative, singular), hoc this (neuter, nominative, singular). Anyone who got this far in high school latin will recall memorizing this. Hic haec hoc is just the first line. There are 4 more cases in the singular and five in the plural, so it is a sing-songy, fifteen lines of something that sounds like silly gibberish. It may not be exciting, but it put a smile on my face.

    • Zulema says:

      Hic, Haec, Hoc, immediately led me to Huius, Huius, Huius, but there the memory ended. I join in the smile. And ESPARTO is a town in the Sacramento valley. I always thought it meant HAY.

  2. clark says:

    Make that 10 lines, three words each.

  3. Gareth says:

    I can see why the puzzle was made: crossword solvers like word games, so a list of them should be up a lot of solvers’ alleys, but it’s still a bit list-y. (Although my last puzzle was a synonym list, so ja…)

    Boggle seems a big omission, but I assume there aren’t any suitable 6-letter partners.

    • pannonica says:

      ZIG-ZAG, or the GIOTTO spelling of JOTTO. As long as we’re dealing with relative obscurities.

  4. Martin says:

    I always thought a EWER was a ladies’ ram.

    -MAS

  5. Matt says:

    I liked CATDOM– Comics and Komix are a popular domeain for various cats and Kats. I agree that REMOP is weak, but CORM seems to me to be a respectable word.

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I think 2.5 stars is generous. Ugh. I took Latin in high school. I loved it. I still winced at HAEC. I have *never* heard of ESPARTO and I started doing the NYT puzzle in the Will Weng era.

  7. Bencoe says:

    Well, that’s two days in a row I missed the theme of one of the indie puzzles. Saw Rot13 in the Blindauer puzzle and, like Matt, figured it was encoded. Unlike Matt, didn’t bother to actually do the substitution, so I missed the genius of the theme, “Rot10″. Makes a lot more sense.
    Now to see if I can save myself in Matt’s mind bending meta contest this week.

  8. pannonica says:

    Blindauer: The ROT in rot-x is short for rotate, just in case anyone didn’t know.

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The game of 55A:Anagrams must be well-known, but is usually played with a Scrabble set (minus the blanks, sometimes doubled for a longer game with 196 tiles) which is why you wouldn’t have found a dedicated Anagrams game on the market.

    —END

    • HH says:

      About 35 years ago I found one at a yard sale. Not very good … the tiles were cardboard, not all precisely die-cut to the same size, and out of about 200 tiles, only 11 were Ts.

  10. Lorraine says:

    I was able to decode only by using a ROT-16 decoder. am i missing something? thanks!

    • jefe says:

      26-16=10
      Since the entries were encrypted via Rot-10 (moving letters forward by 10), you can retrieve the original message via Rot-10 decryption (moving letters backward by 10) or Rot-16 encryption (moving letters forward by 16, which cycles the alphabet exactly once), which is what I did too, since I didn’t grok the title.

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    I took the liberty of fiddling with the NYT and came up with, for the northwest acrosses:

    HIFI
    AMAH
    WAREHOUSE
    SCRABBLE

    That gives HAWS, IMAC, FARR and I HEAR YA in the first four downs, while changing ROT to ROY, and REMOP to REMAP.

    There were a couple of other less satisfactory fills.

    Yeah, I’m wasting time at work. What?

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