Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AV Club 5:02 (Amy) 
NYT 3:21 (Amy) 
LAT 6:20 (Matt) 
CS 9:39 (Ade) 

10500395_10152348707119902_2736372633247189212_nRegistration’s open for the Crosswords LA tournament! Saturday, October 18. I hope to be there myself. Full details and registration link here.

Jean O’Conor’s New York Times crossword

NY TImes crossword solution, 7 30 14, no. 0730

NY TImes crossword solution, 7 30 14, no. 0730

Today’s theme is things found in the kitchen, redefined as entirely non-cooking-related things:

  • 17a. [List of user IDs?], COOKIE SHEET. As in the cookies your web browser plants to track your habits.
  • 22a. [Undergarment fitting device?], MEASURING CUP. You’d think that bra boutiques might have that sort of measuring cup to assess cup size, but no.
  • 30a. [Jailer with a key ring?], CAN OPENER. Not that sort of can. This clue could’ve gone rogue.
  • 43a. [Hardly an attraction for a surfer?], MICROWAVE. Not gonna go far on a wave that size.
  • 49a. [Directors in charge of downsizing?], CUTTING BOARD. Ooooh, *sucks teeth*.
  • 58a. [Attractive but annoying date?], CHAFING DISH.

Cute theme.

I like TV CHANNELS and that GETAWAY CAR, but there’s also good chunk of vocab that mostly dwells in crosswords these days. Your classic crosswordese STELA, for example. OSAGES, DYER, GHIA, ISAO, INDRA, awkwardly plural German NEINS, TOG UP, ENESCO, REPRO. And NUM clued as 32d. [Book before Deut.] (that’s short for Numbers) when the biblical abbreviation could have been ditched with a vowel change (NAM crossing FAMED). Tough to fill a grid with theme answers occupying every other row—perhaps paring back to four or five theme answers would’ve given the fill more breathing room, leading to a smoother solve.

I blithely filled in DR DRE (crosswords’ favorite rapper) at 54d. [Rapper with the 3x platinum single "Hold On, We're Going Home"]. Didn’t even eyeball the crossings. D’oh! It’s DRAKE. It bears noting that Drake’s singles haven’t surpassed the 3x platinum mark, while Dre has hit the 4x and 5x marks.

3.33 stars from me. Thematic density doesn’t win me over unless I also enjoy the fill.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times puzzle — Matt’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 7 30 14

LA Times crossword solution, 7 30 14

Matt filling in for Gareth, usually blogger of LAT puzzles but today the puzzle’s author.

Straightforward theme: the three relevant entries are:

17-A [Stereotypical benefactor] = RICH UNCLE. Hey, I want one of those!

36-A [Of age] = OLD ENOUGH. Nice entry. I had it parsed as OLDEN ???? and put in OLDEN DAYS, which doesn’t fit the clue but looked good. For a while.

42-A ["Understood"] = SAY NO MORE. Three good theme entries, and then the revealer…

62-A [Waved banner hinted at by the ends of 17-, 36- and 42-Across] = WHITE FLAG. That’s a way to surrender, and so is “Uncle!”, “Enough!”, and “More!” Oh wait, that last one should be “No More.” Slight .05 ding for the orphaned two-worder on that last one. But overall a solid theme and I really did need the revealer to see what was going on.

Highlights:

***Had a tough time cracking open the Seattle part of the grid (that’s the NW, get it?) to get going. 1-A and 1-D were [Prepare, in a way, as sweet potatoes] and [Picasso contemporary], which I thought would be DICE and DALI. Wasn’t confident enough to plunk them in, however, and indeed they turned out to be MASH and MIRO.

***In the Virginia part of the grid (that’s the middle-right, as opposed to the Maine and Florida parts, which are the NE and SE) I had the incorrect KUDOS for [Friendly address] instead of the correct KIDDO. Combined with the aforementioned OLDEN ???? mis-parsing, that section took a while.

***At 56-A I misread the first word of [Gum with a longtime eyepatch-wearing mascot] and thought we were looking for a gun. With B?????A it had to be Italy’s famous BERETTA firearms, right? It was BAZOOKA, though, which means we were looking for both a gun and a gum.

***Odd clue for ONTARIO at 20-A [Airport city east of Los Angeles] but hey, it is the L.A. Times.

***Favorite clues: [Entrepreneur's start] for IDEA, [Pledge drive bags] for TOTES, and [Shakers, but not movers] for SECT.

***Fill was mostly clean with highlights like FOR GIRLS, ROB A BANK, TEA LEAF, GOYA, OINK and CUBA. Some crosswordy entries but nothing that rises to the level of me needing to mention it, with the possible exception of OTOS.

3.85 stars.

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Fixations”

American Values Club crossword solution, 7 30 14 "Fixations"

American Values Club crossword solution, 7 30 14 “Fixations”

An -ATION is fixed to the end of various phrases to alter the sense:

  • 11a. [Speech given by the policeman chasing James Cagney in "White Heat"?], COPPER ORATION. Copper ore + ATION, spelling adjusted as needed to make a valid -ation word.
  • 14a. ["You can't win 'em all"?], GAME CONSOLATION. Game console. Good one! Mostly good fill crossing these stacked themers (not a fan of OSSA).
  • 32a. [Type of inward rolling that causes a sprained ankle?], INJURY PRONATION. Injury-prone.
  • 53a. [Chain offering funeral services by the dozen?], KRISPY KREMATION. Ha! Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
  • 57a. [Period of supervision for a porn actor who's done poorly in recent backdoor scenes?], ANAL PROBATION. Anal probe, as performed by those aliens that abduct people so often. When the puzzle title is “Fixations,” aren’t you sort of expecting the word ORAL or ANAL to make an appearance? Another good stacking of theme answers, with RESAY the only crosser I didn’t care for.

Themed 70-worders are not so common. And with 71 theme squares? This is not a construction job for an amateur.

Five more things:

  • 10d. [2006 Marion Cotillard romantic comedy], TOI ET MOI. Never heard of it, but the French words are basic vocabulary.
  • 21d. [Home to the phonatory muscles], LARYNX. Didn’t quite realize there were muscles in there, but “phonatory” gave it away since no other body part produces sound in that way.
  • 28a. [Character who shared a cameo with Tinkerbell in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"], PORKY PIG. Nice trivia bit. Haven’t been following Porky’s career lately. You know whose career you should be following? Eric Roberts. My PuzzleSocial colleague Trip Payne tipped me off to Roberts’ insane filmography yesterday. It would appear that the actor’s willing to appear in anybody’s obscure, low-budget film—he’s in about 50 projects this year alone, and yet you rarely see him in anything.
  • 34d. [Supporters of France's Reign of Terror], JACOBINS. I can’t believe we haven’t had a big heavy metal band called Reign of Terror.
  • 42d. [Piper Kerman, e.g.], EX-CON. The writer of the Orange Is the New Black memoir.

4.25 stars from me.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Whitecaps”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.30.14: "Whitecaps"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.30.14: “Whitecaps”

Hello everyone, and welcome to the last hump day in July!

Obviously, there’s no white stuff on the ground at this time of year, but it will be here before you know it (sadly for some, a blessing for others). In this puzzle, served up to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, we’re reminded of a particular shade of white stuff, as each of the four theme answers – two across, two down – start with words that can come immediately after the word IVORY (41A: [Shade of white (and a word that precedes the starts of of 17- and 66-Across and 11- and 29-Down)]).

  • SNOW ANGEL: (17A: [Winter design]) – Would you hold it against me that I’ve never done a snow angel in my life? Also, am I too old to do one this coming winter?
  • TOWER OVER: (66A: [Dwarf]) – Love that dwarf is used as a verb. Oh, and being 6’4″, I usually tower over a good number of people myself. But when I cover sporting events, especially pro basketball, then the shoe’s on the other foot!  Man, basketball players are tall!!
  • COAST GUARD: (11D: [Military branch with the motto "Semper Paratus"])
  • PALM SUNDAY: (29D: [Observance one week before Easter])

Almost surprised that the BAUER reference in the puzzle is the designer and not the hero of 24 (36A: [Eddie _____ (Clothing line)]). There was some really good and interesting fill, themes included, with YAZUKA heading that list (61A: [Japanese crime syndicate]). It’s so tough thinking about crime in Japan only for the fact that I perceive Japan as such a cordial country. But with so many people. and the fact that we’re all human beings, crime is bound to happen everywhere you go. Also liked the nod to Liza MINNELLI for her great performance in Cabaret (5D: [Best actress of 1972]). Along with YAKUZA, best fill for me was IT’S A JOB (9D: ["I have to do something to pay the bills"]). Coming from someone who was paid to change the light bulbs on scoreboards mounted at least 30 feet above the ground, overcoming semi-acrophobia just so I could earn a few dollars, I definitely have uttered that line in my head a few times. Anyone want to share their “It’s a job” occupation that they once/currently performed/perform?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ED KOCH (52D: [Big Apple mayor who inquired "How'm I doin'?"]) – The former mayor of New York had a big decision to make in the late 1970s, and it had to do with the New York Yankees. In 1978, in the middle of a financial crisis and the Son of Sam murders paralyzing the Big Apple, the New York Yankees won its second consecutive World Series. Koch, believing that the morale boost the city drew from the Bronx Bombers winning should continue, decided to throw a ticker-tape parade in honor of the Yankees’ triumph. That decision was blasted by the New York Times in an editorial, saying that it was an expenditure New York did not need at the time. Koch’s response to the NYT op-ed: “You have your head screwed on wrong.” Typical New York City response, amirite?!?!?! Koch held the parade, as well as a ceremony at City Hall. Here’s Koch (middle) handing over the keys to the city to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (left) and second baseman Bucky Dent…or as Red Sox fans call him, after his go-ahead home run against Boston in a one-game playoff for the AL East title in 1978, Bucky (Bleeping) Dent.

steinbrennerkochdent1978

Thank you for the time and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!

Ade/AOK

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25 Responses to Wednesday, July 30, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Chafing Dish (and it’s clue) are worth the price of admission…

  2. Zulema says:

    Very nice Wednesday NYT.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Very amusing AV today, especially 53 and 57a. My track pad has been acting strangely of late, and I’m sure it entered a 3 where I tried to enter 4.5. I scrolled up to 4.5 clicked, and the screen reprimanded me to vote only once — which I was doing. So I hope Byron will keep that in mind. As I say, my track pad needs obedience training for computers. It’s constantly jumping to sites I haven’t told it to go to. Has anyone ever heard of that?

    Echoing something Amy has said, I don’t get Ben’s difficulty ratings for the puzzles at all. It again shows the subjectivity of “difficulty.” Byron’s, rated a 4.5 difficulty, was somewhat challenging, but not all that hard, even with several things I didn’t know, but could figure out. Ben’s recent AV puzzle, which he rated at 2.5, was not just difficult for me, but totally unsolvable in large chunks, because of all the (what I would call) junk.

    • Ben Tausig says:

      Bruce -

      We’ve had lots of similar feedback about our difficulty ratings (i.e., that they’re way off the mark).

      To determine difficulty, I use a combination of feedback from my testers, details of the puzzle, and my gut. By details I mean things like quality and quantity of theme content, and word count. By gut I mean the difficulty of the entries and the cluing. Byron is not at all straightforward in his clues, and certain sections of this grid (see the top right) contain unusual and advanced entries.

      Of course one’s solve may be smooth in spite of a low word count and difficult entries, as it seems to have been for you (and at least one other solver who emailed me) in this case. Regardless, your feedback, positive and negative, is always appreciated.

      Ben

      • Brucenm says:

        Ben,

        Forgive the negative comment about your recent puzzle, which, as I have said to you personally, is an occasional and idiosyncratic reaction.

        I loved Byron’s puzzle, and I wish my rating had entered properly. The upper right had enough easy entries for me to fill in the entire area smoothly — 6a, 15d, 9d, 18a (amusingly clued), 22a (the ‘?’ gave me the hint as to where it was going, which gave me 13d), plus having grokked out the theme to get 11a — I guess the puzzle hasn’t been blogged yet, so I won’t say more. I would have rated this puzzle 3.5 difficulty, but, as you say, people are all over the place.

        • Ben Tausig says:

          It’s OK, I don’t mind if you dislike a puzzle. I’m glad you enjoyed Byron’s, though. I did, too.

          Just wait until next week’s workout! It’s a Francis Heaney joint, but I won’t spoil more than that.

      • JohnV says:

        Um, the rating was just fine to me. Very challenging puzzle, which I could not finish.

        • dave glasser says:

          Yeah, I did not finish due to 11A: a clue with a specific movie reference, crossing 11D (vague TV reference, several letters fit *ARLA), 2D (tricky movie reference), 5D (specific TV reference, though reasonable to guess if you know enough that ANNIE doesn’t work), and 12D (obscurish mountain). *O*PE**RATION wasn’t enough for me, sadly.

          Not to say that this part of the puzzle was unfair or anything, but it definitely was tough if your pop culture knowledge doesn’t match the eras tested here!

  4. Jeffrey K says:

    Attention all crossword constructors and editors: a CPA is not an alternative for TurboTax. One is a highly trained professional, the other a mechanical software package.

    That is all.

    Jeffrey K, CPA

    • Brucenm says:

      I was going to leave it to a professional to make that same point. I wonder if

      {Superior alternative to TurboTax}

      would have been better, though I suppose they are alternatives in the way in which a factory-produced, machine-made cello is an alternative to an Amati.

      • Lois says:

        I thought it was just meant as a clever joke. After all, alternative doesn’t mean equivalent. That clue was a surprise and made me laugh! It’s a much better alternative! Brucenm’s clue works, but reveals too much and spoils the joke.

    • pannonica says:

      Didn’t we have a discussion on the nature of ‘alternatives’ very recently?

  5. Byron Trist says:

    LAT: I had 26D as ABASH instead of ABASE, so that 45A (Appt. book divisions) would be HRS for hours. What could ERS possibly be short for with this clue?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Your solution’s right, Matt’s was wrong in that square. I’ve replaced the solution grid with the correct one. ABAS* is one of those entries you always have to check the crossing for, as ABASE and ABASH’s clues aren’t so distinct.

  6. ahimsa says:

    I enjoyed the LAT puzzle. I wonder why the ratings today are so low?

  7. Pam says:

    Washington Post 7-30-14, Crossword “whitecaps”… the answer for 14 across: Elvis ____ Presley. His middle name is : Aaron not Aron as the puzzle has it…. love doing the puzzles everyday

    • Jeffrey K says:

      “The correct spelling of his middle name has long been a matter of debate. The physician who delivered him wrote “Elvis Aaron Presley” in his ledger. The state-issued birth certificate reads “Elvis Aron Presley”" [wikipedia]

  8. joon says:

    doing the CS every day using only the down clues occasionally leads to head-scratching about the nature of the theme. with IVORY in the center and “whitecaps” as the title, i figured that was the theme, and indeed IVORY COAST and IVORY TOWER are things (although IVORY, COAST, and the non-thematic ZEST made me think it might be a soap theme). but what is IVORY SNOW? and IVORY PALM? is it bad that i have no recognition of 2 of the 4 phrases on which the theme answers are based?

    loved byron’s puzzle. clever theme with a perfect title, some laugh-out-loud theme answers, incredible density and stacking of theme material, challenging but clean grid, and typically byronic cluing. puzzles this good (and there aren’t many) alternately make me giddy with excitement as a solver and disconsolate as a constructor.

    • Brucenm says:

      Ivory Snow is (or was?) a popular laundry detergent. “99 and 44/100 pure.” Made famous, (I offer diffidently) by Marilyn Chambers as “the Ivory Snow girl” — [wondering who will and who will not have any idea what I'm talking about].

      I don’t know what “Ivory Palm” means either.

      • Norm says:

        Wikipedia confirms that it’s a type of palm, which seemed likely, but certainly not as well known as its cousins SEGO and DATE. Very weak.

      • john farmer says:

        Bruce, I remember. Just to be clear, Marilyn was the mother, not the baby, on the Ivory Snow box.

  9. Norm says:

    As to the nit pointed out with Byron’s puzzle, SYSOP could have been SWOOP or STOOP if RESAW or RESAT were deemed preferable to RESAY. I’d say they’re a tad less annoying, although SYSOP is a far more interesting word than the alternatives.

  10. maikong says:

    Ade –

    In your CS Review today you asked if you were too old to do a snow angel this coming winter –one is never too old to make a snow angel. Just make sure you take a selfie for the Fiend Community to enjoy.

Comments are closed.