Wednesday, February 4, 2015

AV Club 5:40 (Amy)  
NYT 4:10 (Amy) 
LAT 2:47 (Andy) 
CS 7:58 (Ade) 
Blindauer 7:58 (Matt) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 4 15, no. 0204

NY Times crossword solution, 2 4 15, no. 0204

Various “VERB-out NOUN” phrases are clued as if the beginning is a stand-alone verb and the noun is no longer modified by the verb/out combo:

  • 17a. [Eye an election official?], CHECK OUT COUNTER. Not that we ever call vote counters “counters.” Do we?
  • 26a. [Decimate a monastery’s occupants?], TAKE OUT ORDER. There are multiple meanings of the phrase “take out.” I might have opted for a less violent clue, editing to remove a fiat, say, or taking the monks out on the town rather than killing most of them. Times are tough enough for the Tibetan Buddhist monks.
  • 48a. [Warning shouted to a lacrosse defenseman?], “LOOK OUT, POINT!” In the other three theme answers, the noun is the direct object of the verb. Here, there’s an exclamation. And we’re expected to know the players’ positions in lacrosse?
  • 61a. [Develop one’s comedy acts?], WORK OUT ROUTINES. Solid.

So the theme didn’t work all that well for me. How about the fill? I wasn’t loving that, either. Archaic LIEF, TYPE B, STYES, EWERS, ADAPT TO, PUT IT ON, TSO, ALII, KAYOED, ONE-A, NEAP … things just kept poking me the wrong way.

Five things:

  • 11d. [Bitsy pieces], IOTAS. I don’t get the clue at all. An iota is a small amount, not so much a small piece of something.
  • 22a. [They may be paddled], REARS. Is this about corporal punishment, Abu Ghraib, or BDSM?
  • 14a. [Green card issuer, informally], AMEX. You wanted the government agency in charge of immigrants’ green cards, didn’t you?
  • 40d. [Share, as a blog entry], REPOST. That doesn’t sit right with me at all. REPOSTing is posting a blog entry for a second time. These days “sharing” generally means nothing more than posting a link to something. You’re not reposting, you’re directing people to an existing link.
  • 47d. [Popular color at Victoria’s Secret], HOT PINK. We-e-e-ell … not really. The home page is super-pink right now, with Valentine’s Day nigh, but if you look at the various bras on the website, HOT PINK is not a standard color at all. The items that come in 30 different colors have hot pink, but most of the others are available in fewer colors, usually more muted hues and black. Or maybe the clue refers to the retail stores? I guess the decor has pink? I never shop there.

3.25 stars from me.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 2.4.15 by Gareth Bain

LAT Puzzle 2.4.15 by Gareth Bain

Andy here, filling in for Gareth because he’s the constructor on this puzzle (and we at Fiend strive for fair and balanced reporting).

The theme is explained neatly at 35-Across: GET HAMMERED [Slangily, overimbibe; literally, what the starts of 18-, 22-, 49-, and 54-Across can do]. And then we have four entries whose first words can “get hammered”:

  • 18a, SPIKE JONZE [“Being John Malkovich” director]. Scrabbly and delicious. I was a big fan of “Her.”
  • 22a, BRAD PITT [“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” co-star]. Not the first Brad Pitt movie I think of. I remember it being pretty average.
  • 49a, TACK ROOM [Saddle storage area]. Never heard of it, but Google says it’s legit. Then again, I probably don’t spend as much time with horses as Gareth.
  • 54a, NAIL BITING [Nervous habit]. Fingernails, rather than metal ones (I hope, for Gareth’s sake).

It’s nice that in all four theme entries, the first word is being used in a different sense than the hammerable one (2 names, 2 not). Low word count (74) but high block count (42) due to the central themer being an 11. I liked the long fill in the NE and SW (PLOTLINES/RANSOMED, GREASING/LEADROLES). I thought it was strange that I’d never heard of SEARLE in connection with Ambien or pharmaceuticals, but Wikipedia informs me that Pfizer owns Searle and retired the name a while back. This makes me wonder if SEARLE wasn’t originally clued as John Searle, the philosopher who came up with the “Chinese room” argument against strong AI. To avoid SEARLE altogether, one could refill that section with PPP crossing PEARLE (it’s not pretty, but it does the job).

I had difficulty convincing myself that DEFAT and REFITS were both right. The clue for REFITS [Readies for another voyage] threw me for a loop, but DEFAT couldn’t really be anything else. The rest of the fill was pretty good. 

3.5 stars.

Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Eh? Two Brutes?”

AV Club crossword solution, 2 4 15 "Eh? Two Brutes?"

AV Club crossword solution, 2 4 15 “Eh? Two Brutes?”

I’m ready to see the billing of difficulty level disappear from Ben’s weekly email. If this is a 2.5/5 on the hardness scale and it took me longer than the average Friday NYT …. You know what? I just need to know what the scale is. We never see 1s on this scale; 1 is too easy for the AVX crowd. We see 2 to 5. What do those represent, Ben? How are we to interpret the scale?

I’m not sure I’m fully grasping the theme. Is it something beyond “two animal names plunked together and clued with reference to the metaphorical humans who are described via these animal names”? I guess it’s “two animal names that are used metaphorically to describe humans,” specifically. No lemur, salamander, armadillo, or elk, for instance, but there are a zillion animals that have human application. Tiger, dog, cow, sheep, ox, shark, whale, lizard, etc.—lots of fodder for this theme. Never consciously realized that about the English language. I wonder if all languages make such good use of animal names.

  • 17a. [Big hairy gay man who’s afraid of his own shadow?], CHICKEN BEAR.
  • 25a. [Spy who can’t be trusted?], WEASEL MOLE. Can you trust a non-weasel mole?
  • 38a. [Hottie responsible for losing the big game?], GOAT FOX. GOAT in all caps is also the “greatest of all time.”
  • 52a. [Drug runner who goes for younger guys?], COUGAR MULE.
  • 61a. [Snitch who faxes his information to the feds?], DINOSAUR RAT. Actually, fax technology is quite secure—the signal can’t be intercepted. The security risk just comes from not knowing who has access to the fax machine on the other end.

Five more things:

  • 28a. [Misisipí and Misuri, e.g.], ESTADOS. I am not up on the Spanish names of the US states. Misuri is a much more phonetic spelling than Missouri.
  • 43a. [Exams that used to go up to 1600 and then 2400 and now I can’t keep track: Abbr.], SATS. Exactly.
  • 50a. [One who might be hired to deal with a dirty boxer], GROOMER. Dog groomer, that is.
  • 3d. [“Say what you’re gonna say!”], “SPIT IT OUT!” Great entry.
  • 50d. [Designer Milton who created the “I [heart] NY” logo], GLASER. Worked the crossings to get this one.

Not digging U.S. ONE with the number spelled out, RANEES, U AND I (if you’re using “u,” how likely are you to spell out “and”?), tic-tac-toe XOO.

Four stars from me.

Patrick Blindauer’s February website puzzle, “The Heart of the Matter” — Matt’s review

blindauerjanuary

Fun and easy one from Patrick for Valentine’s Month: “of” phrases take the final “L” from their first word to become “love” phrases:

  • 20-A [Shout from fans of a business mag?] = WE LOVE FORTUNE. From everyone’s second-favorite game show, “Wheel of Fortune.”
  • 39-A [Witness the acceptance of a forbidden romance?] = SEE LOVE APPROVAL. From “seal of approval.” At first I had this as “sea love approval,” and was wondering what was so wrong with “sea love.” Mermaids, dolphins, even killer whales need love, too, right? Especially killer whales, with all their rage.
  • 57-A [Headline about fish eggs that adore a six-sided solid?] = ROE LOVE THE DIE. From “roll of the die,” which may want to be “dice,” but good enough.

Original and amusing theme for February. Highlights:

  • Got 1-A right away: four letters for [Seven-time Wimbledon winner] had to be Steffi GRAF. Serena is three grand slams away (19) from tying Steffi’s record (22).
  • At 12-D we have the Warrior Princess in a clue instead of the grid: [Xena’s daughter] is EVE.
  • [Give out one’s address?] is a nice clue for ORATE. Patrick’s clues are a cut above; you can go down the list and see that some thought has been put into each one. No robo-cluing here.
  • Another good clue: [Brand that makes Regenerist] for OLAY. You may not be familiar with Regenerist (as I was not), but he chose a product name that’s logically inferrable to be OLAY if you look at its root.
  • One more, just to illustrate the point: [Word after time or before machine] = SLOT. He could’ve just robo-clued that and no one would’ve complained, but instead he finds the amusing aspect of “time machine” being a phrase and working on either side of SLOT. It’s the little things.

4.20 stars, bumped for the professional cluing.

And if this wasn’t enough Blindauer for you, check out his new 13-puzzle suite called Space Puzzlefest. I’ll be solving it this weekend myself. $17 to play. Cheap!

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Out of Order”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.04.15: "Out of Order"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.04.15: “Out of Order”

Welcome to Hump Day, everyone! Hope all is great with you! Today’s crossword, offered up to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, should also be titled “Fun with Anagrams!” Each of the four clues to the four theme answers happen to be anagrams of one of the words in the entries. The first word in each of the theme answers is a verb (past tense) that describes the action of rearranging the letters in the clue. Or something like that…

  • CHANGED COURSE (20A: [Source?])
  • ALTERED STATE (32A: [Taste?)
  • SHIFTED GEARS (42A: [Rages?])
  • MIXED BLESSING (55A: [Glibness?]) – Very nice!

My first thought when I started out in the Northwest was asking if this was the fist appearance of CAYCE in a grid (17A: [Psychic Edgar])? His name is such that you would think you would see it more in crosswords, but this is the first time I’ve come across it. Oh, and thank goodness I had heard of him before, or I would have been at the mercy of the clue’s crossings. Though not a Shakespeare theme, nice to have a little bit of his work in his grid with the appearance of OLIVIA (46D: [Niece of Sir Toby Belch, in “Twelfth Night”]). Oh, and there’s African geography as well with NIGERIA, and that’s another plus (21D: [Neighbor of Cameroon]). Probably the best down answer is one that had to make me dust this word off from the recesses of my brain, GAMINES (44D: [Impish lasses])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BOYCOTTS (3D: [Refuses to deal with]) – One of the more notable sports BOYCOTTS appears to be coming to an end, with news that Serena Williams, who just won the Australian Open women’s singles title, intends to play at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in Southern California next month. Back in 2001, the Williams sisters were about to play in the semifinals of the event, but Venus had to withdraw just before the match due to an injury. The announcement of Venus’ withdrawal drew boos from the crowd, and, when Serena played in the final two days later, fans booed Serena as well as her father, Richard, who was sitting in the player’s box along with Venus. After those events, the Williams sisters boycotted the event, which is a mandatory event for the top-ranked tennis players in the world to play in. Here’s the New York Times article that describes it in more detail.

See you all on Thursday!

Take care!

Ade/AOK

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9 Responses to Wednesday, February 4, 2015

  1. Sarah says:

    Paddle, of course, is referring to spanking. Common usage of the word that Amy seems to have missed.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I think “corporal punishment” covers that.

    • janie says:

      and i was thinking of initiation rites, recalling the greek-letter-bearing paddles the frat boys were so proud of.

      back in the day, of course…

      ;-)

  2. Gareth says:

    Loved the NYT theme (a lot more than most it seems). Really wish PUTITON was clued as the classic Wailers song (not among Bob’s most famous, but so soulful!)

    I think it’s fair to say Amy’s the expert on bras (especially the fit thereof), although we may need to find someone more teenaged to verify the popularity of HOTPINK as a bra colour. (I was sceptical, but what do I know!?)

    LAT: Inspired by BRAD Wilber’s name! Sadly despite having an incredible construction work ethic and being an all-round mensch, he hasn’t reached the point of crossworthiness. For me, SEARLE is very well-known as the maker of Nutrasweet, although I see corporate naming shenanigans have rendered this incorrect. [Who cares? They’re always changing corporation names!]

    • jae says:

      Like the LAT a lot. Much better than the NYT today. Had rear before PRAT which pushed this into medium territory. Nice on Gareth!

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: “26a. [Decimate a monastery’s occupants?], TAKE OUT ORDER. There are multiple meanings of the phrase “take out.” I might have opted for a less violent clue, editing to remove a fiat, say, or taking the monks out on the town rather than killing most of them.”

    Reggie Watts

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I’m surprised that Gareth’s LAT puzzle didn’t receive better ratings. For me, this is just what a midweek puzzle should be. (which Gareth’s almost always are.) Original idea, good amount of theme material, polished clueing, smooth fill, and a fast solve. I flew through this — Searle, defat, refits didn’t bother me at all. 4.5 stars from me – the only reason it wasn’t a 5 is that I generally deduct half a point for clunky groups of blocks

  5. john farmer says:

    “Actually, fax technology is quite secure—the signal can’t be intercepted.”

    Fax technology transmits an audio signal over a regular telephone line. It’s no more or less secure than any other landline phone call.

    If you don’t want your message to be intercepted, you need encryption.

    The security advantage of fax is that it’s not prone to embedded viruses or worms, as email attachments can be.

    • john farmer says:

      U AND I (if you’re using “u,” how likely are you to spell out “and”?)

      If the text msg is about a certain Nicholson Baker book, you’d spell out the “and,” but otherwise perhaps not. (I didn’t read it but did read Baker’s “The Mezzanine,” his novel that happens entirely during a one-story ride on an escalator. Oddly enough, it goes all over the place.)

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