Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NYT 3:20 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 3:16 (Amy) 
LAT 3:00 (Amy) 
CS 9:19 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Presidential Pets”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 4 7 15 "Presidential Pets"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 4 7 15 “Presidential Pets”

Matt’s game this week is animal-related puns on US presidents’ names:

  • 19a/20a. [With 20-Across, the first cat president?], GEORGE WASHING-TONGUE.
  • 24a. [Twice-serving dog president?], ROVER CLEVELAND.
  • 42a. [Recent small, furry president in a cage?], GERBILL CLINTON.
  • 48a. [Leading pot-bellied pig president?], ABRAHAM OINKIN‘.

I like that each pun is formed in a different way—add a sound at the end of a last name, drop a sound at the beginning of the first name, add a syllable at the beginning of the first name, drop a sound from the beginning of the last name. All four animals are pets provided you include the “pot-bellied” descriptor for the swine.

Five more things:

  • 36a. [Flower part made up of sepals], CALYX. That is such a pretty word. Crosses LILAC for good measure.
  • 57a. [Picture of pandemonium], MOB SCENE. Top entry.
  • 8d. [Zenith competitor, once], MAGNAVOX. Did you know Magnavox also made a gaming console, the Odyssey? That was one of many I missed in this Sporcle quiz.
  • 54d. [Certain tide], NEAP. Neap! Do not like.
  • 26d. [Words from the teacher?], VOCAB. I miss vocab words and spelling tests.

Markedly easier puzzle than the typical Jonesin’ offering. Good! I wanted to get through tonight’s puzzles swiftly. Bedtime by 9:30 or bust!

3.8 stars.

David Lieb’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 7 15, no 0407

NY Times crossword solution, 4 7 15, no 0407

Nine different pronunciations of OUGH in English are encompassed in the sentence “A rough-coated dough-faced ploughman named McCullough strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.” (Source: Grammarly Word Fact, plus the McCullough that wordman Grant Barrett added.) This puzzle’s theme includes five of the sounds:

  • 20a. [Robitussin or Vicks product], COUGH MEDICINE.
  • 28a. [Petite sweet treat], DOUGHNUT HOLE.
  • 43a. [Advocating long sentences, say], TOUGH ON CRIME.
  • 53a. [Complete without a break, as a labour], PLOUGH THROUGH. This one’s a two-fer, but it feels weird to have a British spelling in an American puzzle.

Yes, English spelling and pronunciation are insanely tough to master. It all ought to have been simplified and regularized centuries ago, but now we’re stuck with it.

Top fill: MALE MODEL, BEDEVILED, PIE CRUST (make mine all-butter, please—and know that Hoosier Mama Pie Company’s secret to glorious crust is to include a tablespoon of red wine vinegar in the dough). Pardon me, I have a slice of Hoosier Mama’s chocolate cream pie to finish up right now. Be right back.—

—Mmm, good pie.

Five more things:

  • 8d. [Sources of heat or light], RADIANTS. Not sure I’ve ever seen this as a noun before.
  • 38d. [One-trillionth of a kilo], NANOGRAM. I’ve never needed to go smaller than a microgram, µg, 1,000 times bigger.
  • 32d. [Aquino’s successor in the Philippines], RAMOS. I’ll take World Leaders Named Fidel for $1,000, please.
  • 13d. [Dancer Charisse], CYD. Wow, feels like it’s been ages since she was in the puzzle. (I didn’t miss her.)
  • The sequel to the fake movie from 30 Rock, The Rural Juror, has got to be 59a/50d, The SURER FUROR.

3.6 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 201), “Fifty Plus”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 4/7 (No. 201)

Crossword Nation 4/7 (No. 201)

“Fifty Plus” is not the age-range of the market this puzzle is targeted towards. Rather it is the constructor telling us, cryptically, that this is an “add-a-letter” puzzle and that the letter we’ll be adding is “L,” which is also happens to be the Roman numeral for “50.” The critical factor is that grid contains some very amusing results as crafty clues set about to transform familiar phrases into quite humorous ones.

  • 17A. In which banana boat becomes BANANA BLOAT [Swell feeling after eating a bunch of fruit?]. Swell clue, too!
  • 28A. In which Fred Flintstone’s bestie Barney Rubble becomes BLARNEY RUBBLE [Sweet-talking caveman?]. High concept for
    Don't bite down!!

    Don’t bite down!!

    some low humor. This one made me laugh out loud.

  • 48A. In which “We Got the Beat” becomes “WE GOT THE BLEAT” [Sheepish hit song by The Go-G0’s?]. I keep wondering what’s on the B-SIDE. “Ewe Made Me Love Ewe”?… (Your thoughts?)
  • 64A. In which bing cherry becomes BLING CHERRY [Flamboyant sundae topper?].

That is one fine theme set—not a weak link in the bunch. There’s not a lot of longer fill (seven-plus letters) in the remainder of the puzzle, but it’s all good, from the crunchy GRANOLA and STATUES and (mad) HATTERS to ATHENIAN and “I TOLD YOU!” ([“See!], I told you!).

Among the short fill, I liked the ARBSLBO/Wall Street-corporate combo; and learned a little somethin’ about the (new-to-me) [Prix de L’] ARC [de Triomphe (Paris horse race)].

Fave clues? Why, [They hang around the house] for EAVES (and not SLACKERS…), and the terrific, seasonal (but non-literary) [Fall press release?] for CIDER.

A lot of good wordplay throughout this puzzle made it a pleasure to solve. Hope it brightened your day, too. Me, [“I’m] OUTTA [here!” (“Later!”)].

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 4 7 15

LA Times crossword solution, 4 7 15

Each theme answer ends with a synonym for “educate,” but used in noneducational phrases:

  • 17a. [Older name for a passenger bus], MOTORCOACH.
  • 24a. [Wedding gown follower], BRIDAL TRAIN.
  • 34a. [Like one resisting innovation], OLD-SCHOOL.
  • 50a. [Pirate Blackbeard’s real name], EDWARD TEACH. Is that one tough for a Tuesday? The theme presumably helps pull the letters together, provided that the solver picks up on the theme while solving. Which, given that I didn’t see the theme till after I was done with the crossword, is not a sure thing.
  • 58a. [Hole-making tool], POWER DRILL. Nice to have a crossword clue like this not call for AWL as it usually does.

I liked the geography 7s lurking in all four corners—MEMPHIS and (tough one—[French department that translates to “golden slope”] is not a place name Americans should be expected to know) COTE D’OR, CHICAGO, INDIANA, and SEVILLE.

Four more things:

  • 33a. [U2 lead singer], BONO. He was the subject of mockery in this Middle Eastern news satire site: “Syria only ‘weeks away’ from Bono charity single, warns UN.”
  • 31a. [Kate, before Petruchio’s “taming”], SHREW. Would have preferred a clue about the tiny mammal.
  • 8d. [Duke Univ. conference], ACC. Grr. Wisconsin had a good run.
  • 49d. [Virg. neighbor], N. CAR. Grr for the abbreviation nobody much uses. Also in the “entries I’d rather not see, especially on a Tuesday” category: L-BAR, THE A, RES, ANNI, UKR, ATTAR, STELE.

3.4 stars from me.

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rocking Rockumentaries”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.07.15: "Rocking Rockumentaries"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.07.15: “Rocking Rockumentaries”

Good day, crossword fans! It’s my last full day in Tampa before heading back to New York tomorrow, and I’m getting ready to see a women’s college basketball champion be crowned (UConn playing Notre Dame for the national championship). Until then, I’m spending time talking about today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach. In it, puns are used to clue actual movies/documentaries that center around music. This also means that I need to see the first three films, since the fourth theme is the only one that I’ve watched. Any suggestions as to which of the first three I should watch first?

  • STOP MAKING SENSE (17A: [1984 rockumentary, or a road sign at a dangerous intersection?])
  • THE LAST WALTZ (27A: [1978 rockumentary, or a latest movie from actor Christoph?])
  • DON’T LOOK BACK (44A: [1967 rockumentary, or words of warning for Lot’s wife?])
  • THIS IS SPINAL TAP (58A: [1984 rockumentary, or a med school presentation on the lumbar puncture?])

Very subtle, but very nice to have GIG as an entry, given the theme of the grid and it involving music (9D: [Band date]). So how long was GO POSTAL popular until its popularity died down in the American vernacular (4D: [Lose it big time])? Probably about a couple of years, in the late 1990s? I remember being hooked on all of the TEEN drama contained in the original Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High TV shows when I was young (40A: [“Degrassi” or “Glee” extra]). I may be biased (no, I AM biased), but “Degrassi” blows Glee out of the water! The only real hang-up occurred when I initially typed ‘nutra’ instead of NUTRI, as my phonetics-to-spelling transition let me down for a second (50D: [Commercial prefix with bullet and system]). Good thing for the crossings that led to DHOW, or that would have been a tough get for me as well (54D: [Indian Ocean vessel]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DARCY (64A: [Mr. of “Pride and Prejudice”]) – Remember the famous walk-off home run that was hit by Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, where Fisk was waving at the ball to stay fair after he hit the pitch? You do? That’s good, because this is the perfect time to tell you that the famous home run was given up by then Cincinnati Reds pitcher Pat DARCY, who played in parts of three season in the Majors, all with the Reds from 1974-1976. Here’s the home run, in case you’re not familiar with it.

See you all tomorrow, either from Tampa still or back in New York!

Take care!


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16 Responses to Tuesday, April 7, 2015

  1. Jeffrey K says:

    Ryan and Brian of Fill Me In are back!!

    Episode 137: The Coincidence of Language. After four years away, the greatest crossword podcast has a reunion show. http://bit.ly/FMI137

  2. Huda says:

    I can barely discern the difference between cough and tough… I mean I can, but a priori I’d have put them in the same bin.
    I was telling my husband that in French a given sound can be rendered very differently in writing, but when you see something written there is no doubt about how it’s pronounced. He seems doubtful, but I think I’m correct…the uncertainty about pronunciation is to my mind the only hard thing about English.
    I wish the theme had included all the variants of the ough…

    • ArtLvr says:

      Toughest “ough” words area slough and sough — Slough is pronounced SLEW when referring to a backwater like the one we ice-skated on in winter, but it’s SLUFF if dead skin being discarded, or an unwanted card in a card game.. Sough either rhymes with HOW or with HUFF, depending on your poet talking about the wind moaning in the trees…British or American!

      • David L says:

        There is also Slough, the town in England where “The Office” is set, and not far away from which I grew up. It was the subject of a poem by John Betjeman beginning “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough/it isn’t fit for humans now…”

        • ArtLvr says:

          Wow – love that! Three-in-0ne? And David L, how do you pronounce SOUGH?

          • David L says:

            Honestly, SOUGH is one of those words I’ve seen very occasionally but never had reason to say. Meaning that I would have to guess at the pronunciation. I’m inclined to go with ‘sow’ (as in female pig) or ‘so’ but I don’t have great confidence in either.

    • Alex B. says:

      Huda —

      There are exceptions but they are very rare. “Mes fils sont dans le garage” can be pronounced two different ways depending if you mean “sons” or “wires.” And there’s the famous sentence “Les poules couvent au couvent” in which you only know the pronunciation by context.

    • ahimsa says:

      Yes, English pronunciation can be tricky even for a native speaker. There are so many words that I have read for years, but never heard, and then was surprised by the pronunciation when I looked them up or heard them in conversation. And then there are all those regional accents on top of that.

      My husband speaks Marathi (his mother tongue) and Hindi. One nice thing about the Devanagari script (used for both) is that it is completely phonetic.

  3. Evan says:

    Re: today’s Crossword Nation puzzle:

    I’m not sure what’s up with those tiny 3×4 corners. They’re not the biggest part of the puzzle, but why go with -OLA, WSW, LEI, and two airport/scoreboard abbreviations when they’re so easily refillable with better stuff? I wondered if it was a joke — I don’t think those answers are holding down something really eye-popping, or a meta, are they?

    This is actually something that’s been bumming me out for a little while with the Crossword Nation puzzles. I get that it’s difficult to make a new easy-level puzzle every week, but I feel like the fill isn’t usually up to Liz’s normally high standards.

  4. David Lieb says:

    Neat quote with the nine OUGH’s, Amy. I guess I should have made this a Sunday puzzle!

  5. Martin says:

    If anyone’s interested, the English town of “Slough” is pronounced to rhyme with “cow”.


  6. Evad says:

    So what caused the weekly MGWCC commentary t[o va]nish?

  7. sandirhodes says:

    I remember the odyssey! I bought one for my nephew when he was small. It was one of the first purchases I made with my very first checking account. I must have been about 13 or so. I called my brother and asked him if he ever heard of it. “Got one under our TV right now!” I was crushed. But he said he’d take his back, since his boy hadn’t seen it yet. Whew!

    It was nothing more than a dozen or so games similar to pong. You had to put vinyl transparencies over the TV screen before you could make sense of the games. The TV graphics were nothing more than “pong balls” you maneuvered over the screen with a joystick (corded and plugged into the main unit, which was the size of a small suitcase). So without the transparencies, you didn’t know where to go.

    As crude as it seems now, my sister-in-law said, “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!”

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