Monday, 1/18/10

BEQ 6:09
NYT 4:10 (Evad)/2:48 (Amy)
LAT 2:47
CS untimed

I’m heading out to the distant suburbs for a birthday party soon, so I won’t be home to write about the Monday NYT puzzle until late tonight or possibly Monday morning. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. And if you have the keys to the place—you know who you are—feel free (but certainly not obligated) to toss up a grid and brief write-up.

Adam Cohen’s New York Times crossword

nyt0117 Most recently, Adam brought us stock ticker symbols which hinted at the company’s name (SEALY was ZZ, as I remember); today we get phrases associated with popular game shows:

  • CAN I BUY A VOWEL comes from “Wheel of Fortune.” Pat and Vanna were recently here in Boston; Vanna shot a segment out by the Paul Revere monument in the North End, just steps from where I live. (It must’ve been taped, as there was no snow on the ground in the shot.)
  • SURVEY SAYS is from “Family Feud.” When I last saw this show, Richard Dawson was the host; I have no idea who hosts the show currently (or if it’s only in syndication).
  • COME ON DOWN is from “The Price is Right.” This I do know is no longer hosted by Bob Barker, but instead by Drew Carey.
  • THE PASSWORD IS is from (wait for it) “Password.” Again, I remember only Allen Ludden hosting this (husband of Betty White, who was a frequent guest on the show). I seem to remember this being revived briefly with Regis Philbin as its new host. No idea if it’s still on. I remember this phrase being whispered by the announcer as if the contestants could actually hear him if he spoke any louder.

Other notable fill:

  • BUDWEISER, something unlikely to be advertised during one of these shows
  • blog_tpir_winexclusives

  • THREE-D, which seems to be making something of a comeback from the “stereoscopic” features of the ’50s
  • Early NY governor, DEWITT Clinton. Given the theme, Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company may have been a more appropriate choice.

A few more abbreviations than to my liking–SSR, ARG, MERC, ETA, and EST–keep the grid in check.

Updated Monday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Top of the Charts”—Janie’s review

I sure liked this puzzle, but boy, did I ever feel like the VAPID [Dull] one after solving it. Yes, I saw the title, but no–I had no idea how it applied to the theme fill. And no, those “charts” had nothing to do with music. All I saw was this beautiful theme fill–four phrases and their fine clues. Look at ’em:

Today I am a
Man. Tomorrow I return
To the seventh grade.

  • 11D. COLOR BLIND [Spectrally challenged]. Love that clue/fill combo!
  • 27D. PIE À LA MODE [Two desserts in one]. Yum. Pie and ice-cream.
  • 64A. EYEWITNESS [Person on the scene]. Like the ABC affiliates and their “Eyewitness News”…

So what do these phrases (and compound word) have to do with the theme? Well, the first word in each is a word that can precede (be at the “top of”) the word “charts.” D’oh! So we get bar charts, color charts, pie charts and eye charts. Nice, huh?

We also get lively, scrabbly fill in the likes of such strong grid-fillers as WIZENED [Shriveled], JET BLUE [Carrier out of Kennedy], and DIXIE CUP (!) [Disposable vessel] (hadn’t thought about Dixie cups in ages and loved seeing ’em in the grid). I like the slangy/colloquial FLIP OUT for [Go nuts], “TAKE IT!” for [“Here!”], “KIDDO” for [“Buddy”], and seeing [Hocked] give way to PAWNED.

A [Book of maps] is an ATLAS of course, and most do not include one of ATLANTIS the [Mythical sunken island]–but that’s not to say you can’t find maps of it. The really sneaky geography clue today came by way of [Bolivian capital]. LA PAZ, right? Not. Or not today at any rate. While La Paz is the seat of government, SUCRE is its constitutional (legal) capital. Making matters worse for me, though, when I saw _UCRE, I made it LUCRE, thinking of “capital” in the sense of monetary “currency.” Wrong again. In Bolivia, that would be centavos or Bolivianos

Another tricky clue comes with [Crash or ride in a drum kit]. Well, that’s CYMBAL, but until I looked up “drum kit” in our friend Wiki, I was completely in the dark as to how “ride” fit in the picture. It’s a relative of the high-hat cymbal, btw.

Two mythic types–one dark, one enlightened–get mentioned today, too: DRACULA [Van Helsing’s nemesis] and OBI-WAN [Luke’s mentor]. Echoing the first part of that latter name, it’s nice that OBI [Sapporo sash] is also there; and then, since we’re already in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” SUMO [Japanese wrestling] makes an appearance.

I don’t know that TEPEE is best described as [“Little Big Man” prop]. A “prop” is ordinarily something hand-held. Unless this tepee were miniaturized, “set piece” might be more on point. Other clue/fill pairs that were more satisfying include [Alter iteration]/”I DO,” [Garage activities]/SALES (and not LUBES…), [Young St. Bernard] for PUP and [Spoonbill relative] for our pal IBIS.

Finally, I love the balance at the top of D-CON [Pest control brand], whose logo actually features a little “d,” and BIG D” or [Dallas, familiarly], which Frank Loesser famously musicalized in The Most Happy Fella.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 29Many thanks to Dave/Evad for filling in last night. I got home past midnight and flopped on the couch with my sweetheart, to watch some DVRed Golden Globes.

Sajdak’s theme is simply darling: Phrases that begin with terms of endearment. Like so:

  • 20A. [“The Nutcracker” dancer] is a SUGARPLUM FAIRY. Not sure if sugar or sugarplum is the intended theme component. Either works, right?
  • 32A. [Piano bar piano, often] is a BABY GRAND, baby.
  • 45A. Winnie the [Pooh’s food source] is called the HONEY TREE, honey.
  • 58A. [Executive’s golden parachute, e.g.] is an example of a SWEETHEART DEAL.

Perfect Monday theme, simple and pleasant. Newer solvers might be thrown by the crosswordese more seasoned solvers take for granted: ECCE/[Behold, in old Rome]; EMIR/[Mideast chieftain]; AGAR/[Bio lab gelatin]; TARO/[South Seas edible root]; and EWER/[Washstand pitcher].

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 1Highlights: JERSEY SHORE; [Swiss location?] to clue CHEESE TRAY; ON AUTOPILOT; and EGG ROLLS, which can be SIDE DISHES, in a way.

Lowlights: Old-fashioned MUSSY (speaking of old-fashioned, I don’t know this ICEBOX CAKE); uncommon BERCEUSE; lots of the short fill in the 3- to 5-letter range; RESET/REABSORB/JEERERS; and the OCTETS clue [Nadya Suleman’s kids]—the octuplets are a single OCTET.

Somewhere in between: The “timely now but unlikely to last long” CARTOON YOURSELF ads on Facebook; Jets player D’BRICKASHAW Ferguson, who maybe will be famous to people who aren’t big football fans but maybe will quickly return to being nobody we’d be expected to recognize.

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16 Responses to Monday, 1/18/10

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    Alas, I don’t think “Million Dollar Password,” the incarnation with Regis, is still in production. I liked this puzzle a lot, but I’m a big game show fan. I remember when Wheel of Fortune was hosted by Chuck Woolery (of “Love Connection” fame and, more recently, “Lingo”), when Dennis James hosted the evening version of The Price is Right, and when Bert Convy hosted “Super Password.”

  2. Nina says:

    I’m sorry to say I can beat you there, Sam. I remember when Alan Ludden hosted Password and Bill Cullen hosted the Price is Right (not to mention Art Fleming hosting Jeopardy)–all during the day. Of course, I was very young at the time . . .

  3. Ruth says:

    Carl Icahn doesn’t seem Mondayish. Gettable through crosses, but otherwise, “Wha?”

  4. joon says:

    ICAHN was a big “huh?” for me. i almost couldn’t believe it. the crossings with AMICI and GRAMM, although they were not exactly challenging, are crazy-tough for a monday, i think. not everybody knows italian, and GRAMM could easily be GRIMM (or conceivably GROMM).

  5. Crosscan says:

    AMACI/ACAHN = error on Monday. Boo. Liked the rest.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Billionaire financier Carl Icahn undoubtedly deserves his usual sobriquet as “activist investor”, rather than “corporate raider”. He is known for pressuring big publicly-owned companies to improve their bottom line via strategic or management changes, but rarely seeks to take over a company and sell off the pieces as the true corporate raider does. He buys enough of a stake (often as little as 10%) so as to secure representation on the board of directors for himself or a nominee, thus making sure that his viewpoint on how to realize the potential of a faltering business will carry weight in corporate decisions. His attentions often work out — but sometimes they don’t and he moves on… Active for over 25 years, ICAHN is quite a timely crossword entry as recently he is dabbling in Kraft, but no one is sure why — except that Hershey must bid for Cadbury by the end of today if it plans to do so at all, and Kraft is a likely competitor waiting in the wings! Stay tuned, never a dull moment!

    As for AMICI, I agree the Italian cluing was a bit tough for a Monday. Since it is the same in Latin and common in our law as “amicus curiae” (i.e. friend of the court, like the ACLU petitioning to be heard in a significant case), the plural “Roman friends” might have been a tad easier… Fewer solvers are likely to recognize Firenzi as Florence, Italy.

  7. david H says:

    Remember the really old game shows? “What is your name, ma’am, and what does your husband do?” while handing each contestant a carton of Old Gold cigarettes.

  8. Ladel says:

    25D Capos rather than Capi, anybody got a problem with dat?

  9. Jon S. says:

    I’ll go along with the majority – a bit challenging for Monday. But doable. I noticed that another blog listed this puzzle as “Easy”. I don’t think that is quite right – three full width clues don’t really seem like “Easy” on a Monday.

  10. Entropy says:

    As easy as it gets for me.
    @Art.Lvr.: Icahn timely? The markets were closed for MLK today.
    @Ladel: Capos or Capi? Are we speaking English or Italian?
    @Jon S.: Just because they were 15 letters, could there be three easier answers?

  11. Entropy says:

    Amy – I actually still check the times. (and go “WOW”)
    Don’t care how long it takes, just if I finish in a reasonable fashion.
    Today the LAT & NYT were both easily doable.
    Not a lot of trite fill. Straight forward.

  12. Rob says:

    Since nobody has completed the thought… John O’Hurley is hosting “Family Feud” these days (the current series, in production since 1999, was previously hosted by Louie Anderson and Richard Karn), and indeed, “Million Dollar Password” flopped and is out of production. But don’t blame Regis, the show had almost nothing to do with classic “Password”.

  13. joon says:

    janie, FLIP OUT was my favorite fill answer in the CS, until it dawned on me that it’s not part of the fill at all. it’s part of the theme. still a great answer.

  14. janie says:

    joon — d’oh!!! did i not say something about feeling VAPID? sheesh! thank you for setting the record straight!!


  15. TammyB says:

    I’m a bit of a crossword newbie so maybe somebody can help me with the whole theme concept.

    In a Reagle puzzle, the theme is a second way for me to figure out the answers…for example in a puzzle “Is there a problem here?” as soon as I realize the word “Math” is in an answer, aha! whenever I start to get a fill with “ma” or “at” I’ve got an extra hint.

    But in a puzzle like this one, and in fact most of the WAshington Post ones, it seems to work the other way. I fill in all the empty blocks and then I stare dumbly at the puzzle trying to make the theme fit. Then I come online and see that (in this case) some of the answers begin with words that could be paired with “chart.”

    So, is this just the different way constructors do things? Thanks.

  16. Evad says:

    Hi Tammy, that’s a hard question to answer briefly, but themes fall into a pretty small set of general categories (which makes it amazing that so many puzzles come out on a daily basis which have themes that have never, or at least in recent memory, been done before). The Reagle puzzle would be one of those where a certain word can be found within larger phrases; generally this hidden word spans the end of one word and starts another which is a more satisfactory solving experience. (Those AHA moments we all crave.)

    Another common theme is to add or subtract a letter or letters from words in phrases; a recent Fireball crossword titled “Attaché Cases” added an é to the end of words (such as MONTREAL EXPOSÉ) which is a clever and unique example of this.

    I believe constructors such as Patrick Berry, Patrick Merrell and Brendan Emmett Quigley have published lists of theme categories (and in the last case, themes to avoid), perhaps others here have links to those for you to look at. I think as you do more puzzles you’ll become familiar with the tricks of the trade and pick up the wordplay as you solve. There are always those puzzles though, that even after completely solving, the theme eludes even the best of solvers, so you’re in good company!

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