Thursday, 2/18/10

NYT 4:17
LAT 3:49
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

I’m heading to New York for the ACPT Thursday morning! The usual Crossword Fiend suspects (Janie, Joon, Jeffrey, PuzzleGirl, Sam, and Evad) are all heading out of town this weekend too—all but one will be at the tournament—so you’re getting some fresh guest-blogging blood here. The clever Seth G will hold down the fort all by himself!

I’ll try to squeeze in a little ACPT blogging along the way this weekend, but can’t promise I will have the time. My goal, as usual, is to spend as little waking time as possible up in my hotel room. (And to finish all the puzzles fast and with no errors, of course.)

And now, abbreviated blogging! I haven’t started packing yet.

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 6We see ALT and ESC in crosswords all too often, clued as crossword keys. Caleb elevates crossword KEYS to their non-abbreviated, spelled-out splendor as the start of various colorful phrases: SHIFT GEARS, ESCAPE ARTIST, RETURN OF THE JEDI, CONTROL FREAK, and OPTION PLAY. Never heard of the football term OPTION PLAY, but those other theme entries? They rock.

It’s mildly distracting to have two themers stacked with non-theme 10s, but SENIORITIS is juicy and “Wait, DON’T TELL ME” is good too. And I love those two long Downs: PAT BENATAR with an ’80s MTV clue and the PG-THIRTEEN movie rating. The shorter fill tends to be undistinguished, mind you, but sometimes you make tradeoffs to get the juicier long fill.

Damon Gulczynski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 5Theme: Both halves of the starred clues can precede 42D: THE LINE. 22A: DOWN BELOW (down the line, below the line). 34A: OVERDRAW. 53A: CROSSWALK. 3D: TOEHOLD. The theme entries are flat, but I like the lively “___ the line” phrases that result. To accommodate the central 8, the grid width needed an even number of squares; it’s widened to 16×15.

There are some great 7-letter answers packed into the corners of the grid but overall I’m not crazy about the fill. The two RE- verbs, REHEEL and RECOLOR, are REgrettable. The MODELER beside the PAYER, across from a SMILER; crosswordese ARETE and TERN and ST. LO; abbreviations and prefixes.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Re-covered”

Region capture 9The theme entries take song titles and add an RE- prefix to make a “re-cover” song with a different slant than a straight-up cover song would have. For example, the Beatles song becomes “I’M SO RETIRED” for the AARP, and the [Blondie song recorded again for Toyota?] would be “RECALL ME.” Entertaining theme, no?

Fill highlights include SNOW FORTS, HARRUMPHS, “I LOVE L.A.,” LEARJET, and STRAP-ON.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pal Around”—Janie’s review

I love it. Yesterday we had palindromes; today we have “Pal Around.” That’s the cryptic way of telling us that letters p, a and l are at the first and last of (go “around”) the theme phrases. And the phrases? A “no two alike,” wide mix indeed that includes:

  • 17A. PASSED BALL [Miscue by the catcher]. This is a baseball term I’d never heard before. Live and learn.
  • 11D. PAPER TRAIL [White-collar crime evidence, perhaps]. Not, however, a SPOT [Collar ID]. The former is more like financial records and statements, the latter is more like this.
  • 30D. PAULA ABDUL [Former “American Idol” judge]. Have never seen more than five minutes of the show, but thanks to sources like SNL and even major newspapers, it’s hard not to have an inkling of who she is. If you need more info, check this out. Her family background is actually quite interesting.
  • 66A. PADDED CELL [Protective enclosure]. a/k/a “Rubber room.”

I’m particularly fond of some of the colorful and longer non-theme fill, with my faves being DEADHEAD [Jerry Garcia groupie], MUDPUPPY (fabulous word if more than kinda creepy lookin’ species!) [Large salamander], and DR. PEPPER [Beverage with a museum in Waco, Texas]. Seems there are lots of food museums in the U.S. Am only wondering how/why the SPAM Museum didn’t make the list… Also on my list of favorite fill: “GO HOME!” [Shout to a Yankee or a Yanqui] and ENMITY [Bad blood] (as in “Yanqui, go home!”).

Fave clue/fill combos today would have to include [Rice gatherer?] and ALUM (i.e., an alumnus of Rice University attending a class reunion); and [Mass communication?] and PRAYERS (so this is “mass” as in “church service”). We also get two clues asking for a [Symbol of resistance]. In one case it’s a FIST (political resistance), in the other it’s the OMEGA (electrical resistance). Finally, [Swear words] go into making an OATH; and [“Phooey!”] or “NERTS!” is about as mild as an oath gets.

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18 Responses to Thursday, 2/18/10

  1. miguel says:

    I think I may not have common cense…what about you? Started in the SE and got the theme early and flew through it. Only hesitation was thinking there might be a page up /page down rebus somewhere. Guess I can take a BREAK for the night.

  2. joon says:

    jan, care to fill us in on the results from westport? i notice that you have a whiteboard time for today’s puzzle… congrats!

  3. Red Dog says:

    Nice puzzle but there is a big, glaring mistake. There is no “OPTION” key on a PC keyboard, only on a Mac keyboard. And the clue clearly states, “PC.” I wonder if this puzzle was only vetted by the northeast elite types who use Macs. Someone should have caught this.

    Technically I suppose a Mac is a “personal computer” but in the vernacular PC really only refers to Windows machines as the term is actually a shorthand for the old “IBM PC”. All definitions of the OPTION key refer to Apple keyboards.

    The option play, btw, has a lot of variations but it usually starts w/ the quarterback running the ball while guarded by a fullback. As the QB reads the defense, he then has the option to lateral the ball to the fulllback, hand it off to a running back, or throw it.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Red Dog, I haven’t had an ALT key on my computer in nearly 20 years (I use Macs), and I’ve tolerated having that clued generically as [Computer key] or [Keyboard key]. It’s about time we had a little turnabout with OPTION!

    Mac keyboards also don’t have a key labeled CTRL: it’s control, the full word. And there’s no ENTER key—it’s return. And yet these appear in the NYT and other crosswords frequently with generic “computer” clues.

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    @joon – The Westport Library tounament was won by Peter Rimkus, with me in second, and Alice Dutton in third. We were in that same order going into the finals. It was thrilling/daunting to be doing Caleb’s puzzle on the whiteboard. I started out thinking I wasn’t going to get a toehold anywhere, and Peter and Alice seemed to be writing more than me at first. However, what was the worst I could do at that point – third? The library had lovely gift baskets for all three of us, so I settled in and things started to fall. We all finished cleanly, which was gratifying, and amazing, since the whole perspective of the whiteboard is unsettling (and so is knowing that if you take a step back to look at your work, you could fall off the stage).
    I ran into Will Shortz in January and told him that I was looking forward to Westport and was hoping he’d be there with the boards as my goal was to have that experience. (I may have also mentioned that I hoped last year’s winner had a previous commitment that weekend – sorry, joon – but by my being second, there would have been room for both of us in the finals anyway.) I got my wish of being at the boards, but I guess I should have set my aspirations higher!
    It was lots of fun, and we even got some local press coverage – thanks, Westport Library and Will Shortz!

  6. Red Dog says:

    Ann — yes, no problem Option if clued as a “computer” key. but if it’s clued as a PC key it’s just wrong.

    Just looked at my son’s Mac keyboard and was amused to see that 2 of the keys are actually double-labeled: Enter/Return, Alt/Option.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’ll bet that’s a third-party keyboard and not an Apple keyboard.

    Dictionary definitions hold sway in crosswordland. PC = a personal computer, not specifically Windowsesque, and Macs are personal computers, therefore the clue is acceptable. Plus, it has the added value of upsetting those who never use Macs and are seldom inconvenienced by the existence of other platforms!

  8. Lloyd says:

    I agree. No OPTION key on my PC.

    Good luck in Brooklyn! I will miss you all.


  9. joon says:

    thanks for the recap, jan. and nice work on your 2nd-place finish! i wanted to go back to defend, but it’s a long trip and since i’ll actually be at the ACPT this year, i was going to limit myself to one long crossword trip per february. last year, westport was my consolation prize for not being able to go to the big tournament. i was not expecting to win, but i’d never attended a crossword tournament in person so i didn’t really know what to expect.

    re: OPTION, i *knew* somebody was going to complain about that. (by the way, since when does “northeast elite” have anything to do with mac-vs-windows? does somebody have an axe to grind?)

    for what it’s worth, the standard keyboard that ships with the iMac has “alt” in tiny letters on the option key, and there is both a return key (on the qwerty part of the keyboard) and an enter key (on the numeric keypad). and pleasingly, all of the named keys are in lowercase.

  10. Red Dog says:

    Ann — After consulting a few dictionaries, I see your point. Thanks for the insight.

    BTW I enjoy your blog and check it every night. It’s the only place I can learn about all the non-NYT puzzles that I do, including the WSJ, Onion and Reagle. Your hard work and creativity are appreciated. Even by those of us who use PCs.

  11. Martin says:

    Who’s Ann?

  12. John Haber says:

    I’m with those who found the puzzle, in including RETURN for Enter and OPTION for Alt, made the clue just plain wrong. “Mac or PC?” is a standard question in discussions of what one uses.

  13. Alex says:

    I’m not usually one to complain about theme repetition, but this NYT theme was done under a year ago. That’s not Caleb’s fault — he probably submitted his before that one came out.

    Good luck at the tournament, everyone!

  14. Red Dog says:

    Alex — thanks for that link. Did you compare today’s Wordplay blog lead to the Wordlplay blog lead for that puzzle? They’re also identical! That is weak.

    Today: THURSDAY’S PUZZLE — I can imagine young Caleb Madison staring at his computer keyboard as he tries to come up with his next puzzle theme. Concentrate, concentrate … “Eureka!”

    May 5 2009: I’m going to guess Mr. Barnhart constructed today’s puzzle at a computer. I imagine him staring intently at his keyboard waiting for inspiration to hit when, all of a sudden, various keys started floating around before his eyes. Maybe he even shouted “Eureka” during that Archimedean moment when he knew he was onto something.

  15. Bill from NJ says:

    In the Tausig puzzle, it was a little disconcerting to have a music clue (Randy Newman) that didn’t include the RE prefix. Is that fair?

  16. Jim Horne says:

    Red Dog,

    You got me. I repeated a joke. As I said on another blog, I only plagiarize from the best.

    It wasn’t intentional. I suspect most plagiarism isn’t. If you write every day, it’s hard to remember. (Is it plagiarism if I steal from myself? I don’t recall giving myself permission…)

    Amy, have you ever repeated a comment on your blog?

    Oh, and besides that, have you ever repeated a comment on your blog?

  17. Brad says:

    Thanks very much for the blog, Amy. I finally got around to this one (I travel a lot and stuff back issues of the Herald Trib in my backpack for later fun). PG Thirteen was killing me, and I was dying to know who penned the quote about musical amateurs.

    By the bye, an option play (or sometimes “triple option”) is one where the quarterback rolls out to one side or another with another back running to the outside of the quarterback. The quarterback has the option of running the ball himself (cutting upfield), pitching to the other back (end around), or passing downfield.

    It’s very rarely run outside of college. In the pros, the defensive line and linebackers are too fast for it to work.

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