Monday, 2/22/10

NYT 3:15ish (my browser took naps)
LAT 2:28
CS tba
BEQ 7:16

Hello! What a wonderful weekend I had at the ACPT. Great friends, great puzzles: What more could you want?

Though my flight was canceled and the airline rebooked me on a 6 a.m. (!!) flight, I managed to get an earlier flight home. Is it time for the Monday NYT puzzle? It is? Oh. Talk amongst yourselves, please. I’m off to remedy a massive sleep debt and will return in the morning when I will be (I hope) a sentient being.

Tons of thanks to SethG for his bravura performance over the long weekend. (I owe you, pal.)
Updated Monday morning:

Steve Dobis’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 10Theme: The SOMETHING in the middle is part of the wedding accessory superstition/tradition that you need “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Four theme entries begin with OLD, NEW, BORROWED, and BLUE.

It’s solidly a Monday theme concept, but I question whether NEW CALEDONIA (20A: [Island east of Australia]) is remotely Monday puzzle material.


  • The corners with the 4×7 blocks of fill.
  • The five-part theme with the long pairs partially stacked in the grid.
  • The double duty pulled by the clue [Smart ___ (wise guy)], for both ALEC and ASS (1A and 39A).
  • The sequential [Sandwich spread(s)] clues at 14A and 15A for MAYO and OLEOS. Although: Do not ever give me a sandwich spread with OLEOS. I would sooner eat the ketchup sandwich of my childhood.

I probably should have been able to do this puzzle faster, but I awoke at 4:15 today and started drafting an ACPT recap post in my head. Couldn’t get back to sleep after that…and didn’t start writing, either. But I cleared out the weekend’s e-mail in-box, so I’m calling it a productive pre-dawn period.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Flight Formation”—Janie’s review

I’m wondering if Donna is a fan of do-it-yourself projects. Last month she deconstructed the make-up of books; today it’s a “flight”–of stairs. Each of the four theme phrases ends with a word that’s also associated with the staircases found in homes. In the puzzle, those component parts are derived from:

  • 20A. ROGER BANNISTER [Athlete who broke the four-minute mile]. He did so almost 56 years ago. I always thought that the stair part was a one-N banister, but it seems the two-N bannister is a legitimate variant. Regardless, either way, it’s another word for “hand rail” (and/or the supports).
  • 25A. SOFT LANDING [Pilot’s goal on approach]. Of course you want a well-supported one where your steps are concerned…
  • 44A. EARLY RISERS [They’re rarely night owls]. The risers are the vertical components of your steps.
  • 49A. WORN TIRE TREADS [Potential cause of vehicular hydroplaning]. Yikes. Never heard of hydroplaning before, but it sounds pretty scary. Seat belts, please; and sound tires (don’t forget to rotate ’em). Stairway treads are the horizontal parts–what you tread on…

There’s a good bit of lively longer fill that deserves mention, starting with one that works nicely with those early risers, namely GO-GETTERS [Eager beavers]. MAKES SENSE [Adds up], no? They may even start the day with FROOT LOOPS [Toucan Sam’s cereal of choice]. (Only wish we hadn’t just seen this fill and almost identical clue a little more than two weeks ago. For better or worse, fill this colorful stands out.) LOOSE ENDS are those [Things to tie up]. Which is probably something you wish I’d do with some of my random comments… Like…

  • Was surprised to see LENO clued as [NBC prime time comedian] as Jay’s foray there was decidedly brief.
  • If a [Fan’s buzz] is a WHIRR, you may have already OILED it [Tended to a squeak].
  • There’s a lovely assonant thing going on here, too, with DR.NO, SOHO, TOADS, “WHOA!,” BALBOA and SYRIANA.
  • And finally, thank you, Ogden Nash, for both the “one-L priest” (LAMA) and the “two-L beast” (LLAMA). In his words:

The one-L lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-L llama,
He’s a beast.
And I would bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
Three-L lllama.

Check out the link for Nash’s post-script.

(Amy adds: Donna Levin attended her first ACPT this weekend and I was delighted to meet her.)

Jennifer Nutt’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 11This one’s an excellent example of the Monday crossword form. The theme entries are clued straightforwardly and it’s not difficult to notice that these familiar terms all begin with words that are synonymous:

  • 21A. [Dangerously uncontrollable type] is a LOOSE CANNON.
  • 27A. [Weekly dress-down times] are CASUAL FRIDAYS. Anyone else see that episode of NBC’s The Office in which Meredith was wearing an inappropriately short tube dress? It inched down and revealed her boob, so she hitched it up…spurring Kelly to exclaim, “Dammit, Meredith, where are your panties?” “It’s casual day,” Meredith replies nonchalantly.
  • 48A. EASY LISTENING is a [Music genre heard in elevators]. My favorite grocery store pipes in early ’80s music and I love it. Very hard not to sing along—whereas easy listening is less sing-alongable.
  • 55A. RELAXED HAIR is clued as [Chemically treated tresses].

The rest of the fill is fairly routine Monday material, nothing too obscure or challenging. Not much in the way of sports terms or proper names—which probably also helps the beginning solver. The most unexpected answeris UNO CARD (9D: [It may direct you to skip, draw two, or reverse]). I don’t think it’s great fill—feels like a random [game] + [game piece] phrase—but most of us have probably played Uno enough to recognize the terms in the clue so it works for Monday.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 12Anyone ever call a Scottie, or Scottish terrier, an ABERDEEN TERRIER? That one wasn’t ringing a bell for me. (38A: [Fala, for one].)

Figured 1A would be a contemporary comedian, since Brendan uses them in his puzzles fairly often. W.C. FIELDS?!? I should’ve known that because the quote in the clue is too familiar to be someone touring now.

RHODESIA! The clue, [Its capital was Salisbury], had me pondering regions within England that may have called Salisbury a capital. D’oh! Needed lots of crossings here.

22A is SERTS, plural artist name clued with two of his works of art. Valid way to clue it, but I sure as hell wasn’t getting the answer based on the clue.

JAMES WOODS! Weird guy, but a good full-name crossword answer.

Was stumped by [1 preceder] and needed a few crossings. NOON! But of course.

[River that starts at the Vioménil]? I kinda figured that had to be a river in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Nope, it’s the SAONE of France. Who knew?

ERUCTATES, the $15 equivalent of [Belches]: always welcome in my puzzle.

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8 Responses to Monday, 2/22/10

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Very smooth NYT by Steve Dobis, with a theme I saw coming early on and still enjoyed. Lots of foreign parts here — the answer which didn’t leap to mind right away was the Persian tongue: I’ll remember next time, maybe. Favorite word: 44D, Original answer.

    The LAT by Jennifer Nutt (?) has a simple theme and my time was one of my fastest ever! That’s not a complaint — it’s very nicely done.

    For CS, Donna Levin’s “Flight Formation” is a tad more subtle than the others! I still had a fast time here, but had to look twice at theme answers. I also got a great kick out of the long downs.

    Hope Amy has a good sleep-in!

  2. amy swank says:

    i was a rookie at the acpt this year and had so much fun! i came in 468th out of the 644, but was so happy just to be there. really fun. i read your blog every day and love many of your comments….sorry i didn’t get to meet you at the tournament. all the best, amy (swank)

  3. Barry W says:

    I was delighted to meet up with old friends at the ACPT, including and all the other bloggers. In light of the remarkable competition this year, Amy should be proud of her 13th place finish.

  4. ePeterso2 says:

    NYT – Did you notice that the central black squares kinda implies a wedding band?

    ACPT – Amy S, I played at home online, and if I had been there in person my score would have tied me for 468th place. Freaky …

  5. joon says:

    woo-hoo, back to across lite for me. i had a blast at my first tournament, but i won’t feel the need to print out 40 puzzles a week and solve them on paper any more. koan: if the trees cheer in the forest and nobody is there to hear them, do they make a sound?

    four nice puzzles today. i also met donna over the weekend; i didn’t realize it was her first time there, because it was also mine. but it’s quite a fine puzzle. i didn’t realize banister could be spelled with two Ns; i had filed it away as banister=railing, bannister=miler. but there it is in the dictionary.

    BEQ threw me for a loop both with ABERDEEN instead of SCOTTISH and GENERAL instead of CHARLES. why must they all have the same number of letters? mistyping GORAN IVANISEVIC (my favorite tennis player ever!) didn’t help either in that middle section. cool grid though, with a minimum of weak fill. SERTS is probably the worst answer in the grid, and it’s not that bad.

  6. Ben Bass says:

    Joon, as my constructor buddy John Cunningham pointed out at the ACPT this weekend, GORAN IVANISEVIC is the longest well-known name with alternating consonants and vowels.

  7. Ellen says:

    In 1975, I interviewed for an actuarial training program at John Hancock in Boston (where I was in grad school). The actuary who took me around was Denis Loring. They offered me a job, but I wanted to get back to NYC and went to Equitable instead (and then to MetLife 4 years later, where I stayed for 17 years until leaving the field entirely).

    Flash forward to the 2010 ACPT wine and cheese reception, and there was Denis Loring. In a total coincidence, he’s Donna Levin’s husband! Turns out he moved to Equitable 2 years after I left, and we knew a ton of people in common. There are definitely a disproportionate number of actuaries in the puzzle world, including 6-time winner Doug Hoylman, new C champ Louis Lana, #1 Connecticut Jan O’Sullivan, and constructor David Kahn.

  8. John Price says:

    I wish they had a tournament only for Monday puzzles. My birthday present to myself was achieving my fastest time ever… and without any applet glitches this time!

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