Wednesday, 2/24/10

Onion 4:27
BEQ 4:12
NYT 3:47
LAT 2:58
CS untimed

For blog posts and media coverage of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, scroll down on the ACPT 2010 page for a plethora of links. There’s also a list of the 60 participants who finished all seven puzzles with no errors. The usual suspects are on that list, but so are a bunch of people I don’t know. Keep your eye on those folks to be climbing the ranks next year.

Kenneth J. Berniker’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 17All right, this will be short because I am barely awake here. Cute theme! Four long answers (12 to 14 letters) are three-word homophone TRIPLES: there’s the showstopper KNICKS NIX NICKS ([Hoopsters turn down singer Stevie?]), along with LOSE LOU’S LOOS ([Misplace comic Costello’s privies?]), METE MEET MEAT ([Apportion hamburgers to track runners?]), and WRITE RIGHT RITE ([Compose the appropriate ceremony?]).

Favorite clues:

  • 38A. [Things on a table] are the chemical ELEMENTS on the periodic table.
  • 7D, 24A. [Filled fare] pulls double duty for RAVIOLI and TACO.

When I was in high school, BURNOUTS were the kids who went out for smokes during cookie break (yes, we had cookie break) and got stoned after school. Here, they’re clued as [Rat race casualties], but I personally wouldn’t say that someone who’s feeling burned out is a BURNOUT. I also would’ve avoided the word “rat” in the clue, since RATS (52A: [Candidates for witness protection programs]) appears in the grid.

I like the words VIVID and VIM in this puzzle, but feel like VIGOR is sitting home pouting about being left out.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Present-Day Needs”—Janie’s review

The hyphen between “present” and “day” is the tip-off. The “needs” in question don’t have to do with a better health-care system or a sound jobs-bill, but with requirements for gift-wrapping what might come to you on a birthday or anniversary or some other special occasion. And what’ll ya need? As the first words in the theme phrases tell us:

  • 20A. SCISSORS KICK [Swim meet maneuver]. Hmm. Seems to me I learned to do a scissors kick when I learned to do the side stroke. And doesn’t the trudgen crawl use one as well? Am just not certain why this has been clued with specific reference to a “swim meet”…
  • 35A. RIBBON CANDY [Wavy sweets]. Sweet.
  • 42A. BOW AND ARROW [Cupid’s accessories].
  • 59A. TAPE RECORDER [Device used in some interviews]. Somethin’ very last century about that one. I thought digital recorders were all the rage today…

No wrapping paper apparently, but sometimes less is more, and a beautiful bow trailing with ribbon is all it takes. (Or there’s furoshiki, which is the Japanese art gift-wrapping with cloth. This method is very environment-friendly.) Am glad to see that Patrick did manage, however, to sneak in a BOXER [Golden Gloves contestant]…

The four vertical sevens are especially good and manage to all tie together. A NEW AGER is not only a [Yanni fan, most likely], but someone who may describe him-/herself as PSYCHIC [Sensitive to the supernatural]. Today’s psychics are related to yesterday’s ORACLES who […speak for the deities]. And how does MENOTTI [“Amahl and the Night Visitors” composer] fit into the mix? Let’s not forget that he also composed a little piece called “The Medium.” While this is a short opera, it’s not a piece about clothing size…

The [Element in many pub signs] is not the word OPEN, but the chemical element NEON. Something you may order at the pub? Well–there’s PABST [Coor’s competitor]. Or maybe that’s something you’d rather order at a BAR [Frequent karaoke setting].

There’s a nice pairing, too, in DINKY [Small, slangily] and the consonant TONKA [Big name in small trucks]. And as we near the end of the games in Vancouver, you know by now that a MEDAL is (just about) every [Olympian’s goal].

Since we just saw oiled two days ago clued as [Tended to a squeak], I appreciated the playful cluing for today’s OILING, [Seeking to squelch a squeak].

Oh–and I nearly forgot to mention that if the “present-day” in question is a natal day, then how apt to clue ICER as [“Happy Birthday” writer, perhaps].

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 16(Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)

THEME: “Hardware Party”—Four answers begin with FASTENers used in non-hardware contexts

Theme entries:

  • 17A: [*Stable storage enclosure] (TACK ROOM). It wasn’t until the crossings gave me this answer that I realized “stable” was the noun (a horse barn) and not an adjective.
  • 61A: [*Benjamin Button portrayer] (BRAD PITT). That’s an attractive human being there.
  • 10D: [*Wacko] (SCREWBALL). Remember those ice-cream truck Screwballs, the paper cone of sherbet with a gumball in the bottom? Oh, how I loved those as a kid. As a mom? Turns out Screwballs taste nasty.
  • 34D: [*Game that goes down to the wire] (NAIL-BITER). Now, that’s a terrific entry clued that way. It’s less appealing if clued as [Cuticle gnawer], no?
  • 60A: [Attach, perhaps with hardware that begins the answers to starred clues] (FASTEN).

This one is roughly par for the Wednesday-level difficulty course, or maybe a notch easier.

What all is in this puzzle? This:

  • 29A. [Letter-shaped hardware] (U-BOLT). What the hell? You’re hardware. You can probably help FASTEN things. What are you doing loafing in this puzzle? Get to work and find a way to support the theme. (Vague theme idea: a group of famous people whose names are bracketed by hardware. USAIN BOLT! I might try to come up with more, but I’m really not a fan of that sort of theme so why perpetrate another one on the world?
  • 33A. [Chinese currency] (YUAN). When I see people talking about prices of things in China, they use RMB, not yuan. Apparently the Chinese yuan and renminbi, or RMB, are basically the same thing.
  • In case you always wondered how to spell a 43A. [Laugh from a Stooge], it’s NYUK.
  • 56A. [Mötley Crüe’s two] (UMLAUTS). No, those words are not German. Did you try to squeeze NIKKI SIXX AND VINCE NEIL into seven squares?
  • 6D. [Cobbler’s concern] (SHOE). Do you have trouble with your peach cobbler? Does the crust take on the consistency of shoe leather?
  • 39D. [Sudden-braking result] (SKID MARK). Heh. Anyone else snickering here?
  • 59D. [Train sched. list] (STNS). STA. is a much more common abbreviation for “station” than STN., and then we’re getting it pluralized here? Meh.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 18This isn’t a theme you’d see in the daily newspaper, but it’s a beautiful piece of crossword work. Three phrases have STDS infecting them, creating new phrases that are clued to reflect the new meaning. The theme includes three 15s, two of which are completed by a 4 or 6, and the symmetrical partners of that 4 and 6 are also thematic. I’m not sure if the pre-sex I LOVE YOU and LET’S DO IT are explicitly part of the theme; if so, the theme square count bumps from 65 to a formidable 81. Here’s how it lays:

  • 1A. TESTED means [Challenged, or what the theme entries in this puzzle should be]. The phrases are clearly infected and in need of STD testing.
  • 20A/27A. BATHER PESTERING / RAMS is [one in a swimsuit hassling St. Louis footballers?]. How did Francis think of inserting herpes into a battering ram?
  • 36A. Add some crabs to “revolution” and go crazy with word breaks and you get RE: VCR ABSOLUTION, or [Subject line of a papal memo about forgiving devices that record porn?].
  • 43A. STDS are [“Infections” inside this puzzle’s theme entries].
  • 53A/65A. [Place of worship for wimps who don’t appreciate art?] is the SISSY PHILISTINE / CHAPEL. That’s the best theme entry I’ve seen in ages! Brilliant wordplay here, provided the inclusion of an STD doesn’t squick you out too much to appreciate it.

The fill felt a little heavy on multi-word entries like WAY IN, IN ONE, X’D IN, and IS TOO, but something like SISSY PHILISTINE CHAPEL buys a lot of blogger goodwill.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “I’m So Happy”

Region capture 19The theme is words and phrases that complete the “I’m as happy as a/the ___” line. I haven’t heard of all of them. As a LARK? Yes. As the DAY IS LONG? No. As a DOG WITH TWO TAILS? No. As a PIG IN SHIT? Absolutely yes. As a CLAM? Oh, yes.

Beyond the theme, we have another appearance of YEAN ([Give birth to sheep], literally and not metaphorically), which has been in at least one of the BEQ blog puzzles even though it’s quite uncommon in the newspaper puzzles. Didn’t care for ACIDY, clued as [Sharp]; it’s a valid word, but not too common, and I wanted ACUTE (but was glad that at least it wasn’t ACERB). Can something be MOOTER than another? Not sure I’ve seen this comparative before.

I did like COTOPAXI even if I needed plenty of crossings to extricate the word from my head. That’s the [Active Ecuadorean volcano whose name means “smooth neck of the moon”]. Uh, hello, Ecuadoreans: The moon does not have a neck.

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19 Responses to Wednesday, 2/24/10

  1. Tom says:

    I did not like 46 across, which varied from the other theme clues. Hoopsters (Knicks) turn down (nix) singer Stevie (Nicks). Same pattern on 26 and 56 across. But 46 was out of order: Apportion (mete) hamburgers (meat) to track runners (meet)… wrong.

    Ok, I am picky picky picky. Otherwise, loved it.

  2. Jim says:

    Does anyone know if something happened to the Daily Beast puzzle? Amy, I noticed that it is off your list of puzzles of the day.


  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Tom, is that why I entered MEAT and MEET in the wrong order? I thought it was just that I was tired and misreading the clue.

    Jim, sad puzzle news: The Daily Beast canceled the puzzle last week because it wasn’t getting the traffic they wanted. I kinda think they’re not getting the traffic they want anywhere—I encounter Huffington Post and Salon links all the time, but nobody ever directs me to Daily Beast pieces.

  4. Nina says:

    Hey, I was peeved at the Meat Meet thing too. You’re not alone!
    Too bad, because for once I grasped the theme immediately and was able to fill in the long answers right away, giving lots of useful crosses for remainder of puzzle.

  5. sps says:

    Put me on the Meat Meet bandwagon. I also didn’t love “bust a rib” inst of the more obvious and more common “bust a gut”. Who says that they busted a rib laughing? Me no buy it. But, overall, it was a fun puzzle.

  6. davidH says:

    I had a slight problem with the nuance of “Rats” going into witness protection. Don’t know why – maybe because witnesses are good people and rats are bad, though I guess I get it OK. Did anyone do the Onion puzzle? I wanted to take a shower after.

  7. janie says:

    ditto MEET MEAT; ditto bust A RIB. and while i can’t visualize anyone (not even lou costello…) loosing a loo, i really do like this kind of wordplay in the puzzle — so enjoyed the solve a lot!


  8. Francis says:

    Hey, glad you liked it. 18- and 58-Across weren’t exactly pre-planned parts of the theme, but I sort of incorporated them as volunteers. This puzzle was inspired by Matt Jones’s STD puzzle of a few months back; I knew that theme, broadly speaking, in advance, and guessed wrongly about the likely implementation — so then I figured I should probably go ahead and try writing the alternative idea I came up with. Wasn’t entirely sold on it until coming up with 53-/65-Across, though. Unused theme entry (probably just as well): [Japanese food delivery vehicle that’s always late?] = LAZY SUSHI VAN.

  9. Martin says:

    Can’t delete, I guess.

    No, but the woman behind the curtain can!

  10. Arnold Edelman says:

    It’s bust a gut, period. Try saying bust a rib in the five boroughs of NYC and you will be sent out on a rail, at a minimum. Also, a bit too easy for a Wed.

  11. janie says:

    believe me — it doesn’t work fer me either (see my previous comment…), and while the google support is hardly decisive, there are lots of examples combining “bust a rib” & laugh…



  12. Martin says:

    “Bust a gut” can mean laugh heartily, like “bust a rib,” but is also used for “go all out in order to accomplish something.” In my experience, “bust a gut” is more often used in this latter sense, but that could be regional.

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Congrats to all the tournament participants. Does anyone know if there is any way of getting copies of the tournament puzzles? I neglected to sign up for home solving, or anything of the sort.


  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, it’s never too late to order the puzzles for the “solve by mail” option, and in fact I don’t think they’re even starting to send out the hard copies until Friday. $20 gets you all of the puzzles (they were particularly enjoyable this year, maybe a little easier than usual with the exception of the A/B finals), and you can return your papers for scoring. Go here for the order form.

  15. Jim Finder says:

    I enjoyed the AV Club puzzle. I’m not sure about 32D, how something that can be tapped is an ASS. That’s not a pretty image. Can anyone explain?

  16. Evad says:

    With the Onion, I always go first to the Urban Dictionary if I’m struggling with my epic un-hipness. It didn’t disappoint.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Don’t tap it like a beer keg, and certainly don’t raise a glass and say “Bottoms up!”

  18. *David* says:

    People haven’t heard of tap some ASS?? My I must’ve heard that one over ten years ago, there are some movements that typically go along with saying it, for another time. I was waiting for the doctor when I did this puzzle, very apropos. I ALMOST showed the doctor the solutions but thought better of it. Great theme and execution.

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