Tuesday, 3/9/10

Jonesin’ 3:24
NYT 3:12
LAT 2:55
CS untimed

Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 12The grid’s more rectangular than usual—14×16 rather than 15×15. Four theme entries have 14 letters apiece, two have 6 letters, and all of them have clues that are heavily cross-referential:

  • 30A/35A. The DIVINE / COMEDY is clued as the [With 35-Across, source of 15-/23-Across] and [See 30-Across].
  • 52A. DANTE ALIGHIERI is the [Creator of 30-/35-Across].
  • 15A/23A. “ABANDON ALL HOPE / YE WHO ENTER HERE” is clued with [With 23-Across, famous “opening” line] and [See 15-Across].
  • 40A. The [15-/23-Across location] is THE GATES OF HELL.

Who loves cross-references? Let’s see a show of hands…anyone?

I like Dante, I do. I took a 5-week college class dedicated to The Divine Comedy, and the “circles of hell” concept is ageless. Good literary material for a Tuesday theme.

Have you seen the Dante’s Inferno video game? Entertainment Weekly ran it by Columbia University Dante scholar Teodolinda Barolini. She noted, “Of all the things that are troubling, the sexualization and infantilization of Beatrice are the worst. Beatrice is a human girl who is dead and is now an agent of the divine. She is not to be saved by him, she is saving him. That’s the whole point! Here, she has become the prototypical damsel in distress. She’s this kind of bizarrely corrupted Barbie doll.” People! Stay away from ill-advised video game adaptations of classic literature.

There’s some classic crosswordese in this puzzle. 36D: [Classic silver coin of ancient Greece] is OBOL. Haven’t seen that one lately.

I forget what else I had planned to write about because (a) I got distracted by the movie Hard Candy and (b) my browser crashed. So that’s all for tonight. See you in the morning, folks.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Periodic Table-Hopping”—Janie’s review

Wow. Thank you, Donna, for one very fresh approach to the “substitution theme.” I saw the title and immediately said, “Uh-oh–I’m gonna need to know the abbreviations for the chemical elements,” but no. Instead, Donna “hops” around the “periodic table” by engaging in some “weird science” so to speak.

Each of the four theme answers has the same basic clue, beginning with the words [Proton-enhanced…]. This doesn’t entirely shed light on where the fill is going–so once again it was helpful to fill in the Downs. I managed a real “aha!” though as Donna tied her experiment together at 60D with [Number of protons by which the elements in the four longest puzzle answers have been enhanced], and that’s ONE.

So–as I realized at the end of solving–Donna has taken four base phrases, each of which names a chemical element and added a proton to it to come up with the next element on the table–and substituted that element in the base phrase. That’s pretty fabulous in my book. See if you don’t agree as:

  • Silver bullet → CADMIUM BULLET. Close, but no cigar.
  • Iron maiden → COBALT MAIDEN. Ouch. Maybe cobalt is preferable…
  • Carbon copy → NITROGEN COPY
  • Gold digger → MERCURY DIGGER. Now this is a very funny concept when ya think about it.

Is that good or what? And with all those elements, we get bonus fill as well with NEON [Like many signs on the Vegas strip] and NA CL [Table salt, to a chemist] (or sodium chloride).

And the remainder of the puzzle is solid as well. NET GAIN [Tax return calculation) is the symmetrical opposite and (potentially) a financial opposite to a RAW DEAL [Short end of the stick]. STICKS BY [Remains loyal to] has as its grid-opposite the once-sexiest, highest-tech POLAROID [Snapshot that develops instantly]. PLAUSIBLE [Believable] is a word we don’t see in the puzzles everyday, so it’s nice to see it today. I’d say we hadn’t seen it ERE NOW [Heretofore, poetically], but that wouldn’t be entirely true (though it does look to be making its CS debut).

I think [Produces some litter?] for BREEDS is a tad stretchy—though the idea does amuse me. But is “litter” a non-count noun? I don’t think so. Unless this is “some” in the adjectival sense–as when Charlotte wove into her web “Some Pig” to describe Wilbur. [Detached] for ALOOF was far more successful as a “misdirect,” as it had me thinking of physical rather than emotional detachment.

Finally, two complementary clue/fill sets would be [Carnegie] MELLON [University], which is the alma mater of many of our best actors, and “A VIEW [from the Bridge” (Miller play)], one of our best plays and currently enjoying a highly acclaimed revival on Broadway (with some of our best actors); and AGRA [Indian tourist mecca] and YOGA [Ashram activity]. Lotta ashrams in India.

Mangesh Sakharam Ghogre’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 13Congratulations to a debut constructor are in order.

The sweet theme involves three spreads that may contribute to MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD:

  • 17A. STRAWBERRY JELLY is a [Sweet toast topper].
  • 29A. APPLE BUTTER is a [Fruity toast topper]. I don’t see the appeal of making a thick fruit spread and calling it “butter”…but I have no problem at all with peanut butter.
  • 50A. [“Schmeared” bagel topper] is CREAM CHEESE.

I like how JAM UP crosses JELLY at the J. The clue, 19D: [Copier problem], doesn’t do it for me, though. I want JAM UP to be clued as a verb; the noun is just a paper JAM.

Raise your hand if you did not know 2D: ARTA, [Greek city on its own gulf]. Is that even old crosswordese? Long-time solvers, help me out. This one doesn’t even look vaguely familiar to me. Did the word used to party with the PROA and ANOA, or was it never crosswordese?

CARICATURE is great fill. The clue’s 3D: [Politician in a political cartoon, e.g.]. Its grid partner TUMBLEWEED is also lively fill. That’s a 32D: [Windblown desert plant].

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Who Wants Crabs?”

Region capture 14This is not a theme about pubic lice, no. It’s about creating puns that include body parts of crustaceans:

  • 18A. SANTA CLAWS is a [Crabby holiday figure?]. There’s a Sandy Claws in A Nightmare Before Christmas. And then there’s Santa Claus, your base phrase here.
  • 33A. [Crabby protest song?] is “WE SHELL OVERCOME,” playing on “We Shall Overcome” but ending up making no sense grammatically.
  • 41A. Doberman pinschers become DOBERMAN PINCERS, or [Crabby dogs?].
  • 57A. Lex Luthor turns into LEGS LUTHOR, or [Crabby villain?]. This one feels like more of a stretch because there’s not much that’s crab-specific about LEGS. Many thousands of organisms have legs. Not so many have eyestalks but where the pun? VLADIVEYESTALK?

Favorite clues:

  • 8D. [Word before break or training] would be SPRING if there were six boxes to fill. But there are five: POTTY.
  • 52D. [Ferber and Krabappel, for two] clues EDNAS. No, a plural first name clue isn’t sought-after fill, but I like how Matt has put the cartoon Krabappel on a level with a novelist.
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11 Responses to Tuesday, 3/9/10

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    SMIFF! SMIFF and GHETTO [__ blaster], that’s what I wanted to write about.

  2. joon says:

    patrick merrell asked me to “guest-solve” this one over at wordplay, and i … sort of hijacked the blog. you know how i get carried away. but yeah, SMIFF. SMIFF?!?

    al, what happened? if you don’t mind my asking, that is.

  3. Al Sanders says:

    joon, I don’t know, I found this one really tough for a Tuesday. I made several wrong guesses to start with. Thinking the quote was “Abandon hope all ye…” didn’t help. Plus, I seem to get really derailed by cross-references (see ACPT, puzzle 5). But I had my first sub-3 Jonesin’ today, so the day wasn’t a total epic fail :-)!

  4. Jeffrey says:


    I’m with Al. Is this really Tuesday? FLO/TUBULE, ALIGHIERI, FOO, SMIFF, AENEID. OBOL????

    It shows how far I’ve come that I solved this perfectly, but I was shocked that I did.

    (Joon, The Capitals Work For You).

  5. Howard B says:

    Toughie, and cross-references are usually brutal, but I liked this one. Really. Except for SMIFF, which I can’t help visualizing as a discount-store Smurf with perhaps a missing tail or poor paint job. Three for a dollar!

  6. Jon S. says:

    Tough Tuesday. I was amused to see 19A, as my younger son happened to bring home from the library “Mail on Sunday” by said artist, who I’m told pronounces this FLO RIDE UH.

  7. Joe Burke says:

    NYT was definitely tough for a Tuesday.
    Also, that was about the hardest theme I’ve ever seen in a CS.

  8. Ladel says:

    Felt like Thurs, amazed I could finish since the topic is not in my wheel house, all praise to the constructor for a satisfying go.

  9. Zulema says:

    As Amy said, or hinted at, I am also never fond of cross-references, but I ignored them until I had ….ERI and a T somewhere back, then it was just fill in. In my wheelhouse definitely, and the theme worth the minus of cross-referencing. SMIFF?? … Well.

  10. Diana says:

    Totally loved Donna Levin’s puzzle for it’s thematic complexity, the way it works on more than one level.

  11. Jan (danjan) says:

    Me, too – the CS was my favorite today.

Comments are closed.