Friday, 3/12/10

NYT 6:07 (joon—across lite)/6:28 (Amy—applet)
BEQ 4:54
LAT 3:43
CHE 3:21
CS untimed

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

i don’t recognize this constructor’s name. it looks like at least a NYT debut and quite possibly a cruciverbal debut. so congratulations to tim croce. oh, and before i get any further, i’m obviously not amy. she’s still under the weather and asked me to pinch-blog. get well soon, amy!

i liked this puzzle quite a bit, with the exception of one little area. first, the highlights from the fill:

  • {Fans sporting a footwear logo} are RED SOX NATION. sneaky clue! yes, the logo has footwear (red socks, if you can believe it). no, it’s not a logo for a footwear company. anyway, this is a great answer, although i’m not a member. i used to be a member of athletics nation, but it’s fairly accurate to say that crosswords have replaced baseball as an all-consuming obsession for me in the last two years. my wife (a lifelong bostonian) is a member, though.
  • {Its letters may be bolted down} … some sort of storefront sign? nope, ALPHABET SOUP. again, great answer, great clue.
  • {One starting easily?} is a SCAREDY CAT, who may start (frighten) at the slightest provocation. my first NYT themeless had the answer SCAREDY, which is more or less a 7-letter partial. such things are allowed as long as they’re only a single word. but the full phrase is terrific.
  • {Something passed without hesitation} is not bipartisan legislation but a HOT POTATO. great, lively phrase.

things i didn’t know:

  • {Country singer Akins} is RHETT. why did i want this to start with T? maybe there are other country singers who start with T that show up in crosswords? anyway, i have no idea who this is.
  • up on your dutch? i’m not. {Verenigde ___ (America, in Amsterdam)} is a long way to go for STATEN. i guess it probably means “states.” much tougher than cluing STATEN island, i guess.
  • {Fighter in old strips} is JOE PALOOKA. which comic is this from? apparently he had his own. well, never heard of it. i cost myself some time by trying JOE BAZOOKA (which is only two letters off), even though i really do know that it’s BAZOOKA JOE. didn’t john farmer, of “yesterday’s puzzle” fame, put BAZOOKA JOE in a themeless last year? that was cool, although i felt a little bad for mike nothnagel, whose NYT themeless that also included BAZOOKA JOE came out only weeks later.
  • {“The Vengeance of ___” (1968 film sequel)} is… SHE? could somebody tell these people about subject and object pronouns?

tough clues:

  • {Heroine of Exmoor} is lorna DOONE. would have been much easier with “lorna” in the clue, no? this was my entry point into the grid.
  • {Moral obligation} = OUGHT? huh? this is a noun?
  • {Schwalm-___ (German district)} is EDER. dammit, it was literally only today that i looked up the EDER clues in the database and noticed that when it was the river (and not linda or richard), the clue always contained “fulda” or “hesse.” well, not any more.
  • a {Hoax} is a MARE’S NEST? i learned this expression from crosswords, and i thought it meant a muddled situation. apparently this odd metaphor is so appealing that it has a second meaning (!?), which my dictionary gives as “an illusory discovery.” wow.

other clues i liked:

  • {Their points are made bluntly} is a nice fresh clue for ÉPÉES. this was my second answer in the grid. i thought i was doing well for a while, but i got hung up soon after escaping the NW corner.
  • {Metropolitan hangover?} is SMOG. i was definitely thinking about alcoholic beverages, not cities. since i don’t know anything about mixed drinks, i thought maybe this was going to be LIME or something that hangs over the rim of a cocktail glass.
  • {He introduced the symbol “e” for natural logs} is the narcissistic swiss mathematician leonhard EULER. okay, i only liked this because i knew it.
  • {One suspended for a game} is a PIÑATA. now that is a fine, fine clue. are the spanish purists going to come out and complain that the crossing N (ENURE, ugh, although at least the clue contained “var.” as it should) wasn’t another Ñ? or do they save their spleen for AÑO?
  • {“East of Eden” son} is CAL in three letters, CALEB in five, but ARON in four. (the king is dead!) and i haven’t seen the movie, so i don’t know which one was portrayed by james dean. i’m guessing cal, since he’s the interesting one. speaking of east of eden and sons, my own son is (partly) named for a character from that book! that’s why i liked this clue.
  • {Chain link?} for STORE? i feel like i’ve seen it. but that’s not saying much. still fun.
  • {Rum, to some} is a RHYME. no matter how many times i see clues like this, they always get me. at least it wasn’t a foreign word for an alcoholic drink.
  • {Something to get caught on} is TAPE. i literally only just realized that this means “recorded,” as opposed to getting enmeshed in big old rolls of adhesive… which is exactly what all the kids at my son’s daycare were doing yesterday afternoon.
  • {Wedding ring?} is the HORA, a circle dance. very good.

and the part i didn’t like: the central california area (everything north of STATEN and west of RHETT), containing these less-than-lovely entries:

  • {Attachment used with care?} is the suffix -FUL, as in careful. a bad entry nearly rescued by a heroically great clue, but it’s still a bad entry.
  • {___ before} is the only partial in the grid, ON OR.
  • {Cry of anticipation} is… “OH-OH”? “OH, OH!”? i don’t get it. what’s so anticipatory about OH OH?
  • {Pays}, as a bill, clues FOOTS. i guess this is a legitimate verb, but man, it looks weird.
  • {Show respect, in a way} clues the pièce de résistance of my unfavorite corner, UNHAT. i do not like this word. it’s not in MW11C. it’s not in my oxford new american. it’s not in my hardbound unabridged (which is based on RHUD2, i’m told). it is in the OED, but hasn’t been attested since the 19th century. i did not like it. it also looks like it should mean “knock someone’s hat off” or even “knock someone off a hat,” like UNHORSE.

anyway, i had few gripes about this puzzle but they happened to all pile up in one little area. overall this was a highly enjoyable solve. i HAD A BLAST (6a, {Partied hearty}).

amy, or somebody else, will be back in the morning with the other puzzles. except for the WSJ (jeffrey’s solo gig).

Updated Friday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Monster Movies”—Janie’s review

First of all: feel much better soon, Amy!

Now–it’s been a while since we’ve had a weekday Johnston opus and it’s always a treat to see his byline. Especially when the result is a humorous, wordplay-based theme like this one. We get a triple-feature of “monster movies” today, each one a punny take on a popular movie title. The pun always occurs in the first word and each one is also a synonym for a particular kind of eerie creature. I wouldn’t bank on Netflix or your local library to carry these titles… Still, if you have a hankering for movies in which to “see dead people” (or those who feed on ’em…)–and with Halloween still seven and a half long months away–there’s no time like the present for gettin’ in the “spirit” with:

  • 20A. SPECTER GADGET [Matthew Broderick monster movie?]. a/k/a Inspector Gadget. Unfortunately, this sounds like a “must-miss” movie. Even for the young crowd for whom it’s intended. Or maybe especially for them…
  • 37A. WRAITH UNTIL DARK [Audrey Hepburn monster movie?]. Or Wait Until Dark. Thing is, this is one scarifying movie as is, the story of a blind woman and the killer who terrorizes her in her own apartment.
  • 54A. GHOUL HAND LUKE [Paul Newman monster movie?]. Which you know better as Cool Hand Luke.

And yes, another day with a mini-theme–one that relates to the main one on the “cel”lular level. Cartoon [Stimpy’s TV pal] is REN (Stimpy appeared this past Monday clued as “Ren’s cartoon companion”—so it pays to take heed); [Wile E. Coyote’s supplier] is ACME, of course; SHREK was no real monster, but was the unconventional hero and [Green character voiced by Mike Myers]; [Some animation artists] are INKERS; and [Daisy] MAE [Yokum] was drawn and “inked” by Al Capp for the “Li’l Abner” comic strip.

Fave clue today? [Hunk of history] for ERA–so this “hunk” is a period of time and not, say, in Biblical history, SAMSON or GOLIATH… I also liked the literal yet still playful [Yesterday’s beginning and end?] for WYES; and the scenario prompted by “LIAR!” clued as [Courtroom outburst]. [Acknowledges wordlessly, in a way] for NODS AT pairs up nicely with SAYS “OK” [Gives the go-ahead].

AWAY GAME, CHECK UP ON, WOOD GRAIN, FRITTATA, KACHINA and ETERNAL comprise the longer (non-theme) fill, and all pull their weight toward creating a vocabulary-rich and lively solve.

Amy here. Ah, what’s more refreshing than 10 hours of sleep? I fell asleep earlier than my 9-year-old son did. Thanks, Joon, for blogging the NYT puzzle while I was out.

Brendan Quigley’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 3This 74-worder almost makes the word-count cutoff for a themeless puzzle. Brendan includes just three theme entries, which leaves room for two triple-stacks of 9-letter answers and a lively pair of 11s. If you have ever said “Theme, schmeme!,” this add-SCH theme’s for you:

  • 19A. You know that horrible comic, “The Lockhorns”? “Lockhorns,” SCHLOCK HORNS, I say. That answer is clued as [Low-quality trumpets and trombones?].
  • 35A. [“How many fools do we have here?”?] clues “ONE SCHLUMP OR TWO?” The only place I’ve ever seen lumps of sugar (not cubes) was in a castle in England.
  • 50A. [Grades in standup comedy class?] could be SCHTICK MARKS. Tick marks are check marks, particularly in England. So there’s a melded British/Yiddish vibe to this theme. I’ll even impute Britishness to “The Lockhorns” because its dismal view of marriage is similar to that of “Andy Capp,” a British comic strip.

Clues and answers of note:

  • 61A. RAT’S NEST is seedier than a MARE’S NEST, isn’t it? Clued as [Messy places].
  • 18A. CARROT-TOP is clued with a famous redhead comedian…but not the horrifyingly beefy Carrot Top. [Lucille Ball was one, slangily].
  • The 11s are NACHO CHEESE and [“The Radiant Baby” pop artist] KEITH HARING.
  • 14D. TSP., or a teaspoon, is [1/48 cup: abbr.]. Three teaspoons make a tablespoon, and I recently saw TBSP clued as 1/16 of a cup. So a tablespoon’s a half ounce then, isn’t it?
  • 20D. A CONCH is a [Large sea snail]. We have a couple smaller snails in our aquarium. The kid and I watched one of them travel across the tank at top snail speed this morning.
  • 25D. STROH’S is a [Brand owned by Pabst].

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Tough Economic Times”

Region capture 4Patrick playfully reinterprets terms relating to tough economic times:

  • 16A. [Because of tough economic times, the literary character was __] IN CHAPTER ELEVEN. Chapter 11 of a book, Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • 24A. [The blow-up doll was having trouble with __] INFLATION. I’d have gone with a balloon artist, personally. Blow-up dolls have such unsavory connotations.
  • 29A. [The teacher’s paddle had clearly __] HIT BOTTOM.
  • 45A. [The hairline was showing the effects of __] RECESSION.
  • 49A. [The cotton shirt in the washer got __] DOWN-SIZED. Doesn’t most shrinking happen in the dryer?
  • 59A. Saving the best for last: [The snowman was facing a __] LIQUIDITY CRISIS. I love this one.

Brendan Emmett Quigley and Caleb Madison’s blog crossword, “Enter the 76-Worder”

Region capture 5Brendan and Caleb teamed up to pay tribute to the WU-TANG CLAN, embedding the members’ names within the theme entries:

  • 17A. NORA EPHRON embeds RAE. I had to look this one up—that’s short for Raekwon.
  • 27A. TARZAN OF THE APES has RZA. I don’t follow rap, but I loved RZA and GZA with Bill Murray in Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes.
  • 31A. METH, short for Method Man, is in SOMETHING.
  • 40A. Now, that’s a find, isn’t it? How many other words/phrases besides BUG ZAPPER contain GZA? points me to ZIG-ZAG, which is a little short to be a theme entry.
  • 46A. ODB, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, had my favorite rap name of all time. His name is inside GOODBYE, COLUMBUS.

I like the theme, but there were a bunch of little things in the fill’s clues that bugged me:

  • 6A. SSRS are clued as [Former Eur. union members]. When was this, exactly? When they were SSRs, they were part of the Soviet Union, which is only partly in Europe. [Some Eur. union members, formerly] would work better, no?
  • 7D. [Line of dialogue?] clues a SERIF. But a serif is a line on a letter. I don’t know that “dialogue” can stand in for “letter” here.
  • 9D. [Invoice ID: Abbr.] clues SSN. Ideally, your SSN is not included on an invoice so it’s harder for an identity thief to snag that information.
  • 37D. TAE-BO is clued as a [Martial art whose name is a Korean-English portmanteau]. Since when is tae-bo considered a martial art rather than a trademarked exercise program?
  • 50D. ORANG is clued as [Monkey’s uncle?]. What makes an orangutan a “monkey’s uncle”? Orangutans are apes (as are gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans), and monkeys are not apes. Monkeys and apes are on separate branches of the primate evolution tree.

Favorite clues:

  • 1D. [“STFU!”] means “CAN IT!”
  • 11D. “GOOD POINT” is a great entry. It’s clued with [“That makes sense”].
  • 52D. Omigod, can it be? A new clue for URALS? [Range also known as the Great Stone Belt] doesn’t ring a bell.
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6 Responses to Friday, 3/12/10

  1. Tadd Dameron says:

    “Teeth is to Hen as Nest is to ?”
    (from a Ron Hoeflin IQ test cited in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers)

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, well done, Joon. I clicked the timer off part way through to get something to drink and forgot to turn it on again, but I guess that helped. I immediately saw ALPHABET SOUP and was able to finish the last bit in the NW in practically no time from there.

    I didn’t know this RHETT either, and was held up a short while earlier wanting Atra for TRAC. I did remember JOE PALOOKA, so your California was easier for me, plus we just had unlovely UNHAT in another puzzle recently, so I just shrugged it off here.

    Oh yes, I thought 38D “Rum, to some” was going to be FISHY and really liked my answer, too bad it was just a RHYME which I solved by going upward from EULER. Bug was great for GLITCH, as were many of the misdirecting clues, but my favorite was the PINATA.

    If some action can be a “must” or a “no-no”, I suppose an obligation can be an “ought” — but that combo was the longest stretch to me!

  3. Gareth says:

    Mostly easy Friday, very flashy (but that seems par for the course these days!) Found top-right (couldn’t work out all 3 of those long acrosses without lots of help!) and to some extent bottom-left a bit tough.

    I tried REDSKINATION, then realised the N was doing double duty… American sports!

    Did love ALPHABETSOUP’s clue, and PINATA’s. STATEN was easy enough to work out for me, as I know Afrikaans (which would be Verenigde STATE and that Dutch plurals end in “n”)

    And yes: UNHAT = uffle!

  4. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Loved the altered titles in the CS — I started in the South and got a giggle at GHOUL HAND LUKE! Amusing to find that BEQ had similar theme gimmick in his LAT today…

  5. John Haber says:

    UNHAT and OHOH didn’t do much for me either, especially crossed with RHETT, but “foots the bill” for “pays” sounds fine to me, and clue for the crossing TAKES X-RAYS is great. I had EULER as a gimme, too. Funny thing is that I no longer remember my high-school math, so I have no idea how natural logs were introduced and motivated but use them in calculus easily. Never heard of SHE either.

  6. Quentinc says:

    As usual, I’m a day late, but thanks for the great guest-blog Joon. MARESNEST made no sense to me, but after Googling I found a “that should have been obvious” explanation:

    “The logical explanation is that “mare’s nest” describes a discovery that turns out to be illusory because mares don’t make nests at all. The Oxford English Dictionary says “horse’s nest” is recorded earlier (1583) than “mare’s nest.””

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