Wednesday, 3/24/10

BEQ 4:35
Onion 4:03
NYT 3:30
LAT 3:12
CS untimed

Peter A. Collins’ New York Times crossword

Region capture 15I came to the puzzle on the late side and was just tired enough to pay no attention to the circled squares until a few minutes after I finished the puzzle. Oh! It’s the GATEWAY ARCH, spelled out in an aptly arched pattern. The Arch is found in ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, the subject of today’s theme. Yes, the clue for 40A reads [City with a landmark spelled out in the circled letters, reading from left to right], but I had a bunch of the letters, figured that was the answer, and merely glanced at the clue to see if it worked. (This approach, by the way, was mentioned by Dan Feyer a couple weeks ago at the NYT’s Wordplay blog; thanks to Howard Barkin for bringing it to my attention. Dan doesn’t just solve the clues cold; he solves the answers in the grid, narrowing down the possibilities based on the crossings that are filled in, and sees if the clues confirm his guess. If you think you never approach the puzzle that way, be conscious of it the next time you do a crossword and see if you do. And if you really don’t do it, give it a try. When you have half the letters in an answer, work on figuring out the likely answer before looking at the clue.)

The rest of the St. Louis theme involves their football baseball team, the CARDINALS; Anheuser-Busch’s BUDWEISER product, RIVERBOATS on the Mississippi, and the WORLD’S FAIR that was held there way back in 1904. Is there still a World’s Fair every few years, or has that fallen by the wayside? I don’t think of St. Louis when I think of the World’s Fair, personally; maybe New York, somewhere in Tennessee, and Spokane? Perhaps the Epcot Center has sated the American people’s desire for such events.

While I was solving, some of the fill seemed a little “eh…,” not the usual approachable level of Wednesday fill. The presence of the GATEWAY ARCH aspect explains the inclusion of these:

  • 35D. [Adriatic Riviera city], RIMINI. What’s Bimini? Why do we need to also have Rimini? Isn’t Leah Remini enough?
  • 9D. AYER is a Spanish word, [Yesterday, in the Yucatan].
  • 63A. The old standard ETUI is here. It’s a [Needle holder] that can hold other sewing notions as well.
  • 43A. [Former Wall St. letters] NASD STYMIEd ([Thoroughly frustrate]) some solvers in another recent puzzle. NASD merged with an NYSE unit and became FINRA, apparently, and this all has to do with regulation of the financial markets or something.
  • 30D. Partial AS SIN (not ASS IN! That is not part of “The Hokey Pokey”) is clued with [Words after ugly or guilty].
  • 7A. ALAI is often [Jai __] but here it’s [Asia’s Trans __ Range].
  • 45A. Roman numeral DCX is an [Early seventh-century year]. I’m not a big fan of the vague “early” Roman numeral clues.

The cross-referencing of the theme clues spilled over into 67A: CAST linking to 14A: SHADOW, 65D: BUM to 70A: KNEE, and 5D: POE and other 12D: POETS. Too much!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “MT Nest”—Janie’s review

“Nest”led between the two words of today’s theme phrases (or compounds) are the letters M (the last letter of the first word) and T (the first letter of the second). This “MT Nest” is anything but vacant, however. Rather it contains some fresh fill of the surprising variety and some cagey cluing as well. The theme fill first:

  • 17A. BOOMTOWN [Community that grew quickly]. This Wiki article has a list of some salient examples. San Francisco is one, springing to life as a result of the California gold rush. It’s still thriving today. Flint, MI, on the other hand–which grew up with the automotive industry and suffered as it collapsed–is looking for a re-birth. Just ask Michael Moore…
  • 25A. WISDOM TEETH [They may be pulled]. Ouch. They usually come in (and out…) in late adolescence or early adulthood, when–if the lore is to be believed–we’re wiser…
  • 40A. ROOM TEMPERATURE [Certain ambient reading]. Saith Wiki in regard to the word “ambient” in this context: “Room temperature implies a temperature inside a building. Ambient temperature simply means ‘the temperature of the surroundings’ and will be the same as room temperature indoors. In many languages, such as Spanish, there is an expression for ambient temperature, but no distinct translation for room temperature.” A little dry, but not uninteresting. And the fill spans the grid.
  • 50A. VACUUM TUBES [Old radio parts]. Now this is the one I initially thought of as dry, but that “UUMTU” is pretty terrific in the grid. And the reminder of technology of an earlier period–and how far it’s come–is never unwelcome. Vacuum tubes! They’re still made and used in contemporary appliances–just not so much in radios or TVs these days…
  • 64A. TOM THUMB [Charles Sherwood Stratton, familiarly]. In addition to being a Barnum draw and protégé, he was a distant cousin of the man. EMMETT is [Clown Kelly], and for many years his hobo-based character, Weary Willie, was a draw for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. (The recently deceased He Pingping, btw, was a mere 2′ 5.37″, some six inches shorter than Stratton.)

Yes, we see ENYA again today (she was here yesterday…), though we get another tidbit about her: [Singer heard in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie]; and TRA [Syllable heard in many a madrigal] is the cut down version of yesterdays TRA-LA…

But more tellingly, we get both YOGA CLASS [Place to strike a pose?] and BURLESQUE [Gypsy Rose Lee’s milieu] (she struck some poses, too!). That’s just fabulous fill of the freshest sort. I had much the same response to seeing the word ARGOT [Specialized lingo]. And yes, the ABBIE/[Radical Hoffman] combo got me all nostalgic for the ’60s…

[July 4, 1976, e.g.] mystified me as a clue for DATE. It feels both too specific and too arbitrary. I only point it out because there are some flat out brain-twisty clues that work far more successfully. [Depressing org.?]? Why, that’s the AMA since doctors will look down your throat by using a tongue depressor… [Groan]. We get a pair of [Ballpark fig.] clues. One leads to ERA (a pitching stat–Earned Run Average), the other to EST, which is an abbreviation of the word “estimate.” Saving the best for last: [Rice sucker]. Wha? Isn’t a LEECH a sucker? Yes. But today it’s clued metaphorically and in its verb form [Mooch]. Aha. Anne Rice and the Vampire LESTAT. HOF.

Peter Abide’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 14Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential write-up.)

THEME: “That Tune Is Named”—Three songs with “[possessive name] + [word referring to the song itself]” titles embody NAME THAT TUNE.

Theme entries:

  • 17A: [John Denver #1 hit] (“ANNIE’S SONG”).
  • 39A: [“Guys and Dolls” showstopper] (ADELAIDE’S LAMENT). I don’t know this song at all. So I headed to YouTube and watched the 10-minute excerpt featuring Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. Whoa. Her lament is that being strung along for 14 years by Nathan Detroit has caused her to develop psychosomatic cold symptoms?
  • 61A: [“Dr. Zhivago” melody] (LARA’S THEME). This instrumental piece was popular in the ’70s.
  • 67A, 68A, 69A: [With 68-Across and 69-Across, classic game show, and this puzzle’s title] (NAME / THAT / TUNE).

Amy’s Top Ten:

  • 1A: [Hippo’s attire in “Fantasia”] (TUTU). First of all, it’s a cute image. Second, TUTU is fun to say. Like the next two rhyming answers:
  • 21A: [Campaign funders] (FAT CATS).
  • 30A: [Rub elbows (with)] (HOBNOB).
  • 1D: [Repulsive sort] (TOAD). I rarely think of anyone as a toad, but I’m going to make a point of it from here on out.
  • 9D: [Shell collector, maybe] (BEACH BUM). I considered posting a picture of a man in a thong, but that’s altogether the wrong kind of BEACH BUM.
  • 12D: [Meek] (MOUSY). I was a mousy kid. I outgrew it.
  • 25D: [Legendary siren] (LORELEI). From the Rhine River in Germany. LORELEI is the name of a famous rocky outcropping as well as a mythical creature who lured sailors to their demise with her song. Crikey, that Wikipedia article lists all sorts of “other” spellings of the name that, if you ask me, are nothing more than woeful misspellings. Have never seen any of those versions before.
  • 40D: [It includes terms of endearment] (LOVE NOTE). Aw, isn’t that sweet?
  • 46D: [Diacritical pair of dots] (UMLAUT). That’s the diacritical mark seen in this wörd, not the vertical pair of dots seen here:
  • 57D: [Llama land] (PERU). Alliterative clues are an old standby in crosswords, but I don’t recall seeing this particular clue before.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Previously on”

Region capture 16The theme entries are nine symmetrically placed answers whose clues run along the lines of 18A: [See 23-Across], where 23A was the location in Monday’s puzzle of the same answer found at 18A in this one. I like the twist on the usual solving task—asking solvers to remember the answers they filled in two days ago, with no hint other than a reminder of where in the grid the answer was on Monday, and using the crossings to piece together answers that haven’t yet vanished from memory. (If you’re lucky. If you forget puzzles once you’re done with them, you’re S.O.L. on this one.) And some of these clues were easier for me than the original descriptive clues. I leaned heavily on the crossings to assemble INSULAR AREA and HEY JEALOUSY on Monday because the clues didn’t help me, but now? “Long answer starting with HEY that was in the last puzzle…of course, that’s HEY JEALOUSY.” No, I don’t remember the name of the band who did that song.

There’s not much of note aside from the goofball theme. My favorite clue is 49A: [Gay in the USAAF?] for ENOLA. (Should that be USAF, United States Air Force, or was it called USAAF back in WWII?) I also like the shout-out to Brendan’s Visual Thesaurus editor, BEN Zimmer, who is now the NYT’s [“On Language” columnist Zimmer]. Ben and I play Lexulous (like Scrabble) on Facebook. I beat him only about 3% of the time, but hey, I learn words like pawky and beef up my skills.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture has been in the news over allegations that they monkey with reviews of restaurants and other businesses in order to drum up advertising from the reviewed businesses. Anyway, the theme entries are typical phrases you might find in a negative restaurant review, but applied to other businesses in which the key words have different meanings:

  • 17A. [Negative review of a hot air balloon tour?] clues DIDN’T BLOW ME AWAY.
  • 27A. [Negative review of a gas station?] is WASN’T FILLED UP.
  • 43A. [Negative review of a synagogue?] clues SUBPAR SERVICE.
  • 57A. [Negative review of a calendar company?] clues NOT GOOD FOR DATES.

Highlights in the fill include TATER TOT (though the plural would be better), LOOSE ENDS, GUSTAVE Flaubert, SHALOM sitting atop the synagogue answer, and ABHORRENT crossing not one, but two past Republican office-holders. (I’m sure no editorial comment is intended.)

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17 Responses to Wednesday, 3/24/10

  1. John Farmer says:

    Psst…football team for STL would be the RAMS, as in LARAMS…hard to keep all these teams straight. They keep moving around so much. Need to try another sport.

  2. joon says:

    i thought this puzzle was excellent. the fill wasn’t much compromised despite the thematic density (and complexity). and it’s visually appealing, although not as much as the actual arch (which is still the most incredible building i’ve ever laid eyes on).

    i couldn’t remember AYER today, so i added it to my list of words i don’t know. then, because i was curious, i searched the list. sure enough, it’s already on there… four times in the last year! sheesh. this time i’ll learn it for good. or at least permanently.

    boo for NASD. yay for knowing it this time.

  3. Byron says:

    RIMINI is a lovely beach city on the Adriatic. I highly recommend it.

  4. ktd says:

    Francesca da RIMINI was a character in Dante’s “Inferno”. I guess that wouldn’t really make the clue easier, though.

  5. Bill Sullivan says:

    Hey Amy, can I ask, how are you getting the LA Times puzzles? The archive doesn’t have Tuesday or Wednesday yet you have solving times posted. Thanks!

  6. Michael says:

    “Francesca da Rimini” is also the name of an opera by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

    “_____ one’s pants” for ASSIN would’ve been fun.

  7. David says:

    You can get the LAT by going to the LA Times website and clicking on games then on the crossword. That’s how I have been getting it; I can’t speak for Amy.

  8. Bill Sullivan says:

    Thanks David, but I can’t print them out, only play on line which I cannot do. Thanks anyway.

  9. Brian says:

    You might try using Alex Boisvert’s Crossword Butler to get puzzles in Across Lite format (for printing). I believe the LA Times puzzle is one you can get with it.

  10. janie says:

    >I don’t think of St. Louis when I think of the World’s Fair, personally

    then maybe think of the judy garland/margaret o’brien movie meet me in st. louis, and the title song whose first lyrics are: “meet me in st. louis (louis); meet me at the fair…” (the city name is pronounced french-style — “looie (looie)”.) “have yourself a merry little christmas” is also from this movie.

    didn’t know this before looking it up, but that fair was known as the louisiana exposition and (among other things) was celebrating the centenary of the louisiana purchase.



  11. Howard B says:

    Didn’t notice the partial answer AS SIN in the grid today! Wonder if I would have parsed it alternatively… Some tough fill today, but enjoyed the visual puzzle and theme.
    Thanks for the laugh, was a fun read :). And after all, that is what it’s all about.

    The ‘solving the letter combinaton first’ technique thingy is very awkward at first, but gets easier the more you do it. Much like the Hokey Pokey.

  12. Sparky says:

    Rodin’s The Kiss is of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo, part of his Gates of Hell. Sad story.

  13. jane lewis says:

    the us air force was the us army air force during world war II. i don’t know when itbecame a separate service.

  14. KarmaSartre says:

    Favorite line today: ” Why do we need to also have Rimini? “

  15. John Haber says:

    Nice construction. Given the theme, I’d definitely prefer that the cross-referencing hadn’t “spilled over” elsewhere. The puzzle almost hinges on how much you like that device. (Not knowing as much Spanish as I should, I did have trouble with AL_I crossing _YER, but no trouble with RIMINI.)

  16. Jim Finder says:

    The Army Air Corps became the US Air Force in about 1949, approximately.

  17. Mel Park says:

    Re: BEQ

    Totally unfair. Totally aimed at crossword maniacs. When I thought I saw what was going on, I refused to get out Monday’s puzzle to check it out. This cannot be happening, I thought. How could anyone solve this who didn’t remember Monday’s answers, which I did.

    ‘Twas fun, though.

    ‘Nuther thing: the USAAF (United States Army Air Force, as it was know by the end of WWII) became, by act of congress, the USAF in 1948. At that time the US Army agreed to not again fly fixed-wing aircraft and the newly-founded US Airforce agreed not to fly helicopters. Can such a multi-phrase pair of concepts like that be worked into a crossword?

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