Wednesday, 4/7/10

BEQ 4:21
NYT 3:28
LAT 3:14
CS untimed
Onion untimed

Richard Silvestri’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2Too many browser hiccups tonight! Gah. No answer grid yet, okay? (Edited: It’s here now.)

The theme involves inserting a RAT into three familiar phrases. Now, that RAT is clued as 58d: [Chinese calendar animal … or the key to this puzzle’s theme]. It’s not the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rat was back in 2008, so it’s odd timing for the clue. The altered phrases are as follows:

  • 20A. [One who plunders boatloads of jack-o’-lanterns?] clues PUMPKIN PIRATE.
  • 37A. [First-rate chastisement?] is a SUPREME BERATING.
  • 48A. [Nickname for an unpredictable Communist?] clues ERRATIC THE RED. This one clanks a bit because a nickname for someone who’s unpredictable would be “[Blank] the Erratic,” not “Erratic the [Blank].”

I like 9A: [Was in the arms of Morpheus] for SLEPT. Remember Morpheus in The Matrix? Laurence Fishburne? Remember him as Cowboy Curtis on Pee-wee’s Playhouse?

46A: PEN is clued with a quote: [“The tongue of the mind”: Cervantes].

5D: JACKAL is clued as [Follower who does the dirty work]. I need me some jackals. Any volunteers?

13D: TAG is clued as [It’s game], but the possessive of “it” is “its,” without an apostrophe. If you’re capitalizing it as It, does it become a different word that takes an apostrophe for the possessive?

45D: TEHRAN, Iran, is [Home of the Azadi Tower], which is not a structure I’ve heard of before. Here’s the Wikipedia article. Dang, that tower looks like a pair of bell-bottoms.

WIth 42 blocks, the grid looks a little dark. Lots of black squares needed to set off those two 13s, yes?

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1THEME: “Golf!”—Four lively phrases begin with golf terms.

Can I tell you how much I enjoyed this puzzle? It’s a winner on all counts. The Masters golf tournament is this week, and it’s been much in the news since Tiger Woods is playing—so it’s a timely crossword. The theme entries don’t seem related at first, but they’re all great. And the clues sparkle. This is everything an easy-to-medium crossword should be.

Theme entries:

  • 16A: [Extremely defensive state of mind] (BUNKER MENTALITY). Great phrase. A bunker in golf is a deep sand trap.
  • 30A: [Physical play] (ROUGHHOUSE). You don’t see a ton of double-H answers. The rough is the deeper grass off to the sides of the fairway.
  • 39A: [Abstinent one] (TEETOTALER). The tee is that little doodad you put the ball on, the better to thwack it.
  • 54A: [Sam-I-Am’s story] (GREEN EGGS AND HAM). Dr. Seuss! The green is the area near the hole with super-short grass around it. I can’t embed the video clip, but have you seen Jesse Jackson reading this story on Saturday Night Live? Check it out.
  • 60A: This puzzle’s theme—according to Twain, it’s “a good walk spoiled” (GOLF). Nice use of a humorous quote to enhance the theme-revealing answer.

Amy’s Top Ten(ish) Answers/Clues:

  • 14A: [“La __ è mobile”: “Rigoletto” aria] clues DONNA. Way to sneak your name in there, Donna! See also 33D: [La Scala production], or OPERA.
  • 21A: [Spats spots] are ANKLES, as in the spats Mr. Peanut wears over his shoes. You know—to keep the mud off his peanutty ankles. Good alliteration; took me a while to make sense of the clue.
  • 34A: One [Joint problem] is GOUT. Please tell me I will never be afflicted with this again. I’m too young, dammit!
  • 35A: [Pig Latin refusal] turns “nix” into IXNAY. Speaking of Latin, the language of ancient Rome, there’s also 5D: [Like I, in some cases], clueing ROMAN—I doubles as the Roman numeral for 1.
  • 36A: [Precipitous start?] clues PEE. As in the letter P’s spelled-out name, not pee-pee.
  • 43A: [Channel where Susan Lucci hawks her jewelry line] is HSN. Terrific, zippy clue for a usually-boring answer. Does anyone ever fill in HSN or QVC right away without checking the crossings because they know for a fact that X product is sold on that specific cable channel?
  • 14D: [Diminutive celeb sexologist] clues DR. RUTH. The clue made me smile. You think Dr. Ruth has ever been described in exactly those words before?
  • So much negativity: Those who are opposed are 18D: [Not behind]/ANTI and 52D: [Not fer]/AGIN’, the latter meaning “against” in hick-speak.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Coat of Many Colors”—Janie’s review

Boy, I liked this puzzle. A smooth solve with a theme that surprised and delighted as I came to see that it wasn’t merely the first half of the theme phrase that related to the title, but the second half as well. Smartly done. So. In her four theme phrases, Lynn builds us a “coat of many colors,” and here’s how she does it. It has (a):

17A. BLUE COLLAR [Like plumbing or carpentry jobs].

28A. SILVER LINING [Sign of hope amid the gloom]. (For better or worse, sometimes, something I’m a firm believer in…)

48A. GREENSLEEVES [Still-popular Elizabethan ballad]. Because it has one beautiful melody.

64A. RED BUTTONS [Best Actor winner for “Sayonara”].

I’m just wondering if all the component parts (the blue collar, the silver lining, the green sleeves, the red buttons) perhaps finish an otherwise yellow jacket… Regardless, that’s one colorful if (potentially) garish garment!

“I SEE” [“OK, you’ve made it clear”] I hear you saying. Still I gotta point out that not only did we see ARIA just yesterday, but RHEA [Actress Perlman with an ostrich-like namesake] is back already after three visits just last week. She’s appeared with a different clue each time, but there’s gotta be some way to head off this kind of repetition, no? Please!

Now that I’ve verbalized my PLEA [It may be open to bargaining] (as in a legal “plea bargain”), let’s look at some more of the puzzle’s many assets. There’s a sports motif underpinning the non-theme fill in quarterback FAVRE [Brett who was Sports Illustrated’s 2007 Sportsman of the Year] (who’s really had one amazing career); SKI [Hit the slopes]; and the not-unique-to-one-game GEAR [Equipment] and STAT [Box score figure]. Then there’s the triple-play of baseball references: the real ERNIE [Cubs slugger Banks], the mythic/poem-enshrined CASEY [Mudville’s mighty failure at the plate], and RELIEVER, the [Late-inning pitcher, often] both of them probably faced at some time or other.

There’s also a pair of clues/fill that speaks to inflammatory times and events in 20th century American history. First, [Anarchist convicted with Vanzetti in a 1921 murder trial], and that’s SACCO. Maxwell Anderson’s 1935 play Winterset was inspired by Sacco and Vanzetti. Then there’s [Civil rights org. whose leaders included John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael] and that’s SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which changed it’s name in 1969 to the Student National Coordinating Committee, to “reflect the broadening of its strategies” (and not always peaceful means…).

The clue [The whole kit and caboodle] is so nice, Lynn’s used it twice: once for ALL, once for EVERY BIT. Other good clues and/or fill include [Pilot study locations] for TEST SITES (“pilot” here has the sense of “model” and is not related to the occupation in aviation); the specific [11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., perhaps] for LATE SHIFT; LOSE IT [Go bonkers]; and SCARFS, clued not in relation to apparel, but as a slangy verb [Eats greedily, with “down”]. And ya wanna be careful about scarfing your food down lest you be inclined to BELCH [Big no-no at the dinner table].

“FINIS!” [“Done!”].

Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 3If Britain’s ex-prime minister John Major had been a mayor instead, MAYOR MAJOR could fit this theme. CHANGE JOBS is defined more broadly as 55A: [Find new work – or what you must do to get the three theme entries’ names in this puzzle]. Indeed, one letter in each occupational name is changed to produce the surname of a person with that job:

  • 17A. [Mary in “The Maltese Falcon”] clues ACTOR ASTOR. Solid, familiar, classic.
  • 27A. [M.C. who drew “Relativity”] is ETCHER ESCHER. Also good.
  • 42A. [Kip who released “In the Heart of the Young”] is SINGER WINGER. Say what? Who on earth is Kip Winger? (This guy). Is he really famous enough for theme entry status?

I was zipping through this puzzle with ROGUE as my answer to 15A: [“Going ___” (parody of Sarah Palin’s book)]. Whoops, the parody is Going Rouge. Never even looked at the crossings TGT and EUO, which are so obviously wrong.

Favorite entries:

  • 33D. [Beer Obama sent to the Canadian P.M. to settle their bet over the Olympic hockey gold medal game] is YUENGLING. My father-in-law had a case of Yuengling lager in Florida. Decent beer.
  • 50A. [“Fuggedaboutit!”] clues “HELL, NO!”
  • 11D. [Super-secret spot] is a HIDEY HOLE. See also 36A.
  • 44D. TO [Do research on, as someone you met at a party] is to GOOGLE. It’s de rigueur these days.

What is that EVIL RENE ORGY stack doing down there? My husband’s name is René. Matt, what have you heard?

Matt’s real gift lies in hand-crafting tough crosswords with a “meta” or hidden puzzle aspect to them. If you haven’t yet checked out Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, go sign up now and you’ll get the next contest puzzle via e-mail this Friday. Last week’s puzzle was pretty easy, but they get harder as the month progresses—and Matt promises a much tougher batch of puzzles in May. If you like to grapple with brainy challenges and don’t mind sometimes being completely stymied (I can’t always figure out the meta), this is the puzzle for you.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Fantasy Island”

Region capture 4Tactical error: I went back to Across Lite for this one, and there were a bunch of really long clues I couldn’t view in their entirety. All I could figure out is that there was a Georgia politician who said something ill-informed pertaining to Guam, and I hadn’t heard about it in the news so it was a gaping chasm of a theme for me. All right, to Black Ink to find out what the clues were:

  • 62A. The [Georgia congressman who on 3/25/10 was worried that 7-Down was going to 25-Across and 49-Across … which is hinted at literally in 17- and 39-Across] is HANK JOHNSON. Never heard of him.
  • 7D. [See 62-Across] GUAM
  • 25A, 49A. [See 62-Across] clues both TIP OVER and CAPSIZE.
  • 17A. [Civil War battlefield with the second-highest casualties] is CHICKAMAUGA.
  • 39A. [“Of Human Bondage” author] is SOMERSET MAUGHAM. 17A and 39A have a reversed GUAM in their midst.

Okay, that all adds up, but boy, you really need to read the full clues to understand what’s going on here. At least the crossings were straightforward enough that I filled in the whole puzzle correctly without understanding the theme. It’s worth watching the viral video Brendan linked to in his post. The congressman comes off as a tad bit batshit insane.

How fun to have a NAMBY-PAMBY ([Total wuss]) in the fill, just for the hell of it.

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19 Responses to Wednesday, 4/7/10

  1. It’s game (TAG) – I believe “it’s” is a contraction, not a grammatically incorrect possessive.

  2. joon says:

    but that doesn’t make any sense. {It’s a game}, sure. {It’s game} should clue something like VENISON.

  3. Oh, I get it now. Someone is “It” in Tag, so Tag is It’s game. And since nouns use the apostrophe in forming a possessive, and “It” is a noun here rather than a neuter pronoun, the apostrophe is correct.

    Cuter than I realized…..

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Pretend a person named Itt is tagged in a game and you’ll see Itt’s It. His game is TAG. Its without the apostrophe would not make sense because a noun antecedent is missing.

    I thought the puzzle was great, because I put SUPREME BEATINGS before seeing it had to be BERATING, thus getting the theme before reaching the last corner… Excellent clues throughout, from Skyrocket SOAR and Pick-me-up LIFT, to the Ferry destination ELBA. The Get stuffed GORGE might have been Binge, and Follower doing dirty jobs a lackey rather than JACKAL. The Drop in the ocean?, EBB, the Ironworker’s union?, WELD, and STET marks… Fab fun.

  5. davidh says:

    Not knowing the meaning of “bluenose” was, I guessed at “pride” early on, and had a terrible time with “Binker Mentality?” Binger? Also, not being a golfer or a fan, was less familiar with a bunker.

    Is the link to the Onion puzzle broken? Can’t seem to find the Across Lite version …

    I also thought that including a Green Jacket in the CS puzzle would make a nice link (pun intended) to the LA Times – which made me think that if I were a constructor, I would make a series of puzzles with a common theme-thread between them made up of double meanings, maybe. Has this been done?

  6. davidh says:

    Re the Onion Link – the one from this page works fine – I was on the Onion calendar-like page and the link was broken.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Loved Lynn’s Coat of Many colors too — very imaginative and well executed. Good review, Janie.

    Donna’s Golf themed puzzle was terrific too, and Amy’s commentary spot-on. Lots of favorite fill, especially MACABRE. IXNAY on the idea of your getting GOUT!

    Funny that Donna’s had TEST RUN and Lynn’s had TEST SITES, where I wanted BETA SITES at first.

  8. Deb Amlen says:

    “Pretend a person named Itt is tagged in a game and you’ll see Itt’s It. His game is TAG.”

    I love it. This is starting to sound like “Who’s On First?”:

    “But how can ‘It’ be a game?”
    “No, It is playing the game…”

    Fun puzzle, Rich. Love the “Ship of fuels” clue.

  9. NinaUWS says:

    This is a test to see if my picture comes up. Now I have a new name! Hello, all.

  10. Zulema says:

    I understood it differently and in a much simpler way. When you TAG someone it is GAME, as in YOU WIN, sort of like tennis nomenclature. I have more of a problem with STET, because according to the clue STET means STET. ??? Or am I missing something?

  11. John Haber says:

    I’m among those who thought of “It” as a person, so thus having “It’s” as the proper possessive, and liked this very much. However, I was also willing to allow “It is game” for “It is a game.” (Zulema’s interpretation seems less plausible, as you wouldn’t shout “game” in tag — and as the game doesn’t end anyway. Another “it” just gets running.)

    JACKAL had me wondering, too. Is the idea that these wild creatures swoop in to finish things off (the dirty work) after others are gone? No one answered yet, I think.

    I don’t understand Zulema’s concern lest “STET means STET.”

  12. Zulema says:

    John, it is what it is? It’s a tautology! No big deal, but why the double clue that refers to itelf with the same word, not a synonym? I though it was just lame. As for GAME, it was plausible either way.

  13. Matt Gaffney says:

    Lynn Lempel’s theme is very elegant, especially since none of the four main entries specifically references clothing.

  14. Pauer says:

    Jeez, janie – you’ve got to find something else to harp on with regard to CS. Every 3- and 4-letter word is overused, and you’ll just have to accept it. Until somebody invents a new letter of the alphabet, the RHEAs, ARIAs, and ISEEs of the Crossworld are here to stay.

  15. John Haber says:

    Zulema, I believe the clue was asking us to identify dotted underlining with STET as a typesetter (or publishing person) would, and that seems legit to me.

  16. janie says:

    point taken re: the limitations of the alphabet — and the overuse built into three- and four-letter words. but “rhea” (to my mind) is an unusual word. the first time it felt fresh. i voice my gripe because it draws attention to itself — particularly when it shows up three days in a row. no doubt it’s attributable to coincidence, but without getting into the land of obscurities, there has to be a wider assortment of words that can be used, no?

    it’s my “job” to point out what i see as a puzzle’s weaknesses as well as to talk about its strengths. (that’s why i get the big bucks, right?)

    and, um — was there something else in specific you wanted me harp on with regard to cs?…


  17. joon says:

    i think what patrick may be suggesting is that you judge each puzzle on its own merits. the fact that a certain word was used yesterday doesn’t make it bad fill today, and repeats are simply unavoidable. any two themed 15×15 puzzles are going to have a word (or more) in common about half the time just based on the laws of probability, so it’s not really worth complaining about.

    for me, fresh fill is about the inclusion of fresh entries, not the exclusion of common ones.

    late edit: lynn’s theme was more than elegant. i thought it was wonderful! if i could think of stuff like that … well, there’s a reason there’s only one lynn lempel.

  18. pauer says:

    Yes, joon, you phrased it much better than I did, and “harp on” was certainly too harsh a phrase to use for someone as sweet as janie. Sorry ’bout that.

    It seems RHEA isn’t as common as I thought, either, though it still makes the top 500 4-letter words. (ARIA is 6th and ISEE is 41st.)

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