Monday, 4/12/10

BEQ 4:50
NYT 3:10
LAT 3:04
CS untimed

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 21Quickly, because there is a taco out there with my name on it—

Debut puzzle! Congrats to the constructor. Three 15-letter theme entries are spoken phrases that end with words that are also popular board games:


They’re tied together, sort of, by 48A: PASTIMES, which is clued as [Diversions…as hinted at by the ends of 17-, 34- and 52-Across]. Now, the answer opposite 48A is TIE GAMES, clued with [They go into overtime]. I suspect the constructor intended that as part of the theme, though the TIE part pulls it away from the board game concept. But Sorry, Clue, and Risk are all much more GAMES than PASTIMES. Sorry isn’t much of a pastime. Even playing Sorry isn’t much of a pastime. Playing board games in general? Now, that’s a pastime for you.

I might like this theme better without PASTIMES. Just a wee little GAME tucked in the lower corner, or no Grand Unifying Entry at all, just three spoken phrases that end with board games. Isn’t that enough of a theme?

I commend Mr. Livengood for the lively long answers in the fill. NAME-DROP is juicy, and SCRAP IRON, DAYLIGHT, and O NEGATIVE are solid too.

Every time TREO (41D: [BlackBerry rival]) is in the grid, I wonder vaguely if Palm still sells the Treo. Google tells me they do, but I never hear anything about it. The BlackBerry, iPhone, and Droid hog all the smartphone glory.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Departure Lounge”—Janie’s review

I wasn’t sure where this one was going, so to speak, thinking maybe it would have to do with those waiting areas in terminals. And after all, there’s AIRFIELDS [Runway sites] right in front of me. But no. Instead, the first word of the three theme phrase is a synonym for “depart” and plays out in a pretty straightforward way like this:

20A. GO OUT OF BUSINESS [Close down].

33A. SPLIT DECISION [Certain boxing match outcome].

50A. LEAVE IN SUSPENSE [Let hang].

All three are fine phrases and have the pleasing effect of conjuring up Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Love that drum part!

What makes this puzzle gold is the quality of the fill throughout–starting with those longer entries. Look at all of today’s goodies:

  • UP AND AT IT [Engaged in doing a task].
  • OCTOPUSSY [James Bond movie of 1983].
  • TAKES A BOW [Accepts congratulations, in a way].
  • STAMPEDE [Annual Calgary event]. This July event is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. “O Canada!” indeed.
  • PASTRAMI [Deli meat].
  • STONE AGE [Caveman’s era].
  • EMISSION [Discharge]. Nice how this can tie in with the automotive [Sport ___ ] UTES [(modern vehicles)]. Compliance with emission control standards is much to be commended!
  • ITALIAN [Rome resident]. This makes for a perfect complement to INI as that [Common pasta ending] which, in turn, brings back fond memories of the moment in Breaking Away when Dad complains bitterly (and most amusingly) about the “I-ties” and their “eenie” foods. Other foods that get referenced today, btw, include [Vegetarian staple] TOFU and [Aardvark fare] ANTS. Mmmmm. (Well, if you’re an aardvark anyway…)

For the medically inclined, Martin obliges with both OBS [Baby docs, briefly] or obstetricians, and ENT [Med. specialty] or Ear, Nose and Throat doc. S/he’s the one who specializes in examining the TONSIL area [Throat part].

ENTs get a lot of visits from singers–from the lightest, loveliest coloratura to the darkest, lowest BASSO [Deep-voiced singer]. Scarpia, the antagonist in Tosca, is a basso. Cavaradossi, our hero, is a tenor–and a painter. He would stand to paint a portrait, but use an EASEL as a [Stand for a portrait]. (The eponymous heroine is a soprano.) And those [“Tosca” highlights] (yes, sung in Italian…) are ARIAS.

Two fave clues today: [Blind follower], because the last thing I was thinking of was SHEEP (I was looking for a word to “follow” blind…); and [Michigan neighbor] for HURON. Wasn’t thinkin’ “Great Lakes,” but that was the requirement.

Never heard of [1983 Indy 500 winner Tom] SNEVA, but that’s hardly surprising. What was surprising was learning that before he became an auto racer, Sneva was (are you ready?) a school principal. I kid you not!

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 22Today, we’ve got a vowel progression theme, but the first letter of each theme answer isn’t the same. So it’s “[consonant][vowel in AEIOU order][GGY][second word]”:

  • 17A. [Loose-hanging trousers] are BAGGY PANTS.
  • 25A. [1957 hit for Buddy Holly and the Crickets] is the classic “PEGGY SUE.”
  • 36A. [Coin collector?] clues PIGGY BANK. How do you feel about having one question-marked theme clue and four non?
  • 53A. [Gershwin song set in London, with “A”] is “FOGGY DAY,” and I have never heard of it.
  • 62A. [Carriage outings] are BUGGY RIDES.

I dunno about this puzzle. The theme entries are lively, but my attention kept being drawn to the partials, FITBs, etc.: MATA Hari, -OSIS, A DRUM, I REST, SEE NO, sort of A SNAP, Olive OYL, and assorted abbreviations detracted from a happy solving experience.

Favorite clues:

  • 45D. [Scrambles to keep secret] clues ENCODES. I was thinking of “scrambles” as “scurries” rather than “mixes up.”
  • 47D. [Corn site] is a TOE, not a COB. I chose wrong at first.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 23I don’t know if you could tell from my LAT write-up, but…I am just not in a bloggy mood this morning.

Brendan’s goal here was to have two triple-stacks of 15s without any 3-letter crossings. The top and bottom rows bracketing the triple-stacks enable plenty of 4-letter crossings, but add no zip. ABEL CADENT RES, SPY ONSETS ERNO? Er, no. And the 4s, while they are indeed not 3s, are not so hot. ESSE, plural ETAS and SSNS, NTSB, TICO? Eh.

The pair of long Downs and the swoosh of staggered 8s and a 7 in the middle are much better. J. PAUL GETTY gets an a-hole quote clue (interesting clue, but doesn’t make me like Getty—plus, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett managed not to fail at marriage). RUNNING GAG is…well, I use “running joke” more, but it’s good. The midsection feels a little INGy, but I like PHISHING and the doesn’t-end-with-S FLOORS IT.

Two Brendanesque entries are things I pieced together with the aid of the crossings. UH HUH HER? Never heard of it. AUTOTUNE THE NEWS…I don’t think I’ve heard of this, but the “manipulates” part points to AUTOTUNE and then THE NEWS part was not unexpected.

The 15s felt less obvious, less easy than most 15s in triple-stacks. It’s boring when the clues fairly scream out the answers and boom, half the puzzle’s filled in. So I appreciate having to work a little more at the 15s.

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7 Responses to Monday, 4/12/10

  1. pezibc says:

    Nice, light and breezy theme; good early-week puzzle. I wouldn’t generally classify a particular game as a pastime (excepting Chess, Scrabble and such), but would certainly deem them a pastime as a group (with the family picking out the game to be played that evening). Families don’t much have any pastimes today, but I certainly remember when times were different. TIEGAMES I would have cut. I might have cut PASTIMES to singular and reclued. Another card game (to go with SKAT) would have been a really nice touch.

    Lame clue for MICE.

    ADESTE – Cool.

    TREO – Crossword cliche.

  2. joon says:

    i don’t have strong feelings about PASTIMES or TIE GAMES, but i liked the long 15s and i really really liked the fill. really good for a monday puzzle.

  3. Gareth says:

    Tend to agree with you on all accounts… 3X15 spoken word comments = great. PASTIMES as theme revealer was mystifying… And lots of cool long answers. Tie PB for me… but still way off joon, who seems to have been possessed by Dan Feyer recently: 1:49 is not human!!!

  4. ArtLvr says:

    I thought PASTIMES was quite suitable, and it was an excellent debut! Congrats to Ian…

  5. joon says:

    gareth, i’ve definitely been feeling fast-twitch in across lite recently. though i bet that whenever dan does get around to doing this puzzle, he beats 1:49 handily–with monday clues and a wide-open grid, all the letters just go in so fast. on the other hand, i’m still susceptible to brain farts. i needed every single crossing to get {Rome resident} in the CS today. i really wanted it to be IDAHOAN for some reason, but also considered IOWAN (which wasn’t nearly long enough), and NEW YORKER, which is at least true (but had nothing in common with the actual answer). rome, italy! man, that’s sneaky.

  6. John Farmer says:

    LAT 45D. [Scrambles to keep secret] clues ENCODES.

    ENCODES is one of those funny words that gets clued for crosswords almost always in one narrow sense but probably is used most often to mean something else. Encoding is just putting something into code, and crosswords usually assume it’s a secret code.

    Morse code isn’t usually used to keep a message secret, but so the message can be transmitted and understood at the other end. The most common use of “encoding” these days is probably with computers and networks. Information is encoded into symbolic language for a variety of reasons, but usually not to keep it secret. If you want to keep computer communications secret, you don’t want “encoding.” You want “encryption.”

    Not raising a nit with the clue, btw, just making an observation.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    I agreed with you on the BEQ today — the top part was good but the bottom was a bit of a slog, especially that AUTO NEWS thing. Obscure Natick-type crossing of RIC and RUTH names didn’t help… Oh well. I did like PHISHING in the middle!

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