Friday, 5/7/10

NYT 6:16
BEQ 4:42
CHE 4:05
LAT 3:39
CS untimed

Tyler Hinman’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3Is it just me or does this puzzle feel distinctly Saturdayish? Knowing Tyler as I do, I should’ve gotten 1-Across right away, but instead I flailed around the northwest corner knowing none of the Acrosses or Downs until I finally hit 6D. Sheesh! The fill is more current than usual. To wit:

  • 1A. [Not just a mess-up, in modern lingo] is an EPIC FAIL. For example, in fashion, I have to say that the new dropped-crotch pants are an EPIC FAIL.
  • 2D. Leon PANETTA is now the [C.I.A. director under Obama].
  • 6D. ANNA PAQUIN is newly relevant because of her role on True Blood, the HBO vampire drama.

But wait. There’s plenty of stuff for those who haven’t kept up with the last year, too. Here are my favorite bits:

  • 15A. LA QUINTA is an [Alternative to Holiday Inn]. Tyler squeezed lots of Scrabbly letters into the fill. LA QUINTA and ANNA PAQUIN have separate Qs, and the corner opposite them has two Zs.
  • 16A. Great clue for ANDREA: [First name that’s feminine in English and masculine in Italian].
  • 20A. ALOHA STATE is a good entry. It’s a state [Nickname since 1959].
  • 25A. Geo trivia! OTTAWA, Canada, is a [National capital on a river of the same name].
  • 31A. I drew a blank for [Big company located in Times Square] when I had only the final Q in place. The crossings handed over NASDAQ.
  • 32A. [Salesperson who may give you a ring] at the doorbell is the AVON LADY.
  • 36A. I am not the sort of NERD (48A: [High-school put-down]) who knows that YODA is a [Film character who lives to be 877].
  • 53A. TITO PUENTE! This [Musician nicknamed El Rey] looks great in the grid.
  • 58A. ZEPPELIN! Led Zeppelin is a [Staple of classic rock, informally] when you omit the “Led” part.
  • 62A. “LAND, HO!” That’s a [Welcome cry for the seasick]. Quaint, no?
  • 3D. IQ TESTS make up a [Battery used to measure brightness?].
  • 4D. You like to shoot pool? [Providers of tips for improving one’s English?] are CUES, as in cue sticks.
  • 12D. Good entry, but ick: DR. LAURA, [Big name in radio advice].
  • 21D. If something’s [Emotionally tough to take], it’s HEAVY, man.
  • 28D. Oh! TOOTSIE POP! The old ’70s commercial for Tootsie Pops (with the owl, counting “one, a-two, *crunch*” for the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop) is airing on TV again. Oh, classic [Treat on a stick], how I love thee.
  • 39D. WAR-TORN is the [Opposite of pacific]. I started with WARLIKE, which did me no favors in that quadrant.
  • 40D. KWANZAA! It’s an [Annual celebration with candles], not your birthday.

What is likely the single least familiar word in this grid is SURD, 24A: [Voiceless, in phonetics]. I looked this one up in the dictionary just now. Surds include F, K, P, S, and T. SURD also means “irrational” in math circles. Ah, must be akin to absurd.

I didn’t know ST. AGNES was the [Symbol of chastity] (44D). Looks like STAGNES in the grid. I also didn’t know the first name of [Czech-born N.H.L.’er Sykora or Prucha], but PETR is a not-uncommon Czech name. Think Petr Korda, erstwhile tennis star.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Shades of Burgundy”

Region capture 1That’s the shades (colors) of Burgundy in France—each of the five theme entries is a familiar color phrase from the French.

  • 17a. [Ribbon of distinction] is CORDON BLEU. Why is there no Cordon Bleu award for the finest American mots croisés?
  • 26a. [Bane of one’s existence] is a BÊTE NOIRE. I wonder why this never got translated into “black beast” in English.
  • 37a. [Power behind the throne] is ÉMINENCE GRISE, a gray eminence. I prefer The Who’s “Eminence Front,” the meaning of which is unknown to me. Wouldn’t it be astonishing to find out that CHE puzzle editor Patrick Berry had an éminence grise who was really responsible for Patrick’s stellar crossword career?
  • 52a. [Highest peak in the European Union] is MONT BLANC. It’s also a fancy pen, n’est-ce pas?
  • 63a. Whoa, two schools that are unknown to me. The [Home of Southern University and A&M College] is BATON ROUGE. Did you know the city gets its name from the “red sticks” or posts used to mark the settlement’s boundaries?

Colorful theme! Although what would you get if you mixed blue, black, gray, white, and red? Would it be a muddied hue or would it be…burgundy?

Let’s check out some other clues:

  • 59a. Never heard of YUMA [___ Crossing (historic Colorado River ford)].
  • 61a. Nor had I ever heard of [433 ___ (near-Earth asteroid)]/EROS, though so many space objets are named after mythological figures that I guessed correctly with a couple crossings. (ERIS, ARES, and IRIS are other *R*S deities that would’ve fit.)
  • 3d. [Wild ___ (another name for oregano)] clues MARJORAM. I bought no marjoram or oregano plants today. I did, however, get sweet basil, cilantro, and a yellow cherry tomato plant that I suspect the squirrels will harvest before I can.
  • 38d. [Selfish social outlook, for short] is NIMBY, short for “not in my back yard.”
  • 46d. [Hot leftovers] are the EMBERS from a fire. Another fire-related answer with a misleadingly food-related clue is 26d: BURN/[Be consumed, possibly].
  • 54d. AMANA is the [Pietist community founded in the 1850s]. I can’t say I’ve see the word Pietist before.
  • 57d. [What “Kensington Gore” stands in for on stage] is BLOOD. Do all the theater nerds know this? I sure didn’t.
  • More French roots! ECRU, SALLE, ETUDE,

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 2Donna’s theme is punny signs you might see various places:

  • 17a. [Sign at a laundry?] is WRING FOR SERVICE.
  • 24a. [Sign at a nuclear reactor?] might be GONE FISSION.
  • 42a. [Sign at Cape Canaveral?] is OUT TO LAUNCH. If they’re out to launch, you probably want to get about three miles away.
  • 54a. [Sign at the Ukrainian tourism bureau?] is WATCH YOUR STEPPE. I always thought the steppes were more of a Siberian feature, but they do reach Ukraine.

Eleven clues:

  • 1a. LESS is [More, to a minimalist].
  • 21a. [Like a quarter’s edge] clues REEDED. I’ve only seen the word milled used to describe such ridging.
  • 5d. “GO FOR IT!” Those are great [Words of encouragement].
  • 12d. [Rolling “bones”] are DICE. Backgammon, anyone?
  • 13d. [Arctic carrier] clues SLED. Somehow I could only think of EL AL (not Arctic), a FLOE or BERG (not much of a “carrier”), and assorted boats.
  • 25d. [Sirius’ master, in some depictions] is ORION. That’s Sirius the Dog Star in the sky, not Sirius Black, godfather of Harry Potter.
  • 30d. Eh, this clue is weird. PUNIC is [Like the wars between Carthage and Rome], but I’d like it better as a FITB “___ Wars” clue.
  • 36d. [Miss Gulch’s bête noire] is TOTO, Dorothy’s dog in The Wizard of Oz. See? Bête noire is an English-language term too. It’s a fair trade. The French picked up le weekend from us.
  • 39d. [“The Buddy Holly Story” star] is Gary BUSEY. He landed that role about 30 seconds before he became incredibly weird.
  • 40d. [Screws up] and BLOWS IT are comparably slangy.
  • 46d. [Lang. that gives us “ombudsman”] is SWED., or Swedish. I forgot I knew this.
    • 17A. TWIST TIE [Hefty fastener]. I.e., fastener for a Hefty bag. One of these guys.
    • 28A. GREASE MONKEY [Mechanic, slangily]. In the movie Return of the Secaucus Seven, David Strathairn’s character, Ron Desjardins, is referred to as a grease monkey.
    • 49A. CHICKEN WINGS [Bar food staple]. Yep.
    • 66A. SODA JERK [Counter-culture icon?]. Ooh—good clue!
  • Updated Friday morning:

    Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Dance Party”—Janie’s review

    Last week I was hankering for a dance-themed puzzle and this week Patrick delivers, thank-you-very-much. Four dances from the ’60s that you could do at your go-go of choice or right in front of the TV with the kids from American Bandstand make it into the grid today: the twist, the monkey, the chicken and the jerk. Each appears as the first or second word in each of the two-word theme phrases:

    Patrick’s used symmetrical fitb’s to clue TYRANNY and SCIENCE, and I love that balance. Also, the quotes they’re featured in. For the former, [“Wherever Law ends,] TYRANNY [begins” (John Locke)]; and the latter, [“Nothing but perception,” to Plato]. Who am I to argue?

    Representatives of three of America’s favorite non-dance pastimes get shout-outs today: [Football Hall of Famer Jim] THORPE, [Baseball Hall of Famer Banks] ERNIE (and notice the parallel cluing—another nice touch), and the factoid-filled [One of the two NBA teams located in their original cities] for the KNICKS (New York’s own). I’m guessing the other is the CELTS (Boston’s finest).

    As always, some of my fave clue/fill pairs are those that come from idiomatic/in-the-language conversation “chunks.” Today’s include: [“Sure!”]/”WHY NOT!”; [“Got me”]/”NO IDEA”; [“Of course!’]/”I SEE!”; and [“Good shot!”]/”NICE ONE!”

    I particularly liked the rhymey [Like a crowd of rowdies] for AROAR, and then–did you notice this?–Patrick’s included not only the TSA (clued as [Airport screening gp.] and which evokes thoughts of the Air Traffic Controllers), but also NOAH, clued as [Pair traffic controller?]. Now that’s just a terrific clue!

    And while musical theatre is evoked through ELSA [“The Sound of Music” baroness], IRA [Gershwin or Glass] (okay, only Gershwin is a musical theatre guy; Glass belongs to NPR), and yes, the eyebrow-raising [“That’s Why I Chose] YALE [” (musical admissions video)], it’s today’s trio of “bonus” fill and clues that makes my heart sing. First we get TAPS [Dances like Savion] (that’s Mr. Glover, who burst on the scene in 1983 as 10-year-old in The Tap Dance Kid and has been astonishing us ever since) to reinforce the “dance” motif. Then there’s NEUTRON [“___ Dance” (1984 Pointer Sisters hit)]; and finally there’s the response to the whole idea of the theme. Saith composer Jerome KERN (by way of lyricists Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, Oscar Hammerstein and Otto Harbach): “I Won’t Dance.” Well, if yer gonna be that way about it… Here’s how Fred and Ginger won’t.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Built To Spill”

Region capture 4Today’s BEQ muse is BP, and there are OIL spills all over the grid in rebus squares. In fact, two of the OILs even mean “oil” rather than just being those three letters in some word (e.g., ET{OIL}E). I figure it’s because OIL is so oily and hard to clean up.

I figured out there was a rebus right at 1-Down, but I had trouble pulling HELL{O I L}OVE YOU together. Great answer, great three-word split of a little three-letter word. In all, we have five {OIL} rebus squares, which is not so many that it compels a lot of compromises in the fill. Solid puzzle.

Now, Brendan said this puzzle was more Easium than Medium in difficulty. I dunno, I’d call it Medium. NYT-Thursdayish, for sure. And you?

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7 Responses to Friday, 5/7/10

  1. Ben Bass says:

    Nice clean puzzle, Tyler. 10:34 feels pretty respectable in light of Amy’s 6:16.

    PETR Korda was a deeply talented lefty but too much a head case to sustain a long run at the top of the game. He’d beat Sampras one day, lose to Sampras’ racket stringer the next.

  2. Gareth says:

    Really nice NYT. Do agree it felt a little more current. Tyler’s CS puzzles also have that feel to them. The top part fell pretty easily. The bottom was a minefield of cunning traps! Last to fall KOA/STAGNES… Had met up with Koa before but it wouldn’t come. If it were clued as “Hawaiian acacia” would’ve been a gimme. Could not parse St. Agnes till got that last letter!

  3. Lloyd says:

    Definitely felt Saturday-ish – except I solved fairly fast for me. Took a while to realize I was done – had trouble parsing STAGNES to ST. AGNES. Sheesh!

    Good puzzle by Tylerl.

  4. Ben says:

    Gareth, think “Kampgrounds of America.”

  5. Howard B says:

    What a great NY Times puzzle. All kinds of fun in there, including ZEPPELIN. Qs, Zs, And a hockey clue for PETR! Couldn’t ask for anything more here. Thanks, Tyler! Definitely not an EPIC FAIL.

    Last answer was STAGNES, which I also parsed, at first, as a Latin word I didn’t know (distant relative of STIGMATA? Umm, no.).

  6. joon says:

    tyler’s puzzle was great, but it didn’t seem saturday-hard to me. i came in a minute faster than my friday average. EPIC FAIL was terrific.

    i also found it vaguely hilarious to see bête noire a couple of times, including once in reference to toto. i mean, that’s literally correct, isn’t it? except he didn’t belong to miss gulch. :)

  7. John Haber says:

    Hard for a Friday for me, too. I had to work out EPIC FAIL and, yes, ANNA PAQUIN from the crossings.

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