Wednesday, 5/26/10

Onion 4:37
BEQ 4:02
LAT 3:39
NYT 3:37
CS 5:24 (Evad)

Anna Schechtman’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3Fun theme! GRADE INFLATION from a merited B average to unearned straight A’s takes place in these theme enetries:

  • 20A. [Chokes after bean eating?] is GOES OUT ON A LIMA (limb). I’m not sure I understand the meaning of GOES OUT ON A LIMA. Goes out, as in “loses a game,” or goes out, as in “is extinguished”?
  • 29A. Lamb chops turn into LAMA CHOPS, or [Monk’s karate blows?]. Karate is Japanese. Martin, does Japan have lamas?
  • 38A. [Movie finales featuring actress Miles?] are VERA ENDINGS (verb endings).
  • 45A. HONEY COMA (honeycomb) is the [Result of a sweetener overload?].

Solving highlights:

  • 5A. When I see 6 letters for “actor Danny,” I always think AIELLO. But [Actor Danny of “The Color Purple”] is Danny GLOVER.
  • 36A. [Shade of blue] is NAVY. I tell you, there are beans all over this puzzle. There’s the thematic LIMA, there’s NAVY, and there’s a LENTIL (6D: [Soup bean]).
  • 2D. WET ONE is clued as a [Sloppy kiss]. Gross! When I see WET ONE, I think  of the hand wipe brand.
  • 11D. BAD MOODS? I’ve seen a few. They’re [Peevish states].
  • 22D. I’m a fan of –ISH, the [Noncommittal suffix]. I may abuse -ISH.
  • 33D. CYNTHIA is [“Sex and the City” actress Nixon], who plays Miranda. Is anyone looking forward to the SATC 2 movie? I…am not.
  • 42D. To ROUGH IT is to [Camp in the wild]. Is there indoor plumbing? No? Then count me out.
  • 50D. Shake your GROOVE thing. That’s a [Pronounced rhythm, in music].

The grid feels a little heavy on not-so-hot 3-letter fill, but I’m going to move on to blogging the Onion puzzle now.

Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 2Hah! I loved this vulgar little theme and its topical inspiration. 59a: [Rumored reason for the stock market plunge of 5/6/10, whose effect is seen in this puzzle’s theme answers] clues FAT FINGER, which involved the suspected mistyping of a B for “billion” instead of an M for “million.” Now, those keys aren’t even next to each other on the keyboard, so it seems implausible to blame the width of a finger for such a typo.

What Brendan has done here is take assorted R-rated terms and replaced the first letter with another letter found two keys over on the QWERTY keyboard, the same distance covered in the FAT FINGER trade:

  • 17a. [Tom Sawyer?] clues HUCK BUDDY. The F is two to the left of H.
  • 25a. [At risk of being stung by mosquitoes?] is LACKING OFF brand insect repellent. L and J are two keys apart.
  • 36a. [Hair transplants for a mixed-breed?] might be MUTT PLUGS. This is another M/B swap.
  • 51a. [Ad for a dark German beer?] is a BOCK TEASER. B and C play here.

If you’re uncertain about the meaning of any of the base phrases, I’m sure you’ll find all the information you need on the internet.

New to me:

  • 39d. [Wrestler who deliberately loses to make his opponent look good] clues JABRONI. I’m glad the crossings worked out for me.
  • 45d. [“How to Save a Life” one-hit wonders] are THE FRAY.

Solid puzzle overall: approved.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1 THEME: “World Leader Pretend”—Seven of the eight interlaced theme entries begin with words that can precede “world”

Theme entries:

  • 17a. [*Happy-go-lucky] means FREE AND EASY. The free world costs less than the expensive world.
  • 26a. [*Scandal involving plumbers] is WATERGATE. Waterworld! This Kevin Costner movie presaged Costner’s smartness with water-and-oil issues. He’s come up with a technology that BP might need to use to clean up its horrible mess.
  • 45a. [*Something to touch before getting home?] is THIRD BASE. I know the U.S. is part of the first world, and the third world consists of developing nations. So, what’s the second world? And how many of you thought of making out rather than baseball when you got this answer? And if the latter, how come there’s nothing for a girl to touch on a guy that constitutes each base?
  • 5d. [*Genuine article] is the REAL MCCOY. Real world is generic and also MTV-specific: The Real World.
  • 11d. [*Baseball fan’s dream come true] is FANTASY CAMP. Are you living in a fantasy world? In my fantasy world, this answer related to fantasy baseball, and the WORLD ___ answer had to be WORLD SERIES, and baseball was hiding everywhere in this puzzle. Er, no.
  • 25d. “I, the UNDERSIGNED,” am a [*Letter writer, formally]. Do you prefer your underworld to be mob-related, vampire-related, or hell-related?
  • 35d. [*Veterans] are OLD TIMERS, and the Old World is Europe, Africa, and Asia.
  • 54a. Tying it all together, WORLD LEADER is a [Summit attendee, and what the first word can be in each answer to a starred clue].

That’s a lot of thematic material for a 15×15 crossword, people. Dan even squeezed in some 7- and 8-letter fill. It was mildly confusing that the 8s are compounds that sound like they fit in with the theme entries—DEAD MAIL and SIDECARS don’t have asterisked clues, though, and “dead world” and “side world” aren’t familiar “worlds” like the theme results.

A number of the 3s are abbreviations, but all familiar ones.

Eight more clues:

  • 14a. Marvelous [Marvin of boxing]’s last name is HAGLER.
  • 34a. [Koala kid] is a JOEY. I think I was completely guessing on that, but what do you know? It turned out to be right. Maybe I have heard it before.
  • 59a. [Some people lie about theirs] clues AGE.
  • 63a. [Exxon, once] was called ESSO. I am in no mood to see oil conglomerate names in the puzzle, people.
  • 18d. [J&B alternative] clues DEWARS. I, for one, do not wish to hear an exposition on which brands of Scotch are the best. But I can tell you where to go for killer margaritas in Chicago! (Cesar’s.)
  • 22d. AGLEAM means [Shining]. This is part of the family of a- words that are encountered more often in crosswords than in the REAL WORLD. Agleam, abeam, agape, aslant, alee? Meh. But amok, awry, and akimbo rock.
  • 33d. [Est founder Werner __] ERHARD always makes me think of that woman named Marilyn I babysat for when I was 12. She had Est things posted on her fridge, and I still don’t understand. Props to Dan for using Est to clue ERHARD rather than using Werner Erhard to clue EST.
  • 39d. [XCII x VI] is DLII. You know what I usually do with Roman numeral math clues? I multiply the end numbers to see what the answer will end with. 2 x 6 = 12, so the last two letters are II. I let the crossings fill in the rest.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Shuffle the Deck”—Evad’s review

One thing you begin to realize with puzzles that are titled, is that one imagines the title coming first in the creative process for a constructor more often that the theme entries. Constructors out there, what do you say?

Here, Mr. Hartman takes each of the four highest cards in a deck and shuffles them around, cluing them in wacky question-marky ways:

  • “George VI, with a pilot’s license?” is a FLYING KING not ACE
  • “Fowl dish prepared by rapper Latifah?” is CHICKEN A LA QUEEN not KING
  • “Oxford dinero?” is MISSISSIPPI JACK not QUEEN – here, JACK is slang for money (as is dinero in the clue). Odd to choose a lesser-known city in MS – it did feature prominently in the Civil Rights movement and is home to the University of Mississippi.
  • “Lon Chaney, Jr.” is WOLFMAN ACE not JACK – and we’ve come full circle. This one is the funniest of the lot.

Kinda luke warm on this theme, I suppose it’s interesting that there are common phrases that end in A-K-Q-J, and that Mr. Hartman put the entries in top-down order in his grid, but I guess the new phrases aren’t wacky enough for me. (Constructors take note: my “punny bone” is hard to tickle!)

That said, it was a pretty smooth solve today, just a few items of note:

  • Gotta love our native tongue when you can use a 3-word, 10-letter phrase (NOT ONE IOTA) to say nothing.
  • Big fan of the Cheech and CHONG movies of my adolescence – Up in Smoke in particular was hilarious, but probably less funny if I were to see it again today.
  • Why am I not more familiar with the crossword-friendly “Rescuer of Odysseus” (INO)? I read here that Ino was another vowel-friendly term, Nereid or sea-nymph.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “I’m Broke”

Region capture 4This is one of the easiest BEQ blog puzzles ever, isn’t it? I solved it while listening to Ryan and Brian’s crossword podcast, “Fill Me In,” so it would’ve been a 3:something finish if I were actually focusing on it.

The theme is straighforward—a whopping five (!) 15-letter answers that are ways a broke college student might save or earn some money. The fill is fine, but Brendan didn’t leave himself much room for sparkle with the 75 theme squares.

Over and out.

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15 Responses to Wednesday, 5/26/10

  1. Martin says:

    I expected to hear more about another female teen’s debut. So I’ll say a loud attawoman.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Well, if nobody tells me she’s a teen, how’m I supposed to know? Congratulations, 19-year-old Anna! (You may be onto something about the phallocentrism of language.)

  3. pezibc says:

    For a Tuesday, this one really slowed me down.

    ‘GOES OUT ON A LIM(B)’ – Takes a risk or chance.

    Great theme, and well executed.

    Liked VINERIPE.

    S hung me up the worst, though I had several slow spots. I had a partial handle on the theme, but didn’t quite have a full grasp so it was slippery and I had to wrangle it like a greased pig.

    Absolutely loved ‘Metalliferous’.

  4. Red Dog says:

    Goes out on a lima — possibly the best pun/theme answer of the year!

    I took it to mean ”dies” so possibly the clue should have been “chokes to death on a bean” because “choking” all by itself does not imply “life termination” like “goes out” does.

  5. Martin says:

    BTW, Amy, Japanese monks are not called lamas but there’s no reason Tibetans can’t practice karate.

  6. Gareth says:

    Congrats to Anna on a really sweet debut puzzle!

    Actually got myself a tiny bit stuck towards the end, and working out the theme for once actually helped finish the puzzle (I’m terrible with working out themes!) I found myself wondering whether Winnie the Pooh ever went into a HONEYCOMA. I do really really like WETONE in the grid and ROUGHIT too. Most embarassing mistake: 9D ?M?? – saw “Novel” and wrote OMOO – across answers quickly disabused me of that notion!.

  7. pauer says:

    Didn’t know “grade inflation” but I guessed it after I got LAMACHOPS. I figured “goes out” means “dies,” as well, but I’ve never heard a lima bean referred to as just a lima (I might have preferred ARTIFICIALLIMA with a clue about the city). “Verb ending” is an odd base phrase and the changed phrase doesn’t do anything for me, so I wish this had only had 4 theme entries (plus, a central 11 makes for those ugly Utah-shaped chunks of black squares). Last nit: ONTO crossing ONTIME and OUTONALIMB (with ONRAMPS in the NE) makes this one a little too ONish for me.

    Still, using only 76 words is fancy, and the grid has nice interlock throughout. Congrats on the debut, Anna.

  8. Anne E says:

    Unusual, entertaining theme – more from you, please, Anna! Nice debut – congrats!

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Amy came up with two 6-letter Danny surnames — I had yet another, DeVito. Soon corrected, but amusing. Kudos to Anna!

  10. joon says:

    AIELLO was the first thing into the grid for me, but nothing worked … and then i remembered that i actually knew that GLOVER was in the movie version of that. speed-solving turns me into a moron.

  11. Cole says:

    More on the constructor here (a fellow Swarthmore alum):

  12. Plot says:

    I had a vague sense of deja vu when doing the NYT; has there been a similar ‘grade inflation’ theme before, maybe in a Sun puzzle? Regardless, the theme fill here had the right amount of creativity without being too weird, if that makes any sense. This is definitely in the upper echelon of the debut puzzles. Also, kudos for the fresh ‘el toro’ clue and the Reno 911! shout out.

  13. Martin says:

    The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword of 11/16/2007 (by Rich Silvestri) was titled “Grade Inflation.” Theme entries were DULL PROFESSOR, CRAG RACING, BAR POOLING and AONE PORCELAIN.

    Sun crossword of 2/13/2007 by Sean O. F. Smith was titled “Grade Inflation.” Theme entries were CLAIM TO DAME, PUT UP YOUR CUKES, BARRY ON LUGGAGE and ROBBER AARON.

  14. Pauer says:

    There was also the Patrick Berry puz where you got to improve your own grades. I think it was a CHE called “Report Card.”

  15. Martin says:

    That was CHE of 6/30/2006, “Your Report Card.”

    BLUSHING/FLUSHING, COLA/COLD, BOA/BOB, CRY/DRY, BALM/CALM and VITAMIN A/VITAMIN D were all clued ambiguously. TWO VALID OPTIONS and THE HIGHER GRADE were additional theme entries.

    All you Patricks are too much.

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