Tuesday, 6/1/10

Jonesin’ 3:49
NYT 3:10
LAT 2:36
CS 5:39 (Evad)

Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 31In this twist on a vowel progression theme, the vowel changes in the clues, not the answers, and the answers read more like clues:

  • 17A. [BAD] is MISCHIEVOUS.
  • 23A. [BED] is a PLACE TO SLEEP. See? That sounds like a clue, not a crossword answer.
  • 37A. To [BID] is to OFFER. Mighty short theme answer, that.
  • 46A. [BOD] is a PERSON’S BUILD. Another in the not-in-the-language category of phrases that show up in crosswords only in this sort of clue/answer flip-flop theme.
  • 56A. [BUD] is SLANG FOR MARIJUANA. No, wait, that’s not the answer. It’s FUTURE BLOOM, which is also not in-the-language.

Highlights in the fill include OPHELIA, a [Shakespeare character who goes insane]; ALAN LADD, [“Shane” star]; BELABOR, or [Beat to death, so to speak], nonviolently; a POT ROAST, or [Slow-cooked beef entree]; and ABNORMAL, or [Strange].

Words seen more in crosswords than in the rest of my life include these:

  • 60A. UTE is a [Versatile vehicle, for short]. Who calls what a UTE, exactly? I never hear it. (Not counting the Ute tribe.)
  • 62A. [Not quite round] clues OVATE.
  • 9D. The ECU is an [Old French coin].
  • 25D. [Wroclaw’s river] is the ODER. Except in Poland, it’s called the Odra.
  • 27D. The AGHA is an [Ottoman Empire chief]. Sometimes spelled AGA.
  • 58D. TEC, the middle syllable of “detective,” is a [Gumshoe].

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Smoothie Mix”

Region capture 29Get your blender out because Matt’s got a smoothie recipe for you, complete with his own music mix:

  • 17a. BLIND MELON is a [Band whose “No Rain” video had the “Bee Girl”].
  • 11d. WILD CHERRY is the [Funk band with “Play That Funky Music”] from back in the ’70s.
  • 30d. CHUCK BERRY is clued [He sang “Johnny B. Goode”].
  • 61a. You’ll need some sort of yogurt or ice cream with that fruit. VANILLA ICE is [“To the Extreme” rapper]. Or maybe the ICE is the smoothie ingredient here.

I realize that the fruits all appear at the end of their theme entries, but it would make for a better smoothie to have BANANARAMA in the mix.

Highlights in the fill include an INCHWORM, BOB DOLE, a TWIX bar, the MANDIBLE that helps you chew that Twix bar, and the movie I AM LEGEND.

Low point: The overused entry ON RYE in tandem with AWN clued as [Bristle on barley or rye]. Although now I want to go to a deli and ask for a “bristle on rye” and see what I get.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 30James Sajdak may well be unaware of the 2000, 2007, and 2010 NYT crosswords that tread the same ground, with 50% to 75% of the theme answers the same. A great many L.A. Times crossword solvers may never do NYT puzzles, so the theme will be fresh and lively for them. But for us crossword gourmands, there’s an “Uh-oh, not again” feeling. The theme is people and places that end with plurals of the seasons:

  • 17a. COLORADO SPRINGS is a [City near the base of Pikes Peak]. Two of the three NYTs used this one for SPRINGS; the third had the less familiar SARATOGA SPRINGS.
  • 28a. The [National Economic Counsel director] these days is LARRY SUMMERS. Whoops, actually he is the National Economic Council director. He was clued as an ex-Harvard president and as Treasury Secretary in two earlier puzzles (he was billed as LAWRENCE in one). The other puzzle’s SUMMERS was BUFFY the vampire slayer.
  • 47a. [Where to board the Maid of the Mist tour boat] is NIAGARA FALLS. One other puzzle had this answer; the other two had HORSESHOE FALLS (what?) and WICHITA FALLS, Texas (pop. 96,000).
  • 61a. JONATHAN WINTERS was the [1999 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor]. Two NYT puzzles shared him, while the third had SHELLEY WINTERS.

This theme has now been done to death. Constructors, please stop coming up with a simple theme idea and not checking whether it’s been published before you fill the grid and write the clues.

NUCLEAR WINTER, METEORITE FALL, SILENT SPRING, INDIAN SUMMER…dang, one of those isn’t potentially catastrophic. Back to the drawing board.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Welcome, June”—Evad’s review

We have a very timely puzzle for the first day of June. Mr. Hamel strings together four theme entries that are all related somehow to a person named June. (Sorry, joon, “ACPT 2010 Rookie of the Year” didn’t make the cut as spelling counts here!)

  • “Sci-fi show costarring June Lockhart” is LOST IN SPACE. A staple of my early adolescence. I hated the conniving Dr. Smith, but my favorite was the stormy Major Don West.
  • “Dr. Seuss character voiced on TV by June Foray” was CINDY LOU WHO. The toughest area of the puzzle for me, I had CINDY LOO first. I see here that Ms. Foray was also the voice for Rocky the Flying Squirrel (any Bullwinkle fans out there?) lost01
  • Country singer who married June Carter” was JOHNNY CASH. The Carter family were famous country singers in their own right, referred to as “The First Family of Country Music.”
  • “Actor who appeared in six movies with June Allyson” is VAN JOHNSON. I couldn’t name one of them, as I see they date back to the post-WW II movies of the 40s and 50s. One was called “Two Girls and a Sailor,” co-starring Jimmy Durante, Lena Horne, Xavier Cugat, Grace Allen, Ava Gardner and Buster Keaton. Now that’s a cast!

Let’s talk briefly about the grid construction today. The placement of these four theme entries is referred to as a “pinwheel.” 2575129044_ac9959bbb5_m This is the easiest type of grid to fill, as there is no non-theme entry that crosses two theme entries. If all four themes ran across the grid, a constructor would likely have more trouble as some non-theme entries (“fill”) would have to cross at least two themes with fixed letters. This isn’t difficult, but it does constrain the fill to some degree and can lead to the dreaded “crosswordese” like EERO, ESAI, ERNE, etc.

Pinwheels can only be used if the lengths of all four theme entries are fewer than 12 letters (in a daily 15×15 grid). Here we have 2 10-letter entries and 2 11-letters. If any theme entry was 12 letters or more, there would not be room to run another theme entry down or across leaving the minimum 3 squares for the shortest fill.

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15 Responses to Tuesday, 6/1/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    HORSESHOE FALLS are also called the Canadian falls of Niagara Falls. All the cool stuff at Niagara Falls is on the Canadian side.

    I’m waiting for FROSTBITE FALLS, home of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  2. pannonica says:

    I’d think hackney patrol would be the editor’s responsibility, no?

  3. Sam Donaldson says:

    Rats! There goes my “Change of Seasons” puzzle:

    OLD MAN SPRING [Dad’s energetic bounce?]
    SUMMER CHICKEN [One fearful of bikini season?]
    THE BOYS OF FALL [Tale of young daredevil brothers?]
    WINTER BACK ON [Groundhog’s announcement?]

    Hmm. Maybe I can save this for Amy’s next “bad theme ideas” contest….

  4. Gareth says:

    Liked seeing ALANLADD in the NYT. I’m sure he’s been in crosswords before in full, but it makes a pleasant change since he tends to be the go-to LADD as well as a fairly common ALAN. Amused at the cunning dodge @ 37A. That central theme entry can really foul things up sometimes – 5 letters makes the grid soo much more manageable!

    Am I the only one who had OTHELLO for OPHELIA. Yes I’m a Philistine! They have a whole 4 letters in common!!

    Re the LAT: Is there an easy way to check these things? I don’t think it would’ve been as obvious if there wasn’t just a NYT (which is unfortunate).

  5. pauer says:

    Happy June, joon (and everybody).

    Liked the NYT theme a bunch; turning a common theme on its ear is always good in my book. Nice one, Sarah. Don’t know if going for all the V’s in the bottom was worth it (making TVA, UVA, and LVI in the process), but the long Downs were very nice and I liked the new clue for OSLO … which turned out to be ODER. Owell.

    I also want to announce that I have an announcement. Those of you who participated in the Holiday Puzzlefest will be getting an email about my next project very soon. Oh, yes: there will be puzzles.

  6. HH says:

    “Let’s talk briefly about the grid construction today. The placement of these four theme entries is referred to as a ‘pinwheel.’ ”

    Really? By whom?

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Henry, I refer you to p. 107 of Patrick Berry’s construction guide, Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies: “If you have four theme entries of 11 letters or fewer, you can always put some theme entries in the Down slots. Place the four entries to that they ‘pinwheel’ around the center.”

  8. Evad says:

    I learned of the term from a fellow collaborator (and frequent NYT contributor), Jim Hyres.

  9. abide says:

    Not too many three letter words can run the 5 vowel progression. I remember two previous puzzles like this with P_T and N_T (both of which have stretchy Y inserts as well). Can’t pull up those puzzle dates since Cruciverb database doesn’t let you search for three letter clues.

    T_T would work in BEQ-land.

  10. Howard B says:

    Best misstep in the NYT? Seeing O_HEL__ and pretty confidently throwing down OTHELLO. What other Shakesperean character could fit that?
    Lesson? Read the clues carefully, and *completely*! That sort of thing must drive Ophelia mad.

  11. joon says:

    uh, thanks? i’m glad it’s june because that means work is a lot less busy. i didn’t love today’s puzzles, except for the jonesin’ smoothie mix, because a) we had yummy smoothies yesterday, and b) what a clever idea for a title and puzzle. except that we’ve found that the smoothies are best if you use frozen bananas instead of adding actual ice.

    i know my shakespeare pretty well, but i, too, tried OTHELLO. it’s not a big stretch to say that he goes mad, and speed-solving typically rewards putting down the first thing that looks decent instead of taking enough time to make sure it’s right.

    patrick: i’m eagerly awaiting the holiday suite sequel!

  12. sbmanion says:

    I grew up in Niagara Falls, NY. Who sez there are no interesting things there? How about the Love Canal? I do think of the Whirlpool as an essentially American attraction.

    Sadly, I can’t think of very many other things to refute the point. Niagara Falls, NY was an industrial center when I grew up with many chemical and carbon factories. Clouds of cholorine from Hooker Chemical (of Love Canal fame) would periodically waft over the city. And I remember even as a kid of being reluctant to “hit the dirt” on the baseball fields on 95th and 98th streets as they had some disgusting tar-like chemicals oozing out of them.

    The Canadian side was magnificent and of all the attractions available to one visiting the Falls, the Maid of the Mist should top anyone’s list. The power of the falls is even more extraordinary when viewed close up and you can’t believe how much the water is roiling at the base of the falls.

    In the 50s, Canada began to take precautions to keep the Horseshoe Falls intact. The underlying stone is limestone and it erodes over time as it has for eons. The Americans did not take similar precautions and as a result, there have been several major rockslides over the years that have built up big rock formations near the base of the falls and have caused the American Falls to edge closer and closer to just a bunch of steep rapids.


  13. sbmanion says:

    Here are the Falls, perhaps the greatest location in the world to view the submarine races, one of all my time favorite euphemisms:



  14. Aaron says:

    But Evad, while we’re talking about construction, what do you call this one, which isn’t just a pinwheel, but a pinwheel that has a fifth theme answer in the center (NFL team coached by June Jones, 1994-96).

  15. Evad says:

    Good catch, Aaron–I missed the middle theme entry in my write-up.

    How about we call this a windmill?

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