Monday, 7/5/10

BEQ 6:56
NYT 3:13
LAT 2:55
CS untimed

I have created a monster. My sister-in-law was looking at my Droid phone and asked where the games were. Oh! I don’t really have any. So I went looking for some and found an addictive one called Word Drop. Kinda like Boggle, except when you find a word, its letters drop out, the letters above slide down, and new letters drop up top. The letter scores correspond (roughly, maybe) to Scrabble letter scores, and the allowable words are those in the Sowpods Scrabble-legit word list. So you can clear out a Q with QI, no problem. I played for an hour straight, ignoring the extended family completely. Then my sister-in-law had a go at it, and her husband, and my husband. Now I’m looking forward to being stuck in a long line very soon.

But for now, blogging calls. And hey, I’m pretty impressed that I remembered, what with being out of town.

Hope you’ve all had a good Fourth of July—especially those of you reading from Canada, South Africa, and other points non-American.

Jill Denny and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

Picture 4The theme today is APART or rather, A PART—phrases that end with words that take the form of A[body part]:

  • 20a. “FULL SPEED AHEAD” is clued simply as [“Go!”].
  • 38a. APART ties everything together. It means [Separate…or a hint to this puzzle’s theme].
  • 56a. “THE GAME IS AFOOT” is clued as a [Sherlock Holmes phrase, when on a case]. The clue is a little off, isn’t it? “When on a case” feels like it’s referring to the phrase, not to Holmes. Maybe a “he’s” in there would help.
  • 10d. TAKEN ABACK means [Surprised and flustered].
  • 26d. [Going in side-by-side pairs] is TWO ABREAST.

I have a soft spot for those a-__ words that show up more in crosswords than in life. You know the ones—ALEE, AMAIN, APACE, ATHIRST, and the queen of them all, AKIMBO. So I like this theme, particularly because of its body part thematic consistency.

Smooth Monday fill throughout, with fun fillips like MATZO and the Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s TIME WARP (“But it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane”), DYNAMIC and GARBLED. I’d like to listen to a speech that is both dynamic and garbled—wouldn’t you?

This puzzle took me a Tuesday-Wednesday amount of time, but I attribute that to ergonomics rather than the puzzle’s difficulty being pegged at beyond a Monday level. Laptop on couch, with my elbow penned in by the couch arm? Not good.

Updated Sunday evening:

Allan Parrish’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Picture 5The first two theme clues in this lactose-tolerant puzzle misled me. They both mentioned jelly, so when I found myself down in HARVEY MILK corner, I dreaded what I would find in the clue for that answer. No jelly! Thank goodness.

Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. HEAD CHEESE is a [Meat jelly with a dairy-sounding name]. There’s a rich tradition of giving horrifying food products the names of other, more generally edible foods. Consider HEAD CHEESE and Rocky Mountain oysters.
  • 29a. [Jelly companion] is talking about a sweeter and more appetizing jelly, the kind that pairs well with PEANUT BUTTER.
  • 47a. SHAVING CREAM is clued [It’s usually not needed with an electric razor].
  • 62a. HARVEY MILK is the [San Francisco gay rights martyr played by Sean Penn in a 2008 film].

I’ll dock this puzzle a couple points for having two food items, one non-food substance, and one person. If only THE BIG CHEESE would fit into HEAD CHEESE’s spot. Though the 2/1/1 split unsettles the balance a bit, what unifies the four theme entries is that they all include a dairy product as their second word but do not contain milk.

Rich, creamy Alfredo spots:

  • 14a. The BRONX, [Yankee Stadium’s borough].
  • 38a. VERTIGO, a [Dizzy feeling].
  • 41a. We thank Dana Carvey and his “Wouldn’t be prudent” Bush impression for PRUDENT being clued as [Sensible, a la George Bush Sr.]. Not technically a “Sr.” but not necessarily factually linked to the whole PRUDENT meme.
  • 51a. MACGYVER! [TV hero who was really good with a Swiss Army knife], a rubber band, a stick of gum, and a balloon.
  • 11d. ROUNDTREE is clued as [“Shaft” star Richard]. When she was about 5, my good friend Amy danced with him. True story!

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Mineral Deposits”—Janie’s review

Into each of four familiar phrases, Bob has made “deposits” of “ORE,” yielding four new phrases. If the new phrases don’t take us to entirely new places, each offers a nifty twist on the base phrase. Here’s how Bob has mined this particular vein:

  • 20A. [Put back phys ed and study hall?] Rest periods → RESTORE PERIODS. Hmmm. Didn’t/don’t a lot of us think of “study hall” as a “rest period”?… I also liked seeing the grid’s complementary DESKS [Class-y fixtures?], which any proper “study hall” requires. (Okay—or library tables…)
  • 31A. [Biased data?] Cold facts→ COLORED FACTS. See what I mean about the “nifty twist” factor. I especially like it in this example. Seems to me that “spin doctors” are the masters of colored facts
  • 39A. [Marathoner’s worst finishes?] Post times → POOREST TIMES. Since none of the theme fill really wanders too far afield of the idea in the base phrase, kinda wish Bob had clued this in relation to horse racing. I don’t think we talk about human “post times”…
  • 52A. [What game wardens hope to save?] Farm animals → FAR MORE ANIMALS. Ooh—what I like about this one is that the addition of “ORE” creates two words from the one. Nice!

Lotso strong, longer fill today, always happy-making for me. Some of the highlights include: LOST FACE [Experienced public disgrace] (a CS-first), ON THE RISE [Gaining in popularity] (ditto), the rhyming SERENGETI [National park that inspired “The Lion King”] and ROSSETTI [Pre-Raphaelites founder…], DINING CAR [Rolling restaurant], INDELIBLE [That cannot be forgotten] (another CS first), and the stand-out GAG REEL [Batch of bloopers] (yet another…).

Then, there are several sets of clues that team up nicely—or even in unexpected (i.e., stretchy…) ways:

  • The clue [Stock up on] appears twice: once for LAY IN, once for AMASS. Move the initial “A” of the latter to the end of the word and you get MASSA [Marble-producing Tuscan commune]. That one was entirely new to me, but here’s the Wiki take on it—with palm trees!
  • Something that’s [Socially improper] is simply NOT DONE. I mean, [“Where are your] MANNERS[?”]
  • Today, the [Beginning of a fitness motto] is not something that (conventionally) aligns with [“No pain, no gain” advocate?]. The former is “USE IT” (as in “Use it or lose it”); the latter references not FONDA and her grueling regimen of aerobics, but the Marquis DE SADE. His grueling regimens are another story…
  • [James Dean and Marilyn Monroe], now deceased, are ICONS. In their hey-day each was a living legend, not to be confused with [Living leaven] YEAST.

I’ll let you sort out/shout out all the lively alliterative clues, but in closing, let me highlight two others:

  • [Snapshot taken at ten-year intervals] for CENSUS. For too long had and “L” where the “C” is as I thought this one somehow related to time-lapse photography… and
  • [Baked state?] for ALASKA. If you’re feeling creative

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Picture 6There are some terrific answers here—case in point, “I’M JUST SAYIN’,” QUICK AS A WINK, CASEY STENGEL, GIN AND JUICE, FLY SWATTERS (with a great clue), TACO BELL, THE MAGI, and the BAR SCENE—but they were outweighed for me by the fill I didn’t care for. DHING as a verb (maybe it’s used all the time in baseball, but I haven’t seen it), IN YEARS, FIT WELL, crosswordese ITERS, GO NOW, FAS, NES, Gerald Ford’s monogram, etc.

Highlights, aside from the aforementioned good stuff:

  • 51a. Hey, look! A Roman numeral sports clue with an approach that actually helps me get the answer! Discussion of the teams, players, or scores does nothing for me, but [First Super Bowl won by an African-American coach] tells me it’s one of the more recent ones, the 40-somethingth. That got me the XL of XLI, thanks to Tony Dungy being in the news however many years ago that was for whatever team it is that he was coaching. (I honestly couldn’t tell you what team that is.)
  • 60a. OLE is a [Chant drowned out by vuvuzelas].
  • 3d. [___ penicillin] requires no medical knowledge—JEWISH penicillin is chicken soup.
  • 13d. [Spot for singles] is a great clue for BAR SCENE. Crosswords have taught me to think of $1 bills first and foremost when the clue speaks of singles, but the answer isn’t a TILL or a BILLFOLD.
  • 55d. [Things with wings] are PADS, as in the ultra-thin maxi variety.
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15 Responses to Monday, 7/5/10

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    Fun NYT puzzle! Several weeks back, while waiting for my order in a local bagel shop, I saw someone working with Crossword Compiler on his laptop. I’ve seen a couple of people using Across Lite on a laptop, but never CC–so I felt compelled to introduce myself and talk crosswords. Yes, it was Jeff Chen. We have since traded a few emails and during the course of correspondence I learned that he and his girlfriend, Jill Denny, were awaiting publication of their first NYT crossword. Congrats to them both on a fun Monday puzzle!

    This one took me my normal Monday time (though the ^%$# applet robbed me of six seconds because it was slow to load). I like how the HEAD is on top and the FOOT on the bottom, but should the BREAST really be sagging below the BACK?

  2. Gareth says:

    Both themes are most excellent early week ideas and IMO very well executed. “Non-dairy with dairy endings” is tight enough for me…

    I learnt HEADCHEESE from another crossword (I think) it goes by the more mysterious “brawn” here. Similarly “Rocky Mountain Oysters” are “Karoo Oysters” – but I’m not going near them either away!

    MACGYVER certainly does warrant an “!”

  3. Sara says:

    My favorite “a” word: ATHWART.

    Fun puzzle!

  4. sbmanion says:

    I just finished watching on Netflix the three episodes of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series I had not yet seen. In one of them, Holmes did indeed say “The game is afoot, Watson.”

    Basil Rathbone will always be my favorite, but Jeremy Brett is very good. I think Robert Downey, Jr. is a great actor, but I don’t like the idea of a young, vigorous Holmes.

    Great Monday puzzle.


  5. ArtLvr says:

    I like looking at things ASKANCE…

  6. Neville says:

    Regarding Klahn’s CS puzzle – was it just me, or was yesterday’s Sunday Challenge much easier than this? Maybe I’m just not on the right wavelength this morning, but this felt late-week to me with the cluing!

  7. joon says:

    terrific NYT; my favorite monday in ages. great, fresh, theme, perfect “reveal,” nice interlock, squeaky-clean fill, and meatier-than-usual clues. thank you, i’ll have another.

  8. Martin says:

    Next Sunday’s CS is also by Klahn. I found it a killer, maybe the hardest puzzle I did all weekend. (I do two weeks of CS when they’re posted on alternate Saturdays.)

    Apparently some of the other members of the CS constructor’s syndicate have tried telling him in the past that these are supposed to be easy puzzles — except for the Challenge, which is supposed to be medium — but he ignores them. Thankfully.

  9. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! Jill and I had a really fun time writing it. Here’s a bit of background on its construction, which I posted to the Wordplay blog yesterday (apologies for the cut and paste…):

    I think the inspiration came from watching the recent Sherlock Holmes movie. Afterward, we talked about what a nice phrase “THE GAME IS AFOOT” is, how it hasn’t been in any crosswords that we’ve seen, and decided to brainstorm other “A____” words. Jill came up with the brilliant idea of placing AHEAD at the top, ABACK to one side, ABREAST (tee hee) to the other side, and AFOOT at the bottom. We sat down to come up with theme answer and square placements, and this is roughly how it went:

    Jill: How about if we put head on top, foot on bottom, and back / breast to either side?
    Jeff: That’ll never work (dripping with condescension). Do you have any idea how bizarre, how coincidental it would be for two symmetric crossings to work like that? The odds are momumentally low! (insert *pffft!* sound here)
    Jill: Hmm. But… how about if we just try it?
    Jeff: (grumble)
    (fast forward one minute)
    Jeff: What the $*$%? How did? Whazza?
    Jill: What a coincidence, it worked. Imagine that.

    @Sam, it was SO fun to run into you the other day at the bagel shop! We must have been quite a dorkfest, talking crossword construction shop (think the movie “Trekkies”) while these poor people just wanted to get their stinkin bagels.


  10. Howard B says:

    Nice Monday Times puzzle – thanks!
    The Klahn puzzle was pretty brutal, and in this case this is a good thing.

    The LA Times puzzle gets triple bonus points for MACGYVER. As far as I’m concerned, having that answer in addition to the theme would have given it a free pass for throwing something like, say, ‘ALALA’ into the fill somewhere, if it wanted to.

    Didn’t think I’d be so happy to see ‘GIN AND JUICE’ in a puzzle as in the BEQ. That one got me rolling, as I couldn’t grab on to anything at first. (With my mind on the puzzle and the puzzle on my mind). Thanks Snoop, Mr. Dogg, whatever.

  11. Jesse says:

    @Amy, I notice my times for the three puzzles are almost exactly twice yours :(

    I loved the NYT puzzle – finally, a bit of a challenge for a Monday. If it weren’t for BEQ, I’d go ape on Mondays – all my crosswords are done in half an hour.

    Can someone explain DHING in BEQ and how it relates to the older part of the clue??

  12. Jared Hersh says:

    Thanks for the word game recommendation! Nicole misses a similar game called “Word Mole” that was available on her Blackberry but not her new (superior in every other way) ‘Droid, but this game will fill the void nicely :)

  13. Jeffrey says:

    DHing is Designated Hitter(ing) which is an American League [eg Indian] baseball position for a player who only bats (for the pitcher) but doesn’t play in the field. Frequently, an older player who no longer has the skills to field is the DH.

  14. Jesse says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. I just learned something!

  15. Johnathan says:

    I’ve been doing the CS puzzles for about two years now and Klahn’s work has always been out of step with the other CS constructors. Not that I dislike his puzzles, just that it makes for an odd inconsistency IMHO, especially when a Klahn Monday puzzle is more difficult than the preceding Sunday Challenge.

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