Friday, 8/20/10

NYT 5:23
LAT 5:19
CS untimed

Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 29I like a grid like this: great swaths of tasty, long answers spinning around a stair-step of smooth fill. There are a few answers in the “ehh…” category but look at all the cool stuff:

  • 1a. A FABERGÉ EGG! Clued pop-culturally as an [Objet d’art at auction in “Octopussy”].
  • 18a. Nice clue for icky little ROTS: [Languishes in the lockup].
  • 24a. [Ancient dynasty name] is PTOLEMY. Who doesn’t like PT- words? Just last week at the King Tut exhibit, I saw an artifact depicting the Egyptian god Ptah, whom I’d previously known only from a couple crosswords that made compromises in the fill. Ptolemy’s a much more familiar name. And then there’s the ptarmigan, and “ptui!”
  • 33a. [What a V may indicate] is PEACE, in the peace sign.
  • 38a. MAH-JONGG, ending with a double G like 1a, is clued [It’s played with 144 pieces]. 45a: MAO, [He outlawed 38-Across because it promoted gambling].
  • 43a. Tricky clue: the noun [Strands on a branch] points towards Christmas-tree TINSEL. [Effects created by 43-Across] are GLINTS.
  • 49a. A SCORCH MARK from a lightbulb is a [Lampshade blemish]. You ever iron a scorch mark into your clothes? I’ve done that. Better to give up ironing altogether.
  • 53a. AGLIO E OLIO, garlic and oil, is a tasty and [Simple trattoria dressing]. You like that insane four-vowel pile-up in the middle?
  • 55a. The hairline WIDOW’S PEAK is a [Common feature of a Dracula mask]. Now I’m contemplating a ditch-the-apostrophe-and-move-the-S theme. WIDOW-SPEAK: [“Well, sure, it’s my job to take out the trash now, but I sure don’t miss his snoring.”]
  • 13d. I like the -monger words. A HATEMONGER is a [Prejudicial propagandist], and look how perky that alliteration is.
  • 23d. [Himmel und ___ (apple-and-potato dish)] features some German 101 words: Himmel is “sky” and  ERDE is “earth.” Apples grow up in the trees while potatoes are down in the earth.
  • 26d. [Like men, women and children] is PLURALIZED.
  • 40d. Who doesn’t love a manatee or dugong or SEA COW? [Creature with a paddlelike tail] doesn’t capture the most salient physical trait: the big oblong blobbiness.

Nobody gets excited to see ALIENEE in the grid, or the plural APRILS. But overall, I thought this was an eminently fair Friday puzzle. Looks like some folks are landing squarely in the Saturday-NYT zone, though. Trouble spots?

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 28I’m covering for PuzzleGirl at L.A. Crossword Confidential tomorrow. If you read this and are saying to yourself, “This needs videos,” swing by tomorrow for my LACC post. There will be heavy metal kazoo action and Stephen Fry with a randy flightless bird.

The theme is puns that take a left turn to fancy houses:

  • 17a. [Faithful caretaker of a religious residence?] is a MANSE BEST FRIEND. This plays on “man’s best friend.”
  • 26a. [Stately home for debate team practice?] is a MANOR OF SPEECH, playing on “manner of speech,” which sounds off-kilter to me. Aren’t “in a manner of speaking” and “speech mannerism”a good bit more familiar than “manner of speech”? It Googles up OK, but…. (At my high school, the speech team and the debate team were entirely different activities, but the clue still works because the debaters make speeches.)
  • 45a. ESTATE OF GRACE, playing on “state of grace” and Princess Grace, is a [Former European princess’s elaborate dwelling?]. With the ACE at the end, I tried something-PALACE too.
  • 58a. [French castle built with misgivings?] is a CHATEAU OF A DOUBT, punning on “shadow of a doubt.” A redoubt is a fort, so I was messed up here.

This puzzle knocked me on my tuchis. The first theme entries I filled in were 17a and 45a, so I can be excused for thinking this was an add-an-E theme (MANSE,ESTATE). The pun business threw me for a loop, and it took me 5:19 to finish—basically 25% longer than a typical Saturday L.A. Times crossword. Was it a relative bloodbath out there for everyone, or did you cotton on to the pun theme without a struggle?

What I liked best:

  • 10a. [Bar assistant?] is a PARA, as in a paralegal assisting the lawyers who’ve been admitted to the bar.
  • 14a. ALEE gets a fresh tropical clue: [Like the northern Antilles Islands vis-à-vis the southern ones]. Antigua and St. Kitts are two of the Leeward Islands, sheltered from the prevailing winds. Windward Islands like Martinique and Barbados bear the brunt of the winds. I suspect one group is rainier than the other, but couldn’t tell you which is which.
  • 16a. ENID, Oklahoma, is a [City named for a Tennyson heroine]. Never knew that trivia tie-in.
  • 20a. Clues like this trip up a lot of solvers. [Choose to reject, say?] is an ANTONYM, in that the word “choose” is an opposite of “reject.” Dastardly!
  • 34a. Sure, AHEAD is a regular word, but Donna splits it into A HEAD, or [Per person]. As in “the benefit costs a hundred bucks a head.”
  • 41a. We all know the KAZOO, sure, but its synonym, [Vocaphone]? Not so much. I learned something here.
  • 51a. [It’s used at Gallaudet U.] clues ASL, or American Sign Language. My family and I just started an ASL class. I keep forgetting how to fingerspell the letters F, G, K, Q, and X. Clearly I will need to learn the sign for the F-word because spelling it out will be too tough for me.
  • 66a. Clark KENT is a Perry [White underling].
  • 3d. Hidden past tense: [Hit the road] clues WENT.
  • 4d. Did you know the [FireDome and Fireflite] were DESOTOS, old cars? I did not.
  • 5d. [Short nightie] clues BABY-DOLL. Great entry.
  • 11d. [Operating room number?] means “stuff that numbs you in the OR”: ANESTHESIA.
  • 13d. Another obscured past tense: [Put two and two together] clues ADDED.
  • 28d. NEW ZEALAND is the [Home of the flightless kakapo] as well as the bloodthirsty KEA, which can fly and will probably swoop in and terrify you. But do not discount the ability of the kakapo to get in some blows!

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Inner P’s”—Janie’s review

In the past several months, Patrick has given us other puzzles that reference the alphabet in the title (“MT Nest” 3/24/10, “Attention to E-Tails” 7/1/10, ”K Study,” e.g.) and others with the add-a-letter approach to cracking the theme (“V-Six” for one). Today, taking the challenge of the latter, he reaches new highs (and new lows…) in the form. This is not entirely bad… The “inner P’s” of the title are pairs of Ps that have been added to familiar phrases (in their “double P” form, too). There are five theme entries, and the first two and last two overlap each other in the grid with six letters—which ups the ante for the constructor. Here’s what he’s come up with:

  • 17A. Hay fever → HAPPY FEVER [Excitement over a certain dwarf?]. This is definitely on the silly side, but silly’s okay by me.
  • 21A. Jet skiing → JET SKIPPING [Bouncing around in a hot tub?]. Hmm. Not the typical CS “visual” clue… But the clue/fill combo works well and is far livelier than, say, [Opting for prop planes] and more accessible than [Opting for props]… I still keep wondering, though, if that “bouncing around” isn’t somehow related to the excited state brought on by “Happy fever”…
  • 38A. Frequent flier → FREQUENT FLIPPER [One who’s constantly changing the channel?]. Perfection, pure and simple. Is this where the theme originated?
  • 52A. Nile River → NIPPLE RIVER [Stream filled with pacifiers?]. Yes, folks, you read it right. So does this one make you laugh out loud or gasp or maybe both? I’m in the “both” category. The image of this “river” (“pacifiers” be damned) is the stuff of bad, bad dreams. Is this really a “family-friendly” CS puzzle? Will I ever think of the “Nile” in quite the same way?
  • 60A. Amber ale → AMBER APPLE [A Golden Delicious?]. Whew, this seems tame enuf. Thank you.

So Patrick maybe pushes the limits some, but he also keeps things interesting and when you’re constructing puzzles on a very regular basis—or writing about puzzles on a very regular basis—“interesting” is much appreciated and nothing to SNEER at. That would be the [Cynic’s response]. No, thank you, not there yet.

Patrick also keeps things interesting with his non-theme fill and cluing. VARIETAL [Like some wines] is a word we don’t see in the puzzles everyday and looks to be making its first CS appearance. (For a mini-lesson in what makes a wine a varietal, give this link a try). The words every amateur (in the sense of “not untalented aspirant”) doesn’t want to hear, [“Don’t quit your] DAY JOB[!”], XES OUT [Cancels] and OOM-PAH [band] all add oomph to the solve as well.

So do these combo-pairs that tie together nicely: PARA– [Prefix with graph or sailing] (or “chute”) and RIP [Word before cord or current] (you definitely want your parachute to have a rip cord); [Smartphone, for short] PDA, for which you might get some killer APPS [Purchases from iTunes, perhaps]; and SPAY [Neuter] (a procedure you may want for your dog) and ALPO [Iams rival] (a bowl of which might be a welcome treat after that procedure…).

And did I mention this one’s a pangram? This one’s a pangram!

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17 Responses to Friday, 8/20/10

  1. joon says:

    normal friday time for me, but i had a trouble spot, all right: the middle. FLAGG is not somebody i know, although i took a stab when i had ___GG. i don’t know anything about SERGE other than it’s a fabric, i don’t know what a FLOP SHOT is, and i was fooled for the longest time by the “pilot” of GAS STOVE. the rest of the grid fell pretty quickly, although i had to resort to some inspired guessing to crack the SE. nice one.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Trouble spot in the mid-Mountain Zone. I had the boxer working on his TONE which gave me TARGE (??). Or, it might be TADGE and SEDGE that has the diagonal rib?

    Nope. Came here to find out that it’s BONE and BARGE, of course. **facepalm**

  3. Art Shapiro says:

    50D: What in the world is “CGI”??? I didn’t know the crossing clue (the dressing), so ended up with the blank square that turned out to be G.

  4. Howard B says:

    Art, CGI most commonly means “Computer-Generated Imagery”, shorthand for any computer-generated special effects widely seen in films today. Used to be more insider lingo, but the term has crossed into the mainstream.

  5. tinbeni says:

    After I got the NW across answer’s, I thought WTF, Brad usually kicks my Ass!
    Then I had Phil’s FLOPSHOT, ASHE and PTAS.
    Perused the clues and realized it was better going vertical (NOT across that is ingrained).
    Way better solve direction ….
    Actually my best Friday ever, I’d rate this T-BONE, Medium.

  6. LARRY says:

    I thought the best clue was 40A – “reading-and-feeding occasions” for SEDERS.

  7. Gareth says:

    OK so I made one mistake that I didn’t see till now: BUGS/BEDS. It made sense at the time I swear! I still can’t believe AGLIOEOLIO is in fact right, I think I triple checked every crossing answer just to be sure! FABERGEEGG is another great 1A! Also liked the entries SCORCHMARK and WIDOWSPEAK a lot! Anyone else want BEAVER rather than SEACOW?

    LAT: The Windward and Leeward Islands are also two of the West Indies cricket teams… Puns didn’t really hit my sweetspot… 11D and 20A are fab though!

  8. Matt says:

    The central area was troublesome for me– a lot of vaguely clued five-letter words: PLACE, BARGE, PEACE, SERGE, FLAGG were all mostly deduced from crossings. And FLOPSHOT, PANELSAW? I tried CHIPSHOT and DROPSHOT first, and PANELSAW was pretty much a guess. OTOH, the various corners were tough, but doable and entertaining.

  9. Evad says:

    Not sure if anyone who printed out the NYT puzzle from AL had the same trouble as me, but “Torn” looked like “Tom” and I kept wondering what type of dilemma Mr. Cruise or a male turkey would be in!

  10. Howard B says:

    Nice. Same trouble with FLOP SHOT (Think it’s been used in a puzzle somewhere before, which helped), and PANEL SAW. However, another stray typo somewhere in EERIE (EERII? GERIE? I forgot, was a double-typed letter) cost me time to find and fix, otherwise would have been a really great time today. C’est la vie.

    N.B: As I was one of those kids that barely passed shop class in school and had a habit of breaking equipment, that one was quite a struggle.
    At least today I can proudly spackle, paint with a roller, and pull up carpet staples competently – I just avoid the saws :). For me, DIY often = Destroy it Yourself.

  11. Ray says:

    Anyone else try acetoeolio? That cost me some time.

  12. Gareth — BUGS/BEDS cost me three and a half minutes to find and fix to MUGS/MEDS after I had otherwise completed the puzzle. It made sense to me too…

    Brad Wilber has a very Klahnian streak in his cluing style, which I enjoy for the challenge. I was actually delighted with my performance on it, other than the one error.

  13. Jan says:

    In the LAT, why is “choose to reject” ANTONYM? Choose is a verb and antonym is a noun. I don’t get it.

  14. Matt says:


    ‘Choose’ is the antonym of ‘reject’.

  15. *David* says:

    You can have your Friday NYT and LAT xwords but I’ll take a swim in NIPPLE RIVER over them all, WTG CS and PB2.

  16. John Haber says:

    I have to admit I just got defeated. I didn’t know SPIREA or, crossing it, why POPE is a visitor or the word FLOP SHOT. I didn’t guess MUGS in that sense. As for the center and SE, I was totally at sea (and I did fill CGI). I’d a boxer working on TONE and don’t really understand BONE, so didn’t guess BARGE. I don’t understand SERGE and didn’t guess PANEL SAW. As for the real SE, forget it. None of the long answers is recognizable. Oh, well. I haven’t lost this big time in a long time.

  17. ePeterso2 says:

    FLOP SHOT! Got this one with no crossings. In fact, FLOP SHOT, FFLAG and MAH JOHNGG were the only things I had in the center for a while. Unfortunately, misspelling FLAGG as FFLAG kept me out of the center for the remainder of the grid.

    Here’s a video that shows just how amazing Mickelson is with the flop shot:

    SEA COW – They hang out around the dock in my backyard. Saw some this morning as I was fixing breakfast. Cool to see ’em in the grid. (Yes, I had BEAVER at first, too.)

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