Monday, 8/23/10

BEQ 6:12
NYT 2:38
LAT 2:19
CS untimed

Oliver Hill’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 36Gotta love a Monday puzzle with a theme that’s not so drop-dead obvious that you can predict the next theme entry—and that doesn’t include an explanatory entry—but that’s still clued at a Monday-friendly level. A few moments of thought after finishing the puzzle let me see the road signs at the beginning of these phrases:

  • 17a. [By any means necessary] clues ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. Anyone else have the Blondie song stuck in their head now?
  • 26a. Colorful phrase: a DEAD-END JOB is [Work that offers no chance for advancement].
  • 46a. Whoa. I needed lots of crossings to get this one, and on a Monday at that! YIELD CURVE is a [Line showing the relationship between an interest rate and a maturity date]. It’s a long clue, but it could have been a paragraph and I still would’ve had trouble getting the answer. (No problem working the crossings, though.)
  • 57a. STOP, DROP, AND ROLL is awesome. It’s an [Instruction to someone who’s on fire].

When driving, you may encounter signs that say ONE WAY, DEAD END, YIELD, or STOP.

Five more things:

  • 36a. [Argentine tots] are NENES, not niños. But lo, EL NINO fights his way into the puzzle at 51a: [Pacific weather phenomenon].
  • 40a. [Hotshot] clues MR. BIG. I had trouble getting this one. Maybe because I don’t think of hotshots as Mr.?
  • 61a. [22-Across flavor, for short] clues CHOC., a Nestle’s Quik flavor. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought CHOC made the grade as crossword fill, but I myself use the abbreviation plenty for the grocery list.
  • 63a. This one always snags newer solvers. [Like a line, in brief] clues ONE-D. Not ONED, past tense of “one”—it’s short for one-dimensional. And no, you’ll probably never see it spelled out as one-D. 1D, 2D, 3D.
  • 5d. SHARPENER is clued [It puts a point on a pencil]. Consumer/pencil nerd advice: Buy a good, solid European pencil sharpener (the small kind) in the $4 to $8 range rather than using the cheap ones that cost around a buck. It’ll sharpen flawlessly (unless you’re using junky pencils—stick with Dixon Ticonderoga, Mirado, or another premium pencil brand, as the leads won’t break and the erasers won’t fall out).

There’s a sizeable amount of fill that I’m not wild about here. Partials and uninspired two-word phrases include I NOW, AS TO, OR SO, and I’M ON. Hardcore crosswordese is represented by STELES. TSO’S, IPSO, RIN, ULAN, and AER are not particularly fun fill-in-the-blanks. I could see some of this stuff miring the crossword newbie.

Updated Sunday night:

David Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1Hasn’t it been a while since we had an LAT puzzle as easy as this one? The theme entries practically fill themselves in, what with the “[body part A] TO [body part A]”/”[body part B] TO [body part B]” structure. The clues all have a parallel structure as well:

  • 18a. HEAD TO HEAD is [How rivals compete].
  • 28a. [How lovers dance] is CHEEK TO CHEEK—especially when they’re doing The Bump.
  • 49a. [How close friends talk] is HEART TO HEART.
  • 64a. BACK TO BACK is [How pistol duelers stand], as well as how two people comparing heights stand.

Six more clues:

  • 17a. [Rara __] AVIS means “rare bird” in Latin. Commit this phrase to memory because RARA and AVIS both show up a good bit in crosswords. AVIS can also be the rental car company, but RARA rarely ventures out without its [___ avis].
  • 24a. A ONE-K (or 1k run) is a [Short race, for short]. Serious runners probably don’t register for the 1k races. Middle-distance runners compete in the 1,000 m, which is 1 km but who calls it that?
  • 41a. [Car alarm acknowledgment] is a good clue for CHIRP. Sadly, my new car honks rather than chirping. I miss my chirp.
  • 3d. [Working hard] clues the two-word AT IT. Multi-word answers can be hard to parse without the word breaks. Sometimes this answer is clued [Have ___] and puzzled solvers wonder, “What does ‘have a tit’ mean?” And then they snicker.
  • 32d. HERETO is clued by means of [Annexed __: attached as part of this document]. Not really a fun word, is it?
  • 47d. [West Virginia neighbor], 4 letters—well, it can’t be UTAH or IOWA, so it must be OHIO.

Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cry About Everything”—Janie’s review

I am what is known as a “cheap weep.” Yep. I’ll cry about (just about) any- and everything. But not today. Oh, no. Today I’m all smiles as Randy gives us five fabulous theme phrases all which have the letters “C” and “RY” (wrapped) about them. Behold:

  • 17A. COTTAGE INDUSTRY [Home-based business]. When it comes to a built-in labor pool, there’s no place like home—and this tradition has a long history. If you KNIT [Work with needles], you may already be a part of it!
  • 23A. CHUCK BERRY [“Johnny B. Goode” rocker]. We saw Johnny’s “gunny sack” in the puzzles almost ten days ago. Hope you remembered! There’s more music in the puzzle by way of the STONES [“Let It Bleed” band, briefly] and two female performers whose styles are pretty much at opposite ends of the spectrum: [Pop artist Lady] GAGA and ENYA [“Orinoco Flow” vocalist]. S’pose we’ll ever see them on the same bill again? (S’pose you’ll choose to emulate either one and [Engage in karaoke] SING their songs for your friends?) Oh—and there’s also VIOLA [String quartet instrument].
  • 41A. COSMETIC SURGERY [Tummy tuck or face-lift]. Truth? I’m not fixedly in the ANTI [“No” voter] camp, but I am in the “be very, very careful” camp. It can be risky business, so be very, very careful.
  • 51A. COVER STORY [Alibi]. I love this combo. The key, I think, is the clue, which (to my mind) is simply a livelier direction to go than, say, [Magazine feature].
  • 64A. COLOR COMMENTARY [Play-by-play accompaniment]. In football, you’ll get a full account of a player’s [Gridiron gains] YARDS in any particular game. Or in baseball, the sportscaster will tell you all about the batter’s STANCE [Hitting position]. S/he may even give you some background about the sport and fill you in on the [Dead-ball] ERA. Was this term new to anyone else? Fascinating. It refers to the nearly 20-year period (beginning in 1900) before the emergence of Babe Ruth as a hitting phenom. How would fans feel today about league-wide season after season after season of “low-scoring games and a lack of home runs”?

Some of the (other) lively clue/fill combos today include:

  • [10-10 and 4-4 but not 10-4]/TIES, good buddy.
  • [Web master?]/SPIDER.
  • [Rough ride at the rodeo]/BRONC.
  • [Mo. with the most presidential birthdays]/OCT. Can ya name ’em? Here’s a list.
  • The literally animated pair [Natasha’s accomplice]/BORIS and [Bugs bugs him]/ELMER.

Finally, I enjoyed the homophone pair of ARIES [Sign of the Ram] and ARES [Greek god of war].

And guess what? “Look, Ma—no tears!”

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 2You know what? I like this puzzle. It’s got a lot of cool entries in it:

  • 1a. [Missouri, with “The”] is your SHOW ME STATE.
  • 15a. [Go in search of someone, say] clues TAKE OUT AN AD. Fresh fill. One could argue that this is an arbitrary verb+noun phrase, but I say it’s become a discrete unit of meaning.
  • 17a. UNIT PRICING is faintly dull, but I like how the clue stymied me. [Pound for a pound, e.g.] involves pounds of currency and pounds of weight. Do the British weigh things in pounds, or in metric and stones?
  • 35a. EL RUSHBO, ha. [“Imam Obama” coiner, to himself]. I always think of his pilonidal cyst.
  • 40a. [1983 arcade sequel set in a maze] is a game I don’t remember at all, JR. PAC-MAN. I like the unusual JRP and CM consonant combos.
  • 69a. [Phrase said while knocking on wood] rhymes with its answer, SO FAR, SO GOOD. The bottom row of the grid contains not a single E, T, or N, which is unusual.
  • 1d. The clue [Bard figure] confused me, too. It’s a STUDENT at Bard College, or at Bard High School Early College, where hotshot teen constructor Caleb Madison goes. There’ll be an NYT crossword this week (tomorrow, I think) made by the classroom of senior citizens Caleb teaches about crossword construction.
  • 24d. A CASTANET is a [Musical clicker]. How weird is it that you can break that into three words, insert an adjective, and end up with “cast a wide net”?
  • 50d. THE BAR is [Something an ambulance chaser has to pass], ambulance chasers being lawyers. Pet peeve: People who don’t pull over promptly when there’s an ambulance nearby, and people who pull back out into traffic like it’s a race to get going before the cars who pulled over ahead of you can move.

So that’s a wealth of goodies in this puzzle. On the down side, we also had these things:

  • Thirty-four 3- and 4-letter answers, many of which are unexciting—stale OLEO, ELOI, NAE, AEON; assorted abbrevs. (I did like the tricky YAMS clue, though.) Never heard of this ANI, 9d: [Celebrity chef ___ Phyo], but I’m filing it away in my head because any famous ANI is ripe fodder for crosswords.
  • 67a. [Got in contact with some long lost friends?] is a cute clue, but the answer, HELD A SEANCE, is firmly in the arbitrary verb+noun class.
  • 12d. ONE INCH is both an arbitrary number+unit and an answer with an off-kilter clue. [Dusting measurement], as in snow? An inch of snow is measurable and visible and, at least in Chicago, is likely to stick for a bit. A “dusting” of snow is a teeny fraction of an inch.
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10 Responses to Monday, 8/23/10

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT: Around here “choc” seems a perfectly legit slang phrase, as in a box of chocs… though my Oxford only gives me “choc-ice” Guess it hasn’t caught on in the US.

    Shaved 8 seconds off my NYT Monday and 5 off the LAT… not sure what’s going on!

  2. Ladel says:

    Pentel mechanical pencils, been using them for 40 years, they hardly ever fail, and they fix them for free if they do.

  3. joon says:

    gareth, what’s going on is that these were very easy monday puzzles. i didn’t break my NYT paper record, but i did shatter my LAT paper record—and came within a second of my fastest-ever paper solve, which was (naturally) a monday newsday.

    the NYT puzzle felt a bit stale, which is surprising because i’m normally a big fan of oliver’s work. but we saw a street signs theme very recently (march 12 wsj, by randy ross—a 21x, at that). i guess that helped me work out the theme very quickly, but it made the puzzle seem less fresh. and yeah, there was a lot of not-so-hot fill, although i like I’M ON as a standalone {“That’s my cue!”} entry (props to mike nothnagel, who was the first constructor i saw use this clue). on a monday, though, the fitb clue certainly is easier.

    really nice LAT puzzle, though. super-easy but not stale, and the fill is buttery smooth.

  4. Tinbeni says:

    I agree, both the NYT and LAT were very easy and my fastest times ever.
    Thought the LAT was the tighter puzzle (though I wanted “skin-to-skin” as an additional theme).
    NYT had great themes but a lot of trite stuff.
    I do these on paper, sipping a Mug of Java (sometimes the NYT gets sips of something stronger), watching the news or ESPN (OK, not ever a dedicated solver) and I came in around 7 minutes, exactly.
    I come here to check Amy’s solve time (watched Dan Fever do the Rex puz. last week in 2:17) and I am completely blown away by the times.
    Some of y’all are awesome!

  5. joon says:

    hand to hand, eye to eye, toe to toe, mouth to mouth, ear to ear, hip to hip… it could have been a 21x, albeit a pretty boring one. four theme entries seems like the right number.

  6. E says:


    Both CS (4:44) and LAT (4:20) were personal record times for me today. Then, just for fun, I went back and redid LAT with “perfect foreknowledge,” typing as fast as I could, and I still couldn’t beat your time. I had 2:23 to your 2:19. Are you for real? I mean, seriously!!!?!

    By the way, you have a typo in your blog post. TIE should be TIES.

  7. Neville says:

    E, I tried it awhile back on one of my own puzzles – seeing if Amy or I would win on a Tuesday LAT puzzle I wrote. She slaughtered me! I don’t know how she (or some of these other solvers, like Dan feyer, do it)

    I’m no Mavis Beacon, though :)

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Chuckled at your declaration of homophone status for “are ease” and “air ease”…

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    ArtLvr, I think Janie’s homophones work just fine. The dictionary I checked lists identical pronunciations for Ares and Aries—no “are ease” to be seen there.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    E: Check out Dan Feyer solving today’s puzzles. You may need slow motion replay.

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