Wednesday, 9/1/10

NYT 3:58
Onion 3:23
LAT 3:10
CS untimed

Hello! This is kinda funny. Last night at this time, I was at the Cubs-Pirates game, watching the Cubs wallop Pittsburgh 14-2. And now? In tonight’s game, the Cubs are down 14-2 in the 8th. Guess we picked the right game to attend! —Update: 14-3.—Now 14-4.—14-6.—14-7 at the end of the 8th, so not a reverse replay of last night.

Michael Torch’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 8This puzzle kept putting up roadblocks for me. 1d: [Places for double dribbles?]? I could only think of basketball, not drool and BIBS. Given the resistance I found in the northwest corner, I didn’t figure out the first theme entry until the end. And SCOTCH PINNACLE (28a: [High place near Aberdeen?]) didn’t shout its true nature to me. Finally it was FANNIE MANACLES (46a: [Restraints for writer Flagg?]) that made the NaCl + Fannie Maes clear to me, and thus the [Cooking instruction hinting at this puzzle’s theme?] was patently ADD A PINCH OF SALT. How clever is that? NaCl gets “pinched” by the base phrases, and we get a theme with 4 letters inserted into each theme entry, changing the key words completely.

That last/first theme entry, 17a, is BARNACLE-CHESTED, or [Like sunken treasure?]. So Scotch pine and bare-chested join Fannie Maes as the other base phrases.

Five more clues:

  • 43a. [What Shakira or 25-Down goes by] is ONE NAME. Do you like this entry or feel disdain for it? I’m torn.
  • 47d. My favorite clue, believe it or not, is for a crosswordese answer. A [French CD holder] is called an ETUI? Are you kidding me? That’s awesome. ETUI is French for “jewel box”? I love it.
  • 10d. I had no idea what [Tablets site] meant or how the answer could end with AI. Oh! MT. SINAI, Moses, Ten Commandments, those tablets. Not aspirin or notepads.
  • 18d, 24d. Adjoining cognates: ACHT is the [Number after sieben] and OCTO– is clued as [Eight: Prefix].

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Or Else”—Janie’s review

I don’t post my times for a reason. They’re the times of “everysolver”—middlin’ only and not the stuff of news. There’s another reason: the occasional daily “themed” that is genuinely gnarly to me and takes me far more than my usual time. Like today’s… Now I got it all, and all on my own, but something about today’s theme (and theme fill) kept escaping me. Ditto much of the non-theme fill… [Duck soup], a SNAP, this was not. A high-level daily it was.

While the puzzle may challenge, the title is not a threat, but tells us that the word “or” will appear in the theme fill in a way we don’t ordinarily see it (elsewise as it were). Five strong base phrases containing “OR” get the reverse treatment, so that at:

17A. Castor beanCASTRO BEAN [Revolutionary Cuban legume]. Am not certain I’d care to find either on my grocer’s shelves.

25A. Corny joke → CRONY JOKE [Good one about a good buddy]. Good one!

39A. Diplomatic corps → DIPLOMATIC CROPS [Plantings that compliment each other?] As in “What did one Castro bean say to the other?” Perhaps something like, “You look lovely today.” If the clue had been [Plantings that complement each other?] then it’d say, “Why, you’re the perfect match for that rice plant over there!”

48A. Pour forth → POUR FROTH [Serve suds?]. I think this is my fave. It has the best/liveliest combo of base phrase, clue and theme phrase. To my ear.

63A. Tort reform → TROT REFORM [Fixing the Hambletonian?]. This annual harness race (for trotters) is currently run at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

How did you do with these?

Of the non-theme fill, EPICUREAN [Fond of fancy food] and CYCLOTRON [Accelerators] are both 50-centers in my book. I also see a poetic tie-in between [“Stoned Soul Picnic” songwriter Laura] NYRO, LYRIC [Song snippet] and ERATO, who was not only a [Muse for Millay] (Edna St. Vincent…), but to judge by the quality of her lyric writing, a muse for Ms. Nyro as well.

One trademark of the Klahn cluing style are those sequential repeated-word clues. Today’s puzzle delivers some strong examples with:

  • [SALT subject] and [Spilt salt, say] for ICBM and OMEN. (How many times did I look at the latter clue and see [Split salt, say]? Gr-r-r-r…)
  • [“Paradise Lost” playwright] and [“Paradise Lost” paradise] for Clifford ODETS and EDEN. Another iconoclastic playwright who gets a shout-out today is British [“Loot” playwright Joe] ORTON.
  • Prepositionally speaking, there’s [Go through] and [Go around] for RIFLE and AVOID. That’s rifle in its verb form and not in its noun form as an armed device that can be AMMO-loaded.
  • And, yes, this example involves synonyms, but I’m still adding to the list [Particle physics particle] and [Blog bit] for MESON and ENTRY.

Some other fave clues include: [Inveigle] for COAX (because “inveigle” is such a great word); [That’s a switch] for ON/OFF; [Big butterflies?] for FEAR; and yes, the non-astronomical [Full moon exhibit?] that gives us REAR.

All in all, [“Well done!”], Mr. Klahn. “RAH!”

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9Sorry—busy morning, on my way out for the next few hours. The abutment theme is summed up by PuzzleGirl over at L.A. Crossword Confidential, and she reviews the fill, too.

Onion later this afternoon. It’s time to take my son and his buddy to another friend’s birthday party. Boy, am I looking forward to that.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 10There was some foofaraw yesterday when the .puz and .jpg versions of Deb’s puzzle were emailed out via Ben Tausig’s Google Group. Some clues had gone kerflooey and included the answer word in lieu of the original clue word, which made things confusing. The corrected version was sent out last night and hopefully will be what’s in this week’s Onion newspaper. We shall speak of this no more.

The theme entries are homophones (roughly) of various gestures/hand signs, clued to reflect the altered spelling:

  • 20a. [“Sleight of hand” used to summon a Bohemian?] clues CZECH, PLEASE. You know the “pen signing a restaurant bill in mid-air” sign used to ask for the check? I don’t know how you’d modify that to ask for a particular sort of Central European.
  • 34a. To signal a timeout in sports (or life), you make a “T” with your hands. [“Sleight of hand” used to tell the chef to remove an herb?] clues THYME OUT.
  • 46a. [“Sleight of hand” used when solving trigonometry problems in groups?] clues GANG SINE. Is there any sort of trigonometry hand signal? Maybe at schools for the deaf? I wonder how many gang signs duplicate ASL signs.
  • 61a. The Vulcan salute from Star Trek turns into a VULCAN SALUD, or [“Sleight of hand” used to toast Spock?]. Cheers!

Five(ish) clues:

  • 27a. [Downing St. VIPs] are prime ministers, or PMS. Outside of Genteel Crosswordland, PMS = premenstrual syndrome, which is alluded to in Deb’s wry book, It’s Not PMS, It’s You.
  • 1d. [___ and a promise] clues A LICK. I don’t know what this means. Should I know what this means?
  • 16a. [Give a fuck, say] is a wonderfully tricky clue for CURSE.
  • 28d. [Kin of “Sacrebleu!”] kind of mangles the French a tad. It’s “Sacré bleu!” and “MON DIEU!” gets the same gist across.
  • Quaint slang corner: We get both PHOOEY and NEATO, clued as [“Drat!”] and [“Rad!”].
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15 Responses to Wednesday, 9/1/10

  1. Fun theme for a chemist!

  2. Roberta S. says:

    Since about 2005, I’ve only gone to one or two Pirate games per year, and I don’t think I’ve seen them score 14 runs in that entire time. Glad you were at the right game for you!

  3. Doug P says:

    It is legit to pluralize FANNIE MAE? That sort of ruined it for me. The AVON clue was awesome, even though I’m not sure “Avon Ladies” still exist.

  4. joon says:

    i thought that the base phrases were pretty lame and the resulting punned answers were just odd. interesting idea, but it reminded me more of orange’s goofy YCLE rebus idea than an actual theme.

    kind of an odd solving experience for me. no traction in the top half—felt like a friday. after a lot of flailing, i found STILE at 16a and then pretty much blew through it.

    SENT COD—is this an actual phrase, or just two words that might be said together? nobody likes to get unpaid-for fish in the mail.

  5. Gareth says:

    Pretty crazy idea – wouldn’t have crossed my mind that NACL could be added to phrases and still have them work! Sort of. Do agree with Joon they’re not the greatest end-results though. “Sent C.O.D.” sounds in the language to me though.

    P.S. sorry about my bad counting skills yesterday.

  6. pauer says:

    Fun one, I thought. Good work, Mike.

    And in case you haven’t heard, there’s a new free monthly puzzle at my website (java or pdf):


  7. at8ax says:

    Just for the record, ERIN is a receptionist, not a secretary. Somehow I doubt this will be listed in the Corrections of tomorrow’s NYT.

  8. ePeterso2 says:

    Yikes. Couldn’t find the top center of the NYT today, nor the top right of Deb’s AV Club puzzle. At that pace, the top left of Patrick’s puzzle will surely elude me.

    Enjoyed both the NYT and AV today (not sure what Deb meant in her FB post about the typo in 49D?).

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Bob Klahn — such a master! Always smooth, great words. TROT REFORM, POUR FROTH, CRONY JOKE were favorites, (well, all the theme entries!) Fond of fill like DRIVEL and the DRYS we saw recently Elsewhere. My only slow spots were a misreading the clue “Bucolic babbler” to infer Alcoholic driveler, ere I saw BROOK, and thinking DDTS before PCBS.

  10. Duke says:

    barel chested?

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Duke: Bare-chested. Like Fabio.

  12. Will Nediger says:

    I think the NACL theme has been done in the New York Sun. But ADDAPINCHOFSALT is a nice touch.

  13. *David* says:

    What happened on The Onion with 5D and 49D that bears repeating or are those really tricky clues?

  14. Deb Amlen says:

    What happened was that The Onion/AV Club crossword, in keeping with our cutting-edge, take-no- prisoners, devil-may-care, insert-your-favorite-cliche-here attitude, have decided to push the envelope, blow out the walls, set fire to our dad’s car, etc., etc. by including the answers with the clues. We’re trendsetters. We’re daring.

    In other words, a mistake was made. :)

  15. Andrew "nmHz" Greene says:

    I loved the ETUI clue. Isn’t that just like the French? Take an old word with just a soupçon of sophistication and snobbishness and apply it to the mundane detritus of modern life.

    It got me thinking — what other old horrible crosswordese could be redeemed by repurposing? I’m going to start by nominating ESNE to mean “someone who is bound to their employer because they need the health insurance and have a pre-existing condition.”

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