Sunday, 9/5/10

NY Times 7:43
Reagle about 9 minutes
Boston Globe 20:23 (Sam)/6:54 (Amy)
LA Times 6:41
WaPo Post Puzzler 6:14
CrosSynergy 8:15 (Evad)

Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Turning Back”

Region capture 1No time to write up the NYT puzzle before heading out for Indian food. Here’s the grid. Great theme! This week must be spell-words-backwards-and-see-what-else-they-make week. I like it!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Now, That’s Something”

Region capture 13The theme can be summed up as “long partial phrases that fill in the blank, where the blank is replaced by the word something, but the clue phrases are in the language”:

  • 18a. [Up to something?] doesn’t mean “sneaking around” here. It’s the incomplete-without-“up” TO MY EYEBALLS IN WORK.
  • 22a. [Say something?] clues YOUR PRAYERS, COWBOY.
  • 36a. [Something new?] = BRAND SPANKIN’.
  • 49a. [Tell me something?] = THE ANSWER. I dunno, do people say “Tell me the answer” enough for this one to meet the standard set by the other theme entries?
  • 56a. [Put something on?] = THE KETTLE.
  • 65a. [Something stupid?] = IT’S THE ECONOMY.
  • 76a. [Play something?] = FAVORITES.
  • 88a. [Something awful?] = I FEEL JUST.
  • 95a. [Something to do?] = WHAT’S A MOTHER.
  • 115a. [Something fierce?] = THE COMPETITION WAS. I feel “the competition was fierce” isn’t nearly as much a cliché as the other theme phrases. I do like “something fierce,” though.
  • 121a. [Thirty something?] clues DAYS HAS SEPTEMBER. Whoa. I’ve always heard is as “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November.”
  • 1d. [Something for nothing?] = GOOD.
  • 114d. [Something’s up?] = TIME.

I like how the clues all read so naturally, but the theme answers felt so stilted going in the grid. Props to Merl for the stacking of long theme entries, too—that’s one of his hallmarks. Overall, though, I didn’t find a boatload of Merlesque whimsy in this puzzle.

There were some ugly bits that might stymie some solvers:

  • 55d. [Ex-“Entertainment Tonight” co-host Bob] GOEN, he’s got an uncommon last name. His N crosses 73a: NATO with a tough clue, [Org. with jets],
  • 10d. [Cash: abbr.] clues DLRS, short for not “dealers” but “dollars,” apparently.
  • 63a. [Mouth prefix] clues ORI. This…is not a common prefix. It is found in orifice, though, if you go back to the Latin roots. In medical terminology, more mouth-related words start with oro- (e.g., oropharyngeal) than ori-.
  • 50d. [Unless, in Latin] is NISI.
  • Collision of not-so-familiar names. 44a: [Wallace’s 1968 running mate] is LEMAY, and the A meets 36d: [Financier and presidential advisor BernardBARUCH.
  • 7d. TERNARY is a not-so-common word meaning [Threefold].
  • 20d. Have you learned from all the years of OGEE clues that an [Ogee feature] is its S-SHAPE?
  • 33d. ENATE is old-school crosswordese, but Merl softens the blow with one of his trademark anagram clues: [Term for a mother’s-side relative (anagram of EATEN)]. The dad’s-relatives counterpart is AGNATE.
  • 105a. I am among the many who know that [“Mighty ___ a Rose”] is completed by LAK as a slangy spelling/pronunciation of “like.” If you don’t know that, you’d better know the unusual last name of this actor to get the K: 107d: [Luke of “Kung Fu”] is KEYE.
  • 96d. I used all the crossings to work out SELMAS for [Actress Diamond and novelist Lagerlof]. Actress Selma Blair and Marge Simpson’s cartoon sister Selma Bouvier are much more familiar to me than Diamond and Lagerlof. And don’t ask “What about Selma Hayek?” because she’s spelled Salma.

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 22”

Region capture 14Hey, I had fun doing this puzzle. Lots of contemporary pop culture, entertaining clues, and surprises in the fill. Here are the parts I liked most:

  • 16a. PEP RALLY doesn’t get into too many crosswords. The clue, [Spirit lifter], made me suspect something seance-related, but no.
  • 18a. I had to work the crossings because I didn’t know [Stephen Colbert’s term of address for his viewers] was NATION, but I do enjoy The Colbert Report when I catch it. Current pop culture tidbit #1.
  • 24a. [Impersonal sign-off] clues AS ALWAYS. I know someone whose aunt switched from signing cards “Love, Aunt Eller” to “As ever, Aunt Eller.” (Eller is not her real name.)
  • 32a. [“Friday Night Lights” actress Teegarden] clues AIMEE. Pop cult #2. Much fresher than Anouk Aimee or Aimee Semple McPherson, though Aimee Mann wonders if she’s more a Teegarden or an Anouk now. I don’t know if Mann does the Post Puzzler, but she does do the NYT crossword.
  • 34a. [It might cause you to see things that aren’t there] is great! The answer is a DIRTY MIND. And do you know that before I got that answer, I had the last four letters of 39a and thought “VAGINA? Could it be?” (No, REGINA is the [Capital named for Queen Victoria], capital of Saskatchewan.)
  • 49a. Fred ARMISEN is the [28-Down imitator on “Saturday Night Live”], 28d being President OBAMA. Pop cult #3.
  • 1d. Pop cult #4. LAMAS is the [Co-star of the 2009 movie “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus]. That’s Lorenzo Lamas.
  • 4d. I’m so glad that [Doesn’t go home, perhaps] wasn’t about baseball. SLEEPS OVER. Trip, did you have in mind “kid’s sleepover at a friend’s house” or the grown-up variety?
  • 14d. A PETTY TYRANT is [One with a minor power problem?].
  • 16d. [Going up on-line?] isn’t about posting a new blog entry, it’s about PARASAILING. Good misdirect.
  • 21d. [It symbolizes commitment] clues a PROMISE RING. Great entry.
  • 26d. When I pieced together the answer to [Final visitor], it made me laugh. The GRIM REAPER! “Hello, there. Thanks for stopping by. When you leave, would you mind cl—ack!—gasp—thud.”
  • 42d. A Passover SEDER is a [Dinner at which rolls are never served]. No leavened bread, you know.
  • 45d.[“Ta-___” (Scissor Sisters album)] DAH didn’t do anything for me, but this is current pop culture bit #5.

There’s other pop culture from the ’90s and earlier, too—YMA, NIL, SOPHIA LOREN, ALF, and FROST. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn (if you didn’t already know) that Trip has published a book called Pop Culture Crosswords. The puzzles in that book are easier than this one, so don’t let this weekend’s Post Puzzler scare you off from Trip’s collection if you like pop culture puzzles.
Later Saturday night:

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Super Bowl”—Sam Donaldson’s review

BG 09052010The title suggests football, but this puzzle’s all about bowling. Hook builds a puzzle around nine (not ten?) names and phrases that contain terms from bowling. As a sporadic kegler, this theme was right up my…oh, never mind.

In college, I had to complete three P.E. courses to get my undergraduate degree. I took archery, golf, and bowling. I did the best in bowling, largely because most of the grade was based on being able to keep score. (That’s right, I’m a physical specimen.)

Back to the puzzle. Here are the theme entries:

  • NATHAN LANE is the [Tony winner as Max Bialystock], and bowling action takes place on a lane.
  • [Handout, often] is a straightforward description of SPARE CHANGE. When a bowler manages to knock over all ten pins using two throws, she makes a “spare,” marked as a forward slash on the score sheet.
  • The [Fountain fave] is a BANANA SPLIT. A split in bowling is, well, when two pins are split. Help me, Wikipedia: “A split is a situation in ten pin bowling in which the first ball of a frame knocks down the headpin (i.e., the “number 1″ pin) but leaves standing two or more non-adjacent groups of one or more pins.” When I’m faced with a split after the first ball, I like to sing, “This split is bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s.” On an entirely unrelated note, I often bowl alone.
  • Bowling pins[Don’t mince words] clues TALK TURKEY. A “turkey” is three consecutive strikes (more on strikes in a moment). Hey, do you know why the guy eating Thanksgiving leftovers ended up in rehab? Because he couldn’t quit cold turkey! Thank you. I’m here all week. Be sure to tip your servers.
  • One who is [Elusive] is HARD TO PIN DOWN. Speaking of bowling pins, is it just me or are the fellows to the right a little too enthusiastic about their inevitable fate?
  • The [“Cheers” cast member] is KIRSTIE ALLEY, who played Rebecca, Sam’s love interest after Diane. I dated a Diane nearly 20 years ago, and after we broke up I thought it would be fun to date a Rebecca. I couldn’t convince any Rebeccas I knew to go along with it.
  • The [Sitcom legend], in this grid, anyway, is LUCILLE BALL.
  • To [Succeed big-time] is to STRIKE PAYDIRT. Strikes are typically marked with an “X” on the bowling score sheet, but it looks more cool to channel Garson Hampfield and color in the entire box.
  • Finally, [Young vagabonds] are GUTTERSNIPES. Guttersnipe is just a great word, no? In bowling, the “gutter” is where misdirected balls fall. Actually, not every bad shot ends up in the gutter.

The mix of names and phrases as theme entries feels a bit uneven to me. I think I might have preferred seeing “lane,” “alley,” and “ball” in phrases too, just from the standpoint of consistency. But I still really liked how Hook “framed” this puzzle, mostly because of the fill and clues. I love LIP-SYNC, I INSIST, I SAID NO, WHIZGIG, IN A LINE, and BONANZA. Some might subtract points for a grid with both JOB ONE, the [Business priority], and LUBE JOB, the [Mechanic’s task], but I didn’t even notice the repetition until I was making a list of my favorite fill from this puzzle. There were a few clunkers, namely ORDERER, EBAYERS, and the abbreviations SEL (for “selection”?!?) and SYN (for “synonym”). On a personal note, I liked the shout-out to KALEY [Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory”], my new favorite sitcom. I was thrilled to see Jim Parsons get a well-deserved Emmy for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, one of the best characters to appear on TV in a long time.

Every Hook puzzle has some great clues, and my favorites here included [Ride on a spaceship?] for SALLY (Sally Ride), [Advice for a university rejectee] as a lively clue for the otherwise drab REAPPLY, [Bedtime story?] for DREAM, [Pyramid, possibly] for TOMB, and, perhaps my favorite, [Man of letters?] for “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat SAJAK.

Every Hook puzzle also presents its own uniquely vexing moments, so we have much to cover in this week’s Brushes with Lame. (Use of “Brushes of Lame” without the express written consent of Major League Baseball and Samuel A. Donaldson is strictly prohibited.)

  • TENNIS-VILAS/TIRIAKThe [Nastase contemporary] wasn’t CONNORS or McENROE—those didn’t fit. It’s Ion TIRIAC. That’s him on the right in a photo from 1982. Not exactly your prototypical tennis physique. He could have had the starring role in the biopic of John Holmes.
  • I should know that the [Proust title end] is PERDU, as in “À la recherche du temps perdu.” C’est la vie. Que sera sera.
  • [Noyes’s “lilac time” locale] is KEW. Noyes, “lilac time” and Kew—a trifecta of terms that mean absolutely nothing to me. Let’s see: Noyes is Alfred Noyes, a poet. In “The Barrel Organ,” (pause for ten-year-old tittering) he writes, “Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time; Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!).” Okay, then.
  • The [Sinclair Lewis novel] was BABBITT. And I thought I was doing well to know Main Street and Elmer Gantry.
  • Aludel[Wrap in a waxy cloth] is CERE. Well, the dictionary confirms it, but it sure is new to me. Just what exactly would one wrap in a waxy cloth? And what does a waxy cloth look like? Is this old-school crosswordese? The Cruciverb database shows seven uses of CERE in 11 years, and each of them was clued as some variation of [Canary’s nose]. Something tells me I don’t need to make it a point to remember this.
  • I thought I was pretty good at movie trivia, but I needed the crossings for B*A*P*S, the [1997 Halle Berry movie]. Users on rate the movie 3.4 out of 10. For comparison, “Showgirls” has a rating of 4.1 and “All About Steve” scores a 4.9. This must have been one really bad movie.
  • An ALUDEL is a [Pear-shaped lab vessel]. That’s one over there on the right (seriously). Wow, what would Freud say about the pictures in this week’s post?
  • [Johnny-jump-up’s kin] is PANSY, and not, as I thought, Sally-sit-down.
  • The [Sequel to Haggard’s “She”] is AYESHA. I suppose it would have helped to recognize that the Haggard in question was H. Rider Haggard and not Merle Haggard.

Updated Sunday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

An innovative grid from Bruce Venzke today for the CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge” — two 15-letter entries run parallel to each other in the center of the grid, separated only by a single line. (That line had the minimum 2 3-letter entries, EOE and SOB, but that was a SMALL PRICE TO PAY). The second entry, “Sign seen Sundays at many barbershops,” though probably appropriate for SORRY WE’RE CLOSED, seems a bit old-timey to me, and oddly specific to a type of establishment.

In fact, there were quite a few entries that only OLDSTERS (comme moi) would be familiar with–SPATS (“Footwear for W.C. Fields”) dates back to the golden age of film, whereas STARSKY (he hitched with HUTCH) is a bit more recent, but still in us oldsters’ wheelhouses (and that is even despite the 2004 remake with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson that I hope no one paid good money to see).

The fill is rather sparse in terms of high-value Scrabble letters, a few too many of the set of letters contestants are given in the final round of Wheel of Fortune for my taste, but it did lead to a solve that was A SNAP. I seem to remember RAMADAS from a recent puzzle, here they are clued as “Some inns” which I found easier than the prior reference to dome-shamed open shelters with thatched roofs.

My only sticking point was with SHANK, clued as “Certain part of the evening, slangily.” I know to shank a golf shot is mishit it, there’s also a lamb shank, and there’s even the Shawshank Redemption, but what part of the evening is this referring to, pray tell?

One final clue I liked a lot was “Horse trailer?” for SENSE, referring to the phrase “horse sense,” or something so obvious even a horse would know it.

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Funny Business”

Region capture 2The theme entries are straightforward nouns that are places, clued as if they have an occupational bent suggested by a key word:

  • 27A: [Fishmonger’s workplace?] = SCHOOL BUILDING.
  • 41A: [Justice of the peace’s workplace?] = HITCHING POST.
  • 65A: [Cattleman’s workplace?] = STOCK MARKET. I tried to fit a BULL MARKET in here, but BULL MARKET isn’t a place, it’s a frame of hive mind.
  • 89A: [Matchmaker’s workplace?] = CHEMISTRY LAB. That’s cute. I like this one best.
  • 104A: [Dentist’s workplace?] = FILLING STATION. Imagine if filling stations that dispense gas for your car also dispensed laughing gas.
  • 15D: [Racetrack owner’s workplace?] = OVAL OFFICE. Who invented the oval-shaped racetrack? I’d think they would have started out with more of a circle. I bet it was the crew trying to build round bleachers who suggested straightening out the sides.
  • 34D: [Slapstick comedian’s workplace?] = CORNFIELD.
  • 54D: [Hard rock musician’s workplace?] = METAL SHOP.
  • 70D: [Ammunition supplier’s workplace?] = POWDER ROOM.

It’s a light, easy theme that doesn’t require too much thinking.

Highlights in the fill:

  • 34a. The CABOOSE is the train car that’s [Last to arrive at the station].
  • 44a. [Slapstick antic] clues a PRATFALL. The prat, of course, is your rear end.
  • 78a. You’ve got to go back decades for the [Classic sitcom sidekick] from The Honeymooners, ED NORTON.
  • 88d. My favorite [Indian relish] is CHUTNEY. Imagine my disappointment last night when the samosas were served with a liquidy sauce that had a chutneyish taste to it but lacked the substantiality of a sticky chutney with chunks of fruit in it.
  • 9d. We don’t see EMBLAZON without an -ED on the end, do we? It means to [Decorate with brilliant colors]. It looks weird without the -ED but now I want to start using the word a lot.
  • 73d. [Monopoly and others] are BOARD GAMES. I like long fill, but it’s mildly confusing that this and SECONDHAND are just fill when they’re longer than two of the Down theme entries.
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18 Responses to Sunday, 9/5/10

  1. joon says:

    you know what it also is this week? somebody else’s theme idea featuring will nediger week. one of my very earliest theme ideas was exactly this, except with much less interesting entries (HOT CROSS SNUB? THE LAST WARTS? MINI-FLOG? seriously). kudos to young will for a fine set of theme answers. the temporal specificity of the clue for LIVING MOOR made me chuckle. and woot, double ymir action, although i couldn’t figure out why FROST GIANT wouldn’t fit at 132a.

    do canadians eat turkey at thanksgiving? i know they parle français là (or ICI, to will).

  2. Zulema says:

    Amy, your Today’s Puzzles still has last week’s WaPo despite refreshing. Where did you get it?

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Zulema, Will J’s Puzzle Pointers has the WaPo puzzles posted typically weeks in advance. That’s where I go to get the puzzle on Saturdays.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving in Canada, but it is in October.

  5. Gareth says:

    The bottom-left below INDIANA simply killed me had TODATE and SIRS and NOIDEA and PIASTER, but read 101D as a partial ITS ___ and 103D to be DDR ___ (most likely DDR RAM). Couldn’t shake the feeling 130A should be MAGUS either. Feels like it’s semi-inevitable for me that one section is hard out of all proportion to the rest of the puzzle, which went down quite easily despite only getting the theme after the fact. Very nice selection of backwards words, BTW, and some really great long answers like AIRJORDAN, THEPOPE and TACOSALAD!

    @Joon – I’ve giving up pointing out my “I had this idea once…” occurences, they happen too darn often!! I guess there’s a lot of puzzles published and only so many of the obvious themes – hence… Last time for me was Alex Boisvert’s X theme – he did it much better anyways!

  6. ePeterso2 says:

    @Gareth – Glad I wasn’t the only one with DDR RAM in that slot!

    I finished it with just a few things I totally didn’t know – PIASTER/PENDED, AGUE/OUZO, TOT/TORR. I enjoyed COSMO REMARK and LIVING MOOR in particular. And I wouldn’t have known TIRANE, SLOES, and NOSEGAY were it not for learning them from puzzles past.

  7. Evad says:

    Zulema, the “Today’s Puzzles” links switch over at midnight (ET) to the next day (or week, in the case of the WaPo); it’s on my plate to have that switch happen at 10pm, assuming the new files are available at that time.

  8. Zulema says:

    Thank you all.

  9. joon says:

    wow, major ass-kicking here at the hands of reagle and hook. in merl’s puzzle i counted six proper names i didn’t know (LEMAY, GOEN, VINH, DANBY, KEYE, TOM T.), although i did get them all from crosses. hook, though, beat me: i guessed KATEY cuoco and “A TIE of the mind,” instead of KALEY (?!) / A LIE. i was lucky enough to guess the I of A LIE / TIRIAC, i guess. it seems TIRIAC was a doubles specialist whose career peaked 30+ years ago. that’s pretty cruel. not to mention CERE, BAPS, ALUDEL, and ORACH, though at least those had gettable crosses.

    trip’s puzzler was a lot easier than those. ARMISEN was a mystery, but “ta-DAH” was guessable and everything else crossing it was pretty easy. and there was a lot of pop culture, but somehow i don’t think of {Four-time Pulitzer winner} robert FROST that way. i also like NOWANDAGAIN, because it looks like something a PEEVISH hermione might say to ron in charms class. nice crossing between that one and AS ALWAYS.

  10. Todd G says:

    If I ever use Ion Tiriac in a puzzle, I plan to mention he’s now a billionaire (how many other professional tennis players do you know who can say that?). Use the following link for more info:

    Yevgeny Kafelnikov has had some success as a poker player…but not enough to become a billionaire.

  11. Plot says:

    Lots of words and names I was unfamiliar with in the NYT, but I got very lucky with my guesses, especially at partB and uBu, eXocet and oXfam. However the biggest struggle was in the NE corner. Months of avid sporcling has given me a disturbing familiarity with world capitals, so the more frequent spelling of the Albanian capital, tiranA, was ingrained in my mind. This made it very difficult for me to figure out THEPOPE.

    Happy to see Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus get a shoutout in the puzzler. I expect the similarly themed SHARKTOPUS (starring Eric Roberts) to show up in a BEQ themeless soon.

  12. Wes says:

    @ Plot:

    In the Sporcle quiz for European capitals, it’s spelled “Tiranë.”

  13. Plot says:

    That is correct; it’s also spelled that way in the World Capitals quiz and few of the other published quizzes. But, the unmoderated user-created quizzes, which greatly outnumber the published ones, almost always spell it with an ‘a’; my guess is that they don’t want to bother finding the hotkey that lets them include the proper umlaut. I suspect that when a quiz is deemed worthy of being published, the sporcle editors add the ‘ë’, since that most accurately represents the Albanian pronunciation.

  14. Meem says:

    Happy day. Solved the NYT diagramless with no Googles and one writeover. Wish I had done as well with puzzle #1. Got theme answers OK, but in the camp of brain cramp over Tirane, Pisano, etc.

  15. Jeff says:

    More Sam Donaldson please! Such an entertaining write-up. Give that man a blog!


  16. sbmanion says:

    I have always interpreted the shank of the evening as the point early on when things just start to get good. I think it means the early part of the evening.


  17. Jan says:

    Oddly, has “shank” as both the early and late part of a time period:

    a. the early part of a period of time: “It was just the shank of the evening when the party began.”

    b. the latter part of a period of time: “They didn’t get started until the shank of the morning.”

    Ah, the English language!

  18. Jan says:

    I had never heard of loose slots before – having never been to a casino, so I looked it up and found an interesting article on where to find those machines:

    The things we learn from crossword puzzles!

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