Tuesday, 9/7/10

NYT 3:10
Jonesin’ 3:05
LAT 2:54
CS untimed

MaryEllen Uthlaut’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 16Congrats to MaryEllen Uthlaut on her NYT debut. I like how the theme entries add -LET to the end of four words to change their meanings. Sometimes the -LET breaks up one of the original words (looseleaf, eavesdrop, ringtone) and sometimes it doesn’t (cut), so there’s a faint air of inconsistency in the structure.

  • 20a. A CUTLET ABOVE might be a [Meat slice on the highest shelf?]. At first I was thinking that all of the -LET words in the theme were etymologically related to the -LET-less words, but cutlet‘s derivation is a diminutive of a word meaning rib, not a little cut of something.
  • 27a. [Advertising sheet blowing in the wind?] clues LOOSE LEAFLET. I was back at Staples today buying some looseleaf paper for my kid to take to school tomorrow.
  • 44a. This one’s my favorite theme entry. Phone ringtones turn into RINGLET TONES, or [Curly lock tints?].
  • 52a. [Dribble from an icicle?] might be an EAVES DROPLET.

Highlights and tough bits in the fill:

  • 17a. A PUPPET SHOW is [Entertainment you might have a hand in?]. Cute clue.
  • 33a. [It has feet in a line] clues a POEM. Metrical feet, that is.
  • 63a. [Be under par] doesn’t pertain to golf today, but rather, to AIL.
  • 1d. The only reason I know that PPP means [Very, very soft, in music] is from crosswords.
  • 8d. [Lily of Africa] isn’t a person, it’s the ALOE plant.
  • 28d. Instead of cluing SEN as an abbreviation for senator, they give us this: [When doubled, a breath freshener]. I hear terrible things about Sen-Sen. Licorice, blech.
  • 34d. SAINT is clued with two holiday saint examples: [Nicholas or Patrick].
  • 43d. STRETTO is a [Feature of a fugue]. Yep, learned this music term from crosswords, too.
  • 56d. A car horn’s TOOT is clued as [Driver’s nonverbal “hello”]. City drivers are more inclined to use the horn as an outraged “Hel-lo?!?” than a friendly “Hello!”
  • 60d. [“Striving to better, oft we ___ what’s well”: Shak.] is an interesting clue for MAR. Leave well enough alone, eh?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I ? NY: where’s the love?”

Region capture 10Instead of a heart joining the “I” to “NY,” we get assorted other innards of phrases that begin with I and end with NY:

  • 18a. A [Humiliating way to live] is IN IGNOMINY.
  • 23a. The [Original makers of Rubik’s Cube] were the IDEAL TOY COMPANY.
  • 36a. That [Rare postage stamp with an upside-down airplane] is called the INVERTED JENNY.
  • 50a. “IT’S NOT THAT FUNNY” is clued as [Comment after a lame joke others are laughing at].
  • 56a. [Hackneyed birthday girl’s request] is “I WANT A PONY.”

The fill’s not as fresh as what we’re used to seeing in Matt’s puzzles. 1d: ZAFTIG, meaning [“Pleasingly plump,” according to Merriam-Webster], is particularly nice.

I ran into one mystery name that made me work the crossings. 14a: ABRA is clued as [“Four Leaf Clover” folk-rocker Moore]. Who? Here’s the video of the song. Moore is the antithesis of ZAFTIG.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 15I moved through the grid without giving any thought to the theme before I hit 70a: BLUE, clued [Shades of it begin this puzzle’s four longest answers]. Oh! So they do. Here are the four BLUEs:

  • 20a. [1978 movie set in a Turkish prison] is MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. I read the book when I was maybe 11 or 12 or 13 and learned many important things. Such as: Don’t smuggle hashish into Turkey. And: You can cook heroin in the bowl of a spoon right there in prison. (Does Crayola still have midnight blue?)
  • 35a. A POWDER KEG is a [Volatile situation]. Powder blue is pretty. So is sky blue, but Donna didn’t include, say, SKYWRITER.
  • 46a. NAVY BEANS are [White legumes]. The beans are not navy blue.
  • 57a. ROYAL COPENHAGEN is a [Big name in Danish porcelain]. I have to give the edge to cobalt blue over royal blue.

A few more clues:

  • 30a. The RADISH is a [Peppery root veggie]. Meh. I’ll pick them out if they wind up in my salad.
  • 2d. [Car company whose name is Latin for “Hark!”] is AUDI. Hey! New trivia clue for a common crossword answer!
  • 6d. [Diner hodgepodge dish] is HASH. Don’t smuggle any hash into Turkey, folks.
  • 29d. [Dermatologist’s concern] is SKIN. Thanks, Donna, for sparing us talk of WART, CYST, RASH, ACNE, or ZITS.
  • 38d. [Rhett’s last verb] is GIVE. In his last line, “damn” is a noun.
  • 49d. [Folded (one’s hand), in poker slang] clues MUCKED. Whoa. Not in my vocabulary.
  • 53d. [Patterned fabric] clues TOILE. Tuile is a cookie. Tulle is a light netting type of fabric. Moiré is a rippled-looking fabric. Everyone got that?

As usual, Donna does a bang-up job writing interesting and fresh clues.

Updated Tuesday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cross Words”—Janie’s review

Oh, boy, does Will get a lot of mileage with this theme which gives us (basically) one clue for all three of the 15-letter theme entries. The clue that delivers so efficiently can be found in the title; the variations appear as follows:

  • 20A. [Cross (noun)] CHRISTIAN SYMBOL. Simple. Perfect. And then look how Judeo-Christian Will goes in the puzzle by also including: [“…why has thou] FORSAKEN [me?”]; []HAVA [Nagila”] the traditional and spirited Hebrew song—often heard at Jewish weddings—that everyone dances the hora to…; YOM [Kippur], the Day of Atonement, now some ten days away; and RABBI [Torah teacher] and the one who likely to be leading those High Holy Day services.
  • 37A. [Cross (verb)] MIX ANIMAL BREEDS. Or plant species. Famous cross-breed of the animal variety? Why the jackalope, of course!
  • 54A. [Cross (adjective)] ANGRY AND ANNOYED. Now that’s mix to be avoided, said Pollyanna (though under the “right” circumstances, I suppose it’s not difficult to become that way).

In addition to this very tight theme/theme-fill, Will gives us lots of great non-theme fill, lots of “tie-in” fill and lots of clever cluing. Beginnin’ at the beginning, there’s GATE CRASH [Attend uninvited] and the very current FLASH MOB [Spontaneous assembly often organized online]. This was my first exposure to that term, and makes me think this “assembly” might be “organized” to gate crash—literally or figuratively. SHIMMERED [Shone fitfully] is a beautiful word, curiously (but not inaccurately) clued. The IDITAROD is that [Alaskan race] run with DOG-and-sled teams (though today dog—which crosses Iditarod—appears in its verb form, meaning [Follow relentlessly]).

RAPUNZEL, Rapunzel—let down your hair!” and that’s why the clue is [Strong locks provided access to her] (and this is a gal who never had the benefit of Fructis Garnier or L’Oreal or Pantene or nuthin’!). While Rapunzel was held captive by a witch, that witch could be describe as a bit of an OGRE [Folklore fiend] herself. SADLY [“Alas…”], it was only after her rescue that true love and CUPIDS [Valentine figures] were part of her world—but better late than never!

An [Arm or a leg] is a LIMB; a [Leg part] is a CALF. An [Arab dignitary] is an EMIR; [“Son of” in Arabic names] is IBN. Some (first-)name dropping occurs by way of OSCAR [Muppet in a trash can] and ETHAN [Frome of fiction], EMME [One-named supermodel] and TARA [Skater Lipinski].

It seems Will has his way with an alliterative clue, which we see in:

  • [Married mujeres (abbr.)] for SRAS;
  • [She sheep] for EWES;
  • [Sudden silence] for HUSH;
  • [Sinuous swimmer] for EEL;
  • And the pair that’s almost too much… [Very, in Veracruz] and [Very, in Verona] for MUY and MOLTO—as in LAUDS [Gives kudos] (to) the constructor by saying, “Muy bien!” or “Molto bene!”
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4 Responses to Tuesday, 9/7/10

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT: Peculiar – unlocked AL file – ambushed by Mr. Pencil! Congrats on the debut Ms. Uthlaut (if you’re around, that is!) 4X12 was done quite nicely. Liked how we get 2 across 10s thrown in too! 8D is sneaky – surely I’m not the only one who wanted ARUM off the A (OK looked it up apparently the American term is CALLA – aha! – special pratfall just for me!)

    LAT: Liked the choice of theme entries. My first three entries: 1A GNAT, 5A MOTIF, 14A ARIL – what a start!

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Belated Unrelated Question:

    In a recent puz. (NYT, I think), there was a clue {Hall with a posse}. I remembered the talk show host Arsenio Hall, so I was able to fill it in, but what does “with a posse” mean, or have to do with anything?

    Also, the well-known X-wd synchronicity gods struck again, and I saw another reference to Arsenio even more recently.


  3. Jeffrey says:

    Aresenio would refer to his band on the show as his posse. (53 seconds into this clip)


  4. zifmia says:

    The discarded cards in a poker game are called “the muck”, so “mucking” one’s hand would be conceding defeat by tossing your hand into the discards. In response to a bet, this would be folding. Usually I hear this word more in the context of conceding defeat without showing your hand at the final showdown after calling all bets. I’m not sure that this would be called folding.

    Mucking your cards may involve careful aiming to ensure that your hand is indistinguishable from all the other discarded cards in case anyone wanted to go rummaging through the discards. This maneuver would be intended either to 1) keep your skillful opponents from getting a line on your play, or 2) keep your buddies from razzing you about calling Stu down with a pair of deuces.

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