Wednesday, 9/29/10

Onion 5:12
LAT 3:24
NYT 3:04
CS untimed

Charles Gersch’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 17So…the theme is “see how many 15-letter movie titles fit into one puzzle”? And nothing else connects the movies thematically? I think that’s what’s going on here. Is there more to it? The inclusion of an insane 100 theme squares is perhaps compensation for the lack of an overlying rationale to the choice of these particular titles, and for the clunkers in the short fill. It looks like a Friday puzzle, but it’s clued at a Wednesday level—even with the 16th row in the grid, this was a fast Wednesday solve for me.

Here’s what’s playing at the NYT Multiplex:

  • 14a. ANGER MANAGEMENT. Never saw it. It’s stacked with—
  • 17a. ROAD TO SINGAPORE, the [1940 Crosby/Lamour/Hope film that was the first of a “travel” series]. An online friend of mine just vacationed in Singapore for the Formula 1 races.
  • 37a. LAST PICTURE SHOW is a subpar inclusion as its accompanying “The” has been exiled to the clue. Its buddy is—
  • 41a. ON THE WATERFRONT. Hey, that’s four straight movies I haven’t seen.
  • 59a. I did see HORTON HEARS A WHO with my kid. What a terrible message to convey—stricltly patrilineal progression of power. Sure, Horton had scores of siblings. But his sisters were all useless to his dad, as their skills were irrelevant. Only their brother could take on a leadership role, even though he was ill-suited to one initially. Hmph.
  • 62a. Stacked below HORTON is Paul Newman’s THE COLOR OF MONEY. I might have seen that.
  • 7d. Crossing those six movies through the middle is the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. (Never saw it.)

Trouble spots:

  • 33a. Outside of crossworders, how many people can identify AGAR as a [Gelatinous ingredient in desserts]? I just perused the Wikipedia article on it. If I ever need to clue AGAR, I’m going with [Dessert ingredient that can also be used as a laxative].
  • 44a. [Some razors] clues ATRAS, a hokey plural of a brand name.
  • 49a. HOCH is German for “high” and also the last name of [Mystery writer Edward D. ___], whom I’ve never heard of.
  • 6d. [Mideast city whose name, coincidentally, is an anagram of ARABS] clues BASRA, Iraq. I mangled my Mideast references and went with SABRA, which means a Jew born in Israel and is not a well-known city.
  • 15d. [Lettuce or kale] uses those leafy green veggies as slang for “money,” so you want MOOLA here.
  • 25d. [Setting for candlelit romance] sounds like QUIET RESTAURANT TABLE FOR TWO, but it’s the BATH. Some of us have bathtubs that are too small to be conducive to romance.
  • 36d. Nobody wants to use an answer like CWTS in their crossword. These [100-lb units] are called hundredweights, and yes, cwt is the abbreviation for one of them. My son will weigh a cwt if he gains 10 lbs.
  • 45d. HOOTCH, with a T? Really? Not sure I’ve seen that spelling before. Gimme my hooch instead. The clue’s good, though: [The sauce].
  • 50d. Boy, I had trouble parsing this clue correctly. You know the phrase “bodacious ta-tas”? (I learned it from An Officer and a Gentleman.) That rendered it impossible for me to understand [Pietro’s ta-tas] correctly. Oh! “Ta-ta,” meaning “bye-bye”? For Italian Pietro? CIAOS.
  • 51d. What the…? [Olde ___ (historic area, quaintly)] is TOWNE? Chinatown director screenwriter Robert Towne gets more Google hits than “Old Towne.” Why not clue it with reference to him? There aren’t too many other people’s names in the grid.
  • 55d. [Old card game with forfeits] is LOO? I’ll take your word for it. Tough cloo for a Wednesday, if you even see the clue.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 16Hey, crosswordese! Francis’s puzzle offers a payoff to those who’ve been doing crosswords long enough to know those junky little words hardly anyone actually uses outside the realm of crosswords. The theme entries drop an initial consonant sound from a word and turn it into a solid piece of old-school crosswordese:

  • 18a. [Medieval slave killed on every episode of “South Serfdom”?] would be KENNY ESNE, playing on country singer Kenny Chesney.
  • 23a. The OLEO (not polio) VACCINE is a [Remedy for a margarine allergy?]. Eww. Don’t inject me with anything oleo.
  • 37a. [Seabird that just completed its Ph.D.?] clues THIRD-DEGREE ERNE (burn).
  • 50a. A BLOODY AERIE is a [Raptor’s nest, immediately after a meal?]. (Bloody Mary.)
  • 59a. [One playing with bits of their food?] is an ORT JESTER (court jester).

Solid theme—entertaining for experienced crossworders but perhaps mystifying for newbies who don’t know all about ORTs and ESNEs.

Five more clues:

  • 6a. [Yes’s “90125” record label] is ATCO. Anyone else look at that album title and think of Beverly Hills, 90210?
  • 30a. [Matt of “The Informant!”] is Mr. DAMON. This movie’s coming up in my Netflix queue. Could even be in my mailbox right now.
  • 43a. [Chrysler’s Sebring, e.g.] is a kinda weird clue for SEDAN. The most noticeable Sebrings are the two-door convertibles, not the sedans.
  • 61a. [Warring nation in Revelation] clues MAGOG. Wait—don’t tell me—let me guess. Is its opponent Gog?
  • 29d. [Dessert that might sit in your stomach like cement] is CHEESECAKE done wrong or served in too large a portion. Last time my family went to the Cheesecake Factory, we ordered no cheesecake. Know why? Because each slice is twice the size it needs to be. At that meal, I ordered a lunch-size salad. I was starving, but could only finish half of the salad. And people wonder why Americans are fat.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1I was working my way through the puzzle and observed that the theme entries began with S and ended with OCK. So I figured the theme had something to do with darning socks, big holes in s__ocks. Imagine my befuddlement when 33d: SOCK was clued as a verb, [Wallop], and when instead of DARN, we had DRAT at 21d. Eventually I made it down to 60a: STOCK SPLIT, or [Sign of corporate success, and a literal hint to the puzzle theme found in 18-, 20-, 33-, 42- and 56-Across]. Ah! ST__OCK, not S__OCK. Here are the other theme answers:

  • 18a. [Hurricane zone] clues STORM TRACK. Who doesn’t love those cornucopia-shaped map overlays showing you where the hurricane is likely to travel?
  • 20a. [Unflappable] clues STEADY AS A ROCK. I usually think of “Solid as a Rock,” by Ashford and Simpson. Do watch the video I linked to, and marvel at her ’80s shoulder pads. Like a linebacker!
  • 33a. “STOP THE CLOCK!” means [“Time out!”]. I would give $5 to anyone who shouted “Stop the clock!” at the ACPT during the first 5 minutes of puzzle #5.
  • 42a. STICKER SHOCK is your [Dismay at the dealer] when you find out the Maybach you had your heart set on costs $417,000.
  • 56a. [Sprinter’s device] is the STARTING BLOCK.

Solid…as a rock.

You know what always bugs me? I can never fill in 9a: [Garnish on a toothpick] (or related clues like [Cocktail garnish]) right off the bat. O*I**. It’s either OLIVE (as it is here) or ONION. If you ever hand me a cocktail with either an olive or an onion in it, be prepared to see a a genuine MOUE.

Same with 3d: [Some Musée d’Orsay works]. Is it MANETS or MONETS? Both are accurate. This time, it’s MANETS.

I don’t get why a RAFT is a [Floater with a ladder]. I must be picturing rustic Gilligan’s Island-caliber rafts of logs lashed together; no ladder. Or inflatable rafts; no ladder. Ah, this non-boat kind of raft, the one you can anchor in a shallow lake and swim out to. Okay.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pigskin Plays”—Janie’s review

Given the title of today’s puzzle, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Bruce has given us a football-related theme. The last words of each of the fine 15-letter theme phrases are all words that we’ve heard in connection to the game. This gives us:

  • 20A. BATTLE OF BULL RUN [First major Civil War conflict]. Confederacy 1, Union 0. That was 1861. The Confederacy pulled off an encore the following year. Now. Run is a word that belongs to almost every sport—baseball being the first one that comes to mind. I find nothing uniquely “football” about it—except in the context of an “end run.” So all-in-all this feels like a fairly weak member of the theme set.
  • 36A. AND IT CAME TO PASS [Subsequently, in the Book of Mormon]. Much better. I think of passing in conjunction with basketball, too—but is it a term with a strong association to football? And how. As for the base phrase—I think it’s a beaut. Any Avenue Q fans out there? One of the show’s writers, Bobby Lopez, has teamed up with South Park writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker to create Book of Mormon. With luck it will bow on Broadway in March 2011. I hear we should be prepared for equal-opportunity offending—and a lot of laughs.
  • 54A. A DRINK WITH A KICK [Punch that packs some punch]. Another winner—clue, fill and theme-connectedness all work in sync.

CRACKPOT [Nut], ARGUMENT [Debater’s activity], OUTRAGES [Infuriating behaviors] (perhaps the result of too many BEEFS [Complaints]?), GALLOP [Certain racehorse gait], TRIFLE [No big thing at all] and NOT LEAST [Last’s correlative] all do their part to keep the non-theme fill lively. I also like the way ABBA [Israeli diplomat Eban] is adjacent to GAZA [Disputed Mideast strip]. A little more diplomacy and maybe that Gaza issue will be resolved satisfactorily. Here’s hopin’!

Fave clues today (off-setting the number of straightforward ones…) include [House coverer?] for C-SPAN (so that’s the House of Representatives…), [Stop, as a newspaper story] for KILL and the vivid [Slapstick missile] for PIE.

ERB [Tarzan creator’s initials] stands for Edgar Rice Burroughs. RICES [Runs through a sieve] does not count as a duplication.

Oh, and in conjunction with [You might stick your chewing gum or a bathrobe on it] for BEDPOST, here’s a link to the song that probably inspired the clue. Fyi, back in the day (1928), the lyric was, “Does your Spearmint lose its flavor…?”

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18 Responses to Wednesday, 9/29/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    A Night at the Opera is brilliant. Here’s a clip

    My fastest Wednesday ever even with the extra row. Couldn’t type the movie names fast enough.

  2. HH says:

    You never saw A Night at the Opera?! I don’t think we have anything more to say to each other.

  3. Duke says:

    I would strongly suggest that you see On the Waterfront as soon as possible. Then follow it up with A Night at the Opera. You’ll cry till you laugh. Robert Towne wrote the screenplay for Chinatown. Roman Polanski was the director and also had a minor but unforgettable part. My nose hurts just thinking about it.

  4. Sara says:

    Fastest Wednesday ever, without a doubt, but I DIDN’T START THE STOPWATCH; I wish that didn’t mean my day is ruined, but I’m afraid it does and it is.

    (retreat mumbling obscenities)

  5. John Haber says:

    On the Waterfront has an unforgettable performance by Brando and was directed by Elia Kazan, who had previously directed him in Streetcar. It’s also often in the history books as people still the debate whether Kazan’s “friendly” testimony to the HUAC tarnishes both the film and his career. A Night at the Opera may be overrated while Duck Soup, probably their greatest, is often forgotten except by film and Marx Brothers buffs, but it’s still hilarious.

    AGAR and LOO I knew. ESTO and HOCH nope. BATH confused me, as no doubt the setter didn’t have New York apartments in mind when he pictured that.

  6. joon says:

    yeah yeah. you people who have seen movies and your insistence on movie-seeing! i’m 0 for 7 and perfectly okay with that.

    this particular LOO is a word i know only from scrabble, because it’s also a verb (meaning to win, or lose, or go out, or something related to this game). so in the scrabble dictionary, you’ve got this definition, so that they can include the inflected forms LOOED and LOOING.

    BATH was indeed an odd clue. i was thinking about the cialis commercials, but then it would have to be BATHS.

    janie, any football play can be categorized as a RUN, PASS, or KICK. so it’s a tight theme in that regard, even if RUN means a zillion other things. i found the puzzle off-putting in some other ways, though. the NW was particularly tough, with clues that i could not crack for CRIBS and NOT LEAST and the utterly unfamiliar ROLLO. i also thought that a puzzle with such a sparse theme should have squeaky-clean fill, so i was a bit dismayed at IN UP, PPS, SRO, ASSN, ALER, ENCL, -WARE, TRI-, and ERB. nothing particularly wrong with any of them individually (except ERB and ALER), but there were just too many for my tastes. also, i found the BEDPOST clue both weird and gross. oh well. i’m sure i’ll like bruce’s next puzzle more.

    tyler posted a nifty variety-crossword-with-a-meta that he made for BANG 23 over at his blog.

  7. David L says:

    I’m enough of a puzzle fan that I knew the weird words in the Onion puzzle, but evidently not enough of an expert to figure out what the heck the theme was supposed to be. The long answers all sounded (sort of) like familiar phrases, but the way they were related to them was random: lose some first and last letters (ESNE), lose first letter to get a sound-alike (OLEO, ERNE), lose first letter and get a non-sound-alike (AERIE, nothing like Mary to me), and finally just lose a couple of first letters (ORT). Shouldn’t there have been more consistency?

  8. joon says:

    david, there was consistency—the theme was not phonetic, not orthographic. in each case, the initial consonant sound is dropped. as for AERIE, there used to be a hilarious mispronunciation of it on, but the ones they have now are normal, and the first one definitely rhymes with mary. (the second sounds like eerie. if you’re saying it to yourself to rhyme with wiry, as i used to, that’s nonstandard.)

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m in the geographic/phonetic contingent that pronounces Mary, merry, and marry all exactly the same, rhyming with aerie and airy.

  10. Beth Willenborg says:

    25d. [Setting for candlelit romance] = bath scenes at the end of several Hill Street Blues episodes.

  11. Meem says:

    Was surprised and happy that there was still a Dan Naddor puzzle in the pipeline. Quick trip through the LAT stock split. Fast solve of the NYT. Only slowed down by needing to determine spelling of ocher (ochre). But overall reaction was meh. Could not find a common denominator for the selection of movies (apparently there wasn’t one) and the short fill didn’t add to enjoyment. Thought the Washington Post puzzle was clever and pretty tightly wrapped.

  12. Howard B says:

    @Joon: Your post re:forms of LOO had me musing on a tangent – if we think crosswordese can be bizarre, crack open a Scrabble dictionary sometime, people, and imagine what our language would be if that were our standard lexicon. I wish I knew what criteria they used to choose that subset of words. (To say nothing of the Scrabble dictionary used outside of North America, which is much, much larger and significantly more bizarre, from what I’ve seen. EE and GJU are perfectly good words there, for example!).

    I think this is why I stick to dining-room table and online Scrabbly games, and avoid the competitive stuff. Crosswordese is a breeze compared to some of that. I give thanks for ESNEs :).

  13. janie says:

    joon — >any football play can be categorized as a RUN, PASS, or KICK. so it’s a tight theme in that regard…< in your opinion. you can defend the theme's integrity all you like, but, for the reasons i stated, my opinion is different and i'm stickin' with it. and so it goes, eh? ;-)

  14. Ladel says:

    We read books and see movies because we have to, there is no beginning nor is there an end, one day time will just run out and whom ever read and saw the most will have won nothing. This one was a crashing failure and counts for nothing.


  15. Andrew R says:

    Im usually not one to bash fill words, but Naddor’s LAT puzzle actually made me laugh out loud: 57D’s TCHR for “Freq. test giver” — wtf???!!!! Surprised you didn’t touch on that, Amy. That’s as ugly as ugly gets in my book.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    TCHR is hideous—but I never even saw it in the puzzle. Saw the clue, was mystified, and moved on.

  17. David Eisner says:

    The “Pigskin Plays” theme passes my test, too (ahem). These words form a logical triple. “Football” would almost certainly be the response if you asked an American sports fan the first thing that comes to mind when she hears the words “RUN,” “PASS,” and “KICK.”

    Think of a poker-themed puzzle. The words “HOLD,” “RAISE,” and “FOLD” would be fine answers, even though taken individually none is unique to that card game.

    By the way, my copy of How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle just arrived from Amazon. Can’t wait to dig in.

  18. David L says:

    Belated thanks to joon and Amy for their responses. For me, aerie rhymes with eerie — although really, have I ever said that word out loud? Have I ever heard anyone say it to me? Wouldn’t bet on it.

Comments are closed.