Wednesday, 12/8/10

Onion 4:25
NYT 3:34
LAT 2:59
CS untimed

Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7Oh, look at that! Mike kicked off the theme with crazy YPSILANTI, and it wasn’t chosen because it has a crazy letter pattern—it was selected because that crazy YPS beginning is secretly a backwards SPY. Mike bundled YPSILANTI with three other YPS occurrences: CALYPSO MUSIC, APOCALYPSE NOW, and a loathsome GYPSY MOTH. All those YPSes are the SECRET AGENTS, or [Undercover operatives], skulking about in the other four theme answers. Isn’t that a neat theme? It’s especially cool because words like YPSILANTI and GYPSY MOTH don’t ordinarily get much play in crosswords.

Let us lay eyes on some more clues and answers:

  • 9a. [“That ___ my question“] clues WASN’T, and it occurs to me that WASN’T appears quite seldom in crossword grids. Less than once a year in the NYT puzzle, on average.
  • 27a. I love the word awry, so I’m fond of this GO AWRY.
  • 31a. This one was tough to grasp. [It might precede a collection: Abbr.] clues SER., short for sermon. Maybe if I were religiously observant, I would have figured out SE* a little more quickly. Not sure which denominations have the passing of the donation collection baskets.
  • 47a. I think K.P. DUTY is a thing of the past, isn’t it? And military mess halls are staffed by civilian contractors rather than troops being punished? I suspect [P.F.C.’s punishment] may be an outdated clue. I do put my kid on K.P. duty when there are potatoes that need peeling or corn that needs shucking.
  • 3d. DOS, plural of DO, make up the [First of a pair of lists], the second being don’ts. The dos of crossword solving:
  1. Do read the clues.
  2. Do zero in first on clues you can answer, like the fill-in-the-blanks.
  3. Do work the crossings of the words you already have, starting with the less common letters.
  • And some don’ts:
  1. Don’t misspell the answers you put in the grid.
  2. Don’t stay wedded to a given answer if nothing seems to work perpendicular to it.
  3. Don’t give up—set the puzzle down and come back to it later, or try Googling a clue or two to get a jump start.
  • 9d. I was trying to get this one without navigating down to the 35-Across clue. “WARM something…WARM OVEN?” No, a WAR MOVIE. Close!
  • 10d. Ooh, tricky clue! An ALEUT is a [North Pacific islander]. Not to be confused with South Pacific islanders like Samoans or Fijians.
  • 18d. [Cubs’ place] is the CELLAR in the National League. No, wait. WRIGLEY FIELD. What? I only have four letters to play with? Bears’ LAIR? No, the Bears play at Soldier Field.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 6Okay, this is a tight theme. Five portmanteau words—one famous, four utterly nonfamous—in which the letter P gets a little shaved off the side and turns into an F:

  • 17a. [Leaving a room just before people realize you’ve made it stink?] clues DEFARTURE (departure + fart). This word has some attribution, by way of a quiet little Urban Dictionary entry. It must not be in wide use as nothing’s been added to the entry since one person in 2004 submitted the word. Surprising, no?
  • 24a. [Post-Starbucks sex?] gets you coffee+ copulation, or COFULATION. Hmm, I can’t see there being much use for this word.
  • 36a. Hugh Hefner + hepatitis = HEFATITIS, a [Disease from living with too many scantily-clad wives?]. See, now I would’ve clued that from the other angle, with HEFATITIS being what a woman living with King Playboy would contract.
  • 53a. [Edited to appease PETA?] clues EXFURGATED, combining fur + expurgation. I don’t care for this one. Maybe if it read “Edited a fashion line to appease PETA?” instead. PETA doesn’t edit out the word fur, after all.
  • 62a. [Accidental portmanteau from Sarah Palin that made a few “2010 Word of the Year” lists] is REFUDIATE, a blend of repudiate and refute. She’s far from the first or only person to use this as a word.

Five more clues:

  • 20a. That [Comic strip with two naked main characters] is called LOVE IS….
  • 32a. [Firewood wood] is BEECH? Okay, I’ll take your word for it.
  • 60a. A LATKE is a [Potato pancake]. Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate it!
  • 67a. [“Stupid Flanders,” according to Homer] is NED Flanders. Or, as I always think of him, “Stupid sexy Flanders.”
  • 55d. [Number two, at the casino] is the DEUCE. We’re talking playing cards here, not vice presidents or poops.

Coolest answers to see in the grid:

  • HOFSTRA University, FLAT OUT, Messrs. KRAVITZ and BELUSHI, and the word PIQUANT. Lotta 7s  in this puzzle.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Lox”—Janie’s review

No, this is not a shout-out to cured salmon. Instead of cream cheese, tomatoes and capers, Patrick gives us a trio of grid-spanning phrases that are clued with homophones: [LOCK], [LOCH] and [LOCKE]. Collectively, they are “lox.” Individually, they are:

  • 17A. HOLD IN WRESTLING. My closest association with this activity comes (surprise, surprise) from a song lyric. From Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers’s “Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You”: “I’ve a powerful anesthesia in my fist./And the perfect wrist to give your neck a twist./There are hammerlock holds—I’ve mastered a few—/but everything I’ve got belongs to you.”
  • 40A. SCOTTISH FOR LAKE. As in “By the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond”… (Though I suspect a lot of Scots pronounce that final “ch” rather gutturally. We’ll stick to the Anglicized/”Amurricanized” pronunciation for today.)
  • 64A. PHILOSOPHER JOHN. The so-called Father of Liberalism, his writings had no small impact on the American revolutionaries—and Jefferson specifically in crafting the language of the Declaration of Independence.

Among the stronger non-theme fill/clues today, my faves include:

  • QWERTY [Like most keyboards] (anyone else think this might be piano-related?).
  • LADY BUG [Spotted beetle in “James and the Giant Peach”].
  • [Little Sucker] for MOSQUITO.
  • [Titan who’s world-weary?] for ATLAS. Having “the whole world in [one’s] hands” is one thing. This guy bears the burden in a whole other way.
  • The less-than-certain “I GUESS SO” [“Sure…“] and the more positive “IT’S A GO” [“Permission granted“].
  • SEMI-NUDE [Scantily clad] (perhaps like our pal Atlas…). Though the picture in your mind may be RATED R [Not for little ones], there’s nothing LEWD [Dirty] goin’ on here, opinions of OGLERS [Lascivious types] to the contrary… (For them there’s always [“Broadway] BARES[” (burlesque fundraiser)] which can definitely take on the spirit of a playful ORGY [Boisterous party].)

Updated in the early evening”

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

You know what? I had plenty of time to blog this puzzle today but I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm. And now it’s time to make dinner and move on to the Thursday puzzles, featuring the final Fireball Crosswords puzzle.

The big “small” theme was quite good, yes, but the fill distracted me with answers like these:

  • Subpar fill: partial OR IN, just dreadful; partial WE A; odd prefix DIPLO, with its D crossing Japanese veggie UDO; French word AME.
  • And crosswordese-type words: EELER, IDYL, ABOU, IRAE.

For the full solution and more chitchat about this puzzle, see PuzzleGirl’s L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

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10 Responses to Wednesday, 12/8/10

  1. If the Ripstein Rule is ever enshrined in an online dictionary, I nominate REATA (or RIATA) as the focus of the picture accompanying the definition. Count me as violating Amy’s “Don’t #1” this evening…

  2. Re 18-D NYT – from L___ what else could the Cubs’ place be but LAST?

  3. joon says:

    amy, i came to {Cubs’ place} and had LA__ already in place. i almost reflexively wrote in LAST, then thought, “wait, really? they wouldn’t do that…” taking a closer look at the clue, i wonder about the apostrophe placement.

    LJUBLJANA, WALLA WALLA, YPSILANTI … it’s been a banner week for awesome city names in the NYT. i think the only way to top this is to hit up BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN next. and actually, if memory serves, mike nothnagel was responsible for the last time it was in the grid, albeit only partially.

  4. Matt says:

    I confess that the first thought I had on 18D “Cubs’ place” was LAST. Does that make me a bad person?

  5. Howard B says:

    Wow, I did not know YPSILANTI was spelled like that (only heard it spoken, never seen it), and I had to back-solve for that last Y by figuring out the theme.
    The crossing clue for JAY was mean (I like the Simpsons, but not enough to know that clue – clever). Was stumped on what letter could possibly fit both answers, and absolutely needed the theme cue to solve it – that was a nice surprise :).

    @Matt: My first guess on “Cubs’ place”, with the L entered, was also LAST. I don’t have any kind of anti-Midwestern bias, I swear. It just worked out that way today. Incidentally, I also root for the Mets, so I know baseball grief.

    @Joon: You know OUAGADOUGOU must be waiting around the corner for us…

  6. Mitchs says:

    I seldom truly “lol” while solving, but 1A in the Onion did the trick.

  7. John Haber says:

    I liked the theme, and I did smile at thinking that maybe the Cubs could be in last place. I ran into trouble in the SW, because I’d have said US AIR is still in business (even if it’s officially US Airways), while “onetime” implies otherwise, although I know they are talking about TWA’s demise. Thus I first entered PAN AM. Still feels funny to me. Part of me facing _ AGENT wished it could work out as “double agent,” if only the fill had somehow managed the miracle of two SPY combos in every theme answer!

    The hardest for me was breaking into the NE because of the combination of quite a few cross-reference clues (always hated those), not knowing COOLIO, VOTIVE as a noun (rather than “votive candle”), “that WASN’T my question” not feeling like a generic enough phrase for an answer, and the crossing of what seemed ought to be ALEUT and RIATA. I had no clue which had an alternative spelling that would resolve the conflict; in the end, I guessed wrong.

    Another phrase that didn’t feel to me generic enough for an idiom was “ACT natural.” Maybe it’s just because the Beatles song is slightly different.

  8. wij says:

    I wanted to put in “ABT natural” — “I have a GUB.”

  9. sandirhodes says:

    Onion, 70A Viking gains is YDS, not TDS!!!!!!

    Well, guess I’ve never heard of piquany.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sandi, I had YDS first too, because you’re absolutely right, in football “gains” = yards gained. It’s a mighty loose use of the word “gains” to refer to scores like touchdowns.

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