Tuesday, 12/14/10

Jonesin’ 4:33
LAT 3:34 (Jeffrey)
NYT 2:41
CS 5:07 (Evad)

Mark Feldman’s New York Times crossword

1214 NYT answers

1214 NYT crossword answers

I swear Mark Feldman’s byline is busting out all over these days. Isn’t this his third puzzle in the last week or two?

Summary judgment: Love the theme, but wonder what some of that fill is doing in a Tuesday puzzle. (Not that the weird words slowed me down any. Surprisingly quick solve for a Tuesday puzzle, and solid crossings for the oddball stuff.)

The theme entries riff on three secretly vigorous, physical verb phrases that can be used to build an EXERCISE ROOM:

  • 20a. If you [Make a legislative speech, e.g.], you HOLD THE FLOOR. Wasn’t it wild when Bernie Sanders held the Senate floor for over eight hours on Friday? He wasn’t literally grasping the floor with his hands, but imagine trying to lift the floor.
  • 26a. To [Go ballistic] is to HIT THE CEILING, customarily without jumping skyward.
  • 45a. Let’s say you’re snowed in, or that it’s too stinkin’ cold to leave the house. You’ll [Be stir-crazy] with your cabin fever and CLIMB THE WALLS. But not the rock-climbing wall.

I like the physicality of the theme, lurking in those ordinary, idiomatic phrases. Head to the gym, to the exercise room, and do three sets of 15 reps for 20a, 26a, and 45a.

My first grumble isn’s so much that 22a is out of place in a Tuesday puzzle, it’s that it is a word that has largely lost its place in the English language. AURIST, clued as an [Ear doctor]?? It’s no surprise that the collegiate dictionary left it out. I did find the word in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, which traces AURIST back to the late 17th century. One wonders how much usage the word has received in the most recent century. Not much, I imagine.

8d: WELL-SET, or [Sturdily built], feels rather quaint or at least not so often used.

36d gives us the title for yesterday’s NYT puzzle by Patrick Blindauer: A [Tearful one] like those theme entries is a SOBBER. Blechy word, but certainly gettable. I just Googled it and found a bizarre medical story from Time magazine, circa 1930. Teenage girl sobbed for five days and amazingly, being thumped on the nose did nothing to stop the tears.

I’m pleased to see the primary spelling ENROLL in a crossword for a change, instead of ENROL.

Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

LAT Dec 14 10

12/14 L.A. Times crossword answers


Theme answers:

  • 18A. [Actress in a classic shower scene] – JANET LEIGH. JAN is my arch puzzle solving nemesis; we go back and forth every day besting each other.
  • 23A. [Weight management guru] – JENNY CRAIG.
  • 38A. [1996 Schwarzenegger Christmas comedy] – JINGLE ALL THE WAY
  • 51A. [Comedy Central satirist] – JON STEWART. His real name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz and he was born three months after me. Apparently it was a good year for Stuart as a middle name. I will use Jeffrey Stewart when I become famous.
  • 56A. [Kipling story collection, with “The”] – JUNGLE BOOK. Bear Necessities!

One-line review for those in a hurry:  Unusual vowel progression takes us all the way from A to U.

Other stuff:

  • 9A. [Hi-tech classroom] – PC LAB. Also, a tactful dog.
  • 22A. [Low-lying area] – VALE/27A. [Low-lying area] – DALE. Can you name any other rhyming synonyms?
  • 35A. [Like this answer] – ACROSS. Whenever ACROSS is down my head explodes.
  • 44A. [Sleepy colleague?] – DOC. I just did another puzzle in a book where the theme was the seven dwarfs. Six of them started a phrase, and Sneezy had a clue like [One of the seven].
  • 64A. [Italian bread?] – EURO. LIRA is gone. Get over it.
  • 68A. [Standard Oil name] – ESSO. What? No northern neighbour reference?
  • 8D. [Wonder of music] – STEVIE
  • 21D. [__ Beach: South Carolina resort] – MYRTLE. MYRTLE deserves to be in more crosswords. Ocala gets all the fun.
  • 26D. [Adult doodlebug] – ANT LION. Are the other ants scared of an ANT LION?
  • 48D. [“We’re on!”] – IT’S A GO! Yay!

Updated Tuesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “New Job Titles”—Evad’s review

cs1214 Pretty straightforward theme today, four ten-letter -ER phrases become “odd jobs”:

  • Barnum and Bailey’s RING-MASTER becomes a “Jeweler?” on the side
  • An IRON-WORKER not only works with steel, but can also be a “Laundry maid?”
  • A PAN-HANDLER not only begs for money (did beggars used to use a pan to catch coins?) but can also be a “Chef?”
  • A COW-CATCHER either sits in front of a train, or is a “Ranch hand?”

First thought the Gauls invaded the Roman Empire before the GOTHS. I see here that Rome was sacked by the Visigoths (who apparently left their clothing back in Germany) in 410 A.D. The Gauls, on the other hand were invaded by the Romans almost 500 years earlier. A couple of other random impressions:

  • Pretty long clue for the lowly definite article THE: “I’ll alert ___ media”: Hobson, in Arthur.
  • When I thinking of RENDing something, I don’t think of necessarily mangling it, but just tearing it two. Mangling seems much more destructive.
  • DEEP DOWN (“At heart”) is a great entry. Love it….two snaps up!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “In a Hotspot”

Jonesin' crossword answers, "In a Hotspot"

Jonesin' crossword answers, "In a Hotspot"

This theme was not working for me. The title suggests WiFi hotspots, and the two words/components in each theme entry begin with WI and FI. But some of them are of questionable crossword-worthiness.

  • 17a. [What some things catch on like] is WILDFIRE. Perfect.
  • 23a. [Figures in early Salem history] clues WITCH FINDERS. Is that a, uh, thing? Or just a made-up term? I guess it’s real, but it felt wildly unfamiliar to me.
  • 35a. A WINDOWS FIREWALL is [XP protection]. Never heard of it; I’m a Mac user. Sounded inherently plausible, though.
  • 46a. [Steadfastly] clues WITH FIRMNESS, and yet the answer conveys great limpness.
  • 59a. The WINGFISH is a [Swimmer with large pectoral fins]. Not ringing a bell. Wikipedia isn’t much more familiar with “wingfish” or “wing fish” than I am.

Where this puzzle shines is in the long Down fill. You’ve got all these:

  • 28d. MANHATTANS, those [Vermouth drinks] that aren’t traditional martinis.
  • 6d. [Russian soups] are beet BORSCHTS. Not crazy about the pluralization of both 28d and 6d, but the words do add spice.
  • 38d. Boxer Mike [Tyson’s ring nickname] is IRON MIKE.
  • 9d. [“No way!”] “IT CAN’T BE!”
  • 11d. [Carnival food] clues the horrifying FUNNEL CAKE. Don’t try to tell me it’s delicious. It’s crap and you know it. Lousy “food” but still lively crossword fill.

I have to call a foul on 33a: ABACI. The old traditional [Counters in China] are abacuses. The word doesn’t have Latin roots, so most properly it will not take an -i plural. (See also: octopus.)

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16 Responses to Tuesday, 12/14/10

  1. Matt says:

    Cute theme in the NYT… but… a lot of stale fill… ATEAT, SELES, ELOPE, ONAIR, ODE, ALTO, TSO, OMAN, SOD, EERIEST, Roman numerals…

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And I see at Rex’s blog that I forgot to mention the Tuesday-hostility of “HEC Ramsey.”

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Matt —

    What’s wrong any of those you listed, with the exception of TSO?

  4. Matt says:

    @Matt Gaffney

    They’re just words that show up all the time. And I don’t object to seeing a few of them in any puzzle– I understand that they’re the necessary grease that helps fit words into a grid. But too much grease is a problem.

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    @Jeffrey – Since I’m not a twin, I can’t be an evil twin, so I love being an “arch nemesis”!

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I have never seen or heard the word “aurist”. I didn’t think it was particularly hard – it’s an nice logical leap from “auricle” and “aural”, and I was quite sure it was in some dictionary or other, but it is certainly not in current usage. I wasn’t bothered by the rest of the fill that Matt mentioned. I see his point, but those words are at least fair game. “AURIST” was a real stretch, and not a good choice.

  7. Gareth says:

    Liked the tightness of the three NYT theme answers, but the answer tying everything together didn’t quite work imo. Also have no idea about AURIST but yes not hard to piece together. Clever CS theme – nice to see -ER words taking the floor and being used in a non-sucky way!

    BTW, since Jeffrey outed his timer rival, I thought I’d say my goal is always to outdo you, Karen! Today was 0 for 2 though… Maybe tomorrow!

  8. joon says:

    i always compare my times to dan feyer’s, but it’s less of a rivalry than lakers-clippers. saturday’s NYT was the first time i’d beaten him in the last 1000 or so puzzles. i seem to be ahead of al between 25 and 50% of the time, so that’s more interesting.

  9. Meem says:

    Did not much care for today’s NYT. Felt forced to me on several measures. The theme reveal seemed off. Fill such as aurist, Hec Ramsey, and the singular steroid (as clued) are not language naturals. And the three-letter fill, led by det, was uninspired.

    On the other hand, found Raymond Hamel’s puzzle refreshing. In addition to good theme entries, good four-letter fill, including uvea, czar, Ajax, and twig.

    Jan/Jen/Jin/Jon/Jun was a quick solve that was a good Tuesday puzzle. Much better three-letter fill than NYT.

  10. *David* says:

    I believe abacus does have latin roots as does octopus which allows either plural ending.

  11. John Papini says:

    I always enjoy your comments, Amy

    John, author of A Crossword Primer

  12. Martin says:

    “I believe abacus does have latin roots as does octopus which allows either plural ending.”

    David, the “pus” in octopus is Greek, which is why the “i” plural (although sanctioned) is technically incorrect. The “pus” is the whole suffix (meaning “foot”), not just “-us”.

    For example the plural of “omnibus” is not “omnibi”.


  13. Meem says:

    Martin: Opa!

  14. Zulema says:


    Second your kudos for Martin. May I add that the word ABACUS comes from Arabic, and that it did exist in Latin to refer to a game table of sorts, and it took an -i- for its plural. But the ABACUS as we know it is the Chinese Suan Pan, and is more elegantly referred to in the plural as ABACUSES. But ABACI is not incorrect. OCTOPI definitely is, as is AGORAE, which makes me cringe whenever I see it. Romans had none and the Greek plural is AGORAI, but in English AGORAS is correct.

  15. Vic says:

    CS – 33A – Prescribe ENJOIN? Hmm … I know that “proscribe” means to enjoin, but I’m having trouble making “prescribe” mean that. Martin?

  16. Martin says:

    Vic said:

    “CS – 33A – Prescribe ENJOIN? Hmm … I know that “proscribe” means to enjoin, but I’m having trouble making “prescribe” mean that. Martin”

    Random House says:

    “ENJOIN: vi: 1. to prescribe (a course of action) with authority or emphasis. 2.to direct or order to do something. 3. (Law) to prohibit or restrain by an injunction.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

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