Wednesday, 1/12/11

Onion 4:12 


LAT 3:59 


NYT 3:17 


CS untimed 


Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 1/12/11 0112

Did you check the date more than once to make sure this wasn’t a Thursday puzzle? Yeah, me too. We seldom see a rebus puzzle on a Wednesday, but the overall cluing hits a Wednesday level and it helps that the {HALF} rebus squares are plotted symmetrically in the grid. There’s one in each corner, plus two more in the middle’s {HALF} AND {HALF}. Nice!

The theme entries, those that contain the ½, are a colorful bunch. We have the following:

  • 1a, 1d. {HALF}-BAKED and a {HALF}-TRUTH.
  • 10a, 13d. ONE {HALF} and a {HALF} NELSON.
  • 37a, 9d, 37d. {HALF}-AND-{HALF} crosses SAWED IN {HALF} (which is a fairly contrived phrase, by crossword standards) and {HALF}-HEARTED.
  • 67a, 38d. One’s BETTER {HALF} meets a {HALF} DAY, which feels much more “in the language” as a school thing than as [Four hours on the job, perhaps]. My kid’s school never has half days, but I think that’s a deviation from the norm.
  • 69a, 49d. The FIRST {HALF} of a football game is reasonably “in the language.” Its crossing refers to Jacob Riis’s How the OTHER {HALF} Lives. Those folks are kinda dangling there without the rest of the book title.

Outside of the theme, my favorite fill resides in the southeast corner, where PRENUPS meet “OH, SURE” and Cyndi LAUPER.

I encountered a lot of fill that spurred that nostalgic “Hey, I learned this from crosswords, too” feeling. How did a child born in the ’60s learn that Milton Berle was affiliated with TEXACO? It’s gotta be from crosswords. UTA Hagen, “ECCE homo,” an ERG, ERROLL Garner, that TNT is trinitroTOLUENE, the song “ESO Beso,” the existence of a [Port on the eastern Mediterranean] called TYRE, TVA and OAS, ELSA the lioness, that the ARAL SEA is the river [Amu Darya’s outlet], and that old-time Hollywood/Broadway was fond of the word boffo or BOFF—these things take up space in my memory because I picked them up from crosswords, probably back in the ’80s. I don’t think any of this is inappropriate fill, mind you. Just familiar, like a comfy depression on the couch where you’ve parked yourself for years.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers 1/14/11 Francis Heaney

This is by far the driest theme Francis has ever made. Desiccated, even. He’s taken three familiar phrases and dehydrated the food portion:

  • 20a. [Teacher at the Institute of Topiary Arts?] clues PROFESSOR PRUNE. A prune is a dried plum, and Professor Plum is that dude in Clue.
  • 36a. JERKY WELLINGTON is a [British noble who’s kind of an ass?]. Beef Wellington is made with beef that’s fresher than Slim Jims.
  • 54a. The California Raisins are a fake soul group from advertising. That [California R&B singing group turned punk?] might be the RAISINS OF WRATH, playing on Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I’m mildly troubled by the absence of the definite article in the answer.

Highlights in the rest of the puzzle:

  • 23a. LADY DI, [“England’s rose” of song].
  • 51a. [Zelda’s love] is F. SCOTT Fitzgerald.
  • 9d. BEARSKINS are [Rugs unlikely to be owned by vegans].
  • 33d. SYLVESTER makes for a nice entry, but I’m confused by the clue. [Toon often featured opposite a kangaroo]? Is this the same Sylvester who is Tweety Bird’s nemesis? When did the kangaroo appear?
  • 49d. MT. HOOD is a [Pacific Northwest ski destination] in Oregon.

Lots of music in Francis’s work, no? TUNED, LADY DI, partial lyrics I AIN’T and IT’S SO, AUDIO, LAY, BONO, SKA, AGO from an album title, a ROADIE, DISCO, and SARA and Tegan? So much music—and none of it opera. That’ll play.

Ken Bessette’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution 1/12/11 Ken Bessette

The theme here is a riff on the phrase CIRCLE THE WAGONS, with three other 15-letter answers having their first and last letter pairs circled to form 4-letter words that are wagons of a sort:

  • 17a. [When some suits don’t wear suits] is DRESS-DOWN FRIDAY, which I’ve usually heard called “Casual Friday.” The circled letters spell DRAY, which is a sled, truck, or cart for delivering heavy stuff. The OED definitions do not include the word wagon. (For the next few weeks, access to the online OED is free: sign in with trynewoed as the user name and password.)
  • 23a. [The Pawtucket Red Sox, e.g.] are a TRIPLE A FARM TEAM in the sub-major league baseball world. Terrific entry! The circled letters spell TRAM, which I never thought of as being a wagon. But look what the OED says here: “[B]ranch II, in which tram is a miners’ term for the vehicle for carrying coal or ore (in its development from a hand-barrow, or at least a sledge, to a small 4-wheeled iron wagon) may, on the principle of pars pro toto, have arisen out of that of ‘barrow-tram’ in I.” Well! Can’t argue with that.
  • 52a. The clue [Sandals in Jamaica, e.g.] sure tricked me. I was thinking footwear, not the capital-S Sandals brand of CARIBBEAN RESORT. Not sure “Caribbean resort” is a lexical chunk unto itself. The hidden wagon is a CART. The OED tries to tell me a cart has only two wheels while a wagon has four. Shopping at the supermarket must be a lot tougher for the OED’s lexicographers, huh?

I admire the theme’s composition, the quartet of 15-letter answers, but I’m less thrilled that the puzzle’s whole point is to have some dull, vaguely synonymous words appear in circled squares. It would have been cooler to have those “circled wagons” appear in a circle (or square) in the grid, as in last week’s Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest meta. Matt had the name OTIS traveling in circular fashion in the four corners of the grid.

Boy, did I need a lot of crossings to get 26d. [Where to see a lot of keys] had me thinking of pianos and organs, despite my trip to the FLORIDA Keys just two weeks ago.

Hottest answer: 36d: [Santana hit also covered by Tito Puente] is “OYE COMO VA.” Go have a listen.

I had to look up haka to understand the clue for MAORI. 32d: [Haka dancers of New Zealand] is just an overly detailed clue for [People of New Zealand]. Generally more male-dominated than Hawaiian hula dancing, apparently.

I’ve never heard [Some temps] called CLERICALS rather than “clerical workers.” Since when is this a noun? What does the OED say? It says it’s a noun when you’re talking about the clergy and/or their garments.

You wanted to launch into Yiddish during this puzzle, didn’t you? We’ve got a YENTA (8d: [Gossipmonger]), Fiddler on the Roof‘s TEVYE (68a: [“If I Were a Rich Man” singer]), and the HEBREW spoken in the fertile Israeli plain called Sharon (41d: [Sharon’s language]).

Updated Wednesday morning:

Ray Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Platen ‘Em”—Janie’s review

Not everyday that ya see a “platinum” pun, but Ray has given us one—and a theme with some, “AHEM!” [“Attention, please!”], striking fill. It all comes together with TYPEWRITER at 57-Across [Where the ends of 12-, 23-, and 47-Across are found]. Those ends are ribbon, carriage and key, and come to us by way of:

  • 17A. BLUE RIBBON [County fair prize].
  • 23A. BABY CARRIAGE [Image on a birth announcement, perhaps].
  • 47A. DUPLICATE KEY [Item found under a mat, sometimes].

Do any of you still own a typewriter? My little Smith-Corona portable electric (which served me well for many a moon) has gone unused for almost 20 years now, but I have no plans for parting with it just yet. There used to be a typewriter (and small business machine) repair shop right in the upper west side neighborhood I lived in. The name (Osner) still exists, but it’s now located on the east side near Gramercy Park. (The “platen,” btw, is the horizontal cylinder that serves as a backstop for the paper that’s being typed on.)

Beyond its success in summoning up some nostalgia for the analog world, the puzzles’s other ALLURES [Charms] are to be found in such (analog-word / simple-pleasure) fill as HAYRIDE [Farm outing] and SHERBET [Frozen dessert], and the musical crossing of CLEF [Staff leader] and CELLIST [Yo-Yo Ma, e.g.]. I also like the “other culture” stack-up of SHEIK [Arab leader] and SWAMIS [Pundits] (since the latter has its origin in India).

Some pairings to point out include: PRICE TAG [Source of sticker shock] and the EEKS [Comic screams] one might hear in response; the shout-outs to female athletes with LPGA [Women’s touring org.] and WNBA [Chicago Sky’s org.]; and the tip o’ the hat to the Big Easy and environs with PO’ BOY [N’Orleans sandwich] and ZYDECO [Louisiana music]. Good food, good music. Yep, that’s a pretty pair indeed!

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16 Responses to Wednesday, 1/12/11

  1. SYLVESTER appeared in the late 50s and early 60s Warner Bros cartoons with a baby kangaroo, named Hippety Hopper informally, that was confused with a “giant mouse” by him and his son Junior. The recurring theme is that the kangaroo would make Sylvester look inept at catching “mice” and cause Junior to put a bag over his head feeling ashamed of his father.

    On the NYT, I originally inserted HALF as the full answer for 10-across and then changed it to a rebus answer once I saw NELSON.

  2. Gareth says:

    Already have free access to the OED through my varsity, enjoy it’s great!

    NYT: Spotted the rebus @ 1A! Felt really good, but then it is a Wednesday rebus not a Thursday… Was I expecting too much by expecting something to tie up the symmetrically placed identical rebus squares used in colourful phrases? Probably, but kept expecting that all through solving…

    LAT: Had similar reservations to you as to whether the circled letters do in fact spell out wagons… Oh, remember the OED has British bias, so what you’re pushing is in fact a trolley and not a cart… I think someone in crosswordland asked for OYECOMOVA in a crossword, it may have been Deb over at Wordplay though? MAORI clue is easy if you follow rugby: it’s mostly ALLBLACKS (some of whom are Maori, but the team also includes Islanders and Anglos…) that do the Haka these days!

  3. Rex says:

    Props to Ray Hamel for CIARA. Between that and Francis’s puzzle, it’s a friggin’ contemporary music smorgasbord (or however you spell it).

  4. Howard B says:

    re:LA Times: I think DRAY often gets clued in crosswords as some kind of wagon. XWordInfo confirms that, at least for the NY Times, it’s occasionally clued in that way.
    I actually liked the LA Times theme a bit, mostly for the 15-letter entries, which were all fun to discover. The circled letters were consistently placed in each answer as well, which although not a circle, was still nice.

  5. sps says:

    Like Gareth, I spotted the rebus at 1A. Then the rest of the fill felt Monday-ish for me and led to one of my fastest Wednesdays ever. Maybe all the snow out there is helping me think…

  6. Francis says:

    I wondered what to do about the lack of “The” in “Raisins of Wrath”, but figured since he took the title from elsewhere in the first place (lyric from “Battle Hymn of the Republic”), it was reasonably okay to leave it out, instead of having an awkward “with ‘The'” at the end of a theme clue.

  7. Francis says:

    Oh, also, it’s Tegan and Sara. I recommend “The Con”.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I knew that, Francis. I was just testing you.

  9. sandirhodes says:

    I’d like to give a bucketful of stars to Janie’s review. Nice!

  10. Ladel says:

    There should be some kind of time handicap for those of us who can’t spell. All those years in treatment made me a near perfect person but I still can’t spell worth a dam.

  11. janie says:

    wow, sandirhodes — that was an awfully nice post to come home to. thx fer makin’ my day! (‘course it never hurts when, like today, a puzzle’s theme and/or fill give me such nice stuff to bounce ideas off of!)


  12. Zulema says:

    And my thanks to Sandirhodes for sending me to Janie’s write-up and allowing me to enjoy it too, despite my not doing that puzzle.

  13. Jan says:

    I went to the OED site but couldn’t sign in. It asks for an email and password, not a username. Can you give us a link to the sign-in page?

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jan, when I click the “sign in” button at, I enter trynewoed below the words “Subscriber login” for the username and password. Are you clicking some other button?

  15. Jan says:

    Thanks, Amy, that worked – not sure what link I had tried before. But now I’m confused – I was able to look up words without signing in. Does the sign-in give me some other features?

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