Do you know what works of literature are cited most often on the AP test? Check out this Sporcle quiz.
Randall Hartman’s New York Times crossword
This CrosSynergy regular pops up occasionally with an NYT puzzle. Today’s theme is a substantial one: four 15-letter palindromes, none of which I’ve seen before. They are:
- 17a. SEVILLE EEL LIVES: [Spanish moray still exists].
- 26a. WARSAW NUN WAS RAW: [Polish sister showed her inexperience].
- 43a. RENO ROCK CORONER: [Silver State boogie band autopsy expert]. That’s dark.
- 56a. BOSTON DID NOT SOB: [Red Sox fans mourned tearlessly].
I always like a good palindrome. At the recent MIT Hunt puzzling event, the perennial Palindrome team went with the moniker Stacy’s Super Aware Pussycats. How brilliant is that?? I heard they picked up the palindrome from Aussie David Astle’s book Puzzled. (Dang, where did I put my copy of that book?)
Some of the fill made the puzzle feel like it’s been sitting around for a few years. SOSA, ICE-T, and the term MALL RAT crossing wan OCALA smack in the upper left corner gave off that impression. (And elsewhere, ASTA, ORAN, UMIAK, THE FAN.) Would this corner be better?
Maybe. Maybe not. Still have the SOSA there. Your main S*S* alternatives are SI SI (meh), SASS, SUSS, SASH, SO-SO, and abbrevs SYST and SESS.
It was mildly off-putting to have ALIVE a bit below the first palindrome’s LIVES.
Do make a mental note of the new (to me) RAVI clue at 11d: [Jazz saxophonist Coltrane]. As you might have guessed, Ravi Coltrane‘s parents are jazz saxophonist John Coltrane (whose first name is also 4 letters, just to mess with you) and pianist Alice Coltrane, and yes, he was named after legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar.
Grumbles about fill may be taken with a grain of salt, of course, when the theme is more ambitious than usual. A 60-letter theme asks for some concessions, and if I like the theme, I am willing to grant those concessions. So I’ll give the fill a grudging pass and applaud the palindromic coolness.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme entries in this debut puzzle knock out the word AND—68a: [Word usually found in the answers to starred clues]—and leave us with changed meanings. I don’t recall seeing such a theme before. Which is not to say no one’s ever done it—just that it feels fresh and new.
- 17a. [*Worm change?] clues a BAIT SWITCH. This one’s my favorite.
- 37a. [*Relocation company’s cocktail mixers?] are MOVER’S SHAKERS. The theme answer adds a possessive apostrophe not found in “movers and shakers.”
- 60a. [*Court mistake?] is a TRIAL ERROR.
The theme clues have asterisks owing to the bumper crop of long fill. The best of ’em:
- 26a. A NO-BRAINER is [Hardly a tough decision]. Love that answer!
- 50a. [Kentucky’s state flower] is the GOLDENROD.
- 18d. [Coordinated fan effort at a stadium] is THE WAVE. Yes, it’s dorky, but it looks cool.
- 38d. A ONE-LINER is a [Quick joke].
Some of the shorter fill has that old-school repeater vibe. AES, Adlai E. Stevenson, is your [DDE opponent]. Now, OPAH, the [Shimmery sushi fish], looks like crosswordese but I could swear it’s used more now than it was in crosswords 20 years ago; still, I’ve never seen it on any seafood menu. The ANION, a [Negatively charged atom], doesn’t show up in crosswords as much as it used to. EERO Saarinen is eternal in crosswords. And then, of course, we have the Crosswordese Crafts Corner: 52d: [Wickerwork willow] is OSIER and its neighbor 61d: [Shaggy Scandinavian rug] is a RYA.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “That’s a Capital Idea”—Evad’s review
Four world capitals, four theme entries:
- We start in France with PARIS HILTON. The less electronic ink we devote to her the better.
- The cut of meat LONDON BROIL apparently has nothing to do with London, England.
- Off to the Philippines next with MANILA PAPER. This is the type of “thin cardboard” used to make tabbed folders; with iPads, Droids and the like, have we gotten any closer to Orwell’s paperless society?
- We end our world tour in Kenya with The NAIROBI TRIO. Ah, the ingenuity of early 1950s TV. Personalities from David Letterman to Chevy Chase acknowledge lead Ernie Kovacs’ seminal work as influential on their careers.
Nice diverse set of entries here, and I enjoyed the stacked longer crossing entries, from CUT FLOWER, LOVED ONES, ACCOLADE and the beautiful Scarlet TANAGER. Funny to have DYED before HUED for “Tinted” and then to find HAIR DYES just two rows away (“Garnier products”). “Jeff’s partner in Life in Hell” didn’t immediately come to mind, I had forgotten about the comic strip produced by Matt Groening featuring two anthropomorphic rabbits set in LA.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sign of the Times”
So, I gather that there some titles that spell out how many times something something. I know “Three Times a Lady” (also known as “Fee Tines a Mady” in Eddie Murphy’s skewering of the stereotyped character Buckwheat) but not the other two:
- 20a. [Song from The Doors’ “Strange Days” album, literally?] clues LOVE ME LOVE ME, which represents “Love Me Two Times.” Listening via that link, it souns vaguely familiar, but I think it’s just that it sounds like other Doors songs.
- 36a. [Commodores hit, literally?] is A LADY A LADY A LADY, or “Three Times a Lady.” The Commodores brought Lionel Richie to the world’s attention, and we may never have had ultra-cheesy “Hello” otherwise. In the video (linked), Lionel appears to be portraying a professor macking on one of his students. Plus, he mentions Eisenhower! WTF? The highlight of that YouTube page is this viewer comment: “halal is it meat youre looking for?” Henceforth, I’m going to hear that line whenever Lionel launches into the chorus, and I’m going to crack up. That video is so messed up. So, the love interest, if she’s blind, how exactly does she apply all that eyeliner without stabbing herself in the orbs? And furthermore, doesn’t he find it weird to ask her “Is it me you’re looking for”?
- 50a. [2010 Italian Cannes entry, literally?] clues THE THE THE THE. Is…there…an Italian film called The Four Times? There is. I’m thinking the vibe is different here than for the other theme entries, because there are four times, rather than something happening four times. Inconsistency!
I could do without DERATTED, but Matt’s other long answers are all good ones. An OLIVE BRANCH of peace suggests olive oil, which takes us right to that GREASE STAIN in the garage ([Tough spot for a mechanic?], who has clumsily spilled the olive oil he was drizzling on his salad). Papa Christmas, aka PERE NOEL, is joined by CALL GIRLS and EDELWEISS.
New word for me: BYWASH, or [Dam outlet]. Monday, BEQ’s puzzle introduced me to JET WASH. Hey! I showered today, honest.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Company Men”
I’m thinking of moving coverage of Ben’s puzzle from Thursdays to Tuesday or Wednesday now that the Fireball is back on Thursdays. But some weeks there won’t be a Fireball, so look for your Ink Well coverage on Thursdays those weeks.
This week’s theme is male advertising spokescharacters called “Mr. __” whose “surnames” can be found at the beginning of the theme entries:
- 17a. [*Modern Japanese drink made with tapioca] is BUBBLE TEA. Mr. Bubble makes your bath bubbly.
- 28a. [*Hecklers in the cheap seats, collectively] are the PEANUT GALLERY. Mr. Peanut cuts a dashing figure with his top hat, monocle, and spats.
- 49a. [*Power bat, usually] is the CLEAN-UP HITTER on a baseball team. Mr. Clean is bald and macho, and yet commercials for cleaning products invariably show women in business casual outfits doing all the cleaning.
- 64a. [*NYC art mecca] is the MET MUSEUM. Mr. Met is the furry (I think) mascot for the New York Mets. Not furry? I may have him mixed up with the Phillies green beast.
- 70a. [Title for the mascots who appear at the beginning of the starred entries] is MISTER, tying it all together.
Cute theme, and the phrases that begin with the mascots are all so lively. MET MUSEUM feels a hair off-base—”the Met” and “Metropolitan Museum” sound better to me, but I’m not a New Yorker so what do I know? The theme clues are starred to make it clear that the other long fill—ANTICLIMAX, CELERY SALT, IDEALISTS, ORIENTATE—are not part of the mascot theme.
- 19a. [Chess grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric, e.g.] is a SERB. Never heard of him, but he’s more palatable than Slobodan Milosevic. The Serbian tennis players (Jelena Dokic and Novak Djokovic, e.g.) may be more familiar to a lot of us. The Venn diagram of chess nerds and puzzle nerds has a lot of overlap, but I’m strictly on the puzzle side.
- 20a. [“In my own place, my name ain’t ___ … my name is Enrico Salvatore Rizzo”] clues RATSO. You can’t have great self-esteem when everyone calls you “Ratso.”
- 26a. [Trig for calc, often] is a PREREQ, or prerequisite. I like the curtailments of all the key words here.
- 62a. [River in Belarus crossed by Napoleon in 1812] is the NEMAN. Wha…?
- 69a. MAXIM is a [Gent’s mag with liberally airbrushed covers]. Y’all do know you can’t expect real women (not even starlets or Playmates) to look the same sans Photoshopping, right?
- 11d. The SUZY Q is a [Hostess crème-based treat]. Yes, Hostess uses that accent mark. They’re all fancy like that.
- 21d. SPLOTCHY is a great word. [Like some crappy paint jobs] embodies its meaning well.
- 52d. [Chain letters?] clues S AND M, aka S & M. I love their drive-ins with the root beer.
why exactly are the red sox fans mourning again? shouldn’t it be patriots fans? :) i’m not sobbing here, but i am shivering. somebody turn up the heat!
slightly tighter theme than you give it credit for—each one begins with a city. still, none of them can hold a candle to stacy’s super-aware pussycats, which for my money is the greatest palindrome of all time.
Cities! D’oh. That didn’t even register. Fancy!
re the Sporcle quiz: OK, I only got 9. I should have gotten 9 more, but my brain was frying. My aptitude for the humanities seems rather, er, wanting. Well read I’m not! But even so, some of these were if not obscure, then unknown to me.
But the occasional crossword reference? Well, sometimes! :)
I thought Marti’s LAT puzzle was quite cute, with echoes of the theme words in the fill, like OFFENDERS to go with TRIAL ERROR, SPASMS to result from MOVERS SHAKERS, and other PROTEINS after you do a BAIT SWITCH. I also liked the cluing as in Lender’s BAGEL and a misleading Made a basket for SCORED not far from the OSIER also used in baskets. ETS and UFOS, gambling references in LOTTO, DEALS and a DIE to throw. Very smooth!
The NYT, while super clever in the collection of city palindromes and having some fun fill like a Friendly WAGER and GAMS, didn’t please me quite as much in the overall cluing. LARA crossing RAVI was just a good guess.
I liked the LAT “and” theme but was surprised that Marti didn’t try to fit in a fourth (or fifth) entry, not that I have any good suggestions. NYT was clever if (necessarily) a bit forced. I liked the LLEEELL combination in the middle of 17-A. I agree with ArtLvr that the whole thing was more impressive than enjoyable, which is okay.
I agree with everyone: it’s a very clever, tight theme with a lot of stale cluing. (I noticed the LIVES/ALIVE, too.) When I got to ARA (for what must be the third time in a week now), crossing ASTA, I did wonder if we could call a timeout on them both. RAVI was a gimme for me (although I don’t care all that much for his or his mother’s music), but LARA (or TV PG) was not.
As a competent, but non-speed solver I find the ratings (plus my fondness for certain puzzle creaters) useful in selecting which puzzles I’m going to try each day.
My one suggestion would be to have an option that would correspond to B+. That’s how I would rate today’s NYT puzzle, and it corresponds to the current overall ranking of 3.5.
Aaron, while it does throw off the “one person, one vote” thing, you can vote twice to make a half step. I often find myself voting for 4 stars and 3 stars on a puzzle to give it a 3.5.
Vote early, vote often?
I guess it’s beating a dead horse, but today’s Newsday clued GFLAT as “Piano key next to A.”
Wondering what Raffi Coltrane would sound like.
(…BeLUGa preme, beLUGa preme…)
Just did the Tausig.
1) FYI Amy, Mr. Met has a baseball for a head, no fuzziness. One of the lamest mascots around, and a pathetic theme song as a go-with.
2) 38a Kayakers never row, which requires oars.
Re: Tausig. Isn’t the repetition of TEA (17a: BUBBLE TEA, 14d: TEA TAX) supposed to be a no-no, especially when the two TEAs cross each other?