Wednesday, 2/2/11

NYT 6:21 


LAT 3:58 


Onion 4:42 


CS untimed 


Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 2/2/11 0202

Okay. Take two. I had written a couple paragraphs and then the internet connection zonked out here and it vanished. Sigh.

Was horribly distracted by the local news and the blizzard, and kept typing with my hand over a row on the keyboard, entering all sorts of craziness in lieu of actual answer words. Plus, I started with STAY/SERVER at 1a/1d instead of LAST/LOBBER, which mucked up the northwest corner. “LOBBER”? I nebber use that word.

The theme is a LETTER / DROP with a vowel progression, with phrases that can appear in the middle of a sentence but are not stand-alone things:

  • 18a. ASHES SHE’S
  • 57a. USING SING

I admire ISLANDER SLANDER, which you could plausibly clue as a made-up phrase. The other four don’t really work so well.


  • 38d. I hate LICORICE but it’s a cool word.
  • 26d. Who doesn’t appreciate SUNRISE? Aside from vampires, that is.


  • OTTIS, BE ALL partial, five gazillion cross-referenced clues, A HIT partial, the German/Latin/Italian STILLE/ESSE/SOLA run, SMOLTS, old ARETES and SSRS and AMAH, UNHATS (I know it’s a real word, but…), two suffixes to follow magnet, and an ALER and his GTS in the NNE.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hit Piece”—Janie’s review

In today’s puzzle, Martin “hits” us with five definitions of the word (and clue)[STRIKE] (another word for hit…). He more than ably demonstrates that “strike” can be a verb or a noun and makes his point with these phrases:

  • 17A. DEAL A BLOW TO. Verb.
  • 24A. BOWLER’S GOAL. Noun…
  • 39A. WALK A PICKET LINE. Verb. Ooh. I like the way this one doesn’t involve physical impact. Such an interesting use of the word when you think about it. Workers who “strike” or are “on strike” do take a hit at their employers—but a non-violent one. (In theory… Sadly, there’re any number of strikes that have resulted in terrible violence— the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, for example.)
  • 48A. TOLL THE HOUR. Verb. And a poetic one at that.
  • 60A. UMPIRE’S CALL. Noun again. Another “non-impact” example, too, which is kinda funny/ironic when ya think about it. Particularly in the context of baseball.

That’s one nuanced word, “strike.” Check out the range of definitions and uses and you’ll see that these five examples only scratch the surface.

I don’t have lots to comment on today, but I do want to highlight a few attention-getting clue/fill combos. And they’d be:

[Printed mistakes] for ERRATA. Had to decide if “printed” was a verb or an adjective. It’s the latter, but I love that the clue forced me to think about the decision I needed to make.

Ditto [Letter from Greece] for BETA. A letter from the alphabet used in Greece. If this is an OLD [Far from fresh] cluing trick, it’s still a good one.

And [Cereal spike] for EAR. Huh? Did you know that one of the definitions of the word “spike” is “ear of grain, as of wheat“? News to me. I suppose an ear of corn is from the same etymological root—it’s just I never really thought about it. Looks like I should be thinkin’ more!

Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 2/2/11

It may be time to go back to bed. I only slept for four hours—when the power came back on, the lights woke me. So I’ve been up for 2.5 hours and my eyes are bleary. Barely kept them open for this crossword.

Theme is crossword repeaters turned into clues, and plausible clues for those repeaters turned into theme entries. I’m not a fan of the theme variety.

  • 20a. [Opie] is a CHILD IN MAYBERRY.
  • 34a. The [Obie] is a THEATRICAL AWARD.
  • 43a. A MAN FROM MUSKOGEE is an [Okie].
  • 58a. [Odie] is described as GARFIELD’S FRIEND? Wait, I thought he was Garfield’s nemesis.

Not crazy about the fill overall. TWO O’ is an odd-looking partial, and a few other fill-in-the-blank clues are awkward: YAT, BALA, and ALL OR. Consider, too, the likes of BWANA, F MAJ., ELIS/NAVE crossing YSER, AXIL/VENA crossing TRINI, and trusty ol’ ERNES roosting at the bottom of the grid.

Foreign words:

  • 19a. [Earth, in Essen] = ERDE
  • 44d. [Roast, in Rouen] = ROTI
  • 36d. [Cancún quencher] = AGUA

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers 2/4/11 Tyler Hinman

Hey! It’s a cool theme with fresh fill! You weren’t expecting that today, were you?

J. CREW describes the famous “J __” nicknames that anchor this theme. Each of these people forms a sort of “before and after” phrase with a familiar phrase in the “after” slot, only the key word gets its spelling changed by the name:

  • 21a. [One reason for the success of “Jersey Shore”?] is the J WOWW FACTOR. J Woww (don’t ask me for the accepted punctuation of that), one of the women on that TV show, plus “wow factor.” Oh, dang, I just looked it up. “Jwoww,” one word, standard capitalization.
  • 40a. [Pop albums, crappy romantic comedies, etc.?] clues J.LO EXPECTATIONS. Ha! Love the snark of the clue. Jennifer Lopez was great in Soderbergh’s Out of Sight and interesting in The Cell. Aside from those roles? Eh.
  • 56a. Didn’t know Jason Kidd had a “J-Kidd” nickname, but [Hand protection for a Dallas Mavericks point guard?] clues J-KIDD GLOVES. Yes, I had to look up the punctuation. And I thought it was J-Lo rather than J.Lo. I failed on all three! I am not ashamed.

Highlights in the fill:

  • THE BBC, good use of the definite article.
  • I DUNNO.
  • I do like the word SUMAC, but prefer the non-poisonous variety.
  • 38a. [Its symbol is Sb, even though neither S nor b appears in its name]: ANTIMONY! This should trade names with the word alimony, which seems more “anti,” if you ask me. Also, why is antinomian a word? Just to mess up people’s ability to pronounce these words?
  • 1d. Good clue for TWIST: [Shyamalan specialty]. He and Chubby Checker would’ve gotten along.
  • 5d. [Title canine in a 1974 film] is BENJI. Ah, movies from my childhood. I was busy watching the sequel when Taxi Driver came out. Still haven’t seen it…
  • 35d. [It spans the bridge] clues the NOSEPIECE of your glasses.
  • 41d. Had no idea where this clue was going without a bunch of crossing answers. [“I think ___ initial intention was to make tennis balls” (Mitch Hedberg)] clues PRINGLES! Mitch Hedberg was funny.
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20 Responses to Wednesday, 2/2/11

  1. Neville says:

    I feel the STAY/SERVER pain – it cost me 2-3 min. in the end.

    Did not care for this puzzle – sorry Peter. ISLANDER SLANDER was cute, but the rest was pretty meh for me. The fill killed my experience – I thought I was doing the subway freebie puzzle. Please don’t hate me, Peter – your puzzles are usually great!

  2. Bruce S. says:

    I thought of STAY for one second, but I knew OTTIS 100% so knew that double T wouldn’t work. I was surprised to see I wasn’t slower than most people (as I usually am). Guess I was not too far off Peter’s wavelength on this one.

  3. joon says:

    i worked out the theme quite early and avoided the STAY trap, but ran into all kinds of vague cluing and so ended up with a pretty slow wednesday time. that didn’t bother me too much, but the fact that peter has done this theme before kinda did. okay, it’s not exactly the same because the repeat is always one word this time, but it felt very not-new. that, and the fill (especially in the SE corner) was pretty harrowing.

  4. Tuning Spork says:


    I learned very soon after I started blogging eight years ago to always compose my post in Wordpad, then copy/paste it to the blog. And it wasn’t just because of my iffy dial-up connection at the time. The Moveable Type program I was using (and still use) was so demonically possessed that, if I accidental hit the backspace key, my screen would revert to the sign-in page.

    I have no idea if those issues have been addressed in the intervening years since, luckily, I’ve never gotten out of the habit of composing in Wordpad.

  5. Al says:

    Another one who fell hard for the STAY/SERVER trap. NW corner took forever for me to crack. Puzzle definitely felt Thursdayish, tough slog all the way through.

  6. Eric Maddy says:

    My time looks like it stacks up pretty good. I stayed out of the NW trap by holding off on 1A and entering OTTIS first in that corner, which apparently saved me some time compared to others. I didn’t grab the vowel progression until the end, but picked up on the double-talk of the themers quickly and rolled with it.

  7. Gareth says:

    Hand up for STAY/SERVER. Even after eradicating that the top-left was extremely hard to sort out. TILTAT/OTTIS/LOBBER/BEALL all mean little to me, and the other clues were tricksy!

    I also went for HENKEL/HERONS rather than ELMERS/EGRETS (never heard of ELMERS… am going to guess HENKEL isn’t a glue brand in the US?) Also would I be correct in saying LICORICE is the US spelling and here (and in the UK) its LIQUORICE or is there something else going on?

    Admire the concept of this one and the vowel progression but the execution didn’t quite work IMO.

    @Joon I also remembered that puzzle, but not who created it! SONATINAONATINA!!!

  8. Aaron says:

    I also got stuck on the top left (and top right), but I must say that BARTAB for zombie’s location gave this the extra kick it needed.

  9. Jamie says:

    It’s somewhat reassuring to me that better solvers than I just closed the applet today. That’s what a sane person would have done. I was a few minutes in when I thought, this is a disaster, and to hell with it. I almost never say that. How did this wind up in the NYT? On a Wednesday? I’m supposed to be bored, not beaten up. There was very little to like about this. Oh, rats, there was lots to hate about it! I think this is the first NYT puzzle where I just gave up v. quickly. And no kudos to the constructor or editor. A truly sub-par puzzle.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    STAY/SERVER. That is all.

  11. Karen says:

    I skipped over the entire top row, opening with Paul RAND and backed up into the NW corner without much problem other than disbelieving someone named their child OTTIS. My other trouble spot was SOLA which I don’t remember seeing before–shouldn’t that have had some gender specification?

  12. kratsman says:

    Karen, I remember Ottis Anderson from the ’80s so I’ve long since gotten over the spelling of his name. But recently on the PGA Tour, a rising star from Venezuela, by way of the University of Texas, is one JHONATTAN Vegas. Talk about weird spelling. They call him Johnny Vegas…how long til he shows up in a puzzle?

  13. Meem says:

    I, too, remembered Ottis Anderson. Also remembered “Be all that you can be.” Took me time to suss out bar tab, but then I had a relatively quick solve. Found it odd that Rand Paul and his allies were called “Reps” at 16A. Senators do not like to be called reps. Not my favorite puzzle. But wouldn’t say I hated it.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    Meem, I’m sure it Reps as opposed to Dems rather than being short for representatives. ;-)

  15. sbmanion says:

    I knew OTTIS, but couldn’t remember thte QB for the Bengals (Kenny) and didn’t fill anything in there and as a result fell into the Stay/Server trap. Fun puzzle for me.

    I really blame the weather. It is 49 here in Phoenix and I am in a state of despair as my sweater vest is in the laundry and I can’t find my other sweater. Plus, it is somewhat cloudy.


  16. mitchs says:

    @Joon: love the description of fill as “harrowing”.

  17. joon says:

    thanks mitch. it took me a good 15 seconds to find le mot juste there.

  18. John Haber says:

    I didn’t find it terribly harrowing for a Wednesday or unpleasant. Maybe, as a cryptic fan, I naturally like the idea of a pairing with deletion. I didn’t fall into any traps; I thought of “stay” but also of LOBBER, and so I just held off the NW until I had crossings. That made the corner my last to fall, not knowing OTTIS. I did look twice at SOLA in something of disbelief.

  19. Meem says:

    Thanks, Tuning Spork. Guess I don’t consider Rand Paul to be mainstream Republican which is why I didn’t make that connection.

  20. jim hale says:

    I also fell into the SERVER trap. However I liked the puzzle’s long answers and thought them clever.

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