Wednesday, 2/16/11

Onion 3:54 


Newsday 3:35 


NYT 3:20 


LAT 3:00 


CS untimed 


Are you heading to the ACPT in a month? If you’re interested in joining the Cru for dinner on Friday, March 18, head here for event and reservation details.

Michael Barnhart’s New York Times crossword

2/16/11 NY Times crossword answers 0216

We don’t see many 72-word Wednesday puzzles with ambitiously wide-open corners. I’m not sure those corners are worth the trade-offs, though, in that there are some unfortunate words in there. I found myself cringing more than appreciating.

The theme is 105, or 21 x 5:

  • 17a. [“Twenty-One”] was a TV GAME SHOW.
  • 24a. [2100] hours is NINE O’CLOCK.
  • 35a. [21] is the DRINKING AGE in the U.S.
  • 51a. [“21 ___”] JUMP STREET was a TV show. I don’t like how the dangling JUMP STREET looks in the grid.
  • 59a. [Twenty-ones] are BLACKJACKS, and neither the clue nor the answer really wants to be pluralized, does it?

Where this puzzle lost me was mainly the first and last Across answers. You want to get a puzzle off to a good start, and you want to close it out on a high note. 1a: ANELE, [Anoint with sacred oil, old-style], feels like ancient crosswordese. And 67a: RELED, [Took back the top spot], is a horrible RE+ word that is here because it fills a corner, not because it’s a word anyone would actually use. And 39d: [Blue], EROTICAL—who uses that word? This trio of words kinda ruined the puzzle for me, quite honestly. The names weren’t helping matters: Plural RENES, possessive ARTHUR’S, a HESS I’d never heard of (10a: [Physics Nobelist Victor who discovered cosmic radiation]—I’m making a mental note of that name because I suspect he’ll replace Hess Oil and Dame Myra Hess on occasion). The lower left corner is almost entirely names (five people, three brand names!).

Yes, fill like LEAP YEAR, HAGGLE, GATORADE, TWINKLE, GOSSIP, and “HOW SO?” lend sparkle, but on balance, the negatives outweighed the positives for me.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion A.V. Club crossword solution 2/17/11 Deb Amlen

I don’t quite get the theme here. Traversing a word ladder from ROAD to HELL is taking the road to hell, said road being paved with GOOD intentions and the various waystations having nothing to do with hell or roads? The purpose eludes me. The theme is pretty light on size:

  • 1a. GOOD
  • 23a. ROAD. Hey, I know GOOD isn’t part of the word ladder, but you’d need only GOAD or ROOD to connect it to ROAD.
  • 32a. READ
  • 45a. HEAD
  • 56a. HELD
  • 71a. HELL

So, it’s a 24-square theme. That’s teeny. But you know what? Deb kept the word count high (80, 2 higher than the usual limit of 78) instead of squeezing the theme into a themeless-grade grid. The payoff is these bits of great fill:

  • 30a. “GEE WHIZ!”
  • 42a. BAZOOKA Joe.
  • 6d. WHOPPERS malted milk balls.
  • 7d. Rude NO-SHOWS.
  • 26d. AZIZ Ansari, comedian and actor.
  • 42d. BUTT-DIAL! Crossworder Doug B. butt-dialed a couple Facebook posts from the BlackBerry in his pocket. And there’s this one relative, the only time she calls us is via butt-dial. Haven’t actually spoken to her in months, but her butt calls every so often, just to touch base.
  • 44d, 47d. Two great ladies side by side: LUCILLE, the guitar, and PAMELA Harriman, the socialite-turned-ambassador.

Favorite clues:

  • 16a. A football kicked [Not through the uprights] goes WIDE of the mark.
  • 20a. [Mercury, but not Mars] is a METAL.
  • 8d. [Overwhelmingly common way to pay for drugs] is a fresh clue for IN CASH. Dealers just don’t trust their customers not to bounce a check
  • 33d. [“i” lid?] is the DOT on a lowercase I.
  • 50d. To [Play a fast solo, say] is to SHRED. I believe this term is more commonly used in guitar circles than in clarinet circles.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Close Encounters of the Bird Kind”—Janie’s review

Enclosed, cryptic-style, within each of today’s five theme phrases is the name of one of our fine feathered friends. For once, bird-watchers won’t need binocs for sightings of a loon, an owl, an emu, a dove and an erne (or is that simply an ern?). Randy’s hidden them within:

  • 17A. [Ill-fated NASA mission of 1967] APOLLO ONE. Just about all the Spanish I know is what I’ve learned in restaurants and the puzzles. Which is to say, before I saw loon, my eye went to “pollo”… A bonus bird perhaps?
  • 23A. [This should slow you down] YELLOW LIGHT.
  • 37A. [D’Artagnan’s pals] THREE MUSKETEERS. Wow. What an unexpected and fresh way to get to emu.
  • 45A. [Jumped past] SKIPPED OVER. Like the active feel of this fill. Then, too, verb phrases do seem to have an advantage that way.
  • 58A. [Philly Pops conductor] PETER NERO. And its founding Music Director as well. Had no idea! Their programming looks to be thematic, and while there’s a ’50s concert, this’ll be a tribute to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. No [Elvis] ARON [Presley] this time. (Needless to say, no [Pink Floyd guitarist Barrett] SYD either…).

A few bullet-point highlights by of:

  • the bow to the Eastern Hemisphere. We not only get three [Asian capital]s, HANOI, SEOUL and KABUL, but also a [Japanese metropolis], OSAKA.
  • more things Japanese. [Shuriken or nunchaku] for WEAPON. While I’d heard of nunchuks, I didn’t associate the word with the form we see in the clue; and shuriken was a completely new term to me. I like having these new words in the puzzle. Keeps things lively.
  • the [Lowe or Gere] clue for ACTOR. Is this a “low gear” pun? And while we’re in actor territory, say hey to ERROL [Flynn of “Captain Blood”]. I was amused by the way HERO crosses that second “R”—but don’t be fooled. Today that hero is not a [Swashbuckler, say] but a [Long sandwich].
  • SOLACE. Today it’s clued as [Comfort], but it’s also the name of one beautiful Scott Joplin rag. Take a listen. Fans of The Sting may know it from the film soundtrack.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 2/16/11

Another breezy Donna Levin puzzle with her trademark light and fun cluing. I figured out what the theme was when I had CHINESE CHECKERS and ARGYLE SOCKS in the grid and knew there was nothing that could connect CHINESE and ARGYLE. Checkers was Nixon’s dog and Socks was Clinton’s cat. The other PRESIDENTIAL PETs are Obama’s Bo in TAE-BO (clued weirdly as a [Trendy aerobics regimen], though I think it stopped being trendy at least a decade ago) and LBJ’s Her in AND I LOVE HER. I hadn’t noticed that TAE-BO was part of the theme, as I don’t usually study the “at the end of 17-, 25-, 37- and 44-Across” parts of theme-revealer clues, but when I thought about Bo Obama I remembered that TAE-BO was in the middle of the puzzle.

Highlights in the fill:

  • THE TITANIC—good use of the definite article
  • DOWNSTREAM, five consonants in a row (yes, I know the W isn’t functioning like a consonant there, but it’s not a vowel, is it?)
  • Creepy OMEN IV—I like movie sequel Roman numeral answers much better than Pope Leo Roman numeral answers
  • The silent-K crossing of KNOX and KNOT

Fred Jackson’s Newsday crossword, “Do Tell”

Newsday crossword answers 2/16/11

Longtime readers know that I don’t blog the weekday or Sunday Newsday puzzles, just the tough themelesses called “Saturday Stumper.” But last Friday, the central word in the Newsday crossword’s quip theme, DUE, was changed to CUE to make the neighboring fill better. This ruins the theme! You can’t have “CUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES,” you just can’t.

Martin H. and other readers have been reporting other instances of a late change to the fill not being accompanied by appropriate changes to the clues, which leads to a mystifying solve.

Today, we’ve got a whole 3×3 chunk that was changed. You can that see my fill matches up with the clues if you click on the grid image to enlarge it. And yet! The red lines mean the applet is telling me I’m wrong. Whatever the applet wants, it’s not what the clues are asking for. Here’s what the applet wants. Is it better fill? Yes. It gets rid of SOYA, SSTS, and a foreign word. But you’ve got to change the clues when you change the fill!

Maybe I should send editor Stan Newman my résumé?

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31 Responses to Wednesday, 2/16/11

  1. pannonica says:

    I experienced cerebrobombulum and entered BATH for 63a “One of the Three B’s,” inexcusably thinking of the retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond. Cost me nearly a minute.

    Roll over, Beethoven!

  2. JoelF says:

    The MOLO/BULOVA cross did me in. I’ve never heard of either. Overall, the puzzle had some great parts to it, but I agree with Orange that there was just too much bad fill.

  3. Gareth says:

    Count me in for m?lo/bul?va.

  4. Ned White says:

    “HotLanta” I know, ATOWN I don’t, but maybe living here 10 years isn’t long enough. Some fun stuff here but a lot of wincing too (and yes I’ve winced at a few of my own entries), NW and SE particularly. Overall, pretty funky puzzle.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    Anybody do the Newsday yet? The entire northeast corner is fakakte.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Spork, no! Really? What is going on over there at Newsday??

    Joel and Gareth, you mean Aldo MORO, not MOLO. He’s been crosswordese since the ’70s, when he was the Italian PM who was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades. He was a lot more respectable than that toad Berlusconi.

  7. Ladel says:

    I’m beginning to feel older than I should, Bulova is one of the most famous watch brands in the Universe, just not wildly popular at this time, a gimme for me.

  8. Howard B says:

    Onion gets a bonus star rating for BUTT-DIAL. That term entered my lexicon earlier this year, even though I own an older phone which luckily prevents that sort of thing from occurring from my end ;). The entries in that puzzle were just fun.

    Times puzzle took a long time to load, I entered lots of typos, and it was a rough ride – seemed rather challenging.

  9. Martye says:

    Yes the Newsday upper right is broken. And I would someday like to see fakakte as an answer

  10. sps says:

    Amy, I had the exact same reaction as you to the NYT. “Erotical”? Really? And I also lived in Atlanta for a while and never heard it referred to as “A-Town”. Bit of a thumbs down on this puzzle, unfortunately.

    LAT: Nixon gave the Checkers speech in the early 50’s and if that dog lived long enough to be a Presidential pet, I’d be surprised. (quick fact check) He didn’t. The pooch died in 1964.

  11. sandirhodes says:

    Onion: Unfortunately, TITTLE didn’t fit — so it had to be DOT

  12. sandirhodes says:

    CS: Another bonus – tern

  13. John E says:

    In addition to the existing A-initiated crosswordese of AJAR, ABROAD, AWASH, ADELE, etc etc….this week we have added ATOWN and AHOLE (the latter of which still makes me chuckle that it actually showed up in a crossword).

    Where will it end?

  14. Gareth says:

    Amy, I had MARO in my grid. AFAIK he never appeared in South African crosswords and if I’ve met him since I’ve forgotten. Never really owned a branded watch, I think I can name, lessee: Rolex, Timex, Tag Heuer, Swatch, Casio make watches I think… Uh Omega… never heard of Bulova… Maybe it’s just us two.

    @Sandirhodes: I agree, TERN is the more likely answer, and the one I noticed, (although I think ERNE was also there as a nod to it’s xword popularity). A tern is a bona fide, in standard use, bird name, whereas I suspect most British birdwatchers would call an ERNE a White-tailed Eagle…

    Loved the Levin: simple, elegant theme! Clean grid with several colourful entries / clues!

  15. Jeffrey says:

    None of today’s puzzles thrilled me.

    I print out Newsday puzzles in PDF so I can make up my own solutions.

  16. janie says:

    tern, ern, erne. they all fly!

    good sighting, sandi!


  17. joon says:

    aldo moro is a name worth knowing, not just crosswordese. prominent world leader kidnapped and assassinated by terrorists? that is significant 20th-century history, if somewhat chilling. on a lighter note, if you learn MORO, you get a side benefit of nailing some non-ray ALDO clues.

    i also solve the newsday on paper, so i had USES/PODS/NYET and thought nothing of it. but yes, amy, please do send stan your resume. it would take you 5 minutes a day (and that’s averaging in the saturday stumper and the 21x sunday), and you could catch some of these embarrassingly frequent errors.

  18. Meem says:

    Strange day. Didn’t think the NYT was ready for prime time and Newsday was truly fakakte. At the other end of the spectrum, I liked Deb’s puzzle and thought Donna Levin’s LAT was best in show.

  19. Martin says:

    So Deb’s steps from ROAD to HELL aren’t things done with good intentions? Made sense to me. Sort of. Not really.

    We have very weird weather today in Northern California. As we speak, graupel is falling. It’s the first time I’ve seen it around here. It looks like Dippin’ Dots. I’d love to see it in a puzzle.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Graupel! I experienced that once. End of July or early August, on a chairlift in the Rockies. Temps in the 70s at the base, snow pellets up the mountain.

  21. Barry Weprin says:

    Ican “buttdial” from any pocket in my shirt or pants. Did not know it wa

  22. Barry Weprin says:

    s a word

  23. sandirhodes says:

    graupel (!) Is that like the snow that you can actually hear fall? I’d never heard of or seen it ever, until I moved to Oklahoma. Then I saw it several times in one winter, and began to think it was usual. Haven’t seen it since!

    Everything has a name, I guess!

  24. Andrew Ries says:

    I’d imagine that the Newsday fill was changed because of the repeaters — UPTO crossing UPNEXT. I’d rather see that changed, too, but cmon…you’ve gotta change the clues now too!

  25. Jeffrey says:

    You know, changing the answers without changing the clues is a good way to increase the difficulty of Newsday puzzles.

  26. Michael says:

    Barry, did you butt-click the “Submit Comment” button while writing your post? ;-)

  27. Jamie says:

    @Jeffrey: Snort! I only did the weekday Newsday because of the controversy here, and I grinned when I pressed the reveal button to show me the error of my ways. Oops, Mr. Newman. Hire Amy!

    Now, OTOH, the NYT: Amy has already ruled that a puzzle printed in the places she blogs about cannot by definition be a 1 star (well, hideously rarely), so I am glad to see the overall rating coming in at a thumping two stars, theoretically the lowest rating possible. (I’ve never used a 1-star rating, but was sorely tempted to today.)

    Amy’s described all that was wrong with it. It wasn’t Times-worthy. By the time I got to reled, I was groaning in pain. Say it ain’t so! But it was.

    I didn’t have a problem with Moro/Bulova – they were there in the back of my head somewhere. But A-Town? Erotical? Mr. Shortz owes me a session of Botox for the unsightly wrinkles I formed today. Which, I hear, costs more than he pays for a weekday puzzle.

  28. Martin says:

    My only problem with “erotical” is that it just doesn’t have a whole lot of eroticalness. It’s kind of like a Viagra commercial. You know what they’re trying to say but all you hear is “call the doctor.”

  29. John Haber says:

    On my first very ttempt to check the message boards for cryptics, it said I’d exceeded the max number of log attempts. (I wasn’t actually entering data anyway, so no typos, just letting Firefox enter the last visit for me.)

    So guess I’m outa there.


  30. Jan says:

    On the home page, there’s a typo in the link for the 2-16 CS – it goes to 1-4-11.

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