Tuesday, 3/1/11

Jonesin' 3:47 


NYT 3:06 


LAT 4:37 (Neville)/3:23 (Amy) 


CS 4:59 (Sam) 


Reminder: To check out the menu for the sociable Cru dinner at the ACPT, click here. Reservations info included.

C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword

3/1/11 NY Times crossword answers 0301

C.W./Carolyn! Why, Deb Amlen and I were just talking about you. It’s been too long since we’ve had one of your puzzles. This one’s theme is fairly subtle—well, until you hit the revealer entry that explains what the theme is, and then it’s quite clear. There’s a SPOT OF TEA being served within each of the other five theme answers: ACUTE ANGLE, VOTE AGAINST, LATE ARRIVAL, RABBIT EARS, and WASTE AWAY. It might’ve been nice not to go 4-and-1 on the way TEA is split (four TE/A, one T/EA)—PLANET EARTH and ILL AT EASE would both have been solid subs. But does the average solver eyeball the theme entries and notice that just one of ’em doesn’t split the TEA the same way. I imagine not.

Highlights in the fill:


Favorite clue:

  • 12d. [Places to get Reubens] is a DELI. Yes, the Flemish painter is spelled Rubens, but that capital R had me thinking of precious oil paintings rather than sandwiches.


  • Crosswordese AMAH (with HAREM echoing its downtrodden-women vibe)
  • Two of crossworddom’s favorite birds, the RHEA and EGRET, roosting together (the EMU and ANI send their regrets)

55a: [Feature of many a greeting card] clues a VERSE. If you’ve ever been curious about the inner workings of a greeting card company, read David Ellis Dickerson’s memoir, House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions. That’s the (bargain) hardcover. The subtitle changed to a more accurate reflection of the contents for the paperback edition: House of Cards: The True Story of How a 26-Year-Old Fundamentalist Virgin Learned about Life, Love, and Sex by Writing Greeting Cards. I will say this: While Hallmark indisputably knows the greeting card business, the way they create new cards seems insane. You might spot the book’s author at the ACPT in a few weeks—he’s a puzzler as well as a writer.

Note from Amy: Say hello to Neville Fogarty! He’s young (well, post-collegiate), he’s an avid crossworder and budding constructor, and he’s a funny writer who’s willing to blog about crosswords.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

3/1/11 LA Times crossword solution

Hey, everyone—Neville Fogarty here stepping in with my first guest blog at The Fiend. It’s a little weird to be on the flip side of the blog—I’m used to reading the notes here to help make myself a better solver and constructor. Perhaps I can pass some wisdom on to you now. Anyway—to the puzzle! Donna, who’s always a crowd pleaser, has written a nice tribute puzzle for old what’s-his-name. Remember him?

  • 20a. [Cop’s often-unreliable lead] is an ANONYMOUS TIP. People don’t seem to request anonymity when tipping at a bar, though.
  • 28a. [Retailer’s private label] clues NO-NAME BRAND. Wikipedia tells me that that there’s actually a “No Name” brand up in Canada used for this purpose.
  • 50a. MYSTERY MEAT is a [Facetious name for a cafeteria staple]. Thinking back to my elementary school years, I think that “mystery” was accurate…but “meat” was not.
  • 56a. [“The Gong Show” regular with a paper bag on his head, with “the”] was Murray Langston, better known as the UNKNOWN COMIC. He was in over 150 episodes of “The Gong Show”—wow!

Aside from four great theme entries, we’ve got some nice Tuesday-fresh entries with NY GIANTS, TIN CUP, HOBNOB, KING ME, and TSUNAMI. I did have to look up LSTS, though—that’s Landing Ship, Tanks. Overall, great fill, and nothing too tricky for a Tuesday.

At 23a: [Apostropheless possessive], I’m not sure if it’s Donna or editor Rich Norris who’s got a grammatical pet peeve. ITS is the entry here—save the apostrophe for the contraction it’s. I feel pretty sure that that’s a shared pet peeve among the readers here, though.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Go Get Schooled”

Jonesin' crossword #509 answers "Go Get Schooled"

This week’s theme doesn’t really resonate with me. Necessities for students of different ages:

  • 20a. [Some college students can’t go without it] clues FINANCIAL AID. Indeed, many students can’t go to college without loans or scholarship grants.
  • 38a. [Some high school students can’t go without it] clues TEXT MESSAGING. There’s no literal go involved here, is there?
  • 55a. [Some elementary school students can’t go without it] clues a BATHROOM PASS. You can’t go, as in “go pee,” without a bathroom pass unless you’re willing to pee your pants.

It bugs me that this feels like an arbitrary threesome, and that only two of the three seem to have a literal aspect to the “can’t go” part of the clue.

With just three theme entries occupying 37 squares, you expect to see plenty of sparkle in the fill. Highlights include the Star Trek ship ENTERPRISE, “SEE HERE,” MEN IN TREES, the FOR DUMMIES series, and FAX NUMBERS—lots of long answers beyond the theme.

Favorite clue: 49d: [It may pop out of a box] for a TISSUE. I use Puffs but call them Kleenex, of course.

Crosswordese and trouble spots include the following:

  • 9a. FALA is the name of [FDR’s dog].
  • 14a. [Feudal slave] clues HELOT. This is no medieval serf, but a serf in ancient Sparta.
  • 52a. [Dictation stat, for short] clues LPM. Lines per minute? Never encountered this abbreviation before.
  • 64a. I took German and French, not Spanish. So, [Car, in Caracas] is COCHE? All righty then.
  • 65a. TATU is that [Russian music duo that often teases that they’ll kiss onstage], two women. Not a name I tend to remember.
  • 1d. [Hit the ground hard] clues BIFFED. Hmm, don’t know that word. A guy I know swears by the Biffy bidet attachment. No etymological connection, I’m betting.

Baby talk: You’ve got your MOO MOO, your Teletubby named LAA LAA, and the gentle DREFT laundry soap you wash the baby clothes with.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrossSynergy Syndicate Crossword, “Race Finishes”—Sam Donaldson’s review

Race Finishes” is a nice title, not only because it describes the theme (four phrases whose last words are types of races) but also because the puzzle offered very little resistance.  Had I solved the puzzle on my own computer and not my employer’s tiny, tiny laptop with small keys that just don’t work well for someone with fat fingers like me, I think I would have finished a good 20 or 30 seconds faster. (Oh, and before you rat me out to my employer, I should note that I solved the puzzle late at night while on the road–for business!–and only after duly checking and replying to emails.)  And if I, a D Division solver at this month’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, can finish a 15×15 puzzle in roughly 4:40, I’m guessing some A Division solvers flirted with 1:30–on paper.

Oh, the theme entries, you (didn’t) ask? Here they are:

  • 17-Across: The [Heraldry emblem] is a COAT OF ARMS, building off of “arms race.”  My coat has two arms.
  • 52-Across: [“Something’s fishy about this”] clues I SMELL A RAT, and us working stiffs know all about the “rat race.”  If something’s fishy, it sure doesn’t smell like a rat.  Why don’t we say “I smell a tuna” or “I smell cod” instead?  (I tried to sell that joke to an observational comic but he didn’t buy it.  Instead, he went with a “So what’s the deal with cornbread?” bit.  Thus dashed were my dreams of gag writing.)
  • 11-Down: To [Retire] is to HIT THE SACK, a play on a “sack race.”
  • 27-Down: The [Plumber’s access, at times] is a CRAWL SPACE (from “space race”).  As I solved, I had the CRA- in place when I read the clue.  Immediately upon seeing “plumber’s” at the beginning of the clue, I wanted the answer to start with “crack.”  Just thought you should know.  Speaking of which, anyone want to take the first bite of the cake to the right?

There are lots of good theme answers that could go with this theme.  I COULD EAT A HORSE, I’M ONLY HUMAN, DRESSED IN DRAG, and many others, I’m sure.  But finding pairs of the same length must have proved tricky, because the choices here are something of a mixed bag.  I SMELL A RAT and HIT THE SACK are lively, but COAT OF ARMS and, to a lesser extent, CRAWL SPACE are just kinda there.

The grid’s nice and smooth, though, which facilitates a quick solve. Jordan deserves credit for a very smooth 74-word grid.  The staircase of crossing five-letter entries running diagonally up the grid also helps the solver. For those who care about such things (I don’t), we’re a V shy of a pangram here. More importantly, I think, the grid wasn’t compromised by the insertion of rare letters.  Highlights from the fill include ATOM ANT, the [1960s cartoon hero with antennae], and DESPOILS, a term for [Pillages] that might be used by PRIGS, clued here as [Obnoxiously proper types].

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15 Responses to Tuesday, 3/1/11

  1. arthur118 says:

    A nice theme and a clever payoff, with SPOTOFTEA, but much too much crosswordese along the way.

    MEWS, AMAH, TOME, ASSAM, ADELE, and others, diluted the effect of some nice entries like WASTEAWAY, SHAMAN, EVERSO, and more.

  2. Christine says:

    Have NYTs always split clues using the same letter sequence? I seem to recall being irked that they didn’t in years past. But I don’t usually think about the tricksy clues much anymore. I just work it out and sometimes figure out what they’re talking about when I’m done.

    I liked “spot of tea”, however, just because tea is a warm, cheerful thing. I got stuck when I put in “A pot of tea” at first. And I was stumped far longer than I should have been trying to make it work with net wages rather than net sales.

  3. Aaron says:

    Hey, Times — I think I found your Monday puzzle! This was one of the easiest Tuesdays I’ve ever done, but it was smooth as heck all around, and I found the theme to be quite prepossessing.

  4. Howard B says:

    ACute Times puzzle today. Theme snuck up on me.

    Actually got to do the Jonesin’ in time to comment. Really thought it was a clever play on the repeated-clue theme. Really good longer answers in the fill (the shorter ones Amy mentioned were rough). Despite the nasty short fill sacrificed for the long answers, this one just worked for me :).

    Will check out the other puzzles tonight.

  5. joon says:

    what a treat today on the blog! nice debut from neville and sam’s usual wit … and of course amy, the sine qua non of crossword fiend.

    i thought the SPOT OF TEA theme was nice, but some of the fill was irksome. donna’s LAT seemed smoother in comparison, and also had a nice theme, although UNKNOWN COMIC lived up to his name, at least to me. the only thing i know about the gong show is that i’ve seen it used to clue GONG before. patrick jordan’s CS puzzle had a nice use of Q and Z (i especially liked OPTIMIZE), and i’m glad no sacrifices were made to squeeze the V in for a pangram, because i know he likes pangrams.

    and sam, i dunno about anybody pushing 1:30 on paper—on any puzzle. dan solved today’s CS in 1:32 on across lite, but i bet he’d be around 2:00 at best on paper. took me 2:49 with a pencil; al is usually 15-30 seconds faster than me on tuesdays, so he’s probably in the 2:30 range. same with other speed demons. they might be flirting with 1:30, but it’d be limited to batting their eyelashes from across the room.

    … and then there’s the jonesin’. i want to love this puzzle for the sheer nutty surprise of the last theme answer, which is a great punchline. but there were so many mystery fills, including some crossing each other. i’m not usually guessing on 3 different squares in the same puzzle. BIFFED, DREFT, MEN IN TREES, TED williams who isn’t the baseball player (?!?), SLC punk, TATU, COCHE … that’s a lot. also, MOO MOO and LAA LAA seem like they want to be part of their own theme in a different puzzle.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Congratulations Neville on landing the coveted Tuesday LA Times spot.

  7. Martin says:

    Joon et al.,

    Do speed solvers agree that online is faster than paper? I’m no speed solver, but I find paper a bit quicker. Moving around is the difference. Plus, one fat-finger typo adds a bit of time to backspace and correct. Are these not issues for competitive solvers? Do you never make typos of the sort that are impossible in pencil (mean a G but type an F)?

  8. Jeffrey says:

    I’m faster on paper due to lousy typing skills, but I’m an exception. One big advantage on screen is the clues can appear in the same place and you don’t have to keep looking down for them.

  9. Howard B says:

    If you’re a good typist with minimal mistakes, then online (in a quick, responsive applet) or in AcrossLite will be significantly faster than paper. AcrossLite also allows deletion of a complete word at a keystroke and much faster navigation around the grid. Typos can be either similar mental mistakes, or one-key-off errors instead of those written transcription errors. I’ve done plenty of each ;).

    For myself, I’m typo-prone and can’t touch-type without looking occasionally at the keyboard; so speed-wise I’d say for me AcrossLite is still fastest overall, followed closely by paper, followed far behind by the Times applet. Time differences are greater on larger or more difficult puzzles, and less on easier, smaller-size puzzles.

    Each person’s experience will vary depending on their solving, typing and writing skills – all skills and conditions equal, a fast typist will usually outsolve a fast writer. Right now the fastest computer solving times (in AcrossLite) are maybe in the 1:10-1:30 range (estimating)? While on paper, I’m not sure below 1:45 is reliably achievable by anyone even at the top writing speed, with a perfect solve. I’ve never gone below 1:45 on a keyboard, personally – I simply cannot physically type faster than that without having a puzzle riddled with typos that looks more like a fusion of Esperanto and Klingon than the correct solution.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    When I first started doing puzzles via keyboard, it hindered my speed. But if you do it enough and have decent keyboard skills, it does become faster than pencil and paper.

    Certainly adjacent-key typos or typing a couple letters in the wrong order can be a problem, but I catch most of those errors long before I finish the puzzle. Scanning a grid looking for a typo is pesky, for sure.

  11. joon says:

    right, what they said. every solver is different, but the fastest AL solvers are faster than the fastest paper solvers, and *most* speed-solvers who are accustomed to across lite are faster that way than on paper. there are competing factors, but as a generalization, the biggest wins are (a) typing instead of writing, and (b) not having to hunt for the clue to the space you’re looking at in the grid. the biggest loss is that you (probably) need to finish typing in that answer before you look at the next clue, but it’s a smaller effect. i say probably because i suppose you could get good enough (and maybe dan does this?) to look in the clue list for the next clue number while you’re still typing… but it would be hard to train yourself to do so, and for such a minimal gain. for a fast typist, it only takes a fraction of a second to get even a long entry into the grid.

    i make typos, sure, but i also make similar errors when writing because i need to move both my eyes and my brain to the next clue while i’m still writing down the answer to this one, and that causes my accuracy to suffer. (i notice that this happens especially often when i need to skip over a square that’s already filled in—i’ll often write the same letter again in the next square.) in across lite, if i make a typo, i see it right away because my eyes are still there. on paper, i sometimes don’t notice that i’ve accidentally written in the wrong letter until i check the crossing clue and my answer makes no sense.

    on harder puzzles, there’s also this: across lite lowers the confidence threshold for writing in tentative guesses, because erasing is both physically and psychologically easier. and having those few crossing letters staring at you from the grid may be what your brain needs to trigger the correct answer, as opposed to just imagining, “hmm, what if this is an F?”

    having said all that… there’s no big check handed out to the fastest across lite solver every year. (although the evidence is pretty strong that dan would win it anyway.) so there’s relatively little incentive for people to really hone their across lite technique past a certain point.

  12. Meem says:

    I am not a speed solver in the way that most of you are, and generally solve on paper. But recently I have begun solving Newsday and CHE (when my copy is apparently appropriated by someone who needs it more than I do) using the Crossword app. At first, I found it very awkward but am becoming smoother at moving around the grid. Would have to agree that there is something satisfying at being able to see the clues. I find myself mentally solving an across clue but working the downs to move more quickly. Am not yet very adroit at error correx. So for now will continue to begin my day with NYT and a pen clutched firmly in hand.

  13. Martin says:

    Thanks, all.

  14. Neville says:

    Thanks Joon & Jeffrey (and Amy, of course) for the support!

  15. Howard B says:

    Fun writeup, Neville. Late to the party. Crazy week.

Comments are closed.