Wednesday, 5/18/11

Onion 3:36 


NYT 3:35 


LAT 3:32 


CS Untimed (Sam) 


Tausig tba

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5/18/11 0518

Today we have a tribute theme to the late director SIDNEY LUMET: His film PRINCE OF THE CITY spans the middle of the grid and is crossed by the movies SERPICO and DOG DAY AFTERNOON (both starring AL PACINO) and by NEW YORK. Elsewhere in the grid are the movie FAIL / SAFE, a movie LOT and SET where Lumet worked, the word ANGRY missing from Lumet’s film 12 __ Men, the word ORIENT missing from Murder on the __ Express, and Lumet’s D.W. GRIFFITH Award.

So there are 14 theme entries peppered throughout the grid (in meticulously symmetrical locations). I may have seen one or two of the movies included in this puzzle, so it didn’t resonate much for me personally.

Oddball entries:

  • 65a/66a. O PATRIA / MIA, an Aida aria in two pieces.
  • 15a. OVERMAN, or [Provide with too much staffing]. I have seen “overmanned” but never the plain, no “-ed” version of the word.
  • 23d. FIX ON, meaning [Choose definitely], feels a hair awkward to me. Anyone got a sentence using the phrase that will persuade me it’s a good entry?

In the “Really?” category, we have ABO, PBA, UEY, ERNO, NOLO, OBI, ISR., REL., ONT., RUN A (which was just in another puzzle a day or two ago and it bugged me then, too), AZO dye, ELEMIS, ABES, SUPE, and ERO. Yes, I know there were 14 theme answers to contend with. I would have been willing to ditch LOT and SET and maybe FAIL / SAFE to facilitate crisper fill.

Three stars.

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

5/18/11 LA Times crossword solution

Straightforward and simple theme—the first words of four phrases can be “SHOWER HEADS:

  • 17a. [1958 Robert Mitchum drama] clues THUNDER ROAD. The title’s more famous as the Bruce Springsteen song that’s been a classic since its release in 1975. (Thundershower is another word for thunderstorm.)
  • 26a. COLD PIZZA: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. It’s also a [Dorm room snack]. (Take a cold shower, will you?)
  • 40a. [’70s-’80s Haitian president, familiarly] is BABY DOC DUVALIER. (A baby doc shower is a party given in honor of new medical interns.) (No, wait. It’s a party for an obstetrician.)
  • 52a. [Early spring shout] is “APRIL FOOL!” (April showers bring May flowers.)
  • 65a. SHOWER HEADS are [Bath fixtures, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 40- and 52-Across].

Good stuff:

  • 1a. To JOB-HOP is to [Frequently change positions]. The clue sounded like it wanted FIDGET, didn’t it?
  • 37d. To LIE IN WAIT is to [Prepare to ambush].

In general, the fill that doesn’t do much for me and a good bit of it has a ’60s/’70s vibe to it: consider SLA, ELSA the lioness, BEBE Rebozo, and EDA LeShan. The letter run/phone trio MNO, suffix –OID, and the partials OF WAY and I’D BE don’t spice things up any, either.

Other fill in the “eh/meh/nah” category:

  • 69a. There was a recent Cruciverb-L dust-up about the suitability of HARA-KIRI as crossword fill. Some folks found it lively, while others found it disturbingly deathly instead. Here, we get the fill-in-the-blank half, HARA. Eh.
  • 50a. [Prepare for online publication] clues the word WEBIFY, which I had not hitherto encountered. This cursory Wikipedia bit suggests it’s more about making applications web-ready than about editing and coding text for online publication. I would be totally fine with never seeing this word again, certainly not in a crossword.
  • 10d. [Orangutan] clues RED APE. Is that a lexical chunk, or just color + noun? It’s not ringing a bell, this “red ape” business.
  • 51d. [Black flies, notably] are BITERS. Though you’d be more apt to say “Those black flies really bite” than “those black flies sure are biters,” wouldn’t you?

Three stars.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Tyler Hinman's Onion crossword answers 5/19

If you’re like me and you chafe at “kreative” spelling, you may have found Tyler’s theme enormously satisfying. (Provided that you know bands from the ’60s to the present era.) Tyler takes five groups whose spellings have always kinda bugged me and fixes ’em right up:

  • 20a. [“Nookie” band, corrected?] clues LIMP BISCUIT. Limp Bizkit is the correct weird spelling.
  • 39a. [“Hey Ya” band, corrected?] turns OutKast into OUTCAST.
  • 57a. [“Pour Some Sugar on Me” band, corrected?] is a two-fer: Def Leppard is rendered as DEAF LEOPARD.
  • 11d. [“Girls Girls Girls” band, corrected?] makes Mötley Crüe into MOTLEY CREW. When I was the features editor of my high-school newspaper, I blithely “fixed” a misspelling in a review of this band’s album. I could scarcely believe it when the girl who wrote the review told me it really, honestly was to be spelled “Crüe.” Nobody knows why metal bands like to abuse the umlaut so much.
  • 29d. [“I’m a Believer” band, corrected?] gives us THE MONKEYS in lieu of The Monkees.

I love the theme, but I don’t really love the surrounding fill. I don’t hate it, either. Often I am quite fond of Tyler’s crossword fill, so I was expecting to find more zing here.

Five clues:

  • 52a. Lowercase [Bush and gore, e.g.] are NOUNS.
  • 5d. An OCTILE is an [Eighth] but I can’t say I’ve ever had a need for the word. Quartile and quintile and decile, I’ve seen.
  • 12d. BREE is the [Girl in the lonelygirl15 videos]. Those were a viral video thing I skipped.
  • 22d. [Spanish spits of land] clues ISLAS. I think of spits of land as skinny peninsulas jutting out into the water rather than self-contained islands. And you?
  • 63d. [Devilish character in “Guitar Hero”] clues LOU. Had no idea.

With the FART ([Gas leak?]) and SMELL ([Refrigerator or shoe issue]) in the bottom of the grid, this puzzle needs a spritz of air freshener.

4.2 stars.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “A Buck in Passing” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Look! In the newspaper! It’s a word! It’s a phrase! It’s a Quip Puzzle! Yes, it’s Quip Puzzle, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal puzzles. Quip Puzzle, who can change the course of mighty grids, bend real quotations in its bare hands and who, disguised as a mild-mannered crossword in a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and a flailing attempt at entertainment!

Today, Quip Puzzle overhears an excerpt from a conversation that could take place in practically any household: I NEVER SAID IT WAS / YOUR FAULT. / I SAID I WAS / GOING TO BLAME YOU.  <Pause for laughter to die down.>  Okay, then.  Let’s just get to the items of interest:

  • When will I ever remember that the Burns poem is “Comin’ THRO’ the Rye,” and not THRU?  I don’t know why I can’t get this thro’ my thick skull.
  • [A dentist’s number] is a terrific clue for GAS.  That’s “number” with a silent “b.”  Ah, heteronyms–a crossword clue writer’s best friends.
  • HOT CAR, the [Stolen wheels], feels a bit arbitrary to me.  I can imagine someone saying, “show me the stolen car you told me about,” but not “show me the hot car you told me about.”  Besides, as the owner of a Toyota Camry, I think of “hot car” as an oxymoron.
  • Hey, it’s the NENE, the [Goose of the islands]!  That was the very first word of Crosswordese I ever learned.  You know, it’s true–you never forget your first.  Welcome back, buddy.
  • [Put a mangle to use] is an…interesting…clue for IRONED.  My dictionary says a mangle is “a machine for ironing laundry by passing it between heated rollers.”
  • Anyone else try CLAMOUR as the [Loud racket] instead of the correct answer, CLANGOR?  I thought Clangor was a town in Maine.  What, that’s Bangor?  I thought that was…well, never mind.

When the longest nontheme entries are only seven letters long (and when there are only five of those), everything rides on the theme, and in this case that’s the quip.  I’m not sure this particular quip shoulders the burden successfully.  What say you?

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38 Responses to Wednesday, 5/18/11

  1. joon says:

    i’ve certainly never seen a sidney lumet film, and i’d never heard of FAIL/SAFE or either of the 15s. and even SERPICO i’ve never heard of outside of crossword clues for MAAS (who wrote the book; i didn’t know there was a movie). 12 angry men is legitimately very famous, i grant you, and i think i saw part of it in 8th grade civics class. so anyway, there was a whole lotta workin’ the crosses for me. i got to the SE corner last and i still had no idea who the mystery man was going to be. so the conclusion is pretty inescapable that this puzzle, as impressive as it is, was really not aimed at me. i’m okay with that, i guess.

  2. Plot says:

    I haven’t seen any of these movies, but I was familiar with all of them except Fail Safe, so this felt more like a Tuesday (Though the recent Sidney Lumet sporcle quiz was certainly a helpful refresher). And speaking of Sporcle, congratulations Joon on your first published quiz. It doesn’t seem like the mods publish too many puzzle-style quizzes, so I’m glad yours made the cut.

  3. Bill from NJ says:

    Constructor Tony Orbach’s father, Jerry Orbach, was a triple threat star on Broadway, in the movies and on Television and my wife saw him in the role of El Gallo which he created in the Broadway production of “The Fantasticks’ when she was a young girl. We both saw him in Lumet’s movie “Prince of the City” where he played opposite Al Pacino in a role that was a precursor to the role of Lenny Briscoe he played on TV’s “Law & Order” for many years. We enjoyed his work and now enjoy Tony’s puzzles.

  4. John E says:

    “I fix on going to the country store today” – sounds like something my great-grandfather would have said.

    It’s hard to not give a lot of stars for a puzzle honouring Sidney Lumet, but there is a mandatory two star reduction just for including the word “SUPE” (and not even using it in the same sense as when Bill Cosby SUPED up his go-kart as a kid).

  5. Erik says:

    I thought it was “fix to,” hence the vernacular “finna.” But I guess “fix on” equates to “nail down.”

  6. Gareth says:

    LAT: Re 17A, yep, and the VH1 Storytellers performance of Thunder Road comes highly recommended!

    Love the Jonesin’s theme!! THEBEETLES is lacking, guess that’s a holy cow!

    @JohnE: That version is spelled “souped”.

  7. Gareth says:

    Av Club! By Tyler Hinman. Not focussing this morning!

  8. bob stigger says:

    Re: “I fix on going to the country store today” – sounds like something my great-grandfather would have said.

    My grandma would have said “I’m fixed on going to the Piggly Wiggly after lunch” but “fix on” doesn’t sound right at least for a Kentuckian.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Erik, thanks for mentioning “finna.” That word never gets any love.

  10. Bill from NJ says:

    Oops. Treat Williams, not Al Pacino, starred in “Prince of the City”. I sometimes get my cop movies confused.

  11. pannonica says:

    Sidney Lumet was one of the few moviemakers filming on location in NYC when it was more expensive and there weren’t so many incentives to do so. His films have a gritty verisimilitude that can’t be gotten in, say, Vancouver (even though Vancouver is a great town). That’s one of the reasons his films speak to me so eloquently.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    I disagree. To me Vancouver is the epitome of gritty verisimilitude. Also gritty horisimilitude. It is just full of militudes.

  13. pannonica says:

    No, no, no Jeffrey. No need to get all militudinous! I meant a verisimilitude specific to New York City. I was also referring to the practice of using Vancouver or Toronto or wherever as a stand-in for NYC.

  14. Tony O. says:


    Thanks for the shout out for dad and me! As it happens, Jerry Orbach did do a movie with Al Pacino called “Chinese Coffee” – a limited release directed/produced by Pacino that’s basically a play on film: worth a look if you can find it. Working with Lumet was a highlight for my dad. He spoke of being on the SET with scores of actors preparing for a scene, and working on the side with a fellow actor on some small bit, while Lumet ran by setting lights, positioning booms, giving various technical directions – doing seemingly everything else but even glancing at Jerry. About 10 minutes later he was walking back through the crowd and said “Jerry, that thing you did with your hand when you were rehearsing just now? Keep that in.” My dad was flabbergasted he had noticed anything they’d done, let alone the nuance – small evidence of what my dad came to see was part of an amazing, all-encompassing knowledge and control of a movie that Lumet would have and make evident again and again.

    Speaking of this in particular, a plug for a fellow named John Gilvey who has just completed a biography of my father: “Jerry Orbach – Prince of the City”! A lot of little-known facts and a great overview of his career and “motivation” (spoiler alert: the guy had two big kids to feed and clothe and needed the gigs! Read it anyway!) Thanks for the unwitting plug, David! Finally and most importantly, speaking of David: plug for his upcoming book featuring puzzles like today’s, with crossword mini-bios for the famous departed named, of course: “The Grid Reaper”!!

    Happy puzzling,

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Are militudes millipedes with attitude? Because I must condemn that.

  16. pannonica says:

    Oh, the calumnity!

  17. arthur118 says:

    Said in the heat of an argument, waving object, “Well, fix on this!”

    Translation, “Feast your eyes on this and you’ll get my point.”

  18. Tuning Spork says:

    Synchronicity of the day:

    JOB HOP appears in both the Bill Thompson’s LAT and in Fred Piscop’s Newday.

    Carry on.

  19. pannonica says:

    Never heard of “finna.” Only learned of “hella” very recently. Is finna also regional?

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    @arthur118—Yes, quite. But that usage of “FIX ON” does not denote “choose definitely” and I’ve been unable, or too sleepy, to find a quote anywhere that does.

  21. Victor Barocas says:

    In my book, “Dog Day Afternoon,” “12 Angry Men,” and “Fail/Safe” are all 5-star movies (out of five possible). I recommend them to anyone. I also really liked “Network” and especially “The Verdict,” both directed by Lumet. Just my picks.

    I think that I often hear of the quarterback fix on one potential receiver, but I don’t pay that much attention to football even when I’m watching it, so I’m not sure that I’m much help.

  22. arthur118 says:

    @Daniel Myers- I agree it’s a bit of a stretch but the concept of “acceptance” as put forth in my example, vis-a-vis “choose definitely”, seems vaguely acceptable. No?

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    pannonica, I heard “finna” (and really, it’s more of a schwa sound than a short “i”) from African-Americans when I was a kid. Don’t hear it much now but that may be an environmental thing more than a language change. Sample sentence: “I finna go to the store.” I think it’s “I’m gonna” with more of a sense of determination, but I haven’t looked for linguistic data supporting that.

  24. Daniel Myers says:

    @arthur118—Yes, I suppose so, as you say, vaguely, especially in light of the fact that no alternatives seem to exist. It didn’t really bother me when solving. I assumed it was some sort of slang or colloquialism with which I was unfamiliar. It was only after reading Amy’s writeup requesting a citation that my interest was piqued and my ransacking of different sources began. As usual, it’s all Amy’s fault.:-)

  25. joon says:

    lively comment thread today!

    two linguistic analogies for the SAT-minded:

    finna : fixing to :: gonna : going to
    fixing to : texas :: going to : everywhere else

    i don’t think “finna” has anything to do with FIX ON, certainly not as clued today. i think FIX ON is absolutely a legit verb phrase; it’s even listed in my dictionary, with these examples: i fixed my attention on the tower; her gaze fixed on jess. but the clue seems a bit off. perhaps {Direct towards unwaveringly, as one’s attention} is kind of clunky but functional.

    tony, thanks for that wonderful anecdote about your dad and sidney lumet! very cool. if i had even an iota of interest in cinema, i’d go watch one of his films, because it sounds like he was a remarkable director.

    the band names in tyler’s puzzle were all pretty familiar. overall, the theme reminded me of the “audacious misspelling” bubble on the grand taxonomy of rap names. the fill was, as you say, not as peppy as we’ve come to expect from tyler, but apparently there’s a reason for that.

    for {Frequently change positions} i immediately dropped in WAFFLE, even though i’d already done the newsday with JOBHOP. oh well. then i had to get THUNDER ROAD entirely from crossings, and took a minute to figure out BITERS because the I could have been O (WIN/WON tense ambiguity) and i had empty NETTER for empty NESTER. (stupid hockey.) so this was a very slow LAT solve for me. and i really wanted APRIL FOOLS for APRIL FOOL.

  26. pannonica says:

    There’s the old Blues trope, “I’m fixin’ to die.” But even then, I’ve never heard it pronounced “finna.” The “to” is often pronounced “tə,” for whatever that may be worth.

    It seems “fixing on” might have some overlap with “fixating on.”

  27. Daniel Myers says:

    Agreed joon: It’s the clue that is off. The phrase is in my dictionary as well with your “kind of clunky but functional” choice of words almost verbatim as the definition.

    I don’t know, pannonica, “fixating on” to me has this connotation that is at odds w/ “choose” in the clue. If someone has become fixated on something or someone, it seems more the result of some involuntary response than a choice.

    But then again, I haven’t had any sleep for 24 hours.

  28. pannonica says:

    idée fixe.

  29. Daniel Myers says:

    tout à fait.

  30. John E says:

    @Gareth: I had thought SUPE UP and SOUP UP were interchangeable, but sounds like you might be correct – at any rate, the less correct version may become an accepted version eventually as it is used very frequently.

  31. John Haber says:

    I’ve actually seen FAIL SAFE (and several others). Lumet never made it into the auteur canon. Everything was always too clean visually and morally. But no question they’re lively, gritty, true to the streets, well acted, and fine civic lessons. (“Fail Safe” is definitely a civic lesson for the nuclear age.)

    I had trouble with MIA, AMC, ELEMIS.

  32. Lois says:

    I haven’t heard of “finna,” as in “gonna,” but I don’t think that version of “fix” has much to do with the clue in this puzzle. An example that is quite familiar to me is to fix on a date on which to do something, meaning to choose a definite date. How come no one is going there? Definition 6 in my old Britannica dictionary: “To decide or agree on; determine: We fixed a date for the next meeting.” [No “on” here but later in the definition when citing phrases:] “To fix on: To decide upon, choose.”

    I loved this outstanding puzzle catering to my interests. I didn’t find it that easy, either. But with such a large amount of theme material, and such answers crossing each other and cross-referenced, too, it must have been frustrating for speed solvers who aren’t interested in film. The films were certainly not obscurities, though.

  33. bob stigger says:

    I’m not sure I agree with joon about what “fixing to” means (although I won’t pretend to know what it means in Texas). Back to my Kentucky gramma — I’m fixing to go to the store means I’m packing my purse and I’ll be out of here inside of 2 minutes. It means preparing with immediate consequences. I’m fixed on going to the store means I have a definite plan to do it but not right this minute, and it could change but only for a compelling reason. I’m fixated on going to the store means — I have no idea, she never would have said that.

  34. joon says:

    bob, that’s what i had in mind for “fixing to,” but i guess it didn’t fit neatly into my SAT analogy. “i’m going to go to the store” might well mean the same thing in a default context but it can also be less immediate.

  35. NinaUWS says:

    May I make a minor quibble not on a movie topic? NYT 45D “prelaw” is not a field of study. It’s not a major. It’s a status. As an attorney who waited 16 years after college graduation to attend law school, I was in that status for a long time!

    Loved the Lumet theme, BTW. Unlike Joon, I’d seen all the movies, most of them when they first came out.

  36. Jeffrey says:

    I hope someone who comes here late is fixing to read a militude of comments today.

  37. Martin says:

    The most natural to me is “we finally got a fix on why the engine is misfiring: rats had partially gnawed through a wiring harness.” You get a fix on possible causations; there are many contexts where “choose” can’t be replaced with this idiom. It dates from the twenties and, while this citation doesn’t say, I assume it comes from a navigator getting a fix on his location.

  38. Martin says:

    I have it on good authority that “hella” originated in Northern California.

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