Friday, 5/27/11

LAT 6:09 


NYT 3:58 


CS untimed (Sam) 


WSJ 7:30 


Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 27 11 0527

I liked this themeless despite its being peppered with old-school repeater fill, and was surprised by how easy it was. Pretty smooth overall.


  • The colloquial phrase action: “IT’S ON ME,” “NO CAN DO,” UP TO PAR, TATTLETALE, TAKE TEN, GO UNDER.
  • 11d. [Trump the jack, e.g.] is a SPOONERISM of “jump the track.” (This doesn’t quite count as a dupe of ON TRACK.)
  • 27d. A QUICK STUDY is a [Fast learner].
  • 25a. Would you have guessed back in 2001 that the [Fundamentalist group] AL QAEDA would be no less relevant 10 years later?

I don’t get the clue for the river STYX: [Gods swear by it]. Someone more mythologically minded than I will surely explain this.

Four-letter repeaters and/or crosswordese that abound today include ODEA, EPEE, ECUS, APSE, ONE-D, AGIN, ET TU, and NEAP. Is there a single one of these you would miss if it didn’t show up in any crosswords for a year? (Constructors, don’t answer that. We know you sometimes need these as crutches.)

Did you know the [Soft palate] anatomical term at 12d? The VELUM is not to be confused with vellum. You use your velum in speaking. The /k/ and /g/ sounds are velar.

3.9 stars.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 5 27 11

We sure are seeing a lot of Julian’s puzzles in the LA Times these days. Sort of reminds me of the early Dan Naddor days, with a constructor making cool puzzles mostly in the LA Times. Today’s puzzle really made me work for it, and I whizzed through the NYT so I don’t think I’m just having an off night. Is it just me, or did the rest of you also find Julian’s puzzle quite a bit more challenging than most Friday LATs?

The theme riffs on “PUT A LID ON IT” by putting a “lid” of some sort on top of three theme entries to create new phrases:

  • 4d. Add TOP to PING-PONG and you getting TOPPING PONG, or [Surpassing a classic arcade game?].
  • 9d. [Boxed pasta that’s different every time you open it?] is CAPRICE-A-RONI. I probably spent 20% of my solving time unraveling this one—I had blank-MACARONI for way too long.
  • 21d. [Wheels for a spy?] is a COVERT-MOBILE.

Did you notice that all the base phrases are hyphenated creatures? Ping-pong, Rice-a-Roni, and T-Mobile. Nice consistency there.

Interesting longer fill:

  • 18a. A [Hard time] is a BUMPY RIDE, metaphorically speaking.
  • 28a. ARS NOVA is a [14th-century European musical style].
  • 51a. If you change it FOR GOOD, you do so [Permanently]. This is more solid as a phrase than the sort of “for good” that’s the opposite of “for evil.”

Tough clues:

  • 6a. [Dramatist Connelly], MARC Connelly, isn’t exactly a household name.
  • 10a. [One standing out in a field?] is a CZAR, I guess in business.
  • 67a. [“Prison Break” role] clues LINC. I watched maybe half an episode of that show in the first season.
  • 70a. [Med. tests using leads] has three options: ECGS, the synonymous EKGS, and their brainy cousins the EEGS.
  • 8d. [Like “Psycho”] clues REMADE. Not the direction I was thinking at all.
  • 10d. [Pressing activity?] clues CPR, which entails pressing on the chest to compress the heart.
  • 12d. ALDER is an [Electric guitar wood].
  • 64d. [Keeps apprised, briefly] clues CCS, as in carbon copies, as in the “cc:” line in an email.

I don’t like the usage in 50d. I know all sorts of people freely intermingle REGIME and regimen, but I do not. [Dieting and exercise, say] are a fitness regimen. I don’t come down on the prescriptivist side too often, but here I do. People of Earth! Save regime for “government.” I beg you.

4.5 stars.
Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Can You Forward Me That Link?” – Sam Donaldson’s review

It’s a real sausage fest here today, as Hartman gives us five common terms starting with a type of sausage:

  • 17-Across: The [June destination for some kids] is SUMMER CAMPFrank-ly, I’m not a big sausage buff, so I have only passing familiarity with “summer sausage.”  Wikipedia tells me a summer sausage is any sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration.  But then the entry ends with this gem:  “A summer sausage popular in North Dakota occasionally adds cheese.”  There’s no brand name to this “occasionally cheesy” sausage?  And it’s available only in North Dakota?  And on what occasion is the cheese added?  Flag Day?
  • 26-Across: The [Politician’s pet project procurement] is PORK BARREL.  Wait, isn’t the project itself just called “pork?”  I’m familiar with “pork barrel politics,” but I was unaware that the project of particular benefit to one’s own constituents could also be called a “pork barrel.”  On the other hand, “pork sausage,” the meat upon which this theme entry is based, is all too familiar.
  • You can have this place for a song.

    37-Across:  The [Palais Augarten boarders] are the VIENNA BOYS CHOIR.  What’s the Palais Augarten, you ask?  It’s that modest place over there on the right.  If you’re so inclined, you can “like” it on Facebook.  Wikipedia says that “in North America the term vienna sausage has most often come to mean only smaller and much shorter smoked and canned wieners, rather than hot dogs.”  Canned wieners??  That, folks, is Exhibit A in the Vegan Case Against Carnivores.

  • 54-Across: [Skin blemishes] are LIVER SPOTS, based on “liver sausage.”  Gross theme entry and gross basis for a theme entry.  This is the wurst of the lot.
  • 62-Across:  BLOOD MONEY is an [Extortionist’s fee].  Maybe I awarded the “gross” and “wurst” titles prematurely.

With 55 squares devoted to the theme, the grid is already, um, meaty.  Still, Hartman gives us a smooth grid highlighted by quadruple-stacked six-letter entries in two corners and some interesting fill like GAME PLAN and AW, C’MON.  Notice the five-square black fingers on both sides; fingers usually don’t exceed four squares, so I’m guessing the fifth square was needed to keep the quadruple sixes clean.  It would have been nice to have four-square fingers so that we could have two seven-letter Down instead of four three-letter Downs, but, again, perhaps this just wasn’t workable with these theme constraints.  (Maybe all this talk about how crosswords are made is of little interest to most readers, but it has to be better than reading about how sausage is made.)

I like how RISOTTO intersects three theme entries as it runs down the grid’s center; you don’t normally see three kinds of sausage in risotto.  My favorite clue was [Go out for a while?] for NAP.  Hey, that sounds like a good idea.  Excuse me….

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Holding Companies”

Wall Street Journal crossword solution 5 27 11

The puzzle’s title is reinterpreted by making various phrases “hold” a “co,” thereby changing their meanings entirely. The theme is executed well, and a couple of the answers amused me—THE CAPE COD CRUSADER and Mick and Keith, the PRECOCIOUS STONES. The other six theme entries are all right too.

This is the toughest crossing for most solvers, I bet:

  • Where 51a: [Pumpkin seed] meets 40d: [Third-largest moon of Saturn]. PEPITA, say hello to IAPETUS.

A slew of 6-, 7-, and 8-letter answers in the fill keep things lively. SOUS CHEF, COLUMBUS, AT DUSK, HUDDLE, and CLUCKS were nice, no?

Four stars.

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25 Responses to Friday, 5/27/11

  1. D_Blackwell says:

    My first thought for “Wooer’s surprise” was SUCCESS – before getting RED ROSE. Hmm.

  2. joon says:

    the STYX clue means exactly what it says. from encyclopedia mythica:

    This river was so respected by the gods of Greek mythology that they would take life binding oaths just by mentioning its name, as referenced in the story of Bacchus-Ariadne, where Jove “confirms it with the irrevocable oath, attesting the river Styx.” … If a god gave his oath upon the river Styx and failed to keep his word, Zeus forced that god to drink from the river itself. The water is said to be so foul that the god would lose his/her voice for nine years.

    i swear if this explanation isn’t accurate, i’ll watch the video for come sail away on endless loop for nine years. good song, but oh god, the hair! and those jackets! *puts out eye with a brooch*

    lively, fun friday puzzle. but easier than yesterday’s, no?

  3. Jeffrey says:

    My knowledge of EPCOT made 47 Down [Future World setting] a gimme in the NYT. But it also provided me with two answers in the LAT. Anyone know which two?

  4. Stan Newman says:

    “Four-letter repeaters and/or crosswordese that abound today include ODEA, EPEE, ECUS, APSE, ONE-D, AGIN, ET TU, and NEAP. Is there a single one of these you would miss if it didn’t show up in any crosswords for a year? (Constructors, don’t answer that. We know you sometimes need these as crutches.)”

    You are to be congratulated for continuing to point out these eyesores on the puzzle landscape.

    But everyone who reads this blog needs to know that in this, the CACE (Computer-Assisted Constructing Era), constructors “need” to use words like these far, far less than they actually use them. Almost never, actually, from my experience. Having edited out many thousands of such words from Newsday puzzles over the past 20 years, I know that this is so.

    Yes, one can make a case for more leniency with wide-open themelesses. But having constructed more than 100 such puzzles without obscurities, I know they’re not necessary there either. In the cases where I “get stuck” and can’t complete a puzzle without using crapola, I redo the grid pattern and start over. To me. it’s that important. And I just don’t understand why so many others are so tolerant of it, when software and a comprehensive database make it unnecessary.

    So please don’t coddle the constructors. Continue to point out the garbage that still litters all too many crosswords. Garbage that could be cleaned up if certain people just cared a little more.


  5. Matt M. says:

    CAPRICE-A-RONI is a really fun theme answer.

  6. HH says:

    “So please don’t coddle the constructors. Continue to point out the garbage that still litters all too many crosswords. Garbage that could be cleaned up if certain people just cared a little more.”

    Not all of us care that much.

  7. Toby says:

    Re: WSJ puzzle

    Is there a term (sorta like a “Natick”) for a place in the grid where more than one letter works? In this case, 50a {“Walking on Thin Ice” musician} is fairly obscure — either ENO or ONO seems reasonable. And 50d {Post-explanation chorus} could be either EHS or OHS.

  8. Zulema says:

    It seems to me that what matters about the fill that Henry calls “garbage” is that the clues be fresh and different; speaking of which, how is EPEE an “electric weapon”?

  9. pannonica says:

    Toby: I think that’s precisely an example of what some people call a “Natick.” You didn’t know the answer to one word (ONO) and the other one could possibly be argued—but, honestly “ehs” have much less to do with explanations than “Ohs!”

    If both Yoko and Brian had songs with the same title, and especially if ehs and ohs were more interchangeable, you’d have a stronger assertion. Nevertheless, there are instances where more than one letter is equally valid at a given location. Everyone cites that election day puzzle from years ago. I’m thinking T Campbell is your man if you need a label for the thing.

    Zulema: In organized competition, fencing relies on electricity for the scorers to know when contact has been made.

  10. HH says:

    “It seems to me that what matters about the fill that Henry calls “garbage” ….”

    I didn’t call it garbage; Stan Newman did.

    P.S.: I notice Stan’s anti-garbage comments didn’t mention constructors (like myself) who don’t create grids with a computer. Just sayin’.

  11. Tim Croce says:

    With all due respect to Mr. Newman, I see this (“if certain people just cared a little more”) as a not-so-veiled unfair, unwarranted, and untrue shot at Mr. Shortz, Mr. Gordon, and Mr. Norris, among others. Mr. Shortz has done much to revolutionize crossword construction in his 16½ years as NYT crossword editor by the type of puzzles he encourages and publishes. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Norris also are to be commended as to where they have taken crosswords at their respective publications.

    Speaking as a fledgling crossword puzzle constructor, Mr. Shortz has spent more than his fair share of time to encourage me (as well as others, of course), give help and suggestions to me, and give me constructive comments on the ones that he has both accepted and said no to. He’s made me a better constructor. Actually, judging from his helpful feedback to me, he makes every effort to discourage that crosswordese. And, yes, in the age of computers, I am proud to say that there are some puzzles that I have submitted that have been accepted that have been created by hand.

    Speaking as an experienced crossword puzzle solver, if I see a themeless with sparkling stacks of 15s on top and bottom (in, say, the NYT, LAT, Post Puzzler, etc.), I don’t much care that there might be a couple of crosswordese 3s or 4s intersecting those answers. If I see a wide-open construction chock-full of interesting and in-the-language phrases, I don’t much care if I see an EPEE here, an ET TU there. I actually use those and hear those in everyday language. If there’s a fresh clue for some of those words, I actually appreciate it even more and, as a solver, it actually makes it less stale. (Just so long as it isn’t an ESNE or an ANOA.)

    Sure, there’s some “garbage” that has no business being in any self-respecting daily or Sunday crossword nowadays, but complete sterilization of those kinds of words altogether will make puzzles, well, sterile.

  12. John E says:

    Anyone else have a much better solving experience with today’s NYT compared to yesterday? I shaved 15 minutes off my Thursday time.

    And not to get into the political argument, but from a full-fledged novice solver, I would gladly have words like ODEA, EPEE, etc if I get words like SPOONERISM, EXIGENT, etc. In fact, I would accept more “garbage” if it meant even more $50 dollar words or terms that forced me to learn something new and interesting everyday.

  13. Angela says:

    Talk about confusion. I zipped through the puzzle today and because I usually have a somewhat difficult time on Thursdays, I thought it was Wednesday. No matter. First time for me to finish a Thursday puzzle without Googling anything. Aren’t crosswords suposed to be fun? With all the gvetching I see in comments today, it seems like more of a chore than an enjoyable mental exercise.

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    “Speaking as an experienced crossword puzzle solver” – I haven’t seen HIGH HORSE for some time.

  15. Toby says:

    @Pannonica – thanks for the helpful explanation. I guess it all comes down to one’s individual perspective. I have heard an explanation or two so chockful-o-jargon that I could imagine saying “eh?” in response. (Yours not included!)

    Regarding the lexicon of crossword no-nos, I had a job right next to the West Natick commuter rail station for a couple years, so in my case perhaps a better term would be a “Wyeth”… ya gotta love BEQ, cuz he often pushes the boundaries!

  16. Angela says:

    Touche Daniel. And I haven’t seen “put down” in a long time.

  17. HH says:

    “Aren’t crosswords suposed to be fun?”

    Well, I suppose *solving* them is.

  18. Tim Croce says:

    My opinion is just one of many and no more or less important than anyone else’s. If saying I’ve been enjoying solving these things for a long time is arrogance, then so be it, but I don’t get it. In fact, I’m willing to bet — no, I’m absolutely sure — that many, if not most, on here have solved more puzzles than I have. That original post warranted an impassioned response from me. If anyone disagrees with the tone or content of it, I’m fine with it. Crosswords ARE supposed to be fun to solve! That was my whole point! And, no, I would not miss any of those words if they were forever excluded from crosswords, as a solver or constructor. I loved the puzzle, Mr. Anderson, for what it’s worth from me.

  19. Daniel Myers says:

    Actually, Tim, I, and I think almost everyone else here agreed with your riposte to Stan. Sorry for appropriating your phrase, which made it seem that my comment was directed against you. It wasn’t. It’s just that the brouhaha over what Stan deems the cruciverbal quisquilian (haven’t EVER seen that word in a crossword!) seemed to have gotten a bit out of hand.

  20. Jeffrey says:

    Well not exactly the key topic of conversation today but here’s the answer for posterity.

    My knowledge of EPCOT made 47 Down [Future World setting] a gimme in the NYT. But it also provided me with two answers in the LAT. Anyone know which two?

    1 Down. [Akershus castle site] – OSLO; 45 Across. [1-Down’s Land: Abbr.] – NOR.
    The restaurant at the Norway pavillion in EPCOT is called the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

  21. Tim Croce says:

    Understood. Sorry. Now that things’ve been cleared up, I hope to God I don’t see an esne or an anoa in the Saturday puzzle! I really think this was a clean puzzle, actually, despite the derailment in this discussion page. Nothing worth tearing my hair out! I was surprised that AL QAEDA has taken so long to be in an NYT puzzle. Very nice vowel/consonant ratio there with the Scrabbly letter. Obviously the word isn’t taboo, nor do I think it has been for a few years now.

  22. Meem says:

    Thanks, Tim, for a much-needed response. And HH, it shows regularly in your puzzles that you think constructors should have fun, too!

  23. Howard B says:

    @Jeffrey – I remember that! At least I remember that they had a mini-ride in that pavilion called the Maelstrom, at least the many years ago I was down that way. Although our family took the ride, we did not eat at the restaurant. But now that you mentioned it, yes.

  24. Karen says:

    We used to have CRUSADERS on Cape Cod, but they went away a few years ago.

    I must never have made Rice-a-Roni. I thought it was a grain, not a pasta.

  25. Tuning Spork says:

    Registration now open for Lollapuzzoola 4 at a new fancy shmancy Manhattan locale.

    Carry on. :-)

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