Wednesday, 6/8/11

Onion 4:12 


NYT 3:42 


LAT: see LA Crossword Confidential
CS 7:07 (Sam, paper) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NYTimes crossword solution, 6 8 11 0608

I’m not philosophically opposed to crosswords that expect you to draw on them when you’re done, but it helps if the drawing instructions are superfluous because you can figure out what to do on your own. This how-to manual was nuts: connect four Vs into a square, connect the Ks into an upside-down L, connect each K to the closest V, and circle the X. (Why are the letters V and K and X? I do not know.) What you end up with is a die used in the dice game CRAPS, with one pip on the front and, uh, no pips on the other two visible faces. We all learned from that puzzle last week that a die has 21 pips, so isn’t it a bit of a letdown to only see 1?

The instructions were so out there that I had trouble visualizing on my computer screen what was supposed to be drawn. (This would be easier if I did the puzzle on paper, but I don’t.) I hacked together a graphic with the Preview app’s rectangle, arrow, and circle tools. (Hence the triangular arrowheads at some vertices.) Did you skip the drawing? Mazel tov! No need, when the graphic is here for you.

The theme entries include SEVEN COME ELEVEN, CRAPS / TABLE, ON A LOSING STREAK (which is not remotely craps-specific), the ONE/snake eye of the drawing (with a nonthematic partner opposite it in the grid), and BOXCAR (also not paired with a symmetrical partner). I guess you could call the Vs and Ks part of the theme, but…no.

I liked the JAMA/William OSLER combo. Gimmes for anyone who’s gone to med school or (like me) worked in medical publishing. Didn’t I hear recently that Osler was actually a lousy person?

And I love that the LOO is right there next to some CRAPS.

I did not like the number of times the Scowl-o-Meter level rose. The first answer I filled in was 1d, TSPS—ugly plural abbreviation right at the start meant the puzzle would have to work overtime to make me like it. But then: Philosopher ALAN Watts? Who?? REA clued as [New Deal inits.]? There’s a PETERSON A.F.B.? ROTA feels like old crosswordese. “AH, SO” is woeful. Perle MESTA, old crosswordese name. Weird SKINLESS and SAFE AREA as two of the 8s. Crosswordese NACRE, another plural abbrev in ATHS, NEAP beside ALVA, yet another plural abbrev in ENVS? Sigh. When I’m making a frowny face a dozen times while solving, the overall experience is not going to feel positive—and that was before I read the notepad and cussed.

Two stars. Overly ambitious with its make-a-picture gimmick at the expense of a fun solve.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 6 9 11 Deb Amlen

Well! Apparently the Onion crossword team was asked to ramp up the sauciness level in their puzzles, and Deb has delivered with a SEX-packed theme and assorted other not-your-grandmother’s-crossword clues and answers.

First up, the theme: 71a is SEX, and you’re to stick it in the middle of each theme answer:

  • 20a. [Like one who hoards copies of “Buttman Forever,” with 71-Across in the middle?] clues ANAL-RETENTIVE. Put the sex in the middle and you’re hoarding comic books (?) about anal sex.
  • 28a. [Finite period for going down on someone, with 71-Across in the middle?] is an ORAL sex PHASE. See? Totally ramped up. This clue is pulling no punches at all.
  • 48a. [Place for dirty, public online chat, with 71-Across in the middle?] clues CYBER sex CAFE. Congressman Weiner, is that you?
  • 58a. [Rehearsal for an orgy, with 71-Across in the middle?] is GROUP sex PRACTICE. Practice makes perfect, they say.

The not-in-the-daily-paper material includes the F-BOMB (well, actually, that’s probably fine for the NYT, no?), HORSE being clued as [Smack] (both words are slang for heroin), TOY clued in reference to sex toys, and the clue for BOTTOM. Frankly, I’m surprised that PERI isn’t clued by way of the peri bottle.


  • 12d. [D.C. human rights act not yet ratified by Congress] clues the ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment. That’s right, folks: equal rights for women remain too radical for the ERA to be ratified by 38 states. Only 35 states were willing to go there.
  • 39a. [Satan’s accessory] is a TRIDENT, his pitchfork. Mine has a pencil in the middle. Given this answer’s location in the middle of the grid, I keep thinking the puzzle is really about having SEX in the middle of chewing a stick of Trident gum.
  • OK GO and GLEEK, one after the other! Fresh stuff. If you ever saw that music video with the guys doing an uncut routine on a roomful of treadmills, you know who OK Go are. I like NO BIGGIE too.

Mystery Science Crossword Answer 3000:

  • 37d. [Of a certain hydrocarbon group], ARYL. That’s a word? It looks like Daryl Hall lost his first initial.

Four stars.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hello There” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Howdy, crossword enthusiasts.  Or, more appropriately today, hi!  Lempel adds HI- to the starts of four expressions, with terrific results.

  • 18-Across: The [Grouches on a long walk?] are HIKING CRABS, the result of adding “hi-” to the start of “king crabs.”  I like that Lempel chose cranky people as the “crabs” and not the parasites.  The thought of parasites hiking is much less pleasant.
  • 27-Across: Take some tasty “red snapper” and add a little “hi-” at the start and you’ve got yourself a HIRED SNAPPER, clued here as [Wedding photographer, for one?].  I missed the comma in the clue the first time, so I was trying to think of what you would call a photographer who would be taking pictures of someone who was marrying himself or herself.  The perils of missed punctuation!
  • 46-Across: A [Successful dieter’s thought while trying on jeans?] is HIPS, I LOVE YOU, a superb play on “P.S., I Love You,” what I know to be the 2007 film with Hilary Swank and the “300” guy.
  • 59-Across: To [Take some jerks as hostages?] is to HIJACK ASSES.  Could this have been the seed from which this puzzle sprouted?  I tend to think it was either this or HIPS, I LOVE YOU.  Does it bother anyone that this theme entry takes a one word expression (“jackass”) and splits it into two words after the “hi-” addition?  It didn’t trouble me in the slightest, though I think it would be fair to criticize the lack of consistency.

The theme put me in a great mood, and I thought the theme entries were all great. This puzzle is a model for how letter addition themes should work–the base expressions should be interesting, the theme entries should have a plausibility factor (I can imagine saying “hired snapper” or “hips, I love you”), and the theme entries should induce grins (if not muted giggles) instead of confusion.

As one would expect with a Lempel puzzle, the fill is very smooth.  I found it a nice mix of gettable names (Johnny DEPP, LEN Deighton, SACCO, Disco STU and ELMO), interesting long entries (TRIFECTA and SEED POD), and entries with rare letters that didn’t seem forced (note the multiple Ks and Xs).  A nice four-star treat.

LA Times crossword

I’m on a deadline and decided to skip this puzzle today. Luckily, PuzzleGirl has a write-up at her blog, so if you need an answer or whatnot, please head over there. (And then come back here tomorrow!)

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27 Responses to Wednesday, 6/8/11

  1. pannonica says:

    Inquiring minds want to know: is it \'skau(-ə)l-ō-mē-ter\ or \skau(-ə)l-'lä-mə-tər\ or something else again?

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The latter, pannonica. I am pronouncing the optional schwa and stressing the OM.

  3. pannonica says:

    If you don’t know Alan Watts, I recommend you investigate. One of the first to bring Buddhist concepts to the West in a considered, meaningful, and accessible way (before it became diluted, trendy, dubious, and new-agey). His books and lectures are wonderful; he was insightful and engaging both as a writer and speaker. In many ways a philosopher first and theologian second.

    The use of Ks and Vs seemed arbitrary to me as well. This may have been an instance where the symmetry rule should have been broken such that the across themer on the bottom were shifted down two rows so two of its letters could occupy the vertices. Of course, that would entail modifying one of those long 15-letter entries. Eh, better off ignoring the theme altogether.

  4. Deb Amlen says:

    Oh man, I had forgotten all about the nightmare of peri bottles and postpartum until I clicked on your link. That will be in my head all day now.

    Hey, you say mazel tov really well! I’m making you an honorary Jewish person.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Many thanks for the drawing of the die! I never read the note, didn’t really care… But if you didn’t cotton to the old-timey definition for ROTA, I’d switch to one referring to Nino Rota next time — phenomenal composer of over 150 film scores, including “Godfather’ music, etc. My favorite definition today was in the LAT — Word with mouth or pool, for MOTOR. I nearly spluttered my coffee all over at that one. As for the Onion, BOTTOM fishing? Ugh.

  6. Howard B says:

    Not a fan of the Times fill either, but I actually enjoyed piecing together the picture after the solve using those odd instructions that felt like how-to furniture directions.

    Kinda cute. Maybe not to ‘die’ for, but still. (Not to worry, I’ll edit that awful comment later. Or not. Just my brain lint).

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Deb, thanks for the honorary Judaism! I shall do my best. (Me, I never had a peri bottle. C-section for the win!)

  8. Ladel says:

    Too easy for a Wed but fun to fill, guess Mr Collins wanted to make sure everybody could connect up all the dots and see his artful creation.

  9. Zulema says:

    ALAN WATTS. He had a weekly program on KPFA (the old KPFA) and I hung on every word of his, until he was charged with physically attacking his wife. I still think very highly of his thinking and writings, but I was sorry to realize he, like many other human beings, could not live by his own strictures and beliefs in his private life.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Amy, you should know better than to post on Shavuot. Oy vay!

  11. pannonica says:

    Zulema, I probably heard the same lectures (recorded (in the 60s or 70s) from his classes at some college in Colorado) on WFMU. Had no knowledge of his personal life and am now upset to hear of such acts.

  12. Gareth says:

    Are those two blocks in the top-right and bottom-left actually necessary? Discuss.

  13. Zulema says:


    I am sorry, this is the second time I have told someone about this and upset that person. It was more than 50 years ago, and it wasn’t prosecuted. Does it help to tell you that the beloved long-term manager of the Atlanta Braves, Cox, “lost it” in the same way? And many others, I’m afraid.

  14. pannonica says:

    Zulema, I like to think I have few illusions and am not surprised at the casual cruelty, hypocrisy, and biases that unfortunately pervade our world.

    That Cox person is unfamiliar to me and thus there’s no emotional or intellectual investment in his behavior, though it’s never fun to hear about such transgressions. When the perpetrator is someone ostensibly admirable, perhaps even a hero of sorts, it’s much more upsetting.

  15. Ladel says:

    This blog is a source of enlightenment to those of us who choose to become enlightened, thank you pannonica, I had never heard of him, but your discourse with Zulema sent me to You Tube which just happens to dripping with him.

  16. Erik says:

    I just remembered listening to an audiotape of Alan Watts in my eleventh grade AP English Language class. I also remember our teacher pleading us to try very hard to remain interested, and not to sleep.

  17. JaxInL.A. says:

    I, too, heard Alan Watts on Pacifica (KPFK down here in L.A.) in the 70s. He often spoke of Ram and played his recordings as well. We humans often teach better than we act. Sigh.

  18. JaxInL.A. says:

    Forgot to say that I was shocked (shocked!) by the moderate Deb Amlen of the Wordplay blog giving us such a racy Onion puzzle.  It truly did ramp up the blue factor. Once I got over my surprise that she/they actually meant to go there, though, it was rather fun, for all the reasons Amy notes.  My favorite OK, Go video so far is the dog-o-mid (a pyramid made of dogs) for White Knuckles.

  19. pannonica says:

    Ooh, outpiggybacksourcing.

  20. Jeffrey says:

    Deb Amlen is the Bob Saget of crosswords…..

    (I’m sure some of you will get this).

  21. pannonica says:

    …The Aristocrats!

  22. John Haber says:

    I’m into philosophy, but no doubt the more academic and Western kind, so was puzzled by Watts. You wouldn’t find him in any of the dozen or so readers my employer publishes for first-year philosophy courses, and I hadn’t heard of him in reading the usual historical and contemporary figures. That doesn’t mean it’s not a legit clue. I gather he was quite popular as a popularizer.

    ATHS looked awful to me, and I generally didn’t care for the fill or theme. I didn’t recall BOXCAR, and I never thought to go back after working on paper to see if something was in the Notepad, so I didn’t get why ONE was in the puzzle. Not that I know about craps.

  23. Deb Amlen says:

    Jeffrey, I love you. (Aristocrats!)

  24. Zulema says:


    Watts wasn’t a popularizer of anything. His The Way of Zen, meant as an introduction to the history, theory and practice of Zen, is no relation to a popularization, and neither were his other books, lectures and talks. I would not expect to encounter him in intro to philosophy texts. I am sorry that my little bit of trivia has diminished his appeal for those who cared about him. I thoughtlessly threw it in and had I remembered the reaction of the woman I told this to a few years ago, I wouldn’t have. But it was only afterward I remembered.

  25. pannonica says:

    Please don’t regret it, Zulema; it’s still important to be cognizant of such information, whether or not it’s ancillary.

  26. janie says:

    clearly, i’m late to the party *and* in the minority in this crowd, but i not only thoroughly enjoyed peter’s puzzle, i thought it was a terrific theme and was executed beautifully. yes, i question the cheater corners, but i think i’d rather see them than, say, (egyptian god) AKEN and (partial) A PAL.

    ah well — diff’rent strokes ‘n’ all that…


  27. Mike says:


    “Buttman” is not a comic book (smile), but a ‘blue mag’ dedicated to derriere fetish. I enjoyed Deb Amlen’s bawdy theme.

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