Friday, 7/1/11

NYT 9:01 
CHE 6:36 (pannonica) 
LAT 4:58 
CS 6:09 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:44 

I was prevented from doing the NYT crossword right at 9 p.m. by a most compelling thunderstorm. My family and I watched the crazy lightning show from the living room windows until the worst of it passed over—at which point we repaired to the back porch to watch the lightning to the south and over the lake. Once the sky settled down on the electrical front, hello! Time for a hailstorm. Certainly the biggest hailstones I’d ever encountered, though not the largest overall volume of hail. (No haildrifts this time.)

Chris McGlothlin’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 7 1 11 0701

Hey! Who put this twist into our themeless puzzle? I love it! Yes, it took me twice as long as the typical Friday puzzle. No, I didn’t mind a bit. Enjoyed unraveling that middle answer and piecing it together out of 2-, 3-, and 4-letter chunks. Because how else are you going to fit ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM into no more than 15 boxes? I like the constructor’s idea here, and the execution.

These are a few of my favorite things in this crossword:

  • 1a. The EPITAPH clue—[It often contains “lies”], as in “Here lies…” The R.I.P. cross-reference works, too.
  • 8a. The JEWELER clue tricked me. I could only think of people making cameos in the movies, not the jewelry sort of cameo.
  • 36a. GRACKLES! Used to see these more growing up. Now it’s mostly starlings, which look less impressive.
  • 65a. EGOISTE! Egoiste! (Insert image of shutters opening and closing, women shouting “Egoiste!” out the windows.)
  • 66a. Have never had a MOON PIE but I do like its name.
  • 8d. JUST FOR {MEN} hair color? Great entry!
  • 26d. ENG{LISH} LIT, with four letters smooshed into one square? Good stuff.
  • The casual vibe of GARBAGE, DO-RE-MI, and BLOOPS in the bottom of the grid.

Anyone else have a fallback position of PLAN B instead of the alternative to that, PLAN C? I seldom hear any mentions of “plan C.” Maybe I need to get out more.

4.5 stars. Not wild about plural ETHELS, PLAN C, ALER, ENTO, and RESOAKS, but I do love that famous 26-letter answer filling 11 squares, and I enjoyed the surprise factor of a Friday puzzle with extra oomph.

Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Iggy Noramus, Debate Team Initiate” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword, "Iggy Noramus..." 7/1/11 answers

Poor Iggy, since he was selected for the debate club he’s taken the time learn the relevant terminology but hasn’t grasped the contextual meanings. In this 15×16 grid five words and phrases associated with dialectics appear vertically, clued with his hopelessly misconceived interpretations.

  • 3d. [In his first speech, Iggy quoted a computer-monitor tech manual to establish the…] RESOLUTION.
  • 5d. [Iggy displayed some undeveloped photographs in order to make a…] NEGATIVE ARGUMENT. One might quibble that negatives must also be developed and that photographic prints are made from them, but the clue conveys the gist succinctly.
  • 7d. [Iggy read questions from a theology midterm using his…] CROSS EXAMINATION. McClary might need to do some penance for that groaner.
  • 10d. [Iggy detailed the account transfer from his previous bank as a…] CLOSING STATEMENT.
  • 34d. [For note-taking during the debate, Iggy used waterbed linens as…] FLOW SHEETS. I’m guessing this was the second, more genteel clue.

Three sixteen-letter entries, augmented by two of 10 letters each: you can’t complain that the puzzle skimps on theme content. More prodigious would have been to present the terms in an order reflecting the sequence of a debate, but that’s probably unrealistic.

And now, some etymology! It turns out that ignoramus is an eponym: the title character, an ignorant lawyer, from George Ruggle’s 1615 play. General usage gained traction the very next year. It comes from Latin, literally “we are ignorant of.”  Digging deeper and digressing farther, the Latin ignorare derives from ignarus (“ignorant”), from in- + gnoscere (“to know”). It’s interesting to note that the n of the negating prefix is dropped, subsumed in the process of the word’s formation. I’m sure linguists have a term for this phenomenon. The same thing happens in the case of Iggy’s older brother, Ig Nobel: from Latin ignobilis, from in- + Old Latin gnobilis (“noble”). Ignite, igneous, and associated words trace their origin to the Latin ignis, which is a complete lexeme.

Antoni Gaudi – Parc Güell

What really won my heart was the ballast fill; despite the lack of long entries (nothing non-thematic over six letters) it was a winning mix of Scrabbliness, fresh fill, and engaging cluing. I especially enjoyed the twin quartet clusters LATKES-JINXED-GAUDI-VERONA and IGUANA-TESLA-INFLUX-AFRESH. 72a STASIS [Most of a species’ evolutionary history] seems to reference Gould and Eldridge’s punctuated equilibrium hypothesis, which is by no means…uhm…written in stone. Somewhat surprisingly, nothing—or at least not much of note—to be found that’s infused with that distinctive Higher Education vibe.

Still, I’d call this an above-average puzzle. Content can transcend theme, but theme rarely trumps content.

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 7 1 11

At last! I am now approaching the Friday LAT puzzle with the proper respect. This is no Tuesdayish puzzle anymore, no, ma’am. It’s right up there at the Friday level of difficulty. So when it took me three tries to get the right word at 1-Across, I didn’t panic. 1a: [South American plain], that’s gotta be LLANO, right? No, wait. The third letter is M. Is there such a thing as a singular PAMPA? No, there is not. CAMPO! Not one of the top 20 Spanish words non-Spanish-speaking Americans are likely to know.

I might’ve progressed faster through this puzzle if I’d focused on the last theme answer, which explains what’s going on in this crossword. Without it, I didn’t have a clue what was happening. Ah, 62a: DROP THE ACT, suggesting that ACT is dropped from assorted phrases to make the following theme entries:

  • 17a. [Free garden supply?] = COMPED SOIL (compacted).
  • 24a. [Cost at a Walmart competitor?] = TARGET PRICE (practice). This phrase almost sounds like it’s a thing unto itself.
  • 38a. [Become more forgiving?] = LOSE INTOLERANCE (lactose!). See also 20a: ASIAGO.
  • 50a. [Pessimistic brat?] = NEGATIVE IMP (impact).

I’ll call it a 3.5-star theme. It works, but it’s not particularly entertaining. Dirt and prices?

Ten clues:

  • 16a. [Antihero?] = GOAT. I’m not sure what this one’s getting at.
  • 27a, 28d. This puzzle is quite affirmative. [Main response?] = AYE, SIR, and [Polite rural reply] = YES’M. I like that these two cross, and that AYESIR has a hidden YES in it.
  • 55a. [Words of agreement] = “NOR I.” Sure, you can clue this as one word, an edible Japanese seaweed, but instead we get this fresh approach.
  • 5d. [James Bond and JFK have worn them] clues OMEGAS, and I don’t understand why. Will the same person who explains the GOAT thing shed light on the OMEGAS thing?
  • 11d. [Destructive, as a relationship] is an excellent (if depressing) way to clue TOXIC.
  • 18d. [Gray painted by Basil Hallward] is DORIAN Gray. Is Basil Hallward an Oscar Wilde character, then?
  • 40d. [Hoover, for one] could go a number of ways. Vacuum cleaner brand? FBI head? U.S. president? The latter turns out to have been an IOWAN.
  • 52d. I don’t like [Thrift store abbr.] as the clue for IRREG. I think of thrift stores as strictly second-hand shops, not discounters selling new stuff that’s been tagged as irregular.
  • 63d. [Scandalous ’80s initials] PTL stand for Praise the Lord. The PTL Club‘s televangelist Jim Bakker had sexual and financial scandals and that was that. Wikipedia mentions that “In February 2009, Atlanta, Georgia area investment banker Ben Dyer announced his intention to auction off over 15,000 videotaped episodes of The PTL Club on March 27, 2009.” Who on earth wants that many videotapes of anything, much less a televangelist’s show?

3.5 stars overall.
Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Math Whiz” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Today’s puzzle features four entries the last words of which are mathematical nouns:

  • 20-Across: The [Philosophical axiom] is COGITO ERGO SUM, which translates to “I think, therefore I am.”  The inverse axiom, of course, is that when an error occurs because you weren’t thinking, it can’t be your fault because you didn’t exist.
  • 34-Across: The [Dehydrated food product] is a BOUILLON CUBE.  I kind of like that the clue likewise ends with a mathematical term (the “product” is the result of multiplying two numbers).  It would have been cool if this trick had been employed with the other theme entries.
  • 42-Across: The [National adversary] is a FOREIGN POWER.  This one feels a little more tepid to me.  I was duped into thinking the clue referred to something like AVIS, HERTZ, ENTERPRISE, or some other rental car company that competes with National.  So when I see that the clue is pretty straightforward, it feels a little more bland.
  • 56-Across: The [Question asking for more explanation] is WHAT DO YOU MEAN? The punny thing to say is that this is an “average” entry.  But in fact, I liked it a lot.

It seems like there could be any number of potential theme entries here, but I still enjoyed the puzzle.  My favorite clues were [Crest holder] for TUBE (as in a tube of Crest toothpaste), and [Alphabet soup “letter”] for NOODLE.  On the fill front, THUMBS UP was terrific.

I really appreciated the wide open corners in the northwest and southeast.  I wasn’t aware that TRACTS could be [Political publications] and not simply plots of land or systems of organs.  Similarly, in the opposite corner, I was unaware that “adept” could be a noun and not just an adjective.  So ADEPTS as the answer to [Aces] took a while to work out.  I don’t like the word very much (it kinda makes me want to say “OGPU” aloud), but it’s certainly legit.

Wall Street Journal crossword, “U.S. Constitution,” by “Marie Kelly” (“really Mike” Shenk)

WSJ crossword solution, 7 1 11 "US Constitution"

In honor of Canada Day, the constitution of this theme is phrases with U.S. initials. No, wait. It’s not that. It’s an early celebration of the U.S.’s Independence Day. The theme answers are all clued as if they have something to do with a nonspecific “patriot,” and one might hope that said patriot would eventually turn out to be Uncle Sam, but no. We just have a bunch of U.S. phrases, which look rather flat in the grid.

  • 23a. [Patriot’s little-known bio] = UNTOLD STORY
  • 25a. [Patriot’s old-fashioned underwear item] = UNION SUIT
  • 32a. [Patriot’s favorite Schubert work] = UNFINISHED SYMPHONY
  • 49a. [Patriot’s foyer accessory] = UMBRELLA STAND. “Patriot’s foyer accessory”?? That is one weird little clue.
  • 64a. [Patriot’s math collection incorporating everything] = UNIVERSAL SET
  • 72a. [Patriot’s favorite Disney character] = UNCLE SCROOGE, meaning Donald Duck’s rich uncle, Scrooge McDuck. Does Donald call him Uncle Scrooge?
  • 88a. [Patriot’s over-the-counter investment] = UNLISTED STOCK. Snooze. The boring financial terms always find a home in the Wall Street Journal.
  • 104a. [Patriot’s planetary probe] = UNMANNED SPACECRAFT. This and 32a, the longest theme entries, have the most oomph to them.
  • 116a. [Patriot’s western alma mater] = UTAH STATE. Not sure I even knew there was a Utah State University.
  • 118a. [Patriot’s demography topic] = URBAN SPRAWL

Here’s a fantastic clue:

  • 103d. [Man in a monkey suit] is John SCOPES, the Tennessee teacher who taught evolution and had to go to trial to defend it. Sure, the case seemed to be decided in 1925, but today there are so many biblically inclined people trying to undo it and get creationism into science classes. Anyway: I loved the use of “monkey suit” to mean not a gorilla costume or tuxedo, but the Scopes Monkey Trial lawsuit.

Five more clues:

  • 29a. [Larry of the original “West Side Story”] was named KERT. Whoa. Obscure. Never heard of him, and it’s not a surname that tons of non-famous people have.
  • 76a. [Deed acquired after a delinquency] is a TAX TITLE. Needed lots of crossings.
  • 83a. [The entire body is its target] clues the EPEE. Had no idea what the clue was looking for until a couple crossing letters pointed the way to an EPEE.
  • 123a. The [Ubiquitous player] is a music player, not a sport/game player—the iPOD.
  • 13d. [Did something with a familiar ring?] clues PROPOSED.

The fill is smooth, as you expect from Mike Shenk, but the theme did not entertain me. 3.5 stars.

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13 Responses to Friday, 7/1/11

  1. joon says:

    elegant touch: each box of the central answer contains one syllable… well, except for ISM which is two syllables but can’t really be divided and still have it be a rebus.

  2. Eric Maddy says:

    @LA Times — a hero is the opposite of a goat in a sports sense (and others, I’m sure) — the hero wins the game for you, the goat loses it for you. See also: Buckner, Bill.

    And, since you wanted a second explanation from the same person :-)
    The Omegas that Bond and JFK wore are wristwatches.

  3. Jan (danjan) says:

    The NE corner killed me! I figured out the cameo/carved stone clue, but I wanted the person making it to be a carver, etcher, artisan, etc. I think of jewelers as craftspeople who might take a cameo stone and fashion a metal setting for it. Well, I suppose that “making a cameo” might mean that you carve the stone and then make the setting, too.
    So, having nothing in that corner, I ended up googling the clues for DARIA and EVELINE and then things fell into place. I know someone named Evelene, but wasn’t familar with the names of the stories in Dubliners, which is on my not-so-short list of books to read.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: What a puzzle to try the applet again on! Took me more than 15 minutes just to give in to the rebus. Despite PAR(TI)SAN and ARK(AN)SAS screaming at me. Also the puzzle of ENG_LIT and JUSTFOR_ (which even after the rebus had YOU then ME first…)

    LAT: Had no idea about that meaning of GOAT and the rest of the top-right was pretty tough too! Agree the theme answers were a little flat.

  5. sps says:

    Excellent NYT today. Just made me smile.

  6. janie says:

    today’s nyt? a major “wow” in my book — for the surprise element amy notes, and for the overall peppiness of the fill. took me too long to accept that, yes, this was indeed a rebus-on-a-friday — but was then able to make easy (enuf…) strides towards completing the grid.




  7. ArtLvr says:

    I got a great kick out of the NYT, including the fill Amy noted and “a little DAB’LL do ya!”

  8. jim hale says:

    Good puzzle and I agree with Amy’s comments. Was weird to have the rebus on one line, pretty unique, and also a nostalgic word every one remembers when growing up as THE LONGEST WORD.

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    Ugh, it happened again! I came up with the same theme as the LAT and was about to fill the grid today. My theme answers:


    I hate when that happens.

  10. John yearwood says:

    In re: Peluso:
    Omega = brand of watch worn by JFK and Bond
    “egal” for same is also fresh use of French, 68a
    And (act) as iago (20a) is sheer genius. The Shakespeare play in which Iago is the villain is set in Venice, Othello. And isn’t asiago made from goat’s milk (ref 16a)? Goat is shorthand for scapegoat, btw, the one whose sacrifice appeases the gods’ demand for vengeance. And isn’t iago a negative imp practicing his guile upon Desdemona (whose name means literally, of the devil)?

    Great job today. Thanks

  11. joon says:

    scrooge mcduck is donald’s uncle, and the great-uncle of huey, dewie, and louie. they’re the ones who call him UNCLE SCROOGE. man, i can’t tell you how many hours i spent as a kid watching ducktales. the scene of scrooge swimming in his enormous pile of gold coins is one of the most iconic disney images to me.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Joon is the Disney Fiend expert now? Ok, I’m answering all the physics questions.

  13. John Haber says:

    Great theme, but wow was that hard, even apart from discovering a theme on a Friday. Each corner had treachery for me. I first got the SE, although I don’t know cars like the TTOP or PINON. (It’s actually in RHUD with the accent, but the conversion to digital means that the word simply drops out except as a cross-reference under “pinyon” to nowhere.)

    Then NE thanks to James Joyce, although not knowing the hair product left me with JUST _, the temptation to settle for “liberals” left me no closer to the center. Then the NW, although I didn’t know ETHEL Roosevelt or the jokey clue for THRILLA (and of course ALER was dependent on a cross-ref).

    But even after the center the SW was a killer for me, what with the cologne, BRENT, ANGLE IRON, and the sports references. Whew! I’d have preferred a little less of this, but a great theme nonetheless.

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