Friday, 7/8/11

NYT 6:36 
LAT 6:03(Jeffrey) 
CS 7:37 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:57 

Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 8 11 0708

I see some Saturday-plus solving times on the applet, and I’m not sure why that is. I would concur that the puzzle’s tougher than the standard Friday puzzle, but not that much. I would have been under the 6-minute mark if not for a Vowels Gone Wild double typo of REDUILS for REDIALS.

The first time the Massachusetts town of Natick was evoked with a crosswordy definition (two proper nouns colliding, significant chance of solvers throwing their hands up in dismay because the crossing letter is elusive), it was when NATICK crossed N.C. WYETH at, I think, the N. Now, N.C. WYETH is in this grid, but with crossing letters that are all inferrable within their contexts. However! There is a potential Natick moment in the southwestern quadrant, where [Knight who hosts a country music radio show] meets [Dweller around Port Hercules]. Say what? Turns out to be LIA and MONACAN, but geography nerds are enchanted by the unusual demonym used to label the people of Monaco: Monegasque. I half pondered MONICAN as a demonym for people from Santa Monica, positing a Muscle Beach place named after Hercules and a mystery DJ named LII.

Eight likes:

  • 20a. SAGUARO. Lotsa vowels, yet not a regular denizen of crosswords.
  • 35a. MOMS, [They deliver]. Babies, not pizza, though some pizza delivery agents are mothers.
  • 38a. JIM BROWN, football actor, full name.
  • 1d. Would prefer the spelling PUNJABI for the language, but PANJABI will do. I wonder if Brendan originally clued this as actress Archie Panjabi, who gets raves for her work in the TV series The Good Wife.
  • 8d. [Many a dreaded native?] is not the fat garter snake I saw today by the vacation cabin, no. It’s a JAMAICAN with dreadlocks. Is it unfair of me to like dreadlocks in general but disdain the white-folks’ dreads look?
  • 14d. Remember Paul TSONGAS? I liked him back when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I think of him whenever I hear of tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose surname is Congolese rather than Greek. My original surname is a cross-cultural marvel as well, popping up on Greek, Lithuanian, and Arabic people.
  • 38d. JILLION isn’t an imaginary number at all. It’s just an unwieldy and nonspecific big number.
  • 45d. Nobody talks about throwing WIIMOTEs through TV screens anymore.

Not so thrilled by TSE and TAI despite their novel clues. And SAL SODA is no more familiar in its entirety than when it’s a FITB [__ soda] half answer. NIC, ELOI, LAICS, ASA, ANEAR, ADZ, UTIL, and AMARE also lent little spice to the puzzle. This kinda feels like an old BEQ puzzle that’s been sitting around for a while, as it doesn’t have the same zing as the weekly themelesses at his blog. (Speaking of which: Brendan’s latest blog puzzle is a themed one, and you might win a prize if you can suss out the theme. Visit for the puzzle and details.)

Hey, the top two quadrants of this grid have intersecting three-letter twins at the starts of PAN-ARAB/PANJABI and JAM TART/JAMAICAN. Does PAN JAM mean something I don’t know about? Not quite a panjandrum…

3.5 stars.

Don Gagliardo and C.C Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

LA Times crossword answers, 7 8 11

Jeffrey here again. And I don’t know if I’m coming or going on today’s puzzle. Ten theme answers are on the perimeter of the puzzle, with an ”Aptly” missing DIRECTION. Add the direction the word is facing to the beginning of the word and you get the two word answer to the clues. (what is he talking about?)

Theme Answers:
37A. [“Apt” geographical element needed to complete the answers to 10 of this puzzle’s clues] – DIRECTION
1A. [Aptly, Chinese, e.g.] – ASIAN. The word travels east (left to right) so this is EAST ASIAN. Get it?
6A. [Aptly, Park Avenue area] – (East) SIDE
10A. [Aptly, New Jersey beach phenomenon] – (East) WIND
13D. [Aptly, Pierre’s state] – (South) DAKOTA. Going down or south now.
45D. [Aptly, “Happy Talk” musical] – (South) PACIFIC.
67A. [Aptly, Israeli-occupied territory] – KNAB. Right to left for West Bank.
68A. [Aptly, Oval Office site] – GNIW. West Wing.
69A. [Aptly, Hollywood locale] – TSAOC. West Coast.
46D. [Aptly, Pyongyang resident] – NAEROK. Up we go for northern answers. North Korean. The Dream Academy.
1D. [Aptly, about 5 percent of the Earth’s surface] – ACIREMA. North America.
A very clever theme.
Other stuff:
The down(south)side is the unavoidable fill, which has several partials and is mostly sleep inducing.
21A. [Wall makeup, maybe] – STONES
26A. [Main vessel] – SEABOAT. One word? Two words? Who says this?
29A. [Virgil contemporary] – OVID
32A. [Earth, to 29-Across] – TERRA
33A. [29-Across’s “__ amatoria”] – ARS. I think we overdid the OVID.
48A. [Like some blog comments: Abbr.] – ANON. Please leave your real or pretend name on all comments.
27D. [Certain counter’s unit?] – BEAN. I never liked the term BEAN counter. I prefer Hershey’s Kiss counter.
30D. [Quebec’s Sept-__] – ILES. Points for Canadian reference.
40D. [Freshen one’s familiarity with] – RELEARN. I always try to forget this word, but I keep having to RELEARN it.
41D. [’70s Robert Blake cop show] – BARETTA. Sammy Davis Jr.
3.95 stars. And I’m done. See you tomorrow.
50A. [“So soon?”] – ALREADY

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Heel of Fortune” – Sam Donaldson’s review

It’s a quip theme centered on a [Born loser’s lament]: I’M SO UNLUCKY THAT / WHEN MY SHIP COMES / IN I’LL BE STANDING / AT THE TRAIN DEPOT. As quip themes go, this one’s quite good. What it lacks in hilarity (it’s more cute or clever than funny), it more than compensates for in its elegance at breaking cleanly into four 15-letter segments with the punchline saved for the last line. So while I normally don’t care much for quip themes, this one rubbed me the right way.

Items of note:

  • I’ll start with a confession. My first answer to [Bray beginner] was HOM. As in an hombre, pardner. This is why I don’t solve in pen. (The correct answer is HEE, as in “hee haw,” the braying sound of an ass. One would think I would be eminently qualified to know the sound of a braying ass.)
  • As an added embarrassment, I’ll note that my first thought for the four-letter [Member of Mowgli’s adoptive family] was BEAR, as in Baloo. I had forgotten that Mowgli, the protagonist from The Jungle Book, had first been raised by wolves, making the correct answer WOLF. I blame 37-Down’s reference to “Zip-A-DEE-Doo-Dah” for creating the earworm that, I’m sure, controlled my train of thought there.
  • I like [Part of a squid’s arsenal] as a colorful clue for INK.
  • You could certainly clue PUN in many ways worse than [“A seven-day diet makes one weak,” e.g.]. I kinda liked that one.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Here’s the Change-Up”

WSJ crossword answers, 7 8 11

Instead of changing pitchers (wait, is that what “change-up” means in baseball? I have no idea), Dan changes one letter in an MLB team’s name. Ergo, TEXAS RINGERS, NEW YORK MESS, LOS ANGELES CODGERS, MINNESOTA TWITS, FLORIDA MARGINS, PITTSBURGH PILATES, CHICAGO CABS, and BOSTON RED FOX. The best ones are those that cast aspersions on the team—the Ringers, Mess, Codgers, and Twits are all funny. Margins and Cabs are too inanimate. Pilates isn’t a plural of “pilate.” And there aren’t any singular baseball team names like Red Fox. So the first half of the theme is more successful than the second. All eight theme entries are easy enough to piece together from the clues if you know for Major League team names, though.

The fill is smooth, but not so zingy. I do like LOVE/HATE, LIVE A LIE, “SHE’S GONE,” RUST BELT, and PLAY TAG. The latter feels a tad clunky, but I’d love PLAY HIDE-AND-SEEK so I have to like PLAY TAG.

3.75 stars.

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27 Responses to Friday, 7/8/11

  1. Howard B says:

    Plenty of places here to cause those times. I feel lucky to have finished in under 10, with some educated guessing. JAM TART, LIA(?) BARSTOW(?), PANJABI, NC WYETH (I can never remember that 1st initial either), etc. etc. Some great BEQ stuff in there, but not one of my favorites at all. WiiMote in that corner especially threw me, as I thought of it as very slangy and not a name of the device that people normally use (The item is a Wii Remote). Outside of a bunch of gamer-specific articles and blogs I can’t find much support for it although it’s definitely out there – it’s just closer to lingo than you usually find in the grid (and yes, I own a Wii).

    Anyway, just a lot of potential trouble spots in there today. I can definitely see why this one is causing trouble. It did for me. LIA / MONACANS was brutal.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    This kinda feels like an old BEQ puzzle that’s been sitting around for a while,

    I was thinking the same thing, and was reminded of the BEQ that ran last year in the NYT that’d bit sitting around for something like 12 years. Though WIIMOTE gives this one away as being much more recent.

    Some fun stuff like JAM TART, JILLION and ON A DIET. But doesn’t PANJABI call for a [var.] tag? NON-ZERO seems made-up. Why have a word for every thing that isn’t one specific other thing? Non-five numbers? Non-Deneb stars? And IN SCALE feels off, too, as TO SCALE is the familiar phrase.

  3. joon says:

    you guys are sharp! brendan told me today that he made this one in 2007. i bet it was before he crossed NC WYETH with NATICK in that sunday puzzle.

    spork, NONZERO is a word i use all. the. time. “there’s a nonzero chance i’ll go to maine this weekend.”

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The non-nerd would simply say “There’s a chance I’ll go to Maine this weekend.”

  5. Lee Glickstein says:

    I call a foul on this puzzle. Was so proud to finish it after a long struggle until I came here and discovered a wrong letter in a crossing I would never get right in a jillion years. OLOROSO is unknown to me, nor is anything to do with WII but the word WII itself. I had OLOROSA and WIIMATE, which seems perfectly plausible, even clever. A partner you WII with? Or perhaps a helpful gismo accessory? 28-Down! I say.

  6. Erik says:

    I’m up to Multivariable Calculus, and I’ve never heard of an URCSINE. Oh, wait…

  7. Don Byas says:

    Got this, but it took a while to root out my errors. Blanked on the “N” in N.C. WYETH. Flummoxed when Punjabi wouldn’t work with ARCSINE. BERGEN unknown. Had Saharan for PANARAB. Had A for O in Elmer Fudd’s WiiMOTE. LIA…fail.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Also had WiiMate and wondered why I did not get Mr. Happy Pencil. Now I know.

    I consider JimBrown to be the greatest athlete of all time. He was arguably the greatest football player, almost certainly the greatest lacrosse player and probabably would have been one of the greatest basketball players if he had gone in that direction.

    The rules of lacrosse were changed because of Brown just as the dunk rule was changed in college basletball because of the then Lew Alcindor. Can anyone think of another sport whose rules had to be changed because of the “unfair” skills of one player.


  9. Gareth says:

    Well, I said that my experience of difficulty on Fri/Sat tends to often diverge from the norm. I did this puzzle in below average time. Could have been even faster if my first entry, ENGLISH, wasn’t wrong; I finished up in that quadrant because of it, the rest fell pretty easily, pretty being an apt description, fabulous medium-length entries, very Silk-esque style. Can’t say I noticed those clunkers except for AMARE (wanted an O) and LAICS (was torn between it and LAITY). I too wanted PANJABI to be a U (once I stopped wanting it to be English!) The B was my last letter in the grid. Considered ZILLION/ZIMBROWN. Naturally never heard of the guy but his name is as vanilla anglo as can be!

  10. bob stigger says:

    I dunno — PANJABI is a better transliteration of the Persian (“five rivers” or “five waters”) but with the inferior PUNJABI having been used seemingly forever, PANJABI does look kinda wrong even though it’s righter. What do you do? Check the calendar — on Monday you’d only get PUNJABI, I imagine. Bob

  11. Anne E says:

    My first entry was wrong, too, ESP for NIC at 29A. WIIMOTE was brutal! Also had HAZARDS for IDCARDS at 58A, which messed up that corner for a while. Tough one!

  12. Matt says:

    I’m also in the WIIMATE/OLOROSA crowd… Got all the other weird spellings (AMARE, PANJABI, LAICS), though. Also, the NCIS/BARSTOW crossing was sort-of-a-guess, since I’ve pretty much given up watching teevee.

  13. Karen says:

    I had trouble giving up CANNIBAL for dreaded native. Easier to replace BABYLON with ASSYRIA. Jam tarts? Weird answer. I should have had TSONGAS earlier, I’ve been to his arena in Lowell several times, but didn’t know he was a senator. Same problems as above with urcsine and esp; WIIMOTE was a gimme for me, which gave me OLOROSO. And after I got the ‘fail’ message I realized that ZILLION was too imaginary. Good puzzle overall, nice and chewy.

  14. Duke says:

    I thought most of it came pretty easily. But a few things felt wrong. Never heard the term Wiimote. I got the Wii part right away, but thought it was wii WAND, since you use those things like wands. I don’t own one. I still don’t understand NIC – can someone explain this??? Poked at should be picked at. In scale should be to scale. And I don’t understand why the area map answer is tied to a hostel specifically.

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    The cordoba is the currency of Nicaragua (NIC). Oh, and Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba was the founder of Nicaragua. I didn’t know that, either.

  16. pannonica says:

    sbmanion: If you’re willing to wade through some petty bickering, you can peruse this “Athletes who have had rules changed or made because of them” discussion that I found on a forum for sports journalists.

  17. Jan (danjan) says:

    I eventually found my error – and it was a common one to this group – WIIMaTE. Seemed plausible to me, like the buddy the Sims would play with.

    I raise my hand for using NONZERO in conversation. Kids love having parents who throw around math terms with abandon, don’t they?

  18. Neville says:

    Maybe my fastest NY Times Friday solve – a lot of this was old news fill we’ve seen before, and the rest was stuff I would expect from a BEQ puzzle – that worked out nicely.

    I’ve always called it a WIIMOTE; so have my Wii-owning friends. (Always down for some Internet MarioKart, too!)

    Only tricky parts for me were quickly fixed by crossings: PUNJABI, LAITY and ICE AXE.

    Didn’t remember TSONGAS, but there’s always a NON-ZERO chance of a name I don’t know in a NYT Friday!

  19. animalheart says:

    OCTOPI isn’t an acceptable plural in this household, but I know that many dictionaries disagree. I can’t believe I figured out WIIMOTE (I assume it’s a reMOTE for the WII), but I was defeated by MONACAN, LIA, and what I had for 64A, which was NOTZERO. Never heard of SALSODA either, but I did know OLOROSO. Paul TSONGAS was a fairly credible presidential candidate in 1992, but I guess some of you weren’t even born then…

  20. John Haber says:

    I should have noticed it was BEQ, which would explain why I was not making sense of so much. I entered everything, but was that really LIA, LEILA, BARSTOW, and WIIMOTE, say? (Never even heard of the last.) I misremember the football player as James Brown like the musician, but what do I know. The BERGEN and NIC were enough almanac stuff for me for a while, too. I got my foothold, slowly, with the S in ASA making me catch onto ARCSINE and the J in JAY suggesting Punjabi, but then what was wrong? I stared for a long time before accepting a change. I don’t rate puzzles, but this would be really low for me.

  21. David H says:

    Is the Wall Street Journal no longer offering puzzles in AcrossLite format? All the links are broken, and a search only finds Java and PDF versions … ?

  22. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @David H: The file’s supposed to be where Lloyd Mazer can get it and convert it into Across Lite, but it wasn’t there today. Lloyd let Mike Shenk know, but he’s off at the NPL convention and less well-situated for riding herd on the WSJ tech folks. Me, I’m taking advantage of the puzzle’s absence since I’m on vacation. :-)

  23. Tom Grubb says:

    Please, no one puts BRIE (the cheese) on a cracker anywhere but at one of those lame “wine ‘n cheese” parties before or after a “must-miss” event somewhere on the Upper East or West sides of NYC. First of all, in France, Brie (and cheese in general) is consumed AFTER the main course and salad of a meal and NEVER as an hors-d’oeuvre and surely never on a cracker (I’m thinking “Saltine” here but I know B.E. Quigley is thinking much better as in some Scandinavian Wheat-Thin sort of thing). The only suitable and appropriate place for any brie upon a pinch of “pain francais” and nothing else (although a little wine would add to the pleasure) .

    As a rule, I find that American puzzlers often present misleading clues for things French, e.g.: Clue: “How fancy!” (Answer: OOHLALA), when the French expression is actually OHLALA and means “Oh boy”, as in “wait a minute here”.

    Educate yourselves, please! Amicablement, TOM

  24. Matt says:

    @Tom Grubb

    Linguist Mark Liberman, at the blog Language Log, reports here that “X là là!” is actually a phonetico-semantic continuum that includes the conventional crossword meaning as well as others (although he agrees that the stereotype is pretty far from the truth).

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Update! WSJ puzzle now posted, along with Merl’s Sunday puzzle. Alas, it is both beer o’clock and board game time here at the cottage, so the WSJ puzzle may not get blogged this week.

  26. animalheart says:

    Does beer o’clock come before or after wine o’clock?

  27. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @animalheart: Absolutely! Beer o’clock is admirably flexible.

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