Friday, 7/22/11

NYT 6:59 
LAT 3:19 
CS 5:05 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:17 

Todd McClary’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 22 11 0722

Beautiful 68-worder today, though I’m thinking it feels more Saturdayish than Friday-worthy. Just me?

Really, the only answers I was “meh” about are 1d: SLICEABLE and 30a: RE-ECHO. And maybe 12d: AT TEN. Aside from those and a couple abbreviations, everything ranges from good to great. My favorite parts:

  • 7a. MGM GRAND. Was trying to think of an 8-letter word/name rather than a 3/5.
  • 18a. Scrabbly JOB TITLE.
  • Two [Peewee] answers: MUNCHKIN and PINT-SIZE.
  • 34a. How can LIE WITH not be clued lewdly?! It’s a lovely archaic term for “make the beast with two backs (with). I mean, usually I’m not looking for archaicisms to appear in crosswords, but…
  • 38a. PAUL ANKA with his full name rather than just his surname, and a far more current clue than usual.
  • 51a. Who doesn’t love POST-IT notes?
  • Colon blowout! [It often includes a colon] clues an EMOTICON (do you want to know how to combine emoticons and parentheses? Grammar Girl has the answer), and a [Colon, e.g.] consists of two DOTS.
  • 54a. Movie SEX SCENE, good answer. Did you ever see Damage, with Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche? For my money, the most unintentionally hilarious sex scene ever. There’s lots of monkey-slapping with flailing arms. I don’t know what’s up with that.
  • 2d. [Small diner location?] is the HIGH CHAIR a very young diner sits in.
  • 7d. Who doesn’t like Rafael Nadal? He was born on MAJORCA.
  • 11d. Goobers, RAISINETS, either one a [Movie box set?]. You know what? Make mine Sno-Caps, with NILLA Wafers on the side.
  • 20d. Was thoroughly bewildered by [The “1” in 1/2, e.g.]. Turns out it’s not a fraction but a date, and 1 is the MONTH.
  • 26d. [Umbrella holder, perhaps] is a great clue for any tropical drink, such as a MAI TAI.
  • 31d. The CLIP-ON TIE, hassle-free but also style-free.
  • 37d. You will find PANTENE shampoo and conditioner in my bathtub. I bet about 65% of you think this answer stinks, but the fragrances really are quite nice.

Fairly Scrabbly fill overall, with some pop culture and brand names further spicing things up. 4.25 stars.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 7 22 11

Hey! I thought these Friday LATs were running way harder than the rest of the week, and here we’ve got a distinctly Tuesday-Wednesdayish sort of puzzle. Or maybe I’ve just had a Flowers for Algernon style leap in cognitive ability since the morning.

It’s the sort of theme that’s been done before plenty of times—a couple letters swap places to mutate the words they’re in. What elevates this puzzle is the dozen non-theme answers that are 7 or 8 letters long, some intersecting more than one theme entry. Here’s the ST ➙ TS theme:

  • 18a. [Scene in “The Hustler”?] is when FATS BREAKS to start a game of billiards.
  • 23a. [Adam’s apples?] are EATS OF EDEN. Nice reconfiguring of what “Adam’s apple” means.
  • 38a. [Tubby tabbies?] are BROAD CATS. Eh, nobody would really describe a fat cat as “broad.”
  • 52a. [Visitors to the Winter Palace?] are TSAR GAZERS. Great elevation of a common little crossword answer.
  • 58a. [Tusk warmers?] could be called IVORY COATS if tusks actually needed warming.

Ten more clues:

  • 15a. [1970 N.L. batting champ Carty] clues RICO. Never heard of him.
  • 31a. [Hot and humid] clues TROPIC. Hot and humid? Who ever heard of such a combo?
  • 34a. [Grover’s veep] was named ADLAI. This is, alas, Grover Cleveland and not the blue Muppet. I would totally vote for Grover for president, by the way. His heart is in the right place.
  • 40a. [Faith symbolized by a nine-pointed star] is BAHA’I. Why, that’s 50% more star points than Judaism’s Star of David! Clearly, Baha’i is a religion focused on value.
  • 66a. [Start of an intermission?] is a clever clue for ENTR, which is the start of the term entr’acte, but it doesn’t quite make up for the fact that ENTR is in the puzzle in the first place.
  • 7d. [The planets, e.g.] clues OCTAD. Admit it: You tried to figure out how to fit ENNEAD into five squares or considered NONET.
  • 10d. SLED DOGS are [Northerners with a lot of pull?].
  • 39d. [Cheaters, to teachers: Abbr.] duped me. Is there an abbreviation for “anathema,” I briefly wondered. ANAG., short for “anagram.”
  • 40d. [It may be held by one on deck] clues a BAT, as it is customary to keep a leashed flying mammal on board a cruise ship for good luck. (Alternatively, you might say that “on deck” means “at bat”  in baseball.)
  • 50d. [Common blues] made me think of depression and sadness, but no: just AZURES.

Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Devil Made Me Do It” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword Solution, July 22, 2011

The theme is simple, but the execution is marvelous and entertaining.  Each of the four theme entries contains the letter sequence B-A-D, and each term is clued as something forced upon poor Patrick by Satan:

  • 17-Across: SINBAD THE SAILOR is the [Movie the devil made me watch].  Lucifer’s cinematic tastes could use some refinement, if you ask me.
  • 27-Across: BADMINTON is the [Game the devil made me play].  At least Beelzebub is promoting exercise.
  • 49-Across:ISLAMABAD is the [Capital the devil made me visit].  Ol’ Abaddon’s recommendation was tepid at best, though, because the heat in Pakistan wasn’t to his liking.
  • 63-Across:CARLSBAD CAVERNS is the [Place the devil made me explore].  Methinks the Son of Perdition is partial to all the bats that live there.

I hope the devil is also making Patrick devise a third installment of his wonderful Puzzlefest series.  I’d sell my soul for another slate of inventive puzzles.  Oops–hold on–there’s a knock at the door….

Wow, careful what you wish for.  That guy’s pushy.  Back to the puzzle.  I like how it starts with a big PACKAGE.  Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.  What I mean is that it’s great how the first four Across entries are all seven letter long.  In most themed puzzles, the first two rows of Across answers have only three, four, or five letters.  The longer answers here add another touch of elegance.

This puzzle boasts some terrific fill, too.  There’s HAVE-NOT, TOOK IN, KABOOM!, BOOT UP, PIG OUT, IN JAIL, and I’M HOME.  The clues were pretty easy (you can’t get much easier than [“Sesame ___”] for STREET, right?), but I liked how [Equal, generically] had me thinking first of “equal” the adjective and then “equal” the verb before tumbling to it being “Equal” the artificial sweetener in the blue packets. ASPARTAME proves to be the correct answer.

Today’s Discussion Topic: Do we issue a demerit for I MADE IT, a wonderful entry that, unfortunately, duplicates a word used four times in the clues (“made”)?  I didn’t realize the duplication until writing this post, so I’m inclined to let it pass.  But I’ll admit that my overall fondness for this puzzle may be affecting my judgment.  What say you?

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Top Spin”

WSJ crossword solution, 7 22 11

There’s nothing ground-breaking about an add-two-letters theme, but this puzzle just plain works. The theme entries have P.R. (“spin”) added at the beginning (“top”) of familiar phrases, turning them into entirely different things. I like that every theme entry is a noun. (Wait! I lied. 67a is a verb phrase.) My favorite examples are the outhouse PRIVY LEAGUE riffing on Ivy League and the political PROVEN MITT Romney spun off of a homely oven mitt. (Note the vowel changes in the PR words; PREGO TRIPS also alters the “ego” vowel. PRICE BREAKERS, PRINTER VIEW, PREVENT PLANNING, and PRIDES OF MARCH keep the original vowels.)

There’s one obscure word I filled in through crossings, as 81d: ORLOVCount who helped put Catherine II on the throne], is completely unfamiliar to me. (Don’t confuse him with 122a: [Schemer who aids Count Almaviva], FIGARO.) But the entire puzzle was a pleasure to work. I like the intersecting assassinated presidents MCKINLEY and GARFIELD, WHIP UP and LINE-UP, ROE V. WADE, GARAGE crossing ENGINE, and DYSTOPIA. There are lots of fun clues, such as these:

  • 28a. [Burmese babies] are KITTENS.
  • 30a. [Semi-colon?] is one DOT.
  • 60a. [Wise guys] and gals are GENIUSES.
  • 7d. [Word that may lead to finger-pointing] is “WHERE?”
  • 35d. [Tell tale item] is the APPLE in the William Tell story. I figured out the trick but tried ARROW first.
  • 43d. [That’s just like ewe] clues OVINE. Now, that’s just silly.

4.25 stars.

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21 Responses to Friday, 7/22/11

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    I keep Pantene near the washer; it also makes a great stain remover. (I’m almost afraid to use it on my hair!)

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Love that top row with 11 consonants and 3 A’s. And Paul Anka is kind of a PINT SIZED MUNCHKIN.

    1/2 is February 1 in Canada.

    I believe RICO Carty hit .366 in 1970. Everyone knows that.

  3. joon says:

    i thought this one was lovely, and right in the friday sweet spot. lots of scrabbly letters, but no ERIQ or SQIN penalty to be paid for it. great work, todd!

  4. ArtLvr says:

    I sailed through Todd’s NYT, delighted with all of it — then was chagrined to see that the timer never started. Drat!

    Loved David’s LAT which went nearly as smoothly, except when I slowed down with Torrid for 31A’s Hot and humid before TROPIC, made worse with Reindeer at 10D before SLEDDOGS until the light dawned. I did enjoy the wacky theme phrases, especially FATS BREAKS and BROAD CATS, and cute clues like 49A’s Canal problem for EARACHE…

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Really beautiful puzzle! Mostly Friday, with a bit of Saturday creeping in the bottom-right! Favourite clue was “Small diner…” You think you were bewildered by the MONTH clue though; if you write your dates day/month, then you’re totally lost!

  6. Matt says:

    Generally a very nice puzzle, though I found it rather tough for a Friday, particularly the SE corner. Quite a bit of misdirection and ambiguity, OPENMATTE and DYSON are just obscure.

  7. pannonica says:

    RICO/RE-ECHO comment here.

    Difficult NYT southeast accounted for 1/2 my solve time. I prefer D/M so 1/2 thwarted me.

    I’ve been warned away from Pantene by more than one person, including some in the haircutting biz. Something to do with higher-than-normal amounts of harsh chemicals, including—I think—formaldehyde. Now, if it was formaldejekyll that’d be a much milder proposition.

  8. Jan (danjan) says:

    Matt – Dyson is not obscure to those who vacuum (or have a bladeless fan). The ads are on tv a lot. (I suspect I have a lot more time this summer to notice these things!)

  9. janie says:

    more internal glue in patrick’s puzzle by way of the resistance offered from the side of the angels: GODLINESS, CHERUBS — one might even make a case for HALO and STEEPLE. moral of the story: if ya SIN BAD, you could end up IN JAIL, alone and ASHAMED.

    like others here, was doing fine w/ todd’s puzzle til i had to contend w/ the se. that did have more of a saturday feel to me. sooooo much colorful fill. sure felt good to finally crack it and complete it!


  10. Will Nediger says:

    Beautiful themeless. So much verve, so little junk.

  11. Rihat says:

    Did anyone else notice the [Look!, in Latin] and LOOK ON duplication? As I mentioned over at RP’s blog, that really tripped me up for a while.

  12. Howard B says:

    Great NY Times puzzle today.
    I use m/d for dates, but often use d/m on the job, so yes, the MONTH answer threw me.
    We now own a Dyson – or else that one would have been tough spot #2. I won’t plug products on a blog, but I will say that thing is much easier to clean, post-use, than the older brands. It made cleaning up that answer in the puzzle much easier as well.

    @Rihat: Yeah, post-solve. If it didn’t detract from the puzzling experience, I’d say it might be of note to the editor, but not a mark against the puzzle. I generally don’t reference the clues to prevent me from filling in a later answer, as these do get through. Nobody’s perfect. (Smaller words especially will sneak by often, and there isn’t a specific rule against it – don’t let it throw you off).

  13. Matt says:

    Well, OK, OK,… I’ll allow that DYSON isn’t all that obscure. I do own a vacuum cleaner, though– just not a Dyson.

  14. reybo says:

    It should be said that some people find Patrick Blindauer’s “The Devil Made Me Do It” as the opposite of clever, a two-star effort. With barely a second thought I wrote in all his themed clues before looking at anything else. Sad when they are so easy. Compare with David Poole’s LAT today. To me, THAT’S clever. Taste is taste.

  15. Erik says:

    Two thoughts on Patrick’s puzzle:

    1. If I MADE IT gets a demerit, so does BOOTS UP right next to [Loosens, as boots]
    2. At first I thought each entry started with a devilish word – SINbadthesailor, BADminton. Then I got to the third one and almost swallowed my tongue. Thought Pat had gone all Pastor Terry Jones on us.
    3. Fantastic construction.

  16. Jeff Chen says:

    “…a big PACKAGE. Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.”

    That’s what she said!

    (insert sound of girlfriend rolling her eyes)

  17. Larry Wasser says:

    Just to nit-pick – On deck refers to the batter up next, often swinging a bat or two to get ready to bat

  18. John Haber says:

    It was Saturday for me, too, partly just getting going, but a ton I didn’t know, especially in the bottom. I hadn’t heard of DYSON or OPEN MATTE, but it was the SW that was the killer for me. I didn’t know, say, PANTENE, TAMMI, or MR BOX (different than my childhood’s books, and I don’t have kids to keep me updated). I’m still puzzled by SWAP MEETS and was hoping for talk explaining it here, but I’ll go search.

    Actually, now that I’ve looked, when did a flea market become a SWAP MEET, or is it regional?

  19. pauer says:

    Thanks for the fun write-up, Sam. This was actually inspired by the CS from yesterday, since that one was in the can by the time I was due to make this one. Good catch on the MADE and BOOTS dupes; I probably would’ve tried to avoid those if I’d noticed.

    Had fun with Todd’s NYT. Is there anything that PAULANKA can’t do?

  20. John Haber says:

    BTW, sorry for my typo in Mr. Fox.

  21. Tuning Spork says:

    John Haber,
    When I was out in Texas and Nevada, they were always called “swap meets” while, back here in the northeast, they’ve always been “flea markets”.

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