Wednesday, 7/27/11

NYT 5:52 
LAT 3:53 
Onion 4:14 
CS 5:10 (Sam) 

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 7 27 11 0727

I’m gonna blame the margarita for keeping me from grasping the theme for far, far too long, and for slowing me down enormously throughout. NOELS means “no ELs,” meaning EL has been lopped off each theme answer. The groom is a WEDDING CHAP(el). A harsh review garners a PAN(el) DISCUSSION. Ask a tow-truck driver to THROW IN THE TOW(el) for free. And there’s a MOD(el) TRAIN SET. That’s straightforward enough.

But I was distracted from the theme’s working by a good bit of subpar fill, the stuff that sets off the alarms on the Scowl-o-Meter. I was willing to take REROOFS, but then I got hit by RESEEK. Other entries that failed to delight me and that take this review into PAN DISCUSSION territory include REALES, OCHERS, UIE, HSIA, AEON, ERO, ARIE, OLE OLE, and TOR. And ALARIC, the [Visigoth king who sacked Rome], isn’t a household name in these decidedly post-Visigoth times.

I lost a minute or two trying to find a typo, and it turned out to be OLE LLE instead of OLE OLE. Grr. No wonder the TRAIN SET theme answer wasn’t emerging quickly, though, with that *LD beginning I was working with.

Good stuff: The GRAMMAR clue, the ASPIRIN clue, nice preposition use in RATIONS OUT/FENCES IN, the Trekkie clue for NAE, and the unexpected combo of OOH LA LA and THE OMEN. (You know how sometimes people grouse that in France, it’s “oh la la” and it doesn’t mean “Fa-a-ancy!”? Well, this America, and here, it’s “ooh la la” and that’s exactly how it’s used.)

Most unfortunate use of geography: The clue [City at the confluence of the Ouse and Foss] didn’t even narrow it down to a country for me. YORK? So this is in England? All right, then. I hope this doesn’t mean we’ll be seeing FOSS in another puzzle within the month.

2.95 stars.

Jonathan Black’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 7 27 11

Decent puzzle today. Nothing too fancy, nothing too scowl-inducing. The theme is about a FLEA INFESTATION that’s manifested by hidden FLEAs infesting the other theme answers:

  • 17a. [Woods has often been atop it] clues the GOLF LEADERBOARD. Maybe I’d call it a tournament leaderboard at a golf event, but whatever.
  • 26a. [Hold one’s nose, perhaps] clues STIFLE A SNEEZE. Not quite a lexical chunk, really, but I like how the clue makes you think it’s about stink.
  • 42a. [They’re fun to jump in] clues PILES OF LEAVES. Also not quite a lexical chunk, I don’t think. You’ll need a RAKE (62a) to assemble those PILES.

So I’m not crazy about the theme answers not that I look at them, but they seemed fine while I was solving.

Favorite clue: 6d. [Burn a dessert on purpose?] for FLAMBÉ.

Three stars.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Barking Lot” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, July 27

This puzzle has gone to the dogs, as the four theme entries are two-word nouns where the second word is a breed of dog:

  • 17-Across: The [Purina product], interestingly, is KITTEN CHOW.  Interesting because one does not expect a feline-ious entry in an ode to canines.
  • 28-Across: The [Olympian in a ring] is an AMATEUR BOXER.  On this particular solve, I started in the northwest, dropped to the southwest, ventured to the southeast and eventually made my way up to the northeast.  I mention this to explain why I had only the -ITS in 11-Down when I read the clue, [They’re used in emergencies].  I figured they had to be some kind of KITS, which meant my ringed Olympian was something ending in -KER.  As I hadn’t noticed the title of the puzzle by that point (and thus did not yet know the theme), it took a while to see the mistake.  For a while, I toyed with the thought that I was supposed to thinking of an Olympian “biker” or someone named “Baker.”
  • 44-Across: The [Tool for a lecturer, sometimes] is a LASER POINTER.  I liked this theme entry the best because, well, I’m a lecturer that often uses a laser pointer in class.  The wording of the clue is interesting–I think many of my students would say they have a “tool for a lecturer.”
  • 65-Across: The [Classroom with microscopes] is a BIOLOGY LAB.  In my junior high biology class, we got to dissect frogs.  As a high school freshman, I dissected a rat.  (Both times, my lab partner was a really cute girl who made me do all the work–the cutting, the organ identification and tagging, even the write-up.  And I couldn’t have been happier.)  Afraid to see what was next if I took another biology course, I switched over to chemistry and physics for the rest of my science education.

The theme’s fine, but this puzzle gets four stars simply for having one of the best entries I’ve seen in some time: LAWYER-UP, clued as [Stop cooperating with the cops, in a way].  Talk about lively fill!  There are other terrific entries here, like TOP-SIDERS, SUPERBOY, PHENOMS, FIRE EXITS (which turned out to be the things used in emergencies), and even GEORGE W., the [43rd president, informally].  (Is that true or just a fancy way of dressing up a 7-letter partial?  I’ve heard him called just “W,” and sometimes “George II” and even “G-2,” but never “George W.”)

[Fashion designer] NINA Ricci (or is it Ricci Nina?–you never know with designers) was new to me, but the crossings were quick to fall, so it’s not like I was stuck for long.  Today’s favorite clue = [___ protector (nerdy accessory)] for POCKET.  Fun way to clue what could otherwise be construed as a ho-hum entry.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 7 28 11 Hinman

Geography + history = a theme that’s right up my alley. Not that I’m usually a history buff, but I like Tyler’s theme, with outdated nationality names (the “old world” of the clues) that are retained in selected noun phrases:

  • 17a. A PERSIAN RUG is a [Fancy 20-Across decoration from the “old world”]. My former hairdresser was from Iran but preferred to say she was Persian, and I hear that many people who speak the language prefer to call it Persian rather than Farsi. Still, you won’t find a land called Persia on modern maps. (20a is the FLOOR. [It’s beneath you], literally.)
  • 24a, 51a. [With 51-Across, 32-Down from the “old world”] refers to the DOG ([Loyal friend]) called the RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK. Rhodesia’s been split into Zimbabwe and Zambia.
  • 34a. [Hot drink from the “old world”] is CEYLON TEA, Ceylon being the old name for Sri Lanka. This is the least familiar of the theme answers.
  • 59a. [Pet from the “old world”] clues SIAMESE CAT (Thailand). There are also Burmese cats and a country labeled Myanmar, but I’ve heard that Myanmar is the name preferred by the ruling junta and that the country’s people still go with Burma. Is that so?

Five clues:

  • 33a. [Disney’s Big Bad Wolf] is named ZEKE, apparently.
  • 41a. [A shot is often harmless if it caroms off of one] clues a GOALPOST in soccer. Or hockey. I don’t know. They’re not called shots in football, that’s all I know.
  • 54a. [Adjective for a mouth that needs to be washed out with soap] is POTTY.
  • 56a. BABE RUTH is the [Slugger who finished his career with the Boston Braves]. Great entry.
  • 3d. CURLING is a [Game with brushes].

Nice corners with all the 7’s, lots of nice fill overall, entertaining cluing—plus a theme I like a lot. 4.25 stars.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, 7/27/11

  1. joon says:

    okay, it was 1500+ years ago, but the fall of rome is and always will be a major historic event. if you asked every historian to name five canonical texts, gibbon would be on practically every list, right? so don’t be hatin’ on ALARIC. (never seen ODOACER in a puzzle, but he would be welcome, too.) HSIA is also entirely legit for similar reasons, albeit not as well known to westerners. the biggest thing not to like about it as crossword fill is that there’s no consistent romanization (hey, there’s rome again); i think XIA is a bit more common than HSIA.

    the other bad fill that you singled out is pretty bad, though. the theme content isn’t terrifically ambitious, so i’m at something of a loss to justify it. i had to hold my nose when entering OCHERS and REALES in adjacent downs.

  2. Plot says:

    I had never heard of the REALE, so I was not a fan of that crossing with ELISION; a word that, although fair to use, is (appropriately) rarely heard in conversation. Also, ELISION’s first two letters feel contradictory to the nature of the theme.

  3. sandirhodes says:

    FWIW, cute pairing at 47D & 48D in the Newsday today.

  4. Kvon says:

    I would like to stand up for the OCHERS and the umbers, I like the words. (The colors, not so much.) Plot, it’s REAL as a singular; in spanish, REALES is the plural. It looks like the plural of the Iranian/Omani/Yemeni rial is rials; I don’t know about the riel or the riyal.

  5. Jenni says:

    Plus ELAND, classic crossword-ese. REROOFS is at least a word I’ve used (well, REROOF, anyway) but RESEEK did it for me. Feh.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m the opposite of Sam. I think GEORGE W. is completely familiar and can’t say I’ve heard George II or G-2 much.

  7. pannonica says:

    Yes. True about Burma/Myanmar.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    I think hatin’ on ALARIC is warranted. Especially above RESEEK. I wanted to THROW IN THE TOW on this one early.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Naming consultant Nancy Friedman just blogged about the Bayer aspirin genericization over at her Fritinancy blog.

    Nancy also wrote about Campus Crusade for Christ’s recent renaming to “Cru.” Hey, crusaders! We crossworders had that name first. Now give it back.

    (I’ll bet 99.5% of you don’t know the word fritinancy. Neat word.)

  10. Gareth says:

    Pro Alaric – what Joon said.

    Anyone else try DEODARS before BALSAMS? Talk about going for the five-dollar tree!

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    I was kidding about G-2, but honestly I hear George II all the time. This may have something to do with having a job in academia.

  12. pannonica says:

    Hmm. Fritinancy. Crepitance could work too, even if it was coined two centuries later. I like the consonance in “the crepitant drone of cicadas.”

  13. littlebiggygirl says:

    crossword puzzler news – Will Shortz has been given the biggyAward for his puzzle genius:

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