Friday, 7/29/11

NYT 9:51 
LAT 5:15 
CS 12:56 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:29 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 7 29 11 0729

It would be nice if my browser or internet connection would alert me when it’s going to be slow as molasses instead of letting me discover it for myself once the NYT applet clock starts rolling. “Click arrow key a few times, wait and watch the cursor move through the grid at a deliberate pace.” “Enter letters, wait for them to appear.” “Look for error, click on answer to view clue and confirm answer, wait for clue to appear on the screen.” (Eventually I figured out that 28a wasn’t SET UP at all, but DEBUT. I’d discarded my preference for DUROC over SUROC and overlooked the way 24d and 29d made no sense.) Really annoying, and I’ll tell you straight up that it colored my solving experience. I had no fun, though I think Paula’s puzzle is objectively pretty good.

There are eight 15-letter answers, and isn’t it refreshing that they’re latticed together rather than wedged into triple- or quad-stacks with ferociously ugly crossings? AUDITOR’S REPORTS is dry as dust, but most of the other 15s are terrific. We will not speak of the EDIBLE UNDERWEAR, except to say that the inclusion of a flavor in the adjoining CHERRY CHAPSTICK has an unfortunate echo. TOULOUSE-LAUTREC hardly ever gets that whole name into a grid, TAILGATE PARTIES and TRICK OR TREATING are fun, and BY POPULAR DEMAND is another juicy phrase.

The 3- to 5-letter fill ranges from perfectly fine to rather blechy (TARES, OONA, DUROC, plural RKOS, CCL). The 7s have some good stuff (OPEN-TOE) and some not so good (OIL SEAL).

3.5 stars.

Chris McGlothlin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 7 29 11

Thumbs down on the three-part cross-referencing theme revealer splayed all over the grid. If you can’t fit the 13-letter “LONG TIME, NO SEE” into the middle of the grid, you should strongly reconsider using that as your revealer for a drop-a-C theme—especially with the ugliness of the NO SEE partial piece. Having to turn to three different sections of the grid to get a single phrase turned me off of the otherwise ordinary theme:

  • 18a. [Sailing attire for 1-Across?] is ARGO PANTS (cargo pants). Oh, good lord, more cross-referencing?
  • 23a. [Dearth of frost?] clues LOW RIME RATE (low crime rate). “Rime rate” feels awkward.
  • 50a. [Do some tweezing?] clues PULL UP A HAIR (pull up a chair). I like the base phrase and the clue/answer combo are kinda funny.
  • 61a. [“I’ve completed the flag”?] might be Betsy ROSS WORDS (crosswords). Wait, we don’t say “Shakespeare words” or “Yogi Berra words,” so this just sounds off.
  • The revealer’s got this mangled clue: 10a, [With 42- and 66-Across, words to an old friend, whose end is a hint this puzzle’s grid and theme]. I hope the print version has added the word “to” after “hint.”
  • Wait! Blog reader reminds me there are two 7-lettter themers too. 38a: [Celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day?] clues USED ARS, and 40a: [Regional poem?] clues AREA ODE.


  • 48a. [Sole man] is a HERMIT, man of solitude. Nothing to do with feet or shoes, nope.
  • 26a. [Rowan Atkinson character] is MR. BEAN. A friend of mine’s toddler niece is named Rowan, and luckily she looks nothing like Mr. Bean.
  • 4d. [It’s often traded in] clues the OLDER MODEL, as in cars.
  • 21d. [Some ales] are AMBERS. Sure, it may seem like a semi-awkward plural, but I do like amber ales.


  • 15a. [Offenbach’s okays] are OUIS. Yes, Offenbach and okays both start with an O, but that name doesn’t sound remotely French! With MONDE, FOIE, Ballets RUSSES, RENES, and MELODIE, good gravy, there’s too much French here.
  • 44d. [French art song] is a MELODIE.
  • 41d. [Ranch addition?] clues –ERIA. Eriugh.
  • 62d. [Colorado sports nickname, with “the”] clues ROX, apparently short for the Rockies. Never seen this one before.
  • 55d. [Queue before U] clues QRST. The only thing worse than a 3-letter alphabet run is a 4-letter one.

2.5 stars.
Updated Friday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Egg Heads” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, July 29

The first word in each of the four theme entries describes a type of egg:

  • 20-Across: Here’s something you may not have known about EASTER ISLAND: [It’s at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle].  SOUTHEASTERNMOST might be useful as fill in T Campbell’s (hopefully) forthcoming Crossword Extravaganza.  Maybe it will include some Easter eggs.
  • 36-Across: If you guessed that [Horripilation] is a box set of gore films, you scored a big goose egg.  It’s GOOSE FLESH.  To me, it’s better known as “goose bumps.”
  • 42-Across: The [Player’s plague] is ROTTEN LUCK.  So named, perhaps, because the loser is often a rotten egg.
  • 56-Across: The [Cry of relief] is GOOD RIDDANCE.  Just ask most of the women I have dated.  Yet I always thought of myself as a good egg.

The two long Downs are interesting both for their inherent liveliness and for their trivia-based clues.  A [Quarter of an 1862 homesteader’s homestead] is the NORTH FORTY, and [Africa’s longest venomous snake] is a BLACK MAMBA.  NBA star Kobe Bryant refers to himself as “The Black Mamba“–does that mean he’s long, venomous, and/or a snake?  All three?

Other highlights in the fill include BEER MUG (clued as [Toby, for one], which meant absolutely nothing to me), MOB HIT (with the equally fun clue, [Whack job]), and TURNS OFF (I first had SHUTS OFF because of the clue, [Powers down]).  My favorite clues were [Key words in a pregame ceremony] (which works because the National ANTHEM was written by Key), [Hose hassle] for SNAG (because it fooled me into trying KINK first), and [Prepare to “fire” a Canon] for FOCUS.

I like the double duty pulled by [Gridlock] as a clue for both SNARL and JAM.  Likewise, it was kind of fun to see [Canadian sentence-enders, stereotypically] (EHS) right before [Word that rarely ends a sentence] (THE).  At first it made me think, “What the?!?

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Movie Remakes” (pen name Judith Seretto)

WSJ crossword solution, 7 29 "Movie Remakes"

What a lovely crossword. The theme is simple yet clever: Add a RE- prefix to a word in a movie title to alter the meaning, often significantly. A REMARK, for example, isn’t just making another MARK, and a REQUEST doesn’t involve making another QUEST. The whole puzzle was light and entertaining—I give it an enthusiastic four STARS (120a: [Rating units]).

  • 23a. [Tyrone Power film remake with the line “This mask is really itchy”?] = THE REMARK OF ZORRO.
  • 33a. [John Wayne film remake set in a library?] = THE RESEARCHERS.
  • 48a. [Robert De Niro film remake shown on late TV?] = MIDNIGHT RERUN. Would prefer if this clue described the re-movie’s plot rather than when it generically airs.
  • 64a. [David Carradine film remake featuring a winning basketball play?] = REBOUND FOR GLORY.
  • 82a. [Tim Allen film remake dealing with ordering a Ford with extras?] = GALAXY REQUEST.
  • 94a. [Zero Mostel film remake featuring randy rabbits?] = THE REPRODUCERS.
  • 109a. [Helena Bonham Carter film remake based on an Expedia listing?] = A ROOM WITH A REVIEW.

I sure never heard of 78d: OXTER, or [Armpit, to Scots].


  • “YOU RANG?,” SVENGALI, NO MERCY, LEW ARCHER, and FREE FALLS free-falling down the middle of the grid.
  • 79a. I got all tangled up here. [River to Cairo]? Well, that’s gotta be the NILE, but I want an O at the end because of NOTED. What the what? It’s the OHIO River, which meets the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. I like getting entangled and finding my way out of the mess, so this became my favorite clue in the puzzle.
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31 Responses to Friday, 7/29/11

  1. pannonica says:

    I think your solving experience definitely colored your rating. It wasn’t a stellar puzzle, but it was pretty damn good. Also liked the radial and reflective symmetry.

  2. Howard B says:

    Thought it was a beautiful-looking puzzle, and other than the whole AUDITOR thing, I really loved most of the fill here. Just struck me in the right frame of mind. Was surprised by most of the 15s as well. Nicely done!

  3. Jeffrey says:

    AUDITOR’S REPORT is a beautiful thing and so is this puzzle.

  4. pannonica says:

    Lying in bed, nearly asleep, I realized I’d typed radial when I’d meant rotational. Perhaps I’ll have a measure of peace now.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    I think your solving experience definitely colored your rating.

    Or, as Gallagher once said while revealing his smooth pate: “Never let your mother brush your hair while she’s mad at your dad.”

  6. Jeff says:

    I liked the puzzle, but: “luck onto”? I’ve heard of “luck into,” but not that.

  7. Jim Horne says:

    This NYT is one of my favorite puzzles of the year so far. It’s clever, it’s funny, and it’s unexpectedly brave. Brava, Ms. Gamache, and kudos to Editor Shortz for running a crossword that just might be a little controversial.

  8. joon says:

    yeah, those 15s were terrific! one after another was unexpectedly delightful. (well, except for INTEREST RATE CAP.) if you are going to build a themeless around 15s, they should kick ass, and these did.

  9. Jim Horne says:

    Indeed, the 15s are terrific, and even the rate cap works for me. I wonder if the interwoven 15s tend to make for more interesting grids than the stacks.

    You can see all the NYT grids with 8 or more 15s here. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Paula used the exact same grid pattern last year. One of the entries I never got around to writing about (I used to write a crossword blog) is a story about how certain constructors, including Manny Nosowsky, tended to reuse grids they liked. I have my theories but I never interviewed any constructor about that particular question.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed Paula’s puzzle pattern too — and have to say I “lucked onto” a good thing last Sunday. A cheery leprechaun came with tow truck after my van was vandalized in the night, and he had a mystical solution for the ripped-out ignition device. He could start the engine, but we would have to leave it on all the way home from London, Ontario to Albany NY — never put the gear in Park or it would be dead. His spell worked, thank goodness. We had some computers stolen, but things could have been so much worse… What a weird end to a lovely vacation! (Hi, Jim H.!)

  11. Tuning Spork says:

    Wow, a 2-star aggregate on the LAT.

    Just curious. If the LONG/LOAD crossing was GONG/GOAD and the TIME/DEMI crossing was TILE/DELI, and 66-Across was clued as [“Long time” follower, and a hint to this puzzle’s grid and theme] (noting that there are no “C”s in the grid at all), would that have garnered it a much better rating?

    In other words: is it the awkward cross-referencing, alone, that brought this puzzle crashing down in flames among the 1- and 2-star raters?


    I noticed just now that the “aggregate” 2-star rating is (thus far) made up of 1 rating. But the question still stands. :-D

  12. Jeff says:

    Ditto, beautiful puzzle today!

  13. cyberdiva says:

    I liked the NYT, especially since I found it easier than almost any other Friday puzzle that I’ve done. I’m puzzled (hmmm), however, by Jim Horne’s comment that it’s “unexpectedly brave” and “a little controversial.” ??? Have I missed something (as is often the case)?

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m guessing that J.H. is refering to EDIBLE UNDERWEAR.

    But, I neither speak for Jim nor know his taste for sweets.

  15. Plot says:

    I haven’t checked the database, but it felt like all of the 15s were making their debut in this puzzle. It’s been a while since a puzzle had this many original 15-letter entries. Had some trouble with the symmetrical OILSEAL and OPENTOE, but the rest was a very smooth solve.

  16. Gareth says:

    Great puzzle! Lots of 15s but rest of the puzzle still felt pretty lively, which is often not the case! Lost more than 2 minutes finding OPENTiE/iNTO. Chest polish? Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec isn’t going to get his fill name in a puzzle anytime soon, but we got more than usual! Amy, are you sure it’s your browser and not, say a virus?

  17. Gareth says:

    Jim Horne: “certain constructors… tended to reuse grids they liked”. I’ve only dipped my (open) toe into making themelesses, but I’ve always put down a few entries I liked and then plonked black squares around them; interesting to hear how the professionals do it!

  18. pannonica says:

    re: WSJ: Oxter has long been one of my favorite words to keep…ahem…up my sleeve. Much more fun than axilla. Acquired it from seeing (and reading) The Oxter English Dictionary on my mother’s shelf.

  19. Meem says:

    Loved Paula’s puzzle. And was not nearly as off put as Amy by the LAT. A solid three stars.

  20. Zulema says:

    Not being sidetracked by Applet problems and just using my pen, I can agree with Jim Horne and Jeffrey that it was (is) a beautiful puzzle. The long entries covered many different subjects, a big plus in my subjective judgment. Thank you, Paula and Will.

  21. animalheart says:

    C’mon, this was a great Friday NYT! My only real sticking point was trying for a while to work around ROTATOR for the tire shop employee. But the 15s were terrific. 5 stars for Paula from this solver.

  22. Lois says:

    cyberdiva: See Rex Parker for a few more.

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    Great fun w/ the NYT today! Amy, you seem to have lopped off a century in that “Mid-century year” in your write-up on fillers; just feel like being a PEST today.:-)

  24. joon says:

    just wanted to say two things:

    1. i loved mike shenk’s WSJ puzzle. i don’t really know movies, so a couple of the base phrases were unfamiliar to me, but by and large, these were hilarious. very reminiscent of his ACPT #7 from 2009.

    2. i’ve got a guest puzzle today over at BEQ’s. check it out.

  25. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, Meme, the LONG TIME, NO SEE theme in the LAT tickled me. Wacky ROSS WORDS gave it away early on… And I REvisited the WSJ more than once today, but finally got it all with Once more UNTO the breach my last fill (sure it was INTO?) Favorite word was the 63D ROGUE, hanging down from REVAMP like teaparty moles wangling positions in the government solely in order to destroy it.

    Ah well, we may survive them as we did the KnowNothings 150 years ago. Looking forward to your puzzle at BEQ’s, joon!

  26. Dan F says:

    I think Joon’s is Puzzle of the Day – I’ve enjoyed other Shenk creations and NYT Fridays more recently, but that was the most fun (themed) puzzle at BEQ’s in a while. Not damning with faint praise, mind you…

  27. John Haber says:

    I liked the symmetry and unusual (and unusually placed) long entries, too, although a few weren’t in my cultural universe. Indeed, TAILGATE PARTIES and EDIBLE UNDERWEAR were why the NW was especially hard for me, and maybe not very satisfying for me, as was a big of the SE owing to MOUNTER. But an admirable challenge all the same.

  28. Jeff Chen says:

    Count me as a big fan of the NYT. Anyone who knows me would accurately guess I said “hee hee hee” after uncovering EDIBLE UNDERWEAR. Hee hee hee, I said “uncovering edible underwear”.

    But my favorite clue/answer was AUDITORS REPORTS (no joke!). Clever misdirectional clue.

    Edible underwear, tee hee.

  29. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: I can’t believe you crossed the Gallagher Rubicon.

  30. Jan (danjan) says:

    I’m catching up on the last couple of days. I wanted to be a fan of the crossing 15s, but edible underwear and its clue did not pass the Saturday lunch test, never mind breakfast. Not just me; ditto the younger generation in the household.

  31. Jan (danjan) says:

    PS – still catching up! joon – I enjoyed your puzzle, and glad it found a home at BEQ.

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