Monday, 8/1/11

NYT 3:13 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:05 
CS untimed (Sam) 
BEQ 5:05 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword puzzle 8/1/11 answers 080111

My solving time, 3:13, reflects the smoothness of this Monday offering. The only reason it wasn’t quicker is because I’m just not that speedy a typist. 36-Across identifies the theme: [Unfinished project … or, literally, what the answers to the eight starred clues contain?] A WORK IN PROGRESS.

That is, each of the theme entries contains the letter string A-R-T (as in artwork). Furthermore—or perhaps it’s accurate to say farther here—the string progresses through each answer. In the first, it’s at the beginning, occupying positions 1–3; in the second it’s 2–4, and so on, until the final themer, where it appears in spaces 8–10. All eight theme answers are ten letters long.

  • 13a. [Eloquent] ARTICULATE.
  • 17a. [British novelist who wrote “London Fields”] MARTIN AMIS.
  • 20a. [College near Philadelphia]. SWARTHMORE.
  • 25a. [Having both Republican and Democratic support] BIPARTISAN.
  • 45a. [National discount store chain] DOLLAR TREE.
  • 51a. [Container next to a bowl of cereal] MILK CARTON.
  • 60a. [Like some checks and vendors] THIRD-PARTY.
  • 64a. [Gradually separated] MOVED APART. This last one seemed weaker than the rest. OneLook offers many alternatives, including: brain fart, flow chart, crash cart/open-heart, spare part, objet d’art, head start/kick start/jump start/push start, star chart, and sweetheart.

Straightforward theme, smartly executed. I’m starting to appreciate how much skill it takes to achieve these ultra-smooth, solver-friendly puzzles for the early week slots. So few bits to nit: crossword regulars ESAI Morales, ARAL Sea, Al UNSER (Jr.), not much more than those. A couple of very common foreign words, a few very passable partials and abbrevs. Why is 52a ISLA [Jamaica, por ejemplo] clued citing an island which has no recent (pre-1655) Spanish history and which is not known for a Spanish-speaking population? The crossword convention seems to demonstrate that islas are clued con Spanish places, îles avec French, und inseln (as if!) mit German.

Last, nice touch having the central down clue and answer (27d) reinforce the progression theme: IMPEL.
Updated Monday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let’s Have a Party” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 1

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.  I should be happy my streak lasted more than four months.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out the theme here–so I humbly turn to y’all for help.  In a puzzle entitled “Let’s Have a Party,” we have what appear to be four theme entries laid out in pinwheel style:

  • 17-Across: [Now and Then] is not just the title of a Penny Marshall movie.  It also means ON OCCASION.  Is “party” supposed to precede the first word in each theme entry?  As in “party on?”
  • 55-Across: The [Outing for a foursome] is a DOUBLE DATE.  Well, “party double” doesn’t make sense to me, so I don’t think that’s it.  Is the theme simply terms for a social gathering?  That can’t be, because ON OCCASION would not fit.
  • 10-Down: The [Busy period on the farm] is HARVEST TIME.  Reminds me of my childhood, as I was raised on a Christmas tree farm, and harvest came at Thanksgiving every year.  Well, it’s certainly not a party itself, and neither “harvest party” nor “party harvest” feels familiar to me.
  • 24-Down: A [House in the Hamptons, perhaps] would be a SUMMER PLACE.  “Summer party” could maybe work, but that’s a stretch.

So the theme entries do not appear to be synonyms for parties, nor do they contain words that can precede or follow “party.”  I don’t see any hidden words contained in the theme entries, either.  I doubt HOME SALE is supposed to be a theme entry, because its symmetrical pairing, SCORPION, really can’t be one either (it would be the only one-word theme entry, and that’s frowned upon).  So I’m flummoxed as to the theme.

But I’m not at all confused about the fill; rather, I’m a big fan.  It’s not super-Scrabbly and it’s not filled with the freshest entries ever, but it’s smooooth and then some.  There are fewer three-letter words than is usually the case for themed puzzles, and there are no rare foreign words, no unknown rivers, and few abbreviations.  -EROO may be the worst thing in the grid, and when you think about it, it could be much, much worse.

Despite the smooth fill, I lost some ground in my solving time because I was getting distracted (at first, anyway, then worried) by not being able to see the theme.  Okay, I’m ready–I have my head hovering over my desk, and I’m ready for someone to explain both the the theme and how “easy” it was to see it.  If you hear a muffled thud from afar, you’ll know someone just explained it to me and I let my head hit the desk.  So as I crawl into the foxhole of embarrassment ready to accept my punishment, I’ll ask–what the heck is the theme?

[Amy suggests: Let’s have a party invitation, which lists the occasion, date, time, and place.]

Andrew Bannem’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 1 11

All righty, the theme here is ICE, a.k.a. the ROCKS, which is found or can be made in several forms:

  • 20a. [Microprocessor] is a COMPUTER CHIP. Wish this were CHIPS plural, as ice chips are hard to manage in the singular.
  • 39a. [Substance in a visual display unit], like a TV or monitor or digital watch, is LIQUID CRYSTAL. Ice crystals form in nature, but have they got anything to do with the ROCKS? I’m thinking no.
  • 56a. [Broth-making aid] is a BOUILLON CUBE. Three cheers for me! I spelled that right the first time I tried.

The theme’s small without the inclusion of ROCKS in the grid, but I found that a distraction because of the “ice crystals don’t go in drinking glasses” issue.

Strangest-looking answer: 41d: YELL UP TO, or [Shout at from below], looks weird without spaces in it.

Nothing fancy in the fill, though it looks at a glance as if it might be a pangram. If you can’t get a J without foisting an entry like E MAJ. on the puzzle, I’d just as soon do without it.

Surprised to see Baba Wawa in the clue for SNL, as those skits are more than 30 years old (but classic and memorable). Perhaps a Kristin Wiig or Jason Sudeikis reference next time, as both have been in big-time comedies this summer and have been on SNL much more recently than the late Gilda Radner?

2.9 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 354 answers

So Brendan says there’s a theme lurking somewhere in this puzzle. Near as I can tell, the theme is ANISTON TRIBUTE. Maybe ARIEL SHARON said she was UNDERWEIGHT?

Fave fill:

  • STAGE-MANAGE, ARIEL SHARON, and MAKES THE CUT are a great stack. The GOOD OLD DAYS were good while they lasted. The PEACE PIPE shows a SOFT TOUCH.

Unfave fill: MESH BASEBALL CAPs are tacky. Do not like. BEAM BALANCE seems unfamiliar. Is that really what those scales are called? TRURO is one of those places I know from crossword puzzles (granted, Brendan’s in Massachusetts himself, but most of us are not).

I went off and did a bunch of other stuff after doing this puzzle, so I lost my TRAIN of thought here. Oh, well.

A THREE-STAR rating would be higher if I had any idea what the theme was.

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18 Responses to Monday, 8/1/11

  1. Rihat says:

    Ridiculous theme density… 95 squares? Impressive.

  2. Plot says:

    Wow, this the only puzzle I can think of that has triple stacks of theme entries They’re not perfectly aligned, but getting 5 squares of overlap is still extremely impressive, espcially considering the constraints of a Monday.

    On an unrelated note, I’ve been having problems with CrosswordButler today; when I try to open it, it starts and then immediately stops running. Everything else on my PC works fine, so I think the problem is solely with CB. I e-mailed Alex about it, but he’s not sure what’s going on either. Has this happened to anyone before, and if so, was there a way to fix it? Thanks!

  3. Lou N says:

    I agree that MOVED APART is weaker, but 11 of your 12 alternatives appear to be one letter short. Pesky brain farts!

  4. pannonica says:

    Ooh. I trusted OneLook, counted question marks and everything. Still, user error? How did sweetheart get in there? Oh, I see. OneLook treats spaces as characters. Revised alternative list: blackheart, fresh start, Lorenz Hart, Mary Stuart, poles apart.

  5. Rihat says:

    There’s a crossword mode in OneLook. Check your settings.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Marvy — made for me, ArtLvr!

  7. pannonica says:

    Thank you for the tip, Rihat.

  8. janie says:

    thought joel’s puzzle was a total “wow.” between the stacked and overlapping (long *and* peppy!) theme fill and the amount of it — at no expense to the remainder of the puzzle — this is one to write home about in my book. given my time in solving it, however, felt more like a tuesday to me, but who cares? a great puzzle is a great puzzle.



  9. Dan F says:

    Plot, I’ve seen (mostly-)triple-stacked themes in Sunday-size puzzles by Merl and HH, but with Monday-smooth fill? That’s outstanding.

    The Butler didn’t work for me last night either, but it’s back to normal today, and that’s happened a couple times before.

  10. Jeff Chen says:

    Wow, color me impressed with the NYT today! Easily graspable theme for a Monday, but an audacious, extremely-dense construction which came out silky smooth. Fantastic!

  11. Sam Donaldson says:

    [Headslap] D’oh!

    Thanks, Amy!

  12. jamie says:

    @Sam – Oops, never mind. I see Amy has you covered.

  13. Jeff Chen says:

    Here’s a question to ponder. Is it possible to have three neap tides in a single month, i.e. if the first one happens the first day of a >28 day month? The cruciverb database is full of clues akin to “twice-monthly tide” but isn’t that incorrect?

    I’ve been doing way too much reading on tides for my latest stab at writing.


  14. Charles Montpetit says:

    @Plot – Crossword Butler did the same thing for me for a while. Then I noticed that if I just wait for 30 seconds or so, it starts working again.

  15. Charles Montpetit says:

    So what IS the “so barely-themed, it’s practically transparent” aspect of BEQ’s puzzle? Anyone?

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    @Jeff Chen,
    Three neap tides can occur in a calendar month, but not in a 28- or 29-day month because the moon’s phase cycle takes about 29 1/2 days. Since neap tides occur when the sun, moon and Earth are at right angles, neap tides occur, roughly, every 14 3/4 days.

    So, if the first neap tide occurs on August 1st at 1 a.m., the second will be on August 15th at around 7:22 p.m., and the third would be on August 30th at about 1:44 p.m..

  17. Jeff Chen says:

    Thanks for confirming, Tuning Spork! I meant to say >29 day. I forgot about Februaries in leap years!

    I’m surprised what with all the e-mails Jim Horne used to get about “incorrect clues”, no one’s called foul on “twice-monthly” type clues for NEAP. As recently as 11/8/10 the NYT used “Twice-a-month tide” in a puzzle.


  18. joon says:

    i think the “twice a month” clue is 100% correct even if there are very rare calendar months where it might happen thrice. “month” can also mean a lunar period.

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