Monday, 8/22/11

NYT 3:52 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:15 (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 6:49 (Sam) 
BEQ 10:39 (pannonica) 

Milo Beckman’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • 8/22/11 • 080211 • answers

This puzzle’s theme seems to be, as near as I can tell, “A to B.” I can’t be any more specific because there are inconsistencies. Let’s have a look at the lineup:

  • 18a. [Anti-abortion position] RIGHT TO LIFE.
  • 24a. [Abandoned, in a way] LEFT TO DIE. Aside from any analysis, I just want to point out that these first two theme answers convey fairly somber and sobering thoughts for a Monday morning; perhaps they’re better suited to a late Sunday night, which is approaching as I type this, along with some serious thunder and lightning.
  • 39a. [Not shown in theaters] STRAIGHT-TO-VIDEO.
  • 51a. [Satisfactory] UP TO SNUFF.
  • 60a. [Having no illusions or pretensions] DOWN-TO-EARTH.

All right. First, all the phrases are solid and in-the-language. Beyond that, the theme breaks down somewhat.

  • Four of the five A-sections are directions: LEFT, RIGHT, UP, DOWN. The exception is 39a, spanning the grid in the center. STRAIGHT is neither an absolute or relative direction as the others can be; instead, it characterizes the path taken in a direction. Perhaps we’re to give this one some leeway, as it’s the longest, sits in the center, and is unpaired both symmetrically and conceptually with another entry. Sorry to say, this reviewer is disinclined to cut STRAIGHT that kind of slack.
  • Four of the five B-sections are nouns. The exception this time is 24a, where DIE is a verb.
  • Both the RIGHT and LEFT themers are offset in their specified direction; this is good. On the other hand, although the UP and DOWN entries are appropriately positioned relative to each other and DOWN is located closest to the bottom of all five, UP does not play a similar role. This could have been overcome by placing these two as vertical entries. Speaking of which, in my estimation the theme did indeed GET OFF TRACK (3d). Yes, I’m saying it’s not 51-Across.

On the bright side, as befits an early-week puzzle, the ballast fill is also smooth, with a low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials). The worst offender is probably OLIO, with ST. LEO, RTE., and -OLA rounding out the bottom.

Other observations:

  • Row 6, FROG VANILLA, reminds me of the Monty Python skit about a purveyor of unappetizing ice creams. The titular flavor, Crunchy Frog, includes “…the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose,” and was mistaken by the constable for “almond whirl.” Note that EMBED sits right atop VANILLA in the grid.
  • 55d [Baby-to-be] FETUS recalls the themer at 18a, for whatever that’s worth. At least it wasn’t cross-referenced.
  • I like GROWL crossing WHOA, as the latter could easily be a reaction to the former.
  • 45a [2000 comedy “Me, Myself & __”] IRENE. Too bad the Hand of Shortz didn’t—or more likely couldn’t—revise the clue to reference the tropical storm (edit: upgraded to hurricane) currently threatening the Caribbean and Southeast United States. It did distract me a bit that IRANI and IN RE are clustered in the same area.

Stay dry.

Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Hi it’s Jeffrey here. I’m filling in for Amy as part of a complicated cross-border transaction as she visits Toronto.

Theme:  Even educated fleas do it
Anyone see the constructor’s name and think of a theme of removing the last three letters from American Idol’s names? Fanta? Reuben Studd? Taylor Hi?  Just me? Ok, moving on…

LA Times crossword Monday August 22, 2011

Theme answers:

56A. [Lyric in a Porter song that ends “Let’s fall in love,” and a hint to the starts of the starred answers (and 1-Across)] – BIRDS DO IT

  • 1A. [Sound from a tree] – CHIRP
  • 20A. [*Resolve once and for all] – LAY TO REST
  • 38A. [*Savings for later in life] – NEST EGG
  • 11D. [*Like unreliable short-term businesses] – FLY BY NIGHT
  • 27D. [*Do some scheming] – HATCH A PLOT
  • 69A. [Illegally off-base GIs] – AWOLS (Theme answers are symmetric right?)

Other stuff:

  • 14A. [Flamboyant evangelist __ Semple McPherson] – AIMEE. While in Canada, please refer to our hostess as AIMEE.
  • 18A. [Bath towel word] – HERS. Please comment if you actually have one of these.
  • 28A. [Arrive after a tough trip] – MAKE IT IN.
  • 33A. [Travelers’ lodgings] – INNS. MAKE-IT-IN INNS. They charge by the hour.
  • 42A. [B’way setting] – NYC. Abbreviation fans, you do know that NYC has one more syllable than New York, right? If you can make it there…
  • 46A. [The Beatles’ George] – HARRISON
  • Bees do it:  53A. [Cop’s route] – BEAT/68A. [Fava or lima] – BEAN. See also B’way, Beatles, be wrong…
  • 3D. [“__ be wrong, but …”] – I MAY. You’re wrong.
  • 6D. [Zeus’ daughter] – ATHENA. Did she have to go through her whole life being referred to that way?
  • 12D. [Olds Cutlass model] – CIERA. I saw you trying ALERO.
  • 24D. [Goal in checkers] – KING. Just got a checkers app for my too-smart phone so it can clobber me again. See also chess, backgammon, reversi… Phone, if you are so smart let’s see you produce the voice of someone far away.
  • 30D. [U-turn from WSW] – ENE. “When possible, make a legal U-turn” is GPS speak for “You missed the turn-off, you idiot!”
  • 35D. [Available for a date] – FREE. Being available for a date is not the same as getting a date. Source – high school.
  • 48D. [Conan of “Conan”] – O’BRIEN. I saw him on a Warner Bros. studio tour. He said hi. We tourists said hi. Wow, that story is so uninteresting when you type it.
  • 59D. [Its cap. is Reykjavik] – ICEL. We are back to removing the last three letters. Again, not easier to say than Iceland.
  • 60D. [Tracy’s Trueheart] – TESS. Madonna sings Sondheim.
  • 62D. [Cry out loud] – SOB. Baby cried the day the circus came to town. Cause she didn’t want parades just passing by her. I think I’ll end all my emails with that quote.

Let’s round this one off to 3 stars.

22D. [“Come on, we’re late”] – LET’S GO. Bye!

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Triple Plays” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 22

The proper way to read the puzzle’s title appears to be “trip-L plays,” as each of the three theme entries contains three consecutive Ls that straddle two words:

  • 17-Across: [American and National] is the rather obscure clue for BASEBALL LEAGUES. At first I thought we were going to get three baseball terms with same-letter trigraphs, but I struck out. Still, I like the extra tie-in to the puzzle’s title.
  • 35-Across: IN ALL LIKELIHOOD is clued as [Most probably]. Here’s where I insert something interesting or feebly amusing. It’s been five minutes now, though, staring at a blinking cursor in this spot—and I’ve still got nothing. Let’s just move on, shall we?
  • 53-Across: One [Turnpike convenience] is an EXPRESS TOLL LANE.  (That’s one way to stretch an 8-letter theme entry into a 15 letters.) Other turnpike conveniences include less traffic and, often, higher speed limits. Turnpikes are pretty rare in my neck of the woods, so I’m always caught a little off-guard when driving along much of the east coast.

Only three theme entries, you say? Well, the puzzle is called “Triple Plays,” so in this case three theme entries is a nice touch. Highlights in the fill include LION’S SHARE, the [Biggest portion], BEER HALL, the [Oktoberfest locale] (I wanted BEER GARDEN, though), and MIX-UP, the [Checkroom problem]. I confess that last clue didn’t make much sense to me, as I was hung up on the fact that mix-ups aren’t unique to checkrooms. I might have liked a clue that referenced a mix-up in a hospital nursery (whence the expression, “switched at birth”), but that could be difficult to pull off in an entirely non-offensive way.

My favorite clue of the group was [Bettor business bureau?] for CASINO. Speaking of which, Casino was on cable TV for the 2,000th time this year, and yet I still got sucked in. That movie never fails to halt my channel-surfing.

Under the heading of “Things I Learned Today” comes an alternate definition for BASTES. I knew it only as the periodic moistening with liquid (as in “bastes the turkey,” a fun euphemism to pull off the shelf every November), but my dictionary confirms that it also means “to sew loosely with large running stitches so as to hold together temporarily.” Thus, [Stitches loosely] is an accurate clue, though it was of no help to me during the solve.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday” — pannonica’s review

BEQ Crossword #360 • 8/22/11 • Themeless Monday #130 • 8/22/11 • answers

Nice, dense puzzle. I love having the reliably “Hard” puzzles to act as counterweight to the rest of the Monday fodder, but am also thankful that it’s the last crossword to be made available, as it’s better to gear up to it.

Three fifteen-letter spanners in the grid, two across and one down. A thirteen-letter center across rounds out the longest entries. All very natural in content and clue.

  • 17a [“Can we talk?”] I NEED SOME ADVICE. Colloquial and chatty.
  • 33a [According to everybody] BY ALL ACCOUNTS. Smooth.
  • 53a [A long résumé may reflect one] CHECKERED CAREER, which does not require that you have experience driving an old-style cab.
  • 8d [Valentine’s Day staples] ROMANTIC DINNERS. Indeed, though I was snagged for a while by having TSA instead of NSA intersecting at 47a [Govt. org. with an “Information Assurance” section on its website].

Dense fill distributed nicely across the plane, including stacked tens in the NW and SE, vertical stacked eights in the NE and SW. 58a [As it happens] is a lovely misdirectional clue, since the solver may be primed to interpret it as another casual spoken phrase and not notice the lack of quotation marks; instead it’s a rock-solid description of IN REAL TIME. In the same corner, [Shop come-on] is a double duty clue for the crossing 60a and 52d, LOSS LEADER and SALE. Clever cluing throughout.

Trickiest clue: 54d [. followers] CTS. Easy to gloss over the period and the lowercase ‘f,’ especially in the on-line version, where the clues are usually read individually above the grid, as opposed to appearing in a list. That’s cents, after a decimal point.

Least favorite entry: 38a [Passport, e.g.: Abbr.] IDENT.

Other observations:

  • How can you not like the no-nonsense, minimalist clue for 37d? [Crap] is OBJECTS. That was unexpected and elicited a big smile.
  • Completely unfamiliar with 31a [DJ __ Da Housecat] but FELIX was guessable with just a letter or two in place.
  • No idea also about 45a [Tek __ (fictional spy supposedly created by Stephen Colbert), but easy crossings had it practically solving itself. JENSEN.
  • It never occurred to me that 22a [Manny Pacquiao stats] wouldn’t be either RBIS or ERAS. Silly me, he’s a boxer (and there isn’t a tie-in with 39a [Punch-out time?] BOUT, which I would have uncharacteristically welcomed this time).
  • More affiliated material:
    • Café AU LAIT and SANKA.
    • The Stillwater River divides ORONO, while the Santa Trinita bridge crosses the ARNO River. And, er, ‘Aunt FLO.’
    • Greeks and Romans living together! SPARTA alongside the AENEID.
  • New vocabulary word for me: hogget in the clue for EWE.
  • And one last bit of demotocism: SHEESH [“Some nerve!”]. This may be your reaction, too, when you see how many write-ups I’ll be contributing this week. “Not again!”
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19 Responses to Monday, 8/22/11

  1. Plot says:

    I wasn’t too bothered by STRAIGHT not quite fitting the theme, but I was bothered by the clue. The clue is technically correct, but I think the phrase “Straight-to-video” has become obsolete because in that instance, ‘video’ was explicitly an abbreviation of videotape or videocassette (people have never said “Straight to video” when referring to DVDs, mpegs, laserdiscs, etc.) . Thus, I felt the clue should have indicated that the answer is no longer completely synonymous with the concept of “not being shown in theaters”. In a few years, I’ll probably be saying the same thing about “Straight-to-DVD”.

  2. john farmer says:

    I don’t see any problem with STRAIGHT TO VIDEO or its clue. Video is more than just VHS. For many years into the DVD era, studios continued to have “home video” divisions (they’re more likely to call them “home entertainment” divisions now, which also includes VOD, or video-on-demand). The term straight-to-video (or direct-to-video) orignated in the VHS days but lives on as a catch-all for DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD (yes, VHS is dead: we tried to donate some VHS movies to a library today but were turned down; they were happy to take our DVDs, though.)

    As for the theme, seems to me if your only directions are LEFT, RIGHT, UP, and DOWN, you may have a hard time reaching your destination. I’d say STRAIGHT is not only a direction but often necessary.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    It’s interesting, a phrase like “straight-to-video” where the technology is obsolete but the phrase lives on. “Drunk dial” is another one.

  4. pannonica says:

    john farmer: Who said anything about reaching a destination? *smile*

  5. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT is about moving around, so after your 3-D directions and bonus RTE, I thought the idea of increased or decreased speed in BLADE RUNNER and GET OFF TRACK made for great additions, not to mention the ATM availability to keep things going… No need to make Monday boundaries too constricting! You could also throw in BEAR, as in bear right at the curve….

    As for the LAT, that isn’t strictly for the birds either. AWOLS are in flight too!

  6. poppa says:

    LAT- cook book writer Bombeck’s name is “Erma”, therefore Cole Porter quote should read “Berds do it”. Inexcusable, since her name appears in more puzzles than Obama’s

  7. pannonica says:

    (Irma Rombauer wrote the Joy of Cooking. Erma Bombeck is a humorist.)

  8. janie says:

    >It’s interesting, a phrase like “straight-to-video” where the technology is obsolete but the phrase lives on. “Drunk dial” is another one.

    ditto, when referring to recordings on cd, “albums.”


  9. janie says:

    >”only three theme entries…” which also happen to be 15s. nuthin’ to sneeze at, imoo. ;-)

    also, because my mother (and grandmother at times) made a *lot* of my clothing when i was a kid, i was well-acquainted (probably first-acquainted) with the [Stitches loosely] meaning of BASTES. not that they both weren’t great cooks, too, mind you……..

    bye now!


  10. Phil says:

    Part 4,234 of my continuous ranting about sloganizing deep thoughts: Lion’s share originally meant a much more interesting thing than the “greatest part”.

  11. Gareth says:

    This is so WEIRD!! I’m using a PC lab PC whose internal clock is going too fast. So the time when I hit done on my applet said 5:28, but on the leaderboard it’s 3:25. Similarly my AL LAT says 5:12, but I checked the timer shows 12 seconds as having elapsed for every 8 on my watch??? Have you ever come across that before? So my LAT is an extrapolation from the ratio of real to reported time of my NYT.

    I wonder if Mr. Beckman considered STRAIGHTTODVD? (wrote this before reading @Plot etc’s comment, it still stands) A central 13 is a lot more problematic grid-wise though! Theme was weird, as everyone said, otherwise a great puzzle though!

    Amy’s in Canada, so she gets someone else in Canada to write her blog? Sounds loony! Cute theme!

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Gareth: At the 2010 Crosswords LA, the computer clock counted down at double time on the first puzzle. Much mayhew ensued.

  13. john farmer says:


    Good point. It’s the journey, not the destination.

  14. Jeff Chen says:

    Tee hee, “…periodic moistening with liquid”. Such a pleasingly disgusting phrase.

  15. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, Jeff. Originally it read “slathering of liquid on one’s meat,” but that seemed even more disgusting.

  16. Harry says:

    Knowing BEQ’s penchant for pushing the envelope, I was really scratching my head over 41a “BJ’s alternative,” but the crossings saved me. Sam’s. :-)

  17. ArtLvr says:

    More amusing trivia — “Pipe dreams” supposedly derived from Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle’s description of opium-pipe smokers.

  18. Anne says:

    Jeffrey — Responding a little late in the day but I am the proud owner of a step-something’s (never used) His and Hers towel set. I have also never used them but they are endearingly “I Love Lucy”-ish.

  19. Jeffrey says:

    Cool Anne. I was convinced they never really existed in real-world land.

Comments are closed.