Tuesday, 9/20/11

Jonesin' 4:58 
NYT 2:38 
LAT 2:44 (Neville) 
CS 8:51 (Sam) 

Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 20 11 0920

The Tuesday theme is RENT-A-CARS, with four long answers all beginning with the names of car rental companies:

  • 17a. BUDGET CUT.

You could be excused for thinking the theme had to do with the federal government and finance, because except for the ANTHEMS, those answers all have a financial bent to them. (Which is what the rental agencies were going for when they named themselves.)

Visitors from the land of Crosswordese (Repeater County) include APIA, ALPE, ARA, URAL, ADE, SER, -ZOA, RAF, and ELO. They are ruled over by the URIAHS. Also on the down side, we’ve got the crossing INs in IN AN/IN HALF.

On the plus side, we are treated to LOUIS XI, the LEFT WING, PAC-MAN, GRUMPY, and MOJO. My favorite clue is 2d: [Mice or men], which had me thinking of MAMMALS rather than a PLURAL. (My son is reading Of Mice and Men for sixth-grade English. Sixth grade!)

Anyone else fill in TEEN instead of PEON for 71a: [McJob doer]? That’s rather insulting, isn’t it, given how many low-wage jobs are currently filled by overqualified people who would much rather be doing the better job from which they got laid off? Those “peons” are lucky—they have a job.

I filled in the [First wife of Julius Caesar] via easy crossings and never really even saw the clue before CORNELIA was there. That was the name of the street where my husband and I had our first apartment.

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. 3.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Juggler’s Blues”

Jonesin' crossword solution, "Juggler's Blues" 9 21 11

Who needs “Smuggler’s Blues” when you can have “Juggler’s Blues” instead? And what bums out a juggler? Dropping his or her balls. In this puzzle, the balls are represented by the letter O, tumbling haplessly to the bottom of an entry:

  • 33a. [Drops like balls in a bad juggling act?] clues FALLS TO THE FLOOR. As seen in the following three answers.
  • 4d. [Uninformed, like a bad juggler?] would be OUT OF THE LOOP, except the four O’s have fallen prey to gravity: UTFTHLPOOOO. This is a tad like an answer in a vowelless crossword, only the vowels have been heaped up at the end.
  • 11d. [Warning from a bad juggler?] is LOOK OUT BELOW, displayed as LKUTBELWOOOO.
  • 30d. [Somewhere between abysmal and fair, for a bad juggler?] is NOT SO GOOD, or NTSGDOOOO.

Fun way to make gdoo use of vertical answers. And these jugglers are skilled enough to try tossing four balls at once—they just don’t quite manage to keep them up in the air.

I know a couple who met through a juggling group. Htbed f rmance OOO, all right.

Now, what’s in the fill of this puzzle is of variable quality. I like ROSIE PEREZ, the stacked 7s at the top, and THE OCHO (62a: [Nickname of ESPN8, in the 2004 movie “Dodgeball”]). But lo, there is hideousness in 3 letters, times 3:

  • 54a. [Computer programming abbr. (FOE anagram)] = EOF.
  • 65a. [“Play this note with a sudden accent,” in sheet music abbr.] = SFZ. (Sforzando.)
  • 58d. [Radio band, for short (HEF anagram)] = EHF.

Thank goodness for those Merlesque anagram clues to help us out of the pit of despair.

Answer I feel I should have known, but didn’t:

  • 27d. DARI is a [Modern variety of Persian spoken in Afghanistan].

Overall, let’s call it 3.5 stars. The juggler’s dropped balls twist is cute, and it’s fresh and surprising. In a world with so many cookie-cutter themes, surprising is good.

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle answers

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle answers

Easy wordplay for a Tuesday puzzle? You betcha!

  • 20a. [Hullabaloo over a sudden policy reversal?]  – FLIP-FLOP FLAP
  • 33a. [Sign of table tennis tendonitis?] – PING-PONG PANG
  • 42a. [Bit of applause for an equestrian event?] – CLIP-CLOP CLAP
  • 58a. [Cry of frustration about a Hostess cake?] – DING-DONG DANG

Each of these theme entries repeats a consonant pattern with the vowel shifting from I to O to A. Plus, the first two syllables of each make a compound word. Finally, entries 1 and 3 rhyme; so do entries 2 and 4. With an entry like PING-PONG PANG, you’ve got to wonder if this puzzle was designed with Will Shortz in mind, but twas then rejected. I sort of get that feeling – the non-theme fill left me a little wanting.

The most exciting things in this puzzle are along the lines of CD-ROM, EL NINO, RIGS UP and C-SPAN. When C-SPAN is considered “exciting,” there’s some problem. The closest we see to a clever clue is [Big thing at McDonalds?], which is clearly MAC. I mean, this isn’t anything to write home about. There’s some nice CLUE parallelism with 16a. [Partner of well] (ALIVE) and 17a. [Partner of willing] (ABLE), and two coif clues for HAIR and AFRO, but it’s not much.

On the flip side, though, there’s nothing wrong with the puzzle. We don’t see an abundance of three letter abbreviations, partials, foreign nonsense, or other things we’d often frown upon. (This is the LAT puzzle – we know that it won’t ever fall into #badpuzzles territory) So it’s not bad. It just doesn’t wow me. The theme is great for an early week solve, but the rest is just a sprint to the finish. 3.5 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

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

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, September 20

It’s a straightforward title for a straightforward vowel progression theme, but anyone with experience in solving Bob Klahn knows that little else will be straightforward in the solve.

The theme features five expressions beginning with a three-letter word using the letter sequence P-vowel-T, and the inserted vowels progress from top to bottom in alphabetical order:

  • 20-Across: A PAT ON THE BACK is one way to [Congratulate] someone on an achievement. Congratulations to Jim Parsons on his second Emmy win for The Big Bang Theory. While I was rooting for Steve Carell, I have to say that the honor is well-deserved.
  • 31-Across: A [Particular annoyance] is a PET PEEVE. Like my peeve about bloggers who actually think celebrities will read their musings and care about their sentiments.
  • 38-Across: The [Tough terrier] is a PIT BULL. No joke here—I hear pit bulls hold grudges.
  • 47-Across: A [Braised beef dish] is POT ROAST. My mother used to make the best pot roasts; it’s but one of  the many things I miss about her.
  • 52-Across: To [Settle in for the long haul] is to PUT DOWN ROOTS. Another clue could have been [Write a bad review of an Alex Haley work].

This is one of those occasions where one uses the theme entries to figure out the rest of the puzzle (more often, the fill is used to helps solvers crack the theme entries). Indeed the theme entries were helpful in figuring out the answers to some of the tougher clues. Here are some notable ones:

  • I love the trio of idiots in the grid’s south that all share the clue [Doofus]. There’s a DODO, a DWEEB, and a BOOB all crossing each other.
  • I’m equally enamored of the crossing UZI, the [Gun with multiple safeties] at 12-Down, and [12-Down’s homonym], OOZY.
  • [Yo-Yo strings] is a super clue for CELLI, as Yo-Yo Ma is an accomplished cellist. If that second “Yo” weren’t capitalized the clue would have been even more tricky.
  • [Post-panning purity probe] is a wonderfully alliterative clue for ASSAY. Too bad I don’t understand it much.
  • I’m taking [Sch. for Buckeyes and Beavers] as a personal shout-out, as I’m a proud Beaver from Oregon State University, or O.S.U.
  • Anyone else try U.S.S.R. as the [Hammer and sickle letters] before tumbling to the C.C.C.P.? No one? Oh well.
  • My favorite clue was [Like some trigger fingers] for ITCHY. Wonderful imagery. A close second was [Fly-by-nighter?] for a RED EYE flight. Honorable mention to [One of a group of streakers] for METEOR. Those certainly weren’t the first streakers that came to my mind.

Overall, this felt a little easier for a Klahn puzzle. I normally need more than 10 minutes to get through them, so I’m guessing y’all will say this was on the easy side too. Agreed?

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16 Responses to Tuesday, 9/20/11

  1. Steve says:

    Mighty Lak a Rose? On a Tuesday? Ugh.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Delighted to see my name at NYT’s 11D, CORNELIA! It was my mother’s too, and came down from my great-grandmother Cornelia Dyer (for whom the street in Chicago was named, long before the age of the automobile — rental or otherwise)…

  3. Howard B says:

    @ArtLvr – nice!

    Technical note – Anyone know why sometimes the Times applet delays for a while upon starting, then actually starts at 00:10, :12, :15, or whatever time it’s decided you’ve waited long enough to load?
    Been happening more often lately. Not really a timing person per se, but that’s how I judge relative difficulty, and this one felt much easier than the final time – but I had a very heavy lag at the start.

    Finally, I still enjoy seeing PAC-MAN visit the grid from time to time.

  4. Duke says:

    Abbreviation for ICELAND is ICEL? Really?

  5. Jeffrey says:

    5 stars to Matt Jones for a wonderfully original theme.

  6. John says:

    Sorry to clutter the comments with technical issues, but the internal anchor for the LA Times writeup isn’t working. Clicking it takes you to a 404 error page that says to call Dave.

    ETA: Thanks, Joon!

  7. joon says:

    +1, jeffrey. that is to say, i agree and have also rated it at 5 stars. not trying to say it’s worth 6 stars. :)

    john, i fixed the LAT link.

  8. kludge says:

    Another five stars for the Jonesin’ Juggler puzzler. Loved the theme and loved THE OCHO. Too bad he couldn’t have worked OOCYTE in there.

  9. *David* says:

    Agreed Sam, I have come very close to doing a sub-10 Klahn but never managed it. This puzzle was my wavelength and obviously easier then usual and I crushed my record and stood in awe at a 6:30 Klahn.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @David-with-asterisks and Sam: Yep, easier than usual for a Klahn. I got under 4 minutes, which is within the standard deviation for other constructors’ themed CS puzzles.

  11. Howard B says:

    “The Ocho” still cracks me up, I’m sorry. Actually, I’m not.
    There’s an odd mental picture that goes with that, but you’d have to watch the montage of bizarre “sports” that accompany the clip to explain it. I unexpectedly lost it upon seeing that for the first time – I think it was the funniest little bit of satire in that film.

    On seeing a less-popular sport here (badminton championship from Singapore, say, which was actually pretty cool), or an unappreciated Olympic sport televised, I sometimes think of that scene.

  12. Bev Morton says:

    Amy, Janie

    No CS at the Island?


  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sorry, Bev! As usual, the absence of the CrosSynergy .jpz upload is a clear sign that Janie asked me to cover for her and I completely disregarded that neon orange reminder Post-it note on my desk. It’s there now.

  14. EOF is a perfectly legitimate (and common) acronym in CS land, it stands for End-Of-File. I might have clued it as “Ctrl-D, in DOS”. But since people outside of that small circle won’t have a clue about it, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a crossword with such a generalized audience. If it were part of, say, an MIT Mystery Hint puzzle, then it would be totally appropriate =).

  15. Sam Donaldson says:

    I’m tempted to make fun of the spam from Tendonitis Foot, but I would feel like such a heel….

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