Wednesday, 10/26/11

Onion 4:35 
NYT 3:52 
LAT 3:30 
CS 7:05 (Sam) 

Milo Beckman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 10 26 11 1026

Cute theme. If the cashier gives you INCORRECT CHANGE, you might end up with the following mangled phrases:

  • 17a. STOPPED ON A PENNY instead of a dime. (Just a hair more stopping distance.)
  • 22a. CAPTAIN’S DIMES instead of quarters.
  • 47a. A loaf of PUMPERQUARTER bread instead of pumpernickel.
  • 58a. PINCHING NICKELS instead of pennies.

Two singular and two plural. Two referring to coins and two referring to words that happen to be spelled the same but have nothing to do with coins. I’m not crazy about the two inconsistencies, but at least they both have a 50/50 split. And the theme answers all share a certain delightful lunacy.

Also not crazy about the fill. GANG SIGNS is super fresh, yes, and I like HOO-HA and GOTTA, but the AGAPE/A LOOP/A PAR/AFAR quartet felt like a lot of A-stuff. And then OTO ADZE AGAS EATER RAYE NITA NMI OAS ESA AMS also turned me off (and gave me a few additions to my Scowl-o-Meter word list). Note also the crossing SETs of RESET and ONSET in the southeast corner.

2.95 stars.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 10 26 11

Circle, whirl, spin, and spiral are all verbs that mean roughly the same thing. They’re also nouns found at the end of these unrelated phrases:

  • 17a. The ANTARCTIC CIRCLE is the [Latitude between the South Frigid Zone and South Temperate Zone].
  • 27a. [Tried something out] clues GAVE IT A WHIRL.
  • 48a. [Test-drove, with “in”] clues WENT FOR A SPIN. I’m not convinced the with “in” bit is needed. Although getting around the preposition might entail recluing as [Took a test drive], which duplicates the word “a.”
  • 63a. [Macroeconomic theory to explain inflation] is the WAGE/PRICE SPIRAL. If you’re curious about that, here’s a summary.

Five more answers:

  • 10a. An [Avon lady, e.g.?] is a BRIT if she lives in that county of England. More of an ex-county, actually, but I like the gist of the clue.
  • 20a. [Surfboard fin] is a SKEG. We don’t have a lot of surfers here in Chicago; I learned this word from crosswords.
  • 9d. [“You’re not the only one!”] clues “SO CAN I!” This is one of those “playground retort” sort of answers, but it’s far less commonly used in crosswords than AM TOO, ARE SO, and their ilk. Looks like Socani, doesn’t it?
  • 28d. Your basic [Element element] is the ATOM.
  • 50d. The SPHINX is the [Egyptian with a riddle]. What a great crossword entry, SPHINX.

There are plenty of ways to clue 18d: COPTER without using [Whirlybird], which essentially repeats the theme’s WHIRL.

It feels like a 3.5-star puzzle, but then again, it has BAWDY, RUMP, POTPOURRI, and FUNK in it and I like those words. (FUNK could have been so much more fun than [Name on a dictionary]! Unless, of course, there is a Dictionary of Funk out there.) So let’s call it 4 stars.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, Matt Jones 10 27 11

Maybe I’m slow, but I don’t really get this theme:

  • 20a. [Occupy Wall Street crowd’s complaints about their wages?] clues WE EARN AND WHINE. I’ve been sounding this one out with an I-to-we switch and…Iron and Wine? Googling…okay, that’s a musician. But aren’t a bunch of the #OWS folks unemployed, with no wages to live on much less complain about? Not to wade into politics here, but I don’t know that I’d categorize the OWSers as whiners.
  • 39a. [Occupy Wall Street crowd saying they’ll pay NY for their cab rides?] changes the “I” sound at the beginning of Iowa State Fair to the “we” in WE OWE A STATE FARE. That doesn’t even make sense.
  • 56a. “Ice cream sundae” becomes WE SCREAM SUNDAY, [Occupy Wall Street crowd’s strategy for part of the weekend?].

I’m not aware of any overriding communal “we, not I” theme to the Occupy protests, so I don’t understand the rationale for changing “I” to “we” and homophoning the rest of these phrases. If you find this theme clever, please explain to me why so I can see it too. (It wouldn’t be the first time I failed to grasp what Matt J. is doing in his puzzle.)

Do you see the subtext to this puzzle? It’s right there, climbing up in the midsection of the grid: STAY AWAY, HATED ALAN ALDA.

2.5 stars, subject to reassessment if someone convinces me that the theme really does make sense.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Not Safe” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 26

The clue to 65-Down is [Not safe – and a word that can precede each part of 17-, 25-, 39-, 51-, and 64-Across]. My first thought–UNPROTECTED–wouldn’t fit. But then I remembered that Game 6 of the World Series is tonight, and that led me to realize the answer is OUT. Sure enough, “OUT” can precede each word in the theme answers:

  • 17-Across: The [Big display watched at the stadium] is the SCOREBOARD. At a regatta, the scoreboard might tell you which team has outscored its opponent in the outboard competition. Okay, so there’s no such thing as an outboard competition. Work with me, people!
  • 25-Across: PLAYLAND is the [Rye, New York amusement park]. I’ve never heard of this park–it sounds like the generic name for any playground. I decided to check it out online. I got excited when I saw that the park has an “ice casino,” but it turns out it’s just an ordinary skating rink. And here I thought it would be fun to outplay the house in a casino located in the outland of New York.
  • 39-Across: Ooh, look–a three-word theme answer: LAST MAN STANDING is the [Sole survivor]. To outlast one’s opponents in the reality TV game of Survivor, one must typically join an alliance that out-mans the other factions in one’s tribe and then hope to do an outstanding job of winning “immunity challenges.”
  • 51-Across: The BACKSIDE is a polite term for one’s [Rear]. In the Australian Outback, one might be more -likely to hear “fanny” when outside in public spaces.
  • 64-Across: One who is [Confined to home] is HOUSE-BOUND. And one stuck on a property with an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing might be on the first outbound train to another location.

Alas, I got off to a rocky start here as, for reasons I don’t know, I had JEEPS as the answer at 1-Across to [Wrangler and Cherokee, e.g.]. Of course, it should be JEANS, but I didn’t realize this mistake until I had every other section of the grid complete but couldn’t get the northwest to fall. [Martha Stewart, for one] had me flat-out stumped. It wasn’t until I figured out that the answer to [Hail] was EXTOL that I could finally see EX-CON as the adjective for Martha.

There’s 53 squares of thematic material, so it’s not like there’s a ton of room for exciting fill. I liked SNEEZY, the Snow [White cohabitant], SLEAZE, the [Dirtbag], the Divine MISS M, Bette Midler, and SKORTS, the [Hybrid golf garments]. Two items of note for newer solvers: (1) the [Greek peak] is OSSA; and (2) get to know ENNIO [Morricone of movie music], because a name featuring 60% vowels and two Ns is going to appear many times in a grid, even if the name is only marginally famous.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, 10/26/11

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    Same here on the NYT. Cute theme but the fill brought it down a few notches. If it weren’t for some of your Scowl-o-Meter list, it felt like a Monday or Tuesday.

    Adding to your list, if I could go just a month without seeing AT SEA in a crossword, I wouldn’t miss it for one of those three million seconds.

  2. Gareth says:

    Really liked how it all tied together. Agree on the fill, though 71 is quite high on the theme content chart…

  3. Aaron says:

    Nothing about “Faster’s opposite”? I thought that was cute.

  4. Anne says:

    Re – CrosSynergy: I think jeeps makes more sense at 1a, Sam. The only Cherokee jeans I know of are the Target house brand and that just doesn’t seem definitive enough as a jeans brand. Cherokee is their general clothing line. I really thought it was an error.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    Not sure what-all to make of the Onion theme, either. Though I’d guess the “Occupy Wall Street crowd”, in this context, includes more than just the unemployed/student protesters at the parks since they claim to represent “the 99%” as a whole. I dunno.

    The second theme entry seems off since “cab rides” is plural and FARE is singular. I guess the assumption is that they took the cab ride(s) but stiffed the driver(s). But cab drivers aren’t public employees — they work for cab companies.

    Incidentally, the clue for 13-D, [Member of Cleese and Chapman’s cohort], seems to have been half-changed midway through the cluing process, ending up as nonsense. Oopsie.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed the NYT today, well conceived and well executed — PUMPERQUARTER was a stitch. Why quibble over two singulars vs two plurals when the latter merely needed the S in order to fit? Who’d toss out a cute puzzle for such a supposed “flaw”? I’m glad Will S wouldn’t/didn’t!

    As for the Onion AV deal, I’d guess that was inspired by the the WE SCREAM/ICE CREAM diitty (“We all scream for ice cream”) and that’s one I might have put to one side as a no-go, after getting only so far. Timely yes, but ultimately incoherent…

  7. sps says:

    Just getting to the puzzle. Didn’t love it but that’s OK. But I was confused by one answer: what does NMI refer to (60D)? Yeah, I got it from the crosses but I still don’t know what it means. Anyone? Bueller?

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @sps: “No middle initial.”

  9. Martin says:

    There is no I in OWS.

    This week’s Doonesbury is about the fanatical anti-egoism of the leaderless movement.

  10. Jeff Chen says:

    I think it stands for “No Middle Initial”?

    I always like seeing a new puzzle, and appreciate seeing the constructor’s effort. I thought the NYT had a good starting idea, but was missing something. I would have liked to see the theme answers clued as wacky answers. Perhaps PUMPERQUARTER would be better clued wackily in the Onion though – let the highjinks begin!

  11. NMI means Non-Maskable Interrupt to me (in the context of CPU hardware), but I can understand why Will wouldn’t want it to be clued via that definition.

  12. Chris says:

    Re: Onion,

    I get the “we => I” aspect (OWS is all about forging a sense of solidarity among the 99%, moving from the individual to the communal), but I don’t quite get what Iron & Wine (a neo folk band), the Iowa State Fair, and an Ice Cream Sundae have in common. They’re sort of old fashioned Americana, I guess? Is that in contrast to OWS? If so, that’s almost more offensive than the idea that protesters are “whining” about what they earn.

    I liked the puzzle, though. It prompted me to learn that Iron & Wine is named after an obscure, old tymey protein supplement called Beef, Iron, and Wine. Sounds delicious.

  13. Mike says:

    Thought Matt Jones wove an unfortunate element of political partisanship into the Onion weekly. The Onion may pride itself an equal-opportunity “rag mag,” but labeling the OWS protesters “whiners” lacks taste. We (Americans) were born in protest.

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