Wednesday, 11/9/11

NYT 4:28 
Onion 3:45 
LAT 3:26 
CS 6:05 (Sam) 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 9 11 1109

I think I’ve seen ROLO (14a: [Chewy candy treat]) in at least three recent puzzles. I like caramel and chocolate as much as anyone, but this quasi-cylindrical candy is nowhere near popular enough to be showing up as often as OREO.

Paula’s theme entries are all INNKEEPERs in that the letters INN have been inserted into familiar phrases:

  • 20a. WINNING-FOOTED is clued as [Like a successful marathoner?]. It’s not feet that win marathons—it’s sheer endurance. In fact, wheelchair marathoners don’t need feet at all. I wish this had been clued with reference to Cinderella. Also? WINNING-FOOTED is a horrible phrase.
  • 28a. [Helsinki hoosegow?] clues FINNISH TANK. Pen, slammer, prison, jail, clink, stir, can—all of these are “hoosegow” equivalents that come to mind before TANK. Wish this had been clued as an armored vehicle or gas tank.
  • 48a. SINNING SONG is clued as the [Call of a siren?]. Eh.
  • 57a. “GUINNESS AGAIN?” is a [Jaded ale drinker’s question?]. Okay, I like this one. The theme is batting .250.

Do you agree that this puzzle settled in at the Thursday difficulty level rather than Wednesday?

Best clue: 42d: [Chemical agent for climate change] is an ANAGRAM! Cool.

Least familiar name clue: 46d: MATILDA, [Title woman in a Harry Belafonte song]. Not ringing any kind of bell at all.


Worst fill: 1d: GROW DIM, [Darken]. Don’t think this reaches the level of a lexical chunk. Solving experience also not enhanced by SOHIO, ERN, UIE, TAL, OTOE, ENNE, ISO, LEDS, ETAS, OTT, GST, SDS, and HOO. The good stuff didn’t keep me from noticing these little guys.

Three stars.

Matt Gaffney’s swan song Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 11 9 11 Gaffney

Matt is “retiring” from being one of the Onion’s team of crossword constructors. He claims it’s because exciting new projects command his attention, but I don’t know. I heard a rumor he’s ducking out because of a history of making inappropriate advances towards Herman Cain.

Aptly, Matt’s theme hinges on 49a: HELLO GOODBYE. That Beatles song has lots of opposing pairs; e.g., “You say yes, I say no / You say stop and I say go, go, go,” “You say goodbye and I say hello,” “I say high, you say low,” and “You say why, and I say I don’t know.” Well, the why/I-don’t-know pair didn’t make it into the puzzle but the others did:

  • 20a. [Card game with a split pot] is HIGH-LOW POKER. Never heard of it. What is this, a Peter Gordon puzzle?
  • 27a. [It has only two possible responses] clues a YES/NO QUESTION.
  • 44a. [Annoying conditions when driving a stick shift] clues STOP-GO TRAFFIC. In Chicagoland, it’s either “stop-and-go” or “bumper-to-bumper” traffic. There is no “stop-go” term.

All right, 1-Across looks like it’s got a clue from a database. [Apple with some color] is an IMAC? I am writing this blog on an iMac. It has colors, sure. Silver and black are colors. The “color” clues for IMAC date back to when Apple had all those candy-colored shells. They’ve stuck with white, black, and silver for I don’t know how many years now. A lot.

Freshest answer: 36d: I GOT LAID, a [Frat boy’s boast]. You know he’s lying, right? He passed out alone.

Weird prepositional verb phrases:

  • 14d. [Organizes, like a field of hay] = BALES UP. Really? It’s marginally better than [Actor Christian goes to bat].
  • 37d. [Gradually remove, as clumps in flour] = SIFT OUT. Who on earth says they’re SIFTing OUT clumps in flour? You’re just sifting flour.

Weird noun phrase: 35a: [Slapstick staple] = PIE TOSS. Is that a thing, “pie toss”? I think it fails the lexical chunk test. You can’t sift that chunk out of the raw material here.

3.25 stars.

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 9 11

Looks like it’s opposites day. Or “two words that go steady together but aren’t opposites” day. Five going-steady word pairs are mashed up “Before & After” style with a word/phrase that ends with the word pair’s beginning, like so:

  • 16a. [Recommendations at the salon] clues HAIRDOS AND DON’TS. As in “Don’t skip conditioner; your hair’s really dry.” Cute that NO-NO crosses DON’TS.
  • 21a. [Intricacies of cells] are the ins and outs of cell phones, or PHONE INS AND OUTS. I’m more familiar with “call-in” than “phone-in.”
  • 34a. [Attributes at the links] are GOLF PROS AND CONS. Smooth, that. On the plus side, you get to spend a few hours enjoying the fresh air. On the down side, golf can be inordinately frustrating.
  • 51a. [Vicissitudes of cargo space] would be HOLD UPS AND DOWNS.
  • 57a. [Miscellany of benevolence?] are GOOD ODDS AND ENDS.

A 75-square theme means the rest of the fill gets crunched. This is where your ULAN, OW OW, plural AGUES and LSATS, OOO, ODENSE, and ODED come from. There are a dozen 6-letter answers that help freshen things up a tad, though.

Two likes:

  • 52d. [Gogo’s pal, in “Waiting for Godot”] is DIDI, a nickname for Vladimir. Gogo is Estragon’s nickname.
  • 43d. I’m not sure that THE GAS fully merits the inclusion of the definite article in a crossword answer. But I’m amusing myself by thinking of it as other than [Something to step on while driving]. “What on earth was that sound?” “The gas.” Or “Aw, why do you need Maalox?” “It is the gas. I has it.”

3.25 stars. I think I’d have liked the puzzle better without 21a, and with 60 theme squares instead of 75, the overall fill would have been more fun.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Instrumental Figures” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 9

Today’s puzzle is a tribute to ADOLPHE SAX, the Belgian musician who created–wait for it–the saxophone. Sax sits at 63-Across, with the clue [Inventor whose instrument’s parts are suggested by 17-, 30-, and 48-Across]. Cleverly, those entries contain proper names, the ends of which are sax parts:

  • 17-Across:WALTER REED (the small piece of wood attached to the sax’s mouthpiece) has been a [D.C. army hospital name for over 100 years].
  • 30-Across: ALICIA KEYS (the brass or nickel thingies used to move the pads that open and close a sax’s air holes) is the [“Fallin'” singer]. Hopefully someone will help her up.
  • 48-Across: TINKERBELL (the flared part at the end of the sax) is the [“Hook” fairy].

I liked the tenor of this puzzle, and it was over alto quickly. There’s a playful feel to the fill, with answers like STREAKER (with the great clue, [Running buff in the buff]), INKLINGS, DIVE IN and STAGE MOM. On the other end of the spectrum, SET OFF, WHAM, POWS, and HAD AT IT give off a combative vibe that still feels lively. There’s even a mini-golf (not miniature golf) theme with both PAR and BIRDIE in the mix.

My favorite clue was the one for STREAKER, but other good ones were [London locals?] for PUBS and [Makes scat] for SHOOS. That last one gave me temporary pause–boy, that one could have gone in a bad direction.

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28 Responses to Wednesday, 11/9/11

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Also, for the record I do not *ever* take clues from databases. If you look here you’ll see that my clue for IMAC has not been used (at least in an NYT, and to my knowledge nowhere else):

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    But why clue IMAC with reference to the model that was discontinued eight and a half years ago? That’s an eternity ago in tech.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well I’m not a Mac user so my clue is apparently outdated. But it’s *not* from a database.

  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: ROLOs are pretty ubiquitous here in SA. Mind you, so are AEROs. I bet every crossword constructor wishes they’d catch on in the US! I’d call it Thudensday difficulty. Agree themers were a bit meh except GUINNESSAGAIN. GROWDIM is fine in my book, a bit poetic, but definitely lexical. HARDHAT as a synecdoche is indelibly linked in my brain to Nick Cave’s “Crow Jane”, it’s a pretty dark disturbing number that one!

    LAT: Ironically I can’t decide if the theme is meh, or really great! Top-notch handling of such a dense theme though: some crap, but not too much and it doesn’t stink that badly. Plus medium-length answers like DUMBO, CANCUN and BYRON are quite lively.

  5. John Haber says:

    Doubt I’ve ever seen a ROLO (and if you hadn’t and couldn’t decide between Nanna and NONNA, forget it). I agree that it was a poor puzzle, between forced theme entries and tons of junk fill.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    If ROLO doesn’t rock, try using second-largest FINNISH university: the U. of Oulu! It was in science headlines yesterday — “Bright Light into the Ear Canal Treats Seasonal Depression Effectively in Two Clinical Trials Presented by Valkee and University of Oulu”. (Price probably right!)

  7. Sara says:

    The non-theme clues made it Thursday-hard for me, definitely.

  8. pannonica says:

    Mad Magazine would usually call the actor Charles Grodin Charles Growdim in their parodies, but that’s far too obscure.

  9. janie says:

    see, and because of the musical tone of the puzzle, i thought tony’s [makes scat] was going to lead us to SINGS (like ella…). what with RAGA and DRUM, STAGEMOM, EVITA, the […bowie] reference for GLAM and the [concert venue] use of ARENA, this one definitely gives the edge to folks who head for the “arts & leisure” section of the paper (or whatever it’s called these days… ;-) ) before “sports.”


  10. Daniel Myers says:

    In re NYT 57A–Guiness is NOT an ale. It’s a stout. There’s quite a difference, you know. Doesn’t Paula frequent pubs?

  11. Howard B says:

    Thursday difficulty for sure. GUINNESS AGAIN was fun. The non-theme fill was really difficult, from the mysterious MOONSIGN and SOHIO (seen in puzzles, but not in life here), to that absolutely baffling MATILDA clue. The other themes just stumped me due to parsing difficulties, even after I figured out the +INN theme.
    I do enjoy an unexpected challenge, though. So no worries there.

    The vibe of this puzzle was so far from my wheelhouse, that in order to get back there I’d need to fly an interstellar craft, hitch a ride into town, hop two local buses and hike 10 more miles through underbrush to reach it.

    That said, I have no problem with ROLO. My dentist would agree.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    Fun, maybe, but also egregiosly incorrect, as any sot from Eire will declaim to you in no uncertain terms.

  13. D F says:

    NYT – still failing to understand the clue for ANAGRAM (42d) – any help?

  14. D F says:

    CS: TIE TAC? Ouch.

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    “Chemical agent” and “climate change” = anagrams

  16. Harry says:

    “Matilda, Matilda, Matilda, she take the money and run Venezuela.” It’s from the 1960’s, when Belafonte was #1.

  17. Harry says:

    How can I get through the week without a Matt Gaffney puzzle? Seriously, I’m going to miss them. Great work!

  18. Tony O. says:

    DF – what, pray tell, is the issue with TIE TAC? To quote my mother: “Look it up!”

  19. D F says:

    Tony O – tell me where you looked up that horrid variant.

  20. Martin says:

    Tie tac is in the MW11C. It’s been in three Times crosswords, once with a var signal and twice without.

    Because it’s in the Random House Unabridged without a “variant” indicator, a clue that calls “tie tac” a variant is incorrect and would normally be corrected.

    Dictionaries are always good places to start.

  21. Papa John says:

    Kudos to Matt for defending/explaining his choices. I wish more constructors would do that.

    FWIW, I sold TIE TACS ‘way back in the early ’60’s.

  22. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I like the orange TIETACS much more than the mint ones, and still miss the three-colored Dynamints of the ’70s (red, orange, purple). Who’s with me?

  23. Tony O. says:

    DF: RH2 – I’m not proud, mind you … But it did beat whatever other options were presenting themselves at the moment.

    Amy, we could have guessed you’d be partial to orange anything! How about we make TICTAC TIETAC(K)S – they could catch on.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Too dangerous, Tony—I would end up swallowing sharp metal things. It’s only funny until someone perforates their innards.

  25. jane lewis says:

    harry – matt gaffney has a weekly puzzle at his website.

  26. marciem says:

    Am I the only one who thought “makes scat” with sh**s in place had to refer to the “fecal material” definition of scat? I mean, I knew that it couldn’t be, but it sure looked like it had to be. Or is the scat/fecal reference too obscure?

  27. Tony O. says:

    Marciem, that was the intended misdirection – and I thought it was a fun coincidence that Paula had GUANO in the NYT. Apologies for making you go there – but thanks for taking the bait!

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