Friday, 11/25/11

NYT 6:21 
LAT 4:51 
CS 5:45 (Sam) 
CHE 3:58 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 25 11

So, the puzzle loosened its belt after a hearty Thanksgiving dinner and made room for an extra row in the middle, allowing a central quad-stack of 15-letter answers. Too much turkey and not enough pie, though—the pie being sparkling fill and entertaining clues, the turkey being blah fill.

Pie: 16a: TAILGATE PARTIES, good stuff after a football day (go, Packers). 15a’s clue, [It might tax a levee] for WATER LEVEL. 62a: AVON LADIES is kinda cute, but I think the clue might be horribly outdated—don’t Avon reps use their personal networks and the internet rather than going door to door now? 64a: NEWS BREAK is solid (though I wanted it to be NEWS FLASH). 25d’s clue, [Backdrop for many singles matches?], totally duped me despite the question mark, as I put down BASELINE instead of BAR SCENE. I like that 28d: GOES SOUTH indeed travels downward.

Turkey: Lots of yucky short answers. There are partials (A SET, AS NO, IS SO). Abbrevs (NNE, NSC, ESC, GEN, TUES, UPI, plural AFTS, ALB, DAR, SLR). Fragments (NON-, -ANES). Crosswordese (AGA clued as [Topkapi title], and it’s only from crosswords that I learned that a movie called Topkapi exists and that it takes place in Turkey, and only crosswords that taught me that AGA is a Turkish title; soap actress RENA Sofer, ENS as letters). And some of the long answers are tryptophan-snoozy: GLASS CASE, WAXY COATING, TAKES NOTE, some 15s we’ve seen before (Joe himself used PENTATONIC SCALE in a 2008 puzzle). I don’t at all like GO HEAD OVER HEELS, which really wants to be “fall head over heels.” Also, I’m not sure about 45d: Does anyone actually say a stand-alone “NOHOW!” to convey [“Ain’t gonna happen!”]? I could see “ain’t gonna happen—no way, nohow!” but not just “Nohow!” Last but not least, this NOVIA, 48d: [Girlfriend, in Granada], is not a familiar word to those who don’t speak the language in question (which I think is Spanish). No, wait, I lied: One more, the Roman numeral LXIII.

Because of how many times I felt my face scrunching up with dismay while solving, 2.9 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Black Friday Checklist” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 25

That thing about tryptophan and drowsiness? Totally legit. But it still didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this fun crossword from Tony Orbach. Orbach gives us three items on the ol’ Black Friday checklist. (Well, since we’ve only had Black Friday for about ten years–according to this wildly biased (even by Wikipedia standards) article–I don’t suppose we can really refer to a traditional or “ol'” Black Friday checklist just yet.) Here are the items on the list:

  • 20-Across: There’s some LEFTOVER TURKEY, [Something to bring out for lunch on Black Friday].
  • 38-Across: We’ve got CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, [Something to bring out for decorating on Black Friday]. (Yipes! I tend not to decorate at all–blame it on growing up on Christmas tree farm. But when I do, it’s certainly not until around, say, December 15 or 20. Anyone reading this already have holiday lights up?)
  • 54-Across: And there’s CLIPPED COUPONS, [Something to bring out for shopping on Black Friday]. What about pajamas and a thermos of coffee?
  • 56-Down: For good measure, there’s the [List ender], ET. AL., short for “everything that’s accidentally leftout” (best I could do with all this turkey coursing through my system, sorry).

I’ll even give credit for GAS-X, the [Beano competitor], as a good item for a Black Friday shopping list, but perhaps that says more about my diet than you wanted to know.

Orbach consistently crams his puzzles with jazzy fill, and this one is representative of his skills. Indeed, there’s lots to MARVEL AT, including IN A TIZZY, PACK A BAG, LET LOOSE, CLEAN UP, and MILIEU. The cost of these treats? Fatty clunkers like MBE (which, to me, is the multistate bar exam, but here is clued as an [Honorary U.K. title], or “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”), ANNEE, SRTA, and everyone’s favorite skewers, EPEES. But those are very small prices for such wonderful juiciness throughout.

Just for fun, name the letter that replaces the question mark in this pattern: ?CING. If you’re like me (get thee to a therapist!), you tried I or A. I went with “I” when I read the first word of the clue, [Spreading…]. But sometimes it helps to read the whole clue. The rest says […as a memo, for short], and that leads to CC’ING, short for “carbon copying” (this time I’m serious). The lesson, as always: read the entire clue!

Stephen Edward Anderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 25 11

I like that this puzzle doesn’t include a revealer answer whose clue hits you over the head with the theme. Mind you, a revealer of ADD PI wouldn’t have much meaning outside of its theme explanation, as math people seem more into multiplying by π than adding it. A private investigator hiding in the bushes? I don’t know. Here are the theme answers:

  • 17a. [Field operation run by idiots?] is a STUPID FARM. How about [Operation that harvests the vegetables after they’ve rotted]?
  • 23a. [Track meet category for joggers?] is a LOPING DIVISION.
  • 36a. [Views from Hamilton?] are BERMUDA OPINIONS. You were thinking of $10 bills first, weren’t you? Hamilton is the capital of the British colony of Bermuda.
  • 49a. [Hook on a raft?] is a FLOATING PIRATE.
  • 59a. [Obsessive cleaners?] are WIPING NUTS. Good thing this wasn’t clued as a verb phrase.

The base phrases make for a fairly lively batch—stud farm, long division, Bermuda onions, and wingnuts are more fun than a floating rate.

Toughest clues:

  • The southeast corner of the grid has two gnarly answers. 56a: [Italian counterpart of the BBC] is RAI, and that sure isn’t common knowledge for me. But our constructor SEA spends a lot of time in Italy so I’m sure it seemed easy to him. Had a hard time getting the last letter because 57d: [“Indeed!”] doesn’t equate to “I SAY!” in my local parlance. The other crazy word in this corner is clued 64a: [Alternate version, in scores], and it’s OSSIA. Doesn’t ring a bell for me at all.
  • 6a. [Subj. for Aristotle] begged me to fill in PHIL., but it’s RHET., not a common answer in crosswords.
  • 20a. [Thrice, in Rx’s] clues TER. I think a lot of doctors don’t even know this one. Fairly woeful. (The answer, not the doctors’ knowledge.)
  • 63a. [Ecua. rejoined it in 2007] clues OPEC. I didn’t realize Ecuador was a petro-nation.
  • 31d. [Casa Grande residents] are ARIZONANS. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Casa Grande. *hand shooting up*
  • 32d. [Sixpack with no special qualities?] is JOE Sixpack, an ordinary schlub.
  • 40d. [Its headquarters are in Delft] clues IKEA. Swedish company, Dutch city?
  • 49d. [Jean de La Fontaine story] is a FABLE. Who needs Aesop?
  • 60d. The super-hoppy, bitter India pale ale, or IPA, is a [Type of beer orig. brewed in England]. Didn’t know it was from England.

My favorite clue is 21a: [Do the honors] for POUR. As in pouring tea or wine for more than one person.

Three stars.

Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Surprise Endings” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword • 11/25/11 • "Surprise Endings" • Holland • solution

Surprise! It’s the old change-the-last-letter theme, this time with film titles. The ploy of dressing them up in their original novel guises doesn’t elevate it to the typical Higher Education vibe.

  • 17a. [Novel about holiday candy?] A CHRISTMAS CAROB. The dickens, you say!
  • 27a. [Novel about getting British actor Michael to shut up?] THE CAINE MUTING. Did everybody see this when it went around the internet last year?
  • 48a. [Novel about a German man’s speech impediment?] SCHINDLER’S  LISP. The book was originally titled Schindler’s Ark, but now I see that the US version was always called Schindler’s List.
  • 61a. [Novel about a lost contact lens?] GONE WITH THE WINK. »Pa-choo!«

Four themers, two of fifteen letters, two of fourteen. Not a huge amount of material there, which probably accounts for the smoothness and quickness of the solve. In the main, the content and cluing of the ballast fill also doesn’t possess the CHE feel—so much so that I doubt the puzzle was intended for this publication. That said, there are some that are spun that way: some classical references with ARES, LEO, CASTOR, schools with COE College and ELON University, literature with ÉMILE Zola, D.H. Lawrence’s SONS and Lovers, Jane EYRE, and Oscar Wilde’s SALOMÉ. I suppose we could add SNEE, MILO Minderbender and ERLE Stanley Gardner to that last category.

Further notes:

  • Japanese autos intersecting: Toyota TERCELS and a NISSAN Maxima.
  • 52a [How ecdysiasts finish their act] BARE. If I have my lore correct, ecdysiast is a fancy but precisely apt word coined by H.L. Mencken at the behest of Gypsy Rose Lee.
  • 30d [Flapper topper] is a CLOCHE, which is French for “bell.” Makes sense, considering the shape.

I guess the theme answers are a bit amusing, but I won’t be remembering this puzzle.

Updated Friday afternoon:

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Buyer Be Where?” (pen name, Colin Gale)

WSJ crossword answers, 11 25 11 "Buyer Be Where?"

Finally gave up waitinfg for the .puz file to be posted and decided to solve it online at the Wall Street Journal website. Ick! Don’t like that interface at all. I like to see more than one clue at a time. So I went the PDF/pencil route, as you can see.

The theme entries all have a hidden 109d: MALL, never used as such when those letters appear inside longer phrases. There’s an unfamiliar-to-me movie, NORMAL LIFE; director LOUIS MALLE; a CROQUET MALLET with an Alice in Wonderland flamingo clue; ANIMAL LOVER (was today PETA’s throw-red-paint-on-fur-coats day?); YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL; FORMAL LOGIC; TITANIUM ALLOY; JAMAL LEWIS; and I’M ALL YOURS. Solid but unexciting; apt topic for the biggest and most horrifying shopping day of the year.

Mystery man: 72d: LHARRY JAMES, [Bandleader who married Betty Grable]. She’s so much more famous than he is.

Weird clue: 81d: [It may end in a twist] for a PIG. Be…cause of the twisty tail?

Favorite clue: 34a: [One who might have a shot] for a NURSE giving an injection.

Finest fill: LOWBALL, BELLY LAUGH, actress AMY RYAN (Amy power!), QUAVERY voice.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars.

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19 Responses to Friday, 11/25/11

  1. joon says:

    i don’t know this movie topkapi, but topkapi palace in istanbul is the former residence of the ottoman sultans and a pretty spectacular tourist attraction. that clue was fine with me. but i agree with you about the fill and clues being on the blah side. also, super bowl of 2029? that’s presumptuous. every other major sports league seems to be prone to canceling an entire season due to a labor dispute every so often; why not the NFL? but LXIII is pretty terrible fill regardless of how it’s clued.

  2. Gareth says:

    Mostly easy, except for the quad stack. That would’ve fallen a lot easier if I hadn’t gone and written lief instead of FAIN. Finished in 14:40 and spent two minutes discovering WAvYCOATING was wrong! Some nice medium and longer answers, but agree the sheer amount of filler drags this down.

  3. Martin says:

    Barry Haldiman’s annual “Litzmas” offering of 12 old Sunday New York Times puzzles is ready. There are 13 this year, by Maura Jacobson. The link is over at the Island of Lost Puzzles.

  4. pannonica says:

    Topkapi is kind of an homage/parody of the iconic French caper film Rififi, by the original’s director, Jules Dassin.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    [Third generation Ford Mustang model?] LXIII


  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Wow! Here’s one where my view is *far* more favorable and enthusiastic. Topkapi is not just a (wonderful)–the first great jewel heist – evade the alarm system – rappel in from above – movie, it is one of the greatest palaces in the world – a major attraction which evidently should be better known. The movie is also funny and amusing.

    Any puzzle with a pentatonic scale is a winner for me, and I thought all the 15’s were great. I don’t know “novia” and get stuck briefly on “amiga.” The pentatonic scale is what you get if you play the five black keys on a piano starting with the F#–Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, in diatonic solfege. It creates wonderfully atmospheric, moody music–much used by Debussy, among others. Loved the puzzle.


  7. pannonica says:

    re: LAT: IPA (India Pale Ale) was made with so much hops as a way to survive the long journey to the British Empire’s Indian territories.

  8. Jeff Chen says:

    WIPING NUTS: tee hee.

  9. Zulema says:

    I also put LIEF instead of FAIN, Middle English interference. And I don’t know about GEEK as a “Circus performer.” Carnival much more likely, and hope “past performer” is closer to present custom. Found the puzzle difficult in the bottom half and easy in the top half.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I’m with Bruce. I don’t understand the multiple one star ratings.

  11. MD Solver says:

    Slight nitpick with the Pannonica CHE review that left me feeling “meh” about the review as a whole: 58 theme letters is, I would venture to say, well above the normal. The low-end requirement on spec sheets for most 15x15s is somewhere between 35 and 40, and the NYT Monday-Thursday theme letter counts this week were 46, 41, 49, and 49, respectively. Sure, 58 doesn’t break any records, but calling it “not a huge amount of material” overstates things. I would describe that amount as “healthy” and probably “above average.” No quibble with the overall assessment of the puzzle, but that part was a tad unfair.

  12. Martin says:

    Jeffrey wrote:

    “I’m with Bruce. I don’t understand the multiple one star ratings.”


    C’mon all five of you one-star raters… let us know why you think Joe’s puzzle is deserving of such a low rating. Please enlighten me.


  13. John Haber says:

    I liked the puzzle, because I thought it was an achievement to make a quadruple stack, plus two other full-length entries, in such an easy puzzle. My only totally unfamiliar entries were RENA and NOVIA, and since the latter is learning vocabulary, I dislike only RENA. Well, I didn’t know AMOS Hart either, but at least it’s a common first name.

    I, like Amy, was slowed by some mistaken entries, but I’d call that a plus that I was tricked. They included my trying “beta test” instead of betaTRON and “no way” instead of NOHOW.

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I was going to make the same point about the astonishing multiple 1 * scores–which I have never before seen with a NYT puz. My devious mind realizes that the program is designed to accept only one vote per computer–(I guess it’s per computer)–but wonders if some hacker or scammer might have figured out a ruse to enter multiple votes.


  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I have not been able to get the wsj–(I get the “website not available” screen, and I notice it is not blogged. Have others had the same problem?


  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yes, Bruce—I finally gave up and printed out the PDF from the WSJ link. Was writing my review when your comment posted.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thanks, Amy. Gotit.


  18. Hazel Caillier says:

    72 down is Harry James not Larry

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Hazel: So it is. I’ve heard of SSL, secure sockets layer, but have never seen SSH, secure shell, before. Huh. Can you say “bad crossing”?

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