Tuesday, 11/29/11

Jonesin' 4:15 
NYT 3:11 
LAT 4:19 (Neville) 
CS 6:37 (Sam) 

Mobile app alert!

If you’ve got an iPhone or iPod touch and you’re looking for a crossword app, Rumination Software’s Crux is on sale for 99¢ this week, 80% off the regular price of $4.99. I haven’t tried the iPhone version (don’t have that coveted iPhone 4S yet!) but when I solve puzzles on the iPad, I use Crux. The app purchase includes 15 new crosswords that Rumination commissioned from Andrew Ries (the constructor who’s been publishing a Rows Garden puzzle weekly at Aries Puzzles).

Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1129 11 29 11

I’ve seen themes that use slang terms for money before, sure, but that doesn’t mean I made any sense out of this theme while I was solving. Super-lively batch of theme answers:

  • 17a. SCRATCH AND SNIFF! Who doesn’t love scratch-and-sniff stickers and books? (Well, people with anosmia.) One of my favorite childhood books is The Sweet Smell of Christmas. Hot cocoa? An orange? A candy cane? Yes to all three. (And “scratch” means money to people who use that particular slang. I never have.)
  • 23a. Spider-Man’s nemesis, GREEN GOBLIN. I have also never used “green” to refer to money.
  • 38a. Hansel und Gretel’s BREAD CRUMB TRAIL starts with “bread” and fits into a 15, and “trail of bread crumbs” fails on both counts but sounds more right to me.
  • 50a. BACON NUMBER! You’re only supposed to include feature films, not documentaries, so pretty much nobody in Wordplay besides Jon Stewart has a (Kevin) Bacon number.
  • 59a. Of the Abba songs I know, “MONEY MONEY MONEY” is…not on the list. I kinda know it only from crosswords. Although technically, shouldn’t this answer somehow be MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY?

Nice assortment of 9-letter Downs dressing up the grid. I like the ancient history/mythology slant of CUNEIFORM and LABYRINTH on the right side of the grid. STRAGGLER as a late marathon finisher is apt, but I messed myself up by trying to wedge SLOWPOKE in there. I bet PANDA BEAR will rile up some solvers, who will say “The panda is no bear! It’s more closely related to the raccoon, you simpleton. Shortz, I’ve caught you being wrong!” But apparently the panda is a bear. (That link is to the Wikipedia article, which is amply illustrated with photos of pandas, including a teeny baby panda. It just might be the cutest Wikipedia article ever.)

It feels like there may be a tad more “bleh” fill than the standard Tuesday puzzle has—ONEA, UVEA, ST LO, EEN, OREM, DEYS. Those drag the puzzle down from a 4 to a still-respectable 3.75 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Out for the Day”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 11 29 11 "Out for the Day"

This is a themeless puzzle spiffed up with a two-piece mini-theme:

  • 1a. What is [Late November drowsiness]? Well, if you ate a lot of traditional Thanksgiving food, there’s that TURKEY COMA.
  • 60a. [Cause of 1-across, it’s said] is TRYPTOPHAN, though I think that’s been more or less debunked.

Outside of those two answers, we’ve got a garden-variety themeless with a rather low word count—just 66 words. My favorite answer is I GOT IT GOIN’ ON, which I somehow surmised despite having no knowledge of this 22a: [Tone Loc single released just after “Funky Cold Medina”].

Clues that made me work:

  • 14a. [You, you, you, or me] clues ANY ONE OF US. That doesn’t feel like a super-crosswordy sort of phrase.
  • 19a. [“Gone in 60 Seconds” director Dominic] SENA? I’m sure I’ve seen the name but I had zero recollection of it.
  • 31a. [Himalayan country: abbr.] is Nepal, abbreviated NEP. “Who uses this?” you may ask. The IOC does indeed use NEP for Nepal. Crosswords like to clue URU as an abbreviation for a South American country and whaddaya know? At the Olympics, Uruguay is indeed URU. Who knew? This is NEP’s second recent appearance in the crosswords I’ve been blogging. Me, I’m still waiting for [Himalayan country: abbr.] to lead me to BHU.
  • 43a. [Shiba ___ (cute dog breed)] is the Shiba INU. Looks kinda like an Akita and nothing at all like a Shar Pei.
  • 44a. [Duration of amateur boxing matches, often] is THREE ROUNDS. Who knew? Not I. But those MMA/UFC matches, they’re usually three rounds.
  • 48a. TABUS looks nonsensical in the grid, doesn’t it? [Forbidden topics: var.] means “taboos, but spelled funny.”
  • 9d. [“Axis ___” (1995 album by The Shamen)] clues MUTATIS. I thought I was doing a Brendan Quigley crossword here.
  • 24d. [1968 federal law regulating firearms, for short] is GCA. Gun Control Act? Indeed. Doesn’t ring a bell.
  • 39d. [It has a descender when written in lower case] could mean G/g, P/p, or Y/y. Turns out it’s the LETTER P here.

My favorite clue/answer combo is ENGAGED, a [Facebook status word for some]. My dear friend Amy (no relation) and her boyfriend of 6 months just got engaged. They were high school classmates three decades ago but just got around to being friends in the Facebook era and then fell in love. Lo, there was much rejoicing and “like”-button-clicking when they changed their relationship status to ENGAGED. Isn’t that a great story?

Three stars for the puzzle.

Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 11 29 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 11 29 11

A [Postseason gridiron game] is a BOWL – but don’t don’t take this theme hint at face value. There’s no football here – just bowling.

  • 17a. [Sign of a typing mistake] – STRIKEOVER, because typewriters are still relevant. At least they don’t have YouTube to distract you.
  • 25a. [Indigent’s request] – SPARE CHANGE
  • 38a. [Wizard’s game in the rock opera “Tommy”] – PINBALL – bonus! Both parts of the entry work with bowling!
  • 53a. [Street urchin] – GUTTER SNIPE
  • 62a. [Chain for plus-sized women’s fashion] – LANE BRYANT

I know I’ve seen bowling puzzles before, but not with this variety of bowling references. Thanks for pushing this one further, Kelly! My favorite  entry in this puzzle is PINT SIZE, clued as [Peewee]. No question mark clues, which saddens me.  I expect a little bit of trickery on a Tuesday, but no luck today. Some abbreviations gave me a hard time and kept me from getting a 300… er, my time down to 3:00.

  • [Rehab woes, briefly] – DTS. This is the plural of an abbreviation for delirium tremens, a form of alcohol withdrawal.
  • [Entrepreneur-aiding org.] – SBA, or the Small Business Administration. This seems more legit, despite the fact that I can never remember it.

How is TRA-LAS an actual plural? Shenanigans here. Names in the lower right include the tame NEIL Simon and ANNETTE Funicelo as well as the more out-there ENZO Ferrari and MOIRA Shearer. 3.9 for bringing the theme to a nice level.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “After Bed Time” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 29

Today’s puzzle from Bruce Venzke gives us a twist on the ol’ words-that-follow-the-same-common-word gimmick. Here, the first word in each of the four theme entries can follow the word BED to form a noun, but in the theme entries those words are used as verbs:

  • 20-Across: COVERS A STORY (“bed covers”) has the clue [Gets the scoop for Hearst]. Are the last two words in that clue really necessary?
  • 34-Across: Something SPRINGS A LEAK (“bed springs”) if it [Starts to drop drips]. Or drip drops, I suppose.
  • 41-Across: One who [Publishes fair warning] POSTS A NOTICE (“bed posts”).
  • 56-Across: And one who [Climbs onto the railroad car] BOARDS A TRAIN (“bed boards”).

There are plenty of theme possibilities here: HEADS A COMMITTEE, CHECKS A COAT, SPREADS A RUMOR, and, I’m sure, many more. But it’s hard to get symmetrically opposite pairs, so some latitude is appropriate.

Did you notice all the rare letters in the fill? Five Zs and three Xs, with a J and a couple Ks tossed in for good measure. That helped add some pizzazz like PLOTZ, to [Collapse from excitement, in slang]. Interesting to see BOZO crossing BOOZE and SNOOZES crossing NO-DOZ in the southwest.  I’m not familiar with FRITZI, [Nancy’s aunt in the comics], but I largely stopped reading the comics once Calvin and Hobbes stopped.

Other highlights include I MEAN IT and I NEVER, along with MR. BIG and the fun clue for ED ASNER, [Emmy winner for “Roots”]. And look, even good old ANSON Williams, [Potsie’s portrayer], is back!

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22 Responses to Tuesday, 11/29/11

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: I can vouch for the giant panda’s current taxonomic allegiance with the bears. “Koala bear” remains a definite no-no. And red panda/lesser panda/firefox is neither bear nor raccoon nor fox.

    Giant panda = Ailuropoda melanoleuca (black-and-white cat-foot).
    Red panda = Ailurus fulgens (shining cat).

    Jonesin’: For quite some time, I had TRYPTOCOMA at 1-across. Also, you will notice that the shar-pei does resemble the chow, another Chinese breed.

  2. john farmer says:

    A few numbers for you, Bacon and otherwise: Among more than 1.3 million actors listed at IMDb, the average BACON NUMBER is 2.98. Among the 721 million users of Facebook, the number of friend-connections between any two people is an average of 4.74. The “six degrees of separation” idea seems to have overstated the situation.

    Seeing more and more Aimee L. lately. Good stuff.

  3. ktd says:

    I do not usually solve the Jonesin’ puzzle, so can someone please tell me what the clue was for BIOGENETICS? (and how it is supposedly different from good old genetics?)

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @KTD: [Controversial engineering]. I don’t think anything-genetics is any kind of engineering, but perhaps there is (bio)genetic engineering. Too busy to Google it myself.

    Maybe it’s different from robot genetics?

  5. Thanks for the plug Amy! The Crux guys gave me some free promo codes for the app, so drop me an email or comment on my site if you want to get in on the action at no cost.

  6. pannonica says:

    I say engineering also has a metaphorical sense. One can engineer a desired outcome, for instance. Or at least attempt to do so. Biological—here, genetic—engineering falls somewhere between that sense and the more common, tactile and mechanical sense.

  7. Jamie says:

    From Amy’s link about Giant Pandas:

    “The gestation period ranges from 95 to 160 days. Cubs weigh only 3.2 to 4.6 ounces, which is about 1/800 of the mother’s weight.”

    There really shouldn’t be another Nobel in Medicine awarded until science has us on a par with pandas.

  8. HH says:

    Re “scratch and sniff” —

    In the olden days of the ACPT, when we used to include a puzzle w/ visual clues or audio clues, it was suggested that one year we should include a scratch-n-sniff puzzle. I agreed, as long as one of the answers was “chloroform”.

  9. sbmanion says:

    Ombre is the English name for the Spanish game l’Hombre. I believe it is the oldest game in which the players bid to name the trump suit. Crossword staple SKAT is a direct descendant and Bid Whist an indirect one. It is yet another game with an odd ranking of trumps: The two black aces are the first and third trumps and the suited 2 is the second in most variations. The game is played with a 40-card deck with no eights, nines or tens. Coon Can(sp?), a rummy-type game popular in the inner city, also plays with the 40 card deck.

    In no trump in l’Hombre, the K is the highest. It is the only game I can remember where the K is ever the highest, although in pre-revolutionary France this may not always have been the case.

    It is a great game, but no KLABERJASS :)


  10. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks again to Tuning Spork, Dan M and others for the info on Toad’s Place yesterday! My favorite singing group while in grad school was the Yale Russian Chorus, which was having a rough time getting official acceptance at the time but finally succeeded.

    As for “controversial engineering”, I thought at first that was heading toward some sort of pseudo-scientific social manipulation, like old laws requiring sterilization of morons or deviants — or today’s opposite fringe demands for laws to keep a fetus in utero to term even with known mistakes of nature present like amentia (a literal no-brainer.) “Biogenetics” to me doesn’t quite fall into the “controversial” range, unless someone objects to such lab advances as breeding mutant mice which are blind and then demonstrating that implantation of normal stem cells can give them sight, a feat just recently achieved!

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @HH: So the A Division solvers would drop first and the E solvers would have no idea why everyone was passing out?

  12. ktd says:

    @Amy: I read your response and did the Google search. The first few hits were actually company names, but a little way down the list there is a dictionary listing. So, depending on whether you find online dictionaries reliable, biogenetics is a word, I guess. Just not one that I’ve ever run by in 10 years of molecular biology study.

    Re: “controversial engineering”. I guess we have begun to debate both parts of this clue. @pannonica is somewhat right in saying that genetic engineering may belong somewhere b/t real and metaphorical engineering. Actually, it can refer to both things. The phrase “genetic engineering” conjures up images of science fiction madness (HG Wells’ Dr Moreau, e.g.) or recalls the horrors of Nazi experimentation on Jews (go to the Holocaust Museum in DC and you’ll see what I mean) or sterilization laws referred to by @ArtLvr. But today genetic engineering (or bioengineering in general) has a much more innocuous and very real meaning. The vast majority of modern experimental biology involves engineering of DNA, proteins, etc. As chemical techniques develop and improve, we’re seeing incredible new ways to study biology through engineering: not just at the animal level with stem cells, but also cut-and-paste-style proteins, neon fluorescent RNA, sugar chains with molecular glue, etc.

    So where is the controversy? As @ArtLvr points out, biological engineering can have real-world value (though much of that value is only potential right now). I’d say it probably falls more along the lines of introducing biotechnology in ways that make people uncomfortable, such as with stem cells and GMO foods. However, the ethical importance of bioengineering was recognized and debated among scientists decades ago, and through their efforts (notably the Asilomar Conference of 1975 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asilomar_Conference_on_Recombinant_DNA) we have today an accepted set of rules and regulations for using engineered biological materials in the laboratory.

  13. Howard B says:

    @HH: I, for one, *thud*

  14. pannonica says:

    At its simplest (and certainly distant from contemporary molecular techniques), genetic engineering is an ancient practice. Selective breeding.

    I intentionally wrote a basic, definitional comment so as not to court controversy, but this topic so readily engenders it.

    Thank you for the informative comment, ktd.

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    I presume that “selective breeding” merely would be an example of eugenics, not the more invasive “genetic engineering”, as the term is being used. Kinda like the difference between adding cricles to a .puz grid versus designing a new .jpz program that allows shaded squares. Or something.

  16. Jeff Chen says:

    HH is quickly becoming one of my favorite people on earth.

  17. *David* says:

    I enjoy HH as much for his brevity as his sere wit. Who knew that Amy was such a romantic?

  18. joon says:

    neville, “the DTs” are how one refers to a single case of delirium tremens, so that strikes me as being pretty reasonable as plural abbreviations go. but i’m totally with you on TRA-LAS, ugh.

  19. ArtLvr says:

    @ ktd – many thanks for weighing in with your experience!

  20. Luke Rasmussen says:

    BONER. Hahahahahahahaha!!!

  21. Tuning Spork says:

    Don’t let Luke see the puzzle with the [ ___ mightier than…] clue.

  22. Zach says:

    I hated today’s CS puzzle, but that’s probably mostly because I just really struggled with it. Couldn’t get any momentum and it seemed like half the things I came up with ended up being wrong.

    I’ve really only been solving regularly for a month or so and I know I still have a lot to learn, but after feeling like I’m making progress a day like today is no fun.

    I’ll quit my whining now – back to your regularly scheduled conversation

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