Thursday, 12/1/11

NYT 3:52 
LAT 4:42 (Neville) 
CS 6:52 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:59 (Matt) 
Tausig 6:53 (pannonica) 

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 12 1 11 1201

Cute rebus theme. Four symmetrically placed {JACK} squares (part of eight answers) are given purpose by the central answer pair: JACK IN / THE BOX. The 36a/39a pair are nice and Scrabbly, too. BLACK{JACK} meets {JACK} SPRAT. LUMBER{JACK} crosses {JACK}STRAW (my mystery item of the day). APPLE{JACK} parties with little {JACK} HORNER, and the UNION {JACK} flies high over {JACK} FROST.

Five more answers:

  • 49a. SUDOKU is a [Diversion with 81 squares]. Damn those squares! And damn that iPad sudoku app. I climb into bed and keep playing sudoku until my eyes close themselves.
  • 59d. PORN is [Nonlibrary reading]? As if. Thesis: If you’re reading the words, it is probably erotica. If you’re looking at pictures or video, it ain’t reading, it’s just looking at porn. Agree or disagree?
  • 17a. ANN A-LIST is the stereotypical hot celebrity who gets invited to all the best parties. Doesn’t ANNALIST look like a sad misspelling of analyst?
  • 37d. How come ISU is never clued as Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal? It’s usually clued as a Terre Haute (Indiana State) or Ames (Iowa State) school, occasionally as this Idaho [Sch. in Pocatello]. C’mon, crosswords: Show the Redbirds some love.
  • 7d. There was a 1971 Bond “girl” named LANA Wood? No idea.

3.75 stars.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 12 1 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 12 1 11

MEET THE PRESS has been an [Interview show since 1947]; in fact it’s the longest running US TV series, first broadcast on November 6 of that year. And of course, the press is the FOURTH ESTATE, and five entries in this puzzle meet the press by crossing that entry:

  • 20a. [Public distribution] – …RELEASE
  • 22a. [2011 NBA Finals runner-up] – HEAT…
  • 31a. [Loose] – FREE…
  • 43a. [Bond, for one] – …AGENT
  • 52a. [Champagne, e.g.] – WINE…

Each crossing entry can be either preceded or followed by the word “press” as indicated by ellipses above, and depending on which side of the fourth estate they appear. That’s pretty darned neat. Because most of the theme entries are short, there’s a lot of room for sparkletastic fill. How much fun can we press out of this grid?

  • ASSUMED NAME is great, especially when paired with AKA crossing it.
  • BIKE PATHS are certainly [Routes for two-wheelers]. And right in the middle with them are TELSTAR, RATTAIL and DATABASES. That’s all a snazzy set.
  • Any time I see a commercial for a GRAB BAR, I fear slipping in the bath tub. Irrational? Or just falling victim to advertising?
  • Not just RAN, and not just AMOK, it’s RAN AMOK!
  • I’m very happy to see MEME, clued as [Unit of cultural information], like Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” (Mostly because I had to revise part of a puzzle for the LA Times once that used the word MEME – its time has come!)

In all, I think they’ve taken fine advantage of the non-theme squares available. One quibble: the REA/ABT crossing doesn’t strike me as fair. I know of Stephen REA from crosswords, and haven’t seen “Citizen X.” ABT stands for American Ballet Theatre… but how would you know that if you’re not a ballet fan from NYC, I don’t know how you could suss out that first initial. But that’s my one ISSUE. Four stars for the fourth estate.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hidden Takebacks” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 1

This might be my fastest solving time ever for a Bob Klahn CS puzzle, and it’s certainly my fastest time for the past several months. We’re not used to seeing a relatively easy puzzle from Klahn, yet this one still has the typical assortment of clever clues and interesting fill.

The theme is simple enough–three two-word nouns where the first word ends in -RE and the second begins with PO-. Accordingly, each theme answer has a “takeback” (REPO, as in “repossession”) that is “hidden” between the words:

  • 17-Across: FURNITURE POLISH bears the clue, [It may have a beeswax base]. Not that it’s any of your beeswax, of course.
  • 39-Across: A MINIATURE POODLE is a [One-foot-tall cutie, roughly]. What does “roughly” modify here–the height or the attractiveness?
  • 61-Across: A PICTURE POSTCARD is a [Mailing not allowed to have a divided back until 1907]. If, like me, you wonder what the heck a “divided back” is, you’ll be pleased to know it’s kind of card with a line down the middle that separates the sender’s message on the left from the recipient’s address on the right.

The stars of the puzzle are the fill and clues. There are three lively long Downs: A- STUDENT (the [Best in class?]), YOU’RE ON ([“I’ll take that bet!”]), and POP MUSIC (with the alliterative clue, [Casey Kasem’s countdown category]–cripes!). Other highlights in the fill include I REPEAT, F-STOPS, and SPYDOM. I’m less enamored with ID. EST. (the loquacious person’s “i.e.“) but it’s not especially bothersome.

Here are my favorite clues: (1) [Surfing turf] for SEA; (2) the companion [Crafty sort] and [Craft of a sort] (for FOX and UFO, respectively) sitting side-by-side; (3) [Leader of France, Jordan, and Canada?] for AIR (as in Air France, Air Jordan, and Air Canada); (4) [Anatomically ___] for CORRECT; and (5) [The planets, now] for OCTET right before PLUTO, [A planet, once]. Did I omit your favorite?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Raise Your Spirits”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 389 solution

I’ll certainly drink to today’s BEQ, which is quite cleverly done: “Raise Your Spirits” is the title, and solvers must literally remove a type of alcohol from three theme entries and raise them up a level, inserting them into the theme entry above. The three stacked pairs are:

  • 13a. TRUMAN LINES [“The bucks stops here” and “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” e.g.?]
  • 17a. DROLL PLEASE [Polite request to keep things witty?]
  • 33a. GARLIC PRE-SALES [Bulbs in the kitchen purchased ahead of time?]
  • 37a. AMERICA’S GOT TNT [Explosive NBC show?]
  • 53a. WEIRD PORTAL [Gateway to a strange place?]
  • 58a. SING CHANCES [Opportunities at karaoke?]

See what he did there? RUM is taken from “Drum roll, please” and inserted into “tan lines”; ALE is removed from America’s Got Talent and put into “garlic press”; and PORT is snatched from “sporting chances” and given instead to “Weird Al,” who certainly doesn’t need it.

Excellent work! Four observations:

  1. With six long theme entries in a (by necessity) 15×14 grid, you’d forgive Brendan for not working much magic into the fill. But he did it anyway: LIMEKILNI GET IT, FT. DIXOLE OLE and KNOTTY all stand out. And with this tough grid he deserves to show off a little in the easy 3×3 corners: WSJ and WOW! do the job.
  2. 54d is a great example of a nice clue rescuing an iffy entry. I know Edward Gorey but haven’t seen anyone clue a ?IS this way before; maybe we can give Sue Grafton a break now.
  3. 16a. [Ringing endorsement?] for I DO is very nice as well.
  4. In addition to the alcohol theme, we’ve also got a LINE of coke at 32a. and an ORGY at 49d. Party at Brendan’s!

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a drink on the house today, everyone!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Wrong From the Start” — pannonica’s review

Tausig crossword • 12/02/11 • "Wrong From the Start" • solution

Another one of those “Before & After” type themes. In this case, all of the words or phrases start with the same word—FALSE—which rather than being repeated for each entry, is given pride of place in the center of the grid at 40-across and is cross-referenced to each themer.

  • 17a. [After 40-Across, legislation meant to protect OB/GYNs from needless trips to the hospital at 2:00 a.m.?] (false) LABOR LAWS.
  • 30a. [… nagging feeling that one’s lab test results aren’t actually meaningful?] (false) POSITIVE VIBES.
  • 46a. [… exercise program for klutzes?] (false) STEP AEROBICS.
  • 63a. [… founder of an illegitimate religion?] (false) GODFATHER.

Cute theme, with a bit of a twist. In fact,I had a few false starts of my own while solving. Most notable was right there at one-across: filled in -ISMS for -ISTS [Suffixes for believers]. Later, this gave me problems at 3d [Refined comestible used by pretty much every cook] since the beginning of the answer was looking more like MAPLE something rather than TABLE SALT, In my experience even casual cooks will use sea salt or kosher salt when preparing a dish and will eschew the iodized variety, which is all right when used at the table.

Moving on. Fun stuff in opposite corners with the duplicated clue [Word fragment repeated by Herman Cain when discussing foreign policy in October]: BEKI and STAN. The official CBS Face the Nation transcript has sanitized it to “And they asked me who is the President of Uzbeki– beki– Uzbekistan, I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?” (with bizarre alteration to the past tense) but he actually said, “When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say: ‘You know, I don’t know. Do you know?'” In all fairness, it isn’t that Cain didn’t know the real name of this central Asian republic, which could be somewhat amusing. However, the quote is frightening for two reasons. 1) He was attempting to be humorous and was intent on making up some fanciful name (perhaps Absurdistan?) and the best he could come up with was the repetition of a slight mispronunciation of a real place? I want my leaders to have a certain level of creativity (good for problem solving, as I’m sure readers of this blog are aware), and that just doesn’t cut it. 2) He’s admitting that he fully intends to be ignorant if he were president! “When they ask me “X,” I’m going to say ‘duh.'” Incidentally, Cain was head of Godfather’s Pizza, but constructor Tausig wisely did not try to tie anything to the theme entry at 63a.

What else have we got? Oh, of course! FIEND ahoy! At 40d [Obsessed person]. Contractually obligated to mention that.

  • 36d [Sitcom in which the lead male actor magically changed in 1969] BEWITCHED. They swapped Dicks (Sargent for York) who portrayed Darrin Stephens. Even though the show was about witches and magic, the replacement was done quietly, not addressed in the narrative. This is why I think the clue should have magically in quotation marks, but perhaps I’m being obsessive.
  • A couple of interesting foreign-word and -name stacked neighbors: GELATI and IVANOV; ENOKI and SABIN (who knew there was a Polio Hall of Fame?).
  • I like Row 11, KEPTON | FLORET. Might make a good character name.
  • NEW LEAF [Fresh start, metaphorically]. Nice-looking, vertically in the center.
  • Two favorite clues: 51d [It makes waste, in a way] EX-LAX. Sure, it’s puerile, but it’s clever too. From the modifier “in a way” I knew the answer wasn’t going to be HASTE, but I was still surprised (can I say pleasantly?) when it emerged. 47d [Moments of raised spirits?] TOASTS. I really like this one because it works metaphorically as well as literally.

Good puzzle, fun solve. My impression is that it was a bit tougher than the average Ink Well puzzle, and my time would seem to confirm it.

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9 Responses to Thursday, 12/1/11

  1. I would say that this qualifies as an ANNA LIST.

  2. Gareth says:

    Rebus took about 10 seconds to get, at 6D, after that it was just spotting the squares. Would’ve been a fast thursday, but having raW for NEW slowed me down a lot, should’ve spotted that quicker! RESIDa was making no sense! Cute theme revealer!

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    My, but that theme seems familiar.

    And, no surprise, I wasn’t the first to think of it. The New York Sun did it in ’07 and Merl Reagle did it just earlier this year, apparently:

    2 Th Rea 11 Theme of this puzzle
    1 Th NYS 07 Popular children’s toy (and this puzzle’s theme)
    1 00 West coast hamburger joint, and this puzzle’s title

    And I’ll bet there are others out there somewhere, somewhen.

  4. Karen says:

    I echo what Gareth said.

  5. jfponeill says:

    Of Klahn’s likeable CS clues, I’d include Peck’s peg-legged portrayal and Dopey picture.

  6. pannonica says:

    The NE 3×3 in the BEQ was nigh-impossible for me. Without knowing the LIME part of LIME KILN, I couldn’t gain entry, and everything else there seemed too vague. Perhaps if I’d been willing to take the time to experiment with the many possibilities I might have broken it open.

  7. Andrew Greene says:

    I had the hardest time fitting “TABLE TENNIS” in for 55-A in today’s Times.

  8. AV says:

    BEQ today is brilliant! Wow. Loved all the theme entry stacks. Way to go, dude.

  9. *David* says:

    BEQ was the creme de menthe of the day. I also had the hardest time in the NE corner which got broken up with ADA as the bridge buliding grp. clue which I’ve seen before and then LAW clerk gave me the remainding toe hold to break it open. The creme de la creme puzzle of the week though is the CHE puzzle, loved it!

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