Wednesday, 12/7/11

Onion 4:40 
LAT 4:04 
NYT 2:50 
CS 6:49 (Sam) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 12 7 11 1207

Hot on the heels of his Tuesday LAT puzzle, here’s Julian with the NYT. Surprisingly easy for a Wednesday, no? I paid no mind to the theme while solving, because the “(whose symbols are found at the ends of the answers to the five asterisked clues)” explanation was rather after the fact. In a tougher puzzle, I’d have given some thought to what unites BRAIN WAVES, FULL CIRCLE, RISING STAR, DOUBLE CROSS, and TIMES SQUARE but those shapes wouldn’t have shouted ZENER CARDS to me the way [Tools for ESP researchers] did. looks to have the lowdown.

Solid theme in a grid with a dozen 6- and 7-letter answers that livened up the solve. Do you say (or at least write) WHILST for effect? I sure do. Sometimes I even do it whilst blogging. I also like A FAR CRY, NITPICK, BBQ PIT, LET’S ROLL, and PARLAY.

Four stars.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 12 7 11 Deb Amlen

I broke my brain while working on this puzzle. I somehow convinced myself that this was an add-a-K theme, and then PARKING FINK wasn’t making any sense at all. “Parking fin? Paring fin?” Of course, it’s actually change-INE-to-INK, complete with a vowel shift from long I to long E sounds:

  • 17a. [Guns N’ Roses song about a baby swathed in fur?] is SWEET CHILD O’ MINK. This is not about kittens and puppies, sadly, or baby pandas.
  • 25a. [Person who steals your spot?] is a PARKING FINK. I pay my parking fines grudgingly: I’m mad at myself for parking unwisely, but realize that the city really needs the cash. I should know better than to leave the car on the street on street-sweeping day.
  • 43a. [Come-on over cake and coffee?] is a DESSERT WINK. My last cake consumption was a slice of amaretto cake that was scrumptious. As for dessert wine, I need to tap into that bottle of cabernet franc icewine with some chocolate—the two flavors will combine in the mouth into a virtual chocolate-covered strawberry.
  • 55a. [Documentary about an online connection to a dieting website?] is THE THIN BLUE LINK. My visited-hyperlinks color is purple, but the links I haven’t clicked are blue.

I’m mildly surprised to see 36a: TWATS clued inoffensively as [Jerks]. There’s a vulgar definition, too. The vulgarity is not absent, however! Oh, no. Not in the A.V. Club puzzle. 16a: ORAL is clued as [Eating out, so to speak]. If you don’t understand the connection, you probably don’t want to Google it. There’s also 60a: T AND A, [Appealing element in plotless movies, for some: Abbr.].

Three more clues:

  • 47a. VERS [___ libre (poetry style)] is new to me. How else are you going to clue VERS?
  • 41a. [Where Pago Pago and Fagatogo are] clues SAMOA. I just learned the other day from the Rex Parker blog that there’s a big difference between Samoa and American Samoa. The clue’s towns are actually in American Samoa, which is culturally quite distinct from the independent nation of Samoa (capital, Apia). People in American Samoa tend to emigrate to the U.S., while Samoans head to New Zealand. Samoa is also going to jump to the other side of the date line to be better aligned with Australia, New Zealand, and China—3 hours ahead instead of 21 hours behind.
  • 6d. [Smoker’s activity] clues ASHING. People use that as a verb?

3.5 stars.

Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 12 7 11

The seven theme answers come out balanced:

  • 14a, 16a, 17a. [“Affirmative!”] clues NO ARGUMENT, AMEN, and I’M SURE OF IT. All three of these “yeses” would be replies to different questions or remarks, wouldn’t they?
  • 38a. [“It could go either way”] clues I JUST CAN’T DECIDE.
  • 63a, 65a, 66a. [“Negative!”] clues NOT A PRAYER, UH-UH, and IN A PIG’S EYE. Like the affirmative trio, these “noes” all have different uses too.

I like the 10-letter stacked theme entries, but not their environments. 47d: ASH PIT / [Fireplace receptacle] and 1a: ALE TAP / [Bar fixture] both feel ungainly. [Down Under st.] TASM., British spelling TYRES, plural EASTS and ETES…eh.

I had trouble tapping into the cluing vibe. 40d: COP is clued with [Swipe], for example. 20a: [Hiker’s map, casually] is a TOPO. 43a: [Snarl noises] are the HONKS of horns in snarled traffic. A [Second, e.g.] is a UNIT of measure, in this case time. As for 45a: [1975 seminal green movement novel by Ernest Callenbach]—ECOTOPIA?? That doesn’t ring a bell at all.

2.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spread Eagle” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 7

67-Across tells us that one of the Most Favored Birds of Crosswords, the ERN, is the [Eagle that’s “spread” in the four longest puzzle answers]. Bonus points for making a theme out of some tired Crosswordese (as opposed to “fresh Crosswordese?”). All of the theme answers are nouns, two are proper nouns:

  • 17-Across: ERIC CLAPTON is a [Three-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee], once as part of Cream, once as part of The Yardbirds, and once as a solo artist. Is there any other widely-known hall of fame in which an individual can be enshrined more than once? Athletes that played for more than one team have to choose one team’s uniform for the Hall of Fame–should rock musicians have to follow suit?
  • 62-Across: The ENGLISH HORN is the [Oboe’s longer cousin]. It gives the oboe an inferiority complex. But hey, it’s not the size of the instrument but how you play it. (Gives a whole new meaning to “toot your own horn,” doesn’t it?)
  • 11-Down: ERIN MORAN is the [“Joanie Loves Chachi” co-star]. I’m not sure which one she played. (Before you scroll down to the comment box, that’s a joke.)
  • 35-Down: EARLY MORN is [When dew appears, poetically]. In college, The Dew appears late on the night before a term paper is due.

Notice that two theme entries break the ERN between the E and the R, while the other two break between the R and the N–that’s some good crossword construction right there, I tell ya. The 5×3 block in the center, flanked by 6s and 7s, gives the middle a nice, open feel, but it also serves to cut the puzzle into three distinct sections: the upper-right, the lower-left, and the swath running from northwest to southeast. It thus felt like I solved three mini-puzzles, as I started with the swath, came to the upper-right, and finished in the lower-left.

Waiting for me in the lower left was PG UP, short for “page up,” the [Keyboard key used for scrolling]. That tripped me up, maybe because my keyboard says “Page Up,” albeit in tiny letters. I seem to recall that earlier keyboards had “Pg Up” but maybe I’m making my memory serve current purposes.

The smooth fill yielded only a few other out-of-the-ordinary entries, namely the S.S. MINNOW from Gilligan’s Island and NAME TAPE, the [Undies identifier at camp]. Is that clue referencing summer camp or military base camp? My limited summer camp experience had me writing my name on clothes with a Sharpie, not with name tape. But then again, as the only 200+-pound kid in my sixth grade class, my clothes were readily identifiable by the “XL” tag already stitched inside of each item.

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19 Responses to Wednesday, 12/7/11

  1. Martin says:

    I don’t know if there really is an inoffensive way to define TWAT. The answer is just the same. You can clue its even more offensive four-letter synonym the same way too.

    (Not that I’m offended!)


  2. Never, ever heard of ZENER CARDS. I’m all for learning things in puzzles, though, but CENO crossing ZENER was pretty brutal. ZONER makes more sense than ZENER, and CONO looks as much of a prefix than CENO. Under a million hits on Google, too, is pretty weak for a theme revealer, imo. But, still enjoyable until the last square, and as you stated, solid fill. Always enjoyed Julian’s stuff.

  3. Martin says:

    ZENER CARDS are OK by me. They’ve been around for years.

    Clever, original theme, IMHO.


  4. Bananarchy says:

    My knowledge of ZENER CARDS comes entirely from Bill Murray’s hilarious opening scene of “Ghostbusters.” I was actually playing it out in my mind while solving to put the last few theme entries in place!

    Also, loved Deb’s Onion. Keep the blue entries coming, I say!

  5. Gareth says:

    “Then, owls and bats, cowls and twats,
    Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
    Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!”

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    Ah, yes. Robert Burns’s infamous twatted nuns.

  7. HH says:

    As George Carlin once noted, “twat” is the only slang word for [that part] that doesn’t mean anything else — “Twat’s twat, and that’s that.”

  8. Gareth says:

    @TS: Browning

  9. cyberdiva says:

    Ditto to what Andrew J. Ries said. I too had never heard of ZENER CARDS and felt that ZONER seemed more likely.

  10. Angela Osborne says:

    Never heard of zenner cards. Tried to make “Tarot” cards work, but the fill in gave me zenner.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Amusing to see the Onion’s -INK words today right after the Tattoo xword the other day. I especially liked the WINK, which went nicely with the off-color stuff… I also thought the LAT had a clever theme: it could have been monotonous, but NOT IN A PIG’S EYE, and with that ECOTOPIA, wow, whilst the NYT was okay but didn’t tickle my fancy as much.

  12. JaxInL.A. says:

    I had a quick déjà vu when I saw Julian Lim in today’s NYT after he had yesterday’s LAT. Congratulations on the back to back puzzles! Keep ’em coming.

    Ned White’s LAT puzzle was oddly right in my wheelhouse. ECOTOPIA, YUMA, SATEENS, TEXAS TEA. I kept putting in answers and thinking, “lots of people won’t know that.”

    Deb, your Onion puzzle was a treat. I like the rudeness of the Onion, and this fit right in with Pukes, aforementioned TWAT, etc. thanks for the surprise.

  13. Howard B says:

    Some unusual puzzles in the Times this week so far. And I like it.
    Did not predict today’s theme at all until the end. Guess I failed that test…

  14. john farmer says:

    I do know of ZENER CARDS but I had no idea why they would be “Tools for ESPN researchers.”


  15. Daniel Myers says:

    I was intending to NITPICK whilst I was on this site about the qualifier “old-style” for NYT 4D. I speak and write it quite often. But I see Amy and others have pre-empted me.

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Oops. I intended Browning, but ended up with Burns. That’s why I stay out of the kitchen.

  17. Howard B says:

    I don’t know either, but I would imagine it might be very useful in making picks in your football pool.

  18. John Haber says:

    Never heard of ZENER CARDS either (and also first had “tarot”), and to me it was as worth learning about as daytime TV, so I’d rate it near zero. The quadrant with a boxer and midget cars was also not on my learning list, but doable from crossings. Then again, while AOKI and AKELA was a crossing I could get, I could get it only from crosswordese.

  19. Jeff says:

    Never ever heard of ZENER CARDS either, or PSEC or USAC for that matter. Meh puzzle for me.

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