Tuesday, 12/20/11

Jonesin' 4:12 
NYT 3:16 
LAT 4:18 (Neville) 
CS 6:25 (Sam) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, #1220 12 20 11

It’s December. It might be downright chilly where you are. (Gareth, we’re not talking to you Southern Hemisphere types.) Wouldn’t a nice, warm bowl of soup hit the spot? (Morning blog readers, we’re not talking to you. Have a hearty bowl of oatmeal!) Julian’s theme is SPLIT PEA, and the word PEA is split in each of the theme answers. You’ve got HOPE AGAINST HOPE and the ROPE-A-DOPE, which had me thinking all the theme answers would have a couple *OPE words in them, but no. There’s also SLEEP EASY, LANDSCAPE ARTIST, and LOP-EARED bunnies and puppies. But wait! What’s this over here? A couple amped-up TYPE A‘S, without a “this is a theme entry” asterisk beside its clue? Small oops.

This is a fancy grid for a Tuesday puzzle, with a word count of just 72. The corners all have 6-letter answers stacked four deep. My favorite fill includes the Latinate plural SANCTI, the exhortation “GO, GIRL!,” and the PAPAYA in a bizarre biblical sandwich (though I’m never excited to run into MENE, that [Word on a biblical wall]). And MCPHEE! I’m so glad the name’s clued not as that American Idol contestant from the other year, but as [Writer John who won a Pulitzer for “Annals of the Former World”]. My favorites among his many books are Oranges (all about the fruit and its history), Basin and Range (a geology-centric book that I had read well before I took Intro to Geology in college, and it made me excited to see those things in real life on our field trips), and The Control of Nature (which tells you so much about what the Army Corps of Engineers did in Louisiana with the Mississippi River, some of which has surely changed in recent years). The book in the clue today refers to a volume that collects five (!) of McPhee’s geology books. If you like your nonfiction engaging and thoughtful, not dry, you might enjoy McPhee.

3.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Their Hearts Grew Three Sizes That Day”

Jonesin' crossword answers, 12 20 11

The title cops a line from Dr. Seuss’s Grinch tale, which was easy enough to grasp. But it took some doing for me to grok what was happening in the theme entries. The “hearts” of three people’s 5-letter first names are tripled by splitting the names into two words:

  • 19a. Helen Hunt becomes HELL LEN HUNT, [The underworld chase for author Deighton?].
  • 34a. ROBB BIN GIVENS could be [Things you know are going to be in former Virginia governor Chuck’s recycling?]. I don’t know about you, but I’d never really think about calling items destined for the recycling bin “givens.” Also, one demerit for playing on Robin Givens’ name and including the first name in another clue: 48d, [HLN host Robin] MEADE. And what’s a word from the puzzle’s title doing in the grid, too? 58a: [Crux] clues HEART.
  • 52a. [Football Hall-of-Famer Ronnie, playing an extra in “Lord of the Rings”?] clues TREE ENT LOTT, for Trent Lott. This one changes the pronunciation markedly, though, as “TREE ENT” is clearly two syllables.

It’s not your usual theme so it gets points for freshness, but I didn’t feel it really worked so well. I do like the long non-theme fill a lot, though—your PSILOCYBIN shrooms, a CLOSE SHAVE, CEVICHE, GOES ON TOUR, the famous WOODLAWN cemetery, “WE’VE MET.”

Three more clues:

  • 1d. [Jacob’s son, in the Bible] is SIMEON. Not one of the top 10 biblical names found in crosswords. ESAU, ENOS, ADAM, EVE, HOSEA…I know I’m missing others.
  • 11d. UVULITIS makes perfect sense as [Inflammation of that dangly thing in the back of your throat], the uvula—and yet never in my 20+ years of medical editing have I encountered the word. Don’t turn hypochondriacal and claim you have this, okay?
  • 13d. [Derisive (or James Brown-ish) laughs] are HAHS. You have got to go read this J.B. anecdote! Not many people can truthfully claim that James Brown plucked them out of their mother’s arms and sang to them.

Three stars.

Steven J. St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times Crossword Puzzle Solutions, 12 20 11

Los Angeles Times Crossword Puzzle Solutions, 12 20 11

This puzzle features four men known as THE KING, but I only knew that one of them sported that title:
  • 20a. […in golf] – ARNOLD PALMER
  • 28a. […in stock car racing] – RICHARD PETTY
  • 45a. […in swing music] – BENNY GOODMAN
  • 41a. […in rock ‘n’ roll– ELVIS PRESLEY

It’s a cute “what do these people have in common” theme that includes big names in both sport and music, which makes it nice and accessible. Call me NEEDY, but keeping a puzzle DEVOID of obscure names is crucial to making an early-week puzzle work.

I’m sitting here looking at this puzzle, and there’s really not much else great to say about it. WILD WEST is nice, and I’m a fan of MONDRIAN‘s work. The pairs of RED and DRY and ORAL/EXAM trump IRR./ARR. Honestly, the only thing I know about RPI is that Tyler Hinman went there. There’s some more nonsense in the crossword: what the heck is -ENCE doing in here? Worse still:

  • 29d. [Health care gp.] – HMO. But what does this stand for? HEALTH Maintenance Organization. None of that, please – this isn’t the USA Today.

Sorry if I come across as unenthusiastic, but it feels like much more emphasis was put on making this puzzle a pangram then making it really fun. 2.9 from me.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Technical Difficulties” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, December 20

Something’s not quite working right in this puzzle, and that would be the four theme entries, all clued [In disrepair]:

  • 18-Across: OUT OF WHACK. That was my third answer, after OUT OF ORDER and then, having seen the crossing OSH [___ Kosh B’gosh], OUT OF SHAPE. That made for some sloooow-going in the northeast corner. It was only after I got RUE McClanahan as [Blanche in “The Golden Girls”] that I had the confidence to try SAKES as the [Japanese spirits], which finally led to the right answer. BTW, that corner had a nice clue: [Some of them are French] for DOORS (glad I only contemplated MOORS for a half-second or so).
  • 28-Across: SHOT TO PIECES. Hmm. To me, this means “totally ruined,” not just merely “in disrepair.” But it’s a lively crossword entry.
  • 49-Across: DOWN THE TUBES. On the origins of this phrase, one website guesses it stems from “the soil-pipes which are connected to lavatories.” A lovely image.
  • 64-Across: ON THE FRITZ. Another great expression, which can also be the answer to [Where to find Mondale’s sweater].

There’s some nice non-theme fill here, especially POOH-POOH, GO FISH, and V-SIX. This tax jockey always likes to see entries like ITEMIZES, even if they are clued without any reference to taxes (thus deleting virtually all of the pizzazz from the term)–this one is clued as [Lists individually]. That’s okay, but look at how much jazzier [Lists individually, as tax deductions] is for a clue. (If you need to clean up from all the excitement, go ahead–we’ll still be here when you get back.)

It sits two time zones away from me, but I swear I could Amy’s Scowl-O-Meter ping twice. The first was for SPEE, the answer to [Admiral Graf von ___]. Isn’t that the squid-head guy from Return of the Jedi famous for this line? The second was for DAHS, the [Bits of Morse code]. I know, I know–I seem to be the only person in the English-speaking world who hates this word.  My Morse code has dots and dashes and nothing else. I know I’m wrong, but dammit, I’m right.

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12 Responses to Tuesday, 12/20/11

  1. Gareth says:

    The applet took ten seconds to load, hence the discrepancy between my time here and there. I’m in Port Elizabeth at the moment and it’s mild all-year here! Simple enough theme, but used to yield at least some interesting answers!

    Same experience with the LAT. I know all the names, but only Elvis is The King in my world. For me the weirdest abbr. was ORL for Orlando, I don’t recall seeing it before.

    Jonesin’ was as you say a unique idea, but it really didn’t work for me. Got PSILOCYBIN without crossers, great entry, but any points it may have won are lost by UVULITIS – really! I’ll add to what you said that I’ve never come across it in 5 years of vet school! It is inferrable though.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sam, the Scowl-o-Meter was going crazy with this one. IROC OPEL OSHEA HOED EROO SLUE HASP SPEE DAHS DOWELED OSH ABAB! Go ahead, make a sentence out of those words, I dare you. Or even just work three of those words into your conversation today. I am going to forgive DAH today, though, because I just played it in Lexulous.

    “Who do traffic cops pull over? SPEE DAHS!” The jokes, they write themselves.

  3. jane lewis says:

    re: la crossword amy, i’m guessing you’re not from the south and of the right age to know that richard petty is the king of stock car racing.

  4. JaxInL.A. says:

    I associate Jonesin puzzles with Wednesdays, and it doesn’t show up in the Cruciverb list today like it usually does. What am I missing?

  5. C says:

    I am driving my OPEL down Graf SPEE lane in Hockenheim, only to ESPY a HOED field full of fresh turnips so I SLUE the car around and park. I don’t know why I did that, I don’t like turnips.

    Threw in a bonus ESPY ;^)

    I am 100% behind you on this one, @Amy. Just can’t pass up a challenge.

  6. There’s a great discussion about the Second Sunday puzzle on today’s NYT Wordplay blog, which includes a link to Jim Horne’s latest blog post, “Acrostics vs. Electric Cars: Which are harder to construct?”

    A very “peasing” puzzle for a Tuesday, too!

  7. Tuning Spork says:


    I associate Jonesin puzzles with Wednesdays, and it doesn’t show up in the Cruciverb list today like it usually does. What am I missing?

    Well, firstly, today is Tuesday. Secondly, the Jonesin’ puzzle always shows up in the Cruciverb list on Thursdays. Thirdly, I think I’m getting addicted to this box of Cheez-Its. **munch munch**

  8. jane lewis says:

    you can get matt jones from matt gaffney on monday – don’t know if it’s jonesin’ – not very computer literate.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yes: To sign up for the Jonesin’ email list (and receive the puzzle in your in-box automatically on Mondays), visit the Jonesin’ Google Groups page.

    You can get the Onion AV Club and Ink Well puzzles the same way—via the Ink Well Google Groups page, so the puzzles get emailed on Tuesdays. I never go looking for any of these puzzles—they come to me.

  10. JaxInL.A. says:

    Oooohhhhh! Emailed puzzles. Thanks very much, y’all. The Ink Well/Village Voice puzzles show up automatically in my Crosswords app, but I have to go get Jonesin from Cruciverb.com.

    I have a policy/philosophical question for you, though. Even if the few people in the know can get the puzzles early, is it fair to review them two whole days before most folks will do them? It’s a conundrum of visiting Orange Land. To visit, and accidentally read comments or write-ups on puzzles I haven’t gotten to yet? I like coming here early in the week because I can get to all the puzzles on the same day. Thursday, Friday, Saturday I can only do the NYT same day. I do get to most of them eventually, though, so I don’t want to read the write up or comments on them. Hmmmm…..

    On a different note, I found the coolest crossword skinny tie at Walgreens for just $3.50. A word to the wise holiday shopping cruciverbalist.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jax, I have to balance the competing wants of the hardcore puzzle fiends who do crosswords as soon as they’re available anywhere and the folks who will wait until the puzzle reaches them by slower means. I err on the side of the speed freaks: That was the whole reason I first started the blog, to have a place to talk about the NYT puzzle the night before it came out in the paper.

    Early blogging runs the risk of spoiling the solve for some, it’s true. But blogging a puzzle two days later means more risk that an early solver will spoil the puzzle in the comments. We make it as easy as possible to read a specific writeup only, with the links up at the top of a post. And in the grand scheme of things, nobody dies if their solve is spoiled, even if it feels like it sometimes. ;-)

  12. Matt J. says:

    Re Jane L: you can get matt jones from matt gaffney on monday
    I think I should start an in-person puzzle delivery service, fresh to your door every week. Now if that works, I would just need to be reimbursed for gas money, meals, lodging, tolls, upkeep, maintenance, wear and tear etc. :-P

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