Monday, 1/2/12

NYT 3:26 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:45 
CS 4:47 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword puzzle — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • 1/2/12 • Gamache • Mon • 0102

The theme here is prepositional phrases that fulfill the answer for 62-across, [Literal description of  something that is 18-, 24-, 40- or 49-Across] SIGHT UNSEEN.

  • 18a. [Elderly, so to speak] OVER THE HILL.
  • 24a. [Soon to arrive] AROUND THE CORNER. “Prosperity is just around the corner” was a catchphrase during the Great Depression. I was reminded of this while watching the witty and funny My Man Godfrey a couple of weeks ago. It has something to say about today’s circumstances. Occupy Dump!
  • 40a. [Pulitzer-winning 1920 Eugene O’Neill play] BEYOND THE HORIZON, which literally stretches the boundaries of the puzzle, making it a 16×15.
  • 49a. [Secret or illegal] UNDER THE COUNTER. I feel “under-the-table” is more common, but this version also has currency.

It was a very rapid, fluid solve, and a quick peek at XwordInfo’s analysis shows that it possesses more blocks and more words than the average Monday. For evidence, look at Rows 6 and 10, each contains fill in 7 of 16 spaces—less than half.  The average word length is slightly longer than a typical Monday, but that can be ascribed to the augmented grid. Smooth fill and smooth cluing, as is expected for an early-week offering. I feel as if I say this nearly every time I write-up the Monday puzzle, but that’s a commendation of the consistent high quality of the New York Times’ crosswords. Will Shortz and his ever-increasing stable of constructors maintain their standards.

Non-theme long fill includes the nice verticals SELF-RELIANT and OUT OF SEASON, plus REMNANTS and the lesser SETS UPON.

I’d venture that the [Verdi opera] ERI TU might be unfamiliar to newer solvers who are also not opera fans; fun how it meets up with ELIHU Root. Similarly, although neo-retro DOULAs are rising in popularity, I wonder how well-known they are outside of hipper locales; factette: it derives from a Greek word meaning “female slave.” Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s (Candice’s dad) bucktoothed dummy Mortimer SNERD is old-time crosswordese; not to be confused with SNERT, the dog in Hägar the Horrible.

A belated and gentle welcome to 2012.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “E.N.T.” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, January 2

Yay! Another “themed-puzzle-posing-as-a-freestyle” from Martin Ashwood-Smith. This quick and easy 68(!)/30 crossword features three 15-letter entries ending in the words that comprise the specialty areas of an otolaryngologist (or more commonly, and E.N.T. physician):

  • 16-Across: Something that [Is ignored] FALLS ON DEAF EARS. This expression makes little sense. Even a deaf ear should be able to feel something falling on it, right?
  • 30-Across: One way to say that something [“Doesn’t bother me”] is to say it’s NO SKIN OFF MY NOSE. Love the expression, though again it makes little sense to me. I can think of several pockets of skin I would be much more reticent to surrender than that on my nose.
  • 47-Across: A possible [Cause of hoarseness] is a FROG IN THE THROAT.

Did anyone notice that “ears” was pluralized but the other body parts were not? My (short) research suggests that E.N.T. stands for “ear, nose and throat” and not “ears, nose and throat.” But I can’t say I noticed this before working on this write-up; it gave me no problems while I was solving.

Indeed, the puzzle presented virtually no problems at all. With my chubby and clumsy fingers, any solving time under five minutes means I was flying through the grid. (I’m predicting many top solvers will sport times under two minutes). I loved how smoothly it all fell, like a neatly stacked row of dominoes. Each entry just fed the crossings so well. I started in the northwest, shot out of the little peephole up there into the northeast, then down the left side of the slope to the southwest. I curled up the back side of the slope back to the northeast, then finished in the southeast section.

Highlights in the fill included GET IN, NOD OFF, BARQS root beer, and READ INTO. Having DATE OF BIRTH run down through all three theme entries was a very elegant touch. The clues were very straightforward, though my favorite was the clever [Falls for a recently married woman?] for NIAGARA.

Steve Blais’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 2 12

As pannonica was saying about the NYT, this LAT also has more than the usual number of black squares (42) and rows 6 and 10 have more blocks than letters. Odd layout here, built to accommodate those 12-letter theme entries.

The theme is cute but not perfectly executed. 39a: [Tot’s chant suggested by the starts of 17-, 24-, 49- and 60-Across] is “THIS LITTLE PIGGY,” as the other theme entries evoke “This little piggy went to MARKET, this little piggy stayed HOME. This little piggy had ROAST BEEF, this little puggy had NONE. And this little piggy cried WEE, wee, wee all the way home.”

  • 17a. [Percentage of industry sales] is MARKET SHARE.
  • 24a. [Commodore 64, e.g.] is a HOME COMPUTER. Or rather, it was one between 1982 and 1994. (If you liked the look, check out the new (!) Commodore 64x.) Is the clue so retro because “home computer” is now a retro term?
  • 49a. [Offering at Arby’s] clues ROAST BEEF SUB, but I see no evidence that Arby’s offers such a sandwich. They have assorted roast beef sandwiches and they have French dip, Italian, and turkey bacon club subs. Sure, the French dip is made with roast beef, but who calls it a “roast beef sub”?
  • 60a. [Hardly certain] clues NONE TOO SURE.
  • 63a. [When tripled, cry near the end of 39-Across] is WEE.

Five more clues:

  • 31d. [Cause of a sudden drop in altitude] is hitting an AIR POCKET. Dude! Don’t scare me! The rest of my family’s boarding a plane in an hour.
  • 10a. [1970 hit that asks about its title, “What is it good for?”] clues WAR. The answer is “absolutely nothing,” though one could certainly argue that ousting Hitler and Nazism is something that war is good for. I hope this clue has reminded you of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine tells a Russian author that War, What Is It Good For? was the original title of War and Peace.
  • 23d. [Classic video games] clues ATARIS. Really? I don’t know about this. People called the individual games “Ataris”?
  • 54a. [Brittany or Normandy, once] was a DUCHY. Who knew?
  • 41d. [Some George Carlin jokes] are PUNS. What’s your favorite Carlin pun?

3.25 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 398 solution

Who doesn’t enjoy a 72-word themeless puzzle with tons of sprightly long answers? Here are the highlights:

  • Three full names, two real and one fictional. LISBETH SALANDER is the one who’s not the guy in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. What’s the guy’s name? I can never remember (and haven’t read the books or seen the Swedish or American movies). I first heard of C.C.H. POUNDER in Roger Ebert’s 1988 review of Bagdad Café. Roger wrote, “The proprietor is a free-thinking black woman named Brenda (CCH Pounder – yes, CCH Pounder), who shares the premises with her teenage children, a baby, a bewildered Italian cook, a tattoo artist and a shipwrecked former Hollywood set painter who is played by Jack Palance as if he had definitely painted his last set.” Ever since, I have always mentally appended as “yes, C.C.H. Pounder” to her name. What was Rog getting at? That the film newcomer had a surprising name? It’s short for Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder. We’ve also got ISAAC STERN partying with C.C.H. and the tattooed lady.
  • 1a. BURGER JOINT! Slangy, familiar, casual. Classic BEQ. Great way to start the puzzle.
  • 64a. [1997 best-seller with the subtitle “A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster”], INTO THIN AIR. My husband read it. I waited for Krakauer’s follow-up (his third book whose title begins with a preposition), Under the Banner of Heaven; it has a lot less mountains.
  • 23d. [Toyota ___] was tricky. CE****, how can that not be CELICA?!? It’s the Toyota CENTER, where the Houston Rockets play. 39d: [AHL athlete that plays in 23-Down] is a Houston AERO hockey player, too. (Never heard of the venue, but I do like a good constructor trap.) Not to be confused with Toyota Park, where the Chicago Fire play.

Low points: Er, ERLE, ERNE, EERO. They’re lonely without ERSE and ERIE.

3.75 stars.

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5 Responses to Monday, 1/2/12

  1. Gareth says:

    I’ll give this NYT two thumbs up! Consistent pattern of PREPOSITION the NOUN, colourful phrases and a great clincher at the end!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    As usual, I had to cheat to complete the BEQ. Even the Swiss river ERNE was awful, never mind the POUNDER person. Oh well, that’s life out on the edges… I enjoyed the other three!

  3. Bananarchy says:

    @ArtLvr: ditto. Didn’t dislike the puzzle, but the names killed me, even though CCHPOUNDER was the first thing I put in (loved The Shield!).

  4. Howard B says:

    BEQ: Either you know SALANDER (I know, I haven’t read the series or seen the films yet… that’s on me) and CCH POUNDER/CSU, or you’re in trouble in this puzzle. Those crossings hurt me and took a whole bunch of guesses until I landed on the right letters. Fun puzzle without that, but those are really nasty polarizing crosses otherwise. Those that know the names are going to toss them in without a thought, others won’t have much of a prayer to infer them. Not a fan of that sort of name crossing. The rest of the puzzle? Great stuff.
    (I know BEQ can take it, so I say that with kindness :).

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Great discovery: I may have my Google status back along with new computer. (Thanks, Santa.) I’m also glad I’m now able to access puzzles that abandoned AcrossLite — but I still prefer the old format because I can’t save the others in Downloads. And BEQ is still a pain in mechanics (on top of distinctly difficult content) because the delete action isn’t directly on the square where deletion in desired. Did we ever discuss this darned Quigley Quirk???

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