Wednesday, 1/4/12

Onion 5:05 
NYT 4:40 
LAT 3:30 
CS 4:50 (Sam) 

Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1 4 12 #0104

I’m not remotely in a blogging mood tonight, so let’s keep this short. Quote theme! It’s funny, and though it’s still a dreaded quote theme, it strings you along decently. Brendan not-Quigley BEHAN quipped, “I SAW A NOTICE / WHICH SAID / ‘DRINK CANADA / DRY’ AND I’VE / JUST STARTED.”

The fill felt tough for a Wednesday, and so did the clues. I swear to you that Brendan has a hard time writing easy clues. He just thinks at too high a level.

Top six clues that mired me in quicksand:

  • 1d. [You are here] vexed me. It vexed me, I tell you! ONE DOWN? Aargh!
  • 2d. Neat John BELUSHI trivia. [Only person to have the #1 movie, #1 album and #1-rated late-night TV show all in the same week]. SNL and The Blues Brothers film/soundtrack, I’m guessing.
  • 25d. I read the clue [Key in the middle of the top row] and assumed it was about pianos and musical keys and things I don’t know. Duh. F6, or in crosswordland F-SIX, on a computer keyboard.
  • 26d. SIM CARD is a [Data holder on a cellphone]. Do iPhones have SIM cards, people?
  • 4d. This one was also tough. A SWITCH is a [Feature of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab]? All right.
  • 8d. [Tripping] ON ACID? The Gray Lady is totally high right now.

I don’t at all understand the clue for 30d: BRA. [It’s held up with a hook]? Say what? The hooks (and there are usually at least two) are generally found in the back, and they close up the band of the bra, which is the bottom of the bra. How does any hook hold up a bra? Brendan has a wife in the house, so I’m guessing this wasn’t his clue.

3.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Daybreak” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, January 4

Today’s Hump Day puzzle gives us five expressions that break the word DAY by having the DA- up front at the -Y at the end:

  • 17-Across: DADE COUNTY is the [Miami locale that changed its name in 1997]. It’s now Miami-Dade County. How will we ever keep it straight?
  • 26-Across: DANA CARVEY is the [Garth Algar portrayer] from the Wayne’s World movies-slash-SNL-skits. If I ever knew Algar was Garth’s last name, I’ve forgotten when I forgot it.
  • 37-Across: The DAKOTA TERRITORY was [Part of the Louisiana Purchase]. Imagine if that deal went down today. What would be the closing costs on 530 million acres? Surely the purchase price wouldn’t still be $15 million, though it is a buyer’s market now….
  • 54-Across: [“Harold and Maude,” for one] is, from what I know, a very apt clue for DARK COMEDY. But I haven’t seen it. Should I add it to the growing list of movies I should watch?
  • 62-Across: A DANCE PARTY is a [Gathering with a disc jockey, often]. But you don’t really need the DJ for a successful event. Guests willing to dance are an even more important component.

After DADE COUNTY and DANA CARVEY were in place, I wondered if the theme was going to be another take on D.C. (we have seen those initials used for the theme twice in the recent past, though in other venues). DAKOTA TERRITORY broke the string, though, and it was only then that I bothered to check out the puzzle’s title to see what was going on (or, to be grammatically correct, “to see where it was going”).

There’s 55 squares of thematic content, but the grid has an open and unconstrained feel to it.  I love, love, love, love (yes, it must be said four time) the quad-sixes in two corners, especially MANURE, the [Farm fertilizer]. I got off to a good start with BENJI, the [Mutt in a 1974 film]. That was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theater, so it stuck with me. The crossing letter sequence of B-C-D would normally ping the Scowl-o-Meter, but with a fun clue like [A train] I decided to extend significant slack. OTIC, meaning [Hearing-related], STARRS, ENE, and -IEST weren’t pretty, but I can’t say they annoyed me or detracted from my solve.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 1 4 12 Hinman

The letter R plays well with others, as you can see from Tyler’s theme. Four phrases whose key words start with R are altered by the addition of other consonants before the R’s:

  • 17a. [Gave credit to a mathematician’s work?] clues PRAISED THE PROOF. As for “raise the roof,” how can one raise the roof when the roof, the roof is on fire?
  • 28a. [Being a jerk on] clues TRICK TROLLING. Here’s an example of that.
  • 46a. [What the animated Pinky certainly isn’t?] is as BRIGHT AS BRAIN. Narf!
  • 58a. [Agency responsible for student awards as well as death certificates?] is GRANTS AND GRAVES.

I have no idea why QUIBBLE is clued as 39a: [See 52-Across] when 52a is [Cousin ___] ITT. Anyone? (The word is that the grid was changed, 51a was originally NIT and was originally numbered 52a, and the cross-reference that now makes no sense wasn’t caught.)

Overall, the fill and clues are good, fun, interesting (note the clues for SOFA, ANT, and ORBIT, for example).

Gotta run—4 stars.

Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 4 12

Theme: A nerve-racking BLIND DATE (65a. [Situation in which this puzzle’s symptoms may appear]) and the physical signs of anxiety:

  • 17a. [Scratchy symptom of nerves] = DRY THROAT
  • 25a. [Agitated symptom of nerves] = RACING HEART. “My heart is racing” is completely familiar but I can’t say I’ve heard people mention a “racing heart.”
  • 38a. [Unstable symptom of nerves] = WEAK KNEES
  • 53a. [Moist symptom of nerves] = SWEATY PALMS

A fair number of answers fall into the categories of proper names (DORA, ERBE, ELISA, ANNE, ISAO, UNGER, RAGU, SETON Hall, ASIA, EDAM, CORETTA, TYR, PABLO, LUISE, ADAM, and NED makes 16), abbreviations (AFTS, MBAS, NCOS crossing the cross-referenced SGT, ACCT, SATS, AKC), and foreign words (ICI crossing ECOLE, MER, ORA, ERAT). I don’t think the theme square count is high enough or the word count low enough for all that “meh” fill. There are also some awkward two-word phrases in the grid. Who says POOR AT? Who doesn’t want to move the word break up one letter there? Think of the cluing options for POO RAT! (Note: Joking. POO RAT would be terrible contrived fill.)

The 7×3 corners look themeless-grade when empty and most of the 7s are completely solid (if a bit stolid), but the short crossings are a bit of a letdown (AFTS, L-DOPA, ALTI-, EARED, ORA, ELISA).

2.75 stars.

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15 Responses to Wednesday, 1/4/12

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: BELUSHI. Wouldn’t Dan Aykroyd have been in, and credited in, each of those three productions as well?

  2. Matt says:

    I thought the NYT was a good puzzle, challenging and scrabbly. ‘Cept for that crossing of 37D (___ KItchen) and 40A (“Breaking Bad” network). I was ignorant of both and had a ‘B’ there. AMC coulda been the theater chain…

  3. HH says:

    “I don’t at all understand the clue for 30d: BRA. [It’s held up with a hook]?”

    I’d volunteer.

  4. Anthony says:

    @Pannonica: When BELUSHI fell into place, I assumed the reference was to “Animal House,” the Blues Brothers album (there was an LP at least a year before the film with the hit single “Soul Man”) and SNL. So that would explain why the description didn’t also apply to Dan Aykroyd. (In junior high at the time so I remember the first album.)

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    I had the same crossing issue as Matt.

  6. Gareth says:

    I laughed the first time I came across that pun, but that wasn’t here… Always a danger with a quip theme. Made the same mistake as Matt…

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Same as Matt, Jan (of course) and Gareth. And I had trouble getting the final letter of CANADA. Maybe because it isn’t dry here right now.

  8. Jim K says:

    Nice BEQ puzzle. Plus I always like a good Springsteen answer

  9. Bob Margolis says:

    This article, appearing in the Dec. 24, 2011 online issue of the British publication, New Scientist,

    How crossword puzzles mess with your mind

    The agony and the ecstasy of solving a crossword puzzle can reflect a surprising amount about the subconscious mind,

    can be read at:

    Bob Margolis

  10. Gareth says:

    Thought Hinman’s puzzle was very well executed; also, there isn’t nearly enough Pinky and The Brain in crosswords… I’m guessing my initial guesses for OIL and SOFA, wmd and lOFt were deliberate dupes? A hayloft is a tad more rustic than a sofa…

    Also: Did anyone else have the BOSSY/PUSHY cross-crossword malapop?

  11. Karen says:

    For NYT 1D I confidently put in ON EARTH. Which is true.

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    The BELUSHI clue refers to “Saturday Night Live”, “The Blues Brother” album and “Animal House”. “The Blues Brothers” movie came out in 1980, after Belushi and Aykroyd had both left SNL.

    In the CS, I was amused that DUET is clued as [“Unforgettable”, e.g.]. It is, of course, a classic Nat King Cole song remixed posthumously (for Nat) as a Natalie/Nat duet decades later, and often refered to at the time as “Unforgivable”. There are plenty of duets that could have been used in the clue, and opting for “Unforgettable” helped to add a nice chuckle to the solving experience.

  13. ant says:

    Kinda cool to see ANT appear in almost the exact same spot of the grid in both the CS and Onion. Liked the clue for each, too. Silly little word, but it means so much to me…

    Sam – Harold & Maude may have been a DARKCOMEDY in its day, but now it’s just a quirky movie. I still recommend seeing it, though – it’s a classic nonetheless.

    And, Amy – it’s not the BRA that’s held up by the hook, but the teen-age boys trying to get past it.

  14. pannonica says:

    “…it’s not the BRA that’s held up by the hook, but the teen-age boys trying to get past it.”

    I don’t buy it. The clue is [It’s held up with a hook]. The removal or the teen boys would be the ones held up, not the bra, which is unequivocally the object in that phrase.

  15. ant says:

    Oh, I wasn’t trying to justify the clue/answer – just making an observation (as a one-time teen-age boy).

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