Wednesday, 1/11/12

LAT 3:32 
NYT 3:28 
CS 4:35 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 

Chuck Deodene’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1 11 12 0111

APSE! Right there at 1-Across. Is it a signal that more crosswordese is to come? I think so: OTOE, OREL, and EPEE step up to the plate. OREL gets a clue that screams “Hey, remember that puzzle last weekend that crossed the K in MARIO KART with the K in OKA?”—[Oka River city]. The Russian city of Orel has about a third of a million inhabitants, and I bet far more Americans know the name Orel Hershiser than are up on their industrial cities of southwestern Russia. (Also? Crossing Russian place OREL with Russian person YURI is mean to younger solvers who draw a blank at [Vostok 1’s Gagarin].)

If the NYT crosswords had titles on weekdays, a perfect one for today’s puzzle would be David Bowie’s “Ch-ch-ch-changes” because the theme entries are changed by the addition of CH: You’ve got your SWATCH TEAM, a PATCH ON THE BACK, the awkwardly phrased/clued GO TO THE MATCH FOR, BATCH OUT OF HELL, and ALLEY CATCH. The theme didn’t quite grab me.

DON’T BE SHY, SPAMALOT, and COLD CASES are great entries.

Did you get a load of that stack in the fifth column of the puzzle? Heh.

Three stars.

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

LA Times crossword answers, 1 11 12

I really did not make any sense out of this theme until after I was done with the puzzle. Those long explanatory clues? I often don’t read them all the way to the end. This one says 56a: [Conforms, or what each last word of 17-, 22-, 36- and 46-Across literally does]—GOES WITH THE FLOW. The word at the end of each of the other theme answers goes with the word “flow”:

  • 17a. [Online data movement] is a semi-awkward clue for INTERNET TRAFFIC. I think most bloggers view “traffic” as synonymous with “the number of visitors to a site, what brought them here,” etc. Traffic flow is that thing that’s going to be mucked up in Chicago on Thursday when the snow comes. (Snow? I didn’t order any snow.)
  • 22a. [“Man in Black” singer] is the legendary JOHNNY CASH. I think he did alright with the cash flow.
  • 36a. [Symphony or sonata] is, generically, a MUSICAL WORK. My work flow? It’s flowing.
  • 46a. [Pending] is a rather flat clue for UP IN THE AIR. [That good film with George Clooney in it—no, not The Descendants, before that] would also work. Air flow is a good thing unless you hate drafts.

I grumbled to find two presidential monograms in one puzzle—RMN, or Nixon, was the [First pres. to visit China while in office], and HST was a [Post-WWII pres.]. EDO, DAH, and OMOO further jacked up the crosswordese vibe, though certainly we’ve had a number of recent puzzles with far more offenders than this.

Favorite word in the puzzle: 14a: BONHOMIE is [Congeniality]. Not sure I’ve run into the word in a crossword grid before.

3.5 stars. You know what? I’m getting tired of “word that follows or precedes other word” themes, and I may start docking them a half star.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Jet Set” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 11

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to CrosSynergy Crossword 111, with nonstop service to a variety of daily newspapers and social media outlets. I’m Sam, and I’ll be your boarding agent for today’s puzzle. In just a few moments we’ll begin our overview of today’s crossword, but first I want to remind everyone that here at CrosSynergy we restrict your emotional baggage to two carry-on items per person. We ask that you stuff your emotional baggage into the overhead bin space and underneath the seat in front of you, causing as much disturbance and delay to fellow solvers as you possibly can. If you can’t fit all your emotional baggage on board, we don’t want you with us anyway.

We’ll begin by offering an early look at the theme entries to individuals needing a little extra time to solve the puzzle, as well as those families solving with small children. The theme entries in today’s crossword consist of four two-word terms. The first word in each term is also the name of a major (or relatively major) airline:

  • 20-Across: One [Mind reading trick] is SPIRIT WRITING. We know few of you are familiar with either “spirit writing” or Spirit Airlines, but we ask that you remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened until we have indicated that the theme entries are smooth enough to allow you to walk about. One website explains spirit writing like so: “Although now largely a thing of the past, so-called trance writing was popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as an alleged form of spirit communication. Also known as ‘automatic writing’ it involved the medium’s hand being guided, supposedly, by those who had passed into the Afterlife.” (Didn’t know Afterlife was capitalized.) Wikipedia describes Spirit Airlines as an “ultra low-cost carrier” that runs most of its flights “to destinations in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Latin America.” It appears to have hubs in Miami and Detroit. Has any of our readers flown on this carrier?
  • 28-Across: The [Event scheduled for London in 2012] is the OLYMPIC GAMES. Olympic Air is a big airline in Greece, appropriately, with its major hub in Athens. It used to be called Olympic Airlines until some financial turmoil caused a restructuring and mild re-branding. Who woulda thunk there’d be economic problems in Greece?
  • 46-Across: AMERICAN GIRL is the [Historical doll line] that continues to be this decade’s Cabbage Patch Kids or Beanie Babies. At last we have reached some smooth air, as I’m guessing most solvers reading this are familiar with American Airlines–it’s the fourth-largest airline worldwide based on passenger miles. It’s okay to get up and move about now, but if you’re still solving we recommend keeping your seat belt fastened in case we hit any unexpected bad fill.
  • 57-Across: The clue is [South Sudan joined it in 2011]. The answer is not our frequent flyer program, but instead the UNITED NATIONS. Too bad, because had they enrolled during our special promotion in 2011, they would have received 15,000 bonus miles and up to 30,000 more miles with the use of our CrosSynergy Cobalt Credit Card. With its low introductory APR of 34% and annual dues of only $550, the CrosSynergy Cobalt is the preferred card for those who can’t spell “usury.”

Now for you frequent solvers who had no trouble with the theme, let’s point out some important features in today’s crossword. If you find yourself seated next to GILGAMESH, the [King in an ancient epic], and can’t stand his ego, you can tune him out with your PLUSH, HARPO-brand DIGIT(al) STEREO headphones located in the northwest corner. Those passengers feeling IRREGULAR can find comfort in the crossing AIRWAYS, though it sure feels like AIRWAYS should have been clued as a theme revealer instead of simply [Vents].

Those worried about safety can take comfort in knowing that we have the TORAH on board, though it ominously crosses FATAL. We do recommend that you not LOITER in the southeast corner, however, as you’ll encounter some unpleasant entries down there (check out RST, TRET, and ENCE).

During the solve we’ll be offering our famous [Raisin rum cake], BABA, for sale to our solvers in economy. Now with three raisins! The price is only $10. A lot of reviewers have been complaining of the high price and have been urging solvers to stay away with words like NO NO and NYET. But we think our delicious treat is getting a bunch of BUM RAPS ([Unfair convictions]). You don’t have to eat it ON A DARE. Try it once and we guarantee you’ll either be ILL ([Flu-ridden)] or say YAY (as in [“We scored a touchdown!”]).

Speaking of touching down, that sound you just heard is not AVON calling. It’s the captain indicating that we are in our final approach, so we ask that you get your ASS back into your seat, fasten the seat belt, and switch off all electronic devices. Look at the top of the grid for a model that’s truly exemplary: a BUM and an another ASS sit side-by-side at 7- and 8-Down. We know you have your choice of crosswords, and we truly appreciate your solving CrosSynergy.

Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 1 11 12 Quigley

Tight theme: Five phrases are clued as if they’re meant to include an athlete’s nickname. I’m impressed that Brendan made this work with athletes from five different sports:

  • 17a. [William Perry’s wheels?] would be a REFRIGERATOR CAR. The Fridge was a huge defensive player for the Chicago Bears back in the day.
  • 22a. [George Herman Ruth on his high horse?] would be a RIGHTEOUS BABE, that phrase being the name of Ani DiFranco’s label. I need not mention Babe Ruth’s sport, right?
  • 38a. [Ray Leonard’s tag team partner?] is a SUGAR SUBSTITUTE. Sugar Ray Leonard is second to Oscar de la Hoya in the Cutest Boxer Contest.
  • 46a. [Emulate the effort of Earvin Johnson?] is WORK LIKE MAGIC. The phrase feels a hair unnatural to me, but I imagine if it sounded good to Brendan, it sounds good to most of you too. Magic Johnson of the Lakers.
  • 56a. [Lemieux’s milieu?] is a clean and simple clue for SUPER MARIO WORLD. Hockey great Mario Lemieux is known as Super Mario.

Favorite clues:

  • 7d. [Tender area?] is the BAR where the bartender works. Kind of a sore spot for him.
  • 25d. [Big name in mediocre steak] clues OUTBACK. I hereby declare a jihad on all the mega-chain sit-down restaurants. Chili’s is the worst of them, if you ask me, but all are dreadfully overreliant on salting the hell out of everything. Remember when Jon Stewart went on that CNN point/counterpoint show and told Tucker Carlson, “You’re hurting America”? Yes, that.
  • 55d. ADDY is cute. Although I’ve seen it used as shorthand for “email address,” not [Snail mail sender’s info, casually].
  • 62d. ORR basically has three cluing options: hockey great Bobby, the late Benjamin Orr of The Cars, and this fictional character: [“Catch-22” character who shoves crabapples in his mouth]. Lively literary clue FTW! (That’s “for the win,” if you don’t know.)

4.25 stars. Lots of theme squares in there, but smooth fill overall.

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8 Responses to Wednesday, 1/11/12

  1. ArtLvr says:

    i liked the kinds of FLOW in the LAT, especially with the reminder at 45D that such TRAFFIC often is TWO-WAY. However, the clue for HST as Post-WWII pres. is inaccurate, as the war wasn’t over when he took office: DDE fits that clue better. Also, ORO is not an abbreviation and thus doesn’t exactly correspond to AU in the English form of the periodic table — too much of a stretch for a new clue? But yes, BONHOMIE was fun. As for the NYT, the added CH was rather cute, though extra fill with those letters adjacent was a tetch distracting — OCH, CHIC, even HIGHC. I did enjoy the CAMPY and PESKY, and the two downs from 18D. Yeah, and 49A might have been Something playfully pulled? FULL STOP.

  2. Gareth says:

    NYT: GOTOTHEMATCHFOR is a clunker. The rest worked well enough. The other four longer answers were all colourful, especially DONTBESHY.
    LAT: I don’t have any special dislike for this theme time, if it has a nice clincher and gets you some fun long phrases. MUSICALWORK is pretty sere as long answers go.

  3. Cyrano says:

    A HIGH-C is NOT a “Feat” for a soprano, because to me and the MW people, “feat” is “a remarkable deed” that connotes “strength or dexterity or daring.” A soprano, almost by definition, has to be able to sing a high-C. A “feat” for a soprano is an E, Eb, F, even a D, above the C. That clue is terrible. It should be “Feat for a tenor,” THAT is a HIGH-C.

  4. Mitchs says:

    who would give this beq a 2?

  5. Todd G says:

    If I sign up for the CrosSynergy Cobalt Credit Card™, would I get lessons in how to write this spectacularly awesomely? I think it would be worth the price…even if I have to solve my puzzles while keeping my tray table and my trap in their locked and upright position.

  6. Todd G says:

    If I’d tried to write this review, I’d have used a joke like “And to Alec Baldwin, playing Words with Friends with Benefits in 3C, the word you’re looking for is HAZARD. As in ‘Using electronic devices during takeoff creates a HAZARD for the pilot and everyone on board.'” That joke is past its expiration date, isn’t it? :-(

  7. Sam Donaldson says:

    Oh, here at the Fiend we never observe expiration dates on jokes. If it smells kinda rotten, it’s just right!

  8. cyberdiva says:

    Loved Sam Donaldson’s CrosSynergy review! Much better than the puzzle!

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