Monday, 1/16/12

NYT 2:58 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:55 
CS 12:04 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • 1 16 12 • Mon • Michaels • solution

Oh boy oh boy oh boy, probably my fastest time ever! It’s due entirely to the theme. Once I realized that the four spanning themers were five-letter words repeated, it was a cinch to lay them in with just a few letters down.

Hmm. Three-name constructor, triple-word theme entries…

  • 17a. [Hamlet’s reply to “What do you read, my lord?”] WORDS, WORDS, WORDS. II:ii. The best one to start with, entirely appropriate for a word puzzle.
  • 32a. [“You’re too hard to please!”] PICKY, PICKY, PICKY.
  • 42a. [1976 Abba hit] MONEY MONEY MONEY. Don’t know the song, but it didn’t matter because I filled it in without reading the clue. At the time I thought it was the O’Jays, but that song (with the whooshy “Money, money, money” refrain) is “For the Love of Money“.
  • 63a. [How the trolley went in a 1944 song] CLANG CLANG CLANG! From the Judy Garland vehicle, Meet Me in St. Louis, but also popularized in the 1980s by the irritating Sweeney Sisters in recurring sketches on Saturday Night Live (SNL in crosswordland).

Based on blocks, words, and other factors—but not subjective difficulty—XWord Info places this puzzle in the Wednesday/Thursday slot, but I suspect it’s primarily contingent on the fact that it possesses four themers, each the maximum 15 letters in length.

Even though it was a swift and smooth solve, there were a number of answers that didn’t feel to be at the Monday level. First is LANTANA, fresh from its appearance in yesterday’s LAT. (Alas, Gareth, it isn’t poisoning and cows in this puzzle either.) Then there are TACTILE, OMNIBUS (which I missed at first because I took the clue to read “companion” rather than “compilation” book—time lost), Sicilian city ENNA, Cheers actor Roger REES, crosswordy COE College, and the phonetic KUE (“Q”).

The double-seven stacks in each corner are all good. Had GOADING in place of GOOSING in the southeast, which also cost me some precious seconds during the solve.  Are six fill-in-the-blank clues—half of them partials— too many for a single puzzle? Felt like a lot to me. Also, [Cosmetician Lauder and others] ESTÉES. Really? Plural? Yuck, yuck, yuck!*

Good, not great Monday.

(not to be confused with “yuk, yuk, yuk.”)

Updated Monday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Measuring Up” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 16

It burst into flames! It burst into flames, and it’s falling, it’s crashing! Watch it! Watch it, folks! Get out of the way! Get out of the way! It’s fire—and it’s crashing! It’s crashing terrible! Oh, my, get out of the way, please! It’s burning and bursting into flames! This is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. It’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s flames now. Oh, the humanity! I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it’s just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage. I can’t. I, listen, folks, I–I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Today’s solving time reminded me of Herbert Morrison’s immortal description of the Hindenburg disaster. I feel so embarrassed about my slow time, especially since I really liked the theme. Tyler Hinman goes Reagle-esque with puns playing on basic measurements:

  • 20-Across: A [Diameter that’s been figured out?] is a RECKONED WIDTH, a play on “reckoned with.”
  • 37-Across: To [Maintain size?] is to SAVE YOUR BREADTH (“save your breath”).
  • 55-Across: Change “cheating death” into CHEATING DEPTH and you have a measure of [How low one will sink to get an advantage?].

I suppose there aren’t many puns for HEIGHT, so I can forgive that two of the measurements are basically the same. Besides, I think all of the puns work well, and that’s the most important part.

Like my P.E. teacher waiting at the finish line of our one-mile running trail, you’re probably wondering what took me so long. Easily the biggest time-suck happened in the upper-right corner. I would have bet the farm that the answer to [Met] was SAW. Good thing I don’t own a farm, because the answer was SAT. Say what? I confess I still don’t get it. Anyway, that mental block kept me from getting ASSET as the answer to [Something good for you]. Only after I figured that out could I get GLAD TO as the equivalent of [“It’s my pleasure”].

Oh but that was just one part. DREW U(niversity), the [New Jersey sch. affiliated with the Methodists] was new to me, and it took the longest time to find FACE VALUE as the answer to [One for a dollar] (though now that I get it I really like the clue-but I would have added a comma after between “one” and “for”).

I have seen ETSY, the [Web site featuring crafts], before, but I didn’t remember it so I talked myself into trying EBAY. That made me think the answer pattern for [Series for certain conf. winners] was NB??????A. Yuck (or something rhyming with that)! I had to figure out NBA FINALS to see that the EBAY try was for naught.

Once again, part of the problem was my failure to read the entire clue. Once I saw [Damsel’s cry…], I plunked down SAVE ME. had I seen the […of relief] part, I would like to think MY HERO would have come to me more quickly. But given today’s (lack of) solving momentum, I can’t say that for sure.

I liked VISA CARD as an entry, and [Charger?] is a fun clue for it. I had the VISA part early on, but I kept thinking the clue was asking me for the card’s owner and not the card itself. So I tried VISA USER. Somehow that made sense to me at the time, though it certainly doesn’t now. This is what happens when one’s solving time is slipping out of control–one gets desperate and starts trying any conceivable answer hoping that some wild guess will cause the grid to fall. And yet, most of the time all that falls is one’s self-esteem.

This puzzle deserved a better solver. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 16 12

Three foodstuffs that begin with an ABODE make up the theme: COTTAGE CHEESE is [Dairy food with loose curds], RANCH DRESSING is a [Dip for veggies], and CHATEAUBRIAND is a [Tenderloin served with Béarnaise sauce]. The ABODE at 55d ties them all together, but the two/two/one word count of the theme entries breaks up the unity a teeny bit.

In the fill, I liked synonyms PIPE DOWN and SHUT UP and the AMEX CARD. The puzzle felt a like crosswordese roll call at the start, with LONI Anderson, OREL Hershiser, and ELIA Kazan all present and accounted for. The musical branch of the crosswordese family is represented by Brian ENO, REBA McEntire, and TITO Jackson. Lena HORNE is here too, but she’s too much of a timeless legend to fall into the crosswordese category, no?

Three partial entries today: I LET and BE ME are both clued with song titles, and the 6-letter THE DOT ([Precisely, after “on”]) should bug me because of its length (longer than the standard cap of 5), but doesn’t.

3.25 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 402 answers

It’s afternoon already so let’s make this quick.

Highlights: The new (as far as I know) coinage ADORKABLE, which I’ve seen used in reference to Zooey Deschanel on New Girl. A portmanteau of “dorky” and “adorable.” The KARDASH unit, which has also been called a kardashian, of 72 days. We are now less than one kardash away from the ACPT. Also good: STATE PEN, OPEN  MRI, CYBERSTALKERS, END NOTES clued by way of David Foster Wallace.

If you saw The Artist (which picked up a couple Golden Globes last night), you know that Bérénice Bejo’s character is named PEPPY. The character was indeed [Full of energy].

3.75 stars.

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11 Responses to Monday, 1/16/12

  1. andrea carla michaels says:

    32A ;)

  2. Jamie says:

    @acm :)

  3. ant says:

    Very cool that VISACARD (CS) and AMEXCARD (LAT) are in the exact same spot today.

    Sam, I love your write-ups and your humor, but high solving times are nowhere near on par with the horror of the Hindenburg disaster. I know you’re trying to be flippant, but I am a bit appalled. Sorry.
    As you say, there’s always tomorrow.

  4. Gareth says:

    Double dose of Britcoms in CS was a cute touch. Clueing was definitely up a notch today, but in a fun way!

  5. cyberdiva says:

    Sam, I really enjoyed Tyler’s CS puzzle AND your review. I got stuck on some of the same clues that you did and many that you didn’t. I’d have been thrilled to have finished the puzzle in just twice as long as it took you. Indeed, three times as long would have been OK.
    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of ETSY, and even though EBAY seemed not to work pretty early on, I still kept trying to make it do so, in spite of suspecting that “Give a little bite” was likely to be NIPAT. And I won’t tell you how many shades of blue I tried to abbreviate before realizing that Bay blue was SFPD. Finally, I too still have no idea what SAT has to do with Met.

  6. KenInBoston says:

    I also took a LONG time with the CS puzzle today. It was only after I finished that I saw it was Tyler Hinman’s and I thought “that explains it”.

    As for SAT, as an example, you say a committee “sits” when it meets (i.e. a sitting committee).

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Thanks, KenInBoston. Your explanation of SAT/MET makes sense, though I bet I still miss it the next time this combination appears!

  8. Jamie says:

    @ant: That Hindenburg speech is comedy gold. I liked Sam’s reference to it. I was appalled at my solving time on this too.

    I like Sam’s sense of humor. Save your outrage for Roman Numeral Math/s.

    Super-smooth job today by ACM. She knows how to write a Monday puzzle with a bit of zing to it. Also, how to reply to reviews with a bit of a humorous zap.

  9. Bananarchy says:

    The BEQ gets an OMG from me. One of his finest themelesses in a long while, IMO. I got pulverized by it, mind you, but it nevertheless seemed a lot more fair than usual. Also that grid is smashing. I’m pretty ashamed at how long ENDNOTES took me; Infinite Jest is a personal fave.

  10. David L says:

    The BEQ DFW clue was wrong, I would say. Infinite Jest doesn’t have any endnotes*. It has a boatload of footnotes, to be sure. Pale Fire has endnotes, as I recall.

    *I was wrong about that, according to wikipedia. A case of late night mis-remembering.

  11. Martin S. says:

    Sam D.,

    I liked several answers, including Hellene, blini, and others, and many clues like “She sprang from Zeus’s head” and “the Tonight Show host who once walked off the set.” But for me there were too many obscure, or 95% wrong/5% right answers like “stair” for part of a case (yes, if it is a STAIR case and not a legal case, briefcase, jeweler’s case, etc.); “dem” as elephant’s natural enemy (donkey is consistent with mascot theme); “sire” for “bring into the world, as opposed to “give birth to”; and “visacard” for “charger?” (why not “Arnold Palmer”, nicknamed the “charger” for his come from behind victories; or “Phil Rivers” of the San Diego Chargers, or “lightning” for that matter. And “For a dollar bill: one” is a fairer clue for “face value” than “one for a dollar.” (I would have liked “model’s fee?” although I might not have solved it!)

    Martin S. (not Martin Ashwood-Smith)

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