Tuesday, 1/17/12

NYT 3:20 
LAT 2:37 
CS 6:32 (Sam) 
Jonesin' untimed 

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 1 17 12 #0117

Cute! Circled letters spell out the parts of VINCENT VAN GOGH‘s face, and when I went to the right side of the grid looking for the other EAR, I found that the ear in question had been lopped off. Of course! Two EYEs, a NOSE and a MOUTH, and just the one EAR. I really want to circle that FOOT in 15a, though. “Vincent! Picasso was only a child when you died! Get that foot off the forehead, silly.”

Pretty light on the theme front (aside from the facial features having to mesh with the Across and Down answers), so there’s space for some livelier fill. Like the redhead’s propensity to FRECKLE, slangy ol’ HOOSEGOW, NOWADAYS, and WENT SOLO.

My favorite clue here is 67a: [“Pardon me, would you have any ___ Poupon?”] for GREY.

My other favorite clue is 57a: [It used to be called the Hermit Kingdom] for KOREA. Looks like the North called dibs on the hermit thing and left the South to party with the rest of the world.

4.25 stars.

Most unusual word is 43a: FLOSSY, clued as [Showily stylish]. Can you use that in a sentence? No fair going with “Thongs are rather butt-flossy, aren’t they?”

No real clunkers in the grid, as you’d hope when there’s not a ton of thematic material.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Motoring Menaces” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 17

There’s a pile-up in today’s crossword, likely the result of not one but five different drivers in the grid, each given the apt clue of [Motoring menace]:

  • 20-Across: First up is the RUBBER-NECKER, the term for one who slows down to look at accidents and other incidents that have pulled off to the side of the road. I hate rubber-neckers, though I freely admit it’s important for me to slow down and check out an accident myself. You might think it’s none of my business, but who knows, there could be a lurking federal income tax issue at the scene.
  • 30-Across: The second menace is the SPEEDSTER. The speedster is anyone going faster than me.
  • 39-Across: Next up is the ROAD HOG, one who can actually take up more than one lane at a time (or hover so close to the edge of one lane that the driver in the next lane dare not try to pass). Here’s one label that doesn’t apply to me–I’m usually pretty good at staying in the middle of my chosen lane. I originally had KEEP AT for the answer to the crossing [Persist with]. That gave me a ROAD HAG, a term that tickles me. I knew it was wrong, but I held onto it for another half-second just to savor it. I then keyed in the right answer for the crossing, KEEP ON.
  • 48-Across: Close on the heels (appropriately), is the TAILGATER, one following a little too close for comfort. When I drove a beat-up used car I used to think it would be smart to slam on my brakes when a tailgater lurked behind. I thought it would be the easy way to score a new car. Good thing that plan never came to fruition.
  • 55-Across: Finally, we have a SUNDAY DRIVER bringing up the rear (of course). A “Sunday driver” is anyone going more slowly than me. As you can guess, my roads are crammed with speedsters and Sunday drivers. Sheesh, anyone can get a license.

The Across fill is very short, with only two entries more than five letters in length. The jazzier fill is in the Downs, highlighted by PEBBLES, [Bamm-Bamm’s playmate], Kurt COBAIN, AT EASE, and my favorite, GRUELS, the [Thin pooridges]. Overall, it is quite smooth considering the number of theme entries strewn about.

Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 17 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 17 12

Today we celebrate the ninetieth birthday of a living legend, BETTY WHITE, who sits at 9/66-Across.
  • 20a. [Sitcom co-starring 9/66-Across] – THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Thank you for being a friend, Betty. Bonus entry! Betty’s character, ROSE Nylund sits atop this entry.
  • 37a. [Dramedy on which 9/66-Across had a recurring role] – BOSTON LEGAL. Perhaps the greatest show of the last decade, and Betty’s appearances on it were some of the finest moments.
  • 55a. [Sitcom co-starring 9/66-Across] – HOT IN CLEVELAND, Wednesdays at 10/9c on TV Land. Bonus entry! ELKA Ostrovsky sits below this entry – I had to look her last name up despite watching the show.

Did you watch Betty White’s 90th birthday celebration last night on NBC? Some great clips and some pretty funny tributes. If you missed it, I’d bet you can find it on Hulu or somewhere like that.

Thinking of Betty’s 90 years confused me at 4-Down, thinking I was looking for an AGE GAP, but a [Good thing to get in competition] is A LEG UP. That’s a bit harder to parse immediately than DR. SPOCK (who was missing for last night’s event) and ODD LOT. WASH ME is always popular in puzzles and in the parking lot. I discovered last week that one of my friends didn’t know what a TOLL CALL was; I asked him what he thought the opposite of toll-free was, and then he thought it made sense. Solving a puzzle on the computer makes clues like [PC corner key] for CTRL almost too easy.

Only complaints here were 9d. [Italian seaport] – BARI and 50a. [White House advisory gp.] – NSC, the National Security Council (but really, it could’ve been anything). Still, I think this is a great tribute to TV’s Golden Girl.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Happy 100th, Universal!”

Jonesin' crossword answers, "Happy 100th, Universal!"

Sorry for the tardy review. Not sure if I’m the only one who didn’t get the Jonesin’ email at the usual time, or if the rest of you just got it this evening too.

Here’s the backstory for this theme: Last week, Universal Studios announced its 100th anniversary plans. They’ll restore and reissue a bunch of classic films, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Dracula, and The Sting. Now, Universal has also made its share of trashy (or otherwise not-in-the-canon-of-classic-film) movies, so Matt chooses to shine the spotlight on FLETCH, CAR WASH, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, REPO MAN, and XANADU. One might argue that the Mercedes driver rushing to the car wash after her kid has puked out the window (must protect the car’s finish!) is exactly the sort of scene that places Car Wash firmly in the pantheon. Plus, the theme song by Rose Royce! And Repo Man, with the brilliant Harry Dean Stanton. Fletch has its admirers too. My kid enjoyed the ’70s muscle cars in Smokey and as for Xanadu, well, Michael Sharp is a big Olivia Newton-John fan so you’d have to ask him for a defense of the film. I have none.

Highlights, comments, whatnot:

  • 17a. RED ROBIN, the [Burger chain with a bird mascot]. Fresh fill. The guy who hit my car a couple years ago managed the Skokie location but I haven’t been. No turkey burger? To hell with you. I’ll go to Epic Burger instead.
  • 29a. [Late writer/philosopher/”psychonaut” McKenna] clues TERENCE. I didn’t know the name but just perused his Wikipedia bio.
  • 3d. [Former Israeli Prime Minister Rabin]’s first name is YITZHAK. I like names that make me feel smart when I remember how to spell them.
  • 8d. [When duels take place, often] is AT DAWN? Really? Duelers are morning people?
  • 13d. AFK means “away from keyboard” and is clued as [“I’m not typing right now” acronym]. Not to be confused with AFAIK, which is “as far as I know.”
  • 48d. [Soviet monster] clues STALIN. I’ll never forget seeing Mothra vs. Stalin when I was a kid.

Four stars.

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7 Responses to Tuesday, 1/17/12

  1. Martin says:

    Clever theme that made me smile. This puzzle reminds me of some of the classic 15x15s that Games Magazine (under Will’s editorship) ran in the ’80s.

    Also… who on earth gave this excellent puzzle a 1-star review? IMO if you’re going to “snipe” at a puzzle, please come out into the open and tell us why.


  2. Ryan says:

    I was really hoping they’d take advantage of the Stieg laarson reference and make 64 across a hornets “nest”. A “kicked” would have easily been fit in there somewhere.

  3. Victor Barocas says:

    Okay, I gave the NYT 2 stars, not just one, but I’ll man up and offer my criticisms. First, I just didn’t find the theme that exciting. I have seen a normal face before, and the Van Gogh gag didn’t work for me. Might for some, I concede, but not for me. The bigger “ho hum” factor for me was that, except for EAR, all of the entries were clued with the body part. I would have been much more excited had I seen, for example, BREYERS ice cream, Seth MEYERS, a swarm of NOSEEUMS, or a glass of VERMOUTH. Sure, that’s more work and might make it tough or perhaps impossible to get VINCENT and VANGOGH in there, but I would have liked it a lot more. I also don’t like puzzles where I can fill in answers without reading any clues, as I could for MOUTH. The fill was fine, but I didn’t love it, and it felt very automatic. I would have much preferred, for example, APE and REX at 30-D and 31-D to give ARREST, PEA, and EXTRUDES for the acrosses. It would have been much more interesting (at least to me – de gustibus non est disputandum, I know). Everywhere I went, it felt like with a bit more effort, the fill could be made more fun. Perhaps not. It is, after all, a Monday, so there are some limits on what can be done.

    I hope that I didn’t come across as too much of a complainer. The beauty of the system, of course, is that I don’t have to like every puzzle. If other people do, good for them, and when I’m the only one to like a puzzle, that’ll be fine too.

    Best wishes to all.

  4. pannonica says:

    My reaction to the NYT was nearly identical to Victor Barocas’, though I didn’t vote. Like Amy, I was also ruffled by AFOOT.

  5. Daniel Myers says:

    Here’s a quote with FLOSSY, cited by the OED from 1922: “Do you list that with your references? Your luck with these flossy young petticoats?”

    I never vote on puzzles, fancy them or no. But, to me, there’s something more than a tad grotesque and – Dare I say it? – Philistine about this puzzle’s theme.

    Oh, and Victor, agreed, except that it’s a Tuesday, not a Monday.:-)

  6. Joan macon says:

    I remember Betty White on Al Jarvis’ Make-Believe Ballroom, which I am sure was before any of you were born. Good for her!

  7. Don Byas says:

    awful and philistine.
    An ear isn’t the only thing missing from this puzzle.

    Suggestions for future crosswords tributes:
    Sammy Davis Jr. (one eye)
    Carly Simon (one boob)
    ELLA Fitzgerald (no legs)

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