Wednesday, 1/18/12

NYT 3:47 
LAT 2:33 
CS 5:13 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 

Chris Handman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 18 12 #0118

The theme was okay, but something about this puzzle held me at arm’s length. Just wasn’t getting into any sort of groove with it. Some of it was fill like ENIAC, EEE, SMEE, REPIN, and ADAIR pushing me away, and some of it was just not parsing the clues. Didn’t quite feel like an NYT crossword. Does anyone else feel that way?

The theme entries include four phrases that have been changed by adding the letters T, I, R, and E to them, and then SPARE TIRE provides the rationale for this.

  • 18a. [Monopolist’s clothing accessory?] clues TRUST BELT. A-a-and what would that look like? What would make a belt a “trust belt” (other than adding a T to the front of Rust Belt)?
  • 24a. [Designers for Microsoft Windows?] clues ICON ARTISTS.
  • 41a. ROUT OF THIS WORLD is [What Martian invaders may be intent on?]. I’m hearing Scooby-Doo here.
  • 53a. [What the backer of a failing business may do?] is EAT ALL COSTS.

I kinda hate the word SISSY and wouldn’t mind never seeing it again. [Actress Spacek] would be aces, but [He-man’s opposite]? Ugh.

54a: TOILE is an [Upholstery fabric]? Not always. Bedding, curtains, wallpaper. But yes, also chairs. Wikipedia (which will be dark Wednesday, the English-language version of it, anyway) says “Toile de Jouy, sometimes abbreviated to simply ‘toile’, is a type of decorating pattern consisting of a usually white or off-white background on which a repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene, generally of a pastoral theme such as (for example) a couple having a picnic by a lake.” Googling found me this funny toile-print t-shirt. “Moving goats is my job!” If you would like to learn more about toile via Wikipedia on Wednesday, I hope you can read German.

3.25 stars.

Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 18 12

Redundancies like the theme entries here are called pleonasms (from the Greek for “superfluous”), and that’s a word I love because it can be spoonerized within itself to make another word, neoplasms. That has no bearing whatsoever on the theme, of course. We have the following:

  • 20a. [Redundant position?] is CLOSE PROXIMITY. If you have proximity, the closeness is implied.
  • 25a. [Redundant alert?] is ADVANCE WARNING. If it comes after the fact, you haven’t gotten any warning at all.
  • 42a. [Redundant habit?] clues REGULAR ROUTINE. I thought to myself, “Who says that?” Then I Googled it and got 5.6 million hits. Apparently plenty of people make it a regular routine to use this phrase.
  • 48a. [Redundant guesses?] are ROUGH ESTIMATES. This one’s pluralized to fit with the other 14-letter theem answers, which is a mild demerit.

It’s probably not the first time the theme’s been done, but who cares? It works, and it makes for an easy Tuesday offering.

Seven more clues:

  • 47a. To SNOG is to [Kiss and cuddle, British-style]. I believe the word is all that’s British, not the particular style of kissing and cuddling.
  • 58a. EMCEE is clued as [Oscar night VIP]. Boo. Don’t we always call ’em “Oscar hosts,” not “Oscar emcees”?
  • 59a. [Detective Peter of old TV] is GUNN. A fresher GUNN is Tim of Project Runway.
  • 61a. [Hamlet in “Hamlet” and others] are LEADS, as in lead roles. Call me crazy, but I found this to be the toughest clue in the puzzle.
  • 27d. [Halloween vandal, perhaps] clues the odd word EGGER. What else do you call someone who eggs your house but an egger?
  • 32d. [Silver fineness meas.] clues STER. Short for “sterling”? That’s a measure? Yes. Dictionary tells me sterling silver is 92.5% pure.
  • 38d. [Member of a small ruling class] is an OLIGARCH. Oligarchs are 1%ers, for sure.

3.5 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bean There, Done That” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 18

Today’s puzzle is an homage to “the musical fruit,” beans. The four theme entries are terms that end with a type of bean:

  • 17-Across: The FORD PINTO was the [Subject of a 1970s auto recall campaign]. The Pinto recall always reminds me of the Corvair, one of the subjects of Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed (my nickname in high school!). The Pinto was known to explode in rear-end collisions. Hmm. Rear end explosions. Another tie to the “bean” theme?
  • 28-Across: The [Grassy town center] is a VILLAGE GREEN. I’m not familiar with this term, but I know green beans well. Only in the last ten years have I acquired a taste for green beans. I guess I should say “reacquired.” My mother always told me that green beans were my first favorite solid food. When I resisted them as an older child, she would almost always ask, “Why don’t you like green beans anymore? You used to love them when you were younger.” I remember one occasion when she didn’t care much for my reply, “That was before I grew taste buds.”
  • 49-Across: The [Salon treatment for thong wearers] is a BRAZILIAN WAX. I love this entry–edgy, evocative, and three Scrabbly letters to make it extra hairy tricky.
  • 66-Across: The [1979 disco hit that jocularly promotes military enlistment] is IN THE NAVY, by none other than The Village People. I like this version by The Vikings.

Standout entries include GAZETTE, MORT SAHL, WASTRELS, GUCCI, ZENITH, and CHICAGO. There’s a cold snap with both ICY and SNOW, the most unwelcome winter conditions currently affecting us in Seattle. NANOOK looks comfortable sandwiched in there, though.

The puzzle’s begging for a high grade, what with A TAD, A TOE, and A-LISTS all sitting right there. So what the heck–I’ll give the puzzle an A.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 1 18 12, Deb Amlen

Deb adds two thirds of her first (nick)name to the start of each theme entry:

  • 17a. [Tag a clock with graffiti?] turns “face time” into DEFACE TIME.
  • 23a. [Adulterate some film scenes?] clues DEFILE FOOTAGE.
  • 53a. If you [Talk smack about your teachers?], you DEGRADE SCHOOL.
  • 63a. [Remove the adhesive from the bill?] to DEDUCT TAPE.

Note that all the DE+ words become verbs but in the original phrases without the DE, they’re not being used as verbs. Nice consistency.

Five faves:

  • 7d. [Triangular-headed Disney Channel character] is PHINEAS, of Phineas and Ferb fame. Deb’s son and mine are close in age and I’ll bet Deb has seen about as many episodes as I have.
  • 34d. [Lone moviegoer’s box office request] is “ONE, PLEASE.” Such nice manners! Now, why couldn’t you find anyone to go to the movie with you? Aren’t your friends interested in quality films?
  • 51d. [Wall Street leader?] in current lingo is OCCUPY. Hey, who’s up for Occupy American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March?
  • 48d. [Ohio liberal arts college], 7 letters? could be OBERLIN, but it’s WOOSTER. At last! My obsessive reading of those college guides back in the ’80s has paid off.
  • 49a. As with 51d, Deb goes topical for an ALEPPO clue: [Syrian city with 2011 antigovernment protests].

3.5 stars overall.

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6 Responses to Wednesday, 1/18/12

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    Hated that clue for SISSY – thanks for the validation. And drop TROU didn’t seem Times-ish to me, either.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Don’t know about the Pinto, but I had a Corvair waaay back when: I loved the way we could flatten the back seat and fit the portable crib there for the baby, and we drove safely coast to coast that way… Illegal now! Good BEAN puzzle, not so thrilled with the SPARE TIRE! Odd redundancies were amusing, though I had to think about the EGGER as I haven’t encountered one in ages.

  3. Gareth says:

    Thought the theme answers in the NYT could’ve been a lot more interesting considering there and only has to be one for each letter… Liked ROUTOFTHISWORLD. LAT was fun. Nice to see SNOG get some US airplay! Sam: The VILLAGEGREEN is the traditional place for cricket matches… Staphylococcus, like Escherichia coli always gets a bad rap in crosswords. The fact that under most circumstances it’s a harmless commensal/symbiote that probably prevents other bugs gaining hold is given nary a mention, no it’s been typecast: a “bad bug”.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Neat twist on the ol’ add-a-letter theme. Don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.

  5. Howard B says:

    Interesting theme in the NY Times, but felt the same way about the fill and clues as Amy. Just something about it that was a little… off. I also didn’t recall TERRI or GTS, so that was an educated guess, despite knowing that I’ve seen both clues before. Just a synapse that didn’t fire quite right. A lot of moments like that going on here, so I think it’s mostly a difference in preferences. This one maybe skews to a more classic, earlier puzzle style demographic.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Timely notice! Van Gogh: Up Close’ To Open At Philadelphia Museum Feb. 1

    “Van Gogh Up Close” presents a group of the artist’s most daring and innovative works that broke with the past and dramatically altered the course of modern painting. The exhibition will be seen in the United States only in Philadelphia, February 1-May 6, after which it travels to Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada.

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