Tuesday, 2/21/12

NYT 2:46 
LAT 4:40 (Neville) 
CS 4:59 (Sam) 
Jonesin' 5:05 (pannonica) 
Celebrity untimed 

Univision’s Tumblr blog—in English! so handy for those of us who don’t read Spanish, which is TV network Univision’s usual language—has a Latino-American perspective on the ILLEGAL flap in the NYT crossword.

Heads up: I’ll be leaving the blog in the capable Hands Across America (and Also Canada) of the Crossword Fiend team for a couple days. I trust you will all comport yourselves like ladies, gentlemen, and other nice people. Don’t burn the joint down.

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 2 21 12 0221

I was wending my way through the puzzle and had no idea what the theme was. I had a momentary “PATTON OSWALT, huh, could be about General Patton” thought but the other theme entries didn’t scream “movie title” to me. Caleb is a movie buff, though, and a fine constructor despite his insane youth (I think he’s maybe 19 now). In fact, he’s made crosswords for the Directors Guild‘s DGA Quarterly.

So: The theme people’s first names are also BEST PICTURE Oscar winners: OLIVER STONE, PATTON OSWALT, REBECCA DE MORNAY, and MARTY FELDMAN. Timely puzzle since the Oscars are awarded this Sunday. I also like the time span of the movies and the people, ranging from a 1940 movie (Rebecca) to a currently popular comedian (that’s Oswalt), with stops in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

The long Down answers are also cinematic—the LIGHT SABER and BONES MCCOY—but they aren’t part of the theme. They’re merely delightful frosting on the cake. Did someone say cake? SARA LEE is in the puzzle, too. I don’t think Sara Lee still makes Black Forest cake but you know what? I had a chocolate/cream cupcake tonight and washed it down with a glass of Trader Joe’s tart cherry juice and it tasted like Black Forest cake. Yum! AMSTEL would not have enhanced the cake experience nearly as well.

Good fill overall, surprising theme. 4.5 stars from me.

Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”

Celebrity crossword, 2 21 12 "TV Tuesday" Berry

Tough puzzle for Tuesday, no? If you’re a fan of BREAKING BAD, you’ve got a leg up on the competition, and if you’re like me—you know the show’s supposed to be fabulous but you just haven’t gotten around to watching it yet—the theme is slow to come together. And a lot of the pop-culture stuff in the fill is tricky too.

First up, the theme:

  • 17a. [Critically acclaimed crime drama since 2008], BREAKING BAD. I think of “crime dramas” as shows like The Sopranos, but I guess meth dealers/makers are no less criminal than mobsters.
  • 25a. [Star of 17-Across], BRYAN CRANSTON.
  • 38a. [Character that 25-Across plays on 17-Across], WALTER WHITE.
  • 37a. AARON [__ Paul (co-star of 25-Across on 17-Across)] is a bonus answer.
  • 40a. Another bonus answer: HANK [__ Schrader (DEA agent played by Dean Norris on 17-Across].
  • 1d. AMC is the [Network that airs 17-Across].

I’ve never heard of 1a: AMP, the [PepsiCo energy drink]. And it’s a good thing I knew 6d: BELINDA, [Go-Go’s singer Carlisle who wrote the 2010 autobiography “Lips Unsealed”], because I sure didn’t know 4a: DEB, [Dex’s sister on “Dexter”]. MELINDA is plausible, but DEM is an implausible sister’s name. (Oddly enough, my good friend Deb Amlen has seen her name in the media as “Dem Amlen,” most recently in the Univision post linked above before they fixed that booboo.)

Challenging puzzle overall, with tough pop-culture clues for common words and for names, with all of ’em interlocking and stacking. WALTER’s first four letters are part of four proper nouns—WHAM, PAULA, ALLEN, and STACY—that in turn cross another proper name, ALEC. Clues for words like FIRE, EVIL, and SAND also quiz you on pop culture. In upcoming Celebrity puzzles, you’ll see less of this sort of pile-up.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Erin Go Bra” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 21

Today’s crossword title brought to mind that Happy Days episode when Joanie hit puberty. (Okay, there was no such episode–I don’t think–but the title did make me think of that.) I confess I had to stare at the theme entries for a while before figuring out the theme–each of the four longest Across answers starts with a word that’s also a part of a bra:

  • 20-B Across: The [Drink that “we’ll tak’ … yet for auld lang syne”] is a CUP O’ KINDNESS. The bigger the cup the more the kindness, I take it? Doesn’t that clue look funny with all its punctuation and broken words?
  • 36-C Across: HOOK OR CROOK means [Any means possible]. That expression looks a little naked to me without the “by” in front, but it’s legit.
  • 43-D Across: I never knew there was a word for a [Subway rider without a seat] besides “stander.” It’s a STRAP-HANGER. Interesting term. I guess there aren’t many crossword-appropriate terms that begin with “strap”–when I did a Google search for other such terms, my seat mates here on the plane got quite an eyeful, I’m afraid.
  • 57-EE Across: The [1973 multi-platinum album by Wings] is BAND ON THE RUN. Kinda gives it a new meaning when you think of it as a bra band on the run.

Yes, taking so long to figure out the theme left me feeling like a boob. Sometimes it’s hard to keep abreast of themes even after I’m done solving. It’s as if that one extra task of finding the theme makes my melon explode. You’re welcome, 13 year-old readers.

Three things I loved about this puzzle that may leave you thinking less of me:

  • (1) I love how SNOOKI from Jersey Shore (the [Pal of J-WOWW and The Situation]) crosses [Nabokov’s title professor], PNIN. Only in crosswords! Should I be embarrassed that SNOOKI was my third guess after PAULY and VINNIE? Well I’m not. (Had SNOOKI come to mind after DEENA, SAMMI, or RONNIE, on the other hand, I wouldn’t even confess to it.)
  • (2) SKINS, the [Shirts’ adversaries, on an amateur game field], intersects two theme entries. In a puzzle about bras. That’s just awesome.
  • (3) My favorite clues were [Comparable to a fiddle?] for AS FIT (that one really vexed me for a while, and I liked the payoff when I figured it out) and [Be crabby?] for SIDLE. I like that last one strictly for its own cleverness. It has nothing to do with the fact that it’s in a puzzle about bras. Seriously. Stop looking at me like that!

Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 21 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 21 12

Well this puzzle is a huge disaster. No, seriously:

  • 16a. [Airport security canine] – BOMB SNIFFING DOG
  • 23a. [Thanksgiving serving] – TURKEY DRUMSTICK
  • 41a. [Frothy citrus dessert] – LEMON CHIFFON PIE
  • 56a. [Women’s swimsuit size factor] – BUST MEASUREMENT(!)

Each theme entry starts with a bang — and not a good one. But the theme itself is a good one! I got thrown off immediately by some [Bad guys] – NASTIES, not NEMESES. But after SEEING STARS, I was back on the right track. There’s a food chain in the NE corner with a DOG, BIG CAT and a MYNA. (There’s a theme idea in there somewhere.)  Li’l Abner fans and crossworders alike recognize DAISY MAE‘s name; she’s the most exciting  bit of fill for me. (EAU DE VIE is too vowelly for my tastes.) Beyond that, the fill’s pretty unexciting. I wish that weren’t the price we paid for the fun theme entries (especially that last one).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a last ditch effort to make at Matt Gaffney’s contest.

Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ crossword, “Going Negative – totally in denial” — pannonica’s review

Jonesin' crossword • 2/23/12 • "Going Negative" • Jones • solution

Not for nothing, but it would be easy to write up a negative review of this puzzle, if one were so inclined. Each themer takes a phrase, slaps a “not” before it, and clues the resulting twisted outcome.

  • 18a. [“Oh 7, why’d you have to go and eat 9?  And 6, did you help 7 out of fear? I’m shocked!”] NOT THAT, FIGURES! This was the most difficult of the four theme answers for me to parse, but it finally clicked well enough.
  • 28a. [“I can see you on a cold day and you’re like a cloud … I’m impressed…”] NOT BAD BREATH!
  • 37a. [“Hmmm … I’m stumped as to how you landed a role on “The Addams Family…”] NOT SURE, THING. Stumped is a nice visual touch.
  • 48a. [“Oh yeah, like I’d ever see a guy with a ruffled shirt and heaving chest in real life…”] NOT TRUE ROMANCE.

All right, they’re on the weird side, but with a little effort they can all be seen to make sense. Consistent in that all four are presented as quoted statements. My solving time was lengthened slightly by not being able to quickly and easily read the long clues in AcrossLite; I skipped them the first few times around.

For ballast, the unappealing three-stacks in the northwest and southeast are made up for by the very nice double-eights crossing them: CO-ANCHOR & SORORITY and TIME CARD & UNFREEZE. More length in the eleven-letter acrosses, each lying their full length alongside themers: ONE BAD APPLE (“…don’t spoil the whole bunch”) and SILLY RABBIT (“…Trix are for kids!”).

Some other stuff:

  • Sandwiches! 1d [Simple sammich] PBJ. 4d. [ __ mi (Vietnamese sandwich] BANH. Yum! for the latter, meh for the first. Not sure how I feel about the trendy “sammich” spelling.
  • 14d [Serpent deity group , in Hinduism (in RUN AGAINST)] NAGA. You know it’s going to be something rather obscure if the clue requires such an overt hint. I mention this one only to point out that Naja—of the same etymology—is a large genus of cobra, the one that contains all the familiar, hooded species. More snake action at 50d [Diamondback stats] RBIS.
  • 25d [Mythical giant with 100 eyes] ARGUS. “In [Greek] mythology the Peacock is identified with the goddess Hera… The eyes upon the peacock’s tail comes from Argus whose hundred eyes were placed upon the peacock’s feathers by the goddess in memory of his role as the guard of Io, a lover of Zeus that Hera had punished. The eyes are said to symbolize the vault of heaven and the ‘eyes’ of the stars.” (Wikipedia) Alas, the scientific names of the two species of peafowl don’t capitalize on the poetic possibility: Pavo cristatus and P. muticus. The iridescent eyes are called ocelli. Okay, biology and taxonomy lesson over!
  • Obscure (to me) names! HAHN [Mayor of Los Angeles, 2001–2005], ARYE [“Ellen” actor Gross], OBER [Host Ken of MTV’s “Remote Control”]. Other solvers may have been unfamiliar with KOOP, MEARA, TIEGS, RZA, or BADU.
  • 41d [They’re given in the “Wheel of Fortune” bonus round] RSTLNE. (Didn’t he write the Goosebumps books?) When did the show’s producers get wise and not have contestants pick their own letters? Also, I’m not fond of the fill for 29d AN O [“Would you like to buy __?” (“Sesame Street” song)], but since it’s so close to the concept in “Wheel of Fortune,” why not link the clues to give 29d a little more substance? They’re even close to each other in the grid.
  • Hybrid words! Half-abbreviated. KO PUNCH rather than knockout punch or just K.O. PRE-SAT instead of PSAT. Are the intended fills in common usage?
  • Was distracted and perhaps even flummoxed by 36d [“North by Northwest” film studio] MGM, because I had recently filled in 22d [Dir. opposite ESE] WNW. Dizzy!
  • Favorite clues:
    • 23d [Do some video production] EDIT. Nice to see it in a non-manuscript sense for a change.
    • 29a [Without leaves] BARE. Simple, elegant.

Good puzzle.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Tuesday, 2/21/12

  1. Plot says:

    This isn’t related to today’s puzzles, but I think many people here will find it interesting. It’s Matt Ginsberg’s official publication in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, about the creation of Dr. Fill.


    I don’t have a background in computer science, so many of the details are beyond my ken. But, this paper has a lot of information that was not provided in the recent newspaper articles. Of particular interest is a table that outlines Dr. Fill’s hypothetical performance in the 2010 ACPT

  2. janie says:

    really? someone rated caleb’s puzzle with one star? wassup with that? please tell me it was a slip of the mouse!


  3. Art Shapiro says:

    Jamie, with respect to your comment: I thought I was charitable giving it two stars; this stuff about the product placement industry and its obscure “celebrities” is not anything of particular appeal. At least I’d heard of two of the four thematic people.

    But thumbs up for giving the proper pluralization of Amoeba, so that pushed it up a star.


  4. Jamie says:

    @Art Shapiro: That was jaNie. Also, I didn’t understand your comment about the product placement industry.

    /but now I will shut up, since I suspect Amy’s comments about behaving oneself in her absence could possibly have been directed at a ton of Fiend Fans, including, at a wild stretch, yrs truly.

    /not before saying, @janie: agreed that a 1-star rating is absurd. I used to think that many of the 5-star ratings (roughly, a candidate for XW of the year) were slips of the mouse, too. That was when the system defaulted to 5 stars. Now it defaults to
    3. Extreme ratings are now difficult to explain as a slip of the mouse. There is no way this is a Tuesday NYT puzzle that is unfit for publication.

  5. Gareth says:

    Also had no idea where this was going til the end – love the extra layer of them all being actors! And BONESMCCOY/LIGHTSABER are a perfect pair of long downs – balanced Sci-Fi geekiness!

  6. Templeton says:


    This is the problem with names in the grid. Either you know it or you don’t.

    In this case, however, the names are pretty well known.

    I’d say that’s not the puzzles fault.

  7. Howard B says:

    Patton Oswalt may be the least known of the bunch because of more recent fame. I was introduced to his comedic talents by a friend only in the past year, but I’m admittedly behind the curve. It’s a rather famous bunch in general.

    Quality of the puzzle is top-notch, so 4 stars here. I reserve 5 stars for a 4-star puzzle with some additional special twist or detail that puts it above and beyond. I reserve 1-star ratings for an unsolvable puzzle due to actual mistakes (rare), or obscurities, but only after searching any answers I missed to check my knowledge gaps vs. expected knowlege(Towns with small populations, actors with one minor role, excessive ‘frankenwords’ such as REFOLDER, etc.).

    Beauty of these things is that everyone’s mileage may vary. If you weren’t on the celebrity vibe, this puzzle would be much, much tougher – although based on the surrounding fill, it’s still very accessible.

  8. Kevin says:

    Just finished the WaPo crossword – can someone please explain to me how 52D (“Has too much energy, slangily”) is ODSON? The Internet and I can’t figure that one out.

  9. pannonica says:

    Kevin: O.D.s ON, overdoses on.

  10. Donna L says:

    @ Kevin –
    ‘”Has too much of, slangily” = OD’s on (i.e., overdoses on) –example: “I had too much of that Halloween candy” = “I OD’ed on that Halloween candy.”

  11. Jan says:

    I just posted a puzzle on the Island of Lost Puzzles that was a Christmas gift to me. It was constructed by Billie Truitt, who did today’s LAT. (BTW, I loved her 15-letter theme answers in today’s puzzle.) Hope you enjoy my special puzzle – I was quite surprised to get it. Oh, and also, my husband summited Mt Kilimanjaro on Sunday. More info on facebook.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    I think I’ve already mentioned on this blog that, were one (Caleb Madison, perhaps?) to be transported back, say, 1500 years in time, one would find there to be a great deal of difference between a vassal and a SERF and wishing very much that one were a vassal or very relieved that one was not a SERF, dependent upon how things turned out, so I won’t bother to mention it again. Fun NYT puzzle!

  13. Ell says:

    In the LA Times puzzle, I’m lost on “Jimmy’s successor,” answer “Ron.” Can’t think of any Jimmys and Rons that fit. Help?

  14. Gareth says:

    Ell: Think presidents

  15. Ell says:

    I did think presidents, but Ron is the *son* of the president; Ronald is the president. Which doesn’t mean it’s not what was intended, though.

  16. Daniel Myers says:


  17. Jeff Chen says:

    Tee hee, Sam!

    Oh wait, that was for 13 year-olds? Ahem.

  18. Jeff Chen says:

    P.S. Fantastic NYT, Caleb!

    P.P.S. Boob, tee hee.

  19. pannonica says:

    I see Ell’s point that, despite given names, those two presidents are almost universally referred to as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Not James or Jim Carter or Ron or Ronnie Reagan.

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    Well, yes, quite. I was merely offering a different way of looking at it.

  21. Dan F says:

    Sam – your writeup today didn’t disappoint. I was quite looking forward to it after I saw the theme. Tee hee! Also, awesome puzzle yesterday.

  22. Sam Donaldson says:

    Jeff and Dan: Thanks for the support. (I knew there was a joke missing from that write-up!)

  23. janie says:

    hey, art — because i’d enjoyed the nyt puzzle so much — and on several levels (especially related to the way the theme had been developed) — i was taken aback to see that someone apparently thought this puzzle basically wasn’t worthy of being published. it’s all subjective ultimately (“diff’rent stroke for diff’rent folks,” etc., etc.) — but this seemed unwarranted to me. from the looks of things now, it’s clear that the majority of folks who weighed in found a lot to like.

    am not certain, but i think that when creating final tallies, la fiend (olympics-style?) deducts one each of the highest and lowest scores.

    anyway — i feel comforted that most folks who posted comments on the puzzle also championed caleb’s opus. with luck, one that’s more to your liking will soon be published! part of the beauty the system, no?


Comments are closed.