Monday, 2/27/12

NYT 3:09 (pannonica) 
LAT 2:36 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 4:07 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

ACPT attendees, there’s still space available for the Cru dinner on Friday, March 16. If you’re reading this, you can consider yourself a member of the Cru(civerbal crowd). For details, check this out.

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT crossword • 2/27/12 • Mon • Thompson • solution

Vowel progression theme, wrapped in TLL. That’s Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, or, in a more lowbrow vein, Totally Looks Like.

  • 17a. [Exhibits pride] STANDS TALL.
  • 25a. [Betray a lover’s confidences] KISS AND TELL.
  • 37a. [Symbol of embezzlement] HAND IN THE TILL.
  • 50a. [E-Z Pass pays it] HIGHWAY TOLL.
  • 60a. [Group with the 1971 3x platinum album “Aqualung”] JETHRO TULL.

Five solid phrases, with HIGHWAY TOLL probably the feeblest, though it’s strong enough to stand on its own, if not exactly tall. Perhaps some solvers might cry foul at the E-Z Pass reference in the clue, but I believe it’s well-enough known these days, both through crossword appearances and by its expanded territory, which now includes 14 states, from the Northeast south to Virginia and west to Illinois.

Consulting XWord Info, the puzzle has 78 words, 38 blocks, and an average word length of 4.79, all figures that exceed the average for a Monday NYT offering, but which sort of feed each other: more, shorter words = more blocks; or shorter words = more blocks = more words. It also contains two cheater squares and garners a Freshness Factor™ of  48.3, placing it between the Monday and Tuesday averages. It’s relatively Scrabbly, lacking just an X and a Q. Nevertheless, considering the high word count and short word length, I’d have expected the puzzle to be a lot more snappy. Oh! But perhaps it has a large proportion of theme content? Well… 55 theme squares of 187 white squares is less than 30%, so I’d say… no, not really.

DOGGEREL and ANAGRAMS are pleasant longer non-theme content. But there’s also lesser fill like EDS.ADZE, AS OF, IWO, AMA, IRR.ETAS, LTR, and the entire fourth row: TRIG. | A-OK | I DIG. ENHALO seems out of place in a Monday puzzle.

We see a double-duty clue at 36d and 52d [“Annie” or “Annie Hall”]: FILM and TITLE. Neither one is particularly exciting, even in light of the gimmickry. It did make me wonder, somewhat wistfully, if linking the sequential 8d and 9d had been considered. I’ve cast about for more positive aspects to highlight, but there isn’t much to be found.

Underwhelming puzzle.

Lila Cherry’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Monday Feb 27 2012

Since there was a complaint last time I won’t tell anyone that “Lila Cherry” is a pseudonym of Rich Morris. Theme: Big finish Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Backstage] – BEHIND THE SCENES
  • 24A. [Got married] – TIED THE KNOT
  • 43A. [Forefront, as of technology] – LEADING EDGE
  • 56A. [Returning to popularity, or what you’d have been doing if you followed the sequence formed by the first words of 17-, 24- and 43-Across] – MAKING A COMEBACK

Other stuff:

  • 41A. [Desi who married 60-Across] – ARNAZ. Did you really have to read past “Desi”?
  • 60A. [Ball of Hollywood] – LUCY. If you did 41A first did you even need to read the clue?
  • 24D. [Los Angeles daily] – TIMES. Given away in the title.
  • 40D. [White whales, e.g.] – ALBINOS. “White” animal clues are always ALBINOS.
  • 52D. [Beatles nonsense syllables] – OBLA

Very quick solve. Plain and simple Monday. *** stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Paradise Lost” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 27

I have an Orca Party hangover this morning, so today’s post will be cursory. Our missing utopia, EDEN, straddles the two words in each of the 15-letter entries:

  • 17-Across: A [Pen, often] is a FENCED ENCLOSURE. I prefer unfenced enclosures instead.
  • 26-Across: I was unaware that a [Feature of the original VW Bug] was an AIR-COOLED ENGINE. My soup last night was air-cooled too, though that was because I was blowing on it so it wouldn’t scald my mouth.
  • 46-Across: [It may be self-addressed] certainly describes a STAMPED ENVELOPE.
  • 61-Across: HURRICANE DENNIS was [Katrina’s cousin in 2005]. It has already been almost seven years since the horrible 2005 hurricane season; let’s hope 2012 is nowhere close to 2005 in that regard.

I post my solving time here on the blog but I don’t keep any records. This may be my fastest CS solving time ever. (Jeffrey?) Nothing ever caused more than a moment’s hesitation, though I owe a lot of that to my daily solving regimen. After all, without a steady crossword diet I wouldn’t know ETON as [Ian Fleming’s school], author ITALO Calvino, ERSE, ENATE, ESAI Morales, HIE, or ESSO gasoline.

The arrangement of black squares is interesting, though if you picture the crosses as eyes it appears that the grid is making a big frowny face with furrowed brows to match. Why the long face? After all, not much else is long–after the four 15s, there are four sevens (loved TIC TACS and AL DENTE ), and then it’s all fives and fours and threes. Maybe the excessive glue and dearth of long stuff is what facilitated the speedy solve.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday #158”

BEQ 2/27 solution

Sure, one of the 15s in this puzzle is pretty dull—ARTIFICIAL TEETH—but the other one is RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE so who cares about the teeth? Other juicy fill includes LINSANITY (echoed gently by subtract-two-letters INANITY), JUICE BAR, RETWEET, YAHTZEE, MAN HUG, SLURPEE, and JUNK DNA. This puzzle’s rating starts at 4.5 stars based on all that red-hot fill. Do ERNE and ARA drag it down? Maybe a little; let’s call it 4.4 stars.

Favorite clues:

  • 26a. [Us people?] are a hot ITEM gossiped about in a Hollywood mag.
  • 35a. [Engage in model behavior?] clues SASHAY down the runway.
  • 53a. [Modern-day reality show where the contestants cross train?] clues RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE.

There aren’t so many themeless puzzles that pack in eight particularly zippy answers. I feel like one to three is more typical. The Nothnagel/Quarfoot vibe is to do what Brendan has done here, and have tons of fresh, modern answers, slangy and techie and pop-cultural and hip. Pretty much my favorite sort of themeless, infinitely more fun than dull triple-stacked 15s crossed by yawners.

Trip Payne’s Celebrity crossword, “Movie Monday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 27 12 "Movie Monday" Payne

One neat thing about the Celebrity crossword (and the other puzzles in the Crosswords app) is that you can see other people’s solving times. For this Celeb puzzle, the recorded times range from less than 2 minutes to over a half hour. I love it that crossword newbies keep plugging away until they’ve conquered the puzzle. The Celebrity crossword is expressly designed to get those folks just as hooked on crosswords as everyone who follows this blog surely is.

Trip’s theme is that British comedian who plays Mr. Bean:

  • 15a. ROWAN ATKINSON, [British comedian known for “Blackadder” and “Mr. Bean”: 2 wds.]
  • 28a.THE LION KING, [ Disney movie in which 15-Across does the voice of a hornbill: 3 wds.]
  • 45a. JOHNNY ENGLISH, [15-Across character who was “Reborn” in a 2011 movie: 2 wds.]

I like that Atkinson’s most famous English TV shows are used to clue his name rather than being placed in the grid. Cluing 15a as “British comedian who starred in the other theme entries” would make it more difficult for the solver to get started, so it’s nice to front-load the puzzle and give the solver a leg up. (Provided that they’ve watched British imports on PBS over the years…)

For me, the toughest part of the puzzle was the lower left corner. 49a: [“Ready Player ___” (recent Ernest Cline novel)] crosses 37d: [___ in the Dark (video game series)] and 38d: [Tina ___-Chang (“Glee” character)]. Who what what? Ready Player ONE, ALONE in the Dark, Tina COHEN-Chang. I knew the surrounding words (MAJOR, ALOU, REN, MACROS, JOHNNY ENGLISH), which helped unravel the knot.

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10 Responses to Monday, 2/27/12

  1. janie says:

    >…considering the high word count and short word length, I’d have expected the puzzle to be a lot more snappy.

    see, and (as a **very** tyro constructor) i think it’s really just the opposite. consistently “snappy” 3- and 4-letter fill ain’t always easy to come by — especially in a high word-count puzzle. otoh, i think the nw and se corners are pretty durned nice, with PRAISE and AZALEA leading the way and earning points in my book. not at all a fan of EVILER, but i find ENHALO quite lovely. and as you mentioned, those theme phrases have every reason to STAND TALL. ditto mr. thompson!


  2. pannonica says:

    You’re right, janie. Or, I guess I was unclear. I meant to indicate that if there isn’t much long non-theme fill, I’d expect more interesting 5- and 6-letter words, not a ton of spectacular 3- and 4-letter fill, which would be impressive indeed!

  3. janie says:

    I DIG! ;-)

    still, a lot of what the constructor can use is dictated by the constraints (uh — challenges…) of the theme fill, its placement in the grid and the grid itself (which will want to work well w/ the theme fill *and* the day of the week). in a perfect world both the theme fill and the rest of the fill would always sparkle equally. if one has to outshine the other, i’m usually happier w/ a good solid theme and some good (if not brilliant throughout) “supporting” fill. i think our constructor today more than delivers!


  4. ktd says:

    Does anyone else feel like they’ve seen this theme before? Seems like JETHROTULL is familiar somehow, and with this particular vowel progression pattern it’s the only thing that works with TULL

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks for the backward glance, joon. Amusing to come upon one’s comment there!

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    Underwhelming indeed. I think you were kind, Pannonica. “INTRAY”? I have an inbox. Does anyone have an intray? That looks like a typo for ENTREE. And ENHALO is the worst kind of crosswordese, in my book – essentially a made-up word (although I’m sure someone could muster dictionary support, it’s still not in any kind of regular use).


  7. Josh Bischof says:

    Part of the pleasure in seeing LINSANITY in BEQ’s puzzle is the fact that you just *know* it’s coming eventually. Finally seeing made me happy in that nerdy crossword-solver kind of way.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    In the BEQ, I had it all okay, but the timer never quit– so I tried the rest of the alphabet as the start of LINSANITY … futile effort. Pfui.

  9. Bananarchy says:

    @Josh: Yep, I’ve looked for LINSANITY in his last few themeless Mondays, ever since I saw his tweet about it.

    One of his easier solves, but great grid from BEQ. YAHTZEE in the last column, are you kidding me?!

Comments are closed.