Tuesday, 3/6/12

Jonesin' 4:56 
NYT 2:53 
LAT 5:47 (Neville) 
CS 7:32 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 

Wesley Johnson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 12 0306

This puzzle’s got a totally laissez-faire attitude, with all the DOESN’T CONCERN ME, COULDN’T CARE LESS, IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM, NO SKIN OFF MY BACK sass. Sure, some of these phrases would sound better with an “it,” “I,” or “it’s” added to the beginning, but four 15s makes a beefy enough theme and those words’ absence jacks up the devil-may-careism.

Pretty sure this inaccuracy has appeared again and again: 38a is clued [Pago Pago’s place] and the answer is SAMOA, but Pago Pago’s the capital of the U.S. territory of American Samoa. The independent nation of Samoa is an altogether different island and geopolitical entity, and its capital is Apia. I bet the NYT crossword isn’t syndicated in any Samoan newspapers. I was just scrolling through the Samoa Wikipedia article looking for a nonexistent section on the Samoan news media and instead I found pictures of a naked tattooed man. Where’s Waldo?

Least expected clue: The partial A TRIP at 32d is clued [“___ to the Moon” (seminal 1902 sci-fi film)]. There were sci-fi movies about space travel in 1902??

Not much else of note in this puzzle, good or bad. 3.25 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Telling Tales” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 6

Ross takes six(!) two-word terms ending with word synonymous with “tale” and re-imagines each term as a “tale” told by an appropriate storyteller:

  • 16-Across: The [Tale told by an assistant at a duel?] is a SECOND STORY, a variation on the “second story” of, say, an office building. The second’s job at a duel is to make sure the dueler is well-cared for and, if the dueler loses, to pick up the parts.
  • 19-Across: The [Tale told by a ballerina?] is a DANCE RECITAL. Nothing against ballerinas (especially those that look like Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman), but this theme entry felt a little flat to me.
  • 32-Across: The [Tale told by a sweater maker?] is a KNITTING YARN.
  • 42-Across: My favorite theme entry is this one–the [Tale told by William Tell?] is a SWISS ACCOUNT. You can bank on that story being a good one. (Bonus points for “tale,” “told”, and “Tell” all appearing in the same clue.)
  • 56-Across: The [Tale told by an Arabic dancing girl?] is a BELLY WHOPPER. I think this one would have been my favorite if the term “belly whopper” was more familiar to me. I know the “belly flop” but not the “belly whopper.” I got the “whopper” part in the puzzle with no problem. But all I could think of for the start was “Burger King.”
  • 61-Across: The [Tale told by a skier?] is a DOWNHILL LIE. A “downhill lie” refers to when a golfer’s feet stand uphill from the ball, forcing the golfer to have dig deeper with her swing. They’re hard to hit, though I have enough struggles with even lies.

I tend to like these “re-imagine a common phrase” themes, so this one worked for me. Given the constraints (explained more fully in the next paragraph), it’s impressive to see all the stacked sixes in each corner. I especially liked PRE-TAX (but that’s probably just me), DAPPER, E-CLASS, and FABLES. For some reason I always seem to fall for the trap set by clues like [One of an “inquisitive” foursome?] for SHORT I (there are four short “i” vowel sounds in “inquisitive”). I did here, too, but even though I’m disappointed in myself for falling victim yet again, I really liked the clue.

I was less impressed with the fill, but I’m not saying I could do any better. Four of the six theme entries are 12 letters long, and that makes for some tricky fittin’. There’s basically no choice but to have theme entries stacked to some extent, and when you have that restriction in play, it’s very tough to get smooth crossings. That’s why you have an abundance of iffy stuff like SSS, INE next to EER, STENOG, DRS atop SAS, and so on. As someone who admires theme density, I was okay with the compromises here, but you may have a different view. Four theme entries with entirely smooth crossings or six theme entries with some marginal fill mixed in–what’s your pick? If the theme is entertaining enough (like this one was for me), I’m fine with the latter.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “You Missed!”

Jonesin' crossword solution "You Missed!" 3 6 12

The prepositions have gone haywire in Matt’s puzzle this week. When you throw a ball, you don’t want to miss, but in this theme, all the “throw + preposition” verb phrases and words have missed the basket on purpose.

  • 20a. [Add atop a refuse pile, after aiming out and missing?] clues THROW ON THE TRASH instead of “throw out the trash.” This makes me think of the TV show Hoarders.
  • 34a. [Sports uniform for an all-out brawl, after aiming back and missing?] clues a THROW-DOWN JERSEY instead of a throwback jersey. I like this one better than the two verb phrases, simply because it’s more interesting than changing the preposition in a verb phrase. Are throw-down, throwback, and throw-up the only nouns made by combining “throw” with prepositions (and maybe “back” is an adverb)?
  • 53a. [What your dog might do after eating his way through your linen closet, after aiming in and missing?] is THROW UP THE TOWEL. Dogs!

Did you notice the themeless-grade grid, with those four corners of open space? Tougher than the usual Jonesin’ puzzle, what with the somewhat awkward TREATS AS and REHARDEN in the southwest sector and HUSHEDLY on the opposite side.

Six more clues:

  • 24a. [Room where church records are kept] is the VESTRY. I kinda thought that would be where clerical garments were stored.
  • 48a. [National code-breaking gp. (found in VACATION)] is ACA. Without that VACATION boost, I wouldn’t have gotten this one. I don’t even know what it’s short for, but I bet it’s not the chiropractors’ association.
  • 49a. [Member of a duo that “went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat”] is THE OWL, of “The Owl and the Pussycat” fame.
  • 61a. [Magnus Carlsen’s game] is CHESS.
  • 35d. [“Letters to a Young Contrarian” author Christopher] HITCHENS. Rest in peace.
  • 37d. [Rapper with the 2011 hit “Work Out”] is J. COLE.

My favorite clues/answers are [Happy acquaintance?] for SNOW WHITE, [“Surprised?” follow-up] for DON’T BE, and the squarish FIG NEWTON.

Four stars.

Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 6 12 "TV Tuesday" Berry

You know what? I don’t think I’ve ever regularly watched an FX series. Saw a couple episodes of Nip/Tuck back in the day, but that’s about it. The cable network leans toward edgy dramas that garner critical acclaim, such as the topic of today’s TV theme:

  • 15a. CHARLIE HUNNAM,[Jax Teller’s portrayer on 41-Across]
  • 20a. RON PERLMAN, [Clay Morrow’s portrayer on 41-Across]
  • 36a. KATEY SAGAL, [Gemma Teller Morrow’s portrayer on 41-Across]
  • 41a. SONS OF ANARCHY, [FX drama about an outlaw motorcycle gang]

Today’s other famous people in the puzzle include EDIE Falco, DON Cheadle, The Fifth Element director LUC Besson (I love that movie), DIDO the [Single-named singer of “White Flag”], Joel and Ethan COEN, the KOCH brothers of Tea Party bankrolling fame, ALAN Tudyk of Suburgatory, cartoon ABE Simpson, CHANNING Tatum, Nick NOLTE, fictional Hollywood agent ARI Gold, CONAN O’Brien, TOM Selleck, Lamar ODOM, Travie MCCOY, Paul DANO (who played the silent teenage brother in Little Miss Sunshine), KE$HA, Hilary SWANK, Dane COOK, ALI Larter, and rapper NAS. Twenty-one names besides the three full names in the theme—if this weren’t a pop-culture crossword, it would be patently unfair to solvers. But it is a pop-culture crossword! Hopefully the intersection of various names didn’t give you any dreaded “deadly crossing” squares.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 3 6 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 3 6 12

We’ve got a concealed letters puzzle today that hits a home run with some extra baseball trivia:

  • 17a. [Top banana] – MISTER BIG, perhaps played by Chris Noth?
  • 25a. [A low-flow showerhead will help lower it] – WATER BILL
  • 30. [50 cents, in slang] – FOUR BITS
  • 35a. [Baker’s container] – FLOUR BIN
  • 50a. [Hit generating four 70-Across] – GRAND SLAM
  • 54a. [“The Iron Horse,” baseball’s all-time 50-Across recordholder] – LOU GEHRIG
  • 70a. [One of them is hidden in 17-, 25-, 30- and 45-Across] – RBIS

Lou Gehrig’s mention does seem like a bit of an ODD BALL – he leads in grand slams, but Hank Aaron (also nine letters) leads in RBIs. What led to this entry choice? Was this just an attempt to validate the presence of the grand slam in the puzzle? Maybe I’M LOST. Still, a lot of thematic content. The cluing for A LEG UP makes it feel like a six-letter partial, but I’m partial to it nonetheless. Apparently Jason ELAM‘s 63-yard field goal is a recordholder, too – though he shares it with Tom Dempsey and  Sebastian Janikowski. Top clue here? [HI Hello] for ALOHA, in its vast redundant glory. This puzzle was a winner by me.

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36 Responses to Tuesday, 3/6/12

  1. janie says:

    “A TRIP to the Moon” — hugo!


  2. ktd says:

    10A (Current units) =AMPS
    46A (Condos, e.g.) =UNITS

  3. Dave G. says:

    Dear ktd,

    Did you find fault with the answer to CONDO – or in other words, did you nit UNIT?


  4. Martin says:

    ktd reflects a common misperception that an entry word cannot appear in a clue. If this were a hard and fast rule, an entry word like “THE” would make cluing the rest of the puzzle pretty tough.

    Editors will avoid telegraphing an answer with a clue word, but when the meanings are not close (as with housing unit and electrical unit) such duplication is not considered a flaw by most of them.

  5. 41A (STORE) and 22A (“Kind of store”) also have the same oops.

  6. Michael says:

    Agree with Martin. The “rule” is completely made up and entirely subjective. It’s not like a word on the puzzle page immediately screams an answer elsewhere in the grid. If that were the case, we would never be able to use WILL as fill.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Georges Méliès was the creator of the film “Le Voyage dans la Lune”, combining ideas from two authors’ books, and Thomas Edison pirated it for US consumption, never paying the creator any royalties… TAE was a genius, but he also stooped to a number of despicable ploys!

  8. pannonica says:


    Newly restored “A Trip to the Moon” opens, with new soundtrack.

    ArtLvr: I’m thinking, most vividly, of his direct current elephant stunt, which he used in crushing Nicola Tesla. Hmm… “ALVA & TAE vs. TESLA & SERB: the cruciverbal throwdown!” AC-DC is the warm-up act, NATCH.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, TAE frightening the public with false alarms of electrocution… He COULDN’T CARE LESS!

  10. Nina says:

    I didn’t know anything negative about TAE till today. And I didn’t know Copernicus was a POLE, either. Good things to know.
    I thought today’s puzzle was elegant and smooth. And very easy.

  11. HH says:

    “TAE frightening the public with false alarms of electrocution”


  12. Daniel Myers says:

    It enheartens the semantic Propeller-head in me to see COULDN’T CARE LESS when I read so many soi-disant pundits using “COULD CARE LESS” when they mean just the opposite! This misusage includes a question on a survey I took recently from a well-known and respected university. I’ve given up on attempting to correct personal interlocutors on this point. Their eyes just glaze over whilst attempting to suss out the difference, as if their minds had gone AWOL.

  13. Matt says:

    @Dave G:

    It’s hopeless. Even the management company for the condo where I reside thinks our address is “Hampden Square Condominiums.” Grrr.

  14. loren smith says:

    Semantic propeller-head Daniel – do you cringe when people misuse “beg the question?”

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, loren smith, indeed I do! About a year ago, I embroiled myself in a debate regarding the misuse of the phrase in the Books section of The Guardian. I’m aware though, as of the 21st century, that the arbiters of these things (i.e., dictionaries, usage manuals, thesauri, ad infinitum) regard the phrase as “acceptable” now as meaning “invites the question” or what not rather than “assumes that which is to be proven”. It just so happens that it remains completely unacceptable to yours truly.

  16. loren smith says:

    I guess language is a living, breathing organism, constantly changing. (The whole “nice” meaning “foolish, stupid, senseless conversation).

    We now have the gender-neutral third person singular pronoun “they,” which I predict will be completely acceptable soon.

    Actually, on the subject of “they,” accepting its usage as a singular third person avoids a couple of problematic examples of using the proper “he” or “she” –

    Everyone was here, but he left.

    Everyone stood up and clapped his hands.

    I said a while back that dictionaries are accepting “imply” for “infer,” “podium” for “lectern,” “loan” as a verb, “judgement. . . ”

    The descriptivist in me shouldn’t care, but I guess the acceptance of such things makes it harder for us to feel (secretly) just a little smarter. :-)

    “Irregardless” is probably making some headway, too!

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, I agree, loren. Even I don’t cringe as much as once was my wont. Oh, you omitted ye olde bugaboo of misusage “inflammable”.:-) And “judgement,” btw, was the manner in which we were all taught to spell the word on the small archipelago where I was educated.

  18. loren smith says:

    Great catch on “inflammable!” Where do you come down on “nauseous?” If I’m sick, I’m “nauseated.”

    Where I live, lots of people use “aggravate” for “irritate” and “anxious” for “eager,” and, again, I predict that they’ll become excepted, too, and yes, I’m just pulling your chain with “excepted.” ;-)

    Maybe we can take solace in (or redirect our pedantic propeller-headed derision towards) malapropisms, then. Especially the spectacular ones.

  19. Martin says:

    Do you tell your doctor “please don’t tell me my appendix is inflamed — it’s ‘flamed'”?

    Just curious.

  20. Josh Bischof says:

    The Oxford comma. Discuss.

    As for the NYT puzzle: I think the theme answers are great and the fill is smooth. But what excites me about a puzzle is when there are some dynamite longish down answers intersecting the theme entries. That’s just personal preference. (Though I’m wondering whether having four 15-letter across entries restricts that, gridwise.) TWANGS is the best non-theme “long” answer that this one offers.

    I’m excited to hear some thoughts on the Fireball puzzle once a review goes up and people have had a chance to do it.

  21. Matthew G. says:

    The most frustrating already-lost language battle, IMO, is over “nonplussed.” Though it means “baffled” or “perplexed” or “stunned,” it is used 90 percent of the time to mean the exact opposite of those things.

  22. Denny B. says:

    No skin off my nose–yes. No skin off my back? Never heard that.

  23. pannonica says:

    re: archipelago

    Can one be on more than one island at the same time?

  24. Old Geezer says:

    There has been a disconcerting increase in the use of ‘then’ for ‘than.’ God, that’s just WRONG!

    I’ve given up arguing about skim and scan (they are NOT synonyms, and I’ll assert as much until I’m dust — but not argue it!). Please don’t cite a reference.

    ‘On accident’ (I did it on accident – sheesh), and countless other mutations to our language.

    But ‘between’ can ONLY mean 2, and ‘among’ can ONLY mean more than 2. Period. Unless you specify EXACTLY what it is ‘between,’ of course.

    It is ‘If I were…” not “If I was…” Are subjunctives obsolete as well?

    Sigh. End of rant.

  25. loren smith says:

    Old Geezer – on “between.” Don’t you just love the “Just between you and I. . .”

    On a similar note – “fewer” and “number” if you can count them:

    “Fewer uphostery tacks” but ” Larger number of eyelids”

    “less” and “amount” if you can’t count them:

    “Less buttermilk” but “Large amount of Crisco lard”

  26. Daniel Myers says:

    Sorry to have missed all this, but was at the dentist – taking part in her ongoing and seemingly never-ending attempt to AmericanISE my teeth. Look for me in the next Colgate commercial.

    re:Archipelago-No, p, but one can have grown up in a country that consists of a group of islands. Although if Scottish DEVOMAX succeeds, I fret that the Shetlands and others will be lost.:-)

  27. pannonica says:

    So either way, it’s in.

  28. Daniel Myers says:

    Sorry, missed your italics. I don’t know. I have just discovered, though, that if you Google “on the archipelago” thusly in quotations, you’ll find googles of results (hyperbole).
    “In” does sound much better to me, though.

  29. Daniel Myers says:

    googols of results, I mean

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Good gravy, I go away for the afternoon and find the blog’s turned into a Usage Peevers Anonymous meeting.

  31. John E says:

    How do you guys feel when someone writes “per say”?

  32. Daniel Myers says:

    The expression “good gravy” is, I believe, usually followed by an exclamation mark, or would that be exclamation point? ;-)

  33. Martin says:

    How do you guys feel when someone writes “per say”?

    It depends on whether I’m charging or being charged.

  34. Lois says:

    Thanks for all the discussion today of two of my favorite parts of the NYT puzzle, A Trip to the Moon and Couldn’t care less.

    In “if I were,” the subjunctive “were” should be used for a statement of something contrary to fact. “If I was” is often correct in other examples. A more informative analysis of the appropriate usage can be found on the first page when Googling “If I were usage” or any such phrase. I think I read a good discussion of the matter in Fowler in a previous life.

    Did not know that the word condominium when used for the unit was controversial — thanks.

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