Wednesday, 4/18/12

NYT 3:15 
LAT 3:32 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 4:55 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Steven Riley’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 4 18 12 0418

Aww, fun theme! SQUARE DANCE is rendered visually by running the names of six dances around 2×2 or 3×3 squares in symmetrical grid locations. The HULA, FANDANGO (which was just the Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day on Saturday, or I’d’ve never known it was a dance: Long before it was a website for buying movie tickets, fandango was (and still is) a seductive dance for two. You’ll want to grab your castanets before you hit the dance floor, because those are required for authenticity. Fandango is from Spanish, but no dictionary ventures anything further than that; the OED notes, rather cryptically, that the word is “alleged to be of African origin.”), BOOGALOO, MACARENA, HABANERA, and HORA fit themselves in among the regular Across and Down answers.

The fill that’s entangled with the dancing squares tends towards ugliness or supra-Wednesday vocabulary (EMAG/AMARNA/EGGAR in the northwest corner, for example, and GNARS AZO AMYL O-REN), but we also get ISUZU, NEUTERED beside G-SPOT, RAZZ, and EUROPOP. Shout-out to Martin Herbach for recounting tales of his IKEBANA exploits a few years ago, and his efforts to satisfy an incredibly exacting teacher of this [Japanese flower-arranging art]; not sure I would have remembered the word otherwise.

Clue highlights:

  • 48d. TAILOR, [Either of two characters in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”]
  • 61d. OHS, [17 of them are sung before “my gosh” in a 2010 #1 Usher hit]. Catchy!
  • 63d. THA, [Everyday article in rap titles]

Regular commenter Bananarchy has an interview with today’s constructor. Check it out. (The Campus Crosswords outlet they refer to was started by yesterday’s NYT constructor Milo Beckman, and Caleb Madison is also a Campus Crosswords constructor. They’re in the Harvard Crimson and on the lookout for more college papers to publish in.) Thanks for the interview, Peter.

Because the clunkier pieces of fill didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the puzzle and I liked the execution of the SQUARE DANCE theme, 4.25 stars.

Norm Guggenbiller’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Wed Apr 18 2012

Debut for Norm G? Welcome, if so. Welcome back, if not. Today we have 2-, 3-, 4- and 5(!)-word phrases, the last word rhyming with “AIR”, but with a different spelling each time. 

  • 17A. [“Doesn’t bother me!”] – SEE IF I CARE!
  • 35A. [After “on,” relying mostly on hope in desperate circumstances] – A WING AND A PRAYER. I am torn between whether this is an awesome five-word answer or a 15-letter partial. I’ll give it a pass.
  • 57A. [“Shake!”] – PUT IT THERE!
  • 10D. [Chick flick subject] – LOVE AFFAIR
  • 25D. [Schoolyard handshake] – PINKY SWEAR. What did Tuscadero do when Fonzie saw another girl?

And also:

  • 14A. [’60s-’70s Twins star Tony] – OLIVA. I know my ’70s baseball. Not as useful a skill as it was once.
  • 15A. [Sautéing acronym, à la Rachael Ray] – EVOO. Extra virgin olive oil.
  • 41A. [__ fit: tantrum] – HISSY. Seems dated but I like that term.
  • 44A. [Boxer Max] – BAER. Is this a sixth theme entry? Not sure how it is pronounced?

I do declare this is a perfectly fine puzzle. *** stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Traveling” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Solution to CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, 4 18 12

According to 55-Down, the last Down entry on the far-right side of the grid, TRIPS are [Voyages, and an apt finish for the ends of 21-, 34-, 45-, and 56-Across]. I was a little surprised to see this as the revealer, as earlier I had seen TREK, the [Covered wagon journey, e.g.]. There’s a lot of touring going on here!

In any case, the last word in each of the identified Across entries is a word that can precede “trip:”

  • 21-Across: In mathematical notation, the [Square] represents the SECOND POWER (“power trip”).
  • 28-Across: [Clark Kent, to Superman] is his ALTER EGO (“ego trip”).
  • 45-Across: The [“Pillow Talk” actress] is DORIS DAY (“day trip”). She took a day trip, a Sunday drive, yeah.
  • 56-Across: The [High-visibility bullet] is the TRACER ROUND (“round trip”). Now if only it was slow enough such that one could duck.

I really liked a lot of the shorter fill here: IT’S DONE, SPHINX, HIT UP, RUN IN, USED TO, NO TIP, the complete name version of ED ASNER, HOT AIR, ZIPPO lighters, and Gordon GEKKO are all good. It’s not just greed that’s good, Gordon.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 4 18 12 Tyler Hinman

It’s a half-anagram theme:

  • 17a. DEIST OF WAR, [Rational believer in a foxhole?]. Tides of war.
  • 24a. BELOW GREASE, [Where “Battlefield Earth” ranks among John Travolta movies?]. Elbow grease.
  • 37a. LETTER SORTING, [Post office activity, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme].
  • 50a. BEGIN EATING, [Dig in?]. Binge eating.
  • 59a. GINSU DRUGS, [Pills to improve one’s infomercial knife-wielding?]. Using drugs.

I don’t see any common factor unifying this set of phrases with anagrammed words, or their original phrases. Am I missing something? The theme seems a little loose without some kind of unity, and Tyler is usually so scrupulous that I suspect I’m not seeing something.

Commenter David points out that 5a: CRASH is clued as [2004 Best Picture winner], when it had a 2005 release and received the Oscar in 2006. I don’t think there’s any ironclad rule about whether we should go with the year of the movie’s release or the year in which its Oscar was presented, but in any case it appears that 2004 is right out. It is, however, the year that CRASH premiered on the film festival circuit (an Oscar “year” is based on theatrical release).

Shoot! I just ran out of blogging time for now. Fill not quite as ambitious/sparkly as Tyler usually goes, but it works. 3.25 stars because I don’t see an overarching thematic unity aside from “letter sorting.”

Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Wayback Wednesday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 4 18 12 "Wayback Wednesday" Longo

Plenty of Hitch in the Wayback Machine today:

  • 16a. NOTORIOUS, [1946 Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman thriller directed by 51-Across]
  • 18a. FRENZY, [1972 thriller directed by 51-Across]
  • 33a. TO CATCH A THIEF, [1955 Cary Grant/Grace Kelly thriller directed by 51-Across: 4 wds.]
  • 49a. PSYCHO, [1960 Anthony Perkins/Janet Leigh thriller directed by 51-Across]
  • 51a. HITCHCOCK, [British director of classic thrillers]
  • 3d. Plus, ANNE HECHE, [Actress who starred in the 1998 remake of  49-Across: 2 wds.]. The less said, the better?

Other retro content includes Elvis’s label, RCA; the Grand OLE Opry; classic MOE of the Three Stooges; “The DICK Van Dyke Show”; the FONZ; and HEDY Lamarr.

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56 Responses to Wednesday, 4/18/12

  1. The top-left corner of the NYT completely beat me. The only thing I could get to the left of ISUZE was EMAG before I gave up and resorted to the internets. Did not know any of DAVE, GNARS (???), SAL, AMARNA, or EGGAR, and just couldn’t see the other ones without more crosses.

  2. pannonica says:

    Needed the squared FANDANGO (thanks, theme!) to finish that corner with GNARS/EGGAR. Well done puzzle, but I feel as if I’ve seen this theme a few times before.

    “n,nby”? Not in my blogyard!

    Oh, right. I don’t have my own blogyard.

  3. Jared says:

    As I was fond of pointing out on Ryan and Brian’s show, we once again have confusion between acronym and initialism. I promise EVOO isn’t pronounced as a word, therefore it’s the latter. Shame, LAT. Shame.

  4. Martin says:

    I had one of those master classes with an ikebana professor from Japan on Saturday. The class was on a technique where three regions of the most complex arrangement style (rikka) use one material instead of the usual three different plants. I’d never done this before, and my local teacher suggested juniper for the three regions as an ideal material for the technique.

    So I head up to San Francisco at 6:00 AM on a Saturday with a bucket of juniper. Five minutes into the lecture, I ask a question and add “say you’re using juniper.” The visiting professsor asks the translator “what is this juniper?” “Ibuki.” “Oh. You would never use juniper for this technique.” Followed by a five-minute mini-lecture on why juniper is the worst material imaginable for this technique. Wilted romaine would be better. The mere suggestion that someone might use juniper is offensive. I began to consider how painful harakiri with ikebana scissors might be.

    Luckily the classroom was in Golden Gate Park. I quietly snuck out during the lunch break and cut some overgrown boxwood that I was instructed would be fine.

    So this relaxing hobby hasn’t changed much.

  5. Steve says:

    Anytime I see the word fandango, I immediately recall the many pleasant hours I spent playing Grim Fandango in my youth. You can see the performance of the poem which gave the game its name at the beginning of this clip:

  6. Martin says:


    Neither acronym nor initialism requires an abbreviation signal, if that’s what’s bothering you. The key to a proper abbreviation is the additional information required to pronounce it. Whether it’s E-V-O-O or NASA, it’s all there. This is not the situation with “Thu.,” which you had better know is pronounced “Thursday,” lest you seem very silly saying “thoo.”

    Abbreviations are usually spelled with a period and are always pronounced with additional letters that you must bring to the party. Initialisms and acronyms are treated the same, signal-wise, and tend to get an abbreviation signal only early in the week.

  7. Jared says:

    That’s not what’s bothering me.
    An acronym is something that’s pronounced as a word, such as PETA and NATO. An initialism is written the same way but is not pronounced as a word, such as ATM, PTA, and…EVOO.
    I think this is one of those things that I’m going to have to give up on though – “acronym” seems to be increasingly accepted as describing both categories and nobody uses the word “initialism”.

  8. Martin says:

    Sorry, I should have understood that you were objecting to “acronym” in the clue.

    Actually, “initialism” is a relatively recent attempt at distinguishing the two types that have both been called acronyms historically. The in-betweeners (JPEG, CD-ROM) probably make it hopeless.

  9. David says:

    Just want to let everyone know that there is a typo in the clue for 5-across in the AVclub puzzle (at least in acrosslite). The clue mentions the year 2004, when it should actually be 2005. It confused me at first because I thought the error was theme-related, but that is not the case.

  10. pannonica says:

    …or perhaps 2006?

  11. David says:

    5-across did not receive that title until 2006, but I believe the title should still be designated as 2005. It’s also designated as 2005 in the clue in this puzzle

    Sorry to be so vague, but I don’t want to spoil any further since many people haven’t done the puzzle yet. I’ll at least wait until it’s been blogged to post a more thorough explanation for my opinion.

  12. Gareth says:

    What brilliant visual theme! Mostly an easy solve, except that top-left bit (me too Adam!), and that’s probably because I blanked on AMARNA (the rest of that corner was pretty tough, no?!) Once I recalled that it all fell. I don’t why AMARNA is ugly or supra-Wednesday, though… Not sure why everybody is cranky, I thought this was pretty close to 5-stars! Maybe I’m too easily amused? @Jared, you pedants lost that war a long time ago, the broader definition is already in most dictionaries…

    Also thought that was an impressive touch to have 3 themers cross in the LAT: plus MINDGAMES and STINGRAYs in parallel!

  13. HH says:

    “Actually, “initialism” is a relatively recent attempt at distinguishing the two types that have both been called acronyms historically. The in-betweeners (JPEG, CD-ROM) probably make it hopeless.”

    Maybe JPEG and CD-ROM should be called initianyms?

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    Top left was easy for me, for whatever reason, perhaps b/c the movie Fandango is one of my all time faves. – Anyone else even heard of it? – Also, Amy glosses the OED’s “cryptic” note: The word it employs is not “African”, but perhaps the word it uses is not PC anymore; so, aside from noting that the word it does use implies a possibly greater scope than said continent, I’ll let it remain cryptic.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jared: Doesn’t Rachael Ray pronounce it “ee-voo”?

  16. pannonica says:

    “Maybe JPEG and CD-ROM should be called initianyms?” –HH

    I’m leaning toward “acronits.”

  17. ArtLvr says:

    In the NYT, once I corrected 1D to DEFOGS from de-ices all went smoothly — loved the clue “Makes a father of” for ORDAINS. I also liked the trio AMYL, AMARNA, AMANA, and Martin’s tale of his IKEBANA class which brought back memories of hoarding odd shallow bowls, etc… In the LAT, it took ages to find my error of having MINT for a Ben and Jerry’s flavor, rather than PINT — Minky-swear? Yuk.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    LOL-What a to-do!-Acromonads?

  19. jefe says:

    David’s right; it should be 2005, though that didn’t stop me from filling it in immediately. Wouldn’t have known the clue was wrong if it hadn’t been pointed out.

    Do people actually say either E-V-O-O or EVOO? Both sound completely ridiculous.

  20. ArtLvr says:

    I think Rachel Ray says it letter by letter, as you would ATM.

  21. Howard B says:

    As long as it doesn’t become an acrimonious (acronymonious?) discussion.

  22. Peter says:

    Amy, the Onion puzzle is “sorting” the letters of each anagrammed phrase into alphabetical order. D-E-I-S-T, B-E-L-O-W, etc all run from A to Z.

    Good puzzle!

  23. Jeffrey says:

    I can’t be a fan of any puzzle that crosses IKEBANA with IBANEZ and throws in AMARNA. One of my least favorite puzzles of the year. Oh well.

  24. Martin says:

    Do people actually say either E-V-O-O or EVOO? Both sound completely ridiculous.
    As near as I can tell, Rachel Ray specializes in sounding completely ridiculous. EVOO is the least of it. If my wife is watching her I have to leave the room before the first “sammy” (“sandwich” for the puerile-challenged).

  25. The Dude says:

    Yes, people say E-V-O-O. This should be appear in puzzles starting right … now. Any editor that rejects a puzzle because of that answer should wise up.

    And yes, Rachel Ray started it, I guess. But it’s become very common, and can easily replace “oil” or “olive oil” if that’s what you’re referring to.

  26. Stan Newman says:

    Fun Fact of the Day:

    The haunting opening theme of the Hitchcock film “North by Northwest”, composed by the great Bernard Herrmann, is a FANDANGO.

  27. pannonica says:

    David, jefe: 2005 (US) release, 2006 Oscars. If it’s described, or clued, as “[date] Best Picture winner” then it is technically and unequivocally referencing the year of the ceremony.

    (The film was premiered in 2004.)


    Perhaps not unequivocally:

    2005 Academy Awards may refer to:
    77th Academy Awards, the Academy Awards ceremony that took place in 2005
    78th Academy Awards, the 2006 ceremony honoring the best in film for 2005

  28. Jeffrey says:

    @pannonica – Disagree. It is referring to the year that is being honored, not the year of the ceremony. Unequivocally.

    eg June 1/08 – NYT: [2005 Best Picture winner] – CRASH.

  29. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Peter: Huh. I still find it somewhat unsatisfying because the post office aspect of the LETTER SORTING clue pulls the mind away from alphabetizing. At the post office, they’re sorting by address and alpha order has nothing to do with anything. I think appending some sort of hint about alphabetizing to the theme-revealer clue would make this tons clearer.

  30. pannonica says:

    Jeffrey: Grumblingly acceding. I still think the wording (and that particular film) stinks.

    rovi lists it as 2005, while imdb reports 2006.

    The AMPAS needs a style guide, or FAQ, or something. Anyone have a CMOS/NYTM/AP/MLA handy?

  31. Martin says:

    AMPAS counts like David and jefe.

    When test-solving these, I always look closely at the wording of the clue. That frenchy silent film won Best Picture of 2011, but could be clued as a “2012 winner.”

  32. pannonica says:

    Ah. Thank you, Martin. Resolution, huzzah!

  33. Martin says:


    I thought Tyler’s reveal was perfect. The post office was the surface meaning; there’s always one in addition to the revealing meaning. Why was it more confusing here?

    Maybe programmer types are just so steeped in sorting that we see this differently, but I thought it was a very clever twist on the dreaded anagram.

  34. pannonica says:

    I’m embarrassed, but wiser. When I couldn’t find an explicit guideline at either the commercial or organizational website for the Oscars, I should have searched for something truly unequivocal and irrefutable, such as when Gone With the Wind prevailed over several other cinematic warhorses. That was “1939,” niaob*.

    *except that the category was called “Outstanding Production” from 1929/1930 to 1944.

  35. Howard B says:

    @Martin – that’s not all. While waiting on line at a store, I noticed an impulse buy popular home magazine on the rack near the cashier. One large-font article teaser referenced “sammies”, and I had absolutely no idea what that meant. (The one-line description provided no context, assuming the reader knew this word).

    Now that I know it, I’m not sure if I feel a little wiser or a little sadder. Language evolves, and that’s interesting and fun; I just don’t know if I’m becoming a pedant if I feel that something little like that is evolving a bit into baby-talk :). I’m really not a language snob, I swear. My grammar is admittedly, impeccably inconsistent.

  36. Tuning Spork says:

    Did they have any pesghetti sauce recipes?

  37. john farmer says:

    I’m not sure if any ideas about movie dates can be considered “unequivocal.” There are conventions, sometimes observed, sometimes not. It’s a bit like the argument about acronyms vs. initialisms. Or if a “78 mph fastball” is really a fastball.

    Fwiw, both IMDb and Wikipedia say “Crash” is a 2004 film. If “2004 [film that was a] Best Picture winner” is a good enough substitute for “2004 Best Picture winner,” then the clue may be close enough.

    Or this whole thing may be just one more reason why “Crash” should never have won that Oscar.

    I agree with Martin et al.: the alphabetical order in the anagrams is pretty nice find. Well done theme, I think.

  38. Daniel Myers says:

    @Howard B – Yes, a rather lame attempt on my part to combine acrimony and Leibniz’s philosophical monads as I was heading out the door. BTW, the fact that I fancy the movie Fandango definitely disqualifies me from being a snobbish cinéaste, whatever other things about which I may appear snobbish. :-) Oh, and also my use of emoticons! Oh, and exclamation marks!

  39. @panonica
    I second “acronits”! Perfect! Both a perfect portmanteau AND it evokes nitpicking, which these discussions are often born of (to? at?)

    @Daniel Myers
    :o !!!

  40. Gareth says:

    Although I’m nowhere near a Simpsons nut (honest), Tyler’s reference to “We Do!” was appreciated here:

  41. Daniel Myers says:


    First Remark: Agreed, pannonica, true to form, wins the contest!

    Second Remark: LOL ;)

  42. Harry says:

    I spent the longest time trying to fit “Alec” INTO THE LAT until it dawned on me that Ewan was the correct name.

  43. joon says:

    harry, me too, but in fairness, it’s the right answer because those prequels were never made. that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.

  44. Erik says:

    27d in the newsday is atrocious.

  45. Martin says:

    27-D in Newsday being what?


  46. Amy Reynaldo says:

    [“Me, too”] clues I ALSO. I could maybe buy I AS WELL.

  47. Lois says:

    In the NYT, although some of the answers were quite hard, for me they were gettable because of the theme, as pannonica said.

    I did not find Samantha Eggar to be one of the difficult answers, though. For anyone who did, I recommend Merl Reagle’s Easter puzzle of last year (April 24, 2011). I recommend the puzzle to anyone who missed it, for that matter, as it’s a delightful one.

  48. jefe says:

    Speaking of the Newsday, how come it only gets blogged on Saturdays? There have been a few good ones recently.

  49. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @jefe: Too many puzzles, too little time. I stopped doing the weekday/Sunday Newsday puzzles years ago.

  50. Josh Bischof says:

    Fantastic fill in the LAT today. I love all the 9- and 10-letter pairs, and those 8-letter down answers are all good, too. Little bit of junk in the corners, but it’s worth it for those longer answers.

    Maybe not the most exciting fill in the Onion puzzle, but that’s some great cluing.

  51. Joan macon says:

    Well, of course Rachael Ray is referring to Extra Virgin Olive Oil, so she says “eee-vee-oh-oh” and it can easily drive you crazy if you let it. I also would like to say that during World War II there was a popular song called “Coming in on a wing and a prayer” about a damaged plane trying to land, supposedly in England. Those of us who are devoted to Channel 4 on Sirius Radio hear it now and then.

  52. pannonica says:

    Those of another demographic might know “on a wing and a prayer” from the refrain of Mike Post’s theme song to the early ’80s television show, The Greatest American Hero. Opening credits and theme.

    And teachers still don’t get enough respect or recompense.

  53. J. T. Williams says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Rachael Ray say EE-VU [ivu], whatever, pronounce the acronym as a two-syllable word. I don’t watch her show regularly, but once or twice is about all it takes to see the use of EVOO.

  54. Joan macon says:

    Pannonica (also known as Wol) I echo your teacher comment 100%!

  55. pannonica says:

    I am (still) not Wol!


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