Wednesday, 5/9/12

NYT 4:42 
LAT PuzzleGirl – untimed 
CS 4:53 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 

Eshan Mitra’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 12 0509

I did this puzzle an hour ago and kept waiting for it to blog itself. It doesn’t seem to have happened, so here I am.

I saw what was going on with the theme, sort of, after the first theme answer at 17a. SET THE PAYS changes the sound of “set the pace.” But then I hit the second one at 23a, and what else could [Best meal of a cow’s life?] be but AMAZING GRASS? I then figured the theme entries would have assorted sound changes, but no, AMAZING GRASS was not to be. The answer was AMAZING GRAZE, which changes an S sound to a Z sound—but I say changing the vowel sound and turning the lovely “Amazing Grace” into AMAZING GRASS would have been so much better. Who calls anything a “graze”? Feh. And the boss in 17a would be setting the pay, singular, for a bunch of people. “The pays” sounds terrible, doesn’t it? The other theme answers change phrases that end with “place,” “base,” and “face” into IN THE RIGHT PLAYS, MILITARY BAYS, and POKER PHASE. Not a one of ’em is funny, whereas I aver that AMAZING GRASS would have evoked some smiles. MILITARY BASS, if clued as peculiarly regimented fish, could also have worked in Amy’s Alternate Theme Universe. You could even riff on “World War II ace” by putting Hitler in a clue for WORLD WAR II ASS.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, though, you go to blog with the theme you have, not the theme you might want or wish to have at a later time. So let us carry on. I wanted 1-Across to be TEVYE because that was my best guess for [Townsman in “Fiddler on the Roof”]. The RABBI? He only gets “townsman” status? After all those years of study? Oy. 1a was really the only spot of fill that gave me any trouble—that and 55d, [Some are kings and queens]. I wanted to rob the queen bee of her special status and invent king BEES but no, these are BEDS we’re talking about. The rest of the fill was serviceable, nothing out of the ordinary on either end of the spectrum. You don’t want obscurities on Wednesday but you wouldn’t mind some sparkle. We get some Scrabbly answers in the 5-letter range but not a lot of glitz. Five theme entries usually don’t leave a ton of space for glitz.

Because the theme felt a tad flat to me, I’m going with 2.75 stars.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Front Money” – PuzzleGirl’s review

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel's LA Times solution 5/9/12

Hey, it’s me again. That’s right, PuzzleGirl! Twice in one week! How did I get so lucky? Oh and hey look what else — it’s Don and C.C.! Those two can crank out the puzzles, can’t they? Seems like every other day it’s Don and C.C. again. Not that I’m complaining. I find their puzzles extremely unobjectionable, if that makes sense. I noticed a little Scrabbly thing going on here today too that added a little zing to it. Let’s take a look at the theme:

  • 19A: Relationship where three is a crowd – LOVE TRIANGLE
  • 28A: “Not another word!” – ZIP YOUR LIP
  • 44A: Original Tevye player – ZERO MOSTEL
  • 53A: “Forget it!”, and a hint to the starts of 19-, 28- and 44-Across – NOTHING DOING

It’s like a Seinfeld puzzle. It’s a puzzle about nothing. (Now that I think about it, a Seinfeld reference hidden in the grid somewhere would have been kinda cool, right?) LOVE is, of course, a score of zero in tennis. ZIP is a slang word for nothing. And ZERO is … literal. Hmmm. Any other words that might have worked for the theme. I guess there probably aren’t any familiar phrases that start with GOOSE EGG. Or NIL. Or NADA. How about BAGEL? The “nothing” words aren’t all that exciting is what I’m saying. But it’s only Wednesday so whatever.

I noticed the AMELIA / AVIATE symmetry and thought that was pretty cool. Other fun fill:

  • HOOLIGAN [15A: Young gang member] – I like to use this word when I’m in crotchety-old-lady mode. Which seems to be happening more and more frequently. Weird.
  • ED NORTON [18A: Classic sitcom sidekick] – Do you think the actor Edward Norton was named after the character Ed Norton? Do you remember that movie where Edward Norton plays the murderer who may or may not have a split personality? Creepy, creepy stuff there. The boy’s got some acting chops.
  • IT’S A TRAP [57A: Warning often shouted too late] – Is this phrase really shouted anywhere other than at a movie screen?
  • TOENAIL [41D: Pedicure focus] – Doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me. But I have an aversion to toenails that may not be entirely rational.
  • FIRE ARM [9D: Pistol, e.g.] – Tried SIDE ARM first, before the crosses showed me the error of my ways.
  • TRIAGE [47D: Emergency room procedure] – French!

I think I’ll be seeing you guys again next week sometime. In the meantime, I’ll be in California for the Crosswords L.A. tournament. Hope to see some of you there!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Groupthink” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 9

Today’s puzzle features four two-word terms whose last words are synonyms for “reviewing bodies.” For an added touch of elegance, the clues then re-imagine the two-word terms as reviewing bodies. Yeah, yeah: that explanation is so dry you’re probably parched. So take a drink as we recap the theme entries:

  • 17-Across: A ROCKER PANEL, as you all know, is “one of the sections of [the] body paneling in a vehicle … lying beneath the passenger compartment.” Okay, I didn’t know that either–that’s what my dictionary says it is. In any case, here it gets clued as an [Administrative group that oversees pop music performers?]. If I had heard of a “rocker panel” before I think I would have liked this one more. As it was, though, it felt as though I got off to a rough start. Fortunately I recovered quickly with the other theme entries.
  • 24-Across: Next up, we’re back to the old DRAWING BOARD, but here it’s re-branded as an [Administrative group that oversees caricatures?]. You can almost see that existing in real life.
  • 46-Across: In this puzzle, an ordinary CHINA CABINET becomes an [Administrative group that oversees an Asian nation?]. That’s no bull.
  • 56-Across: Finally, an ECHO CHAMBER becomes an [Administrative group that oversees acoustics?].

For all the bureaucratic red tape contained in this puzzle, I found it awfully entertaining. DO AWAY WITH crosses only one theme entry, but it’s a terrific long Down. Other entries that draw my eye include KAPOW, ON KP, FINK, and BELABOR. (I’m also partial to NIXON, but that’s just for personal reasons.)

Yeah, two of the corners admit entrance through only one square, and I normally prefer to have at least two white squares into every section of a grid, but perhaps the isolation helped to facilitate the smoothness. There certainly aren’t many substandard entries here (what, maybe DST is the worst in the entire grid?), and that matters much more than the openness of any given corner. I might have clued FIXER along the lines of [Starter home, for many] instead of [Handyman, on occasion], but that’s just my own taste.

I didn’t get the answer to [“The Gift of the Magi” quality] (it’s IRONY) because I’m unfamiliar with the short story. O Henry, I simply must find time to read your works.

I find it both mildly jarring and awesomely flippant that DRIP abuts the last three letters in EYEDROPsooo close to being a duplicate entry.

Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 5 9 12 Quigley

Yes, it’s a three-BEQ week, with his two blog puzzles and his turn in the Onion rotation. The hot social-media Scrabble knockoff WORDS WITH FRIENDS anchors the puzzle. (Digression: I hate the WWF interface and prefer Lexulous’s barebones look, plus I find it easier to make impressive plays in Lexulous.) Four other theme entries are made up of words with “friends” embedded in them:

  • 16a. ABU DHABI, [*Capital of the United Arab Emirates]
  • 22a. BEACH UMBRELLA, [*Rental on the Riviera]
  • 48a. DRAMA TEACHERS, [*Those who might do play-by-play commentary?]
  • 65a. RAP ALBUM, [*Odd Future release, e.g.]

Nice foursome of otherwise unrelated noun phrases—it could be distracting if two of them were, say, place names and the others weren’t, or if there were a mix of noun and verb phrases. Each “friend” word is also split across the two words that are hugging it. (What? You don’t hug your friends?)


  • 40d. DIED, [“I literally ___!” (embarrassed teen’s hyperbole)]. Not your grandma’s crossword clue.
  • 51d. MINUS, [Sign of freezing weather?].
  • ON YOUR OWN, “OH, WELL,” ARENA ROCK (the Rush in the clue is not Mr. Limbaugh)

Not a fan of the AMASSER and the UNDOER. Shouldn’t those two get together to reach a happy medium?

3.75 stars.


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14 Responses to Wednesday, 5/9/12

  1. Gareth says:

    Funny my favourite was AMAZINGGRAZE, “graze” meaning food for cows or even just food in general is perfectly familiar here…

  2. Howard B says:

    I did like the trickiness of the variation of spellings used for a consistent phonetic theme. That meant that even once you discovered the theme, you couldn’t just lay down an “AZE” at the end of each one and be certain of some free letters. You had to work a bit to uncover each one, and the themes were just a bit unexpected. The Street Fighter game reference on the KOS clue was unexpected as well, if a few years delayed in currency, but still puzzle-fresh.
    So while it may not be going for a Puzzle of the Millennium nomination, it’s a nice mid-week diversion. Good one, Eshan.

  3. Mike says:

    Puzzle was OK. Always appreciate a little word play. Liked AMAZING GRAZE the best for a little chuckle. I am wondering if POKER PHASE is tight enough to the theme. All the others only change the last sound after A, where as PHASE changes both the front and back letters of the word. A nit, but it did throw me off slightly.

  4. Howard B says:

    @Mike: This is a phonetic theme, so there is no spelling commonality here and no nits in that area, other than personal preferences. It’s less common for NY Times themes, but the consistency is in the sound change and not the spellings across all theme answers.
    (FACE->PHASE) = (long A+S –> long A+Z)
    That’s actually what I meant by the themes not providing any free letters to the solver ;).

  5. Karen says:

    AMAZING GRAZE was the last one I filled in, and I definitely used the theme to help me out there. I had a hard time with the proper names in the NE corner (plus, misplaced ECO at 22D).

  6. Tinbeni says:

    PuzzleGirl: It’s very nice to see you again.
    Then, twice in one week! yippie.
    You’re a FIREARM … lol

  7. C says:

    Two puzzle girl LAT write-ups in one week … ITSATRAP!

  8. Mike says:

    @ Howard B: thanks for clarification

  9. Howard B says:

    No worries; was a tricky one today. Messed me up a few times.

  10. Bananarchy says:

    Today’s XKCD is particularly apropos of much cruciverbal discussion, I thought:

  11. Erik says:

    I like that the Onion theme was hinted at, but ultimately left to the solver to uncover. Better ‘aha’ moment.

  12. jane lewis says:

    the gift of the magi is the story of young newly-weds in the late 19th century. for christmas she sells her hair to buy him a fob for his very fine watch; he sells his watch to buy her combs for her beautiful hair.

  13. Joan macon says:

    Although I do the NYT puzzle five or six weeks late in syndication, I always read Amy’s review of the current one, and today I discover that while today’s theme is changing the s to the z sound, the puzzle I did today from April 4 by Zoe Wheeler is based on having the z respelled to z-free homophones; thus, Penelope Crews and sea bries. This strikes me as an interesting coincidence, but then I lead a very sheltered life.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I had to click the video link at the end of Sam’s CS post. How bizarre. The West German studio audience doesn’t move during the entire disco song. They just sit still in their seats. What the hell, Germany?

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