Friday, 5/11/12

NYT 4:25 
LAT 3:29 
CS 5:43 (Sam) 
CHE 6:32 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Natan Last’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 11 12 0511

I did the puzzle, got distracted, and have grown too tired to blog sensibly. Shall I blog insensibly, then? Why, sure.

More demure sorts may blanch at SUCKS being clued without reference to straws or vacuums. [Is god-awful] speaks to the “stinks” meaning of SUCKS, and scarcely anyone under the age of 50 thinks this sort of SUCKS takes a direct object. It has become an informal word, not a vulgar one. I promise.

Favorite answers:

  • LET ME THINK…” and Moe’s “WHY, I OUGHTA…”
  • ELENA KAGAN, full name, so crossword-friendly with its alternating consonants and vowels. (She is joined in the “full names of legal eagles” category with fictional PERRY MASON.)
  • TIE FIGHTER! Would have had no idea about this if my son wasn’t a Star Wars nerd like his older cousin was.

Clues I like:

  • [Dastard] for FIEND. Not the same sort of FIEND as in Diary of a Crossword Fiend. A Crossword Dastard would not be an aficionado but rather a maker of horrible crosswords.
  • BANGS, as in a fringe of hair over the forehead = [They might be cut at a salon]. Not so obvious to those who don’t have bangs, perhaps.
  • Two short “meh” answers are redeemed by interesting clues. ERSE = [Language from which “hubbub” comes], and ISRael = [It has more museums per capita than any other country: Abbr.].

Put out by:

  • RECORD DEAL and AUDI DEALER not only give us two forms of the same word, they give us the arbitrary “[insert auto make] DEALER” entry. RECORD DEAL is quite nice, but I hit it after I’d hit the DEALER already.
  • SECO, APER, ERSE, NEUT, ISR, outdated JEANE Dixon and Will GEER.


3.25 stars.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “New York Stories” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 5/11/12 • "New York Stories" • Feldman • solution

Stories, as in storeys, as in levels of buildings, as in officially recognized landmarks, on the island of Manhattan, in the city of New York. All seven are famous and significant, historically and architecturally, although not everyone—especially those not from or of the City—will be familiar with all of them. And hardly anyone will know them from the architects, who are specified in the clues, more as a matter of convenience and consistency than anything else. As far as I can tell.

  • 18a. [ __ Building (N.Y.C. landmark designed by Cass Gilbert)] WOOLWORTH. 1913, neo-gothic, art deco. Once the tallest building in the world. The ornate lobby contains, among much else, gargoyles caricaturing individuals involved in the genesis of the building, including FW Woolworth himself, paying for the construction in nickels and dimes.
  • 19a. [ __ Building (N.Y.C. landmark designed by Emery Roth and Sons)] MET LIFE. 1963, brutalist. Not to be confused with the Metropolitan Life Building, which borders Madison Square. This one looms over Grand Central Station and most New Yorkers think of it as the Pan Am building, much as I imagine Chicagoans feel about the Sears-cum-Willis Tower. Why we should yearn nostalgic for corporate branding, I can’t say, but we do.
  • 36a. [… (designed by Daniel H. Burnham] FLATIRON. 1902, Chicago school. An immediately distinctive edifice, a favorite of photographers, and just a meager 22 storeys tall.
  • 38a. [… designed by William F. Lamb)] EMPIRE STATE. 1931, art deco. Built in less than 15 months. The needle was envisaged as a mooring spot for airships.
  • 40a. [… designed by William Van Alen] CHRYSLER. 1930, art deco. The apotheosis of art deco architecture, smaller and more elegant than its big brother, the Empire State. Sort of like the Scottish deerhound vis-à-vis the Irish wolfhound.
  • 57a. [… designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)] SEAGRAM. 1958, international style ii. Along with the Lever House Building, one of the most important early glass-and-steel skyscrapers. Due in part to zoning requirements, it’s set back from the bounding streets, making room for plazas and pools, ameliorating its imposing aspect and conferring a further measure of elegance.
  • 59a. [… designed by Raymond Hood] DAILY NEWS. 1930, art deco. Less easily appreciated than the other buildings listed, but still iconic, not least to fans of Superman, as it’s the model for the Daily Planet building, in both comic books and film (at least the first two “modern” ones).

left to right: Woolworth Building, Chrysler Building, Pan Am Met Life Building, Empire State Building Seagram Building, Flatiron Building, Daily News Building.

As I insinuated earlier, I don’t know how much the theme will appeal to most solvers, as it’s a bit esoteric. However, one must admire the execution. Look at that triplet in the middle: three consecutive themers, and they all overlap at Column Eight! And look at those stacked nines, half themer and half regular fill: OSTEOPATH/WOOLWORTH and DAILY NEWS/UNNATURAL. Wow, doesn’t get much better than that. There’s a tangential tie-in with 38d [Building] ERECTING; the other long vertical is 11d [Dyed-in-the-wool] HARDCORE, which I mistakenly first filled in as HARD CASE.

Higher Education Vibe™:

  • 1a [First Council of Nicaea formulation] CREED. No lowbrow mention of that execrable band.
  • 51a [“Breathless” director] GODARD.
  • 68a [Seven __ (Thales of Miletus’s group)] SAGES.


  • 20d [Remainder] is a slippery clue for FOSSIL. At least it was for me. 49d [Derelict] is a bit tricky for REMISS. I liked both.
  • 47d I don’t entirely buy [One usually behind the wheel] for AIRBAG. The pronoun “one” makes it too forced.
  • 46a SAAR is a [Coal-rich region of Germany]. Oh very crosswordese. Also, the first row has these four meh-ish downs: USO, GTO, OTT, HHH (Hubert Horatio Humphrey); some compromises for the lovely nine-stack.
  • Not sure I will ever accept S’MORE in the singular.

Enjoyed what was OFFERED (24d) here, and feel it struck a good balance of theme density and sturdy ballast fill. Cantilevered, perhaps.

Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Stock Options” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 11

Five entries (or six, if you count the split theme entry as two) all have [Stock] as the clue:

  • 1-Across / 73-Across: SOUP / BASE. Like chicken stock or beef stock or vegetable stock.
  • 17-Across: FUND SHARES. Mmm, okay. The idea here, I think, is that mutual fund shares would be considered stock. Mutual funds own stocks, to be sure, but I’m not sure how many refer to their mutual fund shares as “stock.”
  • 30-Across: FARM ANIMALS, like cattle.
  • 48-Across: MERCHANDISE, like a shopkeeper’s “stock in trade.”
  • 65-Across: FAMILY LINE, as in “she comes from good stock.”

It’s a cute play on “stock options,” but that’s about it. I don’t find any of the theme answers entertaining in its own right, and it’s not like the realization that “hey, the word ‘stock’ means a lot of different things” is an especially satisfying payoff. So the theme feels a bit tepid to me.

Alas, I have more concerns about the fill. Look at the Crosswordese on parade: OOLA, ESSIE, ATTU, IRMA, EMO, NEET, ETS, CLIO and CLEO, ELENA, EIEIO, -ULA, NORD, ELIS, EMIR, OCHS, and -INI (that’s two suffixes, for those counting at home). I did like COUNT ME IN, and the other long Down, LUNCH ROOM, was kinda cool even though the clue, [Where students meet to eat] had me convinced the answer had to be CAFETERIA. But otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much pizzazz.

I didn’t know that the [Sporty Ford, to aficionados] was called a STANG–looks like a bizarre portmanteau of STAG TANG, the breakfast drink of unattached male astronauts.

[Karmann ___] is one of those clues that makes me laugh. Since I have no idea whatsover as to what this clue is referring to, it might as well read [Mxyztplk ___]. When I then see that the answer to the fill-in is the equally mysterious (to me) GHIA, all I can do is shake my head. Hold on, I guess I have to figure out what the heck this means. … Oh good grief, it’s a Volkswagen model made from 1955 to 1974. I realize there are many things I don’t know (just read these posts for a few days and you’ll believe me), but I can’t believe more than a very small segment of solvers will know this.

Man, it sure looks like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and OD’ed on some cranky pills, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the big solar flares. I don’t want to come across all curmedgeonly–there are other venues for that. But I have to be honest that this puzzle didn’t do much for me this time. I’m sure the next one will be better.

To end on a happier note, I’m off to cloudy Southern California for this year’s Crosswords L.A. Tournament. I test-solved the puzzles for this event, so I can assure you the event will feature some really great puzzles. One of them is especially delightful–it’s one of my favorites of the year so far. In any case, I hope to see some of you there!

Thomas Takaro’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solutio, 5 11 12

Make a FIST. Maybe don’t clue it as a [Punching tool … or, read differently, a hint to 20-, 28-, 48- and 56-Across], though. “Tool”? An awl is a punching tool. Hands are not tools. Anyway, “F is T” is your theme descriptor for four fake phrases in which double-T is changed to double-F. So technically, that’s FFISTT, isn’t it?

  • 20a. PEANUT BUFFER, [Legume polisher?]. Not peanuf buffer. That unchanged T bugs me, especially since the F IS T thing says nothing about “only for doubled letters.”
  • 28a. PUFFING GREEN, [Singer Al after a jog?].
  • 48a. RAFFLE SNAKES, [Reptiles won at fundraisers?].
  • 56a. SPACE SHUFFLE, [Cubicle reorganization?]. I like this one best.

Seven more comments:

  1. I like THE EDGE, WHARF RAT, and ZULU.
  2. I like 61a: UNZIP being clued as [Expand, as a compressed file].
  3. I’m not wild about UP UP crossing SET UP, though I like SET UP being clued as [Play matchmaker for] rather than, say, [Arrange].
  4. What about this 39d: LEFT SIDE, [Sailor’s port]? The entry looks peculiar in the grid. The lack of previous LEFT SIDEs and presence of only one RIGHT SIDE in the Cruciverb database makes me question whether it’s a solid answer or merely an adjective + noun phrase that doesn’t quite reach crossword-worthiness. What say you?
  5. 1a. [Losing casino roll] = CRAP! I didn’t know craps had a singular CRAP to it, but it’s gutsy to open at 1-Across with a word like CRAP.
  6. 22d is that British [Smoke, slangily], FAG, which is ugly to see in the grid. Given the blahness of the upper right sections (IOS ERS HHOUR EASES EARLE EERIE EELED SNERD EDD), I wonder how hard it would have been to get a different fill there. You could go FOG crossing OATERS with ACREAGE and BEARTRAP at 9d-10d…but that EERIE zone is hard to fill. There are other words that would fit with those themers in place, but I haven’t the time to try them out. OAFISH could maybe also help out.
  7. 50d. [Alarmed to the max] = SAFEST as in “protected by the highest grade of alarm system,” not “most frightened.”

Three stars.

Todd Gross & Mangesh Ghogre’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Financial Plumbing” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 5/11/12 • "Financial Plumbing" • Gross, Ghogre • solution

Apologies for the delay in posting this write-up, unforeseen circumstances. I found this puzzle quite difficult, due both to the theme—financial terms involving… let’s call it fluid dynamics—and some cruel crossings (to which Martin has already alluded in the comments).

  • 1a. [With 124-Across, they can fetch a quick buck] LIQUID | ASSETS. Cute how 6d, running from the end of LIQUID, echoes the clue [They  may go for a few bucks] DOES.
  • 24a. [Normal range of a security’s price] TRADING CHANNEL.
  • 40a. [Unloading of shares followed by a quick repurchase] WASH SALE.
  • 43a. [Term for the Fed cranking up the economy too quickly] FOOL IN THE SHOWER. Bonus nearby homophonic content: 49a SUER.
  • 60a. [Shares owned by ordinary stockholders] PUBLIC FLOAT. Bonus nearby content: 63a DRAIN [Take the color out of]
  • 74a. [Scheme to inflate a stock’s price, then sell] PUMP AND DUMP.
  • 91a. [Process for making ill-gotten gains look legitimate] MONEY LAUNDERING. Uhm, see nearby 91a SOAP?
  • 94a. [Movement of funds into and out of a business] CASH FLOW.
  • 114a. [Fund manager’s kitty for buying stock] INVESTMENT POOL.

I’m certainly not thrilled with the theme, but then again I’m not a regular Wall Street Journal reader. As it is, I managed to finish it with a minimum of endgame fiddling, until being rewarded with a success message. On to the dubious crossings!

By far the two snarliest sections are the symmetrical regions, upper center left, and lower center right. I’ll call them LENARD and EVIGAN. Each is anchored by a less-than-universally-known actor’s surname. LENARD is [Mark who played Spock’s father], while EVIGAN is the [Greg of “My Two Dads”]. In the LENARD area is OECUS [Roman banquet room] and [When Ovid wrote “Ars Amatoria”] ONE BC, which could very plausibly have been ONE AD. In the mix are a tough clue for FLAP [One may be on the wing] and the first parts of theme answers: FOOL… and PUBLIC… Yes, they’re relatively guessable but far from gimmes (for the average non-WSJ reader, I repeat). In fact, I had GOBLIN FLOATS for a little while.

Over in EVIGAN-land there’s [“Let’s Get Away From it All” lyricist Tom] ADAIR; the Is cross. Oh, and AIEA is a [Town in Honolulu County].

Some other questionable crossings include: INDIC/IOS [Punjabi or Bengali, e.g.]/[One of the Cyclades]; and MOTHMAN/ASHLEE [Creature reportedly seen in West Virginia in the 1960s] (I had MOLEMAN)/[Jessica Simpson’s little sister] (took some time for the coin to drop for me).

Question: 67d [St. Peter’s topper] CUPOLA. Some misdirection, as it’s the structure and not the personage. I don’t have a style guide handy and tangentially wonder if would have been acceptable to write St. Peter’s’ or even St. Peter’s’s.

Least favorite fill: 108d [Where Congress meets] IN DC; I don’t care for answers that include superfluous prepositional appendages. 111a [“Behind the Music” network] VH-ONE; titles that include numbers usually written as numerals but that are spelled out are typically reviled in crosswordville.

Let’s end on a positive note. Four favorite clues:

  • 29a [Playing around?] ON TOUR.
  • 89d [Chicken tenders] VETS.
  • 77a [Dirt source] TABLOID.
  • 9d [Food crop?] CRAW.

Less than stellar puzzle, but some real cluing highlights.

addendum: Need to point out 4d & 11d: UNITE and UNION.

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23 Responses to Friday, 5/11/12

  1. Erik says:

    did not like GIN_/_REN crossing, but other than that:

  2. David says:

    This really felt geared toward the constructor’s demographic. Since I am in that same demographic, I have no complaints.

    Fun fact: I went to the same high school as the lead singer of 1-across (which I strongly suspect may have been Natan’s original clue)

  3. Gareth says:

    I finished with a very Wednesday time, but then I had lot more trivia in my wheelhouse than typical. I very rarely nail 1A on Friday, but PASSSIONPIT went right in, and what an opener that was! In fact I loved almost all of the longer answers, especially: SNOWANGELS, UNCLEREMUS and TIEFIGHTER (another big fat gimme though!) It seems our “loved it!” lists are pretty similar… The onew answer that rankled was AUDIDEALER, which is SIXERSGAME dressed up lederhosen. More than happy with that as a compromise for the rest of the puzzle for me to give it a 4.5.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    At 5:12, possibly my fastest Friday evah. That’s a Tuesday/(easy)Wednesday time. The clues to the long answers were all gimmes for me, but that’s my only “complaint”. Great grid.

    AUDI DEALER, as an answer, is fine with me. Just a little unusual being in there with RECORD DEAL.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    That was the the championship puzzle I, (or rather we), solved on the Big Boards at Brown. As far as I can see, the clues are unchanged. Solving on the stage was an experience I thought I would never have, and it was a blast, (especially since I was reasonably successful.) I was not nervous at all, but rather, in a zone, in my own universe. If I had totally disgraced myself, I might have felt differently.

    Never even remotely heard of 1a or tie fighter, but the crossings came easily. Never heard of Oren, but Gino was a gimme. For some reason Audi Dealer popped right into my head.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Wait a minute–the clue for 1a *is* different in today’s version, and today’s clue is, for me, *much* easier. Startling, but maybe Will thinks today’s clue is harder for some. At the competition the reference was to some rock band I had never heard of. I haven’t the slightest idea what “hulu” is, but I had to trust that it must mean something to someone, since ‘Ohoh’ was a pretty sketchy entry, my least favorite–the only spot I was unsure of when I stepped away from the puzzle at Brown.

  7. Tuning Spork says:

    Bruce, is great site. They’ve hundreds and hundreds of old TV show episodes from the ’50s to very modern shows. I just recently watched an episode of “The Rifleman” with Sammy Davis, Jr. guest starring. Good stuff.

  8. Rob says:

    How often has SUCKS been clued this way? I don’t recall it, if ever. Didn’t realize cruciverb had gone paywall.

  9. Donna L says:

    Heads up, Sam: the CrosSynergy puzzle today isn’t mine. It’s Sarah Keller’s.

  10. john farmer says:

    One of the key moments in the history of the word SUCKS came in the early ’70s during a nationally televised USC-UCLA football game. Students in the stadium flipped cards that spelled out WESTWOOD SUCKS. It was a scandal at the time, the TV crew getting suckered by those crazy college kids. I remember the debates about whether there was anything really bad about the word “sucks.” It was a different time. (I was still a kid, watching from the other coast, and my immediate reaction was, Who is Westwood and what did he do?)

  11. Howard B says:

    Crazy puzzle, though a bit polarizing, too. A lot of really great stuff in there, and a lot of… hmmm.. ‘crunk’ mixed in? Anyway, despite some squishy spots, I had a ton of fun solving this anyway (TIE FIGHTER!), and I can visualize the author’s style and possibly age through the puzzle, which is cool. In the end, that is what it’s about. I can live with some nits and bumpy spots when I stumble across the YIOU in “Why, I oughta…”!

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    John, my favorite “times have changed” story, was a decade earlier, and a couple centuries removed from the mores and culture of the present day. A friend of mine in high school was running for student body president. In his campaign speech in front of the student body, somehow he worked in a joke involving olive oil. Shortening the story:

    Customer: I’d like a bottle of olive oil, please.

    Shopkeeper: Virgin olive oil?

    Punchline: At those prices, who cares what the olives do at night.

    This created a major scandal. I think they called a special meeting of the Board of Ed. to decide what to do about this outrage. I can’t recall what the outcome was.

  13. Grant says:

    Fag, even as a slang term, seems out of place in one of the country’s premier crosswords.

  14. Martin says:

    “Fag” meaning cigarette, comes from “fag end,” the less useful end of something. Specifically, the unraveled end of a rope became slang for a cigarette long before the word acquired its offensive meaning. “Fag end” is at least 400 years old, and comes from “fagge,” Middle English for “flap.”

    I find it offensive that we are so quick to drop ancient parts of our language down the memory hole because an unrelated use, with unrelated etymology, comes along with a nasty meaning. The gambling word “crap” came from “crab” before its more modern meaning. Amy and I disagree on whether “chink in the armor” should be banned. A teacher got fired for including “niggardly” on a spelling list. These are troubling to me.

    Don’t use a word in a context where it could be misunderstood to be an offensive meaning. But if the meaning is clear, and in no way related to the offensive meaning, banning it is no better than book-burning.

  15. Grant says:

    I don’t think “chink in the armor” should be banned either. Nor did I find the use of “illegal” to be a big deal in the NYT a couple months ago. Huck Finn should be allowed in schools and the message of the story is positive in its portrayal of blacks just like the vocabulary is historically accurate. I doubt we disagree on the non PC train all that much.

    I do think that fag should be avoided in a crossword. If the c-word or the n-word also had other definitions I would probably be against their use in a puzzle as well. Niggard isn’t spelled the same nor sounds exactly the same so it is fine to me. Cig is a perfectly appropriate alternative for fag in a vocabulary sense that in American lexicon, the word just isn’t necessary to use. For the puzzles sake, fog and fig also fit there with some adjustment to the rest of the grid. I think that would be a better solution than using fag.

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    On the same thread, a teacher in Mt. Kisco NY was severely reprimanded (perhaps even fired, I’m not sure), for using the word “niggardly.” Needless to say, I regard this as deplorable ignorance on the part of those doing the reprimanding. “Fag” is just British slang for a cigarette; Martin’s erudite exegesis is interesting and informative.

  17. Dan F says:

    Martin, I agree with your larger point, but in this case, I would absolutely ban the non-offensive meaning of “fag” from crosswords. Agree with Grant. How many hundreds or thousands of solvers got a major bummer this morning when they saw that word in their beloved puzzle? It’s not worth it. On the other hand, that’s not the first time Rich has published it, iirc, so if he didn’t get complaints the last time…

    Speaking of bummer, I thought the CS puzzle was really lazily filled. Rarely do I grimace while solving a puzzle in two minutes, but that was kinda painful. (And speaking of banning crossword fill, I Hate Hate Hate when OOLA shows up. Why are we expected to know the name of such a tiny, tiny character?)

  18. Martin says:

    Why are we expected to know the name of such a tiny, tiny character?

    Maybe because it’s “OOLA.”

    Speaking of controversial fill, I’m waiting for the WSJ to be blogged. A few crossings really seemed unfortunate.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I prefer to err on the side of protecting and respecting people’s feelings rather than protecting the continued use of a word that can easily be replaced with others. Just because a fag end of rope has etymology dating back centuries doesn’t mean someone looking at the crossword in tomorrow’s paper won’t be jarred to see that FAG in the answer grid.

    Given that I have never, ever (to my knowledge) spoken out against the word “niggardly,” I don’t know why it gets trotted out every time we have these discussions on the blog.

    And Martin, who’s trying to ban CRAP? Hell, my kid’s sixth-grade teacher uses that word in class.

  20. Martin says:

    Using CRAP shouldn’t be considered “gutsy,” in my opinion.

    And why are words that you have spoken out aginst (“chink”) more relevant than words that others have spoken out against (“niggardly”)? I don’t mean to devalue your opinion in any way, of course, but censorship of the language is the topic.

  21. John E says:

    How can anyone be put out by Grandpa Walton?

  22. John Haber says:

    Didn’t recognize PASSION PIT, TIE FIGHTER, or WHY I OUGHTA and saw a record number of proper names, without enough crossings to ground them, so allow me to call this my least favorite crossword ever. And yeah, GINO/OREN was just a wild guess for me.

Comments are closed.