Tuesday, 5/15/12

NYT 3:26 
LAT 7:24 (Neville) 
Jonesin' untimed 
CS 5:15 (Sam) 

Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 5 15 12 0515

I wasn’t loving this puzzle while I was solving it so when I reached the final theme answer, the unifying phrase FULL OF HOLES, I heard the voice of a Borscht Belt comedian saying “FULL OF HOLES? This whole puzzle’s full of holes!” (I didn’t say he was a good comedian.) More on the holes later.

The holey things are SWISS CHEESE, a VOODOO DOLL, a DARTBOARD, a GOLF COURSE, and that shirt I bought yesterday and accidentally cut when I was cutting off the tag. Solid enough theme. I have no complaint with the theme. It’s the fill that kept tugging at my sleeve like a pesky airline seatmate. ESTOPS, partial O’ MY, SAO Tomé crossing three not-necessarily-obvious-to-Tuesday-solvers 3s, unfamilar PERGOLA ([Vine-covered passageway]), tons of names (ARP, GLESS, TATE, NADIA, YOKO, ESTEFAN, Chou En-LAI, WESSON, SOSA, [Nina of 1940s-’50s films] FOCH, OLAF, COHN), ungainly abbreviations (ALG, VER)—and the add-a-prefix pair of UNSHADE ([Expose to light]) and REMOP ([Swab the floor again]). “Hey! Can you unshade the kitchen? I’m fochin’ tryin’ to remop here!” There’s a guy who comments at the Rex Parker blog (by the way, here’s Sunday’s CBS News story about Michael “Rex” Parker) who somehow calculates the difficulty of a puzzle by scrutinizing the applet solving stats, and I bet he will find that the solving times for this puzzle are considerably slower than usual for a Tuesday.

There is nice fill in here too—the PENDULUM, SpongeBob the Krabby Patty fry cook’s SPATULA, an ODDBALL, the oddball “JEEPERS!”

Digression: I always wish the Sharon TATE clues were Larry TATE clues, as “famous ’70s murder victim” resonates with me less than “crusty Bewitched character I know from my childhood.” Or TATE Donovan, who co-starred with a pre-famous Sandra Bullock in Love Potion No. 9. Or the British art museums.

2.66 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Matter of Time” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, May 15

Well, the overnight ratings from yesterday’s premiere of Who Did It Better? are in, and the news is not good. Network execs have pulled the plug after only one episode. I’m hoping it will be picked up by the Cartoon Network blog so that we can build a cult following big enough to get the show reinstated. But until then, we’re back to your normal analysis of the crossword. You know–theme, fill, clues–that’s it. No bells, no whistles. No muss, no fuss.

So let’s get back to business. Today’s theme became apparent to me after a couple of theme entries, but 60-Across helps us out by saying that a WRISTWATCH is the [Product sold under the brand names found at the starts of 17-, 26-, and 44-Across]. Yep, the three theme entries start with watch brands:

  • 17-Across: FOSSIL FUEL is the [Conventional energy source].
  • 26-Across: The OMEGA NEBULA is the [Interstellar cloud in the Sagittarius area of the Milky Way]. If you’re lactose intolerant, you might create your own cloud from consuming a Milky Way.
  • 44-Across: The [1941 Orson Welles classic] is CITIZEN KANE.

There aren’t many ordinary phrases beginning with SEIKO or ROLEX, so this might be the best compilation of theme entries available. The paired long Downs in the northeast were my favorites. The clue for KOALA BEAR ([Improper name for a eucalyptus muncher]) was terrific, and OWNED UP TO has a nice “in the language” feel. Other interesting tidbits included GO ASK, GOT TO, and Caesar’s embarrassing confession, I CAME. (To which most of Rome responded, I SEE.)

When you see SUMAC in the grid (or, more accurately, get it through crossings) you expect a clue involving one of the crossword legends, Yma Sumac. But this one surprised me: [Poison ___ (toxic plant)]. My first guess was IVIES. And that’s why I have a limited license for crossword blogging.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 15 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 15 12

Buckle up, we’re going for a drive.

  • 17a. [Attire with deep pockets] – CARGO PANTS
  • 27a. [Place offering good looks?] – VANTAGE POINT
  • 43a. [Lake Tahoe’s sole outlet] – TRUCKEE RIVER
  • 57a. [Penniless, as in the opening of “Me and Bobby McGee] – BUSTED FLAT
  • 36a. [“Good job!” (and a hint to the beginning of 17-, 27-, 43- or 57-Across] – WAY TO GO!

This is a fun little theme. I wish that I knew of the Truckee River or had heard the phrase busted flat before, though. Oh, well. DRIVE SLOW seems to touch nicely off of this theme sort of like a bonus theme entry.

Not too many IFFY entries in this grid. I like how the X stands for different things in X-RAY and X-LARGE. DERRING-DO is a phrase I know thanks only to the theme song from DuckTales – “Tales of derringdo, bad and good luck tales, oo-oo” is that hard-to-hear line halfway through.

There’s not too much FLAIR though, either. Nothing that grabs me by the collar and says, “Hey! This is a great puzzle!” Maybe I’m just stuck in A RUT solving all of these puzzles. I guess it’s still a few too many YAWNS for a Tuesday because it’s so DRY. (Not ARID dry – just lacking ICING.)

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Triple Billing”

Jonesin' crossword solution, "Triple Billing" 5 15 12

I am so not the target audience for this theme. Each theme entry is made of three band names strung together in clueable fashion, but I don’t know more than half of the bands:

  • 20a. LUSH TONIC BLUR, [Hazy memory after a few rounds of drinks?]. First off, it’s the gin that gets you, not the tonic. Second, I’ve heard of Blur but not Lush or Tonic.
  • 35a. MORPHINE R.E.M. LIVE, [Painkiller-induced dreams, now for all to see?]. First, “live” ≠ visible. Second, I don’t know who Morphine is. Third, what ever happened to Live? Wikipedia tells me they’re still around but they peaked in the mid-’90s.
  • 41a. LIT FISHBONE CAKE, [Did the candles for your cat’s birthday party?]. First, no idea who Lit is. Second, I know one whole Cake song, “Shadow Stabbing,” because it was in the documentary Wordplay. (It’s the song that rhymes “typewriter” with “prize fighter.”)
  • 53a. FUEL FILTER LOW, [Message that shows your car’s warning system is joking with you?]. First, second, and third: I don’t know any of these band names.

Freshest fill: ED HELMS! INITECH, the dreadful, soul-killing company in Office Space. SOUL MAN, the [Sam & Dave hit covered by the Blues Brothers]. “HEY, BABE,” [Words before “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” in the lyrics]. I also have a soft spot for “Boogie OOGIE Oogie,” so help me.


Three stars.




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13 Responses to Tuesday, 5/15/12

  1. pannonica says:

    I guess GHH Tate doesn’t resonate with anyone except me. There’s also Grady Tate, well-known jazz drummer, but he also sang a few of the Schoolhouse Rock numbers.

    What’s that, Wikipedia? Classical composer and pianist Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate? Never heard of him. Too bad that middle name is 16 letters long.

  2. Or Terry Tate: Office Linebacker.

  3. Erik says:

    OK, so maybe not Catherine Tate

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Oh dear, you have me looking at ways to avoid Tate here, and I suppose the easiest is to change Vat to Van, but then you need a known Nate. Or you use the abbr. Var. and get a simple Rate. Or even go with “___ deferens” which leads you Sate plus the tube which is surgically cut in a vasectomy. Hmmm. Best to leave it as is!

  5. Gareth says:

    Found it quite Wednesday in difficulty. Thought the theme was very clever and allowed some fun answers: VOODOODOLL! Funny, Amy, I heard Elton John singing “I can’t love / Shot full of holes”. Couple of squares I was less than confident on: WESSON/GLESS and FOCH/SIC.

    @Erik: I know Catherine, but she is one of the least funny comedians I’ve ever encountered, a tie with Conan probably, and a couple of others I’ve blocked out my cranium.

    @Artlvr: Lol @ Vas Deferens. I just looked it up though, “___ deferens” was a clue in a ’97 NYT. I’m guessing Will got Letters with a capital L and that’s why it never appeared again! Now if the S were a G… (Oh forget it! That’d mean even more letters!)

  6. Jeff Chen says:

    Wednesday-ish indeed. I’m usually not one to be bothered by a surplus of proper names, but perhaps one too many FOCH for me.

    Say it ain’t so, Sam! I was looking forward to another episode of Who Did it Better? Perhaps we need a more catchy title. Crosssworders Do it… Crosser?

    Neville, complete agreement here. Fun theme, wish I knew the TRUCKEE RIVER. I grew up in San Jose with many a family outing to Tahoe, but this one eluded me.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    The LAT design is seriously flawed, with only one square to join the 3 areas, and a theme answer square at that. Having to know TRUCKEE to access 1/3 of the grid likely brought a lot of solvers to a screeching halt.

  8. janie says:

    learned of the TRUCKEE from canadian folkies ian & sylvia — in “darcy farrow”. @2:06 — “they sing of darcy farrow where the TRUCKEE runs through……”



  9. maikong says:

    Ooooh, those darn network execs have to spoil everything.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    Gareth, so neat that you found the Vas in one old NYT puzzle! At least that’s a proper term in anatomy… Now if we could just persuade a certain other constructor to refrain from using “rack” for a feature of the female phsysique: that’s really offensive!

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @ArtLvr: I, uh, have been known to use the term “rack” myself.

  12. HH says:

    “Now if we could just persuade a certain other constructor to refrain from using “rack” for a feature of the female phsysique: that’s really offensive!”

    Another constructor more offensive than I? I gotta try harder.

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