Sunday, 6/3/12

NYT 9:25 
LAT 10:58 (Jeffrey-paper) 
Reagle 8:13 
Hex/Hook tba 
WaPo Doug – untimed 
CS 10:04 (Sam) 

Amy says: I won’t be home until later Saturday evening, so I won’t be able to blog anything by the usual time. Any other Fiendsters who want to pull the NYT out from under my feet are welcome to do so and would receive exuberant thanks and praise. Commenters, do feel free to talk about the puzzles in the downstairs lounge.

Amy says later: Aw, no takers?

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Myth-Labeled”

NYT crossword solution, 6 3 12 "Myth-Labeled"

The theme here is mythological things as clued by warning labels that make a certain amount of sense. I don’t know about you, but I basically played the theme like this: (1) Work the crossings until some sort of mythological term starts to take shape. (2) Go back to see how the clue makes sense. (3) Move on despite not always seeing it. Granted, it’s late and I’m tired, but I wasn’t really encountering anything in this puzzle that was funny or a nice “aha” moment.

It’s jarring that a few of the theme answers aren’t from classical Greek/Roman mythology.

  • 23a. SWORD OF DAMOCLES, fine.
  • 29a. TROJAN HORSE, not from the same vein of classical gods.
  • 50a. CUPID’S ARROW, fine.
  • 75a. GORDIAN KNOT, legend from Alexander the Great’s time rather than a Mount Olympus myth.
  • 96a. PANDORA’S BOX, fine.
  • 103a. FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, other side of the world. Caribbean/Florida, Ponce de Leon.
  • 4d. FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Adam and Eve in the Bible. A number of solvers may quibble at calling this “myth.”
  • 54d. APPLE OF DISCORD, fine. With the first two letters blank in that last one, I kinda wanted MAPLE OF DISCORD. See? I told you I was tired.

The fill is fairly smooth but unexciting. I like the HOMOPHONE/ALAN ARKIN pair but aside from that, nothing too memorable. Three stars?

Updated Sunday morning:

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 113” – Doug’s review

Frank Longo's Washington Post solution 6/3/12, "The Post Puzzler No. 113"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Sweet grid today from Frank Longo. I love that chunk in the center. Not exactly a six-sided ring (See clue for 38a: BENZENE), but still very cool. The seven-letter words are all solid, and I like the way the four fifteen-letter entries cut through the ring.

We were treated to a plethora of clever clues today. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

  • 1a. [Gear for many gear changers] – BIKE HELMETS. Good entry; great clue. That’s how you start off a puzzle.
  • 35a. [Beetle with a weathered shell, maybe] – USED CAR. For those of you keeping track at home, this is the Clue of the Day.
  • 62a. [Sleek runway model] – JET AIRLINER. Another nice one.
  • 24d. [Makeup of most of the upper crust] – IGNEOUS ROCK. Tricky, tricky.
  • 26d. [One motivated by a score] – AVENGER. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get a Captain America or Hulk reference, but I still liked the clue.

A quartet of mysterious names…

  • 3d. [Canada’s Campbell] – KIM. Let’s go to Wikipedia. Kim Campbell “served as the 19th Prime Minister of Canada, from June 25, 1993 to November 4, 1993. Campbell was the first and to date the only female Prime Minister of Canada, the first baby boomer to hold that office, and the only PM to have been born in British Columbia.” I wonder if Jeffrey knows her. Probably. There can’t be that many people in British Columbia.
  • 22a. [“Mourning Becomes Electra” son] – ORIN. I’m sure I’ve seen this before.
  • 54a. [He played Earvin Rodman on “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”] – OMAR GOODING. Younger brother of Cuba Gooding, Jr. He has fewer Twitter followers than Rex Parker.
  • 59d. [Sula’s friend in “Sula”] – NEL. If Orin & Nel got married, I wonder what they’d name their kids. They couldn’t come up with anything weirder than SURI (49d: TomKat’s kid).

Have a nice Sunday. I’m outta here.

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Letter of Introduction” – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution sunday June 3 2012

Theme: Add a letter in front of one of the words to tickle your 42 Down.

Theme answers:

  • 27A. [Packrat’s moving need?] – LONG U-HAUL
  • 29A. [Scan on a bulb?] – X-RAY OF LIGHT
  • 46A. [Stripper’s scrapbook item?] – FIRST G-STRING
  • 65A. [Topnotch Carnival vessel?] – A-ONE LINER. You will never see me use one liners.
  • 86A. [Spot for digital greeting displays?] – E-CARD COUNTER
  • 106A. [Moisture-resistant pullover?] – RUBBER V-NECK
  • 110A. [Touchscreen device with a strap?] – WRIST I-PAD. That would hurt.
  • 37D. [Profit from a swab?] – Q-TIP INCOME
  • 42D. [Silly-looking steak?] – FUNNY T-BONE

If this were the Onion, the clues could be so different for all of these.  Make up your own risque jokes.

Other stuff:

  • 10A. [Name of four Holy Roman emperors] – OTTO. OTTO I, OTTO II, OTTO III and BRUCE.
  • 36A. [Like Handel’s music] – BAROQUE
  • 44A. [Holiday landing site] – HOUSETOP. Hang a mezuzah on your door and Santa won’t land on your roof.
  • 45A. [Writer Santha Rama __] – RAU. Neither will Santha.
  • 55A. [Cry of exasperation] – AARGH. I wanted AAAAAAAARGH!!!
  • 59A. [Jackie’s predecessor] – MAMIE. I wanted Marilyn.
  • 64A. [Self-titled 1990s band album] – *NSYNC
  • 77A. [Consumer protection org.] – BBB. Just checked the Better Business Bureau site earlier. I am looking for a garage door fixer. My garage door is now haunted. It goes up, down, stops halfway, reverses and otherwise acts randomly. [Instant update –  A magic garage door person came and everything is fine. Your donations to the Buy-Jeffrey-A-New-Garage-Door fund are no longer required.]
  • 99A. [Darth’s daughter] – LEIA. I am not the type to play a Star Wars clip everytime it is referenced.
  • 114A. [Rivera of Broadway’s “West Side Story”] – CHITA. Perfect opportunity to play the Les Misérables trailer.
  • 7D. [1964 Mary Wells hit] – MY GUY. Nothing I can say.
  • 30D. [Filled (with)] – FRAUGHT. I always thought FRAUGHT was a GOOD WORD.
  • 32D. [Good word] – PLUG.  I always thought FRAUGHT was a PLUG.
  • 85D. [Ringo Starr predecessor] – PETE BEST. Perfect opportunity to play Laura Branigan.
  • 89D. [“Luck of the Draw” vocalist] – RAITT Perfect opportunity to play Bonnie Tyler.
  • 97D. [Hoops gp.] – THE NBA
  • 98D. [Game played with sticks] – HOCKEY. In Canada we call it The HOCKEY eh.
  • 114D. [Half a dance] – CHA. Full name is CHA Doble.

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

CS solution, June 3

This was a fun 70/32 freestyle puzzle from Patrick Jordan. A number of entries gave it a military feel, like SERGEANTS, the [Rousing World War I tune] OVER THERE, REVOLTS, MARINES, SHEATHE, and a reference to a former general in the clue for DOLS, [’70s coins featuring DDE].(Let’s be clear, guys, DOLS is not a terrific entry.)

To some extent, these were offset by more benign entries like BO PEEP, ROSY, and SEDATE. But still there’s a very macho, aggressive vibe to this grid.

Okay, it’s random observation time:

  • E-NOTE, the [High-tech memo] really falls flat for me. Does anyone, EVEN ONE person, ever say “Hey, I’ll send you an e-note.” I feel like the “e-” prefix is facilitating some iffy entries in crosswords these days, and this is a prime example of that.
  • In music, is the BASS LINE the baseline?
  • With only the Y from HARD COPY in place as a crossing, I felt reasonably good about STAY OUT as the answer for [Keep out of the landfill]. Sometimes it really shows that I went to law school. The answer was RECYCLE. (HARD COPY is a great entry, by the way.)
  • To my ear, GEED is more of a sound effect than a word. But apparently it means [Turned right]. Geez!
  • Whaddya know, the [Number-covering game] isn’t BINGO but BEANO. I confess the only BEAN-O I know covers odors, not numbers.
  • I like DIAL-A-JOKE far more than I liked the clue, [Source of mirth in some cities]. People in rural areas can call a Dial-A-Joke line, too! That’s not to say the entry itself is super-fresh–a concept like “dial-a-joke” feels about 15-20 years behind the times. On the other hand, SHREDDERS, clued as [They help prevent identity theft], feels very fresh.
  • Speaking of 15-20 years ago (or, *cough* more) I loved [Chuck E. Cheese’s purchases] as the clue for TOKENS.
  • This is not the first puzzle to clue SOP as a [Conciliatory gesture], but let’s just say it’s not standard operating procedure to do so.
  • Other cool entries included NO WORSE and REINED IN.

Favorite entry, hands down = ICK FACTOR, the [Repellent aspect, slangily]. Favorite clue = [Southern side] for GRITS. I like it because I fell for the trap–my mind kept wondering what word is used to describe the southern side of a building or a boat. Maybe we should just call it the “grits” side.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Cliché Couples”

Merl Reagle crossword solution 6 3 12, "Cliche Couples"

Certain pairs of words are fellow travelers, and substituting a synonym for either of the two just sounds wrong to native speakers. FREAK ACCIDENT and SHADY CHARACTER, sure. “Freak mishap” and “seamy character” sound weird. CHECKERED PAST, never a striped one nor ever a checkered future (although the latter is a neat idea, and plenty of people have a checkered present). Tell a BALD-FACED LIE, offer a HANDSOME REWARD, hand down a STIFF SENTENCE. I’m not as convinced about the other two theme answers. When I had —— ALIBI, I went straight for AIRTIGHT ALIBI. Hello! The answer is IRONCLAD ALIBI, and AIRTIGHT CASE is there too but sounds off-kilter to me. Apparently various adjectives float around for such legal terms, and none wins the race in all jurisdictions, this discussion thread suggests.

I can’t remember the term Language Log or Ben Zimmer has put forth for these “cliché couple” word pairs. Anyone??

I see what Merl was going for with 56a: [Africa’s smallest country], but The GAMBIA is merely Africa’s smallest contiguous country. There are, as any geography quiz addict knows, several small island nations that are bundled with Africa and are smaller than GAMBIA: Seychelles, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mauritius, Comoros, and Cape Verde (look for these in the Olympics parade of nations this summer, with not-very-big contingents).

42d: [Sunscreen letters] clues PABA. I think it’s time that either this entry is jettisoned from constructors’ word lists or its clues quit pretending it’s current. I suppose some shoddy off-brand sunscreens may still contain PABA, but mainline sunscreen products don’t. Too many allergic customers, too much staining.

45d: [Messianic Muslim leader] is MAHDI. I would never have gotten this one were it not for a Facebook thread this week.

117d: [Rhyme for “Jed” in a hillbilly tune], “um, something-E-D?” Crossings say FED. This isn’t ringing a bell for me, as I am terrible at hearing lyrics.

The theme doesn’t box Merl in, so the fill isn’t constrained to the point of making me scowl. Four stars.

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21 Responses to Sunday, 6/3/12

  1. Martin says:

    Even Patrick Berry nods.

  2. The Dude says:

    The LYNDE/SYMS crossing in brutal. Otherwise very smooth puzzle. But I had to guess on every vowel until the Y.

  3. Zulema says:

    Ok, so it was just a fill-in-the-blanks large puzzle, but remember that more people in the general public solve these Sunday NYT crosswords than do the daily puzzles, and they can’t just be getting harder and harder. The concept was at least interesting and better than if it had been what I imagined when I first looked at the title, (S changed to TH as the theme).

  4. Jan says:

    Good point, Zulema. I had the same misconception about the title, so I solved a lot of the fill before going back to see what the theme was about.
    I enjoyed the Post Puzzler – lots of great stuff in there.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Goodness! I enjoyed the NYT myths, and many a filler CONFUTES the nay-sayer: : Mens REA, MAUVE sunset, the LAPCAT. Chacun à son goût… Agreed with Jan on the Puzzler, fun too. My favorite was DOUBLE ENTENDRES.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    @Doug: Sure I know Kim Campbell. Don’t you? After being Prime Minister, she was appointed Consul General to Los Angeles. There can’t be that many people in LA.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Nothing wrong with this puzzle, but it shows the danger of elevated expectations. I was slowed down thinking that I *must* be missing some layer or dimension, or subtlety; that it has to be more than just straightforward, familiar expressions, vaguely mythological, clued in a mildly clever way, though the theme clues could almost have been dropped altogether. But it was perfectly smooth and elegant.

  8. Papa John says:

    Wait a minute. What’s going on? What am I missing?

    First, a little braggadocio – filling in the NW quickly gave me 23A: SWORD OF DAMOCLES and 4D: FORBIDDEN FRUIT, so I looked for other themed fills. Without any crossings, I filled in all of them except 54D: APPLE OF DISCORD. In the words of Darth Vader, “All too easy…”

    In full disclosure, I did teach a mythology class, so the theme is more familiar to me than, say, sports figures. Still…

    Hold on, though. Something didn’t seem right. What about all those “WARNING[s]” in the theme clues? How did they fit in with the puzzle title, “Myth-labeled”? I scratched my head but came up with nothing. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a punster, so I thought whatever the “joke” was, it went over my head.

    Then I come here to read that there may not have been any joke at all. So now I’m completely flummoxed. Is this puzzle, as Zulema says, merely a typing exercise? In the words of that crest-fallen Black Sox fan, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

    Amy suggests that some solvers may quibble about myth-labeling the Biblical apple as myth. To avoid that dissention in my classroom, I defined myths as stories with gods, legends as stories with heroes, fables as stories with animals and all else as fiction.

  9. Martin says:

    @Papa John,

    They’re warning labels. If the myth is of something positive (Fountain of Youth), the warning label will probably be pretty lame.

    Or I guess the Fountain of Youth is just fiction.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    As I understand it, the “game” or the wordplay is something like this: A Sword of Damocles “hangs over ones head,” so if its suspension system is prone to failure, it might be nice to be warned about it, lest if fall on you. But even that dimensions doesn’t seem to follow through consistently — Cupid’s arrow has “heart related consequences” in two senses, but that’s not the same gimmick as the sword; we know about Trojan horses and Greeks bearing gifts, but there doesn’t seem to be much wordplay there at all. So I’m not entirely sure how to characterize the theme.

    Didn’t Joseph Campbell say something to the effect that “Half the people think myths are true, and the other half think they are false, and the problem is that all of them are wrong”?

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Just to round things out and get on with the outdoor chores, I especially liked Merl’s Clichés and the Cox/Rathvon Boston collection – confection!

  12. Meem says:

    Great group of puzzles for a beautiful Sunday.

  13. Papa John says:

    Say it ain’t so, Martin!

    So, Bruce is right about the “elevated expectations”. Pity.

  14. Martin says:

    I think that Amy’s prediction of “quibbles” with Forbidden Fruit stems from another working definition of myth: “a story from someone else’s religion.”

    Considering that only 15% of Americans believe in a purely secular view of human evolution, this is likely to raise more than quibbles I bet.

  15. Winnie says:

    For me, the “average solver”, it was nice to be able finish a Sunday puzzle again.

  16. Jared says:

    Jeffrey, your review made me laugh out loud several times. Thanks.

  17. Jeffrey says:

    Thanks Jared.

    Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
    A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,

  18. joon says:

    amy, sorry for not filling in. i’ve had a lot going on this weekend.

    I can’t remember the term Language Log or Ben Zimmer has put forth for these “cliché couple” word pairs. Anyone??
    i think you want “collocations”, although last summer you linked to this visual thesaurus article by orin hargreaves in which he calls them “auspicious pairs”.

  19. John Haber says:

    The theme didn’t do anything for me. Restating the moral as a warning label just didn’t make it all that different, much less funnier. It was like punning without a pun.

    I got SYMS/LYNDE wrong, not because the names don’t ring a bell, but the spelling doesn’t. I also got JUKED/JOSIE wrong, where neither feels at all familiar. Can’t say I like either of those. The ENNIO, fire irons (whatever they are), ANASTASIA area was otherwise my last to fall, although doable. Overall, a perfectly ok puzzle but not a likable one.

  20. Lizzy says:

    For the NYT

  21. Lizzy says:

    Sorry about that. For the NYT maybe it relayes to wordplay in the title as well…myth-labeled = mislabeled? It is just such a weird one!

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