LAT 2:58 (Neville)
CS 6:18 (Sam)
Mike Torch’s New York Times crossword
Shame about the New York Times newspaper subscribers, no? Folks who get home delivery of the paper have traditionally received access to the puzzles online at no extra charge, and after the Times’ paywall went up, they got access to nytimes.com without that 10-article (20?) limit. But Monday, subscribers were notified that they’d have to pony up some more money if they wanted that Premium Crosswords access, at a 50% discount off what I pay but on top of a rather steep newspaper subscription. Lo! The people are angry, and I don’t blame them one bit. Before you know it, the Times will be going down the same road as the New Orleans Times-Picayune and forgoing that whole “printing a paper every day” shtick.
Anyway! Mike Torch’s theme is about poker (meh). THE DEAD MAN’S HAND is, I guess a pair of aces and a pair of 8s. Don’t know why it’s called that (nor do I care). ACE VENTURA, ACE HARDWARE, EIGHT MEN OUT, and EIGHT-TRACK make a lively quartet, don’t they? Kinda feels like a Wednesday theme to me, though.
The THE in 38a threw me because I’d already filled in THE DOW at 53a. If a small word is part of a theme answer, I don’t expect to see it elsewhere in the grid.
Likes: ADAM WEST and THE HAGUE. Lesser-known nation of Oceania, PALAU, clued as [Island group east of the Philippines]. Island group, you say? Huh. My Sporcle geography quizzes don’t tell me which of the teeny island nations in Oceania are island groups. I had the end of 45a and assumed it would be the verb phrase LED OFF but then it turned into MADOFF (if you need a pronunciation guide: “That Bernard with a Ponzi scheme made off with all my millions”).
Just got an attack of the sleepies so I’ll close up shop for the night with a rating of 3.5 stars.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “On Fire” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The first thing I noticed about today’s CS crossword is that there are a dozen seven-letter Across answers in this grid. That gives it the appearance of a freestyle puzzle instead of one with a theme. Indeed, the word count (72) is consistent with a freestyle too. But there’s most definitely a theme: the four longest Across answers start with words synonymous with “on fire:”
- 17-Across: A [Crucial issue] is a BURNING QUESTION. Go figure: one is supposed to cover something that’s burning to put out the flames, but one who covers up a burning question is looked upon with scorn.
- 26-Across: The [Mel Brooks classic] is BLAZING SADDLES. I blame that film for making me believe at a young age that one can knock over a horse with one punch to the mouth. Fortunately, I didn’t learn the truth the hard way.
- 43-Across: GLOWING REPORTS are [Excellent evaluations]. The ones I get have less of a glow and more of a dull finish to them.
- 65-Across: I love the clue for LIGHTING FIXTURE, [It’s hung and plugged in]. Man, there are some creative answers to that clue! But is “lighting” really synonymous with “on fire?” In the sentence, “The building is on fire,” you can replace “on fire” with “burning,” “blazing,” and “glowing,” but you wouldn’t say, “The building is lighting.” It’s entirely possible I’m missing some element of the theme here, but it seems to me like this one is inconsistent with the others.
The aforementioned seven-letter entries add some zip to the fill. I wasn’t as familiar with JO’S BOYS, the [Sequel to “Little Men”]. Today, that sequel would probably be titled “Littler Men” or “Little Men 2: Honey, the Kids Are Still Shrunken.” Fortunately I was able to plunk down O’MALLEY as the answer to [Dodger owner Walter who moved the team to Los Angeles], so that helped in cracking the corner.
Slow spots: CHINTZ, the [Glazed fabric] (I can name maybe four fabrics total, and SILK was the only one that kept coming to mind); BRET as the answer to [Author Harte] (even though I feel like I’ve seen this name many times before in crosswords past, it seems the only Bret Hart I can remember is the former pro wrestler); and DUI as [High on the hwy.] (a great clue, but I kept wanting “high” to be noun-like instead of an adjective–why, I dunno–maybe I was high).
Favorite entry = ORYXES, the [African antelopes] (unlike the wild, it’s highly unusual to see more than one ORYX in a crossword). Favorite clue = [Minimalist belief?] for NUDISM. If you ask me, those that would rail against this clue are just venting their naked aggression.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
This is the LA Times, so there’s not even a suggestion of cheap boos in today’s puzzle:
- 20a. [Shrine to wild animal parks?] – TEMPLE OF ZOOS
- 33a. [Cows’ reactions to having their hair and makeup done?] – STYLING MOOS
- 41a. [Trashing toilets in London?] – BUSTING LOOS
- 51a. [Bake mud pies?] – COOK ONE’S GOOS
Some fine puns for a Tuesday. That last one’s great; it’s got a smooth clue that actually makes sense.
A quick trip through good fill: PEEP HOLE, TAKE TEN, YES OR NO and… well, it’s NOT EASY finding outstanding stuff in this grid. It’s not that it’s bad fill, there’s just nothing too outstanding..
Some of the meh: ALENE, URB, ASTERS, CDLI, ETH., and a few more. See? This part was too straightforward. Oh well. It was nice to see KANGA instead of Roo TODAY. Thanks for both, A.A. Milne.
I guess “ROMPER Room” has nostalgia value for those solvers who remember that show. I prefer “St. ELMO’S Fire” myself.
So it’s a cute theme, and the rest is there. That’s about it.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Meet the Beetles”
Cute theme: Beatles song titles get bug puns, and the new titles are clued with altered lyrics.
- 18a. [“Coming on stung all the time…”], I BEE MINE. “I, Me, Mine.”
- 19a. [“I’ll climb on your kitchen countertop, if it makes you feel alright…”], ANT BUY ME LOVE. “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
- 35a. [“The girl that’s driving me mad is chirping away…”], CRICKET TO RIDE. “Ticket to Ride.”
- 53a. [“Ah, look at all the lonely pincers…”], ELENEARWIGBY. “Eleanor Rigby.”
- 56a. [“And you’re burrowing for no one but me…”], TICK’S MAN. “Taxman.”
Gack! Will I ever be able to hear “Eleanor Rigby” again without the earwig in there?
I had trouble getting started in this puzzle because (a) there are so many things a bartender has on hand and (b) there are so many phone companies, and the orangest one is Europe’s Orange, which duplicates a word in the clue so that can’t be it. Who’s going to suspect a couple V words occupying 1-Across and 1-Down? Not I. VODKAS and VONAGE are [Part of a bartender’s lineup] and [Phone company with an orange logo].
- 59a. [Scottish dish that looks gnarly], HAGGIS.
- 52a. [“Black diamonds”], COAL. Haven’t heard the term before.
- 16d. [Bieber ___] FEVER.
Mystery item: 26a [Group of schools in one area, for short], ESD. Something school district? Elementary? Extended? Emu?
I don’t play poker either, but maybe it’s time for someone to update this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_man%27s_hand and add a reference to Mike Torch’s puzzle at the end of the long list of “references in pop culture.” According to legend, Wild Bill Hickock held two aces and two eights when he was murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota. Nice punchline, since for the first half of my solving experience, I thought that the puzzle might be headed towards the legendary contract bridge team, “The Four Aces”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Schenken (first paragraph on his career).
In terms of unfinished business from Friday’s CHE puzzle, I refer those who are interested to a suite of seven articles, apparently available only on-line, at The Atlantic magazine: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/category/turing-at-100 , this editorial in Saturday’s NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/opinion/alan-turings-legacy.html?ref=opinion, and finally a satisfying solving challenge is available at this page (specifically cryptic C-5) from your friend and mine, Noam Elkies: http://math.harvard.edu/~elkies/vi12crypts.png
Would you like to share a short write-up of your own, Old Geezer? Pannonica was off for the weekend unexpectedly.
Among the suite of articles linked above by George Barany, I recommend the one by Daniel Dennet, comparing Turing’s and Darwin’s approaches, with the premise:
“What Darwin and Turing had both discovered, in their different ways, was the existence of competence without comprehension”.
This essay is apparently adapted from this upcoming book:
The NY Times puzzle was fun even to someone who knows nothing about poker. The center piece–THE DEAD MAN’S HAND– is highly evocative in a sick sort of way. Well done.
I’ve only ever heard of A dead man’s hand. THE sounds off to me and seems chosen to make a 15-letter entry. So many THEs, so little time…
The legend of the dead man’s hand is actually quite cool. Supposedly Wild Bill always sat with his back to the wall so that he could see who was entering the bar. That particular day, his usual seat was occupied, so he took a seat facing the wall. He was killed holding two pair: black aces and black eights, which forever after became known as the (not a) dead man’s hand.
Hm. Looks like I was mistaken – guess I was thinking of “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”