Friday, 6/29/12

NYT 3:59 
LAT 5:43 (Gareth) 
CS 6:53 (Sam) 
CHE no puzzle this week 
WSJ (Friday) 11:47 (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 29 12 0629

Is that an editorial comment, the BAD TASTE/AMERICANS stack? Of course not. Americans have the good taste to like Patrick Berry’s crosswords. This one is, if you ask me, absolutely terrific. Freakishly, this 64-worder plays more like a 70-worder, with all the Z’s and X’s and the extreme liveliness of the stack in the upper left. I scoured the the grid looking for junk fill and the very worst I could get was a name from literature and film, O-LAN (which I think many of us know mainly from crosswords).

Further remarks:

  • 9a. Interesting HIPPO clue, [One form of the Egyptian god Set].
  • 16a. [Light bulb, maybe] is a great misleading clue for an ONION. It’s a bulb and it doesn’t weigh a ton.
  • 17a. ROSE ROYCE! “Workin’ at the car wash … whoa whoa whoa whoa, car wash.” Advantage: People at least as old as me.
  • 19a. DREAM TEAM. You always remember your first (M.J., Pippen, et al.).
  • 22a. [Like “sissies”] clues SIBILANT. Love this-s-s clue!
  • 33a. HAROLD’S [__ Chicken Shack (Chicago-based restaurant chain)]! There’s one near me, over by Truman College. The menu is enticing. Fried chicken, maybe some catfish. Okra and gizzards are options I’ll be passing up.
  • 35a. “AMSCRAY!” Pig Latin.
  • 60a. TO THE MAX, casual language.
  • 11d. PIA ZADORA, [1982 Razzie winner for “Butterfly”]. Again, advantage to those my age or older. This might not be in your pop-culture sweet spot but it’s in mine.
  • 27d. [Scotland, to Poets] is CALEDONIA. I knew that. Victorian erotica is most educational.
  • 28d. I forgot this etymology, that ORANGUTAN is [Literally, “man of the forest”]. That’s what we called ol’ Grizzly Adams, “TV Orangutan.”
  • 29d. Just had pizza at home yesterday (I sustained a tomato burn on my chin. It blistered promptly. Tomatoes are dangerous, yo.) so I went the wrong way in my thinking about [Big piece of crust?]. Waited for the crossings to yield that CONTINENT.

4.5 stars. Presumably a tough grid to fill cleanly, but thanks to Berry’s (a) deal with the devil, (b) origins on another planet with superior intelligence, or (c) sweatshop of crossword peons slaving away to polish their grids, which he then takes credit for—thanks to whichever, this puzzle had smooth fill. And then there were all those great clues.

Steve Salitan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tee Off” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 6/29/12 • "Tee Off" • Fri • Salitan • solution

A very straightforward theme for this outing: two-word phrases in which the initial T of one of the words is dropped, clued appropriate to the new, less-sensical version.

  • 23a. [Radiator in a freedom fighter’s hideout?] GUERRILLA (T)HEATER. The original phrase has to do with performance art, not emotive combatants. Too bad guerrillas aren’t inclined to use gangster argot, or (relatively) small handguns. Deliberate that GONE APE is stacked on top?
  • 34a. [C’mon, Governor Perry, believe in yourself!”?] CONFIDENCE, (T)RICK. Oh yes, I remember that guy. Of course, the “confidence” in any confidence game is not that the game or “artist” takes you in to their confidence but rather arranges things so that you perceive to be taking them in to your confidence. “Oops.”
  • 53a. [Trouble removing a chemical peel, say?] FACIAL (T)ISSUE. Wow, clue that could have gone a whole different way.
  • 77a. [Brew produced by a group of senior spouses?] OLD WIVES’ (T)ALE. I’m genuinely surprised that, with the abundance of craft beers and the propensity for many of them to have punny names, no product bearing that appellation is on the market.
  • 93a. [God of storms?] (T)RAIN DISPATCHER. Paging Eugene Henderson…
  • 110a. [Edible frill on a skirt?] CHOCOLATE (T)RUFFLE. Mmm, lace cookies.
  • 17d. [Largest moose ever’s claim?] (T)RACK RECORD. Megaloceros giganteus must’ve been too esoteric.
  • 69d. [Coin depiction of an ornamental vase?] (T)URN ON A DIME. Well, those torches do have a classic look to them…

Nothing earth-shattering among these, either before or after, but they’re all solid enough. For me, it was the overall quality of the ballast fill and the cluing that made this puzzle worthwhile. Forthwith,

Random Observations on Some of the Other Stuff in the Crossword:

  • Full names! Symmetrical, too. EARL (“Fatha”) HINES at 5d, and PATTY DUKE (later Patty Duke Astin) at 81d. Both FATHA and ASTIN are often seen in crosswords. The other nine-letter entries are the lovely PRESS KITS and WEARS THIN (13d & 78d).
  • That aforementioned GONE APE? I don’t really like it, as in the real world the phrasing meaning [Freaked] would more likely be WENT APE. Google suggests it’s by a factor of roughly two-to-one.
  • I’m aware of Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, but it seems they’re complemented by Daisy Duck’s NIECES April, May, and June (47a). Who knew? Has that Brady Bunch vibe. Oh, bit of a duplication from the clue, as APR is the answer to 76a [Busy mo. for accountants].
  • Two words that are perfectly fine but which I have issues with:
    • 37d [“Jeopardy!” component] FACTOID. As readers may have noticed, my preferred term is factette; this is because the suffix -oid is not restricted enough in meaning for me. Merriam-Webster provides a typical definition for the noun suffix: “something resembling a (specified) object or having a (specified) quality.” Problem is, I like my facts, if they are factual, to be clear-cut; “factoid” sounds like something resembling a fact but which may not actually be a fact. Especially since the “resembling” sense generally precedes the “possessing” sense in definitions. And before you say it, I’m aware that the suffix -ette for my preferred formation also has two meanings. m-w (again): 1: little one, 2: female. Skirting the gender politics therein (which in any case I’m hoping are on the way out), note that this definition separates the two senses into distinct numbered sections rather than implying that they’re the same mishmoshy thing, as for -oid. Another alternative that I’ve toyed with is factini, but that puts me in a drinking mood.
    • 83d [Pleasing to look at] ESTHETIC. Aside from the clue not indicating that this is a variation (“aesthetic” is more common (and also more pleasing to look at)), there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with the clue. I simply begrudge the fact that the word has come to be prejudiced toward the positive or beautiful when—in its origin and literal sense—it is impartial, meaning “of perception.” Same for “luck,” which can be good or bad (presupposing the validity of luck, but that’s yet another issue). Since I’m naturally leery of optimism, this is a disturbing quality of the language, the presumptuous hijacking of the neutral to the positive. Whew! Thanks for letting me tee off.
  • 15a [Hip-hop headwear] DO-RAG, although I imagine Sacha Baron-Cohen’s fictional hi-hop-wannabe alter-ego ALI G. having a fictional girlfriend named DORA G. 46a [He had the first hip-hop album to bear an explicit content sticker] ICE-T.
  • 52a [Brand that contains “Retsyn”] CERTS. The clue prompted me to finally (thanks, Internet!) bother to find out what the heck Retsyn is, anyway. Wikipedia tells me it’s “a trademarked name for a mixture of copper gluconate, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and flavoring. It is the copper gluconate in Retsyn which gives Certs its signature green flecks.” Unspecified flavoring, yum. No clue to the etymology of the word, probably courtesy of some unheralded marketer of yore. Not to be confused with Retin-A, or retsina, neither of which should be mixed with with factinis.
  • "I'mm… movin' out"

    88a [Start of some ode titles] TO A. Having nothing to do with poetry, suit TO A ‘T’ is common in crosswords, and for this crossword in particular that could have been a fun answer to see, imparting a forLORN (24d) quality, pining for that shed letter.

  • Least common answer (even accounting for the stray crosswordese): 102a [Waste allowance] TRET.
  • Some fun clues: 86d [Brothers in the hood] FRAS, those monkish cowls. 95a [Poison remedy] IPECAC-ack-ack-ack. 53d [“Yeah, sorry”] ‘FRAID SO; nice, colloquial.

Solid puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ham It Up” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, June 29

I won’t say my solving slump is over, but at least my time is heading in the right direction. It probably helped that the title told me what to watch for right away. As I suspected, the letter sequence H-A-M gets inserted into five common (and fresh!) terms to yield wacky results. Amusement ensues:

  • 17-Across: The commercial catchphrase GOT MILK becomes GOTHAM MILK, a [Big Apple dairy product?]
  • 25-Across: SAN DIEGO, home to the weather reporters with the easiest jobs in America, becomes SHAMAN DIEGO, the [Muralist Rivera who was also a witch doctor?]. This one took me a while to figure out, as I kept thinking COAT had to be the answer to the crossing [Cold coating]. That’s right, even with “coating” in the clue, I wanted the answer to be COAT. I’ve ordered a new brain on Amazon this morning, but since I’m a sucker for free shipping it will still be a few days before it arrives.
  • 40-Across: Why just have STRING THEORY when you can have HAMSTRING THEORY, a [Sports doctor’s thoughts on a common leg injury?]?
  • 52-Across: To be LET ALONE is rather dull, but HAMLET ALONE, the [Abridged Shakespeare play featuring only a famous soliloquy?], is must-see theater. Alas, no, there is no intermission.
  • 65-Across: I always like it when my favorite theme entry comes last–like a punch line coming after a well-constructed set-up. The W HOTELS, a rather posh chain, become WHAM HOTELS, the [Tour lodging for George Michael’s ’80s band?]. This put the boom boom into my heart.

Some would say it’s less elegant that the HAMs are strewn all over the place–sometimes at the front, sometimes at the end, and once in the middle of a word. But I’m not one of those–I like the fun of not knowing exactly where the letter sequence will be added. Give me fun over elegance any day.

Anyone else plunk down GO BANANAS instead of GO BERSERK as the answer to [Fly into a rage]? Anyone else spell BERSERK with a Z instead of an S? It didn’t help that GESSO, the [Artist’s canvas coating], looked just as correct to me as GEZSO.

There are 57 theme squares in this puzzle (well above average), and yet Tony managed to squeeze in great stuff like POSTAL, SO KIND, I SEE IT, and BOSSY. It would certainly help to know your famous figures, as this puzzle has Ronnie MILSAP, RAUL Julia, ETHEL Mertz, George SEGAL, Nick NOLTE, Arthur ASHE, PAM Grier, Captain QUEEG, ARI Shapiro, Marisa TOMEI (purr), GINO Vannelli, DAPHNE from Frasier, and the ISLEY Brothers. That borders on over-population!

Favorite entry = IT’S WAR. Favorite clue = [Education declaration] for MAJOR. Has a nice ring to it, and it’s easy to dance to.

Stephen Edward Anderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review

Gareth here discussing this Friday’s Los Angeles Times.

LAT 6/29/12 solution

The theme is abbrs. spelled out using the NATO phonetic alphabet. I don’t know about you but it felt a bit like it needed something more; I don’t know what, though. But probably that’s just me in any case…

  • INDIAQUEBEC (IQ) “Brightness measure, to a pilot”
  • OSCARKILO (OK) “Green light, to a pilot”
  • LIMASIERRADELTA (LSD) “It’s dropped for a trip, to a pilot”
  • BRAVOALFA (BA) “Undergraduate degree, to a pilot”
  • TANGOVICTOR (TV) “Den centerpiece, to a pilot”

Elsewhere, the two longest downs – EMPHASIZE and FACSIMILE – are notable for both being single-word answers, but punchy, crunchy answers none the less… We also have the topical SERENA “Sister of Venus”, Williams that is. Serena is the one who’s still in the Wimbledon draw… WHANGS are “Loud metallic sounds” as well as an answer that makes everyone’s inner twelve-year-old titter. KOWTOW “Bow and scrape” was my favourite answer of the puzzle; it’s just such a fun word to say!

Quite a few nice clues as well… My two favourites were “Work on a wall” for FRESCO – that’s “work” n. not work v. “Old flood insurance?” is a very clever, if transparent clue for ARK.

A couple of things I didn’t know:

  • ROBERT‘s Rules of Order. I tried reading the Wikipedia page, but it mostly made my head hurt. It sounds like it’s a set of rules for meetings? Everyone reading this is sniggering at my ignorance right now, right?
  • That ARAM is “William Saroyan’s son”. Also that there was someone called William Saroyan. Apparently he is an author, and among is best known works is a collection called “My Name is Aram”.

I think I’ll leave you with a song, by “Vocalist Vikki” CARR

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27 Responses to Friday, 6/29/12

  1. Huda says:

    Triggered (may be) by the discussion about names yesterday, I’ve decided to own up to my real name, weird though it may sound, and stop hiding behind my “foodie” mask.. It feels like taking off a wig or a toupee. I’m guessing on this, since I’ve never worn either.

    The puzzle is brilliant, as is usual for PB offering. And I like the little micro-environments, the people-oriented NW with Americans, Dreamteam, and even Sextet cued with Friends, and the utilitarian-oriented SE with Callboxes, Utilities and Milestones.

    Clues are not only clever but informative- e.g. Hippo, Orangutan…who knew?

    Don’t we say Home Help in the US?

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Huda! Welcome out from behind the curtain. I’ve heard “home health aide” or, in my late Grandma Zekas’s parlance, “my lady.” (Not the same as the Game of Thrones “my lady.”) Or, when she wanted to speak vaguely so her second caregiver, whose English was minimal, wouldn’t know when she complained about her, she’d talk about “the one who was here before” and “the one who’s with me now” rather than saying Stella (really Stanislava) and Marysia. (Happy birthday, Gram! June 29 was her day.) Which is not to say that some people don’t use “home help” here; I just haven’t heard it.

  3. Matt says:

    The NYT was real tough for me, but the puzzly goodness kept me going until I finally finished. Never heard of ROSEROYCE, and got the ‘S’ only by running through the alphabet. My theory about PB is that he has a, um, personal relationship with the Crossword Goddess.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    I think the British “home help” is the American “home health aide”, specifically.

    Loved, loved, loved this puzzle. Don’t have anything to add to what Amy said, except that I was on PB’s wavelength. For once I wish I’d timed a Friday. Put AMERICANS in for 14A and then took it out, moved on to the NE and went clockwise around until I got back to the NW and realized I’d been right all along.

    Not a clunker in the bunch, and AMSCRAY made me laugh. What a nice start to a Friday and an on-call weekend.

  5. Bob Blake says:

    Those crazy “birthers” aren’t going to like 38-across much!

  6. Torbach says:

    Welcome, Huda! Is your last name KUTB, by any chance?

    I enjoyed the NYT and Steve Salitan’s WSJ – I have the belated Fireball to look forward to as well: gotta love Fridays!

    Speaking of: happy Friday/weekend/4th/July/summer to all!

  7. Howard B says:

    3 minutes for the NY Times, except the lower-left which took 3-minutes plus. Didn’t know my Chicago food joints, British nursing terms, word origins, or 27-Across. That left a lot of space to fill and guess at. But that was my burden and not Patrick’s :). An excellent puzzle from start to finish.
    (Except for the chicken shack! Arrgh! Now I know how non-East Coast solvers feel when faced with all of those NY references! I truly empathize.)

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bob B: Shh! Don’t tell them. But would they expect any different from the New York Times?

    @Howard: I really need to pick up some Harold’s Chicken Shack food soon. I will report back on the blog when I do. (There’s a local talk show in Oprah’s old time slot here, “Windy City Live.” The hosts like to ask their guests who’ve been here before what their favorite places to eat are. I could swear Harold’s has been mentioned more than once, by African-American stars since Harold’s is mostly a South Side institution. I need a bucket, man.)

  9. Jeffrey says:

    @Howard: I guess HAROLD’s was payback for Carbonneau.

  10. Howard B says:

    @Jeffrey: Oui, oui. Puzzle karma always works itself out.

  11. Dave C says:

    Yes! There are 2 Harold’s in the Naperville area, minutes from where I work. May now have to head there for lunch today….but I had never heard of it, being new to the Chicago area. Off of the LDS I thought of Ronald, Donald and Harold, then a couple of crosses in that challenging SW gave me the right answer.

  12. loren smith says:

    Huda – مرحبا ! I thought you were a guy until a few weeks ago.

  13. Huda says:

    Torbach, haha, I wish… She did make that name familiar in this land. The name Huda (Hoda is the Egyptian spelling – They have a funny accent over there:) became popular amongst educated Arab families because of a woman called Huda Sha’arawi who died around the middle of the 20th century and was the first feminist in the region advocating for women’s rights and women’s education. So, you will find a disproportionate number of us abroad… Goes to show you how educating women upsets the apple cart!

    The name means the gift to follow the right path, which I have chosen to interpret as ‘wisdom’…

  14. Torbach says:

    Huda, I know I like to joke here but, in all seriousness, I’m welling up with emotion about your name now – fascinating and wonderful! I wish I had half as compelling a story for the history of my name. For the morbidly curious, ORBACH, in some sort of Sephardic German, meant something akin to “people by the water” … “Whatevs!”

  15. Huda says:

    Torbach, people by the water is very evocative! And you and your dad have made that name sing in so many ways.

    Thank you, and thanks Amy and Loren for making this a nice “coming out” event. Now, I need to live up to that purported wisdom. Some other day, I’ll tell you about my last name. Even more pressure!

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Tony, as it happens, I loved your Ham puzzle. One of the more entertaining “addition” themes I’ve seen in a long time. Mine is that single rating on the left coast. I’ve only vaguely heard of W Hotels, although I thought it rang a faint bell. Not named for a certain POTUS, I assume. (And when did that acronym come into fashion anyhow? One moment it was there out of the blue.)

    Also loved the NYT. One of my faster Fri. times, though probably nothing glittering. No real trouble area. Rose Royce came pretty easily from the crossings, and 27 & 28d cemented the SW, notwithstanding the clever misdirection at 29d.

  17. pannonica says:

    (And when did that acronym come into fashion anyhow? One moment it was there out of the blue.) – Bruce N. Morton

    My anecdotal sense points the finger to Tom Clancy for popularizing it. If not in The Hunt for Red October (1984) then definitely Red Storm Rising (1986).

    edit: But this is far more authoritative: William Safire, On Language (NYT 12 Oct 1997)

    edit²: POTUS (Google nGram). Ditto, but starting from 1970 rather than 1800.
    edit³: potus (uncapitalized): (in prescriptions) a drink. So be careful.

  18. Torbach says:

    Also, in times of cruciverbal desperation, I’ve considered – and, I believe, successfully resisted – using the ever-popular POTUS alternate, CIC. “ICK!”

  19. pannonica says:

    …or “CinC,” as I’ve seen it.

  20. pannonica says:

    For the morbidly curious, ORBACH, in some sort of Sephardic German, meant something akin to “people by the water” … – Torbach

    You may be interested in the erstwhile band When People Were Shorter and Lived Near Water. Not for the faint of heart, but I’ve found them to be entertaining. Also, “Bach” means “creek” in regular ol’ German.

  21. Gareth says:

    Wait so Rose Royce isn’t a person? Next you’ll be telling me Danny Wilson is a band… (It was a gimme nonetheless)

    Also, my full name translates to “Gentle Bath”. I don’t think my parents checked to see what my first name meant…

  22. pannonica says:

    Gareth: And (as I know you know) a LORIS isn’t a lemur but it’s really far too late for me to complain about it. Yet I managed to.

  23. John Haber says:

    I’d a feeling this was going to be a cakewalk for Amy, between the proper names Chicago chain food not familiar to me here in the city. But it was SO hard for me for a Friday. Somehow I got the corners with HAROLD’S (and you know, there was long a legendary Harold’s BBQ in Atlanta) and PIA ZADORA (only an embarrassing personality to me). I wracked my brains for poetic associations with Scotland. (In Shakespeare, one is a reputation for stinginess.) But nothing.

    Still, I got them but for once on a Friday had to cheat for the corner with TAYE and ROSE ROYCE (never heard of either) and the fact about “Friends.” I thought of BARDS but wasn’t sure they counted as entertainers (and clearly fools, jesters, troubadours, etc. weren’t fitting). Oh, well.

  24. pannonica says:

    I wracked my brains for poetic associations with Scotland. –John Haber

    Some of your bigger towns and cities have Caledonian societies for those of Scottish ancestry, the equivalent of Irish Hibernian societies. The names come from the Romans.

    Further, Wales was Mercia, England Albion, and the two of them together, Britannia.

  25. Bruce N. Morton says:

    aka to us Caledonians ‘Perfidious Albion’

  26. cyberdiva says:

    Ow, this puzzle defeated me. I had never heard of either TAYE or ROSEROYCE and had never seen “Friends.” In that corner, even answers I should have known (e.g., SCOTTO) eluded me.

    Amy, I laughed when I saw your comment about ROSEROYCE: “Advantage: People at least as old as me.” I would have said “Advantage: People at least as young as you.” :-)

  27. pauer says:

    I’m a little late to the party, but let me add congrats to Steve and Tony. Great puzzles, fellas!

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