Friday, 7/13/12

NYT 5:11 
LAT 4:54 (Gareth) 
CS 6:20 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Jim Horne and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 13 12 0713

Former Wordplay blogger Jim Horne makes his constructing début with a coauthor, Jeff Chen. Excellent choice, Jim—Jeff makes puzzles that are smooth and fun. Little-known fact: Jim is 97 years old, making him the second-oldest NYT constructor working today. Let’s give him a hand!


I like the 11/13/15 layout of long answers, which I feel like I’ve seen most from Peter Gordon (Fireball Crosswords) and Paula Gamache. It lets the constructor get away from the stalest 15-letter fill and triple-stack-crossings ugliness. Now, 1a is very suggestive when one is tired. STIFLE A YAWN? No, thanks, I’ll go ahead and yawn now (though I do like the answer—I’m beat from walking nearly 3 miles, though I shouldn’t complain because my husband walked a mile and a half after running 5 miles and he’s not whining at all [fourth in his age group! he wanted a top-3 prize but I still think he’s a champion]). The other long fill is NO HOLDS BARRED, BUSINESS AS USUAL (lots of S’s but not in the bottom of the grid!), ITALIAN DRESSING (there are lots of ITALIAN + 8 15-letter answers out there—see also STALLION, AMERICAN), EVIL SCIENTIST (we all wanted MAD, didn’t we?), and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s exhortation USE THE FORCE.

In the middle range, the fill perplexes me. SOULMATE (clued [This bud’s for you], which doesn’t quite capture the soulmate business, does it?), AS I SEE IT, PODCASTS, and NEUROTICS are good, but IT’S DEJA VU feels a tad contrived and this DATE BAIT term, I have never, ever seen before. The clue feels creepy—[Young, alluring sort] suggests the answer is the creepy JAILBAIT. Is DATE BAIT also creepy and hinting at statutory rape, what with the “young” in the clue?

Favorite clues:

  • 21a, 22a. [“Don’t Look Now” diretcor], Nicolas ROEG, and [Feature of the previous clue], TYPO. You know how I typed the answer to 22a, twice? YTPO. I kid you not.
  • 46d. [Ludwig wrote für her], ELISE. Bilingual clue action so seldom goes German.

Just went back to bold the answers and clues and worked my way up to the top—where the word YAWN made me yawn. True story.

Fill in the blah category: WRS, ANDS, DYER, ARUT, LIS, KENO, ASTR.

3.6 stars.

Mike Torch’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 7 13 12

It’s been a good day for puzzles so far. I just finished solving Jeff and Jim’s fabulous NYT themeless, a tough act to follow, IMO. That said I thought Mike Torch’s puzzle was great! It’s Friday at the LA Times, and, as veteran solvers know, that’s “Add Some Letters Day” quite a lot of the time! In this case Mr. Torch has added four, ACHE, which is very tough to do, both because there are less viable options, and because the resulting phrases tend to be very long. I think Mike has done a wonderful job!

Let’s look at the answers:

  • 17A [Brisket-making flair?], ROASTINGPAN(ACHE). Who doesn’t love a puzzle with PANACHE? I often read clues incorrectly, making the puzzle a lot trickier for myself in the process. On the first pass, I thought the clue was “Basket-making flair?”
  • 26A [Hidden dietary supplements?], VITAMINC(ACHE). I consider building off a single letter to be less elegant. Though considering the difficulties listed above, it bothered me a lot less today.
  • 44A [Teen’s response to “You need to shave”?], ITSAMUST(ACHE). This only works if you write in American English. MUST to MUSTACHE is a most interesting transformation though!
  • 56A [Annoyance … and a hint to how 17-, 26- and 44-Across are formed?], PAININTHEBEHIND. This is the euphemistic version of the idiom! I must say I wasn’t expecting a revealer, which added to the punch.

Elsewhere we have:

  • 32A [ZAP], LASE. Don’t lase me bro!
  • Two candidates for T Campbell’s list: “CROSSWORD REPEATERS THAT HAVE GROWN WAY MORE USEFUL SINCE 1993” 41A [Talking iPhone feature], SIRI and 62A [YouTube co-founder Steve], CHEN. Neither have yet risen to the status of repeater, but I can see them gaining momentum as we speak.
  • 5D [Poetic pugilist], ALI: “Me We”
  • 11D [Starbucks flavor], MOCHA: There are no Starbucks here, so I’ll take the clue’s word for it.
  • 26D [TV adjuncts], VCRS: This one can be filed under “CROSSWORD REPEATERS THAT HAVE GROWN WAY LESS USEFUL SINCE 1993”
  • 43D [“… __ to be born and …”], ATIME: Partials become way cooler when they’re quotes from the book of Ecclesiastes!

I’ll finish with a song, as is my wont. I can’t have been the only one having a hankering to listen to the Eagles? PS. While editing this blogpost, I’ve moved on from Lyin’ Eyes, to Desperado, then Peaceful Easy Feeling, so many earworms!

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sub Headlines” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 7/13/12 • "Sub Headlines" • Ross • Fri • solution

I’m not sure what to make of this puzzle’s title. A subheadline is a real thing, embodying exactly what the theme answers purport to be: a smaller, secondary headline that usually elaborates on the main headline. Of course there’s a twist here, said answers are puns. Puns that feel very familiar, as the punchlines of one-liner jokes. Hoary even. However, it stands to reason that not everyone has heard all of them before, so these expansive (in letter count) chestnuts work well in the grid.

  • 37a. [PUN-FILLED COMEDY WINS TONY…] A GREAT PLAY ON WORDS – a bit self-referential, that one.

Aside from the themers, there aren’t any notably long answers in the grid, which paves the way for some very appealing midlength fill, often stacked alongside the theme answers. Up top in the first two rows we see ONE DOWN/SAPPORO; YE GODS/ICE AXE; BRIARS/LOATHE. The last two rows have these gems on display: PLASMA/SISTER; UP TO IT/PRINCE; IGNORED/NECTARS. The weakest are the prepositional phrase UP TO IT, the blah and relatively s-heavy SISTERS in the bottom row, and ICE AXE which is far more common in crosswords (usually without the terminal e) than everyday speech; even they aren’t all that bad. I especially appreciated the tone set by 1a [It starts with this answer’s first letter] ONE DOWN.

On the down side (not the downside) there more stacks of interesting pairs, one at each compass point: ECOTYPE/GETS OLD; OPERETTA/ROSE BOWL; BEST BUDS/ARTICLE I; TELLS ON/ASEPTIC. Proud to report that I confidently plunked in ECOTYPE [Environmental subspecies] with only the initial e in place. Of course it would have been nicer and impressive to have done away with the blocks at either end of Row 8, creating triple eight-stacks, but evidently it was onerous enough as it is, judging by the less-than satisfactory EBERLE [Ray who sang with the Glen Miller Orchestra] (not to be confused with crossword luminary, swimmer Gertrude EDERLE), STRATI [Low clouds], erstwhile Saudi king FAHD, and the annoying abbrev. HYP[otenuse].

More notes:

  • The grid possesses two initialized ’70s bands: the all-too-familiar 92a ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), and the less common 77a BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive). It also contains two SME_ bits of crosswordese: [Hook henchman] SMEE (51a), and [Diving duck] SMEW (109a).
  • Am surprised, not sure if pleasantly, that 34d and 105d weren’t cross-referenced: the first, WYATT, gets the somewhat obscure [Young’s “Father Knows Best” co-star] and is not linked to EARP [Clanton foe].
  • In-the-news BAIN Capital (119d).
  • 36a [Really big shoe] EEE. That just specifies width, which is not always correlated with length. I wouldn’t call a short, wide shoe really big, Ed Sullivan notwithstanding. Bonus: AAA appears at 76d as [Best bond rating].
  • Seemingly high CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials), which I’ll spare litanizing.
  • The cluing is less clever and playful than I’m accustomed to from a Shenk-edited puzzle. Enjoyed learning that DENALI is [Athabaskan for “the high one”]. Aside from that and one-across, the most playful is 112d [You might get them out of your bed] WEEDS.

Average puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “All In” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 13

Take five common terms and squeeze ALL somewhere in the middle to get five new pseudo-phrases coupled with wacky clues:

  • 18-Across: An ordinary shotgun becomes a SHALLOT GUN, a [Green onion shooter?]. I might have preferred [Green onion firearm?] or [Green onion weapon?] to avoid the echo between “shoot” and “shot.”
  • 28-Across: To be [Festooned with a shell pattern?] is to be SCALLOPED OUT, a play on “scoped out.” The best part of this whole entry is the use of “festooned” in the clue. What a great word.
  • 38-Across: “Show business” becomes SHALLOW BUSINESS, a [Kiddie pool cleaning company?]. With most of the kiddie pools I remember, one would have to spend a considerable amount of time to get it truly clean.
  • 47-Across: The [Commiseration consideration?] is not “wow factor” but WALLOW FACTOR. This one is easily my favorite.
  • 58-Across: An ordinary “t-square” becomes a TALL SQUARE, a [Rangy, uncool sort?]. I remember t-squares from the drafting class we had to take in junior high. At my school, the boys had to take shop (it was called “industrial arts”) and the girls had to take home economics (it was called “home economics”). Given the choice, I would have been all over home economics–they got to cook stuff! But at least shop taught me how to draw a cube and print nice capital letters, so it wasn’t all bad.

There’s not a lot of long fill here–to be precise, there’s two entries: STEEL BELT and ONE ACROSS, so much of the puzzle’s liveliness comes from the clues. I like the use of [“Over here”] as a clue for both 32-Down, PSST, and 33-Down, AHEM. There’s a similar echo in the clues for 2-Down and 3-Down: LILAC is [Fragrant flower] and AROMA is [Fragrance].

I’m not sure I remember any of the characters in J.K. Rowling’s books use the term, but I liked [Dessert, to Harry Potter] as the clue for AFTERS. Other neat clues included [Perennial battlers] for the SEXES and [Place in which a bathysphere may be deployed] for the OCEAN. A bathysphere is one of those spherical deep-sea submersibles like the one James Cameron traveled in to see the Mariana Trench. And no, I didn’t know that until just now.

Favorite entry = DIG UP, to [Find, as clues]. Favorite clue = [Much sought after guy in children’s books] for WALDO. I’m never very good at finding Waldo; I’m glad no formal aptitude test ever measured for this, as I think I would have been held back.

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22 Responses to Friday, 7/13/12

  1. Erik says:

    i stopped midsolve to tell mr. chen there was a typo in his puzzle that nobody caught. so that’s four stars, plus one for making me feel like a dumbass.

  2. Alex says:

    If it’s intentional, is it a typo? Discuss.

  3. Evan says:

    Clraely taht cule on 21-Arocss wtih the tpyo was uinsg the oft-sutdeid pehonemnon taht popele can raed wrdos wtih jmulbed ltetres as lnog as the frsit and lsat lerttes are the smae.

  4. Jared says:

    Am I missing some kind of inside-ish joke regarding Jim being 97?

  5. Gareth says:

    I don’t really know what to say. It’s sorcery to have this many fabulous answers and so little in the debit column! Especially fond of 1A, the rhyming SOULMATE/DATEBAIT placed symmetrically and dropping a colourful phrase, avec U, on the bottom row! Wowzer!

    P.S. I guessed ORCHIDS for LEGENDS off the D. I wish I knew why.

  6. Evad says:

    Did a slight gasp on DATE BAIT too…I echo the ick factor on that one. Other than that, really enjoyed this one. Amazing that Jim is familiar with ASHANTI’s oeuvre at his advanced age. Way to keep up with the times!

  7. sps says:

    I was feeling mighty proud of myself as I zipped through the NYT (“This is going to be my fastest Friday ever!”), nailing all the long ones very quickly. Then I got stalled in the SW. Sigh. But it was still a fun solve…

  8. cyberdiva says:

    I had no thoughts of statutory rape or anything else unsavory with DATEBAIT, a term I used to hear a lot to refer to anyone of either sex who was sexy, young, and available. Not necessarily prepubescent young, just young. And I guess to someone 97, “young” could include LOTS of candidates!

    I was also surprised, Amy, that you thought “ITSDEJAVU” seemed contrived. Again, that’s a phrase I used to hear and continue to hear quite a bit, often in the longer phrase “it’s deja vu all over again.” Perhaps I like it simply because it was the first answer I had in the SW part of the puzzle.

  9. Jeff Chen says:

    Ha ha ha, Jim only LOOKS 97. He’s surprisingly wise for having the world’s youngest NYT debut at age 9.7.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    Congrats to Jim H. on his NYT debut! Very enjoyable… In the WSJ, I must note that the Eberle brothers Bob and Ray, both singing stars of the big band era, were Hoosick Falls NY natives. Ray was mainly with Miller, and Bob with Jimmy Dorsey. Another singer from here who carried on the tradition was Ray Lamere, who toured for many years with the Sammy Kaye’s Swing and Sway “ghost band”, and passed away last month. RIP

  11. Huda says:

    NYT: Really enjoyable, especially the stacks! And it really, really spoke to me.

    It took me forever to come up with EVIL SCIENTIST, which is really ironic because I’m someone with a lab who cackles with glee when we have great results. But I’m not trying to achieve world domination…

    AND, on my work web page, I have a quote:

    “The Scientific Method is doing your damnedest, no holds barred!”
    Percy Bridgeman, High Pressure Physicist.

    Great puzzle!

    So, when I saw the NO HOLDS BARRED, I also cackled in glee!

  12. Jan says:

    in WSJ puzzle… 10d is Get Cold not Gets old… the school in Ft Worth is Texas Christian University.
    Really enjoy your blog…….

  13. lemonade 714 says:

    A grerat puzzle Jim and Jeff, really fun.

    Gareth I cannot believe there are no Starbucks in RSA; want to buy some franchises?

  14. Mitchs says:

    Heads up for nice bonus puz from J. Harris over on BEQ.

  15. Dave says:

    18-Across in the WaPost puzzle seems like either a mistake or a misleading clue to me. A scallion is usually referred to as a “green onion,” not a shallot.

  16. Martin says:

    Common names for the edible Allium species and varieties are a hopeless mess. From wikipedia:
    Scallions – also known as green onions, spring onions, salad onions, green shallots, onion sticks, long onions, baby onions, precious onions, yard onions, gibbons, or syboes…

    From the shallot article:
    In Australia, the term “shallot” can also refer to scallions (from various species of Allium), while the term “eschalot” is used to refer to the shallot…

    It’s hopeless, although you’re right that the vegetable called “green onion” in California is called “scallion” in New York.

    Both “scallion” and “shallot” share an etymon: Latin escalonia.

    The wonderful rakkyo, served pickled in Japanese cuisine, is called the Chinese scallion or the Japanese shallot.

  17. Dave says:

    We seem to only get purplish scallions here in Virginia, so I was a bit confused, although the puzzle has at least inspired me to make ginger-scallion sauce for tonight!

  18. Huda says:

    Some people around here know their onions.

  19. Howard B says:

    I believe Huda just won today’s thread. :)

    Thank you for the edification, Martin. Now I know why I’ve been consistently confused about that green onion/scallion thing.

  20. Martin says:

    Allium is as messy (and interersting) in other languages. In German, most of them are kinds of of “Lauch” (leek). The ball player, Chuck Knoblauch, shares his last name with the German word for “garlic” (“cloven leek”). (English “garlic” is “spear leek,” with “gar” and “gore” being related.)

    Chives are “Schnittlauch” or “leeks for snipping.” Scallions are “Grosser Schnittlauch” or “things that look like big chives.” The flat Chinese chive is “Knoblauch-Schnittlauch,” which makes sense since we also call them “garlic chives.”

    A favorite Allium in Germany is the Bärlauch or “bear leek” (Allium ursinum). It is a bit similar to the ramps that is collected in the South in the spring (Allium tricoccum) (note its many alternate names) . In fact, both the bear leek and ramps are sometimes called “ramson” in English.

    I cook a lot from foreign-language cookbooks.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    My local chefs-who-were-on-Food-Network restaurant, Hearty, serves dishes with ramps in the spring. They pick them near their Michigan house (i.e., not in the South). I think they’re a Midwestern thing too. The coolest thing about ramps is that you can’t pick too many of them in a patch, or you’ll destroy the colony (or whatever you want to call it) and have none in the following spring. I hadn’t known before ordering the chicken with ramps that they were officially in the Allium family. Omigod, I had the most intense garlic breath (and garlic burps, which we all love) all the next day! So tasty on day 1, painful on day 2.

  22. Martin says:


    In fact, “Chicago” is a native American word meaning — ramps. I kid you not. So yes, while the South is the most appreciative audience for them today, they grow in various places in the eastern half of North America. They’re also a big deal in Quebec where they are “wild onions,” “wild leeks” or “forest garlic.”

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