Monday, 7/23/12

NYT 3:20ish (pannonica) 
LAT 3:35 (pannonica) 
CS 5:10 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 7/23/12 • Mon • Lempel • 72312 • solution (image swiped from Jim Horne's XWord Info site because the NYT site seems to be having technical difficulties)

Had some technical problems with the on-line version of the puzzle, so my time is approximate (and average for me).

The spanning central across entry explains the key letters in the theme entries: 38a [H.G. Wells novel … with a hint to this puzzle’s circled words] THE INVISIBLE MAN. Note that it specifies “hint,” because the synonyms for “man” are not exactly invisible, just hidden.

  • 17a. [Equipment to help a patient breathe] OXYGEN TANK.
  • 25a. [“Sorry to hear that”] SUCH A PITY.
  • 49a. [Went to pieces] FELL APART.
  • 61a. [Vishnu or Shiva] HINDU DEITY.

All span more than one word, all are in-the-language phrases, and all are solid synonyms. Pitched right for an early week puzzle. Did you notice how ABIDE is crossing near DUDE? Wells’ colleague across the Channel Jules VERNE is there at 22a, and not cross-referenced at 69a NEMO, though both clues invoke Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (in-line editing process there). KEATS and ODES at 52a and 66a are, however, cross-referenced.

The marquee long entries among the downs are the WORRISOME | RED PLANET of 11d & 33d. ack! ack, ack!

Some other notable entries are 48d STODGY [Hardly hip], 10d ACCEPT [Say yes to] which could have been ASSENT until some crossings were in place, and the possible narrative between the neighboring TOTEM and SAY SO (low man on the totem pole needing everyone else’s approval?).

Least favorite entry: the awkward singular [Breath mint in a roll, informally] CERT at 28-across (the viable alternatives are abbrevs. or a Dick Francis partial title).

Overall, good flow through the grid and a smooth solve. Somewhat above-average puzzle.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 7/23/12 • Mon • DuGuay-Carpenter • solution

Odd little theme. A regular progression (or in this case, regression) sequence with a flourish that feels more like an afterthought. The clue 69-across reads [London lav (Diagonally from square 69 to square 45) What happens after the starts of 21-, 29-, 48- and 56-Across]. I expect that the print version will be formatted slightly differently since it won’t be constrained by Across Lite’s limitations. I’ve circled the relevant letters in my grid.

  • 21a. [They start with “hip hip”] THREE CHEERS.
  • 29a. [Closely related duo] TWO OF A KIND.
  • 48a. [Single file] ONE AT A TIME.
  • 56a. [Weightless state] ZERO GRAVITY.

The diagonal fill rising northeast from the L in LOO is LIFT OFF. Let me just say right away that it probably isn’t a good idea to connect the idea of visiting the bathroom with the notion of an explosive event.

Dipsacus fullonum

Next quibble: in general, a countdown goes “… 3, 2, 1, lift off” or, less commonly, “… 3, 2, 1, 0.” It would be highly unusual to have both zero and lift off in the sequence. Perhaps that’s the way it was done back in 0 BC?

Final theme-related quibble: the OFF in the diagonal (diagonal?) LIFT OFF intersects 44a OFFS [Snuffs out, mob-style]. Kinda sorta duplicative.

Admirable triple-seven vertical stacks in each corner, though they’re for the most part composed of common letters (40d WOOZIER 46d FIANCÉE are modest exceptions). The rather nice SINCERITY [Candor] occupies pride of place in the center across slot.

The rest of the puzzle is on-target for early week fill and cluing. Nothing jaw-dropping, nothing awful, nothing too tricky. Most unusual answer is probably 50d TEASEL [Prickly-leaved plant], also spelled teazel and teazle.

So, average puzzle with a theme that’s a little… off.

Updated Monday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “23 Skidoo” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 23

How fun (and fitting) to have a puzzle about everyone’s favorite ninth prime, the number 23. Each of the five theme entries makes reference to the number:

  • 20-Across: MAX HEADROOM is the [1980s TV series set at Network 23]. Boy did I need a lot of crossings for that one! I forgot that Max Headroom wasn’t just an advertising gimmick but also a short-lived TV show (like the Geico cavemen).
  • 40-Across: The YANKEES [retired Don Mattingly’s jersey #23].
  • 59-Across: SWITZERLAND is the [Country of 23 cantons], just as the grocery’s dairy aisle is the home of 23 cartons and the salad I ate yesterday was the spot of 23 croutons.
  • 11-Down: JIM CARREY is the [Star of “The Number 23”]. Would the sequel be titled The Number 23 II? The Number 24? Or maybe The Number 17, a prequel?
  • 35-Down: What’s that, you say? [The “Appassionata” was his 23rd piano sonata] refers to BEETHOVEN? Okay, sure.

Appropriately, there’s a higher concentration of W’s in this grid than usual (W is the 23rd letter, after all, and yes, four W’s is unusually high). Beyond that, I don’t see any more obvious allusions to the number 23 in this puzzle. Are there others?

Even if you’re not much into the number 23, there’s lots here to like. Take, for instance, the appearance of AJAR and AJAX in opposite corners. Or lively stuff like ON THE GO, ESCHEWED, GOT LOST, NECCO, CASANOVA, SLURPS, and UMAMI (the word I nearly always confuse with UNAGI).

Stuff I didn’t know included [“In Her Skin” actress Miranda] OTTO, a 1960 movie called “The World of Suzie WONG”, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, or SEATO, a [Defense gp. of 1954-’77].

Favorite entry = ESCHEWED, a fancy term for [Avoided]. Favorite clue = [State your address?] for ORATE.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 7/23 solution

I’m torn about the middle Across answer here. [Trashed from overuse], THE WORSE FOR WEAR? It feels like it’s not an actual phrase without “none” at the beginning. Are things affirmatively “the worse for wear,” or only “none the worse for wear”?

Overall, this 70-word pinwheel crossword is solid. Most enjoyable bits:

  • “IN A WORLD…” is indeed a phrase at the beginning of many a movie trailer. I might have preferred IN A WORLD WHERE, but only marginally so.
  • PARANOIA clued as a [Common Philip K. Dick theme] taught me something. Don’t think I’ve ever read any of his books.
  • 25a. FRAN [Lebowitz who said “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying”]—ha! Over the weekend, PuzzleGirl and I shared tales of being away from home and still getting texts from our sons asking “What’s for dinner?” When we’re home, of course, the same question is spoken aloud. Incessantly. And sometimes an hour and a half after dinner.
  • 53a. [Death personified], THANATOS. Looking at it in the grid now, it keeps looking like “Tha NATOs.” Rap supergroup made of North American and Western European diplomats?
  • 54a. [Upper limit], THE MAX. Take it thereto.
  • 8d. [His first comedy album was “I Am Not Homer”], DAN CASTELLANETA. He had a comedy album? And more than one? Huh. Am I the only one who always wants to spell it CastellanAta?
  • 14d. NO WONDER! Great entry.
  • 29d. [“Man, I Feel Like a Woman” singer (hate me later for giving you the earworm)], Shania TWAIN. No earworm for me, as I don’t know the song. Before I pieced together 31a, I had enough crossings to make me think the answer was T-PAIN. Maybe I didn’t actually read the song title in the clue?
  • 34d. [Toothbrush or pencil alternative], FU MANCHU mustache. Great answer. Even better clue.

No grievous fill, plenty of good fill, and a slew of good clues? 3.75 stars.

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12 Responses to Monday, 7/23/12

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was an excellent Monday. Clever theme. Smooth, well pitched, with some fun entries. Lynn Lempel and Andrea Carla Michaels both make it look easy, but such smoothness in early week puzzles is its own kind of genius.

    My main quibble is that the circles took it from INVISIBLE to VISIBLE, thereby defeating the main theme hint. I realize that without them, it wouldn’t be a Monday, but still …

  2. Jared says:

    Isn’t something like “Do you have a Cert?” a fairly natural thing to say? I found nothing awkward about it being in the singular.

    (Hidden assumptions in it being a natural thing to say: a) You want a Cert. b) You have at least some reason to believe the target of your query may have a Cert.)

  3. Gareth says:

    Liked the selection of slangy synonyms in the NYT. A “cert” is very familiar to me as a “sure bet”. I suspect this is UK/Commonwealth slang only. Dead Cert the book must come from this usage. Exhibit A:

  4. mitchs says:

    Will someone be reviewing the Fireball contest puzzle? Hope so.

  5. john farmer says:

    Certs is a breath mint. Certs are a sure bet. Certs gives you two … two … two words in one.

  6. loren smith says:

    I agree with Huda – though I like circles in a puzzle, the “men” would have been more invisible without them. But for a Monday, I guess they need to be there.

  7. Roger says:

    LA Times puzzle: Although it was easy enough to suss out, the clue for 69A would have been better written as “London lav; and diagonally from square 60 to square 45, what happens after the starts of….”

  8. Erik says:

    LAT proves decisively that early week themes can be simple and still go above and beyond. though yes, the zero thing was a bit weird.

  9. Huda says:

    LAT: Having that extra little diagonal wrinkle is a cute bonus. My issue is that ZERO GRAVITY is very close to the ultimate outcome of a LIFT OFF, and in that way conflates the counting with a reveal-like function. And another theme answer, THREE CHEERS, hovers a little too close to what might happen at that LIFTOFF event. May be I’m being picky, but it feels as if either the theme should be in or out of the imagined sequence of a lift off. By being loosely associated, it makes it feel less tight.

  10. Martin says:

    Teasels are very cool. They’re common around here along ditches and dry to spiky specimens that Morticia Addams would be proud of.

    The species that pannonica illustrates is fuller’s teasel. It’s not Fuller’s teasel because it’s not named for a Mr. Fuller, but for the ancient craft of fulling wool, or making the woven cloth evenly fluffy. First, the cloth was smashed with hammers and the nap raised with teasels.

    Then the cloth was “tentered,” by stretching between tenterhooks. (I told you teasels were cool, at least in their ability to flush out great words.) Next it was chemically and/or mechanically abraded. The earliest process was to soak the wool in urine, which the Romans taxed when used for processing wool. Later, an abrasive powder was discovered that whitened and finished the wool more effectively. It was the fossil remnants of microscopic silica-shelled organisms called diatoms. We still use this “diatomaceous earth” in toothpaste and pool filters. You might have heard of it called “fuller’s earth.” Again, it’s not Fuller’s earth.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Fuller’s earth, vrai or faux I know not, shows up in Sherlock Holmes stories.

  12. Joan macon says:

    Pannonica, I just finished the 6/18 NYT puzzle in my newspaper, and it’s too late to put in a comment there, so I’m putting it here since you also did today’s reviews. I too find it “personally irksome” that Disney took over Emil and the Detective as well as other classic stories, and most of the world doesn’t realize there is an original out there. Isn’t that right, Wol? And of course when Christopher Robin has wheezles and sneezles, they said not to teazle them.

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