Wednesday, 7/25/12

NYT 4:14 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:17 (Sam) 
LAT 4:19 (Gareth) 

Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 7 25 12 0725

I would like this theme a lot better if its payoff weren’t utterly ordinary words that are overused in crosswords. Four 15-letter made-up phrases consist of THREE WORDS that contain only THREE different LETTERS. ASSES ASSESS SEAS, LESSEE SELLS EELS, SESTET SETS TESTS, and REDDER DEER ERRED? These are only faintly plausible combinations of words. If you’re a LESSEE, you’re hardly going to be described as such if you’re busy SELLing EELS, and if it were actually possible for DEER to feel embarrassed, they wouldn’t blush REDDER, that’s for sure. Can TESTS even be “SET”?

So I didn’t care for the theme. The other problem is that the theme takes up 77 squares, consigning the rest of the grid to fill like HESA, ALTA, URI, SYSTS, AHERO, SAN, III, ERL, SARARUE, and ORT. Not to mention CURST! 54d: [Subjected to a hex], with nary a hint of “archaic spelling ahead”?

On the plus side, if you don’t have any JULES Feiffer books on hand, you can do a Google image search of “jules feiffer” and see a slew of his wry cartoons. I’m glad JULES was clued as [Cartoonist Feiffer] rather than Jules Verne or Jules (“I Don’t Know If She’s Related to Ed”) Asner.

Anyone else take three names to get to 36d: ELSIE? [Girl’s name that sounds like two letters of the alphabet], gotta be ELLEN. No, wait, the third letter is an S. ESSIE? That’s the sort of name that would be clued like this, since it’s not a famous person’s name (it is, however, a salon brand of nail polish). ELSIE? When your theme is about LETTERS of the alphabet, you’d think ELSIE would be clued as the commercial spokescow instead.

Quibble: 5d: [Bowlful at a Japanese restaurant] clues MISO. Maybe there’s a bowl of miso (the paste) back in the kitchen, but the bowlful on the table is miso soup, no?

Least familiar name: 15d: ESHKOL, [Ben-Gurion successor]. It crosses two theme answers, two proper nouns, a foreign word, and some medieval crosswordese.

Not my cup of tea. 2.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 7 25 12 Jones

This puzzle’s theme tells a story of an inveterate speeder as observed by a traffic cop:

  • 16a. [You started out going “50 FIRST DATES” in a “40-Year-Old Virgin” zone, past the old video store…]
  • 23a. [Nearing the TV station billboard, you did “77 SUNSET STRIP” where the sign said “60 Minutes”…]
  • 35a. [Flying by the bookstore, you were caught doing “One Hundred YEARS OF SOLITUDE” in a “Fifty Shades of Grey” zone…]
  • 47a. [And you even managed to do 24 HOUR FITNESS in the strip mall parking lot, when the sign clearly said Five Guys Burgers and Fries…]
  • 56a. [I’m fining you 2000 Flushes after passing the supermarket; in the future, please follow the SPEED LIMIT.]

Two movies in 16a, two TV shows in 23a, two books in 35a, two businesses in 47a … and then I’m not sure what 2000 Flushes has to do with anything. Do people ever say “flushes” instead of “dollars”? I … don’t get it.

Five things (not Guys):

  • 14a. [Let the gas out after filling up?], BURP. *braaaaaapp!*
  • 2d. [“There’s ___ in team!”], NO I. Uh, actually, that’s not true. The I in “team” was recently discovered.
  • 37d. [Tex-Mex casserole of sorts], FRITO PIE. I love Fritos but am less fond of, shall we say, the Frito 14-Across.
  • 38d. [Redundant referral in first person], I MYSELF. As in “As for I myself, we would disagree.”
  • 48d. [Tall, slim, and hairy gay man], OTTER. I did not know this! I know the big, chunky hairy gay dude is a bear, but knew nothing of the otters.

3.25 stars.

Christopher Marston’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 7 25 12

As far as I can see this is Christopher Marston’s puzzle debut – well done Chris! The puzzle definitely has a fresh theme idea: the presidents whose faces are carved into 42/48a SOUTH/DAKOTA‘s 1/6/10a MOUNT/RUSH/MORE are found at the start of 17a [Furry carnival prizes], TEDDYBEARS, 30a [Firearm also called a “Chicago typewriter”], TOMMYGUN, 43a [“Hair” song containing Gettysburg Address phrases], ABIEBABY and 57a [1966 Lynn Redgrave title role], GEORGYGIRL. Perhaps it’s an oversight on my part, but I’ve only heard of one of those presidents being called by that name: Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. However, I’ll accept they’re all plausible nicknames of those first names, so call it a whimsical touch on Mr. Marston’s part.

Which brings me to another thing, TEDDYBEARS are named for Pres. Roosevelt. I hate to have to point out the issues with this theme, which I actually still enjoyed quite a lot! It has a nice selection of theme answers and hiding the second part of the reveal on the top row of the grid is elegant. The revealing SOUTH/DAKOTA was also unusually placed, but considering the havoc that a central 11 can wreak in your grid, I consider it as a positive as it allowed for more entertaining answers… The theme ain’t everything you know!

Staying with the theme, this time the individual answers, I enjoyed learning that a TOMMYGUN was a “Chicago Typewriter”. I flat out didn’t know it, but could connect the dots with a few crosses! Amy did you know this? Animalheart I’m sure you did! Here’s some classic Clash for a musical interlude, but if that’s not your speed there’s always GEORGYGIRL by The Seekers. I know the latter song well, but had no idea it came from the movie referenced in the clues!

The four long downs are an interesting set: 4d [“Air Music” composer], NEDROREM I know only from crosswords… Though usually as only a first/last name. 38d [Father at Boys Town], FLANAGAN was a name I didn’t know. He seems legitimately deserving of being in puzzles though, being famous for his pioneering orphanage. I also hadn’t heard of 9d [Howard of “Head of the Class”], HESSEMAN. Nor had I heard of that sitcom. His other major sitcom, per Wikipedia, was WKRP in Cincinnati, wherein he was Johnny Fever. I have watched reruns of that one, though I couldn’t name you the cast, except for Lori Anderson (thank you again, crosswords!). The last down, thank goodness was well in my wheelhouse – PORTUGAL clued with reference to Vasco Da Gama, (probably) the first person to sail from Europe to India via The Cape. He was introduced to me back in Primary School history!

I’ve been a bit verbose today, I’d just like to comment on two more, small things, I thought the clue for 49d, [Finished parasailing] ALIT was particularly evocative. I know, it does seem pretty straightforward clueing… Finally, the picture above is not a 45a, DORSET Horn, but the relate dorper breed.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spell Bound” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 25

Doug puts a spell on us, for 62-Down says that a HEX is the [Spell “bound” by this puzzle’s four longest answers]. That is, the H-E-X letter sequence can be found in each of those answers:

  • 17-Across: THE X FACTOR is the [“American Idol” rival]. Though they appear on the same network and at different times during the year, they’re said to be rivals because The X Factor stars Simon and Paula from American Idol. Having never seen even a minute of The X Factor nor an entire episode of American Idol, that pretty much exhausts my knowledge of the shows.
  • 27-Across: [Nitroglycerin, for example] is a HIGH EXPLOSIVE. For digging tunnels and such, low explosives are thought to work better.
  • 45-Across: The answer to [Algebra teachers assign them] is MATH EXERCISES. We liked it when our math teacher assigned the odd-numbered problems for homework, because usually the answers to the odd-numbered problems could be found in the back of the book. No muss, no fuss (and no learning).
  • 60-Across: A more formal name for a [Checkup] is a HEALTH EXAM.

There’s a whole lot of terrific fill in this puzzle. HISSY FIT, MIXING IN, PHASER, FAVES, CARPOOL, PASADENA, and PET SHOP, boys (and girls)! The theme required five Xs in the grid, but Doug effortlessly squeezed in two more with XOXOXO and XANAX. The two answers I struggled with most were SPODE, the [Big name in fine china] (I know Chinet and that’s it), and SLAVER, which can be either a noun or a verb meaning [Drool].

TACO is clued as a [Snack that can be soft or crunchy]. I’ve seen tacos clued as “snacks” before, but in my mind they’ve always been meals and not snacks.  Just because I might eat three (or more) in one setting for lunch or dinner doesn’t mean that a single taco is just a snack, right? Does anyone wanting a snack think, “I’ll have a taco?”

Favorite entry = CHAT SHOW, the [BBC offering]. I get the BBC America channel, and I never miss The Graham Norton Show. It’s simultaneously more sophisticated and more trashy than any American talk show. See for yourself with this clip from a recent episode (it starts to get really good at the 4:00 mark). Favorite clue = [“Jaws” sighting] for FIN.

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22 Responses to Wednesday, 7/25/12

  1. Erik says:

    this has been a thoroughly 5-star week for LAT puzzles, in my (rather easily impressed) opinion.

  2. Huda says:

    NYTimes, not my cup of MISO either… And I found alternatives to so many entries, it was ridiculous: SUbsIst instead of SURVIVE, crossing EscapEE instead of EVACUEE, Blend before ALLOY, STick in place of STraw, etc.. It’s like I was composing a whole nuther puzzle, until I figured out the theme.

    I just realized that the reveal is not THREE LETTERS WORDS (where the S in letter would have been superfluous, right?), but rather its either THREE LETTERS or THREE WORDS. It was clued that way, and Amy said so but I still didn’t read it correctly…

    Loren, re yesterday’s discussion about Arabic sounds– yes the letter F does exist. And I have not noticed that babies speak Arabic any later. I think that babies can make some of those deep sounds early on. I made my grandkids do them as babies– from GAGA to deeper in the throat– everyone thought it was hilarious. But they lost the deep ones as they grew up from not hearing them regularly. It seems to me, based on totally superficial observation, that little kids tend to be better at middle of the mouth letters? DADA before PAPA?

  3. Martin says:

    It’s misoshiru. Sadly, people say “bowl of miso” so I reluctantly accept this as in-the-language and no longer complain. But if I were a waiter, I’d probably honor the misoshiru by bringing any yahoo who ordered “miso” a bowl of miso. I’d probably not make it as a waiter.

    There are two tricks to making great misoshiru. First, the dashi is paramount. It should be made of the best rishiri konbu and lots of bonito flakes. The bonito flakes must be fresh — preferably hand planed just before making the dashi. Start with cold water and add the konbu (kelp). The water should be slowly brought to 150 degrees and kept there for five minutes. Remove the konbu and bring the water to 190 degrees. Add the bonito flakes. Soak off heat for two minutes and strain.

    Trick #2 is to blend red and white miso. Use more red in winter and more white in summer, but always at least 25% of the lesser. Soften the miso with some hot dashi, and mix into the bulk of the dashi.

    Actually, there’s a third trick. Always strain through a very fine drum strainer. You will discard some of the miso but the misoshiru will be silken. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s only a few minutes and your family’s souls will all go “aah.”

  4. Jared says:

    Amy, all of your criticisms of the NYT are well-taken and inarguable, yet I really enjoyed it for some reason. I had a lot of fun with the theme.

  5. Gareth says:

    It seems I’m going against the grain (OK, we’re an army of two now, @Jared!) by saying I enjoyed the NYT. Four sentence answers, an offbeat theme – yes the sentences are completely implausible, but isn’t that wacky? CURST was really weird though – kept trying to decide if the clue could somehow justify CURSe… I had two names: ALLIE before ELSIE.

    Meant to say, I enjoyed Huda’s “comments” on Arabic linguistics yesterday!

  6. RK says:

    I like how Amy argued against the NYT’s theme answers but at least it was different and clever/crafty to a degree.

    LATimes was blah to me.

  7. pannonica says:

    LAT: Gareth, I enjoyed the puzzle too, especially the added touch in the first row. The cutesy names are indeed whimsical on the constructor’s part, Roosevelt—as you noted—the only exception (and perhaps the inspiration?).

    Despite my like for the puzzle, the Lincoln entry also has an issue of conceptual proximity, since the Hair song is about his famous speech.

    And I’m sure you meant to type Loni Anderson, not Lori.

  8. scotteindc says:

    Sam, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve never heard of Spode, a taco IS a meal (who ever has just one, and who would go to such preparation efforts for a snack?), and Graham Norton is simultaneously more sophisticated and more trashy!

  9. Gareth says:

    @Pannonica: Didn’t know that Abie was Lincoln! Hah! I seem to have my wires crossed between here and Lori Loughlin? The point that my knowledge of 70’s/80’s sitcom stars is not great is reinforced, I think.

  10. Howard B says:

    Liked the concept of the NY Times puzzle but not as much the overall experience. Credit for oddity and originality though, and that counts for credit in my (imaginary) book. That credit is redeemable for “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” points.
    – I did not know SARA RUE.

    @Martin – enlightening, thank you. I’ve always known and enjoyed it as miso soup (and not just ‘miso’), so it is nice to learn the full details. Our local restaurants list it as such on the English menu translation.

  11. loren smith says:

    Thanks for the recipe, Martin. I always crave MISO shiru and sticky rice when I have a bad cold or the flu. I prefer white, but it’s never occurred to me to mix white and red. And you’ll shudder to read that my dashi is in a jar! Yikes! What about the tofu and the wakame?

    Huda – an F but no V, a B but no P. Interesting! Yeah – I would agree that “dada” is at least just as early as “papa,” but “mama” has to be the first, right? Funny story about your grandchildren and their glottal exercises!

    At first, today’s fill made me grumpy, but, like Gareth, the sentences’ wackiness grew on me.

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I loved the NYT WAY more than the consensus. Yes, there were some banal entries – (Superman) III was especially lame – but this is the kind of distinctive, different, clever wordplay which I value in crosswords. I have always liked letterbanks anyhow, and I don’t think I have ever seen a 3 – letter bank for a 15 letter entry. A genuinely interesting, memorable, out – of -the ordinary puzzle.

    Levi Eshkol is a towering 20th century political figure, of major international importance in integrating the state of Israel into the international community. He is clearly one of the three most important figures in the early history of the state of Israel, along with David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan, with whom he clashed and disagreed on crucial issues. I am not a historian, but I think most real historians agree that he was very much on the “right” side of many international issues, in taking a more cooperative, conciliatory posture with the international community in opposition to the more hawkish, isolationist elements he opposed.

    (I deliberately haven’t read any comments yet, so I will be interested to see if anyone agrees with me.)

  13. Angela Osborne says:

    I’m always happy to be able to “get” a puzzle right away. Despite some of the odd words like “curst” I enjoyed today’s puzzle. I had fun figuring it out and, to me, that’s a good way to start the day.

  14. Martin says:


    In fancy restaurants in Japan, the chef may blend half a dozen miso types for the misoshiru. The reason: Japanese prefer the taste of the misoshiru their mothers made, so by using many regional miso flavors the chances are increased that the finished product will invoke a Proustian memory. Did you see “Ratatouille.”

    Traditionally, Japanese soups are garnished with three items but the third is often meant to add fragrance and not be eaten (like a curl of lemon peel or a kinome (mountain pepper tree) leaf). Wakame and tofu are a very common garnish pair, but it’s fun to mix it up. A few parboiled bean sprouts and bits of parboiled potato work well. Small mushrooms and a slice of daikon radish are good. The ultimate is asari misoshiru, made with clams. The dashi is made with fresh clams and konbu, and soup garnished with clam meat and green onions. A curl of yuzu peel is a nice touch for added fragrance.

    I think I better cook Japanese tonight.

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    Got a question for anyone who attended Lollapuzzula 4 last year.

    What’s the lunch situation like in the neighborhood of the church? Are there ample options, or should I be prepared and bring something with me? Happily, I’m an omnivore with no special dietary needs, btw.

  16. Dan F says:

    Plenty of options, Spork. Delis, pizza, Chinese, the usual NYC situation.

  17. loren smith says:

    Martin – what time should I be there tonight?!

  18. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Spork–Are you kidding? NYC? What Dan said multiplied many – fold.

  19. Tuning Spork says:

    Ah, of course. Thanks, Dan and Bruce.

  20. jane lewis says:

    2000 flushes is a brand of toilet bowl cleaner – which is supposed to work for 2000 flushes of the toilet.

  21. pauer says:

    @Spork: You just reminded me that Tony O. put together a Food in the Nabe Guide that we need to post. Thanks!

  22. Bonekrusher says:

    I liked the NYT a lot. I’m happy to tolerate some of the clunkier clues in exchange for the fun, novel theme answers.

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