Friday, 7/27/12

NYT 5:45 
LAT 7:31 (Gareth) 
CS 4:38 (Sam) 
CHE (not this week) 
WSJ (Friday) 15.58.27sec – bronze (pannonica) 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 7 27 12 0727

It’s unusual for a grid to have just four black squares on the periphery (with 6- and 8-letter words on the borders, framing stacked pairs of 15s. I think this grid holds the record for the lowest black square count, but this is not a record that lends any particular excitement to my solve. I generally look to the stuff in the white squares for the entertainment.

My “Whut?” answers were:

  • 16d. GERENTS, [Rulers or managers]. Even Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary includes this unfamiliar word, which is attested back to 1576. It looks like a dyslexic’s REGENTS, doesn’t it? How many of you knew the word?
  • 39d. CENCI, [“The ___: A Tragedy in Five Acts” (Shelley work)]. Missed that one in my English literature studies.
  • 30a. SOLATES, [Undergoes liquefaction, as a gel]. One of those science words I never had cause to learn.
  • 24a. NER [___ Tamid (synagogue lamp)].

In the “Know Your Crosswordese” Department, we have:

  • 19a. ARIANE, [French-built rocket].
  • 23a. SAMI, [Laplanders].

In the “Where Have I Seen That Before?” department, we have 7d: LED INTO and 42a: LEAD IN. One [Preceded], one [Segue]. It’s one (taboo) thing to repeat a key word. It’s another to repeat a preposition chunk (subpar, but often forgiven). But the one-two combo here may be new.

Likes: PEPCID (have taken it), A PASSAGE TO INDIA (saw it in 1984), DISPUTED BORDERS (have none), CENTER LANE (what do you call the two center lanes when your highway has four lanes in your direction?), the YALTA CONFERENCE (which was not in Malta), 50¢ word EPISTEMOLOGICAL, TIRE MAINTENANCE (why, I just had my tires rotated last week and finally learned what that even means), CHOSEN FEW, and DEAD ON (the rare entry with a preposition that’s zippy, idiomatic language rather than a clunky kludge).

26a: [Suffix with diet] slowed me down. The words dietetic and nutrition always make me want to spell it dietITIAN instead of dietICIAN. Maybe if I liken it to pediatrician and mortician, I can remember that it’s a C.

Three stars? Not sure.

Bruce C Greig’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 7 27 12 0727

I think this is another debut, well done Mr. Greig! The theme takes a basic add a letter (“R) gimmick and adds a twist. All the themers are films, and are 45d, RRATED. The original films are from a fairly narrow band in time, from the late 80’s to the early 00’s; that’s neither here nor there for me, but I thought I’d note it down anyway. All the reworked answers’ clues still allude to the original flicks, which is sometimes frowned upon, but in this case is necessary, IMO, as a way to derive the answers. So lets list ’em, they are:

  • 17a, TROYSTORY, [The “Iliad” film version for kids?] The ’95 animated blockbuster is reset in ancient Ionia!
  • 24a, STRANDBYME, [Coming-of-age film about DNA?] The ’86 Rob Reiner film’s new title doesn’t make lexical sense. On looking the film up in Wikipedia, I discovered it’s based on Stephen King book “The Body”. Stephen King gets a second reference at 70a, DERRY [Town near Bangor, in many King works]
  • 36a, DREADMANWALKING, [Bob Marley prison film?] The original is a ’95 Oscar-winning drama.
  • 53a, HOMERALONE, [Epic poet-left-behind film?] The violent ’90 family comedy now sees Joe Pesci being tortured by an ancient poet… Interesting link between this one and the first answer. I wonder if that was a part of the theme’s genesis?
  • 62a, BARDSANTA, [Shakespearean holiday film?] Another cheesy comedy, this time from ’03. I like the image of Shakespeare in a red and white suit “saving Christmas”.

What else do we have?


  • 9a, SHAGS [Some carpets]. They’re made out of cormorants.
  • 30a, AVATAR, [Online self-image]. If you haven’t already done so, head over to this site and get one for the comments section below. It’ll do wonders for your online self-image.
  • 56a, ARAM, [Composer Khachaturian]. He’s been popular this week.
  • 58a, MAT, [Pin cushion?]. My nominee for clue of the day. Took me a while after it being filled in to understand it. When being pinned in wrestling, the mat serves as a cushion.
  • 59a, DAN, [Miami’s Marino] crossing 49d, MADDEN, [Memorable telestrator user in NFL broadcasts] was my last letter. I had to do the “run through the letters of the alphabet” trick.
  • 6d, BOO, [Rude welcome at the park] More sports (baseball park), and another great clue for a three-letter answer.
  • 39d, MRMOM, [1983 Keaton film] Is the odd film out, as it doesn’t get “r-rated”, though its placement and clue meant it was hard to mistake for a theme answer…
  • 54d, MABEL [Normand of the silents] Is a silver-screen actress whose name I forgot. There aren’t too many Mabels around these days from which to derive a more contemporary clue are there?
  • 55d, ETAPE [Military camp] Is our old-school crossword answer of the day. All the crossword veterans either plopped it in immediately or made wild gesticulations at their newspaper/print-out/computer screen/PDA/tablet (did I leave a solving option out?) because of a malfunction in their hippocampi.
  • (Disclaimer: the above post may contain a glaringly obvious terminological inexactitude.)

Updated Friday morning:

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

CS solution, July 27

Tony finds four common two-word terms where the first word ends in -CAN or -CON, changes those letters to the homophonic -KIN, then re-imagines the results in verb-noun form. Lordy, that was a dull explanation for a very lively theme. Let’s just move along to the theme entries:

  • 20-Across: The Incan Empire becomes INKIN’ EMPIRE, a [Media magnate’s printin’ business?].
  • 27-Across: The (near to me) city of Macon, Georgia, becomes MAKIN’ GEORGIA, a [Documentary about the foundin’ of a state?].
  • 48-Across: A plate of yummy bacon burgers become BAKIN’ BURGERS, or some [Patties cookin’ in the oven?].
  • 58-Across: Cake mix maker Duncan Hines becomes DUNKIN’ HINES, [Dancer Gregory’s nickname when shootin’ hoops?].

The fill is just as fun, with FOOL’S GOLD, TAE KWON DO, SNIDELY Whiplash, I SAID NO, SNOOP Dogg, and (speaking of canines) NICE DOG among the highlights. SMEW, the [Fish-eating duck], is new to me. You can supposedly see them in action here, but if you ask me it looks more like regular ducks going after lead-filled bread crumbs. I was also thrown off by TPKE as a four-letter abbreviation for “turnpike,” the [Toll rd.]. I’m used to TPK as crossword fill (am used to doesn’t mean like, for the record), but the one with an E on the end is a bit of a twist. I had TPK- already in place from crossings, so I didn’t even bother reading the clue and just put down an S in the last square. The lesson, as always, is to read the clue!

Favorite entry = WOE IS ME, clued as [“I am a complete wreck!”]. Favorite clue = [Drag name, for example] for ALTER EGO. I need a good drag name. Any ideas?

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Playing a Few Rounds” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 7/27/12 • "Playing a Few Rounds" • Fri • Fisher • solution

Today we have a rebus puzzle in which the letter sequence RING occupies a single square. Across Lite also accepts fill as correct if just the first letter is used, which is what I’ve done in the solution grid, for clarity. I’ve also taken the liberty of adding circles (rings, coincidentally) to the relevant squares. The rebus is used in the downs as well as the acrosses.

  • 23a. [Yorkshire manor of the Earnshaw family] WUTHE(RING) HEIGHTS.
    24d. [Secret pros] (RING)ERS.
  • 28a. [It’s hardly a big shot] DER(RING)ER.
    17a. [Sense of where one is] BEA(RING)S.
  • 36a. [With limited  funding] ON A SHOEST(RING).
    39d. [Sound familiar] (RING) A BELL.
  • 56a. [Ship securers] MOO(RING)S.
    44d. [Kitchen waste] PA(RING)S.
  • 67a. [Watergate follow-up] SENATE HEA(RING)S.
    48d. [Explorer aboard the St. Peter] BE(RING).
  • 65a. [Olympics symbol] (RING)(RING)(RING)(RING)(RING).
    65d. [“Photograph” singer] (RING)O STARR.
    61d. [Saddle-shaped snacks] P(RING)LES.
    57d. [You might be stuck with them] SY(RING)ES.
    52d. [They have large schools] HER(RING)S.
    31d. [Frodo takes it to Mordor] THE ONE (RING).
  • 72a. [Welcome, as the new year] (RING) IN.
    47d. [It’s graduated] MEASU(RING) CUP.
  • 73a. [Information brokerages] CLEA(RING) HOUSES.
    56d. [On the road] MOTO(RING).
  • 80a. [Job at a reception] CATE(RING).
    53d. [Hopeless] DESPAI(RING).
  • 87a. [Florida spot noted for its glass-bottom boats] SILVER SP(RING)S.
    80d. [Compassionate] CA(RING).
  • 109a. [Diner treat] LEMON ME(RING)UE PIE.
    91d. [Like many fans] ADO(RING).
  • 114a. [Aftershave, e.g.] AST(RING)ENT.
    101d. [Diving judge’s job] SCO(RING).

Whew! That’s a lot of theme content, or at least theme-associated content. With such a wealth of material and the realities of crossword construction, it’s expected that quality will vary, especially with one member of each crossing being more robust than the other (the dominant twin?). To me, the straight-up gerunds and the entries in which the RING is in fact just a ring—either noun or verb—are the lesser ones, as are the short ones (some are both). By these criteria, themers such as ASTRINGENT, PRINGLES, LEMON MERINGUE PIE, DERRINGER, and ON A SHOESTRING are among my favorites. The locations of the rebus squares are not symmetrical.

It seems rather obvious that the impetus for the puzzle is the 2012 Olympic Games, which officially start today, and whose logo is clued in the intensive center across entry. Perhaps it’s an obvious criticism which doesn’t properly acknowledge the spirit of the thing, but I found this to be a semiotic disappointment. How does it work? Is it supposed to be interpreted as “five rings” or as a graphical representation? Either way, it doesn’t succeed. If the lexical interpretation is to be used, then it doesn’t follow the mechanics of the other theme entries; if visual, then it’s wildly inaccurate and is more reminiscent of an overzealous, supernumerary version of Audi’s logo.

Admittedly, to more faithfully reproduce the logo would require a grid with offset squares to accommodate the bottom two rings, or would necessitate a presumably impossible construction with alternating rebus squares, three in an upper entry and two in a lower one. That’s obviously ridiculous, so I’m back to feeling it’s naggingly unsatisfactory, like an irritation on the upper palate that is only aggravated by addressing with your tongue.

The rest of the puzzle has the expected mix of pleasing longish non-theme words, variety, and clever cluing that are typical of the WSJ 21×21 offerings. With a dash of a few bonus Olympic-flavored clues and entries.

A good puzzle, but with a slightly off-putting theme for this solver.

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37 Responses to Friday, 7/27/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, it is a record low black square count (17) and some of us appreciate that kind of stuff. And enjoyed the solve along the way. Loved DATA MINES. Five stars and a standing ovation.

  2. Jason F says:

    Record-setting + mostly enjoyable solve = pretty neat!

    I was (surprisingly) doing quite well until I hit a major roadblock on EPISTEMOLOGICAL (which I could not spell) and PASTORAL EPISTLE (which took me forever to see). I appreciated the challenge (once I finished).

    Only complaint: MAP ONTO is not a term I have ever seen used with graph points. I’ve seen the term used in mathematics, but is the graph point usage in the language at all?
    It would have helped if this wasn’t in the brutal NER/SOLATES region.

  3. The NYT was a real struggle for me. Even with my trusty Google, WIkipedia, and grep, it still took very nearly an hour to finish up.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: Similar experience with GERENTS, CENCI, NER. As has been noted previously by joon, SAMI is the preferred term and the one in the clue is considered derogatory.

    Also, it’s a triumvirate: LEAD IN / LED INTO / EASE INTO..

    Also also, first had a P at the LIAT/SLEETING crossing.

  5. Joan macon says:

    Where is yesterday’s (Thursday) LAT puzzle? I wanted to put this question on Thursday’s blog, but I was so frightened by all the erudite messages I was too timid to add to the long list. Is that a record? Will Thursday and Friday both be in this blog, or do we just forget Thursday after I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out the theme? And not a pound in sight!

  6. RK says:

    Times was blah but I redeemed myself from yesterday after googling triregnum. That answer opened up the whole puzzle for me, although I missed “solates” and Ner Tamid. (Tiffany lamp didn’t know about.)

    LATimes blah

    WSJ was a slog because of the theme–a type they do which I find makes a puzzle hard!!!

    See your name now at the Times Amy. Your times are bewildering.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I personally am hugely impressed by this kind of wide open grid, low black square count, and the kinds of compositional challenges it must present. To me this is as exciting and lively as a puzzle gets — from my perspective the immense relief of absolutely no BS, where I’m spotting everyone else 20 yards in a hundred yard dash. My first gimme was “epistemological” at 2d, and I branched out in all directions from there. “Gerent” is a cognate of the French “geraint”–the “CEO” of a particularly French type of corporate organization. “The Cenci” is has a weird, wacky, quasi italian opera plot — hardly the elevated classical sensibilities of the Shelley we know from ‘Adonais’, etc. Ner Tamid I knew from my teaching venue. Didn’t know “solates.” Was a little surprised by “led into” and “ease into” but that sort of thing doesn’t bother me. 5 of the easiest stars I’ve ever given.

    I couldn’t get (i.e. could not gain access to), yesterday’s LAT either. Will try again now.

  8. Howard B says:

    Very impressed by the grid. The long answers were surprisingly my undoing here. The double-religious terminology and the Broadway (again!) answers were my Scylla, Charybdis, and hmmm… a big scary combination shark/grizzly bear that’s also covered in Krazy Glue to trap the unwary. And also plays continuous Muzak. So how’s that?
    Anyhoo, that is one impressive grid. Did enjoy the struggle.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    We were discussing frustration. Frustration for me is a recent Matt Jones, which crossed Afrika Somebody with a language from something called “Zoom” (which I guess is a TV show.) Also Duke somebody, though in fairness, I should know about Hunter Thompson and gonzo journalism, so I shouldn’t put Duke in the same category.

  10. Lois says:

    Amy, please don’t use crossword answers to guide you in your spelling! Although I liked the NYT puzzle a lot and had a rare Friday success with it, I believe the preferred spelling is still “dietitian.” (See Wikipedia as well for a discussion of the profession.) Your original feeling about the spelling was right. You can add mine to your list of quibbles. It’s one thing to accept variant spellings of words that are meant to trick us or just make it easier for the constructor. It’s another to clue just the suffix alone with such a dubious clue, when there are so many other “-ician”s. One star deducted.

  11. Martin says:

    Congrats Joe on the new record!


  12. Matthew G. says:

    I liked the NYT overall. That ARIANE/GERENTS crossing was awful, though, and it was pure luck that I guessed correctly. And I do mean _pure_ luck — after filling in the rest of the grid, I considered each letter of the alphabet in turn and then decided that R seemed the least ridiculous of the 26 possibilities. Was startled to be right.

    Congrats to Joe on the black-square record. Although the fill got semi-weird in places, it never got full-blown ridiculous other than at ARIANE/GERENTS. I think I muttered an “Oh, come on now” at TENTED, especially as clued, but this was still an eminently solvable puzzle with only one possible Natick square. So I enjoyed it. Still, now that it’s been done, I hope we get back to solid themelesses on the weekend with sparkling mid-length fill.

    I’m off to scenic MAPONTO to attend a destination wedding this weekend, SO LATES, everyone!

  13. Erik says:

    vintage Krozel

  14. Martin says:

    Joe told me recently, that this 17-blocker took him 9 months to achieve!


  15. janie says:

    >”…this 17-blocker took him 9 months to achieve!”

    a gestation period that produced one puzzle to be proud of — congrats, dad!


  16. Erik says:

    that’s almost 2 blocks per month!

  17. Karen says:

    To continue what Bruce said, I was lucky with my French with ARIANE and GERENTS. To manage, in French is gérer, whence géraint, Bruce’s word, which I didn’t know. English word manager no doubt is connected to gérer, and I am too lazy to look up the etymology, but source must be Latin.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    @Bruce-The Cenci is Shelley’s only completed play, based on the true story of a daughter who kills her father rather than be subjected to repeated incestuous rapes. In my opinion, it is an egregiously neglected part of his corpus of work. No, it doesn’t quite have the sublimity of Adonais, but it is representative of his immense capabilities in whatever form he chose to compose. In his tragically short life, he completed more masterpieces than any contemporary poet, playwright or Greek/Latin translator.

  19. Erik says:

    p.p.s.: the clue for 40-down in the CS puzzle is a bit off. monáe is featured on the song, but the main artist is the band fun.

  20. rex says:

    I guess it’s not “BS” if *you* know it.

  21. Howard B says:

    Oops, EPISTEMOLOGICAL is philosophical and not religious. I slightly goofed. I meant that I had trouble with the philosophical/religious clue/answers. Still not my strongest suit :).

  22. rex says:

    Nine months of database manipulation. Just like Picasso.

    There’s a reason the Great constructors don’t give a damn about this “record.”

  23. Cristina says:

    Impressive? Sure. Exciting and lively? Not even close. GERENTS, SOLATES, ICIAN, LIAT??

  24. Jeffrey says:

    Every constructor who has used a word list, or a dictionary for that matter, is doing a form of database manipulation.

    I guess the “Great” constructors do it all out of their head.

  25. Martin says:

    I’m lost as to why a blogger needs to badger another blogger’s readers for saying positive things. (I’m on the record, at Wordplay, calling this a Stupid Constructor’s Trick, btw.)

  26. Huda says:

    NYTimes, This puzzles is great at the beginning and at the end– You look at it and you think: Awesome! And when it’s over, and you stop to think about what it took to actually make it hang together– Awesome! While solving, I felt it was a bit of a let down- TIRE MAINTENANCE? I don’t know, they blow up I change them. I guess that qualifies. And others have pointed to some of the repetitions and unusual terms. At some point, I did get GERENT because of gerer in French, but I wanted it to be GERANT. And even though DATAMINES is great, I did not love the clue for it. But I know it’s just me on that one. So, a mixed bag.

    But again, I really appreciate it when people push the envelope and try something that has never been done before. Kudos!

  27. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Martin, You’re obviously trying to be circumspect and restrained in your criticism of – someone (?), but your post is so opaque as to have piqued my curiosity. Since you did publish this post, I feel justified in asking – Who are you taking to task for saying what about whom?

  28. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Incidentally, I misspoke before — half typo, half thinko. It is “gerant”, not “geraint”.

    I continue to insist that the puzzle was exciting and lively, not just impressive and ground breaking. The entries were original; they covered a wide span of topics and interests, there were almost no crossword cliches, not to mention the absence of the kinds of entries which I routinely harp about. Sometimes I think people find a kind of reassuring familiarity in seeing the same thing over and over again. I can respect that too, but I much prefer the originality and creativity we saw today.

  29. Martin says:


    I didn’t mean to be cicrumspect. Neither did rex.

    rex, aka Rex Parker, made a facetious “BS” comment that I am pretty sure referred to the only previous mention of BS today, by you. And his second comment has already been replied to, by Jeffrey.

  30. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Martin, It had not occurred to me that your post was a veiled defense of me, and I appreciate it. I will look for Parker’s comment that you alluded to.

  31. Count me as very impressed with the NYT fill given the low number of black squares.

    @Bruce: I listened to the first movement of the Khachaturian piano concerto last night as performed by an Armenian pianist and orchestra. Lots of similarities in the piano score with Toccata, and entirely enjoyable. Thanks.

  32. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Brent, glad you enjoyed it. Do you recall the name of the pianist? I also happen to think that the Khachaturian violin concerto is a superb piece, rivaling the Sibelius, from roughly the same era, though that is a *very* maverick opinion, as you probably know.

    Martin, I didn’t realize that the rex who occasionally posts here was the redoubtable (shall we say) Rex Parker.

  33. Jared says:


    Are you suggesting the WSJ puzzle needs to be licked?


    How does the fact that Rex blogs elsewhere make his comments any less welcome here? His cynical reaction to puzzles like this NYT are valid and his point was fairly made.

  34. Martin says:


    It’s not so much that I was defending you. After all, people can differ on what comprises BS fill and they can say as much. And if rex hadn’t been rex, the comment would have been reasonable. [My preference is for less snark; “*you*” is not something I would include in dissent but that’s rex.]

    And don’t bloggers have the same rights as any other solver to express an opinion? As Will Shortz noted here, much better than I can, it works best if they make their opinions known in their blog post and let the hoi polloi feed on their offerings.

    What Will didn’t say, but I believe, is that to do otherwise can come across as bullying merely because of the blogger’s stature and position. Rex (and Amy) made it clear that the historic grid comes at the expense of some flawed fill (and I agree). But “coming into the audience” should be reserved for extreme cases, at least in my opinion. Coming into another performance’s audience is even more jarring, and coming with a flavor (“I guess it’s not “BS” if *you* know it”) of that other opus is even more so.

    I didn’t mean to make such a big deal of it but I don’t want any ambiguity to possibly make things even worse.

  35. Huda says:

    I wonder whether the NYT puzzle would have rated higher if it had been a Saturday. It’s highly challenging for a Friday, and I think it puts some people in a bad mood.

  36. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, I couldn’t disagree with you (and Will) more on where bloggers should speak. For all the years I’ve participated in the blogosphere, both as reader/commenter and as blogger, I don’t think I’ve ever liked a blog where the blogger doesn’t regularly interact with the commenters. Magazine articles are a one-way street; blog posts are best when they’re fully interactive, when they’re a two-way (or all-ways) dialogue between the blogger and the readership.

    I also consider Rex/Michael to be a member of the crossword community in good standing; just because he has his own blog doesn’t mean he can’t chime in here, and I’d be offended if anyone suggested that it is inappropriate for me to occasionally comment at his blog.

  37. Jeffrey says:

    Rex or anyone should be welcome to comment on puzzles, but not to take personal swipes at individuals. To be clear, his Great constructors remark was insulting to any constructor who may in fact care about the record.

Comments are closed.